The Alternative Turkey Hotline

turkey-dinnerBack before the Google, when people needed a phone number that they didn’t have, they picked up their landline and dialed 4-1-1.

The formal name for this service was “Directory Assistance”, but everyone called it simply “Information”. Need to call the movie theater to find out what movies are playing, but don’t have the number? Just call Information!

Well, one day, when I was in college, sometime in November 1984, I was hanging out day-drinking with my buddies, we had purchased a frozen turkey the day before, but we were grappling with the fact that not one among us had any idea how to prepare and roast the thing.

In my drunkenness, I joked that we should call Information and ask. After all, it’s called “Information”, not, more narrowly, “Phone Information”. (These things are always funnier when you are intoxicated.)

Anyway, my joke was immediately met with an uproar of approval and insistence, and, before I could protest, the phone was passed to me, 4-1-1 dialed, and I was on the phone with some gal from who knows where.

Much to my surprise, rather than being met with massive annoyance and summarily hung up on, the operator was delighted and humored me, providing me with her family’s recipe from memory, along with cautions about thawing and a warning not to cook the stuffing inside the turkey.

Anyway, I was reminded of this memory when I saw this tweet today:

I didn’t know about the Butterball hotline back in college, but I’m actually glad that I didn’t. I’ll always fondly remember that directory assistance operator’s act of arguably undeserved kindness.

Just as I’ll always fondly remember this scene from The West Wing:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Santa As A Role Model: The Dark Side

santa-clauseSo, there’s this Christmas movie starring Tim Allen called The Santa Clause, wherein Santa falls off of Tim Allen’s roof on Christmas Eve, he dies, his body vanishes, leaving behind the empty Santa suit, Allen’s son convinces him to put the suit on and fill in for Santa that night, only, by doing so, he unknowingly enters into a contract to permanently become the next Santa.

The next morning, Allen believes it had all been a dream, but very quickly his body starts transforming, he gains weight at an alarming rate, his hair turns white, and however often he tries to shave, the beard grows back, voluminously, overnight.

The movie is described as a comedy, but let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing funny when you, yourself, start transforming into Santa.

See, since Thanksgiving, I have been off the wagon of my low-carb diet, a grain-free and sugar-free regimen that has worked really well for me, effectively controlling my weight and reducing inflammation, keeping me energetic, healthy, and happy.

As a result of this lapse, and with ubiquitous, seductive, and decadent holiday foods everywhere I turn lately, um, let’s just say that I have put on some pounds.

Then, because I completely spaced out and didn’t participate in No-Shave November — the goal of which is to grow cancer awareness by not shaving or cutting hair, because cancer patients often lose their hair during treatment — I stopped shaving right before December 1st, figuring better late than never, and within days I remembered one of the reasons why I do shave: my facial hair is mostly grey/white now, and I look MUCH older with facial hair.

So…

Getting Pudgy + Grey/White Beard = Yikes!!!

Now, why can’t I just think of what a wonderful, generous, happy guy Santa is and enjoy the emerging resemblance? Why can’t I just emulate his Ho, Ho, Ho!!! attitude?

Well, at 52 years of age, I am face-to-face with the challenges of aging, aware that my physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing depend, more than ever before, on taking good care of the only body I will ever have, and sustaining a youthful attitude.

Yet, when I look in a full length mirror right now, particularly if I’m naked (my apologies for the visual), I’m clearly failing on both of those fronts.

Truth is, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see this coming!

I grew up watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town every year on television, wherein, in less than an hour, this strapping, fit young man…

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town-skinny

…balloons into this quadruple bypass waiting to happen:

santa-fat

That’s the subliminal setup for where I’m at right now!

Fictional Santa will of course continue enjoying the gift of immortality on a diet of milk, cookies, and egg nog, but it’s not really gonna work out so well for us mere mortals.

So please, for your own sake, don’t take after Santa.

Thanks, giving

givingWelcome to the Thanksgiving Infinite Feedback Loop!

Try googling “thanks, giving,” and you’ll find that Google doesn’t know what to do with it:

Showing results for thanksgiving
Search instead for thanks, giving

Click on “Search instead for thanks, giving” and Google asks:

Did you mean: thanksgiving

Um, no, I didn’t mean “thanksgiving,” and the 353,000,000 results you provided — on the history of the holiday, recipes, crafting ideas, NFL football game schedule, etc. — based on my “thanks, giving” query were not what I was looking for.

Switch over to Google Images with the same query and a similar thing happens. Google can’t conceive of any reason why those two words, separated by a comma, shouldn’t be answered by anything other than turkeys, live turkeys, dead and roasted turkeys, cartoon turkeys both alive and dead, turkeys wearing pilgrim clothing, pumpkins, fall foliage, and an infinite number of greeting card-esque platitudes.

But, I did find a way out of the Thanksgiving Infinite Feedback Loop.

Type in “put the giving in thanksgiving” — because, you know, humans love humorous puns, like “he put the fun in dysfunctional” — and with it Google finds all kinds of well-intentioned content on the interwebs titled Put the Giving in Thanksgiving.

There’s been volumes and volumes written on the virtues of gratitude, and there is a LOT of merit and a time and place for the practice of thankfulness.

But, on this Thanksgiving Eve I feel compelled by some awful stuff happening in the world to focus on the second word in the compound word that is Thanksgiving.

Just a few examples:

  • I’ve donated some money to my Native American brothers and sisters to aid in their fight for their rights and our planet at Standing Rock, and I plan to donate more.
  • My band, Sleepy Alligators, will be playing at the local #GivingTuesday event, raising money for the food bank and two youth summer camps.
  • Rather than stressing over all the work involved in hosting and cooking a Thanksgiving meal for our 12 guests, I have reframed it as an act of giving.

It feels good!

If you can, please consider giving as well.

It might be cliché, but it is true: every little bit helps.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy 2015: Defending Resolutions

New-Year-resolutions-30000Have you noticed that New Year’s resolutions are getting a REALLY bad rap?

Around this time last year, many media outlets reported on findings from University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology that only 8% of Americans achieve their resolutions.

Time.com contributor Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, a couple of days ago, while referencing the Journal of Clinical Psychology stats, went so far as to claim that New Year’s resolutions are actually bad for you!

When you tie your behavioral change to a specific date, you rob yourself of an opportunity to fail and recover, to “fail better.” If you believe that you can only change on the New Year — the inherent message of New Year’s resolutions — you will have to wait a whole year before you get another shot…

She also quotes Steve Salerno, author of Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless:

My concern is that the resolution takes the place of the action, as is also true with so many millions of people who sign up for an endless succession of self-help programs: They think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices.”

I’m sorry, I just don’t see the making of resolutions and “real transformational work” as being mutually exclusive, and yet Salerno and Lamb-Shapiro base their entire argument on this being the case.

Read carefully, it seems to me that Lamb-Shapiro’s piece doesn’t actually support the sensationalist claim that resolutions are bad for you, as much as it points out that it’s how you go after trying to achieve your resolutions that matters the most.

It’s self-serving — they both have written books criticizing the so-called self-help industry — and deeply cynical.

Ironically, Lamb-Shapiro concludes, sounding just like the self-help gurus she holds in such contempt:

Here’s a better idea. Instead of listing an abstract goal like “lose weight,” think of specific small steps you can take, every day, that will have the same result. If you fail at any of these small steps — which you inevitably will — brush it off, and realize that failure and recovery is part of any process.

I believe that it is an inherently good thing that people live intentionally, set goals, and work toward personal growth, and it’s even a deeply optimistic thing that people continue to make resolutions despite an 8% success rate.

So, great ideas, Jessica! Very helpful! Thanks for giving me a better chance of achieving my New Year’s resolutions!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Out Of Office: 2014-2015 Holiday Edition

Winter-Season-With-Happy-Holiday-I know, selfish, right?

I finally return to blogging after a year and a half break, and less than a month later I go on vacation?!

Sorry, folks.

I’ll be with the family, celebrating the holiday that isn’t Hanukkah, for the next few days, and I may not be able to post anything new until the 28th or 29th.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!

Video Fridays: Hanukkah Edition

Well, I’m barely keeping my head above the water right now, what with my interfaith family and I simultaneously partaking of both Hanukkah and Christmastime.

So, for today’s Video Fridays installment, I only really have time to post a video and run.

Without further ado, here it is, the best.Hanukkah.video.ever!

WARNING: The following contains profanity. Please DO NOT watch if you are easily offended.

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Hanukkah: The Festival of Oily Food

hanukkah-miracleSo, that right there, via NPR.org’s Sandwich Monday series, is Dan Pashman‘s contribution: the Hanukkah Miracle.

It seems appropriate to share this, as tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights, although I do so with the following disclaimer:

WARNING: This post, if the above photo hasn’t already done so, may induce the following side effects: learning, laughter, salivation, craving, hunger, or, depending on one’s personal dietary inclinations, disgust, nausea, projectile vomiting.

As Dan explains:

Hanukkah celebrates a miracle at the ancient Temple on a night when the Jews thought they had only enough oil to light the candles for that one evening. To their delight, the oil lasted eight miraculous nights, and that’s why foods cooked in oil are a common part of the Hanukkah observance…

American Jews eat fried potato pancakes (latkes), but in Israel, Jews celebrate with a different oily, fried food — doughnuts. I’ve brought these two customs together to create a new sandwich: the Hanukkah Miracle.

Here’s how you make it: Slice a glazed yeast doughnut in half and fry it in butter. Flip it inside out, spread sour cream on the bottom and applesauce on the top, and insert a potato pancake. (You want the sour cream closer to your tongue to accentuate its flavor.)

Now, I grew up in a latke household, and what Mr. Pashman doesn’t explain is that latkes are usually served with applesauce and sour cream. And, while I LOVE this, to some, bizarre combination of ingredients, the thought of stuffing those three elements between a glazed doughnut that has been fried in butter…

…yeah, here comes the nausea.

I do recommend you check out Dan’s piece at NPR.org, although with one more warning: it contains a graphic photo depicting his 4-year old daughter consuming the Hanukkah Miracle.