21 December 2010

Palm Springs

Jacob and I went to Palm Springs this last weekend.  The desert was breathtaking, strange, and weird.  We were surrounded by senior citizens, locals, and L.A. hipsters in love with all things midcentury.  We went hiking in Taquitz Canyon and it was gorgeous.

Jacob tried on hats.

We ate dessert.

We hung out by the pool.

And we played with dinosaurs.

13 December 2010

2nd week of December

This past week was so full of lovely people and new experiences.  It taught me that good people are always worth making time for and that trying new things is exhilirating.  And that sometimes, a packed schedule is an awesome thing.

- met up with my central Oregon pals Melinda and Jeff and had one big Korean night!
- discovered a fabulous korean bbq place (Great service, great meat!) in Garden Grove and inducted Jeff, a first-timer into the joys of korean bbq
- went to a Korean cafe
- then capped off the night with Ding Dong Dang Noraebang--Korean karaoke!
   sang: What a girl wants; Creep by TLC; A Whole New World; Don't Speak by No Doubt; Hey Jude...

- joined a knitting group and learned to cable knit in 10 minutes after years of being intimidated and am working on this burberry inspired cowl neck scarf pattern

- woke up at 5am on Saturday morning to go shooting with my friend Jan at Crystal Cove State Park.  There was so much mist it was amazing!  We finally left the park at 8:20am and it felt like we had only been there for 15 minutes.  What a blast.  We had breakfast at Zinc Cafe in Corona Del Mar.

- attended my friend's daughter's 1 year old birthday and drooled over the cute girl.

- studied at Portfolio Coffeehouse in Long Beach--love that place.

- got confirmed in the Episcopal Church Sunday.  I didn't think anything of it.  It just seemed like the thing to do since I like being Episcopalian.  In fact, I had zero emotions until the music started playing and we had to line up to receive a blessing and POW, the tears hit me and I had to work really hard to keep those babies back!  It turned out to be the biggest surprise of the week in how unexpectedly meaningful it was.

- and then more knitting.  I've become obsessed.

09 December 2010

Thursday musings

I read this article this morning about vegan sister entrepreneurs and was struck by this quote:
"She started to study for the LSAT and she became a raging [witch], so we realized she was on the wrong path," says Heather in the same chipper voice she uses to dish out nutritional advice in the cooking video.
That one hits home!  Do you know I studied for the LSATs this past summer?  I didn't become a raging witch but I did become uber competitive, bored, and frustrated with all the time I had to put into something that I didn't care about.  After 10 weeks of intensive study plus full time work and all my other side projects, I experienced burnout.  And somehow, it just didn't seem worth it.

How can I pay attention when I become a "raging witch" or unhappy and remember that there is more to life and choose the path that gives me joy and life?  That, dear readers, is the challenge when you've been brought up to have intense willpower and just push through anything and everything to reach your goal. 

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life
I've started to read Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris.  It was recommended to me by my friend Karen, an exceptional friend I met at the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings.  Karen is smart, compassionate, gutsy, sexy, sensual and spiritual.  What a combo right?  Karen's vocational counselor recommended the book to her and as she read it over the course of 2 months, it changed her life.  She started making the bed everyday (even with the "10 decorative pillows" that she bemoans yet loves) and being faithful to all the little daily tasks that adds up to living a life of self-respect and love.

Acedia in part means depression but it's also a lot more.  Originally, a term used to describe the afflictions monks felt in the endless cycle of monastic life, acedia also includes apathy, despair, and ennui.  You'll have to read the book to plumb its debts as Kathleen spends the entire book trying to describe this ancient word that has no English equivalent.  Acedia also looks like feeling so overwhelmed by the day to day tasks required of us stretching into the future that we disconnect from the present and stop caring enough to do the repetitive tasks that we need to do like taking showers, cleaning our home, washing the dishes, etc.  With acedia, nothing really seems worth the effort because the cerebral world is superior.

 Since starting the book, I've noticed a greater awareness and shift in my psyche.  I'm washing the dishes more and I even went to the gym yesterday and had a fantastic workout.  It's often been a difficult journey for me to be happy here in Orange County surrounded by horribly drab architecture and sleepy suburban life but now I can see how there's a host of little things I can do to make the most of the situation instead of wishing for the big things like moving asap.

So these are my thursday thoughts.  hope your day is going well.  xoxo.

01 December 2010

The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong

I hope you've all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Mine included seeing a dear long-distance friend and her brother last minute and a snowy cabin retreat with two other couples in Big Bear.  It was one of those weekends that restore you and by Monday when you have to be back at work, you feel like a new person and you wonder what happened and how and when you try and trace it back, the line gets quickly lost in the beautiful friendships and books that steeped your weekend.  And somehow it doesn't matter how it happened.  It just did.  And you're grateful.

For Thanksgiving, we had dinner at my parents' house as usual and I made a couple of dishes that were a first for me--bourbon pecan pie and butternut squash and cranberry farro salad.  I've been curious about farro for over a year now because I kept seeing it pop up in food blogs but had no idea what the raw form looked like and where to buy it.  I was able to guess correctly at my amazing local Persian supermarket, Wholesome Choice, that packages of Unspelted Wheat were indeed farro.  Farro is chewy and moist and makes a subtle pop in your mouth when you bite down on the grains.

It's also been a pleasure to get feedback on the Chickpea Tomato Stew post and to hear that it has given my readers rapturous kitchen pleasure.  Getting that kind of feedback almost makes me want to be a dedicated food blogger. I can see how bringing pleasure into people's lives with your recipes can really be gratifying and delightful.

But back to the title at hand: Karen Armstrong's memoir, The Spiral Staircase.  Last week, a jazz musician that I play with mentioned that he was reading the book, and I became immediately intrigued.  An ex-nun losing God, discovering she has epilepsy, finding a career as a writer, and writing about religion?  Come to mama.

I checked out the book at my local library and took it with me to Big Bear where it wasn't until the second day that I cracked it open and several pages later, I knew this book would change my life.  I was trying to tell J. why I was astonished by this book, and I kept saying things like, "It's as if she can describe my thought processes.  Her ability to articulate her loss of faith, her traumatic experiences with religion, the mental toll, the psychological aftermath--I feel as if I have found a kindred spirit, someone who understands what I've gone through and can find the exact words to describe it spot on."  J. nodded and said, "She's your interlocutor."

I won't go into all the details of the book and will leave that for you to experience if you choose.  But I wanted to share, really for my own sake, what this book gave me.

Courage:  I have been very well aware that for the last couple of months I have been living in the grips of fear and terror alternating with despair.  It sounds so dramatic I know but I was finding it very hard to have hope about my future and as my spiritual director would say, "You've been experiencing a lot of desolation."  My director said that intense desolation comes when you're trying to move forward in your life to something good and undergoing a transitional point.  My dear friend Andrea put it another way, "It gets really hard before it gets really good."  As I read The Spiral Staircase, I found my fears replaced with courage and strength, and I received the will to live and move forward. 

The conviction to make my own path: Karen Armstrong ascertains through not fitting in at the convent and not fitting in with secular life that really, she's not going to fit in anywhere and had better stop trying to conform her life to one path.  She decides that the only way is forward and it's going to be a completely different path from anyone else, and she might as well accept that.  I hadn't quite gotten to that point.  I was still mourning not having a normal predictable life.  And now I'm not.  Every morning, I think, I must make my own path, and this fills me with deep gratitude and courage.  It is liberating.

Self-acceptance and love: Self-acceptance is an ongoing process and it was incredibly refreshing to read Karen's no-nonsense British style of accepting what is and what isn't.  She accepted her weaknesses, her dashed dreams, her likes and dislikes, and her intolerance of authoritarian control.  She accepted that as horrible as her experience in the convent had been, it had changed her and shaped her and she needed to accept that it had made her who she was at the present.  I feel invited to accept all of my quirks and strong feelings and weaknesses instead of wondering if I should change or if something is wrong with me.  The wisdom of age is that you have the perspective to see that in all due time, grace and the needed changes do come but it will never be through coercion or because you're supposed to.

It's been a long time since a book has given something back to me, and I'm looking forward to plunging into more reading, finding more interlocutors, and living a more courageous life.