Change in Cadence #Day7

At nearly eight years old, Nora buckles her own seatbelt and wipes her own bottom. She gets herself dressed and she can even make a mean batch of scrambled eggs (the secret, she will tell you, is that if they look done in the pan, they will be overcooked by the time they get to your plate. Thank you, Alton Brown.)

All of this blossoming independence has made it possible for me to have more time for doing my own thing again. I can write, knit, go to brunch with other moms.

Ben too. Nora has a little table in his shop with water color paper and paints. She sits out there while he tinkers in his shop, building a bike frame.

We can leave the house on a whim, with only a simple, “Nora, get your shoes on!”

All that is about to change.

The cadence of life is about to change.

There will be diapers to change, a tiny mouth to feed and then feed again. Naps to take.

Leaving the house will once again require forty minutes of preparation only to be delayed due to a feeding.

C’est la vie.

I’m attempting to mentally prepare for this change. I’m reminding myself of all the places where we’ll simply slow down. And it doesn’t need to be frustrating.

The price we pay in convenience will be repaid in the smell of a new born baby and the many firsts to come. The first time she smiles, finds her feet, flips over.

Firsts we will be able to appreciate all the more through the eyes of Nora, who will get the chance to be a big sister.

Bring on the slow down.

This week I’m doing the #YourTurnChallenge. One blog post a day for seven days. Today is Day 7. Woot!

Expectations Aren’t So Great #Day6

I expected the hard part of this pregnancy would be managing my diabetes. From the reading I’d done, I knew sugar levels can go haywire thanks to hormones and increased insulin requirements during pregnancy. I’ve been working hard to stay on top it, and doing well. It made me a bit smug, I felt if I could keep my blood sugars where I wanted, I had the power to trick this pregnancy into being comfortable.

I’ve been blindsided by other complications and discomforts, thus violating my expectation that I had things under control. Cue psychic misery in addition to the physical.

Yesterday, Nora had her first spelling test ever. She told me she expected to do well. She ended up with the second worst score in the class and a meltdown ensued. “I feel like I’m not showing what a good writer I am!” When she didn’t meet her own expectations, she took a spiritual nose dive.

Our brains, always trying to make sense of things, make predictions based on past experience. Maybe this would work out alright, if it wasn’t for all the feelings that come attached to expectations — or more accurately the violations of those expectations.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from my surface-scratching exploration of Buddhism is the idea that we need to let go of expectations as much as we can — if we want to prevent our own unnecessary suffering.

It can be subtle, what this does and does not mean. And I’m still learning.

It doesn’t mean that we give up on settings standards of behavior for ourselves and our children; it does mean that we stop trying to second guess outcomes.

Yesterday, Ben brought me a dozen roses. I wasn’t expecting it. And it was beautiful.

If I start expecting that every Friday, I’m bound to be disappointed.

This week I’m doing the #YourTurnChallenge. One blog post a day for seven days. Today is Day 6.

Get Unstuck: Two Tools for Creative Types #Day5

Wouldn’t it be nice if we creative types had an inbox on our desk that was magically filled with definable, executable work? We could sit down, pick something from the stack, bust it out and then sit back, satisfied, smug and creatively fulfilled?

But this is an absurd idea. Creative work is the exact opposite of this.

Our job is to conjure up our own ideas out of thin air and get to work.

Not easy. And hard as hell to sustain.

But it is possible. There are two tools I’ve found that have worked far better than simply sitting around waiting for a visit from the muse.

The first tool is a book. Once I mention it, you’ll start to hear about from every single creative person you respect. I first heard about it from Johnny B. Truant and John Morrow, two impressively productive writers.

It’s called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Crack it open (or better yet, get the audio book so you can absorb it while doing non-creative tasks) and this book will unleash upon you the biggest can of lovingly-dispensed whoop-ass you’ve ever known.

Pressfield defines your enemy: Resistance with a capital R, and sets about telling you what you need to know to deal with it and do your work anyway. Every person who’s taken my advice and actually read this book has kicked off an impressive period of productive creative work before they were even done reading it.

The second tool is a bit nerdy, I admit. But it’s the perfect companion to The War of Art. It was developed by writers for writers and it’s called the Magic Spreadsheet.

It’s basically a gamification strategy for making your word count. Hundreds of writers track their word count on a (free) shared spreadsheet and are rewarded for a consistent writing practice. You get more points for writing everyday than you get for the volume of writing you create, thus helping to create a regular writing practice. And when those points start to add up, and you start to see how much writing you can get done everyday if you’re accountable for it, well, it is indeed magical. 

My personal best streak of two and a half months of writing every single day (June through mid-August of last year) was entirely thanks to the one-two punch of Pressfield and the Magic Spreadsheet. It only ended with the life upheaval that the crippling fatigue of pregnancy’s first trimester can bring. And when you break your streak, you just jump back in and start again.

Go get started right now. Read the book, add your name to the spreadsheet and get to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can do.

This week I’m doing the #YourTurnChallenge. One blog post a day for seven days. Today is Day 5.

Recipes for the Energetically Impaired #Day4

This winter, with my limited energy level, cooking has been a challenge. For dinners, I’ve been leaning heavily on nachos and sandwiches. Ok, and sometimes just granola. My people were getting restless.

Food is a big deal around our house, even when I’m not pregnant.

Our food has to be yummy and healthy. (Read: we’re food snobs.) So it was time to hunt down some new quick and low carb recipes. The ones I’m sharing today are fast and were a big hit with everyone at my house.

But I was too tired to take pictures…

Salmon and Asparagus Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light’s Salmon, Asparagus, and Orzo with Lemon Dill Vinaigrette

I made several changes from the original, including taking out the cup of orzo, changing the red onion to shallot and adding way less and changing the cooked salmon to smoked salmon, which makes it even easier.

Ingredients

6 cups water
1.5 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1-2 package(s) of smoked salmon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1/8 cup thinly sliced shallot
LEMON-DILL VINAIGRETTE (recipe below)

Preparation

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add asparagus; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, reserving water in pan. Plunge asparagus into ice water; drain and set aside.

3. Break fish into large chunks. Combine fish, asparagus, onion, and Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

Ingredients

1/3 cup (1.3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

 

Cod with Lentils

Adapted from Gourmet’s Sauteed Cod with Lentils.

This one is only going to shine if you have access to very, very fresh fish.

Ingredients

For lentils

  • 1 cup dried lentils (preferably French green lentils* often called lentilles du Puy); 7 ounces) – OR — better yet, the vacuum sealed pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For fish

  • 4 (5- to 6-ounces) pieces cod fillet
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Garnish: lemon wedges; chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Prepare lentils:

Cover lentils with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 12 to 25 minutes. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid. (Skip this step if you’re using pre-cooked lentils.)

While lentils are simmering, melt butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then stir in onion, garlic, and salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 10 minutes more.

Stir in lentils and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook until heated through.

Just before serving, stir in parsley, lemon juice, pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil.

Cook fish while onion finishes cooking:
Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure filets are completely de-boned!

Heat butter and oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté fish, turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.

Serve fish with lentils and drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil if desired.

This week I’m doing the #YourTurnChallenge. One blog post a day for seven days. Today is Day 4.

Humans are Terrible at Making Resolutions #Day3

Notice I said making resolutions, not keeping resolutions?

Just before the new year, Nora, age 7-1/2, decided she was going to wake up early every day. She was making a New Year’s Resolution without realizing it.

Why did she want to wake up early? So she could have extra time to do fancy things with her hair.

From a mother’s perspective, this is a terrible idea. I don’t give a shit about your hair, kid; as long as it doesn’t stink or make the county think you’re neglected.

What I care about is that you get enough sleep so you can go to school and function happily, without being a complete train wreck in the evenings. If you’re sacrificing sleep in the name of vanity, we’re in trouble.

Seven-year-olds aren’t the only ones who have a hard time setting goals and resolutions for the right reasons. Grown-ups are just as bad.

So often, our reasons involve how we look to others, not how we feel. We resolve not to act in our own best interests.

That’s why we are so terrible at keeping resolutions, because we’re terrible at making them.

With this in mind, the only resolution I’ve set for this year is to work with whatever comes my way and make it part of my spiritual growth, instead of struggling against it or running from it. It’s not an easy one to keep, that’s for sure.

But at least I know it’s good for me. I’m finally old enough to realize that running from reality or trying to fight it is where all the trouble starts.

As for Nora, her early rising resolution lasted about three days. I was damn glad to see it broken.

If you’ve already broken your resolution for this year, maybe it’s time to look at the reason you made it in the first place. Maybe it’s for the best and a new one would serve you better.

This week I’m doing the #YourTurnChallenge. One blog post a day for seven days. Today is Day 3.