And for once I was SuperMom

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lessons from Blue People

For my birthday this past weekend Scott and I went into Denver to treat me to a shopping trip at an art’s supply store, and dinner and a movie. on our way in we stopped at Copper Mountain for a cup of coffee and a potty break, I kind of laughed to myself as I noticed that I was all dressed for my trip into the big city and all the other people in the coffee shop were all dressed down for their time in the country.
As we pulled up to the Interquest 14 Theatre, located in the new growth of shiny shopping malls and six land wide streets on the south side of town, I almost said to Scott,
“Okay, I’ll run in and you can watch the baby,” and then realized we could both go in at the same time because we had left her with Scott’s Mom. As I walked into the movie theatre I was a bit disgusted at the size of the preceding atrium. My head swiveled around the colossal domed structure and marveled at the amount of money that had been spent on just the entryway. After the entryway I was greeted by two escalators and a set of staircases that took me down to the ticket window, maybe the theatre company figured that if you made the walk to the counter about a mile you’d be hungry and would buy some popcorn. We bought our tickets and debated about which of the eight doors we would use to enter the theatre. I was thirsty so thought that I would cruise on up and grab a soda before the movie. Used to Nairobi prices I thought I would just get a small or a bottle for about a dollar. Or the small soda cost $4.25. I decided to stay thirsty.
We had previously seen Avatar in Nairobi on a pirated disc, something which I shouldn’t admit, but when that is all that is available you get desperate. Of course, because there is karma, it didn’t have the last twenty minutes on the disc, so we needed to see it again and wanted to do it in 3D. (That’s not the only time that the last portion of a movie was missing on a pirated disc, I’m guessing it’s because the Chinese have put cops in their theatres and they flush out the guy holding up his camcorder.)
It began, and BAM, I was completely engrossed. I could not believe the difference that 3D made. The amount of detail that was there that I had missed practically gave me goose bumps. After we had watched it the first time we both were kind of unimpressed, I really just felt like it was just a movie about blue people. This time, I cried, a couple of times. The immense amount of visual stimuli sucked me in so much more that I cared and felt way more than I did when it was just a slightly pixilated image on a 21 inch TV.
As I was watching the scenes of the ostentatious flying machines destroying bucolic trees and blue people I kept thinking, ‘surely we are more evolved than this and wouldn’t do this.’ But I knew it was wrong. We’ve done this in America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and those are just the English speaking colonies. Over and over again we have infiltrated other people’s lands and because we wanted it and we took it. No one is complicit on this, that’s the basis of tribal warfare as well. I sat there with a pit in my stomach thinking and hoping that we have learned our lesson and that if we ever reach a point where we are going to other planets that we won’t just blow up the natives because they are sitting on things we want.
In the movie there was intimation that the humans had destroyed out own world, I don’t know if that will happen. The ozone layer healed itself after we stopped pumping CFC’s into it. More people are switching to cloth diapers. I know many people who are growing their own food, and starting to rethink how much meat they eat. Other countries are doing much better than we are, smaller cars and more electric ones and alternative sources of fuel. For us to change gas needs to get expensive, that’s only way to change Americans, hit us in the pocketbook.
I was a bit jealous thinking about the fictional biological connection that the Na’vi had with their world. I was struck thinking that some of it was true, of course much borrowed from Native American beliefs, but so many things in our world move in cycles. Time. The nitrogen cycle (which we are part of, by the way, ashes to ashes, dust to dust). The water cycle. An animal or plant dies, and we eat it so that we can live. We actually are connected to our world. If nothing else backpacking and hiking has taught me thatI have gotten back in touch my innate sense of direction. I have discovered that nature calms me and brings me back to what matters. Having my daughter has taught me how connected we are, the fact that my body still nourishes her while she is well on her way to becoming a separate entity.
I was also left thinking about the implications of the depiction of Jake Scully as a successful cross-cultural plant. He had nothing to lose, and he was fearless. He also entered into the situation with the intention to learn and not the intention to teach. A mistake that is commonly made by almost all cross-cultural workers. Which makes me wonder if going overseas to teach is ever a good idea.
WHile one may just view Avatar as a summer blockbuster made to produce millions and only that, there are undeniable mythic truths depicted in the story line. I was a bit surprised by how affected I was by the movie. Even to the point of tears.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Defecacious Day

One of the things I have realized about living in a tourist town is that often instead of taking your own vacation you are facilitating other people’s vacations. Which I do thoroughly enjoy, in fact Scott and I have made a point of doing certain hikes all around town so that we can take guests. So my Dad, my stepmom, and her mom were out this weekend. Really they were less out to see Colorado and more out to see us, which is lovely.
And tiring. After a weekend of lots of driving, sitting back and watching my parent’s love on my kid, more driving, and a late night driving in from Denver and few wake-ups from my child, where in I was so tired that I was woozy, I woke up feeling like I was dragging my rear end about ten feet behind me. After a foggy morning I threw on yoga pants and a long sleeve top, put Emma in the new REI baby backpack we just got and thought I’d take her for a long walk, to get my blood flowing and to keep her awake until her nap time. About twenty minutes into the walk, I felt a lack of the usual squirming and peered over my shoulder to only see the top of her wee forehead. Damn, sleeping. She slept for the rest of the walk therefore shooting a big hole in her morning nap.
Upon arrival at home I saw that her sweet little forehead had worn a rug burn on it from resting on the front of the backpack. My baby’s first real booboo. I dipped my toe into the mommy guilt pool, but wouldn’t let myself dive in, because how was I supposed to know? Inspection of the backpack gave no answers because it’s all soft and completely padded. My daughter’s uber-sensitive skin strikes again.
My mother-in-law did my a huge favor and watched her while I showered, so I got a quiet shower instead of her crawling around the floor of the bathroom, ignoring all the cute toys I just gave her and crying uncontrollably until I give up on shampooing my hair and jump out and hold her. I got clean and dressed in peaceful silence. As I was putting on a white shirt I thought, ‘is this really the best choice today?’
Speaking of my child’s sensitive skin, she has developed the most terrifying diaper rash over the weekend. The second you whip off her diaper she remember her rash, starts crying and her little hands go inching down there to start scratching. Normally that wouldn’t bother me except that there’s poo, the most insidious of substances. Every diaper change turns into a battle royale. I am batting her hands out of the way, telling her no, wiping poo off her bottom, wiping poo off her hands, exchanging the diaper, and attempting to apply rash cream. This was a pre-nap diaper so she started rubbing her eyes in the midst of all this. She got diaper rash cream on her forehead. I am pretty sure there are microscopic bits of poo flung all over the nursery.
Added to all that trauma of getting your drawers forcibly changed, and being reminded of the open sore on your butt she got her hands washed. She hates this. I opted not to dress her and just her put her down for her nap in her diaper. I then looked down at my own shirt. A strange orange spot the size of a dime on my left shoulder, blood from her head wound perhaps? More orange spots right underneath my collar, tomato, maybe? And a non-descript beige quarter size beige spot on the sleeve right above the elbow, poo? But it didn’t smell. I left it on. Emma was already on her third outfit of the day, I didn’t want to go for a record myself.
Later in the day while changing out the crib sheet that she had peed on and holding my leaky child I felt a warm spot on my side. Sure enough, pee on me. I changed her diaper (see above), and started to put new clothes on her and then thought,
“Nope, you’ve lost that privilege, no more clothes for you,” until bed time she cruised around in her diaper, and I changed into a green shirt. I think I’ll stop buying white until she’s in high school.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rafting 101

The east side of Buena Vista is cut right through with the Arkansas River. A big cold river that starts a bit north in Leadville and goes all the way to the state of Arkansas. During the summer the forty rafting companies throughout the Arkansas Valley crowd the river with big rafts full of people looking for a bit of adventure. I’ve not had a chance to go down the river; last summer the river was so high and so cold that there were several deaths. Makes you think twice.
Someone had offered my mother-in-law Miriam a free trip; she wasn’t too interested so passed the favor on to us. We were to go down to River Runners at 3:30 and ask for Dan.
We got there on time and met up with the other people that would be on the raft with us, folks that had regularly volunteered at Miriam’s church. Every Monday through the summer Miriam’s church offers a free dinner to all the rafting guides in the community, many of the guides are college students who come out and camp all summer long, so the church gives away a hot meal and has had hot showers installed in the church building so they can have some trappings of civilization. Dan is probably the oldest guide on the river and he offers a free trip to those who have fed him all summer long.
After a bit of waiting Dan, a man that has most likely past the half-century mark in age, lumbers up and ushers us down to the edge of the river. His deep tan, and calm craggy face remind me of coaches that I have had in the past, men healthier than many men half their age, calm with the joy of doing something they love, and comfortable in their complete knowledge of that subject. Without explaining himself Dan produced life jackets from the shed, quickly assessed our sizes, handed them out and then came up and adjusted them to actually fit our torsos. We gathered around the raft that was parked on the shore and he explained how to sit, how to paddle, and what to do if you fell out. His explanations were simple, plain, and not frightening.
“Just get on your belly and swim back to the boat or the shore.” That was all, no descriptions of hypothermia, or rocks bashing our heads. You fall out, get back in or get out of the water. I appreciated that.
We got in, shoved our feet into the cracks of the raft and he pushed us out into the Arkansas. The next few minutes he gave us instructions on how to help him steer the raft, mainly how to turn left. We rotated around a few times and in an easy manner he teased us until we got it right. And we were off.
It was like being taken down the river by Garrison Keiller, Dan, had a mellow voice sauced with just enough off a slow American drawl to make you want to listen to him. He seasoned his stories with easy wisdom and slow humor. He gave the teenage girl, Hannah, in our group a hard time by shouting, ‘so help me, Hannah,’ a phrase he swore that a friend used to use. He told the young people on the raft they should try to make it to twenty-five without any major emotional scars or physical scars, because when the doctor pointed at his knee and said, “‘That’ll never work right again,’ well, that was kinda disappointing.” He would flip the raft around in a leisurely circle, ‘see that rock up there on top of that ridge? Looks like Winnie the Pooh.’ And, yep, it sure did. Or he would say, ‘I like that tree right there,’ or ‘I like that rock right there.’ And sure enough they were pretty remarkable trees and rocks.
We did a quick unsanctioned cliff jump. Dan went first, as Scott and I stood next to him he pointed into the swirling water and said,
“See that rock?”
“Don’t jump there. See that rock over there?”
“Don’t jump there. Look up and look at that fence post right there, jump towards that and you’ll land in the right spot.” And off he went. I’ve cliff jumped before, but it’s still fun every time. There’s always the ‘will I or won’t I’ question as I look at the cliff. Usually I do. Then there’s the dread as you climb up the hill, avoiding rocks in your sandals, the heart cleaning adrenaline as you stand at the top, the pulse as you leap, the frightening shock and gasp as you hit the water, and then the final water crawl as you swim up and out (all the while squinting and pushing at your eye as you make sure you haven’t lost your right contact).
When my shirt turned out to be not as quick-dry as I thought it would be, he pulled over the raft and gave a few of the colder rafters splash jackets. When he saw that my shirt was soaked he offered an extra fleece he had. Being no longer a young fool when it comes to warmth I eagerly accepted his shirt and his help as he showed me how to strap up the sleeves of the jacket. He commented,
“Unh, you grabbed a large,”
“Should I get a smaller one?”
“That’s okay, you’re large,” meaning large of spirit I suppose.
Nearing the end of the trip he did another signature 180 of the raft and pointed out a huge beautiful house perched on the edge of Brown’s Canyon. We oohed and aahed, and remarked that it must have had a great view and how expensive it must be.
“What if we all had a house on Brown’s Canyon?” Dan asked. I smirked, a gently veiled conservation comment. For the last few moments of the trip he pointed out the green and silver color of the water and told us that this was a special time to see the river, the sun was just sliding down the western side of the peaks of the collegiate range. I was able to relax from my shivering for a moment and see a deer hiding in the trees of the bank, and to see greenish gold light drip over the Sangra de Cristo’s. Dan talked about he loved the river and hoped that by taking people down it he helped them to love the river as well. I was thankful to see our valley from another perspective and I know that I learned something from that trip as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Media Madness

I was sitting at my gate waiting to board my plane for my flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, I had just passed Emma off to Scott and he had disappeared in to the wilderness of duty free shops. The distinguished African man sitting next to me leaned over and asked,
“Where are you from?”
“The United States.”
“Oh, I thought that you were from Europe.” I decided to take that as a compliment, Europeans are usually more stylishly dressed than we are, and often skinnier…
“What part of the United States are you from?”
“Colorado,” it’s the last place we lived and get much less flack for Colorado rather than the general mocking I get for California. Or the asinine comment, 'oh, the Governator.' Right, thanks, didn't vote in that election.
“Cah-loh-rah-doh,” he rolled the unfamiliar syllables over his tongue,
“So tell me, do hillbillies really eat people?” I recovered from the multi-level shock of such a question. My mind flipped through several answers like a child playing with a rolodex, one being, ‘some might,’ but decided on,
“No, hillbillies don’t really eat people,” whilst shaking my head gently and assuredly.
“Ah, you have seen the movie Wrong Turn?” He asked.
“Noooo, I don’t watch movies like that,’ I said calmly. A comment that killed the conversation.
I would like to take this moment to point out that this man thought we were from Europe, so if he had been observing us the whole time he was thinking we were not American. So, the moment he discovered that we were American this man pounced on his opportunity to ask this question. Soooo, potentially this question had been bothering him. I would also like to point out that through my own eavesdropping I discovered that he was a Minister of Parliament of some Africa country. Just going to drop that note and walk away, do with it what you will.
I was more than a little bit saddened that this individual, who was obviously an educated and well-to-do individual, would believe that US citizens would be cannibals just based on something he had seen in a movie. It makes one wonder, how many people in other countries take what they have seen in our media and take that at face value. We are what we show? Or do we show what we are?
I know that most of our media displays things that are sensational, things that we don’t do. I don’t know anyone that sleeps around as much as the girls in Sex in the City. Hillbillies don’t eat people, that is why it is shocking, that doesn’t happen. That is why we watch those things, it is fantasy, escape from reality. These things are not real.
Embarrassingly enough there are people who watch our media and believe that is real, even people in our country. How do you explain so many copycat crimes? The fact that no one had ever shot up a public place until Columbine? Now there are shootings almost once a month. Now if people that live in our own culture can’t even navigate our own to know what’s real and what’s not, or what’s a good idea and what’s not, how are those from overseas to do it? They answer: they don’t. The ending thought: no wonder they hate us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Laughing Baby

My mother-in-law said the other day,
“There are two kinds of people, those who say ‘There’s nothing like a laughing baby,’ and then, ‘there’s nothing like sleeping baby.’” Under my breath I mumbled,
“I kinda like both.” The following conversation detailed that those that like a sleeping baby prefer children to be out of their way, and those that like a giggling baby actually enjoy children.
So what does it mean that I like both? I ponder this with guilt lurking in the back of my head like a monster in a closet.
The first time that I heard Emma giggle my heart soared and peals of soul ebullient laughter soared from my own mouth. I am only mildly jealous that my husband seems to get more laugher out of her than I ever do. I love it, I love that half developed soft gurgle that comes bouncing out when you bounce her or tickle her feet. I find myself turning myself inside out just to hear that sweet sound. I cherish watching her new developments, seeing each new gesture and hearing each new noise. Her sheer cuteness amazes me.
But I also love it when she’s sleeping, because I can get stuff done. When she sleeps I can type a full blog uninterrupted, drink a full cup of tea without it getting cold, I can finish a thought. Right now she’s in her walker (that’s right I said walker, they were invented for a reason) and I type a sentence, look up and imitate her baby talk, hold my thought, and then look down and type again, then look up and make a face, then look down and type a sentence. (So forgive me if this entry is a little choppy.) For a few moments I can type and she bangs on her toy and talks to herself, then remembers I am not paying full attention to her and she whines until I look up and make faces at her or pick up the toy she just dropped. Then there are the times when you just sit down to read a book and just reach for that fresh cup of coffee and you hear her wail from her crib, frustration slides up your back like a selfish worm and you think, ‘Why do I even bother? Why don’t I just give up altogether and sit waiting at her door until she is done napping?’
Today I was making pico de gallo as part of dinner (otherwise known as an excuse to eat corn chips by the handful) and had to stop right as I was about to throw the cilantro in the food processor because some little creature starting climbing up my ankles. Do I ignore my little bug and continue or lean down and pick her cuteness up? Pick her up kept winning, took me a long time to make that salsa…
I struggle with this, as I am sure all mothers do, that I do cherish my child and love her, but at the same time I have a sense of self and things that I want to accomplish in my life (and my day). I think this comes from having waited to have children, before I had Emma I had worked and discovered my talents. When I had Emma I wanted her and was excited to have her, but I wasn’t sitting around waiting to have a baby to complete my life or self-hood.
So what is a mommy to do? How do you deal with these feelings of guilt or do we just accept them as part of mommyhood?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cigar Box of Broken Dreams

Let’s pretend that you are about seven years old. Let’s pretend also that you have put all ‘special’ things in a cigar box. Maybe some marbles, a favorite rock, a picture, you know favorite things. Say the big, freckled, overweight, red-headed bully finds out about this box, or you brought it to school for show and tell and then at recess when you are playing with it, maybe finding more favorite things or showing them to your best friend the big, freckled, red-headed bully comes and takes this box from you and while you sob in fear he shakes it like crazy. You’re afraid that your favorite rock is banging into your favorite picture and scratching it all up or that little doll that your aunt brought you from Guatemala is getting it’s arms and legs bent out of shape. You jump and down straining at his long arms (freakishly long and thick for a seven year old) and cry until he stops drops it at your feet, in the dirt, and walks away.
Then you take the box and run away and hide it in your desk, hoping the bully didn’t see you. He didn’t but Wally, the smelly kid, who also happens to be the bully’s buck toothed goon, does and he tells the bully. At lunch the bully sneaks into the classroom, opens your desk, opens the box, and takes out that Guatemalan doll and that baseball card that your brother gave you in a rare moment of generosity.
When you find those items missing you are bewildered, in your childhood innocence you can’t imagine that anyone would take anything from you, and you have no idea where they went. You ransack your desk multiple times, until your teacher finds you crying after school. She comforts you and you walk home, on your way home your favorite rock works it’s way out of the box, down to the bottom of your backpack, and out the very tiny hole in the left hand corner of your backpack, making the hole the exact size of your favorite rock.
This is what it feels like to move internationally. Your stuff is that cigar box. In it are all the things that you deemed important enough to haul all they way across the world. Be they personal items that are irreplaceable, or just your favorite tank top that you love because it matches your eyes. Or the stroller that your in-laws kindly bought for you that they have now discontinued. You pack these things up, your husband and you, things end up in places that you wouldn’t put them organizationally because you have to pay attention to weight and not putting like things together. So the frying pan ends up wrapped in clothes, the duvet ends up snaked around picture frames. You two lovingly pack them up and upon arrival back in the states you have conversations like this one:
“Scott where’s the address book?” I ask in desperation because I have just ransacked all the logical places looking for it because I cannot remember if my mother’s zip code is 92009 or 92024. (Here it goes in your best New York Jewish Mother accent, ‘You don’t even know your own mother’s zip code?’ I’ve moved a lot in the past few years and only have so much memory space for addresses, things got bounced out.)
“What address book?”
“You know the brown leather thing, with ALL OUR ADDRESSES IN IT!”
“I haven’t seen it, not since we got back,” it slowly dawns on you…
“You mean we left it in Kenya?” You ask incredulously.
“I mean, we must have.”
So if you are reading this and I have mailed you anything in the past, or say invited you to my wedding, could you send me your address again? That includes immediate family and wedding party members. Remember only so much room, I love you and your exact address probably got bounced out.
(Ugh, even your own mother, oy, my heart, it bleeds.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kinda the same...

Reasons why living in the mountains in Colorado and Kenya are kinda the same:
1. Vermin: I live in a big beautiful log home. Benefit: it's pretty, rustic and cool. Drawback: cracks in the walls, guess what gets in? Mice. We have mice that regularly visit our downstairs apartment, it's not uncommon to be watching television and see once skate across the back of the room. Usually one of us will hiss, 'get the cat!' and run upstairs to grab Cinnamon, a champion mouser. Usually she will drop to the ground looking bewildered and then almost immediately sense the presence of the vermin, spend a half an hour giving our recliner dirty looks and angry hisses, disapear, and then return carrying a twitching mouse in her mouth. We also seem to have a colony of stink bugs living in our apartment. Usually I ignore bugs in my home or kill them, especially if they are of the 8-legged variety, but with stink bugs I figure they don't really hurt anyone. So I tried the tree-hugger route and thought I would scoop one up into a cup and throw him outside. I knelt, grabbed a piece of paper and cup and tried to push him into the cup with the paper. i fumbled twice and he turned on me and poked his little pointy butt at me. I held my hands aloft and said, 'you win.'
I wrote about vermin in Kenya in this blog
2. Availability of goods and resources. We have a small grocery store in town like one in the resort town that your family goes to holiday. You can get almost anything you need except for things like vodka sauce (asked for it one time, I swear the clerk tried to burn a hole in me with her eyes) and if you want goat cheese it's gonna be ten bucks a log. You can't really buy clothes here; you have to drive to the Springs or Denver. Things that are expensive in BV: cheese, gas, clothing, imported produce, meat, and alcohol. Things that are expensive in NBO: cheese, gas, clothing, imported produce, meat, and alcohol. Things that are cheap in both: all form of Coke products.
3. Not really knowing if things are going to be on the shelves in the store. I have more than once driven to Salida to buy hair gel only to find it sold out at Walmart. Many times in NBO I had to abandon a recipe in the middle of shopping because I couldn't get a key ingredient. I still have to fight the urge to buy triplicates of non-perishable items because it might be there later.
4. Produce goes bad quickly. Everything goes bad quickly in NBO, one time I bought cream and it was so sour that it was solid the very next day. In BV I have bought lettuce only to drive home and find out it was already slimy in the bag.
5. The roads: we live on a dirt road up the side of a moutain, it gets corrugated from people driving too fast and then braking on it. The corrugation and gravel can be frightening because it will grab your car and throw it if you're not careful. This gets worse in the winter with snow, ice, and rain. i also wouldn't live up in this house without 4-wheel drive. In NBO there were potholes. My, were there potholes. It would rain one day and they would just open up in the middle of the night. Big ones, some had small families living in them. I wouldn't live there without 4-wheel drive.
All in all living in America in the country is easier than in Africa. At least for me. There are drawbacks anywhere. I just think it's funny that in a way living in BV prepared me for Africa, it's also been a nice place to decompress. Like an old man getting in and out of the bath...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Clean House

One of the few stations that we would get on DSTV Africa was an international version of the Style Channel. We didn’t have DSTV but we certainly enjoyed it at our friend’s house. One of the shows that was played over and over again in syndication was Clean House. In Nairobi I watched it with a bit of embarrassment because of the amount of stuff that these people had, but mostly I just enjoyed the mindless inoculation of our pop culture, a superficial breather in a hard country.
On Saturday morning I commandeered the TV from my husband’s watching of ESPN and saw Clean House in the guide listing, I eagerly clicked happy to see a show that I liked. This episode featured a mother and daughter living in cluttered squalor. At one point the design team found more excessive belongings that they were trying to keep. When confronted the daughter grabbed what she wanted and stormed out in silence, calling the show bullsh*t. Later in the episode during the reveal the mother discovered that the team had gotten rid of her storage box of unused purses, she them stormed off in tears, got in her car, and left her daughter alone to finish the show. And I was angry.
I was angry because these people had been greedy gluttons of things, things bought and never used, things saved and never used, and things ridiculous with nary a usage. This television show was giving them a newly decorated and clean home and they were both acting like brats. We hide this behavior in the guise of a psychological problem but really it’s blatant sin, this show rewards that sin with a beautiful that most of us can hardly ever dream of.
For the first time in my life I am not embarrassed about how much we have. We sold our cars to go to Kenya, and when leaving Kenya we left a lot of our belongings (including most of my wardrobe) behind. Right now if we were to move into our own home we would have a bed for us, a bed for Emma, a dresser for each of us, a complete kitchen, camping gear, and that’s it. No cars, no couch, no tables, that’s all. And yet I really do not feel poor. I don’t know why, when I ‘have’ less than most. Maybe because it’s a temporary state, I know that once Scott or I gets a job that pays us what we’re actually worth we will buy cars and couches. Maybe it’s because poverty is a mindset and I don’t have that mindset, maybe it’s because I have had true poverty in my face for the past two years, and I no longer believe that people are truly poor in the U.S.
Not to complain about our situation, we will be okay, and people have been kind and hospitable to us, but this show angered me. These people didn’t need a newly decorated house, they might have been better served by a spanking (especially after their display of attitude), and here we are with not a whole lot and Clean House certainly isn’t offering that to us. If they did I would turn them down, because I know I don’t need it. After watching that thoughts of entitlement and true poverty spun in my head, what if Clean House went into truly impoverished homes and cleaned them up? What if they went overseas? But they won’t, because that level of poverty takes more than a coat of paint and new curtains to clean up.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dive In

I lost six pounds within the first few weeks of moving to Kenya, just like that, didn’t even try. I’ve attributed it to the fact that we drank a lot less alcohol there, ate a lot less processed food, the complete lack of corn chips in our diet, and well, the food just doesn’t taste as good. But then I had a baby, and, well, gained all that back. And then, well, right now I am fifteen pounds below my pre-pregnancy, pre-Kenya weight. I think that’s because of nursing and I’ve become more careful. I gained forty pounds in my pregnancy with Emma, afterwards I was a bit horrified so I was just more careful. Babies also don’t really let you sit down and eat. In those first few weeks I can’t count how often Scott had to set aside a plate for me during dinnertime or the times I only ate half my entrĂ©e because I was walking a restless baby around a restaurant.
Coming back to America this was one of my greatest fears. That I would unconsciously put that weight back on. How easy is it to take seconds? Or eat dessert all the time? These are luxury foods, we don’t need dessert, but yet our diets abound in extra food; huge portions, alcohol, boundless desserts. Chocolate used to be a luxury shipped in from afar, now I can eat it all day, every day if I wanted to, for actually not that much money.
We went to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch, when I opened the menu all I could think, ‘Everything is going to make me fat.’ After hemming and hawing and sending the waitress back several times I decided on a hamburger and cut it in half.
We were invited to a get together on Saturday night, our friends have a brick oven built into their back yard and throw ‘make your own pizza’ parties. I spent the whole time with my inner monologue running in the back of my head in fear of the food. As I looked at the food I could’ve eaten a pizza, salad, fruit, beer, soda, flavored iced tea, chocolate cake, and dessert pizza. I didn’t, I ate my pizza, a beer, and a slice of dessert pizza. I wasn’t stuffed.
After this our friend, Ben, put on a documentary that his friend filmed called Dive, which used dumpster diving as a forum to talk about food waste. American grocery stores throw out food on the ‘Sell by’ date, a date set that does make food inedible but maybe less than perfect. In our litigious society these grocery stores fear selling any food than may make anyone sick. In our own kitchens we toss out food because of these dates, because we’re not really sure how long food lasts, and because it just doesn’t look good anymore. The documentarian, Jeremy Seifert, quoted statistics about how much is thrown away, and the food deficit between what we throw away and how much hunger there is. The one I can remember clearly is that one American household throws away six hundred dollars of food per year. In Kenya food went bad a lot quicker than it does here. I was horrified as I threw out cheese and vegetables that had gone slimy and black, and as I watched my money go right in the trash can. Hating to see that kind of waist I became pretty airtight, I only bought exactly what I needed. I would do food inventories before shopping and use what I already had, I would make meat, beans, veggies last for several meals. We became partial vegetarians because meat was expensive and of poor quality. I try to only eat meat once a day because of it’s expense and tax on the environment, you only need a piece of meat the size of the palm of your hand to fulfill your daily requirements for protein.
Having felt the affects of our overabundance on my own waistline I continue those practices here, people may make fun (they already have) of my efforts or call me self-righteous, but I don’t feel self-righteous, in fact I think that I am doing the very least of what can be done. But what is to be done? In the documentary they took some of the food from the stores over to a homeless mission. My mother-in-law takes leftover food from a local camp to the mission in town every Friday, she comes back telling me how much they have, so much that they don’t know what to do with it all. That the people who frequent the mission won’t take the nice leftover bread and vegetables, but will only take the pre-made junk food. She offered to buy some of it from them once, they wouldn’t do it.
What about the starving children overseas? I know them know, I know names and faces, stories, what can I do to take our overabundance and give to their great need?
Link to Movie Dive

Friday, September 3, 2010

Just Peachey

Growing up we had a plum tree. I think it sat fallow for several summer and then one year, ka-bam, we had plums coming out of our ears. I remember paper grocery bags full of them. I remember taking them to church and giving them away. I remember my mother foisting them off onto to friends. I remember loads of them going bad while sitting on the ground around the base of the tree.
My mother also made jam with them. Being a woman of her generation, a bit closer to the farm than we are, this was no big deal. As a child I remember it as a monstrous process that took hours upon hours to complete. I cooking the syrupy sweet thick fruit and sugar concoction for hours on end. I remember my mother talking about being nervous as to whether it would set, and all these discussions about something called pectin. I remember the colossal water bath, the strange wire contraption that held the jars in place while you boiled them to make them clean and safe. I remember the heat of the kitchen while my mother and I were completing this massive undertaking. For years the cupboard in our laundry room was full of huge quart jars of this plum jam. I remember wondering when they would end and we could actually buy jam, strawberry or even plain old grape. To this day when someone puts a jar of plum jam on the table I think, ‘why, why would you buy that?’ Not that I don’t like it or that I won’t eat it, just that much familiarity bred a lot of contempt.
Coming back to the US one of the ways that I wanted to use our overabundance of resources wisely was to cook seasonally and as locally as I possibly can. So when my friend Janel told me that she could get a box of peaches for me for twelve dollars I jumped at the chance. I asked my mother in law if she would like them as well, and she got excited and started talking about making marmalade back in Phoenix for Christmas presents, until she discovered that Americans don’t like marmalade. So we got two boxes of fresh Colorado grown peaches.
On Wednesday, we made jam. I was a bit nervous remembering the huge amount of work that had invaded my childhood. Miriam (mother in law) had to run into town in the morning so I put the baby down for her nap and started peeling peaches. It took me about fifteen minutes to peel and chop enough for one batch of jam. I thought I would help Miriam out and peel six cups for her. She came home and was confused that I had peeled some for her, we straightened it out she thanked me, quite surprised and then proceeding to make jam and peel more peaches. She ran circles around me in the kitchen. Circles. Great big sprinting laps. I would be carefully peeling, trying to save enough fruit on the peel, would look over my shoulder and she had a mountain, a mountain.
In a matter of about three hours Miriam had made then jars of spiced peach jam, I had made four jars of peach ginger chutney and four jars of spiced peach jam. I stood there surveyed the rest of the mess that needed our cleaning and said,
“Well that wasn’t so bad, actually quite easy.”
Miriam nodded and continued to run circles around me during the cleanup. Apparently youth is not only reserved for the young…