The Juggle and the Struggle

The sun crowned as I sipped the best cup of tea I’ve ever had at Thorung La Pass, a mere 17,769 ft and bitterly cold.  A line of hikers including myself awoke at 2am to slog up this section of the Annapurna Circuit to catch the first magical rays of sunlight.  As I stood there shivering, gazing out at the barren mountain scape in my late twenties, I would never have fathomed the life I lead now.  Currently, I am not sore from crushing mountain passes, but from major abdominal surgery to abstract a breech baby.  Currently, my tea is not cold from subjection to the chilly mountain air, but from resting, untouched as I deal with a two year old pleading for a num num and a two week old wailing for yet another nursing session.  Currently, I walk around in weird mismatched outfits not because I’m traveling and don’t have other choices, but because in my sleep deprived, spit up doused condition, I’m confused by options.

Yesterday was the first day I had my two kids alone as we ventured out into the rare sunny Seattle winter day.  I had everything under control until nap time for my toddler crept in.  These are the moments when I recall my pre-kid days and thinking to myself in the grocery aisle, “Somebody shut that brat up!”  Now, here I am with the “brat” whom I love dearly and would never refer to as a brat, but definitely an embarrassment in the sanctuary of the library.

I am not complaining, but merely venting and perhaps throwing out there to the universe, “Can I really do this?  What was I thinking?  Is it too late to escape?”  I am fearful for my marriage as I haven’t truly seen my husband in two weeks.  I am fearful for the loss of my relationship with my daughter for I am constantly cradling her needy brother.  I am fearful for this little boy, entering the world at this volatile time with threat of nuclear war, a racist president, sexism and blatant ignorance of climate change.

I want to be everything.  I want to model my life like the photos in Sunset Magazine-a beautiful uncluttered house, laughing kids and husband sharing in the joy of their bountiful garden and outdoor shower and me living a life of star mom with home made yogurt and perfect hair.  Certainly this is a ridiculous non reality and my hair will never be perfect, but I will keep forging on and doing the best I can.  That’s what’s left, as well as a soft fuzzy newborn head, gentle baby bird sounds, naked laps and kisses post shower and phrases such as, “I like big nuts AND little nuts.”


Blowing Up

At a time when I could discuss a plethora of significant, disturbing national events, I’m going to focus instead on leaf blowers.  You heard me, leaf blowers-hand held, 3 speed, backpack, 56 volt lithium-ion, ugh! They all disturb me.

The leaf blower provides excess noise pollution in a world of too much auditory stimulation.  Many users of the leaf blower wear headphones for self protection, but what about the rest of us? We innocently stroll by with our untarnished children, subjected to this raucous horror!  Sure, some leaf blower users are more conscientious than others and will turn down the volume to a soft roar. Still, it will come as a shock to brand new ears let alone those with sensitive hearing.

These beastly machines drown the unoffending passerby in exhaust and filthy street shrapnel.  I explain to my one year old that she must hold her breath as we dash by the dust clouds.  I’m pretty sure she has no idea what I’m talking about, let alone how to hold her breath, but at least I’m setting her up for future confrontations.

Finally, I must ask, what happened to manual labor?  How is it that people can no more push a broom or a rake?  Has the mobility to bend over to use a dust pan or hands become obsolete?  Are we in such bad shape from sitting too much and drinking soda that our bodies can no longer perform simple tasks?  Apparently, as I see and hear increasingly more leaf blowers interfering with the sound of the robins, the wind in the trees and my view of natural sunlight.

My rant is one of first world problems (they probably don’t have leaf blowers in Tanzania). I am writing about leaf blowers because I don’t know where to begin with the current political climate in my country.  I am confused by the divisions of people, by the existence of so much hate.  I am fearful about the damage that can take place in one week, let alone four years.  Catastrophe has been documented to bond humans together.  We’ll soon find out.

Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm. -Charles Caleb Colton


Powerful currents, wild storms and thick beds of seaweed hinder the clarity of the ocean.  The turbulence challenges even the olympians of swimmers, at the mercy of something much bigger than the self.  This is akin to the first year of motherhood, which I can check off.  I am finally resurfacing from stormy waters and regaining my sense of self.

The primary year of parenthood is tumultuous.  My work was letting go of any plan and allowing a tiny, fragile being to run the show, who seemed to poo an awful lot.  My abused body was taken advantage of at all hours for milking.  I was fearful and anxious, worried I was doing everything wrong.  (I mean, all the books said this, but I was doing that….)  I couldn’t believe I had been entrusted with this living, breathing, 5 pound person.  As the rainy winter months descended, my self confidence plummeted.  I felt like I was failing at everything.  My husband was at a loss for how to comfort me, causing even more distance between us.

Parenthood puts a massive strain on partner relationships.  There’s no way around it.  At the end of the day I felt I had nothing left to give anybody else.  I was physically and mentally tapped, as in the absolute bottom of the keg, nothing left but a whisper of air.  A year later, I believe Matt’s and my relationship is recovering.  We are in more of a routine and able to spend our evenings together, sharing the excitement of our days.  When Ruby was 11 months old, Matt and I went backpacking for one night, leaving her in Granny’s capable hands.  It felt like the old days-me trying to keep up with Matt, him pointing out various peaks of The Cascade Mountains, us sharing a bottle of malbec and watching the sunset below a Mount Baker glacier.

Sleep was another obstacle.  I clung to precious moments of dozing for myself and I fretted about Ruby’s sleep.  (Full disclosure- I still fret about this one.)  How was the quality and quantity of sleep? Was it a nap or just a continuation of morning sleep? Was it really not sleep if we were walking or driving? Not to mention the bad habits we created from bouncing, nursing to sleep, swaying, singing to sleep, etc. which all had to be corrected.   Oh the books, forums, friends, family and websites I consulted about the elusive gift of sleep.

Weathering the first year of motherhood is a significant milestone.  I learned in the midst of my sadness and frustration, that it is imperative to recognize the successes.  In the beginning I might have simply said,  I kept my baby alive another day.  Looking at my accomplishments in the present, I see new mom friends, work outside from my daughter cooking and teaching yoga.  I see a strong body from long walks and squats wearing a Ruby on my back.

The squall has settled, bringing with it clarity (and 7 hours of uninterrupted nighttime rest!).  I predict there is more volatility ahead, but for right now, I’ll settle in here, welcoming back luscious light.

 Mazama camping trip 2016 with KP. Two nights away from Ruby!

Mazama camping trip 2016 with KP. Two nights away from Ruby!

Crater Lake with passed out baby (not dead!).

Crater Lake with passed out baby (not dead!).

Whatchya gonna do? Campin' Mt. Lassen.

Whatchya gonna do? Campin’ Mt. Lassen.

2 nuggets and a bear

2 nuggets and a bear

Grandma and Gramps at the Granite Bay B & B.  Ruby didn't want to leave.

Grandma and Gramps at the Granite Bay B & B. Ruby didn’t want to leave.

Mt. Baker wedding anniversary with my incredibly strong,  motivated, loving husband (not to mention-HOT)

Mt. Baker wedding anniversary with my incredibly strong, motivated, loving husband (not to mention-HOT)


First real overnight backpacking.  Done.

First real overnight backpacking with baby. Done.


Happy First Birthday Little Girl! We both a share a love of food.

Happy First Birthday Little Girl! We share a love of food.

More Wrinkles, Less Time




Check it out- This morning I climbed on my bicycle and attended a yoga class.  Afterwards, I pedaled the long way home around Green Lake.

I realize this is the most boring start to a blog post and I have surely lost a few people already.  If you are still with me, allow me to explain why these events are so significant.

Normally, at 8:30am, I’m still in pajamas.  I’m probably attached to a machine that makes me feel like a stock animal as it noisily extracts liquid gold from my milk jugs.  Ruby is crying on the floor.  She is practicing tummy time, which really pisses her off.  NPR streams as I try to stay a(breast!) on world crises and ludicrous statements by Donald Trump.  My mug of coffee rests, growing cold before I drink half of it.  When I finally get myself together for the day and Ruby’s had a nap and nursed again, I load up the diaper bag.  I double check for spare outfits (I learned the hard way when there was an emergency shopping event for a new onesie).  Now we can leave the house!  But then… there’s a thunderous blowout requiring deep cleaning and new clothes.  Back to square one.


Being a new mom has reconstructed my calendar.  I used to fill a day bicycling around picking up groceries, wandering the library, baking a cake and sweeping the floor then writing about it.  In present day, I am shocked at how few hours there are in a day.  The amount of time a tiny being commandeers is astounding.  I find myself torn between washing the last of the breakfast dishes and picking up Ruby as she whimpers in her crib.  A constant gnawing feeling that nothing is getting done resides in my gut.  This self inflicted weight causes my confidence to waiver, like I’m not contributing enough. Like I am not enough.

Sometimes I am frustrated and resentful.  I mourn the loss of my previous simple life. I miss pushing the pedals on my Trek, feeling the fresh air in my lungs.  I crave lacing up my shoes, popping in ear buds and dashing out for a jog (without first having to be milked).  I try to recall what having my own space was like.

I say all of these words to acknowledge my current state of being- to accept this new stage.  I would not trade anything for the immeasurable joy and love of sharing my life with my daughter.  In a blog post a few years back, I commented on “transformation” and what it means.  Today, as a mother, I’m beginning to grasp it.  Six months in and I have already learned so much about letting go.  It is a metamorphosis into a more expansive version of myself.

And it is so fucking wonderful.

(Ear muffs Ruby!)


Matt and mini Matt on the airplane to California.


A mini Papa!  Ruby is definitely an Alford.  We think she has my ears.


Dads and babes. 


Ruby and her PEPS pals chillaxin’








Flip Flop


Frustration, anger and melancholy came over me as I tried to tie my shoelaces.  One may think this is a simple task for a thirty nine year old woman, but when there is a giant basketball in the way (otherwise known as 39 weeks pregnant), it becomes much more tedious.  I lamented that I could not ride my bicycle, I couldn’t go out for beers with my friends, full wheel pose was out of the question and walking up a hill made me practically asthmatic.  I tried to explain this feeling of loss to Matt as I teared up, “This is not me!  In the summer I go backpacking, on long bike rides getting lost, and exploring different places to swim.  Now I drive and go to bed before the sun has fully set.”  I could go on and on, but basically I just wanted my body and my “normal” life back.  At some point it all dawned on me- nothing would ever be the same as it was prior to this pregnancy.  My body would not be the same.  My free time would be compromised.  All of my relationships would change, including the one with my husband.  I always said I never wanted to have kids because I was selfish.  I wanted to spend my money exploring the world.  I desired freedom to take off whenever I pleased.  I envisioned children strictly as non environmental, soul sucking, space taking, whining shackles.


Now, here I am with a beautiful (non biased opinion) baby girl.  I cannot think of anything else I want to devote to right now besides her.  Matt says flip floppers (remember the John Kerry campaign?) are thoughtful people and should not be reprimanded for their change of heart.  I fully support this line of thinking.  As he and I stared, enamored, at our baby sleeping, Matt said to me, “Why did we wait so long?”  I explained that we had to check some things off our list and that everything is exactly as it should be.  Now we are eager to take Ruby out on bicycle adventures, exploring in the mountains and eating sushi.  I understand now the magic of your own child- the need to protect, the joy of seeing butterflies, cedar trees and rain through her eyes.  I wonder what she dreams about as her eyelids flutter in REM.  One day I will learn when she uses words instead of grunts.  This day and every day with this new precious life, I look forward to.

Luscious Light yet again redefined.

Dad's highlight of the day- tummy time.

Dad’s highlight of the day- tummy time.

Ruby's first hand knit sweater.  Thanks Aunt Sue!

Ruby’s first hand knit sweater. Thanks Aunt Sue!

This one time, there were 2.  Now there are 3!

This one time, there were two. Now there are three!

Ruby's first bush whack.  Yes, with this guy, we don't start with a groomed hike.

Ruby’s first bush whack. Yes, with this guy, we don’t start with a groomed hike.

Blanchard Mountain getaway.

Blanchard Mountain family getaway.

Let’s Eat Cake


What does a woman do when her life has shockingly turned upside down, she is 23 weeks pregnant and she is brimming with freakish levels of hormones that toss her into emotional chaos?  Obviously, she bakes a cake.  Not just any cake.  She creates a double layer carrot cake, hearty with pineapple, raisins, toasted pecans and coconut, frosted thickly with a butter, cream cheese, lemon zest combination.  A beautiful, non-paleo, sugar laden delight for a volatile woman with an expanding alien belly like myself.


I might say that shredding the carrots, measuring and combining all the ingredients into a cinnamon scented delicacy calmed my nerves.  I might also add that smoothing the creamy frosting over the layers was meditative and relaxing.  It could even be mentioned that I felt satisfied by accomplishing a tangible task.  The truth is though, that every evening after a protein/vegetable rich dinner, I looked forward to a slice of that sweet pleasure I had baked.  (I admit, a few mornings I may have a snuck in a few bites with my coffee.)  The cake gave me something to look forward to, something I knew would be a constant, at least for the next few days.

The evening before, I had explained to Matt between tears that my life had been going so well and that I was finally happy with my work.  I had developed a routine in which I felt l was helping, healing and satisfying people, as well as earning money.  One day I blinked and the snow globe effect turned it all upside down, leading to unstable ground.  I was forced into an uncomfortable situation, confronting people and making decisions I didn’t want to make.  My cortisol levels rose as I felt like a tight ball stress.  This was the worst thing for the little rascal growing inside me, but all I could do was start crying again.  Despite that I’ve lived a good 39 years and know everything is temporary, I still never expect the shakeup when it bursts through my door.

Clarity comes in many forms.  My family and friends have been and are incredibly supportive.  It’s amazing that a sophisticated gal of my age can still ring her dad in tears and he reassures her with calmness and reason.  It’s comforting to have friends in all walks of life, especially those who know the law, happily sharing their expertise.  I am also grateful for a husband who listens to and holds me while I snot all over his shirt and afterwards, he shares a hunk of carrot cake with me.


Security may be a well paying job, health care, or a roof over my head.  It may also be the pure simple joy of slicing into a luscious layered creation, feeling the multiple textures on the tongue, inhaling the cinnamon scent and embracing this one particular moment.



Calmness in the storm.

Calmness in the storm.

“So this couple I know, they ride their bicycles for vacation, from place to place every day! They just find somewhere to stay each night!” Explains the woman next to me at the coffee shop to her friend. She tosses her perfectly colored and feathered hair with disbelief that anyone would actually do such an outlandish thing. Let alone call it vacation.

Her companion, adorned in purple Lululemon exclaims, “They must be quite disciplined and fit!”

The ladies settle in for a moment, pondering life on a bicycle and the insanity of it all. I wanted to lean in and tell them about my five months on a bicycle riding across the U.S. I want to tell them if I can do it, it can’t be that psychotic. I refrain and continue sipping my coffee.

It is always intriguing to learn what different people believe to be challenging or “crazy”. I cannot say how many people have thought I was crazy for some things I’ve done in my life, but I look at others and think I’m pretty typical. Watching back country ski videos of athletes soaring off cliffs and over trees speaks ultimate lunacy to me. Same with attending eight years of medical school after college, delivering a lecture in front of two hundred college kids and most wild of all, parenthood. The only comfort in taking the leap into parenthood is that many have done it before. I still can’t comprehend though, the financial fear, health concerns, massive life changes and so much more that one can’t imagine until in the situation.

A once submerged part of me has decided to jump off the cliff and join the madness of parenthood. Matt and I expect to walk out of the hospital with our new tiny family member on September 10, 2015. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, but this is the goal. My sage friend Emily advised, “Pregnancy is the ultimate letting go of control.” My body has already become not my own as hormones have taken over, whacking me out. My blood is being sucked up by the flicker of life in my belly causing me to faint while shopping for a new bicycle. Talk about whacked out and awkward! This is just the beginning of the insanity.

I have become occupied with thoughts of this baby. I try to focus on positive energy of health and joy, but find myself waking in the night thinking about HOW. How will Matt and I do this? I sense his stress compounding, exhibiting itself in his knees, shoulders, elbows and anywhere else that will cradle his worry. We talk about the future daily. We ponder raising a child in our tiny five hundred square foot house with no doors to separate the screaming ones from the sleeping ones. We discuss finances and how to make it all work.

The insanity for now is in relinquishing control, accepting what comes and eating more ice cream/bread products than ever fathomed.

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