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Posts Tagged ‘I will seriously worry about ANYTHING’

Thank you all for your kind words on my last post. It’s so easy for that feeling of discomfort and awkwardness to spread until it’s stained every bit of me with self-loathing. I seriously never thought to consider my attempts to be friendly as… progress. I will try to do so from now on.

In the month since I wrote it, well. Life has gone on. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it heartbreaking, the regular amalgam of living. And, listen, I don’t really want to talk about any of the reasons I might have needed comfort during that time period. (It’s nothing serious, although it felt like it was. In any event, everything is fine.) Today, I just want to talk about the comfort part.

What I turn to, when I need comfort, are distractions (reading, writing, TV) and comforting food. And the food is what I’m most interested in today, because I find it fascinating (and soothing, in itself) to learn what kinds of food people turn to in times of stress or grief.

Sure, food is primarily for sustenance. But it can also carry so much emotional weight. (No moral weight, though; I feel strongly about that.) (Unless you are killing endangered species because their XYZ is a delicacy. Then I’d have a moral objection.)  For instance, my first helping instinct is often related to food. When a neighbor lost her husband earlier this year, I immediately wanted to give her a meal. That just seemed the most useful, reasonable thing I could do, to provide some modicum of comfort to a person I know but don’t know well, a person who was likely reeling with shock and heartache and visitors and logistics and grief.

I looked online, as one does, and was surprised – probably naively so – to see what a wide variety of options people recommended. I always thought a casserole was the appropriate thing to give. A nice, hearty macaroni casserole. Or a lasagna. Something like that: easy to heat, carb-heavy. But the recommendations spanned everything from veggies and dip to cookies to fried chicken to stew.

(I ended up making a stew. It was delicious, and hearty. The death happened in the winter, and I thought it would be good for freezing or ladling out to visitors.)

Lately, after needing some comfort myself, and then remembering that stew, I got to thinking about Food As Comfort in general, and how my idea of Comfort Food might be totally different from yours.

When I am in need of comfort, I turn to the carb-heavy stuff. Chicken paprikas is my go-to favorite. It’s creamy and noodle-y and spicy, and it just makes me feel warm and cared for. It’s kind of weird that it should be my top favorite comfort food, I think, because I didn’t grow up eating it. Instead, it’s something my husband and I started making together back when I was in grad school. Well, maybe that’s the reason: I associate it with him, with cozy dinners at home together with the one person who comforts me more than anyone else.

Sometimes, though, the comfort I need is more primal – a bear returning to its cave to weather the icy winds, a newborn nuzzling up to its mother to nurse, a caterpillar spinning itself a chrysalis. I want to retreat to childhood, which was safe and loving, during which I was free from the horrors of the world. And there are many foods from my childhood that surround me with that kind of basic, fundamental warmth.

One comforting favorite is spaghetti with meat sauce. That’s the first meal I learned to make for my family, back when I was a kid. It reminds me of my childhood and of my own self-sufficiency.

Most recently, I turned to bagels. Another longterm favorite, my mom used to toast Lender’s bagels for me when I was a kid. Dripping with butter, they taste both decadent and simple, life’s complications reduced to its elemental truth: Warm bread. Melted butter. Sometimes honey, making its way in sticky rivulets down my wrist. When I was pregnant with Carla – and horribly sick for twenty-five weeks (I first typed “months” and yes, that’s how it felt) – I subsisted on bagels and pizza. The bagels would stay in my stomach when nothing else would.

Grilled cheese holds a special place in my heart. It was my mother’s go-to Miserable Wintry Day food. A crust of butter on each slice of bread. A thick molten heart of Velveeta. A glass of classic Coke on the side. The unbeatable combination of gooeyness and crunch.

And I’ll always have fond memories of Lipton noodle soup. My mom swears by chicken noodle soup; Lipton did the job just fine, and (a plus for me), has no unappealing chunks of white Styrofoam masquerading as chicken. I tore open many a paper packet and watched the tiny freeze-dried noodles plump up in a swirl of boiling water.

The comfort may not be permanent. But it does help.

What are your go-to comfort foods?

 

Chicken Paprikas 3

This is a ridiculous photo, but it’s the only one I have. I never eat this little. I eat a FULL BOWL, primarily full of sauce, which is the best part of any meal. 

Chicken Paprikas (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

Approximately 6 servings

1 to 1½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces (pre-cooked is ideal; I’ve included a modification below in case you want to use raw chicken breast)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped roughly

1 Idaho potato, chopped roughly

1 to 3 Tbsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

½ to 1 tsp salt

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 8-oz container sour cream (I use the fat free sour cream from Trader Joe’s)

3 to 4 Tbsp flour or cornstarch

1 package egg noodles

Directions:

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a stock pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and paprika (and optional cayenne) to vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until dark red and glossy.
  3. Add salt, chopped chicken breast, and chicken stock. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the chopped potato. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until you can stick a fork into the potato chunks and they slide off easily. I don’t know how to say this a better way; make sure the potato is cooked.

* If you have raw chicken breast pieces, you can do this step slightly differently. Add the raw chicken together with the salt and stock. Then, once it comes to a boil, simmer everything for 15 minutes until cooked through. Then add the potato and cook for another 15 minutes.

  1. Whisk flour/cornstarch and sour cream together in a small bowl.
  2. Add a ladle full of the stock mixture to the sour cream mixture and whisk until incorporated. Do this three times.
  3. Add the tempered sour cream mixture to the pot. Stir.
  4. Serve over egg noodles.
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Well, the world seems about ready to spin off its axis entirely and every time I even so much as glance at the news I start hyperventilating, so let’s talk about MORE FRIVOLOUS STUFF.

At some point last spring, I decided I wanted to Mix It Up a little bit with my hair. For me, a person who avoids change at all costs, this meant asking my hair stylist to add a little red to my normal brown hair dye.

I think I was picturing something like Anna Kendrick’s hair… Dark, but with a reddish tinge…

(Photos, clockwise from Anna, from myhaircolors.net, pinterest.com, and ouchpress.com)

I liked the result okay. But it wasn’t anything like ANY of the above photos. It felt so BROWN. More like… Young Rory Gilmore. Or… Jennifer Garner without highlights. But… Less shiny.

(Photos, left to right, from worldhairextensions.com and allwomenstalk.com)

So I went back to her a few months later and told her that I wanted to change things up AGAIN.

“What was wrong with the last color?” she wanted to know. She was non-accusatory, not hurt in the least; she just wanted to know what the issue was so she could help avoid similar issues.

“It was just too… brown,” was all I could come up with. But she nodded like I’d been extremely explicit and detailed with my criticism and presented me a few alternatives.

She did so by putting together a little board of hair samples. A literal curl of hair in four different colors that I could choose from. The far left was my hair color of last fall. The far right was Really Red. The two center options were somewhere in the middle.

But here’s the kicker. She recommended one of the options. I can’t remember which, all I can remember is that she compared it to Hair of Last Fall and said something like, “This will go much better with your skin tone than what we used to do.”

I trust her and so we went with the option she’d recommended.

You see where this is going, no?

I do not like my current hair color. It’s fine. It’s not bad or anything. It’s closer, I guess, to Anna Kendrick Brownish Red. But it’s lighter than I like my hair to be, and it’s still too brown, and it’s different enough from my natural hair color (mouse brown interlaced with grey) that you can REALLY see the difference now that it’s growing out.

When my husband – who, bless his heart, doesn’t notice these things – not only agreed with my assessment that it was very clear my hair was in need of a color-update, but also said he’d noticed without my pointing it out, I made a hair appointment immediately.

But now I am fretting. I mean, it’s MILD fretting. Nothing on the level of School Stress or What If Writing a Book Is a Huge Waste of Everyone’s Time Worry. But I like to wring every last bit of anxiety out of every possible situation so here we go.

What I really want is to go back to my hair stylist and say, “Let’s go back to how it was last fall.”

Simple enough… Except that she has already expressed a preference for NOW vs. THEN.

It’s like when your friend breaks up with that kind of boring dude she’s been with for five years, and when she finally does it, you can’t help but say, “Oh, I’m so glad you aren’t with him anymore! He really wasn’t bringing out your inner sparkle!” And then a few months later she decides to get back together with him.

Only I’M the one who is getting back together with the dull boyfriend, you know? And my hair stylist is the one who has to reunite us.

I would almost rather find a NEW hair stylist. But it’s so hard to find a good one, and I really do like her, and she does do a good job, and I really like the way she cuts my hair. Plus, my husband goes to her, too. So if I quit, it seems like he would have to quit, too, just for the sake of awkwardness and I’m too tired to worry about any of this.

My husband helpfully discussed this with me (although I doubt he will engage in deeper or additional conversations on the topic) and agreed that a) my former darker hair color worked just fine with my skin tone and b) it was totally reasonable for me to have a different opinion from my hair stylist and c) I could very reasonably ask her to change the color back and all would be well.

But YOU understand my fretting, don’t you?

What if she does it, but clenches her teeth the whole time, so certain is she in the life-altering mistake I am making?

What if she does it, and then it turns out she is RIGHT and my skin tone is Totally Wrong for dark brown and I HATE IT?

What if I can’t think of any other disastrous outcomes?

In any event, I want to go from Reddish Brown to Dark, Glossy, Gorgeous Brown and completely avoid Just Plain Brown at all costs.

Maybe what I do is pretend that I am NOT going back to my old hair color… and ask for a NEW hair color?

Something like one of these?

(Photos, left to right, from pinterest.com, hairboutique.com, hairstyles123.com, and pinterest.com)

Yes!!

I could totally go in and say, “I want my hair to be a bit darker for fall. Let’s change it to Katie Holmes brown please.” And then see what happens.

Perhaps I will even bring her this photo as an example!

Hair dark brown 1

What do you think?

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Lately, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls reruns while I exercise (side note: watching Gilmore Girls from the Lorelai perspective rather than the Rory perspective is a WHOLE different experience) and the other day was the episode where Rory goes away to college. Which is how I ended up sobbing on the treadmill.

Because Carla’s impending entrance into pre-school is so similar to GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE.

Yes, my tiny baby begins pre-school later this month. And I am a mess A MESS about it. I know – I know – a big source of my anticipatory dread is that I have a ton of My Baby Is Growing Up FEELINGS. It’s happening so fast, you know? Before I know it, she’s going to be waving at me from her dorm room and then shutting the door.

Okay, I am tearing up again.

So let’s rapidly scoot past those and get to the more practical aspects of my fretting, which can be broken out into three categories:

I Hate Change

We have enrolled Carla in the same private school her father went to for his whole life. This is a good thing. But it means that she will be switching out of the daycare she’s been in since last November. And I am not good with change.

Last fall, when we moved her from the daycare she’d been in since she was three months old to the one she’s in now – and which turned out to be Far Better, So Much So That I Feel Regret About Not Sending Her Here From the Get Go – it was so hard. I think I flubbed it, to be honest. I didn’t really think about what a tremendous change it would be, and so I did a piss poor job of preparing Carla. And so the transition was really rough on her. AS IT WOULD BE.

So this time, my husband and I are trying to find the perfect balance between preparing Carla for this shift and freaking her out about it. But it’s going to be stressful – there’s just no way around it. No matter how old you are, new situations are stressful. Well, at least they are stressful for ME. And Carla is only three and I’m not sure exactly how much she really understands what’s going to happen.

I am having Empathy Fret for Carla about suddenly being wrenched from her teachers… and a familiar routine and surroundings… and her friends.

Plus, I love her daycare. I love her teachers. (Although Carla would, if she stayed at this daycare, switch to new teachers almost immediately, so that aspect of change is inevitable.) I like the staff a lot. I am familiar with MY part of the routine. And she is so confident and happy at this daycare. I hate that we are going to completely eliminate that source of confidence and happiness and comfort from her life.

(Side Note: One of her core teachers left at the end of July, and I almost starting crying saying goodbye to her. And then she left Carla the SWEETEST note about how even if she didn’t see Carla until she – the teacher – is an old woman, she will recognize Carla for her spirit. OMG I was sobbing as I read it.)

This Is Going to Be a Whole New Schedule – for Both of Us

Pre-school goes from 8:30 to 11:30. Then we have the option to add-on lunch and some enrichment time and some aftercare if we need to. I think there’s also a morning-care option too, if necessary. So what we’re doing – now that I am working for myself, from home – is adding lunch and enrichment. On Fridays, Carla will be done at 11:30.

This will be a Big Difference from our current schedule, which is daycare from 9:00 to 5:00.

So I am pre-emptively fretting about that.

Will she get enough stimulation/intellectual challenge/exercise between 8:30 and 2:30?

I’m super excited about having more time, just the two of us. But… what are we going to DO? Will she be tired from school, and need a nap? I don’t think there’s a nap time at school, and she’s used to napping at about 1:30, so I’m anticipating that she’ll be super tired. And if she does nap, now at around 3:00, what will that do to the rest of the day?

What if she finds me super boring? What if we like each other LESS once we spend more time together?

On the other, more selfish, hand, will I be able to get enough work done between 8:30 and 2:30? Will I resent my time with Carla? These are the things I’m most afraid of, I think. That the new schedule will open some sort of rift between us.

I Don’t Know What to Expect

I went to public school all the way until college. In a small town allllll the way across the country from where we live. I don’t know anything about private school in general, or THIS private school, specifically. For instance, I bought a cute shirt on sale at Carter’s for Carla to wear to her new school… and my husband shook his head and said that it wouldn’t meet the school’s dress code. Dress code? Oh right, I remember vaguely that when I met my husband he didn’t own a pair of jeans. Because denim is not on the dress code at his school. (Where I come from, you can wear jeans to CHURCH.)

So, okay, dress code. That’s one thing I’m going to have to figure out. No denim. No logos. No words. My husband insists no pictures, either – like, you can’t have a shirt with a butterfly on it. That’s making it a LITTLE difficult to shop.

And I don’t know about drop-off and pick-up – I’m sure we’ll learn about that, but since I don’t have a clue, I’m anxious about it. Will I have to arrive super early? Will I be spending hours each week in a long car line? Will I just… open the door and let Carla out? She’s my BABY, how can I trust she’ll get where she needs to go without me?

And I don’t know what the teachers are going to want/expect in terms of parental involvement. Like, will they expect me to ask questions and talk to them every day? Which I’m fine with! Or will they expect that I will only talk to them when they have an issue to bring up? Which I am less fine with.

And what about parental involvement beyond my own child? Will they expect me to join the PTA? I have never been part of the PTA! I am open to it. And I do like the idea of a sort of forced-interaction with other parents, which might result in some new friendships. But: ACK NEW EXPERIENCE ACK.

You must know that I WANT to send Carla to this school! I feel GRATEFUL that we are able to send her to this school! It is a FANTASTIC school! When I first visited, I was blown away by the campus and the class options and I listened with dreamy delight as my husband told me about his teachers and the courses he took. And HE went there, and HE turned out great! The school has a values system that they take seriously and it infuses their entire curriculum, and I think my husband embodies those values. He is honest and straightforward and hardworking and believes in being a contributor to his community. I think his school had a lot to do with why he’s such a great guy. And he still, to this day, has friends from school. Friends that have become MY friends, and whose kids have become friends with my kid. And those friends are all pretty great people too. AND! It provides a top-notch academic education! And it has great activities! And it’s just a super all-around school. I am SO GLAD that Carla was accepted (yes, of course there was an intensive application process) and I am DELIGHTED that she will be attending this school.

But everything about it is so foreign. Ev. Ree. Thing.

Those are the main Sources of Anticipatory Dread, but thousands of others keep flitting through my head: What if she’s too rambunctious or enthusiastic? What if the transition is super stressful? What if the school turns out NOT to be a good fit? What if she won’t eat the food there? What if she hates her teachers? What if she doesn’t make friends? What if her teachers don’t like her? What if her teachers don’t like ME?

I know that some of this is just going to take time. And I just have to try to shut off my brain until the school year begins. But I really REALLY wish there was some sort of Handbook for the Over-Anxious Parent that spelled out exactly what Carla and I do and when and how and why.

And of course I wish that she would just SLOW DOWN and stop growing so quickly. Although that would just give me more time to pre-fret, so maybe it’s okay that things are as they are.

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