Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Expectations*

It's time to tear the plastic off of that motivational/costumed-babies-sleeping-on-giant-flowers/leggy-swimsuit-model calendar you received as a desperation gift from some co-worker or distant relative. We're about to begin a new calendar year!

We spoke last year of the perils of the New Year's Resolution. The meditation for this change-over in calendar years will focus less on the promise and potential of the next 365 days and will instead concentrate on surviving the next 24 hours with your good attitude intact.

We speak of The New Year's Eve Expectation of Grandeur. (insert ominous music of your choice)

There is something about the level of expectation placed on this night that has always felt, to us, somewhat forced. For weeks beforehand, we hear of the extraordinary importance of being at just the right venue or event, with just the right person, wearing just the right outfit and imbibing and ingesting just the right treats at just the right time.

We should say that we are staunchly in favor of the idea of setting aside a random winter's eve for a healthful bout of gluttony and debauchery. Blowing off a little (or possibly a great deal of) steam after the strain of winter weather and stress of the holidays seems reasonable, even wise to us.

What bothers us is the notion that how one elects to spend this one evening necessarily sets the tone for the next year of your life. That is a lot of expectation to heap on to just one night.

Maybe it's just us, but we've never had a truly magical New Year's Eve. We have had truly magical nights on other calendar days, and so feel reasonably confident that we can recognize one when we're in the middle of it. We have had some lovely New Year's Eves and others that we have judiciously elected to never again speak of. Ultimately, though, in our experience there is no correlation between our actions on December 31 and our fortunes on say, the following February 3 or June 17. 

If you do have a storybook evening, we sincerely hope that it does carry over and is a sign of good things to come for the upcoming year. If, however, you mange to make a tremendous botch of the whole thing, as we have often done, there is no need to hide under the couch for the next 12 months.

As the inimitable Scarlet O'Hara would say, “Tomorrow is another day.”**

Not to mention, there is another New Year*** to celebrate in just a few weeks... and this one involves dragons!

Today's exercise: Celebration without expectation. 

Next: Mr. Attenborough's Neighborhood (Subtitle: Someone just got a whole bunch of nature documentaries on blu-ray.)

*No really... Is that not just the most screwed up story or what?

**For us, “Gone with the Wind” and “Great Expectations” are inseparably linked, having read them back to back one summer many years ago, as a way to fill the hours spent tanning in the backyard. This gave us both an unique take on literature and very, very bad skin. 

***Year of the rabbit. A new tattoo is expected. (Our lemons-to-lemonade approach to the aforementioned bad skin.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Random Thoughts on Snow

Written in uncharacteristic first person (because that was what we were in the mood to do) and dedicated to the victims of the 2010 East Coast Snowpocalypse.

One of my very earliest memories is of going out to play in the snow on a paternally-lead snowman building expedition. We determined, using the tried and true “will a handful stick to the side of the Chevy Nova?” method, that the snow was too dry to build a proper snowman. We then proceeded to kill just enough time to be sure that Mom would have the hot chocolate ready, then retreated indoors. To this day, I still feel that 15 – 20 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend in snow. After that, cocoa becomes a necessity.

I have a somewhat later memory of seeing my new Georgia-based doctor become extremely excited over seeing a snow flurry outside his office window. I remember thinking he was terribly provincial. I was nearly three. I stand by that assertion.

I have shoveled snow. I did not enjoy it. I no longer have grandparents, therefore I no longer have to shovel snow. Life is like that.

Many people think they can drive in snow. A few actually can. No one, however, drives well.

“Chains required ahead” but no exits behind. Some days getting home from Las Vegas is the real gamble. 

I currently have a pact with snow. If it promises to stay neatly tucked away in the mountains, I promise to visit it at least once a year. So far, this has worked out reasonably well for all concerned.

Skiing is not the hard part. The graceful cessation of skiing is.

Snowboarding is a cruel joke. Don't fall for it.

When hiking in the snow, steel-toed boots are not an asset. On a related note, March in South Dakota is not springtime.

I have been snowed on while on a motorcycle. Several times.

Snow is beautiful. Melting snow in the mountains is glorious.

Spring will come. Regardless.

Today's exercise: None. Consider it a snow day

Next: A meditation for the new calendar year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve and Your Inner Child Wants a Cookie

You may not realize it, but there is, most likely, a time machine in your kitchen.

If you doubt this, try baking up a batch of your favorite childhood holiday cookies. We expect that you'll quickly find yourself transported.

We don't know how many (literal) years we searched for the perfect sugar cookie recipe – the ones that tasted like Oklahoma in the 1960s.* Untold hours were spent researching the finest cookbooks and cooking websites. When we finally found it, it had been under our noses all along, in a set of aging binders. “Cooking Magic: The New England Cookbook” Culinary Arts Institute, 1956. Page 57, nonetheless.

No matter how sophisticated our palettes may be as adults, there are certain tastes and smells that will always appeal to us – the treats of our childhood. These foods provide something even greater than nourishment or even pleasure. They give us the actual physical sensation of being young. For a moment, when you take that first bite and the sugar** hits your tongue, you get to feel as you once did. 

We carry with us always the memories of our childhood, as they have helped to shape who we are as adults. It is difficult, though, to recall the feeling of youth – that constant sense of excitement, wonder and hopefulness that somehow slipped away one day when we weren't looking. (If we're being perfectly honest, there was also uncertainty and fear, but of a less mature vintage than most of us have become accustomed to of late.)

The Yummish consider this a sacred act, a yearly reconciling of who you were and who you've become, through the medium of baked goods. It is a chance to embrace your past self, with all of its stupid errors, and to forgive your current self for not always living up to more youthful ideals. It is also a better-than-decent excuse to turn on the oven.

Today's exercise: Eat a cookie!

Next: Maybe another Yummish Saint. Or not. Who can concentrate on that when the house smells like cookies?

*South Florida in the 1980s is a much easier taste to capture - Oranges.

**Or salt, vinegar, pulp, crunchy carapace, etc. as best suits your Yum.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Are Not Alone

Yummish Meditation number 57 is dedicated to The Senior Member of the Yummish Council*

On this Winter Solstice, the day after the North American continent was witness to a full lunar eclipse, it seems only natural to turn our attention to the heavens. We beg your indulgence, as this post gets a little weird from this point on. We promise to return to our more cookie-based foundation Friday.

One of the more controversial tenets of the Yummish Faith is our unshakable belief in extra-terrestrial life. As you might imagine, this isn't exactly something we open conversations with. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental Yummish belief that “we are not alone in the universe.” 

Our beliefs, we are ashamed to say, don't involve anything nearly as entertaining as the Scientologists' Xenu. We apologize for this shortcoming and remind you this cult is led by a writer of chick lit and not science fiction.

For the Yummish, it is not a question of if  Life exists outside of the narrow confines of planet Earth, but whether we will be clever enough to recognize it when we encounter it. (Assuming, of course, that we haven't already.)

Whichever definition of Life is being applied in a given situation, it seems to us that what is actually being sought is something that we can recognize in some way as being “like us.” For the Yummish, searching for this celestial simpatico is a wholly worthwhile activity, deserving of far more attention and resources than it currently receives. To find even the tiniest bacterium tucked away in the deepest crack on the tiniest asteroid would be, to us, a cause for such momentous celebration that our hangover would be actually visible from space.

The Yummish, however, embrace an even broader interpretation of Life. We are fully open to the idea that there exist other highly organized systems that consider themselves both “intelligent” and “alive,” but whose definitions of those states are so wildly different from ours as to be currently unrecognizable to us.

Though you may be tempted to think we are completely off base and should, perhaps, give science fiction writing a stab after all, it is good to remember that sea sponges were once considered flora and nitrogen-powered deep water denizens like tube worms were considered impossible.  

As is true of basically all Yummish beliefs, you should feel free pick and choose the aspects that are most appealing to you. Unlike many other religions, we encourage this “Chinese menu” approach to faith. However, we would encourage you to, if not entirely embrace our view, at least spend a little time thinking about the possibilities it suggests. Not only will you be reminded that the glory of creation stretches far beyond our atmosphere, you might even get some ideas for a  really awesome sci-fi novel that we'd enjoy reading. 

Today's exercise: Look to the stars and let your imagination soar.

Next: As promised, something to do with cookies. We know not what.

*Who would probably like us to mention that the number is not a reference to his age... exactly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Solstice: Not Just For Druids and Hippies

On December 21, at 23:38UTC* the Earth's Northern Hemisphere will mark the 2010 Winter Solstice.

Unfortunately, many of the people living in the Northern Hemisphere will miss the opportunity to celebrate this blessed event, having been laid low as the hapless victims of Cashmas.** If you're one of those who hasn't traditionally celebrated the Winter Solstice, the Yummish would like to encourage you to give it a try this year.

As you probably learned in some grade school “generic science” class, the Winter Solstice is the date after which the days begin to lengthen and the Earth begins its celestial march toward Spring. Depending on the hemisphere in which you find yourself, it is celebrated in either December or June.

“The date after which the days begin to lengthen...”

Those italics mark an important distinction. The Winter Solstice marks the time when the days are shortest, the nights are deepest and the warmth and light of the growing season is the furthest away. The Winter Solstice is the celebration of hitting the low point, the moment after which everything simply has to get better because there is just no worse for it to get. It is a celebration of hope. To observe the Winter Solstice is to express your faith in the potential goodness of the future.

For the Yummish, that makes the Winter Solstice a low stress/high reward holiday. Unlike the other holidays of this season, with their measures of success – the perfect turkey, the perfect present, the perfect party – there is no pressure to get Solstice “right.” Solstice isn't about preparing for the one day, but taking one day to prepare for the year ahead. 

Today's exercise: Plan a Winter Solstice celebration. We recommend listening to The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” a couple of dozen times to help get in the spirit.

Next: A really freaky meditation on the Yummish belief in extra-terrestrial alien life that will probably drive away the last few readers this blog has managed to retain.

*Yeah, we didn't know what that was either.

**Cashmas ≠ Christmas. As we've mentioned before, The Yummish are passionately in favor of birthday celebrations and think that if people want to celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy who was nice to his mother and willing to share his lunch with a large crowd of people, that is all to the good. A little quirky maybe, but ultimately fine by us.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where You Live Might Not Suck As Badly As You Think

Heavener, Oklahoma

You've probably never even heard of it. It's even less likely that you've ever been there.

Unless, of course, you're a student of pre-Columbian Norse Mythology, in which case you've probably visited many times, studying and debating the authenticity of the runestones and writing long, involved scholarly works on the subject.

Riverton, Wyoming

Unless you were the one person paying attention to the non-sex parts of “Brokeback Mountain,” you've never heard of it. You certainly have no reason to travel there.

Of course, if you did make the trip, you'd meet some of the most intrepid, enthusiastic hot-air balloonists to be found anywhere and see one of the largest Indian Reservations in the United States.

Fairhope, Alabama

Even if you can find Alabama on a map, chances are you'll still have difficulty locating Fairhope. It isn't even mentioned in lame Sonny & Cher songs like it's neighbor to the West, Mobile.

However, in addition to producing a few authors and songwriters you may have heard of, the town was also founded as a utopian artists' colony with a unique tax structure that reads to the non-American mind as radical socialism if not full-on communism.

Fresno, California

You've likely heard of it, but only as a punchline to a joke. You wouldn't ever consider actually going there.

Which is a real shame if you happen to have a taste for authentic Armenian food or are a fan of funk styles of dance, especially popping.

As you have read, the Yummish Council is currently located in the somewhat achingly trendy San Francisco Bay Area. That is not to suggest in any way that we are hip. We're geekish and awkward and often feel compelled to randomly apologize for our many short comings to the hipsters we encounter while waiting online for whatever restaurant, grocery store, or bus line we're clearly not cool enough for. (Which is, in itself, a fairly bizarre thing to do and more or less proves our point.)

It is important to remember, though, that wherever you may currently reside, there is something cool about it – something interesting to be experienced. No matter how small the town's population, others have elected to live there, as opposed to living someplace else. There must be something that attracts people and compels them to say – a Yum of sorts shared by all who chose to make their homes there.  

Today's exercise: Discover for yourself what makes your home town unique and take pride in sharing that Yummish tidbit with those not hip to it.

Next: A few hours after this posting, the book signing for our first novel will begin. We suspect that we'll have a few thoughts on that experience that we'll wish to share. (Unless no one shows, in which case we intend to go out and get quite drunk.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Beautiful Blue Marble

On December 7, 1972, unknown numbers* of people photographed the moon as a small man-made, man-filled vehicle traveled toward it. Only the three men aboard were able to capture the event from the reverse perspective.

This is our home. It is, at this time,** the only one we have.

Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, we're going to stop here and let this image speak for itself.

Today's exercise: Marvel at our beautiful blue marble.

Next: The Viking Hordes of Heavner Oklahoma and how where you live might not suck as badly as you think. (Yes, Frenso, we're talking to you here, too.)

*Though we can say definitely that no member of the Yummish Council is included in that number as one of us had a hot date that night and the other was -2.5 years old.

**Ahem... We believe we were promised colonies on the moon by now... and jet packs. Let's make with the good grades in math and science, you young folks. It's up to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Precious Gift of Regret

The much revered Madame Piaf excepted, we feel it is safe to assume that everyone over the age of, let's say, five has at least one regret. A few of us have even managed to amass fairly impressive collections thereof.* (Many of which, it seems, have been unfortunately recorded for posterity via various forms of media. Let the blackmail begin!)

While it is perfectly reasonable to regret certain actions or experiences in your past, it would be a tragic error to regret having regrets.

Rather than something shameful that should be hidden, regrets are actually perverse signs of personal growth. The person who has nothing to regret is living either an extraordinarily fortunate life or an entirely unexamined one. Regret is the result of having learned from your mistakes, be they errors of action or inaction. To actively regret the missteps of your past is to safeguard your future. Those things you regret about your past make you a smarter, stronger, better person today.

The regret is a also reminder that you have been blessed with the opportunity for second chances or to make amends. It means you're still here, that you've managed to survive your own stupidity. You have the ability and the chance to learn and to grow. The regrets of your past add promise to your future.

Today's exercise: Embrace those memories that make you grimace or blush. They've also made you better.

Next: Our beautiful blue marble

*Contrary to what people will warn you before you acquire them, my piercings and tattoos do not number among my many regrets. They are, instead, the very finest of my sexy scars.