Sunday, January 25, 2015

Married Life

If I ever write a book about married life, the title will be Don’t Ever Ask Your Husband If He Knows How to Install a Dishwasher. This partially explains why my dishwasher has been periodically falling out of the cabinetry for the past five years. I thought that I might save a little money on installation fees. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. My husband Ron must have installed the dishwasher using Binford Tools (motto:  Real Men Don’t Need Instructions); you know, Tim Allen’s infamous weapons of home destruction from that TV Show Home Improvements. When I run the dishwasher, it usually sounds more like it’s breaking the dishes than washing them. However, I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with the installation. I should have bought one with a silencer on it.

This puts me in mind of a story about a plumbing repair episode that occurred in the 1980s (we have been married a long time). Here is an account of the incident that I wrote a few years ago. This took place during a time when both of us worked outside the home and we had a two-year-old and a five-year-old.
One Tuesday evening (week night) after dinner, Ron informed me that he needed to repair a small plumbing leak he had discovered in the basement. “I have to turn the water off for a few minutes,” he said.
“Can it wait until the weekend?” I asked. “I want to bathe the children and get them into bed.” He assured me it would only take a few minutes. He shut off the water to the house.
The children took out their wooden blocks and built a tower. I stacked the dinner dishes in the sink, unpacked the children’s lunch boxes and repacked them for the next day, and fed the cats. No sign of my husband. No water. I sat on the couch with the children and we read Green Eggs and Ham.
“Where’s Daddy?” my daughter asked. I tried to calculate how long ago Daddy had descended to the basement. At that moment, Daddy ripped past us like the Roadrunner on a mission to humiliate Wiley Coyote. He was soaked from head to toe. I mean drenched, sopping, water-logged. I mean he was wet. He offered no word of explanation, instead making a beeline for the cupboard in the front hallway where he kept his tools. He yanked the cupboard open and pulled everything out, flinging sandpaper, steel wool, string, socket wrench set, electrical tape, golf clubs, surf board, lawn mower, pruning ladder, chainsaw, and Makita drill in every direction. OK, I exaggerate. I like to exaggerate sometimes. He doesn’t play golf.
“Is there a problem, honey?” I asked in my best neutral voice.
The two-year-old piped up, “Daddy’s wet.”
“No, no problem,” he replied as he raced back through the house, calling over his shoulder, “Why do you ask?”
“No particular reason,” I said; but he had already pounded back downstairs with a monkey wrench in one hand and a small tub of putty in the other, leaving only a trail of mist behind him.
I gave the children a “bird bath” with bottled water, helped them brush their teeth, and changed them into their pajamas. Throughout these bedtime preparations, my husband whizzed through the house several more times, tracking water in puddles behind him, his sneakers squishing. I imagined a geyser erupting in my basement.
I was reading the children a bedtime story when he made another one of his mad dashes through the house. “Sweetie,” I called to him, “should I see if I can find a 24-hour plumbing service?”
“No!” He stopped briefly, looking daggers. “But thanks for the vote of confidence. See if you can find a 24-hour plumbing parts store.”
“Is Daddy OK?” my daughter asked me. My son looked worried.
“Yes, he’s fine,” I reassured the children, “he’s just a little wet.” I turned out the lights and wished the children sweet dreams. Then I got out the phone book to look for an all-night plumbing parts store, wondering how it might be listed in the yellow pages. I tried “W” for water emergency. I was tempted to look for an all-night therapeutic services provider.
Two hours and fifteen minutes after my husband first headed to the basement, he entered the kitchen and turned on the faucet. Water came out. “You fixed it?” I asked hopefully.
“No, but it’ll hold until tomorrow,” he replied. “Thank goodness for potatoes and baling wire.”

The one drawback to my otherwise idyllic married life is that I have to live with a man. Yesterday I discovered that instead of replacing the battery in my car key, he managed to lose the replacement battery I bought earlier this week. I was going to replace it as soon as I had a chance to go out to the garage and find a jewelry screwdriver the right size. That’s more complicated than it sounds because one wall of the garage is a graphic representation of the inside of Ron’s brain; i.e., it looks like it was hit by a typhoon and a tsunami at once, and then someone decided to use the space to start an all-night plumbing parts store before abandoning the idea. (Probably because apparently all you need in an all-night plumbing parts store is potatoes.) He meant well. He was going to change the battery for me. What a sweetheart. Unfortunately he also has to track down the right little jewelry screwdriver to do it.

Since he lost the battery, he decided to go out to buy me another one. So I asked him if he would mind stopping at Coop Natural Foods to pick up some peanut butter so I could make spicy peanut sauce to go with dinner. “Sure,” he said. I instructed him to grind the peanut butter fresh in the machine near the bulk foods section. He replied, “OK, what kind of nuts should I use?” Well, hmmm. Peanuts? When he returned home with the peanut butter, I asked him if he found the grinding machine OK. Mind you, I have always done the shopping and he has never fetched peanut butter from the Coop. He said that he couldn’t figure out how to get the peanut butter grinder to work and he had disassembled the spigot before asking for assistance from a clerk, who showed him the on/off button and gently asked him to reassemble the machine. I felt guilty setting him loose in the Coop. Real men don’t need instructions because, seriously, they really are from Mars.

A few years ago, Ron made a typo in an email to me and wrote “I live you” instead of “I love you.” The expression stuck. Whenever I am forced to put up with the inimitable Ron-ness of Ron, I tell him “I live you.” But I am willing to sit through dude-flicks about guys on a road trip and to forgive him for beating me at cards night after night (you would not believe his luck), because, let’s face it, without him I wouldn’t be able to open a bottle of mouthwash (push down, squeeze, and twist all at once) or turn on my TV to watch a football game. (Does everyone have fourteen remote control gizmos or is that just us?) Moreover, he makes the best damn gluten-free pancakes on the planet. Yesterday he made a persimmon pancake that took the physics of a pancake to the quantum level. If making pancakes was an Olympic sport he’d have a gold.

The other night, as our Book Group was breaking up for the evening, our friend Annie divvied up the leftover frozen desserts with Ron. Annie kept putting partially full cartons in my freezer and I kept taking them out and putting them back in her bag. “Only leave us two,” I told her. “Otherwise Ron will eat all of it and get fat.” My friend Helen, whose beloved husband of 40 years died in an incomprehensibly bizarre accident about two years ago, said, smiling wistfully, “Oh Amy, you’re reminding me of married life.” After witnessing Helen and a number of other dear friends suffer the trauma of losing their life partner in recent years, I remain grateful for the good fortune that keeps this aggravating man, who bangs around my house disrupting my tidy domain, at my side. When I told him I was going to blog about married life he said, “You love it, right? Think carefully. There’s a right answer and a wrong answer.”

[Full disclosure:  In all fairness to Ron, I will admit that I have stretched the truth once again for the sake of humor (see my blog entitled “For the Sake of Humor”); so in order to set the record straight, I confess that the reason the dishwasher is falling out of the cabinetry has nothing to do with Ron’s installation, but is a result of a problem with the wood under the counter top to which the dishwasher is attached—the wood needs to be replaced in order to properly secure the dishwasher. I think we could do that with the aid of a potato and a jewelry screwdriver.]

This is the kind of machine they have at the Coop. Notice the on/off switch to the left. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Empowerment on a Plate

On Thursday, I taught the second of the four classes in my Eating for Health workshop series for the very first time. The results are so dramatic, inspiring, and even funny, that I feel compelled to share. To receive my Holistic Nutrition Certification, I have to complete a practicum. As part of my practicum, I must teach the Eating for Health approach to health, wellbeing, and nutrition in a series of four classes. I have a PowerPoint presentation provided by the college, which I revised to suit my own teaching style, and I have put together handouts and other materials for my students. Thus I have made this course my own version of teaching Eating for Health. I set up my practicum at a local clinic and I have 12 women taking my class. (Note:  Dr. Ed Bauman developed the Eating for Health Model and founded the college where I am training.)

The first class I taught was an overview of healthy eating. The second class focused on proteins and fats. The third class, to be taught this week, will focus on carbohydrates. The final class is about sustainable eating and living to protect our health and our food supply in the future; and how to set up a personal plan to learn more and keep improving after the classes end. At Thursday’s class, I finished my presentation early enough for us to go around the table and share anything we changed during the previous week, and tell what, if any, difference it made. The brief stories related by the women in the class blew me away. I was moved and honored that I could make such a difference in the lives of others simply by providing them with information about food.

Several of the women had never read labels before and they were astonished by how much they could learn about food by reading labels. They also could not believe how flagrantly manufacturers and advertisers deceive the consumer about what is contained in packaged foods. One woman spent the week trying to give up sugar and she was amazed to find that it is put in just about every packaged food she buys. This same woman also successfully quit drinking soda. She went from a two-can-per-day habit of Diet Coke to drinking organic green tea and water. Hurray for her! She said she could totally feel the difference. After giving up sugar and soda, she slept better, had more energy and mental clarity, and she felt really good about herself.

She and another student in my class are in the accounting department. They reported that they have the clinic’s accounting department engaged in conversations about healthy eating. They told me that the CFO brings donuts to the office regularly, and they are gone in a minute. But when he brought a box after my two students had talked to their coworkers about the damage caused to the body by sugars, refined flours, and trans fats, the donuts sat in the box uneaten. My two students are going to ask the CFO to bring them fruit instead of donuts in the future. The rest of the gals in accounting are behind this change 100%. Goodbye donuts. My students laughed when I told them that donuts no longer look like an edible object to me.

Several women have set for themselves the goal of drinking more water. The clinic that has partnered with me for my practicum is an OB/GYN practice, serving a high population of pregnant women. My students had me laughing as they talked about increasing their water intake and having to compete with pregnant women to get into the bathroom all day long. But they feel better being more hydrated and so they will continue to drink their daily water and figure out how to get a toilet stall when they need one.

The lard conversation had me laughing my head off. I explained to my class that lard from pastured pigs (organic, free-range, NOT commercial) is much better for them than commercial corn oil, soy oil, or sunflower oil (like that horrendous Crisco stuff sold in clear plastic bottles, which is rancid before it even reaches the grocery shelf because of exposure to light and because of the way it is processed). Several Mexican-American women in the class were incredulous. They said that when they were children, their mothers had discontinued using lard because they were told it would cause heart disease; and after that refried beans never tasted so good again. Well, my friends, I will tell you what I told my class:  good quality (let me say that again GOOD QUALITY) fats are important for proper body function. Do not fear fat. The thing that causes heart disease is sugar and refined flour. More and more information about the truth of this is coming out. If you don’t believe me, or you want to read the research, check out the book The Great Cholesterol Myth by Bowden and Sinatra. Anyway, back to the lard. Real lard from organic, free-range pigs is an excellent fat. One of these Mexican-American women in my class exclaimed, “Woo-hoo, I am going to the Coop right after work and buying good lard and we are having refried beans tonight!” The excitement about the lard was ridiculous! I’m not sure my students will find lard at the Coop; however, I talked to two different local pig farmers at the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning and they have excellent lard for sale. I will bring this information to my class this Thursday, and I guarantee you I will be viewed as Saint Burrito.

Another woman in the class said she never thought she’d see the day that she would buy grass-fed beef; but, she told us how she went to the Farmer’s Market and talked to the cattle farmer there. Come to find out that the farmer’s beautiful pastured, grass-fed, ground beef costs only $5 per pound. Full fat. The real deal. She bought 25 pounds and went home and divided it up, froze what she couldn’t use right away, and made burgers for her family. In the midst of this story, another woman in the class interjected, “The commercial lean beef that I buy is more expensive at $6 per pound!” I reminded them that her commercial lean beef is loaded with toxic antibiotics and hormones and lacks any real food value, especially beneficial fat. The grass-fed beef convert told her coworkers, “I am here to inform you that you can easily afford high quality grass-fed beef.” She said she fried up those burgers and the meat was gorgeous. She had never seen anything like it. Her detailed account of the fat it produced in the pan sounded like poetry. She practically swooned trying to describe the flavor. I keep telling the class that when you eat high quality food, you don’t need to eat as much because you feel satisfied with less. The grass-fed beef convert confirmed this. She said she and her husband couldn’t even finish their burgers and her teenage son only ate one, even though he usually eats at least two commercial burgers. I teased her that she is going to start a cattle ranch. She says she’s tempted, but as long as she can buy that lovely grass-fed beef at the Farmer’s Market, she’s as happy as can be.

I don’t eat meat so I could not identify with the grass-fed beef story. But it was gratifying to hear that my students are discovering that eating real food is not only possible for them but will improve the quality if their lives in immeasurable ways. The grass-fed beef convert claimed that everyone in her family felt noticeably better (than when they ate commercial beef) after eating the good beef. They were energized rather than sluggish.

I saved the best story for last:  the soft-spoken woman who described her decision to buy organic produce. She said that her family does not have much money and so she has always believed that organic fruits and vegetables are beyond her reach. This past week, she decided she would buy only organic fruit to see what that was like. She bought oranges, apples, and bananas. She said that the organics were more expensive, but that they were not as much more expensive as she had previously imagined. She related that she had never eaten an organic banana and the flavor knocked her socks off. She had not realized what a banana really tastes like. She said she refuses to go back to nonorganic and one way or another she will buy organic. She will work out her budget, make changes in the family spending, rethink how she shops and where she shops. “I refuse to deny my children good quality produce any more just because we don’t have much money. We are as entitled to eat this delicious and high quality food as anyone else,” she said so quietly, so firmly, with such determination. She is a rebel! 

She fired me up. All of them fired me up! I have a passion for changing the world through nutrition. We are all entitled to eat real food and we are all entitled to be well. The time when agribusiness and marketing executives and corporations can turn their lousy profit by railroading us into eating garbage that’s killing us is over! We refuse to be force-fed toxic crap. We will not be exploited and made sick and then sold expensive pharmaceuticals. This is my calling. I teach people to read labels, make choices, learn about food, and to just say no to nonfood passed off to us as food. Talk about empowerment! Here it is on a plate. We are going to nourish ourselves and be well against all odds. Like the woman with limited money who is now determined to feed her family organic fruit, we are making our lives better and refusing to be bought and sold in the marketplace like ignorant fools. We are taking control of what we put in our bodies. We are voting with our forks.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Flight Plan

This past week I discovered that I have a better chance of solving one of the Clay Mathematics Institute unsolved Millennium Prize Problems than booking a flight from California to Philadelphia that costs less than my monthly mortgage payment. Since I can’t even add up my score in a game of cards without assistance from my husband and a calculator, I was contemplating hiring a think tank at Columbia U. to work out my air travel when I remembered that Einstein (or was it Newton?) invented travel agents.

This odyssey began last weekend when I blithely went online to look at ticket prices for the first time. My nephew Ben is having his Bar Mitzvah in Yardley, Pennsylvania in the spring. Ron and I, my daughter, my son, and his girlfriend are planning to go. My father has taken to referring to the event as “Ben’s B.M.” in his email communications. My brother Dan and I are trying to work out how to make him stop doing this, but so far we have no viable strategy since Mom is no longer living (she had a lot of clout with Dad) and Dad finds this nomenclature infinitely amusing. This means that I spent the better part of the afternoon last Sunday considering the prospect of paying $800 a pop for five tickets to see Ben’s B.M. (Or should I say $800 a poop?)

Usually we fly Southwest Airlines within California as well as back and forth to Chicago to see Ron’s family. But Southwest doesn’t fly into Philadelphia Airport (PHL) or Newark Airport, our two choices for this trip. There are precious few nonstop flights from San Francisco or L.A. (our departure cities) to PHL or Newark; and added to the challenge is the fact that we stopped flying United Airlines in 1995 when they held us captive in an airplane on the tarmac in San Francisco before take-off with three young children for nearly four hours. We never did find out exactly what caused the delay (or why we couldn’t wait out the problem inside the terminal as opposed to sitting in the airplane exactly 16 inches from the door to the terminal, which was locked shut and guarded by Attila the Hun), but I believe to this day that we were part of a covert science experiment conducted by the CIA to determine how long a random cross-section of the population could survive on honey-roasted peanuts. (The answer is approximately 15 minutes before children turn the seat cushions into flotation devices and bash each other with them while business executives get drunk on complimentary drinks and hallucinate that flight attendants are robots wearing signs that say “abuse me.”) With United out of the equation, that leaves few options for direct flights to Newark.

When we flew East a few years ago for Anna’s B.M. (sorry, blame Dad), I suffered a traumatic airline check-in experience. I was attempting to check in to a U.S. Airways flight online the day before our departure from Philly when I arrived at a screen that asked for payment for our bags. This was a surprise to me since we usually fly Southwest and they have no bag fees. In my haste to rush through my friend Janine’s house to find my wallet that contained my credit card (to pay the bag fee before the screen timed out), I took a wrong turn and fell fully clothed into Janine’s hot tub with my wallet in my hand. (Janine has a hot tub in her living room and the lights were off.) When I surfaced, Ron stood at the edge of the tub with his camera. “If you take that picture, I will divorce you,” I said. He did not take the picture, we are still married, but I continue to suffer post-traumatic stress over bag fees; even though I did successfully dry out all the pictures in my wallet. (But my dress shrunk in the dryer and had to be given away.) Janine subsequently bought a cover for the hot tub. Needless to say, this would never have occurred had we been flying on Southwest, which has no bag fees.

My brother Dan went online to look at airplane tickets last weekend as well. He came up with a proposal, which he emailed to me. I think he was trying to help out because he felt guilty for claiming that I mailed his children nothing but seaweed for Hanukkah in his holiday letter, when he knows perfectly well that this is a far stretch of the truth. He sent me an impressively complex email suggesting that if I were to sign up for a U.S. Airways credit card then I could purchase a ticket to PHL for $850 for a flight out of SFO that would stop in Phoenix on the way and I could get a spare ticket for $120 to use for another flight to PHL another time plus some bonus points (woo-hoo, bonus points!, wait, what are bonus points? are they edible?) and a free flight to Flint, Michigan in February 2016 as long as I boarded the flight in Zone 2 of the departure airport. The catch was that I had to fly on Thursday instead of Monday, which was unfortunate since I have plans for things I want to do on the East Coast on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But I would also get 50,000 bonus miles (not to be confused with bonus points), although I’m not sure what to do with those. Maybe I can use them on the space shuttle. How far away is the moon? (I’ll have to check that out on googlemaps.) Since Ben is my brother’s youngest child, I assume there are no more B.M.s to view after this one (I really miss my mother), so I would not be making this trip again in time to use the bonus miles on another B.M. before they expire. Unless they are infinite. That is a brainteaser I do not care to contemplate. I have always had trouble with the concept of infinity. I mean, what about infinity plus one? Frankly, I am suspicious that Dan’s email was not actually flight information but rather the proof for one of the Clay Mathematics Institute unsolved problems. My brother is, after all, a rocket scientist with a graduate degree in aerospace engineering. (You would think that someone with those credentials could recognize the difference between excellent dark chocolate and seaweed. But no.)

I emailed Dan back and begged him not to spend any more time searching for tickets for us as I had, by that time, realized that I needed to employ a travel agent. I suggested that he stop channeling Mom, who was the biggest problem-solver of them all, and asked him if I was correct in inferring from his email that he and his wife had moved Ben’s B.M. to Phoenix. I could handle Phoenix since Southwest flies nonstop to Phoenix, doesn’t charge bag fees (so I would not be at risk of falling in any hot tubs), and tickets are much more reasonable. Dan responded that the B.M. would be in Phoenix but the reception would be in Yardley. I was pondering the option of skipping the reception altogether to save on airfare, but what good is the B.M. without eating lunch afterward? Then I realized he was just joking.

On Thursday, my brilliant travel agent booked all of us on Virgin Airlines, got us tickets for under $400 each, didn’t require us to get any new credit cards, secured nonstop flights to Newark, rescued us from bonus points, and solved several Clay Mathematics Institute unsolved problems for 2015. This goes to show that it pays to hire a professional. We are looking forward to the trip and expect Ben to execute the B.M. efficiently. Ron says he is excited to be flying Virgin because it will be his first time.

I am using this photo for this blog post because there is, mercifully,
 no picture of me in the hot tub with my dripping wallet.
I also could not find a photo of infinity.

P.S. I have no idea why there is a white background on this week's blog post. Perhaps Blogspot automatically puts all blog posts with the word "virgin" in them against a white background.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

For the Sake of Humor

It seems that lately my family has invented a new recreational sport, namely, having a laugh at my expense. I’m worried that this is a trend for the new year. Mirth manufactured via a misinterpretation, misrepresentation, or mangling of something Mom did or said is gaining momentum. (That sentence is way too alliterative, I really ought to separate those “m”s.)

The first instance of making a joke by maligning Mom came to my attention the week before Christmas, when my daughter posted on her father’s Facebook page “I know that Mom cancelled Christmas, but is there a little something you want that I could get for you?” Wait, what?! Mom cancelled Christmas?! First of all, I’m not that powerful. If I can’t get Oprah to read my novel, then how would I manage to talk Santa into curling up by the fire with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” instead of flying around the world in a magical sleigh? Case in point, Christmas came, didn’t it? What actually happened, for the official record, was that I negotiated an agreement with the family this year that involved minimizing gift expenditures so we can save our money to travel for family get-togethers in 2015. Ron and I, our children, and our children’s “others” (one of whom became a legitimate wife in 2014) have agreed to meet up in SoCal for a long weekend over the summer. I will have the money to pay for this weekend because I didn’t spend it on Christmas. Other projected travel is associated with our deal. I call it the 2014 Treaty of Bypassing Best Buy. (What about alliteration as a trend for 2015? I prefer that to dissing the Mom for a  cheap laugh.)

So you see that I did not cancel Christmas. I simply masterminded a family pact to have a non-consumer holiday. After my daughter’s post on Facebook, a thread of comments  ensued speculating about how Grinch-y I am. Sheesh. I am not a Grinch. I have more hair than the Grinch. I am not a Scrooge. I have less money than the Scrooge. I love Christmas. It’s my favorite goyishe (i.e., non-Jewish) holiday. I have personally watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” more times than Bush was filmed saying “mission accomplished” before they got a credible take they could use. Christmas is a sweet, old-fashioned holiday that brings out the best in people. I adore the Christmas spirit. Do not believe everything you read about me on Facebook, particularly if written by a member of my immediate family.

I was again misunderstood when I lost miserably in a cutthroat card game of Philadelphia 1500 on Christmas Day. On the previous evening, which was Christmas Eve, because I am (take note) incapable of cancelling Christmas, my youngest son bested me and Ron at this card game and my darling son found it amusing to put the score sheet, demonstrating my dreadful score, in my Christmas stocking. This gift runs a close second to a lump of coal, however it is in keeping with the Treaty of Bypassing Best Buy, so I left the score sheet in the stocking. My daughter arrived on Christmas Day, and the four of us sat down to a game of 1500. My son once again won, in a close race, surpassing my score in the very last hand, despite the fact that my chosen card-playing team name was Seabiscuit. He celebrated by grabbing a refrigerator magnet from the side of my stainless steel refrigerator and sticking the score sheet to the front of the fridge. An aside about a very important law of physics is necessary at this juncture. You may or may not know that magnets do not stick to stainless steel. For this reason, I do not have any magnets holding anything to the front of my fridge, only to the sides, which are made of a magnetic variety of metal. I trust you can imagine my astonishment when the magnet held the score sheet to the stainless steel surface on the front of the fridge. “How did you get that to stick?” I blurted, with a level of shock and surprise equivalent to that of the original cavewoman who inadvertently invented fire. “It’s magnetic!” my son replied, which dissolved Ron, and my children in laughter. “Is that why you don’t have any magnets on the front of your fridge?” my daughter asked, gasping, holding her sides. “Because you didn’t think they would stick?”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I am not the ding-dong I appear to be. When I originally bought my fridge, no magnets would stick to the stainless steel front. Seriously, magnets do not stick to stainless steel. If you don’t believe me then google it. I demonstrated this to my children on Christmas by attempting to stick a magnet to a stainless steel serving dish. It would not stick. But my children were having too much fun laughing at me to follow the calculus of the complex rocket science involved in my demonstration. (Perhaps I should have googled it for them.) Here is the backstory. In the recent past, my original fridge succumbed to a premature meltdown comparable to the melting of the polar ice caps. The meltdown was so rare that the refrigerator repairman took photographs to accompany the article he intended to write for The New England Journal of Refrigerator Diseases after he hauled my old fridge away. Fortunately, my warranty covered replacement and I received a brand new fridge that is a newer model. Unbeknownst to me, until Christmas 2014 following a (disastrous) game of 1500, the new model has a new feature. Some type of metallic material has been added to the stainless steel on the front of the fridge so that now, not previously, but now, magnets will stick to it. My children, however, are having too much fun saying, “it’s magnetic,” and then falling on the floor laughing, to listen to my backstory. I am quite certain that far into the next century my great-great-grandchildren will turn to one another at Christmas and say “it’s magnetic,” and laugh their heads off without even remotely remembering how or where the expression started.

I became 100% certain that I have become the preferred brunt of family jokes when I received my brother’s holiday letter in the mail. He wrote, “Today is the first night of Hanukkah. This year, Aunt Amy, now a certified nutritionist, sent the kids seaweed instead of Hershey kisses. As the excitement dies down, Anna and Ben head off somewhere gagging on seaweed.” This is a remarkably backstabbing stretch of the truth. It is true that I sent the kids seaweed. HOWEVER, I also sent them a LOT of extremely high quality expensive organic delicious dark chocolate in many flavors, including orange and mint. Some with almonds. Some were a variety of dark chocolate peanut butter cups so supernaturally tasty that you could possibly see God (or at least Elvis) if you ate more than two in a row. I dare you to find an experience like that at your local grocery. But does my brother mention this blindingly delicious chocolate in his poison-pen holiday letter? No. He informs everyone he knows, including all his relatives (who also happen to be my relatives) that I sent his children seaweed, and nothing but seaweed, for Hanukkah. I am considering writing a rebuttal to my brother’s holiday letter. In it I will point out that my nephew happens to like seaweed snacks as much as I do. If you have never had a Seasnax onion-flavored seaweed snack then put it on your shopping list and slam a refrigerator magnet on that puppy, my friends. (I have it on good authority that the magnet will actually stick to your stainless steel refrigerator if you are lucky enough to have the newest model because IT’S MAGNETIC – brahahahah.) 

When I kvetched (i.e., whined, groveled, complained, wallowed in self-pity; and, in this case, played the Jewish Mom Card) to my brother for mis-portraying my Hanukkah gift, he defended himself (can you believe this?) by saying that he took some literary license for the sake of humor. “It was much funnier to omit the chocolate and say that you just sent seaweed, wasn’t it?” he asked. Unfortunately, I had to agree with him that it is often worth the literary license to go for the humor, but I am really not sure how much I am willing to personally sacrifice for the sake of humor. If 2015 continues in this vein, we could be in for a lot of laughs at my expense. It will take a copious amount of high quality dark chocolate to appease me if this is the case (take heed my malicious brother and children). Excuse me, it just occurred to me that I might be able to discover an important new law of physics if I can attach seaweed to the front of my stainless steel refrigerator with a magnet and I must go experiment.

I googled "seaweed and dark chocolate" and found this photo of a variety of 
dark chocolate with seaweed flakes embedded in it. Yum.