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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

DRY-ROASTED SPICED OKRA


I know...I know.
You don't like okra.
It's too slimy.
It's just weird.
It's old fashioned.
You only like it fried and that's because you can't taste it.
Or you've had it twice and both times left you neutral.
I have heard all these things many times.
There was a time 
where I also thought okra was gross too.
I was like you-
lost and confused, misinformed about this wonderful
delicious vegetable.

On the off-chance that I've misjudged you and 
you are one of the people who have already seen the light,
who understand that okra is a precious gift
then this recipe will just make your world more wonderful.
A new way to enjoy an manna from heaven.
Forgive my assumptions-it's hard being an evangelist without a church.

If you are in the okra hating club-this is an intervention.
I know it's hard to be wrong.
But, you are wrong.
Receive the good news!
Change is possible...but first you have to risk something.


Okra is a summertime staple and one of the few things 
(along with eggplant, and peppers) 
that keeps on giving when the heat kicks up.
A few years ago, I realized it would be super
hard to eat local-ish through the summer without
at least a tolerance of okra.
Did you know that you have to try something 12 times before
you know if you like it?
Twelve times.
Whew.  That can be a lot of tries.
It took me more like 30 to find something besides fried
that could hold my attention.
I did the work for you and
found a one-try recipe-
the easiest, best, go-to recipe
for highlighting okra is this one!
It's a conversion recipe.
Try it.  You'll like it.

This recipe is Whole30 compliant, paleo, vegetarian, vegan and in 
general available to be eaten by everyone.  
Your doctor practically prescribes this recipe as medicine.

Ingredients:

20 fresh okra pods 
If they are larger than 2" long, slice them in half longways
3 TBSP Spice mix*



*Spice Mix Ingredients

You can use whatever spices you like.  Just remember to use a lot of them.  
I used in equal measurements (about 1/2 tsp each):
paprika
coriander

cumin
fennel seed
garlic powder
celery seed
tumeric
chipolte powder
kosher salt





How to Cook:

Preheat oven to 450 F
Line a cookie sheet with parchement paper.
Put okra on cookie sheet
Sprinkle spice mix generously over okra
Roast in the oven for 20-25 min or until the okra has wilted a little bit.
Eat with your fingers.

Special note:  This is even better on a grill.
Cooks faster, crisps better.
If you're grilling meat, consider putting a slab of 
tinfoil together for this okra.


There is no after photo.
We ate them.




Tuesday, July 03, 2018

WHERE IS THIS GOING AND ARE WE THERE YET?


I am a relentlessly driven person.
This is not a positive thing or a negative thing.
It just is my thing.
I have always been this way since I became me.
When I am interested in something-
and I am always interested in lots of somethings-
I will use all my energy to get after it. 


In the past three months, 
I've taken a class with one of my heroes,
started working with a phenomenal transition coach,
turned my side-dream into a real thing,
been a vacation bible school teacher,
participated in three monthly or bi-monthly small groups,
run 3 miles consecutively for the first time since I was 22,
designed a logo, a website, t-shirts, and four new gardens,
led groups to plant two of these four gardens in very public spaces,
listened to approximately 70 podcast episodes,
re-stained my deck,
maintained 6 separate landscapes,
planted 10 large container gardens,
hosted two kid's birthday parties, 
written 10 public blog posts,
read 6 super-chewy intellectual books 
and 4 fictional, non-intellectual books.


I'm a wife (job #1) and a mom of two (job #2 and #3).
Also...I have a day job (job #4).
One that is actually pretty demanding by itself.

Most people go cross-eyed by the time I list a couple of my projects.
I am aware that people don't operate like I do.....it's a lot.
My energy level is not normal.
I only wrote down some of the stuff I do so you'll understand 
my pace and drive.
No one makes me do this stuff-
I am self-motivated, self-driven and in love with my life.
Each of these items fuels me, fills me up and is my work 
(or is required education or support so that I can do my work).
As I said...I am relentless.
It is how God made me.


However,in spite of loving the pace that I set for myself
and understanding how I operate in the world,
I've been struggling with something for the past month.
My personal target is to write a blog post a week.
I also have a couple of books that I've framed out and will
write a few chapters of each by the end of the year so that
I can decide which to tackle in earnest.
And yet....writing is not happening in the normal way over here.
It has been a struggle to push through it.
Writing is my canary in the coal mine-
the thing that helps me find my center, 
the practice that enables a lot of the other growth.
I usually have about 8 different projects going with writing
and they pull me like nothing else.
Not writing tells me something is up.


Notes from a conference....


Right about now, you are probably saying....
DUH! Sweet girl-anyone with that playlist
would struggle to find time to focus on writing.
Or maybe you're saying something less kind.
Either way...the obvious culprit for not writing is some combination of 
over-scheduled, over-burdened or over-stimulated.

That was my initial thought too.
I am the absolute worst when it comes to 
accepting my own limitations and humanity.
I have definitely been a person in the past who took on too much
or set myself up for a big fat face plant by not culling the priorities.

Which is why I have a process now to check in with myself so that I 
(hopefully) avoid driving myself off that cliff.
OF COURSE I DO!
I'm a recovering perfectionist...what else would I have?
I have four pillars of self-care that I want to achieve daily-
sleep 8 hours, pray, exercise, eat well.
They sound simple but for me, they are the hardest.
I actively track them because I just do not know 
for sure when I'm going off track until I'm waaaaay off track.

When I noticed that writing was not happening,
I did a system check-in.
I was slightly out of balance but not in a degree that would be worrisome.
Still-to be on the safe side, I took some action.
I cancelled some of my small group meetings,
focused on self-care, and snuggled more with my people.
It helped in a general way but still.....
no writing.
Instead, I have filled my time by re-watching
four seasons of Elementary 
(Joan's wardrobe alone is worth a re-watch).


What in the actual heck?

This was proving trickier than usual.
Writing is something that I adore and also something that I need
 to do in a fundamental way.
Like some people experience flossing their teeth or folding laundry (I'm told).
Writing is how I process and integrate my experiences-
it's how I find my own cognitive dissonance, see my own biases or 
just understand what on earth is happening under the surface.
Writing gives me context and permission to feel emotions that 
are scary, boring or even petty.
I often do not understand an event or a complex concept until I write about it.
It is important and essential and yet....
I have been steadfastly and consistently avoiding it.

Here's my assessment:
I've been breathing into something that terrifies me...
and I wasn't ready to process it yet.
Avoiding writing was helping me avoid the scary thing.

What is terrifying me?
Well, like a lot of seemingly crazy people, 
I have recently decided to do what God has told me to do.
No, I have not decided to sacrifice a child or 
take all my sheep to a new land already populated by indigenous people.
God has been telling me to start something for a few decades.
And I have been successfully ignoring that same nudge for a few decades.
It's not that I didn't hear it...
it's that it didn't make sense, that I am not qualified,
that I needed to be safe and feel capable,
that I needed to learn other skills and find some grace.
That is just some of the script I told myself.
Life would be easier in a lot of ways if I could just ignore this calling.

God says I can ignore it if I want to, 
that it's 100% my choice (because God adores me absolutely).
God also says...I made you for this work.
This is your work and only you can do it.
If you don't do it, then it won't get done.
Your dharma, your soul work, your path.
Mine.
God has been saying this to me for a long long time.
In small, gentle ways that have been making me increasingly 
less comfortable as I grow up.
There is a pea in my mattress, a grain of sand in my shoe.
My comfort has become uncomfortable.
God is more relentless than this daughter.

Even though I really don't understand what God is asking me to do,
even though I can't see the whole path,
I finally gave in and took the next right step.
I started Bloomin.
This has been terrifying-but not in the ways that I imagine
 most business endeavors are scary.
Although I do intend to charge a fair price and make a profit, 
I don't plan to use Bloomin as my primary source of income....maybe ever.
The terrifying part is that Bloomin is not a traditional little business.

It would be very easy for Bloomin to become another landscape service
or a unique boutique service offering.
I could focus on several niches, market these services 
and build a successful brand.
Those pulls are real-they make sense in this world and
I feel them every time I sit down to work on this project.
However....God is very clear that this is not the point of Bloomin.
Financial success is a by-product maybe-kind of like the shade that trees give.
But not the purpose or the reason.
Not even close.


What is the deeper purpose?
Thanks for asking...God has been fairly clear about it.
Delivering the reason to me in a gift wrapped little piece of poetry
disguised as a mission statement.
Here it is:
Cultivating connection because growing and nurturing 
bends our story towards the light.

Got it?
Me either.

What the heck does that even mean?
I DON'T KNOW!
I only know that if it doesn't achieve that purpose, 
then I will have failed in all the ways that matter.
It's my work-to drive that deeper vision and meaning....
to find a way to shape this platform to do that work.
With flowers and vegetables and....manure.
WHAT????
I feel very, very unqualified at the moment to 
take it where it will eventually go.
So I avoided writing so I could stay in the safety of the
'not knowing' or 'not looking' for just a little bit longer.

Whew.  
 The next right step...
that's all that I need to take.
And then write about it so I know that I took it.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BLOOMIN





A few years ago, a dear friend of mine said...
I can't handle it when you start writing about gardening.
I just stop reading for a few months.

This was a little confusing for me since...
as I've said before, I only have three tracks:
Growing things, eating things, healing things.
To me, the garden has been the best physical representation
of growing, healing, and forgiveness.
Gardening is my crutch, my comfort and my inspiration-
the grounding that runs through everything.
No story has taught me more about redemption
than spring coming every single year.
I have practiced perseverance through
every uncharacteristically hard, wet winter.
Joy physically manifests in every single flower.
Watching bees get drunk reminds me that work and play 
shouldn't be that far apart.

Life wins.  Just look at the weeds in the sidewalk cracks.
There's room for so much more than we imagine as limited humans-
how many plants sprout in impossible circumstances,
how to trust in the timing of all things,
that rain is around the corner,
that too much of a good thing is sometimes the catalyst for change.
I could go on and on-
this is literally how I interpret the world-
through a green, botanical haze coupled with southern metaphor.

I'm learning to accept that not everyone sees this connection.
I listened to my dear friend and then just let it ruminate a while.
Magically,that little seed of truth turned into something a whole lot bigger.
A foundation of sorts for something else that was already
growing and moving within the world-
but just didn't have a platform or a voice or even a name.

I am involved pretty heavily in the suburban gardening scene in Apex.
It's a thing that I do without thinking really-
it's just part of who I am.
I've always used gardens as my primary creative palette.
I've always retreated to flowers and gardening when I needed healing.
There's an awful lot of plant knowledge floating around
in this head of mine-and it's pretty specifically 
applicable to this area,this place, this time.

I have been working in and leading several initiatives
for a couple of years now.
Behind the scenes though-
not in a way that implies ownership or a stake.
Just providing support and scaffolding to help several
non-gardeners realize their suburban gardening dreams.
Or rallying a group around a service project that is plant related.


While taking a class a few months ago,
I finally allowed myself to hear a question I'd been avoiding.

What if I made it into an actual, concrete thing?
What if I claimed this talent and moved it into the light?
Not just something that filled the spaces.
What if I did it ON PURPOSE?
What if I intentionally tried to create connection within my town?


I started focusing on it-slowly moving gardening
away from something I do selfishly and in relative solitude
into something I do intentionally and out loud.
It has been a terrifying trip.
I have a full time job-
this is truly my side project.
BUT I'VE BEEN DOING IT ANYWAY.



It's time to claim it.
And give it a space all to it's own.
The little seed planted a couple of years ago is more than sprouted...
today is the official birthday of this little beauty.
www.bloominapex.com

Bloomin cultivates connection so our story will bend
towards the light.
Bloomin focuses on what we need in order to maximize suburban
yards and suburban lives.
If it's plants, or flowers, or just general plant knowledge,
then I am happy to help our little suburb get greener, 
more knowledgeable or just more excited about possibility.


If you're local, you can hire me to support your own gardening endeavors.
I do design, container gardens, consulting, 
teaching and house staging for realtors.
I also do personal shopping for plant related stuff.
I'm at the garden centers anyway-
I might as well pick something up for you while I'm there.

If you're not local, I would recommend following 
bloomin.apex on Instagram 
for a couple of shots of gardening beauty every day.





I will try very very hard to put all blog posts related 
specifically to gardening on the Bloominapex.com blog.
You can read the first one here: I like big pots and I cannot lie.
This blog will continue to focus on personal growth,
tools that I use myself to focus,
and insights into my own story and perspective
that I think might help someone else who struggles with similar topics.


Thanks for all your words of encouragement and support.
Next week, I promise I'll get back to something not 
gardening related!



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER



It was just End of Grade Test season in my world.
The season of teachers imploring me to please be sure that my children are 
well fed and well rested so that they can please 
for the love of all that is holy
 get a decent score on an evaluation that everyone agrees has limited value.
We have all entered into a social contract where we will 
participate in this ridiculous farce until these kids are adults.
I like to think of EOG season as training for seasons that come with
adulthood and also make zero sense....like
taxes or swimsuit season or Christmas card photos.

EOG Testing also reminds me of a funny story.
When my son was in first grade,
his class had a practice test that simulated end of year grade testing
to give the kids some exposure to testing without all the pressure.
Hah.  I laugh at this because kids feel energy like a fish feels water.
Whether is was supposed to matter or not,
the kids felt that is was important and they should do their best.


My bright little guy hadn't yet learned jedi mind-tricks to curb his OCD.
He basically resolved every challenge he encountered into a 
life or death struggle at this age.
EOGs were a clear and present danger.

He has always had a couple of traits that show up strongly during test taking.
If you set a timer on him and he will accomplish whatever task in about a quarter of the allotted time.
Once he's done, he has no interest in reviewing said task.
It is dead to him.  He has moved on.
So, he takes tests as quickly as possible and 
finds it completely unnatural to spend time on it once it's 'done'.

The timer started and per his usual form, 
he was done with lots of time to spare.
Since he had time to spare, he did 
what any person with a speck of empathy 
would do in this situation.
He started to help everyone else at his table with their tests.


Yep.
He started rubber-necking and decided that he needed 
to fix his friends' answers.
His teacher didn't appreciate it very much and 
we had to have a conference about it.
The principal was there and everything.

When asked about it, he had a few 
VERY IMPORTANT thoughts on his actions.

They were getting it WRONG mom!
I HAD to help them!
It was such a mess-they needed me!


There were looming, undefined consequences for not 
getting the right answer to every single question.
My little 6 year old was going to save his whole table 
of friends from those scary consequences
and he could not understand why everyone around him 
didn't understand that this was the right move.
What a sweet little hero, right?


I think this is a prime example of why God grants us children.
To hold that adorable mirror up to us and show us ourselves.

There have been so many times where I've spent energy 
looking at someone else's work-
evaluating and judging them for their success or failure,
holding them to a bar of my own estimation and 
making sure that they're living their best life (as defined by me).
I like to sit down with the life story of other people 
and arm-chair quarterback it.

Special note: I am particularly good at this when I have 
not been asked for my opinion.


I really want to give you a full picture of the depth of my dysfunction here, 
my persistent attention to everyone else's life before my own.
Let me cite some examples for full disclosure in case you

 think I'm exaggerating my farsighted focus. 

If I think someone is struggling in their marriage, 
I would be happy to expound for days on resources and strategies 
to get them to a more healthy place.
A young couple getting together under less than ideal circumstances?
I have podcasts to listen to, books to read,
a couple of therapists and maybe a reality TV show that would help.
Have a conflict you need to work through with 
your best friend and just don't know how to approach it?
I am here for you-available to strategize until we both feel 
that you've made the best possible moves.
What qualifies me for this relationship expertise?
Not a damn thing.




How about in the professional sphere...
Want to know whether you should work at a certain company?  
Should you take a new job or title?
How about just being evaluated on the way you carry 
yourself through meetings or conferences,
the energy you give off into the professional sphere?
I have mentored and counseled some truly impressive people 
around these very items.
Giving advice, setting structure and goals, working with them 
for several years to get them to the place they wanted to be.
Does that mean that my professional path is clear and focused?
Actually...I'd prefer it if we didn't talk about me ok?
I will just do the next action that is expected of me or 
solve the next puzzle that comes along.
I will shirk a title or a radical career move
faster than a 3 year old can take off their pants in public.


Surely I'm able to focus on my own life in some sphere.  
I am after all, an adult, with bills that are paid and teeth 
that are cleaned semi-regularly.
Health and self-care maybe-is this where I pay attention to me?
Oh, this is an extra special area-one that I can really talk 
a good game around.
I would be happy to discuss ways that I think people heal 
 through diet and exercise.
Give up the gluten and eliminate dairy.
No caffeine after noon and make sure you get 8 hours of sleep.
Processed food has no place in the human diet and 
every knows that you cannot get enough vegetables.
Get rid of screen time, minimize social media, 
set some boundaries for goodness sake!
I would be happy to discuss this with anyone-
as long as I'm eating 'just a few' cool ranch Doritos.
Or a bite of chocolate cake.
And about 9 gallons of cold brew while managing my 
multiple Instagram and Facebook accounts.

I have Bojangles once a week.  It's to balance all the healthy food.
This is just the truth.
I will happily focus on everyone else's paper instead of my own.
Rushing through my own test so I can get around to 
helping everyone else with their answers.


What would life be like if I just paid attention to my 
work, my calling, my life?
(I almost wrote...what would life be life if everyone 
just paid attention to their life....
look at your own damn paper girl!)
This is one of those forever tries kind of areas....I will likely be working on staying focused on my own paper for the rest of this lifetime.
It is not a natural habit-I have to work at the practice.
Every time I think I've got it, I realize I've been judging or 
supporting others in places that I'm struggling personally.

I'm going through so many shifts lately-
things that I am pretty sure I was supposed to learn or understand much earlier.
I guess you understand what you understand when you understand it.
Not one second earlier.
I'm right on time, the ship has not sailed, it is not too late.
My practice of examining my own paper
has become actual instead of theoretical.
My intention to set my own course
has led to meditation, daily reflection
and actual change in my brain, heart and body.
It's pretty cool and also...kind of crazy.
That I can rewrite my old patterns in favor of another perspective.
Just by focusing on my own life
instead of spending all my time and energy focused on other things.

I guess what I'm saying is...
I am definitely capable of getting a good grade on this test.
But only if I spend more energy on my life
than on someone else's.
I'm focused on my own work,
finally after decades of focusing on everyone else's.
The path of my life is so much clearer-
it was there all along but I wasn't looking at it.
I was too busy shepherding everyone else's lives.

Homework from The Bigger Yes class with Laura McKowen