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Can I Get an Amen?

I said in a previous post that I had attended a church service in order to obtain a spiritual connection and a deeper understanding of my inner meaning. Although this may very well be true I realized today that I really just enjoy singing hymns. I am a full time slave to the man and at the end of each week I enjoy the slight release I get within the pages of a hymnal. I enjoy a few verses of the Lord of the Dance or perhaps a few bars of Eagle’s Wings. I like to let loose and sway a bit in my pew as well and if I am particularly feisty I might even close my eyes to truly feel the connection with the music. I may not be a great singer, but what Catholic is? I have many memories growing up attending a variety of Catholic churches and there was nary a strong soloist in sight. But people would sing and it didn’t matter how you sounded.

You see it wasn’t how the song was delivered, but what it was about that mattered. The past few times I have attended mass in Florida, however I have been conflicted and muddled. I am not truly sure what the hymns are about anymore. First of all, half of them are in Spanish, which is nice, but I have a hard time anticipating how each word flows as I can barely say my name in Spanish, never mind bust out in tune with it. The other problem is that there is too much of a focus on the speaking portion of mass and too little of a focus on the singing portion, with exception to the part when the “Our Father” is sung to no apparent tune while hand holding. There I think there could be no focus on singing and more of a focus on independent mumbling.

I mean everyone gets the mass; as it is fairly consistent. The main variables are the Sermon and the Hymns. But recently all we have been singing is a few rounds of Alleluia and this poorly written and inevitably equivalently delivered song entitled “Muerte”. I don’t know if the choir is tight on rehearsal time or if perhaps a few members left them high and dry, but I desire a bit more variety in my hymnal line-up and I am pretty sure I am not alone. A week or so ago I saw two children singing and clapping their tiny hands at the airport and they were singing with brio “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, AMEN”. It was inspiring. These kids were jazzed up! Wherever they had been that Sunday morning had been so zestful that the word of the Lord inspired two 5 or 6 year olds to re-enact their experience hours later in the confines of a dismal airport terminal. We need that kind of inspiration instilled within our own house of worship. Perhaps we can employ some sort of church consultant to explore our organizational structure and determine an appropriate playlist for future masses because if something doesn’t change I am ready to move to a land where the hymns are louder, more inspiring, and varied.

The short story of my life

As I was relaying a short tale from a recent trip to a friend I realized that it was much more than what I initially thought, as snugly nestled within its “edge of your seat” kernels was my entire life story. Since my departure from College I have become somewhat of a jetsetter, and as such I decided to take a long weekend to visit a friend in Napa (where the aforementioned six course meal took place). I travel rather frequently of late and on each trip I hold on to that fantasy of meeting my future husband on this flight. The concept is well developed in theory as most of my business flights are predominantly well employed men and, after a ring check, seemingly single. Of course however, either the ring check fails or I am always seated next to a baby or an aged couple. Which is perfectly fine, I have no prejudices against either group (as that would be ageist and cruel) but clearly said fantasy cannot take place.

Yet each time I enter a plane and begin the quest to find my seat my mind is filled with wonder of who will occupy the seat next to mine. “Oh how glorious it will be” I dream. Our flight will be filled with carefree banter, shared cocktails, and then the exchanging of vows and rings. As I hum Pachelbel’s Canon down the aisle I am inevitably met with disappointment. This time was different. As I struggled with my blatantly over the weight limit carry on I turned to notice a rather charming lad one seat to my left. Between us was the empty middle seat. I was sure that this adorable little seat partner would soon be my husband as we locked eyes and gazed at the only empty seat on the plane that happened to be keeping us apart. I could hardly wait to begin discussing our lives and then the naming of our children when all of the sudden an out of breath, flushed, rotund man gallivants onto the aircraft and stares down our seat. No sooner than I could say “I do” he was he wedged between me and my husband.

At first I was slightly devastated. “Why me?” I cried (thankfully on the inside). But then I offered to switch seats with the oversized man as it is cruel to have a man of such girth packed into the middle seat like a trapped anchovy and it is also cruel for me not to finally fulfill my dreams of an in-flight romance. It was when he declined that I knew that although romance was out of the question we would soon be best friends. As we began chatting it up I learned he was from France, in a land unbeknownst to a geographically ignorant American such as me. He had studied in New York and loved to sun himself on the beaches of Florida, which was quite clear as he was the color of a leather handbag and it became increasingly clear that he was a charming homosexual in a committed relationship to a man named Miguel. We chatted about in-flight cuisines, New York City and Europe (he slightly dominated that portion of the tête-à-tête). At the end of our brief flight to Atlanta he presented me with two free drink vouchers for use on my next leg of the journey, which I eagerly snatched from his plump hand. That is when it hit me. Will my life forever consist of the promise of romance from a distance, only to be taken over by my penchant for homosexual men and free drinks?

I then proceeded to have a slight panic attack that was somewhat Wizard of Oz-esque involving me in a cyclone swirling around with images of bags, cats, hags, and (fittingly) Judy Garland. However, after I utilized my drink coupons and I allowed my blood pressure to decrease to normal levels, my panic attack subsided. I determined the odds are in my favor that I will at least not end up as a cat lady and that I have made some pretty tangible progress. I no longer volunteer at the Humane Society due to overexposure to the fuzzy little beasts. In addition to feeling unnecessary and bored I felt slightly repulsed on a daily basis by the thought of so many cats in such a small proximity. I am actually breaking out into a sweat just thinking about it, or I may just be having a hot flash, but either way it’s not good for the little fur balls. In the name of love if I can beat cats I can beat this! I will just take my life one flight at a time and someday soon I will find my first class fiancé.

You are what you eat!

I was cursed at birth with the adoration of food. As a wee little lass I remember being crushed night after night when I was not allowed third helpings of dinner. Indeed my favorite time always seemed to be mealtime and in addition to being envious that my brother would in fact get the third helpings I desired he also seemed to remain string bean width. But as usual, I digress. As a child I associated special occasions and Holidays with specific items of food. My family would sit round our table eyes ablaze with desire as my mother would slice thick chunks of her famous cherry cake on each of our birthdays. We would dance with joy and glee as she pulled out a cast iron skillet encompassing our Christmas morning treat of pillows of dough weaving in and out of buttery cinnamon dusted apples. Thanksgiving to me is not about turkey, but my mom’s “stop your heart” stuffing.

To me it has always been a joy to enjoy food and use it as a focal point in reuniting with friends and family as well as an introduction to new friends and family. It serves to bind us together and connect us with the past as well as the present. I was reminded of my feelings on this matter recently when I asked for a recommendation for an Indian restaurant from a neighbor. Instead of answering that there were not any she replied that she did not know because she does not like food. This was uncomfortable for me on many levels. The first being that I had just made us dinner, also because I really wanted a recommendation, but mostly because I don’t understand how one can function without an undying love for food!

I am not saying I commend gluttony or I preach food snobbery, but how can you not hunger for a scalding bowl of chowder on a snowy day or citrus drenched shrimp after a day of hot summer sun? I then reassessed all of my close friends and family and realized they too shared my gastronomic affection. Some of the most passionate and caring souls I have met are fueled by this desire. Chefs traveling the world trying to share and convey their obsession with the finest and best, preparing pieces of their culture and upbringing in nuggets of desirable convections, pastry connoisseurs who can’t sleep unless their butter cream is perfectly piped atop culinary delights.

It is people like these, the ones that truly marvel at the power of food and want to share it that I admire. This past weekend I was blessed to share feast with true foodies. After six courses of what only can be described as bliss, paired with the appropriate wines and accompaniments, I entered into a food coma where I immediately dreamt each course was taking place once again. One of our co-diners however was so excited by the dinner that night that he claimed he could not sleep after its consumption. Isn’t that the power food should posses? The power to ignite the passion inside your soul and get your blood pumping? Of course food is nutrition, it is meant to keep one living, but shouldn’t it also make you feel alive? I think it should and though I may not be the kind of artist that can create the kind of joy I receive from food, I do intend to keep on enjoying and I hope you will join me.

Show me the LIGHT!

A recent discussion with a close friend led us to the conclusion that the year directly following College graduation is essentially the hardest year we will ever endure. Although this may or may not be true I can attest to the fact that this year has indeed been very tough on me. The transition from school to work world is a hard one. One has to manage to support oneself financially, prepare one’s meals, attempt to acquiesce with the standards of corporate America, while simultaneously trying not to take life too seriously. Needless to say it is hard! I often times feel resentful that my life filled with free food, dorm rooms, and all night parties was pulled out from underneath me and replaced with never paying auto pay cable bills, spinning class, and condo association violations.

In these dark post grad times I have tried looking deep within the depths of my soul to figure out my deeper meaning. Okay I will stop euphemizing. I have become obsessed with self help articles!!! I can’t stop. It all began with a dynamic presentation by a motivational speaker at my company sales meeting. She was energetic and filled with applicable nuggets of insight on sales skills as well as life lessons. I was enamored with her discussion, which I might add is a feat in itself due to my wandering noggin. After the meeting I felt rejuvenated, refreshed, and inspired! It was like that first hit heroin (hit? Shot? I don’t know drug terminology) I keep trying to recreate that initial high. My thirst for self help has been mildly satiated monthly with my Real Simple subscription I poached off of my sister when I bought it for her for Christmas and it happened to come with a free second subscription. Don’t you feel special Caitie?? Anyway they have a pretty useful article called “Wise Words” or something which I rather enjoy reading while on the elliptical at the gym.

Maybe I miss the quizzical environment of school or it is the uncertain period of my life, but I like anything that results in a lesson learned. I enjoy take-aways, conclusions, and bullet points. I took Philosophy 101 in college; needless to say I did not stay on for 102. My attention withered after the meditation on whether or not I truly knew that I had hands and the fact that I could feel them was not considered as a factor. The articles in Real Simple on the other hand provide me with tangible illustrations of how to better my life and understand the world around me. There is even a handy column on the left with bullet points! But once I have read the articles for the month I yearn for more. “More questions, more answers! How do I create the life I want and deserve? Tell Me Now!” I demand from my podium on the elliptical.

I mean really when does all of this come together? There is no answer. I have been thinking that the people that seem to have the most peace within are people that have a strong faith in God. Unfortunately I was brought up Catholic which resulted in a strong harboring of resentment and hatred towards said fellow through most of my childhood. But due to my recent ambiguity about the state of my life and future I figured it can’t hurt to have something solid on which I can rely when the going gets tough. Despite all my moans and groans things are pretty great. What will I do when I am actually faced with adversity? I was thinking I could turn to God.

On Easter Sunday I threw on a sweater set and my rosary bracelet and I headed over to my local church for some spiritual refection. And I have to say I was disappointed. I am used to intellectually opposing most of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith, but I am not used to the utter clown act that the priest put on for the congregation. I felt that feeling of shame and embarrassment like an audience member at a poorly attended and executed comedy act. He fumbled through the order of the service and at one point asked us to vote on whether he should “sprinkle the holy water or just skip it”. But worst of all was the sermon. I will paraphrase it here. “Easter is about new opportunities”. I felt good about this message and could not wait to see how he would apply this to our lives and the current state of the world or at a minimum the community. Unfortunately, the remainder of the sermon was merely a slew of the words new and opportunities repeated over and over again until I became so enraged I almost had to excuse myself to avoid rushing the alter and drop kicking the alleged “Priest”. Needless to say, I was not inspired, but I did get sing a few hymns, which I always enjoy. I guess I did learn something. Looking for inspiration is like watching the water boil. It doesn’t work and it will make you crazy in the process!

moderation what?

The past two weeks have been the truest test of my strength and independence since my move to the bottom of the country as I have had to endure both my very first company sales meeting as well as my first sales trip as a Sales Manager respectively in that span of time. It was there that I was forced to grapple with serious life issues such as the definition of “resort casual” dress and what the appropriate etiquette is for a business lunch. With the assistance of others as well as a little fancy footwork with Google I was able to somehow get by without being called out as the impersonator I truly am. Somehow nobody publicly pulled back the curtain revealing that in actuality I am not a seasoned hospitality professional, but really merely an overgrown student shaking in her boots.

In these past weeks I have gained skills pertinent to my career in sales as well as my life happiness. I learned how to craft an effective presentation, how to resolve objections, as well as overcome obstacles, and how to enable a safe environment to conducive to buying behavior. The most important step in my growth came after a very hard day with my boss after I came to the realization that I was completely ill prepared to begin handling the accounts given to me on my own. I spent the night feverishly preparing making myself sick with worry for the appointments I had set the next day. Four hours of sleep and three semi productive appointments later I was feeling weary. I had decided that I would forgo the standard take-out in the frigid hotel room evening and I would treat myself to delicious meal at a well regarded restaurant.

Initially I was unsure if this would cause me more strife or provide me with the release I needed after my emotionally straining days in the recent past. Would I feel awkward dining alone in a restaurant described as “cozy and romantic”? Would I cause other diners to feel sorry for me and my single status? Should I bring myself a book or my laptop? After contemplating these factors I opted to go for it bringing nothing at all, ready to forget my sorrows and focus all of my thoughts and energy on the savory treats I was about to enjoy. Driving to the restaurant I felt strong and empowered. “I am a single independent woman and I will enjoy this dinner for all that it is worth”.

The warm scent of seasoned meats and vegetables welcomed me as I was led to the only table for two in the small 30 person farmhouse-esque restaurant. It was by the window and I was surrounded by jovial families and intimate couples. As I perused the menu it immediately became clear that I would need to order the oyster appetizer. The oysters were lightly poached in a creamy broth with pancetta, Napa cabbage, topped with parmesan and then braised and garnished with a dollop of caviar. They were heavenly to say the least. The oysters were soft and fresh. They were healthy and plump like little sea angels. They melted in my mouth like golden nuggets of joy. With each slurp and slither my stress dissipated into the back stacks of my mind. I stated to myself dreamily that everything that had gone wrong in the past few days was worth it since I was able to eat these oysters. In addition I chose to order what I thought was an entrée composed of lobster, chanterelle mushrooms, and fingerling potatoes, but was actually almost entirely Charr, a delicate flavor fusion of both salmon and trout. When my entrée was presented, my heart sank. Instead of the rouge claws and tail I desired there was precariously balance a blackened piece of fin fish. Although it was tasty and well prepared (although a bit dry despite the shellfish emulsion) it rapidly displaced my residual euphoric feelings from the oysters with feelings of over overindulgence and guilt.

I feel that the most important lesson I learned in the past two weeks is two fold. The first lesson I learned is that you should never feel wary of dining alone, especially if you are an avid people watcher and food fan. But more importantly, I think I finally now grasp the idea of moderation. If I had only ordered my oysters I would have walked away from my restaurant experience in a hazy fog of absolute food obsession. Since I ordered more than what I absolutely needed and desired I left happy but somewhat food logged with food memories slightly muted. Though to some this may seem small, I think my lesson to be an important one that I hope is lasting. And I now I extend this lesson to you, Happy Eating!