Co-Sleeping: The Things That No One Tells You

teganteddybear

We never planned to co-sleep with our kids.  Like unschooling, and baby-wearing, and regular-length (what the world likes to call “extended”) breastfeeding, the idea all came later… once we were face to face with this first little human we were lucky enough to get to call our son.  Spencer – who, though it surely defies all rules of time and space, is 19 at the time of this writing – had a beautiful crib in his beautifully decorated nursery.  It was great for holding stuffed animals, and I think he might have taken a nap or two in there, but yeah, it was otherwise never used.

In hindsight, there were many reasons that we brought him to bed with us, but the biggest one was that it simply didn’t make sense for him to be anywhere else.  He spent nine months in my womb, completely connected, warm, safe, feeling my heart beat… only to be born to sleep in a dark room all by himself?  It was illogical.  Plus, in those early days when I was still breastfeeding multiple times a night, what could possibly be an easier and gentler way (on the both of us) than just turning over on my side, and quietly nursing him back to sleep?

Three more kids, and nearly twenty years later, and we have shared our bed more often than not… sometimes with one kid, sometimes with two.  It was one of the best parenting decisions we never knew we’d choose to make.

These are just a few of the things we learned in the trenches:

1. They’re bed hogs.  No, really.  A tiny, 8 pound baby can position itself in such a way that it takes up the space of a thousand Great Danes.  And a toddler?  Forget it.  You get half an inch of mattress space, if you’re lucky.  I don’t know how it happens.  Nighttime falls and they turn into little Houdinis.

2. If you get up to use the bathroom, all bets are off and you’ll lose your spot.  And since you never want to wake a sleeping baby… you cram yourself into a teeny tiny ball and hope for the best.

3.  You’ll get peed on.  And pooped on.  And occasionally, unfortunately, puked on.  Everyone who’s ever co-slept knows the feeling of waking up to something… wet… followed by that moment of confusion and apprehension as you wake up enough to determine what variety of wetness you’re dealing with.  Is it going to be a “get everyone up and strip the kid and strip the whole bed catastrophe” or a “change a quick diaper and PJ bottoms, throw down a towel, and wait till daylight to deal with it little leak?”

4.  You’ll get physically injured.  Squirmy sleeping babies and toddlers are quite adept at throwing elbows in your eyes, and feet in your groin, and fists at your boobs.  Sometimes you get throat punched.  It’s a fun way to wake up.

5.  You won’t just share the bed with your child.  You’ll share your bed with your child plus their whole entourage, which may include:  stuffed animals, matchbox cars, baby dolls, Cheerios, and the pine cone that they picked up on your last nature walk.

6. They’ll come back.  None of my kids made an abrupt transition to their own beds.  They’d choose to try their own beds for awhile, then came back to ours.  Then they’d try their own again, maybe for a longer time period this time … and then come back to ours.  All our boys (12, 16, 19), have of course been sleeping on their own for a very long time now, but a period of boomerang behavior is expected and commonplace when you’re letting them move at their own pace.

7. You’ll get criticism if you share.  And QUESTIONS.  Oh dear Lord, so very many questions.  Aren’t you afraid you’ll roll over onto them?**  How do you keep them from falling out of the bed?  Don’t you worry they’ll never leave?   How will they learn to fall asleep without you?  And my personal favorite:  When/where do you ever have sex if you’re sharing a bed with your child??

And finally,

8. When it’s actually over, when they’ve officially chosen their own bed over yours… you’ll remember the sweetness of their little bodies snuggled up against you; the smell of their hair in the middle of the night; their warm hand wrapped around your back; the deep, even, and contented sound of their breathing; the feeling of genuine connection and peace and love;  the joy of holding them close to your heart;  the pure bliss of letting them be your babies, for just a little while longer.

And you’ll deeply, and genuinely, and profoundly miss it… black eyes and mystery wet spots and all.

_______________________________________________________

**Interested in co-sleeping?  Always make sure you do it safely!**

  • Don’t try sleeping with a young infant in something like a recliner.
  • Always use  a bed with a firm mattress, one that’s plenty big enough for the both of you.
  • Avoid pillows, fluffy comforters, stuffed animals, etc around young babies
  • Never, ever sleep beside your baby when you are under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
  • Put your baby on the side of a bed pushed up against the wall.  Or, use a bed rail.  OR, invest in a sidecar sleeper that abuts to your bed.  Fill in any gaps with a rolled up blanket.
  • In our house, we always did either wall, bed rail, or co-sleeper (at different points in our journey), then baby, then mom, then dad.  As they got older they graduated to sleeping in between us… usually positioned like a starfish, in order to take up the maximum amount of space as possible. :)

Happy snuggling!

 


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Feeling Their Joy And Their Pain

I was recently talking to a fellow mom friend about how, once you become a parent, everything you feel is heightened.  Seen and felt through your children’s eyes and hearts, excitement is greater, joy is more palpable, and pain is more acute.  When my kids are happy, the happiness I share with and for them is far greater than any happiness I can ever feel for myself.  When my kids are hurt, the hurt that I share with and for them is far greater than any affliction I could ever experience for myself.  It’s all deeper.  More primal.

As someone who’s already hard wired to feel the outer extreme of every emotion that passes through my heart, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  I mean, is manic elation or total despair – even when it comes from a place of pure love – ever really a positive thing?  I’m working on it.  But for better or worse, it’s there.  Whatever my kids feel, I feel it too.  And I feel it hard.

These past several weeks have seen some ridiculously high highs and painfully low lows when it comes to the kids, and my capacity to feel both (just as acutely) at the same exact time always amazes me.

Tegan – who’s 8 at the time of this writing – has had a series of events over the past couple of months that have in her own words “made her life complete.”

I am so, so thankful and ecstatic that we’ve been able to make it all happen for her.

First, we took her to Fan Fest to meet her favorite actress of all time, Millie Bobby Brown.  (If you don’t know who this is, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, silence your cell phone, and go watch Stranger Things in its entirety.  Stat.)

teganandmillie

Then, the night before last, we took her to see Adele in concert, making good on a hypothetical promise I made her when she was probably three years old.  (“If she ever does a North American tour again, and comes to Phoenix, we’ll go.”)  We bought the tickets almost a year ago, her first concert was postponed due to illness, and as we finally sat in that stadium on Monday night I couldn’t believe that 1) we’d actually gotten tickets, and 2) we were really there.  Most surreal concert ever.

adele

And in between meeting celebrities and watching concerts, she was hard at work rehearsing the part of Alice in a local homeschool production of Alice and Wonderland (which wrapped this weekend, and went very well)

alicebyposter

It was an embarrassment of riches in a very short amount of time, and to see her face, and to feel her joy… it made my life feel complete as a parent too.  Pure and total happiness.

And at the same time all of this happiness was going on, one of my boys was experiencing one of the most painful transitions (if not the most painful transition) of his life.  My heart has hurt for him… the kind of hurt that keeps you up at night.  And there’s nothing I can do to fix it.  Nothing I can do to make it better.  All I can do is be there, and be a sounding board, and be a cheerleader, and be a mom who tries to absorb some of the hurt so that he doesn’t have to carry it alone.

Two diametrically opposed feelings, intersecting at that most tender and sensitive part of the heart… the part that I fear may break at the mere exposure of its existence.

I’ve written a lot about thinking too much (and indeed, I do that too), but it’s the overwrought feeling that’s going to be the death of me.  Feeling so deeply hurts.  But the opposite?  Not feeling at all?  The mere thought of a life devoid of emotion pains me even more.  I kind of feel like unbridled empathy is what I’m here for.  I need to learn to harness it, to be sure.  To learn to protect myself, even as I absorb the feelings of everyone else.

But in the meantime, I’ll be over here in my little ball of emotions, swimming in the primal joy and deep ache that threaten to swallow me whole.  Knowing that there’s a balance somewhere, just beyond my grasp, and that eventually, somehow, someday, I’ll learn to embrace it… without taking myself down in the process.

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Yes, I’m Upset, and No, I Won’t Shut Up

buffaloridge

I climbed my mountain yesterday (I don’t actually own a mountain, but I like to think of it as mine).  I climbed my mountain in an attempt to get climb away – or perhaps climb towards – the heavy shadow that’s been hanging over my mind and my heart since November 8th.  Like an itch I couldn’t reach, it sat there.  Heavy, suffocating, distracting, and if I’m being honest, as annoying as all hell.

I didn’t want to write about it, and really, what could I say that hadn’t already been far more eloquently said by better writers than myself?

Except…

Yesterday I was pissed off.  Pissed off because people keep wanting to tell me – and others like me – to shut up and sit down.

Oh you crybaby liberals.  Get over it already.  Quit your whining and complaining.  So your candidate lost.  Trump is the president now.  Show some respect, grow up, and move on. (*language cleaned up to keep this family friendly)

Well since I’m not going to shut up:  Let me start by saying I am NOT upset that my candidate lost.  To be honest, I didn’t feel like I really had a candidate.  I’m upset by what won, and there’s a big difference.

I’m upset by what this could mean for minorities, and women, and members of the LGBT community, and lower income families.

I’m upset because you elected a person who’s shown himself, time and time again, to spew hatred, and bigotry, and disregard for anyone who is not a straight, white, middle-class, Christian male.

I’m upset because you elected a person who bragged about sexual assault.

I’m upset because America just took a giant step backwards.

I’m upset because the very same people who are calling for unity, and working together, just voted for one of the most divisive leaders America has ever known.

And listen.  Emotions are high, and I get that.  Republicans are feeling defensive, and I get that too.  People feel that they are getting called racist and homophobic and misogynistic because of their vote.  For the record, I’ve never called a voter any of the above.  I don’t know you.  I don’t think you’re racist.  I don’t think you’re homophobic.  As someone who very acutely feels the frustration of being negatively piled into one ugly yet neatly labeled box, it’d be highly hypocritical of me.   You’re entitled to how you feel though.  We’re all entitled to how we feel.

But here’s the thing.  And I mean this with the highest amount of respect I can muster:  This is not about you.  It’s not about me either.  Rather, it’s about all of us.

Because Trump?  Trump IS all those things that his voters don’t want to be called.  And no, it’s not because that’s what the media told me to think.  And no, it’s not because I’ve been wooed by negative buzz words.  (Seriously, this is insulting.)  It’s because of actual words that have come out of his own mouth.  Say what you want about him, but the man has never been shy about showing us who he truly is.

I saw a meme the other day blasting people for being afraid.  What are you afraid of?, it asked.  What can he possibly do to you?

People are afraid because they’ve been the one in four women who’s been assaulted (and/or they’ve been every women who’s ever been catcalled, or sexually harassed, or intimidated, or spoken to in an unwanted sexual way – which is every woman)  They’re afraid because America has just decided that that behavior is something that can be excused.  That that behavior is not a deal-breaker.

People are afraid that they’ll no longer be able to get their needed medication, and needed medical care.

People are afraid that they’ll start to lose their rights.  People are afraid that they’ll see a rise in mistreatment, and slurs, and outright attacks because of the color of their skin, or because of who they love, or because of who they worship.

People are afraid because Trump’s voters are so busy defending themselves that they’re not standing up against everything that is wrong with his candidacy.  That they’re not standing up against his running mate, who’s a big proponent of the cruel and dangerous and damaging conversion therapy.  That they’re not standing up against his newly appointed chief policy advisor, Stephen Bannon, a known white supremacist.

People are afraid because bigotry won.

And this man that America has elected as president is now the example.  Let’s make fun of someone’s disability!  Let’s call Mexicans rapists!  Let’s brag about grabbing women by the p*ssy!  Hey kids, this is fun!

In Trump’s world, bigotry is the norm.

Do I think that otherwise good and decent citizens are suddenly going to become horrible people under his reign?  Of course not.  But I do think that there are absolutely people that are going to feel emboldened by his precedent.  I do think that there will be people who will now act on their previously private biases.  I do think that he has – inadvertently or not – made them feel as though they now have a license to do so.

He has told us it’s acceptable.  He has told us it’s okay.

And that’s what scares me.  That should scare you too.  That should scare all of us.

Because all the unity talk in the world isn’t going to change the fact that this man, this man who harbors such outward contempt for… well, for pretty much everyone… is now going to hold the highest elected office in the United States.

Yes, that scares me.  And no, I won’t be shushed into compliance.  Not this time.  Not about this.

Finally, to the people who are saying, “You should stick to writing about parenting,”:  I’m pretty sure I’ve already invoked my, “It’s my blog and I can write about what I want” once this year, so I’ll just say this:

This is VERY MUCH a parenting issue.  I want, more than anything else, for my kids to grow up in a world that is gentle and kind.  Where people are respectful and loving to one another… no matter who they are, no matter the color of their skin, no matter how much money they have, no matter who they love, no matter who they worship.

And absolutely, that starts with me.  That starts with us.  In my own home, within these four walls, their life will be peaceful.  It will be gentle.  It will be loving, and it will be kind.

But outside our own closed doors?  There’s a different reality.  There’s a reality in which the new President elect is making a mockery of all of the above.  The highest position in the country just went to someone who bragged about sexually assaulting women, and is vehemently defended by people who want to point fingers at the crybaby liberals who Just. Won’t. Let. It. Go.

I’ve dated the teenage version of Donald Trump, and the idea that he now runs the country is … unreal.  I keep trying to wrap my head around it, keep trying to make sense of it, but there is no sense to be made.  This is reality.  A reality I never imagined would come to fruition, but reality nonetheless.

I will get over it of course, in my own time, and my own way.  But for the time being:

Yes, it does scare me.  It does anger me.  More than anything though, right now, at this moment, it mostly makes me profoundly sad.

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My Daughter Doesn’t Dress For You

teganaseleven

Halloween 2016

My daughter is eight at the time of this writing.  Her wardrobe, besides being fabulous, can best be described as eclectic.  It’s a dress one day, followed by running shorts and a tank top the next, followed by an ever changing mix of leggings and long tops,  and swishy shorts and boots,  and skirts with knee-high socks, and other various combinations that I haven’t even imagined until I’ve seen her put them together.  Last week she wore one of her dad’s t-shirts as a big boxy dress, and believe you me, she rocked it.

One thing she does not do is dress for me.  Or for her father.  Or for her peers.  Or for boys.  She dresses for herself, in whatever way makes her feel comfortable and confident and best able to take on the world as her own wonderfully weird and perfectly imperfect self.  My wish for her is that that always continues, whether she’s eight or twenty eight.

To insist otherwise is to give in to rape culture, and to an increasingly misogynistic society that tells us that 1) girls are nothing more than sexual objects, and 2) boys are nothing more than walking penises, slaves to their animalistic urges.  It is always amazes me each time that I again realize how equally disparaging this view is to both genders.   Can we give ourselves a little more credit?

Women are more than the clothes they wear.

Men are more than hormonally-driven hunters, always on the lookout for the next thing they might want to have sex with.

Which is why articles like this one, by Shelly Wildman, are so concerning.  Titled How Your Daughter Dresses Matters, she explains why as parents we need to be vigilant in ensuring that our daughters are dressed modestly (which sounds pretty difficult, since she estimates that 80% of what we see in stores is inappropriate.)

From the article, in response to a WSJ online article with a quote that said, “We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: ‘Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!’ But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.”:

Think about that. If, as mothers (or fathers!), we’re encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately, that’s basically what we’re saying. At the very least we’re saying, “Here’s my daughter. She’s on display. Take a good, long, hard look at her.”

And a few lines later, in describing what the author says to the junior high girls she works with:

Dressing a certain way attracts a certain kind of guy. I doubt very seriously that the kind of guy you want to attract is the kind of guy you’re dressing for when you dress like that. Besides, you are above that. You are better than that. You deserve better than that.  So dress for the guy you deserve.

Oof.

First of all, thinking of your daughter in terms of her hypothetical sex life is gross and inappropriate, to say the least.  I don’t care what she’s wearing or not wearing.  Second, if a parent is equating a specifically dressed daughter with an object on display… the problem lies within the parent.   This is going to sound harsh, but that excerpt literally filled me with revulsion.

Our children are not our possessions to display, nor are they puppets with which to act out our own ideals about  what is and is not “appropriate” when it comes to attire.  They’re humans.

As for the “encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately”, there is a very big difference between respecting autonomy and encouraging inappropriateness.  And who decides what’s “inappropriate” anyway?  You?  Me?  The church elders?  “Appropriate” attire is completely subjective, and it’s both unrealistic and arrogant to think that we can define it for someone else.  I would never encourage my daughter to dress in a way that feels inappropriate to her, or uncomfortable to her, or inauthentic to her. 

What I will encourage?  Self-respect.  Self-love.  Self-confidence.  An intrinsic need to think, and act, and dress out of a deep respect for herself... not for me, not for you, and certainly not – as the second quote advises – to land the man of her dreams.  Sorry (#notsorry) current eight year old boys who might one day want to date my daughter: She’s not going to dress for you.

She’s going to dress for herself.

And I can’t speak for the rest of the moms or daughters out there, but if my daughter does in fact choose to be in a relationship with a man:  The man she deserves is one who doesn’t give a single wit about the clothes she’s wearing, and instead sees the person underneath.

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On Being My Own Best Friend

girlinfield

I’ve never cried in therapy.

In fact, I sort of pride myself on not crying… which in itself shows how far I have to go. Why on earth would a person attach any positive significance to not showing an emotion??  Right or wrong, it makes me feel as though I’m winning somehow, because I think my early stereotype of therapy included someone cross-legged on a couch, weeping into a bottomless box of Kleenex.

But I’ve never cried.  And I don’t even have a couch as an option.  (I feel a little cheated. I’m not gonna lie.)

The problem with my self-imposed no-crying policy is that I spend an inordinate amount of time actively focusing my attention on trying not to cry… ranging in intensity from “You’re cool, just take a breath.  You’ll be fine” to “Good God, big emotions.  Don’t make eye contact.  Concentrate on fiddling with your ring.  Or examining your fingernails.  Or inspecting the seam in the arm of the chair.  Emotions!  Big, big emotions.  Whatever you do, keep looking at the seam.”   None of this goes unnoticed of course.  Once when I was directing all my I-refuse-to-cry angst into wrapping my ear buds into a tight little ball, he asked me,  “You’re waiting to cry until you leave here, aren’t you?” It was both embarrassing and for some reason oddly touching.   And yes, yes I was waiting to leave before I cried.   My poor Land Cruiser has seen more tears than a confessional.  (Disclaimer:  I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never actually been in a confessional.  But I imagine it lends itself to crying.)

So why the big bias against witnessed tears?  I guess I find it embarrassing, and I have …. issues.  But I also fear that once I start crying that the floodgates will open and I’ll never stop.  You know that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams’s character keeps telling Will, over and over and over, “it’s not your fault,” until he finally breaks down and starts uncontrollably bawling onto his shoulder?  That would be me.  Except I’m pretty sure that in real life therapists aren’t actually supposed to hug their clients.  Nor put them in a throat hold like he did during their first session.

But I digress.

This past week, we were near the end of the hour when my therapist said, “Be your own best friend.”  I laughed, because it sounded like a bumper sticker, and he tends to say a lot of bumper-sticker-esque things.  But I was glad there were only a few minutes left in the session, because even as I laughed it was there, in the back of my throat.  “Dammit, I’m about to cry again.”

By the time I got to Starbucks – It’s part of my weekly therapy routine.  I circle the city until I can quell my tears enough so that I don’t look like I just witnessed my dog being shot, then I treat myself to a Trenta iced coffee for the rest of my ride home – By the time I got to Starbucks, I’d connected a dot I’d never connected before.   I realized that the times that I get so choked up in therapy, the only times, are those times we talk about me.  Not peripheral things related to me… not relationships or goals or past experiences, but ME.  My darkness.  My light.  My self worth.  And I finally realized why that is.

  • Why, like Will Hunting, I find it so difficult to believe that it isn’t my fault (What is “it”?  It’s everything.  It’s nothing.  It doesn’t matter;  it’s still my fault)
  • Why even the thought of asserting myself is met with such abject terror.
  • Why a silly little cliche like “Be your own best friend” would make me want to cry.

It’s because my whole life, I’ve been told the opposite… by the people around me, by my church, by myself.  Be compliant, Jennifer.  Be nice.  Be quiet.  Be small.

I was conditioned with a phrase that I heard so many times, in so many ways: “What would God have to say about that?”

The inference being that it’s the *world* that wants you to think about yourself, and care for yourself, and make yourself a priority.  It’s the *world* that wants you to be best friends with yourself.  God wants your sole focus, and your sole friendship, to be with Him.

I’ve decided I think that’s bullshit.

And I mean that with no disrespect and no levity.  I have a relationship with God that spans forty two years.  It’s important.  But it’s not the end of the story.

Because day to day, in the middle of the fray, you – we, I – need to take some ownership.  It’s ME who has to decide to put two feet on the floor every morning.  To get up when I fall.  To make decisions for self-care.  To get in my car and drive to therapy even when that voice that says, “Screw you, this is unpleasant and hard and I’m not going to do it anymore” threatens to take over.   To hold on, for just one more day.

To learn to finally, finally stand up for myself, and accept wherever the chips may fall.

To own my warts, and shortcomings, and mistakes, of course.  And my TEARS!  For heaven’s sake, a person shouldn’t be afraid to cry!!  But also the good stuff.  And the beautiful parts.  And the things I’m proud of.

To be my own best friend.

To simply be me.  Every time.  Every single time. With no disclaimers and no apologies.

And so, I think I finally have an answer to the question I asked up above.  What would God say to the “wordly” admonition to love myself?  I think God would say:

ryangoslinggoon

And then He’d ask me what the hell took me so long.

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Fast & Fabulous: White Chicken Chili

fastandfabulous

I adore Lisa Leake’s cookbooks.

I always get a little nervous when I review new books  (in this case 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous)  What if I hate it?  What if I find it just so-so?  I’m of course always 100% honest in my reviews, and as a writer myself, skewering someone’s work of art is not my favorite thing to do.  But thankfully that’s not an issue here.

I love this cookbook.

From a purely physical and aesthetic standpoint, it is big and substantial, with a sturdy hardback cover, and nice thick pages.  There is a gorgeous photo on every page.  (Am I the only one who gets sad when cookbooks don’t have pictures?  I need pictures.)  The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and use simple, whole food ingredients that you can find at a regular grocery store.

Last night, I made the white chicken chili, which is perfect for fall-like sweater weather – if you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country where the end of October actually is fall-like sweater weather.   It was easy to make, and Oh. So. Delicious.  Comfort food at its finest.  I doubled the recipe to feed my crew of six, and there weren’t any leftovers when we were done.  Twelve enthusiastic thumbs up, and multiple requests to add it to our weekly repertoire.

whitechickenchili

White Chicken Chili

Difficulty: Easy
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cook time: Less than 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
GLUTEN-FREE
NUT-FREE
FREEZER-FRIENDLY

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
Two 15-ounce cans white beans (such as Great Northern or cannellini), drained and rinsed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth, store bought or homemade (page 103)
1/4 cup heavy cream

TOPPINGS: Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado, and/or corn tortilla strips

Whether you call this dish a chili or hearty chicken and bean stew, it’s definitely a winner. The first time I made it for my kids, they asked me so many times what it was called, but by the end of the meal they cared much more about getting second helpings than remembering the name! If you have time be sure to double the recipe and store in the fridge or freezer, because, like most soups and stews, the leftovers are amazing.

1. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside (add more olive oil if the pot starts to dry out), 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Toss the minced garlic and spices into the pot and turn a few times to coat the chicken evenly. Add the corn, beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.

4. Break up some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the chili. Stir in the cream, garnish with the desired toppings, and serve!

100 Days of Real Food:  Fast and Fabulous is available TODAY, and you can grab your copy here.

This is Lisa Leake’s second cookbook, and her first – 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love – is just as wonderful, so check that one out while you’re at it!

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Tired

Photo by Nadia, via Flickr

Photo by Nadia, via Flickr

7:56 AM

I can’t breathe.

I don’t mean that in a figurative sense (though clearly, I’m not taking a whole lot of figurative deep breaths either)

I mean I literally can’t breathe, thanks to the cold that took residence a week and a half ago and seems to have no plans to vacate.

I’m a mouth-breather.

With the chapped lips to prove it.

And there’s the cough and the runny nose and the coughing and snoring 8 year old who’s been sleeping beside me, and the coughing and snoring 42 year old who’s also been sleeping beside me.

And the dog with diarrhea – which really has nothing to do with a cold, and is a just another small part of the whole reason I am not sleeping again.

Or still.

Is “again” really the right word when I haven’t really slept for as long as I can remember?

I almost said in “forever”, but forever’s almost never a fair word, and I’m pretty sure I slept when I was a kid.

I’m not allowed to complain about the dog, because he’s not supposed to be here in the first place.

He was a stray, abandoned on a desert dirt road.  And I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed him, just as much as he needed me.

We didn’t choose him.  But he chose me.  I saved him from the harsh desert, but really…. he saved me.

And now he has diarrhea.

I’m tired, so very tired, and only partly because of the diarrhea.

And the cold.

And the lack of sleep.

And the lack of breathing.

It’s mostly because my brain Doesn’t.  Stop.  Thinking.

At all.  Ever.

My therapist tells me I shouldn’t expect an on/off switch (which is good, because I’m certain such a thing doesn’t exist, at least not for me)

He does say that I should be able to dial it down though.

I think he’s lying.

Or my dial is broken.

BROKEN, I tell you.

It’s forever stuck – except forever’s almost never a fair word – stuck on the highest setting.

Like the Vitamix, when you flip it up all the way up to that mega setting that shows it you mean business.

The one that makes your teeth rattle, and keep your hand on the cover for fear that your banana berry Jamba Juice smoothie knock-off is going to end up all over the damn kitchen ceiling.

Only instead of blending up a banana berry Jamba Juice smoothie knock-off, my brain is blending up a soup of regret, and hope, and worry, and problem solving, and wondering, and religion and politics and pop culture and the kids and the pets, and the thing I said to my best friend’s brother when I was seven, and the mistake I made when I was 22, and my to-do list for the next 24 hours and the next 24 years, and the question of whether or not I’ll even be given another 24 years, or hours.

I want to dial it down.

I do.  I DO.

But I don’t know how.

And so I do the only thing I know to do and I sit.

And I drink my coffee and I try to breathe.

Except I can’t breathe thanks to the cold that took residence a week and a half ago and seems to have no plans to vacate.

I’m a mouth-breather.

And I’m tired.

8:06 AM


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Why Trump’s Comments Are So Much More Than “Locker Room Banter”

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

A few quick, but important, disclaimers:

  • This is a post about Donald Trump – and about rape culture.  This isn’t a post about Hillary Clinton, or Bill Clinton, or any other Democrat (or any other Republican for that matter). This is about the actions of one individual.  When you lead your rebuttal with, “But Hillary…” or “What about Bill…” all it does is make me think you can’t articulate your own feelings about Trump well enough to discuss them without deflecting onto something/someone else.  This isn’t about Hillary Clinton.  That’s another discussion.
  • I hate talking about anything remotely political.  Hate it.  It makes my stomach hurt and my heart race and my mouth go dry.  I know that some people love a good political debate.  I do not.  So for me to write about something that can be deemed political, especially on my blog, it means I find it really, really important.  Important enough to ignore the impending urge to vomit.
  • I’m not sure what I’m doing in the upcoming election.  I may vote third party.  That shouldn’t matter, since this is a post about one candidate only (see point number one), but it gets really boring and redundant to answer to immediate assumptions that if you have a negative word to say about Donald Trump, you must be voting for/endorsing Hillary Clinton.  I am a registered Democrat.  I’m also a woman, and a mother, and thinker, and a person who can make informed, intelligent decisions all by herself.  Boxing people into narrow little definitions never helps anyone.
  • If you’re tempted to comment in the vein of, “He’s still better than Hillary,” please read point number one again.

In case you missed it, some audio from 2005 was recently released in which Donald Trump can be heard saying things like:

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it…  I did try and f— her. She was married.”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her.  You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything…  Grab them by the p—y…. You can do anything.”

Now to be fair, Trump says a lot of crass, juvenile, and/or vulgar things.  It’s sort of his modus operandi.  We all – including his supporters – know to expect this from him by now.  Insensitive, unfiltered comments are Trump’s calling card.

But that’s not what this is.

What Trump is describing (and indeed bragging about) is sexual assault.

Kissing/touching/grabbing a woman without her consent is sexual assault.

Using your power as an excuse to “do anything” to a woman is sexual assault.

This is not a conversation about some silly inconsequential words uttered by an arrogant egomaniac.  This is about a man who wants to be the leader of your country. This is about a man who is not only admitting to but boasting about sexual assault.

This is about a culture that supports Donald Trump, and others like him.  People who want to blame the victim.. for drinking too much, or dressing too provocatively, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  People who let rapists like Brock Turner walk away with a slap on the wrist.  People who excuse sexual aggression by saying “boys will be boys”, or excuse sexually aggressive language by calling it “locker room talk.”

This isn’t locker room talk.  Most men don’t talk about sexually assaulting women.  Most men don’t talk about grabbing women’s genitals.

This isn’t “boys being boys.”  To reduce it to such is like giving a big “F–k you” to the 1 in 5 women who have or will have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.  Excusing Trump for what he said and did is the same thing as telling these women that their stories don’t matter;  It’s the same thing as telling these women that THEY don’t matter.

Excusing, defending, or dismissing Trump’s words (because they were a decade ago, because he’s human, because he’s “sorry”) explicitly tells the world that you think it’s okay.  It’s okay to reduce women to sexual objects that are there for the taking.  It’s okay to joke and brag about touching them sexually without their consent.  It’s okay to vote someone who endorses assault into the most powerful position in the United States, just because you happen to agree with his policies.

None of this is okay. 

And it’s not about political parties, and it’s not about us vs them, and it’s not about “the lesser of two evils.”  It’s about right and wrong, plain and simple.

I see memes like this, and I feel sick to my stomach  (*Note:  The first couple of memes reference Hillary Clinton, because that’s the sort of thing that people like to post.  Per my own rules, I’m ignoring the parts about Clinton*):

trumphassaid

What Trump has said is that it’s okay to sexually assault women.  That’s bothersome.  You should find that bothersome.  We should ALL find that bothersome.

Or this one:

trumphillary

He has said mean things, to be sure.  Mocking a disabled reporter was mean.  Mocking a woman – or all women – for menstruating was mean.  Mocking Miss Universe for gaining weight was mean.  Mocking people is a very big thing for Trump.  But endorsing sexual assault is not “mean.”  It’s in a whole different category than mean.  And reducing what a woman who’s been sexually assaulted feels when she hears his words to “hurt feelings” is minimizing and disgusting.

People who are bothered by Trump’s actions are not delicate little flowers who walk around with their fragile feelings hurt all the time.  They’re people who care about how others are treated.  They’re people who care that women, minorities, LGBTQ, children, disabled individuals all receive the same amount of care and respect and compassion as everyone else.  They’re people who care about not perpetuating misogyny and hate.  They’re people who care that this man – this person who wants to be the leader of our country – has so little regard for his fellow humans.

And finally:

trump50shades2

I saved this one for last because it is the most ridiculous of the three.  I hardly want to dignify it with a response, but I have to.  If it wasn’t dealing with such a serious issue, this meme would be laughable.  Now I obviously can’t speak for any other women but myself, but I’m not the least bit “outraged at Donald Trump’s naughty words.”  Naughty words (and what are we, 8 years old?) don’t bother me.  Sexual assault bothers me.

Stop reducing me to a fragile little simpleton who wilts at the sight of a crass word.

As for 50 Shades:  I’ve read it, or part of it anyway.  I couldn’t really read the whole thing… not because I was offended by the “naughty words”, but because I was offended by the terrible writing.  I have very limited knowledge (and no personal experience) with BDSM, but I do know that it’s consensual.  And it should go without saying – except I’m having to say it – that these are fictional characters in a book.  It is make-believe.  Pretend.  Not real.  They are characters.  AND THEY’RE NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!  The comparison is illogical and gross.

This is a real issue, about a real person.  These are real women that Trump is talking about. If it was your daughter he was talking about, or your sister, or your mother, or your best friend…. if it was someone you loved… would you still be okay with it?

Would you be okay with someone saying they were just going to go ahead and “grab {your loved one}’s p—-y?”  Because these women he is talking about are someone’s loved ones.  They are someone’s daughters and sisters and mothers and best friends.  (**Editing after the fact to add, after it has been correctly pointed out to me by a few of my readers:  Even if the person is NOT your daughter, sister, mother, etc, she’s still a PERSON.  A woman’s life is valuable and important, no matter who she is.  Full stop.  Thank you for speaking up, and helping me write with better clarity**)

They are all of us, and they deserve better.

Our men deserve better too.  Every time you reduce Trump’s words to harmless locker room banter, you condemn all men to the lowest common denominator.  Not all men brag about sexual assault.  Not all men view women as objects rather than humans. Not all men hear Trump’s words and think they are normal, or okay, or in any way acceptable.  And honestly?  If the guys you’re hanging around do think what he said was okay, might I suggest you find some better friends, friends who actually respect women.

We can be better than this.  We have to be better than this.

I have three teenage boys, and one young daughter, and I want them to grow up to see a world that is kind, and gentle, and true.  A world where people are standing up for what is right, instead of rallying behind a man who represents everything that is wrong.


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Quiet

Partying it up on New Years Eve.

My life is noisy.

Inside my own head is noisy.  With four kids and one husband and two dogs, my house is noisy.  A brief note to my neighbors:  Yes, sorry.  I have a barker.  Django is a barker.  I feel it’s important to note however that I do call him in when he barks, and that he is most definitely NOT the dog that is allowed to bark for hours in the middle of the night.  That’s the house behind us, and I am just as highly frustrated by it as you are.

Even when people are happily doing their own thing, there’s one person talking to a friend on Skype.  Another talking to himself.  Another watching TV.  Another playing a video game.  There’s the click click click of computer keys.  There’s singing.  There’s music.  There’s laughing.  There’s general merriment.

There are people across the street whose car alarm is constantly going off.

And have I mentioned we have a barker?

This past month has been insanely busy for us with these final conference preparations, and the 12 year old’s football starting, and the 8 year old’s theater starting, and dentist appointments, and car appointments, and my own personal… stuff… and all of the comings and goings from all of the above.

I have not been sleeping much – because that’s how my body tends to deal with stress – and when you’re not sleeping, noises are so very magnified.  You know how people talk about the horrifying sound of nails on a chalkboard?  When I’m not sleeping, everything sounds like nails on a chalkboard.  Except, if I’m being honest, I can think of much more objectionable sounds than nails on a chalkboard.  Like someone flossing their teeth.  Or eating a banana.

This is my life right now.  A million people flossing all their teeth and eating all the bananas.  Right in front of me.

And please don’t misunderstand.  A lot of the above are happy noises, and I’m grateful for them.  It’s just… I’m tired.  And when I’m tired, the noises make me more tired.

But right now, in this very moment, it is quiet.  I am alone in the living room.  Three of the four kids are sleeping, and the other is quietly watching something with headphones on his computer.  The dogs are sleeping.  There is no barking.  No car alarms.  No TVs.  No music.  There’s just… silence.  Silence so acute that I can hear my own breathing.

And I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, Has it really been this long since I’ve had a silent moment?  or Have I just been too busy and stressed out to take notice of them?  My heart tells me that it’s the latter, and I struggle against the feeling that I’ve somehow failed, again.

But I know I didn’t fail.  I’m just learning.  And for whatever reason, this lesson of being still in the moment is one I need to learn over and over.  And over and over and over until I really get it.

My brain wants to go to the next thing, to get ready to deal with the next noise.  The dog will start barking.  My phone will chirp at me.  UPS will show up at the door.  One of the kids will need me.  I fight with myself to stop anticipating everything that will come next, and instead appreciate the here and now… as I simultaneously realize that fighting is exactly the wrong thing to do, and that it’s a matter of leaning in, and surrendering, and allowing myself if even for a moment to just BE.

Right now, it’s quiet.

And I will breathe.


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Broken: How Therapy’s Destroying Me

art-broken-explosion-glass

I recently whined to a good friend about having to go to therapy.  It was the morning of my appointment, and I wanted – with every little fiber of my being – to stay home.  “I know it’s hard,” she said.  “But don’t you feel better afterwards?”

“No,”  I told her.  “Most of the time, I feel worse.”

Having no basis for comparison, I have no idea if it’s it normal or not, but I dread it.  I do.  I sort of leave one appointment, and immediately start stressing out about the following one.

And I mean, there are positives.  I like my therapist… he is warm and good at what he does.  There are those rare times I leave feeling good, having made some big breakthrough or something.   Sometimes I gain a deeper appreciation of the absurdity of it all.   Sometimes we laugh.  Sometimes I leave with a helpful new tool for dealing with worry or anxiety or any of the other perks that come with being me.  Sometimes I go home having learned something really huge about myself, or about life, or about how the mind works.

But… yeah, it’s still pretty much breaking me.  And even on the good days, it’s all just so MUCH.  So exhausting.  So emotionally and mentally draining.

The other day, I realized something (In the shower, because that’s where I do my best thinking.  I also tend to do a lot of thinking in my car, but there are so many things to distract me when I’m driving.  There’s not much to distract me in the shower, unless I’m running out of conditioner, and have to keep reminding myself for the rest of my shower – conditioner, conditioner, conditioner – so I won’t forget to write it on the shopping list when I get out.)  I realized that my brokenness, my feeling raw and ripped open and vulnerable, no matter how unpleasant it is, serves a real purpose.  It’s a precursor – a necessary precursor – to healing.  Sort of like how doctors sometimes have to re-break a bone in order to set it so that it can heal correctly.  I’m the broken bone.

And I hate it.  I hate everything about it.  I hate uncovering more broken bits that need attention.  I hate talking about myself.  I hate worrying that I’m being too ______  (fill in the blank).  Too annoying, too crazy, too whiny, too narcissistic.  I console myself with the fact that maybe to a therapist it’s like I was when I was teaching yoga.  All the new people worry that they’re not flexible enough, or that they’re doing the poses wrong, or that they’re being judged.  And I – and every other teacher I’ve ever known – think they’re rock stars just for showing up.  Every single one.  Every single time.  It would make me feel a lot better if I could think of myself as a rock star, just for showing up.

But I’m not a rock star.  I’m a human.  A human who’s working and fighting but raw and bruised and bloody from the battle.  A human who’s broken.  And sweet baby Jesus, I didn’t think I could get more broken than I was when I first walked into his office three months ago.  I was wrong.

It’s a weird thing, therapy.  Did you ever think about it?  It’s just an odd, odd thing.  Baring the most shameful, embarrassing, painful parts of your psyche to … a stranger?  And there’s a professional rapport there I guess, and a certain amount of trust, but … you know NOTHING about this person.  And for all the sharing you do, for all the emotional gut-wrenching stripping, you might as well be completely naked.  Now that I think about it, because I’ve really never looked at it in that way before, I’m pretty sure that I’d find being physically naked preferable.  I’m not even kidding.

So this is me, naked.  Barenaked (anyone remember that song by Jennifer Love Hewitt in the early 2000’s??).  I’ll be okay.  I will.  I WILL.  But right now, I’m not too okay.  I’m naked and afraid and vulnerable and would legitimately be contemplating drinking right now – at nine in the morning – if I hadn’t given up drinking, one of my favorite things, in my quest to face my issues and finally be well.

This is hard you guys.

A dear friend recently, and aptly, described it like this:

It’s like cleaning my damn house

Every time I think “surely I’m almost there”

Some new closet of junk appears

The closets are killing me.  So very many closets.

I know my online presence has been a little scarce lately, but I’m still here.  Still plugging.  Still learning.  Still broken. And naked and…. in a closet, apparently?  (Sorry, way too many metaphors for one blog post.)  But I’m here.  And after all the hard work and time and tears I’ve invested in myself over the last three months, I feel confident in saying that I’ve no plans to go anywhere.


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