Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Junk food for the soul

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of sharing McDonald's fries with my Dad after preschool. I would eat them. He would steal one. It was a game...sort of.  To this day I am very protective of my food. I take bigger portions than my 5 foot almost 4 inches really needs. I secretly always take the biggest scoop of ice cream or cake. In short, I love my food. So don't mess with it or deny me.

Junk food is no exception, though my healthy Humboldt county husband brought more veggies and salad into my life. I relapsed mostly when I was pregnant with my second child. McDonald's sausage egg biscuits in the morning...Cheetos and Coke (not Diet) at 4 p.m. every day. It was probably NOT fate then that she has of late been my partner in crime when it comes to eating out. We discovered Mountain Dew slushees, smothered burritos and Doritos tacos and cinnamon twists at Taco Bell and went back three times during the last few weeks when the healthy husband and vegetarian son were away burning calories on a bike tour in Ireland. There was also some Panda Express on Open House night (how the heck was I to prepare a meal when I got of at 5 and had to be there at 6?) and a Little Caesar Pizza somewhere in there too. Oh and let's not forget the frozen yogurt from Limeberry's.

It's no wonder that our country struggles with obesity. And I've come to a conclusion. It's not about a lack of wanting to be healthy, it's a lack of time and energy. Being the single Mom the last few weeks I was exhausted. I wanted to cook a healthy meal but there were only two of us and I was tired and so on...

I wish some healthy-minded businessperson would start a healthy food chain in the Northwest. I know in Europe there are lots of affordable salad bars and delis. In Dallas they have a place called Sprouts http://www.sproutsrestaurant.com/ . Yummy, healthy and complete with drive-thru. Then again, maybe I could dish up some Mac n Cheese at home on the cheap. Or Ramen. Or popcorn.

Sadly, our unhealthy eating fest is coming to an end tomorrow. What's for dinner now?





Sunday, September 8, 2013

Slacker time

It's no secret that my husband is the glue who holds our household together. Now that he has been gone for over a week it's even more obvious! I have been eating out every night he's been gone except one. It seems that Taco Bell has really good and seemingly "healthy" food, so Anna and I have been there twice. The verdict is still out on the $5 Little Caesar pizza though.

Alas, the bad role model fashion extends beyond our eating habits, as I've let the house go to hell as well. And I still have to mow the overgrown yard. Now granted this is the first week of school and I'm single Momming it, but still, how old am I that I can't put the folded clothes away after 5 days or pick up my shoes? Oh that's right, 44. Probably more than halfway through my life IF I'm lucky. So is this my mid-life crisis I keep hearing about? Guess I've been too busy to have one until now given some of the challenges my family has been facing in the last few years.

So now what? I already got the red sports car. And last week I announced to the world that I would run a 1/2 marathon next year. Judging by how slow I ran this morning that should be interesting. But after that, then what? In a few wee years Anna will be 18. Hal will be off saving the world and it will be me and Garin again. Travel? Downsize? Peace Corps? Time will tell.

Today, I just thank God for Charlie, my new dog, as he makes me laugh and doesn't care that I've regressed, only that I feed him on time and let him out to potty. That would be nice if all we had to do was eat and potty. But alas, that is why we are human. To feel, to guilt, to love, to cry, to fight, to stress and yes, to pick up after ourselves. So here I go. Really soon. Really....

Monday, September 2, 2013

A poodle connection

You know how you say "never say never?" Well, I know my husband sure did after our beloved Newfie-mix Kirby died last April. Now in his defense, my husband didn't hate dogs, just the allergies that came with one in the house...and reemerging childhood asthma. So I suppressed my dog-loving genetic code  for my marriage and we went on with our lives.

At first I agreed it was less work not having one more responsibility. Less dog hair to sweep up. No rushing home after a long day to let the dog out. No poop to pick up before mowing. No $1,200 vet bills when the dog chased a squirrel and tore his ACL.

But I missed the companionship. The unconditional affection. The sweet brown eyes. And the long walks. Then, just when I had pretty much come to the conclusion I would be dogless forever...we found Charlie!

Never in all my dogs I'd had as a child and adult had we had the toy version. My impression of most small dogs was peeing on someone's feet from nervousness and shivering with fear. And don't get me started on froofy Poodles who always won "Best of Show."

Alas, that is what I found us bringing home one day after a spontaneous trip to an adopt-a-pet day at the local pet store. My daughter and I had been quietly researching dog breeds and Poodles, apparently, are hypoallergenic. We would spot a Standard Poodle a mile away then pounce on the owner with leading questions (Dad within earshot of course) like, "Is it true they don't shed?" and "Did you get him because you have allergies?" Always affirmative along with the added comment, "And they are really smart!"

The door had been opened.

Still, when we met a scruffy poodle mix the non-profit rescue lady had told me about on the phone, he looked more like Sandy from the "Annie" Broadway show. He was clean enough, and super happy, but his hair was overgrown and matted and he was a dull brown color that looked like he'd lived in his share of alleys.

We'll never really know his heritage or past except he was supposedly at a kill shelter in Stockton, CA and came "north" with the help of this rescue group to our happy home. The one hurdle: Dad.

I won't say it was easy. We had many a night of few words and after we discovered Charlie (as he came to be known thanks to my daughter) was NOT potty trained and did NOT like to sleep alone in the laundry room, things looked pretty grim.

But the love of a dog can do wonders and it did its magic on my husband despite the wheezing and sneezing (so much for hypoallergenic...at least Charlie did not shed) and the fact we really did steamroll right over his pleas not to bring another dog into the house. Soon Charlie was wiggling his way onto the couch at my husband's feet, rolling over submissively on his back or staring at him blankly with his black little orbs. Soon, my husband had dubbed him, "the weird little dude."

Today we all love Charlie. Sure, it's a lot more work with frequent potty trips outside, learning the crating business and finding the right food that settles his tender Poodle tummy (plus two vet visits in the first month alone). But he is extremely entertaining with his "zippies" around the house, his desire to sit in your lap as much as possible and his incredible talent of doing doggie yoga in your lap upside down.

You see, if you say "never" you might lose out on a black-eyed, cotton ball mess of a friend for life.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Maui Magic

Well I had heard the rumors that Maui and Hawaii in general was a magical place. I have certainly been cast under its spell. It's not just one thing like the calming waves or the "Alohas" of people you meet on morning beach walks, or the fish tacos (yes, I find food to be quite magical). It's just this unexplainable "chill" factor. You unwind. I have not thought about work for nearly 7 days. I have drank less alcohol and walked or run every day. I have spent quality time with my 14-year-old daughter who I can see now really does need me if not in the way I might expect.

Yesterday I met this amazing massage therapist who is legally blind. Always the journalist I asked many questions about Hawaii. She told me the story of how she used to come here as a teenager to visit her divorced father, a former NYC fashion designer. He went on to start a new life here, going back to school, getting his master's and PhD and becoming a renowned psychiatrist in Hawaii. Inspiring! Now maybe it was just all him and not Maui magic, but it was still very telling. Likewise, the massage therapist has built a successfully business here and while blind since birth, she only recently got her own guide dog who then inspired her to study canine therapy.

So what does all this mean to me? I am not sure yet except that a) my passion is still people and finding out their stories and b) I hope I can take some of this magic and chill factor back with me to my "real life" and use it to focus on what is really important -- family, health and friendship. Oh and I also want to get a sea turtle tattoo even though I am 44.

I'll keep you posted. Until then, "Aloha!"


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Finding your passion...Hawaiian style!

Sometimes good things happen to good people. I'd like to think that is what happened to me a few weeks ago when trying to plan a trip with my 14-year-old daughter. What started out as the idea (hers) of a road trip to L.A. turned into a week's stay in Hawaii after a spontaneous suggestion by my husband. Our neighbor's condo just happened to be available and we had some mileage to help cover one plane ticket. We shopped for shorts, sunscreen and sun dresses (not really needed in the Northwest -- summer or no). Getting out the door was a bit harried as travel anxiety runs in our family but I only had to go back to the house twice for forgotten "maybe we'll need this" items, including a total of 7 books between us.

Once on the plane safely, I realized I had booked our seats apart -- not next to -- each other. I knew this was probably a relief to my daughter, who had listened to my constant "did you do this?" for the last two days of packing. I found myself on the aisle with a baby behind me and two quiet men next to me who I first mistook as father and sun. As the flight took off I saw them holding hands complete with gold bands and was touched. Not being able to keep my mouth shut on long plane rides, I eventually struck up a conversation with the younger gent who I discovered was a writer, poet, teacher and...magician! For the first couple hours I watched him work on a poem with old-fashioned pencil and paper. When our meal came, which included a salad the guys shared -- again this was so sweet to me though I still don't know why exactly  --  I pestered him with a few more "I used to be a reporter" questions which he graciously answered.

The next few hours flew by...one of those conversations that leaves you feeling very connected to your fellow man, or in this case "men." Their relationship reminded me that one should pursue his her or their passion, be it magic, art, acting or music. These soulmates lived in a 300 square-foot yurt, devoid of television and internet, and few possessions. As they described their cozy home and how they worked together to respect each other's need to pursue their respective work in a such a small space, I felt a light bulb go off about my own life. What the hell was my passion? It used to be writing. Then it was my husband and travels. Then my children. More lately though it was advocacy for gay youth and their families.The conversation took a turn to these issues and -- no surprise -- my new plane buddies shared my passion. David, the older gent, had done his share of talks to his local high school and some theatre around the issues of coming out. Tom had tutored a trans youth like my son. I was actually sorry when the pilot announced we were approaching Maui but bold enough to ask for their emails.

On descent, they again held hands. I wonder if they knew how much they had inspired me in just a few hours? The question was, what was I going to do with that inspiration?



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bye, bye American Pie...and bread...and pasta. Hello 40something metabolism.

I'd heard the rumors. You get older. The natural metabolism of your 20s is replaced with unnatural energy created in part by chasing and driving children around in your 30s when suddenly -- POOF -- it just up and disappears one day in your mid-40s.

At 44, the thought of not being able to indulge in my pasta and breads at will made me strangely sad. Growing up, my family social life was based around food and meals. My parents had dinner parties and growing up in the Midwest with Oklahoma blood, meat and potatoes was a staple diet. Then my Dad got transferred and the family moved to New Orleans where jambalaya, daiquiris and red beans and rice are king and the heat slows everyone to slow down and drink iced tea on the deck and not really care about calorie intake or expenditures too much.  Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the Good Times roll)!

I tried going vegan -- or rather porkless -- for awhile. And despite my families memory I also went vegetarian for a spell. But tofu didn't replace a good steak. And cheese -- oh friend cheese -- was just too delicious to say good-bye too.

In college I easily put on a hefty freshman 25 with frat party beers, Dominos delivery and carb central cafeterias at the dorm. Thankfully, I was blessed with a pretty high natural metabolism so a few walks across campus and swimming seemed to suffice and I remained a plump but very happy freshman coed. Shortly after I met my beloved husband in 1989. I was happy with who I was and how I looked and apparently he was too. We got married in 1991 and will celebrate 22 years of mostly wedded bliss on Saturday.

He's been good for my health. Introducing me to nightly salads (again?) and regular exercise. I still wanted my bread and potatoes with my meal ("what do you mean we are only having salad and burgers?") but I discovered running and yoga and wanted to set a good example for my kiddos.

In a world today which is so image and weight conscious I don't want to care too much about the number on the scale. I grew up in a somewhat diet obsessed household and to this day will not touch cottage cheese or Slimfast type, chalk-tasting shakes. I want my kids and other young people to love who they are. That doesn't mean they can't have a healthy lifestyle but it doesn't mean they have to look like Victoria Secret models or The Bachelor contestants either.

Still, today's youthful society is about image and instant gratification. Kids are bombarded on their smartphones and Instagrams with images of celebrities and other youth that somehow lead them to  believe that those are the "norm" in body types.

So while I'm going to be a little more carb-conscious in my middle age, I have no plans to say good-bye to my good friends, spaghetti, cookies, French bread, biscuits or mashed potatoes entirely. Life IS too short. Just gotta find the balance and roll with it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Art of Being Alone

Today was Father's Day and since my father lives in Oklahoma (we had a great chat) and my husband is not my father (though I helped make him one) I got the unexpected gift of having today alone. My daughter got swept up in a not-so-voluntary hiking/biking trip with her Dad to Port Townsend, Wash. My son was working a garage sale for a support group. So at 8:30 a.m. I was with just me.

Now I'm not really one traditionally who does alone well. I am that extrovert who knows a lot of people and am a social creature. I love people and I love for them to love me back. I like to listen and comfort and ask questions. But lately I have valued this special time more. When life is crazy and busy working and driving kids to and fro and graduations and recitals and other "stuff" a day to myself was just what the doctor ordered.

For starters I ordered some long overdue photos from Costco. I learned in the process that awesome photos you take on your phone cannot always be enlarged. Whatever. I did it and they look great! I made a poster for my daughter of her and her cousins in Mexico. I have meant to do this for 6 months. Huh? Am I REALLY that busy? Guess so.

Next I took a hot tub. It's getting old and rusty in spots but I still love it.

Then it was off to town for a visit to the bank, the garage sale, Costco (the photo thing) a return at Target, Trader Joes grocery run (had some great socializing there with the amazing employees at TJs who love to chat or at least pretend to) and then it was home.

I then cleaned some more. And made meatloaf for my husband who just walked in.

The thing is, I used to wonder why people would have coffee or dinner by themselves. How could they stand it? Didn't they want to talk to someone?

Now I know.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

One of those moments...


  • When you're driving home singing songs from "A Chorus Line" like you own it!
  • You wake up with someone you love and his mouth is slightly open and you see what he might have been like at age 5.
  • Your child gives you an unexpected hug.
  • You belly laugh until tears well with your parents and sister on vacation.
  • A child shows you something he is super proud of he made and you think, "This kid is going to make it!"
  • You and your daughter see a homeless guy with a dog dressed up and a sign that says "We like food." The moment is when you hand him the sack full of a sandwich, bagels, a juice, dog snacks and a bag of dog food and a few bucks and he peers in and says to his dog with a huge smile on his face, "Look at this!" The dog's name was "Shy."
  • A friend who has always been there for you calls unexpectedly to unload and ask for advice. You hope yours is good. You hope she gets what she wants. 
  • You organize over 100  people in a parade after stops and starts and it is fun! 
  • You eat a huge Gyro with fries and don't care about your waistline or calories. 
  • A child does not get abducted and a community rallies. 
  • Your texting buddy checks up on you again...and you are actually fine this time! 
  • Your husband takes you on an unexpected date. 
  • You run into an old friend you have not seen and ages and she hugs you good!
  • Your son gets a letter from Harvard.
  • Your daughter consoles a kid she doesn't know at school who is upset she didn't get picked for a gym class team. 
  • Taylor Swift sings you home.
  • When you've had a really good day and hope there is another one but if not you know you are blessed so far with a really, really good life! 



Monday, April 8, 2013

Patience and Love

There are times lately when I find myself asking "why?" and I feel numb. Other days my heart is filled with hope and encouragement. It is like I'm on a swing set, pumping up and down, back and forth, up and down, but not really going anywhere.

It is hard when someone you desperately love has lost hope no matter what you say or do. The crying goes on, along with deception, self-loathing and darkness. No amount of hugs, listening or tripping over my own advice seems to help. There are no quick fixes to depression and addiction.

Our society is set up to believe that if you get counseling, medication and detox or treatment, you will be well again. What I'm realizing is that nobody can make someone else well. Mental health issues are serious stuff that we can't blame on anyone else. Sure life's circumstances can throw you curve balls -- the trick is learning how to hit them back without taking short cuts like  self-harm, alcohol or drugs. It's hard work. Too hard for some.

If any good has come out of all this, it's that my loved one is still alive. My family has learned how to communicate better (depending who you ask on which day). And I have stopped drinking for my own health and to support my loved one.

We push ourselves and our children to work harder, run faster and follow through. Go to work. Go to school. Check the boxes. Hurry! Clean house. Do your homework. Start all over the next day.

What we really need to do is learn to love each other and ourselves. Be happy in the moment. Put down the cell phones and turn off the DVR. Skip that meeting you really MUST attend. Call an old friend instead of email or text. Breathe!

And maybe, just maybe, the swing will eventually slow down enough for you to jump off, fly through the air and land on solid ground again.

Maybe. I'm hopeful.




Sunday, March 24, 2013

Forgetful

I don't know if it's a peri-menopausal thing, delayed ADHD or just my lack of focus nature but lately I've been the extreme act of losing things. Twice this week I've lost, found and lost again a thank you card signed by 10 other people. Today it was my credit card (left it at the restaurant in the little bill pay folder...even after I had signed and paid the bill).

I would like to blame it on getting older, and recently a very stressful period in my life, but alas, I remember early in my marriage going through the trash looking for something. I had on my nightgown and was on my knees digging through potato peels, Hamburger Helper leftovers and whatever else a young couple just-out-of-college eats. I have no clue what I had lost or if I found it but I remember looking up and seeing my husband looking at my like a curious specimen in a museum (or maybe a zoo).    I was slightly ashamed but had no apology. I lose things. I stress. I guilt. It's what I do. Just like I am notoriously at least 5 minutes late to every meeting even though I know it appears rude and unthoughtful.

Lately it has gotten worse though. I do get distracted by the needs of my children, the household and work. My mothering skills. Overcommitment. Not to mention that I'm now past "mid-life" even for my strong genetic line of old women. The dark circles under my eyes and droopy lids, along with wrinkles on my neck tell me that maybe time is not on my side. Sorry Mick.

The other day my husband said, "I need to have more fun." I agreed wholeheartedly and we've done pretty good the last five years taking a month off to travel the world with our kids. But once we get home, we speed through life running errands, meeting deadlines, crossing milestones, attending funerals, raising children, losing pets, gaining weight, losing weight, making new friends, losing old friends and then you wake up one day and say, "Hold it!"

My semi-regular practice of yoga helps me now and again helps me to breathe "in the moment" but it never seems to last. I find it. I lose it.

And so it goes....where did it go again?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breathe

Back in the '80s...or maybe it was the '70s, I remember hearing about some self-help book titled, "I'm OK, You're OK." I think it's a great title, but unfortnately I cannot relate right now. I am not OK. My family is not OK. Oh yes, in the greater scheme of things we have food, water and shelter; two incomes; two great kids and live in a country that despite all its backward flaws and quirks is a pretty damn good place to live. But in the past week my life was turned on its head when I found out that mental health is NOT something to take for granted.

Last Tuesday I spent 7+ hours in the Emergency Room psych unit at the local hospital. Out of respect of privacy for the individual involved, I am not going to say who, but let it be known that it was a very sad place and not one I want to revisit. The walls were that soft blue meant to calm. The rooms had no doors for protection and observation. And the lifeless shapes of people obviously desperate enough to end up there, were wrapped as shrouds on single beds under white knit blankets.

There is one thing I am grateful for during those dark hours though. People. The counselors and doctors we encountered during that period were amazing....even though it took 3 hours to be seen. Even though there was no social worker on staff to help us fit the pieces together after we left. But they cared. While I sit at a desk all day, these folks are locked in this unit with very sick people. Some of whom they will help but only temporarily. I may never see them again but I want to say thank you.

I also want to thank the counselor and psychiatrist who have helped my family through this crisis as we wait, and wait and wait for a facility to open up so we can seek the next round of long-term treatment.

And I 'm grateful my husband's employer offers damn good health insurance. Sadly though, I know thousands...probably more...don't have this benefit which really should be a human right. Call me a socialist folks but everyone should have the right to get health care for their family especially in times of crisis. The ER that day when we left was packed. Some probably only had a cold or a cut finger but they had nowhere else to go. Think about it.

And finally thanks to my friends. Through this time they have reached out in various ways, mostly social media, and for that I am so grateful. My Mom asked, "are you seeing a counselor?" Not now. But I am have many lovely  Facebook friends who care and give a shoutout when needed. I have a few who despite my "I don't want to talk" call me. And then there is my amazing husband with a capital "A." He is my rock and maybe I'm his little pebble as we try to stand strong and keep our family from floating away.

So if you are reading this -- and really this is just more for me to diary -- go hug your loved one. Don't turn your head when you see a homeless person next time. Give them the damn dollar or go buy them a sandwich. And when you hear about a suicide, please, please, please don't be like I have on more than one occasion and say, "How selfish could they be."

I'm not OK. But I'm going to be. And so is my family.