Dear College Students: Things Not To Do To Your Advisor

It’s been quite a week at the university.  The last week before classes begin and the first week of the semester are times when I am most definitely MIA from the blogging world.  But I must bring you a few thoughts from this advisor’s perspective.

First, don’t get baked before going to see your advisor.  Chances are, your advisor knows what’s up.

Second, don’t be this guy:

Yesterday a young man came into my office at 4:50.  He smelled of suntan lotion, a tall, lean frat boy.

He: “I need to do something about my schedule.  I was looking at my schedule, and it’s just not gonna work.”

I: “Okay…what’s up?”

He: “Well, all summer I’ve been thinking that my first class started at noon.  But I looked at my schedule, and I have this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday class that starts at ten o’clock.  That won’t work.  The guys and I go out on Thursday night.  I’m not gonna lie.  It’s what I do.  We drink.  We have a good time.  I can’t make a ten o’clock class.”


Don’t do that!

Other things not to do include…

Don’t email the advisor, and then wait a few hours, and then send an identical email to her. 

Don’t email her and then follow up with a phone call.  She’s working on it

Don’t email her, email the office manager, and email her boss.

Don’t email the university president. 

Don’t call the governor.  (I’m not kidding.)

Don’t have your mother call.


Things to do include: 

Take care of your stuff early.  That way you are not waiting in line with people who have legitimate problems through no fault of their own.

Be patient.  I’ll get to you.


And aside from all that…helloooooo weekend!  Muah!  I love you, weekend.







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When I stopped blogging

One day in January I was at work when my father called.

“Joyce…” he said when I answered.

“Well hi, Dad.”



“Hold on,” he whispered, “I’m trying to collect myself…”

Several deep breaths later, he told me, “Ronnie has had a massive heart attack.”

Ronnie.  Ronnie had been my father’s dear friend for years, and the father of Stace, who had been my best friend for years.  We had met in high school and become close friends before realizing that our fathers had become fast friends as well.

I reached out to her, my once best friend, tentatively.  Checked in on her as her father clung to life.  Gave her my words of support.  And when her father succumbed to death, I offered more support, mindful of my place in her life now, but there for her to the extent that was fitting, and offering the love that has always been there no matter our status.

I was there at the funeral and hugged her mother, Carole.

“I’m so lost,” Carole said, her face against my shoulder and her voice slightly muffled.

“I know,” I told her.  “I just can’t believe it.  I am sorry.  I am so sorry.”

And when the funeral was over, we all went about our lives, but I could see by Carole’s Facebook posts that she was suffering greatly.

“I’m going to give her some time, and then bake something and go see her,” I told Stace.

But the visit was never to be.  Five weeks after laying Ronnie to rest, Carole followed him.  Her heart couldn’t take it, and she chose to join him.  It was a suicide.

At the funeral my father, stepmother, and I sat in the same row where we had sat the month before.  We listened to the same message from the funeral director that he had delivered for Ronnie.  We hugged Stace as we had before.  There was little of meaning that I could think of to say.

In the weeks that followed, I turned to my blog to compose a tribute to Ronnie and Carole.  I worked and toiled.  I wanted to convey the closeness that we once shared.  The fact that they had called me their other daughter.  The time spent in their home.  Special visits to Carole on Mother’s Day.  The fact that, although I was no longer close to their daughter, they  understood, and still loved me, and I them.

The weeks turned into a month, and then several months passed.  I felt that I could not and should not write until I wrote about them, and yet the job was so big.  How could the words I close ever convey what they meant to me and the ache that their passing had created in me, and how their passing had devastated their daughter?

The answer was, I couldn’t.  I can only say, they were once a big part of my life, I think I meant a lot to them, and their loss is a shock even now.

Writing about them was something that I let go of, until now.

I wonder if I will ever hear of a suicide without thinking of Carole.

I don’t know what I can say about Robin Williams that has not already been said.  He was beloved by all, myself included.  The world being what it is, now matter how beloved a person is, they wear a target.  Even in death they are fair game, and apparently, so are their children and families.

When people criticize a suicide, they are doing so from the framework of their own experience.  What they fail to understand is that one who considers suicide, attempts it, or succeeds at it is doing so from a place where few of us have gone.  And if we had, perhaps we would understand better.

After the funeral, Stace shared with me her mother’s notes from her final weeks on earth.  They were filled with despair and loneliness, the final thoughts of a good woman out of her mind with grief.  These were emotions that are unfamiliar to most of us.  We all carry the pain from wounds large and small, but it remains a mystery why some of us are crushed by that pain, while others make our way out, inch by inch.  Or, perhaps some of us never make our way out, but can somehow bear it from one day to the next.  Why are we different in that way?  I don’t really know.

I do not advocate suicide or even defend it.  When you commit suicide, you increase the chances that someone who was close to you will some day follow suit.  Carole’s brother, troubled, addicted, and nothing like her, took his own life ten years ago.  Stace is in turmoil and always will be.  She is hurt, angry, and guilty.

No, I don’t defend it, but I defend the person behind the act.  I wish that Carole had not committed this act.  I wish that Robin hadn’t either.  But more than anything, I am profoundly sorry for the pain that they were in.  I am sorry too for their families.  This life can be hard, even when it’s good.  So please be kind and don’t judge too much.

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On the giving of parenting advice to parents by non-parents

I very recently engaged in a brief and testy exchange on Facebook.  I feel slightly idiotic even admitting to that because first of all I don’t do conflict and second, I don’t do conflict on Facebook.  Before long, I took the whole thing down so that I would not feel compelled to continue to respond to a quickly escalating debate.

I won’t go into it – much – but what you need to know is that several childless friends with very strong views on Parents and Kids Today and Common Sense and Discipline voiced their views to me and I, feeling provoked, came very close to playing the You Don’t Even Have Kids card. And this got me to thinking about the time when I Didn’t Even Have Kids.  I had the card pulled on me a few times.  It’s annoying and somewhat insulting.  And yet, it is true.

Having started motherhood rather late in life, I had a good number of years prior to that to work myself into a state of sanctimony over How Things Ought To Be.  Maybe I hadn’t had children, I reasoned, but I had younger siblings.  I had friends with kids.  I had even been a kid. When I was around other peoples’ children, my focus was on their misbehavior, and my inner mantra became focused on the discipline!  And that children need discipline!  And discipline! And this is the mantra of my child-free friends.

But for all their theorizing, there is one factor that they don’t consider, and that factor is love.

Of course people know that parents love their kids, but the depth and extent of that love is hard to fathom if you haven’t experienced it.  It is that love that keeps a good parent striving for ways to deliver discipline that will not leave their child feeling beaten down.  It is the love that has us considering the connection that we have with our children, and it is the love that has us nurturing that connection as we search for ways to teach our children.

I had many years to theorize about parenting, and now eight years to practice.  And I can tell you, the theories are not equal to the practice.  Parenting is a complex operation, and there is scarcely a moment of the day that my children do not somehow factor into my thoughts, whether consciously or subconsciously.  In short, I practice being a parent far more than a child-free person even thinks about parenting.  And for that reason, I consider myself the expert.

Tell me, parents…do you play the card?

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I’m here. And, the first passage from a great book on the Great War.

I’ll make this part quick.  I’m here.  The blogging life can be like a new relationship.  In the beginning, you love your blog, you need your blog, you must be with your blog.  The ideas keep coming and coming.  Inspiration is everywhere.

The newness goes on for months, or a year or even more.  But then, life creeps up.  The responsibilities have piled up.  So you miss a date or two to do catch up on life, and the honeymoon’s over.  And then you miss more and more.  And then you don’t know how you will ever get started again.  Writing feels rusty and forced.  Then you want to say something about your absence, but the words won’t come, because you’ve gone and got yourself out of practice.

Anyway.  I’m here.  I’ve missed you guys.  I hope you’ll still come around.

Now, the thing I’ve really been wanting to talk about is World War I.  I heard this war mentioned in the news recently because this is the time, 100 years ago, that the first shots of the war were fired.  It wasn’t always called World War I – it didn’t wear that moniker until sometime after World War II.  Until that time, it was simply called The Great War.  You know, big.  Really big, with over 15 million fatalities worldwide over the course of four years.  Of those, 117,000 were US soldiers, double the amount of US soldiers killed in our 20-year conflict in Vietnam.

Sorry, I don’t mean to get mired in really depressing statistics, it’s just that they boggle my mind.  What I was trying to get to, was a passage in a book called The Guns of August.  Written by Barbara Tuchman and published in 1962, this entire book chronicles the month that led up to the outbreak of WWI.

And after hearing its mention in the news recently, I pulled out my copy which I had begun to read ten years ago, and then put aside because I was distracted by a class I was taking, and never got back to again.  And I re-read the first paragraph, and remembered all that I love about words.

This passage paints the picture of the pre-War era, slowly drawing to a close with the funeral of England’s Edward VII.

Look, just look at this writing.

“So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and green and blue and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens – four dowager and three regnant – and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.”


Such a thing of beauty.  I just had to share.

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The Beatles, my father, and I


Amid the 50th anniversary commemorations of The Beatles arrival in America, I have been trying to think of some words to say that could capture my feelings about the band and just how infused my heart and soul are with their music. But then I thought, this post I wrote a while back captures it all best…my memories of the music wrapped up with memories of my father. Happy anniversary, fellows.

Originally posted on Relax and Float Downstream:


One of my colleagues was in my office the other day and asked me, “So, do you just sit here and listen to The Beatles all day?”

“Well yes, I do,” was my reply.  “Is that bad?”

In fact I listen to many things, but I have found this online Beatles station that I will sometimes pull up on my computer and keep up for days and days and days.  Weeks, even.

I was the child who, at eight years old, cried real tears upon hearing of John Lennon’s death.

This is one way that I am absolutely the daughter of my father.

My parents had married and then separated by the time I was two.  Romantic relationships that are begun at the age of 16 are not usually meant to last, and the if these relationships produce a child, that does not normally improve the chances for the union’s longevity. …

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Things I know I am supposed to like (but totally don’t)

When I was younger I lacked confidence and did not wish to distinguish myself by seeming to dislike things that were popular among my peers. As I grew older and mouthier I came to believe that those things which I feared might make me seem weird are really quirks, and quirky people are loveable and revered, and therefore I am loveable and revered.

To start with I’ll just throw this one out there: I hate camping.

Wow. That felt good. I’m going to say it again.

I hate camping.

I trace the source of this distaste directly to the large number of camping trips of my youth, when at the insistence of my stepfather every family trip was a camping trip. By family trip, I mean myself, my mother, and my stepfather. Just us. And by camping trip I mean us, in a tent, in sleeping bags, for a week, in the rapidly cooling early fall temperatures in the Northeastern United States and some parts of Canada.

I will not say that there were no magical moments. I recall very fondly the camping trip to Maine of my sixth grade year, when we canoed to our picturesque campsite and discovered very quickly that our site was the favored path of a large moose who came through at least once a day and made his way to the river’s edge, drank, and ambled back into the woods. Magical.

But every moose encounter or pleasant view is offset by multiple other encounters that are so much less magical. Waking up on a deflated air mattress, my sleeping bag saturated by a puddle of frigid water that had seeped into our tent, for instance. Being splattered in the eyes with insect repellant. Schlepping a bucket of cold water to the camp site and washing our pans and utensils by hand. Days without properly bathing. Horse flies in Canada flying away with pieces of my flesh.

Friends, I have earned the right to not like camping.

I’m also going to throw this one out there: I hate sports. I don’t understand the rules of most sports, I don’t get the stats, and I don’t understand die-hard sports fans who beat each other up. I do like the Saints and had a fabulous time at one of their games back in the fall, but I would attribute that to my love for the city of New Orleans. I do also enjoy the Olympics, although I’m sure I love the games more for the lessons in multiculturalism and world geography.

Here are a few other things which I am sure I am alone in hating:

Citizen Kane. I am a classic film fan of the most annoying type. I’ve seen more movies from the 1930’s than I have seen of new releases of the past ten years. I’ve spent a lot of time on classic film boards and I know the deal: I am supposed to love Citizen Kane and think that Orson Wells is a genius. Instead, I found the movie mediocre and Wells’ directing style leaves me cold – and believe me, I’ve tried a number of his movies.

Sake. I know that this is supposed to be a part of the sushi experience, the communal sharing of the little bottle of warmed sake with my dining companions. I can’t ever take more than a few tiny sips of this liquid which seems to me a concoction of rubbing alcohol and water. I’ll stick with my Kirin.

The Ramones. Ugly, talentless, and tone-deaf. Yep, I said it. I wouldn’t have said it to the crowd I ran with in high school, but I’m saying it now.

And now I ask you, friends, what do you hate that everyone else loves? Tell me. I promise – no judgment!

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Cooking our way through Gourmet 1972 – January with poulet boivin, silent women, and the new Cadillac

The covers of these issues usually display a photo of scenery from a stunning locale.  A feature article will explore the culinary practices of the region, often in Europe but sometimes elsewhere.  January’s issue explores the island of Corfu in Yugoslavia.


Lovely, isn’t it?  It’s on my list.

What is it that holds my attention about these old magazines?  I’ve tried to explain it before but always come up short.  I always loved Gourmet magazine.  Subscribed to it for several years.  Loved fooling around in the kitchen.  Enjoyed the format, with its blend of travel articles, formal, complicated recipes, and recipes of simple weeknight fare.  Loved the “You Asked for It” section, where readers sought recipes for special dishes from their favorite restaurants.

The Connaught Hotel, London.

The Connaught Hotel, London.

I have also had a love for historical minutiae, micro-history, and musty dusty artifacts.  I like the ads in these magazines.  I look at the travel photography and wonder how the sights have changed.  I look at the old recipes and wonder about the people who subscribed to these magazines and cooked this food.  One thing is for certain: these people had money.  It cost money to indulge in the cheeses and wines and cognacs pictured in these pages.  It cost money to tour through Europe, staying in the regal, elegant hotels frequented by the affluent establishment, where the travel writers stayed and wrote of champagne and lobster breakfasts and morning teas.


Food photography was different the as well…

photo (26)

Very literal, you might say.  Food photography today is typically up close, very close; warm, inviting, and personal.  The photos above display a staid formality, a distant politeness.

The spread above was a menu for an after-theatre supper.  (Oh yeah, these people also attended the theatre.)  I chose the main course in the lower right for poulet boivin – chicken with artichokes, onions, and potatoes. 

Trim the stems of 2 medium artichokes and slice off the top inch.  Trim the thorny tips from the remaining leaves.  Rub all the cut surfaces of the  remove the chokes.  Drop the sections into a bowl of acidulated cold water as they are prepared.  Drain them and cook them in rapidly boiling salted water to cover for about 25 minutes, or until they are tender.  Drain the artichokes and toss them with softened butter.  Cover them with wax paper and keep them warm.

In a small skillet brown 10-12 small pearl onions, peeled, in 2 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, shaking the pan so they are evenly colored, over low heat for 45 to 50 minutes, or until they are tender and glazed.  Cup peeled potatoes into 12 large olive shapes.  In a small heavy skillet brown them in 2 tablespoons of oil and butter.

Split a 2-lb chicken, remove the backbone, and cut the chicken into 8 pieces.  Dry the pieces and season them with salt and pepper.  In a large ovenproof skillet brown the chicken on all sides in 1/4 cup of clarified butter.  Remove the breast sections and reserve them.  Add the potatoes to the skillet and bake the dish, uncovered, in a 375 oven for 15 minutes.  Return the breast sections to the skillet and continue to bake the chicken, skin-side down, for 10 more minutes.  Transfer the chicken and potatoes to a heated serving dish.  Add the artichokes and onions to the skillet and toss them over moderately high heat until they are hot.  Arrange them around the chicken and potatoes.  Add 1 cup white veal stock or chicken broth to the juices in the skillet and reduce it over high heat to 1/2 cup.  Add 1 teaspoon glace de viande and remove the pan from the heat.  Swirl in 1/2 stick of butter.  Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.  Serves 2.


Some notes about this recipe:

-Note how casually they mention the glace de viande.  There is nothing casual about that ingredient.

-Note the absence of artichokes in my pictures.  I did in fact attempt the artichokes, which may be my final attempt ever with those spikey little monsters.  They were inedible and I didn’t include them in the finished product.

-I found the whole “remove the breasts…return the breasts” thing completely unnecessary.  I suspect that this was when chickens were much smaller and breasts had a tendency to dry easily.  These days our chickens are hormone-pumped and beautifully big-breasted.  I cooked them right along with the other pieces and extended the cooking time by 10 minutes.

-When I was preparing the glace de viande prior to making this meal, I really started to wonder if it would be worth it.  One taste of the elixir that I created to finish off this chicken and I knew… yes, totally worth it.

ad2A few words about the ads…

These magazines normally have some really great ads, but there were not so many in this issue.  However, the recipe index, shopping guides and other such pages toward the back are always lined on both sides with these columns of restaurant ads, mostly from New York City but sometimes from other cities.  I always wonder if any of these places are still open, or what kind of business they commanded when they were around.

Note this one to the left – The Silent Woman.  And then there’s a picture of a headless woman.   Ha!  Isn’t that just a hoot?  I did go in search of that one on the internet, and found reference to it in an essay written by an academician who had been appalled upon seeing this restaurant’s sign in the 70’s on a trip to the area.  She had promptly declared that she could never live in a town that could permit such a restaurant to exist – and then spent several decades living right there.

And finally, I have a birthday next month, and all I really want is the 1972 Cadillac…this one, with that plate.


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