Thursday, October 23, 2014

New pets

After more than a month of not seeing each other, Robot and I planned a romantic weekend away together on the Cape. We went all out. I took a day off work and we rented a cozy little room with a porch and a fireplace. There was biking involved, and long hikes along the seashore, an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's consumed by the fireside, visits to lighthouses, and stone sculptures erected on the beach.

We had a great time despite several incidents that did not quite contribute to the romantic atmosphere, including Robot coming down with a full-body rash and me sitting on a piece of chocolate on the seat of his car until it melted and, well, no longer looked like chocolate. At the end of the weekend, we stopped into a bar to have one last drink before heading back to the city. After we had finished our burgers and were slurping down the last sips of our beers, the bartender asked us a strange question.

"Do you two want some free oysters?"

The answer seemed self-evident. Moments later, we were handed a bucket full of ice and two dozen live, unshucked oysters, a gift from a fellow bar patron who had a few too many on his hands and didn't know what to do with them. Back home, wielding our butter knives awkwardly in hand, we managed to pry a few of them out of their shells and, seconds after their demise, slid them down our throats. It turns out that oysters, while always delicious, are even more so if you've shucked them yourself and therefore earned the oyster. The rest we tucked into the fridge, following the Cape men's instructions to empty all water and leave them in there for as long as we wanted -- they promised us that those little guys can live for MONTHS in there, feeding off of their own bodies when they get hungry. Which if you think about it is really creepy and also a great way to ensure that what you're consuming is very fresh.

It was fun to have new critters in the house, and Persil enjoyed the company, but we decided not to put that last assertion to the test. Two weeks later after we returned from the Cape we downed our last oysters, and they were just as delicious as they had been on day 1. But my fridge feels a little bit empty without them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I gave him my heart and he gave me a leopard-print snuggie

Robot and I broke up this week. He tried to apply to all the jobs in Boston he could, but none of them panned out, and between his job ending, his rent being raised $700 a month, and all his friends leaving Boston, I am the only reason he had to stay. So, he's not. Instead he'll be subletting a room in New York for the next few months, and isn't sure what will come after that. He cares about me but needs time and space to figure his life out. I am settled into my life, with a job that is satisfying and a condo I love; he is in a different, much more tenuous place in his life.

All of this is very sad. I've never had a breakup quite like this before, where there was no feeling except for sadness. Usually it's a mix, a lot of sadness and a little bit of anger, or relief, or hurt, or "Well, I see now that we weren't really compatible." He's the first person I've dated who's been able to  have real, adult conversations about his feelings, and even when he's being brutally honest ("I really like you but I need more time together to be CERTAIN about us"), it's refreshing. It's hard not to feel confused and angry about the arbitrariness of it all -- why did his damn landlord have to raise his rent now?? And why couldn't we have met a year, or two, or three ago? Or even 5 or 6 years ago, when we were both living in New York?

Because Robot is moving into a tiny Brooklyn room, and will be moving again shortly thereafter, he is purging all his worldly belongings. When I arrived at his house to tell him that we needed to stop seeing each other, he had a pile of things he had picked out waiting for me. I was too overwhelmed with emotion to think clearly and took all of it (except for that giant box of Ikea tealight candles that every single person seems to have erroneously thought at one point they needed, which I refused).

When I got home, I unpacked it all. There was a body pillow, a new winter coat (white, stained and a smidge too big for me), and two scarves that he had bought as gifts for his grandma but never had a chance to give her before she died. Then there was a book about digital photography and a not-very-good one about Belle and Sebastian. A NordicTrack that he'll deliver to my house sometime soon. And last but not least, a leopard print blanket with arms that his grandma gave him a few years ago. "I never want to see this again," he told me flatly while packing it up for me.

At least I've got a new outfit for my life as a single girl, once again.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Doing it myself

There are lots of things in life that I *can* do, but that I'd rather not do. Such things include installing dryers, moving large objects, putting together furniture, and anything involving a screw driver or drill. (Hammer and nails I am bad at, but enjoy.) Therefore, as soon as I have a boyfriend, I outsource all such tasks to him and quickly forget that I am, in fact, capable of doing these tasks myself.

So far, Robot has earned himself a ton of points in this area. Two weeks ago he spent a solid two hours lying on the floor of my laundry room repairing my hot water heater (and for that he got bonus points because it's most certainly not a job I could do myself). But for the next month and change, I am on my own again since Robot, the king of do-it-yourself, is teaching a class halfway across the world. This weekend I had to overcome the urge to whine, "I can't do it! I need Robot!" in order to drag 100 pounds of deck furniture to my house on my own, install it with a little help from my friends (because somehow I've made it to my mid-thirties without owning a screw driver, so I always have to call someone to bring one over), and hang my patio lights. And it looks great! But did I enjoy myself? Absolutely not. Would I do it again? Hell, no.

Thanks to technology, I'm not totally on my own. Robot gave me a demonstration on Facetime last night, complete with props, of how to repair my computer. And I was able to text him photos of my deck for his input.

Unfortunately, there's no way for technology to help me avoid a trip to the hardware store.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Summer vacation...

Robot and I are going on a super romantic vacation this summer: hiking in the Alps. With my parents. Try to top that in the romantic department!

To prepare for the trip, I've been doing a special Alps workout when I have time, which is not very often lately what with trips to New Orleans, loads of work, and late nights hanging out with Robot. My workout involves the Stairmaster, which is surprisingly easy, and running up and down the stairs at the gym, which is surprisingly hard. The first time I did it I estimated that I'd be able to do at least 20 trips up and down. Turns out my max was 9. (Since then I've upped it to 10. Take that, Alps!)

Luckily, Robot is insanely physically fit so he won't need much Alps preparation. Every couple of weeks he mentions some new sport that he excels at or has excelled at in the past. Most recently it was pole vaulting; it turns out he's won several pole vaulting awards. He also once tried out for a sport in college that he had never before attempted, and not only made the varsity team but was awarded a scholarship.

All of this is quite foreign to me. While I enjoy a good workout, anything involving coordination is beyond me. I've never had made the varsity team of ANYTHING, because I've never tried out for any varsity teams. In elementary school, I perfected the art of moving to the back of the line every time I got toward the front during kickball games. One of my earliest memories is of being mocked during soccer practice by my crush for trying (and failing) to kick the ball with my hands in my pockets when I was five years old. How do any five year olds know how to kick?? Somehow they were all masters of the sport already. I was so confused that I spent games wandering aimlessly around the field, trying to look like I knew what I was supposed to be doing.

Robot has been attempting to make me more sporty. He took me rock climbing, and I survived. Then he tried to teach me to skip stones. He was very patient, but I was really bad at it, and it brought back too many bad memories of traumatic gym classes involving failed attempts to sink a basketball or catch a ball; I had to quit. He told me that he'd also like to teach me to surf, but when I mentioned that I took swimming lessons for six years and never managed to pass out of the beginner class, he told me that I actually might die if I try surfing without being able to swim. There is no way in hell I am darkening the door of a swim class again in this lifetime, so I think that puts surfing off-limits for me, which I'm fine with.

In any case, I am excited to for our hiking vacation. Given that our other four traveling companions will be in their 60s, hopefully I'll be able to keep up. And if not, it's a good thing Robot will be there to carry my pack.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The B word

I don't usually get this question (thankfully), but randomly, I've been asked three times in the past week if I have a boyfriend.

Conversation 1 was with an old acquaintance I ran into.

Acquaintance: Are you still dating that guy you were with a while back?

Me: Oh no. It's been ages.

Him: So you're single these days?

Me: Yes and no.

Him: What does THAT mean? Because if you're single I might have a nice guy or two to set you up with.

I explained that I am not currently taking new dates, but that my relationship is still in its first trimester so I'm not quite ready to call myself NOT single. It's a big commitment.

Conversation 2 occurred at my pottery studio while Robot was there with me. When he got up to go to the bathroom a fellow potter cornered me and asked if he's my boyfriend.

"Well, you know..." I answered (or rather failed to answer) him vaguely. Luckily he didn't press the point when Robot reappeared a few seconds later.

Finally, today at lunch my student Y was inspired by an ill-advised conversation yesterday with her birth mother that involved a promise that said birth mother would procure my 8-year-old student a boyfriend.

Y: Ms. Heathen, you got a boyfriend?

Me: Well, Y, that's a very personal question and I am not going to answer it.

Y: So what's his name?

Me: [after almost blurting out "Robot!" but catching myself just in time] Y, I told you I don't want to discuss it.

Y: [in a slightly pitying tone] Ohh, so you don't got one?

Me: Y! We're not going to talk about this anymore. Who wants to listen to some Raffi?

And this is the child who some would have labeled cognitively delayed! So I guess I'm not quite ready to use the B word yet, at least in public.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sharing is not fun

My twin autistic four-year-old students, who we affectionately call the "wolf children" because it sometimes seems as though they were raised by wolves, continue to be a source of joy, hilarity, and frustration. Lately, we've been using a strategy called "social stories" for M, the wolfier, more theatrical of the two. The idea is that we print out a few pages about a social situation we want her to work on. For instance, when she was nervous about a field trip last week, we printed photos with accompanying sentences about things she'd see and do on the field trip -- "I will ride the bus to the field trip. On the bus ride, I will keep my voice quiet so I can hear my teachers' directions." By reading it a few times and looking at the pictures she'll start to internalize some of the ideas.

Today I brought out a different social story, "Sharing is fun!", during math center time when M started to growl at other students who were sharing some plastic animals with her. She eagerly grabbed the book from my hand and started perusing it. I thought it was a positive sign that she seemed so excited by it. Unfortunately, I noticed after a few minutes that the words had undergone a change:

"Sharing is NOT fun," she read, running her finger over the words on the cover. "I WON'T share crayons and pencils. I WON'T share blocks and toys." She looked up and glared meaningfully at the other four-year-olds in her group, who continued to play with the plastic animals obliviously, before continuing to the section about how to ask for a turn ("I WON'T ask a friend if I can have a turn").

*Sigh*. Apparently "M is going on a field trip!" got a re-write, too. You guessed it -- the new title became "M is NOT going on a field trip."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pink, blue & purple

It was literacy center time in first grade. Kids were participating in reading groups, correcting sentences and cutting out and illustrating a poem to glue into their poetry notebooks. 

J hates cutting. I offered him a deal: if he cut the top half, I'd do the bottom. When he was done, he handed me the half-cut poem along with a pair of purple scissors. "These are for you, because girls like purple," he explained. 

I groaned inwardly. I didn't want to take away from literacy time by launching into a long discussion about gender, but I also want to do what small part I can to send my students the message that these rigid gender rules no longer apply. I decided to address the matter quickly. 

"You know, J, some girls do like the color purple," I told him. "But girls can like any color. Some girls like green, other girls like blue, other girls like yellow. And boys can like any color, too. Red, green, purple, you name it." 

J looked at me blankly.

I tried to make one more point before wrapping things up. "J, when you talk about me, or Ms. M or Ms. C or any of your teachers, there's a better word that you can use than 'girl.' Girls are children. Am I a child? No. So do you know what a grown-up girl is called? A woman." 

The two other members of the literacy group piped in at this junction (both of them are female). 

"And women wear dresses!"

"And they get married!"

I gave up. Maybe, just maybe, J and the girls now think that some of those dresses that women wear are a different color than pink. It's doubtful, but one can always hope.