little flowers.

I try to pay attention when this crazy life slows down just enough.

Tiny themes. Parables. Accents to the usual ebb and flow of a day.

Today, as I was looking around my room, I came across one of those tiny themes.

flowers.

Which, for me, is sort of odd. I’ve really been into flowers lately. I realize that isn’t the most masculine or insane thing of me to say, but at this point, I don’t really care too much about that. Being a sucker for aesthetic, especially in the dining room, I’ve grown to love those floral notes and little bursts of pigment and how they make a room (and me) feel more alive.

This week, I received a portrait of a magnolia. My state’s flower and tree, believe it or not. I love magnolias. My favorite tree in the world has its roots dug in the front yard of my Me-Maw and Paw-Paw’s house — the giant magnolia that we used to climb as kids. Lately though, the magnolia has become a symbol to me in another way. Healing. I look to it as a place that I came home to slow down and feel okay for a while. To me, the magnolia is my home place. It puts me at peace, and I’m always looking for peace in small and big ways.

Being a sucker for making dishes pretty, I bought a packet of nasturtium seeds to plant. Nasturtiums are these lovely and colorful little flowers that are in fact, edible. I know that might weird people out, but I think they’re just dandy. I think we should be eating more of them, to be honest. I know it’s a little dorky to put flowers on food, but for the sake of my craft, I’m just gonna go with it.

Nasturtium paper

At work, I’ve made a new friend. Her dad grows flowers, plants and herbs and sells them at the local farmer’s market. I told her I didn’t have enough hands for them this past Thursday, so she brought some flowers to me in the midst of a leaning stack of dirty dishes in a stuffy kitchen. It completely made my day. I see them sitting on my nightstand, looking very alive and unique, greeting me in the morning time. I could make this a habit.

Most people who know me, know of my deep love of St. Francis. Albeit a very popular saint, I consider him mine. I once had a shaman tell me that he saw St. Francis near me one day. I can’t say that I fully believed the dude, but it gave me chill bumps. I learned a lot about St. Francis when I lived in India for a short time. I have these tattoos on my wrists that help me remember how inter-connected our world is. I have Francis to thank for that. Well, and a scruffy tattoo artist who worked out of a pawn shop in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Little Flowers were stories released after the death of St. Francis. I suppose it all brings me to feel a bit more holy in a tumultuous time. Faith to me feels a bit like swimming in a choppy ocean. A lot of ups and downs and treading, but ultimately surrounded by it all.

I like that we have little stories of faith, little reminders of miracles, and a way that we remember the tiny things that live among us. As I watched the birds land on my new feeder, they would dig their beaks into the mound of seeds and shower them on the ground for all the other little birds.

I can say that I’ve been on both ends of that, and recognize its importance. In some seasons, you are the one casting seeds, in the other you are sowing, and perhaps at the end, you get to see the fruit of your labor and give thanks with your fellow Beloved.

I am writing today because of so many people, and their daily works and thoughts and efforts.

And I am thankful,

always thankful,

for the small things, with great amounts of love.

balance.

Cooking is about balance.

And you already know that I’m going to compare this to my life. Because this is what I do.

I write. I cook. I eat. I read. I watch. Repeat.

I often find myself creating a better balance with food than in my day to day, but we can’t always be in control of those variables.

When I get to take my time and cook, I am thinking about a lot of things. Texture, salt, fat, acidity and cohesion. It also helps if it looks pretty, but to be honest, it is just food and we all know what it turns into. I am a sucker for giving a damn though, and if I spend the time cooking it, you better believe I’m going to make it look good.

Balance is harmony.

That’s why we love bacon so much. Salt. Sweet. Smoky. Fat. Or I’ll just claim it and say that’s why I consume so much bacon. When you bake trays and trays of bacon every day, you will come to appreciate how versatile and irresistible it is to the human condition.

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I’m working on balance.

I’m working on my own harmony.

That might be a little too much to ask of the world, but I have to keep coming back to myself at the end of the day.

“Hey, slow down. Be good to yourself. Listen to other people. Focus on what you can do today.”

Otherwise, I’m a mess — scratching my head and staring inside the refrigerator for my toothbrush. (Okay, that hasn’t happened yet, but give it time.)

Life is just moving, moving, moving.
Some days are just the right balance of sweet and savory. Tart and bland. Rest and play. Work and reward.

Each day, I say to myself that I wish to move with intention. That even though my current job isn’t where I seem to be using my best skills, I’m still learning a lot about this city and its people. I’m learning what they like and don’t like. I’m listening to my fellow co-workers deal with their own toils while slowly sharing mine.

Seeing a rogue picture of your ex and her partner is a super cliche knee jerk reaction. I suppose my reaction doesn’t exist so much in anger, as it does in, “Well, this is the way things are now.” But also, inside, “This feels weird.”

And I find myself thinking upon on it. I ask myself a lot of questions these days. I think I learned to do it because it actually helps me in feeling somewhat healthy.

“Josh, what do you want from her?”

“Nothing. Sometimes I want her to really know how badly I’ve hurt, but I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to hurt like that.”

“Anything else?”

Well, I’m tired. Underpaid with more responsibility. Sometimes that feels unfair. I also have little crushes on all sorts of people. I think when I get shown the least bit of attention, I perk up and take notice. To be honest, I feel thankful when I’m noticed. I feel thankful more and more all the time.”

Those variables I mentioned earlier start popping up all over the place. They make me feel silly. They make things feel petty. But they are these new things I’m having to balance.

As I say to myself and others who find themselves discouraged after a day’s toils, tomorrow is a new day.

A new day to explore and season and taste and shift.

I love new days.

I love planting my feet on the floor and hearing my ankles crack as they bend. I still love the smell of the first brewed pot of coffee. All these things certainly adding to my new life here.

Some days, heavy on the salt. Other days, too bitter. Lately I’ve had a sweet tooth, and cannot be trusted around sweet tea.

I reckon’ when it’s all said and done, the world wasn’t made in a day,

And neither will mine.

holy day

baby laughs and sunday pot roast

a familiar memory runs through my veins.

the feeling of normality and ritual and calm wash over me,
regardless of the noise and the sound of toys scraping floor,
this was something I had been missing

ketchup, mustard and ice cream,
the things these kids are made of,
that, and their creative restless minds
learning how to build bigger towers
with more and more colors.

the sounds of mom clinking spoons on the sides of pans
dinner rolls, last to come out of the sparkly clean oven,
an inside joke from the years of waiting on bread.
we are always waiting on the bread.

I know that most see these things as they are.
I can’t help but to see them as something I might miss again someday.

so I soak it up when I can. 
and when I’m not toiling away at a day’s worry.
When I decide in my own heart that all of this is so very important. 

the pot roast.
the little head nestled under my chin
with mashed potatoes smeared above his
little lips drenched in drool and baby noises.

God, I’ve missed this.
The toils and the messes and the quiet afternoons.

baby laughs and sunday pot roast

a holy day if I ever knew one

legos-on-floor

fade to blue

They always say to write about what hurts. 

…to write what it’s like to be human. 
…to tell everyone what makes you afraid, and how to overcome pain with a beautiful story that is true and worn and chipped like an old dish. 

Let me start by saying this whole thing really messed me up. This divorce thing. I want to believe my story will take off again after my “proposed” year of mourning and moving through what it is like to lose someone you love more than anything. 

I think about my friends who have gone through the same, moving on and getting married again. I get tired of the phrase moving on because it’s such a vague thing, right?

I’d love more than anything to become infatuated again and to fall deeply in love and dig my heels in deep to a piece of earth, where I may or may not plant my favorite kind of tomatoes again.

I’m afraid, like most people, that I’ve met and lost that one person, and that it won’t be this way ever again. I hate to admit to that. And I know the lots of ya will tell me to get out there and to be vulnerable. 

But to be honest, I am. 

It is so tiring for me. Especially when the person across from you never asks you questions and all they do is consume yours. It’s hard asking questions all the time. It’s hard to respond sometimes too. I get exhausted with small groups and just want what so many other people want. I want to lay my head in someone’s lap and fall asleep there, as I feel their breathing. 

I don’t like the way “being single on the move” makes me feel. Like some sort of hidden intention all the time. I realize that’s how it goes, but I’m not good at that. I catch my own bullshit all the time. I know the kind of person I am. The Animals said it best for me,

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

 

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 I will write as long as I need to, 

About what is scary, and true to me. 

About how I get sad sometimes when my friends get pregnant or married and move on with their own little families. I am ultimately filled with love for them, but I also understand that there’s some mourning, and this is something new I’ve had to learn. 

holding loosely.

It is hard for me to do so, especially now that I hold tight to anything good. And when I feel it start to slip away, I panic and think that I have to move again. That I have to reinvent myself and change into something other people will find attractive. That I have to be someone that I’m not. Maybe that’s some defense mechanism I’ve gained this past year. If I don’t feel like I’m wanted, I start thinking I have to move elsewhere. That have to figure it out. And that am going to figure it out all on my own. 

I am movin’ like molasses on a chilly day…
A part of me wishes I had a story of finding love again quickly, and that my sadness was spared, but it is not, and that’s okay.

It allows me to paint with colors I’ve never seen before.

It allows me describe an entirely different landscape, and how I often fade into the horizon,

with all the other reds, oranges and blues,

making it impossible to determine where one color ends, and the other begins.

 

concrete

Heavy world, dear one.

I hear this phrase in my head. I hear it when I discover again and again my heart resting in the place it’s always been.
I suppose resting isn’t quite the right word, considering it has a history of beating and beating particularly faster when it is challenged or excited or broken.

I spent some time with this heart of mine. There wasn’t much that could stop me from letting it go where it was needing to go. In the safety of my walls, I lost it. Heavy with all sorts of big and small things, each substantial and having no particular order of deserving more attention than the other.

I thought about my loneliness. How hard it is to go about doing this thing again. I thought about my heart and that if I’m not careful, I’m going to keep it in a cement box.

Keeping my heart surrounded by this cement box is dangerous. I do it because I’m just so afraid to hurt like that again. I’m afraid of rejection. Not being good enough. You know, the usual.

Today, I thought about the times my heart ached just too much. How silly I felt because heartbreak can feel so cliche sometimes. I’m a hot mess just like that person over there. Welcome to the world of wounded healers, I sometimes say to myself.

I live less and less in this deep sadness, but some things trigger me to head down deep again. There, bubbling like a soup, is a lot of that old stuff. Anger. Frustration. Physical want. Confusion. Exhaustion.

My empty walls remind me of the places I’ve called home, and that it takes time to build one. I wish the smell in my apartment wasn’t so old all the time. But it’s really not so bad. I guess if I roast enough chickens it will submit to the sage and rosemary and thyme.

Repairing-Outdoor-Concrete

I love those moments when I find myself lost in my own spirit. It’s rare to have a moment when I feel that safe.

There, I think about God and why it is my heart and mind are conflicted on so many levels. I think about what I’ve lost and gained over the years and what things have stuck to my ribs. I choose to give those things more life, or at least a bigger say as to what my future might look like.

There are days when I know I will devote my life to cooking food for other people. But then, I often dream about being a person who can be present to a family, and not have to choose all the time between work and relationship. We are all more alike than we are different, and I can only assume I am in a much larger boat.

So I will take today and rest my bones after a long, frustrating, and emotionally charged week, and see if I can wander around in my own spirit.

There, I will learn to love myself over and over again, because if I don’t, I can’t properly love my neighbor.

I will nurse the burns on my hands and the ache in my heart.

I will make myself dinner. I will sit down and I will eat it.
All the while, looking at these walls…the ones that guard my heart, and I will tear them down. I will do so as long as I need to.

The world needs my heart, as it need yours.

It’s dangerous I know!

But at this moment,

there is nothing more necessary.

 

Josh Makes Pho

I have talked a bit about soup before, and my anxiety towards it.

It’s still not something I make a lot for myself, but after waking up one morning with a head full of whatever it is that gets in there when you’re sick, I needed something hot. Something right.

I grew to love pho and ramen in Portland. Its climate is good for steamy soup dishes. On particularly cold days, you’d find the pho houses packed to the gills with folks leaning over their steamy bowls of brothy goodness.
I figured, why not share this little dish with y’all. I’m not reinventing anything here, and this is one of the most simple things you could ever make. But you do have to do a few things right, and maybe I can help you in that process.

Stock.
I use chicken bones because it’s what I have most regularly hanging out in my freezer from my obsession with roast chickens. I wait till I have about 5-6 carcasses/backbones before I make a stock, because like I’ve written here before, you really need a lot of bones to make a good gelatinous stock.

Making stock needs some time. (Don’t we all?)
Restaurants will let them go overnight to extract all the marrow and flavor, but I did mine in about eight hours.
In a big pot, throw in your chicken bones and cover with cold water. Put on a high heat until it comes to a simmer, and lower the temp so you can keep a good, low simmer. Maybe a few bubbles popping up every so often.

I guess I’m weird in that I don’t add my vegetables until the last hour or so of cooking. I strain my chicken bones, then I add the vegetables. And this is your basic ratio of onions, carrots and celery. Use 2:1 on the onion to carrot/celery ratio. I do the same for my gumbo stock as well, by adding half a bundle of scallions, whole. Toss in a few bay leaves, a whole head of garlic and a few pinches of salt.

Once your vegetables are cooked, strain and set aside. Your basic chicken stock is now done. You can keep reducing it if you’d like, but I like to have a good bit to cook with for future meals.

Time for soft boiled eggs. Don’t be afraid. It is easy, they just need your undivided attention for about 7 minutes, okay?
Bring up to boil a couple of inches of water in a small pot, it won’t cover the eggs completely. That’s okay. Once the water is boiling, toss in however many *refrigerator cold* eggs you want and cover for 6 1/2 minutes. When they have finished, place directly into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, yo. That’s important.

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Now, comes the fun part. By now, you should have your noodles of choice in hand. I found these simple, thin wheat noodles at a local Thai market that were delicious and easy. They cooked in about one minute, but really, the noodle is important. I prefer wheat, as I think it carries the soup a little better. Adds more substance, which a person afraid of soup will love.

Dish out your broth into a bowl. This is where you season with your salt. By salt I mean actual salt, but also soy and fish sauce. Taste as you do this, because all of our palettes differ. I season with kosher salt till it’s almost where I like it. Then I add soy. Taste. Mm. Okay, fish sauce. Fish sauce is important, but it can overwhelm a dish. Use it like hot sauce. Little bits at a time until you have what you want.

So, your broth is seasoned to perfection. Now, strain your noodles as much as you can and drop them into your broth. Make sure it’s  in a bowl that can contain a lot of goodness, but it will continue to get larger as you build.
I forgot to mention you could add meat at this point, but I didn’t really have anything to add. Usually it’ll be something like thinly sliced pork shoulder or meatballs, maybe even some little slabs of pork belly. All are delicious, I decided to keep this simple. (and cheap.)

This is when I throw in herbs and condiments.

A hefty 1/4 cup of cilantro, plus stems.
5-6 torn leaves of sweet basil or thai basil if you have it
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
About three tablespoons of thinly sliced scallions
The juice of half a lime

This is also when I cut my egg in half and place slightly submerged on top of the soup. I’ll crack some fresh pepper on them babies too. This is when you start getting really excited for all your hard work.

For heat, which I feel is a must with pho or ramen, I add fresh chili paste via sambal oelek. You can get that stuff almost anywhere these days. Usually it’s right next to your beloved sriracha, which I encourage you to use sparingly. I say that because this is a dish of complex flavors. If you put too much heat in, all you’ll taste is heat. Give it just a little nudge and see how far it takes you.

This is a great dish to make for a lot of people. It also looks super impressive. The picture I took can’t do much justice, but it really is such a nourishing and comforting dish to make when you feel a bit under. It jacks up your taste buds and gets your senses moving a bit.

Any questions, I’m happy to answer.

Enjoy!

menders

This has been a week of extremes.

Both ends of the life spectrum have flashed before my eyes, and I think that maybe this week has been about breathing. Thinking about first breaths and last breaths.

On top of all that, a nasty head cold that triggered me making a delicious bowl of noodles. (Recipe to come at a later time.)

But that’s not really what I want to say.

I still dwell in anger from time to time. I hate that so much of my energy is put into a place that will never change a single thing in the past. It’s insane how much energy we put into things that have already happened. And for me, things that haven’t even happened yet.

I’ve gotten choked up twice this week, for things at opposite ends of that spectrum I mentioned earlier. Things that had nothing to do with me, but have reminded me of this precious little life we’ve been given.

I recognize my place in the midst of it all.

Some of it is a balance of give and take. Like always, it seems that life is zero sum, and that the pendulum swings both ways. I don’t like to look at the world in such a way. Because the truth in my belly tells me that there is a great sum at the end of our lives. Yes, things are given and taken away, but we each become these little holy scripts, filled with words and pictures and memory.

I think about energy, too. That maybe the balance of things is thrown off. Too much crap. Too many people tapping on cell phones, heads down, tap tap tapping. Swiping. Not paying attention. I am guilty of all the above.

I had a day off this Friday, and soaked each tiny drop out of my slow morning. I made tea and ate breakfast at my little table. There, I read through my newest cookbook, “Roberta’s”, which may just be my soul restaurant.

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There was a spider hanging from a web. Most people know that I’m terrified of spiders. Usually, I have one rule, “If you don’t crawl on my face at night, you’re cool with me because I really don’t want to smash you with a shoe..”
This was a little spider. It was there because it was snagging fruit flies. For that, I cannot blame it. I became aware of my place in my tiny home. I noticed the power that I had over small and delicate things and for a moment, and humbled myself before its nature.

I watched the birds attempt to figure out my new bird feeder. There were a few squirrels burying things near my clothesline. On my wall is a print of the coffee shop I used to work at, that became my home in the midst of terrible divorce.

I was deeply aware of my place at that moment. Images of the painful things were flowing deep, but I also let them come and go. I had no expectations of myself, only to feel and release. Only to breathe and recognize and be still for a few moments.

I’m not gonna sit here and believe that things happen for a reason. That pain makes us stronger, because it also makes us weaker. For that, I feel angry. I feel angry that there aren’t answers and that I can’t get my shit together as quickly as I thought I could. I’m sad at how people are taken away from us in painful ways. I’m sad that people leave and don’t give us instructions on how to work after they’re gone.

And then, life gives.

and gives and gives.

New breaths.

New skin.

I start to think that we are reborn a lot in our lifetimes. When things fall into our worlds that send us on an entirely different trajectory. There is always room for a new direction. And there is grace that fills the cracks.

Today, even though I still don’t have answers, I have the knowledge that I can still weave through life like thread, creating and mending.

I carry your weight.

And yours too.

Because I know deep down, you carry mine, from time to time.

That’s all I need to know, really.

 

 

 

small peace.

Usually the process of writing starts when I see that I’ve not watered my plants enough, or when a friend drops something in my lap that says, “Here! Struggle with this alongside me!”

I wake up to it all the time.

Mostly, this bright morning sun. I am not given the option to sleep late here, because when the sun is up and bright, I feel as though I am resisting its presence.

I also wake up to a dull ache that sometimes feels like loneliness. Oh, I feel it in my bones quite often. The embrace of another warm body and someone to make breakfast for.

Then there are the wars for place and history and religion.

The senseless acts of human beings just being terrible to one another.

I know, I know. It’s too much to dive into all of that. I have always carried a weight for the world, you see?

My favorite author (read: spiritual guide) wrote a little piece this week on the things I’ve been waking up to.
She ended it by saying this,

“There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.”

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I don’t know what to do.

And maybe that’s the best place to start.

Many mornings, I sit up and plant my feet on these wooden floors.

I can hear my ankles crack a bit, and I breathe in and out. Deep, exaggerated breaths. Like the ones I used to do in therapy when I didn’t know why or what.

There is a lot I wish I could believe. That maybe there will be a shift when things get bad enough. Or we will all be taught how to keep living in this world with all that pain and gnashing of teeth.

I believe in a truth that this world is all we have. I believe that in our journey to be perfect and to have perfect things, we have exhausted our imaginations and our resources.

It’s easy to let it overwhelm.

But you do what we all do and keep going.

It’s easier to quench the thirst of a few than a few thousand, but if enough people decide to stop burning things to the ground, then we might have a chance to build something.

I guess, this piece is a little hard for me to write. For one, I don’t like to be super opinionated. I have many opinions and it’s okay to be opinionated. I also choose safety of space more than any opinion that I have. Because to be honest, mine have changed so much over the years, so I take them as I do a good book or a song. Rich and meaningful in certain seasons, but maybe shift into something else in another.

A few days ago I bought a bird feeder and put it on the clothesline outside my apartment.

It feels good to feed the smallest of things. Especially the ones that sing their songs so loud when the sun comes up.

That makes sense to me more than anything right now.

So, I start small feeding tiny things.

And then, I see that the world keeps moving.
This is how we put out fires within ourselves.
This is how we create small kinds of peace.

‘there are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.’

 

the mystery of other worlds

Sometimes, when I look out into a room,
or when I sit at a table,
I imagine tiny universes
sorta, spinning around.

I see them give and take,
smile and nod and reach,
as though they are trying to understand another world
vastly different from their own.

I understand this.
At times, I am the one who helps facilitate.
I am the one who keeps their glasses full
and their plates warm with food.

It is not the burden of Atlas that I carry,
but the weightlessness that comes
with noticing the invisible things
and the gravity of a new discovery.

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I’ve always enjoyed space.
I love the mystery of other worlds,
which is why I love the mystery in you. As you.
This unknown galaxy swirling like the Milky Way

Don’t let this time go to waste.
You only have a few moments to be this connected
and to discover!
and to explore!

I remember watching the sun shine on your skin
How it glowed, and also its shadows,
the way it allowed me to stand in wonder
as I do always, when I stumble upon a world not my own,

a little universe
with its own fiery suns
as swirling stars.
there you are,

sitting and falling,
moving with intention,
all with a slight lean,
as different worlds do,

drifting into their own forever.

onward and upward

I feel kind of weird writing about this, because I suppose it’s not something I talk about a lot.

I remember listening to my friends and family who had been through separations from lengthy relationships saying, “Yeah, it took me about a year to start dating again…”

That felt real to me.

To be honest, I thought a year would never come, nor did I think I’d be ready to start down that path again.
So much has changed in my heart. What I want has shifted, as well as an entire world of options laid before me.

There were times where I did the online thing. I still dabble, every now and then.

Then I do the app thing on my phone.

Then that feels weird and I delete everything and feel ridiculous.

I have met some seriously amazing people. I’m more so encouraged that I have some decent social skills. Not that I doubted myself, but I was always so used to being in the background of a conversation rather than being the one initiating conversations myself.

That’s been something I’ve had to work on. Now, I find myself babbling at the person sitting across from me like I’ve been cooped up for years. I suppose I’ve always had a lot to say, but I prefer to listen than to talk in most scenarios.

I guess now is the time that I start pulling my head from under the sand a bit. I’m cautious. I’m sure I will be for quite some time. I don’t really know how to go about this.

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I put a lot of thought into these things because I haven’t seriously dated in like, well, a long long long time.
Being alone has its perks. I’ve learned what things drive me crazy with my own personal habits.

“Who’s been leaving their toothpaste crap in the sink!?”

This guy has.

So I’m a little more aware of my own actions.
I clean up well after myself, usually.
I’ve never had a problem with doing dishes.
I cook nice meals quite often.

Making my bed is a piece of cake, considering its tiny twin frame that only fits my whole body if I lay on my back.

Hear me out. This is not a cry for help or attention.

I am though, considering the motions of all this again. I feel rusty. Slowly gaining confidence of my appearance. In fact, I might just only be fitting into myself a little more every day.

I feel a little silly, so I will begin my conclusion.

Many circumstances are unfortunate. I have gobs and gobs of lovely and sweet things to be thankful for.
So begins this weird, and mostly liberating time of looking beyond that horizon I always think about.

I get a little nervous again.

I am excited for this forward momentum and what it means for the things going on in my tiny world.

As I say to myself and others quite often these days,

onward and upward

and I reckon’ it’s about that time.