When In Doubt, Punt

T-minus one day til the big move. I’m sick of writing about it. And I’m sure you’re sick of reading about it. All week long, I’ve fretted about a blog subject. I’ve had several in mind, but all of them require at least a modicum of research and effort. And honestly, time is too tight and my focus is too scattered to do them justice.

This morning, while packing my pots and pans, I had a stroke of genius. Ok, maybe not genius. But an idea, nonetheless. I’m nearly a year into this blog, and I suspect I may have some new readers who don’t know how this whole Foo affair of mine began. So I thought, why not go back to the start? With you newbies in mind, I present the first two blog posts of Will Work For Foos.

Next week will be calmer. And I’ll be back with something new. But for today, please enjoy (or enjoy again) the start of it all.

The Seeds of Destiny

Nope. That’s not a typo. That title is basically the essence of my dream.

I’m 51. I’m a wife, a mother, and a student. I have a good job, albeit not a particularly exciting one. I love to cook, I love tattoos, and I love rock and roll. And I have this crazy idea. I want to work for the Foo Fighters.

I came up with this idea almost two years ago, after first discovering the band (yeah, I know they’d been around for a while, I just hadn’t found them yet), immersing myself in their music and becoming a die-hard devotee. What can I say? Sometimes you pick the band, sometimes the band picks you. But we’ll get to that later.

I tried to tell myself that going to work for a rock band was not something you just did. Seriously, who does this? I have no musical talent. I’ve got no background in the entertainment industry or concert promotion or any of that.  What could I do for an iconic rock band? I was just a middle-aged empty nester with a wild idea that I had no clue how to bring to fruition. What the hell was I thinking?

But still, I couldn’t stop thinking it. Trust me, I tried.

There’s a scene in the movie “Babe”, when the narrator first explains the farmer’s notion to use the little pig, Babe, to herd sheep:

“When the thought first came to him, Farmer Hoggett dismissed it as mere whimsy. But like most of his hare-brained ideas, it wouldn’t go away.”

Yep, that was me. I, too, had a whimsical idea that wouldn’t go away. As much as I tried to dismiss it, it would not allow itself to be set aside.

It, my Foomania, if you will, began to grow and expand and go off on tangents. It distracted me and needled me. I dreamed about it. I tried desperately to put my energy into other things, but it was always there, in the back of my mind, waiting to pounce at any opportunity.  It just wouldn’t let me be. Dear God, I was becoming Farmer Hoggett!

One day, while questioning my own sanity for at least the thousandth time, my brain and I had a serious discussion, the gist of which was this:

Me: “You’re not going to leave this thing with the Foos alone, are you?”

Brain: “Nope. You’re not crazy. You need to see it through”

Me: “What if I never make anything happen with it? What if it’s just a mid-life crisis?”

Brain: “So what? If you don’t follow the thread, you’re never going to know. And do you really think you could put so much mental energy into something meaningless?”

I turned that thought over a few times and looked at it. My brain had a point.

I’m a pragmatist. I’m not mentally unstable. I’m not given to flights of fancy as a rule. And I’ve certainly never had a crazy idea plague me for nearly two fucking years!  I began to accept that there had to be a reason I couldn’t let it go. Maybe I needed to learn what Babe’s farmer knew in his infinite wisdom.  Cue the narrator…

“Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”

Maybe I couldn’t let go of my Foo Fighters dream because it was guiding me to something else, something important. Something big. I had no idea what it was, but I decided I would not spend any more time trying to talk myself out of it. If I chose to pursue it, the worst that would come of it was that NOTHING would come of it. But I knew that if I let it go, if I chose to ignore it, I would likely spend the rest of my life wondering ‘what if.’ Not pursuing it, and never knowing where it might have led, would eventually send me round the bend.

I don’t know exactly how to begin this journey, except to tell you why I’m taking it. It won’t just be about the Foo Fighters, although they serve as my muses and I can’t tell the story without them. It’s really about life, and dreams, and music, and food, and joy, and disappointment.  Mostly, it’s about believing in possibilities. And yourself

Everybody Needs a Jewish Mother

When last I left you, I had determined that going to work for the Foo Fighters, my favorite band in the world, was my fondest wish.  The hitch for me was figuring out what I could do for them.

What skills, traits, or talents did I have that would be marketable to a rock band?  I pondered and pondered this question.  On the surface, I couldn’t think what practical use the band might have for a middle-aged woman who managed grants for a living. Don’t get me wrong; I’m really good at what I do, but you just don’t think ‘grant manager’ and ‘rock band’ in the same sentence.  I had to dig deeper.

A mental inventory of my abilities yielded nothing at first.  Zip.  I despaired ever finding my Foo niche.  Then one day, purely by accident, the answer arrived.

Back in 2011, on the front end of their American tour for “Wasting Light”, The Foo Fighters had a tour rider – a document outlining their wants and needs at those concert venues lucky enough to host them.  My friend Lynne, knowing my fascination with all things Foo, sent it to me.

We’ve all heard horror stories about diva pop stars and lunatic rock bands with peculiar tastes and weird habits.  Rockers who throw temper tantrums if even the most asinine demands in their concert riders aren’t met.  I could see it now – “NO green M&Ms in the dressing room – EVER!” “All bottled water must be blessed by the Dalai Lama prior to being served!” “A dog walker and pet psychologist must be available for the talent’s Chinese Crested on a 24-hour basis!”

You know, spoiled rock star bullshit.

I approached cautiously.  I felt sure I was going to read a list of outrageous mandates from a bunch of spoiled-brat, guitar-smashing, hotel-trashing rockers and my high opinion of my precious band would be crushed forever.  I dreaded reading that rider, but if these guys were total dicks, I figured it was better to find out sooner rather than later.

The first thing I discovered was that the rider was funny.  And it doubled as a coloring book.  Tour manager Gus Brandt took the time to inject his (and the band’s) sense of humor into each page.  The entire document was obviously written with tongue firmly in cheek.  A few pages in, I kicked back and enjoyed the read.

There were no outrageous demands, really it all sounded pretty reasonable to me.  Hot breakfasts?  Makes sense – it is the most important meal of the day, you know.  Hot lunch options.  Dishes and cutlery NOT made of plastic. Vegetarian selections were important.  Their shocking M&M demand?  That the candy packages be unopened prior to their arrival.

Perhaps I’m just naïve, but if you’re a premiere rock band, do you really have to ASK that the venue not give you snacks that other people have had their hands in first?  What kind of hosts were these people?

The list went on – clean socks, fresh t-shirts and a variety of reading material in the hospitality suite.  Decent booze, a broad selection of beer.  I read it all.  And I felt sad. My band – my fucking heroes! – were having to ask for things that should have been common sense offerings from any venue.  The questions kept coming up in my mind: “Why are you leaving all of this stuff to chance?  Why don’t you have someone taking care of this on your end?”

The Foo Fighters needed a meal planner.  A kitchen oversight officer.  A den mother! Someone who could take care of them out on the road and make sure they were well-fed, well-read, well-hydrated, and well-rested.  Someone who had nothing but their personal well-being in mind.  If the food they were getting wasn’t up to par, they needed someone around to step into the kitchen and make it so.  Did I mention that I cook?  Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement – I don’t just cook.  I throw down.  I’m not bragging.  It’s just how it is.

I knew what a Hoshizaki was.  I had a subscription to The Atlantic.  I knew where to find t-shirts in bulk.  And if the M & M’s had been sullied, no worries.  In less than an hour, I could whip up a pan of brownies that would make you weep with joy.  Just point me toward the kitchen.

I finished reading that rider, and I knew I’d found my place.  I knew what I could do for my band.  I was the perfect person for the job.  I’d been training for it since birth. And I was ready.

I was going to be the Foo Fighters’ Jewish Mother.


Whose Crap Is It, Anyway?

1:59 AM. That was the last time I looked at the clock before sleep finally overtook me last night. Or this morning, if you want to nitpick.

I was still awake because I stayed up to work on a project for my Epidemiology class. And before that I had been packing. I was also awake because I’m just not sleeping much these days.

It’s not because I’m not tired. Tired is pretty much a 24/7 thing for me. But even when my body is worn out and eager for rest, somehow I just can’t get my brain to put up a “closed” sign and go home for the night. Or morning. Whatever.

I’ve been down this road before. It’s nothing new. It’s just your typical case of pre-move stress. Only this time, it comes with a nice heaping side order of grad school. In grad school, nobody cares if you’re tired, or in the midst of moving house. Papers must be written, and projects must be turned in on time. No late work accepted. Period.

This is my life right now. As much as I’d prefer to be soaking up the sun in SoCal and fixing brownies and fried fucking chicken for Dave and company, the reality is that I’m here in the Fort, still at my regular job, packing up my belongings so I can move (IN EIGHT DAYS), and working on two papers that are due before midnight this Sunday.

True, grad school was self-inflicted, but for all my kvetching, I’m glad to have the opportunity, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just the move that I hadn’t added in to the equation. Talk about a horrible mid-term project!

But anyway, while I’ve been busy not sleeping, I’ve been thinking. Lots of random shit knocking around in my head. I’ve been trying to recall the layout of each room in the new house so I can decide where to put things when we move. I’ve been wondering exactly when the eagerly awaited new Foo Fighters album will be released (sometime this year, so the rumor goes). I’ve been pondering my topic for an upcoming paper that I’ll be working on after the move.

But mostly, I’ve been asking myself this question: Why do I have so much crap?

Seriously, we are drowning in crap. I don’t know how it happens. I don’t think of myself as a hoarder, nor do I have the desire or the necessary capital to shop incessantly for stuff I don’t need. I keep a pretty tidy house which is mostly clutter-free (except for the office and the garage, which are both disasters NOT of my making, and which I can’t think about without cringing a little, but that’s another story).

Maybe it’s just a result of 30+ years of adulthood, marriage, and having a family. But whatever the cause, and despite regularly purging belongings from closets and cabinets, we are heavily burdened with stuff. And the weird part is, you don’t realize how much stuff you have until you have to wrap it, pack it, and tote it to a new domicile.

My friend Melinda is a professional personal organizer, which means that, among other things, she helps people deal with their excessive crap. The best advice she ever gave me, and which I know she gives all of her clients, is this: If you don’t need it, use it, or love it, get rid of it.

It is a brilliant concept in its simplicity and logic. And yet, when it comes time to keep it or toss it, many folks still waver. Myself included, hence the giant pyramid of packed boxes currently residing in my dining room. And there’s a long way to go still.

I have to give myself credit, however, because with each closet, drawer, and cabinet I open, I repeat Melinda’s mantra over and over in my mind. And I’m making progress. At least that’s what I tell myself each day. Even if it’s not true, it helps me fight the urge to drink heavily or run away from home.

The one room where I really can’t pare down, however, is the kitchen. It’s the room most heavily laden with crap, but almost none of it is frivolous or unnecessary. I cook and I bake, and there are lots of tools for those jobs. Yes, I do have three springform pans, but they’re different sizes and I need all of them. Don’t judge me!

It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve made some concessions and put some items in the giveaway box. I decided I could part with some duplicate items. For instance, I couldn’t really justify having two egg separators, so one is leaving. I have skills, but I’m not ambidextrous. The ability to separate two eggs simultaneously, while it would probably qualify as a great Stupid Human Trick on Letterman, is not really a goal of mine. One egg separator is definitely enough.

Also leaving our house are the crappy, cheap cooking knives, which are older than both of my children (and not nearly as sharp.) We have a really good set of knives, which the kids and I got Mark for Christmas a few years ago, and a back-up set of so-so knives. When Mark and I are both working in the kitchen at the same time, he gets the good set and I use the back-ups. It’s only fair, since they’re technically his. Two sets of knives will suffice.

As much as it pained me to do it, I forced myself to get rid of at least a dozen random coffee mugs that I’ve collected over the years. Nobody needs that many coffee mugs, even cute ones featuring kittens or Christmas themes, or Christmas-themed kittens. Random coffee mugs, your time has come.

And I’ve noticed that the closer we get to Moving Day, the easier it gets to jettison things. Besides the Melinda chant, I’ve also begun to ask myself this question: “Do you really want this enough to pack it here and then unpack it at the new house? Really?” In some cases, that’s all the incentive I’ve needed to drop something into the giveaway box. Or the trash.

So, yeah, that’s where I’m at. Eight days left in the countdown. And if I’m not at the office or working on a paper, you can find me at home, armed with a tape gun and a strong will. Feel free to call any time. There’s not much chance you’ll catch me sleeping.

Course Correcting

About six weeks ago, I went to see my doctor for a check-up. She looked at my chart and said “We haven’t done a blood draw on you in a while. Let’s do that before you leave.” Being the agreeable sort that I am (and because I am fortunate to have pretty decent health insurance through work) I said “Sure. Whatever.” Then I went on about my life, not giving it another thought.

A few weeks later, it was a miserable, icy day, and Mark and I were both suffering with some sort of upper respiratory crud, feeling lousy and taking turns blaming one another for bringing whatever this crud was into the house. Some things just don’t need to be shared, even when you’ve been married for a really long time. Our wonderful hippie doctor, being the agreeable sort that she is, agreed to see us at the same time, so we only had to make one visit.

As it turned out, we were each suffering a different malady, so nobody was to blame. A cold and bronchitis for Mark, a sinus infection for me. It was nobody’s fault, just bad luck. And then my luck got worse, when Dr. Jamie opened my chart and said “Now, let’s talk about your bloodwork.”

Uh-oh. I could tell by her tone that I was in trouble.

“You’re pre-diabetic.” As soon as she said it, I felt my stomach knot up. This was not news I wanted to hear. I suppose it could have been worse. She could have skipped the ‘pre’ part and gone straight to the ‘diabetic’ option. But this was just the lesser of two evils.

“Your liver enzymes are WAY up, and your blood sugar is out of whack. You need to start making some dietary changes. No white foods. And you need to cut back significantly on your sugar consumption. And if you’re not getting enough exercise, get busy. If you drop 10-20 pounds, these numbers are going to improve pretty quickly.”

I’ve had doctors tell me bad things before. They told me I had high blood pressure, but there was a pill for that, so I started taking it. They told me my cholesterol was too high, but there was a pill for that too, although I balked at the expense and the possible side-effects from it, so I refused to take that one. I didn’t like hearing bad things, so I downplayed them, took a pill, or not, and went on my merry way.

Not this time. This time, I was scared shitless.

Diabetes is bad news. It’s manageable, if you’re lucky and diligent in your own care. But it was not a place I had any intention of going. There was nothing good there.

So, I decided I was going to fix things. I was going to course-correct. Immediately. On this new path, I felt sure that a lot of other positive things would happen. I would lose weight. My cholesterol numbers would improve. My blood pressure would go down on its own. And I could avoid all the pills that went along with those things.

I can’t tell you, over the years, how many diets and exercise programs I’ve started. From back in the day when I was a teenager with only an imagined weight problem, to my mid-forties, when I left my job as a gym rat to become a cube-dweller, and inactivity, poor diet and the promise of a pill to fix everything (and the insurance to pay for it) saw me decline into a sloth. A really cute sloth, but a sloth, nonetheless. Occasionally, I would make some progress toward getting back to my pre-sloth self, but mostly I didn’t.

This time, it was different. This was potentially a serious health issue. It shook me to my core. And fear is a great motivator.

The solution to this problem was very clear. Correcting it was totally in my power. But there was no time for hesitation. I had to get my ass in gear, both literally and figuratively. So I did, that very day.

No more ice cream as a midnight snack. Processed foods began to vanish from the pantry. Brown rice replaced white. Sweet potatoes filled in for white ones. And fresh fruits and veggies became the norm. I bought several diabetic cookbooks.

A week or so later, when the sinus infection was cleared up and I could breathe again, I restarted an abandoned exercise plan. The first week nearly did me in, but I kept at it. It got a little easier. Eating well began to feel more natural. I began to feel better. And I made my condition known to the people around me. Family, friends, co-workers – everyone was informed.

My co-workers offered to hide our community candy stash if it would help me, but I was resolute in my intention to stay out of it. This is my problem to deal with. Other people shouldn’t have to change to accommodate me.

And so far, I’ve been fine. Chocolate is great, and I’ve gotten a lot of comfort from it over the years. But it’s a weakness for me. Kryptonite, if you will. In great quantities (and I prefer consuming my chocolate in great quantities!), I know it can contribute to my demise. So for now, it’s off the table.

When faced with behavior change, there’s only one logical way to look at your options. You can keep doing, or not doing, the things that are damaging you (or your relationships or your forward progress) or you can change course. That conversation with my doctor set off an alarm in my brain. Keep this up and it’s going to kill you. That alarm was loud and ominous, and I knew if I didn’t silence it, it would plague me and distract me from other things and keep me awake at night. And as my grandmother used to say “Who needs that tsuris?”

As you know, I have plans. I have a dream job to pursue and a foundation to establish and lots of people to feed along the way. If I want to do any of those things, I’ve got to be healthy and strong. I’ve cooked for a crowd plenty of times. It is hard work that requires stamina and energy, and those things will be much more abundant if I’m leaner and meaner.

An amusing side effect to all of this: I’ve heard the same reaction from many of the people I’ve told, one of shock and disappointment. But not for the reasons you might think. “Oh NO! Does this mean you can’t bake anymore?”

Uhhh, well, thanks for your concern, but not to worry. Yes, I can still bake. I just can’t partake, save for a taste here and there. And I’m okay with that. This experience will help me learn to adapt recipes, not just for me, but for everyone I cook for in the future. It takes a lot of people to put on a rock and roll show, and somewhere down the road, I’m going to encounter someone with dietary restrictions. No problem.

I’ll be ready for anything.


And speaking of baking, we have a winner for February’s baked goods contest! Alyson of River Falls, WI has already requested a pan of brownies. She was so excited when she received my email, she responded by saying “I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten a “You’re a winner!” email that wasn’t from Nigeria. Cool!”

It may be your turn next month, peeps. And remember, the more friends you refer as subscribers, the more chances you get to win food! Real, homemade deliciousness.