What’s the point…

I have a twisted brain. It comes up with these weird, random thoughts a la Steven Wright, the comedian. If you don’t know who he is, go out to you tube, there is plenty of his stand up comedy work to pick from but he is the master of dry, deadpan humor. He’ll say something and you know it’s funny, but about 3 hours later you start laughing because you realize HOW funny it was.

Anyway, I was thinking of something the other day. What’s the point of decaf? I mean, we drink coffee for the caffeine…the pick-me-up…the waker-upper….the morning eye-opener. We drink it to start our day, and rev our engines, to get our brains a little something extra. It’s like adding STP to the fuel in your engine. It conditions it a bit, maybe smoooooths those rough edges out. But decaf? Seriously?

Low carb alcohol is another one. So each serving has fewer calories. Come on, who are we trying to kid? After the 3rd drink, whose brain still functions well enough to count calories? Have a 4th and you’re probably not even counting drinks either (but of course, you have a designated driver, a taxi or are at home. Duh.)

One of my all time favorites has to be the folks who go through at a fast food restaurant, and order something like this: “Hi, I’ll have a whopper, large fries and a diet coke.” You’ve just ordered a heart attack in a paper wrapper, and you’re worried about the extra 200 calories from the coke? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate  priorities kids. Why is everyone so terrified of sugar? Even the schools are getting in on it now, banning soft drinks from K-12 campuses. Why? Because our kids are getting fat.

I have to wonder though, did anyone do a root cause analysis on this? I’m not saying we don’t consume too much sugar as a nation, we do. And cutting back isn’t a bad plan at all. But here’s the deal…the reason kids are getting fat isn’t sugar. It’s because they don’t eat enough dirt. 

I can just see a few of you out there, scratching your heads and being fairly certain I’ve lost what little mind I had left. The whispers of “what the…is she nuts?!!”  I have a theory, however, and I’ve seen more and more about this in the news lately. (Google “are kids too clean” if you don’t believe me.) With all of the technology at our fingertips, cool phones, Xboxes and PlayStations everywhere, kids learn to play games on computers at a young age, and then carry that mentality with them. They don’t go outside anymore. Most kids don’t have a clue what “Kick-the-Can”, “Starlight, Moonlight”, double dutch jump rope and my favorite “the Run Around the House Game” (we made that one up. No one outside of Union Terrace in Ivanhoe Woods knew what it was!) But the point is, so many kids hang inside, and play computer games. Then they go wash for dinner with that other problem, antibacterial soap.

Beth 63 1k02

Me, at about age 3 or 4?

We all need to be outside more, get our hands in dirt. Remember pulling a carrot out of the garden, wiping the dirt in the grass, then on your jeans before just eating it right there? Or taking an apple off the tree, polishing it on your pants before eating it? When was the last time you pulled a worm out of dirt? We’ve done ourselves a disservice by being so damn clean all the time. Our immune systems are horribly compromised and kids are sick all the time, with more allergies showing up, because we aren’t getting beneficial low levels of bacteria and other pathogens, which our systems can then work at developing a healthy immunity to. All that sitting around playing games means NO EXERCISE. There you go, root cause. Sugar, fat calories aren’t inherently bad. We need them for fuel and for healthy function of our bodies. Some in lower quantities than others, depending on health conditions, but overall, the key isn’t elimination, it’s moderation. And exercise. Best of all, there is this cool little side benefit to exercise I’m finding. The more I do it, the more I get to eat!  So if I do a several hour bike ride, or run a 5K, I don’t have to feel guilty about the celebratory pizza and coke.(Don’t get me wrong, I still do feel a little guilty, and maybe that’s not bad either, it keeps me in check.)

So, get off your backside, and go eat a little dirt.


Bliss List

While driving out to the family gathering for Thanksgiving today, we were listening to one of our two annual radio programs. The first is a usually a broadcast of “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, which clocks in at 18:37, and will only occasionally make the list of longest recorded songs, since it wasn’t considered a rock song, and probably not a pop song at the time but was really more of an anti-Viet Nam War song. If you’ve never listened to Alice’s Restaurant, you’re missing out. It’s really only marginally about Alice, and the restaurant, and is more about the absurdity of life, and the uselessness of war. And, of course, the 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures, with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one…  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.  But I digress, not unlike the song, actually…

The second is listening to Minnesota Public Radio and on today’s “Giving Thanks” program, their guest was Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchens. He was talking about his Bliss List – those moments of perfect happiness that make up his life. That got me to thinking, what are some of mine. It took me a while to come up with them. I mean, you start to remember something, and then blam! And you think, nuh-uh, not including THAT one, or how about…nope. That one won’t work either.Sigh. I have NO truly happy memories? I’m suddenly picturing the characters from  the movie “Inside Out” inside my head…where was Joy when I needed her? Couldn’t she just drive the bus one day without the others? Why did Anger or Sadness have to even show up?  They are such party poopers. (If you haven’t seen that movie, full disclosure, go see it as fast as you can and take tissues!! It’s wonderful). But then the memories started to trickle in.

Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen when I was about 5, eating cinnamon graham crackers and dunking them in thick, rich ice cold whole milk. There was something special about the ritual of breaking the crackers in half, then in half again to get those narrow rectangles that fit so nicely in glasses, and of course it was before we had any idea that whole milk was bad for you. Now it’s nearly as cringeworthy as drinking heavy cream, but growing up it’s what we knew.  Walking to the barn with grandpa and holding a baby chicken that was so yellow and soft. Going to my other grandparents house, and helping grandpa in his general store. Getting to slice summer sausage (with him doing it and me ‘helping’) in the big electric slicer. Sitting on a sled in the winter and having our dog pull my sisters and I. It was a big sled, and we had a huge St. Bernard named Heidi, because there was a movie by that name, based on the book by Johanna Spyri, that we loved. I try not to dwell on the dog too much, because you know what they say about big dogs… big poo!

The first time I learned how to drive a stick shift. The first time I drove a stick shift and didn’t grind the gears. (No, they weren’t they same day. They weren’t even the same year or city, for heaven’s sake!) But being able to do that gave me a feeling of confidence and independence I’d never felt before. Standing on the deck of a Windjammer, at 2 AM as we neared Grenada on my last night of a weeklong cruise. Sea breeze on my face, looking up at more stars than you can imagine, and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. As the song goes, “you understand now, why you came this way“. My wedding day.

That rare instance when one of my silky soft cats jumps up on my lap, gracing me with their presence and allowing me to pet them for a few minutes. I close my eyes and am in another place, instantly transported to Bliss, and I’m grateful for the moment.

Even though Thanksgiving is past, or if you’re from a country that doesn’t celebrate the fourth Thursday in November the way we do in the USA, take the time to think of your own Bliss List and be thankful for those moments of pure joy.


White Line Fever

I. Am. Spoiled. Rotten.

I am a fully mature, adult woman and can admit that without fear of embarrassment or humiliation, although knowing some of my friends, the jury is still out on retribution. I am lucky enough to work for a large Fortune 100 company that believes telecommuting can be very effective (at least until I start writing best sellers and can start my 2nd – or 3rd career), and has 34% of it’s workforce at home. I’m part of the 34%, and feel so fortunate to be able to get up every day, roll out of bed, wake up at my leisure, drink my coffee, read, and walk to work in my jammies/shorts/jeans/sweats or other uniform of the day. I might go to the office once every other month or so for a class or special meeting. When I do, my first reaction is, of course, the reminder of how glad I am that I’m a telecommuter. Not because I’m getting up earlier than normal – oh no, the days of sleeping in are long gone now that I am, as my mother so kindly puts it, “at that stage of my life” and I generally wake between 5 and 6 every day. I just like not having to muck around with the dressing up, the make up, the hair, the jewelry, the shoes (ok, maybe the shoes are ok. I mean, let’s be real.) Then comes my second reaction. It goes a little something like this.

“What the…” mumble, mumble, swear, “what’s the matter with you, jerk face!” (Soothing jazz from satellite radio plays in the background). Keep driving, settle in, then “arrgghhhh” hit the brakes, swerve, pull back, speed up, slow down, let someone merge along with the jerk who snuck in because he has ants in his pants and can’t wait his turn. That’s just in the first 10 of 35 miles.

I HATE traffic. Really. Did anyone out there take Driver’s Ed besides me? Blinkers are NOT just pretty colored lights, nor are they optional. If your “boom-boom” music is making my mirrors vibrate, you should get a ticket. If you force your way up in line in merging traffic going from 2 lanes to one, you should be forced to have a bumper sticker on your car that says “I don’t know how to merge in zipper formation, I’m an idiot”.

Eight-sided red signs with thin white outlines aren’t optional, no matter what your high school friends told you back in central Minnesota, merge means “yes, bonehead, you too”, and the bright red light that comes after the yellow one? IT DOES NOT MEAN GO FASTER. The white lines that are painted on the road have a purpose. Stay between them, and you’ll find life is much better, particularly if they are solid and not dashed.

Did I mention I hate traffic?  If you can’t do hands free on your cellphone, don’t use it. (You probably shouldn’t anyway, but I know some must, and I’ve done it too, but only hands free and don’t when conditions are such that my attention has to be laser focused on the road.) And for the love of, STOP TEXTING, sheesh, amazing that anyone needs to be told THAT one.  I look around and my blood pressure is up, my heart beats faster and no dreaming of my happy place on a beach in the Caribbean or sailing on a tall ship can make the tension of traffic go away. Like the redneck comedians say, “here’s your sign!”

Thank heavens it’s only a day now and then. Yep, spoiled rotten. I can live with that. And if my friends don’t like it, well they can just come drive me to work every day instead. No more spoiled me AND no crabby me. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what would be. But since I’m more likely to get a jet pack before a chauffeur, I think I’ll opt for my version of the Staples Easy Button, and keep working from home. But for the love of God, don’t make us use the webcams.