Monthly Archives: January 2010

Can I Get a Cleanup?

Whole Foods is pretty

I love shopping at Whole Foods. I can get everything there. I mean everything – buffalo meat, gluten-free bread, almond milk, kohlrabi, sunchokes and fresh aloe leaves.

I was in there just the other day to buy a box of my favorite protein bars. My mission was meant to be quick – in and out. But I have to walk though produce and the produce is just so… gorgeous. I have to buy just a few of these heirloom navel oranges that look and smell so good. Then there are the fuji apples, my favorite, I get a few of those too. And the meat section… They actually have buffalo cuts – all the time. The cheese? Don’t even get me started on the cheese. It’s just so… decadent. Just stepping into the store feels like a treat. 

A few years ago, I read an article about the Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey who posed anonymously (as Rahodeb, a variation on his wife’s name) in the Yahoo Finance group for, like, seven years. Actually, the piece I read wasn’t really an article; it was more of a compilation — the greatest hits of his Yahoo posts. He wrote glowing reports of his work as Whole Food CEO and criticized the business model and management of Wild Oats, a competitor and business he later purchased. At one point he commented that he thought his own haircut looked “cute.”   

He’s back in the news again because he wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal where he questions an individual’s right to health care. “A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America.”

Recently, I read this Mackey profile in the New Yorker . (Are you impressed by my publication name-dropping? I don’t ever read People Magazine, no sir, or watch Project Runway. What what? Did someone say Project Runway? Where?) Anyway, the piece included many of his most famous quotes (like the ones below) and even printed a few new stunners.

In the early 80’s Mackay told a reporter, “The Union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.”

And how about this little gem about global warming…

“…as he put it, ‘no scientific consensus exists’ regarding the cause of climate change; he added with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow ‘hysteria about global warming’ to cause us ‘to raise taxes and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty’… He also said, ‘Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.’”

Excuse me Mackey, can I get some assistance over here on aisle shut-the-hell-up?

I’m not foolish enough to think that everyone agrees on healthcare reform, unions or global warming, but will someone stop this dude from ruining his perfectly lovely store? Some of us organic-loving hysterical mommies are steadfast, earnest types who have to do what we believe is right for our families and our babies.

So, now what? This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to get to my point. Should I say that we shouldn’t shop there? That we should take our money elsewhere? Yes! I feel like I should say that. But, how do I really feel?

Meh (shoulder shrug).

See, those heirloom navel oranges were really super-good. I mean super good. I think I might be in love with them. It’s clouding my judgement. Crumbling my resolve.

What do you think? Do we need to banish Whole Foods? Where do you shop and why?

I have a lot to say on this topic. There will be more very soon. Stay tuned…

Saving. Babies.

Good Samaritan Hospital in the Dominican Republic (COTNI Photo)

So here I am, sitting down at my desk to write my usual neurotic drivel, whining about the challenge of finding natural bedding, how the CEO of Whole Foods may, in fact, be the devil, and blahblahblah, wahwahwah, when I get an email from my friend, Peggy. She’s a doctor and writer who flew to the Dominican Republic to work with Children of the Nations (COTN), providing medical care at a hospital near the border of Haiti.

Here are some excerpts from the email. 

The first two quakes on Saturday night caused all 350 patients in the hospital to evacuate themselves to the yard.  EVERYONE left their rooms with their belongings, mattresses–hobbling on amputated legs, being carried by family members, jumping off the balconies.  You name it, they got OUT of there–utter pandemonium and the most raw panic I have ever seen.  Now we have all patients in a self-made tent city on the dirt and gravel.  It is unbelievably difficult to deliver care to open wounds in the dirt, but we’re doing it.  Today, a few patients were convinced to go back in the building. Tonight, no sooner than we had finally achieved some sort of order–in conjunction with the day shift–the 3rd quake occurred.  Now the hospital is totally empty again and no one–I guarantee it–will be convinced to go inside again. 

COTN has a very nice clinic, constantly staffed by top-notch docs in Barahona. COTN has committed to provide/pay for all of the medical needs for 11 children, provide housing for the kids and their families and then help the families relocate in Haiti when they are healed. Believe me when I say it was like moving heaven and earth to get the Dominican Republic to allow a bunch of wounded Haitian kids into the interior of their country.

But the worst was that Vicki and I were given the very difficult and heartbreaking task of picking out 11 children to bring back to Barahona. I cannot tell you how hard it was to wander through the tent city that had grown up in front of the hospital knowing we could only take 11 kids. The word got out quickly and parents began following us around, begging us to take their kids. The grief Vicki and I have shared … Well… you can imagine. Or, maybe not. This day job was performed after crawling around in the dirt all the previous night trying to keep wounds clean and was followed by a very long evening caring for a 3 month old baby. The baby had been buried under 4 collapsed stories and the 5 dead bodies of her family and she was brought to us by her auntie. The baby was critically dehydrated and had gangrene of her thigh. It is an absolute miracle she didn’t die last night. Vicki and I took turns at her bedside, (we took care of her in an O.R. instead of in the dirt) in between trying to arrange the transport out of those 11 children, and worked until 1 a.m. when a wonderful, merciful surgeon from our team and a nurse from another offered to relieve us. 4 hours sleep never felt so good.

This morning we tagged and listed all the kids and the family members accompanying them and got them staged and ready for evacuation. I made one last trip through the tent hospital to say goodbye to some patients I had come to know. I can only justify the taking of the few with the knowledge that there is no way we can help everyone. I know the powers that be are working hard to get the critical patients out of there, but there are so many that are not considered ‘critical’ enough to be relocated. I have no idea what will happen to those people, but devastating infection is high on the list given the conditions.

The Puerto Rican arm of the US Air Force provided us 2 Blackhawk helicopters to evacuate the kids and their family members to Barahona. Vicki flew in one helicopter with half the people, I flew in the other. I have to admit it was pretty damn cool to fly in a Blackhawk helicopter—I only wish it was under different circumstances.

 

Peggy helping load patients into helocopter (COTNI photo)

This afternoon, members of a new COTN medical team that arrived in Barahona yesterday are getting the kids bathed and ready for some serious wound dressing changes. The smell of infected flesh is everywhere. One of the happiest experiences of my life was walking into that clinic this morning with all those injured kids and seeing THREE PEDIATRIC ICU NURSES had arrived with the newest team. Wow!! Exactly what we needed! Not only that, but it is such a relief to have these kids in a place where we can actually get them clean, care for them properly and hopefully save any remaining limbs that they have.

Go ahead. Take a minute. Pull yourself together.

No more compulsive, self-centered, naval-gazing for me today. There are babies to be saved. Did you hear me? Peggy is saving babies. Saving. Babies.

It’s hard to know what to do about Haiti, how to help, where to give. You can see the work Peggy’s team is doing. You can make a donation here.

Go do it. Now.

Pork, Not Ham

Oh yea, I loves me some tacos

It’s got pork, salsa and chocolate in it. Did you hear that? It’s got chocolate in it. I often overcook a yam and mash it up along with some black beans and wrap it all up in a corn tortilla. Yum, yams. OK, maybe not your thing. Skip the yams if you want, but perhaps you should think about eating more orange vegetables. Seriously, when was the last time? I thought so…

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled-Pork Tacos

Ingredients

  • 2 cups store-bought salsa, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Salt
  • 1 – 2 1/2-pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
  • 18 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 c sour cream
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the salsa, chili powder, oregano, cocoa and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the pork and turn to coat.
  2. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily, on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
  3. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven at 350 F. Stack the tortillas, wrap them in foil, and bake until warm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, using 2 forks, shred the port and stir into the cooking liquid, serve with the tortillas, cilantro, sour cream, lime and extra salsa.

Recipe from Real Simple Magazine.

Compartmentalized Grief

Well, we’re nearly three weeks into 2010 and I’ve finally made a resolution. I’m going to be nicer to the dog, Norah. It seems like that should be easy. She is a golden retriever, after all.

But you see, Emily was the dog-love of my life. She was a beautiful, bold, mean, brown, shelter-dog that had a bad habit of biting people. She licked the back of my bald head while I napped on the couch in my chemo days. She slept under my desk while I wrote my book. She read my mind. I loved her too much and I knew it. Emily died in July.

My Girl

Emily had only been gone for two days, and I was hoping to get a little sleep without the assistance of my good friend Ambien, when Paul climbs into bed and says he’s been to the pet shelter site and seen a lab-mix that is “good with children.” What what?

I’ve been known to battle insomnia from time to time and I have a rule that there is no talk of taxes or attorneys in bed. Paul seems to need to unpack things at the end of a long day or he needs to tell me before he forgets. I need to push things aside and hope they go away. I’d never thought to add dog acquisition to the list.

I say (or perhaps screech so loud that only dogs can hear) something like – we can’t have a dog for like five years because I can’t deal with a puppy and a toddler and we can’t train another shelter dog! Have you lost your mind?

He says something like, sorry babe, but that’s not going to work for me. I’m a dog person. I need a dog.

Goodbye night’s sleep…

A few days later, my mother, sister and I are sitting on the deck and when I tell them this story my mother says she knows just what I need. A breeder’s dog! A 2 to 4 year-old, trained, nice, momma dog that’s done having puppies.

I wave my hands and shake my head, no, see, in fact, I don’t need any dog at all. I love dogs but with the kid, there are days when I just don’t feel I have any more love to give. A few minutes later, amid the chaos of three toddlers preparing for dinner, my mother slips away to email her dog breeder/friend.

I have an email from the breeder and photos of the perfect dog by the next morning. Do you see where this is going?

A few nights later, Paul and I have a date night. Really? I ask. A dog? What about Emily? Won’t you think about her every time you see this dog? Won’t you be comparing her to Emily?

He says it’s not about replacing Emily. It’s about getting another dog. Our grief will be the same.

Silence.

My life is better with a dog in it, he says. I want a dog.

I’ve got nothing. I can’t argue with that. The truth is that Paul rarely makes proclamations or mandates. Our marriage is more of a… collaboration (perhaps that’s code for: I’m a controlling bitch). This time he’s really insisting. Two weeks later we agree to watch Norah for the weekend. Of course she’s great.

I mean she’s fine. Norah’s a fine dog. Not many bad habits. Sweet. Small for a golden. Great with Josie. She doesn’t bite people. She doesn’t eat bananas (peel and all) off the counter. She doesn’t steal soap from the shower. She doesn’t leap over six foot fences to eat the sandwich sitting in the new neighbor’s moving truck and then drink all the water from their bird bath. She doesn’t steal tortilla chips from my hand while they’re on their way to my mouth.

Instead of a big brown mutt, there is this ethereal, waifish, golden dog who ghosts around the house. I hardly hear her but every time I turn around she’s there (boo!) with her paw under my foot or her nose hovering centimeters from my leg. I do not really know her but I do know that she’s no Emily and in 2010, I’ll try to forgive her for that and maybe love her just a little because of it.

Norah and Her Evil Twin, Ruby

Look Closely

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do you see?

Not just green buds but blue sky. Blue! Right there!

I put my hair in a ponytail and went for a walk. I chewed some cinnamon flavored gum. It was delicious.

Take Pity on the Aged Snowboarders

Tough Girl

My friend A’s birthday is the 29th of December and it gets lost in the mess of the holidays every year. No matter how hard I try, I always forget. This year, just before Christmas, she says she wants to go skiing with me and another friend to celebrate. Now, I switched from skiing to snowboarding many years ago but I take no offense. I dig out my gear and cut off the lift tickets that show it’s been almost three years since the last time my board came out of the garage.

We head to the mountains early. It’s beautiful. We get to the top of the first run and I sit down to clip into my board. Getting back up is harder than I remember. I’m thinking, can’t they install some benches up here? Or even just a metal bar, like a bike rack, where we can balance so we don’t have to get all the way down on the snow? Come on people; take pity on the aging snowboarding population. We’re not all punk kids anymore.

Eventually I manage to scoot to the edge of the hill and carve a few turns into the mountain.

I’m feeling okay. It’s coming back. The sun is shining. We break early for lunch. We eat nachos. In the afternoon the skiers want to explore the new double black diamond that just opened up. Icy moguls are no fun on a board so we separate and I do a few runs by myself.

Later, we decide to head down my favorite run. This is when I realize that, after 15 years of snowboarding, my favorite run is called… (wait for it, wait for it) Tinkerbell. I know (hanging my head in shame). But Tinkerbell isn’t all fairy dust and flowers, oh no. She’s not always as nice as she seems. She can be a cold, hard, little bitch when she doesn’t get what she wants.

About halfway down the nicely groomed run my friends pull off to the side so we can rest. (I know, we need rest on Tinkerbell?) I pull up alongside. When, I’m nearly stopped, I bend my knees, shift my weight from heel to toe edge and BAM! Someone pulls the snow right out from underneath my feet. I hit my knees on solid ice and feel the shock rise up my spine into my brain. I roll over onto my back and I’m writhing, moaning and hugging my legs to my chest. I’m a pile of bones, disassembled. After a few minutes of cursing the evil little sprite I sit up. I’m fine. Of course, I have a bruise the size and shape of a baseball on each knee, but I’m fine dammit.

My friends lean into their poles and peer down at me. They offer to help. Poles. How I miss ski poles. There’s something so beautifully stable about them. But it’s over between me and skiing. We broke up years ago and when I said we were through, I meant it.

We make it the rest of the way down the punishing pixie run and I manage to stumble into the Drooling Moose or whatever-the-hell-its-called-just-somebody-get-me-a-goddamn-drink Bar. By then I’ve reached full snow-sport crisis. There’s this voice inside my head saying you can’t do this anymore. You just can’t take a fall like you used to. It’s not right. By the second drink I’m dreaming of having poles again. And, maybe it’s the kahlua, but making the switch back doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Who knows, maybe three years from now, when I hit the slopes, I’ll rekindling my relationship with skis. Maybe I’ll get to the top of a mountain and not have to sit down or clip in and maybe I’ll actually remember how to keep my tips from crossing. Maybe I’ll give my old two-faced pal, Tinkerbell, another chance and maybe I’ll discover that she’s kinder to aged skiers.

Genius

Josie’s camera sits on the kitchen counter. Anyone can use it. But it’s pretty easy to tell which ones are hers. Here are some of the highlights.

Josie Helps Make Dinner By Taking Pictures

 

I Wonder Who Took This

 

Tell It!

Mattress Quest Part I – The Retardants

This is how I see her

Several months ago a mother in our parents’ group said she was concerned about putting her daughter in a sleep sack because when her baby pulled herself to stand in her crib she got her feet tangled. Sometimes she fell. The mother wanted to know if anyone else was concerned. When no one answered I said that anything that kept my child in bed, that kept her from climbing over the rail, that, in short, hobbled her was a good thing. So it should come as no surprise that I’m not excited about Josie’s transition to a big-girl bed. I can’t imagine her staying in a bed without bars. In fact, it’s a beautiful miracle that she hasn’t already learned to climb out.

This, my friends, is the rarely-mentioned dark-side of potty training. Freedom to reach the bathroom means freedom to roam the bedroom.

In spite of my reluctance, I have to begin my quest for the right natural, organic mattress. My first stop is the Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company (http://www.soaringheart.com/). I’ve read their ads in my grocery store’s monthly newspaper forever. I walk into the colorless showroom and sit on a mattress made of latex that I’m pretty sure was hand carried from the mountains of China by peasant children with clear skin and good personal hygiene. I tell the salesman I’m looking for a twin size bed for my daughter and ask him to tell me everything.

He says latex is the way to go. It’s guaranteed not to hold an impression for twenty years. I ask if it’s hot, like Memory Foam. He says it’s breathable and shows me a sample of foamy rubber riddled with holes. I ask him about the difference between an inner-spring mattress and latex. He says they don’t have an organic inner spring mattress and (again) that latex is guaranteed not to hold an impression. I ask how I should protect against kid pee. He suggests a machine-washable, liquid-repellant, organic wool topper.

The latex mattress he recommends costs $800. As my mother later says, what is it, made of diamonds? He reminds me Josie will spend one-third of her time on this mattress. Then he points out that it’s a natural material that won’t off-gas and it’s not treated with any kind of chemical flame retardants.

Let’s stop here for a minute and ponder flame retardants, shall we? In the past, these chemicals, in various forms, have been used on our clothes, furniture, carpets, electronics, etc and have been found to cause thyroid hormone disruption, learning and memory impairment, behavioral changes, hearing problems, delayed puberty, decreased sperm count, birth defects and, possibly, cancer (http://www.ewg.org/node/8412). One particularly dangerous category of flame retardants called PBDEs was used on furniture until 2005 (yes, that means anything made prior to 2005 is suspect). These days some mattress manufacturers meet flame resistance regulations by using other (hopefully less toxic) chemicals, while some, like Soaring Heart, insert a fabric fire barrier between the inner layers and outer cover.

Chemical flame retardants aren’t only used on mattresses and furniture. You may find Proban or THPC – which have been linked to genetic abnormalities and damage to the liver, skin and nervous system – on children’s pajamas.

How do you know if pajamas are treated with a chemical retardant?

  • You know it’s likely if they contain synthetic fibers.
  • You know it’s likely if the tag has washing instructions for “retaining flame resistance.”

How do you know if they aren’t?

  • If there’s a sales tag that says the garment is not flame resistant and/or not intended for sleepwear.
  • If it says the garment is meant to fit snugly to provide flame resistance.

Of course, if in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

Anyway, back to kid pee…  When I recover from my flame-retardant terror I ask how much the pee-resistant wool topper costs – $90. They sell organic sheets and I know they will also be expensive. Then he surprises me by saying the non-organic cotton fluff used for fabric doesn’t test very high for pesticides. He suggests that I buy some good quality conventional cotton sheets and save my money. I ask if sheets are treated with retardants. He says no.

By then, we’ve wandered a full circle of the store and we’re back to the front door. I ask him to write down the prices and descriptions of the options we’ve discussed and as he hands me the paper, he leans in a little. He tells me this guy comes into the store the other day and tells him he’s studying the whales (I’m thinking oh no, for god sake, not the whales).  I don’t want to hear what he’s about to say. There’s so much PBDE in the whales that (here it comes) their blubber is no longer flammable. Bam! There it is. We were having such a nice time.

I say goodbye and as I walk to the car I’m thinking about puppies and bunnies and all soft fuzzy things – anything but the whales.

Stay tuned for Mattress Quest part II at Bedrooms and More (www.bedroomsandmore.com). To be continued…

Post-Holiday Vegetarianism

A Terrible Photographer But A Decent Cook

I don’t know about you but after the holidays, or really any period when I spend a lot of time with my Atkins diet-loving parents, I tend to want to eat vegetarian for a little while. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, but sometimes I need a little break — a detox of sorts.

This recipe comes from my (current) favorite cookbook, Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. It’s sooo good. Even my I-don’t-eat-lentils-they-have-too-many-carbs-pass-the-bacon Dad loves it. Prep time says 50 minutes but that’s because the rice and lentils take time to cook. The hands-on prep time is really minimal. 

Recipe: Indian Rice and Lentils with Carmelized Onions

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 large onions, sliced in thin rounds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup plain yogurt with 1 teaspoon snipped fresh dill mixed in

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a 4-quart pot and add rice and lentils. Saute until nicely coated. Add bay leaf, water, and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 45 minutes, covered. To pressure-cook, use 2 3/4 cups water and cook at pressure 35 to 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat remaining ghee in a skillet on medium to low heat. Add onions and 1 teaspoon salt and saute. When onions begin to soften, add garlic and spices. Cook until onions are golden and have begun to carmelize.
  3. When all water is absorbed from rice and lentils, remove from heat and take out bay leaf. Serve rice and lentils topped with carmelized onions and a dollop of dilled yogurt.

Cooking time (duration): 50

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet (other): Gluten free

Meal type: dinner

Microformatting by hRecipe.