Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What are Kate and Will doing all day?

(The title for this post is a flimsy attempt to get your attention.  This blog is not about Will and Kate although that sentence is part of the post.)

I got on the treadmill this morning with my Kindle and began to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a digital copy of the novel I had borrowed from Live-brary, I put the treadmill on 1.5 miles an hour and 13 incline so I could read comfortably.

The writing was very good.  I was reading along and then something weird happened. My mind went berserk.  It was as if I had mainlined wild salmon, blueberries, sweet potatoes and kale into my brain.  When I saw all the great and inventive thoughts that Gillian Flynn had to think in order to write Gone Girl, the gatekeeper in my brain compared it to the colossal trash hole of my default thought content.  I was using up Thought Storage with content that was so IRREVELANT, it could make you weep.  What was worse, I had no idea I was having these thoughts because they were now part of me - like my nose or ears.  I was guilty of THOUGHT WASTE!

These are some of the waste thoughts I allow to rent out my mind week after week.
1. The “proving I’m right Memorial Wing”
            This is a revolving stage of recent or past encounters-gone-wrong wherein I state my case over and over and over and over (some of the participants could be dead.)
2.  The “today I will start an entirely new life plan Memorial Garden”
            Eat only organic vegetables, bits of free-range chicken, filtered water and five almonds and totally reconstruct my body.
            Dust the house every day so the dust doesn’t pile up and become a multi-car wreck of dustballs so big they could make you trip.           
            Produce a robust vegetable garden and pick my dinner ingredients every evening and bring them to the kitchen in a big wicker basket.
            Have all the cosmetic filler/tightening work done necessary to make me look like I did when I was 29.
            Get rid of everything I own except my big linen hemstitched tablecloths that I will use as curtains in my new simplified life.
3.  The random shiny trivia Memorial Library
            What are Kate and Will doing all day?
            How could Billy Joel’s brother-in-law mismanage (steal) all his money?
            Why am I mentally enslaved by that stupid N.J.  “We’re stronger than the storm” song           
            How could Willie Nelson lose all his money and now has to go back on the road to pay the IRS.
            Is Hilary healthy enough to last until 2016.
            Is Michelle too bossy.
Gillian Flynn’s excellent prose scraped the scales off my eyes and I realized that THINKING is a fabulous RESOURCE.  Imagine!  Think of your thoughts as short term renters. They have to vacate and return the key before 11 a.m.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

If sitting is the new smoking, I'm a victim of second-hand sitting.

I went into the magazine room of the library today and a cover headline on Runners World smacked me in the face.

“Sitting is the new smoking.”

If you put “Sitting is “ in Google search, you get:
Sitting is the smoking of our generation.
Sitting is as bad as smoking.
Sitting is killing you.  
Sitting is death.
If that is true, I’m a four pack a day addict because if someone asked me what I do all day I would say, “I sit.”   I think I got the sitting addiction through “second hand sitting.”  Everybody around me was sitting and I was too timid to tell them to stop it.

By the way I have a professional grade treadmill used only as an odd toy by my toddler grandchildren who call it a twedmoh.  I keep it just to hear them say that.  They now make treadmill desks and the company that makes them is called LifeSpan.  Get it? 

There’s a Ted talk on sitting and when there’s a Ted talk, you know it’s more serious than Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil.  It’s Charlie Rose serious. We used to go to church to get a sermon but now it’s Ted. Sitting has become the smoking of our generation, says Nilofer Merchant in her Ted talk.  We sit over nine hours a day, more than we sleep.  In her office she has instituted walking meetings and racks up 20 to 30 miles a week.  She says fresh air drives fresh thinking.  There is no nice wrap up to this story.  I just thought I’d let you know what’s going on.

Something more interesting about walking is how it helped Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, discover a very effective therapy called EMDR.
She was dealing with a big emotional issue and noticed that as she walked in the park, her eyes darted from side to side.  When she finished the walk she felt better.  That was the first stirrings of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), an excellent therapy that helps one process big psychological boo boos quickly.   If you like the idea of getting well fast which will make you sit less, check out EMDR.

Right before Psychology Today was O Magazine with a big Oprah on the cover. Here’s what’s inside O for July.  50 things that will make you say WOWSummer hair repair kit.  Superfood Smackdown.  Even though she doesn’t have a talk show, Oprah still wants me to live my best life.  Ok, Oprah, but first I have to get up off the couch.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Let's go Wills. It's coming."

I was obsessively interested in the royal birth.  When I woke up and saw that Kate was in labor, I went berserk and didn’t turn off the television the entire day. Now here’s the “individual craziness” part.  I didn't care about the sex of the baby or even seeing the baby.  I wanted labor minutiae :   the first pangs, what Kate was doing, did the water break at home, how far apart were the contractions when she said, “Let’s go Wills.  It’s coming.” 

Let’s consider the whole effacing/dilation thing - that is one weird body maneuver. I liken it to opening a rusty unused drawbridge by turning a big creaky crank except a drawbridge doesn’t have pain receptors.  Just for this one time the body steps outside the realm of reality to do something weird:  it changes dimensions and lets the cargo out.  

The language of labor is all Middle Ages and Merlinish, measurements are in centimeters.  Without any calipers in sight any passerby seems to know to the nth how far the drawbridge has opened.  The cleaning lady comes in and takes a look.  “Only three centimeters, dearie.  You’ve got a ways.” Think about what nature is asking you to do.  Who in their right mind would think it was possible to get an eight and a half pound baby out of a slim woman’s body without damaging the heck out of her.  That’s when they created the word “asunder.”   And then there’s the placenta - you grow a complicated Rube Goldberg looking thing as well as a complete perfect baby.

Now let’s get to Kate.  I can’t imagine Kate in the throes of labor. How would she manage? Kate went to the hospital around six a.m so she must have been up earlier and realized what was happening before she woke William. She got dressed and gathered her things to take with her.  Maybe she called her mother.  Both Kate and William speak in those clipped and rushed upper-class almost unintelligible accents so it’s hard to “hear” any coherent dialogue.

I worried that Kate would not deliver without complications.  Let’s not forget that the queen's gynecologist plus two others were in the room.  She might as well have had the Bishop of Canterbury delivering the baby. How could anything natural happen in that room?  How could she abandon herself to all the screams and wtf’s ?  When they said on the news “she delivered vaginally,” I almost fell with relief.  I was surprised they even know that word in England.

I like Kate.  She worked hard to get William.  As it turns out with that wacky family (except for the Queen who is darn near perfect) they should be thrilled to have her because she definitely knows what she is doing.  With Kate, very little happens by chance.

 Now that she has crossed over to the side of women who have had a child, Kate will change.  Her perspective will change.  LOOK at what happened to Snookie who has become exemplary and full of self control after giving birth to Lorenzo.  Snookie said,  “I’m different now.” It’s not that she cleaned up her act.  She has an entirely new act.  She went in a whole different direction.  Women change when they’ve had a child.  And I’m not talking about ppd.  I’m talking about a certain almost grim confidence.  They’ve been to a strange place and things will never be the same again.

P.S.  For my devotion, I was treated late last night to a biopic of Kate.  She was bullied as a child and attended boarding school.  Wow, Kate.  Think of what those bullies are saying now!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Everyone thinks it's just love but there's fear, too.

In 1998, at a time when I could least afford the emotional energy to commit to a pair of socks, I decided to look for my mother.  She had disappeared for over twenty years.  She had never met two of her grandchildren.   I hired a private detective, Brian P. McGinnis and four months later he sent me a letter on beautiful business stationary.  The letters all had serifs. Dear Mrs. Baehr,  I am happy to report that I have located your mother.

It was not a joyful reunion but we did the best we could and I transported her to New York to the seventh floor of the Terrance Cardinal Cooke Health and Rehabilitation Center on Fifth Avenue and 105th Street. Her room overlooked the wrought iron gates to Central Park’s formal English Garden, a favorite wedding locale for Asian couples.  In that room, I learned more about my mother than I had up to that time.

I learned that my mother, still in her twenties and freshly divorced, had started a business importing dresses and other things from Montgomery Ward and selling them to the women in her village.  She had run a dressmaking shop, a beauty salon, a boarding house, she called it a hotel. When the war made importing goods impossible, she traveled to the U.S. by bus through Texas, made her way to San Francisco where she worked in a Lucky Strike factory putting the official stamp on packs of cigarettes.

She was a woman who placed all importance on dressing well and looking good. She would apply and re-apply lipstick throughout the day.  She drew in her eyebrows. When I told her that her nephew was dating a girl and that she dressed very well, she said, “That’s all I want to know.”
Here’s the dialogue.
“Your nephew is dating a girl.
“Oh, yes? What’s her nationality?”
”She’s Armenian.”
“Very clean.  An Armenian woman lived next door to me. She was very clean. Tell me, does she dress well?”
“As a matter of fact, she does.”
“That’s all I want to know.  I like that girl.”
“Really, that’s all you care about?”  In the dreamy Fellini atmosphere of the high ceilinged room, the kind of room you would see in an old war movie where the soldiers convalesced and got used to their injuries, whatever she said had more weight.  Maybe how a person dressed said everything about that person but I wanted to take it further.  “That’s all you care about? How she dresses?” I didn’t even raise my voice for this but remained matter of fact.
“More or less.”  My mother answered most questions with “more or less.”
Did you like the ham?  More or less.  Didn’t you think that show was terrible?  More or less. She wasn’t trying for a conversational style. She was a straight shooter. If irony is for ironists.  My mother was an anemianist. I altered my personality in her presence and was a straight shooter, too.
“Yeah, you’re right.  She dresses well.  That’s all we have to know.”  As a matter of fact the potential girlfriend not only dressed very well but she put on makeup in the morning before showing up for breakfast. I go days without makeup and dress erratically.  No wonder my mother thinks she got gypped.

 My mother was 88 and could no longer hold an idea in her head for more than five seconds.  One day she asked me fourteen times if her granddaughter was coming to see her for mother’s day.
“She’s in California.“
“Still in California?” 
“Is she coming for mother’s day?”
“No, Mom. She’s still in California and she can’t make the trip.”
“Is it the boyfriend?”
“No she has a job.”
“Is she coming for mother’s day?”
“No. She’s in California.”

You might think this drove me crazy but it didn’t. Sometimes my voice got sharp and I thought, how can I kill her, but then I’d take a breath and look around that Felliniesque room and hang in for the long haul. 
“Is she coming?
“No, mom. She’s in California.” 
I got a little thrill using the word “mom.”  It implied a normal sunny childhood.
Just when I was certain this was the last lucid conversation we would ever have, she said, “They came yesterday to see if I was crazy.  They asked me who the president was.  I said the new Bush. I forget his first name.  I never liked the old Bush.  They asked who is the one before that?  I said. Cleenton.  William Jefferson Cleenton.  By the way,” she said, “you have to buy me chooz?” She still has her Spanish accent although she would be horrified to be told this.
“You’ve got shoes.”
“I can’t wear those chooz.  It came with a paper that says don’t wear for more than two hours. I’m not going to wear cheep chooz that say you can’t wear them for more than two hours. That’s ridiculous.”
“They mean don’t wear them too long the first day.”
“No, my dear. These are cheep chooz.  I never heard of such a thing.”
“So don’t wear them.”
“Will you buy me chooz?  Anything.” 
“I can’t understand why your daughter moved to California.  Her family is here.  You have to stay with your family.”

What emotions come to mind with mothers? Everyone thinks it’s just love but there’s fear, too. Think about it.  There is fear, too.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tabouli Smackdown Redux

 (I am reclaiming this post because it's July and all of the ingredients for this fab dish are abundant.
Also because it's been 1000 degrees and my brain pan is dry. This is the perfect summer dish and your guests or family will be happy.)

 There have been two great Middle Eastern restaurants in my family both in Washington, D.C. and both run by my favorite Uncle Charlie. Everyone in that huge family was a great cook, even the men. I am not talented in that department but I did learn to make, better than average hummus, baba ghanoush and tabouli that kicks you know what.

Good tabouli is almost impossible to buy although the gross, soggy almost fermented kind sold in plastic cups is easily had.

Fresh ingredients are important for good tabouli but technique is crucial.

What you will need:
A big bunch of fresh perky curly parsley
4 thin kirby cucumbers
four or five firm plum tomatoes
3/4 cup of medium coarse bulgur wheat.
half a bunch of scallions (optional)

If you’ve seen recipes on the internet, a word of caution.
Does my list include mint? NO! So don’t put mint in it. Ever!
Does this recipe talk about regular onions? NO. So don’t put regular onions in it.
I’ve even seen soy sauce in an internet recipe. This would destroy the tabouli; it’s the opposite of the crisp, tangy, chewy, mélange that we are trying to achieve. My Aunt Mary (the best cook in the world) who would feed anyone who wandered into her house, would be disappointed.

Juice of one and a half lemons
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
(no pepper, no garlic, no additional herbs.)
Let me say this again: lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt.

The technique needed with all of the vegetables is to dice them by hand into infinitesimally small pieces. You can’t use machines for this because you will get watery mush instead of recognizable tiny cubes. The parsley is the only ingredient that can be processed in a machine and the only machine that has worked to my satisfaction is the Oskar. Unfortunately, they don’t make the Oskar anymore, possibly because it is a great little workhorse. Whenever something is good, they stop making it. St. Ives stopped making cucumber elastin. (it really tightened your skin), Kiehl’s stopped making their great A and D cream and Sunbeam stopped making the Oskar. My friend Naomi wrote a prize-winning poem about this. It’s called “The Item You Ordered Is No Longer Being Produced.” It’s one of my favorite poems.

The secret at the core of great tabouli is to have all of the ingredients as fresh as possible and more important as dry as possible. If the parsley has been washed put it through a spinner before chopping. For the tomatoes, scoop out the watery part. I choose Kirby cucumbers because their seeds are tiny and their cores have less gelatinous flesh. Remember, we are going for dry.

Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl and cover with tap water. Let stand for about an hour, drain the water. Take small portions of the wheat into the palm of your hand and squeeze the remaining water out then place it in a bowl. Do this until all of the wheat has been “wrung” out. Add the minced parsley, the cubed tomatoes and cucumbers and (optional) add a few stalks of minced scallions (use both the bulb and the green) Mix gently.

The wheat will continue to expand siphoning off any liquid from the vegetables. Because the tabouli is dry, you can store part of it in an airtight plastic container for up to four days.

The dressing: Do not be tempted to put anything but lemon, olive oil and salt in your dressing. The reason we wrung out that wheat and dried the vegetables was so they could soak up the lemon and oil and salt which creates an incredibly fresh tangy taste. The wheat especially will continue to expand getting fatter with the lemon and oil. The vegetables will also rehydrate and glisten with the dressing.

This tabouli is addictively good but it is also good for you. If you pair it with a few home made grape leaves or a sandwich of baba ghanoush in fresh hot artisan pita bread Yum.
**I’ve seen recipes that call for putting fine bulgur and soaking in boiling water. You want medium coarse so it soaks up more dressing. If you use boiling water, the wheat will expand too much and again, won’t siphon off some of the moisture of the veggies and the dressing.