Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sunny side of paradise

The beautiful thing about Sunny California is, well, the sun. I haven't seen rain in months, and only one cloudy day since April. It really adds to a feeling of paradise and I am starting to see why people born and raised in Cali get a bit snobby about visiting other drearier parts of the world.

But I love rain and thunderstorms. So why would I be excited about living in a place where I have exactly never seen a thunderstorm? Well, because the barometric pressure associated with storms drives me into a painful fit with the arthritis in my ankles. And because the humidity with rain pushes me right over to the couch where I curl up under blankets and cry in pain.

I've decided that living in New Mexico or Arizona is probably perfect for my ankles, though I'll miss the coast horribly. Making that decision and moving are two different things, however. I'm too stubborn for that. Instead, I hope to bounce around a few more places and see the world -- or at least parts of it.

So in Sunny California, for the first time in 19 years, I have found a doctor willing to really help me find some solutions for my ankles. I'm finally getting ankle braces (afo's, similar to those) that will actually stabilize me. Hopefully a nice side-effect is a reduction in swelling and maybe even pain. When all that fails, I'm hoping to get a referral to one of the big universities out here that specialize in cutting-edge technology and experimental surgeries.

My hopes are that when I do leave sunny paradise for other parts of the world, I won't suffer the same agonizing pain I've had in the past, just because of a little weather.

And the moral of the story is, if you beg enough doctors in enough places to take you seriously, you too can have some measure of success after only 19 years of waiting.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Corn Fed Kitchen

I'm excited to announce my new blog: Corn Fed Kitchen (link also at right).

It's a place for me to share all my favorite recipes collected over the years. Some are passed down through generations of Crawford's, others are ones I've created myself, and a few are some that I've borrowed (and usually tweaked) from others.

Corn Fed Kitchen's sub header is: Said of a woman, corn-fed means an individual who is strong and healthy, but lacks sophistication, typically... from the Midwestern United States (from Wikipedia). These are recipes from a strong, healthy kitchen, often lacking in sophistication, with strong roots in the Midwest and the South.

It doesn't get any simpler than that. CFK is a collection of not only my favorite southern and mid-western dishes, but it is about cooking simply, without lots of pomp and circumstance, but with lots of flavor.

I'll also be sharing some of my favorite memories related to those recipes, in hopes that by sharing my love of food, I inspire you to make memories of your own in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

Please enjoy my new blog and share your own experiences with recipes you find there, or some of your own favorites. See you there!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Korean Condoms and Hotels

Last year I promised I'd retell my tale of condoms in the amenities baskets of the hotels I stayed in. Now I'm making good on that promise.

I made a point of never staying in a "Western" hotel while in Korea. I only stayed in local places, sometimes by chance and sometimes by invitation*. In each place I stayed, there was a basket of amenities in the room. The baskets always included a large bottle of shampoo and one of conditioner. There was also a large bottle of lotion. There was a tube of toothpaste and two brand new toothbrushes. There was a disposable razor, a comb, and a bar of soap. Most of the time these items were reusable, meaning that they were neither individually sized, nor were they meant to be taken from the room.

Most of the rooms also had micro-fridges and two 20 oz. bottles of water and 2 8 oz. cans of Chilsing Cider (think 7-up, only better). A few of the rooms I stayed in had complimentary condoms in the amenities basket. Of course, Korean porn is on regular cable, as well. They fuzz out the genitals, as apparently that's a taboo thing to show, but other than that, it's straight-up porn.

I found that staying in the locally owned hotels was a far more amazing experience that if I'd stayed at American chains. Frequently only Koreans stayed in them, and several times doors were left open. I did always get a Western room, with a mattress and box springs, as opposed to a traditional Korean room with just floor mats to sleep on. I was a bit disappointed by this, but it was their way of trying to be good hosts by giving me what I was used to. I actually wanted to sleep in a traditional room, but didn't want to offend them by asking for one.

*And back to that invitation I mentioned earlier. In Seoul we found a cab right off of the train depot (we took the Korean Rail everywhere... from Seoul to Waegan to Daegu to Busan and back). The cabbie asked where we wanted to go and we said "a local hotel". After his shock that we didn't want to stay in the high-rise Westin that he pointed at, he smiled and said "I know just where to take you. You give me 10,000 wan, and I'll take you there."

We agreed. And we got in his cab. He drove us exactly one and one-half blocks away from where we started and turned down a very crowded and very small street off the main road. Half a block later he parked the car in the middle of the street and hopped out.

Ten thousand wan was about $13 at that time. So we paid $13 for a 2 block cab ride. He came back a minute later and said "You stay here for 35,000 wan." He was accompanied by an almost smiling but very gracious hotel owner. He had just gotten us an invitation to stay somewhere very few Americans ever stay. He told us that it was very prestigious for the hotel that we stay there, and that they only had a couple of western rooms in the whole hotel, so we were lucky to get the invitation to stay there.

We stayed, of course. For starters, he went to a lot of trouble for us, and refusing would be one of the rudest things we could do to him and the hotel owner. It was very conveniently located to the train station, so we wouldn't need a cab again, we could just walk. It was very close to the subway, so we could spend the night getting to the shopping/dining area of Seoul we intended to go to. And it was pretty inexpensive to boot. If I ever go back, I'll only stay in local hotels, and I recommend the same for anyone else visiting Korea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

mama needs a new rant

Lately I've been on a parental soap box. Not that that's a bad thing, seeing as how parenting is one of the last things we can do in America without a license or degree. Sad, really....

Anyway, I thought that I'd give my single readers a break from... no, no I'm not. Sorry guys.

Anyone can become a parent. In case you don't know -- or forgot how it works -- here. Don't worry, that site assumes you already know the birds and bees of it, and just focuses on the fertility tips.

My point is not that anyone can get pregnant, but that there are plenty of people that shouldn't get pregnant. I'm even going to focus on American culture for this, so please don't bother responding with comments about 9 year olds in Africa giving birth or stereotypes surrounding boys being the preferred sex in China.

If you get pregnant and don't want the kid, you can abort it pretty easily. If you're too young or have some other "handicap" (read: no job) that keeps you from being able to take care of the kid, there are some lovely social programs like WIC and welfare. Or you can give the kid up for adoption and go on with your life, letting your mom or maybe your big sister raise the kid. We may even still have orphanages; I know there are all sorts of private and government-funded adoption agencies and programs.

Here's the kicker. If you want to adopt or foster through a state agency, you have to take a series of parenting courses. They send out social workers to check your home for the physical and environmental safety of any potential child living there. They screen you to make sure you can 1. afford the changes a child would bring to your lifestyle, 2. aren't a listed sex offender or have a record of abuse, 3. don't have any outstanding warrants for your arrest, and 4. the list goes on.

So if you want a kid you didn't create in your own bed, you have to apply for the proper licensing/credentials to get one, unless you can fork over the cash to adopt privately.

Otherwise, all it takes is a couple of beers and a broken condom. Or not even that. No agency is gonna come make sure your 6 or 8 month pregnant self has prepared a "proper environment" for your kid. No one is gonna come see if you have lead paint on your walls or outlet plugs in your sockets. No one is gonna force you to give up the kid for adoption or by abortion if you smoke and drink. No one is gonna take the child from you at the hospital if your baby-daddy beats you. No one is gonna keep your kid if your house just got raided for being a crystal meth lab. Well, maybe the last one, but only if you were there with the kid when it happened. If you were at the hospital giving birth, you're probably ok.

My point is simply that our society handles all life's newest footprints much differently than say, getting a job or a driver's license. You need all sorts of documentation to prove you're responsible enough to handle a car or the demands of flipping burgers. You need nothing... not even a photo I.D. ... to create life.

We have agencies that pass out free birth control pills and condoms. We have all sorts of school sex ed programs. We even have arguments over whether or not abstinence should be taught as a form of birth control.

What we don't have, beyond some lame reality shows and daytime talk shows, is any sort of hands-on litmus test for whether or not a person is individually and rationally ready for the responsibility of having and raising a child. This includes those stupid school projects where you have to keep an egg cared for and unbroken for a week as if it were your child.

Even babysitters have to take some sort of infant/child CPR classes and child care classes now if they want to be credible and make decent dough these days! And those kids/adults can at least tell you their honest opinions of themselves as potential parents, because they already know that they don't want to give up their prom to change diapers.

So do I have a solution? No, I just like ranting.

The final decision is up to us individually, which is quite possibly the last great freedom we have in this country. (You even have to have a license to get married....)

But it shouldn't be a casual decision. Kids require far more than just the 18 years it takes to legally be able to kick them out of the house again (or emancipation, but that's another story). They bring with them neat little things like... grandkids. And they never quit calling home for money and advice. They want to visit and bring their brood so they can show off their significant other and maybe get a free meal. Sometimes they even want to move back in.

And some people really should not breed. People that don't much like themselves, let alone anyone else, really should not have children. People with tendencies to self-destruct or harm others should think a few times about having a baby. Folks, it's okay to get an abortion, but as soon as that kid takes a breath, you can't kill it anymore! Shake it to death and you go to jail for murder!

My solution is the same as I have for every other real pet peeve of mine: education.

Get educated on what being a parent is all about. Read books on what pregnancy is like. Ask young parents and your parents and grandparents questions. Ask strangers if they'd do it differently if they could do it again. Ask about the ups, the downs, the unexpected. Ask about the cost of ER visits with broken arms and health insurance options for families. Ask if you can babysit your older sibling's kids for an entire weekend and try out the parenting thing.

Then ask yourself what you want for your life. Is it college and a career? How will a child hamper those? Do you want to make lots of money and then have a kid? Do you want to get pregnant in your junior year in high school? Why? To force your parents to emancipate you? How will that affect your child in the long run?

The minute you bring a life into this world, you never make a single decision that doesn't affect more than just you. Think beyond right now, this minute, and think beyond yourself and consider all the options and consequences of becoming a parent. Think, rethink, and think it through again. When you become a parent, it's the most incredible and irreversible thing in the world. Be as ready as you can be, and become the kind of parent you said as a kid you wanted to be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Go Jim!

Now it's back to your regularly scheduled jaded objectivity.

In a world seeming lost in chaos, thank the lord there's Jim. He's a single dad of a 10-yr. old who has recently reclaimed his child from her free-spirited (read: mutually exclusive drug-addicted and self-absorbed) mother. He has cut back his hours at work to stay home more and keep a close eye on a girl who's used to raising herself. He's adjusted his budget to pay his bills and be there to teach her all the things she's managed to not learn so far, and correct the ones she has.

The kid, by the way, is a great kid. She went shopping the other day and spent her own money buying workbooks to help her get ready for a new school and a new grade by reinforcing reading and math skills (who does that at the age of 10??!) She is very mature for her age (imagine that, she's raised herself so far). She's good at solving problems and puzzles and plays better with adults than kids (ok, so maybe that's not such a great thing for her). She's also quite a bossy little thing, demanding that it be her way or the highway (not good for her age, but one day she'll grow into that attitude and take over companies with it).

But in a culture where the schools would ask for counseling, more control, and some parental signatures... in a society where her parents are encouraged to live their own lives, make more money, and set a good example by being stellar employees... her dad is cutting back to be a parent and take control of his daughter's environment.

(insert applause here)

It's so rare in this country that you hear about a single parent -- let alone a father -- putting the kid first and the job/career on the back burner. This kid is going to be just fine.

I hope there are more parents out there like Jim. If you know about any, please comment and add their stories.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris for Prez

I'm assuming all of my loyal readers are aware of Paris Hilton's ad-rebuttal to John McCain. (In a perfect world that link will still work 8 hours from now). I am not a fan of Paris Hilton, but I've gotta admit, she had a decent point about the energy crisis.

That aside, I thought I'd take a rare opportunity to blog about a current event from my ever so (cough cough) objective point of view.

It is my not even remotely humble opinion that she just validated McCain's claim that Obama is little more than a celebrity candidate by simply replying with her own ad. It also amuses me that she just may have enough smarts somewhere in that bleached blonde brain of hers to actually be a viable candidate for public office.

Other seeming dingbats have done such a good job at playing dingbats because they were actually very intelligent. Could it be that Paris sports cerebral function enough to make a useful difference in this world? If so, her reputation as a ditz without a care could be at stake.

Then again, I can't think of a better job for a bad actor than as a politician.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Me, me, no ME dammit

I can't believe how much selfishness goes uncorrected in children. Yes, kids are selfish. They come into the world not caring about anything about their creature comforts: food, warmth, snuggles from mom and dad, and whatever else is handed to them to play with.

They learn early that "no honey, that's the baby's toy... give it back to them" when they cry gets them catered to. Somewhere along the line they grow into adults that expect to be catered to unless someone says "no, you most certainly WILL share that toy or I will take it away, because you will not be a selfish brat in my home."

Hello, Parents!!! The "someone" I'm referring to in that last sentence is YOU!!! They don't take a high school class on etiquette. They don't go to college to major in manners. That's YOUR job!!!

In my house, southern grace and hospitality rules. If I have pie or cake, it's for the guests first. My refrigerator is an open bar of milk and juice. Toys are community property when friends come to play. It's my way or it's nap time. Because I will not allow rudeness to rule in my home.

I wish more parents did the same thing. I get sick of hearing "but _____ doesn't share her/his toys when I'm at her/his house" whined to me. I get sick of saying "so sorry to hear that, but I'm not his/her parent, I can't make them share their toys in their home. In this home, however, you'll act like you have some manners until you actually have them."

Come on people. How hard is it to actually parent your child? Probably not nearly as hard as you'd like to claim it is right now... if you'd quit being so selfish.