Caramelized Brussell Sprout Salad & A Few Burning Answers

My phone rang last week. It was my darling Amy friend. The one I had babies alongside. The one I helped pack a hundred years ago for her move across the country (damn her! Missed her ever since!). The one that reminds me every time I talk to her what it means to be just…so….perfectly…Amy.

“How are you going to answer all these questions?!” were the first words of the phone call.

Oh, who knows. You all asked some really good questions. And then Spring Break hit and the questions were back burnered because…whoa nelly. Sometimes life is just busy like that, innit?!

So here it is, Friday April 5th (and Monday, April 8…and Tuesday, April 9th). I’m sitting in Starbucks with an iced tea, and hoping to give a few good answers to some very fabulous questions.

For starters, thank you to those of you who asked. Maren commented, saying she felt awkward asking such personal questions. (How lovely you are, Maren!) Perhaps I should explain why I feel the answering of the questions is important in the first place…

When my faith crisis (aka “faith adventure”) first began, I was filled with questions. A raw vulnerability replaced the space that had once stood full of answers. One day, I thought I knew everything about the way everything should be, and the next, I realized…I may not know anything at all.

It felt terrifying at first. I became hellbent on trying to piece together new answers that made sense within the context of reality as I was coming to see it. So, I became thoroughly dependent on my fellow man. On the people walking through this existence with me. I started asking everyone. Everything. I asked big-time PR guys what religion they were raised in. I asked Vice Presidents of major corporations why they go to mass on Sunday’s if they don’t believe (the answer was: the comfort of ritual), I asked Jaden Hair if she prayed (she said not around the dinner table, but I once saw her hold her son, weightlessly suspended like a starfish in a swimming pool, as she whispered to him…”see those stars? that’s Jesus telling you he loves you. That’s the Buddha telling you you’re so special.” It was a profoundly moving experience.)

As I started looking around, and getting raw, and asking the questions that no one ever asks, I realized two things. First, that people are waiting and willing to talk if you’re hungry to listen and learn. And second, that we need each other. That the way we learn about our world isn’t through a thousand year old book (though the stories contained in such certainly teach beautiful lessons about ourselves), but rather, we learn by observing and asking and watching and mimicking and trying and failing and falling on each other for support and guidance and strength.

Which is why I want to answer your questions. Because, I’m willing to guess there are some of you googling  (as I once did) When is it okay to divorce? and wondering (as I still do) How to raise happy children? For those of you truly seeking to learn about yourselves by reflecting on the lives and experiences of others, I give you a little piece of my own life. Little answers to the questions we’re all trying to sort out. Little peeks into how I’m making sense of my world.

I recognize, in doing so, I’m offering a few very personal glimpses into private matters. I’ve attempted to navigate these matters with gentility and grace. If you have any specific criticisms, please feel free to email me directly.

With all that all said, you ready girls? We’ve got some questions to dig through…a little bit of fun to be had…and a whole lotta livin’ to do. Let’s rock it out…

To what extent did religious issues influence your divorce? Was leaving the church the catalyst? At the time of the interview, did you guys know that’s the direction you were headed?

Relationships are complex and full of a good many nuances–some really big, some really little. Both sizes of equal import at different times.  Thus, I think it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific list of things that led to my exhusband and I choosing divorce. Leaving the Mormon church certainly didn’t “cause” it, but our leaving the tight boundaries of Church doctrine, thought, and action allowed both of us to reevaluate the way we wanted to walk through the world. And, ultimately (and very simplistically speaking), I think we both concluded that our newly emerging priorities and approaches to life were simply too different to live together harmoniously.

Who is your most favorite sister…EVER??

Duh, it’s Bethany. And Brittany. And Megan. And Holly. And Noodles. .;)

What is your relationship with religion now?

I consider myself an Adventurer of Thought. Call it freethinking, hopeful agonostic, reverent of the mysteries of connection…the way I define myself in relation to religion evolves as my knowledge and experience evolves. I think this is how proper growth works. We have to be free to follow the evidence, to seek, question, be open to the unknown. Some weeks I crave Episcopal church service, and will don a dress to sit on pews and suck in the lilting choir music. Some days I walk through a snow-covered forest and weep for the beauty and connection I feel with the vibration of the world. Often, I lay in be on slow Sunday mornings with an open window and a thought-provoking book and sit in the peace of the moment. Part of no longer having “one truth” in my life, is that I am now free to be open to all truths. And there are so many. You’ve happened upon a good many of them in your life. That people are profound and deeply good, that our minds are brilliantly capable of connection, that sometimes the words from your favorite grandfather come into your mind at the very moment you need them. I think most religions are trying to say the same things with a lot of different languages. I anxiously await the day when we, as humans, share a common language that allows us to better discuss and appreciate the intricate mysteries of life without sect, dissention, or anything less than compassion toward each other and our individual experiences.

How are the kids? My sister has a five year old son and her divorce was final about a month ago. Any tips for the newly divorced with kids? Lessons learned?

The kids (I have four of them aged 10-14) are everything I could ever hope for. When stepping away from Mormonism, I was afraid they’d lose their identities.  Being Mormon was such a big part of mine. It was everything to me, and I assumed it was everything to them. Much to my surprise, it was a very small part of their identies.  I see my children flourishing into new identities. And responding beautifully to an approach to parenting which includes discussion of ideas, where their own notions are valued, challenged, and respected.  I’ve really tried to transition away from having all the answers, encouraging my kids to seek and find and discuss their own evolution. This doesn’t mean I leave everything up to them. As a parent, it’s my job to teach them life navigation skillz.

Of course, learning to navigate divorce is hard. So, I try to be honest and receptive to the kids. And let them be honest back. We don’t try to glaze over feelings, we let them be what they are. Then, we seek to find healthy ways to move forward. Every one of my children have responded in different ways to the many changes they’ve walked through over this last year or so. But, they’ve done it with strength and courage, (and lots of support) and I very much expect to see that strength stay with them as they move on through their lives.

I don’t think I’m a great advice giver, but I do think being honest with your kids is important. I don’t shy away from any conversations, I want my kids to know I’m here, I’m safe, I’m stable. But that I’m also a person trying to figure out every day. I think we moms of this generation are claiming forgiveness for ourselves in a way few previous generations have been able to do. We have a global understanding of how tiny we are, we see how many ways there are to step through this existence, and so we can admit that we’re just doing the best we can while always looking for better ways to evolve into fuller human beings. That got wordy. Does that make any sense?

As for lessons learned…I should hope very much I’m always learning lessons. I tattoo’ed an open heart on my palm this winter to remind myself to stay vulnerable, to be open-hearted, to get up and get raw and keep trying and keep loving. Even when it hurts. Or it’s hard. Or I don’t wanna. That reminder has profoundly changed me, and I’m thankful to Brene Brown (and my friend Esteban) for being catalysts for such a meaningful encapsulation of all I hope to keep becoming.

This is a blog question/request- I was wondering if you would consider putting links to previous post/next post. It would make the blog much easier to navigate, since currently I have to go back to the main page and click on each post separately.

Hello, Brilliance! Thy answer is….I’ll totally work that into my redesign! You go, girlfriend. Thanks for the suggestion!

What is it like dating after being married for so long?

What a fun question! I think it’s easy after years and years of marriage to remember the dating scene with fear or longing. And I’m happy to report both such feelings are quite warranted.  I decided to jump in and try internet dating the month my divorce was final. Because of that darned little tattoo, which reminds me to keep being vulnerable, no matter how scary it is. It was fun and frightening and mostly it was a full-time job! It was this wild, crazy, exhausting, exhilarating mess. Within a matter of days, I was spending hours managing emails, contacts, and calendar items with a whole slew of hot dates. Some of which ended up being not-so-hot. Many of which became great friends I’ll be keeping around for a good, long while.

Though I could do without a lot of first dates, having first kisses again was divine. That thrill. Those chills. That moment you make a connection and get a little zing? So fun! Of course, the fun only lasts for a matter of seconds, before your thrust into the eternally awkward…what did that mean? do we go out again? are you ready? am I ready? and…OMG. I have FOUR children…however will any of this ever work everrrr? Everything has a little yin and a little yang. You take them both, suck the joy and sorrow out of them, and keep staying open to all life brings. Right?

I heard you were writing a cookbook? did you finish it?

Oy vey. There is a cookbook. It is being written. It’s time consuming and tedious and will be gloriously delicious. More details as soon as I have them, but save twenty bucks come Spring 2014 because you’ll want a copy of this highly sexylicious recipe collection.

I just want to know how your relationship with your husband is now. Does he live close and do the kids see him often?

My exhusband and I have worked very hard to have an amicable split. As with any highly emotional experience, we do better some days than others, but we always seem to find a way to coordinate, collaborate, and see eye to eye. We’ve worked out a visitation schedule that allows us both long periods of time and lots of connection with the kids. It was important for us that the kids lives stay as stable and routine as possible, with lots of time to be with both mom and dad, play with friends and cousins, and stay busy and active in their own lives (because, after all, that’s what we’re parenting them for anyway…their own lives). So far, with a lot of patience, a lot of honest communication, and a lot of support of each other, the transition seems to be going smoothly.

Since leaving your religion, how has that affected your relationship with God? Also, how are your kids adjusting to your change in beliefs and religion?

The answer to this changes daily. I love that I can say that. Because part of leaving “all the answers” was allowing myself time to find the answers. I’ve discovered many of them. Some of them are just the same as they were before. For instance, Mormons believe we’re all brothers and sisters because God is our father. I absolutely believe we are all connected. All of us. Other answers have changed for me. I once believed only men who’d been ordained with the LDS priesthood could give powerful, real, and meaningful blessings. I believed that until I blessed my baby sister and her husband as I married them last summer. I watched them hold hands and stare deep into each others eyes with trust and devotion while I spoke words over their love. I watched tears work their way in little rivulets down my sisters cheeks, and nodded knowingly when she turned to walk down the aisle a married woman, then looked at me and whispered “thank you.”

I suppose the real answer to this question is some sort of a title or specific claiming of one religion or belief as my own defining name. I don’t have one of those anymore. I can imagine some of you will shake your head and say “so sad, she has no home anymore…” but it doesn’t feel that way for me. In not having a specific mantle resting over my existence, I feel like all of existence is my home. I feel like I can, for the first time ever, claim all people as my brothers and sisters. Because, for the first time ever, their own existences may offer valid, even vital lessons and understandings for my own life. I want to be open to all truth. I want to taste it and chew it and choose to take it into my gut, or spit it out if needed. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. There is no current congregation in which I sit, but I find new friends everywhere. Sunday school is all day, everyday, whenever I stay aware and wanting and open to learning and listening. For now, this approach works well for me. But, ask me in a year. I’m nothing if not ever evolving…

You have changed the way you’ve been eating several times since I started following your blog over 2 years ago. Are you eating a particular way now? Do you cook every night? If you had yo pick, what is your favorite go-to recipe?

I have changed a lot, haven’t I?! This crazy little blog started out as a baking blog. Then I tried to get healthy, but nothing was really happening. I was still standing in the dressing room, trying to squeeze my saddlebags into jeans that were anything but a wanton size. So, after watching Forks Over Knives, I went vegan for 8 months. Which worked for 8 months. Until I realized I wasn’t losing weight, I was always craving sweets, and I was having strange body reactions (parts of my skin would feel like they were on fire, my knuckles would get all sorts of inflamed, rasty night bloating, I lost my religion…kiddddding! Veganism has nothing to do with faith twists!) Around that time, good old Thor walked into my life and started walking me through the science of Paleo-eating. It made a lot of sense. He’d been vegan before, had some nappy body reactions as well, and had begun trying to unravel the mystery of whole nutrition.

I was dubious at first, but after trying a Primal/Paleo approach to eating, effortlessly dropping 20 pounds, and having more energy for workouts (and work) than ever before, I knew I’d stumbled onto something profoundly perfect for me. I’m still toying around with the total transition (you’ll see more and more of it here, and I encourage you to try it for a few days and see if it doesn’t rock your world!) but really love what Paleo has done thus far for my body.

And, no. I don’t cook every night, though I try. You can make such better shit at home for less than if you hit a restaurant. For realzzz.

Please do tell us about the new boyfriend that you barely mentioned in prior posts.

His name is Steve. He’s 6 months older than me. He’s an environmental consultant. He’s Canadian. He has no kids. He was once married for a longish time. We went on a date (met via the online site POF) during the first week of December and I was like all…”wow, he’s awfully cute. And awfully nice…can’t wait to see how quickly he runs the other direction.” But then, he kept calling. And I kept wanting him to call. And then he was like, all “do you wanna be my girlfriend?” and I was all, like, “OMG. Yesssss!” And thus we gave each other names. And went to the symphony. And once spent a whole night playing Just Dance: Black Eyed Peas Edition. And we kinda dig each other. And we super dig taking our time and enjoying every day as it comes.

I’d tell you more, but it might make you fall in love with him, too. I kid you not. The darling thing is golden.

I sometimes myself feeling a little rootless and disoriented, trying to get my bearings and figure out if I’m going the direction I want to go. And also, which direction do I want to go anyway? Do you ever feel that way?

I feel that way often. I called my Guru Aunt several weeks ago after a particularly good bout with doubt and uncertainty. I schpilled every ounce of gut I had in a single run-on-sentence diatribe of tearful admission. When I finally caught my breath and waited for her response, she started giggling. “Oh, sweetie,” she said, “we all feel that way. I guess I’ve just been around long enough to know that life is cyclical. Sometimes you’re on top of the world, and sometimes it’s on top of you. And all you can to is enjoy the ride and know it’s all gonna get figured out. And then something’ll change, and you’ll have to figure it all out again anyway.” See why she’s the capital “G” Guru Aunt?!!

I’ve come to find a great amount of wisdom in the Buddhist teaching of uncertainty. One of my favorite local friends started this podcast, which has been a total godsend (Buddha-send?) in helping me quickly learn the healing, gentle language of Buddhism. I don’t always remember these lessons everyday. Just last week Steve took off work at noon, drove an hour to get to my house, and held me while I cried my freaking eyes out over a slew of unknowns that suddenly felt terrifying and overwhelming. (Told you he’s golden). And then, the sun rose the next day, and just like my Aunt promised…the world revolved…and I was back on top again.

Be so gentle with yourself. Let emotions come. They roll in like the weather, they change, they are for exploring and not judging and helping us sort ourselves out a little at a time. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to feel scared. But, it’s also important to pay attention to how these feelings of impermanence are abated. Thus you gain control over your own feelings. Does taking a walk help when you’re stressed? Then, keep note of that…and take a walk. Does calling your favorite sister (Holly, I was lying up there…it’s totally you ;) make you laugh until you’re sick, even on the bad days? Then write that down for future reference and do it. Accepting uncertainty and yucky feelings doesn’t mean you always have to sit around in the muck with them. Move. Get your blood flowing. Let your life be something good for someone else. Before you know it, you’ll be certain of what you ARE doing, and have less and less time to sit around brooding about all the stuff that keeps you from healthy forward motion.

I am currently with my husband (he is now out too) and am wondering how the idea to divorce came about in your marriage, if it was friendly, and if you have any regrets.

The idea of divorce came up because we were both kinda miserable. I think that had a lot to do with a cashload of majorly stressful life transtions (new beliefs, new job, selling a home). It was a doozy of a year. But, I also think it came about because we were just unhappy together, with no really clear and obvious way to reconcile our newly emerging life directions. That’s sort of vague. Because the actual answer is as complicated as you might guess. Marriage is so many millions of experiences, feelings, hopes, dreams, interactions, and woven strands of everythingness. That the decision to end it can never be about a single somethingness.

Regrets? Of course I do. I regret having four children that will never again have a family picture that includes the simple perfection of their nuclear family. I regret having to become a working mom in order to raise these splendid creatures, who I so wish I could give every ounce of time and energy and attention to. I regret letting my kids spend a dollar the minute they earned it…because teaching them how to save money now that they’re in their tweens and teens is absurdly difficult. The same thing goes for them eating candy and crap food and developing a few stupid habits about those things. I regret not telling a bedtime story to them every night, because some nights I’m so tired and still have some much work to do, I only have enough energy to kiss them and tell them how much I love them. I regret that I didn’t take more time to learn who I was and what really makes me tick before summoning these beings into the world. I hate that they have to feel any pain related to my own personal growth. Because, of course, if I could choose…I’d be a perfect mother. I’d be a perfect wife. I’d be a perfect friend. I’d be so good in everything that no one would ever anything of me.

But I’m not. And I can’t. And I don’t actually want to be perfect at all. Because it’s the imperfections that give me purpose. They propel me into tomorrow, grateful for a cleanish slate, hoping for new profound understandings, passionately seeking nirvana. And, if not nirvana, a little more time with barefeet and storytelling. I’m not there yet, but I’m willing to keep trying. It’s the very best this fragile human that I am can offer each day. Trying. Understanding. Seeking. Loving. Then waking up, and doing it all again.

A few times you have mentioned the weight and stress of now being your family’s sole financial provider. Is he contributing? Is he working now? 

Because having an amicable divorce was important to both my Ex and I, we were able to settle all of our affairs without attorneys. I’m really proud of this fact. It meant a lot of openmindedness and patience and communication on both of our behalves. As part of our parenting agreement, we simply followed guidelines set forth by the state of Colorado which have helped us manage financial concerns for our children in a mostly unemotional way. I can’t think of a better way to handle cash. Especially where there are children involved. The less energy we are able to spend on all the little tits and tats, the more energy we can spend on the kids. Booyeah.

Also, I always wondered about that move to California. You were all packed and ready to go, and then something happened. What was it?

Good question! We were soo ready, we were totally packed up…and then the job just wasn’t what had been hoped for. So, we decided to change our minds, keep the kids in a familiar place until career decisions were more stable, and that meant staying in Colorado. Though, my children would have been beach bums in a second if we’d let them.

How have your still-mo friends/family responded to all the changes in your life?

There’s been a lot of both extremes. Mostly we lost everything overnight. I can’t always tell if that’s because Mormon friends felt like we walked away and didn’t need them (we did), or if it’s because they walked away, fearful of our decision and all it meant to their own faith. This is simplifying a deeply complex situation. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.  Whatever it was, it doesn’t really matter. For all the friends lost, there were the precious few who remained. Mormon, nonmormon many of each have remained or surfaced at just-the-right moments…there is goodness everywhere.  Because people are good. I really believe that. And sweet, holy heaven if I don’t adore and appreciate these faithful souls more than ever before. I hope, quite simply, that I can be as true a friend for each of them as they have been to me.

Are you really as happy as you seem on the blog here?

I’m really happy. As mentioned above, there are a few days that give me the willies. But, for the most part, I feel a warmth and expansion in my gut that I can’t describe. I once felt like I needed to scream. Not an open-your-mouth and let-it-flow kind of a scream. But one of the ones that catches in your throat and sticks to the back of your tongue and sounds like you’re being suffocated. I wanted to scream “I’m here!! I’m here! Oh, god! Please someone see me!” I felt so stuck. So squelched. So clipped at the wings.

I don’t think I understood what that was about until very recently. When, a friend wrote saying, “I just watched your podcast. And I kept thinking…this isn’t the Brooke I know. Whatever it is you’ve done in the last year, it’s made you alive…” If I’m being really reflective, I think I finally feel alive because I finally feel like I can choose my life. I feel nothing but profound reverence for that process, and pray I’ll continue to be guided in a way that allows me to stay connected to that “life force” or “lightness” or whatever it is that is what it is.

I admit I’m a bit envious of you. I see the joy and freedom in your life and wish I had the same. I’m still shackled to a religion I don’t really believe in any more.

Oh, dolly cat. I get it. I’m so sorry.

But DO remember there’s yin and yang to everything. There just is. I miss having 92 people I can call to help me pack up my belongings. I miss planning Christmas parties for our entire congregation. Of course, I’ve also discovered I rather enjoy being the one packing my own stuff…more time to toss the crap I don’t need anymore (I’m completely undiscerning when tossing out stuff. Get rid of it, I say!) and I sorta like sitting around a table with six friends, sipping red wine, and opening our souls up to each other. Yin and yang. Yin and yang.

Why do you feel like you have to constantly talk about leaving the Mormon church if you are comfortable and proclaim you “still love the Mormons”? Why was it necessary to record a Mormon stories episode about it and why purpose does it serve to be so public about it? Why not just leave and be done with it?

When something is your whole life. All of it. With rather terrifying promises spoken over the decision to abandon it…the process of leaving such a thing is tedious and terrifying and so multi-faceted you find yourself utterly fascinated with the entire experience. It takes a lot of time to rework old neural connections. It takes a lot of talking to understand your own story and how you arrived at this unexpected place. And, for me, sharing my story is a way of connecting to others who are currently in pain, scared, or wondering what to do next.

Just as I believe life is a deeply personal and highly customizable experience, so is the way we each approach a variety of life experiences. For me, talking, sharing, connecting, reassuring, discovering, fascinating-over, and being open about the process is simply an extension of how I do life.  If that’s uncool for others, or it’s not the way someone else chooses to approach their faith adventure, that’s sooo okay.  I’m far from believing or desiring the one-way-is-the-only-way philosophy. I’m far too enamored by the millions of color hues awaiting our paintbrushes to ever seek a black and white existence. But that’s just me….

Are you still doing HisXHers? Haven’t seen anything there for awhile!

With so many transitions happening in my own life…learning how to best balance single motherhood, managing a work schedule which keeps getting busier, cookbook on the horizon, sexy new beau, etc. etc. etc…filming HisXHers became increasingly difficult to juggle. The project demanded more time than I had to give it, so I’ve refocused efforts on a new series with Babble, which (as you might guess) will be an evolving concept with a few fun surprises. I’ll keep you apprised as it all moveth forward.

Working on HisXHers was an absolute blast. The heart of that project was pure and delightsome and I’ll be forever glad to have had ample amounts of time to play on-camera with a friend. Eldon is a talented soul (and, as Steve says, “the most handsome man I’ve ever seen before”) and I don’t doubt he’ll keep doing super kickass things with his mad skillz.

For those of you inquiring further about friend drama, I can echo that which was written about such…”there are two sides to every story.” My side of the story is wrought with the reminder that two people saying the same words can mean very different things. And that two people can react in very different ways to the same situation. And that sometimes, taking a break is just what you need to refind your bearings. And that life is just…sometimes…silly and unexpected. And heartwrenching. And ridiculous. And all sorts of everything with a cherry on top.

You know?

Yes. Of course you know.

I have to say- I love that you are eating healthy and finding a fresh new outlook on life, but sometimes I miss the how the blog was when I first started following it. All the cupcakes with cute captions and frosted berries.

Too funny! I have so many people say this. Even my {favorite} sister called a few months ago and said such a thing.

Illustrating the photos was so time-intensive, I finally decided to give it up when I started actually taking photos I was proud of (no more need to cover up the crappy point-and-shoot pics with really bad graphics)…but I get that there was a unique personality and whimsy to that illustrated photo approach. Though I don’t plan to go back to illustrating, I do have a lot (A LOT!) of really fabulous things in store for you Cheeky peeps. You’re my cronies and I freaking love you for helping me turn a tiny little family blog into an adventure that is more wild and unexpected and joyfully fun than I ever could have imagined. I promise I’ll keep you full with good food, honest discussion and thought, and canoe-loads of really massive amounts of sunshine.

I adore you. Eat brussell sprouts.

P.S. Due to the senstive and personal nature of this post, if you have criticisms or grouchypants diatribing to do, please email me directly at cheekykitchen @ gmail {dot} com. After all, I have little people who read this here blog. And I still want them to believe (for a while at least) in the goodness of the world. Thank you tremendously for respecting all written above as my personal views, taking them not-too-seriously, and for finding more excuses for wearing skirts in the winter. You just rock like that.


Caramelized Brussell Sprout Salad


3 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance)
1/4 purple onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2" fresh ginger, diced
3 cups brussells, sliced thin
zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch cardamom and cinnamon
salt to taste


Melt butter in a skillet. Toss in onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until aromatic, about one minute. Toss in the brussell sprouts, lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, cardamon, and cinnamon. Add salt to taste.

Serve immediately and enjoy!