29 December 2011

roots and reality checks

Well there is nothing like finding out that your grandmother—one of the dearest people in your life—has an extensive form of cancer to snap you out of any bullshit sadness you may feel about where you think you are in your life. It is also a big reality check. We discovered that my grandmother has pancreatic cancer two days before Christmas, and it is far enough along to not be able to do anything about it. What a tough couple of days, but somehow spending Christmas day with my parents and grandparents in the hospital made perfect sense. There is a depth to what is happening with my grandmother and grandfather, that is so inspiring and so beautiful, it is hard to put it into words. I am thankful to have witnessed it all of these years. I am thankful to have some of those genetics in me. I am so grateful for all of the time I have already had with "Little Hun", and any time I will have. I am in awe of the strength she has always possessed, even now when faced with this.

The holidays do have a way of bringing you back to your roots. It is hard to be in a room full of your family and not be reminded of who you are, where you have come from, and where you are going. I needed that jolt back to myself, just in time for the start of a new year. It is also difficult to be faced with something as overwhelming and large as the illness of a loved one, and not use any time together to help and love each other.

19 December 2011

Maple-Soy Chex Mix

Holidays are not the same if there are no treats involved, right?! I am not the biggest fan of all of the sweets, but Chex Mix on the other hand, is one of my favorites! I found this recipe this year and have made it a few times already to give to friends and family. The seasoning for it is a good combination of that sweet and savory mix that is hard to beat! Thought I would share in case anyone needed an easy go-to for an upcoming party!

Here is the original link for the recipe. I found that halving it was a more manageable amount to make at one time. It made roughly two pans worth of mix. Here is the slightly altered version that I came up with!

Maple-Soy Snack Mix
6 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups cashews (I used the whole and halves mix)
1 cup almonds
2 cups pretzel sticks
1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 - 1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 275ºF.  In a large bowl, combine the cereal with the nuts and pretzel sticks.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, soy sauce, and curry paste and bring to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the curry paste.  Pour the mixture over the snack mix and toss to coat completely.  Season generously with salt and pepper and spread on 3 large rimmed baking sheets.  Bake for 35 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times and shifting the sheets, until nearly dry and toasted.  Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.  (The snack mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  Recrisp if necessary.)

18 December 2011

little blue ring

my ring 
original image 

I stumbled upon this beautiful little blue ring one day while looking at some blogs, and fell for it so quickly I immediately "pinned" it! The original link for the source of the ring was no where to be found though. Bummer. Since then, I have found myself looking everywhere for this ring, or one similar. Online, at jewelry stores, even considered asking a jeweler if she could make it! And then the day came that I found it. It is so close to the picture that I pinned, I couldn't buy it fast enough. A little Christmas gift to myself!

Turquoise supposedly is a "healing" stone. There is also belief that it provides protection, strength, and good fortune to the wearer. I am fine with any of that being true, can't hurt I suppose! But mainly, I love that it is like a tiny blue moon on my hand. And the reminder to keep searching. Which strangely enough is the motto of 400 Moons:

"We surround ourselves with things that we love.
Objects that speak to our soul.
It may take us a long time to find each object,
but we keep searching until we do.

Even if it takes us many moons.

15 December 2011

"you took my joy, I want it back"

So… it turns out those stages of grief are real, and we cant really bypass them even if we think we have. Even if we think plenty of time has passed. Dammit. Looks like the whole depression stage finally caught up with me and has been lingering around me for the last month or so. I am just glad to realize it hasnt been a mental breakdown like I was beginning to think. What a joy-suckage depression is. Any peace or balance I was feeling, any understanding of a bigger picture or ability to overlook the day-to-day bullshit has been zapped completely by it. I dont think the cold rainy weather has helped, or the upcoming holidays, or stress at work.

All of this has manifested itself in a lot of daily frustrations and being pretty down on myself. It has made me reactionary, hopeless, and angry. There have been a lot of tears too. A lot of indifference and disconnect. The truth is, I am far enough away from all of the loss and complete 180 my life took over the last few years and it is so overwhelming that the only thing I can do is shut down. And while shutting completely down is not really an option for me, I have, for the first time in my life, been giving myself permission to not have to immediately get this figured out and learn some big lesson from it. I have given myself permission to say out loud that it sucks that all of this happened. And to not have to follow that up with BUT, I amgrateful for this, or I have learned this, or I understand this…”. No, I am mad and sad that all of this happened. Took me a long time to get here. BUT, (I know I just said I am not saying but…”) I am also over this grief sucking the joy from my soul, and while I cant make the process change or go faster, I can at least maybe take care of myself in the meantime.

I opened a daily email blast about two weeks ago, which lead me to an article, which lead me to the source for that article that was a book about maintaining an inner peace beyond all of our everyday stressors. Pretty sure I cried when I read further into this book! (I am not kidding about how on the edge of my wall I have been). The book suggests simple shifts in your thinking that can help. For example, before getting out of bed in the morning, state your intention for the day. Such as, I am calm. I am helpful today. To say it in the present tense affirms it. It also sets the tone for you day. I have also found that I can go to those words when a moment arises that might cause me to react negatively. Another exercise is while getting ready for you day, you anticipate moments that are ahead and you release them down the drain. There is another suggestion for when your brain is going a million miles and hour, spend a few minutes writing down your stream of thoughts. When you are done, take a few more minutes to go back and read over the thoughts from an observers perspective. This act can calm your brain and detach you a bit from any crazy thinking. There is a practice of singing "You Are My Sunshine" to yourself when you are at odds with a loved one. The idea is that it will bring you back to a reality that life is short and you should make the most of moments with your loved one while you can. That realization helps you put small arguments into perspective and let it go much more easily. 

I know I am not the only one who has ever dealt with anything like this, and I guess that is why I am sharing it on this blog. Of course I wish I were writing some beautiful take on Christmas and the holidays and all of the joys that they bring. And sure, I have enjoyed time with my closest friends, and I love the lights of my tree, and I cant wait to spend a long week in MS with some of the most important people in my life. Believe it or not, I have been listening to Christmas songs since December 1 and have been excited for the holidays! But the reality is, no matter if it is a holiday or any regular old day, we are all dealing with things that may not be ideal. Or that we wish we could change, and we cant just yet. And there are things around every corner, that if we allow them, will take our joy. I dont know about you, but when you are hanging on to any last thread of joy that you may have in your life, you cling pretty tight and find a way to get it back. I hope these little mantras and exercises actually will help in the long run. I hope that anyone else reading this blog might take something from it too. That "You Are My Sunshine" technique might actually come in handy over the next few weeks as we all cram too many loved ones into a short amount of time.

The title of this blog is taken from a Lucinda Williams song that has been running through my head. "You got no right to take my joy, I want it back. You got no right to take my joy, I want it back. You took my joy, I want it back. You took my joy, I want it back..." I have inadvertently turned this into a bit of a "mantra" if you will. It may not be envisioning worries going down a drain, but it sure does the trick in reminding me I am finally angry enough at the grief and sadness and stress and anything that else that does get in my way each day to keep me from the joy I am deserving of. Whatever works, right?!
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