Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekly Adventure- Hillsdale Farmers' Market

I’ve already written about a farmers’ market here in Oregon but what I may not have mentioned is there is one in a different location every day of the week. So, you can have your favorite but if you miss that day you still have six other markets to choose from the rest of the week. This weekend J and I visited the Hillsdale market. Hillsdale is neighborhood southwest of Portland- old, charming, and a bit eclectic. Very different crowd from Beaverton. Lots of men in floppy sunhats, loud talkers, kind of eccentric.

This market is half the size of Beaverton but it was fun because the food vendors were different as were a number of the farmers. I continued pursuit of crepes by going to Savory et Sweet. They had buckwheat crepes which is a nice change of flavor. I had the bacon, brie, and tomato which was interesting but not my favorite. The tomatoes were so juicy it made the crepe very soggy- not a good thing. J got an amazing pulled chicken tamale that he wouldn’t share which means it was really good.

I don’t know about you but my allergies have been giving me six degrees of hell since June and nothing over-the-counter or prescription has helped. I read somewhere that a teaspoon of local honey can help build up your immunity because it’s made from pollen from local flowers. Seems pretty logical to me but have you ever tried to find local honey- even in the natural foods stores? Oh, the label will say Oregon but when you read where it was made it’s most often California and is simply packaged in Oregon. Or it costs $15 for 3ozs! Thank you Boyco Foods! They had 10 varieties of honey all made locally. They even told the kind of plant the bees ate (that’s not the right word- what is?). Anyway, I went with red clover honey from Sherwood which is a town about 15 miles from us. I got an 8oz jar for $8! Happy days. I’ll let you know if I notice a difference but at least it's sweet medicine!

The finale? Some of the most amazing desserts I've ever seen from The Brownie Farm. I could easily have spent $20 at this booth alone but satisified myself with a blueberry lemon scone. I got extra points from not inhaling it in the car on the way home but my mother would be mortified to see I'm posting pictures of half eaten food on the internet. I'm sorry, but you need to appreciate the blueberry goodness of this tasty gem!

Purple cauliflower- I love it!

The heirlooms are hitting their stride

Who knew peppers come in almost every color of the rainbow?

Delicious goat cheese- brought some home for crostini w/ cherry tomatoes

It was a nice way to start another sunny Sunday. Next time I’m getting the tamale!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

RemembeRED- Me Without You

His name was Bill and looking back now, I know I would never have learned independence without him. Without the pain, deceit, lies, and disinterest. As difficult as it was he made me, good and bad, the person I am today. He was the first love of my life.

Freshman year in college and he was a smart jock doing so well in algebra that I hated him on sight. Friends kept telling me he had a crush on me but despite his height and great quarterback build I was not interested. He was incredibly shy which I enhanced by shooting him down before he could complete a sentence.

After a string of non-relationships first semester I returned to school and decided to give the nice guy a chance. We went to a movie and from then steamrolled our way in a matter of weeks into constant togetherness and then love. What a novel experience to be adored by a man. At last, all those Barbara Cartland novels I’d read were coming true!

That spring semester passed in the glow of young love. How interesting then to be told as the semester neared its end that while he thought he still loved me he wasn’t quite sure anymore. Thus began the roller coaster that lasted until graduation. We broke up but as soon as I started showing interest in other guys he reeled me back in. If I accused him of seeing other girls he turned it back on me by saying I was causing the problems by not trusting him (they were just friends). Slowly, the ground beneath my feet began to erode. I lost the ability to know what was true and what wasn’t. Or even to know what was real and what wasn’t.

The night we graduated was one of tears on both our parts. I had been accepted at FIT in NYC, Bill was moving to Florida to look for work. I told him when I finished at FIT I could move to Florida. His answer, “If you want to come to Florida you should come but don’t just come for me.” It was the first time in life I knew what the words “broken heart” meant because there was no doubt my heart was physically breaking. I could feel it tearing and shifting in my chest. I wasn’t sure I could breathe but choked out my response, ‘Why else would I go to Florida? I don’t even like it there! I would only go for you.” “Well, you shouldn’t.”

I had no choice but to go to NYC and school and when my year ended I decided to go to Atlanta for a job. Bill and I were still ostensibly together but once in Atlanta, working, meeting new people, and partying I began to think about him less. Imagine my surprise when he showed up after 8 months and said we should get married. My answer, “I don’t know.”

For 5 years I had waited to hear those words, written my name with his last name on innumerable pieces of paper, imagined our wedding and now? Now I felt almost nothing. I had a new life, one I would never have gotten if I’d moved to Florida; I had been promoted at work and was being considered for promotion again. It was MY life now. He had pushed me away for so long and told me to only do things if I wanted them, to be more independent. I did, I was, and I no longer needed him. Goodbye, Bill.

This week's RembeRED prompt is to write about a memory of yourself WITH someone else; your experience with this person and how it made you feel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Maria Bamford

All right, if you’re not American you may not know of her despite my proselytizing on this blog and even if you are American but are a godless heathen you still may not know who she is but shame on you. Tonight I got to see Maria Bamford at the Helium Comedy Café. She’ll be there for two more nights and the tickets are reasonable so with plane fare it is not a big deal. Seriously, she is weird in the funniest way possible. Not serial killer weird but ‘hey, I think that’ weird.

J agreed to accompany me on this entertainment extravaganza which was super until I watched a solo woman get seated in the front row at which point I tried to act like I didn’t know him and could I please share a table with that woman despite her weird oversized plastic duffel bag? No go and we were seated between Chandra and Burt and typhoid Mary and her boyfriend. We ignored the typhus victim (except for Jed covering his drink with the menu) but we were immediately befriended by the other couple when Jed used his Cabela’s Visa to start a tab. Honestly, short of a Playboy club key chain this credit card has started more conversations with strangers than an other inanimate object in our relationship. It’s as if it is coated with pheromones that only other pseudo-alpha males can recognize and once it’s been thrown down the game is on. This time was no different and I mentally left J and his new buddy discussing Rocky Mountain elk versus those of the Ukiah Mountains (I don’t even know what I’m typing at this point). The wife was sweet but a breeder so once we established the age of the children and that it was their 11th anniversary I focued on the stage and When. Was. Maria. Going. To. Come. Out.

We had to sit through 2 other acts during which I threw back my 2 drink minimum Merlots and replayed my favorite Maria youtube videos in my mind (one of my super powers). I was stoked and then there she was! Important note, comedy clubs are not very glamorous. The stage is about 1’ off the ground so aside from the host telling us that hecklers would not be tolerated there was really no protection for the talent if things went awry. Of course, this is Portland where awry means the chicken isn’t free range.

From where I was to Maria was not far at all. Let me tell you, she is slender. I’m not going to say skinny because that is pejorative but as she put it, when she moved to LA they took her food away. She is more flat chested than I am which means I love her even more. Also her hair is much longer than the promo poster and she has bangs. This is huge.

She launched into all the weirdness that is in her brain including the actions of her good friend Amy, which almost made me shriek because it was my good friend Amy (who is insane) who turned me on to her by filling my voice mail box with the words Maria Bamford whispered over and over. Then she talked about how she would be a different person if she just went somewhere else. Hello? That’s my bit!

She also kept segueing into how Portland people are so nice which is kind of like how you might say the fat ugly girl at the prom is nice because really you feel sorry for her (because her economy sucks and there are no jobs so despite the good restaurants it’s a bit troubling). She pointed out that even when we argue we’re on the same side (“I think healthcare and education should be a priority!” “I KNOW”), which is also true. It’s a wacky town.

Anyway, much laughter ensued and it was a good night. Poor J had to tolerate the fact that not only was the typhus victim trying to cough up a lung but she was one of those determined-to-be-heard-and-noticed women so she laughed hysterically before the jokes were even finished and yelled ‘Right On’ every other sentence. Thankfully, we got out of the club without incident but it was close.

If I weren’t so line-intolerant I could have met Maria and had my picture taken with her. She would probably have asked to spend the night at our house because do you want to stay in a crappy hotel when you could be in a quiet house with cool people and have a fruit smoothie for breakfast? By morning we would have realized that we are SO much alike and should be besties. Instead, I snapped these surreptitious pics while other lowlifes took up her time. Why do people think it’s OK to hug strangers when they’re celebrities? Especially Maria who has made it clear she has personal space issues and yet all these women not only wanted an autograph and a photo they wanted to clutch at her. Another reason why I wouldn’t be a good celebrity- there would be a ‘no stranger touching’ clause in all my public appearance contracts.

My future celebrity life aside it was a great night and I am still a huge Maria Bamford fan. Sometimes crazy is funny.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- Identity Shift

Source: None via Catherine on Pinterest

Send me out into another life
Lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way.

From Words from a Totem Animal by W.S. Merwin

When I first saw these words I almost wept. Like a sliver of glass they pierced my soul and awoke a part of me I didn’t even know was sleeping. To some they may sound like a lament or a complaint. Waste, loss, regret. To me they are a request but not from sadness and without reproach. This life, while good, is not enough. I am stronger, I need more. I have so much further to go.

That is where I am today. Previously, I’ve written about unemployment and loss of identity. I still understand that post and was thrilled (odd choice of word but accurate) with the response it created. I wrote from the perspective of a woman without children and yet, women with children, women whose writing I admire, responded to say, ‘no, I feel this too’. I realized I had no monopoly on identity theft. It can be and is felt by many, at many stages of life.

Here now is the shift. I may still believe my identity was stolen because I did not quit my job and it is unlikely that I would have done so in this economy but I am coming to accept that it was not a loss. That life was growing faint and did not go all the way. I’ve just slipped past my 50th birthday and feel certain there is another life arriving. That the only way to face it is to throw off the person I was, with all her fears and baggage, and truly open myself to what lies ahead. To unclench my hands and stand palms open, waiting for whatever it might be. It has nothing to do with what I was or the profession I chose- those things no longer serve me. I have no control and for once it’s all right. I’m content in the now, relaxed in my skin like a happy cat. I’m going to pursue the things I love and believe that the rest will follow.

Source: favim.com via Catherine on Pinterest

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekly Adventure- McMinnville

This week I found a job ad that sounded fascinating and despite not having any of the major requirements thought I would apply for it (I call that gutsy not hubris). Archivist for a college in the middle of wine country. How cool would that be? I’ve always been fascinated by the preservation of books but do not have any experience as it’s quite specialized (think forensic science without dead people). The other sticking point? The school is in McMinnville, Oregon and I had no real idea how far a commute it would be so I decided to head off into wine country for an adventure under the guise of job hunting.

The route is quite straightforward- you take 99W. Period. The route is bucolic with rolling hills, fruit trees, and vineyards but the road quickly goes from four lanes to two. Add the 2 small towns with speed limits of 25mph on the way and you are looking at an hour to McMinnville. When I couldn’t find the school even with my GPS I took it to be the final sign this was not meant to be and bailed. My job criteria wish list is getting shorter but a reasonable commute is still right up there.

If the job thing wasn’t going to work then on to the fun of exploring one of the many small towns in the midst of Oregon’s wine country. I love these type of places- one main street with local shops of every shape and size. You park and stroll and even if it is an illusion, suddenly everything slows down and feels better. I chose Third Street and was pleased that the first store I spotted was Third Street Books. A large bookstore in a small town always bodes well and this place was no exception. They carry a great mix of genres as well as fun book related items. Even better they have a monthly book club which has me wondering if I could haul my lazy ass that far to meet other bibliophiles and talk about books. Not sure, I’ll keep you posted. Additionally, their magazine selection was as cool and eclectic as any I’ve come across. I chose the latest issue of Mental Floss, a journal for "knowledge junkies" (love it!) I’ve never even heard about, for my lunchtime reading companion.

After my lovefest in the book store it was time to eat. Suddenly I was confronted with the only drawback to Monday adventures- a lot of restaurants are closed. I had been looking forward to sushi but the restaurant wasn’t open so I rallied and went to La Rambla, a restaurant with northwest inspired Spanish cuisine. And here is where I embarrassed myself, reader. Despite a drool worthy array of hot and cold tapas I ordered…a hamburger. Does it get any worse then that? I actually apologized to the waitress but said I could not resist based on the description “all natural lean Kiff Ranch beef on a challah bun with caramelized onions, bacon, and valdion blue cheese”. She laughed and said it was not a bad choice for lunch but if I came for dinner I’d have to try the tapas. Deal!

Nice international woody feel but not too stuffy

Boring American tourist as it was, I did not regret my choice. Beef perfectly cooked with blue cheese oozing out the middle…I’m full again just thinking about it. Just as good was the side salad that came with it which is saying a lot. Usually, those things are an afterthought with boring greens and too much dressing. This was romaine with black currants and toasted hazelnuts dressed with a sweet-sour poppyseed vinaigrette. It worked on every level.

Be still my arteries (hey, I had a salad as well, all right?!)

My last stop was La Bella Casa which was just that. Another large open airy store with a great array of home accessories, candles, soaps, and tableware. I browsed for quite awhile but finally decided on the Caldrea Mandarin Vetiver hand soap liquid. The smell is fresh yet not feminine so it works perfectly in our kitchen.

Think these Mediterranean inspired hanging candle lanterns would be great in our backyard!

I have nowhere to put this table but am still pretty sure I need it

After shopping I walked the other side of the street (in an effort to burn off some of the calories from my decadent lunch), enjoying the intermittent shade and sunshine provided by the leafy trees then headed home. A quintessentially perfect summer afternoon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hot Weather- Cool Quinoa Salad

The cooking extravaganza that was J’s absence closed on a high note. I have read enough about quinoa to know it's a power food- gluten free and yet incredibly high in protein, fiber, and all kinds of other good for you minerals like magnesium and iron. It’s not that widely known in the U.S. outside of vegan circles so finding recipes can be difficult. I was stuck with a perfectly satisfactory but uninspiring side dish of quinoa, hazelnuts, and dried cranberries. Good but boring.

Then along came Joy (and yes, that’s her name). She’s a food blogger who makes me hungry AND makes me laugh which is almost always win-win. She posted a recipe for quinoa with black beans, mangoes and scallions that well, I inhaled. I don’t even have any photos to show because it was like a plague of locusts invaded my body. This recipe makes enough for 6 people and I ate all but 3 portions the first night. I should feel embarrassed but instead felt virtuous because not only was it fabulous but it was good for me!

Without further ado here is the recipe and the finished photo from Joy’s blog (so you have some idea how good it looks!). The combination of sweet mango with nutty crunchy grain and the bite of scallions is irresistably delicious. It keeps really well in the fridge and is a great snack, side dish, or main course especially when it’s hot out. I made it with leftover brown rice.

My biggest problem? J doesn’t like quinoa which is his tough luck because I’m making another batch next week.

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup uncooked millet (or other grain like brown rice, couscous, whatever sounds good to you!)
1 ripe mango
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped scallions
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cool water for 2 to 3 minutes. Place quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Add a bit of salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before fluffing. Cool slightly.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add millet and a bit of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cook uncovered until water has absorbed and millet is fluffy. If you don’t stir it too much during cooking, the millet will be fluffy.

Toss slightly cooled quinoa and millet with mango, black beans, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Five Decades

I had hoped to hit 50 and be one of those vibrant self-confident women who, while she has had her share of struggles throughout her life has, if not overcome them, been able to maintain a sunny disposition and inherent belief in a positive outcome. Oh, and be wise and kind as well. Hello, have I met myself in the last 50 years? I wasn’t that way at 20, 30 or 40. I have more the stoic, dear-God-please-let-it-get-better personality. I hear that it’s the journey not the destination but I’m ready for the gift shop and swimming pool.

But in an attempt to fake my way into a serene and well balanced persona I’m going to share a few of the things I have learned in the last little while. I cannot begin to call it wisdom because much of it I continued to disbelieve and/or repeat until trained psychiatric professionals intervened.

Let the fun begin!


For my 6th birthday I was given my first real non-baby doll. Her name was Francie and I believe she was Barbie’s cousin. As this was the pre consumption-run-amuck era I was only given one additional outfit. That night I dreamt that I was at another birthday party for me and the Francie outfits were mounded high on the floor and even included accessories like purses and gloves. I gathered as much swag into my arms as I could in the belief that if I held on until I woke up I would get to keep it all. It’s all been downhill since then.

Smoking is bad. Smoking the butt of a cigarette found in the driveway of weird neighborhood lady is worse. OR you could say this is good because I never experimented with cigarettes again.

Black licorice and orange juice do not go together.

Getting the flu and throwing up in your hair will not exempt you from church. God doesn’t care about vomit-caked hair (artfully hidden beneath a fake fur Eskimo hat)- it’s about being there.

If you insist on sneaking around after you’re supposed to be in bed and the babysitter is a vampire movie fan then you have no one to blame but yourself when you need to sleep with a sheet up around your head (no exposed neck ever!) until you leave for college.

It's called a Quad Party and this is as sober as I ever got.


NEVER ever ever kick your little brother between the legs, no matter how mean he is being. NEVER. No further explanation given but I get it now.

Try to be nice to your mother. She’s trying awfully hard to be nice to you and you are one big bitch.

I could do a novella on the ‘teaching moments’ of alcohol abuse but I’ll stick with two. 1. Tang and vodka are not a screwdriver. 2. When you are so badly hung-over that your skin hurts do not slake your raging thirst with cranberry juice.

Take care of your skin. No matter how drunk you are wash all make-up off before falling into bed/onto floor. Baby oil is not a sunscreen. Use it or be prepared for the consequences (think any picture of Donatella Versace taken in the last decade).

Scheduling your classes so as not to miss General Hospital is not the best use of your academic years.

Date a lot in college. Lots. Not hook-up but you will never again have the chance be surrounded such a large diverse population of the male gender- go arty, goth, jock, brainiac. Just don’t get serious and forget about yourself. These are boys not men and won’t reach maturity for another decade.

I was working every trend out there- swatch watch, Ray-bans,  men's boxers, bowling shirt, red scrunchy socks, and Converse canvas hightops. yeah, baby! Oh, and I'm pretty sure there was a scrunchy in my hair.


Skincare tip #2: Your ring finger is the weakest finger on your hand. Use it, not your pinky, to apply creams or makeup under your eyes. In the next decade it will matter.

Just because you can party hard and still get to work doesn’t mean you should. Throwing up in the ladies room while a client waits is not good business.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. Your 20s are for chaos and experimentation. You’re still growing so stay open to new experiences in your personal and professional life. Don’t live at home- seriously, don’t.

Hold onto whatever professional dreams you have but know that now is the time to pay your dues. If it’s legal and your boss wants it done, do it. You are NOT entitled to a job- just long hours, low pay, and abuse within legal limits.

In love

The baby fat is gone, the hormones regulated, and you’ve stopped partying so much. You look amazing with clear happy skin, healthy hair, and a great smile. You’re probably in better shape than you’ve ever been so SMILE. Wear that bikini and short skirt. Not at the same time.

Wear high heels.

If marriage is still your goal but hasn’t happened, it might be a good idea to review your must-have list. If it begins with references to any celebrity you’re probably on the wrong track.

Sleep. Get it while you can. Get a glorious 8 hours uninterrupted whenever possible because the days are coming when it will disappear like your college waist size.
Time to acknowledge you will end up like your mother. It may not be literal but you will either say or do something that will be the proverbial 2x4 in the face. For me, I have her eyes, her tendency towards drama, her anxiety, her expressive gestures. I also have her long slim legs, love of reading, and sense of humor. Find the best and be grateful.

Still a few years off from the big 5-0 but not many


Gracefully concede the stiletto to your younger self. A kitten heel is still sexy and wedge heels are in and provide a bit of stability.

Words like digestion and fiber are going to enter your vocabulary. Resistance is futile.

With age comes wisdom. This is not just something crones tell each other to feel better. You will find you understand so much more than you ever used to. Not ALL but more.

You’ll need reading glasses. You will go to bed reading the fine print of a medicine bottle and wake up unable to see the alarm clock. You can get angry or go for the cutest sassiest pair of reading glasses out there and own it.

Your metabolism will stop. NOT slow but stop. If you’ve been a sylph your whole life, prone to ordering pizza at 9:30 and laughing, “Oh, I can eat anything, I have a fast metabolism” you will now be paid back by every chubby girl who hated you in college. This occurs at 45. You’ll look at a donut and feel your waistband tighten. Either you start reading Michael Pollen and learn healthy eating or put Jenny Craig on speed dial.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Night

In the early years of our marriage J was a sales executive so he traveled 2-3 weeks out of the month. We had a beautiful new home in SLC and it came with a security system so I never questioned my safety. After my MS diagnosis when I was on extremely high doses of IV steroids I had horrible insomnia for months and as dreadful and scary as that time was I found peace walking through our house and watching the way the moon shifted on the walls or played against the carpet. I would stand still for long minutes listening to the silence or sit outside on our front steps watching the night sky, feeling calmed and peacefully in the moment- something I could not achieve during the day. Even if I was alone I was never frightened.

I still love darkness and night-time but now when J travels I’m less comfortable. We don’t have a security system but we live in a semi-rural neighborhood and all of our neighbors have dogs that bark incessantly at their own shadows so the fear is not quite rational and that’s the crux. While some of my fear is of a person or persons breaking in I’m also concerned that malicious otherworld intruders are out there. This is why watching Paranormal Activity several months ago was probably not a good idea- even though Jed was home at the time. Scary scary stuff ala Blair Witch.

I fall asleep each night that J is gone reveling in the luxury of the entire bed to myself and with the knowledge that no operatic cacophony of snores will awaken me. But at some point my slumber is disturbed by a sharp noise. Was that in our room or out in the neighborhood? Human or animal? Best not to open my eyes and be faced with what I’m certain are my last moments. The noise again and now I’m wide awake and motionless. I realize that my left arm is flung outside the covers and hovering perilously close to the edge of the bed. Not good. Everyone knows that demons and night monsters can’t get on the bed but if you are foolish enough to let an appendage hang over the side you may find it encircled by a furred clawed hand in preparation to being pulled off the bed and into the bowels of hell.

I lay, heart pounding, stomach churning, and hand carefully pulled back under the covers waiting for what I know will be my gruesome demise. Netherworld creatures are not known for compassion. You suffer before you die. By now I’m sweating but have no more intention of throwing off the covers than I do of turning on the light. One means instantaneous death and the other, well, do you really want to see the hounds of hell? Plus, I have forgotten to mention that my eyesight is slightly better than that of Mr. Magoo so I am utterly defenseless. I don’t even own a rosary anymore (note to self- if you survive, buy rosary and keep under pillow).

Finally, after what seems like hours I succumb to sleep and awake to another sunny day. Do I laugh at my foolish night-time self? Not likely. It’s not until I unlock the bedroom door and ascertain there are no demonic remains piled in the hall that I can stride out into the day. All night terrors have been vanquished and I can go back to dealing with real life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alone in the Kitchen

Anyone else have a spouse or partner who is so gifted in the kitchen the only thing you need to do is clean up? It’s a wonderful thing but also insidious in that over time you find yourself less and less capable of or willing to enter the terrain. J’s a great and careful cook. Me not so much. My knife skills (or lack thereof) scare him and I’ve actually been waved off from peeling apples. My attitude is, I made it through 39 years with all ten fingers so I must be doing something right and if I choose to peel the apple towards my palm so be it.

Still, J owns our kitchen. When we bought the house I decided on the location of the plates, silverware, and glasses in the cupboards because I am the sole keeper of the dishwasher (he had no idea how to maximize load). Every other pot, pan, chafing dish, measuring cup, and pantry item was decided by him. I let him, but now it means I have to ask if we have any light brown sugar because I have no idea how he’s organized things.

It is so nice to be taken care of (I have issues) but at the same time I’ve abdicated my ability to take care of myself. I can cook. I did it for the 21 years I lived without him but I no longer have the desire to do so and he does. For him it is a relaxing end to the day. Is this one of the normal division of duties that occur in a marriage or does it mean more? For me does it mean the loss of a part of myself that needs to be preserved for later use?

He’s been gone for 2 days and I’ve made dinner, dessert, and deep cleaned the counters, microwave, cooktop, and toaster oven. I’ve even cleaned/degreased the wooden cabinets (not done in two years. Yuck!) and polished them. Why don’t I do these things when he’s around? Is it learned helplessness or laziness? Feel free to chime in with your thoughts!

Deep relationship issues aside here are two of the meals I’ve made. Easy but healthy and delicious. I also made a batch of cupcakes from a Barefoot Contessa recipe but was not impressed. Despite having sour cream, butter, and buttermilk  they’re dry. Not a recipe I would make again. I know hard core bakers don’t want to hear this but I still find cake mixes yield the best results. There I said it.

Even though I’m not recommending the recipe I did promise my friend Amy I would include a photo of the result of my efforts. So here are chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting. Hold your applause.

Lemony Shrimp Salad with Couscous

1C couscous
1lb cooked medium shrimp
½lb snap peas, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces (I used green beans from our garden and they were delicious)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4c torn fresh basil leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2T olive oil
2t lemon zest
3T fresh lemon juice

Place couscous in a large bowl. Add 1C very hot water and 1/4t salt and pepper. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes; fluff with a fork.

In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients and toss to evenly coat. Serve over the couscous.

Adapted from Real Simple, July 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I Love This Week- Solitude

Critical preface: I love my husband. I truly deeply love my husband. He is kind, thoughtful, funny, responsible, and smart and as seen in my last post, he takes very good care of me. Lest this get too goopy he can also be a pain in my ass, as in if I’m trying to share an opinion about a British television show and I say $350 dollars he will immediately point out that it’s pounds and that the cost would actually be much higher in dollars. Uhmm, I graduated from college and I know the conversion rate but it’s not germane to my story so why are you interrupting me? Is inaccuracy painful to you?

Anyway, this gem of humanity is going out of town for 5 days. I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear:


Did I mention that I’m unemployed and therefore home 95% of the time? Oh, and he works from home? Do the math and you’ll get my drift.

I call it solitude. Others, like my father, call it sullen, as in "Quit sulking on that rock young lady and go play with your brothers."

This calls for some serious joy and misbehaving. By misbehaving I mean:

watch TV until all hours and eat at the same time

 restrict my food intake to 3 food groups- salt, sugar, wine (yes, it is)

my first encounter with my dear friend, chocolate

take up the whole bed

catch up on messy skincare regimens (they have no idea how much work it takes!)

And let's not forget: burp, mis-use his knives, wait until the dishwasher is full to run it.

Oh the mischief! Oh the mayhem!

The slothfest officially begins the minute I get back from the airport.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Violently Independent

I didn’t get married until I was almost 40 years old and so was quite used to taking care of myself in all respects. Additionally, my husband’s ex is an avaricious, vindictive, bad person, so I didn’t want our finances merged. In fact, they’re still separate. I loved him but I didn’t ‘need’ him and honestly couldn’t understand why he would want me to. As I put it, “I want to be with you. Isn’t that better than need?” I equate need with neediness which is a state I abhor. I had always taken care of myself so getting married for that reason seems completely foreign. He seemed to get it or at least acted like he did.

Eighteen months after I was diagnosed with MS I started having some real let’s call them ‘digestive problems’. The kind you don’t want to talk about and honestly, no one wants to hear about. Bottom line (OK, that’s funny): everything I ate ‘disagreed’ with me so I started popping Immodium like Pez. After 6 months of no relief I saw my doctor who said it was likely IBS, many women suffered from it, and gaily proclaimed that 9 Immodium a day was no big deal; she had patients who took that much for decades but, just in case, she’d run some blood work, which came back inconclusive.

As much fun as I was having, I decide to see a specialist. They ran a very basic, not particularly glamorous, test and determined in less than 24 hours that I was rife with a particularly virulent little bit of bacteria called clostridium difficile. People who take a lot of antibiotics or have prolonged hospital stays suffer from this but it was never determined how I got so lucky. Thankfully, it can be cured by a pill but it only works on 50% of patients but the insurance company insists you take it and fail it before they’ll pay for the second medicine which has a much higher success rate. So, you’re in for about 2 months of meds- during which you can’t take Immodium because that allows the bacteria to sit in your intestines and proliferate.

I’ll cut to the chase. I had basically turned my intestines into a c.diff playground and so failed the first medicine. I had to go on the second which meant all told I went through 8 weeks of antibiotics which killed off EVERY bit of bacteria in my guts- including the healthy kind. Between my foolish actions, the disease, and the cure I was no longer able to process food. I was hungry, I ate, I went to the bathroom. Up to 40 times day. I was in pain much of the time and was losing an alarming (but not surprising) amount of weight, from 135 to 117. I’m 5’9” so this was not attractive. I became so weak I was only comfortable walking while supporting myself along the wall. I remember looking at my concave stomach and feeling frightened. I looked at my face and while I had cheekbones like a knife edge my skin was grey, really and truly grey. The c.diff was gone but I was no longer healing; my body was simply shutting down and the doctors were running out of non-surgical options.

Even at this point, I continued my yoga practice at home, which largely consisted of forward folds and shavasana (lying on your back w/ eyes closed). At the end of one session I knelt in child’s pose, resting my forehead on my knees and with eyes closed whispered, “I submit. If there is a lesson to be learned show me. If it’s to be death, I accept as I know I can’t live much longer like this.” There was no voice from the universe only silence. The next day the response came in the voice of a wonderful therapist a friend had recommended. She was the only appointment I kept in those days even if all I did was lie on a couch while she chanted over me and burned incense. On this occasion I relayed my words and she replied, “Maybe there are two lessons and only one is yours. Maybe you need to accept being weak. So weak that your husband has to help you walk and feed you. The other lesson is you have to let your husband be strong. Let him take care of you. It’s his lesson too.”

My initial reaction was to struggle against her words. My brain began with all the ways I was still ‘managing’ (what a silly word at that point) the situation by myself. Then my mind tired and my heart opened and I knew it to be true. The strongest thing my spirit could do was be weak. So I let go and learned what a man I’d married.

It would be nice if I was the type who had only to learn a lesson once but that’s not the case. In recent weeks I’ve struggled and raged about my future (as seen here, here, and here). When I’ve managed to cast off the fear-induced anger and embrace the vulnerable I’ve found again that I am not quite so alone. The path is mine but in opening myself to others there is support and comfort. Independent, yes. Alone, no.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Adventure- ObonFest

Every year the Oregon Buddhist Temple celebrates Obon- the Japanese festival of ancestral worship. This Buddhist ceremony has been celebrated in Japan for 500 years and is a time of renewal and reunion for families. White lanterns are hung up with the deceased relative’s name to honor them.

The festival in Portland includes food, dance, music, and tours of the temple. I’d never been before and as it was another gorgeous day, thought I’d check it out. I was especially interested in hearing the taiko (Japanese drum) group.

The drumming was amazing, the food delicious (how can you go wrong with yakisoba noodles?), and the atmosphere friendly. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's My Freak Flag and I'm Flying It

Call it a new alignment of the stars, a chakra adjustment, re-balanced chi, or just a serious change of attitude but here is where I am right now. And I’m going to do my best to stay for a while.

(I may be in a new space but the beginning of this video is a bit much. You can fast forward to 2:40 when the song begins)

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir
"There's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause he made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set

 And since I’m already hanging from this slender limb…this guy is H-O-T. Yes, I said it and yes, I mean it. Really.

What flies your freak flag, gives you power, makes your heart dance? Not a ‘happy’ thing- but a joyous anger, a ‘here I am this is it’ thing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I Love This Week- Simply Summer

For many, winters in Oregon are a time of almost unbearable bleakness; day after day of grey and, more often than not, rain. At some point between December and February snow will make an appearance but not to any degree as real northerners understand it. Less than 6”, slushy, and melts within hours. Despite my whining on any number of other topics, I’m pretty sure the weather here is not one I’ve touched. Maybe because we’ve only been here for 3 years but mostly because even at its worst it’s so much better then where we were. I’ll take torrential rain over snow anytime.


Right now I’m grateful for sunny days that peak at 82°, contain a light cooling breeze, and gently descend to night-time lows that make for the most delicious sleep of all (when you can get it). That chilly need-a-blanket but don’t feel cold sleep. In the morning you’re awakened to the same crisp breeze but with the promise of sunshine on your face. Indolence is the only option; luxuriating with catlike appreciation the half sleep of morning when muscles and mind are equally relaxed and concerned only with prolonging the pleasure of the moment. It’s a moment in time when I can revel in not having to get up for work.

I’m not trying to rub it in the face of any readers who are suffering in sweltering heat and stultifying humidity. I put in my time in such lovely locales as Atlanta, New York City, Buffalo, and Salt Lake City. Atlanta and NYC at least have vibrant lifestyles to recommend them but Buffalo- well, I was a student, they have good bars, cheap bad food, and I had a perm without ever getting a perm. SLC is another story- a two season town. Winter and hell. Oh wait, winter can be hellish as well. Anyway, dry heat is less unpleasant than humid heat up to a point. When you cruise past 100° there’s nothing good to be said. The dryness becomes toxic as your skin cracks before you can get lotion on it. Not pleasant at all.

My euphoria may also be due to the fact that after 2 years we paid a professional to clean our windows inside and out AND brush the screens. Who knew the sun was so bright?

So here I am in a place with a summer that gives me the same carefree feeling I had as a child; when nothing was more important than walking on grass in your bare feet and eating fresh juicy fruit that got all over your hands and clothes. Breezy, warm but not hot, everything green and vibrant. I am truly grateful for these days.
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