Thursday, October 6, 2011

…On Daughter’s desserts and the old-age Battle of the “Bulge”

My daughter the pastry chef, the one who’s built like a supermodel and habitually avoids sweets unless she’s pre-menstrual and out of wine, e-mailed me pictures of her work to print for her portfolio. Pictures of layers of chocolate cake floating in a sea of fudgy ganache and topped with toasted marshmallow pillows that vaguely resemble little life preservers, of personal pan-sized warm apple-crisp with a scoop of fresh ice cream (real cream) melting into a fruity, cinnamon-y goo, of cheese cake covered in blood-red glazed strawberries and a dollop of snow white crème fresh, of golden custardy tarts languishing in a kiddie pool of macerated wild berries, and another unknown delight that resembles an ice cream sandwich, or maybe a Napoleon, dusted in powdered sugar and wearing a caramelized pecan top hat, and plated next to a tantalizing little scoop of something soft and creamy whose seeming lightness will, undoubtedly, translate to me ten pounds heavier if I continue looking at it. Damn that girl! I stuffed the prints in my briefcase and went back to my barely palatable desk lunch.
And while perusing a venue’s catering menu for an upcoming holiday party as I gulped my pre-packaged kit salad with its warm, soggy croutons, flavorless pressed chicken cubes and allegedly low-fat Caesar dressing (is there such a thing?), it dawned on me that soon I’d be playing helper to my daughter’s annual holiday baking escapades. It’s October and my sort-of-diligently upheld 2011 resolution of low-fat, low-carb diet and regular cardio exercise is officially doomed. Pumpkin pies and hand-dipped chocolates loom large on my dietary horizon; time to take my annual oath off life support. Pull the plug. I’m done.

But, wait! It’s October! There is a minuscule glimmer of hope for my pre-thirty pipe-thin pipe dreams, a long-shot of resurrecting my diet and exercise maintenance regime and – dare I speculate – amping up my workouts and – gasp! – achieving my coveted measurable one-inch girth loss from my grandmotherly, cellulite-riddled frame, and not just off my boobs either. I happened upon the perfect, target-area specific, weight loss aid and, since my credit cards are maxed, I know JUST the person to help.

I last wrote to him decades ago in my pony-addled youth, and I know that, if he answers my heartfelt and worthy request, I’m going to have to exercise patience along with my regular bike rides while waiting for him to deliver. But, financial woes aside, I have been a very good girl this year and, besides, the worst that could happen is he doesn’t respond and I re-pledge my allegiance to spin classes and Slim Fast in 2012. Right? Right.

So, here goes. Let me know if you think I have a shot.

Dear Santa,

I encountered a strange and intriguing item in my last Groupon junk e-mail, a ‘hot’ little number from the U.K. called "HotPants". No, Santa, these aren't the "hot pants" that my mother refused to let me wear at the onset of my burgeoning, pre-pubescent sexuality in the mid '70's because she was adamantly trying to protect my virginity - her idea of 'hot pants' back then was a freshly-forged chastity belt. These "HotPants" are new technology designed for weight loss and cellulite reduction. They're supposed to keep your muscles toasty warm while you exercise which increases perspiration so you sweat out all the icky toxins that coagulate excess fat cells and stuff them into the fissures of the disconnected connective tissue just beneath the skin surface of feminine hips and thighs making it necessary for every woman over a certain age to forego short shorts and embrace heavy support hosiery and Amish-style maxi skirts. Sort of like wearable bikram yoga. Like I said, Santa, intriguing.

However you judge present requests as frivolous or not, believe me, Santa, a pair of “HotPants” is absolutely necessary to my mental and physical health and well-being. You see, my daughter, the pastry chef, is rolling out a new dessert menu. For the last few weeks I've been playing sous chef and taster (I'm a very good mommy). Now the waistbands on my new slacks are tighter and I'm terrified of my bathroom scale. It just sits there all white and innocent on the floor, smiling wickedly at me as I step into the shower with thinly veiled malevolence. I know the instant I touch a toe to it, that little wheel will spin me into a brown sugar-soaked vortex, never to return until I'm the size, semblance and consistency of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. So, I was thinking that you might swing by London and snag me a pair of "HotPants" for my stocking stuffer this year. (I’ve got a Groupon for 53% off.)

You might consider picking up a pair or two for yourself, too. “Chef” is working on a new chocolate-oatmeal-fudge-nut cookie recipe to leave by your glass of lactose-free milk this Christmas Eve.

Thank you, Santa, and my best to Mrs. C and the Elf-kin.

Glenda Kay

P.S. If the "HotPants" don't work, I’ll need the name of a really good plastics guy…or a pony.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

...On Disappointment and Knowing better

This was an odd day. On one side, I learned that I suffer from osteoarthritis in my knees. Treatable, manageable without surgery. YAY! On the other side, I learned that the application I placed for a new position within my firm, one which boasts an actually career path and advancement opportunities, was filled the end of last week and my application wasn’t even considered. I cannot begin to tell you how much – at the risk of sounding vulgar – that pisses me off!

Here’s my problem. I am good at what I do. In my “day job”, when I’m given a task, I do it right the first time. That’s not me boasting, that’s actually written in my annual reviews. Consistently, even. Goody for me! I’m a good, sometimes great, and conscientious employee. But, I’m more than my job description and title alludes.

My official “day job” title is “Executive Assistant, but I never add “Executive Assistant” to my business cards. I can do that because I order business cards for everyone in my office. I have that much power. I know that I am more than an ‘executive assistant’; I’m more of an office manager. “Office Mommy” is the term I’ve coined for my position. The one who maintains calendars and schedules appointments and lays in supplies and tends boo-boo’s and, on occasion, wipes asses. I do do it all, and the earth-mother, Capricorn that I am comes by this very naturally. But…the “conducting-implementer” that my DISC assessment labels me balks at this pigeon-holing.

DISC assessment tests, the secret weapon of today’s Human Resource department. That random, algorithmic determination of one’s natural vs. adapted behaviors test which funnels you into one predetermined life lot over another. The track system, defined, redefined and employed by the American public school system since its inception in the 1920’s. If, for example, an employee like me - intelligent, willing, ambitious and with a demonstrated acumen for management and advancement, is hired into a subservient role, like the title "Executive Assistant" denotes, he or she is destined to languish in a life of career stagnation. Whether or not that employee takes it upon him or herself to further his or her education, to accomplish corporate training and skills advancement protocols, or pursue non-firm sponsored training programs is moot. Once an "EA", always an "EA", with the obligatory, five second “stand-and-be-recognized” moment at the annual meeting.

I’m sorry, Mr. and Ms. Corporate Executive, but just because I lassoed my personal career ambitions to balance my work/life dynamic and support my single-parented offspring does in no way mean that I am inherently complacent, or malleable, or devoid of independent logic and thought, and, thereby, a happy and willing supplicant in the role of blind subservient to you, or your wife or your children. I certainly didn’t put myself $50,000 in student loan debt to spend the rest of my working life kowtowing to your every rational or otherwise whim.

No. No, indeed. When, during the annual review, one is asked what one’s personal career goals are and one explicitly outlines two or three possible, not to mention heavily experienced and well-qualified for lateral advancement options, and is told (and I quote) “I’ve got your back”, only to learn that viable opportunities are not mentioned and one’s applications are not even reviewed, much less considered despite following the rules of the game, one tends to get, shall we say, bitchy. Embittered and demoralized are probably the more politically correct terms, but what does corporate America care. Another wide-eyed idealist will come along and subject him or herself to this continued abject humiliation and abuse perpetrated by the egomaniacal and self-serviant career overlords until the disillusionment manifests itself in a drastic measure, like quitting without alternative prospects and sucking the unemployment coffers dry.  Or something involving firearms.

Once upon a time, this country prospered and grew, thrived even, on the opportunities afforded to the diligent, hard-working, rule-abiding, imaginative populace. Those of us who bled and sweated to attain the dreams bred and nurtured by our forefathers. Unfortunately, the world today is rife with “haves and have nots”, “achievers and achievement –challenged”, “rainmakers” and the drowned corpses of the proletariat.

When will I ever learn that the least qualified, most lackadaisical and unmotivated are destined to advance beyond their talents and capabilities while the rest of us, we sparse few, the unsung, conscientious, do-gooder, suffocate beneath the stampeding herd of valid or not privileged ambition? It’s been fifty plus years, and I’ve yet to divine an answer.

Meanwhile, I’ll follow doctor’s orders, take my glucosamine, and keep trudging one foot before another praying to whatever deity may be out there that my knees don’t give out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

...On Writing. No, really.

Disclaimer and attribution: With my abject apologies to Stephen King for borrowing from his critically-acclaimed memoir on the craft (I just finished reading "On Writing" and am agog. Thanks, Steve.), I turn my attentions to my sorely neglected blog.

It's ten days into a new year and long past time to start making good on those lame-duck resolutions that we all spew in our 12:01 a.m. drunken stupors. "I resolve to quit smoking!" "I resolve to get into shape!" "I resolve to eat better!" "I resolve to get sober!" "I resolve to learn piano!" By ten days into the New Year, you realize that your arthritis will never allow you to graduate beyond “Chopsticks”, you've just cracked open your second carton of Marlboros, your third fifth of bourbon is down three fingers, and your pantry has been neatly restocked with Cheez-Its, Ho-Hos and Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater popcorn (extra butter). As my alter-ego, Ms. Green, says "I've never met a resolution I couldn't break."

MY resolution for 2011 is the quintessential, perennial, unpublished writer's pledge: "I will read more and I will write Every Day." I’ve got the ‘read more’ portion down, but, silly me, I forgot to set my specific, daily word count goal. Mr. King is quite firm on the idea of professional writers having set professional tasks - 'X' number of words per day, 'X' number of pages per day - and I have managed to overlook that crucial detail yet again.

For the past three years, my writing has been assigned to me by some very demanding professors. It was what this natural-born procrastinator needed and, I suppose, that's why I got my bachelors degree so late in life. But it did exert the necessary pressure on me to perform. To write. Now, the challenge is to write without procrastination. To put the pressure on myself. To demand my own performance. I demand a lot of myself in my day job, so I can demand just as much of my writing self. That shouldn't be too hard. Right?

The depths of my brain ring with Ms. Green’s raucous laughter. She knows me too well. I think she might’ve peed herself.

Rather than immediately plant myself at my desk with pen and paper like a good-girl-aspiring-writer, today, after finishing "On Writing", I opted for a trip to the book store. I felt compelled to purchase a copy of Mr. King's personal master’s class for myself. One that I can flag, jot my margin notes in and prominently display on my brimming IKEA bookshelf next to my copies of Barrett, Bryson, Dubus II and III, Faulkner, Lee, Lopez and my collection of Norton Anthologies of English and American literature. (Note to self: stop by IKEA for another 5-shelf Billy in black-brown.) I grabbed my Christmas gift card, slipped into my Skechers and carted myself to the nearest book store for a good browse and a large latte.

My procrastination excursion opened to an encounter with a local writer promoting his second book. “See?” says Green, “HE writes.” A nice chat ensued and, after perusing the 50% off table and pouring over all available Stephen King titles (the man has his own personal rack in the 'Horror' section...insane), I stopped at the promo table and picked up a copy of Power Grid, complete with personal inscription from author, Art Adkins. One thing I learned in school is to support my fellow artists because, one fine day, they will support me in return.

I managed the prologue of Power Grid while sipping my latte in the bookstore café. Yea. Art's a little adverb-happy. (Yes, I know. Everyone's a critic). I hope the story picks up, but that discovery will have to wait. Right now, I have my own personal copy of "On Writing" to dawdle over for a little while longer. No, it's not the solid, hard-bound edition with the dust cover picturing a butter cream bay window and storm door trimmed by lively impatiens that I illicitly checked out of the WPUC library and must discreetly return. (Adverbs, Glenda. Adverbs.) Mine is the soft-bound edition with that waxy-cum-suede finish on the cover. That finish that lends a sort of sensuality to the touch as my fingertips caress nubby, raised lettering. Moreover, the cover artwork is a simple black-and-white shot of the author in his workspace - cluttered, feet up, corgi standing guard - working. Writing.

Ms. Green is nagging. “Hel-lo-o! So what if the only King you’ve read is “On Writing” and “The Green Mile”, at least he WRITES.” Green can be a real bitch sometimes, but she’s right; I have managed to procrastinate the rewrite of my current short story enough to replace the manuscript in my 'to do' tray for next weekend when I will have one full 24-hour period to concentrate on nothing but those words. BUT...I have posted another blog.

So, there, Ms. Green. Take that!