Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Imperfect Cat Doodles and the Art Fairy

This morning Isabella and I were having school and for her morning break, she decided to start drawing. My family loves art and drawing is something that we have each gravitated toward throughout our life. Isabella is no exception. We have books upon books of "how to" ideas.  She pulls out the cat book. If you didn't already know, our family loves our cat, no, to be more precise, we love all cats. Grabbing a piece of white paper she chooses a cat to start drawing. Instead of starting at the beginning of the book where the easier cats are located, she picks a difficult breed with lots of detail. The frustration mounts almost immediately. I can sense that she is gradually losing patience with her drawing. Through a series of sighs, I ask her if she needs my help. She replies with a shrug and says yes. Together we develop a plan for transferring what she sees in the book to her own piece of paper. The paper seems to be the wrong size. The cat she chooses is fat and fluffy. Not an ideal image for a long narrow piece of sketchbook paper. We choose a different cat.

Her frustration does not ease but we carry on anyway. I eventually walk away and start working on my next project. Walking away herself, she drops onto the futon and covers her face. I hear a slight whisper of a cry. I ask her what is wrong ( even though I already know that she is beyond frustrated with her efforts to draw the cat), she begins to express anguish over her failed attempt to create the art she saw in her head.

This is my child, who is a perfectionist. I completely get her frustration. These are the times I wish we had "the handbook" we all talk about getting when they are babies, right at this moment. Some suggestions of what to say or how to say it would be helpful. Instead, I reach into my collection of stored memories and try to put together some inspirational advice and work my soothing parental magic.

But, what I am really saying to myself is how do I help her understand that to have natural and raw talent is a wonderful thing to experience, but finding and learning new gifts can be just as rewarding too? How do I teach her to keep trying? How do I motivate her to try again when all she wants to do is quit?

Sitting there, watching her, I can't help but see me at her age. Trying new things, usually much harder than what I was capable of, but none the less, trying anyway. Me getting frustrated and giving up. Me walking away and not returning. This is what I didn't want her to learn. That if it's too hard then walk away. No, I want her to understand it is important to keep trying. It is important to finish the project. I want her to feel the joy of trying something new. It's important for her young self to have a growth mindset and reach for more, learn more, try more, and keep persevering. Hard things should not prevent us from trying.

I also want her to know that there is an art fairy that comes at night and fixes our art. In the morning she will see her artwork in a different light and after a night of sleep. I once had an art teacher tell me this during one of my moments of frustration on an oil painting I was working on. I didn't believe her at first. To my amazement, the art piece did look better the next morning. I have had this experience more than once. I tell her this story and I doubt she believes me. One day she will see it happen and remember the story about the art fairy.

I go on and try to reassure her that we don't need to be perfect the first time or even, every single time, we try something new. I encourage her to take a few minutes to change her focus. Walk away and come back. I ask her to reset her emotions and get some fresh air. I hear her outside jumping on the trampoline as I write this now. Gone are the tears and the sound of frustration.

She returns to the house cheerful and ready to try again on her cat picture. This time with a little less expectation that the cat will look exactly like the one in the book. This time with a little bit more spin on creating a cat with character and personality, maybe a cartoon version of the same cat. I like this idea. She sets out with a new focus and a bit more enjoyment in the process of drawing and creating.

It is easy for us to get caught up in this idea that if something is hard then we should quit or find something else to do. It took me a long time to figure out that there is great joy in practicing something over and over until we achieve success. We learn so much while in the moment of doing a project and seeing it through to the end. Completing projects gives us a sense of accomplishment and teaches us to follow through with our work or play. Becoming frustrated while learning a new concept is sometimes expected but there are ways we can deal with our frustration. A few ways that have worked for me are to take a break, do a 5-minute meditation, go outside for a walk, or sleep on it. These ideas will not fix all frustrations with new projects but they are great tools to teach kids, especially when they are frustrated with school work or hobbies.

Isabella returned to her drawing. I close the "how to" book and ask her what she thought about the picture that she drew 30 minutes ago. With a smile on her face and all her anxiety gone, she says, "It looks great but I can't wait to see what the art fairy does with it tomorrow morning."

She was listening after all.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Vegan Tomato Tart with Cashew Cream

Tomatoes of every shape, size, and color are flowing out of the garden with exceptional speed.We eat them just as fast too. I have to laugh because I thought we would be canning all of our tomatoes. Instead, we are devouring them each and every day on sandwiches, with salt, in salads, in pasta, and made into tarts. Oh, these tarts are so yummy!

Tomatoes and puff pastry are a perfect match to create an easy and spectacular dish for friends and family. Make sure if you want or need your puff pastry to be vegan, you check the labels. I find ours at our local grocery store.

The cashew cream is a must in all vegan kitchens. I make mine based on a ton of recipes I scoured for the perfect combination of flavors for our family. In fact, I often alter it for the special meal I might be using it with to accommodate the dish. For instance, I use a little sugar to add the cashew cream to sweet desserts or add lemon zest when stirring it in with pasta. I also use cashew cream like sour cream served on baked potatoes, in chili, on tacos, and my favorite is when I add it to our soups to make them creamy.

Cashew cream is so versatile and easy to prepare. The recipe I use for this dish is listed below.

Vegan Tomato Tart with Cashew Cream

1 thawed puff pastry square (2 are included per box)
a variety of tomatoes
cashew cream (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 450. You want a very hot oven to have the puff pastry turn out perfectly. My oven runs a little cooler so I use the 450 temperature. If your oven runs hot, then go down to 425. Lay a piece of parchment paper in a cookie sheet.

2.  Unfold thawed puff pastry and make sure unfolded seams are not broken. I gently push them together if they have torn a bit.

3.  Cover the inside of the square with cashew cream. I leave a healthy inch free from the cream sauce all around the edges. See picture above.

4.  Lay tomatoes in any pattern you wish. I cut my small tomatoes in half. I cut the larger tomatoes in 1/4 inch slices. Use your imagination and great a masterpiece.

5.  Bake for 30-40 minutes. Again this depends on your oven. I personally, like my edges fully risen and baked to a perfect crispy brown crust. See pictures above of the finished version.

6. Remove from oven and cut into squares and serve. I ate the whole thing. I know that leftovers can be reheated without any problems. I had to make another one to figure that out. Good times in the kitchen.

Cashew Cream I used for this recipe.

1 cup of raw cashews
enough water to cover the cashews in the bottom of the blender
1/2 lemon, juice only
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt/pepper to taste

Optional ingredients I added to this recipe, just for this recipe are:

1/4 cup minced green onions
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1. Place all of the ingredients for the cashew cream into a high-speed blender. I have a Vitamix. Once creamy and smooth, mix in the green onions and grated lemon zest.

2. The consistency is like hummus. Adjust water according to this likeness. You may need to add more garlic, lemon juice, or nutritional yeast to get the flavor profile to your preference. I tend to like a strong lemony flavor, especially with the tomatoes.

3. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. The shelf life is about 1 week.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fried Yellow Squash #vegan

Summer squash is a vegetable I remember from my childhood. My grandma always fried it and served it with mashed potatoes and chicken fried steak.  My grandfather was from Texas and he loved his fried food. Every once in a while I need fried food too.

Our garden this year is producing a ton of squash. I can't believe how many I have from one plant. We are almost squashed out!  I have frozen most of it. I grate it, squeeze it, add a cup to a freezer bag, and freeze.  I will add this to muffins, sauces, soups, and cookies.  It blends in well with most bread, soups, and broths.

Along with the yellow squash, I have zucchini and patty squash in the garden. I use this process to make all three of these into fried slices of squashy summer goodness. I like to serve my fried squash with a sauce. I usually start with my VEGAN MAYONNAISE and then add herbs, spices, lemon, and capers. Blend them together and serve on the side. You can always buy sauces too if this is an easier alternative for your family.

Fried Yellow Squash #vegan

1 large yellow squash or 2-3 small squash
1 cup cornmeal flour (fine not coarse)
1 cup of flour or gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 -1 cup dairy free milk (I use almond or coconut milk)
coconut oil for frying, or oil of your choice

1.  In a large cast iron or heavy duty skillet, melt 2 cups of coconut oil. Use medium-high heat to melt coconut oil and then adjust as needed to obtain a crispy crust on the squash.

2.  Slice the squash into 1/4 inch rounds. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a shallow dish.  Add milk to another shallow dish.  Dip a squash round into the milk, then into the flour, then again into the milk and back into the flour. I like to double dip mine to get a nice coating all over the squash pieces.

3.  Fry each slice until golden brown and flip.  Remove to a wire rack and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.  They can be refrigerated but will not retain their crispy outer shell.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Abandoned Sandcastles

Our beaches draw thousands of visitors each weekend.  The Oregon Coast invites families, couples, and singles from all over the world to come and explore our beautiful coastlines up and down scenic highway 101. Newport sits on the Yaquina Bay and feeds into the Pacific Ocean.

We have officially ended what is known in our tiny town as the "tourist season" and gently rolled into our second summer.  The second summer is something we learned recently from a local update we subscribe to.  We get a few weeks of warm summer-like days that are sprinkled with rolling fog, misty mornings and cooler nights.  The days are delicious to our souls.  We savor each one with the knowledge that soon we will be cold and our homes will be hit with high winds and rain...lots of rain. Ten inches of rain in one month.


Our nights find us walking along the beaches at low tide in search of finding treasures from the water.  We find shells, driftwood and the occasional flip-flop. We find toys, shirts, shorts, dead birds, bits of jellyfish and abandoned sandcastles.

On Saturday we headed to South Beach State Park over the Yaquina Bridge to check out a new beach.  The beaches have similarities but each beach also has its own personality.  Yaquina Head State Parks beach is covered in basalt.  Little black rocks covering the shore. This creates a "shhhhhhh" sound as the water passes through each rock.  Nye Beach has dunes for the kids to run up and down on.  

 We have many beaches to explore close to our home.

South Beach has shells. We are discovering stretches of the coastline that do not have shells. If they do, they are often busted and in pieces. This beach has a bit of both. I usually return home with a few "whole" shells. I clean them and add them to the table in our living room for the kids to touch, see and admire. I love bringing the outside indoors.  

My home is filled with bowls of rocks and shells.Vases with driftwood. Fake beach grass. Anything to remind me that we live at the beach.

While walking, I stop and notice the sandcastle that is posted at the top of the page. It is covered with crab shells and a few broken sand dollars. I stand there for a moment looking and inspecting the sandcastle. My mind drifts in and out of our own family's escapades to the beach and building sandcastles. A smile gently rises to greet the warm feelings I am remembering.

Heading to the beach empty handed is never an option. We must come prepared for epic expectations of building the largest sandcastle in town. Cory hauls our wagon through deep sand,  laden down with shovels, buckets, sifters, rakes, gold panning pans, and towels. If we are lucky we return home with our beginning inventory, if not, then we have shared a bit of our family with the next beach dweller.  It happens.  

Abandoned sandcastle sounds so lonely and deserted. It expresses the circumstances that most sandcastles meet at the end of a fun weekend or a single westward excursion to find some sand. We don't build sandcastles with the thought of leaving them behind at the end the day. We dream about the imaginary lives that will be lived inside, the battles that will be fought, and victories won.

There is an experience that happens between the time a decision to build a sand castle is made and the final moments of realizing you must leave it behind. Minutes are devoted to the design, hours to the building and a few seconds left for goodbyes. It all happens so fast. Time does slip away when making memories in the sand. Our kids never want to leave.

We don't want to leave either if I am being honest. 

Our sandcastles are abandoned as the weekend draws to an end. They are empty because families must return home to their busy lives. Adults work and kids have school and everything in between. Each builder leaves their sandcastle reluctantly, with a backward glance, as the tide slowly rolls in. A long day spent digging, packing sand, carrying buckets of water, and finding adornments. It ends.

It is over.

The deserted sandcastle will not be there in the morning. The tide will roll in and take back each grain of sand. The waves that have brought the sand to shore, pulls each grain back into the water. Pushing them farther and farther out to sea until all that is left in its place is a memory.

Each day these memories are made for locals and visitors on the beaches of our Oregon Coast. At the end of each day or long weekend, we take with us the memories of building our sandcastle. The memories of time spent with family, friends and the sea.

Next weekend will bring a new idea. New designs. New treasures to decorate with.

More abandoned sandcastles are on our horizon.

P.S. I would love to hear about your memories or stories of sand castles from your childhood or life. Does this essay spark a memory, cause you to return to the beach, remind you to make time for sand castle memories or all the above. 

Through sharing our stories we become a close community of like-minded readers and storytellers. I grow as a person and as a writer when I read your comments. Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

This weeks recipe is for Baked Avocado Slices

This weeks poetry is linked here. An ode to Autumn.

Last weeks, Sifting Through Life is linked here. I talk about happiness.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Thoughts #poetry

Summer is almost gone.  Autumn is quickly moving into our neck of the woods.

This weeks essay, Sifting Through Life, talks about our happiness. I encourage you to ask yourself a few questions about your own happiness. CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ESSAY.

This weeks recipe is for Baked Avocado Slices

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Baked Avocado Slices #vegan

Our family loves everything about avocados. We eat them raw on sandwiches, on toast, and plain with a bit of salt and pepper.  We eat them smashed into the tastiest guacamole, fried, and now baked.

Avocados are creamy and smooth when perfectly riped. I know that can be a tricky situation, trying to find a ripe avocado on the day you want to use it. The avocado is in control of when it is ready. I have waited and waited to use an avocado, missed a day, and then avocado went bad.  They are sensitive little guys and gals.

I have learned through trial and error that an avocado will last longer if they are stored in the refrigerator AFTER they have ripened on your counter. This works great for us. I will usually buy 12 avocados at a time, this last us about one week, as they ripen I put them in the refrigerator. We grab and go or use them in our favorite recipe.

I have fried avocado slices with great success.  That recipe is HERE.  This recipe is not plant-based. It does include eggs and parmesan cheese.  The recipe you see today does not include either of these options and taste just as good.

The baked avocado slices are:


The recipe is at the end of pictures. I served the baked avocado slices with rice and our favorite dipping sauce. They make a great main meal or an appetizer.

Our other favorite avocado recipes are listed and linked below:

Guacamole #glutenfree #vegan
Fried Avocado Fries 
Avocado Pesto Hummus Dip
Avocado Bowls #vegan
Avocado Cream Sauce
Avocado, Mushroom, and Tomato Salad
Creamy Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Pasta Salad
Creamy Salsa Verde

Like I said, we love avocado and are always on the hunt for new ways to use them in our recipes and diets.

This weeks essay, Sifting Through Life, talks about our happiness. I encourage you to ask yourself a few questions about your own happiness.  CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ESSAY.

Baked Avocado Slices #vegan

2 large avocados, (best if they are not over-ripe)
Panko crust, recipe below
Veganaise, enough to coat slices
Water to thin mayo
Your favorite cooking spray

Panko crust ingredients:
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt/pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-1 1/2 cups of panko (depends on if you double dip the slices)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I use a wire cookie cooling rack inside my cookie sheet. This allows the heat to completely surround the avocado slices. This ensures that every part of the slice is crunchy.

2. Mix panko crust ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix mayonnaise and water. I thin it just a little. The mayonnaise will allow the panko crust to stick nicely to the avocado slices.

3.  Slice avocado with a sharp knife and scoop out the slices gently.  Place each slice in the mayonnaise and cover lightly.  Roll each avocado slice in the panko crust.

4. Place each avocado slice 1 inch apart. Lightly spray the slices with your favorite cooking spray. Bake for 18-25 minutes. I like mine a little brown, so I tend to cook mine for 25 minutes.

5. Remove the slices and serve with your favorite sauce. They are crispy right out of the oven, you can refrigerate any leftovers, but the crust will be soft...still good, but a different experience.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Happiness

Sometimes we have to ask for the things we want in order to find our happiness.
If we walk through life assuming that those around us know what we want we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and possibly, a lot of misunderstanding.

Cory always tells me he is not a mind reader. I guess for the first few years of our lives I really wanted him to be.  Sometimes it would be easier if we could read our partner's minds. Then I think what would we lose in our relationship if the concept to speak our own words were taken from us?

Words convey a message when spoken. They can be harsh, soft, loud, whispered, sung, rhymed, etc.... Would we translate the message the same if we heard it in our thoughts and minds (reading only the words) and not with our ears which can hear emotion and tone?

I remember being newly married and wanting to please everyone.  Nothing has changed in 29 years other than I now know that pleasing me is also important. I am happier if I speak my words. Let me say that again,  MY WORDS. Not the words that I think they want to hear or even the words that I fear saying sometimes. I am trying to keep our conversations honest and truthful. Taking the emotion out of the conversation so that our ears are listening and understanding.

I find myself reminding my little kids to "find their words" and "speak their words". When Isabella feels that her answer is not what I want to hear she goes quiet and reflective. I recognize that she is afraid to tell me the truth for fear that she may hurt my feelings or say the wrong thing.  Again, I find myself saying to her-speak your words, ask the question, and answer the question honestly.  I remind her, "there are no wrong answers. You are not in trouble."  When we allow our kids to express themselves in safe environments we have an opportunity to encourage honesty and a sense of happiness. Happiness with themselves and with others.

We have always tried to provide a safe home in which our kids can talk to us about anything and I mean anything. We have had some long discussion about all sorts of topics.  I won't go into details but they are profound, uncomfortable at times, loving, honest, and sometimes, eye opening. They are not afraid to ask us any questions. This is how we want our home to be. This is how I should be with myself.  I should ask myself some hard questions to learn and find out what is buried down deep inside. One question I find myself asking about once a year is, Am I happy?

I feel that as women we get caught up in the lives of those around us and involved in creating their happiness, that we forget to check in with ourselves. I believe that when we ask ourselves this question it opens up a chance for us to answer truthfully, yes or no.

When we can step back and listen to our yes or no answer, without feeling shame if the answer is no, then we can get to the root of why we may not be happy. I am okay with hearing no because I realize no is an answer. Not the answer I may want to hear but those two little letters that will no longer hold me back from asking the hard or simple questions in this life or of myself.

I recently have had to ask myself some hard questions about where I am going and what I want to do. I realized that I have secretly been holding onto a list of things I wish to do... eventually. I always tell myself: when the kids move out, when the kids graduate, when the kids are old enough, when the kids.... do you see a pattern here?  I wouldn't change having my kids for the world or being married. It just seems that I need to fill my lamp with some happiness oil for me. It happens and once we see it happening, small changes to our perspective or daily lives can add a lot of small doses of happiness back into our lives.

I finally looked myself in the mirror and asked the reflection staring back at me, "Am I happy?" It has not been easy looking myself in the eyes. Happiness to me used to mean one thing. Now it means a lot of things. I am happy as a mom. I am happy being a wife. I am happy with my home. I am typically a happy person.

BUT....there are holes in my happiness.


In the journey to put my family first and to try and ensure their happiness, I have lost myself a little bit.  I have forgotten to live a little. I am missing out on small things that mean a lot to me.  My happiness has been on vacation. Each and every time my heart would start to question a little desire or a need I wanted, my mind would shove it to the back of the line; not today maybe tomorrow is always the response.

My next question to myself was, "How can I change this?" I recently read a quote that mentioned the word MORE.  I know that I am happy but I knew immediately that I could be more than just happy. I could be much happier with a few simple changes to my thoughts, actions and daily routine.

It is amazing how alive I feel and how happy I have become. The questions just keep coming too.  It's okay to ask ourselves hard questions. Sometimes we won't want to hear the answer and we won't know the solution. Finding the right way to move forward will be different for everyone and I believe this is okay.

We all travel through this life at different speeds, with an array of goals, circumstances that alter our destiny, as well as, being pulled in many directions. Life can be challenging and it can easily slip away from us. The older I get the more I realize that I am in the driver seat and sometimes I want to go slow and other times I want to speed. Today I want to speed.

Take a few minutes to ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly. Allow yourself to explore your options and see things differently.  Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself forgiveness and a little bit of happiness. You may be surprised to discover that little changes, ideas, and thoughts can lead to some very big adventures in your life.

Life is busy and we forget sometimes how to be happy and brings us happiness. It's okay to stop our lives once in a while and check in and see if we are on the right path. Permit yourself to peel back the layers of your life and reexamine those activities, people, jobs, social gatherings, and adventures that bring true happiness into your life.

And you know what, it's okay to simplify. It's okay to cut back. It's okay to say no. It's okay to make changes, make a request, and to take 5 minutes for yourself.

It's okay to be happy.

You deserve it.

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts or comments about this subject. As humans, we all identify differently with the term happiness and how it affects our lives. By sharing our stories we heal others, inspire, and open up a level of understanding that we might not have otherwise thought about. 

My idea of happiness or happy may not be yours. I am interested in learning about how each of us interprets this word. More importantly, how you achieve it. Share what makes you happy and how you become happy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Thoughts #poetry

Simply stated: We are enough. Sometimes it takes us saying it over and over to believe it.

To Follow:  w.i.l.l.o.w JADE poetry on instagram, click link.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

3 Ingredient Crepes #vegan

If anyone had told me that I would be able to make a crepe without egg and cow's milk, I would have laughed.

Oh, I am laughing now but with delight.  These crepes are easy to make and taste delicious. I serve these to our guests and then tell them they are vegan. There really is much difference in texture or taste. The only time I notice a change in flavor is when I use whole fat coconut milk. Then, of course, the coconut flavor seeps into the crepe.  I actually like this added taste to my own crepes.

The one suggestion I have is to be patient. I have found if I make the batter and let it sit for 30 minutes this allows the flour, milk, and flaxseed meal to work together. I also notice that sometimes I need more liquid, while at other times, I have had to add a bit more flour.  I always throw the first one away. I either have the pan too hot, not hot enough, the batter is too thick, or too runny.

Patience is required to make any crepe, not just this version. I bought a small egg pan to save for using it to make just crepes. It is free of scratches. I found that if my pan is scratched it affects the final crepe.  Start with a little oil (butter) in the pan and make sure the pan is hot.  The process works quickly once you add the batter.

I use a small ladle to add my batter to my hot pan, immediately swirl the batter to create a very thin pancake or crepe. I return it to the heat and watch the edges get start to curl. I use a soft spatula and flip it over once. I remove the crepes to a wire cookie rack and let cool. Once they are cool then you can stack them on top of each other and serve.  We rarely have leftovers, but when I do, I wrap them tightly and store them in the refrigerator.

3 Ingredient Crepes #vegan

1 cup flour (wheat or white) I personally use a half and half blend of wheat and white
1 cup of nondairy milk (almond, cashew, coconut, etc...)
1 flaxseed meal egg SEE BELOW

1.  Make the flaxseed meal egg first. 1 tablespoon blended with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Stir and let sit for a few minutes.

2.  Combine all three ingredients and blend well. For best results let sit for 30 minutes. If you are in a hurry, it will work, but may take a few practice crepes to get it perfect.

3. Heat pan. I use a pastry brush to oil the hot pan each time I add batter to the pan. This helps it to not stick. I do this even in my nonstick pan. The recipe does not contain any oil and it needs the added help to ensure the crepe stays in one piece.

4.  Remove from pan and let cool. Stack when ready to serve. Serve with fruit, syrup, cinnamon and sugar, coconut whipped cream, etc...

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Sometimes My Love is Conditional

NOTE:  I wrote this piece two years ago.  I never published it.

This past week has been thought provoking. I thought of not writing my thoughts down in the event that it will hurt some people.  I should know from reading countless articles that as a writer we can't control how people will react to the words that we write, but I care.  I care a lot about a variety of people in our life. We have butted heads over LGBT issues and the current political events shared by the media.

I care so much that at times I have held my tongue.  I have turned the other cheek.  I have accepted their opinion and moved forward.  Then there are times like now.  That I can't stand to read one more post by someone whose opinion is so far away from mine that it hurts.  Their ideas and opinions stir up emotion and anger deep within me.  My mind will ask my heart "what the fuck is wrong with people?"  How can they be so heartless, cruel, and inhumane? They lose their status as a human and become animalistic.  I don't see them through a "friend or family" lens anymore.  I see them with caution, unease, and disappointment. Social media has allowed us to witness a person's character, views, opinions and supportive nature with the hit of a like button.  We see so much more than we might want to.  Honestly, I don't want to see it anymore.  It's too much.  It is changing my view of some good people.

I have thought for some time about writing about this topic of unconditional love and how I don't believe it exists for most of our lives. I have to admit to myself that my love is conditional.  I believe my love, has been unconditional, a few times though.  At the meeting of each of our four kids.  That small window of time when they first entered this world.  So much love spilling from your soul that you can't imagine anything other than that moment. You don't see the trials or struggles that you may have in the future.  Your mind isn't privy to their character, their desires, thoughts, ideas, emotions, or cares. In that moment you just ARE.  No past or futute. Just NOW.

That newness of meeting and seeing each other with nothing but pure joy and happiness is unconditional love to me.  After this initial exchange, our relationship starts to grow.  We start to evolve and our lives are subjected to the world. We are influenced and sculpted into what our parents and society deem to be in our best interest. We start to learn that love is conditional.

I learned as a child that holding on to the belief that love is unconditional hurt. A child trusts with their whole heart until they learn not to. That trust and love did not always end with a feeling of acceptance, joy, friendship or togetherness. I found myself in situations of being abused and hurt by people, who I thought should love me unconditionally, love me enough to not hurt me, but they did hurt me: emotionally and physically. As an adult, I found this idea of unconditional love poisonous when spewed by the wrong person in the name of their justified cause or reasoning.

Isn't love LOVE?

I have to admit to myself that it is not. Love can be ugly. Ask the abused wife or husband.  Love can hurt. Ask the crying child, the gay child, the bullied kid. Love can deny. Ask your gay neighbor. Love can sting.  Ask yourself.

Love is conditional.

Love has two sides. We do things in the name of love all the time.

I will love you if...
My love is wide and open but...
You are wanted and excepted when...

Love from our parents, siblings, extended family, communities or church comes with conditions. We know how we feel when love is shared with us, but then we realize that not all love is the same. We receive and give love differently too. Putting my understanding of love under a microscope this past week has been interesting.

I know love is good. I don't deny it. I've been on the receiving end of love that hurts and love that feels good. I am learning that I give and receive love differently. This is why this week I have acknowledged to myself that my love is conditional. I cannot pretend that my love is the same for everyone, every situation, or that it is unconditional.

It simply is not.

What I do deny is that love is always the right venue to try to make your point.  Love is not one size fits all. We don't all respond to the word love equally. To some, the word hurts.  To others, it resonates joy and happiness. I think the most powerful influence we can have in regards to love is to think first of the other person.

My love is conditional.  It's my truth.  Maybe this is the stinging nettle of love. I am learning that a blanket of "love" thrown in the hopes that it covers all the hurt, opinions and pain can make you itch with frustration from a word that emotes a variety of feelings. This word creates a dichotomy of opinions and reactions.

There is a lot of hurt and anger in the world currently and with so much pain I see myself going back to basic principles of peace, charity, and mercy: my version of love.  I don't want to focus on the fear that terror and policy changes are creating.  For me, to better understand this love, I have had to tear it apart and get real and raw.

I am trying to not have conditions on my love but it's hard. This week my conditional love has been tested. I struggle because I was raised to believe that love is unconditional and yet my heart says that it is not.

I will continue to do my best to love those around me. Some of that love will be given unconditionally, but I know that most of it will be conditional.

P.S.  Is your love conditional or this just me?  I would love to hear your story or feedback on this topic. I believe that by sharing our thoughts with each other, we learn from each other. Love is a tricky word because it resonates differently with each person. We associate different feelings and meanings to this simple, yet important, word: LOVE.

My experience with love is different than yours and I would like to hear from you and how the word was created in your life. Is your love conditional? all encompassing? unconditional?  

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thursday Thoughts #poetry

Who hasn't felt this way at some time in their life? I know I do.

To Follow:  w.i.l.l.o.w JADE poetry on instagram, click link.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Avocado Bowl #vegan

Simply food is good food. I like making this dish because it is made with things I usually have on hand.  We always have a pot of rice, ripe avocados, and cucumbers.

The combination of the avocado with the rice and sesame seeds reminds me of an avocado sushi roll, minus the nori wrapper.  Although, I have minced up a nori sheet in the past and sprinkled it on top.

I usually drizzle soy sauce and make up a small bowl of Sriracha mayonnaise to add some spice.

Avocado Bowl #vegan

To make you will need:

-cooked rice
-one ripe avocado, sliced
-sesame seeds
-half a cucumber, cubed

Optional items are:

-soy sauce (highly recommend this)
-Sriracha Mayonnaise
-nori sheets, chopped up finely

1.  Warm rice, add ingredients.  Add sauce(s) and eat.

2.  Taste the umami!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Values

I've spent a lot of time recently with this word: values.  I have studied it in college in three of my sociology classes. The word came to life as we studied the effects of values on a society, as well as, within a family unit and individually.

I went to church last weekend and our reverend talked about values and beliefs.  She instructed us to be a community. We need each other. Our new church doesn't hold to one set belief system. It does hold to a set of common values. Her words are still spinning in my mind because she reminded us that we can have different beliefs as long as our values are the same. These values are strong enough to hold us together when our beliefs differ.

This is what I have been missing as I have fumbled through the last few years of self-exploration and discovery. A month ago I realized that something was still off. I have fixed and mended relationships and still, some just don't work. Why am I struggling with some people and not with others? Why am I able to see their point of view but not that of others?

I kept returning to this word: values.

What is a value?  A value is a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life. This is a standard definition from the dictionary I have on my laptop.  Simply put, it is the measuring stick that we hold ourselves up to.  It is how we measure those around us.  

This makes sense to me. I see it now. When our value systems are in tune with each other we are able to express different opinions without feeling that our values are being attacked or neglected. This is an important experience in friendship, family, and intimacy. Without the foundation of common values, we might struggle to understand why a person could believe the way they do.

This affects our conversations, arguments, testimonies, discussion, and interactions. If I see that you have a similar foundation of values as I do, and we disagree on a how to solve a problem, this should not affect our relationship. I know that your goals are close to mine.  Our paths may be different in how to accomplish the event but we're reading from the same book, so to speak.

The friction that is present when a set of values differ, especially within the confines of a family unit, creates unwanted trust issues and a variety of communication altercations. Have you ever argued with someone when your values did not line up?  It's like talking to a brick wall. It's because, in a way, you are. I am learning that studies are proving that there are some definite personality divisions that exist in our human culture.  We see it in the recent neurological studies when Republican and Democratic brains are scanned.  You can google this information and find several studies that have been completed in the past 5 years. I use this example because I see this division in my own extended family. And, yes, it is like talking to a brick wall. 

Our conversations are not driven from the same bucket of values. This is the disconnect in our relationship.  Politics is only one area that can stir heated conversations and discussion.  I also know, within my own family, that religion, race, sexuality, and socioeconomics are also areas that we find ourselves struggling with in conversation with certain friends and family. 

Values.  They are important to our culture as a community and a family. When we find ourselves in a community in which our values are not represented by the majority, again, we can find ourselves hitting a wall in finding common ground. This leads to feelings of misunderstanding and frustration.

How do we mend the fences and move forward?  The obvious answer and probably the most used technique is avoidance. I see this in my family. We avoid all the topics that trigger anxiety, anger, and exasperation. This leads to "fluff" conversations. The dialogue is surface based and shallow. Honestly, it's boring. Our limited available topic of conversation lists is short and maxes out after 2.45678 days. 

Then what?

Is it possible to have these discussions with those whose values system are different?  I don't know. I believe it takes the right set of people to have discussions when values and beliefs are different. I don't think it's impossible but it takes a certain amount of control and focus.  I think it takes an exceptional ability to listen and refrainment from interruptions. 

Values are key to bridging the gap of frail relationships.  Beliefs are accepted when values are similar or like-minded.  Values and beliefs set a standard for you and your family that is like a road map. It will help you find your tribe and your community. You will find that your potential will explode with abundance when you are surrounded by those you have things in common with. Find your tribe. Find those with a value system for which you relate to and you will find a strain of happiness that you might not realize is possible.

I know I did and I will be forever grateful to the inner voice that pushed me to make a very hard choice. Seek out those you value, who share your values, and who want to be a part of your stories.

P.S. I would love to here your input on this subject.  I feel that we are each taught different values. Some us keep those from our childhood, and others develop their own values over time. I am interested in learning about the value systems from a variety of people.

Through this process of sharing stories we learn about and from each other. I believe have a solid value system in place is key to our happiness and existence. 

Lets talk about values in the comment section.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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