Once upon a time, not that long ago... there was a girl who was, among other things, a storyteller. Every day, all the time, life was an adventure full of meaning and magic and characters and unseen miracles.
That girl faced adolescence and it was hard - because the real and gritty world of school curriculums and expectations and long days at hard metal desks and tired, overworked parents began to suffocate her free-spirit. Life was not an enchanted forest, after all, it would seem. There was pain and deceit and betrayals and crime to reckon with.
That girl adapted, though she always longed for her secret garden. She dug into life and figured out the methods to their madness - these very much the same kind of people.
Keep your truth inside, memorize things, repeat them, and be polite. Do as you’re told.
That girl became a young woman and broke free, for a time. She adventured and experimented and tried things and laughed and lived hard and broke hearts and walked early morning hallways and nursed hangovers and sang her heart out, or so she tried. For a good long while.
That young woman was sick and tired of being broke and desperate and she changed. Intentionally.
She read. She moved back home. She put herself through college, on her own dime. She worked retail, thanklessly, for years. She excelled in school, because she wanted to be there, because she had earned a truer voice, because she had some things to say about life. And being here. Because she had been to the bottom and Knew that the climb was worth it. She’d seen both.
So got a 4.0 and writing awards, despite doubt all around her. She went further. She earned a Master’s Degree in Information Sciences and Archives/Records Mgmt. She ate Wonderbread sandwiches, did laundry for money, ate her share of ramen, and shot cheap pool on the weekends... earning a chance to qualify at regionals for 9 ball. She never went. She chose studying and caution and keeping on task. But it was nice to be recognized for her skill.
Soon, she finally found work in her field: at a local historic site. Not long after she found herself at home in her career: full-time, full benefits, easy commute, fulfilling work - helping people to make the world a better place. Surrounded by stories, every day.
Not long after, she felt the call of the creative bubbling up, again. By now, she was settled deeply into work life, favorite TV shows, Take-out food, motherhood... and she reached out, one lonely 3 am, on Twitter.
Claire Cook, who wrote one of her favorite books, Must Love Dogs, had kids. And she wrote books, too.
“How do you you do it?” The woman asked, with sour breast milk staining her shirt, cracked and bleeding nipples, a snoring as-of-then-husband, her eyes now dry from crying frustrations out, a baby finally sleeping, and a chest full of journals - a past life, now so far away - filled with magic and wonder and stories and songs. Wondering if she’d ever feel free again, yet knowing she had dreamt of being a mother for her entire life, and wept at the gratitude that she was finally there.
And Claire Cook said, “I write when they’re at swimming lessons. Sports. Anytime I’m in the car, waiting...I write. It’s possible. You can do it!”
And somewhere in the suburbs of Long Island, at 3 am, a woman sighed. And began to believe. in more, again.
And so, that girl was me. And there’s so much more to this story. So much more beneath, that hasn’t been shared yet. I’ve written two books, and I’ve barely begun.
And I type out this update, on my iPhone, as my head bobs up and down, watching my incredible kid doing the backstroke...at his swimming lesson.
He’s six now. More independent now. He likes his time to play and imagine, and guess what? So do I. And it’s good for both of us.
I spew this all out for the tired mothers: who know that they are more than bleeding nipples and stretch marks and delirious feedings and working half-asleep and feeling unsexy and exhausted and numb from being milked and poked and worked and judged and snickered at and condescended to... for simply knowing that there is more.
Motherhood is a blessing, a gift, and our children teach us beautiful and life-changing things. Like sacrifice. Devotion. Unconditional love. Awareness. Time management. Budgeting. Survival instincts. The importance of health and wellness. The importance of compassion and humility.
When you become a mother, you become a world - for a tiny human being that is completely dependent on you to survive. And it rocks your world, it turns you upside-down, it changes everything. It should, it’s supposed to.
But the baby years aren’t forever. And you’ll get yourself back again. I promise you will. Let the baby years have you, and put everything else into Next. It all comes back around.
I breathe in the chlorinated water and roll my shoulders back. I watch how far my boy has come in his skill, his practice. And I know that he is a person, with his own story, and his own lessons to learn. And I can be here. Listen, intensely. Love him, profusely. Comfort him when it’s scary and encourage him when he’s shaky. And I can marvel at his life - his choices and how life will teach him and hurt him and help him and show him how things are. And I can’t prevent or control all of that, but I can be his home. And I can give him the space and time to explore his emotional experience, his creative output, however he wants to. He has a beautiful lens, and it’s a bit different than mine. He’s a science kid.
And I love that. I just can’t wait to see what he does. And I also know I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for all of it, even as I make room - for those deeper parts of me to keep coming up for air - to see the light. Again.
Today in the car, my son said that, “if Earth was any closer to the Sun, we’d burn up. Any farther, and we’d freeze! But we’re right here at the perfect place!”
We sure are, babe. We sure are. What a ride so far.
Life, I’m in. Just happy to be here. ❤️
It was a fun afternoon, watching my son’s name lit up on the leaderboard - in his first-ever Pinewood Derby. He had fun, and got a taste of competition and sportsmanship.
And he went back to his Dad’s place, and I came back to this large house, with the idea that I would write.
First off, I’m super grateful for the cool place to stay, as I house/dog sit. Amazing accommodations. And I’ve had so much downtime to veg out and relax. However...I found the remote.
Loafing on a sofa with a dog that loves company - and binging shows on Netflix - is not natural for me. Not anymore. But I got hooked.
I’m someone who seldom watches TV. I write, I go to concerts or live music venues, I dine, I hike, I walk beaches, I walk the city, I drive, I roadtrip, I make acquaintances, I hang with friends, I mingle, I chat. I move around, and I love that.
And I’m damn near getting bedsores. I’m a busybody and laying around should be a relief, a rest. Peaceful, and it has been. But I feel stir-crazy.
Thank goodness there was someone else here today, to have some long chats with. Some new perspectives. New insights, new takes on old issues. And in between Moments of interaction, I dive into my phone and get sucked into the void. Scroll, scroll, wait, read, tap, scroll. More TV. More scroll. Repeat. And I start to feel like a zombie in a way that I haven’t in quite a while...
And I feel a bit desperate, trapped, wanting to run outside and look at the sky. Breathe deeply. Expand my awareness, once again, out of this box - of constant entertainments and illusions and advertisements. To breathe cool night air and feel the wind bite my skin and the cold grass tickle my ankles. Alive, my heart beating, and a part of it all. I long for the outdoors.
And it blows my mind how much of my days used to look like this: constant numbing and distracting. Hours of TV a night, endless eating, computers all day, and scrolling in-between. Few sincere exchanges or conversations. Always plugged in, all the time. Numb.
And how much more alive, present, aware, interactive, alert, energetic, and engaged I’ve become in my life. Little by little, over time, as I began to challenge my habits, one at a time. And I’m grateful for those changes.
It’s so easy to see how deeply we can fall into digital media, when we aren’t actively engaged, otherwise. It’s a window - outside of ourselves and our environments. A peek. A glimpse into other lives, other moments, that seem more interesting, perhaps.
Years back, I decided to make my own life more interesting, instead of gazing outward. That’s how Wild Horses and Mistakes was written. By throwing myself into raw experiences, places I’ve never been before. To feel things I hadn’t felt in a long time. To join with Life, to become it, to love it, to LIVE it. To experience it all, unfettered, with my senses and my notebooks to jot it down.
And to be submerged, again, as it were... into wormholes of content and media and aimless ingesting and absorbing and auto-play for so much time... really provides a great contrast for me.
It’s such a subtle thing; a change in energy. Absorbing information, instead of sharing it out. Consuming, instead of creating.
And it makes a world of difference in the psyche, even if only for a weekend.
It’s good to be reminded. To remember.
How precious and raw and real our lives can be, when we have the audacity to live them fully. I appreciate rest and contemplation as much as the next person, but creativity begs for connection, immersion, and inspiration. And a numb mind takes us further and further from those things.
Around and around we go... 💫
So. 30 days without: dairy, processed foods, wheat/gluten or any grain, really... beans/ legumes, added sugars, alcohol...
This was my 2nd attempt. The first time, I couldn't stand the emotional upheavals of sugar withdrawal. (It's that addictive, yeah.) I bailed after 2 weeks, telling myself some story... that I was choosing a "Whole 15" and that for me, that was enough.
That was the first of many lies I had told myself about this program. The truth was, I didn't want to get too uncomfortable, I think. I didn't think I could do it.
So, to catch you up: I work full time as a reference librarian. I write books on the side. I'm a single Mom (co-parenting - I do get days to myself.) And I am a recovering productivity junkie. I realized this as I geared up for this program, around holiday time in December... I looked back on my life, on the last 4+ years, and saw that my health goals had stalled completely, as I wrote through things, over and over.
I soul-searched and journeyed and meditated and connected and found my beautiful glittering soul and loved her and pressed her into me, blissfully. I mantra'd. I ohm'd. I shavasana'd. And then I traveled and I rocked out and got doe-eyed and swoony and re-found pieces of myself that I thought were long dead. Nope, not quite. All the while, I was feeding my passions, my joy-meter, my ease, and my mental wellness. No one dared tell me no, to anything. I was on a mission.
Well, a few years out, book two is finished and making its way out into the world, and I chose, purposely, to NOT dive deeply into another project. I would dive deeper into me. I would wrangle my own health, I would master my day-to-day life and priorities, I would organize the place, redecorate some things, reinvent some things. It was all physical. And I tried to do it all for a while... day job, motherhood, organization, novel notes and writing for future projects, a meditation practice, meal planning and fitness and well, I got burnt out again.
So, when an old school friend announced her Whole 30 Challenge on Facebook, it was kismet. I pushed everything off my plate that wasn't home, motherhood, work, and wellness. And I went hard for it.
I kept a journal, but otherwise... no looming writing projects. My free time was spent searching up recipes, cooking, meal-prepping, setting exercise routines - and sticking to them. My own wellness became the obsession. All my lights had been turned inward, right back onto me, and it felt strange at first. Really strange. "But, so and so needs this," and "this one should have that," and I "should do this for that one..." But, I let it all go. It was me-time. I was being selfish. But it wasn't really, not in a bad way.
Because the Why was still there - "build a better world for my son, and for all of our kids." How? Educate, inspire, connect. With What?
So. Whole 30. I committed to a modified version... I knew my allergies well, I just wanted a firm and consistent reset.
What did I eat?
Breakfast: Bulletproof Coffee - fresh espresso, blended with tbsp Kerrygold Butter, 1 tsp MCT oil, 2 scoops collagen protein (I did better with some steady protein in mine, and it took a while to sort this out), and I "cheated" and threw in a Splenda sometimes.
Lunch: big-ass salad... e.g. a few handfuls of greens, 1/2 a cucumber, steamed asparagus, 1/2 sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, olives, 1/2 an avocado, oil and vinegar, leftover protein (usually chicken breast or hard boiled egg. Sometimes beef. Sometimes no-sugar bacon.) No croutons, no bread, nada. Just the veg.
Snack: If I needed it... a Lara Bar or a Quest Bar. Lots of water. Green tea, maybe. At peak sugar-craving times, I made modified "sweets," like keto brownies or almond flour donuts, with Swerve and but flours and other approved keto-style ingredients. I fed the indulgence, but staying on track with my goals. Win-win. And it was only for that 2nd week, really. The cravings passed.
Dinner: protein, veggies, 1/2 avocado. Berries on the side, sometimes with coconut cream. (OH MY GOD, COCONUT CREAM.)
That's about it, for 30 days. Samesies, every day. The result? Food became a fuel, and not a pleasure fix or a thing to do or a mindless diversion. I ate what was best for me, intentionally... I have iron-anemia and hypothyroidism. And after over 10 years of experimenting, I now know for sure that I do best on a higher fat, low-carb diet with animal proteins and very low amounts of grain. Most of my carbohydrates come from plants.
I returned to lifting weights... just a few times per week, and lots of cardio: aerobic dance, walking, and just maximizing ways to stay active throughout the day. Every day. I moved every single day, somehow.
SO the results?
So, it was absolutely worth it, all around. I may allow some cheeses in here and there, some whole grains, maybe, like quinoa or oats... but for the most part, this is how I'll be eating. And it's probably how I always should have been eating. It just makes sense - it's so simple and natural.
Am I at my goal? No, not yet. But I'm damn proud of my success after just a month. It feels really, really good to take care of yourself and insist on that time: to run, to workout, to go to a yoga class, to cook a slow meal. It feels really good. And too many of us don't fight for it. It's hard, to let go of the rest and focus on yourself. It's really hard, you fear missing out on things, losing things, but really... you're not. And the more you focus on your own well-being, the more you realize that YOU are what you've been missing out on, while you put everyone else first, for so long.
I've decided to never take myself for granted again, if I can help it.
It's gray and damp and rainy in New York, today.
Often, in winter, I visit one of the local arboretums...to get a taste of the tropics in the cold. It's an instant boost and a mood lifter. Warm, humid air, fresh and bright florals and fragrance, it just fills my soul up. It feeds my dopamine, if you prefer. It provides a dose of bliss and simple pleasure in an otherwise monotonous and dreary day. And it's great for creativity.
My feeds and the TV and the papers all shout the same things at me... impeachment, the environment, oil and climate and the hungry and the division and destruction and on and on until I could easily fall into a depression, trying to come to terms with all of it at once.
But I breathe into presence. And Grace. And the petals of a flower and how Nature could come up with this... this intricately designed, exquisite, simple yet complex, beautiful and little delicate thing that wants only to be colorful and pleasing and produce its nectar. It is because it is and I allow myself to marvel at it. And the world slows down, within, and then without, once again. I can focus my energy, as the world spins, onto this steady and simple piece of living poetry and I fall into it, easily.
Notes from a garden meditation:
And aren't we all Nature. Of it and in it, all at once, and here is the paradox. A system, at once, set on both self-destruction and self-preservation. As is the human body. Red cells; white cells. Lovers and fighters. And to keep that balance is always the order of the day. Are the good things being fed, are the bad ones being starved? So it is with our thoughts, as well, if we can gain distance from them. For a few moments, at least.
And I hover and float as I sink into meditation some more. Surface thoughts dissipate and float off. Grand ideas and solutions and wonderment and simplicity return.
And if we could only hold all that Light in a shaker bottle, far above the Earth... and dispense it like we do pro-biotics into our own bodies. Add more good, to gain a bit more beneficial flora, to outweigh the bad. And if only we could sprinkle some life-sized pro-biotics onto our planet. Good to outnumber the bad. Or beneficial to outnumber the depleting, but who gets to say? Who chooses, is there still a right and a wrong or is rational thought gone? Do facts matter or does majority rule reign?
Lighter and lighter still, as I float.
And there we all are... specks on this rock. A number of us arguing and scuffling about matters of great weight, or so they seem. A number of us fighting for what is right, or so we insist. A number of us building new things, destroying old things, moving things, preserving things. A number of us jumping, dancing, singing, laughing, playing, searching, running. A number of us crying, rocking, swaying, isolating, caught up in fear and defensiveness. But from up there, we're just the gummy and moving film that coats the big rock, like an algae, really, and what a ruckus we think we make. What a ruckus we try to make.
"See me, hear me, feel me..." The Who
And I consider how long we are here, how long we get to be here, as a moving part of this cosmic film, these tiny moving pieces that are part of a much bigger universal puzzle. And how do I want to spend that time? Scurrying? Arguing, judging, fighting? Destroying or healing? Creating or condemning?
Fearing or loving.
And if Love is the magic elixir in the cosmic goo that makes us shine and bond together like so many molecules that mesh together toward some greater thing, then let us Love. Let us give off luminescent Light, from within the mess. Let us be catalysts, one by one by one by one until we're two by two by two...creating a chain reaction, and on and on.
What if we, human beings, capable of such wide and vast and unlimited intellectual perspectives, and also of such narrow and limited, earthy ideas, what if we were said pro-biotics. Walking manifestations of bacteria and molecules and energy and light that are capable of great change, should we put our minds to it. But we often seem to be too busy numbing or entertaining or distracting our minds... to properly use them. Because it's exhausting, really. But what an amazing machine is the human mind, when properly lit up and utilized and plugged into its source.
And if all minds, lit up and turned on could work toward a greater good, simultaneously. Wow. What couldn't we do? Oh, but we differ, individually, don't we? And will we ever agree enough to move any given thing forward, or will we constantly disagree and battle our extremes against each other - in the grand coliseum - for sport?
Rome still stands, it often seems. Great battles keep us entertained and engaged on things other than ourselves and our potential. Still.
But to choose silence. Peace. To seek within. To seek out one's own mind and its limitless capabilities. To connect from within, from that place of effortless and underlying connection, like the roots of a tree far beneath the dirt, like synapses in the brain firing up with light when new connections are made. And what if all minds, all consciousness, was this way? Connections awaiting spark; separate fires in the dark?
What if the world was filled with these separate camps, small blazes, tribes huddled together, at different times, but each thought their own camp was the only one with light? They might give up after a while, their burning into the dark night, searching for life. But if each camp knew it wasn't alone and that their lights were brighter together, from a distance... they might coordinate for a larger purpose.
Which is why individual and inner work can be so vital, in these times.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. “ - John Lennon
When we love ourselves fearlessly, we learn to care for ourselves, deeply. And this love, this inner-radiance, this universal and powerful life-force, spreads to others and to all life-forms around us and within us.
Energy is contagious, whether it is positive or negative.
And yes, all this from a simple flower.
Take from it what you will; be it artistic or esoteric.
Silence, presence, and inward journeys are gold for creativity - new ideas, perspectives, understandings, and appreciations. And you do with it what you will, it's our choice, individually, but to get there - to that place - of hearing yourself, and not just the numb of the outside world, is where the goodies are.
Then, I ate a sandwich (lettuce wrap). Because - grounding.
Oh, and I loved my sandwich, too.
Only Ever Love
Something funny happened last night. My little one was with his Dad, doing fun stuff with cousins, I presume. I had every opportunity to go out and be reckless, or even just...cozy and lush and jazzy with bourbon in hand. To go a-drinkin. Hangin' out. To mix and meet and mingle in loud and numbing, pulsating rooms. I could’ve. I had places in mind. Venues. Some money in the bank. I’ve done it so much, so many times. Free! And I’m not one of those who are introverted and shy about strolling into a restaurant, club, bar, venue alone and chatting up who’s there. I used to joke that: “after two drinks, we’re all best friends anyway!” Ay... :cheers:
And I do still enjoy a nice bourbon cocktail, or a glass of wine, or a cold beer, here and there, every few months or so with family and close friends. I'm not a big drinker by any means, it's never been a drink-to-get-drunk thing for me. And no judgment, always do you.
But I just hadn’t the desire last night. I wanted peace. I wanted easy and lazy and yoga pants. I had nothing to prove and had no interest in pretense or small talk or overpriced plates. And I wanted to wake up rested and ready and feeling good for another day off. So, I watched Gone with the Wind, had veggies and yogurt ranch dip, a few chocolate covered strawberries, one indulgent piece of tiramisu (so worth it), and later on did some blissful rocking-chanting-sageburning-beadholding-mantra singing-soulpartying for all the Peace and Love on Earth.
It’s been a while. I've had a lot going on.
I’d forgotten how good it felt to just connect, vibe, appreciate, hold space, stretch, lay flat in shavasana, and celebrate the very notion that we’re here. Now. On this beautiful rock, together, lighting it up with love, all over the world, as millions gathered and celebrated and chanted and rocked out and danced hard and held great hope for things to come. A consumer extravaganza? No question, but still.
Optimism can be a drug, too, and a healthy one. It just feels good to feel good, doesn't it? And how much more kind, open, and trusting are we... when we feel good? When we're gathering, when we're at ease?
If you’re sensitive to group meditations and infectious energy and how it all resonates and ripples outward and connects us all, you know NYE is very special in that regard. So many cities, in succession, around the world, celebrating life and opportunity. Together. Regardless of any other beliefs. And yes, there is sadness, loneliness, hardship all around as well. But also, so much hope, joy, wonder, gratitude, and peace. Unity. Uh, I live for it, when we all just vibe and get along. BLISSSSSS...
Oh, I do run on. I know.
This morning I slept in, woke up refreshed and rested. No hangovers or drama. Just pop out of bed and go. How nice? So, I went for a quick chilly hike, I felt great and wanted to move around. I drove up the Hudson and stopped at a favorite riverside park and walked around. I stopped at a local coffee spot there and got a mocha-something, guilt-free. Delish. And I drove home, my mind free to release things and consider things and let go of things and make room for more things. Creative ideas. Dinner ideas. Big, beautiful future ideas.
I got home, made a bite, and took out the vacuum and started cleaning up. And mid-vacuum, I had the best cry. Out of nowhere, like it finally had the room to pour out. You know when it just won't stay in anymore? Days and days of pent-up who knows what that didn't really bother you at the time, and it just picks these weird moments to squeeze out of you. And I forgot how great it feels to allow that. Those cleansing moments, letting it all go. The release. Life is full of moments that stress us, upset us, confuse us, gut-punch us, snicker at us. No big deal, but sometimes it lingers, festers. And hormones are a joy, too. And that release is so important. Stagnant emotions cause health problems, something I'd learned all too well.
And I only mention it to stress that... emotion is human. And healthy. And right. And so many of us stifle and silence our emotions in the pursuit of appearing perfect or all-together. Sometimes it's taught to us, from young. Suck it up, stop crying, get a hold of yourself. You're so dramatic. Oh my God, but you're SO normal though, really. You're supposed to feel. Feel all the things, feel them! And also, a reminder that emotions are full of charge and information...they teach us things. To feel so strongly and powerfully about something, or a circumstance, or a someone, is an indiction that they are important. Emotions move us closer, deeper, into ourselves and away from what isn't for us. Toward what's really true and really worthwhile. Emotions show us what we really care about. They have so much to say and they can help us create beautiful art, as well.
In the digital age of instant gratification and "don't catch feelings," and "stay up," and all the rest... I'm here to remind you that it's all so very okay and human to feel and have joy and sadness and long stretches of awkward reality to deal with. It's life. The clouds are lovely, but we've got to walk through the dirt, sometimes, too.
Always listen, when your heart starts to speak. In cries or screams or contented sighs or sweet, singing, intoxicated bliss. Listen in. To all of it. It all matters. The emotion exposes the true desire, the root, and then a plan becomes the solution, the map, to fulfilling that desire. And then, an action starts the journey toward it. The emotional outburst is the clue, the whisper, the inner-inclination that you've been ignoring for too long. So it got louder. That's what I think, anyway.
It's all on time. So, don't fear the feels, my friends. Observe them. They carry wisdom, from you...to you. You truest strength, and greatest contributions are built from your own inner wisdom. Even when it's just normal passing ups and downs, it doesn't have to be deep grief and soul-healing to be lesson-worthy.
Oh, and that peaceful moment when the stress leaves the body and you know... you've answered your own questions. You just had to give the space. All that's left... are the next steps. One foot, then another, then another, then another...
Happy New Year <3
Throwback Thursday... I found this old Word doc that never seemed to make it to my old blog. And I cozied up, reading it through, and it reminded me about why I first fell in love with books, with ephemera, with history and information, in general... I thought I'd share it with you.
"As a librarian, I am constantly surrounded by books. And I love that – the feel of them, the smell of the crisp pages on a brand new book. We recently got something new on physics and quarks, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that the pages smell like grapefruit. A lovely blend of citrus and something pulpy…like cardboard or wet oak. These pages are delicious. The words aren’t bad either. But I digress.
I met a wonderful gentleman who has been bringing us boxes of precious books from his father’s house: he had quite a well-kept library of his own, was a war veteran, and has donated many World War II titles to us. We are always grateful for donations, but I appreciate them so much more when I learn about the people and stories behind them. When someone hands me a box of books and their eyes fill, and they say: “He loved these books, he loved to read, and he’d want them to be read again…” Well, I fill up as well. The books become humanized, they come alive with stories and a feeling of their own. I believe a memory, an essence of the reader, imprints upon the books.
In the second delivery we received from this man, I found something unique: “Letters in a Box.” I looked it up in the county-wide catalog and then, the worldwide catalog – no one else had it. Odd, I thought. And then…I got excited. Something rare, something special. I did a little Internet searching and made a discovery: the book was compiled of handwritten letters by Robert L. Stone, who was not only a First Lieutenant in the South Pacific during World War II, but also led as an accomplished executive in corporations such as: Hertz, Colombia Pictures, and a few well-known television companies. Quite a resume. And an inspiring human being with a wonderful story to tell.
What really struck me – the magic here, as I see it – is that only six-hundred copies of this book were printed. They were given out to family and friends; shipped from a small school, with the help of students and the local Post Office in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Six-hundred copies – printed nearly two-hundred miles away. And here it is; in my hands. I am grateful to become acquainted with it. Its pages smell a bit like gasoline, metal, and wood pulp, but in a good way – as if it had been read in the garage while re-fabricating an old ’57 Chevy, in the summertime, while nursing an ice cold beer – a fresh pile of sawdust on the cement floor from an earlier project.
Olfactory pleasures aside, this volume is an absolute treasure trove of scanned postcards, handwritten letters, memories, photographs and newspaper clippings. Primary, first-hand, WWII source material, folks, the kind that we are losing access to more quickly than I would care to admit. Now, I am not one to run up and down the streets praising the idea of war, but men in my family have served and I love and appreciate them. And I respect and appreciate the history of the aircraft, the roles the bombardiers played, the stories and emotion and struggle that these people went through – so far from home. Many of them not even coming home. This book is a moving tribute, put together by a very dedicated and caring family; honoring the life and legacy of their fascinating, hardworking, and memorable father. I am smitten with it. And while I do want to squirrel it away for myself, I feel that it needs to be read and shared. It will be added to the collection and I’m happy to give it a home, where it will be read by many.
At the end of the book, tucked in the back pages inconspicuously… was a bookmark made in Topeka, Kansas. Wounded Warrior Project. This is an amazing project and they have a great approach to long-term post-war recovery. I had heard the name before, but it slipped my mind and never came up again. Until now. An important reminder to not just study and learn from the past, but to take care of our veterans in the present.
Veterans of war, here and abroad, past and present… thank you for your service. You are not forgotten."
I later recorded an episode of The Jelly that discussed veterans of wartime; it's always been a paradox of a subject for me, since childhood.
I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, and if not... hang in there! The madness is almost over!
It's almost January. I had a wonderful Christmas, spent cherished time with family, and ate too many sweets. :facepalm: So good though.
I am on Day One of a refreshing cleanse, and boy, do I need it. Reset. All I want is lettuce, I'm not kidding. I'm turning into a cookie. It's like that old episode of the Cosby show where Bill lets Theo drink as much as he wants...and he gets so sick of it, he just has no interest in drinking, ever again. It's like that, but sugar.
Anyway. Take care of yourselves. Read books. Stay kind.
It's been a long few days.
First, I nearly collapsed in the car, after leaving urgent care for an excruciating headache, fatigue, and when what my son calls "too-hard boogers." :shrugs: #momlife
Antibiotics in my bag, I called in sick to work and had to stop at the store for some goodies: Sambucol (elderberry/zinc/Vitamin C gummies that I SWEAR by...) a bath bomb, cuz, well... I knew there would be a good soak. Broth, all the broth. And fresh veggies for homemade soups. A large branch of fresh ginger root. I stocked up on all the recovery stuff.
I got back to the car, after packing the trunk, and nearly fainted behind the wheel. "I am burnt out," I kept thinking. "It's too much, it's all too much...I do too much, still..."
"How did I get here? Again?"
I thought that I had learned to take care of myself pretty well, and yet, I felt worn out, exhausted, lethargic, really low in mood...and I couldn't figure out why. I surrendered to rest.
Next, my little boy (6 years old) woke up with even worse symptoms. I took him to the pediatrician... Flu B. So, forced break-down. Slower. Using up sick time, which I hate doing. But sometimes, we must. Snuggles, kids' movies, soup, tea, tissues, and so much sleep. I was glad for it, believe it or not. I needed the break.
Days go by, fevers reduce, as they do... viruses cycle out, and energy begins to return.
And in the downtime, with nothing expected of me, and nowhere to go... I found myself in the kitchen. Making more soups. Baking (?!). Cleaning countertops and washing dishes and breathing in all that good steam. It was wonderful.
We made Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cinnamon Banana Bread (photos above...I had no chocolate chips, so I split the batter in two, and mixed cocoa powder into one, then marbled them in the same way. Decent result. Not as creamy/chocolatey. But decent.)
And something so utterly simple began to settle in... I don't really cook anymore. I blend, I mix, I prep, I grill, I "throw-together." I scurry. I hurry. I rush.
I used to love to bake. To dream up something tasty and recreate it, and try it out. Somewhere along the line, I got accustomed to fast n easy: salads, shakes, bars, and bought food. There's nothing wrong with this, really. I make healthy choices there, too.
But... I remember how much I cherished the time in the kitchen, in the days when I used to have so much of it: warm and cozy, something always cooking, a stocked fridge with healthy choices, always. Always on my feet, cooking or washing or organizing, and absolutely loving it. Music playing. Dancing, mixing, dancing, chopping, dancing, measuring. Family walking through, talking, discussing, coming together, hatching new ideas. The kitchen was always the center of the house for me: it's where all the great ideas happened, where the best meals were made, where the cookies were tasted.
Where we gathered.
The women in my household, in my extended family, always gathered in the kitchen - it was a sacred space. Recipes were shared, sauce was simmered, chops were spice-dusted and thrown on the BBQ out back. And the children, often, too (not BBQ'd but I mean to say that they would also gather in the kitchen.)
And so, here I was... shaking and making, feeling groovy, and my son was beaming. "May I please have more juice, Mama?" :cough, cough: "Mama, I love you..." Calm. Well-Mannered. Coloring and word-searching. Relaxed. I smiled and wondered how I'd allowed myself to get so busy that moments like this felt rare and special, when they should be the norm.
Slow. Simple. And a wave of deeply familiar and soothing nostalgia washed over me. I took a breath and exhaled... Home. A simmering kitchen just feels like... home.
And how desperately I wanted that same feeling of... home. For my son.
And I took a deep look into my schedule, my work life, my health priorities, my creative pursuits, just everything. And I began to map it out, again. (This is something I do often, but at a minimum, once a year.) I saw that writing books was incredibly time consuming, supporting my books was as well. And I looked hard at what my life (and the life of my son) really, truly needed to thrive.
And it was...less. I didn't need more of anything, but time. Space. Freedom to move and be and wash veggies and bake tasty banana bread and stick to workout routines and craft a slick budget and stellar experiences for 2020. I didn't feel the bursting need to "say" anything. But to do things. For me. For family. For home.
And I heard that voice inside, again. The one I always hear when I slow way, way down:
"You're allowed to take care of yourself. In fact, you ought to. You really need to."
So, I vowed to take a break from hard-core writing, deep-diving, exploring, and trigger-busting. I'd done it. I'd let my heart lead me full-circle, from this kitchen, around the country, through my murky past, and right back here... to my home. My heart.
It's a rather rebellious act for a recovering people-pleaser to opt out and insist on simple and inward-searching things like self-care, home re-organization, new shelf-liners in cabinets, and streamlined budgets and financial goals. It's not so exciting. It's not very flashy. It's not very loud and awe-inspiring.
But it's steady and fulfilling. It's cozy and inspiring, in small ways. It's healing and rejuvenating. An old house, and the items within it, is a treasure trove of learning, just waiting to tell it's secrets.
How very audacious I feel, rolling my shoulders back, knowing of my other talents, and simply saying, "no." Not right now. I have other pressing matters and more worthwhile priorities. And it's all okay.
I've cut my screen-time and social media time way, way down for the week. And I've basically been utilizing my work-self at home. I'm librarian-ing everything, and it feels so, so good. Old ceramics have no use way up on the top shelf, where they can't be accessed. Just like any good piece of information: it's of no use, unless we can access it. Utilize it. Allow it serve us, in some way.
So, Winter into Spring, and maybe for the whole of 2020... is dedicated to self-care and home life. Of course, I still journal daily, so any insights and nuggets of wisdom that I find along the way will either be blogged or written in silence, for later. Maybe another book down the line, maybe not.
But no chasing for me. Just standing. Here. Now. And...making that lemonade.
Until next time... I hope you're well. I hope you're taking care of yourself and not running yourself into the ground. It's so easy too, these days.
Thanks for listening.
You might not believe this...
But it won't always hurt the same. One day, not far from now, you'll be able to simply hold your sadness, like a cherished stuffed animal, without apologizing for it. Or hiding it away. Walking over it, like it's not there. Numbing it back, just enough.
Sometimes we've got to do that, to stay afloat. I've been there so much and for so long. But it doesn't last. Waves wash in and out, I've found. And I promise, one day you'll see how much strength it gives you. To stand. To not run. To feel the weight of it, as the tide washes over your toes, your ankles, your shins, and you simply stand. And then, you're just okay, that's all. You're still okay, see?
And how naming it helps to heal it. To release it. To free it. And to free your heart. Someone will need it. I promise you that, it's not that far off. So write it out, get it out, purge it out, sing it out. Over and over and over again until you can stand, a little more each day.
And you might not believe it, but it's happening. You're healing. Every single day.
You have no idea how bright you shine when the world gets to see your heart. xo
I had an up and down day, today.
I was feeling pretty darn good when I woke up, I got a quick workout in, drove out to a workshop on raising quail from eggs to release in areas of Long Island to minimize the tick population... (they eat them. Who knew?) It was actually fun and strange and very informative and important. Eric made it easy, breezy, and fun.
It was a rainy, gray day, I had lunch on the road (a protein box from Starbucks) and great music in the car, as I ran errands on my lunch break. I managed to squeeze in a few moments parked at the beach as I nibbled my cheese and fruit and things, and sipped my gigantic coffee.
A few minutes. That's all it takes, now, and I'm grateful for that. Waves. Wind. Seagulls and being transported into their world, watching them dive for clams in the choppy water and fly way up high and drop them with a crash on the pavement. Brutal. Lunch is served...
Perspective. It's a miraculous thing.
And those moments, where I get to slow it all down and become the scene I'm in, they're magic. There's a kind of ease and calmness in reflection, for me. Where was I then, and where am I now?
I've been zooming along for a number of years now, with little down time. It started with my first blog, as I wrote Ana J Awakens. Everything was a journey. Every day, all the time. There was magic everywhere, inspiration in absolutely everything, the world came alive for me in ways that I hadn't seen since early childhood - when my dreaming was strong. Then, the book came out and I found myself pulling women together, at different times, for meet-ups. I formed new friendships and expanded my networks. I began testing the words out on my tongue, "I wrote a book." "I am a writer." "Yes, it's finished, you can buy it here..." The first time around, telling people about it was beyond nerve-wracking. It felt so different, so strange and alien to me. But it stuck, the more I said it and the more I wrote and kept creating new things. Always, I'd wanted to share something of value. To help move the world forward, toward connection. Community. Peace. Harmony. In small ways. Big ways. Any way that I could and I think I'll just always be trying.
Afterwards, there was a lull in creativity. I thought I was blocked. Stuck. Frozen. I'd written my one book, now I'd just crawl back into my cave and go about my business. But, then I started dealing with some real-life struggles, new anxieties, my first-ever panic attack, and all the rest. I began bleeding into poetry and songwriting and journaling, in notebooks. So many notebooks. Surrounded by words.
I soon started writing Wild Horses and Mistakes.
Travel. Oh, how I loved the travel. New people, new places and experiences. The deep and ominous Pacific, and what secrets I left there, with her, washed out in the undertow for safe-keeping. Deep and life-affirming conversations with strangers at airports. The rumble in my belly, as I crossed a new threshold. Alone. In another state. With no idea of how anything would play out... just going for it, and expecting the best, and seeing that when I went forward with the idea that I was a kind, open, loving person, that life usually met me there. When I went forward riddled with fear, paranoia, distrust, or a chip on my shoulder, life met me there as well. And how sensitive it all is. All of life, always, speaking to us and showing us to ourselves. How our perspectives determine and design our realities. And how easy it is to forget and to slip back into old ideas and shadows of pain and ideas that we're less-than.
We are not our stories. We are not those fleeting moments that pull us down or limit us or demean us in some way. We are what we bring, fully, to each moment. We are how we rise above those moments. We are energetic creatures and we are always, always creating.
Writing Wild Horses healed me. Changed me. Brought me to the other side of so many things, and I'll always be grateful for the serendipitous ways that I was led and nudged and whispered to and guided, at those moments when I felt most alone. And that's the beauty of an intentional journey like that, you can see how not alone we really are. Wild Horses restored my faith in something I'd always believed in and had lost - temporarily. That God is Love, and that I was a believer, and life had shown me how true this was. Fear creates distance and doubt. Love heals and connects and creates harmony. And so, courage, really, is being the first to drop the armor, and Love.
After I'd done the primary writing for Wild Horses, I'd been teased with the idea of podcasting. I took the bait. I jumped onto some new, free software online, bought a snowball mic at the music store, and I sat there. Staring into space, at first, laughing at myself. Then, it all started flowing out. I called it The Jelly. I was amazed at how much I had learned and integrated into my psyche, over those few years. I recorded a handful of episodes and then became preoccupied with getting Wild Horses out to print, finally. I was absolutely terrified to put it out there. It's the most honest and vulnerable thing I've done, so far. I second-guessed in profusion. Of course, now, I'm glad that I finished. Hearing women who connect to it come tell me, face-to-face, how they enjoyed it or found meaning in it, makes it worth it. These days, it is a big, big deal to expect someone to sit down and read a book and critique it. And I'm blown away at the ones who do, it's an honor to be read in any capacity. Truly. Attention is indeed, gold. If you read anything I write, I am grateful. Humbled. It's a gift to be able to connect and share thoughts in such a way. This is my way. I have many creative outputs, but free writing is always where I go home. The words wait for me, on the screen, in the pen, swirling in my head, to gather together and make manifest my inner ramblings and emotions and inclinations, that they might reach through space-time and connect. A bridge, from my mind to yours. There is a great intimacy in writing. Welcome, but please wipe your feet on the mat.
And now, as the days blend and bleed together and tiptoe ahead, I am popping up at events here and there, with two books in my traveling bag. And all I ever wanted to do was write a novel, just one book, and I never thought I actually would. It was...impossible. And I look back and see how many goals I had set, since, and how I'm on the other side of them. Smarter. A bit wiser. A bit tougher. Expanded.
So, whenever I get frustrated or feel like I'm standing still, I gaze back. I always feel like life is one big trail. And we're all here walking, together. Some ahead, some behind, all different kinds of people. But we're all just here, walking, figuring it out. Trying to get it right. Trying not to be assholes. Trying not to make a mess. Wanting to stay inspired and joyful, wanting to know that it all means something, wanting to know that we leave a good mark, as we go. Wanting it to be fun, yet somehow important. Hoping we don't trip and get injured. Wanting to stay so very much ourselves, and yet wanting so much to connect with others and share the experience. To marvel at the beauty, along the way. To huddle together when storms hit. And hoping to leave it all just a tiny bit better than we found it.
And I feel like, it's all right on time, you know? We start off on a path, and there are so many detours and side-trails, and deeper explorations, and pits to fall into, and cliffs to climb, up or down. And yet, somehow, we keep going. We just keep moving. In life and in art. We are all writing stories, with every choice that we make. And we make funny choices sometimes, and linger off down a strange path, into a weird cave filled with bats or something, and scoot back up to where we were going. A mistake to laugh off. And other times, we walk down some country road through wildflower meadows and stay there for a while, and maybe the path changes as we do. But I do believe that we make the path, as we walk.
And I think that there's so much more up ahead, than what we leave behind. Life: Expect obstacles. Pack a good bag. Stay kind. Know your strength. And just... keep going. Right?
Right. There's a beautiful sunrise ahead. There's a nice fire going, the rain has stopped the wind has died down...so, I'm going to get some rest, here, and just listen to the night sing.
The Jelly: creative hustle for anxious minds.
Mother. Librarian. Storyteller.