i am grateful for:

1) elizabeth gilbert on facebook. because this.

2) finding books read and scribbled in by younger me. 20-year-old me, to be exact. enabling me to post things like this:

“When pleasant feelings arise and we automatically grasp them, or when unpleasant feelings arise and we try to avoid them, we set up a chain reaction of entanglement and suffering. This perpetuates the body of fear. However, if we learn to be aware of feelings without grasping or aversion, they can move through us like changing weather, and we can be free to feel them and move on like the wind.” – Jack Kornfield, from “A Path with Heart” (I just found this underlined in a copy I read in college that I likely bought at the Kripalu bookstore, circa 1993.)

UPDATE: Oh my, I love me. Scrawled by 20-year-old me on a blank page in same wonderful book on mindfulness: “what happened to the good ol’ days when we made out till we thought our genitals would implode because the “actual act” was barely thought of as a reality, much less expected?”

3) stephen king’s paris review interview from 2007-ish.

4) iced coffee in a mason jar at home.

5) the boy being ok. yesterday, i was waiting for the post nap-put-down crying to quiet and i heard an odd fabric shuffling, then THUMP. then WAHHHHHHHHH. yep, he jumped or fell or leapt out of his damn crib. i sprinted of course, and there he is, on the floor, howling. i hover my hands over him a second while talking to him and thinking holy shit holy shit holy shit. because i know if he’s broken something major i should not move him myself. but he is thrashing and waving and squirming as usual, just more. i scoop him up and try to hold him but he is having none of it, so i lie him on the bed and pet him while he howls, and say sweet things as i see how high that crib railing is and how small he is and think that if i flew off something 50% taller than me and landed on my face then belly that would hurt. that would be scary. i keep doing this math. he finally calms down enough to pull my hair, which makes him laugh and i know he’s going to be ok and we have just dodged a very scary bullet. he’s just babbling now so i call my husband, which i rarely do when he’s at work and he immediately asks what’s wrong and i tell him, “he’s ok. he just jumped out of his crib.” and there is silence and oh my god. and laughter. because wow what a little mischief maker and how are we such crappy parents that we hadn’t lowered the crib yet (he hasn’t pulled up and really only yesterday was he able to get from his belly to sitting on his own, so i guess that’s why, but still). and also the laughter is relief that he’s ok. i see his pupils dilating normally. he’s moving fine. so i get out the porta-crib, which will be his temporary home. i feed him and sing and rock him and put him down for the nap he still hasn’t had and he goes down like a boo and i slip out and take deep breaths and down some rescue remedy and text with my husband and eat some homemade granola. whew. whew. whew.

6) a non-sweltering august.

7) a job, a cozy home, a lovely family.

8) being emotionally healthy enough to have all of that and to appreciate it, even when i get overwhelmed by the world and my world.

9) pinterest. the beauty, the beauty.

10) the “silly tails” book series for babies. check them out. the best.

11) sunsets at our pad.

Valerie Reiss

lush summer gratitude

Prospect Park Trees

Prospect Park Trees

i am grateful for…

1) finding the owner of some keys i found by calling the number on her rite aid key fob thingy. she brought me three red roses with glitter on them. super sweet and made me feel a part of things.

2) some awesome lady writers i’ve been meeting lately. sometimes all you need is some serious shop-talking to make you feel sane again. especially with writing, which we do in a tiny corner by ourselves.

3) FOUR teeth. baby boy has FOUR teeth. and more coming soon, judging by the drool and crying and finger-chewing. i dreamt last night that he was a teenager already—a tall female who wanted to be a model. and i thought, “it really DOES go fast. i can’t even remember his childhood.”

4) getting a cortisone shot. well, hopefully liking this. it went smoothly, just waiting on something to feel better. we’ll see.

5) so much lushness in this not-too-sticky, warm summer weather. i love the green, green trees, the fluffy grass, the high bushes, the blocks that smell like sugar from all the flowers.

6) our sunsets. they really are so big, with the sky rolling out like it does, high up and wide, then over manhattan, and above us, as if to say, “there, there, small people.”

7) having a dishwasher. major appliances in nyc just never gets old.

8) dear husband, for making dinner, for taking us out to dinner, to the DEEElicious talde. and they made everything major non-dairy for me, for the boy by the transitive property of breastmilk. lovely to have a date with my husband, to see him on the corner, waiting for me, staring at his phone in his work clothes. gave me a little thrill back to when we were full-time dating and i’d get a jolt seeing him there. old sexy context brought into our sleep-deprived context.

9) the baby boy army crawling everywhere.

10) great childcare. the boy lights up when she gets here and she’s so patient and calm with him, reading books, going for walks, bouncing on the giant white yoga ball.

11) chopped, the tv show. we/i are/am a little obsessed. it actually inspires me to be a better cook. to try more things, to see what i can do with what we have.

12) infant advil. we all actually got some sleep last night. only one waking between 11pm and 5:45am. down from three to four. the teething guy!

13) doing a new magazine article. i love the interviewing, the putting together, and yes, probably even the feeling that it will never come together and that it sucks.

14) learning this: a group of starfish is called a constellation of starfish! go, baby flashcards!

15) having a blog, which is basically always saying: “what have you done for me lately?” keeps the writing channels open.

Valerie Reisslush summer gratitude

photo-strip gratitude

goofy wedding day photo strip

goofy wedding day photo strip

strip2

goofy day-after-wedding photo strip

i am grateful for…

1) a napping babe.

2) PT massage on my left hip, which has at least 20 years worth of knots in it. i could actually pull my knee near my chest (well, nearish) today. usually it clicks and grabs and stops. so cool.

3) sweet riot quinoa crunch chocolate. like a much healthier krackle bar. and i once loved me some krackle.

4) opening the mailbox to a check instead of bills. rare but lovely.

5) a gorgeous park walk yesterday. warm but cool, somehow. we’re actually having a spring, i.e., the non-freezing, non-sweltering perfection in between. it’s beautiful.

6) sleep. ok, so BB (baby boy) woke at 5:30 am for good (somehow so much more painful than 6 am). but not so much in between, even though he is clearly working on Tooth, Part II: Bite Back.

7) dancing with the BB to a chant while i feed him. he’s heavy as a couple of wriggly bowling balls, but i won’t be able to cradle him for much longer, so it’s the bittersweet pre-nostalgia thing. also, so sweet.

8) hard boiling eggs with apple cider vinegar in the water. so much less life wasted in unpeeling. yay!

9) finally sending out the photo strips from our brad-made wedding photo booth almost two years ago. such happy photos! i’d like to print them in a book, but nowhere i can find lets you print digital photo booth photos. super-freaking weird, considering there are a zillion apps that let you take digital strips of them. but ZERO let you print. know of one? let me know.

10) TGIF? friday ain’t what it used to be, with BB and DH working weekends. my two hardest days of the week are coming at me, 3D-style. trying to: be present, breathe, take each moment as it comes, stay outside as much as possible. especially with BB teething. after five minutes of playing he’s fussing and nothing makes him happy. it’s rough for us both. but pretty soon i will forget these hard days and think his babyhood was so much fun. which it is. and isn’t.

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Valerie Reissphoto-strip gratitude

june-y gratitude

i am grateful for…

1) stepping out on my balcony yesterday morning at 6am (ok, don’t love that part), and the smell was pure JUNE. cut grass, new leaves, cleanish air. maybe it’s the perfect blend of all those things plus the way the sunlight hits everything and therefore releases scents, like heat from the backs of your wrists, in the exact way that makes all NYC junes smell similar. fresh, hopeful, free. anticipation for the summer and excitement that school will be OUT really, really soon. and sadness for that moment of not seeing my school friends all mixed in with the thrill being able to swim soon, and feel warm all the time.

2) another june memory: the june program at my elementary school. it was like a three-week stint between the end of school and the beginning of camp and it was one of my favorite times of the year. newly released from classes and homework, but not yet at camp with the mean girls. with school friends but free. we went to movies, swam at the extra-chloriney Y, did art projects at school, and walked around in groups together through the city. i remember one of the june program outings was to see e.t. when poor e.t. was in trouble, i cried and cried, unfortunately while sitting next to david sellar who made vicious fun of me. when i went home and told my mom about it, she said, “honey, he was just making fun of you so he wouldn’t cry himself.” this struck me as true and wise and shocking. and also confusing—Humans Are Complicated 101. Boys 101. so much for school being over…

3) my physical therapist. so grateful he is good and that it seems to be helping.

4) the bear boo cute boy. oh my goodness. we just look at pictures of him after he goes to bed. and say, oh my goodness, we can’t believe how cute he is. and he has a TOOTH. first tooth busting through. which means he is cranky, which means i am also very worried that he is not getting enough milk, because that is what breastfeeding mothers do.

5) this fab old blog post on my friend mick’s “bad mommy” blog. so made me laugh.

6) writing while two boys sleep. peaceful yet cozy.

7) writing. feels good.

8) this banana bread recipe. no dairy. add vegan chocolate chips. yummmm.

9) marie forleo’s b-school facebook groups. you need to have taken b-school (her awesome course that i have not finished) to have access, but there is such an awesome, supportive, smart community of mostly women cheering each other on, sharing information, and generally helping. it is worth the cost of b-school alone.

10) a husband who does the dishes. like, i do some (hey, don’t laugh, husband!), but they’re his “bodega,” to borrow some handel method lingo. my least favorite thing about being an everyday human. it allows me to cook and eat and generally feel good about being in the kitchen. grateful galore.

Valerie Reissjune-y gratitude

spring gratitude

spring in park slope.

spring in park slope.

i am grateful for:

1) realizing what i should have known years ago: when you’re using your joints instead of your muscles, ouch. after years of yoga, i’m getting i should have been strength-training or doing pilates along with all of that aligning and holding and flowing. this after i got stuck on the PT table last week when my sacrum went out (he was working on my shoulder!). it took two therapists an hour to get me on my feet. i almost passed out from pain twice. now we are saving the shoulder for later and i am doing leg lifts. lots of them. and crunches. strong base, strong core, maybe better shoulder. and everything.

2) for my naturopath/shaman/medicine woman, dr. valerie lane simonsen. she helps me reassemble myself on every level. i am deeply grateful for her vision, intuition, and practical knowledge. and for skype and phone calls that make it happen.

3) the prospect of feeding the baby baby cereal. he is NOT liking solids. so we’ll start where a lot of people start: infant cereal. i was reluctant because it’s not a whole food. but he likes whole foods not very much at all. so we shall see.

4) a safe, happy home.

5) working it out with my man. i read recently somewhere that no one with small children should be allowed to divorce, because it’s so stressful and upheaving that of course you think you want to break up at some point because you are freshly a maniac from sleep-deprivation and life-changing everything. i think me and my baby daddy are doing pretty awesome, but i see what she means. say it’s 5 am and your baby is screaming even though he just ate and you have agreed to let him cry it out so he stops waking you up every two hours but the mom wants to just feed him and the dad wants to stick to the plan because 5 am is not his favorite time of day and he would like to see it less rather than more. and the mom agrees, but right now her baby sounds like he’s being murdered by baboons and the only thing to do is hold him close and give him milk from her breast. and maybe each person doesn’t state their case with so much love because they are whisper-fighting and it is 5 am and two feet away their baby is screaming. this is challenging. hypothetically speaking, of course. but if you are able to, later that day when you are still tired but no longer homicidally so, talk it through and even laugh about it, and then resolve it and feel fine and move on, then that is some seriously magic shit for which you can be very grateful. and i am.

6) the “king kale” green juice at park stoop? park sloop? the juice place nearby. but no, i do not want a ginger add-on. that is like asking if i’d like you to spit your dip wad in my juice. i would not, thank you.

7) the glorious weather. i bow to the beautiful spring day.

8) writing! oh it is good for my soul to be back writing with my writing buddy. even though i am writing about the hardest stuff, it is so much fun and feels so damn good.

9) the way baby h. scrunchy-face smiles. it has the light of a thousand moons. so lovely and heart-illuminating.

10) my new shorts from american apparel. yeah, it’s them, so the biggest size barely fits (though i’m like a 6 at the gap still), but they have WATERMELONS on them. summer!!!

Valerie Reissspring gratitude

my writing manifesto (for heart-engaged humans)

writing2some thoughts.

i believe…

…in the serial, oxford, or harvard comma. i don’t care what you call it, use it! it makes things clearer. it helps me know that what you’re writing is a list and what’s on it and where it ends.

…in making up words. maybe it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that  started it for me, but i often find the dictionary lacking. sometimes we need to smoosh. or snoogle. or even uncouple, consciously. do it. but know you’re doing it. if there’s a “real” word, but you just don’t know it, look it up. if no word out there will do, create it.

…in killing corporate-speak. the planet needs more value-add, turn-key solutions so we can all be on the same page and circle back on optimizing the UI like it needs more plastic bottles. say what you mean. nouns and verbs work. your boss will understand you better. and hey, maybe clear speaking will be contagious.

…in the compound adjective. because sometimes you need a texting-friendly nook or you spot a not-all-there dude and you just need to gather your hyphens to make it happen.

…in following annie dillard’s writing advice: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now… Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.”

…in stephen king’s advice: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” read, read, read, my friends. you will learn what to do, what not to do, you will hear different voices in your head and figure out how to do that, and amidst all that you will start to hear your voice, and that will be very, very exciting and good.

…in anne lamott’s notion of “shitty first drafts.” get them out and keep writing. (my writing buddy and i call them “doggy drafts.” because they are rough! rough!) the writing will get fresher, better, and way less shitty from there.

…in free-writing. pick a topic, set a timer for 10 minutes. go! (if you need a topic, try one of these: “i remember when…” OR “the worst day was…” OR “the best day was…” OR “strawberry jam” OR “my first time.” this alone will help you become a better writer. it will surface something deep and strange and beautiful. and if you do this with other people you will read out loud to each other and you will be blown away. just, blown. the only rules: KEEP YOUR PEN MOVING (even if you have to write “i don’t know” 20 times) & NO CROSSING OUT. go!

…in reading strunk and white’s elements of style. again and again. and embody that shit–omit needless words, use the correct words, use definite, specific, and concrete language, yadda. and then… write what comes. don’t omit so many “needless” words that your essay becomes a tweet. don’t be so concrete that you never use an abstract notion. which leads me to…

…grammar rules are learned to be broken. thank you, nia rockas, my high school english teacher, for making me diagram sentences. for making me cry. for having me say “i don’t get it” over and over. and then making me do it more. it sucks. i still don’t fully get dangling participles if i’m being honest. but i do know how to cobble together a sentence so that people understand it. and i know that sometimes it’s ok to end a sentence with a preposition–right on! and sometimes passive construction actually says the thing you want to say a little bit slower and backwarder. but learn those rules, and then break them for good reason, with control.

…in getting a writing buddy. writing is some lonely-ass business. find a friend you can be lonely with together. go to a café or a quiet corner of a house, set an egg timer (or a cell phone timer) and write. each of you, on your own thing. take a break when time’s up for a cookie and tea and, write again. 45-minute increments are good. but do what feels right. the rules here: NO INTERNET (unless you are very specifically researching what you are writing, not searching “what to say to oprah when she loves my memoir” or starting with “kitchen counters in 1970″ and then trailing off to home decor blogs and buying sponges on amazon). NO PHONE, TEXTING OR SOCIAL MEDIA. (no excuses.) and do this often–make a monthly or weekly date and stick to it.

…in spellcheck. seriously, world. spellcheck. it won’t catch everything, but it will catch a lot. do it, please. now. thank you.

…in HAVING FUN. yes, i know, i am so there with you about writing being agony, and loving having written more than writing. but the only part that should truly hurt is NOT writing. the actual writing part, when you’re grooving and saying mostly what you want to say, that should be fun. or maybe you should re-think your approach–topic, tone, truth. are they feeling yummy? free-write a little to find out.

…in “no pearls before swine.” that great draft you just free-wrote and you feel expresses something so fabulous and personal and true? do not run out to your most “intellectual,” critical friend and read it. either a) keep it to yourself so it can build and grow and marinate or b) read it to someone who you know will love it because they love you and will feel your essence in it. maybe later, when you want more “pick-it-apart” feedback you send it to the person with a fuller brain than heart. but maybe not, too.

…in the semicolon. it is dying and we need it. it offers a harder stop than the dash, a softer stop than the period. it creates a little drama, a little PAY ATTENTION. one teacher told me it’s the yellow light of punctuation (love you, steve wright). you don’t slam on your breaks, but you engage them, you notice; some days we need the semicolon to look a little more closely at our words, and maybe our lives. also, what comes after the semicolon should be a complete sentence.

…in killing your clichés. you will do this post-shitty first draft. learn clichés (mostly by reading a lot), and then weed them. people in your writing can talk in them because people do (usually messing them up), but you are not allowed to offer pearls of wisdom or have something last from time immemorial or proclaim anything right on the money. at least not without very good reason for doing so, with awareness. (check out this awesome cliché finder if you’re not sure if something is hackneyed.)

…in inviting your inner critic(s) to leave the room. there’s no place for him or her or them in the writing process. they will fuck with your head and tell you lies. it’s their job. they are fired from the writing process. and possibly, maybe re-hired for the very end of the editing process. maybe. the best way to identify a mean critic from a good critic is this: when you hear her voice in your head, is this a loving voice? a voice you would use to tuck a baby in to bed? ha! no? then buh-bye. your inner voice, the wisdom that may occasionally offer writing suggestions, will do it kindly and with love and enthusiasm. “ooh, more about that–it’s good!” she’s hired to stay.

…in writing it down, now. you will forget that brilliant insight or piece of dialogue five minutes from now. use the notes app on your phone or carry one of those paper thingies with you.

…in writing by hand, at least sometimes. natalie goldberg writes wonderful stuff about how the hand is connected to the heart, so when we hand-write, we connect to the source. try it if you don’t already. especially if you feel stuck. step away from the laptop, get out a paper thingy and ink thingy and write. on… “my best failure.” 10 minutes. go!

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Valerie Reissmy writing manifesto (for heart-engaged humans)

need a hug gratitude

Petals. By BC.

Petals. By BC in BK.

i am grateful for…

1) no shoulder tears on my MRI. did i mention that already? if so, it’s so nice i’m saying it twice. now for PT, ice, and anti-inflammatories.

2) a sweet photo album and necklace for mother’s day.

3) realizing that mother’s day is kind of a big deal. i didn’t think it would really matter that my husband couldn’t get the day off, or that my mom and her man left after breakfast. but suddenly i felt like the biggest mom loser in park slope (Mom’s Day here is basically Mardi Gras, without the beads, and the only exposed boobs are feeding babies. but just like it otherwise.). yep, my inner brat kicked in. even though i made a lovely breakfast and was getting to hang with my little guy, i felt like, HEY! I’m ALONE on Mother’s Day! Aren’t I supposed to be picnicking with my family in the sunny park like everyone else on the planet? i think it was just a breaking point for all the overwhelm i’m feeling lately. tired, so tired, and scared, so scared, caring for a little guy who is so in need of care but honestly doesn’t seem so nuts about me, which is developmentally appropriate, but not the most fun all the time. people say there’s a point where they express their love, but i think it’s not for a while. i mean he smiles at me, but at anyone with a good duck voice too.

i’m not used to all this selfless tending. i’m used to selfish tending. or at least just me and my husband and friends tending. but now i’m feeling kind of empty and tired and like all i want to do is nap and go shopping for spring dresses to accommodate my newly gigantic milkers. and i can’t come close to affording that, time- or money-wise. so i feel whiny and teary and tired and… gratitude, what? oh, right. i got to hang with my healthy, adorable, awesome baby boy. and my husband came home and gave me the most gorgeous heart bling (Psst: Arima’s Jewelry). and i live in an awesome place and the flowers are out and it is finally warm and i have health insurance and dresses that might fit if i adjust some things. i’m loaded with goodness, just. i need a nap and a hug.

4) the big boy sleeping on his belly last night! we changed him out of the aptly named Magic Merlin Sleepsuit he’s been sleeping in the last three months, and two seconds after setting him down in the crib on his back, wham, belly! we know he can flip back over if he needs to, but still, it’s weird. my husband turned the light on last night to feed him and apparently the little guy just pushed up and was like, “wha? yeah, i’m doing cobra in my sleep, what’s your problem?” so growing up!

5) ganesha. i feel the elephant presence all over this apartment and it make me happy.

6) petals. just, everywhere soft pink petals like rain kisses. heaven.

7) 84 degrees F, baby!

8) having a job.

9) having a great sitter who h. clearly loves. (so he loves me too, right? i just can’t see it? because that would be just like me.)

10) my man. he’s so good, even when i’m fraying at the seams. in fact, especially.

 

Valerie Reissneed a hug gratitude

mother’s day gratitude

be-petaled sidewalks.

be-petaled sidewalks.

i am grateful for…

1) the lady on the street yesterday who said, “happy mother’s day” to me. i was like, who? what? OH. me. thanks! and then didn’t know if i should say it back and decided not to, but chances are in our nabe 99.9% that she’s a mom too.

2) watching h.’s grandparents enjoy him so much yesterday. it’s cool to see how loved the little dude is. i want that for him—love and adoration all around.

3) my cilantro rocking on the patio. the basil did not enjoy these storms, but the cilantro is like BRING IT! it looks fertilized. whereas the basil looks traumatized.

4) starting mother’s day with a coffee/almond milk/almond butter/cacao powder/banana smoothie.

5) getting so caught in the rain yesterday with the boy. we made a dash for it because he was in his stroller while we waited under the eaves of the YMCA and crying. only three blocks from home, i was like, we could just make a run for it. so we did and then the rain got harder and heavier and must have been so loud on his plastic rain cover and so he was scream-crying in fear and i was scream-singing “this little light of mine” so he could hear me over the thunder and pounding rain and i think it didn’t help at all. i had to tell myself “we’re in no danger, this is just rain.” but when your baby cries like that it’s like hurricane sirens go off in every cell of your body, my body. we made it home and i had to lie him down on the bed and strip off my soaking wet top before feeding him so i didn’t get him soaking wet. he was not amused by the wait. i wanted to also take off my soaking wet jeans but did not because he was hollering. just threw a bathrobe on and fed the boy. a mom-doctrination moment, for sure. is there a word for mom macha? when you feel like, yeah! i can do this? momcha? as opposed to the other moments when i feel like, i suck at this?  also: the scared boo. hope his amygdala is ok.

6) teal toenail polish. my feet are ready for summer. is summer ready for me?

7) this quote: “ego says, ‘once everything falls into place, i’ll feel peace.’ spirit says, ‘find your peace and then everything will fall into place.’” – marianne williamson

8) clear blue skies.

9) having a new potential freelance gig as a couple others fall away. i gotta say, i love this stage in my career, which has been going for a while, in which work comes to me. reminds me of that rilke quote, “Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.” i know you have to DO stuff and MAKE things happen, but if i’m honest, this works better for me. of course i’ve hustled to get here, just doing assignment after assignment for many years, but nothing i’ve ever PUSHED for has happened.

10) brooklyn, exploding with flowers and dropping petals everywhere.

 

Valerie Reissmother’s day gratitude