Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Somewhat Unadvertised Confession

So. Yesterday. Yesterday, I took a bath. A good long soak, longer than necessary. And I looked in the mirror for a good long time. One of the traits about myself that's not so great, I'm told, is my unwillingness to look in a mirror for long.

I'm all for body acceptance, loving who you are, feeling good in your own skin and whatever other good things you can do, but I have a hard time putting it into practice. A cursory glance tells me at least I don't have spinach in my teeth and my hair isn't THE MOST crazy or whatnot, and then I'm good. If I'm doing winged eyeliner or something, I'll look more, because come on, have you ever tried evening out both sides? But other than that, I'm not great about just...looking. It makes me uncomfortable talking about it, even. Like, ugh, am I talking about looking at my whole self? That seems wrong or inappropriate to talk about. But it's me, and it's me looking at MY self. It's mine. Shouldn't I know what it's like now?

To my surprise, I didn't hate all the things. There were things I'd like to take action on, for sure, but I didn't  hate all the things. And I stood there longer. And I looked, and I thought, and I wished, for once, that I could learn to like even the things I currently hate. And to maybe, maybe rock myself out the way I really would like to. There are people much bigger and much smaller than me that have a much bigger slice of the confidence pie, and I'd like to go back and get some more. I'd like to really really feel good about me. I need to work on that.

I looked in a more metaphorical mirror lately, and unfortunately, I'm kinda seeing that picture I used as the lead. I have, it seems, fallen into a depression. There's some underlying stuff there, like work stuff, people I've lost touch with, relationship struggles...and there's some stuff that came from it that made it worse, like avoiding stuff as simple as showers and sunshine, and neglecting stuff I should be doing, which piles on the guilt, which makes it more insurmountable. I've talked to the SO about it, and I mentioned it in a more public way tonight. It's not dire, and I know depression lies, but it makes you think a lot, too.

The bad things I feel are hopelessness in some areas of my life- like I can't change the things I want to change, like trying makes it worse, like failing is a reminder of how already bad at things I was.

There's fear- that I can't change myself, that I can't change the bad interactions, and fear that comes from hurting. Fear that I'm alienating myself from people, fear that people are starting to or already did not like me, fear that I can't repair relationships with people I'd like to, or build something better with people.

There's a lack of energy and excitement for the future. I try to set goals of things to look forward to, even if they're small, because it helps me feel...better, more secure and happy. Like, for example, I am looking forward to finally getting around to seeing Rogue One. Lately though, those things get put off, a lot of the times by me, and I feel like I'm floating aimlessly. And I want to do things, but I don't.

So I'm confessing. I'm struggling. I'm not super happy. I feel a little like I lost my way and on top of that don't really feel like digging in and finding it.

I don't feel like posting this after writing it because if I do I'm admitting all this, and that seems...not great? But I'm gonna post it.

Because maybe someone else out there feels that way. In fact, I know someone else out there feels that way. And maybe we can be hope for each other, maybe even just a little.

I feel like a lump of useless, but I have to believe that that's not all I am.
And neither are you.

Home Is Where...

I'm dogsitting this weekend, a few miles away from where I actually live. I do it fairly often for some family friends, and it's a good arrangement. It helps them out, and I am close enough to not have to be super gone from the house, so I can still help and come home from dinner and do whatever else might be necessary.

As I was leaving after late dinner last night to go back to the dogsitting job for the night, I said "ok, I"m going home now."

In the car on the way home, I realized that my concept of home is pretty fluid. More fluid than I even realized. Through the years, I've had all these dreams of places I wanted to live later on down the road. A big part of me loved Chicago SO much and wanted the city life- no need for a car, more activities than you could possibly even attend, all kinds of cultures and restaurants and that amazing vibrancy. I get some of that with Chicagoist and Third Coast.

Some part of me wanted to live deep in the woods, too though. All hidden away, somewhere serene. Maybe by the water.

When I lived in a small town, I was all about knowing everyone in the shops and bar and being a part of a community the way I was. My time in Socorro was fantastic because it was so small. I knew everyone. I knew everyone's kids. I knew when they got dental surgery and who was bringing them soup and taking their kids to the zoo. I knew who I'd face in the pool tourneys on Sundays and I attended unofficial "American Gladiator reboot" viewings with friends at the bar on a slow night.

And ok, obvious statement. To no one's surprise, I want to live in New Mexico again. It stole my heart and my soul and nothing feels as good as the open expanses of the desert, the mountains greeting you every morning, the sage and juniper after the rain, and the feeling of sunshine just sitting on your shoulders, naked and intense. I want that again.

But when I look at it, and the more I explore, the more I see that one of my strengths, and the reason I love travel, is because I can find a life I want almost anywhere. I don't want to move farther north, but when I was in Minneapolis and its suburbs, I could envision the kind of path I'd carve for myself- from weekends in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka to exploring more of the culture in Minneapolis, and hours and hours at Mia (because it's worth it, so much!)

I love Seattle, and could see myself just as easily somewhere around the sound, taking the ferry in to explore the amazing, laid back world that is Seattle. Seattle is so chill and unique. I love its seaside vibe, I love its "hip but not douchey" feel, and I love its...non city cityness.

And really? Sometimes I lust for a chance to live the IN Chicago life. Since I work for Chicago publications, most everyone I work with lives in the city limits. Different neighborhoods with different flair. I wish for the fluency and confidence with public transportation, the endless venues and concerts and things I could just be at. The chance to always be able to explore every square foot and to really be able to call it my own. I want that excitement, that energy. I want to be able to be home when I'm there sometimes instead of having to go home from there (and not just because the commute sucks.)

When I'm in Door County, I imagine this crazy tourist season and the fun I could have doing something involving it - writing about it, photographing the scenery/activity, but then in the off season, feeling isolated and cozy in a way you only can in a small place like that when winter sets in. Suddenly it's you and the real residents and a winter of solitude in a still-gorgeous place. Maybe you have to plan ahead a little more, but you make it work.

I'm not the world's most confident person, but I think I could make a home most anywhere. I don't like change, and even though I have moved cross country before, I don't think it'd be that much easier changing locale so drastically, but when it comes down to it, one thing I pride myself on is being able to change my definition of home. I feel like home is the people I love, somewhere safe I can curl up at night and come back to and a door I can close to the world when I need to, but other than that? Wherever life takes me, I feel like I can blaze a path and make it my own.

And that gives me hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Char Siu Bao and Trying Again

We made these yesterday. And it was arduous, lemme tell you, but we made these.
First off, it's part of our 52 weeks of cooking challenge, which I've written (and even performed) about.
Second, I hadn't even had bao at all (or dim sum) prior to this May, when my bestie and I attended her brother's 50th birthday party and we went to an awesome dim sum place in Chicago. We had a great time learning about it, eating it, and then feeling bad about how much we ate on the way home.

So when it came up on the challenges, I immediately knew I wanted to do steamed buns (bao)
I was really excited about it, but then I got to my research phase and found that a cook I really admire (whose name I will withhold here, just cuz) had said they couldn't find a successful recipe and to buy the bun stuff frozen.

I'll admit here that sometimes I'm a bit lazy. I was inclined to just take it as a cautionary tale and not even try. Which likely, in our area, as littered with stores as it is, could have ended up taking hours more, since I'd have had to hunt the depths of our grocery stores for the dough, which should be "available at any store" but around here, even with the diversity of ethnic groups, doesn't hold true.

I did more research and found a recipe I knew was legit, and we set off.

Our first batch did not work. Dough seized up. We've had a rough as hell week between leftover schedule upset from the flooding, the toilet having issues and having to be re-installed due to flooding, thrown backs, lots of work deadlines, migraines and more. It's been *real* special, in that I hate life way.

I was tempted to throw in the towel (Oh yeah, and like, 40 loads of laundry to clean towels from the flood and then again the same ones from the toilet install. Right, and it rained and stuff torrentially just recently AFTER the floods. And so.)

But we decided, sleep deprived and weary though we were, that we were just gonna try one more time. So we did.

And it still didn't look like it'd work. But after the 1.5 hour first rise, 30 minute second rise, and 45 minute final rise (and after rolling 50 teeny little balls meticulously and then flattening them out just as meticulously)...



I did not expect it and I am over the moon about it. I really thought we'd have spent something like 6 hours on it and just have to go to the store and get frozen ones and feel bad.

They were springy and cooked through and soft and warm and stuff, and it was awesome.

Couple that with an amazing char siu pork that we'd also spent hours making, some pickles I mixed up, and scallions, and we had a freaking fantastic meal at home I'd have paid good money for.

So why am I blogging at you all about this?

I have reasons. Reasons that taught me things, folks.

Because, first...we needed a win after all this random upset.
Second, because sometimes it takes longer to be lazy than it does to actually just do things the right way. And being lazy backfires, too.
Third, because have a little faith in yourself, and don't be scared to try something someone else failed, no matter who they are.
Fourth...well...putting in the time pays off. And hard work can make you happy.

I'm gonna try and take this into the working week.
And the writing life.

Happy Monday's eve, y'all.
Don't give up.