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Friday, September 27, 2013

Love Letter

before you

the hum drum of daily life was boring and held no meaning
going around in circles, repetitive tasks to pass the time
seasons cycled through without notice
thats all i could think of
get away
live near the ocean
adapt to a rythmic quiet life at sea
hide within myself

after you

then there was you and only you
our hearts collide
although the world is still rotating
time pulses around us, unnoticed
life is shared, revealing a sense of purpose
loving you
thats all i think of now
eating up life in big bites, forgetting to chew
i love you
i always have
i always will

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Personal Tormentors

"A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey
-- but a woman of strength has faith that  it is in the journey that she will become strong."
My mother always said that when life throws you lemons, add tequila and make margaritas. I'm sure she didn't mean that we should proceed to the nearest bar, although I just might have done that a time or two, as a healthy buzz can sometimes change one's perspective. Instead, I believe she meant that we need to try to find the best in others and in the situations we find ourselves in, no matter who is at fault.

With respect to her advice, this isn't always the easiest path to navigate. At first glance it appears much easier to dwell in the immediate misery, becoming bitter and resentful, holding a grudge, plotting revenge and crawling inside of ourselves. Be forewarned that doing so will shut us off from the rest of the world, stunt our personal growth, shade our happiness and wither our hearts (advice from my dad). We might as well be dead. Instead, although more difficult to traverse, it would appear to be wiser to choose the path to enlightenment which enables us to become better people through the difficult circumstances and blunders we sometimes find ourselves in.

Ultimately, these stressful situations most often involve a person who suffers from delusions of their own creation. I have no doubt these people have encountered their own personal trials but I also have no doubt that they have chosen to not better themselves because of those events. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that they live in a hallucination that is a complex web of pretenses and passive-aggressive motives that are required to maintain their deceptive reality. Unfortunately, I am sure we have all found ourselves faced with one of these so called personal tormentors of self esteem. Others might call them bullies. They are like the angel of death but instead they come to prey upon our self worth, hacking off bits and pieces of it until we are reduced to a shameful pile of insecurity that resembles our tormentor. Didn't someone say that the greatest cowards are most often the greatest bullies?

Ultimately, we must make a choice on how to react to that situation or that person. It's not always simple to remove ourselves from this type of oppressiveness. It takes time, patience, planning, and maybe even a good margarita (or two or three) to help us cope and forge a way out. But what I have found works best is a regular regime of dosing the self-esteem - consistently doing something that makes us feel worthwhile - mantras in front of the mirror, a therapist, a daily hug, writing in a journal, eating chocolate, a spa day, yoga, shopping, hanging with good friends, etc.  Much satisfaction can also be found in the role that karma plays - allowing the timeless cycle of what goes around, to come around. This ensures that the seed of self-respect that is planted within us, is nurtured and never allowed to waste away.  This cultivates an unbreakable pride and belief in the self.

And to those challenges we are facing or have faced, we may not fully understand why we had to go through them, but we will be able to say without a doubt, that we were able to emerge with only a few scratches because we reached deep within ourselves and found the will to survive.

And with that, I have this to say to a former personal tormentor who attempted to ruin me:

because of your lack of self respect, I learned to revere mine
because of your lack of organization, I honed my skills at juggling multiple priorities
because of your inefficiencies, I became a trusted resource
because of your childish immaturity, I matured and embraced my adulthood
because you were uncaring, I cared even more
because you took credit where credit was not due, I was not responsible for your failure
because you stole my ideas, I thought of better ones
because of your lies, I held steadfast to the truth
because you sought to destroy me, I became powerful
because you never followed through, I never let anything slip by
because you disliked me, I liked myself even more
because you put me down, I learned to build myself back up stronger
because you told me I was worthless, I grew to be invaluable
because of your unprofessionalism, I developed expertise 
because you hated me, I discovered how to love myself
because of your cruelty, I found compassion
because of your deceit, I acquired integrity
because of your weakness, I have limitless strength
And most all of, I forgive you. 

Because in forgiving our tormentors, we allow ourselves to grow and move on so that now when it's time for a margarita, it's not to drown our sorrows, but instead it's to celebrate our life, and applaud our strength. Although we might just be reveling in the fact that our tormentor no longer has a stronghold on us, we do wish for the sake of all humanity and the intricate web that connects us all, that they might grow a heart one day and resolve to become better people. 

Either way, each step we take through the journey of life, we are given the opportunity to enjoy it fully and to love ourselves and others with wild abandon. No one can ever take that away from any of us. So the next time you get a lemon, throw some tequila into the mix but don't cry about it, see it as a chance to find something wonderful, even if it is not immediately apparent.  Because love is what makes the world go round. And without it, we'd be just as bad as our personal tormentors.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tribal Law of Sisterhood

"Stop fighting and bickering.  One day you will realize how thankful you are for one another." ~ Our Mom, Mother of 4 Girls

There is something about having sisters that is an incredible gift.  My three sisters are my best friends.  No matter where we are in life or where life takes us, we always have each other.  We are sometimes strewn miles apart in our locations, differences, beliefs, convictions and habits, but our hearts are melded together in a bond that cannot be broken.  A bond that does not judge and a bond that only gets stronger with time.  

Of course as young girls, we fought, yelled and slammed doors in one anothers faces.  We stole clothes from each others closets and tattled when appropriate and to our advantage.  But as we grew up into young women, then wives, then mothers, we restored our sisterhood when we found we could balance life a little easier when we could revert to our familiar and comfortable role as sisters.  There is nothing in the world like having sisters. And there is nothing in the world that I wouldn't do for any of one of them. 

It's hard to explain sisterhood to those who don't have sisters. It's a complicated relationship based entirely on the cosmic rules of birth, shared blood and circumstance. Sisters aren't able to choose one another. Thrown together by fate and by the family they are born into, they must learn to tolerate one another's sudden appearance into their lives. Suddenly everything must be shared, and attentions must be split. Then rules and boundaries must be created in order to maintain individual identities while concurrently becoming friends. Conflicts arise as these boundaries are identified and experimented with. Lines are drawn and re-drawn, some are negotiated, some are forced. Yet inevitably with time, these closely guarded borders loosen. There is no need now for such a tight reign as we sisters have grown to trust and rely on one another and as we realize that without a doubt, if all others fail us, we will never fail each other. Our sisterhood is a tribe whose terrain is protected and defended vigorously.

Of course, mistakes are made, communication errors abound and misunderstandings occur.  Enough battles will be fought to sink any friendship but not a sisterhood.  These things only strengthen the bond and enforce the reliance on one another. For that is all it is - a temporary blip, a learning experience, learning to say I'm sorry and being sure to forgive. Because now matter what we do, we will always be sisters. We can never change that fact. Ever. 

Soon we appreciate the dawning realization that we are each others keepers for our entire existence and probably beyond. We have pack codes, a secret language and an intimate knowledge of each other that begins at birth and goes on through out our entire existence. We accept each other completely for who we are. We expect and fulfill a lifetime commitment to each other that requires no ceremony, no legalities, and no approvals. There is not another person on this earth that can penetrate our sister tribe or understand us the way we understand each other. We can all speak at once and still have heard each word the other said. We can speak with no words and still know what the other conveyed. We are each others universe,  a vast and complicated territory where no man dares tread and where others are intrigued by the mystery of this intense relationship we have. We are impenetrable. We are sisters united by our childhood. We know each others hearts, fundamental selves and are linked by a volatile love that gives meaning to our lives. There is no better friend than a sister and my sisters, there is no one better than you!

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities.  She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway.  She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark.  She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink.  Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child~Barbara Alpert

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ensalada de Pollo de Bling

In my never ending quest for excellent lunch menu items, I've come up with a fabulous spring recipe worth sharing. This dish, best served cool, is easily transportable and would be great to bring to a potluck, a picnic, a luncheon or even as a dinner side. I personally think this dish would pair nicely with blanket rolled out at the beach, bare feet and  a bubbling Prosecco. But without all that glam, it still worked nicely for my weekday work lunches which I paired with a big ole glass of agua.

Ensalada de Pollo de Bling (glammed up chicken salad with some bling)
Dairy Free, Grain Free (so naturally Gluten-Free), Egg Free and can be made Nut Free

  • Cook a whole organic pastured chicken:
    • Wash the chicken and remove innards
    • Rub in a bit of olive oil and a good bit of salt and pepper
    • Cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then turn down heat to 375 degrees for another hour, depending on the size of the chicken 
    • When done, check to be sure chicken reaches appropriate temperature
  • Set the chicken aside to cool
  • Pull the meat off from the bone
  • Shred or chop the cooked chicken into bite size pieces and put in a bowl

  • Add to the shredded/chopped chicken:
    • 1/2 cup chopped golden raisins
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, pumpkins seeds and macadamias that I blended lightly together in a blender so they came out somewhat powdery - I don't like to have to chew nuts but still want the benefits)
    • 1 chopped organic apple
    • 2 cups chopped organic greens (I used kale and chard)
    • Organic olive oil drizzled on to taste
    • Pepper to taste
  • Mix well. Then throw off your shoes, pour yourself a glass of Prosecco and savor the goodness.

Some other ideas, as this is a very malleable recipe:

-Substitute flax oil for the olive oil
-Eat with a red wine rather than a white
-Use the chicken carcass to make yourself some good ole healthy home-made broth
-Wrap the chicken in lettuce to make a chicken taco

Friday, March 15, 2013

Remembering Maddie

I don't know why they call it heartbreak.  
It feels like every other part of my body is broken too.  
~Missy Altijd

Animal friendships must be inextricably linked to human friendships.  For when an animal leaves this world, no matter where the human relationships involved in that animal's life have ventured during those years, they are most always brought back together to mourn the loss. It is as if love has scratched a trail across our hearts so that we may always find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And so I begin with the story of Maddie. 

Super tiny baby Maddie with Warren and Sarah

Many years ago, while going to school and living on campus with my husband, we became friends with Lisa who was the apartment manager in our building. I have to credit my husband, Warren, for the introductions. I tend a bit on the introvert side of things and had not yet made it a point to meet my neighbors. Within three days of my husband moving in with me, he had met most of the tenants on our floor, including Lisa who lived right next door. After a few times of hanging out with Lisa, we discovered, besides a mutual love of cocktails, a friendship that would stand the test of time. 

Lisa, Sarah and Warren

Not long after we met Lisa, we met Jenny, one of Lisa's long time friends. As fate would have it, the four of us bonded pretty much right away. And not too long after we all met, Lisa brought Maddie home. A 'teeny tiny and too young to be away from her mom' kitten. Of course, we all immediately rooted ourselves in this baby kitten's life, establishing our role as godparents, even introducing her to our cats who zealously took on the role of cat cousins.

Lisa, Jenny and Sarah

Lisa had trouble deciding on a name for this little bundle of strawberry blond fur. So for a while we tried out the name Dixie on her. Then for a time she was Montana Poquito.  There might have been more but eventually Lisa settled on Maddie. Once Maddie had her name, she officially began her life as a kitten. A crazy one at that. You know how kittens are, running wild at all hours of the night only to drop like a narcoleptic, sleeping like the dead. In a short time, Lisa was a bit overwhelmed. She wasn't sure this business of being a cat mom was really her thing. She even asked us how we would feel about adopting Maddie. Of course, as much as we loved Maddie, we knew that Maddie and Lisa were meant for each other. We pushed Lisa to give it a couple more weeks. Wanting to really give it go, Lisa tried. Within a few short days, Lisa came by our apartment to inform us that she had fallen in love with Maddie and was going to keep her. We sorta knew that was going to happen!

Warren and baby Maddie

As Maddie grew, we had 'cat play dates' with all of us. Our cats would visit Lisa's apartment where they would teach Maddie how to do cat things like getting up on the kitchen counters, knocking knick knacks out of windows, and playing chase up and down and all over the living room. And we would invite Maddie over to eat catnip and hang at our pad. Just like their humans, the three cats became best of friends. 

Oshun, Maddie and Boozie eating catnip
Maddie even adopted one of her miniature toy kittens as a baby of her own. She took 'Baby' as we now called it to the food bowl, to the water bowl and all around the house with her. There were some times when we panicked that Baby may have been lost.  This was not a phase, for Maddie kept Baby with her for the rest of her days.

Eventually, we all graduated and moved from campus.  Without planning, we happened to move to the same neighborhood as Jenny, and Lisa was just a bike ride away. As we were now in the 'burbs, we began to teach our cats how to be outside. Warren built an outdoor enclosure out of chicken wire where the cats could come and go outside from an open window in the house. When Maddie visited she would join her cousins in the big adventure of discovering the outside world. 

Oshun, Boozie and Maddie in the outdoor enclosure

After a few years, as it happens, the four of us moved farther apart, got real jobs, and began to carve out our own niches in the world. We didn't see each other as much but when we did, it was always a reunion for us as well as expectant updates on our cats. Sadly, we lost Oshun when she was just 5 years old and Boozie when he was 11.  Then we mourned the loss of Jennys best canine friend Frieda.  But Miss Maddie out lived them all. Just recently, at 14 years old, Maddie’s heart grew old and eventually stopped beating. She joined her cousins in the spirit world. We are certain that they welcomed her and showed her around. In fact, we are even more certain that they have resumed their play once again and are now wreaking havoc all over cat heaven! 

Maddie growing up, with Warren
Maddie growing up, with Sarah and Warren

When the news reached me, Maddie was already gone. Brokenhearted for our animal and human friend, I immediately contacted Jenny to let her know. We all reconnected by voicemails, missed calls and texts, sending our love out to Lisa and to each other.  Warren and I pulled out our pre-digital camera/pre iPhone photos (aka: paper photos, remember those?) where we spent a better portion of the evening reminiscing over Maddie pictures. Tears slid down our cheeks even as we chuckled as we remembered her shenaningens which led to us remembering all the great times we all had together. 

Coming together in not only the good times but also in the hard times is the true celebration of friendship.That's when we realized how our animal friendships have made way for our human friendships. Going even more out on a limb, we pondered whether our animal friends choose us so that they may be there with us as we forge a path through life, leading us to people we need to have in our lives; and when they leave us, it is not just their time to go, but also their way of saying they have done their part and can only journey with us so far. They know we will be ok for they will truly not be gone because they will live  on in our hearts forever. 

We will miss you, Miss Maddie and we are very thankful for the friendship you provided us and for the human friendships you encouraged. You took such wonderful care of your mama. Please stay close to her heart while she heals and visit her now and again. I just know she'd appreciate that! 

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 
-Kahlil Gibran

In loving memory of Maddie,

This post is dedicated to all who have mourned for the loss of their beloved pets.  Our friend Deb lost her cat, Texas; our other friend Deb lost her dog Tobin; my friend Karen lost her dog Buck; my sister Barb who lost her dog Shera, her cat Urni and her dog Chad-Chad; my sister Janet who lost their cat Peaches; my sister Susan who lost her cat Ariel; my parents who lost their dogs Timmy, Freda and Annie; my inlaws who lost their beagles Bacon and Bits; Pam and Dave who lost their lab; my friend Roz who lost her two cats; my aunt who lost her Dalmatian; my friend and sister Gwyn who lost her cat; my friend Kathy who lost her rottie Athena; our friends Irene and Dave who have lost and loved many pugs and precious Goldie; my cousin Sandy who lost Lacey just today; and all those who I have not mentioned - you are loved.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rhythm and Honey of Words

"To re-create something in words is like being alive twice". -unknown.

I was inspired today but one of my favorite authors, Carolina de Robertis. She urged us writers to "...Read. It’s hard to make the time, I know, I know. But don’t skip it. That’s like a pro athlete who skips exercise. Or a chef with anorexia. Reading is the essential foundation of the love affair with language that lets you make art...".  If you read my blog regularly, you know I've already written about my own love affair with reading. I'll knock back 1-2 books a week, sometimes reading long into the night or straight through a whole weekend. 

When I read, a sequence of mystical events are initiated. The more I read, the better I write. Ideas flow freely, inspiration abounds, creativity jumps at the chance to express itself and then the urge to write is insatiable. Two choices exist, write or don't write. If I write, I am afforded the chance to scribe with the cadence that drives me and for a little while be cured of the fever. If I don't write, I am enveloped in an emotional tormented state, my ambition at war with my purpose. Eventually, as I hold my impulse at bay, my motivation wanes and the next time I feel the compulsion to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), it becomes just a little bit harder to get the words out, almost as if that were punishment from whatever forces demand the words flow.  I might as well obey or suffer the consequences, right?  

My mother says all writing is a kind of suspended mental moment. We can never go back and recreate it, we can't remember how we wrote it, and we don't know where it came fromSo you see, it would be as if I were squandering a precious gift from the gods. It is my sense of duty, my obligation to read countless books, burning the midnight oil. I take pleasure basking in the the rhythm and honey of other writers words and that my friend, makes my words all the sweeter. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In the Kingdom of the Seasons

Every Spring I find myself in awe and wonder, full of hope, and just a little bit stir crazy. There is always a tug of war in the kingdom of the seasons. Winters are long in the Pacific Northwest. The sun rarely visits, the days are cold and soggy and the nights are spent listening to the freezing rain pouring through the heavens. Evenings become our saving grace. Inside, in the warmth, we wear our winter socks and huddle under blankets watching movies and playing games. We concoct all sorts of soups, stews and big cuts of meat that simmer all day then deliciously greet us after work with edible aromas. We scour our bartender bibles for strong libations. Winter has taken hold, continuing his nefarious rule over the seasons.

However, once the December holidays have been thoroughly celebrated then boxed up and put away, we begin the long descent awaiting Spring. Our rain jackets and rain boots grow mildew from never completely drying out.  The moisture cultivates farms of intricate moss that flourishes on every crevice of our cars, windows, front steps, bare tree limbs and walkways. It seems that every movie has been seen, every seasonal recipe tried and every game overplayed. Newscasters have worn out and overused their synonyms for rain (precipitation, showers, drizzle, driving mist, freezing rain, deluge, torrents, downpours, sprinkles, buckets...). Intrinsically, the desire for Spring takes root leaving us restless and ill at ease.

Then one day, almost imperceptibly, Spring arrives at the heels of Winter with Summer pushing in from behind, poking her head out just enough to encourage the sleeping trees and dormant bulbs to stir, setting in motion the miracle of life. Although she never rushes into things, the magic by which this mysterious season deposes her beauty around us always lures me into sheer amazement. When did the flowering fruit trees suddenly turn pink and the tiny green sprouts pushing through the hardened winter earth become bright yellow blooming daffodils? Birds begin to appear with their morning melodies when yesterday and in the long months before there was only silence.

As we emerge from hibernation, we find ourselves revitalized and consumed with plans. We pour over seed catalogues deciding what to plant in the vegetable garden; when to order mulch to fill our sodden garden beds, when to sprinkle grass seeds over muddy lawns; and what we will grill on the first sunny day. We schedule summer trips to the beach, make reservations at campgrounds and purchase wood for backyard fires.

On weekends, every window is forced open to let the stale Winter air free, inviting in the tasty breezes of early Spring. Rugs are taken outside and shaken furiously. Flowers, although mostly out of season still, are picked or bought and displayed on tables to discourage the Winter spirits from lingering.

Winter may imagine itself to be the more daunting force of nature but Spring is resilient and set in her ways. She will toss Winter from the dominion with a mandate to stay far, far, away while Spring has her corresponding time on the throne. After months of plowing through Winter's monotony, Spring reminds us to slow down and coast in neutral while enjoying her wanton displays of beauty. She puts a spring in our steps, gives us hope and inspires. Just as the withered world around us is coming back to life after a long slumber, so it is as our spirits re-awaken.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fragmented (or Fermented?) Thoughts

'Wine is bottled poetry.' - Robert Lewis Stevenson

This is not the first time I have felt frustrated by the fragmented thought process of poetry. Where is the wonder and meaning in a poem that everyone delights in? It should be easy to understand given that the verses are anywhere from 1 to 5 words each. Even the words themselves sound beautiful so there must be some profound meaning in these disjointed riddles, right?

Perhaps I am too literal in my attempts to fathom any comprehension at all. But that can't be right. There have been poems that have spoken so loudly to me that my inner being is shaken.

At the pinnacle of my youth, I discovered a book of poems by my then and still beloved Jim Morrison. I was perusing a used bookstore with a friend of mine who shared in my bygone era infatuation of this deceased musician. Eager to delve into the personal world of his strange and mysterious short life, I waited until late at night when I could be alone with just my thoughts and my book. As I read his poetry, immediately I became frustrated with his words. What was he talking about? Was he on drugs? Well, yes of course he was on drugs, it was the 60's. Still, it didn't make any sense to me. Desperate to make some sort of connection, I closed the book and held it close to me and closed my eyes. I asked the spirits to show me what I needed to know. Then I opened the book and read a canvas of words that finally spoke to me. In fact, those words made so much sense to me that it couldn't have been just chance that I encountered them. It's true, those words of his. They described what happened to me the year I grew wings. I read the two poems over and over and pretty much memorized them. I marked the page in the book, copied them down in my journal, then put the book away, forever. Yes, that's right, forever.

Another time, the passionate love poem, Sonnett XVII by Pablo Neruda, peculiarly found its way to me just as I was in the throes of a love affair with the man I would eventually marry. I was reading a book of which I do not remember the name, when the author mentioned Pablo's name. Uncharacteristically curious, I looked him up. The first book I found was the 101 Love Sonnets. And you know the story from here. Of course I didn't read the whole thing. I just asked for guidance. The implication of Sonnett XVII was instantaneously clear as Pablo portrayed for me what true love was, in perfect fashion, what I couldn't put into words. As before, I copied the poem down and memorized those heart felt words. I bought Pablo's 101 Love Sonnets but was never again able to attain that same sense of discovery as I had with Sonnett XVII. Sadly Pablo ended up on the bookshelf next to Jim Morrison. Never to be opened again.

Of course, I've written my own poems*, few and far in between, and usually after a bottle of wine, in which case I would call these 'fermented thoughts'. And these may very well be the only time I can pretend I am ever so slightly poetic. I suspect that there are certain types of people - those who read, write and enjoy poetry and those who don't. It appears I am the latter, most of the time. I know I missed the boat on this one. Some may be aghast at my remarks and I mean no disrespect. I prefer complete sentences with punctuation and thoughts that don't leave me in conundrums searching for hidden meanings. It has become apparent that if a poem needs to speak to me, it will search me out and it will find me. For now though, I am content to leave the fragmented thought process in the capable hands of our world poets or at the very least on my bookshelf collecting dust.

"Poems" I have written but cannot be responsible for:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ridin The Crazy Train

I've been writing this blog in my head every morning for a few years now. It's time I get this out of my system. Release the rage. Commuters rage, that is. I'd like to take you with me for a moment to the dark side where you will be subjected to the how it feels to commute to work by train five days a week. Granted, I don't live in a huge city by any means. But that doesn't matter. Commuting by train is similar anywhere. So this story could easily be adapted in other geographic locales. Get out your tickets and get ready to ride the crazy train.

A few years ago I resolved that life was too short to be spent in traffic. My car road rage was getting the better of me, turning me into a crotchety, uptight, profanity flinging, horn honking byatch. A perfectly timed commute could turn into a nightmare behind a slow driver, getting stuck behind a damn biker who appears to think the roads were made only for them, an accident leaving traffic suspended for hours, a broken red light, a bus that must stop to pick up riders every few feet, a bridge up to let a ship pass and whatever other incident could be imagined. No matter, it was always something, every morning.

It was obvious that I was nearing the point of no return so I turned in my downtown parking pass and proudly purchased an annual train pass.  Looking forward to my new commute, I planned to drive a mere 5 minutes to the train station where I would catch the train then sit back and peacefully read my book for 40 minutes. Or so I thought. I had no idea I was stepping from one hell hole to another.

I'll just give it to you straight. The train does save me money on gas. I can put 10 bucks in my tank and it lasts 2 weeks. That is good. But that is all that is good. Who could have known that the 7:14am train is really the bitch train. Composed of every commuter who has to be to work by 8am, resolved to press on another day, this train contains the worst of the worst. It's crowded so a seat is rare and elbows jabbed in my sides are plentiful. Bodies are compacted against each other so you can view the nose hairs of the person squished up in your personal space. It reeks of coffee breath, perfume, after shave, body odor, farts, and hairspray. You name it, you can smell it. If the train is delayed, then the phones come out in masses, echoing voices inform bosses of impending lateness and the sighs begin.  The conductors of these trains are just as ruthless. They slam on the brakes, purposefully I am sure, so that all those standing are shoved into each others personal spaces even more. They send argumentative announcements through the stat-icky speakers reprimanding commuters to get in the train quicker and to press in closer to one another so we can fit more people in.  Soon, I could feel my old acidic rage gurgling up my throat like a nasty heartburn. A quick fix to my working hours solved this dilemma. I avoid this train at all costs now. I will not ride it anymore.

Now my train of preference is the 8:14am train. Just an hour later, this train eases up on the chaos of the earlier trains. It's still pretty packed but most everyone shows a lighter side. Usually there is a seat and if not, one usually opens up right away. The conductor likes to let us know as we cross over the bridge what day and time it is as he gives us the weather forecasts and encourages us to take a break from our books to admire the sun or more often the rain clouds. He informs us if the platforms are slick. He kindly explains delays and apologizes if the train is having technical problems. He wishes us all a wonderful day. I can swallow my rage on this train. Most of the time.

For it seems that no matter what train I'm on, I am still subjected to the very worst of the human race. The nastiest of which is the cold and flu season. Somewhere along the line, mothers forgot to teach their children cold and flu etiquette. Caught up in the drama of my latest book, I'll be rudely pulled out of my story when my hair blows off my neck by the person behind me who has just begun a phlemy coughing fit. DID YOUR MOTHER NOT TEACH YOU TO COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH? What is wrong with these people. Then there's the person next to me who needs to blow their nose but won't. Instead they sniffle back a mucousy bubble every 2.2 seconds. WHAT IS WRONG WITH BLOWING YOUR NOSE? GET A KLEENEX FOR F*** SAKE.  Yes, my rage begins to seep through my pores at this point.

Then there are the crazies. Oh yes, the world wouldn't be complete without the crazies. On my right and two seats down is the chick who can't shut up about how many times she's been in jail and how she's gonna kick Susy's ass when she sees her because she stole her cigarettes, not to mention her baby daddy.  Then there's the 13 year old couple making out in the seat in front of me, oblivious to their lip smacking saliva filled kisses and groans. Of course there's always the crazy who gets on the train pissed off at the world who wants to kill us all or convert us because Jesus is coming TODAY!!!  Every now and then the guy next to me falls asleep. His head falls on my shoulder as he snores. A swift elbow to the ribs and he lets out a few curses and goes back to sleep but this time not on me. Most often my quip is with the people who seem to think it's ok to talk on their phones. Loudly. I really don't care to hear about your weekend. What really gets me oozing though are those selfish idiots who sit in one seat then fill the seat next to them with their bag. It's rush hour and I'm sorry but your seat is the only one open so move your bag because I"m sitting there.

It's true, I've learned to tune much of it out. That's what headphones and iTunes were created for right?  Plus the world is full of imbeciles and it's really of no use to pay too much attention to them. The goal was to get rid of the rage. And I know it doesn't sound like it but I've pretty much learned to do that. Commuting on the train requires a strength of character. Not a problem here. I can elbow my way through the crowd and beat anyone to the first free seat. And, the 40 minutes each way a day allows me to pretty much consume a book a week, too. Now that's nothing to complain about coming from an avid reader like myself.

As for train etiquette, I think I have it down. I always use the restroom before boarding the train. I can never predict a 40 minute commute turning into a 2 hour long crawl. I wear deodorant and my fellow passengers should too.  Make 'train friends'. These are people with whom you share only your first name, the general vicinity of where you work, what book you are reading now, and of course, the weather. These are also the people who will save you a seat if they get on the train before you or hold the doors if you are running late, and you for them. It's good to have these commuter friendships.They can get you places.

Viewing humanity from the perspective of a commuter is uncivilized, vulgar and sometimes downright revolting. We are exposed and raw. The best and the worst of our human-ness is depicted in our daily actions as we board and ride the crazy train. I can only wonder what the person next to me has concluded about my character. Must I admit I am one of them?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cave Girl

Ladies and Gentlemen, cleanse your palettes and get ready to do some taste testing! There's one wonderful constant in my every single day and that is.....FOOD! You got that right. I attribute that to being born a Taurus who exhibits an almost stereotypical Taurean love of food. But not just food in and of itself. Home cooked  savory, melt in your mouth, healthy goodness in every bite. Now brace yourself… Due to food allergies, intolerances and a general demand from my body systems, the gourmet food of my today is permanently gluten free; mostly dairy free and soy free; pretty much sugar free; always, always, always certified organic; ideally locally grown/produced if possible; and ok fine, I'll tell you........... soon to be 95% grain free. That's right. I'm goin Paleo on y'all. The cave girl has arrived.

What on earth is Paleo? I heard ya, don't think I can't hear you mumble under your breath. Don’t get all weird on me now. Trust me, I don’t hold any steadfast beliefs about what our ancestors ate (which is what the ‘eating paleo’ principles are built upon) nor do I really care. I respect those who are vegan or vegetarian.  And even those who don’t really care what they put in their mouths. Before I go into details, let’s just say that this is not a quickly passing fad or a diet of the month. No, this is a lifelong commitment and it will take whatever form in which my body does its best work. That’s right, this way of eating has been shown to significantly improve or even cure or prevent many diseases like ALS, MS, Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, Autism, and Auto-immune disorders.

I'm going to mix the Terry Wahls diet along with several different versions of Paleo to get just the right proportions to allow for optimal body and mind functions. And that means saying good bye to the world of grains. Good bye rice. So long gluten-free oatmeal. Farewell to thee potatoes. Too-dah-loo corn and legumes. Let it be said that I bid adieu to wheat and barley almost three years and I don't miss them at all, pretty much because any time I ate them my body reacted by covering me in a disgustingly itchy blistery rash. However, other grains became my staples in their absence: especially the rice flour I used for baking and making gravy to top my pot roasts, and aahhhhh, those fresh organic corn tortillas. I may mourn for those.

To fill the aching void in my heart (and stomach), I vow to indulge in 4-5 cups of vegetables per day (pretty easy to do once you get the hang of it), grass fed/organic meats, hopefully gag down some organ meats, seaweed (which I get in my raw sauerkraut - a blog post for another time), munch dark juicy fruits like berries and eat healthy fats like coconut oil and avocados  WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!! FOUR TO FIVE CUPS OF VEGETABLES A DAY?? ARE YOU FREAKIN CRAZY????? Hell no, I'm not crazy and that's actually where the fun begins. Those vegetables need to be cruciferous in the form of dark green and leafy; sulfuric vegetables like cauliflower, and brightly colored vegetables that come in hues of oranges, yellows, maroons and reds. And baby let me tell you that any vegetable lightly cooked with some garlic makes me feel like I've died and gone to heaven.  Things will not be boring folks. This cave girl loves Bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon, especially that luscious thick cut pork from my sister’s organic pig she buys each year. The other day I cooked the world’s most misunderstood vegetable - Brussel Sprouts. I love ‘em with all my heart and soul. Just imagine them with a little pancetta. Oh my.... what a beautiful pairing that made. I think it was Fran Lebowitz who said: 'Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat.’

I WANT TO DO THIS. In fact, I've been sorta doing it a little more than half-assed for over a year now. And that's because I had surgery, have auto-immune issues like food allergies and my digestive system is sluggish and skeptical about what to do with the grains I feed it. And of course, like everyone knows... dairy, sugar and grains interfere with the body's healing process and depress the immune system allowing for disease. If I'm going to allow my beloved body to heal completely then by golly I've got to only put in it what will speed that process along. Plus, I've got to be absolutely sure that I age the way nature intended and not by the will of corrupt food industry (that is a topic for another time --- or blog post!). 

What will I do with the other 5% of my dining time? Let’s just say I completely subscribe to Virginia’s Woolf’s declaration ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’. Yep, you betcha, what’s the fun in life if you can’t still splurge, in moderation of course, in worldly delights. Luckily, I can. Although I know some folks whose bodies don’t run that way.  I vow to still go out to my favorite pizza parlors to enjoy a wonderfully mouthwatering gluten-free pizza, perhaps once in a while I'll treat myself to a Burgerville Tillamook cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce with sweet potato fries, and I will still of course always, always, always drink my wine and indulge in appetizing cocktails. Didn't someone’s God say 'Let there be wine'? …Er, uh, maybe that was something else, but I SAID it so I will make it so! I’ve never been one to commit myself to anything rigid that allows for no errors or wiggle room.  Just like religion, I take bits and pieces from what I know to build something that works for me.

I’ve been desensitized. I’ve felt the negative effects of my unhealthy food choices. And after a few trial separations, it’s easier now for me to turn down what used to literally be impossible to resist.  It’s an essential part of my Taurean being that I pamper myself with good eats. I’m just a little wiser about my choices now.  I will post pictures of these edible paleo delights and share my journey. We won't always talk food here but since food is many times my wonderful, trust me; it will be discussed from time to time. After all, as B.W. Richardson said, ‘Preserve and treat food as you would your body, remember that in time food will be your body’.  I know, right? ‘Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Remembering the Wonderful

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day to 
day basis.     -Margaret Bonanno

If I asked you right now what the highlights of your year were, would you be able to immediately, with little thought involved, throw out your top 10 in the last 365 days? What about your top 35? Probably not. If you're anything like me, you live day to day, managing appointments and work schedules; maintaining relationships with your husband, children, family and friends; filing taxes; paying bills; getting cars fixed;  traveling or having guests stay at your house; dealing with emergency situations, crises or sickness; making grocery lists, shopping, cooking and cleaning; driving kids to and from endless destinations; volunteer work; and oh, did I mention going out and having some fun and then oh yes, that wonderfully delicious thing called thing called sleep? Yea, that is called life and life's busy and it can pass you by. In fact that's what it does. No matter what you do, the clock still ticks, the sun still rises (lucky for us!), and time passes. Eventually, those little high points through out the year that made you smile are buried and eventually hard to recall if not forgotten completely.  

I always talk about finding the wonderful in every day and I do work very hard to be sure that I can come up with at least one wonderful thing even during the shittiest of days. That's good and all but I want, no, actually, I need to start remembering the wonderful in my days. Not every day but at least some of them. To achieve this fine goal of mine, I've decorated and labeled a jar where we will write down and date, something good that stood out for us in any given day. Then next December on New Year's Eve, I will sit down with my husband and we'll pull out each tiny sheet of paper and read what is on each one. I can already picture it... a cold brisk December evening where we are sitting at the dining room table, each of us with our choice of cocktail in hand, reading and reminiscing about the year that has just about wrapped up. I have no doubt that some of the things we read will be fresh still in our memories and we'll probably chuckle a little bit as we recount that particular day. What I am most excited about is reading about something that I had completely forgotten about yet it was significant enough that one of us thought to write it down. This is where we'll really take a trip down memory lane, evoking piece by piece the specifics of that noteworthy day.  I am even going to set the jar out and offer our visiting/overnight house guests a welcome to donate a bit of their own something good to the jar.

What do I hope to gain from this? I foresee this evening a year from now as an intimate look into the recent past. I don't know, maybe I want a sense of closure to the year, and face it, musing over the recent past is entertaining. More than that though, I want to get a sense of my person, who I was 365 days ago as opposed to who I think I am now 365 days past. And I want to see how those experiences shaped me, changed my perceptions or even perhaps jaded me. I want to see how it impacts my husband and of course, us as a couple to share this with each other, summoning up each story together. Warren and I always have fun together reminiscing anyway. Sometimes we find ourselves at the dinner table long after dinner, polishing off a bottle of wine or laying in bed talking late into the evening topping each other with bygone chronicles of our recollections of a particular event, tales of one of our many cats or dogs, childhood anecdotes, sagas we've lived through and well, you get the picture.   

My sister started a jar and one of the first things she put in the jar was her daughter's first steps. Very significant yet in a year, her daughter will have been walking non-stop for many months. The newness will have worn off and as I said before, life is busy. Can't you just picture my sister, a year later, pulling out that piece of paper describing her daughter's first steps? How many emotions will rush through her as she spends a few moments reliving that day and marveling at how fast time flies and how much her kids have grown and changed in just one year. 

After we have read, reflected and mused over our recent past, I think I'm going to put those pieces of paper into a photo album in order of date - considering that photo albums still exist. I wonder, do they? Or I might scan them and save them electronically, maybe even post them here on my blog. That way our family or  descendants or whomever reads them can not only acquire the essence of who we were but maybe even themselves discover the epitome of attaining the wonderful in every day and making that realization an essential part of their lives.  Or, knowing me, I might just label the jar and put it up in the attic.  Maybe when I'm 80, I'll want to pull it out, fix me up a cocktail and settle in to read the contents of the jar to our grand children, nieces and nephews. 

It's an experiment in the works and if all goes well, I might just do it again every year. I can't remember who said it but this quote pretty much sums it up: 'Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance!'. To me, this jar gives me a reason to do the happy dance on an almost daily basis, whether grudgingly on a low day where I may have to dig a little deeper to find that one good thing or with enthusiasm on an unrivaled superbly wonderful day where that one amazing thing no doubt makes the cut. I will purposefully appreciate these moments that gave me or someone else a glimpse or a blast of happiness. That is what makes life so wonderful, the abundant little good things that blend with the occasional awesomeness that make for a years worth of memories that must be re-hashed. There's one thing that I have no doubt of - There's always something good in every day! It's up to me to find it, identify it, notate it - if I so please, and cherish it. I'll never get that day back or get a re-do, and sometimes I am thankful for that depending on what kind of day its been.  

Ultimately, as I find my wonderful in the days to come this year, I know I am going to feel, live and breathe more in the present than I ever have. And that just might be the first good thing I put in the 2nd jar next year!