I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Today’s Postcard

Say NO to Eliminating Federal Funding for Public Education and Nutritious School Lunches

Are you tired and annoyed by everyone posting political rants? Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. So, I hesitate to post. You know me, I’m very non-confrontational. God forbid I should post something provocative or polarizing. Here’s the thing. I’m just a fair-minded, run-of-the-mill feminist and democrat who has never been politically active.

Until now.

Not a day goes by without some news item causing me to exclaim WTF in anger or disgust or cry in despair. I mean, really, what kind of world is it going to be in 10 years for our children and grandchildren?

Let’s be real, I work full time, I have a husband and children, I teach yoga. I am busy. I am not saving the world. What can I do? Does it even make a difference? After the initial shock, where we all shared outraged articles and felt overwhelmed, I took a bit of a deep breath and a bit of a break. I am not someone who jumps into the fray. No no. I need to research every issue and understand all points of view. Then pause and reflect. Then articulate my point of view, in writing. Then assess how I want to move forward. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, especially when every day presents you with a dozen new outrageous items to consider.

I’ve joined my local Indivisible group. I participate in some closed facebook groups. I read a lot and listen to a lot of political podcasts. I didn’t need a new activity, but there you have it. Our country is too important. Our democracy is too important. Our children are too important. Hell, the Earth is too important. I think we have no choice. To put your head in the sand and pretend that everything is going to be okay is immoral. There. I said it. I.M.M.O.R.A.L.

So, I’ve been sending postcards to my congresspeople. I try for one a day, but have not been successful. I get nervous on the phone, so the postcard thing works better for me. I am skeptical of petitions, so I tend not to sign them. So as not to annoy my friends, (I told you I was non-confrontational), I limit myself to no more than one post a day. I imagine that when I post a political pov, a contingent of my friends rolls their eyes and moves on. But, I don’t know, maybe not. Maybe there’s a quiet group out there that appreciates that I put myself out there.

Yesterday, one of those quiet friends quietly asked me what I knew about HR 610. Nothing. I knew nothing. So, I researched it. Yowza. Here goes my limited interpretation of this brief, but devastating bill:

HR 610, the “Choices in Education Act of 2017,” is a bill under consideration in the House of Representatives that proposes “to distribute Federal funds for elementary and secondary education in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.”

  • HR 610 will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which is the most far-reaching piece of federal legislation affecting education. It is responsible for ensuring that our public school system is fair, providing funding for low-income students, special education, English as a second language, and much more.
  • HR 610 limits the authority of the Department of Education, such that federal funding would be in the form of block grants to qualifying states. In other words, federal funding of public schools will now be transferred to the states. So, if you’re lucky to live in a progressive and affluent state, all good, probably. But if not, your education system will suffer. So will your children. So will your property value.
  • States, theoretically, will use these funds to create a voucher system for eligible families and schools. In other words, a family could use the voucher to buy a place in a private school.
  • But, more likely, the effect of vouchers could result in a middle class student migrating from a public school to a private school. It does not typically benefit a low-income student.
  • HR 610 repeals the No Kids Hungry Act, the requirement that school lunches meet specific nutrition standards.
  • Say what?! Let that sink in a moment. This bill says school lunches don’t need to be healthy. Um, that might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard, at least today. What does anyone have against nutrition for children? For some kids, school lunch is the most healthy food they eat all day. A well-fed child is better able to learn. A well-fed child is healthier and less likely to need medical care, which low-income families will be less able to afford under the new American Health Care Act, if approved.

See what I mean? It’s exhausting. Just a tiny little bill is fraught with complexity. But this one…well, it seems awful to me. So I am sending my congressman a postcard. I hope it helps.

Food Matters

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A Leader Is What A Leader Eats

You know, I think it DOES matter what the president eats.

You’ve probably heard by now about his preference for over-priced well-done steak smothered with ketchup. It’s been all over the news and twitter. And the reaction has been intense and varied, ranging from “What a classless rube!” to “Let him eat steak. We have more important things to worry about!”

Indeed we do.

But…

Imagine, for a moment, how much leadership he could provide – just by what he eats. Imagine the week of dinners he could choose, if he were inviting, authentic, adventurous, a role model, a proper host, humble, inspirational, a leader.

Sunday

Tonight I’m having a supper club dinner with a group of immigrants who have invited me to try their traditional dishes. I can’t wait to welcome these families who are new to our country and to taste new foods!

Monday

Meatless Monday! Scott Pruitt and I have decided to set a good example and go meatless one day a week. Eating less meat has a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Tuesday

Working late. Exhausted. I know I’m in a food rut, but the meatloaf here is wonderful. I wouldn’t want to force it on you, but I highly recommend it. Comfort food at its best. Reminds me of my mom.

Wednesday

Dinner with Ivanka. She’s been on me to lose some weight and eat more healthy. Damn it’s hard. All those dinners out! But, I need to eat more healthy for my kids and my grandkids, not to mention my country! I don’t want to die of a heart attack. Ivanka tells me the Mediterranean diet is healthiest and the Sardinians live to be 100. I’m going to have some grilled fish with a little pasta and vegetables. No dessert! Sugar is evil. But I am going to have one glass of red wine and an espresso so I can send some late night tweets.

Thursday

I’m having a bi-partisan dinner for all the new members of congress from both sides. You know, reaching across the aisle so we can get some legislation passed! I’ve been trying out new chefs for the White House. Tonight’s chef will be preparing an all-American meal made with all-American ingredients from our all-American farmers. American food is great!

Friday

New restaurant night! I like to try new restaurants instead of the same old same old. There are so many wonderful restaurants with creative and adventurous menus. I find it inspiring to try something new at least once a week. Plus, I get to support small businesses and help create jobs.

Saturday

Ah, happy to be in Mar-A-Lago, my favorite retreat. I am so lucky and grateful to be able to travel back and forth every weekend and catch up with Melania. A long-distance relationship can be tough! We’ll have dinner here and I’ll have the well-done steak smothered with ketchup. I know it’s not the healthiest nor the most gourmet, but it’s my favorite. I’ve cut way back – haven’t we all? My dad and I used to eat steak together and this is how we ate it. Thanks Dad for giving me my start.

Imagine! What leadership he could provide, just by what he eats.

Image Source: The USDA’s http://www.foodpyramid.com/myplate/

How Many of Us?

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All of Us

Dear Republicans.

You have been warned. Women speak!

Sisters persist. Resist.

How many of us women have been ignored, dismissed, silenced, repressed, suppressed, censored, banished, exiled, sacrificed, raped, stabbed, killed?

How many of us women have felt it too dangerous to speak? To ask, to question, to complain, to expose, to change, to object, to confront, to agitate, to resist, to fight. To be angry. To stand out.

We hang on to our good girl ways. Afraid of being scolded. Smiling, quiet, obedient, following the rules, excelling at the rules, working within the system. Little flickers of resistance emerging in safe outlets. A poem here. A prayer there. A whispered secret message to a daughter.

We all are brave. Just living takes guts. But some have that extra bit of courage to be bold. Heroines. Each generation gets bolder, with more support, and more examples of different women being different.

When our soul can’t stay quiet. When safety is worse than the battle. When we have nothing to lose. When fairness is compromised.

When our children’s future is jeopardized.

Then we speak. Now. We must speak. All of us.

We will persist. Resist.

I am with her. And her. And her. And her.

Tart Cranberry Marmalade

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No Sugar-Coating Allowed

Did you resolve to quit sugar? Has your resolve devolved into stress eating? Do you worry that it doesn’t matter what you eat anymore because the end of the world is nigh?

Sigh.

As I was taking this photo this morning, my husband asked what I was doing. I told him that the only topic I could imagine writing about was food. I am overwhelmed with the politics of the day, of the week, so I am reverting to my comfort/discomfort zone.

Food.

Maybe if I control what I eat, I will feel some semblance of control over my world. This myth fueling my disordered eating still lingers.

The World Health Organization now recommends that we limit our intake of sugar to no more than 5% of calories. That works out to about 100 calories, or about 6 teaspoons. Yup. That’s it. That is not very much.

Sugar is in tomato sauce, breakfast cereal, bread, salad dressing, yogurt, granola, nutrition bars, low fat snacks. Oh, and soda. It is easier to limit sugar if you cook for yourself instead of buying prepared foods. I  find that you can get used to less and less sugar over time. As you phase out sugar, you will discover that foods you used to like now taste too sweet and that the flavor is diluted with sweetness, not pure.

This month, I have craved bitter and intense foods to match my mood, eliminating more and more sugar. I have replaced my granola with walnuts. I have started eating more eggs instead of cereal for breakfast. And I have replaced my strawberry jam and orange marmalade with homemade cranberry sauce. It’s not for the faint of heart. But then, neither is living.

Tart Cranberry Marmalade

Austere. Sharp. Perfect for these bitter bitter times.

  • ½ 12 oz bag of cranberries (freeze the other half)
  • ¼ cup of orange juice (or pomegranate juice)

Heat cranberries and juice in a saucepan until gently boiling. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let cool. Refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup and lasts for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Use as you would jam or marmalade. I like it with whole wheat toast/bagel and goat cheese. I make peanut butter or almond butter or walnut butter sandwiches with it.

You’ve been warned. It is not sweet.

Not A Normal Day

Today, I am:

Working. Almost always an absorbing activity.

Noon-1:00. Pilates class.

Calling my senators to vote NO on Betsy DeVos.

Dinner and a show with my husband and friends to support the arts, now under fire.

Preparing to lead Circle of Peace meditation tomorrow.

#notanormalday

What Is A Leader?

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“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many years ago, a new boss of mine insisted that we read Jim Collins’ From Good To Great. It was a collective exercise to encourage us all to think about leadership and to develop our own “Level 5” leadership qualities, as we worked to transform our organization from good to great. The main take-away that I remember from that book is that leaders are humble and put their own self-interest behind what is good for the company.

On this day – honoring Martin Luther King Jr and anticipating the inauguration of someone I think is the antithesis of a leader (let alone a Level 5 leader!) – I am reminded of this book and the path it set me on towards clarifying for me what makes a good leader.

As a yoga teacher, an executive, a mother, a human – I have thought long and hard about what makes people successful and how I can embody the qualities that I value. I marvel at the teachers and bosses and friends who elicit the best from all the people they touch.

These are the qualities of a good leader that inspire me and motivate me.

  • They are teachers. They are patient and explain things well and have no judgment that you should already know something. They are learners, always curious.
  • They are listeners, willing to consider opposing points of view and to grapple with reconciling opposing points of view.
  • They have struggled and are not embarrassed by their struggles – because their hardships make them more approachable and more compassionate. More grateful.
  • They care, passionately, about something. They work hard and will sacrifice at great cost for what they care about. They approach their passion with joy.
  • They make mistakes and can laugh at themselves. They let you make mistakes and don’t make fun of your mistakes. Well, if they laugh at you, it is with affection and understanding.
  • They make other people feel special. Asking questions, listening, and honoring each person as they are, right there right then.
  • They are honest. They do the right thing. They tell the truth and say what needs to be said. Even if it is hard.
  • They are optimistic, confident in their purpose. They foster a team environment and celebrate the holistic gestalt of the team. They are cheerleaders, inspiring and motivating you to be your best.
  • They are inclusive. Every person counts and has a voice. Every one is invited.
  • They are generous. They are kind.

Image Credit: Used with permission from Dave Bowman at Design Turnpike. Thank you!

Choosing Peace

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Uttanasana

I am at peace with my not being at peace. This sums up how I feel this New Year’s.

Gradually, year over year over year, I have moved away from setting ambitious goals and resolutions and moved toward setting intentions – to choose to be more happy and open to love, to listen to my heart more than to my ego, to see what is good – not what is lacking.

Of course, I still want to have more money, achieve more success, eliminate meat and sugar, be a better citizen of the world, read more books, stop picking my cuticles, throw away stuff, get organized already, be a better mother, and so on. And on. And on.

I am familiar with these goals and make mild progress on them from time to time. Really though, it is exhausting. Bordering on boring.

But when you really stop and ask: what do we want from life? Isn’t it: To feel joy, experience love, reduce suffering.

Peace. Inner peace, if not world peace.

B.K.S. Iyengar says that Uttanasana is “a boon to people who get excited quickly, as it soothes the brain cells. After finishing the pose, one feels calm and cool, the eyes start to glow and the mind feels at peace.” Indeed.

When, at the height of my mid-life anxiety, I would do forward folds in yoga class, I would weep. Turning inward, calming down from my busy busy busy pursuit of not feeling, I would feel. My hamstrings. My breath. My sadness. Of time passing. Of rejections. Of goals not achieved. Yoga class was the only place I would let myself be still, still enough to feel.

Folding forward is private. You can be with your self. Feeling your body, your breath. Just feeling. Just being.

Now, on the other side of my mid-life anxiety, Uttanasana is a pause. A transition. A comforting place to breathe and reflect. Kind of like New Year’s. When I look back on the last year (or years), I see a woman who is happier, more open, more grateful, more able to laugh, more loving.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, can we focus on what we do have? What is good, not what is bad.

As this year has ended with great uncertainty about what our world will be like under President-elect Trump, I have to fight against anxiety, anger, panic, despair. It is easy to succumb to the swirl of anxiety.

I will not contribute to negative energy. I resolve to be a force for love, compassion, and positive change.

I will choose peace.

More Meatless This Year

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Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole

Every year, I eat less meat. I find it increasingly difficult to stomach the thought of eating animals. Moreover, the positive impact of eating less meat on the environment is staggering.

My vegan daughter inspires me. When she is home, it is fun to find new recipes that we will enjoy and the meat-eaters will tolerate.

For our extended family dinner on Christmas, I made this dish from Martha Rose Shulman. It doubles easily. Make it one day ahead as it improves with time.

Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea Casserole (by Martha Rose Shulman)

  • 1 Eggplant (1 ½ pounds), peeled, sliced length-wise, then in ¼” slices
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin across the grain
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas
  • Fresh Basil and Fresh Parsley

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle the foil with olive oil. Place the eggplant slices on the foil, sprinkle with salt and drizzle lightly with oil. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and carefully fold the foil in half over the eggplant. Crimp the edges together, so that the eggplant is sealed inside the foil and will continue to steam and soften. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and golden brown, about 5-10 minutes, and add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and cinnamon, to taste. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered, until the sauce is thick and fragrant. Stir in the drained chickpeas. Mix in the eggplant slices.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. Spoon eggplant, tomato and chickpea mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake 30 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Or for a full day ahead. Sprinkle on the basil and parsley before serving.

Serves 6-8. Delicious with bread, naan, rice, or even over pasta.

Image: Very bad photo taken by me at the Christmas buffet table. I was rushing because of the hungry and impatient people behind me – it doesn’t do the dish justice!

Sacred Privilege

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Sacred Duty

This is me. At around 7:45 on the morning of November 8th. Exhilarated! I was so thrilled to have voted for Hillary Clinton, the woman I was so sure was going to be President that I insisted on documenting the historic event with a photo. I am wearing my most patriotic Clinton-esque red pantsuit jacket.

Quaint, eh? About as quaint as the Clinton-Kaine pin my daughter gave me to commemorate the occasion. I carry it around as a talisman, but I worry that it’s just a kitschy souvenir.

My hand is on my heart – pledging allegiance – and showing off the ring I am wearing. My mother’s ring. She was with me that day.

It is from my mother that I got my political grounding.

My mother was a Democrat. On Election Day, she would take me with her into the voting booth and show me how it worked. I felt very grown up, very excited, and very proud. It was a sacred privilege, voting.

My mother was the first feminist I knew. She was a charter subscriber to Ms. Magazine. Literally. She got every issue of the magazine as long as it existed. It’s one of many many magazines that I grew up with in a household where words mattered. No wonder I made a career in magazines.

My mother believed that women were equal to men (actually, I think she believed that women were better than men) and that I could be anything. ANYTHING! She encouraged me to go to Bryn Mawr College so that I would be with other intelligent and serious women who wanted to make a difference. We women wanted to matter. I wanted to matter. To make a difference. To contribute something important to the world.

Sometimes I feel like Hillary must feel. Hard-working, over-prepared, focused on the details, only to be bested by some guy who shoots from the hip. Haven’t we women all been there? When will it stop?

This election was the first election my mother was not alive and did not vote. It seemed fitting that it was the first election in which my daughter could and did vote. Continuing the democratic lineage. Excited and proud.

It is a sacred privilege, voting. Have we forgotten how fortunate we are to live in a democracy? Did we take voting for granted? Our vote does matter, doesn’t it?

Doesn’t it?

The shock that such a selfish and cavalier man could beat such an experienced and intelligent woman has left me with no words.

In the five weeks since, I have reflected on how I want to handle this mind-boggling reality. I alternate between outrage, fear, disbelief, and attempts at patience and optimism. A Democrat, like my mom, I tend to be pragmatic and centrist, always a diplomat, never particularly active. Careful to try to understand both sides and all points of view. Too conflict avoidant to be provocative.

When I am optimistic, I wonder if the outcome of this election is just what we needed to shake us all up. To create a constructive political movement that will lead to positive change.

The week of the election, the Dalai Lama appeared in my dream. He counseled me to distinguish between being concerned and being caring. It’s all about caring, he told me.

Wise words, don’t you think? Being concerned is intellectual and kind of negative and judgmental. Being caring is active and personal and hands on. Caring is positive. I think of that every day. How can I be positive, constructive and caring in an impactful way? What kind of example do I want to set for my children? What political legacy will I leave them?

For now, I have decided to choose and focus on a few issues that are meaningful to me and that honor my mother and her political legacy to me.

  • Women’s Rights. Particularly reproductive freedom. I am Pro Choice.
  • Freedom of the Press. I never thought I would feel the need to fight for the First Amendment.
  • The Environment. After all, if we destroy our world, then it doesn’t really matter who is President, does it?

I don’t quite know all the ways I will act to support these issues. I am not used to feeling that it is imperative that I act. I do know that I will keep caring, peace, and kindness top of mind – like the Dalai Lama.

And, I will not take our democracy for granted. Believing in democracy is not quaint. Voting is a sacred privilege. It is our sacred duty to protect our democracy, our right to vote.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew with Chipotles

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A Vegan-Friendly Thanksgiving

My daughter is a committed vegan, unable to stomach eating animals and dismayed by the injurious practices towards animals of big agriculture. I am proud of her and support her, but must admit that I don’t need any more food rules in my life. So, while I don’t eat much meat, I am not rigid about it.

This was her first Thanksgiving out as a vegan. (I think she was a closet vegan last year.) I reflected on how to balance the food traditions and family favorites of the holiday, while honoring her food wishes and offering her some tasty options. Roasted green beans, beyond easy.  Stuffing made with vegetable broth, so tasty. Then what? We swapped the too-sweet marshmallow yams for Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew. I made it the day before – which was a good thing, because it gets better and better every day. We’ve been eating it for lunch every day since!

Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew with Chipotles

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 bay leaves

In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and carrots. Sauté until onions begin to turn toasty brown. Be patient, this can take 10-15 minutes – the browning adds flavor.

Add water, lentils, sweet potatoes, salt, cumin, chipotles, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Then, lower temperature and simmer for an hour. Or more. You really can’t overcook this dish – it just keeps getting thicker and stewier and more flavorful.

You can serve the same day, but it is better the next day and the next day and the next day.

Serves many vegans and omnivores. Probably about 8 servings. For the non-vegans, a dollop of plain greek yogurt on top is delicious, adding tang and creaminess.

 

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