Charting life's circuitous path

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Balled up words

Words are full – they’re full of meaning, connotation, history, nuance…

They’re also so big sometimes that they stick in the back of your throat and never come out.  We say “I’m so sorry” because we don’t have the words to truly voice the chaotic emotions in our heart.  The hurt, the sadness, the memories are all balling up and wedging themselves like a plug.  We whisper “take care” and what we mean is “stay with me, don’t leave, get better, be like before.”

Don’t die.

I’m grateful we live during a time where words like cancer can be spoken out loud.  I only wish that the emotions came with an easier vocabulary.  But words are only words – limited in definition and size.  Their inadequacies feel like our own as we try to emotionally deal with something we spend most of our lives ignoring –mortality.

This past week I found out that a dear friend has terminal cancer.  Given a prognosis of less than a year to live, I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know what to feel.  I couldn’t imagine what she was going through.

I wanted to say everything and yet my mouth could only vocalize “oh, no”.  Words came up but I choked them down, afraid to say the wrong thing.  Afraid to hurt her more with my ignorance.  Naively, I thought I was more prepared for this kind of news since I have read a lot of books where characters are given a terminal verdict.  I found out this week just how unprepared I was and how little I knew.

One thing I definitely found out?  It’s far better to say something than nothing at all.

To try as hard as you can to vocalize even one part of what you’re feeling.  Will it be enough?  Maybe not. Will you think of things later that might have been better?  Probably. In fact, in my case, definitely. But opening myself up to that moment gave me the opportunity to bridge the silence and sadness.

In the end, the words are there. They just need the power, our strength, to be spoken.


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House Dreams

“you are searching everywhere
you want the sun
find your home
between your eyes”
― Žiga Stanovnik

I’ve been desperately wanting a house to call our own.  My houzz ideabooks are stuffed with greys and blues, plush rugs, stone steps and beautifully tiled laundry rooms.  I’ve been trolling trulia for all of the houses up for sale in our neighborhood (and culling all those that don’t fit my exacting criteria) even though it’ll be at least another 8 months before we can leave this apartment.  We’re not filthy rich, so most of what I dream will stay in my mind.  But that’s okay.  We’ve got time to make the house our home where dreams are realized.

Some people say that home isn’t a building but the people in it.  I’d love for that to be 100% true since it would make waiting with my hubby at a dirty bus stop be like putting our feet up on a cushy ottoman, tea in hand. In reality, while the people and animals you share your home with are the most crucial part of what makes up a “home”, there’s no escaping the long sigh that escapes when you finally sink into your own bed and bury your head into your own pillow after weeks of being away.

Nothing beats familiarity.

I’ve “left the nest” for some 12 years now.  We’ve had our fair share of apartments and a good bit of luck with our current setup.  Having only one neighbor above us beats the surround sound situation of college life – pounding feet, arguments and drunken music.  I can’t believe we put up with so much for so long, but I suppose that’s one of the long held rites of early married life – the “what we had to do back when we first got married” story is firmly written.

Going back to my childhood home, however, was never the same the minute I stepped off the porch.  The fact that my bedroom was replaced with tatami mats and kotatsu and all of my favorite foods were suddenly absent from long stashed cupboards meant that while my heart might never leave family, my actual presence in the house was now that of a stranger.  Or a friend.  But certainly someone that now felt like she had to ask to use the milk or to borrow the fan.  It’s jarring when you fully realize how easily distance can occur.  One day you’re the child who doesn’t even blink to switch tv stations and demands pizza for dinner, and the next you’re politely agreeing to whatever everyone else wants to eat and sitting neatly on the couch.

And it’s not like my parents are all about rules, either.  It’s just a sense of otherness that seeps into the carpet.  Suddenly you see the house as an outsider might and all of its flaws and beauty are laid bare.  Funny how when you’re in your own home we become blind to everyday living.  Currently, I have laundry hanging on chairs after being ironed and a pile of paper sitting on my kitchen table.   By Saturday, when my parents come to visit, all of that will be cleared away and the floors swept.  “This is my home and my life,” the neatly placed coasters shout.

I’m hoping to find a house that we can truly customize to match our personalities and dreams.  I want our home to be somewhere people gather, laugh, eat and relax.  I want it to welcome us with open arms, bright with the warmth of the sun and the solidness of earth.  I want our home to reflect the life held gently between its walls.

And these lovely pictures?  Not our home.  🙂 They’re ideas taken from houzz of what I’d love to see in our future home.  Dreams, all of them.


Going Gluten and Dairy Free – Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn

On a cool, sunny day last week, I let go of my therapist.


I walked in, like previous sessions, with a heavy mind and a full heart.  But this time, I left her gray couch feeling lighter.  I’m not sure if giving up therapy was the right choice, but I do believe giving up my therapist was the best choice.

I would arrive frayed around the edges with worry about what to talk about.  After an hour, I’d leave a complete wreck.  It wasn’t like I was being bullied by my therapist.  I think I was just being ignored.

My worries and issues were laid bare and I was hoping for some kind of relief.  I knew that she wasn’t going to solve my problems for me, but I had hoped for some direction.  A way to see myself differently so that I could pick up those sad pieces and wash the stains out a bit and reclaim them.  But they were left sitting in dirty, unorganized lumps on the table between us.  Embarrassed, I would pack them away after each hour and go home where I would fall apart in my hubby’s arms.

“While you do have some real worries, most of what you worry about isn’t really all that bad.” – therapist


In other words, I was over-thinking things and making them out to be a lot worse than they really were.  Fair enough.  Perhaps my own worries about not having friends or a career were relatively small on the scale of traumas, but they were my worries.  These were things that could bring me low in one fell swoop.  To be told to just “ignore the bad things” wasn’t making the agonizing trip to the office worth it.

So, we parted amicably and I’m now seeing how things go. Lately, I’ve been a lot better.  The claustrophobic cloud from earlier in the year is now just a faint mist from time to time and most days are relatively happy and cloud free.  If the storm gathers, I can always search for another therapist.  Now I feel more in control of my own therapy.

Starting this month, the hubby and I are on a different sort of adventure.  One filled with a lot of veggies and zero gluten and dairy.


The hubby suffers from migraines and after exhaustive rounds of medications and top headache doctor’s visits, we’re trying food allergies.  According to the literature, gluten and dairy are the top suspects when it comes to allergies, headaches, bad moods and all sorts of things.  His allergist gave him a long list of histamine producing foods that made my heart sink.  Everything from pickles to eggplants to whole grains were on the list and I saw very little we could actually eat.

In the end, it took a great purge in my pantry where I gave away all of my flours, cereals and other gluten items (it’s frightening just how much gluten is hidden in food) and replaced them with gluten free varieties that were expensive, yet surprisingly tasty.  Sure, Canyon Bakehouse white loaf isn’t a slice of fluffy white bread, but it is very nice.  Especially with a slathering of marmalade or peanut butter.  🙂

The key to going gluten free is to see it as something different.  Not the same as wheat, not the same as pasta or bread, but different.  This can be very hard to do.  Like when I want a really good chocolate chip cookie but it comes out a bit, well, off.  Still soft, nice and rather yummy, but just not quite right.  In fact, it’s a whole new thing.  Same goes for vegan dairy replacements.  Seriously, as wonderful it is to have Daiya as a cheese alternative, it doesn’t hold a candle to a good aged cheddar.  What it does give you, though, is something healthier and far gentler on the system than the cheese.

So, I made a gluten and dairy free strawberry birthday cake with Pamela’s vanilla cake mix and my own strawberry frosting.  It was delicious right down to the last crumb.  I made gluten and dairy free entrees such as the quinoa pilaf with kale and corn or the filling lentil shepherd’s pie topped with vegan mashed potatoes or my gluten free stir fry.  Everything we’ve tried this week has been both delicious and surprisingly filling.  Where we thought we’d want more, we actually found ourselves stopping, satisfied.


We’ve only been doing this for a week and a half, but already we’re sleeping better and my allergy symptoms are gone.  Whereas before I was going through a box of tissues a week, now I’m hardly a sniffle!  It’s been very good once we got over the headaches and fuzzy head of the first week.  We still have a few more months to go, but we’re adjusting and doing our best.  Now, if we can only figure out what to do when eating out . . . :/

Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn

(Note: Original recipe from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas.  I’ve halved the recipe and it still makes a large amount of salad.  We simply stored some in the fridge and freezer.)


  • 3/4 cups quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (I used the originally called for whole cube rather than halving it)
  • a big handful of kale leaves (she notes 8oz, but I just chopped without measuring)
  • non-stick spray
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup corn, thawed
  • 4 – 5 sun-dried tomatoes, diced (or 1 jar roasted red peppers)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine quinoa, water and bouillon in a medium pan.  Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer with lid on until tender (about 15 minutes).  Set aside.
  2. Strip kale leaves of stems and cut into strips.  Add to large skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray set on med-low heat.  Cook until wilted.  Add the garlic and cook a minute or two before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Saute for about 5 minutes until warmed through.