saying goodbye

Friday February 6, 2015 was my last day at the bank.
It was bittersweet. I’ll go into that more later, but for now, here are some photos I took on that last day. I worked with some really awesome people. I will miss them.

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flap yer wings.

This morning when I drove out of the neighborhood on my way to work, I was acutely aware of the fact that my life is going to drastically change in 9 days. I’ve been counting down. I’m now into the single digits. I hit shuffle on my music play list and tried to warm my fingers. It’s January. It’s cold.

It has been difficult to get here. And it’s really, really scary. I’ve been on this same path a long time and sometimes I worry that it’s too late to change, or I’m too old, or it’ll never work. Some people never think to deviate from this path. Other people never even consider living the kind of life I have up till now. Which is right, which is better? Not for me to say. I only know how I want this to go for myself.
So – scary, difficult – and utterly exhilarating. What’s next? I have some good solid leads on being able to answer that. And I know what I want to happen next. But in a way – I have no idea what comes next. And guess what? I’m OK with that.

As I continued to drive down the road, a really lovely, haunting, perfect song started to play. “Quiet” by Bruce Hughes (by the way, happy belated birthday, Bruce). The echoey acoustic guitar and faraway melody was the perfect accompaniment to the cold, the morning light, the movement of the car. I looked up and saw a long line of Canadian Geese overhead, and for several seconds, each and every one of them was floating on the breeze – not a single one flapped their wings. They moved as one whole solid unit, sailing through the air to the music. It was one of those Perfect Driving Moments, that I always cherish… thank you, Universe…
Then suddenly the song “skipped” and ended, and another one began. This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen with all this high tech stuff! But it did. 2 geese flapped their wings. The moment was gone.

I guess you never know how things will go. And Perfect Moments are, well, just moments.

my degenerate high school years, part one

As a teenager, I was an Angry Young Woman. It’s taken years of therapy to figure out what exactly I was angry about, but that’s a story for a different time…
I was Punk in high school. I had a modified Mohawk, my favorite band was The Damned, I listened to a lot of loud, angry music – I went to a LOT of concerts (for you music aficionados, the 80’s were a pretty great time to be living in SoCal, when good bands and all-age clubs were plentiful). I looked scary. I worried my mom. I didn’t have a lot of friends.
I was also in all honors classes.
Needless to say, I was the scariest looking person in those classes. But I was a good student. I did well. I did what was required, and then some.  I just looked weird.
I got in trouble in school only twice in those four years. Surprising, right? But true. I may have looked angry, and to this day I have a decent subversive streak built into my personality, but for the most part I’ve always colored inside the lines.
So maybe you’re thinking, no way, Andrea, you only got in trouble twice? But you were such a bad ass! If it only happened twice, they must have been pretty spectacular events! You crazy girl you! Yeah well, it’s quite possible I was all bark, and no bite…
pens are fascinating
The first time I got in trouble was when my 3 friends and I tried to leave our closed campus for lunch. We were seniors – what the heck, everyone was doing it! It was only lunch for god’s sake, it’s not like we were trying to skip class to rob a convenience store.  We were trying to go during our allotted lunch hour… When we pulled out of our parking spot, we didn’t get more than 20 feet before a teacher spotted us and stopped us. This resulted in my one and only detention.  For trying to go to lunch. During lunch.
The second time I got busted didn’t actually result in any formal punishment, because my Mom ended up covering for me. Really? No way! I can hear you saying. Well, once you hear this part, you might understand why she gave me a break.
OK so I mentioned earlier my favorite band was The Damned, right? They are from England. So when they came to the United States to tour, it was a big deal! There was no way I was going to miss that. However, as fate would have it, I had a Calculus test the next day, that I needed to study for. Choices, choices… So here’s what I did. I wrote a note, excusing myself from my last few classes, so that I could go home and study before I went to the show. I signed my Mom’s name. I figured when she got home from work, she wouldn’t even know I had done it.
I had a friend who successfully wrote her own excuse notes, on several occasions, and she never got caught, so yeah… but no. The school called my Mom, asking her about the note. She told them that yes, she had written it. She covered for me! But then she came home from work and asked me about it. I told her I wrote it so I could come home and study for a test. Everyone involved knew my Mom had not written the note. But you see – how could you punish someone for wanting to come home and study??
I didn’t really get in trouble, but I felt awful. Partly because I don’t like to do dishonest things like that, but also partly because I got caught. If I had written it and gotten away with it, I’d only feel a little awful.

I did end up going to that concert. With the older boy who lived downstairs. Who was definitely on my Mom’s No Fly List. But that, too, is definitely a story for another day.
this is what happens when you drop out of calculus at the sememster, but
end up on the yearbook staff

the family cheesecake recipe.

I like cheesecake. Even though it doesn’t have any chocolate in it (my usual dessert prerequisite), really like it. I’m kind of a cheesecake purist – I’m not a big fan of the “toasted marshmallow s’mores galore” or the “white raspberry truffle” kind of thing. A little fruit is good, sure – but I think it’s more difficult to make a plain one. Think about it – if you use fewer ingredients, and don’t cover them up with the flavors of peanut butter, chocolate-chip cookie dough, or Snickers bars, you’d better get those few ingredients right because you’re gonna be tasting them, and nothing else.
When a few ingredients are put together with care and love and precision, great things can happen. I’m a fan of that approach.
I have a cheesecake recipe that I inherited from my Mother. Or at least I thought it was from her…
She had made this recipe for my entire life, and for some reason I had thought that she picked it up when she was an Au Pair in Switzerland, at the age of 16. I always thought it was a “French” style cheesecake. Whatever that means!
After she passed away several years ago, I finally got around to asking my Dad about the recipe, and if he knew where she had gotten it. They had been divorced for a very long time, but I thought maybe he could remember. And he did – as it turns out, it was actually his recipe! He had taken some sort of hippie cooking class in San Francisco and this recipe was from the class. Beyond that, we don’t really know anything about the recipe. It could be an Icelandic-style cheesecake as much as it could be a French-style one. Regardless of its origin, it’s a very unique recipe. I can promise you, you’ve never had a cheesecake like this. It’s light and fluffy – not dense like a NY-style cake, not gelatinous like a no-bake. And it’s not that sweet. But it’s so, so good.
I have fond memories of making this recipe with my Mom. We would make it for holidays, birthdays, special dinners with friends or family, or sometimes just because. I can see her mixing the dough for the crust by hand, and meticulously pressing it into the springform, bit by bit. I can see her folding the egg whites into the cheese filling. I can remember pressing the extra dough into flattened circles and making cookies with it. And I can remember, of course, getting to “clean” the spoons and the bowl… We would even cheat and have it for breakfast pretty often – we could rationalize this because, well, it had eggs in it…

approximately 1979. not sure what’s going on here other than – cheesecake!

So now I am the keeper of the recipe. I don’t think my Dad has a copy of it, he doesn’t make it himself. I have given the recipe to one other family member, and other than that, I’m it. Heavy!
Every time I make it, I see my mom making it, and it’s like we are still making it together. I love that. And knowing that it actually came from my Dad – I love that too. Even though we never spent much time together as a family, it’s like we can still come together over a recipe. A few simple ingredients, put together with love, to produce something so very wonderful.
pressing the crust into the springform.
getting ready to fold in the egg whites…
right outta the oven…
after it’s fallen. hint: always tastes better the next day.
  

advent.

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent – there are four of them leading up to Christmas. It is the third one, and I still don’t have a single holiday decoration up anywhere in this house. I feel kind of bad about it. But in my defense – I’ve been busy.
For the most part, I’m OK with not having anything out yet. I feel like my Mom would be disappointed with me, but you know, she’ll just have to deal with it, wherever she is. This is the first year since she passed away that the Christmas season is not sucking for me. The first year I don’t have PTSD, the first year I’m not filled with a now-familiar sense of dread from looking back to the events of 4 years ago. I feel sad, and I miss my Mom, but it is finally, for the most part, OK. And maybe because of that, I don’t know – I am OK with celebrating Christmas a little differently this year and not having it all over the house.
My Dad sent me the following piece of writing this week. It was part of something he wrote as a tribute to my mom, in March of 2012, one year following her death. He wrote something, as did I, my Aunt Deepti, and my Mom’s brother, Jan. I would point you in the direction of that original post, but I managed to permanently blow away a huge chunk of my blog a while back, and I can’t find it. (I hope I have that post somewhere on my desktop though – it was some beautiful writing by all 4 of us, I have to say).
My parents were divorced when I was so young, that I don’t have any memories of all three of us together as a family. But he wrote this lovely piece about something he remembered about their life together, before I was born. I can picture it so clearly in my imagination…
Early in our marriage Monika asked to make a little table stand for an Adventskranz. The stand had a star-shaped base with a tapering, 16 inch mast, at the top of which I cut and secured a small 5 pointed star. I painted it all a warm Venetian red. 
On the day before the first day of Advent, from the base of the top star, Monika would suspend, by four red ribbons, the Krantz that she had made by binding fir branches in a circle. It hung as a wreath, parallel to the table just above the base. On the Krantz she then would attach four, white styrene candles, equally spaced. Atop the upper star, she secured a little painted angel, a German, folk art angel made of turned wood.
The next day, the first Sunday of Advent, she would cover our small breakfast table with a folk tablecloth, set the Adventskranz in the center and the Adventskalender to one side. Then, she would set out two coffee cups, on saucers (not Meisen, though if we had had them, they would have been), and brew a pot of coffee. When the coffee was ready, the first of the four candles would be lit and we would sit down and enjoy the special space we had created. She would have stories to tell of other Advents, and at some point we would punch open the first day of the Adventskalender and share the chocolate that we knew was concealed inside. 
There was a window for each of the days of Advent, so we celebrated each day with a little chocolate, and on the remaining 3 Sundays we sat with coffee and lit an additional candle.
I am grateful for my parents. Happy Advent to you, too.

percentages.

For someone who professes to hate math, I find myself using numbers a lot.
I work with money – that’s a lot of numbers. I do some stock and option trading – more numbers. And for some reason, I’m always thinking about things in terms of percentages.
What percentage of the work week has been completed, and how much is left?
I drive better than 97% of all other humans.
I’m operating at a 47% enthusiasm level at work.
What percentage of my brain am I actually using?
This latte scores an 82% on the latte scale.
My gas tank is 52% full.
What percentage is my phone battery on??!?
But, just because I think I terms of percentages, and look at and use a lot of numbers, does NOT mean I’m good at math. I can’t remember formulas for stuff (find the Future Value of an investment? Meh). I’m actually not even good at adding or subtracting, unless we’re talking about bars of Trader Joe’s chocolate (i.e., 10 bars for me, plus none for you, equals still none for you). But in my defense, just like we don’t have to memorize phone numbers anymore because they’re all in our phones, why do I have to figure out how to add in my head? Hello iPhone calculator.
When I was very young, my mother had my IQ tested. She never told me what the score was though. She always said she didn’t want it to influence me. So what was I supposed to think? It’s possible she never told me because she didn’t want me to be disappointed by how low it was. If it was really that low, I wouldn’t be smart enough to be disappointed by it… right? And then I did almost skip second grade…
So I’ll give myself the (hopeful) benefit of the doubt and assume the score was higher rather than lower. WAS being the operative word there. If I was smart at one time, it seems I may have lost it somewhere along the way. I think it could have been somewhere around 7th grade. Math got hard, blech! Or maybe it was my senior year in college, when I may have done a few things I probably shouldn’t have, that may or may not have contributed to the loss of brain cells…
When I think of a “smart person” or a person with a high IQ, nowadays images of Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory come to mind. Super Nerds who can rattle off equations and spend their time solving our Big Math And Science Questions. But I know this is just a cultural stereotype. I’ll wager there are some pretty smart people working at regular jobs at the bookstore, or Whole Foods. Or the bank. Do geniuses decide to go open a dry cleaners? Or write novels? So why doesn’t someone make a sitcom about THOSE people?

In any event, I have fond memories of childhood, when I was still smart, and taking IQ tests, and going to Montessori school, and being assigned special creative projects because I had already finished reading the class textbook… Fond memories of a time when I was smart and the whole world lay before me, 100% pure possibility.