Why We Must Heed Our Hormones

Hormones control every human body. Hormones tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. Hormones tell us when to sleep and when to wake. Hormones tell us when to fight and when to flee and when to procreate. We are conscious beings with free will, but we are also animals at the mercy of our hormones. Through out every month, a women's hormonal constitution shifts. We experience distinct cycles. We are not meant to be even. We are jagged. We must forgive ourself for our sharp points.

Because of my body and because I breastfed around the clock, I went without my period until Skyla was 15 months old. As if nature wanted to compensate for the long nights and short tether. And so I was spared from the dramatic hormonal dips and spikes associated with ovulation. After two years of not ovulating, I have become extra sensitive to the shifts. Furthermore, my body has not found its rhythm and I cannot predict what "time of the month" it is.

Recently I had a bad week. I came loose at the seams. I despaired. I felt aggressive and angry. I had no idea how I could get through another week. I didn't have to. It was not all my fault nor was it my children's fault. It was my hormones. I had PMS. I had no way of knowing because my body felt fine otherwise. No cramps no headaches no cravings. The symptoms completely manifested in my mental and emotional health.

No matter how you experience your hormonal shifts, don't discount them, my fellow women. Just as the moon pulls on the ocean, your moon cycle pulls on the ocean inside of you. To ignore the tides is to throw yourself in the sea and swim against the tides.

It is our responsibility to keep track of our cycles, not only for the sake of family planning, but for sanity. Society teaches us to suck it up and pretend these shifts are not happening within us. But in reality, hiding our symptoms hides nothing. To track the cycle is to find the current and let it carry you home.

What if we took note of our sensitive times of the month and took extra time for ourselves? What if we soaked in the bathtub or got a massage? What if we got a babysitter? What if we forgave ourself quicker for crying? What if it was okay? What if we expected to feel this way? What if we were actually prepared?

At some point in history, women would go into the "red tent" when they were bleeding. We took care of one another. These days, no one will look after you if you don't look after yourself. We are grown-ups. We are women. We are complex. We are not even. We are not meant to be.

I am tired of stifling my feelings. I have high highs and low lows. I have feared myself. I have heard the clinical words. But deep down, I know there is nothing wrong with me. By my very nature, I experience life in cycles. I see and feel in vivid color. I will not dull my edges for the comfort of others. Just ask my neighbors.

This is day 16 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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What I Learned When I Stopped Wearing Makeup

"You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"- Erin McKean (wrongly attributed to Diana Vreeland)

It happens to most women who become mothers. We forge a new relationship with our physicality. We don't apply makeup or style our hair or accessorize for at least for a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer, maybe forever.

I still wear makeup now and again. I still like how it makes my features pop. Makeup is art. But do we need makeup as much as we are conditioned to believe we need it?

The less I wear makeup, the less I wear makeup. The less I wear it, the more comfortable I feel without it. And most notably, the less I wear it, the less beautiful I feel when I do wear it.

I used to think I needed makeup to fix parts of me. In middle school, my best friend and I were quite concerned with being beautiful. We loved spending hours together getting ready for special events, from Bar Mitzvahs to birthday parties, doing and redoing our hair, doing and redoing our eyeliner until it was "perfect." When we had nothing left to do, we would ask one another, "what can I fix?"

We grew up watching movies like Clueless and Beauty and the Beast and television programs like Saved By The Bell and 90210, and reading books like the Sweet Valley High series. Stories in which the heroines were valued for their beauty and agreeable disposition. For many years, I believed I had to be pretty to be valuable and valued. Sometimes, I believed I could be pretty if I tried hard enough. Sometimes, I didn't.

Implicit in the application of make up is the belief that a woman's face is flawed and/or needs to be "flawless." When we wear makeup daily, we learn to see our made up face as the "right" face. We stop seeing the beauty in our natural features. We invest time, money and thought into fixing ourselves under the erroneous belief that beauty can be achieved by the right product and method.

I did not notice the shape of my eyes until I stopped masking them with eyeliner. I did not see clarity in my skin until I let it breathe. I did not know the perfection of my God-given colors until I stopped dying my hair blonde (it's true) and saturating every inch of my skin with self-tanner. And when I stopped wearing makeup, I started believing that I could be beautiful. Not conditionally beautiful, but unconditionally beautiful. 

I would like to encourage my fellow women to take a step back from the allure of cosmetics. I challenge you to run around a few blocks or pump some iron or take a dance class, and look in the mirror at your naked face. I would like you to see the real color in your cheeks, the unmasked sparkle in your eyes. I would like you to see all that goodness you stir up just by using your body. It's inside of you. It has been there all along.

We already know where real beauty comes from. Sometimes we have to turn inside out to find it, sometimes we have to become vulnerable to show it, but it's always in there. Because it cannot be bought, it cannot be stolen. And because it is limitless, it will not run out. Your beauty is real, and it is power, and it has nothing to do with being pretty.

This is day 15 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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I Am Not My Body

Women are trained to see their bodies with a critical eye. They see their friends and their mothers and their friends' mothers and even their grandmothers do it. They see it in the magazine headlines that promise "quick fixes" and a "better bootie" and "flatter abs" and "toned thighs." They see it in the reality television shows that push people to exercise until they vomit or the beauty pageants that parade women around in a bikini for a prize. In these instances, the body ceases to be a vehicle for living and experiencing and loving, but rather something that requires a full-time job to maintain. I have succumbed to the pressures. I have weighed and dieted and binged and ran and pinched and obsessed and hated my body. I have shed tears over stubborn flesh. Finally, I have come to realize that these nonsensical beauty standards do not serve me. The less I focus on my body's appearance, the more I love it.

In my twenties, I slowly learned how to take good care of my body. I was not always kind to it, but for the most part, I exercised in healthy amounts and I ate fresh vegetables and fruits and I allowed my body time to repair. I rooted into the earth in a profound way as I experienced the miracle of feeling a child grow inside of me. I released residual guilt for consuming animal products. Instead, I gave gratitude to the animals for their lives and their sacrifice so that I may be nourished with adequate levels of protein and iron, both of which I was deficient in while avoiding animal products.

And of course, I finally eschewed my old friend, the scale.

Now, at age 30, I have reached a new frontier with my body. Recently I saw a photo of myself, and my ego self, who would have once criticized the beautiful curve of my hip, fell into the shadow of my true self who saw a happy healthy woman, well-fed and strong, using her body to hike with her family and carry her children and commune with the California redwoods.

When I saw the picture and I heard the angel and the devil juxtaposed on my shoulders, I received a third distinct message: you are not your body. It was not a passing experimental thought, but a truth I knew in the center of my belly. Peace overcame me. For a brief moment, my own image became unfamiliar. If I am not my body, then what am I?

I am a being of light. I am vibrating matter. I am an expression of source. I am that which beats my heart and opens my eyes, but I am not my heart nor my eyes. I am not my body. I am the spirit that encompasses my body.

I will not attach my worth to its shape. I will not feel entitled to disparage it. I will not deprive it from what it wants. I will not stuff it nor poison it nor neglect it.

I am not my body, but my body is me. My body is here for me to live in and because I love to live, I love my body. So I will treat my body like I treat anything I love. With care, devotion and gratitude.

This is day 8 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Creating Family Traditions: Mama's Easy Crepes

Family traditions are often embedded so deeply in our psyches that we fail to recognize these patterns of behavior as "traditions." We simply do what we do when we do it. Traditions help us feel closer to those closest to us. They strengthen our values and give us roots of structure, continuity and belonging, says Psychology Today. I feel compelled to create new traditions that are less common, but I don't want to force anything. Traditions, if you ask me, should arise organically. Like crepes on a Sunday morning.

My husband calls me a crepe expert; I learned at a young age. Weekend crepe feasts are a happy memory from my own childhood, started by my Francophile mama who spent a year studying abroad in Paris. On my most recent trip home, she made us crepes every single morning. To me, crepes are love.

Last night, in honor of Bastille Day, I made dinner crepes for the first time, and my family raved. These crepes are smaller than street crepes as I use an iron skillet, but just as tasty and, of course, accessible to anyone with basic kitchen tools.

Mama's Crepe Recipe

  1. Heat the iron skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Blend: 2 cups organic milk (I use 2%) 4 pastured eggs 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional--for sweet crepes only)
  3. Generously spread organic butter in the heated skillet. Pour the batter until it covers the bottom of the skillet. The batter will likely have a thinner consistency than you expect and will come out quickly. It takes practice to figure out the right amount of liquid since different people prefer a different crepe thickness, so if you want to measure, use 1/4 cup of batter per crepe.
  4. This is the tricky part. You want the crepe cooked through so that it will stay together when you flip it, but you don't want it overdone because it will become hard and papery. Usually when the crepe is consistently a few shades darker than the batter it will be ready to flip. (Again, the more you make crepes, the easier this gets.)
  5. Use a thin metal spatula. The crepe will only need to cook for approximately 30 seconds on the other side.
  6. Fill the crepe, let the cheese melt if using, and serve up. Sometimes I fold the crepe in half, sometimes I roll it. Variety is the spice of life.

Our favorite sweet fillings:

  • butter and coconut sugar with a squeeze of lemon
  • whipped cream and apples fried in coconut oil with cinnamon
  • whipped cream and any kind of stewed fruits
  • nutella with banana and/or strawberries
  • ricotta cheese and honey

Our favorite savory fillings:

  • pesto and parmesan
  • brushetta and goat cheese
  • smoked salmon, avocado and mozzarella
  • cooked spinach, garlic and cream cheese

The possibilities are endless. Fill these crepes with anything on-hand, though I recommend you omit the vanilla if making a savory crepe.

They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial fats and high quality protein. We like them hot off the grill (plus I like any excuse to keep my family at the table for longer) but you can also keep them stacked in a warm oven to serve everyone at once.

Bon appetit!

This is day 3 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Dear Beautiful Women

I randomly came across this short essay in my digital journal about beauty. It was written nearly 4 years ago, yet it still makes sense to me today. I'm sure I meant to post it at some point, but like so many of my words, I kept it to myself. Today I choose to share it in hopes that it reaches you when you need it most.  Dear Beautiful Women,

I've felt self-conscious lately. Vacillating between extremes. Both aware and oblivious of my own beauty, the kind that shines from the inside out.

When I'm listening to the voice in my head, the voice of knowledge, the voice that was born from all of the lies I've accumulated over the past 26 years, I feel ugly. I feel judged. I feel that I will never be good enough.

When I'm listening to the voice of my true self, my highest self, I find a deep knowing that I was born perfect and will always be perfect. My so-called flaws are not flaws, it is only my perception that is flawed.

Once upon a time, my aunt wanted a nose job. She is gorgeous, my aunt. As a child, innocent and pure, I was unaware of the societal consensus that a nose must be inconspicuous and perfectly curved, not too straight or too bent, to be beautiful. I could not understand what was wrong with her nose.

Can we agree that all noses are miraculous? As babies, we use our noses to seek out our mother's breast. As we grow into children, scents have the unparalleled power to invoke emotions and memories. As adults, our noses lead us to pleasure as we inhale the scent of our lover, to relaxation as we relish in the soothing properties of a lavender sachet, and to love as we bury our noses against the head of a newborn baby.

Now in her early fifties, my aunt says, "you spend the first half of your life wishing things were different, and the second half of your life wishing everything would stay the same." She never did get a nose job.

I want to know: what does the size of our nose matter? Or the straightness of our teeth? Or the perkiness of our breasts? If we can smell the sweetness of a rose and chew the fruit of the earth and nurse the children of our womb, why are we complaining? Why are we wasting energy when we could be celebrating the miracle of life?

The voice of knowledge, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the fallen angel -- they are around every corner. In magazines, on TV, on the internet, in movies, on billboards, in windows, in parents, in friends, in spouses, in children. Everywhere. The web of lies is thick, and it's growing every day, with so many people busy at work, adding their own intricate layer of false convictions and lies of imperfection.

The truth, however, will always set us free. No matter how detailed the lies have become, the truth is always underneath. If you stop believing in the lies, they will fall away like dead rose petals because they've lost the life force behind them: you.

My Dear Beautiful Women, I've heard your cries. You believe you aren't good enough. You have wrinkles. Your nose is too big. Your teeth are too crooked. Your hair is too curly. Your skin is too pale. Your thighs are too big. Your breasts are too small. Your waist is too thick. Your arms are too chubby. I won't even get started with the deeper insecurities, except for to say that you are never doing enough for your career or your children or your partner or your self.

What if we knew these were lies? What if we believed ourselves to be perfect right now as is? Your highest self knows the truth, can you hear her? Her voice is smaller than a whisper at first, but she gets louder when you learn how to tune out the other voices, the ones spouting lies.

Let the truth set you free. Let your beauty shine from the inside out. Next time you look in the mirror, allow yourself to see perfection.

I will, too.

All my love,



Happy First Birthday, Skyla + Date Carrot Cake Recipe

My baby is one. She taught me how to love all over again. She completes me in ways I didn't know I was incomplete. She inspires me every day to be better than before. Read the story of Skyla's home water birth here, see the photos here.

I didn't quite have the time to bake a healthy cake from scratch for Skyla, but since I did this for Giovanna's first birthday and similar iterations (albeit with more sugar) for all of her subsequent birthdays, I scraped together stolen minutes and made something wholesome. Which meant the cupcakes were not even close to being in the oven when our first party guest arrived. Alas, the creation was worthy of the chaos. Even if she did smear and smash it more than she ate it.

Here is my recipe, inspired from a few different sources.

Date & Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:

1 cup whole wheat white pastry flour 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of nutmeg & ginger) 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp salt coconut sugar (I just sprinkled this in, probably 1/4 cup, but 1/2 cup may have been better) 3 eggs 1 stick melted butter zest of one orange (I probably zested less than half of the orange because I was short on time!)

Pulse in food processor-- approx 3/4 cup pitted dates 3 chopped carrots

Combine all ingredients, spoon into 12 muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes at 350.

For frosting:

8 oz cream cheese 1 stick of butter maple syrup to taste

Combine in mixer and use a frosting spatula to frost cooled cupcakes. For best results, add sprinkles.

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Chocolate, Pecan & Walnut Cookies with Sea Salt & Coconut Sugar

I wanted to believe that my pregnancy-induced sweet tooth would exit along with my sweet baby. Alas, this did not happen.

I love nursing my daughter. I love the connection and the coziness and the fact that I can make perfect food for my little sweetheart.

But nursing makes me hungry, more hungry than pregnancy. Nursing makes me think about nuts and chocolate and butter all the time.

So when chocolate chip cookies with pecans and sea salt showed up on my Instagram feed, I took to the Lovely Lanvin blog for her recipe. (She had me at pecans, she sealed the deal with sea salt.)

When it comes to baking, I rarely follow a recipe. It's just too fun to color outside the lines. Also, if I'm going to bake and I'm going to indulge, I do what I can to improve nutrition while not compromising taste.

These cookies were everything I'd hoped they would be.

I swapped out half the butter for coconut oil, halved the sugar and used coconut sugar instead of the white/brown blend (coconut sugar contains some important nutrients and doesn't cause the same blood sugar fluctuations as other sugars). And I added more nuts, including walnuts, because why not?

Next time I'm going to try oats and ground flaxseed instead of whole wheat flour.

I bake one sheet at a time and freeze the rest of the dough for later at a half-hearted attempt at portion control. I've already gotten two dozen cookies out of this recipe and I still have more dough.

As cookies go, these were very easy (especially with a stand mixer) and very well received by the family.

Peace, love and chocolate, I say. Especially when you've got a baby to fatten up.

Chocolate, Pecan & Walnut Cookies with Sea Salt & Coconut Sugar

Chocolate, Pecan & Walnut Cookies  (adapted from Lovely Lanvin)

1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter 1/2 cup coconut oil 1 cup coconut palm sugar 2 extra large organic eggs 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 3/4 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup pecans 1 cup chopped walnuts 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semi sweet or dark)

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and oil until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently to make sure the butter and sugars are mixed well. Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated, then add the vanilla. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate mixing bowl with a whisk. Slowly add the flour mixture into the egg and sugar mixture, making sure everything is mixed well. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts, making sure the chocolate and nuts are evenly mixed throughout the dough. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 9 – 10 minutes.