Double Date

On the phone this morning my Mom asked how yesterday’s date night was. Z and I went out to dinner with friends. We got a sitter and everything. I told her we had a terrific time. The food was yummy, which was a big deal. I do love living in Syracuse, but the food scene is pretty abysmal. No offense, Syracuse.

We’d been planning the evening with our friends for several weeks. We’ve been very tight with this couple for about three years now. They are our closest friends here in town. But in all that time the four of us haven’t gone out for a meal together. Most of our hang-out time takes place at Z and my home. With two young kids it is the easiest way to spend time with friends-have a meal and then put the kids to bed so we can drink and talk the night away. And J and C have been extremely accommodating about pretending our home is a awesome place to hang.

If I’m honest (and you know I will try to be) the kids aren’t the only reason we hang out here. If I can mangle an old James Carville quote–it’s the anxiety, stupid. Hanging out at home means I get to participate without a panic attack.

Back to that phone call this morning. Mom had me on speaker and Dad was there too. He piped up with “Hey, thought you couldn’t go out to a restaurant without an anxiety attack.” He was trying to point out that it was pretty great I hadn’t had one.

“Well about that….” I started.

C and I were texting about coordinating driving down to the restaurant in one car late yesterday afternoon when I let him know that I was anxious enough to need a pill. Although I was still really excited about going. He suggested we take different cars down so I’d feel like I had an escape plan. He knows me really well.

I avoid social situations outside my home for a ton of reasons. It’s fucking hard to do something that’ll make anxiety worse, even if I know that thing will be a ton of fun. It’s embarrassing to have a panic attack in front of an audience. And a big one is I worry my friends will think my anxiety is a reflection of how I feel about them. Which could not be further from the truth. On top of that stuff I fear it is a royal pain in the ass to deal with me and my problems. I’m not easy to be friends with. My anxiety is a perpetual third wheel.

All of that said, J and C knew that my anxiety didn’t have anything to do with them. They acted like it wasn’t a big deal. We did have a fantastic time. The food was great. My cocktail was a blueberry connection with the fetching name Veruca Salt. The conversation was the best part. The only miss was dessert. 

I feel lucky to have friends who really know me and still don’t go running for the hills. They make me feel safe and loved and like I’m worth it.

We won’t wait three more years to have another night out.

beautiful T

No pictures from last night. We were too busy having fun. When T isn’t paying attention I can sneak a quick shot of his heartbreakingly beautiful face WITHOUT his tongue sticking out or him grimacing.

how T watches tv

Watching TV. As one does.

5 miles

I know, I know. The post jog selfies are obnoxious. But yesterday I ran 5 miles. I am still in total disbelief. Took me almost an hour. The overall pace was a snail-like 11:48. But I jogged the whole time. In four and a half months I’ve gone from not being able to jog at all to 5 miles. This whole exercise situation is starting to make me believe that anything is possible.

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Free To Be Me

Today I dropped both boys off at school for the first time.

I thought this day would never come.

This school year from 9 to noon, well really from 9:20ish counting drop off till 11:45ish counting pick up, so for 2 hours and 25 minutes from Monday till Friday I am free. No, wait, Freudian slip there, I will have free time. Yes, that is what I meant to say…

So what did I do with my first glorious 2 hours and 25 minutes? Climbed into my car, blasted Morning Edition, and headed to Wegmans, of course. I floated through that grocery store with authority, unencumbered by whining or screaming or begging children. I heard a child have a meltdown several aisles over and a tingling feeling of peace spread through my limbs. Because that was not my child, god damn it. If my child was having a meltdown at that exact moment I was blissfully unaware. For 2 hours and 25 minutes 5 days a week if my kids have tantrums it is someone else’s problem. I am free.

Yes, free to inspect the labels of the organic quinoa until I found the one labeled “fair trade”. Free to pick out my heirloom tomatoes to be used in a Smitten Kitchen recipe in a few days. Free to dither over the sushi selection, hand on the shrimp tempura until I remembered hearing on NPR that shrimp imported from Thailand is literally full of shit-I grabbed the veggie roll insead. Free to ogle the gorgeous young man who works in dairy, the one who was definitely born after I started menstruating, who therefore could technically be my son (You know who I mean, Jenny M). Free to grab organic chicken breasts and conventional pork loin even though I know that conventional pork is raised in a horrifyingly inhumane way and slaughtered in filth (thank you, Whole Foods Market training). But one must draw the line somewhere and it turns out that $15.99 a pound is that arbitrary line for me. Free to hoist the 24 pack of Yuengling below my cart without navigating a curtain of skinny and bruised boy legs. Yuengling because it is the same price as Bud without being Bud. And it sure as hell is not Pabst. We might be hipsters. But we know who we are, and we are not THOSE hipsters, no we are not.

Content, I loaded the car and realized I was ravenous because yet again there wasn’t time for me to eat this morning. Back at home I fried up two farmers market eggs, nuked a leftover homemade veggie burger, and draped it all with a slice of New York State cheddar while wearing a cheap reproduction Return of the Jedi t-shirt from Old Navy, and the organic cotton hoodie that I coveted while working at Whole Foods (Back then it was more than $100. Even with the team member discount it was too rich for my blood.) but scored for $10 at our local natural foods market.

I am a walking talking motherfucking cliché.

Been thinking about it since our little get together last Saturday night. You know, the one where we ate local beef burgers, a kale and quinoa salad, organic chicken sausage, and those delicious veggie burgers. We might as well have been in Brooklyn.

A couple of us were chatting about a group of folks that one of us work with-folks that are much more typical of this party heavy, sports focused college town. A group of folks that are not “our people”. “Yeah,” I said, “But they are probably all at a party laughing at our flannel shirt and skinny jeans wearing selves.”  I looked around the room as I said it-I do believe that all 5 of the men here were, in fact, wearing flannel.

So yes, I’m the super liberal, overeducated, tattooed, local/organic unless it’s too expensive or inconvenient eating, NPR listening, homemade food making, broke ass, lecher when it comes to beautiful young men, hypocritical, stay at home mom, wife of a college professor.

Like I said, a cliché.

Go ahead and make fun of me. I can take it. Because here’s the amazing thing about being 36. I kind of dig who I am right now. And I no longer give a flying fuck about what people think of me. I’ve got a kick-ass husband. I’ve got two kids who crack me up everyday. And all of the sudden I have an extra 12+ hours a week that are all mine. Watch out motherfucker. Life is looking pretty good right now.

boys first day

First day of school for both boys!

dont eat playdoh

This kid. This is the look he gave me when I told him to stop eating play-doh. The only time he came near crying when I dropped him off at school today was when I tried to stop his playing for half a sec so I could grab a hug. He is going to be just fine out there in the big bad world.

backyard fun

Backyard shenanigans.

Back In the New York Groove

When Z and I made the decision to get married we also earnestly made plans for our future. We talked about what we wanted-kids someday, but not some day soon. To live in New York forever. I’d been chasing that need to belong for my whole life. New York already felt like home, when I came back the city after being away something inside me relaxed, I breathed easy, it felt right.

It’s hard for me to look back at the kids we were nearly fourteen years ago when we got engaged and not feel distain for our hubris and naiveté  Yes, we thought we knew marriage would be hard. We didn’t know anything.

Those kids we used to be could not have imagined that I would have a spectacular mental breakdown within in a few years. Hell, we would not have believed that the World Trade Center would be destroyed one year and eight days after our wedding. The thought that we’d be on the verge of divorce five years after our big day would have been ludicrous to us. And Z, who adored New York City would not have been able to wrap his brain around the fact that he would grow to despise his home in under a decade.

We wouldn’t have believed what life had in store for us, but our ignorance didn’t prevent any of it. Eight years after we met, six years after we wed I was presented with a choice-stay married and leave my other love, the city I’d called home for longer than anywhere else in my life, or stay in Brooklyn and get a divorce. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice. Although I do think that marriage should be renamed Never-Ending Compromise. And I’m not trying to sell this like I made some huge sacrifice while Z just gets to do whatever he wants. Deciding to stay married to someone who struggles with mental illness means you are putting that person’s needs in front of your own with soul crushing regularity. I could write a novel outlining all the compromises he’s made for me.

I made the right choice. That doesn’t mean that I stopped loving New York. I just decided I loved Z more.

The trip this weekend excited the hell out of both of us. We know we need to be paying more attention to our marriage and this opportunity was the perfect break. So when we were driving down the highway on Saturday afternoon and the Manhattan skyline came into view I was horrified by the sudden and severe anxiety attack that took hold. And on top of the anxiety I was enraged. Suddenly I hated Z for making me choose between him and the city, even though that choice happened years ago. I hated him for not missing the city. I hated the city itself for changing, for leaving me behind. I didn’t belong there anymore. And I hated myself for feeling so betrayed by Z, by the city, by life, by myself. I hated that the vision of life my 22 year old self imagined didn’t come to pass. I hated that part of me still expected it to. I guess I’m still naive nearly a decade and a half later, or to be blunt I’ve failed to grow the fuck up.

But here is the good part. Z immediately recognized what was going on. He got me to take a chill pill. He went to his work event while I stayed in our room and calmed down. We were able to talk about my reaction and strategize about future visits. Next time before we get close enough to the city for me to see the skyline I’ll take a pill. We’ll talk about how hard it is for me not to be there anymore ahead of the trip so remembering won’t seem like such a slap in the face.

The rocky start did not ruin the trip. We met up with two of my favorite people on the planet. She is the chef of a new restaurant in Brooklyn. The first review kicked ass. If you are anywhere near Prospect Heights you should go and get the duck confit sandwich. It was criminally delicious. He’s the one that set up my wordpress account and moved over all the content from blogger. He’s smart like that because he is the Product Engineering Director of a cool news website. If I’m going to be honestly uncomfortable, and you know I am, I’m jealous of them. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud as hell of them or that I begrudge their success. I mean, I’m an asshole, but I’m not that big of an asshole.

But I look at them, and Z for that matter, and I see people who made intentional and thoughtful decisions about what they wanted from life and worked their asses off to get there. They didn’t magically become successful, they put in the sweat and tears, they had setbacks, but they persevered. They are in their mid to late 30s and their careers are blossoming. And I feel inadequate compared to them. I’m 36, a Stay At Home Mom without the skills to find a job that would cover the cost of day care for my boys.

But here’s the thing. Only I have the ability to change where I am in life. I can decide it’s too late for me and feel sorry for myself, or I can made decisions and do the hard work and open myself up to facing failure as I try to make something out of myself.

So it was an eye opening trip. It made me think about where I am and where I want to be. It reminded me that I’m the one standing in the way of my own dreams, dreams that scare the shit out of me so completely that I don’t acknowledge them. On top of all that I still managed to have an excellent time with friends who I love dearly and who somehow love me back. I continue to love New York while loving Z more. And speaking of Z, let’s just say it was a fantastic trip for our marriage.

I love new york

This skyline never fails to break my heart, to exhilarate me, to make me feel like I’m coming home, to make me cry.

home again

We were happy to get home and see our boys. Man, did it feel nice to miss the boys.

porch in the rain

Hanging out on the porch for the first time this year.

And bonus dork points to anyone who knows who sings New York Groove…

Dinner Party

Z and I are not into competition style TV shows unless they are on The Food Network, and even then we watch only a handful. Listen, I’ve got nothing against crap TV. In fact, I adore crap TV, but the competition stuff just doesn’t tend to speak to us. The major exception to that rule is Worst Cooks In America. We’ve watched every season. When the ads start playing for the new shows we get downright giddy. We love it because the contestants are supportive of each other, they are genuinely trying to learn a new skill, and there is no meanness. Most importantly it is fucking hilarious. It would be like me doing a computer programing contest. The fish out of water thing is a lot of fun.

The show premiered Sunday and Z missed the first 15 minutes. I was DRVing it, but he told me it was so close to the beginning that I didn’t have to rewind for him. “Oh, you really want to see all of it.” I told him. I’d already laughed so hard I cried twice. And when he saw one of the contestants dry heaving after he tasted his own cooking he thought it was hilarious as well. But he agreed that the best part was the feisty lady who was vocally in lust with Bobby Flay. She had on nails with a capital N. By the time she was done cooking one of her thumb nails was mysteriously missing. Watching it the second time was just as good as the first, better actually because I had someone reduced to tears of hysteria right next to me. “How does that even happen?” I asked as I was gasping for air. Thankfully, she wasn’t eliminated at the end of the episode. She is awesome and I really hope she does learn to cook. I’ll tell you what, every finale we’ve watched in the series has had us crying sincere tears as we cheer on both contestants who have learned so much in a few weeks. And the episode where the final four cook for their families? Forget about it. Z and I weep for the whole hour.

For a few years I baked professionally. I’m not a chef, but I do know my way around a kitchen. Anyone could learn what I know how to do. Baking and cooking are no great mysteries, to be competent you don’t need innate talent or artistic ability, you need to take the time to learn. So it isn’t like I have this great secret talent, I’ve just acquired a skill that a monkey could master given enough time. I cook for our family because I love to cook.

On Sunday I made ravioli for our dinner last night so I only had to worry about making the sauce and dessert yesterday. I was in good shape before our guests arrived. I even remembered to grate some parmesan. I have an awesome box grater that was made by microplane. Awesome, but kind of dangerous. It is sharp as fucking hell. I was using the medium holes to make delightful little curls of parm when I pulled my hand back fast and said, “Oh shit, shit, shit, shit,” Z grabbed my hand. “Are you ok? Let me see.” “I fucking cut my nail. Shit, I can’t find the piece of nail, Z. What do I do?” Z thought about it for half a sec. “Forget about it. No one is ever going to know.” After sifting through the cheese looking for the piece I considered throwing it out…and then I just put the bowl on the table. After a moment Z said, “You realize you are that woman on Worst Cooks In America right?” And again I laughed so hard I cried.

thumb nail

I mean, come on. It was my thumb just like the TV lady. Although it was only a small piece of nail in my case. I keep mine trimmed super short. The other difference is Bobby Flay doesn’t interest me at all.

So what is the moral to this rambly lesson? If you come to dinner at our house I will make you decent food usually made from scratch with love. But be warned, we are gross enough to also serve you body parts. I mean, this was the first time I knowingly served part of my body along with the food, but what if fingernails are gateway drugs to cannibalism? This could be a very slippery slope for us. One minute I’m accidently including nails, the next I’m feeding Ray Liotta his own brain in my dinning room. Clearly we are not to be trusted.

 Even worse than the body parts is  my social ineptitude. I don’t know how I ever make friends I am so painfully awkward in social situations. Just thinking about my inability to act like a normal human last night makes me way more embarrassed than the nail situation. It’s best for everyone if I stay in the kitchen as much as possible. Even if it does mean eating body parts.

breakfast pie

The best part of dinner parties? Key Lime Pie and fresh whipped cream for breakfast. I’m in love with this pie. It’s the 3rd time I’ve made it this month. And yes, I’m back to cowardly Instagram.

waiting for pie

Someone was having a little trouble waiting for his bite of pie.

Saturday Night, Friend Night, Food Night

In the middle of all this overblown drama about mental illness sometimes nice shit happens. There is a couple here in town who have become family to us over the last couple of years. His birthday is a few days away from Z’s in May and last year I gave him the promise of 4 meals of his choosing over the course of the year. This week he decided to cash one in-he ordered gnocchi and a key lime pie.

There is zero anxiety when these friends come over. I mean this as the highest compliment–we don’t clean or even tidy for them. They know us in all our messy and honest glory and somehow they love us anyway.

Interacting with people in real life is fraught for me, but it is important to remember that the payoff is tremendous. The class I took last fall was an incredible experience. Our circle of friends is widening, we are friends with some really cool and kind couples who planned our welcome home along with J and C. Putting myself out there is worth it, it’s worth fighting for. Part of the reason I blog and am an avid facebooker is because is feels much less risky than engaging in real life. I get to interact with others without fear. The awesome thing about J and C is there is no risk when I interact with them either. It is such a fucking relief to have friends who I can be easy around.

The only bad thing about last night was J is sick and needed to stay home. But one of the many awesome things about the friendship is we are all friends with each other, it’s completely natural to have C over alone, just like J has been here without him many times.

Baking the key lime pie made me want margaritas. So Z whipped some up and if any of you have had a drink mixed by him you know he has a bit of a heavy hand. C and I were tipsy by the time we sat down to eat and I was flat out drunk when I overwhipped the whipping cream for the pie. Drunk isn’t a common occurrence for me. But every once in a long while cutting loose is a great idea. And you know what? We had a hell of a lot of fun. We had some great conversations. We had a terrific night.

My mother-in-law gave us this beautiful pie plate that she made for Christmas this year. We christened it with the key lime pie. And it was delicious. 

This morning I was pretty hung over. Bacon and eggs helped. So did sharing a meal with these three adorable guys. 

Z was using the shop press and T was lending a hand. Clearly he was not amused by my interruption. 

Saturday Was Local Day

In the last few years there has been a shift in the food movement from organic to local as a “the answer” for what ails our unsustainable food system. The “buy local” movement seemed like a good one to get behind, yet it always sort of made me uncomfortable. On the one hand I enjoy buying coffee from the guys who own the shop two streets away from my house. I’m happy to support their endeavor (although if they actually had the coffee in stock a little more frequently I would feel even better about patronizing them), I like seeing the crazy primitive set up they have for roasting-a cast iron capsule from 1906 with half of a huge barrel in front of it. There are days when I run in for an afternoon latte and the Roaster is standing three feet behind the espresso machine shoveling steaming beans into the air, staring intently at them as they fall back into the barrel in front of the breeze of a cheap box fan. I wish I knew what he was looking for-what made them “done”. I like that the huge burlap bags that the green beans come in are labeled organic and fair trade. I like that keeping my money in their business helps them stay in the neighborhood and creates a bit of healthy competition so Wegmans is not our only option when it comes to buying decent coffee.

So what is the problem with “buy local”? The zealotry of the movement, those who try to source everything they consume from some arbitrary line in the sand-the 20 mile meal, or 50 mile meal, or 100 mile meal. Keeping every dollar that local-saying goodbye to coffee even if it is roasted 2 blocks away because it sure as hell wasn’t grown anywhere near central New York makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Because what about the people that grow the beans organically and ethically in Costa Rica for example? Should we not support them because they aren’t our neighbors? There seems to be a fine line between fervent localism and isolationism. Or xenophobia.

Ok, supporting people all over the world matters. But is that the answer? What about food miles? How many calories of energy in terms of fossil fuels are expended for every calorie produced meant for human consumption? Isn’t there a compelling case for buying local in those terms? Of course. And that is the point. It is an incredibly complex issue that really can’t be simplified with a single catch phrase and mission. Or fixed by devout dogma focused on one issue.

And that is what I learned in school this semester-there are no simple answers, just more questions. But I think that is the ultimate point of nearly every class in an undergraduate setting. In grad school you start looking at complex answers and as you pursue a doctorate you start to try to create solutions.

Sorry, sorry I know this isn’t my usual Mommy blogger/anxiety blogger/diarrhea blogger fare. It’s been on my mind since my class wrapped up this week. And then yesterday we went to an awesome Craft Fair. We got several Christmas presents from local artists. Afterwards we drove to a Candy Shop down the street. It is fourth generation owned and operated, which is pretty cool. But the candy itself is delicious and that is what really matters. We were unable to muster much restraint when it came to picking out treats. I’m enjoying a potato chip enrobed in peanut butter and chocolate right now. Yesterday was our friend’s birthday and she and I headed to a local spa in the late afternoon to get massages. It was a local day all around. And while buying local isn’t my passion, while it isn’t going to solve every issue surrounding food and economic justice it felt damn good. As a bonus it made me feel excited about the holidays for the first time this season. Or that might just be the after effects of the massage talking…

Happy Birthday, J! The eggs in the cake were local. The chocolate and butter not so much….

Using his stool to pee like a big boy. He is pretty damn excited about this development. 

Sawdust butt!

My handsome man at the drill press.