PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: I’m Crazy (page 1 of 9)

A Tale of Two Christmases…

Growing up, Christmastime was always a mixed bag. Because my dad’s mother passed away before Christmas, and he would, shortly after Thanksgiving, go into a very dark depression.  I don’t remember my grandmother – when she died, I was maybe two? And we had plans to go to Florida to visit her, but instead, as life will do, plans changed. My father would retell the story of flying from Florida to Chicago with his mother’s ashes in an urn in a package on his lap, the elderly lady next to him cheerfully chirping, “Christmas present?” And in Dad’s typical biting dark streak, he replied, “You could say so.”  He would then describe clawing at the frozen ground, attempting to spread her ashes, not realizing what the urn ultimately contained. I’ll spare you the vivid description, but it galvanized me as a child, and basically drew a line around my father, his dark moat, he was not to be messed with in December.

So every other year was my Mom’s “Year” for Christmas. A huge tree, loaded with lights and decorations, geegaws and ribbons and red velveteen everywhere. The off years were Dad’s. I would string popcorn and put it on the ficus tree. We had this really old, and to me, AMAZING, three-dimensional ornament that unfolded from two sides of cardboard, revealing accordion-folded beehive-like tissue paper that once the little metal tabs clasped over the other side of cardboard, displayed a two-foot Santa Claus. That was it. That was his concession,  a ficus tree decorated with ornaments I made from colored paper and popcorn and an ancient santa that grew more delicate each year. His darkness got its turn. We tread lightly around him no matter what, and there was always a sense of relief when the holidays were over, when January arrived, bringing with it a new year and the darkness receded.

I felt that deep dark current come forth this week, as someone was trying to excuse another person’s terrible behavior, trying to justify their actions, that they were sure the holidays were hard for them, given some of their life circumstances. I tartly countered, “Is it a competition?  Both my parents are dead. Nobody gets a pass at the holidays and everyone ultimately has to behave.” I regretted it, albeit fleetingly, but it ultimately summed up in five words what’s heavy on my mind, and contributing to a feeling of isolation.  Both my parents are dead. It sucks. I’m alone. My party of three is now a party of one, when you look at all those formative years of Alternating Christmases.  But I also tell myself, I’m not a Syrian refugee, either. I’m not being raped or beaten with my own baby. I’m not suffering through chemo treatments or in an abusive relationship. There are lots of worse places to be and lives to be living.  But I have my own dark current (god, could I sound more like Dexter? Don’t worry, I’m not ordering rolls of plastic sheeting and dressing in three-button henleys) and I know the holidays are challenging for most people, whether they’re trying to measure up to a societal projection of perfection, or are coping with all the things that hobble our lives.

We never had big gatherings – my father shunned them – and weren’t close to other family, whether it was geographically or emotionally. Basically, I’m wired for small gatherings and being the best hostess possible. I was talking to my therapist about this – he pointed out that for some people, it’s not a true celebration unless there are hordes of people gathered.  Obviously for others, smaller gatherings are more valued.  Not having any siblings, I’m kind of out of my holiday traditions, even if we’d stopped getting together, there were cards and gifts and emails. Strands of connection.  There are so many variables, you know? As you blend new families together, as you go home to your parents, the dance steps and conversations and expectations and all that … history. It drives the bus, it plays the music, it conducts the orchestra. We have expectations we don’t even realize we have until they don’t happen, or the plan changes, and then we still don’t necessarily know what those things were, we just know we’re unhappy. Or angry. Or sad. Or all of the above.

All I can say is, be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. If you have a dark moat that rises this time of year, don’t pretend it doesn’t exist, because that only makes the moat angry.  Angry moats want to rise up and drown you with lies and destruction. Acknowledge your moat, even sit with it at times. Because it’s just part of the whole thing. Say some of the things that hurt the most out loud. When I finally said, “I miss my mom,” it was like the dam broke. And it hurt and I cried, and I felt confused, because we had our issues with each other, but those fine strands of connection I maintained are gone, now that she is gone, and this year more than last year, I feel the holes they left behind, and what those holes are connected to inside of me, my expectations, my dreams, my sadness, my history.  And even in my loneliest moment, I am trying to say, over and over, until it feels true, “I am enough.” My heart is not there yet, but I know in my mind, I will be ok. If you have any of this in your own heart or head? I hope you are ok, too. I have faith that you can find it. We are enough.

 

Pumpkin Muthahfuckin’ SPICE

Yeah, it’s White People Month when this stuff comes back to Starbucks, you know it, there’s 800 variations of memes and pictures and squeals of happy happy happy on Facebook once the Heralded Return Of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, like the swallows of Capistrano, baby. Now, I appreciate my over-priced, delicious beverages as much as the above-average-income JoCo soccer mom, but it’s got to be “right” to fully enjoy it. And daytime highs of upper 70’s/mid-80’s ain’t it. For me, Pumpkin Flavored-Everything Season starts when I feel a chill letting the dogs out in the morning, and I see my first red blaze of autumn leaves. Our weather has been unseasonable since summer began – a milder, cooler version of last year, so much so that I really worked hard not to bitch when we got some hot weather, because days on end of 100’+ weather was torturous. Now we’re warming up and cooling down and warming back up so the tomatoes keep on putting out fruit and it’s almost October.

Sometimes I think about how lovely it would be to live in certain climates, where it never freezes or blisters hot, where it’s sweatshirt-and-shorts weather most of the time, and I think that while I’d enjoy it, I wouldn’t love it the way I love a true Fall. Fall is my favorite season of all, despite it’s symbolism of death and decay and ripe life coming to an end, (boy I can really put a damper on shit, eh?) But I LOVE IT. It fuels me and buoys up my mood. The smell of leaves on the ground, moistened by a fall thunderstorm, turning into compost that will re-energize the ground next year. Puffs of smoke from chimneys, the smell of wood in the air, it alerts the senses. Sounds around us change, the wind sweeps through branches and bring a shuffling of paper, the natural evolution from the velvety sounds of green leaves rustling in a summer’s breeze. As the humidity leaves, sounds become sharper, unmuffled by the damp air and heat that keeps windows shut and doors pushed tightly closed. Fall ushers in a return to cooking; soups and stews and warm dishes that take on the new flavors of squashes and root vegetables, complemented by the harvests of summer, transformed into jarred and frozen bags of produce that bring the brightness of summer’s hot sun to bursting flavor in chili, peppers and tomatoes taking on new forms. And it brings with a renewed desire to knit, to work with wool, to create and draw the calm from the meditative repetition of needles and yarn moving in unison.

So, Pumpkin Season, I realize you’ve “Arrived”, and I still love you, but you’re going to have to wait until it’s truly time.

As The Grocery Turns

This is week 2 with a grocery store story. Last week, a woman walked up while I was unloading my cart and inappropriately squeezed the 10-lb. tube of hamburger I’d purchased, commenting, “Nice package!” I was a bit dumbfounded, but I cheerfully informed her it was on sale, and wondered how on earth I attract crazy, interesting people. I assume it’s because I also am a boundary pusher/crosser and I will easily talk to strangers myself.

So now we’re on to this week’s shopping adventure. I have taken to meal planning out the week, including Crock Pot Mondays, since I detest cooking on Monday nights, and coming home to a meal that’s made itself all day? Magical! The weather today is bleary, dreary and blah (the rejected dwarves of Disney) and as I exited my car, sleet came down in droves. I had even paused before leaving, thinking I should wear my Kangol hat, but -I actually thought these very words- ah, nah, I’m not going to run into anyone I know, so it doesn’t matter what I look like. OMINOUS FORESHADOWING!

When I got in the first set of doors & went for my cart, I realized my hair was full of these tiny ice pellets, so as I’m brushing all this stuff off my head, I feel someone approaching me and by god, if it’s not my client. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, UNIVERSE? We chit-chatted briefly, and off we went, he with his son, me with my list and completely no-makeup face not even lipstick what the HELLLLL and then continued to “bump” into each other as I got a bit discombobulated and just sailed by several aisles, eventually having to circle back to finish my shopping. While not as funny as the previous week’s meat-pinching incident, it certainly has me wondering what in the hell will happen next week!

Tomato Time….

The tomatoes have been coming in, ripening fast & furious on the kitchen table….
Tomatoes 2012 - Loaded Table

I decided to do some close-ups on the stars of the table, and here are the cherry varieties:
Tomatoes 2012 - Pan o' Cherries

Left to Right:
Black Cherry, Red Grape F1, Sungold and Matt’s Wild Cherry:
Tomatoes 2012 - Cherry Lineup

Those are my fancy “dessert pedestals” I bought online a month or so ago – thinking they would be awesome for tomato pictures, as well as serving desserts. What I neglected to pay attention to was the SIZE of said pedestals – when the box arrived, I thought surely, this was something else, as only two or three could fit in this small box. Nope. I guess if we serve Christopher Elbow chocolates for dessert, though, these will be lovely….

An Open Letter to Andrew and Dan:

In the recent issue of “Kitchen Notes” in Cook’s Illustrated, you told us all how AWESOME it is to cook bacon this innovative way: put bacon in pan, cover bacon with water, turn on the heat and let it go! According these dudes, the water keeps the bacon meat from shrinking, and then as the water dissipates, you just let it sizzle and crisp up and ZOMG you have bacon like you used to have in your Easy Bake Kitchen Suite, only your real-life bacon is made of meat and not rubber! OMG! This is so not how it fucking works! Let me save you from this experiment! Right after I go choke these foodie dudes to death with a set of circular knitting needles.

Because what happens is that the meat bubbles along in the water, and it looks nasty-ass and foamy, but you think, ok, you’re essentially par-boiling meat, it’s going to do that, it’s MAGIC, remember, and then? The water cooks off and you don’t just float into nice-and-crispy with a Zoey Deschanel ‘I’m-so-twee’ skipping move, no, my friends, you now see the fat start to render and cook off the bacon. Which is what bacon does in a frying pan. But what did we have in the pan already? Yes? Are we following? WE HAD WATER. Have you ever accidentally gotten something with too much moisture into hot oil before, have you? Do you know what happens?

BURNING HOT FAT EXPLOSIONS is what happens, that’s what. Good thing I didn’t do any tours of duty or it would have been ALLLLLLL torn up in there, what with the spattering cracks of pain and PTSD and the flashbacks and the napalm and the screams.

And, because your meat has absorbed water at varying levels, you will now balance hot burning fat explosions with the fact that parts of your bacon are charring while other parts are looking like parboiled rubbery white fat. So you try to hold the over-cooked parts out of the pan with your tongs, while the blubber tries to catch up, and you dodge esplodyness of epic proportions.

NOT FUN. Bacon, we used to be good friends. I know it’s not your fault. It’s the endless pursuit of foodiness and trying new things, but I’m never going to do it again and Andrew and Dan better never pop out into a back alley to get a quick smoke, because I’m going to be waiting. And maybe not with knitting needles. With a pan of hot bacon fat. We’ll all have matching arm scars!

Sure, Fern.

We went to a draft party last night at Arrowhead – had a great time, except I brilliantly put my (full) bottle of water into my purse, only to discover after I sat down that said bottle  had been opened and then semi-re-shut – so at least half of it poured into my bag. Fortunately, I’m vigilant about putting my phone in its little side pocket, so no iPhone died, and my iPod was in a case that soaked up the water before it reached the electronics.

It did make me think of this, though, one of my all-time favorites from classic SNL. And with some  of the things I see that get posted on the internet it’s certainly still germane today, in that we masterfully protect people’s rights to Extreme Stupidity. I’m just glad when my own doesn’t cost me money!

File Under: “Phrases That Will Lead To No Good”

“I could make that.”

“I should learn to play the ukulele!”

(This will be a recurring feature, I have a feeling.)

The Real Life of the Home Office Worker

I swear to God, if I had my own reality television show, I would have just scored my biggest ratings yet.

First of all, said show could possibly qualify as a triple threat: I home office in a guest bedroom that is currently chock full of stuff I need to go through (thus, we could get the Hoarders audience), I have some crazy work adventures (have you seen Missouri Truck Stop? I am a barrel of monkeys compared to that show), and I’m a wife working out of our house, so it’s like that real estate agent dude and all the Real Housewives rolled into one, except I don’t dress up, and I rarely see anyone else so the cattiness is low. (Makes notes to work on this.)

My desk is a snazzy Lifetime table from CostCo, and my office chair came from there as well. To protect the hardwood floors, I put down my plastic floor protector. You know, those big sheets of plastic with the little gripper teeth on the bottom, so if you had carpet, it would stay put? Let me tell you something. My fat ass in my office chair keeps that plastic sheet in place just fine. Until I stand up, which then turns the plastic sheet into a fucking skateboard. Have I put down one of those rug gripper things? NO. Why not? I’M LAZY. And FORGETFUL. And I FORGOT about the ice-rink skateboard quality just now, as my personal cell phone rang, and I endeavored to find it as I was ending a conversation on my work cell phone (sometimes all three phones are going, that’s fairly entertaining. I’ve become the Deft Jedi Knight of the Mute Button.) I realize my cell has fallen under the table, and so I stand up to get it, and WHOOSH, with one foot lifted, I am down for the count. I’ve learned not to fight falling, it only frustrates me and generally speaking, hurts more in the process. But! The phone is still ringing, and I manage to swipe my finger to answer it while supine on my frenemy, the Floor Protector From Hell. This person wants me to write down a number. Ok. I don’t keep pens and paper down on the floor, so now I’m Ninja Turtling myself back into a standing position while trying not to let on what’s just happened or where I took said call. The chair scoots back away from me so I almost miss it (fortunately, the bed in here stops it), and as I’m regaining what composure I have left, the gigantic plaster mirror that’s tilted against the bookshelf decides THIS IS IT TODAY WE MUST DIE and slides to the ground, shoving the desk into me while I’m trying to figure out what in bloody hell is happening and WHERE ARE MY PENS? and WHY DOES MY SHIN HURT? My shin hurts because that rigid plastic is not shin-friendly, and it had the same effect as a dry razor across the side of my leg when I was scrabbling to right myself.

The caller? Had no idea. That’s composure, baby.

Meanwhile, Costco needs to start selling these rug pad grippers.

Mind over Maki

I get emails from The Pitch, and a few weeks ago, one contained an invitation to a “Sushi Slam” at Edokku out in Lenexa. The food challenge was to consume 10 sushi rolls (your choice) in an hour, 80 pieces. I immediately sent it on to my husband and brother-in-law, and J-Wo replied within minutes that he’d signed up.

I thought, “Why not? After all, if you don’t finish, you get to take it home, and they charge you, sure, but $31 for massive amounts of sushi is still a great deal!”

So I signed up, too.

And Sunday afternoon, off we went. We were in the second group (joined by Fox4 movie critic Shawn Edwards, who kept saying he was going to eat 80 rolls, which would have been nigh-impossible, but nobody corrected him.)  We were early, and we watched from a distance as they counted down the time, and then as people exited with their plastic plates of sushi, covered in saran wrap. “That’s gonna be you,” egged my husband.  Stubborn as always, I told him where he could shove it.

Then we were seated. A guy across from James looked at me and said, “You gonna do this?” and I said, “Yes. It’s mental.” He completely agreed. He kept talking, and I wondered about what might be going on, as he had major bags under his eyes and kept saying the same things over and over. (turns out, we later discovered, he’d smoked a big ol’ joint to get his appetite going.) His plate of sushi arrived, and I looked at it somewhat askance, as the whole plate was full of one type of sushi, and each piece contained fried shrimp. “Dude, that’s a lot of fried food. You gonna eat the tail?” “Hell no, I ain’t eatin’ the tails,” he retorted. Ooook. Good luck there, Cheech.

We were also instructed by the referee that if we chose to dip our sushi rolls into the saucer of soy, any remaining rice in that dish would need to be eaten. I immediately opted not to use my dish.

James’ plate arrived first:

Mine arrived last, so I didn’t get a picture of it. I had errantly ordered one roll that was gigantic and tempura-battered. Fuck. It was utterly delicious, rich, and warm, filled with eel and cream cheese and hell if I can remember what else. I had wisely gotten smaller rolls of simple maki – tuna, eel, etc. The timing began and we were off.
You get two plates – and while I thought it would go quickly, it didn’t. I judiciously took tiny sips of water to keep things lubricated, and tried to enjoy the process as much as possible. About 2/3 of the way through my plate, my husband has already finished his first, and is on to the second. He proceeds to win the entire group’s challenge by finishing in just over 9 minutes. Two plates of sushi. The ref was talking to him like he was trying to make a pass at him, all sorts of praise and complements, it was cracking me up. Apparently he was downing the smaller rolls two pieces at a time. He won a gift bag and a t-shirt, and then sat there and tried to encourage me.

Plate 2 arrived. The previous fried roll was here again, and it taunted me with it’s excesses of warm gooey textures. I plowed back in, grateful I’d eaten very little all day, and then it came down to the big fried roll, and a smaller roll. About 13 pieces. I almost stopped. I thought, it’s ok. $31 is fine. I was starting to get sweaty, and I thought of all those “Man vs. Food” episodes where I’d never fully comprehended just how fucking hard this sort of thing was. A few more pieces and then it happened. One of those horrible moments where your brain is fighting with your body. A sip of water. Rest. There was still half an hour, but as my husband reminded me, rice expands in your stomach, so the longer I waited, the harder it would get. He then hit on the magic solution that saved me: eat some pickled ginger. The crunchy bite cleared my palate, restored a little clarity, and with three pieces staring at me, I told myself paying $10 for each of those pieces was just plain silly at this point. And I polished them off, each with a piece of ginger on top.

For those of you reading this in horror, I completely get it. I was/am pretty horrified myself. I won’t repeat the event, or anything like it, ever again. There were some interesting social aspects to it, too. I’m a fat chick. Big fat chick. Dare I even say, good-looking, funny-as-hell, in-your-face fat chick, sure. And once people are around me and see and know more than the fatness, they tend to enjoy my company and see me less as just a fat person and more for all my parts. But society is just not so much on the fat chicks, and strangers are rude, and kids stare and say shit, and a grandma with dementia once announced to everyone in Price Chopper that That Girl Is Really Big! No matter the bravado and teflon coating, I’m well-aware of the hatahs.  So, there was part of me that felt a little like I was somehow fulfilling society’s stereotype of the fat person, and in participating, somehow adding to the stigma and therefore signing a blank check to insults and stereotypes.  And frankly, as someone who’s had a jillion issues with food and weight over the years, let me tell you how weird it is to have people shake your hand and high-five you…. FOR EATING. That in of itself spoke volumes to me about the messages I have gotten over the years – and the ones I give myself – about food. Nobody has ever said, “Wow, great job! You cleaned your plate!” LOL!

All-in-all, it was an experience. I learned that one really can eat so much food you reach the point of physical discomfort and you think you might involuntarily puke all over some stoned-out dude who also apparently hates fake crab meat.  (Oh, you THINK you’ve been there, after Thanksgiving dinner, but friend, unless you’ve done something like this in a timed event, it just isn’t the same. I thought that, too, and this proved me wrong 10x over.)   It also was interesting to see just how much you can use your mind to overcome pain, circumstances and focus on a goal, which is rather heartening when you think about applying it in the reverse direction.

And yes, I still love sushi…. in moderation.

Matching Crazy for Crazy

Since I’m at home all day, I get to see things firsthand, not hear about them after the fact. You know, it’s like “24”, and I’m Kiefer Sutherland, and all events are in REAL TIME.  Yesterday was Delayed Garbage Day, due to the holiday on Monday, and the Wo is in charge of trash. I had taken advantage of the nice weather and wheeled out a huge bin of recycling the evening before, but we never put the trash out earlier than possible, since Feral Cat City across the way will destroy it in their efforts to find things to eat. We hadn’t had problems the past few weeks, but all of that changed. Just like the weather had. So my head actually exploded – yep, brain matter, bright spots of blood everywhere – when I looked out the window and saw this after the garbage trucks had been by:

Thanks, feral cats.

Granted, I was livid before I even went out the door. And I did grab my iTouch, along with plastic gloves, a huge trash bag and a scoop shovel, just so I could capture the moment for posterity.  But the weather did nothing to improve things, as I was pelted with sleet and rain, and my jeans were sopping wet from the ankles down due to puddles. It occurred to me, as I lost my temper and may have shouted a few things out loud at the sky, that I was now matching Crazy Cat Lady, toe to toe, as I swore and punched the sky and invited her to come over and help me, since she maintains the presence of these feral creatures by feeding them. I think I saw some curtains move, and I wondered what I would do if she actually DID come out, because I knew it wouldn’t be to help, but to screech at me about her poor starving kitties (that she doesn’t REALLY care for, or even bother to collar, since you can’t come near one.) That would have been an interesting blog post, for sure – and in my dream version, the rain and sleet would be augmented by the fire hydrant between our homes spraying into the air, and despite my personal dislike for him, I would play the role made famous by Mel Gibson, and Crazy Cat Lady would, of course, pick up the part played by Gary Busey, and we would end this Battle Royale once and for all. (Yes, Carmen, you can show up and play the role of Murtough.)

A Girl can dream.

Older posts

© 2017 PlazaJen: The Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑


Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'root'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home/rbnugent/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/rbnugent/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 345

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'root'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home/rbnugent/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home/rbnugent/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home/rbnugent/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/quickstats/quickstats.php on line 346