The Greatest Thing

Today while walking across East 12th Street, from Broadway to University, I spotted The Greatest Thing.  It was a red Economist truck, serving free burgers.

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The red Economist food truck

WHAT?!

The truck was not serving just any kind of burger.  Rather, it was a juicy, tender, flavorful, falling-apart-as-you-sink-your-teeth-into-it VEGAN BURGER.  I know, I know.  How could this possibly even exist?

Perhaps you aren’t like me, and haven’t ranged from disinterested to disgusted upon trying meat alternatives in the past.  But if this has been your experience, I encourage you to run, not walk, to the nearest red Economist food truck in your neighborhood.  You can taste this miracle for yourself, for $12, the price of a starter Economist subscription.  (I got one for my Mom.)

What’s that you say? No Economist food truck? Oh dear.  Do not be alarmed.  A little research brought me to the website of the manufacturer of this delectable vegetable-based nugget, an outfit known as Beyond Meat.

Here is the vision of Beyond Meat, as told in their About section:

“At Beyond Meat, we want all of the good and none of the bad. We want to eat delicious meat but we don’t want any of the bad stuff that goes along with it. Is that too much to ask? Well no, actually. Not since we created meat from plants. Brilliant, right? Replacing animal protein with meat made from plants would do wonders for human health, for the environment, for conservation of natural resources and for animals. It’s worth a fight. This is where you come in. Reduce your meat consumption and tell the world. Even if you’re already eating less meat, you can help us spread the word and make a real difference. Together we can build a world that’s zero downside and all delicious upside.”

Before tasting, I asked the friendly Economist rep, on whose iPad I tapped my gift order, what was in this burger.  I wasn’t interested in soy.

“Uh, pea protein, potato, and beets.”  He seemed relieved to have known.

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Nutritional information for a Beyond Meat burger

And then I had my first magical bite.  It was truly so delicious, I scarfed it down in record time, pausing only at the end to take a picture of the last bite.  I hope my picture can do it’s medium-rare beef-like texture justice.

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I think this is the major problem for me with other meat substitutes — the texture just isn’t right.  Now, I feel my search is over!  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not anti-meat, but I do believe a lot of the meat in our marketplace could use an upgrade.  Especially when a well-sourced grass-fed burger isn’t within reach.  With 20 grams of protein per patty, perhaps the Beyond Meat burger is it.

For more on the current crop of next generation meat products, click here.  And go get yourself a Beyond Meat burger!

Post Script:

a) I wrote this nine days ago but didn’t post until now (welcome to life with a baby and toddler), so not sure the truck is out in NYC anymore and b) I have no affiliation with the The Economist or Beyond Meat.)

What Were You Doing A Year Ago?

Or two? Or four? Or ten?

I love this kind of reflection.  In the past, I’ve relied on memory alone to answer this question.

But since I bought a five-year journal last year, now I can read exactly what I was doing last year, on the same page I enter what I did today.  Genius.

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A five-year journal — you write in the year.

I always fantasized about keeping journals, but felt intimidated by the large blank page awaiting my entry at 11 PM when I’m about to go to sleep.  This journal gives you six lines to enter something for the day — just enough to capture what you did, or felt, but not enough to take longer than a few minutes.

I tested the waters last summer and then began to fill it out religiously after Owl was born.  I love looking back through the pages and looking at what was happening 3 months ago on this day, 6 months ago, 9 month ago . . .

I was doing the same thing with pictures the other day — on July 9.  And then I found this gem.

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This was the second-to-last night of our honeymoon.  It was only four years ago but it feels like a hundred.  We basically look the same, but there are more gray hairs (me), more lines on our faces, and some sagging skin here and there (me also).  Those physical relics are our evidence of all the has happened — new life, loss, needing to be stronger, more energetic, more patient, more creative, more forgiving, and more loving than we sometimes think we can be.  I look into these faces and see children, even though I was 35, and Eric was 39.  Though we did not know it, nine months later we would be parents.

On July 9 of this year, BRK and Eric’s mom and I returned home from a trip to Florida to see my mom.  This was BRK’s first flight as a toddler.

“Look, look out the window!” I urged,  “We’re inside a cloud!”

“Can I watch Shrek now?” BRK was laser-focused on the TV screen embedded in the seat in front of her.

“BRK, we are LITERALLY IN A CLOUD.”

“I want to watch Shrek.”

Sigh.

Seamless logistics, and Shrek on demand, returned us home without a scratch or a tantrum.

That night I wrote the following in the five-year diary: “Flew back home.  Was so good to see Mom, to see BRK to with Mom.”  I was tired and even those 6 little lines seemed to vast to fill.

I looked up, to last year’s entry, and then across the page, to the next entry, July 10, 2016:

“ . . . took Dad downtown . . . we went to Starbucks.  Told him I hate that he has to go through this, and that I have so many good memories and that I love him . . .”

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The sensations of that day washed over me.  The smell of Starbucks coffee permeating the car, the gray dress I wore, my belly grazing the steering wheel because it was full of 20-week-old Owl, that conversation.

Would I remember this if I hadn’t written it down?  Of course.  But there is something magical about getting to experience it again, on that day, one year later.  And on the future July 10ths when I write in these journals.

Don’t Ask For Too Many Things

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A page from A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer and illustrated by P.D. Eastman

“Mommy, I want to ask for The Door, The Cymbal, and  The Train.”

BRK named the activities she would ask the teacher to do that day in our weekly music class.

“Well, maybe just ask for one thing.” I replied.

Then, I wondered about those words, hanging in the air.

BRK asked, “Why?”

Good question.

Why?  Why not ask for as many things as she wants?  I had discouraged her because when she rattled off all the things she wanted, my mind raced ahead to a place called Must Prevent Disappointment, and then shot to another place, called My Child Must Not Come Across As Demanding.

And I realized how problematic both of these ideas are.

I understand, intellectually, that my children must encounter and experience disappointment.  Yet, despite firmly embracing Cry It Out when she was a baby, and Time Outs when she was 2, now that she is 3, my emotional white knuckles feel arthritically stuck, unable to to let go, to let her be disappointed.  I think of a recent disappointment, when she asked another little girl to play and the little girl said no, and BRK kept bringing different toys over to the little girl, simply not understanding that no matter what she did, that little girl wasn’t going to play with her.  I watched the confusion on her face give way to her first inklings of rejection.  I needed a mop for the pieces of my heart.

My second line of reasoning, about coming across as demanding, bothered me even more.  I asked myself, would I worry about this if BRK were a boy?  Would I worry about this with Owl, who is a boy?  And I think my answer is, “I would worry about it less”.  I might see it more as “knowing what he wants” and “just being a boy”.  I would worry less about him seeming selfish or demanding.

I was reading a childhood classic to both kids last night, A Fish Out of Water.  There is the part when the boy breaks the news to the man at the fish store, Mr. Carp, that he didn’t follow the directions to “feed the fish just this much and no more”, and instead, fed him way too much.

And Mr. Carp replies, “Oh, dear! So you fed him too much! I knew you would.  I always say ‘don’t’ but you boys always do. Yes, I will come.”

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And I wondered about the girls.  Did THEY ever go against what Mr Carp said?  And if they did, what happened? Was it just no big deal, like in this case?  No scolding, just a gentle lesson learned?

Later I said, “You know, BRK, go ahead and ask for all the things you want to do in music class.”  My mind did race ahead to the possible tantrum that could occur, because it was unlikely the teacher would grant all the requests.  But it also reached ahead to BRK being just fine with it, which is what happened, and it was a gentle and real way to learn the lesson of Most Disappointments Are Not That Big Of A Deal.  And, I thought to my own life.  How many times have I amended my requests, making them smaller, in efforts to minimize future disappointment?  I noticed that when I invited people to things, I would say something like, “If you can’t make it I TOTALLY understand.”  I decided to stop saying that.  Why anticipate the No before it happens?  Why not wholeheartedly bound into the invitation, letting the person know how much their presence is desired?  A rejection might sting, but it won’t irreversibly harm.

I thought about all of these things, and especially thought about the messages I want and don’t want to send to BRK and Owl, about what is OK to ask for, and how it is OK to be.

**** I cannot believe it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted!  Tear.  It’s been an irregular 3 weeks of new summer schedules, lots of trips, etc.  We have one more week of schedule irregularity but then hoping to get my back to my standard Tuesday and Friday posts.  Thank you, readers, for staying with this blog! ****

A Sense of Place

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Note the timestamp — 5:05 AM. The kids are sleeping “late enough” so that I can resume Early Morning Writing!

 

I’m back, after a bit of a break.  The seasonal transitions require stepping away, reflection.  Another school year closes for me and this year, for 3-year-old BRK as well.

The kids are finally sleeping “late enough” for me to resume 5 AM writing.  I’m grateful for this — it’s a meditation for me.

I’ve been taking a writing class and for a recent assignment, was tasked with describing a place.  I chose to describe the place of being with a 3-year-old before her bedtime, a place I typically encounter with impatience, but that on this day, I wanted to relish.

Here it is:

My body sinks into the couch, deeper than her 3-year-old body sinks into me.  But she exerts a weight on me, for sure.  A weight just heavy enough for my quadricep muscles to call out, “She’s not a baby anymore.”

The gray velvet of the three-piece sectional couch is soft and comforting.  I ignore the stray blue and purple marker streaks, the ones that sweat-inducing scrubbing couldn’t touch.  A dark triangle of space connects the piece of couch I lay on and the adjacent piece.  Every single day, multiple times a day, I align the couches.  And every day, multiple times a day, couch chaos elves undo my work.

Her head feels musty against my lips.  Her strands of curly hair damp from the bath, murmuring orange and rosemary into my nose, from the adult shampoo and conditioner I use on her.  Her head is still so warm, like, a baby’s.  I’m inhaling vapors from a greenhouse of toiletry scents.

Her hands feel warm and dirty against my face.  One holds fingers that inevitably just crawled into a nostril then climbed into a mouth, and now it rests on my cheek.  I miss her pale soft baby hands that even when encrusted in baby poop, somehow never felt dirty to me.

Her mouth opens and paradise spills out.  “I am a BIG. OAK. TREE.  Stuck in the GROUND. IS. ME.  If I had JUST. ONE. WISH.  I’d like to DANCE. LIKE. THIS.”  She strikes each note like a mallet to a tone bar.  Will she be a singer one day?  Will her brother?  Will we have a family band? 

I sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to her and she sings along.  Her voice matches mine, at times in a perfect overlap.  She clutches the tail of her lovey, the stuffed dog named Big Oof.  Big Oof’s wet tail brushes my neck.  I wince.  The tail smells like a garbage truck on a stifling summer day.  To my daughter, that tail plus her thumb in her mouth defines comfort.

She asks me if we can just rest here.  I say yes.  I never say yes.  I always say, “No, let’s go brush teeth and then you can rest in bed.”  But tonight is different.  Two nights ago the news shook me.  Yesterday I googled “middle school bullying”.  Today I was at the doctor for a lump on my neck, which turned out to be nothing more than muscle strain from dental work gone bad.  My tooth throbs, and it will until I go to the dentist tomorrow.

So now, in this moment, on this couch with my 3-year-old, I want to rest.  I want to bottle this moment.  The label would read, “Putting June to Bed, June 5, 2017”.

Those musty curls are dry now, soft silky threads scattered against my chin.  Her body rises up and down, faster than mine.  We are drifting, drifting . . . BOOM she jerks awake.

“Let’s go brush teeth now, bugaboo.”

And we do.

 

Writing Goals

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I am writing a book.  And realizing that while writing is an art, it’s also got to have some hard features as a practice in order for it to GET DONE.  And I feel if I blurt out those hard features here, my likelihood of getting it done skyrockets.

The Plan:

3,000 words/week PLUS 30 weeks EQUALS a draft by Christmas.  I will use the Ink On app to track my progress!

Words Away!

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I didn’t write 4,138 words today.  I set up the app today.  I wrote 4,138 words over the past 5 weeks! 

Why We Go To Concerts

Billy Joel and the Beatles provided the soundtrack to my high school years.  So, a few months ago when I peered out from under my parenting rock and saw Billy Joel was playing at Madison Square Garden this spring, I did everything possible to make attendance at this event happen.

With tickets and a babysitter secured, May 25 — concert night — was upon us.  I was just getting over yet another cold (the 15th or 16th of the year? This one probably caused by Owl sneezing into my mouth).  Combined with the horrific night in Manchester earlier this week, my enthusiasm for our Big Night Out to a Concert dampened.

Joining the throngs of people funneling into Madison Square Garden did little to alleviate my anxiety.  But I know we can’t just stay at home, even though at times it’s tempting.  I know if we do that, “the terrorists win”.

Armed with gluten-free beer (just as delicious as regular, so why not?) and chicken nuggets, we made our way to our seats, which were outstanding.  I began to relax.  The stadium filled.  It’s Fleet Week in Manhattan, and I noticed a row of US Navy uniforms directly across the stadium from us.  As did the man behind me, who said in a delightfully thick New Jersey accent:

“Hey! Look at the say-luhs! I bet he’s gunna do Good Night Cy-GONNNNNNNNNNNN!”

And then he went on to tell the woman I assume was his wife all about the Billy Joel song, “Good Night Saigon”.

I marveled at how cool it would be to be visiting New York as a member of the service and go to a Billy Joel concert!

Around 8:30 the show began.  He opened with “Pressure”.  Killer opener and kind of a helter skelter light show to go with the musical interludes.

“How old is he?” I asked.  Eric phoned it.  68.  SIXTY-EIGHT.  I dream of sustaining a fraction of that professional momentum at 68.  His voice? Liquid and round.  The entire performance? Flawlessly executed, creative, packed.  He also treated us to two short, non sequitur, and completely perfect classical piano solos.  One was Gershwin.

He said 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the Seargent Pepper album.  I knew what was coming and deemed May 25 the best day thus far of my 2017.  Those building guitar chords . .  . . . and John Lennon was singing “A Day in the Life.”  Except it wasn’t John Lennon.  It was Billy Joel.  68-year-old Billy Joel, impersonating 27-year-old John Lennon.  I couldn’t contain my excitement.  Of course, then when the screen zoomed in on a woman waving a British flag, I think a number of eyes were no longer dry.

Every now and then you’d see 20 – 30 people sprint out at the beginning of a song presumably they didn’t recognize.  Presumably to the bathroom or to get more beer.  I saw the whole row of Navy and Coast Guard and Marines file out.  “Good for them! Drink up!” I thought.

A jarring helicopter rotor filled the stadium.  Here it was.  The beginning of Good Night Saigon.  AND ALL OF THE SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN WERE OUT GETTING BEER.  “Hurry back!” I thought.

We met as soul mates . . . . .  on Parris Island . . . . “ his full timbre saturated the stadium.

A few more lines in, I continued to feel so bad.  “They’re missing it!”, I said to Eric.

Then, there they were.  Filing onto the stage!  Forming a semi circle on the stage and swaying to the refrain.

At the end of the song, Billy Joel shook each one of their hands.

“Piano Man” closed out the concert.  Well, until the encore a few minutes later, which, after I shredded my vocal chords screaming, “WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE!”, opened with, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.  Memories of trying to decipher the lyrics in pre-internet 7th grade flooded back.

It all made me think about why we go to concerts.  Before leaving that night, I questioned why we were going.  We could just, I don’t know, play all the music at home.  But being there, it was crystal clear why we go to concerts.  We go to support artists.  We go for inspiration.  We go for the collective experience.  We go to say FU to terrorists.  We go to see glimpses of these artist we can’t see on their albums, like Billy Joel playing Rhapsody in Blue.  Glimpses of their utter brilliance, talent, practice, dedication.  We go to remember how stupendously beautiful, joyful, and magical this human experience can be.

The Funniest Book Ever by the Funniest Blogger Ever.

If you are looking for a brutally honest book about parenting that will literally make you laugh out loud, look no further than Welcome to the Club, by Raquel D’Apice.  It is JUST SO FUNNY, as is her brilliant blog, The Ugly Volvo.  This is a whole new level of funny.

IMG_3492One of my many favorite lines,

” ‘Is everyone else using this many wipes?’ as you tidy up something roughly as overwhelming as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.”

Brilliant!