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A Little Food for Thought

Fern dishes about her obsession with food.

So, I’m guessing by now, you, dear reader, have estimated that my favorite subject for this blog is food.  You would not be incorrect, although I would say that I have a variety of favorite subjects and thoughts to share here.  Perhaps it’s having a baby on the way, and considering how to get him off to the best start in his life that food is at the top of my list of concerns.  Maybe it’s that I know that what and how we eat is the foundation for all that we do, and often it’s the way that we eat that either hinders or helps us to achieve our day-to-day goals and lifelong dreams.

Truly, we are what we eat.

I come from a family chock full of diabetics.  Nearly all of the adults I am related to are overweight and/or have high blood pressure.  Somehow, I managed to evade these disorders, though I can only attribute it to pure luck, since I grew up eating as they did.  At age 17, I was struck with horrible cramping pains in my gut.  They caused me to double over, and often, to miss school.  Being from a traditional western family, I went to a doctor.

I knew even then that I didn’t eat properly.  I hated fruits and vegetables (I wouldn’t even eat ketchup!), and my diet consisted strictly of fast foods and refined sugars.  There was nothing even remotely natural in my diet.  I knew this was wrong.  I knew that I needed to start eating “right,” but eating vegetables totally made me gag.  (In hindsight, I can probably attribute this to the fact that all of the vegetables available in our home usually came from cans, were seasoned with bones and fat, and cooked to greyish mush.)

So, I had a talk with myself, and decided that I needed to own up to my part in this situation, and tell the doc just exactly what and how I ate, and open up the conversation for him to correct my behavior.  I felt like all I needed was a little guidance, some adult to tell me what I should do.  The fear of getting into trouble was usually enough to get me on the right track with other aspects of my life.  I figured this was no exception.

So, I sat in the good doctor’s office and got my checkup.  At the end of our appointment, I came clean about the dirty foods and I asked him what he suggested I do to correct the problem.  He smiled and said, “You’re fine.  You are a normal teenager.  I’m going to write you a prescription for {blank} and {blank}.”

I felt a bit puzzled.  I was just a dumb teenager, and this guy was a doctor, so certainly he was smarter than me.  As I walked away from the pharmacy counter with those two plastic brownish-orange bottles in my hand, something just didn’t feel right.  Still, I obediently began taking the pills as prescribed.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up around a lot of sick people, but I kind of enjoyed the attention I got from pulling out my pills at school or work.  Now I had something special, something was wrong with me, but these trusty little pills in the bottles with MY name on them were going to make me alright.

Except they didn’t.  I mean, they really, really didn’t.  They made me the opposite of alright.  I found myself crying on the bathroom floor with excruciating intestinal cramps.  Again, I began missing work and school.

So we called up the doctor and he ordered a scope.  I went to another doctor who ran a little light down my throat and checked things out.  Hmm.  It hurt, and I had to drink some god-awful chalk smoothie before it went down.  But I figured they knew what they were doing, so I obediently did as I was told.  The results came in- gastritis, one step away from ulcers.  I was written a third prescription.

Once again, the abdominal pains increased.  I spent more time crying on the floor and holding my belly than most teenagers spend talking on the phone.  I remember sitting on the grimy bathroom floor of the grocery store I worked in, and having a heart-to-heart with myself.  This had to stop.

I quit taking my pills.  I tried to eat the one fruit I did like- the apple- at least once everyday.  I ate applesauce and drank apple juice.  While I knew this wasn’t the answer to the problem, it was a start.  The pains lessened a bit.  I began taking Tums like candy to help with the indigestion I had from the bad foods I was still eating, and to gain some calcium, since I also would not drink milk or eat cheese.

I graduated high school a few months later.  I opted out of the college track, choosing instead to work.  I got a job selling jewelry at the mall.  Everyday for lunch, I’d hit the Chik-fil-a.  I remembered reading that this was one of the ‘healthiest’ choices in fast food, and it certainly was the tastiest.  Usually, my grandma would send me with a coupon for a free sandwich with the purchase of a meal, so I had chicken for lunch and dinner.  I was making my own money now- real money.  So, it was time for a change.

Each day that I went on my lunch break to the food court, I ordered my chicken sandwich ‘meal,’ complete with fries and soft drink.  And then I made a deal with myself: order a salad with each meal.  Eat one bite, and throw the rest away if you have to, but eat one bite.  I drowned it in Italian dressing, and I gagged down one bite each day.  Sometimes I was so disgusted by the taste, I threw the rest away.  Sometimes I took it home to choke another bite down later with my dinner sandwich.  But I stayed committed, and I bought one salad every day.

I was 19 then.  It took me nearly 4 years before I could eat a salad and enjoy it.  Usually there were chicken fingers and honey mustard on top, but at least I was getting something green in my diet.  I tried this trick with other foods I didn’t like but knew were good for me.  I hated bananas, but found when I blended them into a smoothie, they were tolerable, and even good!  Same went for yogurt.  I continued with all kinds of fruits and veggies, until I began to not only enjoy them, but I actually craved them!  By the time I was 24, I had begun working in fine dining restaurants and was eating all kinds of delicious, fresh, and exotic foods (WARNING- do not ever turn down food from the chef you work for.  He will make your life H E L L).

I discovered that nuts weren’t exclusively for brownies and candy bars; they upped the texture, enjoyment, and nutritious value of my salads.  I learned that bitter greens go great with rich wine and butter sauces and fleshy, fresh fish.  Onions and apples stuffed into a roasted chicken breast?  I’ll have seconds!

At the age of 27, I became a full-fledged vegetarian.  A couple of years later, I was vegan.  Now 32, I have since come back to being an omnivore, though I consider myself 90% vegetarian.  I still crave a lot of the bad indulgences I grew up with.  But now I make little deals with myself.  How bad do I really want that snickers bar?  Bad enough to drink a bottle of water and eat a banana first?  Ice cream craving?  How about a bowl of whole-grain cereal with nuts, dried fruit, and- what the heck- a few bitterweet chocolate chips?  Now, I substitute smoothies for milkshakes.  I buy bars of expensive dark chocolate that are high in antioxidants, and I eat only a square or two, my craving satisfied, and knowing my money was well spent with each decadent bite.  It helps me not to strive for perfection, but instead, to try to do just one better than the alternative.  It’s all about moderation- and patience.

Needless to say, my gastritis has disappeared.

Do I stumble?  Of course I do.  There are some nights when the honeyman and I want to curl up with a movie, and eat pizza followed by ice cream.  But these nights are relatively rare, and we typically offset our fatty foodprint by eating salads and drinking veggie juice the next day.  Our guts usually remind us pretty quickly why we don’t eat this way all the time.  And it’s generally pretty easy to track the culprit anytime we do get sick.  Which doesn’t happen very often these days.

So, dear reader, you now have some insight into why food is so important to me.  I still have some trouble when it comes to family gatherings.  I get picked on for being “too healthy” or just plain “weird.”  And I do my best to explain the reasons for my choices, in the hopes that I can help those family members who complain about their weight realize that the power of our health lies in our own kitchens, and in our own hands.

 

Here are some of my favorite ideas for beating ‘bad’ food cravings, and learning a new eating lifestyle:

  1. Remember that the goal is not about getting skinny- it’s about being healthy (I got ‘lucky’ to be thin- more on that double-edged sword in a future blog.).
  2. Throw out your ideas of perfection.  This is about awareness.
  3. If you absolutely hate something, don’t force yourself to eat it.  Take your time, and introduce substitutions gradually (it’s been 15 years since my nutrition journey began- and I still struggle).  Hate yogurt, but know you need it?  Make your shake or smoothie with ice cream and include one spoonful of full-fat vanilla yogurt (Brown Cow brand is my personal favorite!), until you come to tolerate the flavor; gradually add more as the taste becomes more palatable.
  4. Know that by introducing more good foods into your lifestyle, the bad ones will naturally begin to be less desireable.  No need to go cold turkey.
  5. Don’t watch too much TV.  Big food businesses want you to eat their crappy food, and will do their best to entice you and kill your self-esteem via the tube.  Turn on some music and shake your booty instead!
  6. Have dinner with friends, preferably in someone’s home.  Eating in isolation will only make you feel depressed and you’re less likely to hold yourself accountable for what and how much you eat.  Sharing meals with good friends who eat healthfully will increase your chances of making more sensible choices and of trying something new.
  7. If you have a craving that just won’t quit, try making it at home instead of going out.  You can control the portions, you can add health-boosting herbs and spices, and you will save money.  Inviting friends over will only add to your enjoyment and portion considerations.
  8. Alternately, don’t keep food culprits around your house.  If the craving gets so strong that you simply must have it, walk or bike to the store.  This way, not only are you offsetting some of the negative effects of the food before you eat it, but the extra effort it takes to get it will make you think twice about how bad you really want it.
  9. Substitute natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, dates, stevia) for white sugar in everything from your morning coffee to dessert.  Natural sweeteners each have their own health benefits and unique flavors, and you will end up using less, while boosting you vitamin and mineral intake.
  10. Get out of your shell.  Try a new activity, like yoga or zumba.  You will likely find at least one other person facing the same issues that you are, and who is willing to listen and offer supportive feedback.  Plus you’ll end up feeling so good afterward, you’ll be jonesing for fresh foods instead of junk.

Finally, take an honest look at your Self, and smile.  Love who you are, enjoy your body, and be your own best friend.  Remind your Self that you are getting healthy for the long run, and learning new ways to enjoy this precious life.  Be the love you want to see in the world!

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Aw! Poor fing!

Daisy discusses death with a three year old.

Little Boy and I saw a dead squirrel today on our walk.  It was totally gross.  It floated in the murky water of the lake at Daffin Park, patches of skin gone, revealing nasty smooth white skin underneath.  Sick.  It took me a minute to even identify it as a squirrel it was so weird looking.

“Look at vat Mommy!” Little Boy shouted as he ran towards the concrete edge.  “Eew what IS it?” he crouched to get a better look.

“I think it’s a squirrel.  It’s dead.  Eew.”  and then I added, “Aw, poor thing.”

“Aw, poor fing!” my little parrot echoed.  Little Boy wanted to stay and observe the dead squirrel some more, but I was eager to continue our walk, so we moved on. 

As we walked away, he called over his shoulder, “Bye Dead Squirrel!  I hope you feel better soon!”

I had a moment.  Do I let it go, or correct his understanding of death?  We’ve had discussions about it before.  He has seen dead animals, we’ve told stories of long dead relatives (like the Herban Cowboy’s late father “Grandpa Andy”), and we’ve even discussed how the dinosaurs died a LONG, LONG time ago, before there were even any people on the planet.  I have done my best to answer his questions as honestly as I can, in terms I think he can understand.  So far he’s been very matter of fact about it all.

So I said, as gently as I could, “Well, Honey, that squirrel is dead.  She’s not going to get better.  She’s just gone now.”

He continued walking for a moment, then stopped and turned back toward the dead squirrel.  When he turned back, I was surprised to see big, fat tears welling up in his little eyes.  “Well…” he began in a cracking little voice.  “Well…”  He was obviously thinking very hard about what he needed to say.  “Well, Mommy, but I don’t WANT the animals to die.” 

“Oh Honey.”  I swooped down to be Mommy and we hugged for a few minutes.  I broke the embrace and got face to face with him.  “Are you feeling sad about that squirrel?”

“Yes,” he replied, looking honestly more heartbroken than I’ve seen him in a long time.  And then he repeated it, and I swear his cute little chin was actually quivering, “I don’t want the animals to die.”

What could I do?  I hugged him to me again and he let me hold him without wiggling free.  I said, “I don’t want the animals to die either, Sweetheart.  I know it’s hard for you to understand right now, but that is how things have to be.  That is life, my Love.”

We walked on and he muttered, “But I don’t WANT it to be.”  We held hands and walked to the playground and talked about how important it was to have as much fun as we can every day, having adventures and making people laugh and helping people along the way.  Before long, he was laughing and showing me how he can go down the slide backwards.  Showoff.  I don’t know where he gets it.

Little Boy in the backyard.

to meat or not to meat

fern ponders the omnivore’s dilemma

food.  these days, i am rarely not thinking about it.  whether i am eating, planning to eat, or reading about eating, food is nearly always on my mind.  and now, with a wee babe on the way (due in 3 weeks!), i can’t help but wonder what kinds of food he will be eating as he grows.

of course, i can tell you what he won’t be eating.  at least, if i turn out to be the perfect mom i plan to be (ok, please stop laughing).  no fast food, no refined sugars, blah, blah, blah.  yes, i will make every attempt to keep this junk away from my precious child, but i am realistic enough to know i can’t keep him from eating at  every birthday party, halloween, or holiday event for the first 18 years of his life.  and i’m not foolish enough to think that we will never, ever have peanut butter and jelly for dinner on some hectic night.  inevitably, he will partake of some kind of sub-par badness that he will probably just love.  then i’ll face the challenge of how to deal with a tiny and tenacious sugar fiend.

so what’s a mommy to do?  well, i guess i’ll cross that bridge when i come to it.  more immediately on my mind, is how to condition his little belly when it comes time for him to begin the transition from boob to solid foods.  i know i have to birth the kid first and all, but there’s just so much to consider…

everytime i turn around, there’s a new diet revolution emerging.  or allergy.  there’s the raw food movement, the primal diet, there’s veganism and good ol’ vegetarianism.  there’s lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance.  and then, of course, there’s the rest of us:  the omnivores.

the honeyman and i are omnivores, vegetarian leaning.  we tend to eat vegetarian at home, and save our meat-eating for special occasions or when we go out.  i know, i know- this is pretty hypocritical.  after all, most of the places we eat out do not get farm-raised, free-range, organic meats.  neither do most of the people whose houses we eat at who cook meat as the main dish.  but since we’re pretty content to eat veggie at home (not to mention, we can just toss out the scraps to the chickens or the compost, and clean up using only vinegar!), we give our consciences a break when we have a date night or are guests in someone’s home.  it can get emotionally taxing to worry all the time, and it’s certainly not healthy.

so now, with the boy on the way, we wonder what kind of diet will be the best for his little gut.  i guess only time will tell.  we abandoned the ideal of perfection early in the first trimester, when money was tight and we had to cut some corners on our organic shopping budget.  we gave ourselves a break  and decided any food was better than no food.  we eat as local and organic as possible when we can afford it, and we cast love blessings upon any food we think is of questionable origin.  when it comes time for the baby boy to become aware of what and how he eats, we will be honest and share with him the ideal situation in relation to the reality.  and, hopefully, as he grows into a young man, he can decide for himself what is the best fuel for his body.

 It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming
It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming

Daisy takes a bath.

Winter is full upon us, and so is my winter skin.  I get so spoiled in the hot, humid summers here, rarely needing moisturizer, glistening like a frog in a bog.  Then winter creeps the cold and dry into all the cracks and my skin dries out until it looks and feels like paper.  Mmmm sexy.

I love to warm up on a chilly winter day with a hot bath, but soaking in a tub of hot water is murder on my skin – I dry up faster than Lindsay Lohan in rehab.  I used to douse myself with bottles and bottles of lotion afterwards, but my skin always seemed to soak it right up and be just as tight and dry as ever. 

But wait Gentle Reader!  Despair not!  I have discovered the secret to baby smooth winter skin, and because I love you all so much, I shall reveal it to you.  Drumroll please (you have to imagine the drumroll yourself)….    

Twice weekly oil massage/salt scrub/hot bath! 

It sounds decadent, which it is.  And it’s also easy and cheap, and don’t the Herban Cowgirls just LOVE easy and cheap?  So here’s how you do it.

Warm up the bathroom and gather your usual towel, washcloth and soap.  Go to the kitchen and get a dish of regular table salt.  Get some oil, a few tablespoons to a quarter cup.  Any kind of oil will do.  I use whatever’s cheapest or whatever’s going rancid (hey, can’t eat it, might as well use it!), usually olive oil.

DISCLAIMER:  I am about to suggest pouring oil on your naked body while sitting in a slippery tub!  This is clearly an idea fraught with peril!  If you have never done this before, BE CAREFUL!!  Rubber mats and extra towels can save you some bruises (or worse!), but use your judgment and BE SAFE.  Again:  DANGER!  SLIPPERY OIL!

Okay, now take your clothes off and rub the oil all over your body while you sit in the slippery tub.  Really massage it in there.  I like to go from the extremities towards the heart.  I usually do this part standing, since the tub is COLD under my butt, but you may feel safer sitting.  Again, the slippery oil.  Danger and all.

Once you’ve oiled yourself slippery, it’s time to salt scrub those hamhocks.  Get some salt on those hands and polish that skin, working in circles from the extremities towards the heart.  I hope I don’t have to tell everyone to avoid your face with this treatment.  Please do not scrub handfuls of salt into your face.  You will not feel spa fresh doing that.

When you’re covered shoulders to feet in oil and salt, it’s time for your hot bath.  Yay!  I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil and swish it around.  Rinse off all the salt, letting it dissolve into the hot water.  Massage the oil into your skin, using the washcloth to remove excess oil from all your cracks and crevices.  After a good soaking, if I still feel overly oily, I rinse off a few minutes more in a hot shower.

HERE IS ANOTHER DISCLAIMER:  I am about to tell you to hoist your oiled body out of a ceramic tub!  Danger!!  Use a towel to dry your hands off, or put a hand towel on top of your rubber bathmat, or call someone in to help you – whatever you have to do to get out of the tub safely.  Also make sure you remove all excess oil with your washcloth and/or towel.  Oil will stain your clothing and sheets!  Use caution please!!

Okay now hoist your oiled body out of your tub.  Rub yourself dry with your towel.  Congratulations.  Your skin is now softer than it’s been since the day you were born.  Now put on your jammies and snuggle under the covers with a book and some hot chocolate. 

You’re welcome.

much ado about nothing

fern rambles on

well, dear readers, i must say i hope you haven’t missed me.  i hope you have been doing what i’ve been doing- spending time with the ones you love the most.

last month i decided to cut my “social networking” time online down to nil until after the baby boy arrives.  i fully intended to blog regularly despite my virtual diet, but, honestly, it was just so darn peaceful without the glare of the computer screen in my peepers, and with all of the holiday to-do’s, well, i just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to sit down and type.  i do hope you’ll be forgiving.

there has been, of course, a lot going on.  but, when is there not, really?  now in my 8th month of pregnancy, i am slower and yet somehow more motivated than ever.  push a baby out of me?  are you kidding?!  anything else seems like a piece of cake by comparison.

so, i’ve been kicking ass at yoga.  it makes me feel human again, and my body, having been scrunched up around my belly and limited to side-sleeping each night, welcomes the up and down dogs with wide open hips.  warrior poses make me feel ready to face birth with calm and strength, and squeeze this child right on out and into the world.  and any variation of goddess pose, a.k.a. squats, puts me deeply in touch with the eternal mother.  yeah.  i feel powerful.  hear me roar!

of course, there’s also the practical, day-to-day stuff that’s been happening.  i finally got myself on a cleaning schedule.  i know that this is not terribly exciting, but it is liberating to have a clear chart in front of me outlining daily what needs to be done.  i have the daily chores, five in the morning and five at night.  they take me less than an hour to complete.  i have 3 tasks each day to focus on, and they typically take me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.  so i end up only spending 3-4 hours a day on housework, and i get to enjoy a tidy and welcoming home.  and even if i have a down day and end up sleeping rather than bathing dogs, the chores still seem pretty manageable when i know there’s just another wednesday around the corner to do it.  not to mention, it takes a load off of my mind knowing that the honeyman can easily check in on what needs to be done during those first weeks of sleepless baby delirium.  which is coming really, really soon.

there have been other wonderful developments.  the honeyman and i have had an outpouring of support and help from some of the most wonderful humans we have ever met.  daisy and the herban cowboy donated their lovingly cared-for carseat to us.  daisy has also gifted me with freezable soup and chili, baby toys, and two crucial books that are going to help me in a big, big way once this mothering gig is in full swing.  not to mention being enthusiastic and available (along with the lovely M) as my labor and birth support mama.  she may be an athiest, but she’s an angel to me!

my prenatal yoga teacher, another blessedly giving soul, is loaning us her co-sleeper (which, by the way, doubles as a pack-n-play!), as well as a baby wrap.  my sweet baby sister, a mother of 4 herself, passed along a gently used baby swing, a walker, bouncy jumper, 2 playmats, a baby chair, and a moses basket.  wow.  and there’ll be boy clothes galore once the baby is out of onesies.  we bought a barely used, bad-ass jogging stroller from my oldest friend at nearly 1/3 of it’s retail cost(which will totally come in handy if these skinny running dreams i keep having ever manifest!).  so far we’ve saved more than we’ve spent!

we opted not to buy a crib, or a changing table.  we found some blogs about the montessori bed method, where the entire room is baby-proofed, and once the kid is toddling around and ready to move out of the family room/bed, he sleeps right on the floor on a futon mattress.  if he rolls off, he won’t have far to fall.  many parents report a calmer, more independent babe.  and i like the idea of spending our hard-to-come-by dollars on something that our son will be able to use for a good, long time.

and if i get half as much post-partum help as i am being offered, i just may be able to get a nap AND a shower!  score!!!

and the piece de resistance?  my wonderful mother, for what may be the very first time in my life, got me the one thing i really wanted for christmas.  oh, trust me, she always meant well…  but being a dirt-loving tomboy, and a messy and creative child, the collectible gifts she gave me every year for as long as i can remember have all been broken.  i gleefully ripped the glued-on wigs of many a porcelain doll(each one valued at $50-$100) to see what dolls hair went best with which painted-on shoes.  fine lace and velvet frocks were lost.  many of the girls didn’t make it out of their trysts and adventures with their hands and feet intact- i think one young lady even lost a nose.  and those were just in the first 14 years of my life.  the bi-monthly moves i made between the years of 2007-2009 sent many of the remaining fractured pretties crashing into the garbage bin(sorry, mom…i tried to tell you i wanted art supplies!).  the few salvageable items i managed to mercy, i eventually gave to my sister- she shares my mom’s affection for lovely, collectible things one can put on a shelf or in a glass case and marvel at how much it might be worth one fine day.

so, i have kept you in suspense, long enough, dear reader.  my sweet mother, after years of exasperation never knowing what to get me, simply asked me what i wanted this year.  my answer?  a juicer.

and let me tell you folks, in these final days of pregnancy, when i barely leave the house (there’s still so much to do!), you can find me polishing up my juicer like some men polish their ferraris.  seriously.  i love the damn thing.  honeyman and i began our juicing adventure on new years eve, and we haven’t felt better.  we now have more veggies in our bellies than ever before, and i worry less about getting good nutrition in those first weeks postpartum (in all of his beautiful ability, the honeyman is not a cook!).  and i get super excited when i see all of that luscious, soft pulp going into the compost to become nutrient-rich soil come the spring.  oh, sure, i could bake with it- and someday i plan to- but for now, the idea of building fertile earth right from my kitchen into my backyard makes me giddier than a soccer mom on black friday.  our garbage, and even our recycling, is drastically reduced.  we make half a press of coffee rather than a full one.  nothing smells in our fridge, and no produce gets left behind- even the things we don’t normally like taste great when juiced with apples and oranges!  the honeyman and i get 3-4 servings of vegetables before we’ve even fried our morning eggs.  and i look ahead to the spring, when the eggs we eat will be from our own backyard, and with a baby on my back, i will sow the seeds of sustainability, right here in my own home.

namaste, ya’ll!

my morning kitchen

Late to the party as always.

Aida has some ‘splaining to do.

Daisy asked me to write something for the full moon.  Actually, it is part of my commitment to this blog and to the other cowgirls to do so.  And I was about to.  I really, really was.  And then, life kind of happened.  It tends to happen to me a lot this life thing.  Lately, I was wondering about my ability to follow through on my commitments and I have a pretty shitty record.  So, to make it all up, I was going to write this stellar (lunar!) post.

Also on the agenda for this past week was a trip to New York City.  I’ve never been and that was high on the Big Boy’s list of things-to-do-in-this-lifetime.  So, we were going to head down on the 23rd and be back today.

Oh, readers, all two of you….how funny Aida is when she tries to plan.

To catch you up a little bit, I’m now living in a little apartment across the street from an old graveyard tucked into the forest up the mountain on an unpaved road.  I grew up in the Caribbean and have spent the past five years living in Savannah.  To drive up an unpaved road in the waning days of December is a skill I thought I had mastered.  I have.  My car apparently has not.

One night, oh yeah, the night of the full moon, specifically, when I was going to have written this great piece of blog literature that would go down in the annals of the best moon blog post of this week, there was a winter storm.  I’ve never let a good storm stop me.  I mean we were driving back to the woods after a couple of days with our cousin’s in New York.  We had just ridden a ferry across Lake Champlain after getting lost about twenty times.  A little drive up a hill?  Please.  I once drove my little white W bug (a gift hand assembled by my dad) for a couple months with no starter.  I know hills.

One third of the way up, in a snow storm, my the unpaved road became a treadmill under my car.  Oh we were pedal to the metal, but not going anywhere.  It wasn’t even the steepest point of the road, we’d already tackled that one.  But, the car was tired-or cranky, or whatever other anthropomorphic attribution we can muster.  So, I left it in the ditch.  I grabbed the dog’s leash with one hand and some groceries with the other after slinging my ten pound backpack over my shoulder.  The boy grabbed the rest of the groceries and his attitude and off we went.  In the dark.  In the snow.  Up a hill.  Where bears live.  Some of us (I’m lookin’ right at you Big Boy) have not yet learned the skill of the steady trudge.  So, whine, whine, whine…run to catch up….pant, whine, whine, whine was his chosen method of getting up the hill.  Mine was march, march, march…clutch heart in an effort to remind myself to not kill this child and march, march, march…pull predatory dog back into a sustainable shoulder to leash ratio and march, march, march.  Fine, full disclosure, when I had any breath left over, it was finely channeled into some very creative cursing.  I have a gift, what can I say?

We got home to the cat.  Popped in a movie and slept.

The next morning, wanting to feed two birds with one biscuit, I took the dog with me back down the hill (about a mile and half to two) to the car.  The plan was to start it up and see how I did with getting it out of the ditch in the daylight.  Raised to be conscientious of other drivers on hilly roads with blind corners, I’d left the hazards on.  I kept expecting to see the blinking lights around the next corner.  I didn’t.  Instead, I found the vague outline of my car.  I unlocked it manually (you know, actually sticking the key into the hole and twisting?) put the dog in and started scraping snow off the windshield.  I tried to start it.  I know, readers, you’ve already arrived at this conclusion.  Dead.  Dead.  Dead.  The battery didn’t even give me a little dashboard light action.  Nada.

So, just as I was about to lose hope, a huge pickup slid up and rolled down its window.  (By the way, Vermont, that wasn’t the first car to pass but the first to pass…I’ve got my eye on you no.)  I didn’t even wait for him to ask.  “Could I get a ride into town?”

And, that is how I got a ride to the first gas station in town from a taxidermist who was just delivering a bear he’d stuffed up to the hunter on my hill who’d bagged it.  At the gas station, I got myself some fresh,, hot, homemade chili and asked how I could get into town proper.

“There’s a bus?”  (Still snowstorm, everyone.)  Sigh. I stepped outside to scrape the last chunks of chili into my blue-tinged lips.  I decided to go ahead to the post office across the way and get my p.o. box since I don’t get mail service up my mountain.  When I came out, a young man (don’t get too excited, I mean a REALLY young man…again, sigh.) asked me if I was the lady that needed a ride into town.

Yepper.  That was me.

So, one stop closer.  I was able to get a ride from the only person I know in town back to the car to rescue the dog (had you forgotten that he was still in the car?).  She very kindly gave me a ride back up to my apartment.  The roadside assistance folks had told me that it would be about two and half hours before they could come tow the car.

After an episode of Dexter (rented from the family run video store), I re-packed my bag and hiked back down to the car, this time alone, to wait for the towers.  Things do tend to look rather homogeneous under a thick blanket of snow that was growing thicker by the minute.  So, when I reached the place that I though my car should be, I uttered a curse and rounded another corner just to make sure.  But, nope, the car had already been taken.  So, for a second, I stood there and weighed my options (for those keeping score, I’ve already walked more than 3 miles in the snow, in a storm in less than 4 hours).  Options: 1. lie down and let the cold take me while I wept.  2. walk the two miles home UP hill. 3. keep walking.  Tenacious to a fault, I kept walking.  And walking.  And walking.  I only fell twice.  I only shed one lone tear.  I only used up 1/3 of my encyclopedic cursing knowledge.  After another two miles, boots soaked through, heart hurting from all that cold air, chin numb, someone gave me a ride into town.  Right to the place where why car was waiting.

And I got to watch three more episodes of Dexter while I waited.

The next day, after shelling out my Christmas fun money into four new “Arctic Claws” tires and a new battery, I could not get out of bed, I felt so sick.  So, Christmas eve was spent in bed watching movie after movie trying not to vomit.  Christmas was spent in much the same way.

But, in the words of the Big Boy, between all that whining: “At least now I can say I’ve been on a real adventure.”

Of course, when we walked up from the abandoned car that first night, I watched as my son spread a little foam onto his upper lip and chin and with his new razor, shaved for the first time.  All that did was lend additional surrealism to these past few days.

And that, my friends, is why there was no awesome full moon post.