fresh start

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.  --mary pickford. 

it was a year ago this week that i found myself preparing, with no small amount of trepidation, for my first day of school.  it would be the latest of over twenty-five first days of school as a student,  if each college semester were to be counted (and i had several more than the average 4 year degree held—'cause i've always been 'not average'), yet it had been fifteen years since the last.  i had always been an average student, the sum of above average ability and below average motivation, coupled with a terrific social life.  i had no reason to doubt that i could succeed at this back to school business, but the landscape had changed drastically in those fifteen years.  for example, the last time i turned in a thesis, i had torn the dot matrix printer strips off the sides, driven to a campus faculty office to submit, and now, printers had changed and were actually rarely used; seems my work would be submitted, most often, digitally.  and that was only one of a list of terms which meant an entire new vocabulary that i would need to tackle.

the words were tossed around so cavalierly, no one seemed the least intimidated by them,—i would need to send in my work via digital dropbox, or post something on the blackboard (which was no blackboard at all, didn't require chalk, and could not be found on any wall, in any classroom, in any building, through which i searched.  which i did. and found nothing).  i would register, orient myself, order books, and meet my teachers prior to class, all online.  didn't even require a new wardrobe, like was so often my first order of business in school preparations of yore.  i did it in my pajamas!  there were bulletin boards which were not bulletin boards.  we would have class discussions without even sitting face to face.  crazy stuff.

though the new vocabulary stymied me a bit, it was the social pressure, like it was every night-before-first-day-of-school of my past, that had me awake all night prior.  whereas in the past it worried how i would manage to earn myself a seat in the cool kid section of the bus, or how i might, with any luck, turn the super cute outfit my mother had chosen for me into a super cool and aloof outfit that would help me fit in a bit more, --for this new start i was wondering how to escape being 'the old lady on the front row' who asked all the questions.  oh you know her.  she was in all the lectures.  she was the one who had the most eyes rolling behind her.  she was the one 'most-likely-to-be-made-fun-of'.  i certainly would deserve the same, because i am sure i had rolled my eyes behind a few over-enthusiastic-curve-busters myself.  how would i keep from being one of those? 

i mean i still wanted to be cool, even though i was now the same age of many of my classmates' parents, and as old or older than (thanks a lot professor mc child prodigy—you know who you are.) my professors.  it was no different than trying to figure out how to be cool all those years ago. 
so it is with the humorous wisdom of a year that i look back.  since that night-before-the-first-day-of-school, i've mastered the 'lingo'.  made more a's than b's, tinkered with html, built a website, made a fool of myself a few times,  wrote a business plan (made an a on said plan),  scored invites to happy hours and graduation parties,  formed study partnerships, built and tiled a piece of furniture, become an amateur photographer, pulled all-nighters, crammed for tests, given a few speeches, formulated personal philosophies, plied classmates with homemade bread (because they're all so skinny) delved into world religions while shaping beliefs about my own, connected with students and professors via facebook, refreshed my knowledge of the french language, and much much more. 

perhaps the most valuable lesson i've learned is this:  i am the old lady on the front row asking all the questions.  i'm also the old lady on the front row cracking the best jokes.  that is who i am.  life is rich and wonderful and cool and nerdy, and so am i.  what i have learned is

i happen to be an old lady who asks a lot of questions, sits on the front row and tells some funny jokes and is occasionally cool  but almost always, most comfortably, nerdy,  and fits absolutely no mold at all….and i wouldn't have it any other way.   

so this year, for the first time, ever, i'm getting some great sleep on the night-before-the-first-day-of-school.

and i'm starting this year right, by indulging myself with one of my favorite, tasty, light treats at lunch.  no more expensive and tasteless cafeteria food.  no quick trips through the drive thru.  no greasy, energy-sapping fast food this year.  it's brown-bagging for me every day.  and i'll use this easy to prepare spread alone, today, to get things going………

light and creamy lemony artichoke spread

you will need—

one brick light cream cheese

one can artichoke hearts, drained

1 tablespoon capers, drained,

zest of one lemon, and the juice of one half

salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

1-2 t crushed dried rosemary

optional: grated onion and/or minced garlic to taste (which is great, but i spare my classmates for my brown bag edition, here)

cream together all of the above.  serve with pita bread, crackers, or as a dip for veggie crudités. 


tomorrow, we get a peek inside the lunchbox, and learn to set smart goals for this year, or the fall, or the last quarter, or whatever period fits, on tips for tuesday, notes from maggie's farm.  see you then.

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