Friday, March 6, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I imagine my drink today is named after what my midsection will resemble after I drink my weight in this brew. Fat Tire has arrived in Raleigh! My favorite beer, brought to us by the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado, has made its North Carolina debut! We are officially a card carrying member of the Cool Kids Club. I squealed like a wingback Wanda-blue eye shadowed-lycra legginged-gold hoop earringed backstage mama at a toddler beauty pageant when I saw the delivery truck wind its way into the Harris Teeter parking lot yesterday.

And so today, I toast the fine decision makers at New Belgium Brewing Company who made this girl's dreams come true. Don't judge me for being over the top until you taste this fine amber ale. So good it's perfect out of the bottle. Don't waste a drop pouring it into a glass. Plus, the way I see it, a bottle is made of glass already.

Here's to a well-earned Fat Tire, no matter how you look at it.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Corporate Sexism or When I Worked with a Couple of Pricks

A tweet from Pundit Mom inspired me to dig deep into my complex past to rekindle the memories I am about to share. Before you read on, let me just say that a) I turned out fine, if not a tish better b) I am glad to not have daughters who might face this uphill climb one day, c) I am doing everything in my power to raise respectful, smart, decent sons.

Back in the day, as in back in 1991, I was in my first real job. The kind of job with a 401k and a pension. The kind of job with yes men, ass kissers, office politics, and lunch meetings. I worked in the financial services industry for a global player who still leads its segment today. It was the 90s so I went to work in a plain navy suit with gold buttons (gasp!), a striped silk shell, pearls, stockings, and sensible pumps. My uber conservative dress code defied my uber progressive leanings. I was a gem to this company, pardon me for being so blunt, if not a bit big headed. Here I was, an Indian woman with a brand name education, impeccable references, an articulate manner.

I was one of few women in my department and I was the only one with a degree in English and history, as opposed to the finance and econ majors I shared cube space with. At first I was mercifully teased for having no financial services background or education but I proved to be a quick study. My retort in defense of my liberal arts education was, "Hey, at least I can read and write about what we're doing here!" I quickly climbed the proverbial corporate ladder, having written a training guide about advanced financial planning topics and techniques and promoted to a national trainer.

And that's where the real fun began.

I have been paradoxically blessed and cursed by genes that make me look a decade younger than my age. In fact, a few years ago the dean of a national business school refused to hire me as a marketing consultant because he thought I was too young and inexperienced (nevermind the unjust ageism issues here). He needed proof of my experience because he thought I was a 23-year old recent college graduate upon simply seeing me at a meeting. I was flirting with 40 at the time. And such has been the lot I've drawn. I'm short (5'0 if you must know), slim (getting less slim with every vanilla bean cupcake I eat), and youthful. That's all dandy anywhere but the boardroom.

In my training days I faced more than my share of sexism. It was my first taste of slimeball men, a jolt coming from the daughter of a straight-laced, if not stoic, man. Join me in a stroll through Memory Lane.

I spent my days talking to financial advisors around the country. Mostly I dealt with the heavy hitters who were living high on the hog, which might explain the pigs they had become. A large care package arrived in my office one afternoon. Everyone gathered around to watch me open this, making a scene, gushing on and on about how cool it was to get a secret admirer gift. To my horror, I pulled out a beach towel, suntan lotion, and a bikini too small to fit on that obnoxious Hollywood Chihuahua. Inside was a note, "I hope to see you in this poolside." We were days away from a conference in Palm Beach. The guy who sent this was a Baptist preacher turned financial whiz, married, three kids. I never did find him to introduce myself.

When I was a trainer we naturally got course evaluations. Mac Daddy and I tag teamed many classes (yes, we were the Pam and Jim of our time). His evaluations were chock full of remarks like "He really knows his stuff." "He has an excellent command of the materials." "I'd take any class he was teaching." Meanwhile, my evaluations, from the exact same classes, for which I wrote the training materials, read, "She looked hot in that black skirt." "I couldn't concentrate because the instructor was so hot." "Watching her made it easier to be away from my wife." "She always dresses so well." Of course the slimy bastards wrote that crap anonymously. When I complained to my boss, brace yourselves here, he said that I should be flattered! Flattered!

In another class, the participants, all men 10-20 years my senior, handed me a wad of cash at the end of our session. They apparently had placed bets on how old I was. The one closest to my age won the pot. I was fuming but maintained my composure. Finally, I asked them what ages they put their money on. Turns out no one was right so I pocketed the cash and walked out of room, never once turning back to see that gaggle of jaw dropped men.

I was in a regional office once when an advisor, visiting from out of town, asked me to show him the sights. I explained that I couldn't. He proceeded to call me a stuck up bitch and other choice taunts. In the office. In front of clients. The glimmer of goodness that came from this particular episode is that a fellow advisor, whom I did not know, overheard this outrage and turned the ass into HR. Now that guy's mama raised him right. Sadly, HR discouraged any action against this guy, who just happened to be a top producer. Money Maker = Invincible.

I faced all kinds of sexism and general assholism in my daily life in the cubicle trenches. The offhand snide comments. The oogling of my chest, resulting in my hand knocking some guys upside the chin. The negative remarks about mothers and wives who work. I learned to suck it up. I learned that complaining, regardless how justified, blackballed me. I learned to sit tight but be firm. I learned to tread lightly. I learned to suck it up. I harbored resentment that ate away at my soul.

I never got my payback but I do believe in divine justice. And I did turn up my moxie to demand a raise one day after finding out that Mac Daddy earned more than I did for the exact same job. That small victory was like a TV perfect golf shot after 12 holes of double bogeys; it was enough to fire me up, enough to find my voice, enough to force some change. I eventually moved on.

I don't know how the workplace has changed for women in the male dominated, old boys network of the financial industry. My fear is that all too many women today share my story. My hope is that men like Mac Daddy, and my sons when they're of age, will turn that wheel.
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Wordless Wednesday: Yum Thumb

Wordless Wednesday: Yum ThumbSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taste This!

I have been a cooking fiend the last few days. I serendipitously received a new cookbook on my doorstep last Friday. I generally read cookbooks like they're novels. I pore over them in the bookstore, thumb through dogeared pages among the racks at used bookstores, and spend hours gazing at recipes online. On rainy days I curl up with a cup of Tension Tamer tea and browse through a stack of cookbooks. I clip recipes from the likes of Cooking Light , Food & Wine , Cookie , Bon Appetit , and Southern Living, all of which arrive in my mailbox monthly. You know what? I never make a single recipe.

I use cookbooks, recipes in general really, as inspiration. I don't measure a thing and am fond of substitutions when the recipe calls for something I don't have on hand and can't manage a trip to Harris Teeter. I joke that I am the queen of "kitchen sink cooking;" I can muster up a great meal with a dash of this and a dollop of that, whatever lurks in the back of the pantry or in the bowels of the freezer are fair game. I consult a recipe just to get ideas for spice blends, cooking times, food pairings, or menu options. It is rare that I cook with a book propped open.

Until I discovered Taste This! by Gina Von Esmarch.

I was immediately drawn to the photographs. I hate when cookbooks don't have pictures. It must be a Pavlovian thing. I made three things out of Gina's cookbook over the weekend, improvising just a tish, as any creative cook is wont to do. Let me tell you, this is the first time in my life that what I cooked turned out exactly like it looked in the picture. I'm telling you, her photos could have very well been from my own little kitchen.

Here's what I cooked up:
Chicken Jerusalem, delectable shredded chicken and artichoke hearts in a wine and cream sauce served over rice. I added garlic and used gewurtraminner since I was plum out of sherry. In a rare twist, we didn't have leftovers. Deal even asked for some the next day for lunch. It's been only three days, and Mac Daddy is asking for this dish again. Sure signs of a family keeper, no?

Parmesan Crisps, sourdough bread coated in finely grated, you guessed it Sherlock, Parmesan. Butter, bread, cheese. How could one go wrong?! We could barely stop nibbling on these while I was dishing up dinner. D.I.V.I.N.E. Gina has these babies in the appetizer section, but they are so good that you'll want to serve them with the main course too. I put them in a cool glass bowl on the table so we could help ourselves as we enjoyed our meal. I stopped counting at five. Like I said, butter, bread, cheese. Can you blame a girl?

Needle in a Haystack, chocolate candy, 'nuff said. Pretty much the only dessert I can make without screwing up is instant pudding. But I mastered these on the first try. Who knew chow mein noodles and chocolate are long lost soul mates? We devoured these. The best part? So easy and fun to make with the kids! I used half chocolate, half butterscotch chips. I added unsalted peanuts, mini marshmallows, and shredded coconut. The recipe recommends raisins too, but you know how I feel about those wrinkled has-been grapes. This treat is going to be my go-to recipe for school room mom duties, holiday gifts, block parties, you name it. Delish.

Think I'm gushing? Here are some family testimonials:

"This is the BEST haystack I've ever had!" exclaimed Deal, age 3.

Commenting on said treats, "I know a way to get rich, Mommy. Let's make and sell these!" remarked my entrepreneurial, if not somewhat cheeky, Bird, age 5.

What's so great about Taste This! is that there is nothing chi-chi about it, no trips to the fancy food show to track down obscure ingredients. Easy, family friendly, fast cooking. No chicken nuggets or other such crap posing as healthy kid fare. These recipes are family fare. You know me, no cooking two separate meals for parents and children. The whole family eats the same meal; I am not a short order cook (no short jokes, please). This cookbook is great for a seasoned cook and a kitchen greenie alike. The Finger Lickin' Chicken is next on my list.

Oh, want to get your hands on this too? Check it out .

I can't wait to try more from this cookbook. I have a feeling it's going to be dogeared and sauce splattered very soon.
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Am I Less of a Mother?

I am a 40 year old woman. I have two sons, ages five and three. I spend my days between my office and my sons' schools. I cook three squares a day. I mend the occasional seam and fix buttons when I can find a match. I make homemade Valentines and sew super hero capes for my sons' stuffed animals. I, with my husband, raise our children with no family network to support us. I work part time. I mother full time. Yet some women claim that I am not really a mother. Apparently this has something to do with not paying my proverbial dues to earn the badge of Motherhood. Perhaps some context will help you track with me.

  • I got pregnant on the first try, one month after going off the pill. Same story the second time. I kid you not.
  • My pregnancies were easy peasy. Sure, I gained 45 pounds, half my body weight, but most of it melted away eventually (not without a struggle, mind you).
  • Bunion surgery was worse than childbirth. From the first pang of labor pain to a swaddled baby in my arms was all of three hours. I even fell asleep during labor the second time, and the nurse woke me up to push. Three pushes, 20 minutes, done.
  • I had an epidural for both births. I was dilated eight centimeters before I lugged my ass to hospital. I almost missed my epidural window and am grateful to those anesthesiologists who boogied to get me drugs in time.
  • My babies were champion eaters and sleepers. Still are.
  • My babies were bottle fed.

Some women have told me, uttered behind my back and boldly to my face, that I am less of a mother than they are.

  • Am I less of a mother because I did not struggle to get pregnant? Does that mean I don't cherish my children and the miracle of life? Of course not! As a new mother on the cusp of 35, I was and am eternally grateful for bearing two healthy children. I am astounded by the cliched miracle of life every. single. day.
  • Am I less of a mother because I don't have pregnancy war stories to share? I did faint in the cereal aisle of Lowes Foods once. Luckily my husband was there to pad my fall before I lost my battle with the linoleum.
  • Am I less of a mother because I did not toil through an excruciating labor? My babies did all the work. I watched my children being born in the mirror and I swear they swam out.
  • Am I less of a mother because I made use of the medical advancements available to me? The way I see it, I don't get my cavities filled without Novocaine so why labor through excruciating pain without the benefit of drugs? The epidural made my experience pleasant and pain free. I was admittedly lucky to experience no complications. I labored to eight centimeters on my own so perhaps I could have finished the job too. I didn't want to find out what I was made of; I had nothing to prove. At the end of the day, it's a personal choice.
  • Am I less of a mother because my children eat a varied and healthy bounty of food? Am I less of a mother because my children relish their sleep? My boys, since they were itty bitty, ate like champs. To this day they probably eat better than any adult I know. My first son, Bird, slept through the night at 12 weeks old. My second child, Deal, beat his older brother by two weeks. Bird napped until he was 4 1/2. Deal is 3 1/2 and stills naps regularly. And they both go to bed at 7:15 and sleep until 7:30. I realize I am lucky. Developing healthy sleep habits for our kids did not come without some tears and threats and tantrums. But bed time is generally a perfectly pleasant time at our house.
  • Am I less of a mother because I didn't nurse my babies? Oh, this is a touchy subject. Let's just say that I tried. Hard. My baby failed to thrive. He rapidly lost weight. My physical issues prevented him from getting nourishment (details to come in another post, another day). My team of doctors and lactation consultants ordered the baby on formula. You might say I went through heroic feats to try to nurse, even using a contraption that fed my baby formula through a tube that was attached to my breast to simulate nursing. I toiled so hard, yet my efforts were futile. The second time around the hospital lactation nurse, upon reviewing my file, advised me against breast feeding. To this day I see a nursing mother and child and feel pangs of regret. But in the end, my babies were nourished. And the best part was that my husband could cradle his infant sons and feed them too.

Motherhood is a patchwork of experiences. There is no handbook telling us what to do. There are no rules, no maps, no guidelines. Yet there are many, many tests. We all became mothers in different ways, none better or worse than the other. The women who took in foster children. The women who cared for a sister's daughter and raised her as her own. The women who adopted children who would otherwise face a bleak future. The women who rode the in vitro roller coaster. All are mothers. All see the magnificence and magic of motherhood. All feel our children's pain tenfold worse and rejoice in their glories tenfold more. All see the simple breathtaking beauty in her slumbering child. In the end, motherhood is a sisterhood.

Reposted from an original Deep South Moms Blog post.

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