Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sweet Child of Mine

Every night we snuggle our kids before bed. As I snuggled my son, my daughter piped up from her bed and told me she felt sad. I asked her what she was feeling sad about. She told me she would tell me when I snuggled her. I wrapped up my snuggle with her brother and made my way to her bed, curious, half thinking this was a ploy to get me to read her one more book. It wasn't. She told me she didn't want to grow up because she was afraid to die.
A close friend of ours had to say goodbye to their dog today. A dog that was more than just a dog, he was truly part of their family. You couldn't know them without also knowing their dog, doesn't matter if you encountered them on vacation or at work, you'd meet the dog, too and inevitably learn to love his idiosyncrasies. We had seen him the night before he died and Ruby noticed he was really skinny. "He didn't look very good" she said when we got home. We said a prayer for Saguate.
And last week, my daughter's preschool teacher's husband died. Two days prior to his passing we dropped off a meal. Ruby, the sweet little soul she is, made a card for her old teacher...”I hope George gets bedr.” it said. She thought it might make her feel better. It was all I could do to stop the flood of tears as we walked up to the door to deliver the food. I could see his hospital bed through the window, I knew the end was near. I don't know if Ruby saw me crying, but she seems to be pretty in tune, she reached for my hand as we walked away.
I think the combination of these two events and her attending Bible-cation School (otherwise known as Vacation Bible School) this week where there is lots of talk about Heaven and God made her think about what really happens when you die. Ruby said some interesting things and it fascinates me to hear about what is turning in her little mind. She's pretty deep for a 5 year old, I think...probably just runs in her blood. My mom says I've been like I am, introspective, deep, for as long as she can remember. As I talked to Ruby and tried to help her make sense of what she was fearing, she said she wished that “life was different”, that when we got old, we got young again, that she would be sad not to be able to see everyone when she died because her eyes would be closed. I told her we kind of do get young again after we get old and that everyone she loves will be with her after she dies. I also told her it was a long ways away, that she was going to live a very long time.
As Ruby continued to talk and question what happens in death, my mind was trying to process what I should say, how I should comfort her and ease her worried little mind. A 5 year old shouldn't go to bed worried about getting old and dying. She was concerned there wasn't houses in Heaven, that she wouldn't be able to visit the people she loves or see her family.
I don't know what happens when you die, no one does, really, but certainly people have opinions about it. It is important to me that I am honest with my kids. I believe that we go back to the Source, back to where we came from. I believe it is a peaceful place we return to, a place of love and light, a place that feels good. Ruby told her brother the other day that if he ever misses their Mamma (my mom) to “drink warm water because it feels like her, snugly and good, like when you are cozy in her lap.” I told her I think that is what it feels like in Heaven and that the people she loves would be there with her. She smiled at some point and seemed to feel at ease, to relax. I kissed her goodnight and left her to fall asleep.
My husband came in and snuggled her and then joined me in the living room. He had been laying with my son, listening to our conversation. I asked him if I said the right thing, I've never had that conversation before and wasn't sure what the right thing was. He said that yes, of course I said the right thing, I calmed her and she stopped crying, right? She did. I'm sure it won't be the last of those conversations I have with my daughter. All I can do is offer my truth, what I know of it, and answer her questions without giving her more information than she needs or then her 5 year old world can understand.
In the words of Axel Rose..."Where do we go? Oh oh oh oh oh oh Where do we go? oh oh oh oh oh oh Sweet Child of Mine."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Give and Take of Marriage

My husband and I celebrated our 9th anniversary last Wednesday. We actually had more one on one time last week than we have had in the last month, I think. We had 2 date nights and an evening out at a really fun party.
We had a fabulous dinner date the night of our anniversary. My husband thoughtfully planned the date, surprised me with a walk to a neighborhood restaurant we had not eaten at, he bought me jewelry from a new boutique that opened in his work building, he held my hand while we walked there and gave me a card with kind words and lots of love. It always feels good to spend time together, without children, to put us in the forefront. It's easy to put the relationship on the back burner with the busy-ness of a household of 3 children, our own needs, work inside and outside the home. There is just a lot going on. I'm happy to say that we are in a better space than I think we have ever been in. I feel like our marriage is, at the moment, on very solid ground. We have cleaned out most of the junk in the basement, so to speak, and so our foundation is good, solid, not messy or full of old stuff we don't need. Know what I mean?
I've learned a lot in my 9 years being married to this man. I think we teach one another a lot and the best part of our relationship is our willingness to work hard at it. It hasn't always been easy, it ebbs and flows, but we always come back to one another and are willing to have those hard conversations that get us to a better place. Here is what I've learned in our nine years of marriage...
Stop keeping score and ask for what you need. We both need time to ourselves, my needs are not more important than his. They are equally important. The catch is, he won't know what I need to take care of myself unless I speak up. It's so easy to get mad when your needs aren't being met and it's also very easy to expect your spouse to know what your needs are without telling him/her. They don't. Ask for what you need...they may not always be able to give it to you, but you feel better just asking. This one I learn and forget periodically. Fortunately, there is always another opportunity to learn it again.
It's the little things that add up...for better and for worse. The little thoughtful things add up as do the thoughtless little things. I think part of this is not taking one another for granted, not getting too deep in the ruts of routine that you don't realize what the other person is contributing. My husband rubs my feet almost every night. He rubs my back, my legs, my arms when they are sore. He lets me curl up in his lap on the couch and fall asleep. I make dinner most every night. I try to make it easy on him when I am not home at meal time. He buys me treats when he goes out of town for work - a pastry, a bar of soap from the monastery...little things that remind me that he is thinking of me.
Don't expect your partner to change. What you love about your spouse and what drives you crazy is not likely to change over the years. All you can do is change how you feel about it, extend a little grace and learn to let go. Early in our relationship, I was what I like to call the dream crasher (as opposed to the dream catcher that stops the bad dreams, I crashed down the good ones, well any ones.) My husband likes to dream out loud, big ideas, big plans. It used to drive me crazy, I was always the one to slap him back to reality telling him why this or that would never work. How not fun is that? I never liked how I felt when I did it and I can just about guarantee he never liked when I did it either. Who cares? It's just talk. Why not let someone dream big, it wasn't as if he was spending our life savings on some possibility...he was just talking, thinking out loud. I've learned to just listen, even if I think it is an impossible idea, who knows, sometimes he surprises me and makes things happen.
My husband really does know me, sometimes better than I know myself. He often calls me out on my internal turmoil before I am ready to acknowledge it. I don't hide it well. If there is discord, he wants me to air it, not hold it in and let it fester. Nine times out of ten I find myself smiling just at the fact that he knows me well enough to notice.
Focus on the big picture. This morning we argued or disagreed – no voices were raised – about the stinky smell in our kitchen. He was/is convinced it is the kitchen sink. I KNOW it is the refrigerator. My daughter was asking what the smell was and I was telling her about it while my husband piped in from the other room disagreeing – again! I called back at him that he was wrong, I'm the one who spends all the time in the kitchen, I know where the smell is coming from. Who cares really! We both want the same end result, the stinky smell to go away. As I tore apart the refrigerator, cleaning the shelves and drawers, he helped me and didn't say one word about it being a waste of time. He even suggested I put a container of baking soda in there to absorb any smells. Argument over. Smell gone (I think).
The long and short of marriage is that it is hard work. You have to show up even when you don't feel like it. You have to make your marriage the priority, even when the kids are little and it's hard to. We have such an opportunity to imprint on our kids, to show them what healthy relationships look like, to fight fair, to ask for forgiveness and to admit when we are wrong, to extend grace when we'd rather be self-serving, to give when it would be easier to take, to laugh and play and truly enjoy one another's company.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Moderately Clean

I've been pondering these two pieces of yogic wisdom is the practice of cleanliness and the other is moderation. No one would ever accuse me of being a clean freak. I tend to live on the messier side. Keeping a tidy house is not my strength and I'm pretty okay with that. I try to maintain some sense of order around her, you have to with 5 people living in 2 bedrooms, but I don't get too ruffled by messes.
Despite that, I have been on this clean binge lately, kind of random stuff. Today I cleaned the driveway which means straightening up the construction materials pushed off to one side, organizing all the kid toys, sweeping up the debris - bits of leaves, sawdust, dirt, whatever the wind has blown into that vortex that never stays clean for long. Then, I moved on to the baby joggers, the single and the double. Ruby and I sprayed them down, soaped them up, and then rinsed them. They look like new. I was a bit disgusted by how dirty they actually were. Why don't I ever clean those things? That is probably the first time in 4 years that either one of them has gotten a decent scrub down. Next I hit the shower. I never clean my shower, not really never, but very rarely. I don't enjoy scrubbing it for starters and and I also don't like that feeling of being fumigated when the not so chemical free cleanser I am using becomes the air I am breathing. I don't know what has gotten in to me. Maybe it is because we are home so much and so I am more apt to notice it? I am not sure.
So, how does this tie in with yoga? Well, the first of the 5 attitudes we are to take toward ourselves (niyamas) is sauca, translated as cleanliness or purity. It is about keeping ourselves (body, thoughts, words, and actions) clean as well as our surroundings. The idea behind this is that when we are required or need to maintain constant care of something, we begin to recognize its impermanence and become unattached to it. This helps us to become more aware, more attentive to, that which does not change. Make sense? Kind of? In trying to deepen my own understanding of this and where my desire for clean right now comes from, I am thinking that it is perhaps a way I feel like I can maintain some order amidst the chaos. I can't control my children (I can only set healthy boundaries for them and be consistent, but they are their own little wild beings, with minds and thoughts of their own). I can't control my husband or my family or other people's happiness. All I really have control over is my own thoughts, where I let my mind run to and how I choose to respond in any given situation. Having less clutter, less mess, less chaos around frees me up to be more present in everything else because maybe then I am not distracted by it. Perhaps? This is just me thinking outloud, I'm not really sure about any of it.
So, the other piece, moderation, or what in yoga we call Bhramacarya. This is really about not going too crazy about anything (like cleaning). It is learning that what we do in excess, whether it be eating, talking on the phone, working, drinking, cleaning, sleeping, watching TV, whatever... all the excesses create suffering. And so if we can practice moderation in all areas, we are less likely to suffer. Moderation is about balance, not doing too much or too little, which is just another kind of excess.
I don't really know where I am going with all this, but I'm rattled today. I'm not sure why, not sure what I got too much of today or not enough of. What I am sure of, is that I have been impatient with my kids, feel restless, and can't pinpoint what it is I need. Maybe if I just sit still, stop doing for a bit, the answer will come to me, or the feeling will pass. They always do if I can just sit, be patient and wait. Sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Soundtrack of Life

It's funny, I started an entry quite some time ago with this same title. Music can be so powerful, in more ways than one. It can draw you quickly back to a time in life, maybe happy, maybe sad. It can inspire you, it can make you move, make you laugh, cry, dance, sing, step outside yourself and get loose. It's really a powerful form of art.
This weekend was full of music for me. I "facilitated" the yoga trance dance Friday night and carefully crafted a playlist with the hopes it would inspire people to move, get in touch with their inner rhythm, and set them free. High hopes? Maybe so, but I think everyone that participated (all 4 of us) felt moved by the rhythm and liberated by some wild movement. It's good for the spirit. We danced, we laughed, we played, we sweat like crazy and at the end of the night, my body was exhausted, my find felt energized, and my spirit was content. I came home, shared the experience with my husband and slept hard. I woke up Saturday morning fresh and a little sore, ready for 108 sun salutations (a yoga mala) at the park to honor the summer solstice. I had carefully crafted another playlist for this event.
Doing 108 sun salutations sounds like and is a lot. It is a meditation in movement. Every movement is matched to the breath, so you find yourself getting really connected to the breath. You watch your breath for about an hour and a half, which in and of itself, is a unique experience. The physical practice of doing that many sun salutations can seem a little overwhelming if you have never done it before, but we break it down into 4 rounds of 27, with a pause in between each one, and a playlist for each round that hopefully inspires, or distracts, or brings the participants back to the meaning of each round.
When I arrived to set up for the Yoga Mala, there was a gentleman sitting on a bench on the perimeter of the park. He looked like he had probably been up all night or had slept outside. He looked rough around the edges so to speak. As my fellow yoga teacher and I set things up, the man walked over to me and asked "What are you doing on my patio?" He wasn't abrasive, more inquisitive than anything. I said we were going to practice yoga in the park. He then proceeded to tell me that he was "an alcoholic, dope sick, 'Nam Vet, homeless, broke, pissed off and sick of being sick" and then he pulled out a dark bottle of something that he was holding underneath his coat and took a swig. I wrestled for a moment with what to say. I asked him if he had been to the mission for help. "F**K those guys." was his response. So, I didn't say anything else, but in my mind said, I will dedicate my practice to you today, I will pray for you. He stood there and watched me for a bit and then went over to the grass on the edge of where we were doing yoga and sat down.
We began our practice, moved through our four rounds of 27, music playing, my spirit was singing. The man laid down in the grass eventually and went to sleep, or passed out, hard to say. I prayed that the music, our positive energy lulled him to sleep and gave him some sense of peace he perhaps hadn't had for some time. Who knows? There were several songs, at least one in each of the 4 rounds, that as I listened to their lyrics, I couldn't help but feel like they were created for him, for that particular moment in time.
Round 1 is dedicated to the self, to personal growth, healing and transformation. "I'm a new soul, I came to this strange world hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take. But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear, finding myself making every possible mistake. See I'm a young soul in this very strange world hoping I could learn a bit 'bout what is true and fake. But why all this hate? Try to communicate finding trust and love is not always easy to make."
Round 2 is dedicated to friends and family, as well as people we have unresolved conflict with. I would venture to guess, I was not the only one praying for that guy during this round. "You think I'd leave you down when you're down on your knees? I wouldn't do that. When you're on the outside baby and you can't get in, I'll show you, you are so much better than that. When you're lost and you're alone and can't get back again, I will find you and I will bring you home." I don't consider myself a religious person, but I couldn't help but think Sade's lyrics were God speaking to him, a divine message.
Round 3 is a dedication to community, the world, causes you are passionate about. One Tribe Y' know the lyrics to this one, yes?
And last, but not least, the last round, dedicated to the divine, the Source. Macy Gray's Beauty in the World..."I know you're fed up..what's been going down...what's been messed up for us? There is beauty in the world, so much beauty in the world, always beauty in the world, so much beauty in the world."
I'm sure the guy in the park isn't still thinking about us doing our yoga in the park. But, I am still thinking about him, still praying for him to find a better way, a better path, his very own soundtrack of life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

We are well on our way in to summer vacation. Day 3. So far, so good. The days seem to have a rhythm of some sort (all 2 1/2 of them) and they pass much quicker than I would expect. I don't find myself in those lulls of the day, wondering what to do with myself. I blog, that is what I do with myself. (I'm chuckling to myself, because that is probably really what is happening, instead of wandering around the kitchen, shuffling messes from one place to another, I sit and write, like right now.) Back to summer, after my daughter got out of school, I made a commitment to myself to get out early every morning for a little time to myself. I'm hoping to be a regular walker by the end of the summer, my dog hopes so, too. It isn't that I didn't walk before, I did, big top circus style. I walked to and from school, pushing a double stroller, carrying a baby on my body, and digging my heels into the pavement to prevent from being pulled down the street by the dog I am "walking" on a leash. He does much better when it's just him and I, or maybe I just have a whole lot more patience for him then. I don't know, but regardless, my body has been telling me it needs to walk without all the hoopla, without all the pushing and pulling. So, I I have gotten up before 6 a.m. the past 3 days to have a little time to myself.
Oh, I get side tracked. I had a conversation the other day about taking time for yourself when you are a mom. I remember when I just had 1, not 3, just 1, and I thought the idea of finding time for myself every day, even 20 minutes, seemed LU-DI-CROUS. I did, I couldn't imagine it. I remember I tried it one week and failed miserably and then was just plain pissed off about the fact that it was something I couldn't see doing. Well, thank Goodness for life, because now I know I need it and I am not being selfish for taking it. Yesterday, I almost didn't take my morning walk, the baby woke up as I was leaving, she wasn't hungry, I had just fed her, she was just wide eyed and smiling. Her daddy needs his sleep and I thought he'd be grumpy if I left. And then it occurred to me, I might be grumpy if I don't leave. Lo and behold, I may have, at 36, finally figured out how to take care of myself, at least for today. Being human, it is quite possible I will unlearn this, and then have to relearn it again at some point. For now, I get it and that is a good thing.
Back to where I was going with this when I started....this morning, instead of walking, I went to a 5:30 a.m. yoga class outside. It was cold, the grass was kind of wet, my feet were freezing. I think I actually saw my breath. One toe in particular felt like it was suffering from frost bite (it was not THAT cold). It was the one with a toe ring, maybe it was the cold metal? Anyways, my mind was relatively quiet that early in the morning and as we made our way through a few sun salutations, all of a sudden the sun popped up over the horizon. My arms were stretched upwards toward the sky, my feet were firmly planted on the earth, and I could feel the sun's warmth after only a few seconds. It felt like a little slice of heaven.
Honoring the sun this morning, felt oh so symbolic. This sun that gives us life here on earth is easy to take for granted. It shows up everyday, sometimes it is more brilliant than others, but we know, every day the sun rises and sets. I couldn't help but see the parallel with our SELF (the self with a capital S, our truest deepest self). It shows up every day, even when we ignore it, don't give it proper care, don't honor its needs. Every time I come to the mat, for myself, not to teach, I am reminded of what a gift I am giving by taking time for myself. It makes me a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, more honest, more compassionate, more authentic.
My daughter is calling me outside, she wants to comes the sun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Take Off Your Cool

A couple of weeks ago in yoga class, I heard a song that immediately grabbed me. One line stuck out in particular, "Baby, take off your cool. I want to get to know you." By the end of class, I had forgotten the lyrics, but knew it had something to do with taking your cool off. I loved the idea of this. A few days later in my Meditations on the Mat book, there was a line from the movie Almost Famous about the one valuable thing in this world being the truth that we share when we "take off our cool." I heard the song again last week in class and managed to keep enough of the chorus in my memory that I googled "kick off your cool" "get rid of your cool" and "take off your cool" and eventually found it. It's a great song if you haven't heard it, Outkast sings it. I've listened to it over and over again. It's not very long and so I just keep playing it over. I can't get enough of it.
I've been studying about truth the last few days and how it relates to yoga. The first of the 8 Limbs of Yoga teaches us about right relationships with others, the yamas they are called, guidelines for how to BE our best self with others. The second of the 5 yamas is asteya - translated as truthfulness or honesty. And sometimes being honest means taking off our cool. I'm inspired by this idea. This blog is a place I feel safe taking off my cool, I can do it in a way that seems harmless. I can disclose almost as if I am witnessing myself from an outsider's perspective. I guess that is a good thing, I'm able to separate this human-ness from the essence of who I am. I am not the silly thoughts that spin through my head, round and round again. I am not this body of mine (which by the way, for today, I am not at odds with, okay maybe a little, but less than I was 2 weeks ago). I am not the words that come out of my mouth when I wish they wouldn't. The truth is I AM, we all are. And despite our tendencies, to try to be cool, really the coolest is when you take off your cool and the beauty of the being shines through. Is that enough cool for one post? I think so.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life and Death

I just stopped at the Red Box at Walgreens. I like that one because I don't have to get everyone out of the car to get a movie. A man was pushing his truck into the parking lot, he'd run out of gas. I could feel him looking my direction, I wasn't sure how I might help him. Me, in my flip flops, with my 3 kids in the car. As I waited for the movie to come out of the box, I looked up and 2 men were helping him push the truck into a parking spot. They asked him if he needed a ride somewhere. He said he just needed gas. They offered to take him to a nearby gas station, he hopped in with them. I smiled inside.
I am always amazed by people's generosity, goodness. I think we live in a society where we are inundated with messages about the dark side of humanity. We see it in the newspapers we read, lots of movies, all those crime shows, the interactions we witness when we are out in the world. It would be easy to get bogged down by all that, become pessimistic about where we are headed as a society. I don't like to admit that sometimes I am truly surprised when I witness something ordinarily kind, at times it even moves me to tears. It can be something as simple as someone being a considerate driver, allowing someone to pull out in front of them in traffic, or just the other day I saw a man help an elderly woman with a cane up on to the sidewalk after she got out of her car. It moves me.
I remember once in college I was riding the bus to campus, to a counseling appointment actually. There was a blind woman waiting for the bus at one of the stops along the route. A young man waiting at the stop, who obviously was not with the blind woman, helped her on the bus when she got out her walking stick and started feeling her way up the stairs. He asked first if he could help her, she nodded, and he held her arm and walked her up on to the bus and sat her down. As he made his way to the back of the bus, tears began to run down my cheeks. A few minutes later when I got off at my stop and proceeded to the waiting room for my appointment, I couldn't pull myself together. I shared the story with the counselor, he asked me why I thought it moved me so, I wasn't sure. He asked me if it was because I wish someone would help me when I feel alone and can't see the way. He hit the nail on the head (hence the need for the counseling...I did feel lost and alone). I think I cried for about a half hour. We all need our hand to be held every now and then, to be shown the path when it isn't clear in front of us, or when we are forging into unknown territory.
When I got home from Walgreen's and checked my email, there was a series of messages regarding dinner deliveries for my daughter's preschool teacher, Mary. Her husband is dying. He is at home in a hospital bed, being cared for by hospice, surrounded by family. Mary's husband has been sick for some time and many parents had offered to help. Mary is a kind, humble, gracious woman. As help was offered, she wanted to wait until they really needed it. It came time and she asked for the help. In the matter of 30 minutesof the call for being help sent out, the email, 4 or 5 women had already offered to deliver meals this week and as I read the emails I started to cry. These are all people with busy lives, families, and they don't hesitate to add a little something extra to their plate. They lighten someone else's load and give a grieving family a little comfort, a little soul food to sustain them as they witness the end of a precious life. People are good, they are generous, they are thoughtful. Sometimes we just have to look around us and notice.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not My Best Self

My husband is out of town this weekend, a little work and a little play. He needed it, some time away, some time to be something other than a father, husband, home owner, etc. He needed to feel a sense of freedom from all the responsibilities that stack up on his plate. It's not that he has more than me, I think they just weigh on us differently and his tolerance for stress isn't the same as mine. I sent him off yesterday with my blessings, not resentful in the least (honestly) that he was getting the heck out of here and that I was staying home with the kids. I have been presently aware of how much our attitude plays in to our experience and trying to live that out. It's so much more fun than the alternative.
I'm digressing from my topic, but that's okay. My time since he left has been full. My sister and my 3 beautiful nieces came for dinner last night. I don't get the opportunity to spend time with my sister often enough. In our busy lives, coming and going with our children, we don't get to sit down with a glass of wine and talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, too often. It felt good, easy, deep. I went to bed thankful for the sisterhood we have. This morning, the kids and I had breakfast with my mom, played outside and then spent the late afternoon at my niece's dance recital. We rounded out the evening with dinner together, my mom, my dad, my sister and her 3 girls, me and the kids. My bucket is full.
My husband just called to check in. We talked about our days, his work gig at a hippie fest (we used to be the hippies at the fest, not doing outreach and education, the times they are a changing). I shared about my family filled weekend, we chit chatted a bit. Toward the end of the conversation, I couldn't help myself and shared a bit of information about a friend of ours, a marriage going south. Why I did this, I do not know. My husband's reply was "Thanks for that Debbie Downer moment, honey." in a playful, yet honest way. He left to get away, it's not as if that information couldn't wait, no? We talked a little about the last time he was with this couple. We hung up shortly after. He's probably sitting in an oversized chair watching the World Cup game at his buddy's. He's probably not still processing this. I am, of course.
It brings me back to my yoga, always. The very first principal of yoga is non-harm. Maybe I am hard on myself, maybe I didn't want to know this information either and then shared it because I didn't know what else to do with it. I don't know. Maybe I find some pleasure in the gossip of it (I sincerely hope that is not it). All I know is, the moment it came out of my mouth, I wished I could take it back. I wished I could press the rewind button and redo. I can't. So, I can sit here and be mad at myself, or I can let this one go and know that I am not my best self when I share someone else's news, that isn't mine to share in the first place. I think I'll pick the latter and call it a night.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Homemade Life

I love to feed people. (Funny that I don't love to host parties, I would not even say I like to host parties, since usually parties involve food). Lots of people have written about this subject, food, what we eat, where it comes from, etc. The book I am currently reading "Homemade Life" is all about the stories of particular recipes. Just as every life is a story waiting to be told, every meal should be, too. Unfortunately, in our fast food world that is not always the case, BUT, wouldn't it be great if it was. We'd all be a little healthier for it, I'm sure.
After pulling a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and cleaning my food processor from a batch of pesto this morning, I pulled a loaf of bread out of the fridge to make 5 sandwiches. I don't typically feed 5 for lunch, but on Wednesdays my Dad comes over for lunch and we have a friend working on our basement remodel and Sean was coming home for lunch, add Willis and I and you have 5 sandwiches. All 5 were a little bit different, Willis didn't want meat on his, my Dad likes basil, Sean likes pickles, I don't like mustard, etc....and as I smiled preparing them, I pondered why there is so much joy in feeding people. All I can come to is that it feels like some offering, some gift with no expectation of something in return, and truly aren't those the best gifts to give. It is this basic need we all have, to be fed, in more ways than one...through our bellies, our hearts, our minds, our spirits....and somehow when I feed people, it feels like giving them a little bit of soul food. I suppose the other piece of this is the opportunity to sit with people and share, a meal, a story, your day.
Often times when I am nursing my daughter, I watch her little body relax, her eyes close and feel her breath start to deepen. Something about food, from the time we are little, must be a source of comfort. Maybe it's the full belly, maybe it's the being together, whatever it is, I'll keep feeding those I can, enjoying my homemade life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Everybody needs a Tribe

One Tribe....however many months ago I heard that Black Eyed Peas song on a Coca Cola commercial, it spoke to me. I've played it in my yoga classes, danced around my living room to it, sang it at the top of my lungs while driving around with my kids in the car and contemplated why I keep coming back to the lyrics. I love it. I love the rhythm, but I think most of all I love the message.
Two weekends ago, our family made a 3 1/2 hour journey north to spend the weekend with my sister in law and celebrate her daughter/my niece's 6th birthday. My sister-in-law's boyfriend, who happens to be a college buddy of my husband, lives there and so we descended upon his bachelorhood with our 2 families, 5 kids in all, to play for a couple of days. We left Yakima in a good space. Getting ready to go on our car trips with 3 kids under the age of 5 is not always a stress-less experience. Sometimes, my husband and I get snappy at each other, short with the kids as we are trying to pack, or plop them in front of the television so we can get it all together, and that is never a good way to start 3 hours in the car. But, this time, we did something right, got out the door all smiling and away we went. About 20 minutes into the car ride my 3 year old son throws up, in the back of our "bad ass minivan". I climb back there just as I see something not good is about to happen and it begins. I have nothing to catch it in but my hands (true love of a mother, who else would I catch puke for?) and am shouting to my husband that we will have to stop and I need help. It just keeps coming and its all over him and the car seat. Yuck. So much for our great start to the trip. We pull off on the side of the road and I am almost laughing at the comedy of it all, Ruby has her pillow over her head looking out the window, away from barf boy and she knows if she sees or smells it she will be next in line. A strong stomach is not one of her gifts. Baby Elsie is asleep, I think, I can't quite remember. I am using the better part of the a pack of baby wipes, thank God for baby wipes, trying to clean Will up as he cries saying "I'm all yucky." Poor boy. Cars and semi-trucks are speeding past us at 75 mph and I'm scared a little, feel like we are not in the safest of locations. (By the way, at this point, this post has nothing to do with a tribe, just a funny little tidbit about the journey. I'll get back to the tribe, I promise.) Willis sleeps for the remainder of the trip, we don't even stop once. Ruby listens to music and we all take a deep sigh, knowing something better is waiting for us at the end of the road.
We arrive north, Okanogan, to be exact. We have a great host and spend Saturday recovering from our drive and Sunday morning preparing for the party that afternoon. 3 p.m. rolls around and here is where the tribe comes sister-in-law's boyfriend has a tribe up north, and they all come for the birthday party. By the end of the evening, I was struck by how comfortable I felt with these people, most of whom I had just met, how easy in my skin I felt with strangers. And so true to form, I wrote about it.
What is a tribe? A group of people who share a common history, love each other, watch out for each other, help each other out, love on one another's kids and set healthy boundaries for them as well, eat together, play together, laugh together and remind each other what it feels like to be living, being without doing. I loved it. Everybody needs a tribe. It gives us a sense of belonging, accountability, guidance when we need it, support, a sense that we are not alone. I think tribes make us better people. And the beauty of it is that our tribes are really all one. If someone in my tribe is part of your tribe, than we are part of the same tribe, too, because we are part of that mutual friends' tribe and pretty soon there is no your tribe, my tribe. We are all just one. At least in my optimistic happy day, we can be all one.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

People often ask me "How are you doing? Is it crazy with 3 children?" yes and yes. I am DOING a lot these days, life is full and busy, a bit crazy most days, but in the bigger scheme of things I really wouldn't have it any other way. The days pass quickly, the nights even quicker, they seem to have gotten shorter since Elsie was born.
When I talk about life with 3, I inevitably share about the yin and yang of Willis, the middle child. He is sweet as can be with his little sister, adores her...... and he is spicy as can be with his big sister, enjoys pushing her buttons and her, literally. Over the course of many such conversations, it has struck me about what a gift it is to have siblings. I think most of us with siblings take it for granted that our parents gave us this gift. We have known them for most, if not all of our life, they have a similar experience growing up, and we probably drove our parents mad with our squabbling at various times.
I've been struck lately by what Willis is learning by having a big sister. He is constantly being asked to reflect on his actions (most recently kicking his sister when she wouldn't hand over something he wanted) and talk about what might have been a better choice. He's getting good about knowing what he should have done, we haven't mastered the impulse control yet. Ruby never needed this teaching, but I'm guessing that whether or not Willis had a big sister, he'd have to learn this lesson. It's just a part of the fabric he is woven from, he gets physical when he experiences what we would call a negative emotion...anger, frustration, pain, injustice...he immediately starts punching, kicking, hitting, or shoving. He can't help himself, well he can, really, but he hasn't just quite figured out how to think about it first and stop himself. He will. He's getting LOTS of practice. Elsie, on the other hand, seems to bring out the tenderness in him. He is gentle, sweet, tender with her.
For Ruby, having a little brother had taught her great negotiation and persuasion skills. She knows how he works and figures out ahead of time what might set him off, so she finds a way around his anger to get what she wants. A skill that will serve her well in life, getting her where she wants to go. She also gets to try out being a leader, teaching him, encouraging him, cheer leading for him. She's more excited about his birthday than he is. She also is learning about letting go, not attaching to prior hurts. If she didn't, I'm quite convinced, she and Willis would not be on speaking terms.
Then there is Elsie, the baby. Who knows what she is learning in the chaos and beauty of the other 2. She is loved, cherished, adored. Someone is always in her space, smiling at her, loving on her, laughing at her. She will have great self-esteem, I hope, and always feel like this amazing gift to us all that she is, well loved and treasured.
I'd like to think that a piece of what shaped me into who I am today is my siblings, those simple, yet complicated bonds formed so early on. We share in our struggles, our successes, our sorrows, our celebrations. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us each other.

the Icing on the Cake

My son turns 3 tomorrow. Several weeks ago when we asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said "I want to have a baseball party." A baseball party is only complete with baseball cupcakes, no?
I come from a family of amazing cake makers. I grew up sitting at the dining room table with my mom well after my bedtime, watching her, and sometimes helping a little, frost cakes. She did amazing replicas of Holly Hobby, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney characters I can't remember and the fondest part of those memories was the quiet of the house and the sweetness of squirting the frosting bag in my mouth when she was done. My sister carried on the tradition. She even made a business out of it for awhile. She crafts beautiful creations that look as much like artwork as something edible...elaborate sea life scenes, beaches, animals. If I know my sister, she would not describe herself as artistic, but she is, most definitely, when it comes to cake decorating. Not only do they look beautiful, but they taste exquisite, too.
I'm a one pan kind of dinner cooker and not particularly "in to" cake decorating, I tend to lean towards the side of simplicity. cupcakes I can do. As I pondered what I could do to go with the theme, what could be easier than decorating the tops of cupcakes like baseballs. All that is required is the red stitching, one frosting bag cake decorating, right up my alley. Until yesterday, I did not own a frosting bag or a frosting tip. I went to make copies yesterday and a kitchen shop is close by so I wandered over and bought myself the necessities. I left with a huge smile on my face, feeling like I had just experienced some great rite of passage. I felt like I was joining the Frosting Club of mother's, like life just put the icing on my cake.
You never know, when my 5 year old is 13, she just may find herself sitting with me at the kitchen table, way past bedtime, squeezing the frosting bag into her own sweet little mouth! I hope so.