Category Archives: Life

Why I Smoke, and Why I’m Quitting

Smoking is a bad habit. In fact, it’s one of mine. I remember years ago,when I first mentioned to my parents that some of my friends smoked, their first question was: “In this day and age, why would anyone do that?” They didn’t mean just anyone; they meant anyone young, anyone who wasn’t already addicted, and still had things to lose from it. Years later, I’m smoking somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a pack a day, and I still don’t have a definitive answer.

There are a lot of individual reasons as to why I smoke, and I figure they’re similar to other people’s justifications. I smoke because it’s social. It’s a conversation starter, and ‘cool factor’ aside, on average I’ve found that smokers tend to be more interesting than non-smokers. Of course, being ‘interesting’ doesn’t make them good friends or responsible people, but they sure are fun to talk to. I also smoke because it’s a huge stress release. There are many times when I’ve weighed the detriment to physical health from a cigarette against the detriment to mental health of a potential panic attack, and the cigarette always wins. Smoking calms me down, it distracts me, and generally seems to fend off mental demons, for a moment anyway. Of course I’m sure that’s 90% placebo effect, but hey, whatever works.

I smoke because it’s beautiful. That sounds really silly, but there’s something I just love about seeing curls of smoke emitting from someone’s mouth or nose. It’s like they’re breathing fire almost. My inner art historian is just a big sucker for iconic imagery, and I think cigarettes and smoking definitely fall into that category. It’s not that I smoke because I want to be like James Dean or Carrie Bradshaw, but I see it rather to an homage to the huge cumulative history of great people and great characters who smoked, most of whom knew it was bad for them and just didn’t care. That isn’t reasonable or logical, but I think it’s a big part of what’s generally perceived as smoking’s ‘badass’ reputation.

The bottom line is, I really, really enjoy smoking. It’s one of those small pleasures that can sometimes make me so very happy in a time of need. However, I also spend a good chunk of time feeling bad about smoking. I think every real smoker has had that moment when you first hock up a big lump of grayish phlegm and realize, “Shit, that stuff they told us in health class was true.” When I was kid, I hated smokers, and I often wonder what kids think of me now when I walk by with a burning cancer-stick in hand.

I’m not sure if other people smoke for these reasons, but I have a feeling that some do. These are the appeals that I’m going to have to fight against soon. In less than three weeks, I’m quitting smoking. I set the date a while ago, I’m enjoying my nicotine now while it lasts, and soon I’m going to go pick up a box of Nicorette to have ready and waiting. I’m quitting for my health, for my lifestyle, and for my friends and family. I don’t blame my fellow smokers who have no plans for quitting; in fact, I really envy them. But this is my plan, and I’m sticking to it.

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A Renewed Effort: Blogging, Family, and Mother’s Day

My family, some 17 years ago.

After a long hiatus, I’m blogging again. Personally, I blame my failed juice fast for my absence. I’ve come back to the blog partially because I think it’s an important outlet for non-academic writing, and also for more cynical reasons: I need a job. After an attempt at “test blogging” as part of an application process, which went miserably, I’ve realized that burgeoning writers really need to have active blogs these days. So here goes… again.

Today is Mother’s Day, and I’m already feeling like a pretty bad daughter. I sent the obligatory email this morning, complete with a colorful large font declaring “Happy Mother’s Day!”, but I haven’t gotten her a present and she called me before I got a chance to call her. I’ll make it up to her after my exams are over. But this whole family oriented holiday thing has got me thinking more generally about my family, and their role in my life. Right now it’s a pretty small one, but I’m hoping to change that soon, ideally without suffocating in the process.

I’ve always been close with my family, but since coming to college I’ve drifted away from them. My parents live two hours away, which is just close enough for occasional visits, but I usually let them come to me. Otherwise, I go home for major breaks and a little bit during the summer, but that’s it. I’ve spent my summers elsewhere for the past three years, and this year I even managed to spend my fall and spring breaks on vacation with my boyfriend, leaving only winter break at home. Over those few weeks, they managed to find out that I smoke, confront me about drinking too much, and generally make me feel like an all-around disappointment. Of course, they don’t think I’m a disappointment; the problem is, I have a bad habit of always interpreting their perceptions of me as negative. I have a huge guilt complex when it comes to my family, so I always assume that they think I’m guilty too. Guilty of what, I’m not even sure.

This summer I hope to go home for a short amount of time, find a job, and move away for good. Far away would be preferable, although logistics are pointing towards DC, which is only two hours away from home (I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or not). But either way, once I get the full independence from my family that I crave so much, I want to bring them back into my life as a source of support that’s purely emotional – no financial support, no educational support, no help with housing or income – just emotional. I will call my parents and my brother voluntarily, and I will keep them updated on my life. I have trouble doing this now because I feel like when I let them in, they have control over me; but once I’m out on my own for good, I will be able to appreciate their love and support without feeling quite so obligated to actually do what they say. I can’t pretend that familial obligations will ever disappear completely, but I think that with my independence, I will gain more control over the relationship.

The truth is, I have a wonderful family. They’re loving, supportive, generally intelligent, and occasionally batshit crazy; but above all, they’re fundamentally good people. I’m the one who has the issues, who induces all the guilt and stress on my part. It’s probably because I fear any intimacy that’s non-sexual, non-romantic. Anyway, I’m entering a scary new stage in my life, and I know my family will be there for me through it. So with that bit of sentimentality over, time for some pictures of the people who shaped my childhood. They’re mostly of my Dad’s side of the family, because I snagged a bunch of old photos that my Dad was scanning once. Here they are, roughly in chronological order:

My paternal grandmother in Tahiti, where she met my grandfather.

My paternal grandparents, holding my aunt as a baby.

My Dad and my aunt as kids. They just don't make 'em this cute anymore.

My Dad riding his bike.

My Dad's family with their new Rolls Royce. My grandfather (who I never met) bought it on an impulse. He was a little crazy, and even though I never met him, his presence has always been felt in the family.

My Dad.

My Mom and Dad, before they got married. What a foxy couple.

My Dad and my older brother, before I was born.

My Mom, my brother, and I in Maine when we were kids.

My uncle (Dad's younger brother), being a pirate. Which he is.

Hopefully I’ll get a similar batch of old photos from my Mom’s side of the family sometime. These don’t quite seem holiday appropriate, given that they’re all of my Dad’s side, but the old ones are just so gorgeous that I had to post them. Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day!

All photos courtesy of my family’s collection.

Juice Cleanse: Day 1 1/2

OK, Confession time: It’s early evening on my second day of my juice cleanse, and I have already cheated. Last night, to be specific: I ate 2 pieces of naan and a tiny serving of curry. Then this morning I had half a grilled cheese and a soup. I feel like a bit of a failure, but in my defense: this shit SUCKS.

To elaborate, the reason why I cheated and ate solid food that wasn’t on my menu last night was because I had a headache and felt nauseous. I can’t fully blame the cleanse, because I am having sinus problems and was not following the directions perfectly. I got really behind on my blending and juicing, and therefore had eaten less than I should have throughout the day. Also, I was probably eating well under the recommended servings, because this shit gets GROSS.

To be fair, the flavors of the juices and shakes are actual very interesting and often tasty; the lemon lime shake is definitely my favorite. But the texture is where the problems start. It’s basically like baby food. Drinkable goo. It get’s gross after a while. Here are some selections from my day:

Carrot Ginger “Soup”
Young Love Juice
Lemon Lime Shake

Like I said, baby food. Also, all of the blending, juicing, and cleaning of blenders and juicers that goes into making these goops is a bitch. I spent the majority of a day blending shit when I should have been studying for an exam instead. In case you can’t tell, I’m not feeling great about this cleanse.

However, against my better judgment, I’m back at it tonight. After my moment of weakness/sanity last night, I also ate a light brunch (the aforementioned grilled cheese and soup) after getting up today, because I was worried about feeling sick for my exam. I took the exam though, and since brunch I’ve been cleansing again. This is mostly because I spent far too much money on the ingredients, and have fridge full of all this green stuff that I can’t bear to waste:

The Contents of my fridge.

So, at this point, I would definitely not recommend the Organic Avenue cleanse. We’ll see though. To be fair, the headache could have purely been sinus related, and I never got hungry per say; just grumpy and desperate for a grilled cheese. I get the sense that this stuff is really filling, but low in calorie and way too high in nutrients. I also got super bloated last night, because apparently fiber makes you retain water. Fun!

Stay tuned for either a change in opinion, or my giving up entirely. As of now, I’ve decided that if I still hate it in a few days, I’m using the ingredients to make a shit ton of guacamole.

Juice-Cleanse-Detox-Fast / Veggie-Fest 2010

First of all: I’m baaack! My year-long hiatus from this blog has finally come to an end. I don’t really have an excuse for my absence; I could blame laziness, too much schoolwork, too much work-work, or moral superiority to this blogging crap – but the only one of those that would be really plausible is laziness, so let’s just leave it at that. Long time no see, blogosphere.

I return with a purpose. As of this morning, I have embarked upon a juice
cleanse. Or, to the more specific, the “Organic Avenue Detox Diet,” otherwise known as the “LOVE*young Cleanse.” Yes, that capitalization and asterisk are part of the name. That would be the one Gwyneth Paltrow does all the time, and raves about on her blog, “GOOP.” Ughh, I hate myself already.

So, some background: juice cleanses are diets where you only eat juices or shakes, ideally homemade, over a given period of time. The point is to cleanse your system, get rid of toxins, clean those bowels out, and supposedly be generally healthful, energizing, and “vibrant,” whatever that means for a diet. My hopes are that my skin will look like Gwyneth Paltrow’s when I’m done. Weight loss is not typically the goal, although chances are if you’re cutting cheese fries and Big Gulps out of your diet, you might lose some pounds too.

For this particular cleanse, I will be consuming 2 blended veggie juices, 2 smoothies/shakes, 1 raw carrot soup and 1 raw salad every day for a week, with some extra servings of sketchy green powder mixed in water sprinkled in between. My diet for the next 7 days will be raw, vegan, and mostly organic. Hooo-boy, I’m getting intimidated by the healthiness already. If you’re interested in following my footsteps, the recipes can all be found on Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog GOOP, and reviews of the cleanse can be found at The Daily Green and Bitch Yourself Thin.

Getting ready for this week has been a surprisingly intensive process. I’ve had to make a trip each to Trader Joe’s, the local foodstore, and the even more local Co-Op to get all my ingredients together. Here’s a rundown of the supplies needed, broken up by where I got them.

Borrowed from friends:

  • 1 Juicer
  • 1 Blender

Purchased at above mentioned grocery stores:

  • Trader Joe’s Super Green Drink powder
  • 90 oz. Coconut water
  • 14 0z. Coconut milk (yes, they’re different)
  • Stevia extract
  • Himalayan sea salt
  • Unsweetend coconut meat
  • Miso paste
  • 3 Zucchinis
  • 3 Yellow squash
  • 1 Bunch mint
  • 1 Bunch parsley
  • 7 Hass Avocados
  • 1 Head garlic
  • 1 Ginger root
  • 4 Limes

Stolen from my dining hall (obscene quantities of each):

  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Arugula/Mixed greens
  • Soy sprouts
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • lemon
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • White Onion

Whew. It was time-consuming and a bit pricier than I would have liked to track it all down, but hopefully it will prove to be worth it. Being able to get most of the produce from the dining hall will help a lot, I think.

A note on substitutions: The original Organic Avenue cleanse requires even more crazy stuff than I have listed here. They apparently want you to only consume pH-enhanced (I’m still unclear on what that entails)  liquids for the week, via creepy droplets and only Alkaline (i.e. ionized) water. I ditched the pH-drops and the liquid Chlorophyll because of issues with price and availability, and am substituting good old tap water for the alkaline stuff, again because of the price. I also am replacing shallots with plain white onion, since I forgot to buy them, and Trader Joe’s green drink powder for the Doc Broc’s stuff they recommend. It’s 2/3 the price and seems pretty much the same. Also, I will be juicing all of my fruit juices, such as the lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit.

Finally, the question I’m sure you all have is: Why the fuck am I doing this?

I am doing this for a variety of reasons. First, I have a degree of faith in the health benefits of this type of thing (I’m a sucker, I know), and I’ve been feeling really crappy over the past few months. I’m been eating poorly, drinking too much, smoking too much, and generally abusing my body through what I put into it. I think that this cleanse will be a nice way to jump-start a healthier lifestyle, and do a routine cleaning of sorts of my system. Second, I think this will be a great social experiment. If celebrities and trendsters are doing this to themselves, I want to see what it’s like and judge their behavior accordingly. I think that food trends reflect very heavily upon the societies in which they arise, and I want to see what this one says about America’s celebrities and popular culture. I will be monitoring my feelings, energy-levels, skin glowiness, and weight loss throughout the week too, to see what happens (and of course record it here).

Finally, I am NOT doing this to lose weight. I’m not saying I would exactly be pissed if my belly-area shrunk a bit, but that’s really not the point. If you want to lose weight, you need a longer-term solution than this. Some juice cleanses can be very unhealthy (example: that lemon and cayenne crap), and I’ve done my research to make sure this isn’t one of them. Although the diet may look sparse, I’ll actually be consuming a pretty normal amount – the only difference is that most of it will be liquefied veggies. I will get plenty of protein from the coconut and the miso, and plenty of good fats from the daily avocado I’ll be eating; I even get to chew one meal a day! That being said, if I start feeling weak or too hungry, I will stop. And then probably bitch about it here.

So, I’m back in the blog saddle, and on my way to either glowy skin and unlimited health and energy, or carb-withdrawal-induced rage and severe indigestion. Only time will tell!

Semana 1 en Buenos Aires

So, after much delay and neglect of this blog, I’m finally in Buenos Aires, Argentina for my fall semester abroad. I’ve actually been here for 4 days now, crazy as that seems. The adjustment has been tough, but it’s getting easier already. Incidentally, they speak NO English here, which initially increased my feeling of isolation, but my Spanish is already getting better.

My host family is very nice, and very funny. The parents, David and Clara, are both actors, and Clara also does some directing and writing. My impression is that they’re mostly into theater, although apparently Clara has a role in a TV show right now, and I just found out today that David is somewhat of a legit movie actor:

http://www.cinenacional.com/personas/index.php?persona=5072

There are definitely some cultural differences; for instance, Clara doesn’t seem to be such a big fan of wearing pants around the house, and instead opts for tights. But all in all, they are very sweet, and have been very nice to me, despite the fact that my Spanish-speaking self must seem like una poca de una idiota. David and Clara also have a 25 year old son, Federico, who lives at home and is pretty cool. He’s currently being trained as a gym teacher, which is slightly hilarious.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is an brief glossary of the random things I have discovered here that I deem worthy of description:

El Alamo – HILARIOUS American bar near where I live. Open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Appears to play nothing but the Black Keys, which is kinda exciting, and U2, which is kinda strange. Incidentally, Argentinians seem to love the song “Vertigo.” I have no idea why.

Claro – Vaguely creepy cellphone network that appears to literally sponsor the roads; every street sign has a “Claro” logo on it, as well as an arrow pointing to the nearest Claro store.

Eh-mee-lee – How David and Clara pronounce my name.

Un Lomito – Delicious steak sandwich, popular everywhere here. And in case steak isn’t meat-y enough for you for lunch, they often come with ham on them in addition to the large slab of steak. They like meat here.

Quilmes – Cheap local beer that I absolutely love. They have it everywhere, it only costs like 6 pesos Argentinos, and its decently tasty for the price. Definitely beats Natty Light.

Don’t Eat the Organic Kumquats

One of the surprises that comes with any away-from-home internship is new found adulthood. And with adulthood comes a very new and exciting activity: grocery shopping. I LOVE grocery shopping.

This turn of events is actually incredibly dangerous, especially for someone like me who’s trying to live on a slim school-given stipend in DC, the world’s most expensive city. DC also happens to be a menacing place in another way: it is the land of the Whole Foods. Everywhere you look is another looming bastion of disgustingly high-quality produce for exorbitant prices, full of temptations such as fine drunken goat’s cheese from the netherlands, organic large grain quinoa, and yes, the dreaded organic kumquats. My faith in frugality is tested everytime I walk by.

I have a tortured relationship with Whole Foods. On the one hand, it is the epitome of the spoiled-young-liberal-super-yuppie lifestyle, it encourages buying imported foods rather than local, and it certainly has a tendency to drain one’s wallet. On the other hand, I have found the average quality of food to be generally better than at most groceries, and the price issue is really only a problem if you let it be. The Whole Foods- owned “365” brand stuff is actually generally cheaper than comparable products at say, Giant, tastes better, and a lot of it is organic and therefore chemical-free too. Unfortunately, this is not what you will want to buy once you enter a Whole Foods. Right next to that 365 peanut butter will be a jar of BeardedHippie Farms’ organic peanut butter, with a label explaining that it’s made  from peanuts that have been hand-picked by a Guatemalan orphan who is being paid a fair wage by the Bearded Hippies so that he can buy his school uniform. And guess which peanut butter you are going to want to buy?

I have resisted much temptation thus far, but little things like nice cheeses, live basil plants, and yes, kumquats, keep appearing in my basket whenever I shop for groceries. I’m eating wonderfully for now, but I’m skeptical of exactly how economically sustainable my eating habits are. Of course, a sane person would say, ” Why the hell aren’t you shopping at Safeway with all the other broke college kids?” But in my defense, until recently a Whole Foods was literally the only food store within walking distance of my house. Now that I’ve moved, my NEW Whole Foods is actually the second closest, but the closest one is a gross Giant that is barely bigger than my apartment and doesn’t even have a deli section.  My life is hard.