Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's the small successes.

I was going to talk about music today, but that will have to wait till next time, because this is SO much more important.

I made rice. Lovely, fluffy, just-right quick-cooking organic brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's. This is a cause for celebration. Why? I'm glad you asked.

I consider myself a decent cook, all things considered. I come by it honestly as my parents and both my grandmas were/are good cooks. My brother also is pretty handy in the kitchen. I'm pretty good at taking random ingredients and putting them together to create something edible, tasty, and sometimes even healthy. But rice? Rice has always eluded me. Me cooking rice is like Charlie Brown kicking the football. It never quite works out.

Yes, I follow the directions on the package. Yes, I let the lid stay on the pot. I do everything I'm supposed to do and I still get substandard rice, and yet, I keep trying, I guess because I am not going to be outdone by a tiny inanimate grain. I am bigger than rice.

A few years back, my mom got me one of those automatic rice cookers, and I still managed to screw up the rice. Even following the directions exactly, the bottom of the rice got all hard and crunchy, and I'm not talking about the good kind of hard & crunchy rice that is a delicacy in some Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cooking.  This was icky tough wet cardboard hard & crunchy rice. I e-mailed Oster customer service about this issue, and was told that "that's a common problem with rice machines." Oh, okay. That makes it so much better, I suppose. Whatever. (Anybody want a rice cooker?)

I started substituting couscous as a side dish. It's hard to screw up couscous. This is fine for most of the meals I make at home, but sometimes, you just gotta have rice. On my last trip to Trader Joe's, the bag of organic brown quick-cooking basmati rice called to me seductively from the shelf. "Try meeeeeeeee," it wailed. "Take me hoooooome." So with a deep breath and plenty of doubts, I put the rice in my cart. I figured I have wasted more than $3 on less noble pursuits.

All week I've been wanting to make channa masala for dinner to go with the garlic naan from Trader Joe's, and channa masala really calls for rice. With much trepidation, I took the bag from the cabinet and read the directions. "Ready in 15 minutes," the bag said. (Brown rice usually takes about an hour to cook, so 15 minutes is pretty ambitious.) Put rice and water in a saucepan, let it boil, turn it down, put the top on, blahblahblahblah. I know that drill. It's the same drill I follow every time and I still get crappy rice. But I endeavored to persevere, so I tried once again.

When the clock read 5:12, I took the lid off the pot, expecting to see either water still in the pan or a mass of undercooked chewy rice, but it looked perfect. Yeah, right, I thought. It's probably all chewy. I took a bite. And then the angels sang.

I had perfect rice! Not mushy, not dry and chewy, but PERFECT RICE! And it actually tasted good! Quick-cooking rice sometimes doesn't have much oomph, but this was great. I realize this is probably just a fluke - the rice gods are taunting me and next time will be back to the old status rice quo. But in the meantime?

Hell yeah, I MADE RICE.

Till next time - celebrate the small victories.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Welcome to the Year of the Dragon.

Yeah, I know. I'm late. Ah well. Stuff happens.

Luna, aka Jaws, has continued to thrive, although just as she was done with parvo, she came down with giardia. Whee. Giardia is this little protozoal parasite that lives just about everywhere, and lots of people and animals carry it without ever getting infected. This is most likely what makes you sick when you drink water that hasn't been properly purified, and dogs usually get it from drinking out of puddles & whatnot. But that's not what I came to talk about.

I came to talk about mental health. Y'all can sing along when it comes around again on the guitar.

Over the last few months, a couple of my favorite bloggers have shared their struggles with depression: Hyperbole and a Half ( and The Bloggess ( These two ladies talk about their experiences with honesty and humor. I can especially relate to Hyperbole's cartoon self curled up into a little ball behind the couch, because I have been that little ball behind the couch.

I bring this up because I think it needs bringing up. About 25% of the population will experience clinical depression at some point. And in the world we live in right now, who could possibly be surprised at that? Everything seems to move faster than our feeble mortal minds can keep up with, not to mention the deplorable state of the economy, which has caused people to lose their jobs, homes, and self-respect. Can you blame anyone for being depressed? Most people won't get help, because of stigma, pride, finances, or denial, among other reasons.

Now, you have to understand, there's a difference between clinical depression and having a bad day. Depression is having a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day 24/7 for at least two weeks running. Mine went on for about a solid year.

Yes. I spent a year in one terrible, horrible, no good very bad day, where I ran off to the bathroom at work so I could go cry - for no good reason, except that I just felt like it. This was the nadir of many years of denial. (The irony is that at the time, I worked for a mental health organization.)

Yes again. I did say YEARS. When I finally got help and came out the other side, I was like, what the hell took me so long? And that's one of the bizarre things about depression: you don't know how sick you really were till you get better. It's cruel, for sure, but that's how it is. While depression is a temporary situation for most people, for others (like me) it's chronic, and the best we can do is manage it.

It's been over 10 years now. I should have gotten help 10 years before that. It was one of the best things I ever did. I have the tools now to recognize when things aren't right and the knowledge to fix them, or at least take care of myself till it passes. So I guess what I'm saying to you is, if you're having a perpetual 24/7 Bad Day, don't ignore it. Don't wait to get help. DON'T SUFFER. Visit the Mental Health America website at and look for the affiliate office nearest you. Call them. They can put you in touch with the resources you need, so don't assume that because you're broke and/or have no insurance, you can't get help. Chances are, you can, and you'll be glad you did.

Till next time, take care of yourself. And Happy New Year.