Different is Not Bad

In the last week I've had more upsetting encounters on my bike than I've had in all the years I've been riding. Last week a man boldly yelled out his window, "BAD MOM!" And a few days later and man screamed, "I can't believe you are doing this with kids. Do you know how dangerous that is. Are you f*cking stupid?" He was outraged, red in the face and almost hyperventilating. I rode away so angry I could cry. Today I smiled at a man who was staring me down, because I assumed he was just curious and surely he didn't realize the mean the look on his face, but I was wrong because as I got closer he shook his head, and wagged his finger with so much hate and anger that it made my stomach sick and my eyes well up with tears. These people don't know the first thing about me. They don't know that I am actually a good mom who thinks so deeply about every. single. choice she makes, and who also gives them the benefit of the doubt, and wishes them well, even after they swear at me in front of my children. I didn't take any of these encounters personal, but what upsets me to no end is the backwards thinking in our society, and failing to notice that riding a bike with or without children is not dangerous. Bikes can fall over or ride into hard objects, or people, but most likely they are never going fast enough that anyone could get seriously injured or die. Cars ARE actually dangerous. I avoid busy roads at all cost, riding only in bike lines and quiet side streets and I am the least confrontational, most low key rider you will probably ever meet. I'm like Julie freaking Andrews on a bicycle.  But I just can't help but wonder how riding a bike is unreasonable with children when going 70 miles an hour on a freeway with hundreds of other cars going the same speed, (with kids in the back seat) is not. If riding a bike is not dangerous in and of it's self then why am I shamed in doing so. Why can't our society see that the answer should not be to discourage people from walking in crosswalks or riding bikes for fear of all the things cars could do to them, but instead do their part to make the road and world a safer place. Those people who yelled awful things at me and thought I was a bad and unsafe mother were the same people who sped past me, at a dangerous speed and put my kids lives at risk. They shamed me for my life choices, but what about their choices just moments before? I'm sad and mad and forgiving all in the same moment and holding on tight to the deep rewards and joy that comes from riding slowly and happily through my city streets. I am not a bad mom, just a mom who might make choices that make some people uncomfortable, just like all of us, depending on the time or day or scene.  Love all the mamas, and love all the people. The worlds needs different people, places and perspectives. 

you, me and us time

She asks every question under the sun while I am huffing and puffing, pedaling up a hill I have been preparing for since a few miles back. I can hardly catch my breath, and it is hard to answer with intention. She senses and hears my struggle. "Do you wish we were not on this hill right now? Do you not like hills mama?" It takes everything in me to spit out, "It's not that I don't like hills...they are just... hard." She continues to ask similar questions, trying to understand the nuance. We make it past the hill, I catch my breath and start to explain that just because something is hard doesn't mean that I don't like it. I tell her that most things I love are hard. I feel the importance of this conversation and know these words are shaping her entire worldview for the next fifteen something years, if not the rest of her life. 

The next day I am running on the treadmill, shaking in plank and grunting through burpies. They are watching my every move. I notice that they see something new. Moving my body, whether it be dance, yoga or the gym has always been "me time." I used to quietly escape for some personal time and workout for an hour to myself. I felt I needed some peace and quiet to think and just be. But then schedules and motivations changed and I found myself with the two of them, beat red and sweating, the greatest version they might ever see.

At first it was not fun and it was definitely not easy. Sometimes it feels like very few minutes someone has to poop or pee or needs something that might interrupt this time. It used to bother me and I felt entitled, like I deserved an hour to myself to sweat without interruption. But then I surrendered, because I am a mother and now there is no clean divide between me, and them and us. Time and space is just a big beautiful blur, and it's ours for the taking. After a few days I realized how powerful this whole exchange was. I've always wanted to be a transparent mother. I've wanted my children to know I am fully human, and alive, and deep down, just like them. But often there is a disconnect between the things we want and the things we do. If I want them to know I am more than just their mother, it means inviting them into these spaces. It means laughing and crying and sometimes even yelling and sulking. It means sharing myself the way I do with my sisters, the full spectrum of emotions, and explaining my heart every step of the way.  It means them coming with me to my morning work outs and dance events. It means that every once in a while I will sit beside them on the couch, read my own book and not feel bad about it. It means that I might take a hot bath mid day on a Tuesday, just because my soul needs it, and I will let them soap up my hair and drop oils into my bath. It means I will read my book with many interruptions and my bath will not be as relaxing as it would have been if I would have waited until they were in bed.  I will probably always be a little distracted at my dance events, and my work out will be twenty minutes shorter than if done alone, but living deeply and fully alongside them is a gift I want to give them. It is also a gift I want to give myself. How will they ever know who I am if I only come alive once they are in bed, or when I am away from them? They won't. And so, I've softened into this new way, the way I have always wanted but have resisted because I didn't like how hard it felt. I didn't like the resistance I felt beneath my chest. I assumed something must be wrong because I didn't like the complexity and contradiction of all the things I still desired, while simultaneously desiring nothing more, because they were the greatest of all dreams come to fruition. But nothing was wrong, and complexity is good, I have just been finding my way, and I am finally here today, neither selfish or self sacrificing, just fully myself, listening to their needs as well as my own. And like I tell Octave as I pedal up those hills, just because something is hard does not mean that I don't like it. In fact, I've come to love it that much more. 

Octave recently looked at herself in the mirror and told me she loved who she was. I witnessed this whole encounter in slow motion, like it was a day dream, but my very own life. My lips pursed, contracted, smirked and lengthened, alongside my heart. She told me that she loved making her muscles strong, and eating nutritious food and using her creative brain. While those words came out of her mouth and I believe that she meant every one of them, I also know that those exact words have flowed from my very own mouth. She is not learning by my preaching, she is learning by my living. Suddenly all the pressure of motherhood felt irrelevant or rather, lifted. I just need to be okay with myself. I just need to be a good human, who loves hard and fast and deep and wide, not only them, and the stranger painting portraits across the street, but myself, sipping hot coffee in their presence because it's better hot, almost too hot, and I've drank it cold for far too many mama years. 

 

The Sun Comes to Portland

When the sun shines in Portland no one is allowed to pee or nap or do anything that could possibly bring us indoors. We are out from sunrise to sunset, no matter how tired or cranky or hungry, or in our case, even sick. You pack snacks for the entire day and expect the most tired, happy humans come bedtime. Good God, our souls needed this. We were at the park all day, and made grilled pizzas on the rooftop all night. Bijou smelled of sweat and metal swing set and Octave's feet were black from spending the entire day, perched beneath a tree making "fairy gardens." I almost forgot how much I love summer. The smell, the joy, the willingness to say yes and just surrender. Ah. Eek. It is almost here!

And Bijou, I finally captured her the way I see and feel her. She is tricky to consolidate in a thought, memory or photograph, and I love that about her, but I often feel like the photographs I have of her say so little about who she really is. She lives in the transitions, the in between spaces that don't get much recognition. I can so deeply identify. But today I pulled my camera out after  a few weeks of trying my best to let my moments be rich and deep enough on their own, and I am so glad I did. 

You and Me and Sweedeedee

I find a $20 bill inside my wallet. It is a surprise, which means it is unaccounted for and needs to be enjoyed immediately and most thoroughly. Your sister is at school and you and I could use something intentional and special, just the two of us. My mind races at the possibilities of twenty dollars at our finger tips. I think of a museum and an open art studio, or our favorite book store, but then my stomach begins to hunger the way my bones beg to move, and my mind mends when understood. I must eat. We must eat, but something special. 

We patiently wait in line at my favorite breakfast spot in North Portland, maybe even the world, that is, the tiny spec I've tasted. Sometimes it's fun to make bold claims on something I know so little about. A woman comes over and offers you a small cup of orange slices. You purse your lips and squint your eyes the way you do when you feel loved. I ask you how she knew oranges were your absolute favorite and you can do nothing more than raise your shoulders and giggle. I stare at your profile, the way I did when you were first born. I am still enough to take in all of you. You pick the marionberry cornmeal muffin from the inciting case of sweet breads and pies, before we decide on the egg sandwich and a side of yogurt. I am calm and centered. Last night I took a dance class. I know myself, and I feel myself, almost sure and surely secure. You are mirroring my every breath and it is good, and I wonder why it has taken me five years to arrive here, the mama I always wanted to be. It could be the dance class or time, but it is probably both. 

I am wearing bright plaid tucked into my favorite pair of jeans, and the only shoes I own that are suitable to wear sock less. My hair is an unbrushed mess, just how I like it. There is no make up on my face, and I feel beautiful. I hold you at the bar while we patiently wait and watch. Waiting is watching is kind of our thing. My coffee is hot, but not too much so. You sit on my lap while we whisper and observe. We watch bread baking in the back of the restaurant, records being flipped in the front left corner, and reflections I can see in front of me, but are really behind me, all the way across the street. I learn that a pastry case has nothing to do with pastries, and everything to do with the foreshadowing of the serendipitous encounters you are clever enough to anticipate. 

People are watching us, but not like they usually do. It's almost as if they want what I have, like what I have and who I am looks good and intriguing. It is something I am have not ever felt. It is there at the bar, with you on my lap, wearing plaid and unkept waves, where I begin to reshape and define motherhood. Not for them, but for me. Our food arrives and I try to sit you in the barstool beside me. You panic and don't like the way it feels. Heights make you uneasy, they always have, and I wonder if you will be twenty something when I remind you of such a trait and many preferences that I have known long before you ever did. I place you back in my lap and I savor the smell of your shampoo. I look at my plate and admire the perfectly cooked eggs, inside thickly sliced house baked bread, soft but not messy, just how I like them. I sigh and smile and remember why I love this place. The smell, aesthetic and the flavors that fill the spaces between my bones bring me pleasure, and I just keep saying, 'and,' because I don't ever want things to end. Especially good ones, but even bad, because time is always good. 

I am a sturdy structure craving color and calamity. You see I know a girl named Calamity and she fills me with anything but. Color and calamity, that is why I am here. That is why I chose this outfit and this place and this life. I place a humbly weathered napkin inside your favorite "twirly dress," and continue to admire the way you look and feel. I look back at my sandwich and wonder how I will manage eating it gracefully, if at all. I recognize that years ago everything about this exchange would have broken me. How I would have needed my own body on that stool. How I would have tried to give my body and patience so freely but would continue to fall short. How guilty I would have felt for this whole exchange of bodies and time and space. Our bodies, this time, and my space. Space and time and bodies, it is no longer mine, and that is a gift in disguise, something that can't be felt until it is known. Or maybe it is the other way around. My God, I have done it. I have become a mother, and a damn good one, I will proudly proclaim. Even when I yell, even why I cry, especially when I cry, and even when I am the most idealic version of my loftiest daydream, like I am right now. 

This experience wakes me and shakes me, but I am more still than I've ever been, not to mention with a little human at my hip. I desperately want to take a picture. Any picture, but mainly ours. You are adorable and I have come home. The space is beautiful, the colors just right, the music so fine. It's something I want to remember, forever. Of all the moments I capture, THIS should be the one. But now these ramblings and this inner conflict, to take or not to take our picture becomes a burden, so I don't do it. But still I want to, until I don't. Until I settle back in my bones and our beauty and my cup of coffee that is still warm. There is no picture my Bij Neej, but now you've got me, the woman who was made brand new inside those savory walls of Sweedeedee, and it was just you and me. 

4 Years Car Free

Not one or two, or three, but four. FOUR YEARS!  That means the honeymoon phase came and went and despite my best efforts, I couldn't save myself from the rain, or reality. It means that somewhere in there I thought we were crazy and I cursed under my breath more times than I can count on my two hands. It also means that you might believe me if I told you I still love it and would choose it all over again. 

We started out calling this an experiment, and it probably still is, because isn't everything? I gravitated to that word and type of language because it makes people feel better. Too much confidence brings forth all the devils advocates and it's exhausting to defend all the things you have been wholeheartedly working through all the years prior to making such a big decision. And even more, I know myself well enough to know that choices (but not too many) are the gateway to my heart. There is less of attachment to "experiment," and it implies that any moment you could call the whole thing off. It gives the illusion of choice and when given choices I make good ones, not necessarily easy ones. After four years this whole adventure feels more like an experiment gone right, even though I am not so sure I could name what it is I set out to achieve. I think I just like counter cultural things, and crave new perspectives. I am continuing to discover and redefine what it takes to live a rich and meaningful life. Over the course of my own it has meant shaving my head, getting rid of my cell phone, selling my car, and spending every last penny in my bank account to buy a pair of Italian sunglasses that did nothing more than make me happy. Every once in a blue moon things can actually make you happy. It means listening to those little things that don't always make sense, but make your stomach stir with stardust. When we began this adventure all I knew is that I wanted it to be magical and life-giving, like I want everything to be. After coming full circle, from riding the wave of the initial shock and joy, and then feeling the struggle, the doubt, the frustration, and at one point, the indifference, I have found myself right back where I started, smitten and smothered in all the joy. I can confidently conclude that it has been nothing short of magical and life giving, even when it sucked. Because sometimes it did, and sometimes it still does.

Whenever I had a hard time without a car I was careful to take note of when and why. I realized that taking a two hour bus ride once a week to Oregon City to teach dance was not life giving. While I adore my students and the studio and that job, the 3-4 hour commute made me resent all the other beautiful experiences I was having the other 6 days of my week. I was realistic and made changes, deciding I would teach once a month, and for a longer chunk of time. I was also honest with the fact that when Chris and I go on a date I want to wear high heels and arrive quickly and effortlessly. I don't want to smell a soggy bus or be fanning off my sweat while I sip a cocktail. Now that we have a little more room in our budget, we can actually go on dates, and pay $15 for a car share or uber.  Even after paying for public transportation, and a car share or a taxi once a month, it is still financially advantageous to live without one. 

The girls are 5 and almost 3, and it already feels like we are entering a new phase of life. Diapers are almost a thing of our past and Kindergarten is just about here. On the cusp of this transition and now that we are not destitute, I am often asked when we are going to get a car. When I share that I have come to love this lifestyle all over again, I am transported right back to five years ago when I eagerly shared my enthusiasm to have a natural birth. I am made to feel naive. I keep trying to look for blind spots, maybe these people know something I don't. In fact, I am sure they do, but there is also something they don't, and that is, even though I admire and love them, I may not want my life to look just like theirs. I might not want to be signing my kid up for a million and one activities in opposite sides of the city. I may not think that commuting crazy distances in search of opportunity is a normal part of parenthood. I truly say this with little to no judgement because Octave is about to start school and I would have never imagined the complexity of it all. When I was pregnant I certain my kid would go to our neighborhood school, end of story. While that is still on the table, it feels more conflicting than I thought it would. Every mother wants the best for their children, it's just our ideas of "best," that could be challenged and redefined, or different from person to person. All I know is that I thrive when things are fairly simple, and I think my family does too. Simple doesn't have to mean less opportunity, in fact it can mean quite the contrary, but as American's it's hard to believe that less is more and so we go, see and do, and schedule the life right out of our days, and we have to have the very best. I don't want this for my family. Maybe this means that they don't get attend the best summer art camp that Portland has to offer, because it is too complicated to get there by bus or bike. Maybe it means that I am not as prepared as all the other mamas, because all that comes with me throughout the day is what I can carry on my body. And maybe I am almost always on the break of a light sweat, but I truly believe that what they are gaining far outweighs these seemingly petty details.

The point of living without a car is not to proudly claim that I am super woman and can do everything human powered, it is quite the opposite. It is being honest and saying that I can't or don't want to do everything. It is vowing to slow down and smell the roses, to stay a while in one place, because that is where you are. It is making the transitions, or the journey from A to B just as beautiful as the destination. It is blurring the lines of meaning and redefining success. It is vulnerably exposing yourself to people and places, and trusting your body like most of us trust machines. It is showing up a little wet and a little cold, but bravely alive. Not everyone needs to sell their car to experience these things, this is just the way I have done it, and it continues to work, so we continue to do it. Four years. And counting... 

 

To Say Something

Our blinds perfectly frame the woman on the balcony across the street. She is wearing a D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs shirt, and I am taken back to middle school, in the suburbs. I wonder if she wears it, ironic or proud. I watch her methodically stir buckets of paint, for walls, or art, or furniture, I cannot tell. I am too tired to inquire more. More would mean moving my body again, for some number a mother could understand. But dear God, I love the city. Curious observers, obscure aesthetic, colliding stories. I need the city. 

I put away toys, sweep floors, and organize dishes with an urgency only desire can know. It is imperative that I sit and measure my days in rhythm and words. Each night I hover above my day, recalling every last story that begged for paper. By the time there is space, the inspiration has evaporated. I wonder how something so real could almost escape me. Time feels brave and fragile and I feel a paralyzing pressure to use it wisely. Such cognizance could maim a mother. Especially me. 

I want to write something profound, something that reads as good as it feels, but postures and colors and expressions of my day ruminate inside hidden corners of my brain. They take up space in my body, waiting for hands to humbly hold silly, sappy stories. The later is so compelling that anything but feels like failure. Experience without production, it's not easy when bones forget their purpose...to stand, to feel, to support, to create. I could never choose. I'm still here, looming thoughts, eager fingers. Waiting, or rather, being. 

 

Time and Space

I can't decide if I have things to say or if I just have so much to feel, and there is no other option but to spill out of lips, onto paper, over keyboards, into space. I think it's always been this way. Undecided but found, and still unknown. Or is it so deeply known, it's only fun to pretend otherwise.

Tonight I caught my reflection in my wedding ring, the entirety of my shape. I was pleased with what I saw, surprised to have found myself there at all.  What sounds regretful is anything but. Swans dive the only way they know how, and like them, I was made to plunge into the present, leaving nothing for tomorrow. And when two become one, there is a fine line, or none at all. Seven years later I notice the width of such adequate space, just for me between his silver and my gold. My ring was made, quite literally, just for me. I wonder if it is symbolic or just coincidence, and like a wise diplomat I concur that it is probably both.

I've stared at these hands for as long as I can remember and all those years ago I wondered what today would feel like. Today was just as unknown as now, but here there are names and places, and confusing slivers under fingernails, that only happened this once. There are soggy socks from morning downpours of polluted potions reminding me I am still alive. There is burnt popcorn suffocating, before or after my comfort I cannot say, under charcoal covered couches, where little girls read books, and watch shows I reluctantly oblige. These details were faceless, and nameless and now they found and spoken for. I am so glad these hands are still mine.

I have rotated this ring around my metatarsal more times than the sun has swiveled around my spine, and still we here, and still we are young. But now there is more space. It's more likely this space was always there, I just couldn't see it.  Such an irregular space between his silver and my gold. Imperfectly perfect, handmade and flawed, and just enough space for my continuous shape. I guess I could say, my guts spoke louder than my age, when my head and heart spontaneously chose a lifetime of fixed transfiguration . 

 

 

Parenthood

On my flight back from Detroit I sat two rows behind a mama and her two kids, probably the same age as my girls. I was kid free, reading a book, and drinking a glass of wine. She was struggling. People in my row and others near by were not having it. The rolling of the eyes, the huffing and puffing and the judgement just beneath the surface, it could have filled even the most confident woman into a tail spin. I have been there, I know.  

When people see a child feeling and acting out in socially innapproriate ways, often their immediate thought or response is, "get that kid under control." There is an expectation that she must learn to control them. There is implication that if children are not acting right, their mother must not be doing her job. Strangely our society looks down upon a woman who ties her identity and worth to her children, and yet society shameless lets us know that our identity and worth are deeply rooted in her children when they act in a way that is displeasing to them. It is a double standard and it starts me blank in the face, every time I leave our apartment. 

In the early years when I really sturggled with Octave I had family and strangers, (thankfully never friends) reminding me that I was the one running the show, and that I could and should in fact control her behavior. I sweetly smiled to their face, and then cried myself to sleep thinking, you don't know my daughter. At the time I knew something was off but I was deep in the struggle without perspective or with the confidence of seeing the beauty and reward of a new paradigm. Octave was relentless and unlike the rest because she knew I was dedicated to finding truth and wanting to do things a little differently (culturally speaking.)

Unless you are willing to beat your children into submission, I don't understand how it is possible to think your can force your kid to act or be a certain way. I don't think this mindset is even healthy or accurate. The language feels all wrong, because I actually don't believe I can control my children.  I believe that I can tirelessly teach them and help shape their hearts, and empower them with choices, and teach them the reality of consequence. That is all. I cannot MAKE them do or be anything they don't want to be, unless fear tactics are used, but I don't want my children to do what I what them to do because they fear me, I want them to make good choices because they know discernment and they know it is the right thing. This is humbling because this takes time. It takes practice and reputation and wondering if any of this real talk is ever going to be played out in real life. 

The only thing I can control are my reactions to their behavior, and interestingly enough it is my reactions that have slowly started to shape their behavior and hearts.  It goes round and round like this, until eventually I am not controlling them, but rather inspiring them to be good, respectful humans in this world, for themselves and others. I don't have too many "if only's," in my life, but I often feel that if I had just quieted the chatter and listened to my gut, I would have skipped over so much heartache with Octave in her first few years. I lost my cool, was the mom I never thought I would be, and felt lost more than I felt found, but maybe we were both pushing every boundary and stretching every shape, before eventually giving it all up and making our own way, together. There is something so profound about a firstborn, I get it now, maybe in my own way. Octave has felt and seen my rupture, rebirth and homecoming. The girl does not miss a beat, and I do not spare details. I can't think of anything as vulnerable, and for something who naturally wears her heart on her sleeve, the depths are immeasurable. No one has seen me at my worst and no one has seen me at my best, in quite the way she has. And we did it together. We've shaped each other in ways I never knew were possible. I mean, she is only five, and I, just thirty one. We have only just begun. Controlling her would have been far too easy. It would have brushed over all this aching beauty, all this internal work to be humbled and remembered by. The reward of steadfast patience and commitment to encouraging choice and allowing free will, is so incredibly worth the wait. 

Everyday Waffles For Everyday Birthdays

In our home we take our plush friends quality of life very seriously and four out of the seven days of the week it is usually somebody's birthday. Needless to say, we burn a lot of candles and eat a lot of waffles. The girls find presents to regift and wrap them up in dish towels and use almost an entire roll of tape. This ritual never gets old and the joy never runs out. Eventually I had to allow our favorite waffle recipe to evolve into something more filling and nutritous. After a few years it's arrived at a place that is perfectly crisp on the outside, light but still filling, and absolutely delicious. It is vegan and gluten free, if that is relevant for you, and has some flexibility to play around with ingredients as long as you keep the ratios the same. For the almond flour I have used whatever nuts we have around, like pecans or pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I will substitute 1/4 c. of the coconut flakes for spelt flour (although that doesn't keep the recipe gluten free.) I've used agave instead of maple, or another kind of dairy free milk. While the exact recipe posted is probably our favorite combination, you get the idea, there is a little wiggle room. 

Everyday Waffles

1 c. rolled oats, pulsed into flour

1/4 c. almond flour

1/2 c. shredded coconut, toasted 

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

1 1/2 c. almond milk 

4 tbsp. melted coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. maple syrup

Instructions:

In a food processor pulse the oats until they resemble a coarse flour. Add the toasted coconut and pulse a few more times. (To toast it I just use a pan on the stove top, on low to medium heat for a few minutes or until golden brown.) Add almond flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Pulse until combined. Pour all wet ingredients into a medium size bowl and whisk together. Pour over dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk again. Use your waffle iron as instructed. Serve with maple syrup and your favorite toppings. 

A Mini Film, of Sorts

All the starts aligned and my friend Nicole and I finally got to play around for a few hours, and create a little something together. Here is to the beginning of many more creative endeavors like this...

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.