Responsibility and gratitude versus blame and credit, or how I got here from there and how I intend to keep going

The most difficult choices are often the subtle ones. Pairing the green slacks with a blue or brown button down instead of with the shiny orange tank top for a business meeting is an easy choice, but picking which blue has the best base notes to complement the green is more difficult. This practiced nuance is what I work to achieve in sorting that most difficult wardrobe accessory, confidence.

Confidence comes from making good choices. Making good choices is predicated upon discerning what is in my control and empowering myself to continue functional behaviors and to change what isn’t working.  This is where it gets tricky. Persisitence and insanity (doing the same thing, expecting a different result) can look incredibly similar. Acceptance and defeat also share a similar hue.

When life gives me lemons when I ordered bananas, it’s much easier to do make nothing at all except excuses, after all I ordered bananas. I know I have the ingredients for banana bread, I am craving banana bread, and lemons absolutely do not substitute into my bread recipe. So the lemons rot away while I starve to death dreaming of banana bread cursing the heavens for my lack.


I can begin to look at how to use the lemons. Hey, I have flour and sugar and butter and eggs all available for the banana bread so maybe some scones and lemon curd are in order, and I finally grind the pecans  (I put pecans in my banana bread) to make fresh pecan butter as a perfect complement and thank the universe for my abundance.

How does this look in real life?

I have had many challenges, opportunities to survive. Hey, everybody has challenges, so mine are no bigger than yours, just different. Some of my life challenges have been the kind where people cheer to still have you here, like cancer; some are the kind people inwardly want to blame you for (to protect themselves from realizing it can happen to anyone) like homelessness, poverty, abuse and assault; some are the losses that anyone who has a heart will eventually experience like the death of family members, friends, or relationships.  All of my challenges have come with plenty of opportunity to whine, blame, and wallow in what I didn’t have or couldn’t do.

There is a great little story I will completely mis-tell here as I distill it into what I remember. It is about a boy who dreams each night of two wolves fighting. One wolf represents fear and famine and hopelessness; the other wolf represents love and abundance and persistence. The boy dreams them equally matched over and over again, and he goes to his father and asks which will eventually win, and the father answers that the winner will be the one the boy feeds.

I get that concept, verbally choosing love over fear, that is the easy part; like picking the business blouse instead of the  sports top. Truly implementing it is the tricky part, choosing and change.

What do I actually have the power to change?

To go back to the bananas, some things are obvious, if I only planted Lemon trees the odds of harvesting bananas are really, really slim. A real life example is if I say I want to be healthy and pain free but I do not choose to daily exercise and stretch the muscles  I do have use of, nor do I choose to eat whole, healthy natural foods, then I am planting lemons and seeking bananas.

Also, things we plant do not always grow.  I have core body changes related to health challenges that make balance and certain fine motor and gross motor movements less than reflexive  Sometimes it takes lots of failed attempts to get a desired result. This could be compared to growing bananas where I live. Bananas take lots of moisture and 18 months of no frost to bear fruit; I live in Arizona so bananas are possible although difficult, and as I am still working on actually harvesting zucchini from home grown plants bananas are a loooooooong way off for this gardener.  In time I will master banana growing or I may, in the meantime, develop a real love for lemons which grow pretty easily here and abandon the pursuit of bananas. Here is the subtle part again. Realizing that it is a choice. If I decide to focus on lemons or marigolds or zucchini in my garden, how I tell the story to myself is the difference between responsibility and blame.

If I tell myself and others, “Yea, I grow lemons (or marigolds) because I can’t grow bananas in Arizona, its just too dry.” I am a victim, I will in time resent the harvest and the home. However,  if I say to myself, “You know bananas are taking up too much of my time and I really love lemons so I am going to grow the best lemons I can!” I am empowered and a survivor and glutted on gratitude.

To move back again to real life, surviving survival to again thrive is the toughest challenge of all. Some days it seems like everyone has moved on with their lives and are winning all the races, while I still struggle with running a mile or balancing on a bike.  Those are the days I review my 20 wishes book, reassess where I am today, and recommit myself to who I want to be tomorrow. I am not competing with anyone but me, all I have to do is keep trying, and slowly improve and I am a success.

I have so many dreams still; some involve a healthy pain free body, some involve managing to actually have lasting intimate relationships, some involve formal education, some are about world travel and some just involve feeling safe.  I can tell myself the stories about how and why I hurt, am afraid, isolate, stay home, am not in school; or I can look at the stories and determine where I actually am, what I can change, what I want, and devise the  steps I can take to get there if it is a goal I want to pursue.  Some of these goals are bananas some are lemons. Not all dreams need to be realized, but it is always a choice.

Responsibility and gratitude got me where I am today. I am not dead, in a wheelchair, or homeless and on the streets. I am a nurse, a published author and critic, a mother of amazing sons and surrounded by friends who even if they don’t actually get me most of the time, do at least accept me.  Sometimes life just drops bananas in my lap, today is one of those bananas.

Namaste my friends.


Hands in the air, screaming all the way!

What is  “How to ride a roller coaster,” Alex.

September was one of those amazing, scary and fun roller coasters rides I loved when I was young; October has been more like the flume ride where the bumps are milder and the thrill comes from cold water suddenly splashed in your face. Anyway, very little blogging has occurred.

So the important questions on everyone’s mind (although my friend  informed me when we were hanging out last month that she never reads my blog, nor do the other members of our little group, so actually I guess every one’s minds but the group of my closest friends; and before you judge us not friends anymore, realize every Ya Ya Sisterhood grows in different directions eventually, and this in no way precludes continued friendship) is what am I reading, watching and eating.

‘What I Am Reading” is easiest to answer. I will sheepishly admit (“sheep”ishly because my purchase was completely related to marketing hype) I am half way through JK Rowling’s newest adult novel ” Casual Vacancy”.  Rowling’s ability to deliver well rounded and surprising characters in a much less magical setting (Novel is set in modern England,  but for a few vocabulary changes it could just as easily be set in Connecticut or Arizona)  is the highlight so far, and it is still rating a 4 to 5 but I am holding out for a happy ending. I will keep you posted.

I am also rereading Charles Dicken’s “Nicholas Nickelby”, the entire plot just seemed appropriate in the current economic and political climate and Dicken’s delectable word casseroles never disappoint! With his humorous mix of understatement, grandiosity and verbal seasoning, I  easily laugh at the moral-less and manipulative shenanigans in his books while their character twins infuriate me in the current news.

My spiritual book of the day is the Dalai Lama’s “How to See Yourself as you Truly Are”, it is the right book at the right time. In simple concrete meditations his holiness illustrates the emptiness of enlightenment while proving “nothing” is anything but nihilism.

My cookbook of the day is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking” as I practice even more and new techniques to make my holiday favorites like pumpkin pie deliciously vegan friendly. Nothing to post yet yet in the way of adapted recipes, but soon…

So that is what I am reading…

What am I watching? Well currently I am watching bugs and roadrunners eat my few squash that appeared….*sad sigh* My plants this fall are big and green and healthy with multiple blossoms but few fruit, and those flora that fruited are being eaten by local fauna.This homesteading experiment thingy makes me truly appreciate the work and luck involved in feeding oneself just a century ago.

But, usually here I have a new favorite TV show or lesser known movie that made me incredibly happy and I want to share. However, there just isn’t a single new one that I can justifiably say you “must see!” However an old favorite from the early 1990’s finally made it onto DVD, so my “watch it” suggestion for this blog is “Leaving Normal” which will forever be my favorite “women’s” movie. I also love “Boys on the Side” and “Fried Green Tomatoes” but they are not my favorites because, although in a less dramatic way, both of these movies still echo the Medea Myth glaringly retold in that decade’s critically lauded ‘women’s” film “Thelma and Louise.” The acting is lovely, the story a bit magical and what I love best about “Leaving Normal” is that no woman has to die just because she is strong and just because she doesn’t make pleasing men or satisfying society her first priority. Go watch it, you will love it too, I promise.

And finally, What am I eating? Well that has to be a whole other blog since my writing time is up for the day….but definitely a recipe and appropriate rambling will appear this week.

Namaste my friends…

Swimming steadily versus drowning in busy and noise (oh, and a bean recipe)

My lack of posts this past week has been the direct result of a plethora of positives. Sleep accounts for 50 of the past 308 hours (7 days), leaving me at 252 waking hours; then work as a nurse accounts for 56 of those hours with another 5 added on for driving to and home from said work and delivering my records, which leaves me with 191 hours; 4 hours for my round trip to the VA hospital including visit, 4 hours spent meditating, 8 hours accounted for with training (run/swim/bike), another 15 hours spent this past week emailing or talking to someone I met who has special potential, 8 hours spent with my son and I am still at 152 hours. My little star chart says I did actually accomplish most of my goals last week but seriously, I look at that number “152 hours”. That is actually my “free” time, or that amount of time I get to divide between my wants, needs and desires.  It looks like a lot until its spent. This morning I feel a wee bit frazzled, like there just isn’t enough time to do everything.

This also is how money works out for me, did my budgeting (a weekly Monday morning chore). The money looks like such a large amount until I start looking at too big a picture. Like my time, a certain amount of my money is committed immediately to bills. I have the standard stuff like rent, electricity, trash pickup, water, car insurance, life insurance, cox bill for phone and internet (nope, not TV, just the necessities), medical bills, student loan payment; but they all add to an amount that is less than my take home (I remember many times when they didn’t, grateful they do now, most months anyway).

So why am I always broke and out of time?

I know the answer is budgeting.  I have been working towards making and keeping a budget ever so slowly.  In fact, I sort of had it down there for awhile, but then, just like my journey towards a healthy body and mind, I take three steps forward and two steps back.

It all boils down to discipline and balance. Its easy to make goals, its a whole other thing to say yes to crawling out of bed at 4 AM and making it to the gym to swim, or out the front door to run or bike. Its one thing to decide to be frugal, its quite another to actually sit down, devise a budget, and then say no to the first, second and third off-budget temptations. It does get easier with practice, just as repeated slips make it easier to fully embrace old and broken behaviors. So I am practicing my discipline this morning and writing.

I mentally recommit to the Monday morning budgeting of both my time and my money which means giving writing a prominent place once again. However, since I am actually working on a Biography and a novel as well as this blog, I will be trading off the writing times and may blog more, but only promise one blog a week. I do promise to get back to book and music reviews as well as all this posting of recipes, I have made some incredibly awesome new word friends and well, I know I am too old to even say her name, but have you listened to Amanda Palmer?

All this talk of budgeting leads me to today’s recipe. It is actually more of an instruction manual for those who keep wasting their precious pennies on prepared canned beans when dry beans are the cheapest, tastiest and best-for-planet-Earth protein source in the grocery.

Cooking Dry Legumes (fancy talk for beans)

Pick any bag of dried beans except Kidney beans (due to potential toxins, they are special case, not a beginner bean). I think garbanzos or black beans are great ones to start with, buy organic when possible. Take yourself, a large soup pan (able to hold minimum of 12 cups – 3 quarts), and a light colored plate or breadboard to a table and sit yourself down with the pan to the side. I actually place the cooking on a chair to the right of me and my compost coffee can on the chair to the left of me and  use the Pampered Chef large flexible cutting mat.

Cut open the corner of the bag and pour a handful onto a light colored board, sorting likely looking beans to the right into the pan and all sticks, rocks, and “mummy beans” (just like it sounds, they are dryer, wrinklier and smaller than the rest) to the compost catcher on the left. Once all the beans are sorted fill the pan with water and slosh it around a bit them dump it all into a colander and rinse. Dump back into the soup pan and add 10 cups of water. Here comes the easy part, let them soak for 2 to 10 hours (I put them in at night, so they soak while I am sleeping) and then dump the water on your grass or garden to give your growing things a nutritious treat as well, over the colander of course, and then rinse again.

Not cooking in the soak water helps reduce the fart factor of beginning bean eating. I still rinse them, even though I am a great bean eater because everyone notices if I get lazy and don’t, LOL.

Add 10 more cups of water. For low salt, add 2 tsp. For regular salt add 1 T. I also add two Bay leaves if I have them as they also help counter the gas producing qualities of bean digestion. Bring to boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, and testing 3 or four beans for done-ness. (Or throw it all in your slow cooker and ignore for 6 -7 hours while you go work or play, again test beans for texture when done.)

I eat the first batch warm, spiced with a dash of tobasco and served with warm tortillas or dark bread, then I refrigerate or freeze the rest in 2 cup quantities and replace into any recipe calling for a can of beans at much lower cost to my wallet and the enviroment!