So sorry...

Have you ever noticed how much we apologize to each other? For missing your call or not calling back or not cleaning the kitchen?

I went to a woman's house this morning - a new mom I met at the playground. Her house is amazing and beautiful and big and dreamy and the first thing she said as we walked in through the back door was "I'm sorry - I haven't cleaned up the morning mess yet." I suppose her "apology" caught me so off guard because first, there was no mess that needed any sort of apology and second, it was in German and it was as if I didn't fully comprehend its meaning. We toss those words around so freely in the English language - all of a sudden in another language it sounded so severe.

It stayed with me all day. It stayed with me as a realized how many times I apologize for not immediately responding to someone's voice mail and how many times I get messages from other moms apologizing for not responding faster to mine. So we are all so sorry for so many things.

And then it made me think of my first boyfriend in high-school. He was a senior and I was a freshman and he was a musician and a thespian and had an earring and drove this really old school car and and I just thought he was really grand. I still do. He once told me that I said sorry too much. And that it wasn't necessary. 90% of the conversations I had in high school have fallen into the forgotten oasis part of my brain, but this one never did.

So I am going to stop apologizing, just like that, for all the little things. I will be better at being on time. I will be better at giving a realistic time frame. I will allow the kitchen to be messy because instead I played trucks on the floor with an 18 month old who totally doesn't care that the dishes aren't done.

And I will save, "I'm sorry" for when I really need it. And then, it might just mean something again.



It's Friday night. And I found myself cleaning the kitchen just now, immersed in the reality of life's fragility.

In the background my husband was talking to a friend whose mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and it could be days or weeks or months. And in my head the thoughts of the earlier conversation with my own mom spun thoughts of sadness as she is now faced with unexpectedly having to re-examine her own purpose and work life, at the age of 60.

And it made me think of all of the young people in the city tonight, at some bar, laughing and hoping and looking and searching and maybe drinking too much.

And it made me think of the nugget in his bed who has not yet had his heart broken or been disappointed by someone he loves.

And as I wiped up the soggy Cheerio that I had missed this morning and rhythmically swept the floor of all the dust and dirt from the last few days, I realized that this was all just part of it. Part of life. Part of being a human being. Letting go, being sad, celebrating on a Friday night, consoling a friend and sweeping up mushy Cheerios.


Simplifying parenthood

Tonight we had a mini-date night. I say mini because 90% was listening to a lecture about parenting and 10% was about eating dinner beforehand and enjoying a beer without one of us having to attend to a squirming and curious 18 month old.

We had the pleasure of listening to Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting. And it was one of those talks where I found myself nodding in agreement, secretly praising ourselves for the things we already do and creating the "to do" list for things we could greatly improve. My new iphone was from that minute totally off limits to the nugget - no matter how darling it is to see him watching Pippi in German on my Utube app.

Parenthood is not simple, nor is childhood, but Payne's perspective is that we add complexity that is not necessary and potentially even hazardous to the mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development of our children. This is not new information to me - but scientific proof was.

A few take-aways from the evening:

1. We are raising economic units instead of creative beings
In the name of "assuring our children's later success in life" we are over-scheduling, over-taxing, over-demanding and over-stimulating our children, which in turn is leading to a chronic low grade level of stress that is becoming the new "normal". This new state is resulting in physical, emotional and mental imbalance that presents in everything from ADHD, hyperactivity, stomach ulcers in pre-schoolers, vomiting during school testing and so on.

2. Screen usage (TV and computers) has been proven to stunt the development of children's brains - most importantly the ability to understand cause and affect. Children under 3 should have NO time in front of a screen - if you can make it to age 6 without "screen time" even better.

3. We don't let our children be bored. After 20 minutes of being bored, the most amazing creativity begins to emerge. His suggestion, you have to be more boring than their boredom. The benefit for you: you actually get to read a magazine.

4. "I just turned 50" he said, "I am done being nice." I took this to mean that he is done sugar-coating his message or molding it to be less confronting. TV is bad, less is better, there is a time for chaos and mess and wild and noise and accomplishment and tests, but it has to be balanced with calm and quiet and un-stimulating. And this needs to happen now.

50+ moms and a handful of dads listened to his suggestions on how to simplify and both of us walked away saying that this was absolutely worthwhile and inspiring. And more than that, it was a framework for supporting what we have started on our own, based on an experience in a Thai monastery - way before we ever had a child of our own.

We have reached a tipping point he said and now things have to change.


Sleep well

In need of a new mattress. Really, any recommendations?


Toasting pine nuts

There is no better way to practice being in the present moment than by toasting pine nuts. I suppose some spiritual teachers would disagree with me on the "no better way" part but I find it to be one of those mundane tasks that can serve a divinely important role in the midst of dinner cooking mayhem.

You see, if you try to do something else while you are toasting pine nuts, they will burn.

So in our house, when we make our favorite kale salad, the pine nut toasting has become mindfulness practice. Every time.

And for some reason today, I felt in needed to pass it along - the mindfulness and the recipe.

Here you are. Bon appetit!

Our favorite kale salad
Recipe from our friend Trudy Schafer of The Healing Hearth who fed our wedding guests and to whom I am so very grateful

1 bunch kale
1/2 cup pine nuts
6 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 cup olive oil (or more if needed)
salt + pepper to taste

Wash kale thoroughly and pat or skin dry. Julienne into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.

Toast pine nuts in a non-stick skillet until golden brown and set aside.

Chop sun-dried tomatoes and set aside.

Place lemon juice in a small bowl, add agave nectar, slowly whisk in olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Add dressing to chopped kale, toss together. Add sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts to the top.


A few of my added thoughts:
Kale is raw - not cooked or steamed! Just want to clarify!
Safeway carries sun-dried tomatoes already julienned - one step easier for busy moms.
I tend to use the juice of almost 2 lemons - guess it depends on the size of the lemon.
I LOVE the salad the next day - after the kale as been marinating in the dressing - so don't worry if you don't finish it all. I have even been known to eat it for breakfast!


Under siege

I tried to find an image to go with this post, but when I typed under siege into Google Images, I was bombarded with images of either Steven Seagal's not so great movie series or bloody, violent images of war, both real and animated in computer war games.

So I passed.

Choosing one of those images would have been a bit self-indulgent and totally exaggerated for simply explaining that we have a sick and cranky baby. A mama-meltdown at the kitchen sink after a day of enduring whining and no-sleep and clear toddler unhappiness and frustration, prompted my husband to utter the following sentence:

"We're under siege. And when that happens, all rules are off."

He proceded to send me on my way for some "fresh air" and then he pulled out all the old "getting the nugget to sleep" tricks - the Itsy Bitsy Spider, bouncing, and lying on the floor next to his crib. And whatever he did, it worked. And then he was back from 7-11 with chocolate within minutes. And then there was some sort of something to watch instantly on Netflix.

In the end, just another lesson: when you are bombarded by an unknown foreign agent, assess the situation, contain the damage and keep calm. And then be really kind to yourself.


Buying the sliced cheese

{written april 18th, 2009 at maus + nugget, re-posted today because i needed to be reminded}

Somewhere in between seasonal/local/organic and the yellow can of Velveeta spray cheese is the best that I can do.

Somewhere between 8 glasses of water and total dehydration is the best that I can do.

Somewhere between 30 minutes of meditation a day or an extra 30 minutes of sleep is the best that I can do.

This new role as mother is making me hyper aware of that sweet spot that lies in between the polar opposites - that sweet spot that I will call the "best that I can do" for it is only with total exhaustion that one realizes the insanity that we drive ourselves to - the insanity of perfection, of getting it right, or doing the noble and righteous thing. When really, I can only do the best that I can do.

The gracious women of my women's circle have been delivering food since the nugget arrived, each taking a turn to visit and gift us with delicious morsels. What stood out were these words that prefaced a handful of the deliveries: "I am so sorry - it's not homemade. I bought it, okay." spoken with a sheepish tone of resignation and perhaps a bit of guilt. But why? We put this pressure on ourselves to work hard and then still somehow find time to prepare a roast and scalloped potatoes.

So women, we have loved the quinoa chili, the chinese chicken salad, the sliced cheese and cold-cuts for sandwhiches, the stuffed peppers from Whole Foods and we love you for loving us enough to take care of us. For in the end, it is all about the time and energy you give to others - not the ingredients.

As my friend Jen said today - "I know why moms buy pre-sliced cheese - because they don't have the time or the free hand to actually cut it".

So women, by kind to yourselves, give yourselves a break and buy the sliced cheese.


First, a Peony - a softly pink, coconut sweet cocktail - while I waited for the women to arrive.

Second, talking talking talking with news of a joyous pregnancy and a French vacation and a job offer and a new marriage and all the other things that bubble to the surface when our group of 7 sit down anywhere.

Third, really really tasty Indian brunch.

Fourth, 2 hours of Julia eating, traveling, loving, losing, praying, glowing, laughing, meditating and finding. The movie was delightful and real - as real as a 2.5 hour Hollywood film can be about a woman who moves through pain and loss to find herself. No it was not the book - it couldn't be but it was lovely reminder on a Sunday afternoon, with my favorite lady friends, to walk my path, speak my truth and somehow return to Bali as soon as I can. I left wondering why we had ever left Ubud in the first place.


Embracing Eeyore

Its been an outrageously gloomy summer here in Northern California. No surprise for San Francisco - summer tends to be the foggiest and coldest part of the year, but we left the city and moved north, to the sun. And there hasn't been any, all summer.

And when I wake up to a freezing cold house and the view of damp drizzly fog out of every window, I want nothing more than to crawl straight back in bed and stay there, all day. And then when I have to get dressed and put on jeans and layers and a fleece and socks, I get cranky and frustrated and irritated and annoyed and gloomy and tired. And then that moods sinks into my body, my mind stays foggy and unclear and I have to somehow get it together to go downstairs to be a toddler's mom and not-so-affected-by-weather man's wife.

I am easily prone to depression, though I have never been properly diagnosed. It has appeared in my life when one phase has ended and another is yet to begin - like after college graduation and then again after graduating from my master's program. It has always involved my sense of purpose, or I suppose lack of purpose or uncertainty of purpose. For me becoming a mother is and was very connected to my sense of purpose as well - hence the reality that I have been feeling a bit gloomy. It is no surprise that depression appears so easily in the first year of motherhood - from sleep deprivation to unbalanced hormones to unmet expectations to loss or change of purpose to isolation, it blows me away that post-partum depression is still such a taboo and timid topic.

I decided that feeling a bit like Eeyore is okay. And I realized that the gloomy-doomyness can creep in at anytime - so instead of fearing it or getting caught up in it this time, I asked some questions, bought some hormone balancing formula at my local health food store, started to move my body, asked for a little help and waited. Waited for the sun to shine again.

And guess what, it did.


An unexpected leap

I thought the wonder weeks had stopped. For some reason, when he turned one, I naively thought the developmental leaps would some how be less severe, at least until we hit the "terrible twos". How wrong was I.

I am tired, again. And I am impatient and easy irritable. And instead of realizing that we might be in one of those "wonder weeks" as the book by the same name so nicely explains, I lament and roll my eyes and snap at the two men I live with, constantly. One is an adult and sort of just takes it, the other is under 2 feet tall and just looks up at me with big round blue eyes, in utter confusion.

I am back to getting nothing done, back to hearing the high-pitched dolphin squeaks any time he is not sleeping and back to feeling utterly doubtful about my parenting skills. None of my old solutions work, he seems devastatingly unsatisfied all the time and everything is taking 4x as long as it used to. And the only thing that I can do, is really GET that everything changes all the time - and the nugget is here to make sure that I remember that. And if I have to stop what I am doing and show him how the dishwasher works and let him touch all the knobs, than that is what I have to do. But my lord that is frustrating.

I think the hardest part about the self-reflection that comes out of parenting is that I am realizing that I am not that patient of a person, that I am easily bored with monotonous details and tasks and how easily I can feel resentment - when I am not able to do something for me. Not for the house, not for my marriage, not for the baby - but for me. And all of that is fueling an internal rage that I don't know how to deal with.

And then last night, when we got home from Monday night meditation at Spirit Rock, I let myself read a few blogs and there it was: the gem of wisdom that perhaps I was seeking at tonight's sitting but did not find. It's from Stacy at Mama-Om. I read each word. And at the end I realized why....because she asked herself the same question that I need to be asking myself now:

What would it be like to have an open heart right now?

And right at that moment, I could feel a crack in the armor around my heart. Clearly, the nugget, my marriage and I need this question. Everyday, every moment, until this wonder week subsides. And then maybe for the next 35 years as well.

For more on the book The Wonder Weeks
click here


Eat breakfast

ceramics by Dinosaur Designs

I love this. I love how it looks. I love how I think it tastes. I love the simplicity. Now if only my breakfast table could look like this every morning?

Since I have to start somewhere with my meal planning strategy, I am starting at the beginning: how we start our day.

And when I really looked at what we eat for breakfast and how we eat it, I realized that its not really the way I want it to be. So, breakfast planning it is.

Do you eat breakfast? Do you eat it in the car in between stop lights? Do you drink it as a Double Tall Half something or rather?

If you do eat breakfast at home, in a somewhat calm manner, do you like where you eat breakfast? Is it calm and beautiful?

This week, think about how you start every day. Perhaps there is a way to infuse just a bit of calmness and beauty early in the morning, that might just carry you all the way through. Well, at least until lunch time. I'll be doing the same.


Starting from scratch

There are about a million other things that I would rather do than sit here and figure out how I am supposed to feed my family healthy meals. The issue is that I don't like to cook, and no matter what I do to try and convince myself that it brings me joy, it doesn't. It never has.

And besides it not bringing me joy, my feelings about it are complicated because:

1. I grew up in a family with a dad who loved to cook. Its what he did and that's what I saw. Learning about food as nourishment and enjoyment came from my dad, not my mom.

2. I married a man who doesn't like to cook, at all. He makes a mean set of German pfannekuchen on Sunday mornings and his grilled ribs (as per his mom's recipe) are out of this world, but that happens almost never.

3. I am a mom who is at home, raising a toddler. At some point "stay-at-homeness" meant being responsible for food shopping and cooking. Makes sense, I suppose. And I suppose it could be redefined, but in our case, it simply comes with the job description.

4. I have a Masters Degree in Holistic Health Education. I know about Ayurveda and Celiac Disease and wheat allergies and the healing properties of food and food as medicine and sustainability and GMO's and so on. So I can't just buy Kraft MacNCheese in a box and feel good about it.

3. Cooking doesn't come naturally, so I don't feel confident and I get easily frustrated. And I am a perfectionist and if I can't do it perfectly the first time, I don't want to do it at all. I know, place for growth - only that its been a year+ of personal growth and it would be really grand to do something that comes easily to me and makes me feel outrageously successful.

4. Cooking is work for me, every time. And duty. And that makes it something I have to do instead of get to do. And that is never very inspiring.

5. I would rather be on kitchen clean-up duty, anyday. At least there the results of my work last longer than 20 minutes.

So there they are - the 5 big fat reasons why I feel overwhelmed and stuck when I stand in my kitchen. And the biggest irony of all, is that I love food. Good food. And I know what tastes good and what doesn't. But I don't know how to get from lady fingers and mascarpone to Tiramisu because I don't want to know - I want someone to make it for me.

However, there is no someone else, there is just me. In an effort to figure this out and feed myself and my family in a way that supports energy and vitality, instead of reading some blogs or a book on this damp and dreary Sunday morning, I have surrounded myself with a few cookbooks, a pen and paper and several weekly meal planner options from a quick google search. I am hoping with a bit of mental force, I will get through what feels like drudgery now.

My problem is not lack of tools or resources - I live in the middle of one of the most food conscious places in the world and have every possible organic everything at my fingertips. But I am missing the will. And if there is anything that is stopping me from feeding my family well, its that.

Nothing else.


On being 35

"For three years straight, I've been burning the candle at both ends, and as of last December, I just didn't have anything left. I've been so aggressive about living life to the fullest and being plugged into everything, but now I've ripped the plug out of the wall and put it on the floor for a while. I am thinking about the same things as when I was 15, about spirituality and who I am, who I want to be.
It's cocoon, pupa, larva, and, &*%$, I'm reborn!"

-Drew Barrymore in ELLE magazine, August 2010

Yup, me too.

I stopped buying magazines two months before our wedding back in 2006. I realized that reading them brought more internal strife than joy - they just made me think about what I didn't have or how I didn't look or what I couldn't afford. I realized that fashion and home magazines made me feel the same way, so I stopped buying them all together. Devoted still to Domino at the time, I let that be my one and only.

Until last week. I was at in the check-out line at the grocery store and I saw this picture of Drew Barrymore. And I have this thing for Drew Barrymore, because she's not perfect and never pretends to be. And we're the same age. And I just think she is cool.

So the magazine laid around for days, until this morning. The nugget went down for his morning nap, his papa was still enjoying a Saturday morning sleep-in and I was about to start on any number of household tasks when I just stopped. I picked up the magazine, sat down in the comfy chair and read the whole thing, cover to cover.

And I realized that I don't allow myself to do that very often. And I realized that I should.
Because it gave me something to think about. The article about Drew ended like this:

"The best thing about being 35 is that if I was lucky enough, with my health and life span, I might be able to do it all over again. 35 plus 35 equals 70, and that would be a long life. The next 35 years are a second chance at life...I wonder how it will go. It's fascinating."

I couldn't have said it better myself, I thought to myself with a smile.


First official "school" lunch

I dropped him off and I cried. Well, I didn't cry until I was in the car driving back to our house but I cried none the less.

Maybe it was because I packed a lunch for him this morning. Or maybe it was because I was not going to see again until 4pm. Or maybe it was because I had no idea what he would be doing all day when usually I see every smile and smirk and furrowed brow. Or maybe it was because I knew this was just the beginning of days just like this one.

So I let myself cry for 2 minutes. And then I went to the gym. And then I showered at home without wondering if he was already awake from his nap. And then I worked, really worked, like I haven't in an extremely long time. And it felt really good.

Here's to looking forward to next Wednesday and the nugget's 2nd day at daycare.


My new favorite thing: The Learning Tower from Little Partners. While we were away and I got to catch up on my blog reading, I stumbled upon some post somewhere that raved about this clever contraption. And I knew right away that this would be perfect for my oh so curious little man.

So I posted a "Wish to Buy" post onto my local mom's network and sure enough I found a mom willing to part with her well loved tower. With one string: that in 2-3 years she could potentially buy it back from me when her 3 month old is ready to use it. I of course agreed - because this is really what we should be doing with all of our baby and kid stuff. All of it.

And immediately, it was a hit. And indeed, it took him less than 24 hours to figure out how to climb up onto it. He is still working on the dismount though. But as you can see, he mixed his first bread batter today. And I made dinner, without the tugging at my pant legs.

One used learning tower, one baby who can now see what is going on and one calm and un-frazzled mama. Priceless.


Spiritual shopping

image from HSN.com Eat, Pray, Love collection

It's official, its been bastardized. I know, strong word. Probably at the end of writing this post, I will feel more open and embracing.

Months ago when I first heard that Eat, Pray, Love was being made into a movie, a part of me scowled and cringed. No, I thought, I don't want anyone else's images of this story in my head but my own. I read this book in 2005, before it was on any best seller list or Oprah and it is no exaggeration to say that it saved me during a dark and utterly lost place in my life. This book was my life raft and I hold it in extremely high regard.

I passed it on to every woman that I know and even used it as my inspiration for the project I had to create for my interview at Anthropologie. I started to re-read it during the first hazy months of motherhood when I started to experience those tiny drops of darkness, disconnect and sadness than can appear in the post-partum period. I didn't get through it all the second time, distracted by my lack of sleep and the taxing new duties of motherhood, but I didn't need to. I just needed to be reminded of what it had done for me before. I needed to remember my own time in Bali, my own strength in getting up of the floor and my own tools for finding the light again. And I did.

So, back to 2010 and Hollywood. I got over my initial "don't want this book to be made into a movie" attitude when I learned that Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem would be lending their talent to its story. And at the end of the day, I realized this was simply a natural progression of information sharing in this age of technology and film making. I sent out an email to my dearest lady friends and we have a matinee with dinner to follow scheduled for opening weekend.

And then today, on an unusual solo trip to Trader Joes, I let myself meander into Cost Plus to test my No Spend Month policy. And there, right at the entrance was America's answer to spiritual enlightenment: consumerism. Introducing the Eat, Pray, Love collection, just in time for the release of the movie. Mala beads from China, Indian inspired tunics and mass produced teak coasters from Bali. Arghhhh.

I get why this works. And I get marketing. And I get retail therapy. And I get wanting to feel good. And I get beautiful things. And I get that this is just all part of the process, but I don't have to like it.

So if you haven't read Eat, Pray, Love, go get it before you see the movie. Because my guess is that some part of Ms. Gilbert's journey will be like some part of your own. And that will remind you that we are never alone, in the darkness and the light.


A penny saved...

piggy bank available here on etsy

How does the saying go again..."A penny earned is a penny saved?"

As CFO of this new family of three, I have decided that August is going to be a No Spend Month. This is not an original idea but in the past year when I have been inspired by other bloggers who were committing to the same, it always felt like there was something that we "needed" to buy that kept me from jumping on the bandwagon.

Well, we are jumping on it this month. The move is over, the vacation has come and gone and before the circus of the holidays begins it felt like August was the perfect time to sit back, think, and make a plan.

So the no spending plan goes like this: no personal purchases of any kind that are not necessities. No extra craft projects, no deals on sale, no toys or clothes for the nugget, no Etsy purchases, nada. Groceries, gas, diapers, babysitting, exercise classes and date nights are allowed. Business expenses are also exempt to this rule (as my husband owns his own business and works often from home), though they are under strict scrutiny. Scrutiny by me.

So there you have it. This is going to be hard. But in a commitment to organize our finances and work on creating our version of financial serenity, this is a good test.

I will keep you posted...