Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deep Fried Butter

State Fair of Texas' contenders include deep-fried butter, peaches | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News

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I kid you not.

This is a worthy creation. Talk about Extreme Eating.

As for marketing, I'm thinking: it's functional, it's probably grossly delicious and it's fun. For those who want to harden their arteries just that much faster.

Slogan: Twice the heart attack inducing power in just two mouthfuls!

And as for how it would be served:

For those who want it straight and think suicide should at least be tasty. Those hemlock soups are just so bitter.

For those who need a chaser, there's a tres leches milk shake with extra whip cream. Drink up. Munch. Clear!

Ahhhh. Me home state.

Post Partum ABC

Post Partum ABC’s by Sherry Antonetti

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Photoshop Reflections in the Arena of Politics

If I had tech savvy, I'd create a program where one could turn anyone using the Photoshop tools into the Joker from the most recent Batman movie. Then I'd use it on Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, (okay, that might not make much effect), on Barney Frank, on Ahmadinejad, on Kim Yong-il, on Harry Reid, on George W. Bush (I know, it's been done), on Michael Steele, on Bill Clinton, on Hillary, on Al Gore and on Ronald Reagan (I think this was done too by the way). I figure the various images would be like a political Rorschach. One's ideology would determine if the picture was sexist or homophobic or scathing political commentary or dangerous or stupid or racist or simply a mask placed on a face.


There's this poster of the President as the Joker. Some are claiming racism because at a low point in the history of our country, "black face" was wrongfully considered entertainment. But does the mere use of the President's face in a poster to protest, using the Joker as a means of expression constitute the height of insensitivity? I'll give that it does not reveal the height of creativity.

The President has been rendered in art in messianic and biblical and mythological terms. He's been Superman, Jesus and Moses, the heir to the Kennedy legacy, he's been given a halo and painted as the ressurected Christ. These too, I would argue are offensive even as they praise, because they pair theological and spiritual values with political ones. The President is African American. The combination makes him historic, but by no means sacred or holy or even just super powered.

I also object to the spotlight and website and television program dedicated to the 86,400 seconds of every day for the four years of his presidency. None of us are seen properly by either being portrayed as bigger than life or less than human. This is true of the leaders put under the microscope or enlarged to IMAX size, and of those who voted for and against. I believe there ought to be access but that does not require absolute intimacy on the trivial.

But back to the poster and those who see racism in its creation, promotion and existence. Ascribing hate to the motives of anyone, even someone we consider unsavory, involves making a judgment about character, about the state of the soul we judge and subsequently condemn. Condemning is easy, it allows us to ignore anything at all from that source, even legitimate criticisms and questions.

Is the poster of the President as the Joker offensive? I didn't think so at first glance because I'm something of a nerd and so my first association is not "White face" but "Comics, the Joker."

Can I see why some would find it offensive? Upon reflection, sure.

Do I think it should be banned because it is offensive? No.

Why? Because our country celebrates free speech. We have the right to satirize, to criticize, praise or mock our leaders and our government with our words, with satire, with art, with music, with every capacity we have at our disposal. I didn't care much for all the vitriol at Sarah Palin and her family, but I understood that when you sign up for being in the public square, you should expect to get bloodied. Still, it is a rough business. You get posters and jokes and paintings that seem more about "being mean" than content.

But I know that good satire reveals the society to itself. Bad satire reveals the author to the world. Great satire does both. I would argue this is an attempt at political satire but that it lacks depth. There's no there there.


Because the Joker was not a socialist but an anarchist,so the analogy doesn't hold. Further, we may disagree about the finances, about foreign policy, about health care, about abortion, about any myriad of topics one wants to discuss, but plastering a poster that says "Socialism" beneath it is to me as uninteresting as a contribution to the national discussion as the posters that say "Hope." These aren't discussions, they're slogans. Yeah! Boo! Nay! Huzzah! This is what these pictures reduce our national discussion to, agree or disagree. That's it.

One always hopes no matter what our political stripe, that the other side will be merciful. We always hope the other side will play fair, and frequently, we don't hold our own side accountable because the other side didn't either. It's hard not to want that eye for an eye. It's also hard to surrender any symbol or method of attack in the arena of ideas that shows signs of being effective. Ideology may be a choice of the heart and mind, but politics is about one thing, just win baby.

This is why the gift of political free speech is so very precious. Even so, it will be abused. Those who enter politics must recognize they and their families will be excoriated by those who do not love their way of thinking or them. This is why public office is something of a vocation. One may opt to enter for love of power or influence or altruistic or utopian or civic minded idealism, but it still involves sacrifice even if the reasons for entering or staying are less than noble.

And while politics is all about winning, policy making in the traditional sense, is about compromise. I see very little in any of the bodies of our Government interested in crafting any bills that will garner broad public support and be just to all while addressing very real social ills. There may be some out there trying, but at the very least, they are not getting very far while we spend all our energies calling the other side right or left wingnuts, racists or kool-aid drinkers.

I've never met anyone who had their heart or mind moved on a subject of any import because of an insult. Nor have I ever seen effective policy crafted by virtue of clever snarky remarks. Photoshopping our opponents to make the valued contributions disappear, or our heros to erase the faults does a disservice to the entire country and to the individuals affected by our airbrushing of ideas and those who hold them dear.

National dialogue on real issues needs to happen. There are dozens of issues that matter, like race, like abortion, like education, health care, the economy, the debt, the wars abroad, national security, the housing market, wallstreet, social security and immigration to name just a few. What we want our nation to be in the world won't happen as long as long knives, internet wolves and photoshoppers of the sound bite and kodak moments are used on every occasion whenever any advancement of any argument garners traction.

This is not a call for people to shut up and sit down, it is a call to our leaders to recognize that there are 350 million people in this nation and all of us matter, all of us are affected by what is done. We're all Americans, the tired, the poor, the unwashed and the unwanted, the crunchy con, the liberal activist, the nascar dad, the hockey mom, the single gen X'er and the New Yorker. McDonalds eaters and vegans, it doesn't matter what clever lable is crafted to create a subset of us for easy designation, none of us deserve to be given no more than a pat on the head if we're quiet, and a patronizing sneer if we're not, regardless of our political orientation.

True governing is a messy job if done well that involves allowing for those blemishes, for those flaws, for the missteps and the benefit of the doubt, the belief in good faith, in the hearts of even our fiercest critics and most aggressive political opponents. It allows for the jokers who make Joker posters, and the Wingnuts and the Palin jokes and the uneducated and the clever, the rich and the poor and all those inbetween in the flyover country.

If I may sound a Cassandra warning to those who think there is justification against one side or the other because one holds one's own politics to be not simply one's own, but the only true way, the only smart way, the only way worthy of consideration. The very same heavy handedness and unwillingness to listen/compromise/consider the other side that has been slung at Bush and Cheney for the past eight years should serve as a reminder that such overt exhertions of power and belief in one's own rightness about ideology have consequences, and some of them involve elections.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All I know, I Learned from the Internet

The older I get, the more I wish I’d paid more attention when I was in school.

That’s not because I wish my life had turned out differently, no. It’s just I would have preferred to not have my ignorance revealed on a daily basis when my children sit down to do their homework. Before I had kids, I figured I was all set. I’d passed through college and even graduate school with nary more than two “C's.” But there were subjects I avoided studiously, so as to avoid studying; like science and math.

Now a days, as a conscientious parent, I try to be a resource for all my children when they come home from school. But I’ve learned, you can’t bluff your way through the periodic table or quadratic equations.

When my science oriented children were engaged in a game of mental catch over the dinner table about the various properties and distinctions between solutions and compounds, I foolishly attempted to join in the fray.

But chemistry is a subject I ignored even while in the classroom with Coach Keister explaining that a mole was not an unwanted growth on one’s skin. Not to worry I thought, I’ve got wireless internet. I wikipedia’d the subject “Chemistry” while in the kitchen while getting the milk and cookies for snack. I returned to toss off a pithy reference inserting myself into the conversation while pouring.

My attempts garnered a “Where’d you learn that?” and “Mom, that site is completely bogus…” plus a snort of milk requiring me to return to the kitchen for towels followed. It got me wondering why Wikipedia’s so popular if it’s so inaccurate. Why aren’t real encyclopedia companies creating giant conglomerates of actual accurate information so parents across the fruited plains can understand what their children’s homework assignments are?

But those sorts of questions aren’t answered by “Ask Jeeves” or “Dogpile” or any of the other handy search engines out there that promise to open the flood gates of information to the world. I know, I checked while getting the paper towels.

“You have to go to trusted sites.” And of course they rattled off a few. I listed a few of my current favorite places to visit and got “tsked.” According to my children, these haunts of mine were the equivalent of “The Earth is flat” in their chosen fields. Now maybe others out there are more tech savvy than me and Lord knows I hope so, but the way my kids spoke about it, I felt as if the whole World Wide Web suddenly collapsed into a three volume compendium.

Listening to my children’s recommendations, it occurred to me that finding info on the World Wide Web was rather like dating. One had to make sure the page in question was honorable, accurate and not just playing with your mind. Playing the field was useful for discovering which ones would be worth going steady with, but blind dates were mostly scary and unworthy. If one wanted to be certain about the accuracy of information, one had to hold true to a properly vetted place with the fidelity owed a spouse, or in these days, a political party. My daughter offered to show me her fave spots that were best for tutoring in science. "That way, you can help my sister with sixth grade lab." she explained.

Having to do research on the classes I’d skipped twenty-seven years ago to comprehend a dinner conversation seemed like a bit much so I turned my attention to my other children who might have subjects of interest that didn’t require independent study. Alas, the high schooler started his German assignment which left me with my two years of Latin and three years of French useless unless he just needed the phrases from the song “Cabaret.”

The 4th grader started to tackle his social studies. Now I am social and I do study so here, I thought I could be of some use, but he didn’t want a 43 year old’s perspective on anything, not that that was any different from any other time of the day. Turning to the younger children, hoping to prove my mettle as a resource, I looked over their homework assignment sheets and asked, “Do you need any help?”

One child was working on a project concerning dinosaurs. I got excited. “We have books on that, and you can make a model with clay or paint something.” I began scanning the shelves for a few I knew had in depth articles on the Jurassic period with great color illustrations. “Mom, I’m just going to go on the website.” My son patiently explained. “But why assign it if everyone will look at the same page?” I asked. He shrugged. “The paper says to go to this page and read this article.”

I’d already pulled three tomes for his report. “Don’t you want any of this?” I asked? But he was already typing in www. And I wondered if we discovered aliens and wanted to share technology, would we need to change the internet to be the igww, the intergalactic wide web. Then I wondered if I should buy the domain name or see if the government would offer me money to devise it as part of the stimulus plan. I was flunking the motherhood “help with homework” section of the day. My attempts to provide aid and comfort were being ignored or rebuffed or bombing absolutely. I felt like the UN.

The second grader sat at the table writing her spelling words. She has a kinder heart than most and seeing me flailing at every front, she took pity. “You can help me.” She said softly. “What do you need sweetie?” I asked as I hugged her. She handed me a pencil. “You can sharpen this one for me in case the one I’m using breaks.”

My oldest finished his German. “It’s not that you aren’t helpful Mom.” He explained.

“It’s that we’d have to bring you up to speed and that would take more time than actually studying.” My teen-aged daughter chimed in.

I sharpened the pencils wondering if I had the mental will to go and secretly master everything about ionic compounds or learn the irregular conjugations of verbs in Deustche before the next evening. I decided I could live with my reputation as an ignorant adult. So, I’m educated enough to assist through third grade. After that, they’re on their own.

And when they’re grown, they’ll say “Mom, she was as sharp as the pencils she provided,” until we hit third grade.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday's Jog for the Brain

I love Peter Kreeft.

I'm working on trying to feed my brain more often. Here's an example.

So I thought I'd share. It's long. You will need an hour. Put it on and fold socks, do dishes, multi-task. I got a lot done. But it's a worthy lecture.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Commuter Pop Quiz

Problem #1

Child A always sits in the front seat.

Child B and C are in the second row but not next to each other.

Child D sits in the third row, leaving a whole fourth row empty and two seats on either side.

Children E, F, G and H get in the car. E cannot sit near F or G or H and cannot sit in the far back row or Child E will start a fight. Child F will cry if placed in the back. Child H will also sulk if anyone at all sits in the same row, claiming to need more space.

How long before Mom decides making three separate trips to the school to pick up children is a viable alternative to the otherwise cantankerous ride home?

Explain your reasoning.

Problem #2

Why does it take 30 minutes to traverse the 6.63 miles to the Metro after 6:25 in the morning, but only 15 minutes starting even one minute before?

Follow Up: Why does it take less time to load 8 children into a van plus backpacks and lunches, allotting for possible trains to travel 10 miles to school, than to take one to the Metro?

Problem #3

Why does it take 45 minutes to successfully load the car with two toddlers and one baby and one adult, purse and diaper bag in order to get to school for pick up, but only 5 minutes for five children, two toddlers, one baby, one adult, six back packs, a purse and a diaper bag to disembark at home?

Please submit your answers in the comments questions. Suggestions welcome and if implemented, will be awarded extra credit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How will this help me in the Real World?

Getting children to sit for an hour when they’ve just spent eight in school remains a thankless task and no amount of cookies and milk, hugs and freshly sharpened crayons can make it otherwise.

Clearly, all of my kids are feeling the pressure of having ascended to the next grade and being thus required to do more work. One of them in a fit of disgust asked the question asked by so many scholars before him, “Why? If it didn’t stick in all the time it was drilled at me in class, why will one more hour make a difference?”

Presuming it was a purely rhetorical question, I ignored it until he clamored in frustration a second time. I tried explaining that this helped seal in his brain the concepts taught during school.

He countered with "If the teacher were really good, I'd remember it without this stuff." I asked if something was wrong. "No." I asked if he needed a break. "No. It will just mean I have to do it later." That fatalistic vision of putting off tasks had never stopped me, but it clearly dogged his spirit. "What difference will this make?" He wailed again.

I put out the makings for dinner on the counter. Then I handed him a plate. “Dinner time.” I announced.

“What’s this?”
“Your pasta, meatballs and salad.” I explained.

“It hasn’t been cooked.”
“I know.”

“The spaghetti is still in the box.”
“You’re right again.”

“And the meatballs are still frozen.”
“Well, I’ve cooked all day so one more hour, how would that make a difference?” I asked.

Defeated, he handed me back the plate and went back to his worksheet. “I hate it when you get creative with your parenting.” he groused.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breathe In, Breathe Out.

My Dad has the same response whenever I call stressed out by the "To-Do" list. "What do you have to do today?" He'll ask.

I'll start rattling off my list. And he'll say "No." interrupting my litany. "No, breathe in,(and he would take a deep breath), breathe out." and he'll exhale. If I protest "But this time..." he will keep saying it until I stop and begin breathing instead of being overwhelmed.

But there are times when I forget to do this, sometimes multiple times per day, per hour...okay, even per minute, because the tasks number can be in the double digits on any given day.

Having five daughters and four sons, I've started to think about how I can present this life I've chosen such that they aren't scared away from it (parenthood in general) by the level of labor involved on a daily basis. I don't want our children discouraged before they reach maturity (by the daunting prospects of what adulthood involves) from seeking to become the persons they should be. The moments when I've let the "Joyful mask" of parenthood drop, may not injure my children, but I do worry because I've heard many a grown child of a large family declare they saw how hard Mom and Dad worked and voted "No." to having even one child.

I have to hope more of their cumulative experience is laced with love than otherwise, and that the labor part is viewed as simply par for the course regardless of one's life vocation. Everyone has to clean their rooms, do laundry, wash dishes and make decisions about schedules. It's just a part of everything that is. Their father does all he does out of love for our family and so do I. This is what must be if we would love them well. This is the minimum, the baseline, the oxygen in the room.

If Love requires sacrifice and all service is joy then all of parenting, even the messy tedious frustrating repetitive parts are also service and therefore joy and sacrifice and therefore Love. It is love that turns the tedium into the washing of the feet. It is love that makes the fact that we are often the first up and last to bed, more like the last serving the first. Hopefully, the kids will feel saturated with the atmosphere of this home and not suffocated.

Sometimes, the air is too rich for me, like when I still am telling people go to bed at 10 when they've decided they want to come down and put a picture in their backpack and when we had to get up at 4 a.m. to turn off the lights my daughter turned on before going back to sleep because she didn't want to have a nightmare. (Three). But seeing all of them sleeping as I do the bed check or all sitting at the ice cream parlor eating cones or all cascading out of the car talking about whatever, is like a fresh cool spring breeze. Oxygen saturating me.

Even one less set of dishes to do at my table feels oddly empty. On days when my oldest stays late for play practice the dinner feels incomplete. The oxygen in the room is thinner.

Hopefully we will have poured enough love and presence into their experiences such that the home always feels like a place filled with fresh air, where they will want to breathe in deep.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Simple.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Proposed Top Ten List for the POTUS

Yesterday while playing around with words, I wrote a top ten piece for the President that was favorable to him.

For the record, I think the existing proposals are problematic at best and that there are many less contentious, less expensive means by which we could provide coverage to the uninsurred and effect good reform on the procedures which govern care than the current bills under consideration.

That being said, I also believe, if we can't laugh at ourselves and our own ideological worst points, we are lost.

Thus, I present to you, my proposed humor piece for the POTUS appearing on Dave Letterman tonight.

President Obama's Top 10 Regulations That Would be in the Health Care Bill if I Were the Stalinist/Fascist the Rightwing Nuts Think I am.

10) All Voters registered as Republican shall be taxed at an extra 50%; documented townhall tea party members, an extra 10% beyond that.

9) All States that went for McCain are hereby dissolved and absorbed into their more enlightened blue state neighbors.

8) Every school pre-k through 12th, shall issue as standard text books, both of my autobiographies, Socialism for Dummies, the complete works of Michael Moore, Al Franken and Air America.

7) School lunches shall replace tater-tots with any one of the following: Tuscan Kale, arugula, or Dandelion greens.

6) Conservative radio programs and television stations shall have all their material reviewed for accuracy and fairness. Nominees for review shall be made by Keith Olbermann.

5) Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh shall be expatriated to a country to be named later.

4) Elected Republican Officials must wear a t-shirt saying "The One Won." whenever they appear at a public function, punishable by fine and a vicious hit piece on YouTube by Moveon.org.

3) All Republicans shall be locked out of the public bathrooms at the House and Senate. They will have to use the port-o-lets stationed on the far end of the mall open between the hours of 3-5 AM. See Nancy or Harry for the keys.

2) We will fully fund health insurance for the whole world by taxing big oil into non-profit status.

1) I am King.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baring Space Bars Except in Space

There are times when you can brown bag it, and times when one should hand one’s spouse a five spot and a kiss to cover everything. Learning when this domestic advisory rule applies is part of the early marriage process. That my husband willingly still submits to my meals at noontime is testimony of his endearing devotion to me, but in my defense, we were saving for a house at the time and this fell under the unseasoned wife rubric of “reasonable sacrifice.”

Once a week trips to the store meant usually limping to the weekend by Thursday. Early in our marriage, as part of an agreed upon plan to cut expenses, we declared a ban on fast food and no purchased lunches. Because my husband was running a bit late that morning, I gallantly offered to make his lunch. I felt very wifely. We were a team, working to scrounge like ants for a bigger place, the American dream, a home of our own. I would do my part by eliminating his need to go out during the day and buy food.

In fatter financial times, this mid day consisted of a sandwich, some crackers or chips, a piece of fruit, a few sodas, a napkin and something sweet. Cobbling together something so he could work through the noon hour when the refrigerator, closet and pantry all showed signs of being mostly bare, would require creative thinking. However, that day I learned that even thrift must sometimes give way to function, and that good intentions without the proper plan lead to the lunch from hell.

First, there was the sandwich. I’d found two ends of two different loaves of bread, one a cheap white, the other, multi-grain wheat with nuts; neither was full sized. Not having any lunch meats of any kind, I scraped the inside edges of the peanut butter and applied raspberry seedless sugar free jam liberally. Then things began to fall apart. The box of triscuits resembled the dregs of a shredded wheat cereal box. What I thought was a jar of pickles turned out to be jalapenos. Most sensible people would abandon the quest at this point, but self reflection is something I tend to experience after I complete a task, not prior.

A bag filled with rejected apricots, raisins and one dried pineapple wedge from a nature hike qualified as the fruit. The vegetable storage yielded a few mini-carrots that lacked the vibrant orange color most people expect in such vegetables for a zip lock. With nary a diet soda in sight, I plopped the one coke and a frozen water bottle in his bag hoping the unhealthiness of one would be canceled out by the other. I’d made a sandwich, a snack, a side and provided two drinks. As sad as the offering was, it still could be considered a lunch if I foraged a dessert.

Frantically scanning the shelves, there were no crackers, no chocolate bars tucked in the freezer for emergency purposes, no microwavable popcorn or lone abandoned granola bars to be found. Then, I spotted something. Granted, it wasn’t normal fare and it had been sitting for a good six months in the closet after its purchase but the date was still good. Impulsively, I popped it in the bag. Who could resist the lure of freeze dried Neapolitan ice cream bars from our last trip to the Air and Space museum?

In the halls of fame of bad wife moves, giving your husband a stale slightly crushed space bar for lunch ranks only marginally above infidelity, but I was too flush from the success of my hunter/gather adventure to recognize this before I kissed him good bye for the day.

Four hours later, the phone rang.
“Hey Sher?”
“Yes Love?” I answered.

“Remember how when we lived in New York you used to walk over to the bakery on Bleeker street and buy Semolina braided bread while it was still warm and then go to the Grand Union and get a stick of butter, and then to the butcher for half a pound of baloney and the Chinese grocer for a tomato from the vine?”

“Yes. We called those sometimes better than ...”
“Sandwiches, yes! Remember how romantic I thought it was that you would walk all over Greenwich Village just to fix me lunch?”

We sat on the phone the way married people sometimes do when they don’t have anything to say but don’t want to hang up.

“About the dessert.”
"How was it?"
"You think there might be a reason that particular souvenir hadn't been eaten in six months?"
"Do you like freeze dried anything?" I sat there thinking about the fact that freeze dried ice cream tastes slightly worse than the smell of styrofoam peanuts.
"Oops." I said.

Bemused, he issued a husbandly edict no human could disagree with, “No space bars in lunch bags unless accompanied by the ambiance of being in an actual shuttle orbiting the earth.”

Seeing as I almost always like to squeeze in the last word, I issued a corollary: in a true marriage, even when all you have is space bars for lunch, you can still “feel the love.”

It’s just nicer to be on the giving side of that meal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Answer to Prayer is Always “Fish”

I've been reflecting on the means by which suffering can have or rather does have meaning, on the sorrowful mysteries.

Sometimes, you can see how suffering brings us closer to God, how it cracks open a community that was meant to be more than it is at the moment before the suffering begins. The community can be a family or a church or a school or a town or a nation or a people, but the suffering is a means of revealing the true relationships that were obscured by the world, by sin and by the false comforts.

I can get that far, and then I get afraid. That awareness is too much knowledge for me, unbearably intimate and overwhelming as it washes over, and I find I did not trust love, trust God enough to use these great pains and sufferings for good because I find the great pains and sufferings so very great.

It is only if we Trust God, that we can bear suffering and know it has meaning.
Next time I hope I will remember. He always give us "fish."

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The Answer to Prayer is Always “Fish”

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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Taste of Extinction

This past weekend, my middle son went to a party and received a goodie bag filled with one cent candies. He dumped them on the table at noon, as he himself has never been big on sweets. (Go figure). Giving a quick glance over the sugary pile, I lay odds on what would remain by the end of the day and was not disappointed. The milky ways, twix bars, tootsie rolls and familiar bubble gums were gobbled instantaneously by various siblings and I managed to score a caramel. The remaining rejects reminded me of Halloween bags on Election day. There are candies that have reached their Darwinian evolutionary end and should be allowed to die in peace or pieces as the case may be.

I speak of “Bit-O-Honey.”

I know there must be closet lovers of this unholy alliance between an eraser, chalk and a caramel without the imagination of artificial colors or flavors, but I’ve yet to meet one in real life. When I go to the vending machines, I never hear anyone saying, “Damn, they’re out of bit-o-honey!” I remember the unspoken rule of trick-o-treating; when the folks were down to chick-o-sticks and bits, it was time to go home and count the candy loot. Those sorts of odd confections ranked somewhere below the healthy home that passed out boxes of raisins and the DDS who gave free toothbrushes.

I pondered whether the company ought to consider creating an alternate market, like when you get dumped. Sending a tray of “Bitter Honeys” or "Bite Me Honey" to a girl might have some emotional cathartic value for the dumpee. I bet it would triple sales at least. Musing over the two abandoned sweets, I started to sweep them into the garbage can when I wondered, "Was I wrong?" "Why not try it?"

Had the endurance of this long maligned in my own mind sweet been somehow undeserved? I was an adult now. Ought I to give bit-o-honey its due, its chance to reveal its hidden complexities and value that heretofore my taste buds were too immature and too raptured by chocolate to appreciate? I stared at the two lonesome bit-o-honeys and summoned my oldest son. He and I would try these together and compare notes.

Unwrapping the pieces, we remarked on the not quite beige color and speculated on the origin date which was not known. This was problem number one with bit-o-honeys. There was the distinct possibility that only one batch had ever been made and like fruit cake, the unopened pieces had been traded from non eater to non eater for the past seven decades.

My son fearlessly popped it in his mouth. I watched. A minute passed. “It’s chewy.” He said. Spurred on by the fact he had not begun gagging, I too put the candy in my mouth. I waited for the taste. This is part of the bit-o-honey experience, the chewing without the reward. “It’s starting to have a taste.” My son said, still working his jaw. I have to grope the insides of my mouth for a faint hint of flavor.

I know it has a taste, and that my tongue has taste buds in abundance with the capacity to recognize sweet, salty, savory, bitter and whatever that umani is. I know that I am tasting something but the taste fades before I can ascertain its nature.

Now we could go out in the car and get more bit-o-honeys in an attempt to get a better fix on the experience, but I considered this blind date with a candy to be indicative of the entire relationship, bland with a faint after the fact essence that left my mouth bored and slightly annoyed. “This wasn’t chocolate.” And so, vindicated in my indifferent prejudice, I now turn to other snacks that deserve to be shown the door to extinction.

Let’s talk Fig Newtons.

P.S. Had set up a post on Filet-O-Fish but decided it was too cheap a shot and in less than stellar taste...like the sandwich.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marathon Lessons

Back in 8th grade, I wanted a letter to prove I'd made an "A" team more than anything. So desperate was I to achieve this, I even tried out for the one sport my common sense had always told me...you can't do. That's right, Track. But I'm not fast. I'm not tall. I don't jump. So what could a b-team bench warmer do on a track team?

Cross Country.

Now I did make the team and run a 1320 (3/4 of a mile), and I even got a ribbon. I was fifth. The fact that there were five people running doesn't really matter. Before the race, there were more but several quit. On the third lap in, everyone else that had not dropped out had finished. That track felt lonely and quiet and tedious.

I was hot.
I was unhappy.
I lay down.
I thought about just staying there. (At 13, melodrama is a way of life).

Then, I got up and started moving again and the why fell way as I just kept going.
It wasn't that I signed up that got me a letter from the "A" team. It was that I didn't let myself quit.

So I apologize to all of you that read my "Full Plate" essay. Every word of it was true. (I felt overwhelmed and exhausted and frustrated and all those self absorbed things one feels at 43 that supposedly aren't melodrama because they aren't adolescent). What I needed, was to stop and reassert priorities. But when you feel all those things, it's hard to think, let alone assess.

Three weeks of observing the world dripping with stories that I wasn't writing drove me crazy. Some of those mental photos and turns of phrase would be lost forever. I don't know if such things are agony for anyone else but they haunt me.

So I promise not to flounce.
I promise not to lie down on the track anymore.
I'll finish the race even if I'm stuck running around this track after everyone else has lapped me twice.

What does that mean?

It means I'll be pouring out words for as long as I have access to a computer, but only after I've read to my kids, made sure they've done their homework, bathed, and I've given a bit of time to my husband, the needs of the house and my extended family and friends. I promise to be present in words and deeds.

I'll get fifth for finishing last, and I'll be just as proud of that ribbon as I am of the yellow one that hangs in my office from 1980.

Thanks for coming back.

The Write Way to Disarm Bears

This week we saw a black bear in the wild while driving through Shenandoah National Park. It was a moment of wonder and something my husband had hoped to experience his whole life. For five minutes, we all stared at a beast from the safety of our car before it lumbered into the foliage. It was amazing how silently such a large creature could move and more stunning how quickly it could vanish from view.

The state I live in decided that up to 500 bears may be killed to curb overpopulation and prevent excessive encounters between bears and humans. This license to kill bruins only exists within Maryland, so the park where we saw our Smokey won't be affected. Given the amount of readily available food, including possibly awestruck tourists that stop to snap pictures on Skyline Drive, I'm betting that bear won't get too much wanderlust. If he's smart, he'll stay put such that anyone who takes a shot at him is committing a federal offense.

For the remaining wandering bears out there in Maryland, they still don't have too much to worry about if it's me. While any of the 350 million Americans could exercise their rights and try to bag one of these stray bears in the Free State, most of us should refrain. Shooting anything outside of a video game is much harder in real life. I remember shooting clay pigeons at a range with my Dad. It was the first and only time I've ever held/shot a gun. (I was 17). Given my score, I wouldn't trust me with a red rider or a water gun, much less an actual thing that could hurt someone.

For me, the pen shall always be mightier than the sword or whatever form of weaponry that requires hand/eye coordination one chooses. If it comes to self defense, I would probably be best served by a blunt instrument like a bat, but I wouldn't want to go toe to toe with a creature that has claws, teeth and at least 250 pounds on me if all I'm packing is a Louisville slugger.

Then again, remembering how I fare at the plate, perhaps I'll just eviscerate the bear in fiction. I'll write about the beast and it will wind up on the internet. Then, the piece will go viral. He'll be embarrassed permanently and thus unable to score with the lady bears in his vicinity. As a result, the bear population will be reduced without the need for unnecessary violence.

That'll learn him.

Now, I can concentrate on fixing the overpopulation of deer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

50 Things to Save the World...and let me blog again.

50 ways to Save the World Today.

This piece was inspired by a fellow writer who created a thread asking how we could save the world and if the world needed saving.

It was not a religious forum but it asked a big question, what can we do to make the world better.

My personal belief is that the world cannot be saved except one person, one moment at a time. What we hope to save the world from, is despair, hopelessness, pain, rage, wrath, waste, sloth, isolation, neglect, carelessness and indifference.

What we hope is to create a world filled with people who act with charitable intent, careful forethought and great kindness, energy and generosity. What we hope is to reflect Christ to others through our actions, thoughts and words.

How do we do this? One moment, one person, one act of will at a time.

50) Exercise today. Don't look at the scale tomorrow.
49) Learn to play an instrument even if it's Wii Drums.
48) Volunteer with a charity of your choice.
47) Keep informed on the news.
46) Smile at someone.
45) Exercise the benefit of doubt towards someone else
44) Read to a kid.
43) Go outside.
42) Play.
41) Meet your neighbors.
40) Write a letter.
39) Remember birthdays.
38) Thank the custodian at your workplace, or the person in the fastfood restaurant.
37) Pick up one piece of litter on the side of the road.
36) Turn off the computer, the radio, the televison, blackberry, cellphone and talk.
35) Fix a dinner that takes time.
34) Write your Senator/representative
33) Schedule a dental appointment and a physical check up. Go.
32) Give away something to charity.
31) Write something beautiful.
30) Call your Mom, or remember her. Same with Dad.
29) Forgive someone in your heart, if you can't in person. Mean it.
28) Put fresh flowers on the table.
27) Pray often for others.
26) Root for the home team.
25) Dance with your children
24) Fix something in your house you've been meaning to get to.
23) Open a savings account.
22) Invite a family or friend over to dinner.
21) Plan a reunion.
20) Thank a teacher that made a difference to you.
19) Read a book you've never read but should have.
18) Plant a garden or weed one.
17) Schedule a date night, plan it.
16) Rescue a dog or cat.
15) Go to bed early.
14) Swallow a criticism
13) Go for a walk.
12) Ask someone else how you can help.
11) Be unafraid to speak your mind.
10) Learn your family tree and history.
9) When no one else is willing to volunteer, stand up.
8) Give someone talking your full attention rather than formulating your own clever response or multi-tasking.
7) Keep the promises you make.
6) Visit the sick.
5) Feed the hungry.
4) Banish smugness from your own mind and heart.
3) Appreciate beauty in all its forms.
2) Become one of those people others want to be like and be near, that makes people laugh, that gets things done, that listens well and cares.

1) Don't quit.

As a Catholic, I would add stay close to the sacraments and read the scripture daily. So I fired this off and now I want to restart the blog, because I want to still contribute and it's a good filter and story keeper for my family. But I have to limit myself and I admit, I'm not good at that. I'll keep it to the three times only and hope you'll bear with me.

Now I have to turn off the computer and start doing.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!