Oh kale, no!

What’s the obsession with kale lately?  I see it absolutely everywhere these days.  I made myself a salad at Whole Foods, and kale was the main ingredient in what was labeled a “superfood” salad, as if it contained magical powers.   So of course I got some of it.

Heretofore I thought kale was a garnish you’re not supposed to eat.  Its only job is to sit on the plate beside your steak serving as a cheat to good nutrition, as in, “There’s something green on my plate and therefore I’m a health nut,” or something along those lines.

It seems someone has made kale into an entire industry engaging in hostile takeovers in the leafy greens sector .  Maybe the kale lobbyists in Washington were just slow in getting around to their jobs, but if there’s an index fund heavy on Big Kale, sign me up!  I’m just not sure I want to eat it.

The thing I have against kale is not really kale itself.  It’s the pictures of kale.  And to be honest it’s not even really the pictures of kale.  It’s the pictures like the above picture of kale.

Let me explain.

Look at how beautiful that is just sitting there, all green and texture-y.  Just looking at it makes me feel relaxed (or maybe this glass of Malbec is doing that).  So many blogs, websites, magazines, and catalogs have these amazing photographs of simple, ordinary things and they all look so….well, it’s hard to find the perfectly appropriate word because that word would vary depending on the picture.

Whatever verbal descriptions pictures may evoke, they all tend to have the same effect on me.  Namely, I compare those images to the everyday things in my life….and it makes me feel like I’m starring in a real-life Sanford and Son episode.

I’ll be honest, kale has never looked that good in my presence.


I’ve never felt the extent of serenity felt by this downward-dogger.

My fork and knife never seem to meet one another in such a graceful yet casual way.  I can almost hear the fork politely yet confidently asking the knife in a husky voice, “Do you mind if I lie across you like this?” knowing good and well the knife is not going to deny her request.

I literally have found myself staring at a picture of a bucket of dirt on someone’s blog and thinking what a great mom and wife and human being she must be.  WHAT?!

I’m sure there’s a lesson here.  Something about advertising and consumerism, etc.  But I love my life, and I feel content, thankful, and happy with all I have.  So why am I simultaneously drawn to and put off by all these wonderful images?  Do you ever suffer from PTPPD…post-traumatic pretty photo disorder?

Maybe the answer is just getting the kale outta here.


Lessons from a Politically Incorrect Mom

One cold December night our family had the privilege of spending time with two children from a foreign land.  My brother had befriended a classmate, David, who had moved with his family from Israel to America.  David and his little sister ate dinner with us one night and afterwards attended our church’s annual Christmas party for kids.  They seemed to enjoy it.

Later that evening we dropped the two beautiful children off at their house, their big brown eyes wide with excitement from the night’s festivities.  Their sweet mother stood in her driveway thanking us profusely in broken English for letting her children hang out with us.  As my mom turned to leave she paused as if a light bulb of awareness suddenly came on, a tiny voice letting her know that some sort of disclaimer needed to be made.

She turned back to the Hebrew mom still standing and waving in the driveway.  “By the way, I really didn’t think about this before…but I hope it’s okay.  We had hot dogs for supper tonight.  Your kids loved them. I buy the inexpensive kind so they probably don’t have much pork in them at all, your family being Jewish and everything.”  So after dropping Hiroshima, she continued by immediately delivering Nagasaki .  “Oh, and we took your kids to church, and they sat on Santa’s lap.  They also sang Christmas carols.”  She basically couldn’t have potentially offended them more if she would have replaced David’s yarmulke with a Santa hat and handed him a basket of Easter eggs to replace his dreidel.

I like to imagine in my mind that the next day as David’s family hightailed it on the first available flight back to Israel that security guards arrested my mom as she chased the plane down on the runway holding a box full of Jimmy Dean sausage and American flags, something to remember us by.

My mom meant no offense, and I truly don’t think any was taken, but when she got back in the car that night she thought for a minute and then let out the tiniest of laughs.  Then, slowly, as the scope of what just happened fully hit her, her laughter picked up until she was in full-blown crying mode.  And I was right behind her.  My mom has always found it easy to laugh at herself, and from times like this I learned two important lessons.  First, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  Second, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, laugh often, and laugh so hard that you cry.

Perfectly Good

My parents created the Iron Curtain of established parameters when it came to how money was spent in our family.  Years of research and careful observation resulted in finally being able to decode the decision process they went through whenever my brothers and I asked for something.   In their financial methodology every potential purchase was contemplated in light of one or more of the following questions, depending on how soon they could arrive at a reason to say no:  Is there something at home that’s a perfectly good substitute?  Is it worth the gas money?  Would you be better off doing something else?

Since the “perfectly good” substitute was the most oft-used excuse, I will expand upon that one.  A perfectly good substitute, according to my parents, was anything in our home that sort of resembled what we wanted them to buy for us somewhere outside of our home.  Easy examples include:

  • Hamburgers: “We have perfectly good sandwich bread and Spam at home.”
  • Malibu Barbie Townhouse: “We have perfectly good, stackable shoe boxes at home.”
  • Rain poncho:  “Don’t you remember?  We still have that perfectly good Hefty bag with a hole cut out in the middle for your head.”
  • Ice cold lemonade to stave off a possible heat stroke after four hours at the zoo:  “We have a veritable storehouse of perfectly good liquids at home, including two week-old milk, vegetable oil, and prune juice.”

At grocery stores, shopping malls, public parks, and anywhere else other kids’ parents were buying them stuff, our parents tried to sell the back-at-home alternatives with looks of incredulity, as if to suggest that any responsible member of society would have remembered every item we owned and its potential for functional malleability.  Their quantum approach to the concept of substitutes took its toll after years of living according to this spooky word-action at a distance.   Upon arrival at school one morning in sixth grade I was told my teacher had fallen ill and our class would have a substitute teacher for that day.  However, until I saw her with my own eyes I had no way of knowing if the substitute was a nice lady with a measure of experience in educating youngsters or an aardvark.  The “perfectly good substitute” didn’t have to be a member of the same species as the original–indeed, it rarely was–but my parents, to their credit, did aim to stay within the same kingdom.  We got as close as phylum on those days they felt especially generous.

Perfectly good substitutes could sometimes be found at stores, but only on those occasions when we wanted brand-name clothes.   My mom had a knack for finding shirts, pants, and shoes that resembled a popular brand at the time, and she was a firm believer in clothing us in nothing but the very second-best.  If our hearts longed for a glaringly obvious knock-off of a famous brand everyone else was wearing, it was never further away than our closets.   Our friends’ parents threw away money on Ralph Lauren Polo Club shirts for their kids.   Why spend $60 when $10 would buy a shirt from the well-respected Raphael Lowman Stable Association collection?   Unfortunately, Raphael’s horse was caught in mid-trot, and since it’s difficult for an embroidery machine to capture the three dimensions involved in an action shot, the horse looked like it was missing a leg.  In real life this horse would have been put down, much in the same way I was whenever I wore one of Raphael’s shirts.

In the early 80s for several birthdays and Christmases I asked for a Members Only jacket.   I was drunk on the allurement of the semi-shiny material and the shoulder straps.  I recently learned those are more properly called passants.  Only the French could come up with something so exotic.  But most importantly this jacket signified that its wearer had finally reached that elite echelon where only Members were allowed to roam, conversing with other Members about the secret things in life that only Members knew about.  I wanted one.  I had to have one.   Then, on an autumn Saturday around 1983 my mother walked through the door, home from a shopping trip, emitting the kind of smile that could only be elicited by an incredible bargain.  “Guess what I found for $15?”  As I watched her produce the jacket from a discount store bag, I genuinely believed all my dreams had finally come true.  I did a combination run/skip kind of thing to my new jacket, admiring the cinched waistband, my first passants, and the unmistakable black tag on the front announcing my induction into Membership.  I should have known by the strained look on my mom’s face that something was amiss.  On closer inspection I realized my mom’s super bargain wasn’t a Members Only jacket after all, but a Lepers Lonely jacket, an apt description of both the way the wearer was treated and felt.