Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The French paradox

I'm making my annual New Year's Eve gourmet dinner for just me and Ron tomorrow night. Every year, I pick new and somewhat difficult recipes because a) I enjoy cooking, and b) it forces me to get out of my culinary comfort zone and try something interesting.

At the market today, I wandered around picking up all the ingredients - items that I seldom buy. I think I spent half of my time in the dairy aisle. Since I'm making French dishes, my grocery list had unsalted butter, eggs, whole milk, whipping cream, and a hunk of cheese on it. With Ron's cholesterol and my dieting, we rarely buy the real things. Everything is normally "lite" and "fat-free" and whatever else they call things that are injected with chemicals to make them taste like something.

Since I started watching Julia Child as a kid, I've always baked and cooked with butter. Never margerine. Because Julia said that there's a big difference in the results and, if you're gonna cook, you should use the best ingredients you can buy.

Julia lived into her 90s and her favorite foods that she ate regularly were NOT iceberg lettuce, diet Sprite, and we-know-it-looks-like-it-came-from-a-cow-but-it's-really-landfill dairy products.

I was shocked, yes, shocked, at how difficult it was for me to find whole Swiss cheese. I thought I finally found it but, when I got it home, the teeny tiny writing on the back said it was "part-skim".

Why can't we just have cheese like our grandparents bought (or made)? Because no one would buy it, that's why. We've got ourselves so marketed-up that we can't even find real food anymore.

So, I'll make my French dish with the part-skim cheese and hope that Julia isn't peaking out from between the pages of her cookbook. Consuming more liqueur than I put in the mousse should help with that. And Julia's spirit may just be appeased.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday regroup

Every year it's the same thing. I start out sure of myself. I won't over-indulge. I'll stare those boxes of fudge in the eye and say "You can't tempt me!". But then I eat just one, and it's all over.

I'm not the only one who does this. So I find myself wondering why we throw away our resolve and our common sense this time of year. I've come to believe it's like mob mentality. Everyone else is doing it, so I have an excuse.

But every year, I spend the week after the holidays feeling like crap because I've had nothing healthy to eat. Yet, I still pick at the leftover cookies and breads. It's pathetic, really.

And that's where New Years resolutions are born. Wrangling control back from an out-of-control holiday season is empowering. But it also says that it's okay to be out of control as long as you regain control.

I actually like being out of control sometimes. Especially on the dance floor. Being uninhibited and in the moment is freeing.

I just wish I could corral my inhibitions to only partake in healthy over-indulgences. This is a lesson from the holidays: Find a way to feed my psychological need to be free from restaint and, at the same time, not over-feed my physical being.

It's back to Weight Watchers tonight to face the scale. One of these days I'll figure out that balance.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lessons from quilting

I finished a full-size quilt today that I've been working on since March of 2008. I made it entirely by hand (both sewing the pieces together and quilting). It was my first large quilting project since I started quilting almost two years ago. I obviously don't quilt full-time or it would have been done sooner.

My friend Lynne taught me how to quilt on smaller projects and I learned my lessons well. They were used when making this quilt too. The stitches and techniques remained the same. But I learned other things while creating this larger quilt.
  • Be patient. When you've got a long road ahead of you, you can only look at the small task at hand before moving on.
  • Celebrate your milestones. When I completed sewing the quilt top, I jumped for joy and patted myself on the back. Don't listen to those Puritans; there's nothing wrong with celebrating yourself once in a while.
  • Suffering minor injuries to do something you are passionate about is okay. I've got my share of callouses and spilled my share of blood while wrestling with the pins and needles of success. They are my badges of honor.
  • When you dedicate yourself to do something for someone you love, it makes the road easier to travel. If I were making this quilt for myself, I just know it wouldn't have come out as close-to-perfect as it is.
  • Share your effort with a friend. Lynne and I often quilted together - she on her project, I on mine. And the time flew. We compared our successes and voiced our frustrations together. Besides creating quilts, we also strengthened our friendship.
  • There isn't much that can't be fixed. I made my share of mistakes as I sewed and quilted. If it meant I had to rip out seams and start again, I did. I fixed them and moved on.
  • Never forget the pure joy of doing what you love. I started quilting as a way to relax. And though I sometimes get a little impatient with my progress, I always remembered to cut myself some slack and enjoy the process.
The quilt that I will give away for Christmas feels like it's another appendage. As much as I will love to have Toby enjoy my quilt for years to come, I will miss it. Thankfully, I can visit and see it again.

Now, what's my next project????

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's all how you look at it

Today is Winter Solstice. It is the shortest amount of daylight we'll have for a year. People mistakenly call it "the shortest day of the year". Days are still 24 hours, last time I checked.

Being more of a night person, this is not a depressing day for me. First of all, tonight we're going to a Winter Solstice party at a friend's house. A perfect excuse to celebrate pre-Christmas spirit without all the hassles of packing up gifts and visiting umpteen relatives in one 24-hour timeframe.

It's also not depressing because of what this day signals. It starts the slow but steady progress of turning winter into spring. This is a day and night for looking forward to longer and warmer days. Sure we've got plenty of cold spells and snowstorms in our immediate future. I'm not kidding myself.

But then, my dad doesn't call me Suzy Sassafras for nothin'.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Waiting for the call

We got some sad, but not unexpected, news about our dog Alex this week. He's been suffering from what our vet thought was vestibular disease. But the episodes increased and we decided to take him to Tufts Animal Hospital for a neurology exam. The good doctors spent a lot of time working with Alex to determine what the cause could be. The potentials are not pretty.

Alex is almost 15 years old. Ancient in Springer Spaniel years. Though an MRI and other tests might prove which of the un-pretty potentials it actually is, we have decided to not put him through that. He had a hard enough time with the rather strenuous neurological exam.

I'm sitting in front of the computer now waiting for our vet to call so we can discuss Alex's care going forward. I wish the phone would just ring so I can get this knot out of my stomach. I've been sick since 3am when I awoke to what I thought was Alex crying out. I checked and he was sound asleep.

I've been having dreams about saying goodbye to him for the last month. I know it's coming. But as I watched his chest rise and fall as he lay in his usual spot on the bed between my feet and Ron's, I just couldn't imagine our home without him.

We will make the hard decision when we have to and do it completely unselfishly. I just dread the final ear rub and pat on the bum.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What it's all about

I joined a chorale at my church a few months ago and we had our first gig this weekend. Our chorale was formed with the mission of being a community outreach group first, and a musical group second. We are singing at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but I'd like to expand it to include other groups.

Needless to say, our first time singing out together was a big deal. We had practiced for many months and our leader came up with a great mix of songs. We'll change out our holiday songs as we approach different holidays.

The first place we sang, ended up being quite emotional for me. Unexpectedly emotional. I took my eyes off my music and started looking at the faces of the elderly for whom this was a big part of their day. I was heading out to a holiday party that night and this gig was just one more thing I had to do in an already busy day.

When I looked in the eyes of the nursing home residents (and in those of the residents' visitors) I found myself unable to sing. My throat closed up and my eyes started to tear. Here, in front of me, was my grandmother who languished in a nursing home for so many years. Slowly being taken away from us by strokes. I hadn't realized till then that I had not been in a nursing home since she died.

It was then that it hit me. All this running around we do for the holidays: shopping, wrapping, baking, card-writing, decorating, etc. is so unimportant. What matters is sharing our personal gifts with others, not material ones. We happened to have the gift of song that day. That experience yanked the sugarplums out of my head along with my holiday to-do list.

I wondered if it was possible to convince everyone I know that we should declare a holiday from Christmas insanity. And let Christmas be what it was always meant to be before the marketing execs took over. It's hard to talk people out of tradition and even harder to talk them into a new way of thinking.

I'll still work on my to-do list, but something's changed. If the house isn't immaculate for the entertaining I'm doing, so what. If I forget to send a card to someone, oh well. If I can't find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for relative, c'est la vie.

If there are any complaints, I will take them to the nursing homes with me for our next gig and introduce them to the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We are but caretakers

With three senior dogs in our home, there are many moments of worry and anxiety about health issues. It isn't constant. We still have lots of cuddle time and they still are well enough to do their nightly walks with dad.

Our oldest, Alex (affectionately known as Alex Bean), is almost 15. An amazing age for a springer spaniel. Alex has been our biggest challenge with emotional and physical problems that have taken us to the vet almost weekly. There are also lots of Tufts Animal Hospital visits interspersed for specialist appointments, and, oh yeah, trips to the local doggie ER.

We love him to pieces because he is a sweet, gentle old soul.

But it is becoming increasingly clear to us that the time is coming that we will have to say goodbye to our little guy. Probably sooner than later. If the decision is made, it will be agonizing and heartbreaking but done completely unselfishly.

Holding an animal's life in your hands is a huge responsibility. I'm trying to let the process just happen and trust that we will do the right thing by Alex. I was thinking this morning how we don't truly own our pets. We are only their caretakers. Their lives are their own. We are here to help them live those lives as happily and healthy as possible.

When the time comes that they can no longer live the lives they deserve, then we take great care in helping them cross the bridge. But again, it's all about caring, not about owning. Too many times, I see pet "owners" who forget that their pet is its own being, not an extension of themselves.

I hope that we have many more happy times with Alex Bean. But, if his body can no longer sustain the life that is his, we will be there to help him let it go.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vote while you can

I'm heading out shortly to work the polls for my town. Being an election officer doesn't pay much and, considering the usual low-turnout rate, can be pretty boring. But I still love it.

Voting is a huge deal in my family. Still is. I remember when I turned 18. I had a bad cold and had stayed home from college. My mom kicked me out of bed, dragged me to town hall, and had me register to vote.

My folks always told me that voting is a privilege that could easily be taken away. If no one votes, and a corrupt regime takes over the country, they could lobby to take our voting rights away. Since few people vote, citizens would have a hard time lobbying to keep the right.

Sounds far-fetched but it speaks to how important it is to exercise this right. So many citizens in other countries die for this right. We should never take it for granted.

So, off I go to work with the other folks who feel the same pride in and sense of commitment to the democratic process.

Not everyone can work the polls, but everyone can and should vote. Remember, it's YOUR country.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oh, brother

A wise man once said that we should be our brother's keeper. Most people I know agree that charity and kindness to those we know and love is a sign of good character. But who exactly is this "brother"?

Although that verse related to Cain and Abel, does it really just apply to brothers or family members? I know people, good people, who feel that their responsibility to others does not extend beyond their family tree. I can't judge these folks.

Yesterday I volunteered at the Lowell Wish Project with the high schoolers from my church. Donna Hunnewell, who started the non-profit and has dedicated her life to it, is a prime example of someone who feels her brother is everyone on the planet. 

But talking with her also made me wonder about those who feel that the brother responsible for taking care of others is Big Brother. The government. Yes, we pay taxes and a piece of those taxes are put towards social programs. However, does that mean we can then say we've done our part and feel no further responsibility to do more?

If Big Brother is solely responsible for taking care of all of our brothers, then we are in big trouble. Not only does that make us self-involved creatures, it also short-changes those who need help.

I believe it is the government's responsibility to provide a livable condition for its citizens. It is the citizens responsibility to help those who the government cannot. What would the world look like if we never reached out? What would that say about us if we watered only our own family trees?

That kind of world is a scary picture for me. We might complain that the government doesn't do enough. I agree that when funds are slashed it's the weakest that suffer and that's absolutely unconscionable.

The reality is that government will never be able to take care of everyone. It is a sad truth. But the fire that exists in true altruistic souls is sparked by such inequities. And they, in turn, spark others. We ARE taking care of our brothers and that's the way it should be.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Till death do us part

I've been thinking about vows lately, what with all the Tiger Woods news swirling around. And I wonder if we need to hold only marriage vows up to this level of expectation.

When Ron and I said our vows on our wedding day, we used the traditional vows: "To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part." When we renewed our vows 20 years later, we chose something more poetic, yet I still like the original.

Marriage is only one relationship in your life, though. And, although we don't normally speak vows to others in our lives, I think we hold important relationships to this same standard.

Think about your dearest friends. Some of them drive you crazy but you love them anyway. And how about family members? I know, same thing, right? Don't the "marriage" vows carry over to those relationships as well?

The same spoken vows I have with my husband are just as sacred, though unspoken, as those I have with my friends and family.

I know I'd feel just as crushed if a close family member or friend let me down or acted in a way that I felt disrespected my unspoken vow to be there for them always. There is no line for me when I pledge my heart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

True to his word

I'm finding all the hullabaloo about Obama's Afghan war speech a little silly. He repeatedly said when he was campaigning that he thought we should finish what we started in Afghanistan and get out of Iraq.

He is doing exactly what he said he would do, yet all the Dems (pols AND voters) who broke down in tears of joy when he was elected, are now up in arms. Why? They can't be surprised.

Were his followers only hearing the get-out-of-Iraq part and turning a blind eye to his words on Afghanistan? Or are the outraged just stunned to find a politician who does what he says he's going to?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's your one?

I started a tradition in our family 6 years ago when the next Nolan generation came along. Instead of a toast, we each take a turn saying, in one sentence or phrase, what we are thankful for. It's usually simple things like "I'm thankful I am able to help others." Or, "I'm thankful for my family." But, boy does it resonate with us. Everyone thinks about what they want to say in that one sentence weeks ahead of time -- so the process of going through a LIST of positive things is uplifting. I always get a tear in my eye as we go around the table and hear the sentimental, sweet comments. It's a moment I would never trade for all the money in the world.
 I'm hoping that my little nephew will take not just his great-great grandmother's stuffing recipe to his adult Thanskgiving celebrations, but also this "one thankful thing" tradition as well.

This year is no different for me. I start with the little things that I'm thankful for and then work up to the big. I told my wise friend Ann about this tradition and she said "I'm thankful for Thanksgiving." As always, her words struck a cord with me. If it weren't for Thanksgiving, we may never take the time to make our lists of thanks.

So, before we all rush wallet-first into the insanity that has become Christmas, what's the one thing you're thankful for this year?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rediscovering old loves

I'm guessing that when you read this title it made you think that I'd be blogging about bumping into an old flame. Well, no. But then again, yes. Music has always been huge in my life. Maybe it's the poet in me that hears lyrics that speak to me and never forgets them once they become lodged in my heart and brain.

I often remember a song because it was something I needed to hear at that time of my life. Sometimes I simply liked the musical hook and wasn't as interested in the lyrics. But, for whatever the reason, the song stuck with me.

Last week I heard "The Heart of the Matter" on the radio. It's from Don Henley's last solo album he recorded 20 years ago. I always loved the line "I think it's about forgiveness" since it was so simple and profound. At the time the record was released, that line applied to someone in my life who I needed to interact with and was looking for a way to do so without pain. And it helped me then.

Now that our relationship is a healthy one, I've been recently struggling with another. A long-time friend who, for reasons of his own, has decided to disappear. So when I heard that song last week, it reminded me of how that song healed me then and might now.

I've been listening to the entire CD thanks to a good friend who loaned it to me after hearing my love for the song on Facebook.

It's amazing to me that one song can change your head and your heart. I wonder if the song's writer can even understand the power they have to help heal.

That song and others are like old loves to me. And I hope that others who struggle can find healing in music as I do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bully for you!

I've been keeping a keen eye on the MA legislation to prevent bullying in schools. There are several bills being discussed but one shows some promise of actually making it.

I spent the majority of my young life being bullied at school. It started around 5th grade and went through high school. Though, high school was probably more about being ignored than being bullied. Not sure which was worse.

There were some physical factors and psychological factors to the bullying I received. I was the nerd. The non-conformist during the late 60s and early 70s. When I was in grade school, I wasn't cool enough because I took piano lessons and refused to hitch up my Catholic school uniform over my knees to piss off the nuns.

When I was in junior high and high school, I was the non-conformist again who did not wear the appropriate Izod-labeled clothing. I also never got into pot and so that made me an outcast again.

Being a non-conformist on principle is different than being a non-conformist who has no clue. There were lots of non-conformists around me in school who knew what they were doing and did NOT want to fit in. I was not in that category. I just didn't get it.

Most of the time I was made fun of. But there were times when I had tacks left on my seat, or my glasses were thrown out the classroom window. There was nothing my parents could do except ask the teachers to keep an eye on me. The people who bullied me seemed to feel a great sense of comraderie when bullying me.

Looking back, I understand that most of these bullies were either bullied at home by their parents or siblings; or were incredibly insecure about their own conformity. That knowledge didn't help when I was in it but it made me a more sensitive person when I got older.

The world was lucky that I wasn't the homicidal type. That I never thought of doing anything to get back at these kids or the school itself. But it had a profound effect on my sense of self that still lingers today.

What if my parents could have done something more? What if the school had a law at its disposal to stop what was happening to me? Might I have escaped with my self-worth unscathed? Maybe. Maybe not. It's hard to legislate human interaction in the school yard or the locker room. Things happen that can't be proven - or that no other kid will attest to for fear that they will be next.

But, I think we have to start somewhere. Leaving kids like me (basically, good kids) to fend for themselves does not help us become positive additions to society.

I was lucky. I had enough positive reinforcement from non-school sources to make it through. But what about the ones who are not so lucky?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Merry Everything

I received one of those Christmas-with-a-capital-C emails today. First one of the season. I had actually forgotten all about the issue till the email arrived. And then I said, "Oh, yeah. This again."

You know what emails I am referring to. The ones that get in your face and tell you that you are not honoring Christmas if you wish someone Happy Holidays. That this season is the Christmas season and anyone who can't buy into that (regardless of your religious heritage, or lack thereof) should just pack up and move to Iran. Because that's where all of you Christmas-haters belong.

The local newspaper will start publishing letters to the editor from the Christmas-with-a-capital-C folks real soon, too. There will be no escaping it. Some of these folks have written in the past to say that they refuse to shop at stores whose employees say "Happy Holidays" and not "Merry Christmas" as they ring up your purchase. That'll show 'em. 

I wonder about where the writers heads are at. It all reminds me of the same-sex marriage naysayers. That if someone else shares in something you have, that it somehow lessens it for you. Does Christmas mean less to people who celebrate it when it is also celebrated with other religious holidays? I don't think so. My Christmas has never been ruined because my friends and neighbors celebrate Hannukah. Anymore than my marriage has been ruined when my gay friends married.

I don't consider myself to be a Christian, even though I was raised in a Christian faith. By that I mean, I'm not a true Christian. One that believes that Jesus is the savior and God is watching us. My definition of God is not the same as devout Christians. I believe Jesus was a great man and a great prophet - probably the greatest. Being Christian to me (in the true sense of the word) is to be like Christ.

My understanding of Jesus is that he was inclusive. That all that matters is how you live your life and treat your fellow humans. He didn't segregate or discriminate. He said everyone is welcome in God's kingdom. When he said "everyone", I took him literally.

My guess is that Jesus would not be happy with these emails and letters to the editor. Where is the harm in wishing someone of a different faith a happy holiday? How is being kind to and accepting of good people a bad thing? How does this take something away from the true meaning of Christmas?

Seems to me that it reinforces the meaning of Christmas, as opposed to detracting from it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Q: When is a mutt not a mutt?

A: When it's given a fancy name by backyard breeders trying to make some quick cash.

I read this story today: and thought of W.C. Fields' old "There's a sucker born every minute" line. The consumer in this story is complaining that her mixed breed isn't a mixed breed, but is, instead ...wait for it.... a MUTT! I am aghast. No, hang on a sec. Isn't a mutt a mixed breed?

Yeah, it is. You can call them puggles or goldendoodles or cockapoos, I don't care. They are all mutts. The only difference between these "designer breeds" is a) the ridiculous price, and b) the fact that they don't come from shelters.

If you want a mixed breed dog, go to a freakin' shelter. Not only will you be saving a life, but you'll be spending hundreds of dollars less for one.

My husband's favorite expression is "It's aaaaallll Marketing." How true. Maybe if shelters and animal rescue groups renamed their dogs' breeds when advertising, there would be fewer dogs in need of homes (fewer GREAT dogs, I may add).

A spaniel/beagle/lab mix? Now it's a "spaglab". A shephard/rottie/chihuahau mix? We'll call them "sherot-huahua". See where I'm going with this? We could shut down puppy mills for good and get thousands of dollars to place dogs whose only mistake in life was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But then, who would we market to? You can't possibly get a good dog in a shelter or rescue org, can you? Yeah, you're right. Silly me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An old-timer's holiday

I really miss Thanksgiving. Not the Thanksgiving we have now which is really just an excuse to have a day-after sale for Christmas. But the old Thanksgiving. Y'know, the one where you looked forward to the greatest meal of the year. And being with your family. And going to the high school football game. I don't see that type of holiday anymore.

My family does a great job keeping it as traditional as possible. Those of us who aren't home tending the bird, are off freezing at a local football field. We recently got the next generation into that tradition and I love to see that continue.

There's nothin' like coming home from a 40-degree, windy, rainy game and stepping into a home filled with wonderful smells. Do you know that there was a study done once and that of all your senses, the sense of smell has the longest memory? I wasn't surprised to read that. All I have to do is start the Thanksgiving prep the night before to feel like my entire family tree is standing with me while I cook and bake.

I started a Thanksgiving tradition when my nephew was born. The next generation of Nolans. Instead of the traditional toast, we go around the table and each person says one thing they are thankful for. It could be as simple as the shoes on their feet. But we take that time.

It makes me wonder if the reason that Thanksgiving is now glossed over, is because we aren't as thankful anymore. I mean, thankful for the simple and important things like family, friends, good health, and food on the table. We rush through what is to me the greatest holiday of the year so that we can get lost in materialism.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hierarchy of homelessness

My brother is a social worker and homeless advocate. He came to my church on Sunday to speak with the high school kids about the realities of the chronically homeless. He first had to explain the other type of homelessness which happens when there is a natural disaster (fire, flood, earthquake, etc). For those people, there is more help from the government and private agencies like the Red Cross.

The disaster-related homeless usually receive the most attention. People organize fundraisers and will often volunteer their time to help rebuild or rehome.

The chronically homeless receive very little. They are mostly invisible to the public, and funds to help them are often the first to be cut from a state or federal budget. Besides serving meals or organizing clothing drives, there is little the public can do to help. Why? Because 99.99% of the chronically homeless are severe addicts. The average citizen is not trained or qualified to help. And, because of confidentiality and liability issues, the average citizen cannot do any serious outreach.

It struck me that even within a class considered by most to be the lowest rung on the ladder, there is still more division. Does creating a class system within the lowest class help government officials justify their actions? They can say they help the homeless and still not be called on it. Does classifying-out the most needy help them avoid a very uncomfortable reality? Or is it that they regard addicts as having no inherint worth or dignity?

I think it's time for the public to get themselves educated on the true plight of the homeless and hold their representatives feet to the fire. You?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Root, root, root for ... who?

I could never root for the Yankees but I could rationalize their winning as a good thing for the Sox. Mainly, so I can live with the reality and the preening.

If the Yankees win the WS, they will come back next year all puffed up and cocky (even more than usual). It is then that the Sox are at an advantage. A false sense of superiority is what did the Yankees in before. It could work again.

A friend of mine said once (though he was talking about the corporate ladder): "The higher up you are, the closer you are to the door." And isn't that what happened to the Celts last season? When you're #1, everyone is gunning for you.

So, root for the Phillies but also know that if the Yankees win, it could be their undoing next season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The real price of junk food

The Lowell Sun has a "Backtalk" section where people comment and gripe in short blurbs. I always read it to get the pulse of the community. Often, I am disgusted with the lack of knowledge behind backtalker's comments.

This one grabbed my attention yesterday:
This is the only country I know in which poor people are fat. These are the people that want to run the health care. Isn't obesity a health problem? We need to fix the food-stamp program first.

I'm surmising that this person feels that people must be abusing the food stamp program evidenced by the fact that they are "fat". Or maybe that the people on food stamps don't need the food because they are fat and therefore have some extra pounds for reserve.
There are so many things I could say about this, but I'll pick just one. Food that is cheap is almost always bad for you. Good food, on the other hand, is expensive. The more caloried the item, the cheaper it is.
Did you ever compare the price of boxed mac-and-cheese to lettuce? Or a bag of chips to a bag of apples? (And that's not even looking at the organic selections.)
If you have, you know that you can get more food for the money when you buy crap. This opens the whole can of worms about how an overabundance of soy and corn products are in processed food and why they are there (read The Omnivore's Dilemma if you want to learn more).
So the real issue is not that food stamps=obesity. The issue is that we are a country that makes nutritious food out of reach for those who cannot afford it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not again!

Did anyone watch the Yankees/Angels game last night? As a die-hard Sox fan, I found it unbearable to watch the end. I shut off the tele at 11:45 before the top of the ninth. I couldn't bear to watch the likes of Damon and A-Rod jumping around on the field.

And I was so rooting for the Angels. The story of how they dedicated their season to the young pitcher who died tragically this year was reason enough to hope they went all the way - that is, as long as they weren't playing the Sox.

My take on the Yankees is that it's easy for a team to buy its way to a championship. If you have strong individual contributors, they don't need each other as much. Teams that struggle together and cover for each other are my kind of teams.

But then, isn't that the definition of "team" to begin with?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who's on your list?

A friend asked me if I could review a column he's submitting to a local newspaper. I did so with great enthusiasm and seriousness. I remember when I was trying to start as a columnist (unpaid, but whatever) and asked my trusted friend Jon to review what I wrote before I submitted it.

I've taken Jon's awesome advice and passed it along to my aspiring columnist friend.

That made me think of the web of which we are all a part. How many times have you taken the wisdom of a family member, friend, coworker, or mentor and passed it along to a peer or the next generation? I find myself doing that a lot as I get older. And that makes me realize just how much we are connected.

So many people are afraid that when they die, there will be nothing left of their being if they don't have kids. I say, that's short-sighted. I carry the lessons from my family members, ex-bosses, mentors, ministers, and friends with me all day long. And when needed, I impart the lessons-learned to others.

I have my own opinion of the afterlife which I won't bore you with here, but there are other ways for us to make our lives meaningful before and after we die. It means we have to be aware of the wisdom all around us and be willing to pass it on.

How much have you been paying attention and who's on your list?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I guess the Cone of Silence stopped working as soon as Bush Mach II left the White House. Cheney has said more in the last 9 months than he did the whole time he was pres.. er... vice president.

His term "dithering" made me laugh today. How is approaching the future loss of life for US citizens (and Afghan civilians) in a thoughtful, intelligent way considered "dithering"? Does Cheney think Obama is conferring with too many people who know what they're talking about? How many is too many when war is the issue?

Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld didn't "dither". They did things the "Texan" way. Make decisions quickly, shoot from the hip, and act with much bravado. "Testosterone poisoning", as one friend calls it.

Facts were ignored, evidence was tampered with, Congress and citizens were misled, people died. And much of this was done in what became something of a Nixonian organization.

I don't want to go back to the days where snap decisions are made -- some of which are done to satisfy a thirst for power. I like that we have a president who takes some time making an informed decision when lives are on the line. And that he does so in what appears so far to be an open manner.

I'll take dithering over slithering any ole day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The wind in the willows

With all the turmoil over whether or not to use windmills for an alternative energy source, I was struck today at how quixotic it all is. I mean, literally.

I wonder if we are becoming too much like Don Quixote in our escape from the practical. I'm all about pursuing lofty ideals and fighting for them. But if we refuse to add reality to our actions, that can be dangerous.

And I'm not talking about foresaking lofty ideals for the reality of a tough fight. When it comes to human rights, animal rights, and taking care of our planet, we should never let the fact that injustices exist be a reason to quit.

What I'm talking about it is giving up our romantic and sentimental attachments to the way things were. No one wants to see major hardware come between them and their view of the mountains or seacoast. I certainly don't. However, the alternative to alternative energy sources is the loss of natural resources, the ozone, and independence from foreign (oftentimes corrupt) regimes.

I'm willing to remember how things used to be in order to be around to remember.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It feels like Charles Stuart all over again

Following this story makes me feel the way I did when the Charles Stuart news broke. How easily we invest our hearts in tragedies. Especially those involving children.

We swore we would never believe those unimaginable stories again and always question. But we dropped our cynicism so quickly when this story broke.

Proof once again that the human heart can be very forgiving and kind, and the human mind can be very evil.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why do we love to be scared?

I read this in today's Boston Globe and it got me thinking. "Frightened" is not a happy state of being in our day-to-day lives. We lock our doors at night, carry weapons, and look under the bed before we shut off the light (okay, most of us haven't done that since we were kids) all because we are afraid of a surprise intruder. So why do we seek out horror movies and Spooky Worlds and pay money in order to be frightened?

I wonder if this is our way of proving to ourselves that we can feel threatened and still survive. Is our safer society somehow robbing us of our need to feel that we can keep ourselves safe if we need to? Are we physically missing the adrenaline rushes of our hunter-gatherer days?

If being afraid is a bad thing, then why do you think we seek it out at Halloween? And find it fun, no less?