Swamp Water

Wow it has been a minute since I added anything to this blog. I regret that but let’s try this again.

I’ve been back in California for two years now, and coming back almost didn’t happen. The fear of the unknown is very powerful. Not to mention the mom guilt of taking my 13-year-old daughter (at the time) away from her friends of seven years. (And then there’s California traffic, cost of living, blah blah) Plus, living in routine, no matter how unhappy you are is just a safe, comfortable and familiar thing. You start to believe that this is life, this is where your choices have gotten you, and now you have to live with those choices. The thought of making another choice to change everything seems crazy, ludicrous and downright impossible.

However, in 2016 I got it into my head that maybe…just maybe it was possible to change the direction of my life and find this elusive happiness I’d heard so much about. So, it came down to this: Do I stay in Oregon? Do I stay in an unhappy marriage? Do I continue to go through my days like a robot, purely running on the needs of the day, shut down, and never really feeling anything. At first I thought maybe I was just missing my friends and family, so in 2014 my daughter and I got on an Amtrak train to visit everyone. Upon my return to Oregon I had realized something. I had missed nothing. Not even my husband. The next two years I felt like there was an itch beneath my skin that I couldn’t scratch. I couldn’t live like this anymore.

And yet, I still wavered. Going through the motions and being unhappy was just normal to me. I knew how to exist and function that way. However, that was the problem, wasn’t it? I was only existing. Not living. I should add that by this time I had lost quite a few family members, including my mother. The thought of the end was always at the forefront of my mind. And this ultimately helped me to make this tough and scary decision. I felt if I didn’t change my current life path I would be drowning in regret on my death-bed.

When I spoke to family and friends on the phone they would ask, “What is really the problem?” I would eventually give them the details of everything about my marriage and life in general, but at first I simply said, “I feel like swamp water.” Of course the response was, “Huh?” Simply put I felt stale, stagnant, unmoving, unchanging. I existed in this murky loop that on my worst days made me feel like I might as well have been dead. It felt like I was dying. It felt like my internal organs would start shutting down at any moment. I had nothing to look forward to. Nothing seemed to excite me. I did what I was supposed to do as a Mom and a wife. From my daughter of course I could feel love and joy but one day she was going to venture off into the world and I would still be here in this state and in this marriage.

I approached my husband to have an honest conversation, at first about our issues, and my feelings about living in such an isolated area. His response, “You knew what you were getting into. You knew how I was.” Indeed I did. My bad.

I approached him again later expressing how my unhappiness was no joke. I was not ok. And that my leaving was real and going to happen. His response, “Who’s going to watch the dogs?” That’s what I got from the person I was with for 9 years. Not, “Let’s work on things.” Or anything of that nature. Only an expression of how inconvenient it would be. That cemented for me I was doing the right thing. This part of my life was over. Oddly enough I did feel bad about leaving the four dogs. I did take the one that was the most attached to my daughter, but I still miss the other fur babies. Anywho…………………

My daughter and I came back to California and were taken in by family. The first year and a half was amazing and tough. Full of emotional ups and downs. Many days of crying on the bathroom floor. Followed by laughter and joy just being with my family again. (I might fill in these gaps another time) I immersed myself in online dating, which gave me some interesting stories to tell to say the least, and surprisingly it worked out after weeding through some craziness. To sum it all up for now I had in fact made the right choice. Not just because seven months ago I met the most amazing human in the most unexpected and weirdest way, but because life feels full of possibilites. Not just because I found the most solid and real love I’ve ever known, but because I’ve never looked back.

Now I know they say not to look for happiness in another person, well I’m sorry but I’ve never felt so complete, and whole in my life. And I owe that to this man.

It feels like every decision, and every bad, terrible, and painful thing led me to him. And now it all makes sense. I was earning him. I’ve been paying dues from my childhood on through the age of 39. If he is the prize then absolutely everything was worth it. Now, at the age of 40 I know what love is supposed to feel like. I know what happy feels like. It actually feels a little terrifying but I suppose that might be because I’m not used to it. I’ve been programmed that this emotion isn’t allowed, or is just a fantasy, something for movies and other works of fiction.

My daughter is also happier. At first she was “salty” as she put it. But as it turns out she likes the school she’s in better and has made some great new friends.

For the first time I feel like I’m living a life that just might be on the right path. I’m excited. I’ve traveled. I’ve eaten new foods. I have a renewed sense of purpose. A renewed fire to go after my dreams. I’ve made some important promises to myself: To never fear a life changing decision. To not fear the unknown. To embrace and welcome it. And most importantly, to never ever become swamp water. It’s not fun to be infested with angry, bitter alligators. Nopity nope, I do not want that again.

So, let’s see what happens…

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SMTWTFS

At thirty-five years old I’ve become that person. I have one prescribed pill and until a week ago I was doing fine remembering to take it. Then, it happened. What every person with prescription medication fears, “Did I take my medication?”

“Shit.”

Did I take my medication!?”

It’s thirty minutes past the scheduled time. Panic rises in my chest and my brain is frantically trying to recall every step I took since getting out of bed. But all I remember is eating a banana, one of the dogs puked, and a woman, who needs to learn parking lot etiquette, pissed me off at my daughter’s school.

Wait…wait…when did I start this new bottle? Oh crap, this is gonna be like math, and the math Gods did not smile upon me when I was born. Everything numeral gives me a burning sensation in my head.

Let’s see, I had two pills left from a previous bottle when I picked up this one from the pharmacy. I started this bottle on this day, and it started out with thirty pills. Okay, so, I should probably count how many pills are left in the bottle. Sooooooooo, um, I’m 98% sure I didn’t take it.

I wondered if skipping a dose would be worse than doubling a dose. My brief research (Googling) concluded it would be double dosing. I popped a pill feeling confident with my 98% sure-ity.

Everything was fine and that night I told my husband about my afternoon crisis. The next day he says he has a present for me and produces this –

017

I’m also using it for vitamins, but my husband shouldn’t use the word “present” so loosely. “Present” indicates a wrapped item that’s sole purpose is to evoke joy or at the very least makes your face change expressions. This was more like, here I bought you something at the drugstore. Enjoy.

P.S. I am not ashamed I had to watch this Youtube video on subtracting mixed numbers http://youtu.be/tVrelLu6K6k to help my daughter with her 4th grade homework. I don’t remember doing anything like this in the 4th grade. I actually don’t remember doing this at all. But I do have a talent for going into a math induced coma whenever too many numbers are being thrown in my face. Or, I need to put some ginkgo biloba in my pill box to help my dusty thirty-five year old memory.

Some Delicious Recipes and Me Giving Health Advice Again?

Let’s dive right in.

Home Remedies: When My Kiddie Is Sick It’s Ginger Root Time

For years now, not only when I’m sick, but whenever I can work it into my busy day, I try to ingest a piece of raw ginger root. You can find this in the produce aisle of your local grocery store…hopefully. I use to cut a small 1/2 inch piece off the root and just pop in my mouth, chew, and swallow, but it burns hot-like-fi-ya! So, I decided to stop torturing myself and stick it inside of a banana. It also adds some kick and health goody-goods to oatmeal. Skin a piece of root and then grate into the oatmeal. With ginger powering through your system you’re ready to take on the day.

I sound like a bad infomercial.

When it comes to a kid with a cold, it’s all about the tea. I’m not clear on the minimum age to give a child ginger, but I didn’t give my daughter any until she was eight years old. I still don’t give a raw chunk, or in grated form. That might be considered child cruelty until they’re a teenager. Instead I’ll slice a small piece, put it in a cup with either ginseng tea, or any black tea. Pour in boiling water, let it sit a few minutes, then add lemon and honey to taste, which also have healing properties. My daughter likes a small straw (that used to be a big straw until I cut it), and to let me know how many lemon seeds I let get in the cup. Try your hardest to get out the lemon seeds, and to not let the kiddo eat the piece of ginger, or screaming may ensue. This has improved congestion, sore throat, and can help calm upset tummies.

Aloe Vera: Nature’s Slimy Goodness

My mother has had an aloe plant as long as I can remember. Now, I have several. Aloe vera has a thousand uses. Either from the bottle at the drug store, or the gel straight from the plant, use as a moisturizer, it’s great on sunburns, and all life’s little skin boo boos. Not only is it a helpful topical presence in your life, but it can also go inside the human body for all around immune system boosting. From the plant, take a few “leaves” (said with upward inflection) okay, I think they’re called leaves, well, the long green things growing out of the dirt. Take those and peel them. Scraping as much of the gel as possible into a container. After gutting 2-3 gel filled things, add almost a gallon of water, or however much your container will allow, and shake together. Put in the fridge and once it’s cold give at least a cup a day to your child, or yourself if you dare. I do not suggest taking or giving at room temperature. That’s just mean. At first it may be a bit slimy, and they will need to chew and hold a napkin. They also might throw it in your face, and refuse to drink that nasty stuff. My daughter surprisingly never did. She’s not thrilled with it either, but I’ve gone into detail about the bigger picture. Or, maybe I just said, “Take it. It’s good for you.”

To bypass the slimy mess, I’ve recently found a gallon sized 98% pure aloe vera jug at Wal-Mart. If you keep adding water to the homemade mixture it will lose the ooey gooey, but if not dealing with the plant sounds better to you, then try to find it ready-made without the slime. You can also dilute the store-bought aloe with water, or good quality apple juice if the taste is bothersome. My daughter drinks a cup a day, and it has helped with her outside allergies, and frequency of common colds.

I haven’t used over the counter child medications in 2 years. They were not doing the job anyway.

Recipes:

What the hell should I feed the family tonight! How about giving hamburgers a kick in the ass!

For years I only threw seasoning in the ground carcass. One day I felt adventurous, and squeezed ranch dressing, and bbq sauce in the mix. Tossed some flour, poured a dollop of milk, cracked an egg, and mashed it all together with my hands. Sometimes I got a little too ranch happy, and the meat didn’t hold well, so now I use a packet of dry ranch powder. I’ll also leave out the milk once in a while, but if I do add it, I’ll add a slice of bread to the mixture. This will help a little bit of meat go a long way. Parts of this are the same as meatloaf, so I’m not making any claims of coming up with anything new. I’ve also thrown in a dry onion dip packet and nothing else in the meat. Seriously, nothing else. Thoroughly mix in the packet with 1-2 pounds of your ground meat of choice (turkey, beef, bison) and that’s all the seasoning it will need.

Want to do a bun-less burger that will go great with rice, or mashed potatoes, and favorite vegetable. Try this: Mix equal parts ground beef, and ground pork (even better, ground italian sausage) Add: chopped onion, diced tomatoes, splash of A1 steak sauce, garlic powder, pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. Try not to get too much juice from the tomatoes in the mix, or it will fall apart easily. Patty it up and fry that bad boy to your liking!

Tired of red spaghetti? Go green!

Want to make your child utter their first curse word? No? Okay, how about just a look that says what the hell. Let’s throw green spaghetti noodles in their face. This recipe came into my life through a peruvian family, and it is delightful. Get the water for pasta going. In a blender mix together: Fresh spinach, fresh basil, milk, olive oil, salt, pepper, and queso fresco cheese (Usually found near fresh parmesan in the grocery store. A white round cheese.) Blend well and pour into large frying pan. Stir constantly on medium to low heat, until thick and bubbly. Once the pasta is cooked and drained add to the lovely green mixture. We like to slice a red onion and mix it in, but I have to serve it to my kid before adding the onion. She is not a fan. Also, frying up a thin steak and laying it on top of the green concoction is, like, a thing that goes well with this type of eats.

Me Giving Health Advice?

Today I had the urge to talk about food substitutions.

A Bad Substitution (Yes, in my opinion): Aspartame

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used as a sugar substitute in some foods and beverages. You’ll find people who believe this is harmful to your health, and then you’ll find others who say it’s fine and dandy. This man-made chemical is found in all your diet sodas, no sugar energy drinks, and some children’s vitamins. In 1980 a board discussed its relationship to brain cancer, later concluding they didn’t believe it was that much of a bastard. However, it still wasn’t approved at that time, because of many unanswered questions. Research showed it gave cancer to rats, and that fact was even written on packets of sweetener.

In 1983 it slowly started to creep into our lives. In 1993 it was in most beverages and baked goods with the claim of no sugar. By 1996 all the restrictions of aspartame were removed allowing it to be put in whatever the hell corporate money-hounds wanted it to be in. These are all just boring facts, and you can choose to believe whatever you want about this ARTIFICIAL crack originally made by a chemist accidentally. Yeah, it was like a mad scientist trying to create Frankenstein, and instead created a sugar substitute by fucking up Frank. Now, Frank is in your diet Coke.

All I really have is my own experience. I consumed diet energy drinks, diet tea, and diet soda 1 year out of my life in my late twenties. I had noticed myself becoming more aggro than usual. Just irritated for no reason. At first I assumed it was natural with how many brain-dead zombies I battled working my graveyard shift. But then I started to feel an all around…not right. I read an article about the rumors of the big A, and decided to quit the diet beverage addiction. Within a few weeks I was feeling better and more like the normal aggro me.

Around the same time I was being a responsible mom, and bought my daughter a bottle of children’s vitamins. I don’t recall how long she had been taking them before she became different. She was hyper and uncontrollable. She was not the same kid. Finally reading the label (something for kids wouldn’t have an iffy ingredient, right?) of the well-known brand of kiddy nutrients I found aspartame. Long story short: Took her off of them, and back to normal. I had my sweet, funny, kind, smart kid back. Five years later I found a non-personality altering vitamin from this AHH-mazing website http://www.swansonvitamins.com/

This is my experience. Draw your own conclusions. Make your own decisions.

A Good Substitution: The Greek Gods All Natural Plain Greek Yogurt

I wanted plain greek yogurt to blend with avocados and use as a healthier salad dressing option. Which I’m sure is tastylicious, but I have yet to try it. What I have done is put it on or in everything that usually involves sour cream.

The first night it accidentally fell into my families mashed potatoes. I waited patiently to see if anyone noticed a difference. Later on my husband says, “I don’t know what you did to those potatoes, but you have to always make them that way.” Yes, sir.

I’m so damn proud of myself when I discover a healthy sub my family will eat, since I tend to be healthy-edible-challenged. It’s great on tacos, burritos, baked potatoes, and anything clogged artery cream had previously been best friends with. The texture is different from most yogurt, it’s actually very close to sour cream. Tossing it in garden rotini pasta with olive oil, diced tomatoes, red onion, and olives, is a scrumptious dish that you might even be able to label healthy. Add cut up chicken breast and it’s even more scrum-dilly-umptious. When I make my daughter a burrito I ask her if she wants sour cream, but there isn’t any sour cream in this house. The eight year old never questions it. That is the true test to how truly great a replacement this is.

Spam In A Can: A Love Story

Many people have yet to try the godsend of Spam in a can. Just the mere mention of the word Spam to some people will bring on an over exaggerated mimicking of vomiting. To these people I say, don’t knock it ’till you try it, and as much as I don’t understand it, a few people just happen to not care for processed meats in general like hot dogs, and bologna.

Except for Philippine and Hawaiian cultures, who inhale the stuff because it has been integrated into their world for one reason or another, a lot of people feel this processed block of nitrates is beneath them. But a lot of those same people (from my experience) will shove a hot dog down their throat like a competitive eater. As a matter of fact if you compare the ingredients on some hot dog packages to a can of Spam the canned meat wins. Now if you compare with an expensive uppity brand of hot dogs, it won’t fair as well. A cheaper dog has up to 15 different ingredients, 2 of which make me look like an idiot in front of my 8-year-old. I have to sit here and sound them out like an illiterate trying to read for the first time. Spam on the other hand says: Pork w/ ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

So when you have to pinch pennies maybe hide the fact it’s Spam from your picky family. Maybe fry it up, stick in between a hamburger bun, with a load of condiments (like the picture above, doesn’t it look pretty), and perhaps they won’t ask any pesky questions like, “What the hell is this!”

When I was a kid we were quite financially handicapped for a while, so when I saw that gold or silver sheen followed by a dark blue rectangle come out of a brown paper back, (hell, I was just happy to see a brown paper bag, because that meant someone went to the grocery store) I thought it must be freakin’ Christmas! I’ll never forget the actual thought that flashed through my head as a little girl, we are going to eat sooo good tonight! I couldn’t wait for my mom to unroll the metal top. Nowadays it’s a pussified pop top. Back in my day you had to work for that shit!

We would totally eat it “raw” too. None of that frying it up crap. I hadn’t even heard of eating it any other way until I was an adult, and didn’t really touch the stuff anymore. My mom would simply slice it up like a Christmas ham, and we made our smoke flavored, salty, moist sandwiches with lots of mayo.

Until about six months ago, I hadn’t purchased a can of Spam in my adult life, and the only reason I did (and the only reason my husband let me) is because we live in a tsunami zone on the west coast. So we try to keep a supply of food that can be used in emergencies. It went straight into our catastrophe food supply. Who knows, it might even become currency in a crazy apocalyptic situation.

Thanks For the Ride and the Awkward

When I was 18 I was an office assistant at a carpet warehouse in Oakland, Ca. I was right out of highschool and it was my third job experience. I didn’t have a car so I was an AC Transit bus expert and walked everywhere that distance allowed.

This job, however, I didn’t have to do either. Another person in the office, who told me about the job, happened to live across the street from a best friend I went to highschool with. And I lived a short distance from them, so she offered to be my transportation. It was perfect.

A day came when she had to leave work early because of a personal emergency. Another assistant, Lisa, in her early 30’s, lived in the same city as us so she asked her to give me a ride home. With a big smile, Lisa expressed it was no problem.

I’ll never forget what happened during that car ride.

The conversation went as follows:

Lisa: Hey Leah, you know it would be beneficial for everyone if you would get your own car.

Me: (Pause for being thrown off guard) I would love to have my own car, but it’s not a possibility right now.

Lisa: The thing is, Rosie has her own life. She has a husband and kids and she doesn’t need…this burden. I mean she’s using her gas to give you a ride. And I have a family as well, now I’m using my gas.

( What. The. Hell. Has this woman ever heard of carpooling!? Besides, I lived 2 minutes from Rosie, and 5 minutes from her. I also never asked Rosie to be my transportation, it was offered to me.)

(Sidenote: I was first hired on a temporary basis to do Lisa’s job while she went on a leave of absence. I did so well they kept me. She didn’t like that. She even went so far as to ask the manager of the office why was I still there. She was politely told it was none of her business.)

Me: Well, I do fill her gas tank at the end of every week. I offered that as part of our deal, because I wouldn’t let her give me a ride otherwise.

Lisa: Oh.

(Brief silence)

Lisa: When I was your age, my parents bought me this beautiful white mustang. There’s nothing wrong with parents buying their kids first car. You should talk to your parents about getting you a car. What parents wouldn’t?

Me: You know what, to be honest with you, I’m making the payments on my parents car, so I don’t think that will happen any time soon. So, like I said, getting my own car isn’t possible right now.

Lisa: Oh.

(Silence for what’s left of the car ride)

Me: (Getting out of the car) Thank you, see you tomorrow.

That 20 minute car ride is in my top 10 most uncomfortable moments.

P.S. (3 years later I bought my own car and I no longer worked there)

My Heinous Guilty Pleasure: Reality Shows

In the 90’s I started watching The Real World like so many other innocent T.V. viewers. Years later in the early 2000’s a little show called Survivor hit the air waves. Bit by bit more reality shows popped up like Big Brother and American Idol. Each show having its own niche. After the first seasons of Survivor and Big Brother the reality explosion was so severe I lost track of them. (Who knew it would go off like an atomic bomb between 2007-2011)

My regular viewing pleasure programs started to change dramatically. A few years back I took a peek at what VH1, A&E, and Bravo had to offer. I think the first what the hell am I watching moment came during an episode of Rock of Love on VH1. But I couldn’t look away. They had me. Slowly but surely almost everything I watched on T.V. was a reality show. After I was hooked to the Real Housewives series on Bravo, I knew there was no turning back.

As of 2011 who doesn’t have a reality show. It’s impossible to tune in to all the madness. I see a commercial preview for a new one every 10 seconds. Every network has one hand milking the reality cash cow. Besides watching “trashy” reality I enjoy Dual Survival, Man vs. Wild, and other how-to-survive-in-extreme-situations-that-will-never-happen-to-me shows. The Travel Network even has some entertaining and educational programs. The reality universe has something for everyone. From hog hunting to being a voyeur in the life of a celebrity.

A lot of it is viewed as pure mind numbing crap. And that’s what I love about it. The more moronic and ridiculous, the better. To zone out and watch such absurd people and actions help me to unwind. My most recent guilty pleasures have been Real Housewives of New Jersey, Real Housewives of New York, Flipping Out, Mob Wives, and yes I’m even a little hesitant to say, Jersey Shore. Within the last few days, I have found some of the housewives to be so vile, that it’s hard to watch. Yes, Housewives cast more vile than Jersey Shore…I know right?

Against his better judgement my husband has “enjoyed” a few Housewives and Jersey Shore episodes. He wishes he didn’t know who or what a Snookie was. Some people look down upon those of us who view these shows, like something must be severely wrong with us. But like anything else, who are you to judge. Yes, there are people who go crazy overboard about it. Perhaps saying things like, “Don’t talk ’bout my Snookie!” Come on, Snookie isn’t hurting from any type of comment. Snookie has a cool million in the bank she earned by poofing her hair to the sky, having a pickle habit, and being a sloppy drunk on T.V. She is just fine.

Honestly, when just about the whole cast of Jersey Shore came out with books “they wrote” I flipped through a Bible to see if there was any mention of this being a sign of the apocalypse.

Sometimes I wonder if any of these shows are subliminally changing me. I ponder this because after every episode of Mob Wives I have a strange desire to get in someones face and verbally violate them, using mother effer like a comma.

Regardless, I have no intention of cutting my one true guilty pleasure out of my life. The pleasure far outweighs the guilt. My husband still loves me and accepts my addiction. He simply asks, “Do you have shows tonight?” Knowing I’m not to be disturbed. Except for a handful of reality T.V., I’m well aware of the lunacy I’m viewing. The absolute best sideeffect of watching these things is how the characters make me even happier to be me, simply because I am not them.