An incomplete list

So I’ve been putting this off for a while because I didn’t really know what to include, what to keep out, where to go with it, so here it is in all its rocky road in a waffle cone stream of consciousness glory. It’s a mess, but a tasty one. Grab a few napkins for the drive home.

I gave up trying to be happy about two years ago, which has made me a lot happier. Striving for the sake of striving just meant I wasn’t stopping to notice what I already had. It kept me stuck in dissatisfaction, unable to see my progress, a prisoner to the illusion of perfection just around the bend. I’ve given myself permission to be okay or even not very good at things, so long as I enjoy them. I don’t need to be the best to love something. Miss Middle of the Road is having a mighty fine time lately as a result. I’ve given myself permission to give up on things that I’ve gotten pretty good at, simply because I don’t really enjoy them or because when I stopped to think about it, I realized that they make me miserable in the long-term. Some societal gold sticker wasn’t worth the pain. I don’t need kudos or approval from anyone else about what I do with my time or how I spend my days, where I go, who I go with or how much time I spend there.

I stopped wondering if I was putting too much, too little, the right/wrong kind of effort into friendships and just started doing what I felt like doing and for whom. Treating them well, with honesty and respect, but letting go of the quantity markers.

Similarly, I stopped wondering why certain people seemed to have lost interest in my friendship or what I could do about it. I acknowledged that out of sight sometimes means out of mind – and that I was sometimes just as guilty of it. I didn’t need to work so hard at friendships. Some are daily, some are weekly, some are monthly and some are when I see you, that’s cool. And when I don’t, that’s cool too. And if things fade, things fade. And we’re both still good folks.

I once got an unintentional punch-to-the-gut ‘compliment’ that was actually a fairly damning self-respect wake up call, and it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It reminded me that I deserved better and that I damn well better start expecting better. After a few years of an emotional descent, it was the ice pick that helped me climb up the crevasse I’d slid down, back up to myself.

I have my slip ups, but mostly I’ve stopped caring about what others think of me. Don’t like my style of photo? cool  Think I’m a lazy fuck for not having a regularly scheduled job? no prob  My tweets make you roll your eyes at my simpleness or bring out the online troll in your soul? don’t let the virtual door hit you on the way out  Think my husband is nuts for not blowing a gasket every time I travel without him, even those times I travel with another man? good that i’m not married to you  Think my hobbies are stupid, time-consuming, and self-indulgent? alrighty o  Feel like mocking me or giving me a mini lecture every time I crash my bike, break a bone, toss my cookies post-run on a hot day, or — even better — reeling off the number of people who die swimming in open water every year? please know I’m singing the lalala song in my head the whole time

I don’t care what other people have as possessions, careers, pet projects, pet peeves, vacations or physical appearance. I know what I value and I’m comfortable with what I don’t have. You love the shit out of your perfectly decorated home? I think that’s great. I’m happy just keeping mine clean. You get hard posting your latest training stats on Strava or hitting that next PR? Dim the lights, pour that protein shake into your fanciest glass and get your funk on. Send me the link and I’ll send you a virtual high five (after you’ve washed your hands). Your new job is going to have you drowning in the $’s? Cash money, baby. Next round’s on you.

I’ve gotten real comfy with not being comfortable. I’ve gotten pretty cozy with the whole truth and speaking the truth even when it would be much nicer to ignore, downplay or flip-flop to ensure someone else’s comfort. Jeff and I have had a few not so comfortable conversations the last 18 months, about things we should have brought up decades ago, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Indeed, things are really good, although not always pleasant while we’re in the middle of it.

Nowadays I apologize as needed, full-on apologize, no excuses and without qualification apologize. Hold my mistakes and my misunderstandings outstretched in my own two hands and change my behavior apologize. Huge difference. I’ve always been a little stingy in the genuine apology department. Not proud of that, but it’s true. And when I don’t have anything to apologize for, I don’t.

Likewise, I’ve learned to spot when my Victims-Are-Us frequent-shopper punchcard is itching to come out and when someone else is waving theirs. Sorry, that discount has expired. (Please insert the What are Boundaries and Why are They Important? article of your choice here.)

I’ve gotten to the point (again) where I’m ready to walk from relationships, if and when necessary, by removing from my life those that routinely (or infrequently but significantly) have a negative impact on my life. Life’s too short for shitty friends and selfish lovers. I hope you’re nodding along here, because you know it’s true. By being prepared to walk away, I find that I’m always in the active state of choosing which relationships to sustain, feeding the ones which have a positive impact on both our lives. Some of those relationships aren’t always canyons deep and oceans wide. But if they’re positive, I value them. Sometimes we change people for the better by walking away and shutting the door. I received proof of that this week. I’m going to leave it at that.

No matter how diligently I pursue the things I want, if I do things right I’m still going to die (fingers crossed a good half-century from now) with a long list of things I wish I’d done, things I wish I’d learned, books I wish I’d read, things I wish I’d seen, people I wish I’d gotten to know better. At least I hope I will. I can only do so much; but I’ll do what I can. Unfulfilled dreams don’t need to equal dissatisfaction. I hope I’m trying new things, meeting new people, going new places and holding the people I love and cherish close until my last gasp. Sometimes I’ll fail, sometimes I’ll succeed. That’s how it goes. Will I have anything that could be called a legacy? Pff, hell if I know. If my son, husband, friends and family feel they’ve been loved unconditionally. That’s good enough for me. If I’ve set some good examples and given them a thing or two to emulate or think about along the way, even better.

Time to get some sleep. A new week and all its many tasks will soon be upon me.

 

Simple joys

Driving into south-western Michigan along I-94 is beautiful. Woods, water, cloud dappled blue skies. Man, I’ve missed that landscape. Michigan is also an allergen landmine. My arms started getting small hives on Friday night – welcome, Jamie! – and they’re still present (but no longer red) today one day back in Iowa. They don’t mention that in the Pure Michigan! ad campaign. Regardless, I love seeing that Welcome to Michigan sign stretching across the highway. I feel lucky having grown up in such a beautiful, naturally diverse state.

Ian and my brother, two peas in a pod, love sharing a house and making music together. I’ve never seen either of them laugh or smile so often. What else could a mom/sister ask for? Other than seeing my mom walk up with giant bowls of just picked sweet cherries and blueberries to snack on and a gallon of ice-cold Hudsonville’s Traverse City cherry fudge ice cream on a nearly 100F day, that is? Those came pretty close, too.

I hope your weekend was a good one, as well.

Jamie’s Soapbox

I’d like to take a few minutes during this holiday trip to talk about two things that are near and dear to my heart.

#1 is trust. Trust is big with me. Trust is key. Trust is the cornerstone of all my relationships. I extend it. I expect it.

Sooooooo, if you see my journal, don’t read it. That’s my safe and sacred space. It’s where I figure myself and others out, it’s where I make sense of the world. It’s often ugly and messy and sometimes downright mean, because it’s better that I process those feelings and emotions there than (unfiltered and unconsidered) anywhere else. And if you leave yours out, I will leave it be too. Pinky promise.

There’s been only a handful of times that I’ve either stumbled across someone’s journal unknowingly or knocked against someone else’s and had to return it to roughly the same spot. Even after admitting it (asap), handling them at all has made me feel guilty and sleazy, like I’d committed a serious relationship violation.

If you want to know what someone thinks about XYZ, ask. Maybe they’ll tell you. Maybe not. They get to decide. Just don’t breach that trust, especially when someone is your guest. Your curiosity isn’t justification enough.

#2 is respect. I don’t need to agree with you about certain issues, especially if I don’t live with you. You don’t need to agree with me. We can be respectful to each other without a ton of shared opinions. Maybe the bulk of our (personal, political, religious) values aren’t even in agreement. We can still find some common ground on some things, if we try. Kicking puppies is bad. Cat videos are funny. Littering is unacceptable, so let’s each fill a bag before we leave the beach. Gently washing the dirt off a toddler’s wound is something we can both get behind. Focus on those.

I’m not you. You’re not me. We’re not them. I’ll do me, you do you. They’ll live their own lives thankyouverymuch. Bad mouthing someone’s spouse, job, kid, neighborhood, lifestyle, or housekeeping is uncalled for. Unsolicited advice is unappreciated. Pretty much always. You’re allowed to have your own opinion. You’re also allowed to keep your mouth shut. In fact, nine times out of ten, it’s highly recommended.

Doing, buying, changing, repairing things against someone’s wishes — and bleating the martyr’s “I was just trying to be nice” when the shit hits the fan afterwards —  is just plain not something to do.

Respect the No.

If you ruin something, yes, it’s reasonable to insist on paying for the repair (especially if it would cause a true financial burden for the other).

But — if you just don’t like the color of someone’s door and window trim, it’s not okay to paint them a color you think is better while they’re at work. It’s extra not okay to get pissy when they don’t appreciate your “efforts” upon returning home.

So there you go, my two cents. Enjoy the weekend.

Don’t knock the familiar

It’s surprising to me that so much emphasis is placed on the new, the different, the surprising, the exciting when it’s often the familiar things/people/places that bring me the greatest peace, the deepest joy, the highest happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I like variety and see the value in not spending life at the mercy of the same ol’, same ol’. But what gives me the most comfort but the things and people, the places and meals that I go to time and again, the ones that I know will leave me with a smile, relaxed, or sighing with contentment.

Hot, steamy, sweat-filled day? That’ll be coffee-flavor Hagen Daaz ice cream, straight out of the container or a chocolate double scoop from Java Joes. Great news or terrible? My fingers head straight to a select set of telephone numbers. My feet could walk to Jeff’s office from anywhere in the city without any sight, sound or smell cues. One step off the escalator from Blaak Station and, “I’m home,” will escape my lips. Swiss chard in the CSA box? Check the egg carton because that means quiche. Super easy, always tasty, satisfyingly filling.

  • Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  • In a large bowl, whisk 6 large eggs with some sea salt and pepper. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  • In a non-stick pan, sauté 1 onion (chopped fine) and 1-2 cloves garlic (minced) in a Tablespoon olive oil. When nearly translucent, add 1 bunch chard leaves (chopped small-medium) and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.
  • Add 1 cup grated (medium cheddar, parmesan, or any other mild cheese in the fridge that melts well) and the chard mixture to the eggs. Stir well.
  • Pour into an uncooked pie shell. (You have one of those pre-made and hiding in the freezer already, right??)
  • Cook 30 minutes, or until a sharp knife blade comes out clean.

(Leftovers are also good cold.)

What does one eat after a mini-tri workout?

Anything one wants.

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In this case, a veg-heavy, clean out the fridge, grain bowl prepped beforehand and scarfed down afterwards.

  • farro
  • quinoa
  • steamed kale
  • carrots
  • white radishes
  • sugar snap peas
  • chickpeas
  • avocado
  • halved grape tomatoes

Topped with: 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 clove garlic sliced, sea salt & fresh ground pepper (shaken in jar, straining out the garlic)

Highly recommended accompaniment — sit on deck as the sun goes down and chat with neighbors over drinks about their recent holiday trip.

What messes we make of the inner worlds we trod upon

Having read The Ambassadors back during undergrad — that is to say powered through it fast enough to write a synapses, have a flaccid discussion with equally unimpressed students, and pass a test on it before shoving it even more quickly out of my mind — I finished Henry James’ tale of expectations, deception, relationships and authenticity again today. I didn’t remember even the barest of outlines re-reading it, and for that I’m grateful.

I feel stingy giving it only three stars on Goodreads because it deserves more, but the superfluous nature of every line that is quintessentially James’ style is such a chore to push through for 512 pages that I also can’t in good conscience give it any more. 

There is, however, no way around the fact that this story has snaked its way through my thoughts the entire evening, and that’s saying something.

Asparagus Risotto Cakes (- the Cakes)

Into the second week, the reality that our CSA (community supported agriculture) farm is inevitably going to give us a few things that we have no flipping idea about and/or far more of something than we know what to do with has hit hard. Garlic scapes? Never heard of them. Sorrel? Isn’t that a horse color? Lemon balm? Um yeah, I got nothing.

So a book I often go to first is From Asparagus to Zucchini: A guide to cooking farm-fresh season produce. (Please buy it locally if you can.) It doesn’t have every possible vegetable or herb under the sun, but it’s been quite useful to me over the years. It has an overview of each vegetable, cooking & storage tips, and a page (or two or three) of recipes to try.

I decided to try out Asparagus Risotto Cakes today, except it tasted sooooo good coming off the stove that I decided to cut the recipe short. “We’re eating this for dinner AS IS.”

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I ate my dinner so fast that I decided to get this little prep bowl full of risotto as I was typing things up just to show what it looks like. And then I ate that, too.

If you have some fresh asparagus on hand, I highly recommend you try making it. Just remember, like all risotto recipes, once you get started you can.not.stop.stirring until the meal is done. Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir and then stir some more. Therefore it’s essential that you get everything prepped and ready-to-go beforehand.

Asparagus Risotto Cakes, adapted from p. 19 of the aforementioned book

  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (I used garlic scapes*)
  • 1 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, crushed
  • 3/4 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 6 cups chicken stock, hot (keep an extra 2 cups stock on hand, ready to be warmed, in case the rice looks like it’ll need a bit more liquid)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I had Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Steam asparagus in colander over large pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Rinse in cold water, cut thick stalks in half, chop into small (~1/4″ length) pieces.

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat, add onions and cook until transparent. Add garlic, cook 1 minute longer. Add rice, stir 2 minutes. Add saffron and wine. Simmer hard, stirring, until liquid is reduced by half.

Add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until well absorbed each time. Half way through the stock, add some salt. Continue adding the stock, stirring until all the stock is absorbed and the rice begins to clump. It’ll take longer than usual for risotto.

Add butter, cheese, lemon juice, asparagus, pepper, and more salt if desired. Serve immediately.

*Garlic scapes are ancillary stalks removed as garlic is growing, to direct more energy to the bulb. Your farmer’s market might have them in stock early in the season. They can be used in place of garlic in recipes, salads, sauces, etc. I tossed the scapes in the food processor, chopped them fine, and plan to freeze the extras in small ice cube sized sections for future use.

Cardi(o) J

I messed up my right elbow about a month ago, maybe longer, I can’t remember. My memory of non-impactful things isn’t something I find I can trust much anymore.

Anyway, I lifted too much weight too many times when my fingers, wrists and forearms weren’t strong enough to match the rest of my larger muscle groups’ strength (and no, I’m not a bulky brick, thank you very much) so I injured the tendons at the elbow that connect my lower arm to my upper arm. It’s painful just to pick up a coffee cup, hold a book, find a comfortable position writing or typing. Good timing for the 150,000 words I have coming in for edits soon, no?

In short: no lifting at all for the bulk of the summer and possibly the entire summer and into the fall. This sucks. But unlike last year when I broke the left elbow, the ortho says I can still swim, bike, and run. So just call me Cardi(o) J, because I’m going to be hustling in one form or another from now until I can get back into the gym just to avoid losing my mind.

I’m down 2.5 pounds already this week. Sigh. Muscle takes so long to build but so short a time to lose.