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Back On The Road Again 2

(Preface: This entry is SO LONG and SO RAMBLY. OH MY GOD. I AM SO SORRY.)

I used to pray the rosary. A LOT. Like, it was my Go To thing when I needed anything: comfort, strength or ease of guilt – I would pray the rosary. It was my favorite Catholic ritual (that and the Stations of the Cross, loved going to that) and many Lents I made it my “promise” to say the rosary every day during the 40 days leading to Easter.

I guess you could say that praying the rosary was my jam.

The thing I would meditate the most on – while praying the rosary – was usually: How can I be a better person? When I was young I would think about how I should stay away from the little white lies. As I got older I thought about how I should probably not be thinking those thoughts I was thinking. And then, towards the end of my stretch with the church, I meditated on how I was losing my Faith.

(Funny! Because I did lose it! HA! DO YOU GET IT?)

(Not at all funny.)

I haven’t prayed the rosary in – decades maybe? I don’t know. It’s been awhile. But lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I find myself doing a lot of self-reflection/meditation on the rosary topics of yesteryear: How can I be a better person?

I think I had reached a good point in my life where I was feeling like I had grown into a good person. I have done a lot of shitting on people in my life, so it feels good to be at that point where I can look at myself and think, “Yay! We’ve not been evil in a long time! Go us!” The overall feeling of the last few years has been: Kim Is Finally A Good Person.

But the last couple of weeks? I’ve been feeling that falter. I’ve been having a crisis of Faith again, but this time in myself.

I found myself recently experiencing some bitterness and jealousy of the good things that were happening to other people. It wasn’t long-lasting and it didn’t flavor much of my behavior, but feelings those feelings? Those negative feelings of bitterness and jealousy over something that was adding good into the world? Upset me. Good people make the world a better place. If good things happen to good people? I should be celebrating that…not be jealous.

Funny sidenote: When good things happen to bad people? I never feel jealous. And it’s because I know that I am still better off because I am a good person. I have a lot of Faith in the power of being good for someone who worships at no alter, don’t I?

Anyway! Bitterness! Jealousy! I was feeling it!

And man, I was hating myself for it. And it gave me horrible pangs of self-doubt and self-hatred and I went from tiny flares of bitterness and jealous to HUGE FLAMES of disappointment in self and I found myself falling down the pit of I AM SUCH AN AWFUL PERSON, WHY DO PEOPLE EVEN TALK TO ME? faster than I could say, “Downward Spiral.”

That’s where I’ve been recently: Feeling strong negative feelings towards good people, and then strong negative feelings towards myself for those strong negative feelings towards good people.

I’M HAVING ALL THE FUNZ!

It had gotten so bad that I didn’t even pay attention to two really wonderful compliments I got this week. One, a friend shared an article about raising Kind children and commented how she thought of me because I was doing a lot of what the article mentioned.

COULD THERE BE A GREATER COMPLIMENT? No!

Actually, yes. It came later.

I was discussing on Facebook how frustrated I get that Atheists get such a bad wrap just because of a few assholes and how that would be like me judging all Christians based on Westb0r0. (Misspelled intentionally. I don’t even want their organization showing up on my blog.) And then a friend mentioned the interesting note that he thought I was very much like Jesus for being an Atheist.

Now, THAT, my friends. Is the best compliment ever. We talk a lot about Jesus’ teachings in this house, even though we attach no religion to it other than, “What a good guy!” So that meant a lot to me.

For about two seconds. And then I was back to hating myself for hating the joy in other people’s lives. And I was back to feeling guilty for feeling bitter. I started worrying that I was becoming a Bad Person and I found myself eating all of the foods in all of the land.

It’s just been a negative couple of weeks. I even found myself very bitter towards a certain spouse of mine for forgetting my birthday (I don’t care about gifts! I just wanted someone to mow the grass for me for one week!) and not helping me prep our house for Family Dinner. And then – while I know that practically those are very good reasons to be bitter – I do not support bitterness at all. It manifests into ugliness and there are ways to deal with that so that they don’t turn you mean. And I usually deal with those things better. And I wasn’t. I was soaking in the bitterness from having to mow the lawn or vacuum on my birthday, I was feeling bitter over the success of others, I was turning into someone I hated and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be friends with me.

Can everyone say: DOWNWARD SPIRAL!

And then I got sick last night. Again. I have this INCREDIBLE sensitivity to raw vegetables/legumes/some fruits. It’s not entirely consistent because it depends on their ripeness but sometimes things like bananas or fresh almond butter or edamame make me SICK. Like, severe abdominal pains for hours, sick. And last night was one of those nights. (DAMN YOU EDAMAME!) I was soaking in a hot tub, crouching in the fetal position (it helps!) and just wallowing until it passed. When it started fading I pulled open my phone and started just poking around social media to distract myself. And BAM! I had the most wonderful, kindest, most beautiful message on my phone from a friend. Basically telling me I’m a good person.

And y’all? It tore me up.

I just need to get out of my own head. I need to remind myself how I made it this far in my journey towards Awesomeness. By taking baby steps. By not expecting perfection, but celebrating progress. By recognizing when something needed to be changed…and working towards changing it instead of wallowing in guilt over that thing that I am hating about myself. These are the things I do to stay on the road towards BETTER instead of setting up a permanent camp in the town of Good Enough. Good Enough is a large town that has a lot of access points, it’s very easy to stop trying because, eh, I’m fine as I am. I should celebrate those moments where I see concrete evidence of work I need to do because that means I’m still on the road to BETTER instead of just being satisfied with Good Enough.

And, oh Lord, there is plenty to keep me on that road. And normally I just work on those things and leave the guilt and the shame on the side of the road somewhere. But I got sucked into that spiral and I couldn’t get out and you can’t travel forward when your circling one point of shame and guilt over and over and over again.

So, yes. I have areas I need to improve on. I always will. And standing around thinking about those things instead of working towards improving them does NO good for NO one.

And I’m grateful for my friend taking the time to send me that lovely message to yank me out of that spiral downward and put me back on the road forward. My goal is never perfection. My goal is simply to always be on the road towards BETTER. To never stop in Good Enough, and to never get sucked into a shame or guilt spiral. So, I’m back on the road again. Thankfully. I’m recognizing the errors I’ve made and the bitterness I felt and I’m looking at ways to deal with that so I can see the success of the good people in my life and celebrate it because good things happening to good people makes the world a BETTER place.

Here’s to avoiding spirals of guilt and shame, here’s to traveling towards BETTER instead of settling for Good Enough, and here’s to always spreading joy by telling people the things they might need to hear.

Okay. I’m ready to roll again. Let’s get this party started.

Oh! And this beautiful thing happened! That's how bad my shame spiral was, I didn't even give this the celebration it deserved.

Oh! And this beautiful thing happened! That’s how bad my shame spiral was, I didn’t even give this the celebration it deserved.

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The Sadz Demand To Be Felt. 6

I’ve found myself a little sad these last couple days because I seem to be missing my Dad a little more than usual. I’m dealing with the sads by eating all of the vegan foods in all of the land. I’m going to be the first morbidly obese vegan in the history of the planet.

So, I sat down to write yesterday morning like I always do and just couldn’t because I was all, “Wah. The Sads.”

It’s funny because, to my logical brain it makes sense that some days I’m going to really be sad about missing my Dad. He’s gone! I loved him! That makes sense! But the insecure emotional side is all, “FIVE YEARS, Kim. No one wants to hear you still whining about your Dad FIVE YEARS later.”

But Day 2 and I sat down to write and all I could think was, “Wah. The Sads.”

The funny thing is what has triggered this sadness. Well, one thing is funny and one thing is interesting. The first thing is: My laptop is dying. It’s been struggling for awhile but it seems it might be knocking on deaths door. It was a gift from my Dad and my Brother in 2008 and my Dad died in 2009. This means I am super-duper sentimentally attached to the thing and when I look at it on the table, knowing it might not power back up again (issues with batteries, power supplies, and fans…also the hardware is now too old for any updates in software) and I tear up a little.

Basically, my laptop is making me sad. Which my Dad would find funny.

The other thing which is more interesting than funny is that I’m really getting into Ironman Mode. Donnie has been training so hard for months already and we’re almost to the 6 week countdown. (That’s not a real thing to anyone but me, by the way.) And man, my Dad would LOVE to see this. First of all, he loved Chattanooga with all of his heart. Second of all? He loved Donnie. In 2005 he traveled out west to see my brother do an Ironman and he came home just fascinated by the whole thing. He’s the first one who told me about strippers. (I love saying that sentence. It never stops being funny.) Strippers rip the wetsuits off the athletes after they come out of the water. He thought my brother was insane, of course, but he loved being there witnessing the insanity. And I think he’d really love to see the same insanity in one of his favorite cities.

So. Laptop. Ironman. Missing Dad.

Thanks for letting me dump out my Sadz all over the place, I kinda annoy myself blogging about that stuff, but then the Not Blogging about it makes it worse because Blogging is my therapy so, you know, I’d save us all time if I just got it out on Day 01.

And so that I don’t just end this entry on a “Wah. I has the sadz.” note, I’ll add a little bit of exciting news to the mix.

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Someone passed the swim test at the Y and finally got his white band! He didn’t stress as much about the test as his sister did (she can swim a 600yd workout and still hates that they make her retake the 25m swim test at Kid’s Night Out) but he hadn’t passed it yet because they don’t let you take a Swim On Your Back break as you cross the 25yd pool, and my kids love those breaks. I’ve taught them if they panic, or get too tired, flip on their back, don’t go to the side. So, great life lesson, not so great with passing the swim test so you can swim without your Mom by your side.

But he did it! He is so very excited!

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My First Vegan Family Dinner 7

As you guys know if you’ve been here awhile, my Huntsville Family gathers for Sunday dinner every week, rotating between houses. Both of Donnie’s siblings live here as do his parents so we usually host once every 3-4 weeks depending on schedules. Last night it was our turn to host because I wanted to be in charge of cooking the meal where we celebrated my birthday! And I wanted to do the entire thing vegan.

Now. I’ve been doing this for over 45 days now, but only for me. And while I’ve found several staples I love, none of it was really easy to do to accommodate 12 people unless we did Mexican food. And I didn’t want to do that because my brother-in-law cooks the best Mexican food in all the land and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Last week I decided to do a trial run of two main things: Vegan Sloppy Joes and Vegan Cake. Then, last night I did my final versions of those recipes and then cooked roasted corn and sweet potato fries as well. I bought them buns and ate my food on English Muffins, if I was cooking for vegans I obviously would have fed everyone English muffins. I also gave them vanilla ice cream as an option instead of just sorbet. But for the most part? It was an entirely vegan meal.

I started with this recipe for the vegan sloppy joes but modified it quite a bit on that first trial run because I’m really trying to keep things simple so that I’ll actually keep them in my arsenal of recipes. It was a little tomato-y for my taste, I felt like all I tasted was the tomato paste. So, for the 12-people version I did even more modifications and it went GREAT. Now, this is NOT A RECIPE BLOG. I do not measure everything with precisions nor do I make note of every addition throughout the process nor do I photograph or anything. Most measurements are in teaspoons because I kept adding until I was satisfied, you could convert it easily to TB measurements too. This is basically just me documenting a successful attempt.

Zoot’s Vegan Sloppy Joes

SERVES 12 VERY HUNGY PEOPLE. AND THEN YOU’LL STILL HAVE LEFTOVERS.

Ingredients

  • 5 cans of Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 3 cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha Sauce>
  • 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 5 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 3 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Instructions
Basically I dumped it all in a large skillet and cooked on Med-High for awhile, constantly smashing it to crunch up the chickpeas. I probably did that for 30 minutes. Then I lowered it to medium and came back every 5 minutes or so to smoosh. Once it got broken up enough to almost start to look like sloppy joes, I left it on low/simmer and just stirred/smooshed once in awhile, letting it soften and cook and soak up the flavor for about 3 hours. That wasn’t intentional, that’s just how my day worked. You probably could simmer it for an hour an be fine. I did have to add a little bit of water eventually because it was getting too thick, but depending on how long you cook that may not be necessary.

Vegan Strawberry Cake

photo 3I had learned a long time ago that some cake mixes and icings are “accidentally vegan” (Good info here and here. Now, if I was cooking for vegans I would double-check ingredients still passed the test because things can change.) so I did my trial runs using this as guidance but nothing really looked/tasted like birthday cake. I was going for something fruity and it all turned out more like cobbler. Delicious cobble, but cobble none-the-less. Then I found this recipe and I used a strawberry cake mix and strawberry icing from the “vegan” lists and it was PERFECT. We did not tell anyone the “secret” ingredient was chickpea until after they were eating it and they didn’t believe us. It was ALMOST solid enough to have cooked in the circle pans and stacked like a “real” cake but not quite. But it tasted like birthday cake and looked like birthday cake and it went fantabulous with the raspberry and peach sorbet’s I bought.

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This was the pan before we went to bed last night. There wasn’t much left when the family left, so Donnie, Wes and I sat around and finished it off. Donnie even swore he thought it was better than “real” birthday cake.

All in all? It was a hit.

Like I said – I don’t know if that would work for a dinner of Vegans because I didn’t triple check the ingredients on everything, I just trusted older articles. And I’ve learned there are “hidden” animal products in things that are processed. In my day-to-day life I mainly avoid processed stuff that hasn’t been “certified vegan” for that reason, but cooking for 11 omnivores I just did the best I could. If anything I’ve referenced is actually not vegan, don’t stress. Let me know but don’t panic thinking I’m cooking this same meal for militant vegans. I’ve actually decided to avoid militant vegans in my life because, so far, they’ve been the worst part of this experience. But, if you know something I did, used isn’t vegan, let me know (politely, please) for my own personal reference.

In the end it worked for me and it gave my family a good feel for how I’ve been eating for 45 days. Win/Win!

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My Town Knows How To Rock A Thursday. 5

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Huntsville has just gotten so much more awesome the last two or three years. The proof was how much was going on on a Thursday night downtown.

First – We had our Greene Street Farmer’s Market which happens every Thursday during the warm months of the year. And it’s more than just produce, there are also booths that sell handmade/environmentally friendly laundry detergent, or homemade breads. There’s also music there every week AND there are about 10 green bicycles you can borrow (rent?) for free to ride around the area during the length of the market. It’s always a fun outing every Thursday. Sometimes the kids just get homemade fruit popsicles and I get tea, other times we come home with an arm-load of peaches and tomatoes. It’s always great.

THEN! We walked from the farmer’s market to the Food Truck Rally which they’ve been doing once a month. Usually it’s on a Friday but because of the weather predicted for tonight, they moved it to Thursday. On the way there, we passed the newest addition to the downtown square: Art Benches! I’m not sure if that’s the “official” name of them, but it’s some sort of project where they commissioned artists to make interesting benches for seating around the square. The kids checked out two of them on our walk to the rally.

At the Food Truck Rally we spread out a blanket and watch this great cover band Denim Jawbones play while we all bought our dinner from different food trucks. I bet there were 15-20 trucks plus a bunch of tables and tents from local eateries as well. It was even more awesome because a local blogger had done a write-up telling me what I could eat at the rally so I had plenty to choose from! I think we bought food for the family from at least five different food trucks.

AND FINALLY! We detoured on our way back to our car and walked through the Downtown Art Stroll which happens on Thursday a month all summer. Tons of local artists set up and sell their wares there and it’s fantastic. There was also belly dancing (which Wesley LOVED) and bands playing and it was a great bookend to the evening.

Basically, my kids and I parked our car on the outskirts of downtown around 4pm and didn’t get back to our car until 7pm. They didn’t whine (much) even though they had walked probably 2 miles during our exploration. They got good food that we purchased from other citizens of our city, so we could feel good knowing the money we spent stayed in the area. (We are on a BIG “Shop Local!” kick lately.) They were entertained by great music and dancing and they were able to see some beautiful art and handmade items and it was just a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening downtown.

Thank you, Huntsville…for being the Rocket City That Rocks My Socks.

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