mayacama mama

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New Growth


It’s amazing to me to see how plants that might not have done well last year suddenly come back with such beauty and grace. Some little bug was eating comfrey’s leaves last year that I didn’t harvest any. About two months ago (or perhaps more because I can’t really recall) little comfrey sprouts came up and I was overjoyed to see it growing again. Now look at her in the photo above. What a beauty she is. She is just starting to flower. I have a special love for comfrey. She healed my mastitis two years ago and helped get a splinter out of Zoey’s foot awhile back. She is a great healer. Underneath her Sweet Annie is growing back.

Two nights ago I was getting ready to leave the office when I started talking to a co-worker in the kitchen. She asked me if I liked plants. I said yes–that I was planning on getting a plant to bring to my office desk. She asked me because she is leaving our agency in two months time and she is the only one who remembers to water the plants around the office. She didn’t want the plants to die, and she seemed really happy to know I would water the plants after she is gone. We got into a conversation about plants and energy. I immediately recognized a kindred spirit, and I felt she thought the same of me.

I haven’t always treated plants well. There is a spider plant in our bedroom that I forget to water. I just went to water it now. But since taking Donna de Terra’s herbal class last year, I’m trying to be more aware of the living being-ness of plants. So don’t forget to water your plants today and say hello to them. Put your hands around them and see if you can feel their energy.




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My Favorite Things in March


Three more days to go until I return to paid employment. This last week spending time with the kids, Stephen, and my parents, who were visiting, felt extra sweet. On more than one occasion I’ve talked to mama friends about how to balance home life with working outside the home. I look at single moms and wonder how they manage. Staying organized helps of course, but we’re all just doing the best we can. And I’ll do that, too. Life is messy right now and it may get messier, literally, but that’s okay. We keep moving forward.

And now on to my favorite things this month. I’ve been enjoying listening to Natural MD Radio podcast with Dr. Aviva Romm. She’s an herbalist and fellow Yalie (she received her MD from Yale Medical School). Not too long ago Stephen’s mom sent me an article on the link between depression and inflammation in the body. At the time I had never heard that discussed before, and then earlier this month Dr. Aviva released a podcast called Tumeric for Depression in which she addresses this connection between inflammation and depression. If you haven’t heard her podcast, check it out on iTunes. She tends to focus on women’s health and children.

Have you seen El Abrazo de la Serpiente? It’s a black and white film, perfect for Stephen, and it was about plant spirit medicine, perfect for me. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m currently reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. The story begins with a Jewish grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life growing up in Boston in the early part of the twentieth century. I’m enjoying the book so far. It is reminding me of how important it is to gather the stories of our elders, especially for our children born in the twenty-first century. Stephen and I had a chance several months back to interview both of our parents to hear about their lives before they were our parents. The recorded interviews are gifts we’ll give our children one day when they are older.

I smile as my own story is unfolding. I’m 38 years old, and yet my life experiences have been far from boring. As I begin this path of social work once again, I realize I am not the social worker I was six years ago. I bring to my work my mothering, my herbalism, my wild woman nature, my blogging, my daring to be afraid of the unknown yet my strength to stay open and keep sharing. My life is changing yes, but the creative force in me must find a new path. I leave you with this short excerpt from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., which I may have quoted before but I think is worth reading again:

Creating one thing at a certain point in the river feeds those who come to the river, feeds the creatures far downstream, yet others in the deep. Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whatever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. A single creative act has the potential to feed a continent. One creative act can cause a torrent to break through stone.



A Change in Plans


To be an adult means to accept the awesome responsibility of constantly making choices.
–Mary Pipher, from Letters to a Young Therapist

These past two months we’ve been faced with making a barrage of choices, enough that I’ve felt–man, it sucks to be an adult sometimes! For those of you who are parents, do you remember a time when it really hit you that you alone are responsible for the well-being of your family? Awesome responsibility indeed. Well, that reality has been hitting me a lot recently–to the point of terror. But of course, one must move past the terror and do something about it.

And so the time has come for me to return to work as a social worker. I start working as a therapist at a local foster care agency after Zoey’s spring break ends in April. It’s been a long six years since I’ve worked as a therapist. I’m going down a path I thought I’d left behind only to return once again.

Mary Pipher writes about her “breadcrumb trail.” I look back on my breadcrumb trail from teaching second grade in Compton, to legal assistant at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, to case manager, to graduate student, to palliative care social work fellow, to hospice social worker, to therapist, to homemaker, herbalist, and now back to therapist. A new season is beginning yet again.









We spent Zane’s birthday morning out on our dirt road. It’s been raining a lot again here, and last night the wind was so strong it knocked down two trees that fell across our dirt road. The biggest one was right in front of our first gate.


Thankfully my husband knows how to put a chainsaw to good use and was able to cut the tree so we can go into town tomorrow to take Zoey to school.


A few weeks ago I finished reading a book recommended by my local librarian called The Girl From the Garden by Pernaz Foroutan. I won’t tell you what it’s about because like the math anxiety I feel when trying to add or subtract in my head, I tend to experience anxiety when trying to explain to someone what a book is about. I know, weird, right? Suffice it to say–I enjoyed reading the book. Go read the Amazon blurb about it and then you’ll know what it’s about.

My little guy turned 2 today! He was so eager to blow out his candle that he blew it out twice before we were able to sing Happy Birthday to him. We all enjoyed a birthday nap today while it rained outside. We have a reprieve from the rain for the next two days, and then it is supposed to rain seven days straight. Winter is still with us for awhile longer.


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A Walk Through the House


Construction on our main house continues even with the abundance of rain we’ve been getting. I took these photos of the house last week. Our contractors have begun framing the fourth floor loft space above our bedroom and bathroom, but I don’t have any photos of that yet. So let’s take a walk through the house. We enter now through Zane’s bedroom. The plastic tarp covering the opening will be a sliding glass door.


Next to Zane’s bedroom is Zoey’s bedroom, also with a sliding glass door.


Walking out of the bedrooms, to the right is their bathroom with an attached laundry room. There will be a door off the laundry room which will also serve as our mudroom. Currently the roof slants down, but the lower part of the roof will be cut to extend out to give more headspace in the laundry room. Stephen would be able to explain that much better than I can, but just imagine there being a wing off the laundry room.


Past the bathroom is the kitchen. It opens up to the living room.


The living room will have sliding glass doors that open up to the patio below (which is above the concrete bunker) and looks out to the valley. Apparently I forgot to take a photo of that view of the living room. Below is a view from the living room looking towards the kitchen and upstairs.


Across from the kitchen next to the stairs is our dining area. There will be a sliding glass door where the plastic tarp is currently. It was nice having that wing of the roof cut out because it brought in so much light to the house.


Up the stairs we go to the master bedroom. At the time I took this photo last week, the loft above our bedroom wasn’t framed yet.


And lastly, a view of the loft looking out down to the living room below. The space directly across from the stairs, which will be our bathroom, is now framed as well as our two closets and office space loft above the bathroom and bedroom.


And that’s our house so far. I’m eager to share with you more updates about what books I’m currently reading, a funny Zoey story, and more but it will have to wait for the next blog post. So until then–winter blessings to you and a rainbow.




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Quote of the Day

As I was coming out of the bookstore today, a woman said aloud to the woman behind me, “Nice to see somebody in heels.” Wait, what? I turned around to see who she was referring to and sure enough there was a middle aged woman behind me wearing a long dress with black stiletto heels. Around these parts, it’s true, most women dress casually and appreciate the comfort of flats. Next month is my brother’s wedding, and I will not be wearing high heels. My high heel wearing days are over. My feet and back really appreciate my decision. But for all the women out there who can still tolerate wearing heels, more power to you. And may your poor little piggies not hurt.

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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast


It was 8:00 a.m., the time I am usually in the car leaving the ranch to drive Zoey to school. It takes about an hour now to get her to school on time. But this morning Stephen took her to school. Zane started to get fussy so I put him in the Ergo carrier and decided to go for a walk to get him to sleep. It was cloudy but not raining. I walked out of the house and pulled the door shut behind me. I checked the handle and realized the door was locked. Locked out of the house. No phone to call Stephen. Stephen was going to the gym after dropping Zoey off at school. I calculated I had maybe 2 hours before he returned home. I walked to the lake and sat down on the damp, wooden bench on the dock. I smiled inwardly and realized I had been telling myself I needed to start meditating again and here was my perfect moment to stop and breathe and slow down. And if locking myself out of the house wasn’t enough of a reminder–I had one more pay attention moment this afternoon. I had left the house to pick Zoey up from school, speeding along to make sure I got to her school on time when suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and rain and a full rainbow appeared in the sky over passing vineyards. I never cease to be awed by rainbows. They always put a goofy grin on my face. I couldn’t help but slow down and steal glances at it as I drove until it finally disappeared. Some days the signs are so blatant you just really have to pay attention.


A Message to Zoey

IMG_0002When you don’t feel smart enough, remember that you have special gifts and talents that only you can share in your own unique way.

When you don’t feel strong enough, remember that when you were 1 years old you walked a mile from downtown Carmel back to our house.

When you don’t feel brave enough, remember how you’d go to the doctor as a child for your immunization shots and wouldn’t cry.

When you don’t feel beautiful enough, remember that it’s really not your outward appearance that makes you shine, but the beauty and love in your heart that makes you attractive.

We grow up and become women and we forget what we knew as a child.  We are smart and intelligent even if we don’t know all the answers and can’t solve all our problems alone. We are strong even when our arms seem to fail us, our hearts seem overburdened, and we think we can’t possible walk one more step.  We are brave even when our hearts are pounding and it seems nearly impossible to do that difficult, scary thing.  We are beautiful even with our wild, sometimes out of place hair.  Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers who are and the mothers who yearn to be.

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Guest post by Stephen Cowan

When I was a teenager and first became aware of the Beatles, I realized that some of their songs that I was listening to for what seemed to be the first time, I had actually already heard before as a little boy.   Growing up in the early 1970s, it was hard not to hear the Beatles on lots of radio stations, including the easy listening kind of stations my parents tended to tune in to.  My brother wasn’t old enough at the time to have any records, other than “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini”, so I know I didn’t hear the Beatles from him.  Maybe it was the muzak instrumental versions that would be played in the Piggly Wiggly grocery store my mom would shop at, or maybe it was on TV where their songs first came to my attention.  At any rate, when I fell in love with the Beatles as a teenager, it wasn’t for the first time.

In my ears, the Beatles were not just great songwriters, but they were great writers of songs for children.  So many of their songs are playful and colorful, with funny lyrics and simple harmonies.  Any kid could fall in love with “Yellow Submarine”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Octopus’s Garden”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”, “Hello Goodbye” and others.  Some of my neice’s first word were koo koo kachew, from “I Am the Walrus” (the lyrics are listed as goo goo g’joob, but how many 1 year olds know that?).  First thing in the morning, I love to walk into my daughter’s room with “Good Day Sunshine” playing on my iPhone, and she is always smiling when she hears it.  Granted, she has a great daddy, and will smile at me whether I enter her room playing music or not, but still, it is a perfect wake up song for kids.

Now we have been blessed with little baby boy, who also kind of looks like a little old man with a big head sometimes, but his appearance is irrelevant.  Before we had our daughter, I told my wife that I hoped our kids wouldn’t cry much.  Little did I know, no one has invented a baby that didn’t cry.  So now, with our new son, I have been experimenting with some methods to calm and quiet him down.  Guess what?  The little guy loves “Across the Universe”, by none other than the Beatles.  Playing that song for him, on an endless loop, seems to make him forget, at least momentarily, about his ravenous appetite.

So once again, the Beatles are speaking to a new generation.  Maybe when our son is a teenager, he will have deja-vu when he hears “Across the Universe”, again for the first time.


The Arrival of Spring


Spring has arrived with warmer temperatures and trees in bloom.  We’ve planted a garden in our backyard at the house we’re renting.  Neither Stephen or I have grown a garden of our own before (even though both of our parents are excellent gardeners) so this will be an experiment or at least practice for our garden we hope to have at the ranch next year.  We’ve planted carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and mesclun lettuce.  Zoey enjoyed playing in the dirt and letting the earthworms crawl in her hands.



Zoey was offering me the earthworm to hold, but I declined because I was taking photos.  Thank goodness I was holding my camera otherwise I may have had to be brave and pretend I like holding earthworms so I wouldn’t pass on my repugnance of earthworms to her.  I’ll let you know how our garden turns out.

In house building news, our concrete foundation was laid last week.


We’ll have to wait about 10 days before framing can begin.  The concrete needs to harden so it won’t scratch because it will be our flooring in our house.  Zoey and Stephen were out at the ranch the day the concrete was laid while I was at home with Zane. Zoey had a chance to put her hands in the wet concrete near where our front door will be.  I was hoping we could all put our names in the concrete, but that wasn’t possible.  So at least Zoey’s hands will always be a part of this house.  I was remembering my visit with my aunt to my dad’s house in Old Chatham, New York while I was at Yale.  My aunt and I were on our way to the Adriance Family reunion in Poughkeepsie, but stopped in Old Chatham to see the house where my dad lived (one of the many houses he lived in growing up).  The older gentleman who lived there was very kind to let us strangers inside his home after my aunt explained she lived there as a child. He allowed us to go down to the basement to see where my dad and his sisters and brother wrote their names (or maybe it was their handprints, too? I can’t remember.) in the concrete in the basement of the house.  All those years later and their mark on the house was still there.