Friday, December 30, 2011

Home Care or Just TMI

The holidays are just about over.  And they truly were holidays, particularly from the reality of diabetes.  I admit to much overindulgence and to taking a break from regular yoga and regular blood sugar testing.  But when I had trouble buttoning my pants for work this week, reality had to be faced.  I've regained weight that was carefully lost (not all, but enough).
One of the disciplines of diabetes is regular A1C testing completed just before PCP visits.  My last one had a happy result.  The next one is due in February.  But where am I now post-holiday holiday? 
Two new recent magazine subscriptions are Diabetic Cooking and Diabetes Self Management.  Oh, those were the days when my taste in magazines ran to things like People or Woman's Day. 
Inside the front cover of the holiday issue of DC is an offer for $5 off on home A1C testing -- "Finally, an easy way to track my progress, right at home."
In my case I have a feeling that it is an easy way to track my lack of progress or worse yet, my negative progress.  Anyway, I printed it out and am off this afternoon in search of 'A1C Now SELFCHECK'.   In this circumstance, I do not think that ignorance is bliss.  Next PCP visit is fast approaching in February.
It's time for some new year's resolution. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Too Blessed To Be Stressed?

Yesterday,  I was privileged to attend a Baptist funeral for the first time.  It was a bit out of my comfort zone in several ways.  First, I felt like a true minority for one of the few times in my life.  Years ago, I attended a professional seminar and was the only female present.  Yesterday, I was in the racial minority. 
It was out of my comfort zone liturgically.  The order of the service was unfamiliar and it included elements that I had never seen before.  The program titled the service, "A Home Going Celebration" and noted the deceased's date of birth as his "sunrise" and his date of death as "sunset."  Letters of condolence were read from neighboring congregations and the obituary too was read.
There was a degree of raw emotion displayed foreign to my experience of controlled and choreographed Roman Catholic funerals-- not just tears, but hard, breathtaking, loud sobbing that could best be described as wailing.   
And there were multiple preachers (not sure if this is typical).  One of them spoke in a cadence that reminded me of the way that Jesse Jackson delivers a message.  Part of his message was that "I'm too blessed to be stressed" and "I'm not disappointed because I'm anointed". 
The preachers seemed less concerned about the spiritual welfare of the deceased and more concerned about whether those of us in the congregation were saved, inviting us to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and praying over those who accepted the invitation. 
The repetitive cadence of the "I'm too blessed to be stressed" phrase has been playing over and over again in the background of my mind, like when there is a song that I can't get out of my head.
I've been stressed lately over typical holiday dynamics and dramas; and over my over-consumption of the type of food that should be avoided but that is everywhere.   I am getting back on track; and I am blessed -- too blessed to be stressed. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Oldest Terrible Towel

On Christmas eve, my whole family watched the Pittsburgh Steelers shut out the St. Louis Rams at Heinz Field, 27-0.  Quarterbacked by hometown hero and perennial backup Charlie Batch, the Steelers provided a pleasant end to the regular season at home for the fans who were awaiting Christmas eve festivities.   Who knows what the playoff picture will bring, but it looks like home field advantage is questionable.  It is said that the Steelers are an 'old' team and I have to admit that yesterday, one of my favorite players, Hines Ward, wasn't smiling like he used to.  It could be one of his final games and one of Charlie's too.  I particularly enjoyed hearing the crowd chant 'Char-lie, Char-lie' as he engineered a win against a pretty lackluster opponent but a win nonetheless. 
As usual I took my Terrible Towel (pictured below).  But I am thinking it's time to retire this baby -- it has been with me since the late '70s and it's looking pretty old too.  Two people who have seen this antique have recently bought me new ones -- one with 'cammo' and one an Italian 'asciugamano terribile'; and I have a pink one from the October breast cancer awareness/NFL promotion. 

A woman can be dated by her hair color or style or by her fashion choices.  My Terrible Towel dates me because it is so obviously very old.  It may even be the original design.   When former Steelers announcer Myron Cope created the idea, at first he just encouraged local fans to bring a black or gold hand towel to Three Rivers Stadium to wave as a way of showing support.  One history I read said that the local department stores were miffed, because towels were typically sold as sets; and when fans bought only hand towels, the stores' inventory was out of whack. 
In what is certainly one of the more successful sports merchandising schemes ever, Myron Cope trademarked the 'Terrible Towel' and the rest is history.
There is nothing quite like the sight of thousands of people waving Terrible Towels.  The more modern versions are a more vibrant shade of gold and show well on national television not just at Steeler home games, but wherever the Steelers play since they have the strongest road following of any NFL team, courtesy of the Pittsburgh diaspora. 
I used to love listening to Myron Cope; his voice and his dialect are irreplaceable.  In addition to being a Pittsburgh and an NFL legend, Myron assured his place as a beloved son of PIttsburgh because his Terrible Towel creation is a force for good.  Proceeds from its sale go to support a school for special needs individuals.  Myron Cope signed over the trademark in 1996. 
And I love waving that old towel, at home or at the stadium.  But it's on my cranium (one of Myron's introductory queries to callers on his sports talk show was 'what's on your cranium?') that it's time for a new look. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookies Past

Many families with Italian roots celebrate Christmas eve with an ethnic tradition known as the feast of the seven fishes. It was not a tradition we adopted in my Italian family. The Christmas season memory I have been processing and remembering the most this year is more like the feast of the seven cookies. I have posted elsewhere about my mom's cookie baking prowess as it manifested itself at our wedding cookie table. Her Christmas cookies were even better. My mom mustered her considerable artistic skill and her characteristic attention to detail to create dozens and dozens of cookies that could comfortably have appeared in a Martha Stewart magazine. Does anyone make cut-out cookies anymore?
I remember four particular designs that came out at Christmas - candy cane, Christmas tree, wreath and Santa Claus. She made dough in both dark gingerbread and white vanilla flavor.   She decorated those cutouts in ways that I can still see in my mind.  In the hundreds of family photos we have, there don't seem to be any pictures of these holiday delicacies.  
She dyed the icing, so that Santa's hat was red, his beard was white (and coconut on top of white icing made the 'hair' on his beard). She painted the Christmas tree and wreath designs with green icing, adding red candies as berries on the wreath and metallic looking candies as ornaments on the tree. On the candy cane, she alternated white and red icing.
Then there were the rum balls, iced anise cookies and pizzelles (chocolate and anise flavored). She boxed and plated her handiwork in a beautiful presentation and they became gifts to be offered to family and neighbors. And oh, yes for our eating pleasure at home too!  
She had a kind of cookie exchange going with my Aunt Gilda, who was also a master cookie baker.  Hers were different.  She did the roll out dough and made the horn shaped cookies stuffed with nuts or apricots. 
This Christmas I am trying to have these memories suffice.  I did not inherit the baking gene and yes, I know those carb and sugar laden delights are not good for me and they were not good for my mom either. 
So I am eating them this year in my mind only.  For sure by Christmas Day, we'll have a few (dozen) that will only be a unreasonable facsimile of what I grew up with.  And I keep telling myself this holiday season, "sugar is poison", "sugar is poison".  It's not working particularly well. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gift Giving Emotions and Economics

Twas the week before Christmas and much left to do!   My daughter and I were driving together today and she was having a hard time figuring out a gift for a special friend.  I too struggle with picking gifts for those close to me.  (I always remember one Christmas when JB and I were dating.  He said he did not know what to get me, so "how about a couple of shares of IBM"?) 
As an economics major, she told me that people often underestimate the value of a Christmas gift they have been given.  Barely an hour later, I picked up the Review section of this weekend's Wall Street Journal and there it was -- a headline screaming "Is it Irrational to Give Holiday Gifts?" 
Dan Arkiely draws a distinction between the rational school and the behavioral school of economics.  It is the rational school that my daughter was relating to me, and a particular study that concluded "as much as a third of the money spent on Christmas is wasted, because recipients assign a value lower than the retail price to the gifts they receive."   
But the behavioral economists know that it's not just about the dollars and cents/sense.  We want to show our love, express appreciation and thanks, make an impression and give something of value.  It's a tall order and I know that the things I pick out may fall short of those lofty goals.
More and more, I have begun to realize that the only thing of true value that can be given to those I care about is the gift of time and attention -- a shared meal, a trip, a concert, a memory of some kind.  And the thing I love most about the holidays is the opportunity to be with them.   
Years ago, JB and I were cleaning out the home of his aunt who in the last years of her life had to be in a nursing home.  She had been a public school teacher for over 40 years.   There were drawers full of Christmas 'teacher gifts' -- scarves, hats, gloves, Avon collectibles, candles.    The job of downsizing other people's stuff is one that I have done a few times now.  It's not fun and it's not pretty.
In reality, there is not much and I and those closest to me really need.  That said, who wants to have nothing to open on Christmas morning?