A Taste of My Childhood

Senses can be like a time machine. A picture can transport you back to that wonderful vacation from so many years ago. The feel of a warm blanket can make you long for those crisp evening’s at the mountain retreat. A song can tele-port you back to middle-school, and make you relive your first heartbreak. And the smell and taste of certain foods can make you a kid once again.

This past weekend was Lee’s and my first travel experience since transforming our lifestyle to one of clean eating and more healthful foods. We kicked off the Fast Metabolism Diet on January 6, and we’ve seen great results so far. Our 4-week program ended on February 2, and we’ve been in ‘maintenance’ mode since. Maintenance mode is where we gradually introduce food items back into our diet. For the most part this past week, we’ve stuck to FMD compliant and phase specific foods. However, wrapping up a weekend in South Florida and having breakfast with my mom as we prepared to drive back home, we kinda’ fell off the wagon.

You see, Cuban food and Fast Metabolism Diet don’t go well together. Versailles Restaurant and Fast Metabolism Diet REALLY don’t go well together. How can you possibly stay on plan with a breakfast buffet that includes a plethora of items that are not plan compliant? Bacon, fried eggs and scrambled eggs (both of which I am sure are prepared in butter or grease), sausage, picadillo, cod fish fritters (yes, for breakfast), and so much more.  I think if nutritionist and FMD author Haylie Pomroy stepped into that restaurant, her heart would seize. Furthermore, the restaurant has it’s own bakery. I am proud to say that both Lee and I avoided all the baked goods …. with one little exception.

I believe in Heaven, and I believe that in Heaven, there’s an unlimited supply of Cuban toast. I have no idea how Cuban bread is made, but I am convinced it involved magic. Take that magical baked good, slice it in half, lather it with butter, and press it and you get one of the most divine breakfast foods ever. Couple it with traditional Cuban cafe con leche, and I’m instantly a kid again sitting at my grandmother’s house, watching the men of the family play dominoes while their wives talked about whatever it was they talked about. Having the Cuban toast with my breakfast this morning was a visceral experience, and although I knew full and well the food was not good for me physically, it was also a heartwarming and joyful experience. The fact I got to share it with my kids made it that much more special.

Cuban Toast with Cafe con Leche

I guess the moral of the story is twofold. For starters, it’s okay to indulge a little every now and then. Being disciplined means knowing how to do things in moderation, and although I am proud of the changes I’ve made in my eating habits, having a moment of extravagance can be somewhat liberating. Secondly, there is something healthy and endearing about reminiscing on good times. It uplifts the soul and strengthens the heart. We learn from our mistakes and we build upon our experiences. Looking back on those happy building blocks reassures us of the strength we possess. So if you ever want to go back in time for a bit, find that special something that will set your senses on fire, and subsequently warm your heart.

Much Ado About Guillen

There’s been a big hullabaloo surrounding the comments made by Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in a recent Time Magazine piece . The article begins with a direct quote from Guillen. “I love Fidel.” The maelstrom of reaction that followed was to be expected.

In a market where political passion and hatred of Castro rages greater than a category 5 hurricane, Ozzie’s comments were incredibly careless and irresponsible. Add to that the fact Ozzie is a public sports figure who works in an environment of 24-hour news cycles and public relations management, his quote was downright stupid. Never mind the fact the Time Magazine article went on to explain how Guillen pondered his comment and amended it to, “I respect Fidel” (in the context of him still being alive after all these years), it was, in the end, the mother of all brain farts.

There is one aspect of me that applauds Ozzie for being – as he always has been – brutally honest. There was no malice intended with his comment. There was no hidden agenda or point to prove. He was asked a question about a topic and he answered it. That being said, Ozzie’s honesty pales in comparison to the sheer stupidity he displayed. Whereas most people in Miami want to file this under “Ozzie is a communist sympathizer” and want him gone as Marlins Manager, I think it more properly belongs in the category of “Ozzie is a moron who knows better.”

Of all the things to say and of all the markets in which to say it, that you love – or respect or admire or ANY other positive comment – Castro is categorically and undeniably the wrong thing to say. And given Ozzie’s contrite and public apology, one that was visibly different from other sports apologies we’ve become accustomed to seeing, it’s clear he understands how stupid he was, too.

In 2009, Bob Griese, of ABC Sports and Miami Dolphins fame, got into trouble for making a tongue-in-cheek comment about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. I said then as I say now; it was not a racist comment but rather a stupid comment. Ozzie Guillen’s faux pas falls under the same category. The difference, however, is that his verbal diarrhea has been amplified by a million because of his current role as Miami Marlins manager. The fan base of the Marlins is mostly Hispanic, and of those Hispanic fans, the largest percentage is Cuban or of Cuban decent. The stadium in which the Marlins play is situated in a part of Miami known as Little Havana, so the fact Ozzie didn’t catch himself as he was shedding praise to Fidel Castro is what I find truly shocking. To me, what makes me shake my head at all this is not the words he said, but the lack of filter he applied when saying them.

And that is what separates me from others, including family members of mine, who’ve been vocal during this fiasco. I respect their strong position against Ozzie and his comments. I don’t agree with some of their subsequent views as a result of this incident (Ozzie supports communist leaders, Ozzie’s apology was cowardly, Ozzie should be fired), but I understand why they feel that way. My uncle was incarcerated for non-violently protesting the Castro regime. My grandparents did not join the rest of their children in fleeing Cuba in the early 60’s so as to stay behind and wait for the release of my uncle. That pain and anger is still very real and very current to my family, and anything that even remotely smacks of support for the murderer that is Fidel Castro is unacceptable. I get that.

Yet at the end of the day, what made Ozzie Guillen qualified to be manager of the Marlins when he was hired last winter still makes him qualified to be their manager today. And at the end of the day, Ozzie Guillen being an employee of the Marlins – or not – will do nothing to change the fact Fidel and Rafael Castro are still in power in Cuba.

I am not of the mindset that public figures should lose their jobs for brain fart comments. People make mistakes and I think the punishment of public shame and ridicule should suffice when the idiot in all of us decides to make an appearance.

I like Ozzie. I think he’s a dynamic character that brings attention to both the Marlins and Major League Baseball in much the same way Earl Weaver did with the Orioles, Tommy Lasorda did with the Dodgers, and Lou Pinella did with the Yankees/Cubs/Devil Rays. He deserves the suspension he received from the Marlins as well as the pounding he’s taken (and will continue to take) from the media and fans. Still, I look forward to watching him manage this season, and as a fan, I am excited about having him as skipper of the new-look Marlins.

What he said was stupid, but when looked at through a prism of non-Miami cultural bias, what he said is really not that big of a deal.

Having “The (Other) Talk” With My Daughter

So I was sitting around listening to the podcast of a sports radio show out of Miami, and the conversation turned to how the Miami Heat fans cheered Chris Brown when his image was displayed on the jumbo-tron. The show’s host, Dan Le Batard, mentioned how he recoiled in disgust at the crowd’s reaction given the details of the police report filed following Brown’s physical abuse of Rihanna.

The conversation then went into the direction of, “If Rihanna can forgive Chris Brown, then who are we to judge?”

And that’s where my head exploded.

There are two components to domestic abuse; those who abuse and those who enable the abuse. Rihanna’s decision to forgive Chris Brown is her prerogative, and when looked at with greater and deeper perspective, it’s also the Christian thing to do. What I find appalling, however, and – well, unforgivable – is that she’s not using this experience, and the media frenzy surrounding it, to speak out visibly and publicly about domestic violence. Rather, when looked at through the prism of Rihanna as a public figure, her inaction serves, in my opinion, as implied tolerance for men who beat their girlfriends or wives.

I was driving my daughter to soccer practice recently, and a popular song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. I inquired out loud who sings the song (because the voice sounded familiar).

“That’s Pitbull with Chris Brown.”

“Chris Brown?”

“Yeah.”

“You know he beat up Rihanna, right?”

“Yeah, but they’re back together now. They’re doing a song together.”

I gave my daughter ‘the dad look’ as I asked her, “And what does that say about Rihanna?”

I don’t know if there’s a right way to approach your pre-teen daughter about the subject of domestic abuse, but I felt that was the moment for me. We talked about how serious an issue it is, and how there’s never an excuse for a man to put his hands on a woman.

I went on to tell her there are only three acceptable outcomes to a scenario – God forbid – where she’s the victim of domestic violence.

“You either A) pack your bags and get out, B) you throw his ass out (and subsequently throw out his stuff, change the locks, the whole nine yards), or C) make sure he ends up in the hospital.”

That’s it. No excuses. No trying to understand or justify why it happened. None of that garbage. The imperative I gave my daughter that afternoon is that the first time a guy puts his hands on her, it will be the absolute last time he ever puts his hands on her.

Maybe I’m being a stereotypical, over-protective dad. Maybe I could have couched the conversation a little better. Maybe I should have consulted with her mom (and step-mom) first. Still, I’ve seen firsthand the affects domestic violence, when left unchecked, can have on a family. My wife’s cousin Dee is no longer with us because of it. She was only twenty. I believe her tragic death, like most suffered at the hand of domestic abuse, could have been avoided.

So, no, I don’t think it’s too soon to talk to my daughter about this topic. The sooner I can get her to understand these types of realities, the more prepared she’ll be to face them should it ever come to that. My daughter will be going to college in five and half years, and it’s stories like those of Dee Curry, Yeardley Love, and this one that scare me to death.

I don’t think there’s one right answer or a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing these topics with our kids. I guess the important thing is that we make an attempt to address them.

After all, I’d much rather deal with my daughter being uncomfortable with me for several minutes than with my daughter being a statistic.

001/365 The Start of Something New

Inspired by my awesome and wonderful wife, who on September 6 started a daily photoblog on her site, I will attempt to post a photo to my blog on a daily basis. To be honest, I resisted this idea for such a long time. For me, it was not what blogging is about. However, something happened recently that made me change my mind.

Lee recently lost her great uncle, and in his passing, Lee pondered about how a generation of story tellers had left us. To use her words:

It is for this reason that I want to foster my blog so that it becomes my own personal living, breathing history book. I want to do this for my nephew, Hunter, and for my step-children, Natalie and Daniel.  I want to fill it with stories of my childhood, of coming of age and of finding myself.

So, in the spirit of better documenting my life and my experiences, as well as Project 365, I present to you Day 1 of my photo journey. I hope you enjoy.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We rang in the first day of 2012 by taking in the Miami Dolphins’ final game of the season – which also happened to be Jason Taylor’s final game in the NFL – and then hopped on the Metrorail to downtown Miami to attend the Miami Heat game against the Bobcats. Both home teams won, and it was a fun, albeit exhausting, experience for Lee and me.