August 4th – “If a friend is in need, let them know you’re at their service. Make time for them.”

It’s summer, and as usual, I’ve disappeared for a while because I am trying to focus on a number of things at once. What makes summer especially busy for me is the added responsibility of managing a garden.

For once, I’m doing a pretty good job of harvesting, consuming, and giving away my fruits and vegetables before things go bad. I’ve made several loaves of zucchini bread,

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pots of apple sauce,

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and pints of strawberry rhubarb jam.

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There’s nothing like fresh broccolini and kale for dinner!

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I even had enough energy to pick wild blackberries on my jogging trail.

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Now that I’m caught up, I have time to listen to a friend in need.  

July 3rd – “ Give yourself a break — maybe even a whole night off.”

The great thing about not comparing myself to others is that I don’t measure my success or failures based on anyone else’s. The bad thing is that I can be hard on myself.  

Lately, I have been feeling lazy and very underachieving.  When given the choice to get more sleep or stay up to work on something, I choose sleep.

This weekend I had a small gathering in my little town. We went for a hike among the redwoods,

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ate a ton of food,

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and painted.

Koi FishPainting

I had plans to make fancy wine country inspired meals from scratch, but I ended up substituting half the recipes with store bought stuff. I was feeding 5 people a late breakfast and dinner and took shortcuts. We had frozen tater tots instead of hand cut fried potatoes, bbq sauce out of a jar instead of a homemade concoction, and veggie burgers that came out of a box instead of my food processor. The strawberry rhubarb pie was made with freshly picked ingredients from my garden, but the pie crust was ugly and I didn’t churn any vanilla ice cream for it. It was not the extravagant meal I planned.

I didn’t feel very accomplished until one of my guests remarked, “You do a lot.”

I paused for a moment. She was right. I don’t know too many people who would take time to organize outings for friends, all while working on creative projects, managing a garden, teaching, and clocking in hours at a day job. 

That’s a lot. I took a night off.

March 26th – “Feel like you’re banging your head against a wall with someone? Give up, move on.”

Yes, I do. I’ve told myself that I’ve given up on my friend by keeping my mouth shut when it comes to his love life, but I really haven’t. I may not have been saying anything to him, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have strong opinions. I have been HOPING that he will come around and see what he’s doing to himself. Today I’m officially giving up. There’s no more hoping on my part. If I can’t help him become stronger, I have to just let him be!

On one of the days when I was relating too much to my friend’s problems, my partner wisely counseled, “Maybe there’s a lesson your friend needs to learn and he needs to go through this experience.”

I argued, “But they are BOTH suffering so much. He’s punishing himself AND her for something that has nothing to do with their relationship. It seems like his partner thinks that it’s what long term relationships should be. I hate seeing them both suffer like this. It’s awful!”

He replied, “Well, maybe they both have something to learn from this.”

“You have a point,” I paused because he was right. Then I continued, “The world can have cruel ways to lead us to where we need to go.”

It’s been months since I’ve had this conversation with my partner. I’ve always understood this intellectually, but haven’t processed it emotionally. Time to let this one go!

I doubt this will be the last time it will come up. The next time “hope” rear’s its ugly head, I’ll tell it to, “GO AWAY! I’m moving on!”

March 13th – “When one of you becomes stronger, your relationship strengthens too.”

Now that is the sign of a good relationship!

I don’t know what relationship my horoscope is talking about. I do know that my partner and I have a great relationship, so I would like to think that the prediction is referencing to all my relationships.
It’s been said that one discovers one’s true friends during the toughest of times, but I think that it applies to all circumstances. Support is necessary on our both our best days and our worst days.

That means being happy and proud of a friend when he/she has an accomplishment. It sounds simple, but there have been people who have not been supportive of my few successes in life. Jealously and resentment do not make good relationships!

Furthermore, I found this quote about friendship quite illuminating:

In time of great anxiety we can draw power from our friends. We should at such times, however, avoid friends who sympathize too deeply, who give us pity rather than strength.

-D Upton

There are many ways that one can be supportive. If the end result is pity rather than strength, it might not be support after all. I hate to admit it. I have been guilty of this. If I want all my relationships to strengthen me, I can start by being a better friend!

February 24th – “Don’t let your friends talk you into buying something you don’t need.”

My lunch time walking buddy declared that Fridays should be $3.00 banh mi and $5.00 flowers day.

I didn’t need either and she didn’t try to persuade me. I was stuck with leftover reject zucchini pasta for lunch today, so I didn’t get the banh mi.

I did pick up this bouquet.

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It wasn’t an impulse buy. She informed me about the flowers the day before so I had time to decide.

I like supporting small businesses and this one qualified. I don’t mean that metaphorically (like “mom and pop” stores or “hole in the walls” aka not so pretty places/non-chain businesses. Someone once brought me to a mom and pop store that was the size of a Walmart). It was literally a tiny store. The entire storefront was only 10 x 8 feet! I find it endearing and fascinating when people find ways to maximize use of limited spaces. It’s takes talent and imagination!

I’ve also never gotten flowers for myself before, so I thought I would give it a try. It would be nice to have something pretty at home while I spend most of the weekend inside.

February 3rd- “Connect, communicate and keep it creative.”

I have to give credit when credit is due. Whoever wrote this horoscope did an excellent job!

Whether I’m connecting with new people or communicating with old friends, my best relationships are ones where creativity thrives. It doesn’t take much to be creative or to inspire creativity. All it requires is an open mind and the ability to let loose!

One of the things I have been doing to keep it creative is to send birthday messages longer than the usual “happy birthday.” I tend to be a negative Nancy who dislikes celebrating any holiday or birthday, but I do participate because many of my friends do. I don’t really relate with holidays or my own birthday. The whole “spirit” of holidays feels somewhat superficial and impersonal to me. With the “help” of Facebook now, everyone seems to know when your birthday is even if they don’t know you that well. I find it awkward to write “Happy Birthday!” or “HB” on someone’s page because it feels contrived.

I decided that if I’m going to wish someone well on their birthday, I’m going to put some effort into it and use my creativity. Here are my formulas:

I hope you have a (adjective 1) (adjective 2) (adjective 3)  birthday!

Or

Wishing you a day filled with (X), (Y), and (Z)!.

It only takes a minute to come up with a few things that are specific to the birthday person. I hope that those receiving my messages will feel joy, happiness, and very special on their day of the year.

 

February 2nd – “Work pressures are mounting, but don’t let your personal life fall totally by the wayside.”

Work pressures are indeed mounting and I’m not going to let my personal life fall by the wayside. The astrological planner I got last month is great at reminding me about this.

At the bottom page of each week, there’s room to write down my other goals for the week that’s not work related (i.e. spiritual, personal). I haven’t it used it very much yet, but it does help me think about these other aspects of my life more often than I normally would. It’s easy to neglect my other responsibilities when there’s work to do.

Weeks ago, I committed to hanging out with my friend tonight, so it would be very disappointing if I didn’t show up. Even though I’m busy, I’m glad I made a point to plan ahead and set a date with her. I haven’t seen her since last spring. One month turned into two, then three, and now it is 2017! It’s easy to get wrapped up in my own stuff and forget that the rest of the world is still going on without me. Don’t we all do that? It gets even more scary when I see children grow up, making me wonder what I’ve done with my time! Tomorrow is her birthday and I surely would have missed it if I didn’t make a commitment.

For dinner, I’m making vegetarian curry with coconut milk. I don’t know how it will turn out, but the ingredients look sound. My foodscope advised that “Small things can deliver big results. For instance, just a pinch of cinnamon…can actually help you burn fat.” I don’t care if cinnamon burns fat or not, but the other myth is that it helps with circulation. That’s good enough for me. There’s some cinnamon in my recipe, so I’m all set!

Coconut Pumpkin Curry

½ small onion

½ can of pumpkin

½ can coconut milk

½ cup water

½ tablespoon curry

¼ teaspoon of each: salt, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric

½ container of tofu, cubed

½ sweet potato, cubed

Some peas and spinach

I would love to add tomatoes to this, but my friend is allergic.

January 14th – “Someone who you thought you would never see again will pop back onto the scene today, although probably not in person.”

People have told me that they rarely dream, and when they do, they do not remember their dreams. I have never been one of those people. I dream almost every night and remember most of them vividly the next morning. Sometimes they’re prophetic, sometimes there are those repressed thoughts that Freud theorized. When my health is declining, nightmares are of abundance. For the last two nights, an old friend popped up in my dreams and nightmares.

I’ve been fighting a minor cold, so it’s no surprise that I’m having nightmares. What is strange is that this old friend (who I am no longer friends with) is floating around in my unconscious. I am grateful that we no longer have a relationship because I can clearly see now that we were codependent.

In the first dream, my friend and I were taking the train in the city. On the ride, there was a group of young college kids wearing tuxedos. Naturally, I was curious so I started talking to them and found out they had just come from a ballet in which their friend was dancing in. We had a great time getting to know these folks.

In the second dream, we were having a party. This became a nightmare because everything went wrong. Guests were arriving and there was no food, not enough seating, and my friend kept inviting more people! I was overwhelmed and trying to pick up the pieces for her as usual.

What was my unconscious trying to tell me?

I have been thinking a lot about the city because it’s the subject of a few projects I’m working on. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been back to my old haunts and I have been feeling very nostalgic. The trouble with nostalgia is that we like to see what we want to see. We like to remember the past as something magical, perfect, and positive. We like to forget all the bad stuff and pretend that it never happened.

When I think of my best memories of the city, my former friend is in many of these images. We had a lot of fun, good times, and unique moments that I shared with no one else. With that, there were also awful moments that I do not want to experience again.

As much as I would like to see the city in a certain way, perhaps my dreams are a word of caution: beware of romanticizing the past or you’ll risk becoming a preservationist! Okay, maybe it’s not so dramatic, but it would be a good idea to take another look at my map if I see myself on the path to nostalgia.

December 26th – “Be the first one to bring up a taboo topic now.”

One of the worst places to have small talk with strangers are at hospitals, especially animals hospitals. Aside from the annual check-up, many pet owners take their pets to the vet only when there is something wrong.

Today, a woman came in with a little coughing dog. Another pet owner casually asked her what they were doing there and she responded matter of factly, “He has to be put to sleep.”

The room fell silent. The receptionist looked like she was going to start crying. I paid for my cat food and left quietly.

***

A few hours later, I learned that a friend passed away on social media. This is not the first time I’ve gotten news of people passing on Facebook, but it was the first one that actually mattered to me.

I last communicated with Robert in September when I started this blog. I considered him a good friend even though we didn’t spend very much time together. I could talk to him honestly without having to censor any part of myself. Robert was open, intelligent, and had integrity. He was a really nice guy. I knew that he was someone I could trust and rely on, even if we only talked to each other every few months.

We were strangers 9 winters ago until I started a conversation with him at my local coffee shop. I was working on a paper and needed a break. Aside from me, he was the only other colored person in the place, so I felt inclined to meet him. Little did I know that this stranger would become someone I would call a friend.

We spent many days at the coffee shops together in Boston, eating Malaysian food in New York, and even touring Beijing.  I didn’t have any bad days with him. Robert was a positive spirit who made me forget my pessimism. He listened without judgment and challenged me without criticizing. He accepted me for all the ways that I was different from him. Robert valued his time and I was honored that he thought that I was worthy of his friendship.

I hope that we can meet again in my next lifetime.