My favorites – reading, cooking, Paris, introspection

Sometimes when I read a book I really like, I do a Facebook post recommending it, and every now and then I get really inspired and write a blog.

This blog combines a book, my transparent emotional life, and this god-awful earache I am experiencing.

Today I finished “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn.  And knives notwithstanding, I cried when I read the last pages.

I’m having an emotional day.  I have an awful ear infection and I feel miserably ill.  In my usual style, I waited way too long to see the doctor and I now know why little kids cry and pull their ears.  So when one doesn’t feel good physically, it is easy to feel emotionally crappy.  I have no job and have not had one for nearly a year.  I am told that is enough to make anyone cry.  Last week I had a conversation with a friend about not working, depression, insanity.  As you can see, our talk apparently degenerated rapidly.  I told her I had decided years ago that I was intellectually insane.  Defined by me – I’m so overly-analytical that no matter how hard I try, I cannot always tell how I feel because I’m intellectualizing everything instead of just being.  This may be why I’m not feeling crazy about being unemployed and almost broke; I just keep thinking about it.  And turning it over.  And looking at it from the right and the left and the top and the bottom.  And concluding there is no reason to be depressed.  I’m alive.  I have a great family and nice friends and a dog I adore.  I love where I live.  What good would being depressed do?  Attitude is everything.  Right?  But part of me “feels” like crap.  I think I say all this to try to explain why I cried over a book I loved without good reason.  For one requires a reason to weep?

I am programmed to have loved this book.  A woman is laid off from her job, depletes her savings account, moves to Paris, attends and graduates from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, falls in love and gets married, learns tons about herself, and writes a book about it.

eiffel-tower-dayle cordon bleu

I learned again I know nothing about cooking.  The hardest, and by hardest I mean most time-consuming and detailed thing I have ever made, recipe I have ever followed, is Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.  Recipe here if you have a snowy Sunday afternoon to spare.

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-recipe/1/

julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-lg-150455

After I did it, I swore I’d never do it again.  But time has dulled the memory of this undertaking and I’m planning on doing it soon.  This winter.  Why not?  It was fabulous.  I think everyone who loves to cook should stretch now and again.  It’s good for you.  Kathleen Flinn cooked every single day like this.  I’m impressed.  Her book includes recipes.

The very end of this book, there is a paragraph that reads as follows:

How many tears did I cry because I didn’t know what I wanted?  “The sharper your knife,” as Chef Savard had said, “the less you cry.”  For me, it also means to cut those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it’s meant to be lived.

Also from the book – toward the beginning (I looked hard to find this passage for you):

“Chef says that with a dull knife, it’s true, you end up pressing too hard on the onion.  This crushes the cells, causing volatile oils from the onion to be released, and it’s the oil that makes you cry.”

onions

I was also very happy about how much written French I understood – like 98% of it.  The cooking and the French relate like this.  I am considered a decent cook by lots of people – even myself.  I can speak French – more than most and some people think I am actually good at it.  But here is what these two things have in common.  I cook enough to know I’m not that good.  I speak enough French to know I’m not that good.  But I keep on trying and enjoy learning more.

Kathleen Flinn met Julia Child twice – the first time at a food writer’s workshop.  Also from the book:

She took copious notes of the morning’s session.  As we broke for lunch, she closed her notebook with a satisfied smile.  “I always love to come to this workshop.  You learn so much. “This amazed me. After all, she was Julia freakin’ Child.  I assumed she knew everything there was to know about food and cooking.  I politely told her so.  She laughed.  “Oh, no, you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love,” she said, patting me on the knee.  “Besides, I started late.”

juliachildmastering-the-art-of-french-cooking

Kathleen Flinn grabbed the opportunity that presented itself to her.  It wasn’t exactly what she wanted but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her.  She was brave and she was rewarded with a wonderful experience.

In conclusion (laughing at myself), I loved this book.  I can see lots of my reading friends loving it.  Especially those who like to ponder, cook, travel, learn.  Those who strive for something a little more.  Those who have considered, if only for a moment, of tossing it all and doing something different.

Happy Reading my friends!

http://www.amazon.com/Sharper-Your-Knife-Less-You/dp/0143114131/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359164666&sr=1-1&keywords=kathleen+flinn

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All my fault

So something not-so-good happened this week and it’s all my fault.  Did you ever do something just a little wrong but not worry about it because it didn’t really matter and no one got hurt?  Well I did and it had some not-so-good consequences.

I was driving into my condo last Thursday morning.  My complex has a turnaround at the end of the main road and I live off that turnaround.  From way back I can see there is a school bus stopped with the red lights blinking.  So I stop behind the bus and I wait.  And I wait.  And I wait.  At least two minutes, maybe three.  I can see my parking space from where I am parked.  I see no kids, no Moms, no open doors out of which a kid might spring.  I wait some more.  Then I very slowly drive around the bus and proceed to my parking space.  I pull into my spot and the bus is still not moving but I can see that a Mom is standing in the doorway of the bus talking to the driver.  I get out of the car and head for my door and notice the bus is finally moving.  And I’m thinking that it is not very nice to expect someone to just sit behind them waiting while they chit-chat but I really don’t care.  I’m easy.  I go in my house and don’t give it another thought.

And yesterday in the mail, I got an envelope from the Bristol Police Department Traffic Division.  And it contained a note with four black and white pictures of my car going around the bus.  It also contained a ticket for $465.  Yup, you read that right.  $465.  I hardly know what to do about this.  I know I broke the law.  I did it consciously.  Didn’t really worry about it.  And I still think what I did was OK, albeit illegal.

But I don’t have a job.  Coming up on one year – February 7.  $465 would pay half my mortgage; two months of condo fees; it would pay my cable, phone, internet, gas, electric for one month; it would almost pay my monthly Cobra bill.  It would pay off 1/3 of the money I spent getting my car fixed last month – I wrote one of those checks that your credit card company sends – no interest for one year.  That was $1400.  That was bad but I had to do it.  I have to have a car.  I live day-to-day, dollar-to-dollar.  This is ridiculous that $465 is disastrous to me, but it is.

I used to have a job.  I used to make money.   I used to go to Europe every two years.  I traveled all the time.  I spent a fortune on Christmas presents.  I went out for sushi a couple of times a week.  When I went to Maine, I brought a cooler full of steaks, chicken, and pork chops.  I bought lobsters.  I brought bags of fresh vegetables, vodka and wine.  I lived the way I wanted to.  All the time.  And now I don’t do any of this.  And now a $465 traffic ticket is a disaster.  OK.  I’ve told my story.  I’m still depressed about this but maybe 10% less for telling my story.  Thanks for listening/reading.

When I grow up, I want to be a French teacher. No – an editor. No – a veterinarian.

The problem, well one of the problems anyway, was that I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was way past deciding.  I’ve gotten an idea or two over the last few years.

Here are my choices – editor, veterinarian, French teacher.

I find myself strongly attracted to all of these professions.

If I had been an editor, I could have spent my life reading, which is something I always always want to do.  And I can write.  Of course there didn’t used to be editors in the olden days of writing so we ended up with Charles Dickens – a verbose boring guy – who was paid by the word.  If you’ve read him, you’ll recognize the truth of this per word compensation right away.   I love to say this about Dickens.  It always gets people up in arms.  But I don’t care; I mean it.

I didn’t know until I was almost 40 years old how much I really loved animals, dogs in particular.  They are wonderful.  And I would have 10 if I could afford them.  They are right out there, no hidden agenda.  They are beautiful and playful and simple and honest and loyal.  Perfect really.  I could spend my whole day with dogs.  Easily.

And a French teacher…  The whole teaching thing – summers off, being with kids.  I like kids, always have.  And the big perk of teaching a foreign language now – taking students to France every couple of years.  I took to high school French so easily and completely, I felt like I might have been French in another life.  Madame started in me a life-long interest in the French language, French culture, France, all things French really.  I have been to France three times and hope someday to go again.  I love to speak French.  The first time I went to Paris, I didn’t speak French at all – I felt shy about it and uncomfortable.  One does not really need to speak French in Paris anyway.  Many French people in the city speak English.  My second trip, I spent some time in the French countryside.  I did speak a little then.  The second trip also involved spending time in Italy which I didn’t like as well as France.  And I know that was strictly because of language.  I didn’t like not knowing what was going on.  The third trip, I spoke French as much as I could even though most of the two weeks was spent in Paris – just three day trips to Versailles, Normandy, and Giverny.  I just wanted to know if I could communicate – get along in my learned language.  And yes – YAY!  I could.

But here I am.  56 years old and working in printing.  And it all started in 1977 when I got a job through Kelly “Girls” answering phones and doing some clerical work at a small printer in Orlando.  And I have enjoyed it for the most part.  My years in advertising were good.  I liked the problem solving part of the print production job.  I’m a good problem solver.  I always say my specialty is taking a big huge mountainous pile of messy crap and turning it into something.  There is not as much use for that particular talent in printing.  At least not in what I do.  But what I do now is more precise and I like that too.  It appeals to my sense of order.  I do have to laugh sometimes, well not out loud but people are so funny.  They will die if their printing is not delivered on Wednesday.  Wednesday is the right day.  If it arrives on Thursday, the world as we know it will end.  Really?  Huh.  But I’m not complaining.  I do it.  And I’m glad to.  Because it’s important to them and I’m getting paid to make customers happy.  And I believe in it; I really do.  It’s good to have satisfied customers.  Then they come back and we make them happy again and they pay us and my employer pays me and the world is right.

But now that I’m not a kid anymore I have found my passions.  Books, dogs and Frenchy stuff.  Funny, isn’t it.  Just in time to retire, I know what I want to be.

I am like Popeye

I have a cold.
My dog hasn’t had a seizure for more than 5 weeks.
This is a four-day weekend for me.
I had a great Christmas (Jake and Grace).
I’m like Popeye.
I am what I am.
I appear to be over the worst of my hot flashes after 11 years thank you very much.
My world is mostly black and white.
I strive to see gray.
I have good sheets.
Sometimes, OK often, I bite my cuticles.
I love crossword puzzles.
I love sudoku.
I hate to vacuum.
I wish I had gone to school to be a French teacher.
If I found out I was going to die next Tuesday, the first thing I’d do is go out and buy vodka and wine and cigarettes and dark chocolate truffles.
Then I’d get laid.
I wish I was the kind of person who would read and actually enjoy Moby Dick.
This winter, I have been sleeping in a hoody.
Blue is my favorite color.
I really like to swear and put new combos of bad words together.
I can’t stop coughing.
I’m sick of coughing.
I love the smell of dirt.
My mother makes the best fudge on earth.
My mother makes the best pie crust on earth.
I know the difference between right and wrong.
I wish people wouldn’t be mean just for the hell of it.
I’d move to a warmer climate if I didn’t want to stick close to my parents.
I have $12 in my wallet.
I love the truth.
I like pink nail polish.
I like thick white socks.
Cancer made me a better person.
I want a cuckoo clock.
I love to sit in the sun with my book.
If I had more money, the first thing I’d do is own more big poodles.
I prefer white appliances to stainless.
I like waterbeds.
I really don’t like salt.
I would like a house with a sleeping porch.
I’d rather tell than sell.
I don’t really care what most people think about me.
I love big cities – to be more specific Paris and New York.
I wish I could retire.
I don’t like foam pillows.
I should have adopted when I realized I wasn’t going to get a child the regular way.
I despise cold weather with a bloody passion.
My dog snores.

Happy Birthday to me

Today I am 56.  I tell you this because I use it as a baseline to measure how much one can change one’s life in a year.

The years 2009 and 2010 were a challenge for me.  My job and my home life were not-so-good.  And I was none too pleased with my physical body.  So during the early part of 2010 when it was getting really ugly, here I refer to my life not my figure, I thought about how I would change things if I could.  The first thing I needed to do was live alone.  My situation was unhealthy and it was getting harder and harder for me to maintain a positive outlook.  And my job was so bad that I didn’t want to get up in the morning and go to work and when the workday ended, I didn’t want to come home.  I also felt that a change had to be made in my eating and drinking habits.  I knew I couldn’t diet if I drank wine because every night about three sips into my second glass, I recommitted to embracing my fat.

So in August of 2010, I became officially single.  That was the first of the big steps.  Then I started considering the best way to clean up my physical act.  Since I felt I wanted to make a big commitment, a measurable landmark in my life and I needed to prepare, I started playing with the idea of turning over a new leaf on my 55th birthday on December 1.  Then in November, my boss decided to resolve my employment situation by firing me.  All the more reason to reconsider my eating and drinking habits because now I had the time and opportunity to be very much worse or very much better.

So December 1 came.  I stopped drinking alcohol and I thought about what I ate and I lost 17 pounds in two months.  I got a new job in January.  Then I gained 5 pounds back.  I sat there until the beginning of June and then went to Weight Watchers.

So now it is one year later and I have lost 40 pounds.  That thought really hit home as I lugged the 20 pound turkey into my kitchen last week.  I lost TWO 20 pounds turkeys worth of weight! That sucker was heavy!  I feel great physically and mentally.  Weight loss is very difficult and succeeding and lightening the physical load helps to lighten the mental/emotional load too.  At work two weeks ago when were rearranging our office space, I found myself running down the aisle pushing the wheeled moving boxes making vrrrrroooom vrrrrroooom noises.  The really odd/great thing about this is the running.  I have not run for at least 5 years.  I really couldn’t; I was too big.  When that thought struck me like the proverbial ton of bricks, I became teary-eyed.  I feel great.  I have always been a happy person, but I can honestly say I have never been in a better emotional place.

I am changing my life.  I am enjoying changing my life.  For now, I love living with my dog and no one else.  I love seeing and feeling the changes in my body.

I get up in the morning and I get ready to go to work to a job I like.  If I had my way, I would never work another day in my life, but I do not.  So I go to work.  But if I have to go, I am definitely going where I want.

I read every day.  I work on my writing almost every day.  I do exactly what I feel like doing.  Once in a while, someone tries to tell me what to do and I ignore them.  This blog has made me very happy.  Most peoples’ reactions have been encouraging and complimentary, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all again.  I am very proud of what I have written here.  It is very liberating to put it all out there.

I love my condo.  It is my favorite place I have ever lived.

I cook sometimes.  I enjoy that a lot.  Since I’ve been watching my calorie intake, my cooking has tapered off quite a bit.  I eat a lot of salads and cereal and fruit and whole wheat pasta and vegetables.  But every now and then, I have something naughty.  Almost every Saturday night I have ice cream.  I am trying very hard to eat right.  Good most of the time, bad only a little.  One time I read an interview with Elizabeth Taylor and she was asked how she kept her figure.  She said she was on a diet 6 days a week but on Saturday night she had pot roast and potatoes and gravy and dessert.  On Saturday around here, I have Ben and Jerry.  Every now and then I take on a big cooking project.  I made Thanksgiving dinner for my family.  Fried dough pizza and Peanut Butter cake for my friends Friday and Saturday.  It’s getting cold outside so soon I’ll be making soups and stews.  Love soups and stews.

I have a new goal.  I want to lose 88 pounds – I’m almost half way there!  I believe I can do it too.  I have a final weight in mind.  A number I liked a lot a few years back and when I get there, I’ll tell you all where I started.

My life is more than half over.  Very much more.  I want to live out the rest of my days in peace and happiness.  I want to travel and read and write and hang with my family and friends.  I want to go to Maine in the summer.  I want to go to Florida in the winter.  I want to save some money and go to Paris again.  My favorite place.  I want to be with a man who deserves and returns the passion and commitment I bring to my romantic relationships, to be in love again.  And stay that way.

And I want to do a cartwheel.  I used to do them all the time.  Need to lose a few more pounds.  Maybe by spring when the grass comes up green.

Wish me luck.  And Happy Birthday.