Spicy Mussels in Coconut Broth

I wish I had taken pictures, but alas, we inhaled them ALL the minute they were cooked! Photo will be added soon when I make them again.

  • 2 lbs fresh mussels
  • 2 knobs ginger, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2″ hunk of lemongrass, peeled
  • 3 t sriracha
  • 1/2 t tumeric
  • 1/3 c chopped green onion
  • 1 T lime juice
  • a few dashes fish sauce
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 bunch cilantro

Put mussels in a bowl of ice cold water for 5 minutes, then de-beard them and discard any that are open or cracked (they’re dead). Add bacon to a large cast iron pan and brown, remove bacon when its crispy and put it on a plate. Pulse ginger, garlic, lemongrass, green onions, tumeric and sriracha in a food processor and make a paste. Add the paste to the bacon fat in the pan and fry on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk, lime juice, and fish sauce and bring to a simmer, cook for 2 more minutes while crumbling bacon very small and add bacon to the pan. Add mussels and cover the pan for 4 minutes, then remove from heat, use a spoon to drizzle the mussels with the broth and serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro over basmati rice with extra broth.

Basmati Rice:

Put 2 cups basmati rice, 2 1/4 cups water, and 1/4 t salt into an Instantpot, cook on manual, high setting, for 6 minutes followed by a 10 minute natural pressure release. Fluff and serve.


Chocolate Pudding

I have been tweaking a raw/vegan chocolate cheesecake recipe I found when trying to survive nursing through my son’s dairy allergy, and as he’s become a toddler it has transformed into a quest to make the most nutrient dense, high iron snack for him I possibly can. I finally consider the recipe near perfect, and it has a lot of flexibility so all measurements are a rough guide, I almost never measure and usually double this, but I have a high capacity blender.

  • 2 cups roasted cashews
  • 2/3 cup melted organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2-3/4 c organic raw *cacao* powder
  • 2 t vanilla
  • pinch of Himalayan salt
  • nut milk (preferably cashew)

Begin with the cashews, salt, and oil in a blender (a Vitamix is perfect for this!) on high until it makes a thin, very smooth cashew butter. Make sure the cashew butter is really smooth, because if there are grainy bits of nut it’s very hard to make a smooth final product. Add avocado flesh and 1/2 cup nut milk and blend on high. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly, adding nut milk as needed to make it a bit thinner than pudding consistency, it needs to be runny because as the coconut oil cools it will firm up and set. Taste a spoonful to make sure it isn’t grainy and that you’re happy with the sweetness level. If needed add more maple syrup, then blend on high until it is super smooth and silky.

I pour into 1 cup pyrex containers and freeze most of them until needed (a huge batch only lasted 6 weeks before getting eaten, but the texture was still great), they thaw nicely over night in the fridge and it’s a great way to save avocados for later when they are in season and cheap. A high power blender really is necessary, I can’t vouch for the results in a low power blender and you may want to use a pre-made smooth nut butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil instead of the first step if you aren’t happy with the consistency your blender achieves.

Variations I’ve tried and that are worth experimenting with, are using hazelnuts instead of cashews, and adding a few teaspoons of grass fed gelatin for a no-bake cheesecake consistency, but both of those are more adult tastes than my target audience these days 😉

Here’s the thing:

Somewhere, I won’t try to pinpoint exactly when, we as American stopped solving our problems. And it happened when we started seeing those with opposing views as the enemy, rather than seeing the problem as the enemy. We seek to shift blame. We then shift our focus onto each other instead of the problem. The problem becomes just a tool to leverage in the battle for moral superiority. We end up more divided, more mistrustful, more hurt and angry, and having accomplished nothing meaningful.

Conflict Resolution is about ending hostilities in a conflict, but as we often see, the underlying problems and old patterns lead to new conflicts cloaked in new language. Conflict Transformation is about building consensus, changing patterns, and addressing underlying issues. In Conflict Transformation, the goal is to move away from “winning” or no longer openly fighting, it becomes about cooperating to attack the shared problem in spite of our differences. Our conflicts as a nation need to be transformed for America to prosper.

We need to remember that those who want to solve our national problems a different way are TRYING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS, not trying to ruin our country through mean spirited or reckless agendas. When you see someone advocating a solution you don’t agree with, instead of ensuring stalemate by fighting them, come along side them and see if you can find a mutually agreeable course of action. Respect that they care enough to try, respect that they are willing to give of their time and effort to make our country better. Discuss, persuade, compromise, treat them as a member of your team, which they are.

In response to inexcusable problems in our country, we need to address them by building whatever tiny bits of consensus for action we can find, no matter how small or basic, rather than quickly ending up deadlocked in a heated struggle while the problem has scampered out the back door, ready to strike again. It’s hardheaded and foolish, and frankly un-American. The Founding Fathers had immense ideological differences about incredibly important issues, yet hey saw what was at stake. They disagreed bitterly on many key issues but they knew their common goal was too important not to reach consensus, or at least compromise. For those who think compromise is failure, it is exactly how they created a free, safe, and stable democracy.

We must completely throw away our conflict-based political culture and turn together toward our common goals and common problems even when we can barely find common ground to start from. We must start by changing our attitudes about political opposition and committing to consensus baby-steps until we are no longer a nation divided against itself, ready to fall, but a nation stronger for its diversity.

Baby-friendly Pumpkin Spice Muffins



We’re having some issues with finger food in this house, so I’ve been working hard on finding healthy, home made finger foods that our little guy will actually eat. It turns out, I like these muffins better than my mother’s original recipe…no offense mom! These mini muffins are the perfect size for a toddler to “feed” themselves.

Preheat the oven to 350F and beat together:

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I use Libby)
  • 2 extra ripe bananas (black)
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 T raw sugar
  • 1/2 c coconut oil


  • Pumpkin pie spices to taste (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and clove)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 c brown rice flour
  • 1 c dry fortified baby oatmeal (I used Beechnut)
  • 3/4 c unbleached flour

Mix all together until combined well, then fill muffin cups and bake *about* 12-15 minutes for mini muffins, more for larger muffins. Muffins always stymie my attempts to time them because it totally depends on how wet your batter is and how full you fill your muffin cups. Because it’s fall, I also used jack o’lantern cups, make sure to grease the cups a little, I use a Misto with avocado oil. And there ya go! Lightly sweet fluffy autumn-tasting toddler muffins that are definitely mom-approved (as in, for mom to eat most of probably).

Dairy Free Ranch Dressing a la Ree Drummond


I love the Pioneer Woman. I love everything about her and her recipes. I also at the moment can’t eat dairy, because our little guy is allergic and still breastfeeding. But one of her recipes has been a godsend in my dairy free hell. Her ranch dressing recipe is the best, except that I would double all the herbs. I like my ranch close to green goddess dressing in herbiness, it lets you cut way back on salt without missing any flavor. Store bought dressings have absolutely hideous amounts of salt, even the organic ones (which aren’t diary free, or vice versa) and not many herbs at all. So, I make our own dressing, about once a week during the summer when we’re eating a ton of salad. This recipe is for a double batch, to share with a friend or if you really flipping love ranch dressing–or just cut it all in half.

Kinda-organic dairy-free ranch dressing

  • 16 oz jar organic mayo
  • unsweetened nut milk to taste (I prefer cashew milk)
  • 1 Tbsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp cayenne hot sauce
  • 1/3 c chopped fresh organic chives
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley (or equivalent fresh)
  • 1 Tbsp dried dill weed (or equivalent fresh)
  • 5-6 large cloves of garlic, pressed, or smashed and minced
  • 1 heaping tsp low sodium salt

I didn’t go picture happy because, well, you mix it all in a bowl. The one thing I did take a picture of because it’s so cool, is the garlic clove peeler that came with my new garlic press. It’s a textured silicone tube that you roll the garlic in using firm pressure and the paper peels off flawlessly. I was skeptical, I’ve always done the smash and peel, but it works amazingly well.

image image

Mix all the ingredients except the nut milk, and then thin it out a tablespoon at a time to your desired consistency. Let it sit in the fridge overnight, then stir, taste, and adjust.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Why didn’t anyone tell me that the Army is not a place for introverts and neither is motherhood? At all, in any way shape or form? I knew it would be tough, I knew it would mean deployments and moving and generally less control over our life. The hardest part though, has been making friends each time we start over again. And when we were a young couple it killed me a little because I’m shy and I had to summon all my courage over and over again until I had some friends. It was work but eventually I found a circle each time. Now, after five moves in five years I’ve been running on empty for three years, constantly putting myself out there, meeting wonderful people, being friends for a few months, then starting over. Rinse, repeat. This is one of the largest bases we’ve been at, and also the first where we don’t have friends from previous assignments, what are the odds? I’ve made wonderful friends, some that I’m quite sure will be lifelong, and they’re all at other posts. And now I have to make mom friends. Which, nobody told me, is like dating times middle school cliques.

I was always told: middle school is rough but then by college people are less mean and there are all these great people to meet and endless social possibilities. Which is true. But then there’s dating, which is also painful for a shy person. And if you’re lucky you stumble sideways into a wonderful person early on, which I did. And then we had a baby and moved when he was 5 months old. And suddenly I’m back in MIDDLE SCHOOL! Why did no one WARN me?! There was this fantastic reprieve from not belonging and not being cool and not getting invited and not being quite certain who you are anymore and it only lasts less than a decade? What. The. Fuck. Pardon my french, but seriously.

I kinda got invited in to the crunchy mom circle because I babywear and breastfeed, but I’m the odd mom out because I’m a sticker for evidence based practice and there’s too much pseudoscience and mommy blog advice for me. Heaven forbid we hang out with people who don’t affirm our parenting choices, because for some reason motherhood becomes a lobotomy that cuts off all the parts of our brain not related to talking about our kids (and it’s not just the crunchy moms). Our congregation doesn’t have many small children so while I’m spiritually fed, there isn’t any mommy fellowship. The neighbors are very friendly, well, neighborly, but they all get together with their kids almost daily and I rarely get invited. I hope it’s just because I don’t have a preschooler like they all do, but I probably said/did something wrong and I learned a long time ago not to get hung up obsessing about what I might have done so, whatever. There’s a group of moms that do crossfit at the playground out our window while their kids play, but I’m weak sauce, I’m too out of shape these days to keep up even if I had the guts to invite myself over. The “romp and stomp” type events open to anyone on post seem like a great idea but in reality if you’re supervising your kid there’s not a lot of good conversation going on, and when people start talking and stop watching the kids run amok and my little guy just isn’t old enough to fend for himself. I would love to find non-mommy friends, but most of those activities would involve me hiring a babysitter and making my attachment-parented baby sob big fat ugly cries so I can go drink wine or go to a concert or play bunco (all of which are fabulous,  but not if that’s the price).

Where is a mom who will sit with me by a kiddy pool with margaritas and talk about something besides our kids or the Army? I just need one or two, really, is that so much to ask for at one of the largest posts in the Army? Really, I thought my social life would get better moving from one of the smallest, and in fact, it’s worse. Because before there were very few options or activities, but after 6 months I had some great friends. Here, after 6 months I’ve tried a bunch of things and have only managed to find all the places I don’t belong. The groups are either too big and broad to meet someone you have anything in common with, or too small and cliquish and same-minded. So I try the mom-friend-dating route. I’ve thrown out dozens of individual invitations for play dates and we’ve had zero. I’ve tried awkwardly to start up conversations with total strangers at the pool or playground (the bars of mom-friend-dating) and haven’t clicked with anyone, maybe because nobody’s drinking. Can we get a match.com for mom friends? I’m down. Anything but this. Anything.

Tricare, breastfeeding, and preventative care – Why it matters

A discussion recently came up about Tricare and the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance companies cover breastfeeding support and supplies. It is covered under Women’s Preventative Services because of lobbying by health provider organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Tricare as of December 2014 is obligated to provide this coverage, yet for those of you who recently had or are soon expecting babies, you may know they are still as of last week “finalizing policy” as they have been for the past 6 months. Their official Facebook page says they may reimburse retroactive to December with receipt, but will not give any kind of guidance on what model or supplier may be reimbursed. Some people wonder why this matters so much, when previously every family had to pay out of pocket for breastfeeding supplies, and where the money for this comes from and how it works.

I would like to address here at least why it matters, and where the money comes from. I am including links to my resources at the bottom, and while I have been careful in selecting the best scientific evidence, my conclusion about cost savings ultimately logically follows from all the evidence but cannot be proven until this policy is implemented and studied. I have no personal stake in this issue as my son was born before this came into effect, I do just fine with my $25 manual pump, and I don’t work outside the home. I do, however, care deeply about the difficult conflicts faced by working mothers who want to keep breastfeeding according to AAP and WHO guidelines after they return to work and for whom a pump that is efficient enough to use multiple times a day for up to a year is prohibitively expensive. According to the ACA, the pumps must be made available, by renting or buying, for one year. Not everyone wants a pump, not everyone needs an electric pump, and those who do may choose to purchase the specific pump they want out of pocket anyway. Women who need a pump can have purchase or rental covered or subsidized by their doctor writing them a prescription. So the only substantial cost is for mothers who are dedicated to breastfeeding and have a demonstrated need to pump a lot of milk regularly and either cannot afford a high quality pump or aren’t picky and will take whatever is covered. I used my manual pump for a few weeks to pump 8-12 oz a day for a friend, an amount that is a bare minimum for 8 hours of feeding, and let me tell you it’s a pain, literally and figuratively (but I don’t regret it for a second). A manual pump is designed for occasional use, it takes longer, many women find it less comfortable and it must be held the whole time and requires most of your attention–I can say from personal experience it is entirely unsustainable for long term use, necessitating a high quality electric pump for a breastfeeding working mom. I also see  this as a public health issue, because new long term health benefits of extended breastfeeding are being proven all the time, and every health problem we can decrease the incidence of saves healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Breastfeeding is preventative care, that is why it should be covered. Susan G. Komen foundation cites decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and type II diabetes are linked with breastfeeding, and for breast cancer specifically the longer duration the stronger the protection. Other sources downplay the amount of protection, but even those sources admit that the protection is greatest against the most aggressive types of breast cancer, which increases the value of even minimal protection. If we take postpartum depression alone, a study of 14,000 mothers showed that breastfeeding decreased the risk of PPD by nearly half! The caveat is the increased risk for PPD in mothers who intended to breastfeed but cannot. This, if I understand it correctly, means that providing support to mothers who wish to breastfeed and face the greatest logistical or personal challenges to continued breastfeeding (the exact people the ACA’s mandate targets) get the greatest preventative benefits against PPD from the support provided. And this leads seamlessly to the cost issue. How many months of therapy or antidepressants are worth the cost of a year of pumping supplies? The savings in treating cancer, PPD, and diabetes in a small proportion of patients would pay for the costs. And that is only talking about money, not the improved health and quality of life that healthcare is actually for.

That also only discusses the heath and cost benefits for mothers, but obviously babies benefit too! The AAP’s website heathychildren.org outlines the many well document and some potential benefits of breastfeeding for 6+ months. The strongest evidence is for lower rates of infections like ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, etc (30-50% lower by some sources) and decreased severity leading to lower rate of hospitalization in breastfed babies. Other correlations, some of which are unexplained, include some protection from allergies in children with a family history, a fairly dramatic decrease in SIDS, and lower rates of leukemia, lymphoma, obesity and diabetes in children. Studies show these benefits are especially for babies exclusively breastfed for 4-6 months, and the longer the better. That means that providing support, which is proven to increase the duration of breastfeeding, can help mothers meet the 6 month goal who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the challenges. Systematic support can systematically produce children who require less costly medical interventions. This kind of preventative care is almost certain to produce savings in the long run.

Rates of breastfeeding drop precipitously after 1-2 months, and removing financial and logistical obstacles and providing personalized education and support from lactation consultants as needed will provide many more families the protective benefits of extended breastfeeding, decreasing rates of serious and costly illness in both mother and child which in turn decreases expenditures by heath insurance companies. Even though the rates of some of these like cancer are already very low, they are also very costly, and each case avoided could offset the cost of hundreds if not thousands of beneficiaries. Other issues, like postpartum depression, ear infection, and respiratory infections affect a large proportion of the population and minimizing cases would affect many people and cut lots of nickle and dime expenditures on office visits and prescriptions. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the most important part is improved health and quality of life for beneficiaries.

The Cochrane group does high quality meta analyses of healthcare research and their reviews of breastfeeding and the value of breastfeeding support are well documented and indisputable. From a public health perspective, breastfeeding longer is healthier, any support provided for breastfeeding mothers increases the duration of breastfeeding,and more intensive support produces better outcomes.Therefore, insurance providing a higher level of support for breastfeeding will lead to a healthier population, and which should over time decrease healthcare expenditures.

Links in order of when related content was discussed above:







Nice guys finish last (if they think being nice entitles them to jack)

This is a brief diversion from DIY talk and recipe testing, but not at all, unfortunately, irrelevant to the Army family. As the #yesallwomen and #notallmen battle rages, opening up a much needed, if hotly contested, conversation in our society, I have some thoughts I cannot keep to myself. Although many military spouses feel some pressure from somewhere to keep controversial or political opinions to ourselves so our service members are not affected negatively by those who disagree with us, this ambivalence that often leads to cautious silence has fed the beasts of domestic abuse and sexual assault. They need to hear our voices, they need to be reminded this is personal, it isn’t about a character in an overdramatized video or feminist politics, it is the safety of the women they care about. And women they don’t even know. The freedom of women and all Americans to not live in fear or be treated as second class citizens IS a fundamental right our spouses fight for, is one of the freedoms we sacrifice so much for them to defend and it cannot be fully realized until we talk about it in all the dank and dimly lit corners its failures still hide.

As I witness the response to the mass murder that went on in California recently, I’m really glad there are people, both women and men, willing to call it what it really is: an act of terrorism against women. “You won’t date me? I’ll teach you to fear for your life if you reject narcissistic creeps like me, if you stand your ground about unwanted attention.” He is not alone. He is not the first and will not be the last. He was a sick individual, but all he really did was take a message too many of our boys learn two steps too far. We acknowledge murder is not a solution to your dating difficulties, and stalking is just bad form, occasionally criminal, but what about the deep, insidious entitlement? Our culture only sees it as a problem when it is examined more closely and named for what it is, in every day use it’s treated as normal. I want to be clear that NOT ALL MEN have bought into the attitudes I am about to describe, but many, many have and I will tell you just about every woman I know has encountered, often routinely, the ones who have, and the experience keeps us on our toes, scanning the environment for threats, taking proactive measures to avoid such unpleasant, even scary encounters. That is not the America our armed forces fight for.

If he had only stalked these girls, he would have been “infatuated” and “misguided” despite the real effect of terrorizing them and making their lives a living hell until he crossed a line the police could not ignore. That would have been one step too far. But in our world, too many men feel entitled. Entitled to companionship and sex based on how awesome they are, with NO regard for the right of a woman to just not be attracted to what he has to offer. “She’s just not my type” is fine, but a woman who doesn’t like YOU is a little bit crazy, a cold bitch who doesn’t recognize quality when she sees it.

I know it happens because it happened to me freshman year of college, and I was terrified. True story. As a naive, idealistic 18 year old, I had an open door policy on dating: not everyone makes a stunning first impression, give a guy a chance, a first date doesn’t commit you to anything, right? Well, most of the time. Most boys are raised with enough manners that even if they feel irked, like they wasted their time because it didn’t “go anywhere” they have enough class not to say it to your face. But then, there is the guy, who on a first date, despite your offer to split the bill insisted on paying and gives his card to the waiter who shrugs as you say no really, dutch treat. Who insisted on walking you home when you’d really rather he not and told him so. Who then texts half an hour after you say thank you and goodnight and pull the locked door close behind you, to ask what happened, and didn’t you have fun? Who tries to insist on a second date, because obviously one was not enough for you to see his enchanting personality and good looks. Yes, he is fit and tan, a collegiate scholar athlete with a pretty decent brain in his head, and he opens doors and pulls out your chair, but he is just too cocky for you, he cuts you off during conversation and spends much of the date singing his own praises. He sees your lack of interest as a problem with you, an error in your perception that he can correct with persuasion. His father told him so. His father after all, convinced his mother through persistence and now look how happy they are!

He arranges chances to bump into you on campus. He texts and calls, you say, “I really don’t want another date, it’s nothing personal, it just didn’t click for me. Please don’t ask again.” You say, “If you call me again, I’m going to block your number, I’m not interested.” But your carrier only lets you block a number for 30 days at a time. Every 34 days or so the texts come back and you have to go into your account and block him again. The carrier says when you call to try to block it permanently that your only choice is to change your number completely. You threaten to call the police, knowing, in fact, that there’s nothing they can do until you ask him in writing to not contact you, and then he continues to, and then if the police take it seriously which they rarely do, he might eventually months later get a slap on the wrist. You tell him in writing, and that you will show the email to the police if he doesn’t quit. He gets angry, then slowly gives up, you’re not worth risking his scholarship. The calculated run-ins taper off over a year, and you start feeling safer, you stop looking to see if he’s hanging out within eyesight of your dorm. You’re in a serious relationship with the man who will be your husband, and one day he sees a call come up on your phone as “DO NOT ANSWER” (the way you have saved this number in your phone) and asks why you don’t want to answer. So he decides to put an end to this once and for all. He puts on his scary voice and picks up on the last ring, and tells this guy he will not be calling again. And the calls stop. Forever. Because he didn’t respect you, didn’t respect your right to say no, but he respects your boyfriend’s right to date you exclusively without interference. He respects another man saying “no” once, not your dozens and dozens of “no”. This is not a composite made up story, it is a true story, and I am not exactly a shrinking violet.

The fact is, it’s intimidating even for not easily intimidated women. Your space is violated yet he never really broke any laws, and he is considered a normal guy, maybe a bit pushy, but not a serious problem. The truth is, I was lucky. You are far less likely to be raped by a stranger who pulls you into a dark alley leaving a bar. It will be the guy you leave the bar with, who bought you a drink or two. A charming guy who offered to walk you home since you’re a little tipsy and he just wants to make sure you get home okay. He paid his dues, now he’s in. You’re not even of drinking age, the story is the same but a frat party and he pushes his way into your room behind you. Even more likely. It’s the high school boyfriend you’ve been seeing for 6 months who decides it’s about damn time. It’s a story every woman knows. If it didn’t happen or attempt to happen to you, you have at least one friend it has. Think I’m wrong? Do you have 5 female friends and you’ve  never heard one of these stories? One of your friends is keeping something to herself (and has every reason not to want to recall).

I don’t now how we expect sexual assaults in the Army to be dealt with by a “Just don’t do it” campaign. When you mix stress, loneliness, alcohol, desire, a culture of entitlement, a veneer of machismo over inevitable insecurities, and power, especially given the relative youth of many of our troops, it is bound for disaster, and no threat of consequences will stop it. The root causes are still there. Self medicating stress with booze. Being torn away from social support systems again and again. A young demographic that does not exactly foster emotional maturity. And that pesky entitlement, the way power interacts with even a vague, mild sense of entitlement can have tragic consequences. The efforts to more clearly define consent are helpful, but limited. And truth be told, I’m not sure the Army can parent young adults who were raised without clear and nuanced messages about sex and respect. We have to teach our children, especially our sons, that they do not have rights to other people. You do not have a right to someone else’s friendship just because you are nice to them. You do not have a right to date someone just because you like them and they should see how great you are. You do not have a right to get physical with a woman because you’ve bought her a drink or dinner and she seemed to have fun. You do not have a right to a second date or a thirtieth date if she just isn’t that into you, just because you put effort into getting to know her. You do NOT have a right to have sex just because it’s the third date, or you’re exclusive with her, or you’re married, but she’s not in the mood.

I highly encourage all parents to have their children pre-teen and up watch the clip below, language and all, it’s worth it. Girls–you don’t owe him anything. Guys–relationship with women is a privilege, not a right, and SHE decides if and when you have earned her trust and affection. To everyone who is dating or looking for a mate: give people permission to not be into you and not take it personally. You’ve been on the other end: perfectly nice guy/girl that you kind of wish you were into but you just don’t click that way. It’s ok–there will be someone else who does see in you what they desire. If it keeps not working out, maybe it won’t happen until you’ve looked in the mirror honestly, gotten feedback from friends, and decided to make some changes in yourself, instead of calling each of your ex’s crazy.

Love comes when you give freely of yourself to another with genuinely no expectations of them in return, love can’t be earned by quid pro quo. I’ll tell you a secret guys: that’s often how sex comes too. Genuinely. No. Expectations. When you just wanted to see her happy because her smile lights up your world, because you believe she deserves good things, and she feels special and loved and trusts you to have her best interests at heart, that is where true, deep passion comes from.


Memorial Day

Here we are in the remote Southwest. Me, the city dwelling water baby in the desert. The hot dry climate, high altitude, constant air conditioning, chlorinated pools–my skin, my lungs, my boredom! There is little for a pregnant spouse to do in this town: the strenuous hiking, horseback riding, and drinking that entertain the other residents are frowned upon for preggos. An isolated small town of strip malls of big box stores and chain restaurants. Short term jobs, volunteer opportunities, and spouse connections are few unless you have school aged kids. In a word, it’s limited. It has been a rough adjustment–I would never chose to move here. I’ll get over it, I’ll find something redeeming about this place as I have everywhere else we’ve lived, but right now, in all honesty, it’s a challenge.

Memorial Day is one of those days that for me is always a reality check. My husband is here with me. He’s home safe. Five of his brothers are not. He’s at a tradoc post and can’t possibly be deployed when our baby is born. During this deployment we supported a wife whose baby was born after her husband died and many more who birthed their babies without the support of the partners. Even the little things, like, I would love to remember what a second or third beer tastes like, but then, of the friends and classmates we have lost, almost all of them spent their last Memorial Day drinking (or forgoing) their ration of non-alcoholic beer on deployment. Who am I to complain? Last night, sighing at the lack of friends and activities for the holiday weekend, no parade, no big post celebration, no festival or live music, DH got far away and when I asked what he was thinking he quietly said, “I’m wondering what Justin would be doing this weekend. He would be having a beer right now.” We took a moment to feel what that thought brought up, which was intense. It ended without getting morose because I couldn’t help but think that in all likelihood he would have been on staff duty–their unit had a very special knack for staff duty assignments, and it made him laugh. But it’s gallows humor. A few long weekends tied down by staff duty are nothing compared to his parents knowing they will celebrate every holiday for the rest of their lives without him. He is gone. He grew up not far from here, and he would be at home in this landscape I find so foreign.

If we take days like Memorial Day to heart, for the purpose they were intended, they make our lives richer for remembering what a privilege it is simply to be alive, to have our families intact, to be able to focus on barbecue menus and beer and breaking out our summer white wardrobe. We are privileged because others in service to our country deny themselves those privileges, and many more. Some for a few months or years, some for the rest of their too short lives. We should be not only grateful for their sacrifice, but for their example, and their death’s reminder to live with gratitude. It is not a weekend to mope, but to honor, respect, and live our lives more fully, more thoughtfully, more joyously because our privileges are precious in the truest sense of the word: of great value, procured at great cost.

Oh Baby!

As usual, I’ve fallen down on my blogging, but I have a good excuse, I swear. DH came home from deployment ahead of schedule! And a couple weeks later we found out we are expecting a baby! Then the holidays, then our much anticipated honeymoon, then SURPRISE find out we’re PCSing across country shortly. So much change, so much exhaustion, and precious little half-caf coffee.

Homecoming was incredible, and in typical fashion, flawed. The flight was delayed so many times one of my friends called it the “countdownupdownup”. After hours of blow drying hair and makeup and choosing an outfit, we stood on the flight line in pouring frigid rain in the dark for half an hour when the flight was delayed another 10 minutes on landing. They touched down 15 minutes before the magic cutoff where you the get the following day off from reintegration, so the next day he was up and reintegrating at 9 am. Boo-oo.

Obviously all that didn’t sap much mojo, and here we are trying to sell our house, starting out my second trimester, starting to pick out maternity clothes. Which brings me to the main thought that got me thinking I need to write this out as I got thinking about it. What the heck is it about a pregnant belly that people feel invited to touch, when a few months ago they wouldn’t give you the time of day? Surfing maternity clothes I’m shocked at the number of shirts that cutely, hilariously, even aggressively, warn people off uninvited belly touching. I knew it was a thing. I was aware it happened. But enough to make shirts? Apparently yes, because a number of tips for new moms columns and even my week by week pregnancy book advise on deflecting nosy questions, unsolicited advice, and belly touching strangers. I can see how motherhood is a powerful bond between women, and some, especially very outgoing women, will feel like they’re part of the same club, and therefore friends, and therefore it’s fine to be touchy and ask questions just like a friend. Flawed logic but with all the best intentions.

It makes me laugh, but also sad, that there are things like, the snappy canned response to someone asking “Do you know what you’re having?” is “We’re hoping it’s a baby” (DH said I should say, “My husband hopes it’s a puppy”). Because seriously, most people on a daily basis wouldn’t ask you squat about your personal life out of the blue. And most mothers should remember what it was like to be constantly peppered with questions and advice from family and friends even before they go out in public. I mean, weeks ago it was getting tedious just answering “How are you feeling?” a few times a day to the small circle of loved ones in the loop (my solution, by the way, was to create a private Facebook group with almost daily updates so I don’t have to answer a bunch of texts–much better). And that was before I had an even remotely visible bump. So why, especially women who have been there themselves, do they do it?

I want to believe, I do, that people just want to be friendly and supportive. And probably in some way to share vicariously in the happiness of new life. When it comes to touching, there’s actually an easy answer. If you feel awkward asking permission to touch a woman’s belly, it’s definitely not appropriate to do it without permission. End of story. If you’re friendly with someone and feel comfortable asking, do ask, but be prepared to accept “no” gracefully.

If you’re one of those people who tries to go around sharing encouragement and striking up conversations in the check out line with anyone and everyone, it seems to me obvious that there are other ways to share encouragement with a pregnant woman besides touching or asking–both of which are, in a sense, taking. What would be giving rather than taking? What would be encouraging without intruding and opening the door for conversation without making the reply potentially fraught? How about an offer of help. What if, to reach out you say to the pregnant woman waiting in a long line at the sandwich shop “I remember those days, I’m happy to hold your place in line so you can rest your feet until its time to order”. In the check out line, “Would you like help getting your bags out to your car?” To which she might reply, “I’m fine, thanks” and that’s the end of the conversation, she might gratefully accept, or might stay and chat. You could offer a compliment, “You look gorgeous, I love that shirt.” And she might sigh and say “I don’t feel like it, but thank you,” and thus begins bonding about maternity fashion and swollen ankles. Or she might say thanks and go back to checking email on her phone.

People who want to talk will talk. They will take the opening you offer to bend your ear and usually shift their stance to be conversational. People who don’t want to talk will give a short reply and turn away, but at least probably turn away feeling a little better to have had a brief positive interaction. I realize most people who ask questions see it as striking up conversation or being friendly, and pregnancy, like a team t-shirt, make it easy to pinpoint a topic. And for most people, a question may  be the best way to get things started. But pregnant women get a million questions a day from people they know way better than you, a stranger or casual acquaintance.

The word on the street from the blogs and articles seems consistently to express that questions or unwelcome touch comes across to most as “taking”, it requires energy just to find the right response that balances politeness with asserting one’s boundaries, such as deciding how to answer “Do you know what you’re having?” Do you say “No, we’re not finding out”, “Yes, but we’re not telling anyone”, “It’s a boy/girl”, “We’re hoping it’s a baby”, or to ignore the question completely because you’re hormonal and fed up and not sure you can answer nicely. It may be her last nerve you’re on if it’s already a sore subject, like if family is badgering mama-to-be to find out the gender when the couple has decided not to. It can also cause a sense of being violated if she feels compelled to answer questions so as not to be rude. It can also depend on the day, some days you feel like talking, others you don’t. When I started buying baby things here and there, the cashiers would sometimes comment “Oh, someone’s having a baby!” which gave me the chance to say “Yup” and hand over my credit card without elaboration (and on that day, even the observation felt like a question I didn’t really want to answer) or on another day to say “Yes, it’s pretty exciting, this is the first pair of little shoes I’m buying” which got her going about her daughter in law who is expecting and how difficult it is not to use her employee discount to buy up every tiny pair of shoes, and we both smiled. Offering something opens the door for conversation without creating expectations beyond a simple “Yes, please” or “No, thank you”. And some women do want to scream from the rooftops that they’re having a girl and they are so excited even though their back hurts and oh the baby’s kicking give me your hand and want to tell you all about the nursery color scheme even for the five minutes at the Starbucks counter. Trust me, they won’t need hardly any prompting to share their joy.

These are just my thoughts on how to offer support and camaraderie with the pregnant women you encounter in a way that’s more likely to be received as it is intended. I know just about everything related to pregnancy and child rearing are controversial, so take my two cents as seriously or not as you wish. For laughs, I’ve included some of the aforementioned shirts: