May 2007

I’ve just had the longest 4-day weekend ever, and I just don’t want to do anything. Here’s why:

1. I’m tired. Usually, when we visit my in-laws, we have a relaxing time, not worrying about our kids and in general not lifting a finger. This time, Derek was roofing the whole time, until dark every night. Derek’s mom, Toni, was busy getting the house ready for us, for her parents, her brother, and Derek’s brother and his wife. Derek’s sister Britanna was gone to work most of the time. His dad was up on the roof, too. There was a big family gathering on Sunday, so there was much cooking to do. Plus, Toni had and infection in a wound that made her need more rest than normal. She really doesn’t rest at all, unless ordered by a doctor.

So I actually had to do some of the work. I bet most of the people there would have a differing opinion, judging from the amount of time I spent with my eyes closed, but I must have done something, because I’m exhausted.

2. I’m sad. This might just be another manifestation of being exhausted. And of not having spent much time with my husband for the past week. He’s been wrapping up the dissertation, and has had to work extra hours. And then we blew the weekend roofing.

3. I’m cold. I hate being cold. Ever since my 15 months in the Philippines, the cold really gets to me, and it makes me very irritable. Plus, I think my internal furnace is faulty. I get cold when normal people feel just fine. And my feet turn to ice blocks that are very hard to thaw. And then I can’t sleep. And I’m cranky when I don’t get any sleep.

4. My body feels icky. Whenever we go away from home, we eat differently that we’re used to. We don’t keep things like potato chips and packaged snack foods and candy in the house, and we generally eat meat only a couple times a week. So when all the meals include lots of meat, lots of chips and snacky things, no whole grains, and there’s always dessert, we just don’t do very well. And the problem is that we like those things too much to just pass them by when they’re there. It’s also much harder to regulate what the kids are eating, because you can’t really restrict their treats when they see everyone else getting treats.

5. My house is messy. Too much stuff. Toys on the floor, laundry and mail on the couch. I haven’t unpacked from the weekend.

6. We don’t have any vegetables in the fridge. Or milk.

7. I have a book to read, and it’s good. The story is interesting, and the writing is lovely. It’s the kind of writing that makes me want to be a writer.

8. My babygirl is out of sorts from the weird weekend, and she wants me to hold her all the freaking time. I hate one-handed typing.

9. My mommy is gone on a trip and I can’t call her to cry.

10. I went to visit Bon and her little Pearl in the hospital. I’m such a complainer.

When I was awake at 12:45 this morning taking care of leg-aches in a 3-year-old and feeding a 7-month-old, I was formulating in my mind this wonderful post about Spike and the ironies of having amnesia, while wearing a disguise and waking up with a crowd of people that are not friends, and having a mind-controlling microchip brain-implant that causes extreme pain even at the mere thought of harming a live human. Not an ideal situation for a vampire.

Randy, aka Spike, transcends his vampiric, technological, and forgetful shackles, and declares himself a “Noble Vampire” when he joins Joan, aka Buffy, in the fight against shark-shaped evil. Is this the start of a brilliant commentary on the human condition? Or is it the dark, delusional raving of a sleep-deprived mind?

In case you’re unfamiliar with this part of the story, Spike is the evil, super-villain bad guy vampire, who has met up with a secret branch of the government that implants hostile demons with microchips that inhibit violent behavior. He is therefore unable to acquire lunch for himself. He has made some enemies in the demon world by colluding with the enemy, Buffy and her non-superhero minions, because they can’t harm him while he can’t harm them (they’re only protectors, not avengers), and they can buy him pig’s blood. So sometimes Spike fights the other bad guys. They’re not human, so it doesn’t hurt. Plus he has a major vampire crush on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. That doesn’t really work for Buffy, and she’s mostly repulsed by him. Mostly.

So Spike is running away from the shark-dude, who, I believe, is a loan-shark. Spike owes him money. Spike dresses up in tweeds and runs to hide at the magic shop, where Buffy and her cohorts hang. Pre-BIG-BAD Willow is trying to make her lover forget a little spat, and the forgetfulness spell goes awry, causing everyone in the magic shop to drop to the floor/counter/table unconscious. When they wake, they try to determine who they are and their relationships to each other, guessing at names from available information. Spike decides he’s Giles-the-magic-shop-owner-and-Buffy’s-trainer’s son, because they’re both British. Giles decides he’s engaged to Anya, who is sporting a ring, and who fell asleep on his shoulder. Willow forgets she’s gay. Buffy calls herself Joan, because she likes the name. They all go out to kick some demon butt, and Spike, discovering he, too, has superpowers, declares himself to be a Noble Vampire, one with a soul, who fights the forces of evil alongside the likes of the Slayer.

I think I must also be a Noble Vampire. In spite of the bad side of my nature, I want to let the good side of my nature win. I’m wearing a disguise that makes me forget who I am. Evil creeps into my house daily. It spreads itself across my floor, slimes my couch, and tries to take over my mind.  It tries to make me turn against my family, to yell at my kids, to abuse my body. Yet I want to fight. Even as I lie in the swamp, feeling the pull of the bog below me, I feel the clean air above, and I feel the grasping hands of my angels pulling me up. I have to care. I have to use my superpowers for good. I have to remember that every superhero has a kryptonite, and every superhero fights anyway.

Delusional ravings of a sleep-deprived mind. In the daylight, the brilliance of it evaporated like so much vampire dust.

I have been ruminating over this post by CJane for a while now. It is a discussion on the body as a thing of beauty, an incomparable gift, that we (women, mostly) look at as imperfect, substandard, or undesirable. CJane had posted earlier about cosmetic surgery, and asked what her readers would change if they could. In the new post, she asked what her readers loved about their bodies.

Many of the comments, including mine, were about things like hands, feet, collarbones, things that are inherently lean. I’ve thought about this, and I find it interesting. Not many of the female commenters loved their abdominal region, though the ones who did loved it for its ability to produce a child, not for its appearance.

I left a comment:

I love my feet. I have long spaghetti toes, and the baby toe is curled on its side. Dainty little ankles, and lots of tendons poking out all over. I also have great cheekbones. When I turned 30, I lost all the baby roundness of my face, and now I almost look sophisticated, with my hollow cheeks, pointy chin, and exotic, far-apart alien eyes. At least in pictures.

My body is a machine. I can run for an hour, and hold a baby for two or three. Not at the same time. I am a milk truck. I feed a whole person just from what my body makes each day. It’s funny to think my baby is made of milk.

I have these cute little rolls on my back.

I think the parable of the talents applies not only to abilities, but to other attributes, as well, including physical ones. Maybe we knew what we’d get, and maybe we didn’t. I don’t think we cared. I believe that the prospect of birth and life was far greater than any caring we might have ever had about our physical appearance. I think we knew it would be hard, but we wanted it anyway.

I have thought and thought about this idea of liking parts of my body. I read all the other comments, and tried to imagine liking, nay, loving each of those body parts. I’ve hated certain aspects of my physique since I was a teenager. I remember being asked, as a Freshman in High School, if there was anything about my body that I liked. I replied that I liked my hands, “because that’s the only part of me that isn’t fat.” I was 13, and, looking back, not fat. My self-image has always been negative. I’ve dreamed of all the things I would change if I had the chance. By “change,” I mean surgery. I’ve always wanted breast-reduction surgery. I’ve wished I could have the floppy, stretch-mark scarred belly removed, and a flat 6-pack put in its place. I would have my hips contoured to be smooth, instead of bumpy.

For the past week or so, my feelings have been changing. I noticed it for the first time when, on a drive on the freeway, I saw a billboard advertising “non-surgical” reshaping, with a picture of a perfect hourglass shaped woman. I found myself thinking how sad it would be if everyone received this treatment. We would all be identical. There would be no variation, no interesting diversity. Nothing to set us apart from the crowd.

Thinking about this brought me to the realization that I no longer want to have anything on my body changed. My body is so unique. My shape is the only one like it in the world. I love my body because it’s strong and able, but I also love it because it is beautiful.

I’m in love with all the cruciferous vegetables, but nobody ever talks about cabbage. I once went shopping at the local health-food store, and bought a regular old head of green cabbage. I took it to the check-out counter, and the kid behind the register picked it up, turned it all around, and asked what it was. “Cabbage,” I replied. He took out the little produce code sheet, looked up and down, found the cabbages, and asked me, “What kind?”

How many kinds of round cabbage are there? There are two: Red, and Green. What color was my cabbage? Even a colorblind person can tell the subtle differences between a pale green cabbage and a deep purple cabbage. I know this because I’m married to a colorblind person. Although he cannot tell between a green car and a gray car.

I didn’t laugh at the check-out boy. Nearly every time I go there, someone asks me what I’m purchasing, or at the very least, “What on earth you DO with that block of tofu, that bunch of watercress, or that pristine acorn squash?” (Did you know that watercress grows in the wild in all 50 states? And it’s another cruciferous, delicious, and vitamin-ey vegetable? It’s one of the main ones in V-8)

I buy a lot of cabbage, both red and green. I love it. I love it cooked, I love it raw. I love it in curry, with peanut sauce, braised with onions and raisins, stir-fried with chiles and mustard seeds, sauteed with butter (and bacon, if I have any), mixed into mashed potatoes, added to soups, and maybe most of all, in cole slaw.

Cole, or Kohl is the Germanic word for cabbage, and Slaw comes from Sla, which is the Dutch word for Salad, which is an alteration of Salata, the Italian for “salted.” So to be a salad, it has to be salted. When I went to Rome, we were served piles of lettuce with salt and pepper on them when we ordered salad.

I like to make a big bowl of cole slaw, and have it for lunch every day. Today, I asked Calvin if he would like some. Miraculously, he has decided that he loves cole slaw. His friend, T, was here  for lunch, and Cal asked T if he would like some too. T asked what it was. Calvin said, “It’s cabbage with mayonnaise and sugar.” Then he looked at me and asked what else was in it.

“Mustard, salt, and vinegar.” Calvin repeated everything I said, and then informed T that vinegar is “like what you sometimes put on salad.” He’s really fond of balsamic vinaigrette.

I’m glad that I decided to make cole slaw just for me. I never used to make it, because no-one else would eat it. Derek hates it. But after about 2 weeks of having it nearly every day, now one of my sons loves it. I feel successful.

Standard Cole Slaw 

1 head cabbage, red or green, shredded
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 T white vinegar
2 T agave syrup or sugar, more or less to taste (I almost always add more)
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Put the shredded cabbage in a big bowl. Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl, then combine. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if you have time.

1. add 1 T curry powder.
2. Add 1/2 cup raisins to green cabbage slaw, or 1/2 cup golden raisins to red slaw. Add these just before serving, because they plump over time.
3. Add 1 Cup shredded carrots to green slaw.
4. Add all of the above.
5. Use 2 T plain yogurt and 2 T mayonnaise.
6. Use other shredded cruciferous veggies in place of some or all of the cabbage. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Broccoflower, Daikon Radish, Turnips, Kale, Collards, etc.

Calvin and Zeeb are taking turns getting up from the dinner table and running to whisper a secret in the other’s ear. I can hear all their secrets loud and clear. Many of them are words that start with “P.” My favorite sounds like this: “My teeth got into my bearskin tights.”

They have just returned home from a couple of days being shuffled from one Grandma to the other. Oma took them swimming with my brother, Icecat. She bought them new goggles and made them hot dogs for dinner. She is a complete pushover, when it comes to her children and grandchildren. She’s so in love that she will do anything. I honestly try not to take advantage of her, but she gets sad when she can’t see them every day.

Grandma Toni also took them swimming, and to Carl’s Jr. for lunch. She still has two kids at home, so they play with the boys. I guess they tried to get Toni to let them sleep on the trampoline, but it didn’t work.

The reason for their being shipped off is that I went on a little road trip. Yes, I got out of the house for two whole days. My aunt Barbara was in town. She had bought a one-acre plot of land in Widtsoe, which is a ghost town in Southern Utah, near Bryce Canyon. Widtsoe was abandoned in the 1930’s, and all that’s left is a school house two dwellings,  and lots of sagebrush. My dad bought some land there, so Barbara bought a piece too, and plans to build a cabin there. Actually, her husband plans to build, with his own hands, a home using straw-bale construction. That’s right, he wants to build a house out of bales of straw.

So Barbara, my dad, and my dad’s friend Holly, and I drove through central Utah, stopped for dinner at the Big Rock Candy Mountain (we hiked around looking for the Lemonade Springs, but couldn’t find them), and continued down to Widtsoe. Oh, yeah, I took Kiki with me. She was a doll for the first day, but then she started to resent being stuck in the car seat, and wailed most of the time the second day. She didn’t even want to hike around in the Dixie National Forest, even though I had borrowed on of those fancy baby-backpacks.

So I spent my 32nd birthday on a road trip through Utah. Barbara made sure I had my circus peanut fix. Barbara is the only other person in the world besides Karee that gives me circus peanuts. She once sent me a bag while I was living in the Philippines. That might be a lie, about those two being the only ones. I’m pretty sure, upon thinking further, that my dad has also provided them on occasion. He always comes through with the marshmallow Peeps at Easter, too. And my cousin, Liz, has supported my habit, too. Liz is my sister-cousin. Neither of us has a sister, but we have each other.

For your information, the test flavor Doritos x-13D tastes like pickles. The dill kind. And maybe some ketchup and mustard. With a hint of burger. But mostly pickles.

Derek and I ran the Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday. This was my first race in almost 2 years, since I had such an eventful time after my last 1/2 marathon. We got Derek’s whole family in on it, though most of them walked the 3 miles. Derek, Britanna, and I started running about 7 minutes after the gun, because that’s how long it took us to get from where we were, behind 10,000 people, to the starting line. As we were walking, Derek said, “Wow, this is gonna be a 5K mosey.” Britanna ran with us for about 1/2 mile, then separated and walked for a little while.

Derek and I were together until about half way. Derek hasn’t been running for about a month, so I was glad he could do that much, although we were running about as slow as I know how. I didn’t get the race thing that makes you get jittery and start out fast. I knew I wasn’t being timed, so I treated it like any old morning run. I didn’t even warm up, so that first half was the warm up. Derek claims that when he started walking, I picked up speed, but I don’t remember doing so. He only walked for a few minutes, then ran the rest of the way. But he still came in 2 1/2 minutes after me. Yee-Haw!

I finished in 27:56, which is my slowest 5K by about 3 minutes. I usually get pretty nauseated after a race, but this time it was so mild. I don’t feel like I exerted myself very much. Which is actually very good, since my goal was to finish in 29 minutes, and not worry about it at all.

So I feel like it was a very good first race of the season, and especially good since I’m still recovering from childbirth. I know, that was 7 months ago, but unless you’re me, you don’t know how hard it was. I’ve been taking it so slow.

I think there were about 15,000 people in the race. I’m not kidding. There were more people in one place that I have ever seen before. It was incredible, and very claustrophobic. I think I might have gone an extra 1/4 mile just from all the weaving in and out of walkers and people with strollers.

The highlight of the race was when Derek told me later that when he started walking and I ran ahead of him, he heard a group of women commenting on people’s running attire, and as I ran by, they pointed and said, “Oooo, I like that one!” I always have bright shirts to run in, so the one I had on was a cute, fitted, bright orange Patagonia running shirt, with my black tights. I won’t give the lecture on the benefits of spandex while running, but I won’t run with anything else on my legs.

So I ran a race. I can’t really brag about it, but I’m glad I did it, I finished, and it wasn’t bad. Running makes me happy.

The first time I made this salad, I used fresh baby greens that I had picked out of my own garden, and the chives and rosemary came from my herb garden. I had dried the pears the fall before. I felt such a sense of love for my food, since much of it had come from my own toil. I don’t know how much of that feeling translated into how much we loved the salad, but this was the one that converted Derek into a salad person. The arugula is a central part of why it is so good, so please don’t leave it out if you can find it.

Spring Salad for 2-4

6-9 oz mixed baby salad greens, such as red leaf, green leaf, arugula, frisee, etc.
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (don’t use the garlic or pepper feta, just plain)
a handful of chives, snipped
a sprig or two of rosemary, chopped
a handful of dried pears, chopped into slivers, or dried cranberries or golden raisins
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
pepper and salt to taste

I like to put the greens into the bowl, then add the olive oil and vinegar, and gently “massage” the salad until the leaves are coated with the dressing. Then I add the other ingredients, and toss just a few times, so all the chunky stuff stays mostly on top and doesn’t get sifted through to the bottom. Taste the salad before you serve it, and add vinegar, salt, pepper, or whatever it needs to taste finished.

The very best part is the combination of dried pears, balsamic vinegar, and arugula. It makes me smile every time. Arugula gets more bitter and peppery as the summer progresses, so this works best with tender baby arugula. I like it with about 1/4 arugula, and 3/4 other mild greens.

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