Wednesday, March 28, 2012

the purpose of early spring

as far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
-carl jung

i go through this weird period every spring when i have a heaviness and a bit of despair about the human condition.  i believe it's a mix of some early traumatic imprint that happened this time of year, seasonal allergies and a call from spirit to slow down and reassess.  it sometimes feels very personal and adolescently dramatic, like my life is a total waste and i hate everything everybody does and says.  also there is the inevitable disappointment that my own emergence is not quite as automatic and beautiful as that which is occuring in nature.  these negative feelings take over when i ignore the annual whisper to withdraw and observe and ponder.

so i'm trying to rest more and join less.  listen more and talk less.  read more and internet less.  love more and fear less.

and read this again.

Monday, March 26, 2012


(actually, it's dairy-free monday, but that doesn't read as well.)

on this little journey to plant-based eating (i've been vegetarian, nearly vegan for four weeks!), i've remained almost dairy-free.  i gave in to a couple cheese cravings until meg introduced me to a truly wonderful vegan cheese.  i've also missed the creamy feel of ice cream and kheer. 

the other day, a friend shared this post about chia seeds.  i've been sprinkling my salads with chia seeds for a few months and never thought about making a pudding with them.  i followed the basic instructions in the post and played around with some chai spices to try to get that indian rice pudding feel and taste. 

et voila:  chia chai indian pudding!

{1}  soak a chai tea bag in one cup of coconut milk for a few hours (i accidentally--or serendipitously--got the vanilla coconut milk and it worked perfectly).  remove the tea bag after a few hours.

{2}  crush three cardamom pods to release their goodness and put in the milk.  add three whole cloves.  stir in 1/8 teaspoon of rose water (this is optional, but it really gives it that true kheer taste). 

{3}  measure four tablespoons of chia seeds and stir in to the milk.

{4}  put in an airtight glass container and refrigerate overnight.

{5}  the next day, your chia seeds will have plumped up with all the milky chai-ness to resemble a rice pudding.

{6}  sweeten with honey or agave nectar.  chopped pistachios would be awesome too.

so here's the thing:  it's a bit gel-ish, not quite as tapioca-like as the article suggests.  but once i tasted it, i forgave it its weird texture and unfortunate grey color.  it's amazing!  i had a wee portion of the dish and i was full for hours.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

a team of one

my name is lisa and i am a recovering fake extrovert. 

from very early on, the resounding message in my home, my classrooms, my playgrounds and sunday school classes was that my natural inclination to seek solitude to think things through and imagine solutions was the wrong way to go.  join the group, share your ideas (and allow others to claim them as their own), brainstorm, work as a team; these were the commands repeated by my mother, teachers, girlscout leaders and anyone else whose job it was to help me succeed.

i learned that extroversion, and particularly the group-joining model of extroversion, was the best and only path to success.  very early on i perfected my extroverted persona.   i painfully volunteered to be in the play, give the speech, lead the group.  and i was good at it.  and it worked.  because our american culture values a strong team player above all else.

it's only in the last year and my new training and work with myers-briggs that i have discovered my true and lovely introverted self.  i peeled away the numbed layers of pain from years of being a pretend extrovert.  i realized that often being a part of the team left my ideas and contributions misunderstood,  "dumbed down" or hijacked by the inevitable team climber.  embracing my introversion has actually allowed me to be more effective and certainly more authentic in a group.

thank god we as a culture are starting to realize that our obsession with teamwork has gone too far.  i'm reading the book "quiet" by susan cain.  if you are an introvert, or a pretend extrovert, or an actual extrovert, it will totally be worth your time to spend twenty minutes watching her ted talk.

i am dedicating this weekend to introversion.  there will be reading, gardening, one-on-one talks, photography, cooking and lots and lots of thinking and writing.  sounds like heaven to me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

paint and paper and pencil

i got a little carried away making a sign for our plot at the organic garden.  it will read "good karma garden."  i like that:  happy sun and good karma.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

the organic garden

behind the campus of randolph college, where my husband teaches (me too, every other year), a group of students started a community garden.  this year ken surprised me with our own little four-foot-by-ten-foot plot.  on saturday we spent a few hours clearing out our little space and dreaming about what we wanted to plant.

new young chickens arrived a few weeks ago.  these are ameraucana birds, who lay the lovely teal-colored eggs.  we can get all of our eggs from the garden.  they are totally organic.  and we can express our gratitude to the chickens.  good food karma.

several students spend their saturday afternoons helping out around the garden.  sweet kay came over to lend a hand with our weeding.

there are fruit trees too.  the peach trees are in bloom.  they are so bright, the air surrounding them is almost tinted pink.

the ducks roam free between the plots.  there are several ponds where they splash around and engage in duck shenanigans.

our plot is on a terraced slope, with a view of the chicken houses.  the bees buzz around their hives behind the chickens.

it is such a beautiful place to make friends, enjoy some peace and grow good food.  children chase the ducks as their parents work side by side with students from around the world.  there is a meeting space off to the side.  i've heard stories of gatherings around the bonfire after hours of hard work, coming together to talk and celebrate the garden and all of its gifts.

einstein is the boss of the chicken house.  he's quite handsome, don't you agree?

we feel so lucky to have this space.  our home sits in a forest of trees and is too shaded to grow vegetables.  i'm looking forward to the goodness to come this summer.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


friends, i have been saved by kale chips. 

for months, i heard people preaching the goodness of kale chips and i remained a non-believer.  i mean really, kale and chips are like complete opposites on the yum spectrum, right? 

so wrong.  i am contrite.  and i am rarely contrite. 

i reluctantly purchased a head of kale for a juice and then just couldn't stomach the idea of kale juice.  the organic garden wasn't taking scraps for compost this week and i didn't want to throw it away, so i thought what the heck, i'll try the kale chips.

and the heavens opened and little green angels with awesome skin surrounded me as i took a bite.  and not once did they have an i-told-you-so vibe.  it was more of a we-are-so-happy-you-crossed-over-into-spectacularness vibe.

if you look around the internet, there are several ways to do them.  here's what i did:

  • wash the kale, even if it's organic
  • trim the leafy parts from the rib
  • tear or cut into 2"-4" pieces
  • toss with one tablespoon olive oil
  • i also threw in some red pepper flakes and a few shakes of nutritional yeast
  • arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  • bake for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 300 degrees
  • cool a bit and season with sea salt
they are delicate and crispy and don't taste anything like kale.  i am totally addicted. 

it's nice to be addicted to something besides coffee and shopping.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

tiny memoir: camillias

when the camillias bloom, i think about my grandma dee.  her back garden in california was filled with avocado, lemon and pomegranate trees and bordered with the most glorious camillias in the world.  worn out from playing, i would lie on the grass and fall asleep in the sun.  when dusk arrived, grandma would bring me in the little house, feed me dinner and we'd sit on the floor in front of the television, singing along to the porter wagoner show (my shoes pay homage).  she would let me brush her long black hair for hours.  sometimes she'd give me coffee with milk and sugar.  my mother would have had a fit.  first of all, coffee.  and secondly, right before bedtime?  yet i would slumber sound in the big bed, buried under handmade quilts, loved completely.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


are pretty blogs, pinterest, and practicing gratitude the new opiates of the (female) masses?

are women getting lost in beautiful things and becoming blind to what is ugly in our nation and world?

are we more interested in (insert mommy blogger name here)'s baby and how cute she looks in that anthro dress and cardi than women who cannot escape poverty and whose rights are diminishing before our very eyes?

do we allow ourselves to be lulled into graceful silence with our mixed media art projects, excessive self-care, art and yoga retreats and the thousands of useless things we can craft with toilet paper rolls?

are we afraid to get a little loud, disagree and have an intelligent discourse on the real issues?

does our power frighten us?

do we choose kindness at the expense of action?

there is no doubt that most of us are very lucky and we do a really awesome job at expressing our gratitude.  i love the blog world and i love seeing happy mamas and babies and art and cute clothes from anthropologie (not so keen on the toilet paper roll crafts).  for example, see my blogroll, it's filled with beauty that i deeply value.

but i also know the other side.  i see it every day.  it is very real.  and it is getting bigger by the day.  i use this space to balance, not to hide.  (confession:  i've actually used it to hide in the past.)

the overwhelming reaction to the kony 2012 video on my facebook, twitter and in the blogosphere has astonished me.  you see, this human rights issue has been heating up for years.  years.  we've been talking about it in my international child abuse class for what seems like forever.  in the past i've been met with the same bleh reaction when i talked about uganda as i have in the last few weeks about women's rights being signed away in virginia.

i'm happy to see the issue is finally getting some attention.  i care just as deeply about ugandan women and children as i do american women and children. 

as a relatively privileged and educated cohort, can we not be outraged and do something proactively?  do we have to be kicked into action by a glossy viral video about horrific atrocities or can we educate ourselves, form an opinion, engage in civil discourse and take some action prior to the preventable disaster?  choose an issue that is important to you and do something.  blog, contribute, protest, inform others, whatever; and support others in their causes when they align with your beliefs.

i know the pull into this safe beautiful artsy-yoga-y-mama world very well.  and i mean no disrespect for those who prosper and frolic within it.  but i also know the power and comfort of denial and how environments can be subtly created to lull us into avoidance and shelter us from "other".  for example, my own professional field has been overwhelmed by a misapplication of "strengths-based" social work.  it's made it nearly impossible to identify and get something done about real child abuse that is happening at increasingly alarming rates.

it's something to think about and i'm interested in your thoughts.  because that sweet little crown made out of the toilet paper roll and gold paint does not carry with it any authentic influence and power in our world.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

hope and the pain of opening my eyes

“hope is not about proving anything. it’s about choosing to believe this one thing: that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”

-anne lamott

oh friends, i've had an interesting week.  lately i've grown tired of living in a culture where i have to swallow my words and silence my opinion in order to keep the peace.  but something happened last week that made me, required me, to open my eyes, open my mouth, and take a stand. 

in my twenties, i planned to go into human rights law.  i was very active in politics and working to make life better for those whose rights were denied them.  after some years wallowing in too much information, injustice, hatred and deceit, and not a lot of change, i made the decision for my own health and well-being to scale back on the activism. 

in the interest of peace i chose to look away from the injustice and back down from the fight, to close my eyes and hum a lovely tune to block out the noise of hate.

but then just like that, i was back in. 

in the interest of peace.  and hope.  and love.

Monday, March 5, 2012


about a year ago, i ran across the website for meatless monday.  i thought it was a totally doable gig, so i jumped on board.  pop over a have a look.  the basic idea is to eat meat free for just one day a week.  the benefits to your body and the planet for this small step are ginormous.

also, meat free is prettier:

over the last few months, my meat free days have expanded somewhat naturally.  really, i may not have noticed how little meat i was eating until i did my health history for my coach.  in addition to my work with meg, a few things happened in the last month that renewed my committment to eating cleaner and in a more humane way.  the first thing was that i watched the movie food, inc.  within the same week, i was driving down the highway and was passed by a semi carrying hundreds of cages of turkeys.  the truck was on my left and kind of road alongside me for a bit.  the cages were completely open to the air, feathers flying everywhere.  one of the turkeys had poked his head out the cage and his head was being whipped around by the wind and the high speed of the truck.  he was unable to pull his head back in.  i watched in horror as his head and neck banged against the cage and he died a horrific death.

i love all animals.  and i love my body.  it's time for me to start living like this is the truth. 

this was supposed to be a post about the chipotle sweet pototoes but i thought you would appreciate some story behind the dish.  here's the deets on this amazing meat free mexican meal:

chipotle sweet potatoes
two sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
one can black beans, rinsed
pico de gallo
one chili and one tbsp adobo from chipotle in adobo, finely diced
a bit of cheese of your choice

mix diced chipotle and adobo sauce with diced sweet potatoes and one tbsp olive oil.  roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crisp.

mix roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and pico de gallo.  top with cheese, diced avocado, toasted pepitas and cilantro.

so easy.  so good.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

redefining sweet

it's been about a month since i cut back on sugar, dairy, meat and wheat.  i'm crowding out these foods, replacing them with luscious greens, nut milk, juices, quinoa, fruits and veggies.  so far, so good.

on wednesday, i photographed this beautiful cupcake and then promptly, without thinking, peeled back the paper and took a bite.  the sweetness overwhelmed me.  and not in a good way.  it seems that my mouth, as the official gatekeeper of all things that nourish my body, is developing a new protocol for what is sweet.

i was not expecting this sudden of a turnaround.  and a part of me doesn't fully trust that is indeed a turnaround.  but holy whole foods, i'm going to go with it!  because i've always dreamed of being that girl who really doesn't really care for sugared up food and who can't get enough of all that feeds her in a true and healthy way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

this weekend

is all about clearing and creating space.

i hope your space and your weekend are so so lovely for you.