Real Time Off

As an HR manager and mom, people watch what I do for guidance at home and at work. I have to watch what I say around my 3-year-old, lest he become a foul-mouthed little angel, and I really have to watch what I do in front of staff at the wonderful organization where I work. Even if I really need to catch up, I avoid sending emails late at night in case the recipient thinks that means he needs to be working late too.  I often try to appear unavailable on days off, even if I'll just be hanging out and totally able to field a few questions.  I take long lunches on workout days and don't act overly concerned about my time away (even if I'm feeling the pressure).

Someday soon, I write a nice rant about how vacation isn't really vacation when you have little kids at home, but today I'm thinking about vacation time and all those dedicated coworkers of mine.  

Someday soon, I write a nice rant about how vacation isn't really vacation when you have little kids at home, but today I'm thinking about vacation time and all those dedicated coworkers of mine.  

Hattie Hill wrote a nice reminder about the benefit of truly taking time away when you're in a leadership position at work, timed perfectly for today.  (Today, I emailed work to say I wouldn't be in because I'm sick, but I've already spent at least 2 hours working this morning. Stop the madness.) Basically, even when not in management, our collective behavior helps to set the tone for the workplace.  If we don't take vacation seriously, it encourages others to work too hard; if we apologize for taking care of our health--including mental health--before taking care of the bottom line, that sets an unhealthy standard for the whole team.  

I'm going to keep all of that in mind this summer and, as I look forward to a lot of long weekends away this summer, I am going to try my hardest to:

  • Tell people I'm unavailable when I'm on vacation.

  • Remove my work email from my phone when I'm taking paid time off.

  • Broadcast my vacation plans to everyone I talk to at work, so they feel encouraged to take time off too.

  • Find ways to get everyone to take extra non-work time this summer--whether that's closing early on Fridays or mandating a long lunch on sunny days.

 

How about you, friends?  Do you truly unplug on vacation, or should we all work on this together?

Let's call it The Summer of Real Vacations.  (You know, unless you have little kids...)

 

The little things, and some corn tortillas

Evenings in my house are beyond exhausting.  With both of us working full-time and both kids in daycare/pre-school, the whole family stumbles into the house already weary from the long day, the hairy commute, some serious playing, and two demanding jobs. Sometimes it's all we can do to get the kids fed and in bed before we collapse into bed ourselves - and yes, there have been quite a few nights when I've fallen asleep in my 3-year-old's room while trying to read him a book at 7:30pm. 

Dinnertime often means a debate between takeout and cooking, simplicity and completeness, sitting down to eat whatever or cooking on our aching feet. Given all this, it's no wonder that any real creativity in the kitchen has been limited to weekends only - and even weekends often end up being too packed for cooking adventures.  

So: I'm learning to choose the little things, to embrace convenience where it won't ruin a meal, and to make the effort where it will really make a difference.

All that to say: I made my own corn tortillas from scratch, y'all!

Wife and I have been trying to make time to check out the Portland Mercado for months, and we finally made it there last weekend.  I spotted a big bag of corn masa - which just looks like a big bag of flour, but smells SO MUCH like corn - and snagged it.  Upon returning home, I promptly headed right back out to buy my first tortilla press.

After a bit of trial and error (noted: toddlers are not great at making really thin tortillas, parchment paper is less sticky than plastic wrap), I made one awesome batch.  Wife and I ate most of them in minutes with just some avocado and salt* - they were so much more delicious than the usual package of tortillas from TJ's.  The next time I made a batch, it was to make the BBQ tempeh tacos** pictured here.  The taco innards were easy as (store-bought) pie to put together, so the extra 20 minutes of tortilla-making was absolutely worth it.

*Note: during these days of parenting young children, hardly remembering what a full night's sleep felt like, and barely holding it together through the epic tantrums of The Threenager (oh, how I hate that annoying-yet-totally-accurate made-up word), a meal of tortillas and avocado - eaten standing up over the still-hot stovetop - qualifies as straight-up culinary elegance.

**Stay tuned for future posts on No Meat Athlete's new meal planning program - Meg and I are both trying it and plan on sharing results soon!

Now that I'm totally an expert and all...

Cait's Tortilla-Making Hints:

Follow the directions on your bag of masa, which you can get at most grocery stores.  Here are a few extra things I've learned:

  1. You want your dough to feel like Play-Doh.  The instructions on my bag of masa said to use 1.75 cups of water for every 2 cups of masa flour, and that ratio was basically perfect.
  2. Make your dough balls on the small side - they're less likely to fall apart when you pick them up to add them to the pan.
  3. If you've got a tortilla press, awesome - you'll have thinner tortillas - but if you don't, a heavy plate will do just fine.
  4. Get your pan really hot before you add the tortillas - like so hot you think it might start smoking.  It makes a huge difference to how well and quickly the tortillas cook.
  5. While still warm, top a tortilla with a few slices of ripe avocado and a sprinkle of salt.  So simple and seriously good.

How about you?  Where does a little effort make a big difference in your life / kitchen / work?  Perhaps more importantly, when and where is it totally worth it to choose convenience?

Who is Cait?

I get more feedback than the average gal when I run. I hear “right on!” from dudes I am trying to ignore. “You go girl!” is a common one from the ladies, too. This happens on the road, on race courses, out on the trails. If I see ten people out on my run, I can almost guarantee at least one or two of them will say something to me. If you closed your eyes and listened to my run, you’d think I’m one impressive athlete, but you’d be wrong—I am definitely not a fast runner.

I am a fat runner.

You read that right. I run a solid 11-minute mile on a flat surface, and it’s not rare to catch me chugging up long hills at a less-than-blistering 13-minute pace. People cheer me on because I’m straight-up chubby, and it’s not often you see a 30-something woman carrying 40 extra pounds along for 5 miles, except for perhaps on reality TV.Wahine

Sure, runners are generally an inclusive bunch, and on some days the cheering masses are right—I do need a little affirmation. Still, often those hurrahs just serve to remind me that no matter how many hours I’ve logged on my feet, no matter how many more miles I’ve run than they have this week, I’m still considered less of an athlete because of the extra pounds.

I combat the feeling by reminding myself of my boosters' good intentions, make a mental note that I should not be turning lemonade into lemons, and feel lucky that I am, in fact, doing great (and weren’t they kind to notice?). It usually works.

Last spring, while training for my first half-marathon, I often ran a particularly hilly 6-mile route. I killed it on those hills back then, and I loved taking in the views from the road. One freakishly cold afternoon, I rounded a bend on my way back downhill to see a chubby 20-something woman jogging toward me, hustling her way uphill.

Finally, I got it: The urge to say “you go girl!” was overwhelming.

I found it hard to suppress not only because she was chunky, but because she was running hard and smiling and clearly working her butt off on that hill. I opened my mouth to cheer her on, and closed it again. We both knew we were athletes, and that with every step we were at proving that women don't have to be skinny to be healthy.

It took a long time to get to the place where I worry more about my fitness than my body fat, and I plan to stay here by cooking (and sharing!) my mostly plant-based recipes.  Rather than pursuing weight loss, I try to focus on health in my cooking, eating, running, and writing, while trying to fit it all into my crazy life.  There will be days when I skip the cooking, running, and writing altogether, and weeks when my infant son keeps me up so much at night that junk food takes the place of sleep, but I’m ok if my pursuit is of “good enough” and not so much perfection.

All that to say that I will likely continue to be the big girl on the race course, and you are welcome to cheer me on.