The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Month: January, 2008

Spam is a bummer.

That’s all I have to say, but I needed to say it.  Almost every comment that I have received so far has been spam.  It’s weird to write into a void, believe that you have had some actual impact with a person, and then find that it’s only an ad for a yoga studio, or someone selling vegan food(! I thought vegans were better than that!  I guess we have to buy food, too…).  I swear, capitalism sucks the marrow out of everything decent and creative that Americans try to do.

Thanks to my lone friend, Hershey, for providing a little real commentary!  Sheila


Good morning, Yoga and metaphors.

And a good day to you.

Something I was thinking when I woke up this morning was that metaphors can so often only be explained through the employment of another metaphor.  As I was considering this, I thought of several metaphors which would illustrate what I mean.  This made me laugh.  Laughing reminded me of my yoga practice yesterday with my amazing yoga teacher, Leslie.

We were doing what we always do, but what I do not feel I understand.  We were contemplating awareness.  I had a revelation as we were practicing.  It was like two bars that are supposed to line up end to end were slightly ajar, and they suddenly, but gently slid into place.  I shifted a bit.  Leslie said something about awareness, noticing awareness, I think, and I realized that what she’s talking about has been right in front of me the whole time.  And I can clearly remember myraid times when I have experienced exactly what I experienced in the studio, was aware of my experience, and just didn’t have a name for it.  It feels strange, like seeing a word that I never knew or understood and then suddenly I can read it and know its meaning.

Anyway, I am trying to carry that awareness further into my ‘regular life.’  Ha ha.  I just realized the absurdity of writing that.  But at least I entertain myself.  Of course yoga is part of my regular life – it’s not special, it’s part of the fabric of what I’m doing here.  I find that I can apply principals that we use with our physical bodies to my mental state.  But the key is awareness.  How is it possible that we are awake so much of the time, and yet unaware?  And being unaware is kind of neutral but kind of miserable.

And with that I say, good morning to you.  Sheila

One decent vegan meal to make

Hi.  I just improvised myself the best meal I’ve had in a while, so I thought I’d pause between bites and write down the recipe for all the world to enjoy.  Ha ha.  But at least I will know where the recipe is.

So I was making some lomein noodles, which I have never made before.  I followed the directions for one serving – easy enough, boil for about 8 minutes then rinse in cold water.  I did that, put it in a bowl, splashed on some liquid aminos, (healthy soy sauce) and started to eat.  Let’s say it wasn’t exactly tasty.  Good enough if I was really in a rush or really lazy, but that wasn’t the case today, thankfully. 

I had just been looking through a vegan cookbook earlier and saw notes I had taken on how to make pad thai or pad see yew a few years ago. 

My notes are really poor – in pencil, jottings, really… somewhat suspect.  When I saw that I had written down ‘4 cups of soy sauce’ i realized I’d better not follow along word for word.  But my notes did point me in the right direction.

I put some, maybe 2 tbsp, grapeseed oil in my frying pan, sliced 2 cloves of garlic – I like nice thick slices, like 1/8 inch or a little more, just so I can see the garlic in my food.  I think it looks nice.  So I sauteed the garlic, threw in a rock solid hunk of brown sugar, probably 1 or maybe 2 tbsp., then I did something fairly dumb, *don’t do this – it’s an example of being dumb* I poured vinegar right into the very hot oil – it splattered all over and I almost started a fire.  I pulled the pan off the stove and watched to make sure that I didn’t need my fire extinguisher, wiped off the bottom of the pan, and threw in the cold lomein noodles.  When I replaced the pan, it was fine.

Then I put in some more vinegar, probably 2 tbsp. and some ketchup, another 2 tbsp.  It sounds gross, but it worked.  Then I put in some liquid ginger from the ginger people, probably 1 tbsp., 2 more tbsp of liquid aminos, and stirred.  At this point, it smelled wonderful. 

I’m sure I could have stopped there and been fine, but being a vegan I’m always being told to make sure I get my protein.  So I opened a package of firm tofu, drained off the liquid, and chopped it up a bit and threw it in.  There wasn’t much liquid left, so I added more vinegar, Braggs aminos, and a splash more ketsup.  Stirred it around for a bit, but I wanted something green in there.  All I had was broccoli, which I’m tired of, a green pepper, which I’m saving for roasted vegetables later, and some mescaline mix.  I didn’t know how it would taste, but I thought what the hell, I’m experimenting.  I threw in about 5 handsful of the mescaline mix.  Waited until it was shrively and all the liquid was cooked off, and put it in a bowl.  I wished I had peanuts, but we don’t buy them that often.  There were about 1/4 c of walnuts left in the cupboard, though, so I crushed them a little bit and threw them in.  Viola.  Yum.

In the end, there was too much tofu, about 1/2 a package would have sufficed.  Live and learn.  Luckily we have cold storage.  Good luck if you decide to make this – remember, don’t throw the vinegar into the hot oil.  Sheila

Freewrite 1/17/08

I am in class right now, and I am having my students do a ‘freewrite’.  The idea behind this is that they write for a sustained amount of time.  They are not accountable to me for what they write, unless I see it – so they can write whatever and then throw it away.  I don’t know why this is hard for some people, but I believe that it is.  I try to give them chances to just feel comfortable with writing, but it’s not something that people want to jump up and do if they ‘hate writing.’  It’s too bad, really, because the only way that people get better at writing is to write.  I truly believe that.  I would like to be a better skiier, and the only way that I’m going to get better at it is by strapping those damn sticks onto my feet and getting out in the snow.  Sure I’ll fall on my butt, probably a lot, but I’ll be getting better at skiing.  Or I could just sit and watch the winter olympics on tv and sigh about how I’ll never be as good as them, so why even try?

It’s the same deal with writing.  I can look around and lament the fact that my prose is clunky, that I rarely, if ever, get what I’m truly thinking or feeling down on paper, and even if I do, who wants to read it anyway?  If I get stuck in that thinking, I’ll never get better at writing.  So, class, when I ask you to write, I hope that you do, because as you write more and more you’ll get better and better at it – it’s that simple.

What to do when you’re bummed out.

I am going to attempt something that sometimes works for me:  I am going to write myself into a better mood.  Right now it would be very easy for me to sit and complain about all of the things that I think are wrong in my life right now.  I could complain that I am generally disappointed with other human beings.  But would that help me to be in a better mood?  Would that even be true? 

I am sitting in my classroom where I teach high school.  I have aobut 12 students right now, and they are either reading or writing.  Some of them are coloring, even though I told them not to.  I do not feel that it is my job or responsibility to make them stop doing that.  I feel that it might even be good for them in this moment to let off some steam, to not be stressing out… it’s just really hard to tell when you should be strict with people and when you should cut them a break.  And I certainly am not perfect at deciding when to do which.

I mean, coloring rather than reading really isn’t that big of a deal.  And that’s not what I’m grumpy about, anyway.  I am more grumpy because I have chosen a profession where I am pushing people to always be learning, always be progressing, and it takes a lot of energy to push all of these people in the right direction.   Especially if they push back! 

Overall, I’m sure that it’s a worthwhile pursuit, it just becomes so much harder to do when you aren’t feeling well.  It’s funny that my mood is somewhat improved now that I’ve written a bit.  I feel that I haven’t even actually clued you into my true feelings, it just feels good to write.  So thanks for indulging me, made it through to the end of this. It’s clear that what you, or at least I, should do when bummed out: write.  K bye Sheila

My Dad – a poem

My Dad.
A bus-driver on the early shift.
He looks to maps for everything.
Checking his route before he moves.
Up an hour early every day.
3am.  I’m still trying to fall asleep. 
Getting up out of frustration, I go upstairs.
Dad is kneeling, bent over.  I hear him.
Whimpering.  Next to the wall – barely space to breathe.
He’s praying, crying. 
He looks up at me, tears in his eyes, face a grimace.
I know that look.  The emotion written there: guilt.
I feel guilty because I don’t feel the same as he does.
He’s making up for lost time with God.
Time when he didn’t believe, either.
Am I losing time right now?
Will that be me in 20 years?
Prostrated before a dime-store picture of Jesus, apologizing for my life?

ROY G. BIV is Wrecking the Rainbow

Children gaze with lazy imprecision
At the results of a thousand years
Since the first discovery of a prism.

Locked inside, warm dreams are lost
in the cold distance of stars in space.
A poster lays bare human knowledge,
painstakingly gathered in stolen glances.

Once thought to be a gift from God
a rainbow shimmer on the horizon
kept the dream alive.

Roy is a lonely explorer
sputtering his useless seed over the sea of
seventeen-year-olds no longer able to explore new lands.
Forced to act as though they are curious,
and please teachers by attempting to explore and make new
something that was captured for them in kindergarten.

“forget everything you know.”

Forget Roy.
Nothing so beautiful should be reduced to a short-hand memory device
to be vomited at a teacher’s convenience.
Forget Roy.

Forget IQ.
Your intelligence is not a number
to be belched out by a machine after it consumes you.
Your intelligence is no one else’s accomplishment.
Your rainbow is not a secret key locked in you and you are no prism.
Don’t let anyone steal what is yours by shining a light through you.
You are the rainbow.
You are the refraction of everything around you, and you are your own;
Your own order and your own beauty.

Rainbows are all basically the same, they just occur in different settings.  What if we, a chemical composition, are as consistent as the prism in our output, what if that proves some consistent human emotion, some order to us, simply by how we’re made.  Does blue feel green being so close to yellow’s brightness, yet so far away, a border uncrossed in history?

These questions never occurred to me in astronomy class. I partly blame myself for being unable to see the obvious beauty contained in the experiments, but I forgive myself, too, because the beauty was so well hidden between the lines of lab notes.

– McMahon C 2003

Vegan Holiday

If you are the only vegan in your family, you will relate to this. My husband and I are vegan and we are the only vegans or vegetarians in either side of the family (at least the part that we see regularly).  Of course, you meet up a lot over the holidays for Christmas and New Years, and there is usually food involved.  What do you do to handle the differences that are so very apparent when it is time to eat together?

I have a hard time with telling people ‘no’ or with bringing up problems.  While we were lacto-ovo vegetarians, it was a lot easier for people to feed us.  Rather, it was easier to just avoid meat without having to ask awkward questions.  Is there butter in this… are there eggs?  Ergh.  I’d almost rather eat things that I don’t want in my body than have to ask my host these questions. 

It’s been about five months since we became vegan, though, and I for one have noticed that when I accidently ingest dairy I get mild, but uncomfortable, heartburn.  This is also accomplanied by, um, gastro-intestinal discomfort a few hours later.  I don’t like feeling crappy, so I have to ask the awkward questions.  It’s easier to ask them once you have done it a couple of times, but it still feels bad to me.  I don’t want anyone else to feel that they have done something wrong by not knowing my very picky needs.

What I’m saying is that if you feel the same as me, you may be discouraged from being vegan because of the social aspects.  Please still be vegan – if it really is ‘who you are’ you will find graceful ways to communicate your needs.  You may also find yourself doing what we did – we brought an entree to heat up and eat while everyone else had turkey.  It’s a bit awkward, but it saves your host a lot of work and then you’re certain that you are still maintaining your vegan diet.

And your friends and family will get it, eventually, that this is a lifestyle that you are choosing, not a commentary on the lifestyle that they are choosing.  Have a very vegan day!  Sheila

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