sometimes i write poems (because i love poetry)

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a borrowed expression of what poetry feels like to those who write or listen.

If you ever loved poetry but got away from it, I encourage you to spend some quiet time letting it unfold inside of you. The world needs more good poets and memorable, evocative poems.

a borrowed expression of what poetry feels like to those who write or listen.

A borrowed expression of what poetry feels like to those who write or listen.

Everyone had a poem inside. It’s just a matter of writing it down. This past year I wrote three. (posted below if you’re feeling impatient)

Each came to me at an incredibly fast pace, without much premeditation. Which to me, is the best way to capture a feeling in a poem, though admittedly, not exemplary of sound craftsmanship. Like any art form, poetry has its rules for proper execution.

However, when rediscovering any form of writing, it’s always more productive to go at it without inhibition. “Write now, edit later” is how I was taught and my mantra when working with the students at Mighty Writers where I tutor and mentor. Unless you have the words, there’s no where else to go, right?

My impetuousness aside, after hearing Nikky Finney read aloud on Radio Times (thank you, Marty Moss-Coane for the introduction) last year, and finally reading Love That Dog, I am taking my reignited love of poetry more seriously and looking to re-learn the craft in a more legitimate fashion. So if any of you have courses, books, etc. to recommend, I am all ears.

I have no shame in sharing the raw versions because they were all written with clarity of mind and heart, and if there is one thing all poems should be built on, it’s emotion. (Think about all those classic poems from Yeats, Keats, and Brontë.)

The relevance here is that somebody asked me the other day what I was doing when the news that John Lennon had been assassinated broke. I knew instantly: writing poetry in my journal in my rainbow-, album cover-adorned bedroom. Being able to go back to something I loved so much as a teenager, and that soothed all that standard-issue angst, feels really fun and comforting at age 51, especially after a rough year.

without further ado… 

Tears fall inside out,
bittersweet tea
and broken glass.
Sandpaper across my heart.
Dust mixes with blood,
veins turn from blue to gray.
Not enough concrete
to block the pain.
—22 May 2014

gentle hands caress
trails of trust between two skins
his shoulders a raft
—21 November 2014

and my most recent…

cold air pushes through the tightly woven scarf
this one morning carelessly coiled around her neck
just enough
too much

her skin fights back, goosebumps and taut muscles
don’t move she commands her shoulders and
her eyes

mistakes happen this way

her soldier stance is no match for the frigid fingers
trying to claw their way between the layers of her scarf
and the layers of her skin

her half-mittened hands tug at the fringed edges
pulling in
pushing out
forgetting in that instant, her own exposed thumbs, pointers and pinkies

remembering
in that instant
the arm-length gloves lying dormant in her dresser

feeling
in that instant
winter’s sharp edges scratching at her unpainted fingernails

realizing
in that instant
i am unprepared

she waits eyes closed, heart, breath and mind still
frozen in fear wishing it away
this feeling
any feeling

she can hear the determined chill forcing its way through her body
popping cartilage and tendons
bursting through blocked veins and capillaries

leather digs into concrete but she can’t push herself down
away from this feeling
any feeling

even before it happens she feels the cold air hitting
the space inside
the place where no one goes anymore

take me anywhere but here she pleads

she feels the cold air settling
wondering, is it just resting?
noticing, the pain sounds different this time
hoping for a fissure not a fracture

she’s barely breathing now, afraid of what’s coming
of what’s not coming
of who’s not coming

please, she asks the sky above: get me out of here

still she waits
remembering
reminding

everything has a crack
that’s where the light gets in
—6 December 2014

Smart Women Who Do Stupid Things (like drink and dial)

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There's just no way you haven't been there... from the movie Swingers.

This post was inspired by my own dumb moves, a very funny conversation with my girlfriends and one even funnier guy with a great ability to make me laugh. You can thank him for the Swingers video clip. Ladies, we need to wise up STAT. 

It’s been eight months since I got the memo that my husband was “moving out and moving on.” That’s a full spring and summer, and a good chunk of fall, full of rollercoaster days trying to “keep on trucking” with style and grace.

There’s no question that I owe getting this far to my incomparable support circle of friends and family. And, when I remember to use them, a smile and sense of humor that can match any bad day—two “essentials” for getting over and around the post-breakup hump and back into a little socializing with the opposite sex.

Not like I have any game, but having observed people while working at coffee shops or playing at bars and restaurants, it’s obvious that sending out a smile has a boomerang effect. And since a smiley face emoticon—and text conversation—only goes so far, it’s a lot better to take that smile on the road than to sit at home feeling blue because none of your digital communication devices are delivering what you want. (I mean, how many times can you check Facebook Messenger when you already have alerts set up?)

Along with smiles and wit, being able to laugh at yourself is also a valuable asset. I’ve got this last one down as do most of my friends, which makes Monday morning quarterbacking very lively. You guys can argue, but women are so much better about facing their sorry ass selves than men. On the flipside, we let a lot of things slide that we probably shouldn’t. For example, faux relationships that are grounded in texts and not much else.

There’s a lot of confused conversation going on between men and women because of texting and as much as my friends and I hate to admit it, our cluelessness about what’s really going on makes us a little loco and throws us right back into being 14. It also makes us do some really dumb stuff that we later regret because we’re so damn mind-boggled and can’t think clearly. Smiling is a handy trait, but Smart is where it’s at.

The single women that I know are beautiful, sexy, accomplished, nurturing, generous, brilliant, tough, perseverant and any other nicety you want to toss in. So why is it that they (and yes, me too) devalue their self-worth and put their romantic interests up in lights?

After kibbitzing with a few lady friends recently (because I’m the new kid on the block and need all the help I can get to not f-ck up the dating thing), it rose to the surface pretty quickly, just how susceptible to the siren call of Smart Women Who Do Stupid Things we are.

I’m still trying to break it down, but the big question is why women try so hard with guys that aren’t the best match (even if they are really witty, kind, fun and handsome) and completely overlook those who are more in sync and equally embody all of the above, maybe even more so. I get that we play the safe-scary game, classifying prospects based on projected hurt, but in this text-forward, voice deprived era of dating, it’s pretty easy to get that wrong. (Trust me, the guy that scares you is the one you want to be getting jiggy with; he wants to know the real, not game-playing you.)

Men are definitely not immune to stupid behavior or miscalculation. But women, with their golden retriever nature, try much more thoughtfully (and obsessively) to do and say the right thing, to ignore actions (what red flag?), put too much stock into words and want to right things when really, it’d be OK and probably smart to throw this particular fish back.

Worse, we write stories in our heads about guys that make them seem like rockstars, when a lot of the time they’re not half as fabulous as we are. (#truth)

Instead of seizing the upper hand, we create unnecessary drama (and expend A LOT of energy) and wind up getting ourselves hurt when we might benefit from doing the hurting. I’m not talking about first time out of the gate, botched rebound experiences; those are inevitable for anyone just getting their sea legs. I’m referring to all the actions and reactions to the opposite sex women put on repeat and that lead to a very self-deprecating state even when what went down wasn’t 100% their fault.

A good offense is a good defense. Or maybe it’s reversed. Regardless, sh-t happens and the only way around it, is through it.

Take 24 hours to cry it out and obsess about every thing you shouldn’t have done, then throw on Taylor Swift, put that smile on and Shake It Off. And call out the guy who told you that he didn’t know who Taylor Swift was while doing it. Then thank him for being honest with you and imparting a few life lessons that will prove valuable when you meet the next nice guy, who just might happen to be a better fit. If you’re lucky, you’ll wind up with a new romantic interest and hold onto the other guy as a friend, which in my book is a very sweet deal.

Speaking of male friendships, my ex once told me that men and women can’t be friends because there’s always the question of sex between them. (I don’t think I have to explain that frequent lunches with female business associates made this a bit worrisome.) I disagree.

Male friendships are the bomb in my book, and I have very happily met some pretty wonderful guys while navigating the single life. Not only do I appreciate a male perspective on both sexes, just like your girlfriends’, the menfolk’s sense of humor and subtle ball-busting is sure to make you feel a little less stupid for well, being stupid. And at least coming from my guy friends, the hugs rock. Platonic can be a very lovely place to be. Especially when you’re climbing down from the hot-crazy ledge.

Circling back to smiles, chalk one up for the boomerang effect: I just sent mine out into the universe and was rewarded with a big smile-making text from one Mr. Nice Guy. I’m going to call that, very well-timed—and a sign that I’m getting a few things right even when I feel like I just did a face plant off of a too-big ski mogul and landed with my skis, poles, arms and legs crossed in four directions.

I realize that I am greener than a Christmas tree, but here’s what I am slowly learning: We can play it smart without playing games and with shit-eating grins across our faces. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and a lot of really nice guys who are just as happy to have girl “friends” as we are to have them.

Now get out there and swing playa playa sistas. Just keep the drinking and dialing to a minimum.

Lean and Green (and Meatless) in Philly

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                        MeatlessMondays_Posters_12_12_FINAL_HrZ_Page_2lean and green potato #meatlessmondayMeatlessMondays_Posters_12_12_FINAL_HrZ_Page_1

Philadelphia’s schools up the ante—and nutritional value of school lunches—on Meatless Monday with its brand new Lean and Green initiative.

We all know the deal: protein is good for you, saturated fat, not so much—a primary factor in meat’s demise in popularity among nutrition experts. Sure, meat has its dietary upside, but unless you’re pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’re eating too much. And, so are your children.

Recent numbers show that Americans consume approximately 185 pounds of chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and beef annually. While that doesn’t seem like much over the course of 12 months, overconsumption (more than 18 ounces per week of red meat, in particular) can clog your arteries and increase the risk of colon cancer. That’s the “not so (good) much” part.

Now that summer is behind us, and for us carnivores, its abundance of grilled burgers, ribs, hot dogs and chicken, sticking to the guidelines should be a lot easier. And though I did make it through the first Monday of September with nary a bite of meat, I suspect many others did not. The good news, is that you’ve got another 51 (+/-) chances to jump on the Meatless Monday bandwagon. And, to help spread the word about its next school cafeteria rendition: Lean and Green.

If you haven’t heard about this initiative yet, it’s an effort by Philadelphia Public Schools to tastefully tempt students to eat more meat-free meals—not just on Mondays. While menus are still being played with, students can expect more plant-based foods and hearty, but healthy complex carb-protein-veggie combinations such as bean burritos, pasta with marinara sauce and vegetable calzones (yum!).

Health isn’t the only benefit of decreasing consumption (and preparation) of meat, it’s also an effective means of reducing schools’ carbon footprints, positively impacting animal welfare (as it relates to factory farming), and helping more families discover alternatives to foods that lead to chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

As you might expect, this is welcome news to The Humane League, most significantly, its Philadelphia Director Rachel Atcheson who’s been busy shouting the news from the rooftops (and through the media) since the program was announced in late May. The Humane League has been proactive in reducing meat consumption, animal cruelty and environmental damage with its once-a-week meat “vacation,” also adhered to by Philadelphia’s schools. In the City of Brotherly Love, and across the country, #MeatlessMonday has become a weekly habit and spurred a lot of recipe sharing between vegetarians and carnivores. Just throw that hashtag in your browser, and in seconds you’ll have more Lean and Green recipes than time to make them.

“Encouraging students to take a holiday from meat one day a week with Lean and Green Days will do wonders for their health and academic performance.” —Rachel Atcheson, Philadelphia Director, The Humane League.

To get in the mood at home, here are a few recipes for you and the kids. The charred tomato soup is a great way to use up this summer’s final harvest.

Happy (green) eating! (Click on the photos to get to the recipes.)

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500 Days to MDGs

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500 DAYS to MDGs 

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In 2000, world leaders adopted a series of ambitious goals–the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)–including commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015. 

When I had my last child in 1999, I was stricken with Strep A, a blood infection that rocked my world in a very dramatic and frightening way. For weeks afterward, I lived with a picc line in my arm and intense fatigue that left me barely awake enough to nurse my son, number five in the family line. We also discovered a few hours after my son was born, that he had a club foot. So while dealing with the Strep A diagnosis, we were also researching orthopedic surgeons.

Though nerve-wracking, my husband and I were grateful for the quality of care afforded us, and the ability to take the necessary steps to heal both of us. We were certainly worried, but never once did it occur to us that our child might die—at least until he was 10 months old and had a very severe febrile seizure that landed him in critical care. Even then, we were surrounded by a skilled medical staff who knew how to handle worst case scenarios, just as we had been when our second child was stricken with RSV during infancy.

 That was another very scary time, but again, we were privy to excellent medical care—a circumstance not always the case for many women living in poverty both in the U.S. and around the world where child and maternal deaths are a serious problem. This is especially true in less developed nations where 18,000 children die each day from preventable causes and one million newborns die on their first day of life.

With five children, you can bet that I have seen my fair share of medical issues, all of the above plus scoliosis and borderline mental retardation in my eldest. The latter sound a lot worse on paper than in real life, but my point is that without access to top surgeons, psychologists, educational institutions, medicine, et al, my children’s lives may have turned out very differently. If anyone appreciates living in a region of medical abundance—and near genius—it’s me. Which is why I feel strongly about building awareness of Save the Children’s campaign to end preventable child deaths and Social Good Moms collaborative mission to post each day leading up to 500 Days to MDGs.

I’ve only just begun learning about these initiatives myself, but now, knowing the facts, my already high appreciation for having five healthy kids has soared. Anyone who’s been keeping up with current events is well aware that children everywhere are suffering from the impact of poverty, natural disasters, war, neglect, abuse and illness. While some may get on a soapbox about overpopulation, the fact remains that humans procreate whether intentionally or not and the children they bring into the world do not deserve to live—or die—in such horrific, and often preventable circumstances.

Thankfully, many of our world leaders agree: 14 years ago they adopted a series of goals now known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This ambitious initiative included commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015. Recent data has shown a significant drop—millions fewer—in the number of people living in extreme poverty than a generation ago, and that most children are completing a primary education. Findings also reveal that global hunger has been cut by over a third and that there are 90 million people living today whose lives would have been cut short, had child mortality rates remained at 1990 levels, the baseline year for the initial MDGs. 

However, that does not diminish the need for for more trained and skilled health workers, particularly in light of the startling number of newborn deaths, which account for 4 out of 5 deaths of children under the age of five.

Unless we urgently start to tackle newborn deaths, there is a real danger that progress in reducing child deaths could stall and we will fail in our ambition to be the generation that can end all preventable child deaths.

With 500 days to go before the target date, it is vital that the world acts to make sure more countries can get on-track to achieve MDG4-the reduction of preventable child deaths by two thirds by 2015. 

Here are the facts:

  • Each day an estimated 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes.
  • More than 1 million babies die on their first and only day of life across the world, and 2.9 million in their first month.
  • The newborn crisis is much bigger than we may think, with a staggering 1.2 million stillbirths occurring during childbirth
  • More than half of these maternal and under-fives deaths take place in locations beset by a high risk of conflict and/or natural disasters.
  • 40 million women give birth without any skilled help—that’s more than 100,000 women every day. Even more dramatically, 2 million women a year are entirely alone when giving birth.
  • Investing in mothers works. Maternal deaths and child mortality in the most challenging countries of the world are being dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children.
  • Preventable: We can stop this. Many of these deaths are preventable if the mother-to-be had a trained midwife to help them give birth safely
  • Equality: Newborn mortality rates can only be reduced through fairer distribution of essential health services and through universal healthcare access; this means making these more available to the poorest and most marginalized families, as well as to communities living in rural areas.

What can you do to help? It’s simple. Learn the facts, spread the word. Help save children’s lives.

500 days to MDG

 

Global Team of 200

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce: The 7-Letter Word I Never Want to Hear Again—or Want My Kids to Hear

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When marital bliss fades into divorce

By the end of 2014, I will officially be divorced for a second time, a fact that has left me deeply heartbroken and carrying a profound sense of failure, and to a degree, shame. These last two sentiments, the byproduct of being a parent and feeling responsible for my children’s perception of marriage as they evolve from teens and young adults into husbands and wives. I don’t have to tell anyone who’s been through it. Divorce is a gut-wrenching experience. 

As I told my three youngest on a very sad Friday afternoon after their stepfather had come over to talk about his decision to divorce, my respect and appreciation for marriage—and the belief that a happy, life-long relationship is possible—has not wavered. I was clear that marriage is hard work and that there are ebbs and flows of great times, good times, just OK times and pretty sucky times—much like the dynamics of sibling relationships. 

We talked about some marriages needing to end because of alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, mental illness and other reasons more nebulous, such as one spouse wanting freedom or more personal time to pursue a non-traditional career. But my message remained the same: Marriage is not easy under perfect conditions and there are rarely perfect conditions. My advice was to prepare themselves not for the ideal times, but for the challenging times, so that they have the tools and mindset to stay the course (or right an already sinking ship) when the fireworks die down, responsibilities multiply, money dwindles and tensions and miscommunications rise.

I assured them that many of these things will happen, but also that they’re not valid reasons to head toward the door and away from the serious commitment that they’ve made to themselves and to another person. I didn’t need to tell them that divorce brings with it a lot of pain and loss; they’ve already been there. Going through it a second time has been incredibly debilitating to me. They may be processing it differently, but they’ve not been immune and are old enough to form their own opinions and to put up emotional walls.

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If I didn’t say it earlier, I am not proud of being divorced.

Not once, and certainly not twice. I worry about what it conveys to those who don’t know me, who I will meet in professional settings. Inevitably the personal questions come up, and to me, I feel that “twice-divorced” reflects something negative about my character that could be misjudged by someone wanting to do business with or hire me. I don’t know if others have thought about this in similar fashion. I certainly did not “opt in” for this second divorce, yet I can’t shake the notion that it makes me look tarnished in some way. This is not a judgement on anyone out there who has been in my shoes; I know many people for whom the third time really was the charm. Then again, I know many, including my father, for whom that was not true. But where he was unlucky, and occasionally foolish in love, he was rich in parenting skills and has been a devoted father to his own brood of five.

My mother, though separated and divorced from him when I was still a baby, did go on to have a very long and generally happy and satisfying second marriage. However, divorce is a part of my genetics. I wasn’t happy about it as a kid, and I am less so today. Because no matter how much of a modern woman that I am, I still believe in marriage. I believe in the beauty of a longterm relationship where a couple can look back at the roller coaster ride they’ve been on and say, “Despite the odds, the disconnected times, the outside distractions to romance and coupledom, financial straits and mismatched schedules, we made it.” 

My first marriage lasted 16 years. This new marriage, 20 months. A damn shame, because many couples therapists will say that the first year of marriage is often the hardest. And in fact, this turned out to be true more at the start of Year Two when the pressure of finances, slow-growing entrepreneurships, job hunts, sports schedules and teenage angst and antics crept in to our sacred space. We both knew what we were dealing with, having been under the same roof for two years prior to our getting hitched, but our expectations and commitment were different. 

I can only speak for myself, as that is the fair and courteous thing to do, but after making mistakes and not trying hard enough to save my first marriage, I was determined to do the in-depth analysis, use the tools and make the lifestyle adjustments to take this second one to the next level. That doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes along the way, but I said “I do” at the altar with 120% intent to stay married. 

Which is why, along with the heartbreak and sense of betrayal in our disparate commitment, I feel vast disappointment in both myself and my husband. And, the need to express my stance against divorce as the mature way to correct relationship issues and personal shortcomings. Doing the work, as a couple and individually, when you really don’t want to, is where maturity and growth flourish. And who among us does not need a dose of both now and again? 

Divorce a second time around

When my first husband and I separated then divorced, there were very specific reasons, and I openly claim a lion’s share of responsibility. I remember the therapist telling us during one session, that repair takes a lot of time, years even, and that staying in a marriage when there are difficulties and hurts is so much harder than walking away, but that the definition of marriage is “commitment to doing the work.”  

We thought a lot about what she said, but ultimately, we didn’t know where to pick up the pieces and were too wounded to try. So when he asked me one day, if we thought we could put things back together—a few months after we had both started new romantic relationships—I told him I thought it would be too hard because of there now being other people entangled in our hearts and bodies, and he agreed. Deep down, what I felt most at that moment, and why the pain side is so deep for me in this second divorce, was that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been with this new man in my life. 

(Cue Alanis Morrisette…)

10120882-1002Fast-forward 10 years and here I am again. Though my signature is still needed, the future has been sealed: Another retainer fee, another round of furniture and clothing and tools and bikes and stereo systems and jewelry and lingerie and photographs and memories to pack into boxes; passwords to be changed and dates to be forgotten, friends to be lost, and now, Facebook to fret over… Another broken-home experience for my children and another reason for them to be very anxious about how their own marriages will turn out. Or if they’ll ever trust themselves or their own family history enough to take that step at all. They may be older this time around, but I know from my parents’ history that reluctantly adjusting to stepparents and then having to undo that relationship and the associated emotions, particularly trust, still has impact, even for high school and college-aged “kids.”

All of the above is why I am daring to share these words, and why I will continue to write about this in some form for months to come. I want my children to believe that they can have a happy marriage. Whether they become parents or not is irrelevant. Kids are not the only stressors to a romantic relationship. Thus far, I have not been a very good teacher in the marriage department. So for them, I want to start a conversation, with myself and with others, to help them understand the work needed individually and as a couple to make a marriage last. 

I am too old to have a chance at a life-long marriage, and with a heart as heavy as mine, I don’t know that I have the courage to risk a third marriage (let alone a date). But that doesn’t quell my desire to be in a relationship where I can reflect back a few decades and say, just like all those wonderful couples whom I admire, including my dear grandparents, “Look at what we’ve endured; we made it.”  

For now, it’s back to being a single mom and doing what I can to help these five beautiful creatures rewrite their family history in a way that I could not.

picstitch me and kids

One more reason women rock: McNally Jackson book reading

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Nothing But the Truth

Love seeing my name listed on the cover along with so many talented female authors.

In the better late than never category, and particularly for those in and around Soho looking for something to do this evening, McNally Jackson is hosting several authors in support of A Band of Women’s latest project, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions. I will be joining a group of women whom I have never met, and am so looking forward to reading an excerpt of my essay, a reflection on dropping my developmentally disabled daughter off at Chapel Haven in Connecticut.

It is somewhat ironic that as I read about this incredible transition for my daughter, I am experiencing another life-changing moment. I am not so sure when I’ll be ready to write this story down, but when the call comes for Volume 2, I will likely be the first in line. It’s been a wonderful opportunity and I feel so fortunate, especially at a time when I am working very hard to get back on my feet and back into life. I thank all the women involved for lifting me up with their terrific stories and storytelling skills, and for making me feel proud and accomplished, even if just for 15 minutes.

Check out the book here. And if you are in the neighborhood, please join me and all these smart, articulate women at the McNally Jackson book reading. 7pm.

Here are the details:

Readers this evening: Sierra Trees, Janet Hanson, Jessie Braun, Ashley Collins, Heather Kristin, Dawn Warden-Reeder, Kat Hurley, Abby Ellin, and Shannon Weisleder. Wine and refreshments served.

Location: 52 Prince St., New York, New York 10012-3309

The power of protein: Tyson Foods delivers 30,000 lbs. of it to Philabundance

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Tyson Foods KNOWs Hunger Campaign is positively impacting the hunger crisis by bringing attention to the issue and demystifying people's perceptions of WHO is a hungry person.

Tyson trucks

Hunger advocacy never gets old for me, which is why I love sharing stories about organizations that are making a consistent and sincere effort to provide relief for those in need. I was very excited to learn that during the last week of February, Tyson Foods, Inc., one of the country’s leading processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, delivered 30,000 pounds of protein to Philabundance. If you’ve never heard of Philabundance, it is the region’s largest hunger relief organization serving five counties in Philadelphia and four in New Jersey. 23% of its “clients” are children, and 16% are seniors—the two most vulnerable demographics.

Over the last four years, Philabundance has seen a 143% in need; a donation of this size is enormously helpful and in fact, helped provide 30,000 meals for families in the Delaware Valley where there are nearly 900,000 residents at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Here in Philadelphia, 1 in 4 residents are at risk for hunger, more than double the rates reported at both the national and state levels. (Click here to learn more about the “State of Hunger” across Pennsylvania.)

This is an alarming statistic anywhere, but in a city overflowing with trendy restaurants, food trucks, street vendors and gourmet markets, it is mind-boggling. For those paying attention to government funding, and following a number of international and national hunger prevention and cessation organizations, it’s very difficult to stand by and watch the hunger crisis worsen.

But all hope is not lost, especially here in Philadelphia where we have some of the most dedicated anti-hunger organizations in the country. But no matter how hard they work, their impact is marginalized by increasingly limited food supplies, due in large part to a rise in demand set off by SNAP cuts.

Though the data is hard to swallow, particularly in regard to the number of people being turned away by food pantries, there seems to be a growing movement among large food-based corporations to incorporate hunger into their cause marketing and/or corporate giving. Tyson is one of those companies working to make a difference, and this makes many people, including myself, happy. The Philadelphia donation is the second of three donation events in the Be a Hunger Hero campaign, a partnership between Champions for Kids and Tyson that aims to fight childhood hunger by providing the much-needed protein to families in need.

Tyson Foods’ current hunger relief campaign, KNOW Hunger, is focused on helping more people understand and join the effort to eliminate hunger in America. In the past 13 years, Tyson Foods has donated more than 95 million pounds of protein in the United States.

Tyson Foods KNOWs Hunger Campaign is positively impacting the hunger crisis by bringing attention to the issue and demystifying people's perceptions of WHO is a hungry person.

Tyson Foods KNOWs Hunger Campaign is positively impacting the hunger crisis by bringing attention to the issue and demystifying people’s perceptions of WHO is a hungry person.

These types of initiatives matter because being in a constant state of hunger prevents people from functioning normally. Their bodies are depleted, making it hard to focus on responsibilities or maintain enough energy to be effective at work—if they’re lucky enough to have a job.

We all have friends who we can count on to deliver a rant about the perceived character traits of those living in disadvantaged circumstances. But the face of hunger has changed. And so has its impact on the human body. In this article, researchers examine the link between poor nutrition/low food budgets and obesity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that high-nutrition foods are more costly, leaving many families with little choice other than to buy/consume cheaper, high-calorie foods.

One of the first grocery items to fall off the list when budgets are tight, is meat. And though consuming too much meat has its pitfalls, a diet of cheap, starchy carbohydrates and processed foods is worse. Protein is critical for memory and learning in both children and adults, and also for maintaining body composition, bone health and normal blood sugar. Being able to dispense 30,000 pounds of chicken, beef and pork across the region is not an everyday occurrence. If it were, obesity rates would be down, kids wouldn’t be thinking about lunch instead of the lesson going on in their classroom, and hunger statistics would start inching downward.

Thank you Tyson, Philabundance and Champion for Kids for standing up against hunger. I have a hunch that your friends at Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry welcome the assist.

Mardi Gras Recipe Series: Pecan crusted catfish with…

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Pecan-crusted Catfish

…orange-pecan brown butter sauce. (Looks good, right?)

Pecan-crusted Catfish

Last May, I led a recipe development project for a global citrus company. Not only was it a great time, but I came up with several tasty—and simple—recipes, all flavored with fresh orange (blood oranges and clementines too) juice or zest. With Mardi Gras coming up in just under two weeks, I thought it would be fun to post them and a few other recipes over the next week with N’Awlins flair. Since I have this one ready to go, with a pretty photo by photographer Betsy Barron, I am starting with pecan crusted catfish — definitely doable as a weeknight dish.

Let me know what you think and feel free to leave your favorite Cajun or Creole-inspired recipe as a comment. Next up (if I can find my recipe), is Cajun meatloaf with chipotle mashed potatoes and jalapeño cornbread, so come on back.

Here’s the low down on the how-to…

Ingredients:
(Serves 2)

Tip: I recommend 1 filet per person, but you can get away with a little less (3 for 4 people, for example) if large and serving other items. 2 catfish fillets, rinsed and patted dry

  • 2 catfish fillets
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

Method: 

  1. Dredge each fillet in flour
  2. Dip into beaten egg to coat
  3. Place in pecan mixture, pressing gently to coat both sides of fish
  4. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter over medium heat
  5. Add fillets cooking on each side till lightly brown 2 minutes each side
  6. Transfer to preheated oven (350 degrees) and bake an additional 8 minutes

While fish is cooking, prepare orange brown butter:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place a sauté pan over high heat, add butter, and heat until it bubbles and the milk solids start to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the hazelnuts; cook until they are slightly toasted, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat, add the orange juice and zest, and swirl the pan around until the mixture emulsifies. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Place catfish on a serving platter (I like to warm mine in the oven or with hot water first) and ladle a bit of the brown butter over top, also serving some on the side in a warm ramekin or tiny saucepan. (I use my measuring cups because the butter stays hot in the metal and is easy to pour out.)

 

 

1,001 People That Suck: Are you one of them?

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Author Kerri Kochanski is fed up with people that suck. And, she's taking 1,001 of them on in her book of the same title.

This promotional post is part of a blog book tour taking place around the web this week. If you’d like to learn more about the book tour, feel free to tweet up with Pam Margolis (aka The Unconventional Librarian), a sister Philly Social Media Mom and the author of this post.

Author Kerri Kochanski is fed up with people that suck. And, she's taking 1,001 of them on in her book of the same title.

Author Kerri Kochanski is fed up with people that suck. And, she’s taking 1,001 of them on in her book of the same title.

Kerri Kochanski, Author of 1,001 People That Suck is fed up with bad humanity and unkind behavior, and is “calling people out.” Championing kindness, tolerance, and understanding, the book “publicly shames” people who commit social crimes. As these crimes generally go unpunished, offenders fail to suffer a consequence, and thus, their bad behavior and unkindness continues. The book, however, delivers a consequence. It “officially” (and entertainingly) identifies 1,001 people who engage in bad humanity and unkind behavior, and labels them as “people that suck.” Pointing out humorous, serious, and questionable instances that are “really, just not right,” the book skewers offenders, and condemns them in the process.

“If you think people behaving badly is not an epidemic, it is,” says Kochanski. There are over 2 million entries on Google and over 6 million videos on YouTube that reference “people suck.” People are disturbed by bad behavior. And by ignoring, downplaying or accepting unpleasantness, we are creating serious, larger issues. Bullies are causing children to commit suicide; road rage is causing drivers to kill other drivers by running them off the road – even stalking, assaulting and killing them. The bad guys are starting to win, and the good guys need to do something. “We’ve reached a tipping point; enough is enough.”

Commiserate and engage in discussion on the book’s blog, and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Indoor gardening ideas to help you think Spring

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The grass IS greener in Spring, so why not bring some inside?
Sunny daffodils are one of the best sources of springtime smiles I know.

Sunny daffodils are one of the best sources of springtime smiles I know.

There’s been an awful lot of weather whining in my neck of the woods, where mega snowstorms have been stealing the headlines since just before Christmas. I can appreciate where the naysayers are coming from, but a rough winter just makes the appearance of milder temps and patches of green all the more exciting. There’s still a few more weeks to go until it’s safe to “think Spring,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a jump on things, indoors at least.

My project this coming week, is to take all the daffodil bulbs that never made it into the ground (two days after I got a great deal on 80 bulbs, we had our first snowstorm of the season) and fill as many glass vases and pots as possible with either water or soil and stuff them with bulbs. Since I only paid $40 bucks for the lot, I figure that I’m making out better than buying bouquets of flowers (though that won’t stop me from stocking up on bunches of tulips and hyacinth as they start cropping up in even bigger and brighter combinations at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s).

A chilled bulb is a pretty bulb. And a hearty one. Daffodils are incredibly easy to grow, in water or in soil, inside or outdoors.

A chilled bulb is a pretty bulb. And a hearty one. Daffodils are incredibly easy to grow, in water or in soil, inside or outdoors.

I’ll continue to bemoan the fact that they never made it into my garden, but by planting 5-7 in larger pots that I can place on my patio, I’ll still have the pleasure of looking outside and seeing creamy white and yellow cups and petals—a true sign that Spring is on its way. I might even get lucky enough to sneak a few bulbs into my window boxes, if I can unearth them from my snowy sills. For those who may share my predicament, as long as those bulbs have been laying around somewhere cold (like your unheated garage), you, too, can get the garden party started indoors. Just don’t wait too much longer.

The grass IS greener in Spring, so why not bring some inside?

The grass IS greener in Spring, so why not bring some inside?

Not everyone has chilled bulbs on hand, so here are a few other indoor gardening ideas to help you think Spring… One of my favorite Plan Bs starts with finding a narrow, long vessel and planting grass seed, which will sprout quickly and in a short time grow into a row of soft, green grass and look lovely running down your breakfast table or on your kitchen windowsill. Click here for a concise primer on the best seeds to use. You can mix in hyacinth, daffodils and tulips (and even pansies starting when they hit the nursery shelves) already started for a kick of color and fragrance.

If you really want to capture the coming season, starting an indoor herb garden is the perfect way. Choose fragrant varieties that will also acclimate to being outdoors once the weather is no longer a threat. A combination of rosemary, variegated sage, basil, flat leaf parsley, thyme, oregano and cilantro will provide texture and color contrast, and make cooking a lot more fun (and flavorful). Plus you can bring the entire arrangement outside as a patio decoration or take apart and transplant individually when the weather warms up. I also like to take sprigs of fresh herbs, either cut from my containers or purchased at the market, and pop them into miniature vases, shot glasses or small creamers to line my window sills and sashes, or fireplace mantle.  indoor herb garden

Of course, the simplest way to put a little Spring in your step—without getting any dirt under your nails—is to set aside a few extra dollars each week for a regular fresh flower splurge, and keep that bird feeder full. Between the views inside and the chirps and flitters happening outside, you should be able to make it through the rest of winter without any more gripes. Well, until the dogs and kids start trailing mud all over the house.

Like cherry tomatoes... you'll always find a bunch of tulips in my kitchen.

Like cherry tomatoes… you’ll always find a bunch of tulips in my kitchen.