Sunday, October 20, 2013

All Work and No Play

The Burt-man recently asked me if I have enough fun. It’s the sort of question that hits you in the face like cold water in the mornings. It wakes you up. It makes you think.

I go to school full time. In grad school terms, that’s nine credits or higher. That’s nine hours in the classroom, six of them being in the late evening. I then devote three days to studying, one for each class, and studying (as well as paper writing and presentation making) can take up to fifteen hours in total. I also work part-time; nothing fancy, just twelve hours three days a week. It takes my mind off school and it’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, but it’s still a job. It still takes a lot of energy to be present for the kids as well as my co-workers.

If we add it all together, plus the time it takes to commute, school and work equal to a full-time job. (Mad respect for grad school students who are parents and/or with full-time careers. You guys are the kings and queens of time management.)

Due to the change in my schedule this semester, this meant I had to stop rock climbing for a while. (I just about cried when I told SportRock I needed to freeze my account.) I couldn’t make the time to go in the evenings, because by that point I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was read another novel from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. My mornings have been devoted to sleeping eight hours, and simply just chilling out or working on projects. I barely had the energy to do Insanity, let alone to go out and see people and go on adventures. I’ve never been so appreciative of my bed before this semester, or sleeping in general.

I'm so jealous that my cats can literally sleep whenever they want.

It’s the final stretch towards obtaining my Masters Degree, and it has me hyperfocusing so narrowly that I literally have to schedule fun and force myself out the door to have it. Don’t get me wrong; I love my classes and my job. I enjoy the readings, the discussions, and being in the classroom. I cherish the time I have with the kids and my friends at work. But the Burt-man’s question irked me, because it’s true. I’ve forgotten how to have spontaneous fun without the fear of procrastination and motivation looming over my head.

Fun became an expense. I couldn't afford it anymore.

I also have been preparing for my internship in 2014. Yes, I got an internship. In Malta. For a year. I have never been so excited and so terrified for anything before. I will be leaving in early December to settle into this new chapter of my life. So along with the typical week I mentioned, I also have a year of being abroad to consider: what to pack, what paperwork is needed, where I’ll be living, how I will need to budget, etc. I considered doing distance-learning classes along with the internship and my school’s requirements for internship credit in the spring, but decided against it. Why? Because I’m going to be in Malta, that’s why! Because my internship is a forty-hour workweek, and because I want to do my best and still have fun while I’m there.

So with papers and projects coming up (or in one class’s case, a midterm due tomorrow), I am getting myself in the writing groove by writing this post and talking about emotional health.  Guys, everyone needs fun for themselves, even when your schoolwork and your job are things you look forward to every day. You need time (or a day) to yourself to do things for you. That’s why I’m getting myself out of this motivation rut and will set aside time to myself every day to make fun and be creative. If you focus on all the things that have to get done, nothing ever will. Recipes won't happen. Grades will start slipping. Depression and illness will settle in. Work will seem like a chore. 

So I'm having fun this fall. I'm making time and I'm making meals again.

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the crisp in the air, the color changing in the leaves, and the seasonal crops on the shelves and in the farmers markets. Virginia is bursting with apples, squash, and dark leafy greens, and I wanted to honor that with a dish. It’s a casserole that will keep you warm on those rainy days and chilly evenings. I call it the Three Sisters Casserole because it has corn, squash, and legumes in it, but you can most certainly taste the autumn in every bite.

Three Sisters Casserole

Pumpkin Cornbread batter*
227 g Cooked black beans
1 Medium Zucchini, thinly sliced
200 g Kale, coarsely chopped
3 (240 g) Chicken Thighs, cooked and coarsely chopped**
1 Yellow onion, halved and cut into thin crescents
3 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
Dash of Sage
50 g Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
In a medium sized bowl, combined the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients of the pumpkin cornbread batter and set aside.
In a large pot (or stainless steel wok) on medium heat, pour a tablespoon of your cooking oil of choice.
Upon smoking temperature, sauté the onion, garlic, zucchini, and kale and cook until soft.
Add the beans and chicken and continue cooking on medium-low heat for five minutes and add the sea salt and the sage.
Turn off the heat and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.
Pour the batter over top and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and it is cooked all the way through.

Serves 4 – 6.
*Pumpkin Cornbread
90 g Sorghum flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Unrefined Apple Cider Vinegar
21 g Honey
3/4 tsp. Sea salt
150 g Masa flour
2 Large eggs
15 g Ghee (or melted butter)
250 ml Whole Milk
250 ml Water
200 g Pumpkin puree

Prepare as you would your typical cornbread recipe, which can be found here.

**Vegetarian, you say? No problem! Simply replace the chicken with another 240 g of cooked beans. You can also substitute it with mushrooms, butternut squash, more cheese, or additional veggies.

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