So one of the main reasons I haven't been blogging much lately, aside from the girls' birthdays, a bit of sewing, and endless remodeling/gardening/landscaping for our new little house, is because I've been doing the Whole30 nutritional reset. No dairy, no legumes, no sugar (including maple syrup, honey, stevia, and agave), no grains, and no soy or corn; it sounds like the worst, right? I can't tell you how much I miss my lentils and brown rice! And cookies and cheese (ahem).
Basically, I eat a lot of veggies, some eggs and fruit, and a tiny bit of local grass-fed beef and poultry. As someone who only eats meat every few months, I think adding animal protein to my diet was harder than giving up the grains and dairy. I initially attempted to do it without the meat, but I was starving and tired after three days. My body is feeling a lot more balanced with the added protein, and I honestly feel better than I have since before I was pregnant with Norah. I am 16 days in, and I don't feel bloated, my skin is clear, I'm sleeping better and waking up with more energy, I've easily lost 10 pounds, and my mind is finally quiet.
That being said, it has been intense, especially the first week. My sugar addiction has been out of control for years; it took an entire week for my detox symptoms to subside, and it wasn't pretty. I was grouchy (probably a mild word choice), constantly thirsty, and had crampy stomach aches. Pushing through that first week was difficult, but it helped me realize how often I eat sugar and why I use it, and that has been nothing short of transformational. I don't need sugar/treat of choice after a long, stressful day; I need to acknowledge that it was hard, I handled it the best I could, and move on. I don't need to eat to fill an emptiness, I need a life full of people, ideas, projects, and passions that make me whole. I need the energy and mental clarity that comes with eating well to enjoy all of the people and experiences that I love.
I love food. I really love great food, and I'm excited to have cake on my birthday, cookies cooling on my counter on Saturday afternoons, and homemade ice cream all summer long. But I hope I can use food as a generous celebration of a good, full life, and not just a sorry a replacement for one.
Since I'm too cheap to join the Whole30 forum, I thought I'd post some of my thoughts, insights, and questions here, just in case one of you has tried Whole30 or other paleo diets and would like to join in the conversation.
Sela turned six last week, and for the past month I've been catching myself just watching her in wonder as we go about our days. How did her legs get so long? When did she learn to read so well? How is her hair so long and her voice so sure and all of her so much more than just a few weeks ago? I have been present for every single day of her life; holding, feeding, dressing, teaching, scolding, comforting, apologizing, and starting over again every single day for six years. And yet, in my few short weeks of noticing, I can't believe how much I've been missing.
Sela is easy to like and even easier to love. She is smart and beautiful, funny and thoughtful, and every single letter or card she has ever written was one of love. The first thing she learned to write after her name was, " I love you. Love, Sela" and she's been writing it ever since. Even when she's mad at me or Brian, she'll tape a sign on her closed bedroom door that says, "I feel sad. Love, Sela." And for some reason, that's what makes me the most proud, but it is also the thing that worries this mama heart of mine. Her stacks upon stacks of love letters echo a tenderness, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness that are rare gifts, and as I've watched her process chronic illness, disease, death of cherished friends and family members, and all of the struggle, unfairness, and inadequate answers that life provides, I can't help but fight the urge to protect her from the heartbreak, disappointment, and betrayal that comes with having a heart open to the whole world.
But, the thing about Sela is that she's a lover and a fighter, and that makes all the difference somehow. As much as I worry about that big vulnerable heart of hers, the one that loves so much and so many so quickly, I see how hard she fights for fairness and truth and understanding. I hear her ask the hardest questions with her loudest voice, without hesitation, shame, or embarrassment, and it makes me see how she is built to struggle and to survive. Her tenderness makes her fierce, and the world needs more people with hearts and minds that feel the weight of the injustices of the world, and who fight to understand and make things right for everybody, to make things fair. And I think Sela is one of those people, and I honestly can't wait to see where her heart takes her.
Happy Birthday, sunshine girl. I love you to the moony moon moon.
Hello, there! Here is my little reading list for February and I hope you enjoy it. This month I have a living room to renovate, Sela and Norah's birthdays to plan and prepare for, and lots of garden and yard prep for the upcoming season; I'll be lucky if I manage to squeeze in even one book in March. :)
Happy Valentine's Day, friends! Today is one of my favorite days of the year, and I'm happy to be sharing these little bits of love with you.
First, this letter from Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash:
Second, this article about a woman named Peace Pilgrim. It will make you love and believe in humanity with your whole heart.
Third, this song:
Fourth, these quotes:
"Before I die, I want to be somebody's favorite hiding place, the place they can put everything they need to survive, every secret, every solitude, every nervous prayer, and be absolutely certain I will keep it safe. I will keep it safe. "
"The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe."
"What kills love? Only this: Neglect. Not to see you stand before me. Not to think of you in the little things. Not to make the road wide for you, the table spread for you. To choose you out of habit not desire, to pass the flower seller without a thought. To leave the dishes unwashed, the bed unmade, to ignore you in the mornings, make use of you at night. To crave another while pecking your cheek. To say your name without hearing, to assume it is mine to call."
"To live in this world
You must be able
To do three things:
To love what is mortal;
To hold it
Against your bones knowing
Your own life depends on it;
And when the time comes to let it go,
Let it go."
Fifth, these powerful books about love of place:
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, by Terry Tempest Williams
The River of the Mother of God: and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold
And lastly, this poem:
I hope you're able to feel, share, acknowledge, and celebrate love today. See you soon! XO
"There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself."
Isn't that such a happy, gentle reminder? I hope you're able to show yourself some love this weekend, no matter how small or simple that act may be. See you next week, friends! XO
This year I only made a handful of resolutions, most of them centered around an overall theme: "Nourish". Nourish my body, nourish my relationships, nourish my mind, and nourish my bank account (and yes, that is a euphemism for paying off our car).
I find I'm better able to meet my goals if I choose a theme or word to use almost as a mantra as I plan out my days and months. For example, I recently realized I wasn't eating enough vegetables so I swapped out my sweet/grainy/dairy-heavy breakfasts with leftover roasted vegetables, sauteed kale, and beans. I still can't believe the difference this small change has made. I feel like a new woman! :)
But so far my favorite resolution has been to read 60 books this year and to visit our local library every week. I'm going to do monthly updates, mostly just to keep track of what I've read and make sure I'm accountable, but also out of hope that you'll share what you're reading with me too.
Here's January's list:
"The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege. "
Have you read any of Marilynne Robinson's books? Housekeeping is my favorite, but I am looking forward to reading Home and her most recent non-fiction work, When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays. You can also read a fascinating interview she did for The Paris Review, which is where I found the above quote. Her thoughts on religion, the writing process, education, nuclear pollution, and Hitler's vegetarianism (!) make for an interesting peek into her life, mind, and writing.
I hope you have a lovely weekend, friends! XO
On my flight home from NYC last October, I started writing a poem. My world was still shaky with Bri's death and my unexpected pregnancy, but I was desperate to find solid ground and to make peace with my body and my grief. So I wrote this poem, more out of awe that I could create life at a time when I felt so empty and depleted, but also out of longing to connect to a baby who I couldn't imagine as a part of my life, let alone my body.
Life created in the barren places
is green and fierce despite the howling wind,
harsh as it crawls begging through the canyons of my body.
You came to light in a desert place,
a landscape marked by uncertainty and distance.
And you brought with you
bones and stones and endless sky --
water enough to swell and stretch.
When the earth cries for relief from its sanctification,
will the skies answer
with a crash of light, a gathering darkness,
heat that writhes in red rising flood?
Flesh on flesh
skull to pelvis
When the pounding ceases
and the horizon clears,
will we be blossoming with life,
Or will we be drowned?
It's strange to read now, to share it now, knowing what happened in the weeks and months that followed. The clubfoot diagnosis. Sela's diabetes diagnosis. Feeling like my entire life had fallen apart and I was grasping at loose threads, desperately trying to hold my old, familiar life together, and left kneeling, empty-handed.
It's so difficult to write about the darkest period of my life, to fight the instinct to brush it aside, smile, and tell you how happy we are to have Norah here, how Sela is thriving, how everything is wonderful and perfect and pretty. I like to tell happy stories and share beautiful things. I like when things work out. I like my life to be neat and tidy and comfortable for everyone, or to at least seem that way when it's not.
It's not easy or comfortable to tell you that I know what it's like to cry every day for an entire year, to feel grief, disappointment, and fear closing in at every turn, and to lay in bed every morning holding my breath and praying that Sela will wake up too. I know what it's like to wonder if I'll love and celebrate a child born with clubfeet, to face deformity without embarrassment, anger, or shame. I know what it's like to go to a therapist every week for months because I needed someone to sit with me while I cried for hours and allow me to empty the ugliness and smallness and pettiness from the darkest parts of myself.
Norah's birth story isn't an easy one to tell, even if the actual birth is a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated one. The experiences of the months, weeks, and even hours leading up to her birth are inseparable from this story, our shared story, and I can't explain the joy and awe without showing you the pain and heartache in equal measure.
"In the afternoon when the sun lights the stucco buildings across the street, it's possible to count a dozen different colors of paint, all fading together on the highest parts of the wall: yellow, ochre, brick, blood, cobalt, turquoise. The national color of Mexico. And the scent of Mexico in a similar blend: jasmine, dog piss, cilantro, lime. Mexico admits you through an arched stone orifice into the tree-filled courtyard of its heart, where a dog pisses against a wall and a waiter hustles through a curtain of jasmine to bring a bowl of tortilla soup, steaming with cilantro and lime. Cats stalk lizards among the clay pots around the fountain, doves settle into the flowering vines and coo their prayers, thankful for the existence of lizards. The potted plants silently exhale, outgrowing their clay pots. Like Mexico's children they stand pinched and patient in last year's too-small shoes. The pebble thrown into the canyon bumps and tumbles downhill.
Here life is strong-scented, overpowering. Even the words. Just ordering breakfast requires some work like toronja, triplet of muscular syllables full of lust and tears, a squirt in the eye. Nothing like the effete "grapefruit," which does not even mean what it says."
-Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
I'm missing Mexico like crazy this winter. In this cold, dry place I think often of humidity on my skin and twisting through my hair, and long to hear warm, deep languages spoken in crowded markets. The sleepy rhythms, sounds, and smells of rural fishing villages are calling to me, and Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna isn't helping much. Mexico, Frida, politics, and art make for a colorful, thoughtful read - perfect (though slightly heartbreaking for the landlocked) for these short, dark days of winter.
Happy weekend. Hope it's a lovely one.
Happy Valentine's Day, you! Today is definitely one of my favorite holidays, and we've already had a fun morning full of new jammies, books, balloons, blueberry muffins, and a few love notes too.
For you, I have this little list of love:
First, a letter from John Steinbeck to his son, Thomas.
November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Second, this article, When Words Don't Fit, by Sarah Healy. It's a perfect, ordinary love story, and I always cry at the end because it's so true.
Third, this photo:
Fourth, these quotes:
"Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, like new."
-Ursula K. Le
"We're all going to die, all of
us, what a circus! That alone
should make us love each
other but it doesn't. We are
terrorized and flattened by
trivialities, we are eaten up
"You never know exactly how much space you occupied in people's lives."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fifth, this book: First Love And Other Sorrows by Harold Brodkey
Lastly, this poem, Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden:
I hope you recognize, share, and feel love today, from any and all of its many facets. XO
Just so you know we aren't all club feet and type 1 diabetes up in here, I thought I'd better share some of the sewing projects I've been working on. In fact, I'd say we're way more ninja/She-Ra/paleontologist/ballerina/LEGO mania than anything else these days, but you'd never gather that from all of the sad poetry and difficult personal stories I've been sharing lately. Life is good. My kids are happy. And apart from a mad case of cabin fever caused by back-to-back viruses, we are all doing just fine.
I've been doing quite a bit of sewing from Oliver + S Little Things to Sew, and I love both patterns I've tried so far. Graham went through this crazy pocket phase right before Christmas, where every single day he had to wear a pocket shirt AND pocket pants, and all said pockets were filled with various cars and keys and coins. So for Christmas I made the Explorer Vest, equipped with five big pockets - plenty of room for all of his treasures. Unfortunately, all of his phases of intense interest change and fade quickly, and I had to bribe him with a small handful of Cadbury Mini Eggs just to put it on today. You win some, you lose some, I guess. :)
The second project I tried is the art smock, and it came together really quickly, plus I learned all about French seams and a new, cleaner-looking way to do pockets. Sela looks really cute when she wears it, and I love that it has long sleeves and velcro closure. It keeps her arms from getting smeared in paint, and she can put it on and take it off on her own!
I'm anxious to try my hand at the mini-messenger bag for Sela's big kindergarten debut this fall, and the little aprons and cozy winter hoods are so sweet. I've also had my eye on Anna Maria's Handmade Beginnings, mainly because I love the reversible pants SouleMama has made in multiples over the years.
I read this amazing story almost two years ago and was touched by Kelle's raw, honest voice and the beautiful photographs of this life-changing moment. Her experience is all about grief and families and numbness and mostly love and facing a new, different kind of life than the one she imagined; it is a story of true human experience. Kelle's story broke my heart in all the right ways, if that makes any sense. It opened my eyes and heart to the strength of women and mothers everywhere, and it showed me how truly beautiful people are made.
This morning I was happy to read her post about little Nella's second birthday and about the people they are today. I needed to be reminded that chaos, fear, uncertainty, and pain are only temporary, fleeting states of being, and that love, courage, families, and truth stay always, sustaining us while we learn to change and accept a bigger and more meaningful version of ourselves.
Kelle also shared this quote that made my heart catch in my throat:
"Awareness born of love is the only force that can bring healing and renewal. Out of our love for another person, we become more willing to let our old identities wither and fall away, and enter a dark night of the soul, so that we may stand naked once more in the presence of the great mystery that lies at the core of our being. This is how love ripens us -by warming us from within, inspiring us to break out of our shell, and lighting our way through the dark passage to new birth."
Thank you for all of your kind comments and messages during the past few weeks. I can't express to you how important it is to feel connected and supported and heard while sorting out and moving forward with our "new normal". Thank you for allowing me to feel all of those things. XO
by Mandy Coe
where nothing happens
that fill our lives.
Not the field bright with poppies, but
the times you walked, seeing
no leaves, no sky, only one foot
We are sleeping
(it's not midnight and
there is no dream).
We enter a room - no one is in it.
We run a tap,
queue to buy a stamp.
These are the straw moments
that give substance
to our astonishments;
moments the homesick dream of;
the bereaved, the diagnosed.
These days I spend a lot of time thinking about this concept of the moments before; the moments before tremendous loss or some unforeseen, forever kind of change - the moments before our stories, our lives, are irreversibly altered. One moment we're living our normal, quiet lives - tucking our kids into bed, answering a phone call from a friend, cleaning up from a long, busy day, and the next moment we're staring at impossible, heartbreaking change.
In the past two months our family has experienced a lot of changes. Sela was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the week before Christmas, and we also learned that our new baby (a girl!) will most likely be born with club feet. Our life looks and feels so very different than it did just a few short weeks ago, and we are all different people than we were in those moments before. As awful as it was to learn of Sela's diagnosis and to spend 3 days in Primary Children's Hospital, there were so many tender, sweet moments that I will never forget. Curling my pregnant body around her tiny body as we shared a hospital bed, I marveled at the strength of her spirit and the bravery and insight she showed during those early, difficult days. Given the chance to better know my daughter and see her ability to accept and do hard, hard things, is a gift - a gift I couldn't have received in any other way.
I think the greatest gift we have is knowing that Sela will live a happy, healthy, and normal life, and that our baby girl will have perfect, fully functioning feet with just a little extra attention, planning, and the right medical care. I saw many families in the time we spent at the hospital whose stories and journeys are far more difficult and lengthy than ours will ever be, fingers crossed.
I guess the reason behind sharing this with all of you is that I am looking for people to talk to about these new changes in our lives. I would love to hear or read real-life stories of babies born with club feet, and to have a chance to talk to moms who have made it through. Also, if any of you know a cute, diabetic, five year-old girl, could you send her our way? Sela is desperate for a diabetes buddy to talk and play with. :)
This brilliant interview with Rebecca Stolnit has been on my mind for an entire week. The way she breaks down genres, defies labels placed on writers, challenges new writers to be engaged in the interesting and urgent issues of our time, and places importance on the pleasure and elegance of writing, even when discussing gender roles, the environment, culture, and politics, is powerful and encouraging.
I've always wanted to identify myself as a writer, but often struggle with where exactly my words and interests would best fit. Essayist? Novelist? Short story writer? And as much as I enjoy writing about nature, women, and the human experience, I feel an equal pull to address the social and political challenges that surround us today. Can I really be a young mother who enjoys the quiet pleasures of a domestic life, and also a voice for feminism, sustainable agriculture, and immigration? Can my words be both beautiful and powerful? Humane and engaging? Tender and persuasive?
Stolnit gives this example of Henry David Thoreau:
"I think he’s a great example of someone refusing the categories: he thinks about leaves changing color and he also thinks about, and talks about, and cares about, slavery and John Brown and the war on Mexico. In the introductory essay to Storming the Gates I write about the way he’s so insistent that when he got out of jail the morning after that founding act of civil disobedience, he went huckleberrying. It’s an insistence that pleasure and commitment, landscape and politics, the big and the small can and do coexist."
It is possible to do both. The big and the small can and do coexist.
The entire interview is fascinating and full of great insights. I found her thoughts on activism to be particularly moving. If you do read the interview, let me know what you think; I would love to hear your thoughts.
So, I've spent my entire Thanksgiving weekend watching Woody Allen movies and thinking about NYC; both the city that Allen loves and makes an important character in nearly all his films, and my own experiences in October. I keep waiting for the right words to find me to accurately share what I felt and saw during my trip, but I'm afraid I'll forget all of the special moments (and meals!) while I'm waiting.
Here are the moments I don't want to forget:
- Four hours of turbulence, a flight attendant who thought he was James Brown, and zero sleep is not worth the $40 I saved to take that damn red eye flight. Although, it may be worth the long overdue realization that I'm no longer 17 and I seriously need to start embracing my need for sleep and time (and age) appropriate air travel.
- My sweet Polish taxi driver pressed the tip money I gave him back into my hand and whispered, "For the memories!" as he left me on a dark, rainy corner in Brooklyn.
- I'll never forget walking down Em's block with my head and stomach swimming, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as I dragged my suitcase behind me. I looked up to see her sleepy face smiling from her apartment doorway. It had been over 7 years since I'd seen her and yet I knew we'd be alright.
- Her apartment is beautiful, smells good, and she made me peppermint tea in a pretty little mug. We're going to be better than alright.
-When someone tells you to go to Hanco's for a Vietnamese sandwich, you do it. Even after you read the ingredient list and have a hard time wrapping your brain around pate and some sort of weird fried Vietnamese ham and pork topped with cilantro and shredded carrots - just get it. Make sure it's with medium spicy sauce and an almond bubble tea, find a crowded table, and proceed to repeatedly tell everyone around you how unbelievably delicious your sandwich is. Oh, and cry a little, because honestly? You just can't help yourself.
- I spent an entire afternoon in the Park Slope Community Bookstore with giant piles of M.F.K. Fisher, Samuel Beckett, and John Updike. Flipping through cookbooks, old childhood favorites, and poetry for hours in a quiet corner of this bookshop felt like a sweet gift, a welcome surprise.
- I found messages of peace tucked in windows, hidden gardens, and on the side of giant skyscrapers.
- Colson's Patisserie has fantastic pear almond tarts and tiny apricot rugelach.
- Prospect Park is beautiful in the rain. I spent a few hours walking around the ponds and riding trails, watching families have picnics and people out walking their dogs.
- When the rain kicked it up a notch, I ducked into a French coffee shop, Couleur Cafe, and spent a few hours eating soup and a croissant, humming along to Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, and feeling lucky to be in my own life.
"She did not wish to remember me. She much preferred my simple, ordinary presence, silent and ungainly though I might be. For she could regard me without strong emotion - a familiar shape, a familiar face, a familiar silence. She could forget I was in the room. She could speak to herself, or to someone in her thoughts, with pleasure and animation, even while I sat beside her - this was the measure of our intimacy, that she gave almost no thought to me at all."
Reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson makes my heart ache every single time.
-just finished reading just kids by patti smith
-i have a place to crash and a lovely partner in crime
-taking these words as my talisman (thank you, cath. your words make me brave.)
-filling up a happy tote with snacks, new books, and an ipod with old and new favorites at the ready
-watched and loved this documentary
-starting to feel a little anxious about the red eye flight and my oh-so-pregnant body (we'll make it right? right?!)
-a little list of things i must see, but mostly must eat
-wondering how the babes and brian are going to get along - but not too worried
i'm ready. i'm feeling lucky. let's do this thing, kid.
image by Charles W. Chushman via Design Mom
When You Come to Love
by Ann Fisher-Wirth
When you come to love,
bring all you have.
Bring the milk in the jug,
the checked cloth on the table -
the conch that sang the sea
when you were small,
and your moonstone rings,
your dream of wolves,
your woven bracelets.
For the key to love is in the fire's nest,
and the riddle of love is the hawk's dropped feather.
Bring every bowl and ewer,
every cup and chalice, jar,
for love will fill them all-
And dazzled with the day,
fold the sunlight in your sheets,
fold the smell of salt and leaves,
of summer, sweat, and roses,
to shake them out when you need them most,
For love is strong as death.
A dear friend sent me this beauty of a poem early in the week, and I've read it every single day. My life is so full of good friends, long talks, laughter, and exciting opportunities these days that I can't help but feel lucky to be surrounded by wonderful, tender people and the love and wholeness they bring into my life.
I'm a lucky girl, indeed.
Thank you for following this funny little space, and for all of your kind messages and comments. Internet bonding is the best, right? Hope your weekend is a long and relaxing one. See you soon. XO
This beautiful, haunting story of birth in rural Nepal had me in tears this morning. All women need access to skilled birth attendants and support from a community that understands and values the work of pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood. Childbirth should not be a death sentence. All images and text by freelance photojournalist Toni Graves. You can also find an interview Toni did as part of NPR's The Baby Project right here.
via the lovey Leigh from Marvelous Kiddo.