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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,


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!

safe escort

2018 January 11
by Rachel Turiel

Rosie and I are leaving the Christmas Farmers Market, our bags plump with beets, potatoes, and carrots. A raven croaks from a nearby rooftop, eager to be the beneficiary of holiday crumbs.

“I’m sooo hungry,” Rose tells me.

Really? I think. Weren’t you the one who ate two man-sized breakfasts before 9am? And then a notion spontaneously beams into my mind as if deposited by the raven. “Hey sweetie? I’m wondering if you’re actually craving something else and it feels like hunger? What do you think?”

Rose leans into me and says quietly, “attention.”

I contemplate the hour we spent browsing farmers’ and artisans’ stands, how we held hands while sampling raw sesame candy; conducted sniff-tests on homemade soaps; and watched the ukulele concert from one shared chair. And, how I loved it all! Oh…and I also remember her small hand tugging insistently at mine when I ran into friends, engaging in adult conversations that stole my attention away from her.

There are two storylines here. One is my own, which includes my desire to be present to the sensory experience of the market, to the spontaneous meet-ups that are a cherished part of this close-knit town, and to the blessing of being with my daughter, this ten year old who won’t always choose to spend a Saturday morning with her mother. The other storyline is Rose’s, which includes her desire to feel connected to me, to know that she matters enough to hold my attention. How do we get all these needs met?

I believe in empathy as a first response to painful feelings. Empathy lets us know we’re heard and understood. It’s like getting a safe escort out of the amygdala, the brain structure where we experience fight, flight, or freeze, and into the prefrontal cortex, where logic and decision-making prevails.

In the (wonderful) comic book Urban Empathy: True Life Adventures of Compassion on the Streets of New York, author Dian Killian describes empathy as “understanding what others and ourselves are experiencing and, by doing so, easing pain and suffering.”

This won’t happen by explaining to Rose that I only chatted with four people. Or, by offering a vacant apology and promising to do better next time. Nor by delivering a well-intentioned lecture on how expectations can cause suffering. Giving empathy is not dependent on me agreeing with her or granting her wishes: it’s a voice reaching through the cramped darkness of overwhelming emotion to say, “I see you. You matter.”

It helps that Rose can articulate her need for connection. Despite twelve years of school, we’re not taught this most basic skill of identifying our needs and having the confidence to share them with others. Instead, we often unconsciously try to get needs met in ineffective ways. (i.e. the younger brother who wants to be included and so scribbles on his older sister’s artwork to get noticed. Or the adult who wants belonging and tries to mold herself to fit into a social scene that doesn’t feel authentic).

“Rosie, sounds like you were wanting more of my focus and attention. Maybe you were bored when I chatted with friends? And I bet it was hard not knowing how long the conversations would last.”

“Yeah,” she replies, sliding her body gently into mine, her body language articulating trust.

“I can see how that feels disappointing, how you were excited to have my companionship.”

“I just wanted youuuuuuuu,” she croons, holding the note, opera-style, signaling that the serious talk must end now. I sing back to her, a song about going home and playing our favorite card game. She laughs and then looks around to determine that no one important is witnessing the embarrassment that is your mother, singing. Just the raven.

It turns out that there’s no solution needed today. Sometimes just being heard and understood can take you out of a painful emotion and into a rollicking card game.

ordinary magic

2017 December 22
by Rachel Turiel

It’s Sunday morning. Rose and her buddy are crafting a doll-sized birthday party scene, snipping up dish sponges and painting them to look like layered cake. Col has been asking me since 6:00am to set up a playdate for him. (I secretly love that I can still call what 12-year olds do playdates). By 7:15am Dan and I are drinking coffee, butchering a roadkill deer, and listening to Pandora. I can see how Col would think 7:15 was the middle of the morning for everyone. Earlier in the week Dan carried inside the gumdrop heart of this roadkill deer. “That’s beautiful, Daddy!” Rose said.

One of Rose’s teachers called her “freakishly adorable.” I really have to agree.

By sunrise our skeleton trees are filled with evening grosbeaks, the children of the children of the grosbeaks who began stopping by nineteen years ago. We point and laugh and delight in them every morning, like toddlers captivated by the newness of life each day. We’ve noticed one singular starling has joined their wholesome ranks, as if it’s trying to reform itself, like the white supremacist slowly taking up the banner of inclusivity. We should all welcome these defectors.

We had the sweetest Hanukkah this year. The spiritual leader at the temple we belong to (who—this month—has pink hair, wears combat boots and possesses the sweetest voice) explained that Hanukkah is a time to appreciate what’s inside of us, to be home with family welcoming the light, even if your child doesn’t get home from gymnastics practice until 8pm and every night’s a lesson in fire safety (Ok, I added that last part. Col, put down the lighter!). But, I love her message to find the sweetness in your holiday tradition, and then tinker with it to fit your life so that you can love it all the more.

Super fun new game: Haikubes. Thanks, Joy!

This year we asked the kids straight up what they wanted for Christmas. Col wanted a mountain bike on which he could navigate the loopy, rocky, steep trails behind our house (which invoke equal parts awe and hand-wringing in me). Rose wanted fancy snacks and body care products. Col got a Christmas mountain bike in November (thanks to contributions from my parents and Col’s own piggy bank) so he could ride, pre-snow. That’s all I want, he insisted when we nervously informed him that this present would be the same present on Christmas day. That’s all I want, he reiterated.

And, last night Rose opened a gift basket (because we won’t be home on Christmas) of many little items (peppermint foot massage oil, individual servings of almond milks, tropical fruit leather, homemade lavender room spray…). She was “totally blown away” and “over the moon,” as she said in the card she wrote us two minutes after unwrapping her present.

But first, a reminder to herself: Reminder! Make Dad and Mom a card SOON!!!

I recognize there’s not a lot of wonder and magic in our method. It’s a bit like bring on the scientists and have them figure out Christmas. However, there’s a certain reassurance and safety in removing what feels like outsized pressure and anticipation. And, I feel wealthy in the magic and wonder of the every day, in the grosbeaks and the muted winter colors, in the orangey-pink sunrises and the deer sausage in the freezer, in friendships, foster dogs and the blessing of childhood.

Last night at dinner, I had two hankies on my lap due to a mild cold manifesting in the faucet of my nose turned on full blast. Rose was reminding us of next day’s school performance in which she and her friend are singing Men at Work’s Down Under to over 200 people. Col was snarkily suggesting she could start being nervous now. The sun was long down and a new snow glittered under the streetlights. Dan was diffusing everything with humor, and I was full of my own nostalgic love and gratitude for this ordinary magic, all of it.

Love to you all and gratitude for your presence here in this space where I hold you captive while I share odd bits about our lives,



**Do you remember our foster dog Sunny, who gave birth in our living room? Here she is with her one surviving baby. Dan says the caption of this photo is, “Hey Mama, if anyone’s messing with you, just let me know.”

**Remember my last post in which Col snarked about Rose’s dolls? I got a little more information from Col later about his anger around the dolls, and he made some beautiful requests to me to help meet some needs. Added in previous post near the bottom.

**Maybe I shouldn’t think this is hilarious, but I can’t help it (Col’s take on a traditional Christmas song):

**They can pretend not to like each other, but I have proof that says otherwise:

signs of winter and nonviolent communication classes

2017 December 10
by Rachel Turiel

Signs of winter:

Uke concerts by the up and coming band Ocean Blue. They have a fine repertoire of cover hits.

Deer hides coming out of storage for tanning (are you glad I didn’t include the photo of Dan spooning—not a euphemism—brains out of deer skulls?).

Foster dog’s favorite game: steal the stinkiest shoe from the untamed herd of footwear.

The nightly boardgame, in which family togetherness is easy and fun and we still get to bed at 8pm.

Rose’s dolls are back out after being tucked away all summer and fall. At night she pajamas them and reclines them into their shared doll bed. By morning she yanks their stiff limbs into day clothes, trots them out to the couch and bends them into an arthritic sit, where they watch us get ready for school with such lack of solid routine, it’s like we’re amnesiacs starting new each day.

“It’s fun to see the dolls back out again,” I tell Rose, meaning: stay innocent, please.

“No it’s not,” Col interjects. “I hate them.”

Because we’re huge fans of nonviolent communication around here, we believe Marshall Rosenberg when he says that “all judgments are a tragic expression of unmet needs.” Meaning, when we blame others we’re usually feeling pretty crummy (such as: disappointed/frustrated/angry/sad) because some basic, human need of ours isn’t being met (perhaps: autonomy/to be seen/compassion/contribution).

We try not to get ruffled by these verbal firestarters but instead look for what unmet needs might underlie these statements.

Additionally, we do not punish our kids, not because we’re permissive, but because when you understand that all behavior is an attempt to meet healthy universal needs, punishing a child because you didn’t like their behavior is like slapping a band aid on a broken arm. The arm will remain broken. What drives the behavior goes unexamined. Also, punishment is often used to assuage our own anger. So, if we can care for our anger, investigate it, see what thoughts are causing it (when one kid says something hurtful to the other I often think, “Really? We haven’t grown out of this? Come on. There’s enough pain in the world.”) Underneath this hot kick of anger is sadness (I want them to enjoy each other), fear (will they ever be allies?), and frustration (bickering is unpleasant!), none of which will be taken care of by punishment.

“Hmm. When you say you hate Rosie’s dolls, what feelings and needs are you having, Col?” I ask, sipping coffee, which, thanks to Dan, is our one reliable morning event.

Col regards the two dolls propped on the couch, their faces locked in inert perma-grins. “I feel hurt…because I have a need for…realism.”

Fair enough. I tackle Col and aim for the ticklish spots. (Because I have a need for lightness and laughter).

*********EDITED TO ADD:

Col and I took a walk recently to discuss the above incident. After he shared his new theories on Star Wars for about 20 minutes, I asked if we could discuss Rose and the dolls. He agreed. I asked what bothered him about Rose’s dolls. After a few comments about how they’re pointless toys, he said, “and you always say how cute they are!” I asked him if he would like more attention for what he’s into. Yes, he said. How can I best do that in a way that would be meaningful to you? I asked. And he gave me two, concrete, doable requests:

  1. Come into my room while I’m doing legos/reading/drawing and check on me to see what I’m up to and ask if I want to share it with you.
  2. Come into my room while I’m doing legos/reading/drawing and ask me to do something fun with you, like play a game.

I’m so happy that he named these two requests because I so want him to feel seen and to feel a sense of belonging in our house and these requests feel so doable and enjoyable for me!


I am excited to be offering two 5-week nonviolent communication courses here in Durango in the new year. This practice, developed by Marshall Rosenberg and taught on six continents, is a path to navigating difficult interactions with skills that keep you empowered and connected to your own needs while listening deeply to others, for the sake of creating mutually satisfying solutions. This practice has brought greater connection, peace and clarity to my life time and again.
More info here. Testimonials from former class participants here.
I am offering two 5-week courses in the new year:
*Thursdays 3pm – 4:30pm January 18th – February 15th. Smiley Studio 10 FULL with waitlist.
*Wednesdays 5:30pm – 7pm. January 31st – March 5th (break for Valentines Day). FULL with waitlist
Cost: $100
If these class times don’t work for you, but you’re interested in a future nonviolent communication class or a private session, let me know and I’ll add you to the list of people I’ll contact first with info on upcoming class.
Please contact me if you have questions or are interested in registering.

Not posed:

november again

2017 November 29
by Rachel Turiel

It’s 7:08am, the sun not quite topped out on Raider Ridge, though the sky blueing up outside. The kids have cordoned off a section of our livingroom for indoor soccer, chair legs serving as goal posts on opposite sides of the room. They’re running, panting, and calling fouls on each other while I drink coffee and read the newspaper as if our house wasn’t overtaken by the soundtrack of galumphing elephants at dawn. Like an auditory version of a mood ring, Rose sings a little tune while defending her goal, “Happy through the roof…I’m happy through the roof.”

It’s like two soccer world powers ensconced in fierce historical rivalry coming together for a little friendly scrimmage. In fact, any bickering on the field tile floor is so predictable and prescribed, it’s like two baby coyotes scrapping over an elk carcass. No reason for concern.

“Lets do a soccer championship every morning,” Col says.

“Yeah,” Rose agrees.

In the kitchen, it’s the time of the fruit fly, their frenzied breeding and creepy red eyes something we probably would have tried to get the kids to investigate were we still homeschooling. Their population fluctuations are a direct result of the cleanliness of our kitchen, which is feedback no one really wants. Dan diagnoses it as us needing to “keep more of a 1st world kitchen.”

Can’t imagine what he’s talking about.

Just an innocent vat of fermenting vegetables.

Rose Raven at 10: (and at 6 1/2, for perspective)

Rose has TWO baby teeth that are being moved in on by big, thuggish adult teeth and if they don’t come out on her own in the next few days, they have to be pulled. Which is giving new meaning to playdates.

Itty bitty cold frame greens:

And the mighty and coddled greenhouse greens:

Thank goodness for national holidays (minus all the actual dubious political implications and sleazy commercial pressure). We ate six types of local wild meat on Thanksgiving (elk, deer, bear, trout, lake salmon, and grouse) and had the best week shuffling work commitments to the bottom of the pile in favor of looking for ducks on the Animas river with the kids. “Why are we even looking for ducks? I’ve already seen plenty of ducks,” Col said tweenishly while grabbing my hand on the river trail, secretly happy to be required to spend time with family.

Every night at 4:30 I’d festively open a beer, inevitably leaving an inch of beer at the bottom, which could partially explain the Thanksgiving fruit fly proliferation.

Dan’s been, as per November usual, cruising around at “buck hour” (dawn and dusk) looking for rutting deer and coming home with photos, video footage and stories of sparring animals and swollen-necked bucks in pursuit of females. Which is to say, if you were thinking this blog was like a book where characters evolve and plots move rapidly forward, sorry to break the news.

Rose got concerned that there wasn’t enough daylight between me and my dance partner and bumped me off the dance floor:

We made beet/onion pickles with the last of our garden beets: Col said, “we should just start pickling everything: apples, deer meat…”

I wrote an opinion piece for our local paper that was not about food or kids, but about my dream that we solve conflicts by truly listening to each other and coming up with fresh, creative solutions that take everyone’s needs into account. (A method we are currently employing to work with everyone’s needs around Christmas. Some of us value simplicity, frugality, wonder, connection, and celebration of nature and family; others value fun and excitement in the form of lots of shiny, new things. Will report back on this.)

Our new discovery for all the random and assorted leftovers in the fridge: Mix them together in a hot and oiled cast iron, pour cornbread batter over the top and bake at 350F and it always seems to come out festive and delicious.

That’s about it, loves.

Happy everything.


these days

2017 November 3
by Rachel Turiel

Things are changing fast here.

One day our cottonwood was a mesmerizing halo of yellow. The next, undressed by wind, it dropped acres of fragrantly shriveled leaves to the ground. (Which the kids then track onto the floor, into our bed. Dan advises, “Just don’t look down.”)

Recently, I noticed a brand new smattering of freckles sun-brushed across Col’s nose. Rose is growing like some magician implanted extendo-legs in her femurs. My foster dog pusher (it feels like that; sometimes I text her in the throes of dog-withdrawal: “got anything for me?”) brought over a pitbull, and I recoiled at the sight of her, and then within two days was ready to go on the road as spokesperson for the breed.

And, other things are reassuringly the same. The cold frames are planted. There’s a buck deer head in our shed around which Rose navigates her bike huffily every morning. Dan remains my dream-mate, bringing home meat and doing laundry. Recently, Col was looking for an eraser, reached under the couch and retrieved one. A new foster puppy is currently snoozing in the sun.

Jazzlyn the Pitty showing her true nature.

I got to help pack out Dan’s buck deer, my favorite kind of work.

We butchered most of an elk and all of a deer while the kids were at school. They’d come home to find us whittling on animal legs and wistfully remember when they were around to help butcher. Which is to say, their lives seem to be getting more conventional while Dan and I are working from home, projecting personalities onto the crows in our backyard. Also, when Col found out Dan cut his finger and required stitches in the ER, he said “why didn’t you come get me at school?”

Russian Spy spotted in Trump Tower.

See? Conventional. Minus the fish tie.

Player #47

We spent last weekend in Grand Junction at Rose’s soccer tournament, which felt like arriving at a new manifestation of grown up, what with staying in a hotel, reading maps, and trying to follow a sport that doesn’t involve books. Watching Rose’s fierce and lovely team play, I vacillated between edge-of-my-seat tense excitement and wondering if I’m inappropriately invested. (Really, what’s it like for you all to watch your kids play competitive sports?) Her team made it to the championships and after tying their final game I said to Dan “Why is the other team celebrating while our team is so glum?” Turns out Rose’s team lost because that goal I was still celebrating was actually offsides, which is an advanced and baffling soccer faux pas, (which the ref apparently called immediately in voodoo hand signs) and I missed entirely. Which is to say, I haven’t quite hit maximum grown up-ness.

As for sports that I understand, I just finished some excellent books. Judith Newman’s memoir To Siri With Love about her twin teenage boys, one of whom is on the spectrum, was the rawest, most truthful, hopeful and funny love letter to her sons. The gist of which is that we’re all raising our own particular brand of odd, imperfect and precious human (though Newman acutely more so) and to see and love them for who they are is the most holy of ordinary acts.

And, this novel was stunning. Such flawed, lovable and relatable characters. The writing is beautiful and the author creates Seinfeld-esque funny scenes.

The kids and I are savoring Catherine Newman’s first young adult novel, One Mixed Up Night. We’ve all laughed aloud (repeatedly), and I’ve teared up, and the book is just so fun to read. Lively and funny and fast-paced and suspenseful and Frankie’s voice just rings so true for this age group (9-14) , even if I’m like “hey – why aren’t my kids this nice and ethical?”

Oh, and this gorgeous memoir about a woman’s illness and the wild snail—no joke—that keeps her company and provides inspiration through her convalescence. I know, it doesn’t sound like a page-turner, but it’s a deeply captivating and reassuring reminder of human resilience and curiosity.

Just saying.

What are you all reading?

With love,


peeling the onion of anger

2017 October 9
by Rachel Turiel

It’s a puzzle of a Tuesday evening. Rose has soccer practice at a time that was once reserved for family dinner and needs to be shuttled to and from the soccer field; Col has a friend staying late; our foster dog needs a walk; everyone needs to be fed; Dan is 11,300 feet up in the high country chasing elk with his bow.

Col and this friend are deep in the fog of the next plan brewing and Col answers my questions with distracted monosyllables. This buddy seems to bring out in Col a thirst for adventure, for independence, for the kind of fun that is made of risk and hilarity and a few things you might not want your mother to know. When I told them recently that I felt hesitant about them riding bikes downtown because of their history of pushing the envelope together, this friend said with endearing transparency, “Oh, that’s not just with Col. I push the envelope whether I’m with him or not.” Though I sometimes wish Col was enamored with say, the cautious, rule-abiding art of library science, I am very fond of this friend.

I tell the boys that dinner will be ready in five minutes. They filter out the frequency of my voice in favor of nerf gun discussions. Finally Col’s friend nudges him, looks up at me and repeats, “dinner,” as if we have discovered a common noun in our different languages.

I assemble a meal that hits all the food groups currently existing in our fridge and call for the boys. Col and his buddy are missing, not on the property, not within shouting distance. There is no time to track them down. Rose eats, grabs her soccer bag and we drive away not knowing where the boys are. I feel annoyed, thinking: they should have told me where they were going. They knew dinner was impending. Driving home, my mind simmers with satisfying fantasies of what I will say and do when I find them. The blame center of my brain is like a city at night: lit up and active.

In the car, I resist the magnetic lure of distraction (radio, cell phone, punishment strategies) in favor of what I advocate for my children: to acknowledge and investigate all feelings. Breathing a little space into my clenched chest, I notice that behind the anger is a desert of sadness, dunes of fear rolling and cresting.

There’s this existential sorrow over my children growing up and calving off the glacier of our family, landing in the wide ocean of their own lives, paddling ever farther from home. Meanwhile I’ll be in the kitchen, a caricature of my own loneliness, prepping another meal in hopes they come home hungry. This is only part invention. When I volunteered to accompany Col to the flea market recently he said, “but I want to go with someone Mama. Like, a friend.”

The kids are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Growing and stretching and leaving, a thousand small practice goodbyes. And it’s all been so lovely, couldn’t they stay just a bit longer?

The children needing me less is both wonderful and heartbreaking. They are free to prepare their own breakfast and also free to make bad decisions, decisions which are bolstered by the advisory boards of their own peers, who have equally, alarmingly undeveloped prefrontal cortexes. Sometimes popular culture and peer influence looks like rotten bread crumbs which they hungrily follow. This is where fear shakes me by the shoulders. Sometimes a winning strategy is to make really clear agreements with them, other times it’s doing the heart-searing work of letting go.

I am grateful to see that underneath the hot kick of anger is fear and sorrow. I can surround these feelings with love. The inroads of self-empathy clearcut through the misplaced blame. For these are universal experiences of motherhood: arms achingly full and then achingly empty.

Also, the sadness and fear are simply messengers pointing to what I’m really yearning for: connection, however it may look between a tween boy and his mama right now.

When I arrive home—the boys still missing—I hop on my bike and hear their voices less than a block away. They’re deep into mischief, the variety of which would be familiar to generations of boys.

I explain that not knowing where they are leaves me worried, and I want them to check in with me before they take off. No threats or punishments, just stating boundaries. They understand and readily apologize.

The three of us sit down to the spread that was warm and fresh an hour ago. The boys express their gratitude for dinner and are forthcoming in the specific brand of 12-year old boys: an endearing blend of self-doubt and bravado. I can see that they’re wobbling on their own precipice, experimenting with who they are outside of family, and yet needing their home nest to be welcoming and steady. I feel a thread of connection, braids of their tweenhood and my own mom-ness, weaving us all together tonight.

the sameness of sheep

2017 September 27
by Rachel Turiel

Everything is happening with reassuring predictability. The goldfinches have returned, their bright yellow summer costumes already fading as if adhering to some stricture of fall fashion. The sunbathing vultures unfurl their wing-capes to the morning sun; their days here are numbered. Frost sneaks around the garden like a bandit in the night. Dan is a blur of bow-season comings and goings. (He recently left me with a bag of half eaten chocolate covered espresso beans, which is the exact right drug for solo-parenting).

A decade of similar September memories are lodged in my cells, released under the precise conditions of temporary fatherless children seeking a wrestling partner while I press tomatoes through the assembly line of roasted sauce. Outside it’s cold and then warm and then cold again, daily.

On another note – did you leave that metal pasta spoon (in above photo) at our house after a summer potluck? We are holding it safe for you, while apparently using it.

And yet, I am always blindsided by the melancholy of fall, the way walking through the orange glow of aspens fills me with both awe and a sense of grief. I don’t know, maybe it’s the heartbreaking truth of impermanence. Every day something succumbs.

This year, with the kids in school, I’ve had more time to explore this grief, some of which is due, no doubt, to transitioning out of my role as homeschooling parent; a whole family paradigm, slipped away. But, there’s more. There’s the micro-anguish: present work disappointments, coons nabbing our grapes, the kids orbiting ever farther from the sun of their home. And the macro: climate change, inequality, our cultural lust for the next distraction.

Last arctic gentian of 2017.Last sun-ripened colander of tomatoes, 2017

Christine King, teacher of nonviolent communication, says grief’s job is to drop you into the river of all souls – it asks us to be quiet and stop all forward movement.

I’m finding that grief can be this expressway connecting you both to universal human suffering, and the universal human generosity of spirit. When you’re in grief it’s very difficult to exist on the busy surface of life. And so, you’re plunged into a deeper undercurrent. It unseats any delusions that you will be spared the pain of loss and disappointment because of any wall you’ve erected of money, yoga, organic broccoli or goodness. Grief is a finger tapping you on the shoulder, reminding you that everything you hold dear will change.

And yet, in this raw and open state, small kindnesses become magnified and envelop you like a warm blanket. The morning onslaught of birds to your feeder feels like a holy avian party. Kneeling football players become unexpected heroes. Kate Braestrup, author and chaplain, says “you can trust a human being with grief, for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy.”

And so, I’ve been quieter, taking more walks and less runs, talking less and listening more, feeling more, knowing less, and believing that you can trust a human being with grief. And yet, there is assurance in the predictability of cottonwoods flaring yellow, in the kids that need feeding, the basil that needs harvesting, and another season turning, showing us something inescapable and true.

“I love this nip in the morning air,” I told Dan back when September was young.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because it’s so new.”

Dan laughed, because for many people “new” means foreign travel, or remodeling your house, or something that creates a wave of excitement in the circulatory system of your life. On personality quizzes Dan and I both score embarrassingly low on novelty seeking behavior. Which may explain a lot, including why when I read this passage at the end of Charlotte’s Web to the kids recently, it brought tears to my eyes, happy tears.

“Life in the barn was very good – night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, the glory of everything.”

And so as September fades out, we shuttle squash into the root cellar, whiz up batches of pesto, cover the tomatoes one more time, find another way to cook beets, make time to walk in the oakbrush as it turns from green to psychedelic to dust, and tend to our feelings, however they may present themselves.

Total winter squash count this year: 168.