Sunday, April 22, 2018

Don't Bring Me Down!

I'm going to wager a guess and say that we probably have a lot more in common than you might initially anticipate. For example, I'm fairly certain that you, like me, probably get down on yourself for all the things that you've got on your to-do list, some of which have been on there since 2009 (I really, really need to clean out my closet...sheesh!). Like me, you probably have a tendency to say "Yes" to everything, piling on commitments and responsibilities, instead of saying "No" or politely declining instead. That might upset someone and, as a consummate people pleaser, the very thought of that isn't possible. I've been promising myself and others that I would get to this blog post for two weeks now and today, it's finally happening. And here's why: I love to do it but, when I put it on the to-do list with all the other mundane and/or seemingly insurmountable tasks (Anyone wanna buy a 1994 Mercedes SL320, because I've got one for sale and have no clue what I'm doing??), it turns into something that joins the list of chores, like cleaning out the litter box or taking out the recycling. It feels good to get those things done (and the house doesn't smell like dirty cat litter) but those things really aren't high up on my list of significant accomplishments, like sitting down and devoting myself to writing a blog post. When I finish this post, I'll hit "Publish" and walk away, knowing that I did something that makes me happy and I can cross it off of my to-do list for today. So that's why I hauled my butt out of the comfort of my Sunday bed, put down the silly book I'm reading, and cracked open my computer to tell you a story. Here it is:

When I was 16 years old, I got my driving license and my mum scraped together, unbeknownst to me as I thought there was never any shortage of available funds coming from my single mother, enough money to buy me a car, a 1986 Suzuki Samurai. In retrospect, upon examination of said vehicle's safety ratings and performance ratings, this probably wasn't the best choice for ANYONE, let alone a 16-year-old girl with a fresh driving license, but it was beach-proof and I could take the top off (and, subsequently, struggle in the dark when I came home to snap the damn thing back on or I'd end up with an inch of water on my floorboards from the frequent, almost nightly, thunderstorms that are common in Florida). I suppose it was a good thing that the Samurai wasn't anything close to what would be considered high-performance because it probably kept me out of trouble throughout it's tenure in my driving life, especially on the highway, where I was lucky to hit 60mph, going downhill, with the wind pushing me. Unfortunately, because of it's substandard safety ratings, it made it a less-than-ideal vehicle to be in an accident whilst driving. This happened twice, within three months of each other, and they were exactly the same kind of accidents, the first more serious than the second.

I was edged out into traffic in the right-hand turn lane, about to make the leap from side road to main thoroughfare when the opportunity for me to do so got taken up by a car sliding from one lane to another into my spot. I stopped and, unfortunately, the woman driving a much newer, much more solid car, rammed pretty solid into the back of my little Samurai, pushing it perpendicular to oncoming traffic. My foot had slipped off the clutch so there I was, stalled out and scared to pieces, while I looked out the driver's side window and watched cars coming directly at me. I jammed my foot on the clutch, started the car, put it in gear, and pulled the fastest U-turn I could to get onto the shoulder of the road. I got out of the car, shaking and nauseous. The woman who had hit me had already pulled over and witnessed the whole thing with me momentarily paralyzed in the middle of a fairly busy highway during rush-hour traffic. She apologized and we walked to the nearest payphone (for my younger audience, a payphone was a public telephone that demanded a quarter and then allowed you to make a phone call. They often had phone books attached to them, which listed everyone's name and phone number and at least part of their address. Yes, this was a real thing.). She called 911 and relayed what happened and told the police that we were physically fine so there was no need for an ambulance or fire trucks or any of that other nonsense, just the police officer to record the accident and make sure we exchanged insurance information.

He showed up less than an hour later, did what he had to do and left. She got in her car, I got in mine and we drove our separate ways home. I felt shaken but mostly fine at the time when I called my mother to let her know what happened and that I was home. She immediately told me to go take a hot bath and lay down. I did that and still felt okay, even when I was going to bed a little later that night. When I woke up the next morning, it was all I could do to move my legs, the pain was relentless and seemingly everywhere.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a life sentence of chronic pain, which I mitigate with yoga, nutritional supplements, hydration, massage, and happy thoughts. Some days are much better than others and some days aren't. Today was one of the not so great day, which is why it was all the more important for me to sit down and  do this, write this, share it, and let you know that you're not alone. Don't let it bring you down and, if you do, don't let that bring you down further. It's okay to be down sometimes. It's okay to say "No" to things, to decline an invitation, to set boundaries for yourself. It's okay, and probably necessary, for you to have a day that's just for you, where you can enjoy your surroundings and inspire yourself to do something you enjoy.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Baby, please don't go!

I've contemplated writing about this for many reasons. Who is willing to bare their heart and soul? But it's something I have to get out. To let go of. To release so I can sleep better at night. Here is goes...A  preface: I can write about anything and nothing because I can research the hell out of anything. That's one thing my very expensive grad school education taught me how to do and how to do well. What any education doesn't teach you is how to let it go, how to cope, how to accept that your life is no longer what you thought, or envisioned it to be. And now I sit, in front of my computer, wondering, wishing, praying, how to do just that. Companies ask for writing samples and I get it...you want professional writing samples of work but, in the end, what really matters is how well you can speak to the human condition of life. Being a human is really challenging work and translating that is even more challenging.
If I were to begin writing my own story, there are incidents that I could relate that amount to nothing more than trauma-bonding. Yes, I was in NYC during 9-11. Yes, I was a Hurricane Katrina refugee. Yes, I went through Hurricane Wilma and Irma. Yes, I can go #metoo. But I won't do that at this point. Maybe some point in the future when I know you and you know me, we'll talk. All of these events that I've lived through have contributed to making me a stronger, more resilient human being, not one to crumble, walk away from the challenges of existence. My story goes like this: I was there. I survived. And, at this point, I took advantage of all the tools available to me to be stronger. You have that power in you as well. Trust me. I know from experience....lots and lots of experience. There aren't enough photos to articulate my point. There aren't enough ways for me to say, "I've got you." But there are enough shared experiences for me to say, "I understand you and we can do the thing together." Because we can. Because we are stronger together than we are apart. Because, with the right network of friends, family, and unexpected alliances, we can DO the thing. It's because of you that I know better days are ahead, that I can breathe through it, that I have faith in humanity as a whole. WE can do this and don't you forget it. Don't give up on You because the essential you still resides there. Grieve if that's what is part of your life right now. Celebrate every aspect of your being because it is worth celebrating. Do You because You a worthwhile endeavor. You are a worthwhile endeavor. And, if you need measurement that you are beautiful, kind, worthwhile, and a cause for celebration, please let me know. I'm not a licensed therapist but I am ready, willing, and able to bolster you. Let's not trauma-bond. Let's just bond, on a real human level. I'll tell you the whole of my story, warts and all, later. You deserve to know me and I want to know you.

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!