Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Saying Goodbye

You grow up thinking your parents are indestructible. My mom has always been the rock of the family. And Pops? Well he could handle anything that came our way. Looking back on my childhood, I suppose Dad wasn’t quite as handy as I thought. The tools in the garage may have always gotten used, but the cars often dripped some kind of fluid. We may have picked out our own Christmas tree from atop the mountain, but there was often a trip to the hospital and stitches involved. The patio and yard walls may have gotten built, but they often leaned a bit. And the roof may have gotten re-shingled in the middle of summer, but there were many bent nails along the way.

This isn’t some flowery tribute to a perfectly flawed man. I remember having family barbeques and guests gushing to me about how lucky I was to have such a sweet father with an amazing sense of humor; it made me gag. I barely remember him ever even speaking to me as a kid and he certainly wasn’t cracking jokes at breakfast. The only time he acknowledged my existence was when he was yelling about something I may or may not have done. He would come home from work and we’d do our best to disappear while he sat in his chair, reading his newspaper, and nodding off until dinner. The same nonsense would occur after dinner, unless one of us caused a commotion that interrupted his snoring. He and mom sacrificed so much for us kids that attention for each other just took a back seat.

After his retirement, I saw a different side of my father. The endearing, goofy guy that others knew all along finally showed himself to the family. His craftiness was spent on his children’s homes and his eyes glistened as he played with his grandchildren. He had a different pair of suspenders for every day of the week and he basked in our teasing of his ensemble. Time spent in his chair with the newspaper became interactive as he would shout out crossword clues that had him stumped. He still wasn’t perfect and often drove me nuts, but I got to know the man who gave me life and I enjoyed his company.

I am thankful for the “no-nonsense”, “get your hands dirty” character my father instilled in me. There were a lot of life lessons he taught me, both through conscious effort and his actions. Heck, you may have to hold the handle down, but I fixed that damn toilet myself! And the fire extinguisher was on standby as I replaced all the light fixtures in my house, but they look darn pretty! Despite being the baby of the family, I spent many years observing and mimicking independence and strength; my greatest asset and perhaps my biggest downfall.

My dad passed away this holiday season, quickly and relatively quietly. He wasn’t angry or miserable. His aging body was beginning to take hold and I think it was a good time for him to pass on to the next life. Some of my family and friends have expressed concern over my reaction, and some will likely be upset that I’ve turned to an online outlet. But dad was one of my first subscribers to this blog and, while I haven’t posted often, I suppose it’s been our way of keeping in touch. I know Pops was proud of his growing family; he never hesitated to express his pride in me. And perhaps that’s all I really needed from my father. I’m thankful I can say goodbye and remember him now with a fond smile and a glistening eye.

From the Shelf

I’ve wanted to get back into writing lately, but don’t want to just babble about food and that seems to be consuming a bit of my life at this point. Alternatively, I checked out the pre-blog archives and decided to put  a couple of them out here for inspiration.

Dear Diary –
So we’re having this discussion in class the other night about discrimination and a girl starts giving her point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I believe she had the best of intentions, but she says “… I just look at a homeless person or someone in a mental hospital and think ‘in a flash something could happen and that could be me’… I could be the one on the other side.” In just that moment I realized how ingrained prejudice is in our society. 
You see, even in a most sincere thought, a line is drawn… the good side and the bad side… the normal and the damaged… us and them. We fight for acceptance, we compete for success, we compare ourselves to one another, and yet somehow we all view ourselves on the better side… whether it’s because we’re more financially successful or we have higher morals than those that are, we’re always on the better side.
There’s a fine line between empathy for the situation and pity for the person. When asked what he’d do if he had the chance to get out of his wheelchair and walk away, Murderball star and quad-rugby olympic athlete, Mark Zupan, said he wouldn’t take it. That response seems so shocking at first, but why? The wheelchair is part of his life and he loves his life! We should all be so proud of who we are and what we’ve become without judging others for not achieving the same.
One year I was asked to go back to my high school and be a guest speaker on Broadcasting for career day and I laughed. I was unemployed in my field and anything but a role-model. Honestly, I love the experiences I’ve had in my life, but I wouldn’t wish it on some poor, unsuspecting teen. But why not speak to them about making choices and not being afraid to take chances to find your way? I don’t know if I made an impact, not that you could ever quantify such a thing, but I’m glad I didn’t run away simply because I didn’t “measure up” to whatever imaginary scale I’ve designed in my mind.
I’d like to challenge everyone (including myself) to change the mindset; we’re all individuals. I know it sounds so simple, but how often are we told to view everyone the same? “Don’t treat anyone differently”… screw that! There is no normal, there is no perfection, and we are all striving to find happiness; the happiness may actually be found in our own individuality. Let’s celebrate it within ourselves as well as others! 

*soapbox dismounted* (by the way, Suki gave me a 4.3 on that dismount, but I refuse to acknowledge her judgment of me)

Open Eyes

I took a quick road trip to my hometown this weekend. I drove right past the crowds and the news vans and the roadside memorials, choosing not to make this trip about the sensational tragedy that took place last week. Instead, I spent hours reconnecting with my best friend from kindergarten. She’s my “be fri” and I’m her “st ends”, as evidenced by the corny, broken-heart necklaces we both still have from grade school. We talked about work, life, love, and our lack of appreciation for what’s right in front of our faces in this never-ending quest for happiness.

As I departed I looked out at the beautiful desert, reminded of the days when we learned to make prickly pear jelly and dried fruit leather out on the porch. I drove past my elementary school where my first and only screenplay was acted out in front of the whole assembly by the cool, older sixth-graders. As I went by my junior high I wondered if the mural still hung in the library, and my mind wandered to those mornings when I got out of class to help paint it with my first major crush. I giggled again like a schoolgirl as I envisioned him painting his “autograph” on my cutoff jeans; I don’t think I ever washed those.

Why is it that so often it takes a terrible act to force us to take stock of our lives? I’m not claiming to be happy or to have found the meaning of life, I’ve been the textbook definition of alone since birth, I’m overweight, sick of the city, and unsatisfied with a typical 9-5 job. But today I’m surrounded by amazing people, I have experiences of which others only dream, and if I can just remember to see the beauty in each and every day, I might just make the world a better place.

On the drive back across the desert, I passed by an orchard I’ve seen a million times. I pulled over and truly saw it for the first…

Taste of the Nation Arizona

There are a several facets of my life that stay relatively separate: my family, my work, my friendships, my business, etc. Each piece is very important to me and each helps me to grow, but I often (selfishly) keep them separate, so I always have an escape. Because of this, there are a lot of very important people in my life that never fully understand me. I share stories and they try to relate, but that’s usually where it ends.

There’s a common philosophy that food and wine bring people together. I’ll be the first to attest that a bottle of my favorite wine cracked open in my empty house is little to get excited about; it usually just tastes like… wine. But take that same bottle to a dinner party, or a picnic by the creek, or share it on a romantic night and it turns into something spectacular! Some of you are nodding your heads right now and recalling wonderful memories, but others will think I’m totally exaggerating and blow off the concept. It’s not that you haven’t had a great meal or tasted a great wine, it’s just that you haven’t consciously opened up your senses to work in harmony.

Last Sunday evening several of my worlds collided and I had the opportunity to share this concept with a dear friend (we’ll dub her AB). The event was Taste of the Nation at Sanctuary Resort, a gathering of 11 chefs to prepare menus from cities around the country, all in an effort to curb childhood hunger. The evening started with a cocktail contest, where AB and I sampled various concoctions to sufficiently warm things up. Terrific cheeses were also provided by MouCo and shrimp skewers from the Herb Box. Having the opportunity to introduce AB to several of my foodie friends in an active environment, where no one was forced to make awkward small talk, was great.

It was time to be seated for dinner. Now, I must confess we were skeptical about our table assignment, as Kansas City was the locale, we were told the main features were BBQ & bourbon (neither of which excite me), and Cafe ZuZu was in charge of the cooking (I hadn’t ever tasted any of their cuisine). Shame on me for doubting the powers that be (you know who you are), as each course was incredibly delectable. The first course was a barbeque-glazed lobster over corn grits with a buttery sauce to accentuate the decadence of the dish. And it was presented in a damn cool dish too (I want a set of those!). A crisp Pinot Gris helped to cut the richness of flavors and it all went down way too easily.

The second course included a spare rib with a bourbon barbeque sauce (my apologies for the half-eaten picture, I just couldn’t wait). The meat practically fell off the bone and the sauce was sweet with a little spice, but carefully avoided overpowering the rib. On the opposite side, pork belly… I’ve never met a pork belly I didn’t like. Even the slaw in the center was tasty (and I’ve always hated slaw). Not being a bourbon girl, I had a hard time with the fig cocktail, but I was getting pretty toasty by now anyway.

I think it was at this point that AB completely shocked me. She’s always a finicky eater, needing to know every little thing that’s on her plate while having multiple dipping sauces available at all times. I watched as she cleared her plate and said she was, without a doubt, going to be visiting Cafe ZuZu in the near future.

By course 3 we were completely spoiled. Potato fingerlings with petite green beans, microgreens, lardons, and a quail egg. That’s right, what’s a salad without bacon, eggs, and potatoes? This was a great pairing with the light Pinot Noir. I mentioned such and AB said “see, that I don’t know. The wine is good and the food is great, but I have no idea if they go together?” This is when the night was taken to a new level and more of my worlds collided. “It’s not as complicated as some make it out to be,” I said, “take a drink of water and then a sip of wine.” She complied followed by a nod. “Now take a bite of the bacon and a sip of the wine.” Her eyes grew wide and she said “wow, it just like amplified the flavor of the bacon!” My job here is done.

When you didn’t think it could get any more meat-alicious, course 4 was presented. Short ribs and “brownies” (aka burnt ends). What you probably can’t tell from the picture is that there are razz cherries and garlic cloves that have been soaked in some mystery wine sauce atop the burnt ends (let that sink in for a minute). I cannot begin to describe the amazing flavors, but if you hear that chef Sean Currid has disappeared, it’s likely because someone has kidnapped him to recreate this amazing recipe.

How can you bring a meal like that to a close? Well, you can’t. But you can try with an almond apple tart, salted caramel ice cream, and a dessert wine that might as well be bottled for syrup.

Was it a beautiful venue? Indeed. Decadent food? Without a doubt. Tasty drinks? Yes. Intriguing people-watching? Sure. All for a good cause? Absolutely. Would I have enjoyed it half as much without my dear friend? Not a chance. We lowered the top on the convertible, soaking up the cool night air and moonlight as we bonded about boys on the drive home… it was a good night… scratch that, it was a great night.

Thanks so much to everyone that helped organize the event! And to Sean Currid and his team from Cafe ZuZu and Hotel Valley Ho, you rocked the evening.

Just a drop

I love the rain. Perhaps it’s just a freak thing about having grown up in the desert, but nothing energizes me more than rainfall. As I sit alone in my contemplation, with monsoon storms building around me, I can’t resist the urge to turn my attention toward the raindrop…

One solitary drop, making an amazing journey from the sky. As it soars through the air, completely vulnerable and exposed, its beauty glistens in whatever remaining light may be found. Hoping not to be part of a storm of destruction, but knowing only few can be part of a rainbow, this is perhaps the most thrilling time for all. Just when the possibilities seem endless, it smashes into the surface of reality and breaks into a million molecules.

Not to be swayed by the harshness of the land, the molecules penetrate in the most unobtrusive manner, until it’s safe to reunite and rebuild. The drop continues to travel through layers of dirt and around obstacles of rock, seeking to bond with others. At some point the drop finds the main stream and goes with the flow, but this state cannot contain it for long. It breaks apart to find its own path and searches for more. After moments of both unity and loneliness, the drop finally serves its ultimate purpose: to support life in the simplest form. Such a brief moment could easily be overlooked, but it has attained fulfillment of which has never been dreamed.

Upon finding true meaning for its existence, the drop disseminates into the atmosphere in anticipation of doing it all over again.

Puma Prowl

Jack’s sense of restlessness has been temporarily silenced. Some of you may have heard bits and pieces about an unofficial inaugural event called the Puma Prowl that occurred on Tuesday May 25, 2010. Mark that day in the history books, as it is likely to start a revolution. Alright, maybe that’s overselling it a bit, but it certainly felt like more than your usual girls night out.

The concept can be credited back to a few male Twitter personalities, @JuxtaPalate, @AZHotDish, and @EricEatsOut who came up with the brilliant idea to meet up for a dine-around to the local establishments that attract the “douchebag” element; dubbed Scene Cuisine. The night appeared to be a bit of a bust, with a lack of a scene at any of the chosen spots. Not to be left out, the single(ish) female Twitter foodie community decided to mock the stereotypical Scottsdale cougar crowd and plan a Puma Prowl around local establishments.

It was discussed that we would all wear some kind of animal print and do this up right in impersonating the native cougars, but apparently some pumas tried to hold on to their pride (pun intended). Needless to say, I showed up with my chest popping out of a jungle-print top, all bejeweled in pearls and stood out as a complete eye-sore… but I can take it! We chose RnR in Old Town Scottsdale as our first stop and hadn’t made the connection that anywhere with TVs would be PACKED for the Suns playoff game, but we temporarily commandeered a reserved table and at least got one round of drinks in us. Mine was a Chambord margarita and, at happy hour price, was quite a tasty deal. After a bit of an annoyance with the bill (RnR boasted happy hour all day with a secret word, but you apparently only got the happy hour prices if you specifically asked for them… repeatedly), we decided some eats were in order and headed to The Mission.

I’m a newbie to this whole foodie thing and had only previously tasted one thing from The Mission, the Almejas al Vapor (Peruvian clam stew w/rock shrimp, chorizo, pan de yucca, aji amarillo, & roasted corn). One word: STELLAR. It lived up to the memory, and went very well with the avocado margarita and chips and guacamole (just trust me). Unfortunately, I’m horrible at names after a few margs, but the folks at The Mission treated us incredibly well and even brought out a beautiful tower of shots made with pineapple, Malibu, and Midori(?) that we aptly named the Bomb Paparazzi, as we made a total spectacle of the event with flashes from our cell phone cameras.

After departing, we hit the Rusty Spur Saloon with some hesitation. We stood at the door of the tiny establishment expressing our uneasiness as the owner came out to coax us inside. Live music and a desire for more shots allowed the owner to win this battle and we were delighted to see that the male vocals of the duet were coming from behind the bar! Indeed, the bartender was slinging drinks with one hand and masterfully dominating a mic with the other. After being called out and having to explain to the entire establishment that we were on a Puma Prowl (with pleasure), the owner showered us with schwag appropriate for the occasion; thongs and condoms.

Following many fun antics with the gifts and crowd at the Spur, we returned to RnR for parting cocktails. Astonishingly, live music had started from the Wilkins Duo and one of them recognized us from earlier in the evening, chiming into the mic “hey, the ladies are back!” They were quite entertaining and we all shared a bottle of bubbly to top off the night.

Above is a general recap of the night’s events, but I haven’t yet addressed my fellow pumi (don’t hammer me for the improper plural, it just sounds more fun). I had a lot of hesitation about attending, as I only know a few of them through previous events; the night could have easily become dominated by ridiculously competitive and catty attitudes. However, we created an incredibly comfortable and naturally social environment that, from my perception, was totally genuine. Not by design, but rather by coincidence, all these fabulous women are in marketing and/or have taken the plunge to start their own businesses. I think this played a big part in making this event a success. Everyone seemed to be incredibly confident and mature, while embracing the immaturity of the evening. This truly wasn’t just another night of chasing guys and talkin’ schmack, we’ve reinvented the typical “girls night out” into a little thing we call Puma Prowl.

A huge THANK YOU to @PetitFromageAZ @DiyaMarketing @CiaoMari @Dragonflytweet @Noshtopia and @SherilynMclain for including me in the fun and cheers to future gatherings!

Memorable quotes from the evening:

  • “Nobody puts Puma Prowl in the corner!”
  • “I like it cause it has protein in it.”
  • “Do you need a big kitchen to do it in?”
  • “Wow! Can I take a picture of your cleavage?”
  • “That would leave a sour taste in my mouth… and my uterus.”
  • “No jackrabbits, please!”
  • “What happens at The Spur stays at The Spur.”
  • “Grab your panties, ladies. Let’s go!”

Case of the Mondays

After a beautiful and relaxing weekend, I find myself with a case of the Mondays. Getting ready this morning, while gargling, my mouthwash forms a giant bubble that pops and splashes in my eye. “It burns, IT BURNS!!!!” As I’m floundering through the cabinet looking for eye drops, I can’t help but have a Fight Club moment:

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. This is your life.”

I am Jack’s sense of restlessness.

Time to Reset Expectations

I stay out of political discussions and I’m not even going to comment on the immigration controversy, but lately I’ve made some observations about the Arizona police force that have raised questions about priorities. These observations are general in nature; I don’t wish to single out Scottsdale or Phoenix or Paradise Valley, but rather encourage everyone to do their part in resetting expectations of those that vow to “protect and serve.”

Observation #1: I’m on my way to work and a guy in the lane next to me is swaying between lanes while entering the freeway. After merging on at an incredulous 45 MPH, he leaves his left turn signal blinking while still straddling the lane lines. He continued along this pace with such erratic behavior that everyone around either slowed to keep their distance or sped past at least two lanes away. Not far ahead there was a friendly police office perched atop an overpass with his radar gun directed at everyone speeding by. Was there any effort made to pull over the hazardous driver that was likely to take out everyone in rush hour traffic? Absolutely not, collecting fines for speeding is much more important to the bottom line. 

Observation #2: I’m driving home and there are two cars pulled over in the carpool lane. By the looks of the drivers that were huddled by the concrete wall, they had either been in an accident or one was a disabled vehicle and the other was there to assist. As I passed by and thought “how dangerous to be stuck in the middle of a busy freeway during rush hour,” a cop drove by in the lane next to me. Again, any effort made to assist these stranded motorists? Not that I could tell.

Observation #3: Now this occurs all the time, but it just so happens all three of these observations were made within 3 days. As I’m chugging along on my way home I notice that traffic is moving surprisingly slow. I check all my mirrors and realize it’s because a cop is driving down the carpool lane with his lights on. Now I’m trying to remember if we’re required to pull to the side of the road and stop on an actual freeway, or is that just surface streets? I don’t hear a siren, but the lights are clearly flashing, I wonder who he’s pulling over? As everyone slows and gets out of his way for fear that they’re the next to get a ticket, the guy speeds right along and cuts across 3 lanes of traffic. Wow, there must be something going on, but why no siren? Oh wait, he finds his exit, shuts off his lights, and goes along on his merry way.

Now I’m not trying to bash our police force, I’ve known plenty of cops that have made incredible sacrifices. That being said, I feel these observations are a reflection on our society.  Perhaps we’ve become such a consumer-based culture that collecting funding through speeding tickets is more important than a possible safety risk. The well-being of our neighbor is clearly only their concern. An environment where nothing is wrong as long as we can get away with it. Perhaps it’s time to reset expectations, not only of our police force, but of ourselves.

She Ra

On this sleepless night my mind is preoccupied with the dwindling time before my big sister deploys to Iraq. I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without it becoming a reality, perhaps a combination of luck and the perception of her indestructibility.

You see, I grew up the youngest in a very large family and she was like a surrogate parent; mom and dad were busy just putting food on the table, ensuring our education, and getting us all to church every Sunday. When the other siblings viewed me as a nuisance, she strapped me into the seat on the back of her bike and hauled me around everywhere they went. When they’d all go out in the desert with bows and arrows and she found I didn’t have the strength to even hit a target, she went to the swap meet and bought a little 25lb fiberglass bow, fixing it up just for me. She cured any fear of reptiles by sitting me down at the neighbor’s house and allowing me to spend hours playing with his baby snakes. She taught me how to drive both automatic and standard by the time I was 12, requiring me to stop on a hill and start back up without rolling backward. She took me to the shooting range and showed me how to handle various guns. And she even took me out dancing to my first bar when I was 14.

I’ve always viewed my sister as She Ra; the only woman who can fix a car, scale a mountain, cry at the beauty of a waterfall, slaughter a deer, and have a great meal on the table… all in a day’s work. She has no patience for pettiness and would be flabbergasted if she were ever forced to watch a minute of “reality” TV. When we shared a room growing up, she’d put ABBA Gold on the record player until I fell fast asleep with visions of dancing queens in my head. But tonight I have no such sedative, as soon she’ll be shipping off to a combat zone.

In my current “city life” I hope she doesn’t think I’ve brushed aside what she’s taught me over the years. It all played a formative role in my independence, keeping me grounded, and gives me confidence every day. I have faith that no one is more prepared than she for this journey. But I must come to terms with the reality that, as a colonel, she has a giant target on her back. I just pray that she doesn’t end up a feather in someone’s cap. There are lots of nieces that are eagerly awaiting her next piggy-back ride or her insightful addition to their tree house, and nephews needing her guidance on how to survive without video games and make it past the breakup with their latest girlfriend. Underneath that uniform she’s still my sister who is fascinated every time she scuba dives, transfixed by the birds while sitting on the porch, roused by a competitive game of ping-pong with her big bro, and entertained while staying up late to do our nails.

Love ya, Giraffener… know that we’re standing right behind you with pride and hope to get you home safe soon.