Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who Were You / Who Are You--Reflections on the Ten-Year

Last night was my ten-year high school reunion. The San Marcos Resort back ballroom played host to somewhere between 100-150 late-twenty-somethings with one thing in common: we were all eyeing that amazing margarita cheesecake. Oh, and we all happened to graduate from Chandler High School a decade ago. I thought I would write a few words about the experience, partly as a way for myself to process the evening (because wow, it was a lot to take in) and partly for those who might read this who did or did not attend.

Soooo, high school, you crazy big fish, you. You spat us out onto the shore of adulthood, and look at us now………exactly the same as we were ten years ago. Well, maybe not quite. But the thing that struck me the most about the reunion, upon reflection, was actually how little people have changed. By which I mean that the midgets and dwarves are no longer midgets and dwarves--isn't that weird? Just kidding. By which I REALLY mean that the girls who were popular in high school--at least the ones who attended--still mostly look amazing and all showed up in runway-worthy cocktail dresses. (I'm starting to think that some people are just born with style genes. I have no other way to explain how they were born dressing like stars and I am still shopping at Target.) Also, the people who brightened up my boring chemistry and civics classes have remained witty and intriguing--have become even more interestingly so as adults. And then the people I just could never seem to find much to talk about with…you get the idea. The same gaggles of girlfriends who did everything together in 10th grade are the same gaggles cramming into the photo booth like the Japanese getting packed on the bullet train. The same gangs of guys who beat up on each other in wresting are, come to find out, still good-naturedly beating each other up. And to me, all of this is really sort of heartwarming. My group of friends more or less fell apart after high school, so I'm glad to see so much camaraderie remains among my classmates.

Going in to the evening, I had very few, if any, expectations. But there's one thing I had been warned about: posturing with a capital P. After hearing about my brother's reunion two years ago, I expected people to pad their accomplishments like a white-lying resume. But they didn't. Because guess what? No one became an astronaut. No one has their own VH1 talkshow. No one invented Post-Its. The fact that our class has (frankly) achieved only modest success was actually a big relief. Because of this, I felt last night was a very gracious evening. I'd be surprised if anyone felt like they didn't measure up, because most of us are doing rather average, normal things. A lot of people seem to be on the verge of something--they're in law school, they're studying for a certification, they want to go abroad. Maybe that's what it means to be 28 and an American in the 21st century. We're a bunch of late bloomers who are still searching, still looking to get it just right. And fortunately for us, we live in a forgiving culture--or perhaps we've created that forgiving culture by our lack of trajectory.

In my case, I went in thinking I wouldn't have much to show for myself since my career never got off the ground and I "just" stay at home with my kids. I figured everyone would have expected more of me. After all, I was Vice President of National Honors Society, by gum! I did not take the gravity of that immortal office lightly. (Ha.) But the more I heard myself repeating out loud my own little sound byte of what I do and why, the more I was reminded that I genuinely believe in what I'm doing with my life. I believe in the importance of making a loving home and being my children's primary caretaker. I don't want anyone else to spend more hours in the week raising them than I do. And I've spent so much time wringing my hands over jumping ship from my career and wishing I had something more impressive to put on paper, but in the end, I would so much rather spend this time in my life building the foundation of my family than building the foundation of my career. There's nothing wrong with a career--I want one, desperately! please! eventually!--but I have been given children, and I am doing what I believe I am called to do in their best interest.

Lastly, I have to say how truly hard it is to condense ten years into a few sentences--you tell people what you're doing now, but what about everything in between? There's a part of me that wished I could have explained all the transformative events of my twenties to these people. The tragic: my step-father turning out to be a pedophile, a stalker, and a larcenist; the melon-sized tumor in my body that traumatized my early days of motherhood. The joyful: the thrill of months traveling Europe; the blessing of how far we've come financially since our first apartment (where your housewarming gift from the management was a "club" for your car); the miracle of becoming a parent. But in the brevity of the moment, you get only about as much space as fits on your pin-on nametag. For me, that's "I stay home with my two kids and I'm having another." And that's okay. I know there's more to me, my life, and the last ten years than that--and I know the same is true for everyone there last night. I only wish I had time enough to hear it all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time for a Kale Change

I just got done planning our meals for the week--something I do each weekend with (I'd like to think) careful consideration. I have certain rules, like always make sure there's fish, never more red meat than twice a month, etc. But this week, I've given it even more thought than usual. Reason being I'm pregnant (surprise!). I have of course been pregnant before, but this time around, the morning sickness has been worse, which means I am constantly eating in an effort to drive it away. The unfortunate reality of this, however, is that I am constantly eating GARBAGE. In the last two days, I have eaten hot dogs, pizza, cake, bowlfuls of chocolate chips, frozen yogurt, Eggs Benedict heaping with Hollandaise sauce, and maybe one total serving of vegetables. For shame! And as we all know, when you eat garbage, you feel like garbage. So stuffing myself with these less than healthful foods has proven only to make me feel worse physically AND emotionally. Garbage + gluttony = guilt.

So thank God for another clean slate of the week ahead.

Last night after the regret that followed the cake that followed the pizza that followed the frozen yogurt, I sat down and made a list of vegetables. All the vegetables I could think of. Wow, that sounds kind of sad…have I really gotten to the point of listing vegetables? Anyway, I've realized over the years that if a food is not something I grew up eating, I rarely (if ever) make it. My husband's family eats eggplant, but I, like a stubborn child, have something in my head that says eggplant is revolting. Truth is, I don't remember ever trying it. But oh man, nary an eggplant has crossed the threshold of MY house! Well, it's time I grew up, isn't it? So I listed all the vegetables I could think of and marked the ones I've never brought home from the grocery store. And this week, in a colossal effort for change, I'm going to brave it and start with….kale! Sounds friendly enough, like one of those new baby names. I also decided to go whole hog (or whole asparagus or something) and plan super healthy vegetarian meals for this one week. We already eat vegetarian about half the time, so it's not too huge an adjustment. Monday, I give you Roasted Vegetables on Goat Cheese Toast. Tuesday, I present Black Bean Tacos (already a favorite). Wednesday, bring it on with Kale, Cannellini Bean, & Potato Soup. And on it goes.

I may not have the willpower to keep quite this healthy indefinitely, but I truly want to make lasting positive changes for my family. The way I cook is already significantly healthier overall than what I grew up eating (or even what I started my marriage eating) and for my children's sake, I want to continue in that direction. Everything I have learned about health (mostly from searching the web in a frenzy of hypochondria) tells me that the biggest component of health is prevention. And I want so badly to ensure that I and the ones I love don't fall prey to something that could have been prevented by eating better, exercising more, getting more sleep, etc. When nearly 70% of our nation is overweight or obese, with diabetes and cancer diagnoses on the rise, we've got to sit up and take notice. Meat and potatoes may have been fine for our farming ancestors, but they were also working outdoors ten hours a day.

So it's time to make some changes, even beyond those I've already made in the six years since I've been cooking as a wife and a mother. How about you? What positive food changes have you made for your family? How is what you eat now different from what you grew up eating? And what work is left to do to make it even better?