Better Living Through Voodoo. Science.

This Saturday morning, my doorbell rang. The children each ran to the door, assuming it was for them, because lord knows it wasn't going to be for me. #recluse I sauntered over to the door with morning hair, morning breath, morning face, and morning coffee, and it turns out it was for me. Well, it was for my eternal soul. I happened to be on the phone,  because I assumed it was one of the neighborhood kids and didn't bother setting the phone down, so the people at the door trying to teach me about the kindgom of some god went on their merry, albeit early, way. 

Of course, they don't know that I spent 17 years in the service of the same god as they are in now, so they don't know that I was totally rating their performance. 

My boyfriend giggle on the phone asked me how they did and I said, um, err, they just handed me some literature and left, weirdly considerate. He asked what my old spiel was for when people answered their doors on the phone, and I stammered. Because. Err. Well? What *was* my spiel, anyway? Am I really getting this old

No, I am not really getting this old. It's just that the last time I woke someone up on Saturday morning to save their hungover soul, the only people who had phones you could carry around with you and use anywhere you wanted to were Captain James T Kirk and his pals at Star Fleet. 

Like, yesterday, tvs inside of cars and phones without cords were dreams we had when we weren't busy joking about running out of water one day and stuff. And yet, here we are. Our cars will start themselves for us and our phones are used for killing cranky pigs and my trash can opens the freaking door for me everytime I need to throw something away. 

Really. I can't get my sons to open a door for me. Chivalry isn't dead, friends, it's just hiding in simplehuman garbage cans. Whom I am an ambassador for. #disclosure

On a good day, I can get my kids to put trash somewhere in the same zip code as our trash cans. The toilet paper rolls make it to the floor beside the bathroom trash, the recycling will defy the laws of gravity and decency in piles across from the recycle bin, and the tossbale trash from meals will delicately congeal on the counter between the sink and trash can. I have begged and pleaded and threatened and freaked out about this, but what I had never before done was add voodoo to the equation.

This is my black magic trash can. If you walk passed it, wave your hand, and say Allah, peanut butter sandwiches! IT WILL OPEN FOR YOU. I can't make my kids stop throwing things away now. It's *awesome* 

This is my soap pump. It is almost impossible to yank your hand out from under it before the soap squirts out, it's that fast. Don't think I haven't blown through a whole bag of soap trying. I am easily amused by shiny objects, shut up. 

Why do I love having a soap pump that magically dispenses soap for us faster than you can say child labor laws or soux chef, and a trash can that just opens when I need it to? Because turkey

I'm no germophobe but I am a turkeyophile and turkey guts, while delicious at 160 degrees and up, aren't so awesome smeared all over the kitchen counters, trash lids, and soap pumps. Smearing almost always = bad. Not sending your nephew home with a raging case of salmonilla poisoning almost always = good. 

Also, having two dogs who can't wave and a trash can full of turkey guts that opens by wave-sensing-voodoo? Yeah. 

So, I have this extra sensor soap pump. Anyone want one? It comes with lavendar hand soap (but I am a slave to the lemon dish soap, which is made specifically to work with these pumps. Just sayin.) Let me see the grossest, nastiest, dirtiest mess your kids have ever gotten into. (Because we all know you took a picture before you cleaned them up. BLOGGERS.) Leave a link in the comments to your picture, and the best-worst one gets it.

Earthy, With Hints of Floral

Last night, we had my favorite agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli) for dinner. It's nothing too exceptional; just some frozen thing you can pick up at any old King or Queen Soopers for like $5.99 a package, but it's really good. It's filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and the very final moments of my marriage. 

For the first 16 years of our life together, he'd been home for dinner, on average, one night a week. I'd never been able to cook dinners that included him, and I'd never had help getting the kids settled for the night, because that's just not how the restaurant industry, or addiction, works. We wives and children to chefs and GMs are widowed and orphaned by Open Table. Add vodka and wine to that equation, and we were lucky to see him at all from Tuesday morning through Sunday night.

The new job he had taken in 2011 had him home for dinner three or four evenings a week, which was new for us - and quite nice in a normal-life sort of way. It wasn't very good in the hide-the-drinking-while-the-family-sleeps sort of way, which - as these things are wont to do - caught up with us with a vengeance eventually. 

The thing with co-dependency is that we want to believe so badly that we will twist and warp reality to make it believable to us no matter what pesky facts lie in our way. He had more late tables than any GM in the history of restaurant management, his drawers would never, ever balance, he'd have to work on national and corporate holidays when no one else is the entire company of hundreds was working, the makeup bags under my seat of the car were left by thieves digging through the car looking for change or ironic Robyn Hitchcock cassettes - and I'd find some way to believe it, always.  

I'm still not sure if I believed it because I didn't want to face the reality of what he was doing to himself and by proxy me and my children, or if I didn't want to face him when and if I called him on it. I'm still not sure it actually matters. 

So when he started working mornings, when he started coming home to us at night, I found a way to believe that we'd found the answer to our prayers. He was with us during the one time he could drink himself stupid; ergo, he couldn't drink himself stupid anymore. That's called science, bitches. It's logic. I beliiiiiiiiieeeeeved it. 

And I had hope. For him, for us, for my children, for his insane dog, for all of it. There was hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Because that's how addiction to addicts works. 

So this one night - after almost a full year of pure hell in which I had watched, listened, and smelled him nearly kill himself with vodka, watched my kids realize for the first time that their father had a problem, saw him physically hurt one of our children while he was drunk, saw him repeatedly emotionally hurt another child, dodged fists that went through doors instead of my face, asked for divorce, was denied a divorce, endured his long bouts of depression followed by long bouts of rage, given up all hope of saving him or leaving him - after all of that he got this job that made him feel useful and challenged amd secure again, one that had him home with his family more nights than not almost like a normal person, one that I convinced myself could keep him from drinking even though it was a wine bar and he had every key to it, and this one night I decided to bury the hachet, be a nice human being, make him a nice dinner, wear something cute, and welcome him home like I always imagined wives welcomed their husbands home at the end of a long day in a world that I didn't live in, but wanted to. 

So I made this dinner he'd never had before, this agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli), and a big old salad that had all of his favorite salady-type-things in it. I put on a skirt and my nice makeup. I straightened my hair. I dabbed some perfume on. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And he never came home

He never came home because if he couldn't drink at night, he was going to drink during the day, dammit, and drinking during the day means drinking during work and drinking during work at a wine bar means blacking out at 11am and not remembering anything until 7pm that night, across town, with no idea how you got there, were your car is, or how you are going to fix this. 

Because you can't fix this. Because this is your rock bottom. And it is mine, too. 

I sat on my corduroy double-wide arm chair that I loved more than just about any other earthly possession, the one I had to leave behind when we made our abrupt exodus from Texas because we didn't have enough money to rent a truck big enough to bring it, or any of my living room furniture that, I was told, was "just stuff" I "need to let go of". I sat on that chair under the warm orange glow of the table lamp I also don't own anymore and most of everything inside of me died.

It's funny how quickly fear gives way to anger, then humiliation, then resignation. 

By the time he came in the door, without a car or a job, I had already put all the children to bed sweetly and calmly, I had already cleared the table of his wilted salad and hardened pasta, and I had changed out of my skirt and sweater into the oversized sweats that had room enough in them for me and the waves of alternating panic and rage and sadness ebbing inside of me. It was over; the dream I had clutched in the palm of my foolishly-determined fist all those 16 years was finally over, and I'd finally, with finality, let it go.

He has no idea what happened to either one of us that night. I've never spoken of the details of that night with him, or with anyone for that matter. He never found the car he lost that night, and he never found the job he lost that night, and I never found the person I lost that night, the one inside of me that was willing, always, to give one last chance, to find one last reason to believe in him, in us, in that reality. 

On January 25th of this year, I made that same dinner again for the first time since that night, this time just for me and my children. I wore a skirt, I put on some makeup, I dabbed on some perfume, and I quietly counted the distance between that place I was a year ago and the reality I ended up living, 365 days later. 

Now we have it again on the seim-regular dinner rotation. It still tastes a bit like brown corduroy and grace, which will always be a bittersweet thing to swallow, but I think I am finally at the place where I like the taste of what is done, and what is becoming because of it. 

Me and Miriam Down by the School Yard

I have a pretty cool job. Every day of my life, I get to think up creative ways of getting people waaaaay over ---> there together with people waaaaay over <--- there, to meet each other and share drinks ideas with each other. Sometimes way over ---> there is the Artic Circle, and sometimes way over <--- there is Sudan. One of my favorite parts of my job is managing the International Activists scholarships, where we bring a handful of change-making bloggers from around the world to the annual BlogHer event to get some exposure, some help with their cause, and some hugs.   

This is Miriam. Miriam isn't someone I've worked with yet, but I almost did.

Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

After I participated in Blogust with the Shot@Life program, I was invited to travel to Uganda to watch our work come to fruition, to see with my own eyes how your blog comments magically turned into vaccinations for children who absolutely must have them. Miriam is the Communications for Development Officer who hosted the Shot@Life team who did get to go (my friend Jenny's Day 1 post is awesome, and lays out everyone who went), go and have their eyes open and their lives forever impacted for the better by these amazing children and the humble heroes out there every day working their butts off to keep those children healthy.

When I asked Miriam about herself, she struggled because, of course, she feels it impolite to talk about herself even when she is, oh, you know, changing the damn world every single day of her life, and this is why I keep doing what I do with Shot@Life. I can't stop talking about myself and on my best day I manage to *take a shower*. 

Miriam is younger than I am (born in 1977) and has lived in Uganda (her place of birth), Switzerland (Geneva), Kenya (Turi), England (Folkestone, Canterbury, and London), and then back to Uganda with Unicef to work, in what she gorgeously simply describes as behaviour and social change communication. That's not the worst thing to put on one's business card, or life check-list.

On paper, Miriam and I have nothing in common. We come from different continents, different worlds really, and her voice is most likely 8,328% more gorgeous than mine (everyone's is). However, she says things like this, and I realize that we have a lot more in common than I'd think. "My main motivation focuses on the fact that compared to so many other young people in Uganda I have been lucky enough and blessed to benefit from so many opportunities in my life. I do feel a sense of responsibility that I have to give something back. Hence deciding to move back to Uganda instead of staying in Switzerland or England or looking for opportunities in 'the West'."

Me too, Miriam; me too. My life could have, and should have, ended up so very differently than it, and each day of my life, with each healthy, happy smile on my own children's faces I am reminded that I HAVE to help kids growing up like I did however I can, whether they live in the 'hood in Philly or in the remote corners of Africa. Her words are a reminder that this is a global fight, and that we are brothers and sisters united in our efforts - even if we don't know one another - and there is always one thing more we can do to make it better for the next generation of humans on this earth, whether it's donating your old cell phone instead of tossing it in the trash, or writing your Congressperson to let them know that global health and vaccines matter to you, or giving a few dollars to organizations like Shot@Life or Charity: Water or Feeding America that make sure kids have something to drink, something to eat, and the chance to live a healthy life. 

Nothing, nothing feels worse than not knowing where a meal is coming from, or if you will be able to get better the next time you get sick. Ask me how I know. 

Miriam's work with Unicef began in 2006 (my abacus tells me that she would have been 29 at the time) and she shared with me what she loves best about her work. In her own words, "The great thing about working at UNICEF is that you know that your work contributes to life-saving interventions for women and children, as well as programmes that provide opportunities for children to grow and thrive and for families to flourish, develop and help themselves out of the cycle of poverty."

If you've spent much time reading my blog, A) so sorry, and B) you know I've talked at length on this blog about the cycles of poverty, neglect, and abuse, of privilege and blindness, of invisible children and women. These are the things that matter most to me, the things I want to find any tiny little way to make even an infinitesimal contribution to changing ending, and here is a woman a gazillion miles away from me who doesn't know me or my story from Adam and yet she and I, in our hearts, strive to do the exact same thing. It's really just crushing, the weight of the all the good hiding inside the wires of the internet. 

So, Miriam is a pretty cool dude, is all I'm saying. I really wish I'd been able to meet her; I think we would be friends. 

And maybe she isn't very good at talking about herself, but I am good enough at talking about myself and her for the both of us, so thank god for small favors, and email. Her story, all of their stories, are so important for us to tell, to read, to hear, to know. There is no reason that these problems are hidden anymore; the world is tiny and sitting in the palm of our hands. Each child on earth is our child, our responsibility, our charge. It is too easy to help to not do it.  

The last time I worked with Shot@Life, the call to action was simple: Leave a comment, any comment, and $20 would be donated to give children vaccines. This time, it's even more simple:

Read. Learn. Hear the stories of the children who are getting vaccinated in the nick of time, the children who didn't, and the people who are working to stop it. For 28 days we are telling their stories, and we pray that you will listen. 

The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible. Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global health and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!

This story comes from UNICEF Uganda and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss my dear friend Renee Ross' post! Go to www.shotatlife.org/impact to learn more.  

 

Nachos, Eventually

I watch Superbowl for the food. 

Since 1996, I have lived with a man who will watch anything so long as it's A) on TV and B) involves at least one ball. I have endured bonded with him over more rubgy, football, golf, billiards, cricket, futball, bowling, hockey, ping pong, Klootschieten, baseball, basketball, and Tour De France than any woman should ever be asked to. 

I'm not actually with that man today, or any other day anymore, but I'm still "watching" the Superbowl, because it's important. Why it's such a big deal I may never really get, but I appreciate it for what it means to us as, like, Americans or something? I don't know. Maybe it's the closest we can get to shoving gladiators into amphitheaters with lions and tigers and inmates, or maybe it's just because dudes get to be unapologetic dudes for one whole day. Whatever it is, it matters to us, and I support it.

From the kitchen. 

Today, actually, I am supporting it from the bar of a hotel in San Francisco while eating what can only be described as the worst mussels the world has ever known, or ever will know, and chasing them with chocolate everything while a woman who has amazing for 1992 hair screams at the bar TV like she has any clue what's happening on it aside from muscular men in latex and HD.

I actually look forward to making food for Superbowl Sunday every year because it gives me an excuse to hide in the kitchen and not have to watch 10 minutes of action! packed! excitement! crammed into four hours Superbowl is something of an event, and events are special, and special means I get to show people I love them, and I show people I love them with sauté pans, and that explains The State of My Hind Quarters. But this year I don't even get to make my grapes with onion dip because it's their dad's day to have them and I'm on a business trip. 

Not one to be bogged down with pesky details, I got my Superbowl food fix in, just a wee bit early. 

Gratuitous and totally unrelated product plug, simply because it's true aside: That gooey mess of a picture was taken on this damn HTC Windows 8 phone that against all my better judgement and hipster-reason I am coming to love. #Troop8X #HTC8 #shutup

I made those nachos the night my new babysitter was supposed to come over and learn the layout of my house and how to properly feed and water my precious whittle puppay, but she had to reschedule because uterus and so we were left alone, just the four of us, with a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense.

Worse things have happened. 

And the whole entire point of this post was how to make a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense but it takes me a while to get to the point because shut up. Here's the recipe:

 

  • Brush a few (let's say three) chicken breasts with olive oil, a bit of taco seasoning, and some Emeril's Essence Creole seasoning (or whatever spicy mix you like), bake them until they're just done and chop them up into not-sissy-sized cubes.
  • Take a really big serving tray, like, say, the one you serve your en-tire Christmas dinner on. Smear a whole bunch of heated refried beans onto the tray. 
  • Dump your favorite kind-of-thickish tortilla chips onto the tray, smooching them into the beans so they'll stand up a little bit (don't use those fancy super-thin white chips, they won't hold what's coming next) (for this, I usually use Mission tortilla chips) 
  • Sprinkle your not-sissy-sized chicken chunks all over the chips, making sure most fall in-between the chips.
  • Do the same with a mess-a black beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Pour your favorite chili verde over all of that (or half of that, if you have little kids who will keel you when they see that you've ruined nacho night with *flavour*
  • (If you through a pork butt in a crock pot with some water and big ol green chilis and some seasonings for about 8 hours, you will have your own chili verde. If you don't want to do all of that, Safeway makes a pretty decent chicken green chili which they sell in their fresh soup section near the deli.)
  • Dump all of the cheese on top.
  • Bake until you can't stand it anymore.
  • Eat. All by yourself. After the kids go to bed. No one is judging you.
  • Live long and prosper.

Cherry is the Best Flavor of Metaphor

I love Twizzlers. I LOVE Twizzlers. they are the perfect (for me) candy. They are not too sweet, not sour, not bitter, they don't taste like chemicals, they don't leave grainy or gritty or sticky residue in your mouth. They're versatile: you can untangle them or chop them into little pieces or suck on them until they melt or nomnomnom a whole bag in one sitting. They're great for movies because they last a while and they don't melt all over your hands. You can use them as a straw if you have 7-up and some time. (Do not try this with milk; trust me on that one.) They don't get too terribly stuck in your teeth. They're delicious. 

I love Twizzlers. I LOVE TWIZZLERS. And I can never eat one again, for as long as I shall live. 

The moment I eat a Twizzler I will be on the floor having something close to a seizure. You see, there is something in Twizzlers that just doesn't work with my body. I'm allergic to red food coloring and there is not a single thing I can do about it. I can love Twizzlers with all my heart and it doesn't matter. They hurt me, every stinking time I try, no matter what I do to prevent it.

They can't help it, either; they are who they are and I am who I am and we simply don't work. 

I ate them for a long time anyway, because the pain was worth it. Eventually the pain stopped being worth it. Eventually they were the bell and I was the dog - every time I saw them my head started to hurt, my body clenched up, and I braced for what was coming. Now I don't try anymore. Now I keep my distance and simply remember how much I loved them, once upon a time.

Sometimes if my kids leave a pack laying around, I'll pick it up and take a long, deep inhale. I love the smell of them still. Enough time and distance has made me able to enjoy, nigh savour, the smell of them and every happy childhood memory that smell brings back for me. (Except that milk bit. *shiver*) Sometimes when I'm having a weak moment, I want to lick one of them, just to test the waters and see if maybe, this time, after all this time...but I know what will happen, and I resist.

I've licked enough Twizzlers to know that the end result never changes. I can't will myself out of this reaction I have to a perfectly fine-for-someone-else piece of candy.

We simply don't work.

We never will.

So it goes. 

This post that, while entirely true, has very little to do with candy, is brought to you by the letters M.E.T.A.P.H.O and .R, a healthy dose of DayQuil, and this very lovely post on BlogHer.com. Because this would have made a hellofalong comment.