The honest truth is, I’m floundering. I’m flailing through waves and gasping for breath, like I’ve been treading water for weeks, months even, and the storm ensues. I’m tired. I want a life preserver. Better yet, I want the coast guard to drop down from their helicopter and scoop me up on that rope thing and carry me back to where that warmth lives. But I don’t want to tell you that. Because then I’m weak. I’m weak and I’m flawed, and maybe that means I’m failing at something? I don’t really know, but that’s what it feels like. And if I’m weak and flawed and failing, then surely you will judge me. Surely you will think all of the things about me that I wouldn’t want. So no, I won’t tell you that. I’ll tell you that everyone has rough patches but that there are good things there if you dig through them long enough, and deep enough, and you’ll find the glittering jewels of worth you desire. Because lately, the moments I spend pondering the existence of these particular gems, have been exponential and also exhausting. I’m not — not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me, I don’t. This is very truly part of my journey, not a part I very much care for, but an element no doubt. A part that will lead to another part, all tangled up into something I might someday understand. So please don’t feel sorry for this, feel hopeful, because our truth is what makes us human… but I won’t tell you that.

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I wrote that about two months ago while I was drowning under the waves of what I came to realize was anxiety. This wasn’t something I had never experienced, in fact, I have experienced anxiety after both of my other two children, as well as before I even had children. It’s been something that has bounced in and out of my life for as long as I can remember. So I tried something different after having Marigold in hopes of combatting anxiety; I had my placenta encapsulated. So here’s the thing… you aren’t sitting down at the table for a nice placenta steak with a side of fava beans; it’s dehydrated, ground, and put into capsules that you swallow like a pill. All I had to do was bring an ice chest to the hospital and let them know I wanted to keep it. They kept it on ice for me, and my husband brought it home that afternoon. Then a nice women came to my house while we were all still at the hospital, prepared the placenta and left it to dehydrate overnight (and left my kitchen cleaner than it was before she got there). The next morning she came back and finished the job. When we got home that afternoon, I had a jar of 101 placenta capsules waiting for me. I took three a day for the first week and a half, and I couldn’t believe it. Absolutely zero blues. Nothing. If anything I felt happy, energetic, calm, and just overall amazing.

However, the capsules only lasted so long, and apparently my hormones weren’t back on track yet when I stopped taking them. Anxiety is a strange thing. It creeps up behind you without notice, grabbing hold with a strong and unrelenting grip, and unless you’ve felt it, you just can’t comprehend it, because often times it makes no sense at all. But there I was, being crushed by that weight, my breath catching, my stomach aching, my head unable to make sense of it. Until suddenly, I realized what was happening… anxiety. Being able to recognize it, give it a name, to know you’re not crumbling; it makes it more manageable… not immune, but also not hopeless. And so now on the days it comes rolling in like grey thunder clouds, threatening to clap that deep and ominous groan in my head, that rumbling of unrest in my stomach, I know that it will pass.  Even when I have to feel straight through the eye of the storm, I know that there will be blue skies on the other end.

Again, I’m not telling you this because I’m fishing for some kind of pity, in fact I pray that response doesn’t cross your mind. I’m telling you this because everyone struggles with something. It is very truly what makes us human, what makes us alive. It’s our adversities that give way to our compassion, our empathy for others. For love and grace, and all of the things Jesus offers us in light of his own suffering. So know that you are not alone, that there is light in the darkness by way of dancing shadows, and that letting your struggles be known out amongst the world, is the most frightening and freeing way to be alive.

 

image by Evelyn Barkey

A few weeks ago, we packed up the kids and headed up to Whistler, Canada for eight days of heavenly adventure! We flew into Vancouver, rented a car, and drove two more hours to Whistler.  We had gone to Whistler last year in May and loved every moment of it, so we knew we wanted to go back as soon as we were able.  However, we went a different route this time in terms of accommodations. Last year we rented an RV and stayed at various campgrounds around Whistler and Squamish, and this year, with the addition of our wee little Marigold, and also the fact that we were going in October and not May, we wanted to try a hotel.  I had a few requirements though… I wanted to be close to the village, and we needed two bedrooms.  Anyone who has ever tried staying in one room as a family of five knows what I’m talking about.  Plus we knew we could encounter some rain and possibly even snow while we were there, so we wanted someplace cozy and a bit more spacious.

So I began researching the best place to stay for our family.  After searching for a few days I came to the conclusion that the Pan Pacific Whistler Village would be amazing and perfect for our family. I loved the proximity to the village — we walked everywhere — and I loved the huge two bedroom suite we had that overlooked the village. Talk about cozy! And the best part was getting to make some film images at both of their Whistler locations for them!

The Pan Pacific Whistler Village could not have been a better choice.  It was gorgeous, our room was huge, we had a fireplace and a wall of giant windows overlooking the village… I kind of felt like I was at Hogwarts, which was basically the most amazing thing ever.

We went during what they call “shoulder season” since we were late for summer activities but also a bit too early for skiing (however it did snow one day we were there which was amazing). To be honest, we love shoulder season.  There are no crowds, great deals everywhere you look, and we were still able to do everything we wanted.  We hiked to waterfalls, crossed a suspension bridge, rode the Sea to Sky gondola, caught snow flakes on our tongues, ate way too much delicious food, and spent so many treasured hours in front of the fireplace playing old maid.  It was such a sweet time that I will forever cherish.

We visited the neatest coffee shop and lifestyle store called CAMP in Function Junction. The kids drank hot coco and roasted homemade marshmallows right at the table.  I was also able to spend a few hours at the Scandinave Spa which was incredible to say the least.  We enjoyed some amazing meals at 21 Steps, Bar Oso, and Gone Eatery, and of course we couldn’s pass up a visit (or three) to Purebread.

We drove 30 minutes from Whistler to a small town called Pemberton to visit North Arm Farm.  It was a majestic real working farm that was straight from my dreams!

The Pan Pacific also offers S’mores on the deck for kids on weekends, and a nightly cookie delivery for families with kids through the winter!

The whole trip was an absolute dream and we cannot wait to go back!

As it turns out, baking bread can help soothe anxiety. The process is simple, yet requires patience, the gratification is far from instant. Being that these are qualities I’ve been grasping for with both hands and all ten fingers, I figured this would be a rather delicious practice in self improvement. I baked roughly 12 loaves before finally cracking the formula for the perfect loaf of sourdough. It was a task I focused on, thought of throughout the day, read about, and therefore successfully avoided other more unpleasant thoughts. And I ate a lot of bread. Win win if you ask me.

I should also note, I’m not a great baker. In fact, following a recipe (or directions for that matter), is not a strong suite of mine. But I can make this bread… so that’s really saying something.

And with November here, cozy dark evenings at home are upon us, which is the perfect time for cracking open a chewy loaf of homemade bread with those you love (or all by yourself in the closet… it just depends on the day I suppose. I don’t judge.) I chose sourdough because I’m all about that gut; keeping it healthy and teaming with good bacteria we call probiotics, which is what your starter is full of! Now go forth and make some bread… your gut, and your family, will thank you. I’ve also included a super easy soup recipe below that goes great with sourdough.

Sourdough Bread Recipe
First we have to make our sourdough starter. This is the leaven that will make our dough rise through the addition of wild yeast and the lactobacillus that will grow as the starter ripens. I make my start a week before I actually want to bake the bread. You will continue to “feed” the starter everyday for a week, and every other day after that to maintain it, and it will last for as long as you want it to.

Starter:
-1 cup organic unbleached flour
-1 cup filtered water at room temp
-1 tsp of yeast

I use a 1 qt mason jar for my starter and I use my hands to incorporate the flour into the water. Let it sit covered by plastic wrap in a cupboard and feed it an additional 1/4 cup flour to 1/4 cup filtered water everyday for the next 7 days. It should get bubbly and grow each time you feed, then settle down by the next feeding.

Bread:
Ok so after a week your starter is ready! Now it’s time to make some sourdough. Your starter should smell fermented but not rotten.

-Mix 1/4 cup of your starter with 1 1/2 cups of filtered room temperature water
-Add 1 tbsp of kosher salt
-Add 2 1/2 cups of organic unbleached flour + 1 cup of organic whole wheat flour

Incorporate but do not knead. Cover with plastic wrap and set un top of your fridge for the next 10-12 hours. After the time is up, you should notice a nice growth to your dough. Now we are going to “fold” the dough instead of knead it. Basically you just each side and pull it up and over the top of the dough in the bowl. It should be an easy and gently process. I fold for about 2-3 minutes making sure I still have a nice airy dough. Now transfer to your proofing basket (make sure to thoroughly flour your basket to avoid sticking dough. Let rest for about 45 minutes to an hour. While that rests, let your oven heat. Place your clay bread baker in the over and heat to 500 degrees. Once oven is hot and bread has risen, score your loaf down the middle with a razor to allow heat release, and place in HOT parchment paper lined clay baker. Put the lid on and bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Then reduce to 450 degrees, remove lid, and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

I use THIS clay baker and THIS proofing basket.

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Wild Rice + Vegetable Soup

-sautee onion and garlic in olive oil

-add mushrooms, diced rainbow carrots and parsnips

-add lacinto kale

-season liberally with roasted garlic and herb seasoning (I get mine from world market) and sea salt

-cook down and add vegetable stock

-add sprouted wild rice about two hours before serving and let simmer

-top with a drizzle of coconut cream before serving

To all my past clients, supporters, friends,

Thank you for not calling me nuts when I ask you roll around on the ground in an orchard.  Thank you for not running away as you step over cow pies to get to where we are shooting.  Thank you for not saying (although you are probably thinking it), I’m a crazy person when I get excited (& weird) at each beautiful shot. Thank you for not batting an eye when I show up with my baby wrapped to me.  And mostly, thank you for sharing your love and connection with me.  Photographing your families is something I never tire of, and am so grateful for.  The weight of that responsibility is not lost on me, so thank you.

And to this particular family, thank you for driving to our farm from out of town so that I could make these pictures for you.

love, Alex

When things feel thick and also fragile and like the only way is up, let that little hand wrap tight, and inhale like it’s your first breath.  Let their sleeping eyes rest against your neck, feeling life rise and fall, whimpers and smiles unknowingly surface. The safety they must feel here.  The peace, we undoubtedly feel there.