Memory: Surrounded in an Instant

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I was at my friend J’s apartment near the beach, and we’d spent the day dilly-dallying, and we were half-watching the Oscars… this was almost 4 years ago to the day.

I had just moved to the United States from Spain, and I was trying to figure out where I belonged now. I didn’t feel like I was connected to anyone, but in the course of a month-long road trip to see friends and family, I was starting to reimagine what it meant to have close friends.

A video called “How to Be Alone” became a totem for me during those years abroad and the first year home – one of the lines that it used, talking about how people who are alone don’t have to experience it as loneliness, was “you can be surrounded in an instant if you need it.” Which was true: those who loved me weren’t everpresent while I traveled and studied and kept moving all the time, but they could be there, if I needed them.

On this watercolor map, I painted all the groups of friends I had, how they were inter-connected, and how they were connected to times in my life. It wasn’t a piece of art for the world, but it really gave me a visual, when I left J’s apartment and went back to living alone and reading books for most of my days in grad school, to remind me of those who could surround me if I needed it.

These days, recipes are often the ways I feel most surrounded.

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In a Crocheting Rut

Do you get in a rut? I definitely do. I think of it as a time in my life when I’m lacking in bravery; not bravery overall, but bravery in a particular spot.

In my crafting life, I’m feeling the rut right now – I make baby blankets, hats, and scarves, but I don’t really push myself to learn new stitches, or try harder things. I’m not looking to make complex stuffed animals or learn twenty new stitches, but I want something new to excite me.

Does anyone out there in the crafting world have a favorite intermediate-level project? Something beyond basic blankets and scarves, but not quite to the level of 3D objects like amigurumi? Post here any of your favorites!

Patience Training from Every Side

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Life seems to be conspiring to teach me patience.

Sickness? Slows me down. Makes me wait. Makes me rest.

Scheduling Conflicts? Makes me not get what I want. Makes me feel useless.

Grief? Makes me emotional, not clear-headed. Makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

and now, today, Work. Long hours of work. A never-ending to-do list makes me work, but more importantly, makes me wait for others who I need to help me before I can complete tasks.

Sometimes, I need to learn a lesson, and life is teaching me now; since marriage began, I’ve noticed that I have some circumstances in which I’m patient and can adjust expectations, and others (especially in my home life) where I’m truly a child. It’s been getting better, but life has ramped it up to a new level lately. I’m having to understand that sometimes sickness, schedules, grief, and work are going to conspire to take away my feelings of control and strength.

And that is okay. It really is. It feels awful when it’s happening, but every single time I adjust, I look out from my new place of belief, and realize¬†what I wanted all along was not so much better than this. They are roughly the same, this world and the one I wanted so badly.

I think of my parents’ turtle in moments like these. He does do a whole lot, mostly sitting and sunning himself all day, but when a cricket or a fish happen near him, his head can rear into action and snap them up. I want to be the person who can wait; this just happens to be a season when I’m having to learn and re-learn this patience every day.

Remembering Glory in March

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This picture was taken in the most vibrant weekend of October; two close friends had come to visit and we went to a park where people had used trees and vines to create an elaborate shelter that you could climb around inside. The weather was warm enough to not worry about a coat, but cool enough to not sweat in a sweater. There was no rain – you can see the blue sky peeking out behind all those leaves.

I need photographs like these on days when March, when mud has been the norm for months now and the variety is only in how much mud and how frozen the mud is on a given day. I need to remember how delightful the world can be when there are no thunderstorm warnings and my hair isn’t ruined in the wet. Lately, in days when rapidly shifting weather seems to leave me with a sickness every two weeks, I’m having to reach back to memories about positive things for gratitude.

Gratitude is one of the things that slows down my frantic mind – gratitude makes me able to take the time to make a home-cooked meal when panic would have me order take-out and eat it all in gulps. Gratitude is hard to muster on days when my boots are covered in mud, but I’m doing it, one step at a time.

What are your favorite meals during muddy March?

Cannoli and Sharing

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Memory: a work lunch where, with my two co-workers, we order dessert. I very, very rarely order dessert at a restaurant, and no wonder; there’s enough calories in a dessert to be a whole meal, and I’ve already eaten a bowl of lobster bisque and half my sandwich and I really don’t NEED any more food.

Shared dessert is the perfect solution. The truth is that cannoli, a wonderful combination of crunchy wafer cookie and thick, ricotta-rich sweet cream with chocolate chips in it, is just too much for any one person. I am sure there are circumstances when cannoli, this particular pile of it, would be perfect to be relished alone, but it would have made me ill that day. 1/3 of it, however, was totally perfect.

That’s the thing about good, rich, sweet things in life: I’m so much worse at appreciating them when I’m alone. Instead, I need to look into another pair of eyes and share that bright feeling of “are you tasting this?” as we both dig in to something that has absolutely no vegetables in it. I can eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains alone, feeling like I’m nourishing myself and thus the life I’m leading in community, but with dessert… mmm it’s just better to get 3 forks and dig in together.

Salmon for health and delicious eats!

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Husband and I have changed small things about our eating habits over the years, but the big one has been adding in a little fish where we were eating pretty much no fish. I’ve become a big fan of salmon in particular; while it is especially good with a delicious butter and garlic sauce, it’s also a really rich, fatty fish on its own. You can eat your salmon with a pile of greens and still feel like you had a rich and filling meal, usually without feeling stuffed.

We made a really tasty pistachio salmon during Whole30, but this one was a grilled salmon from a restaurant, and thinking about it today makes me want the weather to improve so that I can get outside and grill a fillet. One recipe I really want to try as well is this one; will write again when I actually get around to trying it! I love maple as a flavor, and I’m excited to explore it on main dishes rather than just pancakes:¬†http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/maple-glazed-salmon-0

Rejecting “Always Do More”

For a few years now, I’ve been struggling with more. I want to work more, write more, and do more. I want to cook more, clean more, talk to others more, listen more.

I don’t often think about where the time for such “more” comes from. I think I assume that I’m a magical efficiency machine, who keeps figuring life out so thoroughly that I am always doing things quicker and less – my laundry magically is done faster, or I can multitask my way through dinner while simultaneously washing dishes.

This is sometimes true; my tasks at work take much less time than when I first began. But I also have more tasks, and the growing mound of tasks is growing faster than efficiency can mitigate.

All I’m saying here is that I need to stop pegging success and satisfaction with myself to the feeling that I’m doing more than I was doing last year. Never mind whether these things are valuable; I was letting myself feel comforted that at least I’m operating at 110%! At least it’s a whole LOT of nothing!

I’m trying to see my life as refining instead of adding – what must come into my life because it will enrich it? At the same time, what can I lay down, now that I see I cannot or do not need to do it any more? I’m not so good at this part. I either throw a task away, furious at myself for having to admit defeat, or I just try to keep doing it, complaining all the way.

I’m working on it. There are things I need to do less of every time I try to fit more in. I cannot magically make everything hard in life take less time, and I’m starting to really plan my life to cope with that fact.