Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Expat Mamas: Doris Pfaffinger


Doris Pfaffinger is a Lecturer in the Department of International Literary and Cultural Studies at Tufts University. She and her husband, Christian, both grew up in Bavaria and met for the first time in Regensburg, Germany, where they both went to study. During their separate adventures pursuing their doctorates in Oregon and Austria respectively, with a post-doc for Christian in Brazil, they came together via the power of the Internet. I remember their courtship well because at the time, J was taking classes from Doris and she and I had become friends in the process. Doris and Christian communicated via Skype and wrote emails and even sent each other actual letters, which I thought was the absolute sweetest. We met him for the first time when we went to Eugene for Doris's graduation from her Ph.D. program in 2008. Shortly afterward, when he accepted a position at Harvard, she applied at Tufts. And the rest is history. 

All the details on how Doris and Christian are living the American Dream in Boston, straight ahead!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Shamanic Healing with Sarah Seidelmann


During the year I lived in Minnesota (well, actually, it was more like 10 months, but let's go ahead and call it a year) I encountered a lot of things I had never encountered before. J and I were sucked into a toxic spiral spun by a group of people who told lies truthfully and believed in their hearts the dishonest things they said. That group adhered to a witch hunt mentality and excelled at shame attacks based on said lies. We had given up our sweet, comfortable lives in Zurich for what turned out to be a hoax and it left a very sour taste in my mouth.

But somehow, through luck and fate, I found the lovely and effervescent, and utterly radiating with positivity, Sarah Seidelmann. Sarah is a board certified physician turned shaman and Martha Beck trained Master Life Coach. She is the author of two magical books, What the Walrus Knows, a guide to spirit animals, or as she calls them, "beastie energies" and Born to Freak: A Salty Primer for Irrepressible Humans.

I didn't know it at the time, but when I found her little card, an ornate elephant emblazoned with the slogan Follow Your Feel Good, sitting on the counter at the salon where we all had our hair cut, I had found the person who would lead me where I knew I needed to go, but didn't know the way: to tenderness and love and away from ever letting that sour taste turn my sweet heart bitter. I took the card home and put it in my medicine cabinet next to my prenatal vitamins to remind me to follow my feel good every day, and I still keep in my closet as a daily reminder.

Out of curiosity, I visited Sarah's website and wound up scheduling a life coaching session with her that very moment. The first time we met, I was reeling from all of the drama we were enduring. Sarah walked me through some shamanic visualization exercises to help me pull back and look at the situation from a place of detachment. "Don't edit your answer," she instructed, "just say what pops into your mind...If this situation were a person, place, or thing, what would it be?"

Immediately I saw a very tall, burning building. A plume of noxious black smoke more than twice the size of the building filled the grey sky. The steel frame was about to snap and fall, crumbling to the ground in a big cloud of debris, noxious smoke and shards of metal. It was terrifying. She asked me where I was, if I could see my body in relation to the burning building, and I could. I was standing right at the sidewalk in front.

I was so incredibly tiny next to that monstrosity.

"And where are you seeing this from?" she asked.

"The window of a plane," I answered.

"Is your body safe?"

"No."

"What do you need to do?"

"Get away. Get far, far away."

***


After experiencing the power of the shamanic visualization exercises, I decided to do a full shamanic healing session and I have since continued to do shamanic healing periodically with Sarah over Skype. The photos above are of us chatting and recapping all that occurred in my most recent session. I can't stress enough what a completely awesome journey it is to go on.

When you begin the call, Sarah will check in with you to see how you're feeling and what you want to work on. Then, you find a quiet place to lie down, maybe in low light and with a blanket to keep you comfortable.

Every step of the way, Sarah tells you what she's doing and what she's going to do next. She usually starts with some drumming and calls her spirit guides. Once the guides have arrived, she walks you through the process of receiving messages from them. Sometimes this includes messages from important people (or animals!) in your life who have crossed over to the other side, and sometimes it includes retrieval of soul parts you have lost or abandoned along the way.


It's at once comforting and surprising to hear the messages and instructions from the spirit guides. It can help you feel more whole, more inspired, more at ease with the beautiful being that you are. I'm a huge fan of talk therapy, but in shamanic healing, I have found something that transcends the logical brain and taps right into my heart. It helped me to learn the simple (but by no means easy) lesson that I don't need to take things personally. It has made me aware of the emotional dance occurring all the time between ourselves and everyone we encounter, and to appreciate that others' actions come from the emotional space that they are inhabiting and are not because of me or my actions. We can explain these concepts with language all day long, but somehow feeling them was much more meaningful for me.

Words to live by: Don't take it personally.

Simple, right? (I'm kidding.)


Sarah's big question, the one that guides all of her work, is "How good are you willing to let it get?" Have you ever asked yourself that? Because the truth of the matter is that we are often our own biggest obstacle to fulfillment and contentment. If you would like to unpack this big, wonderful question, there are many ways to begin:

Firstly, I can't recommend Sarah's books and Apps enough.

If you want to go deeper, try the Introduction to Shamanic Journeying Program, designed to find your core beastie or spirit animal. You might also like The Stoked Life Digital Program, designed to create a life that is lived with enthusiasm and courage.

And if you want to go in all the way, you can work one-on-one with Sarah in life coaching or shamanic healing. It's one of the best investments I've ever made.

So, what about you? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, how good you're willing to let it get?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Have a magical weekend!


Oh, you guys. We saw a highly coveted campsite open up, so we left everything behind and went camping this week. It was pure magic. The kids were so happy, the scenery so beautiful. My cup is full and I am just bubbling over with happiness. It was just what we all needed. Yesterday, I went to yoga. Today it is raining a beautiful summer rain and tonight, after more yoga, I'm getting together with my sister Juliet for gin & tonics.

I have some really amazing posts coming up for you next week including another installment in the Expat Mamas Series, photos of our blissful camping trip, and a post all about shamanic healing. Have you tried it? It's incredible.

The internet has been full of madness lately, but here are some uplifting and positive links for you:

I am so obsessed with this exquisite song. I could honestly listen to its glittery beauty for all of eternity.

This little darling actually looks a lot like my little darling. (#10?!)

Savory forever!

Hours of fun.

How to stop regretting bad decisions. (So good:)

Where is your phone at night?

Why Young Women Are Turning to Shamans to Fix Themselves

How do you live in a small space with big kids?

Loving these for Theo.

I put lipstick on a pig.

WANT. :)

Make this weekend magical! See you back here Monday. xo


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How do you stay fit?


One major challenge since returning to the States has been not getting completely fat. I realize that may sound insensitive and ignorant, but trust me, it is not. The sedentary, car-based American lifestyle, replete with processed sugary- and junk-foods, is the perfect recipe for obesity. It took a while to notice just how rapid and devastating the effects were because, obviously, I was pregnant when I arrived. Once I had given birth, all of the natural postpartum phases followed. For a while I still looked pregnant. I continued to wear my maternity jeans for a few months. I had a little Buddha belly that was more like a front muffin top. But, I believed I was on my way. Slowly, but surely, I would go back to normal. 

Then, about nine months into the process, the losing trend seemed to reverse! We have never had a scale in our house, so I can't say for sure, but my clothing was not fitting the way it should. Everything was tighter and more uncomfortable. It was undeniable that I was gaining weight! I was horrified. 

I was also insanely stressed and busy and overwhelmed, so a year went by and I just sort of hovered at this place where, at every doctor's appointment or check-up, I was 10 or so pounds heavier than when I had gotten pregnant with Theo, and 15 pounds heavier than I had been before Coco. When we decided to have Theo, I was still nursing Coco, so I just assumed the extra five pounds were related to nursing. Fine. But the other 10? They were wholly unaccounted for!

The first time I lived in Switzerland, in Neuch√Ętel in the Suisse Romandie, or French-speaking side, I gained 15 pounds and needed a super quick way to lose the weight fast when I got back to the US. That year in Phoenix, Bikram Yoga became my favorite thing. I started practicing Bikram a few times per week and within two or three months, the weight was gone! I continued practicing for another six months and by the time our wedding rolled around, I was slim and toned and looked and felt great. 

So back at the end of January, determined to dive into my resolution before the month was over, I went back to Bikram for the first time in over five years. It's no exaggeration that I fully expected to die in that first class. But, as luck would have it, I accidentally went to a Baptiste class, which is much cooler, and it felt great. That gave me all the false confidence I needed to agree to a work-for-trade position at the front desk, fully locking myself into dedicated practice for the long haul.

My first actual Bikram class, I had to leave the room. I barely hobbled to the door and lowered myself to the floor just outside the door. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I sat there for nearly 15 minutes before I could get up and refill my water bottle and head to the showers. 

After two months, I hadn't lost any weight and my practice was spotty at best. I felt really disheartened. I was dealing with a pretty severe diastasis recti and feeling more weak and out of shape than I have ever felt in my entire life. How I lamented the loss of daily exercise I hadn't even noticed I was getting in Zurich. Without a car, I was walking miles every day just as a matter of course. Here, I see moms out running or walking through the residential neighborhoods in workout clothes. They're setting aside time to actually go nowhere. It seems so inutile; as much as I love walking, I just can't bring myself to do it. I desperately miss the fast-paced, destination-driven city walking. 

I seemed to be going nowhere with my yoga practice, but with the work-for-trade position, I kept going. The thing I love about Bikram is that every class is different. It's extraordinarily physical with the heat and the humidity and the postures. But, the more challenging aspect by far is the emotional one. Nothing can hide or escape in there. Sadness, anger, regret, it all gets churned up and unpacked and pushed to the surface. It's not unusual to experience dizziness or nausea in that room. Nor is it unusual to feel panic, dread or profound sadness - or the opposite. I've both cried and found myself bubbling over with mirth in Bikram classes. 

I tried not to get to discouraged and to remember the mantras my teachers over the years had given me: Alignment before depth. Stay with your breath. Breathe into the discomfort. The signs of progress were miniature. I noticed I could lift my legs a few centimeters higher in Locust. My breath was more steady and I didn't have to take as many breaks in Savasana. And then, a couple weeks ago, something clicked. I was able to get into Camel for the first time since returning to yoga. Then I got into Bow. I didn't just feel alive at the end of class, I felt good. I could feel my spine and legs getting stronger. I had more energy. My clothes were looser and more comfortable. 

Six months. It took six months to get back to a normal practice and to the very beginnings of seeing results. I can't believe how quickly my muscles, posture and tone had gone out the window. But this much is certain, I'll never let that happen again. It's not easy, especially when the wider culture and day-to-day lifestyle don't support it. How do you stay fit? Or is it an area in your life that needs more attention? 

(Bikram infographic via)


Monday, July 18, 2016

Strawberry Jam: All You Need To Know


In my last post about strawberry picking and jam making, I concluded with how to properly go about picking berries and making jam. I learned this through not doing it that way, of course, and in the end, I wound up going back to the berry field one last time on the last possible day to pick berries, and getting another 6 pounds of strawberries. I must be insane. I also got the worst, most painful sunburn on one little strip of skin on my lower back. I had sunscreen on everywhere else, but didn't think to put it there. Word to the wise: if you go berry picking, your shirt will come up in the back and your lower back will be exposed. Yowza.


First batch: I made Strawberry Rose Freezer Jam. I reduced the sugar by a cup and added a tablespoon of rose water. So pretty! I left it to sit and set for 24 hours and carried on to making a batch of preserved jam.


I'm so obsessed with Rose Pavlova, and really adding rosewater to anything that it might be good in, that I added rosewater to the preserved jam, too. Rosewater like this is cheap and easy to find. It was with all of the cocktail mixers - bitters, Rose's Grenadine, that sort of thing - at our local natural foods grocery.


So let's get clear on something before we go any further. Canning is not fun. It is actually kind of miserable. It takes place in the summer because that is when things grow. Things grow because it is hot and sunny. I had the blinds closed, but the kitchen still got so hot with that offending cauldron of simmering water on the stove. It was like a little radiator making the place unbearably hot.

Then there's the huge box of canning supplies I borrowed from my mom and sister, and the even bigger bag of evil sugar. Yikes! I do have the feeling that winter Lindsey will be very grateful to summer Lindsey for having made the jam, though. We'll just have to see.


Preserves are made with pectin, of course, and you boil the life out of the strawberries for a while. I understood right then why strawberry jam tastes like strawberry stew, and why strawberry freezer jam tastes like strawberries. Hmmm...


Once the jam mixture is made, you put it in the hot jars and then you put them back in the canning pot and boil them like there's no tomorrow for ten minutes or so. That's when your kitchen really becomes unbearable. As luck would have it, that day was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it's currently 74 and cloudy. Go figure!


Spokane has very hard water, so once the jars were out, they looked dusty from the calc! But, as a rule, you shouldn't handle or touch the jars while the seal is setting - for 24 whole hours. So I left them alone to set. For batch two, I used the adorable little 4 ounce jam jars. I'll be giving jam to everyone for Christmas. ;) Then, I was all done...or so I thought.


The next day, when the freezer jam had sat for 24 hours, I managed to make space for all of them in our freezer and opened a jar to try it. Much to my dismay, it was runny and the rose taste actually covered the sweet taste of the strawberries. No! So that's how I ended up back at the strawberry patch, picking more berries and getting sunburned.

Batch three, I did freezer jam, but did not reduce the sugar by even a tablespoon, and did not add anything. It turned out perfectly! I had gotten these adorable jars with a rounded body and fruity motif on the side, but then realized that for freezer jam, the jars have to be straight so that they don't break when the jam freezes and pushes upward. I used these cute, squat jars instead. This batch really was a winner!

Batch four was also freezer jam, (I wanted to have a lot!) but I used these plastic jars specifically for freezer jam and then, I ran out of time because I had to get out the door to yoga (more on that later this week.) I put the berries and sugar in the fridge overnight and then continued and added the boiled water and pectin in the morning. I'm not sure if this batch set perfectly, but hopefully!

Now I have a freezer full of jam. Probably more than we'll ever eat in two years, so I guess I'll be giving quite a bit away! But it was all about the learning process, you know? Will I ever make jam again? Now that I have it all figured out, yes. I will definitely make freezer jam again. It is so delicious! I had it on my toast this morning and couldn't get over how yummy it is. But, preserves with the big canning pot? I don't know about that.

This is probably way more than you ever cared to know about making jam, but if not, you're welcome! ;) Next June, I'll be so slick making my jam all in one day now that I know the ins and outs. Do you make jam or can things? I have a San Marzano tomato plant that I had hoped to can tomatoes for winter from, but so far, we've only got one tiny green tomato! Oh well. Maybe just buying stuff at the grocery store is the way to go! ;)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Have a sweet weekend.


The latest news out of France is so scary, upsetting and awful. It's hard to understand how these events are becoming so frequent and commonplace. Sigh. I don't know what else to say. 

Here's a bit of what caught my eye around the web this week: 


I knew it! Thank you, science.

Not a home owner? A few reasons to celebrate!



7 things a French cook is sure to have in her fridge.

Drooling, for real.

Did you have a birth plan


Life with two kids. (Made me laugh out loud!)

Enjoy your weekend. Hug the ones you love. See you back here on Monday! xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Expat Mamas: Kate Prinsloo


Kate Prinsloo is the proud mama to two beautiful girls, a highly skilled Android phone photographer, and the creator of the blog Mom in Zurich. She and her family have been living abroad for three years now. First they were in London and then, when the opportunity popped up, they made the move to Zurich summer 2014. 

Kate found Swiss Lark and contacted me just as she was moving to Zurich, and right when we were leaving. We quickly became good Facebook Messenger friends, but didn't meet face-to-face until more than a year later when Theo and I visited Zurich last fall! Now, we're meeting up in Seattle in a few weeks. Sometimes the world doesn't feel so big, after all! 

Kate is warm and open. She appreciates the beauty of both everyday life and the amazing adventures on which she and her husband take their two daughters. Kate's approach to balancing the exhilarating joys and the plain ordinary of life abroad, straight ahead. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mix & Match Magic with Chairish


Mixing and matching dining chairs to create a unique feel is really catching on, so when Chairish reached out to me to share my decorating ideas on this trend, I decided to reimagine our dining room and went for it!

Our dining room furniture is from IKEA - of course! We have the Bjursta dining table and sideboard, as well as a whimsical chandelier. But, with the exception of our large painting made by a friend in Portland, it's pretty much a blank slate and not all that exciting! Currently, we have beautiful white chairs from West Elm, but they all match and the room lacks personality with all of the repetition. I had so much fun going through Chairish's amazing selection of vintage dining chairs to put together my collection above. Here's what I came up with and why:

1. Harry Bertoia Side Chairs // These chairs are striking and interesting. I would keep them off to the side unless the table were expanded for six. Aren't they just perfect for sipping cocktails and chatting? 2. Mid-Century Style Shell Chairs // These are a classic. They're easy to take care of and they always look good. 3. Marie Antoinette Style French Country Chairs // To add a little luxury, these chairs are just the thing. A space can get too boring and plain without a few frills! 4. Bamboo Quadrille Upholstered Chairs // I love the look of these painted bamboo chairs. They're ornate without being fussy. 5. Klismos Dining Chair // This stately, regal chair balances out the frills and details of the previous two. 6. Philippe Starck Kartell Louis Ghost Chairs // To tie it all together, this surrealist take on the classic French chair is just divine. I'd love to have one in neon orange someday. Just, FYI. ;)

All of Chairish's items are one-of-a-kind from a range of sellers across the country. What you see is what you get. Each item has a 'buy it now' or 'make an offer' option. If something isn't selling, prices are lowered, so you never know what kind of a deal you might find on there!

Thank you so much to Chairish for inviting me to share my decorating tips on this project! I'm flattered to be a part of it. What do you think? Would you mix and match vintage dining chairs to give a room more personality, or do you prefer to keep things uniform?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Can Attachment Theory Explain All Our Relationships?


Have you seen the amazing magazine article, Can Attachment Theory Explain All Our Relationships? I read it this evening and found it so thoughtful and honest, fascinating and encouraging, I just had to share it with you. In a world of bait-click, fear-mongering parenting articles everywhere you look, it's refreshing to read something realistic, moderate and rational. The author, Bethany Saltman, explores the idea of attachment, which is thought to be more important than IQ, social status, parenting style and temperament to an individual's development. She's careful to point out that attachment has nothing to do with co-sleeping, wearing your baby in a sling and breastfeeding as was made popular by Dr. Sears. No, attachment is something much different and it can form under any number of different parenting styles.

Here's a little taste:

I interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, the mindfulness and meditation expert who has written many books, including Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of the Mindful Parent. I think I was hoping he might encourage me to set down my burden of guilt and shame, maybe even offer a God-like let it go. But that wasn’t what happened.

Kabat-Zinn: The meaning of being a parent is that you take responsibility for your child’s life until they can take responsibility for their own life. That’s it!

Me: That’s a lot.

Kabat-Zinn: True, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get help. Turns out how you are as a parent makes a huge difference in the neural development of your child for the first four or five years.

Me: That is so frightening.

Kabat-Zinn: All that’s required, though, is connection. That’s all.

Me: But I want to be separate from my child; I don’t want to be connected all the time.

Kabat-Zinn: I see. Well, everything has consequences. How old is your child? 

Me: Four and a half.

Kabat-Zinn: Well, I gotta say, I have very strong feelings about that kind of thing. She didn’t ask to be born.

I knew then that I needed to figure out why I am the kind of mother I am, and what effect it was having on my daughter.

***

The article takes an in-depth look at attachment between mother and baby or child, then goes on to explore how our own attachment style impacts our adult relationships. There is even a link to a quiz you can take to learn your attachment style. What do you think? Do you follow a particular parenting style? After reading the article, do you feel that your approach to parenting fosters that all-important connection?

(Photos via New York Magazine)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Shoes Off Inside


While living in Switzerland, we adopted the cultural custom of taking shoes off inside. Taking your shoes off before walking into your home when you've been walking around city streets, on and off of trams and through playgrounds filled with sand just makes sense. Floors stay much cleaner and if you have babies crawling around and putting everything in their mouths, there is less to worry about.

To get in this habit, all it takes is a well-crafted entryway - and living in a place where everyone else also does it!



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