Tuesday, November 26

3 practices for a sane & smooth Thanksgiving (redux)

We're just a couple of days away from Thanksgiving here in the US, and so I thought I would re-post what I shared last year: my best practices for having a Thanksgiving day that leaves you feeling grateful and pleasantly full, instead of cranky and depleted. My husband and I usually host at our house, and we're ahead of the game this year as we've already got the fridge deep-cleaned. This weekend I made some pastry dough and homemade veggie stock and I'm looking forward to a long day of cooking and eating and enjoying family come Thursday. When I follow the following steps, cooking can be a deeply grounding and nourishing experience, even before I've put a morsel of food in my mouth. I hope it will be the same for you. Happy Thanksgiving! I am deeply grateful for you, for taking the time to stop by and read my words. It means so much.

1. Start with a good breakfast.  This falls into the "do as I say, not as I do" category of advice. Inevitably, I get excited about what needs to get done, jump in, and all too soon find myself famished and spent, a state that can be hard to recover from. Next time I hold a big gathering at home, when I am planning my menu, I will also plan what yummy, sustaining thing I'll be having for breakfast that morning, to ensure that I start the day fueled up and ready for the long haul.

2. Begin with a clean kitchen. I can't stress this enough. The morning of the big day, my husband usually does all the dishes, as well as clears all the old, dead leftovers from the back of the fridge. (Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.) This ensures that a) we have a fresh and clean space to begin with; b) all our dishes are ready for prepping and serving food; c) we have adequate receptacles and space to hold those all-too-important leftovers. I'm always amazed what a big difference that makes, both to the smooth running of the day, and to help with a relatively painless clean-up after all is said and done.

3. Take a yoga break.  Usually, once either the stuffing or the roasted root vegetables are in the oven, I sneak away for 20-30 minutes to take a "yoga nap." This means either this pose or this pose, an eye pillow, and earplugs. Yesterday, since I am pregnant and a day in the kitchen inevitably takes its toll on my low back, I also did parts of this sequence (#17). (Yay for not being pregnant this year!) This is the very best advice I can offer you: take some time out to rest and refill your well sometime in your big prepping day. Sure, you could fold napkins or iron linens or sweep the floor instead, but I promise you that your guests will notice your shining, rested countenance much, much more than they will your shining kitchen faucet. You will be able to be more present with your guests and actually enjoy their company, and isn't it what the big day is all about?

BONUS! If you are still in need of some menu inspiration, here are a few roundups of recipes from my favorite food bloggers. Bon appetit!

I'm curious: do you have any big-day tricks you can share? What are your plans for this Turkey Day? Are you inspired to incorporate a new self-care routine into your to-do list? I'd love for you to share how it went!

Monday, November 11

I dared

Nine years ago today, I dared to sent an email.

It was 2004. Blogs were barely blogs back then--remember when we had to do all of our own HTML? the days before drag-and-drop web design? Online dating was in its infancy, too, and I, whom my friend Matthew liked to call a Luddite, was weary of both. But it was this friend Matthew who urged me to start a blog and, almost in the same breath, told me he's found the perfect guy for me.

He was a poet and a philosophy major and liked the same bands as us and had the same sense of humor. He lived in Texas and Matthew had met him on a message board.

I'm sorry I said, but Internet guy from Texas? That is so not happening.

Still I started a blog, and checked out this guy's blog , and true he was funny and deeply intelligent and dude could write. It was clear to me that if we'd lived in the same city, this would be someone I would try to date. But he was still the Internet guy and he was still from Texas. So no.

Many months passed.

One day, after a conversation with a work friend who was having great luck dating boys she'd met on Lavalife (!), I decided to check out the site.

None of the boys could spell or punctuate properly. No dice.

But then I reasoned with myself: if I was now desperate enough to scroll through Lavalife to try to find a love interest, couldn't I maybe give this Texas Internet guy a try? I knew at least he could write.

So I sent Daniel an email. The subject line was Belated Hey. This wasn't the first email exchange we'd had--we'd struck up a small correspondance via our blogs--but this is the email that started it all. The email I sent thinking, What if? Thinking, What the hell. Today is Rememberance/Veteran's Day, but in our household, it is referred to as Belated Hey Day.

I remember the email as being just barely flirtatious, and containing a Czeslaw Milosz poem. His email back was mildly flirtatious, and included another Milosz poem. And we were off.

This was before Skype, before Instagram. I wasn't even on Facebook, didn't have a cell phone. I don't think we ever did instant messaging. I think I had dial-up Internet. It was, basically, the dark ages.

I lived in an adorable, uninsulated little cottage overlooking a horse paddock and a pond under pines on Vancouver Island. The water stank with sulphur. It was one of the happiest and loneliest times of my life.

Over one short month, we wrote breathlessly and fell in love.

On my birthday (December 16th) we decided we were "a couple," whatever that means when you've never met in person and live 1,900 miles from each other.

Just after Christmas, we said I love you.

On March 12th, he walked off a ferry and we embraced for the first time. Later that day, we kissed.

Less than a week later we were engaged. We got married on August 8th, 2005.

We have not lived a single day since in which we didn't delight in each other. We have a home and two beautiful boys. We have a love and friendship stronger, deeper, and more beautiful than anything I could've wished for.

I"m still stunned and grateful we ever managed to find our way to each other. I can't imagine my life without him in it. I don't want to.

And all because I dared to take a chance on the Internet guy from Texas.

Isn't technology great???

Tuesday, November 5

seasons change

This post has been lingering in my draft folder for over a month and it speaks of a weather change that occurred weeks ago. But this is NaBloPoMo, and it's late, and I'm tired, and it fits in with today's prompt, and hey! Here's a cute picture of Silas eating a pumpkin. Enjoy!

We got the most wonderful gift here in Central Texas this past weekend: a cold front.

Summers here are so terribly, terribly hot, and drought conditions have prevailed over the last several years. After months of temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, and hardly a drop of rain, by late August it starts to feel like cool, crisp days will never return. Then, all of a sudden, a day like last Friday comes. It pours hard and steady over an entire day, and instead of the usual post-rain humidity,

So this weekend found us doing things we hadn't, couldn't have done in a long, long while: sitting outside, mowing the lawn, jumping in puddles. Opening doors and windows and shutting off the AC. It's suddenly, eerily quiet in our home, but it also feels larger, more open. Nearly every Central Texan in my Facebook feed glories in the freshness of these days. On Sunday morning, I even pulled on some socks. SOCKS! I hadn't worn socks in probably six months.

All of a sudden, possibilities open up: we could go for walks. We can play outside. We can enjoy a dinner out under the trees with the kids and be perfectly comfortable and happy. Today I had lunch outside, sitting on the shaded grass in a park. You get this feeling that life from here on out will be different and--dare we hope?--better.

It all makes me think that parenting, like weather, cycles through its seasons. When our babies are small or when our toddlers are learning about boundaries by testing them, it may feel as hot and oppressive as July in Texas--and as endless. The hope of September and October and pumpkin spice lattes feels so distant as to be impossible. It's hard to remember that things can, in fact, change overnight. Parenting our first child, we are slow to learn this. But that is one of the great gifts of a second baby: this time, we know how quickly things can change. Our little one's tooth pierces through the painful gum, or that elusive roll-over maneuver is finally achieved, and suddenly he sleeps through the night. (For a while, anyway.) There comes the day when you discover you no longer need the Ergo infant insert and suddenly wearing baby feels a whole lot lighter and easier. You notice the 3-month clothes hardly fit anymore and realize you're well on your way to your baby's first half-birthday.

In these extreme seasons, in weather as in parenting, it may feel as though the changes are very slow in coming. But when they do come--because they do, always and inexorably, come--it's so surprising and refreshing to find ourselves on the other side of what feels like it happened overnight.

Just a reminder--for me, for you--that whatever season you might be finding yourself in, you can trust that changes will come, that nothing is static, that relief is on its way just as sure as the next cool blowing breeze.

Monday, November 4

happiness is...

Inspired by Amanda, on a soft morning after a hard night, when my parents took the boys to daycare and I got to stay home in PJs.

:: the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, hot & foamy, of my morning cup of coffee ::

:: a quiet house on a gray morning ::

:: the freedom and utter luxury of crawling back into bed ::

:: finding my perfect breakfast: fluffy eggs with butter and a splash of cream, spinach, avo, spicy chimichurri sauce, with grapefruit juice ::

:: more coffee, and poetry ::

:: a well-stocked and tidy fridge, clean kitchen counter & sink ::

:: reading a book I really like, with another one waiting in the wings ::

:: knitting again ::

:: soup & stew season ::

:: sitting for meditation in the morning ::

first thing I see

The end of the day comes, once again pinned under a nursing baby and I think, I have to blog, then I think, I don't think I took a single picture today. So often the days whizz by, not without beauty or joy, but their sheer force and speed carries me along without pause, and the small moments go not necessarily unobserved but often unrecorded. There she was though, in my camera roll, little Scout and her morning pause, looking out. A shot taken, likely, when I was also pinned under a nursing baby. And soon it was too late, I was too tired, posting didn't happen. Such is the nature of things these days.

Playing along with Amanda and Karen.

Saturday, November 2

be present

I collect them like stones, like pretty shells carried back from the beach. They are mantras, manifestos, codes of honor, words to live by.

To pay attention: that is our endless and proper work.   -Mary Oliver

These are our few live seasons. Let us live them, as we can, in the present.  -Annie Dillard

You can only love the life you wake up to.  -Karen Maezen Miller

These are my darlings, my dearest. The stones I've worried smooth from fingering, hand in pocket, again and again. I gather comfort from their meaning. They all whisper the same thing.

Wake up. Be here. Be now. Be present.

It's so simple. Where else would I be? It's the hardest thing. I'm hard-wired to run away, my thoughts like wild horses carrying me far and fast. I reject, push away, dig in my heels, protest.

Anything but here, now. This chaos. This energy I haven't chosen. This uncomfortable feeling. This exhaustion. This fear that I am not, will never be enough. These boys growing up too fast and not nearly fast enough. This boredom.

But, also, precisely: this. This moment. This feeling. This breath. This body. This embrace. This mess.

If I learn to chose it, truly and fully, I gain everything.

And so I practice, like a little girl with her scales, saying yes. Small yeses that will grow into big yeses. Embracing the moment, just as it is. Accepting myself, just as I am.

Learning. To be present. For my life.

Learning to choose my life. Over and over again. Every day.

My endless, proper work.

Playing along with Amanda's November Prompt-A-Day.

Friday, November 1

and so, to begin

Months sneak up on me. We were 10 days into October before I realized I hadn't turned the page on my Nikki McClure calendar. My baby boy is almost six months. Time escapes my fingers like so much sand, even as each minute of each day slithers slow as molasses. And here we are. November.

I hadn't considered jumping on board with NaBloPoMo until about an hour ago. But Karen wrote about it. Andrea wrote about it. My dearest Amanda has drawn up a lovely list of prompts for each day. And I had such an amazing experience playing along with Christina this summer, showing up to write a paragraph each day. So, why the hell not. November--here we go. Once a day.

The truth is I can use something like this right about now. A little bit of structure. A little bit of motivation. Something entirely mine, and at the same time something that is bigger than me. The truth is there isn't a single piece of my life that doesn't feel like a total mess right now, and I don't know which end to first pick out of the tangle and begin to unravel. This is a good a place as any to start.

To show up. Daily. Fully. To tell the truth. More than likely with Lorde loud in my headphones, ignoring the chaos all around. Making space for the order of letter, black on white, lined up, making words, making sentences. Making sense out of these days. This life of mine. Making it mine.