On turning an unethical garment into an ethical one

[What I had for breakfast today: an egg fried in coconut oil, jasmine rice, and Adam's pickled mustard greens. Also, Kamal fed me a couple of his grapes, only the ones he thought were "too squishy."]

The tank top I'm wearing here is kind of a model ethical purchase. I bought it recently from Rambler's Way, a company with a robust statement on ethics easily accessed on their website. It's a basic, highly usable piece manufactured with ethical labor methods from sustainable materials harvested from well-treated animals. I wear it all the time. (I would wear the grey one I bought along with it almost as much, except I tragically put it in the dryer and it shrank.)

The red skirt, on the other hand? I don't know where it was made. I don't know who made it, or how they were treated, but based on the price of the skirt--six dollars--I imagine it wasn't produced in the kindest or most sustainable way.  

I bought the red skirt maybe twelve or so years ago, before I thought about the impact my purchases could have on other human beings. It hung on a pegboard at a tiny, crowded shop, more of a street stall, in the Garment District in Manhattan, and I passed it on my way to and from work for a week or so. 

At the time six dollars wasn't an insignificant amount for me to spend on a skirt, so I gave it a lot of thought before making the purchase. But I wasn't thinking about the people who made the skirt, or the circumstances under which they worked, or the way the materials were sourced. I was thinking about covering my rent and electricity bill and still being able to buy groceries. But I was also looking for a new job, and I needed something I could interview in. 

So now, twelve years later, a whole different life later, I am still wearing the skirt. Because I like it, but also because it means I'm not buying another red skirt. Whatever resources went into making this garment, I imagine its creation cost the world more than six dollars, in environmental damage and possibly in human suffering. I know wearing this one skirt forever isn't going to save the world, or make up for the piles of fast fashion I've purchased in my lifetime. But holding on to a garment, instead of treating it like it's disposable, is my way today of showing that I value the resources and the labor that went into it. More importantly, it is my way of manifesting my respect for the people that made this skirt, for their time and effort, and my hopes that their lives are good ones despite the carelessness and thoughtlessness I and so many others have shown them by buying and discarding hundreds, thousands, millions of cheap garments. 

As I've written about here before, there are a lot of ways to make sure the clothes you wear are manifestations of the kindness and empathy you want to put into the world. Buy things secondhand, buy things made by companies who make ethics a priority, and buy things that you will wear for a long time and that will thereby help you buy fewer things. If you identify something in your closet that you suspect was not produced ethically, just don't buy another like it. Instead, wear the beejesus out of it, or give it to somebody who will. Don't continue the cycle of consumption and overt waste in the name of profit, of taking for granted all the human lives that are out of your sight, of failing to share equally the resources that belong to everyone on this planet. Sometimes you can make even more of a difference by doing even less. 

(Oh, and the lipstick--actually all the makeup!--in the photo is by Honeybee Gardens, which is a makeup company I'm newly devoted to. In addition to their products being cruelty-free, organic and reviewed favorably by the Environmental Working Group, they do this great thing I wish all cosmetic companies did: they sell tiny little samples of their lipsticks, mineral foundation and eyeshadows, enough for a few uses, so you can try a bunch of colors before buying full-size.

For someone like me, who has trouble finding makeup that works with my skin--in general, the cosmetic industry is still working on recognizing the fact that people of color exist--this saves so much money, waste, and angst. I tried six different shades of Honeybee Gardens foundation before finding one I liked. With any other cosmetics company, that would have been I-don't-know-how-many-dollars and at least five bulky plastic compacts and their corresponding powder puffs in the landfill. With Honeybee Gardens, I just picked the one I liked best, threw away some tiny plastic baggies, and was happy. I also tried eight lipsticks and four eyeshadows, saving, again, tons of money and a lot of non-renewable trash. All this cost me like nine dollars, because each sample is FIFTY CENTS. Such a good idea. And their compacts are refillable, and they use recycled materials where possible, and the stuff in their formulas is actually healthy for your skin, so--win win win, all over the place.)  

Here's a closeup of the Honeybee Gardens makeup, taken last night at around 7 pm. I put it on for a meeting that started at 7 am. Then I went to the dentist, saw patients, rode my bike home, played with Kamal, and took this selfie.  Other than lipstick, there were no touch-ups. You can see things are a little smudgy, but I mean, that's better than I generally expect from all-natural makeup after 12 hours! 

On choosing sides

Ask Kamal what his favorite fruit is, and he'll tell you: "Fruit salad." Ask him about his favorite color, and he'll say, "Rainbow!" 

There's an elusive concept that this almost-four-year-old understands that many of us grownups don't: inclusiveness. And I think about that a lot lately, because lately it feels like every conversation I have revolves around choosing sides. 

We're a pretty sports-oriented country, I know. I see my friends who love their teams dress up and cheer, pray, celebrate wins, grieve losses. I think it's fun for them. (I hope it is. From the outside, looking in as someone who isn't interested in sports, it looks kind of stressful.) And then, you know, we're in an election year, and for better or worse, we have to choose a side there (and not choosing is still a choice--there's no way around choosing). And that brings up everyone's differences of opinion, and it seems like everyone picks a team to root for, and then we feel compelled to stand and shout as loudly and meanly as possible at the other team. 

So here's what I want us to remember: We don't have to choose sides. I mean, yes, we need to vote for a candidate in November, but we can remember that essentially, we all want the same things: safety for our families, the right to pursue happiness, clean water and food security, having enough of the material things we need and maybe a little extra. We all want all those things, and one of the incredible things about living in the United States is that there actually is enough to go around, if we can accept that we all have the same needs and desires.  We can remember that the people with whom we disagree are still people, and hope they feel the same way about us. There is no trophy that only one team gets to take home. There's no pie that you won't get a piece of because somebody else does.

There's no joy in sitting at an eight-course, wine-paired dinner while a hungry person begs for a dollar to buy food outside the window. There is so much joy in sharing a sandwich. There is no growth that comes from trying to convince yourself that the person sleeping on the street deserves his concrete bed and you deserve your safe and warm memory-foam mattress. There is immense growth in finding every scrap of empathy you can muster for every living person, every one of them someone's child, and trying to do what little things you can to work towards a world where everyone has a roof over their head.  There's no peace that comes from teaching your child that there's such a thing as "us" and "them," and there's real potential for real peace-- peace of mind, world peace, the deep and centered peace that is truly every single heart's desire--inherent in teaching our children that we are all here riding the same boat. 

All the lines on maps, all the borders and tolls and badges and memberships--those are all things we made up. All the little signals we give each other to announce what team we're on-- hairstyles and clothes and tattoos, gadgets and vehicles and zip codes, the stuff in our grocery baskets, the music on our players, the ingredients in our sunscreen--none of those things actually possess nearly as much meaning as we ascribe to them. None of them should divide us from one another. We are not warring factions, tribes facing off across a battlefield. We are not Americans or Syrians. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are not even women or men. We are people, trying our best, every last one of us, and we might as well be trying together. 

Because otherwise, we're just getting in our own way. In football--and I don't really get football, so this should be interesting--the idea is basically to stop the other team from getting from one side of the field to the other with the ball, right? So one team works really hard to get in the other's way. That's fine. That's a game.

But here, in real life, where we all live and work and parent and love, we are all trying to go the same way--from birth to death without too much pain, with as much joy as we can find, with enough to eat and drink, with the people we love beside us. We're all going that way. Blocking anyone from the goal of a good, safe, healthy, realized life is blocking all of us. 

I'm asking all my fellow American voters to remember this in these loud and prickly months approaching this big, important election. Remember that anyone trying to divide us into factions, anyone using divisiveness or fear of other human beings as the central point of a campaign, does not have your best interests at heart, no matter who you are. And I'm asking everyone to remember this when you read the words "Black Lives Matter," because black lives do matter, and saying that isn't taking sides in any way against people who aren't black; rather, it's a critical and truthful assertion at a point in history where there have been too many assertions to the contrary.

My favorite color is red. My favorite fruit is mango. But my wise and unimpeachable child doesn't feel the need to have a favorite anything.  The world is big and full of possibility, of beautiful things in every color of the rainbow and more incredible flavors than can fit in your own bowl. There's nothing to disown, and so much to claim. Each one of us is all of us, on the same team, working shoulder to shoulder in the same row.  


Mandala mural by Bud Snow

Eating for healthy skin

[What I had for breakfast today: An egg, cheese and potato burrito at Oliver's, where we go sometimes before preschool when we're celebrating something. Kamal loves it because of the salad bar there--he gets a box full of all kinds of fruit, and he can pick out exactly which fruits he wants. Fruit salad is one of his all-time favorite things! Today we were celebrating Kamal's decision to never ever again wear a diaper or a pull-up. Wish us luck!]

Last week for dinner, Adam made this absolutely fantastic recipe from Serious Eats. Kenji never steers us wrong! 

And it got me thinking about patients who come to me for dermatological challenges, and the recommendations I make for topical skin care. Those usually revolve around minimizing the number of ingredients in your skin care regimen (for me, just sweet almond oil mixed with rose hip oil is the best kind of night cream, and straight honey, sometimes mixed with leftover coffee grounds, is a spectacular morning face wash or mask). That being said, I'm pretty sure that nothing I put on my skin helps it stay healthy as much as what I put in my belly. 

Honey and coffee grounds on my face. No, seriously, it's awesome. 

One of the nice side effects of having healthy skin is that it's also usually pretty and glowy skin. So eat good things for the health of your skin--it is, after all, the most important part of your immune system and the barrier between all your inner workings and the rest of the world--and let the outer loveliness just be a happy co-occurence. In addition to salmon and avocado, both featured in the above recipe and both absolutely terrific for keeping your skin nourished and resilient, here's a list of easy things to eat and drink for hale, healthy and happy skin. 

1) Water. This one I probably don't even have to tell you, but it's so critical I can't leave it off the list. Is your skin looking dull? Water! Is it dry and flaky? Probably you should drink more water. Acne? Try drinking more water. 

Seriously, your skin wants to be healthy, intact, and comfortable, and it can't be that without adequate hydration. This is your first go-to for any skin ailments. But if you're already drinking enough water (and by enough, I mean around a gallon a day for active people and half a gallon or so for everyone else) and your skin still isn't happy, move on down the list. 

2) Mugicha (a.k.a. maicha, a.k.a. boricha, a.k.a. roasted barley tea). This stuff, holy smokes. The list of its benefits is miles long: it helps prevent tooth decay and heart disease, it fixes water retention, it soothes anxiety, it helps you sleep better, it can lower blood viscosity (which, among other things, helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure), it can potentially help clear chronically congested sinuses and--here's why I'm listing it here--it clears up acne like nobody's business. One more benefit? It's freaking delicious

You can buy barley tea bags, but don't do that because it's so incredibly easy to make your own from scratch. Here's what you do: go to your local grocery store, ideally one that has a bulk foods section, and buy a bunch of raw organic barley. Place about half a cup of it in a heavy skillet, turn the heat on, and roast the barley for two or three minutes, stirring frequently, until it's golden-brown and gives off a nutty fragrance. Then place that half a cup of roasted barley in a pot with about 8 cups of water, bring to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes, strain, and drink either warm, at room temperature, or cold. That's it!

3) Bittermelon. Yes, I talk about bittermelon all. the. time. Love it or hate it, it makes your skin clear, bright and beautiful. You can read all about it here.

4) Lots and lots of fruits and vegetables in every possible color. So...you've probably read about bone broth, and how when made properly, it's full of gelatin that, among other things, helps put collagen back in your skin for all kinds of skin firmness, integrity and resilience? And if you go a little further down that rabbit hole, you'll find that the research supporting that particular claim is pretty heavily disputed. (Note: this doesn't mean that bone broth doesn't put collagen back into your skin--it just means that  there isn't a lot of conclusive proof that it does. No matter what, bone broth has other health benefits that make it a worthwhile addition to your diet--but this post is about healthy skin.)

BUT. You know what nobody disputes? The fact that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables means your diet is rich in vitamins C and A, as well as lycopene and antioxidants--all of which help your skin stay healthy and protected by giving your body the materials it needs to produce more collagen and scavenge free radicals. Your mom was right--eat your fruits and vegetables. Eat at least a couple of servings of them with every meal, and watch yourself start glowing with health.

5) Things that make you feel good. You can read up a little right here on what I mean by "feel good."  But in short: nothing heals you, nourishes you, or looks as good on you as joy.   

When ethical fashion goes to a party

I found this dress at a thrift store a few weeks ago, made by a retailer that is widely known for its unethical practices. Because of these practices, I wouldn't buy one of their pieces new, but buying it at the thrift store meant that my purchase dollars went to a charity in my community instead of to line of the pockets of the retailer's executives--so it felt like a small, good victory.

These boots came from a local neighborhood block sale this weekend--they're purple platform boots. I love them and they make me really tall! And last year, I hosted a clothing swap at my house and one of my favorite finds there were these silver drop earrings.  

All together, this outfit cost me a grand total of $7--and keeping it all secondhand meant that these pieces stayed out of the landfill and didn't consume additional resources to make. And every one of those seven dollars stayed in my local community. Even small purchases make a difference when you're choosing them intentionally and with other people in mind. 

So, your question for the week: What can you buy--or not buy--that'll change the world for the better? 

Kindness in action

[What I had for breakfast today: steamed jasmine rice, a fresh egg, pickled mustard greens and daikon-and-cabbage kimchi.] 

These last few weeks, we've all been walking around wounded. You, and me, and everyone. There's more hurt and loss in the news than feels bearable, even shared across all of our shoulders. 

Following all the hurt and loss in the news, there's anger. All over social media, in the comments section of every news piece, there's anger.  It's understandable; there is a lot to be angry about. But what I'm asking all of us to do today is think about what we can do to help carry our shared burden, and to avoid adding weight to it. We're all hurting, all in the same boat, even though it seems like we are shouting across lines that we made up--lines named things like "religion" or "nationality" or "political party" or "sexuality" or "race."  Everyone knows what it's like to love and be loved. Nobody wants to live in a state of fear. We're all here together. 

We can throw blame at each other all day long, but that doesn't help us move forward. What helps us move forward is kindness. What helps us heal is letting all of us heal; reaching our hands in love towards the stricken among us, right now. I don't need to list for you who the stricken among us are: they are all of us. Instead of judging anyone; instead of trying to wound someone in the hopes it makes you hurt less (it won't); instead of blaming or othering or fighting: let's ease this collective burden with kindness. Check in with your friends. Cultivate empathy in unexpected places, because I promise, empathy changes minds more effectively than rage. 

Anyway. Today is the anniversary of one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me, and for Kamal. Here's the story of that. It's not the kind of story that makes the news, and it's not intended to ease any of the grief springing from recent events. It is intended to inspire us all towards acts of kindness that we might not have considered, and to remind us that there are an infinite number of ways to be kind, and mainly it is intended to try to thank my amazing friend Sally. 

A little over a year ago, Kamal and I were at the West End Farmer's Market, and a nice lady gave Kamal a heart-shaped mylar balloon. He was overjoyed, alight, in love. He held his balloon and admired it, and then the string slipped out of his hand. It took him a minute to understand what was happening, and when he did, I watched my child's heart break. 

He cried and cried and cried. Later, soothed by many hugs and kisses and a cookie from the Criminal Baking Company and a bit of a bike ride, he sat on our front porch, processing, looking just grievously discouraged.


Later, drifting off to a nap in my arms, he murmured, "I know. I'll just get some wings like a bird and flap them and then fly up to find my shiny red heart balloon." And then he fell asleep, and I cried, so sad for him, so scared about whether my own heart could take all the heartbreak that I know is in store for him, because he's human, and we all have to face our share of heartbreak. 

I posted about it all on Facebook, and got some lovely sympathetic messages from my lovely friends, which helped me so much. And then my friend Sally messaged me asking for my mailing address, which I gave her without thinking much about it.

AND THEN, a few days later, a box came in the mail with Kamal's name on it. And there was a note in it. And, well, pictures are better here than words. 

Will you look at his face? Look how healed he was by this act of kindness. He kept saying "They really wanted to find me! They came all the way to my HOUSE!" This was Sally, who, by the way, has five kids of her own (FIVE KIDS YOU GUYS) and still found the time and energy to bless my one child with this much love. This was a friend stepping up in an amazing, creative, unexpected way. This is the standard of friendship, of community, by which I want to measure myself. This was love, manifested in a real and strong and unbelievably healing way. This is the kind of miracle that we humans are able to work--reaching out, listening, giving with kindness, with clarity, and with specific intention. My friend Sally, you guys. My friend who I didn't know well in high school but who, from eight hundred miles away and via the Internet, has generously shared with me her professional counsel as an accomplished lactation consultant, and her gentle support and validation in all kinds of parenting dilemmas--my friend who returned to my child his lost heart. 

There aren't words enough to thank someone for this, but: thank you, Sally. This was a beautiful and spectacular gift. This was above and beyond. This is how we heal, from little wounds and big ones--kind thoughts turned into kind actions. Because we're fragile humans, there will never be a shortage of wounds in our world. But we can make it easier for each other. Let's make it easier for each other, friends, every chance we get. 


How to confirm your fashion is ethical

[What I had for breakfast today: rice, an egg, roast chicken, pickled mustard greens and kimchi--thank goodness for Adam's pickling prowess!]

Remember when I wrote this post, about how important it is to make ethical clothing choices? I thought I'd try and make it as easy as possible, if you're interested, by adding here some letters you can just copy and paste and edit to suit your needs. 

I learned about Ibex recently, in part of my campaign to wear more merino. You guys, merino is awesome: it wicks, it feels nice, and it's sustainable. I liked so much of the stuff on their website, but I couldn't find any information on their ethical practices. So I wrote this letter: 


The products on your site are so lovely, and I’m a huge fan of merino wool for daily wear, dress-up wear, and exercise gear! Before making a purchase, though, I’d like to have some information about the way your wool and labor are sourced. Can you share with me anything about the standard of treatment for your textile workers and also for your sheep? Thanks!

And then I got this GREAT response: 

Hi there,
Thank you for your interest and concern. We are happy to share this info with you.
The majority of our sheep are in New Zealand where they are free to range on hundreds (or thousands) of acres - usually only returning to the farm to lamb or to be sheared. The shepherds make sure they have adequate water, shelter, and medical attention. No Ibex sheep is put through mulesing, which is incredibly cruel. There is a certification called Zcue - I have attached a link so you may read about that as well.


Ibex also visits the factories and facilities that make the clothing, making sure they are held to the utmost standards. We take great measures to be sustainable, ecological, and environmentally friendly.

Which was exactly, exactly what I needed to hear, and right now I am wearing an Ibex Balance Bralette, and I am so happy about it. 

Here's another note I sent, to the clothing company Joah Brown, after buying a shirt at a http://oohlaloft.com/

Hi! I really like the clothes on your site. I just purchased one of your shirts at Ooh La Loft in Santa Rosa, and it’s the softest garment I have ever felt. I want to live in it!

However, I can’t find any information on how you source your fabrics, what your labor standards look like, or what your sustainability practices are. Before I make a purchase, I try to make sure that the clothes I buy are ethically produced. Could you reply with some of that information? Thanks so much.

Here's the response I received: 

Hi Lorelle,

Ooh La Loft is a great account for us...I am happy you found us.

I hear you on the ethically produced part for sure. All of our garments are sourced and produced in Los Angeles.

Since labor practices are regulated in this country, I feel okay about this, even if it's less specific than the response I got from Ibex. I'm totally still wearing my super-soft Joah Brown t-shirt. (And I'm stalking the Ibex site kind of obsessively .) 

The absolute best way to dress in a way that follows your conscience is, of course, to purchase secondhand clothing--clothing that doesn't require additional resources to get to your closet. If you are going to purchase clothing new, though, it makes sense to buy things that will last a long time, both in terms of durability and in terms of style; to buy from companies that have a stated ethical and sustainability approach (like Rambler's Way, American Apparel, Everlane, and more and more every day!); and, when in doubt, write your letter--or just copy mine!--and make sure you get the answers you need.

ps: i'm not linked with any of these companies in any way except i wear their clothes sometimes--but i'm not getting, like, a kickback or whatever for posting about them! if that is ever the case, i promise to tell you. in the meantime, let me help you help the world by wearing beautiful things that are gentle on our environment and the people who live in it. 

Today's outfit: men's shirt via a friend's clothing swap, miniskirt via Goodwill,  Rambler's Way wool tank, American Apparel leggings, Frye boots secondhand via eBay. 

How to gnocchi

 [What I had for breakfast this morning: Jasmine rice, a fresh egg, a big pile of beautiful frilly mustard greens, and kimchi.]

You know what's way less daunting to make than potato gnocchi, and yet equally impressive? Ricotta gnocchi! 

We're laughing so hard because we're telling gnoch-gnoch jokes. I'm sorry! I couldn't resist. (photo credit: Adam Fisher)

And you know what makes those ricotta gnocchi even more impressive, and requires only a leetle bit more effort? Making your own ricotta! 

If we can do it, you can do it. I promise. (photo credit: Adam Fisher)

All it takes is a little planning ahead and a flat surface you can throw flour all over. 

Gnocchi for days. (photo credit: Adam Fisher)

Here's the ricotta recipe, from the always-reliable Serious Eats. It's admittedly not a true ricotta recipe; proper ricotta comes from whey, and this is made from acidified milk. It's really a simple fresh cheese, as simple as it gets, and you've maybe heard of it referred to as farmer's cheese or paneer.  Whatever you want to call it, it works just like ricotta, and it's delicious, loaded with calcium and protein, and...delicious. And easy! 

I made a bigger recipe of it so I could make a double recipe of this gnocchi. Every time I've made it, I've gotten less maybe 30 or 40 percent less cheese than the recipe says I will--so plan accordingly. 

Realness: some of Kamal's dough hit the floor and didn't get included in the finished dish. However, he did turn out maybe six or seven (im)perfectly lovely gnocchi, so he totally still contributed. 

And here's the gnocchi recipe, also from Serious Eats. Messy, but not difficult or very time-consuming. (It took us more than 30 minutes, for sure, but since one of us is three-and-three-quarters years old, that might account for some of the extra prep time.) 

Plated and pret a manger

How I finished the dish: tossed some pieces of boneless chicken with a little flour, cooked them through in a heavy skillet, took them out of the skillet, briefly cooked trimmed asparagus in the same skillet, took those out and put them on top of the chicken, deglaced the pan with some homemade hard cider, added some heavy cream and homemade chicken stock and freshly-grated parmesan, and tossed everything together with the cooked gnocchi and a big drizzle of good olive oil. I meant to add a little bit of the gnocchi cooking water to the cream sauce, and I even saved it out before draining the pot, but then I forgot. It was still just lovely. 

On the secret to every success

A few weeks ago I was baking cookies and I gave Kamal three chocolate chips. Immediately, he asked if he could have five, instead. 

"Nope. I gave you three. Just say thank you and enjoy them."

"Thank you. Can I have five instead?"

"No, honey. You have what you have."

"But five is more than three!"

"That's right. Very good."

"But I want more!"

And there, friends, in my child's sweet little voice, is the reason so many people are unhappy so much of the time. We want more. We want to be more, have more, do more. And in doing that, we're wasting everything we already have. 

And I want more, too. Maybe more than anything else, I want this: for Kamal to understand that relishing what you have right now, celebrating that, is always, always going to be a happier experience than wanting more. Every time. Savor the chocolate chips in your hand, and don't worry about the Costco-size bag of chocolate chips in the pantry. 

You will always have less than someone else. You will always have more than someone else. You will always, in any given moment ever, have exactly what you have. And there is always something you have that someone else wishes they had. There is always something you have--chocolate chips, a jade plant, the love of a friend, a roof over your head, the ability to sit criss-cross applesauce--that someone else thinks would complete their ability to be happy. And you have that thing. And what's more, you have the ability to choose to be happy about it. 

That's the thing: you can choose it. You don't have to wait for happiness to find you. You don't have to get your meditation practice on lock, lose twenty pounds, earn a promotion, fall in love. You just have to take a look at your life, take stock of all that is good in it, and be thankful for those things. Realize how rich you are, how lucky, and celebrate.

That's the secret to happiness: decide to want what you already have. Want what you have, and then you'll have everything you want. 

And the best part is that when you start looking at your life this way--when you start finding the things that are wonderful and wanted in it--more and more things start showing themselves to you. And when you realize how full and abundant your life is, how lucky you are to be living it, it makes it easier to be generous. And, of course, generosity manifests its own abiding joy.

The other night I sat down on the couch next to Kamal as he was watching his little cartoon program. Without taking his eyes off the screen, he scooted into my lap. Then he picked up my right wrist and wrapped that arm around his small, warm body. Then he picked up my left wrist and wrapped that arm around himself, too, so he was tight and secure inside my embrace. Then, still holding firmly both my wrists crossed over his belly, and with a world of nonchalance in his creaky, funny voice, he said, "You can sit with me, if you want."

Well, I did want. In fact, in that moment, it was the only thing I wanted, and there it was, literally in my lap. I don't know that anyone has ever been as rich as I was in that moment, sitting on a couch with grievously tattered upholstery, watching inane cartoon characters with my child after swearing up and down during my pregnancy that I'd have a zero screen-time policy, older and thicker than Hollywood says any woman should be, sleep-deprived and sinus-congested and over-scheduled. In that moment, everything I wanted I had. 

So here's my challenge for you, this week: take all the desire you have, and aim it at all the beauty already in your life. That's all. Decide right now to do your best to want what you have, and move forward from there. 

Wish, granted. 

Why this unedited selfie is my new favorite photo of myself ever

[What I ate for breakfast today: jasmine rice, an egg, some roast chicken, and some of my friend Niko's excellent habanero-cumin sauerkraut.]

Have you ever known, without any doubt, that you're doing the right thing, even when you know it looks completely wrong? That certainty is pretty intoxicating. That's what you're seeing in this photo.  There's me, smiling and sitting in the orange chair in Kamal's bedroom, and outside the frame, Kamal is weeping on the floor. If you didn't know the context, I looked an awful lot like a mother taking a vain and unaware selfie while neglecting her adorable child. 

So here's the whole story:  I'd just been sitting with Kamal doing our usual bedtime cuddle, but earlier than usual. We've been working to move his bedtime earlier, because the kiddo is obviously tired and needing more sleep. (So are the grownups in our house.) He's resisting the change, which is understandable, but Adam and I are pretty fiercely committed to all of us getting more sleep. Kamal had slithered out of my lap, saying he wanted to wake up and play already. I let him go, because I didn't want to restrain him and turn bedtime into a battle. Then he stomped just a few feet away and, instead of finding something to play with, collapsed in a sobbing little puddle of tears. Which drew my empathy, of course, but also reinforced for me that I was doing the right thing. Kids who are well-rested typically don't lie on the floor crying, and he didn't go far at all, which told me that the sleepy little bunny really did want to be in bed. 

So the smile is about feeling like I was right both in letting him go and in continuing to work towards his getting more sleep, but it's also feeling the validity of listening to my intuition and celebrating that feeling of sureness. And then it's celebrating how far I've had to come to become a person who listens to herself, celebrating the work that has taken, the years of battling the inexorable downward pull of self-doubt, fighting uphill all the way. It's celebrating making a choice to be happy ten whole years ago that, step by strong step, has brought me to this exact chair, this heart of this beautiful, safe, happy home, with my sweet child, with my beautiful husband, the chickens asleep and secure behind their wire fence, the tomato seedlings and bursting nasturtiums and big old fig tree dreaming in their gentle, plantlike way about seeding the ready ground late this summer.

That choice I made ten years ago, that was a hard one. It was walking away from a person I loved, who was also a person who wasn't good for me. I decided that I only had so much time left to be happy, and I had spent enough time being quiet and sad. It was the right choice, and even if it didn't look like it at the moment--I was sleeping on couches, crying on the subway, being a general buzzkill all over New York City--I knew it in my bones. And I found out I had a wonderful community that supported me and lent me their couches and their generous and empathic ears. And because I let go, because I took the leap of faith away from a situation that wasn't serving me, I found my way here.

So I'm smiling here with all of that. All of the love and laughter that poor Kamal's sagging onto the floorboards raises in me, all of the triumph of feeling so right with myself and my world and my tribe, all of the joy that I've allowed in by simply opening my hands and letting go of sorrow that wasn't mine to hold. That's why I wanted a picture of my face, in this moment, feeling all those things. 

Every one of us has something to walk away from, in order to open wide a space that could otherwise be filled with good work, or good love, or real and profound joy. I hope for you that letting go of someone or something who causes you unhappiness is a process filled with ease--but even if it isn't, even if it's the hardest thing you've ever done, I hope you do let go. I hope you choose happiness, and I hope you make room for it in your life, because it wants to find you. 



The healthy hedonist's "fast food" protocol

[What I had for breakfast today: steamed jasmine rice, a fresh hen egg, chopped and sauteed daikon greens, and Adam's kimchi.]

The other day I had this absolutely spectacular dinner: delicious, nutty brown jasmine rice; an unctuous duck egg perfectly over-easy, buttery mushroom confit; and ribbons of sweet purple collards. It was delicious, healthy and balanced, and it took me about five minutes to put together.

Okay. Truthfully, I was only able to put it together so quickly because of a lot of prior preparation: two days before, Adam had reduced a huge pile of fresh mushrooms into a super-umami pint or so of mushroomy tenderness. He'd put about half of them on a homemade pizza, and the remainder sat forlornly in a jar in the fridge. I'd made the rice for breakfast, since we had just run out of white rice. The collards I clipped from the tree collard we'd stuck in the garden as a tiny cutting three or four years ago. A friend gave us a dozen duck eggs in return for Kamal's baby wading pool, which her ducks will certainly enjoy more than Kamal presently does. Basically I melted a little pat of good butter in our big cast-iron skillet, dropped in the rice and mushrooms and cleaned, trimmed greens and egg, and voilà: dinner.

And all this got me thinking about how my general eating system (rice+protein+greens) really does lend itself to eating healthfully with relative ease. Having a garden that gives us delicious greens is helpful, but even if you don't have a garden (or, like me, if there are mornings you just don't want to go outside yet, or don't have time to clean and prep veggies) you can have greens at the ready. 

This is the basic protocol: have at the ready some kind of grain, some kind of greens, some kind of protein and something that serves as a condiment. Heat up a big skillet and melt coconut oil or butter or olive oil or your favorite healthy fat of choice in it. 

You've made a big pot of white or brown rice, barley, farro, or quinoa, or something. Scoop some of it out and plunk it in your skillet.

Next to that in your skillet, add an egg, or chicken, or chickpeas, or some beef, or some tofu...whatever protein you like or have left over from dinner last night. 

Then fill up the rest of your skillet with handfuls the fresh greens you've washed and chopped earlier. 

Prepping three meals. I left the skillet on the burner while getting Kamal dressed, and everything got a little...crisped. Still perfectly edible, but a good reminder to stay present while cooking. 

Saute, flip, monitor your skillet until everything is heated through. Then scoop it into a bowl (or, if you're me and have made three or four meals' worth in your giant skillet, scoop some into a bowl and divide the rest into two or three mason jars and/or thermoses) and add on top a squirt of sriracha, a pile of kimchi or sauerkraut, half an avocado, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed radishes, fresh radishes, or any combination of the above. Or all of the above! Go crazy. 

Jasmine rice, roast chicken, daikon and carrot pickle, over-easy egg, tree collards

A few notes:

-Keeping yourself in cooked greens and washed greens is 80% of the battle.  After that, it's finding the combinations you like. (I like them all.)

-A little good butter and quality salt can do wonders for brown rice or barley, if whole grains aren't typically your thing.

-You can steam or saute the greens in advance, but I don't think they taste as good that way.

-For a busy week (which, let's face it, is every week) we'll often just buy a rotisserie chicken from our local grocery, which uses humanely raised, free-range chickens. 

-To saute radishes, slice fresh radishes into thin coins, saute in butter, and finish with a little salt. You can also chop up the green radish leaves and throw those in with the radishes. So pretty!


-Mushrooms can be cooked into a delicious reduction like Adam's by slicing them thinly and sauteeing them with garlic in olive oil over a low flame for a long time. 

-Kimchi and sauerkraut, besides being an excellent source of cruciferous vegetables, also deliver a nice dose of probiotics. Your gut will thank you. 

Left to right: Adam's fabulous kimchi; Adam's superyellow pineapple-turmeric sauerkraut



[What I ate for breakfast today: jasmine rice, a fresh egg, and a LOT of kimchi. When Adam makes kimchi, I eat it at almost every meal. To whomever ends up next to me in yoga class: sorrynotsorry.]

A few Sunday mornings ago, I was getting fancied up for the first West End Farmer's Market of the season. Kamal stood next to me as I put on eyeliner, animatedly talking me through his plans for the day. Suddenly he interrupted himself, his own eyes widening, to whisper, reverently, "Mama--what's on your eyes?"

"It's purple!" I said. "You like it?"

Even wider eyes. "Did you...draw it? On your face?"

"I did."

Supernova eyes. "Can you draw some on my face?" 

My first impulse was to say no--three year olds don't wear eyeliner!--but then I considered. I mean, wearing makeup at all is pretty arbitrary. There wasn't really a good reason I could come up with that I should get to put fun purple stuff on my face and Kamal shouldn't--so, per his precise direction, I drew a sun on one round little cheek and a star on the other. (The sun, which suffered from a lot of wiggling and chatting during its application, was later entirely erased through Kamal's unrelated weeping. That's a whole other story.) 

We don't wonder enough about the whys of beauty. All we're told, from the moment we're aware of beauty at all, is that we're not beautiful enough. 

I don't mean, necessarily, that your family tells you that. I hope your family members are people that helped you see how perfect and complete you are. But whether they are or aren't, there are a million messages coming at us from everywhere telling us we need to improve. We need to be thinner, have smoother skin, have more symmetrical features, have shinier hair and smaller ankles. We need to use makeup in a way that draws attention away from our big noses and small chins. We need to dress in a way that draws attention away from our broad shoulders, our round bellies, our big quads. 

I don't know who came up with our standard of beauty, but I'm not it. I'm not skinny, tall, young, white. And yet I have the nerve to feel beautiful. Those bags under my eyes? I earned them, sitting up at night with my sweet, sleepless child. I flaunt the shoulders I got from Kamal lying on my back for "a ride" when I do pushups, from pulling weeds, from shoveling compost. I show off the quads I got from biking Kamal to preschool and myself to work and all over town at the speediest safe speed possible, since I'm always running late to everything. My big, crooked nose--I don't know where it came from, not my mother or my father, but I have a really good sense of smell and can still sing an aria pretty decently and can make funny faces with it that make Kamal laugh till he falls over. 

Anyway, the point of this post isn't to tell you about why I like myself the way I am. It's about why you should like yourself the way you are. Always remember this: the commercials you see, for slimming bathing suits, for weight-loss "boot camps," for frizz-decreasing hair serums, for mascara, for clothes, for almost everything--there's no end to them. They say, in essence, "Buy this, and then you'll be pretty enough. You'll hide all the things about you that don't fit our narrowly-proscribed standard of beauty, you'll fool everyone, they'll all think you're a beautiful person. This is the solution."

Except it's not, of course. There are always more commercials, more ads. You'll buy the hair serum and then the commercials will tell you you need the boot camp or the meal-replacement shake or the concealer. If you listen to the messages the advertising industry shoots at us like so many arrows, you'll never know that you're already beautiful.  

You are. You are beautiful. You are beautiful enough. You deserve to be here, and you deserve to shine, and you deserve to do that in whatever way works for you--not the way the commercials tell you to shine. (Those commercial writers don't know you. They don't know the things that make you interesting, or the reasons you wake up in the morning, or the last thing on your mind at night. They are writing to a demographic with the goal of making you believe they're talking to you.) 

Whatever you want to put on or take off your body, you will be beautiful. You can line your eyes with kohl or cry a purple sun off your cheek; you can show off a shiner from a bike crash or show off the belly in which you carried your baby four years ago. You can wear leggings as pants or wear a dress that no magazine would recommend for your "body type." (Your body is not a type any more than you are a demographic.)  You can wear pajamas to yoga class. You can wear an eyebrow ring with a business suit. You can make all your own clothes from thrifted finds, or choose a daily uniform.

Let me be clear: I'm not going to judge you for buying the hair serum (there's some languishing in my medicine cabinet right now!), or signing up for the boot camp, or getting lash extensions or whatever you want to do. I just really want you to do it because you want to, because it's fun to manifest yourself outwardly, not because you feel you have to in order to merit leaving your house or being treated with respect. Just let it be fun. Let it be as entertaining and silly and harmless as a kid getting his face painted. Because, really, that's all it is. 



On being a slacker runner

I couldn't run a hundred yards when I started high school--but I remember watching other people run from my dad's car window, and admiring that autonomy of motion. I loved the idea of running to work, or school, or the store, or to meet friends, just because I could. I loved the idea of being my own vehicle, of getting around without relying on a car or even a bike. 

Then I had to run a mile for P.E. my junior year, and I thought I was going to die. It took me about forty minutes. I started trying to run by myself after school, despite opposition from my well-intentioned parents, who worried a lot--about my being kidnapped, about the impact "over-exercising" would have on my fertility, about my catching a cold from washing my hair too late in the day, about my being late to dinner because I was running and then washing my hair too late in the day, about whether I was psychologically unbalanced because I was perspiring on purpose, and about my obsessing too much about my weight. (That last worry, in fairness, was legit. I won't lie and say vanity wasn't a motivator; I was a sixteen-year-old with all the body-image drama being that age brings).

The first time I finished a mile-long run without stopping, I sat down on the sidewalk because I thought I might pass out. Literally everything hurt, even my teeth. Now, twenty years later, I regularly use my body as a vehicle, to get to the store, to pick up Kamal at preschool, to get the car I left the night before at a designated driver's house, to pick up my bike after its tune-up at the bike shop, to get to work (where I am lucky enough to have a shower!). And those are the runs I always want to brag about--not the farthest ones, not the fastest ones, but the ones where I could have used a car or a bike and didn't.

I'm not interested in running races; I am interested in commuting by legs. I'm just so tickled that this is something I am able to do. I'm the runner I used to watch out the car window. I'm frankly really proud of that.

And here's the thing: running is not for everyone. It's just not. But I think there are people out there that could be loving running who don't, because they tried it one way or another and it hurt them, or exhausted them, or bored them. I kind of want those people to try it my way. Which is: moderately. 

You don't meet a lot of moderate runners. You don't meet a lot of runners who've never been injured running, either. Those two facts are related.  

I've never suffered a running injury, but that's probably because I don't race, or run for speed at all. I also rarely run more than 3 or 4 miles at a time, and rarely more than a few times a week. I do a lot of looking and listening while I run, and get interested in my surroundings in a way I can't safely do while biking or driving. I don't listen to music, because I enjoy how much quieter my brain gets when I run and I don't like to clutter it up. I stop if there's a gorgeous plant or bird or wandering neighborhood cat that I want to get a closer look at or photograph. I don't really have a lot of rules around it. 

Running can feel hard, no doubt. I mean, you're propelling yourself into the air and forward at the same time, over and over again, with a lot of impact and sweatiness. But it can also feel transcendent, rhythmically meditative, downright pleasant. It clears my head--literally (if I have any sinus congestion before a run, it's way gone afterwards) and figuratively. Often, I'll find the solution to a problem while running. It's been the single most reliable mood stabilizer and neurosis manager I've found for myself, and the fact that it lets me eat more of Adam's unbelievable chocolate-mint cookies and miraculously tender biscuits without having to size up my clothes is just a nice little bonus. 

So I guess I'm kind of a slacker runner. But I'm a runner nonetheless, and I plan to keep being a runner until I'm at least 90 or so. What I'm hoping is that you might be a person who's resisted running because all the runners you know are so intense about it, and hearing that it's possible to be a slacker runner will lower that resistance. 

Look, if it's not for you, it's not for you, and I am all about helping you find the exercise that is for you. But if you're curious? It's just lacing up your sneaks, maybe making sure you have a comfortable sports bra, and putting one foot in front of the other. Walk when you're tired, and run again when you're ready. And then do it again a couple days later. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you love the way you feel after you're done running, chances are in just a few weeks you'll love the way you feel while running. 

If you're looking for more direction as you try out running, I always recommend to patients the Couch to 5K running plan. I'm going to start a Couch to 10k running group here for patients and friends, and I'm so excited for more people to find out how calming and lovely and straight-up delicious running can be. 

June 2014: Kamal and I right after a nice stroller run around Spring Lake. 

Feeling validated

[What I had for breakfast today: see below!]

Remember back when I wrote this post, about how despite popular counsel, white rice can be a valid part of a healthy diet? Here's an article sent to me by my good friend, design strategist Gale Peck, saying more or less the same thing, and referencing a 2014 study. 

My favorite quote from the article is this: "...what you eat with your rice is likely more important than the type of rice."  Which is a happy thing to keep in mind, when you're piling things on your rice like I do. 

steamed white jasmine rice piled high with probiotic-rich homemade kimchi, pickled carrot and daikon, a fresh egg from our happy chickens and an avocado from our friends Ray and Barbara's tree.

Dressing to save the world

One way to do it. Read on for others.

 [What I had for breakfast today: a sweet little pullet egg, jasmine rice, Adam's fabulous kimchi, and a bunch of mustard flowers I'd pulled off our greens in the hopes the plants won't bolt before we're ready to pick and pickle them.]


Flowers for breakfast 


A while back, I wrote this post about dressing for healthy hedonism. In it, I explained how it's important to me that my apparel empowers me to interact with the world in a positive, effective way: my clothes have work to do. My clothing empowers me me earn the trust of my patients, squat down to examine the world of rocks and worms that Kamal might discover in the garden, squeeze in a quick Vinyasa practice or  set of pushups  between meetings, ride my bike and walk all over town, pull a bunch of weeds on my way to the chicken coop, and eat with unrestricted enthusiasm Adam's phenomenal cooking.  


If I can't yoga in it, I don't want it.  [Secondhand dress via Goodwill; Frye boots, which should last for years and years, bought nearly new from eBay]


Today I want to talk a little about flipping that philosophy around: you can use your clothing choices to empower the world, too. Just like switching to bar shampoo or practicing random generosity, being conscious about the clothes you buy is a small, straightforward change with tremendous, wide-reaching, exponential effects. 

If you buy your clothes secondhand, you're already effecting this change by helping to maximize the resources that go into the fabrication of the clothes and to minimize the amount of clothing waste that goes into landfills or fuel required to recycle textiles. For the new clothing you buy, though, think about how powerful your purchase can be. 

Think about all the people involved in producing the piece of clothing you're considering. Think about the people that farm the cotton or raise the sheep that make the fiber for the clothing. Does their work require exposure to pesticides? How are the sheep treated? Think about the people that weave the fibers into fabric, and the people that cut the fabric for the garment, and the people that actually sew it together. Where do they work? Is the environment safe? Are they respected, paid fair wages?  Think about the creative process involved in the design of the garment--was that designer recognized and compensated, or was he or she plagiarized by the company you'd be paying? Think about future generations living in the areas where the clothing and its elements are produced--are fabric dye and waste effluent being poured into the water supply? Will the chemicals used to grow the cotton poison the soil for other crops in years to come? 

Think about whether you are willing to support forced labor, human slavery and child abuse with your own income. Think about whether you are willing to assume responsibility for pouring lead and mercury into anybody's drinking water. Don't take part in the culture of passive denial just to take home a cheap and pretty blouse. If you wouldn't force a child to drop out of school in order to sew your clothing, if you wouldn't dose that child's breakfast with arsenic and cadmium, if you wouldn't fire a woman for being pregnant or shoot a man for asking for a living wage, then do not support the people who do.

Because of the internet, it's pretty easy to find companies that put ethics at the forefront of their practices. Besides secondhand clothes, I wear a lot of American Apparel and Icebreaker

What I wore today: Icebreaker skirt and top, American Apparel leggings, those  Frye boots again.

 If a company doesn't have a clear message on their ethics on their website and I'm considering purchasing their clothes, I'll send them an email to ask about it. Usually it looks something like this: 

"Hi! I really like the clothes on your site. However, I can't find any information on how you source your fabrics, what your labor standards look like, or what your sustainability practices are. Before I make a purchase, I try to make sure that the clothes I buy are ethically produced. Could you reply with some of that information? Thanks so much." 

Sometimes nobody gets back to me, which says to me that the company knows they don't have anything to say I want to hear, and then I give up on that particular garment, no matter how lovely it might be. I'm hopeful that by sending the email, it at least lets the company know that some of their would-be customers prioritize the good health and happiness of all people, not just the ones in their own demographic. 

But yesterday I did get an email back from a company whose pieces I've been eyeing, and it made me feel good. Mary-Rose at Knixwear wrote: 

"Thanks for your interest in Knix Wear! I am proud to say that our underwear is ethically manufactured in Seoul, Korea. Seoul is a very busy industrious city in Asia and the factory we work with is quite advanced in their manufacturing abilities since we use a bonded process for underwear construction. I have seen photos of the factory and spoken with our suppliers personally and can confirm that everyone involved is treated well and paid fair wages. 

Our CEO and Production Manager travel to the factory over 5 times each year to check on production and to make sure everything is being done in a good, fair way. 

When we discontinue a product to create a new style or colour, we donate all of the left over stock to women's shelters." 

So that's a good start, and I'll make a purchase from them soon. 

I'd love to hear the small choices you make every day that resonate with wide and helpful results--for the planet, for other people, for your community. Every action we take has consequences. Let's engage, together, for the greater good. Let's collect enough small choices, enough happy consequences, to save the world.  


Seriously minimal hair care

 [What I had for breakfast today: chicken congee, beet greens, egg, crisped chicken skin, leftover roast chicken and Adam's fantastic kimchi.] 


oh. em. gee.

Sometimes the tiniest adjustment can create massive change. For example, drinking more water or starting a gratitude practice can have an unbelievable impact on your physical and emotional well-being.  Donating a small amount to a worthy organization can literally save a life. And making a commitment, just for yourself, to generate less waste can benefit the planet and all of its inhabitants in countless ways.

One tiny change I've made towards generating less waste is switching to a bar shampoo and vinegar hair rinse. It seems pretty trivial, but when I think about the number of plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles I used to drop in the recycling bin compared to the zero I do now, it starts feeling less trivial. I also like feeling a little less responsible for the massive energy costs inherent to the production of plastic bottles. Moreover, my bar shampoo (J.R. Liggett's Coconut and Argan Oil, but there are lots of different shampoo bars out there worth checking out) has a limited ingredient list (olive, coconut, castor, sunflower, palm kernel and argan oils, plus vitamin E) and my conditioning rinse is just vinegar and water, so I know I'm not paying for the manufacture of awful chemicals nor sending awful chemicals out through my shower drain nor absorbing them into my scalp.

All I do is lather my hair up with the shampoo bar, rinse, and repeat. For the vinegar rinse, I bring a pint Mason jar into the shower with about an ounce of apple scrap vinegar in it. (Most people will tell you to use apple cider vinegar, but Adam made us about 20 gallons--not a typo!--of vinegar from the apple scraps leftover from pressing cider late last year, so I use that. Really you can use more or less any vinegar.) I fill up the jar with warm water in the shower, pour the diluted cider all over my head, let it sit for a bit, then rinse it out. 

It took a few weeks for my hair to adjust to the unbottled approach, but now that it has I'm actually happier with it than I was before the switch.


So I'm not telling you this whole long story in the hopes, necessarily, that you'll start buying bar shampoo instead of bottled. I mean I'd be tickled if you did, but it could be anything, any miniscule adjustment with big and happy consequences. I'm telling you this whole story because I hope that you'll try, if not this, some other small change that both benefits you and ripples outward a far-reaching positive impact. I'm hoping you'll search for the spaces in your life where you feel ready to stretch, even a tiny bit, towards your best intentions. Because I have this idea that if we amass enough of these little shifts towards the greater good, the reach of their collective effects will astound us all.  

Rant, written after seeing one too many commercials

[What I had for breakfast today, and second breakfast, and lunch: jasmine rice, beet greens, fresh eggs and sriracha.] 

There are three commandments in Healthy Hedonism: eat for pleasure, move for fun, and think for yourself. We've covered, briefly, eating for pleasure and moving for fun, and we'll talk more about those soon. But today, let's chat a little about thinking for yourself. 

A lot of the time, we let other people think for us. Even the most independent-minded among us let other people think for us. And, okay, here and there, it makes sense to delegate our thinking: for example, I don't hang a picture in my home or office (let alone buy furniture or choose paint colors!) without consulting my friend and interior designer Emily Lynch Kelman, because she does brilliant work and always, always comes up with the exact right spot. Delegating decisions to people who are experts in making those decisions is smart.

But delegating all your thinking to people who do not have your best interests at heart is not smart. It's harmful to you and to everyone. And those people, the ones that don't have your best interests at heart? They are everywhere. Everywhere! They're on your Facebook feed. They're in your car, in between Top 40 songs on the radio. They are shouting at you from your television set, nudging you at the edges of your Google searches, spreading across the highway on your commute. 

It's the ads. There are people whose entire job is to make you hate your hair. The people creating ads for styling products and shampoo are thinking for you, and those thoughts look like this: Your hair! It's so dull, or so frizzy, or so thin. Everyone who sees you figures you're dull, or have no control over your life, or are past your prime. You are undateable. You are not going to realize your potential in love, in work, in any way. This is tragic. It's too bad your hair doesn't look more like model hair. Oh, wait, though: if you just bought this one bottle of magic hair stuff, this beautiful man will love you forever, paint your toenails and propose with a giant diamond. 

Oh, and the diamond commercials! Here's how they are thinking for you: If your man really loved you, he'd buy you a giant diamond. If he cared at all about your future together, he'd want everyone to know, and you'd be wearing diamonds all the time because, duh, DIAMONDS=LOVE. No diamonds? You are unloved. Move on and find someone with deeper pockets who will listen to our ads and buy you this ring that looks like everyone else's ring. Everyone wearing this ring is cherished, obviously. 

There are commercials telling you that if you really love your child--or want your child to love you--you'll buy them some highly-engineered food product covered in way too much packaging and stick it in their lunch box. Your child is having a bad day? Don't think too much--just buy them some kind of shiny baggie with mush in it that they can squeeze directly into their mouths. That will fix it. All their friends will think, wow, that kid's mom is cool. Which will up your child's self-esteem, and then he'll get into a great college and your whole life will actually be worth something. 

Weight-loss commercials: You know what? I can't even get started on those. Let's come back to those. 

Car commercials: Your whole family will die in a fiery crash if you don't buy our safety-rated vehicle. Or: you could be picking up women at every red light, except you're not driving our slick coupe; in fact, you're the dork in the commercial that gets splashed with the puddle. Want to find love, scrub? Buy this one. Or: Your life is so boring; you never take road trips, but if you had this car you totally would, and your family would bond and everyone would turn off their cell phones and really listen to one another. Because you bought the right car. Good job, Mom. Your kids will remember this trip forever, and you could never have taken it in the car you already have. (Couldn't I?) You couldn't! Stop thinking and get the loan application started. 

Frozen-dinner commercials: This is basically the same thing as eating a meal prepared from scratch. See how we put whole vegetables and a tractor on a farm in our commercial? A lady in an apron smiling as she dices potatoes and kneads biscuit dough? Never mind that each of the frozen-dinner components was produced in a separate industrial facility, and that if a lady did help to prepare it she wasn't wearing an apron but was definitely wearing a hairnet and was probably not smiling, and this came nowhere near anybody's kitchen. Never mind that you have to open a cardboard box to eat your dinner. You don't have time to make real food, who does? This is the best you can do. This is the best anybody can do. You're welcome. Oh, your family will love you, too. Your kids will all come sit around the dinner table and look pleased and surprised that there is cheese product on their plate. Family bonding accomplished. 

Okay, back to weight loss commercials. If anybody, anywhere, called your kid fat, you would want to punch them in the face. Right? If someone called you fat, you'd be wounded. You'd feel insecure. You'd think, that's a mean person. And maybe you'd wonder if they're right. Somehow, when a commercial calls us fat, we think they are trying to help us. 

They're not. They're really not. They are trying to make us wonder if we are in fact less loveable than we could be if we fit into the dress the woman is wearing in the "after" picture. They are thinking for you, thoughts like: You are inadequate. You are wasting your life. You are not living at all until you're skinny. You cannot get to a healthy place on your own power. You need to purchase our coaching, our powdered beverages, our compartmentalized meal plans, and then you'll have the energy you need to devote to the people you love, and then, finally, they will love you back. Give it over--your money, your control, your sense of self. Give it up. Don't you want to be loved? You can't do it without us. 

They're insiduous. They are reaching up from gutters to sucker-punch us in our softest places, broadcasting images of our most encompassing wishes and our deepest fears. Don't let them. Don't be a part of it. Be an example of difference, strength, completion.

Here is the place I wish we were all starting from: I am loved. I love myself, exactly the way I am. When I buy stuff, I buy it because I want it, because it will serve me, not because it will make me complete. I'm already complete. If I decide to change the way I look, it'll be because it'll be fun and creatively satisfying to recreate the outward expression of my beautiful inner self. If I decide to change the way I eat, it'll be because I want to feel as strong and as healthy and as awake to the absolute glory of my life in every moment as I possibly can. I'm not making any changes that don't come from me, authentically. I'm not letting someone else create an imaginary need in my life. There is no hole, no deficiency, no inadequacy here that can be filled with a product. Nobody gets to think for me. I think for myself. 

Please, please, think for yourself. There's no one else who's as much on your side as you. Don't let big, impersonal companies who don't know one single thing about you tell you who you are or what you need. You need you. You already have that, and it's the best. 





On giving

[What I had for breakfast today: beet greens, jasmine rice, a fresh egg, a little roast chicken and sriracha, all tossed together in a Adam's grandmother's big cast-iron skillet.] 

This past Friday was an anniversary of sorts: At Kamal's request, I pulled from the freezer, and toasted, and buttered, the very last organic whole-grain muffin of the batch I'd made for Kamal's breakfast on November 17.  On November 17, after feeding him that first fresh muffin, I dropped him off at preschool and went to work, where I checked Facebook, became really angry, and wrote this post. 

And the response to that post showed me, to my relief and amazement, how many of us there are: all ready to give, wanting to help, believing in the sacred sameness of all people.  There aren't words for how moved I was by the messages I received and the sense of embrace that shone from so many different places. More than anything, I learned what defines my tribe: it's giving. Love, sure, and empathy, and activism: but across the board, people giving, asking how to give, finding ways to give creatively and gracefully.

The thing about giving is: it's not optional. Not if you want to be a happy, healthy person connected in any way with the larger world. I talk a lot about how everyone has their own individual path to health and happiness, and how no one else can prescribe it to you, but on this point I'm uncharacteristically inflexible.

Giving is not optional because the alternative is, well, hoarding. Not-giving is not a neutral state. Every one of your resources is either in your possession or it isn't. And not-giving, over time, hardens and calcifies into fear-based greed--and that's a really uncomfortable feeling.

Giving doesn't have to mean writing checks. There are countless ways to give. You have so many resources to share: your time. Your physical ability. Your kindness.

Or an egg collected with great care on a rainy day.

That guy that is always just waking up under the eaves of your office building when you get there early? Notice him. Say "good morning." Let him know he is seen. That is giving.

Your friend who just had a baby? Tiptoe up to her front door, leave her a sandwich or something else she can eat with one hand, and then tiptoe away again.  Don't ring the bell and wake the baby, don't go in and make her host you. Just give something that is needed, the gentlest and purest gesture. 

That person standing alone at the party, trying to look cavalier but plainly terrified? Swallow your own nerves and talk to him. Be easy and unscary. You can be a port in somebody's storm, and it won't cost you a thing but a little bit of comfort. 

Raise awareness for causes you believe in by writing, talking, singing, dancing, shouting. Gift beauty to the world by picking that piece of litter off the hiking trail. Gift a smidgen of confidence to a twelve-year-old girl by getting as excited as she is about her garage band. Gift your family your own most realized self by taking care of your health and taking responsibility for your own happiness.

Give. Give. Give. Give endlessly, in as many ways you can think of. The more you look for opportunities to give, the more you'll find them, and the richer you'll know you are. You can afford to give something, every day, and there is no better or surer path towards celebrating all the different kinds of wealth in your life. There is no faster vehicle towards your own happiest and healthiest existence than generosity to others. Give because it's good for you and good for everyone around you; give because your goodwill will ripple outward in unpredictable and joyful ways forever; give because it's never wrong. Give because you are grateful for what you have and because you know better than to hold it too tight. There is so much to share.

[Again, cash isn't the only way to give. But if it's a way that works for you, please consider giving to my friend Chris as he brings his considerable skills to Lesvos to assist Syrian refugees. Click right here to donate, or to read more about Chris and all the ways and reasons he's walking the walk here. ]


Chris and his daughter June

The Wayward Body

[What I had for breakfast today: rice. Egg. Beet greens. Kamal had the same thing!

But this past Tuesday, Kamal asked me to make him pancakes, and I made these, almost exactly according to the recipe. I used six ounces of whole-wheat flour and four ounces of white, as opposed to the ten ounces of white flour called for in the recipe; and instead of buttermilk and sour cream I used the kefir and yogurt Adam has been culturing at home. Kamal had two with butter and homemade jam. I had two, also, but they sandwiched an egg scrambled with salami and cheddar cheese. It was delicious.] 

As far as I know, which is not very far, the point of having a body is to experience everything beautiful the world has to offer it. And that is a lot. One of those countless beautiful things is the euphoria of exertion--the hard and fast heartbeat, the fierce ache in the muscles, the pores opening and letting go sweat and salt.  There is nothing else like it. Just like there is nothing else like pistachio ice cream or sleeping in on soft clean sheets or taking in a sunlit field of mustard flowers. It would be silly to deny your body any of these pleasures. 

Sometimes my body doesn't want to exert itself. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, my body goes all wayward and self-sabotage-y on me, and wants to lie down and eat french fries. (This is a completely justifiable desire, but this post is about exercise.) I love running, but I don't always love every second of running, or riding my bike, or even my brief daily yoga practice. But in those moments when I don't love all the panting and sweating and aching, I remember how I feel when I don't exercise at all, which is: crappy. When I feel crappy, I act like someone who feels crappy: grumpy, uninspired, unfun. Which is, let's face it, not fair to Kamal or to Adam, not fair to my patients or my friends, but mostly, so not fair to me. 

So, now I'm talking to you. Please exercise. You don't have to run, you don't have to bike. You don't have to wear spandex or belong to a gym. You can do it with other people or all alone. You can do it with music or you can do it with silence. You do have to find a thing you like doing, and the way I always suggest finding that thing is to think about the thing you most liked to do on the playground at recess. 

Remember that thing? Remember how you would just run around screaming, out of the sheer joy of being set free from the classroom? Remember how you'd always win at foursquare or tetherball? Remember hopscotch? Jump rope? Or what about the long, rambling bike rides with your friends after school, all the things you'd discover that you'd never have seen in a car? Did you ever once in your entire childhood turn down the chance to go for a swim? Did you and your friends choreograph busy, giggly numbers to Whitney Houston and M.C. Hammer? 

All of that also counts as grown-up exercise. All of that will make you sweaty and euphoric. And I want all of it for you, not because it's good for you, not because it's my job to recommend it to you--but because you deserve it. You deserve to feel strong and happy and at ease in your body. You deserve to let your body bring you every kind of pleasure, every joy. You deserve every benefit exercise brings--greater ease in your everyday movements, whether climbing stairs or carrying groceries; a more positive outlook, leading to better relationships and a happier home; and maybe even a longer life , which you're going to really want once you realize how beautiful and delicious every day in your body can be. 

The actual lesson from the bike crash


[What I had for breakfast today: jasmine rice, an egg, and beet greens. And I had the same thing yesterday--but I chased it with a DOUGHNUT, eaten with a good friend, and man did I enjoy that chocolate glazed.]

This was such a beautiful sight.

A couple of weeks ago, I crashed my bike while riding to work. I'm not sure what happened, and it wasn't really a big deal, but I bonked my head hard enough that it seemed wise to buy a new helmet, plus I got some intense road rash on my knee and shoulder. 

The scrape on my shoulder was particularly uncomfortable, enough that I had to curse a lot every time I got in the shower or changed my shirt for the first few days. Kamal winced when he saw it and insisted I wear sleeves--"I don't like seeing your boo-boo," he explained--and I couldn't blame him. It was pretty gross. 

The boo-boo, just nine days ago. Today it's barely visible!

Today, thanks to the remarkable ability of time to heal all wounds--along with a lot of antibiotic ointment and Vitamin E lotion--the road rash is almost entirely gone. But for those first few days, I was a terrible, terrible patient. I whined, I cringed, I felt sorry for myself. I thought about how to prevent road rash from happening again. 

"Maybe," I suggested to Adam, "I should start wearing more protective gear when I ride my bike. Like, maybe if I'd been wearing a jacket or something besides a sundress, I wouldn't have gotten so banged up."

Adam didn't even look up from the bread he was kneading. He scowled into the dough. "Come on," he scoffed. "You've been riding your bike forever, in far less appropriate outfits than that one. This is your first accident since you were a kid. Change what you wear on your bike if you want, but not because you fell off it this once."

Since it happened, I've been wondering what the lesson is for me in this accident. I've come up with some possibilities: maybe it's the universe reminding me why a helmet is important. Maybe it's telling me to be more careful. Maybe it's telling me to be less vain. Maybe it's telling me I shouldn't ride my bike anymore, or warning me against, God forbid, a bike accident while riding around with Kamal. All the lessons I thought up were grim warnings and grave reproaches. 

It took Adam frowning at his dough to make me realize: The lesson is just that accidents happen. The lesson is that one accident in a long history of safe bicycling is the norm, not the exception. The lesson is a big one for me and my anxiety. 

Because, yes, I struggle with anxiety. Since before I knew how to ride a bike, I've been an anxious person. I've collected a whole kit of tools for dealing with it, and I do a pretty good job most of the time, and have, in no small part as a direct result of coping with my own, been able to help a lot of patients deal with their anxiety. But when an accident happens, or when somebody under our roof is sick--when I'm not in control of my health or the health of my family--the anxiety starts digging in its cold little toes. 

And Adam, who is pretty much always right, is right again. Righter than he realized, maybe. Because managing anxiety isn't believing that the world is a safe place. It's acknowledging that the world is dangerous, that life is precarious, and moving forward anyway. It's finding the balance between being paralyzed by fear and deceiving ourselves into total passivity. It's remembering that the California sun on your shoulders feels good as you pedal yourself to work, and also that wearing a suit of armor makes for a slow and unpleasant bike ride. 

Vigilance is helpful; hypervigilance hinders. We try not to fall down, but we all do sometimes. We don't want to see the boo-boos, but we know they happen, and the great gift is that most of the time we know how to fix them. Every human is made of soft and vulnerable stuff and the world is hard and poky. 

When Kamal was born everything around me was lit by love. At the same time, the risks contained in the world multiplied by a thousand. The most illuminating love and the most crippling anxiety both arrived in my life along with my child. And this is the world we live in: equally full of catastrophes and miracles. At any moment we can fall head over heels in love or be struck by enormous loss. What anxiety makes us forget is that the loss and catastrophe are just as random as the love and the miracles. The bad stuff isn't aiming for anyone. The good stuff is all around. All we can do is roll around in it and take our lumps where they come, and then heal, over and over again.