Thursday, September 22, 2011

you have to love to be loved

not be lovable. not be lovely. not even be loving, per se. just love.

i know this seems like a random post on a random thursday on a random month of an extremely random year. (at least i hope it’s all random, lest i spiral into the “why do bad things happen to good people” spiel…)

but facebook will let you use only so many characters. and frankly, i’m a bit annoyed with facebook anyway these days. or at least i think i am, and then i see a friend’s status, which says something about making homemade chicken and taking the family on an evening picnic to watch the sunset. this friend of mine, whom i have barely spent any time with in person, is insanely awesome. in my group of “cool girls i would love to be more like,” she is definitely at the top of the list. i have to watch it, actually, or i worry i will seem like a stalker tossing out my unabashed adoration for her.

so this status, it didn’t make me insane like these types of declarations sometimes do. sometimes these updates make me angsty, insecure, moody. no, this one just made me sigh and think, that sounds really lovely.

then this morning i saw the string of comments, and after someone applauded her for “being a good mom,” she wrote back “haha, it was a disaster. oh well.”

and i almost cried. no, silly, not because her picnic was a disaster. but because i get overwhelmed with the circle of friends i have. i know, i already said i have spent, oh, maybe 72 hours total with this girl, so it seems weird even to me to call her friend sometimes. we never email back and forth. but i feel connected to her. weird, maybe, but oh so true.

so after i told myself that i refuse to cry over something like this, that it’s ridiculous, i will get a sinus headache, then i had a moment of clarity, or a moment of goodness, or of warm fuzziness, where just in thinking of all the people to whom i’m connected--the good, beautiful, lovely, creative, gentle, thoughtful, messy people--i felt like i was wrapped in a warm blanket.

and then it occurred to me: i have to give love to be loved. i mean, i guess technically not really. but when i think about all the people to whom i feel deeply connected right now, the people who, just sometimes by updating a facebook page or posting a picture on instagram, make me smile and help me get through the day, i have to say that it is in giving love and making an effort to be connected that i feel the most connected back to them.

i’m not saying that i have done all the work in connecting to people. in fact, i can tell you about one friend in particular, a very accomplished violinist who is by far one of the loveliest people i’ve ever known, who works very hard to stay connected to me, even when i fail her. she sends me handwritten notes and checks in on me even though we are in different life stages and hearing about my kids probably would bore her to death--she still asks.

but i think as we grow up, we are more afraid to take risks. we hide because we think no one will love our exposed parts. we blame it on busyness, on geographical location, on lack of common interests.

there is beauty in this breakdown, though. in my own breakdown. and in sharing it with other people, with reaching out and loving other people, this is when i feel the most loved. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

wasting time

husband left today for a 4-day camping trip in north carolina. for some reason, being the only adult in the house makes me truly unmotivated to do anything productive. so little bean and i decided to make yogurt pops.

i was inspired by a post i saw this morning on a family food blog (and now i can't recall exactly where i saw it and i hate not giving credit for things--just know that this was not my idea) about making homemade popsicles.

if you read my previous post, then you know that this isn't the kind of thing i get to do very often, and although i have seen scores of blog posts and magazine articles on this very topic, i usually roll my eyes at the prospect of making my own little frozen treats.*

but then, look what happens when i am trying very hard not to be productive. i have time to spend in the kitchen, working with little hands, sneaking little bites of the fruit, licking the bowl after everything is mixed up, giving warnings not to touch mommy's plastic cups that are now dangerous because of their jagged edges (we didn't have paper cups, so we made do with what we had).

so this is what it's like to have time to do these kinds of things. it feels really good.

of course, i could have chosen not to post this for fear of backlash after last week's post. a couple of friends pointed out, "well, maybe this is how some people see YOU sometimes." whoa. really? i can't imagine. but then, i am in my life, without any of you, unless you live nearby and stop in unannounced. otherwise, the house is tidy, the hipstamatic pictures are posted, the yummy recipes are planned (though this week by husband, not me, and they were all delicious, especially since i didn't make them!).

i try really hard to be very honest here, probably to the point of making you uncomfortable sometimes, but i sort of use this as a place to work things out, which if i think about it too much seems weird since it's so public. the upside is that i receive encouragement, and even the feedback that "maybe people see you that way too" was good, in that it was a good reminder to see the glass half-full.

and isn't that why i started this blog? to see with one eye squinted?

on a side note, the idea occurred to me today that i have never come across a food blog that shows the whole picture. we get to see the pretty plate, the carefully arranged food, the little hands helping in the kitchen: you know, all the stuff that sometimes makes me crazy, makes me feel inadequate, makes me forget that everyone is human. so i thought, why not create a blog called ugly kitchen, where i take pretty pictures of things i make (and post recipes of course), but where i also reveal the periphery, the dirty dishes piled in the sink, the dog (or the husband) licking the plate clean, the counters smeared with yogurt because i filled my food processor too full for the thousandth time?

i'm not sure how often i'll post, but it will be fun, i think. so bookmark it if you want and that way you'll get updates when i finally have ugly kitchen pictures to post.

for now, i leave you with a picture that couldn't be any less ugly. happy weekend!

*basic recipe for these pops:

1 container of strawberries
1 container of blueberries
1 banana
6 to 7 healthy serving spoons' worth of low-fat Greek plain yogurt
a few good sprinkles of sugar

Monday, June 13, 2011


these days leave me lacking. sitting at a computer for hours upon hours, scanning documents for grammatical errors, hoping the pain in my left wrist doesn’t get worse, or better yet that it goes away.

summer is upon us. mommy blogs burst with ideas of fun things to do at home, paint idyllic pictures of parents working side by side with children, everyone smiling, getting along, having picnics in the grassy backyard, on a blanket spread with finger foods of shape fruit kabobs and chicken satay. dessert is popsicles, homemade of course, and the children wear white as they hold their raspberry frozen delights, frolick around, and everything is clean. pure. quiet.

it all screams fake!

is it that i want it to be an unachievable fantasy?

where i’m standing it’s more of: backyard is so full of sand and weeds that even the dog won’t stay out there long. sun blazes down, burning our scalp after being exposed for more than 5 minutes. kids dress themselves in t-shirts i let them buy from goodwill, refuse to wear any of the “cute” shirts in their drawers. back deck boards are bending upward, cracking, splitting nails straining to get out, danger everywhere. inside there are loud, loud, loud sounds, singing, whistling, yelling “get out of my room!” slamming doors, asking repeatedly why can’t we have more computer time? because i’m working. why are you always working? so we can eat. when will you get a break?

yes, that’s the question that looms large over me. hangs over me. makes me feel most days like i am on the verge of tears, and i don’t much cry anymore. so why am i feeling like this? i want to cling to that gratefulness that we are ok, that life is relatively ok despite the circumstances.

and then i see these families, these perfect-looking families, and i wrestle with “i want to be them” and “i hate them.” 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


you triangular italian god, there you sit, mocking me, tempting me, daring me to taste. i will be strong, i tell myself. i will not let this happen again. i will not even look upon you. i will breathe through my mouth so that i don’t have to smell your intoxicating cologne.

it doesn’t matter whether you are a famous gourmet chef, a tattooed and pierced sales associate from urban outfitters, the boy next door (paci’s), or the homeless guy selling newspapers on the corner. somehow you find a way to get to me.  

but this time i will resist. i will…what? you noticed i have lost weight? you like my new haircut? oh, this old shirt? i just picked this up at target (blushing). well, ok, maybe just a bite. but that’s it. you know how hard i’ve been working to cut you out of my life, to start over without you. one little bite can’t hurt, though, right?

suddenly i can feel the cholesterol coating my arteries, the fat cells rushing to see which can reach my thighs first, the pepperoni planning a heartburn party high inside my esophageal tract. this wasn’t such a good idea. i should have said no. why do i always say yes? are there meetings for this?

the morning after, as i try to button pants across my swollen gut, pants that fit only a day before, there you sit, mocking me from your grave (for yes, you are still there, somehow having a knack for halting all gastric processes the minute you enter a room). i will resist you next time. i don’t need you anymore. i have moved on. i will remember this feeling before the next time comes along.

wait. do you smell that? is that what i think it is? cheese? dough?

gotta run.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

if i could sit and have coffee with you…

near and far, old and new, friends, if i could sit face to face with you and share a cup of coffee (ok, we would each have our own cup; it’s not sanitary to share), this is what i would want you to know:

your repeated “words with friends” games with me are sometimes just the escape i need from reality.

when you encouraged me to start an etsy shop, it was just the push i needed to feel like i had stuff cool enough to sell.

the time you told me that you wanted to hang my photos (more than one!) in your kitchen, i was overwhelmed (in a good way).

that ball of yarn and crochet needles you sent may not have been a big deal to you, but i was having a bad week and it was the thing that carried me through.

the time i called you and you were in the middle of ending soccer practice and trying to feed your family, but you listened to everything i had to say anyway, means you are a special kind of friend.

just when i was about to give up on my exercise program, you decided to buy the dvd and start asking me lots of questions. crap--i guess i have to stick with it now.

those hours you spent trading emails back and forth with me, telling me that i am ok, that we are going to be ok, aren’t lost on me.

i lose my shit with my kids more than i want to admit.

i always apologize for what i have done, and i pray that somehow this carries them through to adulthood without needing too much therapy.

it’s ok to not feel completely fulfilled by motherhood.

i want to write a book someday. i can’t decide if it should be a story about my life or my grandma’s life or if i should try to write something trashy that will make money.

i feel inadequate when i read most mommy blogs. i also feel jealous.

when you came to visit me, even though you could have picked so many other places to go, i was beyond appreciative. elated. i felt really loved.

my kids watch more tv than i want to admit.

those live butterflies and that ant farm you sent were some of the most creative time my kids have had at home lately.

i am awed by your ability to find something to give to me when you are going through so much pain on your own.

everyone feels lonely and isolated sometimes.

working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be, and most days i crave being in an office with grown-ups.

i think a little wine or an old-fashioned cocktail at the end of the day is a great way to relax and give myself a little love.

i don’t love myself as much as i want to.

you help me love myself more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

did you know...

here i sit, in my usual spot, covered in pillows to prop up my wrists so i don’t develop carpal tunnel syndrome (or don’t exacerbate the swollen tendon in my left wrist that keeps me up at night). to my left: a tv tray, with a mug full of half-drunk, room temperature coffee, my wallet (because i have just bought myself a bag from here as a reward for all the long hours i sit in this spot), and a yellow fiesta plate, smeared with brown and red stains from the brownie and strawberries (the fruit makes it healthy, right?) i just consumed.

i wish i could spend more time in this creative space, writing down thoughts, posting pictures i am proud to have taken. or chronicle the potty-training nightmare that has ensued in this house over the last four months. (for instance, i just had to stop writing because someone, we will not name names, opened his door and said in the cutest voice possible, “mommy, i pee-peed.” he should be glad he is adorable, which sort of makes up for the poop tracks he left all over my bedroom rugs about an hour ago.)

or tell you about the amazing beach trip i went on with two girlfriends i hadn’t seen in over 10 years. or share with you that i’ve lost 15 pounds and oodles of inches off my hips doing this and this.

or detail for you how our family is living proof that this economy is horrible and it really is tough to find a job when you lose it. (i am thankful for health and enough food on the table.)

or did you know i opened an etsy shop at the beginning of the year? feel free to buy something or three. if you are friends with me on fb and have seen me post a photo that’s not for sale in the shop, email me and we can work something out. i just haven’t had time to post all the ones i love in there.

speaking of photos i love, is it wrong that i look at my photos and feel enormous pride? it seems weird to me, because my personality is to secretly be proud of myself for certain accomplishments but, in general, to be self-deprecating. i am not sure where this came from, but i don’t generally allow myself to say nice things about myself. so when i look at pictures i have taken and get emotional, i’m not really sure what to do with that.

speaking of getting emotional, i have had several electronic heart-to-hearts lately, and it makes me ever grateful for the technological advances that make it possible for me to love on (and be loved on by) friends and family who are thousands of miles from me.

speaking of loving on, does anyone reading this ever use that phrase? a friend from up north recently told me that i’m the first persons she’s ever heard say it. which made me think maybe it’s a southern phrase?

let’s all try to find time to do just one thing this week to love on someone else. it makes me appreciate what i have, makes me focus on the positive, uplifts me a little. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

turning lemons into lemonade

my girl and her bestie cooked up a lemonade stand a few weeks ago. from what i could gather, it was to make some mad cash to blow at claire's.

they picked a weekend and decided it would be this past saturday at the bestie's house. we live on a busy corner, which translates into the occasional riffraff sighting, and J's house is on a nice, quiet street. somehow my boys were included; the youngest was given the role of mascot.

in the meantime, i was looking at my favorite style blog, ruche, and saw that they had contributed to a really awesome organization called shelterbox. if you have a minute, click on the link that shows you exactly what's in the box: it's enough supplies to hopefully sustain a family for up to 6 months. it's pretty insane goodness to someone who, say, has just lost everything in a tsunami in japan.

it's funny how ideas begin. a lightbulb went off among us: let's use the proceeds from the lemonade stand and give it toward the purchase of a shelterbox!

signs were made, lemonade and limeade and something new called lime-onade were mixed and chilled, chairs were set out, tables were set up, streamers were hung from the trees. the mascot shouted from the porch, "COME BUY OUR LEMONADE--IT'S FOR JAPAN!" in his most adorablest voice possible.

the older kids took turns standing down at the end of the street, holding up a sign and waving at cars to turn and come buy some refreshments, maybe make a donation. it's interesting: some people who drove by didn't really want to look at the sign. i think they were afraid we were panhandlers. others pulled over, noticed what it was for, and drove down the street to purchase some liquid sunshine. the kids even offered curbside service for those who didn't want to get out of their cars.

the mascot ended up melting down a bit and had to go home to take a nap. by then things had slowed down anyway.

it was so exciting that we all decided to do it again this coming sunday, march 27, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. same address: 303 east jean street. we're hoping to get news coverage. we are dreaming big. now, maybe we can raise enough to buy shelterboxes for not just one but several families. wouldn't that be amazing?

so if you are local, please stop by and see us. if you don't like lemons, or limes, or lemon/lime combos, you can always just drop some change in the money shoebox.

if you don't live nearby, or don't want to buy a plane ticket to come visit us this weekend (which, by the way, you are welcome to do! we have airbeds and spare room), you can donate to paypal using my email address and we will add it to the total. of course we would love it if you donate directly to shelterbox, but it would be especially meaningful if you send it to us to add to the kids' total because it makes what they are giving seem greater.

if you don't have my email address you can comment here and leave your info and i'll send it to you. (don't use the email address associated with this blog, please.)

UPDATE: the kids have their own fundraising site now through shelterbox. go HERE to donate to team lemonade if you can't make it on sunday.

here's to happy lemonade standing and money raising!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


fat tuesday. i don’t usually pay attention to these things. well, in college i did. but for entirely different reasons, of course. the discounted margaritas! the free chips and salsa!

i wish i could write to tell you i’m in a place where i have thought about this day, thought about what it means for the upcoming season of lent. what i should give up, do without, to more fully recognize (recognize at all?) the sacrifice this time represents for christians.

instead, when i think of giving something up, i get grouchy. indignant. indifferent. after all, we have (mostly) given up a lot of things over the last 5 months while my husband has been out of work: wine, chocolate, dessert, shopping for new clothes, going out to eat, frequent haircuts.

yes, five months. it dawned on me last night while i was trying to get to sleep. the number five. it can seem so small. like, i have 5 girl scout cookies, and i’m going to eat them all. well, in that context 5 is such a tiny number.

but in our lives right now, five is a huge number. it’s how i looked at 5 when my oldest daughter turned 5 and was old enough to go to kindergarten. then i wondered, where had all the time gone? how could she be old enough, big enough to go to school? how could she make it all day without me?

so yes, this is like that. five. it looms over me, hangs there, taunts me. please, let it not be five more. let it not even be one more.

Friday, February 11, 2011

it's the end of the world as we know it

and then there were two. they were dropping like flies, i tell you. hopping up and down in the chair. hyperventilating. wailing. with tears, even. and then there it came, right back up and into the adorable vintage pyrex dish with tiny flowers on the side.

and then there was one. the youngest, well, he just can’t keep his seat in the chair. i have considered duct tape. that would be too sticky, possibly ruin his cute little hipster toddler clothes. what about a belt? that seems too cruel, maybe because i was spanked with a belt when i was small. so my associations with a belt are not all that kind.

so the one left, he sat, stoic, focusing on his breath, trying to be brave, trying to eat enough to earn the dessert i had dangled in front of them all, the incentive i had just read about in a magazine--that one healthy eating habit families can instate is that of sharing dessert together after a meal.

well of course! maybe there was so much gnashing of teeth at dinnertime because i wasn’t allowing them to revel in that cold sweetness of ice cream, or the hot, oozy mess of freshly baked brownies, or the crunchy yet salty morsel of a cookie.

so i thought, i can do this. i can serve dessert after dinner. but i cannot, under any circumstances, dole out dessert to little children who refuse to eat dinner. because that just wouldn’t be right.

so i served chicken pot pie.

and the earth stood still. bells tolled the end of time. birds dropped dead from the sky. a fleet of jets flew overhead, rumbling the house. or maybe that was an earthquake. the rivers ran with blood, and frogs rained down from the sky.

in the end, the one who threw up into her bowl asked for another helping so that she could earn that ice cream. to spite her brothers, i heaped not one but two scoops of ice cream into the bowl, carried just past their little noses on the way to her.

my little stubborn girl. my little girl who loves sushi and roast beef but refuses to eat cheese (“only cold! i don’t like melted cheese!”) and pork (“i like only bacon! not pork!”). i can count on you to shove down that awful chicken pot pie to earn some dessert.

no matter that i bribed you.

what’s for dinner, you ask? tonight, honey, we are having a bowl of cereal.