Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekend Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too!


Crustless Spinach Quiche, for brunch lunch or dinner!
I just made this quiche for dinner and it was filling and delicious without being heavy.

Ingredients
1. 1 c. chopped bacon or sausage (turkey or chicken is preferable)
2. 1c. shredded white cheddar cheese
3. 3 cups of raw Spinach
4. 1/4 c. yellow onion, chopped
5. 1 tsp. minced garlic
6. 4 eggs
7. 1 c. milk
8. sea salt
9. pepper

Method
1. Cook bacon in large skillet over med/high heat, add garlic and sauté for two minutes.
2. Add onions and spinach, sauté until leaves are wilted.
3. Place in baking dish. (No need to grease or spray dish, olive oil from cooked chard will coat the bottom)
4. Top with cheeses.
5. In separate dish whisk eggs, milk, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper together.
6. Pour egg mixture over bacon, spinach and cheeses.
7. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 min.

Serve with green salad or fruit.
Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fantastically Outrageous Reality

Life has felt surreal lately: living in this house, being a mother, being pregnant, being a writer, actually publishing my first book, having friends I’ve known for twenty years—how old am I anyway? I was with two of my oldest girlfriends this morning. We walked around Central Park in Roseville. My friend, Kate, whom I’ve known since the third grade, just found out that she is pregnant too. This feels surreal also. She is not showing yet and, since this is the third pregnancy she’s seen me through, I can hardly believe that she is actually going to have a baby around the time I am having a baby; I had all but given up the dream that we would be in our child-producing years at the same time.

But I’m just trying to embrace the surreal-ness. When life is good, the goodness can feel surreal—many things in life are hard to believe, many realities are hard to grasp as more realistic than science fiction. Pregnancy itself is surreal—almost unbelievable. Kate told us today that her baby is the size of a blueberry—next week it will be the size of a raspberry, almost 10,000 times the size it was at conception. Last week it was the size of an orange seed yet it already had most of its major organs last week, including a beating heart. How is this possible?
Do we ever stop to think just how unlikely an event the conception and birth of a human baby is? How can we not believe that we live in a world where magic and fantasy meet reality each day, once we’ve witnessed the process of pregnancy and the successful birth of a baby? How many tiny factors must come together and line up perfectly for the complex organism called a human to come out functioning and alive? It’s staggering to consider. In fact, that to me is the definition of surreal: living in a world where millions of humans are created each day before our very eyes with little actual work on our part. Life is surreal.

Life is surreal especially when I am making changes in my life. When I move boldly forward, take risks, take a leap of faith to wind up on a new path or just a new stretch of my old path, the view looks different, unfamiliar, surreal. Like calling myself a writer or falling asleep to the sound of crickets instead of the sound of airplane traffic. But at least in the surreality, I know that the unfamiliarity means I am moving forward.

I was talking with my new neighbor Geeta the other day about the article she is writing. It’s about balance. She said, “People are always striving for balance, but the only time you are really balanced is when you have two feet on the floor, as soon as you lift your foot to take a step forward, you lose your balance. When your life is out of balance, it’s okay because it means at least you are moving!”

I still strive for balance in my life, but now I take it easy on myself when I don’t achieve it. So life feels surreal. Okay, I say, maybe life is surreal; maybe it is fantastically outrageous at times, downright unbelievable. Maybe that’s just the reality of life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cost of Connecting to Creation

There are not many redeeming qualities about my cats. They’re loud—they always wake me up just as I am dozing to sleep at night or at nap time, they puke on everything—cleaning up their puke is a daily chore, they complain—they meow day and night to go out even though they have never been outdoor cats, Cesario meows by the door even though he spent the night outside last week and was chased so high up a tree by a raccoon that we had to hire a tree-trimming service to retrieve him.

As I was trying desperately to drift off for a short nap today while Twila slept, I was suddenly jarred awake by what sounded like the opening rift of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. It took me a full ten seconds to realize my cats (whom I had cleverly trapped in the basement before laying down) were dancing up and down the keys of the piano just below our bedroom.


It got my pulse going enough that I fully gave-up the dream of napping. So I dragged myself from our cozy bed, un-napped and irritated. Well, at least I can do some writing while Twila sleeps, I thought as I sat down to get some solid work on my short story done; I ignored the scroll-like to-do list laying next to me on the table.


The next thing I knew there was a loud tumbling crash coming from our bedroom. It sounded like a tower of boxes caving in on themselves. Not able to rationalize, this close to having been rudely awoken, I ran to our bedroom to rescue Twila from the avalanche; I didn’t think then of the fact that there haven’t been any boxes in that room for two weeks. Scratching my head as I looked at my peacefully sleeping daughter, I trucked back out and down to the basement, the only area that does still have boxes.


In the basement, I found no box avalanche. Nothing looked out of place at all except our smallest cat, Cleo was walking around with her ears slicked back and her belly as close to the floor as a snake’s. WTF? Our big orange cat, Sebastian dozed peacefully on his thrown of cushions and Cesario was…Cesario was—where was Cesario? I knew Cesario had to be the cause of the wreck.


I walked around the basement quietly calling his name, trying to keep the anger out of my voice—his unmistakable, death-rattle, meow began in panicked peals from somewhere above my head. Just under where our bedroom might be I spotted two glowing eyes peering down from the only opening in the raw ceiling of the unfinished side of our basement.


The basement ceiling is about ten to twelve feet high. I have long-since stopped asking myself how, when it comes to the Cornish Rex breed. Instead I turned my attentions to: what now? The ceiling is far too high for me to reach, even with a chair or step ladder. The only solution I can imagine is an actual ladder which my pregnant self will not be retrieving. So it may be high places for Cesario for the next hour or two until Ryan can get home and help me. I just hope if Cesario has to pee it falls out of the ceiling and onto the concrete floor where we can clean it instead of up in the rafters where we will surely always smell it, but never be able to clean it.


The cats are really on thin ice with me. So why do I keep them around? I don’t feel half as emotionally connected to them as I felt to my cat growing up. Why do we keep and care for animals that vex us so heartily? When Cesario disappeared last week, I was devastated. Twila and I searched the neighborhood over and over and over, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors as they walked or biked by, posting signs. And he wasn’t even missing a full twenty-four hours. I thought that after that trauma, Cesario and I might have a new appreciation for each other but, in truth, he is just as big a thorn in my side this week as he was last week. So why do I feel like I can’t live without the nuisance that is our three Cornish Rex cats?


Maybe there is something divine in the act of caring for undeserving creatures. Is there some part of us that feels more connected to creation, more in touch with nature when we struggle with animals, or fight against weeds to protect our vegetables and our flowers. Maybe our need to tend plants and animals is like our need to create. Like a built-in chip connecting our creation to our need to create.


We need to create whether it is art, writing, food, music, and we need to feel connected to nature even if it’s as small a connection as having bamboo arrangements in our offices, fighting fish in a tank, fresh flowers in vases, or three obnoxious Cornish Rex cats who just can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it too!

Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad
Okay this is not actually my recipe but I just got something similar to this at the co-op and it was DELICIOUS! I had to try and recreate it. This is my first attempt so let me know what you think!

Ingredients
1 cup brown rice wild rice mix2 1/3 cups water (see package instructions)1/2 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasted or un-toasted, your choice)1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 Tbsp lemon juice2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar1/2 teaspoon sugar1 teaspoon grated orange peelSalt and freshly ground pepper

Method
1 Use the amount of water for the rice according to instructions on the rice package. Typically straight brown rice is a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. Straight wild rice is a ratio of 1:3 of wild rice to water. For this brown rice wild rice mix that I got from a bin (no package) I used a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 2 1/3 cups of water. Bring rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, butter, and water to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes. Do not stir. Do not uncover. Remove from stove and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Then uncover, fluff up with a fork, and let cool to almost room temperature.
2 In a medium sized serving bowl, mix the rice, cranberries, pecans, and green onions together.
3 In a separate jar, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, orange peel, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, mix dressing in with the rice mixture. Serve warm, chilled, or room temperature.
Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Look Inside

As I laid awkwardly back on the radiologist’s bed next to a state of the art computer with thick, hot gel dripping down the sides of my stomach, I began to ponder the naturalness of pregnancy and the unnaturalness of technology’s pervasive role in it.

I wonder what the humans of a thousand years ago would have thought of our special machines that peak inside the skin and muscle of a pregnant belly to glimpse the ghost-like creature developing below the surface. We all do it now, don’t we? Even the young, healthy couple with an uncomplicated pregnancy (like us) wants to get their peak at the human that will inevitably emerge at the end of nine months. Odd.

Life has been busy lately. I lay on the table for nearly forty five minutes watching the technician take measurement after measurement of various body parts, growing increasingly uncomfortable in my supine position, struggling for breath under the weight of my bulging stomach thinking, ‘this is the most relaxed I’ve been in weeks.’

I want desperately to be less busy. I want to rest with my pregnancy, like I did when I was pregnant with Nicole and with Twila. I napped copiously and took gentle walks and ate whatever and whenever I wanted to. I want to play with my child. She craves my attention and I crave her company but endless small tasks and urgent to-do’s keep me off the couch, off the floor and at the desk or the computer, working, bustling, busy all day. It’s no wonder that yesterday was the worst day in parenting history.

My daughter declined to take a nap with me even though we flew in at midnight the night before and had woken at our usual six am. As I lay on the couch, unable to pay another bill or return another phone call, I suddenly received the sharpest, most startling slap I have ever felt. Twila stood in my befuddled gaze looking half-pleased, half-cautious. I held my face and sat bolt upright. There was nothing to say, what could I say? My knowledge of parenting tactics ends at being blatantly hit in the face. I know all the books say it’s a useless punishment but I dragged her to her room anyway. I shut the door and stomped away. I decided it was the better choice since my instinct was to hit back. The day declined from there.

I thought about the rotten day as the technician re-measured the baby’s head for what felt like the fourth time and I suddenly became convinced that something was wrong. She hasn’t said a word this whole time, something is wrong with the baby. And it’s my fault. It’s the wine I had before I found out I was pregnant, it’s the traveling, it’s the stress I’ve been under, I haven’t had enough water, enough vegetables, enough flax! I haven’t given this pregnancy the kind of consideration and attention I gave my last two.

When the results came in late in the afternoon, we learned that the baby is fine. My amniotic sac is low which means I do indeed need more water but otherwise the results were unremarkable, which is what I assumed to be true before I laid on the radiologist’s bed and took a peak at my growing fetus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Sins of Our Fathers


Being a parent has made me reexamine almost every aspect of my own childhood, and every judgment I held against my parents in my adolescence. As the Talking Heads say, It’s the same as it ever was. Nothing ever changes. Children tend to judge their parents harshly because we have a front row seat for all their inadequacies. We witness and are the subject of the majority of their insensitivities, mistakes and oversteps.

Parents are often insensitive to their children’s needs. We don’t try to be. Many times we are right on point with support, encouragement and patience. But a child’s need for nurturing and sensitivity is constant and powerful. And we are only human. We parents inevitably snap with impatience and frustration once in a while.

“I am not going to play this game anymore!”
“I don’t want to be told what to do right now!”
“Enough!”
“Stop whining!”
“If you don’t…then you won’t…!”

Kids are almost always well-intentioned. It’s hard to believe when you witness the many behavioral challenges of children and adolescence. But the truth is no matter how devious their behavior seems at times, they are usually innocently exploring their world, learning how far they can push the limits before the boundaries solidify.

“Will this crayon leave marks on the dark wood of the table?”
“Will my little sister’s face look sad like I felt if I shout ‘no’ at her like my mom shouted at me?”
“What will it feel like to cut cloth instead of paper? Hair?”

Kids break the rules of social and family culture that are so ingrained in us because they are still learning them. And parents snap because we are only human and we get tired of helping all the time and repeating ourselves endlessly and having to teach every action and idea we execute throughout the day; and because we like our dark wood table without crayon markings on it.

But before we children become parents, we can’t fathom why our parents can’t be more sensitive to our curiosities, our experiments and our mistakes. I remember that feeling: being treated like a criminal when I knew in my heart I had only the best of intentions.

It was not until I became a mom three years ago next month that I began to see with clarity the many challenges parents face. Being a patient, loving mother twenty-four hours a day is hard, especially when you feel you are on display, being witnessed by your own self of Christmas past.

When I see my daughter’s wide eyes absorbing my scolds and exasperation, it’s as if I’m looking into my own innocent, youthful eyes, staring with wonder and confusion at what could possibly be wrong with lying naked in a pile of powder soft flour. “Doesn’t my mother know how good this feels?”

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I began to relax the criticisms and critiques I held of my parents’ abilities. For years I easily overlooked the kindness and gentleness my father displayed almost constantly. The sad truth is that kids remember more sharply the snapping anger, the flaring tempers, the lids blowing. Perhaps it is not until they are parents, that our children will reexamine their judgments against our shortcomings.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekend Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too


Sweet and Spicy Pico de Gallo


Since I’m in L.A. this weekend, I’m craving fresh cool, pool-side fare.
Check out this unique Pico de Gallo recipe. Serve with quesadillas or corn tortilla chips.

Ingredients:

1 medium jicama, pared and cut into 1/2 chunks
3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/3 cup chopped onion
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder

Method:
Mix jicama, oranges, onion, lime juice and salt in bowl. Let stand in refrigerator at least one hour before serving. When ready to serve, sprinkle with the chili powder.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Break in the Trees


It seems, the more there is to do, the less productive I feel. And I find myself in tail-spinning thoughts of, where is the net? Where am I going? Where does this path lead? Will things ever get easier/ less stressful/ simpler, or will life just keep accelerating at this alarming rate? Of course it doesn’t help that nap time has been hellaciously difficult lately.
With Twila it worked wonderfully to do extended breastfeeding. She was always a wonderful nurser: very gentle, peaceful when she nursed and she was always so grateful to have the closeness with me; she adored my breasts and the private time with them. But for every bit of beauty that nursing brought, it is that much more difficult for her to let it go. And let it go she must.
I am five months pregnant, my nipples are tender as open wounds and even the “hand-in-the-shirt” compromise sets my uterus into spasms of Braxton Hicks contractions. We simply must be done—totally done, for good. But the fact that nursing was always so easy and good for us means it is just that much harder to give up. Because it came so naturally to us, we relied heavily on it. We nursed to sleep at night and down for naps by day. We used nursing to comfort and soothe. And now when my precious little one is distraught with exhaustion, she doesn’t know how to just let go and fall asleep without that ultimate comfort from my breast.
So it takes a little over an hour to get down for a nap and even longer to fall asleep for bedtime. I am having flashbacks these days to the tired and dejected looks on my parents face as they staggered in and out of our bedrooms when my siblings and I were children. Ryan and I create a parade in the evening hours of books, songs, backrubs, stories told, and shushes whispered. We try everything and all that works is time, time, time.
So Ryan and I are not seeing each other face to face much lately and that time which we do spend together is spent devising and game planning better parenting strategies. We are beat. And things are not getting done.
We have three rental properties now. It was too difficult to sell our home when we moved so we rented our house for a year; a smart choice in this economy and financial climate, but as far as our stress load goes—I could think of better plans. Each property is filled and the leases are signed and we are tremendously grateful for that, but each home also comes with tenants. And each tenant comes with his or her special needs, requests, issues, concerns, quirks, habits and messes. Four rent checks were late this month and when we called to see where they were, we got the usual, “oh, right, where do I send it now?”
I am left feeling more like I am running a boarding school than a rental property business. As second children we don’t like to give fines. We talk a big game about fining with each other, at home, but I don’t think—in the five years we’ve owned rental properties—we’ve ever issued a fine or a fee.
Between caring for my daughter, caring for my husband, and caring for our ten tenants, I feel like a universal mom: fitting into any mothering role around. So many loose ends are left untied right now and my type-A self is not sure she can handle that. I am lugging boxes that I shouldn’t be lugging just because I can’t stand the sight of them; I am staying up later than my pregnant brain would like me to because I need those extra minutes. The day has never, in my life, felt so short. I am left at the end of each day asking, where is the net? Where is this path leading? Will this stress ever end?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Weekend Edition: Have Your Health and Crave it Too!

Tuna Salad on Cranberry Bread
This is one of my favorite weekly meals when I’m pregnant. Though Tuna is one of the restricted fish during pregnancy, it is also an excellent source of protein and calcium. You can enjoy tuna once a week when you are pregnant (if you are not eating any other fish). See the Mayo Clinic’s article on fish safety and pregnancy.
Ingredients
1. 1 can of solid white albacore tuna
2. ¼ cup of dried cranberries
3. About a quarter to a third of a yellow or orange bell pepper finely diced
4. 1 tablespoon of pickle relish
5. 3 tablespoons real mayonnaise
6. Sharp white cheddar cheese sliced
7. Your favorite cranberry walnut bread, sliced thickly and toasted
Method
1. Preheat oven to broil
2. Mix first five ingredients in a bowl to combine
3. Distribute mixture generously over four slices of toasted bread
4. Top with cheese and broil for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is bubbly
Enjoy!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Sample


This is a little of the short story I’ve been working on the last few weeks.

Jayden walked along Houston Street toward the East River. The air was biting cold and she thought for the third time that day how short autumn had been. Winter always seemed to come quickly in New York City. She buried her thinly gloved hands deeper in her woolen pockets, pulling her shoulders closer to her ears to close the gap between her scarf and her chin; her exposed neck was covered in goose bumps. As she veered slightly right after Columbia Street, the wind blowing off the river hit her square in the face. A chill of foreboding tingled down her spine. Why am I coming here? What good will it do?


She had no idea how long she had been standing at the water’s edge when the moon began to glisten on the choppy river. The chilling wind had turned bitter, but somehow Jayden wasn’t cold anymore, she was numb. As if in a trance, she found herself wandering to that place.
Then suddenly in the darkness behind her, she felt sure she heard someone following her. The trance broken, her pace quickened and she strained her ears. Are those boots on the path? They seemed to quicken, keeping time with her footfalls. Her heart began to pound and she broke into a run. Panting, a cold sweat trickled down her neck.


And then there it was: that place on the shore. Unable to go forward, she stopped short and whirled around. The night was silent except for her gasping breath and the wind on the river, she was alone. She strained her eyes into the darkness up the path, all she saw was blackness. She looked down at her hands, almost invisible in the darkness and then at her black, curling hair falling across her heaving chest, then down to her own boots on the hard-packed dirt path.


Forcing her head slowly upright, she looked ahead to that place on the shore. To anyone else, it looked like an ordinary point on the river but to her it was the darkest place in the universe. Feeling strangely drawn down to that spot, she shook herself and turned, walking quickly back up a different path, checking behind her frequently. She headed home.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The End of Reinvention Road

The boxes are completely empty as of seven am this morning. There’s a lot of stuff on the counters and table, but the boxes are empty. Our moving company is coming sometime this morning to pick them up so I had the motivation necessary to pry myself from bed this morning and finish the last few.

Now the question is: what do I do next? Oh there’s plenty to choose from on my extensive to-do list, but the question is: what do I really want to do? Blogging has been satisfying my need to write. It’s good for me to have a reason to sit down and write if just for a few minutes a day. But is blogging satisfying that craving to create too much? It seems all too easy for me to post a blog and then go on about my never-ending to-do’s.

Am I really writing, or am I just hovering? Am I in a creative holding pattern?
What I really, really want to be doing if I am totally honest with myself is to write fiction. When I started writing four years ago, I started with adoption writing because it seemed an obvious choice. Adoption has been a huge and formative part of my adult life; I had a story to tell. When this whole writing thing started out, I just wanted to tell my story. I wanted to write an encouraging and informative story about my experience for women who were going through the same thing. But as the years have marched on, the process has not unfolded in such a straight-forward way.

Publisher and literary agent alike have all had their opinions and standards about what is and is not marketable, who is and is not an appropriate audience. I learned very quickly that no one wants to publish a book that’s main audience is birthmothers. Agents seem to believe that birthmothers are not spending the kind of money on books that make a book appealing to bookstores.

So over and over again I have received abundant and conflicting feedback from industry professionals about how to make my book more marketable, about how to focus and clarify my audience, and how to make it more appealing to a more mainstream audience. And the result has been a kind of creative whiplash. I keep reinventing and rewriting my book until I have reached this point where I am just kind of spent artistically. I feel like I am at the end of the road with it. I just don’t think I have it in me to reinvent it again.

The really confounding thing is that the adoption professionals I began speaking with at the beginning of this process have all expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for this project, so have the birthmothers, the doctors and the midwives who have helped me shape this project from the start. It seems the only people who don’t realize that this book is marketable, are publishers.