Me and greens

I HAVE A LOVE-HATE THING with greens.

It’s more hate than love, if I’m being honest. I tolerate them. And actually, it’s not just greens. It’s mostly all vegetables. Raw ones in particular. OK, fine, cooked ones, too. All the leafy greens. I eat them because I know I *ought* to, but they only taste good to me when I’m ravenous, and even then, if there are other attractive options, I won’t.

(This sounds a lot like how I feel about bananas. Do you sense a theme?)

Steve, being from the South, wants me to like cooked greens, but I just…can’t. I think they taste like lawn clippings smell. I didn’t grow up eating them and I can’t think of a good reason why I should start at age 50. But, at his behest, I tried them recently at a Cracker Barrel in Virginia, to see if somehow over the years my taste buds had forgotten about that time Little Meg tried them at Aunt Fanny’s Cabin in Georgia and, gagging and sputtering, dramatically spit them into a napkin. Turned out my taste buds hadn’t forgotten, and I didn’t spit them out because I’m a grown-up now, but I did make faces and he photographed me, amused at his Yankee girl’s reaction:

It’s January, and everyone in the whole world is rededicating him- or herself to healthy eating, and so am I. I’ve modified my diet to cut out all sugar (which isn’t a stretch for me) and wheat flour (which is), reducing dairy, and avoiding processed foods. It’s Whole 30-ish, and it works for me.

One easy way to check all of my self-imposed dietary boxes is to eat a nice green salad with delicious vegetables and added protein. I find salad to be a lot of work to consume. You chew and you chew and you chew some more and even after all that chewing your plate is still more than half full, as if the salad somehow regenerates itself each time you remove a forkful. I usually get tired of salad before I get full of salad. It requires too much effort.

Nevertheless, today at lunchtime I set about filling my plate with some baby arugula I had rescued yesterday from Steve’s fridge. But then I noticed the date on the bag:

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BEST IF USED BY 01/01/2018

Something about me that kind of vexes Steve is my urge to purge his refrigerator of food that’s past its prime or its date. If the lettuce has started to liquefy, I know you’re not going to eat it, so I’m tossing it and I’m not asking for permission. Same with that mushy zucchini, and those leftovers you saved from a dinner three weeks ago. Run to the light on this. My threshold may be low, but in the name of food quality (and safety), I’ll take the criticism all day long.

Despite the date on the bag, the arugula looked ok, and I was really hungry. So I grabbed a handful and sorted through it with patience and precision. I noticed one small leaf that was starting to turn. I pulled it out. Same thing happened with the next couple of handfuls. After careful examination, I deemed these greens satisfactory for consumption and topped them with some grilled chicken and a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a generous shake of Greek dressing.

I was feeling proud of myself for not having automatically trashed the bag based on the date alone. I texted Steve:

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He replied:

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We feel the same way about most vegetables, as it turns out.

We are good for each other.

 

Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

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Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.

 

Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

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My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

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See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

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Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.