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feet on the earth

2015 January 28
by Rachel Turiel

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It is penciled into our calendar this Sunday: Family Adventure Day. This is the vaguely formed notion that we’re devoting a full day to getting out of town, to being outside together, to expanding out of our habitual activities, even if Col would elect to stay home drawing airplane #3987 and Rose could cartwheel her 7-year old body across our 800 sf house into the next year.

There is a faint memory circling my head of a time when Dan and I would set out on any wild adventure our hearts conjured. Now, these family outings are prefaced by inserting every relevant child-limitation (weather, time, gear, endurance) into the hopper of appropriate activities, and rallying around what clunks out. We consider our angles of persuasion as measuredly as any marketing company.

The kids drag their feet. They don’t want to go hiking, get dressed, leave home, or endure the drive required to get out of town. There are protests and pep talks. There are negotiations and compromise. Concessions are made: we leave home an hour later with a tall thermos of hot chocolate and our neighbor’s golden retriever.

We drive south into New Mexico, peeling back layers of high desert, descending into a kingdom where scrubby, spiny plants reign. The landscape has been crayoned in with the Crayola set “desert triumvirate:” orange rock, blue sky, dusky green plants.

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We park at a quiet trailhead, and the dog, who’s been drooling, panting and whining for the last hour explodes out of the car, running like a man released from prison. We shoulder packs, sloshing with hot chocolate, and set out. Half a mile down the canyon that spills liquid life into the San Juan River, we find a dead raven, spot a bald eagle, spy mountain lion tracks and pull apart clustered clumps of owl pellets found at the base of an old twisted cottonwood.

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Rose springs down the canyon as if there’s candy at the finish line; Col meanders, gathering rocks he must have, then forgetting them when he stops to inspect another desert gem. It turns out the kids are naturals at inhabiting this world, their world. Shoes off, scaling rocks, and shimmying up the trunks of fat cottonwood trees, they need not one suggestion to fill their time. Rose even finds a flat, sandy expanse upon which to unleash an olympic torrent of cartwheeling and back handsprings while Col perches high in a tree, privy to the hawk’s view.

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When Col was still in the NICU, we met with a soft-voiced social worker, who asked us what our dreams were for our son, this boy who hadn’t yet broken two pounds and needed technological assistance to eat and breathe. “I..I want him to be able to walk and eat unassisted, to talk and laugh,” I replied, my heart clenched in its own prayer of anxious hopefulness. Dan replied without hesitation, “I want Col to begin to feel the blessings of this earth.”

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I will never understand why the idea of a hike equates with boredom and hardship in the kids’ minds. They never fail to find magical worlds, real and imagined, as well as the craggy interstices where they can fall into their own, mysterious sibling-friendship.

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Many hours later we return home, drop off the dog, shake the sand out of our clothing and dive back into our habitual activities (plane drawings, cartwheels, e-mail, bow-making). But, we are long blessed by our time away, our time together, by the simplicity and freedom of feeling our feet upon the earth.

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One degree of separation, gratitude and community

2015 January 21
by Rachel Turiel

It is morning and I am drinking coffee, reading the paper, and fielding interruptions from the kids in a parody of my own routine ordinariness when my phone rings. It is my friend Steph, whom I’ve known since we were in our mid 20’s with no one more complicated to care for than a handful of animals. She made our wedding cake 12 years ago, zucchini with thick, chocolate frosting. I took a walk with her less than a week ago. She has learned that her daughter has leukemia. “I can’t believe I’m speaking that word,” she says through tears. “This is a game-changer.”

If there are six degrees of separation between everyone on this planet, there is exactly one degree of separation between everyone in Durango. Going food shopping is like old home week; I make half my social plans in the produce aisle. I know people who go to the farmers market strictly to “catch up with friends.” I’ve run into people I know miles out in the backcountry, and I’ve yet to take a plane into or out of Durango where I didn’t know someone aboard (Including, last flight, the guy who used to buy a pound of dried mint at the herb shop I managed, and joke “How do I explain this (baggie of dried herb) to the cops if I get pulled over?”). Facebook is the digital representation of this interconnectedness (I have 103 friends in common with my friend, Sheryl, who I met here in Durango.) Even the dogs are in; Rose scored a new dog-walking client when a jogger recognized the dog she was currently walking and got my number to sign her dogs up.

I have a very strong feeling that Steph’s daughter will ultimately be OK (Just as certain people in our life had very strong feelings that Col would be OK when he was born 3 1/2 months early. When Col was 2 weeks old, Dan’s friend, Robert, flew to Denver, rented a sportscar, and took Dan on drives to see the bighorn sheep in Georgetown. He told us, “Col will be fine. You both have very good genes.” Robert is a biologist). Steph’s family will go through some very hard things in the next year, and when they can’t hold themselves up anymore, the net of this community will catch them, relieving the ordinary burdens a family faces, so they can focus on the extraordinary. (Stay tuned on the old church committee of Facebook for ways you can help the Harris family).

There have been some devastating losses in this community in the past few months. Parents and children, their deaths rippling out across our collective hearts. In the following weeks friends greet each other with extra long hugs, clumsy sentences, and the shaking of heads because often there just are no words. But we show up with food, donations, any comfort we can spare. I’ve had two impromptu grief/hope/hug sessions with my friend Kate because she was walking by my house at the right time. Each time I felt my world pull tighter, closer.

I keep wondering: how do you prepare for these game-changers? How do you go about your life, drinking coffee, reading the paper, fielding interruptions from your children, knowing that in the shadows of this ordinary moment, life is a dangerous, wonderous and unpredictable place?

When I was pregnant with Col, after suffering an unusual 2nd trimester miscarriage a year before, I was buoyant. I loved how my belly was rising like bread dough, loved the indoor tickles of baby feet, and the feeling that if this life I was growing had a brand name, it would be: world’s luckiest secret. 

And yet, I was nervous that my happiness was distracting me from being prepared for, y’know, all the other things. I was on a meditation retreat, 24 weeks pregnant with Col when I asked our teacher, Eugene Cash, about this wild subversive joy I’d been swept up in.

Eugene’s eyes smiled behind his John Lennon glasses, his closely cropped, dark hair hugging his head like a tight-weave black carpet, freshly installed. “If you are joyful, then be joyful! We don’t prepare for disappointments or tragedy by worrying. We also know that experiencing joy doesn’t bring down the wrath of tragedy, nor does it equate to being immune to disappointment. In fact, nothing will make you entirely immune to disappointment, so you might as well enjoy being joyful.”

Wait, was this the Ben and Jerry’s school of Buddhism? Just enjoy being joyful? No nifty Zen tricks or mind-bending efforts which lead, like a lighted runway, directly to the prize of enlightenment? No need to imbibe happiness in careful moderation as if it were something on which one could dangerously overdose? No outwitting joy like the broad-ankled Eastern European matriarchs of my family line, whose superstitions about not letting the evil eye catch you gloating over your own good fortunes, are lodged like a splinter in my DNA?

Two days later I was emergency air-lifted to Denver, my joyous pregnancy a medical crisis. Everything Eugene Cash had said was true. It’s still true. Scouting around the corner, bracing oneself for the tragedy in the distance does not equate to protection. There is no protection, no way around heartache but through the sticky, hot center.

And so we go on being grateful, recognizing that this life is ridiculously precious, and equally out of our control. Maybe remembering this helps us love better, picking ourselves up and letting the small grievances fall away. It’s like that old physics equation: gratitude → generosity →happiness → more gratitude. Gratitude pries that crazy heart muscle open, letting in more light than you ever thought possible.

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There is a tradition in the Dharma Center I attend, after meditating and listening to the Buddha’s teachings together, we dedicate all the goodness that arises from our practice to all beings. I would like to dedicate any goodness that arises from contemplating joy and connectedness, community and gratitude to lovely little Chloe Harris. Thank you.

 

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ten

2015 January 14
by Rachel Turiel

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Recently, I bought a package of balloons to conduct a science experiment, and the very presence of these balloons, bouncing around the house, has reduced the kids into loud, noun-limited toddlers (waking up, pointing and shouting “balloon!” and pouncing on the floating orbs).

“Wow, they’re really ramped up over those balloons,” I told Dan one night, wincing as balloon-batting bodies crashed into each other.

And then we laughed, because really, of all the things these kids will someday become ramped up over, I’m highly comforted that buoyant latex blimps still make the list.

You see, Col just turned ten and I’m stockpiling evidence that everything’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s the double digits, or the decadeness, or the fact that more than half of his childhood has poofed away in a cloudsmoke of memories, and it seems inevitable that this second half will include less, well, balloons.

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I woke up recently with a panic knocking around in my heart. It was like one of those ubiquitous anxiety dreams where you’re about to teach a class except, whoops, you’re wearing a Shirley Temple wig and forgot your pants…but it was actually this notion that I wanted to be surrounded by small people forever, but whoops, I forgot to have more children.

And really, I only ever wanted these two exact children. But I had no idea back when I was leaned up against a tree at the park, Rose clamped to my nipple (her default position until age 2) and Col toddling off to stick his starfish hands in some dog’s jowly mouth, how quickly they would accumulate years to their bodies, like accessories, like geological layers. I had no clue that the artifacts of their childhoods—board books, tiny knitted hats, baby teeth, mispronounced words—would chunk off into mental midden piles I’m left to curate.

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Getting personal information out of Col is a tentative business, but his main currency of communication remains the 4-limbed wrap-around morning snuggle. This very morning, he proclaimed sleepily, “I love you and your husband,” and yet I still haven’t found the conversational key to unlock an unfettered sharing. At ten, he’s stepping into new independent territory. I can’t kiss him in front of his friends. Last fall he went on a 2-night trip with his friend Mathew and he still refers to it like some poignant symbol of liberation, the way some people will always regard Rosa Parks’ bus ride.

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Around any family birthday, I find myself feeling that we’ve reached such a lovely intersection of our collective four lives, that I could settle in right here for a long time, feeling a tiny bit beleaguered but mostly incredibly lucky.

And yet (didn’t you want there to be an “and yet?”), there is joy in this inching forward, in the way Col and Rose are becoming more of themselves, like protagonists in a book whose character gets more revealed over time, whom you love with a deeper, more complex understanding as the chapters progress. And to spend too much time lingering over their bygone childhoods would be to miss the sun shining fiercely on our lives right now. This will always be true.

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Setting up the great rocket launch 2015. Previous rocket launch here, just to prove how fast time flies

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5-4-3-2-1

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Running to retrieve the fallen rocket.

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The verdict.

Col and I recently took a field trip to the Animas Air Park, a small private airport where we like to troll around, Col pointing out high wing singles and other notables. He indulged me briefly in some hand-holding and then pointed at the small yellow plane descending. “That’s extra loud, probably a 12-seater,” Col said. We watched the plane bounce out of the sky, rolling out a perfect landing, 12 exact seats revealed.

I think about how I want connection through expression, through feelings, through hold my hand and tell me everything. But, as usual, my children’s personalities are not for me to orchestrate so that every interaction falls under a heading I’ve pre-approved. Rather, I get to stand by as they lift off and soar, as they come in for landings, sometimes shaky and awkward, sometimes crashing. But this connection—me and my ten year old son gazing into the blue Colorado sky, not saying much—is real and true and blessed and now.

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Yoga/Writing Retreat in the New Year

2015 January 9
by Rachel Turiel

 

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I’ve heard that on the national scene, yoga is being paired with many other modalities (meditation, cooking, painting, heavy metal music appreciation…). In spirit of this trend, I am honored to announce that Joy Kilpatrick and I are offering our second Yoga/Writing Retreat here in Durango! 

At the time of our last Yoga/Writing retreat last fall, I hadn’t done any yoga since a Mama/Baby yoga class I took nine years earlier, in which a bunch of weary postpartum Mamas placed our babies at the end of a yoga mat and tried to resist the opportunity (low lights, soothing music, corpse pose) to…fall asleep. I’m happy to say that this retreat is suitable for beginners in every sense. It’s suitable for someone who hasn’t done yoga in nine years, and suitable, as we experienced last retreat, for yoga teachers. The writing is designed to wake you up to your own wild and beautiful life (with instruction on honing technique), without any other requirement than a willing heart.
I’d like to note that I find Joy’s teaching to be both completely uplifting and calming with an ample dose of un-intimidating realness, so much so that as soon as I hear her voice I have a Pavlovian response of total relaxation and this feeling that everything is going to be all right. Which it is.
We will be serving an organic, gluten free snack buffet (sponsored by our partner, Durango Natural Foods) both Saturday and Sunday. Early bird registration ends January 16th. Also: register with a friend/partner and receive $10 off total registration. More details on flyer below.
Here’s what some past participants had to say:
“The writing exercises helped me see the everyday as worthy and rich material”
“The yoga practice gave my body a chance to stir up energy and get my mind out of the way.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so in my body.” (after Yoga Nidra)
“This was amazing and opened up an entire realm within me.”
“Outside description really opened up and supported awareness and paying attention.”
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resolutions for training the silly, over-active, sneaky mind

2015 January 6
by Rachel Turiel

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New Years Day soup lunch with the beloveds. Note: tablecloth! And white-out snow conditions outside!

It’s 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve, two hours after our children are usually nestled into bunk beds. We’re with friends, their living room turned dance floor packed with the bendy bodies of children and their parents. There are toddlers spinning and stomping, pre-schoolers believing the spotlight belongs solely to them, and the 7-10 year old crowd, all leggy grace and giggles.

Brothers, Lee and Danny, spin tunes from the inner machinations of their smartphones, noting to the children like professors of the class, Decades in Music Appreciation: The 80’s, “This song was huge when I was your age.” Out blasts Michael Jackson, Madonna, REM, and regrettably, Vanilla Ice. Although I might not have been shaking my ass (or slow-dancing to the occasional Journey ballad with Rose) if I wasn’t here with the kids, in the blurred factions of children and adults, it’s hard to say who’s having more fun.

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Though the passing into a new calendar year is an arbitrary transition, and as all great spiritual teachers (and most toddlers) remind us, each moment is brand new, I like taking this opportunity to assess where greater degrees of effort or acceptance are warranted in my life. A resolution is an intention, an intention is a powerful act of self-love. And as pointed out last night at the Durango Dharma Center, a resolution is for the purpose of training. Training these silly, over-active, sneaky minds of ours.

I seek to carry out this parenting gig consciously, with continual intention towards connection and peace, which includes a good measure of falling. (Paraphrasing a Zen monk: “There is standing up practice and falling down practice.”) Creating peace and connection in our family never comes from simply wishing and waiting. Rather, it comes from gentle and pointed effort, active forgiveness, and a willingness to regard my children as deserving the same respect and kindness I expect. (In fact I just read somewhere that the best way to ensure a respectful relationship with your teenager is to nurture a two-way connection of respect now).

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If Hugh Hefner drank hot chocolate and lived in  snow country. 

The funny thing is that this is not exactly intuitive. There were times that I would have downloaded an app into my brainstem and given a pint of flesh for a roadmap called “child compliance” to lead me through the thick trees of parenting, no matter the method. But, too many of these “methods” (wait – is yelling and excessive sighing a method?) gave me an existential hang over immediately afterwards. (Which is a good barometer: if you feel remorse after interacting with your child, this is an indicator that there are places that need gentle attention).

ny3All Col ever wanted for Christmas: a big ball of pine resin to burn.

There are myriad parenting books, coaches and classes. There are websites, support groups and inspirational Facebook quotes. There is the sacred act of taking a deep breath before responding to your children, remembering that all their misconduct is a function of them trying to get their normal, human needs met.

Dr Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, explains, “Troublesome behavior signals big feelings or unmet needs. If you don’t address the feelings and needs, they’ll just burst out later, causing other problem behavior.”

And really, this is good news. When all our efforts towards initiating complicated reward charts and tiered systems of punishments are put towards determining our children’s unmet needs, the road to peace becomes shorter. Your child will benefit more from the lasting power of being understood than the short term faux-fix of a time out.

Often the need is as simple as wanting to be heard and acknowledged. How many times do we breeze through our agendas, sweeping our children along without letting them know we understand their point of view. Maybe they’re sick of accompanying us on errands, or they’re involved in a book and don’t want to come to dinner. We might not be able to change the circumstances (dinner is ready; errands must be done), but we can empathize with their position, share how much we too hate to be interrupted when engrossed in a book, and perhaps brainstorm after dinner with our child on how to ease the transition. As we begin to identify our children’s needs, they will often learn they can bypass the “bad” behavior and simply state their needs, trusting they will be heard and efforts will be made towards true solutions.

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It’s after 11:00pm when we finally arrive home, full of New Years cheer. How grateful I am to be in the position of celebrating New Year’s Eve with my children (dancing with my 9-year old!), rather than nervously awaiting their return home from teenage festivities as will someday be the case. Col explains how the night went to Dan who was home teaching a bow-making class, “We jumped on the bed, we ate, and we rocked out.”

May your family peace and connection increase in this new year.

* Incidentally, the kids and I just had another late night dancing to Carute Roma, Durango’s own gypsy band. The kids think staying out late dancing is our new thing, and why not? Anyone need a few, enthusiastic groupies?

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I find I need support for doing anything that flows counter to the mainstream (I rely on my friend Melanie for quarterly homeschooling pep-talks; my artist-friend Jo gives me the much-appreciated straight talk on living the poorly-compensated, highly-fulfilling artist’s life; Julia, Sue and Jennifer and I console each other regularly over trying to raise kids on a nineteenth century farm diet; I have a whole community of people I meditate with (falling down practice) every Monday night; and I tend to hang out with people who never tell me to look on the bright side when I’m feeling down).

Perhaps you too need support in creating more peace and connection in your home. Some resources: (all of which I’ve directly benefitted from).

Websites and coaches

Dr Laura Markham’s website Aha! Parenting

Nathan Mc Tague for life/parent-coaching

Kathleen Hennessy – Peaceworks coaching for parents

Books

Peaceful Parent, Happy Child by Dr. Laura Markham

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk – Faber and Mazlish 

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson

With love,

Rachel

 

 

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post-holiday magic

2014 December 30
by Rachel Turiel

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Incidentally, she’s singing, not screaming (but that could change quick).

Col (Flipping through an airplane book on the couch): I really want to fly on a 747.

Rose (Also on the couch, holding a Christmas song book): Ok class, now we’re going to sing…Little Town of Betterham!

Col: Little Town of BETHLEHEM.

Me: Isn’t that what we usually fly on?

Col: That’s a seven thirty seven, Mom.

Rose (indignantly): Col, this one says BETTERHAM. Ready, class? (starts singing off tune, happily and obliviously mangling the words).

Dan (whipping up egg nog in the kitchen at 7:42 am and then serving frothy glasses to all of us, the lucky amongst us including rum): I’m egg moNOGamous!

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Dan, softening a deer hide in our unheated sunroom. Soon to show up in Dan’s ETSY shop amongst other treasures of the wild. Outside: 36F and breezy. That southwestern sun works! 

If you saw a time lapse video of our lives right now, it would look like we were living our entire lives on the couch in various permutations of people, animals and flotsam. This is where we read Harry Potter, the kids rioting like fans at a rock concert at the end of each chapter. More! Just! One! More! Chapter! This is where Col does his airplane drawings, pouring the entirety of his essence into each drawing and then starting anew each morning. Rose colors in her Frozen coloring book, which Dan surprised her with for Hanukkah (after opening it she held it to her chest and said, “I feel so spoiled,” which just goes to show that depriving your children of all material happiness can work in your favor). This is also where the rat runs free, chewing small holes in the couch and sneakily peeing on people while they’re distractedly engrossed in stories of Hogwarts. (I am totally sending my kids “Howlers” when they’re in college. ROSE!! PUT DOWN THE CORN-SYRUPED GLUTEN BOMB!! COL!!! LOOK INTO HER EYES WHEN YOU TALK TO HER!!!)

For Christmas we got SNOW and a roadkill doe. Like Rose, I feel so spoiled.

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The kids get off the couch solely to run and jump back on the couch, executing various “jump kicks” that Rose swears originated in her gymnastics class. “Do you want to see me do swizzles, levers, scissors or plain kicks?” Rose asks 100 times a day, including right as I’ve committed to the five minutes of focused whisking required to make mayonnaise. Dan has created categories in which he and Col judge Rose. She now, in hopes of scoring big on “crowd interaction,” flashes a smile and a wink before launching onto the couch.

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We also slink off the couch to play Ticket to Ride, which is super fun and doesn’t require any capitalistic aggression to win like Monopoly or Risk, which we also like, as long as we’re the ones winning. You actually can’t know who is winning Ticket to Ride until the very end, which keeps morale strong throughout the game.

Is it OK to say that I’m glad Christmas is over? That I felt such relief when my favorite radio station returned to cheesy Styx ballads after a month of Christmas songs that made me feel pestered into a neurotic serial cheeriness. It turns out the post-holiday season is where the magic lies. The egg nog is still flowing but strangers are no longer baring their full complement of teeth asking my children if they’ve been good for Santa. It has been snowing and extremely cold here, which makes me feel cocooned in something special, even if it’s just the same fleece pants I’ve been wearing for four days straight and the fantasy that we’ll get snowed in and have to eat our way through the root cellar, pantry and freezer, kids showing up merrily for another meal of elk sausage and root vegetables…oh wait, that’s how it is now, minus the merry.

Our post-holiday days are unrolling slowly and by the minute. There’s another 3-6 inches of snow forecasted for New Years Day, a bit more egg nog and fleece pants on the schedule, and surely many more hours on the couch. Thank you, winter.

New Years Blessings to you ALL,

Rachel

OUTTAKES

* In my efforts to have more frivolous fun, I did not wait for the movie Wild to come out on Netflix, but WENT TO THE THEATRE (AFTER DARK!) to see it with my friend, Sue. The fact that the last movie I saw in the theatre was Brokeback Mountain may or may not qualify me to judge, well…anything, but I loved the movie, Wild, extremely very much.

* Sledding: when the hair flies or you capsize, it’s extra good.

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* After finding a small passel of knuckle bones at the bottom of our soup pot (thanks, bone broth), we’ve been engrossed in creating a game to play with them. Suggestions welcome.

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This is some circular toss game Rose is developing.

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Dan’s current challenge: stack all nine bones…he’s up to seven.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Beings.

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My phone, by the way, is so retro, it’s actually cool. At least in your grandma’s circles.

P.S. Thank you for all your book suggestions; my library hold list is full with anticipatory excitement!

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pojupifir

2014 December 17
by Rachel Turiel

I’ve been waking up at 5am, which seems crazy except I’ve been falling asleep at 9pm, which puts me at a square 8 hours. Early morning is proving to be the best reading time, at least until 6am when Col crawls into our bed, floppy-limbed, his mind rumbling in a low, nostalgic gear suitable only for professions of love. You’re the best Mama, he whispers. And Daddy’s the best Daddy he mumbles towards Dan’s slumbering body. I love everything about you, he says like an investment against his future teenage self. 

dec5Pojupifir plus kids plus our new foster kitten, Axie (named, in a tradition, after my latest literary heroine, see below)

We’ve been entering the holidays, which I’m happy to say has been our typical spirited mash-up, all of which could provide material for the Sinatra holiday video remix of I’ll do it My Way. Which is to say, tradition is simply what we, as co-captains of the family, present to the crew. We cut a few choice conifer limbs for what Rose calls a “Hanukkah bush,” and Col calls “Pojupifir” (adapted from its combined parts: ponderosa, juniper, pinon, fir).

Last night we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with gluten free butternut squash-potato latkes (topped with green chile sauce and chokecherry-applesauce), cheap red wine and some high stakes dreidel with Col and Rose’s Jewish cronies. (Note to self: for every ounce of red wine, ten ounces water, old girl). On Christmas Eve we’re cooking venison lasagna at the homeless shelter, because my new understanding of Christmas is that it’s about giving. I’ve realized that all the Christmasy things we don’t do no longer put me in a neurotic tailspin of over-analyzation. The kids are getting more comfortable with being different, with being us, which is something I hope they can draw from as teenagers, that we never did anything just because everyone else was doing it. 
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Bring your own menorah!

Because the kids have everything they could ever possibly need and want, we’re giving them this for Hanukkah:

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Choose Your Own Adventure Sleepover. I figure it’s like being on a cruise ship and having the luxury of choosing your meals and activities. No?

Also, we’ve been practicing for winter by spending a lot of time on the couch reading. The kids and I are cruising through Harry Potter, which they’ve already read with their grandparents, but are enjoying immensely knowing what comes next but arguing over it anyway. To get past Fluffy you say, Good Dog, Col. No, that’s absolutely wrong, Rosie. Of course, I love reading Harry Potter to them, partially because I spend hours bookended by their warm bodies while the dishes go undone (Not true; Dan is a dish angel), and partially because I love Hermione.

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I just finished this masterfully-written novel. It had all the elements of good fiction and is about the plucky daughter of poor Irish immigrants who, by unexpected turns, becomes a NYC midwife practicing in the late 1800’s. Not only is the writing lively, rich and absolutely gorgeous (I read about ten of her metaphors to my children’s writing class), but it’s an enlightening glimpse into women’s reproductive rights in the 19th century, which were a sad, secretive thing that women hardly owned. This is one of those books that cocoons you in another time and place, leaving you changed just a little bit for the better. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

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I also loved this book. The message is basically that American kids are unprecedentedly picky eaters and guess who made them that way? The author, who once had two terribly picky eaters before moving to France for a year, believes that all of our wealth and privileged choices plus 21st century parental guilt and lack of a strong culinary tradition has created entitled children who snack constantly yet have little respect for food. Ouch. Not at all a sanctimonious book, the author learns lessons the hard way. (Lessons being: Adults and kids eat the same thing. Reduce snacking, feeling hungry between meals is OK. Relax and enjoy eating, no bribes or rewards). We have revamped our eating habits since reading this, and though my kids often say, “but we’re nottttttt French!…” everyone’s coming to the table hungrier and eating more variety (aka vegetables!).

And if you need more reading material, this book is an absolute freaking gift to humanity (Nevermind her bestseller that is now a movie, this is truly her most stunning book). And this book, recommended by you dear people years ago, remains ever one of my most favorites.

* Thank you to everyone who supported a young artist. Col is beaming with the enthusiasm of the encouraged. I am happy to report that unbeknownst to me he used some of his new funds to buy his sister a fairy ornament. If you haven’t received your cards yet, we are waiting for the second printing (!!) and will ship out before Christmas. Also, excitingly, this exposure netted him commissioned work as an illustrator on a children’s book…written by a friend…for her extended family…but, still!

* Now that I’ve finished My Notorious Life (at 5:56am this morning, just in time for Col’s arrival) I’m having major book withdrawal. Send suggestions quick! 5am is not the same without a good book!

With love and gratitude,

Rachel

dec

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artist at work

2014 December 10
by Rachel Turiel

Despite interloping rats, parents with homeschooling agendas, and sisters who feel emboldened to doodle on artwork that doesn’t belong to them, Col has spent much of the past five months working on a series of airplane drawings. Working? Well, he might say he’s simply been sketching. Sketching on the couch, under the table, in his bed, sketching so constantly, eagerly and almost involuntarily, it’s like his hand has its own plan and Col is just along for the ride.

(I’m sorry the photo formatting on this post is wacky. I’m going to choose to believe that having the courage to blog with minimal understanding of my own computer is part of what you love about me).

Col selected his ten favorite airplane drawings and had greeting cards printed to sell. I’d like to report that some portion of the sales are slated for his favorite charity, but alas, all profits will go towards building his personal fortune and the dream of becoming a hundredaire (lesser examined step on the way to millionaire).

If you would like to support a budding artist and purchase a set, he is selling 5-packs with envelopes for $3.50, and 10-packs with envelopes for $6.50. If you are local we can hand-deliver. If you are out of the area, we will ship. Please add an extra dollar for shipping.

To order, see fancy paypal button below (be sure to include your address), or e-mail me {sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net} and we can work something less high-tech out.

xo,

Rachel

 

Airplane Greeting Cards



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California: bold as love

2014 December 2
by Rachel Turiel

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They call this winter in California. Also, blacktail deer deep in the Eucalyptus off to the left.

1) Foraging. We’re cruising down some tree-stacked street in Berkeley when Dan calls out, “STOP!” It’s persimmons this time. A stout tree loaded with shiny orange fruit wearing papery green collars. Dan gathers five off the ground and pops them in a bag. The last stop was for the fondling of lemons yellowing on a tree, before that: a handful of bay leaves (currently simmering back home in a batch of bone broth), rosemary sprigs cut from a veritable shrub that is more landscaping than food, and a small collection of what Dan claimed were raw olives. They call this winter in Northern California (in a drought, no less), but to us it’s a wonderland of sensory delights.

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Persimmons smuggled home.

2) The Ocean. Pelicans and dolphins and sand foot massages. Pure magic.

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3) Grandparents. Every morning at 6:30 am Col and Rose eject themselves from our bed and bounce down the hall to my parents’ bedroom for snuggles. Giggles follow in four tempos. I watch how my parents approach the kids, how they’re exempt from the agonies of parental worry (those freaking times tables!) and can devote themselves entirely to amusement and appreciation.

4) Turbo-charged. This city is fast and busy and people drink opaque coffee by day and plug in their electric cars at night. There is curbside compost pick up and more accents and skin tones at one neighborhood park than exist in our entire county. People seem to love being able to get the very best of everything at all hours. It seems less about DIY and more about extreme availability. (You can buy bone broth!) People line up out the door for the iconic Cheeseboard Pizza and Philz coffee. For dinner you can choose between authentic Cambodian, Laotian or Vietnamese food (and of course Japanese, Thai…does anyone even eat Chinese food anymore?)

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Nettles.

5) Kids meeting their needs. Col spends most of his home-time at the living room window, binoculars pressed to glass, watching ships on the San Francisco Bay. At the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, Rose spends her own money on a turbo-charged artisan peppermint patty and a $5 container of pomegranate seeds. I tell her we could buy two pomegranates and seed them ourselves for the same price. “It’s my money and this is what I want to buy,” she announces, pleased to be able to afford choosing luxury over frugality.

6) Reckoning. We visit with my high school friends and use the dim power of our collective memories to recall life on the cusp of the 90’s. I had almost forgot how things were, how risk-taking and adventurous we were. How we said yes 99% of the time, even at 2am. How my friend (I’ll call her Siana) could proficiently steer her hulking American car with her knees while she rolled a joint, how we once drove to Mexico as an afterthought (did we even have a map?), how we ingested a kaleidoscope of substances, had dramatic fallings out with boyfriends surpassed in drama only by the making up. We had a grassroots social network more connected than any of today’s social media. We felt at home in nature without knowing a single species name, and equally comfortable taking the bus at midnight. We unselfconsciously sang and danced everywhere. We were bold and fearless (even when we shouldn’t have been). We believed in peace and taking care of each other and “processing” our lives as an activity, and seeing the goodness in people (though were suspicious of Republicans, even though we hadn’t yet met any). We attended political protests, bought weed from high school security guards and believed things would remain the same.

cali2Berkeley farmers market. My mom says: In December things slow down, we only have: broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, beets, herbs, kale, bok choi, radishes, carrots, cabbage, winter squash…

7) Coming home. We drive north from the Albuquerque airport, listening to scratchy mixed tapes two decades old. The sagebrush carpet rolls out forever. Wind catalyzes bony tumbleweeds. The kids whip backseat boredom into chaos. I’m thinking about high school, about who I was and where she is now, how to bring a little of her back to Colorado. These days I start power-yawning by 6pm and Dan, riding next to me, is the steadiest human I’ve ever known. I tell the kids, “This is one of the best songs in the world. Listen and tell me what it’s about.” It’s Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love. I have no clue what it’s about, I just want them to be quiet for 3 complete minutes. Col listens carefully. Rose says, “it’s tooooo hard.” “It’s about love,” I tell them. “And about being bold. And I don’t know, loving your boldness.” That seems to sum up and answer everything for me in the moment. “I don’t understand. When can we have a snack?” Rose asks. And we drive home.

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winter, toothlessness and more

2014 November 21
by Rachel Turiel

rose - teeth

Rose is having a bit of tooth situation.

Winter is here, starring in 11F mornings and trees decorated with chickadees instead of leaves. Night shows up sooner than anyone expected, dragging its icy shadows across the yard. The chickens are bewildered every morning to find their water frozen and frost offensively glazed across the grass. Inside, we gawk at the snow on the mountains, at the sun bursting through the southern windows, at another morning launched with the gift of coffee and each other.

Some things I want you to know:

1) Have you seen the new, beautiful website Annapurna Living? (For those of you who grew up in Berkeley, Annapurna is not simply a shop that will sell 14-year olds pipes, but a “symbol of the divinity of nourishing care.”) I wrote a piece for them about how we eat, which is mostly true. Family Meals with Intention.

2) This will be of interest to approximately four of you (Listen up Terry, Mindi, Chris and…OK three of you). Dan and I decided to do an experiment with the deer/elk fat we’ve always trimmed away because of claims that it carries a gamey flavor. We ground some deer fat up with the meat, fried it into a little burger and couldn’t discern it from the beef or pork fat we usually use. This qualifies as highly exciting. (Thanks Jennifer S. for the nudge).

3) I am teaching a class on Mindful Parenting through the Holidays, which is a big throne to sit upon. But, here’s the thing about teaching, you get to study what you teach. I have a lot of ideas about how to reform and revolutionize the holidays, to remake the craziness into something that feels good. The class is part of Inhabit’s free lunch and learn series. Friday, December 5th. 12-1.

4) Save the date! Next yoga/writing retreat will be 1/23/15 – 1/25/15.

5) I’m currently teaching creative writing to middle schoolers (3 of my students are taller than me, and if they keep writing will all be better writers than me quite soon). Firstly, I want to share that middle schoolers are not scary…giggly perhaps, but also kind and supportive and insightful. Secondly, if you’re interested in your child (ages 9-14) taking a writing class with me in the new year, e-mail me. I’m putting together spring classes and would love to accommodate your child.

6) The remedy for winter in a mug.

7) Dan’s going to be teaching a very informal class on hide-tanning sometime in December. Almost more of a Bring Your Questions type workshop. Details likely to come, but if you’re interested e-mail me. (Lacey Jean, wish we could Skype you into the class).

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The kids busted liking each other.

Have a super great Thanksgiving week if I don’t see you before then,

Rachel

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