Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Soul in Whole Foods

Walking through Whole Foods, I feel like an alien. Most recently I asked where I could find the Chow Mein noodles. The nice man gave me a sympathetic and gentle look. "Are you looking for the crunchy ones?" Immediately sensing I was committing a whole food blunder, I fessed up. "Yes, but I am guessing they aren't considered a Whole Food?" He was then nice enough to show me the substitute.

When I married my husband 12 1/2 years ago, my diet resembled a toddler menu at a greasy spoon. I was lucky to eat a vegetable, any beverage I consumed was a soda and entrees were complete once smothered in cheese. A mass spam email was my first food awakening. It was about aspartame. I had just switched over to diet soda thinking it was the best way to tend to my slowly growing waistline. In my 21 year old mind, the heaping bowls of Shoepps Chocolate Chip Ice Cream before bed weren't contributing in anyway. Well, the message whether true or false sent home the message that chemicals in your food could be harmful. I never considered this fact. Discussing it with my husband and announcing I was only going to drink regular soda, he quickly pointed out high fructose corn syrup isn't natural. So with that I began weaning myself off of soda. It was a first step.

Many years later, 2 kids, several documentaries and discussions with health conscious people I have expanded my list to eliminate trans fat, high fructose corn syrup in as many things as possible, and my latest endeavor avoiding the antibiotics in food. Deciphering ingredient lists and taking it one battle at a time is helping me be mindful of food choices. Looking back, it is a huge leap from the girl who only ordered grilled cheese sandwiches.

For my kids sake, I wish I could have been more mindful of my food from the beginning. The unexpected result is they are taking this journey with me and learning about food as I do. Alex's questions and reflections while Jamie Oliver explained about pink slime in ground beef as we watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution filled me with excitement. Getting to explain to him knowing where your food comes from is the issue, not the ground beef empowered both of us in different ways. He is now asking about the food on his plate, and I am motivated to keep learning.

I am a ways off from feeling confident in Whole Foods or properly utilizing the farmers market. I am a new soul in strange world, and it is starting to feel a bit more like home.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Making Life Everclear

Puzzling together a spinach salad with whatever I can find in the fridge left me angry and frustrated. I hate vegetables, so it shouldn't be a surprise to me I struggle to come up with creative and delicious vegetable combinations for my family. Instead of seeing my lack of knowledge about spinach as a teaching moment and a chance to be creative, I am bombarded with the list of failures I assign to myself. Halfway through the list, I stop. I am beating myself up. Cue the violin, but let's make it the opening to Everclear's "Learning How to Smile."

There is a phrase that has been following me most of my life, and only now am I beginning to realize how true it is. "You are being too hard on yourself." It is time I came forward and said I have been abused. The abuser is myself. Like in the song, my husband and I moved around for his school. Each time I hoped for a fresh start free from the abuse, and each time the depression inevitably followed. Only now am I seeing it is because the first box I packed was all my emotional baggage including the list of charges against myself and unreasonable expectations.

The irony for me is I am a smiler, which is something else I hear a lot about myself. "You're smiley." I am that person at the grocery store who will try to catch your eye in the aisle and give you a friendly smile. I share them freely with strangers. The more I get to know you the less I smile. And I don't smile for myself. So that is what I am vowing to do. Find the lighter side. Smile. And stop the abuse.

It is ok if I ruin the spinach. With Art's words,

Yes I know there ain't no finish line
I know this never ends
I am just learning how to fall, climb back up again.

So, off to the computer to find out what I could possibly make from this spinach that won't require a trip to the store and may entice my 6 and 7 year old to appreciate vegetables. And I did it. By mixing fresh spinach with mandarin oranges and almonds I never had to ask them to try the salad. Everyone took their bites. No complaints, and no abuse. I smiled.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Getting Funky with Dishes

Trapped in the kitchen on Easter afternoon, dishes piled from the Bunny Brunch, I am struggling to find a rhythm to the work before me. It should be simple, just wash the dishes and straighten up the kitchen. Thirty minutes tops. But I don't want to do it! Usually this is where music drowns out and distracts me from my whining, however today Pandora isn't serving up anything. The radio bores me. My ipod has so much music I don't know where to begin and shuffle is frustrating me.

All of it is offering music I love. As I forward past Arcade Fire, Paul Simon and Spoon, I realize my usual mix isn't cutting it because I need a beat. My brain doesn't want to process anything heavy, it just wants to thump along to a great dance beat and ditch any deep thoughts.

Meanwhile, in the next room, I hear my 6 year old son singing Ke$ha's Tik Tock with his lego men. I guess it is genetic. I get enough Ke$ha thanks to Diary of the Wimpy Kid, and I am going to need something with more kick.

Enter Lady Gaga...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grounded by Amos Lee

Since going on vacation at the end of March, followed by Spring Break with several illnesses sprinkled on top of the fun, I have been out of sync. So has my cooking which means my family isn't eating well which is resulting in further illness on top of a nasty allergy season. It was apparent as my hubby and I scrambled to throw together a unique blend of sandwiches and breakfast food on Tuesday night for a late impromptu dinner the weight of the chaos hit me. Each person's meal hit the table at different times, which illustrated my family's scattered existence at this point in time.

Clarity came while washing the dishes, as Amos Lee reminded me this too shall pass. His new single, "Windows Rolled Down", is everything I love about Amos Lee. Full of soul, poetic insight, simple melodies accented with an effortless run. He has a way of showing up in my life when I need quiet. His debut album came out right after my second son was born. His words played in the tiny kitchen of our tiny house in Ann Arbor on my old blue cd player while I washed dishes during nap time. This was my only moments of solitude until late at night. I treasured his calm and soulful sound during those precious moments. His new song serves as a reminder for me to slow down so my soul can catch up.

Coincidentally, Amos almost made me not go on vacation. He was going to be playing in Indianapolis while I was in California, and I found out just before buying the plane tickets. For a split second, I considered a trading Disneyland for sitting in an auditorium soaking in the sounds of "Shout it Out Loud" and "Keep It Loose, Keep it Tight." Sounded like heaven, until I thought of my sons missing out on seeing California for the first time.

If being out of sync is the price I pay for getting to sit on a beach in March, then it is worth it. So, I have had more mornings in the past three weeks swearing at the empty milk jug because I didn't realize we ran out. With each day we live our schedules I know we are getting closer to being back in our rhythm, my refrigerator will empty at a predictable rate, and meals will be eaten together. We will get a few weeks of monotony to put us back into a rhythm before we begin summer. I am going to need a lot of Amos to see me through the 10 weeks of sunny chaos.

Also, check out today's Garnish Groove for a laugh. Bruno Mars "The Lazy Song" video makes me smile. Warning: There are monkey faces in it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Favorite Apology Song

When cooking dinner, I can't escape the critical five minutes. It is the five minutes when everything for the meal has to be attended to at the same time. The veggies need to be drained and seasoned, the chicken has to be taken off the heat,the table needs to be set, drinks need to be poured, the kids have questions, the microwave is beeping every 30 seconds and I can't even remember what I put in there. Ahhhhh!

Most of the time I get through successfully, with the help of music. But, not this time. In one of my countless dashes from the sink to the stove, I took out my youngest who was dancing happily to Usher's "More" in his usually half hip hop half ninja style dance. Letting the chicken go, microwave beep, and veggies cool I went in for the hug, injury assessment and apology. At that moment, John Lennon begins to sing "Woman." My little guy squirmed and skipped away before I could "hardly express my mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness."

A mindful apology with compassion, empathy and gratitude trumps the quick "I am sorry" to end the fight and tension so you can finish watching the game. It also trumps the over thought apology with the play by play. How Lennon lays it out, his words could be used to cover any offense with any person. The word "woman" could easily be changed to fit anyone (as long as it can easily be said in two syllables, there is a song meter to consider). In an interview with Rolling Stone, he says his motivation was to recognize the role of woman as well as personally address his love of Yoko. However big or small, it is personal and beautiful.

Someone once told me a sincere apology can't be delivered with the word "but" because it negates the sincerity. If I can't say I'm sorry without the word but I know I still have to work through my feelings. It has done wonders for me but it isn't easy. Not a fan of conflict or tension, I would rush apologies and try to brush things under the rug. Now, I understand bad has to be confronted and to screw up is part of the experience.

Other apology songs which come to my mind don't capture the emotional depth and sincerity the way "Woman" does. Brenda Lee's song is cute, and was a go to song for me for years mostly because I could mimic her sound to the point of a chuckle. Hoobastank has a good line and hook, but the essence seems to be the apology is coming so late in the game he is going to be a better person to someone else. Willie Nelson's "You Were Always On My Mind" is sweet and full of gratitude but he isn't fully committed to an apology. Maybe? Really, Willie? You can find a top 10 list of apology songs at However, "Woman" does not make the list.

What is your favorite apology song?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Surrounded by Brothers

It was one of those weeks where the universe or God was sending me a theme to consider. From the movies we watched to the songs I listened to, I was surrounded by the stories of brothers. So, when Oasis' "Wonderwall" came on one night while trying to make the delivered pizza equal a healthy spread, I was thrust into the circle of brothers once again.

Anytime I hear Oasis, my first thought is of the first interviews I saw with them in the late nineties where Liam called George Harrison, one of his idols, a "nipple". Then as I read about Noel and Liam's fights, the anger in their relationship has always stuck with me. If he would call George Harrison names, it isn't surprising him and his brother would regularly come to blows. Listening to he lyrics in "Wonderwall" I idealistically think maybe Noel is writing about Liam. I hope since Oasis has broken up and they are pursuing their individual endeavors they "Don't Look Back in Anger". What they created together was beautiful. "Champagne Supernova" is a masterpiece of brotherly efforts. Noel's songwriting with Liam's vocals are enchanting. The stress of a music career filled with pressure to create, constant touring and fatigue will wear on any relationship. Bands with brothers performing together include The Jackson 5, BeeGees, Avett Brothers, The Beach Boys, The Fray, Kings of Leon, Isely Brothers, Collective Soul, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, and George & Ira Gershwin. This is just to name a few, the list goes on and on. And I haven't even talked about the sisters. That is a lot of music and I imagine a lot of struggle.

I witness the bond between brothers from all angles: as a mother, sister, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, and friend. I am surrounded by men and boys who are brothers. These relationships I am privileged to witness have varying states of contentment and terms. For instance, it is acceptable and entertaining to sit on your brother's head when it comes to my boys; however, I don't think my husband and brother-in-law would find this as entertaining. Well, not at their ages. I didn't witness their childhood fights.

Growing up I was always amazed at my brothers' ability to non-verbally communicate. You could pass by and see them watching a baseball game, and 2 minutes later and still mid-inning they were gone. Whatever food run or video game took a hold of the group didn't require discussion. It makes me smile to watch my husband and his brother continue a conversation they started the last time they saw each other, which normally is several months to a year between visits. My sons are a constant source of brotherly love, and the struggles which come with that love. Bill's cousin, Ian, saw my sons wrestling around and harassing each other at a family picnic. "That is just like how me and Carl were. You watch, they will be best friends."

I watched "The Fighter", "Defiance" and "Brothers" in the span of one week. As Liam Gallagher is singing Noel's probing lyrics, scenes of these movies flood me. Like life they were brothers relating to each other but with varying states of contentment and terms. (I recommend all three movies.) The common thread which stayed with me was to fight is to become stronger as an individual and as brothers. Sibling relationships offer an honest window into yourself.

For my sons, I am grateful to witness this tumultuous bond from the beginning with all the tears and laughter. I am learning my place is to trust them to work through their differences, and as they do their bond will only grow. I hope the wrestling and name calling doesn't wind up on MTV interviews like the Gallagher brothers. It will be sweet if they grow to help each other win the big fight, help each other escape the scars of life or create a camp in the woods to hide from the Nazis. In reality, I think Bill's cousin has it figured out that best friends would be good.

So, time to round up the boys from upstairs for pizza night. There is lots of giggling. Deep breath because someone is probably sitting on someone else's head.