Photographs by Meadow Linn

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Take a Non-Sick Day

Some would call my mom’s parenting techniques unorthodox, but I call them wise. Although I didn’t often follow her advice, I was taught the importance of nurturing myself, and I will carry that with me always. She used to tell me that I didn’t have to go to school if I didn’t want to. If I needed a break, I could stay home and have a play day. I was not, however, the type of child to capitalize on such an offer. Being a dedicated, rule-following student, I continued all the way through graduate school and eight years as a teacher without ever taking a “play day” (that I remember) until my last year of teaching, and that was only once. But the simple fact that I was given this opportunity made it easier for me to choose to go to school. (Though this wouldn’t necessarily have worked with a different kind of kid.)

Waiting for the schoolbus
In retrospect, my young life may have been even saner, healthier, and happier had I taken my mom up on her offer more often. I have a tendency to push, push, push until my body decides I’ve had enough, and then either I get sick, throw out my back, or get some other ailment that makes me take the rest my body requires.

For instance, the spring of my senior year of high school, when you’re supposed to be goofing off and living large, I worked myself so hard that I lost my voice, shed quite a few pounds, and began to feel like a hollow shell of a person. I was in a self-imposed stupor, from which I was only able to pull myself out after reaching the bottom where I was required to slow down and rest before I could ride the roller coaster back to the top. If only I’d followed my mom’s teachings and taken a day off early on, I may have had more energy to sail through those busy days of school, student government, lacrosse practice, play rehearsal, and piles of homework. 

To make it even worse, sometimes when I did actually take time to rest, I would subconsciously make myself ill in order to justify my so-called vagaries. For example, when I was little, if I stayed home with a tickle in my throat, I’d make sure I had a full blown sore throat and sniffles by the end of the day, just to make sure that my absence hadn’t been in vain. This was one of the reasons why my mom made it okay for me to stay home if I ever wanted to. She would tell me repeatedly throughout the day, “It’s okay to skip a day of school. You don’t need to be sick or make yourself sick to spend the day resting.”

My mom was onto something. Why do most of us wait until our body gives out before we take a break? Why not preemptively give ourselves the downtime we crave? I know it sounds crazy, but every once in a while, I find myself wishing I’d get sick just so I could spend a day on the couch reading magazines or watching a TV marathon of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” “Untold Stories of the ER,” or “Law and Order.” Wouldn’t it be a lot easier and more fun just to do that on a random day rather than waiting for sneezing, sniffling, and coughing to overwhelm us so much that we have to play hooky from our life?

What if we made a pledge to ourselves to spend one day a month (or if you can’t spare that much time, three times a year or maybe even just an hour a week) to do absolutely nothing. No laundry. No grocery shopping. No phone calls. Nothing. And, here’s the kicker…you can’t feel guilty about it. You must relish every luxurious moment. Here’s to taking a non-sick day!! Enjoy!

This is me floating in a cenote in the Yucatan


Sesame Teriyaki Chicken

This is a great recipe for a day of rest. You can do all the preparations in advance, leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge overnight, and then an hour before it’s time to eat, stick it in the oven. To make this dish vegetarian, substitute firm tofu (even my dad, who doesn’t care for tofu, loves Sesame Teriyaki Tofu!)

Serves 4-6

1 chicken, cut into pieces and skin removed

1 whole head of garlic, peeled and crushed
¾ cup soy sauce (I use Kikkoman Gluten-Free)
½ cup toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
¼ cup sesame seeds

To garnish:
Sliced green onions

Cut the chicken into pieces and remove the skin. Put the chicken in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame seeds. Pour over the chicken. Stir to make sure the chicken is fully coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a few hours and up to all night.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. For easy clean up, line a baking dish with parchment paper. Place the chicken and all the marinating liquid in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink (internal temperature 165ºF), about one hour. You may want to baste the chicken a couple times while it’s cooking to coat it with the luscious juices and sesame seeds. Serve with rice and a heaping spoonful of sauce.

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