A Place at the Table

May 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Last night, Scott and I joined members of our community for a documentary screening at the food pantry where I volunteer.  The pantry itself is run out of the basement of a church and the movie was held in the church itself.  Besides it being a little surreal for this recovering Catholic to be eating popcorn and drinking soda while sitting in a pew before the altar, the event went really well.  The documentary was absolutely eye-opening and something everyone should see.

A Place at the Table tells the stories of three different Americans who deal with food insecurity and hunger on a daily basis.  One of the stories follows a young woman who is a single mother raising two children in Philadelphia.  The other shows a young girl in Mississippi whose heavy weight causes health problems and the other highlights a different young girl in Colorado whose family struggles to fill their plates.  The whole documentary describes how over 40 million people in America don’t have enough to eat and how much of what is being eaten can’t exactly be considered nutritious.  It shows how food deserts impact communities, because these small towns are too far off the beaten trail for produce trucks to make deliveries.  Families having to drive 30-40 minutes each way for a vegetable other than a banana isn’t unheard of and we are given the depressing fact that nearly 1 of every 2 children in the country will use food assistance at some point in their childhoods.  It’s a stark look at what life is like for far too many people and it’s a wake up call to those of us who have it better.

Food for thought

There are many factors that go into this and some of it doesn’t appear to make much sense.  For instance, how can Mississippi be both the state that has the highest amount of food insecurity yet also be the most overweight?  Well, if you look at what people are eating, you’ll find your answer.  As you can see, it’s much cheaper to buy 3,000 calories worth of soda and chips than it is to buy that fill of fruits and vegetables, and the poverty that many in the nation are facing makes it damn near impossible for them to afford healthy foods.  They showed footage from Top Chef, where the contestants were asked to make a lunch for schoolchildren using the amount of money that schools typically receive from the government.  In one meal, over two pounds of sugar was used because it was the cheapest thing to cook with – fruits were out of the question because they were too expensive.  Government subsidies, education, food stamps (now known as SNAP) eligibility requirements…there are many reasons that we have this current situation on our hands.  This documentary shows how all of these things work together to create a perfect storm that is causing us to raise a generation that will be sicker and live a shorter lifespan than their parents – which is the first time in generations that this is the case.

The whole issue is overwhelming and it’s hard to know how to help.  I’ve been volunteering with the pantry for almost four years and we’ve seen the need for supplemental food sources increase, not decrease.  The best thing I can think to do is to make others aware that there are people – who could be living down the street or in the apartment next door – who are starving.  In America.  It’s insane to think about and Jeff Bridges (who, besides being the namesake for our cat The Dude, founded the End Hunger Network in 1984 and supported the filming of this documentary) says that if another country were doing this to our children, we’d be at war.  Instead, we’re in denial.  If you want to do something, you can start by watching this documentary (available through Netflix).  It’s definitely worth your time.

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Ode to My Sister

May 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Image

It’s been 28 years since you came into the world

so I don’t even remember a life that doesn’t include you,

sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be an only child

College may have been paid for but it would have been kind of lonely, too.

Growing up in the country, we didn’t have many neighborhood friends

and were made to play mostly with each other,

we shared games and sports and stories and more

though sometimes I wished I had been given a brother.

It would be an understatement to say we didn’t always play nice

and some of our fights were pretty ugly indeed,

for instance, remember the first time I was allowed to babysit us both

and tried to stick you with a fire poker until you would bleed?

Of course you could be vicious right back to me too

like the time that you broke my arm,

you can’t even say it was just an accident

let’s face it – we both tried to do each other some harm!

We weren’t too close through our high school years

as we both were trying to figure out exactly who we were

but then in college we managed to hang out and actually have fun

and I became much happier that I had a little sister.

You surprised me with your schooling and now you’ve got yourself a career

You’re constantly doing things that make me proud and leave me impressed,

You’ve come a long way from the kid with the worms in her purse

who ran away from me in the Atlanta airport, leaving me stressed.

We’ve been through a lot and hopefully have much more heading our way

and no matter what lies around the bend,

I don’t think we would be who we are if it weren’t for the other

and I can honestly say you’re not just my sister but also my friend.

Awwww – Happy Birthday Sissy!

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How Presidential

May 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

In an event that was appropriate for Memorial Day, Scott and I were able to get a tour of President Obama’s helicopter yesterday afternoon.  An old friend of mine is in the Marines and he was in town for a few days so he offered us a tour since we had the day off.  The tour was supposed to start at 11am but due to political and bureaucratic red tape (shocker) we didn’t enter the hanger until almost 1pm.  There were all sorts of rules (such as no photographs of the aircraft when the doors were open, only one person on the staircase at a time, etc.) and the other Marines who were there had their hands on their weapons at all times.  I guess that was in case I decided to try to steal a pillow or something (which I didn’t! – I promise, FBI!).  I got to see the inside of the helicopter and even sat in the President’s chair!  Fun fact – he keeps hand sanitizer and a box of tissues Velcro-ed to the wall near his seat (fascinating, I know).  Also, there’s no bathroom on board.  There used to be but they removed it for weight purposes.  So even the President has to hold it sometimes!

Don't worry, the doors are closed.

Don’t worry, the doors are closed.

The tour lasted roughly four minutes but even after waiting so long to begin with, I was glad I went.  It’s not like I get a chance to tour such an aircraft every day!  Besides, it was a fitting way to spend Memorial Day and I was glad to hang out with my soldier buddy, especially since it’s been something crazy like ten years (maybe longer) since I’ve seen him.  I was also extra interested in the helicopter because I’ve seen it flying by our office when the President comes to town.  Now I know what it’s like to be on the inside!  Of course, we were on the ground in a hangar instead of hundreds of feet in the air and the President was nowhere near, but that’s okay.  I used my imagination.

The whole experience was very interesting and it served to remind me just how intense the military is.  I mean I guess that should be obvious but the protocols, procedures, rules and chains of command are just dizzying.  Regardless of how I feel about any war, I’m always supportive of those who think it is their duty to serve.  Even if that duty means giving civilians such as myself a tour for a day!

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Foodie Friday

May 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Thanks to the warmer weather Scott and I have been on a veggie burger kick lately (this does not apply to today as it was 40 degrees on my walk to the train this morning).  I’ve had a lot of veggie burgers in my day and some are definitely better than others.  For instance, every few years I get this masochistic urge to try the Burger King veggie patty to basically see if it tastes any better than the last time I ordered it.  It never does and for some reason I’m always surprised by that.  Anyway between the two of us, we’ve basically tried every type of veggie friendly burger that most stores have to offer and we eventually settled on the Trader Joe’s house brand.  They’re huge patties and full of actual vegetables instead of just soy protein.  They cook in under 10 minutes on the stove top and make a delicious sandwich.  Need proof?  See below.

Better than Burger King!

Better than Burger King!

We also purchased a bag of garlic fries from Trader Joe’s and put them in the oven while we cooked the burgers.  They made a perfect side and were tastier than any fries I can remember having from a restaurant or bar in a long, long time.  To top my burger, I put avocado on one side of the bun and a chipotle mayo on the other.  Feta cheese was sprinkled on top of the patty nd you can’t see it but there are tomatoes and onions on here too.  It was healthier than anything a fast food place could serve up and tasted so good I was tempted to make a second.  Luckily, my stomach was so full after eating what you see here that I couldn’t get off the couch quick enough to shove any more in my face.

See, vegetarians have options too!  And this is a good one to bring to any Memorial Day BBQ’s.  Happy long weekend!

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Hospitals and Old Men

May 22, 2013 at 10:22 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Thankfully, these two things are not related (at least not in this post).

I know three different women who are undergoing surgeries or procedures in hospitals today, in three different states.  The one in Louisville has already come out of it and seems to be doing just fine, so long as she doesn’t share any embarrassing details of her sex life with her mother as she’s all doped up on the ride home.  A family member in Houston who has already faced way, way too many surgeries and health issues to count is going through yet another surgery today and will likely be in the hospital for the next five days or so.  Luckily, she’s one of the strongest women I know and I have no doubt she’ll prove that yet again with this latest trial.  Lastly, an old high school friend of mine in Florida is undergoing surgery to remove her breast today after she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She’s also very resilient and I know she’ll pull through this just fine.  She’s got a 6-year-old daughter and it reminds me of when my own mother battled breast cancer in her mid-30’s.  My sister and I did shots of tequila with her in Mexico to celebrate her 20th anniversary of being cancer free and I’m sure my old friend will one day be able to do the same with her own girl.

Just because my Papa likes lighthouses. And it’s an appropriate picture for today.

In the midst of all this anxiety, there are also things to celebrate.  My grandfather (my mom’s dad) is turning 85-years-young today.  Sure, he’s not as spry and agile as he used to be but he’s got vitality in his own way and he’ll get riled up to prove it.  My Papa is one of my favorite people (even when he’s being a cantankerous old grouch) and he’s taught me so much in the time I’ve been able to share with him.  For instance, I put a little bit of sugar into my tomato based dishes as it takes away some of the acidity and makes the whole thing sweeter – apparently all of my family does this because of him.  He also taught me the easiest way to crack and egg and that torn pieces of bread placed in a bowl and doused with milk and sugar makes a fairly decent breakfast cereal (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it).  Besides some culinary tricks of the trade, my Papa also taught me most of what I know about family.  He worked hard all his life to provide for his wife and six children and he loves all of us, including his nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, as much as anyone possibly could.  If he had his way he would give us every cent to his name and have us all living within 10 feet of his house.  He may not get around as well as he used to but I talk to him 3 to 4 times a week and he’s as sharp as he ever was.  I hope I’m as smart as he is when I’m 85.

I wish I could be with all three of my female friends and my grandpa today but unfortunately, I have yet to discover the secrets of breaking the space/time continuum.  Which means I’m stuck in my office.  However I’ll be thinking of everyone today and sending them all my love and healthy thoughts, as well as checking in as often as I can.  If you could put out a few good and positive vibes as well, we would all appreciate it!

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A Walk in the Park

May 20, 2013 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

We had a weekend full of beautiful weather and Scott and I decided to cap it off with a picnic dinner in the park last night.  We made sandwiches and brought along lots of fruits and veggies, then settled in to people watch and enjoy our food.  Little did we know that we’d be entertained with dinner and a show!

Dinner

Dinner

Show

Show

I know the pictures aren’t of the highest quality, but that’s what I get for taking them with my cell phone.  You can see that we weren’t the only ones enjoying the great evening and we watched a group of people? friends? wannabe cheerleaders? perform various jumps, cartwheels and maneuvers for a good portion of our meal.  One person would kind of crouch while another jumped onto their knees to be thrown into the air.  We never did figure out of they were practicing for some sort of improv group or what but they sure were entertaining to watch.  Not much later, we turned to the right and saw two guys tying a line up tightly between two trees.  Scott joked that maybe they would be tightrope walking while I thought perhaps they were preparing for some sort of jumping contest so I was pretty surprised when they proved Scott right.

Yup, these guys were walking on the bungee type line they hung up.  Only it wasn’t a bungee cord, rather it was a strap used to tie stuff down with.  I’m sure it’s got a proper name but I don’t know what it is.  Anyway, one of the guys was clearly better at tightrope walking than the other but they both managed to put a little distance on the thing, alternating between taking steps and falling off in ways that would help them not completely rack themselves.  We watched in amusement for a while and agreed that it looked pretty difficult.  As we started packing up to make our way home, they actually called out to us and told us we couldn’t leave without at least giving it a try.  Since I had already mentioned to Scott that I wanted to attempt it myself, I tied my skirt around my knees and ran on over.  The guys introduced themselves as Andy and Chainsaw (yes, he said his name was Chainsaw…I figured it was best to leave it at that) and Andy offered his shoulder to me as he explained the best way to try to stand on the rope.  So I tried it a few times and yup, it was hard.  As in, I didn’t even get to stand fully straight without falling off to one side.  I attempted it a few times then had a bad vision of me falling with my skirt over my head so I decided to give it a break.  Scott tried a few times too and while he stood straighter than I did, neither of us actually managed to take a step forward.  So I had a completely new-found respect for both Andy and Chainsaw.

We chatted a few more minutes then made our way home, but not before agreeing to try again should we ever come across each other in the park in the future.  Apparently they do this for fun and are not training for any upcoming circus as I previously thought.  Chainsaw had only tried to balance two other times before and so I told myself that if I tried a bit more often I could be walking it like he did.  So maybe next time I go to the park, I’ll wear a pair of shorts under my skirt just in case!

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Movin’ On Up!

May 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

So, things are calming down a little around the office.  So much so that I was able to take some time today and move into my very own office, complete with lakefront view!

Love it!

Love it!

Yes, I’m a little excited.  After nearly three years of sitting in a cubicle, this is a big step up.  The move actually came about because I brought it up in a meeting with my boss a few weeks ago but I honestly never thought he’d take me up on my suggestion.  So I’m feeling a little proud of myself and I’m trying to restrain from dancing around in the new space.  But I might go ahead and do that anyway because hey, I earned it!

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Technicial Difficulties

May 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized) ()

One of our servers at work crashed yesterday and now over a month’s worth of data may be lost.  Forever.  This means all invoices, payments, changes to ANY aspect of the portal that I use (to make changes) on a daily basis…everything is gone.  I spent my morning sifting through over 2,800 emails to find any changes that I’ve made.  The 100+ attorneys I deal with also use data stored on this server and so that’s gone too.

I’ve had better days.

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Bulldozing History

May 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

So sad.

Talk about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.

A construction company in Belize has destroyed one of the oldest and most famous Mayan pyramids in the area, because they were looking for gravel to use as road filler.  You can read more about it here.   Things like this are devastating for so many reasons.  Culture and history are being lost for no real gain and the greed displayed here is just plain disgusting.  These pyramids are over 2,300 years old and now they’re gone forever, so a road can be put in.  Obviously this type of destruction happens on a much too often basis but it’s saddening and frustrating nonetheless.  The construction company behind this may be facing criminal charges, which I think would be perfectly appropriate.  You know that saying, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it?  Well, those who destroy history are doomed to forget it.

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A Day For Women

May 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, a day where we typically celebrate the woman who gave us life.  I know that for me personally, I’ve been blessed with the best mother I could have ever asked for, not to mention loving grandmothers and caring aunts.  And as awesome as all of these women are, I’m reminded that there are many types of Mother’s who also deserve appreciation.

Step-mothers, foster mothers and adopted mothers are obvious here, because clearly they’re moms too.  Not so obvious are the mothers who no longer have their children because of illness, injury, accidents or something else, or the women who desperately want to be mothers but for whatever reason are unable to do so.  There are also the women who had a child at one point but then lost them before they ever even met them, and the women who could have been mothers but decided they weren’t quite ready for the challenge.  There are children with two mothers and children with two fathers who also serve as mothers.

Thanks, Mom!

There are also women who had just plain shitty mothers.  Some people should not have children but that doesn’t mean that they won’t.  There are women who were raised motherless or wish they had been and there are women who have lost their mothers altogether.  In short, while we all have a mother, there are as many different relationships that can stem from that as there are people walking around on this planet.

I’m not a mother myself so I won’t pretend to have any idea what it’s like to push a human being from my vagina and then try to raise it in today’s day and age.  Hell, I’m not sure I’ll ever know what that’s like.  But I do know that all of the good mothers out there completely blow my mind and are people who I look up to every day.  So to all the moms who love their children – kudos to you!

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