My Parents’ Parenting

Line drawing of a mother embracing her young daughter

A friend who has two young children asked me to write about some positive things my parents did when I was a child that have shaped who I am today.  So many things contribute to why we are the way we are, from genetics to early friendships to traumatic experiences in our youth, but there’s no denying that our parents’ choices, behaviors, and attitudes have a significant impact on the people we become.  Reflecting on our childhoods is valuable for all of us, and it holds particular value for me at this moment, as I prepare to become a parent. Read more

Feeding Ourselves: Thoughts on Cooking and Convenience

Drawing of a bowl a fruit and a pear and orange on a table

I came across this article yesterday that reported the findings of a study showing that “[o]nly 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it.”  The 10% number surprised me, as many people in my social circle cook most of their meals and seem to enjoy making their own food.  I’ll admit that I tend to fall into the lukewarm category, though it’s more accurate to say that my desire to cook ebbs and flows.

I know that cooking my own meals is generally healthier and more cost-effective than eating at restaurants.  Cooking can be a lot more satisfying, too.  I don’t live in a big city with an endless number of restaurants, and sometimes I’m just not that excited about my options for eating out.  On occasions when I want a specific dish, my chances of satisfying the craving are sometimes better if I make the dish myself rather than trying to find the precise offering at a local restaurant.  I also imagine that for families with kids and hectic schedules, eating at home is probably easier than going to a restaurant.

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Ask Alexis: How Do I Raise My Kids to be Kind and Open-Minded?

Painting of a row of back patios, divided by fences
September Morning, 2008. Private collection.

Reader Rebecca sent me the following question:

“I have two boys and I live in a very conservative area. I love where I live (mostly), but I don’t like how a lot of people around here talk about people with different skin colors and religions, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and women. I don’t want my sons to ever talk like that. Do you have any advice for raising kind and open-minded boys in an area that isn’t always very kind and open-minded?”

Thanks for the question, Rebecca!  First, a couple of caveats.  I don’t have kids myself (yet), so I’m hesitant to give parenting advice.  In particular, I don’t know your kids, their personalities, or how they might respond in various situations, but I’ll do my best to share some general thoughts on this topic.

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Guest Post: I Miss My Brother

 

Drawing of a woman sitting on a bench

I believe in the therapeutic and transformative value of writing, and I’m a big proponent of telling your story.  Today, I’m happy to share an essay that was submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have a story you’d like to share, feel free to send it to me using the “Contact” link in the menu bar.  

When my twin brother got married, I made him a big scrapbook. Full of pictures of us growing up together, it took me a lot of time and money to make. I put in pictures of him playing sports, us playing soccer and wiffle ball in the backyard, us opening presents on Christmas morning. I put in pictures of our childhood dog, pictures of us graduating high school together, and pictures of us holding hands as babies.

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Back to Basics

Trees in a forest

The last month and a half has been challenging for me.  I traveled to Greece for two weeks, which disrupted my usual routines, though I still managed to do some meditating and blogging while I was there.  Then my dad was hospitalized and died, and for a while it seemed nearly impossible to focus on anything else.  I still think about my dad constantly, and my mom and I are doing our best to figure out this new normal.  To top it off, I am pregnant with my first child, making me both excited and exhausted.  Simple tasks like eating and exercising have become much more difficult than they once were.

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End-of-Life Lessons From My Dad

Photo of the author as a toddler, dressed for church, with her dad crouched next to her, steadying her as she walks
Dad and me, circa 1987

When I was a kid, my dad was what today we might call my lead parent.  My mom was involved in my life too, but she often worked 60 hours a week and sometimes had to travel for work.  My dad’s work day ended at 3:00, and he had a little more flexibility in terms of taking time off, so he was the one who picked me up from day care, took me to my first day of kindergarten, and attended school events.  I spent a good bit of time with him when I was young, and he taught me many of life’s essential early lessons.

I sometimes took my dad for granted in my adolescent years, as teens often do.  He went through some hard times and battled some demons, and I didn’t always understand or appreciate him.  When I was in 11th grade, and again during my first year of college, he was hospitalized with serious health issues.  These brushes with death transformed my dad and my relationship with him, and I’m especially grateful for the person he became and the times we spent together over the past 15 years.

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Update

A photo of the author and her father

My father passed away on Friday, July 7.  He had been in the hospital during the preceding week, which is why I have not published any new posts recently.  There is so much I want to write about my dad, but I need some time to process everything.  And I can’t imagine writing about anything else right now.  I will be writing new posts soon, I hope, but I’m not sure exactly when.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

With love and gratitude,

Alexis

 

1991

Me with my mom and dad, sitting in front of our Christmas tree when I was about eight

I remember when my mom drove home from work in tears from the pain, vomiting in the car. I don’t remember exactly what happened next. She may have gone to the emergency room — maybe our neighbor watched me that evening — or she may have toughed it out and went to the doctor the next day. My mom was tough like that.

I wasn’t privy to all the conversations. I knew she was sick. I didn’t have a name for it at first. I don’t remember the treatments, only the hospital. My best friend and I went to visit her after her surgery. We had drawn pictures for her. I think mine had a rainbow, and some hearts. She must have been gone from our house for a few days — I remember missing her.

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My AncestryDNA Experience

Many people put a lot of stock in their bloodlines. They like to tell tales of famous ancestors and are excited to learn that their great-great-great-uncle performed a heroic deed. I find this tendency rather curious. Why do we care so much about the lives of long-deceased people we’ve never met, simply because we inherited some of their genes? Do we believe their greatness has been passed down to us? What about the ancestors with less admirable stories — do we believe we inherited the shame of their misdeeds? (And if we go back far enough, aren’t we all part of the same family tree?)  Whatever the reasons, there’s no question that our biological and genetic descendancies form key parts of our identities.

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