Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just Can't Knit or Crochet for Some Reason

I haven't picked up knitting needles or a crochet hook in weeks. I don't know what's going on. I'm so unmotivated. I bought the yarn for these socks weeks ago. The yarn was a great deal. The pattern is free. And sock-knitting is unchartered territory for me. But I just can't seem to get motivated.

I have been reading quite a bit though. I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn over two weeks ago and meant to write a review. I then read The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorofor-Mbachu. I was enthusiastic to read that book because I recognized the author's Igbo name. It's written for age 12 and up but it was still enjoyable and also the strangest book I have ever read. I'll review it later. I spent the in the kitchen today and I'm so exhausted.

Not to mention trying with all my might not to go over the grocery budget this month. I can't believe we still have one more week to go. I'm out of tofu. Out of probiotics (which, it seems, I need to be, uh, regular). Out of cashews. Sheesh. And my vital wheat gluten still has not arrived. Time to start sending some strongly worded e-mails.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Connects Us?

I've been thinking lately. I guess we all know by now that the times are changing and uncertain. It's a good time to just stop. And think.

I was involved in a discussion a couple of days ago and it made me start wondering: What really connects us? By us, I mean Black people.

I think I've come upon an answer. There's really nothing that connects us. The only one thing that tenuously holds us together is our color. And even at that . . . there are so many shades of Black, even Black so light it looks like White.

I thought about various things that could be connectors. Like our history. But we all have different histories. Could it be our interaction/reactions to White oppression and subjugation? We've all experience this quite differently. Could it be that we all come from Africa? Well, so many of us are a combination of so many different backgrounds that we can't strictly say that every Black person is 100% African. It's certainly not language that connects us.

And it's certainly not culture.

Because there is no such thing as "Black culture". And you will find that once you try to postulate about certain aspects of "Black culture," you will most certainly find that some Black people take serious offense at that. For example, I used to freely say that "Black folks love to dance" or "Black people have a intuitive sense of rhythm." Now, I'm learning to be very careful about that because undoubtedly, someone will say (sometimes angrily), and perhaps rightly so, that it's not true of all Black people, that Black people are not one homogeneous blob.

And I never believed that we were. But I always believed there was some thread that held all of us together. That we are all vested in some issues that affect all of us. That there are some values that we all hold true. Some aspects of how each one of us were raised that are the same. Some generalizations we could make about ourselves as Black people and all agree, that yeah, for the most part, it's true. That beyond our color, there are things that grow from our common experience of being second-class citizens, degraded often and abused always. If nothing else, I thought we could at least agree that we all have a knack for survival.

But, I guess, my cynicism has taken over and I just don't believe it anymore. Color actually doesn't connect. I am keenly aware of how I feel excluded from conversations that focus about African-Americans--I don't share much of that history. In my younger days, I used to wonder how could anyone date and marry outside of their race . . . how would they understand each other? And now, it's clear. And I hope my younger sister and young niece are able to let go of the idea that there is actually some kind of real connection between people because they are Black and cast a wide, inclusive net when it comes to who they make friends with and who they partner romantically with.

Of course, if Black people want to connect on the level of their Blackness, it's actually quite easy to do so. Because even if our backgrounds are not exactly the same, there are similarities that are undeniable. Across the board and across the races, human beings are more alike than different. And that one small, obvious similarity (darker skin), I think, could draw us closer and closer. But I wouldn't argue that.

I, for one, don't see the use in fighting the "We all are one" or the "No matter where you come from, You're an African" battle anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finding Time to Spend Time

Tuesday is the hubby's day off and the one day when, generally, he refuses to do overtime. The hubby works alternate weekends but recently, even on the weekends he's off, he's been picking up an extra shift and sometimes even working doubles. [It's great that DH's job (he's a blood bank tech) offers the flexibility and opportunity to work as much as he wants. It's also a huge blessing that his job is relatively secure. I always think it's comforting to know that both of us have professions that are always needed and so we will always have work. We both also have skills outside of our professions that could theoretically (and in my case, as I've come to learn, very theoretically) keep us afloat if the jobs were no more or if we needed to augment our income (I've been having a heck of a time finding ways to make money that doesn't require me finding childcare). I mean, my main worry in this economic crisis is not necessarily that there will be no work but actually that the dollar you make working will continue to be stretched and stretched and stretched till it can't take it any more!] Anyway, that leaves us (I mean me and him) precious little time just by ourselves. I think it's different for men and women. DH seems to think hanging out with the two Z's as a family is enough and doesn't really place an emphasis on our time. I do. It seems I constantly remind him but, your girl tries damn hard not to nag so I often just let it go. But I highly value our alone time and my own personal time. This is why you find me blogging, reading or knitting at 2:40 in the morning instead of taking my self to bed.

Anyway, tonight I fell asleep while putting the boys down. My alarm clock didn't phase me--I slept right through it (I thought I told it to "snooze" but clearly I turned it off). DH says he tried to wake me but I was out cold and he thought I needed the sleep. I have to say, I was a little peeved. I really do wait in anticipation all day Tuesday in hopes of spending a couple of hours with him. I just wished he would have gotten me up at all costs. I felt so let down! But alas, I don't think he gets that spending time with him when I can is more important than sleep to me. I can sleep tomorrow, or the day after or the day after that--he'll be at work. This is one expectation, it seems, that I'm going to have to let go. It's just not realistic with two small children. (Although, I'll be completely honest, I wonder when I hear about couples married for 25 years and then getting divorced, is this what happened? Did they get so caught up in the kids and making ends meet and all the knitty-gritty of life that they didn't take time out for each other? Didn't make it a priority? Is that why they grew apart? Will that happen to us?)

So, I'm up. Blogging. Alone.

Who knew it could be so hard to find time to spend time?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No Money in the Food Budget for Experimentation

So instead of trying out new recipes (which I love to do), I've been focusing on re-vamping old ones I have and looking for new twists to my staple dishes.

One example is my recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies. I had a basic recipe I was using that I found ages ago. I've now tweaked it so much that I can call it mine! :) And it's so good.

Chi-Chi's Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread
1/2 cup turbinado (raw sugar)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 tbsp. water (mix till frothy)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup raisins, soaked till plump then drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream vegan butter spread and sugar together till well incorporated. Add maple syrup, egg replacer and vanilla extract and mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix well. Add oats and raisins. Mix well again.

Drop about 2 tablespoonfuls of batter for each cookie onto an oiled or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on cooling racks. Enjoy!

Makes about one dozen cookies.
I'm really pleased about how well the cookies came out and everyone really seems to love them! They're soft and chewy but still wholesome tasting.

So for the past few weeks, it's been beans, beans, and more beans and I've just be looking for recipes and ways to make them more creative/less boring. So a week ago, we had black bean burritos (which were a *hit*) and which only required that I buy one pack of tortillas (okay, I should have made them--it's not hard but for some reason corn meal seems to be harder to come by these days). Last night I wanted to make chili but I was getting tired of my regular stand-by recipe. I was scouring all my cookbooks and found a good number of chili recipes in Vegan Planet ( previously neglected cookbook) that required ingredients that I already had on hand. I made a really delicious chili. It called for fresh peppers which I didn't have so I used dried red pepper flakes. What made it different was that it called for apple juice and cinnamon which gave it a little twist and therefore made it much more interesting. I felt like it needed some more depth so I added a bit of molasses. It came out well. :)

And then, a few days ago, I made Dreena's chocolate chip cookies (after a brief hiatus from anything but bread baking). They were DIVINE, as usual, and a real treat since I had been shying away from using the (relatively) large amount of (expensive azz) maple syrup.

I ran out of wheat gluten flour. I purchased some on Ebay from an Amish company (it seems) but it's been slow in getting here. Makes me wish I'd purchased from Amazon. So, after putting off baking bread for a few days in hopes it would arrive, I went on ahead and baked the bread sans gluten. I came out with some funny shaped loaves but bread nonetheless. I hope the gluten comes soon though because I have to make some vegan sausages (even though I can't eat them anymore--but the hubby does). :)

Well, the month is almost through and I haven't busted my grocery budget just yet. I will clear $500 this month but my pantry is well-stocked and I think I can expect to really stick to the $120/week budget in November. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, and hoping somebody gives me $50,000 tomorrow. LoL.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'se Married Now!

I don't know if ya'll are fans of the movie The Color Purple but I am a *huge* fan and I almost know the entire movie verbatim. There's a scene where Shug Avery sees her daddy driving by in his horse-drawn carriage and runs out of the house excited to let him know that she had finally done right and gotten married. "I'se married now . . . I say, I'se married now" she shouts. But he continues to drive by without even giving her a look. I've always loved that scene. I can identify with Shug's intense desire to "do right" and to win her father's acceptance.

Anyway, Beyonce, who I think is a talented entertainer and who, I will admit, I envy a little because of how fit and in shape she is (trust me, I recognize it's her job to look fabulous but on most days I feel sloppy and overweight so a little envy creeps in from time to time). Anyway, Ms. Knowles has come out with a new single called Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Take a look and listen to the lyrics:

Okay, the dancing is so on point. I really don't like the song per se but the dancing? Whoa. But this is not a post on the merits of the video. What I really want to talk about is what she's saying and why watching the video the first time gave me one huge chuckle and also something to think about.

I think we could all agree that in this society and in many societies, girls are socialized to grow up to become wives. Many little girls dream of a beautiful wedding and marrying Prince Charming and living a charmed life. Marriage is something that many girls are taught to work towards and aspire to almost as hard as a career, if not more so. I've heard it said before, "What good is a successful career without someone to share it with?" Women who choose not to get married or who aren't married yet are seen as strange (at best) or deviant (at worst). While the term for an unmarried man (bachelor) connotes fun and a license to just be free, the term for an unmarried woman (spinster) has much different connotations. When we think of a spinster, we think of someone who is sad, alone, and probably has lots of cats. It's someone we pity. Even if the spinster has a thriving career. And is perfectly happy. The default in our world is that a woman can't possibly be happy alone. She needs a man to complete her happiness.

Now, don't get me wrong, I *love* my man and I'm more than happy to have him in my life. But believe it or not, I have learned in my almost 5 years of marriage that if you cannot be happy by yourself then getting married won't magically fix that. If you cannot be at peace alone, in your loneliness, marriage is not the cure. So I admire women who have deliberately chosen to be on their own or if they are still waiting for the right guy to show up have a vivaciousness about them; a certain love of life; a purpose. I admire a single woman who is not just waiting for Mister Right but is living life. That takes strength in the midst of all the messages society throws around about single ladies.

Which brings me back to the Beyonce song. My sister was actually a bit annoyed at Ms. Knowles, who, if you pay attention to any gossip sources or have access to any teenager you would know, got married recently to Mr. Sean Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z. It seemed that she was showing off in her video, according to my sister. Okay, she is! She's newly married! It's exciting. It's what every girl dreams of. It means so much in this society to "settle down," "do right," and get married. Ms. Knowles has done it all, it would seem. She's a successful entertainer at the top of her game. She's an actress. She owns her own clothing line. The icing on the cake is being married! So I don't blame her for showing off of a little. I've never known a new bride who doesn't show off a little (or a lot). Sometimes new brides will cut off their old friends because "I'se married now!" And while relationships can and will change after you get married, it seems that sometimes new brides get carried away with their "huzzzbands"! And so, this is what made me chuckle. Despite Ms. Knowles super stardom, she really is just like a lot of us.

I know when I got married, a lot of my relationships changed drastically, most significantly the relationship with my parents who were not pleased at all that I had decided to get married. While our relationship before was pretty rocky, it took a turn for the worse when I decided that my man must become my hubby. The turmoil I experienced over the relationship with my parents probably did not give me the chance that most new brides have to gloat and to glow over their new marriage. But it did give me a very practical view of marriage and a clear understanding of what it would take for the marriage to withstand and thrive. So while things were romantic the first year (despite everything) they were always ground in reality with the backdrop of my parental issues always looming.

Anyway . . . I, for one, think it's cute when new brides act the way Ms. Knowles is in her video. Being married can be exciting, fun and can, for a while, feel surreal. But I think that underneath the cuteness can be a meanness ("I'm married and you're not, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah") and also an insecurity ("Thank God I finally got married--I was worried for a minute there!") which, I think, the meanness grows from. I like to think about and explore the deeper societal issues that women face that makes getting married the ultimate test or measure of a woman's success when for men, it does not seem to be that way. On the contrary, for a guy, getting married is often talked about as his demise, a demotion, his acceptance of a ball and chain, the end, evidence that he's "gone soft". It's something that must be done regardless of all that because he knows that a woman (especially a self-assured, smart, otherwise successful, beautiful woman), driven, as it were, by this ultimate goal of marriage, won't stick around too long if it's not offered. That is, in fact, all Beyonce's song is about. I sincerely doubt we'll see Jay-Z brandishing his new, diamond encrusted wedding band.

I don't think the movie The Color Purple did justice to the character of Shug. The novel paints a picture of Shug Avery as a very free spirited, independent, fun loving, sexually liberated character. She thinks for herself and generally doesn't care what others think of her. She's her own woman. And that is her draw. It's what makes her sexy. She's lusted after by men. And hated by women. Despite all that, Ms. Avery still longs for marriage. I've always wondered about that.

To the Farm

Yesterday, I took the boys to Muscoot Farm some 40 minutes upstate. DH was working all day and I was really hesitant at first to make such a long trip by myself (firstly, because I dislike driving and secondly, because I didn't know just how "farmy" this place would be and you know your girl is a city girl through and through). But it was well worth it. Everything about the trip up was beautiful from the wide open stretches of highway where I could cruise at 70 mph, to the beautiful fall foliage that lined the highway and from which you could see rolling hills of trees in all kinds of majestic colors, to the boys' attitudes and behavior during the drive.

When we arrived, I knew we'd have a good time. Muscoot Farm is more like a farm museum than an actual farm so while there are animals and barns and all that, it's more a recreation of what a farm would be like. There was a small farmer's market (I got suckered into buying some beautiful tomatoes, onions and one sweet potato for $12--I kept thinking how much stuff I could have bought at home for that). There was also pumpkin picking which Z1 thoroughly enjoyed. I tried to get Z2 in on the pumpkin picking action but all he wanted to do was eat the grass (and get pissed off when I took it out of his mouth). Z1 picked out a lovely sugar pumpkin that we will roast and eat tomorrow (the hubby's day off). There was a pile of hay with child size rakes and wheelbarrow. Z1 had a blast tossing himself on the hay, raking it, collecting in the wheelbarrow. He got to do one craft at the crafting section (an origami witch's hat), and, of course, got to get up really close to the horses (very friendly horses), geese, ducks, cows, chickens, STINKY pigs (and cute piglets) and goats. The highlight of the whole day to me was the hayride. Oh, we had a great time!!

But I didn't bring the camera. And the camcorder ran out of juice! I can't wait to go back just so we can capture some memories!!

The ride home was equally as pleasant. The boys slept the whole way even through traffic that extended the trip an extra thirty minutes and slept about another thirty minutes more while I sat parked in front of the house.

I think we'll make this a Fall tradition. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm Reminded Why I Don't Like Doctors

I say it all the time: medical doctors do not know how to heal. They can diagnose. They can treat symptoms. But very few are interested in a cure. The cynical part of me says that there is nothing to be gained monetarily by actually healing. I want to believe that there are some doctors out there who are working because they truly believe they are making a difference. However, after years of practice and never seeing anyone get healed, I would think some doctors would start to question their profession. Healing does not equal "no symptoms" and I'm yet to meet a doctor who understands that. Worse yet, is the arrogance that one may encounter when dealing with doctors. They often get smug in their role as "the professional" and yours as "the patient". You find them dismissing concerns, half-listening, rushing through an appointment all while writing a prescription and scheduling the next appointment.

I want to be clear: I'm talking about allopathic (Western) medicine which I believe *only* has a place when it comes to acute medical emergencies. I believe wholeheartedly that you are better off using some other medical model if you truly want healing for a chronic illness.

Why do I feel this way?
1. I have had allergies all my life despite always being under the care of a doctor.
2. My eyesight continues to get worse despite always being under the care of a doctor.
3. My scalp is still on fire, flaking and scabby despite going to a doctor today.

I want to address #3. So I finally made it to a dermatologist today and I was so excited since by her name, I knew she was Black. I figured it would be great to have a doctor who was familiar with Black skin. Well, what a complete and total disaster and waste of time. The doctor seemed to have some disdain for me from the very beginning. Maybe it's because when I was asked by the receptionist for my social security I said I didn't have one. That seems to be easier than saying "Oh, I don't just give out my SS#" (which I don't because there is no need for a doctor to have it if they know my insurance information). During that whole interaction, the doctor was standing right there although I had no idea she was the doctor. Even if I were to give the #, why would I do so with some stranger standing right there? Anyway, when I went into the examination room, the doctor said "Do you have a social security number?" And I said, "Yes". She then says, "But you don't want to give it?" and I said, "That's correct" and she mumbles "Because every U.S. citizen has a SS# . . . aren't you a U.S. citizen?" At which point I wanted to ask, "Are you a doctor or the INS?"

Anyway, homegirl was not trying to hear what I was saying. She looked at my scalp and decided that I had, wait for it, DANDRUFF (seborrheic dermatitis) and said she couldn't see the flakes because I use shea butter to oil my scalp. She said that I should discontinue use of shea butter on my skin because it clogs the pores. Bullshit. I've been using shea butter on my face for years now without a problem. If I happen to wash my hair and oil it with, lets say, jojoba or coconut oil or not at all, it seems to be a big huge problem (remember, flare-ups start with a feeling of very dry scalp which makes me initially think that I missed a spot when oiling). I tried to explain to her the cycle of hair loss. Tried to explain what a flare-up feels like. She hardly listened. I showed her that there are parts of my body where I had hair before where there is no hair at all right now. Explained that I used to have to shave with some regularity. Explained about the brittle hair that breaks easily (and the thinning locks). She said, "Oh, when I'm walking down the street I see persons who have locks that are all different lengths--their hair can't support the extra weight of the locks." When I said, "Aren't hair and nails made from the same protein? Why are my nails so incredibly strong but I get so much hair on a comb when I comb it?" She said, "Oh, you need a good conditioner and I'd recommend Nexxus products." When I suggested a biopsy, she said, "Oh, that won't be necessary. Here's a prescription for crap pharmaceutical steroidal cream which you should use forever and ever and ever until you die. Fill it, use it and come back to see me in a month." But not before asking how many children I had if I was married and had I gone to college. I had the feeling that she had made some gross assumptions about me before I even sat down and while I'm not a showy person, I felt compelled to let her know that, actually, I had a master's degree. So intense was the condescension.

Hardly productive.

I've already treated myself for seborrheic dermatitis using OTC shampoos and creams. It soothes a flare-up but doesn't keep them from happening. I need to know why it is happening. And since my skin is not greasy anywhere (it's actually changed since having kids and has become quite dry), I'm pretty sure it's not as simple as that. And, according to Medline, diagnosis is based on "the appearance and location of the skin lesions" and since the doctor didn't see any (because I supposedly used shea butter on my skin although the last time I washed I didn't do anything--she didn't bother to find out though), how the heck did she diagnose that? If the doctor is hardly interested in they "why" it's clear that he/she is not interested in the cure.

I need to go to someone else but I have to call the insurance company to see if I can, i.e. how many dermatological visits are allowed annually. I would try a holistic healer or a naturopath but honestly, I've been ripped off before and I'm scared of quacks. So I'm not further in this journey. Tuesday, I'm going to see my family doctor but I'm not hopeful. Unfortunately. I'm also quite tired.

And I really hate having short hair.
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