Monthly Archives: March 2012

raising strong girls

I do some in-house private tutoring as well, and one of my students’ parents, who is a doctor, asked me what I thought was the most important factor of raising girls who are strong and make good decisions.

This sounds like something you have to think about for a long time.  But it turns out not.  It was an answer that, for me, was as easy as answering, “What type of food do you like to eat?  What is your favorite color?”

Having strong female friendships.

In addition to being bolstered by awesome 90s Nickelodeon shows and reading books and stuff, it has been, all my life, my strong female friendships that I’ve come to depend on the most.  I had 11 bridesmaids in my wedding, and I don’t regret that.  All of these women, and many more, have affected my life, supported my decision making, and helped me to become the woman I am today.  My friendships with my girlfriends, throughout my entire life, have helped me to have a strong marriage thus far.

Everyone needs to have good role models who they can look up to.  In many ways, they need to have good role models who they can relate to, and say, “Hey, that person looks like me, or has this in common with me, or comes from the same place I do, and that could be me doing those awesome things one day.”

And in girls, no amount of Women’s History Month or whatever can replace having strong, loyal female friends.  I read recently about two women who are going for a full month of no beautification, here at the Naked Face Project.  The older woman involved in the twosome states in her biography that she had a lack of female friends growing up.  She has obviously achieved some success in what she does, but that got me scratching my head.

In the last week or so, I spent a good deal of time with old sorority sisters, and I realized how much I truly missed my girl time.  Nowadays, my friends are all couples, or mostly friends I know via my husband.  Spending time with my girls, two who I’d been roommates with, was invaluable.  It even got me motivated to update this blog right now.  It seems bizarre, but I’d almost forgotten that I have a large group of friends who can relate to so many of the things I feel and do as of right now.

I read an article a few months ago about raising confident girls.  I am addicted to reading comments on many of the articles I read online (although sometimes it’s a useless & infuriating habit), but some obviously frustrated father said, “How do you keep them happy though?”

I felt inclined to respond that it’s not about keeping girls happy.  It’s about making them strong, determined, independent, and resilient to the point where they can make their own decisions and deal with what life hands them.  Happiness is sometimes a by-product, and sometimes not.  The important thing is to make them strong.

There’s a lot more to be said about this, and there’s a lot more to uncover about the subject, but for the moment, I’ll leave it with this.  Girls need strong female friendships to become strong girls.



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the best part about wedding planning

So I enjoy going to weddings.  But not because I’m in love with decor or cake or whatever.  Or because I need to see escort card displays or check out the boutonnieres that others have used.  Or comment on couple’s choices of soup over salad or whatever.

I love seeing my friends.  I love re-connecting with people.  It’s an excuse to celebrate the love that you have, and celebrate the people in your life.  There is so much leading up to it that allows you to do so, and of course, the day is full of that (if you’re doing it correctly).

Well, I say correctly.  For some people, doing it in a courthouse and avoiding all of the mess is correctly.

But living far away from my most core group of friends and family (still), “correctly” to me is celebrating them, and getting to spend time with them all.

There has been so much in our lives lately to divide people.  Ours specifically, and even the world over.  Weddings are one of those occasions created specifically for the unification of people, of families, of communities.

That’s what I miss most about planning my wedding.

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breaking up with cable

I would not have gotten through my parents’ divorce (which essentially extended from 1990 to 1993, with all of the attempted reconciliation, etc.) without cable.  Babysitters’ Club books were another big factor, but let’s be honest.  Reading quietly doesn’t drown out screaming and crying like MTV does.  Or did.  Nowadays all MTV contains is screaming and crying, but that’s another story.

Much of my pop culture obsessions stem from this time, where we moved around a lot, trying to find a place we could settle as a family and be happy – be that idealized four person unit, just like in so many fictional stories (the one that sticks out to me the most is the Berenstein Bears).  But it wasn’t to be found.  My mother saved our lives by eventually leaving my father, more in an emotional and even financial sense than a physical harm one, but the point being that MTV and Nickelodeon got me through it all.

When I was 4th grade, after parent marriage reboot v.3.2, we moved into an apartment that didn’t have cable yet.  And I was distraught.  I had to watch SNICK, the much touted Nickelodeon line-up.  My parents agreed, and hauled us off to my grandparents house every Saturday night for my appointment television.  And to be honest, looking back, Clarissa Explains It All (and later appearances of The Adventures of Pete & Pete) were totally worth it.

Which is why, of all the stupid things I could worry about in the future in regards to having kids, I worry about them not having television that stimulates them.  Because for its imperative role in my development as a kid, I don’t think I could ever go back to having cable at this point.

Yeah.  I broke up with cable after a long relationship.  And not to be flippant about my parents’ divorce, but some of the aspects of my break-up with cable echo their break-up, as well.

The first round of separation came in 2006.  After two years of living with a roommate with a DVR and every station imaginable at the moment (and so many class projects completed with a background of an America’s Next Top Model marathon on Vh1), I was about to go cable free that fall.  And it worked out beautifully.  I was house-sitting for a semester.  I was working like a dog, as well as going to school full time, and writing my undergrad thesis.  Said thesis required a good deal of research on Sonic Youth, who had been one of Clarissa’s favorite bands.  Coincidence?  Your guess.

Cable free Round One was fine.  I was very busy, and living alone, and I’d also bought my first season of Gilmore Girls on DVD.  (Season 4 was by far the weakest, but we’ll get to more about that later.)

That spring, I moved back in with dear ol’ mum and was interning.  And cable was back in the equation.  However, I was able to moderate my useage.  I still watched a good deal of Gilmore Girls on DVD, and was beyond hooked on Vh1’s Charm School.

When I moved away from home and all I’d known, there was more cable, though again, it was mostly movies and lots of Vh1.  However, to this day I’ve still not watched an acclaimed Rock Doc about 1977 in New York City, dubbed “The Coolest Year in Hell.”

Then there came a different massive break-up (this time, in one fell swoop, and including quoting LOTR) and a shake up in my finances.  I let cable go, and was fine.  Again, I was living alone, and at that time there was a huge living room and a record player and lots of dancing to Adam Ant to be had.  It was during that spring of 2008 I also learned how to cook.

I had one more bout with cable in the fall of 2008 when I had moved yet again, but at that point I was just getting depressed.  Too many evenings watching too long blocks of Rock of Love made it easy to break-up with permanently.  The bills piled up too high, and it was time to say goodbye.

Besides, a Season 1 DVD set of 30 Rock gave me much, much more pleasure than a month worth of cable, anyway.  So much that I’ve bought every other season as well – at least, after I got every season of Gilmore Girls.  For awhile it was really easy to buy me Christmas presents.

I guess it’s just a shift in the paradigm.  I’m sure there’s still worthwhile programming on cable that I’m missing, but especially with the no more free network TV deal, I am perfectly fine rebelling from having any TV service at all.  T-storm is a longtime video game addict, and so with his Xbox Live membership we also get the streaming Netflix.


Any TV show you might even want, no commercials, most seasons available.  Although having a lack of Dexter past season 2 on the instant queue really messed me up, and forced me to read spoilers while we waited on discs to come in the mail.  It also forces you to heavily put on the brakes when you hit a slow point in watching a show, as it did for T-storm during Battlestar Galactica at the point where Starbuck starts to have PTSD and go nuts.

Maybe he’ll have hit that point with Breaking Bad and the episode about the fly in the lab.

Either way.  Thus, my break-up with cable extended from 2006 to 2009, and I cannot imagine going back.  No one ever plans on it, but having analyzed my parents’ break-up, the conditions that caused it, and having put my husband through the emotional ringer already, I cannot imagine a time where any future children would need a 4 hour block of music television to get through us breaking up.

At the same time, sad as it may seem, many of my good childhood memories are associated with books & TV, so who would I be to rob my kids of that?

The plan is to wait quite a few years before we test that theory.  For the moment, we’ll be happy with watching selected Twilight Zone episodes during dinner (watching them all in sequence hasn’t been as successful), and continuing to plow our way through How I Met Your Mother, which has enough slapping and Canadian dick jokes to keep us in stitches for another few months.

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paleo vs. vegan (girlfight throwdown edition)

Okay maybe not really.

When you hit about 26, generally speaking, everyone starts to get married. You’ll spend 3-4 years going to weddings, being in weddings, making weekend travel plans, etc.

Then when you hit about 30, one of three things happens to most of the women around you (sometimes more than one of three things):

1) The girls around you who got married start having babies.

2) The couples whose weddings you went to start getting divorced.

3) The other women around you are all, “Hey I’m in my 30s now, I gotta lose some damn weight.”

Actually all three are happening in my social sphere.  We interact a little less with our preggo friends, seeing that obviously they are not able to drink (and many social occasions involve drinking) and what not.  But the social media reminders are still there.  Very, very excited for them.  🙂

Among our most immediate social circle, there’s been the experience of gigantic, socially seismic break-ups and divorces, and that’s made things interesting.  It’s like a custody battle over friendship.  Sheesh.

However, it’s also been interesting.  In true Teens Decade fashion, where pop culture identifies lots of things in a Twilight-esque fashion – you’re either this person’s team or that person’s – it seems that people taking sides of the break-ups have also taken dietary teams.

Thus, we have Team Paleo and Team Vegan.

If you’re not familiar with the Paleo diet, it’s basically where you eat like a caveman.  The best way I’ve seen it explained has been through an infographic (it’s not that I don’t like to read, I just like pictures too, so I LOVE infographics):

Sounds good, right?  And all of our friends that eat this Paleo stuff lose a lot of weight and are all good-looking (always were, just have enhanced their good-looking qualities).

Of course, we were in a candy store the other day (more on that later, and no, not healthy at all), and when we discussed eating worms and crickets (that they have for sale as “candy” there), and we recalled my birthday party almost three years ago, when T-storm ate some of the worms he’d bought at said store and I refused to kiss him after he ate worms.  It made him feel a little rejected, but we were both drunk, it was one of those kinds of things.

Anyway.  Back to the store last Friday night, and an employee comes out and tells us that our grandkids are going to eat bugs like crazy.  “There won’t be enough livestock left on the planet for them to eat hamburgers,” he says.

Later during the weekend, T-storm talks about how he’s read the same thing.  About how many resources it takes to create a pound of beef vs. a pound of “bug meat”.

This is nothing new to me.  I feel like I’ve been researching the Paleo diet a lot lately, just because some of our friends are so enthusiastic and vocal about it (I think, while also drunk, I mentioned briefly at our wedding that the food was not Paleo, maybe meant as a joke?).

But the researching of the veggie-based/vegan diet has been going on for me for nearly 10 years.  I went on a crusade when I was home for a summer in 2003, decided I was giving up all hydrogenated everything, yadda yadda.  I was ovo-laco veggie, and all up on that.  My brief stint as a morning worker at Dunkin Donuts, when my mother insisted on rousing me from bed by saying “Time to make the donuts!”, helped propel my feelings a lot.  It was also then I got really into composting, despite my efforts being somewhat misguided, i.e. throwing a head of broccoli I didn’t eat into a bush.

I had purposely gained weight freshman year of college – like actually.  I felt that I was underweight, and despite having a crazy metabolism all my life and eating like a Gilmore Girl most of it, I wanted my friends to feel better and stop saying “You’re so skinny, you don’t understand.”

Oh, the many misguided efforts of youth.  All of my friends who said to me, “You’re so skinny, you don’t understand,” have now later on made impressive weight-losing efforts and look (and probably feel) a hell of a lot better than I do.

I lost a lot of it when I was a vegetarian, mostly because I hadn’t informed myself as to what was good for me to eat, so I didn’t eat much.  Lots of veggie burgers, Easy Mac, and potatoes.  My tastes were less sophisticated, I didn’t know how to cook, and my resources were limited.   I began to eat fish again in 2006, and gained a good deal of weight back.  My mother is convinced that I started eating fried shrimp and fish again, thus the weight gain.  I also drank a whole lot more that summer than ever before.

In 2007, when the full-time work began, which meant shorter overall days, but way fewer opportunities to walk across campus and get a baked potato from Wendy’s, I began to cheat and go to Checkers after a day full of not eating at work and eat a fried chicken sandwich and those donut-like crazy fries they have.

Surely that’s the least healthiest I’ve ever been.

I gave up the ghost and decided to start full-on, admittedly eating poultry again in 2009, and got to fully appreciate T-storm’s cooking when we first met a few months into the year.  Nowadays, I eat bacon on weekends.  Only.

So what do I call myself?  No one is actually just a vegetarian anymore, as it’s always something more specific.  Or maybe we live in the grown-up world now and no one cares.  Or maybe it’s 2012 and there are way more options out there.

The problem with diets or “lifestyle eating” in the grow-up world is that everything is like a religion.  And like many religions, there are so many overlaps between the Paleo and Vegan diets.

1) In their most pure forms, they eschew processed stuff, and think that you should go for more whole foods.  Also, many of their dietary requirements force you to shop at Whole Foods.

2) Mostly speaking, they dislike gluten.  At our wedding, we had vegan, gluten-free cupcakes (as we know a couple of vegans, my college roommate has a wheat allergy, and my now sister-in-law has Celiac’s disease).  We were told that for at least this cupcake maker, gluten-free meant vegan.  This is not always 100% true, but I think that new veganism kind of makes friends with the gluten-free ideal.

3) Both keep asking you to give up new stuff.  Every day there’s something new we’re supposed to give up.  First it’s gluten, then it’s all sugars, and some people even say that fruit is bad for you?!  Huh!??!

4) Both of these diets do keep throwing things in your face, that IT’S SCIENCE!  LOOK AT THESE REFERENCES!  But on either side of the operation, I don’t really buy it.  It sounds like blog-science to me.

5) As most religions go, it’s two different paths to the same goal.  People want good health and to be aware of what they put in their bodies.

In essence, Paleo is animal & plant based diet.  And Vegan is solely plant-based.  I read somewhere that said Paleo diet didn’t include beans, which sounds insane (and un-doable for me).  That may or may not be true.  The Paleo diet smacks a little bit of the “next new thing”, where veganism may be so 10 years ago, but both are indeed similar sides of one issue.  And people seem to split up into teams.

So which team am I on?


Both dietary ideas have positive qualities.  If I decide to make fried chicken, I might try the “paleo” recipe.  Thank you again, Pinterest.  One of our most vocal Paleo friends makes these little cakes with molasses, and I am craving them right now.  I have cookie recipes that are gluten-free (mostly for family-centric holidays, when we see the Celiac sis-in-law, who is otherwise stuck in a lab finishing her Ph.D.).  And I love veggies.  I really love a lot of vegetarian foods.

On our honeymoon in Montreal, the food I craved most intensely upon departure was this vegan sandwich I’d had in this little dirty looking retro hipster sustainable place.  Whatevs dude.  That was the best sandwich I’d had in a long time, and I still want it as I’m typing.

But on the same token, I’ll gladly split a plate of Poutine with my husband, as it was the food item he became obsessed with on the honeymoon.  Even if it’s made with beef gravy (beef being the animal I’ve lost a taste for altogether, and have eaten only a handful of times in the past 11 years).

Some people will chastise others for not picking a religion.  “It’s about being dedicated to one thing.”  Whatevs.  But just like I’m willfully agnostic, I’m willfully not of any particular diet.  I’ll be glad to pick the best from each of them.  Take what’s helpful.

And besides, just like I’ll always be a little bit Catholic, even if I never go to church again, never receive Communion, I’ll always have the food religion of my upbringing – my parents are both from Long Island, and thus my mother is a huge snob when it comes to bagels and pizza.  The fact that she grew up, even as the only blond-haired, blue-eyed kid, in Matzapizza, NY* means that you’ll have to pry my thin-crust covered in fresh mozzerella and pesto, as well as my everything bagels with full-fat whipped cream cheese from my cold, dead body.  I’ll gladly train for and run marathons before I give either of those food items up for good.

Finish up with two ideas presented to me over the last decade about eating:

1) I could not possibly cite the article even if I wanted to, but I read somewhere in my early vegetarian research (on a dial-up modem) that no one should eat foods given a certain dogma, but rather eat foods based on what works for your particular diet, and the needs of your body.

2) A friend of mine who actually has a degree in nutrition once said, in her own “Rebel Nutritionist” guides that eating small bits of meat every now and again, and not making it the backbone of your diet is probably sustainable.  Going completely vegan is probably not.

For me, giving up fast foods and sodas is a good start.  On Saturday night, I even denied my husband Drunk Checkers (which is the only acceptable form of Checkers in this day and age).  Luna Bars at work all day and Fage yogurt doubles do nicely.

Oh, and Real Butter is good, too.

*Matzapizza, NY, is not actually a real place. But it might as well be. My mother actually went to high school with Jerry Seinfeld, and the father of Alec and the Baldwin brothers was her high school principal.

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