Boil

The kettle screams, fulfilling its one and only job, begging for release. Or maybe it just whistles. Matured, fulfilled, enough. Every morning I wait a moment too long, and lunge toward my stove in urgent disarray...don't let her boil too long. I must be talking to myself. Create before you rupture. before you boil so steamy, sappy, bold that even your own skin cannot touch you. 

I abide a little more each day. each caffeinated ritual brings me closer to...something. Between my heat and my heart, I create, almost without my doing. It's only the settling that burns. I am a mother, and a someone I have yet to name and understand. a pot about to boil, steamy, smitten truths, of findings (forever ago) they just waited until now to claim such a bold, bad, name. Bad as in good, you know. It has never felt quite like this before.

Waiting...

We waited at the bus stop for 45 minutes. The bus we were trying to catch came a few minutes early and we were a few minutes late. The next bus wouldn’t come for a half hour, and still it was late. We only live a few blocks away, we could have easily walked back home and filled the time some other way, but I happened to have my camera with me, and something about staying felt suiting.

I appreciate and respect empty space and am intentional about finding it or rather, allowing it as often as possible. I’ve seen my girls stretching themselves inside these empty spaces over time. I'm learning this makes a lot of westerners itch. As a culture we don’t know and understand this nuance, but I love doing nothing, and yet I have never understood boredom. At any given moment there is an entire world to study and define, let alone an entire universe inside ourselves. Blank space is never dull, and boredom is only for the careless. While I want to give my children the freedom to be any and all things, so far I don’t find then to be dull, and when they are with me, they will not be careless.

A few years ago I would have thought today would have been impossible. For over forty five minutes we waited, and here is the clincher, we did it joyfully, almost peacefully. The sun came and went. The rain came and went. It's as if the revelations of the last few years were condensed in this little pocket of time, on display, if only for us, but probably for me. Without a toy or piece of technology, without any form of distraction, we looked and inquired. We kept to ourselves and then we engaged and shared. And of course we, (they) touched things that made my heart and mind panic and race, just in case I wanted to believe I had mastered the art of keeping my cool. 

There was once a season, or two or three, where I cursed public transit and thought it was the barrier to a better, easier life with children. But in a world full of instant gratification and shallow reward, I am grateful that something, anything, has kept me waiting. It has turned out to be a consistent guide and teacher. This waiting and connecting is like a muscle getting strong with time and repetition. We have had both. I think it took pushing through the threshold which was not achieved by my choosing, but only through survival to understand that inconveniences are what keep me right where I’ve always wanted to be. I think inconveniences should rather be called invitations. Sometimes it's just hard to say yes. 

Bits of Bijou

I don’t ever forget your flamboyant gestures and mannerisms, and the passion that surges through your limbs. It does't seem to fit inside of you, and so you move. I want to remember the way you roll your dice on our family game nights, so casual and nonchalant, while inside feeling so proud and official. Your daddy and I look at each other every single time, completely smitten and undone. It never gets old. I see layers deep inside you. Unexpected layers that only you and I know are there. I see myself in there too. I love the way you shake your head and squint your eyes, smiling so big all your adorable bunny teeth are exposed. I laugh at how you talk so quickly, and excitedly I can hardly understand a word you are saying. I don't need to your joy and enthusiasm have always told me everything I need to know. I just nod my head, widen my eyes and encourage your enthusiasm. There is just something about you that is so disarming. Something about you that is so comforting and familiar. Something about you…

Cookies, All Day, Every Day

A hundred and one worlds are spinning inside of me. Ironically this cyclical chaos hums such a low and steady rhythm that it results in reflection and comfort. I could almost call it peaceful. When the world is seemingly falling apart I am coming back together, from the inside out. It's always been this way. Baking has long been an accurate reflection of my head and heart. I am learning, growing, and processing at an electric speed. Which is probably why I need to get my hands in something slow and steady, domestic and rooted. My creativity is soaring, but there is a healthy weight in my bones, grounding me, balancing me, bringing me back home, literally.  I am finding myself in my kitchen, but it has little to do with my shape and form. That searching spirit is back, and so the most natural thing to do was to bake cookies. Cookies you could eat for breakfast lunch and dinner, all day, everyday. You're welcome. 

All Day Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

1/2c. cashew butter (or other favorite nut butter?)

1/4 c. almond flour

1/2 c. oat flour

1/2 c. shredded coconut, toasted

1/4 c. oats

3 tbsp. flax seeds 

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. pink himalayan salt 

4 tbsp. coconut oil, melted and cooled

1/3 c. maple syrup 

1 tsp. vanilla 

1 c. vegan chocolate chips 

Method: 

In a food processor combine cashew butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Add oat flour, almond flour, toasted coconut, rolled oats, flax seeds, baking soda, and salt. Blend until all the ingredients comes together. Scoop dough in a medium size bowl and place in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350. Scoop a tablespoon of dough, using your hands roll into a ball and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough. To flatten, use the back of a spoon and press down each ball on dough. Press 4-5 chocolate chips on top of each cookie. Bake for 8 minutes. Good luck trying to keep them around longer than a day.

These are always great to eat as energy bites. You can keep the dough in balls and freeze them and pull them out for a quick snack. 

Part of The Problem, Part of the Cure

My mom came over to spend the night last night and we stayed up until almost midnight talking about all the politics and conflict happening in America. It seems like the people who are perplexed and wondering how our world could come to it’s current state are the very same people who are perpetuating the problem. Those people are my friends and family, you and I. They are all of us. They are the people who casually oppose anything that slightly threatens their lifestyle while defending their disapproval in a half assed diplomatic response that was already bias to begin with. They are the people who think it’s irresponsible to have five children, and the people who think it is a disgrace not to have children at all. They are the people who assume that a woman must be miserably unhappy, dominated and suppressed if she is a wife and mother who chooses to stay home. They are the people who think a woman is neglectful and selfish if she has any desire to work outside the home and build a career. They are the people who live in the city and think the people in the suburbs are ignorant and consumeristic. They are the people who think the people in the city are heathens, prideful and arrogant. They are the people who roll their eyes when they see someone driving a really nice expensive car. They are the drivers who look down on the people standing at the bus stop. The list could just keep going on. And sadly enough it does. Thankfully I didn’t even open up the can of worms that is our spirituality. This would go on indefinitely.

I am just hearing everyone I know talk, talk, talk, myself included. I am seeing so clearly that our inability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, our inability to accept that someone else might still be living a good and beautiful life, but come to completely different conclusion, is an epidemic. This is the problem. We are all a little part of the problem. The man that passed judgment on me at the grocery store today when Bijou went A- Wall is the same man who looks down on a woman for tying her self worth and identify into motherhood. And yet, he tied my identity and self worth up in one solid look and word(s) of confident disapproval. Without my consent, my child’s behavior was a direct reflection of who I am as a person. I wasn’t even mad about it because I know that I’m probably a lot more like him than I would like to admit. I have those same instincts that fuel my fire and beg me to pride myself on all the ways I am right or smart or in tune, or… fill in the blank. Those instincts aren’t all bad, they are a sign that one feels pretty passionately about who they are and what they stand for, or in some cases a sign that someone is incredibly insecure and unsure and overcompensating. But, I will bet on the first. I just want us to recognize that we all do the same thing, and that we are all a little part of the problem, even if we are simultaneously a big part of the cure. I can't help but wonder why a different lifestyle has to become such a tragic threat to our own. And that good old saying that (hopefully) your mama told you could stand to become a little more fashionable. It's still really simple, treat other people the way you want to be treated. 

Stay Awake, Live Awake

The city feels brand new. Everyone is now suddenly aware that eye contact and a smile or nod is not just kind, but it is necessary. Humanity cannot be trusted in anyone’s hands but our very own. I have always loved cities for the exchange of personal space and the proximity that reminds us how similar we are. There is connection available for willing takers, and so I walk the streets with my heart on my sleeve. This is what makes me painfully uncool but impossibly compassionate. It is why my daughters can connect with any and everything. It is why it takes us hours to get home and so sometimes there is only time to eat toast for dinner. This is why I have fallen in love, all over again, with not owning a car. By design, I am not too busy, because all this exploring and finding is what I was made for.

Last night we spontaneously hoped on a bus and saw the familiar face of an older man who we see on our morning route to school, IF we are on time. Otherwise we catch a later bus, without him. The girls were delighted to see him out of our usual time and place. This made all four of us laugh, and we finally shook hands and introduced ourselves properly. His name is Michael. He is kind and cooky, aloof and tired. This morning we sat next to a woman from China and Octave needed to know if it was hot or cold in her world. She taught them a few words in Chinese and was smitten with their faces. On our bus ride home we met Isabella, a transgender woman with blue eye shadow, black mary jane’s and a best friend named Avi. She let her guard down when I encouraged my curious daughters to engage with her. All of this beautiful diversity and connecting is nothing new. These were our years, months and weeks prior, but something about the current state of our country and world has put more meaning and depth behind these interactions. Everyone is awake. And all I can say is “YES!” Stay awake Portland, Stay awake America and don’t be afraid of what makes you human, this is what dreams are made of.

All You Need is Love + A Name + A Face

I have friends who are single, who are married, who have children, who never want to have children, who are straight, who are gay, who are black, who are muslim, who are atheist, who are Christians, who are Christian and deeply disagree with the LGBT lifestyle, and who are Christians and gay. I have a lot of friends who are democrats, and friends (ok make that friend) who voted for Trump. This is relevant because I recently met with a woman who I probably agree with on almost everything with. Being in her presence made me long for more of that solidarity. I thought about how much I wanted to hold on to her and a handful of others and run away with my babies. I wanted to spare my daughters of all the unkind and ignorant people. I was so deeply saddened by all that I saw going on in the world, that I just wanted more educated, loving people surrounding me and my people.

Last week I talked with one of my favorite friends who happens to be gay. We talked about the march and how encouraging it was, among many other things. The following day I met with a life long friend who could not understand why women were marching, and made a few comments that felt were really out of touch, but she was more or less not against it, but thought it was strange. Later I talked with someone who assumed that everyone marching was about abortions. The fact that this was the take away made my stomach ache. In a few days time I had connected with three different women who had dramatically different views on the world. Being friends or acquaintances or family with these people made it impossible for me to walk or away or delete them on social media. I realized the importance of this and instantly regretted ever thinking or saying such a thing about wanting to surround myself around people who are just like me. I realized THIS IS the problem. We don’t have faces and stories of people who have different opinions and values. There is a them rather than a personal name and life story. Having a name changes everything. Having intimate friendships, knowing who people are and why they have come to their conclusions is really important. Remaining in community with them, even when their views might make your skin boil at times. This is the unconditional love, that without keeps us at war with our own bodies, ourselves, and the entire world. This is what bans different type of people from entering countries and this is what builds walls. 

I have a voice, and it brews throughout my day and it unravels into my husbands ears each night. Lately I have felt so guilty that this is it, all it amounts to is a safe and intimate unraveling for just one person. It is so tempting to jump on the wagon of hating on the other side, which is seemingly working against everything that is good in the world.  I see injustice and inequality that makes me weep. It pains me to know that some people actually support what is happening right now. I do have a “side,” and I feel like I am screaming inside. But I also knowing that pushing away those people I don't agree with is only perpetuating the problem. I’ve been told my whole life that you become who you hang around. If this is true, I have become a little bit of everyone, from many backgrounds and opinions. And while sometimes I wonder if this translates to non committal and spineless, I choose to believe that this is not the case. Maybe it's not so much their beliefs that I take on but rather an understanding of what life feels like in their shoes. I hope that I am simply leaving a safe space for everyone, because I fear that the alternative is becoming exactly what I hate, only with different opinions and preferences. And it would be a shame to come so far only to continue the cycle of misunderstanding. But I don't know for sure, this is just where I am at today. There is always tomorrow. 

West African Peanut Soup

I prep our dinner a few hours in advance. The naan dough has just enough time to rise, and my favorite bamboo cutting board, my only cutting board, is clean. Which is only to say, it’s on the drying rack, waiting for me. I don't need to revisit yesterday’s mess. I am only just beginning, today. Somehow this is progress. Sea level is strangely ravishing when you’ve been treading water for years. I chop the kale like I give a damn, because i finally do. I rinse the rice, because this year I am not too tired. I’ve been told you should always wash your rice, for both texture and health, but for two years I couldn’t bother, so I would convince myself it wasn’t all that important. Today, I tell myself it is absolutely necessary, like the fate of our lives rests on this simple, mundane detail. Maybe I just love rituals. But either way, I am eager to check a box I don’t even believe in. I check it with such a strange pride that even my most reflective state is not able to untangle. 

He comes in the door quickly, with a record in hand. Today is the day. With visceral instinct, knowing this urgency far surpasses words exchanged or efforts to unfural our day, he gets to work, unwrapping speakers, connecting wires. I serve this soup, slowly and humbly, like a work of art. With my back turned, and my ear more in tune, I listen to the sound of shinny bright new, and uniquely unblemished. It sounds like a dream we’ve long shared, overly simple, and yet forever a dream. It’s as if we have just begun. I think maybe we have. The record player is finally here(!) Instantly it feels like it’s always been with us, if only in spirit. He sings without effort or prompt. I tell him, maybe for the first time, that his voice was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. As if love has reason, and reason is worthy of love. It intoxicates me, makes me weak at the knees, and when I hear it I feel hopefully unknown and completely found. I decide that a person could marry someone, man unseen, sight untold, just from hearing this voice. I delight in how this feels. The innocence, the simplicity, the...

I feel so young. I am so young. But earlier today, I met a girl who was twenty three, and it seems like I will always and forever be free at twenty three. I still feel the exact same way. There are just two bright little people by my side. And him, he is still here. Why does it feel so brand new to see him and feel him, right here. 

It's Monday, but it was only just Sunday when we rode our bikes on a day date, after making day love, eating lunch at our forever favorite. While there, we wait in line, because there is always a line, and we don't mind, it's Portland, and there was always a line, before lines were ever a thing. He asks me how i feel, if i feel any different being 31. “I feel stable, but youthful, more patient and fun. Maybe even kind of balanced?” I once thought balance was boring, but i most certainly don’t feel boring. “I guess i just finally feel like how i always imagined this would be. Sharing a life with someone, making a family, it all finally feels like how I thought it would, how i wanted it to feel, my version of bold and unconventional.” My day dreams did not disappoint, but maybe somewhere in the middle they did. How do we know if our dreams are still in transition or if they have come to their full fruition, I do not know, but I am most thankful that I tried some patience and that I waited. For this, if only just this...

Back at home, on that sweet Monday, Jose Gonzalez plays after our soup, with a sink full of dishes, past, devoured and done, but certainly not forgotten. It plays, it sounds, it resonates. "While were still young." I grab his body and secure it safe to mine. We sway, I give in. The dishes can wait. They are always there, be he is not. Now he is. I rest beneath his clavicle, on top of the humble definition that is...him. It's still him. I flash back to a stinky, dirty dance studio (the best kind of dance studios) and see those special students improving across the spacious wooden floors. The space that held them so sweetly, just like this kitchen, only this time it's us. I remember how I felt, oddly enough at twenty three, teaching them, growing them, learning from them. I remember that phrase "while we're still young," and how even then it ripped my heart into a million little pieces. It's as if I knew I would be here looking back, comparing and contrasting. It's as if i knew it was only just beginning. This album will always be relevant, and perhaps he knew that, coming home with eager intention. He did not ask which record to play first. He just did. He just knew. I did not ask what he wanted for dinner. I just made it. I just knew.  

With none of this exchanged between us, we eat this soup. We listen to the album. He tells me this is his favorite thing I have ever made. But I already know. I tell him this is one of my favorite albums of all time. Surely he already knows. 

 

African Peanut Soup

Recipe from Cookie + Kate

Serves 4

6 c. vegetable broth

1 red onion, chopped

5 gloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. chilli powder or more to taste

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper 

3/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1/2 c. tomato paste

1 large bunch of red kale, chopped

1 1/2 c. cooked rice of choice 

3/4 c. crushed peanuts for serving 

Method:

Bring vegetable broth to  boil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add in onion, garlic, ginger and salt. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 20 minutes. 

While broth is simmering, rinse and de stem the kale, and chop into thin ribbons. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine peanut butter and tomato paste. Add about 1 c. of hot broth and whisk to combine. 

Once broth has simmered for 20 minutes, pour peanut butter and tomato mixture back into the broth. Mix until combined. Add in kale and let simmer for about 15-20 more minutes. 

Cook rice and prepare naan while soup is finishing up. 

Serve over a generous scoop of rice, and or this naan recipe, and a generous handful of crushed peanuts. 

 

To name and define

The scolding water trickles down the spine thats held me up, and somewhat together for thirty revelations around the sun. I indulge in the simplest pleasure. The water, the warmth. it feels so damn good. I wonder if everyone unravels and gives thanks under the buoyant weight of water, every single time. Sometimes it’s out loud, sometimes in my head, sometimes only just a posture that gives in and surrenders, but this I do, every single time. The quiet intimacy allows space to quarrel and question. I suddenly feel the need to name myself, as if all my names prior were no longer relevant. I practice what I have known, and under my breath I begin to try them all on for size. Mother, wife,  sister, daughter, friend, dancer, choreographer, dreamer, traveler, writer, photographer. There must be an umbrella term for all of this, so i think that maybe an artist will do. I think I might be too effervescent to be an artist. My eyes are far too eager leaving any possible cool factor out at sea. I also use profoundly too many exclamation points. So maybe a creative? That sounds sophisticated and beautiful, both of which I love, but then I remember I have been wearing the same panda jumpsuit for 7 whole days now, and while I know a name does not rest upon ones attire, I feel like an imposter. I sift through these names the way Bijou sifts through her outfits each morning. It looks aimless and hopeless, like nothing will ever do, but she has a vision and a plan all along, which is to have no vision and plan, and to let the very last moment guide her. The last piece to the puzzle is always left to impulsivity, and it’s always open to change. It’s both exhilarating and exhausting. The apple does not fall far from the tree. I like it this way. For now. I start to think that names like mother, and wife are honorable and worthy but they don't get to the root. I have to wonder why I’ve ever done anything at all. I’m not a going through the motions kind of person. There are few “shoulds” in my life. So why do I find myself here, with all these names that I love but that don’t seem to suit me. 

I try again and tell myself I am a writer, mostly because I would like this to be true. But that is not it either. I wonder why I write. I decide it's because I feel so much my words just spill over onto paper. I think about why I dance, and I know it's because I feel so deep and wide, that I can't fit inside a still stable body. And these photographs, they are just moments and details that stir themselves inside of me and beg to be held and adored, again and again. Why I wanted to share my life with another soul, and make two more can all rest upon a desire and a feeling. So maybe I am just a feeler, and maybe I always have been. Of course! This is it, I am a feeler. But why do I feel?  I am human. I alive, and this is what it means to both. But then I am right back where I started. Nameless yet somehow known. Is this me or thirty one? Probably just me, at 31. 

FIVE

It feels like I should say something like, “today my girl is five, oh where did the time go? It feels like it was just yesterday.” But it’s not that way. I don’t remember the day she was born just like it was yesterday. It feels like another person, a world away, an entirely different universe. It feels like an abrupt awakening, and a really slow homecoming. It feels just how I want it to, which is neither fast or slow, but tucked inside the deepest pockets of eternity. I feel her there, and I see now that I always have. Surely this is not our first meeting place. But today she is five, and interestingly I feel like a real mother, as if the years prior were just conditioning for this, which suddenly feels like the good stuff, the best stuff. It feels surreal to see the shift happening right now in this very moment of attentive watch and reflection. She is morphing into something entirely brand new. I’m certain it can only get sweeter, but for today it is all and I know, and it is good.

Here is to my sweet and spicy Octave, who’s tenacious spirit and strong sense both frighten and inspire me, and have sense the moment I first placed my eyes on her. Who’s spirit begs me to dig deeper than bones, and who keeps me asking a million and one beautiful why’s. Who I am confident will keep me humbled, alive, sometimes tired, but always true. I love you with every last fiber of who I am, and who I will become. 

To Begin Again

Today the girls and I started practicing our Italian. I woke up and declared today the day to begin, or rather start again. Fifteen years later I am still weak at the knees, yet unimaginably sturdy in my bones when I hear, think or speak Italian. It gives me the most exotic and euphoric feeling of both adventure and home. It always felt just like that...on an adventure and yet home amongst my people, a culture of feelers, submerged in a beauty that needs no explaining. I promised myself I would teach my children Italian, even before I ever thought I would have children. I promised myself that I would joyfully subject them to this beauty for no other reason than beauty alone. I would imagine them asking why I had chosen to teach them Italian instead of a language that might be more useful in today's modern, money making world. But then I quickly realized how silly that would be, because my children would never ask such a question, I would have taught them better. They would know why I taught them, because they would be swept up in the magic too. I always wanted the homecoming of my heart to somehow be apart of their story. I wanted my cousin Jane, the woman who was the reason for me experiencing Italy how and when I did, to always be apart of their story too. I wanted to give them the gift that few American children get at a young age, and that is, that there is so much more outside of themselves, and there are a million and one ways to live, feel, think, say and do.  

Well, flash forward a few years and real life happened here. Right here in the middle of this sentence that is too drowsy to revisit since leaving the fog.

A few years later, I begin again. 

Today we began again. And I learned something beautiful, something that would have been wise to have accepted the first thirty years of my life. And that is, there is a season for everything, and those bits and pieces of you that are truly you, will rise to the surface in their own time, in their own way, with or without your doing, because they are so deeply and profoundly you. When I first became a mother I was so hard on myself, almost distraught that I was not able to fearlessly swan dive into life like I had all those years before. I took seldom people's advice, the counter cultural fringe dwellers that told me nothing had to change when I became a mother, and that it was most important and up to me to maintain a strong sense of self. What they didn't say, or maybe I didn't understand is that even if you keep doing and being the same things on the outside, the inside might still feel radically different.

I unfairly assumed I would remain the exact same woman, only with a baby sleeping sweetly in my arms. But my daughter hardly slept, my arms rocked themselves numb, and my mind was too tired to know the first or last thing about myself. I see now that maybe this is how it is supposed to be, perfectly designed and woven into the experience of motherhood. I think it consumes you, because it is supposed to. Surely, and hopefully not forever, but that first year, maybe two, absolutely. How else is it possible to learn something unless you are all in, submerged in the deep end. And isn't this what I've allowed myself to do in almost every other area of my life? Why I was so afraid to apply this to motherhood, I am not quite sure. It's not so scary now, I like what I've become. And I've recently realized that after the rupture and rebirth, I am almost the same person. It was really just a season, it was not forever, despite how it felt. Maybe if I would have known I would be here almost five years later, re learning Italian, cooking, dancing, writing, pursuing more creative endeavors than I can keep tabs on, while getting the privilege of spending the majority of my days with my favorite humans on this planet, well, I probably would have been a lot more gentle with myself. That old quote could use a little revamp. Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too, just once it has cooled, and certainly not all at once. 

The Unraveling of Everything and Nothing, Maybe Just Something...

My whole life I've had a million and one friends and aquantances. It's easy for me to dig in and connect. I love connecting with people, places, things, colors, words...the list just keeps going on. There is little to nothing I can't connect with, which makes me like feel both a fraud and a safe haven for outcasts, misfits, and underdogs. I am good at connecting. I am good at falling in love with a million and one things that seem to contradict each other. It's energizing, and life giving, it's my thing. I get this from my father and ironically it is my favorite and least favorite thing about him. Probably because it is my favorite and least favorite thing about myself. I often think it would be so much easier to have a solid back bone with a long list of things I believe in and stand by. Instead I'm moved and swayed by humanities stories, listening to every last one, like a child who has not been hurt or betrayed. It is often hard to stand my ground, to know my place, and yet deep in my bones, i know it so well it hurts. 

As much as I love people, and places, and adventures, I often needed a good amount of time alone to feel at home in my skin. This is why traveling abroad, alone, at sixteen was not scary but absolutely exhilarating for me. Being alone, with an entire day at my finger tips is just and thrilling and life giving and a human to sit and connect with. But since becoming a wife and mother it's been challenging to naviagate all the used to be's and the want to be's and the who am I's today. I'm trying to learn what fuels me now, and what compliments my life style, and at the end of the day what is the most important. With the new year I have been increasingly reflective and hungry, and a little troubled.

I fear I've been at best, a mediocre friend over the last five years of my life. Or maybe just a really good friend to only one or two, my soul sisters. But, I love so many, and care so deeply about all of them. And yet, my daughters are without a doubt, my first priority, and my husband, and my mental and physical well being. My extended family comes after that, and then sadly but understandably for anyone with a family, my friends make the next tier. I had a dear friend who I have loved and adored for years, seemingly give up on me. I reached out to inquire what had gone wrong, and never heard back. Not one word. I reached out again. Nothing. Done. That's it. This was the most foreign for me. This has never happened before. I tried to act like I had no idea what happened, but secretly, inside the comfort of my own skin, I knew it was me. Sure, it felt unfair, I mean, couldn't she see I was just treading water, and it was enough just not to drown? But I can see outside my own circumstances, and I can put myself in her shoes. I just couldn't hold up my end of the friendship stick. How could I? My husband was going through the hardest years of his life, my marriage felt fragile and I was taking care of two little people, while trying to keep my passions (any passions) alive and working a few side hustles to make ends meet. I was barely hanging on. I suppose it didn't look like that on social media, despite my earnest efforts at being transparent through the hard times. I am and always will be a joy monger. It's not that my unraveling is dishonest, it's that it is wholeheartifty wrapped in good, because at the end of the day, even the hardest dimmest hour, is still, so damn good. Sharing the good and bad in the ways we share today only brings up another heart ache... social media. The love/hate relationship. The tension. My desperate attempt to be here and now, to cultivate a life that is enough, just for me, and my heart cry to document, remember and share my stories. I am a storyteller. It is such a hard thing to balance, a fine line to walk. I find it mildly repulsive how quick we are to share ever last detail of our lives. But I feel tired of the struggle. I feel annoyed watching everyone I love live their lives through this medium, while sadly realizing I might be just like them. I can't be, I don't think I am, but denial is not attractive on anyone, and I want to be attractive, if only to myself. I guess I just feel tired of balancing things that I don't think are even worthy of balancing, they are just now apart of this world, and so to remain somewhat current and connected it feels rather necessary. But is it? And it's not all bad. Of course not. Sometimes, a lot of the time, I really do love it. I've been sharing my life, whole heartedly and openly,  long before social media existed. Thank God I have that reference and perspective. My children may or may not have that. 

I think I am learning that being spread thin does not feel or look good on me. I don't deliver under pressure. I fall apart, miserably. I have probably always known this about me, but after 30 years I am trying to build my life around these understandings. I keep wanting to hold tight to my people and my places. I do have those people that will remain through it all, and I feel so damn lucky. 

I also feel tired. Tired of being diplomatic. Tired of making sure everyone else's feelings are tended to. I just want to be honest. But, I don't want to hurt others with my honesty. I keep feeling like this need to share truly is for me and my girls and they deserve all of me, the raw and unedited. I also deserve it. But is this appropriate for the internet, and social media, the non committal connector of us all. I wonder why I have forsaken my handwritten journal. Maybe it's better I handwrite or type and print to my hearts content, never having to worry about a soul taking it the wrong way, looking a certain way, making someone feel something. Anything. 

And just like a journal, i would never  worry about wrapping my thoughts up. they would stay unfolded, beautifully tangled, and thick in the tension without resolution. abrupt. no need for ending coming full circle. sometimes, these things are just for the taking, and feeling and unraveling. 

i suppose i am a little bit of everything going into the new year... hopeful, a little hurt, found, discovered, transparent, humbled, and full. profoundly connected and strangely aloof. perhaps this is me, always, the new years just feels heightened, almost concentrated, just how i like it. 

 

 

 

Raising Thinkers + Dreamers

Bijou sat on the toilet pretending she had any interest in actually going. Octave watched the sheets in the washer go round and round, and I listened a second time to a podcast where Elizabeth Gilbert interviewed Rob Bell. These are two of my favorite writers and thinkers, so when i saw they were together in a room, and there were questions and answers moving between them, I stopped everything and listened. There are so many little gems tucked between the spaces of “aha,” and “YES!”  It had been a while since I had listened to something that made me feel so inspired and alive in my skin. 

There was this beautiful story one them shared about a science teacher getting hired to teach at a Jewish school. the agreement was that the rabbi had to stay in the room the entire class while this teacher taught his curriculum. Not knowing anything about Judaism, he reluctantly took the job. Every time the teacher would say something contrary to the Jewish tradition, the Rabbi would start quietly making sounds in the back of the class, as if to disagree. He would then stand up and say something like, “well actually, in the Jewish tradition, we believe this…but keep teaching.” After a few weeks the science teacher came to the head of the school and expressed his frustration, saying he couldn’t teach in that kind of environment where he was constantly contradicted. The Rabbi came to him and said “you have misunderstood, i want you to teach what you know and believe, but i want to counterbalance with what I know and believe. I am not trying to challenge you, I am simply leaving room for another view. There can be room for both of us.” He wasn’t defensive or challenging him out of fear,  he was simple sharing another side. Ahhhh, this. This is my heart cry.

I then realized this way of thinking and living is a core building block for how I am trying to raise my girls. I am working passionately and endlessly to teach them exactly this. I want them to know and understand that there are multiple ways to live and do things. I want to use language with them that is inclusive rather than exclusive. I want to raise them with as little cultural influence as possible. Meaning, I want them to learn what it is to be human, not American. I want them to learn to question everything. I grew up thinking that shaving my legs was a non negotiable. If I were to be a woman, (and not a weird one) I would definitely shave my legs. I do prefer my legs without hair, but that is besides the point. I came to that conclusion years later, after much reflection and undoing. It doesn’t matter if they choose to keep every hair on their body, or shave every last one, the point is, as long as they are respecting themselves and others, there is not one way to express their womanhood, and it’s theirs for the exploring and choosing. I will shamelessly teach them what I believe about God and this awe inspiring universe, but I will be careful of my language. I want them to know that this is what I believe, but some friends and family and that stranger across the street might believe something different. They won’t hear me saying those people are wrong. They know what they know, I know what I know. And there is so much I don't know. I want them to see and hear me dig and find in that sacred space. I want them to know it’s okay to have much unresolved and undefined. It doesn’t have to be scary, it can be liberating. This is only just the beginning. And I hope that they grow and challenge me past my comfort zone, because contrary to what I like to think, I do in fact have one, somewhere in there, saying yes has only just become muscle memory. I hope they show me all my blind spots and that all of this is always just one big conversation.

The Longing For My Type Writer.

I miss my typewriter. there was no expectation for perfection because mistakes were inevitable. perfection wasn't possible, so there was no point in trying. and everything always came to life. even the messy. even the ugly. that alone made it beautiful. computers and posts are missing that compelling ingredient. i will continue to try. but still, i miss my typewriter. i gave it away as soon as packing, moving, and unpacking became an unwelcomed trend. besides it needed a tune up, and i thought i needed to leave it’s stories behind. it felt necessary to begin again. but now i miss it and would gladly invite back all those stories to have it right here, when i’m stumped before i’ve ever really began. but now i’ve begun.

with no reason or rhyme or learned desire to fit, surely my suitcase heart would unfold, one unplanned line, at a time.

good things happen on tuesdays. it’s always been tuesday.

quickly, fully, deeply, proudly, abruptly. i feel (it all.) quickly, fully, deeply, proudly. 

two voices quarrel beneath my ribs, under the abyss of mysterious details. somewhere inside there, reason is forbidden and feeling is welcomed. i have found this is strangely unfound among the masses. and so i wonder why. 

i wonder.

my girls. oh how glad i am to have girls. to build an infrastructure of curiosity, leaving truth for inquiry, and choice for empowerment. 

today my hair was good. wind blown, sexy, messy, muffled, haphazardly lovely, with a mind of it's own, just how i like it. on the cusp of a planned change, it happens. always. now i must cancel my appointment. sigh.

nostaligia has always been a dear friend. i thrive in the ache and desire for what once was. it's less of a sign of discontentment and more of way of extracting every last drop of beauty. 

i miss everything while simultaneously already missing the here and now, the future, before it's even begun. 

i miss Denver. those simple days. just us and a babe in my day dreams. and then soon, a babe on the way. the snow. the malbec. the music. the food. the dedicated practice of yoga. the walking, the biking, the finally living the way i always wanted. the gut wrenching beauty of beginning. the strange comfort of being alone. our dear friends, their love and heartache. their divorce and devastation, it split me wide open, teaching me something too profound for words. and the way those sunflowers would hang and wilt, and lift toward the sun. ray lamontange, the forever soundtrack of those days. i ache for it all again. and yet i remember my ache for home. for portland. for my dance community and friends. for my sister. my mother. i ached so deep and so wide, not fully realizing everything i had right then and there.

this is how it goes. 

i miss nyc. i miss the wild freedom and indulgence of self discovery. the ache for love, all the while finding what it means to truly love (myself.) the bruises and growing pains, emotionally and physically, from a body that danced 40 hours a week and a soul that searched, wake to slumber. the freedom, that i had no idea was mine. 

i miss casper, wyoming even they all told me i wouldn't. i often spoke harshly unfair on that season, but i think it was my rupture. it was my deepest practice in making the most exquisite lemonade my world had to offer. I did a damn good job, or so I would like to think. That's where i planted roots deep inside myself. where i learned the art of taking my time. the desert might have been my greatest gift. it's where i embraced going against the grain, not out of spite, but out of my deepest heart cry, out of staying true. and the homemade bread, the homemade everything. And those women i met, their faces still imprinted in my heart and mind. Their love for a God i find harder to know and understand these days, it was so real to them and for them. If I believe, I want to believe with all my guts, just like them. I often feel one foot out the door. Not in faith, not in understanding, because i don't even need to fully understand.  But it's the language used and expressed. it is not my own. i am still searching...

and now this is every last ramble. 

just. like. my typewriter. 

 i must buy one tomorrow. 

or maybe tuesday. 

i am coming to an end. and i feel the urge to edit and revise. but i can't. i won't. this is the integrity of my long lost typewriter. this is why on tuesday i will put on my gray boots and walk to that sweet shop on the corner, the one next to octaves favorite art studio. the shop i saw that typewriter i was once afraid to spend the money on.

my soul needs it. 

enough said. 

 

The Car Free Chronicals

Today i took Octave to preschool in SE portland. We caught a bus, just in time. I could feel its presence embarking as we fumbled out the door. My gut told me there was no time for the elevator, and so I did all but pull them down the stairs. Ok, maybe I pulled them. I pulled them. But we made it. And it mattered that we did because the next bus didn't come for 15 minutes, which isn't so bad, for someone who allows herself plenty of time, except it would mean that we would miss our connecting bus. Which would put our arrival time 30-40 minutes later, making us really late. In a car, leaving your home a few minutes later than expected does nothing to the entire course of your travels, but on public transportation, a minute is everything. This is one thing that can often leave me feeling like my life, especially with children, would be so much easier if we owned a car. 

We are finally in a place where the possibility of owning a car is back on the table. After all this time, we actually have the choice to own one. We've been doing our research, and are even putting the word out to friends and family. Over the last year I've gone through cycles of being so confident I would not change my mind and detour from our current lifestyle, to feeling like I was ready to buy a car tomorrow, or more like yesterday. It's been really powerful to ruminate on all the in's and out's and why's. Chris and I do this together, independly and then often sycned so smoothly it's shocking and humorous if we let it be. This is just one reason why we work. We fully commit. We dig in, go deep, stay a while and then leave. Quickly. But, this car thing, we are still working through it. I am often torn, because sometimes it feels hard, and after a few years of everything being hard, from marriage, to little babes, to making ends meet, i feel over it. If I can make my life easier, why wouldn't I? But, it's not that simple. Sometimes the rewards are so rich and life giving that they bulldoze any lusty day dreams of a more comfortable, time efficient life. 

I love how connected and alive I feel when I am in a bus or train with other people. I love what I am exposing my daughters to. I love that there is no insular bubble protecting us from humanity as we transport ourselves from A to B. I love that strangers are apart of our day and our story. I love that even at their young age they are seeing multiple ways of living, knowing that how our little family lives is neither right or wrong, weird or normal, it's just one way to live. I love that I have to pack minimally and choose wisely, simply by necessity. I only have two hands, and with two babes that already means I am full. My love for this lifestyle has far surpassed any motivations of shoulds, because it is me to the core. It is how I see and interact with the world. It's how I look strangers in the eyes and deal with the annoyances that come from people in tight spaces. It's how I connect with my center and feel a sense of empowerment, knowing and understanding that my body is my livelihood. Strangely enough, the more I think I want a car, the more I fall madly in love with not having one. Only as I write this am I seeing a trend here. I think I said something all too similar about marriage and motherhood not too long ago. Maybe this is just life. The highs have to match the lows, and if you let it, they will. Right when I've wanted to give up is when I've been on the cusp of the best I've experienced. This goes for almost every area in my life. So my feelings around this topic, don't have to stay consistent. I see that I've spent years trying to stay consistent which is impossible and silly because there is no growth in consistency. There is little to no room for life inside black and white. I think we were designed to shift, and waver and come right back to where they started. Which is where I am today, grateful for how we are choosing to live, and aware that the extra effort of a car free lifestyle is still feeding my soul. 

To Dig + Find

Beauty is not enough for me. it has to be mine. it has to be disguised, and then uncovered and delighted in, by me. this home, the art, the light, the aesthetic of every detail, it is stunning. I keep capturing moments of us, but mainly the girls, in this space that is not my own, because, it's beautiful, and yet still, it is not enough. it's too obvious which is somehow less rewarding. what i would give to have had someone capturing the four of us smashed into a one bedroom apartment, the place Bijou was born, between the awkward space that was neither kitchen or living room, because really it was just one small room. That season where it was so damn hard and sometimes heartbreaking. When I cried myself to sleep at night, wondering how we would make ends meet, and eat. How i was going to be the mama i wanted to be, and wondered if my marriage would survive. Those days my back ached from rocking them, sometimes for hours. there was no rocking chair, no baby gadgets, few toys, no nursery. Ever. Just all four of us in one room. And it was breathtaking beautiful because it was mine. I’m starting to understand that I crave and need raw, uncovered, disguised beauty. The kind you have to dig to find.

Last week I tried to take a portrait of Bijou and I as I rocked her to sleep. It was my attempt to capture a part of motherhood I have yet to document. It was an attempt to say yes I rocked them, patiently and impatiently, calmly and frantically, and sometimes peacefully and reflectively. I realized I didn't have something to show for all those hours, and all that heart and soul. But it really did no good because the walls were too clean, and I never had a comfortable chair. I just looked so damn comfortable. I was never comfortable, I Just had my body and all it's contradictions, and informal beauty. But I was happy, most days and some days were laced with disappointed and regret but often covered with a surprising promise. It was layered, upon layers that not even one single photograph was able to capture. So now I wonder what the point is. Am I trying to capture the depths, and the full spectrum? Who are these photographs for? Are they for me, or for my daughters?  My story or my therapy, my catalyst or my perspective...

Now I struggle a lot with the choice and decision to capture, or let be, and let go. I realize every moment doesn’t need to be captured and I don't always want it to, but for someone who has been an avid documenter, a life long preserver of memories, it’s hard for me to let intangible things remain just that. But I’ve been working through what photography means to me. What role do I want it to have in my life. Is it my memory keeper, my art, my way to help provide for my family? Can it be all of these without loosing soul? Yes, of course, but what do I want? What is my motivation, and are my memories enough, just for me? And isn't there something beautiful about hazy memories trapped between imperfect words and punctuation? I think so...

But also, I  hope that my children look at my photographs one day, and they can see that the details of them that I fell in love with. I hope they can see that I dwelled on and savored what mattered most. I hope they can gather that I prolonged traditions and favored process over product. Prep, over meal time. Mundane over milestones. I hope they can see that I welcomed the full spectrum of emotions and didn't save "pretty" or "happy," just for photos. But more than anything I hope they know this from living the day in and day out with me. I hope they know me deeply and fully because I shared my heart every moment, not through my photographs or words, days, weeks or years later. Mostly, I feel like I do, but mothers and their children often have contrasting perspectives, especially in hindsight. So after unraveling my thoughts I suppose a lot of this is for them. But also, It's how I press and filter the joy through the hard stuff. My french press is the image that comes to mind. The raw, the bitter, the balance. In it's most natural state somehow it's always sweet to me. 

Of course, I hope that when I look at pages upon pages of the photo books I and laugh and cry and feel a sense of peace and contentment. I hope it feels like my life has been preserved. I hope that the intangible beauty that I fall madly in love with every single day, comes a little closer, a little longer, and maybe even lasts forever. But i think more than any of that, it's my catalyst for delighting in the disguised, unkept beauty of my life. Maybe that's enough. Even just for now...

Lately, in Photographs

Heavy Hope

I woke with a really heavy heart and a pit in my stomach, as I am confident every other human I love and identify with did. But then I met with an incredible, inspiring woman this morning, who is on a similar journey of embracing the wholeness of her femininity, and who is sharing her story and her findings with the world. There was no talk of this election but somehow I left confident and inspired, knowing that real change is happening right here and now, as I start with myself, as I connect with other like minded women, and sculpt my daughters little souls. It starts with practicing all the things I preach, to them, with them, every single day. Like every mother, I want so much for my daughters. I want them to have the ability to connect and empathize with others. I want them to see humanity’s differences as something to celebrate and learn from, rather than something to be afraid of. I want them to have a deep respect for this earth, to take good care of it, to partner with it, to enjoy it, to give back to it. I want them to love being a woman. To know their cycles are a gift and something to celebrate, a guide, giving them deeper insight and wisdom, never a burden. I want them to love and adore every part of their body, especially those parts that are strangely taboo and left unspoken of. Yes, my girls already know their FULL anatomy at age 2 and 4, and I am crazy proud of that! I want them to love their minds and know they are capable of anything they can dream and conceive. I want them to know they are neither too much or too little, but just as they were made to be. And the most beautiful liberating realization, the really good news, is that these things don't come from a world leader, man or woman. They come from their mama, their first tangible example, their humble and vulnerable guide. It's starts here, it always has and it always will. So come what may, but me and my people and their peoples, people, we are a group unapologetic women (and men), wild and empathetic and alive and aware, and we are building this new world, from the bottom up. The best way, the only way. Cheers mamas, we’ve got this!

Remember.

There are a hundred and one things I want to remember about them...The way Bijou cuddles so intensely, I often feel suffocated as I lay her down to sleep. The way her arm feels around my neck, with her cheeks smashed sticky against the flesh that made her. The way she laughs so freely, sincerely trying to relieve me of any misfortune she may have instigated, all the while knowing she has found the path of least resistance, the one that leads to exactly what she wants, exactly where I am. The way she moves through time and space, so groovy, but strangely listless, calculated, nonchalant, and expressive. The way Octave casually throws around her precocious vocabulary on any day of the week. The way she fights me so hard and loves me so well. That time Octave cried about being thirsty, and minutes later a torrential down pour came and delightfully delivered her persistent need. The time Bijou colored orange marker all over her sisters favorite photograph, of me at age 5. The way she sobbed heartfelt tears about her most special photograph being ruined. “Bijou, that was the photograph I was going to remember mom by. I was going to keep it even after she dies.” The tears ran deep and wide, from her and then me. Her sentimental heart either inherited or learned, is one in which I can deeply identify. That time Octave told me I should have just had one baby, because two babies seems like a lot of work for me. The way I chuckled but then spent the rest of that night reflecting and worrying that I must have given a burdened view of motherhood. That night she told me she had a bone next to her eye and she knew it because when she pushed on it, it wouldn’t go deeper. She told me she wouldn’t be able to sleep until she knew the name of that bone. That time she told me how she often wonders that Bijou will look like when she is older. How she wonders what she will be like too. How she read, and reads my mind. That afternoon we were on our “adventure walk” and the sunshine shone right behind a lonely crow on a forgotten fence. All 3 of us gasped at this simple, ordinary, yet exceptionally beautiful detail. How the world was spinning madly on, hardly noticing these seemingly insignificant things, but there we were, taking in it. Absorbing it into our DNA, like a forever ever guide to contentment, through awe and wonder.  How proud I felt as a mama. Like I had given them the long lost answer, the missing link, an informal invitation to a life worth living. All these things. I want to remember.