When Words Are Hard: Guiding My Son to Know His Words Matter, Even When It's Hard
 
 

“Mom, what I go to therapy for?” I wasn't expecting this question so soon. For weeks, he has been asking if he is almost done, if today is his last day. It's been over a year of therapy two days a week with no end in sight. I tell him he still has a long road ahead of him, that I am so sorry but today is not the last day. I know he is tired of coming to this building two days a week, of working so hard and having to be so patient. I'm tired too. I'm tired of the long car rides and the stares I get from people when they hear him talk, when they think his words are less important because they are harder to understand. Part of me was hoping he wouldn't ask this question. I know I could give him the simple answer- that he has a speech disorder and therapy helps him communicate better. But this question feels loaded and I don't want to give him just any run of the mill answer. We pull into the parking lot before I can respond and secretly I am relieved, I don't know what to say.

I never do.

Words are hard for him, they are a struggle for me too.

The snow is falling outside, he's days away from two. I’m sitting on the floor playing with my son. He brings me a baseball. Grunts replace words as he shows me what it is he wants me to do- pitch so he can hit the ball. I hold the ball in the air. “Say ball,” I beg. He used to be able to say it, but he doesn’t anymore.

This is one of the fleeting moments in my memory when I realized he wasn’t developing the way he was supposed to. He had dozens of words by 18 months, but slowly he lost them. By his second birthday, he was barely speaking at all. He wasn’t putting sentences together. I knew, deep in my gut, something wasn’t right. When he did speak, it was nearly impossible to discern what he was saying.

As a first time mom, I don't know what to do. I cling to the hope that I carry within that this will pass.

...

My womb swells with new life as the flowers bloom and the grass turns green. With spring arriving, hope begins to flourish in my heart. My son has a few new words, a couple sentences. I begin to think we are turning a corner, making progress. “Listen to what he can say,” I beam proudly. “I think you're hearing things,” I hear in return. No one else can hear what he is saying, no one else understands.

 

I made every excuse to hide the doubt and fear looming in the back of my mind. He’s just a late talker. I know he has the words. Some kids don’t talk until they’re 3. One day he is going to take off and never stop talking. Excuse after excuse, I tried to make myself feel better. I talked to him incessantly and did everything I could to get him to talk, to say the words I knew he had. I researched how to help late talkers, I read to him, talked his tiny ear off, and had him around children his age multiple days a week. I had music on, tried to keep the television off, in case that was hurting his speech. Nothing was working.

 

...

It's July and we're in Michigan meeting my son’s extended family, including cousins only a few months older. I'm suffocating under the hot sun, the humidity, the words that his cousins have that my son does not.

“Do you want to come build a campfire in my backyard?” his cousin, four months older, asked.

It took everything in me to not cry when I heard him say that sentence. I hung onto every word he said after that, shocked at the clarity and variation of his sentences. With each word and sentence his cousin said, a piece of my heart shattered. I found myself guilt-ridden, embarrassed, and bitter. My son was asked his name and age by family members meeting him for the first time. He couldn’t answer. When he did speak they looked at me dumbfounded until I translated.

...

It's fall. The fear burning inside of me is as red as the leaves on the tree. As the leaves fall, so does the hope I once held onto that he would be able to tell me his name.

I call a therapy center and schedule an evaluation, but it’ll be a few months before we can get him seen. It will be months after that before we have a diagnosis, before he can receive services. I sit in the unknown watching kids his age thrive, hold conversations, tell jokes, sing songs, and I wonder if he will ever be able to do those things.

...

The winter has arrived again. This time it brings a baby sister and answers along with the snow.

“He is so smart. He understands so much, and he wants to communicate. He knows what he is trying to say, but he just can’t do it,” his therapist tells me. He was diagnosed with a neurological speech disorder, Apraxia of Speech, a few months after his third birthday. So much of that time is tainted with postpartum depression, it’s hard for me to recall everything that was explained. All I remember is crying. A lot. His diagnosis took me months to accept. I couldn’t comprehend what it all meant. Once the fog of postpartum depression lifted, I could see clearly what was in front of us, what my son’s future would look like, and what I needed to do to help him thrive.

...

Now I worry about him every time we go out in public, especially when he will be around other kids. I am in the background observing him and how he interacts with his peers. He loves to play and will join any group he sees. As much as I love to see him socialize, laugh, and be a kid, I am terrified for him. I can’t help but wonder when the bullying is going to begin. When are kids going to make fun of him, point out how weird he sounds, say he is stupid? When are they going to mock him behind his back and talk about him when he can’t hear them? When will they start ignoring him altogether because they don’t understand? Will he have the words to stand up for himself? Will he use silence as his protection?

With everything that I know, and everything that is still too far into the future to see, this is what I want to tell him: We come to therapy so that you can work on your words- make them more understandable and more fluid. I know you are going to struggle and I want to make it easier for you. I want you to have a team to help you when it seems to be too much, for when the words are hard.

I bring you to therapy because I don't want you to grow up hating words. We don't know the struggles you will face during your school years with literacy. You will receive even more therapy to aid with these potential struggles, but I don't want you to see words as a punishment; I want you to love reading, writing, to find yourself in stories, to discover different worlds, to learn that our differences have the potential to make our world better. When the words that you read, write, or speak are too hard, I want you to know that they still matter.

Words are powerful- they can break us just as easily as they can heal us; this is something I fear you will learn firsthand, just how much words can hurt. I don't want those words to define you. I don't want the hurtful words to silence you. I don't want you to lose your words, to think that they can't be powerful because they come out a little different.

Even those imperfect sentences that leave your perfect little mouth matter. When no one can understand you, when people ignore you, when you feel silenced and alone, your words matter. All of the words in your head, your heart, words that spill off your fingertips, that transport you to different worlds, that come out a little wrong, they all matter.

Because of therapy, you have hundreds of words now that you didn't have a year ago. Every single one matters. And you matter.

Written by- Jacey Rogel

 

 

Krystal DonovanComment
Torn In Two
 
 

Every moment, I’m torn in two…

One side of me is loving every minute of motherhood. I love the smiles, the toddler finger pats, the tears my hugs can fix, the daily requests for bubbles, and the music making.

I hold my daughter in my arms and squeeze, willing the moment to sink into my bones. The embrace is my spirit’s desperate attempt to make the memory, the size of her, the smell of her, a part of me. How can I hold on to these moments in a way that keeps them unique and special, not simply merged into one season and phase of motherhood?

But, there’s also this other side of me. This part of me wakes up ready to go back to bed. It’s the side of me that browses social media on my phone as my daughter sits in my lap watching PBS. It’s the part of me that prays for nap time, bedtime, and any time I can sit down without a tiny human calling my name, wanting to play, or needing a snack. A very real part of me simply wants to be able to do what I want to do whenever I can.

This tension in myself has been one of the hardest spaces I have had to live in. How do I acknowledge the places in myself that long for when life felt easier and more about me, while paying attention to and growing the places that crave for more of my girl than one day’s worth of minutes can hold?

Thankfully, one thing motherhood has taught me is that I am not alone. I am part of a legacy of women who have felt this mixture of honor and weight attached to motherhood. I am not the first, nor will I be the last to wish time would simultaneously slow down and speed up.

Each day, we have a chance to try to hold the line between our needs and the needs of our children. Both matter deeply, even on the days that both can’t seem to coexist. So, we breathe. We give ourselves oodles of grace and second chances. We choose Netflix over laundry when it feels right. We talk to other mamas, our tribe, and our family when we need help righting ourselves. We breathe until nightfall. We rest, and then we try again.

I’m being slowly convinced that most of life and motherhood, at least the good juicy parts, are in the trying.

JOURNALIST: Brooke Bohinc

My Body Knows Just What To Do
 
 

When I was pregnant with my son, I repeated these words each week with eight other expectant mothers and their partners at the end of our childbirth preparation classes. We changed the emphasis to a different word each time we repeated the phrase, working through all of the words in the sentence.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

At the end of the session, I declared with equal parts hope and skepticism, “My body knows just what to do.” Does it? I wondered. Labor and childbirth were such a mystery to me, covered over with almost mythic stories of unendurable pain, as well as lyric rhapsodies of birth as the work women are designed to do.

I wasn’t ready to commit to either side just yet.

When it was time for my baby to arrive, my body took over in a way I had never experienced. I labored for days, walking the stairs of my midwife’s old Victorian house, where my husband and I had chosen for our baby to be born. I clambered into the shower, where the hot water massaged my taut lower back.

Even when I tried to rest, my body kept on with its faithful work. The night before I met my son I straddled the toilet facing backwards, my head resting on the toilet tank, the only place I could find relief.

“How is this baby going to be born?” I whispered to Gina, our doula. “Your body knows what to do,” she reassured me.

She was right. On a Tuesday afternoon, my son and I worked together as he entered this world, surrounded by my husband, Adam, our midwives, and Gina. They held sacred space for my body to labor with the pain as I did some of the best work of my life, delivering my son Julian safely into this world.

That was sixteen months ago, and in the time since then, I have developed a whole new appreciation for my body’s work. I see my whole body and spirit giving birth to my precious son, my breasts swelling and leaking in the early days as Julian and I struggled to learn the rhythm of nursing, my hands smoothing Johnson’s baby lotion on his strong legs, my ears straining to hear the tiny noises of his sleep, and my arms carrying him across the room so he can climb up the stairs on his own. Daily, Julian becomes more aware of the power and mystery of his body, and so do I.

Last night Julian woke at midnight, with sharp, inconsolable cries. Adam changed his diaper and handed him to me. I was sitting in our gray armchair, ready to comfort him. But Julian refused to be comforted. His body stiffened as tears streaked down his small face. He did not want to nurse, did not relax when I sang him lullabies.

I did not know what to do, but I kept going. A tiny part of me softened, in the midst of concern for my boy. My brain slowed down, just a bit, as I let my body take over. My hands brushed the hair out of his eyes, stroked his back. My voice sang the love song that we made up for him as a newborn. My heart spoke to his. “Mama is here. I love you. I’ve got you.” The rhythm of our breathing filled the room.

Over time, Julian’s sobs quieted. I offered to nurse him again, and this time, he accepted. I shifted in the chair, and cradled my little boy in my arms as his body relaxed. Mine did, too.

Julian drifted back to sleep, and I gently placed him in the crib. As I crept back to my own bed, a well-loved refrain drummed out its rhythm.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

My body knows just what to do.

JOURNALIST: Jordan Miller-Stubbendick

Photo: Anna L.

Cherry, Coconut, and Rose Ice Pops
 
 

Homemade ice pops during my childhood generally speaking meant orange juice with a cap-full of vanilla extract (if we got lucky) poured into the cold pack blue ice cube trays. Likely one of us four sisters fighting for the right of being assigned the delicate task of expertly poking the toothpicks through the carefully pressed tinfoil over the trays without tearing it which would indefinitely result in a dreaded crooked Popsicle stick.

During the summer months since having a toddler (or two) in the house I attempt to keep a stock of easily made ice pops on hand in our freezer because....honestly how much more summery can you get? A cold snack for mama and babes? absolutely. Thanks to the usual over abundance of seasonal fruit that we manage to have in our house thanks to neighbors, family, and farmers market purchases our cold treats are generally themed around whatever we've got on hand.

After my husband brought home over two pounds of cherries and promptly sat the bags in my lap after admittedly devouring at least half of them between the four of us I thought what better way to use the little sweet tarts than making a grown up version of my favorite childhood summer treat.
The smell of the warm cherries combined with the near overwhelmingly perfumed foraged drying rose petals from my mother in laws property sitting in the basket on my counter smelled like heaven itself.
Thus, this icy treat that I share with you that not only myself and my husband loved but also both of our boys surprisingly loved as well came about.


and of course my eldest wanted to poke the Popsicle sticks through the tinfoil ever so gingerly to not ruin the foil because...after all...crooked Popsicle sticks are the worst aren't they?

 

      

 What you will need: 

1 can of coconut milk

approximately 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

1 heaping Tbsp dried rose petals (you can find these at most tea shops or online)

4 tbsp almond milk

a dash of vanilla

1-2 tsp honey (this is really to personal taste as some like it sweeter, some like it not)

Blender

Popsicle mold


Instructions:
This recipe makes approximately 6 smaller ice pops but can be easily adjusted for whatever amount you might want to make and also the strength of the flavors if you aren't fond of strongly floral flavored things you can cut back slightly on the amount of rose petals used! If your final mixture is too strong for your personal taste you can also add a bit more of either milk.
 

In a small saucepan pour almost the whole can of coconut milk and add almond milk

Turn burner onto low-med heat and warm milk until its just simmering

Add rose petals and stir slowly on low heat until petals lose most of their color and milk becomes fragrant

Strain petals and place milk back into saucepan

Add chopped cherries to milk and cook until cherries become a bit soft

Take off of heat and allow milk and cherries to cool a bit

Add vanilla and honey to taste.

Pour mixture into a blender and blend until all pieces of cherries are gone

Pour mixture into your molds and freeze until firm

Enjoy your "you cant get more summery than this" treat!


Recipe, words, and Photos by Anna Laero

 

A look at; Honey & Sage Co.
 
 

Why did you start Honey & Sage Co.?

Sarah: Nova started this company in 2015, and I’ll let her expound  on the origins. I joined her in the spring of 2016, after the birth of my second daughter. I dove in knowing that being a part of this team would enrich my life and my soul in ways no other job could. This is more than making products and selling them. This is an exchange of energy, a continuous exploration of what it is to be a woman in this society and this earth, and how to be the best version of ourselves so we can help women all over remember that if they put themselves first, if they love themselves and care for themselves as much as they do the rest of the people in their lives, that this planet can only improve.

Nova: I was a midwifery apprentice and came to a point in my experience where I felt extreme burnout and stress. I also had been seeing the same thing in the clients I was serving in clinic and I realized that I needed to shift my intentions, at least momentarily, to allow me more space and time to be with my boys instead of always running out of the house to be with someone else's family. I basically started midwifery in my first postpartum period, had my second son, and then continued through another year of postpartum before a tight, pinch in my chest area was starting to concern me. I needed to mother myself. 

Who is it meant for?

Sarah: It’s funny - just the other day we were talking about our target demographic, and Nova said to me, “It’s you.” So I think going from that I can say that to me, our target buyer is a woman who is in a constant state of self discovery and understanding. It’s the mom who has like three things in her whole world that are just for her, who crashes into her couch at the end of each day and realizes this is the first moment of stillness she’s had that day. It’s the woman who never really learned self-care, who is beginning to understand that being a martyr to her family does nobody any good, that if her cup is empty she’s got nothing to give and she can’t be her best self for anyone. It’s the woman whose spirituality is fluid and expansive, who intends to seek to fill her soul until her last breath. It’s also for the woman who likes pretty things and doing her own thing - the woman who enjoys loving on herself and receiving gifts and supporting her sisters. It’s for the woman who wants to support a small business, one she knows gives back, so she can feel good about her purchase while being well with herself. 

Nova: It's meant for all women doing their good, earnest work, but really it was born as a way to honor and remind mothers that martyrdom just doesn't cut it. We have to acknowledge our own divinity, too, the way we do when we take care of our children, family and friends. 

Why is self care so important?

Nova: Because life is relentless and developing a practice of self-compassion through self-care is very counter to what many of us grew up with...I don't believe in the "because it's always been this way" thought process. I'd like to think, generally speaking, that we can evolve as humans, women, mothers to take care of ourselves whilst taking care of others. Actions are mirrored, right? So instead of emitting stress and adrenal fatigue, I'd prefer to practice grace. It's an incredibly easy concept that is incredibly difficult to practice in our current culture.

Sarah: Self care is an act perseverance, the only way to get ahead. In a generation that glorifies ‘the hustle,’ in a time where being a good human means putting so much of your energy into your work and those you love, and speaking for the voiceless, it becomes terrifyingly easy to run on empty. So many of us find ourselves going through the motions, perhaps even becoming resentful of the things we love, those we fight for, because we pour and pour and pour and at the end of the day we feel theres not being a drop poured into ourselves. If every woman was taught from childhood that she is a goddess, that her body is a temple, that her soul is worthy of care and respect, can you imagine the world we would live in? So many of us have to go through hell and back to find our truth and our worth, when it should’ve been inside us all along. Self care is important because when we care for our own temple, when we honor ourselves as is due, we become the goddess we were meant to be and we can work our magic on the world. 

How do you guys come up with new products?

Sarah: It started, I think, with creating products for our subscription box, and Nova would develop recipes based on her work as an apprentice midwife and aspiring naturopath. As we’ve developed our apothecary line, we continue to go with the themes of each month’s box and find the missing pieces. Lately, too, we’ve listened to our buyers. We’ve been doing markets over the last few months, and the women (and men, honestly) who come by our table always seem intrigued. They ask for oils that help with anxiety, or a spray for nausea, or a mala bracelet for anger management. We are meeting our people where they’re in need, and we want to fill their cup by filling their needs. We do research on herbs, on crystals, on the healing properties and nourishing abilities of the products we use, and we apply them to best fit into what self care might look like.

Nova: We take feedback and requests into consideration, but mostly products are created based on what I like and use in my own home. I decided from the beginning that I curate the Sage Woman Care Package for myself...and now I'm doing the same for our Honey & Sage Apothecary.

Which product is your favorite?

Nova: I have two right now. I really love the Nourish-Mint tea and our Cleansing Grains which leave my face feeling really soft.

Sarah: My favorite to MAKE is the mala bracelets - I’ve only just gotten into crystals and stones and their properties, and piecing together things that could help someone’s spirit find peace, or help create confidence, or instill patience - it’s powerful to know you can put someone’s spirit in their own hands simply by choosing some pieces of stone from the earth and putting them in their hand.

My favorite to USE so far have been the Cleansing Grains. I’d never really done masks before this year, and I’ve really begun to find a deep love for slathering mud on my face and letting it get crusty and scrubbing it off and seeing my skin bright and glowing. It’s like instant gratification self care. 

Where do you see Honey & Sage Co. in the future?

Nova: I see our Apothecary really expanding and having a presence in retail locations. I also envision more community events, that's really been a fundamental part of our growth. The Sage Woman community is beautiful. 

Sarah: The big picture, right now - we want Honey & Sage to represent self-care in as many incarnations as possible. That means putting our product in shops all over, products women can feel good about using and which make them feel good in turn. There’s also the pursuit of the spiritual component - empowering women has always been front and center.

Where can we buy it?

Nova: You can find our goods on our website: www.honeyandsageco.com. We are ALMOST done with a new website which will feature our new Honey & Sage Apothecary. You can also find us on some weekends at the Dallas Farmer's Market or at the Boho Market events. 

Any fun and exciting news you'd like to share?

Nova: We've got a really great collaboration with T&C Floral Company for Mother's Day this year and we'll be featuring this beautiful preserved rose in a vase to be included in our Sage Woman Care Packages and for individual sale. I think women will really be delighted with their care packages.

 


Be sure to ENTER our Giveaway where Honey & Sage Co. will be sending one lucky winner a Monthly Wellness Package! 

Gather The Village: 'Slow Living' with Leney Breeden
 
 

WHAT IS SLOW LIVING? 

In its essence it's introducing the idea of a different mindset. Of being more intentional. More mindful. More present in your every day, with wherever you are and in whatever you’re doing. Often there are times that my life and circumstances are fast paced, but I can still practice a slow living mindset amidst those times.Because slow living isn't always about pace, it's about an intentionality. Essentially, it's taking the time to enjoy life's gifts in the various, often over looked, forms they take. Even when they require extra steps. Even when they require more time. Even when there's a to do list hanging over my head. Maybe even especially when. Because it's a healthier way of living.

I try to embody this idea and this practice in everything I do. I’m not always good at it, and often people don’t understand it, but I feel called to live a life that’s counter, other and different and I’ve found these ideas align with that calling. Slow living also holds within it the idea of self-care, which I think is a topic in and of itself that’s also of great importance. When we love and take care of ourselves, we can do the same for others in our lives. From our family and friends, to that stranger you meet while standing in line, to your varying social circles, to the communities you live in. I want to be able to serve and love others with my best self and this lifestyle has led me to be able to do that more proactively and fully. But truthfully we can all use a reminder to slow down in this fast paced culture of ours, don’t you agree? To be prompted to hold, within ourselves and our lives, the things that are truly meaningful and add value instead of take it away.

WHY DID YOU MAKE THE CHOICE TO LIVE SLOW? 

A few years ago, I had come to the end of my rope. In every area of my life possible. I was burned out, overworked, unhealthy, unhappy and unsatisfied with where my life was headed. I didn’t want to be so stressed and overwhelmed all the time. I’d achieved all of these so-called successes and goals and, from the outside, looked like I had it all together. Yet somehow they all echoed hollow and insignificant in the wake of the chaotic tornado that was my life. I didn’t have the capacity to be there for those I loved. I didn’t have the time to take on anything new, because I was overloaded with all I was already juggling. I wasn’t sleeping well at best, and not sleeping at all at worst. I was slowly losing myself and who I truly was amidst the constant fast paced lifestyle I was leading. A year or so into the mending and healing of myself and my well being I came across the phrase: Slow living. I don’t fully remember where I first heard it or how it came about, but the more I learned about it, the more it resonated with that centermost part of my soul. It was like a soothing touch to the worn out, broken and battered state of my psyche and I knew that it was the change that I needed to start living the kind of lifestyle that I wanted to lead.

 

 

 

WHAT HAS CHANGED MOST IN YOUR LIFE BY LIVING THIS WAY? 

The way I relate to and care for myself and others. I’ve learned that comparison is the very subtle and stealthy thief of joy. Constantly holding my life up to the reflection of others was one of the first things that put me in that unhealthy and unhappy state I mentioned before. I also came to realize that practices, habits and routines that work for others might not always work well for me. We each have an individual make-up with varying strengths and weaknesses. We each need to learn and know what it is that brings those pieces of us out into the open and either protect and build or or extract and eliminate them accordingly. The opposite of comparison, for me, is contentment.

To me, contentment holds within it the ideas of: 

1. Enough: That you are enough and have enough within and around you already, and no measure of striving or struggle will change that.

And

2. Gratitude: For the enough that is in you and in your life here and now.I have to work really hard to create space and time for myself, but it is so essential to my well being. But it’s less so about me, and more so about others.I now feel so much more capable of being fully present for people in my life as a result of living slower.

Additionally, the incredible deep, heartfelt, and open conversations this lifestyle and mindset has brought about with friends, family and strangers alike has truthfully been one of the most rewarding things. 

Just like this one we’re having now!

LETS TALK ABOUT KNITTING! WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT IT? 

Oh my goodness where do I start? 

Well, I’ve been knitting for 17 years and I’ve always been an artist in some form or another, but the artistry I’ve found through working with fiber is one that is constantly changing and unfolding for me in such beautiful ways. I hold sustainable and ethical practices within the idea of Slow Living and this seeps into my knitwear as well. I’m very passionate about being a part of the process of creation from the very beginning. From taking a newly shorn fleece, processing it, spinning it into yarn and then designing and knitting a garment from it. It feels incredibly rewarding to be able to not only make a garment with my own two hands that tells a story and will last for generations, but one that has been made with so much responsibility, intention and respect for the steps and work that it took to do so. And though I’m a pretty fast knitter at this point and can do it anywhere and everywhere (from walking down the street, to movie theaters…) it still is an activity that at it’s core requires me to slow down.

IF YOU GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I ferociously want others to recognize, embrace and act on the dreams and passions that are inside of them. Because I believe we were each given a unique and beautiful set that speaks to the beauty of our creator and to not acknowledge that is a disservice to not only ourselves and our God-given purpose, but to those around us who are waiting for the very thing that we hold in us that we are meant to serve and love them with.

So whatever it is you need to do to start doing it, if you’ve never done it, or to re-learn how to do it, if you forgot, or to keep doing it, if you’re in that process: do that.

 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE US TO KNOW?

As I mentioned with my knitwear, I’m passionate about sustainable and ethical practices. Especially in the wake of fast fashion (if you’re unsure what that is, go watch The True Cost documentary). As a result I started a venture called Folkling where I curate and sell handmade and vintage clothing and homewares. It’s only a few months old but it’s been such a wonderful addition to my lifestyle and a fun outlet for this message in regards to slow living and the values and beliefs that I hold. You can check it out on Instagram at: @folkling and read more on my website at: www.agirlnamedleney.com/folkling

HOW CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU? ORDER A KNIT PIECE? READ YOUR WRITING? ETC.

I am most active on Instagram (@agirlnamedleney) and I regularly update my online journal which you can read on my website: www.agirlnamedleney.com

I also have Facebook (www.facebook.com/agirlnamedleney) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/agirlnamedleney

Connecting with others through good conversation and heartfelt ideas is one of my favorite things so please do say hello on any of those platforms or shoot me an email: agirlnamedleney@gmail.com


Do You Want To Live slow? Join us at our next Gather the Village event!

Gather The Village- 'Slow Living'
75.00

The Village + Leney Breeden

November 11th

Richmond, VA

Join us under for a warm and inviting evening under the stars, as we discuss and learn how the art of slow living can be implemented into each of our own lives.

_____

5:00- Cocktail Hour: Mix & mingle with new friends and old while sipping the most delectable hand made cocktails.

6:00- Dinner + Dessert: Enjoy a delicious farm to table meal while taking part in an intentional conversation lead by Krystal, The Village Founder, and Leney Breeden,

Sit and stay a while, chat until your hearts content, and leave with your cup full and maybe with a few friends in tow.

Plus a lovely gift bag!.

Location- Richmond, Virginia

The evening will be documented by Creative director and photographer Anna Laero.

*You will receive the location address + more details about the evening upon purchase.

Please note: Event tickets are non-refundable. However, if you are unable to attend, you're welcome to gift or sell your ticket to a friend, who can attend in your place.

Quantity:
Add To Cart

She is You

I love a woman who loves herself. A woman who knows she's not perfect and embraces that. A woman that not only loves herself, but FALLS in love with herself every single day. She knows that she doesn't always say the correct thing, but she is kind, humble, and oh so selfless. She understands that the world isn't always beautiful, but she does her best to add her own beauty to her life and to the ones closest to her heart. She hesitates when making decisions for her family, because she fears not making the right ones. There is fear in her heart, but you’d never know, because she is peace — the binding factor of why her world holds together, even if it’s not even close to perfect.

She has insecurities, like every other human being. But she isn't like everyone else. She makes a difference — even more than she could ever imagine. To her children especially — when they grow up and think of the person they want to be most like in their lives, it will always be her. The way she can whip up a dessert and have it taste like heaven, the way she drops everything without a blink to help someone in need, the way she seems to have all the answers when you don’t know where to turn. When she looks in the mirror, she only sees the wrinkles and the creases of her eyes and her mouth, and the growing grey intertwined in her blonde hair. But the world sees her contagious smile, her laughter and silliness that brightens up the darkest room, the joy they wish to see in every aspect of their own hearts and lives, and the patience she has for values not like her own. How is it that she helps others see who they truly are, more than their own souls do? She sees the curves of her body, more weight than she had years ago, and stripes on her tummy from when she once carried her own babies.

She doesn’t see herself as beautiful because society doesn’t deem her as so — she isn’t young or olive colored skin, or perfectly perky breasts, and her house isn’t clean and doesn’t look like an article right out of the magazines she loves to read. She doesn’t yet realize that beauty isn’t everything. She doesn’t see the power she possesses, because if she did, she would know that she can literally move mountains to create the life she dreams of. She is real in an increasingly false world. She flourishes in her existence, like a flower pushing through concrete. Her real self shows in every breath she takes. Her strength isn't always stronger than her softness, as much as she tries to make this so.


My sweet friend, she is you. Your greatest gift is the power you hold inside yourself, and being the truest soul you can ever imagine. Don’t you dare even deny it — the Earth thrives with you in it. Let us create beauty and love, my love.

JOURNALIST: Bethany Bourgoin

SWEET POTATO HUMMUS

Did you know sweet potato is a SUPERFOOD? The nutrient rich benefits are phenomenal, and the versatility and texture lends itself to a variety of recipes to explore: muffins and dips, baked or roasted, and offer a range of flavor between sweet and savory, which is great for NEW or experienced eaters.

And what food prep is more meal versatile than a hearty batch of hummus? A fiber rich dip for veggie sticks, pita or fresh bread, a spread for crackers, and a great base (tomato sauce alternative) for a pizza!

 

RECIPE INGREDIENTS & METHOD:

  • 2 sweet potatoes (baked and mashed)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned) white beans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • 4 TBS olive oil

LOAD ingredients into a food processor and blend until creamy!

SPREAD on rice crackers and top with sesame seeds, dip and dunk raw veggies, or use as a condiment for your favorite sandwich!

 

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SUPERFOOD AND ITS SUPER POWER?

MORE SUPERFOODS

I Sometimes Live in Shadows

My size five and a half feet carry an ocean, a mountain of weight as I stride through the house. Each step is a dump truck stomping downstairs. Each clunk beats out an S.O.S. "Come get me. Show me that this is not how our marriage ends. Show me you love me more than I realize." In our room, I cry.

It's sadness and it's fear. This thundering fear over an argument of wasted chicken thighs. Or maybe it was a discussion over schedules or the dogs? (Does the subject matter ever really matter as much as all of the communication?) We really are okay; my reactions are just off. Do other kids of divorce get this weird, too? This hypersensitive, scared, angry, and we-better-work-this-out-in-ten-minutes-or-we're-done attitude too?

I live my marriage in light of being a child of divorce. Rather, in the darkness of having gone through a divorce. How can I be my best with this insecurity that in the end, may not be victorious? Boy, it's exhausting. If I even think he sees me in any negative way, if he does not remark on my eye makeup, my golden parenting, or some feat I've accomplished, I think perhaps he's had it with my whole personality, that he doesn't love me, and will trade me in my nursing bra for a secretary or colleague. I'm not always like this, but fear, even in small doses, can still be toxic.

If I stay in that place, I sink, and become that poor sad horse in The NeverEnding Story. My marriage view, if even for fifteen minutes, appears as bleak as muddy, dear Artex. I am being dramatic, but at least some of this may have to do with my parents being married five times between the two of them.

I can be freer, not bound by any old hurt. I won't be bound now by history that happened to me decades ago. Maybe it can take a village to support a marriage? It will take care and resolve to comb through my feelings a bit before throwing them haphazardly, or chucking them at my husband. For this, there are options deeper than breaths - journaling, gaining trusted counsel, time in worship, or time in gratitude. My kids will greatly benefit if I can take this time not only for me, but for them, for us, and for the village that lives in these very gates.

Marriage is tough, though. Two people have to sync. We have to decide even when and how we will work things out. Even now, again, we have a resolve waiting to happen. In other words, we messed up. Doors were even slammed. There are two sides, two renditions, and two memories. May we patch our sides together soon. May we honor each other as bride and groom. May all of the other junk drift off.

Women who live in the fruit of community root themselves in truth. We are not sheltered, but known. We take notice when our sister is off. We hold to the truth, remind ourselves again to hold up our mirrors, read the real words, and ask for help. Here are things I know: my husband loves me, it would take something very, very big to wrench us apart, and we have help when we want or need it.

We have this gorgeous marriage certificate, a ketubah, nailed on the wall under an acrylic frame with our witnesses and rabbi's name signed:

They pledge to foster strength and unity.

We have children. We have every tool, but sometimes it is my frightful counsel I call upon. Sometimes, in the too-late hours to have a real quality discussion, I feel hurt and clawed by the divorce claws and all of the shadows of my own upbringing in regards to marriage. Maybe we cannot support our marriage any better than poor Artex could stand with any sort of hope?

I want my children to know that it can be healthy to disagree, even though I am still learning, or even though I need reassurance. I need my husband to dress in fatigues or armor, to throw down some club and say, "Darling, you will always be worth fighting for." If I'm being honest, I want him to put me before his own hurts. I want orchids after any fight, want us to breathlessly recite vows, and hold tight. But I suppose he probably has his own wish list too?

My husband is becoming more keyed-in, though, and more aware of how my background can color my take on a situation. But I still must cling to truth, to the goodness I know from us, and not to the disasters nearly thirty years ago.

My village is largely within these walls, and it is my very thoughts and emotions which can ground me to pursue truth. My marriage shall not be dictated by past hurt, but by the pursuit of two people: our souls, minds, and bodies who choose love, again and again, not confusion or pain.

If I have greater health here, then I can give my children a better sense of the goodness of conflict. May they never fear a marriage relationship. May we all see wholeness here. I will strive to see greater love in our village, in and out of these gates, and all around us.

You hear that, mama? Got that, my dear?

Peace shall dwell here.

Journalist: Melissa Uchiyama

•• GIVEAWAY ••

We've partnered with Sage & Arrow and Knotted Nest, two amazing companies, in order to give you the chance to win some incredibly lovely items for self care, because YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Enter below for your chance to receive our trademarked 'It Takes a Village' mug, a Knotted Nest diffuser necklace, and Sage & Arrow bath soak.

To enter follow each one of our Instagram's + Knotted Nest + Sage & Arrow to enter!

 
Giveaway_logos.jpg
 
The Power of Food: A Hearty and Inspiring Conversation with Kayla Mangione About Food, Family, and Simplifying Meals
Be patient. I think that people who strive to eat healthy tend to overdo it with strict diets, only leading to failure and an eventual feeling of shame. Moving into a healthier relationship with food should be a slow and gradual process, with realistic goals and modifications.

 

What inspires you most about nutrition and cooking for your family?

My family believes that food is fuel; fuel for energy and health, or fuel for disease and lethargy. This belief factors into my grocery shopping, cooking, and eating decisions. I am incredibly inspired by my children. We were very fortunate to have two beautiful, healthy children, and I see the opportunity to feed them as a gift that I never want to take for granted. We try to make the best decisions we can for the health of our children, while keeping balance in mind.

 

There is a common misconception that the average person can't eat healthy and tasty meals under a budget and with minimal time to dedicate in the kitchen. What are a few simple and inspirational tactics you can offer to the skeptics and busy families?

First, let me mention that budgeting (money and time) are always a work in progress, especially for me. I am not really a meal-planner, though I know that would help with budgeting. I am driven to be creative in the kitchen and with groceries by my love of food and my distaste for food waste. By not wasting food, I am forced to make interesting meals that I may never have come up with otherwise, and when food is not wasted, neither is money.  Utilizing cost-effective foods like seeds, bananas, cabbage, beans, and potatoes can really help too. Time is another issue. A few minutes of weekly prep can save a ton of time. My fast and healthy go-to's include, smoothies, crock-pot meals, roasted veggies, and hummus. I get my kids involved in the cooking too, so that when it does takes time, it is also time well spent learning together.

 

What is one piece of advice you have for fellow parents trying to encourage their children to eat healthy, colorful, and tasty food?

Be patient. I think that people who strive to eat healthy tend to overdo it with strict diets, only leading to failure and an eventual feeling of shame. Moving into a healthier relationship with food should be a slow and gradual process, with realistic goals and modifications. As for children, they want fun food, so color, shape, and texture are huge factors. Be patient with your child as they form their opinions about food. It will pay off in the end.

 

 

Winter Spiced Gluten Free Granola

INGREDIENTS 

  • 4 cups gluten free oats
  • 1½ cup mixed nuts & seeds (I used 1 cup pecans and ½ cup pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup mixed little seeds (like hemp, flax & chia)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil 
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup 
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder (or extract)
  • 1/2 cup dried seasonal fruit (I used cranberries, golden raisins and blueberries)

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees
  • Melt coconut oil and blend with pomegranate juice, maple syrup and vanilla extract (if using)
  • Pour over all other ingredients, reserving dried fruit for later
  • Mix well and lay flat on a parchment covered baking sheet
  • Bake for about an hour
  • Add dried fruit
  • Let cool completely before storing

GRANOLA BALLS

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup granola
  • 3 tablespoons smooth almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax meal
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix all ingredients together and form balls
  • Add a bit more wet ingredients if balls do not form or add more flax meal if balls are too sticky
  • Store in the refrigerator

 

You can follow Kayla for more inspirational tips and recipes on her YouTube Channel, Babymangi or on Instagram @babymangi

Sara ConsolatiComment
TIME

I once again stand humbly in witness of the precision of the plan. I see my unassuming toddler in the landscape of time quite clearly, exposing massively grand themes of life: impermanence, awareness, and relationship.

This has been the fastest slowest two years of my life. It is no secret the days in motherhood are long, and in the midst of an endless afternoon it can appear there is a surplus of hours to burn memories, time to get it right, and time to savor this experience.  Then in a single moment of a seemingly endless day a glance at an old photo brings me to my knees where I can loosely detect a vanished scent of newborn baby and sweet mama milk. I see I have been deceived by this stretching of time. I have been misled by the length of the day. Somewhere in the fog of this time warp phases are forever gone and new stages have arisen. Teething is over, and tantrums begin. Coos are over, and kisses begin. Even as time seemingly stands still, the change of seasons appears to happen in one rotation of the orb. In a particular day there is no clear division of past, present, or future, but the stages and phases of development show the passing of time through evident change. Through my son I see very plainly that all of life is change, all of life is movement, and it must at least in part be this impermanence that leads me to value the fullness of the moment.  

I set down the photo and heed to the fact that the time is now. This still passing of lengthy days is the inherent nature of motherhood. This endless momentum at a glacial pace is a microcosmic teacher. The clock has slowed for me. This slowing of time is a gift. These long days are purposeful. This is for me. These long days allow me chance after chance to connect, disconnect, succeed, fail, and reconnect. The clock has slowed for me to adjust into motherhood, find my footing, lose my footing, and stand again with time enough to experience this pressing and precious phase of life. It can seem sometimes that life flashes before my eyes, but in this experience of motherhood the seconds tick a bit slower providing me a bumpy, but wide path to repeatedly bring my careful attention back to this priceless moment in life. I am human; moments are missed and connection often curtailed, but the days are forgivingly long providing the time in space to make correction and wake up to the awareness of what is. When intellectualized, awareness can seem elusive, but this presence of being is not separate from the small moments of everyday life. It is this presence that is found within the very material of relationship itself.   

I yield to motherhood. This is the slow season of presence and connection, and every season has its place. I live in a city that tells me more, faster, efficiency, and automate, while my baby tells me less, slow, relish, and with intimacy. As a mother I am in a position where connection matters, where relationships matter, where love matters above all else. This is a moment in life where short cuts do not exist, where there is no benefit for streamlining, and where the bulk of what is important lives in the slowing down to the tiniest of moments. When I look back and it seems as though time has slipped through my fingers, I then witness the connection, the relationship built, and I remember that this bond happened not automatically but over time in the slowest of days and in the stillness of seconds. In this essence of presence, the moments gone are not sadly missed but are very real, vivid memories as energy has been spent in the slow savoring of experiences as the building blocks of our relationship.  

Time passes as it comes, and there is no holding on. There is only the present and hopefully for mother, an expansive empty presence open to experiencing the fullness of this heart bursting, exhausting, amazing, defeating, demanding, and perfect divinity. My son, my greatest teacher, exposes to me so simply in his natural intelligence the essence of life. The unobstructed wisdom of a toddler reveals to me that all of life is change, the fullness of experience is only the available in awakening to the present moment, and ultimately these small moments within the longest of days are the fiber of this essential relationship.  

JOURNALIST: Kelly Van Zandt (@yourmothernyc)

IMAGE CREDIT: Leo Lo Photography

My Presence In Motherhood: An Open Letter To My Sons

To my boys,

My sweet Layton and My mighty McLayne,

You have heard, and will continue to hear people questioning the choices I make as your mother. People that we love, the people we are closest to, and complete strangers will always have something to say. I want you to know the extent of my love and the importance of the choices I am making as I raise you. My sweet boys, my love for you could over flow the oceans of the world. In becoming your mother, I did not lose myself. I found her. I can do without fancy clothes. I’d rather wear rags so I can move freely as we play together on the floor. I can walk much more gracefully in sensible shoes. It’s much less difficult to chase you in flats rather than heels. I’ll choose messy hair every day if it means that I can have just a few more minutes with you. Friendships can wait. No earthly being is more important than you.

I will lead through your guidance.

I will hold you until my arms ache, if that is what you need. When your weight is more than I can carry, I will always find the strength. I will walk the longest path, or climb to the highest peak with one of you on my front, and the other on my back, if that is what it takes to make you happy. Whether it is three hours, two minutes, or even for only a second, my arms will carry you for as long as you need them.

Angle babies, we can share our bath time until you’re ready to bathe on your own. I am not ashamed for you to see me naked. I am not afraid to explain the differences in our anatomy. I will never hide my flaws, and you will never hear me call myself fat or ugly in front of you. I want you to love yourselves, as well as others. I want you to find respect for the differences that others may have. Beauty is only skin-deep. When the time comes, I want you to remember the showers we shared, the games we played, and the songs we sang at the top of our lungs. I will remember your tiny fingers rubbing the soap off my legs. I will remember the echoes of your laughter as you pretended to swim on the shower floor. I will remember making the choice to shower with you, so we had more time together in the evenings. I will never regret that choice.

I will continue to nourish you from my body until you are ready to wean, my loves. Whether it is for nourishment or just for comfort, I will let you decide when it is time for us to stop. If you want to drink my milk from a cup, I will pump it for you. You will be who decides when you are too old, or too big. It will never matter where we are, or how many eyes can see. I do not do this for me, although I savor each quiet moment, each tiny moment when we are still, and we breathe as one again. I will be here for every single moment that you need me. I will never rush you.

My sunshine(s), you will never know how tired I am. You will never understand that these dark circles under my eyes didn’t exist before you were here, but I will never let you cry in the night. I will wake for you, a million times. I will be there, in the dark, when you reach out your arms, every time. There is no amount of sleep that will ever outweigh your security. I am your mother, and your safe place. For you, I will be tired forever.

Nights out, and time away will still be there when you are grown. I only get to keep you for a short time; so those solo trips to the grocery store are all I need for now. Even on our worst days, my heart is happiest where you are.

The world often disagrees with the choices I make as a mother, my tiny boys, but when you are old and grown, I want you to look back with fond memories of your childhood. I don’t want you to just see me there as a fuzzy image in your mind, I want you to feel my warmth and my total presence. I want you to remember that even when I was tired, overwhelmed, and even lonely, I was there. I will never regret any choice I have made as your mother, if it means that you will remember me in your best memories, your favorite memories. I am not a perfect mother, but these are the choices I make for you. Yours are the only voices my ears hear. Your happiness is all that I live for. You are the favorite chapter in my story, and your presence here gives me wings.

I will love you forever,

Mommy

 

JOURNALIST: Kayleigh Elliott

IMAGE CREDIT: Rosina Wachs Photography

Sara ConsolatiComment
Sisterhood Rising
And last week I saw Cameron Diaz at Fred Segal, and I talked her out of buying this truly heinous angora sweater. Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.
— Elle Woods
They say nothing lasts forever, dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
— Carrie Bradshaw
Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.
— Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

There are countless movies portraying sisterhood and the bond that we share, spanning everything from outfit advice to motherhood tips. But have you ever felt it: the kind of sisterhood that touches your soul? It pulls the laughter from the depths of your belly, makes your sides ache as the tears stroll down your cheeks, and you release uninhibited snorts of laughter. Such a jubilant form of happiness!

For many generations, women have supported one another and been each other's backbone. Prior to any feminist movements, women were forced to rely on men for the sheer purpose of survival. We were grouped together for tasks such as serving and taking care of others children; so many friendships were pushed upon us by circumstance. I believe the sisterhood so many of us have is presently built far differently than friendships and sisterhood of the past.

Now, more than ever, women are becoming the primary providers for their families. We are juggling the boss from hell, the bills that pop up for things you didn't know you had bills for, the never ending bake sales, and wanting to be the best mum ever. It all requires the support of a tribe. We could easily exist in our own homemade bubbles of the cycle of life, but we choose not too. We choose to seek one another out like lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

Think about the time spent with your own girls: Sunday morning coffee, weekend brunch once a month, or maybe a regular girls night together. What traditions help you thrive?

As a little girl I hungered for Tuesday evenings when my mum would have girls night with her sisters. They would stumble into the house, legs too sore from an hour of “keep fit” at the local high school gym, but giggling like teenagers over how they couldn't move like the “good old days”. I would sneak out of bed and hide behind the door, listening to their stories until one of them would notice me, and beckon me in. I probably stayed ten minutes at the most, but the memories are etched so clearly in my heart. I was in love with their bond, and I wanted to wrap myself up in it like a cashmere blanket. These women had found one of the keys of life. Making time for themselves lifted their spirits and gave them confidence, not just as women but as mothers, too.

Many cultures around the world embrace women. Our succulent personalities, the ability to release our emotions fearlessly, or our never-ending curves that give way for new generations, not to mention the vivaciousness with which we protect our children. Nonetheless, we are often met with resistance in our supposed land of the free. If we are too passionate about a work project, we are labeled as an emotional wreck. If we reject a man’s advances in a corporate environment, we must be PMS-ing because let's face it, who wouldn't want to be with an overly aggressive type-A male who stands far too close to every female colleague, eyeing her like a piece of meat.

This is why I tribe.

Finding a space for us to be women and partners, in addition to being mothers, is essential to our well being. There are scientific studies that show a woman has a higher chance of survival during an illness if she has a tribe. We need a group of sisters that are connected by soul. There is a clarity one feels after talking to a girlfriend. We can feel the sun shining brightly on us even in the midnight hour of our girls night.

My sisterhood is a tribe of women who move my soul each time we meet. Sisterhood saves you from pain, and at the same time allows you to relieve someone's troubles. Sisterhood is a friend that calls you out on your rubbish, a friend who tells you how proud she is when no one else does. She knows when you’re struggling and is connected so deeply she is able to feel your pain as her own.

We are in an age where the world is in its adolescence, struggling to find the way and travel a good path. Now, more than ever, each of us needs a strong sisterhood.

Surround yourself with friends who remain by your side, in sunshine and in shade.

JOURNALIST: Natasha Badkoubei

Simplify Your Season

I remember walking through trees in the cold, the dewy needles brushing my wool coat, and the wet leaves sticking to my boots. Watching my breath cloud the air in front of me as I look up and around, searching for “the one”. I hear one of my brothers call out “this one!” and one by one we stake our claim, standing sentinel next to our tree of choice, knowing Mom or Dad has the final say. We critique each one for the perfect limb spacing, height, width, and bare spots, etc. The accursed bare spot that is the bane of picking out a live Christmas tree. When we find perfection, my brothers and my dad get to work with the saws, taking turns until one by one they’ve contributed their share of cuts, and down she goes. We happily traipse back to the farm entrance, our tree is tagged and bagged, or, well, netted, and we enjoy the complimentary hot chocolate while Dad meticulously ties it to the top of the car. We cut down our Christmas tree every year. Every year, except one, when much to my dismay we went to a lot down the street from home. But aside from that abhorrent occasion, I have the fondest memories wandering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s each year looking for that one special tree.

With my own little family now I haven’t upheld this tradition as much as I want to. In fact, we’ve maybe cut down our tree twice in the 9 years my husband and I have been married, but the memories remain some of my fondest from my youth. There is something about the holidays that brings out our internal desire to continue and create traditions. What is it about tradition that we love so much, or that carries so much weight?

Tradition is our link to the past – it is the fiber of our heritage – passed down through generations. They are created in the moments when we realize, “I’ve been here before, I remember this” and in such a way to help guide us towards what to do next. We move forward with purpose by remembering the past. We want to recreate the magical, memorable experiences that we’ve had in order to re-live them, and the familiarity of a repeated moment brings comfort and security. Though the experience may have been mundane, the repetition or recreation of it becomes special in and of itself. Traditions create memories that can be passed on to our children. They create a bond between us – parent to child, friend to friend, sibling to sibling, grandparent to grandchild. It's through traditions we keep these memories alive, and in that way we can better appreciate those special moments.

My children love baking chocolate chip cookies with Nana when she comes to visit, and they always expect her “sushi crepes” (German pancakes rolled and cut like sushi) every morning when she’s staying with us. When my dad is in town, Pop Pop is always expected to make his famous French toast for breakfast. In their little minds this is just the way of things, but unbeknownst to them they have manifested traditions with their eager tummies. I can’t tell you when it all began, only that now these activities have become special and anxiously awaited traditions. What was a simple morning breakfast, or a request for an after dinner treat, became a unique experience as it happened over and over.

During the holidays it seems this desire is put into over-drive. These days there is this superficial need to keep busy, keep going and doing, to find the most fun activity and create newer, bigger traditions than those from the previous year. Society seems to be driving us to find the best entertainment, or keep our kids happy at whatever expense in order to guarantee a happy childhood. But from my experience, there is more to happiness than the extravagant ventures or keeping busy with activities. Happiness is found in the simple, livable moments we enjoy with each other. We find deeper connection and contentment in these moments of pure simplicity. It’s enjoying breakfast with your loved ones, or being able to sit in companionable silence with your significant other, it’s quality time playing with your children in the comfort of your own home and not an excursion to some big, loud, and entertaining place. That’s why if you look back, your fondest traditions may just be in the small and simple moments that seemed to occur organically year after year.

Which is why I’ve decided to put an end to unnecessary excessiveness in my life this holiday season. I will be honest, I started as I do every time the holidays roll around – with an overzealous exuberance to do and see and plan and volunteer and donate and just do more, more, more in the spirit of the season. Now I am a burnt out mama of three (plus one more on the way) who doesn’t have much left to give to those who matter the most. I know I’m not alone in the spread-yourself-too-thin category, so my challenge to myself and to those who can relate is to stop. Put it all down: the obligations, the work, and the activities. Take a moment to remember your favorite tradition, holiday or not. Relive that moment in your mind, and as you do so, hit the reset button on all your current responsibilities. Remember what it felt like, remember each year you enjoyed that tradition, and let that light guide you forward. Whatever pure and simple joy you received from that moment, let that be your driving force. Make an effort to not make so much effort, and just let the small things come to pass. Pay attention, for they may be more commonplace than you think, but they could mean the world to your children and your loved ones around you. I urge you to make time for the simple things this holiday season. Create traditions rooted in simplicity and in the everyday events, as those are the ones that will last. By doing this you will make each day more meaningful and live with more purpose than the last.

JOURNALIST: Ashley Oborn

Humankind

"The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are nothing without each other, no matter how many seemingly endless bodies of water and continents separate us. We are all a part of humankind, one is not more important or more valuable than the other. We are all mothers, fathers, sister, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, husbands and wives.

It's so easy to forget while we are out shopping for the perfect gift that some of us are hurting, fighting, and dying.

We have to do better, for ourselves, for our children, for humankind...we have to do better than this.

 
 
STILLNESS

The motion of motherhood showed up unannounced. I was in the direct path of a storm that had slipped under any radar detection. The movement seemed to rev in the groggy hours of the sleepless night and swirl into the distorted hazy afternoon and around again into the dizziest moments of dawn. All measure of time was an illusion as the days and nights and weeks twisted into one continuous thread. This movement, this spinning whirlwind, it had no regard for stamina or sanity or the shaky ground beneath. It was a perpetual movement, and any sense of stillness was a felt mourned memory. Life had arrived, life was anew, and living was in motion. 

I was in no way prepared for this motion of motherhood. The physical part, the swaying, the rocking, the walking, the spinning, the carrying and the jiggling, it all seemed endless. A few weeks in I can remember wearily turning to my husband and in a deep dying-animal voice dramatically conceding, “I just can’t bounce anymore!” I peeled myself off of the big yellow physio exercise ball, handed the baby to his father for a round on Old Yeller, and googled “why do babies like bouncing?” I mercifully came across an article on vestibular stimulation explaining the biology of movement in soothing a baby. Finding solace in the science, I was then ready to digest what had been recommended to me only a few days prior.

“Take a walk,” my doula told me, “Even if you just go around the block,” she said. She was my labor doula, but being the grounded and knowing woman that she is, she continued in support long after delivery. I suppose after you so intimately experience a person it would truncate a relationship to then suddenly disappear, or perhaps she had seen undoubtedly the unspoken reality of first time motherhood understanding only after birth is a woman ready or in need of this timely advice. All of this leaving the house persuasion seemed like a grand unnecessary feat initially, but over time and with enough practice runs of round-the-blockers we gently put tired Old Yeller to sleep and stepped out. Baby hated his stroller and was never one for sleeping in his crib, or sleeping at all really, so we stayed close. I wore him, and we walked. We walked, and walked, and walked. So began my experience as a mother. Hoofing it, as most New Yorkers do. There were pounds of excess baby gear in one hand and a strong cup of coffee in the other. I would laugh at the thought of being called a stay at home mother, because for us very little happened within the four walls of home; I preferred to refer to myself as a keep it moving mother Sherpa. Schlepping, as the locals say.  

I know now that the sleepless nights and the days in action are an inbuilt part of motherhood, but in the moment it seemed absurdly excessive. I found myself waiting, walking, waiting, and walking. I was waiting for the day my body would come to stillness. It felt like going to an exercise class where the instructor yells “sit ups” without saying how many, making the whole process seem limitless with a sole focus on anticipating the end. The commercials about, “No deep couch sitting” or “Moms don’t take sick days” would bring me to tears as I mourned the very simple comfort of my bed. I found myself pushing out the option for ease until the day came that my body would find physical stillness. Then, I thought, when I make time to sit still, then I will be calm, happy, quiet, sane, kind, smart, rich, and beautiful.

Then the day came when the rain soaked Trader Joe’s bag broke on the half-mile walk home with baby kangarooed. I waved the white flag and humbly accepted this life in action. It dawned on me that the idea of quiet inactivity was clearly divergent from reality; I had a choice to accept this hurricane of life in motion or forgo my present happiness in awaiting a future seated day.   

I had outrun the storm for months, but it finally caught up. I had no choice but to step toward the storm. The outer bands had worn down my strength, and I finally allowed the wind sweep me around and around. The strength of the storm did not let up, but in the surrender the centripetal force of the whole drew me nearer to the middle. It had escaped me that even the most ferocious hurricane had a calm eye of low pressure at its center. The storm was not just whipping wind, but the bands of wind and the still eye were both parts of the whole. The motion and the stillness were one, and it is only when we find center can we find unwavering stillness; in motherhood there was no separation of calm and motion, and I had to approach life as that ancient Eastern paradox of stillness in movement like yoga or tai chi. Life is movement, movement is life, but in the midst of a whirlwind there always stands the core of unshakable stillness.

In a new season the winds did eventually slow. The movement again had peaks of momentum and valleys of rest. Sleep returned. Days had beginnings and ends. The whirlwind calmed, and it was like it never was. The only remnant of evidence remaining was the tapped space of stillness now prepared for all the movement of life. This was my initiation, the motion of motherhood.  

Doula reference: @redtentdoula

JOURNALIST: Kelly Van Zandt (@yourmothernyc)

Moving on with Little Movers

All of my musings here have come from a very personal place as I don't know how to write but from my experiences and scars. But, no confessions have felt as personal as this: barring an act of God or medical miracle, I am done having babies.

Now, I don't mean to imply that this decision is one that has been made for me. No, after spending the last seven plus years conceiving, carrying, and birthing our three precious babies, we have chosen to close the door to more children and are moving into the next season of parenthood. Granted, I do have a newborn at home right now, so it's not like I'm out of the baby phase yet. I am still deeply entrenched in diapers, nighttime feedings, and that knowing look I get from other 'new' Mamas that says, "Yeah, these newborn days are so hard and so sweet." But with two older kids at home as well, life didn’t stop moving and there was no ‘6-week bubble’ this time around. Kindergarten school work, potty training, sleep training and fall colds; well, it just all kept on truckin.’

New journeys and parenting experiences are now filling my days as I straddle the worlds between having my babies to raising my babies. I quickly realized that the struggle with making the jump from two to three children, for me, was not the newborn in my arms, but in having two children who still need parenting, not just babysitting. And it is very difficult to live in both of these worlds. How do we move gracefully from nourishing their bodies to nourishing their minds, their hearts, and their souls?

So, as unqualified as I know I am compared to many, I'm going to list a few ways I've found to be essential in connecting with my children, as they grow bigger and braver ever so quickly.

1. Our children have instinctual love languages and we should know them.

This is something I realized when our son was three and we brought our daughter home from the hospital. All of a sudden much of what I thought was normal for all babies became only normal for my son when I had someone to compare him to. While my son is the greatest snuggle bug to ever be born on this earth, my daughter has a love/hate relationship with physical contact from the moment she was born. And from very early on my daughter shined when words of affirmation were heaped upon her head, even asking directly for our attention and approval. My son on the other hand lives in a world where the only opinion that matters is generally his own and he has no extraordinary need for affirmation.

Now obviously, these are generalized examples, and there are always exceptions. (I still hug on my daughter and I still praise my son.) But, even the basic knowledge of how my babes feel loved has been a light to us on this parenting journey. As my littles grow, this knowledge allows me to connect with them throughout our days in intentional ways. I know if I stop to sit and hug on my son for just 5 minutes, his love tank will be full and we have connected in a special way. And if I sit and watch intently with no distractions whatever song and dance my daughter may be performing at the time, and heap mounds of praise upon her at the close, well, you just can’t beat that beaming smile of hers.

If you haven’t heard of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly encourage you to check out the original book and/or edition about children. You may even learn a little something about yourself in the process.

2. Honesty is the best policy as your kids get older.

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try and make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.
— Nate Wilson

For me, this is the best outcome of always being honest with our children. It’s not a rejection of being their shelter and keeping them safe. It is also not a full embrace of sharing every little detail of life with them, with little regard of their ability to comprehend it. For me, it is a balance of being honest with their questions to the degree with which I believe they can process, but still letting there be some magic in the world. It’s letting them believe in Santa for a little while longer, but answering honestly their silly and serious questions about what different body parts are called, why they, a brother and sister can’t get married when they grow up, and when they ask at 5 years old, ‘Mommy, what is a racist?”

This is where parenting really gets gritty, Mamas. This is where their little characters are formed, and to my mind, there are few greater gifts to offer them for their futures than open communication and honesty. The conversations are not always easy, and always fraught with my mistakes and misgivings, but the bonds that are forged in these talks and questions answered, even at such young ages, are the bonds that will last straight on through adulthood. They will not remember the long nights you nursed them back to sleep, but they will remember your undivided attention to their quarries and curiosities, and your honesty about the world around them. I’m slowly learning that perhaps I even prefer these emotional and intellectual bonds to the first solely physical connections from carrying and nourishing them I had in the beginning. It is a revelation I never expected.

3. Taking care of myself is taking care of them.

Those who know me will likely laugh that this point even made my list for I am well known as being notoriously bad at getting away for some ‘me’ time. Nonetheless, with every passing day/week/month/year, I realize the great importance of time to myself. Introvert or extrovert, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that as Mothers, we know ourselves and take the time to get away to do the things that fill up our own love tanks. Motherhood is both fulfilling and draining, and I have yet to meet a mother who didn’t need at least a little rejuvenation from time to time. For some rejuvenation comes from pampering or for some it is a simple and quiet space. Maybe it’s working or maybe it’s taking a bath. For me, it is creating and learning a new artistic skill that really helps me feel centered. When my daughter was born I took up calligraphy and hand lettering. This time around, I’m throwing myself into learning pottery.

No matter what it is for you, take care of yourself, Mama. You deserve it, and you need it. Few season in motherhood leave us an abundance of time or resources, and many seasons pass with us running on empty all the time. But it is only when we are filled up as mothers that we have anything to give away to our children, to continually being all that they need us to be, in each stage of their lives.

So, if you're reading this and you're still in the thick of your childbearing years, I see you friend. My heart abides with you through the months of trying, crying, pregnancy, and delivery you are living through. I wish I could text you during all those middle of the night feedings and tell you to trust yourself, you’re doing just fine. I wish I could sit next to you, look you in the eye and tell you to trust your instinct more than the stranger on that Facebook forum, and I wish I could make you understand how fleeting this precious time is.

When I imagined becoming a Mother, I never pictured more than having a baby in my arms. That was the whole of motherhood that I could imagine for most of my life. Now, that season is almost over for me, but the journey of motherhood has just begun. I’m only 7 years into a journey that will last many decades to come. The babies are weaning now, and each needs me in their own way. They need me to know how to love them, how to listen to them, and how to be their Mama. They look at me like I hold the whole world in my hands, not knowing that most days I’m scared of doing anything that might accidentally ruin them. But I pray all my striving will continue to strengthen our bonds, that they might last long after they think they need their Mommy any more. I don’t know many mothers ahead of me in this journey, but from what I can tell, it only gets better

JOURNALIST: Rachael MacPhee (@havenblog)

An Adoption Story

I grew up always knowing I came from another mommy's tummy. I was told that I was my parents' special gift, and there was a lady named Catherine out there somewhere, who kissed me goodbye the day I was born.

She was 19, fragile in the wake of her parents’ divorce and the unreciprocated love of the man she felt deeply for, who left town to study abroad. When another came along and pressured her to sleep with him, she thought he could give the affection she craved. She traded her virginity for the hope of genuine love, but what she got in return was the news she was pregnant.

Like most teenagers, Catherine was unready and unable to raise a child. She was still in school and had no committed partner to share the responsibility of providing for a baby. The only financial support she received was my biological father’s offer to pay for the abortion.

With no one to turn to, Catherine sought guidance from a crisis pregnancy center, where her counselors educated her about fetal development. She began to see a new story that God was writing for her if she chose to read it. As she turned each page one day at a time, she felt convicted that there was a new soul growing inside her and decided to carry the pregnancy to term.

Week after week, people poured into Catherine’s life and showed her the everlasting love and care she lacked belief in. Friends became like family. The man she loved and thought was uninterested returned from Europe and pursued a relationship with her despite the pregnancy. She found a couple struggling to add a second child to their family, and she committed to bless them with her baby.

While I grew up in a home of privilege and stability, Catherine was left to piece together the remains from leaving the delivery room with an empty womb and empty arms. She slept with my unwashed hospital blankets and tiny hat for a year after I was born and would leak milk for weeks at the sound of an infant's cry. There was no regret in her heart, but there was certainly pain all over for a long time.

When I turned eight years old, I asked my parents if my birth mom had left anything for me. That day I received a small Bible covered in white lace, with my name, "Lisa Marie," embroidered on the front. They also gave me a poem that had been written on a red paper heart wreath, like a Valentine. These gifts were from the woman who allowed me a life, and they became my precious treasures.

From then on, Catherine and I began to write letters. She would send me a birthday card each year, and I would write a thank you note in reply, updating her on my hobbies and interests. I learned that she was happily married to the man she loved, and they had four beautiful children of their own. I loved it when she would send me their family photos; I would study each of their faces to find any resemblance between us. We stayed in communication like this until the summer I turned eighteen, when I met her in person for the first time.

I would say our first time meeting was surreal, but really, it was just like catching up with a close friend I hadn't seen in a while. Catherine was always so intentional and transparent with me; I never doubted her love. Simply knowing that she sacrificed her body and emotions for my sake is one of the greatest ways I have ever been loved. 

If there is any area of my past that has revealed my life has value and purpose, it is the way the Lord placed me into the family He knew was best for me all along. Jesus’ evident hand in bringing me home has led me to want His fingerprints to continue to saturate my life forever. He knew I needed the late-night "meaning of life" discussions I would have with my dad, the professor of theology. He knew that with my predisposition to fall into anxiety, I needed the grounded wisdom of my mom, a woman who never lets fear overtake her. He knew I needed the relationship and example of an older sister who has taught me what it looks like to be loyal, sincere, and perseverant. He knew I needed to witness the radical generosity displayed by my grandparents, who invested in people and gave so freely. And He knew they all needed me too.

If I wasn't adopted, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to college in San Diego, where I met my husband, whose devotion and friendship are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. We wouldn’t have our son, who is the most tangible joy in our lives. There is nothing about being adopted that is sad or less than perfect in my eyes. This wasn’t the backup plan or a lucky turn of events; this was the way my story was written from the beginning. The redeeming path the Lord paved for Catherine was not easy, it was not painless, it was not understood or condoned by most of the people around her at the time. But she followed it, and for this I am eternally grateful.

There is the bond of flesh and blood, and then there is something deeper that makes a mother. What being an adopted daughter has shown me is that a mother’s face is not a reflection of hereditary likeness to her children, but of God’s love, sacrifice, mercy, and faithfulness.

You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!
— Romans 8:12

Knowing our identities as heirs with Christ has freed my husband and I from the idea that our family should be filled with exclusively biological children. It gives us the peace that God will paint a beautiful picture over our mistakes if we allow Him to use our lives as a canvas. We are free because we can be still and trust. We are free because we've been adopted.

JOURNALIST: Lisa Leyda Petersen

Sara ConsolatiComment
Community

Our daughter Saoirse entered our lives in the early hours of a December morning. We were surrounded by people: doctors, nurses, and a bleary-eyed med student roused from a couch somewhere to deliver our baby. The last thirty-nine weeks had all been in anticipation of this moment; her body mottled and slippery being placed on my chest. I watched my husband Andrew reach to touch the thick, dark fur that covered her head, felt her little heart beating fast against my warm skin. We had waited for her, and now she was here.

“So, what exactly do we do?” I asked Andrew later in our hospital room. We sat side by side on the edge of my bed, eyes fixed to our child sleeping in her bassinet.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”

It wasn’t much, but I felt reassured. In our ten years together we had managed distance, job changes, family health issues, and our own three-year struggle with infertility. He was right, we would figure it out. I moved closer to him on that hospital bed, our knees lightly touching. I saw our daughter sigh, and I was happy.

But while happiness was my prevailing emotion, there were other things I struggled to articulate beneath the surface. Together in that room, just the three of us, I felt the full weight of the twenty-two hour drive that separated us from our closest friends and family. We had been away for years, the distance wasn’t new. But sitting there, watching the rise and fall of Saoirse’s chest, I felt an almost primal need to be surrounded by the women in my life. Geography made it impossible however, and so I focused instead on how grateful I was for the supports I did have. I had a hospital of kind and attentive staff, local friends who would have been there in a second if asked, and of course, Andrew.

I didn’t think about it again until later, lying in my hospital bed, exhausted but unable to sleep. I picked up my phone and scrolled through the messages that had come in while I was in labour. There were hundreds. Some were direct texts wishing me well, while others were photos or memes to make me laugh. But what constituted the largest section of these messages was a group text in which some of my girlfriends and family members were participating. In it they talked back and forth about what they thought might be happening, interspersed with commentary from Andrew like, “nothing to report so far,” and “hey, she’s kind of busy right now.” I smiled as I scrolled through. Reading my mother’s concern for a potential 30 hour labour, following along as my sister told her to put down the phone if she was going to write things like that. It was all so funny, and beautiful, and so them. While I had been bringing Saoirse into the world, this group of women had been closing a circle around us. Their love and support wasn’t hampered by our complicated geography. By the time my daughter drew her first breath, these women, and the other women in our lives, had already begun the work of building us a community. A community of women that I have found myself relying on again and again during my first year of motherhood.

It is a year that has gone by quickly. I was always dismissive of people who told me that time moves faster once you have children, but it feels true to me now.  The last twelve months of my life feel like a memory I can’t place; a blur of discovery, and exhaustion, and joy. But within this cloudiness, there are moments of great clarity, and many of them involve the women closest to me.

Twenty-four hours after Saoirse was born my sister flew in to see us. She was the first person to give her a bath. She dressed her in blue and pink at the same time and whispered, “there, that will confuse the patriarchy.”

Both grandmas visited in those first few months. We built a repertoire of lullabies, and favorite books, and neither of them offered advice I didn’t ask for.

My sister-in-law (along with Andrew’s brother) flew out to see us at Christmas. I didn’t want to impose, but she took Saoirse eagerly. She dressed her, changed her diapers, and reassured me that I was doing just fine.

When Saoirse was six weeks old I hit a sort of hormonal precipice. Our guests had started to ebb, and the loneliness that often accompanies new motherhood was setting in. Right when I was feeling my lowest, two of my closest friends flew in from two different parts of the country to be with us. One was pregnant, while the other toted around her four-month-old baby. It was the dead of winter, they had other obligations no doubt, and yet here they were on my doorstep.

When Saoirse was four months old we took her overseas. We traveled to seven different countries, and at times it was stressful. In Portugal, Andrew’s older sister came to visit. In her company I felt relaxed and happy. We drank wine and chatted about life. I felt my old self returning.

In Scotland we visited my aunt and uncle. A skilled knitter, my aunt helped me make a sweater for Saoirse, bright red with grey buttons. She stayed up late knitting pieces so that we could complete it. I think of her whenever Saoirse wears it.

By the end of that first summer of Saoirse’s life we were done traveling, but we still had a month to stay with family before returning home. We spent quality time with Saoirse’s other aunties: Andrew’s sister and my brother’s wife. Both women were very much in the same stage of life as us. Mothers to babies and toddlers they still found time for Saoirse, and to chat with me about motherhood.

I could write pages about these women, and the other women in my life who I am grateful for. Women who are the type of mothers I want to be. Women who are child-free but have lovingly and ungrudgingly accepted and embraced Saoirse’s place in our lives. The past year has been amazing, and hard, and made infinitely easier by the love and support that has been given so freely.

It is this support that carried us over into fall, when we decided to undertake our second IVF cycle. Unlike our first cycle things didn’t come together as seamlessly as we had hoped. Andrew couldn’t take a large block of time off work and so he could only be with me for a few days. The process could still work, but it meant a loss of support for me. He wouldn’t be there to help me mix and administer the injections. He wouldn’t be there to hold my hand.

I was afraid.

But I shouldn’t have been. Because the women in my life, they banded around me. They drove me to appointments and watched Saoirse. They told me I was brave when at nine o’clock every night I had to inject two, sometimes three, needles into the soft skin of my belly. For almost a month I spent time in cars, waiting rooms, after appointment lunches with these women, and they never made me feel as if they minded. Each one of them missed work, or spent time away from their kids, or drove from different cities to help me.

Because of these women we have a second chance to be parents. Because of these women I have seen the tiniest of flickers on an ultrasound screen, and heard the sweet thump of my new baby’s heart. I am not yet twelve weeks, that enchanted time when everything begins to feel safer, but I want to greet this experience with the same honesty and openness we approached our last cycle with. So I’ll speak our truth, no matter what comes.

We made another baby. A being threaded together with science, and magic, and the beautiful intentions and love of the people around us. I don’t want to be wary, or guarded, or let the challenges of becoming a mother in the first place overwhelm my happiness. No matter what the coming weeks and months bring, I know I can withstand it.

We will figure it out.

Because how can we not?

I’ve got my village of women after all; the most beautiful expression of community that exists, and the most powerful arsenal there is against fear.

JOURNALIST: Beth McKinlay