It’s Like Casablanca In Here!

The air permeated with scent of lemon, onion, and spices.  The green olives and the raisins rested in a bowl on the counter.  The meat sizzled and popped over the flame.  Sam sings “As Time Goes By” in the background as Rick meets Ilsa’s eyes. Her husband, the Czechoslovakian resistance fighter  Viktor Lazlo, looks on as the two former lovers reunite.  Could this man, Rick, help them flee the country? What would he, Lazlo, give up in return?  Could he release his beautiful wife to this cynical man?  But look at the way he looks at her, she might be halfway there already.

He moves along the mint green walls festooned with FiestaWare and then along to the white cupboards and Frigidaire. He stops.  Looks around.  This isn’t Rick’s Cafe Americain!  Where’s Ilsa?  Rick?  Sam?  Who’s that little blond girl behind the stove?  What’s she making?  Moroccan Turkey Burgers?  Isn’t turkey for that American holiday?  He gently coughs.  She doesn’t hear him.  He coughs again, getting her attention, and kindly asks that she use her reverie to transport him back to the 1941 world of black and white.   She wakes from her daydreaming, tells him to tell Claude Rains that she loves him in Notorious, and sends him back.

I cannot pull glamorous movie stars of the past into my kitchen (if I could it would be Cary Grant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), but I most certainly can put Moroccan Turkey Burgers on the stove.  This recipe is a nice twist on the standard turkey burger, and it offers a subtle taste of the North African coast. While I cannot serve them with a side of Rick, sweet potato fries are almost as good.

This makes…
this.

Moroccan Turkey Burgers

1 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped

1/4 cup dried currants or raisins

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound ground turkey

lettuce, tomato, 4 Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

1.  Combine the first 9 ingredients in a bowl.

2.  Divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1-inch thick patty.

3.  Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add patties; cook 6 minutes on each side or until no longer pink.

4.  Arrange lettuce and tomato on roll, add patty, and top with other half of roll.

4 servings.

Recipe comes from Cooking Light: Annual Recipes 2000.  (My favorite cookbook of late.)

Sweet Potato Oven “Fries”

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large).  I use garnet yams for their color.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.

1. Wash potatoes, peel them if you want to.

2. In a large bowl stir together oil, paprika, and cumin.

3.  Cut the potatoes into slices no thicker than 1/2 inch.  Then cut through the slices to make 1/2 inch wide strips.

4.  Toss the potatoes in the oil until well-coated.

5.  Arrange potatoes on lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer.

6.  Bake for 25-40 minutes.

7.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Serve immediately.

Serves six.  This comes from Moosewood Restaurant: Low-Fat Favorites.

I think these two recipes will make for a long and beautiful friendship.

Just Peachy!

Yesterday I had a food flashback.  I was transported to  2000 when Steve and I lived in our tiny shoebox apartment– I swear our entire place could easily fit into my classroom.  But it was cute.  The kitchen had light green tile with a dark green tile border, and there was light yellow tile in the shower.  It had some built-in bookcases and a funky knick-knack rack that divided the kitchen from the living room and ad hoc dining room.  The real dining area was used as Steve’s office. The place also came with guys who sniffed paint in the alley, a resident who let the local prostitute “Octavia” into our laundry room to do her business (no pun intended), a halfway house next door that housed a man who constantly commented on my groceries, and a completely bat-____ crazy neighbor upstairs who blocked my car in with hers when I parked in “her” spot.  It was cute, nonetheless.  It wasn’t until the flying termites made their exodus out of our woodwork that we decided to move (I never imagined that I would use Raid and a vacuum cleaner at the same time).

Now let me flashback to my flashback: One night I made Cooking Light’s Roasted Chicken, Red Onions, and Peaches.  It was really good.  For some reason I have not made it in the last 12 years until I remembered it yesterday.  I still have the recipe and it became tonight’s dinner.  It is delicious and healthy.

Just add chicken.

Step One: Peaches

4 large peaches

1 tbsp. sugar

X marks the spot.

Cut an “X” on the bottom of each peach, carefully cutting just through the skin.  Fill a large Dutch oven (or any large pot) with water and bring it to a boil.  Immerse the peaches into the boiling water for 20 seconds; remove with slotted spoon and plunge into ice water.

This is a great way to get that peach facial you’ve always wanted.
Fortunately, peaches don’t shrink. ; )

Let them hang out in the ice water for a couple of minutes.  This will really loosen the skin and make it easier for it to come off.  Slip skins off of peaches using a paring knife.  Cut in half; remove pits.

This is the difference waiting a couple of minutes can make. I had to scrape the skin off of my first peach (on left), but the skin just slid off my last one.

Place peaches in a large bowl; cover and chill.

Step Two: The Chicken and Onions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.

8 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), skinned (I used boneless, so I reduced most of the cooking times by half, except for the last 10 minutes that include the peaches)

2 large red onions, each cut into 8 wedges (wearing swim goggles does wonders in preventing onion-eye-burn)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Round One.

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. molasses (also good drizzled over hot popcorn)

1 tsp. dried thyme (make sure you have thyme!)

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

Combine chicken and onions in a 13×9 baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with oil; toss chicken gently to coat.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes (I did 15 for boneless).

Round Two.

Combine the rest of the ingredients; drizzle over chicken, turning to coat.  Bake chicken for an additional 20 minutes (I did 10).  Add peaches to chicken mixture in dish, basting with cooking liquid.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is done.  (I kept it in there for 10 to cook the peaches.  The chicken was done, but it’s pretty hard to mess up thighs.)

Round Three.

I served this with Israeli couscous and green beans (Green Giant Steamers).  Israeli couscous is much bigger than regular couscous and just more fun to eat.

I heated a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick pot and added one cup of couscous.  Stir it around until it gets toasty.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 8-12 minutes.  After 8 minutes you may want to give it a gentle stir to bring up the couscous on the bottom– it will stick to the pan.  I drizzled some fresh lemon juice into it, gave it a stir, and voila!

The next time I make it, I may use chicken broth instead of water to give it a deeper flavor and add dried thyme, but the addition of lemon worked well.

Steve contributed a Solitude chardonnay to accompany dinner and ice cream sandwiches for dessert.  Can’t beat that!

Dinner is served!

You can find the recipe at Cooking Light: Annual Recipes 2000. Oxmoor House: Birmingham, AL, 1999. Print.

Friday Night Lights Out

Most of us have that one thing that will completely knock us out.  For some it’s trying to read Middlemarch; others, watching TV.  For me it’s the Friday night couch.  During the rest of the week it moonlights as a regular two-cushioned microfiber sofa on which I take fitful naps and lie there with my eyes closed.  Starting around 7 in the evening Friday night, it transforms itself into the most comfortable spot in the house and casts its spell over me.  Before I know it, I’m out.  It is the hours-long complete dead to the world sleep where one wakes up confused and befuddled as to where one is.

Steve and Toby are well-versed in the Friday night sleep routine. Steve takes off my glasses, closes my book (always marking the page), covers me with a blanket, and finishes my wine.  Toby will climb over my legs and curl up at my feet to get some of the blanket action.  Meanwhile, Steve will make a couple of half-hearted attempts to wake me up so I can go to bed, but the couch has me firmly in its grips.  It will not release me until he goes to bed– his determination to not have me sleep all night on the couch is greater than the couch’s power.

The Friday night couch makes a lot of sense during the school year.  Between commuting, teaching, grading, running clubs, dealing with students, and the very act of living life, I’m pretty pooped at the end of the week.  After one or two sips of wine, I’m out.  It makes sense.  But last night did not make sense.  Yesterday after my walk, I met a friend for lunch, watched Sex and the City, and Steve took me out to dinner (and this more or less describes my week).  The weather was beautiful and cool, and I looked forward to spending an evening with my hubby. We got home from dinner, and I kid you not, fifteen minutes barely passed before I was conked out on the couch.  What gives?  I’m on break!  Four hours later Steve roused me up enough so I could crawl into bed.

I wish Friday night couch could transform into Sunday night bed, because during the school year I never expect to sleep on Sunday nights.  On Mondays I wake up tired and crabby– all part of gearing up for the Friday night couch.

Readers, do you have a place or time that is your “magic” sleeping spot?

Fast, Cheap, And Easy

Contrary to your assumptions, I am not talking about myself.  I’m talking about my enchiladas!  *Ahem* No, not those enchiladas (which should be more aptly called Tostitos, thank you very much).  Please, dear reader, get your mind out of the gutter.  I’m trying to create a respectable food blog here!

As I was saying, my enchiladas.  This chicken and bean enchilada recipe is easy and perfect for the nights you do not want to cook.  It is so easy that if you have kids who can reach the counter and like to mash, smear and roll things up, they could make it, and you, on the other hand, can sit down, relax, and write your next post.  Since I don’t have kids and my cats prefer to hold the couch in place, I have to make them myself.  Fortunately, mashing and smearing are a couple of my talents, as is using the can opener.

Your BFF for this recipe.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Into a bowl, dump one 16 oz. can of refried beans, one 10 oz. can cooked white chicken (drained), and one 4 oz. can diced green chiles.

The star ingredients.

Mash together.

Good and mashed.

Smear 1/3 cup of the mixture down the center of an 8″ flour tortilla, roll up and place into a 9×13 baking dish.

Smeared.

Repeat 7 times.

All lined up!

Pour one 10 oz. can of enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle 1/2 cup of reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese down the center.

I like cheese… more than likely that’s a generous 1/2 cup.

Place in oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  Blog.

Take out of oven and let rest before serving.

Ready to eat! My oven is running a little hot, I should have taken them out 5 minutes sooner.

It serves 8.  I have made Spanish rice to serve along side this and have also used corn and melon as sides, too.  You can also top them with sour cream and guacamole if you’re a topping kind of person.  These cost a little less than $10.00 to make, so it’s a great way to feed a lot of people without starving your wallet.

Hokey cover, but good recipes.

This recipe comes from Zonya Foco’s book Lickety-Split Meals. It’s a great resource of health and fitness tips, and for each recipe Foco suggests side dishes and includes them in the planning for the main recipe.  This way everything is done at the same time.  I’ve tried many recipes out of this book, and they all have turned out well.  Plus, she has sections for 1, 5, 15, 30 minute meals (and they hold to that time, unlike Rachael Ray’s recipes which require 30 minutes to gather all of the ingredients), pizza, stir-fry, longer recipes, salads, and desserts.

Bon Appetit!

The Summer Sanity Survival Guide

Summer break is a joyous time.  No students, no schedule, no papers to grade, and endless amounts of time loafing about in pajamas.  After 180 days of teaching, countless meetings, unending emails, and trying to make heads or tails out of teenagers, it is well-deserved.  I love having my alone time and could easily veg out and watch A&E and TLC all day.  However, for someone like me who is susceptible to melancholy and ennui (and sometimes flat-out depression), lying on the couch staring at the ceiling is not necessarily a good thing.  After having gotten to know myself for a while now, I’ve come up with some strategies that keep me happy and healthy until school starts back up in a couple of months.

1.  Eat breakfast.  This is a no-brainer.  Everyone is told to eat the most important meal of the day, and there’s a reason for it.  It works.  For me it levels out my blood sugar, elevates my mood, and keeps me full most of the day.  I’m not talking about grabbing a breakfast bar on your way out the door in the morning to be inhaled in the car.  I’m talking about taking the time to sit down and eat a meal.  Mine consists of oatmeal with dried cranberries (or diced apple), walnuts, and cinnamon, a glass of OJ, and a cup of coffee.

The right start to the morning!

2. Fish oil.  Fish oil has many benefits from making your skin and hair look nice to aiding a healthy heart.  It also has the benefit of stabilizing mood and alleviating symptoms of depression.

3.  Work out.  I once read that the best type of exercise out there was the one that you would actually do.  Going to the gym is a hassle to me.  Getting cleaned up to go somewhere else to work out and then come home to get cleaned up again (cleaning up around strangers doesn’t appeal to me) doesn’t make any sense.  Instead every morning my living room becomes my home gym as I pop in a workout video and work out for an hour.  I don’t have to worry about being in anyone else’s space, share equipment, or wait my turn.  Plus, with a multitude of videos, I can choose which workout “class” I want and when I want it.  Today it was yoga and strength.  Tomorrow it will be cardio and strength.  The benefit of working out is huge.  I feel better about myself and proud that I can hold balance poses and do plank push-ups.  Feeling strong gives me mental and psychological strength.  Being strong has provided other benefits, too, such as when one of my male students, for who knows why, decided to play tough-guy and flex his bicep at me (he wasn’t being playful).  I walked up to him, pulled up my sleeve, flexed mine as he said, “Holy crap!”  I didn’t have a problem with him after that.

Who needs to drive to a gym and pay a monthly fee?

4. Go outside and go for a walk.  After working out and eating breakfast, I will head out for my walk.  I have two routes: a two-miler and a four-miler.  If I am short on time, I walk two miles, but almost always it’s four.  Nothing clears my head better than a walk.  I can say helllo to the neighboors, see what people are doing to their yards, and feel the sun on my skin.  For an added bonus and extra geekiness, I also use walking poles.  They cause people to give me funny looks (although today a woman with a cane really wanted to know if they helped me walk better), but they scare away dogs and little children.  Using walking poles improves posture, works the arms, and burns more calories– and if I’m going to be out there for an hour, I want to get the most out of it.  An unexpected result of using them is the killer ab workout they provide, and any ab work I can do that is not a crunchie is freaking awesome in my book.  They also provide a great way to relieve tension since I can whack the ground with them.

Those sticks are made for walkin’. And that’s just what they’ll do…

5.  Read.  Can the benefits of reading be overstated?  I think not.  I belong to three book clubs, and this gives reading new purpose.  I pay closer attention to what I read and develop more opinions about the topic.  A variety of genres appeal to me, but my favorites are histories, biographies and memoirs about people overcoming great odds and danger.  My favorite book in this category is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.  Books like these help me put my own life into perspective.

Part of my reading list.
More tales of overcoming obstacles.
If you haven’t read this, stop reading my blog and go get it! I lent it to my mother and once she finished it, she called me to say thank you for making her read it. via Goodreads

6.  Blog/Write.  For the last few months as a blogger, my anxiety has gone down a lot.  Although blogging can bring about new and unexpected forms of anxiety, it forces me to focus on the positive and allows me to process my day.  Blogging has introduced me to a wide variety of funny, inspiring, and talented people.

WordPress is ready. Are you?

7.  Learn something new.  If you have a ton of time on your hands, why not learn something new?  When else are you going to learn it?  Plus, you may develop a new hobby and meet new people.

You say you want a Con-sti-tu-tion, All Right! (This is what I want to learn about this summer).

8.  Plan something.  Planning is fun.  It means that something is going to happen in the future and right now you can work towards that outcome.  Next fall I will teach U.S. History for the first time, so this summer I will plan my course and implement new strategies that I haven’t been able to try in my English class. But planning doesn’t have to be work related, you can plan what you’re going to build next, what new piece of music you want to learn, or plan a trip.  Which brings me to my next point…

I’m planning on making history. What’s your plan?

9.  Go somewhere.  Planning a trip is the best kind of planning (to me) and nothing lifts the spirits more than getting away.  It doesn’t have to be far away, but just a change of scenery.  Traveling challenges you and you learn new things about people, places, and culture.  Sometimes if you feel down in the dumps, the best way to feel better is to leave the dump.

All of my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

10. Hang out with friends.  Good friends aren’t going to let you feel sad and mopey.  They’re going to make you laugh, get you out of the house, and have a good time.  Everyone knows that one of the most important things to good mental well-being is having a strong social network, whether it be two friends or two hundred.

I look like I’m one sip away from singing the South Pacific songbook. (“I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair…”) Someone will have to put me in the car before I get to “Bali Hai”.

11.  Sleep.  As much as I don’t like my regimented schedule when I teach (lights out at 9, wake up at 3:45), keeping a standard sleep schedule is so important for my mental health.  In the summer I fall asleep at 10 and wake up around 6.  By following this schedule, I get enough sleep and don’t lounge around in bed all day.  Getting up at 6 allows me to work out and walk while the weather is still cool, and I still have the rest of the day ahead of me.  I also try to get a nap in everyday.  Nothing beats a good nap.  Being well-rested helps keeps the doldrums away.

Toby and Molly are my sleep role-models. There should be an Olympic event just for them. If curling’s a sport, why not sleeping?

These are the things I do to stay positive in the summer months.  What do you do to keep your spirits up?

I Don’t Love Boobies And Here’s Why

*** WARNING!  If you like my squeaky clean and apolitical persona, you may just want to skip this one.****

My husband thinks I’m ridiculous for getting so upset over this, but I remind him that he has a penis and this skews his vision of the world.  I can also remind him that he is a white male and that group really hasn’t had to fight to be taken seriously in the workplace or demand equal pay or has ever been told to “not worry their pretty little head” over what were considered “men’s” issues.  I can also remind him of the many campaigns out there targeting women’s self-image. Women have to deal with unrealistic body images, and whether we buy  into those images or not, we have to make the conscious decision to not compare ourselves to those images.  I work with high school students and know first-hand how images of women in the media affect their self-esteem.  Hence, the Keep A Breast “I love boobies” campaign targeted at kids irks me to no end.  (Please note that I am all FOR breast cancer research and all cancer research in general.  My beef is with this campaign only, and it’s unclear where their money is going.)

I’m confused.  Is this supposed to empower me or make me feel like a piece of meat?
via zazzle.com

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking I’m jealous because I lack boobies of my own to love.  Yes, I know a ruler is more curvacious and that if I ever had a baby, it would starve, but hey, when (if) I run, nothing hits my chin.  It’s not a personal vendetta against women with actual boobs.  It deals more with other issues.  Take, for instance, cancer cells that might actually find room to grow on my chest, is it just my boobies that are worth saving or am I included in that package?  I know that I’m included in that package, but the whole phrase “I love boobies” states one (in this case, two) body part. It focuses on an object of our bodies, and the phrase disregards the rest.  In a time where we are trying to move away from objectification, we are taking a serious women’s issue and using it to objectify ourselves.  Is it worth it?  What message is being sent?  Why can’t we have pink wristbands that say “I love my mom, sister, aunt, grandma, cousin, best friend, etc.”?

Over a hundred years of fighting for respect boiled down to this.
via myspace.com

My students all wear the “I love boobies” wristbands, and I’m sure they all wear them because they care about breast cancer, just like they all care about their grades.  Since a lot of them don’t even know where Nevada is, I’m going to hazard a guess that many don’t realize the purpose behind the bands.  They wear them because it’s edgy and they can have easy license to say “boobies” at school with no real meaningful context.  The bands are especially popular among the boys, and from witnessing the probing of tonsils and other body parts in the corners of the school, they really don’t need another reminder of boobies.  I’ve never asked a boy to put their band away because I can only imagine the fall-out: “What?!  You don’t support breast cancer  research, Ms. L?   What if you get it and die because you didn’t do your part to support it?” I was really thrilled the day I asked a boy to put away his “I love pussy” wristband– that at least had no ambiguity.  He smiled sheepishly and put it away.  I also made him turn his “Hello Titty” shirt inside out.  Oddly enough, he, too, had an “I love boobies” wristband.  I wonder if he ever associated breasts with cancer.

Breast cancer fundraising asks, “How about those melons?”

All of the students of both genders wear them, and no one blinks an eye.  The bands are made specifically for teens to build awareness for breast cancer, but it shines a light on another issue, too.  It’s okay for boys to state that they love boobies– hey, they are boys after all.  Duh.  Imagine though if the shoe was on the other foot.  Imagine that somehow a wristband was created to focus on men’s genital cancers and to rival Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong version (I do not have a problem with this one and embrace it’s message).  This new wristband would be dark blue with white letters and declare, “I love cock.” (It has to be this because “I love penis” is giggle-worthy and “I love dick” is too confusing.  Who’s Dick? Or better yet, whose dick?  Hubby says that “cock” is not analogous to “boobies”; it’s too visceral and “boobies” is tame.  But really, are we going to have wristbands that say “I love pee-pees”?  “I love wee-wees”?  Maybe it could be “I love the dick-meister.”)  What boy who does not want to get beat up is going to wear that to school?  What are the repercussions for the girl who wears it?  I can tell you: she’ll be called a slut, groped, and recieve suggestive comments from boys about what she can do with theirs.  Hubby says that guys would love it if women wore bands that said “I love cock.”  I’m sure they would, but he hasn’t been a teenager for a long time and he’s mature (mostly).  High school girls?  High school boys? Frat boys?  Not so much.   It just wouldn’t fly.   But why are women’s breasts public domain when men’s pee-pees aren’t?  What is the message we’re sending?

If this were for men’s cancer awareness, would the image be <====?
via shop.cafepress.com

I realize that this is a highly successful campaign to get kids talking about breast cancer. I’m sure it’s raising oodles of money for awareness, and my irreverent sense of humor is failing me here.  But that’s the campaign’s point: to raise awareness (and money).  I also know that there are more pressing issues afoot with many states trying to gain control of women’s reproductive rights and shut down or limit the services of Planned Parenthood. But still, I take offense to a controversial campaign that derives its focus from one body part; women have worked too hard to be seen as just a pair of boobies.

Am I Really Walking In The Desert?

Thanks to my internal clock that refuses to let me sleep in, I was fortunate enough to partake in my favorite Palm Springs activity: my morning walk.  Palm Springs’ morning walks differ from others because you really need to get out there before the sun is too high in the sky and you dry up and no one notices your chalky bones on the ground because everyone thinks they’re part of the desert decor.  Every morning around 7 I slipped out the door and out of the gated community to explore other neighborhoods on foot while my husband steadily snored away.

This trip I took my camera with me with the intention of creating a cutting edge photo-blog of my explorations.  Donning my best photo-journalist air, I scouted opportunities for shots that would reveal the real Palm Springs.  I crouched low to the ground, played with angles, ran off little boys who were in my way, all in the effort of creating a masterpiece.  My husband downloaded my pieces of art into the computer and I began to review my work.  My work reminded me of something… mostly the fact that I have zero photography experience or knowledge, and that my requirements for my new camera were that it be small, cute, and preferably pink.

While most of my efforts I would not even show my family, you know, the people who will patiently look at all pictures presented to them, my best attempts are what I will only share with you, dear reader.

The San Jacinto Mountains. They look like cardboard cut-outs pasted to the sky.
This hummingbird had the right idea to cool off. It was warm!
I really liked the delicate features of the leaves as the sun filtered through (their shade was also much appreciated).
The convergence of the desert and an immaculately manicured golf course that abuts the San Jacinto.
Brown-Eyed Susans grow in an empty lot. I often think of palm trees and Brown-Eyed Susans together, don't you?
This one turned out so well. I have no idea what I did. It caught my attention because it matched my camera.
These untamed wildflowers are so not Palm Springs, where everything is just-so, that I had to take multiple pictures of them.
The scroll of the plant climbing the walls reminded my of the intricate wrought-iron windows in the French Quarter.
It's taken me years to learn to love Palm Springs, but it is the barrenness of the San Jacinto range that I love the most. They remain rugged and untouched from all the development in the valley. As much as the desert is covered up, they remind us where we are.

Where are  your favorite places to wander?  What places have you learned to love?  What color is your camera?

YOLO!

For some of us, watching Professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society stand on his desk and inspire his students by finding their inner “barbaric yawp” and seizing the day was a transformative moment. We went on on to make the make the most of our lives, and some of us even went to become English teachers who would also have their students rip out pages of their text books if school budgets would let us (it loses the effect if students receive books with the pages already gone). Some, however, are inspired by rapper Drake who exalts the motto “YOLO”– a hedonistic cry to do whatever the hell you want without regard for other’s feelings. These two disparate ideas of “you only live once” often collide with messy results; what does it mean to live life to its fullest without making life lesser for someone else?

We have enough self-help books, episodes of Oprah, and inspiring movies such as The Bucket List, to teach us all about the merits of taking risks and embracing Carpe Diem. We know that the only way to grow is to challenge ourselves and push our boundaries. I teach my students to say “YES!” to new opportunities even if they don’t think they’ll like them. Who knows what those opportunities will lead to? It could mean meeting new friends, contacts, discovering new interests, or leading to greater opportunities. They could also discover they are really NOT into it, but still learn how to work with others and narrow down their interests. Everything has value.

However, the flip side of only living once is that also only live with ourselves. YOLO is often used as a hall pass from doing the right thing because something feels good that moment. It gives license to being impulsive; it promotes a lack of forethought. In living once we don’t get a do-over; we have to live with the consequences. Why not make those consequences good? Why not make our one life be for the betterment of others? We live in a world where selfishness seems to be king, why pay court to it?

Because we all have to deal with the selfishness and actions of others, we have to respond to it. This is the hidden side of YOLO– how we react to negativity from others and life. Everyone has experienced someone saying something to them that is so outrageous and rude that we end up stewing over it for days, sometimes years. This builds up into negative self-talk and results in feelings of frustration and anger. We only live once, and do we want to spend our one life feeling this way? This is my biggest struggle; I remember every negative thing said to me and I let them fester in my mind by feeding and nurturing them. One day, after working myself up over a person who is consistently rude and revels in it, I had the epiphany that the person is really immature. Why, I asked, was I spending a good portion of my time thinking about someone who is immature and giving credence to what she says? Do I really want to give my inner life to that person? Now I try to monitor my thinking to focus on people who are positive in my life or problems that I can actually fix. I don’t have to spend my one life as a slave to someone who couldn’t care less.

So, YOLO! How are you going to spend it?

Walk! Don’t Run.

Being hard of hearing makes playing team sports a bit difficult, especially if you happen to think that rules are somewhat irrelevant and can’t keep them straight. Once playing softball for P.E. in elementary school I remember being on 2nd base (how I made it all the way there must have been nothing short of a miracle).  It’s really tricky playing softball because even though the batter hits the ball, it didn’t necessarily mean I should run to third.  There were nuances to this beyond my comprehension.  Anyway, the batter hit the ball and I saw my classmates on the sidelines waving their arms this way and that.  Hmm.  Do I go?  Do I stay? I made to go and their hands shot up.  I edged back to the base; their hands shot forward, I made to go again. One of my classmates cut through the mixed signals and screamed, “Run, stupid!”. It was no wonder that I was the proverbial last person chosen for a team.

My dad really wanted me to be in sports.  He got me a softball bat and a ball (which booked a direct flight to my nose), we played frisbee, we tossed around a football, and he tried in vain to teach me how to play golf.  To make him proud, I joined cross country. I could at least run straight.  He was very pleased at my ambition to be a runner and took me to the mall to find the best running shoes. He weighed each potential shoe in his hand for lightness and bent each for flexibility before settling on the perfect pair.  I went to trainings where we ran. And ran. And ran.  My parents were flummoxed at my lack of speed; they figured that being such a little person, I’d excel at cross country.  My feet , they determined, were made of cement (which explains a lot about my driving).  I also quickly learned that if someone were not chasing me or if I was not chasing Alex P. Keaton (sigh), there really was no logical reason to run.

Looking out over Ashland.

Somewhere along the line, I “discovered” walking (it’s akin to looking for your glasses when you’re wearing them).  This I could do.  I can even walk fast, so that I’m marginally athletic.  There are no rules to walking besides looking both ways before crossing the street, and my side doesn’t cramp up. Not only that, research also supports my choice.  It’s nice to the joints and it’s weight-bearing so my spine won’t curve over and make me shorter than I already am.

Scene from Independence walk.

Walking has many benefits besides having a healthy heart.  It allows one to think and reflect.  You can take time to see how your body feels and changes through the walk.  I feel a sense of gratitude that I am able to put one foot in front of the other and move freely. You can observe things in nature or even in your neighborhood.  You can slow down or stop to admire a lovely garden or paint trim.  You can walk anywhere.  Last year I had some amazing walks: I walked around Independence, MO on the very same sidewalks Harry Truman walked.  In Portland I took morning walks in Pier Park, a hilly wooded area that was quiet and peaceful.  On the Fourth of July I had a morning walk through Ashland, OR and saw the town prepare for the parade– including the fire department shining up the fire truck.  It was such a slice of small town Americana that I really felt the sense of community.  It was because of my love of walking that I sought all of that out.  You can’t get all of this on a softball field or whizzing right by it running.

They say that the best kind of exercise is one that you’ll do, so readers, what exercise do you love?