Selling (out) New York

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Thanks to the power of Netflix, I’ve been watching a show that reinforces a lot of stereotypes many people already have about New Yorkers. It is about real estate agents who sell apartments in the Big Apple, but here are some of the things they feature:

1- People who endlessly air-kiss each other, complete with the fakey-fake noise “Mwah!”. Nausea with a big side serving of gag me.

2- Apartments the size of my livingroom that sell for upwards of a million dollars, with a steady stream of clients who look at them and don’t seem at all shocked by the price. Really? Is this how New Yorkers live, or is this a TV stunt?

3- Potential “homeowners” (which in New York means that you buy an apartment, which having never lived in New York myself I have a hard time comprehending…) who oooh and aaah over “view”s- which in New York can mean things like someone else’s apartment building or the top of another building or a distant building. Sometimes if they are very very lucky, or in a very very upscale area, they will get to see trees or sometimes even water, albeit from far away. This is mind-bending to me, coming from a place where a view is something that one would see on a calendar. Not that I grew up with one, but I certainly knew what one was…

4- Apartments, even those belonging to families with multiple children, that are so immaculate that they don’t look like they are currently inhabited, much less ever lived in. These places are so stunning that I literally cannot calculate the number of man-hours (or more likely woman-hours) it would take to get a dwelling in that condition. There is no chipped paint, no scuff, no wayward speck of dust. Ironically the quilt in the master bedroom if often not perfect, but is the only thing I have ever noticed that is out of place. I wonder if every person in New York has a servant who follows them around 24 hours a day to clean up every trace of their existence the second it is generated. And does this give each of them a massive existential crisis?

5- Neighborhood name-dropping. I have had firsthand experience with New Yorkers who act like everyone else in the country learns New York geography as part of a federally mandated curriculum.

at least they are willing to clarify for the rest of us...

at least they are willing to clarify for the rest of us…

But on this show they are constantly referencing places like Tribeca and Soho. So unless they are expecting only other New Yorkers to watch this show, it may be nice to have a clue what these places are (Tribeca- is that where the 3 Beccas live? Is Soho the home of really skanky people?)Anyway, you can still enjoy the show even as a clueless outsider, but it is a constant reminder that you aren’t on the inside track.

6- Pretty people, all the time. Even the children of one of the main families on the show are cute, and even their dogs are cute. This wouldn’t be so painful to watch- after all, it is TV, so clearly they are going to look for beautiful people to be on their show. But one of the main people tries so hard to be stylish that she is almost crippled in her fancy shoes and actually hobbles down the street in more than one episode. Everyone is thin (which may be explained by the fact that when you look at the size of the servings of food they are served, everything is teeny tiny), and the men are trying just as hard to be just as fabulous as the women. I don’t comment on this to be snipe-y; I comment because it paints such a portrait of fakery that it makes me wonder if New York is one big rat race of who can be prettier than everyone else, even though the show officially has nothing to do with looks. After all, it’s not like I’m watching a modeling show.

I watch this show with a mixture of curiosity and horror. I am watching it because it is hard to find things that are “clean” (meaning no inappropriate content for my children, but still not babyish and cartoony). I am watching it because it is like learning about a new and foreign culture, because, frankly it is. I have met New Yorkers who are delightful people, but I am also curious: Is this really how life in New York is, or has this been exaggerated for effect?

And if it is true, I will just say to those of you in New York, I’m so sorry for you…

7 Days of Guacamole and Chips

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I am now into my 2nd week, and don’t regret a day of it. This has been my steady diet, without variation, except for some lime juice on some days, and the addition of sour cream most of the time. I am not on any special diet, but in my quest to avoid nausea, I am sticking with something that- ironically- sits easy with me right now, and makes me very, very happy.

Perhaps you can tell from what I have been eating, but creativity is not my forte these days. On the other hand, I found (with inadvertent help from another blog reader) a super blog, which I wish wish wish I was the author of. Normally I avoid mentioning other blogs if they are already quite popular, but this one is just too good to keep to myself. You can consider it an early holiday present; I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I have been.

Without further ado:

http://thebloggess.com/

Neis = Miracle. Enjoy :)

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Enjoying The Banana Spilt

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Imagine you just sat down to eat. You were really in the mood for a nice fresh salad, maybe with a tangy vinaigrette dressing. You can almost taste each bite, as your mouth waters in anticipation. You are picturing the juicy red tomato, the crunch of the cucumber, and the zing of red pepper. You spread the napkin on your lap, and lift your fork, barely containing your joy, as someone sets in front of you… a banana split.

Now there is certainly nothing wrong with a good banana split. Lots of people enjoy them tremendously. The problem comes in if you are diabetic. Or lactose intolerant. Or on a diet. Or sick of overly processed food and were really looking forward to that salad.

This is the paradigm I have been challenged with lately as I am trying to be more grateful for the wonderful things in my life. Although intellectually I recognize that I am living a banana split life, emotionally I often feel like the diabetic in front of the ice cream sundae. I want to appreciate that there are still elements I could and rightly should enjoy- perhaps the smells or the vibrant colors of the dessert treat- but more often than I would like to I trip over the yearning for the vinaigrette.

When I was explaining this to someone today he told me a great joke that I wanted to share with all of you. It captures the essence of what I had been saying, while also reminding us that we all struggle and sometimes the best thing to do is not to take yourself too seriously.

Mary (the mother of Jesus) is in Heaven waiting to meet people as they enter the pearly gates. A woman dies and goes up to heaven, and upon seeing Mary just gushes with excitement. She can’t believe that after her whole life she is finally meeting the woman who had inspired her for all of her years on Earth. She goes on and on telling Mary that Mary was the most perfect uplifting heroic person this woman had ever conceived of, and she is so honored to be finally meeting her, and she is the luckiest woman ever, and she always wanted to be just like Mary. She is heaping praise on Mary, and telling her how wonderful her son is also, etc etc etc. But them she wants to know if she can ask Mary one question. It always bothered her that in every picture, statue, fresco, etc. Mary always looked sad, even when she was holding the newborn baby Jesus. The woman wants to know why. Mary answers her, “Well, the truth is, I really was hoping for a little girl…”

The 10-Minute Miracle

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I am a fairly proficient baker, but one thing I never knew is that there is a bit of science behind getting your baked goods to come out of the pan easily. Beyond non-stick spray, and sometimes flouring the pan (or using cocoa powder for a dark cake; it will show less and taste more yummy), there is a neat trick I just learned.

For some reason I never knew that it made a difference how long you let the baked item cool in the pan before you took it out. Well, it does. And the magic window seems to be 10 minutes. I have tried this on both cakes and loaves of bread and I am here to tell you that in both cases the items came out easier and with substantially less wrangling and breakage than ever before. I used to be a cool-completely girl, but I am a new convert. Unless there is a specific reason (like the recipe tells you an exact cooling time required), try the 10 minute rule, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

In honor of this, I decided to post a few recipes, which I had a request for, and I know I haven’t done in a while. I can’t remember if I’ve ever posted these before, but I hope you like them. Enjoy!

Miriam’s Holiday Cake:
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2 cups sugar
2/3 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pkg (3-1/2 ounce) vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup amaretto

Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything together and bake in a bundt pan for about 1 hour.

Top when cool with this glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP orange juice
1 TBSP amaretto
1 tsp vodka

Yes, it is a lot of ingredients, but it isn’t fussy to make, and it is sooooooooooooooo worth it!
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Amazing Lemon Bars:
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Crust:
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Filling:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (yes, it really does make a difference to the overall yumminess if you use fresh versus bottled)
zest of 2 lemons
6 eggs
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup flour
1-3/4 tsp baking powder

Glaze:
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
about 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Put crust ingredients in a bowl and mix into a loose crumb, which you will gently press into the bottom of your pan. My friend lines hers with parchment paper, but I just non-stick spray a glass baking pan. Try to get it even and level, so it will bake evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Combine all filling ingredients in another bowl and blend. Pour filling over baked crust and return oven to bake for 25-35 minutes until filling is set in the middle.

While the bars are baking, make your glaze, using enough lemon juice to make it spreadable. Pour this glaze over the bars while they are still warm from the oven, and spread it around. Cool completely. You can cut it into portions and freeze them or leave it in the pan and serve it from there (this is what I do). Warning: this is very addictive…
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On a non-baking, but extremely comforting note, this is my most favorite macaroni and cheese recipe ever. I use more mustard than it calls for, and I think you should definitely put more salt into the recipe, but I will write it as it and you can adjust. My kids eat this with ketchup, which I think is a travesty, but no matter how you eat it, nothing says comfort when it’s cold out like something warm and cheesy…

Macaroni and Cheese:
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16 ounces (more or less) of any shape of noodles

Sauce:
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
4 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 cups milk
16 oz grated cheese

Cook noodles however you do. In separate pot, melt butter, add salt, mustard, and flour. Stir over low heat until thick. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly, until bubbles appear and sauce thickens. Add grated cheese, and stir until melted through and smooth. After the noodles have cooked, drain them, combine them with the sauce, mix them together, and take solace in the fact that sweaters are baggy and being warm and cozy is wonderful. Then eat a second bowlful :)

Mass For Shut-Ins

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When I was a child (in the days before the glut of information available at a moment’s notice on the internet), there were times that I was stone-bored. Some of these times made me very creative about inventing games, but others I invested time in things like reading the dictionary (I got up to the letter P before I got frustrated at how many words I couldn’t recall and I stopped.). We had a set of Time/Life Encyclopedias that I would browse, and some scattered science-y books around that I would attempt to decipher. When the boredom got super-bad, I would even read the TV Guide.

Every Sunday morning at 5 o’clock am there was a show on called Mass For Shut-Ins. Coming from the background I did, I had absolutely no idea what this meant. It was a mystery to me the first time I saw it, and then when I saw that it was a repeating program, the mystery grew. I had no context for any of these words, so I did my best to guess based on other similar words I did know. What could “mass” be? Was it like “massive”? Or did it mean mass in the sense of how big and heavy something was? Could it mean masses of people or was it more like the word “amass”, like one could amass wealth? None of these really made sense as a Sunday morning TV show, but I tried to puzzle out the rest.

What could a “Shut-In” possibly be? Like a shutter on a house? That was the closest I could come to anything reasonable. Shut-In didn’t sound even remotely like any other word I knew, so I was kind of at a stand-still on that one. I knew what it was to shut something obviously, but shutting something in didn’t make any sense. And it certainly didn’t go with any of the definitions I could come up with for the first word (Mass). So I was just stuck.

As an adult, I finally learned about Catholic Mass, and at some point I heard the term “shut-in” used for a person who was homebound due to illness or injury. It was a big Aha moment for me, and things finally clicked into place that the TV network was offering a televised church service for folks who couldn’t get out of their house to attend worship. (Why it was at 5 am I still don’t know, but okay, that isn’t my problem…)

Recently I had another Aha moment, but it was less of a Wow moment and more of a Oh, Dear moment. I realized that I have become a shut-in myself. And while I don’t need televised church services, I took a mental inventory of all the things I do need to support my life as a homebound person and it’s a little alternate universe-twilight zone. I was speaking to a friend from Detroit who was running errands and I was very nostalgic, and she was asking me where I get this and that in Seattle and I was like, “Uh, nowhere because I don’t really leave the house…” She was kind of incredulous, and she was reminding me of all the things I used to do in Detroit (in spite of being sick) and I said, “Well, it isn’t really like that for me in Seattle.”

I had to do a real self-assessment to figure out if I am sicker or just a malingerer. Am I worse off or just being a drama queen? What changed since we lived in Detroit that made me a homebound person when in Detroit I was, at least sometimes, functional?

After a lot of reflection, I will tell you that it is a true and real thing that my life is smaller here than it has ever been before. That isn’t a bad thing; it is what it is. A lot of people are horrified: Don’t you go stir-crazy being at home??? Well, the answer is no. I enjoy being at home, and I’m quite happy within my four walls. I do get frustrated by the amount of things I am not able to do on a day-to-day basis, but I am not inherently bothered by being a homebody. Perhaps if I felt better I would be more on edge with excess energy I needed to burn off by getting out and about, but for now when I feel mediocre on a very good day, I am perfectly happy to take it easy and try to just manage my home to the best of my ability.

One of the things I do miss, though, is being an interesting person. When people are out in the world, they encounter other people and sights and sounds that spark their imagination. They see and do things that have the ability to inspire them and make them think about things in different ways. At home, I am me, myself, and I.

HOWEVER… I realized within the last few days that I have been selling my life short. When my mental acuity is present and accounted for, I can listen to lectures online. I can read articles and look things up. I had forgotten about all of this, because I have been feeling so crummy for so long that my mind has been preoccupied with things like keeping down food and staying calm around my kids. When your body is in survival mode it is really tough (read: not possible) to dig deep enough to find extra resources to expand your mind or increase your intellectual pursuits. But now I feel like I am (hopefully) climbing out of the hole a bit. And I am hoping to take advantage of this newfound state of grace to make my life a bit more rewarding. I am also hoping that will translate into me becoming a little more interesting.

I guess the proof (or lack thereof) will be on this page, so stay tuned…

;)

Medical Failure

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I went to the pain doctor today, and had a somewhat unreal experience. In spite of preparing for the visit (I wrote down what I wanted to discuss, made a list of my new medication dosages, and printed out something to give to her, but I still stumbled through the visit like a blathering idiot. I’m not sure what it is about this particular doctor that renders me so inarticulate, but for some reason I am pretty confident and self-assured with my other doctors, but turn into a “pain patient” in front of this one.

It is no fault of this doctor. She is gentle and kind. She is unhurried and does her best to make me feel heard. But for nothing I can put my finger on, inexplicably I become dumb in her presence. It has something to do with the volatile mix of trying to seem ill enough to be taken seriously while simultaneously seeming not so sick that I don’t look like I am trying too hard and faking anything (which I am not). I need to recreate for her a sense of what my pain was like when it flared, even though it is not flaring in her office (or I wouldn’t be well enough to come to the appointment), yet still appear put together enough that she understands that I can be trusted to manage my condition and my medication (some of which are dangerous in the wrong hands and under the wrong circumstances).

Today we had a conversation that went something like this:

Doctor: So tell me what the pain in your shoulder feels like.
Me: Um, well, I think maybe I am a hypochondriac and it used to be less and now it is yogurt circus dogs dancing swingset upside down…

Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but my answer was almost that nonsensical, and I gave her information that was almost as useless and I have no idea why. Instead of realizing that I was getting off-topic and trying harder to nail down what I wanted to say, I just rambled farther afield, and it derailed an important issue even more. Needless to say, we didn’t address a crucial issue on this visit, and although we talked about other important things, I still feel at loose ends about what to do about this horrible pain all over my right side. Ugh.

She was checking something on my lower back and asked me, “What are these scars?” And I said, “Oh, I don’t have scars on my back. It must be marks from my skirt being wrinkled.”

Which in hindsight (meaning after I was home and had a chance to reflect) sounded kind of like when I used to be looking at crayon drawings on the wall and say to my little kids, “Who drew on the wall?” And they would say, “Nobody drew on the wall.”

Because if a doctor is looking at your back in real life and is seeing scars, it is pretty stupid to tell her that there are no scars there. But then it got worse because in a quasi-panic I started going through my mental roladex and asking her any possible thing that may have caused me to have scars: “Could it be from an epidural?” No. “How about cortisone injections?” No. So truly I have no idea what is on my back, and if it is like scars from a chainsaw attack or a ladybug bite, but apparently I have some scars that I don’t recall getting, and she suggested I ask *h to take photos of them and show them to me so I can figure out how I became disfigured without my own knowledge. It’s not like I lent out my body, right? So, in theory, this is kind of something I feel like I should be on top of, and she could tell I was coming unglued over it, so she said it wasn’t that important and we should just address the problem we were talking about, which was very rational. But I’m not a let-things-go kind of girl. So here we all are…

I asked her a bunch of questions, lots for the sake of due diligence: Does she think I could be helped by hypnosis? (No) Acupuncture? (For some things maybe a little bit.) Massage? (Um, maybe. Here I feel like she was being kind and throwing me a bone. After all, who with any compassion would tell you NOT to get a massage if they think you are asking for it? Which by the way I was not. Actually the idea of having any appointments that take me out of the house make me want to cry right now…)

She is such a sweet doctor, and I want so badly to be a star patient. I want to get better and make her proud- for the same reasons I used to be a straight-A student. I printed out one of my blog posts talking about experiencing pain, in the hope that she will understand that perspective of a patient, moreso than I can explain it to her when I am not eloquent in her office. But now I feel like dork for doing that- like a lovesick boy who writes a poem for his crush and then slips the note into her locker and regrets it afterward. It’s too late now to do anything but hope that something I wrote will resonate with her, and oh well if that isn’t the case.

All in all, I would say the appointment was not a smashing success, but it was not a colossal failure either. I am hoping for the best, and that the pieces of my medical situation will sort themselves out. I’m not sure why I get my hopes up, but I still do. I guess that’ a good thing that I haven’t given up yet, and that my doctor hasn’t given up on me. I suppose that as long as there is room for improvement I still have time left on this Earth. That should be happy news for my kids ;)

And other than that, I don’t have too much to report. As always, I hope all of you will wish me luck and keep me in your prayers.

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