Archive for November, 2011

Ringing to the Beat of my Heart: or, What Cellphones, Treadmills, and Pride and Prejudice Have in Common

Tuesday morning, 6:30 A.M: I’m calmly sipping my coffee and sifting through e-mails, not yet awake enough to be pissed off about being in a vertical position, when my cell phone rings; it’s my mother. My mother doesn’t call me at 6:30 in the morning. Nobody calls me at 6:30 in the morning: unless they’re informing me of the death of a loved one, or on fire, or being held at gunpoint by the Craigslist killer; basically anything you’d classify as urgent, life-threatening, or immediate information I need to be apprised of before I’ve become fully conscious. Or, in the case of my mother, if you’re inadvertently purse-dialing me on the way to work. With emergency lights popping in my brain, I rushed to the phone and answered: “Hello?” (Silence, and a squabbling sound that may or may not have been fingers…or a mouse). “Hello?” (More silence). Once more, because third time’s the charm: “Hello?” (Jingle, jingle, jingle.). The gears are now beginning to clunk into motion. If you were paying attention earlier, you’ll remember that I hadn’t yet finished my coffee, so you’ll please forgive the lack of superb Sherlockian deductive reasoning. As I stood frowning and listening intently to the sounds of clinking and clanking, two possibilities presented themselves.
1: My mother is being held captive at the North Pole by a kidnapper disguised as Santa Clause.
2: My mother has inadvertently purse-dialed me.

Logic and recollections of past experiences (the most recent of which was last week) led me to the conclusion that #2 was the more likely explanation. I had just enough time to register relief that no one in my family was caught in a life-threatening crisis before I realized that my heart was pounding fit to burst out of my chest. I actually considered skipping my morning routine at the gym, because my mother’s accidental phone call managed to accelerate my heart rate more effectively than a cardiovascular workout…or Colin Firth in a wet shirt. FYI, my current ringtone is the theme from the BBC Pride and Prejudice, so the previous association is an entirely logical and justified connection.

Of course, I did go to the gym, because I have no intention of letting this Thanksgiving-induced turkey tummy get the better of me. I realize it’s the Christmas season, but the snowman look doesn’t really jive with the current skinny jeans fashion craze.

Question: Do you have friends or relatives guilty of the purse or pocket-dialing offense? Are you guilty of it yourself?

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Give me Coffee or give me Death: a Chapter in the Life of a Caffeine Addict

Regular readers of my blog are familiar with my tendency to wax rhapsodic about the joys of caffeine. Coffee is to me what cocaine is to Sherlock Holmes; the cure for mental stagnation and the elixir of life (and, fortunately for me, the entirely legal and socially appropriate addiction for an academic).

That said, I find it miraculous that I can type in complete, grammatically-correct sentences right now. I have spent the past three days battling with headaches, excessive sarcasm (even for me) and the occasional twitch. Why, you ask? Simple: I’m currently visiting my parents, who, for the last few years, have been subjecting themselves, and occasionally me, to the muddy mess called half-caff coffee. Since Thursday, I have been walking around in a withdrawal-induced haze with approximately 50 % less caffeine circulating through my bloodstream than my body is usually accustom to receiving. Admittedly there is a legitimate, medical reason for this switch on my parents’ part to the abomination of beverages. Caffeine is technically not supposed to be part of my father’s diet. In fact, he was “strongly urged” by his cardiologist to remove coffee, chocolate, and red wine from his diet. Coffee, chocolate, and wine: shit, double shit, and triple shit. The above are my personal trinity. The removal of any or all will more than likely spell my demise. Dad says it keeps him alive. I say: give me coffee or give me death. Cut off my caffeine supply, and I’m about as pleasant as a premenstrual lioness.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make contact with a chemical engineer about that long-anticipated 24-hour caffeine drip I’ve been dreaming of.

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Liebster Love!

Apparently I have been angelically good this year, because the Thanksgiving fairy has seen fit to shower me with thankful surprises. After awaking this morning in a feast-induced coma that I readily remedied with caffeine, I silently thanked god that yesterday’s food fest did not interfere with my ability to zip up my jeans—and they aren’t even my fat jeans. I thought it would end there, but when I logged onto WordPress, I discovered that I am one very blessed blogger. I have had the distinguished pleasure of being awarded the Liebster Blogging award by Breezyk, a fellow lovely Liebster recipient and a brilliant blogger. And I’m not just saying this because she had the generosity to increase my exposure here on WordPress and further my progress on the path to world domination. So: Thanks to her, and to the Academy, and the Hollywood Foreign Press, and my adoring fans, and the dude on the bus who kindly stepped over rather than on my seeing-eye dog.

Since this honor has rendered me inarticulate, and Since our mutual admiration of Colin Firth seems to have been primarily responsible for bringing Breezyk and I together in blogging love, I have no qualms in shamelessly pirating the eloquence of Mr. Firth and beg that he will forgive the word theft, but: Thank you. I am experiencing stirrings in the upper-abdominal region that are threatening to transform into dance moves.

But before I get too carried away in my blogging boogie, I must now fulfill my obligation to nominate a few of my fellow bloggers to share this honor with me. *drumroll**…

Thesweatlife who regularly fills my inbox with morsels of goodness and who is primarily responsible for my increased prolific blogging, without which I might not be standing in the virtual spotlight.
Tinkerbell a wonderfully witty and endlessly entertaining writer who has inspired me to work on becoming a better blogger.
Lorna a talented and thought-provoking writer whose work I never fail to enjoy.
Makeliferock who I appropriately stumbled across on a bad day when I was sadly in need of a refresher course about making the most of my life.
Finally, Whatimeant2say a lively and entertaining blogger and one of my regular readers, who might already have been a liebster winner but is nonetheless deserving.

Give these bloggers a bit of liebster love, because all of them have at one time or another fluffed my fragile ego, and as always, thanks for reading! I hope I can continue to live up to the challenge of being a brilliant blogger. For to whom much is given, much will be required.

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Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!: Charity Cash for Colin!

The following is another moment of hilarity brought to you by the lovely and talented Colin Firth, to whom I am eternally grateful for ensuring that my life never experiences a shortage of smiles.

Yesterday in the midst of the holiday rush of clearing work off of my desk and packing for my trip, I stumbled across a post on Twitter by the lovely Livia Firth, wife of a certain Oscar-winning actor, stating the following: “My husband is for sale! He is not cheep I warn you.” This message was accompanied by a link to EBay and a chance to bid on a night with Colin at the L.A launch party for the soon-to-be released film “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” to raise money to benefit Oxfam. There followed some lighthearted banter between a friend and I about going halvsies on the bidding and my registered amusement that beneath “item condition” there appeared only a series of dashes. To whomever is lucky enough to have been the highest bidder, the Colin Firth fan community (and I’m sure his lovely Livia) begs you to please not damage the merchandise and return him to the shelf when the rental period has expired. (I’ve blogged a lot about both my enjoyment and my academic interest in Colin Firth’s work, but I have no qualms admitting that I also find him strikingly handsome. What do you think of that, Mr. Firth? Even blind women are dazzled by your dimples).

It might interest you all to know that when I last checked, the current U.S market value of a night with Colin Firth was exactly $5200. Not exactly a red-ticket item, is he? I was hoping for a black Friday deal. Perhaps the good folks at EBay could put him on layaway while I search my couch cushions for spare change (or a handful of cookie crumbs). They always say you get what you pay for, and considering the quality of the merchandise, it’s still quite a bargain.

Kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Firth for being good sports for such a worthy cause and for your continued dedication to promoting the spread of justice and an end to poverty. On today of all days, we’re thankful for such as you!

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Squabbles and Gobbles: a good-natured Turkeyday tussle

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! First and foremost, thanks to all who stuck with me throughout my thankful blogging project.

I’m reporting live from the leather couch in my parents’ familyroom, listening to the intermingled sounds of cooking and the Macy’s Thanksgiving-Day parade. I have much to be thankful for on this blessed, sunny, South Florida day, most important of which is the endless entertainment brought to me free-of-charge by my family. This year’s gem: the kitchen chronicles.

My parents have recently undertaken a major home re-modeling project, focused largely in their kitchen. In addition to a new set of granite-topped counters and cabinets, they’ve also acquired new kitchen appliances. When I arrived last night, mom dutifully gave me a tour of the kitchen; there’s nothing more disorienting to a blind person than having the house she grew up in entirely rearranged. Fortunately, with the exception of some cabinet items being relocated, much was the same as always…or so I thought.

This morning, I wandered into the kitchen, popped a muffin into the microwave, raised my hand to set the temperature, and paused; where once there had been braille stickers labeling each button, my fingers not brushed against a smooth, clean, and virtually unintelligible surface. Undaunted by this dilemma, I mock-stalked into the office, where my dad sat checking his e-mail.
“Excuse me,” I said, hands-on-hips, manufacturing an expression of severe disapproval while trying not to laugh. “I’d like to voice a complaint with this establishment. Your kitchen is inaccessible; it fails to comply with ADA standards.”
“Yes,” replied dad, not missing a beat. “And we intend to keep it that way.” Aha! At last! Beneath this kitchen re-modeling project lies an underhanded plot to discourage my visitation. I have found it out at last! (Disclaimer: I’m no longer in residence here, and this is my first visit since the new kitchen’s completion. If we deem it necessary, certainly I’ll be permitted to make the appliances accessible next time I visit. I don’t want anyone walking away with the impression that my family is unaccommodating).

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I sipped at my coffee and tried to construct a persuasive argument for bringing this kitchen up to code.

“I have a proposition for you,” I announced to my father. “If you want to settle this out-of-court, here’s the deal. I won’t file a complaint with management if you grant me unlimited access to the back bedroom, formerly known as my bedroom and now remodeled as a “guestroom”. Our negotiations have reached a stalemate; Dad refuses to budge, but I think a few white Russians and a turkey coma might make him see reason.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a joyful and blessed Christmas season!

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Live, Learn, Grow

Project Give Thanks day 16

This morning I had the good fortune to run across this post about the mixed emotions we as instructors experience when students drop our courses, as inevitably some always do. While we resign ourselves to the inevitability, if we have anything resembling a beating, caring heart, we will wonder what we might have done, or not done, to retain the students who withdrew. I’ve learned during the last five years at this job that the drop/add window at the beginning of each semester epitomizes social Darwinism at its finest; at least, in my classroom. I tend to shoot straight from the hip on the first day; this is my class, this is how I do things. I hope you’ll stay, but if you don’t, I won’t cry. If you do choose to stay, you’re going to have to pull your weight or be dragged down. (Confession: I’m softer than a chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven, but I find that this no-nonsense approach tends to earn me brownie points in the respect department from the students who decide to stay).

I realized early that if I lost sleep over every student who dropped my class, I would be an insomniac, but one of the unfortunate side effects of being a teacher with a visual impairment (added to the fact that I’m female) means I have to work a bit harder to earn the same respect and authority as my colleagues. I generally make a habit of addressing my blindness with my students on the first day of class: I simply point to the dog and make a statement along the lines of:” Yes, there’s a dog in the room. He’ll be here every day. He’s a seeing-eye dog, so connect the dots. I’m blind. It isn’t a problem for me, and I hope it isn’t a problem for you, but if it is and you’d like to talk to me about it, I’m open to answering questions, and if it makes you uncomfortable and you’d like to leave my class, I promise I won’t cry.”

Without fail, my roster usually fluctuates for the next two weeks until the drop/add period ends, at which point things settle down. If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think my roster experiences any more student fluctuation than those of my colleagues; if this college education business is a service for which students (or their parents, or the government) are paying, it’s not unreasonable that they’d want to “professor-shop”. Of course, when a student joins my class three weeks in because all other sections of the course were closed and he won’t be able to graduate without said course, I feel depressingly like that $4.00 Christmas album at the bottom of the overstock bargain bin on December 26. The truth also forces me to admit that I often wonder whether the students who withdrew might have staid had their instructor not been “disabled”. While it saddens me to think that they would walk away from a potentially enriching educational experience, some students, as much as we’d like to think of them as adults, just aren’t mature enough to handle such experiences. More importantly, I’ve come to realize that allowing myself to dwell on those students is doing a disservice to the ones who choose to remain—the ones who choose to give me a fair chance, because that decision does require a commendable open-mindedness and a willingness to embrace new experiences. I am thankful for those students, because they are the reason I wake up in the morning and pump my bloodstream full of caffeine. They are the reason I spend hours each day slaving over a dissertation I will probably finish in the year 3015, because without that dissertation I cannot dedicate my life to a career in academe. I’m thankful for those students, because without students, there would be no teachers. I am thankful for having reached the realization that I would do well not to spend sleepless nights counting my lost sheep when there’s a flock in need of my guidance.

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Super Socks!

Project Give Thanks day 15:

I very nearly missed today, but it occurred to me that certainly there must be something I’m thankful for in the midst of all of the insanity that is my life at present. I’m breathing, for one thing–a definite positive. I have a pulse, although several friends have pointed out recently, the approaching experience of seeing two of my favorite actors appearing together on the silver screen (yes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth, that means you) might have drastic effects on my beating heart. Who says going to the cinema doesn’t count toward my cardiovascular workout routine? Check my pulse on December 9.
I appreciate everyone who’s come along for the ride on this thankfulness blogging project I’ve embarked on, and I would be remiss if I weren’t thankful for having stumbled across the idea to embark on this project on Butterfingersforbreakfast because taking the time to blog every day–or at least every other day–has not only increased my site traffic, but I think is making me a better blogger. If I do return to my regularly scheduled once-or-twice a week blogging routine once Thanksgiving has ended, I’d like to think my faithful readership will remain intact as long as I provide you with quality content.

Alas, today, I have nothing to offer but my thankfullness for the fact that I had just enough laundry detergent to wash every pair of socks I own. First and foremost, this means that I will be able to go to the gym tomorrow; lack of clean socks has been my workout bailout excuse far too many times lately. It’s like the dog-ate-my-homework of exercise excuses. OF course, given the approaching holiday and the fact that I will be spending approximately the next month living on a diet of chocolate, cookies, eggnog, and spiced wine, I’m wondering whether the effort to maintain something resembling a figure wouldn’t be an exercise in futility, in more ways than one.

And so ends this daily dose of coffee and chaos.

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