To Untangle, Zentangle(R)!

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“Honey, you’re wrapped kind of tight.” That was a familiar thing said to me growing up, that or variants thereof. I’ve mentioned it before and I will note it again, as was stated in the movie “Little Man Tate.”

“I’M NOT CRABBY, I’M PENSIVE.”

In any case, yeah, maybe I am wrapped a little tight and maybe I am pensive to the point of appearing crabby.

So what of it? 😉

I was recently gifted with a Zentangle gift pack, a how-to book and some pens and some tiles.

Long story short, this is a meditative and relaxing art form not to be confused with doodling. It’s hard! But it does force me to be mindful and present and engaged in the practice.

Yeah, I have some hurdles to get over, like being more fully engaged and more patient…I need to cast aside my Yankee sensibility and not worry so much about wasting ink and paper.

Even so, I’m grateful for the gift that has allowed me an opportunity to breathe with purpose, to focus, and to unwrap, if only a little and temporarily.

I plan to stick with it, to get better and looser and more mindful…I highly suggest and recommend it, to anyone else who might be wrapped a little tighter than they’d like!

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Two Great Tastes…

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…just like Reese’s peanut butter cups, part of learning how to cook and eat differently comes with pairing the unexpected…but with experience you get to know what sounds and “feels” right, and you can stretch yourself a little…both in the kitchen and out.

My sister called my attention to this recipe, and when I made it for the first time, I could not get over how amazing it was. Around the same time, my mom tipped me off to this one, and it was also delicious (coincidentally also from Martha Stewart).

This morning I was really hungry…I was craving the avocado toast, but I had a tomato from the garden, and I worried the avocado toast wild leave me hungry. So I decided to chance it and marry the two recipes. I made the avocado toast, then layered on some tomato slices, then topped with a fried egg, over easy.

Heaven. Delicious. Great flavors that went together, filled me up, made use of one of my last tomatoes of the season, and made me glad that I went “off recipe.”

Yeah, it was just a silly meal, just for me…but it was also a reminder to try stuff, to surprise yourself, and to enjoy it.

Take chances. Small ones. Big ones. Low risk. High risk. Just try. Start. Go. Now.

Dispatch From The Prairie: Almond Milk

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So I’ve been busy lately, dealing with some pretty heavy personal stuff, but in parallel I have been working really hard to keep focused and positive, head up, eyes on the horizon…but not overlooking the beauty in front of of me.

When I do things at home, mostly related to what I’m cooking or eating, things that to me feel like going old school, I refer to those things as like being on the prairie. The latest occurrence of that found me in the kitchen, squeezing a nut bag (heh heh), making my own almond milk.

There is no shortage of diet “propaganda,” and I’ve started to half joke about the fact that if you want to be safe about what you ingest, you should go on a water diet.

All joking aside, there’s been some negative publicity around certain emulsifiers in almond milk…and I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of making my own. So I recently went for it. And I haven’t turned back. Homemade almond milk is easy and delicious. I control the crap that goes into my body. If the biggest downside is needing to shake it, I can handle that.

I soak about a cup of almonds overnight. Then I blend them with 1.5 cups of water to make a thick-ish paste. I then add another 2.5 cups of water, about 40g of maple syrup, and a tsp of vanilla, and blend that until it’s got a good froth on top. I strain it through a nut bag, bottle and cap it, chill it, and then I am good to go. It’s great in coffee and even better in cereal.

Nothing to be afraid of. No fancy blender. It goes back to what I’ve said all along. Just do something. Try. If it doesn’t work out, who cares? Every step gets you closer to your goal.

And if you’re cutting back on meat, I can’t recommend lentils enough. Who knew? Try this. You won’t regret it. I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients, and I went for it. No looking back.

It’s how I live, and that includes how I eat. Just do something. Go!

[No Words]

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Here I sit, head in hands. I can’t get my mind around this loss. He wouldn’t want us to be sad, but how the hell can I not be?

And if you want to know what sad looks like, it looks like this (my dad’s hockey sticks):

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Recent (Re-)Learning

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Here are some things I’ve learned or re-learned over the last few weeks, as I subconsciously and consciously ponder the theory that there is in fact a time to every purpose under heaven.

1) Light years and lifetimes exist between expecting something and being prepared for it. Profoundly grateful for how I’ve chosen to live in the space between. Experiencing things intellectually and logically has absolutely nothing to do with experiencing them practically and emotionally.

2) Let people who care about you care about you. That was hard for me. To admit I needed a shoulder. To acknowledge that I matter to other people. But in the dark hours, let the people who care about you supply the flashlight batteries.

3) We can’t choose what happens, but we can choose what we do, and how we respond. Yes, happiness can be a choice. And sometimes circumstances preclude that particular choice. Even so we can choose the positive, and choose to move in a positive direction filled with light.

4) The silver lining sometimes is tarnished black. Know that it’s there, but put no pressure on yourself to polish it up right away.

5) People will surprise you. In good ways and in bad. Waste exactly no time on the latter and use the former to put positive energy in your tank.

I don’t know what to do or think or feel. I can’t imagine anything will ever be as good as it was. I suppose at some point I’ll stop making everything an absolute and relative comparison.

For now, I’m identifying and recognizing and enjoying the love I do have around me. While it’s no substitute, it does offer valuable emotional sustenance.

It’s love and happiness despite and in spite of losing dad. But it’s love and happiness nonetheless.

[As an aside, kind of…experienced-based…when you know of someone who is going through something, don’t do nothing because you’re not sure what to say or do, or because you don’t want to intrude…don’t suggest that people “call if (they) need anything,” because chances are they’ll never call…they don’t know what they need…here are a few things that helped me/us greatly:

—Emails/cards/messages simply saying “I’m thinking about you.”
—Gift certificates for local take out, mani/pedi, etc.
—Insistence on picking up the kids or delivering dinner.

I’m not talking big doings high ticket things. But if you have friends in pain and want to help them, help them. It makes a world of difference.]

Lessons everywhere. Always be learning.

And one more thing? I f-cking hate cancer.

Believe in Signs

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My dad died last Thursday, and on Friday morning I met my mom and my two sisters at the Derby Street Shoppes to find some clothes for the wake and funeral. We found what we needed at Talbots and were waiting in line to check out. A woman told us there were open registers on the other side; when we got there, there weren’t, but a salesman appeared and told us to follow him. He took us right to an open register.

He rang up my mother’s order first, and as he did so he made conversation, asking something to the effect of whether we were skipping work for a fun day. My mom smiled and said that we were buying clothes for something we’d rather not be. After a slight, and slightly awkward, pause he asked her if she’d be wearing her dresses soon. When she said yes he wrapped them painstakingly in tissue so when she got home they wouldn’t be wrinked.

She went to sit outside when her order was complete. It was my turn next and I told him that we appreciated how nice he was being because we really needed it. He said that obviously we were going through something and went on to ask me if I wanted my clothes steamed. He didn’t take no for an answer and even sent one of my sisters out to retrieve my mom’s dresses so he could steam hers.

When my order was done I left to sit outside with my mom. Soon enough my sisters came out of the store with smiles and bottles of water for us to drink while we waited. They quickly explained both, relaying what happened after the final order was complete. The salesman asked where we’d be so he could bring us our steamed clothes. My sisters said we’d be outside, thanked him, and asked him for his name, because he had been so helpful. “John,” he said, smiling. John was our dad’s name. My sister told him what we were shopping for and why we were so sad, thanked him again, and they went outside to wait.

Earlier that morning my sister had been advised that my dad would be all around her and to look for the signs. We are sure that the kind, gentle, compassionate salesperson named John is the first of many signs we’ll be getting. Without knowing what we were going through, this man knew to treat us sensitively, he progressively grew nicer as the sale went on, and it made us all feel better.

When the clothes were done, they were “delivered” to my waiting sister—along with a card addressed to “Connie & Family.” How this man treated us, without hesitation, without prying, and without making us feel self-conscious, was exactly what we needed in a dark moment.

We all now believe a little more in signs and are more attuned to my dad’s presence around us. If you ever wonder, when you’re going about your everyday business, whether your actions can profoundly impact others, they can. John the salesman at Talbots at the Derby Street Shoppes proved that, and gave us a smile when we needed it most.

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