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Vegan Spring Roll Salad: Love yourself and your eat your greens.

Man, it has been a long time since my last post.

My life since the end of January 2016 has been about learning new things and reviving some old things. Trying new recipes, teaching myself a new, more positive inner dialogue, and bringing back my former happy, healthy self.

One morning sometime in November last year, I was standing at the door of my bedroom early on a weekday morning. I had finally gotten out of bed after snoozing for ten minutes. I had my hand on the light switch, telling myself I just wanted to leave the light off and get back in bed. What was the point in getting up? I hated myself when I looked in the mirror. I hated going to work. I was annoyed because I knew I would need to cram chores, packing lunch and breakfast, and taking care of the cat into the 20 minutes left until I had to exercise. I was already running late.

And then, after a year and a half of self-help notecards, therapy, fighting with my boyfriend, cat love, and blogging, I decided I wanted my life back. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. The true thing that sparked that decision — I finally thought I was worth being happy. I finally valued myself and my life enough to realize I deserved to make it a good one.

I don’t know where it came from, it just happened that morning. I stopped caring what other people said I should do with my life. I stopped judging myself for not having my career, my finances, my relationships figured out. I just wanted to be happy again.

So, here I am, February 2016, with a delicious salad recipe to share with you. And with a list of accomplishments that include holding a headstand unsupported for the first time, being able to edit HTML and CSS code, and being able to say I love myself and want to be happy.

Since you’ve gotten this far, here’s the salad recipe you’ve been waiting for:

Vegan Spring Roll Salad

(Inspired by a lack of rice paper and Fresh Vegan Spring Rolls | Cheap Clean Eats on Blogilates.com)

Salad Ingredients:

  • Leaf lettuce
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Shredded carrots
  • Chopped purple cabbage
  • Julienned cucumber

Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons of garlic powder and black pepper

Tofu Marinade:

  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce

Directions:

Start chopping veggies! Start with 2 cups of each veggie prepped the way you want and mix what you’ve chopped together in a mixing bowl. If you want more, chop another cup.

If you’re a slow chopper like me, stop a few minutes in and switch to slicing your tofu. Slice each piece about the size of wedge fries. So, 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide. Put the sliced tofu in a container with your soy sauce to marinate. Take the tofu out after a few minutes. (Seriously, probably 5 minutes max. Or it will soak up too much soy sauce.)

Finish chopping your veggies and throw them in a big mixing bowl. Give them a mix and add more veggies if you’d like.

Put the tofu on a heated pan with some oil. (I like grapeseed oil. It has a high smoke point and mild flavor.) Sear them on each side for about 5 minutes. When they have a little crisp to the outside, they’re done. Set them aside on your cutting board.

It’s time to dress up your veggies! Chop the lime in two halves and squeeze those halves over the whole salad. Then season it with garlic powder and black pepper. Drizzle the Hoisin sauce over the top.

Add a few blocks of tofu to your bowl and top with your salad. Or chop the tofu into cubes and put it on top of the salad. And enjoy! (I added some chow mein noodles on top too. Which are not vegan, of course, but I loved the crunch!)

Chef’s Notes – Someone suggested I squeeze some of the moisture out of the tofu before marinating. Put it between two paper towels and give it a squish. That would help it hold the soy sauce better. I’ll try that next time.

Let me know what you think if you try this salad. I thought the lime juice cut the leafy taste of the lettuce and complemented the soy sauce well.

–Much love to you. 

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to my significant other: Thank you.

For staying when I know it would be easier for you to go. For telling me again that you’re not going anywhere, that you want to be here for me. You don’t care if it will never be easy to be with me.

For being patient when one day I can’t stop smiling when I look at you, and the next day I pull away and refuse to look you in the eyes.

For not holding grudges when I come home angry at you and everything, and it’s not your fault. When my thoughts get so tightly wound up that I can’t unravel them, and I can’t tell you why I’m frustrated or sad or angry. I just am. And you stay to witness or bear what I can manage to get out.

For being happy with me on the good days. When the sun has been out just long enough. When I’m not stuck on my butt at a desk fueling self-loathing by florescent lights. (You’ve always said I’m like a flower. I open up to receive the warm light, and close up when the gray clouds return.) When I’m not drained by stale small talk with people who are only interested in me because they think it gets them what they need and I’m too stupid to catch on to it. When I’m not spinning out on a self-righteous tirade about humanity’s lack of morals. Usually brought on by driving in rush hour traffic.

For coming back when I tell you maybe it would be better if you left. For putting it away for another time when I say maybe I’ll leave and never come back too. But I couldn’t leave the cat.

For sometimes not listening to me. When you know I’d over-analyze something until I couldn’t act unless I answered the 5,000 questions that weren’t there before and won’t be there tomorrow when it’s all done.

For staying when I’ve been a corpse. A mind and soul detached from my body since the car ride away from you, even though we’re back together now. I can’t explain why. I don’t know if I’ll ever float back into myself to stay.

I watch above myself on the outside. Directing myself by waves in the air hoping the energy from my movement will move my body along. I perform routine for weeks. I forget entire days. The time spent within them too meaningless to remember. You stand beside me, waiting for the days when my mind and soul float back into me. Those days I smile, I feel love again. I try to ignore my guilt as I wonder how ungrateful I must be to forget the other days together. To forget them as if the life we’re trying to make has no meaning.

For loving my cat. For helping me treat her like our family. Like our more grateful, less poopy child that will never be able to speak English and won’t destroy my insides. For loving her anyway, even though she’s stolen most of my already divided attention when I’m home.

For struggling to make things better for us. For being more than I can see or more than I can be kind enough to acknowledge most days.

For seeing the beauty in me and trying to help me find it, when I’m blinded and disgusted by my own blindness.

For being there when I wake up at night scared and calling out for you. In the early morning, when you kiss me goodbye before I have to wake up, you are all I need. I don’t remember money or work or the things we’re missing, all I can recall is how much I belong here with you.

All I can give you right now are the good days. I don’t know what’s happened to me. Maybe I’m just a little older and more jaded. Maybe I just need to stop taking synthetic hormones.

As long as I still smile in the morning when you kiss me, as long as you’re still here to see me smile, everything is going to be ok.

 

 

 

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Fighting for balance

Fighting for balance seems to contradict itself. Balance is about keeping something even. Keeping two weights on the same line, at the same level. Equilibrium. Harmony, even. One of the many adult buzzwords you start paying attention to that remind you that pulling your hair out is unproductive as you take on more responsibility.

So fighting to keep something even and harmonious doesn’t seem to make sense. Fighting isn’t harmonious. It’s loud and weighty and painful and frustrating and makes you feel like someone is standing on your shoulders.

I guess I could say the expression is poorly phrased or just another cliche with a lack of contextual awareness.

Or maybe it seems contradictory because I’m always doing the wrong kind of fighting.

The kind that aims to set things all on my side. The kind that demands perfection and uprightness. The kind that seems to see no middle ground. The kind that is eventually just fighting for lack of any other way to express something.

I’m really one of those people who needs her space. I grew up an only girl in an immediate family full of loud, irritating, but mostly entertaining and amiable boy siblings. Sometimes we could play happily in the forest in our backyard, building forts around old trees in the crooks and twists of their branches and trunks. Sometimes they took the shirts off of my Barbies and skinned her body parts down to a smooth nub on our mother’s treadmill.

In all of this, I always had my room as a quiet space in which to retreat. To write amateur but sensitive songs and poetry. To read the entire Babysitter’s Club series or every Harry Potter book. To sing to the Lauren Hill version of “Killing Me Softly” and the UB40 version of “Red Red Wine.”

Now here I am fifteen’ish years later, and I’m living in a 600 square foot apartment with someone I love deeply. And a spoiled kitten. And I’m about to rip my hair out.

You can hear what business the person in the bathroom is taking care of from my living room. We don’t own a table because we had to use that space to put a three-shelf bookcase there for our pantry. Need closet space? Sorry, I’ve none left. I threw out half the belongings I had even living in college apartments, and there’s still only enough room for my clothes and linens and shoes.

You don’t know you need your space until it’s gone. I mean, you know when someone is standing too close to you. You know when someone is breathing in your face. You know when you’re crammed in the pit at a concert. You don’t know how you’re going to feel when you sign up to place two living beings plus a cat in a one bedroom apartment for the first time.

Oops.

So I walk in to the apartment this evening from a busy, but happy weekend. Watching one of my best friends get married and dancing my butt off and eating tons of delicious food and getting a fair amount of sleep, all things considered. And er mah gerd. The trash has formed a mound at the top of the can. It smells like old meat marinating in soda and rum. There is kitty litter on her mat in places I didn’t think she could get litter with a lid on the box. There are random socks thrown around the laundry baskets. There are dried pieces of cheese sticking to my feet when I walk in the kitchen. All the baggage I had to travel with is taking up half the living room. I need to pay the rent. I need to go buy more deodorant.

You can probably see where the hair pulling comes in. And I have a pixie haircut.

So how do I try to find balance? I get irritated at my boyfriend and cat and start cleaning frantically. Why didn’t you just take the trash out? How did you get litter over here, cat? What do you need from Walgreens? No, not what do you want. I have things I want, but I’m not getting them because I’m paying rent, so what do you need? Did our rent go up yet?

This is fighting for uprightness. Good lord, I wouldn’t know what balance is if it danced naked in my face and put spontaneously regenerating cheesecakes in my refrigerator. (No idea what that means.)

But I did see it this weekend.

In my Balancing Flow yoga video, Adriene said finding balance in yoga and in life is a push and pull. Tagging a little weight in the heels and a little lifting in the toes. It’s fighting to let yourself be at ease for a while in the noise of life going on around you. Seeing all the things that are important vie for your attention and choosing to put a little time aside for just you.

I saw it at my best friend’s wedding. I know 10 years ago she would have thought I was nuts if I told her August 1, 2015 she was getting married. Marriage. Whatever. But she did. And did it happily and beautifully and with such hope. She did it knowing she could have chosen to travel, do research, or go back to school. She did it even though she gets annoyed with her now husband sometimes. She did it because she found that hard to get to middle ground, that balancing of happiness and reality.

I’ve seen it, but clearly I’m still teetering a bit on my own tightrope. I’m always going to need my space, but I will have to figure out how to share some space harmoniously. Clutter and accumulated messes will always make me anxious, but I’m stuck in this small space where clutter builds quickly and I need to find a way to let some of it go until we move.

Learning how to balance me and him and feline and work and family and friends won’t come to me like spontaneously regenerating cheesecakes in my refrigerator. But eventually I will find balance, and it will be just as delicious and sweet.

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2 things that are saving me from myself: Part 1

On Friday, I came home in the mood I’m usually in at the end of the week. Tired, unsettled, and mentally worn. And so much so that my mind runs, but generates almost no focused or sensible thoughts. Tired, but grateful for the two days I have ahead of me to make eggs and cinnamon rolls for breakfast and to sleep a little later in the morning.

My dearest love had been hyping up a “weekend surprise” since last weekend. I get anxious about surprises and if I try to guess what he’s going to give me, I will usually figure it out and ruin it. If I guess it early enough, I won’t spend too much time fantasizing the numerous catastrophes it could turn in to. Or I just won’t get a stomachache from the apprehension–a little worry, with a little giddy excitement, with a little crippling sense of impending doom.

Naturally, I guessed what it was by Tuesday. So he had to just lie to me.

“Well, I know it’s not a cat, because I already said I’m not ready for a cat. This apartment is too small and I don’t think we could afford one yet. So, it’s not a cat, right?”

“No.”

It was a cat. Well, a kitten to be more specific. A two-month old, rescued gray tabby. This cat. I adore this cat. This cat stalking my fingers as I type, wiggling her butt to steady herself before she leaps over my tablet and onto my keyboard. Vicious, fluffy, domesticated human-appendage hunter! It’s just too much. I have to snuggle her. I grab her and lean back and she lays on my collar bone and purrs in my ear.

This is one of many things I can say for certain that Daniel gets right about me. Sometimes I need to not listen to myself. Sometimes he has to ignore me, and do what both of us know would be good for me. Even if only one of us can see at the time that it would be good for me. I get lost in what could be this or that, and forget to actually live what is.

So he ignored me and got me a cat.

In just the weekend we’ve had her, I’m beginning to see how she’s going to change me.

Instead of worrying about money or stressing about something rude someone said on the phone to me at work, I’ve been giggling and snuggling with her all weekend. She makes me giggle when she’s running from the kitchen to the porch door and she skids to a stop, surprised when she kicks her mouse toy. She looks me in the eyes when we snuggle, and I know she feels care and love from me. She sleeps next to me all night, curled up and purring on my shoulder at the bottom of my pillow. She is a distraction from the outside world, the world which I distort as I allow it into my mind, my memories, and my consciousness. Her affection, her clumsy, adventurous spirit will give me a break from my equivocal inner-world. And if I’m smart, I will take what she gives me and go out into the world a little better prepared to reconcile what I see with what I think I see.

And she has improved my relationship with Daniel just a little bit already. I’ve been more grateful this weekend. More affectionate and less on edge. He’s been tempering well the transfer of some of my much-wanted affection to the cat. But when I hug or kiss him, I hold longer and kiss sweeter.

Hell, I even dusted this weekend! And vacuumed. And cleaned the kitchen.

Now I have to figure out how the heck I’m going to leave her to go to work tomorrow. I’m already imaging her sitting at the door waiting for us to come home. She’ll probably just run around, knock over some stuff on my bookcase, jump into the trash can and knock it over, and take a lot of naps.

Part 2 is later this week. Something you will probably have seen coming, but not in the way you expect.

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On Love and what’s not around us

Tonight I will be a bit obscure. My heart is heavy, and when I can’t resolve something, I begin to draw from outside to clear up what’s within.

To save us all a lengthy prelude, today my movement and consciousness intended to find an answer to why there seems to be such a lack of love around us. Driving in our cars on the way to the store, waiting in line, at a bar on Saturday night, at the coffee shop down the road. There’s always someone to honk at or accuse of lacking basic driving ability. There’s always someone taking too long. There’s always that person just way too obnoxious for public consumption. And, hey, I’ll be a bit less small-minded. Now we can’t even try out presidential candidates without scrutinizing what the person does while she gets a damn burrito. Some of us trash parts of cities because we feel like it’s the only way to be heard (and maybe it is or isn’t). Always searching.

Do we, your able narrator included, lack perspective? Do we become conditioned or programmed to stop seeking out love and gratitude? When does this happen? And why?

I remember the first time I recognized my ability to be self-aware and realized my stream of consciousness. I was 14 or so, standing outside of a very old windmill in the countryside of the Czech Republic. I was standing on the driveway leading to the windmill, but in the fields surrounding the windmill there were nothing but red poppies. Just covering everything. I guess the energy and the time and my existence just all connected and I knew what it was to think and feel something was beautiful. I was able to hear this in my mind, “This is what is beautiful. Now I know.” And I could feel it lighten my body. I got back on our group tour bus later, and nothing about me was apparently different. But my mind was different. Something had grown up and out. From then on I’ve been self-aware and always, always hearing my stream of consciousness.

I guess that day was when I first understood and knew how it was when I felt joy, love, gratitude, and happiness. The peace and fuzzy-lightness it gives.

And how it isn’t deliberately called to your mind. It comes on its own.

And somewhere in the years between graduating college and now, I lost the connection to that gratitude that comes unwilled and uncalled. Now I call to it, willing for it. Like being unaware of forming a habit, and one day you realize you’ve done something of which you can’t let go.

Consciously, I know there is much to be grateful for in my life. A loving significant other, gainful employment, friends and family who make me laugh and bring me comfort. But isn’t that just it. Consciously. I keep telling myself this. Trying to call for clarity and lightness.

And I know I’m not the only one who does this. Who lost their connection with gratitude and joy unwilled. Is it the necessity of self-reliance, and the situations we come into because of this necessity? Is it deliberately refusing to see what’s good out of self-loathing or inherited (or learned) cynicism? At what point do many of us, as adults, lose that simple joy we had?

Are we calling for something that’s already here? I don’t have an answer tonight. I don’t have a lesson to teach you. I just have a longing to share with you. And a need and a search to go on.

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