Thirteen times around the sun

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Lupine turned 13 yesterday.

Thirteen! A refined version of who she has always been, I marvel as she becomes more gentle and fierce, authentic and kind, courageous and confident with every passing year.

What an honor to watch her–and her brother–grow and become and unfurl.

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For Lupine’s “friend party” (the day before her birthday) she requested a day in the city with some lifelong friends–three siblings we’ve known since Lupine was a newborn.

Their 13 year old couldn’t join us, but Lupine was undeterred.

Along with Sage and I, the eldest sisters were up for a day of thrifting, pho, and other city adventures. Such fun!

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Her birthday itself we enjoyed at home, just the four of us. Board games and favorite meals were on the docket, and nothing else. So mellow, and so Lupine.

Beneath the birthday bunting that we made together when she was turning 4, we played board games, cooked and ate delicious food, and she ever so slowly unwrapped and savored her gifts.

Before dessert, we set up the birthday spiral (as we always have), and read her story, year by year, as she lit the candles.

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I have very few photos to show for the day, which is just fine by me.

More and more my camera has been staying in its bag, and my heart with my family, in the moment, undistracted.

While I love taking photos, sometimes I want to be only here.

Just before bed she said, “Write a blog post about my birthday. Then next year we can look up what kind of cake I made, if we forget.”

So here we are.

It was an angel food cake that we made together, Lulu. (Though you did most of the work. I just helped with all that sifting.) The recipe is in that tattered old copy of the Joy of Cooking that my grandma gave me when I was just a few years older than you. Served with persimmons, of course, because they’re your favorite. Mmm!  

Happy birthday, Lupine. What an honor it truly is to be your mama. I love you so.

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More about our birthday story and spiral can be found here, and a DIY for your own birthday bunting is here.

The first “One Small Step” sustainability challenge

20190808-_RJW554320191105-_RJW8072LusaFarm16-043LusaFarm16-072Hello, hello! The first post in the One Small Step challenge is live over on Happy, Healthy Family, the LüSa Organics blog.

Today I’m talking about bar soaps versus bottles (for obvious reasons) and how making this simple switch will reduce waste. I even included a DIY liquid from bar soap for those of you who aren’t quite ready to kick the soap bottle.

I’m so delighted to be bringing these small changes to the table, and I do hope you’ll join me there, and play along. 

You can find post 1 here.

 

Postcard 7: Into our very bones

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I love the notion of the nutrients and minerals of this place are becoming a part of our very bones.

Our bodies are quietly growing blood and muscle and tissue from this very land, building us of this place before we leave for familiar soil once more.

By foraging, we’re taking Ireland–and Iceland before it–into our bodies where it will linger for so much longer than the sweet or sour or bitter taste on our tongues, weaving its essence into our cells through the magical dance of biology.

We’ll carry it with us for years. This place, in our own bones.

Since departing the Midwest in late August, we have foraged and consumed (and thereby made a part of us) crow berries, lady’s mantle, meadowseet, haddock, cod, kelp, bilberries, blackberries, blackberry leaf, elderberries, rose hips, rowan berries, old friends plantain, yarrow, nettle, and usnea; ripe rose hips and hawthorn and more.

From this free, found bounty, we’ve cooked up jams and teas; healing poultices and nourishing broths.

We’ve also consumed locally grown Icelandic thyme and moss, eaten fermented shark and sipped sweet raw milk; picked and munched fresh Irish apples, and purchased local chicken, beef, lamb, produce, and bread.

This place lives in us now. It’s a part of us.

We’ve fermented beet kvass and sauerkraut from fresh local veggies to add to our evening meals, and the sourdough starter that I have fermenting, is (in my mind at least) is laced with peat smoke and woven with yeast blown in on sea winds and bog rains.

All of this we bring home, even weeks after each meal was consumed.

But our favorite foraging of the trip is neither animal nor vegetable. It is mineral.

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Before arriving in Iceland at the very start of our trip, Sage expressed an interest in crafting a batch of sea salt. Our Icelandic friends were happy to oblige. In the Westfjords, Pete and Sage gathered sea water using our friend’s boat, from the deep cold water of the fjord. Then we cooked it down in a roasting pan until the water was evaporated, finishing it in a dish in a warm oven.

What a delightful process it was! And the salt is delicious.

In Ireland I was excited to give it a second go, with hope of brining home two distinct salts from two different places, two different currents in the Ocean herself. And so we did. Off the western coast of Ireland, we headed back to the sea.

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This water had to be gathered without the aid of a boat, off of the furthest reaches of Dingle Peninsula. Lupine–always game for a spontaneous swim–braved the sea to fill a couple of empty milk bottles, which we brought back to our temporary home to cook down in a nonreactive pan.

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We didn’t make much, but just enough to fill a small, empty jam jar with the precious white flakes.

The resulting salt is rich, bright, and full of memories.

And the perfect souvenir from this journey overseas.

Through the months that follow, as we slowly use these two precious jars of salt in our soups and sautees, in fresh local veggies from our home across the sea, we’ll recall our journey here, and replenish these fare sourced minerals… deep into our bones.

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Postcard 2: To the Westfjords

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After our first couple of days in Iceland, we loaded our cars with supplies and headed into the Westfjords.

While tourism has exploded in Iceland in the past ten years, the Westfjords region remains largely off the beaten path, situated beyond the reaches of the popular “Golden Circle” of tourist highlights.

Our friends have access to a cottage there that has been in their family for generations. We headed out to this very special place (so different from, yet somehow reminiscent of our own four-generations old family cabin on the Wolf River), exploring our way through the highlands. We detoured along the way, getting out despite the rain and wind to indulge in some blustery photography, breathtaking views, swan cygnets, breaching whales, sunning seals, ice cream, and thousands of potholes.

At the family farmstead at last, we settled in to celebrate Sage’s birthday, to see more of this magical land, and to experience a few authentic Icelandic experiences (including seaside hot springs, cod fishing, Icelandic birthday songs, and even a taste of fermented shark).

We were there for Sage’s 17th birthday, which felt so special, so auspicious, so magical for this man-child of ours, somehow already on the cusp of adulthood.

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There was even a birthday fishing excursion out on the the fjord, to haul in more cod than I have ever seen in my life. Back on shore, we gratefully cleaned the abundant pails of fish in the sunshine, then our hosts fried up a glorious platter-full of the freshest fish ever for something of an Icelandic shore lunch.

After dinner we headed to swim in a seaside hot pot (I don’t even remember what we called this. A hot tub? A seaside hot spring? You get the idea: it’s a natural hot tub beside the sea.)

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In all, it was an over-the-moon magical weekend that none of us will ever forget.

Then Pete, suddenly 17 year old Sage, Lupine and I said farewell to our friends and headed out on our own Icelandic adventure for our final two days. Still in the Westfjords, but heading southward from the furthest reaches of the north.

More on that next week. I promise.

 

 

Be here, now.

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If I can give you one piece of advice in life it’s this: play with your kids. Get down on the ground, push them in the swing, run around in the yard. Because one minute you’re down on the floor, roaring like a dinosaur, and the next minute they’re grown and gone. And it happens in an instant. So just be sure you enjoy them.”

I never forgot.

Read the rest of my newest post–on presence and parenthood–over on Happy, Healthy Family, the LüSa Organics blog.

You can find it here.

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Call to action, call to peace

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When your heart is heavy from the news of the day, breaking with grief for things you fear you can not change, pause. Breathe. Be.

Log out of social media. Shut off your phone or close your laptop. Make yourself some tea.

Then step outside and find something–anything–that is still right with the world. A bumble bee, drunk on nectar in your flower bed; a monarch dancing on the wind; a wildflower weed, pushing it’s way through a crack in the sidewalk.

Don’t overthink it with your worried mind, spinning off into the troubles that you perceive in this moment of soft perfection. Just observe, and let it be right. 

Watch the sunset, listen to the birds. And know that the Earth is resilient and will–in her own ways–survive the trauma of our existence.

Then head back inside and do your work.

Pick up the phone and call your representatives. It’s hard, I know. But do it anyway. Call about immigration, ICE, asylum seekers. Call about gun control, climate change, white supremacy. Call about all the things that are making you feel powerless or angry or terrified.

Or write a few emails if that’s something you can follow-through on. Or show up at a city board meeting. Anything. But do something that reaches further than your Facebook page. Because it matters. Now more than ever.

Take action and raise your voice for those who are silenced. Especially if you have privilege. Especially if you have never been targeted or marginalized or profiled because of your race, sexual identity, gender, or religion. Stand up for anyone being “othered” and do it today.

It’s vital. Your voice is needed. Don’t look away.

Then go back outside, find another butterfly, and breathe.

You’re helping, and you’re breathing. You’re finding beauty, and you’re doing the hard work. Keep it up. We need you.

Together we can change the world.

Don’t give up.

 

This is a handy resource to help you contact your representatives. 

 

Postcard 2: history lessons

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We spent much of yesterday at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and the Harriet Tubman Home, both in Auburn, NY.

We journeyed through many layers of America’s mixed past: an often brutal, sometimes triumphant, messy mix of shame and victory.

We dug into the history of slavery in the United States, and reflected on how 14 of the 21 “founding fathers” were slaveholders themselves. What does that say about our history as a country? And how does it feel as a descendent of enslaved people to see their faces on the currency in your wallet each and every day?

We explored the steps that led to abolition, and the brutal back-slide our government took with Convict Leasing, which was another iteration of slavery after its abolition at the end of the Civil War.

We dug into Jim Crow Laws, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering which ensured the continuation of whites holding power throughout the 1960s and even through today.

And we explored the history of suffrage, the women’s rights movement, and the many battles for equal rights for BIPOCS and LGBTQ community.

All battles that are ongoing even today.

We were befriended by a bright, fascinating woman named Lois who was also visiting the museums yesterday. A retired physicist and historian, she described her experiences as a Freedom Rider in the 1960’s, registering voters throughout the south.

Listening to her stories, and reflecting on how recent our country’s legacy of slavery and systematic oppression really is, we reflected on how even today people of color navigate a very different world as Americans than whites do.

And we reflected on how very far we have yet to go.

I kept seeing parallels. From convict leasing to the school-to-prison pipeline. From segregation to the longterm impact of redlining. (If you don’t know what redlining is, this video lays it out clearly, and explains the ongoing, snowballing impact. My kids and I have watched it several times.) From women’s rights marches in the 1900’s to the women’s rights marches today.

We keep looping, doubling back. Demanding the same rights, fighting the same fights, walking in the footprints of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great grandmothers.

And I felt more than ever how important it is as people with privilege to have these conversations. With our parents, with our kids, with our friends and our neighbors. To talk about racism, to talk about equality, to talk about what we can each do to make this country a better place for everyone.

Because goodness knows it’s time.

The only way to dismantle oppression is to look it in the eye. To speak up in the face of injustice. To listen with an open heart to what someone else’s experience is.

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem for you personally.” 

Want to learn even more? Great! Me, too. Let’s dig in.

The podcast Seeing White is a great place to peel back the layers on America and race. I’m currently listening and it’s perspective shifting.

Author Layla Saad recently published a powerful 28-day challenge that will soon be a book. White Supremacy and Me (afflink) is a must read for white people who are striving to do better and to be a force for positive change in the world.

White Fragility (afflink) is on my book list for this summer. I hope you’ll read it, too.

Grace, acceptance, release

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Yesterday I burned my journals.

Decades of stories that I no longer remember; sadness that I’ve long since healed; struggles I still work to overcome. It felt symbolic, doing this on Mother’s Day. As the pages fluttered in the flames I caught glimpses, memories. And then they were gone.

The grace and acceptance we give our children is a gift we rarely give ourselves. And these were stories I didn’t need to retell. Stories that I’m ready to thank and let go of. They shaped me, but I don’t need to carry their weight any longer. Grace. Acceptance. Release.

I also recycled a beautiful baby book with lovely prompts like “our midwife“; “our homebirth story”; and “family bed”. I had desperately wanted to pour myself into those pages as I had into my teen journals, but never did. And those mostly empty pages left me feeling a twinge of inadequacy every time I saw them for 16 years. Unlike my youthful journals, there wasn’t space on these beautiful pages for my struggles and my grief. For motherhood in all of its complexity. So it was cathartic to finally let it go.

With it went a weight of old ideas of the perfect vision I once held for what motherhood would be. Because in truth, it was harder than anything I’d ever done. Especially those early days! And I didn’t have the capacity to write down milestones when I was simply trying to keep my head above the surface.

Another release. Another long overdue Mother’s Day gift to myself.

The second baby book I released yesterday was empty as well. This one was free of guilt, because after the first I had no false expectations that I’d pen even a word. We added this one to our “cutter bin” for art projects. Transform awaits.

Today, my sense of self is not defined by who I was, or the assumptions and mistakes I’ve made along the way. My quality of motherhood is measured not in my perfection (nor in a predetermined collection of milestones lovingly penned for posterity) but in my unconditional love; in tenderness and laughter; in presence and apologies.

So here’s to embracing our own messy truths, to letting go of what no longer serves us. Here’s to grace and forgiveness and the messy magic of our own imperfections.