Roche Ladies

dscn1193This is a plum job.  English as a Second Language is what brings us together.  The women share their workplace in common, Roche Molecular Systems in Pleasanton, California.  I share it too.  For two years I have arrived for our lone hour of class time.  Learning English can be a formidable task.  Each of these student’s progress is a feather in my cap.  They expect a lesson worthy of their time, and I deliver.  We cover every aspect of the English language.  They are collectively aware of their shortcomings, and with their prominent accents in place, self-conscious leanings dominate the space.  I assure them I am here to cultivate and nurture their second language skills. They love to have plain conversation and have made it clear that the books I have made available are met with a lukewarm reception.  Okay.  So, I go home and collect worksheets for them.  I can pretty much retire the worksheets from use in this venue.  I shoot questions to them from a wonderfully useful book chock full of writing/speaking prompts offering questions and scenarios on every conceivable topic.  Sometimes we cover the happenings at the holidays.  What did they do?  What did they eat?  Each student has one child (in keeping with the mandate from the Chinese government) all of them adults.

Their work at Roche escapes me in terms of what they actually do on any given day.  Working with cultures is part of their task.  They lose me when they start to explain in detail.  I am not much for comprehension of the scientific world.  But, here’s an impressive fact.  The lady on the right is an accomplished opera singer!  I asked if she would please regale us with her mastery of opera right there in our classroom…in Italian.  She complied.  Whoa!

We have had a couple low key “parties”.  They bring the food, and I eat it. Simple that way.  We hug.  We discuss important things like the dress somebody wears.  They love me.  I love them.  It will be difficult when our paths no longer cross.  Oh, by the way.  Roche pays well.  Roche has the reputation for taking very good care of their employees.  Lavish company parties.  No one works on the clock.  When you have completed your task for the day, you leave.  Sure, there may be some beyond-typical-hours-days, but it is all part of the Roche culture.  My ladies arrive for lessons after a long, exhausting day at their work.  They don’t complain.  I may be the one who benefits most.

One That Couldn’t & One That Wouldn’t

And so it goes.  Or went.  When I took myself to my first community college in 1973, it was completely without assistance from my parents.  I had no money of my own.  Neither parent made a donation of cash to get me started in the world of academia.  My mom because she too had no money (divorced and broke) and my biodad (even though he had the means) because his philosophy was, “Life was hard for me, why should it be easier for you.”  With that I walked the campus for 3 semesters running on fumes. I don’t really know how my tuition was paid.  Of course, community college tuition at that time came to approximately $8/unit.  I guess that was manageable on my babysitting money.  Lofty goals.  After 3 semesters I had grown tired of lackluster lectures and lackluster energy coming from the other students…not to mention my lackluster performance, all accompanied by my penniless status.

To sustain myself and even reach a better state of mind it would have served as a tremendous boost to get parental assistance.  Nothing.  No guidance, no advice, no cash.  I was left to my own devices.  And my own devices were marginal.  So, after those three semesters, I unofficially withdrew from that college.  How sweet it all may have been had I been able to count on a leg up from my parents.

I can offer a further glimpse into the so-called father in my life by virtue of reading Monster Under My Bed.  

Don’t miss Graduation Day.  


I am not Inuit.  I am not a winter person.  I have not been a winter person since I began living in places that have winter.  I am from Orange County.  Winter does not descend upon Orange County, California.  The avocado trees won’t have it.  We don’t want avocado trees with failure to thrive.  Potential guacamole can not be compromised.

So, I have found myself in climate that is not conducive to my thrive potential.  Since 1980 to be precise.  We once lived in a tiny shoebox house that offered a floor furnace with inadequate heating.  This was in the mid-region of the country where winter came in with a vengeance.  I would wear my California flip flops that had rubber under soles. As I stood on the heater grate, my rubber soles would become seared with the design of the grate and I could smell rubber burning.  Relief from the cold was almost impossible to achieve.  Hello July.

I am definitely not Inuit.  I do not envy them, but I am impressed at their hardiness.  I have watched documentaries enough to know how they have acclimated to their surroundings, and sub-zero environment, eating whale and seal blubber to stay warm.  I’ll pass.

Summer is not too far off by the time the first day of Spring has arrived.  The month of March is a reprieve to winter nastiness.  And, serves as the clarion call for summer.  I am always amazed at how every year offers the same seasons in the same order..I needn’t worry.  My time will come.  April will eventually lead to June, via May, and my memories of winter will dim.

Tap This!

img_0183Friday I began teaching a couple of tap dance classes.  New to me in the Bay Area.  Tap dance is a dying art.  So says anyone who occupies space in the dance world.  Disheartening.  I have dabbled in hip hop, clogging, and Mexican folklorico over the years.  I enjoyed the different elements of each genre, but I always come back to tap.  Tap is primary.  You learn to walk, you take a step, and then another one.  If you are Shirley Temple, you just affix metal plates to your shoes and take those same steps but this time you make noise.  Okay, so even if you are not Shirley Temple you still move with those plates on your shoes.  You make noise.  That’s what I did when I was twenty years old.  Late bloomer that I was, college dance class was calling to me.  I have been tap dancing ever since.

No, tap dance is not dying.  Not as long as I am around.  I will concede, tap is not as popular as it once was.  The ’70s saw a resurgence of tap dance…but it fell out of favor  in the years since.  So, last Friday I made an attempt to infuse new life.  Nine adults showed up for the first class, three for the second class.  I go to work on the second group.  Should we all be together by May, we will celebrate National Tap Dance Day.  Dance is fickle.  People flake.  People get distracted.  Maintaining a vibrant tap dance class is dependent upon many factors.  I found four men and five women in the first class.  It is always encouraging to find both in a dance class.  Let’s begin the revival.

2015 Jetta

The car in my carport is my “new” set of wheels.  After the inconsiderate behavior of the hit and run driver who hastened retirement of my beloved Mini Cooper, I invested in a black 2002 Audi.  Big mistake.  The Audi came completely equipped…with every conceivable anomaly.  Anomalies that became expensive.  Too expensive.

Now, my husband likes to remind me that, “You don’t check anything, do you?”  “You just get in, turn the key, and go!”  Yep.  Pretty much.  I am too busy tap dancing to concern myself with fluid levels.  So, as I made my way to work, and not much more than 2 miles from home, the bells, sirens, and lights on my dash indicated just how perilously close I was to major Audi meltdown.  Turned around and made it back home.  I was so upset because the student I was going to work with was still an hour’s drive away.   Cancel that.  My husband just looked at me shaking his head.  I said, “Need a car!”

He arranged for me to take a look at a few vehicles at an Enterprise sales lot.  I chose the Jetta.  Manageable size.  Not too crazy about the color (hospital white) but who was I to think I could afford to be picky.  Aside from the lack of sunroof — I am at the beach — it has everything.  Most notably, heated seats.  Ahhh.  I am not a winter person, so, this feature was the deal maker.  The sales guy said that CD players are not universal any longer, that this car has one is the exception these days.  Gotta have it as I need music to choreograph by while I drive.

So the color is not my first love but I love my little VW.  It had 29,000 miles when I bought it.  It will have 29,000 additional miles by the end of this year.  I’m certain.