Watching them rummage through second hand treasures was like getting a glimpse into their relationship seventy years from now, as eccentric old ladies, and endearing (sometimes cranky) sisters. I could see their distinct, predictable posture, I could almost hear their silly banter. But I tried not to daydream of all those years sandwiched between. I tried to come right back here. And stay. Until Bijou started screaming, and Octave starting whining, and I started dropping things, and everyone was looking at me to get it together. Then I decided it was okay to day dream about quieter, cleaner, more collected times. I dreamed of the day Octave was finally bored with pushing every last button (or maybe it was just me who finally learned to stay centered) and Bijou had learned how to beautifully express herself through words rather than blood curdling, demeaning screams. I dreamed of all three of us thrift shopping, and going out for fancy cocktails. We laughed about this day, and all the crazy days prior and it all made for some really good stories. I love good stories, so I'm chalking all these years up to just that. Funny stories, messy stories, beautiful, gut wrenching, honest stories.
It seems that the moments I capture most these days are from this angle, behind them, a little more distance between us than there used to be. It's equally encouraging as it is heartbreaking. Ok, if I am honest, it's a little more heartbreaking. Next week the girls are heading to Atlanta to visit their Nanny and Pop, and while my stomach hurts thinking about them being on the other side of the country for an entire week without me, I know it will be good for all of us. Christopher and I will get time to connect and move apartments, (thankfully, just down the street) and I will hopefully finish up all of my loose end dance and photography jobs, so that come mid October we can settle into a brand new family rhythm. I am relearning that almost everything I feel and experience is bittersweet, and the reality of watching them grow into their own unique and independent selves is just that.
You stayed up late in your bed, so eager to tell me every last detail while I was away. This is what it will be like years from now, I think. I won't always know first hand what you experience, I'll just hear it through your eyes, and feel it in your words. I felt estranged not being there, for all this seeing and doing. I always have been. I've always wanted to be. It was new, achey, and beautiful in the selfless sense. Your enthusiasm pushed warm tears down my cheeks. This enthusiasm is your marrow and my luster. It's us.
I held on to your every last detail, like a tight rope walker, managing her space between the highest of stakes. They often feel this high. Life or death. “I don't want to mess this up,” i whisper under my breath. You are everything that is good.
You didn't need me today, but still, you wanted me. Still, you waited for me. And on your pillow was a picture of me at your age, in my favorite red dress, thick brown locks, blue eyes that lingered. You've kept it near, all this time. I walked in and you placed my picture on your infamously sticker stuck window siIl. I was back home now, the distant thought of me came closer and suddenly, tangible was my flesh, not a moment captured, preserved through two decades and a few loose years.
I could hardly accept your seasoned body language, and that honest, innocent dialogue that is so uniquely you. Oh what I would give to hear this voice for all the days of my life. It’s still right here and now, but somehow I already miss it. Nostalgia has always usurped my joy. But i love nostalgia, and i live for love.
It’s complicated, but i thrive on simplicity.
Oh Octave. There is no conclusion to my heart cry, there is only this. A mama’s immaculate intention, and her batty, messy love. My love. So.much. love.
This summer hasn't really felt like summer, and I can't believe it's almost come and gone. I've struggled with balancing motherhood and a strong desire to pursue my creative endeavors. It's tricky because it feels like this has been my season of dreams coming to fruition and I can't help but say, "Yes!" And yet their childhood is fleeting and I feel it and see it more and more every day. This summer I've spent more time away from them than ever before. In reality it is still not much, but it has felt like a lot for what I'm used to. With all that said, in a few months time, I got to perform again after WAY too long, visions and plans for a new time and space for young dancers is well underway, and photography jobs seemingly keep falling into my lap. I feel so incredibly full and blessed, and a little tired, but mainly just happy. I planted these seeds years ago and now thing are coming full circle. They always do.
Last weekend I got to take Nikki's senior portraits. (Eek!) I was honored that she even asked and was giddy, while secretly trying to play it cool. This season of life is almost intoxicating. The world is at her fingertips, and yet when you're so close to end, it can seem so far. I remember it so well. I remember the confidence of knowing exactly what I wanted but the angst of feeling stuck, fulfilling commitments I never was excited about making in the first place. I am pretty sure the only class I never dared skipped my senior year of high school was photography. I wasn't ditching my other classes and heading off to do what teenagers like to do, instead I would lock myself in the dark room for hours on end. If I wasn't locked in the dark room, I was at my dance studio hours before class, blaring the music, improving, choreographing, and writing. 12 years later, not much has changed. Except I don't have to skip or make excuses for anything, I can be where I want to be, with the people I want to be with, doing what I love. I can't believe I am finally here. You know, that time and space where it feels like everything you've ever dreamed about is starting to come together. I guess I never really realized that until just now, as I started typing this.
It's officially unofficial, I am in the baby beginning phases of creating my own photography business. Beautiful opportunities and experiences keep coming my way, so while I thought maybe all of this was premature, I guess maybe it's not. I think it's time to watch the seeds I've watered over the last few years start to bloom. Sorry, but I'm feeling strangely cheesy. But sometimes those cliches just work, and I'm not too cool to use one. You guys, I've got buds. Buds! Pretty ones. I mean, it doesn't hurt when your subject is as stunning as Nikki. Seriously, what a treat it was to capture her. And how sweet it is to be right here in this time and place. I am beyond grateful.
i know what she’s thinking. one, because she tells me, but even more, because i was once her looking at the world, hypothetically.
to her, and all the other calm, collected, enlightened people who cross our path, it’s a wonder why i’m sitting so calm and casual, sipping a margarita, watching my daughters reek havoc on this city. They all look in judgement. I used to care, now i’m just too tired, too worn, too connected to the promise of cycles and seasons… their time will come. judgment never escapes full circle understanding. It’s okay. i feel rooted, enough. for now. And I used to do it too. it feels good to have hypothetical children. it’s necessary and novel, a part of growing up, defending, redefining, before finally throwing it all in flames. Children, they do that. my life is a wildfire. I’m only glad it’s wild. The fire scares me, it always has.
I just never knew it would be this wild. I’m sure i bring a lot of it on myself. I like to say yes, I like to invite everything real and raw, which means I invite epic beauty, and intangible, uncharted chaos. I wonder, how will they, (now the center of my story,) remember me? Half naked, and at best impossibly grey, obnoxiously non committal, painfully human, and fun? I mean, come on, I am a lot of fun. But they run circles around me before I ever wake up (literally.) I just. can’t. keep. up. And now it finally hits me…maybe i’m not supposed to.
I’m watching smoothie pour outside the bath, into the baseboards, the nooks and crannies that i will be far too tired to ever clean. Why did i ever think it was a good idea to give them chunky peanut butter smoothies (for dinner) in the bath? For someone who can hardly bare multi tasking, i find myself here, smoothie filled base boards, milky waters, saturated bath mats, and already unclean children, bathed in peanut butter diluted soap. They are happy (for now) so I just keep writing. I had to write, i felt myself disappearing between strangers glares of disapproval, and my suffocating confidence. But i’ve got this, and i probably wouldn’t doubt half as often if i never went out. But I do. I exit my apartment saying something like, “here is my beautiful mess,” but not everyone considers this beautiful, just the sweet old ladies that earnestly seek me, finding me, telling me. They know it all too well. I am their long, lost, yesterdays, they wish they could do all over again. So, here i am, in the muddy thick of it. I love it, I really do, just don’t assume my exasperated “ahhhh,” or my silent sipping, tequila solitude is an honest reflection of the worlds that are competing and quarreling, before finally rebirthing under my sun kissed skin.
I still have not cleaned the base boards. I probably won’t. There is so far too much to revel and uncover, it’s got nothing to do with my housekeeping, and everything to do with the my fire burning beneath my chest. “Don’t fear,” I whisper, “It’s wild, it’s fire, it's yours, you’ve got this.”
I never understood why mom took so many pictures of my sisters and I growing up. It kinda drove me crazy, and I swore I would not put my kids through that. Well, like the old saying goes, never say never, because so many things don't make sense until you walk in someone else's shoes, ESPECIALLY your own mothers. I would like to think I'm different, and that all my picture taking is justified because I hardly ever make my girls pose for me. Our approach may be different, but our hearts still cry for the same thing, to preserve and remember. Last night my Aunt pulled out her old projector, and all the 8mm film passed down through the generations. We watched films of my spunky mama, and her sister. I saw her infamous Aunts I always heard so much about, and saw my favorite cousin Jane as a baby. My heart swelled with purpose and meaning. Watching my people, watch our people, remembering and preserving the idiosyncrasies that make us, US. We can depart from our families and pave our own way, if we want and need, but I'm convinced that most of who we are can be found in our blood and bones, and all our beautifully, messy stories. The feelings that emotions that brewed beneath my chest last night could never be bought, and they could also never be as powerful if they had only been passed down orally. There was something so poetic and profound visually taking in the past. I'm so grateful for the women before me who documented the mundane, and I can't help but want to give my daughters that very same thing.
I went back to nyc for the first time since I left after my dance program. It was hard to wrap my brain around all that has happened since then. Travels, love, marriage, babies, heartache, more love, and adventure, just in a different sense. I left wanting something profound to happen, I thought maybe something needed to come full circle. I'm not so sure it did, but I had a damn good time. I talked, and danced, drank and ate with the wonderful people I shared an intense year of my life with 10 years ago. The reminiscing was the best, and maybe that is what I craved most. Remembering is good for my soul, and I don't often have the time and space for that with two little people who are counting on me to make magic happen. It was good to let my hair down, stay up late into the night, or early morning, and see the city all brand new. It was good to see myself, in new light but then realize that everything and nothing has changed since then.
On my last night, over proseco and an amazing rooftop view, my dear friend and mentor talked about the difference between being a seeker and a finder. Naturally I am a seeker. I spent my teens and early twenties perpetually seeking. I came back to NYC with the same mindset, mind and muscle memory maybe. At first I felt kind of disappointed, something felt a little off, and it was more than my cancelled connecting flights and lost baggage 2 out of the 4 days of my trip. I heard his words, something clicked and it resonated with me. I thought that maybe now it's my time to exhale and observe, to coast, and let be. And find. I want to be a finder.
I brought my professional camera thinking I was going to get a lot of time to capture the city, but surprisingly I didn't use it once. These are all from my iPhone 5.
My sweetest daughters, there are a million and one things I cannot give you, but I CAN teach you to be, explorers of the world. And I'm confident that after eighteen years with me, you will know how to find whimsy and delight within the sacred mundane. Here is a little glimpse into our everyday. May you hold this as sacred as I do.
xo, your tired weary mama
Today I met my match at the grocery store. He, who identified as she, was generously spraying whipped cream on top of a humble sample of strawberry shortcake. Disapproving looks were given, but she remained sure. In a way she had to, society was already against her, long before she unapologetically indulged in samples. I envied her steadiness. It was something I suddenly longed for. I consider myself an ambassador for non verbal communication. Posture and body language captivate me beyond measure, and so when we locked eyes, not much needed to be said, we both understood the other's intentions. Only she had nothing to hide, and I had everything to lose.
We found solidarity without a single word ever spoken. We were sample hustlers. The ones that have perfected the art of acting unusually curious about the new product we are trying, knowing full well we will never buy it, not today, not any day. In fact we may have only walked into the grocery store for that sample. Or at best we might have conveniently forgotten a key ingredient for dinner, so our eager tastebuds could be justified, and we could experience another new sample.
She finally broke the comfortable silence. ”Come here, just look at her," she insisted, pointing to an un orderly flower amongst a painfully obedient bunch. It was true, her shape and texture was really something. "And just look at these billy balls," she pointed, "they are my absolute favorite." "Mine too!" I calmly boasted, "they always have been." It went on and on, we dissected and praised the entire bouquet, and gave human characteristics to an array of flowers I might have walked right past, if it wasn't for this kindred spirit, and her shameless portion of whipped cream. I walked away deeply satisfied and smitten, but wishing our encounter and poetic exchange was not such an anomaly. Vulnerability has long been one of my strong suits, and yet this experience felt a little more foreign than familiar. It seems I've been a little out of practice. Or maybe I have just lost touch with my people. Probably both, but I want more of this. More rebelious flowers, more vulnerable takers, and of course, more samples.
I haven't been taking a lot of photos of my girls lately. I went almost an entire week without taking a single picture, which is a lot or a little depending on your perspective, but for me it felt rare. I've been wanting to be more intentional, and get back to how it felt when I fell in love with capturing my girls, which was inspired by the quirky candid moments that magically fell into my lap. I knew a reset was necessary when I found myself bribing Octave with a lollipop if she would just sit still in a good patch of light. She refused and I begged, and she refused again. I felt a little ashamed of myself, and completely out of touch with how I want to parent and document. Even if I did get that "good shot," I am pretty sure all I would remember is the fact that i had to bribe her, which would mean so little and defeat the entire purpose. Aesthetic is important, however if I have to try too hard to make something come together I am no longer inspired. I want to capture posture and movement, and the fleeting candid moments of life. If these moments happen inside good natural light, there is not much more I could ask for.
I've noticed that the few photographs I have captured in the last month are faceless. When I look back at them, I feel at a distance, and slightly removed. Interestingly enough it kinds of reflects what motherhood feels like right now. I am struggling to find a rhythm. I am confused about my place, and doubting my voice. And it is just so loud. Painfully loud and overwhelming. However, I am finding a deeper sense of myself outside of motherhood which is refreshing and fun, and long overdue. I'm trying not to make too much of this, because if there is anything I've learned it's that things shift rather quickly with little ones, or maybe it's just me, and I happen to have little ones. Right when I feel pushed to my max is when something soft and sweet invites me in, giving me rest and new perspective. Nothing last forever, so while I'm here a little longer, I'll observe my life and it's details from a little different angle, even if feels a little foreign or makes me feel uncomfortable, because it might just be exactly what I need.
There seems to be a trend with my daughters Birthday’s. I am a baker, a good one, but on this one day, I just can’t get it right. It’s been this way from the very first cake I set out to bake for Octave. And now the emotions run deep, and each year there is much anticipation and always a little bit of heart ache. It seems everything goes a-wall, and while majority of the time I am fairly agreeable, and go with the flow, the cake mishaps wind me up tight. It’s easy for me to relinquish control, except for in this one small area. Aesthetic is important to me, perhaps even to a fault, particularly when it comes to my food and drink. I used to get strangely emotional if my coffee spilled over on to my cup and saucer. My husband can remember my eyes welling up with tears when a barista carelessly handed me my coffee, spilling the crema down the side of a once perfectly white canvas of morning. This was on one of our first few dates, which was awkward and inevitable, and now seems suddenly strange that we made it to another date. I guess this idiosyncrasy does not accurately describe who I am or how I navigate the rest of my life, but maybe it just keeps things interesting, albeit frustrating if you happen to be around me while I’m baking a cake, once a year, for the people I love most. But the good news is, I am growing, exponentially, because it’s been years since I’ve enjoyed a blemish free coffee, and I’m still here to tell about it. Today I just laughed when I started baking in my bathrobe to learn we were out of baking powder. And then I even smiled and enjoyed frosting inconsistently awkward cupcakes. I picked out the best of the bunch for showcase, and placed them in a fool proof container at the door, but it wasn't long before eager helping hands picked them up, jostled them around a few good times, leaving them unable to discern their up from down. It was such a picture of motherhood, which might actually be the only thing that has ever given me a good dose of reality.
I know Birthdays and the rest of life are not about these trivial details, but for me, it makes sense that the heart and intention should match the eye. But this is not always the case. I have such good intentions. The End. That's kind of what everything feels like lately, good intentions falling short, or just straight up missing the boat. Sigh. The day is done and I’ve had a good bout of tears, not because of these cupcakes, but a little, (a lot) to do with the battle of a four year olds impressively strong will, and a lot to do with my sweetest little Bij turning two. TWO! This was my reflection before silly things like expectations and chaos, and cupcakes…
She feels like coming home, and resting inside a humble confidence. It feels like trying on a vintage family heirloom, or looking into a mirror that has no mishaps and regrets. She seems to have a little bit of everyone running through her, a special something we can’t quite put our finger on. But I feel it, deeper than the strongest surge that brought her into my weary arms two years ago today. After so much anticipation it really was HER, the Bijou Haru I met and dreamed up a decade before. The Iittle girl I talked about one balmy California night, with my soul sisters and a bottle of petite sirrah. It was always her, the missing link, an unfulfilled ache, that quiet space that always longed to be known. Happy Birthday to the one who keeps me rooted and sure, and always brings me back home.
Rainbow Chip Cupcakes
Recipe slightly adapted from Date Night In
(makes 24 cupcakes)
Homemade Rainbow Chips:
10 oz white chocolate chips
1 tsp. coconut oil (or other preferred oil)
4 different food coloring
5 egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. whole milk
2 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. whole milk
1 c. rainbow chips
2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1/2 c. unsalted butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. rainbow chips
Melt chocolate chips and oil in microwave or on stove top. Stir often as not to burn, and remove when all the chips are smooth and melted. Divide chocolate into 4 small bowls. Add a few drops of coloring to each and stir until combined. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and smooth out each color across the paper, as shown above. Place in the freezer for 25 minutes or until set. Chop up chocolate into small chips and place in an air tight container for up to a week.
Preheat oven to 350.
Separate eggs whites into a medium size bowl and whisk together 1/4 c. milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with the paddle hook attachment, combine flour, corn starch, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Mix until combined. Add softened butter on top of the mixture and mix for 30 seconds. Slowly add the remaining 3/4 c. milk while mixing on medium speed for about a minute. Continue to mix while you pour in the egg white mixture. Mix everything together for another 30 seconds. Add rainbow chips and mix until just combined.
Place softened cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Cream together with a hand beater or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add powered sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat until well combined. Fold in the rainbow chips. You can make ahead of time and store in the fridge for a few days or frost immediately.
Bake cupcakes at 350 for 20-26 minutes. Let cool completely and frost to your hearts content.
When there is little to say, there is much brewing. When I am able to articulate the beautiful calamity under my ribs, is often when it's already passed and processed, sorted and transformed. It just moves on. I, move on. Quickly. Because I stayed there deeply. The relationship between the feeling(s) and the sharing, are like two ships passing in the middle of the night. And sometimes what i say and do feels dishonest, but only for this reason, I can't help that my head and heart play catch up. Writing is not therapeutic for me in the muddle. It's sometimes too thick to move, it's presence to heavy for choice. So I stay and ruminate and quarrel, and give and take and give, and stay some more. And then just like that, all rather quickly, it's gone. Another season hovers just above my once weary slumber. It's eager for me to wake, to say something profound, but it doesn't dare, it knows I've been working, digging and brewing. This new found gold, it's mine to illuminate, and I know just how to share it. Only then can I reach for my paper and pen.
We were at the library today when a woman snapped at Octave for asking her too many questions. This mama was reading a story to her daughter when Octave came and sat beside them. She immediately engaged in the silly story, and in her true curious nature, she asked a million and one questions. The woman was impatient, degrading, and unapologetic. I was taken back, and I wondered if she realized the power of her voice. I saw Octave’s face from afar, and it made my heart hurt, but strangely my heart hurt more for a complete stranger who just broke my daughter.
I tried to not react defensively, but more like an empathetic friend. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and I wondered if she had a bad morning or if she was stressed about how she is going to pay the bills. I wondered if her heart was heavy from a strained marriage or even worse, the loss of a loved one. But then i wondered if this is how she was all the time, joyless and robbed of the awe and wonder that flows so freely from her daughter and mine. I hoped the later was not the truth, but I’ll probably never know.
Octave is enthusiastic and passionate about…everything. I am slowly learning that the world does not know what to do with this. It is such a beautiful gift, and I am the first to delight in it, the first to encourage and nurture it, but I will admit it can be exhausting sometimes. I try to say yes often, I try to engage deeply and fully, I try to allow her to feel the full spectrum of emotions that flow from a four year old. But come bedtime, I am spent. Being emotionally available, and riding her waves is exhausting, albeit worth every tired bone and frazzled brain come midnight.
This experience today got me thinking about how much our culture of parenting is counterintuitive to the results we desire. It seems so obvious and yet there is such a big disconnect. We hush and suppress kids while their young and full of life, and then we wonder why they become teens and young adults and they are not motivated or passionate about anything. We give them one word emphatic answers when they ask and inquire more details and then we wonder why years later they can’t articulate and express themselves. We wonder why they don’t talk to us about the hard and important stuff, but we don’t ask ourselves if we talk about the hard and important stuff with them, not just once, but all the time. I thought about how sad it is that they are learning almost everything they know from us, their parents, and yet we don't take responsibility for the things we don't like, or the things that are hard to deal with.
I mean, this parenting gig is hard, way harder than I ever imaged (and I’m only 4 years in!) I say all of this knowing that in theory it seems easy, but the living, not so much. This isn’t about the things I am going to never do, because if I am tired enough I am sure i am capable of reacting to my daughters the same way that stranger did. In fact, I already have, the difference is I humble(d) myself and apologize(d), explaining my heart, all the ins and out's, the why's and i don't knows. I learned on day one, you can’t possibly know how these little humans are going to reshape and change you, until they do. And if you put yourself in a box before you ever learn to build, you exclude yourself from your own story, your own humanity. You are only setting your up for disappointed and that gut wrenching mama guilt.
So this isn’t about the things I will not do, and it’s also not about all the the things I will do. While the later seems positive and in a healthier direction, still, I can’t possibly know what tomorrow or ten years will bring. All I know is that I can be mindful. I know that I can be aware of the every shifting present, and that i can say yes to the here and now, because we all know that it’s really all we’ve got. And besides It’s already carved into my bones, it’s what I know without effort, it’s how I live even when I fail. I can be mindful, I am mindful. It seems fair and doable, a little mantra to rehearse throughout my days. A mindful mama, always with intention, head and heart first, with all my guts, up for show. That I can do, this I am.
This month celebrates three years of living without a car. The first two years felt worthy of celebrating, but this year i almost forgot, until today, when i found myself driving a borrowed car, because my mom was out of town. I felt so much pressure to go and "do something," as if we don’t do anything without one. The girls and I, we get around, by foot and by bike and by bus pretty well, and I’m understanding more and more that we have some incredibly meaningful adventures because of this. We don’t have the ability to frivolous roam, to and fro, filling our days with meaningless busyness, so instead we have to use our bodies and our creativity and be intentional with how we spend our time. I realize that statement is a little unfair and usually not my style, at least not outloud, because I don’t like making other people feel bad, and I also don’t like making assumptions. But sometimes being diplomatic is exhausting. And I'm good at being diplomatic, which means sometimes I am exhausted. I realize that just because someone has a car doesn’t mean they use it in this way. But if I had one, maybe I would, so I am probably just speaking for myself. In any case, I got in my moms car to “go somewhere,” and I drove and felt like the masses. For a moment, I loved it, but then I didn’t. After ten minutes of bad radio, pride and chaos, I thought “ugh, I hate this,” and then I kept on driving, because I could. And because i wanted those feelings to sink in a little deeper.
After three years I am convinced that the challenges that come from living without a car have little to do with actually transporting yourself. It's not challenging to live without a car. It's also not challenging to do this with a family. The difficulty comes from living in the minority. It comes from living in a culture where it is not socially acceptable to live without a car. It's hard keeping up with a culture that moves twice your speed, just because it can. The strange thing is that I don't even want to keep up, and yet sometimes I still find myself tempted. If you look at a big metropolitan city like NYC, London or Paris, majority of the people in those cities live without a car. It is very socially acceptable, in fact it is the norm. It's not hard to live without a car there, because it's just what you do. Everyone embraces this way of life and they don't think twice about it. This is not the case for the majority of the United States, even a "bike friendly," city like Portland.
It was easier to be car free in Casper, Wyoming than in Portland. I knew this before we ever moved back. Family, friends, and especially Christopher loved to tell me how much easier life would be living back in a “bike friendly,”city. I was agreeable and easily persuadable on the surface, deep down knowing they were wrong. I may fly under the radar on my three speed Linus and heels, knowing very little about bikes, but I do know a thing or two about myself.
“Bike friendly,” has little to do with how easy or difficult this endeavor will be. It has more to do with how you build your life. Casper may have had some hard winters and we may have been an anomaly, but all of our relationships were within a few mile radius. Christopher did however work 20 miles away from our home, (but he is a rare breed and his endurance and iron will should not, and cannot be compared with others.)
I grew up in a suburb of Portland. My family still lives just outside of the city, and the dance studio I work at once a week is there too. If we had moved to Portland with a clean slate, sans car, this city would be ideal for that lifestyle. We would never meet people outside the circles we could walk and bike and we would never be missing out on anyone or anything, or at least that we knew. But, we are trying to keep up relationships that we (I) built years ago, when we (I) had a car. And sometimes that is hard, and it’s not always realistic, and yet it seems unfair to neglect those relationships because of our ideals. But really, our ideals are only a smallest part of this equation, because with time ideals loosen and shift, but over the last few year(s) we've experienced financial hardship.
Living below the poverty line has made living without a car extra challenging. Which is ironic because initially it was going to save us money. But a move west, job changes, and another baby put us in a position where even if we wanted a car, we couldn’t afford one. And I don’t throw around, "couldn’t afford,” cutely or lightly. There was barely enough money to eat, let alone transport ourselves. From the outside our life probably looked one way, while on the inside it was anything but. Our modern apartment with big windows, boasting good morning light, in a prime location happened to be an income restricted apartment, and my Hunter rain boots were given to me, (thanks tay tay!)
Portland has great car sharing programs, and I've always believed that if we were to have a humble budget for zip cars, car 2 go's, or taxi's, car ownership would be far less appealing. Thankfully, times and jobs have recently changed and we are moving into a brand new season where we are getting back on our feet. I am feeling hopeful, and life is starting to present options again. Ironically these options have made me fall back in love with our car free life style. Living without a car is slowly becoming a choice, like it started three years ago, and it suddenly feels empowering instead of degrading. For the last year, the lack of choice has been more of a burden than the choice to live without one, and I find this so fascinating.
So, the challenge is finding a balance between ideals, values, expectations, and reality. The challenge is the being held in the tension of the here and now with the people you love most, and the future generations that you can’t see or touch, but you also care deeply about. The challenge is in staying true to yourself, while finding compromise for the sake of the people you love. The challenge is feeling excluded from society while simultaneously living a lifestyle that can make other people feel that exact same thing. The challenge is learning that nothing fits in a perfect box, and there are always what if’s and buts…But this has little to do with transportation and everything to do with life. This is growing up.
For the majority of our days, I love the way we live. It’s simple, and it’s rich. We are connected, present and intentional, and these are the values I want to instill in my daughters. Living without a car (for now) makes it easier for me to not just teach my daughters these things, but to show them, with how I live my life. Also, riding a bike makes me feel young and care free, and sometimes it helps me forget i am a mama, which is sometimes vital to my well being. I realize this is not the case for everyone, and may not always be the case for me. But I’ve never lived in a world for absolutes, i live in a world that is fluid, with ample space to evolve, and obnoxiously change my mind, a million times over.
I’m not sure I have something inspirational to close. But I am proud of us, and I think it’s interesting to have three years under our belt, with the conclusion after each year being dramatically different from the last. The first two years living this way took up a lot of mental space. I thought about it constantly. I challenged it, shared it, and proved it. But now, apart from this anniversary reflection I don’t feel the need to let others know we live this way, let alone why. If it comes up I just tell people, “because it’s fun!” which is one hundred percent the truth or “we are getting a car soon,” which is only a half-assed statement i like to throw out there from time to time, just to see how it feels. Maybe we will, but maybe we won’t. I think Chris and I try and keep it under the radar now. I guess there was a time where we needed to justify to all the skeptics out there, mainly the people closest to us. And maybe I wanted a few kudos for being totally bad ass and biking pregnant in sub zero temps, or pedaling a toddler and 100 lbs. of groceries just days before giving birth. And maybe we too were testing the waters, wondering if we were completely crazy, using others as a sounding board. Three years later, I do think we are kinda crazy, but I like crazy and own it, and wouldn’t want it any other way. At least for now, because there is always next year…
I was on the cusp of an unknown something, when my friend Erica gave me a book. The timing was rather serendipitous, it always is. I devoured it whole, on my first trip alone in 5 years. I was surrounded by good people, the best people, reminded and reunited with a big bold world I once fell madly in love with. I met a version of myself I had long to reconnect with.
Each page freed me from the habitual lure of the internet, a world in and of itself, so very real and relevant, yet not tangible or captivating enough to satiate my ache for un calculated joy and serendipitous connections. Just weeks before my world was beginning to feel insular and monotonous, and dare I say, boring. This was as terrifying as it is dangerous, because if the world is boring, then so am I.
People in the flesh are far more captivating than people behind screens, but in the sleepy season of survival and selfless caregiving there has been little space for anyone or anything outside my humble walls. I have felt unraveled and unavailable to all my friends, except maybe a good few, and yet strangely available to an online world I can’t touch, taste or smell. This online world was and is real, it’s just second best. I know this because I have tasted the very best.
But, I am good at forgetting the things i know best, which might possibly contradict my confidence in truly knowing something. I suppose there is a difference between knowing and remembering, the later just rents space inside your bones, it never intends to call you home. Regardless of the quality or the medium, connecting is my most favorite thing. it’s just that over the last four years I’ve done little connecting with anyone other than my daughters, and then late at night, the time sucking internet.
I am grateful that my time with my girls has been spent wholeheartedly, I can’t imagine it any other way. I have let the present consume me, even if it means loosing a little bit of myself. Although it’s never really felt like loosing, just more like shifting, redefining, and then finally, remembering. It’s humbling to shift, empowering to redefine, and nostalgic to remember. And nostalgia has long been a creative impetus, holding me in perfect tension between desire and gratitude.
I finished my book on the plane ride back home, and symbolically finished the last sentence as we landed. I ran my fingers across the cover and held it close to my chest. I needed to affirm and seal it’s inspiration. There was a new space, not shared or borrowed, but my very own. I felt this space expand beneath my very bones, as if it had only been waiting for my recognition, so eager to come home. And I too, was coming back home.
The awe and wonder I felt in my youth, and the vulnerability of my late teens and early twenties began to fill me back up. It was only after being filled that i realized how empty I had been, giving when there was nothing left to give. I felt lost and found, familiar and foreign, satisfied and whole. I remembered how much I love new people and places and awkward encounters that can only happen on streets when you're emotionally available to engage with your neighbors and strangers. I felt how sacred it feels to have a stock pile of photographs and thoughts that no one has seen or heard. And how good it feels for it to be enough, just for me. I remembered how much I love reading books, and people watching, and late night star gazing. And then I thought about how sad it is that I had to remember these things. And then I felt deep and wide, deeper and wider than fingers can type and words can align. I felt imperfectly perfect, human, and alive. I felt just like me.
It's 7 am, but it feels like 5, and I am standing barefoot, in my blueberry stained robe, sipping stumptown's legendary "hair bender", unable to keep up with the buzzing beneath my feet and the steaming, just beneath my nose. The girls have already devoured their first pancake, before I can flip the second. My groggy brain, embellished with haphazard bed head wants nothing more than a moment of peace to register and acknowledge, it's morning, (again) there is light, (again)...and this is good. Again. I am so grateful there is an again! Sticky little fingers wait eagerly (impatiently) and passionately (loudly) and I recite and remember, sometimes rehearse, that this right here, it IS my peace. It is just doesn't look or sound like what I once searched and strived for. It's unconventional, and runs marathons through the night, but still, it's peace, and deep in my bones I feel it, again.
After a little more coffee I feel engaged enough to celebrate Bunny Foo Foo's 2nd Birthday, (for the second time this week.) In honor of his (sometimes her), special day, we let the pancakes stack high, adorn them with a special candle, and whole heartedly sing an off key rendition of "Happy Birthday!" I sit back smitten, proud to be theirs, proud they are mine, messy as ever, but content as can be. This is our morning. These are our every day pancakes.
These pancakes aren't glamorous but they are our morning ritual, and can make our every day feel like the weekend, while keeping the integrity and in expense of a hearty cup of oatmeal. This recipe usually serves 3-4 people.
Oatmeal Banana Pancakes
1 cup oats, pulsed into flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 medium bananas
2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
Pulse oats in a good processor until it resembles a course flour. Remove from the processor, pour in bowl with baking soda and salt, mix and set aside. Put bananas in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add eggs, oil and vanilla. Blend again. Pour over dry mixture and blend until just combined. Heat your skillet to medium low and grease season with coconut oil. With the consistency of this batter I have found that making smaller pancakes works better. Scoop a few tablespoons of batter on the skillet, once the batter is bubbling in the middle, flip. Repeat until you have used the rest of the batter. Serve with maple syrup.
It's been many moons since I've cooked a meal completely from scratch. Quite honestly I haven't really missed it, I've been riding the glorious wave of boxed mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and roasted carrots (mind you, on those carrot days, I'm feeling extra sassy, and give myself a huge pat on the back.) But last night as my girls were fast asleep I started prepping this meal, and I remembered how special that time really is. When it was just Octave and I in Wyoming, this is what we did. All day long. I was told it wasn't practical to keep up, and I agreed that everyone was probably right. I tend to dive head first into things and let them consume and inspire, until they no longer do. Then I move on, and find a new adventure, but regardless of all my creative endeavors, I feel most myself when I move slow and take my time. Time is the gateway to my heart, and while our culture doesn't find it necessary or practical, I will claim it as just that, at least for me. And the beautiful thing is, I get to choose how I am going to spend my days, and I miss those days.
I keep reminding myself settle in wherever i find myself, not just skim over it, and on to the next. It's been so easy it's been to adopt the speed of my culture, without even realizing. But still, I find the most meaning in the slow and mundane. I've instilled this virtue in Octave, but have seemingly forgotten how to do it for myself. A few weeks ago, she looked at me buzzing around our apartment and said, "whoa mama, settle down, just sit down and relax, it's good for your heart." It made me chuckle and smile ear to ear, this girl doesn't miss a beat, and she is so quick to remind me of who I really am. She has always done this, even before she could speak. So I've had to re learn the art of taking my time. Some time, enough time, or all the time, whatever is needed. Time to connect with my husband. Time to patiently answer all of my girls thought provoking questions. Time to fold my clothes, rather than shove them in my drawers. Time for even just one good stretch before my morning cup of coffee. Time to tell good, detail driven stories at bedtime. Time to sing their favorite song, not once, or twice, but three times. Time for making homemade buns, and tangy bbq sauce, and my favorite pulled pork to date.
I'm realizing that not having enough time is just an illusion, because no matter how much more we get, it never feels like enough. And if there is not time for everything, because how could there be, I might as well be intentional. Being emotionally and physically available for my family, and tasting full flavors that have been marinated in love and time, is exactly how I want to spend mine. And If that's all I do, I want to do it really well.
Just a heads up, the buns and pork need to be started the night before. The bbq sauce can be made in advance too.
Recipe from the beautiful cookbook Date Night In...
3 1/4 c. bread flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tbsp. whole milk
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp
1 tsp. water
2 tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)
Place egg, honey, milk, water, in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Whisk, and then add in the yeast. Whisk again. Pour in a few cups of the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until it starts to come together. Add in the remainder of the flour. Knead for 5 minutes on medium speed. The dough should be soft and pliable but not sticky. It may stick to the very bottom, but should not stick to the sides of the bowl. If it does, add more flour a few tbsp. at a time. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl with serran wrap on top. Place in the fridge and let it rise overnight. The next morning divide the dough into 8-10 balls. Tuck the sides of the dough into itself, creating a nice even ball of dough. Pat down a few times, until the the dough is even and smooth with no seams or lumps. (you may need to do this on a lightly floured surface.) Place each ball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Give them enough space to double in size. Lightly spray or rub them in oil. I use olive oil. Cover with seran wrap, and a dish towel on top. Let the buns rise and double in size for 2 1/2hours. Preheat the oven to 400. Gently cover each bun in the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if using. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Buns should sound hollow inside when tapped. Let the buns cool completely. This is super important for the texture of the buns.
Tangy BBQ Sauce:
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. yellow mustard
3 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne or more to taste
Few drops of hickory liquid smoke
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to low for 10 minutes while whisking every few minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. cumin
3 tbsp. yellow mustard
2 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder
1 c. water or chicken stock
Combine garlic, cayenne, paprika, cumin, salt, brown sugar, and yellow mustard in a small bowl and mix well. Rub this seasoning all over the pork shoulder and place in a dutch oven. Let it marinate overnight, or at least a few hours, in the fridge. The better the longer. The next morning, preheat the oven at 325. Pour 1 c. of water or chicken stock in the dutch oven, place lid on top and place in the oven for 4-5 hours. Check half way through and add a little more water or stock if necessary. (I didn't need to.) Pork should be soft and tender and easy to shred. When you know it's done, remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Using two forks, pull apart the pork until it is finely shredded. Mix in2/3 c. of the bbq sauce.
Tart Apple + Radicchio Slaw:
1/2 granny smith apple, julienned
1 c. thinly sliced radicchio
1c. chopped cilantro
1 scallion, thinly sliced (green parts too)
2 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper
Combine apples, radicchio, cilantro and scallion in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine sour cream, mayo, and spices in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over slaw ingredients and mix well.
ASSEMBLE YOUR SANDWICH:
Slice and toast buns. Scoop about 2/3 c. pulled pork and 1/3 c. slaw on top. Pour over a generous amount Bbq sauce. Finish with the top bun. Enjoy.