Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

food, inc.

On Thursday, a girlfriend asked if I could help them make pasta salad for a fall festival/fundraiser at her stepdaughter's school. Knowing that she returns favors with cash and/or really, really good wine, I agreed. They had already bought all of the ingredients; they just needed me to follow a recipe.

Which was something like this:

14 oz rotini
2 finely chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped olives
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Italian-style dressing

I needed to multiply the recipe by 10.
And my girlfriend's husband had done all of the math/shopping.
Note: pasta typically comes in 1 pound (16 oz) packages... including the pasta he brought me.
I also think he bought 200 ounces of salad dressing (some of which was accidentally fat free), and I know there were only 18 cucumbers (the only thing I chopped by hand).

The Italian-style dressing's first two ingredients were soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.

I don't care for raw onion in most of my salads, so I pulverized half of a (red) onion for every pound of pasta I made. Olives are pretty much the only food I cannot eat (because they are vile), so I left them whole, because I know a lot of other like-minded (correct) people who also cannot eat them. I also left the cherry tomatoes whole, because people are weird about raw tomatoes, I worried that the juice would interfere with the taste of dehydrated red bell peppers, and I had absolutely no desire to cut up tiny tomatoes into fourths.

Basically: it was the opposite of the kind of pasta salad I would ever consider making for myself, for people I love, for people I don't love, for strangers. I wouldn't give an enemy high fructose corn syrup... or anything else Monsanto.

So once I could get over that (which, clearly, I'm not), I had to figure out how in the world to boil 10 pounds of pasta in my non-commercial grade kitchen with an urban amount of counterspace. And then how to mix 10 pounds of pasta with soybean oil, pulverized onions, and cucumbers. (Tomatoes and olives stayed on top so people can pick/choose.)

I recycled pasta water and heavily relied on this NYTimes article, in hopes it was true.

I couldn't help myself: I added dried organic basil and oregano to the mix. I added Tony's, as you do.

I ended up using half of my house to accomplish the end result, which was 3 giant aluminum trays.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean my kitchen. While I do so, I will pray for a world where children do not have to choose between hunger and genetically modified foods.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I was asked to apply for an incubator-type group to further develop my ideas on education reform that could potentially build a non- or for-profit entity. They call the program "The Essentials." The incubators are super out-of-the-box thinkers (as you can see from their questions); I think it will be a really dynamic, interesting place to see what happens.

It does not, by any means, allow my job search to end... but it is a sizeable step forward.

Thanks to all who have been a part of this ongoing (and continuing!) process with their time, talent, support, and love.

And, above all, I am grateful to those who have made sure I kept my perspective enough that I could laugh... sometimes at myself, but always out loud.

What is the last article or book you read that totally rocked your world. Tell us about

I've been trying to lose weight, in varying degrees of effort/seriousness, for the past year. I've done Weight Watchers, yoga, Couch to 5K running plan. I bought a bike. I try to cook healthfully, limit carbs, and meditate. But for every two steps forward, there's one step back (plantar fasciitis is the latest, but living in a food- and drink-centric town is the penultimate barrier)... and that makes my scale fickle and unfriendly.

All of my motivation and effort changed two weeks ago after I read an article about a study from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia that found women with waistlines greater than 35 inches are at greatly increased risk of heart disease.

Heart disease?! But I need my heart to work! If there is anything in my life I need to function, it is my giant, giving, wide open heart. I need to be able to love strangers. I need to be able to hold friends' hands when their parents are diagnosed with terminal diseases; I need to be able to hug my boyfriend's little girl. Oh. And to hug him, too.

I need to make a difference! And I can't do that if I don't have a healthy heart!

So. I have begun a practice of clean eating. I make sure that I get 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. I bike instead of drive whenever possible. I stretch my feet (which is really painful!) so that I can continue to stretch and move my body in ways that will help it heal.

And I will get my waistline to below 35 inches, one day at a time. It turns out that I just needed a number that represented much more than a scale or a dress size.

What is something you’re curious about that is not related to your profession? *

Why doesn't the NFL invest in breast cancer research instead of purchasing hot pink everything during the month of October?

Please share a "How might we" question that you've been asking or would like to begin wrestling with. *
How might we inform students and their families about post-secondary educational and career options?

Open Wikipedia. On the left hand side of the page click on the “random article”
selection. With the question you stated above in mind use the completely random
word and definition that pops up and make associations that help you redefine the
problem. Be creative on this one, we’d love to hear your thought process! (And please make sure to tell us what the 'random article' title was!)

1. BEER!
2. KEG PARTIES!!! Oh. Wait. They're kids, so, hmmm... I mean, it is New Orleans, but...
3. KEG PARTIES FOR PARENTS! Hmmm... while turnout may be great, it's not exactly the marketing message I want to send.
4. Fine. I'll read the article and see how I can tweak this into something legal for those under 21 and meaningful for all ages.
5. Smallest of eight Trappist breweries. Beer made by monks. I like this brand of religion.
7. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. The Germans dismantled the brewery in order to salvage copper during WWI. What needs to be destroyed about "college and career readiness" so that we can rebuild? What can we salvage from the current systems? Will it require a major war, and, if so, who will be the soldiers? Who will be the rebuilders?
8. After an 84-year dormancy, the monks decided in 1998 to start brewing again. Proceeds support the monastery and charities. Well. In the past 84 years, we've largely been successful at keeping low-income and minority children from completing college. We've largely kept people born into poverty in poverty. What can we make or sell that would change this? What charities should or could be involved?
9. And can we drink delicious Belgian beer while we do it?

Please attach a picture of something you have made/built/created, even if you’re not incredibly proud of it. Feel free to add a caption to your photo in the space below.

Photo credit: Anne Berry

Food is one of my love languages. Since Thanksgiving 2010, I have opened my home in New Orleans to other "orphans" (those of us who cannot afford financially or emotionally to visit our families at Thanksgiving *and* Christmas and those who like having an excuse to avoid their families here). This is a picture from last year's Thanksgiving, before we served food to nine people I had spent at least three days cooking/prepping. I am incredibly grateful for my ability to feed others (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and for the community/family I have created/belong to in New Orleans. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


A friend of mine once described the last moments of a romantic relationship as "the dance of death." You're swirling around the flush of a toilet, sometimes resistant and other times relieved, and you circle around each other until you succumb to the currents and recognize there's no more reason to resist or to fight.

When my last boyfriend and I were doing our dance of death, we went to couple's therapy. The first session informed us that John Gottmann's "love lab" research concludes three types of couples generally "make" it:
  • the avoidant couple, who sweep everything under the rug for 100 years and never really discuss whatever problems they have
  • the volatile couple, who always seem to be either fighting or making out in front of everyone
  • the validating couple, who try to see the other's point of view through an empathetic lens
I didn't want to be any of those couples. I am unable to let things build up and ignore them. I find volatile couples exhausting to be around, much less to be in that relationship myself, as I do not have the energy for mania. And while the therapist did a terrible job of explaining validation, I knew that I was more likely to change the direction of the earth's rotation than to change my about-to-be-an-ex-boyfriend into an empathetic person.

We decided to break up after our second session, during which we learned that at least on paper we weren't doomed from the beginning: I just needed to find a better suited mate. That consoled me, since we had been together for 47 months, and I needed to know my heart was capable of good decisions. I needed to know that my love could be enough. 

I needed validation. 

So, after what I believed was an appropriate period of mourning, I went on dates. And learned I wasn't ready to date again. So I waited some more. I didn't want to practice on anyone else's heart, and I certainly didn't want to be practiced on. 

Of course there was hurt, both from my ex and from these new adventures. There was not enough validation, there was too much volatility, there was a level of avoidance I didn't recognize within myself. However, there was also a lot of champagne and late night texting and... well, let's just say, good old-fashioned fun. (Remember: my grandmother reads this.)

And then I was ready. And then he was.

I probably have more heated discussions now than I have had with any other boyfriend. 
I also communicate better now than I have with any other boyfriend.
I feel like my concerns are understood, digested, and empathized with. I feel like when I'm being crazy, he's strong enough to say "you're being crazy." (And vice versa.)

I think that a lot of people mischaracterize disagreements as potential dangers to a relationship. Recently, I was counseling a girlfriend trying to decide whether to separate from her husband. She said, "But... the crazy part is? We don't fight!" 

I said, "But you also don't talk."

Something I tell myself and others with some frequency is that you cannot be happy with yourself 100% of the time, so you certainly can't expect to be happy with someone else 100% of the time. Gottmann will tell you that you need to be happy five times to every unhappy one time. 

I'm not sure who has time to do that kind of counting besides researchers at the University of Washington. 

Besides complicated math equations, another thing that makes relationships and marriages difficult is that a lot of people assume that if you're married, your relationship is fine. My friends ask with some frequency how things are going with my beau, but if I ask a married friend "how are things with Phil?", I often get a litany of his professional dissatisfaction, how crazy his mother is, his/their weekend projects or vacation plans, how sweet he's been to her during this particularly difficult period in her life, etc.

Then, if I'm close enough with her, I ask, "No, I mean, how is your marriage?"

And, if she's close enough with me, she answers honestly about how much work it is, how much compromise and kindness it requires, how parenthood has (not) changed or will (not) change things.

So embrace the dance of life and love. Know it will be hard but that all rewarding things are. Communicate with each other.

Or succumb to the dance of death, and be kind to yourself about it. You're not a failure.

But don't marry your rebound.