Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What was that like? Reflecting on reflecting.

Worst blogger ever, I am. I know. I do it all wrong, just when I get to 10,450 page hits I don't write for 6 months. SIX. I'm a word person. And I wait to be "inspired". And that's all wrong. It's all about the brand. Damn if I don't have one. And the internet reader is so fickle (can you blame her?) And I feel that blogging is just enough to take the edge off of my focus to complete an actual Body of Work. It'll water down my idea. I make myself NOT blog because I liken it to a pressure cooker where you release the steam all the time so the meat never ends up cooking.

Cut to my e-book. Uncooked slightly heated boiled beef. Unsellable! Something I won't eat, surely, but won't toss out either. I don't have writer's block, I have Shredded Focus. I could write about this, I could write about that. I am curious about this, I have passion for that. Which makes it all drivel. So clearly NOT blogging didn't make anything cook. So whatever. Here I am. Maybe it will serve as catalyst.

I can also put my own work on hold and uncook more meat by taking editing jobs with other writers. I like working with writers (mostly) and I can trick myself into thinking I'll follow my own advice (wrongly) and STAY ON TASK when I open my own laptop. What are you writing?, they'll ask.  I have no idea. Everything. Nothing. I need a snack.

And what with all the Spring planning of garden beds, mulching and compost mixing and the explosion of LIFE that happens (moreso) if you don't use pesticides or herbicides...I've already got a full time job outside, I can't be sittin' and typin'! A friend of mine who worked at Kew gardens in England said he used to kick the heads off of daffodils at first warming. He knew his life was about to be a different kind of pressure cooker. "People who are excited about Spring, don't have jobs in gardening..."

But as serendipitous things happen like they do on the internet, I fall on to this blog by a plucky Brit Chick who loves podcasts (me too) and comedy (me too!) and she writes about both. She had a FOCUS for her blog. She writes about podcasts as a medium (radio without control!) and comedy as a subplot as most (good) podcasters are comedians.

Ugh! How did she choose just one focus? And she's really good. Insightful and brash and funny in her own right and with all the best twists of phrase and fearless. I found her from a repost on Facebook from comedian Doug Stanhope whom I love. Yes, he will make you feel uncomfortable. He's the most bullshit free voice in comedy right now and he has lots of passion for doing the right thing. Outing the crooked politicians and cops. Highlighting abusers. Calling out Nationalism. Did I mention he'll make you feel uncomfortable? Just check him out.

So I started a convo with the comedy blogger to tell her how much I liked the piece and we had a chat about writing and our opinions on podcasters. We chatted about how she has zero time for Jerry Seinfeld but I urged her to give his new web series a try. Comedians getting interviewed by a comedian. What could be better? He actually humanizes Howard Stern (a little) but they had me at Don Rickles and Larry David. We shared a shoulder shrug over Sarah Silverman, a pass at Bill Burr, a past love for Marc Maron and an enduring love affair for Maria Bamford, who I think we both love for her hilarity and her frank discussion about her mental health issues. Which pretty much every single one of us has. She had just published in Chortle  (which is THE source for comedy news and reviews in the U.K.) where she penned an interesting interview with the very clever Tom Rhodes on the international trend in comedy. Do my jokes play in Korea? Making an already tough gig even tougher by bringing it to a foreign audience? Yikes.

It was a fun exchange. She reminds me of me 20 years ago, getting started on my freelance writing career, making the connections, getting the praise, being excited to write for a national travel magazine but less excited about ankle biting editors cutting huge swaths of content out of my (what I thought to be) lyrical prose about fragrant coq au vin or heady bruised plums. You can't say fragrant chicken! That's gross. And who wants bruised plums? I wonder where that dude is now. Probably somewhere with unscented poultry and bland fruit, one hopes.

But when Bryony (the blogger) said, "ohhhh, travel writing, that sounds bloody interesting, what was that like?" I actually sat back, and thought about it. What was that like? What was any of that like? A life before the life of a chef before the life of a reclusive homesteader. That simple question caused me to pause (rare) and think about what I've done and to write her a very verbose response. But best of all it made me a little less critical of my current residence in Perceived Stuckville. I spend so much time moving forward like a shark, I don't reflect. I love storytelling, but I don't think I've ever started one with 'Remember When...' because honestly, I don't.

But I fear I did everything I'm going to do. I fear that the big hurrah already was. I fear that I'll never get the drive up again to launch whatever my perceived dream is at the time. And I know it's for men, but after hearing the symptoms, I fear I have Low T.

Seven years ago I jumped out of the train while it was moving. I'm glad I did because I feared it was headed right over a cliff. But I still feel like I'm walking with a limp from the fall. But I'm not, really. I just walk differently now.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fear, The Rabbit.


Is it time to put your nose in the corner? Or face your fears?

Since moving to the country several years ago I pay really sharp attention to nature. Partly, yes, because there's nothing else to do, but the signals and messages are abundant. The lack of distraction and entertainment options makes Nature TV even more fun. 

And of course, I read my Animal Medicine cards. If no particular animal has presented itself multiple times (this weekend The Snake, signaling Transformation) many times the Mouse (Scrutiny and losing sight of the Big Picture) and the Noble Turkey (giveaway, and clearing donation) I pull cards from the deck. It usually resonates with where I am or what I notice in conversations with others. Which is always good to remind us that we're all connected somehow no matter how disjointed everything feels from time to time. 

So my dog, a rat terrier of sorts...(Some folk 'round here call her a Mountain Kerr) is a great hunter and a fun companion and loves everybody. Except for rodents. Which I applaud. Except when they're rabbits, which she has no discrimination for. Furry creatures are to be dug up, chased, killed and eaten. And Saturday, she caught a giant wild Cottontail brought it to me. It screamed like I've never heard. Have I ever heard a rabbit? It was high pitched and terrifying. 

It made me kind of nauseous, and I wondered why I cared not when the same fate found Squirrel, Mouse, Rat, Mole, Vole and Baby Opossum. Because they had wronged me somehow. The chicken feed containers mangled, grain stolen, eggs poached and birds lost. Vengeance? I'm not proud of that. 

But rabbit? Quiet, grass eating, cucumber stealing, bunny? Neither threat nor thief, they should remain unharmed. But furry things that run and can be caught are fun for dogs. Period. And she paid for it with a belly ache for eating something way too big for her (she is 34#). 

Monday, she unearthed presumably the nest left behind. And baby rabbits scream too. And then they scatter. Two weeks old and running hither and yon we had to let her get one so she didn't maim all. She ate it like a popcorn chicken nugget and was satisfied with her skill. 

And now, we have two baby rabbits on the porch. I just want to keep them long enough to release. Fernando was mentioning raising and fattening...um, no.  If my foray into Duck Husbandry is any indication, I am not going to be able to kill these furries. 

They seem in shock. I'm feeding them with a dropper, to no avail. The run to the corner of the box and burrow under hay and fluff we've provided. We're not ready! they seem to be saying. So I'll leave them and just check on them and hope they make it. 

Apparently, today's Animal Medicine is Rabbit, and Rabbit is all about fear. And the climate in the nation right now is certainly thus. Fernando says of government: Mexico rules the people by keeping them Ignorant. US rules the people by keeping them Afraid. 

But they don't have to succeed, you know. Since Washington has gone Hollywood, a lot more people are paying attention to the chaos and letting it spread like the virus it is. If the popularity of Scandal the series is any indication, it is trumping Hollywood at its own game. 

So... looming war. No healthcare. Cuts to education. Beaver glands in your sweet tea. Meth. Shooters in schools. Cops not responding. Inflation. Questionable water supply. Sketchy food sourcing. Corruption in the banking system. Your crashing home value. China.

I'll stop there. 

It may be time to burrow in the corner under the straw and just wait it out. Maybe the way you've been attacking a problem is all wrong. Take a break. Reassess. Not hiding necessarily but put your blinders on. Stop watching the news. Stop freaking out over things you can't change right now at this minute. Or figure out a way to spark change. Worry. Does. Nothing. 

But blatant Rabbit medicine is The Fear Caller. So afraid can you become of disaster, illness, tragedy and "being taken" that you call your fears TO you to teach you a lesson. What you resist will persist! (source: Sams and Carson)

Uh oh. 

So how to change this patterning. Imagine it like this. If you walk one path every day you will eventually dredge a deeper canal. Harder to climb out of. If you go a different direction or experiment with your path, you may arrive at the same destination but with new discovery. I think the mind has pathways as well, which is why I've never been on board with "therapy" in traditional circles for depression. Depression begets depression. Talking about your depression can sometimes be like fermentation. Just keep feeding the sourdough and you can keep it FOREVER. 

Boo. 

So the opposite could be true, right? You keep repeating a positive mantra (I trust all is well, I am taken care of) maybe you'd dredge a Positive Path. Not easy for the Natural Born Cynic, and other suspicious people (like me) but just as an experiment...just because you have nothing to lose, maybe ignore fear, face a fear and let it go, or if you feel you're fighting a losing battle, retreat and come forth with new energy. Untie the knots in your stomach. Go sit with a tree. Stop commiserating (a false economy in a paper community it feels good but is addicting) and see if you find something else to do. Or not do, which is always the challenge for me. I want to MOVE this barge forward! Sell the Hacienda!  Get on with next phase of life! Vamos!

And it doesn't work like that. My friend and advisor Michelle B. says, "Fate and Free Will work together "...part driving the boat and part floating down the river. Give it a try. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Now what?

When I sold my restaurants in 2006, I didn't have much of a plan. People always ask. What are you going to do now?! Won't you miss this?  People are always going to ask.

I never have an answer. The best I can come up with is "Not this." When I left New York in 1996 deflated and bored with what I thought would be the career of a lifetime, I had only that in mind. Not this. 

Sometimes things fall in your lap. I hadn't planned on running underground dinner parties in Atlanta to make rent and I hadn't planned on opening restaurants so it made sense that I hadn't planned on selling them either. It just happened that there were buyers and in my mind that's the time to become a seller, because invariably when you want to sell, buyers are hiding behind trees.

I saw a crack of light and I squeezed through it. I felt that I had narrowly missed getting caught in a bear trap. The gripping teeth of ten years was a long time for someone who bopped around a lot. Maybe I'm getting older, I thought. Maybe. But it was time for change.

I seem like a planner but I'm more of an organizer. Well, an improvisational organizer. When presented with a situation I figure it out --sort of in the moment. I like a challenge. To put out fires. I like to be prepared. I fancy myself to be a bit of a Boy Scout kinda girl. I cannot, however, commit to your dinner party next Saturday or a flight somewhere with a group in November. Or think about a catering job for your wedding in 2014. When?

I closed doors on all kinds of things. The guy I had run out of steam with who accused me of being okay with only dating him for five years (true). The home renovation business which was about to collapse and take me with it (it did). The restaurant business which was killing my passion for cooking and well...people.

I found myself in rural North Georgia. I was in an "anywhere but Atlanta" mode and tossing darts at the map. Not too cold, not too hot, and no traffic. Country livin'. I've never done that. Let's go there. I'll start, like, a farm thing. But there was no plan, and to be honest, none ever presented itself. There were cooking classes I taught (not me), weddings catered (loathsome), people who visited. But I don't think that's why I landed here. I had been chasing goals for the first 40 years of life and had come up with financial success but I was missing something. Falta algo.

I'm not sure what I was looking for but there would be chickens and coyotes and Guatemalans and hawks and hillbillies and feminine local guys who wore Gucci cologne who owned gas stations who used the word faggot. Roofs would blow off and pipes would burst and things erupted out of the ground and angry plumbers with bible psalms on their business cards would get arrested for running weed out of their Septic Supply office. Plump lipped country boys in tight Wranglers would toss hay in my truck and ask me if I had found Jesus and I'd wonder where he was seen last.

I would live close to nature and find that raccoons murdered chickens for fun, mice swam in the toilets, bluebirds came down the chimney most certainly not bringing happiness and snakes would routinely come in the kitchen given half a chance. There were wild dogs running in packs, dogs of my own who died from being old or being in an accident but mainly from being border collies. There were black people who still remembered a little too recently the ten acre and a mule deal and hookers from Laos who were brought as 'refugees' by the Missionaries. There were big pink quiet skies and uninterrupted sunsets and birds I needed a manual to identify. I saw wild turkey in my yard and thought they were peacocks. I learned about how much I didn't learn in my other life. I found that I was a terrible gardener and that I did better with herbs in pots and tomatoes on a fire escape. I took lovers with whom I shared no common language and I made cheese and pickles and 'put up' things that I bought from farmers who could actually grow things. I had over 100 chickens and learned to butcher them for meat but found that hawks and coyote were quicker city or country, there's always competition.

Not once in these 6 years did I mutter: I'm bored. Lonely. Scared. Not once.

Ripe with distraction was this old estate. In need of repair, love, style---it was seemingly an endless pool of possibility on seven acres. I was free to fragment a million different parts of my Self. Discard parts that didn't serve any more. Learn, heal, change. But now what?

And then it happened. I can no longer tolerate eggs. It's a karate kick to the solar plexus after only one. Eggs. With a coop full of hens. I don't ignore symbolism anymore And so, it's time. The house is done and so am I. What's next? Not this. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Copy. That.

You know what I like to do? Ask questions. And I've noticed over the years that the most interesting people are the ones who rarely talk about themselves. A friend of mine once said that boring people are the ones "who have nothing to say but say it very loudly..."And there are some fascinating people out there. And I'm going to start asking them questions.



Jennifer Wheelock and Melba

Jennifer Wheelock and I met 10 years ago. She took care of my Border Collie, the beloved Bill E. Goat. Then, Jesse happened. Jesse was a very nervous Husky. Jesse ate my phone, my blinds, a sofa, broke out of a window and basically was riddled with separation anxiety. I thought it was still better than being tied to a tire in New Mexico how I found him, but I was out of answers. 

Jennifer, at the time, was running a dog sitting business. She was rescuing, caring for and placing dogs all over midtown Atlanta. There are no bad dogs, only dogs in the wrong situation. She took Jesse. She'd figure it out. I think he ate her phone too but eventually she found him a home with a guy who worked from home who wasn't gone 12 hours a day like ladies who owned restaurants. He was in the Gay Pride Parade on a float. He went everywhere with his new buddy, even I recall, a sidecar. Jennifer is a matchmaker. 

And here's why. Jennifer knows everyone. Not in a networky sort of way to suit her needs, but in a tell you about someone you should meet, somewhere you should go, something you would like sort of way. She's fun. Sporty, fresh, smiley, classically pretty and energetic. She's from Tennessee. She's wearing something cool you could never pull off with some Chuck Taylors. You figure she's in her late 20s. 

After a time, I found out the 'dog lady' had a PhD. Was an English professor. An accomplished poet. Has a Masters in Creative Writing. An athlete. A painter. And a lover of good food and wine. Oh, have I got a restaurant for you. She and The Supper Club were perfect together, and I loved cooking for her. She's not in her late 20s. But you know that when she speaks, or quotes a poem from the 1780s. I'm not entirely sure but I think she's not even in her 40s anymore. There are some rumors circulating that she is a vampire, but I think that she is just a testament to enjoying life, exercise and good food.

Today I'm talking to Jennifer about professional writing. Which is something we never really talk about. We are too busy talking about Tequila, travel, recent poems she's finished, relationships, restaurants. But she knows her stuff. Her resume is so interesting (and well written) that you could keep it on the night stand. 


Me:
Okay, it seems that you can write for nearly every discipline out there, and
are good at all of them. When I was writing guest columns and trying to switch to copywriting everyone told me that writers can't write copy. Which is like saying that cooks can't bake, and there is some truth to that, but it's not absolute. You're an accomplished poet, copywriter, grant writer,
editor and hold a phD and an MFA. You have a very clear and distinct voice in all of these genres. Your current job with Emory is as Executive Director of Development Communications. How do you switch hats? Change voice? How do you make time for your creative pursuits?

JW:
Your word choice--"make time"--is the right one, as opposed to "find
time." I do have to make it, to make choices to write poetry and and to
paint rather to watch television or go out. I make time during evenings
and weekends, though certainly not every evening and weekend. Some
evenings and weekends I don't have the mental energy or the inspiration,
but I don't punish myself too much for that. I learned a long time ago
that if I try to force the creativity, it rebels.

Regarding changing hats/voices--I relish it. I would be bored with one
hat. My day job includes writing and editing fundraising materials. I've
been surprised at how much my training as a poet has informed that. Poetry
is about economy of language, looking at familiar things in a fresh way,
choosing words very carefully. That is important in any good writing. That
said, there are institutional parameters in place that affect the way I
write at work. So it's nice to come home and be limited only by my
imagination.


What is the most effective tense or POV, in your opinion for marketing
materials?

I think the most effective tense is almost always present tense, simply
because it has immediacy. Point of view, on the other hand, likely depends
a lot on the product or service being marketed. Of course, the people you
should have in mind--the people whose heads you want to get in--are the
buyers, always. They're not interested so much in what YOU think they
need. They're interested in what they want or need. And that means the
ultimate marketing convinces people that their desires are necessities. I
don¹t just WANT that face cream; it's essential to my being loved. I don't
just WANT the latest version of the iPhone; I can't possibly perform my


executive duties without it.

What's the biggest mistake 'non writers' make when writing about
themselves?

Adopting someone else's voice to express themselves. Most people try to
sound smarter than they are. This inevitably--and I mean inevitably--leads
to wordiness, misuse of words, redundancies, silliness. I see it all the
time. Rather than sounding smarter, they end up sounding dumb. I could
provide examples, but we'd be here a while.

When people want you to write in a particular 'voice' but you don't think
it is right for the client, how do you steer them in another direction?

I ask them to trust me. I try to explain thoroughly and clearly my line of
thinking, using analogies and "what ifs." In the end, even when I don't
want to accept it, the client is always right, and I have to abide his or
her wishes. But if the choice he or she makes fails, I don't hesitate to
say "I told you so." Is that wrong? ;)

And once and for all, is it most important, or most importantly?



"Important." Though you hear and read it ALL the time, "Importantly" is not a word.


One of Jennifer's paintings

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Told ya so

I didn't think it would be this quick, but fine. Let's get it over with.

http://www.baxterbulletin.com/viewart/20130711/NEWS01/307110036/Pig-virus-migrates-US-threatens-pork-prices

This is some shoddy press release cut and paste reporting, especially with a "We're Not Really Price Fixing" lead like..."pork prices likely to rise" from this virus that "can" be fatal, that just happened to migrate from Asia to the US. Just two weeks after Smithfield "partnered" with a Chinese mega vendor for $4 billion.

Control the food and you control the population.

The thing is this: They don't even know how many pigs have died or will. They say the virus doesn't effect pork or people. So where's the economic fire? Just a heads up call of fear to everyone to let them know why prices are going up. Prices will go up because they can, quite simply. But good PR people know how to spin a story that there is a shortage and blah blah. The "Chinese demand" is a bunch of crap too. This whole burgeoning middle class demand meat? Things don't evolve over 3 years. And most of the Chinese "middle" class is just now making a living wage. I don't think they're going all piggy over it and demanding bacon. Most families have a pig, it's not like they've never seen it before. It's all made up media fluffernutter.

I believe it's a loophole purchase. We own most of Smithfield now so we're an "American" company so can't we open the flood gates to export some of our, er, meats to you guys? I mean you guys have filthy battery chickens but we've REALLY got some dirty birds. But they'll be pennies on the dollar. Think of the PROFITS!

Think of that next time you pony up to Chik-Fil-A for one of those nasty sandwiches. Or anything on the buffet or anything that's 99cents. You could just eat out of the garbage can, why bother going in and sitting down?

So, what, no more pork?? I've said it hundreds of times but now it's easier than ever to find a local farmer. EatWild.org even has a map... Local Harvest is the same. Tells of CSA shares, farmers markets and it's not just in hipster n'hoods anymore. It's more widespread and marketed.

So unless you want to eat pigs from unknown international sources, which, by the way have lower standards on cleanliness than the US and some of that is pretty sketchy...change your habits. Yea, yea, yea. You want to pop into the mega grocery and get your wine and toilet paper and cheese and pork loin. Why's it gotta be so hardddddd. You'll get over it. Support small business before you have no choice. If you want to make the creepy cruel company who owns 97% of all the pork production/slaughter and dist. in the world even richer? Keep doing what you're doing. And PS, learn Mandarin.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Smithfield. As if Paula Deen wasn't bad enough...

Smithfield Pork has been bought by the Chinese for 4.7billion. You probably knew that already. They call it a "merger" and I'm guessing that is only a semantics loophole to get around food regulations for import/export. Both sides are saying that it's merely to help fill that giant pork eating middle class that's blooming in China. But what of the 16,000 dead pigs that were thrown in the river threatening the water supply to Shanghai? Hardly a pig shortage in China. Or maybe there's a shortage of healthy, edible, non toxic, non diseased pigs in China. That's different. So they're taking ours. We only eat $13billion worth of pork each year, what do we need with hogs in the U.S.? Oh, but the pollution and environmental damage that comes from GIANT pork processing? We can keep that. For all the tongue waggers who demand we "bring back American jobs"...here ya go. Suit up for your 14 hour shift at the pig slaughterhouse. Yay!

We haven't been importing meats from China. YET. Seafood, yes. But their meats haven't been cleared. Unless it's an ingredient in something processed. I'll bet with a new "American based" Chinese owned company like Smithfield, they'll be able to slide some of their dirty pigs over to us. Maybe a secondary market like sausage, using black market pigs which have already died and aren't allowable under food law, technically, but it's a common practice in China.

Okay so back to Smithfield. (Which is really about a mafia zillion other companies too, including the silly Paula Deen ham label, but they dumped her yesterday after her bad press of being 'shocker' a racist) They are the largest pork producer in the world. They control over 70% of the pork sold. Of course, you say, we have rules against monopolies right? Right?! Sure. And they don't matter if said company is now owned by the Chinese. See where I'm going with this? Typical corporate shell game. Except this one is controlling our food chain. Paying attention yet?

BUT Why does this matter to you? You only eat bacon on the weekends and the occasional pork chop at a bbq. Oh, and ribs. Ribs are great. The 4th is coming up. Maybe some Italian sausage. Brats and beer. Ham sandwiches. Pulled pork. Memphis rub. North Carolina mustard base. Salami. Pepperoni pizza. Wontons. Mu shu. The pig is delicious! Of course the Chinese want some!

Or maybe their government wants their hand in our food chain. And as dirty and traumatizing as our pork facilities are in the US, it's way better than the standards in China. But since when does the Chinese govt care about the well being of their people? All this effort to get them tasty clean pork while they eat on their 10 minute break in the factory after a 18 hour day? Nah. It's just good business. And now the foot (and mouth) is in the door, more products will be coming our way.

What can you do? How do you know if you're eating American pork (bad) or Chinese pork (probably diseased). And did you know that labeling laws have a GIANT loophole? If it's an ingredient it has to state where it was sourced ie. Tilapia from China. If it's processed in anyway ie. breaded fish sticks...it doesn't. Ever noticed how some packages only list Manufactured and Distributed By...and some front company based in the US. Creepy. You don't really know what you're eating.

Unless, UNLESS you buy from a farmer. A hog farmer who raises clean, free roaming pigs who grow at a normal rate, eating a natural diet, doing piggy things, being happy and then going to a clean, hopefully small, slaughter house and processed humanely. And that's the only way. But that's an easy way. You'll have to change your habits, but you'll manage. No you can't run into the Kroger and grab some with a bottle of wine and toilet paper but you'll adapt. When I had my restaurants back from 97-2007 it was nearly impossible to find a farm raised pig. Even hormone free beef, I had to import from Australia. Australia! But you kids have it easy these days. EatWild has a whole map to link you up with a local farm. And localharvest and farmers markets and on and on. It's going to take some effort. It's going to cost more. Deal with it.

If farmers can't make a living we'll all be stuck with factory processed crap coming from communist nations that bought us a long time ago with our addiction to fancy cell phones and cheap tshirts. And then you'll have a lot of effort and money going to the doctor for your chronic illnesses, that I'm sure the insurance companies are lined up ready to 'cover' you for.

Don't be part of the problem. Source your food. Know where your favorite restaurants get theirs. If there's a Sysco truck pulling up outside and a $2.99 breakfast, think about it. It's really expensive to grow an animal without tricks and it's really expensive to run a restaurant that provides clean ingredients and cooked by knowledgeable hands. Strike "good value" from your vocabulary. It's a luxury and a right but it's not cheap. Demand quality. Wouldn't you gladly pay $6 for a piece of ham if you knew it didn't come from a toxic pig found floating in a river shipped from China?

Patronize sustainable practices of farms and chefs. If you're paying more for your smartphone and shitty cable tv than you are for your meats and animal proteins you should be publicly flogged and forced into a vegan lifestyle.














Friday, May 24, 2013

Deflect not Defense

I sold a chair yesterday on Craigslist. As a few of you know I am a "picker" of sorts, and since I don't like to burden myself with too much stuff, I buy, redo and resell my treasures. Etsy, CL, arty yard sales, consignment shops. I love a rehab and flip.

But the thing that struck me is that the man who bought the chair told me thank you for being so patient. Me. Patient. He wanted photos of the labels, the serial numbers, the interior foam. And he got lost 5x on the way over. On my street. There are two turns. Right and right. One at one bait shop and stop before the second...(I know, right? there's a lake across the road) I had to walk him through verbally on the phone.

"Thanks for flagging me in, and thanks for indulging all my questions...I know it's only $250...you're really a patient person."

Ha! Damn right I am!

Most people would use 10 other words to describe me if given, well, ten words to describe me. But maybe I've grown. Mellowed. I turned 46 last week, and although most of the media would have you believe that we want to stay in our youth, I'd beg to differ. I don't want to handle things like I did at 36, or even 40. If I'm not growing, what am I doing here on this hill?

I'll tell you one thing that I'm pretty sure a lot of people would have to agree on...at least some of the time. One of those ten words to describe me would be defensive. Not always in the scratch your way out in a I Am Not You Are sort of way, or the kind where you feel victimized and slighted. Sometimes I'm defending those who cannot, sometimes I'm playing Devil's Advocate (which I hate when people do that on me) and sometimes I'm just plain old hurt feelings defensive. Like a teenager. Ugh.

I learned a lot in the ten years I owned my restaurants, the blood and sweat you put into a venture like that and onto the plate opens you up to a lot of criticism. Some of it may be worthy, some of it is because a guest just had a fight with his boss, or someone else could not like the lamb with the mint/espresso sauce because her hormones are making everything taste like gasoline. Who knows? In business, I could be a diplomat. Okay, in the latter years. Or I'd be smart enough to let my diplomatic employees handle things. 'I'm sorry sir, yes, the grass fed beef can taste a little gamey, what else can I bring for you sir..." and handling the whiner who wants to know why he has to sit by the door on Valentine's Day. Because someone has to. And tonight, you pulled the short stick lottery. That's why.

But recently I was out to dinner in my hometown with my elderly mother. Who, even at 86, can wilt my confidence with one sentence. Having a great time with a pate and cheese plate with the cutest cornichons and dry Dijon, noting that the toast points were sourdough and the bistro decor very authentic...

"You must be scowling a lot. That line in your forehead is getting deeper. Can't you fix that?"

Fork down. Appetite sullied. And that hot ringing that comes in your ear before your face gets red. I swallowed. I ran through my mind why WHY this bothers me so much. There's a LOT to that, ranging from feeling that I disappointed my mom because she'd hoped I'd go on to be something cultured and pretty, a piano playing model perhaps. An opera singer who played tennis and rode horses who didn't poop. A corporate wife, very definitely. So a freelance writing, single forever and loving it, self taught chef who opened a restaurant and worked with (and dated) Mexicans and butchered meat? Not so much. And the other half is "scowling"...like I'm twisting my face up in my semi-retired pastoral life raising chickens and growing food? Must be unhappy. Damnit!

I repeated in my head what I do when I go to my childhood home and see photos of myself in grainy black and white (retouched for sure) from my 20s, when my very being depended on my appearance. I had all the time in the world to de-frizz my hair, separate my eyelashes or whatever. Don't take the bait. Don't take the bait. This is how she remembers you. She's old. It's her memory. You're more than this. Don't take the bait. So fine. I breathe. I clean the pantry. I tackle the bills and organizing. I tell funny stories.

But somehow at this restaurant I was in my happy place. My most vulnerable. Pork and rabbit liver with cracked peppercorn and garlicky sides and dry French red wine and Edith Piaf. This is where I'll show my belly, and BAM. The crease in your forehead...scowling...fix that. 

 Now, defensiveness would have sounded like, "No, it's not my fault! I have very light eyes and I work outside all the time in the sun and I squint a lot...and I'm not 25 any more, life has taken its toll on my forehead and I concentrate a lot. I'm focused on my work. And also it's just the way my face is made...which isn't exactly my fault. I look just like you and pops. And thanks for the double chin by the way."

Deflection, a completely cooler horse of a way more appealing color sounds like humor. Rolling with it. Claiming it. "Yea, I know, I was thinking about using it to hold my business card..." or " I am scowling, every day I wake up and realize I don't have a trust fund, more wine?"

So now that I'm 46, I'm going to practice the deflection thing.  Because at the bistro I didn't take the high road. Oh, no.

The tone in society lately is one of Put Up Your Dukes, Fight Back, Stand Your Ground, entitlement and everyone is primed for a fight. It's a little Code Orange. I don't want to knee jerk react, even when it's a soft spot. And why should it be a soft spot? Saying you have a line in your forehead is like noting you have fingers. And thankfully I have both. I've lived and seen some really cool and sad and beautiful and not so things in my life. I'm glad I reacted to it with animation. And no I will not grow my bangs to cover it up. Yet, anyway. Ask me in 5 years.

I think I embraced my many, many imperfections a long time ago. And from now on when someone hits below the belt? I'll deflect like Wonder Woman. She had Grace. And maybe I'll use some of my new patience.