6 Books To Make You Feel Strong

Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.

Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.

At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.

I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.

As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.

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Love as Self Discovery

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I can’t believe it, but somehow in the past 5 years I’ve become a champion for relationships. I have gone from being, let’s admit it, a bit of an ice queen, to someone who genuinely believes in the value of love. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely gone off the deep end… I am still very much on the fence about the institution of marriage… but I’ve become a believer in the value of loving someone very deeply and for loving when you can.

I am someone who gets afraid of caring about people very easily. It gives them control and since I am controlling, that makes me nervous. Trusting someone with your heart, your past, and your present is a big deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it is also not something to avoid. Meeting someone, loving someone, and even losing someone are self-defining moments. They help to mold us in areas that we can’t mold alone.

Just as traveling alone, sitting in a restaurant alone, and living alone are great markers of being at peace with yourself (you enjoy your own company as much as anyone else’s), sharing your precious time with another soul is a great marker of how giving you are. And balancing the two? Well, you’ve hit the self discovery jackpot, my friend.

Loving someone requires you to let your guard down and share flaws while at the same time accepting another person with all of their flaws. Love is really a great equalizer when it’s done right. It can put your arrogance in check (holy crap I AM flawed) but also open your eyes to just how patient you can be (holy crap I CAN listen to country music). Yes, I realize I just used country music as a flaw there, but stick with me.

It is for these reasons that I am such an advocate for dating, trying some people out, and seeing where it all goes. Does it absolutely suck when it falls apart? Yep, it does. Have I gone through that many times in my life? Yep, I have. Am I better for it? I like to think so. Failed relationships are great to learn from and also put you in a hyper aware state of who you are, what your actions mean, and where you are going. It’s painful but does wonders for pulling you back into the moment.

This all seems obvious to my readers who come from pre-Millennial generations. Of course loving someone helps you to grow, you say. Of course building relationships is good for you, you laugh. I know but take a minute to view it from a perspective of a group of people who were not only raised during the peak divorce years but also an insane technology boom where we grew attached to devices because, in many ways, they were easier to understand and get along with than our peers. That is some isolating stuff.

I also know that being young in general, no matter what year you were born, is a very selfish time. So as I emerge from my selfish years and simultaneously remove my Millennial-colored glasses, I am finding the importance of making relationships (both romantic and platonic) a priority in my life. Like creating a home, they require more than just a weekly clean. They require, design, thought, care and they need to be lived in.

PS – Why is it so scary to press publish on a blog about love?

Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

I’m in Love with Brandon from LUSH

Going to take a quick detour from my usual blog posts centered around living your best life, and writing your best stuff, and eating your best food, to announce that I have a crush on the man that makes my face lotion.

If you aren’t a Lushie (someone obsessed with Lush products) you probably don’t know that all of the organic, vegan products that this store carries are handmade. Yes, a store that sells face wash and hard soaps has a cult following and we have named ourselves. Get over it, that’s not the point of this!

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To prove that the products are handmade, each one bears the sticker with the name and a cartoon of the person who made it. If you shop there enough you will have repeats; actually you’ll have repeats more often than you would think. This is such a nice touch because you feel like you get to know them.

Brandon is by far the cutest Lush product maker and I can just tell by his subtle ear gauge, nineties chin-only beard and charmingly uncomfortable smile that he’s the type of guy to buy a girl flowers but then follow-up by taking her to a concert for an obscure Ska band or what’s left of Blink-182. He believes in the vegan products he makes and would probably shame me for all the pepperoni I eat, but deep down he means well, and will even indulge in some ice cream from time to time.

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How cute is this man?!

This man pops up on so many of my products I am starting to wonder if we’re meant to be together. Should I be ordering a custom plug for his ear so it arrives in time for Christmas? Does he celebrate Christmas? So many thoughts when really all I should be doing is washing my face and going to bed… and oh yeah, texting my actual real life boyfriend. (Who will totally be cool with this because I am normally pretty stable and funny and nice and I’ve brainwashed him…)

But really, who is this adorable man? Where does he live? WHO ARE YOU MAKER OF 9-5 and Celestial?! He’s by far my favorite product maker and if the sales people at Lush weren’t so aggressively helpful, I would always seek out his face when buying my vegan face goods. He’s that dreamy!

I went as far to Google “Brandon from Lush” to make sure I’m not missing some cult phenomenon. But there were only two returns, and those were reviews, not love letters. So the playing field is wide open…

I’m just wondering when he can come over and teach me how to make my own damn face wash. Leads on Brandon appreciated…

A New Borough & Drive Renewed

NYC
Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

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Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.