I went to the barn holiday party

What I saw: barn friends and Hado at the holiday party.

What I did beforehand: overslept, ate cereal and walked the dogs.

What I wore: very dirty jeans and some other clothes I found wadded up on the floor of my closet, Keen pull-on snow boots, enormous purple scarf.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.

Why I saw this show: the ascendence of fascism in America has crushed my already limited desire to cheerfully attend social functions. Nevertheless, a party like this is an opportunity to give year-end tips to the hard-working people who take care of my horses. And to see my barn friends.

Where I stood: in the barn aisle.

Things that were sad: last year when I attended this party I didn’t realize it was all about, so I didn’t have cards and tips with me. It was awkward.  I did bring bread I made, which everyone made a big deal about. That kind of added to my feeling awkward. The other thing that happened last year is I had to have the same awkward conversation a bunch of times about who I was, and how long I’d been at the barn, and which horses I owned, and where I had my horses before that. The third time through these questions I fully flowered, via awkwardness, into an overgrown, surly hothouse  middle-schooler, providing one-word, conversation-stopping answers: two months, two horses, Dutchess County. “Oh,” they asked. “Where in Duchess County?”
And I’d say, “Pine Box,” which they hadn’t heard of.

Also, last year I met the barn owner at this party, and had a conversation with him about cakes or something but whatever I said it was said without knowing he was the owner. I thought he was just some guy. When I found about a few days later that I had been talking to the owner, and not just some guy, I marveled at myself for being so supremely awkward.

One good thing about going to parties where I barely know anyone is I can get away with just shaking people’s hands. On the west coast, I don’t remember even having to shake hands all that often, but here in New York you shake hands with new people and are engaged in this grotesquely awkward air-kissing gesture with people you already know (and sometimes even with people you don’t already know). Some people actually press their cheeks into yours, which feels like a completely unnecessary violation. Others smack you, kiss-wise, on the cheek, which at least resembles something your Aunt Ruthie might have done. Then there’s the two cheek thing, and it’s too, too much.  

So this year, I had to hug my friends and try to dodge the kissing thing, except with the French people, who seem to know what they’re doing and will do all the work so all I have to do is stand there limply, feeling awkward and wait for it to end.

Hado goes for an awkward air-kiss

Things that were funny: I was standing with my friend C. and some other people talking about the bread and someone else walked up to tell me how much they like my bread. Also, I ran into the owner again, and this year I told him how much I love the barn and thanked him. If it was awkward, I didn’t even care.

Things that were not funny: two different people asked me if I make my bread using a bread machine. 

Something I ate: there were home-made linzer cookies, and my husband made me try an inch-long piece of the top of his. It was good, though we thought it should have been rolled just a little bit thinner before baking. I also drank a glass of quite decent red wine out of a red plastic cup. Nothing says “PARTY” in America like a red plastic cup.

What it is: keeping horses is an expensive, labor-intensive business, requiring attentive and careful management. It takes a lot of people, and many hours, and good communication. The work is never-ending. I now understand that regular tips are expected and also some kind of Christmas bonus. This summer I was brave enough to ask some of my barn friends what they tip and was enormously relieved to find I wasn’t doing it wrong.

Who should see it: holiday parties might be supremely awkward, being a weird salad event of tossed religious holidays, crumbled gift-giving, and chopped “being busy,” over a bed of shifting expectations for getting dressed up, but you should go. No one ever says, “Ugh! I wish that awkward so-and-so didn’t show up!”

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545; min-height: 14.0px}

What I saw on the way home: Canada geese, headed south for the winter. 

I had two Sundays

What I saw: the Saturday after Thanksgiving I thought it was Sunday.


What I did beforehand: I set aside the Friday after Thanksgiving for doing anything that is not shopping.


What I wore: riding clothes until after my lesson, when I changed into jeans. 


Who went with me: the Bacon Provider. 19 was probably around but I didn’t see him. 


How I got two Sundays: I don’t always know what day it is


Why I saw this show:  I’ve been distracted. We thought we lived in a democracy until we elected a woman and got an unqualified fraudster instead. When I show up at the barn, people ask me how I am, and I always say I’m doing great. I’m not doing great. I’m freaked out. 


Where I sat: car, horse, car, gas station, kitchen, living room

Planko in my living room

Things that were sad: last year at the time all the leaves were off the trees in our yard. This year, many still cling. In the arctic, it is winter when the polar ice cap should be growing and instead it is shrinking. We have caused a catastrophic global climate emergency and fixing it should be one of our highest priorities. 

Captain in a feelings chair

Also, Captain has deep feelings when people leave, and spends a day in a feelings chair.

“My name is Porn Finder”

Things that were funny:
 our houseguests played a lot of Boggle and though I played only briefly I found my sheet. Also, The Graduate’s roommate built a colossal tower of Plankos.

We finished the last of the beer we brewed in June. It was a traditional British single-malt IPA that we named Brexit. We messed it up when we bottled it, and it turned out tasty but flat.

Schwartz has recovered from the rude dog at Thanksgiving and is back to dominating the household.

Things that were not funny: the proliferation of fake news is a popular new thing to talk about on social media. Does this mean we should assume that even the Washington Post “makes stuff up?” Also, someone lost half of the toilet-paper-roll-holder-thingy on Thanksgiving and it hasn’t turned up yet.

Something I ate: homemade turkey pot-pie

What it is: Sunday panic is the dread of going back to work on Monday, probably more related to the feeling that weekends aren’t long enough than that jobs are bad. Lately, the Bacon Provider had been traveling a lot, and too many trips have begun and ended on the weekends, so he’s lost some weekends altogether. I am trying to convince him that we need a vacation in January, and he doesn’t want to travel. Thinking it was Sunday on Saturday meant that I thought we were almost out of time. 

Who should see it: keep your days straight, and don’t let Monday ruin your Sunday 


p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545}

What I saw on the way home: my fuel light came on

Groundhog Pie day

Last night, I stayed up too late, and slept poorly. At first light the cat started bugging me, meowing and placing a paw on my chin. I could see in the wan light of morning that it was still snow-covered out there. I patted the cat, feeling like winter here will never end. The cat settled in next to me, and I slid back into restless sleep.  After another half an hour, the cat stretched out on top of me, putting both paws on my mouth. I patted him, knowing by the blue quality of the morning light that we had heavy cloud cover and snow yet on the ground; I fell asleep again. We played this game for several more repetitions. I overslept.
I tweeted yesterday that I hate Pi Day. An old friend H____ from my college math teaching days offered up her take on it, tweeting, “Many of my students wished me a Happy #PiDay on the way out of class today. Everyone was just smiling and happy.”
She continued, “I had such fun this week talking about #PiDaywith my students, sending them Pi links, etc. They were super into it,” and, then, “We talked about some of the cool properties of the number pi. And while the 3/14 thing is silly, we took it in good fun.”
She compared Pi Day to, “the stupidity of Groundhog Day,” adding, “taking a day to celebrate Pi … is a delightful thing.”
H____ was right, of course. People pretend that nerds have inherited the future, because a couple of nerds like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs became billionaires. But most nerds just do ordinary jobs for regular salaries, and while they may share messy hair or dirty glasses or a fondness for a particular mock turtleneck, being a nerd is more about your passions than your fashion. I can’t think of other days of the year that my affection for things mathematical is necessarily appreciated.
Several lifetimes ago, I was a college math teacher, and then a stay-home mom, and after a long time away from the classroom I got a job teaching math in a nearby Catholic girls high school.
Coming from a college teaching background, my contact with students had been mostly limited to 2 or 3 days a week for either an hour or an hour and a half, and office hours. I had done some student advising, but it was always cut and dried, about picking courses and a major. In this job I was taking attendance, reporting dress-code violations (in theory), supervising clubs, doing parent-teacher conferences, writing college recommendations, and listening and handing out Kleenex when girls came to me to cry about things.
I was surrounded by them, from a little past 7 a.m. when I arrived, until some time past 3 p.m. when I dashed out with an arm-load of grading, late to pick up my own kids from their schools across town. I had them in my room as soon as I unlocked the door in the morning, I ate lunch with them in my room at noon-ish; I went to the bathroom with them. I had a room cleaner assigned to my classroom, who cleaned the white boards, swept, and wiped down and rearranged the desks each day after school. Once a week I walked the neighborhood before school, with a safety vest and a clipboard, writing down the license plate number of any student car that was parked in violation of the rules.
That first year, I never conducted an exact head-count of my students until late February, when the head of the math department asked me for it for ordering pies for Pi Day. I had never heard of Pi Day before this job. What a silly reason for a celebration. It had never occurred to me that March 14 might be written 3.14, perhaps because I always thought the ordering day-month-year more logical. As a math person, I understand affection for numbers. I put a line through my sevens, for clarity. My favorite integers are, in order, 8, 0, and 24, and though I do like e and the square root of 2, I love i. Ok, yes, I’m a huge numbers nerd. But, Pi Day? Really?

Crumble-topped Apple Pie

The department chair allowed 6 pieces per pie, because, she said, they were small pies. She ordered enough crumble-toped apple pies from Borrachini Bakery to feed a piece of pie to every math student in the school. This number was essentially the full enrollment of the school, minus the one or two seniors who were headed to art school and didn’t take math their senior year. Like most of the math department, I had a teaching load of five classes: four honors and one, non-honors section, known as, “college prep.” The honors classes had the highest enrollments, with a maximum of 26 students in each, and the majority were full classes. I had perhaps 104 honors students, and an additional 20 college prep students. At 6 pieces per pie, that’s 20 2/3 pies, but, of course, pies don’t come in a fractional form, so let’s make that 21 pies.
The mood on Pi Day was always festive in the math classes, the way it was on spirit days when the girls came dressed head-to-toe in their class colors, or Halloween, or the last day before a break, or any day when snowflakes were seen falling outside the hundred-year-old windows.  Maybe I should call the mood distracted. They were excited for pie, of course.
From the moment that the pies were brought to my classroom, in big stacks of tidy pink boxes, the smell of the pies was intense. Apples, sugar, apples, sugar. Apples! Sugar! And from the first moment of cutting a pie with a pie server I brought from home for the purpose, more apples, and more sugar. By the time the first 26 students had their slice of pie during first period, I was already done with the smell of pie. The desk set aside for pie slicing was already sticky. My garbage can filled up with paper plates and sticky forks and gooey leftover apples and sugar, and don’t forget the empty pie boxes, four boxes per class. The floor around the desk with the pies got sticky. The floor around my desk got sticky. The floor around the trash got sticky. The doorknob got sticky. The room got even stickier through the day. Sticky.
By the end of the day, my clothes were sticky with pie. The light-switch was gooey with pie. My nose was coated with pie. My eyes felt gooey with pie.
This morning on Facebook, my former student and room cleaner G____ had a status update:  Happy Pi Day, everyone!! (Totally craving some pie.)” 

She is in graduate school now.