September 8, 2014
I’ve got a cat in my lap, very insistently settled, as she has been on each of the nights since school started that I’ve been up late, working (there have been quite a few). She’s “helping” me.
I’ve got this Instagram picture of some oatmeal, which isn’t really up to regular blogging standards, but it’s been over a month since I’ve posted a recipe, and this one is a winner, humble though it may be to look at.
I’ve got a kid who, as of last week, sleeps in a big boy bed, speaks in three-word sentences, and remembers EVERYTHING in this way that is both freaky and totally endearing.
I’ve got a pack of new students—most of whom are not in fact “new,” but instead, kids I’ve taught before, some of them twice, and now I get to see what they look like as starter adults, and it’s a pretty amazing vantage point, I tell you what.
Living and working on a school calendar means that September always seems to be a “taking stock” month for me—I can’t help but plan out my personal bits and pieces while I’m planning out curriculum, too. I ask my students to write mission statements for themselves; I write one, too. Blank squares on calendar months become etched with pencil, then crossed off in pen.
These almost-fall days (at least that’s what we have down here; my friends in Canada posted the first snow pictures today!, which felt incomprehensible in my mosquito-ridden reality) are prone to over-filling. We do too much, we schedule too much, we take on too much, and everything becomes a blur and before you know it, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s.
So I did this radical-for-me thing a few weeks ago. I decided not to throw a Diwali party.
One of the most difficult things for me to accept about living a balanced, grown-up life is that it’s not the saying no to things you don’t really want to do that’s hard; once you disabuse yourself of the notion of needing to please others or trying to be someone that you’re not, saying no to that stuff gets easy. What’s much tougher for me to swallow is that I’m going to have to say “no” to things that I actually really want to do.
Those of you who’ve been around this blog and/or my life for the last several years know that Diwali is a big deal for me; it’s my thing, my family’s tradition. I started throwing the parties after my dad died in 2006, and I’ve relished the planning, the cooking, the fellowship between friends from disparate groups in our lives, and the sacrament of sharing my culture with others. I love it.
But I’m not going to do it this year. We have a full fall calendar of close friends’ weddings, and though I could fit in an event, I know it would max out my financial, emotional, and temporal resources—all areas where I’m really trying to stay focused. So I’m breaking with tradition and ignoring the “supposed to” voice in my head, and instead choosing what I know is healthiest for me. A CRAZY NOTION, I TELL YOU.
I felt relief immediately after I shared my decision with mom and Jill (who had both been pulling for the side of sanity all along). I keep waiting for the regret, but so far, all quiet on that front. Actually, I feel proud of myself—really proud and not a little bit surprised that I’ve actually managed to stick by my values and priorities, a task made easier by the incredible friends who support me in these kinds of conversations every day (I’m looking at you especially, my Courtneys) and remind me that my identity is bigger than the parties I throw or the things I write or the food I cook.
Sometimes, saying “no” is the most powerful affirmation there is.
GOLD STANDARD OATMEAL
slightly adapted from Megan Gordon by way of The Faux Martha
This recipe is crazy simple but totally a game-changer in terms of method; the oats retain their shape instead of devolving into mush. The texture is IDEAL for someone like me who still has issues with pudding, and toasting the oats before adding the liquid, and adding salt (don’t skip this!) means that your oatmeal actually tastes like something, not just what you dump on top of it.
Shiv and I both love ours with toasted nuts (sliced almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, you name it) & a dash of maple syrup, and I splash in some extra milk in his to cool the whole thing down. This oatmeal is also a great place to sprinkle hemp, flax, and/or chia seeds; you can use cinnamon or other spices, but I don’t find that the oatmeal needs it. Butter is the best flavor of all, y’all!
1 ½ T butter
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
generous pinch of sea salt
1 cup liquid (3 parts water to 1 part milk, i.e. ¾ cup water & ¼ cup milk)
In a wide, shallow skillet (make sure it’s one that has a lid!), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the oats, the pinch of salt, and toss to coat in the melted butter. Stir regularly for at least 5 minutes while the oats toast, until you see a slight color change and smell a distinctly nutty aroma.
All at once, pour in the liquid; the mixture should immediately begin to boil. Remove the skillet from heat, cover with the lid, and leave it alone for 8-10 minutes.
When you’re ready, serve with the toppings of your choice.