Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shake it easy

I make things way too hard.

I mean, this should come as no surprise. But surprise! I am tired of it. 

This feeling has been growing all day. This morning, I put one of our Lunch Bots into the dishwasher. I mean, first of all, let's start with the Lunch Bots. They're stainless-steel containers that I bought so we don't have to use plastic baggies for sandwiches. I mean, seriously? OK, so, there's that. And then, even though they're dishwasher-safe, I decided that I prefer that they be hand-washed. That was easy for me to say; Jeffrey does the dishes. But this morning I finally thought, you know, either it goes into the dishwasher or we don't own it.

Then tonight I was separating out the blacks for the laundry. I separate them into 3-4 categories, typically. Black delicates, black utility items (socks, et cetera), faded black items, and then stuff that falls through the cracks. It's completely ridiculous, because we never have black socks clean at the same time as our nice black pants. And then there's the 97-step process that is doing the laundry. I carefully worked out each step to make it the most ecologically sound or the best for the clothes or whatever.
But you know, I'm just tired of it. So I threw all the blacks in the laundry with (gasp!) just plain detergent tonight. Unheard of.

I just want to do things more easily. I remember feeling this way one time before, in second grade. I was just starting to grasp the word "thought." I could spell it, but it took me some actual, hard concentration. What the f* was that g doing in there, anyway? And I knew other people were not busting their asses to spell "thought" right. So one day I decided, what the f. I just threw caution to the wind and wrote "thot." But Mrs. Randle shot me such a look of disappointment.

And that was the end of that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

From both sides now

I've been writing for the paper a little bit. It's in addition to being an editor, so I'm not incredibly prolific. I'm covering social services in the city, which is sort of perfect for me.

*Sort of.* This week I wrote a story about a city program that gives respite care for caregivers. That is, if you're living with someone you're taking care of (and 44 million people in the United States do), you can have someone come in and sit with that person for a few hours at a time so you can go to a doctor's appointment or lunch with a friend or whatever. Hardly anyone takes advantage of the program because no one knows about it. So I wrote a story about it. Last week I interviewed an amazing woman who takes care of her husband, who has a progressive neurological disease. At the end of the interview, when everyone else was gone, I started to cry. You know, it's the holidays, and everything. She was great; she hugged me, but I left quickly.

Then today, a woman called me to thank me for writing the story. In a high, shaky voice she told me her story; she had taken care of her mom for 10 years. This time, I didn't cry. I listened.

There is this incredible sisterhood of caregivers. I say sisterhood because it's vastly women who take time out of their lives to care for loved ones. It's every single caregiver I've ever known. And even though our stories are each unique, we know a lot of the same feelings. We're all in different stages of mourning and recovery, and if we're lucky, rebirth.

What really amazed me about the woman who called was how much more difficult her experience was. I mean, mine was as hard as you think it is: watching my mother, who spoiled and loved me, die, minute by minute, for 6 months. So, you know, hard. And I still carry the marks. But in that 6 months, I was able to find a job in my field so I didn't have to worry about money. And she had insurance, so we didn't have to worry about medical care. And I had some family members around who helped.

This woman who called me had none of that. She couldn't find a job that paid more than $7 an hour so she was trying to navigate a maze of poverty while taking care of her mom. And she was taking care of herself after she was rear-ended and t-boned in an intersection; she still doesn't have full use of her hands. And she didn't have much family around; she had to put her dad in a home because of dementia.

And despite all her best efforts, her mom died. Just like mine. And she was telling me how she felt lost, like she didn't know where to start again, and she had lost her identity. I told her the truth, that I had felt the same way. That I had landed this job, which I'd wanted for so long, on the day that my mom died but that I roamed the halls for months. I told her to give herself time, and to just try to recognize this great thing that she had done.

We talked for about a half-hour. She thanked me for listening, and again for writing the story. And I felt so good that I could give her the 10-years-out perspective. It feels good to have made it this far.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And I'm free!

Last year, during my homemade naan obsession, I bought one of those big, iconic KitchenAid stand mixers. I went to several stores, armed with coupons and ratings and sales fliers. Did I want one with a bowl that swiveled up? Or did I want one with a head that swiveled down? How much "flour power" (not my phrase) did I want? I chose, and put back, then chose, then put back, several models. And that's saying something, 'cause those suckers are heavy. But I finally decided on one and brought it home.

Then I used it maybe 3 times in a year. Our kitchen's configuration is such that in order to use it, I must heft the mixing behemoth from one counter to another, where it blocks access to the measuring cups and spoons. You see that it takes a lot of planning and commitment.

We also have a hand mixer, but it's some powerless off-brand piece of garbage that I bought many years ago, before I realized that buying rubbish for a small amount of money is no bargain. That one I really never use. I'm pretty sure the attachments are all rusted out, though I'm not sure where they are.

So yesterday, when I got an e-mail from my good friends Williams and Sonoma telling me that a Cuisinart hand mixer with fantastic ratings was on sale for just one day, I called and had them hold one for me. It would be far more convenient, and it was on sale, and Jeffrey and I had a gift card that covered the amount and then some.

And off I went. I checked out all the hand mixers they had, with the functions, and the brushed chrome, and the power. They were all on sale, it turns out. But about two minutes into my typically joyful research, it hit me: I don't need one of these. What the heck am I going to use it for? I haven't used my hand mixer in years, and I have one of those big, expensive stand mixers. I'm going to drop 50 bucks to make something that I never do slightly more convenient?

So I said, "Enough." I don't need another redundancy, no matter how high-quality, in my kitchen. And I walked out. And I felt more free than I could ever remember feeling.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A couple things that make me crazy

First, I'm looking for a new word for technologically savvy to replace "wired." Who actually uses a wired network these days? So last century. The other day Paul and I were trading technologically disparaging comments about someone we know. He said, "I bet he uses Internet Explorer." I said, "I bet he uses NCSA Mosaic!" Ahahaha. I just love geek humor.

Second, I'm tired of the phrase " thrown under the bus." It would be a Herculean task to actually throw someone under a bus, since there's typically nothing under a bus but ground. How about just "in front of a bus"? I think that would do plenty of bodily damage, and it's much more practical.

OK. That's all I got tonight. I'm running very low on sleep because I've been up the past few nights making sea salt toffee for a bake sale benefiting The Joy Fund. But today Jeffrey said, "I think you shouldn't do The Joy Fund next year. It makes you too morose." And I think he's probably right.

You, you, you oughtta know

In Vietnamese, if you don't like a certain food, it's said that you don't know how to eat it. I resented that when I was young and picky about my food. I didn't want to not know anything. I simply did not like onions.

But now I at least appreciate them. And I can appreciate the cultural value the saying reveals. I think it's more about a willingness to expand your horizons. I find that when I meet people who have a long list of things they don't like to or won't eat, I judge them a bit harshly, and probably unfairly. Like it's not really just about the food. You know, like how bad tipping is not ever just about the tipping, it's generally a sign of some greater lack of generosity? I sometimes equate the fussiness with willful ignorance. And I find that some people have the long list of no-no foods not because they have tried everything and simply don't like it; it's an excuse to not try anything new at all because of the potential to not like it.

Now, I'm not saying this about everyone who is a picky eater. Also I know it is incredibly hypocritical of me to say; there are things I don't try. I've never seen an episode of "Lost," and I know a lot of people who like it. I just have never tried it. No reason. So I'm looking at myself too.

And let me spin it a positive way: I'm impressed with people who are willing to try new things. It shows the spark of an adventurous spirit, and I really respect that. In the food realm, that spirit is very important in our marriage. We go anywhere and try anything, particularly if some ethnic group really loves it. I always think, hey, millions of people can't be wrong.

I guess I'm thinking about this right now because I found out that my friend Mary is moving to Malaysia (!) to help a company establish the first nationwide broadband network. It's going to be an amazing adventure, and I could not be more excited for her. Way to go, Mary! I respect the hell out of you.