31 January 2016

Hate your job? QUIT!

"This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don't like something, change it. If you don't like your job, QUIT."

I discovered this poster a few years ago on Brainpickings. I was just entering my quarter-life crisis, and I was struggling in every way imaginable - emotionally, physically, psychologically. I had a fantastic job, doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do. I was trained properly, the work was challenging and engaging. The people were good to me. On paper, I was climbing the proverbial career ladder, making all the right proverbial moves up the right proverbial steps. All this, and yet, I felt dead on the inside.

So I moved on. I moved on to a place that was the furthest from what I wanted, but I spent 10 months convincing myself that this was good for me, that I would come out ahead, that I would start to love it like I had once hated the taste of chipotle peppers and now love them, or how sauerkraut used to be my worst nightmare and now I snack on it. I stayed 10 months, until finally my therapist told me to leave because my mental wellbeing was more important than any form of resume-embellishing, promotional potential.

And I moved on again. This time, at this place, I hit my wall. It was in this job (being general because I don't want to offend anyone) that I not only learned the value in loving what you do, but also loving the people you do it with.

I needed an escape route. I scanned the job postings I was qualified for mindlessly and nothing - I repeat NOTHING was what I could picture myself doing long term. All I could picture was myself becoming a teacher and thriving in an environment of ideas and learning and knowledge. And I know that some people grow to love their jobs and that yes, this could have happened to me, but I wasn't interested in trying to love my job anymore.

So, I fucking quit. 


I am not naive. I understand how blessed I was to be able to just quit - I didn't have any huge overhead: no kids, no huge bills to pay. I didn't have any plans. I do have a supportive family that allows me to live rent free, cooks and cleans for me, and hugs me when I cry. I have the best boyfriend in the world who helped me to see that killing myself at a dead-end job was sucking the life out of me.

Before and after I quit, I spent hours reading and writing and imagining what my Best Life looked like. My Best Life was discovered after daydreaming about what kind of job I could see myself doing every day for the next 30+ years. Did I see myself sitting at a desk (regardless of how fancy the view and how comfy the chair) writing and editing? Every day? For 30+ years? Did I see myself engaging students in foundational skills and helping them to be the best they could be? Every day? For 30+ years? I wrote and I questioned and I discussed and I observed and I wrote-questioned-discussed-observed some more.

It wasn't black and white, hardly anything in life ever is. I had so many fears and questions and negative future fantasies about what was going to happen. But I put them aside for small moments at a time and began taking steps toward going back to school. I took the CBEST, I applied to school. I spent hours talking to my teacher friends about their jobs, pluses and minuses and curriculum and administrators and students and parents. And all this just further reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing, and that I was doing it at the right time.

Flash forward a year and a half. I'm almost done with my credential, subbing on my days off of school, I student teach next fall, then I have a whole new set of skills to enter an entirely different industry. I have to remind myself to be patient, but I am overall crawling-out-of-my-skin ecstatic at the prospect of having my own classroom.

I am not advocating that y'all go quit your jobs and come teach. Let me repeat: I am not advocating that if you hate your job that teaching is for you. Teaching was something I wanted to do, deep down, since about second grade. It is not an easy job. It is not going to be all sunshine and roses and student notes saying what a wonderful teacher I am. What I am advocating is this: if you find yourself like me, slowly dying at your work desk each day, don't waste time waiting for things to get better. They might, but they also might not. Spend every free moment you have imagining and writing what your dream job would be - in any industry. And take the baby steps you need to get there. Above all, know yourself well enough to know when enough is enough.

Be patient. Be honest with yourself. And if you hate your job, please, quit.

Namaste.

18 January 2016

#carnitassunday

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I had grown tired of ordering carnitas taco (or plate) after carnitas taco (or plate) and being disappointed. Every place we entered - be it roadside taco truck or upscale Mexican restaurant - failed at wowing (or even, like, wooing) us. Not one place had put much thought into the flavor of the meat, and texture wasn't even an afterthought. To us, a true carnitas is a little limey, a little spice-y (the flavorful kinda spice), and crispy. The crisp factor is what we really longed for - so that when you bite into your taco, there's a synergistic reaction where the corn tortilla is soft and chewy and the meat is crispy and you are taken down this dichotomous road of soft and crispy - it's like the sweet and salty of textures.

So I decided to start making my own. It was a Sunday in November. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I had read enough traditional recipes and watched enough videos to give myself a basic understanding. I was so happy with my creation, I posted it on Instagram as #carnitassunday, and each subsequent Sunday that I have made carnitas has used that same hashtag.

Carnitas, like many Mexican-style meats, is very versatile. With the exception of Vapril (vegetarian + April) that I do each year, carnitas fits the macros of nearly any eating plan: high-fat-low-carb, Whole30 (being mindful of your meat quality), open diet (hopefully using homemade tortillas!), and anything in between. I find that Sunday is best day to make a carnitas. Done correctly - with the right amount of lime, garlic salt, and crispiness, your carnitas is a religious experience. If you get a big enough roast, you are guaranteed to have leftovers, which means the religious experience continues throughout the week.

Below, you will find my recipe, which isn't so much a recipe as it is a guideline. The best part about a carnitas is that it tastes different each and every time you make it - some days you will forget to buy an orange, other days you'll want to use star of anise to see how that tastes. There is no such thing as a bad carnitas (except for that one time I grossly overcooked mine).

I hope this recipe inspires you to start your own #carnitassunday tradition. 

Ingredients + Tools

  • Crockpot
  • 2-5 lb bone-in pork butt/shoulder
  • 1 white onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 orange
  • 6-10 limes
  • Organic or high-quality butter (ghee for Whole30 compliance)
  • Cumin
  • Coriander seeds
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried chile de arbol (ground chile powder is fine)
  • Salt-free garlic herb seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
  • Garlic salt
  • Any toppings you like, dependent upon your method of consumption (tortillas for tacos, guacamole, salsa, cheese, pico de gallo, more limes, chopped cilantro and onion, pickled radish, etc.)

Procedure

  1. Prepare the crockpot: chop the onion in random slices and line the bottom of the crockpot. 
  2. Prepare the herby dry rub: in a molcajete (if you have one, otherwise I recommend buying high-quality ground spices) combine your desired amount of coriander, cumin, chile de arbol, and salt-free garlic + herb seasoning. Grind the herbs until powdery (and enjoy the smell while doing so). The amount of powder needed is dependent upon your size of meat - eyeballing is fine. 
  3. Massage the meat: rub the mixtue all over the meat, covering it completely. I recommend using gloves and doing this in the basin of the crockpot itself to avoid a serious mess. 
  4. Add the citrus: squeeze the orange over the meat and leave the rinds in the crockpot while the meat cooks. Squeeze about 1.5 limes over the meat, being careful not to allow the juice to rinse the paste off the meat. 
  5. Take the whole garlic cloves and shove them into the crevices of the meat (sometimes it’s loose around the bone). 
  6. Shake oregano to cover the entire outside of the meat. 
  7. Set the crockpot to low and meat will be ready in 6-7 hours (for small roasts, aim for 6-6.5; larger ones aim for 7). 

Browning the Meat

Browning the meat is the most important step in the #carnitassunday process, and unfortunately many restaurants miss the crisping step. 
  1. Once the meat is cooked, (carefully) lift the meat out of the crockpot. Often, the meat is so tender that it slides right off the bone. Use caution when lifting the hot meat out of the crockpot. Hold on to the juices (there will be plenty) for later.
  2. Once the meat has cooled enough so that you can handle it with your fingers, begin shredding the meat into large chunks. Do not shred the meat too fine, as this will dispose of the juices that give the meat its flavor. 
  3. Heat up a skillet (preferably cast iron) on medium heat. Coat the skillet with a small amount of butter/ghee. 
  4. Once the skillet is almost smoking, add a large handful of meat to the skillet. The meat should sizzle and pop - this is good. Using a large spoon or ladle, scoop some of the juice from the crockpot onto the meat - this will add immense flavor. 
  5. Allow the meat to stay there until it is golden brown/almost burnt on one side (about 2-3 minutes). Flip over and brown the other side. 
  6. Place browned meat in a large bowl. Squeeze enough lime juice to lightly coat the meat and sprinkle garlic salt to taste. This is the only salt used on the meat, so keep this in mind when salting. 
  7. Continue until all the meat is browned. 
  8. (Optional) Save the leftover juice and onions from the roast (even the bone) and use as a base in your optional black bean side dish - you will not be disappointed in the flavor. 

Post your own #carnitassunday pictures to Instagram using that hashtag.


20 November 2015

The Universe is in us


The following poem is a remix of one of my favorite videos of (literally) all time. It is adapted from a clip of a podcast with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson in which the interviewer asked him what the most astounding fact about the entire Universe is.  Please, enjoy.


The Universe is in Us
Adapted from Neil DeGrasse Tyson

So that when I look up
at the night sky
and I know that yes, we
are part of this universe,
we are in this universe,
but perhaps more important
than both of those facts
is that
the Universe is in us.

I look up.

Many people feel small because
they’re small
and the Universe is big.
But I feel big,
because my atoms came
from those stars.

There’s a level of connectivity.

That’s really what
you want in life,
you want
to feel connected,
you want
to feel relevant
you want
to feel like you’re a participant
in the goings on
of activities and events
around you.
That’s precisely
what we are,
just by being alive.

And the Universe is in us.

The Most Astounding Fact. Adapt. Max Schlickenmeyer. Perf. Neil DeGrasse Tyson. YouTube. N.p., 2 Mar. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU.

15 November 2015

Los Liones Trail, #trailtalk

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."
-Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar"
I wanted to leave the house by 6:30 to beat morning LA traffic, but I didn't even wake up until 7:37. There was no point in leaving until any time after 9:30 by that point. I love the South Bay, but I think I stay here a lot more than I would like to because of traffic. Traffic and noise and crowds all mesh together sometimes and build up like plaque inside me for so long before I finally need to just get away.

Los Liones Trail is not exactly the ultimate getaway, you still hear helicopters and there are still snobby LA people with their dogs on trails that are clearly marked "No Dogs Allowed on Trail" - but anything that really puts you out there in the backwoods is snowcapped or too far to travel for a dayhike right now. I do love this trail.

On the way, sitting in PCH traffic, we passed by our favorite donut place. It's literally just called Best Donuts, and while you can argue that it's difficult to mess up a deep fried ball of dough with sugar on top, I've had my fair share of bad donuts (Voo Doo Donuts in Portland, for starters) to know a good donut when I have one. We grabbed 3 each - a maple bar, glazed old fashioned, and vanilla sprinkles for him and a vanilla sprinkles, glazed blueberry, and some weird Asian eggy donut that I've grown rather fond of for me. Buzzing with sugar and homemade cold brew (a detailed Lotus DIY post for later), we got on the trail sometime after 10:45. It was a Thursday, and it was clear. It felt so damn good to feel dirt beneath my feet and my muscles actually working.

The top of the trail, pictured above, is what we come for. It's a little over 7 miles roundtrip. It's not hard, it's no Mt. Baldy. But it takes time. Trail Talk is one of our favorites. It means we have relatively uninterrupted moments where we just digress and discuss wild and grounded ideas - for our future, for our stories, for our minds. Walking with him on the trail has led us to such ideas as #nowords, Wholly Lotus (this blog!), and working out our food truck kinks and menu. There will be many more Trail Talks.

I love this boy. Four years ago when we met, Trail Talk was so far removed from both of our realities. Now it's our favorite activity. Moving our bodies in fresh air together is our favorite thing (besides cooking homemade tortillas side by side in the kitchen).

I may not get as many moments like this to contemplate my life and what I am doing with it, but I appreciate the moments I get.

14 November 2015

Some Thoughts on World Peace

I've been wrestling with a lot of emotions over the last 7 hours since I found out about what happened in Paris.

My first reaction when I heard what was going on was to contact my Frenchie bestie Eve and make sure she and her mom were home and safe and that their friends were, too. They were.

But then an immense sense of guilt and selfishness set in. I care about all human life, about humanity, and about peace instead of hate prevailing within our shared collective human consciousness. 

This could have happened anywhere. It still can happen anywhere. I think today we all realized this. It's not going to 9/11s on a grand scale anymore, but rather a connected buildup of smaller (although tonight was not small by any means) events. It is heightening our fear and confusion (and sadness and loss of faith) in the world.

My heart is hurting. I haven't stopped crying. I worry about where we are headed. I want to contribute something positive, but I come up empty.



I thought about all this tonight as I climbed a seemingly never-ending staircase in Palos Verdes. I even paused to take a selfie and watch the sun set. My problems are so insignificant. What's going to happen? How am I supposed to feel, halfway around the globe but seeing my face in every innocent victim on the news? I don't have answers. Just questions.

#prayers4paris #peacefortheworld