Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Oatmeal Caught Me Watching Food Porn

A brief and incomplete list of things I am not supposed to eat: Bacon, fried foods, dairy, gluten, citrus, tomatoes, mint, coffee, egg yolks, dark chocolate, anything too acidic, anything too fatty, or anything too spicy. Do I stick to this? Um…. (points to the sky) HEY! IS THAT A SPACE SHIP?!

The first time a doctor told me that I had to break up with a food was in 1989. I’d been having these sharp pains in my side and when I went to the doctor, based on my family history he said: “It sounds to me like you have gallbladder disease.” I was sent for an ultrasound, and no stones were discovered. He told me, as he checked things off on his clip board in an ‘I’ve-got-other-patients-in-the-waiting-room’ sort of way, “Stay away from bacon, fried foods, egg yolks, orange juice, or anything too spicy. See the receptionist to make your co-pay.” Oh. Ok.

After that, over the years, in addition to gallbladder disease, I’ve been told that I have lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, IBS, gluten sensitivity, and that my stomach is basically an acid factory. (The latter being the only condition I decided to accept medication for, because, quite frankly, I was unable to manage the horrible symptoms with diet alone.) It sounds pretty depressing, but honestly, I’m pretty lucky in that you can feed me pretty much anything. I love whole, natural foods every bit as much as I loved McDonalds as a kid. I always tell people that I’m easy to feed, and it’s the truth. I really do adore grilled salmon with sautéed baby spinach and brown rice. I could have that every night and be totally happy. Chicken breast with cilantro and mixed grilled veggies? Bring it on! Fresh fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese? Pass me a spoon! Quinoa… with pretty much ANYTHING? Hell yes! But ask me if I want a slice of really good  pizza or if I’d like to go get a traditional New England summer seafood plate overflowing with fried scallops and French fries and … after a moment’s hesitation and the odd prayer that I won’t die an hour afterwards… I’m also going to say “absolutely! What time and where??”

Look, I’m half Italian, and my other half doesn’t know it’s not. Stick a slice of sausage pizza under my nose and I’m going to bite. If I get your hand, oh well. And let’s look at that: Gluten laden crust, tomato sauce, dairy melted over the top, and spicy, fatty sausage. So what happens to me when I indulge? It depends: if I have been a good girl for weeks on end, then probably nothing but the addition of another pound or two. But, if I’ve cheated within the last 24-48 hours, let’s just say I’ll regret the indulgence in a big way, and spend a few hours laying on a beach towel on my bathroom floor begging God to forgive me and swearing I’ll never do it again. Of course, He and I both know that’s never lasted very long…

Back in the days when I had cable TV, I watched a LOT of Food Network. Oh, how I loved Emeril Live and Good Eats! Now that I’ve told the cable company to go pound sand with their insane fees, I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings so that I can watch Phantom Gourmet.

(If you don’t live in the Boston area, you’re missing out. )

Why the interest in looking at food I can’t touch, taste, or even smell? Well, I suppose it’s for the same reason people look at porn. Really sinful foods plated well and shot from seductive angles … cheese bubbling and sauces oozing for the camera… are just enough to calm the odd craving for something that, should I actually consume it, would get me into a lot of trouble. I mean, let’s face it… if I had mozzarella sticks and garlic bread, fettuccini Alfredo and bacon wrapped scallops, crab rangoons and triple layer chocolate cake every time I wanted to, I’d probably already have had a heart attack by now and I’d definitely be ten feet wide.

Despite all these food restrictions and “conditions,” I actually consider myself lucky in that when I walk into a supermarket, I’m fascinated and awestruck by the produce department. It’s goofy, I know, but really… the colors, the shapes, the scents… and my mind starts going off in 50 directions as to what I could do with each lovely fruit or veggie: what I could pair it with, and how I could prepare it. I suppose this is God’s way of helping me through all the horrible food break-ups I’ve had. Someone like me who loves rich, heavy, gooey foods could easily have given up and just continued to eat all of the things I was advised not to, gained 200 pounds, and developed congestive heart failure or just spent my life morbidly obese stubbornly refusing to change my ways… maybe THAT is the non-Italian half of me rearing it’s life-saving head.

I also consider myself lucky in that there are worse conditions I could have. A friend of mine has all of the same ailments as me with the exception of the gluten sensitivity; but she also has conditions that prevent her from being able to eat anything with tiny seeds, or eating garlic, or drinking vodka, and I’m sure there are other things on her forbidden list that I’m forgetting. She and I maintain a healthy sense of humor about our food predicament, and thank God we have each other to laugh with.

If your doctor tells you that you need to say goodbye to a beloved food, or foods, don’t despair. Believe me: It’s truly not the end of the culinary world and if you’re willing to try new things you’ll find there are fantastic things you have been missing out on. If not for my health consciousness I never would have tried sushi, which I would now choose over Alfredo sauce any day. If not for my “conditions” I would never have attempted cooking Thai rice noodles, which I now love enough to marry. And… when all else fails… there’s always food porn.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Video Killed The Radio Star, But Texting Killed The Romance

Did you know that your mobile device has a feature that allows you to talk to your friends in real-time and hear them, as well? It’s amazing! It’s called a “telephone call.” You simply dial a number that’s been assigned to your friend, they are alerted of your desire to talk to them by an audible sound of their choosing (traditionally a sound of ringing bells) and they answer …. Voila! You can talk to each other for hours and hours … or only for a moment, if that’s your desire… and actually enjoy a conversation where the sound of their voice, their infectious laughter, and their tone and meaning are able to come through loud and clear. I know, I know… the technology is mind boggling… but it really works! Trust me; I talk to my friends this way from time to time.
Yes, I’m being snarky. Don’t get me wrong, I do text, and I find it useful and convenient for some things, but really people, what ever happened to the phone call? Especially in male/female relationships? Seriously, have we gotten that lazy that we can’t find the energy and drive to actually SPEAK to the people in our lives? Is it too much effort to actually engage in a real conversation where you have to actually give your undivided attention to another human being for a few minutes? It’s bad enough when my female friends want to discuss something important over text and burn a hole in my cell phone but when a man wants to talk to me… really… if he can’t pick up the phone and speak to me I pretty much get turned off and think “no manners on that one.” Besides, I’m really not into the idea of dating the equivalent of an “app.” If all you’re going to do is text me all the time then I’m better off to just read a book.
The whole point of communicating with someone should go much deeper than just the exchange of random crap like “running ten minutes late,” which, by the way, is what texting should be for. Communication should be a little more of a human interaction than that. It’s stimulation of the brain, the art of conversation, the sound of your voice, the spontaneous changes of subject, the laughter, the connection… you see what I’m driving at here? I have nothing against the texting of a sweet message like “Miss you” or some other small phrase that speaks a thousand words in its ability to convey  that you can’t stop yourself from contacting your sweetie. Those texts are marvelous and romantic and give a girl a serious case of the warm fuzzies and can earn you lots of brownie points to be cashed in at bed time. (Or dinner time, or shower time, or you know… whenever.) It’s also great to get a text when we know you’re in a meeting or someplace you shouldn’t be texting us. Actually, that’s pretty damn hot.
However… when you’re on the sofa, or otherwise engaged in just “killing time” and you text us to “talk,” it’s basically like telling us that we’re pretty much on the bottom of your priority list. I know everyone is into “multi-tasking” now, but come on… human beings are still way more important than machines. Televisions, Wii consoles, laptops, smart phones… they’re going to be there for those moments when you truly have nothing better to do. They aren’t going to pack up and move out of your apartment if you neglect them. One of my favorite sayings in the whole world is “happiness is only real when shared.” It’s something I saw in a movie. (Into The Wild) In all honesty, your relationships with people are truly the things you should be working on in your life. Not just the people you date, but all of the people in your life.
Texting has its place (and so does sexting, actually,) but you can’t base a relationship on it. A relationship should NEVER get to the point where texting is the form of communication of choice. Relationships are supposed to progress and blossom and become stronger and bring people closer. There is an element of human connection that is lost in texting. Things don’t translate clearly, for one thing; sometimes causing unnecessary arguments or misunderstandings. Secondly, with texting, it’s impossible to have an actual conversation: a FULL  conversation. Texting doesn’t convey the true emotion that is in someone’s voice, it doesn’t allow for the natural flow of idea exchange, and it sure as hell doesn’t create bonds between people.  And for the love of God... if I call you and leave you a message, don't respond with a text saying "Hey, got your message. What's up?" If I called, you - have the decency to call me back unless you're suffering from laryngitis.
The next time you have to tell someone something, or ask someone something, or even just want to ask how someone is doing, call them. Get comfy and settle into your chair and actually have a human to human conversation with them. You might recall the sensation from your childhood. It’s an amazing thing, human interaction. It brings people closer together. What’s really great, though, is when that phone call leads to “getting together.” Now, THAT is really something special. Yes, I’m being snarky again, sorry. We all have a little spare time in which to cultivate our relationships; the next time you think of someone, try calling them. It could be surprisingly pleasant. I know for me, the greatest thing is the sound of laughter coming from someone I care about. It just loses something in translation when all I get to do is see the letters LOL. Well, gotta go for now, the phone’s ringing!  (not mine, yours!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Keeping It Real

“Don’t bottle up your feelings!” Who hasn’t heard that before? It’s true, you know. You really shouldn’t. It’s much healthier on every level to let them out. Bottling up your feelings is really unhealthy. It increases your stress level, and it can actually make you physically sick. So, let all that pent up crap fly. For some people that means talking about their problems, but, for some of us, it means diving into our creative outlet and pouring it all out. If you’re a painter, or if you make music, or if you sculpt, or… perhaps even if you write… you know what I mean by that.

For those of us who tend to “create” when we have something inside, there are options you face when creating. How much of yourself and your inner struggles and emotional bullshit do you actually pour into the project? How honest do you get about it? And, if you choose to take it all the way; really dump your heart, soul and guts into something, do you then show it to the world, or do you slip it into the way back part of the closet behind the ugly clothes you never wear?

I always find it a little silly when I hear controversy about paintings or sculptures that depict things people find “offensive.” Nudity, sexuality… whatever the case may be, if you ask the artist what they were trying to showcase they never say “I’m just really into porn, so I thought… hey… paint naked people getting it on.” Maybe you have to have a different mindset to understand that kind of art than some of the stuffier “shocked” folks have, I honestly don’t know. Personally, that stuff never shocks me. But, I’m into writing… that’s my outlet, and my way of expressing myself and my way of coping… I write. So, especially when writing this blog, the question comes up for me all the time: In attempting to keep it real, how real is too real?

I honestly don’t have any issue with pouring out my personal feelings, my thoughts, my opinions, sharing my most personal experiences or confronting my fears publicly. I really do believe right down to my bone marrow that life is entirely too short to ever hold back. Those of you who know me know perfectly well that I’m not shy about telling you in open wound fashion if I love you, what I think your greatest qualities are, or how important you are to me. I’m also not ashamed to discuss private matters if I think my experiences could help you gain some kind of insight into something you’re going through or if you are considering doing something I have experience with.

No, my issues with keeping it real arise when I consider how things I might share would affect other people. You may have noticed that many times when I tell stories I do so without mentioning names. I do that in the hopes that those I’m speaking of will feel anonymous enough not to be upset that I’ve blogged about them. (*Thus far, those who I’ve mentioned have known instantly that they were the person in my story and nobody has been upset… yet.) As a writer, though, there are so many other stories I’d like to tell… so many other things I’d like to share… so many things I go through that, were it not for the feelings of other people, I’d spill my guts out about in the realest possible fashion.

So enters the cliché: Some things are better left unsaid. Unfortunately, as a writer, this really cuts me off in a way I’m struggling with. How polite is too polite? I mean, if writing is my way of coping, do I simply write these things … get it all out… and then delete the file? More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that that’s not really “getting out of my system” at all. In fact, in some way, that’s bottling it all up. I am struggling with trying to answer the question: When are you being unfair to yourself by trying to be kind to others? I’m not about to post something that I think will upset someone I love, yet what does that leave a truly honest and open person to do when they write? It makes me feel like my hands are tied sometimes.

I’ve often heard the phrase “artistic integrity” and never really thought much about it. I guess I didn’t really consider myself an artist. But I do think writing is an art, and one I couldn’t possibly live without. Keeping this blog real is getting harder and harder… because there are things I want to write about that are my observations and opinions about life. My life, the world around me, the people I know and love, and how I feel about things … it was the whole point of starting this thing… and now moving forward may require that people who know me well realize that writing truly is what makes me whole. I can cope with nothing difficult in life if I cannot write about it, and writing about it cannot consist of hitting the delete key in the end, or leaving a will that states “Ok, I’m dead now. Here’s how I felt.”

So… if you paint, or sculpt, or dance, or create beautiful music… do so in a way that is true to yourself, because if you don’t, you might just as well move yourself to the back of the closet with the rest of your reality. I’ve decided not to live there.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ghosts of You

There are Ghosts of you everywhere
And I’m supposed to be all right
Ghosts everywhere I look

The door I watched you open
The rug where we made love
The Ghost of you is in this chair
Where I sit to write

I see you
I feel you
I hear your voice
See you smile

I feel your kiss
You’re haunting me
It was just a little while

Yet you haunt
You’re indelible
You just won’t fade away

I keep waiting
That someday I won’t see
The Ghost of you
Hear your laugh
And hurt the way I do

Soul mates are forever
And I’m woven into you.