Comfort Food

The greatest treasure that this Earth ever held was my grandma, Mimi. She was Southern to her core as an Alabama native complete with an endearing drawl and all the “Bless your heart’s” one could insert into a conversation. She was the warm and caring grandma that you read only of in story books. She set her hair at the parlor and diligently pinned her curls at night. Somehow, she was the only one who could brush my long brown hair without hurting my head as she wrestled the tangles of the day. To me the sun rose and set in the light of her beauty and tenderness. My nails were always painted under her care and I never went to sleep without a story read to me in the big bed with the silky pink sheets. A bath was never a bath without bubbles and Loretta Lynn serenaded us on the daily and made her way into our favorites.

I will fight to the death defending her acumen in the kitchen as well. A biscuit is just not a biscuit if it wasn’t baked at the hands of my Mimi. They were perfect every time-piping hot and flaking apart after having been kneaded for long enough, but not too long that you kill the butter. If I could go back in time I would climb up to her counter on my little red stool with my present day iPhone and track her every move. To this day I can hear the sizzle of the gently peppered chicken frying in her cast iron skillet. The aroma was akin to Heaven itself. I can still taste that first crunchy bite that rivaled Colonel Sanders any day of the week. I can hear the sound of the pressure cooker bobbing back and forth as it gives way to the best green beans, cooked always with bacon, that you ever did eat. I remember loving green beans. I suppose it was the fact that my job was to snap the ends and pop them in half and somehow I surmised that I’m actually the one that made them.

I am now a mother of four children. I could no sooner get my children to enjoy a bite of green beans, black-eyed peas or okra than I could pull a rainbow out of my mouth. But, Mimi, she was magical. There wasn’t a morsel of food that we weren’t willing to try so long as it came from her stove. What I wouldn’t give to have her for a day so that my children might possibly consume a vegetable, or at a minimum, something other than beige food. I don’t think this fine woman owned a microwave. If a child requested mac and cheese there was a cheese grater and a roux involved. There was no such thing as ripping open a package, God forbidden powdered cheese and seven minutes later ta-da. When it came to breakfast there was rarely a cereal in sight unless they were in the fun single sized boxes. There were egg bakes and bear claws and biscuits with butter & jam. For lunch you enjoyed a skillet fried Reuben complete with sauerkraut and pickles. Unlike my children We did not snack all day like our livelihood depended on it because Mimi filled you to the brim with all things Heaven sent.

As if her cooking wasn’t stellar enough, every single night of her married life she baked a pie just the way my grandpa liked it. A small scoop of ice cream and a perfectly set cherry pie or pecan pie or carrot cake, the list was endless. This was a close to an already perfect meal.

There was no such thing as Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, Whole 30 or Paleo within a 100-mile radiance of Mimi’s kitchen. There was only food. The best food. Food made with love, from scratch, and most often a little bacon rendering. This was food that filled your soul to overflowing. There was no tracking macro’s or counting or restricting. Gluten was far from a forbidden accompaniment and organic was her way about her.

I no longer have my Mimi, but I can proudly say that I have personally eaten the best fried chicken this planet will ever know. The only thing greater than her cooking was her heart.

Lycra

I’m getting ready to take a trip to Florida over Christmas. I am pretty stoked for many reasons. This is my native state. I am a beach obsessed, sun worshipping Florida girl living land locked in Minnesota with temperature highs in the single digits these days. The escape from this tundra is just days away. With that escape comes a two year planned trip to Disney World finally coming to fruition. My children are the absolute best ages right now to hit Disney. They are old enough to assert some independence, but young enough to still care about the characters and rides and Paw Patrol. This will be epic! If Disney wasn’t enough my parents live in Cocoa Beach directly on the beach. You can hear the waves crashing and feel the wind blowing salty air as you sip your morning coffee. My siblings are all gathering together to celebrate Christmas. This too will be an epic feat as fourteen children and ten adults jam ourselves into a two bedroom condo space. (Can anyone get to Costco fast enough?)

With all this excitement ahead I found myself attempting…. a crash diet. A crash diet because with Florida comes bathing suits and pools and beach time. It finally dawned on me recently that this crash diet was just plain stupid. I had to ask myself: “why am I trading my peace and security and confidence for a piece of lycra?” Why was I foregoing calories in anticipation of someone else’s judgement of me? Why was I projecting discomfort onto a moment that was yet to come. Why was I obsessing about what I look like when I have shells to collect and castles to build and evening strolls in the warm sun to take? I have spent so many years letting my joy and contentment be overshadowed by how I felt about my body image. I’m so getting over this.

The diet culture of our society thrives on people like me. I don’t even have anything more brilliant to say than that. It thrives on my obsession with what other people might think of me. If perhaps I decided that this body is “enough” right now, today, as is then what kind of freedom would that bring? It would allow me to anticipate a lot of great memories made with my children. It would allow me to do a cannon ball or two in the pool. It would allow me to stand proud next to Cinderella and actually smile for the camera versus getting the heck out of the frame (I’ve spent decades dodging pictures).  If I decided that I am enough and other people’s opinions can just be theirs then that leaves a lot more room in my heart and mind for joy and engagement and the real stuff that trips like these are made of.

We have got to ditch the anticipation of judgement from others. We have got to decide that we are enough, today, as is. We have to decide that what we bring to the table as a person far outweighs how stellar we look in our lycra. We have to get busy anticipating connection with others not rejection of our image. I mean really- why do I care what Sue Ellen from Canada thinks I look like in my suit? I’ve got memories to make, and kids to laugh with, and family members to love on. This engrained habit of projecting rejection or ridicule can be traded. It can be traded in for the solid decision that I’m pretty stinking awesome no matter what I look like in my suit and I can get about the business of living life more fully. One mental shift at a time.

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I Am A Scale

I am a Scale.

I am blind as a bat, but I manage well to tell you how good you look and therefore how good you should feel about yourself. I am cunning like that.

I am ignorant. But, I’m good at pretending I’m wise and all-knowing. I know nothing of your strength or potential or stamina. I have no clue what you are capable of. I don’t know if you can run a marathon or leap hurdles or lift heavy things. I don’t actually care about those things. I’m ignorant to your stature, yet I flash you with my LED screen and can sum you up in three numbers. This is one of my favorite tricks.

I am a servant. I serve you best with a sense of defeat or that you’re missing the mark. That is my greatest ploy that, in turn, causes you to question what you should enjoy.

I am rude. I constantly compare you to others. If I can get you to do the same then I will keep you coming back to me until you measure up. You see, I’m all about creating an on-going relationship with you.

I am cold-hearted. I truly do not care what sustains you. I don’t care what you need. I don’t actually know what healthy is. I don’t care if you just worked out or ate a salad or gorged on donuts. My job is to convince you that your efforts are in vain and you need to do more to be more.

I lack awareness. I have absolutely no clue what schedule you keep or the demands of your day. But, I convince you to forego food and insert exercise because my three numbers are the key to your contentment.

I am a buzzkill. I have a dispiriting effect. I convince you to skip participating fully in birthday celebrations, parties and gatherings of any kind. You don’t take me with you, but I burn my three numbers in the corridors of your mind and convince you to skip the cake and stay out of the pool.

I am a dictator. I call your closet into question. Nevermind your style or personality… you can’t get away with wearing that and don’t go getting mad at me I’m saving you from embarrassing yourself. By the way, black is my favorite color and pretty much your best look across the board.

I am lonely. I don’t have many friends. I have co-workers though and their names are shame, insecurity and dissatisfaction. You will meet them. They are my caseworkers and when we are apart they are in the field doing my bidding.

I get around. I have permeated your culture. I show up in hotels, your friend’s bathrooms and gym class in 5th grade. I wouldn’t want you to forget that I exist. I’m everywhere you want to be. I know that if I can introduce myself to you when you’re young we just might have a partnership for life.

I am smart. I’ve joined forces with the diet industry and together we are a force to be reckoned with. We are worth 66 billion dollars to date. We have trends and franchises and even life long members across the globe. That said, dare I suggest that we’ve created community and togetherness and…. you’re welcome.

I am arrogant. I hold power OVER you though I am positioned UNDER your feet. I am dependent on you though somehow I’ve convinced you that you’re dependent on me for information about yourself.  I’m pretty magical like that.

I am a scale. I may be a blind, ignorant, unaware, cold-hearted, lonely, rude, dictating, arrogant thing, but I measure and weigh and I can make your day or break it… and don’t you forget it.