True love is slow cooking and chocolate bars – 32 of 100

Two truly random thoughts and memories.

1. The other week, I opened the centre console in the car to get out my parking pass for our music class and found a chocolate bar – Ritter Sport – filled with crispy caramel bits. Imagine my delight. I’ve not always been a chocolate fanatic, but I am now. Plus, I’m always hungry. I gobbled it all up.

I also thought: Oh Dan left this here. Haha, he bought a chocolate bar, he loves candy. I wish he’d gotten dark chocolate, but oh well, what a great unexpected treat.

Later, on the couch, glasses of red wine in our hands, I said: “I found your chocolate bar in the car.”

And Dan said: “Oh yeah? I’m so glad! I left it there for you.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. I knew you’d be disappointed it wasn’t dark chocolate.”

I thought about how when you’re growing into an adult, you feel both desperate and terrified to be known. How when you find those people who really get you, it’s like a light shining through the clouds. Then you marry someone. You come to know them in all of these silly and yet profound ways. And you can have these conversations over space and time — it’s kind of cosmic, isn’t it? Anyway, it felt really warm to be known in that way….And that chocolate bar really was good.

2. A chronicle of this year would be completely out of touch if I didn’t mention our slow cooker.

I’ve never had a slow cooker and didn’t really ever think I needed one. But Dan had enough airmiles for us to get one so we did.

I have fallen in love. It’s a soaring, tortuous love – the way I obsess and plan and want to make sure every ingredient is just so. And as much as I had heard it was just a throw-everything-in and voila! That’s not really how it’s turning out to be. It’s turning out to be me chopping and cooking the aromatics, trimming the meat, and getting broth and coconut milk all over my copy of Slow Cooker Revolution while James has his afternoon nap.

But then, at night, he goes to sleep and voila. There is dinner. Tom Kha soup. Chilli. Balsamic braised chicken. Pulled pork tacos.

If I had to choose between my amazing-leaving-chocolate-bars-in-the-car-for-me husband and this slow cooker it would be tight race right now. But I live in a world where I don’t have to choose.

We all have our roles in our family. Feeding the boys is one of mine. I like to make sure Dan has something good to take to work. I like packing up sauces and things in little tupperwares for him and thinking that when he opens it he’ll think of me and how I made sure it was just right. I love it when he tells me that his colleagues swoon over his lunch.

It’s a nice thing. To take care of each other in little ways.

I’m finishing this in Florida and Dan’s in Calgary still. I’m missing him and wondering if he’s thinking of me. (Hi Dan.)

(P.S. Some interesting reading on love in Brain Pickings. An essay about Alain Badiou’s In Praise of Love, “an impassioned and immensely insightful defense of both love as a human faculty and love as a worthwhile philosophical pursuit.”

Badiou writes: “Love… is a quest for truth… truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be.”

Like Badiou, I believe love-the real long-term stuff- as a lifelong project, of sorts. Something we are always working on; “a tenacious adventure”.)

 

Breakfast is my favorite part of the day – 11 of 100

This beautiful reflection on grief by Sheryl Sandberg made me think about many things –

One of them is this:

Every morning, for all of our days and years together, Dan and I have breakfast together. We brew coffee, we fry an egg, toast (Dan’s homemade) bread, blend a smoothie. We eat at the table and then move to the living room couch where we have our coffee and listen to the Eye Opener on CBC.

Before James was born, we began to ask ourselves: What will happen to this favorite ritual? Will it go away?

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Well for the first six weeks or so it did go away. At that time I would hand James off to Dan at 6 a.m. and he’d let me sleep until the last possible moment before he went to work.

But now, the ritual is back. James is our alarm clock and he usually gets up around 6. One of us clicks brew on the coffee and it all begins. The nights are better now – J usually only gets up twice and sometimes even once (!) – and though I’m still tired when he starts cooing, I’m also excited to drink coffee with my boys. James nestles into one of our laps – smiles just pour out of him during this hour. I make breakfast; we sit at the table; we talk about how cute James is and how gaga we are for him.

There is nothing particularly extraordinary about all of this – I mean, it’s just coffee and eggs- but if it ever became impossible to have this ritual, I would miss it like mad. I would ache for it – because, of course, it is more than extraordinary – it is sacred – to eat and sit and talk with the two people I love most.

When does it hit you – how scary it is to love so much? To realize that if it was taken away from you, you might crumble?

Sandberg’s post is honest and raw and I loved everything about it. But I especially appreciated how she reminds that we really can’t take the everyday things for granted. Not ever. And how lucky we are all just to be here – to be alive – and to love.

What are your favorite daily rituals?

100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – 1 of 100

“I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.” ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

At the end of last year, I again ponied up the $100 or so I pay to keep this site aloft. Sometimes I have to ask myself why; last year I posted a measly eight posts. Eight! My thought had been to turn this into a blog about adventuring in the Canadian Rockies. But you can’t force these things. And then we had a baby.

I’ve been following Elle Luna on Instagram since she published her amazing essay The Crossroads of Should and Must on Medium. “Should,” she writes, “is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do…Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.”

I followed her 100 days of Self Portraits last year and this year, I read as she posted the outline for the 100 day project. You commit to repeating one action every day for 100 days. What did I want to do? What MUST I do?

As April–the start of the 100 day project–approached, I was in the very early weeks of motherhood- I was overjoyed, exhausted, overwhelmed. Baby took up approximately 97% of my brain. If I had anything at all to write about – it was baby.

But my experience was so, um, normal. Everything I’m experiencing is something I have heard before–I’m getting no sleep and I’m the most tired I’ve ever been! Baby cries and it totally sucks! etc. And, besides, did I want to be a mommy blogger? Am I one of those moms who has nothing to talk about but her kid? I shuddered at the thought. (My my, the ways we overthink and judge ourselves! How we defeat ourselves before we even begin.)IMG_2992 Oh, and then the beginning of the 100 day project came and went while I was in Florida with family. I had three drafts saved here – and none posted. Now, I’m 15 days behind. But here I am, I thought, at the crossroads of should and must. I must write now. I must create terms under which I can really succeed.

Meanwhile, I was reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. I read it while James slept in my arms. Between feedings and crying fits and diaper changes, six million loads of laundry and all the other wonderful things and tiring crap you do when you’re on maternity leave. It taught me to have a sense of humor at the moments I felt the most desperate and crazy. And although it was about her first year of motherhood, it was also about Life. Operating Instructions

I read a review of Some Assembly Required, which Lamott wrote with her son Sam about his son, her grandson, Jax. The review recounted how Sam considered Operating Instructions the greatest gift of his life and how he wanted to do the same for his son. What a beautiful gesture – to write a story as a gift. None of us remember our first year of life – we have a vague idea of a few stories that our mothers tell us. If no one else cared about my cliche thoughts and memories, Dan and James would. DSCF3164 So what about 100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – written over the course of my son’s first year? This one–these 100–are for Dan and James – and anyone who finds them reassuring, amusing, distracting or whatever else they may be looking for.

P.S. I wrote this on Saturday morning and it is now Tuesday morning. I’m having the hardest time getting myself to get over the start line – I am so afraid it is stupid, that I will fail, etc. Fear looms so large I can’t even tell you. So, friends, here goes nothing.

Maddy getting married in Boca Grande

Boca Grande, Florida. It’s a place most people have never heard of but that I consider a second home. On the Gulf Coast, it’s seven miles long with one long road running the length of it. I want to tell you how awesome it is but I also want to keep it a secret…to bob in the Gulf of Mexico…

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to walk on the beach…

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to watch the sun set

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to grab an iced coffee in the morning and then shuffle around town…to eat only seafood and yellow rice and beans… and watch for sharks and dolphins and manatees and pelicans…DSCF1199  to fish with these silly boys.DSCF1201My sister got married. My little sister! DSCF1391It’s surreal how time goes by. Maybe that is why we take pictures, to try to grab onto the moment. DSCF1374

There was champagne and there were toasts…and there were all the in between moments. My beautiful momma and dapper dad:

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I had been looking forward to this trip for so long. I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe my sister is married. There’s all this bittersweet-ness wrapped up it in all that I can’t quite explain. There’s more that I want to say. About beginnings, about time, about being with the people that you love the very most in one place, about love and marriage, about the places that hold your story. But sometimes, a picture is enough.

DSCF1473Congratulations Maddy and Laurent! I love you two so much.

Bright shiny new things

It’s still dark outside. Cold. I’m tucked under a cozy blanket. I’ve always loved the lonely way of morning. Just me and the darkness and my coffee and the blanket. Somehow this time of day seems to belong to me a little bit more than the rest. 

Good morning. 🙂

This week I am thinking about doing new things. Things that drum up the heart. That scare us through and through.

On Sunday I hosted a two hour radio program. I spent all week preparing and got totally swept away by the project until I was lost. I literally could not tear my eyes away. Listening to music, watching videos, arranging the songs and re-arranging. I wish I felt like this more often–completely committed and immersed and just a tiny bit insane. Something to strive for, I suppose.

I found so many inspiring things. This video by M83.


M83 ‘Wait’ Official video from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

A group called The Wonder Revolution. “More than a band, The Wonder Revolution is a collective that features musicians and visual artists, all seeking a return to wonder.” I myself am concerned with wonder, so I really love this concept. (And do I adore the spazzy white-haired gnome man on the front page of their website? Yes indeed I do.)

Also, The Cinematic Orchestra put out an album called “In Motion, pt 1” that “provide[s] soundtracks to or musical re-imaginings of seminal work by great avant-garde film-makers.” This is really neat. The song (top) and video for “Manhatta” below. Mute the movie and then play them together.

Sometimes (often actually) people just amaze me.

We spent Sunday skiing at Lake Louise, a mostly-sunny day in the most spectacular setting you can possibly imagine. (You guys. The mountains…)

Our friend Cindy drove us out and we talked a lot about work, who we are, and how we’d like to be. It’s always refreshing to be around someone as self-reflective and honest as Cindy is.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. I realize that if there is an external deadline (like a two hour radio show I have to host) I will work my tail off to make it awesome. But if it’s just me holding myself to a deadline, I will procrastinate to holy heck. It takes a while to fully accept the things we’d rather not about ourselves. But I think we must so that we can figure out ways around them. Right?

Cindy’s the bomb!

 We got back and ate our weekly batch of pho (little bowl of heaven from the Vietnamese restaurant down the street) and then my calm ski-pho bliss rapidly disintegrated into a hummingbird-paced heart and a crazed bundle of nerves. I mean… what business do I have being on the radio?

I used to host a reading series in San Francisco, and about an hour before the show this always happened to me. I would turn into a crazy person. Dan would patiently help me gather up my things, complete last minute tasks, tell me I looked pretty. And on Sunday it was the same. Me jumping in and out of the shower commanding him to Turn on the computer! Hook up the printer! Print that! No not that–get out of the way–let me do it! 

I don’t know why he puts up with me.


You’re going to be fine, he said. You worked really hard on this. (It’s moments like this–when you’ve gone out of your damn mind and your partner still loves you–that you fall in love a little bit more.)

I made it through. I spoke, I played the music. There were a few glitches, but mostly, it was pretty great.

That night I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. All the adrenaline still pumping through my veins.

I have learned that fear can really mean you’re on to something good. But I’m still figuring out how wander in the direction of fear and wrestle with it. That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about: how to be brave.

I’m leaving you with my very favorite song from Sunday’s show. Antony and the Johnson’s Swanlights. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful.

“Living is a golden thing. It means everything.” Is anything more true?

(Note: this is the video I could find. The track I played is from their new live album Cut the World, and I highly recommend tracking down that version if you can.)

Work and dreams and everything in between.


Christmas + Bear Hats!
and sparkly tights- Hooray!

Road to the mountains

I made Dan a photobook for Christmas this year. There, over 50 pages, were all of our photographs 2012. One year of memories.

Playing with new Christmas toys!

I find it so easy to get bogged down in mourning what I don’t have–girlfriends nearby, a job, enough money to travel wherever whenever I want to. (As our friend Matt used to say: white people problems.) That little book was just what I needed to remember everything we do have, and everything we have done.

Dan polished off Where’d You Go Berndaette?A great book!

“What was your favorite thing we did this year?” I asked Dan.

“The cottage at Georgian Bay with Nate, Dana and Brad,” he said. “Or the dance party to Fun. at Laura Lee and Robbie’s house.” He paused. “Florida was pretty awesome.”

Neither of us could settle on one.

Couldn’t resist this shot of my new Cookie Monster mittens frolicking on the antler coat hangers.

We rented this little cabin in the middle of nowhere B.C. for New Year’s (really! We had to snowshoe to and from our car). It was the kind of place where you really can’t do anything so you do all the nothings you crave to do. Like read by the fire for hours and hours with a hot drink in your hand.

This picture pretty much encapsulates the weekend.

I read Just Kids by Patti Smith. It gave me a lot of food for thought about being an artist. She writes, “I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. And then I met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple. When you hit a wall, just kick it in.”

I learned a lot about sacrifice and commitment, and how important it is to have someone believe in you before you believe in yourself. Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe nearly starve at points. They live in dilapidated spaces, ones with no bathrooms. Robert keeps telling Patti she should sing. Patti keeps telling Robert he should take his own pictures.

There’s this scene where Patti is consoling Janis Joplin after a guy goes home with a pretty girl over Janis and Janis sobs and sobs to Patti. I thought- by god. Janis Joplin was just a girl too. Sometimes it’s easy to forget.

Dan chopping wood outside our sweet cabin.

There was a moment not so long ago that I was kind of ready to give up on writing. It just seemed too hard, maybe even impossible. It seemed like I would always be only-ok at it.

I nearly froze my hands off to capture this Dr. Suessian tree.

I found an old journal a friend made me. It’s filled with pictures of our adventures and lyrics to songs like “Into the Mystic” and “Visions of Johanna.” Colorful pictures of our mid-twenties blissfully misbehaving–about the ages of Patti and Janis when Janis cried on Patti’s shoulder.  I never quite filled it up because I always wanted whatever I wrote in there to be perfect. To somehow match up with the words of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. But I’m learning more and more that we have to make a lot of messes before we make what we actually intend to make.

Ah, glorious Fernie!

In the back of the journal, I taped the torn-out title page to Dibs In Search Of Self.  A woman I hardly knew gave me that book. We took a writing class together in Minnesota, and on the last day she slipped it into my hand and then rushed out of the room. To Sky, she wrote. Keep, keep writing–I feel like your heart will help heal others just as Dibs got made well by belief and not-giving-up-ness.

Dan is a master dishwasher when there’s no running water around.

That book is one of the greatest gifts I have ever gotten. So is my little journal. So the man who puts up with my mood swings, my despair, my excitement, my frustration, my fleeting highs, and for who-knows-what-reason sticks with me through it all. 

Sometimes I have to stop–take stock–turn it it all over in my hands and pull it in close.

Cabin decor.

I’m not sure how it was for other people–but in my twenties, my dreams felt like these big beautiful things that someday I’d just bounce around in, like a cloud playground in the sky. It has taken me some years to learn that dreams live right here with us on earth, and to live them is just plain old hard back-heart-breaking work. (I’m an easy dreamer, and a slow learner.)

So I am leaving grandiose dreams behind. My goal this year is only to not give up. And maybe–to kick a wall in.