I made a decision

Tonight I made a big decision.  So big, in fact, I literally halted my yoga practice to get out my computer and write this.

I decided to put OffwhiteLiving to rest for good.  Yes, it’s time.

When I came back to it a couple months ago my intentions were in the right place, but my sense of purpose was not aligned with the focus of this blog.  When I really dig deep, I mean really deep, I am called to share my experience and wisdom about something that has been much more profound in my life than even wellness, kale, and yoga (can you imagine?).

Moving forward I’m directing my energy to writing about my experience with my father’s disability and what it is like having lived the last 20 years with a parent in a wheelchair with limited capacity.  While it may seem very non-sequitur to the  health and wellness endeavor I spend years on, it was actually the seed that started it all to begin with.

In my private journaling, prayer, and meditation, I ask the universe how I can be of service. What can I give to the world and how can I be a conduit of light? What does it look like if I am really brave – what comes forth?  For several years now, but especially in the past few months, that inner voice has been whispering to me to have the courage to  tell my story.  I have even had a few friends go through a major life event with their parents and I could see in their eyes what I went through at age 19- fear, confusing, feeling suddenly marginalized, hopeful, angry – all of it.  The whole hot mess of feelings that come when you are hit with a major event.  I realized that I could be of service and that what I have learned over the years, and continue to learn, might help somebody else feel less alone.

I can see that so much of my quest for healing, helping others discover and appreciate their health, and my own self-acceptance has stemmed from how I feel about my dad, our family dynamic, and navigating the world with a disabled family member. It has directed so much of my life, including things like where I got married (no beach – wheelchairs don’t roll well in sand) and what kind of house I bought (no raised foundation – wheelchairs don’t climb stairs well).  It’s an aspect of myself I have rarely spoken of, mostly out of embarrassment truthfully, and I realize now how much even I have marginalized that piece of my life when, in reality, it’s been the single most significant event of my life.  It needs to come out of the shadows now.   Ironically, I have absolutely no professional education or experience with this topic. But I do have something that might be much richer than that- a 20 year repertoire of stories, feelings, struggles and triumphs.

So, I hope that you’ll come with me on that journey and trust that at least some of what I have to offer is of use to you- family disabilities or not. Underneath the specific circumstances is the story of the human experience- ugly, amazing, imperfect and profound all at the same time.  I know that we can all relate to having to face our own vulnerabilities and adversities, mine just came in this particular package.

I don’t have a blog name just yet, so I’ll keep you posted. For now and probably for a while I’ll maintain my same email address: rebecca@offwhiteliving.com

Thank you to those of you still reading this blog and I send thanks into the ethers for those who have helped me so much along the way.

To explain the calling I feel within me to share my story I draw upon the wisdom of Patanjali and one of my most favorite quotes of all time:

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and your discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Namaste.

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My, My, where does the energy go?

Today, during a 5-min “mommy break”, I was scrolling through my Facebook page and came across a story posted about a kid with Cerebral Palsy who completed a triathlon.  The short video showed the kid using all of his might to get across the finish line, without his walker or assistant no less. It was totally inspiring.  The crowd was right there with him, as was I as I watched. Thinking about the physical manifestation of that kid’s will in that moment led me to think about the amazing power of concentrated will and energy.

Then, it got me thinking about my own energy and where I’m putting it.  Lately I have felt a bit scattered, sort of spread too thin, and not feeling really very committed to any of my health and fitness goals. I mean, I’m still doing some of the essential habits like exercising and eating mostly food that nourishes me. But, I don’t feel really that deep connection to much of it.  I don’t always feel that thirst to dig deeper, challenge myself, or explore deeper.  I’m kind of just going through the motions.  I have also noticed that I’m feeling jealous when I see others attaining their goals.

After I saw that article on Facebook it hit me.  I’ve not set some very clear intentions.  I’m kind of on cruise control.  And I should know from my studies and my experiences that energy flows where intentions go.  Look, there is even a meme to prove it!

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So I’ve got some personal work to do. I’m longing for some focus and it feels good to have uncovered the root cause. It’s really quite simple, if I don’t have clarity on my direction, how can I expect to get ‘there’, if I don’t know where ‘there is”.  Even beyond getting ‘there’, it’s much harder to really get the lessons along the way when I’m on auto pilot. I’m missing the juicy stuff, the subtleties and and insights that come when I direct my will and energy into something and then learn about myself as I move toward it.

Setting intentions is a practice and a discipline.  It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, I think at first it should be simple. It’s got to feel good and real, and have meaning.  The first time I ever practiced setting intentions I tried to manifest a free newspaper, that is how simple I made it for myself.  And I did, I got that newspaper! I didn’t stop there, but I did learn that without prioritizing the practice, and then feeding the seed of intention with energy, time, visualization, etc., it sort of went nowhere.

I don’t want to live a life on auto pilot.  I see the ill effects when I drift away from things that move me and are invoked from the deepest part of me. I start to get lazy in all kinds of ways, and start to feel anxiety – like a tree whose roots have come untethered and I’m floating around in the wind. No bueno.

The cool thing is that the universe is very forgiving. Now is always a good time to start again. There is no wrong time or missed boat, thank GAWD!

 

 

 

 

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An odd sort of gratitude

What makes you choose to be grateful? How often do you think about it?

The topic is on my mind tonight because I’m really missing my favorite show, The Walking Dead.  The season finale was last week, so I’m in a slight mourning period until next fall. To be totally honest, this show makes me connect more deeply with a sense of gratitude for my life.

Say what? No really.  Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not a spiritual text or deeply sacred ritual that is lighting my gratitude fire these days (though at times it has been).  Right now, it’s a highly sensationalized  TV drama that I’m totally hooked on.  Here’s why:

Have you every heard the term “First world problems”? Those are the things that many of us get caught up in on a daily basis that suck away our connection to happiness, peace and gratitude, but really have no bearing on life.  Examples include things like Starbucks getting your order wrong, your iPhone not working, or other more major issues like trying to find a house to buy in the right neighborhood.  I live in a world where I have luxury of those complaints, yet my brain gets exhausted by them because they are endless, mindless, and driven by ego, and they zap me of my gratitude almost immediately. It is amazing to me how pissed off I can get about something as small as the copier at work not functioning, when simulatneously, at that very moment ,thousands of tiny miracles are happening in my body just to keep it functioning normally, yet there I am grumbling about double-sided copies.  Good grief!

This is how The Walking Dead helps me.  That show is really not about the zombie apocalypse, but about the personal transformation that happens when civilization is stripped of its order and structure and comforts, and  humans are left to decide who they will become and what they will stand up for (family, freedom, security, integrity). Not everybody’s choice on the show is pretty, or rooted in good intentions. In many ways the show reminds me of the book “Lord of the Flies”.  I see it as look at how we choose to become if we are given a blank slate and no social expectations. Which wolf do we feed when things get tough, the Dark Wolf, or the Light? What if my copy machine issues didn’t exists? The essence of survival, just even thinking about it, immediately puts me in a place of appreciating all that I have.

Since watching the show I’ve been more apt to say prayers of gratitude every day. Partly this is because each Sunday night, when I go to bed after an episode, I think about what I would do if the world went to shit.  I think about my family, and how cherished they are to me and that I’d want to get us together as much as possible. I think about my able body, and wow- how amazing that I can run, jump, walk, climb and move any way that I want to (and so that I could run away from zombies, haha).  I think about how lucky I am to have whatever food I desire at my fingertips and I’m not relegated to eating whatever life puts in front of me. I think about my safety and knowing how I can rest easy at night without worry of my life being threatened. I guess I need something as dramatic as a TV show to remind of that because my ego has one heck of a thick skull.

I guess I wanted to share this with you tonight for two reasons. The first is that I want to give you permission to accept that whatever inspires you to be grateful is just fine.  I have no shame in saying out loud for me that it’s a TV show.  It may not be very ‘yogic’ or very ‘zen’, but it works for me.  That’s me being real. The second thing I want to say, is that if you want to change your life in any way, big or small, start with being grateful for what you have.  I NEVER regret naming off in my mind, to the universe and my own little soul, what I appreciate about life.  So, despite the fact that there is no Walking Dead tonight, I’m going to keep my ritual going, and tonight I’m so grateful that these hands can type these words, these eyes can see this page, and that I can rest easy knowing that the only demons I fight are the etherical demons of my ego. I am a lucky girl.

 

 

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The Splendid Table and mushroom stew

Today I was driving home from a birthday party, flipping through the radio stations and happened upon a radio show I just adore. It’s called The Splendid Table on NPR. Heard of it?  If not, I highly recommend you tune in on Sunday afternoons.  The host, Lynne Rossetto Kaspar has this magical way of making food come alive through the airways.  I invariably always come home inspired to cook something unique after listening in.

Today was no exception.  The segment I tuned into was about preparing lamb shank and there were seductive descriptions of delicious wine sauce and tender meats falling off the bone.  My mouth was watering. Maybe it was the rain, or the calm and quiet of a Sunday afternoon, but I was totally compelled to cook something delicious and warm.

Well, the only issue was that I didn’t have any leg of lamb handy, nor any other cut of meat ready to roll, and I didn’t want to stop at the store.  I pride myself in being very creative with what I have stocked in the pantry, so I headed home determined to create something mouth watering, unique, and rainy Sunday appropriate.

After thumbing through a couple of my cookbooks (The Professional Chef and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), I settled on a mushroom stew out of the Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone book, by Deborah Madison (side note: Deborah Madison is from Davis, CA, just down the road from my home and I once got to meet her at a book signing. OMG, OMG!).

The recipe did not disappoint. As I write the house is filled with the tantalizing aroma of fresh rosemary, herbs de’ provance, lemon and mushrooms.  Mmmm…..

Of course, in full Rebecca fashion, I tweaked the recipe a bit, so here is my Sunday afternoon creation for you:

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1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-1/3″ pieces
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 T fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 T herbs de’ provance
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup safflower oil (or other oil you cook with), divide into 2
1 lb white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 T of left over red pasta sauce (original recipe called for 3 T of tomato paste)
1.5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (I used homemade chicken stock)

juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

In a large saucepan add half of the oil.  On medium heat, sautee 3/4 of the onions and carrots with the rosemary, herbs and salt and pepper for about 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.  In the same saucepan, add the remaining onions and the mushrooms and the remaining oil.  Sautee for about 5 minutes, mixing regularly.  Add the original onion/carrot mixture and mix together in the saucepan for 1 minute. Add the pasta sauce or tomato paste and the stock.  Simmer for about 15 min on med-low, stirring occasionally.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and add additional salt or pepper if needed.  Serve with fresh parsley. Pairs well with rice or rustic bread, or couscous.

 

 

 

A thousand tiny excuses

Right now, in this very moment, I can think of a thousand excuses why I should  skip blogging tonight to just ‘chill’.  It’s not that ‘chilling’ is bad. In fact, it’s highly necessary for me to relax, unplug and stop doing.  Except that sometimes the urge to rest is misconstrued with procrastination and avoidance of things that would actually give me more energy, more clarity, more joy, more sense of peace.

Lately I’m finding that I make a lot of tiny excuses to get out of things that usually fill my cup. I say I’m tired, I’ve got to clean the house, I need to veg (AKA watch Law and Order – my go-to show for mindless TV), it’s late, the list goes on and on. You might be familiar with this type of self-talk, it can be quite sneaky and quite pervasive.  When this happens for a while it’s time to stop and listen.  What’s the deal? What am I avoiding?

So tonight I decided to listen to the voice behind the excuse voice.  I’m just as tired and busy as usual, and the list of chores is no shorter than the day before. So, what is the difference?  Tonight I decided to stop being afraid.

Those tiny excuses, sometimes they are masking fear. And sometimes it’s not fear of failure they mask, but fear of success. Yes, success. Isn’t that crazy? I know, but it’s true.

Why on earth would I be afraid of my own success, even in small areas like a blog post or doing something meaningful with my evening that would enrich me, like work on a creative project.

I’m afraid because every success I have means I’ve somewhat redefined who I am. I’ve expanded my horizons just a little bit and I’ve grown somewhat.  Who knows where that will take me, or how I might see the world differently as I evolve? Believe it or not, there is a small bit of risk in every step along the way of growth.

One of my favorite teachers, Carolyn Myss, says that in each of us is the archetype of the saboteur (among others). That saboteur is the part of us that finds lots of reasons for us to disconnect from our true selves, our joy, our health, our inspiration.  She’s a sneaky one too. She can show up looking totally legitimate. For instance, it can seem to me like mopping the floor instead of spending 15 minutes before bed having quiet time can really appear like the right thing to do. I mean, what kind of mother goes to bed at night knowing her son might step on yesterday’s crumbs with his precious little feet in the morning? How dare I set aside duty for something so frivolous as caring for my own mind and body?  Yep, that is usually how my saboteur talks to me.  I have to admit, sometimes my saboteur even sounds a lot like my own mother (sorry mom!).

Do you know how your saboteur talks to you? What does she say to trick you into thinking that doing those things that are known to make you feel good about yourself inside and out are not worth doing?  Is she sneaky like mine?

I’m learning to be gentle with myself when I discover I’ve been in a pattern of excuses.  It does me no good to berate myself for what I didn’t do yesterday, and it usual stifles me from being able to explore what is possible right now.  I can only learn how to listen more deeply and more intently to my inner voice and observe my patterns to see what is going on.  When I do this without judgement, suddenly I’m free to explore and trust the expansion of myself that results from taking the action I was making excuses to avoid.

Tonight alone, for example, I took a big action step on a home project I’d been avoiding (why: because deep down I’m uncomfortable with the notion of creating a special place in our home that enriches my soul; it feel so decadent) and I wrote this post. I haven’t written in a while. I can say that it’s because I’ve busy and life has been stressful, but those two things are just my perception, thanks to my saboteur.  I’ve been making excuses because I’m still figuring out what direction this blog is going, and God forbid every post isn’t Pulitzer prize material.  Haha, I laugh out loud reading my own silly excuses.

I nudge you to think of that one thing you’ve been wanting to do for yourself that makes you feel really, really good, but you avoid.  Write down all the excuses you make, but also write down what it would mean if you actually did those things. What is your saboteur tricking you into believing and when will you stop giving her all the power?

 

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You might be somebody’s hero

Do you ever look around your to try and find the people who inspire you to be your best?  What about in the places you spend the most time? Who keeps you motivated to push your boundaries or prioritize your self care?  Who are your everyday heroes?

Did you ever stop and think that YOU might somebody’s  hero too? Just the very nature of you being your awesome self might be exactly what your somebody in your world needs to keep her going when there are so many reasons to stop.

Tonight at the gym I say my everyday hero. His name is Rojelio.  He’s about 35 and I think he is literally at the gym every time I am there. But there is something special about Rojelio.  He had a stroke at age 28 and is working on recovering his physical capabilities. he gets stronger and more able every day.  I know this because one time we shared a lovely exchange in the communal hot tub at the gym.  Awkward, yes, but without that experience I would have never known what he has overcome just to be able to walk. Plus, he reminded me a bit of my dad, who also had a stroke at a young age.

Now, every time I see Rojelio it pushes me to work a little harder and to be a little more grateful for my amazing able body. He has no idea that he’s my hero. He’s just a guy trying to do right by his own health.  But he is. And I bet you are too, in some way, to somebody else and you have no idea.

So go to bed tonight dear friends knowing that your presence is making the world just a little bit (or a lot) better for somebody else.

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Sometimes life calls for salami

**Warning** This post contains discussion about a delicious sweet food that contains high amounts of white flour, and white sugar. But I promise you, once you hear the story, you will totally understand why I’m giving credence to this sugary delight.  We’ll call this an example of how this blog is evolving from it’s original “off-white ” focus.:)

Picture this: you are traveling through a beautiful foreign country in Europe with your husband, your toddler, your mother, and two friends. You are having a nice time seeing the sights, meeting the people, taking in the surrounds. Then, suddenly, it all changes. Your mom’s purse is stolen and it contains not only all of her money, her credit card, and her ID, but also her passport.  Her PASSPORT! It is Saturday evening and you are supposed to leave the county early Tuesday AM. Oh, and you are in a tiny secluded beach town hours from a big city.  Thankfully you have a phone, internet, and enough savvy to call the US Embassy emergency line. You get an appointment on Monday morning but in the meantime you spend hours on the phone with family back in the USA trying to retrieve documents that will prove your mother’s identity, making new hotel, car, and activity arrangements, and you don’t sleep a wink that night (oh, and you have a massive cold!).

This was my experience last week on our family trip to Greece. Ironically, I’d been planning this trip in my mind for about 15 years so I could take my mom to see her  heritage.  In my mind the trip was going to be epic and perfect. So, when the trip went south quickly, I thought, hmm….nope…did NOT expect for this to happen. Well, that is what I get for holding on too tightly to expectations, but that is a whole other blog posts.

Needless to say, that by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, and we were headed back to Athens and away from the peace and beauty of the Peleponnesse a day early, I was weary. We were all weary, and disappointed. We were disappointed that we had to cut an already brief stay short, and that we’d gotten violated by a thief who had clearly been watching and tracking us on the beach until we briefly let our guard down.

Nonetheless, our car full of motley travelers was determined to make the most of the experience, and this included finding a place to stop for a good meal as we headed back to the city.

Well, if I didn’t believe in a universe who answers prayers before this (which I did), I was certainly convinced by the time we rolled into Kalaliki Greece for lunch. Kalaliki is a spec of a beach side town on the East coast of the Northern Peleponnesse, very near Corinth.  I wish I could tell you the name of the restaurant, but I can’t. The sign was all in Greek so the best I can do is present you with a photo:

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As soon as we stepped over the threshold, we kenw that the universe had answered our prayers.  It was Sunday and the room was filled with happy Greek families, infants to elders, talking, laughing, eating and being loud, boisterous Greeks.  Two musicians were set up in the corner playing traditional music and their rhythms seemed to match the ebb and flow of the waves that could be seen from the dining room window outside.

The chef greeted us with a warm smile and delighted eyes. Maybe he was excited to see some American travelers so could chat about his love of Texas BBQ and his quest to take his wife to NY City, but I have a feeling he was the kind of guy who greeted all of his patrons as though they had entered his home.

Oh, and the food. Wow!  Tzaziki like I’d never tasted, phyllo encrusted feta drizzled with honey and sesame seeds, Greek salad with crisp, fresh vegetables, and platters of lamb.

Midway through the meal I noticed an odd sensation within myself.  A feeling that had felt foreign over the last couple of days, but to some degree since we’d live the US and were traveling (which had been as much hectic as it was fun).  I felt comfort. I felt peace. I felt at home.  We all did. The furrow over our brows had been replaced with smiles and soft eyes.  We laughed.  We took in the love and happiness around us with every mouthful as much as we took in the food itself.

Now to the point of my story (finally!).  At the end of the meal, as we sat there with full bellies watching, the chef came out with a surprise.  It’s not uncommon in Greece for the chef to surprise his guest with something during the meal, in our experience.  Sometimes we got coffee, once it was an appetizer, once it was a leek soup that would blow your mind.

On this day, however, the universe knew just what we needed. We needed “salami”. Salami was the name of the dessert this chef presented us after our meal.  He said it was a dessert his mom used to make for him as a kid and she called it salami. It was very simple: Bisquick, cocoa, sugar, butter, vanilla, milk, and caramel.  He started making it at the restaurant to share with his guests the same way his mom would make it to share with family and friends during his childhood.

Let me tell you this, I’m not sure any dessert had ever tasted so good as this salami.  It was so simple – a simplicity that can only come from a mother’s creative forces trying to put together a crowd pleasing treat to be shared by all.  It wasn’t pretentious. It will never win any awards.  It tasted like a giant hug.

And after that I knew that everything would be okay (and it was).

 

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Overcoming Nancy Thomas

Who?  I’ll save you the trouble of Googling Nancy Thomas. You won’t find her on the internet (well, at least not the Nancy Thomas I am referring to).  Nancy Thomas is the name that my husband and I made up to describe that attitude that presents itself when you have the perfect combination of unfounded negativity and skepticism that anything good will happen.  It’s a combination of being a “Negative Nancy” and a “Doubting Thomas”.  Nancy Thomas.

Do you know how to recognize when your Nancy Thomas rears her head? For me, it usually manifests in an internal litany about how hard I work, and I have so much to do, how I never get to do what I want, and the weight of the world is on me, and burden this, unfair that, blah blah blah.  I can feel my body tense and my mind close. Nancy Thomas can make me feel like I’m a hamster running on wheel that is immersed in mud. Basically, exhausted.

Why am I even telling you about this?  What does this have to do with wellness or nutrition or food or any of it.

Well, I think Nancy Thomas has EVERYTHING to do with your wellbeing.  You see, I am of the belief that how you feel and how you think is the foundation that sets the tone for all of your behaviors, values, beliefs, inspirations, motivations, and perceptions about your capacity to live well, eat well, be well, etc.   Nancy Thomas can be the sabotuer who derails momentum you are gaining on making a lifestyle change. Nancy Thomas is the voice that says “no, you can’t” when you want to try something new. Nancy Thomas is a total downer.  If you let her, she’ll keep you running in circles chasing your desire for peace forever.

But wait, before you get totally bummed out by this post, I have good news. You can keep  Nancy Thomas in her place if you learn to listen to the signs that she has arrived and understand what she needs. Really, all Nancy Thomas wants is to be heard.  She represents some unspoken but strongly felt emotion in you that, if left unattended, will go on a destructive rampage in your mind.

Nancy Thomas is a lot like my toddler in the midst of one of his toddler-terrorist fits.  He’s demanding, nothing will satisfy him, he says no to anything that is offered, and he’s completely irrational.  He gets locked into a fixed mindset that the only option it to stand there and cry relentelessly. There are 2 way that I can successfully deal with him and neither has to do with facing his tantrum head on. That only makes it worse.   My options are to  avoid feeding into the drama by distracting him and just moving on, or finding a way to soothe him without him realizing what is happening.  It’s the same for Nancy Thomas- you can’t yell her away or scold her into shrinking.  You can’t punish a force that is by nature, already self- punitive. The solution is found in recognizing when you are having a Nancy Thomas moment before she takes over and figuring out what the unmet need is so you can fill it. You have to nip Nancy in the bud.

I had a Nancy Thomas moment today, and my toddler had a tantrum, so I spent a fair amount of my evening dealing with this kind of thing. So I guess you could say, I am kind of an expert, at least tonight.   Here is what I learned: we both wanted and needed the same thing. We were utterly exhausted and needed to be soothed but were resisting like crazy. For him, he simply needed to be held and rocked and put to bed early.  Done.

For me, I was deeply frustrated that I’d missed a chance to go to a yoga class at an actual yoga studio with legit yoga teachers and a really cool vibe, for the first time in over 2 years because I forgot my yoga clothes.  Damn it all!! If you could have only heard the dialogue in my head when I pulled up to the studio and discovered an empty back seat. let’s just say, there was nothing yogic about my reaction. So Nancy Thomas and her “badditude” accompanied me all the way home. Nancy Thomas cast a dark shadow on what had actually been a pretty amazing day, but I couldn’t see that once I was triggered. I could have easily stayed caught up in that negative thought pattern, which for me, is often followed by self-berratement and internal flogging for letting myself get so worked up. My, my, what a superb waste of mental energy.

But, here’s the cool part. I am very familiar with Nancy Thomas. I know that she can swoop in and ruin my whole night if I let her.  I also know that she’s basically a toddler, so I did something that we teach kids to do all the time.  I checked in with myself to see what I needed. I found my words.  I needed to relax.  I needed a time out.  So, I took ownership of my needs and told (not asked) my hubby  to keep an eye on Callum while mommy deployed some critical self care tactics. Then, I took a bath – a long, warm, luxurious bath that included time to read a book and time to lay still with my body immersed in deliciously oil-infused water without a single interruption.  And viola, just like that, Nancy Thomas was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

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Very Adequate (Recipe Included!)

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This past weekend I made some very adequate muffins. You’re in luck, because I did include the recipe below so you too can make some adequate muffins.  I hesitated to even think about posting the recipe because, well, these muffins were so ordinary. But here I am, braving the critics and sharing with you a very sufficient, but not life changing recipe.

I’m going against the grain on this one because it seems that in today’s food world ordinary just will not do.  Everything is about “best meal ever” and “surprise your taste buds” and “rockstar” status applied to just about anything.  We use terms like super foods, we watch cupcake wars, and we subtly compete with on another on who is the coolest based on what they ate. And don’t even get me started on hipster food trends like artisan toast and  mason jar salads.  It’s as though every food experience must be transformative, else it’s nothing at all. It’s not that any of these things are ill intended, it’s just that they are hyped up so much and have  charged connotations associated with them that play to our desires to be the cool kid by partaking in these foods. Here’s the thing, 99% of the meals that I create don’t get anywhere near “best  ever”, yet still I find myself very satisfied.  I can’t possibly achieve amazing every time I’m in the kitchen, or even most of the time.  And here’s another truth, while I’m at it – some of the recipes I make (even with kale, my beloved super food) really stink.  There I said it. Total fails, but usually we  eat them anyway because ,guess what, we  don’t need every meal to be a 10 in order to enjoy dinner as a family. I am a good cook, but I’m not a super hero.

I think this whole notion of over selling our food experiences  just sets us up for disappointment and for feeling like somehow we are inadequate when we are simply being ordinary normal humans trying to nourish our bodies and figure out what works for us.  I believe that disappointment  can trigger us to keep seeking a flavor experience we will never find, and hence keep eating to chase the dream, so to speak.  I am so incredibly guilty of falling into this pattern too.  Maybe one day, just for fun, I’ll get a little chuckle by looking back at this blog to find posts where I did very thing I’m renouncing right now. So be it.  Live and learn, right?

Well, here’s where I take a stand.  I am taking a stand for the ordinary. For the average. For the sufficient.  I’m committing to underselling and over delivering, or just underselling and  delivering what was promised (which was very adequate)  instead of overselling and under delivering, but being okay with it because I’m just being myself. It is enough.  Do you want to join me?  You are enough too.  It’s okay if you still eat your salad out of a plastic Tupperware because you’re petrified to carry around glass jars of food for fear of them breaking.  It’s fine if you don’t like kale, I still love you anyway. And it’s totally acceptable if you sometimes just scrape together whatever you have in the kitchen to put a meal on the table because on that day it’s all you’ve got in you.  Here’s what I think will happen: when we liberate ourselves from the expectation of what something should be, we are free to experience it for what it is.  We can release attachment to outcome, to how it defines us, to our egos. And yes, even a little muffin can have this power.  Food can be a metaphor for life, so why not learn the power of radical acceptance via our nibbles and noshes.

So here I give to you my very adequate, but rather satisfactory pumpkin and carrot muffin recipe.  Why do I love this recipe despite the fact that I wish they could be a little sweeter sometimes or a little more moist others?  I love it because it’s flexible, simple, easy to prepare, and everybody in my house enjoys them.  And who care’s about “Uh-mazing” when I am surrounded by warm smiles and full bellies from my family, who loves me and appreciate my very adequate cooking.

This recipe was adapted from the Applesauce Muffin recipe in the Bob’s Redmill Baking Book.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour (or just do 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup oat or spelt or barley flour
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 T sugar
2.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each: cinnamon, all spice
1/2 tsp ginger (I like to get mine from The Spice House)
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups of canned pumpkin (or mashed baked sweet potato)
1 cup shredded carrots (I cheat and buy shredded carrots, but you can shred them in the food processor or grate them)
1/4 cup molasses (original recipe calls for brown sugar)
3 eggs
3 T oil
a few Tablespoons of water, depending on the consistency once you’ve mixed the wet and dry ingredients. The denser the flour, the more likely you’ll need water.
Optional: 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare your muffin tins.  Whisk or sift the flours, the 1 T sugar, the baking soda and the spices.  In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and molasses. Fold in the pumpkin and the carrots.  Add the dry ingredients until just mixed, adding water as needed to make the batter thick enough to easily spoon out, but still very moist (not runny).  Don’t over mix.  Once mixed, fold in the coconut if desired.
Fill the muffin tin well about 3/4 of the way, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

 

 

 

 

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Now

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Now. Small word with big meaning.  This word has tremendous meaning to me. So much so that we have an art quilt with this word on it, created by the amazing artist Therese May and gifted to us by my MIL.

I have been thinking about this word a lot lately. For me, two different ideas come to mind.

One one hand I think about living in the now, relinquishing my attachment to the past and my anxiety or anticipation about the future. Ha! Who am I kidding, it’s darn near impossible for me to do both, but boy do I  try.  My son definitely helps me with this. Toddlers have nothing but the now and I loves seeing the ease of which he moves through life, not worrying about anything and therefore fully enjoying whatever creative opportunity the moment brings.  He is free, and when I enter his world with him, I can be free too.  That freedom makes my body feel light, my cravings feel smaller, my fears disappear, and my joy feel bigger.

Then there is the other association I have with the word “Now”. I think about action. Doing. Moving. Engaging.  NOT procrastinating. NOT being stuck in fear. NOT making excuses.  But there is a catch – I think to really harness the power of “NOW”, so to speak, there must be consciousness and intention, else you run the risk of living in the tyranny of the moment.

I learned about tyranny of the moment at a training aimed at discussing ways to help communities get out of poverty. I work in public health, and my work surrounds helping communities find strategies to obesity prevention. When you are caught up in the tyranny of the moment, the actions you take tend to just lead you down the same familiar (and unhealthy) path that you’ve been on. You are being reactive.  You are not in a state of future planning or thinking about the impact of “now”. You are just acting.

In reality, I believe we all have to come to terms with that tyranny of the moment if we want to make change in our life.  At some point, after you have invested some time in deciding what you want, you have to decide that NOW is the time to act on those intentions. You have to say NOW is the time to stop watching this TV show and go to bed, or NOW is the time that I put the bag of chips back in the cupboard, or NOW is the time I put on my shoes and go for a walk….or in my case, NOW is the time I start firing up my blog again.

So the question I pose to all of us tonight, is what is your NOW calling for? For me, it’s a 9:30pm bedtime so I can get up early and fulfill my goal of exercise before a long day of sitting at meetings. Which means, of course, time to sign off. Goodnight friends.

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