sprout for joy

emerge, spring up, grow


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the best kale salad ever

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No offense to collard greens, black eyed peas and cornbread, but after this recipe I’m starting my own New Year’s meal tradition. I may have even just found my favorite recipe for 2015. Seems a little early to be making that call… but I really don’t care. This is SO. GOOD.

If nothing else, this is definitely my new favorite way to eat kale. Ever had a tired jaw from chewing… and chewing… and chewing raw kale? I have. Well fear not. This dressing tenderizes the leaves giving them the perfect texture (slightly crisp but not soggy), and an amazing tangy-sweet-garlicky flavor. Yum. Combine that with savory roasted sweet potatoes, toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds, spicy garlic roasted chick peas, and the subtle sweetness of pears, and you’ll be trading in the collard greens too.

I’m sure there’s another reason this recipe tastes so good; my body has been craving this food. After weeks of being out of my normal routine… traveling to see family for Christmas, flying to see friends for New Year’s, sleeping in different places, eating foods I don’t normally eat (and more than I normally eat), getting less exercise than usual… oh yes, this meal was right on time. Yesterday was the first day I’ve spent at home in a couple weeks. I slept in, then immediately went to the grocery store and bought every vegetable I could fit in my cart. After getting home (and sleeping some more), I chopped and roasted and toasted until I felt right again.

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I added roasted mushrooms, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts… just for good measure.

 

Although I’m starting the new year feeling totally spent (with jeans that are a tad snug), I wouldn’t trade the past few weeks for anything. It’s the best time I’ve ever had during the holidays. For one thing, I got to see my little sister and brother-in-law who live in Germany, and it’s been over two years since we were all together. I’ll keep this brief so I don’t cry (well too late), but being so far away from them for so long is tough. They are so much fun to be around, and my sis is my best friend. We get each other in that way sisters do, and it meant so much to me to feel that instant bond with her as soon as we laid eyes on each other. I really needed that, and I’m so grateful for the time we had. Especially for the night my brother, sister and I all cooked dinner together, just us three. It was pretty dang special.

Another highlight was staying up late watching House of Cards on Netflix with my mom and brother, all curled up in her king size bed in our PJs, eating my brother’s homemade cheesecake with cool whip and spoons. Yeah, that happened. A couple days later my dad and I went for a long run on the Riverwalk. I felt like that kind of made up for the cheesecake incident, but more importantly it was good “dad time,” and I always love that. The week was topped off with an annual brunch with my oldest and best friends from back home. This year we had a couple of cute little additions, which made it feel different, but even better.

For New Year’s I flew to Austin to visit my old stomping grounds and see some of my favorite people. On New Year’s Eve, a friend suggested that we each recognize something that had meant a lot to us that year. When it was my turn, I said that I’ve grown in appreciation. I feel a much deeper gratitude for people and experiences in my life. I know this because there was a time I didn’t feel it much, when I didn’t feel much of anything. Now when I’m with the people who mean the most to me, I feel our connection in my heart, and I’m so thankful to have it. It reminds me that my heart is open now, and it motivates me to keep it that way.

I hope each of you had a wonderful New Year. If anything meaningful from last year jumps out in your mind please share with us. I usually try not to make resolutions… but I think I’m gonna make one (oh geez), and that is to post more often. It makes my heart happy to share.

On to the “best kale salad ever”…

Ingredients:

1. 1 bunch of organic kale, washed, leaves removed from stems.

2. 1 medium sweet potato, sliced into wedges

3. 1 pear, sliced

4. 1/2 cup raw walnuts

5. 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

6. 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry

7. Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

8. olive oil

For the dressing:

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb apple cider vinegar

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

1 tsp agave syrup

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp lemon juice

Steps:

  • preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • whisk together dressing ingredients in a bowl
  • chop kale leaves until finely shredded in very small pieces
  • pour dressing over kale in large bowl, use hands to coat well and massage into leaves
  • coat sweet potato wedges lightly in olive oil, spread evenly on baking sheet
  • coat chick peas lightly in olive oil and Sriracha hot sauce, add to pan with sweet potatoes, roast for about 20 minutes, until potatoes slightly browned
  • in medium sauce pan, toast walnuts and pumpkin seeds in 1 Tb olive oil for 5-10 minutes, careful not to burn
  • Toss roasted sweet potato, chick peas, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and pear with kale and serve

Makes enough for 4-6 people

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my secret garden

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A few months ago, as I was scanning Craigslist postings for a place to live, my eyes suddenly met with an intriguing caption: “In-town Apartment in Grand Queen Anne Victorian… private garden-like grounds… bamboo forest… rooms with 13′ ceilings… original woodwork… vintage fireplaces… too unique to fully describe.” My heart leapt! And then the dreaded (all too familiar), “cats are welcome.” My heart sank. Needless to say, my beloved 14 year old shih-tzu companion and I are a package deal. I’d rather live in a shoebox with him than without him, which we actually did in Texas… a 450 sq. ft. box to be exact, and we were blissfully content.

Oh well, who wants to pay rent to dog haters anyway? It was also a tad out of my price range… and I swore I’d never live in an apartment again, especially not one without a washer and dryer. But at the same time, I knew this place would go fast, it was less than a mile from my new job, and on one of the most beautiful, historic avenues in town. And it did make my heart leap… I try never to ignore that feeling. Before I knew it I was typing a polite plea, explaining that my darling furry friend was in fact more like a cat than a dog (true story), one that doesn’t even shed. The posting had also indicated a subtle aversion to college students, so I made a point to explain my status as a quiet, responsible working professional.

Two weeks passed with no response, during which time I felt forced to look into some other possibilities. I found an immaculate loft space in a gorgeous historic home, much smaller than the Victorian apartment but slightly less expensive, and so artistically renovated it could easily grace a magazine cover. The owner was an architect; we quickly hit it off and it seemed like a sure thing, until I mentioned my little buddy. Nope, no go, no exceptions. What the hell is wrong with people?! I had to strain so hard to keep the hot tears hidden, my eyeballs almost popped out. Defeat.

The next place I checked out was also an old home with a crooked front porch and peeling, shabby chic paint. In the words of my practical mother, “People in Athens sure do pay a lot to live in crappy old houses.” So true. “It’s all about character,” I told her… she rolled her eyes. But this house happened to be right on the greenbelt… a six mile running path to a nature center. I started to feel a little spark returning, but when I excitedly told a friend the location, she made a face. “Is that area safe?” she asked. I knew it wasn’t entirely, but I was getting desperate. We decided to go for a run on the running path by the house before my appointment to scope out the area. The run was a disaster. I was sure we were going to get mugged or kidnapped in broad daylight. I cancelled the viewing immediately after, in tears again, wondering why I’d left Texas.

Time was running out, and I was starting to feel the strain from a number of factors. For one, my new job was off to a crawling start and therefore only part-time, with a promise but no guarantee of when it would become full-time. I was subleasing a tiny house (it was old, minus the character) for the short duration of two months, so I didn’t bother unpacking or decorating. It basically felt like camping indoors with a bathroom. I had decided that within those two months, I could find another more permanent place, or jump ship altogether and move somewhere else if I didn’t want to be in GA after all… I was scanning job postings in every corner of the country daily.

I knew that leaving room for this major indecision would keep me suspended in a very unsettled state (it has), but I’ve grown accustomed to feeling this way over the past few years. It seems strange, but I’ve learned to find comfort in the discomfort. Feeling insecure in the direction my life is going forces me to practice patience, especially when faced with the inherent pressures of this life stage. At a time when most of my friends have planted permanent roots and started having babies, I chose to start over. But I’ve never regretted my decision. I’ve felt stronger and more like myself each day since the moment I realized there was something better for me… I just didn’t know what. And truly, there’s tremendous power in the unknown… not knowing has taught me more about opening my heart and faith-based living than I could ever dream.

But, I can tell I’m growing weary, which means a turning point is approaching. I feel such an intense mixture of desires and longings… wanting to ground and establish myself in a good place, to feel secure, like I belong somewhere… coupled with an anxious urgency to never settle for less than I want, to make the most of this time in my life, to continue exploring and seeking. My feet are stepping in two different directions, unwilling to commit to either. While I enjoy the excitement of new possibility, at some point I must make a choice. I know I’m here for a reason, to learn more lessons, so I’ve decided to quiet my adventurous spirit (for now) and work on committing to being here. I’ve also gotten very far off topic…

In one last ditch effort, I sent a second email to the “Grand Victorian,” and this attempt met with success. I could tell by the response the owners were actually in no hurry to rent the place; they were waiting for the right fit. I met with the owner’s wife and instantly felt a unique connection. Within a few words, we were openly sharing far more than you typically would with a stranger. I felt the same casual, relaxed energy all around and throughout the house. She said the house was very special to them, like a secret garden. I was sold.

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I’ve moved seven times in the past three years, since I was 28, and never in my life have I felt more at peace. I’ve fallen in love with my new home, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else right now. The beauty of this place speaks to me, telling me I’m right where I need to be. For the first time, I find myself taking the time and care to fill each room with objects that hold special meaning, so that I’m always surrounded with love and protection. I’m creating an environment around me that reflects my soul, that touches my heart.

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001005 I can’t say that both feet are decidedly planted, I still feel homesick for a place I have yet to discover, but being here brings some security while I continue to allow life to unfold. In all of this, somehow I still have no doubt I will find what I’m seeking, and I’ll look back on this time with wistful, dreamy remembrance. I’ll know the years of uncertainty were all worth it, to get me to this place. I can’t see it yet, but my heart knows where I’m going. I’ll get there in time, and have gratitude for each moment along the way.

“At some point in the journey, we may become tired, weary, and confused. Homesick. All the mountains, the scenery, the food, the people, the experiences just don’t do it for us anymore. We want to go home. What am I doing here? we wonder. Nothing worthwhile is happening. Yet another part of us knows the truth and whispers, Yes, something is happening, something worthwhile

Feeling homesick is part of the journey. It can mean we’ve reached a turning point. When we get to that place, it means the journey has really begun.” – Melody Beattie

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trust in transition

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A wise teacher once told me to think of my life in terms of cycles, as gradual and ever-changing as the seasons. We may live in a world of lightning-speed, but our souls are connected to nature. Just as I can’t expect to plant a seed and immediately see a flower, I can’t expect myself to grow and change on demand, no matter how badly I may want to. It makes this whole growth process easier to accept; it makes it easier to accept myself. Living in harmony means allowing myself to weather changes with patience. It’s still easy to become frustrated when I can’t see what’s next, but I have learned to respect the cycles and seasons of my soul, and to trust my heart to tell me when it’s time to move on.

Two years ago I moved to Austin, Texas all on my own with a strong, clear purpose. I needed to reconnect with myself, to recover and heal from the trauma of leaving a marriage. I needed a fresh start. The wide open spaces and endless skies of Texas seemed like just the place, and it was. I met amazing people, ventured and explored as far as I could go, to my heart’s content. Opening up and pushing myself allowed me to change and grow more during that time than ever before. Austin will forever hold a place deep in my heart; it’s been the perfect adventure.

It seems strange to want to leave such a place, where I’ve spent the best two years of my life so far. But somehow I felt an ending approaching, an instinct kicked in telling me it was time to move on, to seek more change, new growth. So, I put the wheels in motion and began parting ways with my life in Texas. Now the dust has settled and I find myself in just about the last place I thought I would be: back home. That word… back… has been quite a struggle for me. I mean, who wants to go backward? I could have gone anywhere… and yet here I am.

I’ve been back in Georgia for about a month, and things are finally starting to make a little more sense. It’s only been in closing that cycle of my journey, my lone star state, that I’ve come to fully realize and appreciate the gifts I received, so many more than I ever expected to find. I’ve learned to value myself, to become fully and completely conscious of my feelings and take responsibility for them.  I’ve reconnected with myself; I’ve even found true love and trust for myself.

“Step into love for yourself, and the universe will reflect that love back to you.” – MB

It all begins here. I’m so deeply thankful for having had the chance to experience this fundamental truth in my life. This was the answer I was seeking, before I even knew the question. My heart knew exactly the lesson I needed to learn, and I was led to the places, met the people, and had the experiences to teach me. It has healed me, and given me a strong foundation to stand on for the rest of my life. Whenever I feel lost, I know how to come back to my heart, and have patience and trust that answers will come in the right time.

Oh the irony… to now find myself in just the right situation to test the lessons I’ve learned. The truth is I don’t really know why I came back, or what I’m doing here. I feel lost all the sudden. It’s strange to feel so insecure in such a familiar place. I feel more vulnerable now in moving back to GA than I did moving to TX all alone. I feel downright fear. It’s as if I’ve been stripped of the protective armor I earned, left defenseless. I’m back in the void, where my vision is limited to almost nothing, and my mind is waging war with unanswerable questions. Have I lost the strength I found? Does this uncertainty mean I’ve made a mistake? Will I revert back to the old me, now that I’m back in my old surroundings? Will I always be alone? My mind has been reeling for answers, searching for some sense of security. Maybe I should just go back to Austin… I have great connections there and could fit right back in… but I know that’s not right either. It would be like going back to a relationship after it’s ended, just because you can’t stand being alone. I wouldn’t really be dealing with the issue: me.

It took some time, but I finally asked myself something I knew the answer to, and instantly felt a wave of reassurance. Will everything be alright? My eyes welled up with tears at the answer, which made all the other questions fade away in significance. Of course it will. Which means it is right now, and has been all along.

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I am in a beautiful place; surrounded by giant shady trees, the ones I’ve missed so much. The view from every window and doorway is full from top to bottom with light filtered through lush greenery and bright flowers. The sounds of cheerful chirping birds, lawnmowers off in the distance, and rolling afternoon thunderstorms fill the air. I am safe, I am loved, I am home. I’ve entered a new season. All I need to do now is let it unfold naturally, and understand that temporary growing pains are necessary and to be expected. The lessons I’ve learned will never leave me, and more are on the way. I know that the wisdom of the heart is powerful, and while I may feel vulnerable, strength lies in having trust.490

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one small act

I think about ‘happiness’ quite a bit. I know deep down I’ve found it, but I remember not having it before, so what changed? What is it about now that allows me to feel happy, and what was it about then that kept it out of reach? Simply stated, it’s me. I’ve changed, and as a result many aspects of my life which were perpetuating misery are gone. But I had to claim my happiness first, it was a choice. We have to commit to being happy, and that implies work.

My musing thoughts on the topic always lead me to that famous line from history. To paraphrase, “all men are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable Right to the pursuit of Happiness.” Did you catch that? It says we have the right to pursue happiness. It’s not something the tooth fairy leaves under our pillow while we sleep.

I used to get caught up in the fact that I wasn’t happy, a state that led me to blame people, things, and events that were outside of myself. It’s so easy to justify our unhappiness, but when has that ever solved the problem? Never. I had to make changes to find inner peace before I could discover happiness. Peace was my gateway. Learn to cultivate peace and happiness will be close behind.

This is the best way I’ve found to do it: At any time I recognize that I am feeling a sense of calm, a lightness of heart, an easiness within myself… it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I immediately pause and savor it. I meditate on the feeling I’m having. I let it flow through me and I try to grow, cultivate, the sensation. The more familiar we become with peace, the more it becomes a part of us.

The next time you find yourself feeling peaceful or happy, don’t blow it off, cherish it. Make it count. Hold on to every last moment and feel gratitude for it. This one small act can change you.