Can’t Stop Eating

Chicken Marsala with Mushroom Gravy, Brown Rice, & Coriander Kabocha

Have you ever experimented with making something, then when it came time to sit down and enjoy the food of your labor you just wanted to inhale it?  I did that a few weeks ago.  I was wanting some mushroom gravy and I wanted to use up some Marsala cooking wine we had.  I browned some chicken, added 1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine and 1/2 cup homemade chicken broth and let it simmer.  When the chicken was done, I removed it and added sliced onions and mushrooms, threw in some cornstarch and added 1/2 cup more chicken stock and let it simmer.

The result was something so good I wanted more and more and more.  I had extra gravy after packing up the leftovers for lunches and used it the next few days for breakfast.

Leftovers for breakfast

Breakfast?  Yes, breakfast.  Some of my best breakfasts have been leftovers topped with eggs.  May sound silly to you, but it breaks up the breakfast monotony for me.  I heated up the leftovers (minus the chicken) while I fixed an egg over easy.  I put the rice in topped it with the egg, added the kabocha around and then topped all of it with the gravy.  It turned out something akin to Loco Moco, a local dish in Hawai`i of rice, hamburger patty, and egg over easy smothered in beef gravy.  The best part of that breakfast (and Loco Moco) is the co-mingling of the gravy with the runny egg yolk as it runs through the rice.  Call me crazy, but I love it.  It’s like comfort food Island-style for me.

I was so in love with this that I decided to make it again last night.  It didn’t turn out quite the same, but it was still delicious.  I think I missed something from my original experiment and since I didn’t write everything down, I don’t remember what else I did.  I also had a different batch of chicken broth, which may have messed with the end result.  I’m going to keep playing with it until I get it right.  There is nothing like finding something you love and turning it into a signature.

Protecting Emotional Well-Being

I wanted to follow-up on Friday’s post with something I actually wrote down over a month ago while I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop.  This is more in depth on what I only touched on Friday and will explain a bit why I’ve ditched the career for a job.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a fire fighter, police officer, and own a restaurant?  Or a model, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, and President of the United States?  We saw limitless possibilities.  At least I did.  As we grew older, pressure was on to do well in school, get into college, choose a major, and start a lifelong career.


When did society decide for it to be the norm that we could only have 1 career?  Why did we let ourselves get pigeon-holed into thinking it’s the only way?  Sure we go to college or trade school to gain a set of skills and it would be costly to keep going back every time we chose to change careers.  When you’ve had a long time in one career, you become frightened of starting over.  We tend to fear change.   The fear keeps you chained to a place you start to loathe.  Starting over usually means a pay cut.  Starting over usually means searching for a new job, submitting resumes, and going to interviews.  This fear usually keeps you chained to a place you loathe and sometimes you may get promotion after promotion only to be faced with more hours and more stress.

For some people, a lifelong career works for them.  They love it.  They love what they do.  They love who they work for.  They aspire to promotions.  Great.  Honestly, that’s good for them because it’s what they want.  But we are a nation of individuals and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.  Yet, as a nation of individuals we’ve become a nation of individuals-just-like-everyone-else trying to chase down that American Dream.

What if we went to schools of higher learning just for the subjects we wanted?  I could’ve had my Psychology degree in 2 years.  Then you go off, do your thing in the workforce.  Maybe you decide, “I’m not really liking this” or “Wow, the job market is horrible.”  Go back to school for something else.  You get the picture.  Okay, so maybe it’s not quite feasible.  I’m sick of school and don’t want to go back.  But, we need to be able to look at changing career/job tracks as a good thing.  Vital to our well-being in some cases.

I’ve thought a lot about this since I’m definitely not where I planned on being career-wise when I was in high school.  Things changed.  I wanted to be a clinical psychologist.  By the time I was done with my degree I was so jaded with the field that I graduated and became an Administrative Assistant for an environmental engineering company back home.  I was there a year when I got fired.  Yes, fired.  First ever and hopefully, last time.  Before the firing I was already looking for something else because I was unhappy there.  The firing, while upsetting in the moment, was a blessing in disguise.

I wound up working for the YMCA doing after school and Summer programs.  I was challenged by the fact that I had just 1 child out of 20 that had some problems that would disrupt the activities.  I had to spend a lot f time calming him down as he’d start to trash a perfectly fine creative project or chasing him when he’d try to run off.  Both of us grew from that experience and seeing his growth inspired me to want to be a school counselor.  So, I went back to school and prepared for the GRE as he moved to Canada with his mother.  He’s gone on to be a gifted hockey player in the Canadian leagues and started college last year after taking some time after finishing high school.

I met a man not long after and wound up moving far away from my family to marry him.  I didn’t attempt to take the GRE nor did I try for any programs at the University of Louisville.  Instead, I landed a job at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for boys.  I did direct care work for 2 1/2 years, taking promotions while helping young men grow.  The reward in that job was simply seeing them overcome problems and move forward with their lives as they matured from the learning process.  I have so many good memories from those direct care days and the 8 years I spent as a Therapeutic Child Support Counselor and Case Manager after transferring to the Clinical Department.  If circumstances hadn’t made me choose between staying and possibly working myself into the ground in order to keep providing quality service to my clients, staying and providing sub-par services while staying healthy, or leaving to protect my health and my work ethic, I would still be there.

When I left, I wanted to do something different.  I went into grant writing.  I found a job at an advocacy agency for mental health just 5 minutes from home.  After a few months, the economy tanked and I was almost out of a job.  I agreed to stay on and do whatever my boss asked of me.  Re-organize the office files, organize archived files, report payroll, make labels, etc.  Not glamorous, but it was the least stressful time of my life and it allowed me to enjoy life.  Then, I started teaching some classes around the state.  Eventually, I was set to take over as Executive Director after my boss retired.  I never once thought about having a career again, but I went for it when the opportunity was presented to me.

Now here I am in a different city again working at a job, not a career.  Retail.  The hours are much different from I’m used to and I’m trying to get a handle on balancing a changing schedule with my needs.  I don’t care that I’m making nearly half what I was making 2 months ago.  My ideas on money and consumerism have changed so drastically that I look at things now and say to myself, “I don’t really need that,” and I walk away.  The exceptions are music and books.  I don’t want to be working just to make more money to buy more things.  I don’t need more things.  I need time with my family.  I need time for myself to indulge in my creative hobbies.  I need time to make sure I’m sticking to my whole foods and gluten-free diet.  I’m simply working to pay off a credit card.  Sure, I could get a career oriented job to pay it off sooner, but I don’t want that accompanying stress.  I like leaving work at work and not having it tag along back home with me just to haunt my dreams.

I don’t care that people will think less of me for ditching a career.  That’s their problem, their perception.  I’ve never been one to do things just to fit what others think I should do and I won’t start now.  I’m happy with the choice I made.  Sure, retail can be hard tedious work, but I don’t think we were made to sit behind desks all day.  We were made to work the land and live off of the land.  Short of working on a farm, working in retail is a great way to keep moving the entire time at work to mimic this.  I come home with sore feet and legs, but I like it.  I know all of that is good for me.

So don’t judge someone the next time you talk to someone about their ideas about school or careers just because they differ from yours or the societal norm.  If they are happy, that is all that matters.   If you’re the one being judged, if you’re doing what you want to do and you’re happy doing it, keep at it despite what others think.  In the end, you’re the only that can make you happy.


Are you stopping to enjoy this life you're living or are you letting it pass you by?


Lives Well Lived

This last week and a half has been a roller coaster.  The ups include starting my new job, training, and getting to smile at people all shift long.  The downs have been losses that are touching the lives of loved ones, which touches me as well.

It started with a message from my best friend, Stick, last week Wednesday.  Her brother-in-law’s climbing partner, Joe Puryear, was standing on a cornice as they were ascending Labuche Kang in Tibet when it gave way and he fell to his death.  I met Stick’s brother-in-law when she got married and spent some time getting to know him.  He has a deep respect for the Earth and a love of the mountains.  David and Joe are both respected and experienced Alpinist.  My heart went out to David as soon as I read the message, since they spent the better part of the last two years climbing in Nepal and Tibet.  The more I read about Joe, the more I was saddened.  I could give you all the details, but I couldn’t convey the depth of respect and honor that those who knew him have.  Just Google his name and you’ll come up with pages and pages of articles about Joe, his love for climbing, his love for photography, his love for his wife, and the passion that was woven into that love.  He was a man that lived and died doing what he loved.

Last Friday, my cousin’s paddling coach was died after being struck on his moped by a car in the neighborhood I where I used to live.  Coach Al touched the lives of the youth he worked with and coached.  When you are young and you make a connection with someone older than you that helps guide you and nurture you, they aren’t just a role model.  They become family.  Friends and family back home are not just mourning the loss of a coach and friend, they are grieving the loss of a beloved family member.  I started attending my childhood friend’s church, Grace Bible Church, in college.  One of the friends I made there and his family was very involved in the church and meetings for the college age adults were held at his house.  No one walked through that door and said, “Hi, Mrs. de los Santos.”  EVERYONE walked through that door and said, “Hi, Mom!”  She took a personal interest in every young adult that walked through her door and took the time to get to know every single one of us.  So, hearing about Coach Al’s passing, reminded me of Mom.  She passed away after I graduated from college, right before Mother’s Day.  Her service was held on Mother’s Day.  A sad day, but fitting.  She was a mother to everyone and the church was packed, including the overflow room.  Every Mother’s Day I make sure to honor her in my heart.  She was a major influence in my life in the years that I knew her and I attribute part of my tendency to “mother” others in need to her.  So, when I got news of Coach Al, my heart broke for my cousin reading her Facebook status: “First day of paddling tomorrow. Not the same without coach al but I know he’ll be there in spirit paddling in his one man beside us cheering us on. I Know that I have to give the new coach a chance but he can never replace coach al or aunty pua. But no matter what I’ll still try my best. This season is dedicated to you coach. I’ll never forget you or the things that you taught me.”

Tuesday, I was shocked when I saw that Andy Irons passed away at the age of 32.  For those of you wondering who the heck he is, Andy is a professional surfer from Hawai`i.  It left me thinking, “Will this ever end?”  In between all this a friend’s uncle and her cat died on the same day and a friend in Argentina mourned the passing of a former President.  I was simply stunned.  Now I’m seeing speculation about his death.  I just love how the media speculates [insert sarcastic tone].  There is always so much speculation when celebrities die young, especially when drugs (prescription or otherwise) are found at the scene.  I just want to scream at the media, “WHO CARES?”  The speculation only hurts the family and friends.  I really don’t care.  We have to remember how these people lived and the mark they left on the hearts of those they touched.  The media helps the public put celebrities on a pedestal so when they fall, people forget that they are just human beings like the rest of us.  Andy left an indelible mark on the circuit, as well as everyone he met.  That’s what matters.  That’s what we need to focus on and remember.  I will miss seeing Andy on the circuit and in the news, but he won’t be forgotten by those that knew him best and those that appreciated his skill.

Yes, it has been a wild ride but it is reminding me about why I’m making the changes that I am in my life.  I don’t care if people think less of me for ditching a career for a job in retail.  It’s giving me what I want.  Time to do things that I want to do and to live my life the way I want.  I may not be out there climbing mountains, coaching, or surfing.  I may not finish writing my book or even get it published if I do finish it.  I don’t measure success by the things I’ve done, but by how happy I was doing them.  I would rather leave my mark on the hearts of others and not on this world.  Kid Rock’s song, Born Free, has really resonated with me and I realized while writing this that it connects with everything I’ve been doing so I want to leave you with that.