Trophies & Standing Ovations for All!

We are Americans. While we might be capitalists, who don’t have the best reputation, we are, generally, a very nice people. We say ‘hello’ to strangers, we say ‘I’m sorry’ for ever getting in someone’s way, we give “only” a 10% tip for crappy service and ALL of our kids get trophies, just for trying. I, an American, am a very nice person. But I am also sad that this overly congratulatory culture has demeaned a long-standing (oh, the puns are going to be fun in this one) tradition, dating back to Ancient Roman times, of the standing ovation. I attended two events recently that, while wonderful, were not standing-ovation-worthy in my opinion, and it has made me wonder what we do, in a culture such as ours, when we start giving everyone a standing ovation, how we display our gratitude when something is truly exceptional, as the definition says.

The WIKI definition is this: A standing ovation is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after extraordinary performances of particularly high acclaim.

I would like to highlight the EXTRAORDINARY performance of PARTICULARLY HIGH ACCLAIM part of that definition. I have absolutely nothing against the standing ovation – I am simply frustrated by the over-use of it. It has devalued it both for those giving it and those receiving it. WIKI actually goes on to touch on this very subject, but in a very specific context – that “Some might say that the standing ovation has come to be devalued, such as in the field of politics, in which on some occasions standing ovations may be given to political leaders as a matter of course, rather than as a special honor in unusual circumstances.” But I will even give it to politics – if they want to use the standing ovation in their own rituals, I’ll let that go. Its roots are actually political in nature from the Ancient Romans, who used this gesture to welcome back military leaders who may not have won their battles, but who were still praiseworthy. I’m speaking about public performances where, due to the ovation over-use, there are no options to distinguish the great from the good. What shall we do now? Climb on to the backs of our theatre chairs? Somehow, I don’t think management would approve.

Just so you don’t think I am a total anti-standingovite, I would like to report that I have been part of / given a standing ovation at exactly two performances in my life. That seems like a pretty good ratio for a well-traveled, but maybe not SO cultured 40-year old with two small children (i.e. haven’t been to a lot of cultural events lately). In both of these instances, there wasn’t a moments hesitation, no reluctant standers. The first was a performance in Paris that was a combination Ballet and Opera. The music, dancing, costumes, singing…all of it was moving beyond expression. When it was over, there was a microsecond of silence, perhaps of awe, and then the audience was thrust to their feet by some inexplicable force – a creative energy that lifted people up in inspiration without an ounce of obligation. The other was a performance off Broadway, in New York, that traced the history of African Americans in America through dance. It was unexpectedly exceptional (I think much of the audience was there because it was what was available at the half-price ticket booth), and the entire theatre jumped from their seats, celebrating that we had just been part of something exceptional.

But now, evidently, we stand at the end of most live performances. Part of this, I think, may have to do with the fact that, as a society, we don’t see a lot of live performances. I’m going to exclude most big music concerts here because usually we are already standing at most of these venues. Concerts have their own rhythm and ending – I’m all for the Encore. But my point is that as our society has moved from one that relies on live entertainment in the days when the standing ovation started (plays, poetry readings, magician acts, etc.) to today, where we are mostly entertained by film and television (and live/reality entertainment on TV is not the same). So when we DO see actual people in front of us, we are compelled to, almost literally, throw ourselves at their feet in gratitude. I fully agree that there is something innately more pleasurable in “cultural” events such as plays and live events than watching them through our television sets, albeit our television sets are delivering images in larger and larger format. Perhaps one day watching television will be like going to play in that the figures in front of us will, in fact, be life-size. But in the meantime, we are not used to having actors and actresses, or speech-givers or dancers so close to us, and we want to ensure they know how much we appreciate them putting themselves out there for us – making themselves vulnerable to our otherwise judgmental ways (ultimately WHY reality TV is so successful). And this is nice.

There was another part of the WIKI description that I found interesting and that is historically, a performance may have been measured by the percentage of the audience that rose. Now, here’s an idea that I think has fully escaped us and actually fully redeems the frequent standing ovation for me. Perhaps there are some people who are ‘in the know’ who fully appreciate a performance for what it is worth (a performance in San Francisco of “Waiting for Godot” was torture for me, but I understood that more culturally literate people than myself probably fully enjoyed the rendition – it’s supposed to be torture. I don’t know if they got a standing ovation because I couldn’t wait any longer and left before the end), or people who are just very easily pleased, or very grateful sorts, then by all means, stand away. But what I’ve noticed is that it seems unacceptable, anymore, to stay seated during a standing ovation, such the whole room ends up standing. People look at each other in their seats, asking with their eyes, “are you going to get up? I know…I don’t really want to either, but…” and then you both reluctantly stand. I mean, really, who wants to be the last man/woman sitting? That’s just not nice.

So, I guess this means I need to be the change I want to see – I can’t stand for this any longer. I will have to be the stick in the, um, seat (sorry, I’ll stop). Will I be doing it alone? Here’s what I propose: if it’s not truly inspired, then just clap louder, clap longer, hoop and holler, but please, let’s reserve the standing ovation for, as the definition says, the truly extraordinary. 

Bacon, will you please move over?

I’m generally a ‘to each one’s own’ type of person, but there is something going on right now…some sort of bizarre movement….towards something that I just can’t support. I don’t think I’ve been anti-anything before, other than anti-hate, anti-war or any other anti that makes you roll your eyes and go, ‘yeah, you and most of humanity.’ But here it goes. I am (deep breath), I am, (oh the bravery I muster), I am anti-bacon. This obsession that this country suddenly has with the fatty, thin slice of pork people so lovingly call bacon must end. I have but one word in retaliation: eww. 

OK, so I’m not really anti-bacon, I am more anti-bacon obsession. My personal history with meat, in general, has been spotty at best. I’ve gone in and out of different forms of vegetarianism and I didn’t eat red meat for a solid 15 years. In case you are wondering, I always counted pork, despite it’s marketing claim of being ‘the other white meat’ as red. I currently eat meat, but generally not bacon, which is suddenly useful, in my cry out against it.

I am not imposing meat-loving on the U.S, by any means. I lived abroad (Europe) for several years and was equally if not MORE disgusted there, not only by meat, but by all of the other parts that people were very willing to eat. I get it – historically, there has been argument for using EVERY part of the animal. And the Buddhist in me likes the idea of using every part to honor the animal that gave it’s life (though I can’t stomach that, myself). But I guess I just think that as societies evolve, some of those things could be left behind…kind of like, as we now all have indoor plumbing, we got rid of the outhouses.  Anyway, I’ve traveled to a good number of continents and the meat obsession is a popular one – Brazil and the Churrascarias, Argentinian steaks, the Middle East and the lamb. Meat signals prosperity and for many / most…it tastes good. My reasons for multi versions of vegetarianism have always been health and taste related, not animal rights related (HOWEVER, with the advent of factory farms, this has started to creep in too). But this obsession with bacon? I don’t get it.

The first time I really realized that bacon was taking a strange place in American’s hearts was when I was  at a high-end restaurant here in Austin. When we got to the dessert choices, one of them – a fruit crumble (always a favorite of mine) – was paired with a home-made ice cream flavor of bacon.  Excuse me??? As an ice-cream aficionado, I struggled for words through my horror and gag reflex. You want to take something sweet and creamy and melty and smooth and pair it with swine? With the general revolt I’ve often felt for pork, I’ve often said I must have been either Jewish or Muslim in my last life. I felt, then, that a line had been crossed and bacon was officially out of control.

Then my colleague sent me this: Not for the weak hearted . So, this was it – the nail in the coffin. Hipsters in San Francisco. Design folks. Those that are supposed to have and define taste for the rest of us – have gone off the deep end.  This is so unappealing to me, I cannot fathom using it as a home-page image. Clearly, I am not their target market (they are an agency, so they are SUPPOSED to know stuff like that). OR they might argue that it did make me remember them, but it’s kind of like how I remember the time my son ate too many grapes and….anyway. Or there’s the Train-Wreck theory – so horrible, it’s impossible to look away. Most likely, they jumped on the bacon band wagon (between you and me, I otherwise love their site). AND then when I was google-searching for this site again (for this piece), I actually found this one: http://www.consultbacon.com/. These guys are in the U.K -  it’s spreading!  From one marketing consultancy to another…guys, bacon and the words Fresh>Think? They Just. Don’t. Go. And the URL – consultbacon.com? I will not, thank you very much. Since when does bacon get characteristics like creativity and fresh? Since when has bacon come to represent anything but a heavy, greasy provision that even devout lovers know it is only good in small quantities? Since when does it evoke anything but laziness, gluttony and food comas?*

Alas, I have finally spoken my piece, but I am definitely losing this battle. Who am I to compete with rich fattiness that goes straight to the brain’s pleasure centers? Barley and Swine & Noble Pig Sandwiches are but two Austin sites with rave reviews. Even if I turn to the food Mecca, San Francisco, I find things such as the Bacon Bacon truck and the Bacon Dog Cart. But really, it was aready lost at the bacon ice cream.  If anyone else cares to join me in this bold stance AGAINST bacon, I’ve doctored up one of Bacon Bacon’s shirts here for us anti-bacon-culturites (below). And I’ll be seeing you in produce.

*author notes the irony that I am advertising for both firms, thus promoting the usage of bacon.

you lost me at bacon

It’s All About Me

I finally signed up for a writing workshop….I have to do this periodically when I am just not making any time for writing. I haven’t been for a few months now, so it was time. It’s a great free-form workshop with lots of prompts and inspiration, with the focus on just getting us writing. By hand even. There’s something nice about that. So, I’m hoping at least for the next few weeks, I’ll be able to at least post on Wed mornings using something from the night before.  The first one was just a prompt to introduce ourselves to the class. While most of you reading this blog already know me, I’m posting it here anyway, because in addition to ‘just getting me writing’, I want to get back into the habit of ‘just posting’!

 

Who I am seems like much too complex of a question, but here’s a bit about me. I am married to a brilliant, beautiful man with whom I am a little bit ridiculously in love with. We’ve been married for 7 years. We have 2 beautiful, if I do say so myself, children – Max (6) and Eliana (almost 4) – and I feel so blessed to have these to beings under my watch. They are healthy and spirited and challenging and lively and they make life (or me)really really crazy, yet, they are also a grounding force, in their own crazy ways.

I am a kind, compassionate, smart sometimes funny feminist who enjoys being a woman, fighting for women and hanging out with my women friends. I get a LOT of energy from my female homies. Wait, can a homie be female? Anyway, I am also a marketing consultant – I started my own Marketing Boutique two years ago with two dear, dear friends who have become even more dear to me through our business adventure together.

I have tons of issues with money, which will probably come out in an essay or two, just like it did here – out of nowhere – jumping out wherever it can because it has been on my mind. In my space. And not – because that’s my issue with it – that I have trouble letting it flow – but you know what? The universe took care of me and sent me a brilliant business man to go ahead and fall in love with. But having money doesn’t actually keep me from having issues with it, if you know what I mean.

I am also a writer – I have a blog at frombumpkintobuddhist.com and that is very much the reason I am here tonight. I love to write. It soothes me on so many levels and inspires me on so many more. I know there is a very creative me in here somewhere that I didn’t tap into for a lot of years of my life and for the past few, I’ve realized how important it is to nurture her. YET (capital Y, Capital E, capital T) I don’t always make time for writing. My blog is an attestation to this with months of unsung posts, i.e. nothing. I always intend to write – it’s always on the list, but I rarely, after work, running (I heart running), kids, family, singing (my other creative outlet – I’ve been taking lessons now for a couple of years just so I can finally do karaoke, which is oh-my-god so much fun), friends, husband, laundry, home, etc. etc. leave time for writing.

I sometimes wonder…do I need to pay $100 just to make time for this (note money issues from earlier)?  And then I finally say, “yes, I do!” 

More about the class, if any of you locals are interested (Dean Lofton is just a lovely person to get to know, beside):

I couldn’t have said it better

Since the last time I have written / posted, the holidays (and family) have come and gone, I’ve turned 40, we’ve entered a new year, I’ve thought about giving my son away more than a few times (don’t worry, just to his grandparents) and I’m in some physical funk that would probably require a team of doctors to even begin to figure it out (or I just need more sleep). Yes, lots to write about. But, in addition to my physical ailments, I think I’ve developed some sort of syndrome. Not sure it’s even discovered yet, so I think I’m on to something here, but the syndrome itself precludes me from acting on it, so here I am. What is it? I like to shorten it to JCGMST, because it’s so catchy,  but the more scientific description is that I JUST CAN’T GET MY SHIT TOGETHER. Can’t. Been trying. Can. Not.

SO, in the meantime, this little nugget was forwarded to me by a dear friend and I realized that I never have to write about parenting again because this woman, this most magnificent lovely soul of a writer, just put in one post, all that needs to be said about parenting. Ever. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glennon-melton/dont-carpe-diem_b_1206346.html

Enjoy and I’ll be back soon. 

A Different Speed

I’ve been thinking about speeding and thinking about writing about speeding for a long time. I get that it’s kind of a strange thing to think about speeding – it’s more something we DO, than something we think about, but if you haven’t gathered this about me already, I think a lot. To a fault, for sure. I wonder what that says about me that I find over-analyzing fun? 

Anyway, the reason I’ve thought a lot about speeding is because just over five years ago, I moved to this lovely city of Austin. Where weird is good, where gluten-free is the norm, and where people drive really fucking slow. I can be a little weird – that’s certainly relative. I DO eat gluten (gasp!), though I know enough about food and health-food lingo to be accepted. But the driving? I immediately wanted to write about it because I found it so frustrating – but that just seemed darn-right rude. Move to a city and then publicly criticize most of the drivers? Who does that? So, instead, I’ve just been thinking about it for five years. And in the last month, I’ve officially forked over $410 in speeding fines for 2 tickets (I had another one at the beginning of the year for which I forked out another $200 and 6 hours of time for a defensive driving course), so this issue has come to a head. Specifically, I’ve had to admit that maybe I have a problem (deep breath, still kind of hard to write). 

First, let me explain the backdrop on my belief about speeding. I think everyone is wired, like in a biological way, on a few key aspects in life and so it’s very hard to go against these things. I have developed this theory because I am a person who is wired one way, but grew up in another way. For example: Climate preference. I am wired to live in HOT climates – 85 degrees is my sweet spot, I am cold in anything less than 70 degrees and I think anything below 50 is absolutely intolerable. The astonishing thing to most people is that I grew up in Wisconsin. It was 23 years of seasonal hell. Sure, I appreciate the beauty of the first snow-fall and crisp, cold sunny days where the snow crunches under one’s boots, but you better believe that on the finest of winter days, I am wearing at least 5 layers and honestly, I just don’t think one needs to live where one feels the need to be is so heavily protected. 

I also think the wiring comes into play in the big city/small town choice. Linked, clearly, to the central nervous system, I think people are wired for the lively energy, loud buzz and constant magnificent moving machinery of a big city OR the slow-pace simplicity of a small town. I’m a big-city gal and I grew up in a town of miniscule population (3,000 people). I remember my first trip to Chicago when I was in middle-school. I went with a friend who had cousins that lived in the suburbs. We all went into the city for the day and I was speechless from the beauty of the skyscrapers, the sophistication of the inhabitants and the abundance of things to DO there. I felt at home. 

All of this is to say that I think how fast (or slow) one drives is a hard-wired attribute as well. The climate gene, the urban gene and the speed gene. Perhaps not identified yet, but I’m pretty sure they exist. I say this because I think there is a certain speed that everyone is just comfortable driving at and I’ve been, in the past, an advocate of people driving at the speed they are comfortable at, EVEN (deep breath) if that means they drive below the speed limit. While this drives me nuts when I’m behind these people, if I think about it, I don’t want them to speed up if they don’t think they can handle driving at the speed limit. I MIGHT be inclined to make the argument that the speed limit be sort of a barometer for whom we let on the streets,  but as my clearly slow-driving neighbor argued, it is a speed LIMIT and not a speed minimum. Hmmmm. Yes. Semantics will get me every time. Not to mention I have a harder time making the opposite argument because there certainly is something like ‘excessive speeding’, which of course, no speeder thinks they do, present company included. 

On my first draft of this post, this was the section where I was going to justify my speeding. I felt it was part of getting to acceptance of the problem. I was right on that, but much to your benefit, I have been talking about all of this among friends, and I’ve realized that my arguments sound pretty ridiculous when voiced out loud. My whole ‘drive at your comfort level’ argument really sounded obnoxious when I presented that one in front of my book club – 12 highly intelligent women who all presumably like me a little bit on some level – but who were happy to put me in my place. That was like a sweat-lodge: I had to purge a lot of beliefs and notions I had about it as I ranted like a crazy person. The book for that month was “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed.” In all other areas, I agreed with the author, I still wasn’t with him (yet) on the speeding.

There were actually other speeders in that group, and over the last 6 weeks (since court) I’ve bonded with others and we all concur on one point: we are APPROPRIATE speeders. I really want to cling to this idea because I really think I AM an appropriate speeder, but I do recognize that enforcing ‘appropriate speeding’ is a little trickier. And so when I finally dropped that argument, and with countless hours of scoul scraping (it’s been painful) this is where I got to with staying within speed limits: I don’t like people to tell me what to do. I’m not sure anyone does, but speed limits, in particular, seem a tad arbitrary – where I’ve been picked up twice, the speed limit changes from 30 to 35 within blocks of each other and it’s actually faster downtown, which makes no sense to me. It really bugs ME to follow rules that don’t make sense to ME – because I am so important. Or so my ego believes. Interestingly, I ask my children to do this every day. I can reason that my rules make sense (I am not a strict mom by any means), and they DO to an adult, but to my children? Not always. So, the speed limits are arbitrary to me. To a police officer? To the judge? The people who actually matter here? Not so much. It’s pretty simple. It’s their rule. Follow it. 

While following arbitrary rules is slightly painful, it’s more painful for me to be paying these exorbitant ticket prices (in TX, you can pay more money to avoid it going on your record, an injustice for sure, but one that has been working out for me), so I have been working on re-wiring. That’s right. Just because I believe we have the climate gene, the urban gene and the speed gene, doesn’t mean I believe we can’t live another way. San Francisco, for example is the town closest to my heart, but it is arguably downright chilly for much of the year. I know plenty of people who prefer small towns, but live in big ones and vice versa. No one DIES from this. And then there’s this big one: As a Buddhist, it does seem a tiny bit contradictory to insinuate that happiness is tied, even in the slightest, to our external circumstances or constraints. And in fact, this is much what a spiritual path is about: re-wiring our habits and thoughts that create our unhappiness. It just took an interceding party (the police) to make me unhappy about speeding, otherwise, it suited me just fine. It takes an interceding party (the police) to keep people from doing lots of things that suit THEM just fine. Yes, I get it. 

Back to the night of book club, a self-proclaimed slow-driver (she told me she uses her cruise to ensure she stays at the speed limit when I told her I was having to use mine a lot to stay at it) and I were arguing back and forth about speed limits and she kept saying, “it’s fast enough”…”that area? 30 miles per hour is fast enough”, “65 is more than fast enough on a highway through town”, etc. etc. Her words were like a slow-working esthetician, annoying and painful. However, as I’ve been working on the re-wiring, staying conscious of my speed at ALL times (I took an oath in court to not be picked up again within 6 months, so paranoia has been high), using my cruise control in particularly challenging areas, I keep hearing her words in my head. I know the re-wiring is working because lately I’ve been answering her, even as other drivers speed past me, saying yes, it is. It wasn’t that I was in a hurry before, it’s just that I was just trying to get everywhere faster; going my own speed. But I live in Austin now. It’s a small-ish town, relatively speaking from where I and so many people who have moved here come from, and it’s a great place to be. And yes, it is, indeed, fast enough.

Seriously, the Best Brownies

Let’s be clear, I’m not really a recipe-sharing type. So, when I offer one up, you best be pay’n attention. If you’ve ever read my blog before, you know I don’t like to cook. I purposely mention it often so in the event you end up at my house for dinner, your expectations are set appropriately low. Baking, however is another matter. I have always enjoyed baking, though I took a hiatus from it for quite some time due to a silly thing like trying to eat healthy. But with two small children, both now of an age where I have ‘let go’ of my sugar rations (Tae Kwon Don’t), I’ve reinvigorated my love of making confectionary goodies. One of the things I like about baking is that it’s necessary to follow instructions – measuring and proper ratios of ingredients are key to success. Unlike cooking, where a test of a good cook is the ability to cook without a recipe, or ‘to use one for inspiration’ as my good-cooking friends say, I don’t know anyone who bakes from the hip. This suits me well because a) it’s actually pretty hard to screw up when following a recipe to a T, and B) if something doesn’t turn out, it’s clearly a problem with the recipe, and not me. And follow instructions, I do. In this recipe you may notice that it tells you to stir vigorously. I work up a small sweat. It also tells you, after all else, to beat for 40 strokes. Oh yes, I do. In my head, not out loud. I do have some pride. Now that that this recipe has worked for me a few times, I might get crazy with the number of strokes – I may try less, if I’m feeling really zany, maybe more.

I should say that while I like baking, I have to be realistic about my constraints on time and complexity, given I am often baking with two “helpers” and don’t generally find a whole afternoon to devote to kitchen creations. So this recipe, which I am sharing today, is great for several reasons. First, it’s totally fool-proof. How do I know? I have made it 3 times. This is my test – if I make something once and it turns out, it’s “promising” – it could totally be a fluke, so I hold back the full-on optimism. That is saved for the second success. While improbable, planets could technically align twice for the same recipe. But if I can make it three times and have it turn out well three times, then it becomes “mine.” It is deemed one of the things “I make”. “I make a great cocoa brownie,” I might say. If I was in a group of domestically-gifted people, where I would be feeling really insecure and may need to say something like this.

The other reason it’s great is that you can actually do something else while you make it. I wouldn’t go crazy and wallpaper your bathroom, but I did manage to read a Real Simple article (I know, the irony is a killer, isn’t it?). You see, you basically put most of the ingredients on the stove and wait for everything to melt together – double boiler style, so there is even very little risk of burning anything. The trickiest bit (remember, I follow directions) is that you are supposed to stir from time to time (like after each page of the Real Simple article) “until … the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.” I find this a bit moronic because if you test it after you’ve gone too far, well, burn by brownie batter probably doesn’t hurt any less, but like I said earlier, I’ve done this three times and it’s fool-proof. BUT if you don’t like licking cocoa batter off your finger, this may not be the recipe for you.

Finally, a note on the reason I like this recipe so much is that it’s the ooey-gooey kind of chocolate brownie and NOT the cakey kind of brownie because if I wanted cakey kind of brownies, I would just make chocolate cake.

So there you have it, something domestic on my blog! There is a first for everything, though it is likely to be the last. I have an aversion to all things ‘wholesome’ (more about this another time), and this is veering towards that path, so I’ll likely stick to less useful blather, but in the mean time, enjoy the brownies.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Best-Cocoa-Brownies-108346

Death by Steve Jobs

I’ve alluded to this before, but I think a lot about death. I sometimes attribute this to being Buddhist, but really, I’ve always thought a lot about death. About my own, about losing those that I love, about how lucky I’ve been to be sheltered from it because I also often reflect on the heartbreak and tragedy it brings. I’ve written very long blog posts about death, never to publish them because death is… messy. It is so simple and yet, so complicated. One of the most interesting things about death, I think, is that we call the ones who are left behind the “survivors” when, in fact, I am certain that these are the victims. Dying is easy* – dealing with death is hard.

It seems appropriate, however, today, of all days, to write about death – the day that the world lost an incredible one of us. I also find it interesting that when people are great in life, their death seems to have as much, if not more of an impact as their life. I say more because death is the one thing that truly humbles every one of us. In this humility, we are acutely aware of own humanity. It forces us to reflect on our own lives, on the lives of others. “We” lost a public figure – a man who did think differently and whose ideas changed our material world, whose character may have changed our emotional one. But a few lost a father, one lost a husband. Their grief is the same grief shared by every person who has ever lost a father or a husband. Or a wife or a sibling or a child. So then “we” empathize with those most affected by the loss of an individual, and we can look at the ones we love through the lens that lets us all see what’s important. That we are alive. It’s the tougher of the two options, but wow, isn’t that great?

Perhaps reflecting on the loss of a man such as Mr. Jobs, whose life has impacted our world so greatly inspires us to be better,  but I think that what better means is that it actually inspires us to be us, more human, more connected. Death is happening all around us, every day, but when it happens to someone like Steve Jobs it reminds us that life, no matter how big and boldly it is lived, is fragile. It is said that the reason the Buddha chose to die was to teach impermanence – that no matter how enlightened one is, they are not free from the cycle of life. Steve Jobs was a great man – but really, his life was no more precious or valuable than our own. The same potential resides in us all. Thanks, Mr. Jobs, for reminding us of that. He did change our lives and how we use technology, but perhaps his greatest gift is right now, our collective nod to one another and our appreciation for life.

*clarification: I don’t think the process of dying, of leaving this physical world, is easy at all, I think it’s very very hard. What I meant here was more the after-math of death.

WholeFoods has the Most with the Least

First up, if WholeFoods was a person, I would approach her, nervously, with pen and paper in hand. While asking for her autograph, I would try to act cool – make small talk while bumbling over my words – maybe throw in some lingo about sustainability or something, just to let her know we are kindred spirits. Then I would say something like, ‘I’m your biggest fan’. WholeFoods would probably freak out and run the other way. But I would not care and my obsession would continue.

And anyway -

Yesterday I was skimming my dinner planning down to the wire, which is something I usually do, but I was cutting it particularly close. I don’t like to cook, so this particular daily task often ends up in last place in terms of brain space. Way at the bottom below Facebook apps (I generally don’t like these either), checking my linked-in inbox and alphabetizing my CD collection.  I knew what I wanted to – grill some WholeFoods sausages…fast, easy and perfect to pair with a salad, the only thing I make well (and I know, salads don’t really count as cooking….unless you pair it with a nice sun-dried tomato and basil chicken sausage). I was cut a break – my kids went to play next door so I had the opportunity to run to the store to purchase said items, which I had neglected doing earlier in the day. I decided, while I was there, I would also attempt to make some potatoes the way my husband likes them made – fried with butter – I almost NEVER cook with butter, much to his chagrin. So I made time to run through the produce department too. It then occurred to me, however, how tight I was cutting dinner time and I swung by the frozen foods area and picked up some frozen hash brown potatoes to fry in the butter. Dinner prep rolled along nicely and while I was cooking the potatoes (in butter), I wondered if I needed to salt them. I grabbed the package to look at the ingredients, and as I reached for the package, I thought, oh no! I didn’t even look at the package that I was buying, I wonder how long this list of ingredients is going to be and how bad I’m going to feel about buying frozen potatoes! While I don’t like to cook, I do like to eat(understatement) and I am a stickler for good quality, fresh food, which is why I am a WholeFoods shopper. This is also to my husband’s chagrin – WholeFoods does not jive with his frugal ways, but he supports my shopping habit because he doesn’t do any cooking himself, so he realizes he doesn’t have a lot to say in this area. Anyway, I read the ingredients of the hash browns: organic potatoes. That’s it. One ingredient. Whew. This is why I shop at WholeFoods! I know I can find this at regular grocery stores, but the point is I have to look. Because I don’t really like to cook, I survive on simple shortcuts to get my family fed, but I try to avoid too many frozen foods or mixes, particularly those bought at typical grocery stores, because of one simple fact: their ingredients lists are overwhelming. Too many items and I need a phd in chemistry to understand what half of them are. Case in point: When visiting my mother over the summer I wanted to make a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich – something else I can “make”. Her cupboard contained Jif and Smuckers. I’m addicted to reading food labels, so I checked them out. The ingredient list on Jif was scary – there were at least 5 ingredients and some of them unidentifiable and lots of soy. In peanut butter? WTF?

WholeFoods has its share of long ingredients lists – but I find most of the list to be identifiable and an understandable ingredient in whatever it is. I know I could do better – I could always eat healthier (I know the ingredients lists for lots of cookie brands too!) – I could make more things from scratch. But WholeFoods supports my ‘healthier’ lifestyle by keeping it simple. While I read most labels, when I shop there I know I don’t have to take the time on every single thing and it won’t end in ‘total junk’ territory. It’s got to be said: they really are keeping it real.

BTW – they didn’t produce this video – but I’m sure they wish they had. And yes, if you are keeping track, this IS the 2nd time I’ve posted it. What can I say? I’m their biggest fan.

As Always, Be Careful What You Wish For

I got a new phone today. It’s an Android. Let’s first be clear, though, that what I’ve actually been wishing for is an iphone and I’ve been wishing for this for, well, as long as iphones have been around. It, however, has elusively evaded me, signing exclusive deals with network providers that were first out of my reach (I was held captive by a contract), then switching once I, too, might make the leap to iphone land. This quest to be together has been further complicated by the fact that I am part of my husband’s company’s phone plan, so I am subject to his whims, and more accurately, his bias against apple. All of this makes for a not very sad story of a girl and her blackberry. Until today.

Now I have an Android and, for the record, am on Sprint, my now 4th network in less than 3 years. I feel slutty. Also, for the record, I was and am, I think, still excited about this phone. I can download pretty apps, play games, check the weather (some things, to be fair, I COULD do on my blackberry but it wasn’t very easy or fun). The only thing I can’t do is make a phone call using contacts that exist on my phone.

You see, I’ve been working ALL DAY trying to sync my outlook contacts with my Google account so that the phone, which syncs with that, will bring in those very same contacts. BUT the application my husband used for this is not working on my computer. “Because of the technology curse that you have?” you ask, because if you know me at all you know that I have a technology curse. Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that it is now 17 minutes before my nanny leaves for the day and I’ve spent nearly 5 hours trying to figure this FLIPPING thing out. I can technically dial someone’s number, but that’s just not the same. “Looking up someone’s number?” That is so 20th century.

I know it’s terribly boring of me to complain about this because a) technological problems are boring and everyone has them (evidenced by the zillions of google results for “problems with…”) and b) I just got something new and fun. I would officially, then, like to register this, not as a “complaint”, but as a “frustration”. A fair distinction, if I do say so myself. And the only reason I share this with all of you is that squarely near the top of my to-do list, just under “phone set-up” is “blog post”. It’s been far too long. But now with only 11 minutes until the nanny leaves, this is what I’ve got. My brain is all-consumed with installations, ‘errors’ ‘syncing failures’ and my own profanities. There’s also a voice in there saying, “this wouldn’t be happening if you had an iphone.” Damn you Steve Jobs. I mean, bless you Steve Jobs, as you deal with your illness, but Damn the marketing that leaves voices in my head. Or how about I leave Mr. Jobs out if entirely – it’s probably the voices of my friends-with-iphones.

Reporting real-time, I should let you know that the nanny left 30 minutes ago and I had to take a break. I bought myself more time via a DVD from the library and now, by some miraculous back-door that sort of popped in out of nowhere from Motorola, I THINK my contacts are syncing! I’m still a bit discouraged that this has taken all day, but at least I have a starting point with my phone and I am getting a blog-post out of it. If you would like to log in a complaint (or just a frustration) with this post, then I suggest the comment box. Don’t call me – I’ll call you. In exactly 5 minutes and 10 seconds when my contacts are done syncing.

Blood, Sweat and Triathlon

Soooo, tomorrow morning I am getting up at something like 4:00 a.m. to go swim 1,500 meters, bike 40k (25 miles) and then run a 10k (6 miles). All in a (Labor) day’s fun. It’s funny – I spend a great deal of time working out – especially as I prepare for events such as this, and while I am out swimming, biking or running, I almost always formulate that day’s blog post. I have created great tales and life analogies, been inspired and have even made myself laugh, which must leave people wondering about me. I often think I should create ‘Fitness’ as it’s own archive category because staying in shape has been a pretty big part of my life since college. I think this may be one of the things people even sort of associate with me – if they were asked to describe me in 3 adjectives, “fit” may very well be one of them. YET, I don’t really write about it. I have a couple theories on this.

The first is plain logistics. Especially since motherhood, I often find myself sneaking in work-outs where I can. Yes, I am one of those crazy people you see out running in 100 degree heat at 1:00 in the afternoon. I try not to use too much nanny time for working out, but occasionally, when my husband travels, that’s the only time I have for it, and if I have meetings or other commitments earlier, I end up doing my work-outs at less than ideal times. I also feel like I am always squeezed for time and I need to shower and get on to the next thing in at least 5 minutes less time than it usually takes me to get ready. So, my formulated blog posts go straight down that shower drain, along with my sweat and tears (usually not blood, and actually tears are rare too, but I liked how this sounded and I really got attached to this as the title).

The second is that I often write about things I struggle with, e.g. parenthood, parenthood and parenthood. I do write about other things, but mostly I struggle with being a good mom. My blog tends to be my therapist on the screen – I work through things through my writing. Staying fit and healthy is important to me and working out really is a sanity tool for me – but I don’t struggle with it. I am not a competitive person, so there isn’t a lot of ‘thrill of victory’ or ‘agony of defeat’. It’s like going to the grocery store or dropping my kids off at school. It’s just a part of my routine. My husband’s sports abilities provide much more interesting material, as he is the real athlete in the house – his chosen sport at the moment is road cycle racing and he actually wins things. I am often amused by his type-A competitive behavior, which differs so greatly from mine – I would let someone pass me just to make them feel better about themselves, if I knew that is what they needed. Case in point: when Mark was training for IronMan triathlons a handful of years back, he went to listen to a pre-race talk by one of the coaches. I tagged along because there isn’t usually a whole lot to do at Ironman events other than Ironman-related activities. The coach was a very competitive guy and he told the group a quip – that when he raced, as he passed other people, he would visualize “sucking their energy” as he passed them, because he figured they didn’t need it anyway. I was appalled. The Buddhist in me vowed to right the world and from that moment on, whenever I pass people – in a race or just out for a daily run, I visualize giving them energy because I can see that they need it more than I do!

So here I am, writing about sports while I explain why I don’t write about sports. Every day needs a little irony. This, as I sit next to a bottle of “Liquid Endurance – Heat Tolerance” – a chemical mixture I am taking 3 times today to help me in my race (all pre-race activities and diet are dictated by the athletic A-type hubby). I thought it funny that on the same label, it says, “Please keep this container in a cool dry place. Do not expose to excessive heat, moisture or sunlight.” Perhaps that is how it would work best – if I kept myself in a cool dry place and didn’t expose myself to excessive heat or sunlight either. Naaaahhhhh – where’s the fun in that? I’ve got some energy to give away.