Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All Natural

I was struck by something as Tim and I were picking out breasts.  
Chicken breasts.
This topic is serious, and scary, so I thought I better lead with humor.  

We were trying to decide which CHICKEN breasts to buy, and comparing labels and pricing.  Right next to the Organic frozen chicken breasts were ones labeled All Natural

My first thought was "as opposed to...?"   Semi-Natural?  Sort of Natural?  One Half Natural? 


Fake food.  Man-made food.  And not man-made as in "I planted this, watered it, cared for it, plucked it, harvested it, and boom it's on our table man-made" -- BUT man-created, man-developed, man-genetically modified "food." 

Meaning... many things that we eat don't have a bit of REAL in them.

There are so many things out there that the average person just wants to ignore.  I, for one, didn't want to know that "pink slime" is the term for castoff cow parts used as filler in ground beef, which is probably why it rips up my intestines every time I try to eat a fast-food hamburger.  I am one of the thousands horrified by documentaries like Food, Inc, which expose just a small part of our food industry's corruption.  In fact, I spent the rest of that afternoon in the fetal position on my couch.  Why do things that taste so good do such awful things to our bodies?  We are destroying ourselves from the inside out and slowly turning our bodies to mush.  Well... that's my personal mental picture.  You're welcome to make your own.

Doesn't this scare you?  It does me.  I can't claim to have the best eating habits, but we certainly try to take at least small alternatives to the mainstream.  For example, it's expensive to buy all organic, so I buy those fruits and veggies I know have high count pesticides organic, and any others I buy non-organic.  When we eat bread it's whole wheat, whole grain, or sprouted grain.  We drink Soy or organic skim milk from grass-fed cows.  We treasure my parent's home grown eggs.  Obviously, I choose organic chicken breasts over "all natural."  Whatever the hell that means.

We eat pretty simply and we rarely, if ever, eat fast food.  Even so, a few years ago we decided we wanted to have more control over the food we put in our bodies.  In the not too distant past families probably knew the farms where their produce came from.  They bartered for chickens and eggs -- and trust me, these chickens weren't stacked on top of each other, never seeing the light of day, as they are today.  They milked their own cows, churned their own butter, cured their own cheese.  Call me crazy, but that sounds pretty sweet to me.  I used to think life on a farm or life "back then" seemed like a lot of work just to feed yourself.  Now it just seems like a lot of work to pick out what I feel comfortable eating from a grocery store.

Two weeks ago we took another step away from mass-produced food and bought three hens of our own.  After two weeks of adjusting to their new home, Flora, Fauna, & Meriweather rewarded us with these...

We're not certain which fine feathered friend to give credit, but clearly three chickens didn't lay two eggs.  One old gal needs to get to work.  It was a special moment -- more so for Tim than for me, since he did all the prep work -- to know that we're a little bit closer to producing our own food.  Plus we have the peace of mind knowing exactly where these eggs came from. . . 

Unless, of course, our Hens are egg-nappers.

I wouldn't put it past them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Me Time

It's that time again....
If I HAVE to turn a year older, at least I get to celebrate with a little trip to one of my favorite places on earth: Anthropologie.  And with a 15% coupon in hand!  

Here are a few Anthro items I've been admiring.

This is one of the perks of having an Anthro card membership (completely free, not a credit card).  Every year a month before your birthday, they send you a discount card to use.  It makes me appreciate May 25th just a little bit more... even if I hate the fact I'm going to be a whopping 27.  TWENTY-SEVEN, people.  That's three years until 30.

Time's a ticking.  That's why I don't plan on wasting it.  Or this card.  Boom.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I have to blow my nose.

Around 5:45am one morning last week, I woke up and reached out for Tim.  I found his shoulder, felt his warmth, and started crying.  He was alive and everything I had just been living, was just a dream.

That dream usurped my day.  I had a training session a few hours later and I was totally dragging.  My fatigue was partially from lack of sleep, but mostly - and the feminist in me hates to say this - I just felt FRAGILE.  Even now, as I'm finally finishing this post... I'm emotional.  Blech.

This was one of those dreams.  You know... THOSE dreams.  The kind that you're convinced is really happening to you, even for a few seconds after you wake up.  Unfortunately, it's never easy to recount dreams because while they feel so real in the moment, the little clips and flashes you remember when you wake up... don't.

Tim had died.  He was in a car accident and died at the scene.  I remember exactly how it felt to get that phone call.  To have someone tell me I had just lost the most important person on earth.  I remember the disbelief, the shock, the agony that sets in as you accept the truth.  I remember thinking about our last conversation, how I had flirtatiously hugged him and said "I like you today."  Lastly, I remember standing in a long room with a high glass ceiling and mountains outside, with Tim's family and my parents making the burial arrangements.  I wanted Tim to be an organ donor.  I wanted him to be cremated, as we had discussed.  Then I realized I couldn't afford that, but everyone reassured me they would make it happen.  We talked about what a good person he was, how much we would miss him, how unfair it was this happened.  And I made some ridiculous comment about how now I knew "what it felt like to be an army wife."  What? (I think I meant "a young widow.")  And then I let my mom hold me while I fell apart.

I have never had a dream knock me sideways like this one did, and I'm a pretty consistent dreamer.  Not only did I wake up and start crying when I realized it hadn't really happened, but I couldn't stop crying after that.  It was too real.  It was too frightening.  Tim quickly rolled over and asked me what was wrong.  As he often does when I'm upset, he put Oscar right up next to me to calm me down.  He listened to the few choked sentences I could get out, ending with,

"I felt like it was never going to end."
To which Tim replied, "Well, I felt like my dream was never going to end, too. I was in a flea market."
I sort of sniff-laughed. "Maybe it was your purgatory."
"I know it was, because Zach was there and he wouldn't stop talking." (Zach is a really annoying co-worker Tim complains about constantly.)
"It was so real though... I'm so sad." I started crying again.
"Well, you know what Bob Dylan said...'dreams are in our heads.'"
"And also...'I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.'"
"I have to blow my nose."

Leave it to Tim to quote Bob Dylan for comfort.  I stayed awake another hour or so, afraid that if I fell back asleep too quickly, the dream might reemerge.  I went to my morning training session.  I struggled.  I cried on the phone to my mother.  I wasn't really moving past it.

In retrospect, I'm really glad this happened.  You realize in the face of grief how much someone or something means to you.  I got to experience that without actually losing anyone.  It was rather like A Christmas Carol and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  It was a reminder: to value, to appreciate, to express my love.  I could not wait for Tim to get home from work that day.  I couldn't wait to be able to touch him and hug him.  Okay, I was clingy.  So what.  This isn't a feeling or a memory that has quickly gone away.  

But, I suppose, maybe that's a good thing. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Explore. Dream. Discover.

I am really struggling with control this week. Actually, I struggle with it every single day of my life, just this week it's been a particularly rough battle. I am clearly a dominative type A personality. I am particular and picky. I like things to always live up to my incredibly high standards. If my comfort level isn't riding at a perfect 12, I'm not a very nice person. I expect everyone to work as hard as I do and care as much about the details. I hate inequality and love fairness. I like for the good guys to always win and the bad guys to suffer appropriately. I'd rather do everything myself than delegate. I prefer to have a schedule and stick to it. I generally expect that things will go my way, or whatever way I would have them go.

Not all of these things are bad qualities when in the right context. In many cases they have gotten me a job or award, an A+ paper or scholarship, or simply a compliment. But from day to day I struggle constantly with letting go of control. And being "OKAY" with it.

If you're married, plan to be, or are in any kind of committed relationship you probably know that my kind of personality is difficult to live with. Mr Spouse is a real trooper. He has apparent infinite forgiveness and tolerance. Even at that, sometimes I'm just TOO MUCH.

I'm not blind or deaf or senseless in any way. I see this about myself. I hear myself make demands or criticize choices I wouldn't have made. I can sense when I have gone too far and when I need to stop talking and back away. But being a controller is like other disorders or addictions. It isn't always so easy to stop even though you know you should.

This week I have completely stressed myself out over the stupidest things. I went to pick up my prescription from the pharmacy but it hadn't been called in: clearly SOMEONE wasn't doing their job. My time was wasted and my doctor was at lunch so now I have to make a second trip. Mr Dog has fleas. Not only that, he's highly allergic to them and scratching the shit out of himself and biting his legs bald. No matter how many flea baths I give him, etc, we're still infested. The house is dirty. I cleaned it yesterday. Where does all this dirt come from? I must be doing something wrong. My house doesn't look like the houses I see on Pinterest! Why can't Mr Spouse wipe off the countertops after making breakfast? It takes two seconds! We overspent in March and are still catching up on payments. Why can't I figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life so I can get out there, start my dream career, and be rolling in cash?

And that's just a very small taste. You know the number one reason I hate going to the grocery store? Because I can't control all the "I stop in the middle of the damn aisle with my hugely overloaded basket and check my iPhone or have a chat with someone I haven't seen in months, inconsiderately holding up a line of people on a mission behind me" instances that drive me wildly insane. This week I was so on edge I couldn't stop imagining scenarios where I did crazy shit like grabbing said iPhone and hurling it into the frozen meat bin. Or just unloading on the friends who had to catch up in the middle of the canned goods section, movie-style. Angry much? Not being in control makes controllers very angry. Sometimes irrationally angry.

There is a part of me that I feel dies a little bit each time I imagine us throwing a few belongings into our car and spending our meager savings traveling around the country, living out of our vehicle, before I stifle that dream under the biggest pile of responsibility known to man. The controller in me goes into full cardiac arrest. Do what?!?! Spend our savings? Quit our jobs? Have NOTHING stable to rely on?  And then I wonder... When did I become such an ADULT? (And I imagine myself saying this out loud with deep revulsion in tone when I hit that hideous word..."adult."). When did consequences become more important than experiences? When did I start to worry about stability where I used to look for spontaneity?

There were a lot of questions in that paragraph. I can't really answer any of them. It happened so gradually, like that extra 5 lbs we put on every year, that I'm just now realizing: I'm trying to sail my ship but I can't leave the port. I have no idea where it's going, what I'm doing, or how to get there. I can't control everything that happens to me and make my life perfect. I don't know what perfect is or what would make me happy. I'm still exploring. I've just gotten lost in this dreaming phase and haven't made any new discoveries for a while..... Probably because I can't let go. I can't stop trying to control all the variables around me. I can't stop.

I guess that's why they tell you to leave it all up to the man upstairs.

Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
- mark twain

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Elastic Chic

Do you remember when we were young and girlfriends asked if you had a spare hairband?  We wore several on our wrists like bracelets, ready at all times for impending action (not that kind! for me anyway)... or just a hot day.  Oh, to be caught without a hair band if you sport a long hairdo is just the pits.  Seriously.  

Yes - I AM complaining about a first world problem - but if you've been there, you know it's a woeful problem regardless.  I actually think I used this as an excuse once not to have to participate in a basketball practice.  Men just don't understand.

I hate my hair in my face.  Hate it.  
And there is nothing worse (really. nothing.) than sweaty hair stuck to your sweaty face when you're trying to look and feel pretty.  Especially in the summer here in Texas - most days I give up trying to look pretty - but when I do try, I usually opt for hair up, not down.  Otherwise I end up with a limp mess stuck to my scalp.  I've spent the last several years growing my hair out and getting it long and healthy.  As backwards as it sounds one of the reasons I decided to do this was to beat the heat.  Sure, with long hair I have a lot more hair on my head, but the longer it is the easier it is to get it all off my neck, out of my face, and out of the way.  

Rarely will you EVER find me without a hairband.  It's my first defense against discomfort.  I mean, here I am half way around the world in South Africa and what is that on my wrist?
 A black Goody rubber band.

Yet another first world problem: I hate going to fancy events and having a cheap black rubber hair band on my wrist.  I don't accessorize well, but I KNOW I can do better than that.  I've tried leaving them at home, really I have, but then you find yourself at that windy beach wedding or a hot summer date night out, and oh my goodness.... AGONY: hair in the face.

Then... per usual... Anthropologie to the rescue!  I've been seeing these cute hair ties around for several months now, but hadn't found a place that sold them.  Supposedly, two tweens in L.A. designed these hair ties that double as a headband and POOF: they are a super hip trend.  


Of course, Anthro has their own version that is more expensive.  But they are more... adult.  And I can't say I'm much for glitter or sparkles, but should I ever get taken to the opera or a black tie event... this one just might accompany me, on my wrist. 

 Even I can deal with this.

And did I mention they are strong, seem durable, and don't get tangled in your snarls?
No more cheap black Goody hairbands for this girl.  And no more hair-in-face fiascoes.

A Year of Marriage

A whole year.  One year of marriage.  
In some ways it flew by incredibly fast, and in others... well, kicking and screaming.  
March 20, 2012 marked our first wedding anniversary. 

Clearly... this post is late.

First anniversary gifts are suppose to be in paper form.  While our "real gift" is going to be our (paper) tickets to Greece -- finally -- I wanted to do something else, something small and personal, and something free.  

Starting on March 1 and counting down, I wrote the Hubs a note every day.  I will admit that there were several instances especially towards the end, that I got a day or two behind, but I wrote all 20 notes.  I didn't really have a plan when I started, or any idea what I was going to write about or say to him in each letter.  I just knew I wanted to hand write something to him every day.

At first, I worried it would be difficult for me to think of something to say everyday that would be meaningful enough to write down.  It wasn't.  I can't say that everything I wrote was truly moving, but neither are all our conversations.  Such is life.  I noticed almost right away that the act of writing made me reflect.  Even if it was just for a few seconds once a day, I stopped and thought: about this time last year -- those last 19 days leading up to our marriage were such a special and unique time in our lives -- about our first year together, or about who Tim is and what he means to me.  I ended up thanking him for a lot of things that he does and for a lot of the ways that he cares for me, that maybe don't get acknowledged on a daily basis.

Naturally, I only wrote nice things and so the the end result was I felt good about paying him a compliment, and I feel pretty sure he felt good about receiving them.  I looked at each day with a little more positivity, sometimes searching for things to compliment where I might usually be critical.  Simply turning "bad" into good.  In writing my appreciation down, I found it to be true.  Often it just gets covered up by all the other things I choose to dwell on instead.

It got me wondering: what if I had written him a love note every day for a year?

Well... cheers to year number two!