Monday, June 27, 2016

Death and Remembering

(Spontaneous night of wine and face painting with Jenna & friends, about 2013)

Death is never a subject that I want to write or talk about, but a year ago a close friend of mine died. Since then, I have been learning to mourn, process, and remember.

I didn't know much about death growing up. When I was a kid my favorite Uncle Doug died. He committed suicide, and I don't remember my family ever talking about it after it happened. He died, his depression was mentioned, his suicide was mentioned, and then the whole subject was dropped forever. We never talked about it again. My grandparents and other aunt and uncle never talked about Uncle Doug in conversation, and we definitely never did anything special to remember him. His life and his memory were swept under the rug and forgotten.

Having that experience as a kid set the stage for how I would treat death up until now. Anytime there was death around me I ignored it. I didn't talk about it, I didn't remember the person, and I avoided funerals. It was as if the deceased person was erased from my life and I had no opinion about it. That is, until I married Andy.

Andy comes from a pretty tight knit family. After marrying Andy and spending time with his family, I very quickly learned about his Aunt Mim. (Mim short for Miriam, which is where Hazel, our daughter, gets her middle name from.) Andy's Aunt Mim was hit by a school bus and died about 10 years ago. Andy's family has a facebook page to remember her, they tell stories about her, they still have a lot of her things which are guarded in the family as prized possessions, and they remember her birthday and death anniversary every year. I have never experienced so much positive remembering of a deceased person. There is not much sadness either, the family finds joy in remembering Aunt Mim.

Now, I know that suicide and being hit by a bus are very different ways of dying, but does the way that someone dies affect how we remember them? I would hope to think not. A life has ended, and it is up to us to keep the memories alive of that life, or we will truly lose them forever. If they were a person that we cared about, then where is the shame in remembering them every year? There should be no shame in remembrance! That is what I am learning. Until now, I have felt deep shame and sadness in remembering people I've known that have died.

Just about a year ago, my good friend Jenna died. She had ovarian cancer and it took her life far too soon. At about the time that Jenna died, I was getting ready to give birth. I didn't have much time for processing and grief before bringing a new baby into this world and into my life. After the baby came, it was easy for me to do what I have always done with death, and "forget " Jenna. I was so distracted with newborn life that I didn't have time to process Jenna's death and figure out how or if I would remember her. Until a close friend of mine changed that.

This close friend of mine talked about Jenna nonstop. I think it was her way of mourning and processing our dear friend's death. She brought up Jenna in almost every conversation, even ones where I felt it was inappropriate. All of this remembrance and conversation of Jenna made me uncomfortable. The more my friend did this though, the more comfortable I felt and the easier it was for me to process everything around Jenna's death. All of a sudden, I realized that if I wanted to share a nice or funny story about Jenna, that I could! It was quite an amazing realization for me.

Between Andy's family and this close friend of mine, I have learned that remembering is ok, it is good, it is healthy and positive, and can even help others around me. I am still sad that my friend Jenna is gone, but I am SO HAPPY that I can remember her and all the joy and happy times she once brought to my life. She was a good friend who is now dead, but I will not forget her. I will continue to talk about her and remember her, because she is someone that I cared about. There doesn't have to be sadness and shame in remembering, but joy. That is where I am at, and I feel positive about it on this almost anniversary of Jenna's death.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken

I have had some DELICIOUS coconut curries in my past travels! Unfortunately, when I make a recipe, it never tastes the same as when I eat a coconut curry elsewhere. I set out a few months ago to figure out where I was going wrong, and to develop my own recipe that I would be happy with.

This recipe is perfect! (In my opinion.) I think I found the crucial ingredient to making it taste the way that it does. Fish sauce! I am not a big fan of fishy flavors, and fish sauce by itself is whoa fishy! In this soup you don't taste the fish flavor though, instead it adds saltiness and brings out the other flavors. I can't get enough of it, especially in this unseasonably cold spring weather we are having.

Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken
-1 1/2-2 lbs. chicken
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
-4 cups chicken stock
-16 oz. mushrooms
-green onions
-1 yellow onion
-4-5 cloves garlic
-1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
-1 Tablespoon fish sauce
-1 Tablespoon curry powder (more if you like a stronger flavor)
-1 can coconut milk
-1 can bamboo shoots
-1 can mini corn
-salt to taste
-garnish with fresh basil and lime juice

Cut chicken into small bite sized pieces and boil in a large pot of water until cooked. About 8 minutes boiling. You can use the water from the chicken as your chicken stock, or drain and add a store bought chicken stock.

In a pan, saute with the coconut oil: yellow onion, garlic, and mushrooms.

Add sauteed ingredients to the chicken and stock. You may need to add more liquid (water) to make the soup more brothy. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium for 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with fresh basil and lime juice. You can add a scoop of rice to this soup as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tips for packing and moving

I love to move, it invigorates me! A friend recently commented that since we move so often we must be pros at it. I have never given it a second thought, but yes, I guess we are pros at it. :) Through each move we learn something different, and have thus developed quite a few tips and tricks. Here are just a few of the handy things we do when we move:

-Out with the old and unused!!
First of all, sort through ALL of your things. Yes, this can be a tedious process but is so rewarding in the end. Get rid of those things that you don't use anymore, that don't bring you joy. By getting rid of these things first, your move will be lighter and you won't have to pack as much stuff. (I am always amazed at the amount of unworn clothes I am able to dig out of my closet!)

-Invest in rubbermaid containers
If you move often, it is helpful to just invest in some sturdy moving containers/boxes. A few moves ago we bought a whole bunch of rubbermaid containers and now we use them for each move. They are convenient, heavy duty (don't fall apart), and are even great for storage after you move. (Or, you can use them as furniture!)

-Use moving straps
We first borrowed these from a friend and after discovering how awesome they are, bought our own set. Since Andy and I don't hire anyone to move our stuff, these moving straps have come in SO handy. Andy and I are able to lift anything with them because they offset and distribute the weight. They are probably the most useful, awesome moving tool that we own.

-Wrap dishes and delicate things in plastic bags
Like most people, we have an excessive amount grocery bags accumulating in our house. I like to save them for picking up dog poop and moving! I use them to wrap our dishes and any other delicate things we may have. They provide great padding, AND if something breaks, then it is contained within the bag for easy cleanup.

-Find moving boxes in store dumpsters
We primarily use our rubbermaid containers for moving, but if we need a few more boxes I will go grab them from a store dumpster. Stores like the Dollar Store usually have tons of boxes that they get rid of. You can even call Lowes or Home Depot first thing in the morning and have them save you a few of their giant appliances boxes.

-Pack per room and label
This is probably a well known moving technique, but I figured I would throw it in with the mix. When you pack things by room and label the boxes, then unpacking at your next destination is SO EASY. 

-Use plastic wrap
We learned this trick by moving overseas. In the airport, they had a giant plastic wrap machine that would wrap peoples luggage for extra safety and protection. So we adopted that technique, especially for things like mattresses. We buy the giant bulk plastic wrap on amazon and wrap the mattress, couches, throw blankets over other furniture and then wrap them too.

-Use trash bags for items on hangers
Instead of taking our clothing off of hangers and packing them in boxes, we just put a hole in a heavy duty trash bag, and then stuff a bunch of hangers through the hole. Then we tape the hangers around the top of the bag. This allows you to keep your things on hangers, and they are also protected this way.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The benefits of moving often (yes we are moving again)

It is no secret that I LOVE to move! Maybe it stems from growing up as a missionary kid where we traveled and moved all the time OR, maybe I just hate commitment. (Though, that's another post altogether!) Either way, I am lucky to be married to Andy because he enjoys moving just as much as I do. We will see where Hazel falls on the moving spectrum...

So, why move after we put a whole years worth of work into renovating our current house?? Ha, why not? Andy and I have a pretty decent track record of moving every two years. We just so happen to hit the two year mark for our current house this June, so we figured it was time to move on. I have been dying to get back to the neighborhood where I grew up (old town, right next to downtown) and this move is going to take us there. We bought one big old house that is actually a duplex. No, it does not need any work. Yes, we will be landlords. The plan is to live in one half of the house and rent the other half. It should be interesting, but we are excited for a new adventure. This time, it is an adventure in being landlords! We are also excited to be spending LESS time working on a house and MORE time outside, downtown, and just enjoying life in general.

But really, there are huge benefits to moving often. The more I move, the more I enjoy it and realize how good it is. I feel like moving houses (or apartments) cleanses my head, my soul, my life. Yes, I may be weird, but I do believe there is something to it! When we move, it forces us to reevaluate everything. In order to pack our things we (Andy and I) first have to go through everything that we own and figure out what is worth making the move, and what isn't. I learned this the hard way when we moved across the US to California and took everything without evaluating first. Now, I know to sort through everything we have accumulated and keep only the useful important things, while getting rid of the rest. This allows us to move with a clean slate.

I have written posts before about living a minimalist lifestyle, but I often forget to take my own advice. It isn't until we move that I remember my minimalist desires. So with each move, I am able to think minimal again. I can see all of our things and decide which bring me joy, which do I use often, and then discard the rest. There is no sense in keeping things that I do not use. With each move, there is a large purge, and with each purge I get a sense of lightness and freedom from "stuff". It is fantastic! Almost addictive for me. Thus the moving every two years, I guess.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Zoodles, it's what's for dinner!

Zoodles! Yes, they are a thing. Zoodles are zucchini noodles. Zucchini, when cooked, can have a similar consistency to noodles and a bland enough flavor that they can mimic pasta noodles. Since these noodles are zucchini though, you get far less carbs and calories in your meal, and an extra blast of those good-for-you veggies. (Or a healthy pasta option if you are gluten-free!)

I have been cooking with zoodles for a while now and figured I would share the joy! First of all, zoodles can be created in a variety of ways. If you want to try zoodles before you buy a zoodle-making contraption then your best bet is going to be using a plain old peeler. Just peel peel peel the zucchini until you have used as much of the zucchini as you can. A mid-grade option for making zoodles, and the one that I have, is this one that is like a pencil sharpener. It is small, simple, and makes two sizes of zoodles without too much effort. Lastly, there is a much fancier contraption. This device seems to be even easier and more accurate in the making of zoodles. (You can also use these with other vegetables!)

How to:
Once you have used the contraption of your choice to make zoodles you will need to cook them. Since this is in fact zucchini and not real pasta, you will want to saute it rather than boiling it. I heat up a skillet with some butter or coconut oil and then toss in the zucchini. You can cook it to the firmness that you prefer. I like mine on the more crispy side. Then add whatever sauce or toppings that you like.

Mediterranean Zoodles with Chicken
-2-3 baked chicken breasts
-4 medium zucchini
-3 Tbs pesto
-feta cheese
-3 roma tomatoes (or 1 large tomato)
-6 garlic cloves
-3 tbs butter

Heat butter in skillet and add garlic. Cook until garlic is lightly browned. Add zucchini noodles and cook until desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in pesto. Chop tomatoes and baked chicken breasts and add to zoodles. Top with feta cheese.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My History with Anxiety

It seems like people are talking more and more about anxiety these days. I love it! It makes me so happy that issues kept quiet in the past are now common talk. I think it helps everyone to be able to openly discuss something like anxiety. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this blog has mostly become a place for me to process life and speak my truth. I am happy for other people to read it, and in doing so I hope that I can be helpful or even motivational.

So anxiety... I get a little anxious even just typing that out, ha! Anxiety can surface in a variety of ways. For me, it appears in jitters, stomach flips, vision loss, sometimes flushing of the skin, and last but not least, panic attacks. My anxiety didn't show up until my parents divorce when I was about 19 years old. Since then it has come and gone with the events that have happened in my life. Here is my story of anxiety thus far.

At 19 years old and a freshman in my second semester of college my parents decided to get a divorce. This divorce came out of NOWHERE! I had no idea my parents were having problems. My family was a solid missionary family, we were the model of the perfect Christian family. Seriously, I had often thought that my family was too perfect. Well, not so. I won't go into all the details, but long story short my parents got a divorce because my mom was gay and felt like she couldn't live the lie of a straight marriage anymore. Both of my brothers were upset so I felt like it was up to me to stay strong. I put on a happy face and pretended like everything was ok, but deep down everything was very very messed up. This is when the anxiety started.

I went to a small college in a small community where a lot of people knew me and my family. After the divorce I was afraid to look people in the face for fear that I would see pity in their eyes. I did NOT want to be pitied for the tragedy that my family had become. I also knew that people didn't approve of my mom's "gayness", so I also didn't want to see those looks of disapproval. (Though, I did see plenty of those looks.) Avoiding people that knew my family was impossible, so the anxiety began to creep in. Anytime I saw or spoke with someone that knew of my parents divorce I felt like my insides were rotting and on fire. My eyes would often blur or my vision just went black sometimes. It was an incredibly crippling feeling. So to get past it I just ignored as many people as I could. Or I drank, or smoked weed. Those helped for a short amount of time, but the relief was never long term.

The summer after my freshman year of college I moved to the beach. I had escaped! At first it felt really good. I didn't know anyone, the anxiety was gone, I felt like I could start over. As the summer went on though, I began to miss my family desperately. I felt like I had just abandoned them for my own sanity and it felt wrong. Then I had my first panic attack. I was driving and another car cut in front of me. It was nothing, no accident, not even close. But it set something off inside of me. I freaked out, then my vision began to go black, and all of a sudden my fists clenched. Luckily I was able to pull my car over and just barely got it into park before I lost all control of my body. From that point, my whole body seized up. It felt like every single muscle in my body was fully tensed. My fists were clenched so tight that my nails were digging into my skin. My chest was heavy and I couldn't breathe. I had to gasp for air. All the while my vision was blacked out and I couldn't see anything. I honestly thought I was dying. Everything inside of me felt like it was failing. Luckily a passing car stopped and called 911. An ambulance came and got me. They loaded me into the ambulance and calmed me down on the way to the hospital. Once my breathing was under control everything went back to normal in my body. I could see again and my fists unclenched. They told me I had a panic attack. After that, I moved back home for the rest of the summer.

Throughout that summer I had two more pretty sever panic attacks, both while I was driving. I began carrying a brown paper bag with me everywhere I went in case I needed to breathe into it to get my breath back to normal. It was a rough summer, especially as my parents finalized their divorce and put our house up for sale. I had anxiety for the rest of college, and a few more panic attacks. I figured out how to manage the panic attacks, but the anxiety never went away.

Since college I have worked SO HARD at managing my anxiety. It comes and goes. If there is a big event in my life it usually comes back pretty severely. When I got married, a wedding was out of the question for me. I knew it would bring on all sorts of anxiety, so Andy and I eloped. While I am sad that we never had a wedding, I do feel like I dodged a huge bullet and was able to escape a lot of anxiety and stress. Big family events still bring on a lot of anxiety, but at least I am not the center of attention, so the anxiety is manageable.

When I gave birth to Hazel I had an inkling that my anxiety may come back, and it sure did. After bringing Hazel home the anxiety settled in like a dark cloud. Not a depressing cloud, just an uptight anxious one. I was anxious about leaving the house, anxious about breastfeeding, anxious about visitors. Pretty much everything caused me severe anxiety, and I was so overwhelmed with having a newborn that I couldn't control the anxiety like I had in the past. When Andy had to go back to working out of town during the week, my anxiety would get so bad right before he left that I would vomit. It was embarrassing and I was so overwhelmed. I didn't even tell Andy at the time that I was anxious because I was embarrassed for feeling out of control of myself. While Andy was gone all week I would just hole up in the house with Hazel out of fear of leaving the house. If we needed something, too bad, I wasn't leaving.

I finally realized that my anxiety was taking over my life. I began setting small goals for myself to leave the house with Hazel. Slowly, little by little, I got out more. In the beginning it felt horrible and wrong, but I left the house anyway. Then I started to exercise and eat better. That's when I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxiety. I began feeling more confident, more healthy, and that helped with leaving the house. I didn't mind talking to strangers anymore, or doing multiple errands in one day. I still have anxiety, but I finally feel like it is under control again. I don't think my anxiety will ever completely go away, but I know how to control it for the most part. Now I also know that exercise helps with it, SO MUCH. I am happy to constantly be arming myself with little things to combat my anxiety.

Some things that I find are helpful when I am anxious:
-I have taken this before and helps calm me down in a very gradual way.
-I like to pop these (ha!) before a job interview. They really work with my stomach nerves!
-I've great things about Zenta, but I haven't tried it yet.
-I also like to put a penny or any other coin in my pocket and play with it as a distraction to whatever may be causing my anxiety.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Finally...A Birth Story

Now that I am 8 months past giving birth I finally feel like the trauma is gone! Since giving birth, many of my friends have had babies and I can now confidently say that I think the whole process is beautiful and magical. Looking back at my newly postpartum blog posts, I surely did NOT think anything about having a baby was beautiful. I have finally come around though!

I want to record the birth story of Hazel before it slips my memory too much. I know big parts of it have already dissolved from my memory, and I'm sure Andy would dispute the way I tell the story, but this is my birth story and how I remember it. Be forewarned, I wrote out the long version. :)

I was diagnosed with melanoma just a few weeks before my due date. It was a mole that had spread and become discolored. Luckily we caught it early, so all they would have to do was a minor surgery to remove the mole and a large area around it. The surgeon did not want to perform the surgery until I had delivered my baby though. I passed this news on to my midwife and OB who then consulted a variety of other doctors about this issue. They concluded that it would be best to induce me so that I could have the baby before the melanoma spread or got any worse. I was induced the same day they made that decision. Andy and I had approximately 5 hours to prepare our house and ourselves to welcome a new baby. Eeek!

So it was two and half weeks before my due date that I was induced. I had an appointment early afternoon where my midwife swept my membranes. (Don't ask what that is, because I really don't know.) It was uncomfortable and I actually felt contractions start immediately. She said that might happen. Then I went home to clean the house before heading into the hospital for my actual induction. All afternoon I had light contractions while I cleaned like a crazy person.

At 5pm Andy and I checked into the hospital and I was given Cervadil. I had already been having contractions, but the Cervadil was supposed to ease me into labor even more. That night I slept a few hours through light contractions. I woke around 5am pumped full of adrenaline because I knew we were going to have a baby that day. Unfortunately, my contractions were still very light, so they left the Cervadil in for another 6 hours. Since my labor was light we decided to let a few visitors stop by. We joked about painful labor and had a pretty good time despite my contractions slowly getting stronger. Once all the visitors had left, Andy and I decided to walk laps. We walked and walked and walked around the labor unit! This helped and definitely brought on stronger contractions to the point where I would have to stop walking, grasp the railing on the wall, and moan my way through the contraction. It was quite dramatic!

Around 4pm we went back to the laboring room because walking was too exhausting for me. At that point I bounced on a ball, rolled around the bed, moaned like a banshee, vomited, cried, rolled around the bed some more, and finally I got into the whirlpool. The whirlpool was pure bliss. I was able to relax, but unfortunately that just made my contractions come on even stronger. After an hour they forced me out of the whirlpool to check my progress. I was butt naked, dripping wet, shaking, crying, and moan-yelling. I was a complete mess!! When they checked me I was 6cm...only 6cm after 24 hours. This came as a huge disappointment to me, as I was in the most miserable pain I had ever been in.
 Andy thought this was funny and texted it to all of our friends...he didn't mention it until after I gave birth. (shame on him!)
Despite not wanting to get an epidural, I was at my wits end. On a pain scale of 1-10 I was a 12! I didn't know that kind of pain even existed. The pain was so bad that I was shaking uncontrollably and felt like I had zero control of myself. Through shaking and yell-moaning from pain I demanded an epidural. They said the anesthesiologist was with another patient and couldn't come for another 15-20 minutes. That was unacceptable to me. I told the nurse I would die if I had to wait that long, so she hooked me up to IV pain meds. The IV helped, though I just felt like I was high and in pain at the same time...definitely a strange experience.

A funny picture we took while friends were visiting, before my contractions were bad.
Around 6pm the anesthesiologist came in and politely explained the procedure to me while I balled my eyes out and vomited again. I was in immense pain, but I was also scared of getting an epidural. After some more drama from me, I finally sat still and got the epidural. It was a piece of cake and I really didn't feel anything. Very quickly my body numbed, the pain went away, and a feeling of peace flooded my exhausted body. It was like night and day. I fell into a deep sleep. Around 8pm I was 8cm dilated so they broke my water...I didn't feel a thing. Though apparently I pooped myself, lovely. I slept for a few more hours and around 10:45pm I woke up to the midwife checking my progress and saying, "Ohh, you are having this baby right now!"

A flood of nurses came into the room, two giant spotlights were turned on, my feet were placed in stirrups, and we were having a baby! I was not prepared at all. In fact I asked if it absolutely had to happen at that moment, ha. I had been sleeping and was out of it. I felt like I needed a good hour to process what was about to happen, but no such luck, they could already see the head! Everything was very frantic. Andy held my one leg, a nurse held the other, and the midwife was at the base of the bed. My body was still very numb, but I could feel a strange painful pressure in my lower abdomen. They had me hooked up to the monitor to see when my contractions were coming, and it felt like I had a contraction every 30 seconds, no lie. I pushed hard and strong and intensely while everyone yelled at me for a good 15 minutes. (Seriously, it felt like chaos.) Right before the last push I vomited one last time, just for good measure...and then, Hazel was born! Just like that. 11:07pm, 30 hours after my labor had started.

They put Hazel on my chest, but she wasn't crying so they gave her a good shake and sure enough she started wailing. Andy jumped into bed with me and we all had a good cry....and now I can see the beauty and magic in birth. The end. (Or rather beginning.) :)