We Are Still Here

I have not blogged in six months. I have not really posted anything on social media in all that time. I try to respond to messages and keep up with news, but I’ve fallen behind with most things.

Like many of you, I suspect, my orbit has been small in these strange times. Daily life has been revolving around the day job and the kids, managing risk from the virus while trying to serve as a support system.

Writing has taken a backseat to most things, and other relationships have not been given much attention at all—not for lack of caring, but for lack of energy and hours. And self-care? Self-care is not something I’m good at. I come from a line of self-sacrificing nurturers who don’t really do boundaries. Nothing like a pandemic to hold up a mirror.

Stephen has been a good partner through it all, and Mark has been a good co-parent. Ever since I had kids, I keep coming back to that adage, “It takes a village.” It really does. I am grateful for our little village. It has taken our team of three adults to parent our three teenagers in this pandemic. Each kid has unique academic, social, and emotional challenges exacerbated by remote learning and quarantine.

There are highlights: We have a lot of animated dinner conversations. They are often the high point of my day. We pay close attention to the spectacular sunsets outside our windows. Maya has applied to colleges for next year and has already been accepted to several. Liam is making beautiful music and came in second for Student Council president in his high school election. Lana creates rainbow sculptures that dot our house, and she is my steadfast kitchen helper. They don’t like remote learning. They miss their friends. They are worried about the future. Their emotions are all over the place. They are doing the best they can.

I have heard versions of this from other parents and caregivers, or from teachers  dealing with students. The kids living in this time are not really ok. The people who are trying to help them are not really ok.  None of us are really ok.

Yet as a society, we are not good at talking about mental health or the role of it during this pandemic. People are being asked to perform as close to “normal” as possible when so little about this is normal, especially for the children and teenagers.

So we do our best, and then we often feel woefully inadequate at the end of the day.

It’s a lot. For all of us.

The caregivers trying to fill other people’s “buckets” are drained. Those confined with (and grateful for) family and friends crave a little time and space for themselves. Those who are alone are starved for contact and touch (even the introverts).

There’s a song by Florence and the Machine that keeps running through my head. The refrain is: “We all have a hunger.”

Yep.

So many needs not being met. So many people hungry.

And tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. In a pandemic. In a country raw from disparity, unrest, and resistance.

Am I grateful? Every day. Does that mean that everything is ok? Nope. Our world is not ok. Is there hope? I think so. Are there moments of grace and joy and profound beauty in the middle of it all? Absolutely. Thank goodness. Is it easy to lose sight of that sometimes? Also yes. Is there a lot of work to be done to make things better for the future? Again, absolutely.

I wanted to write something today because people have sent messages recently asking me if I’m ok, concerned that they haven’t heard from me in a long time.

It’s mostly been that thing where you have five minutes free, and you want to call a friend or write a message, but you know that five minutes is just not enough time and there’s just so much to catch up on, but nothing at all so urgent or monumental.

How do you fit an honest response into five minutes, especially if brevity is not your strong point? (And if you know me, you know that brevity is NOT my strong point.) 😉

So instead of saying, “I’m fine,” or “I’m ok,” I tend to get quiet when there’s too much to say and not enough time. I’m sorry.

This time, I wrote this. Hopefully the next post will be sooner than six months.

I am looking forward to cooking dinner for tomorrow, but I am going to miss all our family who would usually gather together. I wish we could all be with the people we love. I look forward to the time when that’s possible.

Sending love and all the hugs.

Baba Yaga’s Thanksgiving Tips for Big Hips and a Healthy Appetite

Something I wrote that seemed timely to share during this holiday season. A little wisdom from the Bone Goddess:

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Baba Yaga’s Thanksgiving Tips for Big Hips and a Healthy Appetite

Well-known for her iconic hut perched atop chicken feet and her flying mortar and pestle, Baba Yaga is the quintessential Slavic witch of the woods. Familiar throughout Eastern Europe as the frightening witch who entraps children and young women, she is older and more complex than a mere cannibal bone collector. Baba Yaga is also the wise woman and earth-mother who protects the forest, the animals, and the wisdom of ancient traditions in danger of being forgotten in a modern world. She is the opposite of what is glorified in our society: Baba Yaga is old, powerful, alone, and perpetually hungry, and her wisdom comes from that ineffable appetite.

It’s time to celebrate the harvest, when your ancestors would stack their tables full of food to celebrate the fruits of the growing season and fatten up for winter. As you face the feast ahead, I offer one simple piece of advice:

Reclaim your hunger.

Hunger is powerful. That’s why people are afraid of it. Hunger reminds us that we are alive and fragile. It casts a light on our mortality. If we eat, we have a chance at life. If we do not, we will eventually die. It may take the average person between 30-40 days to die without food, but die they will.

Hunger teaches us things. When we listen to our bodies, we learn important lessons: our bodies will signal when we are full; they will usually give us clues when we are lacking something. When we pay attention to hunger, we start to discover what we need to change about ourselves and the world around us. Hunger is transformative.

Hunger is holy; it is the emptiness waiting to be filled. Hunger is what tempted people to venture into my deep, dark woods. Hunger is what brought them to my door, and hunger is why I let them in.   So why have people stopped knocking on my door? They have learned to ignore their hunger.

And women have it worst of all when it comes to appetites. Taught to go without, so much language around nutrition and diet is full of words like “combat hunger” “fight cravings.” When did the table become a battleground and food the enemy?

Warm bread slathered in fresh melting butter, soup filled with hunks of potato, juicy meat falling off bones, salt to enhance flavor and combat boredom, honey to sweeten a hard life. The smell of savory stews makes our mouths water. The color of cooked beets is red like flushed cheeks, they feel smooth on the tongue, their taste is sweet, they stain the fingers. Eating is sensual. It fills our mouths with flavors and textures. Why did we stop delighting in this thing we must do every day?

When people could take food for granted, they stopped listening to hunger. They found other reasons to eat or not eat. Restraint replaced relish, and hunger became…monstrous.

Somewhere between vanity and morality, young women became removed from their appetites. Old women became frightening or invisible. And an old woman with unapologetic appetites was the worst of all.

Today, we are rarely shown old women in print or online. (Yes, I do have internet in my hut. If I can make my house turn around to face the stars, it’s not hard to boost a signal and tap into the global network.) But if we see an old woman with food of any sort, she is usually cooking or baking in her spotless kitchen. Or she may be serving a meal, her apron clean and her tray in hand. Do we see her eating? Do we see any women eating with gusto like famished farmers after a day of hard labor? Not usually. Not unless their perfectly lipsticked lips are wrapped around some kind of suggestive sexual substitute.

Food can be sexy, but women do not always eat to tease or please their lovers. Sometimes women savor their meals because there is pleasure in eating, and hunger is the foreplay of the feast. (Because the exquisite wanting makes it so much more delicious.)

Of course, finding our way back to our appetites will take more than fairy tale trails of breadcrumbs, unless maybe they are tossed with bacon fat and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper, and served alongside some succulent spiced meat and cheesy potatoes.

This holiday season, love the food you eat, and eat the food you love. Fill your plate with savory delights and you’ll be on your way to becoming a person of good taste. After that, I invite you to come to my hut, just look for the chicken feet. They’re hard to miss.

Hut of Baba Yaga by Gil Rimmer

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Appreciation is a Holy Thing

“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.” ~Fred Rogers, Commencement Address, Middlebury College May, 2001

I’ve been called a dreamer since I was a little girl with her nose in books, staring off into space daydreaming. It’s true. I was, and I am; but I like to think that my optimism is seeing the world through the lens of the wonder-filled, the magical.

It’s harder some weeks than others, when the world seems horribly off-balance. That’s when I try to remember to look around me, to remember those in my circle, who are close and far, whom I love. They remind me that there are seeds of hope in the small, beautiful moments we spend together–so many shades of love–and I truly believe that love is our greatest experience of the Sacred.

If I have had the honor of spending time with you–sharing a meal, a conversation, a drink, a story, a moment, a memory, thank you. Thank you for the gift of your time and for sharing a part of yourself. Happy Thanksgiving. Cheers.