Monday, October 3, 2016

One More Week

Well shit. I guess I'm in the minority. It seems the Blogger App for iPad is obsolete, so now I have to blog via Chrome. It seems to work ok, except for the small problem that I can't blog directly into the app while offline. If I want to do such things now, I have to do it on my notepad and then copy and paste into the browser, and OMG my head is already starting to hurt. Perhaps I should consider moving this blog to my formal one, except I like the separation.

In other news, I'm in my final week of my visit to the Great White North. Autumn colors abound here right now. It's cool, but not yet really cold, and I'm wearing my sweats during the day now. There's something very happy about dressing cozy.

It's been a different kind of trip for me this time. My Mother-In-Law passed away. It was expected, but not. She was a vibrant loving woman, who loved catering to guests, children, grandchildren and dogs. When in her presence, I felt like I had a mom again. I will miss her. I know Ric does, but he's so stoic that it might not seem so to some. I'm just thankful I got the chance to know here before she left us.

It's been not quite a month since we lost Phylis, and it took a minute to get back into my Canadian routine. I only went to the library once and still have yet to crack two of the three books I checked out.  I've been baking, bread and pastries. I think I finally have my pastry dough down. And my bread has been really good lately, except for my loaf shaping, which still needs work on the sealing.

I've actually been trying to rest as much as possible this trip. I was exceptionally worn out when I got here. Even my Mother-in-Law, from her hospital bed, mentioned how tired I looked. In truth I could use another six weeks off, but the ticket is paid for and booked, and I'm expected on the Ferries next week. At least I got some rest, and for that I'm thankful.

Every time I come here, I learn a little more about my other home. It's a different kind of life up here, based in industry. Work clothes, boots and pick-up trucks are a little more the norm here. There's not the pressure to be a "Totally Awesome Rock Star" here. People just do what they do. I may feel different once I work in Saskatoon though. I hope to go back into a kitchen.

It will be a new life, a different life, a life where I move on from what and where I was before. Perhaps this is where my transition completes. Life 3.0, a lovely life. I can dig it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Week Partially Unplugged

I'm in Canada with my Partner and for some reason, my phone died. It stopped taking a charge. My partner Ric is an avid geek, especially with small electronics, but after several attempts he could not troubleshoot the thing. Since my data plan doesn't really work up here anyway, I found myself reliant upon wifi for connection via my tablet. So, I informed my loved ones that they could reach me via messenger or my spouse, and just went with it.

The first thing I noticed about being only moderately connected was the continuous compulsion I had to reach for my phone to randomly scroll through whatever. Like most people, I scroll through the ubiquitous Facebook several times a day. Without my pocket device, I was unable to do this. I went through a couple of days of habit withdrawals, but found that a digital detox wasn't so bad. And, when I did go to check online for updates the items I found in my feed seemed unsubstantial: an uplifting quote, maybe one good joke, videos of animals, and news of Trump being obnoxious and continuing to scare the bejesus out of us all. It was like looking for nutrition at a fast food place. The food there will feed you, keep you going, but you know deep down, it isn't  something that is good for you. I spent  more time on Pinterest where I could at least filter content according to my interests, and engage a little imagination. 

Without a working pocket device, I was forced to notice things around me. I admired pictures on the wall, noticed the sound of wind in the trees, which is one of my favorite sounds, and sometimes sat in quite thought. My brain unplugged and all the distraction settled, and then there it was, a small bit of clear thought. It was lovely.

But, reality of the times we live in set in. I have a kid on each coast, and an exceptionally cautious man who doesnt like the idea of me running around with such limited reachability. After a week, I finally had time and maybe motivation to see about a replacement phone. It turned out I could get a replacement, but that they would not ship it to Canada. So we decided to do a rocket run, (there, overnight and back) to Montana where I would be able to pick up the phone which I had shipped to a motel. Apparently, it's a common practice. 

We set out for Montana a little later in the day than we had planned, and even though it's a full day drive from Saskatoon, we didn't rush. We passed through acres of wheat fields in various stages of harvest. We talked to each other about future plans. Ric pointed out aspects of the harvesting process and told me stories of his experience working at a friend's farm when he was a teenager. I took it all in, the sky that seemed to go on forever, the scenery, the small towns all similar but distinct in some way. We saw old barns and abandoned farm houses that looked as though a good gale could knock the whole thing down. I saw deer sauntering across fields, hawks playing on the wind and the odd snake crossing the road.

In Montana we enjoyed our visit to small town America, dining on prime rib at an old school supper club with red vinyl booths and aquariums that separated the dining room from the bar area. The next day we inadvertently toured a good portion of the town trying to find the UPS office that was closed. I needed to return the nonworking phone, and finally found out that we could drop off a package at the home improvement store. Our path to the store however was blocked by a Harvest Festival Parade, so we enjoyed that too. 

It wasn't until I got my new phone that I realized what I was missing by not having a phone. I was missing simple enjoyment of life. Every time I go online now, I know it's more out of habit, and that its one I should perhaps curb. There's life out there. There are things to be seen, books to be read, and quiet contemplations that I want to hear within the confines of my own mind. I know I can't do these things when I constantly allow crap to litter my head. 

While on Pinterest I looked at a lot of nutrition articles and realized that my mental nutrition is lacking. I don't really believe in diets. I'm more of a well balanced, all things in moderation approach to consumption. What I learned is that that approach applies to digital consumption as well. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Ten Reasons Why Tacos and Taco Trucks are the Best Fast Food

1. Tacos are a very simple food with very few ingredients. The best ones include corn tortillas, seasoned meat, cilantro and onions and maybe house made salsa.
2. Corn tortilla tacos are gluten free!
3. The only part of the taco not made on site is usually the tortilla, and tortillas are made with three ingredients: corn, water and salt. This means tacos are fresh, fresh, fresh!
4. Because the taco meat is not packaged or factory made it likely contains a lot less salt and far fewer ingredients than fast food tacos, some of which are less than 50% meat. Fewer additives mean tastier food that's better for you.
5. Taco Trucks are generally entrepreneurs and provide jobs in local communities. They also help keep money in your local community.
6. Taco Trucks take up a smaller footprint than brick and mortar establishments. And have you ever considered that the proliferation of taco trucks contributed heavily to the whole food truck industry? 
7. Taco Trucks create a social environment. Some of my favorite random conversations were while waiting for tacos. Also many trucks have billboards for flyers and announcements.
8. Did I mention the sides? My taco truck serves those little delights with small roasted onions and radishes.
9. Tacos are usually pretty affordable, ranging from $1.50 to about $3.50 each depending on the truck and the location. Only got $5 in your pocket? You can still get tacos!
10. Tacos are delicious! They're a perfect snack or meal if you eat enough of them. Now go get some! You know you want to.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Middle age is upon me. I can say with confidence that I'm wiser now. I've become more health conscious, but I go between that and the "you only live once," mentality. I still love French fries and chocolate desserts. I'm heavier than I've ever been, which is alarming. I'm clumsy, and nursing injuries as a result. I get tired and can't drink like I use to. Makeup is becoming more of a regular thing, specifically at work, where I play a hospitality role.

Life at this age was always hard to imagine. I don't think I imagined feeling like a grown up kid. I at least have a truer understanding of what I want out of life now. I work at being honest with myself about what makes me happy. Often the answer is surprising. I'm learning to be self kind, to forgive myself for not being what I'm not, or what I think others will respect. I have to respect myself, and be good with that. 

Coming out of the fog that was my life before 3.0, feels like coming out of battle. I'm fatigued, and yet a bit weary, but I feel like I survived something substantial. I know now that I can pick up the pieces and make something good. It's like cooking, when you haven't been shopping for a while. What you have is what you have, and with creativity and motivation, sometimes you can create something that is nourishing and delicious.

I know there will be more conflict. I know that my anxiety will continue to challenge me. But, I feel more grounded than I ever have before, and that's something.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Combining Camping Equipment

Maybe it was soon, maybe it was fast, but in retrospect it was time, and I'm so happy we did it.

My partner and I decided to marry. I still call Ric my partner, because husband and wife doesn't seem to fit our relationship. We are equals, forgiving of one another and ever considerate of the other's wellbeing and happiness. Besides that the term husband and wife is somewhat traumatic for both of us. We are partners.

It was a short engagement. I asked him. We had jokingly been talking about making our partnership legal for months, referring to it as "combining our camping gear." That phrase made it into the ceremony which gave us much joy.

We married in Tahoe with but a few friends and family present. Our rings...our rings, were bought from a street vendor in San Francisco and are a perfect metaphor for us as individuals and a couple. They are made by hand, hammered from old silver quarters. Like us as individuals, they are battered, but repurposed into something extraordinary and very unique. I don't think I've ever loved a ring so much as I do this one.

I think we were both hesitant to take this step. We like our relationship, not the long distance part, but the part that is total acceptance of what the other has to offer, good and bad. We didn't want that to change. Quite often I think marriage does change relationships. Many of us still struggle with roles and history, and implications as "Husband and Wife." A co-worker even asked me if I planned to continue to work. We did not want marriage to change us. Thus, we continue to be Partners, it's far more apt for how we feel about each other.

There will be some changes though. Part of the intent of making it legal is making it local, as in living in the same household. Being an international couple pretty much requires that we are legally bound for one of us to move to one country or the other. There are no firm plans yet, but at least now I have an "in" to Canada should things go totally sideways in the states.  For now though we continue to live full time in our respective countries, but taking far more time to visit one another than we have in the past. I suppose we are both believers in fate, because we both have faith that everything will eventually work out.

I can't call it conventional, but our relationship never has been.  Maybe that's why it works so well. To me it's another important step in Life 3.0. As my best friend put it, I "found my lobster."

Friday, May 27, 2016

If You Can't Stand The Heat...

Chef Eric Ripert once said "I went into cooking because I love to eat...I just wanted to be a chef so I could eat." I can get behind that. And maybe that's why I'm a cook now. 

Yes, I'm back in a kitchen again. I'm a working line cook, at a restaurant that's a good bit higher up the scale than the last one. It's challenging. It's hard. It requires focus, and to be honest, I'm not performing in the way I would like to. I'm not meticulous enough, skilled enough, disciplined enough, and I've had a case of head-up-my-ass-itis. It's ok. According to Anthony Bourdain, about 80% wash out of the industry. That's pretty tough odds. If I make it, I'll know I've achieved something a good bit out of the ordinary.

I'm adjusting to having a cook's schedule again, working on getting enough sleep so I'm functional. Working in a kitchen is a physical and mental workout that requires physical stamina, strength, good short term memory, multi-tasking and nerve. You have to keep your wits about you even when you fuck it up, accidentally step on expensive cheese or spill the lemon vinegarette, all of which have happened to me in the last week. Did I mention that it's hard?

Maybe I've been coasting for too long. I forgot that I like to achieve, but learning to do something new at the level I'm at, at the age I'm at, might seem a little insane. It definitely feels insane at times. At the end of the night I just want to know I did it right. The thing is what I'm doing now is an intimate thing. People engage with my work in a very personal way, after all, it goes in their mouths. And then there's the ingredients. Animals die so I can work. Farm workers labor, nurture, cultivate and sweat so I can work. People work at their desk jobs so they can make money to eat a good meal, so I can work. It requires respect for the ingredients, and my coworkers and the diners. I'm trying. I really am. So, now, I write to remind myself what I'm suppose to be doing. Maybe this is what I needed in order to hear that "pop" of my head coming out of my ass.

Earlier in the week, I did a prep shift for a book signing party for Chef Ripert. I only vaguely knew who he was a few days earlier. I didn't meet him, but got a signed copy of his book. I know I'm my own worst critic, but I don't feel worthy, not yet. My friends who maybe watch cooking on TV, think I'm doing this amazing thing. To me, I'm just trying to keep up, and maybe prove my worth in the kitchen. I've been given a chance. I want to make it worthwhile for me and the Chef who hired me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Life 3.1

I had an interesting conversation yesterday. I was talking to a friend who's one of the boat captains for the ferries. We're just about the same age. We were talking about life achievements, and how at our age, it's kind of hard to come up with new goals. She called it the "midlife dull drums." I heartedly agreed with her. I've been in midlife dull drums myself for quite a while. Today, I hope that changes.

I go back into the kitchen today. This time a little less wide eyed and a bit more serious about what I'm doing there. This is Life 3.1 for me, maybe another incarnation of me, but one I've longed for, for a very long time. It makes me wonder now why I waited. 

For me, at the moment, it's all about capacity. This is well within my skill and capacity. I'm not willing myself to climb to the top of anything, just to be a good cook. I want to be consistent. I want to cook well enough to hold my own. I'm ok with still being a novice at this level because I never thought I'd be here in the first place, and that's what makes this interesting.

While I was going to school and working my way to a "successful" career, it never occurred to me, that I wasn't capable or that I couldn't do it. I just did it. And maybe that's why it didn't last like it could have. I have doubt in my new role. I know there is so much I don't know, and I'm not expected to know it all. When ego can be put aside it can be quite a relief. I'm happy to be in this position.

Life 3.1 is less about willing my way to a goal and more about taking the time to work my way there with diligence and skill. It's a good place to be.

Well then, onward I go. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I broke up with Burning Man this week. It wasn't contentious or anything, it was just time for me to move on. I've been feeling a need for stability, and orchestrating my life around 6 weeks in the desert every year doesn't seem to contribute to my efforts very well.

As luck and the universe would have it an opportunity arrived at just the right time, and I took it. I'm going back into the kitchen. This time is less of an experiment and more of a lifestyle change. It just suddenly became clear what to do with myself in Life 3.0

I've been preaching about this simplified life I'm trying to achieve a couple of years now, and it occurred to me that having a string of temporary jobs isn't simple at all, especially at tax time. When I went in to stage (pronounced  "stazhje") at this new kitchen, I told the Chef that I was looking for a "home." I meant it. I like being part of something, part of a team, which is maybe why I worked for Burning Man so long.  But, in order to achieve a simpler life, being part of a kitchen seems like a better choice. It's a year-round job, guaranteed hours, even benefits. The decision in truth was quite easy.

But, it's still hard to leave something that was a kind of life raft for me as I traversed a lot of big changes. Burning Man was a constant for me when so many other things in my life were uncertain. I never wanted to feel like Burning Man was fulfilling some existential need in my life, but apparently it was.  Coming to terms with that is a little confusing for me.

For now, I'm happy that there will be some stability in my future. I'm putting down tent stakes and for once they're not in the desert. It feels good, really good.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Interesting Times Have Caught Up With Us

When I was a kid, I was thankful that the turmoil of the 60s was behind us. It was in the past, in black and white pictures and film. I wasn't part of the generation that had to witness dogs, and firehouses, and the National Guard on college campuses. But the curse of interesting times has caught up with us. Sadly, Donald Trump has opened Pandora's box, but not before shaking it up first to agitate the hornets nest inside.

I admit it. I'm scared of the rhetoric and the ugliness that it has unleashed. This isn't something that will just go away. Maybe it was wrong to force equality down the throats of bigots. Maybe we should have attempted to win their hearts and minds, so that this hatred couldn't fester as it has. Or maybe some people are going to hate no matter what.  I've written before about wielding will, but never thought of it from this point of view. 

Hate is never good. Using anxiety as a tool, in some ways is the American way. Ask any advertiser. But using anxiety as a tool to incite anger and an emotional response that encourages people to say and do hateful things is criminal. 

I have faith that a Trump presidency won't happen. But what happens after he fails? What will this pied piper lead his mob to do after he fails? That's what really scares me. All this emotion, agitation, and hate won't just disappear. It's out there, and now we have to deal with it. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

"You Could Try To Go Without Them"

I suffer from a few chronic maladies. I have Thyroid disease which for me means my body doesn't allow my thyroid gland to function, leaving me lethargic without daily medication. Even with medication,  my body goes through ups and downs of energy effecting my motivation and mood. Without medication, it's quite easy for me to fall into depression as a result.

I also suffer from anxiety. Think about how you might feel when you have to do something that makes you stressed, like going into a job review, or dealing with someone that you know is going to yell at you, a lot, and not in an encouraging way. Now imagine, that that feeling stays with you for days and weeks at a time, leaving you agitated, distracted, and confused because you brain won't turn off the stress, and you relive it over and over again. That's anxiety.

One of the things I've learned about middle age is that you start to think more about self preservation. When I was younger, and perhaps stronger, I willed my way through the depression and anxiety. In fact, before the thyroid disease, I'm pretty sure that exposure to constant stress exaserbated the anxiety. It was not a good way to live. I used a lot of energy just "dealing with it," and It was exhausting.

Now, that energy for me is a bit of a finite thing, I've learned to not be wasteful with the energy I have. It's changed my life. First, I extracted a lot of the stress I had before. It needed to be done, because it was literally making me sick. I started having high blood pressure, which is hereditary, but steps could be taken to lower it. For me, besides diet and excercise, which I'm working at, eliminating as much stress as possible proved to be a great strategy. I now avoid people and situations that cause me stress. And when that's not possible and that cycle begins in my brain, causing me to live it over and over again, I take medication that makes it stop, so I don't have to spend my energy for days or weeks "dealing with it." I also use a daily antidepressant, that helps me deal with the highs and lows that I go through from the thyroid disease. 

The result is I can now live a "normal," happy life. I'm not battling every day to overcome feelings of stress and anxiety. I'm doing things I enjoy and slowly but surely finding the lovely life I want. 

What prompted this entry was a recent experience I had at the pharmacy when getting a refill of my anxiety meds. I said something along the lines of being stressed and without medication and how that's a bad combo for me, and the pharmacy tech made a flippant reply of "or you could try to go without them and just deal with it." 

First, I was shocked that a health care provider could be so callouse. I doubt she would say the same thing about my thyroid medication. But then, after I was able to think about it, I realized, she doesn't get it. She doesn't get that dealing with it is not a short and easy process when your brain won't let it go. She doesn't understand that my current condition is the result of years of "just dealing with it," and it wore me down and robbed me of the person I truly am. She doesn't get that mental illness leads to physical illness, and that taking medication is dealing with it, just like making major life changes is dealing with it, and eating better is dealing with it, and avoiding stressful people and situations is dealing with it. 

I've come a long way dealing with it. And I admit, I still have hard days, but now they are just hard days, not weeks or months at a time, because I've taken a lot of steps and made a lot of effort to deal with it in a thoughtful and effective way. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Reading On The Wagon

I'm reading again. After years of undergrad and graduate school, I had kind of given it up save Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I even let my New Yorker subscription lapse. But, through a social media meme, I got back into it, accepting a challenge to read 50 books this year, and I even started about 4 weeks late. I'm not actually pressuring myself to make that number, but I am reading one book after the other, and enjoying it emensely. As a result I'm watching less video, and wanting to read more.

I'm also on the wagon. I'm not really a regular drinker, at least I'm not a regular drunk. It's not uncommon for me to have a glass of wine on the way home on the boat. But recently, I overdid it in a big way, and decided that my body does not appreciate such things. The prudent thing to do is give it up for a while. I could say I'm giving it up for lent, but it's really more out of self preservation than self deprevation.

I'm always about self evolution. And while these two actions aren't exactly evolving, it is about readapting myself to a different phase of life. I'm not scared to admit that I'm middle aged, but it doesn't necessarily have to be all down hill from here. I'm just learning to appreciate all that I have and to not waste time, energy or resources on things that don't contribute to a better life. 


Monday, January 18, 2016

I'm Back

It's true. I'm back. I just flew in from a week in Canada, but that's not what this is about.

I'm back on the boat. At the time of this writing I'm gliding across a calm San Pablo Bay that's swollen with rain run off and associated debris from a recent storm. It's a comfortable place for me. But that's not what this is about.

I'm heading back to work on the boats. After four months as a line cook, I decided that the pace was too frenetic, the work environment too frustrating and the money not adequately enough to continue. I was losing about $100 a week working there. So I'm back on the ferry, where my communion with nature is accompanied by the low rumble of a boats engine. But that's not what this is about.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not a big shopper. I like to get by with what I have on hand. But I realized that maybe I'd gone too far with this line of thought. I decided that it's ok to have a few things I enjoy and want, that go beyond just meeting my most basic needs. Armed with a strong American dollar and an exceptionally favorable exchange rate, I decided to do a little shopping in Canada. I bought things I'd been putting off for some time, and a small pile of second hand clothes that actually have color and personality. Once I unpack these finds and hang them in my closet, the primary color in my closet will no longer be black.

As I tried these new to me garments on, I saw a side of my personality I hadn't seen in quite some time. I remembered, how truly vivacious I once was, and how that joi de vie was also reflected in my clothes. And that's when I realized, I'm back. I've come out on the other side of a very dark place to a place where I can hope, and love, and dream of life's possibilities. I've arrived at a place where I'm comfortable and feel love and respect on a regular basis. I'm back. I'm back to being me, not a lost soul trying to survive turmoil, adversity, drama and unnecessary struggles. For me, right now at least, life is not that hard. I'm lucky to have love, and support and security and kindness in my life. I'm back, to a place I want to be. It's not perfect. There are holes, but overall, life is good, and I'm happy to be here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Communication Age

In a lot of ways, I think I knew this was coming. 

Communication has almost always been a passion for me. I wanted an easier way to write, and we got word processors. I wanted to be able to reach out to people, we got email. Social media feigns connectedness but also provides a platform for us to share real thoughts and considerations about the news of the day. Yes, this is a bit of a love affair between myself and technology.

What can I say. I enjoy a world where I can randomly chat with a friend online where we come up with schemes that involve more people with our shared interest. I like that when I talk to a business person on the phone, I can pull up an email to reference a previous conversation or find something as simple as a phone number, by just tapping a screen. It's as though all the abilities for accessing information I ever wished for are now at full and evolving fruition. How lucky are we?

I realize, that maybe this accolade is over the top, but I remember the time before we had such things. I remember manual typewriters and the coveted erasable typing paper. I remember phone books and yellow pages, and when day planners were the cutting edge of organization. I remember Xerox copied flyers, appointment books, Rolodex, and doing things in triplicate. Those things were real to me. 

And now we have electronic signatures, PayPal, PDF, and countless mobile apps to help us do all the things we use to do manually. We pay bills, order goods, plan our lives via screen and tactile input. It's a long way we've come in a short time. This new, ever evolving norm has changed how we do business, how we connect, how we respond to one another.

 It's also changed how we understand. And with so many words and messages flying back and forth through air and across wires, they start to lose meaning, and we start to lose understanding of the power of words and images, and the greater story that's told. What are we as a people if we cannot rely upon our own stories? It's the new quandary of our age.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Alternative to What?

So apparently I live an alternative lifestyle. I had no clue. I just kinda do me.

So, yeah, I don't have a regular 9 to 5 type of gig, and occasionally step outside my box to try something new, like cooking, but I do work, a lot. I just decided not to let my job define me. I like trying new things, and have a great safety net job that allows me to do just that.  I appreciate the freedom my work choices give me. What's so alternative about making decisions based on having a good life? I'd rather live a good life, that's interesting, comfortable, and adventuresome.

And, I don't live in an alternative space such as a wharehouse or a tiny home, but my childhood home has been gradually converted to reflect the lives of the Morales girls. We use power tools to make the space work for us, and I admittedly have grandiose plans for the kitchen and back yard. Chickens will be a thing this year. So looking forward to fresh eggs.

Like many Americans, I buy things on Amazon, but admit, that retail is not my first choice for most purchases. In general, I keep a thrift store list for durable goods, and do my best to make due with what I have on hand. And in truth, the things I get on Amazon are usually purchased there to avoid going to malls or shopping centers. But it's all part of a frugality regiment. I like saving money, and would rather have savings than expensive things. Is that so strange?

And, I like to eat good food, which translates into making a majority of my food from scratch. Processed stuff makes me sick, and it's cheaper and healthier to make your own. I still buy bread, but am looking to buy loaf pans for sandwhich bread. Also, having worked in kitchens from time to time, I know how easy it can be. Eating well is essential to well being from my perspective.

It's true, my life is not status quo. My goals are different than the standard American Dream. I've curated a vision of the life I want, and slowly but surely I am achieving it. I don't want all the things. I don't want status. I don't want bling. I don't want more debt.

I do want to live well, have as little stress as possible, go on adventures, spend time with loved ones, and to not spend my later years wishing I had I done more. If this is an alternative lifestyle, so be it. The other options just aren't that appealing to me.