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Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have. Sometimes I feel like my belly is busted. At different times in my life, I've had different abdominal issues at varying degrees of severity. They started in my teens and changed with different stages of biological development, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, and different levels of stress. They were relieved by pregnancy but made childbirth tough. They returned a couple years after I gave birth and have evolved over the past decade. And now that I'm in my late 30s, I have collected some strategies under my belt (yeah that's a mom joke, ha ha) for managing my belly issues in between medical interventions. The most fun and consistently effective practice I've tried is belly dance. I first tried out belly dance in college, when an older friend taught a brief workshop. I only learned a few basic hip movements, b

Pocket of Joy: Entering the Flow

Over the past year, much has been written about how entering into a flow state with an immersive hobby can protect us from the negative effects of a life-disrupting disaster like a pandemic. When the world outside is out of control, it can be lifesaving to find escape and release inside of our own minds. As a writer, I can get into my most intense state of flow by writing long fiction. When I wrote my last novel, Leirah and the Wild Man , I felt possessed. I lost myself so completely in the narrative that when I went back and read some of the pages I had written, they surprised me. I remembered something like having a dream about the contents of the story but not actually coming up with those particular words.  During the writing process, I experienced sudden storms of inspiration that drove the story in unexpected directions but never totally off course. I learned to trust these moments and open my mind's sails, and my story grew more complex and nuanced and wild without losing t

How Diverse Friendships Elevate Our Family Dinners

And not just because we learn new recipes. Our friendly relations with immigrants and second-generation Americans from all over the world, from casual encounters to long friendships, have benefited each member of my family and our shared dinners together by nourishing us with knowledge, inspiration, and fresh ideas about food, health, cooking, responsibility, gratitude, sensory adventure, and the sacredness of shared mealtimes. And what happens around our kitchen table, in turn, nourishes our daughter in ways that go far beyond literal nutritional benefits. My husband and I both grew up with, and benefited from, diverse friendships in ways that are deeply personal and difficult to measure--in other words, priceless. So, unlike the vast majority of educated, white-privileged parents, when we said that we valued diversity in our own family's neighborhood and school system, we meant it. We didn't just want to live near racial and cultural diversity, with "colorful" peop

Pocket of Joy: Real Clean Scents

It's peak lilac season where I live, and on warm days, one of my all-time favorite scents wafts in from every window, along with the scents of apple blossoms, violets, and roses. My daughter enhanced the moment in her bedroom by cutting a bouquet from the back yard. We avoid artificial scent chemicals at our house, so when we want our spaces to smell better, we clean up anything that stinks and add real things that produce aroma, like fresh flowers from the gardens outside and fresh-baked pies and cookies. Real clean scents almost always smell better than fake ones, and they are usually less toxic to release into your precious indoor air . The only way to truly banish a stink from anything that is dirty, deteriorating, or moldy is to remove the stinky material from the premises. Bad smells are your clue that it's time to do some spring cleaning. This spring, my husband and I made a few changes that gave the smell of our walkout basement a total rejuvenation. We already take ca

Budget Bride Spring Wedding Roundup: How to Throw an Authentically Joyful Celebration and Launch a Happy Marriage

It's boom time for planning post-pandemic weddings! It looks like it will be possible to throw a biggish, in-person wedding celebration next year, when all people, including children of all ages, will be eligible for vaccination. Can you imagine? If you can't, let me help! Below are links to all ten posts in my Budget Bride series, a collection of throwback tips from my own wedding that took place in a simpler time, before Instagram filtered and squared off our dreams--before aesthetic perfectionism distracted us from the gorgeously multi-sensory experiences that can only be referenced in, not totally captured by, photographs--and way before Covid put our lives on hold. The Budget Bride series hints at how to recapture that all-consuming joy of the Before Times while avoiding many unnecessary wedding costs and logistical hassles. Even an aesthetically maximalist wedding can be done on a minimalist budget and with a minimum of negative drama. My wedding was a meaningful day to r