Thursday, January 27, 2011

The morning routine is not without its pitfalls

Dear Chin--
We've been through a lot together.  You've been around all my life, and in case you're suffering from salicylic acid flashbacks from the 90s, I'd like to remind you that "all my life" is 30 years.  I'm not 16 anymore.  So you can stop with the pissy hormonal breakouts any time.  Go talk to my eyelids.  They seem to think I'm pushing 40, so maybe you could all come to some happy agreement and pretend to be 26 again.  I wouldn't mind that at all.  Just don't talk to my lips.  26 was a traumatizing year for them, what with the Fever Blister Explosion of 2006.  And don't try to beguile me with math and logic and tell me that at age 26 I was actually in my 27th year of life, counting year 0 and all that jazz.  There's no loophole here for you.  You know what I mean and your silly semantics aren't going to work on me.  You've been warned.  Shape up, clear up, or it's back to the Noxema for you!!

Dear Tights--
I am very pleased with your ability to turn my legs some other color than pasty-pale and I want to commend you for the valiant effort you have put up against my weapons-grade toe nails.  I know it's not an easy task to resist the temptation to rip, shred, run and otherwise quit being effective as seamless leg coverings.  Your cousins, the nylons, haven't been able to do it, no matter how often those toes-in-question are trimmed, filed and pedicured.  So kudos to you for standing up to the challenge!  That being said, I think you sometimes take yourselves a little too seriously.  "Tights" is just a name... like "hose."  So when I use the annoying grid on the back of your packaging to pick a pair that's supposed to fit my height & weight, don't be so unyielding as to cause me to commiserate with sausages and armadillos eaten by boa constrictors.  Loosen up a bit.  I promise it won't cause me to lose any respect for you or be a denial of your name.

Dear Burt's Bees--
I am a big fan of your product.  I think you got it right the first time though and can probably stop making a new formula for every trendy health-food that comes out.  I will try each new formula just in case you happen to surpass the greatness of the original so I suppose I'm only fueling the problem, but I'm only buying one because so far your other versions just aren't that great.  Peppermint oil was the kicker and when you remove or hide that behind cloves, pomegranate or acai berry extracts... well, it just sort of ruins it for me.  That original formula is so great that I have two three tubes of it in my purse (in addition to the acai berry and passion fruit varieties), one on my nightstand, one by my computer, one in the bathroom, and my husband has one that he carries at all times too.  So stick with what you do best.  Oh, and bring  the tomato facial toner back to stores.  I miss it. 

Dear M.A.C. --
You tempt me with your delicious smelling, beautifully colored, incredibly comfortable lipsticks and lip glosses.  I already carry around 3 of each with me in my purse, so really, could you give me a break?  I've proclaimed your greatness to the internet at large and even gifted your products to my friends.  The Lace has a pro-card (Thanks to The Yellow One) so you know we'll keep coming back.  Please stop showing me all the amazing colors that I don't own.  I don't have a large enough allowance to purchase all that I desire, nor the storage space in my tiny bathroom to properly display your greatness, so you taunt someone else.  As for your incredible variety of eyeshadow colors... well... just know that someday they will be mine.  Not all of them, because not even I can justify 3 square feet of green eyeshadow, but I will one day own enough colors to feel that I have a suitably representative sample... so maybe just 100 or so.  It's a goal, and a lofty one at that, so be patient with me and stop coming out with limited edition colors that are so perfect or just what I'd been wanting, because I have enough colors to conquer in your regular collection.  Thank you.

Dear Spanx/Assets/Other Spanx-type Products--
I know that you wouldn't have gained such popularity amongst my peers if you didn't have some value and thus a reasonable amount of success.  I happen to fall in that unhappy (if small) segment of the population for which you seem to be able to only do jack and or squat.  I do appreciate your ability to squish my hudge down so that there is an illusion of one-bellyness, instead of the truth: two bellies divided by the Mason-Dixon line of my belly button.  I would appreciate this more if it didn't come at the cost of causing my already Kansas-like rear end to appear even flatter than the Antiplano of southwest Bolivia, which I didn't think possible.  I'm also not really a fan of your supposedly non-binding, non-rolling leg bands that both bisect my not-insubstantial thighs and roll up to very uncomfortable, unmentionable places.  All those things I would gladly endure if any of them were able to take my square hips and make them appealingly round.  I would submit to a flat posterior and misshapen thighs for round hips... at least I think I would.  All in all, I have found your products to be worthless, useless, and disappointing.  I remain ever vigilant for a new product that will hide my hudge, round my hips and leave me with the illusion thighs slightly less lumpy than reality.

Sincerely and with all due respect,

The Bean

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For the love of Brie

Once upon a long ago, I took a field trip with my school* to The Cheese Factory. We toured the facilities** to watch how cheese is made and at the end, you get to taste all the cheese they make. It was fascinating, and I remember going back with my family several times. One of the rooms had the foulest smell, and that's where my brother taught me how to breathe through just my mouth so I didn't have to smell it. Other than the tasting of cheese made just feet away from where I was standing, that's my strongest memory of the place--the smell of the curing room. I don't remember all the kinds of cheese but I do know that this is where I learned to love brie.
I was... 6, maybe 7 years old that first trip. I know I tried brie & camembert. From that moment on, brie was my favorite cheese... but not my favorite in the way of "I only want to eat this cheese forever and ever". That's the kind of favorite that cheddar is, awkward sentence structure aside. Brie is my favorite like a party dress. You don't get to wear it all the time but when you do it's so much better.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to visit the Apothecary Cafe & Wine Bar in Austin where we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday with cheese.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cancer of the something

Many angry four-letter words come to mind when cancer is mentioned. I believe the people who say if you live long enough, you'll probably get cancer of the something. I'm thinking I might wind up with skin cancer on the tip of my left ear. Even though I'm a fan of and consistent user of sunscreen, I often forget my ears, and that is my driving ear, so it sees the most UV rays...

One of my favorite memories of my time at KLKN was a PSA about colon cancer. This very official, dignified looking man in a suit would come on the TV and announce that there was a new test that had been discovered to determine if you were at risk for colon cancer. You just put both of your hands on the small of your back, then slide them down. If you have a butt, you are at risk. See? Everyone is at risk for cancer of the something.

Cancer wasn't even a part of my life 10 years ago. It existed out there somewhere. I knew some people who had it and it was in my family tree but in the vague and forgettable way of being far enough removed from daily life that I didn't think about it much. I still try not to think about it all that often, because who by worrying ever added a day to their life, right? Still, Cancer seems determined to make the headlines of my daily life.

Years ago it made front page news for the first time with my grandma. My grandma, who makes perfect biscuits and always has Cocoa Puffs for me at the house, was fairly invulnerable in my tender young brain. I was in college and still had all four of the grandparents that I was born with so I was unable to cope with the prospect of losing one. Thankfully, I didn't. The doctors caught it early and cut it out. After chemo, I saw my sweet little grandma without her hair. I think I lost my mind a little bit when she shows up for Christmas with this cute, pixie-ish haircut. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't the haircut she'd had all my life. I vaguely remember when her hair was chocolate brown before it became silvery, but it's always been the same cut and style. Always. It didn't even really click in my brain that the hair I was seeing wasn't her own. Later, she took her wig off to get comfortable. Those of us who were visiting from out of town hadn't seen this before, and there was a collective holding of breath as we realized just what Cancer meant and was doing. Thankfully, my brother married a wonderful woman who'd been through it before and handled that moment with a grace that put the rest of us at ease. That was 7 years ago, and Grandma has been cancer free ever since.

If Grandma getting cancer was front page news, then my dad's diagnosis was one of those stop-the-press ultra-bold headlines that takes up nearly everything above the fold.
I still had four relatively healthy grandparents so I just couldn't wrap my brain around my Dr. Colonel daddy being sick. It was a really scary time that taught me volumes about what true love is. I watched my parents change and adapt their relationship to accommodate a new routine, but not give any ground to Cancer. That new routine involved wonderful things like using the "fancy" dishes and Mama's beautiful bronzewear for any meal we felt like it. We drank the special occasion wine on the couch with cheese and peanuts, because being together was a special occasion. We laughed more and hugged more. We cried more too, but we never let that be the last word. We talked more openly and told the stories we'd always been meaning to tell. It was a beautiful, awful time and I never want to do it again. It's been more than a year since Dad stopped his chemo treatments. Looking at him now, you'd never know that just a few years ago we were updating wills and discussing final wishes. "Stable disease" is a triumph.

I wish that were the last time Cancer made an appearance. I wish it would relegate itself to being an extra with one line. A cameo appearance. I don't want it to be a reoccurring character, and I certainly don't want it to stick around long enough that it gets it's picture and name in the opening credits. Oops, I switched metaphors. I mean, I don't want it to have its own byline. There, I think that's back on track.

Two years ago, Cancer decided to jump from the Family section to Friends. Friends with cancer? That can't be right. Friends aren't allowed to get cancer. Old people get cancer. Family members get cancer. Cancer isn't for young, healthy, vital, laughing friends of mine. I tried to tell Cancer that it was totally out of line, and should leave my friends alone, but it didn't listen. So my friend took herself to get tumors and lymph nodes taken out. She got irradiated, which left little tattooed dots that she's slowly turning into triumphant artwork that shows that she's a survivor. See Cancer, I told you that you picked the wrong girls to mess with.

Just this past week, Cancer decided to visit the other side of my family and a good friend's mother lost her fight with the beast. Many angry four-letter words come to mind when cancer is mentioned. Cancer sucks and cancer is mean but I can't seem to keep it out of my life. I dread that conversation where someone says they found a lump, or a routine check revealed a spot. Lumps and spots are dumb. I don't like them, but I can't wish them away.

So get your parts checked regularly. All of them. If you've got habits that increase your risk, cut it out. Use your fancy dishes and make special occasions a regular occurrence. Live your life abundantly.

That is all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to look good naked on TV

So, one of the side-effects of not having television programing sent to our television in any way (no cable, no satellite, no dish, no rabbit ears... or whatever the digital equivalent is these days) is that I miss the majority of what's being broadcast. If my friends aren't watching it, I don't hear about it. If my friends are watching it, but don't tell me about it, I also don't hear about it.

So, this weekend, I went to check my Hulu queue. Hulu is the only way we get current TV shows at our house. Old TV shows we get on DVD through Netflix. This system works very well for us. Well, while checking my queue, I saw an advertisement-type-thing for this show called "How to Look Good Naked." When it comes to health goals (mostly involving physical fitness and weight loss) that is the bar used to define success, not a number on the scale or on the tags of my clothing. So I clicked the link to see what the show was all about.

Well, it was on Lifetime, so you know the goal was to make women weepy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visual Thinker

It should be no surprise that I like words. With as much as I talk, I'd better. Vocabulary has always been a fascinating subject to me. I was one of those kids who read the dictionary. Not for very long, because I'd get distracted thinking of how to use all those words.

However, I never really mastered the pronunciation key. I liked the look of the word, and sort of just let my brain fill in the sounds, which is unreliable at best. Hence, I will still often say "miss-chee-vee-ous" instead of mischievous. Same with grievous. I'm especially bad with names in novels. My love of reading will let me create fantastic worlds in my mind with the information on the page, and then leave me incomprehensible when trying to talk to other people about books that we've both read.
The Wheel of Time series is perhaps the worst for me in that respect, because the outlandish names that my eyes sort of gloss over, make their impression and recognize and never really transmit a pronunciation to my brain. When I'm reading, I don't need the sounds of the words, just the look is enough to let my visual brain continue along. Then when I try to talk about characters, I realize that I don't actually know all the letters and in what order enough to form a pronunciation. I just sort of go with what I recognize from the page, and make up the rest. Hence "Moghedien" becomes "Mogidishu" and "Nynaeve" is "Nin...Nyn... Ninavee... Nynnyeve... you know, the cranky Wisdom."

All of that is to get around to the fact that my brain is always trying to put words to the things I see, and images to the things I read. Whether or not I know how to pronounce any of those words is another matter entirely.

I started thinking about this a couple of nights ago in the bath (where lots of good thinking happens) when I squeezed out some shampoo. It looked like a slug for about a quarter of a second before it spread out and looked more like shampoo again. So there I was, thinking about a graceful way to describe the pearly white slugness of my shampoo... for what purpose, I have no idea. I just was. It wasn't sluggish* in a revolting way, it was sluggish in a very neutral way. But why would I waste time and thoughts trying to describe something as fleeting and inconsequential as the shampoo I'd just squeezed? I don't know, but I realized then that I do this all the time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An under-appreciated talent

I have a strange talent: an uncanny ability to pick the weirdest movies.  For me this is great because I tend to like weird movies.  I like thinking thinky thoughts and following plot twists and metaphorical imagery.  Still, every once in a while, I stumble upon something that's too Weird even for me. 

For instance, one evening my husband and I were wandering up and down the aisles of movies at our local big-chain-movie-rental-place.  This wasn't in the days before Netflix, but it was before we were cool enough to have it.  So there we were, wandering the back wall, calling out titles to one another to try to find something of interest to us both.  It's quite difficult some days.  This was one of those days.  Finally, I stumbled upon something that seemed to have potential.  At the very least, it had Rachel Weiss (one of my hubby's favorite actresses) and Hugh Jackman (whom I sometimes enjoy in films).  It was called The Fountain, and had the tag line "What if you could live forever?"  We didn't look too much further, decided it was worth a try and took it home.

What followed was a night of raised eyebrows, a night of heads cocked in a curious-spaniel type way, a night of pursed lips and crossed arms.  The movie is Weird.  It's loosely about the Fountain of Youth and sort of about death and spirituality.  It won awards and lots of people seemed to like it, but I'm not sure if I'm one of them.  I might try to watch it again, like I keep trying sushi, but I'm pretty sure I'd have to do it when my husband was out of town, because he might mock me mercilessly if he caught me trying. 

See, that's not the first, nor the last, time that I've picked a Weird movie based on superficial evidence.  It just happens to be the most memorable of them.  I don't think I knew anything about Pan's Labyrinth other than it was in Spanish and had gotten a lot of attention as an innovative and interesting movie.  They didn't mention the creepy eyeballs in hands part, or the fact that you never know what's true, or that you'd spend most of the movie hating everyone in it for some reason or another... maybe they didn't have that reaction, but I sure did.  I think I walked away from that movie appreciating the art and the craft of it, but wishing that I could have my two hours back to avoid the nightmares that followed.  Another Weird movie, picked by me.

Last night, we watched Shutter Island, which I really enjoyed.  I like twisty-turny stories and unreliable narrators.  I don't think my husband was pleased.  He kept giving me that look.  You know the one.  The "oh, so this is what you picked" look.  The "Weird, and all your fault" look.  The "we could be watching something with explosions and a straightforward good vs. evil plot" look.  Next time we watch a movie, I'll let him pick, just to keep our marital harmony in balance.  I don't think he'd take it too well if I suggested Memento, even if it is one of my favorites...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A trip to the early Bean

Today is a photo-heavy post because I want to share with you a gem my mother lovingly saved for me.  Hailing all the way from 1987 (as best we can tell) comes this riviting story of the young ones of this world.  Note the incredible artwork and thoughtful insights.  I'm particularly proud of the first illustration, but judge for yourself.  Maybe you'll be captivated by the pig-like features of the dog or the kangarooish qualities of the fawn (with real white spots).  As you will see, spelling has never been a strong suit of mine.  Despite that set back, I think this body of work shines with an understated grace. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Dear 2011:

Greetings and welcome!  I know you've just gotten started but I want to say that I have high hopes for you.  While you are finding your own unique groove, please allow me to offer some advice, filtered through the experience of those noble years that have gone before you.

  • Sleep is a lovely thing, and should be granted in more than 90 minute increments.  This is especially important on days when work at an office requiring specific hours is involved, but as a general rule is accepted on all days, deadlines not withstanding.  That being said, naps are a special subset of sleep and shouldn't be confused with real rest sleep.  Naps are perfectly acceptable in 90 minute increments and as such are welcomed most heartily.  Think of real sleep like a Lord of the Rings movie marathon instead of a Disney flick.  
  • Fever blisters, cold sores, or canker sores can truly be avoided at all costs.  While 2010 may have been throwing them about like rice at a wedding, we both know that throwing rice at a wedding is not only a social faux pas these days, it's considered tacky and dangerous--by women in heels mostly, but as I qualify as one of those, let's just consider it a foregone conclusion.  If you feel the absolute need to dispense one of the horrific things, please consider some advance warning.  I'm not so foolish as to ask for anything as grandiose as hours, but something along the order of 30 minutes would be kind.  That should at least give me time to take the preventative steps to minimize the damage.
  • Weddings and babies are wonderful events and we'll welcome them in the lives of our friends and family.  Funerals are generally frowned upon.  
  • 2010 had many pleasant surprises for us in the way of changing jobs.  It was lovely, but you don't want to be a copycat now do you?  I didn't think so.  If job-change is in mind, please limit it to those who want it, or think "promotion" or "raise."
  • We have a new: fridge, washer, dryer, and AC unit.  Our roof is still in its infancy and our cars are in their prime.  Our fence is in its dotage, so if you desire sweeping change in the household realm, please direct your attention there.
  • Thee cats and a dog is a mighty full menagerie.  No more animals this year, ok?
Sincerely yours, 

The Bean
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