Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Egg Pizza (commonly referred to as frittata)

We don't have a lot of quick meal possibilities here.  In my effort to create and consume meals made with food, I have somehow exiled all dinners that can be ready in under a half and hour.  This would be fine with a little forethought, but, alas, there is precious lack of that in the summer days. The summer, with its overabundance of fresh food finds me cowering in my kitchen at 4:45 wondering how I can possibly turning all this raw food into dinner in 15 minutes!  Last year it was even worse.  In my exuberance to preserve food for the winter, I would accidentally process all the food and my kids would have to eat mac 'n cheese. 

Now the problem is more that all my food is frozen or dried.  Or still flour.  I buy all my beans dried, which mean they're at least 45 minutes away from being food (with the help of a pressure cooker), or three days away from being food the old fashioned way.  Rice, same--40 minutes. Polenta's a good quick meal...but with what?! I was even given an electric pasta maker and so it's pretty easy to make pasta, but at 4:45, it doesn't seem easy, and again...with what?  I know I could just have some of these "prepared" foods on hand in case of emergencies...but 4:45 happens everyday!  And it's always an emergency.  When I am at the store I think, "I should just buy a can of black beans," and then I'm all, "No! I should get better at making sure I have beans soaking!"  In the end the only ones who suffer are my mal-nourished children, getting scurvy among all this fresh produce. 

Enter "Egg Pizza."  This dish was recently anointed with this creative name by my daughter.  It's really just a frittata.  This has been a staple meal for us for a long time, but it has reached a new status since there is nothing else here a frazzled mom can make in a jiffy (besides peanut butter and jelly--but sometimes my bread is still flour).  My oldest really loves this meal even though she recently started truing down eggs at breakfast time. She says she doesn't like them.  Add potatoes and serve in a triangle wedge and everyone's happy.  The greatest thing is it seems I can fill it with whatever vegetable I want and she will eat it all! She can practically (no, really she can) polish of an entire 8" skillet by herself.  Chard, spinach, green beans, zucchini...whatever there is I throw it in there and it's gone in a minute.  Of course if there aren't potatoes in it the other ingredients get looked at with a bit more scrutiny, but not much. 
Once upon a time, I used to do the "Cook One A Month" thing and had all my meals planned out in typed-up calendars, in the freezer and ready to go.  I haven't been able to do that since I had my second daughter was born.  I made three months worth of meals before she was born. Just when I thought I had the hang of this two kids thing, I realized that I hadn't had to actually cook dinner yet and panicked a little.  Clearly, I haven't fully recovered.

"Egg Pizza for dinner again!"

I will be planning at least a week in advance for the winter, and I will hopefully be sharing that plan here. 

But for now, I trust in the glory and quickness of the Egg Pizza!

Heat 1-3 Tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
Saute potatoes until browned and the veggies, onions (whatever you like) until soft. 
Beat together 6 eggs 
Pour over veggies.
Cook on low for about 5 minutes or until edges look cooked. 
Place in the oven on low broil until the top is slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
Take out and let cool slightly, slice and serve.  This is good hot or cold. 

Of course this dish becomes magical with the addition of any kind of cheese.  We are mostly dairy free over here but feel free to add about a 1/2 cup of whatever makes you smile.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Best Tomato Soup IN THE WORLD!

Well, I haven't had all the tomato soup so maybe I can't know for sure, but this soup is pretty awesome and we have eaten a whole mess load of it in the past month.  I got the inspiration for it here. But we are pretty much dairy-free over here so I had to tweak the recipe a bit. 

About 6 pounds of tomatoes (any tomato will work, but Roma tomatoes will have more meat in them and give you a slightly thicker soup)
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste)
4 large carrots
1 cup cashew cream* (or heavy cream, or light cream)
salt, pepper, herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, or whatever you like.  I just put in an ice cube of pesto from the freezer

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Cut tomatoes in half, trim the stem end and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper cut side down.  Don't worry about peeling them, when they're done roasting the skins will slip right off.  Roast for 30 minutes.  Let cool slightly so you can handle the skins without damaging yourself.  Pull off the skins.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add carrots. Add tomatoes.  cook on a low simmer until carrots are soft. 

Alternately you can skip all the steps after roasting the tomatoes and throw everything in the crock pot and cook on low for 2-4 hours until the carrots are tender.

Use an immersion blender or a blender in batches to puree the soup. 

Stop here if you'd like to freeze the soup.

Add cashew cream (or the cream you're using) and drop in your frozen pesto, if using.  Heat the soup back up slowly.  If you use real cream make extra sure not to let it boil. 


Cashew Cream?

Cashew cream is the best thing in the whole world if you avoid dairy and even if you don't!  I have used it in this soup and in a corn chowder and neither of the soups have that, "this should be cream, but clearly we're dealing with hippies with some sort of dairy-free notion and they refuse to use the good stuff" taste.  Really, it adds something magical to soups.  You make it using raw cashews , which don't have the strong flavor of cashews you're thinking about.  It's thick and creamy and gives the soup a deep flavor. 

This is how you make it:
Measure 2 cups raw whole cashews (pieces tend to dry out) and cover in cool water.  Put bowl in the fridge over night.  Drain the water and put the cashews in a blender and cover with water (about an inch over the cashews).   Blend it until it's smooth.  I have heard the suggestion to strain it if there are any tiny pieces in it your blender couldn't take care of, but I never had that issue and my blender wasn't the best.  Try it!  It's sooo good!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reducing Waste, Going Over the Deep End, or Female Empowerment?

***WARNING: Possible "Too Much Information" Alert!***

My Husband and I have read a fair amount of stories, articles, blogs and biographies about people living sustainably.  Often, when you hear about people living off the grid, making their own cheese, and using a bicycle to power their washing machine, you have a few questions.  What do they do for lights?  What do they eat in February?  How do they mail a letter?  Me?  I am always wondering what the ladies use during their menstrual cycle.  What does this say about me?  I don't know. 

At the very least it says that I was born sometime after the 1800's.  Mass manufactured disposable menstrual products have only been around for about 100 years.  Before that women used natural fibers such as wool, sponges, and moss as tampons.  Ancient Egyptian women used papyrus.  Cotton rags attached by a belt or string were used as well.  (Keep in mind that these would need a belt because we've only been wearing undies for a short while too!)  And, ready?  Lots of women just bled.  Like all over the place, I guess.  There were these cool menstrual aprons that would catch some of the blood but would presumably be there mostly to protect clothing.
This picture came from the Museum of Menstruation. The site's a little quirky, but filled with interesting information.

During world War I ingenious field nurses started making disposable pads out of bandages, and an industry was born.  I guess most pad companies started out in the bandage business.  Since then the industry has grown to the money-making machine we see all around us. Or, at least all around us in the pink and powder-blue isle of the grocery store. 

I'm not going to get into the details about bleach and plastic so close (and in) our sacred parts.  But just know that in using some of these products you have bleach and plastic on and in your sacred parts.  I know many ladies are opting for the all cotton disposable products, but I can't afford to throw that kind of money in the trash (literally).  Not to mention the trash itself.  Well, actually, I will mention it.  The trash itself!!  Good Lord.  I know that I fill about a small plastic shopping bag per month.  Let's do a little math. 

Let's see...I'll probably begin my menopausal adventure around 50...and I began my lovely journey into womanhood at 11....minus 18 months for my two pregnancies...say another18 months for my non-menstrual nursing time...

That makes 432 periods.  Holly Cow!!

At about 1 cubic square foot per month, that means it would only take about 18 women like me to fill a 7.800 cubic ft Olympic sized swimming pool!  
 (I just did all this math by myself, it's not an official statistic, please don't quote me to your friends, I'm just trying to make a point here).

Before I go on, I would like to stress that I don't think there is anything disgusting about menstrual blood.  I don't think it's gross.  It doesn't make me queasy.  I don't wish I didn't get my period.  And I don't intend to tell my daughters it is a curse.  I do, however, think trash is gross.  I also think that it's interesting that nurses and doctors have to put bandages and needles in locked containers marked "bio hazard" but we can just toss tons of blood-soaked plastic and synthetic poly-fill in the trash.  Don't get me wrong, I don't want bathroom trash to have to be picked up by a dude in a haz-mat suit, but maybe we should be thinking a little bit harder about what we do with our bodily waste.

So, for many reasons, (not least of which is to keep up my eco-friendly street cred) I have decided to investigate the merits of reusable cloth pads.  Now wait!  Before you get all cringy and disgusted, hear me out.  I have had this conversation with a couple of people.  Although as a rule I don't "get into it" with people--I'm happy with the way I live my life, and I'm happy with the way you live your life--I do think it's telling for people to be kind of appalled by the idea of using reusable pads that they would then have to clean, but they feel fine letting someone else deal with the very personal trash they create.  Make no mistake someone is dealing with it.  Someone is putting it in the trash truck, someone is dumping it in a land fill, someone is driving the truck that churns the trash into the ground, somewhere an aquifer is being polluted with runoff from that landfill and someone, somewhere, is drinking water that has some of your menstrual trash in it.
I mean, hypothetically speaking, of course. 

I don't mean to sound like an environmental Nazi, really I don't.  I also don't want to let you believe that I don't make any trash.  I'm an American--I make tons of trash.  We recycle everything that can be and try to consume as little as possible, but it's a process for sure.  Nor would I want to give the impression that I think everyone should attempt to live the way I am trying to live.  I firmly believe that the differences in people is what makes the world go 'round.  But, if you find yourself thinking it's gross to deal with the clean up from your own period, it might be worth while to ask what you think is gross about it, and if it's ok to let that grossness go out into the world untended.  Would you keep a pile of your menstrual trash in your own backyard?  No? Because it's in someone's back yard.  I mean, when you throw something "away" it only goes away from you, it's still there somewhere.

There is also the trash form the packaging, the boxes, the trash the factory makes, the oil used to get the products to the factory, the oil used to get the products out of the's all a lot of manufacturing madness.

Without getting too dancing-in-the-moonlight-naked-with-the-Goddess-y, there is also the issue of treating yourself and your cycles with love.  Don't let your eyes roll out of your head, there!  The thought of putting something on my body to catch my flow that will be thrown out makes the whole thing feel like trash and a chore.  But picking out a fabric that looks pretty (I even picked out beautiful pearly-looking snaps) and is soft and comfy feels like caring for myself.  It's a totally different attitude toward the event.  The thought of my daughters making a supply in anticipation of their first period makes me kind of weepy. 

Now let's get practical here.  There's also the money.  It's costs me about $140 a year to keep myself in menstrual products.  That's at least half of the cost of the dance lessons I can't afford for my wee one.  The point is, I could use 140 extra dollars.  So, off I go on my adventure to make my own pads.

I looked all around on  the Internet.  The whole idea made me sort of nervous because I am a heavy bleeder. Lots of iron supplements and nettle/yarrow tea helps a bit, but I was afraid that this sort of environmental friendliness was only for the light weights in the outflow department.  I generally just use the overnight pads all the time.  Serious business. The good thing about making them yourself is that you can make them in the thickness, length, and with the materials best for you and the needs you have throughout the duration of your period.

As for the Materials:

The outer layers are made with flannel, they can be also made with T-shirt material, although I hear that the stretchy knit makes it trickier to sew depending on your experience level.  These materials are soft and absorbent.
The inner layers can be flannel, terry cloth, all cotton batting, hemp, cotton fleece or even microfiber cloth, or a combination of these.  I did think it would be pure genius (and possibly necessary) to use a ShamWow. Right?! But then I realized that I didn't know what the heck that stuff was made with. Then I thought of using chamois, but I thought my eco-friendly pads should probably be vegan too.  You can reduce the cost of these pads even more by using old flannel sheets, shirts or baby blankets, and old towels.  I completely sold out and bought new flannel and terry cloth from the clearance bin at JoAnn Fabrics. 
A water proof layer can also be made with PUL (polyester laminate), ripstop nylon, felted wool, or high quality fleece. But I didn't bother with this.  

How to make your awesome pads!

There are a lot of patterns available on the Internet for free, but in the end I just made my own.  I got some helpful hints for doing this and assembled  them according to this lovely lady's instructions.  I took one of the disposables that were working for me and traced it.  Then I traced it again making the pattern for the outer layers adding 1/2 inch.  One 1/4 for the seem allowance and another1/4 inch for the filling.  Then in the middle third of the pad I added wings.  This was the trickiest part.  I made them the size I thought they should be, but when I tried them on there was way too much fabric so I pinned the wings when it was on (very carefully) so I could see where they should snap.
First I traced the inner layer pattern onto two layers of flannel and two layers of terry cloth and cut them out. 
Then I traced the outer layer pattern (the one with the wings) onto two pieces of flannel and cut them out. 
Then I stacked up my inner layers flannel, terry, terry, flannel, and sewed them to the wrong side of the outer layer.  Then sew it right down the middle to keep it in place.  Then sew a zigzag around the outer edge about 1/4 inch in.
Now take the other outer layer and pin it to the one you've sewed already right side to right side.  Sew around the leaving a 1/4" seem allowance and a 2" opening to turn it right side out. Do this on the straightest place you can find to make it easy to close up.  
Turn it right side out.  Top Stitch close to the edges all the way around.  This should also close up your opening.
You're almost done!

Now find the side of the pad that shows the quilting.  Add a couple more channels using a zigzag stitch on either side of the middle channel.  This will attach the top and the bottom and give you more channels in the pad.
 Just attach the snaps or Velcro and your done!  Attach the snaps according to the instructions that come with whatever device you have.  You can also use the sew-on kind.  I can offer a tip if you get a machine similar to mine.  I had to press the pins through the fabric before the "stapled" it down, this just prevented the pins from going all wonky.
You're done! You're a craft-Goddess-eco-warrior-feminist! You're reclaiming the earth and the sanctity of your moon cycle.  And you've saved some money.  Congratulations! 

I have only had one test run with them, but I do have answers to expected questions and some unanticipated advantages.

They didn't leak!  I was able to check them when I went to the bathroom by lifting up the front and looking underneath.  I once saw a tiny spot of red showing through and knew it was time to switch to another.

They didn't slide around!  I was concerned that they wouldn't stay put seeing that they were only snapped around my undies, but I didn't have any issues with that at all.

They were soooo comfy.  Really they were so nice and soft.  It was a great improvement over the plastic.  And, not to be too graphic, but you know how uncomfortable pads can get in the heat of the summer.

It wasn't tricky to clean them at all!  I just put them in a pot of cold water when I was done using them.  I changed the water a couple of times and them just put them all in the wash when I was done.  I don't use a dryer so I dried them on the line (I did feel a mix of embarrassment and pride at this).  A side note: They worked so well that I thought maybe I wasn't bleeding as much as I usually do. When I dropped them in the water, that immediately dispelled that idea.  The water was deep red within seconds.  Those things hold a lot of flow!

I didn't feel that gushing feeling at all!  Ladies, you know what I'm talking about here.  That feeling like some internal body worker just turned up the faucet and you have to stay still for a minute or so while you wait for your pad to absorb this new flood.  I was really worried about this.  I was sure it would all just slide off.  Not only did they not leak, but the blood was absorbed much faster than it is with regular pads.  I even thought that maybe that type of flow wasn't happening.  But since I only made 6 pads to start with to make sure they worked, I was still supplementing with the rest of my supply of disposable pads.  When I used the disposables I had the dreaded experience a bunch of times.

Odor. There wasn't any.  This I looked up.  I'm not the only one to notice.  Apparently, since the materials are more breathable, odors don't have a chance to build up like they do with disposables.

What would you do if you had to use a tampon?  Well, this came up.  I had to go swimming with my girls during my week.  At first I sewed a tube of flannel and closed it on one end and stuffed it with wool.  I sewed it up and left the rest of the string (I used embroidery floss).  It was like a teeny tiny pillow!  It worked, but when I opened it up (wouldn't you be curious?) I realized that wool doesn't really absorb anything, and the flannel did all the work.  Also, this design would still be basically disposable because the I would feel a little iffy about being sure that the inside were really clean.  The next day I just took a small square of flannel and folded two edges toward the middle, then the other edges toward the middle and then folded it in half and put in in there O.B, style.  This worked great and would allow me to wash it and use it again.  This is what I would do again if I had to, but on the whole I generally prefer pads.

Are you insane? Yes. But only as insane as women have been for hundreds and hundreds of years. 

If you would like to try this out but don't want to make them yourself, you can purchase them.  Here are some links!

And don't forget your crafters!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Future Me And All Her Wiley Ways

 I have had a life-long love affair with oatmeal.  Over the years I have found myself imagining the perfect bowl: the creamy color, the maple syrup pooling around the edges, the fresh fruit piled up on top, perhaps a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, and the steam rising and curling in wisps from the beautiful breakfast. This vision is enough to send me to the store right then.  I gather the ingredients, prepare this artful masterpiece, and sit down to enjoy. Trembling with anticipation I take the first mouthful and remember, once again, that I hate oatmeal.  I’m not a fan of its pasty texture, and its need to be saturated in more sugary stuff than I would normally consume in a week.
Nonetheless, this scenario has occurred a lot of times.  The reason for this is because somewhere along the way I got it in my head that eating oatmeal is in line with the habits of the “Future Me”

Allow me introduce you:
Future Me gets up early, does yoga, makes a cup of herbal tea and gets ready to tuck in to a big bowl of healthy oatmeal.  She reads the paper while she eats and waits in joyful anticipation for her children to arise.  Future Me is patient and orderly.  She wears long earnings and those sweaters with the big loose neck.  (The sweater is probably knitted by her cool friends who spin yarn from their alpacas).  She is lithe with the kind of body for whom jeans will rest hoop-like around her waist.  She has wild black curly hair that is cut just at her chin and makes a neat wedge shape. Future Me is so calm and collected that you never quite know what she’s thinking, but it must be nice because she’s always got a subtle contented smile on her face.  She lives in my head. She has a funky loft up there. She’s always having people over for cake, or hosting garden dinner parties.  She has been with me for as long as I can remember and has made something of a pastime out of stealing my life right form under my nose. 
 Future Me holds all my “if/then's,” she holds all my “should be's.” If I could keep up my own yoga practice, then I would be more patient with the girls....I should be less boisterous, less emotional....If I were thinner then I could accept my body as it is...I should be taking more time to collect myself in the morning....If I had friends who had alpacas then they would make me cool sweaters with big floppy turtle necks...
 We all have some form of a future me, or a future life, or a future place.  Somewhere that’s better than where we are now.  A life that has a little bit more money, a house that is a little bit cleaner, newer, bigger.  A body that’s thinner, more attractive, more muscular, healthier.  A life out there where we can accept ourselves, enjoy ourselves, and appreciate our experiences.  These are all powerful imaginations that, while at times can be motivating for needed change, result more often in us simply missing the life we actually have. How much money do we need to finally be “safe” and satisfied?  How much thinner or stronger must we get before we can love ourselves?  How clean do our homes have to be before we sit and read to ourselves or to our children?  How long are we willing to live in a future when the life we have slips away? 
The idea of living in the moment is certainly nothing new. Masters and profits have been banging on this drum for many thousands of years now. This idea isn't even new to me, in my short life I've come across the suggestion a whole bunch of times. I kind of get it...but not really. I mean, I understand that this moment, this one now, is the only one that is actually happening and the past and future live in my head in their respective lofts. I understand with my head that I should be fully immersed in this moment, but I don't understand exactly how to do it.

 Guess she wanted to be alone.
Actually, the truth is, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it most of the time. Then I had kids. Having children throws so much of our strengths and shortcomings into sharp relief, doesn't it? Well, I realized that while I was envisioning the family life and childhood I wanted them to have, they were occupying themselves while I cleaned the house to get ready for it. Unfortunately, my kids won't be able to enjoy the childhood I have imagined for them.  It really is too bad, because it’s quite idyllic.  They, instead, will have the memories of the childhood they actually had. For instance, even though I want them to cook dinner with me, and imagine that this would be a great experience for all of us, they will remember watching Dora the Explorer while I barricade myself in the kitchen and beg them to give me a minute. Realizing that I can't take them with me into my mind where I'm living with Future Me most of the time, is helping me to see that I'm not really living that future life either, just imaging it while my body goes through the motions on auto pilot. Basically, while I'm living this other life, the one where I wear long earnings and have a clean house, the life I do have gets done without me.
  I want to tell you it's not usually like this...
But, it seems that no matter how much I know this, no matter how many works of philosophy and guidance I read, no matter how many positive reminders I have taped above the light switches of my home, I retreat into my mind where better things are happening. Even when I realize a particular trap, a new one springs up and it takes me a while to realize it's the same trap. Really there's no difference between an if/then and a when/then. But these futures are powerful.  We have it together there and we look great, it’s hard not to get sucked into this fairytale. My future self is so powerful that she has enticed me to repeatedly subject myself to oatmeal.  I imagine if I can imitate certain aspects of this future life I can somehow attain the wholeness of the vision.  Like I can alter my personality, body type and hair at all let alone with a bowl of oatmeal and a 5 am yoga session.  Even it if were possible, how much oatmeal would I have to eat to make me a quiet, contentedly smiling waif with curly hair?! 
I think it would take a lot of oatmeal.
The point isn’t weather or not we can transform our lives to fit the visions we may have for the future, the point is weather or not we can love and live the life we’re really in. The one where we go to a job maybe we don’t like, or have a home we can’t keep tidy, or occasionally loose our patience with those we love.  A life where our body doesn’t fit our ideal or it’s raining or too hot outside.  We may not like it all the time, but it has something over Future Me’s life and that is the fact that it’s real.  You can smell it, taste it and touch it in all its imperfect glory. The present is all we have, denying it is a form of self torture.  I think the cruelest thing I’ve done to myself in my quest to become Future Me has been to totally disregard who I actually am and the life I have.  I mean, future me wouldn’t want me to treat myself that way. She’s probably a Buddhist who meditates for at least an hour everyday (perfectly) and can extend infinite compassion all around herself. I, on the other hand, have subjected myself to all kinds of self torment and it hasn’t all been as benign as a bowl of oatmeal.
About a year or so ago I was grappling with some unhealthy patterns I had been holding onto for a good chunk of my life.  These were scary things to leave behind because leaving them meant something new, and I wasn’t sure what that newness would bring.  It has often been said that people will choose the prison they know over the freedom they don’t know.  Not only was I scared to leave these things behind, but I felt I was mentally and emotionally incapable of doing so.  Needless to say, Future Me didn’t have these problems.  So in typical fashion, I tried to tough love myself over it.  I should be free of these patterns.  If I didn’t behave this way or that my life would be better, etc.   I constantly worried and berated myself, and this went on for a long time, I’m talking years here, and despite my best efforts, I didn’t seem to be able to empower myself this way.  A close friend suggested to me that I just accept that I couldn’t do it now, but know that someday I would.  She said, “Just say to yourself: These patterns are not healthy for me and I would like to be rid of them but right now I don’t have the strength, resources or power to do it.”  I have to admit, that seemed totally lame to me.  Admitting that I couldn’t do it was the same as deciding not to do anything about it, right?
I had failed to see that what my friend was suggesting wasn’t permission, it was simply fact.  The fact was I needed to leave some junk behind and I couldn’t.  That was clear because I hadn’t yet left my junk behind.  So I gave it a shot.  What the heck.  I had been trying this other…let’s call it a technique…for years, why not the wacky idea of accepting reality.  I began to assure myself that when I was ready, I would change.  Let me tell you how much less energy this takes than worrying and berating--a lot less. And then….magically, within months I suddenly had the strength, resources and power to make the changes I needed. 
 I had a moment at the beginning of this new approach where I saw my past self: crippled, scared, and stunted.  And I saw this other lady: me.  She was the real actually possible future me.  No curly hair or quite smile.  Just the me I would be without these other pieces holding me back.  In this moment I was neither of these ladies completely. I was a person holding aspects of my past and the possibility of a different future.  As I stood in my kitchen and watched these two women: one sitting on the stool, hunched over and fearful; the other standing, and watching the other with love and understanding, I could see the value, in a very tangible way, of simply making a small choice in the moment to choose my better self. It was so real and so powerful that I simply stepped between these two visions and chose: this one.
That's all a Future Me is, right? A better self we imagine and wish to be. But then, cleverly, give them a totally different body than we ourselves possess, we outfit them, furnish a home in our heads and put them in the future, where they can remain out of reach while we muddle through our lives wishing we were elsewhere

In my imaginary out of body experience, my better self was right there. She wasn't out of reach; she wasn't dressed in funky clothes that don't exist in my own closet. She didn't have friends with alpacas. She was just me with a different choice in her heart.
 'Cause really, nothing but a baby sits jauntily on these hips. 
This is where living in the moment becomes a little more accessible for me. A life where I'm living in the moment is too hard to imagine, and it goes straight into Future Me's domain bogged down with contingencies like a clean house, more time and a different body. However, a moment where I choose my better self is a little easier to imagine. But I try not imagining it, because that means I'm looking into a future moment and not making the choice for this one here.
 There is a passage in the Tao Te Ching that reads:

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
 Accepting things as they are is an incredible act of compassion.  I would go so far as to say that it’s a radical act of love.  When we are free from the illusion that we can change the present by wishing it were the future, we can make even the most disagreeable present bearable.  Our simple, patient, compassion toward the reality of “what is” makes it so.  When we have accepted that what is happening is happening and we’re here with it, there’s no room for wishing it were different, or berating ourselves.  We have chosen our life over our mind’s idea of our life.  Our breathing life, The life those we love actually participate in. That life where we feel the sun and rain, the life where we taste the garden’s goods, only happens in the present.  Forsaking the present for an imagined future leaves us almost literally life-less. 
I don’t know how to balance this present living with the need to have a retirement fund for the future.  I don’t know how to effect change in my life long term without loosing the moment. (Any pointers on this would be welcome).  But I do know about a choice in a moment to choose my better self.  With this choice on the tip of my heart, I can see the difference between a moment that is being given to the future and one that is being lived.  The moment that’s being lived has sound, I can feel it with my hands, and its color is brilliant.  Zen masters and Yogis seem to be constantly bringing us back to the breath.  Breathing happens in the moment, so it’s a handy reminder.  But so do the tiny sounds, smells and sights of life.  Can you hear birds and car horns, the sound of the wind, the argument your kids are having?  Can you see the individual leaves of a tree, your spouse’s smile, or your check engine light?  Can you feel the mail in your hand when you bring it in from the mail box?  Then more than likely you’re not imagining it.  And when you are actually there it is magnificent, isn’t it?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Looking Ahead

As a person who is chronically jumping from one unfinished job to the next exciting new prospect, the act of looking ahead is always tinged with a bit of guilt and doubt. 

"Is it really time to focus on that upcoming task?"
"What have I left undone?"
"Am I afraid of whatever I'm leaving behind?"
"Will anyone really notice that I have one black and one dark brown crock on, really?"

But the end of summer is all looking ahead for me.  The summer is so exhausting (in a wonderful way, of course) that by the time it comes to its close I am ready and willing.  The fall brings such new cozy and inward-looking adventures, and the change is so clear in its coming, that I can't help but look forward.  It's not like the other seasonal changes that seem to sneak up on you, where you find yourself wondering, "When did it get cold enough to snow? " Or you find yourself walking through a forest that just days before was bleak and desolate, the only sign of green the frosty lichen on the trees, and now it is suddenly bursting with little green shoots of life.  Fall comes charging in, red banners unfurled, blazing in the last heat waves of summer.
"I am coming!" says Fall, "And I'm bringing a mess-load of pumpkins!"
I live in New England.  That's how Fall talks over here. 

This fall is bringing a lot of changes to our household.  But the thing I think I am looking forward to the most is the blessed, beautiful, benevolent Schedule.  Oh my lovely, how I've missed you!  I never thought I'd say those words, but I tell you I have been a little lost without it.  I type it out, put it on the fridge, and follow it's directives like a love-sick slave.  Tell me what to do, tell me what to do, tell me what to do....

No unplanned early vegetables to process and hide away.  No more impromptu sojourns to the beach.  Just wonderful stability. 

Now, it is entirely possible that I am romanticizing this just a little.  The same way, in February, I romanticized the bounty of the harvest.  But for now, before I actually have to obey my Schedule Master, it does seem worth looking forward to.  Predictability, and that mess-load of pumpkins.