12 Holiday Joys, Joy 4 – Music

Music is so much more to me than anything I can write in a silly blog post. And it is deeply wedded to my love for and immersion in the holiday season, mostly the Christmas season. (Though a South Park Hanukkah song does make the cut.)

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This is nothing new, but music stirs my emotions in a way that words can’t touch, sets the mood for any gathering in a much more complete way, guides our attention to something both deep inside ourselves as well as out in the world, and is a wonderful break from the wall of words thrown at us from every direction in this information-saturated age. Music is that feeling and knowledge that is pre-discursive, that is allowed to just be because it doesn’t need or require words. Any lyrics added are just cherries on the sundae.

It’s no surprise that music is central to my love for the holiday and Christmas season. It’s worth celebrating a few of my favorites, and I certainly hope you take the time to find these in digital, CD, or streaming form.


Handel’s The Messiah

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Image from and link to purchase your quintessential Christmas holy music here.

I mean. This is just the Christmas album. For feeling the holiness and expansiveness of the Christmas holiday, it doesn’t get any better than Handel’s The Messiah. I try to attend a live (sometimes sing-along!!) concert every year, but if I can’t, I will take some time to sit down and absorb. My favorite movements are “And the Glory of the Lord” and “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion.”

 

Michael W. Smith Christmastime

MWSChristmastime

Image from and link to purchase here.

I love this album. It’s so lush and orchestral and hits all the Christmas moods for me. It’s one of the best Christmas albums to just listen through from beginning to end, especially for quiet, contemplative nights. (Though it does get a little zippy on track 8!)

 

Sarah McLachlan Wintersong

McLachlanWintersong

Image from and link to purchase here.

For a true calm, moody, soothing Christmas album, you can’t get better than Sarah McLachlan. Perfect on low volume, while reading and sipping on mulled wine.

 

Anne Murray Christmas Songs

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Image from and link to purchase here.

Oh, Anne Murray. You vixen of Canadian song. My mom loved this album, so hearing this always brings me back to my childhood playing with little fuzzy bears in toy sleds and twirling my favorite glass ballerina ornament so it sends rainbows of reflected Christmas lights around the room. This album is warmth and nostalgia and love to me.

 

Diana Krall Christmas Songs

KrallChristmas

Image from and link to purchase here.

This is it #1. This is one of two Christmas albums that are the joy of Christmas for me. It’s DKrall, y’all! You know my love for her runs deep, and she brings it just the way Christmas swing should be brought. This is the best Christmas party music, IMHO.

 

Mariah Carey Merry Christmas

MCareyChristmas

Image from and link to purchase here.

Ok, This is it #2. I saved this for last because this is pure classic by now. This song and album bring back so many memories for me, from discovering the now-iconic “All I Want for Christmas is You” at my childhood home, to rocking out after Thanksgiving break to it with my best friend in college. This is essential Christmas party fare. You know it, I know it, we all know it.

 


The best part of all these is that they can be streamed on YouTube or borrowed from public libraries. So much music is free these days, which is both unfortunate for new artists and wonderful for eager ears. Try to buy where you can, but enjoy the free music where you can. Music is soul food and provides a feast not to be missed for full human flourishing.

I’d love to know your favorite albums, to know what kind of music hits you deep in your soul and makes the holiday season always something a bit more than it is. Please share with me so I can share in your joy.

Music is so much more to me than anything I can write in a silly blog post. And it is deeply wedded to my love for and immersion in the holiday season, mostly the Christmas season. (Though a South Park Hanukkah song does make the cut.) This is nothing new, but music stirs my emotions … Continue reading 12 Holiday Joys, Joy 4 – Music

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12 Holiday Joys, Joy 3 – Cookies

So real food is awesome and all, but let’s be honest — sugar is the love language of the season.

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Last year a friend came over and we did a major cookie blitz of all the cookies on the platter — mixing, baking, decorating, and taste-testing (a LOT of taste-testing, oops…). I love that aspect of food, beyond the eating. The preparing of it with someone else is so fun, and you have someone to give half the treats to so you’re not tempted to eat cookies for dinner every night. Just one or two nights. Before you give the rest away as presents. (Perhaps fewer presents than you originally intended…)

Here are the treats that make our holiday nights and work days (and breakfasts!) so sweet.


CookiesChristmas

Going clockwise starting upper left…

Russian Tea Cakes

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Image and recipe from Pretty. Simple. Sweet.

Also known as Mexican Wedding Cookies, I love these crumbly, nutty powdered-sugar-dusted goodies. Sometimes I get wild and add cardamom or nutmeg instead of cinnamon. You do you, boo.

Candy Cane Cookies

Minty! Sweet! Twisty! These candy cane cookies are easy (premade mix ftw) and fun and always liven up a cookie plate. These are my husband’s favorite.

Christmas Wreaths

Wreathcookies

Image and recipe from Epicurious.com.

These are super sweet, super messy to make, but totally worth it. They’re basically rice crispy treats with cornflakes and cinnamon buttons and add character to cookie plates. Grease up your fingers and give them a go.

Whiskey Praline Pecans

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Image and recipe from Cookin’ Cowgirl.

These are addicting and amazing nibbles to accompany a great book. I like to add little baggies of them to Christmas packages.

Sugar Cookies

Everyone has a good sugar cookie recipe, so go nuts. My royal icing never turns out as glossy as I’d like, but it’s still sugar on top of sugar, so does it really matter how it looks?

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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Image and recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

Basically, any cookie you roll in powdered sugar is going to find its way to my oven sometime over the holiday season. Be ye not alarmed. These are wonderful because the chocolate is a nice complement to the sugar cookie madness.

English Toffee

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Image and recipe from Shugary Sweets.

Ok, one more chocolate treat. Instead of making these in molds for bite-size pieces, I just make them in a pan and break them up into pieces with my hands.


Wishing you much caffeine to counteract the sugar coma of the season!

Please leave your favorite baking recipe below! I’m always up for adding something new to the mix.

So real food is awesome and all, but let's be honest -- sugar is the love language of the season. Last year a friend came over and we did a major cookie blitz of all the cookies on the platter -- mixing, baking, decorating, and taste-testing (a LOT of taste-testing, oops...). I love that aspect … Continue reading 12 Holiday Joys, Joy 3 – Cookies

12 Holiday Joys, Joy 2 – Eats

If you thought I waxed poetic about drinks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. (Sorry, my Idaho likes to come out every so often.)

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Food. Is. Life. And good food is good life. Good food doesn’t have to be expensive, either. I’m a firm believer that simple recipes are often the best recipes (all the ingredients get a chance to shine), and while quality ingredients make for a quality meal, quality ingredients don’t have to be expensive. Quality ingredients are generally fresh and/or homemade. Sometimes the “homemade” aspect requires a bit more effort, but I find that if I have the time and the love, it’s well worth it.

That love part is central to me. For me, food is love. I make involved meals for my husband not because we need them, but because I love showing him that I love him through the effort of shaping handmade pasta, tending to a pot of bolognese for five hours, mixing up artisan bread dough the night before I know we’re having soup, spending a day making separate elements for a true comfort meal, taking the time to mix up a special blend of garlicky, herby butter because I know that grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup is his favorite meal of all time, etc. There is something intimate about sharing a meal with someone, made all the more intimate when you are the one planning and making that meal.

And sometimes, truly, the simplest meals are the loveliest. White bean soup with spiced butter is budget-friendly and full of warmth. Sheet pan chicken and veggies meals make for quick, simple, delicious meals when we’re feeling conscious of our waistlines (damn you, late 30s!). I don’t want to denigrate the simple and quick, because those express just as much love and effort as the more involved meals. Every time we make someone food, we are taking time out of our days and rest to give others nourishment to sustain their bodies, comfort their anxieties, and assure them that someone is looking out for their well-being and not-inconsequential taste buds.

The holiday season makes all that food love even more fun. To celebrate all that food can bring to our celebratory and quiet, daily lives, here are my favorite recipes for the holiday and winter months.


 

Butter Drenched and White Wine Roasted Turkey

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Photo from HowSweetEats.com

In the words of Jessica Merchant, “YOU GUYS.” This roast turkey recipe is phenomenal. The smell as the turkey is roasting is just… something else. Even though I know we’re often exhausted after the time-intensive feast that is Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving unpurchased turkeys go on sale for pennies on the pound. You almost can’t afford not to buy a turkey. I highly recommend buying a post-Thanksgiving, super-sale turkey (and a second one for your local food bank) and saving it for a meal over the holidays. Christmas Eve? Christmas Day? New Year’s Eve? Whenever you make it, your loved ones will be thrilled, and it has the added benefit of making your life SO MUCH EASIER over the weeks following. There is nothing better than roasted turkey leftovers for easy dinners as a reward for your roasted turkey labor (see here, here, and here), so why not look out for 2019 You and, in doing so, treat your loved ones to the best roast turkey dinner of their lives?!

I won’t outline the full recipe here because Jessica deserves a blog visit, so I will just link to her recipe again. I will also recommend that you start with the brine and aromatics from Alton Brown’s recipe. The three together are PURE. EFFING. GOLD.

Creamy Tuscan Sausage Tortellini Soup

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Is there anything better than soup on a frigid day? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. My favorite soup is a riff on the Creamy Tuscan Garlic Tortellini Soup from The Recipe Critic. I sub the shredded chicken for browned Italian sausage and, every couple of years or so, sub the chicken broth out for Parmesan broth. (Seriously, start saving your Parmesan rinds now for next year’s winter soup. PHE.NOMENAL.) This soup is perfection and the perfect expression of love in soup form.

5-Minute Artisan Bread

No winter soup is complete without fresh bread. While I have some quick bread favorites for when planning-ahead fails me, you can’t get any better than the ease and deliciousness of 5-minute artisan bread. (No one will complain if you add a little garlic to your slathering butter, fyi!) The only downside is the necessity of planning to eat the bread a day ahead and guaranteeing that none of the busyness and last-minute happenings typical of the holiday season will come between you and that bubbly, yeasty fabulousness come dinnertime.

Cranberry Orange Chicken Thighs

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Photo from Sweet & Savory

A simple, one-pan meal with a holiday punch! I love chicken thighs. Packed with protein and with a deeper flavor and moistness than chicken breasts, chicken thighs are my favorite dinner protein. This recipe gives chicken thighs a decidedly December feel with aromatic orange, sweetly sour cranberries, and the smooth/sweet/tangy zip of olive oil mixed with honey and balsamic vinegar.  It makes for a fantastic base for a wonderful quick, easy weeknight holiday season meal. Serve alongside steamed asparagus and 5-minute artisan bread (WOOP).

Homemade Pasta

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OMG

Do you want to really commit to homemade food? Make some homemade pasta. It is surprisingly easy (just a little time-intensive) and far superior to the dried grocery store version. I highly recommend the book Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto by Marc Vetri and David Joachim. I’ve made several of the noodle recipes and, yes. So. much. yes. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and get in touch with your inner Nonna.


And there you have it! Some of the food I like to keep on-hand or recipes I keep in mind when I am deciding what to keep in my refrigerator “just in case”. Remember: “homemade” doesn’t have to equal “difficult and time-intensive” and making food for someone, no matter how difficult or easy, is a quintessential form of love.

If you thought I waxed poetic about drinks, you ain't seen nothin' yet. (Sorry, my Idaho likes to come out every so often.) Food. Is. Life. And good food is good life. Good food doesn't have to be expensive, either. I'm a firm believer that simple recipes are often the best recipes (all the ingredients get a … Continue reading 12 Holiday Joys, Joy 2 – Eats

12 Holiday Joys, Joy 1 – Sips

One of my favorite sensory pleasures is a good, event-appropriate drink. And I don’t mean necessarily alcoholic; drinking a glass of ice-cold water after a long run is one of the best, most refreshing, most satisfying experiences in life.

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Drinks are essential to life (we need water to survive) and also part of frivolous-yet-essential human activities like celebrating. Champagne makes a celebratory event even more special. Hot chocolate with a peppermint stick makes a cold day perfectly cozy. Coffee with a bit of Kahlua makes a mid-morning feel both productive and mischievous. Welcoming guests with a crafted, thematic cocktail (alcoholic or no) adds an air of cohesion and specialness to a dinner party. A perfectly chosen wine brings out all the best elements in a food dish. A cup of tea with a good friend makes the intimate sharing even more special. The aroma right before the taste, bringing the drink up to your lips and taking a moment to inhale the scent before sipping the goods, makes drinking a bigger-bodied experience rather than just a mindless, singular imbibing.

I love what drinks can add to our daily lives, the way they complement the small and the big moments.

The holiday season offers almost too many drinks for my little reptilian brain to handle. Luckily, I find an excuse to celebrate in even the most mundane of days, so I am up to the challenge. In case you need some motivation, here are some of my favorite drink recipes for the holidays. To be enjoyed over several months and usually with a fluffy blanket.


Hot Chocolate Station

hotchocolatestation

ESSENTIAL TO A SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAY SEASON. I set this up every December 1st and indulge almost nightly until January 1st. Or until supplies run out. Whichever comes first.

Ingredients:

  • Hot Chocolate mix (I enjoy Safeway brand, so I’m not picky)
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Candy canes
  • Tray, bottles, and mugs for station
  • Optional: sprinkles, chocolate chips, ground cinnamon, mini bottles of Peppermint Schnapps, Kahlua, and Baileys.

Instructions: Fill separate containers with hot chocolate mix and mini marshmallows. Add card with serving suggestions. Decorate with Christmas elements as desired. Set out for easy access through the snowy days!

Mulled Wine

MulledWine

Ok, I think mulled wine is also essential for the holiday season, but I know not everyone drinks alcohol. If you do, you need this in your life. (Ignore the reflection of my arm in the photo — but then again, someone’s gotta document these guns!) I also find this makes a lovely little foodie Christmas gift for friends, family, and coworkers, so keep that in mind.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) red wine (fruity blends are good)
  • 3 cups unsweetened apple cider (optional, but definitely recommended!)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp whole cloves, 1 star anise, 1 tbsp whole allspice berries, 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 cup cranberries, whole or halved
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • Optional: vanilla bean; cranberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks for serving

Combine wine, cider, honey, spices, orange, and cranberries (and vanilla bean, if using) in a pot over low heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Make sure it does not come to a boil. Stir after 10 minutes to fully dissolve honey. Just before serving, add brandy. Ladle into mugs, garnish with cinnamon stick and orange slices, and enjoy with a good book in front of a lit Christmas tree.

(This recipe can also be adapted for non-alcoholic hot apple cider — just use a jug of cider and eliminate the alcohol. Consider adding molasses and extra vanilla for amazing depth. Mulled Apple Cider is actually my Thanksgiving non-alcoholic welcome drink of choice.)

Holiday White Wine

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Sometimes you just need a little dash of holiday with your EOLAWD (end-of-long-ass-work-day) glass of white wine. Sometimes you also need to use up leftover herbs and sundries so you don’t have to throw away $1,000 worth of now-brown rosemary as purchased-in-Hawaii (only a slight price exaggeration). This is not worth a formal recipe, just a nudge to creativity: pour a glass of red or white wine and simply add a sprig of rosemary and some cranberries to the glass. Even if the rosemary and cranberries don’t infuse the wine very strongly, the scent every time you take a sip is enough to send you into relaxed holiday bliss. (Other options: orange slices, lemon slices, lime slices, apple slices. It’s like lazy sangria.)

As-Purchased Drinks

And to finish it off, the easiest of suggestions! A couple drink-as-purchased options for the holidays…

Champagne

Oh my goodness, I love champagne, and life is too short not to celebrate the little moments. (Sometimes surviving a Tuesday qualifies.) Buy a decent bottle and salud with your loved ones.

Sparkling Apple Cider

As deep as my love for champagne runs, so does my love for sparkling apple cider. It’s the taste of my childhood Christmases and tastes and experiences just as celebratory as champagne to me. Plus, it has the benefit of being incredibly budget-friendly. Don’t shy away from the sparkling apple cider love.

Silk Soy Egg Nog

Confession time: I HATE REAL EGG NOG. OMG BLECH. It is so rich, and I just can’t stomach it. I adore Silk Soy Egg Nog, however. It’s perfectly sweet and rich enough to feel indulgent, but not so thick that I compulsively start chewing. Get you some in most milk aisles across the U.S. (And, if you are so inclined, it also tastes great with a bit o’ bourbon. No judgment here.)


So there you have it — my favorite drinks to celebrate and accentuate the holiday season. Keep these in mind as you move through your holidays, and let me know if you add any to your major or minor celebrations!

One of my favorite sensory pleasures is a good, event-appropriate drink. And I don't mean necessarily alcoholic; drinking a glass of ice-cold water after a long run is one of the best, most refreshing, most satisfying experiences in life. Drinks are essential to life (we need water to survive) and also part of frivolous-yet-essential human … Continue reading 12 Holiday Joys, Joy 1 – Sips

12 Holiday Joys

As I mentioned in a prior blog post (months ago, dang! I was in a dark place only Christmas planning could lighten), I love the US holiday season. I love the sensuous feasts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, feasts for the eyes, ears, tongue, and nose. Over the next 12 posts, I want to celebrate the fullness of the season with posts on some of my holiday joys, all within my lifestyle commitments to minimalism and anti-materialism. Why 12? Because of the 12 days of Christmas! Which doesn’t really make sense in this context because this is not a Christmas-specific series, but it’s a lovely round number and I have more than enough joys during the holidays to pack into 12 posts.

The posts will probably seem a little all over the place. I’ll talk about food, music, relationships, struggles, privilege, spirituality, and more. Some posts will be thoroughly trivial (chocolate!), some posts will be more serious and thoughtful. Being human is complicated, and just because we are in a season of joy and celebrating doesn’t mean that complexity gets smoothed out. I want to honor that and even celebrate it, in this small way.

Ok, this is becoming a little too self-serious, so I’ll let it be and simply look forward to sharing Joy 1 with you in a few days. Because bottom line is that I believe we should celebrate the things that give us joy and we should practice appreciating our joys in ways that don’t idolize them, don’t engender dependence on them, and don’t make those particular joys prescriptive for others. This is my attempt to do that, and me embracing all the things I love about this time of the year and this time of life. I hope you find something here that does the same for you.

As I mentioned in a prior blog post (months ago, dang! I was in a dark place only Christmas planning could lighten), I love the US holiday season. I love the sensuous feasts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, feasts for the eyes, ears, tongue, and nose. Over the next 12 posts, I want to celebrate the … Continue reading 12 Holiday Joys

Choosing my stress

I made a resolution the other day (suck it, January 1) — I am no longer going to let my body be a source of stress for me.

I had a near-meltdown two weeks ago. Some may call it a meltdown; I’m not sure what an adult meltdown looks like, so I don’t know if mine qualifies, but I was mentally and physically spent and d*mn near panicking, so I assume mine applies?! My moment of realization came when I had to return a book to the library and it took a Herculean amount of effort for me to walk across campus. I felt numb inside and also like my body was being pulled towards the earth. My brain started to feel frozen. I couldn’t sleep. Then I had a day where I couldn’t stop crying. Then I stared at the wall in a mess of despair and hopelessness for an hour and tried hard to wish the next two years away.

No, things are not going well or even normal for me here. Thanks for asking.

So in the face of my meltdown, in the face of too much for one body to handle, I decided to start taking care of my body. I work out, in part, to help my anxiety and depression, and while it really has been helping (and I absolutely love it), I realized I had been overdoing it, using workouts as an excuse or a weapon against my own body. My poor body needed a break. (Feeling like you need to sit down after walking 10 steps is a preeeettty good sign that one’s body is, as they say, on the struggle bus.)

When I was talking about how unbelievably weary I was, my husband told me that for bodies to recover, they need a break from physical stress. I already knew that, which is why I make sure to incorporate rest days into my workout habit so my muscles can recover. But then he said that rest from stress needs to include all stress. Mental as well as physical. (It’s all physical, anyway, isn’t it?) All stress taxes the body, and my body wasn’t able to recover from the workouts simply because it was overburdened by the psychological stress that I was suffering on top of the physical stress I was choosing.

There is no way for me to fix my psychological stress in this place (unless I just up and leave tomorrow, which is dreamy-sounding but not realistic), but I can work on my physical stress. So I took a week off. I didn’t go to the gym or pop in an Insanity DVD all week. I put homework aside for two evenings. My husband made dinners so I wouldn’t have to worry about how to feed us. I went to bed as soon as I was tired and I slept in until 6am every day. (For me? That’s late. I am a 4am-wide-awake-and-annoyed kind of person.) I took many, many, many deep breaths and tried to unclench my jaw.

It didn’t fix my life, but it was really nice. So I decided that I am going to work really hard on not making my body a source of my stress. I want to instill good beliefs in my head about my body, specifically about not beating it up as a perverse way of trying to relieve stress. I love working out, and want to make sure my working out is for fun and for health (health focus as a love for my body, as a way of nurturing it) rather than a way of punishing it for not looking the way I want it to, or punishing it because the rest of my life is a wreck and I need an outlet.

BirdTraacks

This is my happy place. I want to preserve it as a treat, not a punishment.

In addition to getting as much needed rest as I can, I want to speak only good things about my body to myself, and work on believing that my body deserves the rest, needs the rest, and will be happy and healthy with rest.

Of course, that “body” includes my brain. My poor little overworked, anxious, depressed, empathetic, baffled, justifiably-angry, intellectually-stretched chunk of gray stuff. It really is working hard and can only handle so much. Just like the rest of me.

I know I can’t just decide not to be stressed about things (my psychology is more complicated — or more stubborn — than that), but I can work to make some things eventually less stressful. My relationship with and to my body is a good place to start, because my body carries me through life. Indeed, it is the source of my life. It needs to be treasured and appreciated, not beaten to a pulp; in my head or in the gym. If I don’t treat my body kindly, I don’t treat me kindly. And not treating myself kindly is not an option. I deserve kindness and I should be one of the first to give kindness to me when life gets toxic.

I made a resolution the other day (suck it, January 1) -- I am no longer going to let my body be a source of stress for me. I had a near-meltdown two weeks ago. Some may call it a meltdown; I'm not sure what an adult meltdown looks like, so I don't know if … Continue reading Choosing my stress

In-Between Thoughts Thanksgiving Edition 11.19.18

It’s been a while since I did one of these! That’s because… well, because I haven’t been going to the gym. My poor body. The stress and despair of this time of life has finally taken its toll and my body kind of collapsed in on itself a few weeks ago. I took two weeks off from working out and it has been so, so good. Let’s do this…

So Thanksgiving is coming up. I’m supposed to be all up and practicing gratitude in this bish. But OOF, what a downer this year has been. Putting on gratitude sounds kind of exhausting.

I listened to a podcasts the other day about depression and addiction. The guest speaker said that research has consistently shown that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety — it’s connection. I think that’s really beautiful, and such a significant reflection of our social nature and interdependence with others.

Then he touched on depression. Depression is chemical, yes, but that doesn’t mean the only solution is to control the chemicals through drug intervention. Sometimes, absolutely. Drugs are a marvel of modern medicine and can be essential or even just convenient helpmates for our well-being.

The speaker also said that some non-pharmaceutical things have been shown to have a remarkable effect on our well-being: having a sense of purpose, feeling connected to others, and feeling a robust sense of internal motivation to do what you do, have all been shown to enhance someone’s well-being and mental health.

In other words, we need to be seen by others and to be able to do something we feel passionate about.

I know what it’s like to have neither. I know what it’s like to feel slighted, ignored, rejected, despised. How do we find people who see us? Who will value us as we value them? And how do we find the ability to be thankful in the midst of those trials?

I don’t know. I don’t feel grateful for much at the moment. I definitely don’t feel connected. But my life is not a total disaster, and I do believe it’s important to recognize the good things and not let myself get carried down and down by hopelessness. So here I go, taking a look at my life and practicing gratitude.

One thing I’m thankful for is the opportunity to express myself here. To get everything out. To write when that feels like the only way I can make sense of what’s swirling around in my head space.

I’m very, very grateful for insurance that covers expensive, life-saving therapy.

I am grateful to know in a deep, visceral way how important it is to see and celebrate people, to make sure they know they are seen, that their strengths are appreciated, that their weaknesses are covered by love and grace.

I am grateful that all things change. Change is not always for the good, but I do think some things struggle inexorably and perhaps grudgingly towards justice and the good. I’m grateful for the slow, non-linear momentum of progress.

I am grateful for my husband. My intimate, the man in whom the sun rises and sets for me. I am grateful for our partnership, affection, and intellectual compatibility. I got pretty dang lucky.

I am grateful for knowledge. For the thrill of discovery. For pushing through discomfort to find and know something beautiful.

I am sincerely grateful for the ready availability of an abundance of food. It may be stupidly expensive, but what I have access to, on this hunk of rock in the middle of the Pacific, is pretty amazing.

Ok, so my cranky side did not enjoy being forced out of her negative space, but that did help. Because I have some pretty fabulous things about my life, and I do very much want to enjoy them while I can, while I have them.

It's been a while since I did one of these! That's because... well, because I haven't been going to the gym. My poor body. The stress and despair of this time of life has finally taken its toll and my body kind of collapsed in on itself a few weeks ago. I took two weeks … Continue reading In-Between Thoughts Thanksgiving Edition 11.19.18

As beliefs change, so do relationships…

CatBookshelf

I don’t really have a photo for this post so… here’s my cat. On my bookshelf. Lurv. I guess since she doesn’t have beliefs (other than the importance of being pet at all times), our love will never change? As long as I keep delivering the pets, that is.

I’m realizing how much the depth of our relationships depends in large measure on the beliefs we share with others. Our beliefs cover everything. They are the lens through which we see the world and the very way we interpret the world. As we are part of the world, our beliefs are how we see others and ourselves, and reflect our evaluations of others and ourselves. It’s really no surprise and not pejorative to say that shared beliefs dictate the intimacy in relationships.

We have to have some beliefs binding us together. These beliefs can be as simple as “I believe you are a good, safe person and worth loving.” But as simple as that belief is, it implies or contains many other beliefs, like about what makes a good person, what makes a safe person, and who is worth loving intimately (on an individual-to-individual level).

I think about this a lot lately because of how my beliefs about what makes a good person have changed over the years. I used to be a super conservative evangelical Christian and all my closest relationships were in that demographic. Then I fell in love with an atheist and I had to evaluate what was at the core of what I believed made people good.

Then this political climate… happened. Solidified. Became real to me (yes, I know how privileged that is — but it’s true). It made real and solid a lot of what I have been suspecting and moving towards over the years.

This leaves a lot of my past relationships… something. Under question? And I mean on both sides. I have changed in ways that are uncomfortable to my friends just as they have not changed in ways that I am now uncomfortable with. Most of it may not matter for much in the day-to-day, but the gap does creep in. My new words of encouragement, spoken with as much truth as I can muster, are no longer encouraging because they aren’t what speaks to them. Their words of encouragement, the ones that used to mean to much, now ring hollow for me. Is it better to speak someone’s language than be truthful, if the goal is to comfort? What is “true” in there, and what is our responsibility towards truth in relationships? I suppose that is determined by the value someone places on relationships themselves and how someone defines our larger responsibilities in them….

It leaves me to wonder if this difference precludes intimacy with some people. Certainly not all — I share many, many ethical and moral values with people who otherwise have totally different beliefs from mine, and I genuinely love people with whom I strongly disagree. But it seems like it will preclude intimacy in some relationships. Not as a matter of imposition and choice, but as a natural consequence of having different convictions about what makes a good, safe person; what a good, safe world looks like; and what our ethical responsibilities to others are.

I am also very, very, very glad I got married at 30 and not 23. Holy cow. Saved myself a divorce and/or a crap ton of money on selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor pharmaceuticals.

I don't really have a photo for this post so... here's my cat. On my bookshelf. Lurv. I guess since she doesn't have beliefs (other than the importance of being pet at all times), our love will never change? As long as I keep delivering the pets, that is. I'm realizing how much the depth … Continue reading As beliefs change, so do relationships…

The tension is to be loved, apparently

I get it, universe. I get it, God. I get it, life. Practicing gratitude is transformational and something I should really work on.

It’s also hard AF.

I’m in this time of life where I feel so wounded but don’t have time to heal before the next wound hits. It seems that daily, at least weekly, I’m wounded afresh, the same wounds, right when I think I might be able to move into a short bit of rest to recover. I’m bleeding all over every aspect of my life and grasping for anything to patch up the raw, gaping, ragged wounds.

There’s a reason we don’t expect patients to stitch themselves up.

In an attempt to self-remedy, nonetheless, I picked up The Highly-Sensitive Person book. I’m working my way through it again, albeit slowly. (It is freeing and helpful in a way that only therapy has been for me.) I just so happened to turn to a page that emphasized the importance of being grateful for the struggles that tax us. At first I bristled. Then I decided to let the idea percolate in my mind a bit before rejecting it or embracing it.

I started to see the truth in that sentiment, especially for an HSP. Then, two days later, when I was working on some final papers (trying to push through the despair and fog pounding my head into a pulp), one of my favorite songs came on the radio over the coffee shop wifi, from Sixpence None the Richer: “Tension is a Passing Note.” The chorus brought me to full-on snotty tears, in the middle of a crowded coffee shop.

The tension is to be loved
When it is like the passing note
To a beautiful, beautiful chord.

Did I mention the bathroom was occupied so I couldn’t escape to blubber in private? Awesome.

It seems as though this is the time of my life where I am supposed to a). do whatever I can to survive (self-care to the max), and b). practice gratitude for the shitstorm, for the struggle, for the tension. I honestly don’t know whether or not this is a tension that is leading to a “beautiful, beautiful chord” for me. I don’t think life is so certain to make that claim. So far every seeming resolution has only led to more tension and struggle, so frankly I’m feeling a bit skittish and afraid of everything in Hawai’i right now. Change may the only constant, but Heraclitus never said that change would always be for the better.

I don’t know how gratitude can counteract my fear, but perhaps it will add in an element of hope that I’ve lost. Gratefulness helps us identify the good in every situation (whatever slim bit there is), but perhaps when practiced intentionally it also is a repudiation of hopelessness. A rebellion against the hopelessness of the world, the cruelty, the irrationality, the illness that eats and destroys hearts and souls. I don’t have much in me to fight these days (maybe after a 3-week nap), but I can listen to this song over and over, cry and pray and try on statements of gratitude, and maybe that’s enough fight for the moment.

I get it, universe. I get it, God. I get it, life. Practicing gratitude is transformational and something I should really work on. It's also hard AF. I'm in this time of life where I feel so wounded but don't have time to heal before the next wound hits. It seems that daily, at least … Continue reading The tension is to be loved, apparently

Yummiest autumn pizza

Anyone else glad the midterm elections are behind us?! I think this, and the fact that Democrats took control of the House, are worth celebrating. Celebrating with pizza. I always celebrate with pizza. (Well, that and champagne. Duh.)

Here is a pizza worthy of fall, when pumpkin, sage, and bacon are all in season. (Though we all know bacon is always in season.) I used the Harvest Pizza recipe from How Sweet Eats. The original is delicious, but I adapted because a). my leftover ingredients were slightly different from what she calls for, b). I didn’t feel like cutting and roasting a butternut squash that late at night, c). 8 ounces of goat cheese looked like too much goat cheese, and d). the idea of a pumpkin puree pizza sauce sounded delectable. I ended up making an easier, more traditionally pizza-y, still delicious version.

autumnpizza.jpg

Pre-cooked and in bad lighting, but look at that orange pumpkin sauce! YUMMM.

Make this and enjoy the best tastes of fall in pizza form.

Autumn Pizza (adapted from Harvest Pizza recipe from HowSweetEats.com)

Ingredients
Your favorite pizza dough recipe (this recipe is my go-to; it makes two large pizzas, so I usually have one to freeze for a future easy-peasy pizza night)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 slices bacon, chopped
2/3 cups fresh sage, torn
2 tablespoons toasted pecans
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
1.5 cups of pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sliced shallot in a small pan over low heat, stirring to make sure oil coats all shallot slices. Cover and continue cooking until shallot softens and starts to caramelize, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry chopped bacon until fat is rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-covered plate to drain.

Add sage, toasted pecans, and parmesan cheese to a food processor and process until chopped into sand-like texture. While processor is running, stream in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until you have a relatively smooth (though probably still a little pebbly) paste, scraping down sides as needed.

Mix pumpkin puree and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Stir in as much of the sage pesto as you’d like (I used it all, but not everyone loves sage like I do!). Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread pumpkin-and-pesto-sage pizza sauce over rolled-out pizza dough. Evenly sprinkle with shallots, bacon, and goat and parmesan cheeses.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Stuff your face.

Anyone else glad the midterm elections are behind us?! I think this, and the fact that Democrats took control of the House, are worth celebrating. Celebrating with pizza. I always celebrate with pizza. (Well, that and champagne. Duh.) Here is a pizza worthy of fall, when pumpkin, sage, and bacon are all in season. (Though … Continue reading Yummiest autumn pizza