When Things No One Wants to Happen…Happen.

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Everyone I know is going through something difficult right now. The last throes of grad school. Multiple miscarriages. Assault. Extreme friction with an ex-partner/current co-parent. Workplace harassment. The death of a loved one. Car accidents. Robbery. Struggles with addiction. Broken bones. Infidelity and divorce. A damn toothache. Just in case you forgot for a second – life is hard ya’ll.

If you haven’t heard of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, I don’t know where you have been because this sweet little book has been around for 35 years. Yes, it’s true, very fittingly it came out the year I was born. And people have been recommending that I read it for almost that long so yeah it’s pretty much my destiny. It always sounded like such a fun read, I just never got around to it. Kidding. It sounded fucking terrible and why would I ever want to pick that up and dwell on the bad things?

Well, a time I’m trying hard to be grateful for has arrived and I can now say I have finally scratched that book off my list. Go me! And, not surprisingly, it turns out to be as full of helpful thoughts as I would hope a longtime 4+ million copy bestseller should be. Wise words on why people victim blame? Yes please. Bad things seeming to make a bigger impact after periods of feeling like life was getting “put together?” Makes sense. Shifting your vision to realize life is all randomness and chaos and not one single person can walk a path that will prevent all bad things from happening to them their entire lives? Amen. Even Einstein tried his best to disprove the quantum physics of things happening at random?! Now we are talking. We all want to calm and align things. Make them smooth enough to have a happy, peaceful life 100% of the time. But forget it, that is too tall an order.

So guess what? The only guarantees are that both more bad stuff and more good stuff are going to happen to us. Yay! Not in equal quantities though so don’t get too excited that life is going to go and get fair or something. I guess the point is to get comfortable with that and at least poof be gone with the shock that goes along with something bad happening. Because senselessly bad things don’t happen to good people. They senselessly happen to everyone. No way out of that one through good deeds. Like the author says, the rules are “NO EXCEPTIONS FOR NICE PEOPLE.” Move along please! I mean, if some people were so damn nice that they were somehow then immune to bad things happening then they could jump out of windows and airplanes and marriages and anything else with no consequences. I’m pretty sure if some people had immunity like that the Earth would just have to tilt off its orbit and die. So, time to get good at the art of suffering.

We get to be here, to arrive here, (usually) because there is truly so much good in the world. It’s a miracle gamble that each of us is here at all. But that good really does kind of serve us up for the bad. It makes the bad things an option at all. The only time something bad can’t happen to you is if you don’t exist. We get lucky sometimes and dodge some bullets. But that means we are still here for the next bullets coming our way. And staying here in between bullets means we amass more goodness in the interim, raising the stakes, increases our investment in faith in humanity, and makes the next bullets feel that much more painful. Wash, rinse, repeat. A blessing? In fucking disguise sometimes.

It’s ok to be angry at the situation. People are afraid of anger and will want to hush you up. Don’t listen, let it out. We then try to give the bad things meaning to make us feel better and our pain feel productive. But there is no inherent meaning in them. Thinking bad things are somehow our fault is to think too highly of ourselves. No one has that much magical power. Sometimes we get mad at ourselves when bad things happen and we punish ourselves. People have a deep belief that if some “higher power” did something to a person, well he must have deserved it so why should anyone treat that person better than god/the universe/etc did? Things can really snowball from there.

I like this book. I get it and I feel it deeply. I think it’s a must-read for hard times. But I still think that some things just plain should not happen. To anyone. Period. And I remain troubled in getting around that. I’m not being negative, I’m not standing in my own way. I’m just in it and I’m going to be in it until I’m not. I’m sorry each time I find that is uncomfortable for anyone else. It sure as hell is uncomfortable for me. There is no way out but through.

 

Places we have known and loved.

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We’ve had quite a journey since my kid first hitched a ride in my uterus. We’ve had homes, we’ve been homeless, we’ve kicked ass and taken names (mostly the taken names part – like Santa Claus scroll style), we’ve been honored and been lied to, we’ve been healthy and sick, we’ve defiantly walked in the rain and plowed on through uphill obstacle courses together, we’ve marched too many times for too many lost babies of too many lost mamas, we’ve forged friendships and learned new words together. This child is going to be four years old soon and I wanted to walk down memory lane of some of the places we’ve lived and known and loved.

  1. Stuyvesant Town, NYC. I didn’t even know you were there with me until move-out day. Such a quiet little being. I was packing up all of my stuff in boxes to send back to California for a month off before moving to my new position in a state I had never been to. I ran out of packing tape. It was around midnight and I walked in the humid and sparking Manhattan air to Rite-Aid to buy more. I don’t know why I also bought a pregnancy test. I never slept that night and I felt unreal the whole next day, traveling home. A few months later hurricane Sandy would flood that apartment, both baptized and heartbroken. Thank you Corrine.
  2. Wilmington, Delaware. Where I decided to know you and love you. I will never forget walking the streets of downtown – from home with my surly and (unintentionally) hilarious French roommate, to work in the downtown of the most segregated city I have ever lived in. Hearing white people talk dirt about Black people while carrying one in my womb – like gestating Jesus. You will be persecuted and you will be revered. You are immaculately uncorruptable even as they defile you for daring to exist. I started a lifelong conversation with you there and I never felt less scared and less alone even as almost everyone piled rocks onto my crumbling world. You became visible and never have I ever had anything before that so surely could not be taken away from me. Thank you Walnut and 11th.
  3. A yellow house in Fruitvale, Oakland. We moved in one week before you were due to arrive but it turned out to be only one day. I wonder if you will always have perfect timing. In three months I turned our lives around from being fired for being pregnant and from the couch-surfing, oasis-searching pilgrimage that would initiate me into exactly how much people hate single mothers. I landed a job over the phone and shocked all by walking in – a very round eight months pregnant. When confronted my eyes turned to steel and I said what of it? Implying – try me, I will tear your face off. Only planning to show the world the grace of being fired for being pregnant once. I made myself invaluable to that team by day and I posed nude for long hours at art classes by night – rebuilding our fortune from one penny. Then came one bumpy bus ride and a mile pulling my briefcase behind me home. After that, my water broke so loudly, I will never forget it. You were born in that bed that I had only just bought off Craigslist the night before. Thank you birthplace.
  4. The Secret Garden. Thank all gods that we found our garden. It has kept us from endless arguments through many ages and stages. It has been the invisible other parent teaching my child how to walk and dig, speed around with a wheelbarrow, swing a mattock around like an old pro. We have fallen into your pond and played hide and seek and lost and found each other many times, picked up worms and eaten from the never-ending buffet of fruits and veggies. It is not ours alone but it sure has felt like it. Our billion dollar backyard. Thank you garden.
  5. That borrowed apartment for a month. I didn’t think we would be homeless ever again but we somehow made it through once more with more than just a little bit of magic – three months worth this time – ending in one sweet month of care-taking a friend’s apartment. I saw the dark side again and said oh hello again I’ll see you later you don’t scare me anymore. Your crib was in the middle of a room with antique swords mounted all over the walls. Could not have felt more symbolic or more safe. Saying – try us universe, we will. TAKE. YOU. ON. You took your first real steps there. And so would my heart, which would practice for three more years until it could take off. Thank you John.
  6. My bed. The spot you were born. Where I’ve collapsed in tears because I don’t even know where to begin. Where I have watched myself meditate and grow strong enough to close doors on people we don’t need in our lives. Where I’ve cuddled you and where we practice for our world famous, leg balancing, acrobatic team. Where I’ve stared at the walls and asked why why why like a proper Jew. Where I’ve scrawled notes full of numbers that seem like they will never add up. Where you still nap for HOURS because – damnit – you are a good sleeper. Where a dear friend spends the night so I can go out on the prowl for midnight snacks, cool night air, to exchange looks with strangers and sneak myself into movies, dance/boxing/yoga classes, concerts and friends apartments. Thank you bed.
  7. Everywhere I follow you and you follow me, too. We are quite a pair. Quite a team. We have been through some real shit together and you have had to grow up too quickly sometimes. I’ve never trusted anyone more. I’ve never trusted myself so much before I found you. We love each other no matter what – and there sure has been a lot of what. We have been each other’s lighthouses and I’m so glad you are the one by my side. My little sidekick, I love you.

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Intentions / January version

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I’ve been doing these “intentions” posts every month for a year now and this is the twelfth and last post of the series. I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s like a little reset button in the middle of so many busy days. And it is nice to go back and have this kind of record of what our year has looked, smelled, sounded and tasted like. Looking forward to a new written ritual for the upcoming year!

Eating / Random veggies from our CSA farm. It has been fun to experiment with surprise fruits and veggies!

Drinking / Water, water, water… Trying to stay ahead of the game!

Practicing / Keeping open time on our calendar. I tend to like to schedule things out. A lot!

Learning / How to slowly put together a proper tool kit for a child. Planning on ceremoniously adding a new tool/skill for big milestones in my child’s life.

Trying / To treat myself as I do my child. Remembering to feed myself, calm myself, rest myself, be supportive to myself. So easy to just forget these things…

Playing / Hours and hours of paper airplanes, balloon tossing, nighttime flashlight walks in the neighborhood, reading tall stacks of books.

Loving / Hallway handstands! Can’t seem to stop myself.

Reading, me / You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. And Full Moon Feast.

Reading, kid / Funnybones. And finally read him The Giving Tree. Not sure how I feel about that one though…

Anticipating / The start of our new preschool program. Who knew what a journey this would be… A lot of thought has gone into this and once I committed to the vision – it has all unfolded kind of seamlessly. 2016 went out with a big bang of empowerment by co-founding our own preschool group.

Wearing / More like wanting to be wearing…these socks. Pretty sure they would warm my feet and my soul. That company makes so many funny ones…

Cooking / We have been really into making scrambled eggs together in the mornings. Seems almost too simple to note, but it is such a nice start to our days lately. It has turned into a kind of meditation.

Planning / A little candle-making experiment. We are going to make rolled beeswax candles, hand-dipped candles and something that I remember from my childhood – ice candles!

Wanting / The Wild Unknown Tarot card deck.

Staying in and reading the internet: links to look at.

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Top 10 classical pieces to play for your child.

It’s cabbage season! So I’ve been making variations of this recipe (turkey and vegan versions). A great budget meal and freezes really well, too!

We’ve been baking these black bean brownies to cut all those holiday sweets off at the pass!

I loved this interview of a single mom – especially her description of her daily rhythm.

Thought provoking graffiti.

Warm sock season! Love these wool ones for my kid.

Just subscribed to Taproot and it’s awesome. My kid like it, too!

Stop, drop and give me 20!

 

 

 

 

 

Intentions / December version

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Eating / Tempeh cooked with purple cabbage, broccoli, kale from the garden – plus a splash of ume vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and some sriracha. Could eat this everyday.

Drinking / New favorite tea for this cold and flu season – Tulsi + ginger.

Practicing / Making a home that is cozy and safe from the crazy world outside the doors.

Learning / It’s not that everyone else thinks everything is ok. It’s that most people are reluctant to speak up when something is wrong.

Trying / To make preserved lemons. Yum!

Playing / Water protectors!

Loving / This Maine Woods candle I found for an awesome friend. Totally want one for my home, too!

Reading, me / Unashamed. How to Party With an Infant.

Reading, kid / Over and Under the Snow. Grandmother Winter.

Anticipating / A quarterly little day trip tradition with another mom and her kid, a holiday lights train ride, the symphony’s production of The Snowman.

Wearing / …out my bamboo steamer basket.

Cooking / We made a vegan pineapple upside-down cake. And it was delicious. Thinking about which cake to bake next…

Working / On remembering that mom guilt is bullshit.

Wanting / A Berkey water filter. Expanding my cooking business and would love to use filtered water in my recipes.

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Intentions / November version

 

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Eating / Cauliflower fried rice

Drinking / Henrietta Stitch hard cider

Practicing / Long walks

Learning / Re-learning how to use my old light-leaky camera. A friend was using and old Polaroid from the 60s  or 70s the other day and captured the most beautiful and haunting image of our kids together between rows of apple trees. It was so nice to be in that orchard on that golden afternoon in the presence of the most generous and casually ultra-talented friend together watching our kids explore and search for apples with good bites left. Trying to relive it a little via my old camera.

Trying / To ask for help more often. I’m so used to doing it all alone.

Playing / With water-colors. Something my kid and I both enjoy!

Loving / Having friends over for dinner. So nice to add others to our dinner conversations. And so nice to get the sweetest taste of what the good parts of having a partner might feel like – when I clean up from dinner while a friend reads my kid a bedtime book. So nice for all of it not to be on me. When I thank my friends for this moment of breathing room though they pretty much all look at me like I’m insane. May they never know what it’s like to do it all alone. Amen.

Reading, me / The New Health Rules. Fates and Furies. Habibi. Sweetbitter.

Reading, kid / March On. Thing Explainer. Zen Shorts.

Anticipating / Many Black Panther 50th Anniversary events around town.

Wearing / Rain-boots again!

Cooking / Lots of soups! Some recent favorites: vegan split pea, chicken soup with red dates and goji berries and my favorite veggie soup (kale, tomato, potato, carrot, bell pepper, onion – which in my brain I swear I will always hear listed in an ex-boyfriend’s voice).

Working / I met someone recently who only has to work one day per week to pay his bills. Working on some ideas of how that could be possible for me.

Wanting / New running shoes.

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Weather watching.

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Single parents are stuck inside the home at night pretty much every night. Unless you can frequently afford a sitter, or are lucky to have an awesome roommate, after your kid is in bed there is no quick run to the store for a loaf of bread, no pint at the neighborhood bar, no evening run, no smuggling your own snacks into the movie theater. After my child was born it took me a while to adjust to this. I was a night owl before and had plans almost every night of the week. I eventually built up a tolerance to this cabin feverish loneliness and I use this time wisely. Yoga, reading through giant stacks of books, bubble baths, starting businesses, achieving inbox-zero, and some good old fashioned staring at the ceiling and thinking through any kind of life problem backward forward and sideways. But almost always conscious that had I a choice – I definitely would not be inside every night after 6pm.

But when it rains? It’s the best. I’m cozy inside, rain is running down the windows and I feel like I’m actually exactly where I want to be. And rain is in the forecast all weekend. So after my kid and I go for a walk in the rain after dinner tonight, here is what I’m looking forward to:

Lighting my salt lamp.

And this cedar/spruce/rosemary candle.

Putting a kettle on for this tea.

Misting my pillows with some Dream Weaver spray.

And alternating between reading Blankets and watching Luke Cage.

Nowhere else I want to be!

Intentions / October version

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A little late on this October version, but sticking with my commitment to do this every month for a year! Just three more months left after this one and I will have done this fun little meditation for a whole year…

Eating / Apples, pears and winter squash.

Drinking / Water, water, water, water, more water. The weather has been extra drying lately.

Practicing / More minimalism. Or as a friend said to me the other day: “You are definitely not a hoarder.”

Thinking / About framing social justice topics for kids of different ages/stages. We just joined up with a group planning a series of Black Lives Matter events for families and the conversations are mind bending.

Learning / Trauma Proofing.

Trying / To write here more often.

Playing / In the garden…it’s such a beautiful season outside.

Loving / My bed at the end of the day.

Reading, me / Soooo many books at once! But Pond and The Gardener and the Carpenter seem to be making it to the top of the stack. And did you ever read the graphic novel Blankets back when it came out? For some reason it popped into my mind and I really want to read it again.

Reading, toddler / Time for The Cozy Book!

Anticipating / Halloween! I’ve got a little Spider-Man on my hands. He claims Miles Morales, not Peter Parker. 🙂

Wearing / A lot of active wear for a lot of being active.

Cooking / Finally saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and now I want to make this clementine cake.

Working / On a couple of new business ideas. I wonder how many businesses I will start in my life…

Traveling / We started the month with a trip up north to stay in a beautiful house in the woods with a few other single parent families. It was amazing. We might make a little trip to Apple Hill this month but after that I’m glad to say we are staying put after so much traveling the past few months. It will be good to cozy up at home and take a break.

Wanting / A copy of this movie. I could watch it a hundred times.

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Autumn Ready: links to look at.

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Do your soul a favor and read through these affirmations.

This will make you want to slide around on your socks.

One of the parents I trade carpooling with was wearing this shirt the other day. My child is in good hands.

How good would it feel if you stopped everything and did this right now?

I love trying out these different Mudras.

Words of wisdom.

Our preschool is having all the parents read this book.

I’m excited to curl up and alternate between Pond, Where Do We Go From Here and Mama, Bare.