Grain Free/Dairy Free Recipe: Eating Out

So this isn’t a recipe in the traditional sense.  This is more a recipe for success!

When chosing to omit items from your diet for whatever reason, the most daunting adventure is when you head out the door to eat in a public space. I have some tips on how to navigate this and to help you prepare. I’m going to pull up an easy, medium, and hard menu and show how I navigate through the menus.

The other day, I spent a glorious day in the college town of Columbia, MO with one of the best women in existence: Nicole.  We have been friends for almost 20 years and have a type of: put down, dust off, pick up where you left, kind of relationship.  For the last few years we’ve scheduled road trips in order to ensure we get the proper amount of time for our meandering, heart-filled conversations about life, love, various nicknames for vagina, and of course we talk about our fur babies…. a lot. I am more comfortable in my food choices right now, and wasn’t in the least worried about what I was going to eat.  I was going to find at least one thing I can at least modify in almost any restaurant, so I wasn’t stressed.  My lovely friend seemed more focused on making sure I was happy and had nourishment.  She’s sweet like that.  And she hates being called sweet.  So that’s why I make sure to call her sweet whenever the opportunity arises! #goodfriend

me and nicole

What to do in a small college town?  What to do when the frats and sororities have invited their mothers into town for a “Mother’s Weekend?” PEOPLE WATCH!  Oh, the glorious people watching we had the other day.  Couple this with the first real spring like weekend weather, the sun cascading down through the trees, open windows and cafe tables, young girls wearing shorts and skirts entirely too short for humans to wear while their mothers followed with tsks and head shakes (or matching rompers… yes, I saw this). It was a wonderful day of watching people go by.  We shopped.  We visited Nicole’s friend who has a beautiful pottery and sculpture studio nearby. But mostly, we ate and watched people, and were appropriately catty and hilarious, but we ate.

We ate at 3 different restaurants in 5 hours.  Fact.

When one decides to change their diet and incorporate different foods, or to exclude other foods the biggest hurdle is reading a menu.

My first tip: WHEN YOU CAN, BE PREPARED.  Most of the time, you will know where you are going to meet people.  Look up the menu. Read up and research the items in the menu.  Look for hints that dairy may be lurking in a sauce or dressing.  Know that “gluten-free” doesn’t mean grain-free and where there is no gluten, there is usually rice or corn. Legumes show up in all kinds of places where you wouldn’t think twice.  When you can plan in advance, you can create three or more options and have them in your back pocket so that when you arrive you are prepared and ready to order what fits your choices.

Now Nicole and I are notorious planners.  Do we print out google map directions to every road trip we take together?  Do I print out hotel reservations and our tickets to the concerts we attend?  Even though we both have smarty-smart phone and this is unnecessary- this is who we are.  We plan. We print. We have objectives.  We have goals.  This trip was a test in itself.  We were letting go, not making concrete plans, not having real objectives except one thing: to see the band Tennis.  But even that we kept loose chosing to forgo the opening band in order to eat at a restaurant that was recommended to us.  We even decided that if we didn’t like Tennis that we had no qualms with turning around and leaving.  (That was impossible, because Tennis was amazing and I cannot wait for them to come to STL! So good!  Spotify that shit- it’s retro and current and such an anomaly. LOVE!)

With this looseness we ventured into the unknown.  No YELP reviews for us.  We were going to let places speak to us and we were open to any adventure. We were pretty hungry so we stopped at the first place that we saw.

Tip Two: THE MORE OPTIONS THE MORE OPPORTUNITIES. I knew I needed a large variety, so we picked an “American Style Bar and Grill” because those menus are practically novels!  You will find SOMETHING for sure!

EASY MENU:

menu1

The easy go to is that “Fresh Salads” part and just take out any cheese and croutons they may add and when it comes to dressings I’ll just ask for oil and vinegar and most places will be happy to comply with that.  But don’t let that limit you to the cold side of the menu!  Take a gander!  They will make you a burger without a bun, and even set it on a bed of lettuce, onion, and tomato.  The apps also provide some help, they have mussels that might work as well!

Now, there is no lying.  Those Philly cheesesteaks… Those pasta dishes… There’s no avoiding the dairy and grains.  Shed a small tear that you won’t be ordering those and do what I do: Order Rosé!  Your wine will get you through the heartache of not getting cheesy pasta.  But when that blackened chicken on the greek salad (minus the feta) with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar comes out you will not miss anything.  It will be amazing and filling and you’ll be happy and content.

Tip Three: ALL DAY ROSÉ!! It doesn’t have to be wine, it can be potato vodka, 100% agave tequila, or cider but you need to treat yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  The struggle is real and nothing helps swallow the pill of self-denial than a little extravagance.

As I watched girls half my age teeter on wedges with mini skirts that barely covered their nether regions, I calmly sipped my glass of wine.  As I watched my friend feast on a very beautiful and very large dessert, I calmly sipped my glass of wine.  This will help you and I recommend you use alcohol to your benefit whenever you can.  Life advice in general.

MEDIUM MENU:

menu2

Now this is a menu you can get behind because they really let you create a lot of your experience.  When you get an option for a meat and pick sides, that is a WIN! That Pork Chop looks great (just ask for no brown garlic butter… I know… tears, but what soaks up tears?  Rosé!) Also that meat tornado of a burger up top looks great! Just skip the bun and cheese and put that in my mouth!

Tip Four: ALWAYS ASK.  This is hard for me.  I pulled this menu from the interwebs and it doesn’t give us a clue on the letter system they have.  The G may mean that something is Gluten-Free, that’s what I would assume, but remember Gluten-Free isn’t Grain-Free. You will need to talk to your waiter.  This isn’t easy.  For me, I hate to ruffle feathers or cause trouble, so asking can feel like you are putting someone out.  I have to actively remind myself that I am completely within my rights to ask questions.  They can say no to any substitution or removal of an item. If I ask politely and kindly, most people are generous with their time. It is a business and you are paying for a service, if you have requests- that doesn’t make you an over demanding or annoying or bad customer.  If you didn’t tip appropriately, especially if you ask something and they have to go back and speak to the chef, especially if the chef is willing to do something extra for you, if you don’t tip well you deserve a very special place in hell.  But that has nothing to do with your dietary restrictions, that just means you’re an asshole.

Tip Five: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. 

Ok… that may be a life tip as well. If you are nervous you may ask too many questions- just order another glass of wine.  This will raise your tab and will equal more money for the server and will give you the confidence to just ask away!

HARD MENU:

menu 3

Oh, the fancier dinner menu! This can be difficult in some ways because fancier places use fancier names for everyday items and you have to be able to decipher some things.

Tip Six: GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND! Especially if you don’t want to ask your server crazy questions.  Fancy Menus will also use foreign languages. Just google and know what is going on, it will make you seem smarter to your friends as well!  You know they have similar questions as well!

While we were in Columbia, MO we ate at a delicious and adorable restaurant, but the menu was “set” meaning that deconstructing was very frowned upon.  On their menu I could order a salad (sigh,  again?) or there was ONE thing on the menu that I could easily order without a lot of negotiating and hassle.  Luckily, it was something I enjoy so I didn’t mind, but that is the luck of the draw at the fancier places.  These chefs have cultivated a plate of divinity, and me asking to take out integral ingredients is just… rude. Trust you will find something.  Again, asking is the most important part.  What I notice with this menu is that you have to really focus on every clue.  It’s a mexican take , so Empanadas, Tacos, Tortas are all going to have at the least corn if not flour.

If you get to the point where you have searched and searched and still don’t know what will fit, just let the server know what you are trying to avoid and have them help you.  Now, do not start with the server- you do your own homework- find a couple to a few things that MIGHT work and present them to the server to help narrow it down for you.

One of the best things to make sure and is my final tip of the day, Tip Seven: GO TO PLACES WITH ALCOHOL.

Because if you can’t find anything, at least you can have something to drink.  That’s like dinner, right?

champagne

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Mutz’ German Potato Salad

I was able to make this delicious potato salad for my friends and family on the Cardinal’s Home Opener!  It was a hit and there were people asking for the recipe, so I thought I’d share it here for y’all!

This recipe is pretty much already Grain-Free/Dairy-Free!  The only exchange is Potato Starch for the Flour to make the roux (do you sense a pattern in what I cook?  It almost always has a roux!) I prefer this potato salad to the “American” version that is pretty much salmonella sitting in the backyard BBQ sun.  This is hot, vinegary, and bacony. Bliss!

I got this recipe from my grandma Mutz Burkhardt.  She and my grandpa Otto were the sun and the moon to my little childhood world, where every Sunday the whole family (my mom and her 5 siblings and all their children) would meet in their two bedroom home to have breakfast after church. It was a warm, laughter filled space and my grandma’s voice would rise above the rest, her laugh distinct and room filling.  She was a bright and charismatic person, gregarious and hilarious.  Otto was warm, but stoic.  He chose his words with more care, and I remember his very large hands picking me up and holding me when I cried.  I also remember the Thanksgiving before he passed, his large hand holding mine, as we watched a video of family photos on the TV and reminisced about his wife, my grandma, and we both missed her terribly.

mutz and otto

Otto and Mutz while they were dating.

This is her recipe, through my butchered un-reciped lens, and I hope she appreciates that although I can’t make this with a cheap beer beside me (the way she did), I have moved on to making it with a cheap glass of boxed wine (the way my mom did).  I think she would like to know that us Burkhardt women enjoy a cold beverage when we cook and that would be the most important thing!

GF/DF German Potato Salad

To start: pour a cold refreshing alcoholic beverage.  Mutz would like it that way.  It’s tradition.  Since I’m GF/DF, I am not going to drink the Natural Light or Busch that my grandma drank, but I will partake in a nice Crisp White Franzia or if I’m feeling fancy a 100% agave tequila and soda with a squeeze of lime.  But you do you.  That’s step one.

franzia

Now you will need to get potatoes, and it DOES matter what kind of potato you use! Small/Medium Yukon Golds are the favorite of my grandma, but I have also used small/medium red potatoes as well and they work just as good.  Just not russet, or overly large potatoes.  How many potatoes?  For 4-6 people as a side dish I do about 2 lbs.  But I’m not a scientist so I just dump some into a pot until it feels right.  Don’t peel them. That’s dumb and time-consuming.  Peels have never hurt anyone! Just suck it up and eat them. You are going to put those unpeeled potatoes into a pot and bring that to a boil.  It’s going to boil for a bit.  You’re going to let them do that.  Do that for a while.  Get yourself another drink.  You’ve earned it.

You know what you could do here?  You can chop up some onions.  That’s what you can do.  Small chopped onion, large chunky chopped onion- go crazy!  How much?  Eh, I tend to do about 1/2 a cup, or 1/2 an onion, or one small onion.  I like onion though… and they won’t be raw for those that are anti-raw onion… heathens.

You know what else you could do?  You can hard-boil a few eggs.  I do three eggs- one egg more per pound of potato.  Hard-boil those suckers, or if you are like me you always have hard-boiled eggs because that is now your snack of choice. But this is a good time to do that.

Don’t forget to keep drinking.  It’s important.

At some point the potatoes are going to be fork tender.  When you first feel like there’s no resistance between your fork and the innards of the biggest potato, bring the pot to a low simmer to keep those suckers warm. You want them warm.  Get yourself another drink, because now we’re getting to the hard part and you will want to fortify yourself.

BACON! You are going to fry some bacon.  How much, you ask?  How much do you want? How much is reasonable?  I mean, you are the best judge of how much bacon you like.  I like lots of bacon so I may cook eight strips, I may cook ten.  I may only have four and will be sad and wistful, but I will make do, because any bacon is better than no bacon. Fry those suckers and then keep that amazing grease in that amazing pan.

bacon

It’s roux time!  Since you’ve got that pretty grease it’s time to thicken it with some Potato Starch.  It doesn’t need a whole lot.  I go a small spoon full at a time, stirring constantly. As it thickens I’ll add the onions.  Stirring them with the bacon grease and the Potato Starch until it’s just happy, happy roux.  Now it’s vinegar time!

I use White Distilled Vinegar.  I like my German Potato Salad vinegary so I will use a 1/3 cup at least.  But you can use less, maybe 1/4 cup. You’ll slowly add this to the roux and mix it in, letting it simmer while you do other things for a second.

You’ll need to refill your drink, chop up that bacon and hard-boiled egg.  Whew.  That’s done.  Now we go back to the vinegar roux and add our seasonings.  There aren’t many:

  • Pepper
  • Celery Seed
  • Sugar

I add dashes of pepper and celery seed and just a teaspoon of sugar (just cutting the vinegar a tad.)  Then I add the egg and bacon and VOILA you have the sauce mixture!

Remember those potatoes that are sitting in simmering hot water? It’s their turn again. Get your hot pads on and drain the pot.  Using those hot pads, you’ll take out each potato and slice them placing them in the serving bowl.  They will crumble and fall apart and some will slice awesome and some will almost disintegrate.  No worries.  Have another drink.  They’re just potatoes!

You then pour the hot vinegar sauce over the hot potatoes and gently fold it all in. Taking generous sips of your drink, you can look at your beautiful steaming bowl of german potato salad.  You will notice there isn’t a lot of green.  I’ll chop up something I have: parsley, green onions or scallions.  Or I won’t.  Depends on how empty that wine box is.

If you are making this in advance you can cover it in foil and keep in your oven on warm until you serve.  Or you can place it on a table with a napkin and a fork and eat the whole steaming bowl yourself.

You do you!

gpotsal1

 

*** Love and Miss You Grandma and Grandpa!***

grandma and grandpa

Mutz and Otto’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.

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Cauliflower Rice Jambalaya

A new venture begins!

I’ve been writing in this blog for years, more off than on, but it exists in the cyber world and occasionally I have to get words out there.  I am on a journey that I feel would be beneficial to some of you, and hopefully entertaining enough for those who don’t really want to do the GF/DF lifestyle, but like reading my words.

What is GF/DF? Grain-free, Dairy-free.  More specifically the grain-free that I follow cuts out grains, legumes, corn and soy.  I’m not google, so I’m not going into detail about the “Why is Grain-Free, Dairy-Free a healthy lifestyle?”, or “What benefits are there to a Grain-Free, Dairy Free diet?”.  You can do that yourself if you really are interested.  All I know is that I feel better internally and externally than I have… well ever.

Did you know that your body sends signals that it’s upset?  That cramps and gurgling stomachs aren’t just normal everyday reactions to eating?  That diarrhea isn’t the normal bowel movement?  Oh, you knew that?  Well, I didn’t.  Until about a month ago when after some advice from my allergists and from my Buti Yoga sisters I made a move to give up grains and dairy for Lent.  Since I started at 80% on Feb 11th, and at 100% on March 1st, I have noticed many changes.

  1. My ankles have stopped swelling and I was able to stop a pill that I was taking to help with my circulation and the swelling at my ankles.
  2. My knees are no longer stiff and swollen.  When I groan as I get out of a chair, it’s because I worked out hard the day before and I’m sore all over, NOT because I was sitting for 20 minutes and my knees had fused themselves into that one sitting position. I bound up and down stairs again, instead of bracing myself for impact or pulling myself up the stairs.
  3. My skin, my hair, my nails are all growing and glowing.  My nails are hard for the first time in my life, not bending but actually breaking!  I’m able to use them as tools in ways I never have before.  My skin has moisture and feels plump.  Even my father commented that my skin looks healthier and my eyes brighter!
  4. I know what a full-empty feels like.  It’s hard to believe but my stomach had two levels: Starving & Stuffed.  There was nothing in between.  Gorging myself until I couldn’t possibly eat another bite and then living in that state until I slept, I had no sensor on what “full” or “empty” or some variant between felt like.  I no longer rely on “fillers” (rice, pasta, bread) to hit to Stuffed. My veggies and meat allow me to eat a reasonable amount and then stop.  (Caveat: The first two weeks were not easy on this one… your brain is a super powerful machine that refuses to understand change easily.  You have to create the atmosphere for this to work, but once in the mode it has been just the new norm to leave room in my spacious stomach without the overriding desire to fill it to capacity!)
  5. My allergies seem… subsided.  I have been battling hives for the last year and a half. My allergists and I going through many different ideas after the full back panel came up with nothing.  I’ve given up alcohol, sulfites and have lived with a strict regimen of Claritin and Singulair. On April 1st I stopped taking my meds.  Typically after 6-10 hours I would have a flare up, but I’ve only had two moments where I was really worried that I was getting hives since stopping the meds.  But they went away just as quickly as they flared up, without me resorting to pills.

All this is to say that I am seeing results.  I am seeing healthy benefits as I get deeper into yoga poses I only laughed at being able to do six months ago.  Stuff is happenin’ y’all!

SHOOT- I am preaching the gospel of GF/DF and what I wanted to do was share my recipe from last night!

Cauliflower Rice Jambalaya!

This is a variation of my original recipe that I used with flour and white rice.  I’ve replaced this version with Potato Starch and Cauliflower Rice.  I do not measure.  I do not do it exactly the same every time.  I’m not a chef, I am usually watching TV or listening to a podcast when I cook and get easily distracted and can skip steps or add steps and as long as I get close to the same consistent end product, I’m pretty satisfied with myself!

I start with a large pot or super large pan or my cast iron.  I put some butter or olive oil on the bottom of the pan on low to medium low. I’ve cut up some onions and garlic and various colored peppers earlier and I throw them in the pot. Cut up as much as you want to eat and/or share to eat.  That’s the measurement.

I stir it up until the onions are translucent.  Then I add potato starch.  Just a bit. Stirring it in constantly until you’ve got a good roux base going.  I may add more starch.  Then it’s too thick.  So I may add some chicken broth, or seafood broth, or just water.  Kinda depends on what’s around.  Then I usually have to add more starch.  It’s a vicious cycle. But you want a thick base.

Then I take a can of RoTel tomatoes and slowly add it to the mixture.  Don’t drain the can before putting it in.  You want that moisture.  Keep stirring the whole time, we want the roux to soak up that can water and surround the green chilis and tomatoes with its oniony and pepper goodness.  It may get pretty thick and stiff at this point so I will keep adding one can of water at a time until I get a good simmer that resembles this:

IMG_4300

***EXTRA NEWS:  This is the basis for almost any Creole or Cajun dish I’ve ever made.  This is a great start to Gumbo, Etouffee, Jambalaya.  You start with the roux I just described and then run with it!***

So now the fun begins!  Now that roux can simmer as long as you like and as long as the liquid holds out, but I do tend to prep all my veggies and stuff before hand so I can just cook it all together.  But I realize I didn’t tell you how to do the cauliflower rice!  Now, I haven’t tried the frozen stuff myself, but I hear tell that you can get bags of it pre-riced in the frozen section of your local grocery store.  I use my food processor.  A good-sized head of cauliflower will go along way!

*Hip Tip: I’ll process two heads at a time and then freeze a bag full of one and use the other, this helps me save time and mess for the future*

I have tried the regular food processing blade and my “rice” came out more “couscous”. Since then I’ve been using the grater blade and the majority of it comes out more rice like.  The stems will become like grated cheese, but that doesn’t bother me as much.  If the look is important to you then don’t use the stems!

Now last night I didn’t squeeze the cauli-rice, but if you follow this recipe in the future you’ll probably want to squeeze the cauli-rice in a cheesecloth to get that excess moisture out. I’m also considering to saute my rice separately in a saute pan with olive oil (this is how I cook my cauli-rice for other recipes) as that seems to cut a lot of the moisture. Either way should work, but the cheesecloth is a proven technique for the water problem!

So that pre-prepped rice is going to find its way into your pot/pan! You are going to stir it around with that roux.  They are going to get close and personal and get to a nice simmer.

Now comes the spices!!

When it comes to me and my spices, I don’t have a fancy rack of all the things that have ever been spiced in the world.  Usually I have staples and then when a fancy new recipe asks me to get a new spice, I’ll venture out and use it until it’s gone and then forget about it until another recipe begs me to get that spice again.  But I have staples.  They tend to be spicy spices. For this recipe last night, I used:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cajun Seasoning
  • Crushed Red Peppers
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin

I dump a lot of them in there.  I use a lot of paprika for the coloring.  I may add some Crystal’s Hot Sauce.  I may add other spices if I see them up there and think… hmm that might work.  I fear I mostly add stuff and it is over powered by the Cayenne and Old Bay regardless, but I feel very important and smart when I stand over the stove and throw in seasoning and stir, and taste, and give a self-satisfying “yummmmmm”.

At this point you have the jambalaya base.  I’ll keep it simmering and stirring and taste it on occasion to see how the cauli-rice is faring.  Has it lost its veggie crunch?  Has it fully absorbed the color and flavor of the roux and spices? Somewhere in here I’ll add the andouille sausage.  I prefer my local G&W sausages as they don’t use corn or grain fillers in their sausages.  Plus they are delicious!  Support your local butchers! I cut the sausage in bite sizes and mix it in. They are pre-cooked so you can add them late.  They won’t lose texture or bite if you add them too early.  They are awesome like that.

Now you can do a couple of things from here.  Some stop here.  They like a sausage jambalaya and are content.  Some take some roasted chicken and shred it and add it at this point.  That’s a pretty popular addition.  You can even add other veggies.  Jambalaya is one of those “Whatever You Have In Your Fridge Goes In” meals so add whatever you want!  Last night I also peeled some shrimp, marinated them in Old Bay and Hot Sauce while cooking the rest.  10 minutes before serving, I added them to the mix and stirred until they were cooked through.

*HIP TIP: Shrimp and other seafood has to be added late to the Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etouffee game!  They get tough and chewy and gross the longer they sit in heat and simmer.  Marinate them before hand and then add them to the mix 10-15 minutes before serving.  HOWEVER- if you have clams in juice, or oysters in juice, or shrimp water… ADD THAT JUICE/WATER WHENEVER!  The sooner you add the flavor of the seafood the more it will get to incorporate with the other spices! Just hold off on the actual seafood until just before serving!*

There you have it!  You’ve made Jambalaya!  You are only steps away from making Gumbo or Etouffee! I hope that those that asked for my “recipe” enjoy this diatribe and have learned something about my techniques.  Perhaps I will share other “recipes” in the future! Perhaps I will share other Grain-free Dairy-free tidbits on my journey. Perhaps I will answer questions about what I’m doing and why.  Regardless- I’m glad you stopped by and hope you enjoy the Cauliflower Rice Jambalaya! Bon Appetit!jambalaya

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Zen Goal.

I can’t imagine living with me.  I mean, I live with myself obviously, but I’m among my fluidity so I can’t see what that’s like being you- my husband- living with me.  I try and take a step back and really I find very little to latch onto when it comes to consistency and me.  My memory is so short.  Really… I have a very hard time remembering.  Not in the way that movies or tv shows portray, I remember lots of things and some of them are important and some of them are trivial but I am talking about remembering my sense of self.

I can’t remember myself.

I have photographs and narratives that surround those photographs.  I have stories that I’ve long made up that I don’t know if they are true or not anymore.  It used to be only my childhood was missing, then it was my adolescence, and then my high school years, now I’m losing the memories of when I first met Roland.  The times in Eugene, OR are hazy and fading.  I’m panicking because I’m not sure if this is normal or if I’m blowing this out of proportion. But others remember.  They remain consistent. They can recall for me what I was like, what I said, what I did, who I was.  They side-eye me and I fear take personally that I don’t remember a moment that was integral to them and they assumed to me; that they carry as a signifer of “us” and I sit, comatose, unable to recall any details.

I’m almost scared to look back, in so many ways, because there are so many holes.  What if that version of me was better and I have no way back?  No way to reconnect to that version of myself?  I want there to be a connective narrative to my story, but it’s fractured and broken and kind of a jumbled mess in my head.  I want there to be a beginning, a middle, an end to my story- but it’s just David Lynchian in the hopping, the sharp cuts, the gentle fades to too long of black, to nothingness.

Because I lack this connective tissue of self, I find that I reinvent myself almost daily, sometimes hourly and it is exhausting. I search for moments that might rekindle a version of myself I lost.  Today in the shower as I listened to my SPOTIFY playlist: Nostalgia, ‘Two Step’ by Dave Matthews Band came on. I had a memory. It was the Yale Haus, I was 21, I had smoked a bowl and was playing ‘Song 41’ on the guitar.  Brian was sitting on the floor drawing his very intricate and detailed art on the coffee table.  Light filtered in and dust danced through the blinds.  It was a sunny day. I played and sang the song. At the end Brian commented that was the best he’s ever heard me play that. I was overcome with pride. That’s it. It’s gone. When these memories unleash randomly and so vividly it knocks me over.  It makes everything around me seem broken.  I can’t explain how it unnerves me and makes me question.  I rabbit hole so fast into ‘what if’, ‘should have’, ‘could I have’ and ‘who am I’. Who was that girl?  How was she ever me? Can there be a trace of her still there? Where is the thread that connects me to her?

Ah you fickle, vacillating mess of a woman.  Can’t you just be?

Maybe that’s why there is you, my husband, my tried and true, my black and white, unwavering, unchanging, un-modulating, consistent and infuriatingly simple living husband. Maybe that’s the thread I am trying to find and hold onto. Does he miss that girl he first met?  Does he wonder, like I do, why I have changed so much and yet so little? Does he get frustrated that my memories of us when we met are jumbled and missing and vacant? Does he get sad that I perpetually question and can’t seem to get comfortable in my skin? I can’t tell you. I can’t remember if we’ve had this argument.  This may have been every argument- even if it seemed to be about money, or jobs, or passion, or lack-there-of on any of those issues- maybe this is the real underlining argument.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever been happy.  Maybe I never was.

oh.  that’s horrible to see.

that’s not me.

at least according to my most recent memories.

.

In meditation and in finding spiritual zen and purpose, the study of losing your sense of self is a goal. You detach and separate to the best of your ability from that self in order to create space and thereby freedom from physical constraints. People long for and work their entire lives for that detachment from memories they’d like to lose, moments they want to separate themselves from, versions of themselves that they want to create distance from. I’ve become a master of detachment. I’ve long been capable of separating and distancing and have excelled in my studies.

If this is what zen feels like, I’m not sure if it’s what I wanted in the first place.

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Somethin’s Comin’

 

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I am loathe to find a therapist.  I’ve found excuses that range from not being able to afford to pay out of pocket and the inability to find someone who is in my network that I like.  I am currently sucking it up, distracting myself with work and activities and ignoring that I suffer from a low to moderate level of anxiety.  I pat myself on my back that my new yoga regimen is an anxiety reliever- and for a month or so now I’ve been able to delude myself into thinking that I have it under control.

And yet, I am still churning inwardly. My brain vacillates between my own desires and fears- to the reading and analysis of other’s desires and fears. These rarely align and I am torn between wanting to pacify my own feelings and pacifying others feelings.  I am also hyper-aware that most people don’t give two shits that I am reading, analyzing and shifting my actions to accommodate them.  They neither realize nor care.  They are wafting on their own sea of shit, and don’t have the burden of empathetic anxiety.

This is my burden, my incessant anxiety around how my person effects other people.

I can strip away that burden on my yoga mat. For 45 minutes I can just focus on how my arms are burning as I rotate my hips in three legged dog. I can focus on my chest spiraling counterclockwise in chair and hone in on the muscles of my core. My brain willing my body to move only the areas that need to move, to keep my hips tucked and low, not moving, as I isolate my chest. The focus, the sweat, the music drowning out all the chatter and noise that constantly surround my brain. It’s amazing, healing and beautiful. It’s over after 45 minutes.

It’s almost like a train I hear in the distance.  Like when Roland and I traveled across the country with RedDog and we would camp and hear the train whistle miles and miles away. The way we would whisper to RedDog, “Somethin’s Comin’!” and he would sit up, ears alert, his curly tail unfolding into a pointer position. His head darting back and forth, from the train tracks to me, his eyes imploring, “I hear it! Do you hear it? Something IS coming! It’s coming.” We couldn’t see it yet, but it was on it’s way and his fat, sausage body would shake in anticipation.

Somethings Coming.

This is the train whistle in the distance. The slight vibration in the breeze. The anticipation of another bout with anxiety. The wait escalating the anxiousness. The change in pressure palatable. And yet, I will batten down the hatches, I will slide into the storm shelter, I will waste away my day watching a television program I’ve already watched over 10 times and play spider solitaire on my kindle because that’s the level my brain wants to play.  It wants the familiar, craves the consistency, desires the solitude, strives for detachment, denies the unexpected and forfeits all action for inaction.

It’s not how I want to see me.  It’s not how I want others to see me.  I want to be dynamic and a force to be reckoned with.  I want to radiate confidence and ability and reliability and magical magnetism.  I can usually fake it til I make it.  I can usually drape myself in my counter-personality of Shoosha.  I can usually drown boring, anxiety ridden, depressed Tricia in alcohol and extremism so that other’s never recognize that there is anyone else but Shoosha.  I can usually get away with it. I will get away with it. But, just so you know…

Somethings Coming.

 

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Pressure-less

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Still blissin’ from last nights amazing cardio-full buti! The sweat was baptismal!

I keep thinking about what went through my brain as we lay in savasana:

“The Only Pressure That Matters, Is The One I Put On Myself.”

I am so often bogged down by outside pressures and influences.  So much so, that sometimes I forget they are outside pressures and I mask them into my own intention.  It is difficult to know the difference. The last couple days have been internally difficult for me. I’m vacillating between a lot of feelings, pulls and tugs, and general indecision that has led me to less sleep, more anger and a dark malaise that is unbecoming- and also completely out of character for me.  I’ve been hard on myself because of it.  Taking on the pressures of the people around me and internalizing it as my own pressure and stress.

I don’t have to feel this way.  I shouldn’t feel this way.  I’m not going to feel this way.

Laying in savasana, my sweat pouring like wellsprings of rivers, the burning in my eyes as the salty sweat mixed with my tears, I had to remind myself:

“The Only Pressure That Matters, Is The One I Put On Myself.” 

I owe no one my energy, my time, my life.  I owe nothing my focus, my emotions, my purpose- except what I CHOOSE to give.  These are choices.  So often they feel unavoidable.  Too often it feels inconsiderate to put myself first.  Too often it feels selfish, self-serving, egotistical to listen, truly listen, to myself.  What is that ego saying?  What are her needs?  Why is she so angry?  So hurt? So scared? So hateful? What am I denying her that makes her lash out in tirades against me? How can I listen to her with compassion and step through to companionship with her?

“The Only Pressure That Matters, Is The One I Put On Myself.”

This journey is about self-forgiveness.  Self-Love.  Self-Listening.  Self-Acknowledgement.  Self-Respect. Self-Awareness. Self on Self Action.

The only pressure on me, is to love myself unconditionally.  The rest is background noise.

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Lessons Learned and Re-learned Again.

bush-gore16 years ago I participated in my first major national election.  My choices seemed limited: a self-deluded, ego maniac that was completely unqualified and pandered to the extreme conservatism of the far right wing OR a corporate shill that was entrenched in the Democratic Party machine who’s agenda shifted with whichever demographic was going to produce the numbers necessary at the time.

Things haven’t much changed.

That year there was a third choice.  He wasn’t allowed in the arena of the DNC.  He was deemed too extreme, too far left, too “green”, too “socialist”.  The Democratic Convention came and passed without a word of his agenda, without an acknowledgement of what a large portion of us “idealistic Americans” that supported him were fighting for.  The Democrats kept their heads in the sand about the growing progressive left and fought instead for the moderates and undecided in the middle of our national political spectrum.

The two million citizens, like myself, who voted for Ralph Nader did so because we wanted our VOICE to be heard.  We wanted to break the two party system.  We wanted to put a light on the causes and concerns that were going unnoticed by the mainstream media and the two major political systems.  Our two million votes cost the Democratic Nominee, Al Gore the election (with major help from the conservatively held Supreme Court).  The pandering to the center cost the Democratic Party and ourselves 8 years of a Bush presidency.

The Democratic Machine (and admittedly- myself) must have learned the lesson.

Yesterday at the Democratic Convention, I saw a man who has built his political career outside the two party system.  I watched him step into the convention hall and address the Democratic Party.  He fought his way into the Democratic Party as an outsider and has pushed, pulled and prodded the party left.  He forced the old hands of the DNC to answer the hard questions, to think past the big money and corporations that have a strangle hold on our democracy, to acknowledge the power of the individual in our democracy.

He did not win the primary.  He did not win the nomination to represent the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential Election.

He only changed the conversation in such a dramatic and unbelievable way that the Democratic Party cannot ever digress from this progress again.

Read that sentence again.  I’ll wait…

This is so monumental.  He has done what Nader wanted to do.  He has done what my progressive father, my passionate husband, my own imagination could only dream of doing.

He has made the Democratic Party relevant to us again.

The fight is not over.  We must hold Hillary Clinton and her team of operatives accountable to the progressive agenda.  We cannot let her diminish the progress we’ve made.  We cannot let her cow-tow around the issues that are of utmost importance for our democratic society: education reform, policing/prison reform, environmental plans and programs, wage and income gap reform, healthcare and security benefits and most importantly the dismantling of Citizens United and getting the big money out of politics.

The DNC has opened the floor because of the hard fought primary that Bernie Sanders and his team waged against the two party system.  Bernie has forced the powers that be to hear us and let them know that if they fight for us, we will fight for them.  These next four months are huge.  Hillary has a lot to prove to us.  She has a lot of work ahead to make sure that those of us that want real change can believe and trust that she will work for us.  If she can focus on that, I have no doubt that Trump will lose and we may even be able to push a more progressive agenda then we imagined.

However, if she focuses like Gore did on the moderate undecided and tries to pander to them- I fear 2016 will be a repeat of 2000.

-Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.-

I know that a lot of people are still not sold on Hillary.  I know that I’m not sold.  Because  I am not a commodity.  I will not be “sold” on any political party or nominee.  They work for me.  The minute they refuse to hear, to represent or to fight for me is when they lose my vote.  This goes for all the elections- from the aldermen and alderwomen, to the mayors and governors, to the state representatives and our congress.

Hillary and Trump are just one part of the tripod we are constitutionally obligated to maintain and decide upon.  Know who is running for your local, county, and state elections.  Tell them what is important to you. They are the second part of the tripod. They, with the President, choose the final part of the tripod.  These next four years we know that at least one, more than likely two, and maybe even three Supreme Court Judges will be appointed.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: You have a large say in how our country progresses.

And it isn’t just the ballot box.  It’s writing, talking, calling, seeing your representatives. It’s knowing a little about an issue that you care about.  It’s doing some research and understanding opposing points of view on that issue that you care about.  It’s discussing with neighbors and family and friends the things you’ve learned and researched about that issue you care about.  It’s forcing people in power to enact the change based on the conversations and the information that you received about the issue you care about.  It’s supporting the people that voice your opinion regularly and passionately about the issue you care about.

Democracy is literally about the people taking responsibility for choosing the powers that represent them.

It’s a responsibility.  And now our responsibility is to hold Hillary Clinton up to the task that we have supported through the Bernie Sanders campaign.  We hold the light and have four months to see if she is willing to walk the walk.

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Healthy Mind. Happy Heart.

I am approaching a year since I visited my doctor and she helped create a plan to lose weight and gain health. I’ve lost 36 pounds total in these last 10 months.  I’ve had good moments, I’ve had mediocre moments, I’ve had embarrassingly bad moments but overall the pounds are going away.

And that is just a ruler.  A comparative tool that I use to monitor that I am changing my body for the better.

What’s really changed is how I feel.  How I feel about myself, about my body, about my mental health, about my self esteem.  Self-Esteem.  Such an interesting word, I don’t hold my physical self with much, if any, esteem.  At least until recently.

Last night as I was working through a hard stretch of BUTI yoga, the sweat covering my skin like I just stepped out of the pool, I pulled myself up and did what I could do without admonishment, without belittling, WITH JOY.  I forced my grimace into a smile.  I forced a small laugh to come out of my mouth.  After, as I laid in savasana and let my eyes lose focus, the thought passed through that, “this is the rest of your life”.  Typically this fills me with dread, with anger, with exhaustion.  Last night it lifted me higher than I’ve felt in a long while.

It’s starting to set in that this isn’t about me losing any weight.  It’s not about looking any certain way.  It’s about me enjoying my body and what it can do.  It’s about me acknowledging my weaknesses, embracing them occasionally, and doing better the next time.  It’s not a punishment to wake up at 5:15 to get to the gym.  It’s not a chore to stay in Goddess whilst spiraling your hips for way longer than your thighs really want to.  These are the necessary tools that I use to remind myself that my body is an active, thriving, ecology of muscle.  I must remind these muscles of their worth, their purpose, and push them to do more.

Laying in savasana, I saw myself years from now- the tribe will be different- people will come and people will go- the space will be different- the instructors will change- but I was there.  I was a nebulous ball of energy, I was inside of myself so I couldn’t see myself, couldn’t judge what the future me will look like– but I know what she felt like.

Confident.  Assured. Powerful. Dynamic.

That fills me with great wonder and joy, and THAT means more than 36 pounds ever could.

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Freedom to Just Be.

I had the thought today of freedom.  Freedom to just be… and what did that look like to me? It filled me with irrational fear and anxiety.

I had the thought of freedom today. Freedom to just be…  and what does that say about me?  To think about freedom is to acknowledge the cage, is to recognize the chains, is to question your dungeon, your interment camp, your self-induced fallacy.  When you see the bars, then you realize you aren’t free.

“Shake it off” washes over me, “Just let those thoughts be. You are acting irrationally. You are acting desperately.”

You are drama personified, trying to create a problem that doesn’t exist because you are bored, because you are thirsty, because you don’t masturbate, because you can’t drink, because you are fat, because you worked out, because you didn’t give your dog enough affection today, because you didn’t give yourself enough affection today, because you put work before pleasure, because you put pleasure before everything, because you are too nice, because you’re a bitch, because you’re obsessed with being obsessed about, because you want everyone and everything to love you, because you can’t stand silence, you can’t stand loneliness and the fear of being alone… truly alone… makes every muscle in your body ache, every orifice of your body seep, every nerve stand to a tingling edge and your stomach turns and your bowels quake and your innards shake and you realize that you don’t ever want to be alone, you never wanted to be alone, so you pull everyone in and yet… you keep them at a distance.

You are acting irrationally… remember?

Remember?

Remember that this too shall pass.  That you will hear a song that will bring you back. That you will taste something different, something you lacked and it will remind you that there are new things to try.  You will jump into the newness of these new things.  You will surround yourself in the beauty of these new things.  They will make you feel like freedom is possible, and perhaps they may even fool you into believing you are free.  Because it’s easier to escape mentally, than physically.

“Bask in this” settles over me, “This fleeting moment of tranquility.”

It’s possible that this has always been freedom.  It’s possible that my cage is self-induced. It’s possible that I am just reacting out of turn to an idea that came out of the blue.  As I drove down that sunny street by the park.  The white flower petals of spring trees blowing in the breeze. And following those petals, my eyes land on people that are living outside of me.  And perhaps I assumed their freedom. Perhaps I projected something unseen. Perhaps none of us are really free.

There is comfort there.  There is ease.

white flower tree

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Accountability Journal

I am using this platform to begin *another* journey towards health and sharing it with a couple groups that I am using as motivation to get me to a healthier me.

Some Backstory:

I’ve never felt thin, although I did feel healthy for the majority of my young adult/ early adult life.  There is a large difference in terms there and it’s only been a relatively recent acknowledgement that thin doesn’t mean healthy.  But I’ll get to that.

Last summer I was having severe issues.  I couldn’t walk very far without my feet swelling so bad that it hurt to put any pressure on them.  I couldn’t go down stairs without holding on to a railing, or going one at a time because my knees and hips hurt.  I felt lethargic and just overall depressed in a very physical way.  I went to my doctor thinking that something outside of me had to be wrong: cancer, thyroid issues, colon/kidney/stomach problems.  I went through a battery of blood tests, EKG tests and urine analysis.  Everything came back relatively normal.  Normal for a person of my size.  Normal for a 5’5″ woman weighing 284 pounds.  Which isn’t normal.

My doctor sat me down and said I have to do something.  All of my ailments, all of my issues, all of it points to the access weight I am carrying.  She gave me an ultimatum to begin changing my dietary and sedentary lifestyle or in 6 months we will have to begin looking at more drastic options such as surgery.

This floored me… surgery?  It was enough to startle me.  I need to make changes.

Luckily, I began a new job just at the same time that this push to change was starting.  It’s much easier to implement changes when everything is changing.  Plus, my new job had quite a few perks including a dressing room area with my own locker, shower and dressing table.  This makes it easier for me to wake up at 5:15am, get to the gym by 6am, work out for an hour and head to campus to get ready before being at my desk by 8am.  I’ve been consistently doing this morning schedule 4 days per week.  I’ve hit Personal Bests on the elliptical, and worked my legs, arms and abs weekly.  Kicking Ass and Taking Names.

Except, the pain wasn’t leaving.  I’d feel great after the workout, but after a couple hours I’d be stiff again, my feet and hands were still swelling and I had a hard time motivating myself to continue… even after a couple months of setting the routine.  I was in a rut and feeling like it would be a continual battle I’ll never win.

My girlfriend introduced me to Buti Yoga.  That first session was a killer.  Talk about feeling incompetent, feeling weak, feeling insecure.  At the end however, I looked at these other ladies in the room.  They were sweating as hard as me.  They were all different shapes and sizes.  They were all so supportive, asking each other honestly and openly about their lives and they included me!  It was a warm glow that just made the last 45 minutes of pain not only tolerable but actually enjoyable.  I bought a 10 class card that night.

Since incorporating yoga into my routine I’ve started to notice different results.  My flexibility is returning, my muscles feel more toned and tightened and my view of myself is shifting.  I’ve also talked to my yoga instructors and have added a collagen powder to my daily routine that seems to have had a wonderful effect on my knee stiffness and pain. The classes continue to push me to my limits, but I find that the “limits” are shifting and there are small and major victories when I finally get into a pose, or when I am able to hold a pose for 15 seconds longer than I was in the last class.  There’s growth and change in my practice and that’s been so uplifting and wonderful! It’s a great addition to my current workout and I have since signed up for two classes offered through my work, going to yoga 2-3 times a week as well as my 3-4 times a week at the gym.

The pounds should be pouring off of me right?  Nope.

I lost around 10-14 pounds in the last 6 months.  That’s it.  Yes, my health was obviously going in the right direction, but I am still carrying an amount of weight that is too hard on my heart, too hard on my body.  It must be my intake.  Time to review the food/drink intake.

I was watching my portions.  I was paying attention to calories… sort of.  Kind of.  But I don’t like saying no to my joys, and my joys are tied to my food and drink.  All of my social experiences involve and revolve around those two things.  Then it was lent.  Here I was, with another opportunity to enact a change at just the right moment.  I gave up alcohol. (CAVEAT:  I will say that I have two weddings during lent and I am drinking at my friend’s weddings.  The first wedding was a great success- I stuck to champagne and white wine spritzers.  I didn’t over indulge, still got to imbibe and had a kick ass time!)  It hasn’t been as hard as I thought, but a lot of that has to do with it feeling like an experiment to see how many calories I am drinking without thinking and to hopefully reset my tolerance level so that I can moderate more effectively in the future.  I’ve passed the three week mark and Monday will officially be one month.

The pounds should be pouring off me right?  Nope.

Monday was my 6 month visit with my doctor.  According to her scale I’ve lost a total of 10 pounds.  Le Sigh.  However, I’ve been able to wean off my diuretic for the swelling of my extremities, I am able to go up and down stairs without having to hold onto a railing, I have more energy and more umph to my days.  Because of these changes and my obvious drive to continue this journey, my doctor is giving me another 6 months.  Another 6 months to try and take some of the load off my frame.

Her plan for me:  This week I am counting calories as I eat normally.  Since Monday I am averaging around 2,100 calories a day.  This is optimal to maintain weight and size.  To drop pounds I need to limit the amount of calories/day.  Starting next Monday I am supposed to lower 100 calories per day for one week.  Then another 100/day for a week, every week, until I am averaging 1600 calories/day.  This is the optimal amount to lose weight.  Once I am no longer in the obese or overweight zone, or I’m at my comfortable size that gives me the flexibility and movement that I desire, then I am to add 100 calories/day week by week until I am at 2,000 calories a day to maintain that weight and size.

This is going to be something I am going to have to be aware of and monitor for the rest of my life.  This is a trade-off to me, because the way my health has been heading, I’d have to take and monitor pills for the rest of my life.  I’d much rather monitor my food and drink than a bunch of pills!  That is my goal- not a weight, not a pants size, not some aesthetic ideal- but health, a healthier and happier me!

This is my journey. I am sharing it with you guys for two reasons: 1.  To hold myself accountable. To make sure I am sticking with my plans, goals and journey. 2. To offer myself as motivation, inspiration or just someone you may relate to.  I will be writing occasionally to offer any insight or thoughts or struggles or victories as they come.

Let’s Do This!

 

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