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letting the mental guard dog of sibling disputes off its chain

2018 July 31
by Rachel Turiel

The thought comes to me like a thunderbolt, like a message from a burning bush; from someplace beyond my mind’s usual mundane chatter. Col is in Washington DC with his grandma. Rose is inside reading Harry Potter. And I am plucking cabbage worms off brassica plants, contemplating how peaceful it’s been since the all-day meal special of sibling bickering has fallen off the menu. And then the thought that stills me is this: I am not responsible for my children’s relationship.

Col in Congressman Tipton’s DC office requesting that Tipton join the bi-partisan climate solutions caucus, specifically because of pikas and skiing.

Of course I want my children to be best friends. In my fantasies the two of them are allies, bolstered by a two-lane flow of support, compassion, collaboration and cooperation. When the world is confusing and painful I want them, as fellow participants in the genetic and social experiment of our family, to turn to each other. Though really, I’d settle for them just being able to squeeze onto the same couch without anyone throwing elbows.

Partially I long for this because it would bestow harmony upon our home, but also I’ve been shackled to a story about what’s good, right and best. Siblings should protect each other! They should be confidantes! If Dan and I model kindness, it should trickle down! (Small clue: believing in what follows a “should” is the short path to suffering). And truthfully, when I am attached to one particular outcome, then I lose choice in how to respond because I become the proverbial hammer searching desperately for a nail, missing the truth of what is.

Sibling relationships are a wild and mysterious thing. Something deep and old and unknowable is working itself out while it looks like Col and Rose are simply arguing over who gets the first shower after camping. My squirrely mind wants to control, fix and steer. It wants to wave my red flag when I hear Col charging Rose $3 to claim her own lost earrings that he found. But who am I to engineer their path? They get to snap the pieces of their relationship puzzle together. If the pieces don’t fit, they can rotate or reconfigure them, sand them down, trade them out.

As a leader in this family I have the responsibility to model compassionate expression, to offer support, and to care for everyone’s needs without directing the outcome. It’s liberating to drop this task—the job of making sure my kids are friends—from the long list of what’s required to run a household.

Miramonte Reservoir, a bit south of Norwood, Co. Dan: “Didn’t the Rolling Stones play here? Oh wait, that was Altamont.”

Col returns from DC and I try out this new stance, repeating it frequently to counteract the worn neural pathways of my mind that suggest we’re all doomed because Col and Rose aren’t magnetized to each other.

And yet, strangely, they are. Their elbow game on the couch is a source of breathless laughter. Col wants to play soccer in the street, but only if his sister joins. Somehow our house does seem more peaceful, but not because my wanting it made it so, it’s that my mind is more peaceful because there’s less wanting. The despair I’ve felt about the kids not relating as I’d wish leads me to try to control external circumstances, rather than learn to tolerate that which I can’t control.

Also, because I’ve let my mental guard dog of sibling disputes off its chain, I’m less likely to micro-analyze Col and Rose’s interactions, looking for who left fingerprints of guilt on the surface of their last conflict. This means I get to see them more clearly. Miki Kashtan, founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication suggests that we turn the channel from the “boring movie of our mind,” the one that predictably features the repetitive script of our fears and biases. “It’s much more interesting to see the reality of what’s actually going on,” Kashtan says.

The reality is this: Col wins three consecutive games of chess then offers strategic advice to Rose, which she declines. They jump on the neighbor’s trampoline. They return for snacks. Rose makes Col toast and suggests he say ‘thank you.’ He doesn’t show gratitude to her satisfaction. She sighs, sings a few bars from the musical Grease and requests that Col sing Danny’s part while she takes Sandy’s. I observe it all without commentary, without making evaluations on my friendship-o-meter, nor do I grasp to this moment, sweet as their giggly singing is. Surely there is a sibling throw-down in their future. And just as likely there will be the inexplicable magic of a brother and sister crooning along to a 70s musical in a relationship of their making, the ending not yet written.

What responsibility are you holding onto that you could release?

waiting and non-waiting

2018 July 10
by Rachel Turiel

Dearie Dearest Dear Ones,

I am trying not to spend this summer waiting, waiting for the morning smoke to clear, waiting for the evening temperature to drop, waiting for the monsoons to come and put the fire out. It’s come to my attention that when we’re waiting, we’re not exactly living. And speaking of living, wearing ice-cold wet socks to bed is the best personal air-conditioning unit I’ve discovered. I hope you never have to try this.

This is smoke (not a cloud) over Hesperus Peak. My Herald column on how the weathering the fire is like raising children.

Besides the oppressive smoke and above average temps, summer has been everything I loved about homeschooling (being with the kids!) without the inherent challenges (the obligation to actually teach them something).

Apparently we’ve neglected to sign our kids up for much in the way of summer activities so they’ve been finding their own way. Col has been drawing WWII airplanes, and I do my best to see and appreciate his work without getting hung up on the images of planes shot down and consumed in a fireball of death.


Thanks Greg and Jo for the amazing colored pencils. Col would like you all to know that his WWII airplane images are available for sale. (Spitfire not pictured). He’s also open to ideas on how to market his images.

Rose has been channeling her inner retiree. I come home from teaching and she’s glued beads to yarn, yarn to jars, and jars to jars to make side by side q-tip and cotton ball dispensers. She’s used a pint of expensive, raw honey to concoct a honey-oat scrub, has added lemon balm to our ice cube trays, and melted every lip balm in the house together so all separate beeswax-based products can unify into a melting pot of diversity. I get a little anxious when I see her rummaging through the medicine cabinet with eager fingers, but keep telling myself that it’s cheaper than camp.

When the kids leave the house, I become air traffic controller, keeping track of my little planes lifting off and landing around town, changing destination and passengers, making emergency landings at garage sales (where craft supplies are legion), and doing my trust-breathing exercises while they are off radar in the river.

Today, during our morning snuggle, in which Col enters a hypnotic state of affectionate goodwill, he sighed and told me “Daddy’s my number one role model,” and then quickly explained, “Because he’s a boy. You’re number two.” The kids are not impressed with my ability to track their daily flight schedule, but are pretty certain that with just a bit of extra practice Dan could join any World Cup team should they need an extra player. Recently Rose assured us that once her three months of acute chiropractic care was over, Daddy could probably study up and take over her maintenance care.

Cherry pitting and World Cup.

I am equally full of hypnotic professions of affection at bedtime and last night I was in Col’s bed telling him how much I appreciated his resiliency, his ability to name feelings and adjust to circumstances out of his control. “You know, when your friend cancelled plans and you just said ‘I’m disappointed but what else…” I must have been beaming some crazy mom adoration from my eyes because Col interrupted me to say, “Mom, this is awkward,” he said. “Can I read now?”

Alpine spring beauty.

Dan and I have taken some lovely trips into the high mountains. Col asked me why I was so eager to go backpacking and all I could think to say was that it was a treat to enter into the culture of wild things.

On one trip, a ptarmigan made a big fuss over us, circling our sleeping bags at dusk and calling (presumably to her young, letting them know who not to trust); coyote sounds bounced around the peaks; we found scorched oak leaves carried on the wind fifteen miles from the fire; and always, the wildflowers spearing up through the rocks, snowmelt, smoke, drought fills me with awe and admiration to be in the presence of their wild culture. One morning we found a group of elk bedded in a meadow. The lead cow gave some deep, warning grunts, alerting her posse to our whereabouts. “Have you heard that sound before?” I asked. “Unfortunately, many times,” Dan replied.

Books! I enjoyed this memoir of an unbelievably challenging childhood under patriarchy and tradition gone wrong; this gorgeously-written post-apocalyptic novel that takes place in Colorado, where beyond the zombie-violence it was oddly tender and touching, and this beautifully-written novel about a summer camp in the Colorado mountains where idealism meets realism. What’s my next book? Seeking recommendations! (p.s. buy from your local, independent bookstore or look for at your library).

I am offering a Family Nonviolent Communication Workshop at the end of July. Col helped me make this flyer. He also helps me enter into the depth of scary, messy conflict, scrabbling around for our most useful tools of curiosity and care, and coming out into resilient, thriving, connecting resolution. I want this for all of you.

There are a few spaces left. More info here. If you are local and want to be on my mailing list, let me know.

Washing greens:

Drying greens:

Effing boots.

All the love,

Rachel

p.s. (whispering, giddily) I don’t think we’re waiting any longer for the monsoons.

uncontrolled fire edge and gluten free rhubarb cake

2018 June 20
by Rachel Turiel

Dear Ones,

There’s so much that’s happened since we last met here.

Col went to DC with his grandmother and sent us this postcard:

True. I’m not sure he’s ever had as much to talk about in 13 years.

A forest fire’s been raging a couple miles north of us, which seems to have settled some due to recent rain, though isn’t expected to be completely out until the monsoons (fingers-crossed) come in mid-late July. It’s hard to explain how consuming it’s been fighting this fire, I mean checking hourly for updates on weather, air quality, fire activity, evacuated friends. (We have an evacuated chicken taking refuge in our coop, which adds to my sense of purpose). Everyday there’s a new map depicting the jagged red line of the “uncontrolled fire edge.” I keep thinking there’s something by a similar name that lives in my mind, something I try to control, keep contained, while conducting frequent strategic meetings to give myself the illusion that a semblance of certainty is possible.

Outstanding fire photos here by beloved local photographer Jerry McBride.

We made it to the forest for a camping trip just before the entire San Juan Forest got put on Stage 3 fire restrictions, i.e. shut down. (Also shut down: all open space surrounding Durango. Anyone want to start a ladies walking club at the mall?).

Dessert platter to celebrate my birthday! Gifts not pictured: new socks and spatulas!

Possible grown up version of the people above, but in different configuration.

I haven’t forgotten about the rhubarb cake recipe. Stay tuned.

We fell in love with a foster dog, who left us for his forever family. (I guess that’s how it’s supposed to work, but still).

Now that we can’t go into the forest, or go outside (because of smoke) we spend a lot of time watching the World Cup. I keep thinking of the Quiddich World Cup in Harry Potter, imagining Peruvian and Iranian soccer teams arriving via portkey to Russia. We’re rooting for Mexico, Peru, Senegal and Iceland. (Ok, and Japan, Portugal, Argentina…).

We like to catch the weekday 6am World Cup game on the nano-screen before Dan leaves for work.

Indoor chess game VIXIII

Dan being Dan figured out that there’s some public land that not managed by Forest Service and for Father’s Day we all got an emotional high being in contact with wild plants and marmots for the day.

Indian Paintbrush.

Purple Fringe.

The 13-year old hand holder.

At one point Col requested to walk alone with just me. We’ve been telling our kids forever that they can tell us anything, anytime, of any nature. I prepared myself. Col grabbed my hand and said, “Mama? You know that new lego airplane I’ve been working on? That’s what I want to talk about.”  (He was nervous about snapping on the wheel struts, but proud that he figured out how to fit two lego pilots side by side. Feelings!). Whew.

Since the smoke has improved I’ve been turning the kids loose on bikes with their shared flip phone. Five minutes ago I got this text from Col: headg. And then I descrambled it in my mother de-crypter and got: heading home. 10/4 little pilot.

I really want to share this Rhubarb Cake Recipe with you because:

  1. Rhubarb season may be ending in your locale.
  2. I made this recipe up all by myself!
  3. It’s insanely delicious: golden crust, light crumb, rhubarby tang-smack to the taste buds, and in the scheme of modern diets, pretty healthy.
  4. If you’re past rhubarb season, sub in cherries, apricots or whatever fruit is coming into your region.

Eat with coffee.

Make sure you have eggs.

Rhubarb Cake

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

(fine to sub both flours for wheat flour)

3/4 cup butter or coconut oil (gosh, this sounds like an awful lot of butter. If this scares you, try and 1/2 cup and report back to me).

1/2 cup sugar or honey

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

3-4 stalks apricots or 3/4 – 1 cup chopped fruit

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients except flours together, including fruit. Slowly add in flours just to moisten. Place in greased bread pan, cast iron pan, pie pan and bake for 25 – 35 minutes. (Cast iron cooks quicker than glass or ceramic, so stay attuned).

All the love,

Rachel

15 minute grain-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

2018 May 25
by Rachel Turiel

“There is no shortage of grosbeaks,” Dan reassures me after a five minute lull in the morning siege on the feeder is followed by hordes of evening grosbeaks returning to their personal safehouse, where Col and Dan are poised to chase neighborhood cats off with BB guns. A small table of evening grosbeaks at the breakfast rush.

Here’s a different kind of bird (one of our new flock of chickens). Col took this picture and I couldn’t help thinking: one sweet, slightly-awkward and emergent adolescent photographing another.

As per May usual, we’re issuing daily quotas on consumption of greens. If you’re not eating a gallon of lettuce, chard, spinach, etc…you’re not pulling your weight. Full disclosure, there’s a 50% chance of finding an elm seed in your salad and a .549% chance of finding a small insect, marinated in salad dressing and still alive. Aphids don’t even count.

We seem to be having a few checking account issues currently, namely that money doesn’t seem to stick around there very long, but Dan reminds me that we still have apples in the root cellar in May, and maybe I’ll see if I can trade those apples for the kids’ soccer fees, like an old timey bartering community! (Actually, I am trading greens for the space I’m using to teach my current NVC class. Thanks to the lovely LeeAnn at Stitch).

The garden is a bit like a museum lately, delicate pieces unveiled by day, only to be covered at first whiff of nightfall. 

Rose was selected to represent her school in a 5th grade-wide community dance competition. She and her partner danced the merengue. Her partner wasn’t Dan, but he helped her practice.

Our days have been slightly crazy lately with everyone’s end of the school year presentations and graduations; Rose vigilantly at the table penning cards of gratitude to each teacher past dark; getting the summer issue of Edible magazine to the printers; my mind thinking that 3:00am is a good time to wake up and figure stuff out; and, carting teen chickens outside every morning, and back upstairs each night. Thank god for books and bedtime. I loved this memoir, about the author’s seventeen brushes with death, which was harrowing, entertaining, horrifying and ultimately inspiring. And then this gorgeous, incredibly-written novel about a family whose fifth son is transgender and how the family orbit changes to accommodate this reality.

The other day Col confided that he hates it when “Daddy assumes that when I ask for screen time it means I’m bored.” I asked him if he wanted to let Dan know this, and then maybe issue a request. Fifteen minutes later Col popped up in Dan’s workshop (where I was fiddling in the adjacent greenhouse). “Hey Daddy, I wanted to talk to you about something,” he said, earnestness turned up to eleven. And without making Dan at fault, Col squeaked out what’s up for him followed by the request that Dan not respond to screentime requests with assumptions of his boredom. Dan received him with gratitude and I could see Col’s personal power inflate. Later he said, “I’m so proud that I talked to Daddy.” And we celebrated that instead of nibbling on the empty calories of resentment, Col got to express his feelings to his Daddy, who was happy to hear what was true for his son. This is the exact model we use in my nonviolent communication classes – how to express what’s true for you while caring for the relationship.

Oh wait – you were here for the 15 minute cookie recipe? Here it is!

These cookies are super delicious, only take 15 minutes to make (including baking, but not clean up), and are approved by my children who are highly suspicious that I am hiding kale in everything I bake. Thanks Steph, for the recipe!

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies 

Heat oven to 335F
Combine in large bowl:
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar (brown or white or mix)
a splash of molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheet, press down with fork and bake for 7 – 10 minutes @ 335F.
Hippie Version
Sub out almond butter for peanut butter
Add 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Reduce sugar to 1/3 cup
Add 1/4 cup raisins
***********
Love and cookies,
Rachel

the art and craft of making a request

2018 May 16
by Rachel Turiel

It’s 8pm on a weeknight, which means we should be ushering small people through the stations of winding down: read aloud, teeth brushing, pajamas, and ultimately the long, one-way march towards bunkbeds. But, everyone’s trying to wring the last moments out of a fading spring evening.

Col is reading a dystopian novel on the couch. Two feet away Rose is choreographing a dance to Joni Mitchell’s Carey, which she is also singing, managing to take up an impressive amount of space, physically and auditorially in our 800 square foot house.

I warn the kids bedtime is approaching and Col throws an arm out to hook his father, passing through the living room. “Come snuggle me, Daddy,” Col pleads, and even though there’s a whiff of stalling the inevitable, Dan embraces the invitation.

I watch Col’s small body tucked into Dan’s, thinking, this is what boys need, men who can model intimacy, who can be soft and gentle, who…suddenly and suspiciously Rose’s dance routine comes to an abrupt halt and she launches herself on top of the snuggling pair.

“Hey – get off! Me and Daddy are snuggling!” Col shouts.

“I have enough love for both of you,” Dan calmly replies, rolling each kid up in an arm.

The couch becomes a tumult of arms and legs. Col jumps off the couch and like a military strategist begins striking his sister from the floor. Snap judgments infiltrate my mind: Col is a bully. Rose is interfering. And then, the stories unspool: It’s hopeless, they’ll never be friends, Thanksgiving circa 2038 will be a disaster. Dan raises his voice, telling Col to stop, and then resumes his preschool teacher demeanor and asks, “Col, is there a request you’d like to make?”

“Yes. Can you tell Rose to stay out of this?”

“Can you make a request that tells me what you want, not what you want Rose to do?”

“I just want to snuggle you alone,” Col replies.

“Ok. I’m happy to do that. Can you wait until Rose and I have a couple more minutes snuggle time?”

“Yes.”

A quiet calm settles over the house. I feel my nervous system decelerate from red to green. No one is wrong, nor needs discipline. Mother Theresa says, “if you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Here are kids that need to be loved, who have longings to uncover. One kid wants the special feeling of physical connection alone with his dad, another kid wants reassurance that even if others are connecting, she’s loved, included and belongs. Requesting that which contributes to our happiness is a skill that enables us to access power in our own lives.

It’s a bit like magic, really – the way a request (would you be willing to set the table tonight?) will recruit all the cells of our willingness, while a demand (I need you to set the table tonight) acts as an affront to our autonomy. When we grudgingly cooperate with a demand out of guilt or fear we actually miss out on the good feelings generated by our own generosity. And, we’re likely not to do our best work. Marshall Rosenberg says, “As long as I think I ‘should’ do it, I’ll resist it, even if I want very much to do it.”

I love receiving clear, doable requests. It’s satisfying to get clarity on how we can contribute to someone’s well being. Studies show that we receive much happiness from acts of generosity, and yet many of us are more likely to launch a complaint rather than letting others know what can be done to bring more ease or joy to our lives. News flash: expectations unvoiced go unmet.

Later, during the high level debriefings that often take place after the kids have gone to bed I thank Dan for how he handled the couch skirmish. “I learned it all from you,” he replies. Which is true, just for the record.

How to Make a Request using principles of nonviolent communication

Col and Rose become empowered by the tool of making requests and approach us with their desire to replace our homemade, unscented deer tallow soap in the bathroom with store-bought liquid soap.

  • Requests are clear and specific. Instead of “Can we start using a nice soap in the bathroom?” they might say, “Would you be willing to buy liquid soap for our bathroom when you go shopping on Sunday?”
  • Requests express what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of “Will you please stop putting deer tallow soap in the bathroom?” they might say, “Can we replace the bar soap with liquid soap?”
  • Requests are doable. A successful request won’t compromise anyone’s values, and usually doesn’t contain the words “never” or “always.”
  • Unlike a demand, a request maintains everyone’s dignity by allowing for the option to say no, or for negotiations. I don’t like the idea of recycling plastic liquid soap containers regularly, so in agreeing to use liquid soap I want to know that the kids will help me refill reusable containers with bulk liquid soap.
  • Requests are more enjoyable to meet when we know how it will contribute to others’ happiness. “That liquid soap seems more sanitary, easier to use, and doesn’t crumble into pieces as it wears down, and we think it looks better when we have friends over.”

*One spot remains in my 5-week June, Tuesday night Living Nonviolent Communication Class. Details here.

these are the good old days

2018 May 3
by Rachel Turiel

Sorry – couldn’t help myself on this one.

We are coming into the seasonal festival that is blooming fruit trees. I am mesmerized from our upstairs windows, mesmerized from on the ground in the garden, mesmerized on the hiking trails above town looking down at the canopies of blossomy fireworks. Also, I’m just a little challenged by the part where two seconds after the whole town has gone up in a blaze of pink, spring is over. It’s like the paradox of life expressed in a peach tree, or a season. Already, after a recent rain storm, the gutters are filled with the pink confetti of downed blossoms.

Francis Weller says “Grief and love are sisters, woven together from the beginning. Their kinship reminds us that there is no love that does not contain loss and no loss that is not a reminder of the love we carry for what we once held close.”

I mean, I’m not sure he was referring to fruit trees, but still, this is helpful.

Because even the kids growing and changing contains loss. Remember when the kids were little and they lived in our world of gardening and butchering animals and traipsing off to the forest? I think now we’re living in their world of school events and weekend soccer games and opinions about shoe styles.

My new favorite bumper sticker is: “These are the good old days.” These days. How could this not be true? I can get all drunk on nostalgia, on the memories of fat toddler Rosie who couldn’t sustain ill will towards anyone for more than 30 seconds. But, there is a ten year old girl who’s here right now, who wants me to check out her turquoise toenails, her ukulele song, her merengue dance skills. Who wants to know that she matters and is seen and appreciated. Every night we say our thankfuls before eating and  Dan often mentions being thankful just to all be here at the table together, which about covers it (even as it includes someone’s onion phobia and someone else so eager to communicate while eating it presents a small choking hazard).

This ten year old in these good old days.

Also, Col shot an invasive dove with his BB gun, skinned and gutted it, and ate that baby for breakfast, juice dripping down his chin like a goddamed boy-king.

The elderberry trees, grape vine and hops are all slithering out of the soil, turning the world green like magic. I like to walk around the garden, not doing any actual work, just taking in all the emergence. The kids no longer follow me around the garden wanting to plant ten pea seeds in one square inch or water a plant to its death. The other day, I was driving Col to a friends house and like a detached, friendly uncle he asked, “So, what’ve you got going in the garden this year?”

I was planning to announce my upcoming nonviolent communication classes here but apparently it takes about a month to write a new post and they all filled. I do have one spot open in my Tuesday evening June/July class. Details here. I’m also doing private NVC consults and enjoying them so much. If this appeals to you, contact me.

I found this book serendipitously in our Free Little Library and loved the descriptions of tidal life, adolescent boyhood, the strange and dulling mask of adulthood. It actually put me in a bit of a panic that there are likely many more excellent books that I might just never meet up with. And the kids and I just finished the first book in this series, which was absolutely delightful.

Other signs of the coming of spring:


Me to Dan: How long will you be out here working on that elk hide?

Dan: Probably the rest of my life.

not pictured: a nascent adolescent boy getting ready to leave for a week at the Grand Canyon and Phoenix (for a study in contrasts?) under the guise of school. Will he eat any vegetables? Will he properly hydrate?

not pictured: Rose’s turquoise toenails poking out of brand new sandals her friend Iris gave her. You try telling Rose that true happiness doesn’t come from things.

I am continuing to get my Mediterranean tahini fix with this tahini sauce. We use it as salad dressing (add a splash of vinegar), as a dip, to ladle over steamed veggies. It’s perfectly creamy and nutty.

Just in case you needed a little more fat and protein with your fat and protein.

Tahini Sauce

Makes 2 cups. Blend the following:

1 cup water

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup lemon or juice of one medium sized lemon

1 minced garlic clove

tsp salt

sprinkle of paprika (optional)

Thank you for all your kindness and encouragement on my last post. I really enjoyed reading your comments.

Send news from your corner of the world. What are you reading? What are you eating? How do you use tahini?

Love,

Rachel

The wind is in from Africa

2018 April 12
by Rachel Turiel

Hello Dear Ones,

I’m not entirely sure what to write about here anymore, what with my varied audience (Hello, 11-year old Iris and 80+ year old Tutu!) and having sort of said it all before. But you’re still here! And I’m deeply grateful for that.


Did you want to know about our greenhouse and cold frames? About how in April I’m remembering that eating locally is not about searching out what you most desire as if combing through shiny stones on the beach, but more like getting doused by the hide tide of spinach. It’s the vegetarian coming of Frankenstein: chard, kale, spinach, arugula swelling under spring conditions, requiring us to stay home and eat salad.

********

Rosie in Athens, with the Parthenon silhouetted on hill behind her. What you can’t see: cats, everywhere feral cats, who are fed and loved by the locals.

Or, did you want to hear about how we just returned from a trip to Greece and Israel with my parents? How right now I am drinking Arabic coffee (where the grounds remain in the cup extracting ever more jitters as you drink), bought from Mustafa in Haifa, who brewed his with cardamom and was wise enough to serve very small amounts.

Col lounging on an Israeli artist’s sculpture made of old military equipment in the Golan Heights where we met U.N. “military observers” from New Zealand who were keeping an eye on the border of Israel and Syria, making sure agreements were kept.

We spent a few days on the lovely Greek island, Rhodes (charmingly spelled Ρόδος in Greek and charmingly pronounced “Row-dose” by the locals), where generations of Turiels lived for at least 450 years, speaking their own language (Ladino – mix of Spanish and Hebrew), marrying distant cousins and living very good lives under the Mediterranean shade of fig trees while trying to avoid the wrath of each new wave of conquerors (Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, Italians, and eventually the Nazis, who took every last Jew on Rhodes).

Found in the beautiful “new” synagogue, built in 1571.

Names of the Rhodes men, women and children with the last name Turiel who died in the concentration camps.

The ancient wall outside the old Jewish quarter of Rhodes, Greece.

From nearly 100-year old photos we found my father’s mother’s house on Rhodes. (We tried to find my grandfather’s house from the cryptic words he wrote after sailing from Rhodes to America in 1920: “Go to seahorse fountain, look across, above the wine seller, that was our place.” We ate dolmas, hummus, feta and enormous beans called “gigantes,” everything lubed with local olive oil. We woke up to African soil blown across the Mediterranean Sea coating our rental car. For days I sang Joni Mitchell’s lyrics “The wind is in from Africa/last night I couldn’t sleep.”

Col eating a giant shrimp still wearing it’s head, tail and numerous legs…shudder…and a plate of gigantes.

Futbol at the Roman ruins at Bet She’an National Park, Israel. Israel had a lot of brutal regime-change throughout its millennia of recorded history. 

Israel was a whirlwind of historical sites and intensity. “Jerusalem is a heavy city. Dense with God,” our tour guide said. “God is everywhere,” my dad suggested. “Maybe a little bit more God in Jerusalem,” she countered.

We were in Jerusalem on Passover and Easter Sunday, where the church bells rang (and rang and rang…) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have risen from his tomb. Not a quarter-mile away Jews of all types made pilgrimages to the Western (wailing) Wall (including Hasidic Jews dressed for Russian winter, and a fierce 10-year old American girl determined to lodge her message to God between the 2000+ year old stones on the “women’s side” of the wall despite getting thwarted by women so deep in their religious trance-walk towards the wall they may not have noticed they were throwing elbows like pro soccer players). And not a quarter-mile from the wall sits the Dome of the Rock, 3rd holiest of Muslim sites, where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his white-winged horse. No non-Muslim can enter, despite it being built on the ruins of the destroyed 1st and 2nd Jewish temple. Oy vey; a very heavy city.

On a lighter note (pun intended), the Dead Sea was wonderfully buoyant and festive. Beyoncé playing on the loud-speaker as people of all nations dipped in the healing waters, floating like corks. Those are the hills of Jordan across the Dead Sea.

Dan, taking advantage of the healing mud of the Dead Sea.

The Mahane Yehuda (Jewish Market) was a highlight, as was all the food in Israel. We bought za’atar and “chicken spice:” rosemary, paprika, dried citrus peels, sea salt, which we’ve already added to “backyard” chicken soup. (We also brought home dried figs, apricots, halvah, chocolate, apricot bars, coffee…)

If you make Aliyah (Any Jews of “the diaspora” moving to the homeland of Israel), these men will give you a kilo of dried figs. Otherwise, it’s 100 shekels.

There’s so much more to say about Israel. Like, how we almost got used to the young Israeli soldiers, male and female, riding the bus with semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulders. (Though, the ultra-orthodox families with their traditional garb, gender divisions and solemn faces appeared somehow more foreign). Or, how the inside of Israeli and Arabic falafel was deliciously green with minced parsley. Or, how I don’t think I ate quite enough tahini sauce ladled over cucumber and tomato salads. Or how, my whole Jewish identity is in a bit of upheaval now, contemplating the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which no one is a winner, even as one side gains land and another side gains international sympathy. In which each side has found ways to justify murder and history has become a bendable story.

And, I’m wondering how we can hold fast to our differing heritages, stories, traditions without creating a wall of separation around ourselves or making others wrong for theirs? (This goes for the macro: Israel/Palestine and also the micro: our own families). When do our stories of victimhood cause more suffering than empowerment? I think I need a post-Israel ” Jewish heritage and non-violence” support group. You feel me?

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-insert huge segue here-

Or did you maybe want to hear how I had a fancypants NYC literary agent who loved my memoir about Col’s premature birth at 25 weeks and finding fellowship in the foreign land of the Denver Ronald McDonald House where we lived for four months. He sent it to 15 big, commercial publishing houses, all of whom sent the nicest rejections, after which my agent broke up with me and now I have absolutely no idea what to do? Taking suggestions!

*************

Or, perhaps you wanted to hear how I told Dan last night that we had two big things to celebrate. One was that when we all woke up late due to jet lag, Col whispered to me, “I’m worried that I’ll be late to school because Rosie takes so long to get ready.” He didn’t threaten, blame, judge or accuse Rose. He expressed his feelings and sought support. This day might become the new holy day in our house, commemorating the possibility of peace.

And, later, when I told Rose that she had a birthday party to go to that same afternoon, she scurried around trying to find a present for her friend and then told me, “Mama, I’m a bit annoyed that you didn’t tell me about this party until today. I really like to have time to make a card.” Again, no blame or judgment, just a clear expression of feelings and letting me know what’s important to her (time to prepare gifts). Double holy day!

What else? I’m trying to re-create all this amazing food we ate in the Mediterranean: roasted eggplant with tahini dressing, cilantro marinade, shaksuka. Recipes coming soon.

Birdwatching in style in the Galilee.

xo,

Rachel

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do not lose heart

2018 March 15
by Rachel Turiel

I’m wondering if we’ll need new words to identify seasons now that climate change is less abstract future prediction and more creeping reality. In the Southwest the season formerly known as winter could be: Where snow is now rain, or Watch out for rocks on the ski hill.

In our family, we’re working on noticing our judgments and seeing what needs are alive behind the blame. I tell you this because I have so much blame about the state of our world. Anger, despair, hopelessness, too. And, I believe blame binds up our inner resources and keeps us cycling through anger, despair and hopelessness, paralyzed from taking action.

Here’s an example from the world headquarters of our household. This morning, Col expressed anger towards Rose for taking “so long” to get ready in the morning, making him late for school. (Col starts school five minutes earlier than Rose, and he’s only been late a couple times, but to him it feels like he’s late often because it’s always later than he’d like to arrive).

Not to distract you, but this book is fabulous. Rose is on her 2nd reading.

When we focus on someone else’s “wrongness” we miss what we’re actually wanting, which is where we can empower change. Plus, if Col wants something different, blame is not going to create the collaboration he’s hoping for. (Sounds obvious, yet anger seems to shut down our higher brain functions like logic and problem-solving). Turns out, Col wants to arrive ten minutes early so he can “hang out with his friends before school starts.” This is easy for me to get on board with because I love the idea of him having extra time for fun and connection. (In nonviolent communication we’d call “fun” and “connection” his needs). What about Rose? Because everyone’s needs matter in the family unit, I suggested he check in with her willingness to hustle a bit to get to school early.

Rose kind of liked the idea of extra playtime in the morning, but doesn’t like hanging outside in the cold for fifteen minutes (Her need might be for comfort). “Hmmm, any ideas to make this part more appealing for your sister?” I asked Col, sending him telepathic messages to offer to make her tea, while sending her telepathic messages to not interject, letting him come up with something (…because we can miss the wonderful benefits of being generous if it’s someone else’s idea for us). Col caught the message, learned that tea kettles need water before you turn on the heat, and Rose practically sang all morning getting ready, knowing her brother was making her tea. (Having tea made for her likely met needs for appreciation and acknowledgment). We got to school 13 minutes early.

Does this all make sense? Synopsis: When Col is focused on blaming Rose for making him late, he misses the opportunity to see what he really wants: to be ten minutes early to hang with friends. When he can make a request without persuasion, judgment, implying that there’s something wrong with Rose, she can hear him!

“List for Rose’s Needs” formerly known as a “shopping list,” including, “other good things,” and “some healthy things.” Slay me.

Sometimes blame, judgment and anger are like storms that pass through my mind before I can see the pain underneath. When I can see the pain, I can care for it. When I give the pain some care, it clears space for me to see what unmet needs are driving the pain. When I feel despair about the state of the world, my needs are often 1) to celebrate this beautiful planet. 2) to contribute to nonviolence. 3) to mourn the greed and violence in this world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes says “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

Greenhouse chard and kale bringing me great happiness.

This, I can do. Applying empathy where ever I’m capable feels really wonderful. So does planting 42 tomato seeds in February, and nurturing the mixed greens inching along in their cold frames. Fostering dogs is a total win-win. Hiking through the piñon and juniper behind my house feels holy. I love facilitating nonviolent communication, sometimes formally in classes, sometimes stealthily, on the streets. Funneling money to local public radio, a local pro-environmental group and Planned Parenthood supports my vision for this planet. Also, supporting local candidates who stand for renewable energy, public lands, women’s rights, LBGTQ rights, common sense gun regulation, a path to citizenship, affordable healthcare…(oh, this list is long).

I mean, things can change. People in Denmark and Finland use an average of four single-use plastic bags a year because stores began charging directly for plastic bags (unlike here where the cost is passed on surreptitiously, making plastic bags appear free). Systems can change. Siblings can change. We can change.

I leave you with this invitation. If you are noticing blame and judgment (toward yourself, others, or both), can you ask yourself what it is you’re really wanting, what could make life more wonderful for you? What could you mend that is “within your reach?” What support do you need to start the process of mending?

With Love,

Rachel

Rose wrote this song on her ukulele. That next generation? They got this.

searching for the win-win (or what I’ve learned from nonviolent communication)

2018 February 28
by Rachel Turiel

Dan is fiddling with the vacuum in our laundry room (er, laundry closet, also housing herds of untamed shoes, winter hats, jars of escabeche) singing, Papa’s got a brand new bag. Rose perks up, having never met a bag she doesn’t like.

“What bag, Daddy?”

“Papa’s got a brand new vacuum bag. Hey!”

It’s Sunday, and I’m craving some family time, the magical kind where we’re all grateful to be together, feeling close and enjoying the same activity, which is precisely the one I have chosen. I mean really, is it so unreasonable to be an authoritarian parent, dictating our lives based on my values, Col and Rose following along good naturedly? (You’re right, Mom, social media could be a huge distraction to our growing brains! Lets unplug and go camping!) In my dreamlife, we’re strolling through the piñons under the medicinal winter sun, the kids divulging their hardships and dreams (but like, in a really digestible way, where everyone speaks with perfect self-awareness). But, more likely I’d be practicing my labor breathing, two small people grumbling along in their lead-filled shoes, determined not to enjoy themselves because it was forced on them. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “As long as I think I ’should’ do it, I’ll resist it, even if I want very much to do it.” Damn.

We decide to try something more revolutionary than the democratic “one person, one vote” in which some win and others lose. We’re looking not for the fraught, score-keeping compromise, but for a Sunday family plan that everyone loves. We decide to each express the top three things we would love to do and then with all options on the table, cut and paste a plan that addresses everyone’s desires. (Even though one of us is happy to tinker in the opium den of the lego pile and another keeps a personal list titled: “good deer spots.”)

We gather around the situation room of our kitchen table, recording ideas and trying to stick to our collective pledge to be open to everything, even as Dan mentions driving an hour to Silverton and I watch the kids imagine slowly perishing of boredom as we blur past another snowy mountain, forced to invent backseat fights just to keep things lively. Similarly, Rose’s “walk around downtown with hot chocolate and window shop” makes me feel slightly panicked. When Col mentions wanting to visit a game store, I have to bite back my And, how does this include everyone? judgment. I share my desire for a hike, emphasis on roasting marshmallows over a campfire, trolling for allegiance like an opportunistic politician.

Once complete, we revisit everyone’s three suggestions aloud and amend as necessary. Alpine skiing gets nixed because two of us would actually need lessons. Visiting cats at the humane society is spontaneously added by both children. I thought the hardest part was withholding opinions as people announced their preferences, but turns out that was the appetizer for the following, meatier challenge.

Next, we offer strategies that take into account as many people’s interests as possible: the cats, the hiking, the hot chocolate, the game store. Ideas are floated and recorded and eventually Col comes up with: walk on the river path with hot chocolate to the humane society to visit the cats. (And a quick trip for kids to neighboring game store while Dan and I walk further up the river trail). The room goes quiet. And then everyone comes out with a unanimous YES! This solution hits Dan and my desire for exercise outside, the kids’ desire to be with kitties, all of our desire to be together and the unspoken: our desire to contribute to each others’ happiness, because, (at the risk of sounding like Mr. Rogers) it feels really good to contribute to the wellbeing of others, and (at the risk of sounding calculating), others will be more likely to care for our hopes and dreams when we care for theirs. It seems sort of like a dream, each of us getting what we want without coercion, persuasion, bribes or threats.

“We’ll be out during lunch,” I mention to Dan.

“So, we’ll need a few coolers and a wheelbarrow?” He replies.

We stuff our pockets with bars and leftover waffles and set out, each of us, I believe, feeling like we’re getting away with something. And maybe this is the crux of finding win-win solutions. When everyone is heard and considered and the goal is to satisfy the most needs, there is nothing to fight for, just the collective, creative brainpower of the group caring for one another.

When life imitates the game Sorry

2018 January 25
by Rachel Turiel

Monday night, Dan and his buddies are gathered in the solarium for their bi-weekly “bow-night,” in which a group of guys, wielding metal rasps and sandpaper, craft primitive bows out of tree trunks. It’s like Hunger Games meets a beer commercial. 

When I suggest to Col and Rose that we play a game, they select Sorry, a choice which gives me panicked flashbacks to the tedium of early years where five minutes passed like a geological era. But I give a resounding “yes!” because it’s the clearest way to say, “I want to be with you,” (even while my brain is liquefying). Col decides to create a stack of his own Sorry cards, spending half an hour scribbling directives on paper rectangles.
 
He folds his custom Sorry cards into the deck and on a turn pulls a Col original. “Say five curse words and move forward ten spaces,” he reads, blushing. He and Rose search my face, wondering if I’ll shut this down. Instead, I hold him to it. He can only come up with four, one of which is “crap.”
 
I can remember thinking, at least 25 times in the past eight years, that we had landed in the exact sweet spot of parenting, inhabiting some cosmic, singular intersection of independence and loveliness, the ingredients for such balance never to be present again. Maybe we had just thrown off the shackles of diapers but everyone was still beside themselves with enthusiasm for farm animals. Or, perhaps the kids could endure long road trips, but would still make an imaginative world of play on the shores of the Animas river. My belief that as the kids soared closer to independence they’d necessarily jettison their own childlike wonder like so much extra baggage kept me frantically attached to what was surely the last outpost on the unswerving path to some drab, inevitable adulthood. 
 
But childhood is not actually a linear path projected by Motherhood Inc, in which plot points create a predictable trajectory of growth. The kids soar and stumble, bouncing around every spot on the grid. Recently, I overheard Col explaining to a buddy that he felt hurt when other friends teased him about watching Barbie episodes with his sister. And I thought, “beautiful expression of feelings!” The next day, Col mocked his sister mercilessly. Par for the sibling course, but still, was this real life imitating a Sorry game? Ten steps forward, five back.
 
The other night the kids spent the evening hissing at each other like territorial snakes and then climbed wordlessly into the stacked mattresses of their bunk bed as if any hour past 8pm was automatic truce for cobras. I can hardly keep track of anyone’s personal trajectory anymore.
Cobra couch truce.
The Sorry game goes on tediously (as history predicts), and the kids are completely, bafflingly engaged. I’m reminded that these children contain all their former selves, a living mix of who they’ve ever been. It’s like simmering a soup, different flavors asserting themselves at different stages. Within this gumbo is the toddler “do it ownself” battlecry, transformed to the tween corollary: “You can’t stop me from wearing shorts in January.” Also within: four certified curse words and solo bike rides to friends houses. But wait – a game of Sorry surfaces like the pre-adolescent version of executives taking a load off on the golf course. Still in there! And because all we have is the sweet spot of now, I’m determined to be eternally delighted, which is a matter of my own perspective.
 
When I stir in the most recent layer to the soup—maybe that tweenish thing that gives me pause—the aroma of their collective days hits me and fills me with a knowing that there are no fixed points, no finish line, just a continuum of grace to be here growing together.
Multi-cobra couch truce.
In case you were wondering, elk rawhide is not a great sledding medium. Now you know!

Just when you thought there was no room for a foosball table in an 800 sf house. Guess again!