Monday, May 27, 2013

This Is Water

Recently, a good friend of mine sent me a YouTube video and said he was interested to see what I thought of it. It was one of those moments when I couldn't help but think that a Higher Power was at play because it came in a moment when I needed it the most.

Lately, I've found myself more easily "bogged down" by life's BS than I've ever been before. Stress has felt more stressful, hurt more hurtful, petty frustrations more frustrating. I've been in a foul mood more often than not - and I absolutely HATE feeling that way. But as I listened to David Foster Wallace's words, I was smiling, nodding, fighting tears and accepting the words he spoke.

As we go about our lives, a day at a time, I think sometimes we lose perspective. When we have obligations on top of obligations, we (at least I) start to feel stretched thin and find myself isolating. As the video states, its easy to allow ourselves to feel frustrated and annoyed by all these things we encounter on a daily basis. Its easy to just sink into the mundane moments of our lives and stop seeing those around us as human beings, but instead seeing them as things that are preventing us from achieving whatever is on our personal agendas.

Since watching the first time, I've found myself realizing when I'm hitting that grumpy, annoyed, frustrated wall, and doing my best to fight my way back to a place of "zen". On more than one occasion, I've played the video and just listened to his words while I work. While I found the entirety of his words powerful and moving, it was perhaps the last few sentences that impacted me the most. And even though you've hopefully already watched the video above, I will leave you with them anyway -  "The capital T truth is about life BEFORE death. It is about the real value of a real education, which has (almost) nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness. Awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us all the time, we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over - This is water." 

Take a deep breath and say it with me. This. Is. Water. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another 30x30 Check!

As my 30th birthday rapidly approaches, I am suddenly feeling the pressure to knock the (many) remaining items off my 30x30 list. I've started to accept that I may not get them all checked off...but I am going to give it my best effort!

One of the items I was especially excited about was #7 - Learn a new skill. I had a list of skills I would like to learn (that's right folks, a list within a list!) and basically just waited until an opportunity presented itself. And a couple of weekends ago, one did!

Long story as short as possible, we got a new, larger mattress/box spring set and that meant our existing bed frame wouldn't work for us anymore. Our old bed frame sat super low, almost on the ground. Ryan built us a nice, semi-temporary frame for our new set, but our bed now sits a good 2-3 feet higher than it did before. This didn't create a problem for us (seeing as Ryan and I are giant-sized at 5'10 and 6'3) but our aging kitty, Chloe, could no longer jump onto the bed. We kept the piano bench at the end of the bed for a few weeks, but it just wasn't practical. So, we decided to go super "crazy-cat-people" and build her some little steps.

When Ryan told me that we already had every thing we needed to build the steps, he jumped right in...and it hit me. I've never built anything with my own two hands. I sheepishly asked Ryan if I could help. I half expected him to roll his eyes, but instead he was quite enthusiastic! So, we headed to the garage to get started.

Hair tied back, make-up free, safety goggles in place - yet I felt surprisingly feminine!
First, Ryan gave me a quick run down of all the tools we'd be using and what they all did. I'm not completely clueless and have used a drill before, but my power tools knowledge stopped there. He showed me his diagram for the steps, and we got to work. Ryan laid out the materials, showed me his technique for accurate measurements and, per my request, made the first cut. Then, it was my turn.

My first experience with a circular saw!

Making my first cut!
A pretty straight cut, if you ask me! And yes, I used power tools in flip flops. Probably not the best choice considering my terrible luck with foot injuries...

Once all the cuts were made (half of which were mine!) it was time to start assembling.
Starting to come together!

Almost finished!

After it was all screwed together, I filled all the holes, cracks and seams with wood putty for added stability and we left it over night to set.

Only one fingernail was harmed in the making of these steps - which I glued in place. I am still a girl, after all! ;)
The next day, while I was busy doing things around the house, Ryan went out to the garage to add the carpet to the steps.

I'm so proud of the finished product!

The cats immediately started to investigate the new addition to our bedroom.

Chloe uses them every day, and Cooper has found several uses for them - like a hiding place!

The next day, I got this text from Ryan while I was at work...

I have to make mention that Ryan is an incredible teacher. He is patient and thoroughly explains each step.  We aren't big on "traditional gender roles", but I generally leave all the building and repair to Ryan because he is good at it and enjoys it. But now that I know how, maybe I'll start helping with projects more often! Until then, every time I see those little steps in our bedroom, I feel a great sense of accomplishment - and a greater understanding for why generations before us took such pride in building things with their own two hands instead of just running to the nearest superstore to buy them.

This one was a pretty awesome CHECK off the list. :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Take Your Brand And Shove It

Over the past few days, statements made by the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch have gone viral. Statements that are not only judgmental, hurtful and segregating, but also incredibly telling of the world we live in. If you haven't seen the statements I'm referring to, I urge you to read them. (I also feel the need to add my usual "settle in for a long post" disclaimer...)

Essentially, A&F's CEO doesn't like "large" people. (Read: FAT.) He doesn't want them wearing his clothes. Or shopping in his store. Because his store is only for "cool kids". And the only reason they provide sizes XL and XXL for men, is for the "larger, athletic types".

Naturally, I was repulsed by his statements. Not only because I am "large", but because I am a human being. And I take issue with so many things about this situation that I am having a hard time even separating my thoughts into comprehensible sentences - but, that's never stopped me before.

"He wants thin and beautiful people." 

Guess what - I used to be called "thin and beautiful". And I used to shop at A&F. One Christmas, when I was 16, I got basically an entire, new wardrobe from that store. And now, I'm disgusted that my generous parents ever gave money to such a terrible person. NOT TO MENTION, who decided that only "thin" equals "beautiful"?! That just could not be farther from the truth. Forgive me for sounding so cliche but beauty truly does come in every shape and size.

Even when I could have been classified as "thin and beautiful" as a high schooler, A&F clothes never fit me right. I'm tall. They did not make clothes that were tall-girl-friendly. So, even though I could wear their sizes, they were always too short for me. Case in point is the picture below, taken on the above mentioned Christmas morning when I tried on all my new clothes, only to find that most of them made me look like I was wearing child-sized items.

That was not intended to be a 3/4 sleeve shirt...

Over the next couple of years, my natural curves started to fill in. I didn't have a problem with it until I realized that some of the super trendy stores no longer carried sizes for me. A&F was the worst of all. By 18, I was at my peak height of 5'10 and wore a size 10. I was active and fit and still "thin" by most people's standards. (Except mine back then, but that's another post all together.)  But, even though A&F carried jeans that were marked as size 10 - they weren't. I could pull a size 10 off the shelf of any store and it fit like a dream - expect A&F. In their dressing room, I would jump up and down trying to shimmy into those ridiculous, over-priced jeans, to no avail. Back then, though, at least they carried XL shirts, which I was forced to buy - like in the picture below. (I wore a Medium everywhere else.) To me, the message was clear even then without coming right out and saying it - this store is not for you, Big Girl.

Size 10. Too "Fat" for Abercrombie & Fitch.

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids."

Even beyond the hatred of "large" people, its the exclusivity that A&F clothes are only for "the cool kids" that really makes my blood boil. As if times aren't tough enough for kids - with bullying at complete epidemic levels - we now have the CEO of one of the most popular brands for kids further exacerbating the problem. Telling a generation, a generation with serious self-esteem issues, that these clothes aren't for you if you are a mathlete, or play the french horn, or join the show choir. Those are the cool kids, if you ask me. The kids who aren't afraid to be themselves. In middle school, I stopped hanging out with the "popular group" because they were mean to everyone else, and it was a giant, earth moving thing to me. I basically lost 80% of my "friends". I came home crying one day that my life was over because I'd never be "popular" again. My Mom told me that a true sign of popularity was to have friends in every circle - to have LOTS of friends - not just one elite group. You should listen to my Mom, Mr. CEO.

But, since all you seem to care about is what makes someone "cool" and physically attractive (BY YOUR CONTORTED STANDARDS), you can take your brand and shove it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

White Chili

As part of the 30x30 list, I have been introducing new recipes into our repertoire pretty regularly. Some of them have been awesome. Some...well, not. On Monday night, we tried one that is most definitely awesome. As usual, I used an existing recipe as my base, then changed it around for us. It turned out better than expected - we both really loved it!

White Chili

1 lb ground turkey OR shredded, cooked chicken
1 medium onion diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 can great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium chicken broth 
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano leaves 
a few twists of pepper grinder (or 1/2 tsp)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream 
a few pinches of corn starch, to help thicken if needed

Season and cook ground turkey, drain and set aside. (If using chicken, cook it up however you like it, then shred it and set it aside.) Saute onion and garlic in butter or EVOO until tender. Add turkey or chicken back in. Add beans, broth, chilies, and seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer about 20 mins uncovered. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and cream. (Mix in corn starch if its too "soupy".) Serve immediately.