Friday, December 30, 2016

Remembering my big brother

While this time of year brings wonderful memories of past holidays and much joy over new experiences, it also makes me a little sad. There is a rip in the fabric of my family and a brother sized hole in my heart. I was the younger sister to a dynamic, smart and manipulative brother whose talents and intellect were praised by family. He was the first born, a son, in the days when that was a very important thing to be. He was the smart one, the charming one, the one who did everything first and did everything well.  At least according to my mom.  My mother constantly pitted us against each other. She would hold one or the other of us up as an example while admonishing the other child to be or not be more like the other. Although we were very close as children, with that kind of parental pressure it's not a surprise that by the time we reached middle school, we could barely stand to be in the same room with each other. With a firm determination to not follow in his footsteps so that I would not, could not be compared to him either favorably or not so favorably, when I entered high school a year behind him, I looked for things he had no interest in...speech, drama, music...and avoided where he excelled...math, art...things he had put his stamp on. Where he was loudly charismatic, I was the quiet one who sought not to make any of my own waves and to keep out of the wake of his. I was the one who went along to get along.

All of this makes it sound as though I resented my brother, when in reality I did not. Following a brilliant but underachieving brother left the door wide open for me to pursue things that ultimately I came to love and excel at. Since my mom was consumed with wrangling my increasingly difficult brother, I was allowed a freedom that under other circumstances I might not have been. With zero pressure to make good grades, I did so easily and without much thought. I had a friend who stressed about each test, quiz or term paper, and who panicked at the thought of not getting an "A", while I did not. I was free to take Speech and Drama, Choir and Journalism. I even took a class called Yearbook Staff where we all got A's for pretty much just showing up. I overheard my mom on the phone one day telling a friend that she could always depend on me. It never occurred to me to be resentful of that dependence. It simply was.

All the way thru high school, not only did our activities and friends not intersect, but neither did the two of us.  I doubt I said more than 100 words to him in his entire senior year and while I was in just about every music program and play the school had for four years, he never attended any performances. I was shocked when, on his first visit home from college, he brought me a charm for my bracelet. Of course he asked for it back the next day because he wanted to give it to his high school girl friend, but I appreciated the thought. For my 18th birthday, the November after I started college, my parents wanted to buy me a proper leather briefcase to take to debate tournaments, but he preempted them by getting me a fun canvas one covered with flowers because, as he put it, I was not a proper leather type of girl. We became pretty good friends after that, mostly because we went to different colleges and only met during holidays. He became a decent student and graduated with a degree in Psychology while I remained focused on Speech and Drama.  We got married the same summer and he and his wife and me and my ex spent quite a bit of time together those first few years until jobs, friends and other interests separated us.

He passed away suddenly from bone cancer in December 2012.  By that time we were once again growing closer as I had relocated to Southern California to spend more time with family. When I think of my brother now, it is not that contentious competitor for my mother's approval, nor the distant and sometimes sullen high schooler, or even the much younger big brother who taught me how to swing a bat and catch a fastball, but the man he became.  A man who loved family and knowledge for its own sake and life. A man who did not believe in putting off until tomorrow the fun to be had today. A man who gathered friends to him as effortlessly as anyone I have ever known. That's the brother I remember and that's the brother I will always miss.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bullet Proof Coffee

If you have ever googled anything to do with getting healthy, eating responsibly or losing weight, your results have no doubt included at least one link to Paleo or Whole30 or The Wild Diet and from there maybe more than one link to someone touting the benefits of Bullet Proof Coffee. This odd sounding magical brew is said to help with weight loss, boost immunity and calm inflammation. Loyal drinkers say it satisfies their morning hunger and sets them up to eat 'clean' the rest of the day. I am often skeptical of claims I read on the Internet, since 9 times out of 10 the claimers want to sell you something.  But in this case I actually know two people who have tried it. One was my daughter who told me a couple of years ago that she had made it several times and it was yummy. She didn't think it was for me, though, for a couple of reasons (more about that in a moment). Then a week ago at the Thanksgiving table at my good friends the Oliver's house, I sat next to a guest who said that she had recently made the change to drinking it and claimed that, although this was the only change she made, she had dropped 20 lbs in just a couple of months.  Since there was nothing she could possibly be wanting to sell me, I believed her.

Now, as to why my daughter thought the drink was not for me. I like my coffee hot, very hot, like almost can't drink it hot. Hot chocolate is fine lukewarm, ditto soup or chili. But coffee has to be HOT. I also like my coffee black. No sweetener, no cream, no flavorings, no whip, no froth. No macchiatos, mochas, lattes. My order at Starbucks has always been coffee black no room for cream, please.

So what, you ask, exactly is Bullet Proof Coffee? It starts with organic, single sourced coffee, brewed black (so far, so good), then put into a blender and whipped into a frenzy with a tablespoon of grass fed butter and a similar amount of coconut oil. The end result is a frothy, pale brown brew that looks more like a coffee drink than coffee and is not blazing hot. Nope, doesn't sound like me at all. But losing weight, boosting immunity and calming inflammation are all worthy goals, so this morning instead of my regular two ginormous cups of plain old brewed coffee, I buzzed up a blender of BPC. I gave it a sip and it was...interesting.  I was prepared for the frothiness, prepared for the not quite hot enough temperature.  What I wasn't prepared for was how much it tasted like melted butter. Yes, I know I should have been since I clearly added a tablespoon of Kerrygold to the blender. It wasn't sweet at all, a definite plus, and once I zapped it for 30 seconds or so, it was nice and hot. But it was very, very buttery.

According to those who have tried and love it, to optimize its effectiveness, this has to be the only thing you consume for breakfast and you have to give it a goodly amount of time to work for you. So, I'm thinking a week sounds goodly. I once went 36 hours without sleep when I was 6 months pregnant.  How hard can it be to go a week drinking something that tastes and smells like melted butter?  Check back with me in a week and I'll let you know.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is this the last move for me?

I move around a lot. My friends shake their heads at my gypsy ways and my children think I am nuts, but in the past 5 years I have moved 4 times, and if you count back to 1988 add 10 more. I have promised them this is the last stop for me, but the jury is out on whether or not they believe me.  This feels like a final state to state move, but perhaps not a final in city move. I am hoping at some point in the not too distant future to buy a house, but that remains to be seen. For the moment I am in a great apartment with a really functional floorplan and a terrific view.

There have been moves when I have hired moving companies, and ones when I have rented UHauls and done it myself. The professional moves have their own quirks and oddities, but you can't beat a do it yourself move for laughs.

At some point my ex had acquired some large, round cardboard barrels with metal lids that fastened with clamps. They originally had rice in them and were virtually indestructible. Once packed, they are also virtually impossible to pick up without a forklift. Each time I tried to move one with a dolly, it somehow managed to roll right off. At one point one rolled down the driveway and had started down the street before the kids chased it down and rolled it back. Due to their indestructability, it seemed a good idea to pack more fragile items in them, and I have to admit there wasn't any breakage when I unpacked. The problem was I couldn't reach the bottom half of the barrels and had to tip them over and practically crawl inside to unpack them. After that move I declined to be involved with any barrels, indestructible or otherwise.

Another diy move involved 3 bikes standing upright, secured by a complicated system of bungie cords and rope to a homemade trailer, pulled by our station wagon driven by me. Things were going swimmingly until too many curves in the winding road had them all listing to the side. I pulled over to assess the situation, wondering if I could make it to our new house or if I should try to shove them upright on the trailer, at which point they slid gently and rather gracefully to the side of the road.  As I stared at the tangled pile of bikes and cords and rope on the ground, I glanced at the car to see my sleeping children and wondered fleetingly if anyone would miss them if I chucked them over the side of the mountain...the bikes, not the children. My 7 year old son took that moment to pop up from the back of the car and enthusiastically offer to ride on the trailer and hold onto them. I thanked him for his offer but managed to load them back onto the trailer, although I refused to stand them up, and strapped them all back on. This was the same trip that's become known as the time I almost left my son at a gas station. Not intentionally, of course, but still. After I filled up the tank, I started the car and began to pull away when my 10 year old daughter looked into the backseat and asked where her brother was. Slamming on the breaks, I leaned over the back of the seat and threw the covers and pillows around, because I apparently thought he was the size of a hamster. I ran into the gas station and asked the gal behind the counter if she had seen a little redheaded boy come thru.  She pointed to the attached bar and there was my little guy, kneeling on a barstool, asking the bartender if he could have an orange soda.

A memorable move involved me, an enormous drive it yourself truck and my best pal, Marilyn. I was a little short of cash, so elected to rent the biggest truck the company had, hire a couple of guys to pack it up, then road trip to California. Marilyn had planned on visiting her family and they were close to where I was going, so we set off, me and my dog in my car and her driving the behemoth of a van. I am still in awe of how she managed it, since I drove it exactly once and vowed never again. Once we got to our destination, she realized she had left her coin purse and one of my credit cards at a McDonald's about 200 miles behind us. A phone call later, my friend had convinced one of the gals behind the counter to not only look for the little purse, but to mail my card to me.  Once we reached our destination, I rolled up the door at the back of the truck and things had shifted so badly during the trek across the states that stuff started falling out, including a set of dumbbells.  I instinctively threw myself in front of the tumbling items to try to block their fall, because heaven forbid heavy, bulky, metal things fall onto the street. One of them crashed into my lower leg and I had a bruise the size of a saucer for about a month.

For this recently completed move I hired professionals, but I am not sure they did any better job. The guys who unloaded my stuff acted like they were luggage handlers at the airport, dropping boxes from a couple of feet off the ground. When I expressed concern to one of the men over his dropping a box, he replied "it was heavy". No kidding, that's why I hired professionals, you nitwit. They also were oblivious to the fact that they were stacking heavy boxes on boxes that were damaged and/or collapsing. I was surprised there wasn't a lot of breakage, but if I do one thing well, it's pack.

This move is over for now and it may indeed be my last one.  Just a day ago I unpacked my very last box and for the first time, didn't flatten the empty boxes to save for the next move. I sucked up my courage and recycled the lot of them. That's a big step for me. Maybe the first step on the road to staying put for more than a year. We'll see.
The view from my south facing deck