Guest post by Jessica Halepis for Oh, these Wild Women: Stories from the tribe
Peace Cookies: These cookies are gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. Makes 1 ½ dozen (or so) cookies
1 cup peanut butter or almond butter
½ cup real maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup hemp seed
¼ cup dairy-free chocolate chips
¼ cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the first eight ingredients, and then fold in the hemp seeds, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. Spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough onto an oiled cookie sheet while thinking peaceful and loving thoughts. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until just the slightest bit golden.
Outside my window a rich golden sunlight glitters through the branches of a maple with its leaves half fallen. When I squint slightly, the light looks as if it were being filtered, shot at me through a series of pinhole patterns, intricate and lace-like. I can’t help but wonder if, on this particular day, the light were hitting me unobstructed, would I have the capacity to receive it? Or would I instinctively shield its force, hand to brow, fearful that it would burn my fragile eyes?
I pause, unsure of where I’m going with this. After all, the subject of my writing today is cookies. Flourless ones at that! But it’s the name of these cookies that’s of real significance here.
I allow my mind to wander back in time several months. It had been a particularly difficult afternoon with my kids. Perhaps it was weariness, but something got the better of me (again), and I lashed out at them. No, this time I completely lost it. I stood in my kitchen afterwards, empty and weak, and ran my palms over the cool, earth-toned countertop. I was unsure of how to proceed, or what I should make of myself, but I had to do something with my hands, so I made cookies. And somewhere in the repetitive motion of spooning dough onto sheets, the name came to me succinctly and with promise—Peace Cookies.
The name is reminder of what is, right now, most important to me, my real work so to speak: to create for my children a soft, and yet incredibly sturdy, foundation of love, to cocoon them in a world where they feel cherished, nurtured, completely safe—to give them a home.
Yet, doing this isn’t easy. It, I believe, requires a certain kind of open-hearted parenting, a parenting that is centered on compassion, but most of all, connection, and sometimes it feels like too many stars need aligning for this to occur.
My own childhood was littered with fault lines and uncertainty. I spent a good portion of it being carted back and forth between the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys of Southern California, between the 101 the 405 and the 5 freeways, through thick lanes of traffic, under a hazy, sun-drenched sky. Like almost all of my school-aged peers, my parents divorced early on—I have no recollection of them living under the same roof—and each of them soon remarried.
And so, I split my time between them, as a young child, which meant that I lived in two homes, instead of one; I had two very distinct, sometimes opposing, worlds that I was required to negotiate, make sense of. Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty loved.
Like all parents, my mom and dad wanted to see me happily and comfortably make my way in the world. I was given horseback riding, acting, and ice skating lessons. I attended private schools. I was well-clothed and fed strange foods, like Tofutti, from the health food store. But somewhere in the process of stuffing things into my suitcase from week to week, like the permission slip or the lone sneaker that would invariably get left behind and then vanish, something was lost.
Running water as it travels naturally spills into familiar grooves and crevices, earthen patterns that have become over time worn and deep. Similarly, we humans, if given the choice, will retrace our old steps instead of forging new ones. We fall into what we know.
If we desire to carve out a path different from the one that has been engrained in us, stamped on our histories, we are required to start from scratch—which, as any creator knows, is not an easy task.
Likewise, building our “home” is something that hasn’t been without effort. The bones for its design were never put into place, and so I find myself having to construct from the ground up. Most of the time, it’s not the smooth coasting I’d imagined it would be. Not the unlabored flying I discovered while riding my two-wheeler down the shallow suburban hills of Abelia Street, a feeling I so loved, I would seek it out again and again. No, quite often it’s more of a plodding, a choppy fall-down-and-get-back-up way of proceeding. And because sometimes it feels like it would be much easier to simply chuck it all out the window, in order to make headway, I need guideposts (go this way!), as many of them as I can get my hands on.
These cookies have become just that, another one of my growing collection of guideposts. While the memory of that day in my kitchen has, over time, grown filmy and dreamlike, what these cookies have come to symbolize for me is clear as day: they are a reminder for me to check myself. To ask whether, in this moment, I’m living out of habit or out of intention.
Whether I’m allowing the world’s definition of success—a success that often I feel compelled to pursue but that, nonetheless, feels suffocating and hollow—to interfere with my priorities. I’m not after perfection by any stretch of the imagination; my life, as I see it, is very much a practice.
But I do know that there is always a choice. A choice to slow down and settle in. A choice to spend more time watching my four year-old getting a kick out of the giving the cat a mohawk and less time worrying about how I’m fitting in, measuring up, and if my life will amount to anything in the end.
Baking these cookies, even writing about them, helps me return once more to that place of deep knowingness, to that silent agreement between heart and mind, where I can look to the expanse of sky, close my weary eyes, and fall into the soft, outstretched currents of the wind.
Jessica Halepis is a mom of three, a writer, and a health coach.
You can find her at Nourished Mom, where she blogs about holistic nutrition, living mindfully, and her quest to savor life’s small, ordinary moments.
Connect: Facebook | Twitter: @nourished_mom