Sometimes, it’s okay to let a deadline pass. Especially a self imposed deadline. I continue to work on my dissertation and try desperately to produce chapters at a lightning clip to finish my degree by May. Still, sometimes writing just isn’t ready to be shared. This doesn’t mean that the deadline hasn’t served its purpose. The yellow highlighter on my calendar reminding me that it’s time to send the baby on its merry way has still pressed me to work toward completion. Just because the chapter isn’t done by the (randomly determined) deadline doesn’t mean that I didn’t make the progress that I intended to make when I set the deadline. And, generally speaking, I will still finish the chapter sooner than I would have without any deadline at all. So make deadlines, and, sometimes, when it seems right, let them pass. It doesn’t mean that the deadline didn’t serve its purpose, nor does it mean that you’ve failed to accomplish your goal. It might just happen a few days, or even a week behind schedule. The most important thing is to keep working. Don’t feel defeated and give up. Instead, feel empowered by the progress that you did make and remember that with a final push you’ll still meet your end goal. Patience is key.

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Yesterday I entered my 29th year of life. Birthdays seem different now. Birthdays are a moment to celebrate that we’ve made it through another year, and for the past two birthdays this celebration has felt particularly monumental. Birthdays come with mixed emotions now. I feel joy for the time past/passed and the time ahead, but I also feel sadness for the difficulties I’ve faced and sometimes I still experience fear over the future.

I am learning to welcome these mixed moments. To harness calm through them. These are the small gifts in life, birthday gifts. These, and neat cork bowls filled with sweet treats from dear old friends who help to welcome a new year.

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As I mentioned, today is mocktails, or Moxie Tales day on the blog. For my inaugural post, I begin with a throw back from last year.

The Sophisticate

Adapted from Jackson Cannon’s Sophisticated Lady

This week is bar week in our house. After three years of law school and one summer of intensive study, my husband Joey is taking the California bar exam. As two graduate students we know the importance of a stiff drink to close out the end of a difficult exam day and to celebrate the end of a rough few months of work. You need something that you can sip slowly; a drink that begs for a deep breath with each slurp. Where to turn when you’re craving a stiff and refreshing moxietail to stave off a rough day – or month – or year? The sophisticate is the perfect fix. Adapted from Jackson Cannon’s Sophisticated Lady as featured on foodandwine.com, this cocktail is a bit less sweet and a bit more sophisticated.

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I drafted some blog posts, ideas, and thoughts when I was first recovering from cancer and going through more rigorous chemo. Since then, I’ve wanted to move on, but some of the more fun cancer-inspired projects have stuck. One of these is mocktails. From here out, Monday is mocktail day on the blog.

Because of my medicine and my general quest for health, I’ve given up alcohol since my cancer diagnosis. One thing that’s shocked me the most about my decision to give up alcohol is the response that I often receive when I either refuse alcohol, or explain that, for at least the next two years [likely forever], I wont be drinking. People are shocked. Forget the horrendous side effects of my medicine, the fact that I’ve been delayed in my degree progress, or the emotional and mental trauma of illness. The fact that I no longer drink alcohol – or caffeine at that, the horror! – really upsets some people. I think it’s because drinking is a visible trace of my cancer battle. Most everything else has remained somewhat hidden within the comforts of my home. Joey and my immediate family see my struggles, my closest friends know about the intimate details, but beyond that I pass as incredibly “normal.” When I don’t participate in what I now realize is a bedrock social convention of our culture, I am all of a sudden publicly marked by my battle. What’s funny is that I don’t miss alcohol in the least. In fact, Joey has never really liked drinking at all, so he has gladly joined me in an alcohol free life that we’re both really enjoying.

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This week I decided at the very last minute to hop in the car, drive three hours south, and visit my best friend circa age five and her family at the beach. There’s something about throwing clothes in a duffle, grabbing leftover pie to share, and making an escape from summer heat in the city. This is the closest I’ve gotten to footloose and fancy free in quite a while. What helped? The fact that, when I arrived, everything was all set. There was a nice house and a bed and food and a schedule. I got to tag along in every sense of the word with people who make me feel so calm and comfortable. It’s nice to rely on others sometimes – I think it’s a real gift and part of the reason that creating community is so important. Give a little, and get a little. I’m so lucky to have such close friends who’ve supported me so strongly over the years. And, of course, there’s nothing like a beach breeze to wash away the whirlwind of work travel and in-law entertaining that has been the last two weeks.

July is a fantastic month. It’s my birthday month. It’s the real start of summer. It tends to be slower, or quieter, if you will. I love July – it might be my favorite. And I love that there’s an official moment to celebrate the coming of July. Tomorrow Joey has off from work, his mom is in town, and my brother might come over. No better moment than now to get a little fête together. I’m thinking some veggies and dip, tabouli and raw slaw from Moosewood, some grilled sausages on buns, a big salad, cheese and crackers perhaps? Oh, and THIS. And a pie for dessert. And maybe some popcorn for fireworks (if we don’t get rained out!). Grazing. It’ll be a grazing kind of day. Because there’s no better way to indulge in slowness.

Bay Area beauties.

This past week I returned to the bay area for a seminar, but also had the intense delight of returning home to Oakland for some much needed friend time. As I drove down familiar streets I had the distinct feeling that reminds you of home. I had just turned 22 when I moved to Berkeley and I feel like I grew up in the bay area. Joey and I fell in love there and it was in the bay area where I made some of the most precious friendships ripe with personal and intellectual closeness – friends who I miss daily. While we no longer live in Oakland, and I have felt more at home in NY than anywhere else, we made an incredible life in Oakland and the place still tells the tale.

Different classes for different phases at the most welcoming dance studio ever.

An era if there ever was one, the golden age perhaps.

The best Mexican we’ve ever had, ever, and a place for making new family.

A million ice creams at Fenton’s Creamery to mark a million occasions.

Quick weeknight dinners with the most dear friends in all the land.

We had a first date, a proposal dinner, and a bar exam celebration at Filippos.

Sam’s Chowder House is delicious, and it’s in Half Moon Bay where we’ve had the best beach walks.

A special place for walking and talking.

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Adapted from Cookie and Kate’s recipe, which she adapted from the fabulous Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. I took Kate’s muffins, swapped the sugar for some honey (a generous dollop, maybe 1/8 cup), cut the salt to two grinds on my grinder, and swapped the butter for Earth’s Balance vegan butter. Voila. Whole wheat, honey, yogurt, lemon, blueberry muffins. They fill the apartment with the best smell and are perfectly moist and not too crumbly. Mmmmm…

On quiet time.

I’ve been trying to enjoy quiet time lately. Sometimes quiet time doesn’t last long. Sometimes quiet time is just a moment during loud, overwhelming, or busy time. Whatever it is, and however it takes shape, I’m trying to recognize its comforting presence in both expected and unexpected places. Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes I’m watching more closely. Either way, the quiet times feel like the best times these days.

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I’ve always been a relatively good traveler, but, to be honest, I’ve noticed lately that trips make me more nervous than they used to. Like other things, I tend to blame this on navigating an unpredictable immune system and medication side effects.  When I got sick, keeping a strict schedule in a fairly controlled environment really helped me to keep hold on my health situation and to feel as comfortable as possible. While this makes it more difficult for me to finish a paper at the eleventh hour, throw some clothes in a bag last minute, fight blindly through sleep deprivation during big events, and stagger home bleary eyed but generally energized from a fun adventure, I do think it’s prompted me to take a look at my travel rituals and be more mindful about self-care on the road. Can’t be a bad thing, can it? As I prepare for a trip to attend a week-long symposium in California next week, I’ve been considering my travel rituals and ways to make myself feel more comfortable not only on the plane, but also while I am away from home.

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