on walking

my family is pretty big into health. lately we’ve all been reading a ton of the lovable biomechanist, katy bowman. her book, move your dna, is definitely worth the read, but she has other books, a blog, and instagram, too. her advice is pretty much what we’ve been hearing from every health advocate ever; being sedentary is really, really bad for you. moving your body in lots of different ways for lots of the day is good for you. not exactly earth shattering, but getting more movement into my day has proved harder than i thought. i had this idea that since i do a lot of my living outdoors, i’m ahead of the game on the movement front. that may be true if i’m comparing my self to other people suburban america, but not so much if we are comparing anybody else in the world. i walk from my washer to the laundry line, i dump a 5 gallon bucket of greywater a few times a day, move hoses, and randomly putter on the property. but when i got a pedometer at the beginning of january, i discovered that even a more active than average day for me is less than 7000 steps. most days i top out a little over 5000. you’ve all heard of the 10,000 steps thing, right?  i’m pretty sure that when i lived in vancouver i got a lot closer to 10,000 steps without even trying, because i enjoyed walking the half mile to work, and it was the path of least resistance to run errands by foot & public transportation. here, i walk around my property, or will go for a hike nearby, but never walk for transportation.

yesterday oliver (age 4.5) and i decided to have an “adventure” by walking to our weekly homeschooling gathering. we made snacks and filled up our camelbaks and ventured out to trek the 1.6 miles. we both enjoyed the stroll very much and now i’m just kind of embarrassed that after living here for more than 10 years, i’ve walked to town only one other time. and that walking a mile and a half felt like an adventure. it’s just weird that using our legs as transportation has gotten so novel. i think i might even prefer walking over biking here. because soft sand and steep hills are no problem when going by foot, we could take a more direct route, and didn’t see a car the whole way. oliver had no trouble walking the whole way on his own, and had plenty of energy left over to play hard with his friends for several hours. maybe we’ll get super ambitious and walk to the library one of these days, or the post office! look out world!

there’s a way that walking for transportation here feels like a radical act. i guess because NOBODY does it. there are a handful of people who bike, and we are generally seen as either impoverished or crazy. people seen walking are assumed to be even more impoverished and/or crazy. honestly, if i see somebody walking along the street here, my first thought is, i wonder what’s wrong? should i give them a ride? but there is something liberating in leaving the car keys in their basket and just walking out the door to go somewhere. plus we can feel super smug about the fossil fuels we aren’t burning and the long term health benefits of fresh air and exercise. holding hands and conversation is easier when walking than biking or driving too.

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my letter to caltrans

Dear CalTrans,

I am writing to request a widening of the shoulder to 4 feet on Sunburst Avenue in Joshua Tree. I am a mother of a preschooler. I live just off of Sunburst and the recent tragic death of Tim Kelly as he was cycling North on Sunburst happened less than 1 mile from my house. I believe biking is an excellent mode of transportation. It cuts down on traffic congestion, creates no fuel emissions, limits wear and tear on roads, and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle. I have invested in a mountain bike and bike trailer for my four-year-old son, and we often ride the 2 or 3 miles to play at Sunburst Park or attend Story Time at the Joshua Tree library. Every time we go anywhere on bike, we suit up with helmets, safety vests, and and a big orange flag. But even with all these precautions, I don’t feel safe riding in the road. There is simply not enough room for a car to safely pass a bike because there is no paved shoulder. I ride on the dirt shoulder going down the hill until we get to the paved bike path between the old elementary school and highway 62. But the dirt shoulder is soft sand and hard to ride on, it’s nearly impossible for me coming back up the hill pulling a 40lb kid trailer. A widened shoulder or extension of the bike path would make walking and biking between the community center and elementary school much safer, and I believe a lot more people would choose to walk or bike their kids to school if they could do so without fearing for their lives.

Thank you for your consideration of this topic, and thank you for all you already do to help our community stay safe.

Sincerely,

Maya Toccata

Joshua Tree, CA

rant: don’t assume your passionate health advice is helpful

recently i was gifted a body work session. lucky me. the session was great, and I’m super appreciative of the gift, but i won’t be going back or recommending this person to my friends, and here’s why: he (I’ll call him body worker, bw for short) assumed i was interested in his passionate opinions and aggressive advice about everything. when i first got there we had a chat about my life & stress levels, i was expecting this, and mentioned an old neck injury. when he asked about my work i mentioned homeschoolers. he asked me if i was planning to homeschool, and i said “probably.” that’s when our conversation changed directions “how are you going to deal with those vaccination nazis?” at first i didn’t know who was being referred to as nazis, families who don’t vaccinate? lawmakers? drug companies? it actually doesn’t matter to me who bw thinks are nazis. just the fact that he used that analogy to make his argument was irritating to me. take note, world, when you compare people you disagree with to nazis, i just assume you don’t have a real argument. he continued to spout anti-vaccine propaganda for a while while i sat there wondering what it had to do with my bodywork session. he used the word nazi a few more times, then settled down and we got to my session. i just assumed bw had a personal soap box about vaccinations, and let it go. as i said, the actual body work was great. after the session i felt soft and open. i thanked him and told him i especially appreciate the attention during this phase of life when I’m doing a lot of caring for others. that’s when i made the mistake of mentioning my dad having alzheimer’s. “how old is he? what drugs is he on?! you’ve got to get him away from those doctors, they’ll kill him! they’ll make him pee on himself! you can reverse alzheimer’s with the right supplements. this low-fat, high carb bullshit…” i was pretty stunned. bw hadn’t asked me who my dad’s doctors are or what his diet is like or what supplements he is taking. bw just assumed that my dad’s doctors were misguided and that it had never occurred to me or my family that supplements could be useful? the negative language and images like my dad peeing on himself felt particularly jarring right after i just said i appreciated the moment focusing on myself, as in, me, the person who came for a massage, not for advice in taking care of her dad.
the whole thing reminded me of when i was trying to get pregnant and the whole world had an opinion about what i should do. i know it was well meaning, but it mostly just upset me. but actually, i’d probably be upset if bw was spouting off advice for me personally too. for this very reason i’ve grown to be very careful about what i say to a new chiropractor, massage therapist, whatever. i’ve had too many people tell me really dumb shit that was not at all helpful (to get pregnant bury a vanilla bean with an egg in the back yard. also you have problem gonads, arthritis, parasites, and you resent your mother.) if i’m going to a massage therapist. i pretty much just want a massage. if i want advice, i promise i’ll ask.
lets try to be more mindful of people on their journeys. i think it’s generally pretty safe to assume that unless someone says, “do you have any advice for dealing with___?” that our well meaning advice and opinions are not helpful.

kick, and then you glide

today marked the end of a very big project; a joshua tree session of not back to school camp. planning a big event for very free people under the age of 18 involves a lot. planning this new session as well as handling all the registrations, paperwork, and bookkeeping for the 5 other weeks of nbtsc and an alumni reunion was a lot lot. doing it all while also parenting a 3 year old, running a homestead, supporting a mother-in-law post surgery, helping to care for a 96-year-old, providing long distance care for my dad, and doing a few terrifying public speaking gigs, has combined in me being way busier than i care to be since june. don’t get me wrong, i’m not complaining about this beautiful life i lead. camp was so great! so so great! i can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was to be there with everyone again, after 6 years away. many of the staff are people whom i’ve known for 18 years now, some i’ve lived with, some i’m related to, all are very, very dear to me. and those campers! they are so f’ing great! i love them so. it was a whirlwind of beautiful, glow-in-the-dark, sparkly, bright-eyed, humble, self-aware geniuses. so yeah, camp was great. totally worth it. AND, now that it’s over, i have a sensation of slowly floating back to earth. i feel my feet on the ground and am looking around for what feels like the first time in a long time. i’m so looking forward to some down time. i’m ready to ponder chicken breeds again and plan some activities for my little waldorf group.

we sang this song at camp (i can’t find credit for it, let me know if you know who wrote it), it feels very applicable:

You kick and then you glide

You kick kick and then you glide
It’s all in the rhythm, it’s all in the rhythm
It’s all in the rhythm of the heart.

Keep breathing, it’s the most important part

Keep breathing, it’s the most important part

also, i wrote a guest post on the camp blog here.

what i think i’ve learned about partnership

i’ve been noticing how much i like my man the past little while. i hope you’ll forgive me for writing about it. it’s just, he was out of town, and it made me notice all the millions of things he does for us when he’s home, and then he came back, and he’s been working on some songs and the sound of his singing and playing make me so happy. and he’s planting trees and building sponge swales with our boy, and they are so sweet working together… how can i help being smitten, i ask you?

then i started wondering, is there something (or a lot of things) that we did (and do) that has resulted in this situation of 14 years together and still smitten? i don’t know. maybe it’s chance. but i have a few theories on what’s been helpful, and i’m gonna write them down, in the form of advice, because i can’t help myself, and it’s always good for me to be reminded of my own advice…

  1. pick the least fucked-up person you can find. somebody who either comes from a really great family, or has done a lot of work on themselves, or both!
  2. fill that relationship tool belt! have an interest in creating a fantastic connection. read books* about relationships, sex, and self help. go to couples therapy just for fun. make friends with people who adore their spouse. nurturing a relationship takes time and energy, but it’s fun, and becomes more fun over time.
  3. be kind. to your partner, and especially to yourself. this one is very simple but tricky because hollywood and people on the street don’t give us good examples. just keep practicing. if you feel stuck. ask yourself what mother theresa would do. or jesus or buddha, or cher. actually, maybe not cher…
  4. “you look hot in those pants.” be a broken record of appreciation. i never get tired of being thanked for a meal. i don’t think damian get’s tired of being thanked for doing the dishes. try to really notice your mate as often as possible and point out what you like about what you see.
  5. don’t sweat it. this conflict you are having that feels insurmountable? it’s not. this fight your having is not likely the last. generally the stories we build about what is going on are a lot worse than what is actually happening. try to refrain from building dramatic stories. i’m not great at finding humor in moments of conflict, but when one of us can, it really helps us see how silly we are being.
  6. put in plenty of work up front. the beginning of a relationship is crazy and exciting and full of hormones. use that to your advantage and address any issues head on before they stew and fester. it’ll be scary, but every issue you work through will pave the way for more ease and fun later on. on my wedding day a cranky old lady said to me, “well, enjoy the honeymoon, because it’s all downhill from here!” which is an awful thing to say to a bride, but her view is common. luckily she was wrong. our honeymoon was kind of rough. we fought a lot. we had some stuff to work out as a result of the big commitment we’d just made and the fact we suddenly had joint finances. the conflict felt big and scary but we got through it. now there’s pretty much no conflict that feels scary any more. we still get angry at each other from time to time, of course, but we have so much experience working shit out that it’s really just not a big deal. we get mad, work it out, move on. easy. this getting better over time thing also applies to sex too, but since both my mother and mother-in-law read this blog i’m not going to elaborate on that…
  7. remember you are both on the same team. most arguments are about who is right and who is wrong. or perhaps more accurately, who is a victim and who is an asshole. when you let go of these roles and ask yourself how you can work together to meet both your needs, a lot of the tension just evaporates.
  8. ask for what you want. please, please stop expecting your partner to figure it out on their own. even if you think it’s so obvious. you gotta risk disappointment and rejection and ask for what you want. again, hollywood doesn’t help on this one. but you can start small and keep practicing.

i think that’s it for now. but just as i was about to hit “post” i had this feeling i’ve already published this post. i looked back and sure enough, i’ve already posted marriage advice on this blog. but it was five years ago and there were only four points. so maybe we could all use a refresher?

*my favorite books about this are conscious loving by hendricks, the enlightened sex manual by deida, non-violent communication by rosenberg, and the seven principles of making marriage work by gottman

springing

a couple weeks ago i was standing near the hen house and wondered aloud if we should turn our old laying hens into gut-healing broth. “after all, we’re only getting a couple eggs a day, they are old, and this area is going to be a swale soon. they are really just a liability with new chicks on order…” the next day, i kid you not, there were 11 eggs in the nest! from 10 hens! and i’ve been getting 8-10 eggs a day since! production hasn’t been this good in years. i’m not saying they understood what i said, but it’s a funny coincidence, don’t you think? 

we got an inch of rain a couple weeks ago and all the plants and trees look so good. we harvested the first mulberry and all the greens are going gangbusters. after 8 years of trying different planting techniques, we are officially converted to seeding vegetables indoors in peat pots and transplanting in polycultures. we bought 6 of these, and a bunch of refill pellets. we just seed the tray and keep it moist. once the seeds start to sprout we put the tray on the window sill. when the plants are big enough i pick a little mix of plants that are different from each other, for instance, one each of leek, fennel, kale, and arugula. i plant these all in the same area, digging a little hole and amending with compost before i drop in the start. it’s easy and quick, and lends itself well to gardening in 5 minute intervals. the different plant smells, textures, and colors help confuse pests and also have different nutrient needs from the soil so no particular nutrient gets too depleted.

this spring garden is probably our best yet, but i don’t think we’ll be doing our summer garden the same way this year. it takes so much water and things get so stressed in the relentless heat. we want to build some wicking beds and do our peppers and eggplants in there.

the trouble with waldorf

the mama blogs and pinterest posts i like best are the ones brimming with waldorf inspired activities. they have adorable, seasonal crafts made out of natural materials, they tell sweet seasonal stories about the leaves changing color, or harvesting apples and baking bread. i love them. they resonate with me not only because they value the innocence of children and the natural world, but also because my mother is german, and the german origins of the waldorf esthetic are familiar and nostalgic for me. i love the idea of noticing and celebrating the seasons with my child, and doing annual festivals to mark the year. the trouble is, seasons. we don’t live in germany. we don’t live in any of the northern hemisphere’s temperate zones. our “seasons” feel really different than the four celebrated in all the waldorf festivals. it seems a bit odd to be celebrating apples and bread when we can’t grow wheat or apples here. it’s not easy to collect autumn leaves and dip them in beeswax. by the time easter hits, our spring flowers have come and gone. the poems about the dark days of winter around solstice time just seem a bit off when are days are filled with gardening and water play. we feel more like hibernating in summer, when it’s too hot to go outside, but that’s when all the waldorf songs are about frolicking in the sun.

i guess we need to come up with our own season appropriate celebrations and festivals. cholla day? mesquite waffle party? maybe damian can write a song about how the season has come once more to see the lizards and beware of snakes. or maybe we should just try shuffle the poems and crafts to go with what we have. i suppose we’ll have to skip the ice lanterns all together.