Tuesday, April 1, 2014

seek the good.

seek the good. this is my mantra these past few weeks. 

for every hard thing, there is a happy thing to counter it. 
today, i worked a bit with a client who has to go to court for doing a desperate thing. but i also danced to this indian song with a client from congo. may it also bring a little joy to your day.

Friday, March 28, 2014

you never know what you are capable of until you try.

{image of me taken by my patient hubs, from this past week}

you never know what sorts of crazy shit you are capable of, in yoga or in life, until you try.

not to get all dr. phil on anyone, but this has been my motto for months now, and especially this week. i like to pick a yoga pose that is interesting and seems impossible, and try to master it. it doesn't always work. in fact, most times, it only sort of works and takes months and months of practice for me to feel fairly confident that i've nailed it, and then i see a photo of myself in what feels like excellent posture and realize i have so much further to go.

but this week, my friends, this week was a breakthrough. i learned a new technique, something in my brain clicked and i nailed my first headstand where i didn't need to use the wall for support. never one for doing anything in moderation, i have since spent so much time upside down that my forearms feel as though they are perpetually rug burned. i've lost track of how many times i've flipped over backwards. but i've also lost track of how many headstands in every variation i can think of (while upside down, when admittedly my brain capacity is less- breathe! breathe! breathe!) i have held nowhere near a wall, and that feels way more awesome than not having skinned knees and weird bruises.

if you follow me on instagram, you are aware of this newly mastered skill and are probably tired of hearing about it. sorry/ not sorry to share it here.

anyway, carpe freakin' diem, friends. you never know what you are capable of until you try.

Friday, March 21, 2014

you got to look back, you know, and do something good to other people

{photo mine, from bapatla, india 2009}

"but when somebody did something good for you, you know, you got to look back, you know, and do something good to other people, too, you know." - south sudanese refugee mangisto deng in his recent interview with NPR

it's no secret to those who know me that i love what i do. all the same, i can't help but to sometimes think on why i do it. i don't have much of an answer for people who ask, but i'm working on it.

the hours can be terrible, especially for those of my coworkers who are in charge of helping people apply for social services, housing and legal documents. communication is difficult- really, really difficult. getting people to show up on time is nearly impossible. then, when people do show up, they often have problems and difficulties that, as much as we may want to, we can't fix for them. it's often a fairly thankless job- only the squeaky wheel gets the grease (or food stamps, or job as the case may be), right?

every once in a while though, someone will send you a thank you card in the mail that he has painstakingly written on straight lines drawn with a pencil and a ruler, or stop by with christmas baklava. sometimes, someone will fix something expensive for you that you broke by accident and in doing so save you hundreds of dollars, or friends throw you awesome parties to celebrate a holiday they don't typically observe. not to mention there's nothing like sharing in the joy of a first job, a successful interview, news of a family member coming to the states after months or even years spent apart, or passing the US citizenship exam. 

when i take the time to look for these little gems, and i focus on the positive instead of everything that's trying to drag me down, make me a burned out cynic or just a plain angry person, i find them everywhere. even my dentist informed me on wednesday that the husband and father of one of my client families he has been treating gave him a wristwatch to say thank you.

the very things that make my job difficult are the same things that make it so worth it. and besides, i was once offered a tremendous gift of friendship and acceptance by the little girl in the photo above, so i feel as though it's my responsibility to look back, you know, and do something good to other people, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

on holi and friendship

happy holi!

it was- and still is- my dream to 'play holi' in india or nepal. when hubs and i lived in india, we made sure our return flight to the US left after the holiday's date. we planned our end-of-work-contract hoorah trip to north india to be sure we'd be in a town that plays (some people play in the south, where we were living, but not many- and keep in mind one plays holi, not merely celebrates it.) we had it all carefully planned, saved white shirts and suitable pants for the occasion, and invited friends along on our northern excursion. 

and then i realized i had looked up the date from a year past, and holi was, in fact, the day we'd be on a train well back into south india, just before leaving the country. i will never in my life claim that numbers are a strength of mine, but still- poor party planning.
i had heard rumors that the nepali and indian immigrant communities may play holi here in colorado, but i had been unsuccessful in locating where, and when, this rumored celebration may take place. i asked around. i googled. i even tried to psych myself up to run the color run 5k, so at least i could pretend i had experienced a holi party, even if it meant i had to run 3.14 miles to do it.
 this year, instead of random googling, i texted a nepali friend of mine to inquire as to whether anyone might play, and if they did, hoped i could snag an invitation. to my sadness, he said he had no idea what i was talking about. then, 24 hours later, i received a text from another friend informing me that we'd all be playing in a nearby state park over the weekend. 

at last! holi! in aurora, colorado of all places!
i often caution friends who travel to india to be careful what they wish for, because chances are pretty good that if that wish is expressed in the presence of friends new or old, that wish will be granted (one time that wish came in the form of a small puppy named michael). in this case, that wish was to spend an afternoon throwing colored powder at friends, rendering everyone tie-dyed.

little did i know (though as i just stated, i know enough to have at least suspected it) that this was, in part, because i had requested it. 
these dear friends also hosted us for lunch, tea and then later, dinner. of course, trying to host them in return, volunteering to pay the entrance fee to the park, or picking up the colors ourselves was out of the question. my nepali friends- as with most of my immigrant and refugee friends- are phenomenally generous with their time, families, living spaces and resources. it really is an honor to call them my friends, and i wish i had words to express the depth of my gratitude for all that they have shared with me in the years since we've met.
after playing in the park, we took part in the required terrorizing of the nearby community. in india and nepal no one is safe from the colored powder (and water cannons), and our friends thought this should apply to nepali people here in colorado, too. we spent maybe an hour afterward driving to different nepali shops and painting people's faces with color, no matter how much they protested or insisted otherwise. we even drove to pick up hubs, plaster him with color and kidnap him for dinner, of my nepali friends' volition. with holi, resistance is futile no matter where in the world you may find yourself. 

i already can't wait for this festival to come around next year and someday, someday i will play in india. in the meantime, i am incredibly grateful to my friends for making a dream of mine come true!

Monday, March 10, 2014

in my oven: cinnamon chocolate scones

i know everyone complains about it, but really, can i just say it? i don't like daylight savings time. most of the rest of the world doesn't observe it and they get along just fine. plus, in the spring it's rough to lose an hour of sleep, however nice it is to have the sun still up when i leave work in the evening (wait a few weeks and that will happen on its own anyway!). in the fall it's even worse, because you spend all this time thinking about what you're going to do with a magical extra hour that you end up wasting it by procrastinating or daydreaming or forgetting that you have this hour and so getting up early anyway, plus to be plunged into total darkness in the evenings makes the onset of winter even more bleak.

// end rant. //

today, hubs and i are armed with these to fight the day after a daylight savings change: 
cinnamon chocolate scones

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (i used chocolate chips)
1/2 to 2/3 cup buttermilk

image and recipe here.

Friday, February 28, 2014

life with refugees: this side of the conflict

i've been chatting with a doctor of internal medicine lately, helping him to write a resume. he is afghani, though lived as a refugee in pakistan for some time. we've talked about various job options for him, his work history and his career goals. for about a year of his life he ran a small clinic for low income families in kabul. before leaving his home country, he spent several years working with a NATO funded team helping to train afghani medical professionals to prepare them for the departure of the various foreign militaries tasked with helping establish infrastructure. i complemented this doctor's beard in one of his past photos, and he laughed, telling (reminding) me that it was a requirement of life under the taliban.

last week, i worked with a bahai family from iran, writing resumes and talking about work history and how to search for jobs in the united states. it is illegal for these refugees to practice their religion in iran, and being bahai means they are excluded from higher education and almost any sort of higher level employment opportunity in iranian society. the wife of the family only has photos of herself in islamic revolution approved headscarves and i almost didn't recognize her, as she does not wear one here.

it's a funny* thing to meet those on the civilian side of operation enduring freedom from afghanistan, and operation iraqi freedom from iraq, to sit and chat with someone who came to the united states because he was a translator for our army and put  himself on the line for us so many times his life wasn't safe in his home country. i'm not sure many children dream of working with refugees like they dream of becoming doctors, policemen or teachers. even so, i never imagined working with people who were victims of conflicts that i saw or would read about on the news and seemed so very far from home.

that's all, really. no thoughtful conclusion, no words of wisdom, no plea for action. just a thought that's been floating around in my head for a few weeks now.

* i certainly don't mean "ha, ha" funny, but i'm also struggling to come up with an adequate word to describe how it feels.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

currently in my oven: lemon cake with black tea frosting

i am about to both gain and lose a sister in law. remember these two? my brother in law matthew has great taste in girls (all of my brothers in law do!), and we're especially fortunate that the girl he's chosen to spend his life with lives not too far from where we live. that is, until they get married. in may, matthew and kailie will get hitched and then move to minneapolis, where matthew has been living for the past few years. i'm trying not to be too sad for me as i'm excited for them. 

these two have asked if i'd bake some cupcakes for their wedding, so kailie came over last night and, after a stop at our new local trader joe's, we played taste test to recipe number one.

to call this arnold palmer cake does it a huge injustice. it is light, not too sweet, and the black tea flavor is rather subtle. i love me an arnold palmer, but this is not that. 

i usually prefer cupcakes over cake (more frosting!), but with the lemon glaze, the lemon flavor of the cake can overpower the frosting. something to keep in mind should you bake your own (and you should.)
lemon cake with black tea frosting

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

for directions, click here.
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