Jan 25

Dear Readers,

As a speech therapist who suffers from acute germ neurosis, I lather my hands in organic alcohol-based hand sanitizer every time I sense a nearby germ has escaped my students and entered my airspace, such as when I catch them exhaling. If their hands enter the general vicinity of their faces, I extend them the honor of using my hand sanitizer (or what I tell them is “magic soap”). I’m a real pusher of the stuff; we go through it in my classroom like candy, except that we don’t eat it. Except for that one time, when my back was turned for just an instant, and the student thought the soap was magical because it could be consumed. You just can’t pay for entertainment like that these days. And certainly, like any good germaphobic speech therapist, I take any opportunity to teach my students to say their sounds without the use of physical contact.

But sometimes when less tactile methods fail, I have to get physical and the gloves come on. My latex germ-repelling gloves. I glove up in these fashionable accessories when trying to make a good impression on a first date, but also when pressing on students’ lips and cheeks to eliminate or reduce the escape of air from the sides of the tongue during a lateral lisp. Which sounds like loads of fun, I know, but students typically dart for the door when they see the gloves. I’m not sure if it’s because they aren’t fond of this manner of therapy, or because I’ve taken to using the gloves as hand puppets instead of therapy tools.

Accompanying the gloves are the cherry tongue depressors, which enter students’ oral cavities and extend toward the palatoglossal arches (a little dangerously close to the gag reflex, if you ask me, or the students who gag and spit on me) to give a frame of reference by way of tactile stimulation to the points of contact for the tongue when it makes a consonantal or rhotic /r, ar/ sound. For students with tongue thrust, the tongue depressor supports positioning of the tongue behind the teeth. As with the gloves, students are similarly disappointed by the entrance of the cherry tongue depressors into the session, except for that one kid who thinks they taste great and keeps requesting more cherry tongue depressors every time he passes by my office. I have no proof for this, but I actually suspect he might be faking his /r/ problem just to get his daily cherry tongue depressor fix.

As a germaphobopathologist, I prefer to use hands–off, glove– and tongue depressor–free speech therapy whenever possible to reduce my perceived risk of transmission of germaphobopathologist-resistant germ strains. In an ideal world, I’d like to teach in a germ-proof space, such as a transparent protective bubble. But my district was hit hard by last year’s budget cuts, and my requests for protective bubble-wear have been repeatedly denied.

So for now, I guess I’ll Keep Sticking My Fingers in Other People’s Mouths for a Living.

Jealous? 🙂

–Troi out

Jan 23

Dear Readers,

It is an inevitable fact of life that as you split your time between family, friend groups, work, community activities, Star Trek conventions, and the like, you will generally lose touch with a few dear friends along the way. This is especially likely if, like me, you tend toward attempting to maintain not one but nearly ten friend groups, including but not limited to the Marrieds group; the Singles group; That Other, More Fun But a Bit Too Wild Singles group; the Church group of One Denomination; That Other Church Group of a Different Denomination (in the true spirit of faith, it’s very important these two groups don’t mix, or the world will certainly end); the Coworkers Who You Also Happen to Like As Friends group; and the Fellow Trekkies group (a bunch of nerds whose level of geekiness is so profound you don’t actually acknowledge them if you see them on the street while with any of the aforementioned friend groups). Despite my best intentions, I do occasionally fall victim to friend loss during busy times when I don’t respond to emails or return phone calls with the warp speed my true friendships deserve.

And so it was with pure delight that this morning I ran into a friend from graduate school with whom I had lost touch this past year, save for attending her awesome Sprockettes bicycle dance performance this past October at the Hopworks Biketobeer Fest. This friend is the rare gem who, upon receiving an email from you, responds with a thorough and thoughtful thesis of no less than 5000 words that splashes your thoughts and ideas onto the backdrop of her personal experience and wisdom and paints a resulting picture that never fails to offer insight into your dried-out palate of stuck suppositions and stagnant struggles. A friend whose very being is intelligence, humor, class, and the gracefulness that only a Sprockettes bike dancer can pull off.

It was unfortunate, then, to make this joyous re-acquaintance at a Spanish conversational group, at which speaking English was strictly forbidden. My Spanish-speaking skills—-rusty at best, nonexistent at worst—-made for a definite communication breakdown as I attempted valiently to fill my friend in on the past year of my life, drawing from a mental Spanish dictionary of under ten words. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Friend: (fluent string of complex multisyllabic Spanish words, conjugated into appropriate past and future tense forms)

Me: Hola!

Friend: (same as above, with raised intonation at the culmination of the phrase, in what I can only guess is a polite and probing question into the nature of my existence and activities this past year)

Me: Hola! (But very expressively. So that it conveys much more, I’m quite certain.)

Yet while our communication was fragmented, and my need to improve my Spanish skills was unmistaken, I was reminded today just how pequeno our mundo is. (See how much Spanish I learned today? I’m practically fluent!) 🙂 And how our small world lends itself to renewing friendships that had begun to slip away, after all.

–Troi out

Jan 18

Dear Readers,

I’m still getting acclimated to the universe of online dating.

In this new universe, I’m allowed a few dates with anybody I choose until I decide to pursue one of the anybody’s to make him my somebody.

I suppose it’s what dating was always meant to be, but it’s a far cry from what dating always meant to me.

To me, dating was developing an overpowering, all-consuming crush on a boy. The object of my affection was then subjected to me—-on my best, most adorable behavior—-conveniently overlayed on approximately 90% of his daily activities. (You call it stalking, I call it “availability.”) I sat at his lunch table, I dragged myself out of bed to attend morning mass instead of evening, and yes, I even started playing on his ultimate frisbee team despite the fact that I didn’t know what ultimate frisbee was or how to play it.

Eventually, the object of my affection would reach the inevitable conclusion that, despite my poor table manners, tendency to fall asleep at morning mass, and generally atrocious frisbee skills, he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Our relationship would be inaugurated with much rejoicing, by me; being at that point exhausted both by early morning mass and by having had to ceaselessly maintain my best adorable behavior for the past six months.

During those six months, it never crossed my mind to entertain the affections of others; I never noticed another man nor did I particularly want to explore my options.

And once my crush and I became a couple, we stayed a couple, for a couple of years.

And when we ceased to be a couple, I didn’t want to be part of another couple, for another couple of years.

It was simple and sweet, and I only had to remember one guy’s name.

I by no means intend to knock the very system in which I am a willing player. But I hope, as I play a new game with new rules, that at the end of a long line of anybody’s will come my somebody.

–Troi out

Jan 10

Dear Readers,

My AT&T phone, which teetered perilously on the precipice of complete system shutdown due to poor design since the day I bought it on January 1st, 2009 , was finally laid to rest on January 6th, 2010. Defective since birth, its passing was officiated by me, the AT&T employee I was fighting with (who refused any reimbursement or support as my phone was four days past 12 month warranty), two friends who accompanied me to the store for moral support against the rapacious rascals tending the customer service desk, and the store security guard, who circled me suspiciously throughout the duration of the fight as if he expected me to take that useless excuse for a phone and hurl it at that useless excuse for an employee’s head.*

*And I might have, if I had any aim. But judging from my frisbee skills—-I even manage to throw it behind me when I’m aiming forward—-I would have probably given myself a black eye.

The only thing that could have been worse would have been if the very next day, at work, my cute navy pinstripe pants ripped open in the general vicinity of my backside, exposing my left back pocket lining and several inches of my derriere.

Which is exactly what happened.

I had to walk backwards all the way down the hall to the women’s faculty restroom. But when I got there I realized walking backwards hadn’t accomplished anything since there were actually people in both directions.

Tomorrow I’m looking both ways before I cross the street because the world—-well, my world, which contains my cell phone and my pants—-is looking uncharacteristically chaotic. I’m even slowing down on my morning coffee run to Peets—-from my car three feet away. I suggest you do the same.

–Troi out

Jan 4

Dear Readers,

So after 30 blissful years of Kitchen Avoidance,* I decided recently (or rather, my checking account decided) to eat in for a spell. Turns out, eating in means cooking in. And while I was intellectually content to live off of the 5 entrees and 3 side dishes at which I was already competent, I found that my stomach got bored and forced me to subsidize my meals with Burgerville chocolate hazelnut milkshakes which, I came to discover, ultimately had the same deleterious effect on my net financial situation.

You can’t imagine what I went through on my first trip to the grocery store to buy foods that weren’t pre-packaged. I couldn’t even find the aisle with cooking and baking ingredients (although the ice cream aisle kept finding me). A regular employee at my local New Seasons store actually fainted when he saw me with a bag of real honest-to-goodness flour in my hands!

Even upon finding the correct aisle, it struck me that cooking and baking items are poorly labeled compared to pre-packaged foods. Take, for example, my good friend, Tillamook Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. The label is self-explanatory—-you aren’t left wondering how it’s used or what it might taste like.

On the other hand, ingredient items are obscurely marked and it’s impossible to identify their intentions by a simple glance at their exterior. (Like men.) Even as I got to know the containers, studying their labels, trying to figure out what they were good for, and taking the time to sample them, I was still mystified. (Also like men!) Consider cornstarch. I found that this was not, as its title would have you believe, a powder that you sprinkle on corn to flavor it, but rather a substance used for thickening certain liquids. Wouldn’t it therefore be prudent to call it Thickening Powder?

Based on the confusing nature of cooking, about which I’m now a bonified expert (I’ve made one entree and one dessert, and nobody has complained of poisoning, yet!), I’d like to offer a few helpful tidbits to keep in mind next time you’re perusing the cooking aisle or stumbling upon the kitchen you never knew you had:

Expert Tip #1: Just because your cream cheese reads “Cultured!” doesn’t mean it’s been to Europe. “Cultured” means that it’s been fermented with lactic acid bacteria.

Expert Tip #2: “Sweat the Butter” isn’t a typo that’s supposed to read “Sweat on the Butter.” Oops. Anyway, it actually means that you melt the butter on low heat.

Expert Tip #3: “Marinating” meat means you let it sit in the marinade for a really long time before cooking it. But you’re not supposed to leave it so long (for example, 16 days) that the meat goes bad and your entire living space smells like the chopping block at a butcher shop.

Expert Tip #4: The little switch located above your stove is the fan. Use it, especially when you’re burning every item on your stovetop. This will cut down on activation of your fire alarm and subsequent summoning of the local firemen to your place of residence. Although, the firemen are very handsome and I might continue to burn things so we can get to know each other better.

Well, Readers, I hope this helps you in your journey into the wonderful world of cooking!! If you have any further questions, I have further answers—-but they’ll be just about as helpful as my tips!

*Mageirocophobia: Fear of Cooking. That must be what I had.

–Troi out