40

Here I am with my mother and my mother’s mother. I am okay with these genes.

Today, I turn 40.

I don’t particularly remember the year I turned 10, though if I were slightly less lazy, I’d go out to the garage, pull out my childhood diaries, and reflect on the similarities and differences of adult and child Sarah.

The year I turned 20, I was deeply depressed. The year I turned 30, I had a newborn. So this is the first “0” birthday in a while in which I have felt clear-headed and capable of reflection.

Turning 40 was supposed to be a really big deal. This was the last-stop year my high-school friend Matt and I picked as the one we’d get married if neither of us had done that by now (we both have). I thought I should mark the occasion with a 40 day trip, or 4 ten-day trips, maybe to Europe and South America, to cities and countries I’ve longed to visit but have never quite been able to get to.

But this was the year my kid needed braces. And the year I started spending more money taking care of myself on a regular basis. And the year I realized two of our animals are getting pretty old. So, an extravagant trip was out of the question.

This was also the year I took a real break from work, a five-week vacation, after decades of never taking more than a week or two off at a time (and those not being exactly restorative). It’s been the year of re-discovering how much I like my nuclear family, after fifteen years of living across a continent from them. It’s been the year of watching my kid start to develop into the kind of human who will love God and others, set and meet goals, and take brave risks. It’s been the year of seeing my husband build a business and a livelihood on his own terms. And it’s been the year that three people, three peers, who we were close to at different times of our lives, have died…far too early.

We grew food this year. We met with an accountant and our financial advisor. We kept up with laundry and dishes and meal planning and appointments. We had family dinners, morning coffee and chats with my dad; took a road trip to see my grandmother, uncle, and sister in Boise; showed Giehl’s parents the coast and mountains of Oregon. Went on hikes and bike rides and for swims. It’s been a year of pretty ordinary things, which I am finally starting to see as extraordinary.

I’ll mark the actual day of my fortieth birthday (today) by drinking coffee, doing the Sunday crossword (it’s a board game theme! so fun!), going to the gym, and playing piano at tonight’s worship service. This would have been my Grandpa Clyde’s 99th birthday, had he not also died way too young. So, I’ll also spend some time feeling grateful for the family who made me. It’ll be a pretty mundane day without much by way of orchestrated pomp. No breakfast-in-bed or fancy dinners or elaborate surprises.

But that’s okay. Everyday is okay. Mundane is hard and extraordinary and beautiful, if we let it be.

For a long time, I think I carried a lot of anxiety about my life, about its impact. I wanted to do good in the world, to make the world a better place, to make a difference. I’ve written books and am helping to start a nonprofit that may fundamentally change the way the church thinks about animal creatures. I think I was afraid that me, just being me, wasn’t enough, wasn’t good enough. And truthfully, this is still a daily struggle. But it’s changing. Easing. Being replaced with a (slightly…ohsoslightly) increased ability to breathe.

I don’t know what the next decade will hold. I’m still determined to backpack around the world for months on end. And I’m still determined to do what I can to foster a world “on earth, as it is in heaven.” But I’m starting to realize that one of the most powerful ways I can do that, and one of the most rewarding, is to simply try to love the people and other creatures around me well, to do what OA tried to teach me so long ago: “what I can, when I can.”

I’m going to fail a lot at that, so apologies in advance for the days and weeks I anxiously steamroll over whatever obstacle is in my path.

Here’s some good advice for this decade from Walt (Whitman, not Disney), courtesy of the wise and wonderful abby:

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”

Amen.

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difference

“It’s different there,” they always said. They placed their faith in difference, which is to say they placed their faith in the idea that there had to be at least one place in this world where life could be lived in accordance with the plans and dreams they had concocted for themselves.

Dinaw Mengestu, How to Read the Air

crossfit

I was going to wait for my one-year anniversary to write this little confessional, but something happened that made me want to get it out earlier.

Late last September, I started CrossFit.

[I now grant you three minutes to make all the evangelical vegan CrossFitter combination jokes you can make, I realize the temptation to resist will be too great].

I’ve got a lifelong history of starting ambitious workout programs and quitting within a few weeks. I donated to Planet Fitness for two years and only darkened the gym door four times (once to sign up, twice to work out, once to cancel my membership). That is just the latest of a long list of examples. Signing up for races and training to run them kept me active when I lived near the amazing Wissahickon park in Philadelphia, but moving to Eugene put me too far from the nearest trails for a daily routine.

I’d heard people talk about “drinking the CrossFit kool-aid,” but knew nothing about it. As I researched gyms in Eugene, I was increasingly drawn to the website of Eugene CrossFit. The video and photos on the website showed people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. The workouts looked varied. And I liked the idea of trying something new.

So I went for an introductory workout with the owner, this super peppy dude named Jeremy. A women named Becky was there for the intro, too. She was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Be kind to animals or I’ll kill you,” so we were destined to be pals. Also, she’s the best vegan baker on the planet. It was one of many signs that this was the place for me.

The workout was fun and I was a little sore the next day. OK. A lot sore. It felt good. Despite feeling nervous about making an 18-month commitment after one date, I signed up for a two-class-a-week membership. When I was a kid and wanted piano lessons, my parents made me practice for months on my own before they agreed to pay a teacher. Turns out, they know me pretty well. I took the same approach here. For the first month, I took two classes a week. The next month or so, I bumped it up to three. And then, unlimited.

In first five months of 2018, I worked out 121 times. 121. Most weekday afternoons, I shut my laptop lid, change my clothes, and go spend the best hour or two of my day at Eugene CrossFit.

Let me now enumerate a few of the things I love deeply about this place:

  1. I show up and do what I’m told and it’s always something a little new. Even if I’ve done the moves before, I’m working toward a higher jump, a heavier weight, a faster time. I’m competing against myself, my brain, my doubts and I’m kicking my own ass.
  2. The people. Being anonymous doesn’t work for me. When I don’t show up to Eugene CrossFit, someone notices. My neighbors go to different classes and it’s fun to stand out on the street and commiserate about whatever crazy hard thing happened that day. The people in my classes are kind, supportive, funny, strong, inspiring, and so much more. I love the people.
  3. The coaches. Oh my gosh, the coaches. They see us as individuals, and they respond to our particularities. Workouts can be scaled or modified, no problem. If my form is off, they take the time to help me figure out what’s wrong and fix it. They push and encourage me without shaming, and they are as happy about my accomplishments as I am.

Speaking of my form…I am so bad at so many things. Like, really bad. My shoulders are all locked up from years at a laptop. My knees are old and rickety. My burpees are slow. I’m usually good at things I try, perhaps because it has been my MO to try things within a limited range. But in this case, there are a lot of things that I simply can’t do.

AND THAT’S OKAY.

I am bad at these things now, but I am getting better. In the meantime, don’t hate myself for not being able to do what other people can do, or what I want to be able to do. I actually understand and accept that it will take time to improve, and that improvement won’t come magically, but through consistency and hard work. It’s incredibly satisfying.

And it’s not just physical. I mean, it’s physically taxing and I kind of want to die sometimes, but I’ve been surprised at how much of the experience is mental discipline. Almost every time I lift more weight than I’ve ever lifted before, it’s because I look at the bar and tell myself, “Pick it up, don’t stop lifting, you can do this.” Sometimes I get halfway through a workout and think there’s no way I can continue, but then, you know, I do. I finish. I get stronger. My form gets better. I get a tiny bit faster.

And I come back the next day.

Fair warning: I’ll be writing more about my newfound passion. I can’t help it. It’s too amazing to keep to myself anymore.

 

choices

I remember the first time I realized I’d never be able to read all the books ever published. Actually, the first lesson was that I wouldn’t be alive long enough to even read a list of all the titles of the books ever published. It was a sad day and I was reminded of it recently as I perused the shelves of a local used book store. It’s overwhelming for me, that volume of choice. My brain spins and heart yearns to read every word on every musty page, but the reality is so very different: my eyes glaze over as I wander through the stacks, barely taking in every twentieth title…stopping not when I see something new, but when the stream of letters form a name or title with which I am already familiar.

I was reminded of this decades-old pattern yesterday when I re-enacted another little dance of mine: career roulette. This time, I was skimming my gym’s copy of Becoming a Supple Leopard (which is the real name of a real book, I swear). Fascinated by the mechanics of the body, still high on the endorphins from a good workout, I started to daydream about going back to school and getting a degree in exercise science. How interesting it would be to learn more about bodies and how to care for them. My daydream continued and, on the ride home, morphed into the idea that I could perhaps study the psychology of exercise. Why are some humans motivated to move and others not? What is it that tells some people they aren’t cut out to be athletes and should stick to the books? How do people who want to move develop the habit, even when their brains fight them?

You might not be surprised to learn that I only finally ruled out law school as an option a few months ago. Or that I looked at requirements for PA (that’s physician assistant) school as recently as last summer. Or that a PhD in comparative literature or theological ethics is still on the table (the latter being a far more realistic option, which is, in itself, pretty funny). And hey, turns out my third-grade dream of being the first female President of the United States is still in reach.

But I think I’m living into my calling now, working to raise awareness of farmed animal welfare issues among Jesus followers. I know that’s a good purpose, and that I’m uniquely suited for it.

Choices. Roads taken and not taken. How can I, who feel like I have a million choices, spread some of that opportunity around to people who have none? Is it reasonable to feel restless so often? How does a person honor that restlessness and maintain some semblance of stability?

Listening for answers. Headed out to the gym.

Weekly Menu

I’m on vacation this coming week, so we may not stick to this, but if we do hang out around the house, I’d like to try my hand at these meals.

Sunday: I’ll be in Portland with my pop, Giehl and Isaiah can have whatever they want.

Monday: Vegan Kluski with sliced tomatoes, corn, and peas

Tuesday: Taco Bowls! I loved these last time. Instead of quinoa, though, I’m going to use a vegan ground beef substitute, like this one or this one. Here’s why I’m trying to rely a little less on quinoa as a protein source for my north american family.

Wednesday: Mozzarella Mac Deep Dish Pizza. Holy moly. I have to try it. Just once.

Thursday: Mediterranean Bowls. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while. And I’m 100% making my own flatbread to go along with it.

Friday: Poblano “Crema” Enchiladas. I’ll throw in tempeh for some added protein.

Saturday: Potato Pierogi’s with Caramelized Onions (Giehl, be sure to get good sauerkraut and fresh dill),  Mac & Shews, and a Vegan Caesar Salad

Weekly Menu

Remember when I used to write about theology? And depression? I guess these weekly menu posts becoming the dominant feature of my blog means that I haven’t had much of the processing time required for me to write something substantive. Which means I haven’t had much time for processing. Which means there’s a depressive episode hanging out in there somewhere waiting to rear her insistent head.

I’m taking some time off of work in a week or so. Hopefully, I can find a quiet corner to have a little cry, write a little word, and plot my next big adventure.

In the meantime, we’ve got to eat:

Sunday: I profoundly enjoyed the vegan waffles from Kitchen Treaty last week, so I’ll give a couple more recipes from that site a try, starting with this Soba Noodle Soup (because I have, quite predictably, come down with a cold). I’m going to add tofu and kale to mine.

Monday: Roasted Rainbow Vegetable Bowls

Tuesday: Veggie-Loaded Sesame Almond Butter Noodles

Wednesday: I’m headed out of town, so the rest of the week are meals that G can put together in a snap, starting with: 12-Minute Scrambled Tofu Fried Rice

Thursday: Slow Cooker BBQ Chickpea Sloppy Joes (but G, cut back on the sugar, okay?)

Friday: My kid loves cauliflower, so this Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup is for him. Maybe served with some Gardein Chick’n Scallopini

Saturday: Vegetarian Meatball Subs (because I think G will love them, even if they will take a little time to put together)

p.s. I stress-watched both seasons of Master of None over the last month or so. Highly recommend.

Weekly Menu, move-in edition

The good news: we made it all the way across the country with no major incidents, including the kind involving animal bodily fluids.

The better news: there’s a kid who lives across the street who goes to the same school Isaiah will be going to (the public school around the corner) and his parents rave about the community there.

On to the food plan for the week, aka the “restock the pantry plan.” Hysterically, I am leaving tomorrow afternoon for a gathering in Portland I’ll be attending for work. Hello, Eugene! Bye, Eugene!

Sunday: let’s just resign ourselves to eat out every meal today. I’ll embrace it if you will.

Monday: home-made yumm bowls (brown rice, black beans, black olives, salsa, avocado, and yumm sauce – here’s a recipe for you folks not in driving distance of a Cafe Yumm)

Tuesday: almond butter tofu stir fry

Wednesday: pasta, sauce, and vegan meatballs of some sort

Thursday: vegan sloppy joes with cheesy cauliflower rice bake

Friday: vegan waffles and sausage

p.s. We had a pretty good week of eating while we were on the road. Here are some of the highlights!

  • Cheyenne, WY: Anong Thai. With three locations in WY, this place is a goldmine. The panang curry was among the best I’ve ever had.
  • Ogden, UT: Sonora Grill. They have a vegan menu, and I ordered the crispy avocado tacos. It was a HUGE amount of food that I absolutely could not finish. Whoever thought to fry an avocado was a mad genius, though.
  • Twin Falls, ID: 4 Roots Juice Bar and Cafe. I had a taco salad with this walnut-mushroom taco “meat” that was outstanding, and a vegan chocolate chip cookie for later.
  • Boise, ID: Thai Cuisine. My dad’s favorite place in Boise, and one we visit every time we’re in town. Amazing people, amazing food.
  • Mitchell, OR: Tiger Town Brewing Company. VEGAN WINGS in a town of 130 in the middle of Oregon. Hands down my favorite find this trip.