Out the Door

I was walking out of the house to go for a run last week, when my neighbor stopped me and asked where I run? There is a well-maintained trail about 3 miles from my house. I drive to the trail head, and run there, safe from traffic and full of scenery.

My neighbor asked why I didn’t run our road? Well, I had never thought of it before. I live on a dead-end street directly off a major highway. I usually drive immediately from driveway to highway, because I know there is little on my road. I never thought to run my own street without driving someplace to run.

So, this past Friday, I did it. I laced up my running shoes and ran right out my front door. It was nice to not have to drive someplace to run.

The run itself left much to be desired. I was on a little 3 mile run, and I must have had to do at least 20 laps up and down my dead -end street to make the 3 miles. It was boring as hell. I would much rather drive the 3 miles to run the trail, where I can do a simple out and back that has diversity in scenery.

What I learned from this experience, is that in the 10+ years I have lived here, which is the longest I have lived anywhere, I never once thought to run my own street.

I was always too busy going out the door to pay any attention to what was quite literally in my own backyard.

I won’t be running my street again. I dare say that they treadmill is more exciting than running my street. The important learning part was to pay attention to what is around you. We don’t always have to go to the next town, out of state, or somewhere else to have fun. There are things to enjoy in our own backyards.

I have been hanging out closer to home lately, both due to lack of gas money, but also to spend more time with my sick family member. What I am learning this summer is that sometimes staying close to home is not so bad.

Yes, its fun to go to new places and have new experiences. Don’t forget about the beauty that immediately surrounds you as well.

I have spent the past 10 years going out the door to drive places without going out the door just to, well, go out the door and down the street. What are you missing by going out the door?

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Mayberry, baseball, birds, & Grub

So, I’ve had an exciting week. After realizing last week that I was way overscheduled and overstressed at work, I made a conscious effort to slow down my schedule this week. When I have an abnormal reaction to a normal situation, I know that its time for an adult time out.

My time out started on my day off Sunday, when the weather finally cooperated enough for me to go to baseball. After an almost solid two weeks of rain outs, it was nice to see the sun and support the local team. While there is a minor league team about an hour south of me, I took in a college game about 4 miles down the road, and I had a better time there than I did my last time at a minor league game. The kids are talented, it was great ball, and the atmosphere couldn’t be beat.

On Monday, I headed up to Lake Ontario hoping for some surfing. The waves were okay to kind of glide on, but not good surf like we had last year. Still, I enjoyed the water for most of the day, at least 6 hours. I also got pulled into a football game and some Frisbee.

The only snafu came around lunch time, when the scene was reminiscent of Hitchcock’s The Birds. I eat on the beach all the time, and the seagulls typically land around hoping for scraps. I had never seen them be aggressive as they were this past Monday.

If my lunch break was a newscast, the headline would have read, “Asshole Seagull Steals Hummus Pita.” I kid you not, these birds were not just hanging out begging for food per the usual seagull experience. I actually had one swoop down and steal hummus pita out of my hand. It was so cleverly orchestrated, it made Ocean’s Eleven look like child’s play. Luckily, my apples, raisins, pickles, and everything else was safe. The taking of hummus pita was conducted with stealth swat-like precision.

While I work nights, and very much prefer working nights, I am actually home three evenings this week. While unusual, it is a welcome change every once in awhile.

My favorite classic TV channel that I get on bunny ears has ramped up showings of Mayberry in the nighttime line up. That means I have three nights this week that I am home to see both Mayberry and Happy Days.

If I could slow down my life to a state of perfection resembling a sitcom, I would love to live in the world of Mayberry. Baseball, surfing, and Mayberry are the things summer nights (and days) are made for.

Finally, I went out to dinner tonight for the first time since being diagnosed with my autoimmune disorder. Eating out with 4 food allergies and an autoimmune disorder is nearly impossible. Anytime I eat prepared food, I run a risk of cross-contamination, if not an all-out reaction.

I had passed by this new restaurant for a few weeks now, that advertises as paleo (whatever that is), vegan, and allergy friendly, so I decided to stop. I usually pick vegan items because it knocks out half of my food allergies, so I only have to check for the other two.

To my delight, not only was the menu easy to navigate with a surprising abundance of options given my allergies, but the staff was able to handle my warning label without batting a eye.

Normally when I want to eat out in a restaurant, it becomes this huge production. As soon as staff find out I have food allergies, the manager gets called over, numerous servers and cooks start running around; its chaos. I appreciate the extra effort in taking precautions that I don’t die, but it just makes eating out embarrassing, so I rarely do so.

The staff at Grubs tonight wrote them all down, nodded like they get this all the time (which maybe they do, because they are the ONLY restaurant I have EVER seen that advertises as allergy friendly), and delivered my food, only noting one substitution due to my allergies. Said substitution was presented in the nicest manner: We know you couldn’t have X, so we gave you some of our homemade Y. It was delicious.

My meal was even prepared in a designated “top 8 free” cooking area, so I am pretty sure this was my first experience eating out having a significantly reduced risk of cross-contamination. If only every restaurant could handle food allergies this way.

While my journey in rewinding real slow has primarily been about minimalism, reducing possessions, and focusing on life priorities, it is also important to remember to slow down our time.

Spend time doing what we truly love to reduce stress levels, ensure happiness, and be more productive in our daily lives and at work. I’m sure I have been much more pleasant to work with this week than I was last week now that I have made a conscious effort to slow down. I don’t know about you, but I do better at work when I make the effort to take care of myself.

How can you take care of yourself this week? What does your version of Mayberry look like?

Depression Era Cooking

Cooking, baking specifically, is a positive coping skill for me. With 4 food allergies plus an autoimmune disorder all adult onset, both cooking and baking have become daily challenges.

I have, for the most part, mastered egg substitution. With an egg allergy, I have learned that I can substitute applesauce for up to three eggs. Recipes beyond three eggs require some creativity. The individual cups of applesauce commonly found in children’s lunch boxes are the perfect size to equate to one egg.

I have used this applesauce coping skill to adapt some recipes. I successfully make banana bread on a regular basis. I even found an allergy friendly recipe for pumpkin pie that, while a lot of work, completely made my thanksgiving last year.

Tonight, completely by happenstance, I came across a recipe for depression era chocolate cake. I don’t even remember exactly what I typed into google, except that it involved something concerning the link between egg allergies and gluten autoimmune disorders.

Whatever I typed, I was fortunate enough to come across the depression era chocolate cake recipe. In the 1930s, eggs, milk, and butter were limited and expensive commodities in the United States. If Americans wanted baked goods and treats, then they had to get creative. Ingenuity is a hallmark of American civilization, indeed.

While invented for the purposes of economy, depression era chocolate cake is actually vegan, and perfect for someone trying to navigate the minefield that constitutes the modern problem of navigating the world with multiple food allergies.

It is quick, it is easy, and it completely fills the void left by being unable to bake comfort foods due to multiple allergens. Prior to food allergies, I used to enjoy making brownies and other baked goods to take to the fire station, for example, for some of my friends who work there. Since food allergies, I have had to make my entire environment allergen free due to the severity of my reactions.

Last night, not only did I have all of the ingredients readily on hand, but baking depression era chocolate cake was the perfect answer to the “I’m sick of eating the same allergy friendly food all the time” dilemma.

I have a new recipe to add to my arsenal, and now feel that I have something to contribute when it comes to potlucks and dishes to pass that is not completely obscure to those who don’t have to worry about food allergies.

I’m starting to wonder what other depression era recipes may be out there that would help with navigating the very frustrating world of multiple allergens.

For now, I have baked my cake and am going to eat it too. Lets hope that my search for more depression era recipes that are allergy friendly proves fruitful.

Depression era chocolate “wacky” cake recipe found in multiple locations, so it should be considered common knowledge without having to be cited:

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used the vegan one)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

 1 tablespoon vinegar

1 cup water

preheat oven to 350. Bake for 30 minutes. I would recommend 35-40 if you use a loaf pan as I did for thicker texture.

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Strong Currents

Today was the first day this season that we have not had an epic storm on my day off, so I was determined to take my wetsuit north to walk the board. It is only 45 degrees out today (in the middle of June!), so anyone who dares to surf in this has got to be pretty diehard.

However, emergency alerts came through saying that the Coast Guard has declared no boating, swimming, or other water recreation in this weather due to high winds, strong currents, and unpredictable undertow.

Now, pretty much any surfer will tell you that riding the waves coming in on a storm is pretty epic. However, I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. If the Coast Guard says no water sports, then I’m not about to become another casualty of bizarre weather conditions.

So, I’m spending my day off at home, yet again, realizing that there are some pretty strong currents in life itself that manifest in other ways.

Strong currents are usually indicative of danger. Stay out of the water so you don’t drown or crash. Yet, there are some experiences that run strong currents in our lives, and instead of being threatening, actually serve to anchor us in times of need.

It could be a familiar routine from childhood that makes us feel safe. Notice patterns in ways we react in times of stress. What calms and soothes you? Have you gotten into the adult coloring craze? Do you reach for the remote for some mindless TV or head to the movies? Some of these activities may be strong undercurrents in our lives that help us to cope when life is hard and overwhelming.

For me, one of my strong currents is running. I am now in week 2 of my training for medal # 15. While it is challenging to get back in the groove of training, it brings some much needed consistency and structure to my life. Running is something on which I depend no matter how I am feeling in life – happy, sad, tired, excited. Running has been the backdrop to both some of my best and some of my worst moments in life.

I’ve said that every major decision I’ve made in life has been made while running. This is mostly true. I’ve had some creative and powerful ideas while running that have helped me to navigate many obstacles in my life.

While some currents in life are generally positive, like running, we are bound to have some strong currents that are not-so-positive as well. These are negative coping skills in which we engage and continue to cling to, even though we know they may be bad for us.

Be crazy, but not stupid. It’s better to go with the strong currents than to get dragged into the undertow. Be sure the coping skills you are using are going to actually get you through adversity from point A to point B without pulling you under and making you drown.

What strong currents are carrying you along? Is the current pushing you forward, or are you being dragged down by the undertow?

Radio requests, vegan ice cream, & rainy Sundays

It’s as American as baseball and apple pie. When its wicked hot out, it’s such a treat to be able to go out to the local ice cream shop and order a cone from the window. The challenge is eating it before the gooey goodness melts its way down into your fingers leaving you sticky until you can find a sink or a wet-nap.

I have not been out for ice cream in a very long time. I have 4 food allergies, all of them adult onset. Having a dairy allergy officially makes the quintessential summer treat off-limits.

That is, until I heard about a small local stand that makes vegan diary-free ice cream from coconut milk by hand. I couldn’t believe my ears, so of course, I had to check it out.

I waited in line and made it to the counter, showing my warning label to the clerk stating my dairy & nut allergies, commenting (hopefully) that I heard they had vegan ice cream?

The creme brulee (above) was not only dairy free, but also amazing. I’m sure this small ice cream stand has never seen a happier customer. Being able to partake in this summer American treat completely made my month, and its only the first week of June.

Combine my ice cream treat with the fact that I called in a radio request to have my favorite band played on air for what seems like the first time since the 80s, and this is shaping up to be a spectacular summer weekend.

The only thing that could make it better would be baseball and surfing. The baseball game I was going to attend was rained out today, and I know better than to go surfing in a lightning storm.

This weekend is just a taste of the pleasures I now experience since making conscious efforts to slow my life down and prioritize what is truly important to me.

I’m hunkered down in thunderstorms with good tunes, good reading, and the people who matter most to me. Tomorrow, when the storms clear, I am looking forward to my first long run of the 2016 marathon training season.

If this is what life is like in retirement, then its looking pretty good.

Welcome, summer.

What are you looking forward to in the coming weeks?