Weekend Reading, 7.23.17
July 23, 2017

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I had every intention of sharing some food this week, but blogging (and a bunch of other things) got put on the back burner. My mom had a total knee replacement, so I’ve been pitching in at her place, keeping her fridge stocked and doing my best to be helpful in other, small ways. She’s healing well, giving PT all of her effort and attention, and I know she’ll be up and about in no time.

Being by her side brought up a lot of feelings: love and concern, pride in how she’s facing the recovery process, but also some loneliness. When I was in the waiting room during her surgery, all of the families and friends of hospital patients seemed to be there in big, cheerful teams. I was by myself with my laptop. I was aware of certain absences: the absence of siblings, of extended family, of partners. I felt a pang of missing my relationship, or a relationship, and felt closer to the breakup and its reverberations than I have in a while.

It was important to let myself feel those things, but also to remind myself that I don’t have to buy into a narrative of isolation. In the days following Mom’s surgery I did my best to reach out to my people, in ways big and small. I texted with my cousin; she’s one of those people who remembers every birthday, sends good tidings on every holiday, and always makes her love known in a crisis. I set up overdue phone dates with friends. I hung out in my yoga community. I said “goodbye for now” to a friend who’s about to travel for a while. And I watched with gratitude as my mom’s friends—some of whom she’s known for over sixty years now—checked in on her with love and tenderness.

It was all an important reminder of something I know already, which is that we don’t choose the families we’re born into, but we do choose the families that we build over the course of our lives. Sometimes our “teams” are bigger and more within reach than we allow ourselves to realize.

It was only after Steven’s and my breakup that I realized how isolated and alienated I’d become in the last year. It’s something I still don’t really understand, but I know that depression had a lot to do with it, as did my premonition and fear of loss.

I’m working to get back to myself. “Self” is a fluid term, and we’re always changing, but at the least I’m trying to flex again the muscles that help me to stay connected to and engaged with the world around me. My mom’s surgery was a good teacher; it prodded me to reach out, ask for help, and resist the part of me that gets stuck in lonely thought patterns. And it gave me an opportunity to take care of someone else, to feel useful in a way I haven’t in a long time.

Blogging is part of how I stay connected, and I’m grateful to those of you who check in on Sunday mornings for words and food. On the lineup today is a poignant article about the suitcase belongings of past inhabitants of an American asylum and what they reveal, an interesting article about eating disorders among endurance athletes, and of course, some awesome vegan food.



One of the cookbooks I’m most excited to explore this summer is Shelly Westerhausen’s Vegetarian Heartland. Shelly’s so talented, and the book looks to be rich and full of heart. In the meantime, I’m loving these vegan crostini with macadamia ricotta and succotash from Shelly’s blog.

A creamy lemon dill pasta from Miryam of Eat Good 4 Life. Summery and brimming with fresh veggies! The recipe looks like it can be easily veganized with cashew cream or non-dairy milk or unsweetened creamer (my apologies to those who got this post over email, as I originally thought the recipe was vegan as written).

What’s better than a super flavorful vegan pizza hummus? Pizza hummus with vegan pepperoni as a dipper. Genius—thanks, Cadry.

It was hot and swampy in New York this week, which got me thinking that it’s a great time of year for pickling and fermenting. I’m loving Jennifer’s raw cucumber kimchi.

Speaking of no-cook/no-bake things, check out Ashleigh’s scrumptious almost raw cherry almond butter caramel bars. I’d make these for the caramel layer alone, but it’s all calling my name.


1. A reader sent this article to me. It’s an interview with Jon Crispin, a photographer who has photo-documented the suitcases and belongings that patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left behind after they passed away between the years of 1910-1960.

Objects and belongings can carry so much meaning (it’s something I’ve marveled at every time I move, how much feeling “stuff” can evoke), and the images of peoples’ everyday items are really moving. It’s clear that Willard has spent a lot of time with the patients and their stories, and he speaks about them and their caretakers with respect and humanity.

2. This article was also shared by a reader. It’s about the links between disordered eating and endurance sports. I realize I’ve shared a lot on this topic lately, but I think the conversation is important; as the article makes clear, many coaches tend to normalize phenomena like amenorrhea, in spite of its risks, and there can be a tendency among athletes to dismiss obsessive eating habits as a means of getting an “edge” at the sport in question.

I appreciate that the article isn’t just about eating disorders, though: it also touches on life after recovery and different ways that people can get back into their bodies after so many years of attempted control. Recovery is described both as “seeking equilibrium” and finding “a kind of soft focus that allows her body’s natural intelligence to take over”—both formulations I like.

3. Meditations on sobriety from Laura McKowen, who’s now been sober for over 1,000 days. I appreciate a lot of her thoughts, especially her coming to terms with the inevitability of change:

…you will change — it’s the nature of things. You’re different than you were yesterday. Or even two minutes ago. You’ve got new cells and new processes happening in your body every moment. While you’re reading this sentence, another leaf just sprouted on the tree outside and a billion new creatures just burst forth inside the ocean. So you’re changing; everything is changing. You’re allowed to do that because you already do it.

I used to go around saying that I hated change, feared change, was resistant to change. Maybe I was, but these days, all I can say is thank goodness for change. Thank goodness things don’t stay the same. Thank goodness we all have permission—because it’s the nature of things—to keep moving, growing, and shifting around.

4. An interesting look at the conflicting scientific findings on how motherhood affects the body, specifically with regard to aging.

5. As someone who has anxiety, I’m not at all interested in glamorizing it or minimizing its costs. But I’m always interested in looking at things from different angles, and I was curious to read this article about some of the potential upsides of anxiety, or more accurately, different ways of framing anxiety (including perception of anxiety across cultures).

This week, I really do intend to return with some food. For now, I wish you a restful Sunday.


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  1. I always look forward to these Sunday posts. I hope that your mom is on the mend now. Thank you for including my pizza hummus. Hugs to you, Gena.

  2. Although I recognize that our circumstances are different, there are some ways in which I completely relate to the feelings of loneliness at the hospital. My mom went through breast cancer surgery this past year and I also was the only one at the hospital with her, observing the bigger support systems around me. You sound like the sweetest daughter ever, always honoring your mom and helping her out with gratitude in your heart. Whenever I read your weekend posts, I always feel the nudge to step back and check in with my own emotional well being as well. Sending love and hugs through the ups and downs. xo

  3. I hope she will recover fast. I know it’s difficult to see others with big families when you only have a small family, I’m in a similar situation myself. I hope you will feel better soon too. x

  4. Yes, I agree with Kathy this was a beautiful read. So vivid and honest and well, I just loved it at the end, too, when you said “thank goodness for change.” I could feel you sitting in that waiting room, and I also felt like I was inside your thought/feeling process as you observed your mom and her friends and connected to your own circle. I really liked the article about anxiety and I can’t wait to make a version of the cucumber kimchi. Now off to look at the suitcase article. Love you to pieces, Gena! Thank you for this amazing series. It’s always a treat. xo

  5. Love you Gena this was such a beautiful read. I can so relate to the “blogging is part of how I stay connected” and how appreciative we bloggers can be of our readers. Sending you and your mom love and healing! She is lucky to have such a kind and amazing daughter. Xoxo Happy Sunday ☀️

  6. Thanks for the shout out! I’ve been making this raw cucumber kimchi way too many times per week now, especially since my cucumbers are finally ready in my garden :).

  7. I recently broke up with my boyfriend. We weren’t together for very long, but it was clear we both had different expectations of what we wanted in the relationship. I know what I need to work on now is just making friends and trying to be more out going. I really look forward to your weekend readings, and you seem to have very nice readers. : )

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