The Omnivore’s Angst

Food. It's what's for dinner.

Days per week my daughter is excited about what I’ve made for dinner: 2

Days per week I cook dinner: 6 (not a great ratio, I’ll admit)

“Normal,” non-bug-oriented foods I won’t eat: 3

* Disclaimer: I am actually a very kind person.

So there we were, ambling around Glastonbury, a town in England frozen in the 1960s, full of dreadlocks and long skirts and chick peas.

“I need a burger,” my brother-in-law who has visited Glastonbury numerous times kept repeating. “Where is a place that sells burgers?”

At 2 p.m. after being stuck in a nightmare fun park called Wooky Hole, trying to escape arcade games and fun-house mirrors, then driving to a town rife with King Arthur lore I should have loved but couldn’t concentrate on because of the rumbling in my stomach, I would have eaten raw squid topped with beets.

We walked past cafe after cafe, mean words barely held back in my brain. My adult/parent/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law good behavior was holding on by a string akin to cooked angel-hair pasta.

Look around, I wanted to say to my brother-in-law. These are people who shun meat. Can we please get a veggie pot pie and move on?

As my 4- and 6-year-old kids clung to my hands, their energy draining away so they could barely maintain verticality, I also wanted to say mean things to the people nearby who were happy and grain-fed.

Baths are fun, I wanted to say. But also, I was considering, Jimi Hendrix is dead! Dead, people!

I did not scare any flower children that day, and my own children continued to prop me up until we wandered into an eatery proclaiming, “Burgers!” on its hand-written sign.

We ordered. I sat and looked grumpy.

And maybe the sign forgot to mention: they were veggie burgers. My brother-in-law was not a happy camper. But because the rest of us were gnawing the table legs, he choked it down.

I used to be a picky eater. too. My mom cooked me separate meals until I was six, and then she said, “This is for the birds. Eat it or don’t.” Mostly, I didn’t. I don’t remember being especially hungry, and not eating whatever it was had little effect on me one way or the other.

Then I went to camp.

It was the summer after 4th grade, and my friends were going to Girl Scout camp in the north Georgia mountains. (Something people don’t tell you about the north Georgia mountains, but which I figured out after several trips up there is: it rains. Like, all the time.)

Camp food, like most institutional food, wasn’t so great. I’d never been away from home for more than one meal at a time, and I spent mealtime hoarding my roll and listening to my stomach making loud growling noises that made other kids frightened of me. I wrote my mom and dad letters saying things like, “They are serving us canned green beans” that my parents found hilarious and framed.

When I got home, I started eating and never stopped. My legs grew four inches that summer, and my taste buds did, too. Things got a lot easier for me after that.

Years later, in cooking for family and friends, we have dealt with gluten-free, vegetarian, veggie haters, people who won’t eat seafood, people who only eat chicken or seafood and Atkins diet folks.

I am now on an Anne Diet kick. I want you to come visit and let me cook for you. But I will be cooking to no specific diet. All foods are on the table, and you may eat them or not. Here are my current food thoughts:

1. Cheese. Two of our neighbors don’t eat cheese. I don’t mean they have cut it out because it has too much fat. I mean, they don’t like cheese. I was not aware that people like this existed in the world.

Sadly, I could lose half my body weight on cutting out cheese alone. I am particularly fond of blue, brie, havarti, goat, farmer’s, feta, gorgonzola, cheddar, monterey jack, asiago, mozzarella, parmesan and pretty much any other cheese. Probably, if you eat at my house, there will be cheese.

2. Vegetables. I’m not sure why many men, especially, are veggie-haters. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don’t like. There will be vegetables at our table. Like, always. Except for

3. Beets. Beets are evil and must be destroyed.

4. Protein. At our house, there will be all manner of seafood, red meat, pork, chicken, legumes and nuts. Just try to stop me. (Except for those with nut allergies. I will keep all nuts away from our kitchen if you come to visit.)

5. Gluten. If you have a medical condition, I will eliminate gluten. I am not interested in making someone ill. If you are simply anti-Cracklin Oat Bran (gasp!), I will have to open up the box and ask you to try a piece. It’s addictive.

6. Butter. We use Brummel & Brown as our spread, but you can’t beat (small amounts of) butter for cooking or baking. Let’s not denigrate a true hero, people.

7. Fruits. It’s true that I have to force myself to get enough fruit in my diet. I eat a lot of dried fruit in the winter (in trail mix, especially) and fresher fruits, like pineapple and peaches, in the summer. If you are very, very good, I will make you my Grandma Ann’s Apple Pie. I am still waiting for research to prove that fruit in a pie is more nutritionally sound than plain old fruit. Still waiting.

8. Tomatoes. I won’t get into the whole “Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?” paradox with you. But fruit, vegetable, or small, round animal, there is nothing like a homegrown, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. Nothing. I will also allow myself to enjoy the canned variety but draw the line at 14 tomato-laden meals per week.

Please write and tell me your weird food stuff. Are you a foodie? What is your kryptonite? What do you hate?


Off the Grid


Household appliances that have become very ill or died in the last five months: 3

Dishes I washed in a bathtub yesterday: 23

Missing tiles under and around our dishwasher today: 9

Our house is the place where appliances come to die.

Let me backtrack a little bit so you can feel and understand my angst coming through your computer screen.

My husband and I decide to watch a movie on Sunday evening. This is pretty incredible stuff for us. My son had talked my husband into doing a Netflix trial, and my husband was giddy–giddy, I tell you–about watching a movie “for free.” We had been meaning to see “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” for a while… him, because he loved the trilogy; me, because I love Daniel Craig. (When things don’t work out with Rachel Weisz, he can feel free to call me.)

I sit down on the couch, he skips in to the computer… and the movie starts playing.

There are a lot of words I don’t understand.

And there’s a guy onscreen who is not Daniel Craig. This is a problem.

“Ummm. Honey?” I stage-whisper in to the office.


“There’s a lot more Swedish stuff in this movie than there should be.”

“Yeah, the movie takes place in Sweden. Duh.” (He didn’t actually say duh, but I felt its unspoken meaning from all the way in the other room.)

“What I’m trying to say is… this guy isn’t as cute, and I don’t want to read my movie. Like, I’ve already read the book. Daniel Craig has a great accent, and I don’t want to miss it.”

I think I killed his Netflix fun.

So anyway, we ended up watching “Seabiscuit,” which our neighbor had thoughtfully let us borrow, perhaps envisioning this exact scenario. It said on the DVD “1:33,” which I took to mean one hour and 33 minutes, but which we found out two and a half hours later really meant “1:33 to 1,” some ridiculous tech-y ratio that is gobbledygook and is printed on there to confuse and obfuscate. My husband laughed at me, but not too much, because we were both up way past our bedtime, and his laughter energy was spent.

It was close to midnight, and my husband walked over to turn out the kitchen lights… and found water stains near our dishwasher. Very long story short… our dishwasher had been leaking, and we never knew. Dangit.

The next morning, as my husband muttered and said bad words while chipping away at grout and tile, I Cloroxed our bathtub. And then I spent far too long leaning over said bathtub washing dishes by hand. I know. I know. It’s like something out of a Depression-era movie. Poor little suburban woman sudsing up her dishes and the butcher knife in the tub.

The rest of the day was spent in heightened productivity mode, at least creatively speaking.

Much in the same way that I fantasized as a middle schooler about moving far, far away or to medieval England, I now escape to a life off the grid. To some people, this means escaping from the government, or the Internet or mafia culture. To me, it means owning five outfits, mostly bathing suits and cover-ups, a pair of flip-flops and a shack with indoor plumbing. While I hope to eliminate all appliances, I am very fond of toilets and hot running water and will include plumbing in my Florida Keys fantasy.

Until my life of off-the-gridishness, I live with peace about two things, one of which I mentioned in an earlier post: 1.) Our TV has already been struck by lightning, and since lightning doesn’t strike twice, we’re safe. 2.) As our friend and neighbor reminded us and sent us YouTube videos about, our appliances have been “pre-disastered,” a concept coined by Garp in “A World According to Garp.” They can’t break again, right? And now I can sleep at night.

In preparation for my appliance-free life, I am starting to pack my teal L.L. Bean backpack from college with comfort items. If something blows up or leaks or catches on fire or melts or spontaneously combusts, I will grab my safety items, and… well, we’ll have to leave our cars behind, trust issues and all.

We can hitchhike to The Islands. Or maybe if we all wear our running shoes, we can just head down there on foot. So far, I feel like I can trust my own legs.

Music in My Head: Motivator or Sensory Overload?

The soundtrack of our lives.

Tracks on my running mp3 player: 47

Bands slated to play at our half-marathon this coming weekend: 7

Months ago that I realized Flo-Rida sampled Etta James on “Good Feeling”: 2

So. It’s official. I’m now one of those old people who complain about music being too loud.

When my husband and I were dating, we occasionally went to super-swanky places like “Outback” or “Macaroni Grill”… big, open places with loud music and TVs and people talking like it was two a.m. at a dance club. When they said the wait time was an hour, we weren’t bothered. No problem. We could stand and talk and drink and look around for as long as we needed to. We even (I don’t recommend this) secretly laughed at people, usually older than we were, who couldn’t handle the wait, complained about the loud music and ate at home.

We are now these people.

When my son was born, I decided that I wanted him to grow up knowing the classics. More specifically, The Beatles. There he was at 2 months old, flapping his arms on our bed and squealing to “Hard Day’s Night.” There I was, bouncing him on my hip to “Here Comes the Sun.” While I cooked dinner, my husband would circle the downstairs carrying the little crying bundle to “Eleanor Rigby.” (Turns out, it’s not a real upper of a song; who knew?)

And there we were on our anniversary, at a nice, quiet little Italian restaurant with divine vegetable lasagna… listening to “Hard Day’s Night.” And “Here Comes the Sun.” And even, yes, “Eleanor Rigby.” When the maitre d’ stopped by to ask us how our meal was going, we just looked at each other.

“What? Is something wrong?” the maitre d’ asked, searching our plates for signs of huge roaches or undercooked eggplant or gnats in our wine.

“It’s… the music,” my husband said.

“You don’t like The Beatles?” the maitre d’ asked.

“No, no, we actually love them, but… we’ve been indoctrinating our baby into rock culture 24-7. On our night out, we were kind of hoping for something less… baby friendly.”

“Ohhhh kaaaaayyyy,” the maitre d’ said, turning towards a server and probably rolling his eyes. “Eighty-six The Beatles.”

We then ate our Italian comfort food to the strains of Ravel or Chopin or maybe even Count Basie. I don’t remember.

One time, several years ago, Urban Outfitters opened at a mall near us. I took my precious little preschooler right up to the door, walked in… looked at one t-shirt and walked out. The music was so loud and bass-driven that would you believe it? She still can’t hear me when I ask her to come set the table. She’s 9 years old now. See? Permanent hearing loss.

Sometimes, the music at a store makes me buy stuff. My husband doesn’t believe me about this, but it’s true. When I browse at Nordstrom Rack, trance music plays, usually a female who repeats a lot of stuff over and over to a sort of mystical, dance music beat. Sometimes even, it sounds like she’s singing things like, “Those shooooooes are soooo cute, those shooooooes are soooo cute, buy them buy them buy them…” Sort of a love song to shoes and cute dresses. This is a problem.

An opposite problem is when the music is fine, but a weird, repetitive sound forces me to leave the store before I lose my grip on sanity. (Come to think of it, my husband may have had a hand in this one.) A Target opened nearby a few months ago, and the store had a bum emergency door. Every time I visited to browse the sale tank tops and Natori for Target robes, the emergency door made this never-ending “behbehbehbehbehbehbeh” sound. It is very sad that I only managed to swipe (and pay for) a few of those choice items. Honey, you’re welcome.

My point is, music can wield powers of both good and evil.

I rock an old-school mp3 player, akin to the late ’80s-era cell phone that came in a box the size of a briefcase. I hook that baby onto my left arm, and it causes me to run in a Quasimodo-like fashion.

I really love the 47 tracks that I initially downloaded about seven years ago. I’ve added to them (Mystify by INXS) and deleted some that didn’t work so well (some X-rated rapper thing that my husband put on there without realizing it. It made me blush everytime I ran. I was afraid young children and puppies might hear the harsh language and be scarred for life.)

Here are some of the songs that still work for me when I run:

  • Anything by Black Eyed Peas
  • Anything by Justin Timberlake
  • Just Dance–Lady Gaga
  • Stronger–Kanye West
  • Been Caught Stealing–Jane’s Addiction
  • Opportunities–Pet Shop Boys
  • Hot in Here–Nelly
  • I See You Baby…–Groove Armada
  • I Wanna Be Sedated–The Ramones
  • Like to Get to Know You Well–Howard Jones
  • D’yer Mak’er–Led Zeppelin
  • Dyslexic Heart–Paul Westerberg

Which songs motivate you when you exercise? Which new songs do you want to add?

Note to My Younger Self

You're welcome.

Years I spent in middle school: 3

Years it seemed like I spent in middle school: 14

Months until my son starts middle school: 5

Note to my sister: You are welcome. I removed all evidence of your bad outfits and side ponytails and left the horrific facts about my own childhood in. Although, to be honest, you were pretty much always cute anyway.

Dear Middle School-Aged Self,

I know it seems like you will never finish the worst years of your life. But you will, I promise. Until then, enjoy your fantasies about either moving to a different town far, far away or escaping to medieval England where things were much easier.

I thought I would help you by sending a letter back in time so you can see that things worked out fine; kind of a reverse of the time capsules teachers keep making you do. I mean, look at that cute kid in the picture frame up there. You marry him. Yes, you’re welcome. Now that we’ve settled that, here are a few things that will help you see that this too, shall pass.

1. You never get cool. I know. You were hoping for good news. But it’s okay, really. You meet some truly amazing people, make lots of friends over the years and have memories you wouldn’t trade for a winning lottery ticket. And the greatest part is, the people who really matter don’t care that you’re not cool.

2. You are now the ugliest you will ever be for the rest of your life. That horrible haircut and questionable color combinations you’re wearing now? Gone. You have survived them, and since Mom and Dad have recorded them for posterity, you are providing all of us middle-aged people with lots to laugh about.

Also, a big plus about being ugly as a pre-teen is that a.) you get it over with, and b.) you still have friends. Look around you: there are people who are willing to be friends with you now who can look past the braces and bad skin and horrible haircut. I guess Mom was right about it building character.

Oh, wait. She said that about driving an ugly car–I forgot to tell you that part. You will get a huge, ugly car when you’re 16. Just look out the window in the driveway–it’s the one Dad got when you were four. Yep. That’s the one. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that plaid interior is yours, baby. And whether it’s a car or your face, having an ugly one can be a weird, cosmic character builder.

3. You really will remember your locker combination. Don’t stress.

4. The things you admire now may not be the same things you covet later on. The ankles on that girl in your homeroom? The ones you think bunchy, outfit-matching socks look so cool on? Future people actually come up with a name for those: cankles. When you grow up, you’ll be glad you have skinny ankles. Get over it and move on.

5. No one will ever proposition you to take drugs in the way you’re expecting. I am so proud of you for listening to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” advice. And I know the words are right there, ready to be spoken just in case someone tries to push some cocaine or heroin on you in between second and third period at your locker. But you can relax. Your un-cool vibe communicates your “no” message just fine in a non-verbal way. And you know what? Good job.

6. Mom was right about the popular kids. You’re not a popular kid, and shoot, you never will be. But all those times when Mom said that they had weird s*&$ going on in their lives that I couldn’t imagine, she was right. Everyone has to fight his or her own battles.

Even when you get into high school, and you see the cute cheerleader with the awesome car with painted, matching wheels, try to keep in mind that her life is not the bowl of cherries you seem to think it is. You have a mom and dad who love you, a sister you can laugh about your mom and dad with, and good friends around you. You are about 20 steps ahead of the pack, girlfriend.

7. Free time: cherish it and stop worshipping that cute boy. Yes, silly, I know he’s cute. And those boys who make you laugh in science and math class are funny. Start concentrating on yourself.

Geez. Learn some binary code and programming skills.

Keep reading as many books as you can get your hands on. Never again will you have so much time to read, play at the pool and jump around to your favorite music.

Stop thinking that you’re bored. One day, when you’re almost 40, you will wonder how you can fit everything you want to do into a 24-hour time frame. But now, time is yours. Wrap it around you, and give yourself a big hug. You’re going to need it.

Wait. I forgot to caution you: don’t select Eastern Europe as your newspaper project when you get to high school. You think that not much happens there, and it will be an easy A. But lots of stuff goes down, my friend. Truly. You know the Berlin Wall? Oh. I guess I can’t tell you. But just trust me on this one.

Finding the Fun

This is more fun than actual planks. I am fond of the ocean. Propping myself up on my elbows? Not so much.

Number of seconds I can hold a planks pose: 2.2 seconds

Miles I can run: 400 (you know, over months, and maybe with some Cadbury’s mini-eggs thrown in for fuel)

Inches of dust on my furniture: 3

I probably watched too many Disney movies when I was a kid. Sometimes people roll their eyes when I start saying things like, “Just a Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down,” or “Whistle While You Work.” Sometimes those people are my kids.

I have an annoying habit of expecting life to be fun. This works about 85 percent of the time. Life is pretty fun, in my world.

Except when it isn’t.

This is when being a writer comes in handy. Coleridge’s suspension of disbelief was written with people like me in mind. It’s called “Being in Your Own Little World,” and when people say that, I have a feeling they don’t mean it in a good way.

After a not-so-fun week like mine has been, let’s look back at my Tools for Life Success When Things Aren’t So Fun:

1. Taxes. I may be carrying on a legacy of negativity from my dad on this one. When I was five, my grandmother sent me a new sweatsuit, which made me want to run. I begged and pleaded with my dad to run down to the end of the street with me, because my new duds would make me go very, very fast. He may have been worried that my lightning speed would show him up, but he said no, he was working on Taxes. Total cop-out. He then told me if I ran around the house 20 times, he would deign to lope down the street with me. In about 4.2 minutes, I was back inside, ready for his running services. I had run around that tiny house 20 times, and dude. It was time for him to feel the sunshine on his shoulders. My mom eventually made him lace up his shoes, but it was the grumpiest run ever; it kind of sullied my gorgeous sweatsuit. I never asked again.

So guess what I had to do this week? Itemization on my taxes. Since I already run now, running around the house just wasn’t an option. So I pretended I was something really boring, like an actuary or accountant. I moved my right hand to the far right of the keyboard–who knew that numbers existed there? And in a really weird formation! Like, exactly the opposite of the phone, which I use quite a bit. I wiggled my fingers around on those keys like I was a math genius. And several hours later, I was done. I looked up to see if I’d be awarded a medal or something, but getting to write a check to the government is my reward! I’m working on finding the fun in that.

2. Dusting. When I lived by myself, I kept my little one-bedroom apartment super-clean. Bathroom: cleaned daily. Kitchen: spotless. Floors: vacuumed obsessively.

Then, when my mom came to visit, she said, “I have never seen such a clean apartment with so much dust. Did you know your coffee table was actually dark wood?”

I feel that dust is a cosmic joke. Did you know that if I wipe off our TV cabinet today, it will have dust on it tomorrow? Is there any chore more soul-crushing?

So. Here’s the deal: Call a really good friend or family member who doesn’t care that you are using them as a crutch. Then pick up your dust rag and talk about every stupid thing in the world until the entire house is dust-free. Sometimes, I don’t even remember wiping things off, but I do remember hearing about the next-door neighbor who comes out in her nightgown to praise the moon on her balcony.

3. Planks. I am not averse to exercise or working hard. Or setting goals.

I even used to like crunches, a very, very long time ago when we had the chance to win Presidential Fitness Awards (which I never did, because I couldn’t do pull-ups). While I have been very diligent in my lower-body workouts, my arms are not on the way to looking Angela-Bassett-as-Tina-Turner-like. It is sad for me that when I go to point to things, like birds or a stop sign or the ice cream shop (now that I think about it, this could be the problem), my triceps wiggle. Again, cosmically unfair. I use my arms every day. See? I’m typing right now. They should be toned to within an inch of their lives.

My abs are fair-to-middlin’. Planks, my physical therapist friend tells me with a long-suffering sigh, would be the ticket to Super-Abs.

Now that bikini season is approaching, I re-kicked off my exercises to achieve Photo-Ready abs and triceps. I decided to do it during TV time at night, while my husband lounged on the couch.

Me (while in plank position with shaking arms): It hurts! It hurts!

My husband: Where?

Me: Everywhere! Make it stop!

He is annoyingly athletic, like if someone said, “Your car has been driven to Alaska, and you need to run there to get it back,” he might just start running and get there maybe needing an extra glass of water. He can do the stupid “two-point plank,” which I didn’t even know existed and might have been a torture device during the Cold War.

The only fun in the whole process is seeing the look of disbelief on his face as he watches me fail miserably. It makes me laugh hysterically, which by the way, is not conducive to good plank position.

4. Sitting in a hospital waiting area. You might think this would be depressing. But it’s not, not really. You are there for sad reasons, but when some kind of Hollywood insider show is on, you can catch up on all the stuff you never realized you needed to know. See, if I’d been writing instead of sitting at the hospital, I never would have known that there is a person known as “The Buxom Bandit” who ran an international drug ring while being an in-demand pin-up. And Joan Rivers actually has a reality TV show, which leads me to wonder why Rosie O’Donnell had a show cancelled, but Joan Rivers’s is still on. These are fun questions that have absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever. See how fun that is?

5. Laundry. It may smell good, but laundry is never fun. Don’t even try to make it fun. You will only disappoint yourself.

I hope I have helped you overcome chore-phobia, things that might seem, well, not fun. It’s in your hands now. How do you add a dose of fun to your dreaded tasks?


Become a User

Come on... You know you want to.

Marathons I have completed: 1

Marathons I ever expected (or wanted) to complete: 0

Half marathon I will run in a week and a half to keep up my street cred: 1

My dad came to a stunning and horrifying conclusion when I was entering first grade: I was excited about heading back to school not for the academics, but for the social scene.

For better or for worse, this realization spoke volumes about my future motivations and accomplishments. Social interaction could motivate me to do lots of fun noble stuff.

Some people might call this peer pressure. Like the time when my friend told me I had to learn how to tie my own shoes after naptime because she wasn’t interested in being my servant anymore. So I bought only shoes with buckles, and they became the height of kindergarten fashion.

But I was not only the recipient of the pressure; I could dish it out, too. Also in kindergarten, I rounded up a few of my gang members and led them over to the Kitchen Center. I had decided it would be fun to cut our hair with safety scissors. I’m pretty sure my mom had said I had some split ends, and I was nothing but helpful when a task was at hand.

I wasn’t secretive about it; I probably would have asked the teacher if she wanted to take part, if only she had been paying attention. I was stunned when she and my mom didn’t approve of my vision.

Or the time when I missed learning borrowing in subtraction because the first grade teacher stuck us in the back of the classroom partially behind a chalkboard and expected us to care enough about a math thing I was sure I’d never use. I mean, grown-ups always used calculators, and I was destined to become a grown-up one day.

Problem was, I think I maybe influenced a couple crowd of other kids to draw cool monster pictures during those lessons, too. We are all now famous writers. Kind of.

Luckily for me, my minor mishaps in both being a pusher and a push-ee ended well.

I’ve noticed, though, that even as a grown-up I can be both influential and impressionable, in equal parts.

In September 2010, my BFF/running partner dropped a bomb.

Her: So, I’m going to sign up for a marathon in the spring.

Me: Wow! Good for you!

Her: And I thought you might want to run it with me… but no pressure.

Me: Yeah, I’m not really interested in running a marathon. I’m good with, you know, half marathons, and, like, 5 milers. Maybe while you’re training, I could do part of your long runs with you for support.

Her: Sure, yeah. That would be great…. So, I’ve already bought the parking pass, which makes parking at the marathon super-easy.

Me: Well, good for you.

Her: Sure will be dark when I get there in early March. And here I am, used to running with a partner…

Me: Yeah. But I’m sure the running community will be friendly and talk to a lonely fellow runner. No biggie.

Her: And on those long runs, I’ll need someone to protect me from killer squirrels…

Me: Dangit.

And that’s how I ended up running 26.2 miles. It was peer pressure, pure and simple.

Another annoying piece of evidence that peer pressure can get you to do stuff, even as a self-assured, middle-aged person: my writing group keeps expecting me to submit, like, writing. And they kind of want it to be good writing. This is a problem when I feel like I have been writing: blogs, work articles, letters, tax forms… But here comes yet another meeting, and they get all writer-y on me, thinking I’ve been making headway on a doomed re-write.

Guess what I’ll do? Re-write it.

As your blogging buddy, I would urge each and every one of you to become a user: use those pushy people thoughtful friends to encourage you. Whether it’s the next race, the next short story, the next novel or a better job, use them to turn your internal motivation dial one or two notches higher. You won’t regret it… except maybe if you use safety scissors to create the latest layered look.

Lightning Stole My Project Runway All Stars

Our entertainment... up in flames.

Thunder claps last night that sounded like boulders rolling onto our house: 3

People sleeping in our king-sized bed after said thunderclaps: 4

Awesome TVs that died after being struck through the cable box: 1

Good news! Lightning will never strike our TV again, because it never strikes the same thing twice, right?

We thought we had outfoxed lightning; we had a surge protector. But lightning came right into our house through our cable box (not surge protected) and fried the essential, dare I say it, heart of our beloved TV.

So, we’re onto our second major appliance that went on to the big Appliance Heaven in the sky within the last five months. Naturally, I’m waiting for the third shoe to drop (I love mixing metaphors), because, as everyone knows, appliances die in threes, a great big metal menage a trois of doom.

I know, I know, people are starving. And we’re not. And I’m very thankful.

And I know also that there are plenty of “Kill Your TV” types who I run into at the grocery store and manage to work it into conversation that they never use a TV to babysit their kids. No sirree, their kids are reading things like Remembrance of Things Past at age 5. Even Downton Abbey and Elmo don’t tempt these types. (Maybe they have missed Elmo dancing to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.”)

For better or for worse, we have not killed our TV (on purpose).

We are not known for our wild nights of partying or extravagant trips to far-flung lands. TV is our gateway to pop culture. And I don’t even mean big buzz things like Mad Men or Dexter.

When the kiddos are in bed, we collapse on the couch and stare straight ahead and name as our friends: The Property Brothers, The Kitchen Cousins, Whitney, all the families in Modern Family, Leslie Knope in the Parks & Rec Department and all of those couples just like us who are Hunters of Houses. My brain is tested by what we might do if we were looking for a home in Croatia that only had a hose for running water in the kitchen. So much to consider! I also know more about sheetrock and drywall mudding than I ever thought was possible.

My daughter and I DVR Project Runway All Stars and cuddle up to see whether Austin Scarlett or Mondo will come out on top.

Now, we may never know. The finale is fast approaching, and my TV is a huge paperweight in the middle of the den floor.

Like many appliances, I resisted getting a bigger, newer version and gasped at the price when we bought it three years ago. But when my husband hung it on the wall, like a magnificent post-modern masterpiece, I grudgingly accepted its place in our hearts.

The TV and I grew close. When I had Norovirus and got up in the middle of the night to avoid waking my husband, my TV showed riveting segments of Poker Championships. On TV. It was like watching paint dry, without the annoying smell. When my parents came into town and wanted to play MarioKart on the Wii, our TV brought those colorful race courses to life. And when my husband installed hardwood floors in the den last spring, we even watched our TV from the kitchen, twisted around on our backwards couch.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, we were two weeks behind on whether your twin would manage to kill you and if your husband is really a scheming Ponzi schemer.

We will never know what that football player uncovered about his ancestors on Who Do You Think You Are? Were they slaves? Did they help out on the Underground Railroad? We are still in the dark.

Tonight, we will miss the antics of The Worst Cooks in America. Oh, Bobby Flay! Oh, Anne Burrell! We will miss your guidance and advice about knife skills and French fries.

I feel pretty great right now, though. We don’t have a TV to strike. And people assure me that it will never strike here again. It’s awesome! Our lives are truly on the upswing. No need to send meals or condolence cards–just send us summaries of our favorite plot lines. And stat.

My Sordid Art History

Don't be jealous.

Hours it took to create the masterpiece above: 2

Amount it would sell for on a premium website: $1 million 

Number of art projects I created that were or are on display in my parents’ home: 0

Last night, an artist and friend of mine was gracious enough to invite me to a Sociable Art event at our local wine store. She creates the template artwork, then you re-create the piece using your own blend of colors and take on the shapes themselves.

You may have already read what I wrote about alien feet… there is a reason I have been banned from playing Pictionary.

And naturally, when art is mentioned, my mind jumps back to the wicked cool art project we created in second grade, the clay vase. Mine was so awesome… and askew. I was going to give it to my mom for Mother’s Day. The day finally came for everyone to get the vases back after they had been fired in the kiln. The teacher called out each person’s name: “Jennifer, Jenny, Jen, Michelle, Shelley, Mary Beth, David, David, Michael, David, Dave, Jennifer.”

But she did not call my name.

She didn’t call my name because my vase no longer existed. It had met with a bad fate when the sides of the vase entered the kiln. No one told me I needed an engineering degree to design a darn vase. I never saw my vase again, not even the shards that existed for a brief moment, post-kiln.

My teacher didn’t look very apologetic. Or surprised. She gave me a look like people give grown-ups when they sing Happy Birthday really out of key: a kind of “don’t quit your day job” look.

Since subtraction and reading dumb books with illustrations of kids wearing ’50s-era clothes comprised my day job, I was kind of hoping the art gig would work out.

So anyway, the Clay Vase Episode forever scarred me.

My BFF/running partner and I headed to the wine store: her hoping for a masterpiece to hang in her dining room, me hoping I didn’t cause an international painting incident.

Unlike the way blank paper makes me feel, which is: Look at the possibilities! I can write about anything!, a blank canvas makes me feel, well, blank.

Wine helped.

We all giggled a lot at first, and then, it took every ounce of concentration to outline with paint (!). I didn’t know you could do such a thing. Didn’t the Old Masters use a number 2 pencil? The room got very quiet, full of 13 grown-up, non-artists getting up close and personal with a paintbrush.

The whole process was so calming, like when I used to sit down with my daughter and color in her coloring books. Belle and Ariel and Cinderella and I have planned out and executed some gorgeous outfits, folks.

It was also the time of evening when I tend to collapse on the couch and utter monosyllabic sounds, so I channeled my calm into my color-blending. Who knew that white wine bottles had lots of colors bouncing around? Or that bright, primary colors could blend to become so moody?

Or that so many of the colors could end up on my BFF’s hands and then, as a large red blotch on her face?

Don’t you worry. I won’t be hanging up my writing hat anytime soon.

But the best part of the whole thing is that I feel redeemed. My family didn’t laugh; my husband did not suggest that we use the canvas for a trivet. He also did not challenge me to a game of Pictionary. But when he does, he better watch out.

Coffee and the Absence Thereof


Cups of coffee I have per day: 2

Cups of coffee I have per day when my husband isn’t here to make it: 0

On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad those days are: 9.5

Our coffee machine is a diva.

Don’t be jealous. Our very same, 12-cup Cuisinart has starred in several movies and TV shows, including Two and a Half Men. I couldn’t tell you the other shows, but I’m sure my husband could.

Here we are, watching a TV show. Is the villain going to pay someone to kill the hero? Is the soccer mom going to get a parking ticket? Is the kid going to steal a Twinkie from the cookie jar?

I wouldn’t know. And I might never know.

My husband: Oh my gosh!

Me: What?!?!

TV: I’ve never loved you, you robot zombie, because you cheated on me with…

My husband: There it is!

Me: What?!?!?!

TV: You didn’t! Why did you withhold that vital piece of information? It was a clue that would have helped us solve the…

My husband: Wait for it… OK, behind the… there it is…

Me: Shhhh!

My husband: Our coffee machine!

TV: Scrolling credits.

My husband is obsessed with our coffee machine. I procure the whole beans (Sumatra or Verona), then he grinds them, puts them in the filter, fills up the water, makes… enough for both of us, and voila!

Except when he doesn’t.

I kind of only notice when he doesn’t. Unfortunately, my kids do, too.

See, he has this science-y job where he sometimes makes coffee at 4:30 in the morning, then disappears in a flash of smoke cute car, leaving me with… cold coffee. Because our coffee machine is such a diva that she only works for two hours a day. She doesn’t even get out of bed for a one-cupper. And by 6:45, when normal humans are emerging from beds across the world, she has switched to “off”, and there is no drink-able coffee.

Or my husband travels to cool places that usually have better weather than here, and he calls to wake us up with some kind of bongo drum and conga line in the background, and I realize that this is yet another day when good coffee will not be brewed in our household.

These are not good days.

My BFF running partner asks what you might also be wondering: Why don’t you make it yourself?

To which I reply: It doesn’t taste good.

BFF: Haven’t you ever watched him make it?

Me: Yes, and he does tricky things and is probably lying about the measurements so I will have to stay married to him forever.

But really, because it is a day where the coffee was not made for me, these responses come out sounding more like: Mmph. Errg.

My children see no red lights and hear no dripping noises and walk around me in wide, avoidant circles, giving me lots of space.

This is because I am like a woman who has been body-snatched on Non-Coffee-Days (NCD).

I usually only drink coffee once the kiddos have left for the bus. Then I pour some, drink it and go running. Or pour some, drink it and sit at the computer to work. Or pour some, then pour some more.

Because I am on automatic pilot on many days, if I miss the coffee part of my routine, I sometimes forget that I haven’t had any. This is very bad.

The low-grade headache starts when I am working. Then I keep doing things and try not to notice.

Then I do more things and pick up groceries and interview people and try to be nice to neighbors and dumb stuff like that.

And then the whole world starts annoying me.

Maybe I even try to make coffee, and it’s really bad, and it reinforces my feelings of the world being pretty darn annoying.

By the time the kids get home from school, I look like a normal person on the outside, but inside, my brain has been snatched.

Sometimes on those days, they ask very nicely, “Ummmm… Mommy? When is Daddy going to be home?” They Skype with my husband at work or on the road and hold up the empty coffee pot with fear in their eyes.

Then my husband is home, and the Cuisinart 12-cupper gets order restored in a jiffy.

I like to think that I keep the house in order, but my husband and the coffee machine beg to differ.

On Becoming Both Kreativ and Versatile

Cool blog awards I was included in today: 2 (!)

People I’m thanking today: 3

Weeks to go until my half-marathon: 2 1/2

First off, I want to thank my fellow bloggers who passed along the Versatile Blogger award to me: Dennis Langley at Hare’s Tales, who writes interesting posts about how to improve your writing, and L.S. Engler at L.S. Engler, who talks about motivation and reports on progress on her multiple fiction projects. Thanks, guys! And thank you for your helpful comments.

Secondly, I’d like to thank Terri Lee Clarke at Run.Dog.Cat.Me. who awarded me with the Kreativ Blogger award. She blogs hilariously about running and not always being an adult and stuff. Thank you, Terri Lee!

Rules for the two awards:

1. Thank the award givers and link back to them in your post. (check)

2. Copy the award and post it. (check)

3. Tell readers seven things about yourself. (below)

4. Award multiple others and tell them about the award. (see below)

My 7 Things:

I’m pretty sure all of my revealing writing has let you know probably more than seven things about me, but here they are:

1. I buy and stock more toilet paper than any family should ever need. Because heaven knows, we may run out of milk and bread and be on the edge of starvation, but we really don’t want to find out what would happen if we ran out of toilet paper.

2. I love the sound of a lawnmower in the summer. As long as I’m not the one pushing it.

3. My favorite band when I was in seventh grade was a-ha, and we used to watch the video where he jumps into the comic book on super-slow-play.

4. It’s embarrassing how much I’m loving farmer’s cheese in an omelet right now. I told the owner of our local restaurant that when I ordered last week, and she gave me a weird look.

5. I love commas. Love them.

6. I have a fake front tooth (as a result of the bike accident in my last post).

7. I have no problem with drinking tap water when I come to your house. I am just that low-maintenance.

Blogger Awards:

I’d like to pass along a Versatile Blogger award to:

Random Thoughts of a Crazy Woman Check out her yummy foods and crafty self. She makes me wish I had some artsy bone in my body.

Running in Mommyland She’s about to run her first marathon, so you can follow along to experience her pain… er, elation.

Any Excuse to Wear Track Pants I’m following along, enjoying hearing about life in Croatia and running and making healthy salads.

I’d like to pass along a Kreativ Blogger award to:

Poppy’s Style Love her short, cropped ‘do and fashion posts, as well as the running connection.

Stories of My Life, 92% True I just discovered this one, but the cool ’80s memoir vibe is something I can relate to.

Clay Baboons She’s already way recognized and won a million awards, but I couldn’t resist. She’s so darn funny.

Please check out these super-cool bloggers. And thank you again to everyone who has read my posts. I really appreciate it!