Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seasons Part 1: Avocados

I have a creative, thoughtful friend who has her own personal seasons.  She has three seasons: nectarine, dreams and crane.  In the summer nectarines are delicious.  Dreams are for winter.  Cranes emerge in spring, and she means the kinds of cranes that construct buildings, not birds.  She owns her own seasons, and because they are hers, she is not governed by them.  She shares herself with them.  When she told me this, I thought of course why do all seasons have to be Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer?  Why can't there be another point of reference?  Why can't seasons revolve around me?  It is so obviously possible.    

This begs the question; what will mine be?  Maybe this is obvious to some, but I haven't thought this way before and I must consider it.  After all, they will become a tradition and as permanent as a tattoo.  Careful consideration is necessary.   Maybe it will take a year or so to commit to a set season, maybe I will have more than three, or less, or more than 12?  

After awakening to the idea, it is surprising how to realize that I do tend to think in seasons unconsciously. 

For example,  I work in higher education and work on an academic year so I'm naturally tuned to the cycles of the quarter and the rise and fall of workload that comes with being a teacher, especially on a quarter system.  It makes sense to me and I think it likely does in most professions.  My energy falls and rises with the presence of students and other teachers.  I also tend to intuit the energy of the campus space, I absorb the tension in faculty or its release.  I feed on the work habits of those around me.

Pealing through this energy of my profession and folding in on my own forces is tricky.  In other words, rather than reacting to the energy around me, what is my energy bringing to this? That is my season at play, not some other system pushing on me.  Unpealing this is key.

Summer is a good time to start.  For me, it is of professional sleep, work is slow and I've come to terms that I may consider myself on-call, passive, not active or proactive, just reactive in my profession.  Summer is a time for reflection, learning and planning.  This summer,  I've painted more, since there is more time for it.  I work from home more.  I support my family more proactively.   There is more time for reflection and even criticism of my life.  I've been weighted down by thoughts of quitting my job, of finding something new.  I'm very aware of a new restlessness rooted in my mid-life transition unexpressed.    Some of these themes will follow me across the years but I'm searching for a universal truth that touches me. 

I caught myself thinking recently that I really love that the avocados are back in season.  They are never in season in Seattle, but they make their way to Seattle in a delicious state beginning sometime in the Summer and maybe Spring.  In the Fall they turn tasteless, mushy messes and I refuse to eat them anymore as they barely mimic their potential.  Summer time, they are creamy, full, delights, smooth and delicious.  Wonderful with the warm, just picked tomatoes from the garden and a little basil and a pinch of salt.  No dressing needed.

Avocados have multiple meanings for me.  My fondest memories of living in Managua, Nicaragua are with my lovely friend Jenny Maudsley.  We often sat on the shared patio between our two studios in the shade of a mango tree away from the summer heat, drinking Flor de Cana mixed with Squirt. We talked about everything as we shook off the 60 hour work week with that drink and the burgeoning fondness of our friendship.

One day, as we sat under the stars the topic turned to avocados.  We adore them.  And central America is full of them, so plentiful they reach down from urban trees tempting you to pick and eat them on the spot.  Oh, the creamy fullness of dipping into a fresh avocado peeled with your fingers like a banana and eaten like an apple.  An adventurous delight.

Just like a good snog, as Jenny my English friend, would quip  - orgasmic.  And just like any good friendship, we developed a lexicon around a good avocado and a good hook up with that just perfect boy; the peace corp worker, the backpacker from new Zealand, the Europeans traveler.  Any boy that made our knees weak at the site and a belly lurch at the first kiss.  We were as picky about these boys as we were about avocados.  They had to be the perfect combination of sensation, texture, touch and zesty humor.  These were our avocados.  We did not compromise on them, they had to be luscious or not partaken.   The search for a perfect avocado was part delightful anticipation and part quest. 

My time in  Central America was a time of rawness.  Sweet, full, exposed, truthful, sometimes ugly and sometimes bountiful.  I struggled with grief, struggled with my identity and future.  I wandered across that country enjoying its energy and authenticity.  A bit aimless, but in my aimlessness I settled in myself for a time.    And avocados filled that  time as a symbol of the pleasure, fullness and surprise that magical part of the world gave me, all sensual, spiritual, and nourishing. 

So this season is avocado season, it is obvious now.  It is a time to be raw, to go inward, to find new expression and to seek raw sensation.  To muddle in career work and work on life meaning and to explore those energies that I don't get to in a dull winters and the throws of academic stress. .  And to enjoy a good full wonderful avocado until the season ends.  And I don't know yet when it ends yet.  That will be the joy of exploring my next season. 

And to my new friend, I thank that she shared her seasons with me.  I love this idea and find thoughtful reflection in what this may mean to me.  I love nectarines as well, though not as much as she does.  But during her season almost every morning I make my scrambled eggs with delicious nectarines and think about her and the gift of my own seasons.  Here is her recipe and during avocado season, I will stir up some of my own avocados: 

Scrambled Eggs with Nectarines

2 tablespoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon ghee
1 clove of garlic
1 nectarine
1/2 chorizo sausage
2 eggs
1 garden fresh tomato chopped
2 tblsp fresh basil

To do:
Sautee the onion, garlic, nectarine and chorizo in the ghee for two minutes over medium heat.
Crack 2 eggs in pan and scramble mixing all ingredients until eggs are cooked to your preference.
Turn off heat and stir in basil and tomato.

Eat with a summer melon on the side like watermelon or cantaloupe.  Top with an avocado. 

Addictive love.  Enjoy.       

Sunday, April 21, 2013

the art of a good meal

I love to eat. Because of this, I love to cook. 
Cooking is more than throwing ingredients together, following a recipe and bringing food to the table.  It is an art that requires love.
What love brings to cooking is patience, observation, knowledge both of mind and tongue, creativity, and spontaneity.  Born of this is expression.   Love inspires good cooking, it inspires fearlessness and that opens up the world on the plate. 
I have been asked lately what my favorite cookbook was and I said "the refrigerator, whatever is in there."  I don't remember when I forsake recipes.  Now, I cook only from heart and once a month by recipe.  I try to memorize the bones of recipes so I can apply the essence of it later on without the burden of a recipe.  Part of this is necessity, it is faster to cook without a recipe.  I spend less time planning and more time eating.  I like efficiency - fridge to mouth.  But I also I like the moments of reflection before I cook,  I rummage through bins, explore the pantry, plan a meal, gage timing, contemplate its tastes and flavor combinations.  Cooking is 30 minute compression project management.  Simultaneously, while I chop sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts it is meditation and reflection.  It keeps my mind relaxed and alert. 
And I've learned to observe food and what it needs to blossom in the cooking process.  Some foods like a fresh papaya don't need much other than to be sliced and placed on just about anything.  Other foods, like Brussels sprouts, need to be seared to open the flavor then steamed to settle or roasted in fat and light kiss of salt.  Roast any squash, butternut and acorn are favorites, and blend it with coconut oil and sea salt to accompany any meat.  Tomatoes aren't worth eating unless they are in season and local.  Beats steamed, some chopped apples and avocado with cilantro, olive oil and lemon make a nice salad.  Kale needs a generous saute in fat and salt and pepper to become a base for all kinds of sauteed add ins: sun dried tomatoes, sun chokes, hearts of palms or carrots.  When food is observed, it will tell you what it needs to please you. 
Some ways to learn to observe food:
  • Eat great food.  Eat at many different places from many different people. Explore the way others cook.  Let your taste explore the food.  Be inspired.  
  • Read about food. Learn about nutrition, food is medicine, read recipes and look for the next interesting flavor combination on a blog or pinterest.   
  • Eat fresh, local, whole, organic, clean food.  It opens up the taste buds when they are uncluttered from processed, sugar heavy, semi-food.   
Observing food brings inspiration to the next dish.  Suddenly, the refrigerator is the next recipe and this makes sense.       


Dinner tonight:  smashed carrots with avocado oil; Blugh's BBQ pork chop; sauteed kale, garlic and artichokes in sun dried tomato pesto; roasted thyme and oregano portabello mushrooms. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a brand of empowerment

What does it mean to be empowered?

I reflected on this after I dropped out of the Landmark Forum.  It attempted to patent my empowerment. I resent any ownership of me.  I accept full responsibility for myself.  So I left.  And I committed to branding my own empowerment. 

What is empowerment?  And why will some  give up their freedom to someone else to achieve it?  Isn't that paradoxical?  Can one be empowered when they give themselves to others?  I find myself thinking of love as I write this question.  But what I witnessed was the giving over of power to overcome fear, not for love.  In this state, could this really be empowerment?  

I don't think so.  It is choosing one authority (fear) for another (the landmark forum). 
I believe we are empowered.  We live in an empowered state.  It doesn't come to us.  It reveals itself as a perfect already achieved state.  Give up the belief that empowerment lives with someone else. Give up the restrictions your mind.  Give up what others think of you.  Give up the padding, the protection and the blinders that prevent you from seeing yourself and your potential.  It is clear we are pure empowered potential and energy.  We are limitless.     

When we deliberately place ourselves in the direction of our goals a synchronicity will unfold. Goals are achievable and achieved, allies emerge, love expands, tribes find you, networks multiply.  Being deliberate is engagement and commitment to personal empowerment.  Being deliberate is difficult and requires much: Vision. Consistency. Belief. Courage. Faith.  Commitment.  And there is much that holds us back: The Status Quo. Culture. Community. Friendships. Love, yes, love.  Family.  Demands. Our Minds. 

And don't forget non-conformity.  It is required for true empowerment in almost any arena;  health, fitness, success, finance, family, love.

 And I think that is the rub.  The same forces that empower us keep us back. 

Extremes are just the opposite bends of a outfacing circle, connected but unaware of each other. Creating space for both, holding and observing them simultaneously.  This is empowerment.  It is a choice to love it all.  And in loving it all, in those moments, days and even weeks, I feel the most freedom, empowerment and courage to be deliberate.      

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chocolate Fix Trail Mix

Everyone just needs a little fix of chocolate sometimes and this one is guilt and sugar free.  The right ratio of coconut, raisins and chocolate per bite and you won't notice that there isn't sugar in the chocolate.  

Here is what you need:

Equal partsof each for one serving about 1/8 cup of each does the trick. 
  • Baking chocolate broken into chocolate chip sized bits
  • Raisins
  • Coconut flakes
Mix together in a bowl.

Eat like trail mix. 

You could add nuts if you like as well.  You could also blend this is your vitamix for a larabar. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Judge and Coach

Me, a judge?  At crossfit?  I’m definitely not qualified.  What was I thinking? 
 I’m crossfit newborn, only 3 months old.  And like a baby, I’m absorbing all the details with wide eyes and little understanding.   The language is foreign: AMRAPs, TANAKA, HSPU, Wall Climbs, cleans, jerks, snatches, 1 rep maxes and all for times and PRs.  It is a lot to understand at 6 am and there are times when I just  give up and think “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”. But I’m curious.  What is it all about?  It does make me push myself beyond the gym.  Why?  How does it work?  What’s a competition like?

I joined crossfit because I want to get pushed past my limit.  I like to feel strong and to progress.  And I am.  But a judge?    I’ve never done a Squat Clean and Press before.  I’m still trying to get my butt under my knees as I squat and largely struggling.  Yet, as a judge I’m responsible to claim reps for athletes that can squat further than my tight hamstrings will ever allow.   Is that hypocritical?
Saturday, I was a judge at crossfit Resolution Revlotion 2 competition despite my reservations.  My job was to count repetitions and to make sure that competitor’s form was adequate.  I was overwhelmed and unsure.  Would I be able to even notice if shoulders were locked, squats were low, deadlifts were set down instead of dropped?    

It was a grey and drizzly day that chills to the bone.  My toes and fingers were completely numb in thirty minutes.  The entire competition was outside in the street outside the crossfit box.  The Workout of the Day (WOD) consisted of 2 minutes each of jump rope double unders, 60 heavy Squat Clean and Presses, 4 hill runs, 100 burpees and another heavy 50 deadlifts shared equally between a male and female team.  And it must all be completed in 45 minutes. 
In plain language, my first judging assignment sucked.  I was assigned to stand at the top of the hill in the rain to make sure athletes reached the line at the top before moving down.  It was cold.  It was raining.  The athletes were in pain.  I hear that hill is a 60% grade and I’ve run it before, it knocks you down a few notches.       

Following this, I had two solid heats to judge.  There were “lanes” drawn in kids chalk on the concrete street.  I took over lane 6 of 9.  My first couple were from a different crossfit box and dressed in florescent yellow.  She had on a black and yellow tutu and could squat lower than my tight hamstrings may ever let me.  I admired her strength,  a front squat of 105 lbs is impressive.    They were nervous and amped, fidgety as they readied themselves. 
And then the clock started.  The fun began. 

I know that a judge’s job is to keep the athletes accountable.  But I admire the pursuit of one’s potential.  I admire people that seek it in almost any noble form.  I couldn’t be so close without pushing them forward in whatever way I could.  I had to cheer them on too. 
I kept them going with the count, encouraging each one as they hit near their limit.  “Only two left!”  “just  Seven, Eight, nine”  and “you are at 95 now”.  “Next time, 25 reps each”.   “You got this one”  And of course “Excellent, awesome job!”  

I literally felt their pain as they lifted the weight, my thighs burned and my back hurt during deadlifts.  I was part of their team, not just an observer but part of their race.  I wanted them to keep going and I gave them whatever energy I could to ensure their success.  This is coaching, not judging.  I transferred my power to someone else, placed it in their hands and empowered them.  I got lost in it. I found my flow. 
It was a grueling workout.  The male competitor in the first workout was in so much pain by mid-workout he could barely move.  His jumps barely lifted from the ground and I had to warn him to get some air in them or I wouldn’t count them.  His eyes were glazed, he moved through them at a crawl.  He looked like he would pass out more than once. The second heat, an athlete turned to me halfway through her burpess and said “I’m going to throw up”.   Her face was so sincere and pained, it stopped me mid-cheer.  I believed her.   But to her credit, she took a break then hit the WOD slowly and completed in under the required 45 minutes. 

I admire the determination, the resolve, the persistence.  Each athlete bumped up against their limits and pushed hard. 
The end of my first heat, the athlete in the yellow tutu said I was the best judge ever.  It was awesome.