Extraordinary Meal Planning

I stave off uncertainty by systematizing.

We have always been very loose about dinner times and meal planning. But we always aim to sit down to dinner together.

Since this school year’s launch, we have set a goal to eat dinner at 6:30 every night. And now we have a dinner plan:

  • Meatless Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Prince Spaghetti Wednesday
  • Comfort Food Thursday
  • Fish Friday*
  • **Clean the Refrigerator Saturday
  • **Sunday Supper

*Friday might be pizza. (The kids don’t like fish).
**Saturday and Sunday might be FFY, Fend For Yourselves. 

So far, so good.

Chris loves to eat but he takes forever to cook. And he is a messy cook. So having this schedule get keeps him moving and motivated. (I think the Parkinson’s meds have affected his executive function/planning.)

Besides, the kids are starving when they walk in the door from various afterschool activities at 6:30 pm. (They leave the house at 7:35 am — long day!)

Last night, it was FFY, because the girls and I went to see Pippin on Broadway for their birthday. How fun was that! The understudy was on and I can’t imagine the real lead, Kyle Dean Massey, could be any better than the understudy, Mike Schwitter. (Chris’s friend John Dossett played the king! Other highlights: Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine and Lucie Arnaz as Grandma Bertha.)

I think the message of the musical is find the extraordinary in your ordinary.

It’s a highlight of the day to eat dinner together. It’s the ordinary.

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Don’t let fear win

So some cowards want me to be afraid. But I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to take up their fear. I’m going to keep loving people. I’m going to keep loving strangers even. Just because some idiots want me to be afraid, doesn’t mean that I have to. If fear is contagious, then so is kindness and hope. Sometimes hope is a harder mountain to climb, but I like a challenge.

I know it’s natural to catch the contagion of fear. It’s human. I may feel the fear but I won’t let it poison me.

I’ve been here before. After 9/11, I felt the collective fear. At that time, I’d wake in the morning and wonder if it was all a bad dream. Or I’d lay there and just wish that years would pass quickly so that the tragedy would be only a mild ache instead of a a pervasive pain.

And yesterday, I felt that poisoning pain again.

Still. I’m not buying fear. Instead, I’m buying the instinctive hope of the people who rushed to help. I’m buying the hugs and calls of loved ones checking in on each other.

I will always remember the line, blocks and blocks long, of people who wanted to donate blood to Red Cross after 9/11. Millions more people wanted to help than hurt one another.

Healing, like creating, is hard work. It takes a minute to destroy and years to rebuild. Still, I’d rather be in the business of rebuilding: lives, loves, hope.

Living with someone who’s chronically ill, I live with fear and worry. Parkinson’s Disease has challenged my husband, affected his posture, his walking and more. But I’m not going to let Parkinson’s win either. I’m not going to let a fairly inevitable trajectory of decline ruin my hope for him or for my family. Not today. I have hope today that from the ashes come some sort of new life and some inevitable spring.

I am going to hug my darlings close, write, teach, try to make my small corner of the world a little better than I found it. That’s what I’m doing today. And then tomorrow, I’m going to get up and do it all over again.

Because fear doesn’t win. Love wins.

In times of stress, I know I have to:

  • Connect with friends and family more
  • Work out more
  • Do more self care
  • Eat and sleep well

How do you cope?

at Harvard
Last month the kids and I visited Cambridge and Boston.

Fun with Colonoscopy

What better way to celebrate a rough week than to get a colonoscopy?

No one wants to get their colon checked. But my wonderful primary care doctor, Dr. Etta Frankel, told me that I’d hit the age where I needed to. Besides, I’m losing my health insurance in a couple of weeks and wanted to get all my preventative care procedures done. Nothing like the thought of impending doom to get your house in order.

In early November, I got a postponement on my first colonoscopy due to Hurricane Sandy’s reshuffling of patients in New York City hospitals. All elective-type surgeries were canceled or rescheduled that week.

Happily, no NYC hurricane hit this week. Although the concoction I had to drink the night before the procedure worked like a Hurricane Sandy on my digestive track.

Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 bottles of coconut vitamin water
  • 2 bottles of green gatorade
  • one whole container of MiraLax

I mixed my concoction in a pitcher and in under two hours, I finished it. (Much like the 5K!)

a book that helped me through the night before my procedure, The Cookbook Collector:  A Novel by Allegra Goodman
a book that helped me through the night before my procedure, The Cookbook Collector: A Novel by Allegra Goodman

Everyone warned me, and so I was prepared, that this was hardest part of the colonoscopy — the drinking of the concoction. That, and the endless time in the bathroom to clean your bowels. To get through the evening, I reminded myself  that, “If I can run a 5K without stopping, I can drink 64 ounces of some sugary mix and spend an evening on the toilet.”

Also, I had a good book, Allegra Goodman’s Cookbook Collector, to keep me company.

The night of my internal storm in the bathroom, my son was very caring. Holed up in the bathroom for hours, occasionally, there’d be a gentle knock on the door, “You okay in there, Mom?” I truly loved that kid then. (I know I’ve complained about my kids on this blog, but they are basically kind and wonderful souls.)

Earlier that day, I’d fasted, which made me very crabby. (Yes, this is where the kids get their low-blood sugar crabbiness!)

The procedure itself was not a breeze. Everyone told me, “It’s the easiest part.” But I remember twice, half in a twilight sleep, coming to, in order to complain, “That hurts!” It felt like someone was poking me internally with a pool stick. Irksome, but not deadly.

Also, last night, the night of the procedure, I was very crabby. I felt my husband was not solicitous enough. Yes, he has his own health concerns. And yes, when he did ask, I told him, “I’m fine.” But when will a man realize that when a woman say, “I’m fine,” the day of a surgical procedure, what she really means is, “Please baby me the way I baby you when you’re sick! Bring me soup in bed and say, ‘Poor baby! Good that you’re taking care of your health!'”?

So, to reward myself for taking care of myself and surviving the storm of a colonoscopy, I went to a fun, girls’ night out, a jewelry sale to benefit a public high school. I bought some pretty little earrings. I giggled and had deep discussions with my girlfriends. That indulgence made the whole crappy week and day of the colonoscopy a little brighter.

Working Out for Thanksgiving

Holidays are for fitness.

While we’re in Chicago for Thanksgiving, the kids and I have signed up, along with cousins and aunts and uncles, for a TurkeyDay-5K. A couple of years ago, we ran the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks Run for another holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.

That was fun. That March morning was freezing, and no one wanted to get out of bed. But we ran any way. I was damned if I was going to go it alone. I was so proud of myself, because I ran (didn’t walk) the whole way. I aimed for a 13-minute mile.

I run slowly enough to snap pictures as I go. On today’s run, this sidewalk art made me smile. Big Bird Lives!

That’s right. I run in the slow lane. Every one passes me, 89-year olds and toddlers alike. I don’t care. As they say, I’m lapping every one who’s still sitting home on the couch.

Besides, I’m fixing to have a big dinner Thanksgiving night, which includes dessert. And I’m going to be eating my meal slowly too.

Family meals and family fitness should be savored.

When I work out the day before, of, or after a holiday, I feel I can eat or drink anything I want. Guilt-free and happy! That’s what I run for.

Healthy Camping

When we returned home from camping Saturday night, I cut up a watermelon, made a big salad, put out a bowl of cherries, and cooked a Pesto Pizza (Trader Joe’s) for the fam.

our campsite on Fire Island

One thing I don’t like about camping is the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe someone more clever or more prepared than I would’ve come up with a way to pack watermelons or grapefruits. But the fresh fruit I packed, bananas, got mushy and brown before we even hit the campsite.

Any time I travel, I try to eat healthy, yet making hot dogs and S’Mores just seems easier and more fun at the campfire. I’ve got to work on this.

The other downside in terms of my health in the summer is that I don’t mean to get a tan and with my history of Basal Cell Carcinoma, I definitely shouldn’t. But I do.

I apply sunscreen early in the day and then fail to reapply. I’m just too lazy or uninterested. At the beach, inertia sets in.

Yesterday I bought a long-sleeved SPF waterproof shirt. I hope that helps. It was expensive ($50), but then, so is skin cancer.

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Sugar Blues

Last night on 60 Minutes, I watched some excellent reporting on the hazards of sugar in our daily diets.

I needed to be reminded because, like most Americans, I need to cut down (out!) my sugar intake.

The information was not new to me. In high school, I read Sugar Blues and it changed the way I ate. The bestseller showed how a diet high in sugar was addictive and pernicious. Beyond obesity and diabetes, sugar was shown to cause mood swings or an emotional crash an hour or so after indulging.

Yet biologically, we are wired to love sugar — there’s nothing sweeter than mother’s milk.

I cannot cut sugar out entirely. I’m not giving up a glass of red wine, a thin slice of chocolate cake, or fruit yogurt. But I am going to slim down my portions.

I will try to follow the government’s recommendation on the food plate (formerly, the food pyramid). I think eating a variety of healthy foods, with an occasional sweet thrown in, is best.

There’s nothing better than an apple, a strawberry, or a handful of blueberries to satisfy a sweet craving. I’m constantly amazed that something so good tasting can also be so good for you. Because it’s way better to eat an orange than to drink orange juice, I’m cutting out fruit juices too.

Thanks 60 Minutes for this healthy reminder.

Food Plate

Tonite, because my sis-in-law is visiting, we had a vegetarian dinner: pumpkin ravioli, eggplant, shrimp, artichokes, and a big salad.

There was something for everyone. I think it’s better to eat a bunch of healthy, yummy stuff than just meat and potatoes. The more food, the merrier.

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