Thursday, November 29, 2007

counting calories

I am not a successful calorie counter. I find it takes all the enjoyment out of eating. And I do like to eat. Now, while many of you will get preconceived notions of a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips, that would be wrong. i like grilled zucchini and fresh salads and local strawberries and slow cooked meats (chicken, turkey, beef).... I am eclectic as a fan of food, and I do enjoy the occasional piece of pie... but the whole thing is "enjoy". I like to enjoy my food.

So occasionally I read labels for caloric content. Usually I read labels for sodium content, being allergic to iodine. But occasionally, I get kick out of calorie counting. Take Doritos, for example. Roughly 13 chips is equivalent to 150 calories. Now who eats 13 chips? I'd say that on estimate, the average person eats a third to a half a bag at a time. Let's just call 13 chips an ounce. It's actually a little more, as roughly 11 chips are considered an ounce. But for easy math, and because my easy math will drive my Statistics friend nuts, we're going with this.

So a 12 oz bag is 12 servings totallying 156 chips. If one eats a third a bag at a sitting, or 52 chips, then one is consuming 600 calories. Now many people consider a 600 calorie meal somewhere between "acceptable" to "high". But this is no meal, this is a bag of chips. and many people eat half a bag or better at a time (so I'm told).

Leaving the snack of a bag of chips alone, let's consider a 2 serving handful of Doritos in a lunch with pb&j and a soda. An average brown bag for a school kid, minus the soda in many places, and an easy lunch for an employee on a budget or a timeline.

2 oz Doritos = 300 calories
can of RC soda = 160 calories (and 50 mg of sodium, I might add)
2 slices wheat bread = 140 cal
2 tbsp peanut butter = 210 cal
1 tbsp blackberry jam = 60 cal

And let's just replace that soda with some orange juice... 120 cal per cup (not per glass, per measuring cup). That's also 28g of sugar per cup too. But this is just because people see fruit juice as so much healthier calorically than soda. Realistically it's not that much different. Given that that soda is 160 calories for 12 oz and the OJ is 120 for roughly 8 oz... *shrug* do your own math.

But back to my example. A few chips, a pb&j, and a can of soda is a snack lunch of 810 calories. If you're on a 2,000 calorie diet, then you just ate almost half your daily allotment of food, unless you're gonna spend the rest of the day eating celery with no spread at all.

Now for the segue. No one looks at you like you're a horrible person for eating an 810 calorie pb&j with a soda and some chips. But got help you if you bring in a McDonald's bag, even if it's a salad and a bottled water. The marketing giants have done a good job of making the "Golden Arches" a nasty trigger word associated with slovenly people hell-bent on eating themselves into obesity and early death. It's ridiculous. And McDonald's, for their part, have gone a long way to introduce a menu filled with grilled chicken, salads, fruit options, and even "specialty coffees" for the latte set. Sheesh. While I understand that economics drive both the marketing ploys set forth -- one to promote health foods, diet pills, health care and insurance reform (and by "reform", I don't really mean true reform), the other side works to reinvent themselves as part of a "healthy choice lifestyle".

Fact is, you can get fat on pb&j's and chips if you're not gonna bother exercising. Fact it, you can eat McDonald's quarter pounders if you're going to baby your body in overall health. Not "baby" like treat it delicately. "Baby" it like you would a classic muscle car in cherry condition. Keep it well oiled, tuned up, and taken around the track to blow out the engine and keep it running smooth.

What the marketing giants have not addressed with all of this is perhaps the single most important factor in eating, dieting, and just about everything else in life -- COMMON SENSE.

Ooh, but those are trigger words no one wants to touch.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Today was Black Friday, the day when crazy people looking for good deals wake up at insane hours of the morning or camp out overnight outside their retailer of choice to be among the first to purchase an item that will be on sale for only a few short hours.

This year, I was directly involved in such insanity. It was all over a 19" widescreen computer monitor, on sale for about half of it's regular price. And fortunately, after three days of internet scoping, reading circulars, and comparing advertisements, settling on Staples as the retailer of choice proved adventagious. While most of the packed parking lot was filled with anxious Wally World shoppers and some Kohl's treasure seekers, Staples was underestimated by comparison. Getting in, grabbing the goods, and getting out was pretty simple. Almost simple enough to cause me to think that there's nothing to this Black Friday shopping. But I've got a full 365 days to decide if I really want to make a habit of braving the stores on Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hot Head

A year or so ago I had a small gathering of friends, and we sat in my back yard under the stars grouped around my chiminea with glasses of wine or beer in our hands. My dear friend Jon and I took charge of the chiminea.

Now, two admitted pyromaniacs should not share responsibilities involving flames. Granted, we are tongue-in-cheek pyromaniacs... we enjoy a good fire, and all things related.

We took to task of getting the kindling underneath the cedar and pine logs, and were all ready to light the kindling. My hair, past shoulder length, was wound in a loose bun -- a small detail that will come into play shortly. I was on my knees, lighter in hand, ready to go. At the same moment, my (not too attentive) friend Jon sprayed lighter fluid on the fire at the same time I struck the lighter.

Fire exploded out in a neat fireball and a soft whoosh. And my hair caught fire. The smell of one's on hair burning is not a pleasant one. The good news is that only a few small tendrils near my temples burned. The bad news is that we're a year later... and those small tendrils now stick out of my head in an unruly manner when my hair is pulled back. Just a few more inches to go, Jon, before it's all grown back!



*Footnote: I do not start fires with Jon anymore.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks for Giving us a Break

It the Monday before Thanksgiving. It's a time when grocery stores advertise their specials on turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies. People are hard at work on a short week to meet all sorts of deadlines, finish projects they've been procrastinating on, and striving to feel that they can justify taking off one or three days this week to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some will wear themselves out cooking and entertaining at their homes. Others will round up the kids, pile into the family car carrying casserole dishes and desserts, and drive however long it takes to get to grandma's house or auntie's or whatnot. College kids may or may not return home, and many will feel the stress of trying to get along with people they'd rather avoid all in the name of "giving thanks".

Let me tell you a story about Giving Thanks.

In 1991, a very respectable family in Branson, Missouri was gathering over Thanksgiving for just such a holiday. The eldest daughter had returned from college, and the youngest daughter and only son were enrolled as a sophomore and a junior in high school, respectively. The father was a very successful man in the insurance industry, and for the life of me I cannot remember what the mother did. I do know that she had recently struggled with cancer and subsequent depression. It was widely rumored that she took lithium and prozac -- prescribed by two different doctors that had no idea of the other medication. It was widely believed that the cocktail mix of lithium and prozac played a strong role in the holiday's concluding events.

What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that on the morning of December the 1st, the last day before the eldest daughter was to return to college, the mother rose early, retrieved a gun that she had recently purchased, and walked into her daughters' room, shooting each of them in their beds. They died instantly. The noise woke her husband and son, and in the confusion, both son and husband were shot, although one did manage to get a call to 911 off during the battle. She then turned the gun on herself and killed herself. It is also rumored that she had made comments along the lines of "wanting her family to walk through the pearly gates of heaven arms linked".

The husband died on the way to the hospital from his gunshot wound. The son, in another ambulance, went into a coma, where he remained for two weeks. When he woke from his coma, he was to learn that not only was every other member of his immediate family dead, but that the funerals had already occurred as well. He was the sole inheritor of his father's insurance policies -- small consolation, if any.

His younger sister was his best friend. I can tell you that with certainty. He was close to every member of his family. He was an orphan by violent means, and by his mother's own hand.

His younger sister, Mary Beth, was a dear friend of mine. She called me "bootiful". We were in high school, so when bored, we wrote notes to each other in class. Her notes always ended with "Margo, you're so bootiful!" and each one game me reason to smile.

Mary Beth was a vibrant blond-haired blue eyed sweetheart with an incomparable heart for compassion and joy. She was intelligent, talented, and well-liked. Her smile could light up a person's heart. I did not know her brother much at all, despite my friendship with Mary Beth. But I know how much she loved him, and she only loved those she deemed worthy of it.

She was sixteen years old that Thanksgiving. Her sister was nineteen. Her brother was only seventeen. He struggled with school after that, and became a bit reckless, but as I can only speak on the personal observations I had, I will not elaborate at all. I hear he has graduated college, married, and has begun a family of his own. I hope he has and wish him well.

While the rest of us struggle with dry turkey and instant potatoes at dinner tables we'd rather not be at, let us try to remember that in an instant even the opportunity to give thanks can be taken away from us. Let us try to remember that even if we don't like our family, don't respect them... that they are indeed family, and take a moment to honestly be thankful for what we do have, instead of lament it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Randomness on Wednesday

Normally I prefer to come to my keyboard ready to say something brilliant, and settle for saying something at all. Today is another rare day that is more free-writing and less formed thought. Sadly, I'll probably end up as poignant as always. See that one how you will.

This morning began with a little Skysurfer Strike Force and my son and I curled up on the couch. Let me tell you, the dvd sell at the local Walmart for a buck, but maybe they should sell for $1.50 for their continued entertainment value. Read that one as you will also. I would like to note that the production team is deaf, as all four videos are EXTREMELY LOUD!!! Sorry for the caps, but I had to yell over the TV for a moment.

Now I'm blogging before starting my day, so unfortunately I can't retell any anecdotes beyond this one. I'm sure I can drag something about yesterday or the day before up, but that wouldn't flow well with the timeline I've set forth here, and I don't feel like editing and rewriting so that it will.

Maybe I'll go cook breakfast and see if I can not burn my hand like I did yesterday. The funny thing is that I burned my hand getting the pot from the dishwasher to the stove. Metal handle... fresh out of the heated dry cycle of the dishwasher... you see where I'm going with this. Were I a litigious type, I'm sure I could fabricate a lawsuit out of that incident and could go down in history next to the McDonald's coffee lady. Oh, and if I hear of anyone suing over this issue, I'll sue you for stealing my idea!!

Did you notice how I pulled an anecdote from yesterday into my timeline? Yeah, I'm that good :D Now I'm off to make breakfast....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hats

So many hats to choose from -- which will I wear today? There's the mom hat, the lover hat, the upstanding member of society hat, the other hats people put on me: daughter, woman, writer, homemaker....

I am all those things. Sometimes I'm cooking dinner and bathing the kidlet. Sometimes I'm vacuuming and dusting. Sometimes I'm tied to the bed and sometimes I'm doing the tying. Some might be outwardly shocked to find out that I can and do enjoy carnal sex as a woman. Some might want to tuck their toys away deeper into dresser drawers before acting like they've never had an orgasm.

It seems that sex is used as a weapon to separate the God-fearing Christians from the rest of the heathens. Well, if you're a believer in God, how can you not believe that it was His gift to His children? And if you don't believe in God, then why does it matter that God-fearing people enjoy sex? But before this turns into a blog about God, let me just say, it's not. It's about sex as a weapon.

There's the rape aspect of this topic. I'm not touching on it at this time. Maybe later; maybe not.

But we use sex to classify people these days: monogamous, hetero-/homosexual, swinger, BDSM, Dom/domme, Sub, slut, prostitute, player, cheater, hussy, cad, trollop....

It seems that once someone defines you sexually, there are certain things you cannot be. The converse is true as well. Housewives, on average, are not allowed to be sex-kittens unless they are childless and therefore trying to conceive by newlywed "hanging-from-the-chandeliers" pig sex. Mothers... well no one thinks of their mother as having sex at all, let alone kinky wild sex with leather and lace. And remember high school? If you got the reputation of being a slut, everyone wanted to date you at least once (twice if it was good or you didn't put out the first time), but no one wanted to date you seriously.

The weaponry of the sport of stereotyping sexuality is that it can cause feelings of guilt or shame or remorse. It can even cause a person to stifle that part of themselves instead of embrace it. "I'm a mom, I can't enjoy sex on the kitchen counter in the middle of the day while the baby's napping... that's just wrong!" Or "What would the church think if they found out we like to use adult toys in the bedroom!" or even something as simple as "I'm middle management... I can't just have sex in the back of the car on a date... what would my bosses say if they knew?"

Why does it matter? Why are we as a society so preoccupied with everyone else's sexual secrets to the point of keeping sexuality taboo? If you're not having sex in the auditorium during the sermon, or on your boss's desk while he's on the phone, that is. I, for one, am no June Cleaver. I do not wear aprons and crinolines. I embrace the line from Usher's song "Yeah": "a lady in the street and a freak in the bed."

Some pious, insecure types will not agree with me. Good for you. Keep your legs closed and your significant other wanting more than you'll ever be. I will continue to keep my bedroom a veritable playground. I will never let you see that in public. You won't know by the way I dress or the way I act. But men will fantasize about me and women like me. Women who know how to lust without regret or remorse. Women who make love with their entire bodies, their imaginations, and their desires.

I am no less a mother, a woman, or any hat-wearing, stereotypically-defined, descriptive noun that you want to attach to me for my carnality. And I am learning not to let my sexuality be used as a weapon against me.

I hope this rant inspires some of my readers to philosophize about their own sexuality and go pursue a good hard, guilt-free orgasm.

Friday, November 02, 2007

weight in words

My father told me he loved me four times in my life. Only one of those four was "out of the blue"; the other times surrounded funerals of family members.

On four unique days in my life, I wasn't seeking the love and approval of a male. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Daddy's Princess. After puberty I sought whatever male would smile at me and pretend to care for me. My need for some form of male acceptance led me to make stupid decisions in my life, and for a few years it seemed that those stupid decisions would compound on themselves.

I got lucky. I always had a voice in my head reminding me that I was never gonna find what I was looking for. Granted, that voice got ignored a lot, but it never shut up.

Over the years, I ended up in a series of unhealthy relationships. At times, those relationships became abusive. When they weren't abusive, I was frequently being taken advantage of and taken for granted.

My story is not like women who eventually end up beaten to death or take their own life. In the end, I never received the love and acceptance I wanted from my dad. What I did find was that my own self-worth was gonna have to be enough in place of a void left by a father that couldn't -- or simply didn't -- open his heart to his only child.

There are times when I feel the loss of a stable foundation of love from a dad, but for the most part I've learned to rely on myself. The anger is gone, as it is pointless to carry around, and as I lost him to cancer. It's hard to be angry at someone that can't defend themselves and can't make amends.

And there are those four days I have to cherish. It has to be enough... so it is.