Drinks for the swamp

O summer, you are so crummily hot and muggy and sweaty and mosquito-y right now. And yet—can’t you stay just a little bit longer?

I mean, meteorologically, you have plenty of time to go before autumn arrives, and with it, the Very Best Holiday of Them All (that would be Halloween). But the first day of school for both me and the kid is right around the corner, and there’s a lot of clinging to the last shreds of summertime freedoms and feelings.

And so I turn to those beverages my brain has compartmentalized as Summer Drinks. To be fair, they’re not just for summer, because that would be weird, but they are particularly cold and refreshing and very often fizzy. For instance…

LA CROIX (or, as it is known among my favorite fellow pre-school teachers, “a water.” As in, “Do you want me to get you a water from the fridge?” We all know that means a La Croix). This may seem like a cheap shot, given the drink’s current rise in popularity, but I won’t deny I was especially excited to pack some on our recent trip to the beach. I didn’t anticipate how attractively the drink would match the beach umbrella, but sometimes we just get lucky in this world.


HIBISCUS TEA. It is certainly delicious on its own, though you could also add some seltzer (I added some rasberry-lime to this particular glass, seen here).


FIZZY WATER & ACV. One more fizzy-related drink, and yeah, you heard me. Apple cider vinegar is good for what ails you, and taking it diluted in water can soften the soul-killing edge until you develop a taste for it. Diluting it in seltzer can make it seem more “fancy” (er, if you’re me) and if you choose a flavored seltzer, it can be a semi-enjoyable experience, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to drink vinegar-based shrubs. I actually have grown to really love ACV, even though it disgusts almost everyone in my family. I’m OK with that. (I found that Miss Piggy glass at the Goodwill and was very pleased.)


ICED COFFEE. So good. I like mine with a little almond or coconut milk. It’s really cheap and easy to make your own cold-brewed at home – I use this recipe and my French press to strain it. I highly recommend making a lot of it and taking it to a child’s birthday party and drinking it with grown-up friends while the children happily slide around in snake-infested shoals. Be sure to turn your back on the children and enjoy the sense of peace that surrounds you.


ICED TEA. Which, around here, is Ice Tea, and that really means a Sweet Ice Tea. Except here’s the thing—and I hope that my fellow southerners won’t eviscerate me for this—but I prefer unsweetened ice tea. I know I’m from Georgia, but I was raised by a woman who sprouted her own mung beans, baked with carob and made tofu stroganoff far before it was fashionable. I also married a man who has been known to go through the drive-thru at Carey Hilliard’s in Savannah just to buy gallons of the sweet ice tea to-go. When I tried some, I thought my teeth might fall out. Anyway, sweet ice tea is just too sweet for my delicate sensibilities. I drink hot tea almost daily and prefer that to be plain, too, so maybe that has something to do with it. Sugar or no, it looks nice in a glass, doesn’t it?


FROZEN BANANA SHAKE. It is ridiculously easy to make. Peel, slice and freeze some bananas. Once they’re frozen, blend with the milk of your choice (we usually do rice or almond) and feel free to add some peanut or other nut butter, as I’ve done for the one in this picture here. Add a little less milk, and you have something approaching soft-serve ice cream. You can really change it up however you want, but this recipe’s success depends on one detail. Listen, I try not to upset people, but let me be frank: if you don’t freeze the banana first, you may as well toss the whole thing in the garbage. Also, if you use frozen and very ripe bananas, there is no need to add any extra sweetener. Trust me on this – even if you like your ice tea sweet!
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This is more of an immune-boosting supplement that I make myself throughout the school year in an attempt to stay healthy. I periodically order the dried herbs and follow the instructions to brew it overnight in a mason jar. It’s another one of those acquired tastes, I must admit. I find it quite refreshing, though—and I’m happy to report that if you leave some out in the open air, it will turn a beautiful deep blue-green color that you can then use on watercolor paper.
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Fixing holes


So, I had hernia surgery back in May.

I had to take 6 weeks off from trapeze – couldn’t teach, couldn’t even lift over 10 pounds.  I worried about my brain, of course. One of the bazillion reasons I love trapeze is because of its profound effect on keeping my anxiety and depression in check. I thought that perhaps I could gird my mental health in advance by gathering new hobbies and activities for my little break. I would have plenty of time, too – my other job at a preschool has summers off.

During my recovery, I put together 1,000 pieces of a cupcake-themed puzzle. (Thanks, Ann!) I knitted an impressive amount of dishcloths. I reorganized the cookbooks and wrote down recipes from Pinterest on recipe cards and put them in an actual recipe box. (It was ridiculous how satisfying that was.) I read about that KonMarie Method and tried folding my shirts a new way. I made some watercolor paintings. I started taking long walks around our hilly neighborhood. I read books. I enjoyed seeing all the people I love, and they took very good care of me. I tried not to feel too sorry for myself.

My 6 weeks were up. I went to the beach, one of the most glorious places in the world to me, and swam and rode my bike and felt healthy again. I couldn’t wait to get back to the trapeze studio and my students and prep for the next show! Surely everything would be back to normal!

Ha ha ha. Ha ha.

I couldn’t do a single pull-up. I couldn’t even get onto the bar without tremendous struggle. I had lost so much core strength, of course (my hernia was abdominal). It is such a disconnect when your brain knows exactly what to do and your body simply won’t budge. And it is so frustrating.

My wise friend Mel W asked me how I was doing recently at the studio. I told her fine, and she waited for the rest to pour out. She listened patiently before laying some spirituality on me.

“It’s like there’s a thicket surrounding an oasis,” she told me. “And you have to fight your way through the thicket to get there. You wouldn’t have had this experience of fighting your way through any other way. It’s an opportunity to grow.”

I’ve been carrying this image around in my mind ever since. I think you can apply it to so many things – for me, it’s certainly my return to trapeze, but it’s also my journey in getting my fiction published. In a broader sense, it’s a reminder of the struggle taking us somewhere and teaching us at the same time.

I am right in the middle of the thicket, and I’m OK with that, because I’m still moving through it toward the oasis.