the man who has many answers

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The man who has many answers
is often found
in the theaters of information
where he offers, graciously,
his deep findings.

While the man who has only questions,
to comfort himself, makes music.

:: Mary Oliver ::

confession: living inside the enemy

I’m a horrible disabled person.  This was obvious when I was in a wheelchair for a month after tearing two ligaments in my leg, and then when I was on bed rest for a month for herniated discs in my back. Actually, that second time I was happy as a squirrel because I was on Vicodin and a couple other goodies for the pain, and I totally see why people get addicted to it! ;)  

By “horrible disabled person” I mean that I get very angry towards my body.  I treat it as the enemy and have a lot of hatred for something that can only be controlled so much.  Classic Capricorn: I’m stubborn to a fault, which is a good quality if you’re my friend because I can be eternally faithful and defensive if anyone tears you down, but it’s horrible if I’m betrayed and you get on my bad side. And my body is on my bad side and has been for awhile.

For years I’ve eaten well and exercised almost daily after overcoming some difficult control issues.  I keep a food diary.  I don’t smoke and drink 1-2 glasses of wine a week.  Vegetables is my middle name. But now I have 4 diseases, 2 disorders, 1 syndrome and 1 chronic infection in this imperfect body. And a couple abnormal allergies. I feel trapped, like James Caan in “Misery.” I guess anyone who’s dealt with diseases or handicaps of some kind feels that way. If they could just get out or be an astral body. . .

This year I’ve seen a doctor a week, like an episode of “House” without the sardonic punchlines. In February, I was diagnosed with a few things on the list above. Then it turned out the meds I MUST be on daily (i.e. to literally not go blind) are causing an infection. I don’t talk to friends about medical stuff because it doesn’t change. And I feel like I’m letting people down if I’m still not better because they are rooting for me and there’s some responsibility to heal myself through meditation or herbs (which I have tried). No, not those kind of herbs.

Maybe saying I’m not OK with it and venting here will help my stubbornness transition into healing? How can I get Mother Teresa-like patience? How can I forgive my body, this enemy that doesn’t match my energy level and type-A personality? I used to say “I hope I get better soon” but now I’m just praying for the ability to manage symptoms, not to mention the logistics of working full-time AND being a SAHM (it’s possible–you work weekends and evenings and bring your kid with you).

I finally buckled and added myself to the church prayer list at Michael’s prodding. Several people told me “You always look so energetic, I didn’t know,” so I guess the type-A is coming through loud and clear. I want to do substantive things without faking it, but that’s not an option. I guess it’s better if people know so they can support me?

Most days I focus on the positive. Today is not one of those days. I’m trying to go from anger to acceptance. . .and I feel a little better now. Thanks, Internets.

Easter: the Tejano spirit lives on

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Michael does this hilarious thing when I say something underwhelming, which happens every hour because like a classic extrovert, I talk about EVERYTHING.  When I say, “Yay, these tights don’t have holes in the heel,” or “I think this granola has 10% more fiber than it used to,” Michael holds out one arm in front of him like an opera singer and speak-sings “Let the Bells Ring!” It never fails to reduce me to hysterics and sometimes have to run to the bathroom.  It also makes me shut up a little more when I have a thought that doesn’t need to clutter our home space.

On Easter Sunday bells were actually rung, and I couldn’t keep a straight face in church because that morning had been preceded by a thousand things that didn’t need to be said aloud.  Sunday mornings are chaotic in general, and on Easter we hosted our church’s reception.  We made soy and beet deviled eggs, Michael frantically went to buy more eggs and then picked up hot cross buns at the bakery, I got Lucy ready, applied makeup in the car as usual, went to the pancake breakfast and then set up for the reception while taking Lucy in and out of the nursery and trying to see some of the service.  Needless to say Michael skipped choir to prep stuff with me, but he was singing “Let the bells ring!” a lot because chaotic mornings= more word vomit.

Easter marked our 11th year anniversary.  11 years being with my best friend.  On Good Friday I was still fighting a stomach bug, so we watched Selena.  We’ve been listening to her music for weeks, which brings on dance parties with Lucy (she’s partial to “Dreaming of You.”)  I was a Spanish minor in college and the first month we started dating, I discovered Michael knew ALL of Selena’s songs by memory even though he doesn’t know a lick of Spanish.  Here’s how Friday night went:

Me:  I feel gross still.  Wanna watch “Selena?”  See if it’s as good as we remember?
Michael:  That’d be awesome!
Me:  I feel like we should be doing something Easter-y.  It’s Good Friday.
Michael:  It IS Easter-y.  Selena’s an allegory for Jesus.  She died, but the Tejano spirit lives on.

There you go. ;)  My stomach bug finally faded away—laughter IS the best medicine—and Easter was fabulous.  After church we headed to Point State Park downtown.  The fountains weren’t on but it was still a gorgeous, sunny day with lots of lovers and families lounging on the grass and the stairs by the rivers.  We did Lucy’s Easter basket, read a couple Bible verses to her even though Lucy doesn’t know her butthole from a hole in the ground, blew bubbles and had a fun mini photo-shoot.  She got hyped up on Cadbury eggs and then crashed early, so Michael and I had a long night to ourselves.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter full of good food, family, friends, and lots of joy!

Japanese “deviled” eggs

photo 1Got 15 minutes?  Then you have time to make these faux-deviled eggs for Easter—no mayo, no mixer required, no food poisoning if they get slightly warm.  I’m speaking from experience on that last one…deviled eggs are a staple of potluck picnics in Minnesota, and I ate my share of bad eggs as a child! Deviled eggs and marshmallow jello salad…don’t even get me started.  I’m calling these “deviled” eggs because the cream cheese replaces the mayo and you need a lot less of it, and adding paprika or cayenne pepper to your toppings completes the “deviled” flavor without the goopy texture.photo-79And no, that is totally not a box of pregnancy tests on the counter. . .not at all. ;)  (Makes mental note to clear all shots of incriminating items in future).  When we lived in Japan, I started making the soy version of these eggs, then forgot the recipe and which cookbook it came from and figured out the measurements again.  We served the soy eggs at our last couple parties and a few people asked for the recipe (after looking forlornly at the kitchen and realizing there were no more) so this is for them and anyone else looking to spice up an American standard.  I honestly didn’t think you could put eggs next to candy at a Halloween party and people would be sad the eggs are gone.  That’s how good these are!  The mirin adds some sweetness and the beet and soy flavors really come through. Japanese seasonings are not required but especially for the soy eggs they pair so well.  photo 5Michael & I are hosting the Easter reception at our church this Sunday, so these are the practice batch.  I’d never done the beet eggs before but when I was told to bring cake and cookies and bread to the reception I was like nuh-uh.  Too much gluten!  I think Michael already had 5 halves tonight to “test” them out and is fully in support of the beet ones.  And I think this is a great way for kids to dye eggs fun colors and still make them edible and healthy! You could go crazy with colors. . .I’m thinking a turmeric one would work now too! Happy Easter!!photo-78Ingredients:
Eggs (I did 7)
¼ cup cream cheese
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1½ cups Soy Sauce (or Liquid Aminos or Tamari if you want to go gluten-free)
1 cup mirin OR ¼ cup sugar and ¾ cup white wine
3-4 beets, sliced raw
2 tbs. each dill & chives
Toppings or Fixin’s.  I used: himalayan pink sea salt, black and white sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, yuzu kosho (a citrusy red pepper mixed made with a citrus fruit from southern Japan), and salmon furikake, another Japanese seasoning. Both of those are sometimes at Whole Foods or your local Asian food store).  Use whatever spices you like but I highly recommend citrus + spicy and salty + herbacious flavor combinations.

Directions:
1. Hardboil your eggs. While they are boiling, take out two containers for your dyeing bases. In
each container, pour ½ cup mirin, ½ cup apple cider vinegar and a little bit of water. In your
beet container, toss in the sliced raw beets, and in your soy container, add the soy sauce.
Note: if you are going gluten-free and are using liquid aminos or tamari, your eggs
will be slightly less dark than with the soy).
2. Remove eggs from hot water, place in bowl in fridge while you prepare toppings.
3. Shell eggs and add to containers. stir occasionally to make sure they are well-coated with
color. Let them sit for about 20 mins. (OK, I lied. Prep time is 15 minutes but yes, a little
waiting is involved while things marinate. Put up your feet and eat some chocolate bunnies!)  The longer you let the eggs marinate, the more color they will get, and the color will seep into the egg.  It will also harden the white though, so don’t “pickle” these eggs too much!
4. Remove eggs from containers, pat dry with separate paper towels. The beet color is pretty
vicious so don’t cross-contaminate! Slice in half.
5. Heat up cream cheese in microwave for 20 seconds only
6. Spread cream cheese lightly onto top of each egg half (I used a flat cheese knife so it wouldn’t pierce the yolk), and sprinkle the spices and toppings on cream cheese so they stick. Enjoy!photo 4photo 2

around town: Phipps (Spring is HERE!)

Phipps62Phipps6We can actually say it now that our coats are closeted: spring is here!  It snowed in Pittsburgh this week, then went back up to the 60’s, then 30’s, and now we’re at 60’s again.  I handled Sapporo’s negative temps and Minnesota’s blizzards, but discovered living here that I can’t handle oscillation. Birds are chirping outside my window right now so I’m going to call it: no more snow.  Please for the love of God.

Phipps Conservatory is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh. We were able to enjoy gorgeous flowers and tropical plants year-round. It’s the first place we visited and, like our local diner, I just can’t keep it out of my rotation. Plus it’s a ten-minute drive from our house. I’m sure there are other cool places here, but every time I want to get out of the house this is it. (Lest this sounds like a commercial, I do NOT do promos on this blog. I just really like this place!)  And if you are a fan of Chihuly glass, it has a great collection.  Thank you, Ann Printz, for telling me about Chihuly!Phipps9Phipps43Phipps69Phipps4I love that all the paths accommodate even our large jogging stroller, but it still has that slightly “overgrown” feel you want in a garden.  Nothing feels stiff or too manicured.  The Congo room is one of my favorites—it has two and a half stories of trees and flowers from the Congo, as well as some streams and waterfalls.  It turns out horribly on camera because it’s so massive in person, so I don’t have many pictures of it here.

Lucy and I popped into Phipps this morning and spent awhile in the fern and orchid rooms, which are humid and good for our ailing sinuses! And orchids are such cheerful flowers. Lucy said “wow” and “flower” for the first time (my heart broke into a thousand pieces), and loves to point to the plants. We can usually kill a couple hours here, and mama gets to workout and enjoy a latte & vegan chili at the end. Incidentally, Phipps has some of the best cafe food in town in my opinion, and they harvest a lot of the vegetables from their sustainable, organic gardens. It’s not just a slogan: I’ve seen them do it! I really want to go there for a dinner date with Michael. We have walked around on a date night—which I highly recommend. If there aren’t many people it’s a sneaky place to smooch (try the Congo room) and if you have a membership it’s pretty much free.photo 1Phipps46Phipps40Phipps41My mother-in-law said that Houston doesn’t have anything like Phipps, and I don’t even think NYC does, or at least not that I encountered.  For such a small town, Pittsburgh’s got it going on!  I hope these flowers brighten your day, and if you are still buried by snow or in a flowerless environment, bring the outside in as much as possible!  I killed our orchids but am planning to buy more this week, along with succulents (which I was told you can’t kill but I did when we went on vacation).  Oops.

PS. The trains that went around all the flower exhibits will be back in October, parents. They’ve been removed for the spring flower show. So don’t worry. Although my husband suggested we spray paint “Phuck you, Phipps!” on the side of the building to show our children’s displeasure at their removal :)Phipps75Phipps76Phipps73Phipps60Phipps52Phipps42Phipps37Phippsfam3Phipps45Phipps29Phipps33Phipps14Phipps15Phipps12Phipps35