Monday, November 25, 2013

Made Up Meal: Pork Tenderloin & Veggies

I try to plan our menu each week and prep meals on Sundays, so that I don't end up at Chipotle every Thursday, dropping $20 on a burrito and a salad.

For the past couple of months, I've been working my way through the Practical Paleo cookbook.
But every now and then, I like to freestyle.

I've had a couple of big hits at our house, so I thought I'd share them with you!

I wish I could come up with awesome Pinteresty names for my made-up meals, but I'm just not that committed... so I'm calling this one "Pork Tenderloin & Veggies."

I know.
You're inspired now, aren't you?

Well, here's what you need:

1 garlic pork tenderloin (I bought mine pre-seasoned, at Trader Joes. It was about 2 lbs)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet potato
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
1 zucchini
1 gala apple
sea salt
dry rosemary
dry basil

Heat the coconut oil in a skillet, then sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, then take it out of the skillet.
Add the sweet potato, red bell pepper, red onion, zucchini (all sliced into approximately one inch pieces) to the skillet with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, dry rosemary and dry basil. Cook on high heat, searing the edges.

Put the seared pork tenderloin into a baking dish.
Surround it with the seared veggies.
Top with a chopped up gala apple (skin on).

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes*, uncovered.

*Or as long as it takes for your tenderloin to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

I hope you like it! If you make it, let me know!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Yesterday, I was grocery shopping at Kroger and a lady stocking the yogurt mentioned that Thanksgiving is later than normal this year.

I hadn't even noticed, but I think I like it.

There are two groups of people, you know.
Like Republicans and Democrats.
Calvinists and Armenians.
There are those who are okay with doing Christmasy things before Thanksgiving and those who wait until after Thanksgiving.

I'm on team After Thanksgiving.

Mainly because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love food.

I will admit... I bought a pack of Holiday Blend K-cups.
Yesterday, I had a Peppermint Mocha.
I actually feel the pull towards Christmasy stuff.

This morning, I woke up early. I was going to write, but all I could do was reminisce and read Emily Freeman's archived blog posts about writing.

When I was walking down the steps for 6:00 a.m. snuggles with Michael, I thought about digging out the Christmas decorations.

But, I will wait.
Because I'm off on Thursday and Friday, and I'd rather do it when I can finish it, than start it and have a mess around here for a few days.

I remember this time last year.
Being tired and worn out and war-weary in my post-election fog.
I didn't want to make any big life decisions until I took a month off of work.

So much for that.

I took a phone call at work one day, from a 757 number.
It was some guy named Jim who wanted to talk to me about WAVY and journalism and news philosophy.

The next thing I knew, I was talking to him on the phone again, in the Panera parking lot.
Then, I bought a brown suit and went in for an interview.

The next thing I knew, boxes were piled seven feet high in our apartment on Christmas and I was neck deep in a search for a house built on a slab, with a downstairs bedroom and bathroom with 31 inch door ways.

I decorated our little Northern Virginia apartment for Christmas, one last time.

We moved in January.
So that life could slow down.
No commute.
No travel.

You know the story.
Because I've been stuck in it for the last year. It's all I can seem to write about.

Moving back 'home' hasn't been what I thought it would be, in a lot of ways.
This turned out to be a hard year.

Financial challenges.
Health challenges.
Workaholism rearing its head in a big, ugly way.

I've been learning a lot about myself this year.
That is never fun, but I do encourage it.

I feel ready to decorate for Christmas.
I feel ready to celebrate.
I feel ready to welcome a new year.
I feel ready to share parts of myself with you in a new, fresh way that scares me.

And most of all, I feel ready to move on.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why It Hurts When Something Messes With Your Normal

I haven't cried in the last 24 hours, I don't think.
And that feels great.

Because there has been a lot of crying around here for the last week.

I feel obligated to open up and share about what's going on with us, because I'm starting to get messages on Facebook from concerned friends.

First, know this: We are fine. We will get through this. Things like this happen. They will happen again, I will cry again, we will get through them again. 

Michael has been in bed for three weeks with a pressure sore. If you don't know what that is, just Google it, and I advise you to do so while not clicking on 'images.'
This one was a bad one.
He's had them before, smaller, not as deep, not as angry. And he's laid over on his side for a couple of nights, and they've gone away.

This one was not so easy to deal with.

I blame myself, first because that's what I enjoy doing apparently, and second, because the reason he got this sore is because he lost too much weight and he has no butt to begin with. (I love you, honey.)

I could sit on my big butt in the same position for years, and I would never run out of skin.

We've been eating a Paleo diet and it's been great for me. I've lost almost 40 pounds, and I feel great. But Michael lost weight, too, and clearly not in the right places.

So - yeah.
It's been three weeks. And it looks like it will be another week before this thing is gone.

I did break him out of jail for the couples' retreat, and to celebrate his birthday last weekend.
He is a champ.
He has only complained a little about being stuck in bed. He figured out a way to rig up his shower chair cushion under him so that he could sit up and get work done on the computer.

That's my guy.
He just figures a way around a challenge, and works around it.

Then, there's me.
I have to kick and scream and complain and gnash teeth about everything.
I hate this.
This does not come naturally to me.
I like for things to go my way.
I like to be in charge.

I work very hard.
I work very long, odd hours.
During our 'normal' (a.k.a. when Michael is up, and not in bed nursing a pressure sore) we get little time together.
It's usually the last few minutes before we fall asleep in the morning - when I lay my head on his chest and we talk until I fall asleep. And when we eat dinner (or whatever meal you call it at about 11pm when it's your first meal of the day) for about 20 minutes before I go to work.

The pressure sore stole all of that.
So, I was left feeling like I don't belong here.
I was PMSing last week, so I knew some of it was drama. I'm not stupid.
But this past week, I wasn't. Yet, I still cried my eyes out every night on my way to work while our home health aide served him dinner in bed, and I snuck out the door to the garage, with my dinner packed in a plastic container to eat at work.

I ate every meal at work.
Because that's where I felt like I belonged.
That's where I can do a good job, and I fit in, and my efforts seem to make a difference.

At home, I just felt in the way. I was standing in front of the trash can when the aide needed to throw something away. I was standing in front of the drawer where she needed to get the ice cream scooper.
I spent as much time as I could upstairs. But I could still hear them talking and laughing downstairs.

And my heart just hurt. I'm not jealous of her in the sense that I think the two of them have something going on. Not at all. I trust Michael 100%, and she is a doll. But I WAS jealous that she was taking care of him. I wanted to take care of him. But I couldn't, because I have to work every day.

Sleep was non-existent. It's harder to fall asleep knowing he may need to be turned or need something at any moment. It's also harder to fall asleep when I can't lay my head on his chest and have that normal cuddle time I'm used to, because he has to lay on his side.

I felt so lonely.
Not alone.
I knew I wasn't alone.
Thanks to the online community of SCI sisters I have, I didn't feel alone.
But I did feel so lonely.

Things are better now. Michael is healing, and we were able to reconnect as just us - like the married couple that we are, in a way that makes him feel like a husband and not a patient, and me feel like a wife and not a slave. And we moved out of the way and put God back where He belongs - in the middle.
Because we have to be reminded from time to time, we can't heal each other's hurts! We can't be enough for each other. We can't be each other's joy. Only God can fill those huge holes!

Yesterday, I got Michael up in sweats and we took it easy around the house. And I went and picked up take out from the Cheesecake Factory, thanks to a birthday gift card from my mom, and birthday money from his parents that we used for a tip.

And a light bulb went off.
This made it easier.

This made it feel like we are an us.
Not like I'm a cook and a maid and he is a patient, and we can have a second where we eat together, then it's back into work mode.

So, that's why I made the post on Facebook:
To all of my friends who always ask if there is anything you can do to help, besides prayer and I always say no. I have decided, you can give us restaurant gift cards.  Oh, and send wine. 

Not because it's the end of the world or because someone is dying or something.
Because people do ask me if there is anything they can do. Honestly. I get asked this a lot. And I always think 'no, there's really not.' And I realized last night, that there is!
Because it turns out cooking and cleaning up after cooking - on top of working 10-12 hours a day (at night), and managing a household while your husband is bedridden - is actually pretty hard.

And picking up dinner from a restaurant and throwing a bunch of plastic in the trash can feels pretty stinking normal, and that feels pretty stinking good.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

To My Husband, On Your Birthday

This is your fifth birthday since we’ve been married.

Time is flying.

I remember the first year, when I tried to make you birthday cinnamon buns in the morning, just like my friend Jennifer Petterec, who does really creative, beautiful things for her family, like serve cinnamon buns with birthday candles in the morning.

Except that I stuffed the candles in the buns when they were piping hot, went to get you up and dressed, and then breakfast consisted of cinnamon buns with icing... and green wax.

You were so sweet, and ate around the wax.

I remember the third year, when ‘three’ tried to rob us of your birthday, but we pulled together, got through it, and ended up celebrating with a group of friends at a sports bar, where you asked for Coffee with Baileys, and the waiter brought you a cup of coffee... with BAY LEAVES.

Earlier that day, I held you while you cried, then you held me while I cried, and in the end, we were closer for it, and we won.

Last year, we went to a Jazz Brunch in DC where the guy in the gospel band was singing and talking about the ‘woman with the issue of blood,’ as I sipped by bloody mary.

We still joke about that.

Happy Birthday to you, my Love.
There is no better day to celebrate, in my eyes.

I’ll see you in an hour, when we will have chocolate cake and Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla, for breakfast.
Because that’s our little tradition. 
And there's no candle wax to eat around, I promise.
Tomorrow, we celebrate 6 years since we had that awkward conversation about how I didn’t want to be your ‘buddy.’ More about that, tomorrow.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Magic Tealight

It’s Saturday, November 9th.
It’s my best friend Courtney’s birthday.
Tomorrow is my Michael’s birthday.

It’s 5:07 a.m.
I’m drinking that third cup of coffee.
The one that will turn my stomach, that I won’t finish and it will get cold.
Soon, I will switch to mouthwash, and then water.

But now, I want the warmth and the energy and coffee is my friend, so we spend just a little more time together.
This morning, it’s Kona blend, which isn’t my favorite but Michael likes it, so I buy it and I make it, and apparently I drink it, when he is asleep.

I have so much in my mind that needs to come out.
Two weeks ago, I was at Allume in Greenville, South Carolina.
I really couldn’t afford to go this year. But my mom, and a perfectly placed pay day made it possible.

I think I will look back on that weekend and I will remember it as a turning point.
The weekend I began to really feel like a writer.

One of the things we received in our gift bags was a little lantern. It’s tin, painted a cream-color, and it holds a tealight. It has a handle that took me three tries and two weeks to figure out, but it’s on there now.

I put it on my desk.
I’ve decided I will light this little candle when I am writing.
Because that will be the magic that turns me into writer Dana.
Author Dana.
Filling up blank pages with words that are perfect Dana.
Or, maybe it will just be a tealight in a little lantern but if nothing else, it smells good and looks cute.

I’m always drawn to these lanterns. At Target. At Ikea. I think I’ve probably bought a half dozen of them over the last 10 years and I’ve decorated with them, then eventually put them in plastic bins and either taken them to the Goodwill, or to my mother’s house, where she is perpetually preparing for yet another yard sale.

I bet you anything at least three of them are on display somewhere in her house. That’s where all my old stuff goes to die. Or, live on, rather. Because when I go to my mother’s house, and I see my old stuff, I regret putting it in plastic bins in the first place. I regret getting rid of it. Replacing it.

Maybe I miss that hawaiian bedspread from Pottery Barn I got 10 years ago. Or, maybe I miss my life 10 years ago.
Either way, it is nice to visit and see that quilt and want it back.
One of these days, I will drive back home with it in the back of my car.

I didn’t plan this morning to write about memories and old bedspreads, at all.

See? Maybe the magic tealight is working.
I smile, and take another sip of Kona.
This is where I want to be.
I am a writer.