“Choosing love” will not solve all the world’s problems—but taking small actions, making an effort to extend compassion toward everyone we encounter can go a long way.Read More
To reach a goal, you need to know why you want to reach it. You need to dive in and start taking steps in along the path. Setting a mantra can help you stay focused and motivated. Here’s help with all of that.Read More
Always say yes to the run, ask for what you want, trust you know what you need—and you don’t need another cheap red lipstick. These mini mantras and more, in a list of life rules I gleaned from my bullet journal.Read More
A few years ago, I stopped making resolutions at the start of the calendar new year. Instead, on my birthday—in December—I starting making lists of the things I wanted to do in the 12 months ahead. Design and teach a yoga workshop. Snowboard down M1 without crying. Spend quality one-on-one time with each of my guys every single week. Publish four essays. Go on a road trip with my sister and kids.
I realized there was a common reason for aiming to accomplish all these things. I wanted to feel brave, creative, alive, connected. I wanted to mop up all the moments with the people I love most. Through my yoga studies, I realized that I'd switched from making resolutions to creating sankalpas. In Sanskrit, sankalpa means "will, purpose or determination." It's is sort of a resolution, wrapped in your best intentions, written by your highest self. Last year, my sankalpa was this: "I manage my energy in ways that allow me to stay present for, and to enjoy, the people and things that matter most."
This year, I've boiled my aim down to its essence, a single word: LEAP. I'm turning intentions into actions and ideas into reality, summoning up the courage to have the hard conversations, pushing past discomfort to expand my limits—as a parent, a partner, a person. And generally just getting shit done, like going to the police station to be fingerprinted (after four years of vowing to do it) so I can chaperone a school field trip without having to have a chaperone myself. I did that today. Took 10 minutes.
When it comes to aligning actions with intentions, I've discovered some things that help keep me focused (which is no small feat). Maybe they'll help you too:
Design your mission.
Turn your mission or your mantra or your word into something you can display front-and-center in your home, office, on your phone. (Or skin. I have a tattoo of a swallow on my wrist to remind me to keep writing. It's inspired by Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird). If you don’t feel particularly artistic, curate others' words and images to make a vision board. Mine has Joe Biden on it. And lots of ladies leaping.
Wear a reminder.
It can be as simple as a string—or a hairband—around your wrist. I wear mala bracelets made by my friend Shannon, who donates a portion of every sale to help rescue dogs.
Set out a statue.
On my desk at work sits a little brass Ganesh—the elephant-headed Hindu diety associated with removing obstacles. (He's gone on many field trips with friends when they've most needed his power.) I also have a "egg" rock my kid found on a the beach, which reminds me to see the world more like a child, and a framed little card that says "Stop Talking." (It's for my own good. Thanks, HT!)
Stay in touch.
Read about inspiring leaders who align with your values and aims, get outside and connect with your thoughts, hang with people who expand your perspectives.
Write about your victories (offer gratitude) and your challenges (and what you learned!). Notice patterns. Refine to align.
I love thinking about shapes as a container for my energy. Yoga poses may stimulate or symbolize certain ways of feeling. Here are my go-to poses:
To feel energized: Sun salutations and heat-building poses like utkatasana (chair), planks, core work
To feel confident: Tadasana (mountain pose), Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior 1 and 2)
To find focus: Balancing poses - Vriksasana (tree), Garudasana (Gagle), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3)
To tune in (and tune out the world): Forward folds
To let go: Hip openers like pigeon, Baddha Konasana, Anjaneyasana (low lunge) Flowing sequences
On a related note, I'm leading an Intention-Setting + Yoga Workshop this Sunday, January 22 at Yoga Roots in Shelburne, VT. You can learn more and register here.
This weekend, I retreated. To a quaint little cabin in Maine—to write, to plan, to focus, all of which I did, and quite effectively, if not exactly in that order. I was there with two other creative friends, but, all told, we spent only a couple of hours together. I was alone for hours and hours, and what I discovered was this: I still am very am much who I am, and who I always have been. It actually was sort of a surprising discovery, given that I never consider that I might have "lost myself" along the way. I have plenty of what some call "me" time, really: I have a full-time career in content, which I love. I teach yoga, which I also love. I spend a good amount of time with friends, at least for a working mom of two.
But this weekend truly was all about me, going my own way. Meandering—physically, intellectually, emotionally. I read and wrote. I drove into town for takeout at a Thai restaurant that looked amazing and, while I waited the 45 minutes it would take for them to prepare my garlicky greens and tofu, hoofed it to a Hannaford a mile away. Along a very busy two lane-highway. Passers-by looked at me skeptically: did they think I was a murderer, or about to be murdered? My goal was to get toothpaste (which, as it turned out, I hadn't actually forgotten) and some exercise. Seems ridiculous now as I write it. After procuring the goods, I picked up my dinner and contemplated ditching my plans to write for some sort of performance at the opera house next to the restaurant, mostly because the space and the show reminded me of the market house in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where I'd gone to college. But the play was more than an hour away and the aromatic box of food I'd just picked up seemed worthy of eating back at my cabin versus on the sidewalk.
During the rest of the weekend, I ate lots of hummus on a rotation of items: snap peas, carrots, rice cakes; I snacked on LARA bars and almonds and dark chocolate. Every few hours, I'd walk to the common area to refill my coffee mug or make a cup of ginger tea but often opted to stay in the room and just drink seltzer, straight from the big bottle, so as not to interrupt my flow. I did yoga in my pajamas. I fell asleep with piles of books in my bed. I did not wash my hair. I chewed lots of gum.
I spent time with Jessi Klein, Seth Godin and Debbie Millman. Their words made me feel happy and whole, excited and inspired. I organized files and made to-do lists. Imported old blogs and read entries about my kids as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, realizing that they too still are very much who they are and pretty much who they always have been. Jotted down ideas for a few pieces of writing and started in on one. Plotted out a plan for a conceptual art project to which I'm pretty sure I can actually commit. Realized that, indeed, given the space to compose a complete thought before someone else interrupts, my brain is very, very good at systems thinking. Truth.
Also truth: my brain is not very good at following directions—even when guided by multiple GPS systems, as my drive home reminded me. But after a few U-turns, I figured it out, choosing the roads less efficiently traveled—the ones leading me to apple-pickers filling baskets right along side the street and tall, Seussical grasses; a sweaty man mowing his lawn wearing bright orange ear muffs and golden-yellow gloves and a young mom playing frisbee on a hill with her two young boys; deep-blue ponds with sparkly surfaces and big tall logs stacked high in a lot. All these little moments and majestic landmarks filled my heart. I kept going.
Eventually, my path led right to Dog Mountain, Home of Stephan Huneck Gallery in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. I'd been wanting to visit since Dempsey passed away in April of 2015, and there, right on the side of Route 2, was the entrance. Right there. I steered up the dusty hill, found my way to Dog Mountain's now-famous chapel and wrote a short remembrance on the back of a scrap of paper with pink pen. Then I sat in a carved-dog chair and sobbed. For the beauty and the pain. For Diggity, who'd been the most loyal and loving friend to me for nearly a dozen years—and for Stephen, who'd built this beautiful space to honor and hold so much love—and then who, years later, took his own life.
I got back in the car and continued home. I stopped for a coffee. I ate a quinoa-almond-butter blondie that I'd gotten at a bookstore hours earlier—without guilt. Feeling lucky and happy and very me. And in that moment, I promised I'd work really hard to keep feeling this way tomorrow.
It’s Jon’s and my anniversary. Typically, I’d repost the our story of coming together, with all its twists and turns. But thirteen years in, seems it’s less about how we met and more how we’re keeping it together.
It really comes down to this: We see each other as equals. (Equals who disagree and fight and don’t always connect. But equals, no doubt.)
The other day, in the car, I was describing the brilliant infographic that Reebok released in response to Donald Trump’s latest (or probably not, by now) gaffe. The boys, listening from the back seat, asked what I was talking about. I told them that our president, upon meeting a woman (leaving out details of who she was) for the first time, said “You’re in such good shape … Beautiful.”
My kids were appalled.
"That’s just rude,” the older one blurted. “People shouldn’t talk about other people’s bodies,” his little brother agreed. “But if you know them, you can talk about what you’re both interested in.” Or you can start talking to discover what you’re both interested in, the conversation continued. Maybe soccer or baseball. Farm camp. Art. Music. The weather. World affairs. Whatever. So many options. No need for creepy harassment. These boys are nine and seven years old.
I share this anecdote not to brag. Last weekend, one of my boys was picking fights with friends half his age; yesterday, the other one threw his bike into the woods, kicked it, then screamed at his grandmother—because he was feeling frustrated. Despite lots of yoga practice, I am emotional and reactive. I yell at my kids a little every day. Not awesome, but true. Sometimes, I yell at their dad. I most certainly am not doing everything right. Perhaps, I’m doing most things wrong.
But conversations like these (and this New York Times piece on raising a feminist son) give me hope that we’re raising young men who will treat women and men and children—all women and men and children—with respect. (Even if they will sometimes yell at people they love.)
And for that, on the 13th anniversary of the day Jon and I married, I am grateful.
PS: For inspiration on equal partnerships, listen to this awesome interview with my friends Amanda and Eric, who comprise one half of the band Swale.
It's summer, and summer is a time to go CAMPING—at least four times, according to my husband. As a kid who mostly preferred reading on the glider to any other outdoor activity and an adult whose idea of a good time is trolling garage sales and making lists in coffeeshops, spending a quarter of my summer (or something like that) in the woods has taken some getting used to. I do it because Jon has brainwashed our kids into loving camping, and if they're going to be tenting it up all of those weekends, I will tag along. I also do it because Jon mostly plans camping excursions with a giant posse of people I REALLY like, which sort of spins the whole situation into a party I don't want to miss.
So now I camp. Four times a summer. Which makes me an an expert camper of a sort—the sort who doesn't really do any of the set-up but comes along and has a good time. I've learned a lot along the way. And I like to share. Here are my secrets:
1. Stick to the packing list.
The one you saved on your iPhone—the little "I've got your back" post from the past. The one that looks super personal because it mentions your favorite hat (which you bought for $38 four years ago to bribe yourself into happy camping) but can't really be because it mentions RAIN PANTS. Which you most definitely do not own. Or maybe you do. What are they? "Booties"... ??? Anyway, you probably will be OK if you stick to this list, or any list, and you do not unpack half the things when the Doppler radar and your dad-in-law who's visiting result in your leaving a day later than planned.
Upshot: that "shoes suited to the terrain" bit on your legacy list: SUPER important. But if you're going to forget all terrain-suited shoes, make sure your posse includes a friend who literally gives you the flip-flops off her feet and a 10-year-old who lends you his hikers so you can hoof it to the cool beach with his mom. PPS: As it turns out, you actually probably don't need that beanie or those mittens in late June. Or the leg warmers, really.
2. Know what you're getting into.
Are you staying for two days? Three? Are there things to keep your kids and your brain busy? Where will you get your coffee? Will you be driving in (and can escape at any moment)—or do you need to boat to an island where you'll stay until morning even if it there's a lightning storm? Maybe you'll be canoeing to that island with two bikes, a cot, a tent, a cooler (but not terrain-suited shoes), your two children paddling alongside in kayaks. Just know. And go. KNOW. AND GO.
3. Find your happy place.
When you find yourself in an uncomfortable place, find a positive perspective. Literally. Look at a pretty flower. Or a cloud. If maybe you're in a canoe with allll the things, ask for the seat that faces the gentle waves and your strong, brave children, not the one behind the pile of bikes and things that, at any moment, might topple out of the boat and tip everything else.
4. Don't forget sunscreen.
And by don't forget, I mean to APPLY. Vitamin D, shmitamin me. And I have olive skin too. Outdoor adventures require adequate protection. Even if you're just chasing two kids on kayaks who paddled away. You may decide you want to circle the whole island. If you do that with naked thighs, believe you me, you're going to be sorry.
5. Eat good food, drink good coffee.
If you're a reluctant camper, a propane grill and a coffee press will change your life. If you're feeding kids—or impatient adults—heating up ready-to-go foods is a fine idea. If camping isn't camping without your cooking famous smoky meat sauce from scratch and boiling pasta over the fire, you're not a reluctant camper. For those friends who are, bring snacks.
6. Soak up the scenery.
Basking in the beauty of nature is the reason you go camping. So watch every minute of that sunset. Wake up early and gaze out over the water. Take pictures, too, so next time, when you feel that anxiety rising, you can look at the pictures, get super psyched, grab your fancy Happy Camper hat—and your Tevas or hikers or at least flip-flops—and head for the woods, happily. (Or willingly—and be be super happy you did.)
Everybody has their own way of a cleaning a kitchen. Sometimes, it's one so imperceptible you don't even realize it's happening. Sometimes, it follows a strategy that is in stark contrast to your own. Always—I would argue because I like to argue (not in a mean way) and because I'm obsessed with Myers-Briggs typing—it's got something to do with your personality. If you don't know what I mean by Myers-Briggs, and those letters below make no sense to you, please do yourself a favor and take this fun little interactive quiz. Then read on to realize that however you clean a kitchen is A-OK. It just is.
Clear the table, send a text, load some dishes in the dishwasher, play with the dog, make an espresso, pick at leftovers, load the other half of the dishes, fill the pans to "soak." Indefinitely.
Quickly, competently, running through a list of mental checks. Before "closing the kitchen" for the night, pack up lunches for ALLLL the people and chop vegetables for tomorrow's dinner.
Slow to start until you remind yourself—firmly—that you have a job to do. Then you get that shit done and go out for drinks.
Fast and furiously, with lots of loud clanking and HAACP-approved disinfecting tactics.
Saunter from dining table to dishwasher balancing dishes stacked far higher, and more precariously, than is prudent. Sure, the result may be more smashed plates than seen at Greek wedding but life's not worth living without taking risks.
Delegate, delegate, delegate and see that every player satisfactorily completes their task. Then, tackle the greasiest pans yourself. With gusto.
Belt out "you put the lime in the coconut"—in an outdoor voice because wooden spoon isn't actually a mic—while clearing food scraps. Continue dancing until the job is done. Likely by someone else. Who wants you to stop singing.
Clear, clean, and, when that's all done—sometimes while people are still eating—make a pot of coffee and and put out chocolate for all of the people who didn't help.
Consider a variety of approaches to getting the job done. Settle on none. Retreat to the next room to work on something more interesting.
Draw a sink full of sudsy warm water. Submerge your hands and mindfully cleanse the dishes for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
While rinsing dishes, imagine sink set-ups that will make kitchen-cleaning efficient; immediately start drafting plans, oblivious to the running water spilling onto the floor.
Clean as you go. Leave no trace. Not even for a minute. Contemplate systems that will enable the room to reset itself.
Dive in. Get it done. No fuss. And should it happen that all of those veggie peels some ENFP shoved down the garbage disposal f*ck up all the pipes and cause a big messy scene, you deal with that too. Done.
Get right to it. Demand (politely) that others retire to the next room to relax—and get the hell out of the way so as not to mess up your dishwasher-loading protocol.
Critically assess the dish collection and storage space. Rearrange the cabinets, taking a time-out to head out to the Home Depot, for the "right" shelf liner should the job require it.
Kindly wave everyone else off to do what they need to do—or what they want to do: homework, work work, relaxing with a glass of wine and a book. Embrace the quiet moments of creating calm from chaos.
SHOUT! OUT! (Can you guess my type?) I'd like to thank the subjects of the study that produced the data from which I was able to extrapolate, reimagine and, ultimately, produce this statistically insignificant, highly non-scientific publication: the Facebook friends who proudly shared their hot tips for, or hot-mess tendencies toward, kitchen care taking.
I've been lucky in life to be surrounded by people who—in my milestone moments of needing help—have surrounded me with support, intuited what I needed, and stepped in make it all happen.
When my son burst onto the scene nearly six weeks early, our friend Amy rallied the entire neighborhood to finish painting our first floor—while Jon and I spent nights in the NICU. After we brought baby home, Maria—who worked from home—stopped by every day at lunch to walk with us. With baby number two, she served me wine at her apartment, bouncing my colicky kid while I watched The Bachelor. My mom and sister have spent countless of their vacation days taking care of my kids. Lucky. So lucky.
Given all that, it pains me that I'm not the friend who can pinch-hit—grab kids, run errands, hold hands— midday when a sticky situation strikes. I still feel guilty that—working full-time in an office two towns away—I wasn't around for Maria every day when her son was born.
But I try to do what I can. And what I can do is cook. Or cut fruit. It doesn't matter that I work full-time because you can make a nourishing meal for a friend at any time of the day. Quite often, supporting someone else by erasing the need for them to deal with dinner requires nothing more double-batching your own meal: one for us, one for you. And that's why I love me the Meal Train, an online service that allows you to organize meals drop-offs easily for someone else who could use a stretch without thinking about sourcing supper. (As it turns out, the service was started by a friend of the Amy who pulled together the army of people who painted my living room when I went into early labor. Good people.)
As the recipient of post-partum gift-meals twice over, and the maker of meals for trains taking off after a bunches of babies, illnesses and other tough stuff, I have some helpful insights to share for those wondering "what should I make?"
Lasagnas, Enchiladas, Mac 'n Cheese
These are a traditional, obvious choice—comfort-food in a container, typically a foil one that the recipient can simply toss. You can't go wrong. Unless your peeps don't do dairy. And if that's the case, man, did you do wrong. Luckily, Meal Train lets the organizer specify dietary restrictions and preferences.
Most anyone in my world who had a baby in the fall or winter of 2010 or 2011 will tell you that I made them Beet & Barley Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons. Because I was on a kick. Or a jag. Call it what you will. I was obsessed with this stuff, and I thought everyone should be eating it. Now I'm more likely to pick a soup that I think the recipients will like. Sometimes it's Curried Carrot, sometimes it's Chicken Noodle. (If it's Chicken Noodle, it's likely that Jon made it—because I'm not much for dealing with carcasses and broth bubbling for hours.) Always, it's in a Mason jar—that the receiver can use for pay-it-forward soup, or to hold flowers or a bunch of pens.
Salads of All Sorts
I, for one, can eat only so much buttery, cheesy noodle-y things before I start to feel to feel anxious, so I always appreciate the friends who pack prepared salads—or greens plus chopped veggies (peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes) presented separately, to eat however we liked. When our second son was born, my friend Lisa sent over a simple fruit salad—strawberries, blueberries and grapes. We've since worked it into our weekly repertoire and many of our Meal Train drop-offs. If I'm sending over a supper for you in summer, it's likely to be tabbouleh—with City Market Salad Bar Tofu on the side.
"Happy Hour" Provisions
Hummus, good bread, cheese, olives, fruit, and drinks—alcoholic or non: pull together a delicious buffet, pack it up and call it Picnic Dinner. Or French Dinner. Or order and pick up a pizza. Mmm...
A Little Something Sweet
I never much thought about rounding out a meal made for loved ones with dessert—until, post-my-baby, Eliza popped some chocolate-covered almonds in her drop-off bag and Michelle stopped by with homemade chocolate-dipped macaroons. Now, if I have it, I'll include some dark chocolate or make some muffins for the next morning's breakfast (or the freezer). Today, I had nothing good to add, so I mixed together some chocolate chips, raisins, cashews and almonds in a jar. Just in case my friends needed a little something sweet. And salty.
Flowers, a trashy magazine, a card, something fun for a kid. These are some things people gave to me, and I loved them. I don't always add the accoutrements but I always aspire to.
Your turn: What do you make when make a meal for a friend or family member who could use a little help?
Adopting our pup Yo Biden has meant adapting a bunch of things, including our dinner routine. Typically, I plan and prep all of our meals, employing a survey-the-fridge-and-compile-something-creative, sans recipe. But since I've been coming home at lunch (I work close), Jon has been heading home a tad bit early, perfectly positioning himself as dinner-prep person. He's one who feels more comfortable rocking a recipe, so, today, he sat down with a cookbook—a great cookbook called Dinner: The Playbook by Jenny Rosenstrach—and plotted out a bunch of meals for the week.
Here's what we're eating (recipes from the book + simple sides and family favorites):
Monday: Birthday party + leftovers
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes and sweet potato fries
Wednesday: Chicken + roasted beets + quinoa and peas
Thursday: Sweet & spicy tofu + green beans with toasted almonds
Friday: Asian BBQ Chicken + cilantro lime rice, sesame kale salad (family favorite!)
And here's what I purchased for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and sanity (flowers!):
In the produce section: Avocados (for toast, rice bowls, everything!), carrots (for soup - lunch - and snacks), kale and spinach (for sides and smoothies), onions (for Jon's fancy recipes), garlic (because we're Italian), strawberries (for snacks and yogurt parfaits), cilantro, dill, rosemary and thyme (for Jon's fancy recipes), sweet potatoes (for fries and more), beets (for roasting, because: yum), bananas (for snacking and smoothies and, once-brown-and-slimey, baking), limes and lemons (for everything, including my recent turmeric toddy obsession)
In the dairy (+ more section): Vanilla yogurt (snacks and parfaits), milk (for growing boys and coffee), almond milk (smoothies, overnight oats), eggs (for everything)
Meats and more: chicken breasts, ground turkey, extra firm tofu
Baking situations: flour (for pancakes and cookies), chocolate chips (ditto)
Staples and snacks: sprouted grain bread for toast and sandwiches, pretzels, peanuts, cashews, slivered almonds (again, Jon with his recipes), juice (because kids can't have coffee but still need a jumpstart), two kinds of ginger tea (because I consume like a grandma and go through boxes of this stuff every week).
Next up: Teaching the dog to cook.
What are you eating this week? How do you plan your meals?
It's Thursday, and if you're anything like me on most weeks, you've run out of all of the food you bought last weekend. You've run out of dinner ideas—if you had any in the first place. You've run out of time. Generally speaking. Don't worry. Don't succumb to spending $40 to $100 on takeout (my kids eat like men). What to do is this: Survey your freezer and your fridge and your cabinets and make a kick-ass buffet. Use those convenience items. Don't be shy. Have no shame. What's that they say? Try to be perfect and you end up a shitshow? Kidding, kidding: I know: it's perfect is the enemy of good. It's true.
Anyway, if you don't know what to have for dinner, do what I did on Tuesday and embrace the easy. Here are some ideas that will work for a variety of have-on-hand scenarios (and/or my unsolicited advice about what to buy next time).
First, fancy up a totally pre-made frozen entree.
These here are tamales from Trader Joe's (thanks for the tip, Elisa!), cut in half and topped with a slice of avocado to make them look all appetizer-y. Purchasing pre-made tamales from TJ's is a no-brainer because: 1) they're relatively healthy 2) they contain meat, which my family loves and I never make, and 3) I WILL NEVER MADE TAMALES FROM SCRATCH. But there's no reason you shouldn't buy and serve healthy entrees that you actually would make because YOU'RE BUSY and food should not be stressful. So also try using—or next time stocking up on—these things: pizza (healthier and way cheaper than the ones you order), veggie burgers. Remember: halving or quartering standard servings makes things look cute. You could also go the route (which I often do), of buying frozen salmon or turkey/veggie meatballs and rounding out the meal with grains and veggies (see more soon)—but I consider that legit cooking.
Grab those prehistoric bags of frozen veggies.
And cook 'em up. Now's a good a day as any. Above is a bowl of grilled cauliflower, again from Trader Joe's. It legit has two ingredients: grilled cauliflower and salt. For all intents and purposes, it's just as good for you as regular roasted cauliflower: delivering detoxifying isothiocyanates, fiber and all that jazz. I know this because I have a master's degree in nutrition. Not to brag. Just to let you know that my opinion is informed by facts and my opinion is this: there is no shame in frozen veggies. (Note: I agree that they sometimes feel limp and soggy-ish. But frozen veggies are better than no veggies and if that really bothers you can go for things like peas and corn.) Or you can just eat things like snap peas and green beans and cherry tomatoes from the fridge. (See two blurbs down.)
Make something starchy you have stashed in a cabinet—real quick.
And by "real quick" I mean approximately 20 minutes, start to finish. This here is one giant (mutant?) sweet potato turned into baked fries (375 to 400 degrees for 20ish minutes) that one of my kids will eat until he turns orange. Ketchup is totally okay. Sweet potatoes, or potatoes of any kind, are also a great base for a bowl. Like rice (quick-cooking brown), quinoa and other grains. In the case of a bowl, you just pull ALLLLL the things out (beans, veggies, avocado, cheese) and put them on the table. Let the people decide what to pile on top.
Raid the refrigerator.
Peel the oranges. Slice up some cheese. Put out some hummus. And olives. And pickles. It's a picnic! Toast up old pita or just regular bread. Slice it in triangles to impress the people. Use all the stuff. Dinner is SERVED.
Almost two years ago, we lost Dempsey, The Greatest Dog Who Ever Lived. It took approximately 700 days to even consider opening our hearts and our home to another diggity. Last November (after the election!), we started talking with Brigitte at VT Dog Rescue about the possibility of rescuing a puppy, post-snowboarding season. Late last month we received an email that 17 pups—including a fluffy shepherd-y mix (or so he appeared from his "headshot")—would be arriving in Vermont, from Mobile, Alabama. The fluffy shepherd-y mix was Yoda, and he had kind eyes, like Dempsey. He was young enough (12 weeks), it seemed, that he probably wouldn't want to eat our cats. So three weeks ago, Jon and I drove to the police station in Hinesburg to meet Yoda, to bring him home.
Two days later, we paid off our children (10 bucks each) to rename him Biden—actually, Yo Biden. (You see what we did there?) We had no illusions that Yo Biden would the only canine Biden pup; we expected that, like us, others—perhaps many others—might attempt to replace the joy and kindness and smarts and charm that vacated the White House with the VEEP by adopting a dog and naming him after The Greatest United States Vice President Who Ever Lived. What I didn't expect was that another Biden dog would get to meet Joe, and this run-in would allegedly break the Internet.
I'm not bitter. I'm happy for this dog. Plus, I firmly believe that we all need to open our hearts to the love and joy and kindness and smarts and charm that these diggity Bidens represent. I'm just saying that I think Joe Biden has more in common with Yo Biden than he does with this namesake Golden Retriever puppy he hugged this week.
Yo Biden rocks aviators.
This guy's future's so bright, he's gotta wear shades. In the house. At night.
He's a fervent supporter of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Look at him holding on tight to this rad Electric City shirt (designed by Scranton artist Valerie Kiser). He won't let go. And for what it's worth, that smiley lady holding him (i.e., me) is from another blue-collar Pennsylvania town on the Western side of the state. It's called Bessemer.
He drinks from this cup.
He loves me, and you, and you, like Joe loves Barack. He also loves Joe. And Barack. And his Aunt Katie, who bought this cup.
He roots for the Delaware Blue Hens!
Like this guy holding him, he's a big fan of the Blue Hens. (Note: I requested that this University of Delaware alum go find his college track singlet and put it on for an epic picture but he refused, saying it is in a box in the basement and Logan just primed the basement stairs so he can't. #excuses #heslying.)
He's a rescue. And a shepherd. Of a sort. We think.
Or maybe not. But he looks like a shepherd and he's definitely a rescue. Joe Biden and his family rescued a German Shepherd named Champ. Dudes are tight. One day they played so hard that Joe Biden got a bruise, and the media went wild.
Let's let's get Yoey B., and Joey B. together. I think they'd both really dig it.
When life gives you rotten bananas—or it feels like it—you make muffins. Banana ones, of course. With chocolate chips.
This past Saturday, I had big plans. My husband and eight-year-old were going to the mountain for a black-diamond-in-the-woods-riders-only snowboarding date; my six-year-old wanted to stay with me. YES! A mom date with my boy. And our baby puppy. It'd be PERFECT. We'd go for a long walk in the woods with the dog and sweetly tire him out while romping through the forest, taking in all sorts of wildlife and having meaningful conversations—the kind only a mom and her six-year-old son can have. Then, we'd go out for lunch and go to a rock concert for kids. Because one was happening. And our friends were playing it. And how perfect was all of this?
But my boy had different plans. He wanted to have a day-long playdate with two of his best buds. He wasn't really into a concert—or going outside for more than 20 minutes at a time. I convinced him to walk with me to the park (awesome!) and arranged said playdate (good times for all three kids!) After the friends left, and Yo Biden (said sweet pup) made it clear that he needed to get out or he'd destroy our house with this puppy teeth and his pee, I asked K to go outside to play with me and Yoey B. Denied. So I went to the backyard with Biden myself, tossed around a ball and, approximately nine times, ran the circle-track of snow we'd shoveled out, Biden at my heels. Then I went back inside to try to cajole K out. I found him sitting in a chair, staring sadly out the front window. "When is Dad going to be home? I want Dad."
Like a four-year-old, I burst into tears. It had been a bad week at work. I had a lot of not-so-great energy—plus all of those super-Saturday expectations*—bottled up. It came all pouring out. (Not proud of this, but it's true.) "That really hurts my feelings. Can we do something together that's fun? What would you like to do?" He just wanted Dad. And he wanted a sweet. As it turns out, K was angry—really angry—that his big brother go to spend the whole day with this dad and get a waffle from the shack at the bottom of the slope.
"Can we make chocolate-chip muffins?" He asked sweetly and sincerely and, when I nodded gratefully, sidled up to the counter with a chair, happy not to be competing with this brother to do all of the good measuring and dumping. And then we made these muffins (inspired by a recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz), which saved the day:
Banana Chocolate-Chip Muffins
- 3 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon ground flax
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1+ cup dark chocolate chips
Make 'em, bake 'em, and enjoy:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in almond milk, applesauce, oil, flax, vanilla and sugar—with a fork is fine! Mix dry ingredients—flour, baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon—together in a separate bowl... or don't... I often just add them into the same one and stir it all up. Blend in chocolate chips.
- Bake for ~20 minutes (start checking doneness with a toothpick at 18 minutes). Let cool for a minute. Enjoy together with milk or coffee or coffee with milk.
- Promise yourself to let go off expectations next time. (In yoga practice, this is called aparigraha, or non-grasping, letting go of attachment.)
Today, my life felt like a Zen Short of sorts.
When I left work, I was cranky and annoyed and frazzled. It hadn't been a feel-good day. And I was jetting out early to take Kai to the pediatrician—for shots. I needed to take the Escape, typically Jon's vehicle—a shift in plans that had prompted a hissy fit (mine) over mud-caked cupholders, fast food wrappers and abandoned softball snacks (which, this morning, I angrily referred to as "old nuts"). The car also contained toys, preschool papers, a college diploma (not mine) and two sets of skis that someone who was a small child in the 1960s must have worn. I have no idea of their origin.
Before work, I had removed all of these things from the car and tossed them onto the mudroom floor. I rinsed out the cup holder. So as I was pulling out of the parking lot of my employer, the Escape was uncluttered if not clean. It was all good. Turns out, not so much.
About halfway to Kai's school, the radio stopped working. And then started working again. The dash went blank and then flickered back on before all "computer" displays disappeared for good. I started feeling anxious, wondering if I should bail on the kid pickup, feeling lucky that Kai wasn't in the car already. I kept going, pulling into the Hannaford-plaza turning lane to get off the busy road. I glided to a stop. For good. The car was dead.
My first response: gratitude. The old Escape had chosen this relatively safe place to throw in the towel; I was by myself, no kids. I called the pediatrician and cancelled the appointment. Then I started flipping out. I called Jon and told him I had no idea what to do next (really?) and that I was SO hot (what?) He told me to calm the f*ck down (in much nicer words), call the car insurance and get the hell out of the hot car. So I did. From a nearby curb, I watched frustrated motorists lined up behind this unoccupied vehicle—mine—that did not turn left, COULD NOT turn left, curse and toss their hands wildly into the air. I tried to wave them past. I realized they could not understand me, that there was nothing I could do to solve the problem. I'd made the requisite calls. Now all I could do was wait.
And that's when the magic started happening.
- The Progressive man dispatched a tow truck.
- Someone called the police and two officers came out to investigate the the mysteriously abandoned car/direct traffic/get the car the hell out of the middle of turning lane. They directed me to get back behind the wheel and put the car in neutral and then they pushed me into the Burger King parking lot.
- Since my car was still sort of blocking a driveway, Officer Jamie stuck by and told me amusing stories about his day, then invited me to sit in his air-conditioned car. He offered to clear off his front seat so I wouldn't look like a criminal in the back. I declined and offered to get him an iced coffee at Burger King. He declined.
- I got my own iced coffee—with real cream because didn't I deserve that?—and parked myself on the curb with the beverage. I posted pictures of my broken-down car and my calmed-down face on Instagram.
- Seeing my post, recognizing my location as one near her home, KIMBERLY FREAKING DROVE OVER WITH A LEMONADE POPSICLE. FOR ME.
- Blown away by her kindness, I babbled a bunch of nonsense, gave her a hug, snapped her photo (for Instagram!) and vowed to be the kind of incredibly thoughtful person that does things like this much more often.
- Dave from Handy's arrived. He instructed me to get into his air-conditioned cab. He loaded up my car. He asked me what happened and, when he heard, he diagnosed a bad alternator.
- Then he drove me and the Escape with the bad alternator to Darren's shop WHERE OUR VAN WAS READY, after having gone in for a routine service this morning. (Which is why I was driving the Escape in the first place.) What? How lucky is that?
- I switched Jon's softball gear into the Escape—his after-work game was close enough to walk and now he had an awesome excuse to go out after the game and grab a ride home with someone else.
- I was too late—obviously—to get to Kai's appointment but just in time to get him from school. And with plenty of time to drive out to Jules too.
All of this kindness and serendipity had me feeling downright giddy. Lucky. Happy. The only one who was bummed was Kai. "I wanted to go to the doctor to get shots!" he said, crossing his arms and turning away to process his disappointment.
"I'm sorry, Kai. Sometimes these things just happen. It's disappointing, I know."
He turned back to face me. "Mama, can we go to the doctor tomorrow morning?" he asked with a trembling lip.
"We can try," I said. "Maybe we'll get lucky."
I remember my mom telling me once that my Grandma Mary used to have a hamburger roll spread with jam and a cup of her standard coffee—light with cream—after dinner. It was her dessert and a way to unwind. I'm pretty sure she didn't engage in this relaxing ritual when she was a young mom of five kids, also taking care of her ailing parents down the street. It was probably after she retired. In fact, I can't actually even imagine her taking time for her self, as she was always doing stuff for other people. But apparently she did at some point. I thought of her—of this—tonight, out on the deck, sipping my light coffee, feet up while I watched Jules hit baseballs thrown by Jon and Kai find the soccer ball that soon we'd be kicking around as a family (newly discovered World Cup fever). And I just rested there, for a full five minutes.
I bailed on two of my favorite people tonight—pretty last minute—because I was anxious about preparing for another work trip combined with the fact that Kai-guy never goes to sleep. Oh, sure, he goes through the motions: I read him books, tuck him into bed, scratch his back. He sends me off with a hug and a kiss, to find his "favorite blankie." I bring it up, and he fakes like he's going down. Then it begins: the request to read in our room, or at least his room (he typically sleeps on Julian's top bunk). I set him up with books, ask him to just stay quiet and relax. And he complies—momentarily. Then he's on to rearranging furniture and un-organizing drawers. Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he recites—spoken-word, Beatnik style—song lyrics. "Scooby. Doo-by. Doo. Where. Are. You." Tonight, he unearthed a Batman lanyard and an Akron RubberDucks baseball cap, which he was wearing sideways when I walked in. I placed him back in his bed, turned on the overhead light he'd turned on and flipped on his scrolling-underwater-scape nightlight instead. I walked out of the room and into the one where I am now. Ten minutes.
"Mom? Mom? I can't find Teddy."
I go into his room to help locate the tiny bear, who once sported a Mets jersey and now sleeps naked. He was missing. He being Kai, not Teddy. (But Teddy was still missing, too, at this point.) The little imp had transported himself to the top bunk in Julian's room again. There he was sitting, surrounded by two bears who were bigger than Teddy, but had his same light brown fur. Still, no relation. Teddy was under his knee.
"Teddy is under your knee."
"Oh! There he is!"
"I love you. Good night."
"I loooooove you! Good nii-iiiiight!"
Now I am in here. And he is in there. There, where there is rustling. I'm going to pack for tomorrow and he is going to crash—in 45 minutes or so.