Picked up on a whim (I love rock ‘n roll (auto)biographies), I devoured this book. I wouldn’t say I am a huge Foo Fighters or Nirvana fan, but I am now solidly a Dave Grohl fan. What a cool guy! Took many leaps of faith, achieved amazing success, had significant losses, but still seems so grounded and grateful. And loves his mama. I really enjoyed the parts where he talks about meeting his musical heroes and about what a big fan he is himself. He has had crazy adventures and still loves to party, but will literally travel the Earth to be there for his family (blood-related and not). There is a sense that he feels things deeply, and is not afraid to show how moved he is by the magic of life. Another quote that resonated with me is “I believe that people are inspired by people”. This is why I read people’s stories including Dave’s – for inspiration. I was not disappointed here.
4 quotes from the book:
“I was an idealistic misfit, empowered by the audacity of faith and a reckless determination to do it my way.”
“…but I saw a door open before me, and rather than stay within the comfort of my tiny bedroom, I decided to dive through it, leaving a life of stability and security behind.”
“I love my children as I was loved as a child, and I pray that they will do the same when their time comes.”
“…I will still always choose to let life take its natural course, a journey with no roadmap to refer to in the event that you get lost.”
Life wisdom obtained:
The last chapter spoke to me deeply and brought on some tears – so much about bucking a conventional life in favor of a creative one despite no guarantees of success. And being happy and grateful for the whole spectrum of life.
Must read chapters:
All of them.
Will I keep it on my bookshelf or donate it? Definitely a keeper and one I will enjoy sharing with others
Last week I stumbled across a batch of perfectly lovely fresh tomatillos whilst perusing all of the other south of the border delights in a Mexican tienda. We were actually dive bar hunting (one of my other writing gigs, check it out here) when we came across this wonderful market. I love shopping in international markets, home or abroad, whenever I get the chance. They are like magnets that just pull me in. I feel like grocery shopping is a universal task that unites us as humans and I love seeing what fun ingredients people in other countries have to work with.
These tomatillos just called my name. I knew they would make a delicious roasted salsa. And I was not wrong!
Here’s how I made it:
Peel the papery skins off of the tomatillos. Rough cut a small white onion into chunklets. Coat tomatillos and onions in a light oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Roast ’em on a sheet pan at around 400 degrees until everything gets soft and browned in spots. The tomatillos will make a lot of liquid – that is normal. And delicious!
Cool a bit and then transfer the veg and magical juices to a food processor or blender.
Whir them up until your desired chunkiness is reached. This is how I like mine:
Check for salt but mine didn’t need any. It was just a bright, almost citrusy flavor with a touch of tannin. This was amazing on carnitas tacos and also stirred into a bean stew. Easy as can be, go make it.
Last night I was overcome by a hormonal hankering for macaroni and cheese. Not that boxed bullshit, but the real, live, grate your own cheese kind.
So even though I was tired out from work and we didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, I made it work anyway. WITHOUT a trip to the store! Read on for the secrets.
Dusty box of elbow macaroni? Check. 4 butt ends of different cheeses drying out in the fridge? You know it! Heels of bread from the freezer for bread crumb topping? Always got those. Flour and butter to make the cheese sauce? Yep. Just one, tiny missing item – milk. Well, shit. I usually have a shelf full of non-dairy milks to choose from but I’ve neglected my larder in recent weeks. I did have half and half but making mac and cheese solely with that had my arteries stiffening in fear from all of that fat. What to do? Broth in a jar to the rescue!
Here are the ingredients and how I made it work:
Small-ish dry pasta shape of your liking
Salt and pepper
Half and half
Broth (I use the kind that comes in a jar and is prepared with water)
Sour cream (optional)
Grated hard cheese(s)
Garlic bread seasoning
Pinch of parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta in salted water until just short of al dente. (I shaved about 2 minutes off of the box instructions). When done, drain and set aside right in it’s cooking pot with a little olive oil or butter to prevent stickage.
Heat the oven to 350 and butter a baking dish or do cute little individual ramekins like I did.
While pasta cooks, toast bread and apply generous amount of butter and garlic bread seasoning (I like Johnny’s Garlic Spread. Buy it at Costco). Set aside to cool.
In a saucepan, add equal amounts of butter and flour, melt over lowish-medium heat until it bubbles. Then add a bit of dry mustard powder if you have it and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook for another minute until you can smell the nutmeg -yum.
Make a mixture of approximately 3 parts broth (any variety you like, I used chicken but I bet that roasted garlic one would be amazing) to 1 part half and half and a dollop of sour cream, if you have it. Whisk broth mix into flour mix and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. Once it is all nice and hot, add the grated cheeses and keep whisking until it is all nicely smooth and creamy. Taste for salt and pepper.
Pour sauce into pasta pot and mix it all together. Taste again for salt and pepper. Pour that creamy dreaminess into whatever baking dish you are using.
Finish the bread crumbs: Tear the toast into chunks and use a blender or food processor to blend into crumbs. Stir in a bit of parmesan. Top pasta with this golden loveliness and bake uncovered in the oven until all is bubbly and the bread crumbs are crisp. Everything is cooked, so shouldn’t take too long.
Let is cool a bit and set up for best results, even though that restraint is incredibly hard to achieve. For evidence, see the burn on the roof of my mouth.
I’m a little opinionated when it comes to salmon. Shocking, I know. In my book, salmon from the Pacific is the only one I wanna eat. Screw that Atlantic garbage. I said I was opinionated.
I buy fresh and frozen salmon. Both taste wonderful. Provided they come from the west coast.
If you think you don’t like salmon, try this recipe. If cooking fish at home is daunting, try this recipe. It is easy and delicious. Comes together in minutes and cooks under the broiler. Here it is:
Pacific salmon fillet or fillets (I like tail pieces). Defrosted in refrigerator if frozen.
Paprika (I like Spanish pimenton, it is smoky)
Coarse salt (I use kosher)
Line a small sheet pan or baking tray with foil or parchment. If using foil, oil it a little so the fish doesn’t stick.
In a small dish combine brown sugar, paprika/pimenton, thyme and salt. Use your taste buds to measure. That being said, it is easy to go overboard on thyme, so my advice is to be judicious. You can always add more. This rub is good on other meats as well, especially ribs.
Lay salmon fillet skin side down on the prepared baking dish. Use your hands to rub the spice mixture all over the flesh. It should be nice and covered but not too thick. The spice mixture will create a wonderful glaze as it cooks.
Put fish under the broiler. In my oven, this usually cooks within 8-12 minutes depending how thick the fillet is. I prefer my fish cooked through, which means it flakes easily with a fork, but is not wobbly at all.
Delicious with risotto and roasted vegetables. This is one of my favorite meals.
I read this book a month ago and I am still thinking about concepts from it almost daily. It’s the type of book where I found myself wanting to highlight every other sentence. Like the author was speaking to me directly. So many thought provoking concepts about work, love and even our educational system (fascinating as a parent). What does meaningful work look like for me as an individual? How do I love someone well? How do I discover what really makes me tick? I want everyone I know to read it so we can talk about everything in it!
4 Good quotes from the book:
“You don’t need to love all you do. You just need to find the love in what you do.”
“To help you see yourself for the unique creature you are, begin by resisting the pull of comparison.”
“Schools and workplaces that insist on treating all of us the same are sources of oppression.”
“Know someone’s fear and you’ll know their need. Know their need and you’ll understand their behaviour.”
Life wisdom obtained:
I don’t need to love everything about or every minute of my job. Loving what I am doing 20% of the time is sufficient.
I have to understand what my unique loves are before I can find a job that fits me.
Schools are designed to build and sell a workforce, not to help students understand themselves and reach their own individual potential.
The best relationships are about seeing and being seen, understanding the depth and complexity of each other and always viewing the other’s behaviour through the kindest possible lens.
Must read chapters:
7 – It Just Clicks
14 – Rate Me, Rank Me
16 – I See You, I Love You
17 – A Scavenger Hunt For Love
19* – Love In Learning (*Especially good for parents)
Will I keep it on my bookshelf or donate it? Definitely keeping it. When I’m not lending it out to everyone I know
I’m not big on sweets for breakfast, but once in a while, a waffle tastes good. Thin and crispy though, none of that bready Belgian bullshit. I usually eat them with butter only, occasionally a side of good maple syrup for dipping.
Unless I’m feeling savory and then that opens up a whole new waffle universe! 86 the sugar from the batter and mix in some shredded cheese, green onions and bacon instead. My kids like this version with taco sauce on top.
This recipe (minus the bacon and cheese, duh) just happens to be vegan and gluten free. I swing that way sometimes.
(Measures are approximate; use your noggin’ ! You know what waffle batter consistency should look like.) This makes about 4 waffles on my waffle maker.
1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/3 cup almond flour
1/3 cup cassava flour
1-2 tbs flax meal
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Couple tbs sugar (leave out if going savory)
Dash of nutmeg (optional, but delicious)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbs oil of choice (I use coconut)
Enough milk product (I use almond) to make a thick but pourable batter
Mix the dry stuff and then combine with the wet. Let it sit for a bit and then check if more milk is needed. That besan is thirsty! Cook until crisp.
My trusty old suitcase finally gave out at the end of 2022 and I like the symbolism of that. It represents a former life and all of the places I went before. I am grateful for that life and those experiences and also ready to close that chapter and move on to do new things. 2022 was about leaving my old career, healing and finding a new path forward for myself. Now 2023 is all about going for it!
To this end, I’ve got 3 big projects going down this year:
Writing this book has been a growth experience like none I’ve had before. I learned so much about myself and life transitions and I can’t wait to share it. Even though sharing with a wider audience also makes me incredibly nervous! I am a private introvert who has somehow managed to write a book that lays myself completely bare. Scary to put it out there, but doing it anyway.
I am starting a publishing business!
That’s right, I’m gonna be a publisher. Bonfire Books Press is in the works because I believe writers deserve a better deal than what most traditional publishers offer these days. More creative control, more money, better marketing. I will test the waters with my own book and then open it up to other writers with unique voices who are looking for a publishing home.
I am writing my next book: Desperately Dating!
I had a blast doing the Desperately Dating Podcast with my dream of a stepson, Zac Shomler, so now I’m going to turn that content into a book. Some of the questions I will explore in a fun, approachable way are: What is true love and how do you find it? Is it possible to enjoy dating without losing your mind and becoming totally discouraged? How do you maintain a soul-satisfying relationship?
I am really excited for this year! These three projects will be incredibly fun, but I am also looking forward to enjoying more of my daily joys that keep me grounded and happy as well. Like reading good books or swimming (only reason to have a gym membership in my book) and cooking for those I love. Or discovering and sharing quirky new kitchen gadgets to delight and amaze. Spending quality time with my man visiting dive bars, drinking martinis at home or enjoying restful Sundays on the couch with good shows and popcorn. I will also continue to advocate for my mom as she navigates our challenging American healthcare system – at least there is still a good use for all my training and experience working in the medical field. The big stuff matters, but the little stuff also gives my life a lot of richness and texture.
Symbolically, I have replaced my old faithful case with this snazzy new number, in Caribbean Blue (of course). We are ready for new (ad)ventures! Here I come 2023, it’s gonna be a great year.
I feel like menopause thus far has been something of a mystery. And not the good kind of mystery. Not the I-wonder-what-this-beautifully-wrapped-gift-is type of mystery, but more of the why-is-my-toilet-making-that-weird-noise kind of mystery. Not just a mystery to me either.
I honestly think part of the reason why my first husband and I divorced when we did was because he didn’t want to have to go through this stage of life with me. And he’s a doctor! Funny coincidence that his new wife is significantly younger… unintentional or not, it amounts to further postponement of that shared experience.
The irony of my ignorance about menopause is, I am a woman, a healthcare provider myself and I have two older sisters, a mom and friends who have all gone through this stage of life. So why do I feel so ignorant about it??
Well, that’s not entirely true. I did learn, many years ago in school, about the technical changes that occur in the body including which hormones shift at menopause. But who gives a fuck about that? That doesn’t help me understand what this life transition feels like.
And since my own healthcare providers had similar scanty training on the subject and are usually younger and devoid of first-hand experience on the matter, none of them have been much help either. They just hand me various pills, tell me to give up gluten or send me off for consultation about having my uterus taken out and be done with it.
The body ills like heavy unpredictable bleeding, disabling pain and sheet-soaking night sweats have been no picnic, but honestly, most of the time I don’t know if I need a doctor, a psychiatrist or a priest! These symptoms are wildly varied and go far beyond the physical plane. For instance, I don’t think there are meds I can take to fix my profound existential angst and I doubt a hysterectomy is going to cut it (every pun intended) when I feel like my metaphorical cheese is sliding off of my cracker.
Neither of my sisters has been much help in shedding light on the subject. One of them says she barely noticed going through the change (I wonder if her immediate family would corroborate this) and the other just takes on a haunted look when the subject arises. My mom was the most up close and personal look I had at the process and it was not pretty. The messages I got from her were that this is a horrible, no-good, awful change to be fought tooth and nail and one must take synthetic hormones to stave off the inevitable for as long as possible. She did not go willingly into that goodnight. Not exactly encouraging.
Well, I don’t want my daughters and sons to be in the dark like I was. I want them to have some idea about what is coming and how to be good to themselves and to their partners during this totally normal, but admittedly challenging stage of life. So here goes, what I have learned about menopause (so far):
Perimenopause is the name for the time period leading up to menopause which is defined as the date one year after the last menstrual period. Colloquially, people call it menopause when they’re really talking about perimenopause (when all of the wacky shit happens). I did it myself at the beginning of this letter, it’s just easier to say.
It can sneak up on you. In retrospect, I’ve probably been in this perimenopausal period for around 10 years! It started very subtly with heavier bleeding, more pain and fewer fucks to give. Incidentally, this transition can last 7–14 years on average, so I gotta be reaching the end soon!
Pain can and should be managed. This may require assertiveness, but it is possible. Don’t accept less. I allowed my pain to be under-treated for far too long until it was impacting my work and general wellbeing. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I finally demanded and received adequate relief. I shouldn’t have suffered that long, physically or emotionally. It wasn’t heroic, I was just hurting myself and further hobbling my ability to roll with the menopause waves. Go ahead and be that squeaky wheel if you have pain that you can’t fix on your own. You matter.
The mood swings are epic. They come on fast and can take me from the highest feelings of joy and confidence to the lowest depths of despair. I have had more suicidal thoughts in the past 3 years than in my whole life. Never with a plan or anything close to completion, but still. It feels highly shameful to admit these dark feelings, but they are real. And thankfully transient.
It is disorienting to lose that predictable menstrual cycle. Imagine having all access to clocks and calendars removed from your life. You don’t know what to expect (physically or emotionally) or when, it is all constant reaction. For planners like me, that sucks! And it is exhausting all by itself.
Plus, all of the other various and sundry body woes: Bloating to an extent I did not think possible. Like, do I have a tumor level. Hugely swollen tits. Ridiculously easy weight gain. Changing shape with a bigger belly. Clothes fit way different. Headaches. Joint pains. Very weird sleep patterns, insomnia, nighttime restlessness, odd dreams. And while some women reportedly lose their hair during this time of life, I find I am sprouting more than I need. On my face and chin in particular. Thank god for tweezers and good lighting.
But…it is not all bad. And here are a few of the good things I want you to know about too:
I am loving my mind. It feels like a race car these days! With benefit of all those years of living, learning and experiencing life I am at the top of my game in the brain department. I can see patterns, reason and intuit things like never before. I may not have the memory power that I used to, but cognitive function is solid.
Orgasms are way more intense. Seriously.
My tolerance for bullshit is way down. I am feeling increasingly comfortable with being direct and saying no without guilt.
I am more focused on me, my wants and needs. Not to the exclusion of others’, but in addition to them. I feel like I matter too and I am pursuing my dreams, not just helping others reach theirs.
I am braver and way better at facing my fears and doing it anyway.
My hair looks great. Silver suits me.
I am healing deep hurts and setting new boundaries as a result. Painful, old shit is welling up, but it feels necessary and healthy to purge it and process it. This is the means through which I am growing into myself and really reaching my potential as a healthy and happy human.
And soon, the biggest boon on the horizon still to come — freewheelin’, birth control free, no kids at home sex! That must be the best gift of menopause; hot sex with the privacy of an empty nest and and no more periods. I can’t wait!
So for my daughters: Be kind to yourselves when your body and mind start to change. Your experience may be different than mine in timing and variety of symptoms, but your family history says you’ll probably be looking at your early 40s for all of this fun to begin!
Call me if you want to talk about it and lean on your friends or find a community to support you. It can be disorienting and weird, but don’t forget to advocate for yourselves and look for the good parts as well.
Journaling has been an indispensable tool for me to process this process. Caring for my physical body with daily yoga, swimming, dog walks and increasing the nutritional value of my diet while cutting back on alcohol and caffeine have also helped. Being nice to myself about my changing body size and shape has been difficult but necessary growth.
Even though a big part of me still has the impulse to make drastic changes to my diet and exercise in an effort to force my way back to my 20-year-old body, I am increasingly aware that this is futile and not good for my mental health. Bodies are meant to change and this is the body I have now for this stage of life.
So I make a big effort to care for it, talk nicely to it (or at least not negatively), feed it well, buy cute and comfortable clothes that fit and be grateful that I am healthy. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like, I spend more time looking for the good (like my hair ;).
For my sons: Be kind with your partner as she goes through this change. It may start around 40 or even earlier (best guess is whenever her mom went through it). She is not going to feel like herself and that is because she is busy morphing into her new, equally amazing self.
Her experience may be much different than mine, for better or worse, but she is going to need you. This is your time to give to her your love, support and understanding. Be patient, give her room and look for the good stuff in the process too. Tell her that she is wonderful and beautiful and that you like her and love her. Acknowledge how hard this must be on her and admire her strength.
You can call Steven to talk about it. He has been a phenomenal partner to me through this. He never once made me feel ashamed of myself or guilty for how the process of my body changing affects him. I liked how he took the attitude of “this is important to you, so it is important to me.” That’s teamwork right there. He has remained unfailingly curious and supportive, which, come to think of it, is a great example for all of us about how to treat ourselves and each other.
I’ve been mocked by many over the years for my philosophy degree. Here’s a sample of the gems that these wise critics have imparted to me:
“Philosophy is just mental masturbation.”
“A philosophy degree won’t get you a job.”
“What are you going to do with THAT?”
“She has a philosophy degree? HAHAHAHAHA!”
The level of derision my degree provokes just blows me away, because I use my philosophy background every single day.
It may not have taught me a lot of useful (or even useless) facts, per se, but studying philosophy did teach me how to operate my brain better, which has wide applicability (that goes far beyond being able to dissect people and figure out what the hell they’re up to, but that’s a definite perk, too). I can read deep, dense writing effectively and find meaning in it. I can evaluate the validity of an argument and use logic to craft my own. I can contemplate the meaning of life in a meaningful way. I can understand and appreciate multiple points of view and potential courses of action. I can write, clearly and persuasively. I can consider the moral implications of my actions and the actions of others.
I am where I am today precisely because of my foundation in philosophy, and I am so very grateful for having that tool under my proverbial belt. It’s pushed me to seek a better life. I’ve weathered my share of losses and abuses and changes, but I’ve emerged stronger and better as a result of knowing how to apply the hidden lessons beneath those things.
My degree hangs proudly in my laundry room. Why the laundry room? Well, partly because I think it is a funny play on what many believe is the quality of work my philosophy degree has prepared me for. But at the same time, it’s a reminder to myself that even while I’m doing the most mundane of chores, my mind is still working on bigger, badder stuff.
I love salad. The crunch, the colors, the unbridled creativity involved in making plants reach their amazing potential. A big plate of vegetables also makes me feel good inside. Nourished. But in the colder months? Salad is not so appealing. I want something to warm me up! While soup often stands in for salads for me when I want something veg-heavy, there are times when I want to eat something with a fork instead.
Enter the concept of the hot salad. I first saw this idea on TikTok and was captivated by the thought of making a warm salad. And I don’t mean the 1980s version of the “wilted” spinach salad or the more recent travesty of the grilled romaine salad (yuck). I mean an honest to god salad, but, you know, heated up so it’s not cold anymore.
The naysayers will say this is really just a “bowl” or a side dish of roasted vegetables in disguise, but so what? I like the idea of giving boring old salad an upgrade. Making it spicier and sexier, making it “hot”.
This is less a recipe and more of a method, so give it a try, freely substituting for your tastes. I found the following combination incredibly satisfying, even on a wintry day.
Beans of choice, cooked or canned and drained (I used cannellini here)
Tarragon or other dried herb of choice
Quinoa, cooked in broth
Lemon juice and zest
Salt and pepper
Cook quinoa as per package directions substituting broth for water.
Drain and spread out on a lined sheet pan to cool and dry while oven heats to 350 degrees. Toss cooled quinoa in a judicious amount of hot chili oil and spread back out on lined pan. Cook in oven until browned and crisp, stirring occasionally.
Remove cooked quinoa from oven, set aside and crank the heat up to 400 degrees.
In a big bowl, combine vegetables and beans, coat with oil and sprinkle liberally with herbs and spices.
Spread veg mix out on a sheet pan and set bowl aside (we will use it again). Roast veg mix in the oven until everything is tender and the kale leaves have some color and crunch.
In same big bowl, combine veg mix and the zest and juice of one lemon, toss and taste for salt and pepper.
Serve in bowls and add crunchy quinoa.
This is pretty healthy and satisfying all on its own, but a runny egg on top takes it to the next level.