Not bacon.

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It’s raining. And raining. And gloriously raining. Rain hits my roots like not much else. It trickles down the creases into the crevices of childhood, of nostalgia, of can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-that. The most steadfast companion of my formative years, rain elicits responses automatic and familiar.

Cold rain finds me building a fire and simmering milk for cocoa. Sure, “cold” is a relative term and as I approach as many years in Texas as away from it (wow, already?) I’ll build a fire when it drops below 60.

Warm rain still catches me off guard. The AC is on, it’s dark out, and raining. Surely it’s chilly outside. But no. It’s tropical. A moist blanket.

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Yet still I bake. Or in the case of the pie from the last of the freezer raspberries, my husband does (without a recipe?!)

Somehow baking in the heat of summer feels wasteful, yet the AC on in the rain of spring doesn’t feel the same.

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Warming up.

It’s only 70 today. We’ve already had our first 90 degree day. The lakes are full for the first time since 2007 such that they’re talking about opening the floodgates.

The grackles, mostly, benefit from my feeder. Pecking order became quickly apparent. They’re quite colorful, in their dark way.

The jays, doves, and cardinals come next, in that order. Finally the finches and sparrows on clean-up duty if there’s any left to clean.

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I’m warming up as well. Stretching my limbs and strengthening the sedentary after weeks of stillness. My eyes, even, need to stretch having been restricted in their view to the near and dear.

So the beds have some fish fertilizer

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The tomatoes were well cared for in my absence.

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And the unwanted crepe myrtle is making a stand.

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We’d been wondering if our backyard’s central tree (the type of which we’re not fans) had died. Last year it was budding on the heels of the hackberries behind it.

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Alas, or at last, life unfurls.

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Are there China berry trees that don’t look like China berry trees? If so, this is one.

Recovery.

There are so many things people don’t talk about. So many things unexpected that needn’t be. Before becoming pregnant I didn’t know of any possible normal oddities other than nausea, stretch marks, and swelling, and I honestly thought nausea was always in the morning.

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It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I learned that it could be nothing or (as in my case) all day every day for months. Thankfully, I was spared stretch marks and the worst of the swelling. I learned about hives though, and bloody noses. Heartburn and insomnia. More effects that the forgetfulness of hormones has erased in the creation of rewired brain power to be more alert for saber tooth tigers and less inclined toward complex thought.

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Recovery, too, isn’t discussed. What is discussed surrounds sleep (or the lack thereof.) Let me say this: it’s not the sleep. It’s the feeling like you were run over by a truck. It’s the recompression of your abdominal wall, the realigning of your intestines, and literal loss of an organ, and the contractions to return your uterus to its usual operating size. Meanwhile is the swelling and the leaking, the hemorrhage scare and the mastitis scare, the dripping pools of sweat and the shivers so strong your uterus hurts.

It’s all of that, and the fact that none of us either know or remember or are comfortable providing actual help.

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So let me say this: if you’re visiting a new parent (and if the baby isn’t three months, they count, and if the baby is difficult, they always count), remember three things: bring, do, and leave.

Bring something. A covered dish, a muffin, a lemonade. It doesn’t matter, just bring something.

Do something. Casually start folding the towels on the couch you’re sitting next to while you chat. Clear the dishes from the coffee table and run the dish washer. Ask if you can take out the trash.

Leave: Unless you were invited for hours or are seriously cleaning house and cooking, after about thirty minutes, you should start to excuse yourself. Maybe you’re risking the only nap the parents might get that day. Maybe maybe maybe. If they want you to stay longer, they’ll say so.

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Some where along the way we’ve lost much of the knowledge we had as a village. We’ve lost the elders’ wisdom being shared and listened to. We’ve lost the tribal knowledge of breastfeeding, newborn care, and maternal care. I believe, resoundingly, that we can find it again if we only, each of us, find our voices.

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Learning to cook.

My husband is an amazing cook. Countless times I’ve been asked where he studied. Countless times I tried to explain that he hadn’t. Then one time I remembered a line from Goodwill Hunting about how Mozart could just play. I appropriated the explanation. “You know how some people never took lessons but can just play music? He’s like that with cooking. He just does.”

These past months, our schedule is such that four nights a week he is gone to class during the time to cook and eat dinner if we’re to hit bedtime on schedule. So he’s been prepping what can be prepped, texting me instructions, and coming home in time to hopefully sneak a few bites before “splash splash” and “pjs” and “nilk.”

This means that inadvertently, I’ve been learning how to cook.

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Let’s back up a little…

I’ve always baked. I remember my brother and I kicking our parents out of the kitchen to make cookies by ourselves. I wasn’t yet four, he wasn’t yet six.

Cooking…never my strong suit. Overdone or raw, too much or too little, and without fail: underseasoned not seasoned.

When we first moved in together I was 18 and he was 19. It was our first night in the apartment and we’d just gotten home with dinner fixin’s. I went in the kitchen to start making whatever it was (probably rice and beans, we were painfully poor) and he came in the kitchen to ask, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making dinner.”

“Get out of my kitchen, silly,” he teased.

I obliged. I think I made dinner three times our first year together.

In the many years since then, I’ve acquired a few pony tricks. I can make chicken soup without a recipe. I can make a chicken/rosemary/bacon thing in the oven. I can usually manage to steam vegetables appropriately (and remember to salt them!) without them turning to mush. But that’s honestly about it.

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So fast forward back to now, and I’ve learned a lot in the recent weeks. I now know you don’t sear scallops in butter because the lactose makes them stick to the pan. And the (steel) pan needs to be heated empty, oil added, heated, and then scallops (that have been patted dry – and seasoned!) I know many things I didn’t.

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Tonight was the night I applied my lesson about scallops. It was also the night I didn’t overcook the squash (“turn it off when some are looking cooked and some still look raw.”) I did want some greens, and without his guidance ahead of time my intended serving for four ended up quite under-sized (but seasoned!)

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