Sunday, December 26, 2010


There's a new portable heater in the house. In an effort to save on fuel oil for the winter, Spouse, always chomping at the bit to buy the latest gadget, sat me down and gave an impassioned speech and checklist why we HAD TO HAD TO HAD TO have it and since he asks for so little and he insisted we could afford it, who was I to argue? I'm always cold, so it was a win-win for me.

So every day the Edenpure sits in the living room warming the first floor. It's a very attractive wood-grain box with a window inside where it appears to have glowing coals so it's got an aesthetic appeal and the heat is infrared so it's got that sink-into-your-bones heat that others often miss. In the evening Spouse carries it upstairs to the master bedroom and sets it on full blast and by the time this night owl gets to bed the room is sensually cozy and I've been foregoing my usual winter sleepwear of granny nightgowns or sweats and a tee to well...nothing. So, in the middle of the night, I usually end up kicking the covers off and in the early morning hours IT happens.

Because I don't get to bed until 2 or 3 AM, I usually sleep in until 10, so I wake up to sunshine streaming in from the skylight. I know a lot of people resent light of any kind when they're sleeping but I like opening my eyes to the sky although once, it was a friend of Spouse's who was helping him install a satellite dish on the roof.  He likes me a lot now.  That morning it was bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds and the brown wing of some unidentifiable bird passing over and as I stretched languidly, my long time enemy slammed me hard like a freight train. The Charley Horse.

Grrrrr. Oh the tears. If I were into pain, the sheer poetry of the anaconda wrapped around my thigh twice and then my calf, down the top of my foot and around every toe and then tightening, would be exquisite. However, although I have an unbelievably high tolerance for it, I try to avoid pain whenever possible. Leg cramps have been a bane to my existence since my teens and it is definitely inherited on BOTH sides so you can say I'm doubly blessed.

 A quick search on Google tells me the most common causes of leg cramps are:
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Heavy exercising
  • Dehydration
  • High weight (not necessarily obesity)
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Medications (statins, prednisone, others...) 
I laugh at #1 and 2 but have #'s 3, 4, and 5 in spades so I must always remember to drink plenty of fluids (I fail miserably), the weight situation isn't going to change and that's quite alright, and the electrolyte imbalance is being treated with prescription megadoses of potassium which much to my chagrin and subsequent agony, I often forget to take. Add to that a less common cause which is a draft across my bare legs causing muscle contractions. Oh the joy.

So here I am squirming and panting and blindly flailing because I don't know what to do. I've tried the acupressure thing with firmly pinching and holding the dimple between my nose and upper lip (Trivia buffs: It's called a filtrum) with limited results. Sometimes it cuts off the acute pain but doesn't stop the contracting muscles. Sometimes I hop around or pace or lean against furniture crying and moaning and have to wait it out for an eternity of ten or so minutes and sometimes if someone is in the room with me, the dance begins.

Oh the patience of a partner that shares a bed with me. From my early years of sharing a twin bed with my little sister, to doubling up with Mom at the summer trailer at Eagle Lake, to the lucky few men who've shared a pillow, they all get caught up in my ballet of agony.

First I scream in the night and they suddenly sit up disoriented from their golden slumber. I might be sitting on the edge of the bed, my back and shoulders shaking and they know, they just know and bless their hearts, they always ask, "Can I help?" and reach out to me whereas I always invariably shriek, "Don't touch me!" and collapse in a pitiful puddle of tears. It ain't pretty. I push (and slap) their warm strong hands away and I dance around the room like a demented marionette and the look of concern on their face fills me with guilt. Other than running to get a glass of water and some potassium gluconate, they can only watch me stumble and cry. Eventually the cramp will subside and I will fall back asleep exhausted for a few more hours until I wake up with a day-long achy reminder that it really happened and wasn't a bad dream.

I'm neither a kicker nor a toss-and-turner. I'm remarkably silent and still in my sleep except for the occasional laugh or sigh or soft sentence because I've been talking in my sleep since, well, I could speak, so I'm very safe and the benefits of sharing a bed with me far outnumber the disadvantages. Not to toot my own horn but I'm a big squishy soft warm pillow and I smell good too. What's not to love?  You can go back to sleep, right? I do. Suck it up, buttercup.

I'm not making any New Year's resolutions. They always seem destined to fail, a jinx so to speak and if there's one thing I'm superstitious about it's my personal jinxes so those little or lofty self-promises are not for this girl. Instead, I'm going to be both easier on myself as I really am my own worst critic, but I'm also going to be more disciplined. I have the drive and desire but not much energy so writing will be my 'job' and I'm sticking with it because I enjoy it. I also know my weaknesses which is good; something to be avoided, and I learn my strengths as I go along.

I'm learning that I'm far stronger than I ever imagined. I have faced, battled and tackled things I was sure would kill me. I've learned that a heart can grow stronger and love deeper after it's been broken, even more than once, and that my capacity for forgiveness can grow or die depending on my choices so I choose to grow. Pain is a great teacher, task master and reminder that I am only human, but that in itself is wonderful. There are people who are literally born without the capacity to feel anything and they live in fear of injury and death so yes, even Mister Charley Horse as much as I hate him, reminds me that I'm alive.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Angel

     My parents had left in a hurry. Mommy hadn't been feeling well all day and before we knew it, Daddy bundled her up and whisked her out the door and into the car. I looked out the window as the snow fell softly and hearing my grandmother's voice to come away from the window, I turned away. It was cold and I was only in my nightgown and she was reminding me to put on my slippers.

My brothers were already sleeping, visions of sugarplums truly in their heads as it was Christmas Eve 1972. The house was silent save the gurgling pump of my father's aquarium which stood near our Christmas tree twinkling with red pinpoint lights. I spent hours in my dad's bug chair curled up by that fish tank watching tiger barbs chase (and eventually consume) each other in the light of that tree which was bought the year I was born in 1967.

It was a sturdy respectable tree which ended up serving us well over twenty years and was replaced by a gigantic Siberian spruce replete with fake pine cones and snow and was so ostentatious in comparison to our humble first tree, that it only spent two or three Christmas's in our parlor before being exiled to the basement in favor of real trees, the first of which was some indiscriminate pine that leaked sap and dropped needles everywhere, and more recently a glorious Frasier fir, always with red pinpoint lights.

The phone rang and I walked over to my dad's stereo which back in the day resembled furniture rather than mere electronics. It was encased in a large mahogany cabinet which often served as a type of buffet surface whenever guests were served. There was a large area behind sliding doors where my dad kept his record collection and I often hid things there that my brothers wouldn't leave alone like Barbies and once, a diary with a lock that never worked. The telephone, an ivory colored Trim-line, sat on top of the stereo and I answered it breathlessly as ordinarily at 6, I was not allowed to ever pick it up.

I said hello and my father answered saying, "Hi sweetheart! Guess what? We have a Christmas gift for you and your brothers! We're bringing home a new baby sister and we're naming her Amy or Noel."
I was dumbfounded and delighted. I had no idea that a baby was coming (or even how a baby arrived) but the idea of A SISTER filled me with such joy that I turned and looked out the window at the falling snow and then back at the twinkling tree and that moment of me standing there in my white nightgown covered in holly, was imprinted on my brain and remains there like a photograph to this day.

I remember the heavy evergreen damask curtains and white sheers that my mother had hung up for the season, parted so we could see the streetlights and the snow piling up on the cars and sidewalk. I remember the glow of the aquarium that had red foil backing so itself was quite festive. I remember the manger under the tree and how Baby Jesus' fingers were always the first things to break off when I surreptitiously played with it. And I remember that Santa Claus brought me a baby sister for a Christmas gift.

I don't remember that Christmas Day...I don't recall even seeing my dad. I imagine he stayed at the hospital with my mom but they came home a few days later. Mom had more of a lap and was tired, but happy to see us and she held this little bundle in her arms. My brothers and I came over to investigate and found within the receiving blanket a baby, a little squirming doll that didn't look like any of us! We were all very fair with blonde to light brown hair. This dusky baby had beautiful dark skin and black hair and when she opened her eyes they were deep endless brown fringed by long curly thick lashes. She opened her dark rosebud mouth in a tiny yawn and looked at us and it was love at first sight.

I think we were at an age where this was the first arrival of a child that we remembered. I don't recall my brothers' births. I wasn't aware of any preparations or even talk of a baby and in fact my parents didn't even tell us my sister was coming. My mother had always been chubby, soft and round and evidently carried as if she just got bigger around as opposed to obviously popping out.  Perhaps they didn't think we would understand but that whole day before, my mother laid in bed softly moaning and when we came to her and asked her what was wrong she said she had a stomach virus.

In fact, she did indeed have a bug which is why she didn't know she was in labor until it was almost too late. My father was able to get her to the hospital but only so far as the steps when she almost delivered my sister there until she was brought inside. There in the emergency room, my sister arrived into the world, eyes wide open and meeting my father's eyes...the first (and only) of his children to do so, in fact, the first to be born naturally and in his presence. I don't recall if she cried but he said she entered the world as an old soul and I believe it. Their bond was strong and special to the end.

My mother kiboshed both names my dad liked in favor of Lisa and so she was, however we called her Sinky, because of her diapers and because Donny couldn't pronounce 'Stinky'. I called her Boo.

Lisa was a quiet and happy baby.  There was nothing she did that didn't fascinate us. Even a diaper change was an event and I'm sure we exhausted our mother with our antics jockeying for position to see who had the best view and who could help. Because of her coloring my mother dressed her in bright colors, in particular a yellow fleece onesie that zipped all the way from ankle to chin. I don't know if it's a coincidence but my sister's favorite color was yellow. I just realize now that I typed 'is' because she is still with me if only in my heart.

Lisa's arrival into the world and into our family was a surprise to my brothers and I and so was her death at age 35.  She slipped away in her sleep as effortlessly and peacefully and suddenly as when she was born.

The details of her death are still painful so I choose to dwell on her life. My sister was brilliant, intuitive, outspoken, generous, creative, supportive, open-minded, loyal, endlessly forgiving, funny as hell and had a heart of gold.

She was also spoiled, self-destructive, selfish, narcissistic, lazy, brutally honest, ruthlessly competitive, blunt and at times cruel. She was so possessive of me that no one...not one of my friends or boyfriends was good enough and she eyed everyone interested in me with suspicion. I was her hero and role model but she took it a step further and was a saturated more concentrated version of myself with no inner censor. Me, if I were a free spirited wild child. I adored her. I admired her.

The world is a better place for having her in it for a short period of time, and I pity those who never got a chance to experience her. It was truly a privilege and yet it had its price.

She was my only sister. I loved her more than I love myself. I miss her everyday. I ache for her everyday.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Christmas Angel.

Friday, December 17, 2010


     Okay, the Viagra story would have been a lot funnier if the person it was about wasn't sitting next to me but I got carried away.  I swear I don't know what comes over me when the storyteller demon comes screaming out like a Jersey Shore banshee. Yes, I can blame it on gin or cheap lambrusco and even garlic bread has a strange effect on me and yes I'm allergic to peppers but I can't pass up anything stuffed with cheese so I succumbed to popper seduction more times than I can count and yes yes yes that affected me too. 

Today I'm blaming it all on a pot of bold blast something-something coffee. It has extra caffeine which I'm really sensitive to in minute amounts so yeah..that'll work especially since I've been bouncing off the walls like a Superball since noon.

I think it's an addiction to applause or laughter or having everyone on the edge of their seat. I come from a long line of storytellers or bullshit artists or like Mel Brooks in History of the World, stand-up philosophers, so it's inherent. Whether genetic or environment I've been lovingly cultivated like a hothouse orchid to make people laugh, weep or think and it's so effortless that I feel it would be dishonest to take any credit for it. To say that I stand in awe of some of the shit I come up with is not bragging....I really don't know where it's coming from and even worse, when I'm gonna blurt it out. My inner censor was always much more of a polite suggester only -that weak little angel on my shoulder that the little devil would smack around and say, "Shut up, bitch. Who's yer daddy?" 

People often send me emails and messages or comments on Facebook saying they wish they were like me or more like me or as quick as me but I don't really think they would if they knew the havoc I wreak with my mouth or fast little mind is constantly racing and obsessing, often all night long and when something comes to me the focus is so sharp and fixed I think of nothing else. If I don't talk about it I write and woe to the person upon whom my talent is inflicted.  You might remember The Love Letters of Doooooom but there's countless other missives, poetry and essays I don't mention or submit for your approval (cue very appropriate Twilight Zone music) because after my general hysteria dies down, the evidence could and would be used against me not to mention people tend to look at me funny.

I'm channeling some of that energy into The Book. I've hit a bit of a slump now but Santa Claus has bought me a brand new big girl laptop and I'm dedicated to getting back to it in the new year. You're supposed to write about what you know and I know a lot about what I'm writing and it's become really cathartic and therapeutic.If only I could stop thinking of decorating the laptop in My Pretty Pony stickers since that model didn't come in pink but I digress.

I'm excited but also dreading it. My creativity has often been like an unruly puppy that everyone loves but no one wants to clean up after and the idea of reining in that puppy to make it a more productive working dog does have a lot of appeal but I'm worried that discipline will take all the joy and exuberance out of it. Still...I trudge on because I'm a hopeless optimist and romantic (the book is romance novel--chick-lit to be exact) and want it and me to have a happy ending which at the moment is unbelievably elusive but still worth the effort.

Someone asked me about my dreams and I couldn't answer because I thought I had none. I'd been so busy supporting other's dreams that I'd set aside my own. I gave it a lot of thought though and did come up with some good ones I'd suppressed and one of them was to be renowned for something. Since being an axe murderer or mother to the world's first surviving octuplets is already taken, I'd be happy with 'successful writer'.

My friend who's a psychic saw a future full of promise and even fame and while it seems so outlandish I do like the fairy-tale aspects like walking a red carpet in Hollywood and kissing at the top of the Eiffel Tower. My friend saw me sharing this future with a special someone and that person is unfortunately not part of the equation anymore but she still sees ME accomplishing these things on my own which astounded me. Again I thought I would be in some supportive role but she assures me that no....actually it's me...and then I think about the book and I realize in some ways that she wasn't wrong at all and I may start out on my epic adventure alone and unsure but the journey and the story is worth it. 

A while back an acquaintance asked me if I was a writer and at the time I didn't really identify as one and asked him why he thought I was. He said he could tell from my Facebook pictures that I have a story to tell.  Another said the same thing...only that I had many stories to tell and it's funny because that's what I've been doing my whole life.

When you are given a gift and don't recognize it for what it is, you're foolish and ungrateful. When you refuse that gift, it may be lost to you forever. I'm choosing to learn from both what I've lost and what I have to give and running as far as I can with it. Apologies in advance if I embarrass you along the way. But if I do, remind me to mention you when I'm up on that podium giving my acceptance speech. I promise whatever I say, will be funny.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baby's Day Out

     Chronic fatigue is not for sissies. I've come to terms with the fact that I have it and it's probably never going to go away and I have to deal with the frustration of wanting to do do do and just not having the energy.  Add to that an anxiety disorder and throw in a wee bit of agoraphobia and it's a potent cocktail that can be overwhelming to this social butterfly (er..bumblebee) who really wants to do and see and buzz around more than her body allows.

When you're tired all the time people think you're lazy. They see you getting up late or not at all and make comments or recommend vitamins or exercise routines or diets. I take prescription vitamins.  I wish I could do a circuit at the gym and am jealous of people who can walk around the corner and I dieted so successfully I ended up with a few hospital visits for severe malnutrition at 350 lbs. I also lost my hair for a  long time and stopped producing blood temporarily and remain chronically anemic.

  I think I can safely say I enthusiastically went down a lot of long windy roads with many hairpin turns and came out of tunnels exhausted but as one of my friends always says, there are no failures, only steps to success so at this rate I'm thinking I must be pretty close. I'm thankful I'm alive. I'm blessed.

Today was a good day. Spouse was excited to get a small bonus so he went off with his buddy to buy a new gadget and I dragged myself out of bed determined to at least get to the nail salon. I am a very determined baby but I don't know if my body will be as agreeable as my will and if those two have an uneasy truce I still don't know until I'm dressed and ready to walk out the door if my mind is going to start saying, 'No, don't go out, what if, what if what if." 

"What if" can mean anything as in 'what if I break down and my cell phone can't get a signal or I can't remember or find the number to the emergency service company?", or "What if I get so tired that I can't sit down and I get disoriented or overheat or throw up or pass out?" the possibilities and combinations of them and fears are endless.

I don't want to live my life in fear. I resent it. I'm not a coward. It's hard for me to tell people about these things about me because I don't want anyone's goddamn pity or to be treated like a fragile china doll. I'm pretty tough, a little damaged but not broken.

So encouraged by my mind and body being pretty much in agreement, I made for the garage door and walked outside. It was cold but bright and crisp, a beautiful day. I was happy I made it today.  I got into my car, changed my CD to something happy, put my sunglasses on and went on my merry way.

I've been working on a self-help series that talks a lot about attitude. That most of how we think is actually a defensive reaction to previous hurts and that we should take note of how we judge others and that it's indicative of how harshly we judge ourselves. I've been taking that to heart lately and remembering that I can't control much of anything except how I behave and react and I have to stop myself when I try because it's futile and frustrating.

Today when I hit the road,  I looked at everyone wondering how they were spending their holidays and if they were on a daily routine like me or shopping for Christmas. It's not my nature to look at someone and discount their appearance (one notable exception was a beautiful girl who looked very sick and immediately concerned me)because there's an emptiness there..what you put out you get back more in return and I really want to be a loving person who projects positivity.

I couldn't find a space at Walmart no matter how patient I was driving around and around.....I have a handicapped placard but there weren't any spaces in the overflow lots either so after about a half hour I drove off, smiling and thinking at least I got some fresh air. Normally, this is when the agoraphobia kicks in especially following a disappointment with my plans and I made immediately for home but as I waited at a stop sign and let a guy in a scooter pass in front of me, I smiled at him and he smiled back. I let someone else go too and we smiled at each other also and I forgot about getting home so fast.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for some white hot chocolate and they were out of my flatbread sandwich and.... it was okay. The girl at the window was really crabby and I asked her if she was having a crappy day and she stopped and smiled and said, "Yeah" and I said, 'It'll be okay. Have a nice holiday and thanks."  It wasn't profound or witty but I'd been thinking we can spread happiness or spread negativity and even if I have no energy I do have a mouth and can say, "It's okay", and "Yes, please", and look someone in the eye and say, "Hey, thanks a lot", and as an added bonus I feel good too. I don't really know if it will be okay for her, honestly but sometimes just saying that is reaching across a lonely divide.

I stopped at the butcher shop for the first time in months to get a few groceries and waited for the guy in the space next to me to get into his truck. He looked up at me probably expecting me to roll my eyes because I had to wait but I smiled and shrugged and he waved and drove off. I walked into the store and took a deep breath. It had been a while. The anxiety started to flicker in my chest and tighten.

The owner, a guy I only knew from brief chats while he'd weigh my veal chops or chicken cutlets walked over to me and asked me where I'd been and we picked up as if I'd only been there yesterday. It was nice and easy and even when some other customer started following me around the store telling me how nice I smelled, I was still okay. I stopped and browsed some canned goods (pickled okra anyone?) which was something I hadn't done in months and bought a few treats for Spouse who'd been nice enough to finish decorating the tree when I got too tired to continue.

I often compare myself to a baby not because I'm cute and certainly not over my size, but because babies know no boundaries or limits. They want and do but don't understand why they can't and keep trying until they do accomplish or someone comes along and helps them a little until they can figure it out for themselves. The most simple things bring them the most joy and they don't look around and think, "I shouldn't, I won't, I can't"--they don't know they can't. They also greet everything in life with wonder and enthusiasm and they're fresh and new and haven't yet experienced everything life has to offer and aren't jaded to its disappointments either and I think that's a good attitude to have. A baby never thinks, "Well, I can't run. I can't do anything" and so lies down and dies and neither should I. Everyday might be a struggle but if a baby can do it, how could this baby girl do any less?

Friday, December 10, 2010

O Christmas Tree

    Every year around Thanksgiving is The Big Discussion. I anticipate this with as much glee as a root canal. Do we get a real tree (I vote yes) or use the giant Siberian spruce that Mom got on clearance (it was only missing a few key branches that couldn't be replaced cos it was discontinued SUCH A DEAL) that was residing in the basement. It takes hours to assemble the fake one. It takes minutes to choose a real one, wrap it up and tie it to the roof of the car. This is not rocket science, except to Spouse who is not a rocket scientist.

He worries that we'll get to the seller (camped out in front of the local supermarket) and they'll be out of our favorite, a Con-Color which smells like tangerines. He keeps forgetting the guy hasn't sold them for years and he won't even be open until the second week in December. We just have to hurry.

I don't want to camp out in the parking lot unless I'm waiting for concert tickets for something awesome and even then the thought of me camping anywhere sends me and anyone that knows me into peals of laughter.  Spouse would have to wait until the guy actually showed up to worry but his philosophy was why wait when you can worry now so I left him to that and kept typing.

He's Jewish and until me, never celebrated anything. Now he prepares with the puritanical fervor of a founding father and leaves me in the dust but he's happiest when he's busy and I'm happiest when he's busy too so while he's stringing popcorn, I'm eating it, because dammit, I'm doing my part too.

I have a few pecadilloes of my own. I only want red lights on my tree, preferably chasers (blinkers to those not in the know) and they have to be pinpoints, not those giant honking bulbs. This can be a problem if you have a fat seven-footer. We're talking 5 or 6 sets of lights. That all have to work. Together. And woe to the man who puts a set on backwards and the end of one thingamajiggy doesn't fit into the angel on top.

Ohhhhhh the angel. Heh.  Lizzy gave me the angel. Among other things I owe her for she's soley to blame I mean responsible for Spouse and I meeting and in a fit of remorse and regret, gave me a Madame Alexander babydoll Christmas Angel topper as a consolation prize. She's cute, the angel that is. So is Lizzy (and single) in case anyone is interested. The angel's skirt and the little candles in her hands light up like road flares. Festive. The angel goes on last. Spouse always makes sure to put it on first.

So 'tree guy' opens and Spouse is chomping at the bit. I want two wreaths too. I like the way the whole house smells like, well, the outside of the house because we're surrounded by woods where there are hundreds of trees for free but we don't do free. We have to buy it from a guy who wraps it up in white twine and ties it to our roof with the doors closed and then has to untie it to let us in the car and do it over. This happens every year. I don't say a word because I'm usually too busy sucking down a toffee cappuccino and eating gingerbread cookies. I also like to see the men running around in their buffalo check jackets and deer stalker (think Elmer Fudd) hats little clouds of breath puffing as they huff and run around in the cold. 

Even though we get there early, tree guy tells us he only has one wreath left in the size we want. The only other size would be appropriate to decorate the outside of an airplane hanger so we pass on them and grab the one wreath until his new stock comes in. The irony is not lost on me that I can make my own wreaths from my own woods but where will I find plaid ribbon ans those cute doves with the googly eyes? Etsy? Come on!

The tree is a glorious frasier fir. My kinda tree, it's full and decidedly round-ish. If it were a man and gainfully employed, Spouse might have competition. He still might. It's that good. He watches me eyeing the tree, him with suspicion, me with admiration and possibly lust and he tells me to go in and hold the door open which I do laughing.  Then the lights.

The lights are all wrapped around newspaper (my idea) and he checks each set several times. They all work but the tree has to settle. Settling can take days or a week depending on the tree. The branches on this tree are rather sturdy so we wait a few days for it to acclimate to its new environment while I tape Christmas cards to the front door and eat more gingerbread cookies. My habit is three a day and climbing. My tolerance for icing is growing and I may have to step up my visits to Dunkin Donuts for my frequent fixes. The jones is that strong.

I decide to take a picture of the naked tree and post it on Facebook. It becomes so popular someone suggests it gets its own fanpage. Wonton vetoes the idea because she still doesn't have her own. She's also drinking all the water in the tree's well in an effort to cause her competition to die of thirst. Meanwhile Facebook tells me that it's been reported that I have an offensive photo on my profile. The naked tree.

Today the lights went on. He was pissed because he wanted Chinese take-out and screwed up what I wanted to order and when we called the restaurant they screwed up and deleted his dinner. He checked my food at the restaurant when he got there but didn't think to check his own until already home. It's 15 degrees out. I offered to share my dinner. He stomped out and drove another 45 minutes to pick up his order. I drank two glasses of wine and chatted with my friend in Australia. He got home, ate, put the lights on backwards and threw an extension cord across the room. Wonton is converting to Buddhism and the tree is leaning left but I ain't saying crap.

Tomorrow: ornaments. <Note to self: Buy more wine.>

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let Me Eat Cake

I eat all night
I eat all day
My love for junk
Is here to stay
To diet is 
a phrase unkind
The thought is foreign
To my mind
My clothes don't fit
But I don't care
I'll even burst my underwear
And when I'm dead
Don't think I'll stop
You'll find my grave
With a cherry on top - Anon

I found that poem in an issue of Seventeen magazine when I was a kid and loved it so much I made a poster of it and hung it on my wall as an anthem. Not so much the dying part but the hell with you part. And not so much the junk part either because while I do often go slumming for Little Debbies Nutty Buddies, if given my druthers (and I like big druthers) I'll choose treats of the gourmet variety, like hand dipped chocolates, tiramisu from the local salumeria and my favorite restaurant's hazelnut green tea creme brulee with the candy crackle still hot from the mini torch. (I have three)

I'm also a pastry and cake snob. Not a fan of fluffy or light, I like dense and moist and covered with icing, glaze or fruit. When I see people eat the cake part and discard the frosting, I recoil in horror. That's the best part!

Being the descendant of quite a few people who liked to cook, I'm going to go right ahead and believe that along with an as yet discovered gene for being fabulously fat, and without any proof other than my own tongue, I also inherited great taste and superior taste buds and for that I'm eternally grateful.

I like the flavor of things, the way they roll around on my tongue, and that rich creamy mouth-feel that signifies when something is GOOOOOOOOOD.  Recently, I found out that I was correct in my genetic assumptions.  I took the test available on and discovered that I probably do have a gene for an unusually high number of taste buds.

Also, I've known for some time that I have a certain enzyme in my saliva that makes cilantro (or coriander to my friends outside North America) taste soapy. I wondered for the longest time what the big deal was whenever the praises of that particular herb were sung. Yesterday someone asked me if it tasted like Head and Shoulders and true to my supertaster super buds, I could honestly discern that it in fact tasted like Ivory soap. Like parsley, basil and mint, I'm wondering if cilantro comes in other varieties and soapy selections but not too curious especially since as a kid I got a bar full of those bubbly flavors shoved in my mouth for free whenever I got caught swearing. 

Coming from a big family who enjoyed their food, I didn't often have to hear anyone I was related to discussing how fat and/or disgusting they were while cake was being enjoyed. I did have a grandmother who had a very twisted love/hate relationship with food--she cooked for an army and demanded everyone eat or she'd be offended and most of her family was fat in part due to her encouragement, but here's the twist--once you ate, she'd then make really hateful comments about fat on her and others and the success stories of people who didn't let themselves go. In fact, she herself was very thin.  My mother, a beautiful fat woman, intensely disliked her mother-in-law for this among many other valid reasons and kept us children away from us as much as possible so it was more of a holiday anomaly than a weird lifestyle or even maybe......fetish. Which I didn't even know existed until a few months ago.

So I didn't have too much food/self hate experience going on when I began working in an office setting at 19. There I would observe in dismay, even disgust, at every single birthday celebration that women would stand around clucking about how fattening the cake was and either accept only the thinnest whisper of cake (and not eat frosting grrrrrr) or eat it but interject every single bite with, "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," or "I'm not going to be able to eat for days (weeks, months, years) after this."  To tell the truth, I didn't think such good cake should be wasted on such idiots and some of these idiots were my own size. Who were they trying to fool? They had the same chips and cookies and snack-cakes in their cupboards as I did. Hell, some of them considered ice-cream one of the food groups.

What's the big deal? If you want to eat something eat it. If you don't, don't but shut the hell up about it. Stop spoiling it for the rest of us who want to enjoy our food. Keep your food issues to yourself. If you don't like how or what I eat, be prepared for me to tell you how *I* don't like how or what you *don't* eat.  I've seen enough of you eating to know many of you can put a lot more food away than I can so don't assume I eat more than you. In fact, the thinnest person I ever knew was a proud glutton. She used to talk about eating, then forcing herself to vomit so she could eat again. She also hated fat people.  That's sick but damn...she was still thin!

The other day my friend Chris said to me in matters of love, 'You're perfect the way you are and if someone doesn't realize that, it's his issue. Don't make it yours,"  which I thought was so simply brilliant that I made it my Facebook status for the day and many of my friends copied as theirs. But it goes so much deeper than love or romance. Don't let anyone's issues become your issues. If they don't want to eat cake, fine but don't allow them to stop you from enjoying cake or even your life which is really, really what it's all about.

One afternoon on lunch break I was cutting a birthday cake for my boss. I had special ordered it because it was his favorite --moist super-fresh chocolate sheet cake filled and topped with clouds of fresh whipped cream. No fruit or custard filling...just delicious cream, and as I began to cut slices, two of my coworkers began to complain how fattening it was and maybe we should all try something else for birthdays and on and on and on and I looked up at both of them with the knife in my hand which was covered to the wrist in whipped cream and said seriously, "if you don't like it, leave," and with that my boss grabbed my arm and licked all the icing off my hand getting it all over his face and leered at the two party poopers laughing at them.

He was a big guy himself, in fact quite imposing and we didn't even really like each other but in that moment we found solidarity in cake. If only all the world's problems could be solved with baked goods but in the meantime, can't we just let each other eat cake?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Extreme Hoarders Condiment Edition


I found 27 packets of Chinese mustard in my kitchen. Nobody in this house eats mustard. Why are we saving this crap? 

 There's a colander on my counter that isn't being put to its intended use because it's filled with sauces. Taco, duck, soy and hot to mention a few . Even if in some post-apocalyptic future these packets are used as currency, I'm wondering if it might be considered overkill. 


 Today, I had a serious discussion over the value and virtues of honey packets with my friend Tina. We've decided they're liquid gold because some restaurants have switched to an inferior honey 'sauce' so their value has increased sharply with their scarcity as with any precious commodity.  I've been made an honorary administrator of a sweetener packet liberation front because of my heroic efforts but I don't know how far that will carry me as a leader in a war-torn flavorless condiment-less future. 

If I open a drawer there are 400 packets of ketchup, both Heinz and Hunts because it's not Hunts fault it isn't Heinz, is it?  How many times have I gone through a fast-food drive-thru and asked for ketchup and they gave me exactly three?  That's got to be illegal somewhere. It's inhumane. Even if you count all the french fries I eat on the way home, there still isn't enough ketchup-to-fry ratio and this could throw my whole dining experience off kilter.


Once, in the throes of a momentary lapse in faith in humanity, I asked a drive-thru associate for an 'obscene' amount of ketchup in the hope of getting more than the reluctant grudgingly given trio. I knew I was taking a risk but sometimes I will dance on the razor sharp edge of the disposable butter knife just for the thrill of it all and damn skippy if he didn't wink and reward me with a big sack filled to the brim with the good stuff. I was triumphant.  I also outed him as a fifth-columnist to my comrades in the movement.

 A year later we're still eating the ketchup. According to a condiment packet expiration chart on Google, we've got a good year before I either have to go on another packet safari or break down and buy a squeeze bottle. Either way, it's these small victories that propel us who dream of bigger and better trophies like those adorable Andes mints from Olive Garden and miniature bottles of Tabasco you can find in some casino hotels. 


Yeah I may not have any room in the fridge for lunch meat because of the butter pats crowding the drawer but have you seen the price of butter lately?  Go ahead and laugh but I've got enough individually wrapped sporks to feed that future army and who you gonna call when you have nothing to eat your Chinese mustard with, huh?  You want something to spread on those packets of saltines from Wendy's? I'm your girl. I have those awesome little foil pans of seedless blackberry jam found only at Crackerbarrel.  


Before you judge my condiment confessional, reconsider. Everyone I know has a dirty secret in their junk drawers. My dad has twist-ties.  Someone else I know has rubber bands. Spouse keeps used batteries.  I have no idea why but at least he doesn't keep them in the refrigerator anymore because that's where I keep those little half and half cups I get at the diner.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gentle E-Reader

     The E-Reader has a lot going for it. It's something lightweight you can easily carry and use while you pass the time away waiting on line or in traffic.  It helps rid the world and overflowing bookcases of the bulk, waste and demand of pulp paper output so it's 'green'.  Many popular authors now publish some of their work exclusively in the e-book format so you have access to books you wouldn't ordinarily have. And if you love to read, you literally have a virtual library at your fingertips.

So why am I not in love?

To get me interested in anything is easy. To get me to commit is another thing entirely. When I first heard about e-readers (online of course) it made my heart go pitter-pat because it had all the hallmarks of something that would appeal to a dedicated reader. I've been reading online for over fifteen years now and thought I could make the smooth transition but then I'd look longingly at my overstuffed bookcase and felt a twinge of guilt and confusion.

When I was very small, I used to snuggle up to my dad after dinner every night and listen to him read aloud from one of his paperbacks. They were in a pile on the floor next to my parents' bed and were as reliable a presence to me as my dad himself. I didn't care much for the subject matter (he was on a Hal Lindsey kick for awhile) but early on I associated reading with warmth, security and closeness.  I think too, because my dad's always been a big guy, I also associated it with heft and ponderousness in a very good way.

I like all things big, probably because I'm big myself and have known that all my life. I swoon when a big man envelops me in his arms and pulls me towards him. I luxuriate when I'm sitting in my friend Catherine's big Sebring convertible and it's as if I'm in a rolling comfy couch. I surround myself with heady scents redolent of far off lands and ancient spices and appreciate the decadence of a down comforter so heavy I could give myself a hernia just pulling it up around me as I drift off to sleep, I enjoy the weight of a platter full of delicious food as it's lifted and carried to its home as the centerpiece at the holiday table, and I love the weight, heft and texture of a book in my hands. So something with an e-reader has been lost in translation, I fear.

One girlfriend was not a reader by any stretch of the imagination before she bought her Nook. Now she has over fifty titles downloaded and gets as excited as a little girl when a new title comes out and she has access to it in 60 seconds. Of that, I AM envious. Still....

Another friend trusted me to read his unpublished book which is on a subject I adore and and I've tried to get into it several times and have failed miserably.  I'm ashamed of it, to tell the truth.  The story itself is riveting and worthy but if I can't even feel paper in my hands, I'm at a genuine loss. It's as if I've lost one of my senses and it alarms me.

I have other friends who are authors who encourage me to self publish my novel with Amazon and I feel a sense of betrayal to my as yet unfinished work, my child, my legacy.  It's probably silly because they're making money with every  download while I'm agonizing over physical pages when I could be sipping prickly pear margaritas at a resort across the country and laughing about my initial reluctance.

I think eventually, I will give in to a point. I'll buy a Kindle (or even an iPad because the possibility of endless applications is very appealing to this girl who likes options), but I can't turn my back on my simple literary roots. I'm still the same kid who found comfort hanging out in the stacks at the library and used to surreptitiously sniff the pages for that heady pasty gluey scent that is still as alluring to me as any expensive perfume. I'll never forget reading something forbidden under my parents' bed while I ignored them calling for me to come to dinner. A recent epiphany is, as much as I like to eat, I have to admit I like to read even more.

Books, the printed word especially, are food for my soul and when I want truffles and champagne, a Hershey bar and a diet Coke are just not the same thing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Little Piggy

     Christmas is upon us once again and so are the catalogs. Today I found 35 in my mailbox and the substitute letter carrier in a fit of frustration and slippery snowy rage told me to my face that she hated me. I don't know her and looked at her sideways while I yanked another thick Swiss Colony brochure out of my little slot in the box at the bottom of my hill. I wish there was an adjoining dumpster, whether for her or for the books, I'm not quite sure. She says people like me make her life hard. Some would argue we're the reason why she has a job but I've got family working at the USPS and I know they hate to hear that more than 'your insurance premiums have been raised.'

My brother David is a letter carrier in my hometown, a small city with a lot of people who know each other. I visit very occasionally and I'm bound to be approached at least once on the street by a smiling someone asking if I'm Dave's or Donny's or even once in a while, Lisa's sister. Forget six degrees of separation. Like the oft ridiculed incestuous family trees of the deep south that don't fork, my hometown might MIGHT have two degrees of separation and even one of them is probably related by marriage. So when I recounted my interaction with the harried mail-lady Dave got all huffy and told me to locate and complain to the carrier supervisor which made me laugh because it sounded exactly like, I'm Gonna Telllllll.  He DID tell me that it costs a lot of money (relatively speaking) to mail a catalog so that's big revenue for the post office.

Now I'm not a squealer and I wouldn't be one today. I live on a steep hill off an even steeper mountain road and under the best conditions, when you're not dodging a pick-up truck barrel ass-ing down past you from the dude ranch at the top of the peak, you're on the lookout for Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo and your front bumper can look like a mighty fine pic-a-nic basket if you're smelling like the meatloaf you've had in the oven for the last half hour so I wasn't going to argue with the whiny chick with the uniform and I wasn't going to tell her boss. I've had bad days too and although I don't recall taking it out on any of my customers when I worked with the public, the post office is not the most rewarding and fulfilling of career choices. I've been told employees need to sign forms in triplicate and get a supervisor to notarize requests to urinate.

I turned around and got in my car and sat there dividing everything into my toss and keep pile and wondered aloud over how much money was being wasted on catalogs. I looked into it and I'm not going to bore you with the scary details but it's millions and millions of dollars and what makes the pages all ooh-shiny is a clay coating which basically renders all of it un-recyclable. I confess I'm not the must enthusiastic recycler. I do sometimes reuse plastic cups, cutlery and foil pans. Maybe a zip-lock too because those gallon size suckers are just too valuable to squander. I do have a separate barrel in the garage for plastics, cans and glass and a big box for newspapers. Recently the town recycling drop-off has started accepting those catalogs and also cardboard so I have more piles I'm trying to keep separate and mouse-free in a garage where keeping the door closed seems at best only a suggestion to Spouse and a source of contention whenever I go out there in my nightgown to get another can of crushed tomatoes from a storage shelf and get frostbite on parts I really prefer to keep toasty cozy warm.

I'm keeping  Dean & Deluca, J.Jill, Williams-Sonoma, Swiss Colony, Sephora, Smithsonian, Vermont County Store (recycled paper YAY) Acorn, Harry and David, Ulla Popkin, Silhouettes and Hammacher Schlemmer.  The TCM 2010 catalog was so big it came in its own box and last remaining magazine subscription which I won't allow to lapse under pain of death, National Geographic....still an impressive pile. There's also a couple of Italian clothes and objet de art catalogs I can't be bothered typing the names of.  Just take my word for it.

Before you think I've got the money to burn, I don't. Well, not much. But I do have a handful of pretty things to look at while I'm in The Library (or what you peons call the bathroom) or while I'm on line or sitting in traffic. They're free (for me, at least) and I can fold over the pages of what I'm pretending to buy when I win the lottery I never play and then most of them eventually hit the recycling bin.  I find it hardest to throw away Williams-Sonoma or any if its clones because the images literally make me all tingly and wanty and drooly but then I recover and have a candy cigarette.  Ahhhh....satisfying.

I'm satisfied with what I have for the most part. In fact, I feel blessed and privileged. This season is supposed to be all about giving but for the longest time I've been discouraged by the 'what am I getting' attitude that permeates everything. I do 'want' things but in a distracted detached sense of, "Well, it would be nice," rather than an, "I gotta have it."  I don't want to constantly 'want'. It seems such a never ending struggle and the more I pay attention to that the more I get sucked into it.

So now, I look and ooh and ahh for a few minutes and then throw all of it in the recycling bin where it belongs and my eye-candy jones is satisfied. Until the mail arrives tomorrow with probably a death-threat from my letter carrier. I wonder if I should get her something from Swiss Colony.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First-Class First-Aid for Boo-Boos.

I banged my arm hard the other night at my dad's while everyone was watching TV in the dark. The space between the couch and the gargantuan entertainment center (the latter of which can probably be seen from outer space) is hard to navigate unscathed in bright light nevermind in the blue flicker of a 50" LCD TV playing Alien, a film not known for its moments of blinding sunshine.

Normally, when I get a boo-boo I'm uncharacteristically silent except for ahhing over the crown of Tweetie-Birds circling my head but this one took my breath away and I stumbled back to my seat and held my arm rocking and panting in pain, crying.  And.....much to my surprise everyone came running.

Now, this isn't something I'm accustomed to. I'm the runner. I'm the temperature checker and shoulder rubber. You'll find me in the bathroom rummaging through the medicine cabinet for Tylenol and antibiotic cream, tearing apart my purse for a cough drop or looking for a bag of frozen peas to use as an impromptu ice pack before you'll hear a peep out of me that I'm injured.

  In fact, I often push people off saying, 'don't worry about me. I'm fine. I'm fine.' when I'm very clearly not. In spite of my obvious need for attention (blog anyone?) it makes me uncomfortable when the focus of concern is on me which is ironic because there is nothing more I would like than to be enfolded in someone's arms soothing, 'It's okay. It's okay."

I watched as people leaned over me and examined my large immediate and very black bruise and its nasty centerpiece of a 3" long cut which began to enthusiastically drip blood. Alcohol was found and administered (oh how I danced) and a honorable effort was made to stave the flow of blood with a cartoon character band-aid (comical but useless) the only bandage in the house, unless we were going to start tearing towels into strips and begin boiling water in earnest a la Gone With The Wind. Thank God no knowledge of baby birthin' was needed for this motley crew of well intended relatives because mother and child would certainly have been lost in the heroic effort. I insisted a trip to the ER was more melodramatic than necessary. We celebrated the successful procedure with pumpkin custard pie.

The following day I sat up in bed and examined my sore arm closely. I gingerly tore off the Dora the Explorer band-aid which due to its size was also attached to the injury and when I looked at it I instantly regretted it and almost threw up. I've had cuts and bruises before but in the morning illumination of the skylight above it looked even to my 'been there, done that, has the hospital bills to show for it'  sensibilities like I'd lost a cage match with the entertainment center. I wondered if I need to go to the doctor to have it looked it. A bad bout with a staph infection years ago left the possibility open that I might be colonized and vulnerable to re-infection but I cleaned it instead (I didn't look) and covered it with a more appropriate Hello Kitty band-aid and went on with the rest of the day, forgetting about it except for the occasional bump or jostle. Then, I'd whimper or gasp but got over it and before I knew it, shockingly the cut began to very quickly heal and the bruise turned yellow and faded. I think it had something to do with taking care of it right away. It had to because I was normally lax and blase' about taking care of scrapes and bumps.

Recently, I had an injury of another kind and it too took my breath away. I cried and my friends came running, some in person and some online. I tried as was my habit to push them off and say everything was okay but they didn't buy it, none of them. They all said..'NO, you're NOT fine' and all in their own special unselfish way came to my side. One reminded me of a similar experience she had and was coming out of so I could see that it would be all right. Another reminded me that my worth wasn't defined by anyone else's opinion of me and that other people's issues didn't have to be my own. One just held my hand, fed me and told me I was wonderful and beautiful. Another said she knew me from childhood, who knew me better than her and to stop the nonsense. I was lovable. I am lovable and to get back to myself. Another asked me for advice on a subject close to her heart and didn't even realize what a great necessary distraction that was for me, or maybe she did.  The newest friend made me laugh by sending me pics of himself telling me he still loved me, writing a fictitious final act to a difficult play and sending me lyrics to songs he wrote.  He'd even check in on me with a cartoon before he'd leave for work or go to bed.  All bandages for my heart boo-boo. All first class first aid.

And like that ugly wound on my arm, I began to feel lighter and better much quicker than I expected.  I realized that when I needed help it was okay to ask for it and if I was too proud to ask, at least accept when it's offered. I also learned during this time that sometimes the best way to heal, is to help someone else and that it can bond people because suffering and sorrow is universal. It also makes us much stronger and able to reach out to the next person.

The wound is still there. And so is the one on my arm. But it's fading. They both are. What stays is the love administered when I was in pain and that's something that won't ever fade away.