Saturday, November 22, 2008

Make a difference

If you haven't heard about the book crisis yet, take a look.

What it boils down to is that book sellers can return unsold books and get their money back, and they did in September and October, causing a book crisis. What can you do to help? Buy books. Doesn't matter what you buy, just buy books. I say this as an author and as a reader. The holidays are coming up like a runaway semi truck down a steep grade without brakes. Instead of candy or flowers or whatever gift conundrum you're wrestling, buy books. Even if the person on your gift list doesn't read, like the fella said, "...tell them to get over it." They have the skills. It's time to exercise them, even if it's a picture book that won't take long to get through or a fancy coffee table book that makes them look intelligent and worldly and classy. Give them books.

Readers need books and authors need readers. It's a symbiotic relationship. So, unless you want to be left with only the cereal box to read (newspapers are going online and ending their print runs in droves), buy books. Support the industry that teaches, informs, entertains, excites, arouses, titillates and interests and buy books. Use it or lose it.

Instead of waiting for weeks, and even months, for a book at the library, buy your own. Instead of Chateaubriand, eat a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of soup and crackers and buy a book. If they're small, buy three. Brave the cold, shop until you drop, but buy books. Write in the margins. Use a highlighter. Share it with friends, but make sure to get it back so they will buy their own, but buy books. Got it? Good.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Check your toxic levels

Did you know that an emotionally toxic environment can make you ill and run down your immune system? It can. Not just when you're frail and old or battling a lingering and fatal disease but when you're seemingly healthy.

Do you get frequent colds, flu, etc? Are you always worn down and tired, can't sleep, feel edgy and don't know why? It could be your home environment, the place where you spend most of your time. Tension, unresolved emotional issues and discord in the home affect your immune system as though it is fighting a constant battle against a barrage of bacteria and viruses -- because it is. It also helps to have the furnace vents blown out and cleaned annually to get rid of the accumulated dust, bacteria and gunk that cycles through the air every time the furnace kicks on. It wouldn't hurt to blow out and clear the air by opening the windows, burning sage and sweet grass, cleaning with Chinese wash or some other natural herbal/resin cleaner and getting rid of the negativity in your household by ousting emotional parasites and vampires. Think I'm kidding? I'm not.

I live alone but have a lot of contact with the outside world. Even when my three boys were in school and bringing home the usual childhood diseases and bacteria, I was seldom ill, which meant I didn't get to use paid sick days for myself, just for the boys. Kids pick up everything, especially germs, bacteria, viruses and disease (the little typhoids Marys and Moes), but if you're ill all the time and blaming the kids you need to start looking in another direction. That smiling face across the breakfast table or sitting on the couch across the room could be the reason for your chronic cycle of illness.

Yes, the spouse holding the pillow you think is to put behind your back and raise you up so you can breathe better is really wondering whether or not an autopsy would show you were smothered instead of suffocating from congestion or a build-up of fluid in your lungs. Planning on surgery? Your spouse is trying to figure out how to make sure you die on the operating table and how long it will take before your insurance will be paid out. It might even be your lover or house mate or companion, if they're in your will or beneficiaries on your insurance policy. Or maybe that is the only way the can think of getting rid of you. All those negative thoughts and emotions may be hidden from view, but the effect isn't gone. It's circulating through the air and in the environment where you live, causing you to be ill and run down your immune system, taking its toll on your emotional and physical reserves until you run out of reserves and give up the ghost.

Check your toxic levels. There is more to health than antiseptic wipes and cleaners. What's wrong with you could be sleeping next to you or in the next room, sharing your food and your space, and sucking your energy dry.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Comfort food

I'm in a domestic mood. Not the cleaning kind of domestic mood, but a cooking and baking and making holiday gifts kind of domestic mood. I get this way around the holidays. I get this way other times of the year -- most times of the year. There is something so soothing and Zen about cooking and baking, about creating something for someone to enjoy, or just for myself. With T-day right around the corner, I'm thinking about turkey and chestnut stuffing and pumpkin souffles or pumpkin creme brulee instead of pie. I'm thinking of sweet potato pecan pie with brandied cream. I'm making a list and checking it twice.

When I was younger, cooking was a place where I could go to tune out the noise and strife and feel safe and comfortable. Everything makes sense in the kitchen. Ingredients measure out and delicious aromas spread throughout the house, leaving behind smiles and contentment, at least for me and once upon a time for my children when they were young. Not so much for my ex-husband; he preferred the greasy, hot smell of fish and chips or shrimp and fries to cream puffs and ham with nectarine-brown sugar glaze. He didn't stick around long for the deer meat stew or cranberry-apple crepes with whipped cream and a dusting of confectioner's sugar. He wasn't into the smells and tastes of home cooking, coming as he did from a home where spices and even salt and pepper were outlawed as foreign substances The idea of taking a chicken or turkey carcass, some vegetables and herbs and putting them in a big pot to make a base for soup or gravy was tantamount to witchcraft and he wasn't fond of witches.

I taught my boys at a very young age about kitchen safety and cooking, allowing them to help measure and mix and pipe homemade cream into the cream puffs or dust them with powdered sugar. They could cook pancakes and make oatmeal when they were very young, before they were old enough to go to school, and they knew how to hull strawberries and pit cherries. I taught them the same way my grandmother taught me. One of the boys even considered becoming a chef before he found out he could make more money selling modular homes. I'm still sad about that, but it's his life.

Growing up around my grandparents, I learned that the best and most lasting way to say, "I love you," was by cooking and baking. My grandfather made the best vegetable beef soup I have ever had, bar none. Grandma made everything else without a recipe, knowing automatically how much of each ingredient she needed to make every meal special. I learned to make milk gravy and fry chicken standing beside her on a kitchen chair with one of her aprons tied twice around my waist. Pies, cakes, red flannel hash, fried rabbit, stuffed turkey, combination salad, ambrosia, and every good thing she taught me and I enjoyed every minute of it.

When I was married, barely out of high school with a child on the way, I wandered off the tried and true culinary path and found comfort in cookbooks and exotic ingredients when I lived far away from home. It was too expensive to call home more than once or twice a year, so I stayed close to home in my heart with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I learned from my grandmother, promising myself that each new dish or dessert I learned I'd share with her when I saw her again -- and I did, introducing her to French cuisine and Asian cooking, Greek pastries and Spanish paella. She enjoyed it all as much as I enjoyed sharing what I'd learned with her and we had a standing weekly date for lunch when I cooked something different every time.

I've traveled a lot since I left home and I've found the quickest way to make friends through food, learning ethnic dishes and sharing my favorites. Pot luck meant a creative melange of foods and aromas that would at first thought clash but complemented perfectly through the spice of friendship. I still would rather have friends to dinner or give baskets and gifts of food for the holidays. It's my favorite celebration for a party, impromptu guests or a picnic lunch out under the broad canvas of the Colorado blue sky -- or any sky. There's something special about sunshine and homemade food that smooths out the rough edges and awkward moments and breeds contentment and friendship. Winter, summer, spring or fall make no difference. There are recipes and comfort enough for all.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

I woke in the middle of the night because it was too warm with the thermostat set at 68 degrees. Between the hot flashes, my naturally high body temperature at night and the vent above my bed, I was roasting even though it was below freezing outside, so I got up, turned down the thermostat, drank some water and slipped back between the sheets. I drifted off in the gathering coolness and awoke again with the horizon outside my window spread with salmon pink and a golden haze over everything feeling refreshed and comfortable and not really ready to relinquish my bed. The golden haze dimmed and the clear Colorado blue sky became more distinct, the soft blue of the moonlit landscape giving way to pink and gold and then to the bright, distinct and multi-colored hues of daytime.

There isn't much to do today, other than finishing a review book and laundry. I love lazy Sundays when reading is the main occupation. I'll take the trash out later or maybe wait until early tomorrow morning before the garbage men come so I don't have to get dressed. Then again, I might make the coconut cream pie I've been eyeing for a while. I have all the ingredients and something about eating silky smooth coconut cream fragrant with fresh coconut while reading a good book is enticing. I might settle for a bowl of coconut cream pudding instead while wishing for fresh warm strawberries still tasting of sunshine and spring.

On Sundays I indulge my senses, take it slow and savor the peace and silence before the onslaught of Monday morning rush and bustle. Yesterday was full of chores and activity. I even mended my favorite t-shirt where time and wear and washing have taken a toll on the beautiful hand painted flower centered on the black fabric. I probably should have relegated the shirt to the rag bag but I'd miss the soft feel of the well worn fabric slipping along my skin. Just when something begins to feel really comfortable it shows its age, first with tiny holes and then when rips and tears. I have another such shirt on this morning, a big baggy purple t-shirt with tiny holes sprouting in odd places, forming communities and getting ready to become tears. I don't know if I'll mend this one or toss it in the rag bag or simply let it disintegrate slowly. It's not as revealing as the other t-shirt with its splits across my chest, revealing glimpses of skin and the tantalizing hint of colored lace, but the die is cast and it will one day be just as riddled with rips and tears.

Until then, there will be many Sunday mornings and Saturdays doing chores where I'll wear one or the other as I move through the weekend between work and rest, reading and cleaning, baking and enjoying a few morsels of indulgence like today.

That is all. Disperse.