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

self love on the sidewalk gratitude

i heart brooklyn

i heart brooklyn

i am grateful for:

1) the stroller. holy healer of many cranky ailments. we walk, he calms, usually.

2) the community garden across the street. when the stroller finally ceased to soothe/distract, we went in there and i fed the boy amidst the tulips and raggedy beds of kale-to-be. he calmed down surrounded by all that soft greenery and gentler sky. we said hello to an orange garden cat held by a gardener who called the boy “beautiful.” i still don’t know how to receive compliments for my son. i guess i say “thank you” on his behalf? because i don’t own him. i didn’t pick him out with exquisite taste at a boutique. i didn’t have any say in making those eyes so wide and blue and those cheeks so puffy and pink. but there it is, his beauty. i have a hard enough time handling compliments directed at me. and now a whole other person to field them for!

3) the smoothie i just made: 1/3 of an avocado, 1 frozen banana, handful of blueberries, tablespoon of almond butter, extremely heaping tablespoon of raw cacao powder, splash of maple syrup. yummmmmmm.

4) soon to be getting MRI results for my shoulder. it huuurts. and i want to start on a healing path for it ASAP, but need to know what the hell first.

5) good customer service. i buy this awesome cold brew coffee concentrate that i mix with almond milk for my morning coffee jazz hands wake me up delish, and the last batch i bought tasted more like pickle juice than coffee. so i wrote the local company yesterday and the owner immediately responded, then sent me a tracking number and glorious coffee will be mine when the UPS guy gets here in a bit.

6) lowercase blogging.

7) mother’s day! woah, i’m a mom! it’s no longer a holiday in which i feel guilty for not getting the perfect gift (how do you say “thanks for having me?”) and thus just calling in flowers at the last minute! i can make other people feel that way now! weird. but really, i am looking over my shoulder and being like, really? me? a mom? i still look in the mirror when i’m holding him and think i look like a teen mom, much too young for a kid. somehow the age spots and wrinkles vanish and i just see this 17-year-old girl and a baby. i think motherhood is maybe (hopefully) something you grow into, like dress-up shoes.

8) yellow flowers from my friend julia. they are making this whole gray day better.

9) my husband. for being such a rad dad. as he bent down just to chat with the boy at the supermarket i thought, “i chose well.” because no matter what (and “what” always haunts me of course because “what” is what I grew up with), the boy has a fantastic dad. i guess the other “what” is if i will be here forever/enough. because i imagine anyone who has survived an illness that tends to recur in others with that illness, thinks more about that illness when they suddenly really, really have a reason to stay in this plane for the next 50 years or so. i want to be here for the boy through all of it. every important minute of love and life. i want him to be a boy with a mom who loves him dearly all the way till he doesn’t really need-need her any more. but if that’s not the case for some awful reason, i know he’s got a great co-parent. this makes all these thoughts bearable.

10) finding messages from the universe on the sidewalks of brooklyn (see pic).

Valerie Reissself love on the sidewalk gratitude

Money-work Gratitude

Sunset from the sofa

Sunset from the sofa

I am grateful for…

1) Cold-brewed coffee with almond milk. Vroom! Being caffeinated is fun! Hm, but maybe not the healthiest?

2) Playing more with my website. Seriously enjoying the tinkering with designs and colors and words.

3) The thought I had yesterday: “I’m going to be rich and help support my family.” It felt clear and smooth. I like. I’ve been working on money issues lately, digging into my beliefs about money and how they might inform the fact that I often don’t have much of it, even though I make a decent amount of it (or did, before cutting my hours for the boy). I have negative thoughts about being rich and what it takes to get rich. The word “rich” is sexy-dirty, it makes me think abundance, comfort, luxury, but also under-handed, sleazy, privileged, entitled. Nothing terribly original; our culture both worships and loathes money. Nothing gets people commenting online like money. The code being: If you have it, keep your trap shut about it. I would like to shed the negative stuff once I’ve dug it all up (to mix a metaphor). And be a person who feels comfortable managing money, having money, making money, and giving away money. I am none of those things at the moment. My relationship with the green is thick with shame and fear. Ashamed that I grew up with it, sort of (it’s complicated), ashamed that I have more than others, ashamed that I have less than others. I will rush to tell you how cheaply I got something for—what’s that about? I want to just say “Thank you,” when someone says, “Great jacket!” Not, “Thanks! I got a really great deal by cobbling together some coupon codes and gift cards” or: “Target, $10 on clearance.” I want to, as Kate Northrup says in her book, Money, a Love Story, be my own Prince Charming. Because, as she said on a free call with Elena Brower the other day: “No one will save you and if they do they will rob you of the experience of knowing what you’re made of.” Amen. I want to know what I’m made of. (Even though that thought is followed by: Well, plenty of people work very hard and make no money, money does not equate with merit, at all, in our culture. Which is true, but also just another way I keep from feeling good about making money. As my old shrink used to say, “That’s just your brain fucking with you!”)

4) The way people look at Baby H in the stroller now that he’s big and upright enough to make eye contact. It’s heart-melting to watch the tough stock guys at the grocery store get all melty and wave-y at him. The best.

5) Planting basil! Well, the prospect of. I need to gut last year’s planters and pop in the four new plants I’ve got. Though I’ve got a brown thumb, basil seems to tolerate my neglect pretty well. Pesto, here we come!

6) Work. I really like my job. It’s so basic in many ways, but I like how it engages me without requiring every ounce I’ve got. Which is perfect for right now. And also: I get to look at photos of cute babies, a lot.

7) Cooking. Last night was baked chicken breast over a quinoa stir-fry of kale, yellow pepper, and tomato. Mmm.

8) Having stamps. I don’t know why, exactly, but when I have stamps, I feel safe and prepared, like having toilet paper and water.

9) Watching the boy suck his toes. OMG. The cutest. I am envious and fascinated. His cloth diapers prohibit this range of motion, sadly, but when we’re changing him, he gets in there and sucks away. Amazing.

10) Sending prayers to those missing girls. Uhg, if evil begets evil, I want to know how it all started. Is one psychopath responsible for every evil human act?

11) Sunset through the terrace doors, from the sofa.

Valerie ReissMoney-work Gratitude

Sleepy Thursday Gratitude

MEOWI am grateful for…

1) pink and turquoise together.

2) the baby boy rolling from front to back today! Like a bunch of times! This is big. He’s been working on this a while. We’ll see how it sticks, but I’m thinking we may be past the phase where he gets into tummy time and looks like a limb-flailing stuck bug until we flip him over. He looked SO PROUD.

3) MELT balls. I heart MELT—it’s a method to help the whole body but these little kits of balls focus on hands and feet. And since I’ve got a maybe torn shoulder, I need all the help I can get, especially since I can’t do bupkis exercise-wise until I get an MRI.

4) Canva.com, a cool site that’s helping me pretend I’m a designer and getting me pretty graphics to use here and elsewhere.

5) trading off with b. so that we each get to sleep between the boy’s sleep and first nap. two juicy hours. today was my day to sleep. tomorrow i will be up at 6 am, bouncing the boy and giving him a house tour (short) and making these squeak and crinkle for his amusement.

6) the rain having stopped, for now.

7) quinoa patties from Super Natural Cooking Every Day. Delicious. A baked version is here.

8) having relationship code words for things. instead of saying, “Why the hell aren’t you paying attention to me?” or “I told you 8,000 times I can’t hear you when I’m doing the dishes,” we say a word, and it says “I’m triggered but not dumping my anger on you.” Which makes it possible for us to lovingly respond to the need behind the trigger. Our word is “Meow.”

9) the dream I had last night in which I was teaching a couple how to do the Imago relationship dialogue.

10) the entire, unopened, new Natalie Goldberg book perched above my head. Maybe some day I will read it.

Valerie ReissSleepy Thursday Gratitude

Nap-time Gratitude


I am grateful for…

1) Teaching the boy to nap. Holy mama, I can’t even believe there was life before he slept three times a day. I’m not sure how I didn’t lose my mind. In the last hour I’ve: made baby food (blended oatmeal with maple syrup and cinnamon); eaten some oatmeal myself, eaten some leftover pasta, updated my website, looked at baby food books, left two voicemail messages, played some Words with Friends, and done some dishes. Ok, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but when he’s awake that list looks more like: Kept baby from crying, nursed.

2) Potentially joining a new co-working space near my house.

3) Getting excited about writing my book again. What? Woah. Yeah. I had a brainflash the other day on a stroller walk that 9/11 needs to be the backbone of the book. In an earlier version of the idea an agent told me to scrap the 9/11 stuff because it would make it seem “dated.” But turns out that’s not what’s happened. At least not in my world. Never forget has not been forgotten. And it’s the core of my personal story for so many reasons. So it’s starting there, with an intro I wrote about it just in case.

4) Perky plants.

5) Taking some care of some back taxes. Shame cloud, here you come. But, whew. Thanks, husband.

6) Liz Gilbert’s new, short TED talk, on coming home to creativity and giving yourself over to the (healthy) thing you love more than yourself. I wish she talked just a squinch slower in it, so I could have slowly absorbed all the goodness, but lord, so many yesses in there.

7) Sunshine! And that my weather app is saying it will be in the upper 60s today. Ahhh.

8) Cinnamon. Too much is just right.

9) A vacuumed apartment. So much postpartum hair-shedding still happening. It’slike living with a VERY long-haired, blondish Persian cat.

10) Bon Appétit magazine. It is the best magazine out there right now. So friggin’ tight and smart and good. I feel like they know me and are delivering. So many folded down page corners.

Valerie ReissNap-time Gratitude