Inspirations

Daughters

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I have few memories of Octave being a still baby, even as a newborn. In hindsight I can see that the lack of memories has less to do with my memory and is more telling of her little spirit. Her energy was and still is big, loud, and kinetic. I can so clearly see and feel her desire to do more, see more, say more, feel more, give more, take more, be more.  So. much. more.  Her rest is seldom, both literally and figuratively.  Just her presence, let alone her words, beg me to dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and to see myself clearly.  She rocks me, shakes me, and leaves me upside down before she asks me to arrive at my fullest potential, every.single.day.  She is my mirror, my joy, my teacher of patience. This is such a beautiful blessing but usually after it is unflattering, hard and messy. I am most certain she heard me preach to the world all those years ago just how much I LOVE being taken out of my comfort zone, because that is exactly what she does almost every hour of every day. But oh how she melts me. She melts my heart deep and wide, making herself at home in the most untouched spaces inside these bones. No one can soften me the way she can, truly no one.

Bijou is only nine months old but her differences are obvious, even from the most oblivious passerby. When she was growing inside my belly I could feel her little spirit already teaching me something different from her sister. She came earth side and those words I swore I heard her whisper in my womb, became a little louder but only loud enough for the most steadfast ears. She is present, and rooted, exuding a comfort that I never knew until I knew her. She doesn’t question or ask much of me, she just looks into the deepest place she can find and wants me to stay there with her. Her spirit feels so familiar that when I look deep into her eyes I feel like I have known her my whole life. Yet sometimes I feel like I don’t know the first thing about her. She is equal parts mystery and transparency.

I’ve been told to be careful how I talk about and compare my daughters differences. Surely I understand and want to be sensitive, yet I can’t help but find it to be more helpful than harmful.  I think it would be lovely to be a grown woman reading words your mother wrote about you from the moment she first met you.  I think it would be empowering to look back over your life and see how some traits were so uniquely you, even from day one. I think it would be positive to teach your children that their differences are celebrated and needed, not only inside a nuclear family, but in this world.  But selfishly this sifting, organizing, and reflecting is good for me too.  I feel the need to articulate and understand how and why they grow me. It’s important for me to express that just because one might make me more uncomfortable or stretch me to my max, does not mean that I value and love her any less than the one who holds my hand right where I am at. Their differences are what I need, and even more, what the world needs. These girls are my daughters, but I am forever their student. It is from them I am learning the most complex, heart wrenching, visceral love I have ever known. Every morning I see my life lessons laid before me inside my bottomless cup of steaming truth, but I’ve only begun to take my first sip.

Surrendered

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It’s 2 am, or something like it, when she sneaks into my room filling our bed with four warm bodies, leaving me the smallest sliver of space.  She kisses my face, tells me she loves me, and just wants to snuggle.  The tired inside these bones starts to shift and breakdown.  The tears start flowing, and suddenly uninterrupted sleep seems so unimportant when it’s traded in for this.

Soon they are all sleeping sound, except me, the one who might need it most.  I could be bitter,  I used to be bitter.  I could be tired, I used to give in to the tired.  But in this quiet vulnerable space, side by side with my tiny tribe, I see myself.  I see my mishaps and regrets, but  I also see a heart that has doubled in size and overflows will a fierce and selfless love. Sometime after becoming a mother of two my heart has transformed and redefined itself.  I’ve given in, surrendered, and said yes.  I’ve said yes to it all and in return this heart has fallen deep, deeper, deepest, into the most joyful heartache I’ve ever known. Interestingly, I didn’t feel like a mother the day I learned there was life growing inside of me.  I am not so sure if I felt like a mother the day I birthed Octave into this world.  It is now, almost three years later that I can confidently claim my name as a mother, and even better, their mother.  There’s not too much I really need in this life, just keep me where the light is, and where they are.

 

 

Our Happiest Place

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Before I was able to ride my bicycle with both girls, I had a handful of less than desirable experiences with public transit.  I will admit that I was doubting just what the heck we’ve been trying to do here.  But then about seven weeks ago I got back on my bike and I felt the magic all over again.  I realized that all my huffing and puffing is less about how we’ve chosen to transport ourselves and more about the season of life we are in.  Navigating the city by car, bus, bike, or foot, with little people, is just challenging.  Usually getting out the door, is the hardest part.  But when we eventually do, we are well on our way to our happy place.  I know that once we all get to our cargo bike, everything is going to be okay.  More than okay.  In fact, I’ve never had a mood too cranky or a body too tired to resist the joy of riding my bicycle.  At the very least it’s functional and fun, at best it is life-giving and transforming.  Most days it’s the latter.

On my bicycle, I am the laid back, patient and present mama I’ve always wanted to be.  I am so present that sometimes we don’t make it to our original destination, because we find birds to chase, roses to smell and strangers to wave to and mingle with.  It’s a time and place where we are completely unplugged.  Having uninterrupted and meaningful conversations together feels effortless.  Octave can inquire about the world around her and we aren’t going so fast that I miss all the scenes that inspire her questions.  My head is clear and my heart is happy and pumping from a load that is quite heavy, albeit full of good things.  Our bicycle is one of the few places where there is little to no crying and we can almost always bet on a nap if and when our apartment fails us.  It’s how and where I get most of my exercise these days, but it serves a purpose AND it’s free!  Even with winter and rain drawing near, most days it’s one of my favorite places to be.  I am beginning to think that pedaling my family through our days might be the most simple and rewarding adventure I’ve embarked upon.

{Photographs by Ryan J. Lane}

 

 

Movement + Light

 

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I am captivated by the way she moves.  I am moved by the light that dances in her, with her and around her.  I am tickled with the beauty that’s born from the simplest act of pouring cream in my coffee.  Little goes unnoticed, nothing goes without praise.  

I am lost and then found, or perhaps, found, forever lost, but these moments are enough.  This life is more than enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Ride

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We started out strong, sporting our tattoos for the Cyclofemme ride, but we strayed from the group because the bladder of a 2 year old and a 38 week pregnant woman can be rather high maintenance.  We still managed to cover 15-20 miles of the city, stopped for brunch at Broder, took a family nap, enjoyed some Salt + Straw ice cream with Tay-Tay and ended our with day some play at the park.  It was the perfect way to celebrate being a Mama. 

361 days of bliss

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We are about to celebrate one whole year of living car free. During the last year there were only four days, or at least that I can remember, when I cursed the road, thought we were crazy, or wanted to own a car again. Four days out of 365 is surprisingly few, especially when six months of the year was spent in subzero weather, pregnant, with a babe. I am now a believer that it can be done in almost any circumstance!

Since moving back to Portland (with a belly that is undeniably pregnant), people have been telling me that once baby number two comes I will want a car. I wouldn’t say I feel defensive, but I’m a little surprised. I would think that that the last year would have proven our determination and shown the joy we’ve found in living without one. I would think that attempting this lifestyle with a toddler in the middle of nowhere would speak loud enough for itself. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot … and maybe these people are right. After every honeymoon phase, real life starts to happen.

I remember my dear friend Laurel, who I admire greatly, speaking wise words to me almost four years ago. She and her husband have been married for over 10 years and helped guide Christopher and I in our pre-marital counseling. (I have yet to find a couple more worthy of learning from.) The week before I got married, something in me started to question my ability to vow forever. It seemed to come out of nowhere. It caught me off guard. I found myself crying to Laurel and admitting that I was scared that I might want to run away one day.

She wasn’t surprised. She calmly and confidently told me that of course at some point in our marriage I would want to run away … but that I wouldn’t. I laughed, snorted, and cried some more. It was a profound moment for me. It brings meaning to not only marriage but so many areas of life. It is not my feelings that I should fear, because feelings, while they are very real, come and go.

It’s the choices I make that are important.

It is possible that in six months time I will be wishing we had a car. Once I admitted that to myself, I was filled with a new enthusiasm. The question is not “will I ever want to own a car?” There is no doubt that I will go through seasons where I forget all the wonderful reasons we decided to live car free. There will be a time when I want the convenience, especially once the sleep deprivation of baby-number-two kicks in.

The question is “what will I choose when those feelings arise?”

Lately, I see wisdom in setting myself up to make good choices, consistent with who I want to be, during vulnerable seasons. We all fall short of our ideals when life gets messy and real, but if I know that in advance, then I can set myself up for outcomes that are consistent with who I am.

A few months before we left Wyoming, I was filled with so much guilt as I watched our daughter Octave in a seeming coma, gazing into our television (a television I wasn’t even sure how we suddenly owned and found ourselves watching every night).

There is nothing wrong with enjoying TV in moderation. I am a sucker for family movie night and good documentaries. But a few months ago I was in my first trimester, tired beyond comprehension and I used it as a crutch on bad days. Then, I used it every day.

I told myself it was fine—many other good moms that I love and respect succumb to the television as well. But deep in my gut this only made me feel worse, because it has nothing to do with being a good mom or not, it has everything to do with being the mom that I want to be. Good people and great moms make choices every day that I don’t feel comfortable with. There is no judgment on their character or decisions. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about living in a way that gives me peace when I rest my head each night. All of those thoughts and emotions mixed with witnessing Octave become more impatient and naughty with each day of television, told me this was not a good thing for our family. So, right before we moved I had enough of this guilt and I told Christopher I wanted to sell the TV and it wasn’t really up for much discussion. The next day a friend came and bought it from us. By selling it I took away the temptation of making a choice that doesn’t make me feel good. I made it easy for myself to make a choice that at the end of the day makes me happy and is consistent with who I am.

I share this struggle with the TV only because the same logic can be used when talking about the car. Even though I have never enjoyed driving and I have many reasons why living car free makes me happy, in seasons of transition, struggle or exhaustion, I might not make the choice that deep in my gut I want to make. Even though people and places might be easily accessible by foot, bike or bus, on a tired, rainy day with two babes, I can see how easy it would be to just hop in the car if given the choice. That choice becomes a habit, and then it becomes your life. This is how I think people wake up after ten years confused at how they got from A to B without even wanting to be there in the first place.

There will always be exceptions, off days, tired days, and special circumstances. It is important to be gentle with myself on those days. There will be days I will eat something I am not proud of, regardless of whether it is in my kitchen or not. (I once biked to the store in a subzero snowstorm because I HAD to have ice cream!) There will be handfuls of weekends away from home where we use disposable diapers. There will be nights with family and or babysitters that I will probably encourage them to cuddle and watch a movie with my children. There will be times throughout the year where we get a Zipcar for the day or rent a car for a weekend trip to the coast.

Choosing to live without a car is not black and white and in no way means we are never going to use a car. This is probably the biggest misconception when I share our story. I don’t believe the car in and of itself is negative, in fact I think it is a great tool and I am grateful for it but I think the way most of us are dependent upon it is detrimental to our health and the environment. This choice to not own a car does not mean we are refusing to use a car in our future, it just means we are setting up our life so that majority of the time we don’t use one.

I do care deeply about the air Octave and her children will breath. I think about it often, and wonder what her generation will think of ours. Will they wonder how we could continue to make the choices we do knowing the things we know? Will they understand or will they be as utterly confused as a lot of my generation is when we see people smoking knowing full well what it is doing to their bodies? I like to think about the $700 a month we are no longer paying towards a car payment, gas and insurance. I will admit that I also love the thrill of being apart of something pretty counter cultural in my part of the world. I love being part of an adventure that looks and feels foreign. Yet still a year later, the most powerful reason for wanting to live this way and the reason I believe I will last, is that I get so much joy out of walking and riding my bike. The wind in my hair, a 2-year-old who is a million times happier than she would ever be in her car seat, and a body that feels like it serves a purpose in my livelihood, are all priceless. At the end of the day that is probably my biggest motivation to live car free, and while it is not always easy, it is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I am pretty impressed that 361 days of the year I absolutely loved living this way, and most of those days riding my bike with Octave was even the highlight of our day.

Like the ups and downs of marriage, (or anything good in life), I am starting to think I am in this for the long haul. Here is to one year down, and hopefully many more to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Here Now

Be here now, I tell myself.  My aching arms and back are only temporary. This belly, and these hormone induced bi-polar like meltdowns are only temporary.  No place to call our own is only temporary.  My little lady needing her mama so much, is only temporary.  And yet there is so much of the present that I wish could last.  Can she fit in my arms forever?

These photographs capture my days.  My days of rocking and rocking and rocking my little lady to sleep.  She must sense she will be sharing me soon.  The bathroom mirror I glance in to see if she is asleep yet.  The window I always leave open to savor that good NW air.    My protruding belly.  Her bum in disposable’s half of the time. Sigh.  A ring to remind me we can get through anything together. Forever.  The calm I feel when she is finally asleep.

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Lately I find myself wanting to document and share, but sometimes I feel confined by the history of this blog.  Everything I’ve shared here has always weaved in and around food, and while I will always celebrate the colors and tastes that fill our bellies, I want this space to grow with me, with us.

A year and a half ago I found myself in the middle of nowhere, WY and I became consumed with my kitchen and making every single thing from scratch, maybe for lack of anything else to do.  I discovered a domestic life was far more attractive than I could have ever imagined and suddenly cooking and baking became my catalyst for finding joy and navigating the newness of motherhood.  I found myself as a wife and mother, in rising doughs and fermenting cabbage.

Now I am back in a city full of life, with everything at my fingertips.  I am finding myself once again in movement, light, rain, and puddles.  I am finding myself wanting to capture this season in photographs rather than food.  Maybe it’s not having a kitchen to call my own, or maybe it’s this stage in pregnancy.  Regardless of the reason, I am filled with a desire for a new creative outlet.  The only problem is I am just a wanna-be photographer.  I took a few photography classes in high school but beyond that I have no idea what I am doing.  I just know I love capturing life with my camera like I love chopping vegetables and whisking batter.  I also love to write and while my lack of formal education leaves my confidence low, it is something I must do whether I am “good” at it or not.  This online space gave me confidence in my kitchen endeavors and helped refine my love for cooking and baking.  I have hopes that this space could do the same thing for my photography and writing if I let myself express ALL the things that make my heart go pitterpatterclunk, regardless if it is related to fresh baguette out of my oven.  This space will continue to be a keeper of our favorite family recipes, memories, and thoughts on food, but I am inspired to let it become more than that if and when it feels natural.  So here I give myself permission to grow and evolve and share beauty wherever I find it.

Wild and Free

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I walk promptly to catch a bus that makes shapes and predictable patterns inside the veins of my favorite city. My unfamiliar heavy gait finds amusement in the wet pavement.   I’ve known this sound for years but after seasons in the desert it has never been quite this sweet.  I arrive at the bus stop moments before the bus arrives, but just long enough to stretch my tired calves along side the curb and smell the cigarette of the woman walking past.  Long enough to take note of all the things I love about the moment.

I gaze out the window, like a child entering a fairy tale, only it’s real, all of it.  Octave peers out her window with eyes that mirror mine.  She rests her eyes only to chew off another piece of her fruit leather.  We enter the city with patience and fervor, there is nothing that goes unnoticed and nothing that is left to be praised.  Everything looks and smells wild.  My heart feels just the same.

In giddy awe I remember that just weeks ago my life resembled nothing of the present.  I laugh with the newly profound realization that we didn’t just leave behind Wyoming but we left behind three American virtues… a “good”career, our automobile and television.  We left all three without apprehension or regret, and traded them in for the intangible.  We traded them in for the look in my husband’s eyes, and for the newfound peace inside this swelling belly.  We traded it all in for that moment I looked Octave in the eye and said, I love our life.