Thursday, January 31, 2008
Chicken Soup for All of Us
Last year, thanks to Laurie, one of the guys who writes the Chicken Soup for the Soul books sat on me.

There are photos. I will not be publishing them. Ever.

Laurie might. You'll have to talk to her about that.

There is a point to this. The Chicken Soup books are all about giving comfort.

I am in short supply of comfort this week as I've been sick, and frankly, a little down.

I say "down" because for me, the word "depressed" takes on considerably serious meaning in my life. Just ask my patient husband. Depressed means curled up in fetal position for a good number of months self-isolated from all human contact having not showered in far, far too long.

I am a long and terrible journey away from "depressed".

I am a little down. It will indeed, pass.

I haven't always known this but when I am "down", the urge to isolate myself hits me like a ton of melancholy bricks and yet, what I need is to be taking active steps to comfort myself. To nurture myself.

Nurture is a concept for me that claws at my brain.

Nurture is care and kindness and support.
Nurture is development, creativity, education and cultivation.
Nurture is nourishment, sustenance, refreshment.

All of these things have never been a problem for me to provide to others but are nearly impossible to accept for myself. I have been known to feel virtuous for denying myself nurturing and yet should I ever deny it to anyone else, it would be mortifying to me.

The trick here is, in nurturing another, I nurture myself. Just go with me on this one, OK? I love taking care of others. It is embedded in (whatever passes for) my soul. It is a part of my being. I sometimes forget myself in taking care of others, which becomes a hazard. This week, during this time that I am not abundant with resources, I promise not to forget myself.

I also promised a recipe for chicken soup. (nice segue, huh? I thought so!)

This, just so you know, is not your grandmother's chicken soup recipe. I, personally, do not have 12 hours to boil a carcass just for broth. Therefore, this is the 21st century happy homemaker's chicken soup. Mmmm mmmm, good.

Faith's 21st Century Balabusta's* Chicken Soup

The night before, order Chinese food. Get brown rice. Trust me. The brown rice never gets fully eaten and sits in the fridge because you don't want to throw away perfectly good brown rice. You'll use this.

Then, the next day, go get:
One grocery store roasted chicken. Pre-roasted. Preferably garlic or rosemary. Not BBQ. OK?
2 quarts of chicken broth (I use boxed)
Six or seven whole peeled carrots
One stalk of celery (not one stick, the whole bunch)
One bunch of chives (or about 2 tbsp. dried chives)
Two bay leaves
Parsley flakes
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour all the broth into the crockpot. Take all the meat off the chicken, shred it into edible chunks and throw that into the crockpot. Get rid of the skin, you won't use it in this recipe. Cut up the carrots and celery into about 1 inch pieces. Throw that in too. Put in the chives, parsley flakes, garlic powder, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Cover and leave on low for about 5 hours or until the carrots are cooked to the softness that you like. In about the fourth hour, put the brown rice into the crockpot.

Eat soup.

Careful, it's hot.

*Origin: Yiddish–noun: Informal.
A capable, efficient housewife, esp. a traditional Jewish one, devoted to maintaining a well-run home
, good homemaker

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tu b'Shvat
Monday, in addition to being the King holiday, was also Tu b'Shvat, a holiday that generally signifies a new year for trees. Basically, it's like all trees birthdays are celebrated on one day during the year. Long story as to why this is, you'll just have to trust me (or look it up) that there are reasons that trees need to have one combined birthday in Judaism.

Anyway, this weekend I planted 4 New Zealand Snow White tea trees (leptospermum, for those of you that need to know - I love that). They are really quite gorgeous.

Working with my own two hands in the dirt is so incredibly rewarding for me.

Last July I planted zucchini in the same spot. When I dug the holes for the plants, I found so many rocks, construction debris and various other items that generally do not belong in soil. I was so sad to see that there were no earthworms. The soil was not fertile.
When I planted the zucchini, I amended the soil. All winter long, I got lovely zucchini that I grated into my meatloaf and enchiladas, sauteed with Trader Joe's chicken sausage and ate raw right out of the garden.

When I went to plant my tea trees this weekend, I found hundreds of earthworms - big and juicy and little guys crawling through the soil making it full of good nutrients. I am really freaking proud of my soil!!!! I've been saving coffee grounds and egg shells to further enrich the soil in my back yard. I spread out a little coffee, some crushed egg shells and went to work. I dug 8 gallon holes and planted the trees. They should provide shade and privacy when they grow to their full height of 8 feet. They also smell lovely and have beautiful white flowers.

All weekend I've been combing my landscaping books and magazines. With some serious sweat equity, I swear, by this summer I am going to have a landscaped garden. This is the year!

Tomorrow I'll share with you the huge pot of delicious chicken soup I made last night!!!

Damn. I'm Doris freakin' Day. Who's the Jewish equivalent of Doris Day?

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Friday, January 18, 2008
Beauty and the Myth
For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.”
- Ivan Panin (1855-1942)

I'm going to talk primarily about women here, mostly because I don't have a penis.

I know that plenty of men have eating disorders. On men, I will say that in the gay community eating disorders are far more prevalent than among heterosexual men (Int J Eat Disord 2007; 40:218–226). Additionally, originally noted in Reback, et al (1997) and followed up in an article by Halkitis, PN, et al., (Subst Use Misuse, 2005, 40:1331-45), gay men are using an incredibly addictive and dangerous drug for weight control. Though it is not their primary reason for using crystal meth, many will admit to the weight loss being an enormous benefit of a crystal habit. Women are not alone in our agony.

Now, on to women.

Every day we are flooded, overwhelmed with ads telling us how beautiful we could be if we used their product. This undereye cream, that moisturizer, the other diet pill.
  • According to the Center on Media Literacy, the advertising industry is a 100 billion dollar per year business.
  • Depending on whom you believe, the diet industry is a 46 billion to 100 billion dollar a year business.
  • each and every one of us exposed to about 2000 ads per day. About 25% of these ads are for beauty products.
Most of these advertisements are telling us that we can:

"Love the skin you're in" (when you buy and use our product)

"Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline." (and if you're not born with "it" you can have "it" by using our product)

"Feel like a woman (Revlon)" As opposed to what? An hideous monstrosity? A person without makeup? A FTM transgender person? I'm not sure I understand.

Alli - the new OTC diet drug asks in one of their slogans,
"Don't like what you see in the mirror?"
What a question. When asked, approximately ALL U.S. women will say that they don't like what they see in the mirror. Is GlaxoSmithKline telling me that we, each American woman should start taking Alli, loose oily stools and all and our reflection will suddenly greet us more kindly each morning?

I'm more than just fine with wearing a little lipstick (Revlon) and mascara (Maybelline). I do it nearly every day. However, wearing of makeup should not be the thing that assures my femininity, the reason I feel confident when I walk out my front door. It should not be the basis for my spirit or my courage.

Each time we moan at how "sinful" we're being while eating cheese, we're sharing our own body dissatisfaction with those around us. When we think it's okay to pinch at ourselves and complain that we were "bad" today in front of children, even if we think they are "too young to notice", we pass this along to our next generation.

So far, we're doing a great job.

Though anorexia and bulimia have been around for centuries in various forms, girls are starting "diet play" earlier. An Australian researcher has found girls as young as 12 abusing diet products such as shakes and pills. In another article, (Int J Eat Disord. 2003 Mar;33(2):193-204) girls as young as 9 years old were expressing body dissatisfaction not correlated to body size. One Canadian study (CMAJ 2004;170:1559-61) revealed that among girls aged 10-14 in Ontario schools (n=2000) between 1993 and 2003 approximately 30% were dieting.

I remember dieting at 9 years old when I joined a diet program for the first time. I have no idea if I started thinking about diets any earlier than that but it can't have occurred to me one day in my 9th year to just say, "Hey! I think I'll start to diet today.".

The fact of the matter is, we all have something to offer and none of that has anything to do with the circumference of our hips, no matter the number.

I have a number of very sweet online friends. I have never seen most of their faces, much less their bodies. I know that each of them has said something to me that makes me think hard about how I feel about my body. I know that each and every one of them wishes that I would love my body. Wishes that I could see in myself what they see.

I know that I have wished the same for each of them, because all of us suffer from eating disorders. I know that one of them is a professor and at least two of them are in school to become therapists, one is entering law school and one is starting her career in science writing. One has just had a one year AA birthday and another is a graphic designer. None of it matters because we are all telling ourselves, when we are pummeled by stress and overwhelmed with anxiety that all of our problems relate to our physically being here in this world. They are each so beautiful.

I'm more accepting of my body these days. Believe me, I have a long way to go. So far I haven't had the ability to look in the mirror and say, "Hey beautiful!" yet. But that's what I'm aiming for. No matter what I look like.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008
Peace over Violence
The other day I was cleaning out all of the old drafts of posts I never finished, ideas I had for posts that never were quite fulfilled.

I found one article I was going to comment on many months ago that, according to an AP analysis of crime statistics, sex offense cases involving juvenile perpetrators are up dramatically in recent years. The offenders are younger, treatment professionals report, and their crimes are becoming more violent.

I almost tossed it. But I didn't.

It pulled at me, what could I do about this incredibly disturbing trend? What could anyone do?

Later, going through some of my old bookmarks I saw that the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (the Franco-phonic acronym of LACAAW) which has been around at least as long as I have, changed their name to Peace Over Violence.

They changed it because rape and sexual assault of women and children is only the tip of the iceberg.

Honestly, I wasn't sure how I felt about the change. After all, "L.A. Commission on Assaults Against Women" sounds pretty official. Peace over Violence sounds...well, like a bunch of long-haired hippie, Birkenstock, tie-dye wearing, folks who are a lot easier to laugh off than the other one. Not that I don't love all you peace-loving, tie-dye wearing, patchouli-smelling, tofu-eating folks...I just didn't know if this change was for the best - so I started clicking around.

Here is one of the pages that I found. I highlighted the ones that struck me as being the most creative things I can do day to day in RED.

100 ways to commit acts of violence prevention everyday:

  • VOLUNTEER at your neighborhood school or community organization.
  • KEEP kids BUSY and productive after school.
  • SUPPORT your local battered women’s shelter and rape crisis center.
  • MENTOR a youth.
  • KEEP kids AWAY from guns, and guns away from kids.
  • Don’t keep a gun in your house. If you do, lock it up.
  • MONITOR your family’s movie and television viewing.
  • GET NEWS of the day from more than one source.
  • MAKE COMPASSION a part of your management style.
  • BRING FAIRNESS to your workplace.
  • TAKE CHARGE of protecting yourself; take a SELF-DEFENSE class.
  • DON’T LAUGH at rape jokes.
  • Be an ALLY; STAND UP for someone else.
  • In an escalating confrontation, LOWER your voice.
  • BE KIND to the homeless.
  • LISTEN actively.
  • SPEND TIME in nature.
  • OPEN your HEART.
  • CHANGE your mind.
  • RESPECT people from other ethnicities and cultures.
  • VOTE; participate in democracy.
  • MAKE ROOM for the other.
  • QUESTION stereotypes about gays and lesbians.
  • PRACTICE smiling.
  • LEARN ABOUT RELIGIONS other than your own.
  • SIT in STILLness everyday.
  • SPEAK your TRUTH with compassion.
  • RESTRAIN from making hand gestures while driving.
  • REDUCE road rage.
  • Get to KNOW your neighbors.
  • SHARE responsibility for the safety of everyone’s children.
  • KNOW your police officers.
  • POLICE the police.
  • BE VIGILANT, not a vigilante.
  • DEVELOP a household safety plan.
  • Teach children the difference between helpful strangers and harmful ones.
  • USE the buddy system.
  • AVOID isolated places.
  • YELL to get attention if you’re in trouble.
  • TEACH facts and strategies. Don’t teach fear.
  • THINK about the effects of spanking.
  • BE aware of your actions around children.
  • GET HELP if you have an explosive temper.
  • DEVELOP positive outlets for dealing with problems or stress.
  • DEVELOP an AWARENESS of shared family beliefs about violence and its effect on others.
  • PRACTICE & TEACH empathy.
  • Don’t minimize or dismiss other people’s feelings.
  • LET boys CRY.
  • LET girls BE angry.
  • LET children FEEL their emotions.
  • ENCOURAGE teens to have healthy relationships.
  • TALK to your teens about the realities of dating violence.
  • ENCOURAGE assertiveness.
  • Don’t label female children as aggressive if they stand up for themselves.
  • NAME abuse when you see it.
  • HELP your sons and daughters learn to be responsible about their sexuality.
  • TEACH your teens to distinguish between consensual sex and sexual assault.
  • ACCENTUATE positive characteristics of healthy relationships.
  • Take ACTION to INFLUENCE what is in the media.
  • REFRAIN from using violent words or actions when reacting to conflict, stress or anger.
  • Use CONFLICT RESOLUTION techniques.
  • MEDITATE to gain clarity and focus.
  • SUPPORT victims of violence in their healing.
  • THINK before you react.
  • SHIFT negative thinking.
  • Be DISCERNING; refrain from judging.
  • ENCOURAGE social justice.
  • PRACTICE respectful sexuality.
  • CREATE a positive support system.
  • CARRY your local rape crisis hotline number with you.
  • Support ECONOMIC GROWTH in underdeveloped areas.
  • Give a job to a youth from a disenfranchised community.
  • Steer kids AWAY from gangs.
  • CREATE sexual harassment free zones in your workplace.
  • CONFRONT where and how alcohol is sold in your community.
  • SUPPORT prevention and treatment of drug abuse.
  • If you drink, DON’T DRIVE.
  • Plan for SAFE driving with teens.
  • Don’t let friends or guests drive impaired.
  • Respect your elders.
  • Support gang intervention efforts.
  • Motivate gang members to renounce violence.
  • Express GRATITUDE often.
  • Learn the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
  • Speak out on violence against women.
  • Recognize and report hate crimes.
  • Respect the experiences of rape survivors.
  • LAUGH heartily.
  • Don’t ignore violence.
  • Base sexual relations on a firm yes; seek consent.
  • Give youth a chance; don’t stereotype.
  • Educate yourself on the myths and realities of rape.
  • Take responsibility for your own sexuality; don’t let it be defined by anyone else.
  • Promote corporate responsibility.
  • Teach tolerance; lead by example.
  • VOLUNTEER or DONATE to Peace Over Violence.
  • INVENT your own way…

  • I hope if there is one thing on this list you can do, that you write it down and carry it with you. Even if it is just not making one violent gesture on the road this week.

    There are a bunch of things on this list that I'm not even going to try, for instance, refraining from using violent words when reacting to stress. I'm frankly, all about the "fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck."

    I don't have any teens in my life, so all of those, I'm just going to ignore until the babies around me grow up a little.

    But seriously, I could use a lot more of the patience. I could speak my truth more often. I could be a little more flexible.

    Which brings me to the name. Yeah, I guess I'm ok with it. Since I'm being more flexible and all.
    Stumble It!

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008
    Panic at the Disco
    Last week and this week have been very difficult for me, both in my personal and my professional life.

    Last Monday I arrived at work with an email (6:30 a.m.) that foretold a huge crisis. I spent every second of work last week trying to repair major damage and head off further crisis. I continue this week in crisis management.

    Thankfully, the problem was due to an error made by the institution. While that affected my work it was not caused by anything that my staff and I did. In fact, our great work prevented this from being an even larger problem within our research group.

    I also had a personal issue which I won't go into but pretty much rocked my boat and was/is very unexpected and distressing.

    Having said both of these things I also need to disclaim, none of this has to do with my lovely house or my incredible husband who has been a great listener, not to mention an incredible partner. On the job front, good things will (eventually) come of this horrible situation.

    Needless to say, all of this cannot happen in one's life within the span of 2 days without some adverse events. Mine has been primarily anxiety. Up the proverbial wazoo.

    I have since:
    • Pulled out one ugly ass rose bush
    • Winter pruned all of my other, beautiful rose bushes
    • Pulled out the grass from my plant beds (one blade at a time)
    • Begun manually tilling my entire back lawn with one of these things. It's very therapeutic. And a little obsessive compulsive (not that the grass pulling isn't, mind you). BTW - I am covered in blisters

    In the meantime, I am reminding myself that anxiety is not dangerous -- it’s just uncomfortable and that when this is over, I’ll be glad that I did it.

    My mantra for the week.

    Wish me luck.


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    Monday, January 14, 2008
    Root by root
    There is this ugly-ass rose bush on my side yard. It's totally diseased and really prickly. It's not a standard rose. It's like a rose weed. I hate it.

    Yesterday I started hacking at it, just to cut it back so I wouldn't have to see it.

    Then I figured, well, if I cut it back, it'll just grow again. So I starting pulling at it. Not a budge.
    I thought, this is ridiculous. I'm never going to get this whole thing out.

    I kept finding myself saying things like: "I can't do this." and then I got angry that a stupid, ugly bush could be stronger than me and it made me more and more determined.

    Then I started digging around it. I swear the roots were like a tree down there. I suddenly realized the roots were much deeper than I thought. I suspected they might have gone all the way under the house. I thought, "this is too much. I'm not strong enough." But I kept digging and pulling and I dug and pulled until finally I got one root.

    And I got tired and dizzy because it was hot out (yes, HOT out) and I was dehydrated so I went inside and got some OJ. And after some fuel I went back out and started hacking at it again. Hacking and pulling. Root by root. And I got some more roots. And then some more.

    Finally, within about two hours, I got that damn bush out of my side yard.

    And how sore am I right now? But how satisfied do you think I am?

    Metaphor much?


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    Thursday, January 03, 2008
    New year's revolution 2008
    January 1st always brings the dieting ads out - in force.

    Ad nauseum.

    This week I can't listen to the radio or turn on the TV without some Nutri-Slim-Force-Band-Program shouting at me about how soon summer will be here and how this year I don't want to be fat.

    On January 1, Kate over at Shapely Prose posted a brilliant article on what liars fat people are if they can't lose weight. I highly recommend it. From all of the anecdotes she received she posted today's diet tips from the mouths of idiots. I am proud to say that mine landed on the list.

    I felt it was time, in honor of everyone trying, once again to force themselves into a body that is based more on InStyle Magazine's airbrushed photos than reality, I would do a repost.

    I first posted this almost exactly one year ago.


    Most of you have been here. I have been here. The first time when I was 9 years old and about 10 stints after that.

    I am talking about sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting. You are surrounded by people (mostly women) of various sizes, led by a perky 50 year old chick who lost 35 pounds and has kept it off for 6 years. She tells the story of how, at her daughter’s bat mitzvah she realized that no one wanted to pick her up on the chair (as is customary) and she went to a meeting the next day and she is living proof that the program works.

    She is encouraging the room to clap for everyone who has lost a pound (or more!) this week. Hooray! You are one step closer to perfection, one step closer to being what your (partner, husband, boss, mother, community) wants you to be.

    Ultimately, I found out that the applause is not what you think it is.

    It starts as maybe something that you wish you felt good about – everyone else is smiling, aren’t they?

    Eventually you realize that in fact when they are all clapping for the woman who reached her goal weight, there is a room full of women wailing.

    You are sitting among a group of women who cannot understand why they can’t do it, why they are so "weak." A room full of women who wear the same stretch pants and t-shirt every week and exhale deeply to rid themselves of the ounce of air polluting their lungs.

    There is a room full of women dying inside from the shame.

    There is a room full of women surrounded by before and after pictures not of themselves. Photos of women and men who did IT. Who were able to overcome what seems like insurmountable odds to shed a thick layer of scorned flesh. A room full of women surrounded by sayings in cute fonts with sunshine and flower stickers on them like:

    Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!

    A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit.

    Eat to live, don’t live to eat!

    Which is utter bullshit. I keep thinking that perhaps my mother’s generation was not as psychologically sophisticated and they fell for stupid sayings like this. Then I think, we all want to fall for stupid sayings like this.

    Ultimately, it is a room full of women that got fat, not because they’re stupid, not because they like chocolate and not because they have no willpower. It is a room full of women who are doing everything they can to get through each day.

    And sometimes that means 15 oreos.

    It is a room full of women who are in so much pain that the only way they know how to get up and go to work every day is by eating a box of Ritz on the way in.

    It is a room full of women who are not genetically designed to weigh less than they do right now.

    It is a room full of women who come home to an empty apartment and all that means in our society and eat a loaf of bread.

    It is a room full of women who take care of children, parents and spouses and who have little time to become the woman they thought they would be.

    It is a room full of sexually assaulted, abused and harassed women who wish that they could disappear.

    It is a room full of women who have been called names their entire lives that have nothing to do with who they are but rather what their thighs might have looked like in middle school.

    It is a room full of women who, when they have the audacity to take a parking space, get called a "fat bitch" by the 25 year old guy in the BMW convertible who wanted it.

    It is a room full of women who have "such pretty faces."

    It is the saddest room I have ever been in in my life.

    I am not criticizing Weight Watchers. What I am talking about is my inner shame. What I would never admit to during the hundreds of meetings I attended and beat myself up for years after each of my failures.

    I hate knowing that I/we feel this way. And yet, I/we do.


    And yet - how do you feel about this photo?

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    Wednesday, January 02, 2008
    What can I say?
    I've thought about it a lot. I promised posts. Many posts.

    I wasn't lazy. I got so much done in these last 11 days.

    Other than the hideous viral infection that laid me out from about 2 p.m. on my birthday until late Boxing day, I was physically well.

    It wasn't for a lack of things to write about. I still have a list of posts that are waiting for my fingers to type out.

    I guess I just spent the time away from the computer. I didn't check other people's blogs (sorry), I didn't play solitaire, I didn't pay bills or shop online. I spent 11 days doing other things.

    When I thought about the reasons I didn't post over the holidays, I realized that I sit in front of a computer - when I am working - an average of 8-12 hours a day. When I take my breaks (as I am doing right now) I will spend that time on the computer making the blog rounds, reading the news, generally glued to my desk. I love reading blogs. I love knowing what my friends are up to, what they think, how they write.

    But with 11 days of being away from my office (actually, I did go in one day) I found myself drawn to other activities.

    I cleaned like a mad woman. It was a year ago last week that Michael and I moved into our new home. I realized a lot of the crappiles of stuff that I "needed for when we owned a home" I actually never needed at all. I spent some time going through that and weeding out the unnecessary stuff.

    I ran errands. I actually love to run errands. There is something truly gratifying to me about crossing items off To Do lists. Many items were crossed off of mine this past week.

    I feel the need to apologize. For being MIA, for saying I would do something that I didn't do. I am learning to forgive myself and not disappear into myself/isolate hoping that no one will come out and call me on it. Hoping that people won't be disappointed in me.

    I am sorry. I hope you're not too disappointed. This is the truth (which is so new for me to tell) and I have every intention of continuing this fine blog. I hope you have every intention of continuing to read it.

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