Two Loves Connected in Ellicott City

The backstory

My memories of Ellicott City, MD, are vague but happy. I somehow missed the severity of the 2016 and 2018 floods, perhaps due to marital issues.

My college roommate hailed from Ellicott City, and after living in Texas and North Carolina, returned to the Baltimore suburbs. A town neighboring Ellicott.

My college roommate, we’ll call her N to respect her privacy, was part of the same college social circle as my husband and I. Long before my husband and I dated, we did things like pile into N’s black Honda Accord, the car on which I learned to drive a manual transmission while blasting Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill, to swarm into N’s parents’ split level house and spend the weekend at the Maryland Renaissance Faire.

I can’t even tell you for sure what I did in Ellicott City. I know N always took me proudly down Main Street for a walk. I remember a shop with crazy hats, lively colors and the memory of a velvety texture.

When my daughter was 2, yes the teenager, I drove the three hours alone to meet N and my high school best friend who drove three hours up from Virginia. And we took lots of photos on Main Street in Ellicott City. I recall antique stores on that trip.

And I locked my keys in the trunk of the car at a rest stop two hours away from home at dusk.

I also know of another trip where N took me for coffee and dessert at what I believe was a French restaurant one night. Where I taste pear tart tartine for the first time.

I have very key memories of Ellicott City.

Gordon Ramsay

Now, if you’ve been around this blog for a while, you probably know I have a strong admiration for Gordon Ramsay. I also have some rather strong unladylike feelings for Chef.

I can’t help it— I like tall, athletic men with exotic accents and bad attitudes. And I’m a Taurus so food is really important to me.

So when I saw that Gordon filmed an episode of his latest TV show in Ellicott City a few months ago, I did what any fan girl would do: I squealed and texted all my friends. Okay, maybe not all of them. My almost ex-husband and N. I haven’t reached out to N in months but this was important.

The episode aired May 13 and is available on Hulu now.

N said she hadn’t seen it, but most of Ellicott City is still boarded up. She’s heard that the locals feel like Gordon came across as single-handedly taking credit for rebuilding the town.

(They had catastrophic 1,000 year floods two years apart—2016 and 2018.)

Gordon worked with four local businesses and made some cosmetic improvements. And then Covid hit.

I watched the double episode and didn’t feel like Gordon was being an egotistical maniac. He was kinder and more in the background than he usually is.

The story of the episode really focused on the trauma and the struggles and the personalities of the business owners and the community at large.

If anything, it seemed to honor the spirit of the town and the grit of the businesses.

I hope N gets to watch it.

I’d like to hear her opinion.

In the meantime, we need to amend the constitution so Gordon can run for President. He always seems to have his act together. Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger can be his running mate.

The generic weekly update in the midst of (much needed) George Floyd inspired social unrest and dialogue

It is 8:30 a.m.

Saturday morning.

The house remains still and peaceful except for the whir of fans and the occasional vocalization of a kitten, probably Misty (Mistofelees) looking for his brother, Fog. He’s distraught because I almost closed his tail in the door.

Several times today I have paused and interrupted my normal routine— to text a friend, have a Twitter conversation, drink coffee on the couch instead of in my bedroom with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo.

One voice in the back of my head says, “You slept in, so now you’re an hour behind. You need to start that laundry and get it on the line, and that includes stripping your bed, and probably the cover on your weighted blanket. Just about every floor in the house needs to be washed with Pine Sol too. And the teenager never cleaned the cat boxes yesterday like you asked her to.”

Man, it’s exhausting just listening to that voice.

And already this morning I managed to stab myself.

I have this very basic practical set of Chicago Cutlery knives that for the first 20 years I never put in the dishwasher. Somehow, in the last day or two since I did my traditional hand wash dishes, every knife from that set is dirty. Six steak knives, the mini cleaver, the paring knife, the tomato knife, the kitchen scissors, all of them.

And last night, after a long work week where I never quite knew if I would ever receive the respect I deserve in the midst of some major ordeals, I just threw every knife in the silverware basket. Point up. The way every home ec and kitchen safety teacher tells you never to do.

I even looked in the dishwasher and chastised myself and said I should stop being super lazy and reload the top shelf so I could at least use that plastic flap that holds the knives.

But I didn’t.

Because this week brought me to new places. Another grant came back with with the largest award we ever received from that funder. Our Pennsylvania county finally went yellow. The primary happened.

But just like at work where I often feel like my voice is not heard and my experience and work style is not respected nor appreciated for what I can contribute, everything seems to stay the same.

George Floyd is still dead.

The two party system defends only the elite and anyone outside of that elite will always be marginalized.

So I slammed my dishwasher door and ran it not only with my “good” knives inside but also with them point side up.

And somehow, when reaching for a clean coffee mug that I never put on the bottom shelf but I did this time, I gave myself a superficial stab wound in the middle of my palm.

Probably because I was distracted by a long list of housework and not staying present in the moment.

This is not how people should live.

I gaze out the front window (oh, damn, I need to trim the roses too). The birds chatter and chirp outside oblivious to how humans destroy each other and our shared habitat.

But Space X Dragon launched successfully. So we have reached phase 1 of our transition into the society we glimpsed in Wall*e.

Which coincidentally was the first movie the teenager ever saw in a theater. I believe she was 4, and I recollect that it was somewhere around this time (must google). She wore a cute dress. We saw the movie at Bethlehem’s Boyd Theater. I didn’t want her first movie to be in a modern boring theater.

She was transfixed.

So now it’s 9 a.m. and I think back to my transformative experiences this week.

  • I lost 4 pounds in the last day. (Amazing what happens when you resume drinking water, eating fruit instead of candy and chips, and stop eating half a pizza every four days.)
  • I started baby steps toward making my body work effectively again.
  • I filled out a self evaluation form at work, which I think fairly depicts my successes and my struggles. I was trying to be honest and transparent but I feel I will be viewed as scathing.
  • I had a good visit with my doctor, noting that my blood pressure is going down.
  • In conjunction with those previous two bullets, I video chatted with my therapist who specializes in work stress and it was an intense appointment. I was drained for the rest of the day and ate nothing but a handful of cashews until 5 p.m. That was my most recent bout of binging half a pizza and Little Caesar’s stuffed crazy bread. Which was a disappointment. Stuffed crazy bread tastes nothing like real crazy bread and the cheese inside was weird. The bread itself was soggy. The outside tasted like a soggy Olive Garden breadstick without the addictive outer coating and the inside was overloaded with a heavy but tasteless mozzarella.
  • I didn’t vote in the primary. I always vote. But I researched all the candidates and in the races where I wanted a voice there was no opposition. It bothers me deeply that I did not vote.

And George Floyd.

And the struggles of every “minority,” every person labeled for their skin color, their body shape or function, their religion, their choice of dress, their economic status, their sexuality, their gender, their resistance to be the status quo, their inability to be the same, the non-conformists, the thinkers, the doers.

George Floyd is dead.

Let me make a promise

I saw a picture of myself from 4 years ago, at least ten pounds lighter. I think I’ve been in a bit of denial.

That woman didn’t have a loose belly like might. That woman had some gorgeous abs.

But this girl today has some other awesome features— like a tight and curvy backside.

But with Covid-19, my pants won’t button and my muffin top is bulging into a Bundt cake.

I’m eating too many refined white carbohydrates and indulging in too many pizzas. I never realized how much my pathetic efforts at going to the gym made a difference.

Yesterday I tried to eat better. I have stopped snacking. I’ve tried to move more.

But yet I gained another pound.

Even more than weight, my stamina/ endurance has decreased. My butt hurts from all the sitting. I don’t even understand how I sit so much. Going to the office makes that much difference?

So today the teenager and I got out the Instafitness app and did an easy ab routine. I make mine harder by doing two sets of every exercise.

I was sweating by the end, but my S1 joint didn’t feel nearly as sore as it did after my evening walk.

I went to the Grocery Outlet and bought lots of weird things I will share with you.

Potential breakfast: cheddar cheese with cranberries in it, fig-black sesame chia crackers and maple glazed pecans.

This time I have to get my good habits back.

Five years ago I lost thirty pounds in six weeks and gained a ton of muscle. But I got too thin.

I’m not up to the original weight that scared me thin then. But I’m too close for comfort.

So listen up self, I want you to promise:

  • I will make better food choices.
  • I will eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • I will exercise daily.
  • I will not mindlessly snack.
  • I will drink more water.

And I want you to try very hard to:

  • In addition to your body weight exercises, start lifting again.
  • Consider running or boxing with the teen for cardio.
  • Hit 10,000 steps a day. You used to walk 15,000 steps a day.
  • Pizza goal—once a month
  • Alcohol goal—once a month
  • Sleep well
  • Drink herbal tea before bed
  • Moisturize
  • Floss

Health & blood pressure update

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, and I are sharing a juicy bowl of watermelon.

I went to the doctor today for a follow up on my high blood pressure. My original appointment was April 1, but the pandemic moved it to today.

As they directed me last week, I arrived in the parking lot prepared to call them and wait in my car. (See Medicine in the time of Covid for the full prep phone call, which I also submitted to the Mighty and should be available on their platform soon.)

But they called me as soon as I pulled into the parking lot!

The nurse came out for me and brought me into the office vestibule where she took my temperature. From there, we went into the lobby where she had me step onto the scale. Imagine my surprise when I saw I was lighter at the doctor’s office than at home.

I had horrible, emotional nightmares last night and they left me shaken this morning. I had a raging headache, which might have been dehydration but it could have been stress as I knew I had to do a self-evaluation at work and my boss only gave me 24 hours to do it.

I thought my blood pressure would be awful. My pulse was racing. I felt it.

But even that riled up, my blood pressure had dropped 10 points! Even with the work stress growing, the Coronavirus and all the other issue’s on my plate, my blood pressure went down.

I meant to ask her to take it again before I left because I bet “the good news” made it go down even more.

And according to them, I gained less than 2 pounds during Covid. My records and my clothes disagree.

But I felt really good after that visit.

Rainbow Mac and Cheese and my thoughts on privilege and racism

I am saddened that in the 21st century this nation has not made more progress into equality and basic needs for all people.

Having visited different countries in the industrialized and in the developing world, having studied the history of colonialism and prejudice in Francophone Africa, the basic reality that as humans we continue to judge each other and care for ourselves and our own whole ignoring the pain of our neighbors pains me.

I have studied France’s relationship with its colonial history and its institutionalized prejudice against Muslims as a critical theory model for what I see with American imperialism and what I see with our own world legacy of hatred.

Race always enters into these studies because the African American experience shares a lot of commonalities with the French of Muslim Descent community; neither population asked to be enslaved by an empire. Yet, both populations are now belittled and mistrusted by their historical populations.

And both populations are judged and denied opportunities based on their appearance, on something genetic.

It’s so sad.

It’s 2020, America. We have outdated social classes, corrupted government systems, unsustainable consumption, unattainable educational opportunities, a capitalistic drive that values the work over the person, and a healthcare system that threatens our financial wellbeing more than it helps.

So it’s hard.

And I am fortunate to be white. But I am a woman, and I am a woman with a disability, so I understand the lens of judgment. I live every day wondering if I will be judged inferior or incapable because I walk a little funny.

But at least I don’t have to live every day in fear that I may be perceived as dangerous, or manipulated into a situation where I am suddenly an enemy merely because of the color of my skin. I won’t be killed for being dark skinned and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or near the wrong people.

It’s so sad that some of the best, most helpful people I know have to live in this reality.

That Black men have to swallow their fear.

That Black parents have to hope their sons come home.

That people with power

  • whether the power of law (the criminal justice system which favors the white),
  • the power of occupation and authority (police officers, prison guards),
  • the power of messaging (advertising, media, even entertainment)
  • or the power of mass control (our government and the systems perpetuated by it)

can continue this nonsense of us against them is a classic battle of the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s really time you listened to your mama and started to share.

Anyway, on a much lighter note, I made macaroni and cheese for the teenager.

I used rigatoni and made a sauce of mostly cheddar and 1% milk, with a chunk of Monterey Jack and a chunk of dill havarti.

I put the rest of my fresh spinach in there, put some smoked paprika, purple peppercorns, and smoked provolone on top and it was amazing.

I called it rainbow macaroni and cheese which got me thinking of the larger racial and prejudice issues.

And that made me sad.

But I did have a very heartening conversation with the teenager today. She’s cleaning her room because, as she told me, she needs to get her act together to be able to help me more.

Medicine in the time of Covid

I slept this morning until 8:30.

I never do that. I think the animals had started a plan as to what to do if I were dead. The three-legged cat had slowly but surely opened my bedroom door. The kittens came in and hung out in my open windows.

Last night, the teenager and I watched most of the documentary A K A Jane Roe on Hulu. The format distressed the teen as they presented Norma McCorvey’s story in her words and in the words of others (including the reverend who might be seen as her biggest adversary in the beginning)—including historical footage.

The teen found it disjointed and hard to ascertain what was “truth,” so I said with a sigh that I guess I don’t have to worry about her becoming a journalist.

We had a fantastic discussion about “when life begins,” eugenics, abortion and patriarchy and then had a little passive-aggressive disagreement about what happened to the potato chips. (Two binge eaters in the house = bad news. By the way, I’ve lost a pound. Not enough, but it’s a great start.)

This morning, the doctor’s office called me about my blood pressure check scheduled for Tuesday. They wanted to know if I still planned on coming. I said it didn’t matter to me as they had already refilled my medication.

It’s a shame my appointment isn’t today as then they might have gotten a good blood pressure reading.

And they won’t be happy about the weight I’ve gained.

So they asked me every question under the sun about my health and possibility for Covid-19 symptoms. They confirmed my medical insurance. Asked if I had a mask and if I’d be coming alone. They asked what I drive.

I am to complete my check-in online.

They will call Monday afternoon to confirm my medications.

On Tuesday when I arrive I am to call from my car. The physician’s assistant will escort me into the office when they are ready for me.

Medicine in the era of Covid-19.

Encounter at Nearpoint

Tonight, the teenager and I are watching the pilot episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, “Encounter at Far Point.” We ate some of our gourmet Double Good popcorn that the teenager sold to pay for her marching band trip that has now been canceled.

It allowed me to be a little punny with my title— as while the Enterprise explores the far reaches of the galaxy, the teenager and I had our own encounter near home, visiting a dear friend and mentor who may not even realize how key she has been in my personal and professional development.

And she has a beautiful piece of property near us where the teenager could sip their own special lemo-tea and galavant through the sun-kissed woods.

On the way home, the teenager and I stopped at Wendy’s for cheeseburger kids’ meals for dinner as I had some volunteer work to do in the evening— we opted to postpone our proposed vegetarian Mexican dinner.

Between my two phone meetings for my volunteer commitment, I went for a walk with my neighbor. The walk is about a mile and a half, but for some reason it registers as about three miles on the Apple Health app.

Unwinding (vacation day 4, grilling day 2)

I woke today with no clear idea of what I wanted to achieve today except that I promised my teenager that we could go to Lidl and get supplies to grill again.

I even called my blind friend Nan (who’s now on twitter and just published a NASA poem as a tweet) and got her shopping list.

  • Macaroni salad
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Ice cream

I got up and fed the menagerie. One quietly sad little leftover tidbit of having formerly feral kittens is that sometimes they really do eat anything.

Fog, who was on his own a month longer than his brother Misty (Mistofelees), tends to eat the cockatoo’s kibble.

But I do feed them— as I grind my whole bean espresso blend and feed it into my little espresso machine.

This morning I started laundry, washed the bathroom floor and reassembled it now that it’s been thoroughly scrubbed. I had my last birthday cupcake for breakfast.

I saw a got the last of my anticipated packages, a shirt and necklace from Doll’s Kill. (Unboxing here: My last birthday package.)

I also got two pairs of slacks and a purple tunic from White House Black Market. I thought the necklace would look amazing with the tunic. (Another unboxing here: New Pants)

My Goffin’s cockatoo, Nala, had her morning talking session and woke the teenager up at 11 a.m.

The teenager and I went to Lidl and the Dollar Tree. Our finds at Lidl included super cheap scrapple and super cheap hot dogs and super cheap maple breakfast sausages. We got two bags of instant light charcoal. Dill pickle pita chips. Some varieties of veggie burgers. Provolone because it was on sale and the teenager adores provolone. The teenager even got break and bake chocolate chip cookies to make in her father’s new toaster oven. (His apartment does not have a stove/oven.)

At the Dollar Tree, I got tuna. A vase because for the life of me I can’t find the one I made in college that I use to display my roses. Frozen appetizers. A can of corn so we can make my mother-in-law’s corn bake. A can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli because it might be the second time the teenager ever had it. Some grill utensils. Matches. And Ajax. Because the teenager wanted Comet for cleaning but the Dollar Store only had Ajax. And instant decaf coffee. Because Lidl didn’t have any decaf coffee and I need to detox.

Nala got really hot this afternoon and started swimming in her water bowl.

The teenager started the grill again. This time we were more determined than ever to succeed. Read about last night’s attempt here: Yesterday’s BBQ

We even invited her dad for dinner. And do you know what? Those cheap hot dogs were really good.

And I had a library board meeting at 7 p.m., so I poured a Diet Coke and mango nectar.

I can feel my tension fade away and it feels delightful. I ate well today, though I’m hungry now. I even had a ton of fruit. A serving of cantaloupe. An apple made in the grill like at Girl Scout camp. And probably 8 pieces of watermelon.

Pre-Birthday Magic

Many years ago I bought a silk slip on clearance in a beautiful teal blue color that matches my current bedroom. Because it’s a full slip, and such a strange and rich color, I never found a dress I could wear with it.

Last night I decided to wear it as a nightgown. I felt so fancy.

I was so cozy in my silk slip I didn’t want to get dressed. I thought a good way to compromise would be to wear a dress. And I got a new dress from The Attic that I haven’t worn.

I did my make-up and everything.

Now to make things more interesting I managed to convince my dad that we should have a socially-distanced picnic to celebrate my birthday and my step-mom’s birthday which are both tomorrow. I really want to cook these on the grill, and I don’t have any charcoal for mine.

And I had to order these. They sound so good! And when I ordered them from Tucker Silk Mill, I ordered fresh dill, fresh ginger, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, golden beets, cauliflower, and purple peppercorns. The Vietnamese purple peppercorns were a birthday splurge.

And I never had golden beets, but I don’t really note any difference between those and regular beets.

I hung a load of wash outside and noticed so many lily of the valleys. At the front of the house my roses are finally blooming. I can’t wait to bring bouquets into the house.

At work today we still didn’t come to any agreement on when I can take my vacation.

I was working on my laptop on the sun porch when two women starting taking photos of my flowers. I heard them comment how beautiful my roses and irises are. I said thank you and started them as they hadn’t seen me.

They had been worried someone would yell at them for being in my yard. I laughed. No, I said, you are welcome. They took photos!

The teenager arrived home with the lemon cardamom cake she baked at my request for my birthday.

Recipe from Spice TrainLemon cardamom cake (click photo for recipe) On my 30-minute lunch break, the teenager and I ran down to Tucker to get my impulse buy of vegetables and then headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for my free birthday coffee which they completely screwed up. The teenager got some more of her special Dunkin stones from the side of the drive through.

(For more on the teenager’s fascination with the magical uses of these particular stones… it started here: Thank You Tucker Provisions with our last visit to Tucker. Apparently each time we go to Tucker, I let my daughter pick up random rocks at Dunkin.)

But she has always valued the power in rocks.

And honestly, I’m glad they screwed up my coffee and gave me a smaller weaker drink because I submitted four grants to my executive director today so my nerves were shot. I had just enough time to bring these goodies into the house before I had to clock back in!
My provisions from Tucker

The kittens and big old Oz gathered around me while I worked. My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card with money in it and my dad sent a really cute cupcake card with a check.

Then the teenager and I walked down to CVS to get my prescription and my neighbor who owns Sobaka, the Maltese yorkie mix, joined us. This gave the teenager a chance to try the new dog training clicker I bought her from Petco.

And I got my free nail polish from CVS for my birthday.

I came home and roasted vegetables, are cake and watched Star Trek The Next Generation with my daughter.

Kicking off my birthday

Many things happen in May that I look forward to, primarily the blooming of my lovely pink roses and Lily of the Valley (both fragrances I adore.)

Lily of the Valley, May’s flower

Warmer weather normally arrives (though this year we had snow). The school year is winding down. And there’s an anticipation akin to the new year that good things are to come.

My birthday arrives smack dab in the middle of this week and I know it’s significance will be dulled by major work deadlines and the pandemic. We do have a three day weekend coming for Memorial Day, all of which was why I had hoped to take vacation the last week of May.

Nala and I: Nala’s New Trick

That issue has not been settled, so I decided to have some mild fun to at least acknowledge to myself my birthday. Which is #45.

I ordered a sit down hot meal last night, instead of my usual stress meal of 2,000+ calories of pizza. My dear friend and editing client William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series suggested that the teenager and I deserved the treat. Ironically, it was the same restaurant my husband picked for my birthday dinner last year, Two Rivers Brewing.

More on Bill and his BDSM-themed crime novels: Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Last time I tried Two Rivers delivery service: Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

I ordered a crowler of the Banker’s Brown ale, the breathtaking peanut butter bacon burger, bacon apple mac and cheese, and Brussel Sprouts. My daughter and I feasted like queens.

Speaking of queens, I started watching Hulu’s The Great, loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. The costumes and sets are amazing. The script is witty and allows much thought of life and politics in that time period. I watched 5 episodes yesterday while doing housework.

The teenager had deserved a good meal as she had resecreened one of my bedroom windows.

She’s on the roof

A friend of mine texted early. He said it was a shame that people couldn’t celebrate properly because of the pandemic. But I pointed out that really nothing has changed. The teenager plans on baking me a cake— might be trying lemon cardamom this year. Cards still come in the mail. My friends and family have phones. And most restaurants have curbside or delivery.

I think the pandemic just removes a lot of the pretentious notions of what we need to survive and highlights how outdated the 40-hour workweek is. Employment for a lot of fields could be based on project completion versus time occupied at a desk.

I treated myself to a self-purchased birthday present today and thanks to the pandemic it comes with a free mask!

Dolls Kill

And this morning my mom surprised my with a few fun edibles (not THAT kind of edible) and a pair of tights.

Mom and Nala bonded and she approved of the teenager’s efforts in the garden.

So here’s hoping I can clean up this house and get my spirits to where they need to be to start the work week— and my birthday week— with enthusiasm.