Friday, February 29, 2008

Sugar Overdose, Anyone?

"Ahoy Mateys! Set Sail with a Cap'n Crunch Milkshake!!"
Yes, it really said that on the reader board of a local fast food restaurant.

May as well just shoot ourselves in the head.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Near the Center of a Well-Lived Life

"We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive." ~~ Frank Puleo, a caterer working for the united States Olympic Committee, after testing a 14-inch chicken breast purchased at a supermarket in Beijing, host of this years' summer Olympics
As shocking as the toxicity of Beijing poultry is, do we really know what's in our food these days? In the rush to conform do we sacrifice years of good health - even life - by eating dangerous food products which our great great grandmothers would not even recognize as food? Do we have the respect we should for the cycle of life, the importance of food - whole food - and the soils from which they are born? What roles do corporations and governments play in determining what's on the shelves of our grocery stores and what's in the stuff that is placed there? Who's minding the store? Who's minding our choices? Who cares?

Way too big a topic to cover in a simple blog post. But I am thinking about certain aspects of food and eating and health and choices. Many options remain available, if only we snoop around a bit. I believe there is a better way to approach the fueling of our bodies. I believe it can be done with panache or simplicity or both. I believe it can take a prominent place in the fabric of our daily lives, to our betterment. And I think it's about time.

Michael Pollan writes in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto: "For most people for most of history, gathering and preparing food has been an occupation at the very heart of daily life. Traditionally people have allocated a far greater proportion of their income to food - as they still do in several of the countries where people eat better than we do and as a consequence are healthier than we are. Here, then, is one way in which we would do well to go a little native: backward, or perhaps it is forward, to a time and place where the gathering and preparing and enjoying of food were closer to the center of a well-lived life."
"Compared to the 9.9 percent of their income Americans spend on food, the Italians spend 14.9 percent, the French 14.9 percent, and the Spanish 17.1 percent." ~~In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
Pollan continues, "In order to eat well we need to invest more time, effort, and resources in providing for our sustenance, to dust off a word, than most of us do today. A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap, and easy. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food; they also spend less than a half hour a day preparing meals and little more than an hour enjoying them."
"In 1995 Americans spent twenty-seven minutes preparing meals and four minutes cleaning up after them; in 1965 the figure was forty-four minutes of preparation and twenty-one minutes of cleanup...all of which suggests a trend toward prepackaged meals."~~David M. Cutler, Journal of Economic Perspectives
Pollan again: "Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. Doctors have gotten really good at keeping people with heart disease alive, and now they're hard at work on obesity and diabetes. Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunities; diet pills, heart bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But though fast food [here again, food that is fast, cheap, and easy] may be good business for the health care industry, the cost to society - an estimated $250 billion a year in diet-related health care costs and rising rapidly - cannot be sustained indefinitely. An American born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes in his lifetime...A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts roughly twelve years from one's life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes.)...Diabetes is well on its way to becoming normalized in the West - recognized as a whole new demographic and so a major marketing opportunity. Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats."

We have the choice to educate ourselves about our food supply and eating customs. We have the choice to take our health seriously, taking the matter into our own hands, to stop trusting those who profit off our ignorance.

Ultimately, I suppose, it comes down to what truly matters to us, for that is where choices are born.

I relish life. I really do. I enjoy finding full-flavored whole foods in my garden or community. I love to savor the sight and smell of each piece when I unload it from my shopping bag. Then, to cook it up with love for my family and friends, to present beautiful, life-sustaining foods, to savor the deliciousness of the meal along with the joy and laughter from those whose knees tuck under my table, whose hands are poised to participate in the mystery, knowing that I have done no harm, but provided goodness. Such is near the 'center of a well-lived life'.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Il Dolce Far Niente

Upon returning from Italy my friend shared an Italian philosophy he'd come to embrace, il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing.

He went on to explain that his time spent in the Mediterranean has, among other things, changed the way he approaches eating. Apparently on weekdays the Italians give themselves two or more hours for lunch. Cooking together, savoring the meal with one another, lingering with life, in the moment, fueling body and soul. Then, back to work for a few more hours.

In addition, the shops in Italy are not open long hours seven days a week as they are here. Family and friends are valued over ambition and material wealth. People take the time to live, to know, to enjoy.

In the United States where money is king and material possessions the measure of success there is no time for il dolce far niente. Well, for most people. Some of us seem to have the notion of savoring hard-wired into us, though that doesn't mean we live it. We just long for it.
Some of us thrive on the 'go go go', 'earn earn earn', 'buy buy buy' mentality. I wonder if for these the idea of switching to a more mindful - heartful - philosophy might seem like laziness. The Greatest Generation certainly values hard work, working hard, and hard work. Understandable given what they've been through.

I suppose there is a happy medium somewhere. I like to think Tom and I have found it - at least most of the time. It's easy to become caught up in the competing rush, to lose sight of our true treasure, to run with the frantic throng of the busy. But who's leading the pack?

Certainly not the Italians.

"Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself." ~~Zen Master Dogen

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sick. Sick. Sick.

FINAL UPDATE: For you who have wondered...We are well!! Tom's back at work and nearly cough-free, Cassie is back to normal, so is Caroline, and I feel better than I have in a long long while. School is back on track, so are meals, the house is coming together. We are vital and grateful. Thanks everyone!
UPDATE, FRIDAY:: Good news for some of us! I woke up with some energy - what is this? - and it's wonderful. I'll be careful where I spend it. :) Tom's fever is gone, his coughing and lungs are unhappy, but he's feeling much perkier. (Though he's not going to work, he, being Tom, wants to do all sorts of things he doesn't have the strength to do. He gets up, moves around, then crashes.) Caroline is doing much better. Cassie is not doing well at all, but she has all of us doing what we can, and empathizing totally. In addition to Joe's pot of soup, which is almost gone, two kind, generous ladies brought us food yesterday and we were lifted by it. So good. We have enough for today as well. It's surprising the difference a good, hot meal - and lovingkindness - makes. Thanks to you both. You have our hearts. I will be posting a fresh post one of these days, something I've read during my 'down time.' (Oy.) Be well and thanks for the support both physical and virtual. You remain the BEST.

UPDATE: Tom has a low-grade fever but is making some headway. So tired, though. Caroline is coughing less, getting better. But, Cassie is getting headaches and is becoming lethargic and so am I. We're hoping we are just tired and strained and not getting sick. Being the healthiest at this point, she and I had to run errands today - kind of funny. Just putting our shoes on seemed like a big deal. Got the meds at the pharmacy and felt tuckered out by the time I got to the car. I look pretty bad, I think, judging from the looks I got. Again, sorta funny. I'm careful to keep any germs I may carry to myself as best I can. Our wonderful son, Joe, made a huge pot of chicken soup from scratch and brought it over with some hearty bread. I about cried. The soup tasted like love and perked us all up quite a bit. (Thank you so much, Joe. It was delicious!!) Thanks for all your encouraging words! We cherish each and every one! They really do lighten the load and help us feel less alone here in our isolated world of yuck.
~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

Tom is hacking and snorting and tired on the couch.

Caroline is tired and using lots of tissues and on the futon.

Cassie is exhausted from being the well one for weeks and doing the brunt of the work. She's exhausted from lack of sleep having to share a room with a noisy-sleeping Caroline.

Me? I think I'm having a relapse, but I don't dare succumb. Cassie needs me. I've been making soup, cutting orange and apple slices, cleaning, sanitizing, shopping, making trays of foods for my two sickest, and dragging my tired self around. The concrete limbs are returning.

I remember our life in Myrtle Creek all those years ago. Tom and I spent our first seven years as a married couple there, with family nearby. Tom's mom would bring us her homemade soups when we fell ill. My mom would double the meals she made for Dad and herself and bring the leftovers to Tom, the kids, and me. Both moms brought flowers, and cookies, and games for Benny and Joey. Sweet friends and tiny ladies from church would bring us their time-tested nourishing foods.

The kindness and compassion lifted our spirits. I swear it helped us recover quicker.

When we first moved here, a place we've lived for over twenty years, we had a home-school support group. We made many great friends. When I had my first miscarriage the ladies outdid themselves bringing us complete meals for two weeks. Full meals of roasted turkey, enchiladas, pork chops, soups, chicken and rice and so much more. They brought entire meals setting them out for us on our kitchen table. Such humility we felt as we savored the work of these kind families, a different family each night. Invariably there'd be a lovely get well card presented along with hugs and kind words.

A second miscarriage, a vicious bout of pneumonia, and two healthy births replayed the scene over and over and over. I was pleased to know giving people such as these. Pleased to do the same for them when they needed help.

But people move on. Only a couple of these friends remain in our lives and they are so busy.

We've never found a church that embraced us. We've never fit in.

I miss the niceties. I miss the nourishing. I miss my mom. And Tom's mom. I miss the care.

I miss my health.

I am sad that we are all ill. Sad to see my kids suffering so. I am tired, not able to care for them as I'd like. I feel inadequate. And alone.

But this will pass. We'll be well again.

And when energy returns I'm going to send beautiful, sincere cards to our moms and thank them again for their compassion for us all those years ago. Then I'll get on my knees and thank God for the family and friends who showed me what being human is all about.

And I'll thank him for the contrast he has sent my way.

And I'll ponder these things in my heart.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


"Love your neighbor as yourself is part of the great commandment. The other way to say it is, Love yourself as your neighbor. Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your friend in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, trying to understand, comfort, strengthen yourself...."Mind your own business" means butt out of other people's lives because in the long run they must live their lives for themselves, but it also means pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness, both for your own sake and ultimately for the sake of those you love, too. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death." ~~ Frederick Buechner

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wrapping up the Week...

Caroline has had a full week.

Monday: To the doctor for a recurring rash on her pretty little hands which has Caroline paranoid. Ointment, assurances. Severely chapped, sensitive skin. She won't die from it. While running errands after the doctor visit, with Cassie at the wheel (driving like a pro, I might add), we three were nearly hit six different times, by six different stupid drivers. Cassie reacted perfectly, averting disaster every time. Divine testing, perhaps?

Tuesday: To a noon-time symphony at the Hult Center. Beautiful, wonderful! When we called Daddy to pick us up his phone didn't work. A dozen tries later we got through. In the meantime, we'd walked to the Mac Store, a good pick-up spot. What did we see while waiting? Disheveled, sleepy-eyed kids and adults dressed Goth-like in black or Medieval attire, back-packs sagging from shoulders, all filing toward a vague entrance as though beckoned by some Ancient Being. Before entering the building they silently, respectfully tamped out cigarettes, meeting our eyes with shy smiles. We smiled and nodded in return. After twenty or thirty people slipped up the dark stairway we decided they must have been Role Players. Gotta love this town. Caroline dubbed the mysterious glass door which swallowed them up, "The Weird Door of Oddness." (We have many role playing family and friends, so we did not judge, merely assessed in kindness. We simply found it odd in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, in the middle of town.)

Wednesday: To the orthodontist. Will the braces come off? Is that last 12-year molar moving in? Braces still on. Molar about to erupt. Almost there. Patience. More patience. Good-hearted girl. Happily we had the tea party adventure afterwards - see previous post.

Thursday: To the optometrist for her first big-time eye exam. 20/20 vision, healthy eyes. The effects from the dilation of her pupils was "cool." The brightness of the day required funky-fun, plastic eye protection for the drive home. Seemed like an upbeat end to a long week of the ordinary and the unusual. But it didn't end there. Nope. Headache. Body aches. Yes, and a fever that rose a degree an hour until it peaked at 102 degrees. Caroline came down with my flu. I hate sharing bad stuff.

Friday: Her fever is broken, but she is weak. She is bummed. She missed all her tutored classes this week. She requests her favorite meal. Pasta. Things are looking up.

Tomorrow: On what note will Brave Caroline's week expire? We harbor great hope.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day

Why love, if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone. ~~C.S. Lewis

We don't like to be told what to do around here. Though life doesn't always afford our way, sometimes we get it anyhow. Because a blue sky day greeted us this morning, we declared today Valentine's Day.
I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever. ~~Amy Tan

Moisture puffing along in the sky gave variation to the clear blue. It was a sign to expect the unexpected.
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. ~~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Choosing to forego the usual chocolates or chalky conversation hearts - 'U R 4 Me!' 'IM Me!' 'B Mine!' 'Hot Stuff!' Phooey! - I landed on a bright idea. To the whimsical tea house the girls and I would go after an orthodontist appointment. I'd been to the tea house with Pam and her mom, but was saving such an adventure for the girls until the perfect opportunity presented itself. Today would be the day. I wanted to give each daughter a Valentine to remember.

While I enjoyed a cozied pot of vanilla chai tea, the girls delighted in hot cocoa. Delicious, freshly-made tomato basil soup nourished already joyous spirits.Dessert? Morning-baked scones...
Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes the other, each is enriched by the other. ~~ Felix Adler

...dolloped with Devonshire Cream...
Love doesn't make the world go 'round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile. ~~ Franklin P. Jones

...smothered in Oregon Berry jam. Oh my.
You are my beloved and you are my friend. ~~ Song of Solomon
Don't feel sorry for Tom. On our homecoming he was presented a bowl of hot soup, a large cup of tea, a special gift from me, and the scone you see in the photos. He smiled. Really big!
Love does not die easily. It is a living thing. It thrives in the face of all of life's hazards, save one -- neglect. ~~ James D. Bryden
Spring birds chirping, higher sun beaming, new grass growing. Love all around. Mushy, sappy, grinning love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Bitter, Man! (A 60 Second Post)

True confession.

I feel the need to purge myself of this secret.

I hate coffee.

I've always hated the taste of it. It's bitter.

It stains teeth.

I do not drink it Sam I Am. Here or There. Anywhere.



I said it.

I admitted it.

Stone me.

(Just, please, don't make me drink the stuff.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Peeking Spring

Good news from the doctor today, warm shirt-sleeve weather, greenery perking up all around, fresh-faced flowers waking up their sleepy little heads, honking geese in overhead V's, buds on trees and bushes, the sun a little higher in the sky hangs around a tad longer each day, and I am coming out of my wintery hibernation.

I think I'm going to make it.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rainy Thursday

"A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." ~~ Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Case in Point

Monday, February 04, 2008

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Half Time: A Class Act

Unbelievably fantastic though the game between the Giants and the Patriots was - and it was the best Super Bowl I've ever seen - the halftime was my place of joy. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time you have figured out that I 'am a fan' of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The music fits my world. So does the integrity.

I knew they'd deliver the goods on Sunday and sure enough, it was a class act all the way.

The meanest, nastiest flu I can recall hit me late last week, knocking me out of this world into that weird, head-swimming, delirious world of aches, pains, disorientation, sweat, chills, worry about my family not eating well and what's not getting done (bills to pay, school to teach, the tub needs cleaning, the dog smells houndy, Joe's car's been totalled - does he need help? - and wondering when my arms and legs turned to concrete.) My daughters are the best nurses ever, Joe a most attentive son, and my Tom does the best he can to hold it together. Still, the flu left me looking and feeling like I've spent a week dancing at the Zombie Zoo. Today I saw my reflection in the mirror, making the sight even worse by grimacing in shock.

All this about me to say that even though I had to be escorted to the living room couch with my small cups of gingerale and water along with the saltines that currently follow me everywhere, I was not about to miss Tom Petty in any way shape or form. Silence ensued at half time while two eager generations gathered around the tube to hear Tom and the boys do what they do so well. Fantastic! Flawless! Fun! The best half time in a long long while. No freaks jumping around, rising suddenly amidst smoke from here, sinking into oblivion there, no weird camera angles, no ridiculous pyrotechnics, no lousy music.

Quite the contrary. The boys were decked out beautifully, all handsome, talented, professional, exciting, energized, quietly confident, youthful eyes twinkling, and those smiles! How Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers can sing and play! And create fun. Honed by a decades-long wild ride these men know what works and how to bring it. They did.

Classy in that it felt like they did it for us instead of for themselves.

Tom seemed to be having as much fun as he did all those years ago when it was brand new. There seemed to be an amazed, boyish hint of, "Hey, man, I'm playing for the Super Bowl!" excitement in his eyes. How cool is that.

The arrogant younger stuff might wisely take notes from Sir Petty and his Royal Heartbreakers.

(In case you're wondering, my body is depleted of energy now that I've used what little I had this morning to post this entry - sheepish, foolish, pathetic smile - and I have a ways to go before I am me again. But I've got a few songs in my heart sitting with the worries of the 'undone', and the encouragement to listen to my little nurses: "Get back to bed!!" I'm going. I'm going...)