Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love & Adventure in the Caribbean

I’m currently on vacation in Turks and Caicos.  I desperately needed to come to this remote Caribbean island in order to escape the stress of being at home all day, every day with nothing to do.

Interesting fact: This particular island served as the lair for two notorious female pirates during the 1700s.   I was hoping that the resort would offer some kind of pirate class where I could drink rum and wear an eye patch and learn valuable skills like fencing and picking locks and winning bar fights.  But sadly, the activities seem to revolve entirely around health and wellness.  Think raw food, yoga, meditation, and holistic spa services.  For a not-so-small fee, I can have someone pour a steady stream of hot oil over my forehead.  Sounds like a barrel of fun!

So far, our most adventurous activity has been trapping cockroaches in our hotel room.  I naively assumed that such a fancy resort would be able to afford an exterminator, so it came as quite a shock to find myself standing on top of the bathtub in bare feet in the middle of the night, yelling for my husband to wake up and come save me from giant marauding insects.  He did eventually come to my rescue, armed with running shoes and an overturned trash can – ideal for trapping oversized bugs.  If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.  I really couldn’t have asked for a more romantic way to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.

The trash can approach worked pretty well until we ran out of trash cans.  At that point, we decided to complain and demand a new room.  The manager apologized and gave us a nice upgrade, so we’re trying not to hold a grudge.  We even left a note behind on each of the overturned trash cans that read “Attention: Giant Cockroach Trapped Underneath” so as not to startle the housekeeper.

Tomorrow we head back home, and I have to say I’ll be happy to get back.  Nothing makes me appreciate being stuck at home all day more than being somewhere else.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Heart Kale

This morning I whipped up some raw kale-celery juice, and while I was praising myself for drinking it, it occurred to me that maybe I should become a registered dietician and give nutritional advice for a living.  With my quasi-photographic memory, I could be a walking, talking nutritional database.  Since becoming vegan, I’ve had to be careful to avoid deficiencies, so I already know a lot about healthy foods.  You want to know about complete proteins?  Essential fatty acids? Which foods contain the most zinc?  Piece of cake!  And I mean that literally – dark chocolate is packed full of zinc.

I remember seeing dietician on the list of Best Careers for 2011.  I can’t recall why I nixed the idea. Probably because it’s a people-person job, thus rendering me unqualified.  Still, whenever I see those obese people on TV who are clueless about nutrition, I feel a strange urge to help them.  It makes me really sad when the heavy kids are unable to correctly identify a tomato or a carrot or a potato.  I saw one forty-year-old woman who had never eaten fruit before – she was terrified to eat a raspberry.

I think I’d make a good role model because my “dieting” isn’t the result of a poor body image.  I don’t eat vegetables because I’m desperate to be a size zero.  I have much loftier motivations: an intense and debilitating fear of death.  My hope is that by drinking raw kale juice, I’ll live forever.

Given that I’m not a size zero, I figure I’d be more relatable.  No one wants to take dietary advice from someone who appears to be slowly starving to death.  How can someone who clearly hasn’t eaten a sandwich in the last five years possibly understand your cravings and temptations?  Me, on the other hand, I’d be more like Oprah, who recently confessed to eating 30 pounds of macaroni and cheese in a fit of depression – and people love her for it!

Because I’ve struggled myself, I can offer specialized advice on how to overcome dieting pitfalls.  For example, if you’re going out to the bars, it’s imperative to appoint a designated diet enforcer (i.e. someone who will smack the greasy food out of your mouth at two in the morning).   Better yet, find a late-night drunk food that you enjoy and that’s not as damaging to your health.  I knew this girl in college who would always eat canned chickpeas while the rest of us were eating gyros and pizza in the middle of the night.   It was a well-formed habit for her.   She had completely convinced herself that chickpeas were what she wanted to be eating.  She carried around a can in her purse at all times.   It was truly inspiring.

I’ve been giving unsolicited nutritional advice to my dad for years.  I'll pull out an armful of Jimmy Dean biscuit sandwiches from his freezer and with a raised eyebrow I'll say, "Dad, did you know that there are 10 grams of saturated fat in each one of these?"  He doesn't always appreciate my helpful advice, but I did get him to like brussels sprouts, and I didn't even have to douse them in Cheez Whiz.  It'll take another ten years of nagging before I'll be able to get him to drink raw kale juice, but lucky for him, I can be very persistent.  My clients are gonna love me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day / Flu Season!

It’s been a rough week.  My husband and I have both been battling some sort of mutant cold virus.  We’ve been whining back and forth for seven straight days – I’m exhausted.  To make matters worse, my fancy new laptop suffered a meltdown after only two months of use (I must’ve been writing something furious!) and is in the shop for repairs.  So, I hope you’re not expecting too much from this blog post.  You’re bound to be disappointed.

As it happens, my husband makes a similar disclaimer before every Valentine’s Day.  He hates the idea of having to show his love on a particular day by standing in line for overpriced flowers and dining at crowded restaurants.  He’d much rather get me a gift when he doesn’t have to.  Once he bought me an iPod for no reason and left it on top of the vacuum cleaner where I would be sure to find it, so I know he's capable of being romantic.  But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.

The first year we were dating, he bought me a Valentine’s Day card but never actually gave it to me.  I found it six months later when I was helping him move.  The year after that, he bought me a single, half-dead rose from a homeless guy outside of Grand Central, thus avoiding the long line at the florist.  I must’ve given him a hard time about it, because the following year he went out and bought me a dozen red roses – on February 13th of course.  I took a picture so that on future Valentine’s Days, I could just look at the photo.

After we got married, we started a tradition of not being together on Valentine’s Day.  Two years ago, he went on a ski trip with co-workers.  Last year, I went on a girls’ trip to Nashville.  This year, he’s playing in a hockey game, although I do get to see him during the day.  This morning I told him “Happy Valentine’s Day” between sneezes, and in return, he handed me the Kleenex box.  While he’s playing hockey tonight, I’ll be at home alone watching The Bachelor.  And, actually, after the week I’ve had, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Executive Household Manager

The other day, I went to the doctor and had to fill out a bunch of forms, one of which asked for my current occupation.  Hmm, tough question.  After some deep contemplation, I decided on “freelance writer / executive household manager.”  I purposely avoided using the term “housewife” – it makes me think of a 1950s subservient woman whose sole purpose is to fetch her husband's slippers and wait on him hand and foot, and that is definitely not part of my job description.

I consider marriage to be more of a partnership, and since my husband has a more demanding work schedule, it’s only fair that I take on more of the responsibilities outside of work: cooking, cleaning, shopping, running errands, making travel reservations, managing our social calendar, etc.  But I want him to remember that I’m performing these tasks because I want to contribute, not because they’re expected of me.  If I feel that he's grown too accustomed to home-cooked meals, I make it a point to disappoint him; the next time he’s hungry, I’ll hand him something freezer-burned and completely unrecognizable and say, “Here, heat it up yourself.”  Then if I choose to cook dinner the following night, he appreciates it more.

One might think that these non-work related tasks are trivial and not stressful, but you’d be mistaken.  It can be downright challenging to plan a vacation when you’re both cheap and have a taste for luxury.  And considering that my husband and I are both reclusive misanthropes, creating a social life for the two of us requires some serious effort.  Finding couple friends, arranging events, convincing my husband to show up… it’s no easy task.

Grocery shopping might sound easy, but it can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming, especially when you take into account my husband’s phobia of running out of things.  As soon as the mustard bottle gets to be one-third empty, he gets all panicky and starts to cut down on the amount of mustard he uses, rationing it out as though he’s trapped on a deserted island and the mustard is the only thing keeping him alive.  He’ll look at me with fear in his eyes and say, “But what if I want a hot dog and there isn’t enough mustard?  You have to go get more mustard!”  In order to avoid such a scene, I have to constantly monitor the status of all of our food items, which come from three different grocery stores.

It's a struggle, yes.  But by efficiently running our household, I alleviate my husband’s stress, thereby allowing him to be a work superstar.  I seriously doubt that he would be as successful as he is without a lifetime supply of his favorite super-soft socks – made from 100% viscose – that shed black lint all over the carpet.

For the most part, I don’t mind being in charge of our non-working life.  Like most women, I’m a natural multi-tasker, I’m organized, and I like things done a certain way.  My husband, on the other hand, has a strong aversion to planning and the minutiae of daily tasks.  He handles the stress of his job remarkably well, but if you ask him to organize a Saturday night out, he’ll completely fall apart.

When we got engaged, he was more afraid of the wedding planning than of the actual wedding, but I was completely in my element.  Obviously I put myself in charge, although I did make the occasional attempt to delegate.  In the beginning, I emailed him an incredibly detailed to-do list, full of links and suggestions and timelines, and he replied with the following email:

Subject: COULD NOT DELIVER: RE: Wedding To-do list
Your message could not be delivered. The recipient's mail server was unavailable or busy, or perhaps he doesn't like responsibility.

I don’t mean to say that he never helps me with anything.  He totally does.  Sometimes it requires a little arm-twisting, but other times he does it on his own accord.  Like the other day when I was planning a trip for our third wedding anniversary, he actually volunteered to book the flights.  When he was done, he forwarded me the flight confirmation and pointed out what great times and seats he managed to get.  I was totally impressed… until I realized that he had booked the wrong destination.  “Um, honey, we’re going to Turks & Caicos, not Grand Cayman.”  Now, see, I would never make that mistake, but I guess that’s why I’m the executive household manager.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Year's Resolution = Epic Fail

Well, it’s February.  My television boycott is officially over, but in all honesty, it ended some time ago.  I did really well for the first week, and then I had one little moment of weakness, followed by many more moments of weakness – cheating is a slippery slope.  The funny thing is, rather than admit defeat, I've been changing the rules to accommodate my missteps.  In the past week or so, the rule amendments have really piled up.  Here are just a few of them…

  • I’m allowed to have the television on while I’m cooking dinner because I can barely see it from the kitchen.
  • I’m allowed to watch television if I’ve been drinking alcohol because I wouldn’t be productive anyway.
  • I’m allowed to watch television while I’m in the gym, working out.  I deserve it!
  • I’m allowed to watch television while I’m in the gym, not working out, as long as I've worked out recently.
  • I’m allowed to watch previously recorded shows that I was planning to watch in February because I'm not actually watching more television than I would otherwise.  It’s just a “now or later” issue.
  • For my own safety, I’m allowed to watch television when it’s really windy outside, in case the local weather service issues a tornado warning.

I know I’m just lying to myself, but I can be so convincing.

Anyway, just because I failed miserably at this 30-day trial doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the idea of giving up television.  If I can’t go cold turkey, I’ll just have to do it gradually.  Oh, if only I could chew a piece of gum or slap on a patch and feel sufficiently entertained!

The other day, I was reading David Sedaris’ essay about when he quit smoking by moving to Japan, and it occurred to me that moving to Japan might also help me give up television.  Sure, TVs are everywhere in Japan, but I wouldn’t understand a word of it!  Plus, Japanese programming consists mainly of anime, science fiction, and variety shows, none of which I am even remotely interested in.  My husband would probably put up some resistance – he went to Tokyo years ago and had a bad experience with “fish bread” – but I bet if I played up the whole “addiction” thing, I could convince him to go.  And if my addiction proves to be overpowering and I learn Japanese just so that I can watch television, well, then at least I will have acquired a new skill.  冒険が始まるようにしなさい!