#NEDAweek2018, fat girl, NEDA, self image, Women

Yo. Fat Girl.


How appropriate that this is NEDA week — National Eating Disorder Awareness week.  February in Seattle has me brushing hail off the jonquils and bundled in sweaters, prevented from long walks and sunshine infusions by an unrelenting steel gray and dripping sky. Premier weather for writing. And being depressed. And therefore, eating.

I crave mac&cheese and chocolates for breakfast and bread, bread, bread. So a few gal cousins and I began a sugar and alcohol cleanse the day after Valentine’s day (trust me, this weather has called for a lot of Bourbon). The headaches we endured the first week reminded us that sugar begets the craving for more sugar. This has been a good idea, though painful. But it also reminded me of the old days, the extreme dieting, the endless carb-starves and calorie counting.

I have made references along the way in my writing and on this blog that my body weight and self image took a hit for most of my life. I believe that my degree of eating disorder was instilled in me very early on because of how others thought I should look. And even when I initially shed some of the weight in eighth grade by growing five inches, the person in the mirror will always be fat. That is what happens when family, friends and peers — not to mention the media — sets standards that the average young girl cannot meet.

Every time I think I have gotten beyond this self-image issue the fat girl stands up: I had a series of abdominal surgeries ten months ago, right before my oldest daughter’s wedding. The dress I had purchased barely zipped on her wedding day. Spanx (never actually wear them) were out of the question due to my incision areas. I felt sick for days in anticipation of what those pictures would look like. The fat girl wanted to hide in the bathroom when the dress went over my head. She never leaves me, logically or illogically.

Today I seek transparency, like the warrior survivor #positively.kate who writes the most amazing truth every day on her blog and instagram. The NEDA website is an incredible resource for support or information: I took the quiz, and learned I could use some help. I know. I always will. But I also know after fifty-nine years that I am spectacular in many ways and eating disorders do not define me anymore. Hey, I was tumor-free for the wedding and I WAS THERE, saggy stomach and all.

Once that girl lives in you, you just have to call her out. I looked in the bathroom mirror, my daughter waiting on the other side of the door in her wedding dress and said,

“Yo, Fat Girl. I love you.”


Olive, February, 2018. Seattle, WA.


Hillary Clinton, Not Okay, Vote, Women

Not Okay. Again.

Last week I was making a return at a Nordstrom’s store situated in the northern suburbs of Seattle. All was very quiet on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 PM on the third floor. I was the only customer in sight. My back was to the escalators and while exchanging information with a very young saleswoman I heard it. Right behind me.

“In my day we didn’t stack women’s underwear on tables for everyone to see,” he growled. I could feel him a few feet away. Those little hairs on our neck? They really do prickle when adrenalin flows.

I smiled at the gal, got very still then heard closer behind me,

“Seriously, you bitches need to do something about this.”

I looked her in the eye, did not turn around and said, “Does he come here often?”

She continued to smile and said without missing a beat,

“Oh, thanks goodness, I thought he was with you. No. Never seen him before.”

I laughed too loudly and said “Ah. No.”

And that’s when I felt a very new feeling. I wasn’t scared. I was completely enraged. Expansively enraged.

He moved next to me, fiddled with some pamphlets, commented on our vaginas. I folded my hands around my bag and turned to face him. I was seriously sweating and ready to deck him. This was not ok. Again. The language, the attitude, coming into our space — ladies lingerie for god’s sake. Like a bad movie rerun after all the news, the endless pussy jokes, the locker room talk from Donald Trump. Not. Okay. At. All.

Then he swiveled, circled the sales counter, got very close to another saleswoman and started to talk in a low voice. Not breaking her smile, my saleswoman asked for my signature, then answered a phone call.

“Yes, I did. White male, pony tail, white shirt, back of the lingerie department. Thank you.”

I looked at her in total respect.

“What did you do? I asked, keeping an eye on him.

“No need for phone calls,” she smiled. “We just have to press a button.”

I was flooded for love for this young woman, her professionalism, her smile, her calm. And deeply saddened that standing in our women’s sanctuary we had to protect ourselves. Again.

I looked her in the eye and said,

You are awesome.”

As I headed to the escalator two men took got off and split to either side of me and headed to the back.

Not ok. Again. But here’s what is happening since Donald Trump opened his mouth: Women are not scared, we are really, really angry. We are people, not objects of filth, voyeurism, sexual predatory behavior and let me emphasize, this behavior is not acceptable anywhere. Not in a bus, not in a house, not in the street, not at my feet.

Know the difference between OKAY and NOT OKAY. Or you might get smacked by a sweating writer with a bag full of books and bras. And I guarantee it will hurt.







Tasting Memory: A Night of Paella.


Paella night

By the grill, Bainbridge Island, Washington, April 2016

Last weekend I poured a blood colored Spanish into my glass and watched the seals slip through the borage blue water. Behind me, the cast iron pans slid onto the grill suspended over smoldering hardwood coals as a pair of eagles flew screaming into the evergreens above. The familiar hiss and cackle of arborio rice and garlic stirred hard into the hot oil drew our crowd of family and friends, dressed in a kaleidoscope of Seattle April attire — white linen, puffy vests, scarves, caps — away from the sunset on Mt. Rainier to watch the chef. I can map my fifty-seven years by paella: so many paellas in Connecticut, all the paellas in Boston, one amazing paella in Madrid and tonight, a Pacific Northwest paella on Bainbridge Island, overlooking Puget Sound. A dish of summer. A dish of layers. Tonight, a simmering pan of memories.

My mother’s best friend always made my childhood paellas, gathering her ingredients from the Boston fish market on the edge of the Quincy market. She would arrive at our door in Connecticut arms laden with paper-taped bundles of shellfish, flat fish, fish with eyes, peppers with stems, chicken with pin feathers not quite plucked. We would dance around the grill ducking flakes of ash while she layered the ingredients into the expanding rice, fragrant steam rising, the pan nestled into a homemade grill of rock and coals outside the kitchen door. As the eyes of the small smelt laid last on top began to bulge and bubble, we would shriek and run, fast on bare feet, into the darkening light.

1973 in Madrid: Visiting family that hosted my mother decades before, garlic and saffron and smoked paprika as intense as the language flying around me, the fish chopped apart next to the grill, the heads tossed to the cats milling under the tables. Course chorizo flecked with fat sizzled and jumped. I leaned over the pan, trying to be the sophisticated teenager and inhaled smoke straight up my nose. Feigning a deep drink of the unfamiliar sangria, I flicked the tears away with my sleeve, the night soon a blur for too much fruity wine. That week, I hand-carried a cast iron paella pan home to the States, a gift from this family that loved my mother, wrapped in brown paper and tied with butcher twine.

Then in Boston, married, small children, little fingers tossing the chicken, the peas, holding the youngest over the pan so she could place the red peppers in her pattern of choice. Small dresses danced on the lawn and gin and tonic rattled in glasses. Over the next thirty years we adopted some of the old ways, added some of our own. We used more saffron.The oysters and clams were farmed by a cousin from Vineyard sound. There were allergies, and vegetarians, and paellas in the rain.

And last summer: My son bent over the grill, the flat wide spoon that stirred a hundred paella before in his hand. I watched him measure and stir the rice, the garlic, the saffron,  carefully laying the fish, the chicken, the blue mussels, the redolent chorizo, each ingredient nestled into the deeply oiled pan, this pan older than he is, the hardest grains first, the tenderest flesh last. His father standing nearby, passing on each step learned from this deep history of paella, places and hands; the steps learned from the one who has died, who had learned from a Spanish beauty, who had cooked for the one who now sits on our patio, our guest of honor, my mother’s friend who stirred the rice on the rocks while fireflies danced so long ago. She pulls a sweater close, drinks a small sherry and smiles. Memories laid down one by one into the pan, hands reaching back in time.

And here, on Bainbridge Island: New friends and old family. Fresh Halibut and mussels from the Sound. A child who waves a whisk and runs to watch for Orcas. A mountain as old and as stately as the first peasant paella, thrown together from leftovers. We carry the traditions, we change the traditions, we taste our past and adjust the flavors for our future.

Such is cooking. Such is life.

I dig the spoon deep into the chicken fattened rice and remember.