Saturday, February 17, 2018

Is it something I said?

Let's face it: Communication is a freakin' struggle and can be a huge stumbling block to any interpersonal relationship you have, especially if you haven't mastered the art of communication like me (HA! That's a joke...there's no such thing as a communication master. We all have things to learn and a long way to go to learn it.). What seems innocuous to one person is a major slight or insult to the receiver or another, especially without context. Rereading some of the text message conversations I've had with people is a perfect example of this. So much is lost without the inflection, tone of voice, facial gestures (emojis totally do not count as stand-ins for facial expressions, by the way), body language...I think you know where I'm going with this. Anyway. Back to rereading text message conversations (or emails or digital communication of pretty much any sort), and you end up hoping and praying that the receiver is picking up what you're putting down and vice versa. It totally sucks when something goes completely sideways because your text message was woefully inadequate in communicating your desired message. There's no quick and easy solution to the whole communication problem (sadly) but it definitely helps to practice a lot and to emphasize the positive. These are things I'm learning every day, with every interaction that I have with people. Also, there is nothing better than speaking with someone face-to-face or, at least, on the phone. And please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not use the method of communicating with someone using solely emojis. We have evolved from a pictograph language. Let's collectively attempt to maintain our forward momentum wherein this is concerned.

So now I'll tell you a story:
I was living in Germany and had just finished training for the language school where I was starting to work. They had ponied up for the training and the travel to Leipzig, which was about an hour and a half by train from where I lived. It's a beautiful little city that I highly recommend checking out, if you have the opportunity. I finished my last day in training and had a couple of hours to knock around Leipzig before my train left. I found myself wandering around one of the many parks that proliferate Europe in general and Germany in particular. I had my backpack on and was, by all outward appearances, clearly American. There's something very distinct about Americans abroad but I guess you could say that about any nationality. Seriously, how hard is it to pick out the German guy on the beach in Florida?
So, there I am, wandering around in no particular fashion (the very definition of wandering, I suppose), and this guy in a black jacket and jeans starts wandering sorta close to me. I eyed him sideways a few times and stood up a little straighter but didn't think much about it. We were, after all, the only ones in the park so why should I be concerned? Did I mention that I was 22 at the time and totally fearless? So, black jacket and jeans gets closer to me and strikes up what could be considered a conversation if his English was better or my German was passable. Instead, it was a rather stilted exchange that left me horrified and him humiliated. He opened with the usual "Hello" and, as I mentioned before, had already pegged me as an American. I politely said, "Hi" and was planning on leaving it at that. He asked, "How are you?" I replied that I was good and stopped wandering. This was clearly not a place to continue wandering. Then he posed a really interesting question. He asked, "Do you love?" How poignant, I thought! How wondrously thoughtful and interesting and insightful for starting a discussion with a complete stranger from another culture in a deserted park! I nodded wholeheartedly and quickly said, "Yes! I love! I love my friends. I love my family! I love my cat! I love the earth! I love Germany!" This went on for longer than it should of and he cut me off before I could start naming species of plants and animals or shades of colors or individual shapes that I had a particular affinity for over another. He shook his head a little bit and then he asked, "Do you love...for money?" This struck me as a peculiar idea until it hit me. Black jacket and jeans had just asked me if I was a prostitute! The nerve! Really?!? I was wearing a backpack! What kind of streetwalker wanders around deserted parks all alone while wearing a backpack? I failed, utterly and completely, to hide my horror. I'm not sure which one of us fled the scene faster but, the next thing I knew, I was hightailing it out of the park and he disappeared from wherever he came from.
When I got home later that evening, I called my boyfriend at the time, full of righteous indignation that someone would mistake me, ME!, for a prostitute. When he laughed at the whole thing, I was agog at his response. How in the hell could he think any of this was funny? His girlfriend was mistaken as a prostitute! A lady of the evening! A hooker! Despite all of these exclamations, he laughed harder and explained the ways of German culture to me. "It's not a thing here," he said. "It's not like America where people are really uptight and weird about that sort of thing. You were alone in a park, just wandering around. If you were German or any other nationality, there's a good chance that you would have responded much differently to his question and made some extra cash on the side." Needless to say, I was speechless and it took me more than a few minutes to recover after his explanation. Today I can laugh about it and chalk it up to a cultural and social miscommunication, thankfully. And I can tell you the story about the time some guy in Germany asked me if I loved...for money.

Until next time, keep up your end of the communication.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Baby Steps

I had the completely obvious realization (to everyone else but me, apparently) that you can't just talk about doing the thing. You have to actually do the thing. And, evidently, even just pretending or thinking about doing the thing gets you one step closer to doing it. So here I am, doing the thing, writing the words, transcribing thoughts into words on the canvas of Blogger. I talk about being a writer all the time but what, really, do I have to show for it other than really (and I mean REALLY) boring marketing copy and a handful of bits and bobs that don't account for much in the end. Sure, the marketing copy is useful and helping people make more informed decisions about their office products but, in the end, does that really matter to me? Honestly, nope, not one bit. So here I sit, at the job I don't love, doing something that I do love, writing. When the boss is away, the worker bees will play. Ha!

I'll tell you a funny story:
I lived in Germany for a couple of years when I was in my early twenties. Moving off to foreign countries on a whim is something that people in their early twenties do, although, I must say, I highly recommend it for people of any age because it's a super fun, mind-blowing thing to do for yourself. I moved to a small town in the center of Germany called Erfurt. It's everything you're imagining right now...an idyllic little German town with a town square, a load of cathedral churches everywhere, and farmers coming into town during the summer with truckloads of strawberries, selling them in the town square and permeating the air with the scent of strawberries. Who wouldn't love that? I sure as hell did. But this isn't the funny part. I'm getting there. Bear with me. So, when I took off to a foreign country, I did what most people who do that sort of thing do: I taught English as a foreign language. All the German I knew I learned thanks to Wayne Newton (Danke Shoen and Auf Wiedesen, respectively) and the school where I taught believed in the immersion method so, thankfully, that was not a hindrance to my career opportunities. I mostly taught adults who needed to add English to their skillset in order to make them more appealing in the job market. Erfurt is a former East German town, you see, so most of the grown-ups there spoke perfectly serviceable German and Russian but very little English so I was a hot commodity with my English-speaking skills. My students and I had any number of absolutely amazing, and usually hilarious, conversations that were so completely off-curriculum it's an total wonder that I managed to stay gainfully employed for as long as I did.

My students, after I moved up in the transportation world from walking to biking thanks to a birthday present from my then boyfriend, informed me that I wasn't truly living the German experience or doing the whole Germany-thing until I had a drunken wreck on my new bicycle. I'd like to digress just slightly here and let you know that I didn't actually learn how to ride a bike until I was 10 or 11 and it's not really one of those things that I consider high up there in my skill set, like reading or my typing speed or my ability to make a long story even longer thanks to digressions, asides, and parenthetical bits of info. Suffice to say, I could easily get into a sober bike wreck (and have, many times, usually resulting in some part of one of my limbs broken or fractured) just as easily as I could get into a drunken bike wreck but, apparently, that is just a normal-human experience and not a now-you-actually-live-in-Germany experience. I assured my students that if and when the drunken wreck happened, I would inform them forthwith. I think that was on a Wednesday. Fast forward to Friday night because nothing of note happened between that Wednesday and the following Friday. Imagine an energetic and happy me, heading out on my new-to-me bicycle to meet some new-to-me friends for drinks for the evening (I think you can see where this is going). The thing about Germans and their relationship to alcohol that you should know if you're not aware of it already is that, well, it's different from Americans and their relationship to alcohol. For one thing, Germans are accustomed to consuming really (and I mean REALLY) high content alcohol beer, which, while getting easier, is still relatively difficult to find in the USA. The Germans are also used to consuming large quantities of said high-alcohol beer with a level of grace and sophistication the likes of which I had not experienced before nor have I seen it since (except when I hang out with my German friends, obvs.)

After an evening of carousing and general mirth-making, all while consuming vast quantities of high-alcohol content beer (REALLY good beer...they sorta have a thing about that in Germany), I mounted my trusty steed and rode off into the great beyond before turning around and heading to my flat since I wanted to go to bed. On the way back to my flat, a large shrub suddenly got ten times its usual size and consumed me wholly and completely. I laid in the belly of the shrub, entangled not only with it but my bicycle as well, for a full five minutes before gaining an understanding of how to escape the innards of the shrub and extract my bicycle as well. After all, I wanted to sleep in my bed, not in the hollow center of the giant shrub that had tackled me while I was placidly riding my bicycle down the sidewalk. I caught the shrub monster unawares as I stealthily made my escape, wrangling my bicycle as well. I decided to take my bicycle for a little walk that constituted the rest of the way home, wherein I deposited said bicycle in the entryway of my flat and promptly went to bed. The following Monday, I was proudly able to report to my students that I now truly lived in Germany and had the German experience.

End of story. Stay tuned for further antics that are mostly written when I'm supposed to be doing something else.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Currently..

Hello everyone!
I hope you're having a fabulous Friday! I'm currently listening to my Pandora station (The Heavy: U.K.) and my fave song of theirs came on first, Short Change Hero (here's the Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkvScx3Po8I). I also recommend The Revivalists. They're rad.

So, I could sit here and tell you all the boring, banal minutiae of my life but i don't wish to waste your time or mine so I'll take this space to catch you up on the goods.

  • My (legit) crazy neighbor now considers me as one of his best friends. I believe it's primarily because I'm nice to him and there is a severe paucity of people just being nice to each other. I mean, seriously, we muster so much energy into being assholes, judging and criticizing people, that when someone is actually nice, NICE, to us we don't know how to handle it. When did we lose the capacity to accept a compliment? To acknowledge that it takes as much, if not more, time to dole out a compliment than to complain? If anyone is looking for societal indicators of a f*cked up society, please look into that. While I appreciate his friendship, I also value my solitude and, because he lives on the property, I've not been afforded the solitude that I seek and need for myself. Any suggestions about how to regain this are appreciated and useful, provided they are not mean/angry/negatively-confrontational. 
  • My relationship with my mother continues on its usual path. I am financially beholden to her (at this point, i work for her so I'm working for the paycheck). In my current position, I give up just as much unlicensed therapy as I did when I was a practicing bartender (if you have an open bartender position, let me know. It's my jam!) While i seek financial independence, I get looped into a guilt cycle that I continue to be challenged by, despite my knowledge that, given my skill set and abilities, I am valuable as an employee. Needless to say, I don't love it but i do it in service to the greater good.
  • My last couple of batches of bitters are f*cking transcendent. The chocolate-cherry-vanilla elevates even the lowest of spirits. I have two batches happening now: fresh cherry and blueberry. Best for vodka drinks. Check in later for recipes. Ask now for a bottle of either of the former. You pay shipping.
  • Yoga: I'm primarily doing private yoga at the moment but I'm open and available to workshops and contributing to teacher trainings (I'm anatomy heavy in the best way possible and I'm Yin Yoga Institute Certified and certified through the Vedic Conservatory for Vedic Thai Yoga therapy. I've got references so inquire within!). I love doing private yoga sessions but I would really love to serve up yoga to a wider audience. Striving and thriving..Side note: Retreat, anyone??
  • I'm so grateful for my opportunity to read books every evening. Check in shortly for book reviews. I just finished a couple of books and I look forward to sharing my thoughts so, again, you don't waste your time. There is now such thing as free time, as there is no such thing as extra money. Neither of these things exist. No time is free and, unfortunately, there is no extra money. Both time and money are earmarked for something.
I leave you with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iAYhQsQhSY. It's playing as I type this and it makes me silly happy. To anyone who is reading, thank you. 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Establishing a Routine

There are two sides to the idea of routine:
1) Routine can get you stuck, be boring, offer no variety, lead to the same, an inevitable march to the end of your days, which didn't vary from one to the next.

Alternatively:
2) Routine can lend itself to comfort in knowing what is coming next, what has already passed, and ensure that you are prepared for the upcoming day.

I think both are true, to some extent. Routine can be boring and same-old same-old day after monotonous day but that all depends on what your routine happens to be. If your daily routine is waking up at 5:30a, walking the dog, preparing everything for your life for the day and your work, getting the kids off to school, heading to work yourself, sitting in your cube or your office, etc., then you may not see the glory of routine. However, on the other hand, if it's your routine to wake up in the morning, look out your windows and watch the sunrise or the ripple of wind on the water and go for a walk, come back home for some hot tea and a nice shower before you head into whatever you call your office, then that could be a totally different story. It all depends on your routine. 

I've found that, for me, it's when I lack a routine of any sort, I become sort of unhinged but, if the routine is too severe and has no room for spontaneity, I become resistant and sullen. None of these states of mind suits me well, as I'm sure you will agree (they probably don't suit you well either, unless you're emo and wear sullen as part of your daily emotional profile). Since I don't find my current routine to be particularly conducive to accomplishing everything I have on my list from day to day (sometimes it's a loooong freakin' list and I heap way too many things on myself but I digress), I'm doing my best to establish a new routine, one that will help me sleep better at night and feel more productive throughout the day. It's mostly at night, after a day at my very high stress, very high pressure, very fast-paced job, that I sort of fall into the routine that has, thus far, kept me sane and able to do it again, wake up the next day and start it all over but that generally means I don't get much other stuff done either. Other than the dishes. The dishes are always done. But let's not talk about the things that are currently growing legs and probably going to crawl out of my refrigerator and try to kill me in my (usually fitful) sleep. 

So, in my attempt to establish a new routine, one more suited for doing all the things on my list (which will, hopefully, allow me to sleep like the fresh bebe), I'm promised myself that I would be here, on this blog more often, writing it out, getting it out of my head and on to the page (you could print this out and then it would be on a page. Work with me here.). I'm not assigning myself any particular number of posts or words or days...just....more. Considering my current track record, I don't feel like I'm demanding too much of myself in that regard. I do feel like this is something I need to do to normalize myself and, hopefully, to delight you and to encourage you to share your vulnerabilities with someone or a lot of someones. Vulnerability is something that's been on my mind a lot lately but I'll save that for next time. Until then, enjoy your world and feel free to leave me a comment about something you enjoy (or don't enjoy) from your own personal routine!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vegan Chow Mien with Mushrooms and Napa Cabbage

Okay, so this is totally delicious:

I totes love Asian food and don't love not knowing exactly what's in it, especially considering that MSG plays a major role in most Asian cooking. I also wanted to make a vegan version of chow mien. So, after much research on Pinterest and otherwise, I came up with this recipe. I know my plating skills don't show through in the above photo but you can totally make it look amazing. 

Here's the details:
1/2 package of rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 head of napa cabbage, sliced into strips
1 cup of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut aminos (instead of soy sauce or tamari)
1 tablespoon freshly peeled and chopped ginger (the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon. Scrape the spoon on the root and the skin peels right off. It's rad.)
1 - 2 tablespoons of freshly minced garlic (although the jar stuff is fine if you don't want to smell of garlic for days afterward)
3 - 4 spring onions (aka scallions), chopped
1 cup mushrooms of your choice (I used shiitakes), sliced


How to do it:
Chop up all the veggies first, because it's easier. Put a pot of water on to boil while you're doing it. When the water starts to boil, break up the rice vermicelli noodles and stir a few times so they don't stick together. Unlike Italian food, you don't need to add salt or oil to the water. After the noodles have boiled for a bit, take about 1/2 cup of the starchy water from the pot and set it aside. Boil the noodles until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, in a large frying pan, add the olive oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onions. Cook on medium heat until aromatic. Add in the mushroom and the napa cabbage, being cautious of crowding everything together too much. If you crowd mushrooms, they won't cook right and you'll end up with mushy mushrooms and that's just no fun to eat at all. Cook the whole lot of it until the napa cabbage leaves start to wilt. Add the vegetable stock and the coconut aminos. Stir until blended. Add the noodles and the 1/2 cup of noodle water and turn the heat down after a minute or two. Continue to stir until the noodles have absorbed the stock and the starchy water. It's time to serve!
Garnish with more spring onions or even some cilantro on top to make it look pretty.

Serves up to 4, depending upon the appetite.

I've made this several times now and you can tweak it here and there, adding whatever vegetables you have in your refrigerator or even chicken, minced pork, or egg, if you like. The coconut aminos and rice vermicelli noodles ensure that it's totes gluten-free and, if you go sans animal protein, it's also vegan. If you have any questions about the recipe or want to share your variations, please do!!

Guten Appetit!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Self-Love and Self-Care

It's been a rough ride these past few weeks and, if there is anything that can teach a person, it's that learning how to take care of yourself is vital to survival. So often, when we are taking care of the people around us and dealing with situations as they arise, we forget to take care of ourselves, rendering ourselves essentially useless to those around us. It doesn't take much to deplete your own energy, especially when you're expending huge amounts of it to everyone but yourself. Fortunately, it also doesn't take so much to attend to yourself and fill your own cup so that it can overflow for others. Here are a few things that work for me:

  • Roll around in bed and hit the snooze button once or twice. Even when I'm awake and ready to leap out of bed to tackle all the things running through my head, I find that taking a few extra minutes to savor the calm, quiet safety of my bed is enough to prepare me for my day ahead, no matter what I'm anticipating. And, at night, when my mind is reeling from the day or going over the list of things I have to do the next day, I rely on a simple mantra: "I'm grateful for the softness of the bed. I'm grateful for the coolness of the sheets. I'm grateful for the warmth of the blanket. I'm grateful for the coziness of my pillow. I'm grateful that I have a safe place to sleep and rest my mind." I repeat this to myself until my mind quiets itself and I fall to sleep.
  • Step away for five minutes here and there and say a prayer of thanks for what I have, no matter what it is. Sometimes I say a prayer of thanks for being employed or for having the opportunity to be a yoga servant or for being able to have a snack or having awesome cats who are always happy when I come home. No one really notices when I'm gone for five minutes. Sometimes I do this in the bathroom where I work so no one will bother me. Sometimes I step outside. Wherever, whenever, it helps.
  • Go outside. Again, even if it's only for a few minutes, go outside. I'm fortunate that I live in a place where the sun shines a lot so I can go out and experience that. If you're not in that sort of environment, go anyway. There is always something in nature that will bring you back to center...wind, the movement of clouds, creatures making their way in your environment...seek and you shall find.
  • Turn off the television (or stop paying attention to your phone, tablet, etc.). The light from these things sucks the life out of you. Read a real book, one with pages that you can turn and feel with your fingers. Cook something, even if it comes out of a box...stirring water and noodles can be incredibly meditative. Take ten increasingly deep breaths...it activates your para-sympathetic nervous system and can be calming. Dance around to a song you love and turn it up loud, whether it's piped in through speakers or headphones, it doesn't matter. 
When it seems like there is no time for you, remember that, without you, the rest of your life cannot and will not go on smoothly or easily. As long as you remind yourself that it's all good (even when it isn't), it's all easy (even when it doesn't seem like it), and you are the most important person in your life (even though it seems selfish...it isn't!), it is imperative that you take care of yourself, physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. Without your light, the people around you will fumble in the darkness. Shine on, you crazy diamond!!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Testing, Testing....Is this thing on?

Oh yes, my friends, it's ON. And here we go...
It's been a while since I've blogged and I decided to start it up again because all the cool kids are doing it and I don't want to be left out of the loop. Vlogging is coming up so stay tuned because I'm even funnier in person (or, at least, I think so in my own head). So, what manner of blog will this be, you might be asking yourself at this point? Well, I'm so glad you asked. It's all about ME! And here is a bullet-pointed list of things that I am all about so you get a better sense of that:
  • Yoga - It's kinda this thing I do a lot of. I've been a yoga servant for over eight years now and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. I tried one time and a fellow yoga servant kindly bitch-slapped me back into serving again because I need it to live and she knows that. I thank her for that every day. You can find me bopping around wherever I can to serve up some Yin/Yang Yoga (ala Master Paulie Zink style), Vedic Thai Yoga (ala Mukti Michael Buck), and any other type of yoga (with the notable exceptions of hot, ashtanga, and naked, or any combination thereof). Once in a while, on this blog, I will be dropping some yoga and/or yoga anatomy bombs, complete with photos!
  • Cooking (and sometimes eating) Healthy, Totes Delicious Foodstuffs - I battled against and won against an eating disorder for years until I finally found the root cause (more on this later, I'm sure). It had nothing to do with food (go figure!) so, after years of denying myself delicious, delicious food, I now cook. A lot. And I eat pretty much everything I cook, except chicken. I don't eat chicken but I can cook you up a whole mess of it, if that's your thing. I aim to please. This blog will be riddled with photos of phood and recipes of the stuff I'm making. It's mostly vegan or vegetarian (but it doesn't have to be) and/or gluten-free (mostly by chance) and sugar-free (that one is on purpose but, again, it doesn't have to be for you).
  • Drinking - I loves me a good cocktail, or three, or some lovely vino or bubbles or a nice frothy brew. My alcohol palate knows no bounds and I love to mix up crafty cocktails at home, with my friends or all by myself (that way, if the cocktails taste good or bad, it doesn't matter!). I make my own bitters in a variety of flavors (photos and recipes to follow at some point). I'm an occasional bartender when I'm living in a town with good bars and I know my way around a wine list. "Alcoholic" is such a harsh, judgy-pants word so let's go with "professional drinker," shall we?
  • Living - Okay, I know this is an ephemeral concept to just lay out there because what is living, really? What is being alive? Philosophers and stoners alike have pondered these questions for centuries and have not gotten much further than great one-liners to meme about. For me, living is the process and the essence of being alive, of being here on this planet, loving all of it, even when it really sucks and I'm unhappy about something or things don't seem to be going as planned or whatever. Winston Churchill said, "When you're going through hell, keep going," and I firmly believe that. Keep fuckin' going. Travel. Breathe. Change your situation. Quit your bitching. Have a beverage. Do a headstand (or don't, if you have any neck issues). Dance. Take a nap. Go swimming. Say a prayer. Sing a song. Listen to some '80s music. Make a choice. We always have choices. Sometimes they may suck but we always have them.
So, my friends, there is an encapsulated version of what you can expect on this here blog. Yoga, food, alcohol, being alive, and probably music, because I really, really love music and dancing. I'm learning how to play Kumbaya on the harmonium and you don't want to miss that (not really)!! I'll get up with doing pretty things with the blog like posting impossibly beautiful photos (or, hopefully, possibly beautiful photos), video bits that will be available on the Youtubes, and other fun stuff. I'm open to suggestions, possibilities, plane tickets to exotic places, invites to your house, and blog post topics, though I do reserve my right to accept or decline any of the aforementioned at will. I hope you'll join me on this journey because it's much more fun when we do things together, instead of trying to struggle on alone.

Much love,
E-Coop