oregon coast

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The oregon coast.  There’s just nothing quite like it.  The forested walks that lead down to the beach, the miles of soft sand flanked by cresting sea on one side and creviced mountains on the other, the bending caves and nature-made kiddie pools and the thick, steamy fog that sits just overhead making a glimpse at the ocean never a sure thing.  This was our vacation week, and it was glorious.  Orlis leaped from every fallen branch, made sand castles, and ran (always giggling) ankle deep through the water.  And dear little Lenox slumbered, snoozed, and napped away to the epitome of white noise.  And we, family of four, (still getting our feet wet with this two-kid business), enjoyed small town pies and ice creams and the novelty of a woodsy cabin.  We marveled at how wonderfully relaxing (and cleansing) this kind of computer-free week can be, and also how, even on vacation, you never do get to sleep late with these munchkins.   Bleary, but still wide-eyed, we thanked our lucky stars for this magnificent setting, for the wonders of the woods, and for the endless gifts of the natural world.

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tying the [ultra-creative!] knot

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In 90 degree heat, late in the afternoon on a Wednesday, there are few things I’d rather do than marry two wonderful women who love each other.  And so it was, Wednesday last, that we — these two loveliest of ladies, their families and friends, and I — gathered around  just outside the barn at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, outside of Portland, and had ourselves a wedding.

A few weeks before the nuptials, I met with these two and discussed the particulars: bow-ties for the groomsmaids, vintage tea dresses for the bridesmaids, handmade bouquets, original poems, symbolic candles, sacred rings to pass around the audience, and one lifelong commitment.  Sounded good to me.  We moved through the important topics– intention, tone, spirituality, self-expression, and the uniqueness of their choice in partner.  I learned a little something (as I always do when I meet with couples) — this time about the importance of feeling okay to be wrong with your partner.   I was reminded, by their wise words, that “when you put out light, light comes back around.  Light finds you.”  And I got to see, in live motion, the beauty that happens when you take the time to hear and know the whole story.

Love and freedom was at the center of this union, and the happy duo gazed into each other’s eyes for the entire ceremony — with a depth and intensity I’d almost never witnessed before.  Their sweet, simple love permeated the thick air and by the end of the ceremony, we were all drenched in it. .

Afterwards, the whole, thirsty lot of us made our way to the barn to guzzle lemonade while the newlyweds went off for a short while to sit in the wooded area together, letting the realness of their lives set in.  As I watched them walk off arm in arm, I thought to myself, there are some days, like this one, where everything just feels right.

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a reading nook

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Forgive me, I’ve gotten a bit behind in sharing with you some of the exciting things going on this house.  There’s been birth, baby, post-partum, yes of course.  But there were other things going on a few months ago during my supreme and most-elongated nesting phase that I had the wherewithal to photograph, but not necessarily the wherewithal to post.  So here we are.

A long while back, I shared with you a few projects that I did around the house as a result of taking a really cool online course called “The Playful Learning E-course.”  It’s a really neat go-at-your-own-pace class that gets you inspired to make some simple changes and doctor up your house so it’s more child-centric.  I did this room, this little space, and this wall organization as homework for the class last summer.

One of my favorite things about this e-course is how the teacher encourages you to find little nooks and crannies around your house.  With a little imagination and usually some objects you find lying around elsewhere in your home, you can re-create these small spaces as mini-learning and playing centers.  The nook you see below, at the top of our stairs, has always beckoned my attention.  When we moved in to this house, we immediately painted this hallway space (you can see a horrific “before” and lovely “after” here).  Once it was sparkly white, I fell in love with this little space that’s about 4 feet by 3 feet.  But I didn’t know what to do with it.

At first, I put a shelf and some toys there in hopes that Orlis would want to play there, but it never drew him.  So, I thought for a few months, and then decided, after taking this course and learning the importance of creating a cozy space for reading, to make it a book nook.

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after painting, before reading nook

I took a class to learn how to make some zippered floor pillows.

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(I’m very proud of these.)

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Then I knocked out four more regular pillows while Orlis serenaded me.  I gathered up some books, a bit of artwork, and a couple of fluffy rugs…

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and a reading nook was born.

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After! A reading nook.

(Wall art by Johanna Wright; faux lambskin rugs by Ikea.)

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And, oh, what a cozy place it is — to snuggle up with some good books and my cuddly boys and treat ourselves to a good read.

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Note: I updated the books on the sidebar recently — there are some good reads floating around this house (and landing in the reading nook).  Check ‘em out!

 

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jammin’

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Hello there!  Please forgive my absence the last several weeks!  I’ve missed you in this space.  I’ve been a little busy learning how to juggle two [energetic] babes, traveling, and hosting friends and family.  Things have been hectic but good.  Whew!  (I wouldn’t exactly describe these as “the lazy days of summer….”)  As always, I appreciate your patronage and loyalty to this blog.  I know the next several months, with much adjusting still to do, that posts will likely be sporadic.  Thanks for staying with me.

 

I’d be hard-pressed to designate my favorite time of year, as so many months hold special characteristics, rhythms, and rituals of their own for me.  But, I do love summer.  Oh, how the heat and the bounty of all things growing makes my heart sing.   Last week, we had some special visitors, who drove up from California, come and stay with us for a week.  We did lots of front-porching and back-grilling, but these outdoorsy folks also wanted a taste of the good life, so one day we hopped in our cars and caravanned out to Sauvie Island for berry picking — one of my very favorite summer rituals.

There we were, 11 of us, out there in the fields filling our hands and our buckets with as many succulent berries as we could pick.  I’ll tell you, there is nothing quite so satisfying as picking a ripe raspberry off its little husk.  All it takes is the smallest tug and she gives, landing in your open palm, staring up at you just waiting to be consumed. Oh, the perfection!  We weren’t shy about sampling those sweet fruits, nor were we shy about filling our wagons and heading back to the weigh station knowing we had a few afternoons standing in front of the stove in store for us.

And jam we did.  The evidence of of black marionberries making itself visible all over my kitchen towels — as we fed cup after cup of berries into their cooking pot, letting them stew with sugar and lemon peel, and then filling jar after jar with their glorious liquid mess.  Oh, the hot work of jam-making is so worth the jars of sweet goodness that last and last all year long, reminding us of these fleeting summer months when everything is abundant and green.

And now, my goodness, we’ve got ourselves a shelf full of homemade jam.  Jam to give to those we love.  Jam to spread on toast and bagels and big bowls of yogurt.  Jam for jam crumb-cakes and homemade muffins.  And plenty of jam to stuff in the car of these find folks as we send them on their way.

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things to do on one’s due date besides have a baby

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A few years ago, I got into the practice of keeping a gratitude journal.  Have you heard of such a thing?  I think there’s no real “right” way to keep a gratitude journal.  Here’s how I did it:  I decided it should be the last thing I do before I go to sleep, so as to flood my consciousness with positive images and memories and to allow my brain to purge whatever was lingering before I shut off for the night.  I did this gratitude journaling just listy style for a good while, and I have to say, it was a wonderful ritual.  It served me in thousands of ways.

As much as I loved (and reaped enormous benefits from) gratitude journaling, it fell by the wayside, as things tend to, when I had a baby.  I think nursing or trying-to-keep-my-wits-about-me replaced journaling as my final to-do before bed.

Over this past weekend, as I faced my still-pregnant body in the mirror and thought to myself, “what should I do?” — gratitude journaling came to mind.  Perhaps some gratitude for this 40+ week state I’m in could do this gal some good.  I won’t lie to you — this waiting game is torturing me in some ways. But, when I really look at it, I must admit, there are some sweet things arising in these un-planned-for-still-pregnant-days.

So, I pulled out a notebook, and got some ideas down in my gratitude journal yesterday. I was not surprised to see that a few things were obvious (1. more time with just Orlis,  2. the opportunity to teach myself how to crochet a granny square,  3. getting a head start on May’s book club book,  and 4. indulging in a few more episodes of Breaking Bad after Orlis goes to bed than I thought I’d have time for).  Those rolled right off the pen as I perused my week in review.

But then, I noticed a few more ideas flowing onto the journal pages that sunk a little deeper in my heart, as yet another reminder that things happen in their own good time.

1. I do love the feeling of being “held” so closely in the thoughts of so many people I love and who love me.  I’m reminded of this via text, voicemail, email, and phone call by many good people each day.  There’s a lift I feel in this, like being suspended in the air on a big balloon.  This feeling is so so very rich.  I wish I could bottle it.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to feel more empathy for the way this end-of-pregnancy period affects, I would guess, most women both physically and mentally.  Having had Orlis at 38 weeks, I didn’t go through this last time, and I am appreciative of the experience this time around — specifically being with the not knowing; being so physically uncomfortable and also being with the gradual nature of birth; feeling pressure of all kinds.  It’s its own special psychology, and knowing how universal it is makes me feel bonded, in some small way, to women everywhere, and from the beginning of time.

3. I’m glad to be learning, by happenstance, the way I think the other half lives.  Which is to say — without so many simultaneous projects and lists and to-dos going all of the time.  A week with not much planned at all and few goals — this is foreign to me.  I wouldn’t want it all the time, but I’ll admit, I like it right now.

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these days (waiting)

These days…oh, these days.  I am waking early and noticing, “hmmm…still pregnant.”  These days are those strange and sacred ones during which I inch so humbly close to an elusive “due date” knowing, at any moment we’ll begin.  It’s these days that are, I think universally, a challenge for many of us going through this rite of passage.  The psychology is odd — yearning for something that we know is likely to be a bigger challenge and also a bigger joy than any we’ve known and not knowing how or when it will start, but knowing it will…it will…at just the time it should.  It’s a peculiar place to sit for days on end.

Dearest friends and family are checking in, daily some of them, wondering if I feel anything.  (ha!  ”yes.”  I tell them.  ”I’m feeling every move my body makes with the most acute awareness.  Who needs meditation practice when I have this waiting game on which to feast my every sense?”)  Other dearest are, I think, deliberately not checking in, but I know the pins and needles on which they sit.  There is just nothing quite like this anticipation.

Well, what are we doing with ourselves while we wait, you might be wondering?

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*Playing with the neighbors.  The youngest among us donning our bicycle helmets and going belly-forth on the skateboard.  (The maternal among us holding her heart and breath with every such endeavor.)

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*Checking and double checking the birth supplies we’ve organized.  Appreciating how many of the things that are gathered in these baskets are homemade and handed-down and otherwise used and loved so well already.  What better to wrap up a new baby in than an already beloved blanket that holds some legacy and embedded warmth?

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*Making birth art.  Toddler-style and mama-style.  Loving the way watercolors work and move together.

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*Fixing, fixing, fixing.  Using our tools as much as we can.

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*Ah!  Enjoying bringing in the bits of spring that so abundantly grace our out-of-doors.  And loving the streaming sunlight too.

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*Just…waiting.

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*Beginning, at friends’ insistence, some sewing projects that I know won’t get finished for awhile.  Being okay with the idea of a long, unfinished project.  Loving the challenge of sewing projects that are well beyond my skill level (and the knowledge, too, that my mama is coming soon and will know how to help me).

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*Appreciating the thoughtful things I was mandated to include in the Mama Birth Supply Basket by the midwives.  Oh, those midwives have mamas in mind all the time.  I am so grateful for that.

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*Staring dumbfounded by the amazing versatility of sticks.  All day long we pick up sticks.  I had no idea they were so very much fun.

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*Applying bandaids where we have no ouchies and wearing them like costumes.  Because what is more fun than bandaids to a 2.5 year old?  (And what is a better lesson for this mama than embracing and loving our scratches, bruises, and scars?)

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*Employing every natural induction method I can think of ….acupuncture, pineapple, wild dance parties.  And doing as I’m told and making my way to Portland’s Mount Tabor Park (affectionately nicknamed Mount Labor Park to those in my situation) to walk the stairs.

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*Bringing my sidekick with me.statues

*Imitating statues together and having a good giggle.

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*And doing my very best to cherish this precious table for three — with hearty meals and silly moments and a bushel of lilac from our generous yard out back.  We are in the business of falling in love here, I remind myself.  And we don’t ever really get to know the precise moment that will happen.

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these days

These days I’m…

*loving our new Friday night homemade pizza ritual

*savoring the delectable food (and great service) we experienced last week at the new Ava Gene’s, in SE Portland.  I can’t wait to go back!

*delighting in my toddler’s desire to have tea-time each and every afternoon, after our tea playdate with the neighbors last week

*wondering when I’ll be back in the neighborhood for more mini pies (and amazing art!) at Pie Spot.  Oh, the pecan!

*rediscovering a love for sitting on cold wet ground and listening to whoever is strumming their guitars at the park

*seeing the tiniest bits of spring popping up and flirting with me when I walk outside my front door.  And bringing a bit of it inside to remind us what is coming so so soon

*reflecting on the wonderful documentery  Birth Story I was lucky enough to see in the theatre last week.  Feeling inspired by the central message — your body is not a lemon!  Do yourselves a favor — go see it when it comes to your town.

*appreciating the lovely visitors whose presence has graced our home and our table the last couple of weeks, from out of town and around the block.  People warm a house like no heater ever could.

*loving our new post-dinner music jamboree.  Lyrics by Orlis, and everyone grab an instrument!

*cherishing these final months of just one kid – the relative ease; the relative tidiness; the relative predictability and familiarity; the intimacy; the duo (and trio) we are.

 

 

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Preparing a Welcome Baby Blessing

This morning my mind and heart are aflutter as I plan for another exciting workshop I’ll be leading next weekend, here in Portland.    The workshop is called “Preparing a Welcome Baby Blessing” and it’s geared towards new families — families who are about to have a baby or who have just had a baby.  I am so looking forward to connecting with these families, and particularly around this topic — one so very close to my heart.

My interest in performing welcome Baby Blessings began when I started to see a real need for it.  I had been officiating weddings for awhile, and some funerals and memorials too, and it started to become quite clear to me, how much we need to start at the beginning.  What I started to see clearly was that babies deserve to be welcomed officially and as a culture, we have a need to officially welcome babies.  Nearly every culture and every religion, since the beginning of time, has held a ceremony to welcome new members of the tribe and while many people today still have Baptisms or a Jewish Bris’, for a lot of people (for a multitude of reasons) those ceremonies aren’t the right fit.  Either they don’t ascribe to a particular religion OR what is offered and available within a particular religion doesn’t feel personal enough…or worth the effort.  What I started to see was this trend: Baptism, Bris, or …..nothing at all.  Oh no, this just won’t do.  Marking the huge enormous milestone of being born with ceremony, for both parents and baby, is not only deeply meaningful and fun, it also goes a long way in strengthening community around growing families.  As a culture, I really see that we need it — in the same way witnessing the weddings of friends and family feels so satisfying and in the same way we find meaningful ways to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.  It honors those moments and decisions and rites of passage that are so important to us and gives them their due respect and attention.

I have led many Welcome Baby Blessings, and each of them stick out in my memory as being totally unique, really meaningful, and a whole lot of fun. I often think back — not too far — to the Blessing we had for Orlis and how special that was, and also how much preparing for it packed a punch for us in terms of clarifying our parenting values, welcoming our community into our process, and honoring his existence in the world.  It felt official.

I am so excited to be with these families next weekend to begin the beautiful process of creating a Welcome Ceremony for the new precious life that has graced theirs’.  I can hardly think of a higher honor.   Here’s the details:

Preparing a Welcome Baby Blessing    

Saturday February 9th, 10:00 – Noon  

@ Alma Education and Movement Space  1233 SE Stark Street

$25 same day, or pre-register with me at mary@treelifecoaching or 503-841-5949 for a $5 discount.

Oh, do join us.  And tell your pregnant friends or friends who have recently had a baby.   We are going to have a great time, I know it.

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preparing your Blessingway

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Pomona

Hi Blogreaders!

I’m back from my vacation and feeling refreshed and energized.  I hope you had a nice week.

Upon my return, my mind has turned full-focus towards a special event happening this weekend, right in SE Portland, OR.  I will be leading a 2-hour workshop entitled “Preparing Your Blessingway”  at Alma Education Space, 1233 SE Stark Street on Saturday January 26th from 10-noon.  The event is for pregnant mamas and their closest friends to attend together.  Here’s the official description:

Being pregnant, giving birth, and early motherhood are the Mothers of all rites of passage. As women, we come together in support of ourselves and each other to prepare as much as we can, and pave the way for the most gentle and meaningful transition possible. True preparation for this incredible rite of passage has little to do with receiving a stack of onesies or sharing hospital horror stories — rather, expectant mothers deserve to gather with their closest women in a gathering that honors and celebrates the mother-to-be during this enormous transition, and creates structure to give the support in early motherhood that women truly need. A Blessingway (also often called a Mother Blessing) is a mother-centered alternative (or sometimes complement) to the contemporary baby shower.

In this workshop, you will learn how to cultivate a caring community for mothers-to-be by planning a meaningful pre-birth ritual gathering. You will learn simple rituals, as well as how to create safe sharing circles. Well also share ideas about who and how to invite, fun birth art projects to incorporate, and how to create and reinforce support structures for the postpartum period. In most Mother Blessings, all women come away feeling both personally transformed as well as more deeply connected to the circle of women present.

A Blessingway often includes:

 *ritualistic pampering, honoring, preparing, and adorning the mom-to-be

*space for acknowledging and releasing fears

*sharing stories, blessings, letters, wishes, and symbolic and nurturing gifts

*co-creating birth art

*opening to the divine presence and the inherent birth-giving capabilities in every woman

*an opportunity to learn about and bolster the specific choices in childbirth and hopes for parenting of the mom-to-be

*establishing creative and practical structures for birth and post-partum support

*a potluck feast

 

We will be meeting in the new space (adjacent to the regular Alma Education space) that is all-too-aptly titled, “The Gathering Place.”  There are still spots available for pre-registration, and if you register by Friday night (1/25) you get $5 off the $25 fee.  If you bring a friend, it’s only $10 extra (no limit).  You can register by commenting on this blog post or by contacting me here.

I very much appreciate you helping me spread the word to pregnant ladies in Portland.  I am so excited to be with all these pregnant women and their loving friends on Saturday, in preparation for one of the biggest transitions and transformations we know as women, and in creation of a ritual and celebration that will support them.

And, just a reminder to you local Portland folks, I’m also leading a one-hour workshop tonight(!) at Alma Education Space, 1233 SE Stark.  It’s entitled Elimination Communication: Potty Training from Day 1.  There’s more info here (at the Treelife site) and here (if you search Alma Midwifery’s calendar.)  It’s only $15 per family and walk-ins are welcome!   (If you happen to be an Alma client, it’s free).  Come learn about the freedom of doing Elimination Communication with your little one — I’d love to see you there.

 

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pregnant mamas unite

There are few things more comforting for a big-bellied pregnant mama than a whole room full of big-bellied pregnant mamas.  One Tuesday evening per month, a group of us gather around a table and share a meal.  I must say, there is just something so lovely about each of us inching our growing bodies as close as we can to the potluck table and filling our plates with the various homemade goodies with an unspoken and very much spoken understanding that this is a special time in our lives.  There’s a lot to discuss about this enormous transition we are all going through.  Lucky, lucky me to have found the amazing community resource that is Alma Midwifery, here in Portland, OR.

This particular group of us all plan to give birth — some of us for the 2nd time, and most of the group for the 1st time — either at home or in the warm and most inviting private rooms at Alma’s stand-alone birthing center sometime in March, April, or May.  That makes us the “Spring Mamas.”  And besides just being pregnant (which I’ve found to be a great common denominator among all different kinds of women), we all share in the experience of having chosen the midwifery model of care.   This, I have found, is a source of instant connection, commonality, and great bonding.  With a  shared paradigm from which to draw, much to learn from each other in the way of resources and ideas, and the vulnerability that this sacred process beholds, this is community-building at its very best.

This monthly potluck ritual is so much more than just a few women gathered for a meal, I find.  And much of that is due to the physical space in which we gather — Alma’s Movement and Education Space in SE Portland — where, I think anyone could make themselves comfortable.  There’s a gorgeous bathroom, a clean, shared kitchen stocked with herbal teas and jars of honey, soft chairs and pillows everywhere, and a bulletin board with reminders about all kinds of juicy offerings happening in the same space throughout the month.  It gives the sense, you are invited.  You are welcome.  What I love most, though, are the bits and pieces of art scattered around the space that honor the uniqueness and beauty of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.   There are beautifully painted bodycasts, paintings of babies and mothers nursing, and many images that celebrate the rawness and realness of birth.  I am humbled by these images, and specifically, by the powerful reminder they offer about the work that all of these women’s bodies are doing now, and the work their bodies will do as they bring their babies into the world.  I’m humbled, too, by the people — partners and husbands and midwives and doulas — who have made it their passion and their business to make it so, and specifically, to make it so on the mother’s (and nature’s) terms.  It isn’t easy work for anyone involved, but it’s sacred, and this space pays homage to that more than any I’ve had the honor to visit.

People often ask me — what are the reasons to prepare for a home birth?  Why do it?  And I want to say, among so many things, this is why — the community, the honoring, the nourishing, and the attitude of both realness and celebration around what many describe as the biggest transition of one’s life.  I am honored, truly, to be a part of this group of Spring Mamas — to be growing community together in this way, and to be sharing in this magical, complex, and wild ride.

P.S. I leave for vacation today!  I’ll be gone from this space for about a week and will see you back here on Wednesday January 23rd.  Have a great week!

 

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