By Mari Andrew.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
It's 8:00pm on a weeknight. The sink is full of dishes, the lunchbox hasn't been unpacked from daycare and there's a tiny sock off to the side of the playmat. The only sounds in the house are the hum of the baby monitor and the drip-drying of the washcloth in the bathtub that just wiped away a day's worth of germs from tiny hands and feet.
You sit alone on the couch, tired eyes barely watching the screen in front of you and you are so damn ready to check-out for the day. Except you're not done yet because before each day closes, you must prepare for the next. The bottles will be repacked, the lunches made and everything set by the door so that tomorrow you won't forget a thing during the chaotic morning rush.
When I was in my twenties, carefree and alone, my mother used to say that she couldn't wait for me to find my partner so that we could "get messy" together. I never fully understood what this meant until I finally met that person and as we started experiencing life together. We made moves, lost jobs, fought, made up and wandered on our way together. But for the most part, we managed a pretty nice balance in our routine together until we had a baby. And that's when the full catastrophe began.
When I was pregnant, I read the beautiful book "Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and it was in this book that I learned about "the full catastrophe of life" as explained in the movie version of Zorba the Greek. I immediately fell in love with the concept because it speaks to what is so true about being a parent - the challenges, the pain and the can't-deal-with-you-right-now-but-love-you-so-much reality that comes with raising a child and trying to stay sane throughout the process.
Motherhood, in many ways, is a calculation made up of physical resources. We spend all of our time and energy during the day giving ourselves: to our partners, our children, our colleagues and to anyone else that will take. And what is leftover? That's for us - the one who quite often needs it the most but prioritizes it last.
But perhaps it is in these moments of full catastrophe living - when the bottles are dirty, the child refuses to go to sleep and we just need a minute to breathe - that we can gain wisdom and learn to grow ourselves. Of course there will be moments where we ask ourselves "how did I get here?" But to quote another line from Jon Kabat-Zinn, "wherever you go, there you are."
When we acknowledge that this is, in fact, our life - the one that we are living at this very moment - then we open ourselves up to possibility of learning from the trying and tiring moments. We come into the present and time stands still.
We can realize that our children can be wonderful teachers if we let them. We can begin to see where our value is most felt, and when we can give ourselves permission to phone it in. And mostly, we can better tap into ourselves and begin to understand what it is that we need to refresh and restore and make the most of that slice of the pie that we call our own.
Hey there. It's been awhile, huh?
What a fitting blog post below to reflect on when we last left off here. Last December, I was truly doing just that - walking slowly into a mystery. I was in the exciting-yet-nerve-wracking first trimester of my pregnancy, quietly moving towards change that I couldn't even fathom.
Our son was due in July and I spent the first half of the year focusing on preparing for his arrival and tying loose ends up at work. We moved apartments, traveled and entered the summer with a new nest to build.
Meanwhile, I rushed to finish up the transformative coaching program that I started in 2015 and was slowly completing on my own time. Doing this while pregnant was an interesting experience, and in a group coaching session, a deeply intuitive peer mentioned that she envisioned me working with and helping mothers. My heart and mind were not there yet, so when I finished the program in June, I knew that stepping away from that process made natural sense so that I could honor my path to motherhood.
My first lessons in parenting arrived even before he did - ten days late on a hot August day. Rule number one? You Can't Control Everything. The lessons that followed in the first weeks of his life read like chapters in a "How To" book: Some Babies Cry More Than Others, Sleep- Who Needs It? and How Stepping Away From Google Can Save Your Life.
There were so many things that I learned and even more that I wish I had known ahead of time - despite the amazing advice, support and love I had from family, friends and a life-saving girlfriend who responded to texts at all hours of the day and night. It was after I began to regather, start showering regularly and learn how to gently nurture myself again that I connected the dots in my mind for how I wanted to develop my coaching offerings.
Self-care, in today's world in particular, is critical, and I've found that learning how to do it is key for mothers. They are caretakers who give endlessly, balance constantly and don't always know what they need or how to ask for it. I know this from experience, from speaking with family, brainstorming with friends and from participating in several mothers groups in the past months.
I'm thrilled to begin this new chapter in my coaching experience and watch it grow and change. I look forward to the lessons it teaches me and will continue to share those in this space along with other musings on motherhood, self-care and building a healthy whole lifestyle.
While you're here, look around and check out my updated site and offerings. Sign up for my monthly newsletter, or just reach out and say hi. As always, thanks for following along and being a part of what happens next.
"It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery."
- Danna Faulds
'You’ve come home at the end of a long workweek. Your spouse, partner, or roommate poses the query: “How did work go?” If you’re anything like the writer of this blog post, you might tell your roommate, “Ugh, it was super stressful.” It makes sense – in our culture, work is thought of as stressful. But [Todd] Kashdan says that you should dig a little deeper, and examine how you really feel.
“Describe your emotional life with more precision, and say, ‘I’ve been a little bit anxious, excited, curious, and confused as I’m working on this presentation.’ People that can describe their emotional world with more precision, they end up less likely to have experiences of anger with their romantic partner turn into hateful comments… and they’re more likely to enjoy spending time with their kids.”
McGonigal adds that “as soon as you start to pay attention to what you’re feeling, you increase activation in parts of the brain that give you more control and flexibility over your behavior and responses.”'
Happy Friday! It's been a long rainy week, and I'm excited to snuggle in for the weekend.
- Loving the beautiful and theatrical album by Natalie Prass, especially "It Is You" and "Reprise," which is so classic and beautiful that it sounds like the pace of a heartbeat while skipping through the Central Park on an autumn day.
- Enjoying a big pot of this soup that I made last night - a delicious recipe for using up the abundant carrots you might have this time of year.
- Going deep into the archives of the Innovation Hub podcast, Kara Miller's investigation into thought leaders and thinkers.
- And finally, a few words from Rebecca Solnit about how happiness might not be quite what we're looking for in this life.
"I know a woman who was lovingly married for seventy years. She has had a long, meaningful life that she has lived according to her principles. But I wouldn’t call her happy; her compassion for the vulnerable and concern for the future have given her a despondent worldview. What she has had instead of happiness requires better language to describe. There are entirely different criteria for a good life that might matter more to a person — honor, meaning, depth, engagement, hope."
Last week, we were coming off of a particularly indulgent birthday weekend filled with good friends, great weather and an abundance of delicious food. Not only was my love tank overflowing, but so was our refrigerator, with our weekly CSA bounty and what we purchased for a party on Sunday.
Don't get me wrong - this is a great problem to have. And our late autumn harvest has been wonderful and chock full of hearty squash, funny looking carrots and dark leafy greens. But in an effort to use what we pay for, we end up eating a lot of roasted vegetable, grain and green bowls. While this is completely delicious a few days a week, I was craving something a bit lighter and more creative to balance out the birthday cake.
Enter collard lasagna.
I know what you're thinking. Replacing pasta sheets with raw vegetables can't possibly work. But I'm not looking to create a substitute for your mother's lasagna. Instead, I'm sharing a dish that is autumnal, comforting and wildly nutritious in a format that's just a bit more exciting than your typical weeknight meal. And it's also pretty easy and customizable too.
We've enjoyed a steady flow of collard greens this CSA season, which has delighted the cruciferous-loving man in my house. They're used for wraps, salads and shakes, and impart great doses of folate, Vitamins A, C and K. The remaining layers of the lasagna are pretty foolproof. Keeping with the autumnal vegetable theme I roasted what was in the refrigerator: onions, butternut squash, heirloom carrots and a melange of wild mushrooms.
In order to hold the vegetables and leaves together, you need some sort of glue. My mind was wandering towards pesto and ricotta. Since I had neither of these things handy, I improvised and used up a few broccoli and collard stalks and raw nuts in the cabinet to whip up a pecan broccoli and collard pesto and a grainy lemon-garlic cashew cream. Depending on your preference, you could use regular ricotta, basil pesto...hell, you could even use hummus. Since this dish is raw, let your imagination run wild.
When you're done whipping up the components, all you need to do is layer your bricks and mortar in a lasagna dish until you run out of ingredients or room. Then you just pop it in the fridge to set for an hour, use a good knife to cut squares, and voila! You're ready to fill your body with a delicious and healthy fall meal.
Autumnal Collard Lasagna
To make this recipe, you'll need a 9 x 13-inch lasanga dish and a bunch of collard greens, rinsed and stems trimmed. You'll want to whip up all of the other lasagna ingredients, and then set them out on a clean counter to artfully build.
Autumn Vegetable Melange
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup wild mushrooms, trimmed and chopped (I used oyster, maitake, and pioppino)
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 large carrots, washed and diced
1. Set your oven to 400. On a large baking tray, arrange your chopped vegetables in one layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and pop in the oven.
2. Roast for 40 minutes, or until vegetables are soft when poked with a fork. Remove and let cool.
Lemon-Garlic Cashew "Ricotta"
1 cup cashews
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup water
1. Boil water and put cashews in a heat safe bowl. Pour boiling water over cashews until they're completely submerged and let sit for 1 hour.
2. Drain cashews and put in the blender/food processor. Add garlic, lemon, salt and 1/4 cup water and blend until grainy or smooth, depending on your preference. I left mine grainy to have that "ricotta" feel. You might need to add a bit more water to get the consistency you prefer, but tread lightly.
Pecan, Collard and Broccoli Pesto
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup chopped broccoli stalk
1/4 cup collard stems (use from trimming this batch)
1/4 cup nutritiounal yeast
Pinch of sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Combine ingredients in blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Depending on the consistency you prefer, you may need to add more olive oil.
To assemble the lasagna, layer collard leaves in your dish, making sure to cover any gaps (you can use smaller leaves to fill blank spaces). Add a layer of pesto, a layer of roasted vegetables, and then a layer of cashew ricotta, using a wide spatula. Don't worry if it's not perfect - this dish is rustic, and all you need is for some of the glue to be on both sides of the vegetables to hold it together. I sprinkled some fresh thyme on top, before adding another layer of collards.
Continue layering, ensuring that all gaps between leaves are filled, until you get to the top layer. When you lay down the final layer of collards, use any remaining pesto or ricotta to "glue down" the edges of the leaves on top to each other, ensuring a smooth finish. Pop the lasagna into the refrigerator and let set for one hour. To serve, cut with a sharp knife and use a spatula.
"Long, long ago, before I was a tormented artist, afflicted with longing yet
incapable of forming durable attachments, long before this, I was a glorious
ruler uniting all of a divided country—so I was told by the fortune-teller
who examined my palm. Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or perhaps
behind you; it is difficult to be sure. And yet, she added, what is the difference?
Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller. All the
rest is hypothesis and dream."
- Louise Glück