Tuesday, November 8, 2011

evolution

This morning I sat down and read this article about when bloggers disappear. I have thought often about my little blog orphan here, and this article gave me the kick in the pants I needed to come back and check in.

The truth is, over a year ago when the boys turned two, I fell. The load I'd been carrying tumbled out of my grasp, and things simply became bad. I was depressed, angry, and unable to reach out for the things I would normally do to support myself, because I was in financially dire straights. I was embarrassed, and frankly, I felt no ability to account for my days, my choices, or even my thoughts. Ah, depression, my ugly old friend. I tried a few times to give myself prompts and other kinds of inspiration, but this particular story of hope and accomplishment and dreams realized just felt over.

It's funny that my last post was in April... as it turns out, it was the dark before the dawn. I met someone, and we quickly joined our forces together, and the tide of living life, raising kids, and forming a whole new parenting unit - consisting of me, my sister, and now Ted - swept us away. To add to that monumental change, we also had to move house, Max and Shoghi started school, Shoghi's evaluations for sensory processing disorder/ ADHD/ autism continued, Ted moved in with us, and if that all wasn't enough, last month my brother suffered a catastrophic injury to his heart, and after almost three weeks of being by his side in the cardiothoracic ICU, he died. Thirty-four years old. My brother. Dead. It's still unbelievable.

So, there's the catch-up. This whole arc of change simply paralyzed me and swept my voice away.

Now 1+2 as a title doesn't seem right anymore. We've gone from 3 to 5, we have such a huge community of friends, we now live in a co-housing community, and a myriad of other things are different. Finding Ted, and really finding so much of myself before him, propelled me into a new level of clarity about my path - and I am learning that living in integrity with my true wants, talents, and spirit is actually possible. In that spirit, I have started writing a new blog: a certainty of place. Now that I've touched down here again and made peace with the changes that came, maybe I'll come here to write more specifically about parenting, twins, household.... but I think we'll have to just see what comes.

For now, we can meet here and on certainty, and I hope you'll fill me in on your own changes and stories. I'd love to reconnect.

links:
my brother's facebook page, supporting simon
my sister's blog: lifecrafted

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

recipe : chinese polenta


chinese polenta, locally called "midoufu"

When I was living in China in 2000-2002, I had the extraordinary experience of spending quite a lot of time in rural Sichuan. I came to know a bit about farming life in this small and isolated part of the world, and had the priveledge of having my life intertwine for nearly a decade with one family there. This week, a sudden burst of culinary inspiration took hold, and I was compelled to try my hand at one of the farm-style meals we often enjoyed while in the Sichuan countryside. I am by no means an expert in Chinese food, but in my many years living in both Northern and Southwest China, I never saw this dish, featuring polenta made from rice and corn flours, made elsewhere. Who knew that Chinese people even ate polenta?!? I was thrilled to find that I could make it successfully, and so by request, I share this rough recipe here. Let me know how it goes for you! farm-style chinese rice & corn polenta 1/2 c fine cornmeal 1 1/2 c rice flour, plus 1 c extra 1 1/2t sea salt 3 c boiling water* method 1. Bring water to a boil, and set next to stovetop work area. 2. Combine rice flour, corn meal, and salt in a deep skillet or sauce pan. Set heat to medium-high. 3. Add water to combine all ingredients. Mixture will be sticky and the consistency of thick oatmeal. If you add too much water, simply add some more cornmeal or rice flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until well-combined and completely heated through. 4. At this time, and when mixture is thicker and forming a sticky ball, turn onto a wooden cutting board well-floured with rice flour. Divide into 3 or 4 balls, and work each ball with your hands, adding rice flour until you are able to form a log that is no longer sticky, but not dry. You just have to play with it. If it's too sticky, it will be too challenging to cut. turning your polenta into a farm-style meal, or... bring on the bacon Now it's time to try this dish Chinese-style. The simplicity of the flavors will probably come as a surprise, but like farm-style meals in the US, Chinese farm food is utterly simple and delicious. First, fry up some bacon... I'm thinking about a pound. When the bacon is crisp, drain on paper towels, and remove about half of the fat from the skillet, leaving enough to well-coat the bottom of the skillet (maybe 2T?). When the bacon is cool, chop roughly into bite-sized pieces. Next, wash and roughly chop about 1/2 c fresh cilantro (or spinach). Set aside. Then cut the polenta using a piece of string - see the video below. Simply wrap the string around the log of polenta, and pull the two tails, causing the string to slice the polenta. This is the easiest way to cut it and retain the circular shape of each slice. Using a knife will flatten the pieces, and you'll have to clean the knife every couple of slices. Each piece should be about 1/4" thick.


video

Then, simply fry the polenta in the bacon fat. When the pieces are crispy (about 3-minutes on each side, cooked on medium to medium-high heat), simply toss with the bacon and cilantro. Serve hot and watch it disappear.
chinese polenta with sausage & spinach


Folks around my table don't care for cilantro, so I used spinach instead, and the second time I made this, we used bulk Italian sausage instead of bacon, olive oil seasoned with about 1t salt (added to the hot oil), and included the spinach. I can imagine this dish served Italian-style, with a variety of herb seasoning styles (fresh basil? hello, wonderful!). If you diverge and try it differently, please do share!

*note: I didn't measure the water as I made the polenta. I boiled probably 2.5 or 3 cups and used most of what I boiled.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

30 days: hope to do

5/30 - something you hope to do in your life



It's been on my wish list for a long time, now. I don't know when, or how, but it is a clear and present longing, and I hope it gets fulfilled in the next 5 years:

I would like to live on the beach for two years while the boys are young.

I want a door that opens to the beach, to experience beach-front weather, to watch the tide rise and fall, and hear the waves from my bed. I want to frequent tide pools and make friends with seagulls, to find beach sand in the boys beds and rinse it from their hair. I want to make our own curriculum, follow the rhythm of the days, and I want to write a book about it.

******

Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 days: forgiveness of others

4/30. something you have to forgive someone for.



“The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” A Course in Miracles

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness for over a week now. The dimensions of this practice seem so great – not only can it be an act of self-healing, but it seems like an act of creation, expansion, and allowing. Forgiveness as a force for social change… for building unity versus destruction. It requires a selfless kind of trust, a suppression of the ego, and seems to me the ultimate statement of optimism – a communication of allowing between the forgiver and the Force of creation. It is a statement of equality with others – a recognition that we are all imperfect.

It’s been a powerful mediation just to think about what we offer in service to humanity when we choose forgiveness over resentment. In fact, this meditation has plunged me into the idea of forgiveness so deeply that I wonder at its vastness. Are there hints of wrongs needed to be consciously forgiven that drag on us throughout our lives, blocking us from forward motion? Do I need to be more reflective about resentments I might be unconsciously fostering?

I don’t feel like I hold on to a lot of blaming thoughts. Like everyone, I have been hurt by others in my life; the deepest of those hurts took me years to overcome, and through that path of reflection, sacrifice, and deliberate work, I learned that forgiveness is really only the first step. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean the pain is gone – it doesn’t lessen the impact of the hurt caused by whatever the act happened to be.

I’m sure there are many acts of forgiveness waiting for action within my mind and heart. Forgiveness for insensitivities of others, for assumptions made and expectations levied, forgiveness for misunderstood intents and traffic behavior, forgiveness to our leaders, forgiveness for systems and institutions that direct our lives but were not built on a foundation of justice, forgiveness to our Creator for obstacles and pain seemingly placed in my path. .. the list is long, isn’t it?

‘Abdu’l-Baha counseled people to “see with the eye of forgiveness,” and practitioners of mindfulness practice “Teflon mind.” Rather than out people or situations that need my attention in this post, I’m going to take this day of truth as a lesson to myself. A day that lasts longer than a day, and becomes a practice. I’ll loosen the energetic grip of shallow (and deep) resentments and begin to consciously forgive – I’ll breathe more and swear less, pause and give space before rushing to a judgment. I’ll think of my sons and the forgivenesses I pray they will extend to me, and use that wish as a model for myself.

Come, come, whoever you are
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come
~Rumi


******

Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 days: self forgiveness

Something you have to forgive yourself for.

2002. Chengdu, Sichuan, China.

2002. Rural Sichuan, China. Rice Harvest.


OK, I'm already struggling with this a bit. I'm not too into public self-recrimination. I was raised to have as one of my core values that we speak directly with our Creator, and so do not offer confession to other people. It does defy some of my blogging, but I think processing is different from confessing.

I guess Day One was so obvious to me - this thing I really find terribly uncomfortable about being myself on a daily basis. I feel largely NOT in control of it. But now... something I have to forgive myself for? It's such a large response, so laden with history, and hopes lost, disappointments and shame. Put this in a blog post?


2006. Rural Sichuan. My father and mother-in-law.

There's something you might not realize when you first get married. In fact, you may never know it with great consciousness unless you find yourself at the end of that marriage; that is, when you marry someone, it is a bond of much more than two individuals. When the marriage ends, there is a great deal more lost than the already hugely significant relationship of those two people.

When D and I met in 2000, we were in his homeland of China. We lived there for two years before coming to the US - and actually, we never intended to stay here for as long as we did. While we were living in China, I grew attached to his parents, his sisters, and especially their children. There are three gorgeous children I met when they were wee things, and I will never see them again. They called me "Niang-Niang" - auntie - they trusted me, and I love them. They are lost to me. D's parents - I'm certain that both he and I ended up being a disappointment to them. Not only for the grandchildren I failed to bear while we were married, but for our weakness - our inability to weather the challenges of life and marriage as a unit.

2002, with my sisters-in-law, my nephew and niece.

2006, with my beautiful niece Ting-ting -
the same critter who is pouting something fierce in the first photo.


Certainly the dissolution of a marriage is not the fault of one person. Our marriage's failure is not something I masterminded. I am sad for mistakes I made, but I am wise enough, and take myself account often enough, to understand that these mistakes were unintentional, and were made trying to do the right thing. Who really cares who's fault it was anyway? But I did fail, and we did lose the family we tried to create, and to that whole family that was once mine... it is for those things that I need to find self-forgiveness. Should I do more to remain a part of these children's lives? I don't feel like I really can.

Thinking about it, though, I'm not sure that it's forgiveness I am needing, as much as time to heal from the loss. Such a sadness. The life I have since created is the one I always wanted, so it's not often I open the grief of what broke along the way.


***



Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.

Friday, October 15, 2010

30 days: love

The truth for Day 2 is something you love about yourself.

Maybe it's because I'm, well, OLD, but this one comes easily, too. If there's one thing I love about being me, it's the way my creative mind works. I guess this is probably the same for all of us - there's got to just be something in each of us that drives our individual forms of creativity and registers as pleasurable in our brains. For me, though, that spark is ignited in the form of making.

I've been a maker-of-things since I was little. I remember well begging scraps of polyester from the bolts in my grandparents garage, cutting out circles, and making poodle-style skirts for my dolls. Paper dolls, embroidered pillows, ornaments, weaving... I'd make things for my younger siblings, friends, and parents.

My pursuit of making isn't limited to a single medium - I'm just as happy plunging my hands into wet clay or a vat of paper-making material as I am sewing bits of fabric into a quilt. I work contentedly with xacto blades and silk screen presses. I love the thinking aspect of it - guesswork over measurements, moment-by-moment evolution over planning. It's how I create the tangible, and it's also how I have lived my life.

This style of make-and-do also makes me something of a jack of all trades, which has both up and down sides. It's made it challenging for me to focus on a single discipline professionally, since what I love most about work is the learning. I have been equally engaged as an ESL teacher and a marketing director. In college, I loved my chosen field of international development, but wondered if it wouldn't be better to study psychology, or English, or art.

At this point in my life, I am facing yet another professional rebirth - going back to work after a 3-year absence. I'm nearly 40 and have no defined career. No 401k, no retirement savings... and it seems, now that I have two children, that it's probably time to knuckle down and settle on something.

I have postponed my application to a MA in teaching ESL for over a year - a course of study I could do easily but without much inspiration. Now I have found the program of my dreams, and like my long process of becoming a mother, it has led me to examine not just the what-I-can-do of life, but the what-I-long-to-do. It's a risk, but I'm ready to jump off the cliff once and for all. I am applying for an MFA - it gives my stomach a little tug every time I think it - a Masters of Fine Arts. Daring, isn't it, to say this is the thing that makes me special, and then go pursue it with every last shred of energy and resource we have?

This Friday, I am taking another step in the direction of LIVE WHAT YOU LOVE - I'm meeting with someone from the grad school I am going to attend. In the midst of the tremors of insecurity that are plaguing our daily lives right now, this is my light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the risks involved in pursuing motherhood while I was (am) single, pursuing a career in the creative arts seem daunting, but honestly, it's the only thing that feels right.

30 days: hate


Since Korin and Miriam are posting on this, I guess I'll jump in, too.... though you all know that "30 days of truth" will more likely be 30 posts separated by days in between...

Day 1: something i hate about myself

It's easy for me to pinpoint the thing I most hate about myself. It's my core point of self-loathing. It's the issue that keeps me up at night, mind spinning, unable to take a deep breath and calm myself. Everything else, I can accept. Things I don't adore about myself, I can overlook, forgive, and sometimes even embrace. But this one... it's stubborn, unyielding, and has a power over me that I have not yet found a way to counter.

It is: procrastination.

If there were a prescription medication for it, a surgery, or some other miracle cure, I would take it. It's a handicap that I am rarely able to overcome.


I can't say much more about it without hurling abuses at myself, so we'll leave it at that.