12/4/21: National Cookie Day!

It’s Saturday. The sun is shining. There’s coffee. No alarm clock. No struggle through traffic. And it’s National Cookie Day. So I took out some butter and got to work baking some beauties.

I’m always surprised by a delicious non-chocolate cookie. With half a bowl of leftover homemade cranberry sauce in the fridge, I dedicated an hour to making cranberry thumbprint cookies today.

I found the recipe at Lovely Little Kitchen. You should make them. They are delicious.

First I mixed the butter and sugar and egg and almond extract. Then I mixed in the flour.

Then I made little balls and dented them with a 1/2 teaspoon. I know, I know, I was supposed to dent them with my thumb, but yuck to that. The little spoon worked great.

I filled them with a dab of the cranberry sauce (after I pureed it in the blender).

Baked ’em up, made the glaze, and drizzled it on. So yummy.

They are amazing with coffee. Get to work!

TWL: here’s what I think

The thing about time, I think, is as it passes we don’t notice we’re changing. Inside, deep within the echo chamber of our inner voice telling us the stories we like to hear (rehashing what happened, who said what, what went well or not, and who’s to blame) we think we thought the same way yesterday, but we were different. That’s why I journal. I don’t often read back. I just write my own now. But whenever I do read back, I can see my own story evolve and change and I’m reminded of what I used to think before my mind changed. And I can see the ebb and flow, the sine wave of my emotional state, the good days and the hard times. They come and go and come back again.

I remember as a little girl the first time I realized that what went on inside my head was my own. My secrets. I could keep them in or let them out, and no one else could control that but me. I also remember realizing this is true for everyone, and if I had a storyteller in my head, so did everyone else. And I wondered and pondered what the heck everyone else thought about all day long.

These days nobody keeps their thoughts inside. We blog and tweet and purge our souls in stories and pictures on social media. We share every opinion. That makes them harder to change. If you dig your heels in, draw a line in the sand, you’re stuck right there.

When you show your hand, your feet are cast in cement. The spotlight is bright. There’s nowhere to hide.

When I was small, I was labeled as shy. I thought that was ridiculous and offensive. I listened and decided what I thought about stuff, but did not feel the urge to share or argue my point with anyone because even as a small child I knew opinions and feelings were real and personal and not to be debated. See, I have a strong opinion on opinions, and I developed this deeply held conviction after about six rides around the sun.

You’ll be surprised to learn, after almost a decade of blogging, that I carefully keep parts of me to myself, thank you very much. I hope you do the same. If you’ve been reading for the last 98 weeks, you’ll know I have strong opinions on this pandemic, especially the mishandling of it. I’m deeply devasted by its destruction, empathetic to those who suffer, and disappointed by my fellow humans’ blatant misunderstanding of how to survive a global contagious virus. The sticky virus leaps freely from one unvaccinated human whose feet are stuck in the cement of their voiced opinion to the next unmasked epicenter-of-the-universe human who demands the freedom to die or kill others. My mind has been changed by this pandemic. When I glance back at TWL posts from last summer or last year I’m reminded of my own journey of fear, guarded optimism, and angry realism as I check the case numbers each week. If this hell ever ends, I may publish the whole damn thing so our grandchildren’s grandchildren can learn from our mistakes.

As noted last Tuesday, US COVID case numbers appeared to drop in the last week–certainly due to fewer tests during the holiday. Your neighborhood Debbie-downer warns: brace yourselves for the numbers next week.

TWL: 48 million

US COVID cases stayed steady this week at 670,000. That’s a 6% increase over last week. Tomorrow we’ll reach 48 MILLION total cases in 97 weeks.

Cases will appear to drop next week since fewer tests will be done over the holiday. Then everyone will go back to work and school and spread what they didn’t know they picked up. Protect yourself and your loved ones. A smart colleague advises wearing a mask especially when and where no one else is.

Gotta go make a pie.

TWL: thankful for vaccines

With Thanksgiving a week away we have to watch COVID-19 case numbers carefully, note the current upward trend, and be ready. Cases are going back up again with more than a 15% increase this week compared to last week. College kids will soon travel home to every state where they will deliver (or pick up) the virus and help it spread when they return to campus. We are entering a dangerous month. If we’re lucky and smart, we can minimize the spread. If we have an open holiday where we are all just sick of worrying, we’ll probably pay again with a winter surge like last year.

I’ve been told I’m wrong, but to me wearing a mask with your family is not offensive; it means you love them and if they put one on too, it means they love you back. Be offended by something else. Oh, and get a negative COVID test before hugging your grandma.

I’m so thankful for the coronavirus vaccines I might even get a flu shot.

628,000 new cases of COVID-19 in America this week. We’ve been at this for a long time and still the end is nowhere in sight.

Life as a backup plan

One thing I’ve learned from decades of teaching is perspectives that emerge from my students will never stop surprising me. At 20 years old, all older adults occupy the audience of the student on the stage, and we all ask the same questions. What are you going to do? This week a student told me of their plans.

When the student finished their story, they added, “But I’ve thought about your job, you know? Teaching something you love…Just, sort of, as a backup plan if I don’t get in to […].”

I nodded, surprised but trying hard to hide it, while an undergrad diagnosed my life as a backup plan.

But it got me thinking about paths unexplored, chances missed, other parallel universes where my life is different, rowdier, exciting, perhaps unequivocally not a backup plan by any measure.

Now, I’m pretty old and I’ve done a lot of things. Many of them I could not have predicted while still in college. I did not know I would run half marathons. Or earn a PhD. Or write novels and children’s books. Or learn to play piano at my half-life. Or bake two dozen pies in a year. Or blog for 80 consecutive Tuesdays about a pandemic that would not end. Or meet with my sisters and mom for an hour online every Saturday. Or coach Odyssey of the Mind. Or drive a boat for water skiers. Or swear like a sailor. Or leave my engineering job to teach impossible organic chemistry to thousands of students. I could not have foreseen any of these backup plans when I was very young.

And I have no idea what backup plans await.

Most students are laser-focused on one single goal. They have stated that goal so often, so loudly, with so much conviction to so many people they feel devastated when they change their minds, either by failing a course or admitting to an alternative passion. We must let them change their minds and expand their futures without feeling guilty or otherwise badly about themselves. The whole point of college is to change one’s mind.