|Mindy Kaling is the best.|
Last week I was able to join Derek at the end of a work conference for a few days in New Orleans. We did a whirlwind tour and lived to tell the tales. Here’s a rundown of what we did and what we ate while visiting The Big Easy.
I can still vividly recall Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that came along with it for Louisiana and Mississippi. It was late August and I was driving from my university to my hometown and all I could do was cry. For whatever reason I felt with very serious conviction that I needed to drive the 50 miles home with no air conditioning in solidarity for all those living in the real-life nightmare after Katrina. I still remember all the semis loaded with goods to truck to survivors, the news coverage, and learning that some of my friends were going to step away from college to go help New Orleans rebuild. Any tragedy is tragic, but for whatever reason Katrina sat heavy in my heart.
But as many people may already know, and I can now attest to, New Orleans is resilient! That city is built on resiliency- and while I’m not here to gloss over the things that still need to be done (or the immense difficulties survivors had to face and in some cases are still facing) it was amazing to learn about so many personal stories of rebuilding. Things you don’t even think of unless you’ve had to live through that type of chaos. Suffice to say-I love New Orleans! (We’ll save the heavy for another day.) If you’re currently hungry I suggest going and grabbing a little snack because it’s about to get food-y up in here.
I flew out on a Wednesday and OMG Midwest weather, I hate you. Luckily it was just a huge rainstorm I had to drive in but I was nervous I was going to miss my flight because I had to watch my speed (I got there and through security with an hour to kill…but you just never know!!) Once I got to the hotel I kissed my cutie husband we were off for an early dinner at Mother’s. Mother’s is pretty notorious in New Orleans and I am so glad it was my first food there. I mean, look at this:
Famous Ferdi Special. That’s ONE sandwich.
Baked ham. The perfect chewy and soft roll. Roast Beef. Delicious sauces and au jus. It was just magical. I have had soul food before, but this sandwich felt almost like a religious experience. Sounds silly perhaps, but it’s true-I felt connected to the city in one bite.
Yet I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t disclose that my actual FIRST bite of NOLA was Mother’s Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce. This stuff was heaven. The sauce was so boozy and caramel-y and the bread was soft but hadn’t lost all of its’ integrity and I think there was fruit in there somewhere so it was basically healthy. Easily my top three foods consumed. If I ever have to have a last meal, this will be on the menu.
I’m actually sad I can’t have that now. Anyway. After that transcendent experience I was hooked and ready for more! We decided to tourist it up and headed to Bourbon Street in the rain. (Full disclosure, I’m going to have some unpopular opinions from here on out.) Bourbon Street was mostly what I expected with a few bonus uncool things thrown in. Luckily it was not packed so we were able to ‘experience’ some of the finer things this party street has to offer before scooting along.
So someone forgot to mention that the NOLA Hand Grenade has multiple hard liquors in it including but not limited to: GRAIN ALCOHOL, rum, and vodka. Everclear is something I haven’t ingested in like 12 years? So yeah, that was just enough for me. (please note the plastic grenade on top of the drink. I’m a sucker for a good theme.) I ordered the ‘skinny’ version which was made with sweeteners rather than sugar because of course, that made a big difference.
It started to rain harder so we killed some time watching TV in the hotel before ticking off another NOLA institution- Cafe’ Du Monde. If you don’t know what this is, well, consider yourself lucky I suppose, because you don’t yet have any idea of what you’re missing out on. Do I need to explain beignets? Or chickory coffee? I think I’ll leave it for you to explore. We were very lucky because usually there is a line out the door-but the place was completely deserted (hah, get it) when we got there! Here’s an adorable photo of Derek using a single paper napkin to thwart the mounds of powdered sugar (it actually worked!):
At this point we were somehow kind of, sort of, hungry again. Neither of us had eaten a proper breakfast or lunch so we decided that two dinners was totally acceptable. This time we tried Frenchmen Street which is known for pouring music from every building at almost any time of day. It was pretty surreal to see so much going on at one time. But we were on a mission for hot dogs and we most definitely got way more than we ever expected. Dat Dog, I love you. I know, I know, I’m the Midwest Ambassador and yes it did feel a little like I was cheating but…it was worth it. (Plus, the server was wearing a Murder By Death hoodie and that means instant friend). Just look at this, fall in love with this, this is the Guinness Special and it was phenomenal. This is probably the second best hot dog I’ve had in my life. (Number one you ask? Hot Doug’s Chicago Dog. RIP.)
|Irish Guinness sausage, Andouille sauce, onions, shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, and yellow mustard.|
Yeah. That was a good hot dog. Derek ordered the chef special which allowed the chef to create a hot dog for him in the moment. The dog was the Vaucresson Hot Sausage piled with so many toppings I can’t even remember them all. It was good. We were happy. We floated home to rest up for the night.
(Oh, and I bought a super awesome Christmas ornament that we have named Frenchie? Want to see her? Let me know in the comments and I’ll post about Frenchie. She’s such a beaut.)
So I woke up feeling hungover-oh yeah, grain alcohol. We got our barrings together and headed to brunch before our Three Hour Tour! Derek had heard of a spot pretty close to the hotel called The Ruby Slipper and it was just what we needed. Banana Fosters French Toast for the fella and shrimp and grits for the lady. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Food was good but I don’t think my pictures do it justice. After brunch we were picked up for our Thee Hour Tour! The tour was through Southern Style Tours and I think our guide did a pretty good job. We learned a lot about New Orleans history and saw a substantial amount of the city itself.
I don’t want to give away too much about New Orleans in case you are hoping to visit soon but what I will suggest is that you try to make time to do a city tour (that includes a cemetery). The cemeteries in New Orleans are so unique and an interesting way to learn more about the melding pot of culture and necessity that the city is made of. It felt a little weird to take photos but it’s hard not to see the cemeteries as nothing short but beautiful.
|When I die, I hope people bring me pumpkins instead of flowers.|
We also got to stop by the city’s sculpture garden!
After our tour we headed to dinner at Cochon Butcher which had a cool/weird space/star wars theme going on. One thing that Cochon Butcher is noted for is their take on the famous muffuletta sandwich. A muffuletta is composed of things I love: green olives, meats, and cheese. I love tangy green olives! I was hopeful with this sandwich! But, it kind of left me feeling ‘eh’. It’s not that the ingredients themselves were not tasty but the sandwich was lacking….something. Perhaps that’s just the story of the muffuletta and I should back off of one of the ‘Holy’ New Orleans food groups. I’ll give it another try another trip. Derek however had a cubano that was to die for, and the house made pickles made me do a happy food dance.
|Derek and I had a whole conversation about what was happening here. What do you think?|
We ended the night by trying the ‘other’ beignet spot in New Orleans-Cafe’ Beignet. Unpopular opinion #2 (maybe three depending on were you stand with my muffuletta story)-this is my favorite beignet place in New Orleans. The beignets were just a little crispier and the line was way shorter. Don’t get me wrong, both places are amazing, and I encourage you to go do a comparison yourself some day.
Also, Derek brought back the napkin bib and it totally works!
By this point my stomach is like “what are you doing to meeee??” So we decided to head back to the hotel.
Last full day in NOLA and we were going to make it count! The Three Hour Tour (you realize I’m capitalizing that so that you’ll sing the Gilligan’s Island song, right?) was great the day before-we learned a lot about the history of New Orleans-but today? Today we are doing a food tour. I found the food tour through Groupon and ‘unfortunately’ they only had the Lower Garden District (LGD) Tour available during the time we were there. Initially I was a little bummed we wouldn’t get to try the famous NOLA food spots/foods (gumbo, po’ boy, etc.) but maaaaan, this was the luck of fate! This tour was phenomenal! Derek and I ended up being the only two on the tour that day so it was as if we were VIPs getting our own private show of the unique eats that the city had to offer. The tour guide, Ariadne, was just the best. She was knowledgeable, friendly, and a lot of fun to talk to. Sidewalk Food Tours is the way to go if you want to experience tasty foods and learn about the culture of NOLA. (They also have tours in other cities/countries-I’ll be looking them up again in the future!)
We met up at a place called Turkey and The Wolf which Bon Apetit named Best New Restaurant in 2017. Before Ariadne arrived we got to chat with a nice fella who was waiting for the place to open. He basically told us his life story but never his name and then pulled out a piece of King Cake from his pocket before we said farewell. Dude was living his best life.
Turkey and The Wolf surpassed all expectations I had…by like miles. Easily the best thing I ate not only in New Orleans, but perhaps one of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten in my life. Look, I realize what I’m getting ready to type may seem like I’ve lost my mind but you do not understand. The fried bologna sandwich at Turkey and The Wolf is absolutely worth whatever type of fare you need to spend to get there. Like today. And you need to bring me back this sandwich. One bite of this and I knew we were going to have a capital G Good Day.
|Don’t judge the sandwich on my crappy photo taking skills. I was in a hurry and OMG it was so good. Also, bonus points for the 90’s era McDonald’s plate.|
From there we visited Juan’s Flying Burrito, the world’s first Creole Taqueria. Juan’s is a cool story that is based on the ‘Renaissance’ of Lower Garden District’s Magazine Row (awesome shopping area!). Super yummy tacos here and a really cool vibe.
Believe it or not, we still had three spots left to try! We took a little detour and walked by some historic mansions in the LGD (hello, mansion used on American Horror Story’s The Coven; oh look at you, house owned formerly by Anne Rice!) before heading to Little Korea BBQ.
Little Korea BBQ sprung up out of, well, necessity, after Katrina. Something I hadn’t thought of was that after Katrina, there were no fast food restaurants left (and those that were left were having a hell of a time getting product in, needed to complete repairs, etc.). Little Korea BBQ saw the need and actually opened up shop initially in an abandoned Taco Bell. It did so well that it was able to move to the LGD (which is a big deal). We had all the fermented things and some fried vegetable dumplings. It was just enough of a change in pallet to let us carry on. And I love a good dumpling.
Stein’s Deli was our last stop before dessert (yes, dessert!) and happens to the NOLA’s only Jewish deli. We had The Sam. It was a damn good sandwich.
And last but not least in any way, District Donuts. Oh my District Donuts has a rotating selection of amazing doughnuts and other pastries every day. We had this delicious yeast doughnut with peanut butter, chocolate, and bananas called the Gold and Black. (P.S. if for some reason you’re needing a King Cake, they are currently shipping them!) This was a great way to end our impromptu VIP walking food tour.
|Cutest Space Invaders ever.|
As we were finishing up our guide mentioned she was leading a Haunted History Tour that night so we made a quick decision to do that too since she was such a phenomenal tour guide. I had looked at ghost tours originally but didn’t book one in fear that we would accidentally book a tour that had people positioned to scare you (not my thing) so after reassurance from Ariadne that her tour was 0% haunted house-like, we were sold.
We spent our last night in NOLA learning some of the more unfortunate pieces of history. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, haunted history tours are other intriguing ways to learn more about the history and culture of New Orleans. We spent most of the night in the French Quarter and even got to visit the oldest continuously operating bar in America- Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (disclaimer, the internets seems to think that while this bar is one of the oldest, it’s not the oldest, so believe what you’d like). I won’t spoil any of the good stories because I probably wouldn’t do them justice anyhow, but I definitely suggest going on one of these tours if you get the chance (and look up Ariadne!) No ghosts were spotted unfortunately, but a great time was had by all.
After that, we had one last dinner in NOLA at Verti Marti. This is a 24/7 deli that gets rave reviews. The folks that took our order were super kind (although I’m short and couldn’t really see them over the counter) and the menu is expansive-which may have been my downfall. I basically ordered the first thing on the menu because I was a) hungry and b) overwhelmed with choices. I wasn’t a huge fan of my sandwich, but Derek loved his. So we’ll chalk this up to experience and next time, I’ll be prepared.
Good night New Orleans! I love you!
Before we packed up to head home we took a walk down to the French Market and stopped to have (more) beignets. At this point we were basically professionals and no paper napkin bibs were even needed. French Market was a nice mix of food, art, and your typical market wares. We stopped in at a hot sauce shop and did a hot sauce tasting (I’m pretty proud that I tried the hottest one in the store and lived to tell the tale!), tried some pralines (if you like pecans, these are a must), and found one last lunch spot called Coop’s Place. Again, another awesome hole in the wall joint serving authentic NOLA essentials. We ordered some seafood gumbo and a sampler platter than included shrimp creole, cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, and rabbit & sausage jambalaya. Everything was tasty. (also the seafood gumbo was pretty legit-Derek and I both had a little crab claw in our gumbo and were able to have a mini claw fight at the table like mature adults do in restaurants.)
And then, it was time to head home.
I have to say, I am a big fan of New Orleans. The city has soul and such an interesting story. I most definitely suggest NOLA as a weekend getaway (as you can see, you can really get a lot done in just a couple of days) but just make sure to pack your eatin’ pants!
- Pancetta, cubed (1/8 cup maybe?)
- Eggs, 2
- Buttermilk, splash (I have some on hand but I did add an extra layer of yum)
- Everything seasoning, a few cranks
- Optional, but necessary for me-some sort of cheese (today it was Gruyere), however the hell much you want
- Maybe a dash of Tapatio at the end
- Beat eggs, buttermilk, and seasoning until just combined and set aside
- Heat pancetta over medium heat until crisp and some fat has rendered
- Turn heat down to low and add eggs
- Move eggs in a figure 8 (I learned this from some chef who learned it from another chef. Also he said to do this in a non stick pan but I did not. Also, he’d probably not approve of anything I did here and frankly, I don’t care, my eggs are tasty.) until cooked to your desire (personally, I have to have my eggs a little drier than what others may enjoy) be light with the eggs!
- Ham bone from Christmas Ham (it should still have some pretty significant ham on it, too)
- A bag of Great Northern Beans
- Chicken Stock from chicken last week, 3 cups
- Ham Soup Base, however much you want. You like salty? Add a lot.
- Soak beans in a bowl water for 30ish minutes, pick off floaters. Drain beans into a colander and rinse with water again. Use a big bowl-beans swell.
- Add beans back to the bowl and this time, add chicken stock. Cover with something if you have cats and set aside for like…hours. I was cooking my beans in an Instant Pot so technically, I didn’t have to wait but I did. Build flavors and also because I was lazy?
- Add beans, soup base, ham bone (mine was still frozen when I added it) and another cup or so of water. This really depends on how much your beans have soaked up and how soupy you like your ham and beans
- Instant Pot-set on manual for 45 minutes, natural release (unless you want kind of still in tact beans, then manual release)
- On the stove top-you’re going to need to add more water and boil for a couple hours (really I suggest you look up another recipe at this point, I’m just telling you what I did here-I haven’t tested it on the stove top)
- Shred off the ham from the bone, discard the bone and any clumps of fat
- For the love of all things, let this cool for a moment (or risk the pain of a burnt mouth. I’m telling you this from experience.)
Yesterday I mentioned that one thing I really latched onto in 2018 was audio books. I should also mention that I started this because I got into a couple of podcasts and thought, “Hey, why not books too?” I am lucky enough to have a great public library that offers a huge selection of audio books and I’ve been able to read so much more than I have in years past! From here on out, if I say I “read” a book-you can safely assume that translates to “listened to.”
Audio books aren’t for everyone, but for me, it’s relaxing and just feels nice. It reminds me of being read a story which elicits great memories of my Grandpa who was the best story teller I have even known.
Unfortunately for my list-making mind, I had to change libraries in June and lost my book list in the switch. I even called my former library to see if they had a way to view what I had checked out but to no avail. I have since then started to use the Goodreads app as well as turned on my ‘track history’ in my current audio book app (Libby.) So this list isn’t complete but I tried to add the ones I could remember!
- Class Mom, Laurie Gelman (fiction)-This book was hilarious! Gelman’s follow up book to Class Mom should be coming out this year and I am pumped. God bless the class moms-that stuff is no joke. A
- Turtles All the Way Down, John Green (young adult, fiction)-Eh. I wanted to like this more than I did. I really enjoy Green’s writing usually (and yes, I still like young adult. So.) I had a hard time connecting with the characters and the story felt a little disjointed at points. Not my favorite from him. Or maybe I’m just too old now. C
- Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks (short story, fiction)- omgomgomgomg. One of my favorite books of the year, easy. Also, Tom Hanks read me stories AND mentioned the town I live in-twice. (Tom Hanks’ brother teaches at the university in my town [I don’t think it’s the brother that does his voice work?] and sometimes HE VISITS HERE and my brother-in-law once served him frozen custard and I’M NOT WORTHY). Each story relates, somehow, back to a typewriter, which is such a neat idea. Hanks collects typewriters and there’s actually an app that you can download that allows you to ‘type’ on your device using typewriters that he likes. I love Tom Hanks. He can do no wrong (except that one movie he did that I did not like). A+
- If You Were Here, Jen Lancaster (fiction)- Solid story and I enjoy Lancaster’s work but I rolled my eyes a lot. The main character was very superficial and I always struggle to really feel for someone who has it all complaining about the choices they decide to make. B-
- Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Holis (self-help?)-…speaking of eye rolls, I really struggle with people who have no idea about the privileges they have telling me to just suck it up, buttercup. Look, I know a lot of people who have had life-changing experiences with this book and I swear I just felt people close this browser when they started this sentence but NOPE. I’m glad it works for some, but I just yelled at the speaker a lot. I did finish it though. Girl, check yo’ privilege. D
- Someday, Someday Maybe, Lauren Graham (fiction)-I liked it, solid story. B
- Talking as Fast as I can, Lauren Graham (autobiography)- Liked it, and she really did talk fast. I think I was hoping for a little more but it was still a good, light read. B
- Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- So one night while Derek was away at a work conference all I wanted to watch for some reason was Devil Wears Prada and I was m-a-d that it wasn’t on one of the millions of streaming networks we subscribe to and I actually had to get the DVD out. Anyway, that’s what inspired me to read the book. Interesting character development, I liked it. A
- When Life Gives You Lululemons, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- I read all of Weisberger’s books this year and was impressed. Lululemons takes place in the aftermath of Devil Wears Prada and I’d love if this one was made into a movie. A
- The Singles Game, Lauren Weisberger (fiction)- This one is out of the Prada universe and kind of gave me some flashback stuff initially because it’s about an athlete that gets hurt playing tennis and while I am really NOT an athlete I was playing tennis when I tore my meniscus which later reviled that I had no ACL (and hadn’t had one for like 5 years) but once I got over that I was good. If you haven’t figured out by now, I read a lot of ‘lighter’ stuff and this one was solid as well. I like Weisberger and look forward to more by her. A
- Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli (young adult, fiction)-So you know how you’re most definitely taught not to judge a book by its’ cover? Well I liked the color of the cover of this book and didn’t have anything available in my queue and that’s why I checked it out. I was originally looking for another one of Albertalli’s books, Love, Simon, but it’s checked out for the next 6,000 years. That is what you get when you jump on the whole, “oh it’s a movie but I want to read the book first!” trend. Anyway, it was a good story and I enjoyed the perspective. It’s exciting to see young adult books taking on topics like sexuality and the complications that come with exploring who someone truly is meant to be. That didn’t really exist when I was a young adult, so kudos to growth! I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to her other works. B
- Yes, Chef: A Memoir, Marcus Samuelsson (autobiography)- This past summer we lost Anthony Bourdain and that was a rough blow. Maybe I’ll talk about how that impacted me at some point but long story short, I started digging deeper into some culinary works. I loved Samuelsson’s story (and he read it to me! I could listen to him speak for the rest of my life.) It was a great blend of culture and the great mysterious world of ball-busting work in kitchens. Hearing a story about a man from Ethiopia that grew up in Sweden and then worked all over the world but now calls New York City home? Loved it. I’m looking forward to visiting his restaurant when we visit New York City next year. A
- Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (memoir)- I cried a lot. I’ve read it before. I don’t think I could be a chef but I’d like to think I’d give it an honest shot. A
- You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein (autobiography)-I liked it, but thought I’d laugh more given that she is a comedy writer. The only memorable part I can recall is listening to it while I was taking a shower in my hotel room at Disney World and I don’t feel like that’s an indication of my enjoyment. C
- Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer (autobiography)- I liked it, it had depth and humor. I like Amy Schumer. B
- Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy: Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan (fiction)- Again on, “Hey this is a move I need to read the book!” series, the Crazy Rich trilogy is really, really good. I admit, I saw the movie before I read the books (and had never heard of the trilogy before then) but I am so glad I did. I’m kind of sad the series is done but look forward to the movies! It was also really awesome to see how this movie broke a lot of barriers in Hollywood. A
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh (fiction)- 😐 what. was. this. I just read some of the reviews on Amazon that this book, “shimmers with intelligence and empathy.” 😐 Maybe it’s because I work in mental health that I am a very harsh critic of self-help bullshit and books depicting mental illness, maybe. Or maybe this book was just flat. *SPOILERS IN CASE YOU CARE* She took a bunch of shit that would kill a human being LIKE A MILLION TIMES OVER and slept for a year. I did not see a shimmer of any intelligence or empathy. It was 100% apathy. When I was done I kind of just stared at a wall and said, “what the hell” and went back to life. Honestly, in ways it reminded me of one of my favorite books from high school, Go Ask Alice. (I think Go Ask Alice may have nudged me into working with kids with trauma by the way but I digress.) So I stuck it out thinking that it would stop running me the wrong way but the blatant bullshit of misusing psychotropic medication I just couldn’t get over. I guess I get what she was doing with this, and perhaps some may see that as brilliant (that things don’t always come to pass, that sometimes we’re alive but don’t want to live, etc) but what she did would kill someone so it was hard to buy into the story for me. Maybe most folks don’t know that so it works for them? I was looking forward to this one because it was met with such high praise and if anyone else has read it and wants to enlighten me I’m super intrigued to hear what you may have to say-let’s talk. 😐 C-
- Love is a Mixed Tape, Rob Sheffield (fiction)- I’ve owned this paperback for years and never read it so I decided to give the audio a try. I cried a few tears with this one just because I related to the story of how a mixed tape can mean so much. It was a sweet book, and I want to read more by Sheffield. A
- 10% Happier, Dan Harris (self-help, also autobiography?)- So toward the end of the year I started being interested in some of the works I had heard about from a podcast I really enjoy, Savy Psychologist (she’s awesome!! I’ve learned a lot from this podcast. A++) My own therapist often told me that I should try to meditate and I basically would look at her like, “haha. no.” and we’d move on but I’ve read a lot of research on the topic so I decided to see what others had to say. Harris was a guest on the SP podcast at one point and what he shared cleared up a lot of my misconceptions about meditation (I had quite a few, oops. Sorry to my therapist for all the eye rolls). I gave his book a chance and it was fantastic! It was entertaining to learn about his journey into meditation. I can’t say I knew who Harris was before (I don’t watch ABC News shows) but I am sure glad I do now. This book helped me to start clear some fog. Way to be engaging and helpful. A
- Wild, Cheryl Strayed (autobiography)-Oddly, I still haven’t watched this movie but this was another book I chose since none of the ones I had on my list were available. It also helped me understand Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life better, too. It was fine. C
- Yes, Please, Amy Poehler (autobiography)- I started this book when it first came out and couldn’t finish it but I’m so glad I went back to it! It was nice to learn more about the path she took to become who she is now and hear some interesting stories along the way. I love comedians. A
- Born Standing Up, Steve Martin (autobiography)- Did I mention I love comedians? I love Steve Martin. I loved his book. A
- One More Thing, B.J. Novak (fiction)- Sensing a theme here. These were awesome short stories that made me legit laugh out loud. I kind of want to re-read this one like right now. A
- Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher (autobiography)-come on. It’s Carrie Fisher. It was good. It took a while to be able to hear her voice, ya’ll. A
- Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher (autobiography)- see above. B
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson (self-help, autobiography?)- I was skeptical at first but damn I loved this book. So eye-opening and really forced me forward in my thought process. A
And the final two books for 2018 were two that I enjoyed multiple times. Jenny Lawson has been a beacon of light on rough days. She speaks with such honesty and is freaking hilarious. I adore her ability to share her own stories about mental health and the struggles it brings and to add humor to the heavy. She is genuine and I listened to her tell me I mattered as well as stories about taxidermy animals and cried and laughed all the same. Lawson has a blog that I suggest you check out too. Jenny Lawson, you are a blessing. And I am number 26.
27. Furiously Happy (autobiography, humor, self-help) A+
28. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (more autobiographical than self-help but still a mix even if by proxy) A+
And a bonus! She has a coloring book/self-help/just a nice book called You Are Here. This isn’t an audio book and I’m a proud owner of this one! A+
See this for the lyric reference I miss The Hush Sound. Ah, 2005.
Well hello there-it’s been a while!I suppose I have some explaining to do in the wake of my very long break.
I believe I shared back in the spring that I was going through a tight one. I had a significant struggle with a family member that really threw me into a loop of confusion and sadness. While I find myself as a pretty emotionally competent person, being rejected by someone who you thought loved you unconditionally can really take a toll.
Some days I thought it didn’t bother me and I suppose that on some days, it didn’t. But on the days it did bother me, it bothered me completely. Days kept coming and my sadness stuck around and grew into the dark curmudgeon-y cloud depression is known to be. Thanks depression, you’re super swell. There were some hard days and often I’d feel guilty for being depressed. “Stop feeling this way. You have so much Good in life. Stop it.” Why does that never work. Well I am happy to report that the big bad rainstorm is over for now and I’m able to at least reflect back on the longevity of the last 10ish months. I can say now that this cloudy time was different and before I delve into explaining the hard parts I would like to first share the other piece of what happens when someone is depressed-a lot of cool, awesome, fun, and exciting things happened in my life. I just had to invite Mr. CC (Curmudgeon Cloud) along sometimes.
*disclaimer-this post really isn’t about what it feels like to be depressed, or even all the facets that come along with it. It’s really just focused as a recap and explanation of the last 10 months or so.*
Here’s some highlights since we last chatted:
- I didn’t resort back to old habits to numb my sadness. I successfully made progress with my eating habits. I had to make choices though because there simply weren’t enough spoons for the Full Monty of peak health-after the 5/10K I completed, I kind of stalled in physical activity. I tried to keep my steps up and did take walks when I could. I am really proud of this- more on the WW journey to come at a later time. (and, I recently signed up for yoga classes again, and plan on going to some fun group fitness classes!)
- I was selected to the be the Midwest Ambassador of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council! I’m the only woman, too! Really all this means is bragging rights but I received some very nice messages (and gifts) from some of my favorite Midwest hot dog establishments (SuperDawg and Portillo’s-you know your Ambassador loves you). I’m still hoping this will lead to like, a judge for a hot dog eating/tasting contest or something, but we’ll see. This was a legit highlight and has brought about some great notoriety for me-especially at work.
- I became an Aunt again!
- I learned I’m allergic to mango skin. This is a real thing. It is painful. I love fresh mango. I had to go through the ordeal twice to figure it out, too. Sigh. Okay this wasn’t fun-but funny maybe?
- I watched my bffl be sworn in as President of a cause that is very near and dear to her. I love seeing my friends succeed and I was one of her VIPs at her induction.
- I took a pottery class and it was a blast. I had this whole Wednesday agenda where I’d go be creative for 3 hours and then grab my favorite Indian food and go home and eat on the couch while watching TV. It was great!
- I went on adventures! I saw great movies! I read like 35 books (a huge increase, more on this in a moment). I went to concerts! I ate delicious new foods! I spent time with my fantastic friends! I made a couple new friends! I even pushed myself out of my comfort zone!
And through most of all that, the cloud wasn’t too far away. I’ve been depressed before, and I’m sure it’ll show up again, but I have to say this time was different. I have spent the last few weeks analyzing just what made it different so that hopefully, I can catalog away what helped me for the next cloudy moment. I know that the issue that took place in the spring (and happened to align with me not only starting WW but also this blog adventure) spun me into sadness because it triggered some very deep rooted fears and pains. So, while I sat with my feelings I also acknowledged the fun little boogers too. What I came to learn was:
- In my heart of hearts, fear not being accepted by those I love and I fear being forgotten. I know where these fears come from and I now know that while the little voice in my head who, God bless her heart, is just trying to protect us, screams on and on about, “YOU ARE GOING TO GET US HURT STOP IT. STOP IT!” She is wrong. It’s that simple. She’s just wrong now. I am far too valuable to others to be forgotten and I am accepted by those with the capacity to accept me. Short of me being a complete ass to someone (which really isn’t in my nature), if someone decides that they no longer want to be in my life….it’s because of something they need to deal with. It’s not me and most importantly, it’s nit my fault. However, it’s still a painful realization, but it’s easier to digest. And that’s exactly what happened this spring. I still have moments where I have to remind Little Voice that it wasn’t us…it was them. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work through the sadness of no longer having that connection-but it does mean that I don’t have to live with the pain in my heart of being rejected or that everyone else will leave me too. Over time the pain in my heart related to what was being to me changed to pain in my heart for what that person must be going through. Knowing I do not have any way of helping them heal so that they can accept healthy relationships sucks-but that is a part of everyone’s own journey.
- It is possible to acknowledge uncomfortable and unwanted feelings and not fall to hell. That, I guess, it what some may call recovery? Being able to acknowledge ‘X’ and not letting it rule your life? I’m still not quite sure this can be replicated in perpetuity but I’m happy to keep my optimism. This doesn’t mean there weren’t hard times. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments where I thought that nothing would ever feel good again. And it sure in the hell does not mean that it was/is FUN sitting with shitty emotions, thoughts, and feelings (UGH). It really just means that being able to acknowledge my feelings and what triggered them was really helpful and ultimately helped me walk out of the dark. This I hope to carry with me forever and help use as the ’emotional umbrella’ to help pass the future storms.
- Once I noticed what was going on with me, I was honest about it. I told my sister in law (who offered support). I told my boss (who offered support). I told people close to me (who ultimately, offered support) and was honest about it. I normalized the feeling. I wasn’t asking for special privileges but just being able to be honest about being down was really freeing. And, side note, no one looked at me like I had a second head. No one pitied me. They were just good people-who would have imagined that? In the future I will strive to do this more. Radical acceptance, if you will.
- I’m not sure when I started this, but at some point I took to heart the whole, “treat yourself like you would a young child, or your best friend.” This meaning, I was checking the script in my head constantly. I was asking why I was putting myself through situations or into positions that frankly, didn’t want to be in and didn’t have to do. When I was sad I didn’t beat myself up -I would tell myself, “aw sweetheart, it’s okay to not be okay right now. Let’s have a tea. Let’s have a nap. Let’s have a moment.” I rested when I needed a rest. I stopped the “I should….” and replaced it with, “I would like to….” I lightened up on myself. I have tried to fill my life with as much contentment as possible. This.has.been.a.lifesaver. Seriously. It sounds a little cheesy I guess, but really, it’s freeing. Think KonMari but for your head. Does this mean that I only live on the Happiness Island? No. It means that I acknowledged my thoughts and digest them all while listening to Me and not the endless chatter of Little Voice.
- This one sounds weird but let’s be honest, this whole blogpost is a free flow of conscious thought at this point. I am making a conscious effort to only surround myself with what is Best. Quality wins. Cozy wins (Hygge Life). Things that bring me joy wins. I do not have enough energy to waste on mediocre crap and I do not beat myself up anymore on walking away from anything that isn’t The Best. This means: I don’t have to finish this crappy cookie just because I took it and it was free. I don’t have to wear these jeans that kind of annoy me just because I typically wear my jeans til the thighs give out. I don’t have to finish this book because it feels weird to give up but UGH it really sucks. (Harder parts of this are, I don’t have to keep space for people who don’t keep space for me.) These are all really related to the previous comment about “I should”s and overall-back to guilt or possibly hurting someone else. Letting it all go.
- I read books by listening to them. Yep. Audio books. For a long time I was sad that spending a day reading a book made me feel incredibly guilty (YOU SHOULD BE DOING X INSTEAD) and couldn’t focus for more than a couple pages. So in 2018 I really focused on audio books and bam. problem solved. It’s incredible! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love having a story told to me while I let my mind wonder as I physically complete some mundane task (showering, driving). God bless audio books. I have read some really awesome ones that I will recap some time. Many of them helped me navigate the rainstorm and come out stronger.