Panorama of San Bernardino

Thursday, December 29, 2011

To roast or not to roast (a Mantz Christmas story)

It all started with a roast.  A beef ribeye roast.  The roast was marbled with bones and the scuffle it started stuck in my teeth for days.

On Christmas Eve, my husband Adrian and I met all of our family at my twin sister Jackie's house in Palm Springs for dinner.  It was amazingly conflict free.  No one fought.  There was no yelling.  A Mantz Christmas first.

My sister Jackie and her husband Joe barbequed carne asade and chicken.  There was homemade enchiladas, my mom's famous Mexican rice and my sister-in-law Sally brought tamales from El Monte.   Adrian's mom Orieta brought a huge apple pie from Costco.  We feasted and played the white elephant game.

We drove home late and arrived at my mother-in-law's house in Hesperia right before midnight.  On Christmas morning, I made breakfast after finding a gas station that carried pancake batter.  Later, Sally and I went on a five mile walk.  When we returned, I saw that Jackie and Joe had arrived. 

As I was in the bedroom changing out of my sweats, Adrian (who was sick as a dog in bed) said, "There is some mix up about dinner.  Jackie and Joe brought carne asade meat.   Tell them I'm sick and am not cooking." 

"Mexican again?" I said with a snort.  "I want roast.  Your mom was supposed to make roast.  She's been saying all week that she was cooking it."  My mother-in-law's rosemary roast was legendary and I wanted it for Christmas.

Adrian rolled his eyes and turned his head back on the pillow.  "I don't care what we eat.  I'm going to sleep," he said in a nasal tinged voice.  "Don't make drama," he added with a quick and knowing stare.

When I marched into the kitchen, Orieta was at the sink.

"Are you making the roast?" I asked her in my nice voice.

Orieta looked at me with a frown.  "Jackie and Joe brought meat.  There's too much food.  We can't waste the meat," she mandated in her strong Argentine accent.

"We had Mexican food last night," I pointed out in a pleading, less nice voice.  Orieta shook her head in her stubborn not going to change my mind way and said, "I make fajitas." 

Sally walked up behind me and whispered in my ear, "Don't argue.  Let's go the the store."

We snuck outside and got into Sally's Hummer, I searched my IPhone for an open store.  "Vons in Victorville is open until seven," I said with a fist pump in the air.  "I will get a roast," Sally said with a smile.  "Orieta will be pissed though. "

"It will be worth the money just to see her face," I said and we both giggled like little kids.

Von's was packed full of people.  "I wonder if everyone's mother-in-law is refusing to cook a roast," I thought to myself with a shake of my head.

Sally and I split up.  I picked up ingredients for country breakfast for the next morning and we met at the check-out line an hour later.

Sally's basket was full to the brim.  "I am making a roast with all the fixings and homemade macaroni and cheese," she said with a smile and a toss of her hair.

"Yummy.  Orieta is gonna freak out," I said giving her a high five.

Background time.  Orieta is a great cook.  Her meals are the stuff legends are made of.  Like most good cooks, she is territorial about her kitchen and her status as head cook.  Raymond's mom Marie from "Everybody Loves Raymond" kind of territorial.  This is not an exaggeration.  You can be her sous chef, but that's it.  What Sally and I were attempting was mutiny.

When we arrived back at the house, Orieta was seasoning the meat and my mom, her sous chef, was chopping vegetables.  Orieta looked at us and said, "What's in the bags?" 

Not trusting myself, I ran into the bedroom. "Sally got a roast," I whispered laughing in Adrian's ear.  "What are you two doing?" Adrian said sitting up with an annoyed look on his face.  "I told you, no drama."

"We want roast," I said as I skipped out of the room.  A pillow hit the door just as I closed it.

Orieta was looking through the bags muttering to herself and as I started to put stuff away she said, "You two cook.  I do nothing," and slammed down her hand and walked away.

Sally and I started our dinner prep while Orieta glared at us from her leopard print chair in the living room.  Gabe (my brother-in-law and Sally's domestic partner) made the fajitas.

Two hours later, the table was loaded with food.  Fajitas, tortillas, beans, rice, homemade macaroni and cheese and a beautiful roast. 

Orieta and Gabe refused to try the macaroni and cheese.  Gabe made a face.  "It looks gross." 

"Fucking mama's boy," I thought to myself.

"Italians don't eat pasta with white sauce," Orieta said with a shake of her head.

"Your roast is so tender," Jackie said with a sigh of pleasure.

"It's just OK," Gabe said looking at his mom. Orieta nodded.

They didn't know who they were messing with.  I was the queen of family drama and it was payback time.

"Sally, your macaroni and cheese is awesome," I said with a big smile.  "Looks like you are taking over as the cook in the family."

Oreita and Gabe both looked at me as if I had committed the ultimate act of treason.  "My mom is the best cook," Gabe said in a loud voice.

After dinner, things were tense, but isn't that what Christmas is all about? 

Family drama with a nice chunk of roast on the side.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Easy Does It

It has been a little more than five months since my weight loss surgery and I am down almost seventy five pounds.  Some people might say I took the easy way out by having the surgery.  They are wrong.

When I first contemplated having the surgery more than a year ago, I was undecided.  I knew I was fat, but I still liked myself.   When I looked in the mirror, I didn't see a morbidly obese woman.  I saw the same old me of my twenties with a bigger butt and bigger hips. 

And I was scared.  I had never had any type of surgery before.  I dreaded the idea of dying on the operating table and people saying, "She died having weight loss surgery."

A natural risk taker, I decided to take a chance and jumped into the unknown.  The surgery went fine with no complications.

Still, the last five months have been anything but easy.  The first week after surgery was awful.  The next month was not much better,  I couldn't eat more than a thimble full of food.  I was on liquids for almost eight weeks.  The weight came off quickly.

Now that five months have passed, I can eat again.  I still can't eat the way I used to and I wouldn't want to.  Instead, I eat small portions and focus on protein.  Carbs don't draw me in the way they used to.  I look at a bagle and think, that looks heavy.  I crave salads and dare I say it, vegetables. 

Not all my bad cravings are gone.  I have a new yearning for hot fries.  And I still drink Diet Coke.

However, the most surprising aspect of my journey has been a new addiction, exercise.  That's right, this former fat girl, couch potato and bookworm likes to run.  It's as if I found something inside of me.  When I run, I feel as if my mind stops going in circles and I can breathe.  I get it. 

Finally after forty years, I get it.  Exercise is addicting and better than any hamburger and fries.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Always on my mind

My dad has been on my mind this last week.  That sentence may be misleading because my dad is always on my mind.  For some reason, I feel his spirit even more than usual recently.  Maybe it's the holidays because I have a dull ache in my chest when I think of him.  It's been so long since I got to talk to him.  More than five years.

The worst part about losing someone is forgetting what they look like.  What they sounded like.  Pictures never captured my father well and while looking at old pictures helps me remember a little, it's not enough. 

Sometimes only words can do it.  My dad's green mayflower uniform.  The way my dad would decorate the house on Christmas.  His homemade donuts.  His Big John belt buckle.  The way his garden looked in Mira Loma.  The way my dad would always say, "Give me a hug Jennie."

I can't help but cry to think of it.  I think back to my lost years.  All those years in Houston trying to be a success never realizing that success is not defined by how much money you make, but by how much love and forgiveness you can gather in your life. 

I know you can't go back, but if I could I know where I would travel to.  Straight to the passenger seat of my dad's sixteen wheeler to pop in his eight track tape and sing along with him to some Johnny Cash.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Drunkarella (this is no fairy tale)

Author's note: this is a blog of my own personal perspective of the night in question and some details may be changed or exaggerated for effect.  Names have been changed to protect the identity of innocents...

DRUNKARELLA (this is no fairy tale)

I don't wanna be that girl.  That girl who always gets drunk at work events and is loud and obnoxious.   Unfortunately, I was that girl for the second year in a row at the company Christmas party.  My name: Drunkarella

There is something about work events that bring out the worst in me.   This year's annual Public Defender's gala was supposed to be my mulligan, my do over from last year when I humiliated myself by doing the sprinkler dance.  You all read about it.  It was my first blog post and funny in a cringe inducing kind of way.

The Friday morning of this year's event, I pledged to myself that things would be different.  Everything seemed to be going well.  I got off work early.  I got a hair appointment for a blow dry straightening and my fairy godmother at Fantastic Sam's smoothed my curls in thirty minutes.  I put on my silver and black dress and twirled in the mirror for my mom.  All I needed was my Prince Charming.

Things started going down hill.  Prince Charming (aka Adrian) came home an hour late in a grumpy mood.  He was tired and exhausted and snapped when I rushed him.  "Just don't go, you're grumpy anyways,"  I told him in a anxious voice.  He threw his shirt on the bed and said, "Fine, I won't go."  I text messaged my beautiful work sister (no ugly stepsisters in this tale) who I will call Jane and she responded, "Just be nice, don't rush him."  I apologized and we were out the door.

Traffic wasn't bad and we seemed to be back on track.  After checking in, we went downstairs and walked in the ballroom.  Just like last year, all the tables were full.  However, this year Jane and my three other beautiful work sisters rescued us by saving us seats.  I even had my own name plate.

This is the point in the story where I wish I could say that I sat down and had a great evening.  Alas, it was not to be.  Somewhere between the ballroom door and the bar, my plan fell apart and my good intentions went up in a puff of rum scented smoke.  My fairy tale evening went down hill rapidly and I went from Cinderella to Drunkarella in approximately one hour.  I can't even blame it on my usual insecurity about not looking good. There is no more fat girl excuse. 

Upon our arrival, I immediately went to the bar and waited in line for a drink.  The bartender was slower than molasses and it took a good twenty minutes before I got my first drink.  "I hope she makes it a double," I thought to myself.  She measured her pour out with a shot glass.  I rolled my eyes and ordered another.

I also wish I could attest that I was attentive to my prince and a witty table companion to my work sisters.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen either.  I was loud and obnoxious and snorted with laughter like a pig at one point during the awards.  "Shhhh," one of my co-workers whispered at me from another table.  I got the giggles and couldn't stop laughing even when Adrian grabbed my knee under the table.

After the awards, the music came on and Adrian was ready to go gamble.  I was not.  "I want to dance," I slurred.  When one of my co-workers, who I will call Mary, tried to grab Adrian by the tie to dance, he was done.  "I am going downstairs to gamble, you can stay if you want," he said in his "I have had enough" voice.

If you assume that I stayed and danced, you are right.  Prince Charming went on to lose half his kingdom to the Morongo Tribe at slots.  I. on the other hand, screamed at the poor DJ to "play me some fucking 80's please." 

When almost everyone had left the ballroom to continue the party upstairs at Club Vibe, the DJ (finally) put on Duran Duran's Planet Earth and I went crazy on that dance floor as if there was no tomorrow.  I did the robot, the Pulp Fiction and my 80's bop (think Wham's dance in the video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go").  The good news is that there was no one around to see it.

My next stop was Club Vibe.  I sat with one of the trial attorneys blathering on and on about my mother-in-law and my dogs.  At some point (when the trial attorney's eyes started to glaze over), I realized how drunk I was and decided to call it a night.  I found my Prince Charming sitting in the cafe eating his steak and eggs with a dejected look on his face.  He, in a non princely manner, blamed me for his losses.  I blamed him for leaving me alone to dance.

At five a.m., I awoke with a headache and a growl in my stomach.  I went downstairs to the cafe, drank a cup of coffee and ate a biscuit.  I sat at a slot machine and within five minutes, I hit the big spin.  The spinner went around and around and stopped at the big jackpot for eighteeen thousand dollars.  Then, it passed it.  Barely.

I told you this was no fairy tale.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Silver Lining

It has been one year since I started this blog.  The reason I know this is because tonight is the Riverside County Public Defender's Office's annual dance and awards gala.  Last year, I humiliated myself by getting more than tipsy and doing the sprinkler dance in front of my co-workers.  But, from that humiliation came the impetus to put my stories to the electronic page. 

Much has happened in the last year.  I had gastric bypass surgery and lost seventy pounds, two of my stories were published in the Inlandia anthology and most important of all, I started this blog.  I feel as if things are moving in the right direction.

That's the funny thing about life.  One moment you are doing a silly dance and feeling down on yourself and soon, everything changes.  I got my mojo back baby so watch out.  This next year plans on being one heck of a ride.