A letter to my parents


My life did not really begin until I moved to South Seattle in 2006.  I was 35 years old and finally started to live my life as my authentic self.  I started to only do things that I felt matched my belief system and only included people into it that I deemed uplifting.  I am grateful for the past that helped me find my true self, I am just sad it took me 35 years to find her.

Dear Mom

I am separating these letters because they address different things.  Mom, I am addressing you first because you were the one who was most prevalent in my life.  You were the nurturer and the counselor.  First off I apologize if this seems cutting and cruel. As part of my healing I need you to know and understand exactly how I feel and the pain I have gone through.

In the past I have blamed you for many things.  I blamed you for not being a good parent, for being abusive and neglectful.  I blamed you for forcing me to do things that were not in my best interest but most of all I blamed you for this sense of guilt that I carry with me over the things that were truly out of my control, yet i felt responsible.  I always thought you loved my sister more than me, I blamed you for giving up on my brother and for doing everything to control my life until I left home.

In the end it was not all your fault, I see that now.  I want to address some specifics.  Things that I found most painful and tell you how they affected me.  You always told me to reign in my rebellious spirit.  You even told family, friends and the pastors about my rebellion.  What you did not really understand was that rebellion is part of who I am.  I was not rebelling against you necessarily, but against those things I viewed as wrong in the world.  I found that suppression of my spirit so painful and stifling.  What you may not have realized, this caused me to hate myself,  I have low self-confidence because that voice in the back of my head that says reign in your rebellion.  I now see most of my actions as rebellion and a bad thing.  I often fall asleep thinking of myself as a bad person.  I do not trust my intuition and I tried for years to fit in because that was what was expected.  It took me moving away and not telling anyone for 6 months where I went to get any sense of place and belonging.

I tried for years to be a good Christian.  Going to church often, praying and putting money I could not afford into the tithes.  I tried to have faith in this imaginary being in the sky.  I tried so hard to connect, but could never find that connection, I faked it often.  I always felt that I was not ever going to be good enough.  This stems not from you so much as from the church.  I do not know if you were ever told about that night of the New Year’s Eve party at Jim and Cathy’s home?  I arrived with my sister and all the cool kids were outside in the street singing and being obnoxious because they were all drunk.  They were at the party with the pastor but they were all drunk.  I met a new kid that night, much younger than me.  He and his brother had moved in over Christmas break and they did not know anyone or anything about the town we lived in.  I told him there was a park near the school.  He was shocked he had no idea there was a park.  I took him down the road showed him the park and the school, it was still light out at that point.  I guess I should have told the someone where I was going, but the cool kids were all outside drinking, like anyone was paying attention to me?   I got back and Cathy grabbed me by the neck and threw me into the back bedroom.  She screamed at me and told me if I left the house again she was going to call my mom and tell her what a whore I was.  I was still a virgin and those words stung so deep.  I knew she was going to tell you something happened and I would get beat for it anyway so I had my first sexual encounter that night.  Rumors spread fast after that.  Not that the boys at school needed any more ammunition.  To this day I have an open view of sex and sexuality.  I have been called a whore so often that it does not even bother me anymore.

The next thing to address is how much I resented you for not hearing me.  I used to think you just liked to see me in pain, but now 30 years later I realize maybe you just could not hear my cries for help.  I begged to go live with relatives, I begged to move out of our school district, I even took a half day class through a college program just to escape.  You see the cries you did not hear were from daily abuse.  I was sexually assaulted daily and harassed so much that I gained weight after high school in an attempt to hide any form of attractiveness.  I married the first man who showed enough interest in me.  I never really loved him, but I needed to escape.  I married because I was basically told that was my only option.  I do not even know if those words were ever uttered, but the idea was embedded in my head so deep I could not let go of it and see the bigger picture.  I always thought this was another form of  your trying to control me, to make me submissive, by making me finish school in a place that tortured me daily.  I had one moment when you stood up for me, but that was more standing up for yourself as a parent, but I did appreciate you telling the counselor that I did not wear inappropriate clothes and you would not allow them to tell me my clothes were why people treated me like that.  It was just over half-way through my junior year, I think, maybe my senior year.  And yes you were right, I got more and more rebellious the closer I got to my 18th birthday, because I saw a way to escape.  I finally could walk away from the constant abuse.

Sadly that did not stop even after I left home.  Men at the bar I worked at would touch me and try to stick their hands up my dress.  That was the point I started to gain weight, I though I was pregnant and they seemed to back off quite a bit.  It gave me some power back.  Being fat gave me a tiny bit of power.  I do not know if you knew that my husband’s father was a little touchy feely with me as well. It is amazing I am not some kind of drug addict to be honest.

The final thing I want to address is when I was fighting my ex for custody, you said something that cut so deep, I never thought I would speak to you again.  It was part of the reason I moved away and told no one where I went.  You told me maybe the kids would be better off with my ex.  I seemed to want my freedom and they seemed better off with him.  What you did not know is that he is mentally abusive and Jessica was going to suffer the same low self-esteem issues I did if I allowed him to bully her over every aspect of who she is.  You cavalier attitude about my custody battle and your lack of support hurt so bad.  In the end I know it was more about putting my nephew back with my sister.  You always made me feel like you thought I stole her kids from her.  Here is a big piece of myself I am going to share.  I do no like kids, I never wanted them.  I resented you telling people who I had my nephew not because I stood up and took on the responsibility, but because my sister made the best choice for him.  I took on a child that had attachment issues, one that could not build a bond with me.  I struggled with him every single day and you made me feel like a failure about it all the time.  You made her to be the saint and me to be the child thief.  That probably hurt the most.  You could not or would not acknowledge that I stepped out of my comfort zone and took on a responsibility that was not my own.  One I was not prepared for.

In the end I am done playing the victim.  I am done blaming you for the pain I have suffered. I am letting it go.  I finally realize that some of that pain was not your fault.  It was not that you wanted me to suffer in pain, it was that you were unable to hear my cries.  Maybe you were too busy dealing with your own pain, maybe you were too busy trying to be a good Christian, or maybe you just were not able to hear, whatever the case, I am letting it go.  I do want you to know that you were right, if you had divorced dad and he had moved away, I would have gone with him.  It was never really you that I was trying to escape, it was the pain inflicted on me by my peers, my pastor and the school.  I was trying to escape that little hell hole as fast as I could.  I do not know if you realize that coming home causes me to physically be sick each time?  I get anxiety and fear overwhelms me just driving in that general direction.  It took finally escaping to understand how much pain I went through.

Dear Dad:

Since you were gone more often than not this is a short letter.  I feel my relationship with you is much stronger than the one I have with mom.  But you are not blameless in this pain I suffered.  I resent being lied to. I have you to thank for that.  You were always a chronic liar, I suppose it was not your fault.  I resent being called a liar, and there were times you allowed mom to go off on me and you knew I was telling the truth.  Like the time there was a beer bottle on the car floor.  It was yours, you told me so and asked me why I did not toss it out when I found it?  Because it was not mine and I did not want anyone seeing me with it in my underage hands, that is why I did not toss it out.  Or the time my sister took all your change and there was a ton of it, and I got blamed for it.  I ran away and was gone for hours that day, because no one believed me.  Every time a car drove by I dove into the brush or ditch to not get caught.  I know that you cannot help your lying, but allowing me to be accused of infractions I did not commit is deplorable.

Another thing I want to address is your lack of support.  You just allowed mom to assume the worst about me.  You allowed her to deny me things based on her warped perception.  To top it all off you partied for years with the kids I went to high school with when I was not allowed.  Do you think this helped my self-esteem issues or the ongoing abuse?  Hell no it did not.  I got to hear about what a cool guy my dad was every Monday.  How my dad drank with them all and partied like a high schooler.  You made friends with my abusers.  You allowed them to tell me how cool you were while they sexually assaulted me daily.  I never told you about this because you were so distant and you seemed to not really care about us.

The final thing is you moved in with my ex boyfriend.  The man who owed me a ton of money for supporting him for two years.  You betrayed my trust.  How could I ever trust you after taking that idiot in?  Do not worry you were not the only one, my best friend did the same thing.  As did another friend who allowed him to hide something of value at their home so I could not sell it, who the hell needs a $600 weed whacker?  Yeah he was supposed to pay mom back for a car she sold us, but instead the fucking idiot buys a $600 weed whacker!  Yeah I am still resentful because mom held that over my head for a long time.

Ultimately I guess you never heard my cries, because you were too busy being anywhere but home.  You were too busy being cool.  But I forgive you, you had your own stuff to deal with.  I just have a hard time accepting that you might have slept with some high school classmates, and that makes me feel very creeped out.  Sorry but it does.  It also makes me wonder if some of my abuse was a direct result of your actions?  I will never know really.  Because even if you told me the truth I probably would think you were lying.  We all reap what we sow.

So mom and dad, I am done blaming you.  I am done playing the victim.  I need to take back control.  I need to let go of the pain and let go of the past.  This does not mean I am coming home, because it never truly felt like home.  I always felt like a foreigner in an unforgiving land.  What this means is that I am letting go of my anger and blame.  I cannot heal and move forward until I do this.  I am moving on, you are no longer going to clog my energy.  I love you both, and I wish you the best.  I thank you for raising me to adulthood and just so you know all that abuse and all that pain made me a very strong person.  I have a refusal to give up that just never stops.  I still have self-esteem issues and a lack of faith in my own decisions, but I never stop fighting for those I feel are abused, and that is all due to my pain and suffering growing up.

I just wanted you to know that I forgive you, for things you probably had no idea I blamed you for, because as I said, you probably could not hear my cries.

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Finding the courage to call for help


So here I am still struggling.  I take not being able to get hired very personally.  I guess the fact that I am middle-aged and have no current job speaks volumes to employers.  I just wish I did not have to stress on this.  I want to work, I want to have an income, but more importantly I want a sense of purpose.  If I had confidence in myself and my ability to build up my own business I would likely take that route, but I fear failure more than stagnation.  This is starting to take its toll on my health and mental health.  I fear soon it will start to wreak havoc on my relationship.

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Well I finally took the steps needed to secure a counselor.  I have 3 free sessions, so I hope that is enough.  The counselor I will be seeing sent me a slew of registering paperwork.  One was this huge questionnaire.  As I sat down to fill it out, I started out being pretty general.  As it got more in-depth I realized that I need to be honest if I wanted help.  I had to be honest with myself and with the counselor, even with Richard.  I put honesty above all else, except when I am dealing with myself.  I have been down this road of unemployment before.  It is a struggle, it is stressful and it makes me crazy.

As I filled out that questionnaire I found myself looking at my behavior in the past month and I noticed something familiar.  When I lost my job after my divorce and faced losing my home I began to drink often, and to excess.  It helped numb my feelings.  It helped avoid dealing with reality.  It helped me pretend life was happy and I was ok.  This was all a lie.  I am seeing this behavior again.  The difference this time is that I have someone stable to support me through it and I am not responsible for two children.  I examined myself and found that I was not coping but covering up.  I know that this is not helpful and eventually you end up having to face the issue and then it is often so big it becomes insurmountable.

In my packet I was honest about this.  I admit that I use food and/or alcohol as a way to hide from my pain.  I also admitted that I am still hurt by my lack of friendships in the area.  In the end I have taken the first step in getting help, I reached up and asked for it.

For the next few months I am trying to cut back my alcohol intake and focus on better coping mechanism.  Hopefully this counselor can help me navigate all the pent-up emotions I have been burying.

The harsh truth about re-entry.


They try to prepare us for the bumpy ride back into normal life.  They offer us counseling sessions.  They even provide us with a ton of ways to prepare for life back in the states.  I have neglected my blog, one of my best outlets for my struggles, because I am struggling with my struggles.  I want to strong and invincible and pretend like life is just going to be peachy, but reality is, it is not.  Life is a struggle and without that struggle it might be boring but sometimes that struggle is too much to bear.

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I got back stateside on June 7.  Richard brought me pizza and met me at the airport.  It was incredibly comforting to have a familiar relationship that felt new all over again.  It was like moving back home to your parents house after years of being on your own.  It is comforting, but things have changed and you have to find your place.  I guess I am still trying to find my place.  I started back with a focus on healthy diet and exercise, but now I just have to force myself to do anything anymore.

Two days after I got home we went to Alameda to a RPCV meet up with other Returned PCV’s from Jamaica.  This was a Jamaica specific event and I met many new people.  But it was in the Bay area and that is not exactly where I am located.   The following Tuesday we took a trip to Tahoe so I could give a presentation on Peace Corps Service in Liberia and what life was like there, even though I had a limited view the insight I shared was much more than the students had before talking to me.

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We got home and the car was acting up so Richard told his daughters we were not going to Tahoe that weekend again, apparently our trip caused some frustration and anger in them since they had wanted to go.  So we made arrangements to rent a car and go back.  This turned out to be a disaster.  I joined the Peace Corps when I did because his daughters seemed to be jealous and dislike me.  I helped move him down to be closer to them and rebuild that relationship and then left to allow this to happen.  I was hoping that when I returned, they would be used to the idea of me being his partner and being in their lives.  I was so very, very wrong.  This issue caused us to break up back in 2011.  I did not want it to break us apart again.  I do not have an answer for this, but because of the weekend we have vowed to not allow other people to break our relationship apart.  I am not saying I do not want him to see his girls, I really want him to have a good relationship with them, but I realized they do not want a relationship with me.  This reality hurts some, but I am not going to force them into that relationship, it is not healthy for anyone involved.  So I am stepping back, but it is not currently an issue as they whole summer is booked up for them.  Maybe in the fall we will have to see.

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The other issue I am having is job hunting.  I am struggling with finding a job, I thought it would be a breeze, but the longer I go without work the worse I feel and less motivated I get.  I mean for real I am bored out of my freaking mind.  One can only watch Facebook and TV for so many hours in a day.  I had no idea it would be this hard to find a job or that I would feel so lost without one.  I am truly struggling with this lack of focus and my money is quickly dwindling down.  I know I am drinking far too much, mostly out of boredom but some out of depression and a desire to suppress those realities.

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I lost my Washington License when I was in Jamaica, it was found and I just got it back today.  Now I can go get my California license and food handlers permits, liquor license and whatever else I need to cater again.  I am at the point of not filing any job history and just applying to restaurants, because I need something to do.  I am going to go crazy soon, I just know it.

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This week I think I have hit pretty much rock bottom, or am getting close.  So now it is time to stop wallowing in self-pity and get off my butt.  I just wish it was easier to do.  First thing is to get my license transferred and get myself into counseling.  I had no idea these feelings of anger and frustration would manifest in such a way.  I have been unemployed before and remember drinking far too much to cover the pain, but this time I do not have to do it alone with kids to support, yet I seem unable to ask for help and support.  I hate that feeling of vulnerability.  It seems to manifest itself into anger and frustration and I am worried that I will lash out at the people I love the most.

The Four Most Important Lessons My Service in Jamaica Taught Me.


Important Things I have learned during my service:

The two plus years I have been in service have been the most amazing and the most challenging. I have learned so much about myself, about working outside of my culture, about how you can be percieved outside of your own culture and mostly how women in another culture are viewed and view the world.

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  1. How women are viewed:

As I ride my bicycle around my community I have noticed a very interesting point. Other female PCV’s have altogether given up riding in their communities as it just increases the harassment. For me my tattoos and piercings give me a more intensified level of attention that I have altogether given up ever not being viewed as an object to be obtained. Because of this aspect, I choose to not give up the freedom of my bicycle. Women here are not often seen on bicycles, and when I ride I get all sorts of comments. One time a man even tried to chase me down, luckily I was going downhill and he had no hope of catching me. Most recently I have heard over and over: “Aye yuh a get on some exercise!” “Yes mon, go brownin go!” Apparently when girl rides a bike it is specifically to get exercise, not to go from place to place! I have never heard anyone speak to a man riding a bike as getting exercise, he is just moving from place to place. This kind of bothered me for a minute, but then I thought about it, and there are so much more offensive things that can be said or done, this is just a minor issue. The issue is really about how women are viewed, sometimes I want to challenge that but then I would exhaust myself to no end, and that is just not worth my time or energy.

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  1. How tattoos and piercings are percieved

Back to my tattoos and piercings, boy, I tell you that just never ends. I could take the piercings out, I could try to hide the tattoos, but then I am hiding the things I love most. In fact a school girl cornered me the other day as I was walking with a group for plastic pollution awareness (One Love, One Step). She has cornered me before about my tattoos. Last time she told me not to get any more tattoos as I was surely going to burn in hell for it. Uhmmm a bit late on that aren’t you? This time she asked my why I “bored” up my face? “Don’t you like the way God made you?” Being a non-believer can be hard to hold my tongue somedays. I answered, why no, actually I did not, but I love the way I look now! She was persistent and continued to drill me about the word of God and Bible says and blah blah blah! I had many heroes at that point step up and tell her she was being rude and disrespectful, she continued. She asked me how I thought “I might be influencing young girls like her?” I told her that was not my job to influence them, and if they were tolerant they might ask what my tattoos and piercings meant to me, or try to understand the person under them. She persisted still. She asked me “Don’t you believe in God?” Ok I have had enough. I looked her dead in the eye and I said “No actually I do not!” This shocked her. She then asked “What do you believe in?” “Science!, I believe in Science!” She asked, “Who created science?” Now exhausted, I responded, “Science always was, who created God?” Blank stare! Silence, then she proceeded to change her tactic and tell me I should tattoo Jesus on my arm! I told her that would not be appropriate since it would offend other cultures and religions and since I am not of her belief I would never do such a thing. She was like who would be offended. I looked over at the Rastas and said they might be, the Muslims and the Hindus for sure would be. At that point the Rasta walked over to give her a life lesson on tolerance and I escaped to the far corner of the group. Just before she left she walked up behind me and gave me a hug. I am a little confused by this, but maybe, just maybe she learned a little bit about tolerance of others. At least I hope so. (Had she not cornered me multiple times I would have never been baited into a debate about God, but this child is persistent and she exhausts me.)

One time, actually many times, but one time was really offensive, taxi driver suggested he could come visit me at home. I told him no, I was married. He insisted and persisted. He even had the gall to say that my lip rings looked extra hungry! Dude seriously they have spikes on the end where the captive ball should be, that will get caught and hurt, believe me, they are not hungry and you do not really want that! Or the time the taxi man licked my neck and begged me for sex. Seriously men everywhere, begging for sex is not attractive at all, it is repulsive. The fact that a woman’s no has no real meaning is one of the hardest things I have had to overcome, am still trying and failing most days. Also, cultur

  1. How skin tone is viewed.

There is no such thing as racism in Jamaica, simply colorism. They call each other all manner of yaad names (yard names) some of which include skin tone! (ie; blackie, browning, indian, white girl/boy, darkie, and some more offensive that I will not repeat!) There tends to be a viewpoint that darker skin is not beautiful and that is why bleaching is a thing here. They literally bleach their skin with bleach, lye or even tumeric! I am not certain all the manners that they use, but just like white people like to tan and bronze up, darker people tend to try for the same tone that we do as we sunbathe. In fact it has not occurred to many of the people, that I know here, that white people may not want to be “pasty” white. This was a bit shocking to them.

The fact that women of color spend so much money on their hair is a bit heartbreaking. They have been told for so long that their hair is not right, it is inferior to white people hair. So instead of embracing their own beauty, they focus on fighting their natural hair, they braid it, they add extensions, they straighten it and do all other manner of things that are likely not healthy for the hair or the body. When I visited my host family a week or so ago my host sister took her braids out to wash her hair. She had so much hair, I had no idea it was that long or big. She wanted to go out with it natural but her mother insisted she “tame” it down into braids. I told Ms. Rose it was terrible of her to tell Kaylor her natural hair was inferior! “You take the white man look at things ya know” I told her. I said it jokingly, but maybe it helped Kaylor to stand up for herself next time. The beauty of the hair on person’s of color is that the water just repels off of it. I noticed that when we were out to sea. My coworker’s hair dried within minutes and mine was still wet when I went to bed that night, this is why blow dryers were invented! Our hair just holds the cold water next to our heads, their hair just keeps their head mostly dry. It is truly a fascination of mine. Instead of having to wait for the water to stop dripping all over me, they can just get dressed and move on with their day/night. Me it takes literally hours for it to finally stop dripping!

  1. How seasons are viewed.

The final thing I learned is that mangos are to be eaten outside and you are required to be covered in sticky sweet mango juice/pulp when you are done. Also one mango is not enough. When different fruits are in season many Jamaicans will literally survive on the one thing for days at a time. Mango, Breadfruit and June plum are all main courses when in season. Kind of like how Strawberries and Huckleberries were back when I was a child!

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There are specific seasons for specific crops and when out of season you will pay dearly for the item. Pear is a great example. Pear season June through September. If you want it bad enough outside of that time frame you will pay for imported pears or pears that are grown out of season and they are not nearly as good as the ones in season. Right now it is cabbage season and the price of cabbage drop low, but the price of other produce rise up. These are balances to be had, I just wish farmers would rotate crops so they did not rush the market with the same crop all at the same time. If they would focus on diversity there would not be such a severe price drop or rise.

Fun Food Friday: Rasta Pasta


I am not totally certain what exactly Rasta Pasta is aside from pasta with vegetables in it. I found that children that hate veggies ate this stuff up with relish, like literally finished the pot off.  I made it when I was visiting one of my host families last week, they asked for the recipe and to make it one more time before I left, so here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

Pasta

Oil to cook in and make sauce with (****True Rastas do not use oil unless they press it themselves)

variety of veggies for this one I had:

zucchini

onion

scallion

okra

tomato

red pepper

bok choy (pak chow if you live in Jamaica)

Kale

Chick Peas

All purpose seasoning

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I cooked the pasta to al dente and left it in the pot with some water to keep for the sauce later.  I sautéed up the veggie, leaving the greens until the end.  I added the greens and beans along with some pasta water and seasoning jus to steam the greens down a bit before mixing the pasta.  That’s pretty much it.  Sometimes it has mayonnaise in it, but I do not think it needs that.

The second time I made this I used black beans, Choyote, a can of mixed vegetables, bok choy, zucchini, peppers, onions, okra, yellow tomato,  and a little bit of kale.  This was based on what was available and what I had on hand.

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Mixed emotions as I come to the end of my time abroad.


This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org’s Re-Entry BlogChallenge.

 

I am looking forward to going home soon, not because I want to go home, but because I miss my significant other more and more daily.  I feel like I am missing out on stuff.  I try not to think about going home that much.  In fact thanks to a guy I was in Liberia with I have found a way to stay grounded and present in my last few days.  On day 80 I started a countdown with something/someone/place I will miss when I am gone.  This keeps me focused daily on what I will post and keeps me present.  It helps amazingly.

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This last week I attended my only real Jamaican party.  I went to Beach Jouvert, a seriously messy paint party.  I was covered in paint, in fact a week later and I am still covered in paint.  My toenails and fingernails are still green, I have green paint in my armpits, hair and even on my back.   This was incredibly fun and I Easter was spent with other volunteers having dinner at my apartment.  It was also spent with a huge hangover, well deserved and well earned.

Monday I headed to one of my host family home to visit one last time.  Lesson learned when I left Liberia, make certain you have contact information and ways to stay in touch.  I was glad I went on Easter weekend because the whole family was around and we got wonderful pictures together.  I feel like I got the change to say a proper good-bye.  I then headed to Kingston for my COS medical and spent until Friday there.  I got to spend time with volunteers also having medical and the two response volunteers left in country.

Friday afternoon I headed out to Hellshire to my very first host family pon di rock.  I am staying here until Tuesday when I go back into Town to meet the new interim Peace Corps Director.  I will then go back to Discovery Bay where I will not take any more time off except on the weekends to say my final goodbyes to friends and family in my original community.

Looking forward is quite daunting for me.  Many of the other volunteers are looking into grad school, job markets or potential future service.  I am not doing any of this.  My plan is to spend the first 2 weeks with just Richard!  I intend on just being in the moment with him.  Also it looks like he now has a job from home so we will need to look at job options/locations together as we now have the freedom to move wherever we want to.  I could easily allow myself to get pulled into this crazy guessing game, but in reality I want to remain focused on here and now.  By remaining focused I can better serve my current projects and finalize my time in Jamaica.  If I focus on going home, I serve no one.  And that is my biggest struggle.

Fun Food Friday: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


This is not a Jamaican Dish, but more a cheap healthy and delicious dish to make with ingredients that are fairly cheap here.   This recipe is adapted from the Book “We Love Your Body”  which I really enjoyed reading.

Large Head of Cabbage

Onion

Tomatoes or tomato sauce, or both

Rice or quinoa (any type of grain will work, even roast rood veggies (but they will not stay in the roll as well.

Herbs and spices

Oil

Protein source, Chicken, veggie mince, beans, whatever floats your boat, I do not think fish will work though.

Nutritional Yeast or cheese if desired.

Nuts or seeds if desired

Various veggies such at carrot, zucchini and whatever you think will mix well in your grain with a tomato sauce.

First you have to cut the core out of cabbage to ease the removal of leaves.    I like to pull the leaves out and soak in salt water to ensure no extra Protein sources are hiding in the leaves.  If you want you can blanch the the leaves with a quick dip in boiling water for about 1.5 minutes.  Otherwise you can just choose to roll the raw leaves, blanching just makes the rolling easier.

Cook up your grains.  I am a meal prepper so I prep this type of stuff up ahead of time and it almost always ready to go.  Season and add cooked protein along with sauteed veggies as desired.  Mix all ingredients together but not the sauce or cheese/nutritional yeast.  The seeds can go in at this time, they add a nice little crunch to the dish at the end.  You can also use them as garnish when serving.

Once everything is mixed nicely you can start stuffing the rolls.  First you must oil your baking dish or lay down parchment paper.  Hold cabbage leave curve side up. If leaves re too inflexible you can blanche them for a few minutes to soften the large vein down the middle.  Fill with about 1/4 cup of filling, for smaller leaves fill so that you can roll them nicely and they end up like a little burrito.  Lay the rolled leaf face down in baking dish.  (The side that the leaves are loose will go face down, if your leaf is too small use a secondary leaf to ensure filling stays in.  Continue to fill leaves until your dish is full.  and nicely laid out.  The idea is to be able to put a spatula or flipper under the rolls individually to serve them.

Once your rolls are ready you can prepare the sauce.  Even if I actually use a prepared sauce, I typically spruce it up with more veggies finely diced and herbs.  Now cover the rolls by spooning sauce evenly over them.  They do not need to be completely covered unless you love extra sauce, but it makes it much harder to serve that way.  (If you like extra sauce, save some to cover after plating.)

I have a gas stove that I have no idea how hot it gets but for argument sake, 350 degrees.  Light that bad boy up and put your dish in the oven.  Because I have no idea how hot mine actually is, I keep a pretty good eye on it.  I check it after 30 minutes, but around 45 is when I add the cheese/nutritional yeast.  Finish off by allowing the cheese to melt/toast up.

The rolls are super hot when you first pull them out, I suggest waiting a few minutes, more like 15 minutes to allow them to cool some before plating and eating.  As a side note you can prevent the sauce from getting too dry by covering with foil while cooking.