Thoughts with my younger me

If I could transport back in time and speak to my younger self, my seven-year-old self, I’d tell her how beautiful she is and to never lose that imagination. She loved pretending to be Pocahontas and run on the front lawn barefoot as if dashing through the forest. She played in a kiddie pool with her neighborhood friend. She loved dancing in her backyard to her boom box that played Britney Spears CD’s.

I would travel back to middle school and whisper to thirteen-year-old me that I shouldn’t insist that dad buy those boots that I’d never wear to the school dance.

To my seventeen-year-old self, I would tell her that her boyfriend would not be the man she’d spend the rest of her life with and to thank the heavens for that. I’d tell her that she will spend the next ten years of her life with all of the wrong boys.

“The man you’re going to spend the rest of your life with,” I’d say, “is with the wrong ones, too. Be patient, and continue on. He’ll find you when God knows you’re both ready.”

If I could check in with the woman I was five years ago, I’d tell her to be prepared for her life to take a giant turn.

I’d tell her, “The storm will come in and it will be fierce. But like everything, it will die down and you will find an even greater strength within you. You will be braver than you have ever been.”

Checking in with the woman I am now, I am telling her not to crumple up this page and throw it away. I am telling her to keep writing and believing in herself, because I know my seven-year-old self would tell twenty-six-year-old me to do what I love and get my feet dirty.

Seven-year-old Amanda is my guide as much as I am hers. She reminds me to embrace the imagination within me, dance when I think no one is watching, and stay in touch with old friends. Thirteen-year-old me whispers, “Dad will always have your back.” She tells me that in his eyes, though, I don’t need boots in order to be beautiful. Seventeen-year-old Amanda is on the verge of finding love and tells me to never give up on it when I have found the right one. I reassure her that I have indeed found him.  Twenty-one-year-old me reminds me that every day is a gift. Live it as though tomorrow won’t come.

Time collapses upon itself to reveal an untold story: the one I am living now and the one I will continue to live. I honor what me at seven, at thirteen, at seventeen, at twenty-one went through to get here.

This is where I am meant to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Balanced, Swedish, Fall Eating

Lately, my palate craves recipes that would allow me to experiment with seasonal flavors and reconnect with my Swedish roots.

I hunted around online for a dish that would suit the fall season and would be linked to my culture. Articles everywhere featured all kinds of autumn-inspired ingredients with rosemary, chili powder, carrots, apples, pumpkin, cinnamon and more. When I typed in “Swedish fall dishes,” I was excited to find something simple.

The recipe appeared on my scroll, introducing me to the history of Hasselback potatoes, a dish that dates back to the 17th century at a tavern in Stockholm that is now a high-end restaurant in a hotel.

Side note: this is one place I would love to visit someday! If not the restaurant, then definitely Stockholm.

I couldn’t help but to feel warm and fuzzy inside, remembering the story my mother told me about my great grandmother, Christine, which is my middle name. As the story goes, Christine traveled from Sweden to the United States through Ellis Island in New York City and then to Chicago where she married my great grandfather who also traveled from Sweden. My family and I know their travels to be true, because we visited Ellis Island when I was younger and found documents of their arrival.

My family history has inspired me to try out the Hasselback potatoes, but because I like to maintain a somewhat healthy eating regiment, I put my own spin on them with the ingredients below.

According to the recipe, Hasselbacks are traditionally baked with butter and breadcrumbs, but I decided to replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil and left out the breadcrumbs altogether. The recipe also called for using an oven to bake the potatoes, but because our oven is currently under repair, I used the stove to saute them and it worked just as well.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Connecting with my family history has been one part of my journey towards optimum living and wellness. There is nothing more satisfying than sharing a piece of my family history with others, and what better place to do that than at the dinner table?

Leave a comment:

Do you have any traditional family dishes you enjoy making? What fall flavors do you incorporate into your cooking? What healthier options do you turn to in the kitchen when your culture is notorious for its sweets, carbs and wine?!    


 

Amanda’s Autumn Swedish Chili Potatoes

Servings: 4

Preparation: 5 minutes

Cooking: 55 minutes

Total: 60 minutes

 

-1 tsp chili powder

-4 potatoes

-1 tsp salt

-1 tsp pepper

-1 tsp rosemary

-2 crushed garlic cloves

-extra virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)

-4 carrots

-bacon bits (eyeball amount)

-(option to add meat of your choice; sliced pineapple and bacon flavored sausage links work really well)

Rinse and peel potatoes and carrots; slice into thin, round discs. Place potatoes and carrots into a bowl. Heat and coat oil in a large skillet. Top and mix all other ingredients with potatoes and carrots. Place potatoes and carrots (and any added meat) into skillet, mix all ingredients with oil, and let simmer for 45 minutes. Continue stirring to avoid the potatoes from burning and sticking to the pan. Potatoes and carrots should be slightly mushy, but firm.

Serve and smaklig spis!

The Storyteller and the Timekeeper

I sit at the computer desk with my glass of red wine with my ambient music playing on YouTube for background music. In front of me sits a blank page. A tauntingly empty page. I might as well be staring into an abyss.

My breathing steadies, and for a few moments, I feel as if I am sucking in air and suffocating. Words don’t come out. My fingers don’t move along the keyboard. Just… nothing. I am absolutely paralyzed.

To ease my mind from the shock, I take a sip of wine and stare at something else. There is a key holder at our front door that has the words “you are my sunshine” sewn above it onto a board. I let those words soften my stiff imagination. I allow that to be a focus.

The letters dance from my fingers onto the page, and suddenly, a story unravels. Effortlessly, I draw the images from my mind that come from truth.

Until I reach a few paragraphs into my story and something distracts me. Blocks me. I have come too far. My mind tells me that I either have to dive in deep or let the story go for awhile, until I’m ready to return to it and give it the attention it deserves.

Time becomes a hindrance. There never seems to be enough of it when there’s a schedule to keep.

The Storyteller within me whispers, “You’re making excuses. Get back to work.”

The Timekeeper within me argues, “You’re not being reasonable. If you dedicate your time to your story, you’re going to lose sleep.”

Storyteller says, “Sleep is for a Disney Princess. You’re a freaking writer. So write, darn it.”

This battle continues as I take breaths and move forward into the abyss which slowly transforms into a full length novel.  I also realize that the Storyteller was right all along. There’s only time. There’s always time.

It’ll tick, it’ll tock, and it’ll bother the hell out of me. It takes all of my energy to peel my eyes away from the clock at the bottom right hand corner of the computer screen and remain focused on the story.

The Timekeeper goes back to her corner of the room and opens her agenda. She pulls her thick, dark-framed glasses closer to her eyes and tilts her head to the side as she gazes into her weekly tasks.

The Storyteller sits on the edge of her seat with her back rounded towards the keyboard and her eyes fixated on the clack-clack-clack of her typing, the smooth keys pressing beneath her fingertips.

Both escape into their separate spheres, neither one more real or legitimate than the other.

 

Growing pains of the heart

I am writing from a computer in the Warrior Zone at Fort Irwin, California. I am currently on a two week rotation at NTC (National Training Center), learning how to be a role player. This training has some downtime, so while I’d love to bury my nose in a book in the library, I figured that I’d take this moment to catch up on my blog.

It’s been such a long time since I posted about current life. The last time I spoke of my personal situation was in Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November, when I was hyperventilating about jumping out of airplanes. I ended up being the first jumper on a couple flights, and loved the experience. My dad was at my graduation to pin on my wings. I arrived at my first unit and immediately wrote an article for LA YOGA Magazine titled “Fear: Yoga for the Courage to Jump from a Plane.” The story was published in March.

A lot has happened between then and now.

I don’t want to bore you with my life story since jumping out of airplanes, but I do want to say how many “firsts” I have had since being stationed in Washington. And damn, there have been A LOT. Each new first experience opened my eyes a little more to a completely different lesson, different challenge, different world. And to think I have only just begun my military career!

Outside of the army, there were first-time experiences, still. I moved in with my boyfriend whom I met one night at a swing dancing class. I have fallen so hard for this young man who has given me an incredible amount of joy since we met.

Not only was it my first time ever meeting such a man whom I trust, love and dance with, moving in together has been a whole other adventure! A wonderful one. I moved into his apartment that is right outside of base. His dog, Titan, welcomed me into his space as well.

I have a home with my boyfriend. It still amazes me every day. My boyfriend has a six-year-old daughter who lives in Missouri with her mom, the woman he divorced two years ago.

This past summer, his daughter flew out to stay with us. This was another big step for me. Now looking back, it was a big step for her as well. I think about how nervous I was to meet her and be introduced as his father’s girlfriend, but I had met greater fears before; this wasn’t any different.

I am fortunate to say that we got along well and learned a great deal about each other. She loved to learn how to spell and hunt for words in word searches with me. We took her to dance and walked Titan to the park.

My parents even came up from California to visit. Many great memories have already sprouted from those occasions. We took her to her first Mariners game in Seattle, to the Space Needle, and around the fish market.

Besides fun visits and trips to Seattle, there were challenges. There was a motherly and authoritative learning curve on my part. Majority of the battle was me adjusting to a new dynamic in the apartment. I have never had a child of my own, so understanding another person’s child and her rhythm, her needs, her tantrums, her favorite foods, her playfulness was a whole new ballgame within itself.

But I was determined to understand and make the effort every day to adjust, to open up a little more if I could. She left me a gift bag in our bedroom the night before she flew back home. When she left, the apartment felt a little empty and, to this day, my boyfriend and I miss her a great deal. We are making a trip out there in September to see her and his family. I am beyond excited.

My heart is so full, and it barely knows what’s happening all around it. It’s beginning to grow more and more. All I can do is breathe and surrender to the growing pains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cost of Choice

“Happy birthday, my sweet Angel,” her mother said smiling, handing Emily a few coins and a cup of black tea.

The summer of 1882 was the warmest season the twelve-year-old felt, yet. She sipped her tea beside her mother in the garden beside their living quarters at the Boyd’s Manchester summer home.

Emily gazed across the lawn to the patio where Dubby and his father sat, playing cards. Seeing that paternal bond wasn’t the first time the little girl thought of her own father. But she couldn’t restrain her curiosity any longer.

“Mum?”

“Yes, love?” her mother asked.

“Why didn’t daddy come to England with us?”

Avery paused mid-sip and sighed. She knew this day would come, but she wished it wouldn’t come so soon.

She glanced at the little inquirer, sitting tall in her chair with her chin tilted to the side like an inquisitive puppy.

“Sometimes, love,” Avery said slowly, choosing her words cautiously. “Mummies and daddies come from very different worlds. And sometimes those worlds don’t mesh.”

The mother recalled long days and nights, nursing Emily in the basement of the Donoghue mansion. If she even thought about taking the baby upstairs, she would risk everything. She would risk someone suspecting that the child’s distinct brown eyes mirrored those of Avery’s master.

“So you and daddy didn’t get along?” Emily asked, pulling Avery away from the memory. The question, however, yanked the mother back into another recollection.

She pondered the first time his lips ever pressed against hers so softly and so gently. She remembered the warmth between her legs and the longing to be in his skin, to feel every crevice of his thin, unyielding body wrap around her and consume her.

Colin had quietly crossed the barrier into her quarters as to not wake his mother sleeping in her bedroom on the floor above.

“No, dear,” Avery replied, snapping out of the scrumptious memory and returning to her daughter’s question. “We loved each other deeply. We loved each other very much.”

Avery took a deep breath and decided to protect her daughter from a broken promise.

The birds continued to chirp in the sunlight on that afternoon as Avery allowed her memory to drift back to those delicious nights when   he crept into her quarters and laid with her in the candlelight.

“I promise to love her,” he whispered sweetly in Avery’s ear. “I will make sure she is treated like a princess and has the life she always wanted.”

*

Emily’s birthdays seemed to be the mark of external change. On her seventeenth birthday, her mother fell ill and feverish.

She laid in bed, unable able to swallow broth or medicine. She grew thin, as if her own skin sucked into her bones. Avery felt drained from coughing up blood into her handkerchief and required Emily to take over caring for the Boyds.

“My love,” her mother whispered to her between coughs. “You are meant for greatness.”

Emily Donoghue, with long, braided brunette hair secured into a bonnet, gazed into her mother’s pale and perspired face.

“Shhh, rest now,” Emily cooed, pulling the bed covers over her mother’s shoulders. “You need to keep your strength.”

“Listen to me,” her mother argued, shaking her head. “I never told you the truth about your father.”

The mere mention of him was a shock to Emily’s bones. Her mother refused to speak more of him ever since that summer in Manchester.

“He was a good man,” Avery continued. “He wanted to take care of you. To give you a good life in Ireland.”

Her daughter’s brown eyes grew wide at the thought of living with him there. She could hardly picture the land they sailed away from when she was a wee Lass, swallowed up on that crowded, odorous vessel.

Emily recalled the salty scent of the green island that was lined with cobblestone roads and hills speckled with sheep.

She saw the dark skies they sailed beneath. The skies were even gloomier when they arrived on England’s soil.

Avery brought her back to the present, uttering softly and assuredly, “The choice is yours, Emily.”

The daughter watched as the light left her mother’s emerald eyes, and fell back into eternal stillness.

*

Emily could hardly rest peacefully that night of her mother’s burial. She couldn’t help but to feel the tugging pull of remorse for the loss of her mother and the news of her father.

She imagined that if she stayed in London, she’d die just like her mother: sick, too young, beneath a blank headstone.

Emily tried to repress the thought. When she finally stopped picturing her own death, she imagined, for the first time in her life, a future with her father. In the land she was born in.

Just the idea of sailing back on a ship away from the shackles of duty excited her.

She tossed and turned, her mind at war.

Duty, Em. Duty. You can’t just leave.

The sun peeked through her dusty window, signaling the time to rise and begin another day.

*

Emily carried on, folding sheets and preparing breakfast for Dubby. She remembered to grab his medicine this time on her way upstairs to his parlor, where he usually sits in the morning.

He lingered in the floral armchair, contemplating the reason why his third mistress left him in a fit of urgency.

Questions and concerns reeled through his mind for a moment… just a moment. Then it turned to his stomach which growled ferociously.

“Mr. Boyd?” Emily inquired from the doorway. The back of the chair faced her, but she could smell the thick scent of tobacco. “It’s time for your medication, sir.”

Dubbinger Chester Thomas Boyd III yawned loudly and dubiously, holding his long pipe before him, avoiding Emily’s calling.

“Mr. Boyd, are you in here?” called the young, fair-skinned woman dressed in her heavy, burgundy dress that she sewed together herself. She approached his side with a glass of water and the three red pills in her palm.

“Unfortunately, I am here,” replied the solemn bachelor. “I won’t be taking that with water today,” he said matter of factually. “Bring me the finest scotch we have – on the rocks.”

Dubby took a puff of his pipe, casting swirls of smoke toward the window overlooking their empty curb where his mistress had stolen their only horse and carriage.

Emily realized he was commanding her to walk three miles to the nearest liquor store.

“Scotch?” she asked. “I don’t believe we have any left in your father’s cabinet, sir.”

The young man with a curled mustache, dressed in a velvet robe, reached for his wallet inside his pocket. He elicited all of the pounds he had and handed them gingerly to her.

“Then buy me some,” he ordered in a low growl that sent shivers down her spine.

Emily bowed and took the money obediently. “Yes, sir.”

She slid the few pieces of bills inside her white apron along with the three red pills, and quietly exited the parlor, preparing for the long trek ahead.

*

Stepping onto the wet, muddy street, Emily clasped the money in her apron pocket. She wondered why she didn’t follow behind Madame Colette in an attempt to free herself from Mr. Boyd’s household.

She strolled down the dark, bustling avenue toward the Old Bell Tavern and counted the bills he had given her.

The young woman folded the bills over in her palm, weighing out the cost of whiskey in comparison to the cost of time she would be cleaning the mess he would make.

Emily considered another option.

But what about Ireland? My father?

The funds would be enough for one passenger, plus food and anything else she needed to travel and survive for one month. Emily Donoghue was ready to meet her family and cross the sea to her destiny.

She redirected her route towards the shipyard.

It took joining the army to grow up.

Looking back on old Facebook posts and photos, I discovered one jarring fact about myself before I joined the army: I didn’t know what it meant to be an adult until I arrived at my first unit.

Before I was a Soldier, I was ambitious and eager to excel in English, following my love of writing and literature. Receiving feedback on my essays was almost addicting; I couldn’t wait to figure out my professor’s standards and exceed them with every draft.

I was a dance instructor, pushing myself out of my comfort zone of simply being the student. It was one thing to make it to a dance class and follow, but it was another to lead. Simultaneously, I studied and taught yoga.

Then I was a performer, joining a small dance company and participating in late night ballroom dance rehearsals.

I was a traveler. My best friend and I joined a tour group, enduring two fast-paced weeks of visiting seven European countries. Before then, I traveled to Ireland for one week with another tour group, having met no one before the trip. On domestic soil, I flew to Nebraska to read a research paper I wrote for the 2015 Willa Cather Conference.

I was a journalist, an editor of a local newspaper and intern at a Los Angeles based yoga and Ayurveda magazine.

All the while, I was still living under my parents’ roof and reaching my mid-twenties. Despite my hunger to embody what I loved doing – dancing and writing, I could never support myself or keep more than a few extra bucks in my checking account.

Flash-forward to now, I am still struggling financially. I predict that I will be struggling for at least another year, before I finally have it all figured out. I’m no longer under mommy and daddy’s roof; I’m under Uncle Sam’s.

I have much more growing up to do, milestones that have yet to be crossed. The journey isn’t black and white, though. I didn’t leave my childhood behind and begin adulthood when I joined the military. A new chapter began, furthering the tale of my existence that I hope to pass on to the children I hope to have one day.

Even then, I’ll never stop learning and exploring who I am, who I was meant to be, and who I am supposed to be with. I have faith in the journey and everything that is beyond my control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abort

“What’s wrong?” he asks, glancing at me, sensing my loathing from his computer chair.

I’m lying on the couch with a James Patterson novel in my hand. A full glass of red wine that he poured for me sits on the coffee table.

“Nothing, babe,” I say, keeping my eyes on my book.

He turns back to his computer. I look at him longingly, hoping he would pause his work, but Jared’s hands remain glued to the keyboard.

*

He worked graveyard the night that little red ‘plus’ sign revealed itself. I leaned on the sink and glanced up at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I caught the horror in my hazel eyes rimmed in charcoal eyeliner. My chest rose and fell with every audible exhalation.

I can’t afford it. I can’t be a mother… I can’t….  

I vomited my breakfast and spit out every last piece of scrambled eggs.

“Oh God,” I said into the toilet. I wiped my mouth and brushed my teeth.

My thin, long fingers trembled as I grabbed the stick. I placed it inside its small cardboard box. I wrapped it inside a Walgreens plastic bag, walked outside, and tossed it into the dumpster behind our apartment. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered in the snowy November darkness.

I stepped inside, closed the door and leaned my forehead against it in agony. The weight of this thing growing inside me dragged me down. I sat with my back against the door, hugging my knees tightly to my chest.

“I’m so sorry, little one,” I whispered. “I can’t keep you.”

The following morning, I picked up my phone and called Planned Parenthood.

*

Today is the day that I scheduled the abortion, a Friday afternoon in December.

I glance at the clock above the couch.

2:59 p.m.

One more hour.

I lay the book on the coffee table and pick up the glass of wine, chugging it before heading to the bathroom, leaving Jared at his desk. Coming into the bathroom, I catch my reflection in the mirror.

Good Lord…

My dry, wavy hair is sticking up in every direction imaginable. Red blotches are scattered across my entire face. My eyebrows are bushy and misshapen, framing my eyes that have dark shadows underneath. The lines on my forehead trace the lack of sleep.

I turn on the shower and step inside, standing underneath its warm cascade. The water trickles down my skin, warming and massaging my aching muscles. Standing still, I let the drops fall on my shoulders and back.

My eyelashes, drenched and heavy, remain open as I gaze down and caress my soft, flat belly. I circle my hands around my navel, pausing a moment to see if I can feel any stirring. Nothing. I don’t know why I think I could feel something. It’s not even a month old, yet.

I close my eyes, imagining it growing bigger and wider into the size of a watermelon. I envision my skin stretching, carrying the little person. I feel it bumping, kicking and flipping. It flips until it pops out.

I see her evolve. The cycles continues as she becomes me, I become my mother, and Jared becomes my step-father.

I had long, brunette hair and danced in little dresses that she bought from the dollar store. He came home from work with a six-pack of Coors Light and ignored our existence. He touched me when mom was down the street, selling gas and lottery tickets.

I turned seventeen and dropped out of high school. I stole cash from her wallet to buy a one-way train ticket to become someone else.

Standing underneath the water, I wrap my arms around myself.

She never even searched for me…  

*

Stepping out of the shower, I shake off the memory by drying my hair with a towel and using it to wipe off the fogged mirror. My lips are dry and purple from the wine.

Wrapping the towel around my waist, I walk into the living room to retrieve my tumbler of water sitting on his computer desk.

I try to avoid distracting him from his work as I grab the tumbler.

“You’re beautiful,” he says sweetly and surprisingly.

I pause and hold the tumbler awkwardly. These words, although he says them often, catch me off guard after imagining him one day becoming the man who ignores his daughter.

“Thank you, babe.” I take a drink, still standing beside him in my towel.

“What are you getting ready for?” he asks.

Tell him… Stop being a coward…

“Abby invited me to pizza,” I say, recognizing my own shaky voice when I try to hide something.

His fingers pause from typing.

“You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” he says, his green, almond-shaped eyes looking away from his screen and into my blank expression.

I smile and nod nervously, not realizing I’m locking my knees and my thighs are shaking.

Tell him!

“Megan, you’re turning pale.”

Suddenly, I feel nauseous. My stomach turns as the room spins. His face goes blurry.

“Come on, let’s lay you down. Wrap your arm around my shoulder. There you go,” he says, walking me over to the couch.

Jared places a throw pillow underneath my head and swings my legs on the couch. My head pounds like someone beating my temples.

“I’m sorry,” I say, my words sounding more like a croak. “I’m sorry.”

“Shh, it’s okay.”

He picks up my tumbler from the floor and fills it from the kitchen sink. Coming back to my side, he orders me to sit up and drink. I wrap my lips around the bottle and sip down the cool water. The liquid feels refreshing along my throat. Goosebumps spread across my naked arms and legs.

Jared grabs a blanket from the bedroom and throws it on top of me. He brushes a few loose strands of wet hair from my face. He places the back of his hand against my forehead. “You’re not feverish.”

I take another sip of water and look at the clock.

4:06 p.m.

I missed the appointment.

“You need to rest,” he says worriedly.

He has always taken care of me.

He’s not going to leave me. I’m not going to become my mother…

“Jared… I’m pregnant.”