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Deliberate Eating

On the advice of an outside medical professional, we have decided to suspend the restriction of our dietary intake to the inexplicable guidelines as set out by the creators of Whole 30. Translation: I won.

Following a confusing episode this weekend it was determined that, from a health perspective, a diet devoid of grains is not ideal for persons as physically active as we are.

(No shit).

In light of this brand new revelation that I definitely haven’t been saying all along, we are going to amend this month’s challenge to avoiding alcohol, dairy and added sugars but to include the whole grains that have been widely accepted as an important part of a healthy, balanced diet since the beginning of time.

This doesn’t feel like a failure to me, mostly because I had absolutely nothing personally invested in this, but also because I have expanded my cooking repertoire vastly this week and am looking forward to continuing that. In one week, we’ve learned how to pickle vegetables, pan sear salmon, make semi decent Asian food without soy sauce and, most importantly, we learned that I was right.

Now, as promised – snacks.

First, deviled eggs:

Look at the variety!! The base is the same: equal parts mayo and mustard with onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Then some have capers, others chopped pepperoncinis and still others chopped olives. All topped with paprika, just like my mama taught me.

I brought these deviled eggs to a friend’s game night but they did not go over well, because the game night was at night and deviled eggs are no companion of red wine. Noted.

And now, chicken salad. What can I say about this substance that will adequately illustrate the depth of my love for it? For me, discovering chicken salad was like discovering The West Wing following the last presidential election. It’s everything I never knew I always needed. And now I can make it myself.

If nothing else comes of this month of deliberate eating (as I’m now calling it) I will never again over pay for sub par chicken salad when I can make it exactly how I like it at home. And store it in a Fage Yogurt container, just like my mother in law taught me.

*Praise hands*

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Whole wheekend

It’s a new thing I’m trying — pronouncing all my W’s as if they have H’s behind them. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not married to it.

Anyhoo. This weekend was a grand success. I made two dinners that were hearty and delicious. The secret? Potatoes. I hardly ever eat them in my real life but they do the job in this twilight zone I’ve submitted to.

First, a mustard crusted salmon with an L. Served it with ranch roasted potatoes and brussies. The potatoes came from this recipe. I drizzled with homemade ranch (literally just mayo, mustard, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, dill and chives). The brussies are just halved and thrown in the oven with some garlic at the same temp as the potatoes (400) until tender.

Salmon:

Rub with mustard balsamic sauce listed below.

Turn heat to med-high, add olive oil to cast iron skillet

When oil is smoking, add the salmon, skin side up.

Cook 4-5m

Don’t move salmon, Put entire skillet in 425 degree oven for 6-8m

Keep a close eye. Ours was ready in 6m. This was by far my favorite salmon I’ve ever cooked and the best meal of our Whole 30 adventure. It was the first time I’ve felt full. Both physically and emotionally. Moving on…

Last night I made this balsamic chicken with the leftover brussies and potatoes. I added kale and mushrooms, topped it with a lil avocado, some olives and voila:

This was super easy. First, we brined the chicken in water and salt for 20m, then cooked it in a 450 degree oven for 20m. So tender. The mushroom and kale were added to some garlic and shallot in a pan over medium. Throw in some balsamic vinegar and then the chicken. Toss it in the hot pan with the sauce (listed below) and serve.

Mustard-Balsamic sauce:

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Thyme

Chives

Salt and Peppie

This second dish was also a lesson in meal planning and not wasting food, which are two things we work extremely hard to incorporate both because the efficiency of it really gets me going (LOVE EFFICIENCY) and also because not wasting food is objectively the right thing to do.

For week 2, I’ll be focusing more on lunch prep because I was quite hungry a lot this first week. An apple and almond butter just isn’t getting the job done without other carbs. I’m thinking chicken salad and deviled eggs. Stay tuned.

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Whole 30

Or as I like to call it, wholly bullshit. Any diet that allows bacon and mayonnaise but prohibits whole grains and greek yogurt is a not rooted in any principles of healthy eating. With that said, as part of his never ending quest for self-denial, my partner has recruited me as accountability buddy and culinary architect for his next personal Everest: the Whole 30 Challenge.

As if we weren’t basic enough, we will now be spending the next month living an existence devoid of sugar, grains, dairy and alcohol. What I think I’ll miss most is my personality, as I’m sure to become someone who talks about how much better I feel now that I’m off sugar. The truth is, I’ve never really been on sugar and I already eat healthier than most people I know, but if it makes his heart sing, I’ll spend a month cooking fun new recipes and pretending I don’t miss beer. What’s better is I can blog about it, thus ensuring everyone I know is subject to the nonsensical ramblings of someone who hasn’t eaten cheese for weeks. You’re welcome in advance.

Because this journey doesn’t begin until tomorrow, I did what any reasonable 30 year old woman would do — I ate cookies and pizza for breakfast and a cheese plate for lunch. Then I took to Pinterest for inspiration and created a 30 day menu. I will post the results here for as many days as it takes for me to hate life, after which I will likely not bother. The best part of doing this now is that afterward, we’ll never have to talk about it again. I expect to experience nothing earth shattering and for it to be basically fine. So, stay tuned — it should be an aggressively mediocre month.

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Be Humble

If you care, don’t let them know. Don’t give yourself away.

I do let them know. It’s a compulsion. My inability to keep thoughts to myself is likely one of the more regrettable aspects of my personality. I long to be an enigmatic figure but I bring shame to my stoic waspy roots by being overly forthcoming in almost every aspect of my life. I make jokes where none are expected. I comment freely when no one has asked. I spend more time self-evaluating than anybody ought to be able to and still manage to reach the conclusion that my life is pretty great.

Part of it comes from the unreasonably high self-esteem I get to walk around with, because it is categorically easier to go through life as an educated white person with adequate resources and the unconditional support of loved ones. I know that everyone struggles and downward social comparisons are offensive, but they are also helpful if your goal is to not be a dick.

Truth: my life is easier than most people’s lives. Truth: I worked hard to be where I am. Truth: I did so with an incredible amount of love and support in a system designed for me to succeed and that ain’t nothing. For these truths, I choose to be grateful rather than to be proud. I am grateful that I have people in my life telling me I’m doing a good job. It is because of them that I believe it. Pride is a vice; it does not lead to freedom. At worst it leads to resentment of others who fail to reflect your elevated vision of yourself back to you. At best it leads to unmitigated self-absorption, and the universe knows my generation does not need more of that.

Gratitude is a virtue that begets humility and hard-work. Because I have been given many advantages, I choose to heed Kendrick and sit down, be humble. I have been provided with circumstances that have encouraged me to work hard and flourish. I am in a position to contribute positively to my community. For this, I am grateful. I am seated and striving for humility.

 

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Last Will and Testament

Hear me out.

I’m not dying. I mean, not anymore than the rest of you. But for those poor souls who end up at my funeral, first of all, congratulations — you’ve outlived me, which means one of three things:

You’re a vegetarian.

I met an untimely death at the hands of Nashville drivers (most probable).

Or sushi and yoga were bad for us all along.

I only hope we did not all die in some apocalyptic everyone-at-once sort of manner. Because then you will have been robbed of the absurd irreverence that promises to be my funeral. And what a shame that would be. Please find herein my expressed wishes for festivities marking the occasion.

First and foremost, I wish to be taxidermied. Then I would like you to hire my least favorite people to carry me around the party, Weekend at Bernie’s style. There will be bonus points awarded to those who come up with the most classic scenes to act out with my stuffed corpse. Pics or it didn’t happen.

Other games to include funeral cliche Bingo. Look out for phrases like “long hard struggle,” “she’s in a better place,” and “blah blah God blah blah.” The middle square will read: “she was one badass bitch” because you don’t deserve points for something you’ll hear said that often.

Next, karaoke: dead lady’s choice, meaning songs I choose and expect to be performed in the following order:

1. Both sides now

2. Remix to ignition

3. Hallelujah

4. MmmBop

5. The Boy is Mine

6. One Request from the Audience

7. Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (entire album)

8. Sister Christian

9. Adam’s Song

10. Whatever you like

11. White America (to sum up my life)

The most important thing I want for my funeral is joy. I know I’ll reflect on these grueling grad school days with a smirk because I’ve had harder days I look back on with a grin. I’m grateful to be here and happy to be alive. If someone decides to mark the occasion when I’m not with anything other than what’s listed above, you set ’em straight, and do it with a smile.

And if you think life and death ought to be treated with more seriousness than I’ve given them here today, it’s my pleasure to agree to disagree. #likemotherlikedaughter

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Be Wrong! It’s Good For You. 

I love being proven wrong. Seriously. As a chronic self evaluator I feel strongly that having our thoughts, beliefs and assumptions challenged is one of the easiest ways to grow, if we’re open to it. And that’s a big IF. In a culture where we seek out self and thought affirming information both in news and research, I know how scary it can be to step outside the echo chamber of one’s own Facebook page. The like-minded communities we tend to foster are comforting but they carry the risk of becoming so homogenous that we cease to be challenged.

I have spent most of my life in relatively (and often overtly) liberal cities, the culture of which have been mostly in line with my own. The southern cities I’ve lived in certainly have their own individual flavors, as do the northern ones. Anyone who paints with brushes as broad as “The South” or “The North” hasn’t spent enough time in both because this is a big country and we have a LOT of different people living here. And those people each have different motivations, unique lived experiences and when election time comes everyone gets the same number of votes. They don’t have equal opportunity to cast them, but that’s not the topic of this post.

This post is about smiling when you’re proven wrong. Mazel Tov to you! What a wonderful opportunity you’ve been given to broaden your experience of humanity. I have recently found myself spending the 8-5 in a brand new place with people who have customs, perspectives and a vernacular entirely foreign to me. And I’ve only traveled an hour from the safety of my current urban center. I’ve spent 22 of my 29 years below the Mason-Dixon and ain’t never met people like this before. They lend out medical equipment knowing patients will return it, they regularly offer to drive patients to outside appointments they can’t get to and they always ask how your mama or daddy is doing. Based on how many conversations I’ve had/heard about the Bible and Trump this week, I can all but guarantee we come from very different religious and political perspectives and how great is that? Because people are more than who they vote for or pray to.

Healthcare can be a unifying point for people working in or needing it, which makes it a good meeting place for otherwise polarized individuals. Being an eternal optimist (albeit a cynical one) I still believe we have more in common than not but too often we make assumptions about what other people think and why they think it. Some people are just selfish and some people are just racist but assuming these things about entire groups does nothing to foster mutual respect, without which we will never move the conversation forward.

People are more complex than a party platform and time is more effectively and enjoyably spent learning about them and letting them learn about you. This is the only way we break stereotypes, both our own and the ones others hold of us. So add small town Tennesseans to the list of things I was wrong about. Also on this list: olives, running, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, hot yoga, anchovies and marriage. These are all wonderful.*

*Marriage is still pretty dumb, but I love Jared so much it makes the list.

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Tuk Tuks and Inspiration: Better Experienced than Described.

I don’t know how to write about inspiration. It’s a feeling and those are difficult to illustrate in words. I remember a lightness that rushed over me during a tuk tuk ride in northern Thailand in November of 2012. Jared and I stayed up late into the night watching Fox News, which was comically the only available coverage of the US election. The results hadn’t fully come in when we had to leave early in the morning for an overnight hike into the jungle. The timing was such that we might not learn the results of our nation’s election until 48 hours after it occurred.

2012 felt different than 2008; it felt like the test of a heavily-scrutinized president that I very much wanted to see reelected. It wasn’t for the fear of his opponent. Especially in the context of our current political landscape, Mitt Romney seems like he probably would have done a pretty good job keeping the country safe, which for some people is enough. However, he likely would not have come out in support of marriage equality, gone to bat for women’s reproductive rights or made any honest acknowledgment of the systemic racism that permeates our law enforcement and justice system.

These are considered by some to be soft issues and inherently secondary to national security and the economy. I’ve been called immature for prioritizing them but if accessible healthcare, affordable education and equal rights under the law are idealistic and unattainable, I’m not sure what we’re spending so much trying to protect. If fear is the main theme we operate under, we build nothing. With so much anxiety, there is no room for creativity. When our energy is focused on being great, we lose the capacity for for being good.

Four years ago, I sat in a tuk tuk that rattled along a dirt road out of town and headed for the jungle. Jared turned on his phone for a brief moment to see if any text updates would come through. Right before we lost service, a message from his brother read: Obama wins in a landslide. The feeling I had that day and night was one of elated optimism. As a country, we had decided that goodness mattered and not just for 47% of us. We didn’t beat our chests and we weren’t afraid. The next four years would see the expansion of healthcare, the recognition of marriage equality, and a policy that began to prioritize climate change as a national responsibility. In these four years my partner and I found ourselves and each other; they have been personally and communally transformative; easily the best four years of my life.

Today, I do not feel hopeful or optimistic, but I will also not be discouraged. I still believe that love is stronger than fear and exposure to difference makes space for understanding. The next four years will not see the end of the progress because we are all still here. We will create art and take care of each other and stand up in support of what we believe and protest what we don’t. We will become the inspiration. We will be the good.

And here’s a photo (that’s probably offensive):

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