Tikkun Olam (Hopefully Without Feeling Like a Creeper)

In the lead-up to my birthday last week, I found myself thinking about what I want to achieve this year. This wasn’t like making new year’s resolutions, since I loathe those with the fire of a thousand suns, and for various reasons: my illustrious history of sacrificing my well-being in pursuit of a goal (please refer to exhibit A: high school and the college admissions process), the fact that most resolutions are things you could choose to do at any point in the year, the fact that the whole idea of new year’s resolutions is a weird, fabricated, and artificially-imposed social construct that people seem to do because they feel obligated to participate…well. Suffice it to say, new year’s resolutions — to quote Austin Powers — aren’t my bag, baby.

Given that my stance on new year’s resolutions falls somewhere between “how I feel about migraines” and “how I feel about Nazis,” it’s probably surprising that I was thinking about what I want to achieve during the next year — but, as it turns out, I do really like finding an over-arching goal or purpose for my next trip around the sun.

The more I thought about it, the more the answer became clear as that still, small voice in my head repeated: tikkun olam. To explain what this is, here’s what I posted to Facebook that day:

A Jewish philosophy translated as “repairing the world,” tikkun olam is a long-standing love of mine. Human history is littered with astonishing levels of cruelty and destruction, and although I believe we’re moving in the right direction, we have a long way to go.

So, my hope is this: that we can all work towards building empathy instead of judgment, compassion instead of intolerance, creativity and repair instead of destruction, and patience instead of anger. Let’s give more hugs. Let’s do more charitable work, whether through donations or volunteering. Let’s make each other laugh. Let’s cut each other some slack, because everyone, whether you know it or not, is fighting a hard battle.

Let’s contribute to repairing the world, in whatever way we can — because each contribution, each random act of kindness, and each moment of empathy is important.

As it turns out, my efforts  to do this are a bit more awkward than I’d hoped. (I’ll pause here and express my amusement about the fact that I’m continually surprised by my own awkwardness. This should’ve stopped being surprising to me a looooooooong time ago, but somehow it always pops up and leaves me going “Wait, WHAT? Awkward? Me? Well…yeah. That’s actually quite plausible. Ok, it’s highly likely. Upon further inspection, it’s basically inevitable.”)

On my birthday, I’d planned to use the free birthday drink loaded onto my Starbucks card to purchase a drink for a random stranger. But, as it turns out, the random stranger has to be there, in the flesh, and ordering their drink in order for you to use the free drink on someone else. This has potential to be spectacularly awkward and tremendously creepy. There was a dude behind me in line, and when I looked over in his direction to see if I could get away with doing this in a non-awkward, non-creepy way, the look of apprehension on his face quickly answered that question for me.

So I bought myself a marshmallow dream bar. (For those who may be wondering, they’re both gluten-free and delicious. It didn’t do anything to help repair the world, but it did make my taste buds happy.)

marshmallow_dream_Bar_starbucks
Not my photo – via misterbelly.com

Then a few days ago, I was getting a cup of tea from a coffee vendor near my office. The two women in line behind me were having a long conversation; one had apparently just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and she was understandably upset. Just as I was paying for my chai, the newly-single woman broke down into tears.

Y’all. I think most of us have been through wretched break-ups. I think most of us can agree that they’re abjectly miserable, and that having an acutely broken heart makes you feel like you may never breathe normally — let alone laugh — ever again.

Before I could think about whether or not this, like my Starbucks attempt, would make me look slightly insane, I turned around and offered to buy her a coffee. “I’ve been through bad breakups too,” I said, “and I know how much it sucks. Please let me buy you a coffee.” I told her that it’s awful now, but that it gets better — and then I felt like I was probably being weird, so I decided it was time to walk away.

As I walked back to my office, I started to reflect on the situation. At first, I worried that I might have come across as a hideously weird old lady. But then I realized: who cares if I did? I’d rather do something nice and look like an idiot than not do something nice at all. Random acts of kindness towards strangers are precisely that: interactions with people I’m probably never going to see again. If they think I’m weird for doing something nice, then so be it.

That also led me to wonder: what is it about modern culture that makes niceness so suspect? Why am I even in a position of feeling like people might think I’m creepy or mildly insane for offering to do something nice? It’s not like I’m standing there, wild-eyed and desperate for human interaction, while I offer to tell them about my latest surgery and 27 cats. If that were the case, apprehension would be totally understandable. But it’s not (to the best of my knowledge, at least) — and yet, I got really self-conscious about it.

So, I’ve decided not to worry about whether I look like a complete fool in my tikkun olam efforts, because the fact is, this is something that needs to be done.

So, tell me: have you ever been in a similar situation? Do you feel like strangers doing random nice things for others are greeted with suspicion or gratitude? Or is this just a DC thing?

WIAW: Progress, Not Perfection

Happy Wednesday! Per the usual, this means the countdown to the weekend is officially on. T-Minus 56 hours and counting, my friends. 🙂

Also per the usual, Wednesdays are reserved for What I Ate Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons — I highly recommend her many delicious recipes, so do yourself a favor and go check her out.

Peas and Crayons

My food lately has been a bit of a study in learning curves. Last time I did Weight Watchers, I relied heavily on salads and raw fruits and veggies for snacks — but I’ve found that when it gets cold out, I want warm foods. I tried to do mostly cooked, warm foods for a few days, but I found that I was consistently exceeding my Points allocation. Frustration ensued,my friends — it ensued in a major way. I didn’t want to feel chilled to the bone while eating only raw produce, but I didn’t want to go over my Points value for the day either.

I’ve now settled on a 50/50 set-up, which seems to be working thus far: I eat hot oatmeal for breakfast, hot soup for lunch, and a hot meal for dinner, but I snack on things like fresh apples, bananas, the occasional post-workout green smoothie, and raw bell peppers (and pickles…more on this in a moment) with hummus.

Regarding the pickles bit, I should also probably ‘fess up to the fact that dill pickles with hummus is one of my favorite snacks ever. Most people find this disgusting. Now, I can happily put hummus on just about anything. Pretzels, crackers, carrots, peppers…it’s all good, and I will happily stuff my face with it.

If you’ve seen Don’t Mess With the Zohan, you might recall how they make fun of Israelis for putting hummus in/on everything. Let’s put it this way: when I was in Israel, even my Israeli friends were stunned by how many things I’d eat with hummus. Given how much Israelis love the stuff, this was a very big deal. It’s basically their national food, but even they were appalled when I started dipping dill pickles into tubs of hummus and proclaiming it delicious.

But y’all. It’s delicious. I’m serious.

So, every night when I come home, I head straight for the fridge and dig out a bag of sliced bell pepper slices, a jar of kosher baby dills, and a tub of hummus. No shame. Don’t judge.

Anyways, as I mentioned before, this round of WW involves a whole new learning curve than the one I climbed when I originally joined WW almost two years ago. One issue is that the medication I’m taking to clear out my endometrial cancer is also used as an appetite stimulant. I was all “BWWWWEH?! What the hell?!” when I learned this, because I was hungry all the time to begin with — but now it’s kind of ridiculous. So, I have to work extra hard to find uber-satisfying foods to keep me full.

Another hurdle is my recent discovery that I seem to have an intolerance to eggs. (*Headdesk*) I love eggs, and I ate them all the time during my first round in WW — but then I started noticing that I’d have some serious tummy troubles whenever I ate them. I didn’t want to believe that this could possibly be due to my beloved eggs, so I decided it must be something else. But, when I finally isolated the variable last week, it became clear: eggs are not my BFF. As Brandon so aptly noted, I’m running out of foods I can eat. Sadness ensues!

So, with eggs out, more cooked foods in, and my efforts to try and stay full, it’s been a bit of a challenge. I’m not losing weight as quickly as I’d like to, but I have a new motto when it comes to all my goals — weight loss, running, writing, the whole lot — of late: progress, not perfection.

The weight might not be melting right off, but that’s ok. I’m making progress, and I’m figuring out how to do this in a way that works for my body this time around. I’m working within a different set of parameters, and I’m learning the ropes slowly but surely. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress — and that’s what matters most.

I’ll reach my goal at a pace that works, and I’ll do it without feeling incredibly cold or having a daily egg-induced stomachache. 

 
 
Anyways, with all that being said, let’s move on to the quick and dirty tour of what I’ve been noshing on lately:
 
  • Breakfasts involve tea and oatmeal with home-made cashew butter (which, BTW, is teh awesomz – my MIL made it when she was visiting, and I love the stuff)
  • Snacks are composed of Greek yogurt with berries, apples, and the aforementioned peppers and pickles with hummus. 
  • Lunches have occasionally involved salads, but now that it’s getting chilly, they always involve my newly beloved veggie soups. I made this recipe for a vegan Seven Vegetable and “Cheese” soup from Oh She Glows, and it’s awesome — I also added some lentils for extra bulk and protein, so it’s the perfect lunch. The great thing about it is that the flavor of the soup is a great base/carrier for other, stronger flavors. I’ve jazzed this up about a bajillion different ways: depending on the day, I’ve used Moroccan spices, Chinese Five Spice, Italian spices, curry and ginger, or a sprinkle of bagel seasoning. Each one is delicious, so I’ve been a happy soup-slurping camper.
  • Dinners usually involve lean protein and veggies, so we’ve had things like chicken Marsala with sauteed asparagus, spaghetti squash with turkey and veggie Bolognese, turkey and veggie chili (with my other life partner, avocado), and other such offerings. 
  • I usually wrap things up with a cup of herbal tea and a cookie from Purely Elizabeth. If you haven’t tried these cookies yet, I hiiiiiiighly recommend them! They’re vegan and gluten-free, and they’re filled with all sorts of nutrient-dense ingredients — and despite all the qualifiers about how healthy they are, they’re freakin’ delicious. They’re only 2 WW Points per cookie, so I try to save room for them whenever possible.  

 

Image 
 
With all that being said, I hope everybody has/is having a fabulous Wednesday!
 
What’s your favorite dessert?
 
Have you ever discovered weird food intolerances as an adult that you didn’t know you had before?

Gettin’ My Goal-Setting On: Goals for June, the Summer, and the Big Picture

Ok, so I know I’ve mentioned this before, but…seriously, how can it possibly be June already?!

I’m flabbergasted, y’all. Bewildered. Thunderstruck. How did this happen? Didn’t Brandon and I move into our new place, like, a month ago? Insert sigh of astonishment here.

Astonishment aside, now that it’s June and summer is finally upon us, I started thinking about the things I’d like to accomplish during this month and beyond.

Making goals can be a tricky business. If they’re huge or unrealistic, it can feel like abject failure if they’re not achieved (especially if you’d have to be Superwoman on steroids to even come close to achieving them). Similarly, sometimes goals can change as we get more information/learn more/have more experiences – and, despite the good intentions of so many motivational speakers out there who carry on about never giving up, pushing harder, and doing more, all those messages can make a change of course feel like a failure.

Personally, I had that particular motif going on for a long time last year: I felt like a total failure for having worked so hard for so long, only to find out that the career I’d always wanted isn’t the right thing for me.

But then I realized: I had a change of heart because I have more information now than I did when I started out down this road, not because I’m a waste of resources who didn’t try hard enough. My old goals were informed by what I knew at the time, and what I learned over the course of the next 10 years led me to a very different conclusion than the one I’d reached when I was 22. This isn’t a personal failing on my part – instead, it’s simply due to the collection of many more data points that hadn’t been available to me before.

In any event, all that is to say that it’s important to remain flexible in goal setting. By staying flexible, we can amend our goals to account for new data – new information, new experiences, and new circumstances that we hadn’t been aware of before.

As for my own shiny new goals (jazz hands!), I broke them out into June goals, summer goals, and long-term goals, simply because putting them into one big list would make me feel overwhelmed like woah. I don’t know about y’all, but for me, overwhelm quickly leads to total paralysis, which means I accomplish a whole lot of nada, which makes me feel even more overwhelmed, which leads to me accomplishing even less. It’s a vicious cycle.

Ergo: lists upon lists, broken out by time frame!

 

June goals:

  • Plant an herb garden on the porch
  • Find some good GF granola recipes that I can reliably use each week (this is part of an effort to save some dolla dolla billz on groceries, because my beloved Udi’s GF granola costs a pretty penny)

 

Summer goals:

  • Form two new habits:
    • Lift 3x per week
    • Planning out and drafting blog posts on the weekend so I can have more time during the week; we do this with our meal plans, so I’d like to do the same with blog posts
  • Make GF everything bagels — I miss everything bagels like mad, but I have yet to see them sold anywhere. So, I’m going to have to take on this task myself!
  • Hike the Manitou Incline when I’m in Colorado on vacation
  • Figure out a cost-effective way to promote the blog (if any of you lovely people have any suggestions/ideas/guidance, I’m all ears!)

 

Long-term goals:

  • Continue saving money – we’ve been working on this, and it’s going well so far. I’d eventually like to open a CD or high-yield savings account too.
  • Write, write, write…with the objective of eventually being able to make it my job:
    • Continually build readership on the blog
    • Eventually get to the point where I have enough readers to warrant sponsorships, ad revenue, etc.
    • Pick up freelance writing jobs
  • Start a family
  • Explore the idea of setting up an Etsy page in order to sell some of the collages I love so much. I don’t think of myself as an artist, because I can’t draw/paint to save my life — but I do love these collages. I don’t think I’d make much (or any) moolah off of this little venture, but it’d be a fun creative outlet.
  • Learn how to do my own graphic design in Photoshop

 

What are your goals – for this month, the summer, and the big picture?

Which ones excite you the most/make you the happiest?

Do you break your goals out into short-, mid-, and long-term lists?