Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Smartest Food.

I'm smart. I like food. So of course I'd be interested in a food that will make me even smarter. AND healthier. Pyschology Today has a great article on why we should all be eating blueberries. Here's a snippet:

There's a revolution going on. And it's not being fought with guns and bombs but with garden-variety fruits and vegetables.

Call it the 'smart-food revolution.' It has to do with the growing body of research showing that everyday produce can function medically to prevent, treat and even cure common diseases.
Many green grocery items contain goodies that can help ward off the diseases of aging, such as cancer and heart disease, and slow down the aging process itself. Some of them can even halt the brain deterioration and memory loss that tends to accompany aging.

All together, the findings suggest that relatively simple diet modifications can slow down the normal process of brain aging and memory impairment. And delicious little blueberries may be the smartest food of all.

At the University of Maine, Dorothea J. Klimis, associate professor of clinical nutrition, started looking at blueberries because of her interest in heart disease and manganese, a trace mineral found in abundance in blueberries.

She found that blueberries have a powerful effect on arteries, keeping them from constricting in response to stress hormones. Constricted arteries can raise blood pressure and bring on cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Her studies suggest that the compounds in blueberries bolster the bioavailability of nitric oxide, an artery relaxer. She is measuring enzymes that aid nitric oxide to see at which point in the chemical process blueberries intervene.

Although the research points to a compound within anthocyanin, Klimis is not interested in singling out specific ingredients. "The food industry is notorious for extracting things and turning them into pills. I promote whole foods. It's probably a synergistic effect within blueberries anyhow."

Smaller, wild blueberries, the "low-bush" variety, are thought to be healthier than cultivated blueberries because they contain more anthocyanin. And frozen berries are just as good as fresh ones.

Like their first cousins the cranberries, blueberries have been shown to suppress urinary tract infections, and to reduce eyestrain, too. "Hippocrates said to use food as medicine," Klimis reports, "but doctors don't do that."

You can.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On: Creativity

"Never for an instant forget the effort to renew your life, to build yourself anew. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it may be the most severely challenging struggle there is. For opening the door to your own life is in the end more difficult than opening the door to all the mysteries of the universe. " - Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhist philosopher

Every time I read this, I think to myself, "How does one go about opening that door?" And then i think some more on it and figure out that it's a process. And then i think some more on that process and think some more and more and more and then it hits me: thinking about it isn't gonna get it open; you just gotta DO it.

Turning thoughts into actions has been one of the greatest obstacles of my life. Turning thoughts into words is easy. I can talk a blue streak about what i want to do and what i plan to do but actually doing it? Nah. There are very few times when i've broken thru. And when i have, it was very rewarding and fulfulling. But when i look back, i can't figure out how i did it or what got me off my proverbial ass. There's no pattern or rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes i just DID it. (shout out to Nike)

So i'm issuing myself a challenge.

Self, it's Tuesday. You have until Sunday evening to do something, anything that you've been thinking about for a while. I know you have a long ass list so pick just one. Start slow, start small. Maybe you could even write out a list and put it on the fridge. check them off as you go...but it's time, self. It's time.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Finally My Dry Spell Is Over.

I was starting to think I wasn't going to win anything ever again. The last time i won a sweepstakes was in January. I won a year subscription to my favorite magazine, GAMES. Then i didn't win any for a long, long time. I mean I spend about an hour a day entering them and deal with lots of spam but every now and then there's a payoff.

I win lots of little things like t-shirts, movie tickets, books, toys, a travel chair, and other trinkets but my biggest win was a trip to Birmingham, England to see Duran Duran in concert (I sqeezed in a lovely side-trip to London, too). That came via telephone from a rep at Sony Records...I couldn't believe it. I mean nobody really wins trips, do they? Well yup. I'm living proof of that.

Well anyway, i got a letter in the mail today from Best Buy saying that I'd won a Sony Cybershot digital camera from a World Cup prediction sweep I had entered. (now i REALLY love Sony) It should be shipped to me in 4 to 6 weeks...yay!!!! And i had been kinda slacking with entering sweeps cuz it had been sooooo long since i'd won anything substantial.

So i guess imma be back on the grind again...

and i may just start a new photo blog :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Madison Avenue Misstep.

That does not make me want to buy a Snickers bar. (Neither do these.) It makes want to vomit. What were they thinking associating candy with a surgical procedure? As a woman, the word hysterectomy immediately comes to mind. So if i bite into a Snickers bar, my uterus will fall out BUT I will no longer be hungry. Great.

P.S. I wish i were this clever.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

First Day of School Update:

I just spoke to Pumpkin and he said his first day of school was awesome! And he didn't get detention! whew... I'm so glad he liked it. He was doing his homework when I called (they gave very little) so he's off to a good start.

He did miss the school bus because he was confused about which bus to take home. So one of the teachers gave him a ride to the bus stop where his dad was waiting. Excellent.

Now i can exhale...

The First Day of School

As much as i enjoyed summer vacation, I could not WAIT for the first day of school. The smiling teachers, chattering kids, brand new textbooks... It was always an exciting day for me and it was the one day where i'd wake up before my mom just so i could pick out which of my new outfits I was gonna wear. I used to put extra vaseline on my face and arms to make sure i didn't get teased for being ashy. I almost always had a new bookbag, pencil case and fresh composition books with my name neatly scrawled on the front.

Today is my 10-year old's first day of 5th grade and i'm just as nervous and excited sitting here at my desk as if i were there myself. He had previously been in the same school for the last 6 years and I can only imagine how he must feel today...a new school, new classmates, new teachers. Nothing at all will be familiar. And he's not going to just any's a college-prepatory charter school. An award-winning system that has been featured on various TV talk shows. One with lots of strict rules and easy-to-get detentions. It will be fun too, but he will have to earn that fun.

I know he was probably scared on the way this morning...worrying about what it's gonna be like...worrying about getting a detention on the first day...with good reason. His father and i have spent the last two weeks drilling him and impressing upon him the importance of getting organized, focusing on his work and paying attention in class. Those 3 things have been very difficult for him in the past...which is part of why I'm so excited that he will be in this school.

The last school he was in was horribly sub-standard. Even though he finished the year with A's and B's, he was being given work on a 2nd grade level...and he was in the 4th grade! Unfortunately, the administration's expectations for the students in that school were so low, that no one was being challenged. He did as little as possible and came away with good grades. It was easy to succeed there and it has given my son a false sense of security.

Well today begins his reality check. Middle school is when things start getting serious; the math is harder and the work is more demanding. If he doesn't get serious about school now, and develop good study habits, high school is going to be even more trying for him.

I know he's smart enough but that boy is just (admittedly) lazy. All he cares about is playing and watching TV. He hates school. Which is so foreign to me because I always LOVED LOVED LOVED school. How did i raise a child that hates school? I mean i know it's not my fault; children are individuals, but still.

Well fine. He can hate school all he wants but I won't let him get away with not doing his best. I know he's going to need alot of support and encouragement in these first few months. If i can keep his spirits up and let him know that i'm always proud of him no matter what, hopefully he will Rise to this new challenge.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mondays with Meshell.

Watching Meshell Ndegeocello perform is like watching a flower blossom slowly.

She starts out quiet and closed. Her mic is angled towards the band instead of the audience...She takes the stage without incident; no introductions, no warnings. She lets the band get started as she hangs back...shy. After some minutes, she starts to sing a little but then dons her hood in order to protect herself even more from the scrutiny of the crowd....

But after a while, she begins to warm up...she dances, moves, gives direction, laughs with the band. Eventually she acknowledges the crowd. Banters. Smiles. Introduces the band. Then finally, after 1.5 hours, and at long last....

She picks up the Bass. just wow.

Meshell makes me want to quit my job, buy a bass, and lock myself in a padded room for a month until i emerge with an opus. She plays so amazingly and effortlessly. Her dainty fingers flit and fly over the thick strings as if she's caressing them instead of pressing them. If the main bass player is doing a simple 3 chord repetition, she quietly overtakes him and adds a note here and a note there...but differently every other bar...i was mesmerized.

Lucky for me, there's more to come. She's performing with her band, A Different Girl [Every Night], for 3 Mondays in August. So tonight was only the beginning...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stupid Girl.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a lovely village. She went to school every day, studied real hard and got good grades. But there was just one problem.

Every day at 4pm, she walked a ways up the road to where there is always a small fire burning. Every day, as she passes by the old man, he tells her not to touch the fire. Every day, she walks right up to the fire and puts her hand over it.

The pain is intense and the girl screams out. Her hand is already sore and scarred from all the previous days' pain and every day the pain is worse. She walks back down the road, crying, past the old man (who hands her a bandage) and goes home.

Weeks and weeks go by and the girl continues her daily routine. Until one day, when the old man could not take it anymore. He stops the girl as she is walking by, hand already bloodied and bandaged from the day before...he has to know.

Old Man: are you going to the fire?

Stupid Girl: yes.

Old Man: don't you know that it will burn you? i tell you every day...

Stupid Girl: yes, i know. i hear you tell me.

Old Man: then why do you keep doing it? why don't you stop hurting yourself?

Stupid Girl: Because I am stupid, I guess.

and off towards the fire she went again.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On: Stuff

I absolutely detest the word *Can't*. it's a copout. a crutch. i hate it when people use it because what they really mean is that they *won't* or *don't want to* do something. They are just afraid to say it that way. But yes, they are quite able to. We CAN do anything that we have a desire to do, if we want it badly enough. There's just no such thing as *can't*. Cuz it would be really easy for me to say "I can't open a franchise right now", but the truth of the matter is, I'm not willing to give it a sincere attempt right now. Because i know for a fact that if i put 100% effort into doing it, it would get done.

Every day after work, I pass by a seemingly homeless man in the subway (i try not to 100% trust appearances). He looks about 55 years old, Black, salt/pepper hair and beard...he's a large man. Not obese but not thin. Very alert and seemingly healthy. He sits on a milk crate and has a paper cup with change in it that he shakes as people walk by.

Now i understand that some people are down on their luck for whatever reason...loss of home, loss of job, etc. and maybe they need some help to get ahead. I can sympathize because i'm only 2 paychecks away from homelessness myself. But to sit in the same spot every day and shake a cup? that shit pisses me off. Now i don't know what he's doing up until I see him...maybe he's out looking for work or whatever. I don't know. But i can only go on what i see. And my perception is that this man expects me to get up every morning, go to a job that i don't even really want to be at, work all day, earn a paycheck, then just give it to him because he's shaking a cup? I don't think so. Sometimes i have an urge to start a conversation with him and find out what his situation is and other times, I want to scream at him. So i just say nothing. I walk by and don't even look at him. I pretend to not even see him. I treat him as if he is invisible even tho it hate it when people do that to me. I'm often amazed at my own hypocrisy..

and speaking of my hypocrisy...I was on the PATH train last night and there was this couple. The girl was petite, white with blond hair. Some kind of accent that i could not place. Cute round face. Her boyfriend was a bit taller than her...dark curly hair, piercing eyes..maybe Italian?. Well i don't know if they were newly in love with each other but they just would not keep their hands off each other...they constantly kissed (loudly) right in front of where i was standing. I was highly annoyed and rolled my eyes at them several times. In those moments, I hated them intensely and wanted to scream at them to give me a fucking break...

But I know now that I was just jealous. Not too long ago, that was me/us. on a train, holding hands, standing close, sharing an ipod, kissing, staring into each others eyes, not caring about anyone else around us, wondering whether the train could move faster so we could hurry up and be home and alone...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Testimony Vol 1: Life and Relationships

I got this cd the other day and i was very excited to listen to it...this was my first time buying a CD in a very long time and i'd almost forgotten how much i enjoy liner notes...i read them all. all her thank you's (there were like 5 pages worth).. what struck me the most tho, were her photographs. she is so beautiful. and she just looks so happy and at peace. especially the one photo of her in Hawaii by the waterfall. just amazing...

so i loaded the cd up onto my nano and took a listen on my way to work. maybe my expectations were too high though because i was not that impressed.

Now there's no denying that India has a nice voice and she writes very well. She has alot to say and i'm glad someone is saying it. It's a refreshing change from the empty ,vacuous, materialistic subject matter of the average songs you hear on the radio these days.

but the music was a bit unremarkable and sometimes boring. elementary, even. I'd have much preferred this be a spoken word album because i loved the lyrics to most of the songs...but the vocal and musical arrangements..the musicianship displayed...B.L.A.H. My main gripe is that there was too much talk-singing (damn you, R. Kelly) and meaningless runs. Oftentimes her voice was not as full of emotion as the lyrics would seem to require...

i hated writing that because i wanted to like this album so badly. but i gotta be honest. i can't not speak on mediocrity. Jehan has given me such a healthy appreciation of really well-produced, high quality, professional music and vocal stylings that it's really glaring when something is not up to snuff.

but at the end of the day, I'm incredibly thankful for India.Arie. She is a welcome change to the music industry's obsession with light skin, straight noses, long blond hair... India looks like me. Her nose and lips and skin are like mine. I rarely get to see a reflection of myself being successful in the entertainment business. AND she's not selling sex. AND she's talking about positive uplifting things. She's important and relevant. She's opening doors and carving pathways for an army of little dark black girls to pick up an instrument and march in behind her. I will always respect and support her for that.