Friday, December 5, 2014

Do Not Eat This



    Now that I've reached  the age of fifty, I find that eating is more about nutrition than it is about counting calories in an attempt to fit into skinny jeans again.  While I would like to don those pants and breathe at the same time, my focus is on food that is good for my body.  The problem, I've found, is that while I'm surfing the Internet searching for whole foods that clean arteries and decrease sugar levels, I find myself snacking on a handful of buttery cookies or a bag of chips.  I realize this is counterintuitive, as I should be gnawing on a bag of carrots or other root vegetables. I printed out lists of foods that I should eat and those that I should avoid.  Interestingly enough, it's much like a game of Othello where one move counters another, changing good choices into bad ones.   By the time you've crossed off all the bad foods, there is little left to eat.

    While one diet encourages meats and vegetables, another warns to stay clear of red meats, beans and potatoes. I placed chicken on my approved list of foods but felt guilty that it wasn't grain fed and cage free. When I saw the price of free range chicken, my guilt disappeared.

    Thinking that oatmeal would be good for removing cholesterol, I sought out some steel cut oats, uncertain exactly how this differed from my five minute Quaker oatmeal. After twenty minutes of waiting for oats to boil, I ate the rest of my daughter's Pop-Tart and washed it down with a cold Coke. I later learned that oats were on the "bad" list, so I obviously made the right choice going for the left over pastry.

    With salt off the table, sugar a gift from the devil, butter filling up my vascular system with false promises of goodness, I find there are few choices left.  Cold water fish are filled with omega 3 fatty acids but then there is the concern of iodine.  The Paleo diet says to eat eggs, so my husband bought chickens and we now have extremely fresh eggs every day. They are high in cholesterol, though, and  that can't be good either.  There is also the concern of reaching down to gather eggs and grabbing a snake.  This will lead to a heart attack faster than my cholesterol filled arteries will.

    I learned that dairy, grains and animal oils are on the "Do Not Eat" list, thus leaving me with nothing to house my sandwich but a leaf of lettuce which works better in theory than it does on my plate. Turning to seafood for answers, I discovered that shellfish are scavengers and nobody should dine on the scraps devoured by a bottom feeder.   I can't argue with that line of thinking.  I reached out to The Maker's Diet for guidance on "clean" and "unclean" foods as prescribed by the dietary laws of Leviticus and additional foods were scratched of the list of acceptable choices.  I was now down to lean meats, limited fruits, and dark green vegetables only.

    I found a high priced blender that claims to "extract nutrition" from raw foods by pulverizing them at 10,000 revolutions per minute and comes with a promise of  health and wellness. Perhaps, I'm missing something, but isn't that what our teeth are for?  I really don't need a blender for six easy payments of $19.99 that will basically chew my food for me.  However, I don't particularly want to dine on a plate of raw spinach, kale, pineapple and flax seeds, so if I can blend it all up into a cup of joy juice that I can slug down and be on my way, I'm all for it.

    Beverages are another issue and I've concluded that if it is not water or pulverized fruit and veggies, it's not good. With a carton of Cokes staring at me and whispering sweet nothings to my nutritional wellness, I turned to tea as an acceptable alternative.  Then, as expected, I read about the perils of the many different teas in my pantry.  Hibiscus tea claims to be healthy, but will require me driving 50 miles to procure a box, so I'm back to water or a mystery mug of pureed Superfoods.

    With the list of approved foods continuing to diminish, I'm perplexed on what to eat.  My pantry has been purged of "bad foods" and I'm left with the hibiscus plant that is dying in my green house and a lean chicken who happens to be running around my back yard.  The ease and availability of the Taco Bell dollar menu calls to me and I imagine I will find myself in the drive thru line before the day is through.   One cannot live on a bag of nuts, a withered plant from the edge of my pool, and a well exercised chicken.  Then again.... maybe they can!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Sound of Joy

Photo - http://www.beautifulnow.is

Joy can be found in the most unlikely places.

For years, my children have recorded voice notes on my cell phone.  I never realized the magic that was in my hand until the night I discovered five years worth of sound clips of my children laughing and singing.  The first note was recorded in 2009.  I froze when I heard the sweet, delicate sound of my daughter's voice at the age of ten.  My son, also five years younger, no longer had the deep tones in his voice of the young man that he is today.  We know these voices, but they slowly slip away without notice as life simply carries these children forward.

Suddenly, the cracked screen of my apparently five year old phone was no longer important. This broken device was a time machine that could carry me back to the days when my son would record his attempts at playing Pachelbel's Canon in D Major on an untuned piano.  It holds the sound of my daughter singing impromptu rap songs and then falling to the floor giggling.  In one of the longer notes, I heard my own voice reading to my children and laughing as my son tried in vain to distract us from this activity by narrating a completely different story than that which we were actually reading.

There are dozens upon dozens of songs, sounds, and memories that were left there only to be enjoyed years later. In one night, I heard my children's sweet voices change to that of the young man and young lady that they are today.

The sound of their laughter across a five year span was just the right thing to usher in this holiday season as family return home.  I know they don't realize as they pull up in their own vehicles from far away places that I still see the younger version of each of them.   Their laughter is what fills the spaces in time when they are gone.  Whether it is a good memory, an unexpected phone call or a voice note left on a broken phone, it fills me with joy!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Have Mercy


"Whether you are a devoted follower of Jesus, a skeptic giving this whole church thing a shot or somewhere in between - you are welcome here.  We will never assume that you have your life together, and humbly ask you not make that assumption about us.  We are a group of imperfect people, loved by a perfect God." These were the words I found as my family followed my son to his new church near the school he attends.  The facility, the Cannery Ballroom and Mercy Lounge, was a bar by night and a place of Christian fellowship by day.  I liked the contrast in the two and it made me smile because I believe that God shines brightest in the most unsuspecting places.

We were not dressed for church and came in blue jeans and tennis shoes.  My daughter wasn't feeling well and I gave her some cold medicine to help her get through the day.  Apparently, she cannot take such meds. As we stood, at the end of the bar, singing words of praise, I turned to tell my child that it was hot in this place.  She shook her head to tell me it was just me and my waves of menopause, because it was certainly not hot.  A few minutes later, still standing, she whispers to me that it is hot in here.  I returned a similar gaze offered by her earlier.  It was only a moment later that she turned ghostly white and shot out of the congregation, ill from the meds pulsing through her system.

She was sick now and had the shakes.  I went to the lobby where they offered complimentary coffee, tea and water to their guests.  I retrieved a cup of water and found a box of peanut butter crackers and health bars.  I knew the crackers would help calm her system and spent the next thirty minutes walking about the lobby with my water and crackers trying to help my child feel better.  We couldn't leave because my keys were on the other side of the building. We sat in a large window sill, the cold from the glass comforting her, sipping water and eating crackers while we watched the rest of the service.

It was just before Communion began that my family met us in the lobby with my purse and keys.  My mother pointed out the box of crackers on the table with the large sign I apparently missed.  It read, "If you don't know where your next meal is coming from, please help yourself."  My heart sank as I stood there with my contraband crackers in hand.  I had taken food from the homeless and was openly dining on it with my shaky child.  How did I miss this important instruction!  I left $20 and headed for the door.  It was my son who pointed out that my escape to a shiny red Cadillac didn't help my situation any.

I had to laugh and take comfort in the very words that met me at the door....  "We are a group of imperfect people."  Had Jesus, himself, been standing in the lobby that day, I know He would have handed my child a cracker or two.  Mercy was not just the lounge next door, it was the kindness of a group of people who thought enough to leave food out for those who may need it, no matter what the situation.  Thank you Ethos Church.




Friday, October 24, 2014

Hot Yoga


  While driving down the road, my child asked me if I would like to do Hot Yoga with her.   With great excitement, she explained how you do yoga in a very hot room, detoxifying the body while getting an excellent workout.   I turned to look at her and said, "Do you know me?"   I have never taken heat well and become an entirely different person as the temperature rises. The thermostat in our house flies back and forth as I continuously seek out the perfect comfort zone. I can think of nothing worse than beginning exercise in 104 degree heat.  I am the last person you would ever want for Hot Yoga.  

  This was about the same time my son pointed out that he needed some running shoes that didn't make him look like he was running away from something.  His description immediately stirred my curiosity.  As a young man who fancies dress shoes, he explained that you cannot run in such shoes because it gives the appearance that you are running away and not simply running for fun.  It was suddenly very important that he have the right kind of shoes so he didn't look like he was running from a burning building every day.   Running shoes were purchased that very afternoon.

  As I thought about how my daughter needs no shoes for her exercising and the fact that my son no longer looks like he was dressing for a meeting when a fire broke out, I looked at my own shoes and secretly knew that they were just the right kind to run away from Hot Yoga and fiery buildings.  I'm happy to wait outside in the cool of the car as my daughter tackles her downward dog in the desert-like heat.  When she is finished, we can move to the track where I can walk laps with a chilled beverage in hand.  When the temperature rises above 100 degrees, I can move to my stationary bike carefully positioned under the air conditioner vent in my home.  

  I'm unsure why people feel the need to make difficult things all the more difficult.  In the same category as Hot Yoga, should come the following challenging activities:

Waterless Laundry
Utensil Free Cooking
Reading Without Light
Driving Blind
Hands-Free Water Skiing
Frozen Gardening
One-Legged Kickball






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thrice Baked Potatoes



  My son came home from college for the weekend and like any good mom, I was determined to cook his favorite meal and host a sit down dinner.  Realizing that we are a generation of drive-thru diners and often eat meals while standing, sit down meals are not as common as they should be.  My mother helped to lighten my load by providing twice baked potatoes that she had prepared in advance.  All I had to do was heat them in the oven and serve them with dinner.  Thinking ahead, she made extra that I could freeze for another meal.

  Not wanting to miss a minute of quality time with my child, I let time slip by and suddenly dinner time was upon us.  I had to throw things into high gear to get everything ready.  As I dredged chicken through flour, cut up veggies, and boiled pasta, I tried to stay engaged in the nearby conversation.  Time was ticking and I stepped up the pace.  Unfortunately, I've realized lately that when I multi-task, something peculiar happens to my small motor skills and I begin underestimating my strength and speed, both important factors when working in a small space. It doesn't help that my depth perception isn't what it should be, either.   I overreach for things and knock items over, hoping nobody notices

  As I was slowly destroying my kitchen, my mother pointed out that the potatoes would never be done in time.  I cranked the oven up to 400 degrees and kept cutting and chopping.  Still worried about the potatoes being ready in time, she suggested that I stick my finger in one to see if it was hot.  Not only should I have steered clear of such a suggestion for obvious reasons,  I should have remembered that I never told her I turned the temperature up.  As I retrieved my finger from the now screaming hot potato, I instinctively stuck it directly in my mouth without thinking.  It didn't take long to realize that the 400 degree potatoes were not only ready, but were, in fact, now searing the inside of my mouth.  Moving in quick jerky motions, I grabbed the pan out of the oven and slung it towards the counter, sending all of the hot potatoes crashing to the floor.

  My mother never said a thing as she took the remaining potatoes out of the freezer and we tried one more time to cook twice baked potatoes.  I was able to finish the meal without further injury or loss and the entire family sat down for Chicken Marsala, Thrice Baked Potatoes and a large bottle of much needed wine for the cook.











Saturday, September 20, 2014

Brewster In The Hen House




     Brewster, the beautiful rooster, lives in a hen house in our back yard.  He is the tallest and most magnificent of all the birds there.  There are six red and six white fowl residing together and sadly, the pecking order was determined and poor Brewster, my red, red rooster stands in the corner avoiding the bullies in the yard.

     The white hens are fat and fancy and have no time for poor Brewster.  They are self absorbed and like to be petted and adored. Brewster stands to the side, avoiding being pecked.  He has just begun to crow and it's much like a boy going through puberty as his Cockadoodledoo is raspy and broken.  It's more like an "Er-er eh." I'm hoping he will puff that chest out, get a good breath of air and put those hens in their place.

     While they are rude to Brewster, they are exceptional egg layers and we get a dozen fresh eggs every morning, six brown and six white. Strangely, I've found much enjoyment visiting the hen house to collect eggs.  It's like an Easter egg hunt every day.  You never really know how many eggs will be in which nest.  The girls beam when you enter, proud of their day's work.   Brewster stands in the corner with the five red ladies and tries to avoid eye contact.

     With a dozen eggs a day, we've been giving them away to everyone we know.  There is something magical about a carton of multi-cultural eggs split down the middle with six white and six brown eggs. They make great gifts because if we don't give them away, I'll quickly have dozens of eggs in my fridge.

   
     At 4:30 this morning, I sat on the patio hoping to hear the rooster crow.  As I sipped my coffee, I made rooster sounds in an attempt to mentor the poor guy.  No crowing was heard. When the last of the coffee was gone and the sun had still not come up over the horizon, I headed back in to bed.  Just as the door was almost closed, there was a faint "Er, eh" sound from the wood line.  My boy was up and the day was ready to begin.

     Because it was still dark outside, though, I returned to bed for a few more hours of sleep.  The ladies were busy laying, I was sleeping, and Brewster was crowing.  The farm is well.






Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Man In The Attic

  The attic in my house is much larger in my children's minds than it is in reality.  It is a place of mystery that has led to wild thoughts and scary stories about who or what might reside there. They say people fear what they do not know and at the top of a set of pull down stairs with creaky hinges and a pronounced instability, lies the great unknown that keeps my children and their friends awake at night, listening for sounds of anything that shouldn't be there.

  A place of unfinished floors, filled with boxes of treasures that were once important, the attic sprawls out in every direction with tiny walkways of plywood leading into the dark spidery corners. The children were never allowed into the attic when they were young, for fear that one wrong step would send them through a thin layer of insulation and straight down to the floor below.  

  Giant stuffed snakes, won at the State Fair, and over sized Teddy Bears who were simply too big to manage, rest at the entrance of the attic and oversee the coming and going into this world of Christmas decorations, discarded luggage and dozens of boxes marked "Do Not Throw Away." While simply a graveyard for things once loved and unfinished craft projects, it is a world of old memories and favorite things.  It is this exact mix of old and familiar, dark and light, known and unknown that crafted the idea in my children's heads that a man lives in our attic.  It didn't help when I shared with them the story about my childhood friend who did have a man living in her attic.  Unknown to her family, a friend of a friend had set up residence in their attic and would come down at night to eat and drink as her family slept.  My own children cringe at the thought of this.

  I cannot explain why boxes frequently move in my attic or why we once found an empty coke and bag of chips up there, but I am certain nobody lives there.  Perhaps the cable installer left his snacks when running line. Maybe it is squirrels who make the faint sounds above our heads at night.  I would believe the toys were coming alive and rearranging the contents of the attic before I believed that a man was living up there.  

  This mystery resident in the space above our heads has grown famous as the tale of his existence has spread from one child to another.  It was not long ago that a man at church asked me about the man living in my attic and I just had to smile.  

  The more I think about it, I grow jealous of the man living rent free surrounded by the good things of my life.  If there is a man in my attic I have a "To Do " list for him that is long overdue.  He needs to bring himself down from there while I'm at work and start on the laundry, pick up the house and do a little yard work.  It would be great if he could start dinner before I get home and then return to rest among the six foot plush snakes and bears that live overhead.  There is a roof leak that I'm certain he should have noticed by now and he could lend a hand with the repairs.

  While my children fear the man in the attic, I welcome the extra help that could come along with such. There is no time in my household for crazy psychopathic attic dwellers and anyone who sets up residence there will certainly be given their fair share of the workload. Next time I pull down those creaky stairs and look upon the big red snake head that stares down from overhead, I hope to find a plumber or electrician hanging out up there, too.  Now that would be real treasure to find!