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June 2006

Singing out

Martin_in_communist_slovakia This is the little boy who surprised his uncle and everyone else riding on the electricka in Bratislava one morning in the early 80s, by spontaneously belting out the United States National Anthem during a time of heavy communism and anti-American sentiment.

What possessed him that morning, we'll never know. But, the fact that it happend is no surprise. He's always been a kid who pushed boundaries. A person with courage and confidence in the Truth.

Keep believing in yourself, bro.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. – Ayn Rand


Martin on my Mind

Martin_nathalie_lake_chelanWhen you're little, you think it's you and yours against the world. And then you grow up and realize the people in your childhood, your family, are people you actually have to work at having a relationship with. A real one, not just the one in your head. Or the one based on childhood memories.

My May-baby brother was born 28 years ago and for some reason that surprises me even more than the fact that I'm 30. Martin is someone I survived childhood with. When memories of us together start dancing through my head, I feel a warming in my heart: playing Judo, complaining about calisthenics with my dad (but secretly liking it), staying up late talking about nothing and everything ...  it was sad when all of that gave way to sibling rivalry and teenage trauma. But it was a subtle shift and I didn't know how much our relationship was changing until it did, and then what we had as kids was over. Through college we made scattered attempts at being in touch. Seeing Martin's handwriting on an envelope in my mailbox made my day. Still does.

Martin and I are so completely different from each other in all the ways that I can think of, but the things we have in common, love for our parents and our childhood, the bond of being siblings - that's enough to keep us connected. I have no idea what music he listens to or how he spends his day-to-day life, but I do remember where he spent a string of birthday parties, Le Snack and Red Robin. And I do remember how badly he wanted the Castle of Grayskull and how he generously agreed to saying he wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid (Joseph Marvin) so that my Mala Suzy could have a brother and playmate. I remember the ease with which he made friends while I remained a wallflower until my mom would drag me by the hand to the closest kids in sight and introduce me. I remember how he kicked ass at pretty much anything he tried. I remember how homework that took me hours to do, he could complete effortlessly on the ride to school. I remember how he always knew when to duck to avoid a par fatsek. I remember how his smile lit up his face and his laugh was contagious. So much so, that sometimes at dinner when our parents had had just about enough, we got to laughing about something stupid and just couldn't stop. Even when it meant one of us had to eat the rest of our halusky in the garage, still we kept laughing.

Wedding_martin_me I remember him showing up on my wedding day with the most beautiful flowers, looking as handsome as could be and I was so proud of and happy to have my brother there with me, with us, to celebrate the new family I was coming into. His being there, his reading and standing up for us, proved that we would always be a family, always show up for each other and continue to navigate our relationship as siblings. Whatever that means for us during different times in our life. So, bro, happy birthday! I'm glad you were born and I'm glad you're my brother.

(Looking through old family photo albums, you'd think we were twins, Martin always in blue, me in red - but no, we really were a boy and a girl born two years apart, delivered at the same hospital and bundled up by the same nurse).

Martin_nathalie_twins Martin_nathalie_sledding Martin_and_nathalie_funky_clothes (Looking at how we're dressed, you can see what I mean by "surving" our childhood. Our mom was naturally well-intentioned, but not quite hip to the importance of American fashion in our American grade schools.)


A variegated friendship

I knew I liked Stephanie right away. But there was one specific moment when I knew she was someone I wanted to be friends with. We were working at DND one morning and I said I liked a particular plant's coloring. Steph said, "Yeah, I like the way it's variegated." That was a new word for me. I decided I wanted to look it up, but when I went to get the dictionary, it was gone. I turned around to find her flipping through the V's. I enjoy her company and one of the very, very few things I miss about my old job is seeing her every day.

The second moment that sealed the deal was when she rolled in to work with the Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker affixed to the bumper of her Geo. We worked with a group of very, very conservative people and the sticker sent one of our co-workers over the edge. It was beautiful to listen to her debate with him without ever backing down.

Another bonding moment during the initial phase of our friendship was when we read the same article in the local newspaper over the weekend and both dreaded the lunch room conversation that would naturally result from a co-worker's ignorant, racist and hostile way of seeing the world.

She has a wicked sense of humor, is smart and kind and does generous things with her time that would totally freak me out, like volunteering at the zoo and actually diving in the aquarium in Newport to clean it out.


Public School Ice Pack

Secretarys_day_bookJust a little pictorial of a day in the life of me as Ms. Hardy. This was given to me for Secretary's Day last week. By the way, it's one of my new favorite holidays until the Anniversary of my Oprah Appearance makes it on the calendar.

If you look closely, you'll see that this first-grader is all about accuracy. The thing I'm handing her is a Ziploc baggie with a Dixie cup of frozen water. In the public school system, this known as an ice pack.


Crazy Sick

It's been one of them days. Weeks. Months. Pretty much the only goal I'm meeting has something to do with keeping my job and paying bills. It's a process, right?

So, a quick post before I crash hard - I was so damn sick of arguing with kids all day long that by the end of the day, I swear to God that if a kid had come in to ask,

"Mrs. Hardy, can we go play on Highway 47?"

I would've said, "Yeah, sure. Hell, take a friend."

One of my cute little third graders came in because he was sick, but he was sure he wouldn't have a temp, he said, when he saw me reaching for my thermometer - a cool, new one by the way. It wasn't "that kind of sick" he explained. Then, he told me he felt like he was going crazy. I can so relate! So, as we waited for mom to come, I knew for sure that I was going crazy. Finally after the millionth time of herding him back to where he was supposed to be, I looked at him with an uncharacteristically stern expression on my face and said, "X, do you know what trying my patience means?" His eyes widened as he backed into the health room and sat down. He waited quietly for mom to come, just as she rounded the corner I caught his ear-to-ear grin.


Green Beans Amandine

Almandine_card "Anyone can bring the green beans amandine to the neighborhood potluck, but it takes someone very special to bring the funk."

This birthday card from Christine cracks me up every time I look at it. Fresh Ink makes some of the best cards and YaYa always picks the funniest ones.

Green Beans Amandine
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
Ingredients
1-1/2  pounds fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)
3  teaspoons lemon juice
2  teaspoons margarine, melted
1/4  cup sliced almonds

Directions
1. Cook fresh green beans in a saucepan, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, stir together lemon juice and melted margarine in a small bowl. Toast almonds in a small skillet over medium heat until golden, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour lemon mixture over green beans; toss to coat. Gently stir in toasted almonds. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
Make-Ahead Tip: Up to three days ahead, toast nuts.

Nutrition facts per serving:
calories: 56
total fat: 3g
saturated fat: 0g
cholesterol: 0mg
sodium: 14mg
carbohydrate: 7g
fiber: 2g
protein: 2g