Wormy Corn: a Delicious Gift

Gusano del Maiz / Corn Worm

Corn Worm (Photo credit: NeoGaboX)

When was the last time you found a worm in your corn?  Recently, while shucking a few ears of local corn, I nearly jumped for joy to find a fat, happy, munching worm in an ear! There’s a story that my father is fond of telling about me, especially in the summer when Americans are smitten with eating  corn on the cob, smothered in butter, salt and pepper. When I was a small girl of some undetermined age but surely younger than 8, I asked my father, in all my childish innocence, “what do you do with the worms?” To which he replied, ” we put them in the gravy!”  That bit of information never deterred me from eating gravy because even at that age I was well aware of my father’s unique and undiminishing sense of humor.

That conversation is at least 42 years old if not more. These days, most people don’t want worms in their corn, soft spots in their fruit, or blemishes on their food. If it’s a little ‘off’ or not as perfect as we’ve been led to believe equals nutritious, then many people throw away perfectly edible food. Business Insider recently reported that Americans waste $165 BILLION in food a year. The Week reports that every American throws away 40% of our food each year. They go on to say that one reason is that we buy too much food and it ‘expires’ before it can be used.  I’ve eaten so much expired food in my life and am still here to tell you about it.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, expires ON the date of the stamped expiration date. Nothing. But I digress. The article also goes on to say that the food we waste the most is….drumroll…..vegetables.  “Not only do vegetables get thrown away when they expire at home, but they also get trashed before they even make it to your refrigerator. In richer nations, edible fruit and vegetables end up in landfills because they are not pretty enough [emphasis mine] to meet a retailer’s standards.”   Not depressed enough yet? Dana Gunders of the National Defenses Resource Council writes,

” Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.”

Give me the UGLY food! Really. Give me the food the insects have marred because I know the food hasn’t been sprayed. And it’s delicious.  Recently, at a local Farmers’ Market, several men who were enjoying a summer day golfing bought peaches, soft, ripe, fragrant peaches.  Within an hour they were back but all I had were dented, soft peaches that were attracting all sorts of curious, hungry insects. I apologized that all I had were these peaches  that were soft, and ugly (hoping I could take them home for myself).  They took most of them, stating, “that’s ok, we know they’ll be good.” I doubt they were disappointed.

Give me the ugly fruit and vegetables. I know they will be delicious. And no, I don’t want to eat food that has been genetically modified to withstand pesticides and herbicides as Monsanto has forced down our gullible gullets. I blame the government, I blame Monsanto and I blame Americans who need to have fast, convenient, sweet, fatty, and perfect foods.

This corn was bought from a family farmer on a street corner in a small rural town. It was the third picking of the day and it was only about noon. It was sweet, delicious and ugly. And I loved it. At a time when I shy away from nearly all corn and corn-products, thanks to GMO corn from Monsanto, I can say, worm and all, this was truly a delicious gift.

So what did I do with the worm? I lovingly carried it out to my chickens, of course! The circle of life.

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Changes & Relationships

The urge to write has been nibbling at my subconscious for weeks now; an insistence that wakes me early in the morning and pulls me out from under warm blankets and the embrace of my husband’s arms. But when I get to my computer, huge mug of coffee in hand, I do a thousand other things that beckon to be completed for our start-up company (creating a logo, designing the website, planning events, etc.) I realize that I haven’t written here in five months. I’ve started, and stopped, rereading words the next day that didn’t seem to be really what I wanted to write about or how I felt and so I hit the delete button. And moved on to other, seemingly more urgent tasks. Today I am answering the call to spend the morning woolgathering about change and relationships.

In November, my lover and I married in a quiet ceremony at the local justice of the peace. We wrote our vows and exchanged rings and smiled the whole time at how lucky we are, lucky to have each other and to be loved unconditionally for the first time in our lives. Afterward, we returned home, smiling and laughing and grateful. Nothing about our commitment to each other changed that day; we were already committed to spending the next 30-40 years of our lives together (you do the math). And yet everything did change because my lover was now my husband, something I absolutely do not take for granted. Like many couples in love, we say “I love you” frequently. However, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank him for loving me; sincere gratitude for the gift of his love ever present in the forefront of my heart and soul. I breathe in his love for me and exhale the nagging self-doubt and negativity of the events of the last two years that as it turned out, brought me right to the very place I need to be. Life is full, simple, beautiful, busy as hell, outrageously funny and overflowing with love.

Over the last several years, we have discovered who our true friends are. I always find it exceptionally challenging to accept betrayal with humility and grace; and I rail against the unfairness of people who make claims to be counted among your friends but who turn out to be nothing but opportunists, taking from you your ideas, your property, your hard work, and sometimes your heart. But life isn’t fair and people are weak; they want easy and often that means betraying a friend because it is too hard to stand up to bullies. We try the best we can to reach people and amend the fractured friendship but at some point we move on, hoping they come to their senses, remember who they are but if the friendship never gets back on track, we move on, secure in the knowledge that a person who truly loves us will never let us go, no matter how hard the situation is.

This past year, at Christmastime, a dear old friend reached out to me; she was in Baltimore visiting her husband’s family before traveling to her home country of Puerto Rico to visit hers. I haven’t seen Maria in nearly eight years; I made a few feeble attempts to reach out to her over those years but she didn’t respond, busy with her career in California, her new marriage, and ultimately her two sons. She found me through this blog and we made a lunch date. I loved every minute of our reunion. I had missed her so terribly and we laughed about the crazy things we’d done, the trips we shared, my amazing story and vowed to keep in touch going forward. I vow to do my part to keep our friendship kindled because it is important to me that we recapture our friendship.

Recently, my youngest brother admonished me for not letting go of my hatred of my ex-husband whom decided in his sick and twisted, bi-polar reasoning, that it was in his best interest to end the marriage and take everything, both marital and my personal property as well as my business, and in my best interest to commit suicide. My brother is smart and had some zany ideas about how I could go about exorcising these demons and killing the ex… in effigy. He’s right, and he’s very smart about this topic. I have a thousand reasons for hating the ex but he doesn’t care that I hate him and as long as I hate him, he remains ‘alive’. And I have a dark cloud in my heart where only love should reside. When people walk away from you, let them go. “Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you…it just means their part in your story is over.” 

I know of an old friend who chose to end her marriage nearly 20 years ago and she has held on to her anger, self-pity and regret for all that time; although she seems more bitter in recent months. Twenty years is a lifetime to remain as unhappy now as she was then. Instead of reaching out in love and friendship, she lashes out and blames others for her unhappiness. It is truly sad because her happiness rests solely in her own hands, in her own grasp. Twenty years is long time to be that miserable. I hope she reads this because I hope she stops looking at the closed door and finds the open window. People change, relationships change, life changes. Fortunately, humans are adaptable, if we allow ourselves to be.


Weddings are My Undoing

My lover and I went to a wedding last weekend. The day was sunny and warm but not dreadfully hot; the backdrop was the beach, with waves crashing in the background and guests kicking off sandals and flip-flops to walk more easily in the sand and soak feet in the afternoon September sun. The bride and groom, friends of ours, were embarking on the beginning of married life for the first time for each of them. They were joyful with anticipation as newlyweds are apt to be, and the groom, with tears in his eyes, beamed more radiant than the bride if you can believe that. She gave him a run for his money though.

I couldn’t hear their heart-felt vows, but the personally written and spoken vows were meant for each other, not for us. We visually witnessed their commitment, rather than heard it. Later, when the reception was well underway, tears streamed down my face the way they so often do these days at weddings. I’m glad I couldn’t hear their vows, or surely, I’d have been sobbing during the ceremony.  It seems that wedding are my undoing, all of my own, as well as everyone else’s.

The tumble of emotions that besets me at weddings is mystifying:  part nostalgia, part melancholy, part grief, and part angst.  I believe in romantic love, and I believe in romantic marriages.  Unfortunately I’ve never experienced a romantic marriage, or any marriage that lasts, but I’m fortunate to be in a romantic relationship with an incredibly romantic man, a rare specimen in my experience.

We’ve been friends for 28 years and, in and out of touch with each other the last 10, and finally reunited in a blaze of devotion over a year ago. I credit him with saving my life last year and I fully blame him for making me happier than I’ve been in a very long time.  Our banter, many times in the middle of the night, is uproariously funny. We entertain each other immensely, we read to each other, we finish each other’s sentences, and we cry together at the sheer beauty and love we experience.  He says we fit like fingers entwined and inseparable: mentally, spiritually and physically. And he’s right.

We have talked about marriage, how it doesn’t last (preaching to the choir here), how it’s just a piece of paper, why wedding rings are stupid if you work with your hands. Intellectually we agree and I see the folly of such an endeavor, but in my heart of hearts, my hopelessly and endlessly romantic self yearns to be his wife, to call him husband, to join our lives legally.  Despite endless failures I believe that marriages can last ‘forever’ if both people are committed to feeding and caring for their marriage. My own two brothers have been married to their wives for 13 and 15 years respectively and I’m more than a little envious of them, despite my overwhelming love for them and my two sisters-in-law.

For now, I’ll let my silly little heart take over at weddings, wistfully longing.   Fortunately, there aren’t any more weddings in the foreseeable future so all seem safe from my streaming tears.  I am the luckiest woman in the world to be the last love of this wonderful man.  His love fills my days with humor and my nights with passion.  It is enough, truly.

Choices

I have two choices:

1)      To be afraid

2)      To take a chance

I have two choices:

1)      To fret about the future and rail against the
past

2)      To live in the moment

I have two choices:

1)      To push away the man who loves me because I am afraid and doubt my self worth

2)      To allow myself to be loved by him despite all the uncertainties

I have two choices:

1)      To be lonely

2)      To grasp the hand of the man who loves me and hold on tightly, knowing there will be
moments of profound loneliness but also of profound joy

I have two choices:

1)      One will cleave me in two

2)      One will make me whole

I have but one choice.

More Birthday Wisdom

Last weekend I had two interesting conversations about birthdays and age.

The first one was with my ex-husband Rob, who turned 70 earlier this month and who has notoriously and vehemently hated any mention of any birthday since he turned 19. Don’t think for one moment that he hasn’t lived life to its fullest; it’s just to him birthdays mean he’s one more year closer to death. He has always been an outdoorsman, a brilliant professor and an avid martial arts student and teacher. But over the last 5 years, he’s been plagued with health issues ranging from minor to debilitating.

The second conversation about birthdays was with my lover Lee, who turned 60 last weekend and who happened to mention that there have been many birthdays that have passed unacknowledged unless someone sent a birthday card.

Rob called me because he was looking forward to attending Lee’s surprise party but would be unable to due to his latest injury which is either a muscle pull or a hernia.  He told of upcoming vacation plans that would have to be shelved and of how the day before while putting his dogs’ bowls on the floor for breakfast, he collapsed in pain and lay on the floor for half a day until the pain was diminished enough that he could get up. HALF A DAY! I said to him that I was so sorry he was suffering so many physical ailments recently. He replied, “I don’t know why it’s such a surprise, I’m 70 and just waiting to die.” He abruptly ended our call after that.

Unbeknownst to Lee, 40 or so of his family and closest friends gathered together to wish him a Happy Birthday last weekend. He was under the absolute impression that we were attending a dear friend’s military retirement. The surprise was that we were there to celebrate his life- 60 years of laughter, love, pranks, antics and memories.  To say he was emotionally moved is trite and an understatement. Seeing ‘his whole life’ in one room was cool and reminded him how lucky he’s been in his life to have such caring and wonderful people in his life. He was genuinely grateful. And on more than one occasion he’s mentioned that he plans to live for another 30 years. I truly hope so because I plan to walk with him through each of those 30 years.

I love these two men in similar and yet different ways and I have known each of them for 27 years.  Rob’s waiting to die saddens me greatly; a light will truly go out in this world when he dies.  Lee’s planning to live another 30 years fills me joy and hope. Joy that my friend and lover will be making people laugh for a very long time and hope that we will spend those years together living a little and loving a lot.

Happy birthday to two of my favorite men; you mean more than you will ever know. I love you.

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Purple Rose (Blank Background)

Image by Law H8r via Flickr

Among the things I recently found are several boxes of old business cards with my former names listed in bold letters.  I have changed my name five times over the last thirty years, meaning that I have adopted a new moniker on average every 6 years. Oh I can see you raising your eyebrows at the sheer mathematical reality of that statement.

Today many women keep their maiden names throughout their lives regardless of the number of husbands they collect.  Despite that trend, I have happily and eagerly taken the last name of three husbands. The amount of work necessary to change over bank accounts, credit cards, school records, employment records, social security numbers, and driver license numbers never deterred me from this custom.

But the biggest surprise for most people is that I legally changed my first name and eliminated my middle name several years ago.  Born near the end of the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1966), I was given the most popular post-war name of the 1960s – Lisa. Until I changed my name, I spent my entire life answering to Lisa, even though many times, I wasn’t the Lisa being addressed. When my youngest brother married a Lisa, twice the number of Lisas in the same family meant twice the confusion.  In order to discern which Lisa was being addressed or talked about, my mother started using middle initials. If Lisa didn’t feel right to me, imagine after 40-odd years now being asked to answer to Lisa E. It was disconcerting.  Who was this stranger that was now me?

I’ve always had a fascination with names, what they mean, what their origin is, and who has changed names and why. Despite not having children, I own two name books for humans and one name book for pets; I even keep a running list of possible names for my next dog. I wanted a quirky moniker and I was tired of confusion.   It really didn’t take me long to decide on Jaz and I knew immediately that I would spell it with only one Z.

Almost everyone comments that my name is cool, unusual, and interesting. Some inquire whether my parents were flower children and given my age that’s an apt question but no, my parents were far from the hippie crowds of the 60s. My name has nothing to do with jazz music and it isn’t short for Jasmine, Jazmine,  Jazmin or any other spelling of such name.  It’s just Jaz. It’s unique and feels like who I think I am. My devoutly Catholic family has taken three marriages and three divorces in stride but was obviously bewildered by my changing my given name.  I appreciate the fact that my parents carefully and lovingly chose a name for me at my birth and I understood their displeasure and puzzlement when I changed it.  It’s been over 6 years now and my family rarely, although occasionally, reverts to my natal name.  I love them all the more for their efforts and acceptance.

Now I find myself saddled with an ex-husband’s last name that is distasteful.  It is neither a last name I’m proud of nor one with which I want to be associated.   I kept the offending name because I did not have the emotional energy to change my name everywhere when I was granted a divorce from him.  I’ve taken to omitting this last name on return addresses and other sorts of documents if not legally required.  Given my dismal record with the whole marriage thing and the decidedly strong opposition to marriage that my lover has, I doubt I’ll ever get married again.  If I’m wrong about that, I will adopt his last name in an instant.  If I’m right, the name of this rose will be Jaz, just Jaz (or Jazzy to my friends and loved ones.)