It Takes Two

The complete saying is, “It takes two to tango.”  So, let’s talk conflict in partnerships.

The tango is a dance of intense passion between the dancing pair.  A marriage or partnership implies shared and balanced, but not necessarily equal responsibility toward the same goal.

The flow of responsibility in a partnership is like a seesaw.  One person takes the bigger load for a moment then it shifts to the other one.  It’s uneven at times but equitable, on balance.

In fact, one of the “fair-fighting” rules known to therapists worldwide, is the see-saw metaphor: speak, then listen, listen, then speak.  “Take turns,” we say to every three-year-old at one time or another, or to every sparring pair.

Recently my spouse and I were at the grocery store checkout and we were observed by other folks in line and the cashier, having what I would call a a moment of happy bickering. We bantered about concerning something or another that happened in our shopping experience.

I think he picked up something totally random that I hadn’t noticed until checkout where he was bagging and I was paying.  I proceeded to sarcastically joke that he was like the proverbial kid in the cart who picked up cotton candy or some such non-food-light-in-his-eyes-treat, behind mom’s back.

This reminded me of a story from the past.  After a kid, casually standing nearby, observed me and my spouse lightheartedly quibbling, I asked him if his parents’ squabble sometimes.  I was surprised that he outright said, no.

I was shocked to hear that any married couple never argue a matter.  Even considering that those parents maybe kept their rows away from their child, as is standard fight-protocol, I remained skeptical that they never heartily disagreed.

I assumed that every couple contends with one another, surely.  Having formally studied marriage and family, even getting an advanced academic degree on the subject, not to mention personal experience of more than forty years living and working with my spouse, I know a thing or two about marriage and family dynamics.

If you’re honest, and passionate enough about your relationship, you will engage in the occasional dispute Or you will avoid or ignore conflict only to let it build up and explode later.

After all, you are two separate individuals from two disparate backgrounds, with two divergent points of view on the world around you.  You grew up apart, even if you have history together.

In addition to those basic distinctions, you may compound atop them, differences in how you perceive and deal with finances, work, sex, leisure time, food, health, raising kids, politics, religion, communication styles, friends, relatives, and a vast number of other lifestyle factors.

That’s a lot of diversity, and occasionally there’s a clash of wills when we attempt to achieve unity from diversity.  About that tango thing, there are fair ways to fight and there is street fighting.

The point is, you’ve consciously joined together in a dance of life and sometimes it’s fiery.  So, there are rules to keep the blaze under control.

“And there’s another thing…”.  There’s always another thing.  But not now.  Tackle only one issue to argue about.  What’s the conflict that started this whole thing?  Deal with it now and save the other thing for another day.

Words matter, so communicate.  “I hear you,” and “I understand,” are the ultimate end-goal in every argument.  We all want to be heard and understood.

“What do you want from me?”  Be forthright and as concise as possible about exactly what you wanted in the first place without the complications of anger, frustration, past pain, fear, anxiety, dread, or any other emotion that pops up in a fight.

Stick to the point, which is to resolve your differences. Unity and agreement are the prize at the end of the fight.  Try to be specific about what needs to be done to resolve the issue.  Specificity can be a quick resolution to any argument if you can subtract the bluster.

If things feel like they’re escalating, take a break to be apart for a short time to ease the intensity.  Or, if you can, break the tension with humor; after all you’re both behaving like you’re three years old, so call it like it is; i.e., “this is stupid.”

In the tango, there are moments apart, then sudden and assertive togetherness.  And in a fair fight, self-awareness is allowed to grow out of alone time.  We can take that moment apart to humble ourselves and acknowledge our weaknesses, failures, and contributions to the conflict at hand.

Avoid the words, “always,” and “never;” keep it clean and respectful; and try not to mention divorce or breakup, the ultimate abandonment. It’s also best to fight on a full stomach and when rested; we’ve all been “hangry” at times, and it’s not the time to start something.

Oh, and preparation for holidays and vacations are lusciously ripe moments for picking a fight.  What with our Hallmark visions of perfection, peace, and love all the way around, watch out for some passionate reality to hit you square in the face.

Don’t keep score.  There should be no winner or loser in partnership fights.  The goal for partners is to be happy instead of being right. 

The ultimate goal is resolutionBlame has no place in a fair fight or in a tango, which takes two equal and responsible contributors.

Give yourselves some credit for potentially being creative problem-solvers when you find yourselves in a fight.  Know that there is a way to dance together that is satisfying to you both.  Fight fair and remember it “takes two…to tango.”

Equal Parts

I believe maybe we thought that after two years of actively fighting COVID, supply chain issues, inflation, political upheaval, shrinkflation and more, maybe 2022 would have turned it all around.  What do you think?

It’s been, in moments, a massively challenging year around here.  But there have been glimmers of joy and delight as well.  Let’s just call it even, as to equal parts of happiness and sadness.

For the second day in a row, I was on my back from a mild but noticeable reaction to a vaccine.  My daughter and husband gave me an appropriate amount of needed pity and encouraged me to rest.

It’s sort of funny that I’m someone who needs encouragement to rest.  But I do, how about you?

At eleven a.m. I responded from my bed, to my daughter’s supportive text, “I can’t guarantee that I won’t get a bee in my bonnet later and dig in to what needs done.”  My thoughts then turned to the bipolar character of life for many folks around the globe.

In the form of a disclaimer, please note that my thoughts in this or any of my columns are in no way making light of bipolar disorder or any other very real mental health issues.  I’m simply using the convenient and writerly adjective, “bipolar,” to describe opposing behaviors or moods that pop up in quick succession amongst most people, few of whom are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I’ve noticed people this year have been surprising, delightful, frustrating, understanding, angry, supportive, uncooperative, generous, selfish, unexpected, and predictable.  It’s been a year of paradox, opposites in juxtaposition.

It feels at times like the universe is bipolar, not just people.

How many ways can you say difficult, hard, challenging, or not easy?  But then, the character of one’s day eases into a sort of fluidity, making the skeptical among us wonder, “what’s going on, and when is the hammer going to drop?”  Happy and sad, grumpy and glad. 

I’ll be awake at night and it’ll randomly occur to me, “I’m happy.”  That may seem weird, but it’s usually obvious even to the densest of us, when we’re sad.  But, happiness creeps up on you.

It’s been a year of crazy and calm.  For example, most days include a few notably crazy moments.  Frankly, in my word, those moments are often related to some sort of customer support network which is far from supportive, if not the cause of the crazy.

Or some corporation with which we have a relationship throws a curve into our orderly life, with a “creative accounting system,” which makes sense only to them. The calm usually comes after a fight full of fury and no fulfillment, and I’ve decided with very concerted effort, to “calm down and let it settle itself.”

Honestly, we could all say that we have in quick succession, the proverbial ups and downs.  It’s not just the elderly or ill who have good days and bad days.

There have been mistakes and recovery.  We have some unlikely teachers in life.  Mistakes are one of those teachers.  In fact, it is painfully known that mistakes and failures are some of life’s most important lessons.  But are we ready learners?  Do we take counsel from our mistakes?

“Have you learned your lesson?”  It’s called lifelong learning because we’re learning every day, with “equal parts” of what not to do mixed with what to do.  How many people do you know who teach you blatantly what not to do?

Speaking of equal parts, here are some of those parts of life like hinges, pins, springs, screws and such that have balanced themselves on the scales of 2022:

Struggles and strains, losses and gains.

Satisfaction and wanting.

Pajama days and straitjacket days.

It’s been settled and unsettling.

It’s been disappointing and hopeful.  I might be an optimist, or maybe I’m a pessimist.

It’s been a time of acceptance and rebellion.

I’ve had moments of activity and moments of rest; peace and frenzy.

It’s been busy yet “Father Time” has miraculously made his provision.

There has been feasting and fasting.

Some people have been friendly and others aloof.

Does it all even out in the end?  Maybe your scales are balanced in the final tally; I hope so. 

I hope you will recall 2022 like most people relate their childhood to their older parents.  You’ve surely been to a gathering of friends and family where some 30-something or 40-something “kid” tells a funny story of a near-tragedy or “secret escapade” that has been revealed to the folks for the first time (or maybe mom and dad just never let on that they knew….).

Here’s to forgetting the extremes and remembering the shades and shadows.  Cheers to 2023 and let’s hope for the best.


Santa’s Just Alright

Ever cognizant of “the reason for the season,” “Jesus is just alright with me.”  Are you singin’ it with me?  It’s one of those catchy tunes that you can’t get out of your head.  Sorry, not sorry.

I admit, I’m going back a bit in time.  The song I’m talking about was covered in 1972 by one of my fave bands of the time, The Doobie Brothers.  It is “Jesus Is Just Alright.”

Back in the day, the word, “alright,” or “all-right” meant very good, or way cool in today’s parlance; even awesome.  In the sixties and seventies, we used words like cool, groovy, nifty, swell, deep, neat, and far-out, to describe anything that was “most excellent.”

It was Bill and Ted (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989) who I recall, proclaiming, “be excellent to each other;” as well as just plain, “Excellent!” 

I don’t have a problem with speaking of Jesus and Santa in the same sentence.  If you do have a problem with it, I get it.

The manger, the wise men (magi from the East), the shepherds, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Inn with no room, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey too, the Star in the East, and the miracle baby.  All these elements mean Christmas, to me.

I remember with great nostalgia, Christmas music and candlelight services, and Santa.  I have no issue seeing all these delightfully enchanting, or as Bill and Ted would say, “most outstanding,” intertwining parts of Christmas all wrapped up in a pretty package.  All these things are a highlight of happiness in an otherwise imperfect childhood, and I remember it all.

But let me go off on a little bit of a tangent, Bill, and Ted-style, where it’s okay to think of Joan of Arc as Noah’s wife.  They weren’t so good at their Bible, but they were practical observers of life.

Well, in my book, Jesus is most excellent and so is Santa.  I grew up with the book, more accurately the 1954 poem by Clement C. Moore “Night Before Christmas;” and that’s the book I’m referring to in this little oratory, from Bill and Ted’s point of view; just an observer.  Oh, who’s kidding who?  I’m more than an impartial observer.

“’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”   I memorized this all those years ago because the poem truly was one of the more momentous and mystical moments of my childhood.

The three of us girls would line up from our bedroom, through the kitchen, with our eyes closed, maybe even blindfolded, waiting for our parents to lead us into the tree-lit living room.  Santa had arrived in the night, during the few seconds that I slept, lighting the Christmas tree, leaving stockings bulging with an orange, a few walnuts to be cracked open later, and I don’t remember what else.

My excitement in that kitchen was palpable, because “the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.”  We had no fireplace nor chimney, so our stockings laid atop a few presents under the tree.  But I was certain as certain could be that Santa had been there.

In the wee morning of one Christmas day, tragedy struck.  At least it was traumatic for my sister, Dee.  During our Christmas morning line-up, she had stepped on a needle, which mangled itself through her pink foam-rubber soled slippers and wedged itself into her foot.  I wonder if she remembers it quite like this.

But I remember Dad cutting away the flimsy slipper and untethering that dastardly needle from her foot, and nursing the wound.  Finally, mom and dad sent us off to the living room to lap up the joy that Santa brought, ever so temporarily into our young lives.

About him being overweight, don’t get me started.  “He had a broad face and a round little belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.  He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.”

Skinny Santa doesn’t cut it unless in comics, cartoons, or made-for-TV-movies, where he’s usually a costume-wearing, paid for hire, drunk.  No, no, no, not my Santa.  My Santa is everything good and generous, including his physique.

According to the poem, Santa was old, but lively and quick. And he came down the chimney “with a bound.”  Even though his ho-ho-ho may be the cause of the jolly fat person stereotype, doesn’t mean, well, it doesn’t mean anything, Ted.

He smoked a pipe and had rosacea and had a close relationship with reindeer.  Does any of that have to mean something, other than mystery and fun and happiness?  Can’t we just let it be?

Just give me a little bit of leeway.  For example, both Jesus and Santa are givers.  Jesus is the ultimate gift and Santa gives gifts.  For little kids, I don’t see a problem with explaining Santa as the fictitious embodiment in a red fur suit, of benevolent giving.  Both Jesus and Santa are “just alright with me.”

They Say

Let me begin this tome with a couple of what I call, “Poirot-isms.”  Hercule Poirot is a fictional Belgian detective, the brainchild of British mystery writer, Agatha Christie.

Poirot once said of himself, “he does not listen to this they.”   I take that to mean, that maybe we shouldn’t listen to what “they say,” unless “they” can be identified, to justify their point of view.  Who is “this they” anyway?

They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  This was a medieval French phrase from c. 1190, but was made popular in Latin and English by English playwright John Heywood (1538), and included, “but they were laying bricks every hour.”  Think on that.

They say, “never meet your heroes.”  This one is interesting, and it might be applicable to the concept of fame, as well.  There is a line in Madame Bovary (published in 1856) in French of course, but translated to English: “You should never touch your idols: a little of the gold always rubs off.”  American writer, Erica Jong explains the concept of fame similarly, “fame means millions of people have the wrong idea of who you are.”

They say, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Jerome K. Jerome (1899), said this was a mischievous untruth that silly women believed, as they lost love in the parlor while wasting time in the kitchen.

They say, “marriages are made in heaven.”  Sixteenth century English writer and playwright, John Lyly concluded this saying with, “but consummated on earth.”  Clint Eastwood, famously couldn’t help himself, repeating the beginning of the verse, but concluding with “but so is thunder and lightning.” 

They say, “love is blind.”  In 1405 Chaucer, in The Merchant’s Tale gave us this saying which has been repeated by go zillions of keenly observant every-people.  Nietzsche added, “but friendship closes its eyes.”  Ponder that one.

Back to Poirot, after his sidekick, Hastings said, “It’s a thing…,” Poirot, in his famous third-person voice said, “Do you think Poirot concerns himself with mere thingness?”  I might question Poirot on this matter, in that most folks who observe the human condition, observe one thingness after another.

The concept of, “it’s a thing,” has apparently been around since at least the fourteenth century.  We’ve just added our cultural twist on this thing and that thing, making everything seem new.

Speaking of cultural twists on language, you’ve heard it said, “this is that.”  I said it even yesterday, in a note.  When referring to something of the past, and to bring it into the present memory, we say, “this is that.”

Hastings said, “Well, that’s that.”  To which, Poirot commented, “This is by no means that.”  Admitting that something is at an end, that it’s over, finished, or done, is too finite for some.  We prefer infinite possibilities.

 “That’s about the size of it.”  When we want to validate someone’s assessment about a relatively negative situation, we affirm them with this statement.  In short, we’re saying, “yep.”  I’ve noticed in French language television, that when they’re saying yeah, like we say yeah, they shorten the formal yes (oui, pronounced, “we”) to the informal and shortened (“way”).  Just sayin.

It is said that during World War II, some Dear John letters were pages long, with explanations galore as to why she was ending her relationship with him.  Other letters, reminiscent of today’s cryptic, break-up text messages, consisted of Dear John, and that’s all she said.  The joke that went around in the forties about that latter letter, was “That’s all she wrote.”  Ha-ha.

In the immortal words of Porky Pig, “th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

When Something Hurts

“Ouch, that hurts!” We’ve all been there, done that; some of us more than others.  But I think it’s surely universal that sometimes you hurt. 

There’s something about hurts, that highlight their opposite in the ordinary functioning of our lives.  Occasionally we become acutely aware of the value of all our body parts, when one of them hurts.  It reminds me of the 1988 Tim Keifer song, “don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

For example, most of us pay no attention to our digestive system until or unless it acts up, acts out, or acts wrong in some way.  Unless you’re a chronic dieter, you probably aren’t terribly preoccupied with the contributions you make to your digestive system.

Do you notice how awesome your bones are unless you break one?  There are from 206-213 bones in the adult body, not to mention all the supportive ligaments, joints and muscles that work together to assist our movements.  Can you give your miraculous skeleton a hearty hurrah for doing its job without much thanks from you?

What about your heart muscle and all its accessories?  I’ll bet you don’t think you’re a muscle builder until that vital muscle gives you some sort of warning, screaming, “I’m here!”   Or in the case of a broken heart, do we appreciate our feelings?  The whole array of emotions that enhance the color of our lives, escape our attention unless we’ve had hurt feelings.

And our skin, the biggest organ of our bodies, aside from slathering it with lotions, potions, and creams, do we really fuss with it in accordance with its importance unless it’s burned (hello, Jay Leno), scabbed, blistered, cut, wrinkled, bruised, or bleeding?

What about our eyes?  Most of us grow up thinking if our vision is impaired, we get glasses and all is good.  Then as we age, we become aware that there is something else, called eye disease.  We learn that we have a macula, an optic nerve, vitreous fluid, a retina, and so much more that can rebel in the form of hardening, cracking, glaucoma, cataracts, and all manner of fitting that we never considered, until now.

Beginning in the teenage years, when loud noise was a cool thing to enjoy, you didn’t once consider that one day, instead of a kitschy cell phone reception advertisement, someone would routinely ask you, “can you hear me now?”  Does anyone really want to wear hearing aids?

Who knew that hearing acuity affects brain function “Use it or lose it,” coined by American tennis player, Jimmy Connors, was never a truer statement than when applied to our precious brain.  I’m not sure we can appreciate our mind enough.  Our very loquacious brain tells us how to walk, talk, listen, digest, ruminate, emote; well, it tells us to “live and breathe and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Leg cramps that can be way more than a simple Charlie horse because you didn’t warm up before swimming, and effect you excruciatingly from feet to groin, make you value your legs.  Way beyond their shape and size, as revealed when wearing shorts, our legs give us the liberty of crutch-free mobility.  Appreciate them.

A splinter-free finger makes you appreciate your digits like nothing else.  Well, unless you have arthritis and rings are no longer your favorite jewelry.  A blister-free foot, ankle, toe, or heel makes you grateful for your feet; not to mention, freedom from bunions.

After a shot in the arm, you begin to see the merits of pain-free limbs.  After a C-section or other abdominal surgery, you realize no matter how paltry these muscles may have been, for example, a great distance from a six pack, they’re vital to movement from sitting to standing to the taken for granted, bowel movement.  Sorry, it may be indelicate to say, but it’s a fact.

Here’s a double negative for you, don’t be one who “don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”  If you’ve encountered near-death, I imagine that you have little trouble appreciating every single one of your body’s miraculous systems.  This includes, their ability to “heal thyself.”

What do you say we try to appreciate what we’ve got, in all its imperfect glory, here and now?  Don’t wait until it hurts to say thank you to your hard-working limbs, heart, liver, stomach, mind, reproductive and sex organs, feet, pancreas, emotions, nose and throat, joints, back, muscles, and so much more.

Maybe instead of crying, when it hurts, we should have a happy dance in celebration of all the other stuff that works according to plan. We could have an appreciation festival for all our physiological systems that work so hard for us every day.

Here’s a thought: “Optimism won’t change the situation.  But optimism will change how the situation feels.”  Maybe our hurts wouldn’t hurt so much if we injected a shot of optimism into our bum’s.

Let’s Talk Sleep

I don’t know when it started, at the Christmas Eve anticipation of Santa’s arrival way back when, or after giving birth to a lovely child who didn’t think much of sleep, accompanied by my trained alertness and vigilance to every sound in the house.  Oh well, it happened.

I get discouraged after I’m proud of myself for eking out five hours of sleep and then I read some flippant comment in some article about health, that five hours isn’t enough.  Oh, and they tell me that I’m more susceptible to this disease and that malady in the future if I don’t get my sleeping act together, and soon.

And then there’s the nonsense comment uttered by those who have no problem sleeping, to “go home and get some sleep.”  Like one can “get” sleep, like we “get” toilet tissue or a new toaster, at the store.

Because I like to sleep as much as the next guy or gal, if I could get some sleep at will, don’t you think I would do so?  “I think I’ll just run home and pick up some sleep after I pick up dinner at the takeout.”

Kudos to all ya all who sleep eight hours, really.  It truly must be nice to be congratulated for ticking off one of the requirements of healthy living, just by doing what comes naturally to you.  Just know, that it doesn’t happen at will for some of us.

Insomniacs encounter a fair amount of blow-back in the form of blame, for not sleeping enough.  Often, it’s assumed that we have “bad sleep habits” that self-sabotage our nocturnal rest schedule.  I can make myself exercise, and eat a disciplined diet, if I try hard and set my attitude right.  However, it’s not always possible, with sleep.

I’m no snowflake nor so woke that I can’t take a joke or some lighthearted ridicule for having insomnia.  However, I believe that all the experts out there could slow down a tad on quick judgements.  Sleep is more complicated than a convenient arm-chair stereotype can address.

Experts on some narrow subjects are famous for making blanket statements which wipe out the legitimate experience of vast numbers of people who don’t fit into their mold.  With the World Wide Web, otherwise known as the Internet, we are a world chock-full of experts on subjects as diverse as makeup, business, fashion, food, finance, health, sex, God, politics, cats, plants, décor, and whatnot.

It truly boggles the mind, how many contrary opinions appear about any subject you can pick out of a hat, if you consult the Internet.  For example, “how much is enough sleep?”  Depending upon the expert, it’s anywhere from five to nine hours with the traditional eight, being the favorite.

If I sleep five hours, it’s inconvenient but is it the end of the world?  Speaking of experts, Oprah said back in 2015 that it’s okay to sleep as much or as little as you sleep.  I took some comfort in that thought; after all, if Oprah says it, it’s as good as true, right?  But, sorry Oprah, sleep research contradicts your advice, concluding that five hours isn’t enough.  Ugh.

Then there’s the customary advice about going to sleep and staying asleep which focuses primarily on scheduling, reducing screen time, anti-stress and meditation techniques, and exercise during the day, natural or herbal tinctures; and common-sense environmental things like using soothing music, white or brown noise and light reduction, temperature control, pillow and mattress selection, and lavender, lavender, lavender.  Of course, there is the “sleeping pill,” if all else fails.

Oh, and don’t sleep during the day, granddad, and grandma.  But never fear if you do, as there are experts who swear by a rejuvenating short nap for folks of all ages, as a boon for productivity and brain health.

For those of us susceptible to the opinions of sleep experts who say we’re doomed to either a silly or serious malady down the road if we don’t get our prescribed hours of sleep, some familiar night time thoughts are: “if I go to sleep within the next fifteen minutes, I’ll get six hours of sleep before I have to get up.”

Or, “oh well, I may not sleep but I’m resting my body – as you lay prone in that dastardly bed, refusing to get up and do something because the experts said, “no screen time.”  But after you’ve given yourself a talking-to like, “I’m relaxed, I’m going to sleep, (there’s a yawn, yay I might be going to sleep), I love sleeping…” and your eyes pop open like a well-wound Jack-in-a-box, you get up and do something.

Seriously, if I’m sleepy I might go to bed and get either nine hours of sleep, or two; you never know which.  I can fall asleep during an entertaining television show or movie, quickly go to bed to catch the wave and not five minutes in bed, sit up wide awake.  At which time, I usually just get up and do stuff.  There’s always something to do.

Sweet dreams, if you can get ‘em.

Daily Bread

We are embarking on the best holiday of the year, in my humble opinion, Thanksgiving.  This holiday centers on gratitude, yet more specifically thanksgiving for our blessings of food.  We express this thankfulness by sharing our bounty of food with family and friends.

Many people pray over their food.  Most Christians thank God for their food.  Part of the famous Psalm 23 includes, “give us this day, our daily bread.”

Do you remember the song, “Let us break bread together…?”  An African American spiritual from the 1920s, this simple little hymn was included in our United Methodist hymnal and traditionally sung during communion services.

Many social interactions are cemented over a meal, food buying rituals, or snacking on some sort of food.  And we all have keen food memories.  For example, I associate my dad with sardines, fig bars, olives, and sandwich cookies.  My mom baked bread when I was growing up, so I think of her every time I enter a bakery.  She also made homemade French fries, tapioca pudding, and “glorified rice;” for all of which I will always remember her.

We all have engaged in one or more dysfunctional relationships in our lifetime.  Some of them we can get out of and others we must work through.

I think it’s bad, however, that the dysfunctional relationship that I am currently embroiled in is with one of the necessities of life: food.  It’s complicated.

Flannery O’Connor said, “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  Ain’t that something.

I’m having difficulty “stomaching” some recent changes to my diet.  I have what probably could be termed a common sense, atop a reasonably informed understanding of nutrition.  I’ve been forced, however, by a digestive malady to throw out my long-held knowledge of “what’s healthy” to eat.  What once did the trick in keeping my health in check, came back to bite me in the you know what.

Grocery shopping became a conundrum.  I pretty much bypassed the most familiar aisle to me over the last twenty years, the produce aisle, my favorite.  Vegetables and fruit have comprised a massive portion of our household food consumption, with a little bit of protein, a few carbs, and a fair number of grains, on the side.

A Mediterranean diet, chock-full of fresh fruit and vegetables, has been the basis of our household diet for decades. We all know that the sugar, salt, and texture of snack foods attract us like bees to nectar and gnats to our eyes.  Do you remember the Lays potato chip ad from years ago, that you “can’t eat just one?”

My Mediterranean diet gets skewered with the first bite of snack food.  Few of us can resist that attraction forever.  It nearly requires the discipline and support of a twelve-step program to resist an addiction to junk food.

Some mornings I have awakened to the day saying to myself, “I’m just eating food today, no snacks, no sweets, just food.”  That’s a silly statement, I know, but it’s my way of heading back into the reality of healthy eating.

I recall an old Saturday night live skit where Belushi and Murray or one of the other originals from the cast, broke down a Snickers bar via the good groups, claiming the Candy bar met all the nutritional categories for healthy eating.  I wish.

We all know the basics of the food groups to be protein, vegetables, cheese/milk/yogurt, fats, fruit, and grains.  But then there are “food groups” like vegan, vegetarian, no-carbs, low-carbs, Mediterranean, gluten-free, no-fat, keto, Atkins, low-calorie, and my new category: bland!

When you love the flavor of good food, bland is a horror like no other, when it comes to food enjoyment.  There’s no way to “bon apetit,” with bland food.  I can take eliminating some foods.  In fact, I once read a little book called, “French Women Don’t Get fat,” that suggested, “corn is for cows and potatoes are for pigs,” so I’ve avoided but haven’t completely cut out these starches.  Until now, with a bland diet.

Forget bland for now, let’s talk food.  Food can be a lot of things. We each form opinions and make food choices based on only God knows what.

Food can be funny.  Remember the Griswold’s from the movie, “Christmas Vacation?”  Their Christmas meal included crunchy turkey; a lime jello mold garnished with cat litter; it was funny food.

Food can be fast.  Welcome to America.  There are food trends, and there is traditional, or classic food.  You decide which of this kind of food pertains to the “farm-to-table craze.”  It’s kind of funny to us rural dwellers who have eaten farm-to-table for as long as we can remember.

Food can be categorized.  Surely, you’ve heard of the Food Pyramid and how many servings of various categories of food we should consume in a day.

Food can be picked at, picked up, and picked apart.  Food can be annoying, and we get fed up.

Food can unite us and bond us together.  Food can also separate us.  For example, you’ve heard, “yuck, how can you eat that?”  Or, “I can’t eat thus and such.”

Food can make us sick and it can equally make us well.  We can eat too much food or too little food; but food cannot be avoided as it is a necessity of life.  We all consume food and we waste food too.

Apparently, there are right foods and wrong foods.  Food can be fancy or it can be plain.  Food can be bland or it can be caliente.

Food is primarily fuel.  It doesn’t matter what foodies, food critics, or food writers tell us.  We will eat what we eat and most of us are thankful for our food.  Bon apetit and Happy Thanksgiving.