Mother // Daughter

I am not responsible for every bad mood
Every freckle that appears
(Should have put on more sunscreen)
Every failure and every success.
I am responsible for me
For who I am and the choices I make. 
We are separate 
Me and her 
Different people with different childhoods. 
Though sometimes it’s hard to see the lines between us when
She came from me, through me.
She never walks, only skips.
While other children pop about like dandelions, she’s an orchid –
miraculously beautiful yet meticulous to care for.
I cry because of how hard it is to parent a highly sensitive child,
especially when you’re a highly sensitive parent. 
If only I can remember again why I am here;
to be the earth below the river of her life, 
guiding her to the ocean of herself.
To be the earth below the river of my life,
guiding me to the ocean of myself. 

At least saltier

The summer of ‘22 —
A clearly punctuated gift of time.
A chance to remember life more vividly;
Come September, different from June.
Hopefully more refreshed or experienced, 
at least saltier. 

Endless magic at the Zoo at night.
Diving boards at the local pool, Sandlot style. 
Bonnie Raitt and flies in the kitchen.
Rising Appalachia in the redwoods.
“Live your life time” at home.
Dog days coalescing with covid fevers.
A treasure hunt birthday to start and 
an ice cream truck one to end. 

Despite lots of activity —
the summer activity list still hangs in dismay. 
Feeling like the days were up eaten by —
breakfast 
after breakfast snack
regular snack
lunch
whining 
afternoon “we’re sooo hungry” snack
“gross” dinner
Bedtime pb&j and bravery water 

I wonder if all summer dreams are meant to be fulfilled or 
rather,
to float wistfully around as unreachable promises;
seeding hope for next year or 
even the one after.

Summer in Alaska

As we drove our final travel stretch from Anchorage to Girdwood, a local mountain town, all five of us were ready to “be there yet”. Years of longing, an astrocartographer’s nudging, months of planning, two long flights and the snack hero (me) all brought us safely to this moment. 

Birch pollen filled the air like summer snow and covered the corners of streets and side-walks in fluffy white. Our first greetings from Alaska.

We dropped ourselves off at the Airbnb and I wondered to myself, what have we done? Was this a terrible idea bringing three young kids to Alaska? My weary mind and wasted nervous system collapsed into bed. 

Thank God for new days. 

We walked along Winner Creek Trail, across logs and through ice cold streams. We panned for gold at Crow Creek Mine (scam) and dunked our feet and heads like ice cream cones into the glacier water (worth it). We ate at Jack Sprat twice. We took a boat tour of the spectacular Portage Glacier and later backed the truck up to a nearby river for the girls to splash around, while Ryan and I laid back in the bed, lost in reverie. Three days flew by. 

Just before our drive from Girdwood down the Kenai Peninsula to the seaside town of Homer, we stopped for breakfast at a local cafe. We met a kind woman named Mary whose story was like many others. “I came here on vacation and that was 53 years ago!” she laughed. 

Mary hand-drew us a map of our upcoming road trip and shared her favorite recommendations along the way. I kept the note safely in my bag, reminding me of all the times my dad would draw us maps back in the day when giving directions.  We would roll our eyes, Thomas Guide in tote, and ask him to just tell us where to go!

The scenery on the so-called Sterling Highway is something to be felt rather than read about. A gentle mix of rugged terrain and delicate wildlife – Sound of Music meets The Hatchet. Greenery grows straight from the edge of the road to the top of the trees, no dirt seen in between. Purple lupine flowers line the highway, while bright blue rivers and waterfalls fall from every crevice in the mountains.  

The epic sights followed us all the way to Homer, ending with a panoramic view of the cerulean Kachemak Bay. Homer is known for its peonies, halibut, artistry and sea otters – I don’t think that’s official, but at least that’s what I gathered.  

We spent much of our time on Homer Spit (a 4.5 mile piece of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay), looking under the harbor docks for sea stars and anemones. The food scene in Homer was surprisingly delicious and noteworthy – we ate at the casual Swell Taco, had delicious fish at Fresh Catch and our favorite, Finn’s Pizza, a little sunroom serving maybe the best pie ever. 

We went on a seasick wildlife tour with puffins, otters and seals. We hiked down Diamond Creek Trail – with our bear spray – and ended up on a beach full of tide pools. I held my first sea star in the palm of my hand and it felt like a hug from the ocean. Maisley and Coura took cucumbers from our snack-bag and made a “relaxation” center near a creek. (Not a single complaint from kids during this intense two-mile hike, but ask them to walk down the street and hell hath no fury!). 

Outside of exploring, relaxing in the Adirondack chairs at the Airbnb was enough to keep us occupied. We saw eagles soaring overhead at all times and two nesting cranes flew in for a rambunctious visit every evening.  The trees rustled gently in the wind and a particularly beautiful bird-song lulled us to sleep at night and brought us to life every morning. The natural world still knew their daily rhythms, even when a hazy midnight sun never quite let the darkness in. 

Smokey skies stole our views for a day. Cranky kids, our sanity. 

In honor of making the most of our time in Alaska, we laughed more easily than usual at the “bad” moments we knew would become funny memories – our misfortunate stop in a town called Soldotna and how Ryan sprayed cheap wine all over the kitchen one night trying to open the bottle in haste without an opener. Also on the list; Mara screaming all the way from Seattle to Anchorage and all of the almost spiritual moments we had.

And now, an anti-climatic wildlife update. Our eyes were peeled every second of every day for moose and bears. The girls were promised a muffin if we saw a moose. We imagined them on every corner. 

We went to moose meadow. We drove down the Kenai peninsula where you can’t not see a moose (didn’t see a moose). No moose when the signs said “look out for moose” in Anchorage.  Little did we know, the only moose we would see was the stuffed one at the airport on the way home. I wonder, maybe a moose saw us. Scared off by the pitch in Mara’s voice or the prance in Maisley’s fancy feet. We will never know!

Just as the birch pollen had greeted us, the fragrant scent of wild roses on our last walk in Anchorage was our souvenir for the way home.   

Make me like you, Alaska. Draw out my wild. Strengthen my shoulders to be immovable like your mountains, unruffled by the impermanence of nature. Remind me of your freshest breaths of air and depths of wisdom. Fill me with the confidence of your teeming rivers. Please brush me with the abundant aliveness that radiates from your roots to your wings. 

I am so thankful and in awe of the native people for tending to and protecting this land. I am so thankful that this much primitive nature exists in the world, too vast for the human touch.

As for the girls, the best part of Alaska was, of course, the ice cream.


R.I.P. to Bubba a.k.a Bubbs, Coura’s favorite baby doll, who is now on his own permanent vacation in Alaska.

More on Braving Joy

Nothing, other than grief, has taken me further from and also brought me closer to myself and the depth of human love than motherhood. I think that’s what they mean when they say, “Yeah, but it’s worth it!”. 

I am someone who relates to the world in a deep, larger-than-life way. My process is to feel and surround an experience from all sides; only then do I understand and move forward. I am learning to let that be, without the internal judgment that I feel too much or that I am too sensitive. I am learning to find beauty in the way I interact with the world around me, even when it’s inconvenient. 

I wrote a letter to each of my girls at 10:45pm the night before we left for a spontaneous trip to Big Sur.  I was an anxious, sad mess thinking of something bad happening to Ryan and I. Nothing makes me consider my mortality more than getting on an airplane with nothing but freedom and impending joy on the horizon.

I went there. I mean I really went there. How Coura and Mara would pretty much have no memories of me if I died. How all of this life we have lived together so far would only be an essence of who they are. No one to recall the exact intimate details, connection and love we shared. The tiny details like the way Mara’s hair curls after the bath, the shit grin on Coura’s face when she’s been up to no good or the brave, determined look when she’s trying something new. The way Maisley laughs and all of her gums show when Ryan uses his Forrest Gump voice. The way she cuddles in when we do special time at night and asks me to draw with her. 

**Of course, I know they would have stories and photos and videos, they would have my sisters who know them like their own kids, their loving grandparents and my amazing friends.**

I would hate for them to read my words or my blog and only see the hard parts of early motherhood. The truth is, they are the good parts.

The first day of a trip is always disorienting to me. My rigidity and fear don’t match the loose seams of wanderlust-ing. Once my body catches up, I recalibrate and can see myself where I am again. When I open my eyes, there I am, in a bright new world with so much to see and experience. 

I hope my girls visit Big Sur when they’re older and come to the Henry Memorial Library for a concert. I hope they remember when their mom and dad went there on a whim. I hope they feel us there, our memories, the magic. Our awe and wonder deep in the forest floor. I hope they call me and Ryan so we can reminisce on the way we cried at the opening ballad of Rising Appalachia, their serene voices traveling through the redwood trees. 

I hope they know this trip was magical because of them. Because I have them to come home to. Both the luxury of a beautiful, full, family and the richness of a diverse inner life of freedom. 

The adventurous part of me was in pure bliss, driving down the California coast, listening to live music, experiencing novelty at every turn. Meanwhile the more fearful part who craves comfort and safety played a little song and dance. When my parts get loud, when they conflict, or mix and match it makes me feel disoriented. Why can’t I just feel joy without fear tethered so close behind? Who do I believe? Which part is true? 

I guess what’s true is that I am neither part. I am something deeper than all of it. 

I am the one who witnesses it all, who disappears into the earth and comes up only to deliver branches of love, truth and wisdom. 

Not Another Motherhood Post

I lay in bed and circle the pothole of guilt
wondering if I’ll step into it tonight. 
Will bathing in the pit absolve me of my sins for the day?
Tomorrow I’ll read more books, meal-prep sooner, do an art project, pay more attention to the middle one, draw with the big one and promise not to make anyone feel bad. 
I’m so cautious with every word I say, aware of all the dollars I’ve dropped in their future therapy jars. 
Maybe they’ll say, I made them focus too much on their feelings. 
I’m beginning to think the next hot parenting method is the one where I just say nothing at all. 
My therapist asks if I’ve heard of the good enough mother?
As my three little birds cry out for something they need,
My inner child also begs, “what about me?!”
I am juggling in a three-ring circus
I am the heroine and the villain
I am a human vending machine 
I am Mother…
But who else am I?

521

My daughters run up the same path I did as a kid; the same one my dad did thousands of times when he was a kid. Free oranges hang over the fence from the neighbors yard, tart and sour, full of seeds, their scent creating a perfume across the yard. Other trees with over 60 years of wisdom dot the large plot of grass that leads to the front door; avocado, persimmon and orange trees. Still offering gifts to the little grabbing hands at their trunks. The corner window is intact, once shattered by a golf ball that was meant to be the magical sound of reindeer landing on the roof. 

Our family and extended family all gather to celebrate my Papa’s 91st birthday. A classic front yard party at 521. The kids make themselves right at home with their favorite toys, while all the “grown ups” enjoy casual conversation and a delicious spread of food prepared by our Aunts. 

Papa has so lovingly maintained this home, keeping intact and honoring her original beauty. I can trust this house, the way she smells and the way the stairs leading up from the entry almost propel you into a slight skip. I never tire of gazing at the old photos in the hallway, in awe and wonder of my dad’s “brady bunch” style family – three boys and three girls – with their silk shirts and long hair. 

The old cuckoo clock immortalizes my Grandma Joan’s playful nature. In quiet moments throughout the day, I can still see her in the kitchen window, hear her whistle that dinner is ready and taste her guacamole with fresh avocados from the tree. The room where we said goodbye to her.

After lunch we all go out to the front yard for games, organized by Uncle Chris, the biggest kid of them all. Wagon rides around the yard, field goal kicking contests, three legged races, and the pinnacle being a game of flag football. As we all huddle together, my uncle flips over his left hand to trace the football play on his palm, the exact same way my dad used to. 

Many things are the same, others are different. My memories are just a tiny snippet of the ones held here. But they are vivid and important, a corner of my heart where all is always well, everything makes sense and laughter and fun are mandatory. 

As we start to pack up for the day, I get a sense that the home feels pleased. Content to again be the space holder for memories, entertainment and joyful chaos.  Sturdy, in great condition, well-loved, strong character, an immeasurable legacy – her dedicated bones are a mirror of my Popster’s. Thank you 521, thank you Popster. See you next time!

When Breastfeeding Ends

I walk into Mara’s room at 6am as she’s gnawing on the side of the crib. Two other sets of teeth marks imprinted under her’s, tug on a contemplative thread in my heart, despite my sleepless daze. Her toothy smile stops me right in my tracks. I sit down to comfort feed her and I’m keenly aware that this time is likely our last. 

Sadness settles onto my shoulders and gratitude in my chest for our time together. 

A familiar undercurrent that feels a lot like fear creeps in behind the scenes. Fear of what I will be left with when I return home to myself after years of baby making comes to a close. 

No more miracle in my belly, or baby on my breast; I am simply me. A sort of “back to reality” feeling – like when I came home from living in Australia – where there are no extra hormones or excuses for mood swings or ease of self care. I am back to me. 

I know from experience that once this transition has passed, I will feel more whole and free than any of these other feelings, relieved to have my body as my own. But this time, likely being the last, feels more momentous. 

There is an inherent worthiness tied to the giving of myself. What is life like when my primal purpose of creating new life has ended? Am I still worthy of love, stillness, joy, peace – all the good things – if my body is only my own? 

I always resented the words “settle down”. Now they land with an air of freedom. To settle into myself and settle into my truth; wherever that takes me. There is a spaciousness in this place, one that allows for something new. While uncertainty isn’t exactly my favorite flavor these days, a part of me remains hopeful for the certain beauty in whatever comes next.

Rancho Grande

What I’m really asking when I inquire about staying at a remote farm on Airbnb:

Am I safe to be still?

Am I allowed to relax enough to hear the pigs snore?

Do I deserve to rest?

May I slow my body enough to move like the wind through the trees?

Will I be able to feel the awe and wonder of Saturn through the telescope lens?

May I move at the pace I naturally crave, in sync with the rhythm of nature? 

Will I wake with the roosters and sleep with the goats?

Am I enough to just exist in the present moment?

Will my brain relax from her often hyper-vigilant state?

Will I be connected enough to smile at the “coincidental address” in Rose Valley on Rose Valley Road? 

What I’m really asking is: May I do all of these things, at will, today, tomorrow, right now, wherever I am?

I wonder if Alex, the Airbnb host, will answer these simple questions for me. 

Oh, and what time is check-in?

Mornings at the Bird House

Every morning, the three little birds would cuddle in their nest with mama bird and daddy bird before the day began. The morning golden sun would peek through the cracks and for a few quiet moments, all was warm and well. 

The oldest bird snuggled right up to mama. 

“How did you sleep my love?” Mama asked. 

“Good,” whispered the oldest bird in her crackly morning voice. “Can I get hot lunch today?” she pleaded.

The oldest bird was protective of her brood; she was silly and wise and kind. She loved to chirp around on her own and use the world as her playground. She was a strong bird with a compassionate heart, a bird with big feelings, a leader and a dreamer.

“Do I have nature school today?” inquired the middle bird. “Look how big I am, I slept through the night!”

The middle bird had scratched her sweet little beak the day before. She was a tumbly bird who often wore her underpants backwards or not at all. She was also a lover bird, with a raspy voice and a courageous spirit. She always made herself known and often created art exhibits around the nest. 

Squeaks and squawks came from the baby bird who was too little to form words, but spoke novels through her essence. 

Baby bird was as sweet as a rose and made everything better. She was so miraculously content and at ease in the world. Everyone fought to be the one who cuddled closest to her.

“Alright, time for breakfast!” announced daddy bird. “Hop on.”

He scooped up baby bird into the crook of his arm.

“I got the back!” said middle bird. 

“Wait for me!” the third bird said.

Daddy bird carried all his birds downstairs for oatmeal and cartoons. 

Mama bird lay alone in her nest and closed her eyes feeling tired and grateful for her birds. When they all lay together in bed, it made her pause in wonder at how she got here, a mama to three birds. Those little birds sometimes ruffled her feathers so much that she daydreamed about the empty nester life. But deep down she knew the truth. She’d miss these days she sometimes wished away.

The three little birds didn’t know what their days would bring, but they did know one thing…every little thing was gonna be alright.

Mara Love

Her small body on my chest is like a weighted comfort blanket in our dark room. 
All of my ambient thoughts are dissipated by the loud hum of the sound machine. 
How do you bottle a feeling?
Her body flinching.
Her lips softly smacking.
Her booty perfectly lifted up by an invisible string from the sky.
Her sweet fingers grazing my chest.
Her soft round head cupped into the palm of my hand. 
Her cat like purring and intermittent sighs.
I inhale her breath as she exhales, reminding me of our connection
and the big and small loops of daily life and death —
Day and night, summer to fall, a rosary, our strawberries dying, our watermelons growing, a kindergartener starting, a country collapsing. 
Constant impermanence. 
Everyday we show up for life 
and every night we come back to this place of rest, where we both simply exist,
and that is more than enough.
Maybe if I write my feelings down I won’t forget this random Thursday night in July of 2021. 
The time I fell in love with her for the millionth time.