Monday, March 31, 2008

In defense of fiction...

Today, after a sushi dinner we drove though the drizzle to a coffee shop across the way. As we drove the short distance from cafe to coffee shop I swerved to avoid hitting an elderly man hunched over in gray slacks, dress shoes and a long beige trench coat, his hand gripped a small bag filled with papers as he walked slowly in the center of the parking lot.

Pulling up to the coffee shop I left the engine running and jumped out to see if they were open. "We're closed" said the barrista as she wiped down the counter. Closing the door I heard a mumble- the elderly man we swerved to avoid stood inches from me. He struggled to speak. As one wary of strangers at dark hours my instinct urged me to walk away. But I didn't. I waited as the cold rain trickled down my cheek until his words found the voice to express themselves "Coffee shop down the street. Its open." I thanked him. He smiled. I got in my car and left. Exiting the parking lot I saw him in my rear view mirror as he briefly stumbled, caught his step and continued walking hunched shoulders stooped as the cold rain pelted upon him in the dark night.

I recently read "The History of Love" which speaks of profound loneliness and the desperation it can instill. The man elderly and alone without family or friend says "I try to make a point of being seen... I'll buy a juice though I'm not thirsty... All I want is not to die on a day that I went unseen" This is why I stood in the cold rain waiting for him to share his thoughts. His reasons may not have been the same, but the compassion with which I stopped to listen to him and not out of instinct walk away from a stranger stemmed from my reading. Some mock fiction as valueless diversion. Yet how else but through reading could I have understood this man? If we are to truly be human, isn't understanding one another, the most valuable pursuit there could be? Fiction is more than just words strung together to entertain, fiction can help us appreciate the world we live in, and more so the people who inhabit it. For this reason I read.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

3bt times ten

Some days you need to stop and remember the sheer beauty of life. Well, technically this should be everyday but some days you need it more than others. So in honor of the 3bt (Three beautiful things Thursday) I'm doing 30 things I love (idea from Paper Napkin) If you do it too let me know, would love to read it.

  1. Sleeping in on chilly mornings
  2. Paninis
  3. Good books
  4. Tea
  5. Perscriptives Concealor.
  6. Hugs
  7. Spanish Tiles
  8. Ugly Betty
  9. King of Queens reruns
  10. Krogers Dollar movie rental
  11. Orbit gum
  12. Knee high boots
  13. Socks
  14. Lost
  15. black rimmed glasses
  16. Sunsets on the beach
  17. Sunflowers
  18. Cafe Istanbul
  19. Chi
  20. Wireless Internet
  21. Tivo
  22. Autumn leaves
  23. Bendel Candles
  24. Bloggyness
  25. Nose rings
  26. Ray Lamongtagne and other good music
  27. Throw pillows
  28. Porch swings
  29. Chocolate
  30. Tetris
Feeling better already!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A day in the life of Aisha..

Me: Hello. Can I talk to Billy?
X: Billy isn't here. This is his mother. Can I help you?
Me: Well I was calling about his lawn service.
X: Billy's lawn service?
Me: We've been playing phone tag but I can leave my number.
X: Silence.
Me: Um, hello?
X: Billy is 10.
Me: 10!?!
X: How did you get his number?
Me: He put an ad on Craigs List. He said he's been in the lawn care business for 7 years.. but he's 10 so...
X: Unbelievable. This is his father's fault you know, we've been going through some rough times lately and well...unbelievable.
Me: 10... he sounded older....
X: Unbelievable. His dad is going to hear it!
Me: Weird! This is XXX-XXXX right?
X: silence. No.
Me: Oh, whoops, sorry this is the wrong number. ha ha ha!
X: Silence. Click.

When "at least" isn't enough

At Least. I'm an expert of At Least. The children I represent have health problems ranging from cerebral palsy to cancer. To stop the grief from consuming you, you say At Least. She cant stand but at least she can sit, so he cant sit at least he can see, so she cant see at least she can hear, so he cant hear at least he can eat. So he cant eat at least he can smile. I try not to let it get to me but sometimes like today as I stood in line to get coffee and watched a wheelchair bound child suffering from spasms as IV's ran through his body his face contorted unable to speak, the feelings overwhelmed me and I found myself unable to find a bright side to the suffering of this child. Several times at the mall I've heard an excited young voice say "Ms Iqbal?!" and a giddy former student run to embrace me. I cherish those moments but within the halls of this hospital my secret fear is hearing them call my name. I pray I never do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.

If you know me you probably saw this post title and immediately ducked behind a wall in the hopes to hide from me when walking by and spare you from ten straight minutes of extolling the virtues of Pollan's In Defense of Food: an Eaters Manifesto (IDF) and the earlier The Omnivore's Dilemma(OD). OD detailed where our food comes from and IDF tells us what to do now that we know. As the weight problem grows in the US and food quality takes a backseat to quantity its so important to read books like this to help us become informed and make resulting informed choices. What follows are some highlights of advice from his book IDF but I'm merely skimming the surface, IDF deserves to be read from cover to cover several times.

EAT FOOD

Don't eat anything your great granny wouldn't recognize as food. Pretend that great granny is looking over your shoulder as you shop and if she'd think the squeezable cheese was a cleaning product don't consume it. (Pollan argues that most of edible stuff in the supermarket is not actually food, but a product of food highly processed) But because some food products resemble granny recognizable food...

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a)unfamiliar b)unpronounceable c)more than five in number or that include d)High-fructose corn syrup.

Avoid food products that make health claims. Don't blindly trust claims, they can be wrong. The book has examples.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. The middle is where processed food goes to... well, not die.

Go to the farmer's market for better food. Here I caution that Pollan presumes all farmer's markets are local vendors and organic. Mine are not all necessarily, they're just huge grocery stores that resemble farmer's markets and are called farmer's markets but the food comes from all over and not necessarily organic.

MOSTLY PLANTS

Eat mostly plants especially leaves. We continue to learn the importance of plants. There's many vitamins like C and B that you really can't get without consuming them. Supplements can only take you so far.

You are what you eat eats too. The current industrial factory farming doesn't care about what our animals eat and that should matter to us because their growth hormones etc wind up in us. Beware of presuming free range is better. "Free range" doesn't mean the chick frolicked in a field of daisies. Instead, look for words like "pastured" (with poultry) "grass finished" or "100% grass fed" b/c ALL cows are initially grass fed so "grass fed" on a package doesn't mean much.

Eat like an omnivore. Eat a diverse diet and try new things because the more diversity in food the more bets your nutritional bases are covered.

Eat well grown food from healthy soils. Don't be fooled by organic, its usually better than the regular store but locally grown may be better quality and just may not have had the bling needed to get certified as organic..

NOT TOO MUCH

Pay more. Eat less. Quality over quantity. We spend way less on food than other countries but are bigger. It might seem to cost more now but the benefits to our long term health seem worth it. What bigger financial investment than you?

Eat Meals. We snack too much. Its almost like we can't function w/out constant food. Meals regulate how much we eat.

Do all your eating at a table. Desks don't count.

Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone. We eat more mindfully when with others. Studies show people eat less in the presence of others and enjoy what they ate more.

Consult your gut. Studies show that thinner cultures stop eating when no longer hungry. Same studies show that Americans stop eating when the plate is empty or TV show is over, etc. Eat from your gut, not your external cues.

Eat Slowly. Not just to register fullness but to appreciate what you are eating.

Cook, and if you can plant a garden. If you make your own food you control what you eat. Gardens are also the best way to ensure organic food. My parents have guava and orange trees and the taste in these and store bought is noticeable.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Three Beautiful Things Thursday

Cindy's Kitchen Dressing. Its 100% natural and the only dressing (organic or otherwise) I found to contain zero preservatives and tastes remarkable. I got the "Chipotle Ranch" and I do believe it has magical propensities when I see what it can do to a boring old salad. [photo source here]

Fresh Baked Bread. Real bread made of flour and yeast and little else served with olive oil and imported Italian marinara sauce with a dash of fresh ground peppers and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. [photo source here]

Sandy white beaches. I'm visiting the west coast of Florida soon and I can close my eyes and almost feel the warm fine sand between my toes as the sun gently bakes the earth. [photo source here]

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The 108 in 2008 Recap

Its been two months since I created my 108 things to do in 2008 list and I can proudly say I've crossed off 16 items! Many of them are health related like get my vision tested, get a physical, order new contacts, kind of ho hum stuff but important. Some of the things have been life changing.

#3: Read 50 books. 50 books is the best thing I ever did. Reading makes me wish more than anything I could work full time as a book reviewer, absorbing book after book. I'm reading fictional works, but also nonfiction on topics which are blowing my mind such as the truth behind the food industry.

#90: Eat Sushi. Not only did I finally eat sushi its now one of my favorite foods and I eat it at least once a week. Spicy tuna rolls are my favorite!

#92: Don't drink Diet Soda for a week. Best thing I ever did.

There's lots of goals still to reach but even in the act of tring to reach them Ive gained so much For example, #5 I'm trying tons of new nonmeat meals like bean burgers (which taste just as good as the real thing!) and have dropped my meat based meals from almost daily to three meals a week (out of 21 possible meals in a week). Per #33 I've gone w/out unrefined sugar for 2 weeks, a feat never accomplished before!

Its only March so if you wanted to do a 108 in 2008 go for it! Time is not yetu p!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Whole Foods. Wow.

It was simple, I wanted to get a multivitamin and my doctor said "just get one from Whole Foods" Just get one. Ha! Whole Foods, unlike other grocery stores, doesn't just have a shelf of multivitamins, they have rows and rows, shelves upon shelves stacked beyond reach, enough vitamins to fill two GNC's to the point of saturation. Vitamin C? There arent just four or five options there are 50! There's vitamins for your immune system, allergies, and even bed wetting. Wow. But beyond the vitamins section, all of Whole Foods seem to utterly befuddle me. No Coke?! No Honey Bunches of Oats? Where's the three musketeers?!?! I said to the bemused sales clerk. I mean, yes all that stuff stinks but they practically rule the world in the scope of their reach. Nope, Whole Foods had none. If ever I visited the land of Oz, it was surely within the hallowed walls of the Whole Foods.

Research has helped me realize I must eat healthier. Though I don't particularly love Whole Foods since its just another monopolizing supermarket, but there aren't any many real farmer's markets in my area so if I want to avoid food with more ingredients than people in Rome, than Whole Foods is a better option than most. (Though its still wise to check the ingredient label. For salad dressing I found only one that was completely natural Cindy's Kitchen, all the others had some type of preservative or other particularly xanthan gum).

I plan to go to Whole Foods for some things (like fish) but I'm not sure it will become my one stop shop. The local grocery stores are closer by and slightly cheaper, as Mustafa the owner of our favorite Turkish establishment bellowed when he sat down with us at dinner discussing Whole Foods, "Whole Foods means WHOLE Paycheck!!!" As I stared at my bill for approximately four items, I can't exactly disagree, but I hope that my rationale is right, that though its costing me more now, in the long run, for the sake of my health, I will be better off.