Category Archives: Health

Rehabilitation

“Kathleen! Do you have a moment?” my neighbor asked after spotting Miles and I pull up by bike one afternoon last week.

“I’ve been wanting to tell you this for weeks. Has anyone told you about Mrs. Brown, who lived here until she died?”

She went on to explain that Mrs. Brown, a widow and a mom, tended the garden day and night, rain or shine. Mrs. Brown baked my neighbor a homegrown rhubarb cake after she gave birth and doted on her sons as they grew up. Mrs. Brown grew food and flowers, nurturing this land and her neighbors. I bet I would’ve loved Mrs. Brown.

“And you know what? You brought back Mrs. Brown to me. You have brought her back to life by restoring the beauty here. I’m reminded of her every time I walk by now and I am so thankful.”

I was so touched. I got teary eyed, and probably would’ve gone into an all-out shriveled up cry if Miles weren’t refusing to get off the bike, angry at me for not taking him That Very Moment to buy spy glasses at Archie McPhees.

I knew this place was treasured once upon a time because there were signs everywhere. The old plum and pear trees. The rhododendrons and azaleas, the hydrangea greeting visitors at the front door. I made a new discoveries almost every time I gardened during our first year. Bulbs would peek out and if I spotted them before the weed-whacking “landscaping” team arrived, I would try to prevent their demise. Sometimes I was too late to save a plant because it was too diseased or crowded. Other times I spotted them just in time.

One fortunate day a few years ago, while clearing a patch of weeds, I found five dying peony roots in a dry, barren spot that no longer received sunlight. (Three others were completely shriveled up.) I transplanted them with my fingers crossed. One flowered this spring. The others line our front window, growing stronger each season, and will likely bloom next year.

The neighbor who told me about Mrs. Brown used to run a rehab facility. Who better to understand and value the beauty of life restored? There is great joy in watching lives receive long-awaited nourishment after years of starvation. We rehabilitated this garden! When I think about it like that, I feel incredibly honored to have played a role.

IMG_9193

IMG_6276IMG_6319

 

Gravitating towards beauty

The older I get the more I realize why an appreciation of beauty so often seems to deepen with age. We’re increasingly exposed to pain, grieving feels like a constant, disasters and wretched acts committed against other humans are impossible to ignore. Images from horrific atrocities are seared into our mind. We are not sheltered in the cocoon of youth and nobody reading this is living on the shores of Walden Pond. Sometimes all we can do is retreat for a day or two and surround ourselves with images of hope.

Hi! Welcome to September! I’m obviously feeling cheerful.

I experienced a few (relatively minor) traumas this summer, the one I wrote about earlier, and another that happened in the past few weeks that I won’t share about in detail here, but indelibly left it’s mark. I was very scared and immediately realized that feeling safe in your shelter is a privilege not to be taken for granted. Thankfully, a strong antidote was already built into our schedule. Two nights camping on San Juan Island, a retreat I can count on.

.IMG_8686

IMG_8774

IMG_8708

It seems to me that counteracting the weight fear can bring to our lives is best done by pursuing love, gratitude and beauty, so I gravitate to them with increasing necessity. The delight of picking blackberries off bushes near our campsite, the smiles on my boys faces while they played with a never-before-seen furry friend, the joy of watching my youngest run without ceasing to keep his kite up, the excitement while spotting porpoises and harbor seals, the satisfaction of cooking over a fire. These moments brought peace.

This tart happened to be in the house before we left to camp, during the time we were feeling quite vulnerable. Having something delicious to consume and share in the middle of a fearful time was a gift. A little one, of a comforting and delicious sort. It’s one I provided myself without even knowing it was going to be needed. I encourage you make something and share it with someone you know who is going through a hard time. Maybe it’s you. Pick or buy some berries before the season is over. Some for yourself, some to share. Sometimes we just have to take care of each other one tart slice at a time.

IMG_4986

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macaroon Tart 

  • From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
  • Serves 8-16, depending on the generosity of the slicer

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry or spelt flour)
  • 3/4 cup / 2 oz / 60 g unsweetened finely shredded coconut*
  • 3/4 cup / 3.75 oz / 106 g lightly packed natural cane sugar
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons / 5 oz / 140 g unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 cups / 5 oz / 140 g unsweetened finely shredded coconut*
  • 1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g lightly packed natural cane sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 8 ounces / 225 g fresh blackberries, halved
  • 1/3 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g pistachios, crushed

Preheat oven to 350℉ / 180℃ with a rack in the middle. Butter an 8×11-inch / 20cmx28cm tart pan (or equivalent- mine is a 9-inch round tart pan) and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to make easy release of the tart.

For the crust, combine the flour, coconut, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter and mix until the dough is crumbly. Firmly press it into the prepared pan, forming a solid, flat layer. (This part is fun! Messy fingers!) Bake for 15-minutes or until the crust is barely golden. Let it cool for a few minutes before filling it.

Prepare the filling by combining the coconut, sugar and egg whites. Mix until combined. Lay the blackberry halves on the tart base. Drop dollops of the filling around and over the tops of the berries, filling in the spaces around them and covering some up.

Bake for 20 to 25-minutes, until the filling peaks are deeply golden. Let the tart cool, then sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the top. Slice & serve!

IMG_8670

 

*I used medium shred and it was delightfully sufficient.

** This tart works well with other fruit as well. Cherries and pistachios? You bet.

 

(Those connected to my personal account on facebook may have noticed that I deleted it because of what happened. My apologies that I could not leave up my notice long enough for everyone to see, but we felt the incident warranted a speedy deletion. Those without my personal email address may feel free to contact me via this blog’s facebook page message board. I will try to be in touch with many of you in other ways, too. For now, I am finding I really enjoy being off facebook, so I may not return to having a personal site. Email and phone are now the best way to contact me.)

Let them cry

I walked across the crowded playground on a recent sunny winter afternoon to spot Miles while he climbed a structure. A tiny tot, younger than three, tripped and fell as I passed. I stopped to comfort him while he was crying and waiting for a caregiver. The adult walked over, didn’t offer any physical touch, and stated, “You’re ok! Look, you’re ok. Wipe it off. Good. You’re fine.”

This is a common scenario at playgrounds. If there are children and parents present (or any form of caregiver, for that matter), stick around long enough and these words will inevitably be heard. “It’s ok. You’re fine.”

Each time I observe this, it makes my heart sink. The child is in pain. The child wants comfort. A hug, words that remind them they are treasured. “Ouch. That looked like it hurt. Are you okay?”

I understand some roots of the response. I don’t believe it’s sparked from a mean spirited heart or place of cruelty. I believe it reflects a desire for all to be well, all of the time. A desire to foster a kid that looks and feels good most of the time. Maybe to save face? Maybe to maintain a reputation? Maybe a subconscious reflection of gender stereotypes? Maybe. I don’t know what it is for any given parent on any given day. I’m sure the reasons are diverse.

I clearly remember a time with my then five-year-old son on my lap while he bawled- wailed, really- for at least five minutes after a fall that didn’t leave nary a scrape. As I held him, I realized I didn’t see many five-year-old boys crying anymore. A little embarrassment crept into my heart. All of a sudden, his wails felt excessive, dramatic, maybe even a little attention seeking. I had the urge to quiet him, to squelch his emotional surge so that I would feel more comfortable.

Were his tears about that fall? Maybe not. He was tired, he was hungry. He might’ve had something else disappoint him earlier in the day that he hadn’t processed. But none of that matters. I want him to be able to freely express his emotions, positive or negative. I want him to know I am a walking warm owie pack, frequently-used-as-a-tissue mom, who will hold him as long as he needs. Even if the tears aren’t about the fall. Even if I feel embarrassed. Even if I think he’s faking it. I want to error on the side of compassion.

I sympathize with the desire to have painful moments quickly roll past me and my children. I want my children to not feel extended moments of pain. I want my children to feel empowered and strong, resilient and able to take a fall.

But the problem is, their lives will be filled with countless moments of pain. The scraped knees of today will be broken hearts tomorrow. The tears because a peer won’t share today will be tears because a peer gossiped tomorrow. Resilience isn’t built without challenge.

If I communicate that I don’t care about the little owies today, I fear they won’t know I care about the wounds of tomorrow. The bulldozer losing a wheel matters to him. Missing the class party is painful. The stakes only get higher, so today I set the tone that I care. I care about their owies. I care about their sadness.

Let them cry. Please, let them cry. Hold them as long as they need. Reflect their emotions. Our children will be so much stronger for it. The child who cries is also the child who is shows compassion. The child who expresses frustration is also the child who celebrates victory. The child who grieves is also the child who heals.

Back to the core

I entered the new year on my back. Not in an exciting sort of way. Quite the opposite, in fact. For a few days I regularly had an ice pack under my lumbar spine, popped pain medication and read The Signature of All Things (the nicest part of this debacle). The simple act of standing up from the floor, while holding a book and twisting a bit, led to an unexpected fireworks show in my back. Searing pain shot up my spine. I got dizzy and blacked out. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I couldn’t see for a second. If labor pains had shot through my system with the same intensity, I would’ve had an epidural within 20-minutes.

I immediately knew what had happened. I have attended countless “Take Care of Your Back” seminars while working in hospitals. Visions of vertebrae on Power Point slides haunted me for a few minutes while I iced and longed for Aleve to kick in.

I was mad, extremely disappointed, a little scared. I had just “graduated” from physical therapy after dedicating four months to consistent resistance exercises, icing and stretching. I was finally experiencing days without pain in my hip. My PT even cleared me to run short intervals with the promise I bought new shoes. I was so excited that I bought them right after that session and ran the next day. I reveled in every stride around Green Lake and remained pain-free as long as I held correct posture. Dreams of more time to write, cook, and garden emerged, since most of my free time this fall has been dedicated to healing my body. (I’m incredibly grateful to have this time.)

Anyways, after resting in bed for a few days thinking it was best (it’s not) and waddling around like a 42-week pregnant woman because any uncalculated movement would make me cringe, I scheduled a session with my physical therapist. I kid you not, I walked out of the office pain free. Between her massage and this crazy exercise that I’ve grown to love, my back found relief. I now visit daily to be tightly strapped into a traction machine via a horse-like saddle, also known as the least discreet corset ever. (It’s leather. I have slightly bruised ribs from it.) Anyways, after many reps of these weighted squat/pull-up combos, I unhook feeling normal. Well, that’s actually not true. My hands ache like hell from grabbing the bar, but my back. Oh, it feels good.

Now, the pain still ebbs and flows but it’s isolated and manageable with meds, icing and exercises. The primary way to eliminate and prevent lumbar pain long-term is to improve my posture, practice safe body mechanics, strengthen my core, and stretch. It will take time and dedication, but my body certainly grabbed my attention. Preventing chronic pain is self-care 101. (Making my heart sink a little bit for those who have little control over physical pain. I have thought of you, collectively, a lot these past months.)

I wanted to share this part of my journey with you for a few reasons. First, I highly recommend that you avoid doing what I did. Don’t twist and lift. Strengthen your core. Stretch. Fire your glutes. (I’m looking at you, runners.) Second, If you happen to hurt your back, waddle your way into a PT office stat! I can’t imagine how much harder these past weeks would’ve been without proper guidance and treatment.

Lastly, a lesson being seared onto my brain with equal intensity as the acute pain, ASK FOR HELP. We don’t have family around to fill in, so we have to call on friends. Asking can feel daunting, especially when most of our friends have family available or young children under foot. When reciprocity isn’t the norm, it’s harder for me make the request. But, I reminded myself that I am always happy to assist my friends. I don’t feel put out- I feel honored they asked and thankful I can lend a hand. (I can also say no if I’m unable, but that’s a separate lesson, obviously.) So, I asked. The encouragement and help I received, including a friend whisking away my boys with hers to the zoo (can we say energy explosion?!), reminded me of how awesome my local tribe is.

Pondering what entering the new year on my back taught me just might be my best motivation for moving forward with greater purpose and grace this year. I will be dedicated to building strength, flexibility and stability. I will remember that this requires repetition, often pushes me out of my comfort zone, is frequently monotonous and always makes me sweat. I will pursue balance, not to avoid uneven ground, but so that it doesn’t make me tumble. I will remember that this requires focused eyes and grounding. I will include others on my journey, whether it’s pretty and picked-up or painful and dirty. I will remember that this requires trust. My friends love me for who I am, not how clean my house is or how I look. I will be quick to lend a hand, especially when my life has abundance. I will remember that this is often best done tangibly, but even a thoughtful phone call or text lighten the load. Finally, of tremendous importance, I will avoid wearing corsets at all costs after therapy concludes.

Happy New Year, friends. I am thankful you stop by here, grateful for your support.

PS- I’m ringing in 2014 with a facebook page for my blog. (Yes, I have done this before. It could vanish again, but I don’t think it will this time.) There will be further explanation as to why in a post soon to come, but if you prefer to follow my posts via facebook, just “like” it to be subscribed. I only plan on posting when I write. If you’ve been following awhile, you know my pattern. You can rest assured I won’t clog your feed.

You may also sign up to receive my posts via email (found on the right side of this page), should you prefer.

A most wonderful, frigid adrenaline rush

IMG_7789

This morning, while sipping my morning coffee, I jumped over to the Orca Network facebook page to see if anyone posted orca sightings. If that sentence doesn’t tell you enough, yes, I may have a slight obsession with the ability to see orcas from shore. Despite zero opportunity to see them in landlocked Colorado, I pursued whales in all other possible ways. I purchased videos that I watched after school. I listened to music with whale calls in the background. I wrote history, physics, and english papers on marine mammals in junior high and high school. I worked in research on them in very creative ways and my teachers succumbed. For years I thought I would be a marine biologist.

IMG_7781

Now, I am making up for decades of lost sightings. Fall’s chum runs often lure the endangered Southern Resident orcas into Puget Sound. Transient orcas are also frequently spotted this time of year, though they also munch on seals and sea lions.

When I read that they indeed had been spotted relatively close-by, I told Harry and he gave me the green light to chase ’em down. He’d stay with the boys (it was too cold for them given how long I’d want to be outside). It’s official. I need an “Orcas have been sighted!” type of flag on my car, some orca bumper stickers, and maybe even an orca ugly Christmas sweater. I am nutty about these creatures.

IMG_7783

At my first stop a woman with binoculars was already staking out the situation. I recognized her from the aforementioned page, because she often posts beautiful photos and videos, so I introduced myself. (See, I wasn’t kidding about this passion. I may not recognize pop stars or actors, but I know the orca lovers!) We watched together as the whales porpoised and swam swiftly south. I met up with her at two other watch spots, too. I told many hearty beachwalkers about them, who then also got to watch. So fun!

IMG_7788

Three times now, maybe four, I’ve jumped in my car to try to spot whales after seeing someone post that they were nearby. If I didn’t have obligations, like, oh, taking care of my children, I could see them much more frequently this time of year. I watched them a few weeks ago, only through binoculars and quite distant at that, and my family and I enjoyed them once last fall. All thanks to the Orca Network.

IMG_7804

Every time, I get an adrenaline rush on the drive. I wonder if I’ve chosen a good beach. I wonder if I’ve predicted their timing right. I wonder if they’ve turned. I wonder if my binoculars will be effective enough or if I’ll be lucky enough to see them close to shore. I quickly park my car, dash to the viewpoint, and begin scanning. I look for dorsal fins and spray. Sometimes a breech is a first notification- which is completely breathtaking.

IMG_7805

My wish list now includes better binoculars and a better zoom lens. These pictures were zoomed in as far as possible, and often cropped. Quality suffers, but I wanted to share them here anyway. All of these pictures were taken from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. My earlier stops were in Richmond Beach and I didn’t take pictures. I was still in shock that I was actually seeing them again, so I just soaked it in. My fingers and toes are still numb, but my heart is beating happily after a few wonderful hours on the shore.
IMG_7806

Wrong turns

One of my baby showers for Charlie included a time for sharing stories and advice. A very soulful, quiet woman, whose daughter was well into high school, looked me steady in the eye and said, “Just savor the beautiful moments. Form pictures in your mind to make sure you soak up how precious it is.” She was a little tearful, so I sensed the weight behind her words. Years of gorgeous memories, possibly some regret, and the obvious keen awareness of how swiftly years pass.

When Charlie was a newborn, particularly while he was nursing, I heeded her advice and often felt completely present. I smelled his downy hair, marveled at his milky puckering lips, gazed into his huge blue eyes, delighted in his latest coo or emerging smiles. I can still close my eyes and transport myself to that time. It runs deep, to my soul.

As the years passed, distractions grew. Miles was born, for starters. It was rare that I completely focused on just him or Charlie. I certainly tried, but when you’re nursing a baby and your three-year-old is peeing on the floor, it can be a wee bit challenging. When Harry was at work I had no help yet constant demands. The times I actually consciously savored special moments were less frequent. They were also typically noisier, busier bits of beauty. Of course, these memories are just as precious to me, but they are definitely less romantic.

Now, as the boys get older, it is changing form again. These moments often have to be intentionally sought. Reading together. Playing a board game. Coloring side by side. Planting seeds. Pretending to be kitty-cats. Building with Legos. It is my undivided attention and presence, when no longer necessary, that typically invites the sacred.

A few weekends ago, Harry was sick so the boys and I headed out without him to our church retreat, which required a ferry ride and a short drive. I had chosen a ferry time that would land us prior to the retreat’s first service at ten and was trying to exit the house with plenty of wiggle room. Weekend ferries can fill up quickly. Harry slept in, so I fed the boys, got Miles dressed, and gathered our gear as quickly as I could. I was not calm. Nor peaceful. I was stressed and rude, barking out orders. After Harry woke up, rather than checking in on him to see how he was feeling, I yelled, “Cut apples! Make coffee!” before running to get in a quick shower. Such a lovely way to set the tone for a retreat, don’t you think?

IMG_7756

Despite arriving at the terminal later than I’d hoped, the attendant confirmed we’d make the desired departure. I cheered in front of her, “Yay, boys! We made it!” We parked in our loading line, ready to board. Remembering from, oh a decade or so ago, that the camp was just a few turns off the ferry, I pulled out my phone to confirm the street names so I wouldn’t need to check later. But, wouldn’t you know, the camp didn’t show up where I had remembered it. A few stunned seconds later, I realized we were at the wrong ferry. The Seattle area has at least four ferries up and down the Sound that end at different islands and the Kitsap Peninsula. We were parked in line for a boat that would drop us off at a wrong city, on a peninsula instead of an island.

I started to cry. It had already been a long three weeks of a cold traveling from one person to the next in our family. I was also crampy. This was my tipping point. We were stuck in our line, surrounded by parked cars. I texted Harry and a friend to confirm I was in the incorrect spot and I wasn’t going crazy, wrong about being wrong. Then we waited. The ferry boarded and we exited the line.

I returned to the same ferry attendant, transformed from cheers to tears, requesting a refund. She kindly assured me we’d make it to our destination, maybe even by ten. Full speed ahead, I drove to the next ferry terminal north of us. Behold! We made it! But, of course, I also missed the turn to the camp and couldn’t find a parking spot. We were late, but not by much, and thankfully I had regained enough perspective at this point to just be glad we were arriving prior to lunch.

After some singing time, kids were excused to their designated activities. True to form, Miles wasn’t comfortable with me leaving him. I sat and played with him a little while, but he wasn’t finding anything that interested him and he was clingy and anxious. Most of the kids were significantly younger than him and the environment wasn’t adequately distracting him. Other kids were on edge, too, but their parents had already left. I knew if I left a screaming Miles, he would be the first domino to fall. Since this wasn’t a situation in which I felt it was crucial for him to get comfortable, I said, “You can stay with me if you’re quiet.” He agreed. The retreat had a couple hours for adults to quietly meditate and pray at stations, including a labyrinth, candle lighting, walking outside, and reading quotes. I wasn’t convinced he’d keep his end of the deal, but I was, somewhat begrugingly, willing to try.

IMG_3500

We walked into the chapel, I found a sunny spot on the floor and Miles plopped into my lap. Letting myself slowly surrender to the change of plans, I started to take it all in. I was surrounded by gorgeous music, surrounded by a sea of people I treasure, surrounded by light. While surrounding my boy. My head on his head, my legs around his legs. Tears streaming down my face, I knew this was one of those sacred times for me. And that Voice, the Quiet Whisper, reminded me to savor. It is fleeting.

We sat together, we even laid down for a bit, and Miles remained quiet. He snuggled with me in my lap, he laid on my belly. Eventually I stood to walk the labyrinth. Meant to provoke thoughts about life’s path, the unexpected twists and turns, my trip through the labyrinth couldn’t have been more fitting. Miles tugged at me, pulling me out of the lines I wanted to stay in. He forced me ways I didn’t want to go. But we held hands, journeyed together, and exited via a much less traveled path.

I desperately needed these reminders to refocus. To seek more times to savor. To not let my determination to get to a destination keep me from missing the view. The beauty of the wrong turn. The comedy of errors. The unexpected.

May I be present. May I be attentive and open enough to not to miss the sacred.

IMG_3488

Cultivating gratitude

Up until last night, all the job stuff looked very murky again. It has been such a ridiculous and complicated set of events that I’m not even going to try to share it here. Just know, we’ve been on a ride. Most days for the past week I have been shouting “uncle!” every hour. I’m sparing that as my title for the post because I really, really think this is almost over. We will know 100% tomorrow, once paperwork is signed.

One undesirable trait I’ve seen in myself this summer, again, is that I’ve pretty much sucked at looking on the bright side. Harry can weather these times between contracts with a really great attitude. Don’t get me wrong, he struggles with it, too, but he ultimately keeps his head in a place of seeing all the positive that comes from these periods. And he’s right. I know he’s right. We come out with a clearer vision for our family. We become tighter knit and receive clarity with relationships and goals. He works diligently to build his skills during these “breaks” and often ends up getting better jobs. Yet, somehow, I go to this place of doom. Every time.

My doom is luxurious doom. It’s “We’re never going to buy a house or replace our car” doom. We aren’t worried about rent or food. Yet I still go to this “woe is me” place and feel sorry for myself that we’re not going to be able to buy a house a soon as I’d hoped. Especially the million dollar one on San Juan Island, with a view of the orcas. Or get a Tesla. Ok, at least something more environmentally friendly than our current enormous gas guzzling beast.

The unexpected extra thorns this summer also included my phone starting to die, our car breaking down, my surprise by an unwavering policy at Miles’ preschool and subsequent pulling him from the program, hip pain that keeps getting worse and is now keeping me from running and walking, blah, blah, blah, blah. These things are annoying and hard, but they’re weatherable. They don’t need to cloud my vision.

I feel like I have very thin skin these days. Thinner than it should be. Thinner than it used to be. I know it’s not our circumstances improving that will change my resilience. That would be a band-aid. The excitement of a house fades quickly, new cars lose their luster, different jobs provide increased demands. I try to frequently remind myself of the psychology around buying houses and cars. I know, rationally, that the increased happiness in temporary. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting it. Especially during stressful times when I crave a greater sense of stability. Even if it’s false. See the challenge?

I need a stronger anchor. I know Master Brené (if I met her in person I might just call her this) shares the importance of a daily practice of gratitude as a key difference between optimists and pessimists. (Oh no, I’ve even touched on it here before. Just six months ago!) It’s not inherent in personality. It’s a practice. Hmmmm….this might be part of my problem. I’m having a once a week, or even once a month, “Oh shit, I’m focusing on all the negative stuff going on here” moment and trying to combat it with a random pile of gratitude thoughts. No wonder I’m not getting anywhere. Except feeling that I’m bad at this. Like there’s a gratefulness contest about to happen and there’s no point in me even entering because I will be coming in last. As if God is sitting in the stands with a big BOO! sign.

Besides not practicing, my other problem is that I am tired of sweeping things under the rug. Sometimes practicing gratitude feels fake to me. I did that everything-is-all-smiles my teenage years and most of my twenties and I’m over it. Grief is important. Anger is important. I am generally anxious about change and denying that doesn’t help anyone. Buuuuut, maybe there’s a healthier place in between?

The past few weeks, despite myself, I have been continuously reminded of my treasures. I have felt deep love and deeply loved. I have felt more keenly aware of who my community is than I have in a long time. I have been hit with awe knowing that I have people in my life who stick by me through thick and thin. Times when I’m upbeat and fun or when I’m drab and sad. Showered or smelly. People who can handle me where I’m at. No masks. Or at least trying to peel them off when I notice them. And I feel that way about them. Is there a greater gift? I feel one step closer to heaven.

Yesterday, after squeezing hundreds of grapes off their stems in the morning, and pulling hundreds of coriander seeds off their stems in the evening, I realized that I am finding repetitive tasks soothing. (This has not been the case pre-motherhood.) There is now peace in the monotony. It wasn’t quiet or uninterrupted. Miles was narrating every single thing he did while I worked on the grapes, and I frequently left the grapes to play along with his game, sticky hands and all. Yet it was still calming. Bunch by bunch by bunch. Grape by grape by grape. Somehow, my mind relaxed as the colander filled.

I think this is a key for me to further growth. My gratitude practice needs to be linked to something tangible. The working of my hands allows my mind to be more relaxed and often better focused. Maybe my body has to be a part of this somehow. Yoga, dancing, cooking, gardening. Heck, maybe even puzzles! Let’s get crazy here.

If you do them, would you share your gratitude practices with me – what challenges you face and what helps you most? I would love to look around, even if it’s just with virtual vision, and see others on this journey with me. (Also, this feels like a good time to say thanks. I am really thankful you read my posts. It has been a huge gift to me.)