My Day, in Skit Form

Scene:  The magnanimous Professor Key (a pseudonym) and struggling student, Janine (not a pseudonym), have just completed their last classes for the day and meet along a campus path.

Janine:  Can I walk with you?  I need a cry, but I’ll try not to actually start crying.

Professor Key:  Uh-oh, what happened?

Janine:  A couple weeks ago, we had to do a short essay on a poem we read in class.  Nothing major:  2 pages, double spaced, just enough to make sure our writing skills are up to par.  And I think psh! I’m a writer; piece of cake, right?

PK:  Right.  Was this for Professor Choir?

J9:  Of course.

PK:  Go on.

J9:  So she passed the essays back today.  Some of them, though, she didn’t have time to grade, so she read their names and said they could pick up their essays from her mailbox after lunch.  I didn’t get a paper back, and my name wasn’t on the list.

PK:  Why not?

J9:  She told me to see her after class.

PK:  What?! What did she say?

Janine:  Well she got to me first, before any other students could grab her attention, and she was whispering, trying to be discrete, so I couldn’t really hear her.

PK:  That’s good, though.  That means she likes you.

J9:  Earlier, when she passed back the other essays, she said she makes a lot of comments, so if the papers were covered in red ink it didn’t mean they were bad.  Mine was blank:  not one red mark.

PK:  What was wrong with it?

J9:  I have to redo the whole thing!  She said I didn’t use the right format, and asked if I’d even taken English 1A and 1B. (Basic reading/ composition for degree credit)

PK:  Bitch!

J9:  I mean, she was very nice about it, but still.  Damn!

PK:  Do you mind if I take a look?

I dig my sorry excuse for an essay out of my binder and hand it to Professor Key.  It takes her two seconds to identify the problem.

PK:  Okay, I see. [She points to the first paragraph]. You didn’t use the MLA format.  Send me an email to remind me, and I’ll send you some resources to help you out.  Personally, I wouldn’t call this a redo, but I know how Professor Choir is.  Here’s a tip:  ask her for help before you turn it in again.  In the future, visit her office often and ask for lots of help.  She loves a kiss-ass.  And don’t cry!

J9:  *sniffle*  Okay.


Yup, it was a tough day of college for the old broad.  I think a nice frosty bottle of apple ale is on the agenda.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

I keep meaning to post.  Really I do.  Alas, I haven’t done it.  Until now.  I am posting.  Currently.  Immediately.

I am unwell.  Long sentences hurt.  Everything hurts. I am drinking Theraflu and tea.  Together.  Ugh.

I have embarked on this week’s bloggy photo challenge in order to liven up today’s post.  These photos are from around my parents’ abodes in Pasadena and Ojai (and one at a fun place called Clockwork Couture).  So enjoy.  That’s an order.  *cough*

Red - poinsettia in Ojai

Red – poinsettia in Ojai

Last semester I dropped a class I knew I was not going to do well in.  Simply put, the instructor was senile.   I dropped it too late, however, and upset the Financial Aid gods.  (And we all know how well that hasn’t been going.)  In order to appease them I have to file a petition to be reinstated, and include an education plan.  Getting in to see a counselor for an education plan is ridiculously difficult at my school, but I finally did it.

Orange - citrus in Ojai

Orange – citrus in Ojai

I had to wait in line for an hour just to make the frickin’ appointment!  My laptop and an episode of Downton Abbey took the edge off, though.

The meeting went very, very well.  I’ll spare you the boring details and cut right to the chase:  if all goes as planned, I will be graduating next Spring!

Yellow - chips in Pasadena

Yellow – chips in Pasadena

I will have an AA in Humanities.

Green - elephant ear plant in Pasadena

Green – elephant ear plant in Pasadena

And an AAT (Associate of Arts for Transfer) in English!  Two degrees at one time!

The counselor said university applications need to be submitted as soon as the Fall semester starts.  That’s only four months away.  I think I went pale when she told me that. *L*  I’ve been chipping away at this education for almost 20 years, and I was beginning to fear I’d be a career PCC student.

Turquoise - forgotten paper decoration in Pasadena

Turquoise – forgotten paper decoration in Pasadena

What this means, though, is that I don’t have room to take any more classes just for fun.  Not that I took any superfluous classes this year (except for my 1-unit independent study class for Inscape), but they were classes I particularly enjoyed.  I thought I had some wiggle room to fit in a few more, like Poetry and Spanish 2 and 3.  Nope.  No more creative writing classes.  No more Spanish.  I met the requirements and I have to move on.  Boo.  I mean, YAY! *hack hack cough cough sputter*

Blue - TARDIS in Burbank

Blue – TARDIS in Burbank

A couple weeks ago I served on a panel for a conference at school called Borders of Diversity.  It’s hard to pin down an exact description of this conference, but I’d say it was a social awareness thing.  There were student project posters all around presenting a variety of social problems, and the panels ranged from the environment to Autism to various forms of expression as a means of social…awareness, I guess.

Alls I know is that the Inscape instructor asked us to participate in a very informal creative writing panel, so I showed up.  I stressed about it all day, but in the end all we did was arrange some chairs in a circle and talk about Inscape with about a dozen people.  And snack on cheese squares and grapes.

Purple - recycle bin in Pasadena

Purple – recycle bin in Pasadena

And listen to a woman pitch a piece she wants to write advocating masturbation education as part of the sex ed curricula in schools.  Well now.

Lavender and yellow - lantana in Pasadena

Lavender and yellow – lantana in Pasadena

As part of this whole thing, we were asked to participate in a short interview for a show on the school’s radio station.  So earlier in the week I met with a lovely woman (seriously, we need to hang out) named Dot, who hosts a weekly news show called Over Coffee focusing on arts and community events.  We talked mostly about my writing, and she had even been here to read my blog!  I wasn’t quite expecting that, but I think I did alright.  It was pre-recorded so I was easily editable.  It aired the same day as the conference, and at the same time I was watching guest of honor Dan Kwong, so I missed it.  I’ve been waiting for it to post on-line so I could share it with you all, but eh: I’m not too keen on listening to myself anyway.  ;o)

Pink - rose in Pasadena

Pink – rose in Pasadena

So that’s all for my exciting past couple of weeks, culminating in illness.  I will try to consult with the first-come first-serve High Priestess of Financial Aid Petitions this week, so cross your fingers that I can get this all sorted out quickly.  And then rub your lucky rabbit’s foot for a quick end to this snotty, coughy, achy thing I have going on.  Or pray.  Prayers are good, too.


J Story and the Wizard of Oz

One day several weeks ago in Creative Writing class, we were finishing up the day’s activity which involved a crazy freewriting exercise that our professor participated in with us.  She had just remarked how funny it was that she and two other students referenced the Wizard of Oz, when someone found a little plastic bead on the floor with the letter J on it.  Our professor immediately assigned us a 300-word fictitious story about the origin of the bead, and it had to reference the Wizard of Oz somehow.

300 words isn’t much, and it didn’t take me long to come up with a story, but I just couldn’t get it out.  Usually I go a different route if what I want to write isn’t working, but I knew I had this, so it’s been nagging at me.

Today I finally got this sucker out!  Wanna read it?

Tisoré held her large, round belly and sank into the wooden rocking chair in the nursery.  One toe, the only part of her body that wasn’t bloated and tired, pushed off the floor to set the chair into a soothing back-and-forth motion. She began to hum a lullaby in time to the rhythm of the rocking, feeling at one with her unborn daughter.

Tisoré wanted a simple name for her: perhaps Emma or Lily or Jane.  Her husband, Breygard, however, insisted on visiting the Mystic Namegiver.  He made the trip to the Emerald City himself, and proudly returned with a tiny, square-beaded bracelet, white with black letters bearing the name Jenniah.

Jenniah.  Tisoré hated it. It was ugly and inconvenient, like the gaudy nursery Breygard insisted on filling with expensive antique furnishings.  Like the clothes Tisoré wore, even now:  too tight or short or revealing, lest Breygard ridicule her for being frumpy.  Like her too-long hair, because the last time she cut it Breygard didn’t speak to her for a week.  Like any choice she made without Breygard’s approval.

Tisoré inhaled deeply as she opened her eyes, but the breath stalled in her chest when she caught sight of that bracelet, mocking her from its perch on the goldwood changing table.  The chair stopped rocking.  Heart pounding, Tisoré jumped up, stormed over to the garish table, and snatched up the bracelet.  With a strangled howl she ripped it in two, sending a small explosion of beads showering through the air and skittering around the room.  Her body crumbled to the floor as she sobbed her frustration and helplessness into her empty hands.

Eventually, Tisoré ran out of energy and tears.  She placed a hand on the floor to heave herself up and felt a small crunch under her palm.  Lifting her hand, she found the crumbled remains of the H- lettered bead, and with a jolt of fear thought of Breygard.  Quickly she crawled around the room to collect the rest of the beads, grabbed a needle and length of elastic thread from her sewing box, and set about repairing the bracelet.   She knew Breygard wouldn’t notice the missing H:  he was controlling, yes, but none too bright, and a particularly bad speller.  She froze in a cold panic, however, when she realized she was also missing the J.  It was a glaring omission he was bound to notice, intelligent or not.

Or was it?

A delicious wave of excitement rippled through Tisoré.  The Mystic Namegiver wasn’t called mystic for nothing, right?  What if…

She strung the remaining beads onto the elastic, tied off the ends, placed it back on the changing table, and waited.  She, a poor, feeble-minded female, would bat her eyelashes and feign ignorance of such great things, deferring instead to her omniscient husband.   She giggled at the thought of using his bloated ego against him.  Would he really fall for it?  She had no choice but to try.

Many years later, Tisoré sat in the rocking chair, pushing herself back and forth with one toe against the floor.  Her daughter stood in the middle of the nursery, hands on her own swollen belly, supervising the renovations while she swayed gently and hummed a lullaby to her unborn daughter.   The room was too dark and fancy for a child, to be sure, but it wasn’t so bad.  Her mother, however, was rather insistent that she make it her own.

Two men inched past her, carrying an ornate goldwood dresser, followed by her husband.  “Annie,” he asked, “Where did this come from?”  He placed a tiny square bead into her hand:  white, marked with a black letter J.

Annie started, and turned the bead over in her fingertips.  “I don’t know.  It looks like one of the beads on my name bracelet.  Look at this, Mother.  Do you know where it came from?”

Tisoré neither opened her eyes nor interrupted her rocking rhythm.  “No idea.  Chuck it.”

Detention For Missing Vocabulary Homework*

*A.k.a The Word Nerd

***Adult content alert

This is another first draft of an assignment for my Creative Non-Fiction class.  We had to write a lyrical essay where every sentence started with a sequential letter of the alphabet, and contained a one-word sentence and a 250-word sentence.


I agonized over it for days.  We have to do a 10-minute freewrite every day, and of course I’m behind, so I used several day’s worth of catch-up to write about my anxiety over the essay, figure out how to tackle it, and finally start to practice.  I wrote a couple of decent ones but there was no way I could twist either of them into an ABC format.  I decided to construct a 250-word sentence first and work off of that, but the longest one I could possibly concoct only had 46 words.  Finally, when my brain throbbed and my nerves frayed and my eyes lost focus, I broke down and went to my professor for help.

She told me I was thinking too hard.  Shocker.  She said to ignore the parameters and just write.  Ignore the…you mean…you’re telling me to break your rules???  I couldn’t comprehend.  I got dizzy.  I started to twitch.

(Not really, Daddy.)

Yes, she said.  What could she do about it, make me do it over?  It’s creative writing. Be creative. Have fun. Quit stressing.

The nice thing about a lyric essay is that, despite the name, it’s really a free-form essay with no rules.  So I finally knocked it out, but I followed all the rules anyway because my CDO kicked in and I had to.

Detention For Missing Vocabulary Homework (or The Word Nerd)

Open the dictionary and I’m off on an adventure, roaming through words as if they are forests.  Pages of verbs and nouns become mountains to be explored.  Quests to find stories from Greek mythology, Biblical illuminations, Austrian folklore and nautical superstition are embarked upon.  Réchauffé leads to remoulade and R’emolade and farriery.  Strings of definitions entice me to hop from one word to the next, like stepping stones across a pond of English language, drawing me farther and farther away from my intended task. The words I should find remain undefined, replaced by terms and idioms of fascination, intrigue, and curiosity.  Unmarked notebook paper waits limp and taciturn on the desk, abandoned under a cheap blue ballpoint pen in the wake of Merriam-Webster’s siren song.

Vocabule: Word, term, or name.

Xanthous:  Yellow or yellowish; of or pertaining to a race with blond hair and fair skin.

Zoic:  Animal, animal-like, relating somehow to an animal.

Baetulus:  Consecrated stone or meteorite.

D’Oyly Carte:  English light opera company founded specifically to present works by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Fuck:  (Giggles threaten to erupt.  Head down, lip bitten, too enticing for a teenage word-lover to ignore.)  Intercourse; the act of sexual intercourse; an act of copulation; to have sexual intercourse with; to engage in coitus with; make love; copulate; fornicate; a partner in sexual intercourse; a person who is annoying or contemptible; to treat unfairly or harshly; cheat; screw; used to express anger, contempt, disgust, or peremptory rejection, often followed by a pronoun <fuck you, fuck it>;  used especially with the and WH-questions as a meaningless intensifier to express annoyance, impatience, etc. <what the fuck are they doing>; to meddle, usually followed by with <if you fuck with it, you’ll make it worse>; fuck around: to behave in a frivolous or meddlesome way; to engage in promiscuous sexual activities; fuck off: to shirk one’s duty; to waste time; malinger; used as an exclamation of impatience, meaning to go away, equivalent to the expression get lost; fuck up: to bungle, botch, or ruin; to act stupidly or carelessly; cause trouble; mess up; give a fuck: to care or be concerned, usually used in the negative <I don’t give a fuck about politics>; cluster fuck:  an act of group rape; any event as riotous as an act of group rape <this day has been one long cluster fuck>; flying fuck: a real or imaginary act of copulation where the male leaps or dives onto and into the female; something totally worthless <who gives a flying fuck>; French-fried fuck: see flying fuck; mind fuck: to affect or destroy someone’s mind, as with drugs; to confuse or disorient <he mind fucked the teacher by asking stupid questions>; a question, phrase, or action that confuses or disorients.


Keep my head lowered.  Lift my eyes to gaze through eyebrow hairs. Mrs. Mason dismisses me from detention with, “Your hour is up, so if you’ve finished your vocabulary homework, you can go.”

None of it is complete.




An essay for school.  It also counts for Mellow Yellow Monday.

Butter cake

Butter cake

Every Christmas, my Dutch grandmother used to bake what seemed like hundreds of buttery golden cookies called boterkoek.  Oma never used measuring cups or spoons: only her hands and memory.  A week before Christmas, she would pull out a massive green CorningWare mixing bowl.  Into it she would heap handfuls of white flour and sugar, counting quietly to herself with each dump.  Eggs would crack in next, sliding down the powdery mountain of dry ingredients like miniature round saucer sleds.  Vanilla would stream straight from the bottle into the middle of the mound before yellow bricks of butter were released from their waxy paper wrappers, tumbling into the bowl with a muffled thud.  Then she’d plunge her bare hands into the mix, squeezing cold butter and eggs through flour and sugar, until the mass of simple pantry staples emerged as decadent cookie dough.

Every Christmas I compile a mental list of childhood treats I want to make for my own family.  And every December ends with a cold, empty, unused oven in my kitchen.  I’m not much of a baker, but this year I’m compelled to finally make boterkoek.

I call Oma and ask her for the recipe.  She writes it down and gives it to my more computer-savvy step-mom, who emails it to me.  Three days before Christmas, I print the recipe and start to compile my shopping list.  My heart sinks.  Despite my lack of culinary knowledge, I know the recipe is wrong:  too much flour, not enough butter, no sugar.

As a little girl I’d stand on tiny tiptoes to watch Oma work her magic in her blue and white kitchen.  Once the dough was finished, she’d pinch off a piece for each of us to eat right away, raw eggs be damned.  Half of the dough became round cookies. Oma would roll Gobstopper-sized balls of dough between floured palms, flatten them onto an aged cookie sheet with the tines of a fork, and brush them with beaten egg.  In thirty minutes, crisp cookies with glossy, tawny edges would emerge from the oven. The rest of the dough would be pressed into a rectangular cake pan, baked for twenty minutes, and sliced into thick, soft yellow squares called butter cake. I could make myself sick on butter cake, and easily go back for more. The smell of sizzling sugar, butter, and vanilla became the hallmark of a proper Christmas.

Boterkoek 1

Butter cake, up close.

As a little girl Oma and I giggled together as she flipped through her mental rolodex trying to remember a name, or when she’d accidentally speak to us in Dutch instead of English.  Today we gloss over her memory loss as a rule.  Pointing it out to her is outright forbidden.  Afraid to breach the canons of Alzheimer’s care for the sake of a cookie recipe, I call my step-mom, the patron saint of impossible situations.

No luck.  Oma insists the recipe is correct.  Forgot the sugar, you say?  Then add sugar, for heaven’s sake. How hard can that be?

Very!  How much do I add?  What about the flour-butter ratio?  There is no pressing her further:  I’m stuck with what I have.

I refuse to panic yet.  I still have one more trick up my sleeve:  the Internet.  I don’t expect much diversity in the recipes, since boterkoek is specific and regional.  I should only need two or three references to reconstruct Oma’s recipe accurately.  I head to the Big Bad Web and start my search.

Leon, Oma’s second husband, took her traditional recipes and ran with them.  He adapted her boterkoek recipe to an icebox method.  Instead of turning bits of dough one-by-one into little balls, he’d wrap the whole thing in wax paper, roll it into a big pasty log, and refrigerate it overnight.  The next day, Oma would slice the hardened dough into cookie rounds, sweep fork tines and egg wash across the tops, and bake them for about twenty minutes.  Leon’s method cut the prep time in half and made the cookies more uniform.  Oma declared him a genius. Eh. I still preferred butter cake.

Boterkoek 2

Dutch butter cookies

Leon passed away several years ago.  The scent of homemade boterkoek hasn’t curled around the corners of Oma’s kitchen since.  Plates of sunshiny butter cake and browned-butter cookies, accompanied by tall glasses of milk and mugs of dense black coffee, no longer grace the breakfast nook during the holidays. I need to resurrect this recipe, and perfect it, before I become a grandmother myself.  My kids are teenagers now.  My time is running out.

My Internet search has turned up lots of boterkoek recipes.  None of them are the same.  All of the ratios are different.  There is too much discrepancy from one recipe to another.  I cannot recreate Oma’s recipe.  Christmas is tomorrow.

I pour sugar into the biggest mixing bowl I have.  I estimate the measurement based on my Internet findings.  I use the rest of Oma’s recipe as-is, even though I know it’s wrong:  a mountain of flour, one solitary stick of butter, an egg or two, and a splash of vanilla.  My bare hands plunge into Mt. Boterkoek as a small puff of flour spills onto the counter.  Maybe I can’t make the boterkoek of my childhood, but I can still use my grandmother’s recipe.

The Art of Procrastination


I’m washing my hands.  The cool water is nice, especially since the heat of the day is starting to collect in this side of our apartment.  Suddenly the water sputters and turns a pale rust color before the stream begins to thin.  Workers must be fixing the sprinklers again.  Why the landlord is so hell-bent on growing grass in that sad square of dirt in the crook of our U-shaped building is beyond me.  I have to admit the green refreshes our tumbleweed-like landscaping, but it’s already dying despite being taped off since the seed was sown.  Perhaps a sturdier groundcover is in order, no?

I should be reading.  I still have a chapter left of homework reading.  I also have to do a 10-minute freewrite, and go over a class syllabus for an ungraded quiz tomorrow in my creative writing class.  I should also check to make sure I don’t have any other homework for my composition class.  I had to read the gospel of Mark for that one.  That was brutal.  Like eating Saltine crackers when I’m dying of thirst.  I’m sorry, more-Christian-than-I-people, but that was some dry, dry reading.

Now I’m in the living room, composing this blog post and thinking about my day.  When should I take a shower?  Will the water be back on?  What time should I leave?  When should I arrive at the library?  I’m meeting Esther there today, and hopefully Syd.   I really want to meet her.  I read her blog Embracing Homelessness and now I need to see her face, hear her voice, hold her hand or give her a hug…I don’t want her to be a computer person, I want her to be real.  So I’m excited for today.

The prevailing theme of my morning, however, is procrastination.  So should I get to the library early and take my laptop?  Take a book?  Should I get there right on time and read later?  Should I take a shower at Mom’s, where the water situation is less iffy?  How about a dress?  Should I wear a dress, or jeans?  It’s going to be scorching today.  My apartment feels so good, I hope the library café has good air conditioning.  I feel bad because Jess is going to have to walk in this heat.  Yuck.  I should take some time to get my cell number transferred to a newer phone.  I left it on top of my car last year and drove away.  It was badly beat up and the back was missing, but the Sprint store gave me another back, even though it was a different color.  I was fine with that because I’m not too superficial when it comes to my phone, but I’ve lost the back again and the buttons are becoming too scratched to identify anymore, so I think it’s time.  I would tell you more about my phone but I’m sure you’re bored and really I’m just procrastinating.

I’m proofreading.  I see a lot of “should.”  My coach, Claire the Magnificent, taught me to eliminate that word from my vocabulary.  Clearly I sucked at that lesson.   Somewhere I have a writing piece that Esther told me to blog.  I don’t remember which one, or where I wrote it.  It might be on my laptop.  I take it everywhere with me, yet I haven’t used it in a couple of weeks.

Okay okay, I’m going.  No really, I am.  Stay cool and hydrated today, friends.

Ex Hoss Ted

Yesterday was my first day of school.  It was more likely my 20th first day of school, but, you know: my first day of school on this attempt.

I spent most of last week making sure Drew, Jess, and I were properly outfitted: supplies, clothes, books, schedules, hair-dids, whatnots.  As Monday approached I prayed for a surge of energy to get me through.  A little ripple of nervous energy managed to help, but not enough.  I started a very early morning with my needle closer to E than F.

Too soon, I found that I have a long hike from car to class, comprising about three city blocks and two sets of steep stairs one-way.  It’s a hike I will make 4 times a day, twice a week, unless I can find a better place to park.  I will also make about 10 different trips, on school days, in order to accommodate the cast of characters who still require my taxi services.  After just one day of all this schleping back-and-forth I’m pooped!  I tried to blog yesterday, but even my writing was tired.  Mellow Yellow Monday?  Forget about it!

As I trudged back to my car during hike #4…quads shaking, calves cramped, sweat dripping down my spine…I spied an alumni banner that gave me pause.  They’re all over campus, these banners:  notable alumni with a picture, a name, and a list of accomplishments.  This particular one was Myron Tarkanian.  The face wasn’t immediately familiar, but the name hit me like a ton of bricks.  Tark.  I had him for PE the last time I was here, about 18 years ago.  He was the kind of coach that yelled and teased, ran you nearly into the ground, and instantly became your favorite.  One day, as I chased the rest of the class up and down a stairwell, I heard from two floors above me, “Hey, McCarthy!”


“I saw your husband yesterday.”  (He wouldn’t know my husband from Bill Clinton)

“Oh yeah?”

“He said I’m not working you hard enough!”

“He’s a damn liar, Tark!”

And here I am, 18 years later, ready to drop dead only halfway through my cross-campus trek and just up from that hellacious set of stairs, face-to-face with Tark.  Ain’t that a bitch.

Other than being utterly and completely exhausted, I had a good day.  I got into Creative Non-Fiction, for which I was on the waitlist.  The teacher seems fun, so I’m very optimistic.  My second class, Intermediate Composition, I’m not so optimistic about.  I make 3 trudges and 8 car trips by the time I get to that class in late afternoon, and the teacher is dry as Death Valley.  I had a hard time staying awake as he droned through the syllabus.  He perked me up, however, when he asked us all for a writing sample.

I will go back tonight to try to get into another class, U.S. History to 1876.  I’m taking it to help Shelly.  She needs it, but I’m afraid it’ll be too intense, so I’m taking it with her.  It’s not the best reason to take the class, but I’ll get degree credit for it and it does sound interesting, so what the hell.

I’m off to finish my homework.  Stay cool today!  And Happy Birthday to Esther!!!