Toilets, poop stall and unibrows

It has been awhile since I have shared from a book I have read. A book I finished last week called: “Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer” by Una LaMarche was one of the better, more humorous books I have read in a while. The cover is classic. An early childhood photo of LaMarche with a unibrow. Such a clever title for a memoir, for someone who started early on in life having an actual unibrow. It spurred a conversation at work, if your very young child had very dark hair and a unibrow, would you do something about it, or let them get teased? Such a tough decision. You do not want them to think about their body, vanity, and waxing at such a young age, but if they are endlessly teased, what would you do?

LaMarche is hilarious. She covers a plethora of topics, from Barbies, to the etiquette for selecting which stall/toilet to go to in a bathroom, and which one is the “poop stall,” to Girl Scout cookies, I love this quote — how many of us wish we could just get our Girl Scout cookie fix via Amazon Prime (anytime of year).

“Yes, that’s right. Anyone can log onto this website to locate young girls anywhere in the country, and yet I cannot get my Tagalong fix using Amazon Prime shipping.” Page 184

I can relate to some aspects of LaMarche’s childhood. School was sometimes awkward. Maybe we all had a time growing up when life sucked, or when we maybe just did not fit in. For me it happened often throughout the years prior to college. Whether it was because of being poor and having hand-me-downs, or in not relating to my peers. We all probably had some sort of awkward stage growing up. Maybe we got that funky haircut, or went through a strange phase in how we dressed or what we thought was fun. Which is why I related to LaMarche:

“Because being loud about it is the only way that I know how to find other members of my tribe: yet-to-peak former outcasts with the dreaded ‘good personality’ of the previously homely. I just don’t feel safe otherwise. I mean, I can’t trust anyone who never had an awkward phase in high school. Those people are the real freaks.” Page 13

If you want to laugh, pick up Unabrow. I can assure you a cackle will escape your mouth. I had many dog-eared pages that I read to Chris to share her fun rants. Bathroom humor, childhood awkwardness, Amazon Prime for Tagalongs. All in good fun.

Give Laughter

I had never heard of Michael Jr. He is a comedian. I found him through the website: I Like Giving. I have found myself over the last few weeks going back and watching a video, absorbing it and then coming back at a later time for a new one.

He shares his story of “giving laughter.” I love that idea. I remember a cassette tape I listened to when I was young. The narrator told a story and at the end said to “Go and give a good time.” I think about that often when I am in a situation I do not want to be in or where I, for whatever reason, cannot get out of it. I think what could I do to give in this situation? There are a few ideas he shares that hit home:

“My punchline is to make laughter common place in uncommon places.”

You will want to listen to the part (at 1:48) about the little boy who had been abused by his mom, and how Michael Jr. connects to him through laughter. I had tears. He ends his interview with:

“If we could just stop asking the question: what can I get for myself, and start asking what can I give from myself.”

Enjoy, and maybe take a moment to see other videos shared on I Like Giving.

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Strategic, relentless, and thrifty

Where do we learn the behaviors that make up who we are? For some reason I was retrospective today. Thinking about my childhood, my teens, college, and my early professional career. At each stage I was a different person and I am still growing into who that is today.

As a kid I was definitely strategic (even if I did not know it at the time). I would find a way to con candy out of the old ladies at church (maybe I would not have resorted to it if it was given a little more freely at home). I learned early on that my sister would get sick on rides at the county fair, so if I asked to go on the spinning ones first I could potentially get the rest of her ride tickets. I was often quiet in the presence of my father when I knew he was in a bad mood, I did not dare piss him off. And I was fun and playful. I liked to be silly.

Somehow as I grew into being a teenager, I grew quieter and more introverted. I had seen too much in my life. Death, anger, poverty, sickness, desertion. As I look back at my senior year of high school, I feel a sadness. I barely made it through to graduation. I was lost and sad, but did not really know it at the time. On the outside I probably looked fairly normal. I was social, had friends, was a cheerleader, but my sadness came from not really having a home or parents to ground my day-to-day life. My last three years of high school were spent at a boarding school, so living away from home (that did not exist) sans parents was strange and so different from my classmates and friends. There was no one I could really relate to.

In college, I eventually found my way and I found my voice. That voice evolved into my professional life and experiences. I began to speak up for what I believed in without fear and decided that I had something to say and did not care what others thought of me.

Throughout it all I have been strategic, relentless, and thrifty. When I decide I want something I figure out how I am going to get it. I had to be that way. No one was taking care of me through high school or college so I learned early on to depend on no one but myself. While I now have people I depend on in my life, there is still always a thread that floats in the back of my mind. Will they drop the ball and I will have to pick it up? Will they follow through with what they said they will do? Each stage of my life has evolved into who I am today. Strategic, sometimes introverted, sometimes extroverted, intuitive, blunt, thrifty, and relentless. I have to trust you, and when I do the rest is history.

Not passing on the ways of my father.

I am someone who has incredibly high expectations. I am not sure when in my life it happened that my standards became so high. I was joking with a few colleagues the other day about how I was raised and how my dad used to vehemently remind us to do it right the first time. I know there are many ways of looking at the world, and that making mistakes is one where we learn the most. That, however, was not how I was raised. I distinctly remember a few specific examples. One time my sister and I were asked to clean our room (we shared a room). We cleaned it, but not to my dad’s standards. When we got home from wherever we were that afternoon, we walked into our room and found every drawer of our respective dressers empty, and every desk drawer empty, and the contents of our shared closet all sat in a massive mixed pile in the middle of the room. I remember him barking some sort of comment to us: “Maybe next time you’ll do it right the first time.”

I was horrified. I do not remember how long it took us to clean it up, or what my sister and I discussed during the process, but I will never forget what my room looked like that day. Now, I can think about a million other ways to get through to kids, and whether my dad was right or wrong, he was definitely creative about getting our attention. He also was a bit scary. I do think his “get it right the first time” mantra in some ways made me use problem solving tactics and critical thinking skills at an early age. You see, my dad could turn a million different ways and I had to be prepared for it, so I thought: “if I do this, what will be the outcome?” or “how about if I do that?” I was not always so savvy to be prepared for how he might react, but I was definitely aware of the consequences of my actions. Never mind that I probably should have just been out playing.

There was another occasion when it was my chore to scrub the bathtub, specifically the soap scum ring. On one occasion when my dad inspected the bathtub (it was a pink bathtub too), to see if it passed his inspection, he decided it was not clean enough and that I needed to start again. In order to ensure I would have to clean the entire bathtub again (and not just work on the soap scum) he poured ketchup into the tub. Again I was horrified. I just wanted him to show me where I missed a spot, and give me a chance to fix it. Starting again felt so unfair. Maybe that is why I detest cleaning the shower/bathtub (thank you Chris).

Did my dad ingrain in me the desire for higher standards? Maybe. Did he know he was doing it? I do not think so. I think I am a by-product of finding creative ways of knowing I had dotted all my i’s and crossed my t’s. I had a backup plan for my backup plan. My brain constantly looks for all the different scenarios and which ones to stay away from and which ones lead to the best possible scenario. It has helped me at home and in my professional life. There are way better ways to teach critical thinking skills and to learn consequences for different choices. I will not be passing on the ways of my father.

Random recipe: Chicken & Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Can you believe I have never had an enchilada? How is that even possible? I had no idea how they were even made. A taco with lots more cheese, or a soften quesadilla with more cheese. It reminds me of the quote I mentioned in this Chicken Taco Chili recipe:

“I laughed because I recently read Jim Gaffigan’s book “Food: A Love Story” and he mentions how mexican food is all the same ingredients served in different ways. Quesadillas are tacos, grilled in a pan, which are the same as enchiladas and nachos. You get the point.”

In any case, they were good. I felt so full, but I loved all the rich flavors. Maybe we will have to do a week where on Monday we have quesadillas, Tuesday: tacos, Wednesday: nachos, Thursday: enchiladas, what should we have on Friday. They are all the same ingredients. I can now say that I have had enchiladas, and this recipe was oh so good. We did not add the garlic (well I should say Chris did not add the garlic) and we cut the recipe in half. Next time we might make them and add beans and rice. Although if we do I might only be able to eat one enchilada.

Chicken & Goat Cheese Enchiladas from Love and Olive Oil

Yield: 8 enchiladas
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 9 ounces cooked shredded chicken (from about 2 smallish chicken breasts)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, drained and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) soft goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup Mexican blend cheese
  • sour cream, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir until softened, about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, chicken, cilantro, jalapeños, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Simmer until slightly reduced, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Lay a tortilla flat on a clean work surface. Spread a generous tablespoon of goat cheese in a stripe down the center, then top with about 1/3 cup of chicken mixture. Roll up and place, seam side down, in prepared baking pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour enchilada sauce over top and sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through and cheese is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes (if you like your cheese speckled with brown, remove the foil during the last 5 minutes of baking).
  4. Serve warm, topped with fresh cilantro and a dollop (or splatter) of sour cream if desired.