If you track seasons by the school calendar, summer is over.

Yesterday was the first day of school at the university where I work in the library part-time. My schedule is back to “normal” (compared to no-student parts of summer) where I work 3 hours per night for five consecutive nights. Most Mondays, I work with the library director, but she decided extra hands would be necessary during the day for new students coming in to find textbooks, pick-up ordered books, and activate student IDs for library use.

For more than two hours last night, the library was relatively quiet. Two female students came in, requested reserved texts then moved to the lobby copier to duplicate the chapters needed. The two talked mostly to each other while I continued my work with my back to them. Some of their words filtered through to my brain – funny how my ears perked up as I was meant to be a part of their conversation.

“What is the oldest building on campus?” reached my ears just as another young lady came to the desk to pick up a book she’d requested.

She handed me her ID card. She wasn’t in my computer. I rectified that then moved to checking the book out to her. The computer program would not allow me to do that. “Do you want to override?”

Well, yes. I filled in all the appropriate boxes. “You are not authorized to override.”

That’s what I thought.

The phone rang. In fact, it didn’t just ring, it screamed, “Answer me. Answer me.”

I excused myself from the student standing in front of me, listened to the request from the student on the other end who, of course, did not realize I had others needing my attention. After a few minutes, I requested her patience while I finished with the person standing in front of me.

Before I pushed the hold button, a daily patron came in to use our computers. This would require me to physically sign him into the exact computer he wished to use. I had him sign in then asked him if he could wait until I was done with the phone caller and the other person waiting to check out her book. He waited on a lobby couch.

I went back to the person in front of me to straighten out dueling ID numbers which turned out to be the cause of the computer keeping me from checking out her book. I made sure that I understood how and why she had two numbers so that I could correctly diminish her account to one number, rather than just dealing with her in the most efficient manner for the moment.

I moved back to the phone caller who had trouble understanding that I couldn’t secure a book for her if she didn’t have an activated ID. In the middle of my explanation, my cell phone in my left hand pocket vibrated followed by the robotic voice, “Call from…” I anticipated my husband’s name who would be communicating about supper when I got home in about a half hour. When I heard my brother’s name instead, I tried not to panic. He never calls me. Something happened to mom.

Still, the job comes first (there’s nothing I can do for or about mom when I’m two and a half hours south of where she was). I pardoned myself from the caller without putting her on hold, answered my cell without a “Hello” and started explaining, “Bob, I’m at work and swamped right now. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

Back to the student on the phone. She had a few more requests before capitulating that everything might be easier if she came into the library “tomorrow.” She asked my name, as she might request my help when she arrived. I gave it to her acknowledging that I do not work during the day, only in the evening.

Before I’m off the work call, my cell rings again. Same as before – my brother’s name. “Gees. It must be really bad with mom.”

I do not answer.

I finish the student call. I move to sign the waiting patron onto a computer. As I walk into the wing where most of the computers are housed, another student walks toward me and asks, “Are you leaving now?”

“Oh, no.”

“Good, I need you to get my number so I can request books.”

“Do you have some ID? I can’t give out a number unless I know who you are.”

My cell phone makes the coloratura refrain that lets me know a voice message came in.

I sign in one patron onto a computer while continuing to discuss how I will give out a number to a student I don’t know. (“I’m the only one on campus with the name…”)

Seemingly defeated, that student leaves the library.

I pick up my cell phone to hear the voice message. I anticipate my brother’s baritone but instead hear “Crunch, crunch, crunch.”

“This is like a prank call!”

I put my phone to the ear of one student still using the copy machine (remember them?) and say, “Doesn’t sound like someone running to you?”

She agrees.

The records show that I received two calls from my brother. One from his cell, the second from his home number. “Is he in trouble? Is this a signal?”

All I can do is call him back. I leave a message – on both of his phones.

A few minutes later, my cell rings again. My brother.

He had been out running and evidently he “butt dialed” me. (My first!) I immediately thought of the commercial on TV where a woman’s marriage proposal is interrupted by her brother’s butt dialing during his own proposal.

Everything is okay. Everyone is baffled how such a thing could happen (he hardly has any butt).

Ah, all’s well.

Oh, and to the young ladies copying…

“I think Barclay or Bailey.”

“Huh?”

“I think one of those is the oldest building on campus.”

“Oh! I didn’t know you heard us. I thought you were reading.”

“Well, it looked like reading, but it was research.”

It’s going to be a good school year.

 

It wasn’t really a month and a half ago that I last wrote a post, was it? (Yes, Linda, it was.)

It’s not for a shortage of ideas that I haven’t written. It’s just once again, I’ve let summer get away from me. The older I get, the faster time (and therefore, summer) goes. This allows me to explain my hour glass explanation. When one first turns over the hour glass, all the sand is at the top. If one watches, one will see the trickle of sand seeping through the hole to the bottom of the glass, but it doesn’t seem to affect the mound of sand in the top of the glass. However, when the grains are few in the top, it is hard to dismiss how little time is left. Just like aging.

For most of the time this summer, I have holed up with the window air conditioning unit in our bedroom. I. Do. Not. Do. Heat. I’m the one who wanted to move to Alaska. I love winter. My favorite sport while I was growing up was figure skating. One can always put more on to warm up, but comes to a point that nothing more can be taken off and it is still hot. (Sorry for that visual.)

Yesterday some friends and I went to the final concert at the museum. For four Fridays at the end of summer, the Springfield Symphony sponsors music at lunch time. The performance was Good Vibes, a quartet composed of a vibraphone, drums, electronic string bass, and an electric 6-string guitar.

I checked my Fitbit for the time seconds before the music started. I held the button a tad too long and also saw that I had only about 450 steps logged.

At the end, I checked the time again and purposefully checked the number of steps accumulated. I announced to my friends, “I gained 500 steps sitting, listening to the music!” Music literally and figuratively moves me. I don’t even sit still listening to symphonies. I conduct.

As long as I’m talking movement, I am going to take credit for most of the U.S.A. Olympic swim team’s medals. I sit in my recliner in the air conditioned bedroom and move my body to help push and prod the swimmers to glory. I’m glad no one is able to see the choreography I do in my chair.

There’s one more week of Olympics. What sport shall I move on to next? Perhaps Women’s Beach Volleyball? They’re doing pretty well without me. Perhaps I should have watched more of the Women’s Soccer.

We’ve lived in this house, built in 1876, for 20 years. When we moved in, we were astounded by the number of lady bugs occupying the bedrooms. Well, we thought they were lady bugs. Turns out, they were not. They are a cousin known as Japanese lady beetles.

I didn’t mind since I realized WE were the intruders since the home had been vacant for five years prior to our possession.

That is, I didn’t mind until one crawled down the straw of my water bottle and I almost ingested it. Almost because, Boy! Those things are terrible tasting.

They don’t return every year as winter approaches, but a lot of them.

The next stranger came a few years later when I opened the door to the basement and starred at an opossum staring back at me from the landing. It hissed. I slammed the door. I have no idea how it got in (the foundation of the house is stone with gapes) but it must have found its way out. That was a one time observation.

Mice have been a problem some winters. We are a no kill household (except for flies, mosquitos and, in my case, earwigs) so we would catch them and take them close to the river to let them find a new home. We did have one for close to two years we dubbed “Elvis” because he left the… room (not the building) as I pointed him out to Husband. Last winter we found one baby that was quickly caught.

Two summers ago, I ducked as a bat flew around the living and dining rooms while waiting for Husband to get home from work and capture it. I knew he could do it since he had for a neighbor on the west side. He evicted the bat. I went up to bed and found a baby in the bedroom. For the second time that evening, I ducked. Husband caught.

The neighbor on the east side doesn’t like snakes. We’ve told him will come and get them if he finds any. Husband has rescued a few. Brownie has also left us carcasses hanging from the chain link fence separating our properties.

This week, I was proud of myself when Son came into the bedroom where I hole up once we get to air conditioning season since we only have window units. With a grin, he announced that he found a garter snake in the silverware drawer. He didn’t catch it. I slithered under the refrigerator where he couldn’t see it.

I have to admit given the choice among all the critters who have tested our hospitality, the garter snake would probably be the least objectionable to me. I guess I’d be a snake charmer.

 

So,

I have been a member of a book discussion at my local library for a number of years. We meet on the third Tuesday of the month. The discussion meeting time is 7 o’clock. I get off work at 7 o’clock. I just move out of the work library a little faster to get to the local library across town in order to miss as little discussion as possible.
I started this month’s selection, Where’d you go, Bernadette, on Saturday. Husband was working. Son was working. It should have bee a good day to make a decent dent in the number of pages (about 325). I knew it was supposed to be funny and figured parsing it over the four days would keep the book fresh in my mind for discussion.
Well, Saturday, something interrupted reading time, but I still got a little more than 50 pages read.
Sunday, another “emergency” but I still got up to about 125 pages. Almost halfway.
Errands took a chunk out of Monday but I still got up to almost page 200. Fortunately, the book is that enticing to me and I am that invested in it.
Today, Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment and lunch with a friend afterwards. Still I got up to page 235.
I had 45 minutes between getting home and going to work. Got to page 260.
I went to work thinking, “Maybe I’ll just read Bernadette at work.” But I couldn’t – I wouldn’t let myself and I did actual library work. I got off at 7 p.m., the same time the Book Discussion is supposed to start with still having 60 pages to read.
“I still don’t know where the book’s going, how it’s going to end. I hope there isn’t a major spoiler that comes out during the discussion.”
I drove  directly to the library where at first I thought, “Wow, lots of people here.” then I noticed half of the parking lot had been resurfaced so that helped the illusion of lots of cars.
I walked into the library, looking to my right to see who’s in the community room and whether they’ve started the discussion but the door was closed and I could not see any light coming from under the door. It was then I refigured.
Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday. The fifteenth. “Wait! That’s the earliest date the third Tuesday book discussion could be – the fifteenth. I’m a week early!”
So instead of going to a discussion having not finished the book, I’ll be able to finish the book tonight.
I love those kind of surprises.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to find out where Bernadette went.

A friend called this afternoon to ask me if I would drive her to the emergency room. I told her that I would be right there. I pulled into her drive, she got into the car and looked at me and said, “Did you bring something to read?”

I looked back at her and said, “Who do you think you’re asking?”
Then she laughed and said, “Of course you would.”
The book I’m reading is for my book discussion on Tuesday night. To her, I didn’t seem to be very far along (about 50 pages). I told her that I had read that last night before I went to sleep.
She was taken into the doctoring section while I found a quiet spot (without blaring TV) and read until I heard my name called. My friend wanted me in the room with her. She asked how much I had gotten read. I had better than doubled my count.
For the next 4-1/2 hours, my friend talked almost nonstop. I learned much about her life – stories about her late husband, her sister, our church, and people in the community I might have known. The only breaks were when she went to the restroom and when she had an x-ray taken.
It was decided she would spend the night in the hospital. Before she was taken up to her room for the night, she asked again, “How far are you now, Linda?”
I laughed and said “You’ve talked all afternoon! I haven’t been able to read much since I came back here!”
She laughed.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a tough decision to make – read my book or watch the Tony’s. (Thank goodness for commercials.)

The university where I work has exchange students. Many of them are from China.

Since I started working in the school’s library, I’ve tried to make anyone walking into the library welcomed. I greet everyone who walks into the building, even those with head phones who don’t always hear me.

I prefer to call people by their given name. I was taken aback the first time I asked one of the Chinese students her name and she replied, “My American name is Peggy.” I didn’t want an “American” name. I wanted her name. I wanted her to feel welcome and didn’t think calling her a name she had newly learned was the way to do it.

Last Monday was the Chinese New Year – the year of the monkey. I decided there was another way to make the Chinese students feel welcome. Somewhere, in the back of my brain, were the words to wish them “Happy New Year!”

What were they? What were they? Ah, ha! Gung hey fah choy.

Okay, okay. how many years of dust had I just removed. I was ready.

A Chinese female came into the library. I said, “Hello,” followed quickly by “Gong hey fat choy.”

She looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language, which of course I was, but it was foreign to her, too.

In English, I tried to explain what I was attempting to wish her a Happy New Year. Our lack of a common tongue plus the unconventional circumstances proved unsolvable. (If we had been talking about school topics, I believe we would have communicated well enough to understand each other.)

She went into the wing to study. I turned to my computer. I asked Google for the Chinese words for “Happy New Year.”

Two options were presented. “Gong xi fa cai’ was Mandarin but “Gong hey fat choy” is Cantonese. Next to the English pronunciation were the Chinese characters to write. I printed the page and went to see the student whom I had puzzled.

I showed her the characters and she smiled with recognition before explaining that what I had tried to say was not “Happy New Year” but something like “I wish money come to you.” I’m not sure she got my humor when I replied, “That works.”

About a half hour later another exchange student came in who I knew better (and longer) than the first.

I explained the confusion I had caused earlier saying, “Gung hey fah choy.” Dan Dan looked puzzled. She asked, “Where did I learn that?”

I quickly dispelled any thought of explaining Stan Freburg, LaChoy (un)Chinese Chop Suey or a TV commercial. That would not be sublime, or ridiculous.

I turned my computer screen so that Dan Dan could see what I had found through Google.

For the second time that evening, I heard the translation of “wishing money comes to you.” This time we both agreed that that could be a good wish for a new year.

Dan Dan did teach me the proper way to express my good wishes, “Cing nyen kwai le.”

I practiced several times so Dan Dan could correct me if necessary. I wrote the phrase down so I would have it for next year.

My plan is to properly greet the year of the rooster in 2017. If I get it right, I promise not to crow.

When did cooking become audible? I don’t just mean repeating to myself an ingredient that I’m searching for in overstuffed cupboards.

For a several reasons, I don’t cook often. My husband has done most of the cooking for a long time. Occasionally, a recipe or an event will prod me into action. Lately, I have been trying to replicate macaroni and cheese like I used to eat in high school.

Lunch in high school cost $1.50 and consisted of an entree, three sides and a beverage. On Fridays the menu included a creamy macaroni and cheese that I heartily endorsed by asking for an entree portion accompanied by three sides of the delectable pasta dish. If my milk could have been replaced by my favorite food, I’m sure that I would have done that, too.

I hadn’t thought about this ritual until I recently met a friend at Tim Horton’s and decided to try, what has become for me, of late, an unusual side dish. Macaroni and cheese.

I was in lust again. It seemed the perfect clone for what I’d had half a century ago during my much thinner days.

Since that fateful stop, I’ve been perusing cookbooks and the internet to find a plausible clone for the elusive recipe.

A few weeks ago, I found a candidate in a usually reliable source, a new America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.

Some of the ingredients had to be purchased fresh from the grocery, others were already found on my cupboard shelves.

Fortunately, the largest saucepan was not buried in the unending corner cupboard. I easily pulled it out, filled it with water, reached above the stove for salt, sprinkled some into the pan’s water, replaced the salt and turned on the stove.

Step two, getting a casserole dish large enough for all the macaroni. “Large enough” in our kitchen means that it is under a stack of like, but smaller, vessels. “Unh!” was audible as I thought, “When did these get so heavy?” taking a pile of casseroles out of a lower cupboard onto a stool then separating those I didn’t need to return them to the low shelf.

Step three, reaching the food processor on top of the upper cupboards. Fortunately, the device was placed up there so that it hung over the edge. It still was a stretch to balance it down. The bread-ends I needed to pulse were on the third shelf of the frig, at the back. The perfect spot to torment my back. Before I found all the slices I needed, my back said, “Enough!”  resulting in a very loud moaning from my mouth, Uh, uh, uh!” This was the first sound that resulted in an, “Are you okay, Mom?” from Son in the dining room. I assured him that I was.

It is time for a pause to let the reader know, the kitchen is very closed off from the rest of the house, only a single door opening into the dining room. Usually the person (Husband) in the kitchen talking to others in the house — Son in dining room and me in living room —cannot be understood. So it was notable that my predicaments were obvious.

The fourth step was easy, developing the roux into a creamy cheese sauce. No audibles here.

The penultimate step required Panko crumbs which were on the highest shelf over a counter. “I didn’t used to have trouble reaching that shelf. Am I shrinking?” came out as a very loud, “Unh” as I stretched to tipple the bottom of the can in my direction. Again, from the dining room, “Are you okay?”

“Yes, hon. I was just trying to reach the bread crumbs.”

“Did you get them?”

“Yes. I did. Thanks.” Although I noticed he didn’t get up from his computer to check.

The layout of the kitchen is wanting (one of the reasons I don’t cook in there.). One of the things it “wants” is space. Especially in front of the oven. One can not stand in front of the oven and open the oven door. Well, if one is paper thin, it could be done, but no one in our household meets that requirement.

This means dishes put in the oven are done so from the left side. To eliminate any more audio clues, I calmly called, “Help.”

Husband answered, “What do you need?” I could tell that he was walking towards the kitchen.

He put the macaroni and cheese in the oven and returned to remove it 20 minutes later.

The result was a creamy but anemic looking (pale yellow vs vibrant) dish. We all were disappointed with the results. The disappointment was not just because of the taste. It was also because of the quantity.

We’re going to be eating the leftovers for weeks.

“Unh!”