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A gift




I went to an art therapy group this weekend for women during this tumultuous political time. A week before the meeting the leader sent out information on the despacho ceremony we would be participating in. A despacho ceremony is a traditional Andean shamanic ritual that aligns personal intent with gratitude offerings to the earth. We were instructed to gather several offerings from our kitchen or yard to contribute. I selected a few things from my kitchen – sprouted pumpkin seeds symbolizing growth, honey to symbolize the glue that holds us all together and four mandarin oranges for health.

I had never participated in anything like this and, honestly, at first it felt a little “out there.” But as I drizzled sparkling honey over the beautiful mound of offerings a group of six passionate women had assembled I felt a surge of hope.

The honey glistened on the feathers of guinea hens, on the pinecones of Durham’s towering pines, on the flowers from my friend’s backyard, on the rocks plucked from the shallows of the Eno River, on the quinoa symbolizing our ancient ancestors, and more. It struck me just how fucking amazing it was that we were all there, in that place, at that time, creating an offering to our earth and praying for peace and guidance.

Think about it. Had one speck of dust landed differently on my drive over I might not have made it there. Had one person’s child caught the ball that another kid with norovirus had tossed, her family might have been struck with illness so she could not be there. So many things had to align perfectly so we could be together, creating amazing art that would later be burned in a fire and offered up to the earth and everyone on it.

That evening I returned to the instructional email and finally found time to read on the history of the despacho, which has its roots in the Andes, primarily in Peru and Ecuador.

“A despacho is created during a celebratory ceremony. In the cosmology of the Andes, all life is perceived as one grand, infinite ceremony. Because physical survival is so hard in the high mountains, life is experienced as a true gift to be lived, not a problem to be solved. ” 

That last line made me stop dead in my tracks. I have been watching a lot of documentaries about the evolution of man recently, fascinated by how we as a species have come so far. In one documentary, they note that as life became safer, we began to have time to start reflecting and creating. For me, we became truly human then, no longer existing solely to find our next meal and reproduce. Suddenly we had a little safety, a little time to start expressing ourselves. We started to create and think deeply.

Today many Americans are, for the first time in their lives, feeling the sharp edge of uncertain survival. Climate change is here, politics are a swirling storm, new and previously eradicated diseases are on the rise, and more. We are watching the physical survival of our species and our planet become increasingly difficult.

With this in mind, perhaps we should take every challenging and frightening moment to reflect on what a gift it is that we get to feel discomfort. Because the alternative is to not feel, and not feeling may not be what is human.

So today, when my child tantrums, when my New York Times app buzzes with another alarming update, when the weather swings wildly once more, I will breathe deeply and remember that this life of uncertainty is one to be lived, not a problem to be solved. I will relish the fact that this uncertainty is letting me feel a moment of discomfort to my fullest human ability.


A labor of love – the fairy bed




sabines-room-6When we first toured our house, I knew it was the home for us. Chill bumps prickled all over my arms as I stepped in and Sabine immediately started admiring the many quirky details. As we worked our way through the home, we came to the “purple” bedroom.

“This is Sabine’s room!” my child declared and then started gesturing around the space. “My big girl fairy bed will go here, and my toys will go here, and there will be flowers like New York on my walls!”

Fast-forward a week, and I was in full spreadsheet mode – here are all the things we have to do and purchase before we move in. At the top of the list was a big girl bed for my still crib-bound three-year-old. I knew I wanted something non-Ikea, with character, that was built to last and was under $100. This is not an easy task when it comes to furniture.


Sabine inspects the bed. We both agreed that it looked very much like a fairy bed.

Together Sabine and I scoured thrift shops and consignment stores waiting for the perfect bed. One afternoon we popped into the TROSA thrift store and found two French provincial style twin beds. They were in rough shape. One bed had a rotting leg and the other, while structurally sound, needed refinishing. But priced at $60 it came in way under budget and honestly, how much could it cost to buy some chalk paint and sandpaper? “It’s going to be so cute AND cheap!” I texted to the Professor.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” laughed Annie Sloan.



Love the smooth, matte finish of chalk paint and wax finish varnish.


We hauled it back to our tiny apartment, and I started researching chalk paint. I wanted a smooth, matte finish to the paint with the look of wax but the durability of varnish. Polyvine makes a Dead Flat Wax Finish Varnish that had glowing reviews from chalk painters and was about $30 for a quart. A little over budget for excellent durability is ok, I justified.

Sabine and I drove to Raleigh to buy our paint from the area Annie Sloan dealer. I showed him pictures of the bed and explained that I wanted a smooth finish. Not a distressed shabby chic look.

“You’ll want to shellac first,” he said. “That will ensure that none of the wood or old finish will bleed through. And you need this brush.”

He held up the most ridiculous looking round rough brush I have ever seen.

“Really? That will give me a smooth finish? I read that I needed a high quality nylon bristle brush?”

Oh no, he insisted. Any other brush will leave strokes. You NEED this $40 brush to go with your $40 paint. And then you need wax and a wax brush… I was able to stop him at the wax since I had already ordered the wax finish varnish. He sneered at this but happily rang up the expensive brush and paint.

Then off to Home Depot for $40 in sandpaper and shellac. Do you see where I am going with this? $60 bargain bed, $30 in fancy varnish, $40 chalk paint, $40 rip-off brush, $40 in shellac and sandpaper… this is NOT a $100 project.

I sanded the bed outside the apartment, then brought it into Sabine’s room to shellac, paint, and varnish. This was supposed to be a two-day project with one day to shellac and paint and one day to varnish. SEVEN days later I finished. The fancy pants, expensive-ass brush left tons of brush strokes, so every coat of chalk paint required a light sanding. It also dropped bristles like my Maine Coon cat drops fur, so I was constantly pulling bristles out of the paint. It was a never-ending painting nightmare. Six coats later and I waved my white flag. Yes, there were some brush strokes, but this was getting ridiculous. It was for a little kids room. Chances are it would be covered in puppy stickers within 24 hours anyways. Three coats of varnish and 3 additional days of cure time and it was finally ready to wrap up and add to the growing pile of stuff for the new house.



 I LOVE the footboard! Does this not make you think of fern fronds and fairies? 


So the moral of this story is that chalk paint is NOT a one day project, Polyvine Dead Flat Wax Finish Varnish is badass, expensive Annie Sloan brushes are a piece of crap, and no DIY refinishing project is every “cheap” or “quick!”

Thankfully I am thrilled with the end result and, most importantly, so is Sabine. We set the bed up the first night in the house, and she was so excited that she could not wait to go to sleep – which is a VERY big thing for my sleep fighting child.



Getting comfy cozy for her first night in the big girl fairy bed in our new home.




Wall Cloud




I pull into our polling location and get Sabine out of the car as she protests and squirms. She wants to go to the museum instead. I explain that today is a historic day when we get to cast our vote for the first woman president. “Tomorrow you’ll wake up to a bright future, Sabine. Tomorrow the glass ceiling that has hung over our heads will be no more,” I said.

My eyes fill with tears as I mark the ballot.

That night the Professor, a friend and I settle into our sofa with beers and snacks. To celebrate I select craft beers that have labels featuring foxy women. Television on, laptops out and mobile devices connected to WiFi. Let the games begin.

Around 12 a.m. we switch to bourbon and stare slack-jawed at our screens. How was this happening?


The weeks between the election and inauguration I read the news daily waiting for something, anything really, to change the outcome.

But it did not happen.

The last two weeks have been a complete nightmare as one shocking thing after another hits the news. I grew up in tornado alley, and the feelings I am experiencing are a lot like the feelings when you’re huddled in a bathtub listening to the radio coverage of an approaching wall cloud. You don’t know what is within that cloud but you know it’s not good and if you happen to get a direct hit, well, things are going to get fucking ugly.

A bad storm line is over in a matter of hours. This Trump presidency and his cabinet of clowns, however, are going to be here for a long time and the effects will be felt for decades to come. So hunker down, y’all. This storm is likely one for the books.

Please note that we are all entitled to our opinions in this election. Hateful, deconstructive comments will be deleted.