National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Today marks the last day of National Eating Disorders Awareness week. This is close to my heart — I’ve walked through recovery with a team of professionals, and am acutely aware of how much chaos and disruption an eating disorder can bring. A general lack of education among both sufferers and their communities makes the recovery journey even harder. Here are some myths about eating disorders that I encourage you to challenge:

MYTH 1. Eating disorders only affect a certain type of person – typically white, female, young, thin, upper-middle class. Media representations have perpetuated this stereotype and even glamorized the illness. Eating disorders affect people from all sorts of backgrounds and with all kinds of body shapes. Never feel like you cannot seek help because you aren’t thin enough, or don’t fit into a certain profile. Check out this article.

MYTH 2. Eating disorders are a choice, or a type of attention-seeking behavior. Research shows that eating disorders arise when someone genetically predisposed to certain physiological behaviors experiences a situational trigger. This has to do with a different set-up of the brain’s reward system in conjunction with certain personality traits such as perfectionism. Don’t take my word for it — look at the research.

MYTH 3. Eating disorders are just diets and are not that serious. Extreme dieting is an ED behavior, but they are NOT the same thing. An eating disorder is a psychological illness. Often, the sufferer has lost the capacity to stop restrictive or compensatory behaviors well beyond the point of reason or health. They can’t “break the circuit”, even though they very often want to. This is because their brain is rewarding them for behaviors that are harmful and compulsive. As a side note, diets are terrible too…but they’re not necessarily EDs. More information here.

MYTH 4. Eating disorder sufferers can never fully recover. Untrue! The brain is amazing and has the capacity to re-wire itself. However, this almost always requires professional help from dietitians, therapists, and medical professionals. A big component of an eating disorder is deception, both of others and of self — it’s hard to be objective when you have gotten so good at denying what is happening in your body/mind. Read more in this article.

Finally, I want to link to some resources that I find very helpful: here, here, here, here. Nothing beats having a treatment team and getting the proper care that you need, but hopefully these resources can be a good stepping stone to full recovery.

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6 months: Reflections on being in a seminary counseling program

Finally, I’m attempting to write a little about what being at Missio Seminary for counseling has been like…i.e. the original purpose of this blog, heh. The past six months have incidentally been the most turbulent season of my short (but not short) life thus far, marked by a vocational transition, a cross-country move, grief & loss, relational turmoil, and loneliness. I often tell people who are kind enough to ask about how school is going that it has been the one stable, good thing in my life. Here are some budding thoughts:

The people make the program. Honestly, I didn’t consider this enough when I was making my decision on which program to choose. Sure, things like accreditation, location, tuition, etc. are really important, but the relationships and interactions that I have with my cohort, professors, and staff form the crux of my education. Meeting face-to-face is inconvenient, but 100% worthwhile. We are a small cohort (under 20 students) but incredibly diverse. Training to be a counselor is emotionally exhausting because of the things we talk about and what that can trigger in us, so tears in class are fairly normal. Having people alongside of me to be present in those moments of heaviness — and to make me laugh! — is the biggest gift of being in my program by far.

I’ve learned not to be in ‘counselor’ mode all the time. We spent our first semester intensively practising the foundational ‘building block’ skills of counseling, such as listening, reflecting, nonverbal cues, word choice, etc. We practised a lot on each other. Initially, I was eager to practise my counseling skills everywhere — with Karl, with my friends, at work with customers, with family, etc. I feel bad for them now! Although these skills can be applied to any interaction, I’ve since learned that it is NOT healthy for me to be ‘counseling’ the whole wide world. First up, it’s exhausting and anxiety-inducing to be over-analyzing my conversations all the time. Second, it’s actually not appropriate to be in full-blown counselor mode with people who aren’t clients. My relationships with my husband and my friends are a two-way street; counseling is largely a one-sided relationship that comes with a power dynamic (that is set up in a way so as to benefit the recipient). Third, I wouldn’t be acknowledging the fact that I have deep relational needs! I need my friends and I definitely need my husband to embrace & challenge my ‘whole’ self, not just a certain part of me.

I’m so grateful that I’m in a faith-based program. Being in seminary has pushed me to ask a lot of difficult and painful questions about God. It’s one thing to have a general understanding that the world is “messed up”. It’s another to constantly encounter stories of evil in their cruel particularity and to wonder what on earth you can possibly say to the wounded individuals who come to you for help. Studying theology and counseling together has alerted me to the fact that these stories are recorded in scripture as well — and that God is not, in fact, neutral or absent. If I weren’t in this program, it might have been easy for me to conclude that the hope offered by my faith is insufficient to overcome all the evil that I see, hear, and feel around me. As it stands, I’m still fighting to believe in reconciliation, restoration, and shalom.

Final thought: it’s interesting that the school itself has been undergoing its own season of significant transition (a name change, moving into Philadelphia, etc). Opting into change is painful and often involves loss and vulnerability — this is true for an individual as well as for an organization. Probably much more complicated for the latter! #beautybetween

pre-empting SAD

After several months of anticipation, Fall finally came to Philadelphia…and then left in a hurry. It’s supposed to snow this week (?!), so I’m glad we got to go hiking two weekends ago. Pictured: Wissahickon park.

I love the festive season, but having spent the past three years in an essentially Mediterranean climate, I’d forgotten how bad seasonal depression can be. Some people say there’s no such thing; fine. All I know is that it’s getting increasingly hard to resist the urge to hibernate all day and that everything feels 10x more difficult than it should. I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that I am a Type 4 on the Enneagram (moody…melodramatic…angsty…etc). Oops.

Recently, I’ve been learning that while there is no easy way to feel “all better” in a flash, there are some simple and practical ways I can care for myself. I definitely believe that there are spiritual, social, genetic, etc dimensions to mood disruptions, but I’ve found that physiologically-based self-care can a great starting point when I feel overwhelmed. Here’s my list:

  1. Getting enough vitamin D via a supplement
  2. Eating foods high in omega-3s (sardines, walnuts, salmon, etc)
  3. Breaking a sweat a few times a week…usually dancing to tswizzle in private
  4. Making an effort to leave the house every day
  5. Establishing a morning routine (iced lemon water, stretching/yoga, journaling, hot tea)
  6. Playing the keyboard and singing for a few minutes before dinner
  7. More iced lemon water and more yoga

Some things I want to try:

  1. Light box
  2. More non-screen-related hobbies (like a huge jigsaw puzzle)
  3. Prioritize humor & laughing

That’s all. Stay safe everyone!

DIY: la colombe-style draft latte

So… if you’ve lived in Philly for any amount of time and if you don’t hate coffee, you’ve probably heard of La Colombe.

Karl recently discovered their “draft latte”, available in cans for $3.49 at our local grocery store. That’s THREE DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS for not a lot of coffee and milk, plus you’ve wasted a can.

Of course, I was immediately determined to try and make this at home for a fraction of the cost. Here’s what I came up with — it’s really not rocket science.

Ingredients

  • 2oz strong coffee, cooled (or a shot of espresso if you have the means to make that)
  • 8oz whole milk
  • (optional) maple syrup OR vanilla extract OR chocolate syrup, to taste

You will also need a clean Bonne Maman Raspberry Jam jar. (Just kidding, you can use any old jar, but you need the lid.)

Method

Combine the ingredients in the jar and SHAKE IT GOOD. Serve in a glass over some ice.

Verdict

It was Karl’s idea to add *butter-flavored maple-flavored syrup* (we got it from Save-A-Lot for $1) as his choice of flavoring. I hate to admit that it actually tasted pretty delicious. Shaking the coffee in the jar produced a frothiness that was surprisingly similar to what you would get from the draft latte cans.

Cost? Probably under $0.30.

Take that, La Colombe!

life update

I’m sitting in a café listening to a lady talk. She’s hating on millennials VERY loudly and has waxed poetic about how they’re snowflakes & wimps for at least thirty minutes. My blood pressure is rising, firstly because I am a millennial — and that is a demographic fact, not a lifestyle I’ve opted in to — and secondly because her whining so hateful and unproductive.

Yes, I am going through a quarter-life vocational crisis (after all, that’s what this blog is supposedly about). I am also proud of the fact that I’ve perfected the art of the avocado egg toast with everything-but-the-bagel-seasoning on sprouted ezekiel bread.

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But jeez, lady, you can’t just write me off because I was born between 1981 and 1996. We grew up in completely different worlds.

I think this is pushing my buttons because I’ve been having a hard time having compassion and empathy for people who are not like me and who don’t look like me (clue: almost everyone). For all the volunteering and working with people that I’ve been doing, I still feel stuck in Cultural Humility 101. It really is an everyday work.

On the flip side, I’m learning that it’s okay to keep company with the people who share strong similarities in background. In fact, I’m gonna keep them close. There’s room for more than one type of friend.

Anyway, what I really wanted to do here was to document what life has been like over the summer of 2018. I’m working two jobs: about 10-15 hours a week as a nanny to a toddler, and another 10-15 hours at a produce/juice/smoothie place. Both are tiring and enjoyable in different ways.

I’m getting excited to start school in the fall in a Masters in Counseling program at soon-to-be Missio Seminary.

I definitely feel like I’m in an in-between place, trying to cultivate and sustain the rich friendships & ties I had in the Bay while also trying to muster up energy to be the New Kid all over again.

Some things I am pondering:
– kids and technology and violence and youtube algorithms
– kids need to be bored before their imagination kicks in. maybe adults too?
– kids and fear and identity
– i pay much more attention to how i utilize different tones of my voice w/ kids
– how to make cha ye dan. definitely more difficult than it seems; either too salty or not salty enough, eggs get deformed, wasting so much soy sauce
– i did a brain dump of all the churches i’ve been to in the past 20 years… there are a LOT of them & there is a LOT of variance in theology+culture. maybe this is why i’m so confused??

philadelphia & moving

So, we moved (back) to Philadelphia. This city feels old+new. We live in the intersection of several neighborhoods, right on the dividing line between predominantly white & african-american enclaves respectively.

We still have no wifi at home…I thought I would be dying to put an end to our weird year-long semi-luddite experiment, but oddly enough, I feel kind of reluctant to call Verizon or whatever. The amount of money we spend in coffee shops is probably greater than the cost of high-speed internet at home, but coffee shops are so much more fun. Also, almond croissants. The game-changer is that I get T-Mobile signal in our apartment, which was not the case at our place in Oakland…

Probably the most frustrating part of moving in to our tiny apartment was trying to find a good solution to our curtain situation. We have two square 46″ window panels and zero permission to drill holes in the walls. After some research, I decided to try using jumbo command hooks to hold up an ikea curtain rod, from which we hung blackout curtains from target. These jumbo hooks can supposedly hold up to 7.5lb, and since we were using 3 of them, we figured that they would be able to support a light plastic rod and a bunch of cloth. This was false – they kept falling off in the middle of the night, which was not very conducive to a good night’s sleep. We tried rubbing the wall with more alcohol, using 4 hooks, but nothing worked. Sigh. In the end, I tried using these spring curtain rods from target – worked like a charm. And they were only 3 bucks. Lesson learned.

Actually, that wasn’t the most frustrating part – our mattress got stolen before we managed to even move in to apartment. Apparently someone from FedEx decided it would be a good idea to leave a several-hundred-dollar mattress out on the streets…

But for the most part, the move has been a positive experience. The last time we moved (to Oakland), we prematurely filled our 550 sqft apartment with way too much stuff from our registry. This time, I think we consciously tried to get by with as little as possible & also tried to buy as few new things as we could. We both got bikes for free; we went ‘shopping’ in my in-laws’ basement & emerged with brand new cuisinart cookware and way too many steak knives; I picked up a beautiful mirror from the street. It’s a good life.

Flowers don’t know that rain boots aren’t real pots. I love this so much because I love the idea that life can be found in unconventional places.

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technology practices

I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use technology to relate to the world, but here are some practices that have felt life-giving:

  • Eradicating facebook news feed with this chrome extension
  • Permanently deleting instagram
  • Using simplenote to keep track of everyday to-dos + grocery lists + memos
  • Disallowing cellular data on most of my iPhone apps – this has really helped with cutting idle phone use and also helped me quench the need to know everything instantly
  • Phone stays out of the bedroom
  • Having lots and lots of non-technology things to do around the house! Books, musical instruments, yoga mats/dumbbells, journals, etc

Having been on the ‘other side’ – aka in a position where my job involves figuring out how to get people completely hooked on their technology – I realize I might be overcompensating a little. But I still think that being on this side of extreme is better than being on the other one 😛

mommy-in-law’s dumpling recipe

Because she told it to me last week and I want to remember.

Ingredients

for the dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups water (room temp)

for the filling

  • 1 lb ground pork (can be made in food processor)
  • 1/4 lb raw shrimp, minced in food processor
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T corn starch or potato starch
  • 2 cups celery, blanched and minced
  • 2 tablespoons each: garlic, ginger, scallions minced in food processor
  • ground sichuan peppercorns to taste [optional]
  • soy sauce, sesame oil, salt to taste [best guess: 2 T, 1 t, 1 t respectively]
  • vegetable oil

method

  • combine flour and water; knead a few minutes; set aside (covered)
  • fry the garlic/ginger/scallions/peppercorns in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil for a couple of minutes on medium heat, til fragrant; let cool
  • combine all the filling ingredients; add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture
  • make dumplings

carrot ginger soup with miso + tahini

I’ve been coughing violently for weeks and craving soup a lot. Yesterday I bought a cup of carrot & ginger soup from the Ferry Building, which really hit the spot. Now, the ferry building is probably the ONE touristy place in San Francisco that I wholeheartedly love, but it was a little bit painful paying six dollars for a small cup of blended vegetables.

So I had a go at carrot ginger soup on my own, sans recipe. I didn’t have any sort of broth on hand, and I wanted to keep it super simple, so I decided to flavor it with miso. I also didn’t have any cream, so I thought I’d try my luck with tahini, which I am currently eating like peanut butter (aka by itself and on toast/crackers with honey and cinnamon. Do Recommend.). This is not a fussy soup and it REALLY WORKS; the only thing is you will need is a pot and a blending device of some sort. It’s gluten-free, vegan, etc etc but more importantly really, really yummy and creamy but not heavy. Super mellow.

Carrot Ginger Soup with Miso and Tahini

Carrot Ginger Soup with Miso & Tahini
makes ~4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
  • ½ lb carrots, peeled and chopped (~3-4 medium ones)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon tahini

Method

  1. Sautée onion and ginger in coconut oil on medium heat in a saucepan until onion is soft, ~3-5 mins
  2. Add carrots to pan and pour water until it just covers the carrots
  3. Simmer on low, covered, for 15-20 minutes until carrots are very soft
  4. Blend the mixture
  5. In a small bowl, stir together miso and tahini and a bit of water to make it liquid-y rather than paste-y. Add to the blended soup and adjust salt/pepper to taste

I think this would be lovely with some cilantro and sriracha if you’re into that, but it holds its own perfectly well too.

weird and wonderful pseudo-noodle stirfry

Lunch is often a haphazard affair — attempts to coax the neglected bits and bobs lurking in our fridge into a cohesive meal. Occasionally, these attempts are actually successful. Today I had a success, so I decided to record it here.

Broccoli Century Egg Noodles

Of course, you can use any noodles (cooked) in place of the shirataki, but I think that even aside from the supposed health benefits, I like these noodles because of their convenience: they don’t require cooking, and they hold up remarkably in a stirfry. No need to worry about them turning to mush or becoming over-cooked.

I have a soft spot for broccoli stems because they are often cruelly composted after having been separated from their more desirable floret counterparts. But they are so delicious, especially after a short stint in a hot pan.

Finally, I was so relieved to be rid of the three-month-old century egg hanging out in my fridge (we bought a six-pack to make century egg porridge). It turned out to be a delicious, creamy counterpart to the rest of the dish. You could really throw in any leftover protein here, though.

Ingredients

  • 1 crown broccoli; stem part, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, chopped; white and green part separate
  • 8oz package tofu shirataki angel hair spaghetti
  • 1 tsp chilli bean paste (豆板醤; doubanjiang)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 century egg (皮蛋; pídàn), chopped into small pieces

Method

  • Stir-fry broccoli stems and white part of scallions on medium-high heat until golden brown; turn heat to low
  • Drain shirataki noodles and add to pan
  • Add seasoning (chilli bean paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil), and toss to combine
  • Add chopped egg and green part of scallion
  • Serve with chilli oil!