Monday, April 23, 2012

Loved My Dinner!

A few days ago, I became suddenly and utterly booooored with every one of our usual dinner options. The thought of making any of the same-old same-old just makes my skin crawl. As a result, tonight I made a dinner experiment. Sometimes my experiments are met with raves, sometimes they are total failures. Not much middle ground in this world of meal invention.

I started from a concept I'd encountered a couple of different places: Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos. The title alone is enough to lure me in.  Sweet. Potato. Black. Bean. Tacos.  I'm already smiling. :)

I put several large yams in the oven to bake. Okay, I know that technically nothing we have here is an actual yam (they grow in Africa, are white-fleshed and can become just huge!), but calling the pale ones 'sweet potatoes' and the orange-fleshed ones 'yams' works for me!

I ended up only using two of the yams, but they were pretty large. I peeled  and cubed them, and tossed them into a pan with a little (Spectrum non-hydrogenated palm kernel oil shortening. It is one of the won't-kill-you good fats). I drained and added a can of black beans, as well as a pinch of sea salt, a sprinkle of ground cumin and a bit of chili powder. That's all. I stirred it from time to time as it heated. The baking gave the yams a flavor that was not only sweet, but deep and rich.

Our grocery store had some blue corn-flax seed-wheat tortillas, and they sounded like the perfect complement to my concoction. I added some slices of perfect avocado (a perfect avocado always feels like suddenly discovered treasure), a little shredded mozzarella, sliced black olives, and a bit of sliced tomato.

It was so good!!!

I get meated-out fairly easily, and we've had a pretty meaty few days, so I was loving the meat-free nature of my dinner. The flavor was so rich, and the texture so satisfying that I felt no lack of 'meatiness' at all. So many good nutrients in such a tasty package!

Because some around me do want meat more than I do, I wanted an option for them as well. The store also had some Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausages, which I cubed and heated/browned in a separate pan. My husband added a few bits of sausage to his tacos, and said he liked the combination. They added another level of flavor and just a big of spicy heat, which he likes.

Right away after dinner, I wrote down how I made these, so I will hopefully be able to duplicate the feat another time.

I really love it when an experiment turns out so beautifully, especially on a very busy night when there is no margin for do-overs!

Stereotypes vs. Racism

I got called racist the other day. Well, to be more specific, something I said was called racist.

I was pretty taken aback. I thought that was a pretty extreme thing to say to me.

People are so quick to call "racism" today. I think there's an important distinction between racism and stereotypes/assumptions that has been lost.

Here's what happened. We were talking about the paternity of our small puppy, whose mother was chihuahua-dachshund, and whose father was a mystery. As she grows, she looks more and more like our female golden retriever, so we think the father must have been at least part Goldie. When the vet saw the puppy several months ago, she thought the father may have been a Heeler, because of the freckling on the puppy's paws. As we talked about it this weekend, I suddenly wondered if Chihuahuas ever show that kind of freckling. So I turned to a teenage girl who was here, whose family is from Mexico (where Chihuahuas come from originally), and who has stated several times how much she hates Chihuahuas. If someone knows a breed well enough to hate them, they must have spent at least some time around them. Based on this I asked her, "Do chihuahuas ever have that kind of freckling on their feet?"  Her eyes got big and she said, "That is so racist!"

If I wanted to know something about lobster, and someone from Maine was sitting there, I would think it logical to ask that person, rather than someone from Wyoming. If I wondered whether hush puppies always have onions in them, and a person from Louisiana was present, I would think it perfectly normal to ask them. If I had a question about camels, and the subject came up in the presence of someone whose family came from North Africa, and who knew camels well enough to have a stated hatred of them, I would not think it odd to ask that person if they knew the answer to my question.

Any of those assumptions may be based in stereotyping, but are far from racist!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gazing Too Long At The Monster

I think this will be a short one. After plumbing the depths of my thoughts for the last post, I haven't much left, and am in real need of sleep. But I wanted to capture the germ of this idea while I have it.

Picturing  a hero from some myth or epic tale. He endures the usual epic quest to reach the monster's lair. He strives with the monster. There is much drama, much suspense, many close calls, and then, just when victory seems certain, when the monster weakens and starts to falter, the hero makes a fatal mistake. He gazes into the face of the monster. He is fixated. Mesmerized. And as he gazes too long, he is transformed into an exact replica of the monster. Tragic ending. Not the kind I like.

Here's the shade of an idea that I got from that phrase, that picture in my head:

What we focus our attention on is what we become.

If we focus our attention on what we are Against, we become consumed with Against-ness. It breeds all sorts of twisted, negative, destructive emotions and tendencies. Like when people decide it's okay to hate a certain group of people, or a cause, or a religion, or an idea. Giving oneself permission to hate anything is a treacherous and slippery slope. I think that any time people give themselves permission to hate, even if the hate is directed at truly terrible things, they are broken, changed, and scarred by letting that hate dwell in them. People on every side of every issue fall into this trap.

If, instead, we focus our attention on what we are For, we are transformed in an entirely different and beautiful way. Focusing on what is positive, healthy, hopeful and good fills us up with all those good things. Like the Bible verse....okay, I'll go look it up so I get it right...

Philippians 4:8..."Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."

What we think about, what we dwell on, what we fix our thoughts on...that is what we become.

If we gaze too long at the monster, we will become just like the monster.

But if we gaze long and steadily into the face of Beauty, we will be transformed into a reflection of that beauty.

Stepford Wives to Labor Unions: Becoming the Dragons We Set Out to Slay

Okay, so this is a theory I have sort of swirling around in my head and I'm going to try to articulate it. I got to thinking about it after re-watching the newer version of the Stepford Wives movie the other day.

According to my understanding, labor unions began as a way for employees to address some truly terrible conditions. Business owners kept a heavy hand on their employees, controlling them with bullying, threats and sometimes violence. Anyone who spoke up often paid a heavy price. In the early days, when labor organizers traveled around, trying to educate workers about the possibilities they could have with unions to represent them, things got very ugly and bloody.

These days, it seems as if the labor unions themselves, at least some of them, have become the evil they set out to defeat. Their tactics closely resemble the ugliness, the threats and bullying, the suffocating control, and even the violence that were once used against them and those they represent.

I've thought about this ever since I saw a documentary on the early days of union organization a few years ago. It is sad and ironic that what began as a noble effort to protect, defend, and represent the persecuted and abused has bloated into the mirror image of the persecutor, the bully, the heavy hand.

And how exactly does the Stepford Wives movie tie in with these ponderings?  As I watched it, I began to see a parallel in the swing of women's roles. Just as the movie deals in pretty broad stereotypes, the germ of an idea that I had while watching it also springs from generalizations and stereotypes.

When I picture the Business Man, the Professional Man of earlier days, before Women's Lib, I think of a man in a suit...a dark, conservative suit...setting out for his important day of work. He is fond of his family, but he can't really be bothered with their activities or demands. He has More Important Things on his mind. His career is the highest priority in his life. He is driven, focused....and unavailable.

The wife in this picture looks something like Mrs. Cleaver, or Donna Reed. She is feminine, nicely groomed, and patient, tending to the many needs of her family in a dress, heels, and a pearl bead necklace. She does everything for everone. She adapts, compromises, and doesn't ask for anything for herself. She is there to have a nice dinner ready for the Man when he comes home, to hand him the paper and his pipe, so he can relax while she goes on doing everything for everyone. If she ever voices a complaint, the Business Man is kind, but in a condescending, patronizing way, and she ends up apologizing for being Such a Silly and fussing over nothing.

Then there came a change. Women wanted more. They wanted also to do More Important Things. They wanted to have a Chance, to see what might be out there for them. They became Career Women. They became hard-driving, respected professionals.These Career Women fought hard for every opportunity, every chance to prove themselves. Often, they had to work twice as hard to prove they were every bit as good as a man. And in time, many of them became the very image of that old Business Man. They wore dark colored, serious, conservative business suits. They were told that Motherhood was a sign of weakness, that it had no place in the work world. They were told to remember that they had More Important Things to do. In order to make it in the professional world, they became driven, focused, and unavailable.

As I watched the movie, I thought of my old thoughts on labor unions, and I saw an interesting parallel. The working woman became the dragon she set out to slay. She became the very things that drove her out of the house in the first place.  In order to succeed in Business Man's world, she was forced to become just like him.

In Stepford, all the wives used to be big-shots in their fields of work- executives, judges, famous authors. They were successful, forceful, driven. They weren't warm, or affectionate, or available to their families. Their husbands felt overshadowed, neglected, extraneous, resentful. They felt completely outdone by these Career Women, these Superwomen. And so the Superwomen were transformed into ultra-feminine, empty-headed, subservient robots.

There's also the whole angle of how it's not enough to be a successful career woman, but you also have to be super-mom-woman too, producing overachieving super-children. And the other facet- the disrespect of women who choose child-raising as their career. There's a lot of public lip-service to "Mom- the toughest job ever,"  but those who are Just a Mom, and not Career Woman plus Supermom, still encounter disdain for their choices.

I feel like I should tie this up in a neat conclusion, but I'm suddenly tired and my thoughts have frayed into the wind.

Labor Unions: set out to fight corruption, cruelty and persecution. Became corrupt, cruel persecutors.

Career Women: tired of being the drudge, dealing with it all without help from Distant, Driven, Cold, Unavailable Business man. Wanted a career of her own. Became Hard, Driven, Cold, Unavailable, Exhausted Career Woman. [And usually expected to be UberPerfectionSuperMom on top of it all- sort of a twisted mix of Career Woman and Stepford Wife!]

They became the dragon. Surely there is some mythological story out there of a hero who gazed too long at the monster he set out to slay, and was transformed into the monster himself.  It's the danger of gazing too long at the monster; the hazard of the pendulum that swings too far the other way.

I suppose there is a moral, beyond the fact that these transformations interest me.

Hmmm....Gazing Too Long At The Monster. Sounds like the title for another post. ;D

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Stuck On Band-Aid. Band-Aid Hates Me!

Seriously. This is ridiculous!

Last Thursday, I had a funky mole excised from my leg. It was being weird, and our doctor agreed it should probably not get to stay a part of me. I'm not stressed about this. Our family has had so many funky things taken off and tested, I realize I've just gotten used to it. Last time, by the time they called with the biopsy results, I'd completely forgotten about the whole thing. But this is not my point.

After they excised the mole, they put one of those large band-aids over the area, and I went on my way.  The next morning I changed the bandage, put on a fresh large band-aid, and headed out on my busy day. Dear Youngest Daughter and I made a nice early start, and headed for Medford. It was a long, busy, fun day-the four-hour drive to Medford, walking around and shopping, the drive back to Klamath, more shopping, then the drive home. As the day progressed, I was in more and more pain from the stitches, or so I thought. We got home at 6:30 pm, and both had places to be right then, so we were in a bit of a hurry. I noticed that my incision had bled, so I thought I'd give it a fresh cover before we rushed off for the rest of our evening. Being in a hurry, I ripped the bandage off...

Oh, was that ever a bad idea!!!  Apparently, with all of the sitting, driving, and walking of the day, the four corners of the band-aid had really adhered to my skin. When I ripped it off, each corner took a chunk of my skin with it. OWWW!!! I didn't have time to do much about it just then, so I put on another band-aid to protect the stitches, but rotated ninety degrees so as to leave the torn bits alone. We took off for our next events, and were gone for another couple of hours. By that time, I was in rather a lot of discomfort. It really stings to have strips of skin torn off!

By the next afternoon, it all just hurt, so I had our Dear Eldest Daughter, home from college for Easter, help me. That whole part of my leg was traumatized by that point, by adhesives. What wasn't held together with stitches or torn by the band-aid was irritated and sore where the other bandages had been stuck. We tried to improvise a covering that would not involve more band-aids. Our genius plan involved a large gauze pad, with Coban wrapped all around my leg to hold it on. It was a great idea. It failed. Every time I walked, the whole thing would slip and bunch up, which was not only uncomfortable but truly ineffective. I decided that the nice fabric band-aids that really stick were no longer a good idea, and switched to the wimpy plastic ones that I usually hate. If I use them on a cut finger, they fall off in a very short time, which is just irritating. Dear Eldest Daughter was so helpful. In the end, we put a small band-aid over the stitches, and over each torn place. It was tricky to place each one so that it covered the sore bit, but wasn't stuck over another sore bit, but we did it. This was Saturday.

Today is Wednesday. Over the past three days, I have gone through varying degrees of discomfort. Sometimes it's all pretty okay. At others, it just starts to burn. By yesterday, I was only covering the stitches, and the most affected torn bits with small band-aids. Last night, it was all just burning and stinging, so when I got home at the end of the evening, I took off the wimpy little plastic band-aids...and they had created new sores! ...sigh...  I must really have a reaction to something in the band-aids. I did have a reaction to the adhesive patches back when I wore a heart monitor a couple of years ago. By the time that week was over, I looked like I'd been attacked by an giant, acid-oozing octopus!

By last night, what started as an inch-long incision had become an area about four by six inches, with several wounds from band-aid damage, and with all the other skin irritated and sore from adhesive reaction. Though I was trying to protect my stitches from friction damage, the band-aids themselves have become a larger problem! It is just a mess!

So now, I have resorted to the CuddlDuds bandage....a.k.a. longjohns- smoother and less abrasive than Levis! Since there is apparently no form of band-aid in the house that doesn't cause larger problems, I am reduced to healing salve and long johns. I've just been to the store in search of latex-free band-aids, hoping that would solve my little dilemma, but they don't have a single one. I'll try the drugstore later, when they're open.

Things about which I have not gone into unnecessary detail: things like seeping, and torn-off scabs during the night, and the effect of pantyhose when skin has been torn off. Wasn't that thoughtful of me? ;)

What started as a minor incision with stitches now looks like I was attacked with claws, sandpaper and acid.

So, far from being anxious about a phone call with biopsy results, I have instead spent almost six days suffering increasing levels of pain and frustration! They seem so helpful and innocent, don't they? But then they turn to the Dark Side, and the nightmare begins.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Two Sandhill Cranes browsing in a field at dusk. 

Clusters of bright yellow crocus bursting into bloom- that splash of color so welcome after the long winter! 

Two meadowlarks have a singing contest as I walked this early morning- their song is one of my favorite sounds in the world. It feels like a special privilege every time I hear it.

The sound system in the new car! Big loud bass is truly like therapy for me. It unwinds my mind and relaxes me. I had it turned up so loud this evening that the air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror was dancing along! Love love love it!

The joyous greeting I get from the big dog and the little dog, every single time I walk through the door! So sweet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Love When Healthy Things Make My Mouth Happy!

Such yummy things I ate today!

For a snack this afternoon, I make a smash of avocado, black olives, olive oil, sea salt, and a bit of pepper, then spread it on a brown-rice rice-cake. So good! It was kind of like a raw, garlic-free, healthy tappenade/bruschetta-topping sort of thing. All of those lovely pre-made tappenades and such tend to have garlic (kind of a basic with Italian foods!), which rules them out of my diet. They've been catching my eye at the grocery store recently, so I needed to find an alternative that I could have with no unpleasant consequences. When I used to get fascinated with an "off-limits" food, or get a specific craving, I would just go ahead and eat that food, because I knew that if I didn't, the thing would not leave me alone! Some of the hardest struggles for me have been lasagna and fettucine alfredo. I went through some hard years over those!

Now, I try to find an alternative that will kick the fascination/craving, but with no consequences for my health and well-being.

...And for dinner, I had chicken bits with pesto over spaghetti squash. It was an experiment, and it turned out sooo well! I made gluten-free brown-rice spaghetti for the family, but as I'm cutting back on starches again (like I've been supposed to all along!), I went with my favorite pasta alternative- baked spaghetti squash. I wasn't sure just how to do the chicken. I had chicken breasts, from healthfully raised chickens, but I wasn't sure just how I wanted to incorporate them into my idea. In the end, I cut them into bite-sized pieces, and sauteed them in some olive oil, with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper. Toward the end, I added a few leaves of the fresh basil, to give it some flavor. I was concerned it might be bland, but when combined with the pesto, it was savory and wonderful. The pesto was homemade by necessity, as regular pesto has garlic and parmesan cheese, both of which are on our better-not-to-eat-it list. I used fresh basil, a little olive oil, pine nuts, some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and just a tiny sprink of sea salt. It tasted so fresh and tangy and delicious!

It makes me so happy when I can come up with an acceptably healthy, allergen-free alternative that is so good I don't miss the "real" thing! And I really love when healthy food makes my mouth so happy that all the sugary stuff doesn't even sound good- like it would be a really big buzz-kill for the healthy tasty happy-dance my mouth is doing. :)