More Thoughts on Blogging, Men, Dating, etc.

As much as I tell myself that I don’t care about who, if anyone, reads this blog, it’s impossible not to pay attention to the trends. I noted yet again this morning that this post I wrote several months ago on men, disappearances, and the end of breaking up has received more hits in the past couple of days. I believe it has by far gotten more hits than anything else I’ve written on this blog. WordPress is kind enough to also show me search terms that people have used that led them to my blog. I consistently see things like “why men disappear” or “men who disappear for days.” Jezebel also wrote a piece last week about etiquette and the electronic breakup that may be of interest to some of the lonely hearts that visit this site.

I’m rambling a bit, but I felt the need to say that it makes me sad when these things come up in my stats over and over again. Broken-hearted people, I feel for you. Nine months later I’m still angry, unable to forgive, and unwilling to trust. If I don’t blog much anymore about love or dating, know it’s because I don’t do it anymore. Every time I think about the effort I might put into finding love, I think how much more worthwhile it will be to put that effort into running, or into finishing my Ph.D., finding a job, and getting the hell out of Arizona. I’m just saying: Channeling my anger into running has gotten me four new PRs this year and helped me lose 45 pounds. Throwing myself into work has resulted in two degrees and getting ABD status. Throwing myself at men has gotten me a handful of nothing.

There’s only one guy in my life who I can count on standing by me and never running away. Of course, technically he did run away once… and then he came crawling right back to my bed. Sooooo typical.

Short, dark, and handsome is totally my type.

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Eight is the Magic Number

Happy Wednesday to everyone out there in Internet-land. The past several days have been busy but productive for me, which I suppose is the most a grad student can hope for. My running goal this past weekend was to run 7.5-8.0 miles and to achieve a faster pace than last week. My long run two weekends ago was hindered by a bit of a late start, heat and humidity, and I think general burnout. I managed 7.6 miles at a 10:30/mi pace, but I knew I could do more this past Sunday. Let’s just say, goals met and exceeded:

  • Mile 1: 10:15
  • Mile 2: 10:07
  • Mile 3: 10:09
  • Mile 4: 10:07
  • Mile 5: 10:20
  • Mile 6: 10:23
  • Mile 7: 10:29
  • Mile 8: 10:35
  • Bonus .2 @ 10:10
  • Total: 8.2 @ 10:18/mi

I feel good overall about how Sunday’s run went, and it actually left me feeling that I could have gone a bit farther without, you know, dying. My plan is to reach a total of 20 miles this week, then to slow down next week.

A tasty reward

I celebrated this weekend’s achievement with a delicious mint chocolate chip gelato and a new pair of jeans. Since every pair of jeans I own is too large for me now, I figure it was time to break down and buy something suitable to wear before fall comes. Imagine my surprise and amusement at purchasing jeans in a size 4. Last Christmas I was wedging myself into a 12. It’s amazing how far I’ve come this year… and we’re only just 2/3 through!

The International Vegetarian: Part 2, India

If you are a vegetarian, familiarizing yourself with Indian cuisine is almost a must. Indian food is really a complex array of various regional cuisines from the Indian subcontinent, with some U.S. menus including items that are a fusion including Portuguese- or British-Indian combinations. Wikipedia’s Indian cuisine page contains a lengthy list of different regions and foods, if you’re interested in all this.

Throughout India’s diverse population of 1 billion+, many people are vegetarian for religious or cultural reasons. Even for those who are not, semi-vegetarianism is common. The slaughter of cows is illegal in some areas, following Hindu belief, and pork is taboo for Muslims. Buddhists, of course, are generally vegetarian, and even many individuals who don’t follow these dietary restrictions often go long periods of time without eating meat. What’s the necessity, when there are so many other options?

If you are new to Indian cuisine, going to a restaurant is a good bet. Many have vegetarian-friendly Indian buffets, and given the complexity of some Indian recipes, trying it at home may be daunting at first. If you are cooking and want a shortcut, Trader Joe’s has a variety of prepared Indian Fare you can try, and cooking sauces from brands like Sharwood’s are widely available in U.S. supermarkets. Here are some common dishes for you to try.

  • Korma is a sauce that, in Western restaurants, is generally mild in preparation. This sauce is usually flavored with cashews and coconut, yogurt, and/or cream. If you’re wary of spicy foods, or if you like Thai dishes with peanuts, this may be a good choice for you.
  • Tikka masala is my personal favorite. This tomato and yogurt-based sauce is sometimes dyed to create the vibrant red-orange color. The flavor is tangy, and you can order it hot or mild to your taste in most places. This dish may originate in Punjab, but some have also claimed it was a UK-Indian fusion. It is most commonly seen as chicken tikka masala, but you can usually find a version with veggies, fish, or paneer–a soft cheese that is kind of like a cross between cheese and tofu.
  • Vindaloo is popular in the Goa region and is often a very spicy dish. You could order it milder… but why not be daring? Given Goa’s history of interaction with the Portuguese, some cross-cultural influence is present in the dish, which blends vinegar, ginger, chilis, and other spices. You can often find it with potatoes, which may reflect the European influence.
  • Samosas are a tasty appetizer, usually containing potato, onion, and peas in a fried package. The history of samosas is interesting, as this dish is served widely with variations throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa.
  • Naan is a type of flatbread popular in the Punjab region. It is usually cooked in a clay tandoor oven and brushed with butter or ghee.
  • Basmati rice is often served with Indian dishes. It is fragrant with long, delicate grains.

Vegetable masala over basmati rice, served with half a tortilla because I forgot to buy naan. Note that I am not a professional food blogger. 🙂

I made the vegetable masala pictured above with Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer sauce, a potato, half an onion, and half a bell pepper. The potato should be peeled, chopped, and boiled in water until soft. In a skillet, sauté the chopped onion and bell pepper about 10 minutes. Then add the boiled potato, masala sauce, and heat through. After a minute or so, lower the heat and let everything simmer for 5-7 more minutes. Total cooking time is about 35 minutes, and if you get bored with this combo you can also try adding chickpeas, boiled cauliflower, or cherry tomatoes.

Once you master the basics, you’ll find there’s a lot to enjoy in Indian cuisine. Don’t be afraid to experiment! I’ve pretty much never met an Indian recipe I didn’t like.

Toward a 20-Mile Week

It’s been a while since I made a real running post, but I had a great run this morning. Lately, I’ve been saving Fridays for an easy, slow 3-miler–my shortest run of the week. I’ve normally been doing this on a treadmill at paces of over 10:30/mile, but today I decided to get outside. Even with really tired legs, I managed a 9:42 pace and finished out the week with 19.1 miles. This run also put me over 400 miles for the year! Icing on the cake was when I saw a friend on the way home who hasn’t seen me in months. She yelled, “you’re so tiny!” and squeezed my face.

 

So will next week be my first 20-mile week this year (and, really, my first in several years)? It’s going to be tough. Next week I also start my volunteer coaching position, I have to teach, and I’m traveling to a conference Thursday through Sunday. But as they say, there’s someone busier than you running right now. Less excuses, more miles!

On Todd Akin

I am angry. Todd Akin has pissed me off. I don’t want his comments to get under my skin, I didn’t want to write this blog entry–which I’m sure will once again have someone noting how sad and pathetic my life is. I don’t want to think about my own rape, but it’s hard to think about anything else when the word rape is all over the fucking news. I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to stick a big **trigger warning** as I list off some of the many ways rape has fucked with my life. (See also, last week’s pity party on the subject.)

  • When I was raped, I had to take drugs. Lots of them. I took emergency contraception, because it turns out you can get pregnant after all. And did he wear a condom? Who knows. It’s just a bit hard to think straight when you’ve been slipped so much GHB that your memory comes in spurts, that you lose consciousness, and that you wake up semi-aware, but completely unable to move your body for what seems like an eternity–unable to run away and unable to push him off you. Does that sound like a “legitimate rape?” When you tell the hospital staff you don’t know if he used a condom, they give you more drugs. The anti-retroviral drugs that you get to prevent HIV are the worst. After being raped, after being poked and prodded by a rape kit, after letting strangers take photos of the intimate parts of your body, they hand you a supply of drugs almost guaranteed to make you vomit over and over again.

  • The drug regimen ends, though. What doesn’t end is the anger and mistrust. Eight years later, I’m still surprised by my own responses. Rape jokes make me angry.  Any man could be a rapist. A lot of men see me as just an object or a sexual target, I can see it in their eyes (or at least I imagine I do). I can’t forget the look that I got this morning from a man who decided to drive by me reeeeal slow and get a good look as I was walking my dog. At 6:30AM. I try not to wear shorts and a tank top when I walk the dog anymore. It doesn’t really change anything. When that guy leered at me, my mind just thought: Predator.
  • I drank too much. For years. Now I get to feel shame about that, too. I was a “monster.” Yet, since I quit drinking, I find that just being in a bar makes me intensely uncomfortable. Going to parties makes me uncomfortable. So I stay home, night after night. It feels like there’s no winning. If there’s a middle ground between social anxiety and full-on drunk, I haven’t found it yet.
  • I am also afraid. I am afraid I will never find love, because who wants to love a nutcase like me? I am afraid that I have no future and nothing to live for. I am afraid I might hurt myself sometimes. I am afraid to run before dawn. I have panic attacks where I can’t stop crying. I cried this morning in the pet store. I am afraid of myself. Sometimes I don’t want to be alive anymore. Sometimes I think surviving was a mistake.

My point here is not to make you feel sorry for me. (Although, wow have I done a great job of making myself look bad here…) My point is that rape can ruin your life. It can mess with your head. Years later, after you start a new life and when you think things are fine and when you think you might have a bright future after all–WHAM! A news story, a scene in a movie, even the word “rape” sneaks up behind you and knocks you to the ground.

If my life is this unmanageable now, imagine how I would have felt if I had been pregnant and had to carry my rapist’s baby to term. Imagine, amongst all I already feel, if I carried the knowledge that I’d given birth to that child and gave it away, or if I kept it and was reminded of rape all the time. Abortion is not a win, either, mind you. But don’t these women deserve a right to make a choice they can maybe live with? Don’t they deserve to at least have their suffering called “legitimate?”

Todd Akin, you did not misspeak. You did not show empathy. You cannot possibly have empathy for my life, or the life of a victim who is pregnant here in the U.S. or in Rwanda, Bosnia, or the Congo. You cannot imagine, and I’d never wish it upon you or anyone you love. Fuck you.

The International Vegetarian: Part 1, Ethiopia

Flag of Ethiopia, via worldstatesmen.org

I’ve been wanting to do a mini-series like this for a while. Since re-dedicating myself to vegetarianism at the beginning of the year, a lot of my meal inspiration has come from international cuisines. I’d like to feature some of them here in the hopes of inspiring others to go meat-free, or at least to try something new. Here in the U.S., the average diet is not terribly conducive to vegetarianism. Many of us were raised with meat at least twice a day, and with the idea that the massive amount of meat in our burgers or piled on pizzas constitutes a reasonably sized “serving.” For much of the world, though, and throughout much of history meat has been a rarity. Many cultures have also embraced vegetarian or semi-vegetarian lifestyles for religious reasons. Indeed, Buddhism also played a role in my own decision to try vegetarianism again.

I’m starting with Ethiopia because I’ve been on a bit of an Ethiopian cooking kick lately. Ethiopia is a country located in the horn of Africa which has a very distinct language and culture. Unlike most African countries, it never experienced a prolonged colonial period–though it was briefly colonized or occupied by the Italians, depending on how you read that. The country’s long history of independence allowed it to develop a unique culture, and religious diversity including large Muslim and Orthodox populations also shaped the diet. Many dishes are vegetarian, and you generally will not find pork in Ethiopian meals.

Red lentils, purchased in bulk at Whole Foods

Important terms to know if you visit an Ethiopian restaurant are wat, which basically means stew, and injera, which is the name of the tangy flatbread with which most meals are served. If you are out eating Ethiopian, you will probably want to order a combination of dishes that will be served family style, generally on top of or alongside injera. Some great vegetarian options are Mesir or Yemisir Wat (lentil stew), Shiro (chickpeas), and Spinach Wat. Many restaurants will also have other options. Grabbing a piece of injera and digging in with your hands is part of the mealtime experience, so eat with people you like. And make sure to finish with a strong Ethiopian coffee.

Chickpea wat over rice, from Food.com

If you want to try making this food at home, I’ve found some dishes that are surprisingly easy to make. The hardest part is often finding the right combination of spices. Some of these dishes rely on things you might not have around the house like cardamom, a spice with a very distinctive and earthy smell, and tumeric, which gives food a yellow tint. If you have trouble finding these spices, try Whole Foods. They usually have a rack of spices in small sizes which are reasonably priced and come in small cardboard boxes. Less money, less extra spice if you decide not to use it again, and less packaging. I enjoyed this recipe for a chickpea wat, which was easy to make. This site also has a number of meat and non-meat recipes to try. I made the Mesir wat last night, and I recommend adding more water than the recipe calls for as mine was a little dry. I also used dried ginger and garlic, and I think fresh would have worked better in this case. I have yet to try making injera–I hear it’s difficult to do well unless you have hard-to-find teff flour, but the site linked above has a few options if you’re adventurous. Otherwise, the food is just as good over rice. Enjoy!

For more on Ethiopian cuisine:

Giving Back

Today has been a very tiring day. I spent much of the day volunteering at an orientation on campus for new students, which meant being up and looking presentable much earlier than I’d like (getting up early isn’t an issue, but putting on clothes rarely happens before 8AM). But a funny thing happened: I actually had a good time.

I’ve had some fun this summer, but I’ve spent most of the last seven weeks isolating myself to work on dissertation, job applications, and to generally behave like a hermit. I struggle every summer when many of my friends (almost all of whom are also students) are out of town. Being broke doesn’t help, either. Next time you envy a graduate student for getting summers “off,” remember two things: 1) We are never really “off,” we’re always working on research, course planning, etc.; and 2) In addition to the fact that we’re still working, we also aren’t getting paid. Anyway, though, I saw some friends today that I hadn’t seen in months and met some new people, too. A lot of folks who haven’t seen me since May have been telling me how great I look… which is funny, because I lost most of my 42-pound weight loss during last school year. I guess it’s more noticeable when people haven’t seen you in a while.

We got a whistle at training. Well, technically the head coach got a whistle and I got to say, “Oooh, a whistle!”

Helping others today felt good, too. Which is lucky, because I’ve recently signed up for another volunteer opportunity. I’m going to be an assistant track coach for girls at a local school. I heard about this opportunity through a running store that I shop at, and it seemed like a good fit. I’ll be working with pre-teen girls who are just getting into the sport, and I attended my first training session last weekend. I hope that discovering running will be as enjoyable and confidence-building to them as it has been for me. As runners, we sometimes tend to be very solitary. We sometimes forget that there are always race organizers and volunteers and people maintaining our trails and an entire support system for us. I’m pleased to have found a way to give back to this community and to the sport that’s done so much for me over the years. I’m also happy that, even though summer is coming to an end, I have something to look forward to in the fall!