Friday, October 30, 2009

I need back-up

I recently went to a wonderful retreat to rebuild some inner strength, something I've been slowly leeched of over the last two or three (or 25) years. You can read all about it on my other blog. (Yes, yet another one, but it's all about health stuff.)

(I told you, I have a lot to say!)

Since returning from the retreat I’ve been managing my emotions well…well, maybe. Today I had a moment of sadness and I was missing having a spouse on whom I can lean on. That’s what I miss about being married, having someone who I can fall apart with on occasion. I don’t miss the ex, and frankly, he really was ill-equipped for providing emotional support. But just believing I had someone to watch my back was good, comforting.

I’m usually the one who watches other people’s backs these days. I can’t let my kids see me wavering in my strength.  They need to know I’m there for them so they can move forward with their lives. I can’t let my parents see me wavering either. For so many reasons. Partially to support them in a difficult time for them, but also because my mother will swoop in with judgments and unsolicited/inappropriate/misdirected advice, and then I need time to blow that off as well. Like she just did a few minutes ago.

So I'm going to go through an emotional cycle here to workout my angst of the moment. And then I'm free to go to Safeway for a little grocery shopping therapy. I'm not doing this to illicit advice from anyone out there. I'm just working through the pain right now. If you care to let me know how my cycle affected you, you can email me directly at

1. I feel sadness and anger. I feel sad because I wish I had someone I could go to when I feel overwhelmed with life. I don't really know what to do when I feel like this. I have friends, good friends I know I can go to, but it's not the same as having a spouse. I'm angry because the ex kicked me out of the life I created for myself, the life I helped build for our family. He sent me away from my home, friends and support system, my things. He gave away my dog without asking me! He emotionally abandoned our children and told me he doesn't think they need him any longer. He thinks sending money to them will be enough at this point in their lives, and that a weekly webcam appointment will help them to feel connected with him. I'm doing all the parenting! He lives on the other side of the planet working at a job and having sex that he probably has to pay for.

(And why do some men, a lot of men, think that's okay? Because their lives are all about the orgasms? Is spending cash to get orgasms via complete strangers so worthy as a life pursuit?)

(I'm actually grateful that he's not here - on my behalf, and to protect my sons.)

2. Unrealistic expectations - that I will not be able to comfort myself when I'm feeling down. That somehow crying on my own, feeling sorrow for my situation for myself isn't self-validating, and it's not good enough.

3. Realistic expectations - I can comfort myself, just by using this cycle tool, if I take the time to do it. I am entitled to my sorrow. It is the experience of my situation and it is realistic to expect that I will feel sadness over it. As well as anger.

Well now, this feels like a bit of a grind in...I am entitled to my sorrow.

I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.
I am entitled to my sorrow.

3. What do I need right now. I need to accept that I will have sorrow about my situation. As well as anger. I need to accept that I won't be able to ignore it. I need to avoid helping other people in order to avoid experiencing my own emotions. I need to ask for and accept help when I really need it.

4. So, after that exercise, I feel at peace. I feel grateful to have learned this method to manage my emotional states. I feel a little sad that I can't share the intimacy I long for with another person, and that's okay to feel. I feel relieved that I can accept and feel validated by my tears. I am happy to accept that I am entitled to my sorrow.

Now I can go to Safeway! Thank you for listening.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Just saw this amazing guitar duo on The Late Late Show last night and had to share!

The best part of my gourmet sandwich

I just had one of those deep, pithy talks with my boys. They both are the joys of my life. They make all the crap in life worthwhile.

You can read a little bit about them on my other blog that is sadly behind schedule (by about two years). I plan to backfill anecdotes and photos about their lives soon.

Anyway, my older son, Quinn (he favors his mother, a lot) stopped us suddenly, in the middle of watching a TV show (Flash Forward - we're still debating whether we're going to keep watching it) to talk about how people make life decisions, big and small, and how their consequences ripple out to impact others as well as themselves. We talked about the important differences between reactionary decisions and logically-handled decisions and how managing emotions affects the decision-making process.

I love it that Quinn likes to talk about this stuff. And that Rhyan is around to listen to us talk. He's not so interested in the workings of the inner mind at age 12. He's still in an observation stage, trying to figure everybody out and what his place in the world is at the moment. But what we talk about makes an impact, because sometimes he comes back with his own very deeply-lustrous pearls of wisdom. I feel greatly privileged to watching him grow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The two-minute take-down

Went for another veggie run last night...I put it off until 7:30 p.m., right after taking my youngest to tae kwon do, for a hair cut, and the market.  I did that on purpose, because my parents go to bed by 8 p.m.  Even in the summer when the sun's not down.

(When I used to come for a visit and had to stay with my parents in previous years before I moved back home, I would turn the TV on at eight to kill time until I got sleepy. My dad would come in to the living room, stare at me in silence, stare at the TV in silence, sigh, then asked when I was going to bed. Mom would come in about an hour later and tell me it was time to go to bed because the TV was disrupting their sleep. Later, the light shining under my bedroom door also disrupted their sleep. Knowing I used a flashlight by which to read magazines while in bed also disrupted their sleep.  And headphones and the mp3 player...)

(I was in my 30s and 40s when I used to disrupt their sleep so much...)

(But Mom would die of embarrassment if I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and anybody found out about it.)

So, my plan was to dash in, tell them I had milk in the car threatening to curdle, grab the veggies, gush with gratitude and dash out again. Two minutes!

Dad opened the front door. He actually evaluated me as he scanned me from head to toe, scowled a little.

"How are you doing, Dad?" He shrugged and grunted as I tried to give him a hug.

"Dear?! Georgia's here!" He scampered back to his bedroom. Mom scampered out, breathing a little heavy.

"Hi! I was on the bike!" She has to tell me every time she rides her exercise bike. She rides it for five minutes, a few times a day. She makes a point of telling me how much time she spends on her bike.

Mom slipped past me into the kitchen. On the floor there are two plastic bags. One has a bag of green beans, two zucchini and a "bag of those keenezika horta you really like."  In Greek, horta is the general term for edible greens, like beet tops, spinach, Swiss chard, etc. The keenezika horta are what my mom calls baby bok choy.  She doesn't eat them, because they're keenezika (Chinese), so these were specifically bought for me.

"The fasolia are too hard for me." Green beans. If she can't cook them until they disintegrate, she can't eat them. "Rhyan likes them." She's constantly on the prowl for vegetables my kids will eat.

"Kera Maria brought me this chard and I can't eat it all. You take it, make spanakorizo." It's a spinach and rice dish, another one that I've loved since childhood. You can also make it with the chard.

"Thanks Mom! Okay, got to go." Kiss, kiss..."Love you!" Reach for the front door knob...and...enter Dad.

" this." He hands me an envelope that's been opened. "I want it back when you're done with it, so don't lose it."

"What is it?"

"It's from a doctor" (and the term doctor is really suspect in this application) "who tells you how to lose weight." Dad stuffs the envelope in one of the bags of vegetables. I paused, took it out of the bag and handed it back to him.

"Here Dad. I really believe that's probably something I would lose, so you keep it." I kissed him good-bye and left.

Has he not noticed that I've lost 50 lbs in the last couple of years? And that I'm still working at it? No, he doesn't notice these things. He only wants me to buy his colon cleansing vitamins. So I can whistle out my ass too.

In the car, I took a moment to breathe, shake my head, laugh a little and let it all go.  It's all fodder for another blog entry.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Okra for lunch

Last week I responded to a command performance...I was required to go to lunch at my parents' house. I had been avoiding them over the last few weeks, for so many reasons, but I was going to need a few favors from them, so I had to put out. That requires eating my mother's food. It's how she tells people how she feels about them, and how she evaluates how they feel about her.

Every week I get a call..."Come get some vegetables." Mom sends Dad to the market for fresh veggies several times a week. He either over-buys or Mom has him buy food specifically for me. I am required to pick it up in a timely fashion or it becomes a sin of waste I somehow force them to commit. It also means I am rejecting her. If she's already cooked the food, I'm required to go eat it there at lunch. At least once a week. When I don't go...well, you get the picture. If I don't go for several weeks, it's interpreted as there's something evil/bad/wicked going on with me and I'm keeping things from her. Yes, even at 48 and a responsible mother of two, my character is suspect.

She made all my favorite veggies last week in a dish called briam. It's a blend of summer vegetables, roasted until they melt. I truly love it, as a stand alone dish or combined with lamb chops. But sometimes, Mom slides one veggie in there she knows I really don't like...okra.

Greeks don't bother to fry their veggies in batter like American southerners do. Greek children aren't given the opportunity to consider the notion that they can refuse to eat a vegetable, so why bother disguising it with cornmeal and deep-frying. Greek cooks do terrible things to okra. They put it in a stew, with other vegetables possessing odd textures when stewed, like eggplant and fennel tops.  They are accompanied by potatoes, green beans, zucchini, and lots of whole garlic cloves. Tomatoes are added. It's all cooked down until the eggplant practically melts. I don't mind it, but in one's mouth, slimy eggplant is made worse with clumps of fennel tops, which once resembled lovely, feathery herbs but now feel like clumps of someone's hair in my mouth.  And then there's the okra, which when stewed, feels like slimy mucous with bits of boogers. When boogery okra is present, the only thing that saves this dish is the potato. It provides the only real texture that is pleasant.

And so while I'm forced to eat this lunch...because I've been preconditioned to do so since I was a small child...Mom is telling me how Dad got caught on the ladder, while cleaning the gutters, with a bout of serious diarrhea as a result of some new vitamin regime he started that is, once again, cleaning his colon.

(I swear, those people have the cleanest colons on the planet! If you blow through my mother's nose, you'll hear a whistling sound coming out her ass!)

Mom's epic continued, while I was being served a second helping of the briam, and I had to hear about her hazmat cleanup, which included private details about my dad that I really didn't need to know. I felt the need to put my fork down to avoid the okra during the part about the cleanup, but she paused until I picked it up again. I went for a bit of potato instead. Then I had to see The Face, the one she wears when she's waiting for me to validate her martyrdom.

"Oh, wow! That's just awful! It's a good thing Dad didn't fall off the ladder trying to get down in time!"  Classic mistake...I empathized with the precariousness of Dad's urgency, so I was chastised with further minutiae covering the extent of contamination in the bathroom...and another serving of okra.

(If I drink water while the tip of my tongue is touching the roof of my mouth, right behind the front teeth, the gag reflex diminishes.)

Yeah, I had to clean my plate too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Filling out the sandwich

Here's a little more background, in case you don't already know me.

I'm no one of significant importance to anyone other than myself and my loved ones. I don't aspire to fame or tremendous fortune. I just want to be surrounded by loved ones and live a comfortable, simple life liberally seasoned with fun.

I enjoy writing. A lot. I write everyday. Haven't been paid for it yet, but my work has been read all over the world. I like to write, to share my thoughts, because it helps me sort things out in my mind. I've been told that my writing has inspired and helped others in their lives. I write pretty candidly. And honestly. I try to give credit where it's due. Sometimes I make up stuff, but I sell it!

My people are Greek. My father's parents emigrated to California, at different times, but ended up together eventually and raised a family, hoping to make a better life for themselves. I'll tell you their stories sometime. I find them fascinating. My mother also emigrated from Greece and married my father, who was born in California. They recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. I'll tell you my mother's story sometime as well. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I will require a lot of server space in order to share that tale.

My parents had two daughters. I'm the older one. My sister lives with her husband and three children, not too far from me. I'm in the process of disentangling myself from a disappointing marriage, but I have two amazing sons. Expect me to gush endlessly about them at times.

There are more players in the story. The ex will be left out for now, because I'm still far too angry to go there. I have some really wonderful friends, some of whom enjoy their privacy, so I will respect that.

One of my friends and I like to time me to see how long it takes me to tell people I'm Greek. Look! It took me nearly 24 hours! Greeks are funny that way. There's this line in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the father says something like, "There are two kinds of people...Greeks, and those who wish they was Greek." I've observed that mostly those up to the first generation American-born Greeks feel like that, pretty strongly. We're the ones that have kept the faith, so to speak. After that, you meet children of Greeks who have married non-Greeks (xenos), and those children know all the cuisine and the Greek swear words, but that's about it. By the third generation, they're all as American as the rest of the middle America. I even have cousins in Texas who speak Greek with as much twang as any self-respecting Texan can muster. Yes, it sounds ridiculous!

So there I am, a first gen middle-aged Greek woman, raising second gen non-Greek-speaking spawn of a recalcitrant xeno, all the while getting fed steadily unsolicited non sequitur advice from immigrant elderly parents struggling with their relevance in a modern and nonsensical world.  It's a wonder I don't drink more heavily!

All quiet on the western front

I'm about to sneak off to do the marketing for the week. No calls from my parents, no calls on the cell, no emails from the divorce lawyer, the boys are safe at school. Freedom!

Yesterday my dad got his most recent blood test back. His numbers are back up. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma about nine years ago. He's getting treated with a drug that manages the growth of the cancer, but he'll never be cured of it. He's 76 now. The cancer is eating his bones from the inside out, through the marrow. Eventually he'll be in a lot of pain.

Dad is a big, BIG baby about pain. His tolerance for it is extremely low. His tolerance for modern medicine is equally low. He doesn't like going on the treatment. He will not have chemo. He'd rather die. But bypassing all treatment will lead to even more pain, excruciation pain. And then he'll have to go on morphine, which will cloud his mind, and he doesn't want that either. Basically, he's screwed.

He pours a lot of his time and money into alternative medicine. Every week I hear about some new vitamin or nutrient that someone is selling, promising to rid him of cancer entirely. He's about to send his urine off to the Philippines to have his blood tested, for $50, to see if he has cancer...I thought that was already established, like nine years ago. When he's not pursuing alternative medicine, he's biking and cleaning the rain gutters. He's in pain and he's cleaning the rain gutters, from a ladder, and biking 10 miles a day. That's probably the best thing he can do, staying busy doing things that he loves.

I'd better get out of here before the phone rings...I still have to get stuff for dinner tonight. Barley and 12 Bean Vegetable Soup, sourdough rolls from Boudin and some grilled salmon.

Damn! The phone's ringing! Oh! It's all good...just a reminder for my massage appointment tomorrow. Phew!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bacon and Egg Salad Hero

I also share recipes. Here's my favorite sandwich...

1 whole wheat sourdough baguette
3 hard cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
4 slices Trader Joe's uncured turkey bacon, cooked until crisp, chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/4 cup pepperoncinis, minced
1 heaping tablespoon Trader Joe's Real Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Coleman's mustard
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
extra-virgin, cold-pressed Spanish or Greek olive oil
fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried and trimmed

So, a few comments on my personal tastes regarding can make the filling on your own while I'm chatting here. Trust me, plenty of time.

I love good food. I was raised on good food, high-quality stuff. That doesn't mean I'm a food snob (even though I am, sort of). I merely like putting healthy ingredients in my body, I have some health issues I have to manage, I'm 48 and not getting any younger, yada, yada, yada. I'll be making some ingredient suggestions. If you want to go out and get whatever the local Piggly Wiggly store brand provides and use that instead, go right ahead. It's just a choice.

So now we talk ingredients...

I'm from California, the home of sourdough bread. (Maybe that's an overstatement.)  You can't get real San Francisco Sourdough anywhere other than San Francisco. It is not the technique. It is the local spore that gives it that tang. San Luis Sourdough, while just as delicious, is not the same. Different spores in that air, just four hours south of the Golden Gate. I know! Pretty amazing!

You're wondering about the whole wheat sourdough.  It isn't available everywhere. I just use it because I have type 2 diabetes and I'm concerned about the glycemic effect that bread will have on me.

If you need to know how to hard-cook eggs, I strongly suggest going to the source - The American Egg Board. I also highly recommend using cage-free eggs. They just taste better! I use them because they are less likely to have come from chickens fed on soy grain. I have a newly-discovered intolerance to soy and yes, it affects me when I eat things that ate soy too.  If you don't want to cook the eggs, they sell them already cooked and peeled at Trader Joe's.

I love shopping at Trader Joe's, and their bacon is the best! Their uncured turkey bacon is much lower in fat, it's all meat, and great for a good BLT. It even microwaves really nicely. (I use uncured meats because they are free from nitrates and nitrites. Trader Joe's All-Beef Hotdogs are also skinless and uncured, really delicious and totally soy-free!)

I know, I'm rambling now...I don't care. Did you split the bread and hollow it out yet? Well?  Do I have to tell you how to do everything?

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients but the bread, olive oil, red onion and spinach. At that point, I like to let that mixture sit in the fridge for about half an hour to let the flavors really meld. Then I taste it to see if it needs salt, because the bacon is salty. I'm trying to cut back on salt too, but sometimes, some foods need it. I like the freshly ground black pepper because the flavor is just so obvious. And I do like it a little more coarsely ground, for a stronger burst of pepper. But that's just me.

Sprinkle a bit of the olive oil over the inside of the bread. It'll help it not be so dry. If you're worried about fat content, why are you making this sandwich? It's all healthy fats!

Line one side of the bread with spinach. On top of that I spread the bacon and egg salad mixture, top it with the sliced red onions, and then I put the other half of the baguette on top. It'll feed two people at lunch, or four if you add a small bowl of Greek lentil soup on the side. Maybe some nice, fresh tomatoes, sliced, with a little olive oil and salt. And a glass of iced passion flower tea.

I wish I had a picture of it.  As soon as I make the sandwich, I'll snap a digital and upload it.

Finding myself in a sandwich

Sorry, this blog is NOT about tasty sandwiches, although I will be providing some interesting recipes on occasion. Amongst other unsolicited advice and commentary...that's just something I do.

This blog is about finding myself in a circumstance of life, squished between caring part-time for aging and ailing parents, the full-time raising of my children, and freshly single as well. Yes, I'm a member of the Sandwich Generation, and there is no amount of relish that will help me get excited about that. I thought if I wrote about it, I could work out some of the gooier stuff oozing through my life and see if I might wrap it all up with a spear of truth and extra humor on the side.