here's to 2010

A little recap, Natalie style.

January 2010 - month of the bread pudding.

February 2010 - month of the never ending single digit weather.

March 2010 - month that Scott begins to play banjo, bringing music into our home.

April 2010 - month of weather warm enough to dry clothes on the line. And green grass!

May 2010 - month that I graduate, and go on a retreat with some favorite women.

June 2010 - month that Evelyn Jane is born.

July 2010 - month of much outside time and nakedness. Also, packing up to move.

August 2010 - month of moving from Missouri to Tennessee. And month of unpacking.

September 2010 - month of long lasting hot days finished off with easy dinners and beer.

October 2010 - month of bonfires, friends, and neighbors.

November 2010 - month of cuteness. Getting settled in and enjoying family time.

December 2010 - month of icy rain. And a beautiful Christmas tree.

Here's to 2010 - filled with much joy and much sadness. Joy and sadness are the storms that course through me, but I hope to continue to seek the stillness within, and to see each moment clearly and with gratitude.

putting the day behind me

Ever have a day when you hate yourself, your life, and you just want to drink yourself to bed? Luckily, those don't come often for me, but today I was gifted with this sort of day. And to my credit, I only had one glass of wine, though to tell the truth, that's all that was left in the bottle.

photo credit
What could be so terrible? Well, I perpetually overspend on my grocery budget, I cannot for the life of me get/keep this house clean, and today my kid pooped on the floor and refused to nap. I was so mean to him, and I saw it happening. I tried the nice-mom thing, I really did. I laid in his single bed next to him and closed my eyes, showing him how a person takes a nap properly. But he didn't catch the drift. After some cuddling he began to clobber me with his stuffed cat, so I promptly left the room, slamming the door shut to show how frustrated I was. I heard him immediately jump out of his bed. I told myself to be calm and figure out a way to deal with his non-napping, and instead I stormed back into his room and told him to get in that bed and stay in that bed! For unknown reasons, this demand did not make him feel any more inclined to sleep.
It was my fault, I over-shot the opportune nap window and he was past tired and unable to sleep. I feel guilty and ashamed with myself for the tantrums I subjected him to this afternoon. And it was my fault he pooped in his room, because I shut him in there. Now wait, before you call child services on me, he was not asking to get out of his room, he was happily playing by himself until he yelled out "Big poop, mama!" at which point I opened the door to learn that he was right, there was indeed a big poop. Right there, on the floor.

I know how trivial it all is in light of the world's problems. I know that I live in privilege that I have not earned. But dammit, I had a hard day. So I gave myself some grace, and let the kid watch much more Go, Diego, Go! than would normally fly around here. I also let myself run late on making dinner so that I could take that over-tired toddler to a playground and go crazy.
I am reading a book titled "Self Esteem" (go ahead, make jokes, I do it every time I pick it up to read it) and I am learning that we all have an "inner critic". That's the voice that says "you are stupid! why did you do that? stop acting like an idiot" etc. I am learning to catch the critic in the act, and to be prepared to disarm that critic by saying more reasonable things in response. Basically the book is teaching me to talk to myself, making me perhaps more crazy than I already am, but I will say this - it's helping. Today when I was all out of patience and kindness and I was crying in my bed, hiding from my kids, my inner critic pounced on me with all sorts of labels and demeaning language. Instead of completely believing the critic, I fought back, and I started to feel better. By 5pm I was enjoying a glass of wine and making dinner, and putting the day behind me.

Are you able to have grace with yourself when you're having a hard day? What helps you cope?


ten minutes to writing

photo credit

"Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write." I did just that.
I am reading "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg. It is not the first time I've read a book on writing, but it is the first time I've taken the exercises seriously. I am reading this book as if it were my class, and I am doing the homework. Natalie talks about the discipline of writing, and how it feels like a battle. She says you can just give ten minutes to writing, but you have to do it fully. You sit down with pen and paper, you set the timer for ten minutes, and you go. You write. This is the scary part. You just write, that's it. That is so frightening! I am scaring myself silly writing those words. Why is it so hard to write? I must be scared of something else, because writing isn't scary, is it? It is. I have things inside me that are ugly. They are not politically correct, they are not kind, and they are not quiet. They are impolite, they have terrible table manners, and they hate your outfit. These are the things I am afraid of, because they are unpredictable. They might barge out with all their rudeness and off-putting looks, and they might be seen. You might see them and not like me. Heck, I might see them and not like me.
Well, I read her words on writing and I got real scared. Then I sat down and wrote. And bad things didn't come out! That doesn't mean they aren't in there, because I can assure you that they are in there, but at least today they are behaving and letting out things that are a little nicer. I won't share what I wrote here, because it's not good and I'm just doing it for me, but I will share with you that I was frightened. But I did it. And that feels like a major accomplishment.


slow foods to ease sadness

A best friend of mine and her boyfriend came to visit over the weekend. I have had such a hard time since moving here 4 months ago, and they knew I needed cheering up, so they drove on over. It's close to a 10 hour drive, so they took Friday and Monday off for traveling, and graced me and my family with their presence for the entire weekend.
We talked and talked and talked. We played Scrabble and drank an enormous amount of tea. We cooked meals and played with my kids. I didn't take a single picture, but I was trying to drink in every moment as best as I could, because I knew that on Monday morning when they departed, sadness would overcome me again. And it did. Just as my dear friend Natalie is experiencing a difficult season of life, so am I. I am sad more often than not, and I am even angry sometimes. Moving to a new place completely uprooted me. I miss my community of friends and neighbors more than I could have imagined. And if that town weren't so transitory, I might wish to move back.
However I know this season will pass. Something that helps with the grief I feel is to cook. I'm not sure why it feels so soothing. Perhaps because I can completely involve myself in something else for awhile, and forget everything. When my friends left on Monday morning I spent the rest of the day cooking slow foods to ease sadness. I put the black beans in the crockpot and checked them occasionally. I made two loaves of whole wheat bread. I cooked my very first from-scratch chicken stock. I made a big batch of brown rice for the week.
Because my mood had not improved my Tuesday morning, I kept cooking. First thing in the morning, before I had even eaten breakfast, I made two loaves of pumpkin bread. In the afternoon I made black bean soup for later in the week. And for dinner I made chicken and biscuits.
I will keep cooking, and hopefully the grief of so much change will fade away.

How do you ease your sadness?


wanting wholesome health

I have found myself, lately, wanting wholesome health. I want strong immune systems for myself and my family. I want a chemical free clean, inside our bodies and inside our home. I want homemade and handmade as much as possible. All of these things are beginning to come together in my mind as a grand vision of health and wholesomeness, and I see myself at the start of a lifelong journey in wellness.
I came down with a cold recently, and instead of taking any sort of over-the-counter medicine (which I rarely do, being generally opposed to medicine) I checked out a book from the library on herbs. I had never given herbs much thought but while visiting my good friend Rachel I noticed a bottle of sweet echinacea drops made for kids. I asked her about it, and then did a little more research, and bought some. I read about the ancient history of using herbs for healing, and decided it is a good route for me. Since I am already opposed to medicine in general, and don't usually take anything but prefer to suffer through illness, why not use herbs? When used correctly, they can't do harm, but they can certainly help my body to heal.
Deciding to begin using herbs led my mind onward to the idea of using food for optimal health. We eat pretty healthily around this house, but I had never considered food as medicine, per say. I took the usual nutrition class in college, so I had previous knowledge of vitamins and minerals in foods, and I am considered by friends and family to be "healthy", but I suppose it had just never clicked exactly the same way it did recently. Now I am seeing a bigger picture of health - including activity, fresh air, a clean but chemical-free indoor environment, clean food and herbs for health boosting.
I have just found an incredible online resource for health and nutrition - Passionate Homemaking
I also bought a book on kids and herbs, which includes great information on tell-tale symptoms for common kid ailments such as sore throats, colds, and the flu. It also gives instructions on using herbs to soothe symptoms and hasten relief and recovery.
I must admit that I am a bit apprehensive of telling family and friends of this choice, because some people I know will not be persuaded by the healing qualities of foods and herbs. I must remember, however, that I have good information on it and that ultimately it is my choice, and not anyone else's.

Do you ever use herbs or food to boost your immune system?


simply magical

How was your Halloween weekend?
My kids are too young to care, so I got a "freebie" and did not attend a single Halloween party, nor did we trick-or-treat. I don't dislike Halloween, but I'm not that into it, either. Usually coming up with a costume is more stressful than fun, so I enjoyed evading the usual parties.

Instead we spent the entire weekend with friends and family. On Saturday night our hosts served up chili for friends and neighbors. We sat around a huge table and enjoyed conversation and Mary's incredible pumpkin bread pudding topped with caramel sauce and chopped hazelnuts. I think I died a little, in a good way, when I ate that bread pudding. It was simply magical. 
Saturday before dinner was spent with friends at the Guthrie Pumpkin Farm. The kids loved it! We did the hayride, saw and pet farm animals (the piglets and calves were my favorite), got lost and found again in a corn maze, and picked out the perfect pumpkin.
On Sunday we took it easy and hung out around the house, then joined our friends for dinner. Our hosts set up tables outside in the yard atop fallen leaves. It looked so homey and rustic, and I wished desperately that I had brought my camera. We drank wine and ate delicious food, and the kids fought over toys and took turns on the tire swing.
It was an easygoing, splendid weekend. I had the chance to reconnect with my husband, my family, and my new friends. It looks like Tennessee isn't that bad, after all.

How do you reconnect with your family and friends?


tumbled down

I know that in my previous post I said I was not hopeless. Somehow, I tumbled down that slippery slope and spent at least 2 straight weeks feeling hopeless. I am happy to say that I have recently emerged and am feeling less depressed, overwhelmed and lonely, and more or less content. With only occasional deep pangs of loneliness. I am slowly making new friends, I repeat, slowly. I have come to realize/remember that new friendships are hard work. You want this person to get the truest, best impression of you. You sometimes struggle to think of questions to ask, or stories to share. On the other hand, there are friendships that spring up like a well from the ground, and simply pour forth, without any effort. I am experiencing both kinds.
Then there are the friendships that are so old they need some dusting. Last week a very dear friend of mine came to visit. We have not seen one another for seven years. In the time between we have each lost friends to sudden, violent deaths, we have ended unhealthy relationships and started better ones, we have moved twice each. We have kept in loose contact, with infrequent emails and even more infrequent snail mail packages. We once were great pen-pals, but our communication had trickled off.
When she came into my house, everything was the same and it was different. She was taller than I remembered, but the way she spoke was just the same. She had stories with new names, and tales of new places. Our conversation was easy, though, and I felt nothing but comfort when talking with her because she knows me. She has known me longer than most anyone, besides my family. She held my children and we laughed, because who would have thought our lives would end up where they are now?

As the weather cools off and the new friendships grow, I find we're spending more time on tire swings, and around bonfires. Both are excellent simple joys, and reminders of all the other joy in my life that will take my breath away, if only I allow it. 


but not hopeless

This Tennessee life is wearing me down this week. I have been missing Missouri so much, and harboring secret fantasies about moving back, and being with my friends again. The thing about that town, though, is that it is so transitory. Most people come for college, and move afterwards. Many of my best friends had already left before we did, and within a number of years my remaining friends there will probably leave as well.
My mom made her first quilt, and she made it for us. It is so sweet, and so loved
Oftentimes I feel lonely and overwhelmed. But not hopeless. I still find beauty in my days, and am constantly amazed by the growing and learning taking place in my children. I feel pride in my clean house and cooked, wholesome meals. And I'm so glad that Scott is happy here, back with his friends, finding things to be involved in and ways to get to know people. Meanwhile I just keep networking, and cooking, and playing with kids, and eventually things will get easier.
I've found the perfect pizza dough recipe, which has made homemade pizza so easy! We actually had it twice last week because it's a great way to use up random things in the fridge (feta, spinach, sausage). 
 My friend Ivy made her first batch of homemade jam - blueberry rhubarb. She is new to cooking, and as you can tell she is very brave! I have been cooking for at least 4 years and have not yet attempted anything involving jars or pressure cookers. As soon as the jam came in the mail, Finn and I ripped open the package, toasted up some homemade bread, and slathered it up. So delicious!

Our new friend Rachel made this amazing dessert - honey chocolate mousse! With freshly whipped cream and chopped macademia nuts. If you're going to be making new friends, this is the kind you definitely want. 

Somewhere between the food and the babies, I know I'll begin to feel better. This cool fall weather that's blowing in is helping, too. 
What do you do when you feel down?


a spark of something

For me, a trip to the farmers' market quenches my thirst for life. Everything there is in season, it is bountiful and beautiful. Today I stopped in at the little Main Street farmers' market that runs on Wednesday afternoons. I only took $20 to discourage myself from overdoing it, and I ended up spending less than that, but I made away with great stuff! Figs, sunflowers, tomatoes, green peppers, two cinnamon crisp apples, a huge bunch of basil, and a yellow zucchini.
I'm especially happy with the figs and the sunflowers. Sunflowers are Scott's favorite flowers and it made me happy to bring some home for him. Especially after watching The Hours last night and ruminating over that first line of Mrs.Dalloway: "Mrs.Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

And as Virginia Woolf felt a spark of something when she realized she had a first sentence, I too have been feeling a spark of something. I have always wanted to write, always dreamt that someday I would write a novel, or who knows, a book of short stories. The older I get, and more immersed in things-other-than-writing, the more that dream fades away with other girlhood fantasies. However I still harbor a secret yearning to make writing a discipline, if for no other reason than to see if anything comes of it. By now I feel insecure in my creativity, and can't imagine how I could come up with anything to actually write about. But recently I have had some ideas come forth from their shadows, and I am gathering them up, brushing them off, and trying to spend a little time thinking about them, developing them.

But let's get back to figs. I won't take a photo, because quite frankly I don't have any skills in that arena and there are already plenty of wonderful fig photos on the web. But just relive it with me - the green cardboard pint full of figs. The first bite, soft and seedy, savory even. Rather mellow but enchanting. Oh, figs.


the most enormous joy

Evelyn, just a couple months ago.

Today I am feeling some exquisite pain that I have never really felt before. It is an unusual pain and I call it exquisite because it is coupled with the most enormous joy my heart has ever held. It is the pain/joy of motherhood.

Finn, one year ago.

I was just surfing Facebook, befriending some women I just met this morning, and I saw a photo of someone's kid. A boy, probably six or so, and he looked a little like Finn. His eyes were dark brown and all of the sudden it hit me - Finn will be this big someday. He will grow up into a sweaty, wild boy. Into his own person. One day he and I will not be intricately intertwined as we are now. And I just started weeping. Big, heavy tears.

Finn, now.

This emotion is something other mothers may be familiar with, but it is new to me, and it is both terrible and beautiful. This fear and pride of allowing my children independence, and knowing that someday they will be their own.
With this feeling bubbling up, scraping my heart on the inside, I have to remember to cherish these fleeting moments. Holding my sweet little daughter close to me, smelling her milky skin. She and I are still just one being, pretty much. Her degree of need is high, and I sustain her. I relish our time together, because before I know it she will be on the brink of 2, like Finn, and wanting independence more than anything. For now, though, she is completely mine.

Evelyn, now.


a little more like home

Lately I have spent too much time not living. I have spent days at a time feeling disconnected from myself and others. I waste time online, reading blogs and feeling inspired, but then doing nothing with that feeling. It may be because I am new in this town, and save my sister-in-law I have no friends. Or maybe I disconnected a little when I moved, saving the sadness of leaving for later. That later is now. Now I acutely miss my friends and my town.
Missing the extremely well developed and organized farmers' market back in Columbia, I stopped in yesterday to a local farmers' market hosted by Grace Episcopal Church. I love that they find a connection between faith and food. In general I am impressed with the Episcopal concern for a healthy planet and healthy people.
I barely made it, but I met five or six producers and came away with some beautiful, fresh food.

I also spent hardly any time online yesterday and today, besides writing this update, in order to reconnect. I am feeling a lot better overall and am excited to recommit to my goals. Nothing huge, just goals to live simply, to buy handmade and local, to make most things from scratch, to enjoy the small pleasures.
And though I desperately miss my friends, especially Natalie and Jessie, every day this place feels a little more like home.


a lot of learning

We've successfully moved to Tennessee! It feels unreal but here we are, unpacked and beginning to explore this wonderful city. It is an entirely different move than the move to Missouri four years ago. This time, we have family living here, so we have built-in friends and tour guides as well. When we want to go check out the free concert by the river, we just caravan with them. They know where to park for free, after all. And when we need someone to help watch the kids, we call them. They call us to let us know about the specials around town, but they also give us space to let us learn for ourselves. And there has been a lot of learning going on!

Evelyn has learned to look in my eyes and smile and coo at me. It's pretty incredible, as she's morphing from baby-blob to actual interacting baby.

Finn has been learning how to take turns and how to work things out with his cousin and new best friend Eli. It's great to watch those two interact. They are a year apart in age, but they clearly adore one another and get along wonderfully most of the time.

My husband and I celebrate our four year anniversary today, and we learn more every day how best to love one another. We keep learning and re-learning to trust the other's heart and intentions - that they are good. We learn when to speak and when not to, and what to say. We learn about one another's dreams and goals, and we work to fulfill them. We learn to parent together, and to create a home together. Ultimately, we learn to walk together in love.


you belong

Summer is definitely here! Fresh, ripe tomatoes, hot and humid weather, kiddie pool in the yard, and oh yeah, baby Evelyn has arrived.

I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, and wondering if anything would ever come of it, and low and behold I went into labor. Labor was short, it was hard work, and yes it was painful, but it was also completely natural and without drugs, it was beautiful and ended in a natural high, and it was life-changing, because it brought Evelyn into our family. She turned 3 weeks yesterday, and she is more beautiful every day. I often whisper into her ear "You are perfect just the way you are. You are so loved. You belong." The sorts of things that every human longs to hear and hopes in his or her heart is true.

Finn and Scott have been playing in the yard a lot. Finn is loving the kiddie pool and Scott obliges Finn's wish to have bubbles blowing constantly.

Meanwhile, we are all gearing up for the move to Chattanooga. I can't believe our time in Missouri is actually coming to a close. We knew when we moved here that it would be temporary, but then we got down to the business of school and work and building our family, and now it seems almost a surprise that our time here is complete, and we are ready to move on. Leaving is bittersweet.
We have made so many friends, and discovered an incredible locally powered community here that I almost cannot bring myself to say goodbye. Yet our time ahead is sweetly calling. And in our new place we will be close to family, and closer to mountains and rushing rivers. Our kids will grow up in the south, like we both did.

As the days of July pass and dwindle, we count down to saying goodbye, which is heart-breaking in both ways - sorrowful and joyful.
I am spending many moments practicing the art of savoring life. Trying to truly soak it in: summer flowers given as a gift from a friend, meals prepared by loving hands, conversations with friends dearly loved. May it all live on in memory, and in the heart, even when we have said goodbye.


summer as it slowly sinks in

Oh I am so overdue for an update! Here goes!
School is out for summer. School is out for (potentially) forever. I graduated with my bachelors degree, a general studies degree with three main components: art, english, and education. I graduated with honors, which was quite a feat if I do say so myself, pregnant with a toddler! This past year has been my hardest, academically, but I pulled through and am now officially done. It feels wonderful.To celebrate my mom and stepdad came into town and we had a big feast.

I went on a camping trip/retreat with some of my favorite women. We stayed at 'the holyland' and camped out in a huge tipi and spent all weekend eating fruits and veggies and swimming naked to escape the heat. It was blissful, and renewing. It helped ready me for the journey up ahead - labor.

My husband Scott and I have been having some great days together, and really enjoying the summer as it slowly sinks in. This is the first time in our marriage that we are both out of school. He completed his second bachelors (in nursing) last summer, and so we are loving this new found time together! He works on weekends, fridays through sundays, so the rest of the week is ours. We've been doing lots of housework, readying the house for the new baby. We've also been doing a lot of relaxing, and playing in the dirt. Many afternoons and nights we walk downtown and enjoy some locally made ice cream! This is the best summer!

Like I said, labor is fast approaching. I am 38 weeks pregnant - full term - so the baby can come anytime she likes. It is the lull before the big change in our lives. I'm sure there will be ups and downs to expanding from 3 to 4, and possibly growing pains, especially for Finn, but I am so excited to meet our new family member.