You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.

At the end of some years you look back and feel unchanged by the days past, as if an inertia had settled in and each day had a similar rhythm and feel and light to it.

This was not that year for me.

This was the year where the ground underneath me always felt shaky, when expectations never manifested in anticipated ways, where I often would rather stay cocooned under the covers than to face another day outside. Yet despite all that, in this year, I got up, got dressed and showed up for myself.

This year was the year I left the most difficult work experience of my career. That environment – challenging on its best days – taught me about myself and my strength and my character in the face of the naysayers who felt the need to define me, though they didn’t know a thing about me. It taught me about believing in myself, even when everyone around me was alternately ignoring me or telling me I wasn’t good enough. It taught me that sometimes people decide not to like you, and there is nothing you can do about it. And that, ultimately, it is more about them than it is about you.

Paradoxically, it also taught me that it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to wear sequins to work. That it is fine to dress as if every day was a celebration. That fabulousness is not relegated to the nighttime. I will take that lesson with me wherever I go.

Perhaps most valuable of all, it taught me that I never want to use the word “fabulous” again. Ever.

This year was the year I left that job for another that makes me feel as if I’ve landed on the other side of the world. The sun isn’t always shining, but more often than not, the forecast is partly sunny instead of completely clouded over. I am working harder than I ever have since I started working at 17, but I also have never been more supported or rewarded for it. I even won an award.

I have learned that confidence doesn’t fly away forever. It can bury itself in the ground and lay dormant for a time, just waiting for the springtime and some sunshine to nurture it back to life.

This was the year I took myself on vacation. I discovered that there is a place with a pace so slow and air so fresh that I felt altered by it. A place where calm was normal, where a stillness moved through me and stayed a while, quieting the voices in my head who never cease the constant conversation.

This was the year I tired of watching the housewives, no matter how “real” or imagined they seemed. I learned that the escape of watching other people live their made up lives was no match for the glorious messiness of my own. I realized that it is time to turn off the chaos of their lives and to focus on cleaning up my corner in the world.

This year was the year I found community at a neighborhood restaurant, even though it’s nowhere near my own neighborhood. There is comfort in a place where everyone knows my name, where I’m welcomed with smiles and a beautiful meal, and where I’m sent on my way with my favorite dessert and a hug before I walk out the door. Next time you are in the West Village of Manhattan, go to Neta…get the omakase and be prepared to swoon.

This was the year I struggled with balance and saw that I desperately need to cultivate a more meaningful personal life. It’s all personal, really, this life. It’s just that a richer, fuller life is about more than work. It’s my continual struggle, but I’m determined to conquer it by reclaiming a seat at the table with friends and their children, with family who may not see enough of me. The to-do list will always be there, but children grow up, friends grow close to other people and family learns to rely on others for support.

This was the year that I understood that you cannot be a support to other people if you have not filled the water in your own well. Insomnia has been a regular night time visitor, but I’ve remained determined to be stronger than it. Vegetables have been my loyal friends, even as I insist on supplementing the meals – okay, sometimes replacing entirely – with cheesy, ooey, gooey things that have little nutritional value. I’ve learned that sometimes comforting yourself is only acceptable in food form. But I also know that food is the best medicine and moderation is a proper way of mothering yourself.

This was the year that in spite of the turmoil, the chaos, the uncertainty, I learned that I was enough. I am enough. Me, just the way I am. I hope to keep remembering that.

And that is my wish for you in 2013.  No matter your circumstance, no matter where you are in your life, you will live your year grounded with the knowledge that you alone are enough.

I woke up with a start and an immediate craving. For biscuits.

As I searched the internet for a basic biscuit recipe, like the one here, one random line in the results caught my eye. It described an accompaniment: brown sugar bacon.

Luckily I had some bacon in the fridge, leftover from a Christmas Eve impromptu concoction of peas, onion and bacon. (Try it – you’ll love it!)

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Then I had a brilliant idea. What if I made brown sugar bacon and put it IN the biscuit?

Um, yes, please.

I started by laying bacon slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet, then put just under a teaspoon of brown sugar on each slice. The bacon then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the sugar turned to a glaze and the bacon was slightly crispy.

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I blotted the slices on paper towels to drain the excess fat, and then chopped the bacon.  (I also uncontrollably munched on the chopped bacon, but I digress.)

Then, I attempted to make biscuit magic.

Flour, baking powder, salt, and a bit of sugar played together in a bowl.  Very cold, diced butter joined the party.

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My pastry cutter blended all of the ingredients together until the butter looked like pebbles in the sand.  (If you’ve never used a pastry cutter, I urge you to try it.  It makes cutting butter into the flour much simpler, and it has the same strangely therapeutic benefits as a meat pounder. At least for me.)

Then I added milk. Now, I only had coconut milk in the fridge, so that’s what I used. Next time, I might be bold and use my favorite vanilla half-and-half to add a little extra depth, richness and a touch more sweetness.

Once the milk was added, I stirred just until the moisture was evenly distributed among the dry ingredients.

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When the mixture was evenly moist, I dumped everything onto a floured board.

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I patted until the dough held together in a mound and was about one inch thick, and took a glass rimmed with flour (or you can use a biscuit cutter, if you have) and cut out the biscuits.

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Baked on a sheet pan lined in parchment paper, the biscuits rose to flaky gloriousness in a 425 degree oven.

And then, I ate.

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The result may not always be perfect, but when inspiration comes knocking, I’ve learned to let it lead you to goodness.

My intention was to write about the light.

This morning I was reminded that the universe’s best gifts are often offered up when the rest of the world is still sleepily tucked in. Up earlier than I normally like to be, my plan was to go to the office while it was peaceful and I could be productively alone. I walked around my apartment with a thousand thoughts in my head and was distractedly trying to figure out what to wear .

Then I looked out the window.

I don’t know why the sight of it always surprises me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been gloomy and rainy for more days that I can remember, or because I’ve gotten in the habit of hitting snooze five times so I get out of bed when the sun is already up.

But it still surprises me, the beauty of it. I looked up and caught my breath, mesmerized by the magic of the rising light. The sun was rising and its light bathed the trees in front of my window in heavenly rays of lavender and peach and amber and gold.

It’s a sight that I always want to hold on to. But then – like mostly anything you try to cling to – it’s gone, as quickly as it came.

The trick, I’ve learned, is understanding that though you cannot hold onto the light with your eyes, you can hold it in your soul. You can invite the feeling it gives you to stay for a while longer, to unhook you from the madness that life can bring, to turn your head to pay attention to beauty.

I wanted to write about the light. But I see that the light is much more than an ethereal glow on a branch. The light is what’s inside, what flips the switch in you and implores you to take notice of what’s right in front of you.

It’s what brings the magic to an ordinary day and makes the next morning something to look forward to.

While on a staycation this week, the words of poet Mary Oliver have shown themselves to me seemingly everywhere I turned.  In random blogs I’ve stumbled upon, in magazines I’ve been meaning to read, and in books I’ve opened, one inspirational line after another were revealed.

Ironically, the words that keep playing in my head are not the ones I’ve seen in blog posts or magazines. But the words I kept seeing triggered my memory for other words that clearly wanted to be acknowledged by me, desperately needing me to hear them again:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

I’ve turned this question over and over in my head and haven’t been able to come up with an answer.

During my time off, I was plagued with a restlessness that I couldn’t quite shake. It was much needed time off, but something in me couldn’t quite let go.  As I struggled to relax, these words stayed with me, almost haunting me.

What finally came to me was that I didn’t need to know what my plan for my one wild and precious life is today.  It’s okay to not know.  My job – my real full-time job – is to live the question.  And as I began to let the words wash over me, I realized that it all starts with self-care. You cannot fully hear the answers to such a big question if you can’t even make time to floss.

So I’ve promised myself that I will spend the month of December better caring for myself, body and soul.  I know I won’t be able to stop the chaos, but I’m hoping to find some space to listen to the whispers that have been drowned out.

I am paying attention with wide eyes, open ears and a willing heart to answers as they present themselves.

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