Let’s look each other in the eye

I’ve been doing a lot of summer reading recently. It’s a nice change in pace – coming home from our extended trip gave way to a few new rhythms. I decided not to pick up the busyness I left behind, wanting nothing to do with empty accolades – I’m letting this last bit of summer be a season of deep boredom. And I am so completely bothered by it, beside myself, that I am crawling out of my skin.

As a person who needs solitude to recharge, when I hire a babysitter – my vision is that they’ll take my children away from my safe place so I can be here, alone. You guys, it’s taken me about 8 years to admit this. I don’t even care any more. Zero fucks to give when someone looks at me cross-eyed when I explain that I need intense silence, away from my people, in order to function as a whole person. This is something I’ve learned the hard way and when it’s been too long since I’ve had a moment to myself to think my own thoughts, or journal, or write a letter … or gather my thoughts enough to craft an essay instead of stream of conscious writing – I start to get frantic.

This is it. This is the rest of my life. Always drowning in unmet expectations and unrealized dreams. Always taking care; giving, giving, giving. Never walking the slow amble of self preservation and lifting the ladle from deep within the well to fill my cup. It’s over.

My daughter is about to start middle school and I half-laugh, half-gasp because it’s taken this many years of rhythm to finally recognize patterns. The week before school starts? That week is the first layer of hell. Note to self: Plan nothing for that week. You are going to want to run away with everything in you. Do not sign them up for sports or camps. Just don’t. It will trap you into the the routine of showing up to fake it. Running errands or back to school shopping? It’s torture. It’s the reminder that they’re leaving mixed with the elation that they’ll be gone. Those two sides don’t fit on the same coin and yet here I am … flipping it over and over hoping it lands on a third side yet to be seen. Maybe that side will look like wisdom. It might just say “It’s ok.”

I’ll get to soccer practice and find a familiar face and all of a sudden my anxious thoughts about wanting to hide will evaporate and I’ll sit on the edge of their every word as we catch up about our summers and the year ahead. I will forget that I want loneliness when the gift of being seen is right in front of me. With one smile, with a pair of eyes willing to meet mine – I’ll start to remember why I live for this season, just as much as I’d prefer for it to be the one thing that finally undoes me.

My headstone might read: Reluctant to embrace the life she built. But damn, she was good at it.

One of the books I just finished, “When Breath Becomes Air”, was haunting in a way that answered one of my deepest emptinesses. But it answered it with a blank space. Essentially, “When Breath Becomes Air” is a memoir of a brilliant mind. A neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with cancer – the doctor becomes the patient. And it seemed most of his life’s work was to understand death. To wrestle with it and to usher people towards their death while respecting who they were as people and what made them such. He grappled with what it meant to live and when death became his life, he wondered still what it meant to leave it all behind.

I’m desperate to understand the meaning of life most days. What makes this matter so much? For him, in the end, it seemed what mattered most is having been here at all. Able to taste and see and experience, able to live regardless of the eventual death we all will come to. And I ask myself: am I really living? Or, worse, if I were to be diagnosed tomorrow with terminal cancer – what would I change about my life? (So many, many things) And then … why am I waiting to die so that I can have the permission to live?

So along with reading this summer and the boredom, I’m also crying a fair amount. A cleansing. A release. An acceptance. I followed “When Breath Becomes Air” with Shauna’s newest book, “Present Over Perfect,” and I’m about half way through currently. I can read about 2 essays before I need to get up and stomp around my house. I toss a few more things in the “give pile”, throw some laundry in the washer, feverishly make lasagna and wash the dishes. By hand. I walk in a few circles, go outside. I let the sun touch my face and I rapidly write in my journal until my hand aches. Then I sit back down for another round.

Until the bleeting and laughing and merriment my kids are experiencing with friends and neighbors invades this sacred place of stillness in my life and I regret the disruption and beg for forgiveness when my anger becomes palpable.

And then I write.

Cooking Club Up North 2016

This past weekend I was in Nothern Michigan with my Cooking Club. We get together once a month for dinner at someones house (we rotate hosting). The rules are: you make food you wouldn’t normally make for your family or your family wouldn’t really appreciate (most of us have young families, so throwing carrots is the main event at dinner. Not always eating, or even enjoying dinner together). Also read Shauna Neiquests book “Bread and Wine” for more inspiration to start your own.

The host comes up with a theme for dinner ei: “green,” “mexican,” “PB&J,” or “soup” and the like, then each member claims a course. Appetizers, drinks, the host does the main dish, a starch, salad, dessert. You all bring tupperware for the leftovers and share the recipes once dinner is over via a private pinterest page. We keep a record of the themes, who brought what, and who hosted last; as well as a list of ideas/dreams to one day do together. We just crossed off “Wine tasting/Cook together weekend.” Every month we merrily abandon our duties of the table to our spouses and children while we shop, prepare, and make one exquisite course to share among ourselves. For just one night a month – we share a table with enthusiasm, toast to good fortune, and get to know each other a little bit more without distraction.

We very much want you to have a cooking club so if you need permission for one more thing to fit into your month: this one is worth it. Gather a few friends or folks you’d love to get to know and invite them to the table. It’s been a beautiful rhythm in my life, and I owe it all to my friend Jeannette for getting it off the ground.

We spent the weekend wine tasting, cooking together, laughing and singing, watching the Olympics, driving all over Northern Michigan, eating, paddle boarding and kayaking, sleeping, and hiking/walking/yoga-ing. There were a few squats in there, some leg lifts. A posture demonstration. And lots of discussion about our kids, oily skin, and hair care (ps, don’t wash your hair every day). I may have fallen down some slippery steps in the rain as we were packing up to go home. It’s possible I have a blue leg to prove it.

Worth it.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our first menu of the weekend included: A cheese plate with homemade hummus, (Tahini from Jerusalem? Yes.) all the cheeses, fruits, veggies, crackers and breads. Moscow Mules for appetizers, white wine with dinner which was Lobster Alfredo, caprese salad, roasted asparagus, crusty/rustic bread, and homemade strawberry sour cream ice cream with biscuits and whipped cream.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

It took us a good 6 hours to prep, make, and actually eat this feast.

The next day we woke up and did not wash our hair. Drank coffee while we got ready and packed up snacks for the day on the road. We had a plan and we were off to conquer it. First stop? The cheese shanty in Leland – their pretzel bread sells out fast and we needed that bread. Then a hike to the Empire Bluff to eat those coveted sandwiches and sweat, on to our wine tasting tour beginning with Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor (please go to Glen Arbor, every body. Just go. It’s my favorite.) and then meandering around the peninsula stopping at various wineries ending up at Tandem Ciders before toasting the day complete at the original Moomers for an ice cream dinner.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
From the left: Kara, Beth, me, Laura, Jeannette, Stacey
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

We worked out when we got back to the cottage for the night. And then we ate some more cheese.

Sunday morning we woke up and took our time drinking coffee, and then more coffee. We all made our way on to the dock to paddle board and kayak before getting back in the kitchen together to prep brunch, toast bloody mary’s, and eventually eat our last meal of the weekend together. We planned on walking after brunch (before heading home) when it started raining. So we cleaned up and closed up the cottage to the cadence of the water falling outside and then piled back in to the van to head home. Slowly. With deliberate stops to drive down main-streets with our windows open and the music blasting. We were those people. I love those people.

A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club
A weekend away with Cooking Club

Our brunch menu on Sunday was frittata, parfaits, french toast, dry rubbed bacon, the green well salad from Shauna’s book, and Mimosa’s.

And I returned home full in a way I hadn’t expected.

Sailing

A friend of mine has a sail boat and I sort of imposed a ride on it this week. In my mind it was a dingy, 4 people might be too many on it but I wanted to know what sailing was all about. You guys. It’s a legit 25 foot sail boat. That my dear friend captains on her own only after learning how to sail just recently.

You know what this means, right?

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

Sailing the high lakes. Lake Michigan.

It means we can do anything.

Just try.

like you, like me

Our time in Washington was memorable. There aren’t any words, really, that do it justice. We rented a house for a month and I was worried that I would forget what our life in Michigan felt like, it was that seamless. The last puzzle piece, lost under the couch for ten years until the moving truck comes and finds it. That was this month. Complete.

Home

My grandma's garden

a walk to Grandma's

First morning in Washington, Home.

I was trying to explain this to a friend of mine and the best I can do is that going home felt like being adopted and meeting my family for the first time. They looked like me and talked like me and we’d be hanging out and someone would say “you look just like … when you …” or “No way! Me, too!” Even weird stuff, like the kinds of products I use or different cooking things. There was just so much LIKENESS. So much of me. I wasn’t the only one.

My aunts are writers and they write books! Like, it’s not just this idea they’re dreaming about or this secret they don’t talk about. They’re DOING IT. They’ve done it. No one looked at me funny when I took photos of literally everything or recorded their stories and they all went along withy my wild adventures. Clamming (even if it rains), baking hundreds of cookies for a kids market (even if they don’t sell), fishing (even if we don’t catch anything). My grandma said we really revved up their life while I was talking to her on the phone since we’ve been home and I feel the same way. The very best possible way. All revved up.

But being back in Michigan feels like I’m driving around in my past. We’re back and life is “returning to normal” and I don’t know why I keep waiting for my past to tell me a different story. It never changes. I’m tired of waiting. There’s a lot to learn here so I’m listening but still struggling to find the silver lining.

First morning: home

I’m excited for what’s next. Who knows, maybe we’ll do this next year. Or maybe we’ll find ourselves traveling to all the corners of the globe immersion style. It’s not out of the question, as I’ve learned over and over again, anything is possible. And never say never.

Conversations with God and Jessica

I woke up this morning sad, like I’ve been waking up every morning lately, I got into the shower and had a little conversation with God. I asked him what it would take to not wake up so sad every day. Well I sort of asked him and sort of threw my hands up and said “You’re it!” because let’s be honest, I’m not going to choose different today if it’s up to me. I’d like to stay in my sulking corner and rot for a while longer, thanks.

Then my daughter, Jessica, came into the bathroom as I was blow drying my hair and thinking refreshingly positive thoughts that went a little like “I can do this. It’s a choice. I get to make this choice, today is just going to be good.” and she was on the brink of tears because her day got flipped around and now what she was waiting for was going to happen at a later date and didn’t I know her life was RUINED and everything was NOT FAIR and she’s always LEFT BEHIND and people kept DISAPPOINTING HER.

Touchè, dear Jesus. I was looking in a mirror. I usually am with this one.

Last day of travel on the road trip we missed the part about needing a ferry (and reservations) - so we drove a little extra to find a ferry that didn't take them and crossed the Puget Sound to finally arrive at our house. It was a highlight. Cold, tired

So I had the conversation with her, the same one I thought I was having with God – I started talking with her about choices and how we can have everything we ever thought we wanted and look really happy and still be really, terribly alone and miserable and that it’s up to us to accept the happy things, to say yes to joy. We have to be thankful, really. We have to say “Today is enough, whatever it is, I can do today. I will choose this today.” Then I got honest with her and told her what I’ve been feeling like, that I wasn’t some adult looking down on her with all the answers because my life looked so much better than hers. I am the grown up, so of course I have veto rights and what looks like fun from her perspective is really just work for me.

Her face changed when I told her that I’ve been feeling the same way she is right now.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

Because instead of seeing through her, I was looking her in the eye and telling her “I can see you, I am hearing you. I don’t have all the answers but this is what I think we should do. Do you want to try this with me? We can do it together today.”

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

I admitted how human I was. She could see all my cracks and the light shining through them. Sometimes I forget that she needs to see me bleed, too. On the trip home – our first night back on the road – we got to our campsite and set up. I had cried the night before after we said goodbye to everyone and then we were so busy packing and making sure we didn’t forget anything that I didn’t have any time to be sad again. But then we stopped moving and I sat down in the camper with Jessica at my feet. Aaron was talking to me and all of a sudden I couldn’t stop it. I put my hands over my face, and with Jessica watching, my body started shaking. I was sucking air and trying to hide and making ugly cry noises and my face was hot because I was covering it and everything was wet because the tears wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want her to see.

But she did. She saw it all and she moved the 24 inches from my feet to my torso and she put her entire body on-top of mine while I couldn’t control what it was doing, she laid there with me in my sadness. She stroked my hair away from my hands and dabbed away the stray tears flowing out of my hands and she whispered “It’s ok, mom. It’s ok to cry, I’m sad too.”

Jessica and I

And suddenly I wasn’t so sad anymore.