Susan's Blog

Thursday, February 7, 2008


As I’ve said before, the very first Middle Eastern song I ever really liked, or ever really noticed, was the Misirlou. I first heard it over a year ago, when I began taking classes with Melina, my current Wednesday night teacher. Misirlou is a very old Greek melody, but one that has been interpreted over and over in many different iterations, one of the most recent being from the movie Pulp Fiction. Misirlou was the very first song I choreographed for myself, the first song I danced to with my own vision of movements.

I found out from Melina last night that Misirlou means, “Muslim Egyptian Girl,” and it is a song about a Greek man who longs for a forbidden love, with a girl he cannot have, from another culture.

2006 and part of 2007 were tough years for me. Despite the success of the book — or maybe in part because of it — I learned some pretty hard lessons, and had some difficulties getting myself together. In early 2007, though, I joined my gym, and found a new release to some of my anguish by exercising in the bright, wide open, sunlight-filled space up there. What completed this new passion was my iPod shuffle, which had both Misirlou and Pump It, by the Black-Eyed Peas, which I had gotten from Max. Pump it reminded me of Max only, not anything bad that had happened to me, and when it came on my shuffle, I would just explode with energy and thoughts of beautiful Max, one of the best things that ever happened to me. (I look at him in total wonder sometimes, like “How can someone as incredible as you actually be from me?” We don’t talk a lot these days, but when I do check in with him, I still have that same, deep comfort and ease that I had with him even as a newborn.)

I had Max make Pump It my ringtone. I don’t know how he did it. It is exactly the way it sounds on the shuffle. I was thrilled. Pump It began to be my guiding light, my way out, whether it was a dreary winter’s day and a slow work-out, or a more nefarious depression.

One day, Pump It came on right after the Misirlou. I had a flash of recognition: the bass guitar of the main theme was the same, just sped up! (Maybe this is obvious to some of you, who have actually seen Pulp Fiction and heard the surfing version of Misirlou, but to me, it was a revelation.)

The other day, I played the classic, George Abdo Misirlou for my Baby Bellies. It was the first song that they actually asked to hear again. I began to have an idea. With the help of one of my Baby Bellies, we all bit-by-bit came up with a choreography that they could follow, set to the Misirlou. On Tuesday I wrote it down and that afternoon I went over it with them.

They actually practiced it four times.

People stopped to watch us, delight apparent on their faces. The BBs were listening to me, and working off each other, helping one another remember what came next and how to execute each move. “Now we do the flower thing, now it’s the flower into the middle of the circle!” or “Now we go in a line!” or “Now we spin, pedal turn!”

We are going to perform for the parents at the end of the session. Maybe the staff in the office, too. My first production. Once again, I come back full circle, to the Misirlou, a sad song about love and things that cannot be; it has snaked its way into my subconscious and brought me to a new place of joy where I discover new loves and new things that absolutely can be.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

All Hail the Goomba

The Goomba, who in our household has been named, “Webster Goomez,” is a favorite Mario character of Ben’s. I did not know that until recently.

My mother did not know that either, presumably. But somehow, using her extra-sharp Grandma Vision, she picked him out at some store she frequents, and something told her, This one — for Ben.
Mom has always been a kind of a Superhero herself. Her background is in library science and education, and she has put it to use with my sons in spades. She has always been especially skilled when it comes to getting the right book or toy for the right grandboy. Mom is the one, after all, who picked out Spell-A-Puzzle, which is the toy that taught Nat to read. Mom is the one who recommended all the Beezus books, Narnia, and the Egypt Game — oh, that was for me, actually — and she was the one who played Baby Beanie Babies over and over with Max in a cute high-pitched voice I never knew she had. Mom is the one who bought Nat Floppy Bunny and Funny Bunny. Dad, of course, was in on it all, too, God bless him! (They are both the Ace of Spades as far as I’m concerned.)

But today I am thinking about Mom, especially because of Webster.

Webster resides in our house. Mom got him for Ben as an “extra,” a present for Chanukah that did not “count” as the real present. But just because.

So Grumpy Goomez is a new part of the family. And he is very welcome, too. He and Ned get along very well. Ned has him walk all over Ben; five steps, then he rests, because his head is so large and his feet, so small, he tires easily. Ben thinks this is hilarious. The word Ben actually used was, “kinda adorable.” After that, he began to point out other things that are “cute.” With a smile on his face. No holding back; experiencing joy and emotional stuff and sap. This is Ben I am talking about. Sugar and Spike. All prickly.

It turns out, that a nasty little Mario character found his way into the secret catacombs of Benji’s heart and forgot to shut the door behind him.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Good Taste

So here’s the thing: I suddenly realized that overeating is not about actual physical diet. I had come to believe that it was, because I was an Atkins Acolyte and then very recently, a South Beach Believer. But both diets have ultimately failed me. I cannot lose weight on either one of them anymore. If I follow them religiously, they only barely work. I lost three pounds in a little less than two weeks on South Beach, and you are “supposed” to lose 8 -13.

Because of this frustrating phenomenon, I found myself thinking about the underlying science/belief of those two diets: that eating carbohydrates raises the glucose level; that raising the glucose level in your blood is bad because that feeling leads to craving which leads, inexorably, to overindulgence. And, that protein is the best food form because it does not really raise the glucose. Fat, also, does not. Plus, protein and fat will fill you up, so theoretically you won’t even miss the carbs.

It made so much sense to me. For nearly 5 years I have followed this basic attitude, denying myself many forms of carb and instead going for protein and fat. I had lately changed my proteins to lean, healthy proteins and the fats to non- or low-.

But I cannot lose weight. And you must know that I exercise quite a bit (almost every day, a hard three mile combo of treadmill and stairmaster, dance class and practice every other day, too). So this morning, I went back to eating low- rather than no-carb — I had, for the first time in two weeks, some multigrain pita bread — and I had a kind of epiphany. The bread made me feel happy. And I thought: this is the other side to raising glucose. You feel really good eating those foods. And then: you want more.

The low-carbivores believe that it is that wanting that is an undesirable, because of the wanting-more. They believe you can control that with eating other foods, ad nauseum. I am now challenging that assumption.

There are other parts in my life where I want more, too; not just in eating. But I can’t have that. We learn as we grow up that we have to resist things; we have to look away, we have to do something else and try to be satisfied with what we have. Channel. Sublimate.

Atkins and South Beach are trying to get you to believe that if you do it just right you won’t have to sublimate. You won’t crave. Because you will always be full.

But that belief is the crux of the problem. We still crave, even when we are full. Even when my life is in accord, and I am happy and full, I long for other things which I should not have. No amount of turkey breast and nonfat ricotta & Splenda is going to flatten that desire. Irrational desire, glucose-raising desire, are part of the human condition.

Furthermore, maybe we even have those desires for a reason. Maybe we are supposed to feel really good eating some kinds of food. Maybe, evolutionarily speaking, we enjoy eating so that we eat enough and survive things like long, dreary winters or boring times. Maybe we crave even more so that we never stop wondering, and never stop growing. Food pleasure is an animal pleasure, and it is a part of us.

I am learning from my cravings. I am learning things about myself, and what is important to me. I find that I hate ending things — even a meal! I hate good things to be over! Even on the dessert level! I also have learned that I love to feel as if I have options, more and more options, that my life is ever-expanding.

Those feelings are a part of me. The challenge I face in my life is how to pull back in time, how to be finished, how to move on. From chocolate, from bad relationships, from overindulgence. I want to embrace those feelings. I don’t want simplistically to hate and shut down craving. I want to learn how to say, “Okay, Oh God, that was tasty; but now I’m done.”

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