Tag Archives: Snacks

The Impostor at Trader Joe’s

22 May

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I think we can all admit that at some point in our lives, we’ve felt like frauds; impostors who don’t fit in, and who though surrounded by people, are totally alone. We worry that if our secret were to get out, the jig would be up and everybody would finally see that we really don’t know what we’re doing after all. We can feel like this at work, at school, at parties, in church, at book club, browsing art galleries or anywhere sports is involved. I’ve felt it in all of those places; but for sure, I’ve felt like an impostor every time I’ve stepped into Trader Joe’s.

If you’ve not been to a Trader Joe’s market, it’s a dazzling almost choreographed circus of grocery shopping. The atmosphere is festive and tropical. The employees are friendly, chatty, and seem happy to be there, wearing casual tropical tees and box cutters on their belts. It feels like everybody else, customers and employees alike, know each other, though rationally, I’m fully aware they don’t.

Trader Joe’s is not a chicly curated organic grocery experience stylized to placate the most discerning hipsters or foodies or hipster foodies. The chain has been around since the 50’s and the customers are diverse in every way, and from what I’ve seen, utterly devoted to the place. Our closest Trader Joe’s has a line of cars that stretch for a block waiting to get into the little parking lot that is overseen by a lovely lady charged with managing all those Subarus, and pointing out the parking places, and then smiling and waving goodbye to you as leave. This morning I saw a guy peddling away from the store on a bicycle modified with so many grocery holding attachments, I was worried that once he got going down a San Francisco hill, the weight of his loot would not allow him to stop.

Guys or gals, old or young, artsy or corporate or retired, every customer to me looks like they know what they are doing. I’ve been there countless times and continue to have so many questions. “What’s bulgur? Is this healthy? Or at least healthier than other stuff I buy? Is it obvious how hard I’m having to think right now? These other people don’t look like they are thinking at all. Are they on to me? I can’t stand out that much; I’m dressed casually, but not too casually; I have a well-worn Trader Joe’s disposable shopping bag. I’m here at 10:00 am with all of these other people. And by the way, how are so many of us out on a school day?”

I’ve done my fair share of grocery shopping both as an adult learning to read labels, look for bargains, and control myself in the potato chip aisle; and as a kid when already long grocery runs with my mom were inevitably lengthened by the fact that she seemed to know and chat with everyone in the store.

At Trader Joe’s, my old crutches have been stripped away – I don’t see most of the brand name items I’ve used all my life, or at least heard of all my life; or if we’re being honest, the ones for which I have seen the commercials 39,003 times. And with so few of the brands I’ve come to rely on, there I am facing all kinds of new and mysterious stuff I’ve blissfully ignored, until now.

Where I miss my Raisin Bran Crunch, there, somehow is a jar of Hearts of Palm. I can’t find a Pepsi, but I do see Kefir. What’s Kefir? Do I need this? What do I do with it? (And this is from a girl who spends A LOT of time on Pinterest.) I’m reminded aisle after aisle about just how little I really know about food. And maybe about life.

I grip my cart tightly and grab a bag of Olive Oil Popcorn (delicious) and Triple Ginger Snaps (super delicious), tomatoes, and a 10 lb. loaf of bread. I’m confident with my familiar choices, but I know they are pedestrian. I feel certain that if you asked any of my fellow shoppers about Alkaline Water or Yacon Syrup, they could tell you what it is and how to use it. I see the Cold Brew Coffee, Speculoos Cookie Butter, Chia everything, and Pomegranate Vinegar, but walk away defeated. The store’s circular, The Fearless Flyer, probably explains it all, but perhaps I’m not fearless enough of a flyer to read it.

I wrap up my trip where I feel most at ease, in the frozen foods aisle surrounded by little frozen pizzas and hot dog pastries, tiny tacos, small dumplings, adorable chicken pot pies, mini meatballs, itty bitty feta bites, and not-so-little samosas. I’ve been known to put all of these appetizers together to create one global mish mash of a meal that requires multiple oven temperatures, and wildly different cooking times, illustrating to me that these items were not meant to be prepared for the same meal, let alone as the entire meal. (The adorable little things in very similar boxes can take anywhere from 12 minutes to 55 minutes to cook, which results in a two-hour, sweaty, math heavy, “no fuss” meal.)

Recently, I left my comfort zone and bought coconut oil, which according to the folks on Pinterest, is the most amazing product of our time. While, I haven’t had the guts to smear it through my hair as a conditioner, or across my skin as a moisturizer as suggested, I have taken the leap with a Pinterest recipe and created a delightful little snack that is reminiscent of fudge. A HEALTHY (?) SNACK THAT IS LIKE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE!

Maybe I’ll tell my fellow shoppers about my coconut oil success next time I’m at Trader Joe’s, which might score me an invite me to one of their customer club meetings.

 

For you recipe fiends out there, here’s a variation of the oft copied recipe that’s floating around Pinterest: Take 3 Tbs peanut butter, 3 Tbs coconut oil, a teensy dash of sea salt and a squeeze of honey. Mix it up. I pour it over a wax paper lined pie plate, and toss it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Then you crack it apart with a knife, throw the uneven pieces in a freezer bag, and eat it whenever you want. Although yes, it reminds me of FUDGE, just a couple of pieces of this stuff makes for a delicious, guilt free, and filling snack.

 

Find me on Twitter @FulcrumChron and on Instagram @ColleenWeems

 

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will there be bears?

26 Aug

“Will there be bears?” I asked.

John shook his head and explained that they would be spending their boys’ night a few minutes from our old bearless suburb across the Bay, and probably 100 yards from the main road on which you can find a CVS and Round Table Pizza.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“OK, well….be careful out there.”

“You be careful, and have fun. Don’t worry about trying to do too much, you can sleep for hours if you want to.”

John had provided the opportunity to go camping with them, and I was admittedly less than pleased. I think you could describe the look on his face as half confused, a quarter surprised, and a quarter not-at-all surprised as I explained that I was unhappy with the invitation because now I was put in the position of having to feel bad about saying no, and I would rather just not even be asked in the first place.  It made sense at the time.

My friend Margie has a cheeky little napkin hanging on the bulletin board in her kitchen that says, “I love not camping.” I point at it when we visit, and quote it often, and I quoted it again when he asked.

Oh how I want to want to camp. It seems to be a popular thing for people to do and the snacks would be right up my alley…I hear there’s often chocolate and marshmallows AND bacon.

But after realizing the weekend’s arrangements were likely best for everybody, I was excused from going, and from the jobs of monitoring stick usage, dirt abatement and maintaining a 40-foot perimeter around the campfire. The guys loaded up their tent and stove and other supplies I did not recognize. John pointed out the ingredients they left me on the counter for my own “in the house” s’mores, and headed off into the beautiful sunshiny weekend for a night in the wilderness.

We waved at each other enthusiastically and I dashed up the stairs, ready to tackle my list. Of course I had a list; I wanted to use this time wisely.

I had just under 24 hours and a few simple things to do:

  • Clean out and organize all rooms, closets, bookshelves, and areas that could possibly contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs
  • Fully prepare for the start of school, short of packing lunches two weeks in advance
  • Give self manicure and pedicure
  • Catch up on DVR’d shows (that, my friends, is a legitimate to-do)
  • Plan meals for the week, nay, the month
  • Read backlog of magazines
  • Return backlog of emails
  • Think about exercising
  • Finish reading The Help then go see The Help in the theater, and of course…
  • Re-start, finish, and finally fall in love with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I am almost positive that I had NOT written:

  • Make and eat entire box of pasta salad
  • Run out of things to read on the Internet, because you have simply read it all
  • Don’t read any books at all– I mean it, NO books
  • Watch Hoarders, then feel yucky after
  • Watch romantic comedies until your eyes hurt, and feel way worse than you did after watching Hoarders
  • Argue with the cat about her incessantly stealing the drain things out of the sinks
  • Take picture of the cat with the drain things, because even though it’s so annoying, it’s kind of cute
  • Argue with the cat about her trying to remove the vent grate with her tiny little claws at 2:00 am, which unfortunately is shortly after you will finish watching a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, and not one of her better ones.
  • Paint nails and allow to dry while laying motionless for the length of DVR’d Gossip Girl season finale
  • Rediscover long-dormant and impractical love of French house music
  • Use minimal math skills to evenly space out consumption of the three Hawaiian sweet rolls that are in the kitchen
  • Become overwhelmed at how many areas in house contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs

Though that is most certainly the list I did not write, it is the list I diligently completed while the boys were frivolously frolicking about in the woods.

friend to foodies

23 Feb

I eat food, and sometimes I cook it. I watch TV shows and read magazines about it. I even order it when we go to restaurants.

I was an aspiring food enthusiast and home chef for a couple of months until I realized it’s hard, and kind of a lot of work. It can also be pricey if you don’t know how to do it right, and even pricier if you do.

I think I’ve read and collected a thousand recipes in an attempt to lovingly categorize them and store them in these super-cute graphic-print 3-ring-binders I found at Target. I spent hours in front of DVR’d episodes of CSI: Miami, arranging the recipes in sheet protectors and everything. For a while I thought that yes, I would absolutely make every recipe in these binders, and I would jot down little notes about whimsical on-the-fly substitutions and possible wine pairings. The pages would be dog-eared and splattered with homemade tomato sauce when I would, in my old age, hand them over to my boys. The boys would of course accept them with reverence and a touch of awe.

It did not take me long to accept that this would not likely happen. My binders, as cute as they were, were not grounded in reality. Nowhere in my binders had I lovingly clipped and mounted the instructions from the side of the macaroni & cheese box or Trader Joe’s fish nuggets. There is the strong possibility that it might actually be the binders and the sheet protectors that I love, and not the 40 recipes I have for mushroom soup. Perhaps my boys will accept the binders one day with reverence and respect for my one-time love of organizational systems.

I set about to make my collection useable. Out went all the recipes that required fish sauce, quinoa, lamb, curry, eggplant, shellfish, whole fish, or whole chickens. Also the ones where the food would need to rise, rest, or take an ice bath. The food could not at any point be required to look like pea-sized gravel, as this usually requires a food processor or a stand mixer…my great white whales of kitchen appliances. I know what my family will not eat. They’ve vetoed polenta, fresh tomatoes, and if it were up to Zach, anything that is not “noodles with butter.” There are some dark moments in my culinary past that have made me gun shy enough to disqualify even more recipes. Fried chicken is out, and I don’t want to talk about that batch of sugar cookies. If you’re interested, John will happily recount the tale of the “ham ring” from our first year of marriage.

We threw a dinner party years ago. I was at Whole Foods ordering a $100 piece of meat, I think a standing rib roast. I asked the butcher so many questions about how to prepare it, that he came out from behind the counter to give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be ok.

Because we’ve lived in the Bay Area for so long, we’ve known and befriended our fair share of legitimate foodies and home chefs who can point over their shoulder to Berkeley and say “Alice Waters started it all over there.” They could also easily brag about how every burrito place, pizza joint, and hamburger hovel feature the freshest and ingredients…and usually with the obligatory “twist” or “kick.” “It’s a taco, but with a twist!”

Over the years, the cool ingredients spent time in everybody’s pantries. Pine nuts. Sun dried tomatoes. Feta. Endive. Leeks. Wild Boar. (No? That one didn’t make it? Shocking, the weird meat with the three-day aftertaste was sure to be a winner.) Aioli. Truffle oil. Yes, I know these are still around, but each enjoyed their 15 minutes as the darlings of California Cuisine.

But alas, foodies are indeed everywhere. And now, thanks to social media, I get to hear what all of you food enthusiasts are up to, which is like 90% cool, and 10% annoying because you make it sound so effortless, like you are lazily sipping on chardonnay, throwing together ingredients from your garden for your adoring friends and loved ones…who will clap as you plate the food. You know, without Googling, the difference between baking powder and baking soda, because apparently there is one. The fun flipside, is you get to read my diverse and revolutionary food musings:  “Football’s on! Clam dip time!” or “Basketball’s on! Where’s the clam dip?” or “I love the Giants! And I love clam dip!”

It’s a guilty pleasure, reading what you home chefs and foodies are up to, a sort of culinary voyeurism, peeking into your world as you homemake everything from pizza, bread, cakes and pie crusts to pickles, jam and chutney (whatever that is). I picture you strolling through the farmers market with a hand woven basket or a shopping tote made from reclaimed prison jumpsuits, hotel curtains, or the 8th grade graduation dresses of female freedom fighters. You could probably tell me whether or not that’s a good turnip, and if this is a good price on star fruit or kale. You might look at pomelo and say, “Fantastic! I can go home and throw together the perfect little pomelo margarita, pomelo salad, sea bass with pomelo salsa, and my signature pomelo granita for dessert. Just another typical Wednesday.”

I’ve been to many a farmer’s market, but have been known to find the experience so completely overwhelming that I will leave with nothing more than a sausage sandwich from the sausage guy.

So if I’m not a foodie, what am I? a bookie? That doesn’t sound good. A wordy? Um, I suppose that already applies, especially if you’ve made it this far into this post. I like TV – how about a showy? A winey?  Let’s see what we have so far: a showy, winey, wordy bookie. Perhaps I’ll dust off the binders and give foodie another shot.

(weirdsies)

14 Feb

After a dozen or so false starts (again), I sat down with my box of cookies to plunk away and finish up this post. (I might magically find more time to write if I committed to bring a box of cookies every time I go to the computer). I noticed a pattern in what I’d already fitfully written. Nearly every kooky and meandering phrase I typed was kissed by a parenthetical thought (oh my gosh, I love that). This is where the weird part of me who loves to edit would go through and clean them up, (and roll my eyes at myself, while I took another bite of cookie). But in a roundabout way, (hang with me here) it kind of illustrates how there’s a second layer to everything this month. Nothing’s been straightforward or expected or without my editorial input (much to the dismay of many, I am sure). So I’m going with it, and I’m leaving the parentheses, which I suppose is darn close to putting one’s inner monologue out there for the world (scary). So, for you grammar lovahs, instead of wincing every time you see a misplaced paren, have a cookie.

February is the most deceptive of the months. So unassuming and short, and then when it gets here, it’s like, “what in the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on? I’m a mess!” It feels really quite anti-climactic to say, “Well, it is after all February. We’ll get through this.” And “We all know what February is like,” nudge, nudge. Oh yeah, smart guy, what’s it like?

On paper, it’s great. You’ve got the Superbowl, Black History Month, Groundhog Day, two 3-day weekends (thanks Abe!), Valentine’s Day, the Grammys, and of course, the grand dame of late-winter-though-every-year-I- forget-that-it-doesn’t-take-place-in-the-spring event of the year…that’s right, the Oscars. And this year, we’ve thrown in bizarre weather (which has given us my new favorite word, snowmegeddon), an honest-to-goodness revolution, and a skeezy congressman with an iPhone (this is not a political statement. I’m just anti-shirtless dudes inviting you to the gun show, while snapping a picture of it with a camera phone, and then having it run repeatedly by every news outlet in the free world, that’s all.)  However, in our house, we’ve thrown in our family’s first experience of having to manage three overlapping sports, drama, choir (I’m obviously not the one in choir), a few major endeavors at the church, a flat tire, John’s noble reentry into academia, (I can’t not think about macadamias when I hear this, which is probably why I’m not the smarty pants who has to do all the fancy reading) and a cat that has figured out how to crawl all the way inside Zachary’s box spring and who insists on drinking out of our water glasses. (We are now forced to all drink out of, what John will only refer to as, sippy cups). And February doesn’t even get Fat Tuesday this year.

Last week, I sat around a table of bright, funny women, and we were discussing Revelation. Yup, the book of Revelation. (It was assigned and pre-planned and everything – it doesn’t just happen, like I thought it would when I went to work for a church.) That book is full of weird stuff that people throughout history have been pointing to as sure signs that the end is most certainly, nigh. (I’m pretty sure my dad would have thought the four horsemen of the apocalypse would be clad in bellbottoms). Anyhow, I brought up the weirdness I was feeling and observing, and everybody chimed in with their own tales of weirdness and February misgivings. Since we’d ruled out Armageddon with nervous chuckles, my first question, as it always is, was, “Is it a full moon? It feels like a full moon.”

“No but, it’s a strong crescent,” somebody said. That makes sense too, I thought, while I nodded thoughtfully and solemnly. (This absolutely supported my unsupportable hypothesis that the stupid moon is going to make us all crazy.)

Part of my problem, was that I was in the middle of a calendar crisis. Just that morning, I had stood in front of my color coded whiteboard calendar, with a hot cup of tea and a frown. It looked like a clown had thrown up on it, and I was depending on a lot of people, and a lot of grace, and maybe a miracle or two to get through the week, and perhaps even, the month. Everybody I know who plans events, me included, were starting to run out of months where we could put something on the calendar and actually expect people to show up. You can’t pick January because people are still recovering from the holidays, or they’re in Tahoe. You could do March or April, depending on how Easter & spring breaks fall, and how many Tahoe ski weekends people are trying to squeeze in. May is out – sports! June’s busy, nobody’s around in July or August. September is completely taken up by school stuff. October is a veritable cornucopia of harvest carnivals and soccer games, and then people will unapologetically laugh at you if you suggest November or December. Hello? We’re in Tahoe, duh. And sure, yeah, the holidays.

My 2nd favorite book from childhood is Mexicali Soup (the first is Miss Twiggly’s Tree, of which my own childhood copy is being lovingly cared for by Jacob). A large family moves to America from Mexico. The unfailingly patient mother is making her signature Mexicali Soup, and one by one the family members insist on the omission of an ingredient from the dish for a variety of reasons. By the time she serves her meal, it is a big pot of hot water. February was the last month I was clinging too before I was left with a big pot of hot water.

So just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, and that I’m ready to go and kick February in the shins out of sheer frustration, I’m surprised again. Granted, we’re just now half-way through the month, (and though I promised myself we wouldn’t, preparing to deliver the sugariest of sugary Valentine candy to pre-schoolers no less). But suddenly, the projects I thought I could never pull off at work have been fine, fulfilling, worthwhile, and dare I say, fun. A few extraordinary people have stepped in at exactly the moment when I needed them the most. We discovered that Trader Joe’s is still selling their candy cane sandwich cookies (or what I like to call, writing companions in a box), Girl Scout cookies have arrived (TV companions in a box), and I’ve seen two of the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture, (that’s 1/5th of the nominees, a spectacular ratio considering how many babysitting hours that amounts too.) And alas, the package I thought was surely lost in the mail, arrived safely.

February may be completely weirdsies, with that wayward r right there in the middle of its spelling. But its quirkiness is what makes it most representative of what life is like…unpredictable, hectic and living in the shadow of the longer more robust months. It’s full of hearts and sweets, furry rodents, political and historical relevance, inclimate weather, and just enough sun to seed the hope of spring. And of course the people. The people who can mysteriously and simultaneously bring me great joy and great frustration as they drift in and out and around…on their way to Tahoe.

quarantine

15 Nov

You’ve been there. Your kiddo’s been sick, or you’ve been sick, and you are on lockdown; a self-imposed quarantine. Not to be melodramatic, but being in the house for now going on 3 days is starting to feel like an experiment. Not gross or demeaning like that reality show and beacon of debauchery, Big Brother, but like something far more domestic and yet…. psychologically intriguing.

The first hours were consumed by tending to the little guy with the stomach bug who looked up at me with his big brown “why me mommy?” eyes. As he finally started to mend, he dismissed me from my spot next to him to wander through the house like a phantom in yoga pants and a hoodie,  far enough to give him some space, but not so far that I could not be at his beck and call. John was officiating the lovely wedding of two lovely people and was busy shuttling Jake to football games and maneuvering through baseball sign-ups and Sunday duties at church.

The at-home assignment was mine.

I didn’t notice my demise until a good 32 hours into the… “experiment,” and this is its  manifestation.

Cabin Fever List of Things I Learned While on Lockdown (2010 edition)

  • The bottoms of the living room curtains don’t match up. I looked at it for a minute and tried to fluff them, but they are linen and don’t really fluff. Eeeh….*shoulder shrug*… whataya gonna do?
  • Tetris is therapeutic. It’s science, yo. Jake’s weekend assignment is to prepare a speech about a development in science. And thanks to the fine folks at Oxford, we now know that the best video game ever, Tetris, can ease the flashbacks associated with some milder cases of post-traumatic stress. But not Pub Quiz, the other game in the experiment – so don’t try Pub Quiz – because what Oxford is surely implying is that Pub Quiz is stupid and does not fix PTSD. Just to be clear….this is a class project. I do not assign him speeches about science for fun, though if the ‘tween eye rolling persists, I may give that a whirl.
  • Now two weeks after the glorious World Series, MLB Network is still going strong. Only now the on-air “analysts” have all the time in the world. We were about an hour into the Cliff Lee “analysis” before I cajoled Jake into changing the channel.
  • Captains in football have a C on their jersey.
  • If there are weird hard-to-find ingredients in a recipe, I simply will not make it. I will not scour the Internet looking for ideas on suitable substitutions – I will just simply not make it, and I will, henceforth, edit my recipes accordingly.
  • If you stare at Hex Nano Bugs long enough, you forget they are little vibrating robots and not real bugs. And then when you do realize it, you can’t decide which scenario is actually freakier…actual bugs or robot bugs.
  • There was a week this summer where Jonathan Franzen and his serious face and serious new novel “Freedom” made it into every magazine I subscribe to. Good for you Franzen, you should relax a little and enjoy it.
  • The BRAT diet is quite addicting, and somewhat luxurious if you haven’t been the one doing the throwing up. Saltines and white toast and rice and applesauce with Gatorade to wash it down. I’m enjoying it because by tomorrow night, I’m sure mac n cheese will surely be back in the request queue, and I’ll be obligated to re-introduce vegetables into my repertoire.
  • Every door slam is loud and suspicious. By the end of day 2, I was that lady. Peeking out through the curtains (not the uneven ones) to see just what everybody was doing out there. Noticing  when they left and when they came in. What time did they check their mail? How long did their gardeners stay? Why on Earth do the neighbors on the corner have the U-Haul trailer every weekend?
  • Being tucked away inside provides one an odd sense of security when there have been multiple mountain lion sightings in the neighborhood in the last week. Perhaps said mountain lion saw me peeking through the curtains, and thinks I am taunting him, and is now lying in wait behind that Pontiac Grand Am across the street.

So If you were to peer down into the living room right now where I am typing this, and you were to look past my messy ponytail and oversized hoodie (heat rises! It’s cold down here! Be nice, or I will make you do a speech on air density) and you could zoom in on what I’m writing you would be relieved that it does not in fact say All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl. All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl. All work and no play makes Colleen a dull girl*. I’m not typing that, so don’t worry.

Necessary Sidenote: Rear Window is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I always thought Jimmy Stewart’s character was a bit much. I totally get him now, and that’s after just over a day of being at home. If I was restricted to a wheelchair and blue button down pajamas in my 3rd floor walk-up, I’d have the cops investigating every one of my neighbors, I’m sure.

Not-as-necessary Sidenote: I was in fact stuck in my San Francisco 3rd floor walk-up apartment for many many days after my knee surgery years ago, but most of that was spent in bed, and I could not sit by the window and spy on my neighbors which is for the best. I had already discovered to my dismay, that the older couple across the courtyard preferred to eat breakfast in their underwear. During that stint at home, there wasn’t fancy “wi-fi” so books and the E! Network were my windows on the world while John was at work. One of the Deacons from my church showed up with a casserole. Nobody had ever brought me a casserole and I didn’t know casserole etiquette so the entire operation stressed me out. The lady was very nice, but anxious to drop it and go. I can’t blame her, I probably looked kind of scary – wild eyed and pale from the sunlight deprivation. My dad would call me at the same time every day to check on me, presumably to ensure that I hadn’t lost my mind.

*and yes, oddly enough, The Shining is my other favorite suspense movie of all time, though I far prefer Grace Kelly’s outfits to Shelly Duvall’s.

fine. be that way.

20 Sep

I’ve had better weeks. I’ve had worse… but I’ve definitely had better.

You know when your week is kinda going ok, and then it starts to take a turn for the worse? First it’s one sorta small mildly unpleasant thing, and then it’s like a medium not-so-good thing. Then boom, boom, it’s two blatantly sucky things back to back, and you start looking around for an explanation? As part of my investigative process, I usually pull up the full moon calendar. There is seriously something to it. For the first three years of his life, Zachary would be up all night fussing the two nights leading up to the full moon. EVERY month for three years. After a while, John could not argue with my hypothesis anymore, as much as he wanted to. The moon pulls on the ocean, I know it can screw around with our tiny little bodies & mess with our heads and make us cranky and irritable. C’mon, I know it’s not always the moon that gives us grief. It is fun, however to think of the moon as an adversary. Whaddaya gonna do – throw down with the moon?

When you’re mad, and feeling kinda beat up, I’m sure you notice that everybody else’s driving is really terrible. Then I look at myself, and I see that I’m hunched over, chin all the way over the steering wheel, knuckles white, in my best defensive driving position. I’m sure if you peeked in the window, I’d look Cruella De Vil driving that crazy car of hers, wild hair, gangly arms, lips thin and growly. I don’t have that cigarette holder or a puppy fur coat though, so I’ve got that going for me.

I just want to get home and hide. I want to pull the drapes and turn off the phones. I’ll drag the sleeping bags into the living room and let the boys watch a movie and eat dinner picnic style, just so I can feel cozy and protected from the maniacal villains who are running around loose out there, intent on making me miserable.

I know by now that you can’t control people – that never ends well – so I will try my darnedest to control things from within the house. The laundry. The dishes. That candy shelf. The photo cabinet that is currently sitting open because I was going to pour all of my frustrations, and swear words that I wanted to say, and dirty looks that I wanted to give into reorganizing that horrible horrible closet. And I wanted to sit down and write something funny about anything, but every opening line I typed sounded like the beginning of a manifesto.

Reading’s good and takes my mind off things, but the book on my nightstand is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve been trying for months to read it, refusing to pick up another book until I finish. Actually, I angry like Hulk every time I pick it up, because I can’t get past all the Swedish, and it makes me feel dumb. I really should just quit trying. I tossed aside Eat, Pray, Love after the Eat part and never looked back. Then there was the added bonus of one less Julia Roberts movie I felt obliged to see.

When you’re mad, like really good and mad, there are few practical ways to dissolve the anger. A choose-your-own- adventure of sorts. Part of being an adult, a responsible, thoughtful, and prayerful person, is to select the right adventure. Sometimes I goof and pick “rant”. I’m spoiled rotten that I have people who will listen and be patient with me. That my husband, who even out in the mountains of Idaho, will drive two miles just so he has better reception to hear me gripe. And that I have amazing friends, who on any given day, if I hint the slightest that I’m upset, will text and call to say that even though they don’t know the story, they’re mad too, on my behalf.

Or, sometimes the adventure starts with yelling, stomping, muttering, crying, or the unfortunate combination of all of the above.

Moses finally had it, let his fury get the best of him, struck that rock with his staff and was kept out of the from the Promised Land, even after all that work and all those years of being obedient. Fine. I guess I’m supposed to get my you-know-what together, let go of my worries and fretting and the anger that for some reason I seem to enjoy holding on to. Surrender. Bluch, really? Do I have to? It’s not like I’m trying to take it out on everybody else so they’ll feel terrible too, right? Right?

Surrender is not very glamorous. I’ll try, but I’m telling you right now, it’s not easy. I’m pretty sure it’s my least favorite option. Channeling anger into an activity that’s obviously counter-productive can be fun and bring relief, even if it’s temporary. I can rage-eat a bag of Wavy Lay’s like nobody’s business. It feels fan-flippin-tastic at the moment, but does it feel better later? Definitely not, especially since, in a blind fury, I probably also whipped up a batch of clam dip to go with it.  Like yelling, like crying, like complaining – the joy of clam dip furiouso is fleeting.

land of plenty

15 Sep

I finally got the photos off my camera. Easter’s on there. The last day of school. The first day of school, and everything in between which includes two different rounds of the boys’ haircuts and our official summer family vacation.

Like many a vacation tale, it started off a little iffy before it oozed into what would be a lazy, sun-drenched, donut-filled extravaganza. The first ½ hour was a little touch-and-go, what with driving out of the garage with the back hatch still open (hello vacation cliché!), Zachary dropping a ketchupy hamburger open faced onto the floor of the car, and John and I digging furiously in the console for the bridge toll transponder that was sitting safely on the hutch at home.

I was already apprehensive. Last year’s “vacation” was almost the end of me. It was two weeks on the road, driving through various deserty landscapes of the west. The boys fought constantly… to the point where I threatened to have taxi glass installed in the car when we got to Vegas. Oh yes, Vegas – a favorite destination of years past, but now where we had to answer an endless barrage of questions about the lady butts on every billboard, and what exactly  people were drinking out of the giant test tubes and plastic guitars. And why, in the pirate show, were the dozen bikini clad lady pirates holding that one poor man pirate hostage?

Then of course there was the great Bellagio buffet incident of 09 – where on top of me allowing the boys to maintain Vegas hours and walk amongst booze swilling pirate bikini fans, I ok’d at one of the ritziest buffets in town, a plate of sushi, a large coke, and a ginormous slice of hazelnut cake for our then 8-year-old. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about how that unfolded. I will say it ended with a mad dash across the restaurant, and us slinking out under the cover of darkness with John muttering something about the absence of a paper trail, and the unfortunate lady in the white pants.

As we high-tailed it out of town the next morning we told the boys to take a good look, because there was no way we were bringing them back to Las Vegas before they turned 21.

That was last year. This year of course, our plans for a variety of reasons included Las Vegas. Haven’t you had a trip, for reasons outside of your control, ended up including Las Vegas? I thought so. But you can understand my hesitancy as I prepared for this year’s trip. Two weeks again. Vegas again.

Las Vegas usually brings out the quirks in people, no surprise. Even outside of the seven deadlies…which probably, technically aren’t quirks. Ok, maybe gluttony is a quirk. The long-running joke in my house is my wacky and adorable scarcity mentality, and in La Vegas it comes out something fierce. Now this is actually very exasperating to me, because it is in direct contradiction with my own faith where there is an endless supply of grace, and love, and blessings and forgiveness. But, I’m fairly certain I would have been one of those Israelites traipsing through the desert, yammering into Moses’ ear about manna this, and manna that and getting a good spot to set up my sleeping mat for the night, because the desert, with all these people, feels scrunched.

The thought of going to the Las Vegas hotel pool any time past 10 am gives me the shakes. I’m certain we’ll never get a beach chair, and I’ll be left to wander around with armloads of books and towels and sunscreen, my kids trailing behind already wearing their goggles; roaming in between the oiled, tanned and hung over, like an agitated ghost in a sun hat, unable to find an eternal resting place. The joy of finding a chair, even one chair to share with three other people is just almost too much to bear. Suddenly that one little chair is the promised land. And you don’t care that you’re going to get splashed or burnt or maybe no sun at all. Because it’s yours. You earned it. And you’re not leaving ‘til dark.

Or until the buffet opens at 4:00. Now if your kid isn’t throwing up at the buffet, that’s the happiest spot in Vegas. Unfortunately, it’s the other place my scarcity mentality rears its ugly head. John rolls his eyes, but appeases my desire to get to the buffet the moment they open the doors. I try to compromise and allow a 4:30 arrival. Of course, the line is a monster, filled with people who will flat out tell us we are too young to be eating at 4:30.

I stand there in line fidgeting, looking over the little ladies in front of me without even standing on my toes, trying to sneak a peek at the dining room.

John looks at me, and sighs because he can read my mind.

“They are NOT going to run out of shrimp….(brow furrow)…or crab legs.”

This is always when I spy someone practically skipping back to their table with a plate in each hand – one piled high with shrimp, the other with crab legs. My brow goes back to the furrow.

“Colleen, they will NOT run out of shrimp. This is Las Vegas, they know what they are doing.”

I nod tentatively, but really don’t relax until I’m the one skipping back to the table with my shrimp, trying not to make eye contact with the people in line who are of course, eyeing my impressive shellfish haul.

I’m curious when I’ll learn. Because I’m never right. We always find a seat, and I always eat so much that I feel gross, in a good way. In fact my unfounded concerns are so rarely realized that I do that dumb thing, where you almost hope you don’t find a chair, just so you can feel justified in your unjustifiable concerns. Another quirk.