Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peace. Piece. Get Some.

If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will know complete peace.
                                                    Achaan Chah

Yes.  Very true.
Saw this meditation and was instantly struck by it's truth.
And was instantly inspired to think.
And I have my own spin on this of course.
Hey, my blog.  My spin.

If you let go a little, you will get a little piece.
If you let go a lot, you will get a bigger piece.
If you let go completely, you will get it.  The whole thing.

Difficult for a control freak like me.  
Difficult but not impossible.  B. says, "Control is letting go."  
This is a simple statement that takes an incredible amount of strength.  
Difficult but not impossible if you want to get it.  
A piece.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Think the Month Doesn't Matter

Here's the backstory.  Not long before we began planning my wedding my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and they told her... or she told me, or I told myself.  I was never really sure about that one but it doesn't matter what really happened, what matters is what I think happened... they told her, go with your daughter and plan this wedding in case you're not there next year when she gets married.  Suck.  So we did.  But then she was.  And it's 13 years later and my mom is still here.

The novelist Joan Didion is quoted, "I write to find out what I think."  Well I'm writing and here's what I think...and apparently I had so much unresolved thinking about this particular issue that it spilled out of me like a torrent and I've had to go back and do some editing.  Of words that were misspelled in my rush, of words that were more harsh than they really needed to be, of words that were more flying off the handle than helping me to get a grip.

Back to what I think...

I think October is a nice month to celebrate Fall foliage and Veteran's Day and Halloween and Polish American history.  And it's as good a month as any to shine a laser beam of focus on Breast Cancer Awareness...but the month doesn't matter I'm always aware.  Always aware.

I think I'm so glad that the experts finally stopped recommending that young women do monthly self breast exams.  But I'm not happy for the reason you think.  I'm happy because now I can stop lying to my mother about doing them in the first place.  Nope.  Never did one.  Not one.  Hung the cute pink card in my shower about how to do it and never did one.  Thanks, team of doctors for doing the research that lets me off the hook.  Sorry mom, for lying to you...about this. 

I think the term survivor sucks.  If you're the survivor of a train wreck, once the mass of twisted metal has come to a halt and you have walked away from the wreckage, you can safely call yourself a survivor.  It's over.  You made it.  Breast Cancer survival?  Not so much.  It's like this creeper in the shadow that stalks you your entire life...or at least when you "survive" stage 4 breast cancer that's how it is.  You can walk away from the wreckage of surgery, be clean for years and then get the same cancer again.  Or a different type.  How in the hell is that survival?  The only way to be a breast cancer survivor is to die of something else.  I think I'm missing the point of why they call them survivors.  The National Cancer Institute's website states, "a person is considered to be a survivor, from the time of diagnosis until the end of life." I think that makes about as much sense as declaring victory before you fight the war.  Certainly the term survivor is better than victim, but c'mon.  Really?  Those 40,000 women who will die of breast cancer this year...they're survivors?  No.  I don't think so.  I think they're victims.

I think a girl ought to be able to eat yogurt, or buy batteries, or shop for used furniture on craigslist or do any number of ordinary things without having to be stalked by that (sorry, I think I'm angry) fucking pink ribbon.  No, I get it.  Believe me.  Susan Komen's sister has done an extraordinary thing by marketing this cause and raising awareness and stimulating the research and driving the funding.  Extraordinary.  The pink wine and the pink Kitchen Aid mixer and the pink Nike sneakers.  Unprecedented.  But for me, all the pink stuff is tainted now.  I'm aware.  I get it.  It plagues me that my mom is a survivor and sometimes I'd just like to eat my fat free, high protein, double strained Greek yogurt in peace without thinking about prosthesis and surgical drains and tamoxifen and what the hell my father would ever do if he was expected to survive losing his breast cancer survivor of a wife.

I think I'm angry about a lot of this still.

I think it's ok to be angry.

I think October is as good a month as any other month for everyone else to be aware.

I think I'll always be aware.

I think I like pink.  But I liked it before.

I think surviving breast cancer is the middle, not the end.

I think I love my mom and I'm glad she's still here.

I think that's what I think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And then there were three...

How is it possible that you've been here for almost three years already? 

Just the right amount of time. 
                    Not nearly long enough. 

The one I never imagined. 
The one I certainly couldn't imagine being without. 

Littlest one. 
Monkey in the tree.  Wearing a helmet.

We'll celebrate you on your special day.
But you're a little party every single day.


"And suddenly, what I wound up with seems like the only possible choice."  Well of course it does.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Take the Prize.

Stand in the sea of faces waving your hand frantically over your head, "Pick me!  Pick me!"

Enter the contest.  Go ahead.  Run.  Throw.  Bake.  Sing.  Write.  Make your best effort.

Play the most special numbers there are.  Every week.

Put your name in the hat again.  And again.

Buy more raffle tickets than anyone.  Ever.


You must be present to win. 

Present in your life. 

To win.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lentils. With a Side of Guilt.

Monday mornings in our house are stacked up, over-scheduled, frequently chaotic, rarely comfortable, always short on time, long on attitude and can, but only if we let them, set the tone for the entire week.  This week, I didn't let it get to me.  I rose at 6am to meditate (yes, I am becoming one of those people) in a quiet house before anyone else needed anything, waded through the detritus left over from a weekend filled with activities and house guests, met the electricians at the front door in my jammies, showered, woke the kids, served three different breakfasts, sent everyone off to their respective educational venues...blah blah blah...this is not the point I'm trying to make here...

When the dust settled, what I saw stretched out in front of me like a path of endless possibilities paved with DSW coupons and lined with honeycrisp apple trees, was an opportunity.  What I realized was I had a beautiful, newly remodeled kitchen and a whole day ahead of me to spend cooking whatever inspired me.

Now, you must know that culinary inspiration at my house comes mainly in the form of a popular periodical.  I will not apologize for this.  I am not one of those people who can consult the almanac, sweep out to their garden and create something from what grew there that day.  Now, my friend Julie, she's like that, and she posted about a roasted red pepper and corn chowder yesterday where she actually roasted the red peppers herself instead of buying them in that cute, skinny jar.  This is a girl with a garden brimming with culinary inspiration...I fully believe this woman is capable of growing everything from mayonnaise to birthday cake...but I digress.

On this particular Monday I was inspired by a recipe for lentils (an underwhelming legume that I hear is good for me, but I'm not convinced).  My interest piqued by a declaration of spiciness and the addition of onions and tomatoes (a slam dunk favorite in this house), I prepared my list.  Feeling kind of plucky and reminded of the fact that I had ALL day, the plan was to also make whole wheat pitas to accompany our stew (the mother in me was thinking, if the girls won't eat the lentils at least they'll have bread to fill them up.)  

Fast forward through 7 hours of the day, a playdate, a pre-school pick-up, 2 art projects made from leftover lentils, the clean-up of one shoe covered with dog poop, 3 episodes of Go! Diego! Go!, 2 pages of math homework, 1 drill of spelling words and we all found ourselves gathered at the table gazing down at plates of Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew, black quinoa and fresh whole wheat pitas.  The smell was amazing.  The visual appeal was undeniable. 

The first bite was...

Begrudgingly swallowed by the oldest sister, who was clearly unhappy about her meal but knows better than to insult the chef.

Tentatively picked at by the middle bit, who refused to touch any more of the "contaminated" rice and wanted to know if drinking her milk counted as dinner.

Completely rejected by the smallest one in the house, who proceeded to gag and carefully avoid any contact with her plate while inhaling her pita.

And thoroughly enjoyed by the Father and me, who instantly labeled it a "repeat" dish to be added to our collection. The spices were fabulous.  The textures complex and foreign, but wonderful.  Yum.

The meal came to a close with very little drama.  We don't fight about food in our house.  I serve a meal.  One meal.  And that's what's for dinner.  If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it, but there will be no substitutes.  On this night my children ate bread and milk for the evening meal, engaged in polite conversation and brought their mostly full plates to the sink when they were finished...and this is where the side dish comes in.  As I was scraping picked-at, cold, brown food into the sink I was overwhelmed  with the amount of waste, feeling guilty about what I was washing down the sink and it was all made worse by the fact that this exotic masterpiece was entitled:

Ethiopian Lentil Stew.

Ethiopian, as in starving children in Africa.   Ethiopian, as in all of those TV images we were barraged with in the '80s and '90s.  Ugh.  Guilt.  This is one of those unpleasant moments my meditation teacher keeps telling me to try and experience fully.  To really be present in.  Well I was certainly present in this one.  It felt awful and smelled like cloves.  It stirred up thoughts about waste and what I take for granted.  It stung a bit that I stood there and wiped down a gorgeous new sink and counter top when there are so many people losing their homes these days.  I also heaped on a bit of self judgment about sending my kids to bed hungry and subjecting them to wacky food when a grilled cheese might have made them happier.  And then when I got to the very bottom, I started to try and make myself feel better by telling myself I don't take things for granted, and it's good for these girls to be exposed to new foods.  Right?  Right.  A lot of mental junk over a few beans going down the sink.

And that's really all it was.  These days I'm trying to see things for what they are.  Not what I make them into. Simple to say.  Not easy to do.

So what's this all about?  My point?  Part confession about being bound to my recipes.  Part declaration about how exotic I can be on a Monday afternoon.  Part finding a way to post a recipe I thought was delightful without just simply copying the ingredients.  Part admission that my very adventurous eaters DO occasionally summarily reject one of my culinary masterpieces.  Part being very grateful for what I have.  Part writing it down because that makes it more real.

Real.  Yes.  They were really just lentils.  And I'm going to put aside the guilt.

  • 2  teaspoons  canola oil
  • 2  cups  chopped red onion
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 3  tablespoons  tomato paste
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  Berbere spice
  • 3  cups  organic vegetable broth
  • 1  cup  dried small red lentils
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  cup  finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4  cups  hot cooked basmati rice
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in tomato paste and Berbere spice; cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to a simmer.
2. Rinse lentils until cold water; drain. Add lentils to broth mixture; simmer, partially covered, 35 minutes or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve over rice.

Nutritional Information
Fat:3.9g (sat 0.3g,mono 1g,poly 1g)
Domenica Marchetti, Cooking Light, MAY 2010