A Day in the Life…

I went into the office again today. I can’t say it was much different than yesterday or the day before that. I thought I’d share with you all a little glimpse of the dream, just to cheer myself up… you know how it goes.

At the usual time, I made my way to my office, thankful for the door between my desk and the rest of humanity. Before I could make it to my sanctuary, I ran into my colleague, whom I privately refer to as the “Over-Sharer.” She wanted to apologize for being 5 minutes late (I hadn’t noticed) and proceeded to give me a rundown on her medical history and the most current ailment (the reason for her lateness). Next thing I know, I’m offering solicited, unprofessional advice (I’m not a doctor, I just play one on … never mind) on whether or not she should take those antibiotics now or wait to see if she feels better in a few days. Despite any appearance of paying attention on my part, not only do I not know what her ultimate decision ended up being, I have no idea what ailment we were even discussing. I zoned out after she mentioned milky discharge. Anyway, I delicately peeled myself away from that conversation and hid in my office for an hour.

At 10am, I had a zoom meeting with out-of-state clients. While in the middle of my meeting with out-of-state clients, “Clueless” found his way into my office.  He burst through the closed door without knocking, loudly finishing a complaint he had apparently started while still outside my door. The “Passive-Aggressive Note Writer” had struck again, posting a typed letter on the printer that stated, “We can ALL work more efficiently if we do OUR part. Loading the printer with paper HELPS! Thank you for being a good office mate!”  I tried to shush him with my eyes while holding a smile for the meeting. Unfortunately, he didn’t see and continued, “Can you believe these stupid &@!%#* notes?” I spoke to him discreetly, pointing out the meeting I was in, and silently cursed him and his firstborn as he dramatically crept out the door.

I recovered quickly, finished my meeting, and spent a solid five minutes at my desk pondering the many creative ways I could quit this job. I thought longingly of that scene in Jerry Maguire until I remembered that I’m not a Tom Cruise fan.

More accounts to look through, more steering my straying thoughts to the work at hand and counting down the minutes until lunch. Finally, the hour arrived. I made my way to the communal kitchen with lunch in hand, my food needing a brief foray in the microwave. I walked through the door but was impeded by none other than “Cooks a 3-Course Meal in a Kitchenette” chopping vegetables on the counter. And yeah, I’m trying to come up with a shorter name. I excused myself, leaning across shards of broccoli and carrots and what looked like homemade seitan (and no, I wasn’t jealous, why do you even ask me that!?). My co-worker chef also happens to be “Close Talker.”  Hey, multitasking, amirite? I suffered through 2 minutes of chit-chat (the time it took for my lunch to finish getting radiated) trying desperately to avoid looking at the lunch sample in his front teeth as he effervesced over the deliciousness of his homemade seitan. If you ask me, I think he did the whole seitan thing on purpose. The beep of the microwave saved me, and I retreated thankfully back to my office.

The post-lunch hours were spent busy with work, punctuated by random thoughts of “Kill me, please,” “Am I too old for a career change?” and a simple “Fuck this,” while I waited for an impending staff meeting. At least I could go home afterward.

We all shuffled into the conference room, offering each other bored smiles and conspiratorial eye rolls for the task at hand. These meetings were often quintessential “this could have been an email” scenarios. It did allow me to peruse the faces at the table and come up with some fun nicknames for colleagues who had – as yet – remained nicknameless.  Did I mention, I hate staff meetings?

Across from me was “Slink,” the person who could never be found when something needed to be done. Next to him was “Passive Aggressive Note Writer,” though she would never admit it. Oh, we all know it’s her!  On my left sat “The Gossip,” perhaps the most compelling character in the show, though I make sure to never divulge too much of my own life lest I become fodder for her water cooler trysts. Now, I have made up some stories though, and believe you me, it’s fun when those come full circle.  In front of us all, the executive manager… the not-so-heroic captain of a damaged ship limping to port. It was a struggle to stay focused. 

Finally, the meeting wrapped up, providing no more clarity about expectations than when we had begun. Back in my office, I stuffed files, notepads, and laptop into my bag to head home for the weekend.

There was no catchy closing-credits song à la The Office to accompany me as I trudged past offices and through the lobby. So, I hummed my own little tune as I exited the building out into the promising light of a setting sun. 

Get Thee Behind Me, Seitan

Just so you know, it did not end as I had hoped. I envisioned myself sitting peacefully at my kitchen table, sunlight streaming through the window to gaze upon the masterpiece gracing my plate. Instead, the way it ended was with a kitchen that looked like the setting for a flour-bomb testing site and a tragic case of mistaken identity. 

Seitan, (with the unfortunate pronunciation of say-TAN), referenced as far back as 535 C.E. in China, is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Basically, rinse the heck out of some flour, rinse again, stretch, braid, and cook. Voila, seitan. Simple, right?

There I was, nine cups of flour in a bowl, three cups water, and hands ready for a marathon of mixing. Have you ever noticed how rebellious flour can be? How sometimes when mixing, a little renegade cloud puffs out of the bowl? That’s okay, maybe a little annoying, but when it’s two cups of flour, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Try nine cups of flour and notice the level of containment possible. Right away, my counter and hair were covered. 

I began to mix. More tiny puffs of flour escaped, getting onto the floor, the stove, even up on the cabinets. So. Much. Flour. Everywhere. Finally, I had my shaggy ball of dough and began the relentless fifteen minutes of kneading. So. Much. Kneading. My fingers felt like uncooked seitan strands by the end. But I finally did my time, covered my doughball with cold water, and let it sit.

I wish I could say I had done the hard part. I went outside, shook out my clothes, and readied myself for round two. Pour out the water, cover the doughball with fresh water, and knead… again.

I’m not sure if there is a graceful way to knead dough in a bowl of water. If there is, I’m not aware of it. Puddles of milky water now joined the flour patches on the counter. Streams managed to squirt up into my hair and onto my forehead so that I then had streaks running down my cheeks. I was almost as messy as the kitchen.

Once you’ve kneaded the dough a ridiculous number of times and changed the water almost as much, you then squeeze out the liquid and let the dough rest in a colander. Here’s where I should have been sitting on the patio enjoying a cup of tea and the warmth of near success. Instead, I popped the cork on a bottle of wine, reminding myself it was 5pm somewhere and wiped the now sticky streaks from my face. My hands were cramping and shriveled like rotting berries, and I still had more steps to get through.

The next step was to stretch out the seitan 12-15 inches, cut it into three strands, and braid. Simple enough. I managed, surprisingly, to pull this part off with only minor cursing and fumbling. It wasn’t the prettiest braid (if that’s what you could call it). I was to let it rest. Again? So. Much. Resting. More wine.

Here’s where things went decidedly worse. After letting the seitan rest, it now needed to be stretched and tied into a knot. Now, I’ve done difficult things in my life. I’ve managed to raise children into adulthood, after all. But tying knots into the supposedly braided dough with shriveled, aching fingers is not on my list of skills. My braid kept unraveling at the ends, and I just couldn’t quite get all the strands through the same loop. This may seem like an irrelevant step in the directions but trust me it’s not. They asked for at least three knots, and I couldn’t even get one good one.

I looked around my kitchen, the flour splattered across the cabinets like a piece of modern art, the splotches of dough drying to my counters, the empty wine glass, and the patches of stickiness beneath my feet. Like any mature woman in extreme duress, I decided to throw a tantrum. Right there in my kitchen.

I slapped the dough back onto the counter, pounded it with my fist, and let a string of curses fly from my lips. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated the invoking power of my words and the unfortunate pronunciation of what I was cursing. HE arrived in a burst of black smoke and, with a booming voice, threatened, “HARK MORTAL, I’M HERE FOR YOUR SOUL. IT’S TIME TO—”

 “Wait, what… what the hell is that?” he asked.

His eyes trailing from my matted starch-water hair to the sad pile of water-logged dough in front of me, he gave me a look of disappointment – and strangely, pity – and then disappeared in that same puff of black smoke, leaving my soul right where it was.

I wish I could say I did the same with the seitan, but somebody had to clean up the mess. It took a few hours, another glass or two of wine, and a pizza delivery. From now on, I’ll be buying my seitan from the store like ordinary people.

Rabbits Afoot

The Easter Bunny may or may not come to my house this year, but I’m not taking any chances… so I found my own Easter Eggs. The Cadbury Creme variety. Yum!  I love this time of year if for no other reason than creme eggs!  Well, that and the Spring weather which, quite frankly, seems to be eluding us this year. What the hell is up with that, Mother Nature?  But, hey, if I’m honest, it’s mostly the creme eggs.

So spill the beans everybody – what’s your favorite candy? Something you can just go out and pick up everyday whenever you’re in the mood, or are you like me, and it’s that one elusive confection that’s only available during certain seasons or in a specific place so you’re forced to turn into a sweets hoarder when you finally do see it in a market?

Escaping the Carousel of Life

There is a reason that as we get older, we like carousels seemingly less and less. This kid-like wonder we had at the round-about motion has dissipated, and if we’re honest, we’re more likely to throw up than we are to have a good time.

But why is that?

Obviously, I’m not talking about just a carousel. I’m talking about the repetitive wheel of doing the same thing every day, over and over. It’s just as nauseating, but unfortunately many of us don’t have the option of just getting off the ride.

What got me thinking of this, you may wonder. Well, I was given this artwork for a writing prompt, and all I found myself thinking about was how everyone is really looking for the same thing: happiness.

How beautiful is this idea? Creatures who were trapped, literally chained down, breaking away from the life they were stuck in.

I wonder how many days they spent on that ride, going around and around. Seeing the same things every day, unable to change. I wonder how many people they served, blissfully unaware that their lives could mean more. And I wonder at what point did they decide enough was enough.

It isn’t easy to break away—to leave a job, a home, or a relationship. Whether it’s a mind-numbing and stressful job or an abusive relationship, some things in life can strip away what really makes you you—what you love about life. So even though breaking free is hard, sometimes it’s essential.

And once you do break away, you might even feel lost. The world becomes new, open to all kinds of possibilities. Like a wild carousel horse, you get to decide what direction to go in. At first, it might just be away. It can be scary, but that’s what real freedom is like. The catch though… I mean, there’s always a catch, amirite? The catch is that jumping off the carousel and riding into your own future isn’t as easy as it might seem because … money.

Some people say that money can’t buy happiness, but I’m on Ariana’s side: “Whoever said money can’t solve your problems / Must not have had enough money to solve ’em.

If you don’t have money, it’s really hard to better your life by breaking free. I don’t mean to be depressing, but it’s true. Think about someone who’s stuck living somewhere that’s less than ideal—with toxic family members or an emotionally unavailable partner. If you can’t afford to move, well, then, you can’t. Want to leave that soul-sucking job? Without another one lined up or a bank account full of money, you’re trapped.

Winning the lottery or hell, even landing the right job can be life-changing. Trust me. Breaking free is a choice, but money can change what options you have to choose between.

I want to move out to the West Coast, I have for a long time. With the past four years, abroad has been a very tempting idea. But up and moving across the country isn’t cheap. And when there are pets and kids in the picture, breaking free and moving is even harder, especially when it’s tough just getting through from payday to payday.  But I’m sure those carousel horses didn’t find it easy to break free, either.

This picture reminds me that no matter how impossible it may seem, you can always jump off the carousel and break the cycle. If you’re like me, it may take a looooot more plotting, but I have to believe that it’s achievable, because I refuse to believe that we belong on an endless ride to nowhere.

Telling Off the Grammar Check Troll

So, the other day I was writing a blog entry (as I do), and I was using some very colorful language (as I do). Nothing out of the ordinary. However, something unusual happened.

My grammar check program called me out. That in itself wasn’t the unusual thing that happened… I often draw the ire of the grammar check algorithm. Sometimes it gets so flustered with my writing that it has nothing useful to offer in response. It’s like “yep, I got nothing.” But this time, it wasn’t telling me that I used “their” instead of “they’re” nor was it warning me that a participle was clearly in danger of dangling. No. It was telling me that some readers might find my language offensive.

First of all, I’m not out of line. You’re out of line, grammar check. How exactly am I supposed to write about assholes if I can’t use the word asshole? To be clear, asshole was in fact the word that was flagged here. I’m sorry dear grammar check, but “jerk” just doesn’t offer the same believability of tone my readers have come to expect.

I mean, anyone who reads my blogs knows how I write. Most of my readers have even come to expect colorful sentence enhancers. And if you haven’t caught on by now, well, you will.

If anyone takes offense from my fucking language, they’re on the wrong blog.

Second of all, who the hell does this grammar check troll think he is? Really, who does this grammar check troll think I am? Listen, I write, but I’m no Shakespeare.

I can’t just pull previously nonexistent elegant insults out of my ass whenever I feel like. I can’t command language with the precision and poise of the great Bard himself — and I don’t want to. Sometimes, a good “fucking” is exactly what you need to communicate your point. Yeah, okay, so that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean. And now that I think about it, Shakespeare wasn’t all that prim and proper, either. His work was pretty scandalous for his time, and the people loved it anyway.

I get that this advice to avoid colorful words may be helpful for some grammar check users. Like if you’re writing an essay for school or working on your resume. Employers might not like to see “organized the fucking files” under the list of duties. And teachers might have aneurysms if they saw “this book was fucking great because” as an essay introduction. Though personally, I’d find that book report a hell of a lot more interesting than most – and probably more accurate to boot, wouldn’t you?

But grammar check, this is my blog. My blog. And it’s the 21st century. After what we dealt with in 2020, I think it is entirely appropriate to call some people out for the assholes they are (and don’t even try me, grammar troll!). I get that my insults are more of the garden variety and not as powerful or as graceful as they could be.

But I’m okay with that. It’s fine with me that my insults are more like homegrown tomatoes instead of wild berries. They taste and feel different, but the job gets done either way.

Sorry, Grammar Troll. I’m not interested in you’re advice. Just kidding. Sheesh, yes, I know it’s “your.” Please don’t inundate me with helpful hints. It was a joke, grammar check. A. Joke.

And yes, readers. I know that he can’t really hear me. Still…