Monday, January 31, 2011

Dream: The fury of, um, fury...

 Under your bed
sat the wolf
and he made a shadow
when cars passed by
at night.
They made you give up
your nightlight
and your teddy
and your thumb.

(from "The Fury of Overshoes" by Anne Sexton)

Last week, I read Anne Sexton's "The Fury of Overshoes" with a class of nearly checked-out second semester seniors.  They grimly worked through the analysis, dutifully noting the symbolism of the protective overshoes, the speaker's yearning, the poet's use of line breaks.   Then I asked them to write about their own childhood furies, fears and frustrations.

Suddenly, the rows of eye-rollers, furtive-texters and across-the-room-pantomimers were scribbling furiously, lips pursed, brows furrowed.  When I stopped them after 10 minutes they bursted with their torments: unfounded fears of parents moving away in the night, anxiety about possibly vampiric brothers, confiscated nightlights begetting sleepless weeks, embarassed parents packing away beloved blankies.  After the bell rang, their comparison of traumas continued down the hall.  The consensus: what seemed big then is small now.

In preparing the lesson, I had, of course, thought of my own girls, of monsters under beds and the fury of pacifiers packed away.  But my students, distanced from childhood, not yet engulfed in adulthood and years from parenthood, were at the perfect age for this kind of reminiscense, and the way the topic ignited them, the clarity of their memories, made me think some more.

It has been a long winter.  Things have gone wrong. Feet of snow are sapping my patience, and freezing temperatures have already slurped up our heating oil budget. I recently plugged in the vacuum cleaner and inexplicably blew out the electricity to half of our poorly-wired house. One dark morning last week my husband went out to start the car before work and...nothing. And all of this has birthed a frustration that in certain moments has presented itself as fury.  I have hurled my fury at my husband, he has blasted his at me, and we've both freed it on the house.  Though never directed at the girls, the fury has certainly been flung all around them.

My students' stories, told with much hilarity but a hint of solemnity, centered largely on fears, rather than frustrations and furies, and reminded me that that I really don't want to be responsible for spawning my girls' nightmares or constructing the monsters under their beds. Yet even as I ruminated on this, congratulating myself for drawing such a neat line from words to work to life, I found myself late for an appointment, stuck behind a creeping plow, shaking my fist and shouting at the stream of cars that whizzed past without letting me change lanes.  When I glanced in the rearview mirror, I saw Little E strapped into her seat behind me, her eyes and mouth three shocked O's.

The things that have been plaguing us are only marginally more real than the rats that one of my students was convinced would emerge from the walls as he slept in his upper-middle class suburban bedroom.  We can put on another sweater and call an electrician and a tow truck.  It is stuff and we are fine; I should know this.  And still I keep coming back to more of Sexton's words:
Oh thumb,
I want a drink,
it is dark,
where are the big people,
when will I get there,
taking giant steps
all day,
each day
and thinking
nothing of it?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eat: Surplus Thin Mint Ice Cream Pie with Minty Whipped Cream

I never rushed a sorority.  The thought of a gang of pajama-clad girls staying up late into the night to systematically scrutinize my small talk, my wardrobe my reputation-- it was more than I could manage at the time. But I sometimes regret missing out on all of the sisterly bonding, so when I found out that in Daisy Girl Scouts Big E could have all the trappings of sorority life --songs about friendship, a special pin, appliqued letters (well,  daisy petals actually)-- and with none of the ugliness of rush week and pledging, I enthusiastically signed her up. 

And then I discovered the catch. It's the cookies.  I do love Girl Scout cookies, but come next month we will own more than even I can manage.  So when I found a box of last year's Thin Mints still in the freezer, I got inventive in advance of the coming onslaught.

This ice cream pie maintains the choco-minty deliciousness of the cookies but fancies them up a bit.  It is also pretty easy (though it requires some freezing time), and its chocolate sauce and minty whipped cream are great for non-pie use, as well.

Surplus Thin Mint Ice Cream Pie with Minty Whipped Cream

for the pie:
1 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chip
1 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of insant coffee crystals, crushed to a powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 store-bought chocolate cookie crumb pie crust
Approximately 20 Thin Mints, 10 of them crushed
 1 pint of chocolate ice cream
1 pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream

for the whipped cream

1 cup of chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract


  • First prepare the chocolate sauce.  In a small saucepan, heat one cup of cream until simmering. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate chips, coffee crystals and vanilla extract.  Set it aside and allow it to cool.

  • Meanwhile, soften the chocolate ice cream until it is soft and spreadable.  I used the microwave, working at 15 second intervals until it was soft enough to spread smoothly into the pie shell without cracking it.

  • Once you've filled the pie crust with chocolate ice cream, cover it with plastic wrap and freeze it for about 30 minutes.  To prevent ice crystals from forming, gently press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the ice cream.

  • After the ice cream has firmed up, evenly sprinkle the crushed Thin Mints over the surface, then drizzle about 1/3 of the chocolate sauce over the top of the pie, until it is covered.  Store the remaining sauce by putting the cover on the pan and putting it straight into the refrigerator; this will save you time when you re-heat.

  • Place even scoops of the mint chocolate chip ice cream around the edge of the pie, then place whole Thin Mints between the scoops.  Rewrap the pie in plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least two hours.

  • When you are just about ready to serve the pie, take it out of the freezer and let it sit while you re-heat the remaining sauce over low heat, stirring frequently.  Remove it from the heat when it is warm but not hot.

  • Once the sauce is ready, make the whipped cream by pouring all of the ingredients in a bowl and whipping with a hand mixer or stand mixer until fluffy.  The cream should be stiff enough to hold a peak.

  • Slice the pie and serve with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  A tip: Immediately before slicing, run hot water over your knife and then dry it off; this warms the metal and makes for an easier cut.




Monday, January 24, 2011

Play: A day in Girl World

I don't have a lifelong friend --the kind who's known me since the sandbox, who would have been the only choice to be my maid of honor-- but I want that for my girls. I blame my own lack of this friend on school transfers, long-distance moves and the passage of time.  But I'll be damned if these things will come in between Big E and her first friend, M.

Though they live in different towns and go to different schools I have made it my mission to ensure that M really is Big E's BF-F.  I make sure that they get together every month or so and with that in mind, I took Big E, Little E and M to the mall to see Tangled this weekend.

Big E and M first met in the toddler room at their daycare when Big E was not even two and M was six months older.  That half a year put M a grade ahead in school and a notch higher in sophistication; with each get together that last part seems a little more apparent.  This time I noticed it as soon as I picked her up, when her entire conversation with Big E was whispered behind a concealing hand and punctuated with giggles. 

And quickly I realized that the open, ingenuous days of pre-school and kindergarten were gone.  M and Big E are headed to Girl World.

This became even more clear as we walked through the mall to the theater and M noted that she "loved, loved" the tank top in the window at Old Navy, Big E, whose wardrobe preference is whatever I lay out for her (with special enthusiasm for shirts with cute dogs on them)  nodded in solemn agreement.  With time to kill before the movie I agreed to take them into the oddly-named Justice for Girls, a tweeny-bopper chain M had deemed "so perfect."  The two of them pawed earnestly through the racks and discussed the relative merits of glitter and sequins but gave me a little hope when they blushed and giggled at the racks of festively patterned training bras.

They are hovering at the threshold, singing along expertly to the Jonas Brothers in the car but unself-consciously holding hands all through the mall.  M, the second-grader, is a farther gone than first-grader Big E.  She wears Ugg boots to Big E's OshKosh snow boots and dishes out plentiful advice of varying value.  To Little E: "Never start smoking.  It's a terrible habit."  (So true!)  To Big E:  "You should always hang all your hair over your shoulder and tilt your head like this." (Impractical and not terribly becoming...)  Little E, I fear, is not as far behind as I would hope; recently she gravely announced that she would be giving up red as her favorite color, as it was time for her to like pink.

It is not just that it is bittersweet to watch Big E growing up, it is that I remember my own years in Girl World and I worry.  I'm hoping that the extensive character education curriculum at her school will spare her some of the girl-on-girl nastiness that was business as usual in my elementary school. Just last week she chatted about empathy with a level of understanding that I think I only developed myself in the last few years. I feel cautiously optimisitic on this front, but even if the girls manage to play nice, there's still all the rest. 

There are  movies like Tangled, which, while enteraining, sent some dubious messages.  For example, when the woman who says she's your mother tells you she knows what's best for you, you may find that she's simply an evil old lady who stole you from your real mother, a sweet, beautiful, eternally-young queen.  Or, when you meet a roguish bad boy, you will effortlessly charm him and with love and understanding reveal his heart of gold and, naturally, live happily ever after.  Neither outcome is very likely in my experience. Oh, and there's long blond hair is magical and when it is not, it turns brown.  (Note to Big E:  Your long blond hair will turn brown, and hopefully you'll manage more gracefully than I did when it happened to me.)

Of course nothing in Tangled even compares to the trailer we watched for the upcoming Disney teen movie Prom, which proclaims that prom night is "about who you are" and "who you are going to be."  Thank God this movie didn't exist when I attended my own prom, which would have spoken very unflattering about who I was and augered terribly about who I was to become.

At the end of the day, after the girls had insisted that we stop to watch enviously as girls not much older than they flirted with the camera and swayed to bad techno at a "Model and Talent Search" in the food court, we headed to back to the car.  There I struggled mightily to wedge the three of them in the back seat with a car seat and two boosters.  And though M happily chirped that she hadn't used a booster in years, I continued to mutter G-rated curses under my breath and search for the seatbelt socket.

I had a government-approved product that promised to protect these girls.  I have a feeling that it won't be that simple in the years to come, and I wasn't about to give it up that easily.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Work: Choosing now over later

A few weeks ago, I found myself at the end of a long line in the copier room at work.  Just as I began to settle in for the wait, an unfamiliar sensation washed over me. 

I folded the paper in my hand, turned on my heel and strode to the other end of the building.  That unaccustomed feeling, it turned out, was decisiveness and nerve, and soon I found myself in my program coordinator's room, stating my case for keeping my part-time position next year.  I'm pretty sure that one or two of my co-workers are hoping for my reduced hours next year and I'd been quietly fretting about having to return to full-time.  Yet until my sudden copy room flash of boldness and (what felt like) clarity, I'd hemmed and hawed about how and when to stake my claim.

My program coordinator was receptive and reassuring, and I got what I wanted.  I left the room puffed full of triumph and relief. That is, until the door shut behind me and my more typical state of doubt and misgiving took over.

I have loved my part-time schedule.  I've been able to very nearly finish my re-organization of the playroom, cook some impressive dinners, and, yes, even find the time to share my neuroses with strangers on the Internet.  My favorite part, though, is that it has made me feel human again, less torn between my various responsibilities and far less panicked about choosing which among them I can most get away with neglecting at any given moment.  And that is where my doubt comes from.

For my contentedness, my family is giving up 40 percent of my full-time salary and this makes me feel selfish.  We will not take a big vacation this year, we don't eat out too often, and I think we can all live with these things.  We're not saving much, though, and I worry about what will happen down the road.  I also worry about retirement, as my retirement plan is affected by my decreased position.  Will the girls hate me if their college funds are less than robust?  Will I hate the world when I'm dragging myself to work full-time 35 years from now?

Then there's the question of my own ambition...as in whatever happened to that?  There was a time when my parents drove an hour each way to bring me to the high school that would get me into the college that would make me a success.  I'm still making payments on the college loans, but the sort of achievement I dreamed of then is far less important to me now than knowing that I can make it to Big E's school when she presents her project on rainforest butterflies.  I wonder if I'm setting the right example for my daughters and what they'll think of my choices when they get older.

I try to find solace in what they think right now.  A few days after my moment in the copy room, I stood in line at the grocery store with Little E.  She sat in the cart eating a Valentine's cookie from the bakery and asking me her usual endless string of questions about anything and everything that pops into her head, when she stopped, slapped her forehead and marvelled, "I can't believe I get to leave early everyday!"

It was a vote of confidence in my decision that offered me a little glimmer of the strength of purpose that I'd felt that morning in the copy room.  I won't know for years to come whether I was right to choose happiness now over security later --or if that is even the cost.  I can only hope that I won't come to regret it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dream: The writing life

Last month we went to our first parent-teacher conference of the year for Big E.  Her teacher raved about her writing --the plot development, the creativity, the voice. I nodded, smiling politely, then asked what kind of math practice we should be doing with her.

Please know, I'm truly proud of her writing.  I found the pirate adventure story that her teacher showed us riveting, and I don't think I'm overstating when I call her "Pinky Lou Pickens" series, penned in bed at night, a genius combination of  "Amelia Bedelia" and Junie B. Jones.  But she told me that math is her favorite and far be it from me to fail to support her interests --especially in what I imagine to be a potentially lucrative field.

And there's also this: I was once a little girl who wrote stories, whose teachers praised her mightily.  I'm not too humble to tell you that when I was around Big E's age I won my family a Carvel ice cream cake and half-a-dozen flying saucers when my story about a very special elf placed second in the local paper's Christmas writing contest.  In junior high I was honored for my submissions in gradewide essay contests in both seventh and eighth grade (about my undying love of The Constitution and a quick and simple solution to homelessness, respectively).  In high school, my otherwise thoroughly unimpressed senior year English teacher was so pleased with my college essay that she kept a copy to share with future classes.  All of this, plus praise from college and graduate school professors, and yet my resume is curiously light on professional writing experience.   

Yesterday, I had a post about my secret stint in fast food syndictated on Blogher.com.  It will pay just about what I used to take home for a weekend at McDonald's and was such a major coup in my non-existent writing career that my husband brought home flowers.  Prior to that, the closest I'd come to being a published author was writing ancillary materials for a textbook company. And while I am heartened to imagine the great service I've done the overworked, underprepared English teacher who will rely on my animated Powerpoint plot summary of Romeo and Juliet to kill some class time, it doesn't meaure up to the literary greatness that I think my elementary school teachers would have predicted.

There are a lot of really good writers in this world.  At least once a day I read something --a thoughtful magazine article, a moving essay by one of my students, a witty blog post-- that sets me in awe of another's talents.  This proliferation of gifted wordsmiths, along with the fact that literary success is not always tied to abilities --anyone pick up Snooki's latest chef d'oeuvre?--  makes me hope, proud as I am to hear her teacher gush, that Big E can find fulfillment in an area that promises a clearer path.

Growing up, I was always horrified by parents who hoped to dictate the course of their children's career path, especially if they were so hypocritical as to put their own job choice off-limits.  I swore I would never be that kind of mother, and so I won't.  But it is easy to see the question of what my girls should be when they grow up through the eyes of, well, a grown-up and to allow pragmatism to get in the way of supportive parenting. Following your dreams may be rewarding but so is staying out of debt and accruing a healthy savings (I would imagine).  Despite that, I know that a big part of my job is to nurture my children's talents and support them in whatever it is they choose to accomplish, and if either of them should choose the writing life, I'll be there to sharpen their pencils, proofread their manuscripts, and bring a fresh box of Sharpies to their signings.

Still, as long as she's liking math, maybe I should pick up an abacus or something to show my support, because I'd be just as happy changing calculator batteries and polishing Fields Medals.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Work: Snow Day

When I found out that school would be cancelled Wednesday due to impending snow, I envisioned myself sleeping in, watching the snow fall from the warmth of my living room, and finally tackling that pile of essays that I've been dutifully toting back and forth from work untouched.

When I had this vision, clearly I was in some sort of pre-property owning, pre-child having time warp.  Instead I pulled on my glamorous new boots and spent my day like this:

I forced the family out on a trek to the post-office (and hoped the neighbors didn't alert social services about our marching the kids out into the blizzard).

I dug paths for the dog, which she christened copiously --and disgustingly-- minutes after this photo.
I  made snow ice cream sundaes --harvested nowhere near the dog path, mind you.

I watched the girls play in the snow.

I watched them tire of the snow.

And I helped my husband shovel our driveway out from under wet heavy snow that lay higher than my knee.

All of it, to varying degrees, could be classified work, and yet it was the work that I actually get paid to do that remained untouched all day. 

Then, like a gift from the homework gods, they cancelled school for another day. So, naturally, I spent my time downloading pictures and writing this blog...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Play: I am not my shoes

I have always been willing to sacrifice for my footwear.

In college I had a pair of black suede Mary Janes.  They had a slight platform that made them especially cute with little skirts and slick soles that made them dangerously incompatible with my hilly, brick-laned campus.  I first felt their peril in front of the dining hall when my feet flew out from under me and I cracked my shin open on the brick curb just before landing flat on my back --to the amusement of the dinner crowd.  I was wearing those same shoes later that semester, when I left a good-sized chunk of my left knee stuck to a brick walkway on my way back from class.  And still I kept the shoes.  I have scars to this day, but damn did they ever make my legs look skinny.

I have negotiated Parisian cobblestones, eight-hour teaching days and 18 months of pregnancy in pointy-toed high heels.  Late in my pregnancy with Big E, I had to attend an orientation meeting for the natural birth center where I planned to have her.  Just before the meeting, the wool-sweatered, Birkenstock-wearing earth mother in front of me turned, stared at my feet and sniffed to her husband, "I didn't know there would be hospital people here."  When I pushed out a nine-pounder after 24 excruciating hours of drug-free labor, I had half a mind to track down Ms. Flat-Foot Sensible Shoes so I could tell her this: I am not my shoes.

I have spent many a winter morning mincing daintily through snow drifts and parking lot slush all in the interest of arriving at work fashionably shod, and when the girls have managed to drag me out to play in the snow, the best option my shoe wardrobe has offered has been a quick-to-sog pair of old running sneakers.  So this winter, because I'm trying to come to terms with the season and because I've designated play a priority, I came to an uncharacteristic decision: I need a pair of practical, comfortable, weatherproof boots.

The clearance rack at Marshall's tempted me with a heavily-logoed pair of Coach snow boots and a shiny rubber pair with a chunky 2 1/2 inch heel by Kate Spade.  But in my new found spirit of sensible shoes, I opted for a very reasonably priced pair of utilitarian, flat black rubber boots.  They've served me well already: tromping up the sledding hill, strolling through a slushy New Year's Day at the zoo, walking the dog along the shore at the beach.

Still, I am keenly aware that they look like something you'd wear to milk a cow or tour a slaughterhouse.  I try to remind myself that I am sacrificing for a good greater than my own footwear vanity.  I try to imagine that I've slipped them on to stroll through a dewy meadow in the English countryside.  But mostly, I tell myself this:  I am not my shoes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eat: Fast food made slow

I've written about my family's occasional over-dependence on McDonald's.  But there's something that I may have failed to mention: McDonald's and I have a past.

From the summer before my senior year in high school to the summer before my freshman year in college (and during a really low couple of weeks over that first Christmas break), I was a not-so-proud McDonald's crew member. Sharing this feels only slightly less revealing than posting bikini shots might.  I only told my now-husband after we'd been dating over a year, and I introduced my confession with so much tortured fanfare that I'm pretty sure he thought I was about to tell him that I'd slept with his roommate or had a communicable rash.

I spent my high school years as a scholarship student at a private day school where summer jobs consisted of "helping out" in one's father's office or caddying at the club, and careers in fast food were regarded with the same patrician disdain as things like aerosol hairspray and work boots.  Sadly, I needed to work and an exhaustive job search turned up only one offer.  It occurs to me now that if I'd found the gumption to simply own this fact, my classmates would have been understanding and I would have been much happier; unfortunately, I lacked the moxie that would have required and so, taking advantage of the fact that I lived and worked nearly an hour from my school, I kept it a secret from all but my two closest friends.

I was like an angsty, self-hating teen super hero.  By day, I was just a mildly-anorectic, extremely self-conscious prep school girl, blushing deeply with secret shame at any mention of fast food, but 8 to 16 hours a week I became a barely competent, thoroughly mortified McDonald's counter girl, wishing to God I could land something a little more respectable like bagging groceries.  I would casually enter the restaurant with my uniform and visor tucked discretely in a Gap duffel, glance furtively over my shoulder, quickly punch in the employee's only door code and disappear to the downstairs changing room only to emerge through that same employee entrance eight hours later, looking the same, only a little greasier and more fragrant.

Because I didn't go to school with my fellow crew members I had an air of mystery, but there had been some confusion and many thought that I attended a local vocational academy.  Occasionally, when work was slow someone would ask me about this.  When I explained the mix-up, the response, generally delivered with a smirk, would usually be something along the lines of, "Well, that makes more sense.  I couldn't really picture you in a welding mask/ a hard hat/ shop glasses."  This was much nicer (and more G-rated)  than what the store manager reportedly told the grill boys he couldn't picture me doing, which was gleefully recounted for me by one of those boys on a date that included drinking wine coolers in his sub-compact and driving through the woods to find a field where he was cultivating a marijuana plant that he felt showed great promise.

So why am I now revealing this, the ignominious golden M etched on my soul?  Because it is all prologue to the New Year's Eve dinner that allowed me to finally come to terms with all this high-low duality --at least in a culinary sense.

My menu was inspired by this "Make Your Own McRib" recipe from Saveur, which replaces the rib-shaped pork patty with braised pork belly.  I followed it to the letter (except for cheating with store-bought pickles), and found it deliciously successful.  I also made baked sweet potato "fries" and, because the girls aren't McRib-eaters, homemade chicken nuggets. Everyone was happy, though Little E did ask me what the toy was in her homemade happy meal

Baked Sweet Potato "Fries"

2 or 3 good-sized sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

salt

Peel the potatoes and cut them into fries about 1/4 inch thick and 3 inches long.

Fill a large bowl with water and soak the fries for about 10 minutes, as you preheat the oven to 425.  The soaking helps them to cook more quickly.

Drain the fries, dry out the bowl, return the fries to the bowl, toss them with the olive oil and salt them.

Spread the fries in a single layer on a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Stir and flip the fries occasionally.  They took about 25 minutes for me.

When the fries are ready, remove them from the oven and toss them in a large bowl with the brown sugar.


Chicken Nuggets

1 pound of chicken tenderloin pieces, cut into "nugget-size" bites

2 eggs

1 cup of flour

1 1/2 cups of panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus more as needed)

Beat the eggs with a tablespoon of water in a shallow bowl.

Dredge the chicken in flour.

Dip the floured chicken pieces into the egg and then coat with panko.

Allow the chicken to sit for about ten minutes; this seems to help the coating to adhere.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium  heat.  Be sure that you allow it to heat up enough.  I did not and my first batch was a bit rare --not attractive in a chicken nugget.

Cook the nuggets in batches.  They take about 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. 

Be sure to replenish the oil as needed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dream: How I spent my Christmas vacation

I had my annual Boxing Day breakdown at the dinner table this year.

The day after Christmas has often left me feeling deflated, let down after weeks of build-up.  This year, though, my tears sprung from feeling full to bursting with the sweet moments of past couple months and not wanting to pack any of them away.  But we were preparing for a trip to Disney World, my in-laws' Christmas gift to us, and hustling to box and bag up the season before we left.

When my husband told me that he was throwing away the gingerbread house that Big E made at school and that she was fine with it because she could just make another one next year, I got teary.  Next year, I may not get to visit her class on gingerbread house day, may miss the deliberation over where to place the peppermints and how to best simulate smoke from a tootsie roll chimney.  Next year, Little E may not be quite so taken with the three-foot snowman decoration in her daycare's foyer and may not sling her arm around his shoulders everyday and demand I take a picture.  Next year, they'll both be another year older and it breaks my heart.

And that's not all.  Next year, I may not be lucky enough to still have my part-time schedule, may be back to trudging through full-time work.  Even worse, I thought of all of the awful things that I've watched others endure --illness, injury, grief and loss.  Only luck has spared me and my family, but what if next year finds us on the other side?

I would likely not have kind things to say about the woman with the lovely children, idyllic holiday, career satisfaction, wholly untragic life, and all-expenses paid trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, who still finds cause to weep at the dinner table.  Yet there I was: despairing under the weight of my own happiness and good fortune.

I wish I could say that I came to some great realization that allowed me to accept the passage of time, to figure out how to stop looking back with longing and foward with trepidation.  That didn't happen, but our trip did get cancelled by the snowstorm.

And I wish I could say that I at least managed to hold it together about that.