Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Half Birthday!

Half birthdays. Some people celebrate them, some people don't even realize it's come and gone. I usually acknowledge them and if conditions are ripe, I'll do a tiny little celebration.

After all, why not? Each day is special. You ever ask a little kid how old he or she is? If she's past the halfway mark, you're sure to know it. Six and a half, she'll count out on her fingers.

For me, my half birthday today marks the exact halfway point not just through my 25th year, but my entire 20's. It's a slightly sobering thought. No longer am I a young, early-twenty-something. Times of care-free behavior read: bullshitting suddenly become inexcusable. By now, I should be finished with school, well on my way to getting married, and thinking about starting a family at some point in the near future.

After all, my peers are getting engaged and popping babies out left and right. I can barely check my Facebook newsfeed without getting yet another announcement in the form of a bedazzled left ring finger or some girl baring her bulging belly to the world. 

As women, we are in our prime. Strong, healthy, and mentally able to handle a tiny individual helplessly depending on us for the next 18 years rest of their life. I guess that's why this half birthday has a bit of a cloud over it. 

I am not one of these girls with a ring on my finger or a baby in my belly. I don't have a degree on my wall yet and I plan to go back and finish up this fall. A recent conversation made me realize by the time I do have a degree, I'll be nearly 30. I can only picture the next few years as a barren expanse of homework, exams, and grades with no fun, no travel, no excitement.

I know that's not true. There'll be fun and travel and excitement. But even just thinking about all the work it'll take it fit that stuff in a heavily committed schedule between school, my teaching schedule, and work hours makes me want to break out in hives. I sooner sacrifice one of those than the opportunity to explore the world. 

I don't feel old. That's not the case at all. But I do an urgent sense of time rushing by too quickly. I'm terrified of waking up and realizing that I've wasted even more time. But the idea of having a family right now leaves me in a cold sweat.

My life is just beginning. It barely got out of the gate, I feel. How the heck am I supposed to handle another life to care for? That's the most frustrating part. As a woman, I do have a finite amount of time before I miss the gate for childbearing. If I'm not ready at that societal-labeled "prime time" for having kids, by the time I am ready, I risk facing a multitude of health issues for myself and my baby. It's not a great feeling to carry around. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend every day or every minute thinking, "Oh god, there goes another egg!" But sometimes, a moment will hit and I start thinking about all this stuff, wondering what I should be doing. I'm happy with the way things are, I'm happy with continuing to learn about myself and build my life. If I had my way, I'd be 40 when I have my first kid and I'll be youthful and spry all the way up to when my kids have their own kids… at age 40 as well.

Alas, we can't always have what we want. But we can accept the way things are now. My life is turning out pretty good. I'm in great health. I'm in love. I have a roof over my head and food and chocolate in my belly. So happy half birthday to me!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup to Cure What Ails You

Now that everyone's over the initial excitement of being snowed in or polar vortex-ed in or the whole "there's two inches of snow on the ground, shut down the city!" debacle going on down south, I'm jealous, #SouthUSProblems, we're all leaving the house and interacting with each other again. We all know what happens when masses of people start hanging out together in indoor spaces with no ventilation. That's right, flu and cold season is officially upon us!

Thanks to my mother's somewhat questionable habit of always leaving our milk and leftovers out on the kitchen counter all night serving it to us the next day without hesitation, I have an platinum strength immune system and an iron stomach. In short, I don't get sick apparently. Even when I spend all night cuddling and being coughed upon by my extremely sick boyfriend. Hooray.

Anyway, bragging over. Watch, the universe will decide to teach me a lesson in egoism and make me sick tomorrow. I wanted to give you a soup recipe that I'm convinced will cure you or at least make you better enough to go back to functioning. Inspired by Vietnamese Pho and all those other super delicious Asian soups with those amazing toothsome noodles and spicy light flavors, this is our new go-to sick-baby* soup:

Spicy Asian Noodle Soup
- Yields about 4 sizable servings
  • 1 Tbsp oil (olive, grapeseed, sesame, your choice)
  • 1 generous tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeƱo seeded and minced
  • 6 cups water (include a vegetable bullion cube) or vegetable stock
  • 3 green onions thinly sliced, reserve a tablespoon or two for garnish
  • 3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 generous tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 baby bok choy chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper sliced thinly
  • 1 carrot sliced thinly
  • 7 oz extra-firm tofu cubed
  • Generous serving of soba noodles (Mine comes in packages of 3, I used one package)
  • Couple tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • sriracha sauce, for serving
  1. Begin preparing the soba noodles. Follow package directions and boil in a separate pot. Drain and set aside in a bowl with a little oil to keep the noodles from sticking together.
  2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Then, add ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. 
  3. Add jalapeno, vegetable broth, and green onions to the ginger and garlic and bring to boil. Then, reduce to simmer.
  4. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetables, and tofu, and simmer until veggies are heated through, 2-3 minutes. Then remove from heat.
  5. Pile desired amount of soba noodles in the bottom of individual bowls, ladle soup on top and garnish with reserved green onions, cilantro, and desired amount of sriracha sauce.
  6. Eat and be cured.

Honestly though, I'd make this even if we were spry and healthy. It's that good. Enjoy and get better!

*Um, I feel the need to add a disclaimer, sick-baby as in that giant baby of a boyfriend/girlfriend/friend/roommate/adult who's sick, not an actual sick infant… 

Friday, February 14, 2014

What Valentine's Day Really Should Mean

There's been a lot of anti-Valentine's Day hate showing up on my social media feed lately. It makes me sad because I feel like these people are missing the point of what Valentine's Day should be.

Growing up, Valentine's Day wasn't just about a guy or girl you liked. It was a celebration of love as a whole- whether it was family love, friendship love, or romantic love. My father would come home with some flowers for my mom and a little extra gift for me and my sister. Sometimes, it was a cute teddy bear holding a heart, sometimes it was our own smaller version of flowers. In school, we made those Valentine "mailboxes" and had to give out cards to everyone. I never minded doing that, even with those I found "icky" or "full of cooties" because in the end, everyone deserves some love.

Of course, some would argue that we should show our love every day of the year, not just on February 14th. I agree. I do just that to the best of my abilities. I even will make gestures more special than others for no reason but because of love, not because it's a holiday. However, we do lead busy lives. We do become wrapped up in other things like work, errands, duties, and all those stuff that we'd probably drop at first chance to go do what we actually want. So sometimes, a holiday like this can be a blessing. It's a ritual, a society-wide reminder to stop and smell the roses, to turn to the people in your lives and say, "I love you," and to make lasting impressions.

It is not, however, a holiday where you're supposed to drop big bucks on diamonds and dinners and douchebags. That's where we go wrong. Valentine's Day is most definitely not about grand gestures done for show or to guilt people into displays of love. Go ahead and have a special dinner, but go somewhere that's meaningful for you, not just expensive, or better yet, make something at home. Something that you don't typically make like risotto or roast beef (I know, a vegetarian suggesting this but I'm appealing to everyone here.) Do little things you enjoy together, spend time with each other. 

And show your love for everyone. Your friends, family, coworkers, the stranger on the street. It's why we had to give cards to everyone in elementary school. Everyone deserves some love. Maybe Valentine's Day is a bit overrated with all the media and marketing, but if you ignore all that and just focus on the people in your lives, then it suddenly becomes a very special, meaningful date.

So Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, from the bottom of my heart. Pass that love along. Do one little thing for someone who might not expect it. And please, hate shouldn't be an emotion we feel… ever.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Meditation of Gratitude

Nearly everyday, I find myself in a constant state of awe. I go into each yoga class I'm instructing in a slight state of nervousness. Will my class be okay? Will the students like it? Will they be satisfied? Will I be able to instruct well and guide them safely? Will they come back to another one of my classes? (Photo: Heather Taylor)

I'm not going to lie. There has been many, many times where I've mixed up things like my rights and lefts and my hips and shoulders. I've said things like, "Make sure your knees are directly underneath your shoulders" as I guide my students into tabletop. Thank goodness most of them have common sense and that we all have a sense of humor.
One of the studios I work at have an extremely loud heater. I affectionately call it the "Monster in the Closet" and say hello to it if it comes on during class. The YMCA I sub at likes to make overhead announcements in the middle of savasana. My playlists have delighted some and made others grind their teeth. I've forgotten entire sequences. I draw out my down dogs as I frantically skim over my written-out classes to stay on track. People have burst out laughing in my classes when I tell them to bind hands around one thigh and hop their other foot forward.

I guess, what I'm trying to say is that I'm just human.

I am a human being who can get into wheel but please don't watch as I try to do seated wide legged forward fold. This is why I'm in a constant state of awe. I'm always nervous when I begin a class, but as I see my students move gracefully into each pose, breathing, and becoming more mindful, I'm amazed that this is happening because they came to my class. They trust me enough to guide them, to give them the words and poses to use to connect with themselves.

They trust me enough to keep coming back to my classes. They trust me with their artificial hips and arthritis and out-of-shape bodies. They trust me with their chattery minds and busy lives. They trust me with their goals to become healthier, happier, and more grounded. Wouldn't you be in awe if that happened to you?

I am so grateful that I am in this position. It is such a rare thing to experience and I get to experience it on a nearly daily basis. So everyday, when I wake up and prepare for my classes, sometimes I think, "No, don't let anyone come in. I'm scared to screw up and accidentally affect my students negatively." But then, as class begins, I can't bring up anything bad. It becomes impossible. The studio becomes full of such good energy and intention. As I guide my students through a beginning meditation where they find an intention to set their minds on, I can feel it rising through the air, filling up the space, and infusing us with energy to put us through our practice.

When we finish, cross-legged after savasana, I thank them wholeheartedly for letting me guide them and practice with them. There has been times where I've realized I needed the class more than my students did. I'm always so shocked to feel that, but I shouldn't be. It is the students teaching the instructor, practitioners sharing their love and energy in a single mindset. 

That, right there, is the power of yoga.

Take a moment, sit in a comfortable position, cross-legged or on your knees. Place your hands palms up on your knees and close your eyes. Take a moment to begin a mediation of gratitude. What are you in awe of everyday? What is your grateful experience? And who, or what, do you thank to make that possible?

With that, I am grateful for my students, my fellow instructors, the people who supported me in my journey thus far- my boyfriend, family, and friends, everyone at Black Swan, my car (really,) and anyone and anything else that may have aligned whether I've known it or not. Thank you.