Holidaze’ Backwards Gaze.

IMG_9707Another year almost complete, cookies everywhere I look, twinkle lights, car accidents within feet of each other near the mall, the frenzy is upon us! How to stay present, sane, and joyful in the midst of traffic, lines, and expectations (most often self imposed)? It’s time to practice all that we’ve begun throughout the year, returning to morning routines, meditation, slowing down to breath and to laugh. And making lists helps too.

2018! What a bizarre year. How was yours?

One year ago I was preparing for a trip to India, finishing my improv and writing classes in LA, packing my car to drive East on I-40 for my Christmas trip home and the idea that I would soon move back to New Mexico permanently was nowhere on the horizon. Already that life seems like a dream. I recently hung my California license plate on the wall in my studio after finally re-registering my car in NM, as proof that it did happen, but the dreamlike quality remains.

After the initial chaos of the move back, life is finding a groove and I once again feel in the flow. 11:11 repeatedly appears, the perfect opportunities come from nowhere, old friends resurface, and only now does the level to which I was forcing things in LA seem clear. Not that it was bad. Great jobs came along, I met wonderful people, took classes, lived in a cute apartment, and overall had little to complain about, but the flow was missing. My  life felt manhandled and like something to figure out and to solve, rather than to simply be in.

But, it is also clear that it was something I had to do. I now know without any doubt that “wherever you go, there you are.” There is never anything out there (a job, a relationship, a city) that can magically create joy and contentment if it doesn’t already exist inside. We always come back to ourselves whether we like it or not.

I’m currently mulling over words for 2019. As most of you know, I intuitively choose one for each year and invariably they set the tone for the coming year. Love was my word for 2018 and when I chose it, just over one year ago, I had an inkling that though I would have loved for it to herald the arrival of an amazing new romantic relationship, it might end up being more about the self-love kind. Bingo.

And here I am, with two weeks to go before a new year begins, feeling so full of gratitude, contentment, joy, and cookies I could burst. All that I took for granted prior to moving (like my washing machine and driveway), all that I discovered and experienced while in LA (improv, storytelling, being on location for two months in sublime Northern California) and all that I want to create (an integrated life) are coming together and aligning beautifully. And I don’t take any of it for granted.

Scattered around my kitchen table, along with cookie recipes, shopping lists, and wrapping paper, are lists of words… Alignment. Commitment. Fun. Flow… I’m waiting for the 2019 winner to rise to the surface.

What’s your word for the upcoming year? What do you want to create?

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Gratitude + WTF

There is something about Thanksgiving that I just really, really love. Besides the pie, the cozy fuzzies, and the tradition. I love the craziness of it all.

I worked until 8 tonight and on what other night would I ever come home after working for twelve hours and decide to make a dessert that had terms I needed to google? When else would any of us drive for hours to argue about politics with people we don’t like very much (but do somehow love) and cook gigantic birds when we order takeout the other 364 nights a year?

I swore I bought everything I needed at the grocery store on Sunday and, yet, where was I at 8:10 tonight? Trader Joe’s.

“Do you sell tin foil?” I asked my cashier, hopefully.

“No, oh my god, I hope my wife remembered to buy some. We should, we really should have it. Do you mind if I have Siri text her while you’re swiping your card?”

Bouquets of flowers, bottles of wine, frozen pumpkin cheesecakes… the store looked like a herd of elephants had just run through, though the festive vibe made it seem like a friendly herd. Most shoppers were carrying baskets rather than pushing carts, the true procrastinators or, more likely, the guests; responsible only for appetizers, pie, flowers, and beverages. Maybe a baguette.

I am currently waiting for my hazelnuts to cool. I was supposed to bake them for 10-15 minutes or until their skin darkened and cracked. At that point I need to wrap them in a clean towel and rub them, so their skin comes off. So far, it’s been 20 minutes and the skin isn’t sloughing, no matter how hard I rub. Like a woman in a Turkish bath, scrubbing away, these guys won’t budge. I’m about to put them in the blender with the rice flour, skins and all, heaven forbid.

But, see what I mean? It’s funny.

I just googled ‘fruit curd’ upon realizing I had no idea what my recipe was talking about.

And all over the country people are stuck in traffic or airports or on the couch next to weird Uncle Joe. They are googling gravy recipes, calling their mom or missing their mom.

I will never forget a newscast I saw years ago on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. “What is it you love most about Thanksgiving?” the newscaster asked a bunch of people stuck in an airport somewhere. Mom was the overwhelming answer. And pie.

But, back to my hazelnuts and curd.

Wishing you and yours a Smagikal Thanksgiving and, whether you’re home alone, with friends or mom, roasting a turkey or making a tuna sandwich, baking a pie or trying that new 26 step recipe that seemed like a good idea last month, may the craziness make you laugh!

If you want to try the New York Times Cranberry Curd Tart with me, let me know how your skin sloughing goes!

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017817-cranberry-curd-tart?grocerylist

Always

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(photos made by me, November 7, 2016)

Two years ago, I woke up on election morning, in LA. The Cubs had won the World Series  just a week before and as I went about my morning, I thought about what I would say to my 5 year old nephew that night, when I called him on the phone.  I would tell him how cool it was that his normal would be going from an African American president to a woman president and that, of course, the Cubs always won the World Series, not just every 108 years. I couldn’t wait to call him.

That night I went to a friend’s house to watch the returns come in. I brought a bottle of wine. The polls had just closed on the West Coast. “It doesn’t look great,” she said from the kitchen. “Oh, don’t worry,” I waved her off, “it’s still early.” But, then it wasn’t early. My friend stayed in the kitchen, unable to watch the unfolding reality. I covered my eyes and slumped deeper into the couch.  I left a few hours later, in a blur of disbelief, unable to comprehend that a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist narcissist, completely lacking in intellectual curiosity and empathy, had just been elected by my fellow citizens. Late that night a friend called me on the phone, sobbing.

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(photo taken by Colleen Hayes, November 8, 2016)

I awoke the next morning crying and the reality set in. I went to get coffee in an attempt to confirm that the world that had existed yesterday, still did. Los Angeles was a ghost town. The few people I saw on the sidewalk looked like zombies. Some were crying. I remembered a similar feeling of shock on 9/11, but with the distinct difference that on that day we had been attacked from the outside, whereas on 11/8 we had done it to ourselves. I don’t remember so much public crying in 2001.

And, now, here we are. Election Day, 2018.

Two years of confirmation to how bad it really could get. An old, rich, white, male club in its death throes, clinging to power as the world around them changes and evolves. Make America Great Again; an idea grabbed onto by so many, as if there is ever a way to go backwards, to a time of privilege for few and oppression for many. As our greatness was called into question, one thing was sure; the muck was rising to the surface and a level of bigotry of which I had been totally ignorant prior to 2016, shocked me daily and continues to do so. The level of privilege I had been granted because of my race, economic class, and sexual orientation became blindingly clear.

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(selfie, July 4, 2018)

Who are we? Who do we want to become? The macro imitating the micro. Involved, kind, present, and compassionate. As we practice these ideals in our households, they  permeate into our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, country, and finally planet. There is no other way, that I can see.

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(photo taken by me, January 21, 2017)

I’m antsy right now. I am blogging to keep from checking my phone, social media, or listening to the news. I voted. I donated. I asked others to do the same. Now, I wait.

It’s a beautiful, autumn day outside. I’m going to go for a bike ride. I’m going to make lunch. And, because of the PTSD I still feel from watching the results two years ago, I may go dancing instead. I have faith in you, my fellow citizens and humans. Love will always win in the end. Even when the road looks dark and the way unclear.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it- always.

-Mahatma Gandhi

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And VOTE!

 

 

Zucchini Deliciousness

It’s like I just got home from a year of crazy. And now, suddenly, it’s fall, the end of 2018, I’m living back in my house, just returned from my trip East, and for the first time in a long time, maybe since last year, I feel settled. Like I can exhale. Like I didn’t know I’d been holding my breath until I no longer was. And, while I think about all of this and it soaks in, I decide that instead of making a fire, because suddenly it’s cold and flannel sheets with tea and slippers seem like a good idea, I decide that instead of that fire, I’ll bake.

Gluten Free Coconut Zucchini Bread

1 C sugar

2 eggs

2/3 C vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

11/4 C gluten free flour mix

1 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t xanthan gum

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 C shredded zucchini

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 C shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350

Mix eggs and sugar in large bowl. Add oil and vanilla, mixing well.

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to wet ones, mixing well.

Then add zucchini, nuts, and coconut, mixing well.

Transfer to a lightly greased 9×5″ bread pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Enjoy!

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Our Known’s Last Days

I’m riding on a train from Providence back to New York and out the window the trees are just beginning to change. The sky is grey and, after a hot, sticky beginning to the month, temperatures plunged and today was 45 degrees cooler than Wednesday.

Last night, I stayed with friends in Westport, Massachusetts, in a beach house built from a kit in 1890, happily never updated or insulated. After eating lobster casserole at The Back Eddy in Westport and sitting in front of a propane heater to watch the Red Socks play game 1 of the ALCS, I climbed into bed wearing two wool sweaters, a hat, wool long underwear, and socks. It was 48 degrees, inside and out.

Fishermen, autumn’s chill, sweaters, swans in the pond.

On the train back to the city, watching beauty whizz by, while I read an article in NY Magazine about the recent climate report… http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/10/un-says-climate-genocide-coming-but-its-worse-than-that.html1 degrees bad. 2 degrees really bad. 3 catastrophic. 4 or more (towards which we are currently headed) apocalyptic.

A world without fish, coral reefs, snow, sweaters, enough food for billions… drought, fire, hurricane, mass migration, famine, starvation.

So big.

So beyond the imaginable. So far from the changing leaves, lobster, and last night’s lavender sunset. How did we let this happen?

The reality that the system of which we are part and on which we depend is failing and that no matter how quickly we change our ways and create solutions, our future will certainly look drastically different from our past and present.

A brand new baby in her mother’s arms across the aisle from me. Almost 40 years my junior. What will her world look like?

Twelves years. 2030. Twelve years is a blink, a snap of the fingers, the turn of a page, nothing. That’s how long the world’s scientists have given us to turn the boat around and avoid the iceberg, of which there won’t be any more, but you get the point.

The alarm has been sounded, the reality is here, and as I watch New England’s autumn leaves blur by, the beauty takes my breath away.

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Pollyanna’s Pissed

For the past couple of years, and weeks, I have yo-yoed between the consumption of constant news and social media concerning our current political situation and then, after the nausea, anger, and anxiety take over, backing away, going into withdrawal, consuming none, and feeling better. I struggle with the need to feel informed and the reality that the news and social media seem to lead me in circles, frustration consumes me, and nothing is actually accomplished.

I recently saw a post on Instagram that said “I am no longer accepting the things I can not change but changing the things I can no longer accept.” As a frequent utterer of the serenity prayer,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

and though I appreciate the sentiment behind the Instagram post, I was left feeling slightly panicked about where to begin. I can not control the patriarchy and people who vote against their own self interest repeatedly. I can’t control the electoral college and climate change and the white misogynists who currently run our country.

It feels too big. Injustice so huge that the entire foundation of our country needs to shift in order for it to change.

So, once again, what can I control?

Where and how I spend my money, whether I vote, how I volunteer, contribute, am involved, and educate myself, how I creatively interact with the world, the energy I bring to all situations, my choices, whether or not I choose to see the glass as half full or half empty, and whether or not I wake up each morning and decide to try all over again. For fear of sounding like a Pollyanna, always looking for goodness, and as someone who is not comfortable with anger (I’m working on it), sometimes it really is just a shit sandwich and I have a hard, if not impossible, time finding any beauty. But, I keep looking. (I know some of you are rolling your eyes. That’s ok.)

At the moment I am grateful for the anger which will hopefully encourage more people out of their complacency and to the polls on November 6th (check your current voter registration even if you have never moved and always vote in every election), for the comedians, journalists, and artists who every day come up with new material to help me process, laugh, and think my way through the day, and I’m grateful for the courage of Dr. Ford.

No matter how ugly it is, none of it is new, but we are waking up and finally turning over the rocks. Only now, after it’s been exposed to the light, can things change. And they have only ever changed once a bunch of people were fed up enough to say “Nope. Time’s Up.” Never has that change started at the top.

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Zero Sum, blah blah

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zero-sum, noun

: of, relating to, or being a situation (such as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

win-win, adjective

: advantageous or satisfactory to all parties involved.

Wowza!!! September.

I arrived back in New Mexico on Friday night, amid a fantastic electric thunder storm that lit up the night sky as we drove west on I-40. The smell of desert rain came through the vent as NPR played in the background. After not having slept well for about a month, and almost not at all for a week, I was on autopilot, willing myself to drive and arrive safely and to think about what comes next, later.

Everything felt completely familiar and totally different.

Listening to our President speak on NPR, I was almost jealous of his ignorant black and white view of the world. Jealous is the wrong word, but how nice it must be to live in a fabricated world of certainty where there is right and wrong and winners and losers, good/bad and never any grey or complication.

Moving back to New Mexico didn’t make LA any less cool in my mind. It didn’t make the things that worked for me there any less great, nor did it mean I’d never return.  Coming back to the beauty, familiarity, and ease of my home state, didn’t mean that the things that had previously annoyed me or felt small here would suddenly cease to do so. My love and annoyance with each could and would exist simultaneously.

paradox, noun

: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.

In her book “You are a Badass. How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” author Jen Sincero writes about the idea of just seeing what you can get away with. Because that book, which I love (and which you will too), is still packed away with all of my other books, I’ll paraphrase; we are our own worst enemies in that we limit ourselves before giving ourselves a chance to even begin, by thinking of the ways in which something probably won’t work, so therefor why bother?

You want to work as little as possible and live as well as possible and travel and create things and do all of the stuff you want to do, when you want to do it? You basically want it all? Good luck!

Why thank you, yes. I do want it all. I want to be healthy and alive and vibrant and in so doing, inspire others to do/be the same, the way others have inspired me. I want to live where I want to live, work where/when I want to work, and stop believing that somehow this is asking too much.

My hairstylist in LA just moved to Oakland to become a baker. Several friends are going back to school. My neighbor in Albuquerque refuses debt of any sort and pays cash for everything; it’s taken him 15 years to fix up his 150 year old adobe home, but now it’s beautiful and he did it on his terms.

Who says that to have this, you can’t have that? Or to do this, you can’t do that? Bosses, teachers, advertisers, parents, banks, co-workers, and so many other voices that are not actually ours, or true, weasel their way into our brains and come out sounding like practical logic. Based on what? Other people’s fears or a company’s desire to sell you something?

I am going back to looking at the adventure of it all and asking Why Not when an idea pops into my mind. I refuse to believe that for this to work, that can’t work, or that win-win situations, in which we all come out ahead, are too idealistic. Let’s just see what we can get away with!

Photo taken on I-40 West, near Holbrook, AZ.

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