Friday, August 22, 2014

Three Squares

New digs, new bedding, new . . . kitchen!

Yes, y'all, I've got a new kitchen. And it is capital B Big! And so pretty.

After moving in a few days ago . . .

How cool are those house numbers?

I got it all set up (well, Mom helped a *little*) -

(Yes, I moved those shoes - and yes, it is a really big kitchen!)

So of course, now that I've settled in and have a couple days off, I have to cook. From eggs, to a lovely mushroom fettucine, then chicken made for a big dinner salad, I broke out and broke in all kinds of kitchen gadgets and goodies yesterday. It was so fun.

My last kitchen (to be honest, all of my last apartment) depressed me. Not just the meager amount of counter space, but the lighting, the not-quite-full-size fridge, the . . . everything. But, now! Now I have the space, the colors (the walls in the kitchen and throughout the apartment are the most lovely pale, soothing blue), the cabinets, the everything that I need to create and chef to my heart's delight.

When I am in the midst of such, it looks like this . . .

And when I am done, like this . . .

These couple of days are a treat - with the hours I keep, I don't get to cook at home nearly as much as I'd like. Now that I have a great kitchen, I will try to do it as frequently as I can (somehow making an omelet at 2am, after work, doesn't sound so bad with my new accoutrements!). Whether just for my own pleasure and fun, or for friends, I am looking forward to getting out those pots and pans, using all my dishes (perhaps a new, full set of casual daily plates and bowls is in order?) and going to town.

This morning, I think an omelet with spinach, Swiss and herbed goat cheese is in order. No short order cooking here, just good things made with love.

Sometimes puttering around in your own space is just what the doctor ordered, for the heart, soul and body.

And way better than CT scans and surgery, I must say.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby

I finally realized I was pretty. And it took smashing my face into concrete to make me realize it. Apparently people telling me that my entire life wasn't enough to believe it - it took nearly crushing my face to get it through my thick head.

Shame, CN. Shame on me.

I decided to start running again. Getting back into shape and retrieving my runner's world from the cobwebs of my mind, a way to reengage a part of my life that I have truly been missing.

What happened? On my, say, fourth or fifth run over a couple weeks' span . . . Face, meet concrete. Cheek first.

May 28:

Now, I see how pretty I was...

And June 28:

Almost unreal - except it was very real.

And, yesterday - just before surgery to clear all blood and fluids from the severe hematoma on my left cheek, that wasn't healing on its own.

Not aspirating on its own, instead remaining a severe
coagulation of blood and fluid...

Finding myself wearing - a grotesque, gargoyle-esque - caricature of the face I had known, is terrifying. And it's not even much about being pretty, or being vain, or such - it is fear. Pure, unadulterated fear of ... everything. How I look, how my facial external and internal parts function . . . how I am able to eat and drink . . . it's like a punch to the gut (or, the face).

When I went to the ER, three doctors came to see me, amazed that the CT scan showed no broken bones. According to them - and as everyone who's seen me since has concurred - it is absolutely amazing that nothing was fractured. I agree, and am so grateful.

Not just for the hope of getting back the cheekbones I had and now appreciate (which, I admit, I desperately want back), but for the ability to drink without a straw and to eat normal food without only chewing on the right side, to have the dissolvable stitches inside my left cheek gone so I don't keep wanting to run my tongue over the little knot in them to hustle them along, to not have to sleep upright every night in the hopes of coaxing along quicker healing, to not needing painkillers or anti-nausea meds to soothe me, to . . . It's a long list.

Not being able to work for a month, not being allowed to lift anything even a little heavy or squat to pick something up (hello, server life, forget that for now) or wanting to be seen in public (most people have been kind or pretended not to notice, but some have not) or see even close friends. An immediate and, albeit hopefully temporary, time in my life, and a harsh one at that.

Being intubated and put to sleep to deal with a facial injury - despite all my bumps and bruises over the years due to sports injuries and other mundane traumas, not something I'd ever needed - being told that it will be at least another two weeks before the procedure (hopefully) proves effective, with another couple of months before everything is back to pre-accident form. Damn.

And, what if it doesn't go back to my normal? What then? Am I the brave new face I will have, or a self-pitying little girl thinking of what was? I guess we'll find out.

Stubbornly, I tried to eat salad today. It was probably a little "rough" from a texture standpoint. So my AARP-aged self has to take over when dinnertime comes around; soft foods only. Sigh.

Food - body - life. Inextricably linked and this time? This time I am talking about more than emotion linking with the others. This is about healing - and survival. And accepting the possibility that some things, whether physical, mental or other, may change more than temporarily.

That scares the shit out of me.

This pretty baby would have told me a very long time ago how pretty I would grow up to be - and how strong I was no matter what life threw my way.

Pretty Little Me


For now, all I can do is try my hardest to listen to her, and not worry about cheekbones, or eating baby food for the rest of my life.

With angst,
Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Name is Inogo Montoya

Prepare to Die.

Not really, y'all. C'mon. If I'd take you out, it would be way more subtle. And after a lunch of sweet tea, or dinner with cocktails - you know, the Southern way.

But this post is about revenge. Mostly.

This girl has been angry of late.

There are people I know who should be suffering; I hate that I want them to be experiencing such.

There are people I know who need grace - God's, as I do believe in such - and I am hoping it is received.

There are people who do things like . . . break in a car window and take a purse and phone, etc, happy go lucky and all that. [Insert expletive here- it happened to my mama two days ago! Outside the grocery!]

There are people I - see- daily -  who ask others for money and claim homelessness -  yet decline offers of a fresh meal from the restaurant outside, or a trip to the mini-grocery to get some food.

There are people I know who just. . . suck. I'd have placed an adverb in there but it would be tacky and . . . everything I do not want to be.

There are people who you have a hunch won't tip you well - or at all, honestly - then pay with a $20 gift card for a bill of  $22.91 - and leave $23 to cover the whole tab.

This time last year, I was still in my salad days, so to speak, and most if not all  meals were well-covered and much enjoyed, every day.

I took a shower a bit ago, after taking Sir Luke out for a walk, and picking up the application for the apartment I hope I will move into, soon.

And I thought, washing things and all that  when I got home, and picturing such in the new, potential place - I get to handle my own kitchen, my own life, my own dog.

Prepare to "die" in some way, if you dare mess with that.

Just sayin' . . .

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When the Refrigafrator Lacks

When the Refrigafrator Lacks

Sometimes, a girl runs out of the things she likes best. Or - the things that actually make sense for a meal.

What do you actually do with the ingredients when you have Pimento cheese, one pre-made pizza crust, a little (unspoiled) spinach and a few mushrooms, butter, and a half bottle of OJ? And your "dry goods cabinet" has crackers and two boxes of pasta - oh, and a can of mixed nuts?

I am exaggerating - but not by much. I'm even out of Diet Coke - sure I can drink it for free at work, but what do I do when up at 6-7 and don't work till 10-11 - torture (first world problems I know, but would you want to go without your AM caffeine fix? I didn't think so). When you work 48 hours between the start of Memorial Day weekend and the Tues morning after (seriously, I counted; plus, we get a printout every shift that shows our hours for the week) . . . or the start of Riverbend, Fri the 6th to last night the 9th, a total of 37 hours . . .who has time to shop for groceries, let alone eat something better than wings and fries at work, around midnight (if you're lucky and don't have tables for a minute) because who wants a healthy salad at midnight? That would be no one.

Don't get me wrong - I really do like and even sometimes love working at Taco Mac. Really, the managers and the people I work with are 99% great - more than I have had anywhere else.

But, I like to cook - and I want to eat healthily as much as possible.

My hours are a real challenge, as are the dearth of decent, healthy, and reasonably priced meal options in downtown Chatt - I can get a slice of pizza with one topping for $4 at Mellow Mushroom, if I make it there before 2pm. Which means I had a crummy day working lunch and am done early enough to snag it. I can get something for $3 there  - including hummus and a great balsamic, mixed greens, tomato and mozz salad for $3 if I can wait till their happy hour special after a better lunch - but it's way more for a healthy sandwich at Panera . . .and there is no good grocery store I can get to without a serious walk or two bus rides, as this is a food desert.

With my half-off discount, is it any wonder I eat at work almost once a shift? No.

What do I do now? Well, I certainly enjoy the bi-monthly visits from Mom when she arrives with fortification from Costco (mostly appreciating that damn Diet Coke) and we do a major trip to the store. But the things I love best, and want to eat - go bad quickly; those mixed greens, spinach, tomatoes and melon don't last that long, especially when you aren't home to eat them!

Love - well, this post is about loving myself, with what I put in my body.

And, I have a conundrum (who uses that word, anymore?) I have yet to completely figure out. How do I look cute in those shorts and semi-tight football-jersey-but-girl-sized shirts when I am eating fries at midnight?

Oh, and Lukie has to eat, too. And I can't feed him that leftover turkey slice that we got at the last store run . . .

I buy what I can, when I can. That I know I will use without going bad. I make sure I have plenty of dog food. I eat out as necessary and economical. I sometimes split up L's dinner if I know I am leaving for work at 4pm and won't be home till 10pm or after. I try to eat lots of veggies and protein, and force myself to want (50% off) meals at work. Without fries.

And, I deal. And most of the time, the refigafrator is full.

But this all isn't me; it isn't what I want.

So - I ponder the alternatives, food- and other-wise. Nothing immediate, other than Mom's visit later this week to help me out - but . . .how do I feed myself, in any way, in a healthy, pleasant fashion.

Well, let's find out. Stay tuned.

PS . . . that slice the nice owner of Mellow Mushroom had me try, from the summer menu they are starting next week and testing out - that may be dinner for tonight.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Saturday, June 7, 2014



It's where the heart is, so they say.

Yeah, it actually really is. I went home yesterday - gosh it was a quick visit, with a lot of things on the to-do list - but it was . . .

So. Absolutely. Good.

Sometimes, "good" is an underrated word. But the past 36 hours have been just about the best I've had in quite awhile. And, somehow, so very "good" is what comes to mind.

Daddy got me, and we had to get back to Atlanta to deal with doctor stuff. He was shocked and impressed that Luke was so calm and content in the backseat (his Grandmom likes to make him ride in the crate in her SUV but there's no room in Grandaddy's car) but I just assured him that's how we roll in Chattavegas, and all is good.

Home . . that has meant a lot of things for me in the last few years. Places I've lived, or my parents have lived, or we've lived together: note, don't have a tree fall on your apt and have to move in with your parents that night, dog in tow. . . to  - heart stuff, like thinking I'd found the love of my life, or saying goodbye to someone, or friends moving, or...

I haven't been to our beach house in too long. When we go there, together as a family, for Thanksgiving or Easter - we outsource the cooking. Not sure what's up for this year, but it being summer and all - the beach makes me think of home since it has long been such a big part of our family's life.

I don't know if I will get to the beach this summer - I hope! -  but I got to go home last night. Whatever the actual domain is, where my family is, that is home. Daddy was down in his office watching Fox News, I was upstairs with "Scandal" playing on my laptop; Luke ventured somewhere in between while I checked on my (SIX loads of) laundry, and . . .all was good, and for a bit, right in the world.

We had dinner last night at the Club, and I was so happy that a precious friend of mine could come, and meet my Dad for the first time. I had a chicken Caesar, nothing exciting (though I had plenty of those damn good buttered saltines I have never been able to duplicate at home!) but Em loved her pork chop, Dad loved talking about her skills as a professional bbq contest judge... and I was happy, because I was with people I love, and all was - "good."

Sometimes, it is the little things that are so big. A friend making time in her schedule to meet you on the only day you are in town in six months. A dad who picks you up and takes you back to your city, after other stuff, like dr appointments and lunch and dinner and . . . saying "good night" when it was time to tuck in.

I have said this before, but I know  I have taken it for granted at times -  I am a lucky, blessed girl. Despite some challenges, life - and salads or crackers -  are . . .good. And with a dose of home this week, I feel fortified. That is  - well, beyond good.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I love me some boys. And, for the record - all men are boys on some level, hence my use of the word; I don't object to us being called girls.

That aside, I am pissed.

This whole . . . tragic debacle with Elliot Rodgers has got me thinking. Hard. And about me, and my friends, personally and specifically. Then just translate that to all women and there you go: I am super angry. And now I will be honest.

Am I weak? No.

Am I quick to judge or assume? No.

Am I afraid to do, be, try, etc? Hell, no.

But here's the thing.

What all these articles and web posts and tweets and - everything - have brought up . . . it is all So. Damn. True.

We, women, do get silenced. We do get interrupted. We do get harassed in big and small ways. We . . .

It wasn't till all this tragic stuff happened that I paused to think about the possible reality of such in my life. But, sadly, I realized that it is a reality. I will give you five examples of how something denigrating, devaluing, or dismissive has happened to me - in the last (wait for it) week.

1 - A customer talked over me when I was introducing myself to the table and trying to say I'd be their server, and said "honey, I'll just have a water."

2 - An ex boyfriend messaged me with sexual innuendos (yet again) - even though I have repeatedly asked him not to do so. I thought we could just be friends.

3 - A customer came in after closing and said "My friend threw up in the bathroom. Can I pay whoever has to clean up because it's so gross? I assume that's you?"

4 - When I was waiting for the bus, a guy said "You're so pretty. I bet you have a boyfriend." When I tried not to respond, rather than leave me alone, he persisted - "Why don't you? I could be your boyfriend. What's your number?"

5 - One of my managers at work who didn't hear me answer the question he posed ("Who was here first this morning to open?") but heard the guy (who, for the record, got in after I did) say it.

These are small and mostly inconsequential examples of what is a truly scary thing: women are at risk.

It can be financial, it can be psychological, it can be . . . a lot of things.

When a man approaches me on the street, asking for money, it raises my hackles. When I have to leave the restaurant late at night and get a cab, I wonder what the driver will be like. When I have to smile and banter with a customer who is, frankly, a jackass, I cringe internally. When I . . .

There are so many situations, big and small, in which a woman's voice is negated, voided, challenged, ignored. If you stop and think about it, it's true and it happens all the time.

I've never been one to focus on inequalities or he said/she said politics and what not, but this whole CA scenario has hit home with me. I am a smart, strong, brave, capable woman and I deal with some things every single day that this horrific episode has brought into focus: my Pollyanna side and hero of a daddy and model for men might make me gloss over it, but women get shit in all shapes and sizes, regularly.

Enough. If you have a son, teach him differently. If you have a daughter, teach her differently. The statistics are staggering: men speak 75% more than women on boards, committees, etc on decision making issues, people retweet men's tweets twice as often as women's, and even in movies (!) men have more disruptive speech AND garner twice as much screen and speaking time as women ( There are many more examples than just these small ones. Did I mention that "everyone" considers women to be the ones who dominate conversations?

Girls need to be strong, be capable, be brave with words and action. Yet, realistically, we have to still be wary, observant and . . . polite, courteous and cautious.

Will this change? Can it? And if so, to either, then how?

More than food for thought - it's Fiber One cereal on steroids.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Must Love Dogs

That is a simple fact.

For me, and the canine curled between me and this laptop on which I am writing this post - it is a blessed fact.

I do like Chattanooga; love would be a little strong to say, but it is proving to be a good place for me.

But, I have been lonely.

I am a creature of habit: I am a collector and curator of people, friends and more; a frequenter of favorite places; a proponent of finding the good in my surroundings.

And, well, simply - something has been missing in my new life here. My doggus.

Luke came to Tennessee this week and - frankly? - I feel like a mommy with her first newborn! (I'm imagining this feeling, based on what friends say, post, etc) I can't stop gushing, posting, picture-ing . . .

My boy is here. Food? Dog food only, of course. Ok, a tiny bit of chicken that I dropped out of my quesadilla at lunch yesterday. But, real "food"? Real food is love, and sustenance - and my heart is over-full.

A lot of things have happened to me in the last year, and one of the most life-affirming things that has happened to me is having Luke here with me now. To love and to care for (to have and to hold - hee) - and to know that he still knows his mommy, and he doesn't want to leave my side now that he is here . . . I am, well, overwhelmed.

Hungry, not so much. Because I am being fed. With love.

One thing I am focusing on these days is being *present* - and something that is really helping me do that is my dog. When he sits on my lap, and I have to rearrange myself to reach the computer or my Diet Coke or whatever, or when a jingle jangle of tags follows me when I walk around my cute little apartment . . . small, precious, filling moments.

To close, a parting thought from one of my long time favorite actors in a particularly appropriate-now movie:

"You should have seen this girl - she's a mess, she's completely lovely..."

"... And she's a unique constellation of attributes."

And she - this girl - loves dogs.

My heart is full - Luke's tummy is - life, and God - are good.

Love Bites,
Carrie Neal