The Tuna Test

What is your criteria for checking out a new lunch spot? Decor? Waitstaff? Cleanliness? Prices?  All of the above? Mine is how good their tuna sandwich is. I’m very fussy about tuna. I only want solid white, nothing even remotely looking or smelling like cat food.Usually I make my mom try it out first, maybe take a small bite. Looking at it is important; texture imperative. Is it in chunks or all mushed up together?  Does it taste fishy (hello? waitress, this smells old, can i please have a grilled cheese instead?) The grilled cheese, one of the safest foods you can order from a coffee shop or  diner.We literally pick places to eat by whether their tuna is acceptable, even admirable when we need a tuna fix. My friend, Susie, poisoned my mind  years ago, by telling me that you cannot save a half eaten tuna sandwich in the refrigerator overnight. You can never have the other half the next day. According to her one date with a Pharmacist there is something about the tuna and the mayonnaise that take some compounds of one and minerals in the other to make it unacceptable for her pharmacy friend’s private FDA. For months I went along with this, being the highly suggestible hypochondriac that I am. Later, I decided it was “Kvatch” translation, crap or made up. What could happen, I say now? So I get food poisoning and I lose a pound, nothing gained, nothing lost.

Another thing to be aware of is coffee and this is tough but also optional. The weak brown water coffee or the thick as mud coffee is not necessarily a deal breaker providing there is a Starbucks nearby ( or a Dunkin Donuts if you were my sister.)

The last item on our coffee shop/diner inspection is the distinctive 3+ layered  revolving dessert case. WHAT? no   revolving dessert carousel? That one gives us pause to think. If you don’t have the option to buy a g0od dessert, and one that is revolving  has many tantalizing choices how good can it really be?  I’m not saying you Have to have dessert but you definitely should have the option. Dessert requirements include: a rainbow cake or rainbow cookies, a chocolate cake, cheesecake with fake strawberries, rice pudding with raisins and cinnamon and something oozing with honey and gooey with nuts like the ever so delicious backlava to which I am a self proclaimed slave.

By all means, wrap up the leftovers, proudly tag them in your refrigerator. Resolve NOT to go out to eat for a month; dine on Lean Cuisine’s and Weight Watcher’s dinners for only 6 points. But, next time you do decide to go out, think carefully. We all are short of money these days, order carefully, let the good times roll,weigh the options, enjoy your meals, and always leave a tip. The waitstaff thanks you.

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When Life Sucks, Eat Chocolate

Yesterday, I snuck a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar from the kitchen  furtively up the stairs. In addition, for balance, a 100 calorie pack of Lorna Dunes. I slipped in to my darkened bedroom and hid under the covers.  On one hand I had a 100 calorie pack of “Lorna Dunettes” and in the other a big milk chocolate bar. Together, I thought, the taste would be exhilirating. It’s all about the contrast . Sweet, soft, salty, crunch …   in my world it  was like a mini “fmores”  ( faux smores) festival. Luckily, the only one in the family that noticed was my dog, Callie, who gave me a knowing look;. she  blinked twice and sped up the stairs in front of me. While I was not going to share my chocolate with the  dog, she does love Lorna Dunes; they are one of her favorite cookies; mine too.  Lorna Dunes are melt in your mouth cookies, they are the cookie version of M and M’s, another fine dining experience.

I know, I know, I’m an “emotional eater” and knowledge is NOT power. Yes, I eat when I am unhappy.  Yes, food comforts me, it makes me happier. Tonight, I don’t give a damn. Spent the last 2 entire days sobbing because my favorite, unofficial aunt (or, come on, fill in the blank) “faunt” passed away 2 nights ago. The day before that was my dad’s birthday; he’s been dead 8 years. That’s a hard couple of days. I cried until my eyes were literally stuck together, my nose was a candidate for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and my face was all kinds of puffy 3 ways. I didn’t care.  I ate. And, yes, it did make me feel better.

I hate hearing all these non-eating gurus speak about how emotional eating is so bad for us. I say, “so what?”  If it  helps (ok, ok, in moderation) just do it. As long as it’s legal, as long as it’s short -term. Basically, if I am upset or worried or depressed or all of the above and I crave chocolate, chocolate I will have.  Some days I want pretzels but that’s an ordinary snack one that I would not use for a cheer up convention. Pretzels are a clean snack. A healthy snack would not raise my mood an iota. For that we need endorphins (cool word, right?) the ones that they say people get after they excercise a lot. A real high. It’s hard to even type through my hysteria..I mean, really, exercise to get happy? Honestly, I don’t even understand the idea much less the concept. Exercise = Happiness? Not from where I come from. Believe me, I wish it worked for me.  It doesn’t.

When I was younger I loved Snowballs. Snowballs for those of you who don’t know (and I AM sorry) are a round chocolate cake with cream inside a la the Twinkie, BUT, most importantly, this exquisite sculpture of heaven-sent blessings are covered with a thick (i’m drooling) layer of pink marshmelow coating that has thousands of, okay, maybe hundreds, of  coconut flakes all over and inside them. It’s Christmas in April. It’s Channukah gelt, it’s jelly doughnuts on New Years Eve.

Look, some of us are not meant to be a size 6 or even 16. That’s life, that’s truth; that fellow chocolate lovers is the real deal. Don’t deny it. Skinny bitches might band together but those of us who crave carbs  know. Real women know. Give us pasta, pizza, chocolate, fritos, cookies and ice cream and we are happy. I’m not endorsing binging, I’m not endorsing purging. I am endorsing ” a little bit of this, a little bit of that….”(stolen from the Fiddler on the Roof) Anatevka…. Home to many of us.

Talking about tradition, my family has one for New Year’s Eve.  They are called jelly doughnuts. That is really the only celebration we have that I  have celebrated since I was a child. I could eat jelly doughnuts twice a day if they weren’t so oily (yum) and fattening (bummer) and be happy. Forget the champagne, my tradition needs a large glass of milk.  The jelly component is very, repeat, very, IMPORTANT.  The doughnuts I grew up with, once a year, were  pure and lovely pieces of art. Truly, the sprinkled sugar on top–NOT confectioner’s sugar, was equally placed all over the doughnut to perfection. That was from the Homestead Deli/Gourmet shop where we used to go when we lived in Kew Gardens, Queens.

I am not a perfectionist, I DON’T NEED that particular doughnut from that particular store. Dunkin Donuts are fine by me. And every year we buy doughnuts from them on New Year’s Eve, 2 chocolate doughnuts for my husband and daughter, 2 jelly doughnuts for my son and myself .Well, sometimes 4 jelly doughnuts because I just cannot choose between the raspberry and strawberry fillings.  Which to pick? How do I know I will like it? Why don’t I remember from year to year? These are important issues for me. At last,  an easy solution,  a Libra solution: I buy one of each  and only eat the doughy jelly part from both. How can you lose?  Maybe this year (probably not) I will write down my favorite and then just get that every year. Of course I’ve been saying that for many years and i know I won’t do it. Tis the season. Get happy. Eat.

Facebook Friends?

I’ve learned the hard way that just because you’ve been “friended” on Facebook, doesn’t necessarily mean you have new friends.  There’s no guarantee that you’ve reconnected with a very old friend either. Really, all you have done is clicked a button that possibly signifies ” we knew each other in passing 45 years ago.”  It’s not a given that you will renew these friendships with vigor.  It’s not the ideal setting for an old fashioned reunion .Been there, done that. I’ve learned the hard way that just because someone accepts your “friendship” does not mean they want to be your friend.

I  have friends that I have great fondness for because of our shared childhood. Race to the present and I have nothing in common with them anymore or them with me. Is that enough to call it a friendship?  A past friendship? An acquaintance? “A long-time acquaintance?

I was truly too naive for Facebook.  Initially I thought that once we were “friends” we really would stay in touch or reconnect, even meet.  That’s not always how it works, that’s how I wished it worked. Cynical and distrustful  doesn’t come naturally to me but I’m learning fast. “Facebook” as we know it is really is a facade.  Faux friends.

My children collect ” friends” on Facebook like my son used to collect baseball  or Pokemon cards. The more you have, the cooler you must be. Some adults fall prey to this as well. I’m not one of them.

A friend to me is one that I can count on. Always. I may not see this person more than a couple of times a year but I know for sure that if I needed him/her at 3AM for any reason, they would be there. No questions asked.  That is a true friend. One that holds you in their hearts, and would do anything for you at anytime. It’s more than just someone you have had  brief experience with in the past. Someone that is there for you through thick and thin, hot and cold, ups and downs and all around.  The truth about friendship is that you really don’t need 623 friends. It doesn’t mean anything. What matters is that you have a few people in your life that you count on and they count on you. It’s common sense and a no-brainer but I fell for the whole new concept of being “friended” too.

I actually felt hurt when some of my so-called friends  on Facebook did not have any interest  in planning a reunion or picking up the pieces that were dropped years ago.    Facebook is not a real reflection of the amount of friends that you have. It’s only the amount of people you can collect.

So, for many of the people I “friended” I’m sorry.  Fantasy is nice, but reality is what counts. For all the Matthews, Linda’s, Susie’s that I” friended” I should have known better.I’m old fashioned and I wanted to believe that we could just pick up where we left off 25 years ago. I should have known that when you don’t hear from people it’s because they don’t want to be friends with you anymore or do not have the capacity for it.  True friendship comes with instinct and the feeling you get when you know you like and trust a person.  It also comes with time.

Recently I became friends with a woman named Sarah. We’ve known each other for years and I often thought I would like to get to know her but neither of us did anything about it.  This year, when I saw her, I took a chance. I plunged. I  asked if she would like to get together sometime for coffee. She said “yes.” We’ve gotten together many times now and I consider her one of my new best friends. We talk about our children, we talk about us as parents, we share things, and we don’t judge each other. We are here to support each other. When I was sick, she brought me flowers and DVD’s to watch.  The true meaning of friendship does not come by way of Facebook, it comes with chemistry, instinct and a slight bit of chance.  Making a new friend is fairly uncommon at our ungodly ages but it worked. And, as the kids say, she’s my new BFF and I didn’t meet her on Facebook, I met her half way.

If I could change my past…….I would:

*   have pushed through the fear and not let it stop me

*   have  FOUGHT for more attention

*   have  learned how to say “YES/”NO” earlier in life

*   not have been such a goody-goody

*   not worried about what everyone thought

*   made decisions quickly instead of a Libra’s wishy-washy ways

*   tried many new things, just because…..

*   not done what I knew I was “good at” or what was ” familiar”

*   not been so very afraid and worried all the time

*   not blame people for what they could not help

*   forgiven people faster and better

*   expressed my feelings instead of holding them in

*   taken many, many more chances

The Top 8 Reasons Why It’s Not Good To Have A Torn Ligament (foot)

8 ) you no longer have the stairs to count on as exercise while doing laundry

7) you don’t get to go out to eat and choose what you want

6) if you have assorted chocolate snacks next to you, you eat them all, you can’t go to the kitchen and put them back

5) you can’t do the laundry (see number 8 )

4) if someone visits or calls you, they KNOW you are home

3) your kids pretend you’re just taking one long nap

2) all you think about is if you should watch Ellen or Oprah on TV?

1) Nobody really cares

The Day My Father Died

I knew my father had died 3 years before he actually did.  He had been having health problems, none of which were life-threatening,  and a long, overwhelming bout with depression that neither psychotherapy or drugs could cure.  My mother had gone out to eat with a friend, for a break, and she asked me to have dinner with my dad to keep him company. I remember we went out to an Italian restaurant he had always liked; he ordered risotto.I don’t’ remember what I ate.

After dinner I went back with him to the apartment that he and my mom shared. Knowing his love for music, particularly “Der Fledermaus”,  I suggested we put it on. He didn’t want to. I was absolutely shocked and I had no idea why; I didn’t understand.  I grew up in a household where “Der Fledermaus” a Viennese operetta was played so often I could sing portions of it myself. We lived in an apartment house and I could hear the music the minute I stepped off the elevator and all through the hallways. I remember ringing the bell and no one would answer, not because they weren’t home but because you couldn’t hear the bell over the ridiculously loud and embarrassing music. Often, my dad was seen conducting the “orchestra” with a pointer, whistling happily and in perfect pitch.

This operetta had always been his joy, his one sure thing. He loved this music so much that it was a part of his soul.  After much persuasive nagging and encouragement he finally  put it on the stereo.  The stereo that had arrived in 1,000 tiny pieces that he and I had put together many years ago, one bolt, one screw, one piece of lumber at a time.  With the music on now, I thought his mood would definitely brighten.  It didn’t. I wanted to do anything that might make him happier, to see even a ghost of a smile.  I asked him if he wanted to dance, remembering how he would beg me to dance with him when I was much younger.  He stood there.  I looked at him, incredibly naiive, and said” you used to love this music,” “It always made you so happy!” and he replied slowly” I  don’t feel anything anymore.”  I looked in his dull blue- gray eyes and saw no joy, no hint of happiness, I saw nothing.He turned and took the record off the turntable with robotic movements.

I asked him how long he wanted me to stay and he literally looked at his watch and said I should leave at 10pm even if my mom wasn’t home.It was 9:45pm.  I couldn’t believe that he even looked at his wristwatch, another Holy Grail for him, that he would coordinate, to the second with a voice recording on the telephone, but he did.  He didn’t want me there anymore. When I hugged him good-bye, he looked directly in my face and said “when you leave here, be happy.” The utter shock of that statement, along with the night’s experience, felt like a ferocious blow to my stomach and had shattered my heart. I remember twisting the doorknob and leaving, splaying myself on the outer wall, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe.

It was a memory that to this day, 8 years later, I cannot forget. My tears are rolling down my cheeks so fast now that I can’t take a breath, my crying is loud and the pain is raw. I told a friend who had just lost a parent, that it got easier, with time; now I feel like I liedto her.  It doesn’t get easier, it just seems that way because the grief wells up less often.  I can literally feel my own dull red, pumping heart being smashed into  pieces all over again, not that it ever healed perfectly.  You tell people it gets better, it gets easier but does it?  Your life becomes BEFORE and AFTER and there is no turning back.When my father really died, a friend actually introduced me to “the club.”  “A club, she said, for people who have lost a parent.”  I didn’t want to be a member of that club, but it is true, no one else understands what it’s like until you experience it yourself.  I cannot stop crying, I sob into the old, faded beige handkerchiefs my dad used to carry. I hold my body with my crossed arms and I rock back and forth, back and forth until the time I get so tired, I curl myself up into a little ball and, still crying,  pray for sleep.

Dedicated to my dad : November 13, 1923 – December 31, 2002

Parenting 101 – The Teenagers

I was watching an episode of TV with my daughter and it was about a young teen boy and his mother. The mother says to her husband: “he’s pulling away from me, we’re not close anymore.” Guess what? She’s right. My kids are 15 and 17 and you need to know that that’s what kids need to do, individuation I believe it’s called. But it still hurts like hell when it starts. I’ve heard that they come back to you but it’s not for awhile. Luckily, I’m somewhat used to the separation because our kids have been going to sleep-away camp for 7 years now. NEVER did I think that they would want to do that. Ok, never did I think my son would ever want to do that, my daughter wanted to go to sleep away camp since she was 3!!!

My son (by the way no offense to my husband, I know they are OUR children but…) is a Junior in HS. He, at some point, has to start thinking about college. As of now, he will do anything to avoid talking about it-he’s just not ready.If he could he would cover up his ears and scream “Nah Nah Nah.”  I continue to prepare myself because that separation is way more than sleep away camp and I know it. There are no visiting days every two weeks. It’s just not the same. (I have to admit I’m getting a little teary eyed right now). There’s only one school year between my son and my daughter so after he is in college for one year, she will be going away too. Empty nesters? How did THAT happen? Wasn’t it yesterday when I was crying every day and night because I couldn’t get pregnant?  The days slip by, even the months now..not that I mind that in the winter.  But as great as it is to parent your children and watch them grow, it’s sad too. Since the first day I was pregnant and maybe even before I remembered something from Khahil Gibran and I AM paraphrasing: Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters….they are lent to you, you do not own them.”

Parents, don’t worry. They will always love you. But, it is different. What can you do to make it easier?  One answer is:  Be prepared.  The real answer:  Nothing.

“Do what you love to do” or How on earth do I know what that is???

I always know I need to write most when I don’t want to. I’m doing it anyway. Chickened out (bawk bawk) of the platelet/plasma shot; my husband is now woefully totally unemployed. My mother, finally backed down and while NEVER apologizing (what’s that?) she called me. Her way of expressing remose perhaps–or is that wishful thinking? Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster which of course ended up in me gulping down 2 butterfingers, 1 hershey’s bar, and a couple of other pieces of candy (but HEY, they were all HALLOWEEN sizes so that doesn’t even add up to one whole bar, right?)  Before that I had a piece of multigrain bread with mayo (light) cheddar and turkey. ..so much for my attempt at vegetarianism. Not sure I can do it but at least I am eating healthier things – today I had lentil soup.

You know how Oprah and everyone else says “do what you love best?”  That’s the thing. I don’t know what I like do to best that would create money for me. I like to eat, I like to watch tv and movies, i love mothering–so far coming up with nothing. Of course i LOVE writing (especially because of my one fan) but pay the bills it does not do. So, while I am lying here hoping for my torn ligament (or broken foot as my daughter says) it’s something to contemplate. HEY, ANYONE KNOW ANYONE AT THE FOOD NETWORK??!!!

Unemployment Stinks

My husband was “officially” laid off today. It’s not a new thing but once it’s definite, it hurts more. The road from Full-Time to Part-Time doesn’t nearly affect you as much as going from Part-Time to NO TIME.  No Time. This definitely gives me a stomach ache but I’m TRYING to keep it in perspective. Not easy. We have two kids in High School,  a mortgage, the usual–not more interesting than thousands and thousands of other people. I’ve always felt for all the other people, now I feel with them. Not much to make you smile. My sense of humor is nowhere to be found.

Oh, and my mother wrote me an incredibly NASTY e-mail about how “she didn’t appreciate the tone in my e-mail, all in caps). For those who are new to this: see the Mouse drama.

In all honesty, I think I’ve been a much better daughter to her than she’s been a mother to me. (Am I even allowed to think this?)  It’s true though but at the moment I can’t bear to dig into the past, we’ll leave that for another time.

I’m trying to be encouraging (realistic though) about my husband’s job for his sake. The worst for me was seeing the defeat in his eyes when the news became official this morning. The 50’s- what golden years? Many people I know have cancer or other horrible illnesses, people (me included) are anxious, sad, nervous and afraid. How could we not be?  There are horrible people in this world doing horrendous things. I sat in total disbelief as I watched the tragedy unfold in Teas yesterday. I don’t understand.  I will never understand certain things.

What I do know is Mothering.  I am a good mother to my children, not only do I love them, I ADORE and LIKE THEM too. Goals in life? Mine was always to be a mother. It took me 2 and a half years of painful infertility treatments to become pregnant with my first child, my son. I appreciated every moment I was pregnant, I was joyful, and when my daughter came along I was equally as thrilled.  I am not Pollyanna. Sure, I get frustrated with my two teenagers. Isn’t that part of the teenage doctrine? When I was a teenager I was taking care of my own parents and sister. Now, laid up in bed with my torn ligament, my own mother doesn’t even bring over chicken soup, or an American cheese sandwich, or flowers.  She always taught us not to ask people if they are hungry, but to bring things out and give to them. Apparently, a lesson learned by me but not carried out by her. I have a difficult relationship with my mother; it was my dad who always understood me. It’s been 8 years and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him or grieve for him. Time heals all? No, not really. TIme takes away the intensity. That deep, open, raw wound does get better with time but it never goes away. Never.  I’ll write more later. Hopefully the Halloween candy  is not in the house anymore, because that could be dangerous. Life goes on and we with it, but it’s not always fun, it”s often sad and complicated. I have that feeling in my stomach where I know I could cry easily, sob, maybe. But, I will wait until my husband is on the train. I don’t want to add to his burden. He is such a sweet guy.  As the teenagers say: this bites. They are so right.

“Oops I did it again…”

It wasn’t Halloween candy. It wasn’t even chocolate (the little drizzle on top certainly can’t COUNT as chocolate). It was, however, a gift from my son( and how can any mom reject a show of affection like that?)  Don’t even know what it was. “was” being the operative word.  It was a tiny square, ok it was a square of flakey, honey, maybe nuts, not sure, tastebud delight. I kid you not. It was Baklava and it wasn’t. It wasn’t drenched in honey like Backlava is but it wasn’t used sparingly. I loved it. Luckily, I had my bite, felt only a tiny bit guilty (no I didn’t) and enjoyed it. I hope to never see this luscious item in any store or bakery. I hope I can forget the flaky texture and the sweet nectar that is honey, forever. Of course, just want to clarify, only had a salad for dinner and there was no creamy ranch or thousand island dressing on it. Balsamic Breeze, just a little, or 7, spritzes right on the salad. The problem with salads? I’m still hungry.

To be even more annoying I am set up for the blood-plasma-platelet shot on Wednesday. I have no clue what I am doing. I made the appointment though (but as we all know when our dentist reminders come in the mail with their toothy smiles) I can put it off or cancel it. Trying not to think of the pain. Anyone ever have this shot? talk about a play on words, I shot myself in the foot. There’s a reason I’m not smiling

. My husband is at the first college procedures talk at the HS for our son who is a Junior. We wanted to tape it so I could see it but the teenagers (15 and 17) screamed like I planned to streak across the stage. We had mortified them again, just at the thought of bringing a Flip, my huband’s toy, to the meeting. So, my husband who is tired and has ADD Inattention is there,  texting me about what a germ zone it is in the auditorium. Purell. Lots of Purell. Now, pay attention!!! Thank goodness for my friend Sarah who is there as well. I trust her implicitly and I know she will be listening, with both ears; she has twins.  One always needs a trusted friend to be places when you can not attend. Grey’s Anatomy on tonight….