How to Get Your Life Back on Track

how to get your life back on track

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It’s the new year and my family and I have a great task at hand. We have strayed from our principles and values and now an epic journey to get our lives back on track is in order. Well, maybe epic is an overstatement, but we certainly have our work cut out for us. And we want to help you get your life back on track just as much as we want to get our lives back on track.

Right now I am on a plane to Ithaca NY, where Rache and I met about 7 years ago, heading to a Zen meditation retreat (called sesshin) that I used to participate in at least twice a year. I am SO happy to be resuming this practice that I reluctantly put on hiatus for 5 years while we raised our kids.

So with committed clarity and intention it is a good time to reflect on where Rache and I were 7 years ago and where we are now. Sometimes, if you find things have gone off the rails, maybe look back at why you have gone astray. Then try to find the positive things you were doing before things started going bad. With a little work and a little guidance, you can get your life back on track. It’s not that hard.

Can you come up with something positive that you are proud of and made you feel good about yourself? Grab hold of that moment and hold it close to your heart. It will help you navigate towards being healthy and loving yourself and your life again.

Healthy Living Gone Astray, and Our Commitment to Get it Back

Over the last few years, inundated in the day to day of raising Iza, who is 5, and Zai, who is 3, and starting a new life in Guatemala and all of the challenges involved in moving to a new country (especially a developing one) we have compromised a lot of our values for convenience and ease. And we are not happy about that.

We both came together in the last few weeks and expressed our trouble with the way we are living and our desire to do better. We suddenly aligned as if by magic or fate and by uniting this way we have set our intention to get our life back on track.

The Beginning of Our Journey

When we first met, I was practicing art and had a side business creating raw food meals and green detoxes for delivery to people that wanted to improve their health. Rache was working for Cornell in the Food and Brand Lab helping to research better ways in which to get healthy food into the hands of students who were not eating well (which in America, is like, all of them).

I was living in a Zen Buddhist center and offering vegan pop up dinners to local folks in Ithaca, NY who loved the vegan lifestyle. She too was mostly vegan and she was practicing yoga along with a diligent exercise routine of running, kayaking and working out in the gym. We were both intent on helping to develop a healthy community and working to assist others interested in getting their lives back on track through healthy eating, meditation and exercise.

But years went by, we moved around a lot, had kids, and ironically we slowly started becoming those people who needed help.

We now (painfully) realize the error of our ways and we have committed ourselves to change. How will we do it? By reengaging Ra’Co Life and wholeheartedly practicing all the values and principles we hold so essential to our lives. Together we can help each other get our lives back on track.

We need to firmly implement these ideals and practices that hopefully will influence how our kids will live the rest of their lives. And we need to create the habits and stick to them so we don’t fall back into old patterns.

This month’s theme at Ra’Co Life is “Getting Our Life Back on Track”, so that is what we are going to do.

How will we do this?

10 Ways We Will Get Our Lives Back on Track

Can you come up with 10 ways to help get your life back on track (which I assume maybe it is if you are reading this)? Rache and I dedicate ourselves to these 10 commitments to start off: (please hold us accountable, we need your help.)

  1. Each of us has gained 10 pounds (Rache and I, not the kids haha) and we commit to shedding that extra weight.
  2. We will embrace our vegetarian and 50% raw (Ra) food diet and 50% cooked (Co) food diet.
  3. We will build our healthy community, both locally and online, and share everything we learn through this website and blog.
  4. We vow to be nicer to each other and find more thoughtful ways of speaking to each other and embracing our differences.
  5. We will volunteer and give to our community, especially those who are in dire need and are struggling just to get by every day.
  6. We will increase our knowledge through reading (ebooks and audio books) and engaging in meaningful discussions and collaborations with those who have knowledge to share.
  7. We will commit ourselves to the practices of mindfulness and meditation so we can be more thoughtful, more compassionate and more empathetic.
  8. We will forgive those that have caused us trouble so we can let go of that baggage that does nothing for us but weigh us down.
  9. We will save money, stay debt free and live minimal and frugal lives.
  10. We will commit dedicated (and digital free!) time to each other every day as a family and engage in meaningful discussions and activities.

There are many more things Rache and I can do to get our lives on track, but these are 10 big ones to start with. As they say here in Guatemala, poco a poco (little by little).

Change Starts Now

We all have within us the ability to change our lives if we desire, no matter how elusive and difficult that change may seem. But there comes a time when the desire to change becomes so powerful and all pervasive that we cannot shake it no matter how bad we want to continue with our old nasty habits.

When this force arises within us we must embrace and use that power while it is the most potent. At this point there is no time to wait. Now is the time for action.

Getting Over Fear and What Holds Us Back

For me, beyond the 10 points of change that I called out above, I commit to building a fire within myself to move my art career forward towards helping others in some way.  And I commit to further develop the passion and ambition to succeed, for myself, for my family and for others. All my life I have struggled with self-doubt, depression and fear that I could never make this work and make a great living from my art.

These things have held me back, and now I know that I have to move beyond these fears, face them, and use them as power to further motivate me toward success. Now is the time, because if it doesn’t develop, then I will have to move on and do something else. And this is not acceptable. I strongly believe I have too much to give and share with the world.

Finding Your Passion

I am extremely lucky to have found my passion early on. What is your passion?

The more I read, the more I come to understand it helps to find and embrace our core motivators and do them.

No matter what stands in the way, we have to go beyond ourselves and dig in deep to move forward and do something we know must do. These needs are within all of us, we just have to get out of our own way, and get on with our life’s work to benefit ourselves and those around us.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7076″][vc_column_text]Sunrise, a new day at the Ithaca Zen Center.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548029278003{margin-right: 10px !important;margin-left: 10px !important;}”]

Read, Read Read

Many of the books I have been listening to and reading lately speak to our need to find our passion and embrace and nurture that inner desire and to finally begin to do what we were meant to do. There are arguments against this such as written by Cal Newport in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which I encourage people to read, but I believe finding your passion is a very good way of setting yourself up for a career with which you can support yourself and keep your mind calm and clear, which is the most important thing we can do for ourselves.

Actually, find work that is meaningful and helps people and puts you in service to others. That is truly the best way to find happiness in this world.

These books help me to push forward and finally take action and are relentless in my pursuit to express myself and do my tiny little part to create change in a world that so desperately needs it right now.

Below is a list of 5 books that I am reading right now that may help you find your purpose and take action to create a better life for yourself (or at least a clear mind) if you have the burning need to do so. I am no different than you. I feel like my journey is just beginning.

Let’s do this together and help push each other forward to find our meaning and do our life’s work.

  1. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
  2. The Power of Purpose by Les Brown
  3. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  4. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  5. Creative Quest by Questlove

The first, “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, is by Jeff Goins, a fantastic and well known motivational writer. Judging from the title, it is obvious why I am reading it. Being an artist that is struggling to sell work and often getting down on myself because of that struggle, I need some strong words to help me keep going and find ways to make this work. 

This book provides the encouragement and some great ideas on how to keep going, stay positive and make my business thrive.

The second is by a very well known motivational speaker named Les Brown. Normally I would not read these types of books as I find they contradict some of my values developed through Zen practice. These motivational books often push the idea of finding and doing whatever it takes to achieve and be successful in order to feel good about yourself. They have the best intentions and are actually great books and writers, But Zen practice, in my view, says that success is not the way to happiness and that there is no lasting happiness to be found outside of our inner being, our deeper true nature.

Zen says we should practice and develop our minds (through meditation) to understand how the universe functions and to realize there is something that exists beyond what we perceive as a separate self.

We must realize that we are not separate from that which exists around us and we have to discover that we are all part of this single universal consciousness.

And the realization of this “true nature” is so far beyond any type of happiness we can achieve through external means. Having had certain moments in meditation that helped me understand this, I know I am absolutely sure this is true.

Nonetheless, I find Les’ words inspiring when I’m feeling down and ready to give up.

Relating to my discussion above on Zen, I always relish the words of Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He explains these concepts far better than I could ever begin to. So if you are curious and want to know more about Zen practice then this book is the place to start.

My life has been in and out of Zen temples and I have practiced meditation for years. But my path, I realized, was to live in the world and have a family and practice this way. And I made the right choice. Family life has helped me see beyond myself (Check out this short article on the challenges of family life) Even so I find myself lacking in certain worldly skills like developing ambition and finding ways to have a successful career and family life. I have to learn to live in this world, as do all of us, and we know that nothing in this world comes easily. 

Another book I want to recommend is by David Goggins and it really gave me a swift kick in the ass and woke me up to some things I have been missing in my life. If you haven’t read this book, it’s outrageously good and pretty much guarantees to inspire motivation and action. Overall, I like what he says about the need to push ourselves and go beyond what we think we are capable of. I prefer to push myself and improve myself little by little rather than a full onslaught on complacency and mediocrity like he does. But either way there are some excellent principles and ideas in this book that are guaranteed to inspire you to move.

Keeping it Together Through Creativity

The last book I want to recommend is by one of my generation’s most creative forces, Questlove. Here is an amazing exploration of what creativity is to him and how he goes about coming up with ideas, making things and expressing himself. There is really no other book like it. 

If you feel like you need to get your life back on track, I highly encourage you to find creative endeavors and start making something, no matter it is. I have been a creative all of my life, and I know that expressing myself has been one of the most important and essential ways to navigate this world when I feel I have gone off course. We are all creative beings, and during hard times making things can be one of the best ways to keep us going. Whether it be music, painting, sewing, carpentry, dance…you name it, your creative hobbies can save you.

Balance and Getting Our Lives Back on Track

Reading is a great way to help get you motivated and on the right track. Making commitments is also essential to help us create change. The next step is to find a way to motivate ourselves that will enable us to develop positive habits and not over commit or under commit to making change.

Enter the balance of Ra’Co Life. (like this short article on our work/life balance) I want to find a way to navigate this life (that often seems so backwards and ridiculous) and balance my actions in a way that enables me to always respect my mind and know that happiness doesn’t exist in the external world, but exists within. This is a challenge all of us must embrace and practice. So in the coming weeks I want to explore how to find this balance and share my discoveries with you. 

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Dry January, Hold the Booze Thank You

Another way we have decided to get our lives back on track here at Ra’Co Life is to put aside the booze for January. Rache and I, along with our many other bad habits, have been leaning on the alcohol too heavily over the last couple of years. Drinking too much is a progressive illness and we have definitely seen it creep up on us over time.

So if you are having the same kind of problem, maybe make an effort to take a month off, really push it through and see what happens. What I have noticed during this alcohol free month is that I am sleeping better and I am far more patient with Iza and Zai when they are acting crazy, which is pretty much all of the time (seems like it, but not really).

Check out what the guys at Dry January are doing to help people get away from their habitual alcohol use.

And please visit this link to to get all kinds of great information on why getting off alcohol can really change your life for the better.

I have to say that being dry for January has really helped me stay motivated and get my life back on track. I’m not sure how Rache is doing with this, I was traveling the first two weeks of the month and she is now off to Vegas for her monthly commute. Judging from photos that popped up in my photo stream, I get the feeling she may have back slid a little! We shall see.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548020184321{margin-right: 5px !important;margin-left: 5px !important;}”]

In Conclusion

The main thing I want to say with all of this is that I am extremely excited to reengage Ra’Co Life to help facilitate Rache and I coming together and getting motivated to get healthier and make some very important and needed changes in our lives.

And I hope you too are excited about starting off the new year right and taking action like we are to make this a great 2019. Whether you are committing to reading more, drinking less, eating better or just being a nicer calmer person, I truly wish you success in all your healthy endeavors to lead a more balanced life. Ra’Co on![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Going Back to Basics

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Time to Get Back to Basics

It’s been a lifetime… Well, actually, it’s been 3-years since I have really mustered the courage to change my pattern.

Kurt and I made a decision to go back to basics. It’s amazing how far off track we’ve gotten and it is time for a change. Kurt and I started Ra’Co in 2012 – can you believe it? It’s been nearly 7 years since we wrote our first post.


Who Are We?

We are both wildly ambitious with our own careers – and we like to work a lot. But in the last year, we have found ourselves truly drifting apart from each other and growing independently, not together. We have also been very focused on the children, work, and personal development.

It’s been a rough November and December, re-entering into a daily pattern after having not spent any real time in the past two years together. The man I live with, have had children with and have crafted a life with have mostly communicated through WhatsApp on an as needed basis. That’s just crazy! There are so many reasons why things have gotten THIS off track, but the fundamentals don’t really matter. The point is we are getting back to our roots.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”50px”][vc_column_text]

W H A T  W E R E  W E


Striving For?

[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][vc_column_text]When we started Ra’Co the goal is still the same as it is today – to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and to create a community of online people around the world. We also wanted to do it together and to invest time in our relationship by working together. 

The community we want to create is one that gifts the next generation (our children) with a more sustainable life because let’s face it, the world is not in a good place. Ra’Co is really not that complicated – Our #1 goal is to create a constant balance in all that we do which is the baseline principle (Raw + Cooked Food = Ra’Co). 

The Moment of Change

Most of the time, there is a moment in time where you realize you have to make a change. Kurt and I both felt it individually. For me, it was the combination of two guiding statements in the last three months:

  1. Early in the fall, my wonderful friend and running partner Maria said, “Everything in life is a compromise. No matter what you do, you will always be sacrificing something.”
  2. My wise Mother said this week, “Honey, the only thing you can count on in life is change.”

They are both right. I can’t even remember what the topics were although I can imagine the 1st one was about traveling for work vs. staying home with the kids and the 2nd one was about Zai’s recent crazy outbursts.

What Happened Next?

The statements somehow snapped me back and pushed me in the direction towards my internal self. I have spent the last three years, the total time of Zai’s life, reaching outside of myself and my family into the world. I spent endless hours having parties, events and supporting Kurt’s art career. I tried a million new kinds of projects. I took a ton of risks. I failed a lot – and in the end, I was searching for something I did not find. What I realized with these two statements is that the compromise I was making was my desire to craft my own path and feeling like the hard sacrifices would seemingly disappear if I fulfilled the void with friends and fun. On the contrary, what I found is emptiness and frustration within myself.

So I find myself here: 3 days after my 38th birthday, energized, excited and reinvigorated to set my intention for 2019 inward and grow as a more complete person on my own journey, that I am controlling.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

M Y  P A T H




  1. Get back to writing. I realized on this break, how important writing is to me and my central self.
  2. Continue working on thoughtful communication with myself, my husband and my children.
  3. Make each month a progressive month forward – select an item and work towards changing it. This month is DRY JANUARY. See how I am going to stop drinking here.
  4. Find strength within myself through exercise and consistency.
  5. Learn a craft – in this case I want to learn how to take and edit photos. 


This is Our Story: The Story of The Brand Fam

Our story. Individual perspectives.

 I imagine it is about to be something different. This girl I had just met, Rache asked me what she wanted for dinner and it was somewhere around $150.00, which she said, “No problem.” Then, I eventually realized what she had asked for and I couldn’t believe that was what she wanted to spend. It was a complicated experience, mostly because we just hadn’t worked out how to communicate with each other, but it was fun and we had a great time enjoying the process.

It definitely took a long time to cook this meal – I spent the whole day in the kitchen. It is hard making a gourmet Raw Food dinner for two. I remember at one point I was trying to get the top of the bulk Olive Oil container open and so I was using a knife. At some point, the knife tip broke and I couldn’t find it. I assumed that it landed in a corner of the kitchen somewhere under the counter, etc. Turns out it landed in Rache’s salad which she discovered when we were eating. She handled it eloquently seeing as I could have killed my future wife and I was cycling through all the options of how it could have killed her and I was just horrified at my carelessness.

There is a single painting that hung over the dinner table and I got to talk about my process. It was the first time in a while. Jan gave me a chance to talk about it for the first time in a long time. And it was great to have two people there that were so interested in art and food. It was a great experience. I was also really happy to meet someone that was willing to go out of their way to have a special raw food meal and art viewing.

My mom Jan was coming into town and I was totally excited, so I booked a day at the spa and a chance for us to go to Kurt’s for dinner. He was completely confused over the whole experience. I thought I was buying a box and then somewhere he changed it to dinner along the way. He was so flaky and confusing, but I was really excited to have him meet my mom and show her his work. It is so intensely beautiful from what I had seen on Facebook.

We got there a little late and it was dusk. Really gorgeous farmhouse and barn. Every room we went into I got more and more excited about what he was doing there. My kind of person, for sure. My mom seemed a little annoyed that we were so hungry and wandering around so I rushed the visit and we ate. Totally amazing food. We had the best Raw Lasagna, Crispy Fennel Arugula Salad and a sensational smoothie (with bananas, gross!). We gobbled it up, or rather I did. So tasty. I think I finished my plate in under 5 minutes, but I did run into a little shard from the knife and it was quite a bite! I imagined what could have been, but I looked at it as a way to connect together.

Walking upstairs and looked at Kurt’s work which was beautiful and my mom gave her educators / professional opinion. For some, it can be annoying, but Kurt was really patient and seemed to kind of appreciate the conversation.

Afterward, we all went downstairs and we did the dishes (mom and me) since we are helpers and we wanted to do something. Kurt just let us do it, which was a bit strange, but it was fine. He then brought out dessert which was a cashew thing… maybe with orange flavored? Like a custard. It was absolutely insanely rich and good. We shared one and it was wonderful.

We both knew, at that moment, that this was something special. What it was, neither of us knew…. only time would tell.

Story of Us: Connecting for the First Time

Connecting for the first time for us was quite a while ride. On the agenda: lots of drinking… dancing and some randomness.

It was such an interesting moment. Rache had her house at the most optimum level of sweetness: candles burning, appetizers out, snifters of scotch ready to go. It was a bit like a vegan porno scene, ready to happen. Kurt strolled in with his bowler cap, a little tip of a toothpick sticking out of the top and his skinny jeans in boots. He rocked the euro-artist style all the way.

Lots to chat about and our evening came and went quickly. Hours on the dance floor turned into a hot and sweaty mess… Rache confident from her lack of interest in men, Kurt intrigued by the moment.

The Nights Recipe

  1. Food at Rache’s Lake House (left over from the day before), with 2 glasses of scotch
  2. Friday Night Macrodinner, with a bottle of red wine
  3. Every bar in Ithaca… especially in a college town… and then again. Tequila all around!
  4. Ending at the State Street Diner for a night of gorging on egg white omelets and extra crispy potatoes.

Over the years we have replayed this moment anytime we were missing each other and desired a connecting moment. Really we have a specific way!

Not bad for a night out with two raw food chefs. Kurt left in a hurried, drunken stupor after slamming Rache’s mouth with a kiss. Connecting in a wild way.  Totally bizarre night leaving both of us wanting more.

The Story of Us: Finally… All 4 of Us at The Brand Fam

Family Picture of all 4 of Us

What a ride this year has been! We are so lucky to have two very healthy, crazy and wonderful little Brand babies. Welcoming Zai to the family has been one of the most spectacular experiences of our lifetime knowing that we are two and done, and he will be our last. Having a baby in the house is so special; sleep deprivation aside, the smell of a baby and the tenderness that we all feel towards each other comes through in Zai. His adorable squeals of frustration and his animal noises to bring in my milk are by far the single best experiences with him and so very different from Iza’s babyhood.

We asked Luis Pedro Gramajo to come back one morning while my mom was still here so we could capture this very raw moment in our home. Just 10 days in this kid really kept up with the program, while his sister flipped her wig at every corner in one colossal meltdown after another. How Luis was able to capture the total opposite of what was actually going on was pretty amazing!

In someways this is a very narcissistic display… showcasing ourselves and our offspring online and in social media. There is something strange about this moment; for the first time in our lives we really want to celebrate the experience of building our own family and somehow showing it to the world makes it real. What’s that all about?! Either way, it has been fun to see, document and express this moment. I am glad that we have been able to share it with our readers and our close friends and family.

RaCo Life Gray Line

What does it mean to be a nuclear family?

As soon as I had Zai my dad said, “Well kiddo, now you have the perfect nuclear family.” And so we do. By my definition of living the Ra’Co Life, in someways we all balance each other out – Iza and I crazy gals, and Kurt and Zai mellow dudes.

“Nuclear Family” by historical definition is meant to be a married man and woman and their children living under a common dwelling. Overtime this has shifted and in  the last 30 or so years it has been used to describe a family with 2 parents and a boy and a girl. Sometimes people make reference to a “house, parents, 2 kids and dog” as the American dream family… which can feed into the same context as the nuclear family.

RaCo Life The Perfect Nuclear Family

RaCo Life Gray Line

Gallery of photos

Many more pictures where these came from, but the ones below are a few of our favorites. For the complete download, click here. If you are interested in seeing the book we made for our Abuela and Bubby at Walgreens, look here.

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New York Times Article Review: A Portrait of a Modern Family

Ra'Co Life New York Times Article Review Portrait of a Modern Family

The New York Times, one of the most appreciated publications on the planet, just published an article on the American family. They titled it: Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family. It showcased many of the issues we as families face today by being stretch too thin; the inability to be there for everything you need to be. But they are all choices we make and we all have the ability to shift or adjust to make them differently. The article was not reflective of the entire population, but the comments on the article by the readers really demonstrated a broad spectrum of opinions and life experiences related.

What’s Missing?

What the article didn’t showcase was real opportunities for change for this ‘typical American family.’ The article had very few solutions and a lot of banter about what is not working. It didn’t account for the millennial population of out-of-the-box workplace scenarios and lacked content around alternative lifestyles like communities, expatriate living, or families who have worked out schedules to be home at opposite times to co-parent.

One other element not considered in the article: there is no talk about balancing behaviors like more sleep, a better diet and general health of the people they are showcasing. We find that often the main reasons people are stressed, tired and rushed is due to being overweight, sleep deprived and sickly, unable to function at 100%. Work becomes less productive and life is less enjoyable. All of this can be avoided through preventative health.

Kurt and I know this first hand because we’ve been there. When we first had Iza, we had just gotten two huge contracts. To fit it all in, we stayed up after Iza was asleep… we became sleep deprived and then ate poorly and drank too much to ease the pain. We stopped meditating and stopped exercising. Not only did we feel terrible, but we found that we were spinning and hardly getting any work done. We had strayed too far from our values, so we stopped, reevaluated and initiated a plan which supported our lifestyle.

What we love about this article is that it says what many of us are thinking all the time. It speaks to the realities many families face in the general workplace… the one with no life balance or boundaries.

Mitigate Postpartum Blues by Encapsulating a Dehydrated Placenta

RaCo Life Iza's Placenta Laid Out

RaCo Life Benefits of Consuming the Placenta

The placenta contains your own natural hormones and is perfectly made for you, by you. Reintroducing them to your system through placentophagy is thought to rebalance your system. Experts agree that the placenta retains hormones although the specific benefits are theorized. Your baby’s placenta, contained in raw capsule form, is believed to stick with the Ra’Co Life theory of living a Balanced Life by literally rebalancing your system after child birth:

  1. Replenish depleted iron
  2. Lessen bleeding postnatally
  3. Increase milk production
  4. Decrease risk for postpartum depressionRa'Co Life Medical Disclaimer

A Few Facts

  • Humans are nearly the only mammal on the planet who do not eat their own placenta (other non-placenta eaters include marine and domestic animals)
  • The placenta is one of the most nutritious organs
  • Dehydrating above 122ºF will kill all bacteria harmful to humans. Of course there are specific recommendations for individual meat proteins which can exceed 140º. Ra’Co Tip: If you are concerned, just raise the temperature for the 1st hour to your desired temp.


RaCo Life Honoring the PlacentaRaCo Life Rache Zai and KurtLet’s start with the fact that I am not a hippie dippy kind of gal. Actually quite the opposite… I am pretty practical minded and conservative. I do eat organic, a lot of raw food and gluten free, but a lot of that is due to food allergies, weight control and health. My interest in placenta consumption stems out of pure desire to connect with my baby and to focus on preventative care.

Being in partnership with Kurt, an artist that sees the world with totally different eyes than I, has really enlightened me. To him this is one of the most beautiful elements to the birth (aside from his children) and if you see this purely through the eyes of natural aesthetics, honoring this incredible organ through ingestion is a way to connect back to the earth and to your own DNA as other animals do.

We dehydrated and encapsulated our daughters placenta in 2013. I had no depression and a very smooth transition into motherhood, including milk production. There is no sure thing, but if it helps, why the heck not?

RaCo Life Viewer Warning

Black-LineGet Set up with the Right ToolsPlacenta Boy Must Haves Post

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RaCo Life Where it Comes From

The placenta is an incredibly beautiful organ, one that lives inside for 9 months protecting a growing life. Oddly enough it is rarely seen by the caretaker. Even I, who knew we were dehydrating the placenta during both of our children’s births and knew all the benefits didn’t take the time to even glance at it before it was packed up and carted away. I can assume very few women know what they even look like. Let’s face it, the baby kind of steals the show!10px white LineAs written from the Mayo Clinic, “The placenta is an organ that develops in your uterus during pregnancy. This structure provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and removes waste products from your baby’s blood. The placenta attaches to the wall of your uterus, and your baby’s umbilical cord arises from it.”

About 5 minutes after you have the baby, typically you will start to have mild contractions again and begin to birth the placenta. Your doctor will help to coax it out of the uterus. It is like a big sack of blood from the outside. If you see in the left photo my doctor is reaching for the metal bowl to place it into. REMEMBER: make sure you have asked for the placenta prior to delivering.

RaCo Life Yanking on the Ambilical Cord RaCo Life Birthing the Placenta

RaCo Life Dehydrating the Placenta

RaCo Life Iza's Placenta in Bucket in SackRaCo Life Iza's Placenta10px white LineIf you are looking to do this yourself, it is actually quite easy.

  1. Start with the raw placenta in the sack, remove the top layer revealing the actual organ.
  2. Pull it apart discarding all the fatty areas and places that look white, ending up with the hearty dark colored chunks.
  3. These should be cut into thin pieces and spread out across 1-2 dehydrator sheets.
  4. Put in the dehydrator at 135º for 1 hour, then 115º for the 2nd hour and 105º for the remaining 8-10 hours (depending on the thickness of your pieces). Play it by ear until it looks like crispy beef jerky.

RaCo Life Placenta on Dehydrator Tray  RaCo Life Placenta Dehydrated

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RaCo Life Pizza Placenta Boy 2


RaCo Life Encapsulating the Placenta

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  1. Put all the pieces in the Vitamix and go on top speed until you end up with a fine powder.
  2. Place into an encapsulation machine, fill to the top of each capsule, tamper it gently, put the capsule tops on and squish it down.
  3. Store in an airtight container, in a cool place.


RaCo Life Important NotesHospital Rules: Likely you will have to sign a disclaimer to remove the placenta from the hospital. Actually some states don’t even allow you to take it with you, so find out that information when you go for your hospital / birthing center tour. It is best to bring a small bucket (no more than a gallon) and a freezer bag along with you, but make sure there is a fridge available too.

Timing: The most optimal time to dehydrate the placenta is before 72 hours (within 3 days) after birth. It should remain refrigerated until that point from moment of birth to preparation for dehydration. Do not freeze the placenta if you anticipate a raw encapsulation.

Preparation: Plan to have your Excalibur Dehydrator, Vitamix and capsules ready and waiting for you before you go to the hospital. This will help to make the process go quicker. There are also services that provide this effort which are the last two items on the resource list.




Jan Ruby-Crystal Drawing Placental Separation


Introducing Zai: His Epic Journey into the World

RaCo Life Zai Stefan Brand Announcement Large

He’s here! What a 40 week journey… and what an epic final push out into the world. (FYI all births are epic.)

I have always related the concept of child birth to journeying from space through the ozone… literally through a ring of fire. Zai’s journey is no different. At each step of development from Conception to Birth to Childhood and into Adulthood, the previous step is set in place to help you transition to the next level with your offspring. Birth is likely the easiest day you will ever have; a massive struggle and then a moment of terrific relief. Think of it like training for the “big game of life.”

Throughout this pregnancy I had become a vessel with 1 soul purpose: to create a new, healthy life. Now with Zai on the outside on my body we can say it was a success. He is sweet and cuddly, healthy and chirps like a little bird out of delight or frustration. He is making us all better people with his presence.

We set out on the journey of baby #2 with the anticipation of a total of 4 kids. Experiencing such a different pregnancy had me reeling from day 1 and I am happy to say that we have our perfect nuclear family with one of each sex. We are two and done. We started out the year in a totally different place in a totally different life on the road to discovery. Somehow along the way during the last 9 months we found a new home and a wonderful community we are excited to be in. Our work is growing, our blogs expanding and our personal voices are finding a sense of place in the world. It is really exciting and we feel exceptionally lucky to have both Iza and Zai.


RaCo Life The Birth Story


Starting a week prior to delivery I had pretty regular contractions that never progressed. They started and stopped a few hours after each series. The contractions were like sledgehammers each time, which I later found out was because his head kept missing the birth canal opening (maybe as a result of having a cord around his neck) and was hitting a variety of other places in the proximity to the exit ramp.

Zai came as our amazing doctor said he would, though… on his due date: October 12th. I labored from 11pm onward on the 11th and by 7am I was having 3 – 5 minute contractions. We already had our Dr.’s appointment for that morning at 10:30am, but I was pretty nervous about Monday morning traffic in Guate so we left around 7:30am. We miraculously avoided all traffic and ended up getting to the office around 8:30am (literally never happened before). Dr. SanJose checked me and I was already 5cm dilated. Woohoo! He told us that we would have the baby between 3-4pm and to go to the hospital. He called ahead and ordered our suite and we drove the 2 minutes around the corner and “checked in.”

Hospital Universitario EsperanzaNow That's a Bump is beautiful. The gardens are so lovely and it is situated behind one of the largest malls in Zona 10 in Guatemala City, but feels like you are in a little park and the birds are even chirping! It is set on a University Medical Campus. We had a chance to explore a little while I labored, always better to be walking around, and Kurt had a nice cup of coffee from a great concept called Gitane that I like.

We labored until about 1pm by ourselves with a great Gynecologist who came to check on us every 30 minutes or so. I didn’t even change until then into my birthing dress until Dr. SanJose came to check on us. He said I was 9cm and I would have the baby in another 2 hours. He did say that the head still had not engaged and it could be because the cord was wrapped around Zai’s neck. This sent me into a tisy since I didn’t want a cesarean if I could avoid it (longer recovery, less of an immediate connection to the baby, more money, etc.). Together me, Kurt and Dr. SanJose set to work and as a team we brought the head down by skillful yoga positions and hip sways. We ‘welcomed’ Zai with every contraction and Dr. SanJose checked progress as we went. Within an hour and a half he had engaged more and we were ready to rock with delivery. We still didn’t know where his cord was, but Dr. SanJose and our pediatrician Dr. Castañeda thought they had it covered. The pain was outrageous… 10x what it was with Iza’s transition period… but I was in it to “win it.” They broke my water and knew they had to act fast since if the cord was wrapped it would choke the baby without the buffer of the water around the sack.

In Guatemala the pediatrician attends the birth which is absolutely wonderful. Dr. Castañeda is Iza’s pediatrician, so we know him and feel comfortable with him and trust his advice. If you want to picture it: Here I am on the bed with Kurt on the left and my hand in his, the local Gyno Dr. Urrelula on the right with my right hand in his, Dr. SanJose at the bottom right watching the whole scene and Dr. Castañeda on the bottom left coaxing the baby out making sure the cord was not wrapped. It was a sight to see, I’m sure. Kurt said my eyes were literally bugging out of my head (from the pain) and I was screaming a number of profane words in English. What I felt in that moment was pain + a tremendous sense of security, presence and connection from all 4 of them. Kurt as my partner was brilliant – we took the Bradley Method workshop with Iza and had retained all the learnings from it, putting them into place beautifully in a pressurized moment. I feel very lucky.

RaCo Life Zai's Birth 1st Family PhotoThe ring of fire was the most intense I could have imagined since Dr. SanJose pulled me back and had me hold through two contractions in the same position with the baby half way out. This was to keep from tearing and he slowly had me ‘bleed’ the baby out of the opening. It was INTENSE and definitely the moment of pure white clarity you don’t want to ever have. But it was silent in that moment, and the end result is this beautiful person; the pain is forgotten.

The Upside to the Pain: No cord around the neck and a perfectly shaped head as a result of it not being engaged in the canal until the last minute. A winning moment all around.


RaCo Life It's All in the Name

The beginning stages of a brand are crucial. It has to be a perfect setting with the right groundwork. Without it, you are already sunk before you get off the dock, so we know how important the branding of our baby is and we have not been light with the development of it.

When we found out that we were having our first baby in 2013, we would talk about baby names on our decent from Mt. Beacon… it is about 30 minutes down, so we had lots of time to talk. Kurt loved the name Zai and within minutes we were both sold on it so we decided that if we had a boy it would be Zai Stefan (after his brother’s middle name). Coming up with a little girls name made us crazy once we found out Zai was actually a going to be a little girl. I had a million ideas and all of which were shot down with force by Kurt, not being the right sound, arrangement of letters or potential nickname. Eventually, out of frustration, I tried rearranging the letters for Zai and it spelled Iza.

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RaCo Life Why Zai?Not sure where this name even came from, but we assume through sounding out words. And as noted above we love the idea of Iza & Zai having similar names and sharing in the letters and sounds together. Living in a Spanish speaking country the “Z’s” are pronounced liked “S’s” so their names actually sound like “Eesah” and “Sahi.” We liked that these were translatable names to most cultures.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 11.52.27 PMZái in Mandarin means “at,” so by the nature of this translation it literally means for him to be in the present moment. We love that idea since he is a Libra like his cousin Marshall, and it appears is meant to be one of the most balanced Astrological symbols.

RaCo Life Why Stefan?Kurt’s brother Karl is ever present in our lives and his middle name is Stephan, but pronounced “Stefen.” In most countries it is spelled instead with an “a” before the end instead of a second “e” so we went with that. Karl is a very important part of our family, mostly because Kurt and he have a similar disposition regarding their art and feed off of each other’s creativity, collaborating regularly. We wanted Zai to have the opportunity for creativity from birth and to feel empowered to always make things knowing that we will support his ideas fully. He may end up being an accountant or bartender, but we still like the idea that his roots stem from a place of choice for a creative life.


RaCo Life Preparation


The last time we went into labor we didn’t anticipate needing anything other than a few clothes. We lived about 40 minutes from the hospital and it was our anticipation that we would be in and out of there (what did we know?). We were pretty quick (under 28 hours), but we missed out on having a relaxing experience with our moment-old-newborn because Kurt had to rush home and make us something healthy to eat and dehydrate the placenta. We didn’t have anything ready to go or organized and as a result we paid the price in emotional and physical exhaustion. It was almost as if we got to the point of exiting the baby in preparation and then forgot about what happens next!

This time I made sure to have everything from food made to a freezer bag for the placenta. We booked a hotel for Iza and my mom and arranged car transport for them after her school. We knew how long we were planning on staying and what our day looked like after we left the hospital. I suppose it has something to do with this being our second child, too. We know how to change diapers now, afterall!

Must haves in our bags:

  • Technology: Laptops, Speaker, Phones, All chargers (phones, speaker and laptops)
  • Clothes: Birthing Dress, Slippers, Comfy Pants, Nursing Bras & Nursing Shirts, Warm Fleece Shawl, Regular Clothes for Kurt, Clothes, Burp Cloths, Cloth Diapers & Wipes for Zai
  • Toiletries
  • Placenta: Freezer Bag
  • Food: Silverware, Wild Rice, Roasted Potatoes, Salad, Cereal, Snacks, Mandarins & Apples, Nut Mix, Crackers, Green Tea, Mother’s Milk Tea, Sparkly Water



RaCo Life Iza on the Way to GuateIt has been a rough road with Iza since the start of the 1st trimester. I know I was the problem, but it took me until now to realize exactly how I was the problem. The reason: I changed, and stopped being Iza’s Mama right when she needed me the most. I was miserable and as a result Iza felt the effects of the change through my emotional distance. We had our nanny’s work additional hours to help supplement the time I wasn’t feeling well and for months I laid on my back staring at the ceiling and not participating. Then we went traveling for 3 months and finally moved to Antigua. Here Iza has had me more in her life than ever before, but I have not been as active physically or emotionally connected. Now that I am out from under the pregnancy cloud I am beginning to realize just how different I was. I am thrilled to be back on track and able to be there and mobile for my little girl.

We prepared for how difficult this transition was going to be by doing a few extra special things for Iza before Zai came:

  1. We made sure her bed was done and installed and she had a special space. We established an area that belongs to Zai, but showed her how everything integrated so she could see that they were sharing.
  2. My mom came 3 weeks early to be with Iza and spend time with her and now she is her dedicated playmate, making her feel like she has a special support system.
  3. Iza and my mom made a special trip to Guate on the day of the birth and stayed at a hotel so they could have an adventure together, go out to dinner and swim (they did come to the hospital for an hour, but that was like a side trip, not the main attraction).
  4. As a gift, my mom gave Iza her own boy doll to play with complete with bottles and a diaper. Iza in turn claimed a bunch of Zai’s new clothes as her babies and is really enjoying having her own “Baby.”
  5. Other fun and distracting games like the below DIY game.
  6. Now that we are home we are allowing Iza to participate in everything from bathing to rocking to changing Zai.
  7. Everyday I spent at least an hour just with her. In the morning I make sure Zai is fed and sleeping again before Iza wakes, so when she comes to snuggle it is just her and my time. Then we make breakfast together and Kurt watches Zai until Iza goes to school.

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RaCo Life Iza's Matching GameDIY Color & Shape Matching Game

My mom had an idea to do a color and shape matching game, which she crafted in Iza’s honor just for this special trip together. Essentially she created a board with a bunch of shapes and had a bag full of matching shapes to place on top. This is a common Montessori practice, so Iza quickly picked up on the project and mastered the basic level very quickly.

RaCo Life Related Post





2 1/2 years ago we welcomed our gorgeous daughter Iza into the world, in someways igniting our life together and starting a family. Read the start of our journey with Iza’s announcement which shares many of the resources we used in preparation for birth (i.e. the Bradley Method, yoga birth and supplements).

Iza Ruby's Announcement

The same rules apply and here we were graced with lots of luck. We had 3 terrific Doctors at our side and it was all due to planning and questioning the process.

RaCo Life Our Goals for Birth Plan


RaCo Life Terrific Resources


Thinking of delivering in Guatemala? Call on our team (all thanks to our friend Katherine who bestowed this great list upon us)!

  • Hospital Universitario Esperanza
  • Dr. Luis Francisco SanJose: Private practice obstetrics and gynecology near Centro Medico in Zona 10 / 502-2362-3744 / 502-2362-3741 / 502-5200-3816
  • Dr. Raul Castañeda: Private practice pediatrician near Arkadia Mall in Zona 10 / 502-2261-7014


RaCo Life Related Post


DIY Kid Project: Matching Shapes and Colors

DIY Matching Game

RaCo Life Iza's Matching Game

This was a great idea on my mom’s behalf. Iza has a fantastic game on her iPad which uses matching shapes, and she has really enjoyed it. She thought to make it analog so it was more tactile on with fun, sparkly shapes. She did this during Zai’s birth so Iza would have a special new toy.

RaCo Life Related Post

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RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 2

RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 1

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Iza has these terrific blocks from Melissa & Doug that fit into a wooden box. It is a Montessori activity that she uses in her classroom as well, so she is very used to the shapes. We used these as the template for making the shapes so they were both familiar and easy for her to pick up.

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RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 7RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 3

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Lay them out on a white piece of paper and trace. For every shape create 2 tracings so you will have a duplicate. Add in a paper clip on 4 sides to a stack of colorful paper. We recommend doing no more than 3 pieces of paper at a time to ensure it stays in place.

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RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 6

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Create two piles of shapes and put one set in an envelope.

Note: Don’t screw this step up or your kid will go nuts looking for the missing piece!

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RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 4

Lay out all the shapes on a 18″ x 24″ board. Pick a material that is thick enough to not be flimsy, but light weight enough to be manageable for carrying around. If you a have an older kid you could go up a size to 24″ x 36″.

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RaCo Life DIY Matching Colors & Shapes 5

Here’s what the board looks like laid out. We just glued everything down with a silicone and then it was ready to go. In hindsight it would have been fun to add her name to the top like “Iza’s Matching Game” or something that made her feel like it belonged to her, but she really loved it.

How to Play:

1st level – Just match the shapes. Lay the shapes from the bag over the shapes on the board. We recommend keeping the shapes in the bag until they are placed on the board.

2nd level – Direct matches to color and shape.


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Bacon Recipes for a Vegan Gone Baconite During Pregnancy

I love Bacon when pregnant

How Do you Know Someone's a Vegan?

What happens when you fall off the vegan wagon? Well, you land in a pile of emotional stuff you never knew was possible. Pregnancy does some funny things, but when people say you are a vessel it is something to truly take to heart. We as mothers are literally the outside carrying case for the life inside and whatever they need becomes our top requirement, regardless of our belief systems, passions or choices.

For as long as I remember I was a picky eater and my preference was non-animal products and a healthy repertoire of veggies. My friends and family really never remember me even really eating meat. Dairy maybe, and of course living in Baltimore I had fresh seafood, but even that was rare. I think it started because I was a gymnast and always trying to maintain a healthy weight. While thin, I was never as small as my colleagues in the gym and I was voluptuous, always feeling like I needed to eat a little less. In someways I suppose I had a very low opinion of my body which enabled me to use food to control my body image issues. I used veganism as a way to have a social acceptable term for my pickiness. That statement at the above was something I practiced well when any question came up about my diet.

Pregnancy with Iza was a breeze. I maintained a vegan diet the whole way through, splurging occasionally for eggs and spaghetti and clam sauce (which I love), but never straying too far from the vegan path. And I really wasn’t overly hungry. I felt great! I had a green juice every morning, 2 tbsp’s of E3Live and continued to practice all my typical habits. I was very comfortable and my total weight gain was 17lbs.

I am currently possessed with a little guy on the inside who ONLY wants meat and dairy and at the end of my pregnancy I have gained over 30lbs.  I fought it for as long as I could, but on Father’s Day in June we were at a BBQ place in Antigua celebrating Kurt and I literally ripped a huge hunk of chicken off his plate and ate every last bite of it. Since then meat, dairy and the like have become staples in our everyday. It wasn’t like I wanted to eat meat or to integrate it so fully into our diet, but it somehow stuck out of comfort. The kicking stopped every time I had anything meat or dairy related. I felt like I was starving my little man without eating it (even though I know that is completely illogical).

On the flip side it has been a wonderful experiment. I have learned how to cook so many things with meat from burgers to bacon I am officially a well-versed carnivore cook. Parties at our house will certainly have an opportunity to expand beyond my typical dishes. In addition, it was a great opportunity to try everything I had avoided my whole life and get a chance to make a new choice about. I would say if anything remains in my diet it will be bacon. I now know why vegan people say that bacon is always the food that brings them back to a carnivore lifestyle. But now at 39 weeks and after 3 months of eating like this, I am so ready to get back to my typical diet as soon as I have the babe on the outside. I miss eating clean foods!

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RaCo Life Fantastic Recipes

First Start with the Right Cut

RaCo Life Bacon Thick Cuts

The single most important aspect of a successful and satisfying bacon recipe is good quality bacon. What should you look for? I think it goes without saying since we focus on farm to table, but we strongly urge hormone free, organic, grassfed, pasture-raised bacon, ideally purchased from a local grower. My brother Michael and his partner Jen . Our preference on cut is based on what we plan to do with it, but for typical bacon we like a slightly thicker cut. This cooks up beautifully to become a red and tasty, crunchy piece of meat.

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Martha Stewart How to Cook Crisp Smokey Bacon

10px white LineOur Very Own Ra’Co Gluten Free BLT with a Homemade Mayo

RaCo Life BLT


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Jamie Oliver’s Warm Salad of Crispy Smoked Bacon and Jerusalem Artichokes

Jamie Oliver's Bacon Salad

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A Our Very Own Ra’Co Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Glazed with a Balsamic Reduction and Baked in Olive Oil.

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This is a Collection of Cool Material’s Best Bacon Recipes on the Web

Our featured favorite is the Bacon Brittle, Bourbon-Caramel, Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Bacon Brittle Brownies

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The Happy Raw Kitchen’s Raw Vegan Bacon

For good measure I though I would include our favorite Raw Vegan Bacon recipe. One that we always use when we are trying to recreate the flavor of bacon in a healthy, raw plant based version. It is really true that there is absolutely no need for meat and this is great proof. Give it a whirl and you can even have fun with the shape you cut it into. This recipe is all about the spices.
Raw Vegan Bacon
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RaCo Life Funny StoryOur Daughter’s Disturbingly Funny Rendition of ‘Rockabye Bacon’

10px white LineThe only negative to my diet change has been the introduction of all these new things to Iza’s diet. Perhaps it is good that she is able to try them and make up her own mind, but it is still challenging to watch my little vegan baby go full on carnivore and to LOVE it. This weekend we were making bacon on the grill and Iza started caressing it. I didn’t capture her singing, but I did get the visual effect (her mouth was far too full to participate in a song).

Obsession with Ice During Pregnancy

RaCo Life Crunching Ice While Pregnant

RaCo Life Ice Zoom
Crunching into a melting piece of ice is the most satisfying moment for me these days. The crunch takes on the same appeal as an accomplishment and the cool is this internal reward of both temperature control and hydration. My teeth are not terribly happy with me, but who cares? It is so worth it!

As my dentist and husband have pointed out they see no reason why I shouldn’t just have a tall glass of cold water instead, but I have tried to explain that it is beyond the cool. It is the CRUNCH. The crunch is the most essential part of the entire experience.

Clearly, pregnancy does some weird things to a body, but ice obsession? That’s a weird one. I can’t stop eating it… I thought at first it was a coolant tactic; because I am so internally warm I needed a way to cool down. With Iza’s pregnancy I was obsessed with frozen peas, so naturally, ice would just be a replacement now that I can’t get organic sweet peas so readily.

What is the cause? After searching around the internet it looks like I am not the only one who is obsessed with or questioning why they are so enthralled by cold, crunchy ice. The most probable is a disorder called pica. Other causes could be an iron deficiency and if focused on ice only it could mean that you are trying to self-soothe.

What is Pica?

Pica is the act of eating non-food items like dirt, ice, and paint which have no nutritional value. Outside of pregnancy it is a serious issue and is likely related to a mental health disorder such as a compulsive, obsessive behavior. Inside of pregnancy, it can be your bodies way of begging for a different kind of nutrition that is being offered. Pica is a serious disorder and should not be taken lightly. If you are pregnant, however, pica is likely a temporary disorder that will disappear after birth.

RaCo Life Tovolo Ice Cube Tray OrangeMy Choice Ice Tray

Tovolo 15 cube grid and fill each cube with water by about 1/8″. They harden a little thicker than the liquid at about 1/6″ and offer the absolute perfect bite every time without it melting in the process.

Want something a little more fun? I sometimes do this with orange juice or mashed strawberries to get a little extra flavor in there. Its so delicious!

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RaCo Life Funny Story

The idea of crunching on ice is one that our parents have told us not to do since we were little. But as a 37 weeks pregnant person with a toddler who likes to mimic everything I do, there is little I can do to control her from crunching ice. I am a terrible parent letting her have at it with a big bowl of ice! Her poor little teeth.

So last week we were in the car and driving to a friends house. I had a metal coffee mug filled with ice and happily crunching as we were driving. Iza starts singing, “Yo quiero ice” (which means I want ice) over and over again as a song. I started handing them back to her one by one every time she sang since I couldn’t really watch what she was doing. I could hear her crunching occasionally, though so I just assumed they were all going into her mouth.

Finally, there was a tremendous scream from her which nearly made me go right off the road. She started to cry and said that the ice is “no esta aqui” (which means was no longer in her hand). She had been saving them and as she was they were melting away in her sweaty sweaty palm and then falling down into her chair. She was soaking wet and without any satisfying crunch.

Once I figured this out I had a chuckle.


21 Maternity Clothes You Can’t Live Without

RaCo Life 21 Maternity Must Haves

RaCo Life 21 Must Have Maternity Pieces

At the most vulnerable point in you life, splurging is essential. Don’t let discomfort take over and force you back into the comfy pajamas and crappy slippers – take a moment to put on something extra special that is made for the pregnant you! My mom made a point in my last trimester to buy me two really nice dresses: 1 super comfy, but still pretty, and the 2nd a gorgeous tight number to accentuate my belly and legs. She explained that this is one of the only times in my life that I am going to have that pregnancy “glow” and I should relish in the moment. And so I did.

Since I have done my best in this next pregnancy to always leave the house looking great… which has translated into a tremendous confidence booster the whole way through. I took time to pick things that I not only like, but that look really good on me and make me feel as if I were wearing my normal clothes. My husband and my friends are always complementing my outfits and that feels great!

RaCo Life Tip Maternity Nursingwear Go Multiuse

For the purposes of this article I have streamlined the choices to just focus on clothing basics, and a few fun pieces of flare. I didn’t want to share bras and stretch pants since those are pretty personal and available everywhere. Depending on your style preference you might have to look a little harder, but hopefully some of these options will help you out. If you are bohemian chic go for FillyBoo. If you are West Village, go for Hatch. If you just want the basics, go to Japanese Weekend or H&M. I think there is a little something for everyone!

During and after (maternitywear / nursingwear) is the best choice when making a purchase. It is expensive to buy anything baby related, so maximize your dollars! Buy something you can wear during pregnancy and then after when nursing. Trust me, you will be so glad that you have something that fits and functions as it is intended to.

RaCo Life Recommendations

Fashion is one of those things that can’t be forced. You have to really know yourself to create an individual style. But here are are a few general recommendations that will help with any selection:

  1. Remain neutral:

    Remember that you can always add color with funky shoes, hats, bags, jewelry and scarves. Keep the bulk of your clothes neutral in color to maximize wear. You will be so happy you did.

  2. Buy for a 2 year time span (per kid):

    If you are going to be nursing, anticipate at least the 9 months of pregnancy and the year+ afterward for nursing. If you are having multiple children, you may not be back in normal clothes for 4 or even 6 years, so buy as if you are buying a new wardrobe and add to it over time.

  3. Think about comfort and size:

    Normally when we buy clothes we go on style and do our best to pick the things that we are going to feel thin and beautiful in. When you are considering maternitywear / nursingwear you want to be sure you have room to expand. Obviously you won’t know how big you will get if you buy at the start, so just pick a range of sizes and consider comfort. Stretch is very important with maternity!

  4. Don’t forget about diversity:

    Many women start off working and then shift their lives to accommodate doctor’s appointments, playdates, school obligations, etc. Don’t just get a 1-sided wardrobe. Think about all the things that you might do in a given week and try to select pieces that can be mixed and matched accordingly. Casual wear becomes just as important as workwear with kids.

    • Exercise is very important, so don’t forget about getting something you can wear during it.
    • If you have a toddler, think about things like maternity swimwear and things for the park or playdates.
    • Always pick 1 or 2 things that can be worn out on a date night; it is now more important than ever for you and your spouse to find time to connect and you want to look rockin’ when you do!
  5. Quality counts:

    Since you are going to likely have a smaller maternity / nursing wardrobe than your normal clothes you will be wearing more of the same thing more often. In addition you will be eating more so spills on the bump area are more likely to happen and when you are nursing milk stains are going to be on everything. If you get discount clothes, you will very quickly see the pillage and wear. You won’t be sorry you spent that extra $20 per outfit… it will payback in spades and you won’t have to always look like a ragamuffin.


21 Must Have Pieces:


RaCo Life Maternity fillyboo The Story OF Maternity Maxi Dress (Grey Marle)RaCo Life Maternity Harris Maternity Cardigan Isabella OliverRaCo Life Maternity Hatch Hudson Shirt White10px white LineRaCo Life Maternity Thyme Boyfriend JeanJapanese Weekend d&a™ nursing sweater dressRaCo Life Maternity The Classic White Button Down Shirt Hatch10px white LineRaCo Life Maternity Little Black Nursing Dress Milk NursingwearRaCo Life Thyme DL Maternity Boyfriend Riley Jean with SandblastRaCo Life Nursing Faux Wrap Purple Mother's Milk10px white LineRaCo Life Maternity Tee for Two maternity dress (Cream) FillybooRaCo Life Maternity Hatch The Ophelia Dress
10px white LineRaCo Life Maternity Japanese Weekend Hug a Boo DressRaCo Life Maternity Hatch The Perfect V Tee10px white LineRaCo Life Maternity Hatch The Long Sleeve TeeRaCo Life Maternity Jeans Racer Skinny Citizens of HumanityRaCo Life Maternity Isabella Oliver Neville Maternity Shift Dress10px white LineRaCo Life Japanese Weekend MamaCoatRaCo Life Maternity Hatch The Long Sleeve Body DressRaCo Life Maternity Amazon Asymmetric Design Loose Linen Dress10px white Line


Best Discount Brands & Consignment Sites:

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A Couple of My Choice Clothing Brands:

Japanese Weekend MaternityFillybooMilk Nursingwear MaternityHatch Maternity


Best Fancy Dress Award:                       Best Jeans Award:

Rachel Pally MaternityCitizens of Humanity Logo

Best Shopping Sites for Variety of Brands & Great Prices:

 Amazon LogoShopBopIsabella OliverThyme Maternity


RaCo Life Funny Story


RaCo Life Maternity Dress Blue HillBlue Hill at Stone Barns is by far one of the most pivotal restaurant concepts of our time. Chef Dan Barber has transformed this incredible farm into a consumer friendly educational experience through a high-end one-of-a-lifetime dining event. For our Baby Moon we decided it was essential to head to Blue Hill at Stone Barns and have a full day and night enjoying a meal from food we were able to see growing. On the way into the farm are two speed bumps. It felt like it was meant to be!

This image is in an adorable dress from Japanese Weekend called the Hug a Boo. It has a large black flower and ruffle neckline on the upper left and it ties in the back to create an empire waist. I know I am bunching it up at the base and you can’t see, but the best part of the dress was the structure in the front which had darts sewn in to accentuate and flatter the belly. Very thoughtful design. It worked with flip flops for the day and then at night I transitioned to heals and a black cashmere shrug over my shoulders to fancify it.

Ra'Co Life Related Post

“Just us 3” Family Photoshoot

3 of Us in the Front Door

3 of Us Brand Fam in the Front Door

Thanks to the most wonderful friend and photographer Luis we got totally authentically us shots. We are so happy with the results and it was a ton of fun. Iza kind of hates getting her picture taken, so it was even more fun to see that the photoshoot was of a happy Iza.

Thank you to Bubby for the incredible DKNY tye dye dress that matched mine. It worked out so great. And to Luis for the patience and outrageous results. Perfect! And to Kurtis who I adore and who definitely only did this because it was important to me.

The reason for the shoot is more than just documentation: This shoot is part of my Bells Palsy recovery process to accept my permanent state and capture everything on camera to remember the moment. With Iza in the belly we have maybe 10 photos total from 6 months on because I was too overwhelmed every time I saw my face staring back at me. Now at 90%, it feels like the acceptance has come from a place of personal power. It was so much fun to take these shots and I see true joy in all our faces in the results. I really am so grateful to all my friends and family who have given me positive affirmation over the last 2+ years during recovery. Thank you!


From our Photographer Luis Pedro Gramajo: Un día lleno de sonrisas, amor y creatividad con esta hermosa familia, ya están listos para recibir al nuevo miebro de la familia… Los Brand son una familia muy divertida y sobre todo creativa, son fuera de lo común y estoy seguro que esta nueva vida que está siendo puesta en sus manos va a aprender disfrutar la vida cada moneto, espero que les guste…

Translated to English: A day full of smiles, good energy and love with this beautiful family, they´re ready to receive the new member of the family… The Brand’s are a really creative and fun family, I´m sure that this new life that is given to them is going to enjoy every day with them, hope you like it… ENJOY!!!


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Raising Expat Children Abroad While Maintaining their Origin Culture


During our day in Antigua last Friday, I had the most interesting conversation about raising expat children abroad. The discussion was about raising children outside of our home countries and if they will have a grounded understanding of life on their parents familial soil as if it were their home country. All 3 of the women are part of blended cultural marriages; One was American and her husband Argentinian, another was British and her husband Canadian and the other was American and her husband Norwegian. While I can’t really relate in someways to their concern since Iza is still so small and we have only been here for a year, I can really understand their commentary. Wow! It is crazy complicated to even start to consider this.

In someways this is not that different from the situation with the Libyan’s fleeing their country for Sicily, or from the migration of Africans, Europeans and Britons in the 1800s to America, or from the Dutch’s journey to South Africa in the 30s. We as a human race have been migrating like birds all around the world since we had the knowledge of other lands. We have had to hold onto our own understanding of cultural traditions far beyond 1 generation and as we see the aging population and the promotion of American brands, we are beginning to see a homogenized global population. If we use Walmart as an example – you can nearly find a Walmart or Walmart owned store in every single continent, and in most countries. Likewise with Coca Cola products. Even our American culture is evolving and blending into a global culture, particularly with the very engrained Latin influence.

But in essence this mindset is becoming a less and less of an unusual situation. There are so many blended families and children living abroad these days, many born in the country they are currently living in. These three women have birthed and raised their children completely detached from their home countries and each have filed petitions for birthrights in two home countries, while maintaining a birth certificate from the country they physically had their children in. Since we haven’t had to go through this yet, I am taking their word for the complication and concern they have for their heritage being passed along.

The 5 combined children of these 3 mom’s are absolutely gorgeous. Unlike Iza who is blond and as Eastern European as they come (Kurt 100% German and me 1/2 German and 1/4 Russian and 1 /4 Polish), these children have sunkissed cheeks and an undefinable look. They could be from anywhere; some lighter or darker, some with blue eyes and others with freckles. It is fun to bare witness to such a tremendously beautiful bunch playing in harmony with their combined 4 languages amongst the 5 of them (Spanish as 1st language, English as 2nd language, Norweigan for 2 of them and Katchiquel for those who were raised here in Guatemala). They really look free, unburdened and happy.

But the question the women posed is a tremendously interesting one: will they still have a foothold and a grounded understanding of life on our familial soil? I suppose the first place to start is in breaking down which familial soil they see as primary for their children. With each of their relationships being from different countries, they would have to start with selecting which becomes most important to the family. Is it America or Argentina? Is it Norway or America? Is it Canada or England? Once that is determined, then it would be likely to assume citizenship or birthright VISAs, requiring them to go back and live there for a few years. It would require an understanding of their educational system, national anthem and general holidays, with a continuation of celebration of those holidays from afar (wherever they may be).

Something relatable has to come next and with kids this is a hard one. For example, if you are a die-hard soccer fan and obsessed with one of Briton’s premiere football teams, you may easily pass that onto your child and their country pride will live within that cultural tradition of British pastimes. If your spouse has a similar likeness for a soccer team from their home country it will likely become a competition and the child will have to ultimately choose between your two sports teams (or come up with a new one that he/she likes better). This could cause problems since country pride might be one of the single most important aspects of familial soil. So it is always best to determine as a family exactly what those individual elements are that define your family and belief system. It doesn’t mean that your spouse has to give up their traditions, but you have to ensure that the ones which define pride are related to the primary country you call “origin.”

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is to ensure that the country you have chosen is one that will maintain a level of faith in your family. Currently the travelers fleeing from Libya are seemingly not interested in continuing to spread their country pride to their children due to the turmoil within. But a country like Guatemala is beaming from ear to ear with their win this morning of the resignation of their corrupt president and there is nothing but flags waving high above their heads. Faith has to be maintained and cannot waiver for too long in order to receive longevity of respect.

The Origin Requirement List: 

  1. Select the primary country to identify with as familial origin
  2. File for a right to live there
  3. Educate on core cultural attributes
  4. Promote country pride
  5. Build faith

Kurt and I are in someways lucky to not have a similar concern for our children feeling removed from their familial soil. We are both as American as they come. Both spent much of our childhood in Ohio and our adult life on the East Coast of America, both in Baltimore for significant periods. We are from middle class, Unitarian Universalist families and were raised with alternative thinking, mostly in nature. But what’s interesting is that while we do identify with America as our home, we have both left behind much of our familial origin for a different life. We are Zen Buddhist, live a mostly raw food diet and live in Guatemala. Hardly what we were taught or raised to be. We have been able to make our own choices in adulthood and in someways, some of the experiences and familial origins we were given have pushed us into that direction. We do still identify as American, but we always follow with Expats. So we are American Expats living in Guatemala. I think the 3 women would also agree that they identify as Expatriates from their countries, but again we are all still grounded with a “home.”

What the conversation with the 3 women led to was me determining that there needs to be a level of acceptance that our children likely won’t follow in the path we put out for them, even if we were in our home countries. They are children of a different community, their own global community. As Iza extends into her own future reality as a student of the world, she will be making her own choices. Even if we educate her with pride and build an American familial origin around her life, she can identify however she chooses. If she defines herself as Guatemalan in the future, she will have every right to follow the traditions of Guatemala and leave behind all that we taught her. Crazy to even consider, but honest.

Parenting without Borders

This is one of those concepts that changed my life path forever. Even if we never moved to Guatemala and maintained a lifestyle in NYC, it would be a concept I would follow; a belief that the world is a global, expansive place and everything in it is an opportunity to be taught and learned by our expat children’s fresh minds.

Years ago while I was pregnant with Iza I first came across this book that taught me nearly everything I know about expathood. It is called Parenting without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh, PhD and her experiences changed something in both Kurt and I, shaping the next part of our journey. It was this book that drove us to leave Beacon and move to NYC full time and then onto Guatemala for a family adventure. It will likely also be a future catalyst for another change abroad as our children age into their tween years. We believe fully in the global experience… especially in this day in age.

Christine raised her children all over the world and as a Yale PhD she certainly had the intelligence and wherewithal to conduct a living study. So she did using her 4 kids as the subjects. She interviewed and observed mother’s all around the world in their natural habitats as they raised their children and documented the best of each cultural origin. Her focus was education, but as a component of education she showed the valuable supporting elements like play and friendship, language and cultural traditions. It is tremendously well written and enlightening.

If you are thinking or considering about an alternative lifestyle of any kind, Parenting without Borders is a great book to read and it will really expand your stance on education.

Trip Advisor Review: Porta Hotel Antigua Family Friendly

“Family Friendly with the Best Atmosphere”

Screenshot 2015-09-04 11.00.49


This review can be seen on our Ra’Co Life Trip Advisor page.

Combine Parrots, a playground, an enormous heated pool with a 6″ shallow end and wine and you get pure and simple magic for families. This place truly enchants us! They have a glorious outdoor seating area, a spectacular place to socialize and all the amenities you could ask for. This is truly a place that is family friendly.

We haven’t stayed at the hotel, but as far as entertainment goes, this is the place. We go often in the afternoons and have a little glass of white wine and bring our daughter to swim. If we just let her swim we don’t get charged. The playground is pretty much available for playing and the parrots are just next to the playground.

We often meet friends at the hotel to play with. It is so much fun!

If you are visiting Antigua this is really the only hotel to stay at. If you live here, why haven’t you been?!

Click here for their site.

Remedies for Dealing with a Coughing Toddler

Iza Ruby Sick Day in Bed When Coughing

Its 3:47am and we are all up. Iza is having a really hard time getting through the night tonight with her ongoing cough. Many kinds of coughs get worse at night, especially when the air is colder. Iza has had a drippy nose for the last two days and at night when she lays down likely the mucus from the nose and sinuses is draining down her throat and triggering her cough to worsen during sleep.

But coughs are in some ways a good and important sign that a kids body is helping to rid themselves of the cold on their own and they should not be stopped with medicine. It is important for the kid to allow their body to rid themselves (i.e. cough out) the bad stuff.

Proactive care:
Always our preference, but as life flows we sometimes lose sight of the vital aspects of health with our busy days and get off track. If you are up for trying to maintain some level of daily preventative care, here are some of our recommendations:

• Sleep for 6-8 uninterrupted hours. Your body will tell you what it needs and it might not be the same everyday.
• Walk for at least 30 minutes a day and get your heart rate up high enough to perspire.

• Build a balanced schedule and don’t overdo it.
• Keep stress to a minimum.

• Juice every morning… lots of greens, little fruits.
• Drink tons of water. Limit all other beverages.



Iza is truly a terrible sick person and she gets that from me. For any parent who has a child who is similar to them, it is definitely hard to watch them go through something you can really relate to. I work extra hard to make sure she is comfortable – almost to a fault sometimes (like permission to have unlimited iPad and bed time) – and I follow a very prescribed formula that can be carried forward quickly to ensure a healthy recovery.

Ra'Co-Life-Logo-balanced-tagReactive Care: My little girl has sadly been quite sick over the last year being in Guatemala. Much of the reason is weather induced as our local climate has very extreme temperatures – we go from hot / dry 80ºF during the day sometimes to a cold / wet 40º F at night. It is like a split, temperate climate where it is a combo of dessert and jungle. Really very strange. Luckily she hasn’t gotten anything other than just a common cold and cough, however.

  1. Bath: Here in Guatemala the local remedy for a common cough / cold via Katy and Claudia would be to bath Iza in a bath of eucalyptus leaves, bugambilia flowers and rosa de Jamaica dried leaves. They would make the water really hot and let all the plants steep in the tub for 20 minutes or so until the temp came down to a manageable temperature. Then they would put Iza in and softly sponge bathe her while she breathed in the aroma of the water concoction. It was pretty unique to watch this local ritual and while it didn’t necessarily cure her, it definitely helped with opening up her air passages.
  2. Tea: Another trick we have used is a little honey, ginger and lemon mixed with warm water. Iza seems to really like this concoction and it isn’t difficult to get her to sip it out of a cup since it is a little sweet. We use a tea spoon and pretend we are having a tea party.
  3. Chest Rub: After the bath it is always a good thing to have a little oil rub down. You can use essential oils or just a coconut butter. This helps to loosen up the mucus before we clear out the nose. Another thing we have done is added a very tiny amount of hot sauce and peppermint to the coconut oil and that makes it like icy hot. Super strange, and should be a very small dosage, but it works!
  4. Clear Out the Nose: If you have one like my daughter, you will struggle to get her to “blow” out the crap on her own. We have this amazing suction thing called the Nose Frida. We also use a humidifier and add aromatherapy to it. Below is an echinacea that can be ingested or used as aromatherapy.
  5. Diet Adjustment: Staying hydrated is the single most important aspect of any cold, but beyond that increasing healthy probiotics and introducing more raw foods will help your child to recover faster. With Iza she is not a fan of green leafy veggies so we give her a healthy dose of probiotics. This helps to maintain a healthy digestion and keep her vitamin K levels up helping to get rid of her cold quicker.





When to Call the Doctor (according to
Most childhood coughs are nothing to be worried about. However, call the doctor if your child:

  • has trouble breathing or is working hard to breathe
  • is breathing faster than usual
  • has a blue or dusky color to the lips, face, or tongue
  • has a high fever (especially if your child is coughing but does NOT have a runny or stuffy nose)
  • has any fever and is younger than 3 months old
  • is an infant (3 months old or younger) who has been coughing for more than a few hours
  • makes a “whooping” sound when breathing in after coughing
  • is coughing up blood
  • has stridor (a noisy or musical sound) when breathing in
  • has wheezing when breathing out (unless your doctor already gave you an asthma action plan)
  • is weak, cranky, or irritable
  • is dehydrated; signs include dizziness, drowsiness, a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, crying with little or no tears, or
  • peeing less often (or having fewer wet diapers)

How to Entertain a Toddler for 3 Whole Days


Thank goodness yesterday was a Monday… I don’t think I have ever been so happy for the start of the week to come! I was absolutely wiped out from 3 full days with a crazy, emotional toddler. My goodness emotions run high these days! I swear no two minutes are the same and the bouncing from happy to sad to happy to sleeping leaves my head spinning. But on the inside far beneath the facade of exhaustion, I am remembering and relishing in the tiny moments of each of our activities and I wanted to share our very occupied schedule.

This past Friday was a teacher’s development day, leaving a school full of kids and their parents without a place to go. Myself with a few other moms took it upon themselves to develop some level of entertainment to get through the 1st day which would have been our Friday, but then I was on my own!


  • Make a mess while cooking a blueberry pancake breakfast
  • Spend an hour cleaning up the mess after breakfast
  • Swimming, playground and lunch with friends (for 5 hours)
  • Walk around the neighborhood


  • Early grocery shop, sitting front and center in the cart
  • Jump around in the car as if it was a playground
  • Skype with Abuela
  • Farm tour and find as many things that look like circles as possible
  • Talk about how Iza’s doll is scared of the mouse
  • Play with the iPad for far too long
  • Play with neighbors and then go for a walk and run into more neighbors
  • Take a bath until fingers are wrinkly


  • Put together a very complicated shelving unit and hide all the screw backs from mommy
  • Spend 2 hours looking for the screw backs
  • Long walk around the neighborhood and fill the stroller up with dirt
  • Hug a tree
  • Float around the house like a butterfly (with one broken wing)
  • Paint a picture
  • Talk about how yesterday the swing backfired and hit her in the head
  • Reorganize toy baskets
  • Take a ridiculously long nap

I spent quite a bit of time researching ahead of time, so I now have a pretty long list of options for our next school closing. This was definitely a trying weekend for me with being pregnant and my poor toes on my right foot feel broken from all the running around after Iza (with the added weight of Zai), but there were wonderfully fun moments embedded into it. I relish in the simple things with this little lady. She is at a very fun age, full of discovery… I get to be apart of that discovery!


Highlights from the 3 Days:


Porta Hotel Antigua for swimming and playground with friends: This is a wonderful pool with a center section that has just about 4″ of water. Perfect for a toddler who wants to get wet, but is not a super fan of wet hair. Oh! And it’s heated. The playground is really an exceptional treat. Iza was just like a big kid playing with Maya Lily.


RaCo-Life-Farm-Visit-Caoba-2Farm Tour at Caoba Farms: The beautiful and serene backdrop is not a joke. We regularly walk the grounds to just enjoy the scenery and to see what is popping up next. Here are our salad greens! Iza likes to find the macadamia shells that have cracked open and pair them together.

RaCo-Life-Neighborhood-Walk  RaCo-Life-Neighborhood-Walk-with-Hands-on-HipsWalking with Neighbors: We love to walk with the Mercer’s in the afternoons, but this Saturday we were fortunate to run into some of Iza’s other classmates. Adoi is in her class and believe it or not he is 6 months younger than her. The kid is absolutely adorable, and very tall. When Iza saw him she went running right up to him!

RaCo-Life-Iza-Dancing-Like-a-Butterfly Dancing like a butterfly: Wings are essential for any little girl – so she can fly! What a fun moment to capture on camera. Iza demanded her “corte” (Spanish word for skirt) and her wings from me, but found the hat in her dress up box all on her own. Coupled with her WHO shirt, I think this kid has some serious style. Our friend Nikki makes these wings if you are interested in them!

RaCo-Life-Iza-Hugging-a-TreeHug a Tree: This is an image from one of the first times we witnessed Iza hugging trees. She just ran right up to them and wrapped her cute little body all over the tree. There has to be something psychologically rewarding about hugging a natural element. Maya Lily and Noah (wonderful neighbors and friends) quickly caught onto the movement and helped to paint the perfect picture of happy children in nature.

RaCo-Life-Iza-PaintingPainting a picture: More like painting with water and a little color! This gal absolutely loves to see water mess something up. Water color paints are by far the best choice and this is a great set provided by my artist mother Jan Ruby-Crystal.

RaCo-Life-Mama-and-Zi-SleepingTaking a nap with Mama: While there was a kick, fight and scream leading up to this perfectly tranquil moment, it was pure heaven for me to be laying with Iza for a 2+ hour nap on Sunday. She is just so squishy and her trust implicit. I love that she is still able to just fall apart in my arms. I know soon that moment will be gone, so I am taking all I can get right now.

My Big Pregnant Debut on

I suppose when in Rome, right? This is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, considering Zai is going to be our last pregnancy. I have to admit that it was pretty exciting to be able to participate in something with someone as cool as the owner Micky of A fellow parent at Iza’s school, Micky approached me (I mean ran after me) a few weeks ago during morning drop off and asked that I participate in a video on 3rd trimester exercises. I certainly jumped at the chance to have a new experience like this! Marie Morrison has written a comprehensive book called Baby Weight on managing weight gain and loss before, during and after pregnancy. It offers great exercises and suggestions on how to support yourself physically during the transitional phases you go through. We all know how hard being pregnant is…. so this is a great way to maintain your strength, building up to birth and back to skinny.

After a full review of my efforts, I wish I would have been more prepared to be on camera. Perhaps a practice session in front of a mirror would have helped? I am, however, very proud of myself. What it showed me is my strength and ability to push through the moment of shear uncomfortableness, fighting to stay strong and full of energy. I see an inner confidence with the positions that I guess I haven’t been able to witness before. It’s kind of liberating in a way and now I plan to practice my birthing positions in front of a mirror more regularly.

I definitely realize that TV might not be in my future – especially now that I have Bells Palsy. I noticed the lip movement and the facial structure imbalance much more so on these videos than I see in person in front of the mirror. It was an overcast day, so I could feel my eyes squinting and I wasn’t equip to deal with my mouth, so I was in a bit of a half smile the majority of the time which makes it a challenge to keep my lips together (And also baby pink may not be my color :)).

But, I really enjoyed the moment and especially loved learning a few great positions to work on between now and October.

Go Micky. I love what this woman is doing – so sign up for her subscription service today!

Transitioning Away from Work and Into Parenthood

There is a moment in life where you realize you just can’t do it all well. I am in that moment and transitioning rapidly towards a more mommy-focused era.

And work has been very slow over the last year. Lots of industry problems in the food field, and Kurt is in the process of building up his body of work. So there has been a natural progression that has taken over in the last year and it is wonderfully scary and fully of intrigue. We all know it will work out in the end, but we are currently in the growing pains of the unknown.

I am retooling all of it… carefully.

  1. Iza – Managing her schedule so I still have adequate time for me
  2. Work – Targeted, effective connections for profit, not fun
  3. Family – Less traveling, more time just here
  4. Friends – Poignant, supportive relationships
  5. Life – Playing with Iza, creating projects which support her educational development
  6. Food – 1 big enjoyment meal a week and the rest simple, healthy meals

It has been an interesting experience to move away from my typical day to day communication with my work colleagues and clients, focusing on day to day life. I wouldn’t say that I am more relaxed, yet, but I am beginning to live the Ra’Co Life. (That’s a lot of “life’s” in one sentence).

I know that I will only have the captive audience of my children for the first few years and then they will be off running around the universe with their own plan in mind. Already I can see this with Iza as she soars into her own social network at her school. She is less interested in and less available to me when she is home; she is tired, has her own agenda and plays contentedly without my prompts. So, these next few years are crucial to the development of myself, Kurt’s and my children’s familial foundation. What’s a 5 year commitment in comparison to the remaining 60?

Of course this has not been an immediate transition. Some of my preparation for this was done over the course of the past 3 years… starting with closing TILT and going into consulting, and most recently in our permanent move to Antigua, Guatemala. It seems as though finally things are falling into place and we are able to just breathe a little into our current position. Kurt is finally in the studio more regularly, Iza is in school, my work commitments have slowed, we are set up to execute on Ra’Co / Shop for Gluten Free and we are nearing the end of growing a new little Brand.

It is kind of exciting: we are set up and ready to execute.

There are a lot of great advice columns out there on this transition out of work and into life, although I haven’t really felt compelled to read many. In someways I feel like Kurt and I are writing our own book on this since we are creating as we go.

  • One of my favorites has been from where they help you to establish the mindset of your own Cottage Industry business of raising children; Your Kids, Inc. I think that is pretty clever and exacting for what should be a maintained frame of mind when you leave the work force.
  • Here is an article from the Parent Map which focuses on tips for remaining positive through the transition.
  • And if you are choosing to keep your job, has a bunch of articles on creating a live-work balance with children.
  • is one of the better free mini courses you can subscribe too and they have a pretty good blog with some interesting information. It has been helpful in the development of Ra’Co and Shop for Gluten Free.

Recently there have been a number of companies start to go into a formula of unlimited maternity / paternity leave, offering their employees the right to exercise their own level of balance with their families ( and Netflix are two of the biggest and most well documented).

For me, I look at this transition as a chance to reinvent. Beyond being a parent, I have always wanted to write full time, work on my patterns and to build a portfolio of excellent Gluten Free recipes. This now gives me a chance to slow down and refocus my talents where it really counts.


5 Ways to Mitigate Pregnancy Challenges

It’s interesting to go through the stages of pregnancy because I can see how quickly the ebb and flow of nature really works. I am like an ocean with changing tides; inevitably I am always going to come back to a calm sea, but there are going to be waves, manmade disruption and natural disasters like storms in between.

For the past 4 days I have really had a rough go of it and while I am nearing the end of my rapidly short rope of patience, I am trying to gently remind myself that it will come around. I still have 6 weeks left which is not an encouraging time span. It feels like it will literally never end, but I know that 6 weeks from now I will be sorry I did not relish in the quiet moments when I could. It is all a balance and test of give and take.

Here are some ways I am trying to deal with it: 

  1. Surrounding myself with strong female supports who have been there and being very directed and clear with my husband about what I need him to support me with (don’t leave it to be a guessing game, ladies. They don’t get it!)
  2. Going for long walks by myself and spending time alone when Iza is at school
  3. Laying in bed as long as I need to and not feeling bad about doing one more thing around the house
  4. Canceling meetings as needed and letting go of the need to do anything
  5. Writing for the sake of therapy and not work


Having a toddler makes it even harder

The hardest part has been the emotional upheaval of Iza. I almost feel as though she senses my hormonal and emotional shift and as a result her emotions have mirrored mine. She is a disaster of clinginess and desperation. She is hanging all over me and gravitating to one of our rooms at night (oh yes, we are sleeping in different rooms now so my tossing and turning is done without strain on our marriage), so none of us are sleeping and we are having a really hard time resetting our patience level.

What am I doing about it? I am trying to reason with her and negotiate her journey through all this too.

  • I am trying to keep in mind that she doesn’t understand why I am upset and that the term “Zai” to her means belly. So I am giving her the permission to go through her emotions the same way I need to be supported.
  • I am being patient with her realizing that she may not quite yet correlate that it is a human life in there and that mama is having a hard time supporting all the weight and the changes physically
  • We are taking a bath together every night as a family so she can still climb all over us without having to lift her up
  • We are allowing her the time to talk through and draw out why she is “scared”
  • I am relying very heavily on my terrific new network here in Antigua, Guatemala to help take her mind off it with playdates and activities


Even in writing this quick little post, really helped me to relax my emotions for a minute. #5 is maybe the best help of all for me. Check out the post on Tips n’ Tricks for Coping with Baby #2 to get some insight on how to manage all of this, not just the hard parts.

Tips n’ Tricks for How I am Coping with Baby #2 Pregnancy

It’s just how it goes. Round 2 is never easier than Round 1. You know too much, and likely you already have at least 1 other munchkin jumping all over you and emotions are high all around, especially with the existing munchkin.

I have had a terrible go of it from day 1 – nausea, vertigo and exhaustion plagued my 1st trimester and then we spent the 2nd trimester traveling and searching for a new ‘Home.’ Here we are finally in the 3rd trimester and I am already bigger than I was at full term with Iza, I am eating meat and dairy again and totally disgusted with myself, and I have a little girl whose emotions are so out of whack from our combined hormones. And this is all totally normal – in case you were wondering.

The good news it that Zai is extremely healthy and happy. He bounces around all day and night and seems to be progressing nicely. The doctor is very happy with the progress and very reassuring about all the rest.

Likely if you are in your 3rd trimester all of the above will sound normal to you.  Here are some tips on what I am doing to get through and maybe some will be helpful to you!:

  1. Eating tons of frozen fruit. That’s right! I take fresh fruit, cut it up into small pieces and freeze it. With Iza I was obsessed with frozen sweet peas, with Zai it is fruit. I also sometimes make ice cream or popsicles using Coconut Milk and frozen fruit so it is ready to go anytime I am craving.
  2. Yoga, walking and swimming when I can. I take lessons since I am not disciplined enough to do it on my own, and I have worked it out with girlfriends who are also pregnant to keep it interesting. With yoga, I was constantly frustrated with my lessons until I started listening to my body and adjusting accordingly. Don’t be afraid to not do as much, but push yourself when you can.
  3. Complaining often to release the tension. I have prepped my family that this is a unique time in my life and I just need unconditional support and the ability to be self indulgent right now. I have given myself permission to vocalize how I feel even if it sounds like a broken record. It is important to get the feeling out and to not harbor it.
  4. Playing as much as I can with Iza. With the new baby in arms reach I am worried Iza will feel left out. This is a common emotion mother’s go through when they have to begin dividing their love, so I am doing what I can now (against intelligent work decisions) to spend as much time with her as I can. When I need a break, I do offer the iPad and don’t feel guilty about it. Now is the time to balance energy, time and experience.
  5. Isolating our emotions. It has been really hard on my marriage with Kurt to be constantly interrupted by Iza’s crying and her frustration with me, and even harder to not let it effect our relationship. We have had to work really hard to isolate our emotions to the moment we are in and to remember to come back together at the end of the day, regardless of what the day has unfolded. Carving out an hour to splurge on a TV show together goes a long way.

If you want to get in touch to chat about what you are going through, I am here to be part of your tension release program. 🙂

Our New Address Courtesy of Tio Karl

My brother-in-law Karl is by far one of the coolest, most eccentric people I know. He is gifted beyond belief with ideas and individuality of concept. You wonder how things like Star Wars are made? Karl is the kind of person who could invent the story. So, it comes as no surprise that we got a glorious postcard from him today without any indication it was from him… other than the postmark. A little mini piece of artwork if you will.

Hugs, Karl. We love it! And what a better way to announce our new address than through your card:

The Brand Fam
Colonia San Pedro el Alto
Seccion F No. 4-B
Antigua, Sacatepequez 03001




The Perfect Moment While Getting the Kid to Sleep

Getting our kid to sleep is one of the most ridiculous rituals.

Now that Kurt has gone back to the Lake to finish packing I am on nighttime duty with Iza, which is normally Kurt’s gig and I am finding that he has created a pattern of insanity.

She requires the normal stuff – bath, brushing teeth, pj’s, 2 books and then her sleep sack just to get ready which is a chore in itself. Then due to her father’s coddling ways, you must lay with her until she is completely sound asleep. When I say sound asleep we are talking about:

  1. 10 minutes of babbling in the dark
  2. Another 10 minutes of flopping around to get out unused energy
  3. 30-45 minutes of spooning in the nook of my arm. (If you move her too early she will wake up after a ‘cat nap’ of sorts and likely not go back to sleep for a little bit, or we have to leave her to cry it out for another 15 minutes which is torturous for everyone.)

All in it is typically about an hour and 15 minutes every night to get this kid to bed.

But in the last few days I have mastered the process by finding this perfect moment: Just when the breathing starts to slow and I can feel her body go limp in my arms, her death grip loosening on my hands, I can transport her to her crib and she will only cry/whimper for a few minutes. It is right around the 10-minute mark (into the 30-45 minute spoon stage), so that buys me at least another extra 20 minutes a night.

A few things have come up in my discovery of this:

  • I am super in tune with my daughter and her breathing now, more so than I wish to be
  • She is the most stubborn, willful child and there is an element of manipulation that I, as a mother have to give into in order to just survive the experience
  • Sleep appears to not be high on her priority list, but somehow it is high on mine
  • My husband is an enabler

🙂 I suppose we all have our own ways.




Back When I Was a Poor Art Student… I Modeled

I’m pretty sure that the cliche of modeling while in college and broke is played out. But, I benefited greatly from 2 years of sitting for a fabulous photographer Stephen John Philips.

He is one of my favorite photographers because he invents and creates the feeling of a painting in his pieces. I have done a bizarre series of Mexican masks, medical instruments, and gymnastic poses… all in a sepia or black and white style. He took a chance on me as much as I did on him, trusting he would show my body with an eye of beauty and not sexual appetite.

As my belly is growing by the day, I love to look at this and remind myself of what my body really looks like underneath the inches of flesh.


Reaching Internally to Find the Balance

Something happened after Iza was conceived, and I stopped reaching out. Instead, I started to focus inward and reengage with the parts of myself which had been lost. In some ways, this was self-protection and also self-reflection on my life to date. It was simply my body and minds way of preparing for parenthood.

I used to do a lot without thinking and would be very reactive to get something off my daily list, instead of really engaging with the experience of what I was doing. I had endless expanses of time and limited accountability for what I needed to be doing and when, but I always felt rushed and didn’t have any time to consider and think things through. I was a procrastinator and also very reactive to the moment instead of the future.

What I have found in my newfound parenthood is my ability to really capture and wander in those rare moments of precious time. The lists are still there, but they are now rolling instead of daily, and my time is constantly expanding as a result. The lack of activity in the evening or morning hours, an eery quiet from the balance of the busy daytime hours is my favorite moment to snag a chance for wandering and this is the time I plan for and give myself to just enjoy.

Something had to give in the midst of all this change and evolution and as a result, I have stopped really reaching out. My wonderful friends from College and London recently united in DC and called me on St. Patty’s Day and me, got a fabulously fun and energetic phone message from the two of them partying it up together. I smiled from ear to ear, but then felt a little sad. I miss the old me some days – the energetic sparkler of personality and zest…. the absolute opposite of a nester. But then I force myself to remember that right now at this moment I am giving myself permission to figure out how to be both the sparkler and the nester. It takes time to perfect and I need to be true to giving time to each stage.

A balance of life ultimately. Right now I am searching for my inner-balance to be true to each moment. After I will get to apply that to the outside world. It is all evolution.

Fertility: Helping from the Male Side

When it comes to pregnancy and fertility, guys know that back in the day, men had just one job when it came to making babies; let the little men flow and do their thing. But these days things are different. Men and women are having kids later in life and there are studies coming out now that tell us women are not the only ones having to worry about autism and other birth related problems due to the advanced age of the parents. And the older you get, the harder it may be to provide the super sperm you once never even thought about. If you’re young and having trouble getting pregnant, of course there may be some deeper fertility problems going on, but don’t go running to the doctor so fast. Try some of the suggestions we are discussing here.

For the fellas, if you think you are having fertility issues, there are a lot of things you can do to boost your sperm count before engaging in expensive and time consuming fertility treatments. Check it out:

1. If you can handle it stop smoking cigarettes and marijuana and stop drinking. The weed has been known to reduce sperm count in certain studies, cigarette smoking is just pointless and dumb and not good for anything, and over indulging in alcohol has been shown to reduce zinc levels.

2. Eat foods that are high in zinc. Zinc deficiency is known to decrease sperm quality. We always recommend getting your vitamins and minerals from food, but take a high quality supplement if you need to. Here is a list of foods rich in zinc:

  • Seafood, namely oysters. I’m getting crazy hungry just thinking about it because I haven’t had oysters in a long time. Man, I miss them. Also, you will be happy to know that crab and lobster run a close second.
  • Beef and Lamb. I don’t go there but 3-4 times a year, and even then I just don’t feel good about myself. Stick with the plants if you can.
  • Wheat Germ. I don’t go there either because we keep our house gluten free. But it is supposedly good for your sperm. Supposedly contributes to greater ejaculation volume.
  • Spinach. Now we’re talking. Eat it raw, cook it, juice it.
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds. More awesomeness, I could eat these all day.
  • Nuts. Love them. Cashews are the highest in zinc and great for making raw food cream sauces and deserts. We love us some cashews.
  • Cacao and Chocolate. Hell yea!
  • Pork and Chicken. Gross.
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Flax seeds. We use them to make delicious raw crackers.

3. Keep em’ cool and loose. Some studies suggest constricting the testicles could affect fertility. A great excuse to not wear tighty whities, if you have mistakenly made that error in the first place. Wear boxers or boxer briefs, that goes without saying, and your lady will love you more anyway. Also, studies have suggested that exposing your little friends to high heat could affect fertility. So no hot tubs for awhile. And don’t put your laptop on your lap; more heat. And while we’re at it, don’t put a cell phone in your front pocket either. Some studies say it can have a negative affect on your sperm.

So no alcohol, no hot tubs, no weed and no cell phones in the pocket. There goes your chance at being a famous rapper. Still want kids? Read on.

4. This goes without saying across the board; keep your weight down and exercise. Thats right up there with not smoking cigarettes.

5. Have sex, a lot, but don’t use WD40 or anything like that for lube. That could be a problem.

6. Eat organic to avoid pesticides, and stay away from toxic solvents and glues. And don’t sniff glue, thats probably bad for sperm.

7. Take supplements.

Okay, so lets get down to the supplements, which is what we have all been waiting for right? Supplements should by no means replace an active healthy diet full of nutrient rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Some studies have shown that supplements do little to enhance fertility. But other say it can help a lot.  And if you do take the supplements listed below, there will be a three month waiting period while the weak sperm grow into super sperm. Here is what I have found from extensive research and what, I think, has actually worked for me.

  • Zinc – at the top of the list. If you don’t like to eat a lot of the foods we listed above then take a good quality supplement.
  • L-carnitine – in healthy sperm there are high concentrations of the amino acid l-carnitine.  WebMD talks about l-carnitine and male fertility. Also check for more info on l-carnitine.
  • L-arginine – an amino acid that studies say increase sperm count and mobility. Check and for discussions on why l-arginine may be good for your sperm. Because it is mostly found in animal products, the supplement may be needed by vegetarians.
  • Selenium – helps to reduce birth defects and may increase sperm count.
  • Antioxidants – essential in all aspects of health.
  • Omega 3 – in animal studies, Omega 3’s were shown to increase sperm.
  • Vitamin C – high in antioxidants.
  • Folic Acid – combining with zinc may help to increase sperm count much more than just taking one or the other.

So there you have it fellas, lots of great information on building up your little men to do the job they need to do. We love to do everything the natural way first, through a healthy diet consisting of mostly plant-based nutrient-rich whole food, exercise, and by staying calm and stress-free through meditation and yoga. But if you are a healthy individual that lives like us and you find you are having problems with fertility, try the supplements. And if you don’t find that supplements provide results after a few months, go see a doctor. We wish you the best.


Everything in Life is a Practice

In life, it seems everything is a practice, and no matter what decision or choice we are faced with the practice part is the constant:

  • It is a practice to stay and a practice to go when it comes to my career.
  • It is a practice to be a parent, but the practice also to find a different way without children.
  • It is a practice to love someone, and also a practice to live with them every day.
  • It is a practice to work with a client, but it is a practice to not have any clients.
  • It is a practice to have a family and to have family obligations, and a practice to have a family and not be close.

We are definitely in a ‘searching’ phase of our lives. Some of it might be indecision or misdirection, but a big part of it is a balance. We want to achieve the ultimate level of success by giving ourselves both time and dollars. It has seemed like pushing away from all that we know and graduating to a level of thinking that is not widely supported is both good and bad, but either way, any decision we make is a practice.

Our day to day practice has always put experience first instead of responsibility. We often see responsibility as a roadblock to creativity and one that stifles our opportunity to grow, but we have found recently it does not have to be the case. Responsibility can actually act as a set of boundary lines to help push us forward in a directed manner…almost establishing ground rules.

Perhaps a bit esoteric, but in the months and years to come this will be honed in, refined and ultimately a perfected daily practice; we will master our ability to ‘practice’ over time.

Raco-Life-080000-Kurt-at-RhinzijiPhoto taken at Ren Zhi Ji Mount Baldy. Kurt stands near the infamous Roshi.

Kurt practices Zen Buddhism and maintains at least 2 sesshins a year at the Ithaca Zen Center.

Working Towards a Healthy Pregnancy

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For the last 10 months we have been planning and trying to get pregnant again. Now we are 14-weeks in and we are happy to say that we are coasting along nicely. The building-up-to process has brought us back to a place where we feel alive, energetic and healthy once again. We know the importance of elevating our bodies to a host level and remaining in tip top condition as we prepare for making and then growing a child.

We learned a lot during the first pregnancy, and plan to learn more in this next iteration. For each set of parents it is a different and enlightening experience, but we see this as a little guideline to follow.

In the planning and growing of our little Ra’Co people, we do the following 10 things.

  1. Sleep as much as we can, whenever we can.
  2. Drink a ton of water.
  3. Try to keep a simple daily exercise routine.
  4. Eat as many vegetables as possible, especially through juicing.*
  5. Mix it up with different kinds of protein.
  6. Savor sweets. Do not over do it.
  7. Establish a healthy regime. Remain consistent.
  8. Track the experience.
  9. Take supplements when you feel you need to.
  10. Listen to our bodies and give it what it wants. It knows.

Wish us luck![/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Recommended Supporting Tools” style=”one” element_type=”div”][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3129″ onclick=”custom_link” link=”” title=”Omega J8004 Nutrition Center Commercial Masticating Juicer*”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3995″ onclick=”custom_link” title=”Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul” link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3127″ onclick=”custom_link” link=”” title=”Excalibur 3900B 9 Tray Deluxe Dehydrator, Black”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3162″ onclick=”custom_link” title=”Vitamix 5200 Series Blender, Black” link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]*There have been mixed reviews about juicing with pregnancy. One concern I received from a friend was that it could provide a deficiency in the child after birth if they didn’t receive the same nutrition. I did it 5x a week and only about 8oz and I did it for my whole pregnancy and through nursing. I did not see any negative effects in Iza, only positive. Every doctor that saw her said her color was remarkable. This is only a side and should not be used as a replacement for eating solid foods.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Gluten Free Playdoh Recipe

Playdoh is one of the best kids toys. It can be made quickly and it is simple to manipulate the color and mold into a variety of scenarios. You can also bake it if you want to make something last.

Here is a pretty solid recipe for a gluten free playdoh.


  • 2 cups white flour (we prefer our own gluten free mix)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp organic canola oil
  • 1 tbsp xantham gum for elasticity
  • Food coloring (we prefer plant-based ideally from berries)




  1. Put all ingredients into a medium size pot and heat on low, stirring continuously. Mix to incorporate well.
  2. When it pulls away from sides it’s almost ready and you should take some out to see if still too sticky; keep “cooking” it until it’s not sticky to handle.
  3. Separate into even sized balls and add food coloring to suit.
  4. Now you are ready to play! If you find it is still too sticky, you may want to incorporate more flour when you’re playing with it, which can be part of the fun process for the kids.

The playdoh works best if you refrigerate after use. Remember that this is plant-based without any preservatives so after a week test it before use again.

Beyond Gender

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Agender – I am fascinated by the constructs of gender. What makes us think that we have to be defined by one or the other? Isn’t it terribly antiquated to make things so black and white and not consider gray? I am as straight-laced and white as they come, but I still believe in a spectrum for all things. There are extremes in all cases, but most of us live somewhere on the spectrum as far as gender, race, sexual preference, mental disorder, culture, religion and career are concerned.

The concept of neutrality is a beautiful one and I applaud Selfridges for taking on a challenge to illustrate a very physical and iconic element in gender; clothing. Cross dressing has always been a tremendously controversial act and can only be used if an opposite gender wears the opposites clothing. Make no mistake about this one – this is a new dress code focused on blending of form and expert trickery for all. Call it Unisex or call it neutral, but this is going to force a tremendous change in perception.

As a young girl, I had a transgender girlfriend Jen who played on my soccer team. While this ‘girl’ may have had a girl name and hung out with the girls and played on the girls team, she looked just like a boy and played soccer better than all the boys and she was fun and evolved. She didn’t hang onto stupid girl stuff and gossip, she wanted to actually have conversations. As a 6th grader I suppose transgender wasn’t a term I knew yet, but I knew then that Jen wasn’t just a girl… she was so much more. Throughout the remaining parts of schooling the memory of Jen never left my mind – although we had moved away and lost touch.

In College I focused extensively on transgender after having a wonderful literature class on the subject (leave it to art school to continue the expansion) and the learning didn’t stop in the classroom living in Baltimore. Much of the neighborhoods I would pass on my way home from school to Charles Village fell near the brink of North Ave; the historic avenue where non-gender specific or transgender prostitutes would stand on the corner and flag down the passerby. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine did the first transgender operations in 1965 and gave people a chance to voice their inner-selves in an outward change.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” image=”4038″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]Over the last year I have noticed an increasingly vivid narrative on transgender and gender neutrality. It has filled the airwaves, my inbox and newspapers with brilliantly colorful essays on everything from models to CEO’s to children. What I have learned is that most people really believe that beauty stems from the voice, not the vessel. That the way of the future is limitless opportunity and that labeling is a thing of the past.[/vcex_feature_box][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_column_text]We have learned to evolve with race (well most of us educated folks have), why not evolve with gender? Doesn’t telling your daughter that she is a girl and shouldn’t play with trucks put a damper on her development and opportunity to strive to her best place? Doesn’t taking away a doll from a boy and telling him he shouldn’t paint his toe nails or dance ballet force him to leave behind a more evolved sense of knowledge? What seems to be stemming out of the media is not girl or boy, but this idea of an it. All things instead of one thing. We are no longer pinning down and defining either or, we are stating that he/she is actually a we.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This spring Selfridges in London is “sweeping aside the boundaries of gender” with their new campaign, Agender. This exploration leaves behind the traditional gender stereotyping and offers a chance to build on some of the more poignant headlines over the last year:

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”4040″ alignment=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]About Selfridges Agender Shop (taken from their site)

Launching in mid-March, a concept space created by designer Faye Toogood will span three floors of our Oxford Street store, offering customers a gender neutral shopping experience complete with non-gender specific collections of clothing and accessories.

Among the unisex lines on offer – many exclusive to Selfridges in the U.K. – will be a capsule collection by Bodymap, the U.K. launch of Nicola Formichetti’s collection Nicopanda, a collection from footwear label Underground and Rad Hourani’s made-to-order couture designs.

Designs by labels including Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Meadham Kirchoff and Gareth Pugh will also feature in the lineup.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vcex_image_grid columns=”3″ thumbnail_link=”none” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”4033,4034,4035,4036,4037,4039″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Story of Us: Date #2 – “Flirtin’ at Maxie’s”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As part 2 of a series of narratives on our family story and falling in love with each other you can see our differences, struggles and general lack of balance.

Excited for a chance to get to know Kurt, Rache had planned to leave work early and head to Maxie’s Oyster Bar just in time for happy hour. During the weekdays it started at 4pm, but that was still an hour or two before the house was packed after leaving work. She always sat at the bar, and that night was no different. She had company with the bartender Maddy laughing and chatting about a variety of things – boys, life, experience, job irritation, etc. She had worked a few times before when Rache was in, so there was context and familiarity. Typically Maddy kept herself busy which allowed Rache to work, sometimes breaking out her laptop on the bar top or other times just reading on her phone.

The menu at Maxie’s may have changed, but it was always the same for Rache: a dozen oysters, a dozen steamed clams (no butter, no bread) and 2 Patron Silver’s neat with limes on the side. In the months coming back from London, Rache had fallen in love with all things potatoes for comfort and also familiarity. Maxie’s had the best waffle cut and seasoned fries on the planet, and at least 1 or 2 baskets made it onto the table. It was her very own well-balanced meal.

She waited until Kurt’s arrival for the food, but the drinks were poured and ready to clink. They were barely just starting to get to know each other and at this point had decided friends and buddies was the best way to go since they were unsure of the next steps in their paths. They were collaborating on a raw food television concept and starting to learn more about each other’s businesses. Tonight was about networking as much as friendship.

Kurt walked in and saw Rache talking to Maddy. Whoops. This was just about to be awkward. He had tried dating Maddy when he was in his ‘exploration process of women’ last year and now here she was chatting up Rache with no idea he was coming to meet her. So, he decided to downplay it.

Kurt sat down, exchanging looks with Maddy and said, “Hi.” So far, so good. He got a drink, and the group chatted, mostly Maddy and Kurt caught each other up. She had been away traveling, so it was good to see her and catch up. It was a natural and easy conversation and it seemed like Rache was participating.

What a waste of time, Rache thought. This was supposed to be catching up with Kurt, talking about ideas for Cook it Raw and getting to know each other. How would she have ever known that Kurt would be friendly with the bartender here, and if she knew there is no way she would have sat at the bar. Meaningless conversation is the last thing in the world that Rache liked to listen too, especially when it was two consenting adults who looked like they were going to fuck on the bar top. This was bullshit.

It has been so great to catch up with Maddy, Kurt thought. It had been a year or so and he forgot how adventurous and fun she is; full of life and travel. It was also really great to be around someone closer to his age and to have a soul searching conversation after having just completed his efforts. He felt important and useful in his banter.  In someways the moment brought back the days on the road in the RV and his mind was lost in consideration of the past voyage to this place.

An hour had gone by and the oysters, tequila and chips were long gone. Since it was a quiet night at Maxie’s there were only a few regulars at the bar, and it was noticeable that Kurt and Maddy were enjoying their conversation and that Maddy wasn’t really focusing on her work. Rache eventually said she was going to go home. She asked for the check, paid politely and wished Maddy well. She turned abruptly and walked out. Kurt sat for a moment and questioned what he missed. Eventually, he bid his farewells to Maddy and followed.

Rache had already gotten to her car before Kurt got out of the restaurant. He hustled to get to her in time before she got into her car and pressed at what was wrong. Rache exploded, “I felt like a fucking 3rd wheel on someone else’s date. I have better things to do and tonight was supposed to be about us getting to know each other.” She opened her car and got in, closing the door and turning on the car.

He had no idea at how she felt about him until that moment, and when he realized he became paralyzed with thoughts, unable to say anything meaningful. So, he just watched the car back out of the spot and drive off into the dark night.

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Story of Us: Throwback: Over the Internet…

It was such a great coincidence. An email came to me from my friend Ryann Levo (one of my Ithacan transplants from Bmore) who found online that this guy went to MICA and was a Raw Food chef in Ithaca. How cool! After a quick Google search on his name (with little that came up), I jumped on the opportunity to reach out and connect. The phone rang into voicemail, so I composed an email to cover all my bases.

I called the next morning at 7am and Rache picked up immediately. From the email, it looked like a great opportunity to get to know someone in a small town who seemed like she had a great business sense and was extremely involved in the healthy food movement. I was definitely itching for a bigger opportunity with Kurt’s Cuisine and this looked promising to collaborate with an expert.

We chatted briefly and connected about getting together at a later date…and Friday seemed liked the day. Both of us were excited, motivated and opportunistic… but neither had any expectation of a romantic interest or anything beyond business: Rache fresh off a breakup and Kurt still reeling from a 2-year Zen stint, completely focused on building a business.

And the rest is history.

The Quiet of an Afternoon Delight

Quiet is about to kick in. Its afternoon… 4:50pm or so and our staff is about to go for the day. Iza is sleeping, the waves are lapping and Claudia and Caty made me gluten-free and lactose dairy-free oatmeal raisin cookies. I am sipping a glass of green tea (which I should not be having so late in the day), and looking out my bedroom window into the voluminous range of mountains and volcanos in front of me. It seems for if only a moment, in this solitude, the world is quiet.

What a pleasure life’s simple moments can give us. I forget that sometimes in the heat of a crazy work day and today is a nice reminder.

The Lake for Lovers…

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]We had a great Valentine’s day as a family… although none of the below happened. Truthfully we are not huge fans of Hallmark Holidays – although with Iza we are finding that it is more and more fun to watch her giggle at the traditions that we have known all our life.

Valentine’s 2016 is a year away, and in light of planning we figured it might be fun to share some of our clever and thoughtful things on the lake. Or maybe some of this will spark a non-Valentines day romantic excursion sometime during the year. We would both agree now is the time to be here. It is calm waters and gorgeous sunrises/sunsets everyday.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Kurt’s mom (Mommalei) sent Iza the cutest Valentine’s package filled with every possible sticker and adorable heart-shaped item you could buy. It was so thoughtful and she adored it. I suppose there is an inherent love for heart-shaped with little girls.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3820″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Best Things to Do on Lake Atitlan” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3782″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_size=”500×400″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3825″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_column_text]La Fortuna is absolutely magical. We live here and we still wanted to spend the night! That has to say something, right? The hotel is expertly designed and appointed, setting the tone of some kind of Bali adventure. It was rated #1 most romantic hotel in Central America and #6 in the world. Worthwhile adventure and trip.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3793″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3826″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_column_text]Truly the most spectacular views of the lake, Lomas de Tzununa will take your breath away. It is not an easy feat to get to but when you reach the top you know why it was so much work… beauty doesn’t come easy.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3804″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3827″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_column_text]Walking into the entrance of El Artesano feels like we are going back in time to Italy, but with a modern, almost Brooklynesque edge. It far exceeded all our expectations for what a wine & cheese bar should be (in any country and in any place in the world).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) When Missing Snow

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Not sure this is even possible, but I have the same issue from an opposite cause. I miss snow so much that I think it is giving me my own version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! I miss the wet, cold crystals hitting my nose when I am all bundled up, and the feeling you get when you walk into a warm house and everything cold tingles as it warms up and comes back to life. I love the white blankets across the world, remaining untouched in the early morning hours. I miss snow angels and snowballs and sledding. Most of all I miss the winter fashion; my gorgeous coats and fabulous boots, and Iza’s adorable snowsuit.

I have realized that when you grow up somewhere you can’t let go of where you came from. It is the rhythm of the seasons and the smells that bring you nostalgia and a sense of home. Home for me and Kurt might just be a temporary mindset… it where we are for the moment, but real home is where we are from and something neither of us can recreate. Oddly if we look at our past and the places we have lived both of us call Ohio and Baltimore home. The two longest places each of us lived in our youth and young adulthood.

For a sure snow, Rochester, NY is the place to go. My grandparents lived in Rochester and every winter we would homage to Rochester. And every winter there was snow… no matter when we went. It was always a sure thing to find snow on the tip of your nose from December – March. Thinking of those moments feels magical and familiar.

But I suppose Baltimore is where I had the best snow experiences because I loved that it was my house and my life that got snowed in. Always worrying about our roof caving in. The inability to get our Land Rover out of our garage because it is really ill equip to manage real life but somehow can climb a mountain and then lean horizontally at a 45º angle. The rude neighbor that didn’t shovel the sidewalk on purpose, or us who forgot 1 time out of 1,000 and got a ticket. The parties at each other’s house – Charles Baker’s ‘Mid-Winter Bleak Party’ or the progressive dinners to get people moving. I remember getting stuck in a Uhaul when moving out of our apartment in Spinnaker Bay in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. Baltimore under snow is like a world disaster, no one knows what to do and the city shuts down. I remember 1 week in the spring of 2003… I was just finishing up my senior year at MICA, I had lived in my house for nearly a year and there was a tremendous snow storm which shut the city down for a week. Aside from the power being out almost everywhere, it was insanely beautiful. In only a day or two the 4′ snow drifts crusted over and you could walk on top of them wherever you wanted to go. No cars could drive, etc. It was a spectacular sight, moment and memory.

Last year in NYC we had the pleasure of two cars on a city block in Central and then East Harlem in the middle of one of the worst snow seasons. It was impossible to get anywhere even walking and our cars where plowed in every time it snowed. We were hit pretty hard by a plow on one occurrence creating a massive dent in the passenger door that made it nearly impossible to open. Our favorite moments were when little pockets of shoveled out spots were made available and you could just sneak right into a beautiful little buffer. My least favorite moments were the 3 times I got stuck in snow banks and the flat tire I got in the middle of a major highway. We loved walking with Iza through the parks… a kid that simply never gets cold. She loved sticking her tongue out and catching the white crystals. We have so many great memories of her hot little body pressed up in her Boba against us, sweaty as all get-up when we removed her person from ours. So cuddly and cute.

Last year in NYC we had the pleasure of two cars on a city block in Central and then East Harlem in the middle of one of the worst snow seasons. It was impossible to get anywhere even walking and our cars where plowed in every time it snowed. We were hit pretty hard by a plow on one occurrence creating a massive dent in the passenger door that made it nearly impossible to open. Our favorite moments were when little pockets of shoveled out spots were made available and you could just sneak right into a beautiful little buffer. My least favorite moments were the 3 times I got stuck in snow banks and the flat tire I got in the middle of a major highway. We loved walking with Iza through the parks… a kid that simply never gets cold. She loved sticking her tongue out and catching the white crystals. We have so many great memories of her hot little body pressed up in her Boba against us, sweaty as all get-up when we removed her person from ours. So cuddly and cute.

Every day I talk to my colleagues who span the East Coast and while I am grateful in some ways to not have to brave the cold for every second of every day (especially with my Bells, which worsens in the cold), but the crisp, fresh air and the soft little flakes of white are missed. A LOT. It makes me nostalgic, homesick and SAD.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”4″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”600″ image_ids=”3749,3750,3751,3753″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”4″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”400″ img_height=”300″ image_ids=”3746,3747,3748,3754″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

The Truth

It possible to get ‘SAD’ over missing something seasonal? No. Not that I have read at least. Homesick can be a mental illness, which makes me believe that the concept of ‘missing’ or ‘nostalgia’ is a form of a mental hardship too. In this sense of nostalgia I look at it as holding onto the past so tightly that it is almost like hoarding physical objects. You feel sick to your stomach to let the memory go.

I am joking when I say I have SAD of course, but researching the concept was enlightening and contrary to popular belief about home. I truly believe that home is beyond where the heart is; it is history, family, experiences and memories that can only be repeated at the source.

The featured image photo is by Brandon Remler from his sight, “Thoughts from my Camera.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Car Sick Toddler

At any age, I can’t imagine enjoying car sickness. But for a little girl who can’t communicate yet how she feels, our hearts go out to her.

Iza has never been a great traveler. She is so full of energy and it is hard to contain it all. When she was little and we had a carseat, there was an element of containment but she still cried the whole way wherever we were traveling to. She just hated the car. Now that we live in Guatemala and we don’t have a carseat, we have a hard time containing her. I too am regularly carsick which gives me compassion, but also makes it very difficult for me to help her when we are on the road.

While our shuttle or plane is in motion, she is in non-stop motion as if she were at home. It can not only be quite easy for her to just fall off the bench seat or hit her head on another seat, but she also causes major distraction for the driver. To get her to calm down, this typically leads to us handing over her iPad so she can play a game or watch Baby Einstein. But then she asks for food and with her already fixated with her head down it eventually that leads to her throwing up. It has become a cycle.

The worst part is this is impairing us to take her on adventures – thing like the zoo or traveling to the beach, going home, etc. We just simply don’t want her to have a bad day so we eliminate travel from every activity we do. Obviously this is not a long term solution since we are a family on the move.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Find a way to bring the iPad up to eye level with a holder behind the chair. This poses a bit of a challenge in a van because it has bench seats without the headrests. We could probably rig something.
  2. Distract from food by bringing along unrelated toys and not having any food available. Focus on water. She loves stickers so maybe window clings or something that get her to look out the window.
  3. Try to get her to sleep as soon as we leave. Give her cherry juice infused with mint to calm down her tummy.
  4. Stop every half an hour and let her run around for 10 minutes. It will take forever to get anywhere, but it will ground her again.
  5. Never go anywhere without Claudia. She is so good with Iza!

We know the logical thing to do would be to get a carseat and just let her wail. The problem is that it doesn’t negate her frustration (it actually causes it to be more), it bothers our driver and then we have to deal with the carseat as another piece of luggage wherever we go. (For the record we are aware of the safety recommendations and we agree with having a carseat).

The balance with traveling for us is to give her a little of what she might want, with a logical and practical need.

Rotator Cuff Issues and Inflammation

Rotator cuff injuries suck.

After I stressed out my rotator cuff 3 years ago from doing yoga too intensely and trying to progress too quickly (not yoga!) I fell off my strength building/maintenance routine, namely lots of push ups, and became super schleppy. I didn’t do what I needed to do to rehab the rotator cuff issue, which was a very bad move. I gained weight, my chest looked like crap and I was just generally not looking or feeling my best. Add in taking care of a baby for the first year….excuses, excuses.

But now I have had enough of that and have made a firm resolve to get it together and get back in shape. The first step is to rehab my rotator cuff. What does this involve and what have I started to do to get my RC back in shape?

1. Acupuncture and Acupressure Point Therapy

I’m a little skeptical about acupuncture. I believe it definitely has its merits when it comes to fertility, and I know it is a great way to relax, similar to a massage. Acupuncture has worked for Rache and I in both of these departments. But the practitioner has to know what they are doing. And I believe this may be an issue behind the efficacy of acupuncture. People are licensed to perform the therapy but still don’t really know enough about what they are doing. Acupuncture is an ancient practice and I believe many practitioners do not  have the same understanding, channels of learning or dedication to the form as they used to (acupuncture school is about 3 years now). Of course there are experienced and knowledgeable alternative health practitioners out there, but I think there are way too many therapists who don’t have enough experience or knowledge to practice effectively. Compare that to the loan debt accumulated to get certified and the pay scale of an acupuncturist (30-70k) and it makes it hard to practice full time to develop the skills as an an alternative health therapist. I do believe the practice is valuable though in some ways and hopefully it will grow in the future as people become more and more skeptical of solely relying on western style medicine, especially these days with the rampant use of prescription drugs. Acupuncture is very controversial and further research is needed for us to better understand the practice.

From my experience with a rotator cuff injury and acupuncture therapy I can’t really say it did a lot for me. So I moved on to other forms of traditional therapy that have been proven effective.

Acupressure, on the other hand, did work for me. A type of massage, acupressure focuses on trigger points of the body to relieve tension and aid healing. For this reason I think it is more effective than acupuncture.

2. Herbs and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Herbs are another alternative type of therapy used to help heal rotator cuff injuries. Why herbs are considered alternative I have no idea. Herbs in many cases have been proven effective in the treatment of various ailments and illnesses. Currently I am using medicinal doses of turmeric and I have found this type of therapy to be very effective in relieving inflammation and helping to rebuild damaged tissue. The main active ingredient in turmeric is circumin. Circumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory and also an antioxidant. After reading the article  10 Proven Health Effects of Turmeric and Circumin at, I really learned a lot about turmeric and inflammation. Check it out. One of the great things about writing a blog is what I learn while researching a topic. Two important things I learned from this article are:

  • Turmeric actually contains low levels of circumin and it is more beneficial to take a high quality concentrated supplement of circumin. So I will gravitate away from just turmeric capsules to taking the concentrated supplement.
  • Low level inflammation plays a major role in many Western type chronic diseases. (This is why Ra’Co Life is here. To research all of this information and present it to you in a personal and understandable manner.) Wow! totally makes sense considering how bad the standard American diet can be in the cause of inflammation.

Another thing I just learned is that the full effects of circumin are not realized until after a 2 month period of continuous use. This leads me to believe that the most immediately effective therapy for me right now is stretching and the continued use of circumin supplements.

Other herbs and foods that are good for inflammation are:

  • Ginger – We use fresh ginger all of the time for cooking and juicing.
  • Cinnamon – I use cinnamon in my coffee as well as other things for this reason. Check out our post on Guatemalan coffee and how we use cinnamon.
  • Omega 3 Fattty Acids in fish, nuts and chocolate.
  • Black Pepper – adding black pepper is necessary for the absorption of turmeric into the blood stream.
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne and Chili Peppers
  • Pineapple – Pineapple contains bromelain which is said to have inflammatory properties. One of our favorite websites, recommends mixing fresh pineapple juice (juice the core as well) with aloe, ginger and turmeric for a powerful anti-inflammatory morning drink.
  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Celery Seeds – great in coleslaw!
  • Parsley
  • Nutmeg
  • Dark Leafy Greens – pretty much good for everything. Eat them up!

3. Stretching

From my short experience I would say that stretching the problem area has been the most effective and immediate form of treatment. After doing some research I have ascertained that these are the most effective stretches for my rotator cuff pain right now, which is in the front part of my shoulder, or the internal rotator cuff.

I’m going to progress slowly and introduce new stretches into my program over the next 6 weeks. Then I will begin exercises to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff so I don’t injure it again when I begin to workout.

Here are the 3 stretches I am doing now:


Pull your problem arm behind your head and gently pull down at the elbow with your other arm. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two more times.


Stretch your problem arm in front of you over, pull over your body and gently press back with your other hand. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2 more times.


Hold a towel behind you with the problem arm. With the other hand grasp the towel at the top and gently pull upwards. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two to three times.

4. Strength Building Exercises

As I haven’t started my strength training exercises yet, I will save these for another post. But they are the crucial and final step in rehabbing an injured rotator cuff.

I will keep you posted on my progress.

Hope this helps a little for those who have rotator cuff injuries.





The Arrival of Grandpa

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Finally Drew has made his way to the Lake! This is very exciting for all of us since his son Ian has spent a bit of time in Guatemala and at the Lake over the years. We are so excited to show him around and to have him here.

After a rough ride here, a day later than expected, we got to the Lake on Sunday night. Iza loved all her new animals that arrived and Kurt got an entire suitcase filled with star screws. They were thrilled with their gifts. Yesterday was a lounging day and everyone had breakfast and lunch outside. The water was perfectly calm until about 1pm (can you believe it?!) and we got a chance to go swimming and play in the water.

Today we are off for a trip around the lake to see everything we can. I am excited to have a tour of Santiago (a first) and to get fish from the farm.

More details to come![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”6″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”3620,3621,3622,3623″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Strong Partners, Art and Life, From the Studio

I’ve been floating around all my life. Into one thing and onto another. That includes jobs, relationships, homes, apartments, countries, states. You name it. I’ve been a construction worker, a pizza boy, a tailor, a carpenter, a raw food chef, a designer, a monk, an unemployed searcher, a writer, a musician. I could go on. Never sure of who I was or what I should be doing. But all along one thing I have always been sure of is that I am an artist. Never being success oriented or driven to conquer the world, I have let it blossom over time and enjoyed the beautiful struggle all along.

Making art is a bitch. An angry one at times. But at other times I can disappear into what I am making and everything seems to make sense. And I know I am good at it and that I love it and that is often enough. It has carried me through many a rough time, (though I often think those rough times were caused by the need to make things). And it has brought me to where I am today.

This is where I am today, check out the view from my studio:


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

From this you can see that I haven’t done too bad for myself. But what is a huge reason I am here? Support from others, my family, friends, but mostly from Rache. She gave me this studio as a gift of faith and love. This place where I am working now used to be a wet, rat infested, dark, useless storage space. Now it is a glorious studio filled with light and fresh air and art. And I am eternally grateful.

My woman is a real strong woman. And she was adamant that the first thing we were going to do when we moved into this isolated and empty home was to rehab the casita on top of the hill and turn it into my studio. We found the contractor, Rache made some material choices and lighting plans and set a budget, and off we went. Less than a week later I had the studio of my dreams.

And believe me when I say that when we moved into our house below, there was pretty much nothing. Nothing in the kitchen, no decent furniture or bedding or towels. No boat (we have no road in or out of here). No tools. Nada. The garden was practically dead (but over time Rache resurrected that also, and now we have all kinds of flowers and vegetables growing everywhere). So you can see where Rache’s priorities were; with her family and making others happy before she made any decisions for own happiness. This is what a strong and dedicated partner can do for someone; help them become what they are supposed to become and grow into what they were always meant to be. I hope I am or can become that strong and dedicated partner as well.

So everyday I wake up with gratitude and awe for the support and confidence that Rache has given me to keep moving forward and do what I am supposed to do; make art and be there for my family. It’s all I need and it’s all I want.

Now it is time to get my ass in gear and create some magnificently great work that will help to support us in all of our current and future plans (we have a lot of them, big dreams and big desires), put food on the table, give Rache the time to be a Mom and pursue the things that she wants to do and provide Iza with the means to survive in a future that looks very bleak for humanity. I have a lot to give back for what has been given to me. Thanks Rache for being that strong partner that I so needed. I am a complete pain in the ass and it takes a hell of a person to deal with me.

Please keep reading our blog and watch how my art unfolds and how The Brand Fams’  business develops. We have a lot of exciting projects to bring into fruition over the next couple of years and a million ideas to share and we hope you can be with us along the way.

More studio shots:






Let us know what you think and what your partner has done for you. We all need stories of inspiration, I hope my story inspires you to give daily gratitude and appreciation for the people in your life that appreciate you, love you and give you strength to keep on keeping on.

Iza’s Wonderful Abuela

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”3595,3594,3578,3582,3581,3583,3580,3586,3585″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vc_column_text]We have had the best week. My mom arrived last Thursday and it has been a week of fun, games and a gazillion and one presents.

This woman is amazing! It is her 3rd time here in 9-months and the last two times she has come with a broken foot. With all our stairs it has not kept her down or frightened her away from coming. Two nights ago she even hobbled up the hill to Kurt’s studio all by herself (and this is not an easy feat… it is a vertical mountain climb). She never complains and she is thrilled to spend any second she can with Iza. At home she has another two beautiful granddaughters the same age as Iza and I know it is hard to be away from them when she is here… so it is pretty special we get to have the time with her.

Iza is happy as can be with her grammy by her side. She is learning more English and spending time with activities. And with my mom’s direction, Efrain has been a building frenzy creating a gorgeous easel and 2′ square puzzles. I think next up is a toy chest and more blocks. One amazing gift – a freakin’ Melissa & Doug Dollhouse. Can you believe she brought it in her suitcase? Iza and her friend Amy have been loving it and playing with all the dolls and the house regularly. It is wonderful.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”3579″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Last time she came my mom had made Iza the most beautiful farm. She sewed a ‘farm purse’ out of fabric and filled it with premium farm animals from Schleich. Amy loves it as much as Iza does and yesterday she came up to me and asked if she could borrow some of them to play with and bring them back another day. When her mom and I looked into her bag to see what she had taken, it was the whole set![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vc_column_text]My mom and I are very similar in appearance these days and all the locals love to point it out. It is rare to see white hair on the lake, it is not really that common in the Mayan Community, and she is striking. It is fun to watch people watch her.

We have been to the market and the fabric market and this weekend we head to Antigua and her husband Drew will come to meet us for the next week. It is going to be fun! We have a huge agenda for the next week and I am looking forward to playing ‘tourist’ in a place I love to be.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Will My Bell’s Return?

[vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Years from now I will look back and be grateful for the opportunity to have Bells Palsy. It has given me so much more compassion and offered me a new perspective.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Now as I am headed down towards another pregnancy and as I fall in some ways I’m scared. I am not sure I am ready to get Bells again and to start this journey all over again. There is a lot to be said for recovery and here I am, nearly 720 days out from the onsite of Bells Palsy and I am at about 90%. The last 10% may never return, but I have so much to be thankful for standing here today with a beautiful 20-month year old by my side.

Maybe I am pushing my luck with another?[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3433″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_caption=”In the throws of Bells with family in NYC. See the ‘stunned’ look.”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Bells Palsy” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_spacing size=”15px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”15px”][vc_column_text]I have written about this before, but as a quick refresher – Bells Palsy is a reaction spawned by a viral infection which attacks neurological function often swelling a particular area of the nerve-ending resulting in a temporary paralysis. Over time the swelling subsides to a point, and recovery begins. Many people never regain more than 80-90% of full functionality.

There is no cure to Bells, although over time the symptoms will lessen if not completely go away. It typically lasts about 6-months. I got it at 6-months after a 6-week stint where Iza was breech and being outside unexpectedly on a very cold winter day. I probably was already a little sick and that moment put me over the edge.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”3462″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”3461″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vc_text_separator title=”Symptoms” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_column_text]At the onset:

  • Complete paralysis on the right side of my face.
  • In ability to shut my right eye, drink water or breathe out of my right nostril.
  • Extreme pain behind my right ear.


  • I still have a lazy right eye.
  • My forehead doesn’t ‘squish’ on the right side and I don’t have wrinkles “Hello benefit. I do not look like a Shar-Pei.”
  • Blowing bubbles / balloons, kissing and smiling or putting my lips together I can still feel a stretch on the right side of my face in my mouth.
  • My right eye dims every time I smile.

Before it was like a burst coming from the center of my cheek up and down. My eye would stay wide open and my cheek and mouth would droop downward. Now my eye has the appearance of drooping and my mouth always is a little higher. Interesting how it changed to the opposite. But, I will always have a crooked smile.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Relationship to Pregnancy” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_column_text]There is often a strong correlation between pregnancy and Bells Palsy. While it effects men and women equally (according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), it is known to effect pregnant women whereas there are a variety of other reasons in men with no real root cause. My theory, when a body is putting all its effort into growing a baby, women have a lowered protective armor against viruses, especially in cold temperatures. Even a virus doesn’t want to disrupt a growing baby, so it fights to take a different form, instead of a form that could be potentially be fatal to a baby in the womb. It is 3.3 times more likely to effect pregnant women than other women and is often thought to be brought on by the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

It is not caused by stress. 

Surprisingly, I know that when I get stressed now, I feel Bells more intensely. But perhaps that is just my body reacting in my own ways.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”BIG QUESTION: Will get Bells again with the next pregnancy? ” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_column_text]No. Actually from what I have read the only way I will get it again is through recurrent lower motor neurone facial paralysis for which there are probably other causes, not an additional viral reaction. This could happen if I have chronic hypertension (which as far as I know, I don’t) or I attract lyme disease… or if I just have really bad luck. The chances, however are much lower in multiple attacks and those with previous histories are not more susceptible to it.

One Case
An interesting article with Net Doctor in the UK, which answers a question posed by a mom with 2 additional cases of symptoms like Bells Palsy after an initial Bell’s Palsy during her 1st pregnancy. While it won’t be fun the second or third time around, there is one primary concern: Each time an attack occurs it is harder to return to normal function. That is where the hardship comes into play. Temporarily it is not such a big deal, but forever is hard to stomach.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Value of Change” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3435″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Was It Worth It?
Absolutely, 100%! Iza is bright, beautiful and full of energy. I have gave her a piece of myself and that makes her so much more special to me. I get to see my old self through her eyes and my new self contains more compassion than I could ever imagine.

Will I Get Pregnant Again?
Hell yeah! And even if I get Bells again, c’est la vie. I am hopefully going to be rewarded with another little person.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Morning Stretches

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Three years ago Kurt injured his rotator cuff doing what most yogi’s do: Overdoing it. He has since seen the error of his ways and with a 30lb toddler to lug around all day he needs his strength and to be limber for those expected moments and the unexpected ones when she leaps into his arms.

This is how he rolls… After his morning Zen practice, Kurt runs through a stretching routine. It is down and dirty, basic and can be done in 20 minutes or less.

  1. BREATHE and follow your Breath the whole way through.
  2. SIT on a chair or the edge of a normal height bed with your FEET GROUNDED on the floor.
  3. BLOOD FLOW: Reach up with your hands, lock them above, drop your head and look up. Repeat up to 5 times in 10 second intervals
  4. RELEASE TENSION: Rest your hands on your thighs. Lean your head to one side and bring that arm up over your head and lightly pull your head towards your elbow. Keep your back straight and your shoulders dropped. Alternate up to 3 times and hold for 5 seconds on each side.
  5. OPEN UP: Cat-Cow is a very popular yoga and gymnastics position and it helps to open up the space through the center of your body. Put your hands under your shoulders, open up your hands into a 5 point star with your fingers forward, keep your knees shoulder width apart with a flat back. Concave your back and look up when you breathe out, breathe in and round your back and look down. Do this 5 times and follow your breathe.
  6. REST: Go into child’s pose. Sit back onto your heals and stretch forward. It is always helpful to have a toddler try to help you.
  7. LENGTHEN: Sit up straight with your feet flexed. Hold this for 15 breathes. Bend forward with your shoulders down and your back flat. You can bend your knees as necessary to get a good stretch. The cheering squad is the best part.
  8. BALANCE: A modified sun salutation into a tree pose is a great way to accomplish two things at once. Bend forward and touch your toes, come up with your hands above you with your fingers stretched out into a 5 point star. Press your fingers together and take them up over your head. Drop one hand grab your ankle and bring it up to the inside of the opposite leg. Bring your hand back up to meet the other hand. Look straight ahead and hold for 15 seconds. Alternate.

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Kiss or Bite

These days with Iza we just never know what we are going to get from one second to the next. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior model is getting old, real quick. One minute she is all smiles and then next she is on the floor having a full-on meltdown. She loves to kiss arms when she is in a good mood and when she is in a bad one she will bite you as hard as she can. It’s difficult to know what you are going to get with her, and it seems to switch so rapidly.

Of course there are serious concerns with this too. The biggest is that Kurt and I both have diagnosed mental unbalances (although I maintain with medication and Kurt maintains with meditation) and we start considering whether or not Iza will fit in this category and if these are indications… and that is frightening and guilt-ridden. Could she be bipolar?

In actuality, we know that she is a baby and her brain and her body are growing at different stages. She is frustrated she can’t do certain things and she gets angry and crazy when she can’t figure out why things aren’t connecting for her. She lashes out at anything in her path.

The kisses are obvious to show love, but the biting is an interesting choice. I have heard of kids biting before, but it was certainly not what I would have expected.

I suppose we are nearly in the terrible 2’s and nothing should be expected.

The World Has (Almost) Nothing to Offer You, (except, maybe, ice cream)

Today I am going to put something utterly ridiculous sounding out there. You will scoff, snicker, joke, frown and outright laugh at what I am going to say. And as a human being it is impossible to understand. But deep down, our true self knows it to be true. It is the idea the the world has nothing to offer us (except sustenance). This is a quasi-philosophical Buddhist rant so if your not into that kind of thing then stop reading now. It will just piss you off or you may just form some kind of opinion before you even listen to the idea. In fact, I can see the wheels turning in your head right now, forming opinions, making judgements…yep, I see it! But thats okay because I do the same thing… but with one slight difference; I try to just look at it and know that I am human and that is why I am judging my judgements and forming opinions of my opinions instead of latching on to those judgements and opinions like they are the key to my very existence. Because they absolutely are not.

Every day we form opinions ( stay with me? I will try to stay under 500 words) and judgements about a million petty things. “I like this, I don’t like that”. “That person sucks, but I really like that person”.  On and on we go. Of course we need to make these judgments every day just to keep alive. I don’t like drinking battery acid because 1. It taste bad (we are foodies after all) 2. It will likely kill me. We have to make these decisions. But the problem is, we don’t know when to stop. Like eating ice cream. I know I have to have some ice cream, right now. Eating ice cream is pretty much enlightenment. Especially the raw kind that Ra’Co Life makes. But we don’t have to keep eating it to confirm our existence. We eat a little then move on and forget about it. Imagine going through life constantly thinking about eating ice cream, What a waste of time! When would I find time to look at Instagram or to shop on Amazon? Seriously!

So right now I am going to lay some heavy writing on you from The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an. He was a major dude in the world of Buddhist practice. Major. These words are what he left to the world after he died. So they must have been pretty important to him, right? And the words basically say one thing, “Don’t get all hung up on your opinions and judgements. Don’t attach to them you dummies!” Ok, I paraphrase.

So here are the words. If you get bored (I hang on every word, but he basically says the same thing over and over, I understand), skip to the end of this post so I can bore you some more with what I mean about the world having nothing to offer you (except sustenance). It ties together I promise.


Verses on the Faith Mind
by Chien-chih Seng-ts’an
Third Zen Patriarch [d. 606 AD]

Tr. by Richard B. Clarke
Zen teacher at the Living Dharma Centers, Amherst, Mass.

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other,
you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment,
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state;
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
and when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.

Things are objects because there is a subject or mind;
and the mind is a subject because there are objects.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult.
But those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute;
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.

Clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of things
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear.
The burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.

The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many;
distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with discriminating mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams of flowers in air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong;
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.

To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider motion in stillness
and stillness in motion;
both movement and stillness disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.

With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, “Not two.”
In this “not two” nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Waste no time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things;
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about nonperfection.
To live in this faith is the road to nonduality,
because the nondual is one with the trusting mind.

The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is

no yesterday

no tomorrow

no today.

Did you make it through? Magical, right?

So what does this have to do with the idea that the world has nothing to offer you (except sustenance)?

Basically, I think we are all trying to GET something out of our surrounding environment i.e the outside world. We as people are all about acquiring things; comfort, love, respect, money, security…on and on and on. We can never get enough. But the fact of the matter is, everything that we need (except the most basic bodily needs…food, water, shelter) is within us. The light that shines within us is not actually us but something greater than ourselves. And we ALL are this light and we all are connected. Roll your eyes, go ahead. Call me whatever you want. I don’t care and I will not judge you, because, yes, it does sound ridiculous. But it is true. The truth can only be found within ourselves and not outside of ourselves.

Like the Third Patriarch says, by constantly looking outwards of ourselves, forming opinions and judgements about what we see, and attaching to those opinions and judgements, we hold our selves back from the truth.

So look within. It is all there waiting for you.

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my nephew Oscar, you are the coolest. Eat some enlightened ice cream with your cake!



Speech Delays in Tri-Lingual Toddlers

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]While this might be true for Iza, speech delays during toddler speech development in multilingual households is not the rule. Actually, studies show that it shouldn’t have an effect any development, and it could even help to set up Iza’s brain for better learning in the future.

It doesn’t worry us in the least bit either way, and actually we find it to be a wonderful time for all of us: a confused mess of strange syllables, baby-talk, Katchiquel, Spanish and English. Recently, Kurt decided to start adding in Sign Language to the mix of ‘languages,’ so we have our way of communicating with her… (which is a sure thing and we hope down the road she will have a deeper understanding of the unspoken word, which is very important to us – Kurt’s Zen brother and his wife are both deaf and have raised their child Josiah with Sign Language).

But whether or not she is having a delay in her sentence structure, directives and actual words, the fact of the matter is that Iza loves to talk. At 11-months we couldn’t get her to stop babbling and at 18-months, she has full conversations with herself, her nanny, my assistant and even the cat. She will happily talk to her toys or even the wall, if no one else is around. She could talk all day and all night long and still not say enough. There are even moments when I wish the delay was real and we would be able to have some silence back in our lives, but then of course I slap my own wrist and remind myself of how crazy that is to wish and how lucky we truly are.

And she knows EXACTLY what she is saying. In between her babbles, we find a few words that we know, and our staff seems to understand more of what she is saying since her primary language is Katchiquel. She is very assertive and sure of herself, almost preacher like. In the mornings she likes to go out on the porch, which looks out over the gardens in a similar setting to Simba in the Lion King looking out over the ledge of the rock into his kingdom. She puts her hands up like a preacher and shares everything on her mind to the world below her. It is truly remarkable to watch our very dramatic daughter, taking front and center stage with her voice.

But what is she ACTUALLY saying? We have no idea. We had “Agua” down by 14-months pretty solid, but then she didn’t really say anything we understood until she was about 17-months. Now everyday she learns something new and is more than excited to share it with us. The staff said by around 16-months that she new about 5 words in Katchiquel.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]We have been researching this and am curious to know more about how language effects people, beyond childhood. My grandmother learned Hebrew at 91 and she is as spritely as ever at 94. She is quick and has a memory like an elephant.

So far the best collection of research on this is written by Corey Heller who started the blog on Multilingualism.

…children aren’t exactly having to “learn” twice as many words, like I did in my high school French class.  They don’t have to think about which language bucket to put each word into.  Our bilingual children are picking up something more like packages of sounds that they are hearing around themselves.  They are simply putting the sounds together in the context that they hear them.  As their little brains become more complex, they start to understand concepts like words and sentences and parts of speech. Their main goal becomes making themselves understood and getting others to react to their needs and wants.

[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”75%” media_width=”25%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2453″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]Corey also provides tons of research from Cornell and other publications focused on multilingualism. She has her own magazine which has great resources: Multilingual Living[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_text_separator title=”Progress Examples” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Working Out 101

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  1. Set your expectations low.
  2. Know it is going to suck.
  3. Put on workout clothes and shoes.
  4. Stretch.
  5. Have a glass of water.
  6. Move your body for 20 minutes.
  7. Sweat.
  8. Stop.
  9. Lay there for 5 minutes.
  10. Shower

[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]You will be surprised. It will not suck as bad as you expected.[/vc_message][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_text_separator title=”Ideas to Get Moving” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2689″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”15px”][vc_column_text]

  • Walk up and down the stairs.
  • Carry a grocery basket in the store.
  • Scrub every dish in your house.
  • Lift your kids up and down.
  • Weed in the garden.

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  • 10 sun salutations (Yoga).
  • 500 crunches + 10 push ups + 50 lunges on either leg + 20 squats.
  • Light jog and crunches.
  • Hike!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_column_text]Working out is so freakin’ easy and yet my motivation for it has waned. Mornings are for writing, work and organization, and then Iza is awake and moving. There is such little energy left after chasing her, I have no desire to do anything active, which makes me lazy, tired and then even less motivated to working out.

Today is MONDAY: So, I need to get my butt in gear and MOVE. And really, even I read above and it doesn’t look so bad. What the heck, let’s go.

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Happy Birthday to me.

It’s so quiet outside… the calm before the storm of the fireworks blasting off into the sky. Its 10:30 and I have been creating patterns since Iza went to bed at 7:15 and Kurt at 8pm. Tomorrow (or in 1.5 hours) I turn 34. I have turned off my phones in anticipation of birthday calls from family – a tradition since I could stay awake long enough to see the ball drop. I would love to talk to anyone, but that would disrupt the peacefulness of the moment (potentially waking Iza or Kurt).

I suppose I am not super excited about this year’s number. Years ago I thought to start rounding to the nearest 5th year. So instead of today being 34, I would be 35. Next year I will be 35 too and until 2019 when I will be 40 for 5 years in a row. I never implemented it, but I still think it is a good idea. 34 is not really a milestone, it is just a number. 35 and 40 might be more interesting numbers to dress up for… although I do feel there is much to be celebrated this year, much more so than other years. I have never been happier than I am now, especially in this very perfect moment at my desk, looking out at the silent night with the twinkling stars and the pin dropping silence. It’s awesome.

The biggest celebration for me has been our move to Guatemala. It has taught me patience, the importance of time and the ability to dedicate myself fully to living. 3 gifts I have given myself by opening my mind up to something new. I feel fulfilled. (Of course I wish my time was more free to play with Iza and make things with Kurt, but I know I am still not ready to leave some of the creature comforts I have grown accustomed to.)

Every year on my birthday / New Year I write my goals (really original, I know). I am still working on them, but here is a rough draft for 34/2015: 

  1. FAMILY: Try for another baby, work harder on sign language with Iza, focus more on play for the family.
  2. HEALTH: Yoga every morning and detox more often.
  3. LIFE: Remember how precious time is. Relish in the little moments.
  4. SELF: Stop biting my nails (wow is that ever repetitious – maybe on my list since I was 12)
  5. CREATIVITY: Draw everyday and post something new.
  6. TRAVEL: Visit the States at least once, take advantage of Guatemala and Central America and adventure.
  7. WORK: Go out with a bang!
  8. SIT: Take more breaks, enjoy the view.
  9. EDUCATE: Read more often. There is so much to learn about.
  10. FUTURE: Really focus on all our passion projects to meet our goals for sustainability.

Signing off. Happy Ball Dropping, y’all!

Iza: The Crispy Jew Bu

[vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vc_column_text]When you have 8 grandparents you are bound to have a mix of all cultures. Iza is truly a global child being represented by 3 cultural practices. While we are not religious, our families have traditions which we share in, and our own joint practice of Buddhism. This year Iza will experience Christmas (and maybe remember it), Hannukah, and in the New Year she will begin heading towards a meditative yoga practice with us.

She is not unlike most ‘Homelanders,’ who are, by definition, melting pots of worldly experience. Iza is growing up with a knowledge of so many important traditions which are the foundation of history and family… a key element which has been mostly lost to those who grew up as Generation X‘ers and Millennials.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2944″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Christmas comes just 1 time a year, and Easter seems to be a candy coated holiday for kids. Almost everyone on both of sides our family have some relationship to Christianity (except for the Ruby girls.) The Bible is an awesome read if you haven’t read it in a while.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2945″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]I was born into a matriarchal Jewish family and as Ruby girl I am bound culturally. If your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. What I love are the rich stories, filled to the brim with poignant cultural references and valuable lessons… and the fact that food is #1 in cultural tradition.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2953″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Kurt is a Zen practitioner and participates in daily meditation and sesshins as the Tenzo when he can get away to visit his teacher David at the Ithaca Zen Center. I have joined his practice in theory, less so in physical time, but it is our preferred daily commitment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”2955″ alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][vc_column_text]Religious exploration has been ever present in our lives. Both our dads have explored Unitarianism but are now staunch atheists. My mom also was a devote Unitarian for most of my life. We have been in many churches, temples and structures with spiritual teachings around the world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vcex_spacing][vc_text_separator title=”Unbiased Babe” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_column_text]We are lucky that we have a hilarious mess of a child – and in all her shining brilliance she finds a way to flash that million dollar smile to anyone who is willing to look at her and pay attention. She is one with the world and every person in it, without bias, criticism or question. When it comes to religion, culture or practice, she is going to choose what she wants. We are just educating her with various traditions.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2956″ alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2967″ alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row center_row=”” margin_right=””][vc_column][vcex_spacing][vc_text_separator title=”Books for Generational and Religious Exploration” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_image_carousel items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”false” thumbnail_link=”custom_link” custom_links_target=”_blank” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”4″ max_slides=”4″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”2961,2962,2965,2960,2963,2964,2972,2979″ custom_links=”,,,,,,,,”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Proposal

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Today we celebrate 2-years married. Wow! I can’t believe how quick it has gone and how LONG it has felt :). Hard to believe that in that time we have experienced as much as we did.

Funny enough, we got married on the fly at the courthouse on a Friday (very us) and we don’t have a single photo, but that’s what makes it so special. It is really a fabulous story – one for the books. I will share another time, but today I want to make note of our proposal.

Kurt and I had gotten to Northampton, after a very intense week of moving and trying to get things in order. It was mid-June and we had just gotten ‘kicked out’ of my mom’s house as a result of them moving, and truthfully an uninterest in having us around for it. We were a little lost – homeless will do that to you. We kind of needed a plan and we had decided to just rent a place temporarily while we figured it out. The place was in walking distance to town and we had a great time roaming around town, arm in arm. It was great.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2595″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]There is a corner candy store in Northampton with every kind of vintage and current candy known to man. Kurt and I love candy. For two foodie / health-nuts, I suppose it is what you would call our ‘guilty-pleasure.’ We just love it. Kurt’s favorite are Jelly Belly’s and mine are Swedish Fish and those grapefruit jelly’s with sour flavor on them (which since I can’t have due to their potent gluten-additives). We bought a little bag of each and went across the street to one of the new bars that had just opened. We sat next to each other at a hightop community table and we had scotches and then red wine with our candy. Yum.[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_column_text]About halfway to drunk, Kurt leaned in, took my hand, wrapped a Swedish Fish around it and said, “Marry me, Rache. I love you.” And there you go. I think there was a lot of laughing and joking into the night, all the way to drunk. But in the morning, we knew that it was a moment in time that A. we would never get back and B. we never would want to go back in time, just forward.

I love this man. Happy Anniversary, babe![/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2591″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Throwback: Our First Supper – I Paid Him to Make It

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Kurt ran a company called Kurt’s Cuisine and part of his deal was a raw food box. I thought that meant that he would provide me with all the tools necessary to make the food for myself. Wrong. The idea was to make dinner for you for an evening. At $60, if you think about what you would pay at a restaurant, that is a pretty good deal for 4 people.

My mom came to town and I wanted to do something special with her. We went to the spa for massages and facials and hung out and had wine, and then we went to Kurt’s to his country house in Newfield for dinner. He had rawked (hahah, raw cooked… I just make that up) lasagna using zucchini and pumpkin seeds, salad, an smoothie of some kind, a side dish I can’t remember and a cashew orange torte. It was delicious, but I found a knife tip in my meal. We had a laugh, and enjoyed the moment.

Being that it was only our 3rd meeting, I didn’t know anything about him yet. He shared his collection of art that he had done and talked a bit about his history. He shared some stories and provided some thoughtful insight to where he was with his Zen practice and his life. My first inclination when I met him was ‘he’s cute, but he likes himself too much.’

This conversation changed everything. He was sensitive and sweet, showed my mom his artwork and genuinely provided him with feedback, and he listened. He was thoughtful. So, at the end of the evening my mom paid the tab of $60 and then I gave him a $20 tip (I am a very good tipper).

As we walked away, she said, “I don’t know why you aren’t considering Kurt as a potential mate. He is great.” And that was that.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_carousel style=”default” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”3″ items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”true” infinite_loop=”true” timeout_duration=”5000″ arrows=”true” thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2470,2477,2471,2466,2467,2468,2474,2475,2472,2476,2473″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_text_separator title=”Make Your Own Raw Lasagna at Home” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_single_image image=”2482″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Ingredients
Lemon-Pignoli “Ricotta”
2 cups raw pignoli nuts, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional; available in health food stores)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Tomato Sauce
2 cups good-quality sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
1/4 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons sea salt
Pinch hot-pepper flakes

Basil-Pistachio Pesto
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup raw pistachios
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

3 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
3 medium Heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Garnish: whole basil leaves

.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Cooking Instructions
Lemon-Pignoli “Ricotta”: Place the pignoli, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times, until thoroughly combined. Gradually add 6 tablespoons water, and pulse until the texture becomes fluffy, like ricotta. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Tomato Sauce: Place all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Basil-Pistachio Pesto: 
Place all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Lasagne: Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices, then cut in half crosswise. Cut the tomatoes in half, and each half into thin slices. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with two layers of zucchini slices. Brush the zucchini lightly with olive oil, spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over it, and top with small dollops of “ricotta” and pesto, using 1/3 of each. Layer on 1/3 of the tomato slices, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the oregano and thyme. Add another double layer of zucchini and repeat twice more with the tomato sauce, pesto, ricotta, tomato slices, and herbs. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature for a few hours. Garnish with basil.

Recipe can be found at:

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Caged Wild Horses

We came here for two reasons: 

  1. To be able to have time together and be parents
  2. To be able to work without distractions

Kurt and I just realized this morning that we are both depressed and a little “vegetable-like” being here. Depressed? What the F?! We are in Paradise!

But the truth of the matter is, we are able to spend lots more time together and are definitely more engaged parents, but we made a mistake with removing ourselves from distraction. In truth, we love distractions of the right kind – people on the street, sirens from ambulances, music, subway, etc. and stimulation with friends, arts and culture. We miss all of that, and are simply lost without it.

Walking down a NYC street, we see both material and cultural aspirational elements we strive for. Kurt’s name on the program of the Whitney, my name on the next new food concept, etc., a great meal out, a vintage pair of boots, Starbucks, etc. We see possibility to be able to rise from our place on the food chain and are reminded daily of how hard we need to work to even move up a notch. So we work harder, push more and never stop for even a second to breathe. NOTE: we also left NYC for these reasons.

TranquilHere we wake up everyday and it is beautiful, and pristine, and calm. “Tranquilo” is everyone’s favorite word… and it truly is. But, I suppose putting two energetic, manic artists essentially on an Island, away from everything tangible in the world, and making everyday Groundhog Day, is like putting three wild horses in the same cage (Iza is here by proximity). Now take away the internet and our lifeline to civilization. Just imagine our state of mind: a far cry from working.

In the back of our minds we know just how truly lucky we are to be here and that life is our practice. We are going through the depression as a way of letting go, breaking down the barriers and putting us in a strong position to move forward, when we are ready to. The beauty of this place is that time is on our side.

Thanksgiving: Hugging Our Friends & Family From Afar

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_column_text]Today is Thanksgiving. I am looking out the window at the lake and a volcano and I am pensive and aware of how far we are from our friends and family. It is not only my favorite holiday, but my moms. The holiday of food. What’s not to love?!

There is much to be said for ‘Thankfulness’ this time of the year. We are truly blessed to be able to have such a huge family. We miss each and everyone one of them and are happy to know that we have shared plates at their Thanksgiving tables over the years, enough to remember and know what they will have today. We certainly have no shortage of places to go, and we would be sad that we weren’t in 5 places at the same time anyway, but we are thinking of each of them.

  • Ohio (Kurt’s family)
  • Pennsylvania (my Dad’s family)
  • Vermont (My Mom’s family)
  • California (My Aunt Glo’s family and My Grammy)
  • Florida (My Aunt Beth’s family – who is normally in California)

While it is exceptionally beautiful here, there is nothing that makes up for the changing seasons and the ability to hug those close to us. We send our love, hugs, happiness and kisses to the wonderful gift of family we have been given. We have a lot to be grateful for this year, and traditionally we do cut out leaves and write what we are thankful for on them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2446″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_caption=”Kurtis”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2447″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_caption=”Rache”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2449″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_caption=”Iza”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding_left=”130px” padding_right=”130px” bg_color=”#efe821″ margin_top=”10px” margin_bottom=”10px”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_column_text]

Thanks to all those that touch our lives everyday.

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My Little Monkey

This little lady is actually a little lady. I can’t believe how quickly she is changing and how much her life is becoming her own. She runs around and plays on her own, goes up and down the stairs and is just as sassy as she looks. She reminds me a lot of what people tell me I was like, but in the same breathe, I know that Iza Ruby Brand is her own girl.

When I was Iza’s age, my dad always said I would walk into a room and light it up… I would make eye contact with every person, and smile. Iza is also engaging and smiley, with the same uncanny ability to light up a room. She also has her own sparkle that is beyond just engaging – she is a full on clown with a fantastic sense of humor. She loves to see people laugh and she works really hard to make sure everyone knows that she is there and that she wants you to be happy. It started on the subway when she was 4-months old and now at 18-months she is still doing the same thing on the launcha (the public boat).

But we know that there is always a balance: At home, at Iza’s age and beyond – I was a tyrant of complication and darkness much of the time. Many of the pictures you see outside of the house are with bright smiles, and the ones that I have at home (like the featured image in this post) I look bitchy. I suppose there is an explanation for it now, but at the time, I was just a broody kid. Of course we are always watching out for the signs of similarity.

Luckily, Iza is different on the flip side of her happy. She is not dark or complicated like I was, although she does have her moments of switch-hitter behavior. She needs downtime too, and at the present it seems as though Baby Einstein has been doing the trick lately. I would venture to guess that she is pretty normal – She is light and free of sadness and worry. And like most kids, she goes from clown to exhausted in 1 minute flat.

It is fun to reflect on our differences and similarities, especially since everyone that knows us both says we have wildly similar personalities and facial structures. For me, I just love this little monkey exactly for who she is.


The American Dream


RaCo Life American Dream

As a new parent, I now know why half of America is overweight, on anti-depressants, watches 3 hours of TV a night and our test scores in schools are getting lower and lower. We are tired. We are overrun and exhausted by the demands of the American Dream. I am new to this world – having a baby, while working full time – and it is hard. Much harder than I imagined it would be. I give snaps to all the parents out there that have done what we tried to do and failed at.

We as a nation have been sold on a dream that is unattainable and unrealistic to most.

  1. Let’s start with sleep. Sleep is the #1 fuel to your engine. It makes your cognitive thinking clear, capable of making better decisions, able to be more relaxed and regulates your hormones, your metabolism and your heart. It keeps you afloat. As Americans have increased their operating hours, we have lowered our potential for hours available to sleep and increased our potential for exhaustion. This has created a number of issues which the rest of the world is beginning to face as well.
  2. Next up is diet. Without a healthy, nutritious and rounded diet, we can’t function. Our bodies go into overdrive and have to work extra hard to function causing a host of other physical ailments.
  3. Exercise comes into play next. We can’t sustain any of the above without it, but when do we have that extra 1-hour available to go running?
  4. And then it’s all the other stuff. Somewhere in there we go to work, play with our kids, door our chores, catch up with friends and family, and relax.

We try to mask each need with more coffee, drugs and a host of other stimulants in order to fulfill our ever expanding list to do. Debt starts to pile up, and just when we start to break even, a new car is needed, the water heater just broke, you need to save for the kids need to go to College, etc. It always seems like the more you get, the more you want. It is engrained in our DNA and spawned from centuries of oppression and classism.

It seems like a vicious cycle; one where you can never get ahead or accomplish anything.

As far as we are concerned, the road to the American Dream is shaped into a half pipe and anyone can just jump on and slide through life. There it is an endless cycle of: 1. you want more, 2. you spend more, 3. you need more money, 4. you work more, and then back to the start of the wheel. It felt like if we didn’t move to the suburbs to a good school system, put Iza in childcare and get full time jobs, we would be unable to attain a ‘purposeful life,’ by everyone’s standards.

Kurt and I felt like we were unconsciously heading down this path on the half-pipe of expectations, and saw all our opportunities for our talents slipping away. The most important thing for artists is uninhibited time. As a result, we gravitated waaaaaay “outside the box.” We decided we wanted to try to make a go of something different; to not be so tired, to eat healthier, to enjoy our natural environment each day and get our heart pumping, to play, and ultimately to live.

So, we have ended up here instead (here = Guatemala), because we truthfully couldn’t figure out how to do this in the States.

In the last 5-months we have grown beyond our wildest expectations in purpose and experience. We have honed in on potential ways to make a go of it long-term and really started developing a routine which is life-based, waving goodbye (partially) to our work-based life. The only constant routine of the Brand’s is evolution, but we feel we really have have now defined what we want out of each day and have started to formulate Our Dream.


My dream last night was eyeopening; set in a store with a mock double bedroom on a shitty side of town, inside of a mall, with another couple in the bed beside us. The sign on the outside of the store was “Erotica.” I am still trying to make sense of it, but I remember it required reading a book, independently, with your lover laying next to you in the same bed, also reading. There were two telephone booth-sized closets and a guy coming in and out of the adjoining room to check on us, hand us another book, etc. The books were pretty normal books – it almost seemed like a library made for me of a full range of interesting, artistic, but still well-rounded books with public interest-style relationships written about. They were not romantic by any account.

So here we are sitting in a double-bed reading, with people next to us in the bed doing the same, and some weird guy coming in and out of the room and the noise of the mall in front of us. Hardly an erotic set up with the typical sea of colorful and bright, sexually fantastical moments.

Waking up this morning, I didn’t feel warm, but I did feel contented. I don’t know why it was called “Erotica,” but I think it leads into the post on the American Dream and the 1950’s mindset of sexuality. Or maybe it is based on my inability to read as of late, due to distraction. Thoughts are welcome.



Co-Sleeping with a Toddler

Wiped out.

I’m kicked and hit, my face is smooshed and I nearly roll off the bed, everytime. This little lady thinks she is 250lbs and 6′ long. She takes up the entire bed and then some… and it never seems to be enough space. Where do these creatures get off without sharing? We have given them life and then they just take, take, take from the moment they arrive.

In all seriousness, we keep trying to co-sleep with Iza because we love to cuddle her and be close to her when she is so small. She latches on when she is falling to sleep and gives the best hugs! During the day, she never stops moving, but at night its the same, she never stops moving.

If you can’t tell, I have just been up all night because Kurt heard her coughing and brought her into our bed. She didn’t want to sleep on the bed, she had to lay on top of me with her head buried in my neck. I could hardly breathe so I moved her to the side and then she started the rustle and roll, taking us both out in her midst. Fun stuff.

Anyone that co-sleeps I give major snaps too. This family is just simple not meant to do it.

Throwback: Where it All Started

[vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_text_separator title=”Kurt Before Rache” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vcex_image_galleryslider thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”400″ img_height=”400″ img_thumb_width=”200″ img_thumb_height=”200″ caption=”true” animation=”slide” slideshow=”true” randomize=”false” smooth_height=”false” slideshow_speed=”7000″ animation_speed=”600″ image_ids=”2019,2015,2010,2023,2021″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_text_separator title=”Rache Before Kurt” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vcex_image_galleryslider thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”400″ img_height=”400″ img_thumb_width=”200″ img_thumb_height=”200″ caption=”true” animation=”slide” slideshow=”true” randomize=”false” smooth_height=”false” slideshow_speed=”7000″ animation_speed=”600″ image_ids=”2020,2014,2025,2009,2011″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vc_text_separator title=”Photos From The Beginning” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_column_text]The last couple of years have been the best of our life. So much fun, adventure and passion directed towards things we are interested in. We are lucky to be partners and to have a daughter by our side to give us a reason to strive harder, helping to guide and support us along the way.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”6″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”250″ img_height=”200″ image_ids=”2059,2058,2057,2062,2056,2055,2054,2051,2052,2053,2050,2049,2048,2045,2046,2047,2044,2043,2042,2039,2040,2041,2038,2037,2036,2035,2034,2033,2030,2031,2032,2029,2060,2061,2063,2064″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Throwback: Off the Cost of Madagascar – Ladies n’ Babies Island

Throwback Before Baby: I found this post in my drafts folders from an old website I built eons ago. I wanted to grab whatever content I could salvage and entertain everyone on Ra’Co Life. Here is an email that I sent to my friends in late 2010. It was fresh off a divorce and rearing for a good time. I wanted children, but knew they were out of reach. Read this post with a serious sense of humor!


Dear Fabulous Ladies,

You have been selected because I love you, you are single and you are what is keeping me ticking these days. I hope that you enjoy a good hearty laugh from my insanity.


Call me crazy (I am), but I am also completely brilliant and I have a fantastic idea. Like Hannah Montana (I have lots of nieces, don’t judge me for knowing who that is), it is the best of both worlds.

A few months ago in October I had this amazing idea… a world where we could get anything that we ever dared hoped for and a way to do it. Imagine a sensational (Luca, your word), model-perfect beach, surrounded on all sides by sea. A land of plenty; offering gorgeous sunrises, fantastic sunsets and sunny days all year round with children and gorgeous men.

Look at us. We are incredible women. Producers, Designers, Teachers, Writers, Lobbyists, Chefs, PhD’s, Architects, etc. We can and should have anything we want, but one problem – there are no men that are good enough for us (okay, maybe a generalization… but go with it for the sake of drama) and we all want families, soon. So, more than likely we will have to settle to get what we want before mother nature ticks her way off our richter scale. Beyond that, do we really want to deal with smelly socks and the toilet seat being left up for the rest of our days? Come on already, actual children are enough work we don’t need adult children thrown in the mix.

Off the Coast of Madagascar is this place where we can go to have children and be part of a communal raising. The worlds first female/children-only commune, built at the helm of sustainability. We are women who never settled and now choose a greater path in life: loads of children from all over the world, some biologically produced, some adopted, some foster and others that were fully raised and never had a loving environment. Women who want a chance to embrace all things motherhood and create a loving and wonderful space for our children to learn and grow. We will help each other to do it. Keep your career, or don’t! We will make it work as a team!

Okay, now I feel a little like a lunatic, but here is the punch line: We are NOT going to do this without still getting male attention. No way. We are going to solicit an unbelievable pool of fantastic men that will join us in this quest to realize our dreams. Working off an annual calendar, we will have a schedule of different “talent” that will be imported for our entertainment, friendship, reproductive purposes and for our thrust-and-release program (i.e. fuck buddies). Want a Greek God? An Italian Stallion? A Hairy Persian? A Californian Surfer-dude? A British Bloke? We will have a schedule for every single type so we can be sure to try them all out.

But that’s not all…

This is going to drive some serious PR. Anticipate a financially free and clear life through an ad-driven site, annual calendar sales, tours, donations and an exclusive product line from Ladies&Babies. We are going to be Billionaires. Yep. That’s right, I used the b-word.

Sounds crazy? Of course! But the best part is that we get to make the freakin’ rules. Let’s build this community to be what we want, including our own governing body (i.e. Fey). So… as they say in Jerry Maguire – “Whose with me?!”


The responses from the email were mixed – mostly funny and a few that scolded me for thinking my ovaries were drying up, and another one yelled at me for not working. And coincidently there was even some real opportunity behind this; my friend’s colleague was creating a film for Off-Grid living and he asked if I would really participate in something like this and be filmed. (HELL NO!)

Even more… I went out for a blind date from my stylist (my fabulous hair dresser Stephen who is very posh) with this guy Marc a couple of days after I sent this email. It turns out he is from Maritius, which is an Island off the Coast of Madagascar. He has some land and was thinking about what to do with it and I gave him a pretty thorough idea…

Part of the beauty of living, is exploring, why not explore all our opportunities? As adults we don’t give ourselves permission to play make believe. When we do it is “weird” or “immature.” I love this idea and it was poignant for this time in my life.  It is funny and original and it could be a really viable brand. Did I really want to do it? No – but I love thinking this creatively about forging your own path in life.

Did you know we are culturally Jewish?

From a religious perspective, we are not really anything, but we identify as culturally Jewish and are Buddhist practitioners. The best part of being culturally Jewish? The holidays, of course! What Jew doesn’t love a good party… food at the foundation, and love and hugs all around. It is really the most wonderful culture to share in.

Today, we wish you a wonderful start to Rosh Hashana from The Brand Fam.

4 GenerationsAs a child I think I only observed the holiday 2 times with my grandmother’s deeper connection with religious practice. As an adult I have celebrated more often, as a way to retrieve some sense of heritage and hope for keeping the connection for my children to my familial culture. It is believed that the Jewish tie is connected between the mother and child, so if the blood line of Judaism comes through the mother, it cannot be broken. My mother’s line is Jewish, so therefore myself, and my children are by definition, Jewish.

We are fortunate, even here in Gautemala, to have found friends to celebrate with. We will be going to our new friends Osnat, Tim and Ela’s tonight to enjoy a potluck and begin the two day celebration.

L’shana tov!


What is Rosh Hashana? (taken from Judaism 101)

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. It is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. The common greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”).

Rosh Hashana Food

Two cool traditions: The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year.




Baby Learning to Speak, Constant Noise

The talking will come and I will do my best for patience. And for now I dream of bedtime and the hours I get to have filled with free thought.

Truthfully, the noise is killing me. Kurt is not a talker outside the house, but here I get the sole pleasure of hearing all his random thoughts, ideas, and music sounds as he invents some kind of song. I love all of it, provided those were the only sounds I heard. Iza is a constant babbling mess of sound bites – some Katchiquel, a few choice Spanish or English words, and some bizarre noises acquired from Baby Einstein. I can’t think straight for the majority of the day; my head is literally full of this endless stream of thoughts which are not my own. I often find myself at the end of the day wanting to literally cover my ears and jump into the lake to have a single moment of silence.

It is possible, I may have been like this as a child, but as an adult, I am not much of a talker inside the house. I use this time to be pensive, and I am very mindful of the time I have outside of work; the simple, rare moments that I don’t have to communicate with clients or vendors. I can just exist in solitude and not have to respond on command.

Children do not understand this need, and I get that. I have to remember that this learning phase of speaking is frustrating for Iza as well because she desperately wants to communicate, and life is very confusing for a child learning 3 languages. A little research shows a delay in speech when multiple languages are learned at the same time – I suppose she is trying to make sense of all the different words she hears, that mean the same thing;

MonkeyMonkey’ and ‘Mono’ both make the “ooo ooo ahhh ahhh,” but Mama says its ‘Monkey’ when she talks to me, and Kati says its ‘Mono,’ Papa says it is ‘Mono’ and ‘Monkey’ depending on the moment. Which one do I say?

In the end the word is “Yes!”

My first word was “ball” or “no” I can’t remember. Either way, I know that I was a NO person from the start. It was my main vocabulary and I think to this day I have always enjoyed the slow and pronounced way that the word rolls off my tongue, “Nnnnnnnnoooooooo”. It is very flavorful and entertaining to say. I think it is also a little bit of an instant reaction. Someone says they like something and negative nelly me, says, “No” in a very satisfactory and matter of fact way. I mean business by saying “No.”

But what I am finding is that in my professional and adult world I have learned to say “Yes” more often than not. I think that this started working for my first big girl job with a man named Allan because he was a “Yes-Man.” Although, even beyond Allan, I have carried the tradition over of wanting to help and do good by all people… clients included. So, my “No” has become a very distinct, “Yes!” in almost all circumstances (really its just that I don’t want to miss out on any potential experience).

Two things have happened as a result from this: The first is that I am exhausted from all the things that I do now on a daily basis… again, I never want to say, “No” to an opportunity, so I am constantly scrambling around trying to make it work for my schedule and I have become a bit of a push over… a little too accommodating. The second thing that has happened, which is key, is that I have forgotten who I am and I am now having to real learn my life as a person from the “Yes” culture.

Now, thinking back as a child, I asked my parents if they can remember a time that I used the word “Yes” in any sentence? I feel as though I need to retrace my history and try to relearn the magical world of where I came from so I can rediscover my purpose in life. It was always to be a “No” person, I thought and to be self-directed and very conscious about my choices. But now in this new “Yes” culture I am finding that it is boundary-less and the possibilities are endless and undirected. I am just a feather blowing in the wind; sometimes it is a stronger wind I guess, but mostly I just float around.

And so I encourage each of you to join the pledge along with me to say, “Yes” to life and join into something new and bizarre that you never thought you would venture into.

You might have noticed that this post really doesn’t have a particular purpose, so like my new undirected lifestyle of the word, “Yes” this post is quite similar. No direction, no result, just the experience.

Solo Mama

Kurt is going to write a separate post on this to share his perspective, but here we are – 1 month in without nursing and Iza is still crying and latching onto my leg at every moment. She is what we refer to as “Solo Mama” (only interested in being with me). I am exhausted from the noise… constant, penetrating crying which makes my milk start up again and my head pound. I don’t know how to handle this, except to run in the other direction. He has these perfect little moments with her when I am not around. She is laughing, playing and happy. Bring her near me, and she cries.

As a mother I could get upset about this, but instead I am just getting annoyed an impatient. I want my little girl to want to play with me; to feel excited when she sees me and want to do something fun!




Breastfeeding: Finito! Woo Hoo!

Iza Nursing

It has been a long road; paved with lack of sleep, double meals and a lack of possession over my own body. Since August 2012 I have been attached to Iza physically in one way or another – in the womb or on my breast. After leaving NYC, we really felt it was important to continue allowing her to nurse. It was really comforting in all the upheaval of moving, but it took a turn towards the worse over the last two months and she abused it. We called it “chain nursing” or “toggling” because as she would finish with one (I had very little milk), she would start up with another one. She would go as long as we would let her go back n’ forth before I would cut her off. Screams would ensue. In public it was embarrassing, and in private it made both of us so frustrated (and annoyed) that she was taking advantage of me.

So, we made the decision to wean. (I say “we” because I am lucky enough to have a very invested husband and father.) But when is the right time? We asked ourselves that a million times over the last 4 months and I am not sure we ever came to the right conclusion. Some women nurse until their kids are older (we hold no judgement, but maybe a little compassion) and some women don’t nurse at all (again, no judgement – it is fucking hard work). On our end, we nursed merely because we were told it was the best thing to do for the baby for general health, immune system and future, and we are stopping because we feel as though she has had what she needs now. We want to wrap it up and let Iza move onto being a big girl.

Truth-be-told, I am really not one of the kinds of mothers who relish in the love affair or romantic notions of a cuddled baby next to her breast (I am not a touchy feely person in general, especially not 24-7) and I kind of find it annoying. It is the single hardest thing I have ever had to learn and consistently do. I need a break, and be able to be alone for a change, I need to lose the extra 10lbs I have packed on from my double meals and be able to detox, work out again and be on my own schedule, void of my milk ‘coming in’ f0r Iza’s feeding time (and pumping sucks as an alternative). There you go: decision made.

Today we are at 48 hours without a latch. Watching your kid erupt because they are not getting what they need from you is horrible. 1 day in my period came back, and this morning I woke up and my ears are ringing from her piercing screams (girls can really give it to you, huh?), my stomach is bruised from her kicking and fighting me, and my breasts are full and on fire. But hell yeah, I am FREE.

Bells Palsy During Pregnancy

Photo-on-3-19-13-at-1.03-PM-3-150x150Certainly pregnancy is never a walk in the park, and mine was no worse than any other experience. It was actually a great pregnancy filled with time, pampering and happiness with my wonderful husband.

But, sadly there is a dark side for most mama-to-be, which is unique to each of us. My dark side came during my 7th-month, and was in the form of Bell’s Palsy.

Don’t know what Bell’s Palsy is? Bell’s is a dysfunction of the cranial facial nerve, which causes temporary paralysis. There are a million reasons why it happened to me, but likely it was a weakened immune system due to pressure on my body (when Iza was breach) in the middle of my pregnancy. The first day, I lost my ability to drink water, then by the end of the day, I couldn’t see out of my right eye. When I looked in the mirror it was as if an alien was staring back at me; my wrinkles on my forehead were gone, I couldn’t raise my lip, and my nose was suddenly tweaked to the side. My eyebrow didn’t raise, and I had a dull pain all along the backside of my right ear.

Over the course of the last 3-months of pregnancy, I had the unique experience of seeing people’s reactions to me. It was hard not to look. My family’s reaction was heartbreaking. Their reactions were in the form of their own contorted facial expressions of sadness and compassion, and I had to see what I looked like in their gasp’s and stares. The mirror was not my friend and I avoided photo opportunities. I tried to avoid people all together, but Kurt had several large art shows and I had to be present for them; stares and more uncomfortable moments. I also had to keep working and a huge job opportunity came up right at that time. White rooms with lots of light were the worst (since I couldn’t close my right eye), and art shows and hip office spaces love white.

It was a wild ride of emotions; and in hindsight I wish I had embraced my condition instead of resenting. It was a life experience which has provided me the ability to explore inner strength.

Photo-on-6-7-13-at-4.03-PM-2-150x150I have tried every form of alternative medicine possible, avoiding steroids and other Western medications while nursing. Acupuncture worked for brief moments. In the morning with Green Tea I can feel my right side of my face rise from the jolt, and in the evenings I can feel the same side droop from wine. There is still a dull and achy pain behind my right ear. I will always notice these things and they will never go away.

Some of the little things you wouldn’t think have bothered me: I will never blow bubbles or whistle again. I will not be able to make fishy faces with Iza when she makes them at me. I will never kiss Kurt squarely and I will never fully be able to smile or drink water out of the right side of my mouth. I will always struggle with my right eye and work extra hard to shut it each time I blink.
It has taken a lot for me to get here with my own acceptance and even be able to write this post, and it is still very raw.

18-months out, I am roughly at 85% where I was before pregnancy and I probably won’t improve further from here. Will I ever stare back at my new self and not miss the old one? Probably not, but hey – we all get older and ‘wiser,’ right? I always said that I was totally vein before and it was the Universe’s way of showing me that my life is no longer my own and knocking me off my high horse. I know I am extremely blessed; I am healthy, happy and can do most things with my baby girl (no blowing bubbles or whistling for me). The rest is just icing on the cake!

Yesterday and Today, Same Mind

Yesterday I was laying in bed at 4:30 in the morning and I just wanted to get up, go sit and then paint. But Rache got up to work, Iza was crying and I couldn’t do anything. I was trapped. Today, I woke to the soft hum of a distant boat on the lake, sat and then went straight to painting. Beautiful morning. But I try to keep the same mind whether it goes my way or not. The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-T’san, said:

“If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything.”

Most of us are not enlightened monks so we have to find a balance. But whether things are going our way or not, we still have to have the same mind, constantly looking inward and not giving importance to what happens outside of us.

Too Many Choices….

What drives us crazy?

1. Too many Choices – Lay a ton of crap in front of us and try to make us want it.

2. Too many Decisions – Trying to decide on the right option will make us crazy.

3. Too many Opinions – Once we have made all of those decisions we form all kinds of opinions on them. These opinions deepen the insanity.

I’ve read about this problem in a few places. Barry Schwartz writes about it in “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”.


“By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.”

The idea is that the abundance of choices we have to make, or more importantly, feel we have to make on any given day creates internal tension that can lead to stress and unhappiness. We don’t even realize these choices are slowly and insidiously taking us down.

Seng-ts’an, The Third Patriarch of Zen, said:

“To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.”

A good friend of mine, a Russian from Kiev before the wall came down, recounted a story to me abut the first time he came to America.  He arrived in New York in the winter time and decided he needed a new coat as his old one was getting worn out. Going to Macy’s was an exciting and new experience for him, but when he got there and looked at the amount of coats they had available in the Men’s Department, he became overwhelmed at the choices, had a huge melt down and ran out of the store without a coat!

Here in Guatemala we go to the market two or three times a week to get produce. The interesting thing is that the markets basically have the same items for weeks on end. One kind of lettuce, one kind of tomato, one kind of apple. In America we would probably think of this as a bad thing. The more options the better! But here we have found it incredibly liberating to know what we are getting every week. One less thing to think about!

So a simple thing like food shopping has taught us a great lesson. The less decisions we have to make about what we are buying, the less stress we feel.

It’s a hard thing to practice back in the US, but hopefully, when we return, we can apply what we have learned here and try to make our lives easier and less stressful.


Meds in Guatemala?

Eons ago when we were back in New York, Rache had her doctor call in a prescription for a 3 month supply that would get her through the time we planned on staying in Guatemala. Didn’t seem like an issue. She already had a one month supply and  knew she had to go back to New York for a business meeting so would pick up the 3 month supply then to get her through the rest of our stay in Guatemala. Nope, didn’t work out that way. Back in New York the prescription got messed up, her doctor was AWOL and she was left unable to get the new prescription. Clear as mud? Sorry. So we had a lot to worry about as she now had no good way to get her meds. She could get them mailed if she could finally make contact with her doctor, which wasn’t really happening. We had a friend here that went through the same situation, and she went through hell trying to deal with the postal system and waiting to finally get her shipment.

Rache finally decided to see a local doctor here in Santa Cruz to see if he could prescribe the meds for her. The doctor told her that they don’t really do prescriptions here and that she could buy the meds over the counter at a pharmacy in Panajachel. What! You mean back in the states we have to go through hell to get the meds she needs, and here you can just go up to the counter, ask for the meds, they hand it to you, you pay for it and leave. Relief!

After I heard that I got to thinking. A few days ago I smashed my toe on a rock while hiking up the mountain to Casita Blanca and was hobbling around in a fair amount of pain. Ibuprofen just wasn’t cutting it. I thought, “If Rache can get her meds over the counter,  maybe I can get something for my broken toe.” A quick internet search confirmed this was possible. Just ask for Kodone, and you will be given a nice new box of Vicodin, no questions asked. I went to the pharmacy, told them in my terrible Spanish that I had broken my toe and they offered Ibuprofen. “Ummmm, no, necessito medicina mucho fuerte.” They put the Ibuprofen back and handed me the Kodone. They also added, “How many boxes would you like?” For real!?!? I said one would due, paid the lady, and walked out.

Chalk up another win for The Brand Fam! The meds are expensive, and I’m really not into taking pills at all, but in this case, you better believe I’m on it!

lamotrigine 1 pills


Pimp My Tuk-Tuk: The History of the Tuk Tuk and Our 1st Nomination!

Pimp My Tuk Tuk, Guatemala

Here in Guatemala, and other parts of the world, the main style of taxi is a motorized rickshaw type vehicle called a Tuk-Tuk. I’m sure lots of you well traveled folks are familiar with them. We have become totally fascinated with these little three wheeled demons and it is now turning into an unhealthy obsession (Ok, for me at least. I don’t to drag Rache into this ridiculousness, but hey, thats what I do best).

So I had this idea to do a series of blog posts on our favorite Tuk Tuks in Guatemala. As you all know, if you have a good idea, there is a 99% chance it has already been done. Well, you guessed it, it has. There are some dudes in India that created a charity called “Pimp My Tuk Tuk” and we love it! Check it out. Maybe Ra’Co can hook up with these guys while we do a version in Guatemala. We’ll see!

But back here at the Lago, we are going to start our own version of Pimp My Tuk Tuk by posting images of our favorite Tuk-Tuks and we will try to do a little expose on the drivers as we learn more of the language. But right now our Spanish totally sucks. This will be a killer ongoing project that we are really excited about. Hopefully we can get to a point where we can gain interest in the project, get ya’ll to vote on your favorite vehicle, post videos etc. of the drivers and their vehicles and tell their stories. Maybe even start a Kickstarter project to raise funds for the drivers, their families and the less fortunate Mayan folks in the area that we are growing to love.

Sound good! Give a shout!


The History of the Tuk Tuk 

According to these guys the first version of the Tuk Tuk was created in Japan by Daihatsu. But they say Thailand was really responsible for inventing them and putting them to good use over 50 years ago. Anyway, the above mentioned site gives an excellent history of the Tuk Tuk so I’m not really going to get into it any further than I have to. That’s what links are for.

So without further ado, here is our first entry into Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. We call this one The Love Tuk and it’s located in San Juan La Laguna, a beautiful arts and crafts town located next to San Pedro. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t around so we could only get these photos. We will definitely follow up on this once we can find the driver, get his name, and try to get him to tell us something about himself.



There it is, out first entry in Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. Check back soon for the next installment!

Nanny Wars – Mayan Style

I mean, come on. We are apparently all the same around the world and it is just full on pathetic that we can’t all get along and work together as a global community. Right?!

So when we started this journey we relied on Mario (our devoted gardener) to set us up and get our life in order as our landlord Ana had recommended. For Q.80 a day ($10) we had a full time nanny who cleans our house! Kind of insane considering that is above their typical working wage and is considered a very good salary.

We loved the initial two ladies he set up to come. Mario called them ‘Chica’s’ so we did too! The first was Clara. We thought this was his wife, but it turns out to be his wife’s cousin. She has a little girl named Maria who is 9. Marta came on day 3 and she was warm, smiley and very in control. It felt like she understood us and we saw eye to eye and she has a little girl with Mario named Adriana who is 3. On Week 2, day 1 we had a new nanny come and her name was Cecilia. She was Marta’s sister and looked so similar we actually didn’t know it wasn’t Marta until 2 hours in. This continued for another week: Cecilia on Mondays, Clara on Tuesdays, Marta on Wednesday, Clara on Thursdays and Marta on Friday. On week 3 we were graced on Monday with a new lady, this time Marta & Cecilia’s mom. At that point I totally broke down on Mario and said, “We can take 2, but not any more. This is outrageous.” He fixed it and we were back to just Marta and Clara.

But then we decided to move. Clara’s husband Jose works at this Casa and when she found out we wanted to leave she told us that she had a place for us to look at. We didn’t really understand what she said until we ended up at this new Casa and we were being introduced to her husband and her sweet daughter Maria again. It was so strangely warm and kind of weird at the same time. So, we signed up and moved in. We talked to Marta and it was still our understanding that we would have Clara everyday except Wednesday and that Marta would be here then.

Yesterday morning Clara said to us that Marta didn’t know if she could come on Wednesday and would we be okay if she (Clara) came instead. Being silly foreigners we really didn’t think too much into it and didn’t even really consider that the sweet-natured Mayan woman would be able to manipulate the situation so well. Then around 11am we get this text from Marta:

Hola buenas tardes, espero que esten bien solo quiero avisarles que no llegare mañana con ustedes Clara no quiere, esta enojado con migo y no quiero tener problemas. fue un plaser conoserlos son muy amables y muy buenos. muchas gracias por trabajar con ustedes que Dios les bendiga y cuiden mucho a IZA UN BESITO.


Loosely translated it basically says, she is very angry at Clara and that she will not be coming but she wishes us all the best and that she loves Iza.

Awesome. DRAMA.

We kind of freaked out, but really didn’t know what to do. We absolutely love Marta and adore Mario. Adriana is 3, so Iza really relates to her and has so much fun when they play. Mario even said that Adriana goes to sleep every night saying, “Iza, Iza, Iza.” We feel in some ways like they are very cool and similar to us. We would definitely like to be friends with them. So, we invited Mario and Marta over for dinner tonight so we can get the scoop, but for now we are playing nice with Clara.

It is just too freakin’ funny. Nanny Wars… Mayan Style.

Losing Connection with My Partner and the Magic 4-Hour Fix

It is no secret that married couples have issues from time to time. It is understood and expected, especially in times of duress. But boy o’ boy does it suck.

For 3 months nearly we have been on the road – this means that Iza sleeps between us because she is too disrupted to feel safe or comfortable on her own. We are absolutely exhausted from travel, complicated logistical arrangements and a kicking 1-year old who whimpers on and off all night long.

We also have had some pretty big transitions in our careers – Kurt leaving Chelsea and my decision to not seek a PhD at this juncture. I feel like I want to just be a mother, Kurt feels like he just wants to work although our current roles which we set in motion last summer are reversed. It is very difficult to shift a moving ship (especially one with lots and lots of heavy cargo).

We have a child, we live in an emerging country and we are taking a big risk that may or may not pay off. We are scared. 

Through all of this we have really lost sight equally of our friendship and our intimacy. We have stopped communicating clearly or thoughtfully and we have shifted away from a daily hug, kiss or cuddle to a weekly passing moment and daily arguments.

I would suppose last night was my breaking point. I have felt for these past 3 months that Kurt has almost “left the building” out of our relationship and into himself. I don’t exist right now other than a nuisance. On my end I have lost a sense of respect and stopped showing respect and thoughtfulness to him.

Honestly it has been rough. The conversation went as well as expected (terrible) and Kurt ended up sleeping on the couch by choice.

Today was our first date day in nearly 3 months and a chance for lunch, an adventure and time together. Needless to say neither of us were that excited going into it, but we gave it a go. 1st we headed off to look at our 3rd place of the day (the 1st too Clara and Iza came to) in a town called Jabalito (pronounced Ha-ba-li-to). It is meant to be a great area for hiking. The house was very sweet, but unbelievably small. No go. We ran into our friend Josie who makes the best Kombucha and fresh American bread on the lake (Guatemalan’s interpretation of bread is full on gross, so it is wonderful to have Josie at our farmer’s market). We immediately put in our order for tomorrow’s market.  #1 Moment: Making a simple decision together.

After the house tour we went to lunch by Josie’s suggestion. We walked through town and realized that this was actually the least developed area on the lake. It was the section 8 housing if you will. Everywhere there were terrible smells and shacks. Children looked a mess in the streets and dogs were scratching their flee-infested backs. We tentatively walked to the restaurant and went in. The stench from their garden smelled of old animal feces. We looked at the menu and both agreed there was NO WAY we were going to eat there. #2 Moment: Share in a laugh over an uncomfortable situation and work together to get out of it.

At this point we ended up at lunch and had a good conversation. Hard, but good. We talked about the things we needed and what we have struggled with over the last couple of months. We talked through how to stay on track with our plan and to continue to move in the right direction. It proved that we can communicate and that we can open ourselves up again if we are willing to try. #3 Moment: Have a thoughtful conversation which is both calm and rationale.

It was now about 1.5 hours from our departure on our adventure together. We decided to take the time to go to San Juan which is where all the locale artists (painters and weavers) work. We had a great time walking around the streets and looking at the beautiful weavings. The painting were fun to see and technically quite good, but it was no where near our style. So, we went back to #2 Moment every time a painter asked us what we thought.

We took a long walk through town and ended up at the Coffee Cooperativa which is the locale coffee plantation. It is organic and very interesting. We enjoyed a walk through the woods and various coffee plants all along the way and even walked on the highway together. We decided to take a Tuk Tuk back to San Marcos. We had quite the adventure instead of our typical boat ride… one that lead to maybe 50 potential near death experiences. #4 Moment: Be reminded how sad you would be if you lost the other person (morbid but important).

Funny enough the Tuk Tuk driver only took us 3/4 of the way so we had to walk on the road to get to San Marcos. We walked through town and even helped to negotiate a craft for an Australian guy together. This is now at about 3.25 hours so 3:15 and we still needed to catch the boat home by 4pm. It was PACKED at the dock and we ended up on a boat that was over full. There were even people on the roof. A definite first which led to the absolute slowest boat ever. We were late to get Iza and had to run to meet her Nanny. Sadly we got to the door and no one answered at our new Casa. We don’t have our keys yet, so you can imagine our panic. We figured out that she had probably gone back to our house thinking that we had maybe gone there in our delay, so we set off for home. #5 moment: work together to resolve a major issue / concern.

Long story, but a necessary path for a jump start towards recovery. I love this man, I know he loves me and in our 4 magic hours together we had 5 precious moments which hopefully brought us part-way around the circle and back to being “us” again. I’m sure many problems will arise in our life together, but at least we are building a foundation to come back to.


Trouble in Paradise – Shocker

When you are a Brand unexpected moments seems to follow. Most of the time they are good and Although after the past 20 years of unexpected moments as a Baird and an Uchtman, we both believe we are so consistent these unexpected moments they have become expected in some ways.

Drum roll please… We are moving, again!

A series of problems in our current house including but not limited to: 

  • Fungus growing on walls
  • Power caput for 3 days running and no refrigeration (required for Iza’s medicine, oh and food)
  • No internet
  • Kurt breaking his toe
  • Running out of water
  • No hot water (other than the bath)
  • Running out of propane (so not hot bath)
  • Scorpions
  • Mold everywhere so 2 of our 3 bedrooms are rendered useless (i.e. Iza has to sleep in our room)
  • Long rocky path, sick baby

So, we have to go. It is just not safe or smart to stay here. We need to be able to get into town to a doctor or a hospital or whatever we need it is not good to be on such a rocky, narrow path. It is also not good to have any of the above occur.

We have scrambled to find a casita which is local to Santa Cruz so we don’t have to move too far for the next 2 weeks. Our nanny Clara’s husband Jose works at a place called Casita Santa Fe and the owner Lily is from Mexico. Should be a great respite with good internet, beautiful grounds and a safe walking path direct to the boat. It makes more sense.

But the question still keeps coming up. Why do things like this keep happening to us? Is it our karma? Are we too idealistic? Is it something we are doing wrong? Probably all of the above.

We have moved around a lot. We are spastic in our changes and decision-making. We certainly are difficult New Yorkers to the highest level and demand the best. We are entitled in our approach to everything. Oh yeah, did we mention we are American? 🙂 (Kidding of course)

In a way we are glad to have life’s most interesting adventures because of our potential misgivings. When life throws us lemons, we ABSOLUTELY make the best lemonade possible. We are after all Brand’s and we have had a lot of experience! We will see how this move goes and perhaps in another few days we will have another new path to go down… but for today we are psyched to know that in the morning we have another adventure waiting.



Sick Baby, Fungus on Walls, No Gas, No Drinking Water: Awesome Morning.

I just returned home on Saturday afternoon after a full week of work, a crazy overnight of travel and a 3-hour car ride which included a funeral procession for 4.5 miles to an even bigger and more exciting weekend of issues.

For starters, when Kurt and Iza greeted me at the dock I quickly realized how bad Iza really was. She had lost about 5lbs since I left. She was pale, almost green and definitely not herself. She had a fever of 102+ and wasn’t eating anything. When we got up our trail to the house I looked around with fresh eyes…. there was this weird wall mold/fungus coming off all the walls. Kurt went to take a shower but the water was freezing, so we pretty much went right to bed to make sure we could get some sleep. In the morning I went to make tea and the stove wouldn’t turn on. The drinking water was kicked, so I just started to cry. Pretty pathetic, but I had almost hit the end of my rope – baby crying, exhausted from travel, thirsty, throat closing in… recipe for disaster.

After Iza woke we decided very quickly that she was sick enough for the Hospital. I went online to research and found a great hospital on the other side of the lake in Santiago. The number on the site listed an American number so I called it and Dr. Larry answered in Maine. He was home, but he frequents Santiago as it is a hospital he founded. So, with his advice we went.

We first went to Pana where I had an absolute meltdown and cost us an extra 2-hours in my mania. When we got to Santiago it was nearly 1pm and our Tuk Tuk driver asked us if we wanted him to wait. We said, “no” (although we should have said, “yes”). After walking up the walkway we kind of realized we were absolutely in the middle of no where. Walking up to the door it was was locked to the Emergency Room and immediately we got discouraged, but we didn’t really know what else to do, so we waited.

Shortly a nurse showed up at the door. She welcomed us and opened the door, showing us to the infirmary to Bed 3. There were 4 beds. (I am familiar with an infirmary from High School at Mercersburg. When you got sick you were sent to the infirmary where you had to be in a shared bed space which is far too similar to an army infirmary… totally depressing. You can just imagine 35 sick soldiers lined up on either side of the room. I think I went to the infirmary 2x in the 4 years I was there and 1x was to say goodbye to a friend who got kicked out for smoking pot.) Around us were a series of American-style equipment and books. Lots of tools and familiar mechanisms. I have to say… definitely a sign of relief from us both. The doctor spoke very very little English, but he had some  Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel which are Mayan languages as well as fluent Spanish. Needless to say, we made do. We had to.

It turns out, after nearly 5 seconds of testing that Iza has an ear infection. So ridiculous that this had gone on for nearly 8 days at this point. Completely unnecessary. We got medicine and we were on our way. Of course we were in the middle of no where, so we grabbed the first Chicken Bus we found and headed into town.

1 issue down… like a MILLION to go. Stay tuned.

Yesterday I killed a snake, I am miserable, and I will never do it again….

Yesterday was one hell of a day.

Iza has been sick for the last three or four days and I am doing my best to make sure she is ok. She has been crying consistently, running a slight fever, eating very little and just has not been her happy smiling self. She wakes up 3 or four times a night crying and I rock her back to sleep.

I’m pretty tired.

Rache is in New York working her ass off to provide for us.

Yesterday I decided to find a doctor for her and looked at a list of options that our landlord offered us. There was an American doctor and a few naturopathic doctors in neighboring towns. I opted for the American doctor because, quite frankly, my Spanish completely sucks. Fortunately my wonderful nanny Marta came along with us to ease the burden of communication if I couldn’t find the clinic. And I’m so glad she did. We ended up going to the wrong town, San Marcos, to find the doctor but Marta ran into a friend as we were searching aimlessly. Her friend told us that there was a great clinic in town that practiced natural medicine and that we should go there. We quickly found the clinic and went inside. It felt right immediately. The place was spotless and the people that worked there also knew Marta and were extremely kind (like most of the people we have met here). Behind the reception desk were shelves upon shelves of little carefully marked brown bags full of herbs and plants and such. A beautiful site.

But what does this have to do with killing a snake?

Almost immediately the doctor came and ushered us into the examination room. He asked a few questions and Marta did her best to translate what I didn’t understand. Then doc checked Iza, felt her throat glands, and ascertained right away that she had an infection. I can only assume bacterial. He didn’t seem worried so I felt better. Back at his desk he wrote out a prescription and went to get three bags of dried herbs for tea, some fresh green leaves and a small bottle of drops to take orally. After we gave Iza the drops she almost immediately calmed down. Muy tranquilo. Things were going well.

So we paid Q150 for the services and medicine (maybe $25) and headed back to the dock to catch the taxi boat back to Santa Cruz. Along the way I stopped in a tienda for dos cervezas to take back with me. I knew they were going to be much appreciated later in the evening. Consumed that afternoon, they never made it that far.

At the dock we got on the boat and in no time were back at our landing. Iza was really chill at this point and starting to quietly fall asleep. So we jumped on the trail and headed back up to Casita Blanca. Another peaceful ten minutes along the gently flowing creek through the forest and we were at the gate of the house. Suddenly hear Marta yell. Ahhh!

A snake was blocking the entrance. I had read about venomous snakes in the area and ignorantly thought it was a poisonous yellow beard. I thought about it for a moment then decided to grab a rock and kill it; and I did. Dumb ass! How could I have done this. Fear for my baby and my nanny made me react in the wrong way and now I have to live with what I have done. After I killed it I saw next to it a large bloody mouse that it had just killed.

The cycle of life was right before our eyes. Iza is sick and plants are there to heal her. The mouse eats the food it finds in our kitchen. The snake eats the mouse. I, stupid fucking white man (see my favorite movie of all time, Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”), kill the snake.

Turns out the snake was actually a scorpion hunter and it was there protecting us and helping us.

And I now know that I will never kill a snake again unless it is an absolute last resort.

At least the journey proved fruitful. Iza seems to be slowly getting better and hopefully she will be up and around in the next few days. If not it’s off to the American doctor, most likely for a dose of antibiotics. Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to that.

But that’s Ra’co life, 50/50. We do the best we can.


raco life_herbs1 san marcos san-marcos-clinic


Pump n’ Dump on the Road via Walmart

Today has been interesting. Woke up with my gorgeous baby and husband and had the most wonderful sunrise cuddling, knowing it was my last moment with my 2 babies before Saturday. My first trip away!

Kind of amazing to walk to the dock and know that by the end of the day I would have reentered America and all the crazy that goes with it. The panorama was just breathtaking of the lake. Now, sitting in Hotlanta after waiting for 4 hours on a layover for my flight, it is certainly not the same level of panorama (bad food, bad lighting, stressed out people… similar amount of walking).

My lovely driver Geovanni (courtesy of my soon-to-be landlord Joyce) picked me up from the 1st dock, the local dock, in Panajachel (if you go to the 2nd dock it is the tourist dock and they rock you with extra Q). We stopped by the bank and the gas station so I could go to the bathroom and then headed to Guatemala City to the Walmart before the airport. He was ready to kill me for being late on all fronts and then needing to stop so many times… but hey, I had shit to do!

We sat in a little bit of morning traffic, but for the most part it was smooth sailing. Should have been since we left like 6 hours to drive 2 hours! Why Walmart? Holy moly… in the States I probably would never intentionally enter it when I have a Target instead but here in Guate it is awesome to be able to get what I need accomplished in short order. Here I could get my “American Breast Pump” (literally not 1 store in all of the lake had even heard of. They actually don’t have a name for it in Spanish. It is just a direct translation. Crazy!) so I don’t explode on my trip.

Thank goodness… now 12 hours later roughly and I have pumped and dumped like 20oz of milk. With each pumping session in my little bathroom stall, pump in hand and Netflix (yay) ready to watch, I feel a little sad knowing it is not going to go in my daughters mouth, but instead down the drain. Boo.

But this is life as a modern woman who still wants to maintain a piece of her sanity and connection with her child. Walmart is a small sacrifice for greatness.


Baby with 102 temperature! First time parent syndrome…

So last night about 2am, the night before Rache is leaving for New York for a few days, Iza wakes up moaning and crying. Rache is next to her and I am roused out of my usual half sleep to her stating nervously “Iza is on fire!”. What to do!?

I’m supposed to be the chill guy that keeps it all together emotionally (“supposed to be” being the operative word) so I get out of bed calmly, reassure Rache that everything is ok, and go down to the bathroom to get the forehead thermometer that we brought along in our toiletries bag.

Iza has never really been very sick minus a cold here and there but she is having a hard time adapting to the Guatemalan food and has been fussy and gassy and not her usual self. We are really careful about our diets, but let’s face it, Gringo Gut is bound happen.  I’m pretty sure she is ok so I stay cool and take her temperature. 102 degrees. I am a die hard research guy (read “time waster”) and remember reading that as babies get older this can be quite common and shouldn’t cause a freak out call to the doctor. So I’m there reading everything I can on the internet about a feverish one year old and conclude that she is ok. Rache is holding her and putting on cold compress and quickly her fever drops and she calms down. Then I rocked her a bit and off to sleep she went.

So we are obviously first time parents and I’m sure a lot of you are laughing a little under your breath. No worries, we get it!

This morning she is super fussy and won’t let me put her down but her fever is gone. Cool.

Here are some of the things I have gathered from various sites on the internet about babies with fevers:

1. Fever is nature’s way of fighting disease. A moderately high temperature means your baby is doing what it is supposed to to take care of itself during illness.
2. There isn’t a lot of difference between a 100 degree temperature and a 102 degree temperature for a one year old. Don’t freak out!
3. Don’t jump immediately for the acetaminophen. It may help your baby feel a little more comfortable, but only drops the temperature about 1 degree. Try to calm them naturally first and only resort to those meds if they are still really upset. We didn’t use it and she went back to sleep in about 30 minutes.
4. Never give a child under 19 aspirin! They could develop Rye’s Syndrome.
4. If the temperature reaches 103 its probably time to call the doctor.
5. Babies from 0-6 months with a fever is a bigger concern. Call the doctor if she is over 100 degrees.
6. If she is closer to a year old and has a 102 degree temperature monitor it for 24 hours. If there is no change, call the doc.
7. 104 temperature is probably time to go to the emergency room.
8. Make sure the baby is mostly free from other symptoms. I won’t go into them as the list is quite extensive. Google it.

This is a very basic outline and I am by no means a doctor. But I have researched it pretty thoroughly and I hope the list helps you first time parents out there.

Also, there are lots of natural remedies for a fever and we always refer to those first. Here are some links:

Work Trip Away in Nuevo York

I’m freaking out. I suppose it is a normal reaction since I am leaving my baby who I am still nursing in a foreign country to head back to the City for the week.

Not super prepared considering we got here a week and a day ago, we are still getting to know the area, Iza has now had 3 nanny’s come in and out of the house in rotation so far (they seem to be alternating and it is very hard for any of us to adjust to it) and I didn’t bring my pump with me and to date the 15 stores I have gone into to ask for one look at me like I have 5 heads (What the “F” was I thinking?). Oh and to make matters more interesting, I haven’t heard back from my driver who I am meant to get picked up by at the dock at 6:30am and I just realized  the boats don’t start running until 6am and on Lake Time (like Island Time) that could mean I won’t get to the dock in Pana until 7am. If I don’t meet him, I may just have to take the Chicken Bus again. YIKES!

And I am going to miss my family on such an enormous level.

So, it is going to be an interesting week. Back to the old “Rache” or the “E. Rachael” who travels for her work. How weird. It has been 2 years since I gave up TILT and started on this journey towards my current no work travel policy. I am going back for a good reason and one that I am happy and proud of. My family is in full support and I go back to the states with a full heart and a mission to accomplish.

Let’s just all pray my driver shows up and I don’t have to take the Chicken Bus 3 hours. Iza and I are rockin’ out to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” She’s helping me get back in the game.

Sleep Training for Baby

Its just after midnight and we are going on our second crying fit the current one lasting already nearly an hour already. I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe. I feel for my beba and I want nothing more than to scoop her up in my arms and let her know it will all be okay and that Mama’s here.

Sleep training is not something we ever wanted to do, but here we are at almost 13 months and none of us has slept through the night since birth (for me maybe since I was 7 months pregnant), Iza included. It is driving Kurt and I emotionally apart in some ways since we physically have no interaction and we are over taxed, exhausted and never have time to be together. Iza also really needs her sleep. For weeks she has been the crabbiest from wake up to morning nap time and then again from about 6pm on to bed time. She has started to sleep less and less throughout the day hours and the dark circles under her eyes have begun to deepen.

We have to try something new.

As mothers we are wired to hear our beba’s distinct noise from a crowded room of crying little ones. Our leche comes in and when we do not use our given assets to comfort the little ones we begin to ache something fierce. The reality is that life has evolved to a point where we all need enough rest to get through a relatively busy existence.

My step-sister breastfed and co-slept and her method worked for both her girls by establishing a routine and then her husband getting up to rock the girls to sleep in the middle of the night. It helped to still show comfort, but to remove the breast from the equation. My friend’s little girl was placed in her crib from day 1 and slept through the night, establishing the routine from the get go. There was no question in her beba’s mind that her comfort zone was the crib. She didn’t breastfeed which made this possible from the beginning, but the principle still works for breastfed children if they are placed back in the crib after a feeding.

Iza eats enough to sleep through the night, but she is still feeding at least 1 if not 2 times a night. We have been moving around a lot, so our assumption was she needed the comfort and the stability of on demand feeding, but clearly it is not working for any of us. We question if it is now too late to change without permanent psychological damage. Yikes.

I feel a little crazy from the noise. Now we are going on an hour and a half and I still hear no end in sight. So I sit here in the dark, and eat chocolate and try to zone out and concentrate only to the waves while writing.

Una noche completa. (1 night complete)


We are off our schedule… yikes! Did we have a schedule?

We often hear about “the schedule” and the importance of keeping a kid on one. We are well versed in theory, a little wishy washy in practice. I remember hearing my friends talk about having to get their kids home to make sure they maintain a peaceful existence for all and thinking I will never participate in a schedule. Let me tell you – sleep is key and these little buggers will certainly let you know when they want to sleep, often having such a meltdown that no one sleeps. This is a daily occurrence for the Brand Fam because we haven’t quite figured out how to get onto a consistent schedule.

Last night we officially kicked off our adventure after our final sale of the Prius V (I know, so sad) to Carmax. Thanks to my long time bestie Pierce we managed to get from Laurel, MD to Little Havana in downtown Baltimore during 5 o’clock traffic, in style. We were greeted by Pierce’s new (and fabulous) girlfriend Emlyn and our long-time friends Holly, Tuffy and Barri who each brought their kids (Holly – Maggie & Cora, Tuffy & Barri – Sarah). We even had a special cameo from Pierce’s college buddy and my wonderful friend Mercedes! It was like coming home for me and great to see familiar, loving faces on our way out of town. But it was especially special to spend time with the 3 amazing little munchkins and our Iza and as you can see from the photo none of them were on a normal schedule. I bet all the parents are suffering for it today (so an enormous thank you for taking your kids off their schedule to come and play).

It is now 5:40am, but we started our adventure this morning at 3, after sleeping for only 3 hours. Iza played her little butt off at the airport and now she has pooped out just as we board. Honestly the cutest picture, ever. But we will still see what’s in store for today!

Practice makes perfect, right? I guess we will have to stop going out at night with Iza at our sidekick to stay on a schedule.

Happy Days for Our 1 Year Old!

As my step father Drew says, “every kid deserves the quintessential birthday cake photo.” Right he is. We had a blast at Iza’s Birthday and so did she, until she had a sugar melt-down. In true fashion we had a Brand Fam Video Stream set up so all the family around the world could join in song. My 93 year old Grammy was the best – she made sure to be on Skype so she could participate!

Our little librarian

Iza loves books. We have tried a thousand kinds of toys… potentially 1 or 2 will occupy her for 5 minutes, but she always loses interest. Books she reads cover to cover. We look at it as a blessing. What parent wouldn’t want their kid to love books!?

On the 1st leg of our journey we put Iza in her seat and an hour later when we stopped for gas, this is what we found. What a champ!

A Happy Healthy Baby

If the option is there, Iza wants to eat. She is definitely a foodie. She stares at us forever when we have something in our mouths… so here we go with a leaf in her mouth, happy as a clam. I would say that this is a pretty easy snack – wash it and hand it to her. Not a lot of prep time there!

Gluten Intolerance

My first real-attack was in 2008 in Paris. The combination of dairy and gluten, with my ripe age of 28 was an accumulative allergy-attack. I first lost the feeling in my left arm, and then a tingly feeling started in my left ear. I eventually had my back go out and my legs stop working. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

In Iza’s first 5-weeks alive I had mastitis (blocked milk duct, very common) and was prescribed a gluten-encased anti-biotic (even after checking with my doctor and the pharmacist), ending in the emergency room with an anaphylactic reaction, 2-days before my mother’s wedding.  Needless to say, Iza and I didn’t sleep for 2-days after from the two EPI Pens I was shot up with.

It is a mild fear I live with when I eat out anywhere but in my kitchen, but I deal with it and I never waiver or try my hand at fate. I make sure Iza has a steady regiment of gluten in and out of the house, and when she offers me something I casually turn her down and say “Thank you.”

Getting Back to Normal

Most women complain about a gazillion issues around their body, especially after birthing a child. I have to admit through the years I have done the same. But now, not so much. I eat well, I breastfeed and I walk regularly. I don’t over do it, I don’t stress about it and I am hanging in there.

A lot of the ease of recovery I can attribute to my pregnancy in the last trimester. I did yoga, ate raw when I could and I walked an average of 3.5 miles a day until I gave birth and I even walked 2 miles while in labor.

My yoga teacher and Doula, Sandy Trimarchi gave me the best advice I could have asked for (along with insisting I continue doing a full yoga practice, even when I was exhausted), “Labor is the hardest physical act you will ever do. You should be in the best shape of your life doing it.” And so she advised to kick it into high gear and I did.

I won’t say labor was easy, but I did get through the hard stuff in 6 hours and I was out of the hospital in under 24 hours.

Anyone can be healthy and to work towards a healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum body and mind. It is the exercise, the healthy raw diet and the ongoing positive mindset which has kept me going (even through Bells Palsy, a breached baby and a natural labor).

And check out the body to prove it!

Bell’s Palsy is Almost Kicked

It is totally amazing that I have turned a Bell’s Palsy corner! As Iza came into the world, all the pushing burst capilaries in my right cheek and above my right eye. My face was slightly speckled for a day and then I started to see a change back in my smile. My right eye can nearly shut at this point and every day is an improvement. I still have trouble closing my mouth and sucking, but that will come with time – I am certain!

Here is the progression. Gross!

Week 1 As Parents

For pictures, please scroll down! or check out her site:

Well, we tried to get these up sooner, but I guess having a new baby is going to extend all our personal goals and timing a little! Right now in the early morning light with the rain falling buckets from the sky, Kurt is blowing baby kisses on Iza’s belly, Mozart is playing in the background and we are enjoying a precious moment as a family after a VERY long night struggling with feeding. It is truly heaven for us to hear her little smooshy noises and squakes at all hours of the day and night. We have both wanted to be parents for so long, and we found each other and now found her!

She is really the most delightful baby; she rarely cries and even when she does it is extremely short lived. We take her everywhere already and she just rolls with the program. She is sweet and funny with her little faces. And she mostly looks like a little Buddha. Everyone asks us who she looks like or they try to find some resemblance. Right now, she looks like her – Iza Ruby – and a baby. She doesn’t have any of her actual features that she will shortly adapt and grow into, so it is fun to be able to evolve with her, get to know her as she gets to become apart of our little world. But I would say Kurt and I definitely enjoy people’s projections of what she looks like.

It has been a busy week of adjustment and change:

  • Sunday am Iza was born and we had a chance to just stare at her for a few hours. Around 3pm Kurt went home to deal with drying the placenta so we could encapsulate it and to make us food since we realized how inadequate the food truly was. We were lucky that the hospital was amazing and the food was really the only bad part. He came back in the evening and by 10pm he was literally green from exhaustion. After a sleepless night of feeding and nurse intrusions, by mid-day on Monday we were packed and strolling home. It was great to leave the hospital with the silly 4 hour check ups (which truly left us more sleep deprived then having a small child to care for) and horrible food.
  • Tuesday we stayed in most of the day as it was Iza’s first cluster feeding day and we were so tired we couldn’t breathe. But at some point I had to bust out and break free for a little walk and Kurt went to the gym to achieve some sort of balance and clear his head. It was by far the best day that Iza has had in terms of her general presence and awakeness, so we are starting to feel like there is some merit in the value of home.
  • Wednesday was our first family outing for her Pediatrician appointment with Dr. Malik at Bambini Pediatrics in Poughkeepsie. This very progressive doctor was thrilled with her coloring, attitude and general demeanor and was pleased with how we handled the birth. So far so good! Then we made the mistake of going to Target to get a few small things, but when you are crazy tired, you just take forever to do anything. Nothing is quick! We ended up getting mostly home and then realizing that we left the one reason why we came to Target on the cart in the parking lot. Nice. So, we stopped in a local agricultural park fed her, changed her massively exploded diaper and rested as a family for a few minutes before heading back out to Target. The whole day took us from 9am – 4pm and we got home and were shattered and starving… just in time for another appointment at 7pm which took us about 30 minutes to drive to. I think I cried for 2 hours in the evening out of pure and utter exhaustion. I felt like a toddler who was so overtired you actually can’t make yourself sleep.
  • Thursday we had a beautiful moment as a family at Beacon Natural Market and we had a chance to show her off. Then we came home and prepared for a visit from Grandma Jan and Grandpa Drew who were coming from Northampton, MA. When they came we went to dinner at the Beacon Falls Cafe downstairs below our house and then we headed straight up to the house and off to bed. Starting to get into more of a routine.
  • Friday was a crazy busy day with Grammy & Grandpa here. Kurt and I left Iza with G &G around 10am (our first time leaving her!) and went to look at 2 potential houses to rent in Beacon (after 4 days with a munchkin we realized that there was NO WAY we could stay in our tricked out, beautifully sunny loft space and started looking. Main feature of interest? Washer and Dryer of course). Then as a family we went for a walk around town in what felt like 100 degree heat to all the shops so Iza could meet everyone. While it was probably extremely overstimulating for her, it was totally fun for everyone to meet her. She even got a bonnet as a present from Jacqueline’s shop. Then we went home for lunch and had a lactation appointment with our magical doula Sandy Trimarchi, so Grammy helped out and did the dishes. Sandy talked us through the eating process and how babies need to consume milk. She showed up some invaluable techniques and made it so we felt more comfortable with the general breast feeding process. Afterwards we took naps and G & G headed to the Dia: Beacon to relieve us and give us a break from the activity. When they came home we headed off to dinner in Cold Spring. It was all a bit too much and we have certainly learned our lesson!
  • Saturday morning we woke up and walked to the bank, the post office, Rite Aid and the Beacon Market and then headed straight home. A very quick 30 minute adventure. We decided to talk to our landlord about the lease and he came over with his two girls to see the baby. Dave was very understanding about the situation and willing to work with us, so Kurt went and put in a deposit on the house we liked best (wildly ugly on the outside, but totally new and decked out on the inside – 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, massive backyard and veggie garden). Dave thought he could get someone in to look at our loft that day that had already expressed interest, so Kurt and started a cleaning frenzy then somehow worked its way into a blow out argument. We spent an hour talking through it and realized how lucky we were that we had made it through the entire week with only 1 battle on extremely little sleep, a total life change and being totally and completely off our routine. All was worked out in expert form. In the afternoon we decided to do something for us and we went to the Main Street galleries with Iza to show her off and see the new shows that were up. It was fun! Everyone was so amazed by her sweet demeanor and quietness. We then went to the Dia: Beacon and took her to soak in the raw talent of our favorite artists. She was hungry and Iza and I went outside to the bird call garden to have a minute. My first experience breastfeeding in public and with the 90+ degree heat, we certainly did not enjoy the moment. But, we got through and my shirt only had a minor explosion of milk on one side. Not too bad! We had a little tea and cookies in the cafe and then went home afterward, but not before we ‘illegally’ took pictures of Iza with our two favorite artists work. Already the talent is soaking in!
  • Sunday Granddad & Mimi came from Lancaster, PA around 12 and we hung out and played with Iza. We went briefly to the Beacon Farmers Market (about 30 minutes total, realizing that we had been overdoing it with her in the heat) and ended up at Homespun for lunch. It was nice, simple and uncomplicated. We came home, fed Iza and then just chilled out and had a glass of wine and relaxed with her. It was really nice and simple. By 4, we were absolutely wiped out and Granddad & Mimi saw it in our eyes. They headed home and we laid down and didn’t wake up until 5:30. It was a glorious moment for us as a family and other than Iza seemingly uninterested in eating, it was a great couple of hours. Around 8:30 we decided to go to the Roundhouse and have a drink to celebrate Iza’s week with us and we sat at the bar and enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and drink. We met some very cool new locals and snacked on some of the best olives EVER! Everyone was shocked at how little Iza was and happy to see that you actually didn’t need to stop your life because of baby – we reminded them that these two weeks she is essentially still in the womb and at some point she will wake up and release the CRACKIN’ and it will be impossible to go out so we are taking advantage now. We came home and tried to all go to sleep and feed Iza, but the little lady was not having it. We couldn’t seem to get her to eat all night or wake up! She just wasn’t interested. There is this little soft spot on her head and Sandy showed it to me as an indicator of whether or not she is getting enough to eat. It will be indented if she is hungry and flat if she is full. Crazy, huh? Well, it was very indented and her started my decline of stress and anxiety as to why she was not eating. Basically I was in full on meltdown mode – and it took us until 5:30am of coaxing her and working together to get her to eat. She did eventually do about 20 minutes total and we are going to aim again in a few minutes.
We each have 2 parents who are remarried (total of 8), we have my Grammy still rockin’ and rollin’ (total of 1) and in total we have 9 siblings (combined biological and step). Most have a partner (total of 17) and we have 11 Nieces and Nephews… so Iza is one incredibly loved child with already a built in network of nearly 40 family members all to love her. Not to mention the countless friends, extended family, clients and neighbors who have been patiently anticipating her arrival. Needless to say, it has been a full time job managing all these individual people! We are hoping that this site being updated will help us a little.

And that brings us to the present. It was quite a week, full of surprises and new experiences. It is hard to believe that a little more than a week ago we didn’t have Iza in our life and now we honestly CAN’T imagine life without her. She is a part of us and completes our family portrait. She is simply amazing, but with little girls everyone seems to go straight to hearts, stars, sparkles and the term Princess. Even I am guilty of it at times. Princess is not a term of endearment we want to use and when Iza’s Great Grammy called her that, my throwback was “No Grammy, she is a strong and will someday be an independent woman.” Grammy said, “That’s quite a mouthful. What about Wonder Girl?” So, here you have it… our Wonder Girl.


Preparing for Baby #1: What we Learned Along the Way

RaCo Life Iza's Announcement

We have really gone to the ends of earth to make sure that we were prepared for Iza’s arrival… although, it might be impossible to plan, preparing is an important step to any successful experience. I still got Bell’s Palsy at my 7th month mark, an indication of the stress that my body was ensuing as a result of carrying a child. In turn we challenged our own choices and worked hard to find a way in the last 3 months to rebalance my body and our birthing plan to accommodate.

Some of the external things we did to prepare:

  1. We did the Bradley Method classes. It was 8 weeks long. Sounds like a long time, but it was a Friday night social thing which gave us the opportunity to meet other parents close to our due date. We found this out through Waddle & Swaddle – and amazing kid store in Poughkeepsie and in Rhine Beck. This included methods, relaxation techniques, general understanding of birthing naturally and partner-led births. We have very minimal assistance from the doctor with this method – Kurt is pretty much handles everything leading up to the delivery provided everything goes well.
    • Why natural? If you have a natural birth, your body recovers quicker and you have an instant connection with your child. Skin to skin is the most essential part of this and offers the best opportunity to make that happen. If you deliver through the birth canal it helps to clear the mucus out of the nasal passage and throat allowing the baby to cry. It also empowers the ability to be a woman and to go through the most incredible aspect of life – giving birth. It helps with postpartum and relieves many of the concerns around allergies in children.
  2. Plus we did a yoga position and breathing workshop for a 1/2 day with Elizabeth Casasnovas-Calderon from Beacon Birth. This was one of the best experiences because it taught us to work together to bring Iza to the world and how we could help her along. Some of it was dancing, some of it was birthing positions, some was massage. In the end it offered huge confidence to Kurt and I to be able to work together.
  3. We also hired the most well-respected Doula in the area – Sandy Trimarchi who is also my yoga instructor. She gave  us a few 1-1 sessions and was there for the full birth, plus a few hours after as a lactation consultant. This was probably the most invaluable part of working with Sandy. She seriously changed my life with the information she shared with us. I was fortunate to do several classes with Sandy leading up to the birth which helped me to stay strong and prepared.
  4. I have done prenatal yoga in a group the whole way through… so I have learned a lot from the other women, including stuff like which pediatrician to go to and what questions to ask. I also did acupuncture mostly every week from early on in the pregnancy for relaxation and to keep things smooth with my energy levels. I went to a chiropractor 2 times a month and a masseuse 1 time a month to keep my back straight and loose. And I exercised regularly hiking until my 6th month, running until my 7th month and walking there after until the day I delivered.
  5. I did a registry through Harvard and Mass General Hospital for my medication and we were able to work with a genetic counselor and an imaging specialist out of Dr. Lescale’s office. We were fortunate to work with Dr. Lescale himself. We also were under the supervision of a fantastic Psychiatrist who was a female and dealt with many of these concerns around my medication before. And I had a great psychologist who is also a mom and was happy for me to voice my concerns and ongoing issues surrounding mommyhood.
  6. Pick a great pediatrician, interview them and be sure that you are making the right choices for your child early on. We were able to go to several pediatricians to make sure that we knew exactly who we would be working with. Our first experience was with a guy that basically was the epitome of everything we are not – into vaccinating before 2 years old. We ended up with a great alternative doctor from Bambini Pediatrics called Dr. Malik. In the area he is a minor celebrity for his focus around health and wellness for families. He offers both Naturopathic services and regular modern medicine. He believes in helping kids however they need to be helped.
  7. Read! Reach out to people! Be as educated as possible on your choices. The power of information is only as good as what you make of it. The more you reach out, the more you will learn.

Also, after going through the Bradley Method Classes we feel empowered to make our own choices and to not just allow the hospital / doctors to make decisions for us. We went on tours of 3 out of the 4 hospitals that we were associated with. First Putnum, (definitely never having our kid there with the cinder block walls and dark hallways and the Mid-Hudson Medical Group that we disliked immediately), then Vassar (with their politics and general issues surrounding healthful eating), next was Northern Westchester Hospital (which had a 40% cesarean rate) and finally Hudson Valley Hospital’s Birthing Center out of a recommendation from Beth Proague, a mommy and professional in Beacon. Our Doctor, Dr. Dinsmore, was local to Fishkill and was as weird and quirky as they come. But he came highly recommended and also did 2 days a week with a local clinic that I really respect.


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I have to say that when I started pregnancy I knew absolutely nothing and I felt extremely prepared after going through all the above – the car was packed and ready, car seat is in and our birth plans were already at the hospital. We were checked in and our insurance already cleared, so really the classes were extremely helpful helpful to us in understanding, preparation and getting Kurt to feel part of the process. He was totally invested and knew how vital his role was to a healthy birth!


Took the right vitamins:

Everyone takes prenatal vitamins, but does anyone actually know what’s in them? Throughout your pregnancy there are different things that you need at different times and a blanked prenatal is just not enough to do the trick. There are also too many vitamins mixed into one tablet to make it effective, so it is best to do it without taking them all at once.

Immediately you need Folic Acid and a lot of it. I ate a ton of broccoli, but supplemented with 800mg of Folic Acid as well. Then I introduced Omega 3 around my 4th month for brain development. This I still take now when I am nursing. I also started taking E3 Live which helped to regulate my body and truly made me sleep. When I still had trouble sleeping I took magnesium in my tea and now I am doing a body spray which is helping Iza with regulating her immune system.


RaCo Life Green JuiceAte organic & juiced often, but allowed ourselves to indulge in cravings:

Many women use pregnancy as an excuse to allow themselves to fall apart and just indulge in whatever they want. Really, you should be upping your health ante and eating even more healthy. Kurt and I juiced as many days as we could during the week. At the end of pregnancy this was hard because of the little space I had available, I was burping up a disgusting flavor of leaves all day long after drinking, but otherwise we maintained. I allowed myself to eat as much and as often as I wanted to. This was hard because my body wanted to eat all the time and I am not a super eater. I typically eat 4-5 small meals a day and maybe 1 big one and in pregnancy as soon as I was done with 1 thing, I was onto another meal. My time was sucked up by eating all the time!

We had large salads most of the time and Kurt became an expert gluten free baker. We cut out sugar completely and focused on eating a ton of fruit instead. I got really into frozen peas as a snack and frozen coconut and fruit smoothies as the weather got warmer. And my cravings seemed to go in waves. For a few weeks I was obsessed with eating quinoa porridge with raisins and then I couldn’t even look at it, same with avocados. It was weird to walk into a bakery or restaurant and the baby jumped with the smells. I wasn’t used to being so sensitive to my choices, but I truly turned a corner completely and focused on what Iza needed to be healthy and grow strong.

Most who know me, know I don’t eat meat, poultry, gluten, soy or dairy of any kind, so it was certainly an experience to craft my meals everyday. My favorite was Kurt’s raw bars and crackers which are 10x better than anything you can buy that’s store bought. I am a lucky girl with a chef like him!

Check out:


Indulged in a fabulous maternity wardrobe:

I was still working at the beginning of my pregnancy on a contract in Massachusetts. As a result, I made sure that my clothes were always fitting me and that I had a great balance of work and play outfits. I did not want to be one of those women always in pj’s in the middle of the day or wearing sweatpants to meetings because nothing else fit! So, I indulged.

Check out:


And made sure to continually do stuff together

We were fortunate enough that I had off for most of the end of our pregnancy, so we were able to spend as much time as we wanted together. We took full advantage by walking and talking, planning our future and being creative together. Kurt especially was much more creative in his art during this time. I, on the other hand, became exceptionally organized and focused. It was a great blend to capitalize on opportunities to work together.

RaCo Life Maternity Dress Blue HillOne of the most special items that we did was go on our own baby moon – kind of a honeymoon before the baby comes. We went to America’s best restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns which is in a nearby town called Pleasantville. It was not a cheap dinner, and to prove it, we relished in every moment of it. We had 8 courses and maybe 3-4 drinks a piece. Everything was all natural, organic and grown right there on the farm. Everything was made just for us, based on our preferences and allergies. It was sensational and totally worth every penny. Kurt even did a little speech and gave me a wonderful card, filled with the sweetest message I have ever received.

We also cooked together every day and took quiet walks whenever we could. The idea that our life was about to change and a 3rd person was going to be invited into it offered us reason enough to seek as much time as possible together – for the next 20+ years we are going to be active parents and never truly alone without thoughts or worry.

Black-LineAnd in the end: 

Coco B Sweet Photo Shoot with Iza 11 Days OldNow, on the other side of all this, we are lucky. We have an insanely beautiful daughter who was brought naturally into this world and is the sweetest disposition. We were able to leave the next day from the hospital after giving birth and my milk came in within 4 days from date of delivery. We are managing to sleep through the night and our kid only squaks when she wants something, and rarely cries. We hold her whenever she wants us to and we listen to her needs because we know what to look for and the warning signs she is giving us. And in general, we are getting through… which is a lot for 1st time parents to be able to say!



RaCo Life It's All in the Name

For pronunciation, please click:

The beginning stages of a brand are crucial. It has to be a perfect setting with the right groundwork. Without it, you are already sunk before you get off the dock, so we know how important the branding of our baby is and we have not been light with the development of it.

When we found out that we were having a baby, we would talk about baby names on our decent from Mt. Beacon… it is about 30 minutes down, so we had lots of time to talk. Kurt loved the name Zai and within minutes we were both sold on it so we decided that if we had a boy it would be Zai Stefan (after his brother’s middle name). Coming up with a little girls name made us crazy. Rache had a million ideas and all of which were shot down with force, not being the right sound, arrangement of letters or potential nickname. Eventually, out of frustration, Rache tried rearranging the letters for Zai and it spelled Iza.

We selected Iza [pronounced EE-sah] because it is a tribute to beauty, being the first part of Izabela, a Hebrew version of the Americanized name Isabella. It also means in Hebrew “My God is Vow.”

There are many other significant sources of Iza in the Muslim religion, and we have also found origins of the name from the South African Zulu origin from the  Zulu or Xhosa word meaning to “come.”

When we first shared the name with Rache’s grandmother she was certain that we had dropped the ‘L’ from the first part of the name, making it “Lisa.” So, when we shared that it was Iza in spelling, she was totally confused. Her Rabbi recently shared with her the Hebrew meaning of “Rising Up” and recognizing Iza will be raised culturally Jewish with the Zen Buddhist philosophy (she is going to be a JewBu), we find her name having a Hebrew origin is very fitting.

We are happy to stay that it stuck. Ruby is Rache’s family name and with a bunch of nutty ladies in the family, Ruby seemed to be a fitting name since she is sure to be textbook “nutso” with our combined genes!

There you have it: Iza Ruby Brand.


Click to download our very fun announcement. Here is a preview: 





Halloween Came Early, Folks!







Its been an interesting few days…let’s just say I would rather write them off as sunk, but unfortunately I have to deal with the repercussions.

On Wednesday I was in NYC for a meeting and against my better judgement I went to Brooklyn instead of NYC. It was bitterly cold and I was already uncomfortable for some reason. I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or something and I was having trouble drinking water out of my mouth. I have been having trouble sleeping as of late, so this was an indication to me that I actually needed to sleep more.

Either way, the wind was whipping, I had traveled approx. an hour in the wrong direction to the wrong city, and was wandering around aimlessly, 45 minutes late for my meeting. It was awful, embarrassing and I was so uncomfortable. I kind of broke down at one point and just started crying in the middle of the street out of shear exhaustion and frustration. I could feel my whole body just give way to the emotions.

So, I started questioning what was going on with my body, my brain and my mouth.

Thursday I woke up and the feeling was actually worse. I volunteered at the Salvation Army and the two people I volunteer with, Michael and Lucy, are retired nurses. I mentioned my face and the weird feeling I was having and Michael did a whole bunch of tests with me. He was checking for numbness and when he didn’t find any he decided that it had to be a nerve palsy issue. YIKES!

Kurt showed up to walk with me to get our driver’s licenses and while I didn’t feel freaked out on my own, the look on his face when he saw me after Michael had pointed out the parts of my face that were not working, made me well up and cry. It was so scary for me to see Kurt’s reaction. Kurt did some research while I was on our way to our new doctors and he determined I had Bell’s Palsy. Basically it is a temporary paralysis in the face that happens during high-periods of stress. It is something that can be caused by auto immune disorders, pregnancy or Lyme’s disease.

I had a meeting scheduled with my new doctor at clinic in Peekskill near the new hospital that we are planning to deliver at. I had a meeting schedule only with the nurse and when they took 1 look at my face, they immediately brought in the doctor. I was told that I was being sent to the hospital to have it checked out.

All in all, I spent about 4 hours between the doctor and the hospital to be told what my glorious husband had already told me. The baby is totally fine and other than my freakish smile, my inability to drink water and my supremely uncomfortable dry eye, I am good to go. I am resting and doing what I can to relax my eye. It is hard to do so, but hey… it gives me an excuse to wear a pirate patch! But guess what?! The best part is that I had an excuse for why I missed the meeting on Wednesday and what was happening with my brain. Bell’s Palsy can make you disorientated, forgetful and misaligned. I clearly fit the bill.  Phew… it wasn’t just poor directional sense after all.

Bell’s Palsy can last between 2 weeks and 6 months. Hopefully it is closer to the 2 week mark!





Glowing Happy Mommy with a Fantastic “Green” Juice Recipe

I am just glowing… that’s what they say happens, but in truth I am! It is so bizarre, but I can literally feel my skin being clearer, my eyes more bright and my hair having more bounce. Its kind of like a flushed, but well tinted rosiness that can only be gifted by another.

In the last few weeks it has been getting more and more prominent, but I was just going to chalk it up to lack of alcoholic beverages and eating only healthy food. I still drink at least a ‘green’ drink every day and I try to exercise as often as possible, but the magic that lies beneath my skin is purely from pregnancy… Apparently the increased blood flow in your veins from your blood pressure makes your skin literally “glow”. Either way, I am not going to risk it and drinking at least 1 green drink a day is a requirement in my pregnancy rule book!

In the Holiday Special Green Drink today (makes 2):

1 Whole Lemon

1 Whole Apple

4 Carrots

Large Handful of Spinach

3 Kale Leaves (1/2 bunch)

1/2 Cucumber

3 Celery Stalks

I have a girlfriend who was concerned in drinking green drinks during her pregnancy, thinking it would actually be a probably for the baby after it is out of the womb. Her thought was that the baby would go into a system shock without the nutrients and feel depleted. I look at this like a daily dose of vitamins, so I can’t imagine it would have that effect. I have not found any hard evidence or clinical research on this topic either. As breastfeeding begins it is also my intention to perpetuate the daily ‘green’ drink and ultimately it will be our little ladies first drink outside of water. She wants juice? The Brand ‘green’ drink is where its at.

Kurt’s Cuisine is also a great source of these products. We have 6 total varieties available and these are for detoxes and just daily health.


Pure Exhaustion

13 weeks in and the exhaustion has just hit. Everyone says that the first trimester is a full on wipe out, but I felt great and had tons of energy and very little nausea and sickness. So, now, in the tri-mester where I am supposed be normal, I am taking on all the traits of the first tri-mester and all I can think about it sleep. It is like the last 20 years of my life has caught up with me and all I want to do is sleep it off. As we all know, the more you sleep, the less good sleep you get, so I am basically always in a slow moving state like a trance, as of late.

This weekend I decided I pretty much had gotten to the end of the rope with myself. I suppose you are not supposed to ‘push through the pain’ as I have in all other moments of my life, so now I am retraining myself to instead, be kind and still honor the exhaustion, but to establish boundaries for when and how it comes into play.

For example:

  • Don’t sleep less than 8 hours during the week, but no more than 9.
  • On the weekends, get up in the morning and do something, don’t spend the whole morning in bed.
  • Embrace exhaustion, be kind to yourself and not upset that you don’t have energy to run a marathon everyday.
  • Let Kurt pull me along when we run or hike and let him bark at me when I renege on my plan.
  • Take naps whenever I need to.

It is certainly a retraining, but it is helpful to know how important it is to the babies welfare that I am moving, active and remaining positive. And it is great to have a partner so willing to support and push me along when the going gets tough. 🙂

Lets Face It….

When it comes to having a kid, our partners/wives/girlfriends are doing all the work, that’s pretty obvious. But all of you that have been through this or are going through it knows good and well that it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Far from it! So this is the time we must, with our greatest strength and effort, exhibit patience and compassion for our pregnant partner.

When her moods are swinging like a wild monkey…. she’s crying, she’s screaming at you, she’s just plain freaking out, take the time to breath and relax and don’t perpetuate the fight. Try not to give in to the urge to avenge your precious ego, just let it go and be with it and understand that the person you love is carrying the most precious and vulnerable thing there is in your life.

Keep trying to show understanding and compassion. Keep your ears open and keep your wits about you. Because, brothers, it’s not about you, it’s about her.  And the more you are there for her, the more kindness you can show her, and the clearer you are about your intentions of raising a happy child…well the better off everyone, including your self, will be.

It all starts now.

Ruby Girls – The Gossip Train has Left the Station

No matter what, I can know anything within an hour through the Ruby Express.

My cousin Ali is my confidant. She understands the unique nature of our family and at the same time as she is negotiating life as a new mother. We have grown up together, but apart in distance – She in Berkeley, CA and me somewhere in the Midwest or East Coast. We shared many irregular visits over the years whether in Florida or California, but with our slight age difference we had little ‘friend’ connection until we grew up.

Like my Aunt Beth, I am very close to Ali’s mom Aunt Gloria (i.e. Auntie Glo-Bug). She is my resource for all life’s challenges, psychological concerns, etc. She is very trusted and her relationship with Ali is very close. She has become the most amazing grandmother and is made for the role.

Within our family, we have a hierarchy by age. It is pretty normal for a Jewish family. When something happens, an hour later EVERYONE knows about it. Ali once coined it the “Ruby Express.” Ruby was my grandfather’s last name and all our mother’s maiden names and there is a certain way that Ruby-girl acts. They have this fire under their ass for ambition an is full of nervous energy. But they have the kindest, most generous hearts. They all have prematurely gray hair (now white) and overwhelmingly warm smiles with kind eyes. They are the best example of the quintessential Jewish matriarchal family.

There is some hardship to being a Ruby Girl; darkness within that nervous ambition which promotes direct conflict between what you want and what you are supposed to do.

“…[our] family creates narratives to some degree, but we aren’t just stories, we are all actually profound set of experiences that are constantly moving, evolving, growing, changing. one minute we are something and the next something else.” Ali wrote this to me recently. It is one of the most poignant statements anyone has ever said about our family, in defense to our generation’s inability for autonomy. 

Babies have changed the Ruby Girls and the above statement applies less. In some ways, Ali and I are now released from the high-pressure obligations that have been set on us since birth and our mothers have found new roles. We have provided additional ‘train cars’ to the Ruby Girl Express; two little perfect girls, with fresh and virgin hearts, capable of absolutely anything, who will evolve into their own people, with the support, love, and care of shiny and bright Ruby’s.

Jan and Andrew Sneak Peek 003

Me and Ali

The Eternal Baseline

Balance is clearly important. It is not something I am good at, nor do I do well with putting myself into the box of routine… so I am trying. First up is getting back to a normal work schedule (i.e. 7-5pmish Monday – Friday), yoga as often as I can muster and then finally focusing on activities that are a couple of times a week. I have decided that those are the Macrodinner on Friday nights and UU on Sunday. So far, so good and at 3 weeks in, I am feeling great. Like most routines, eventually I know that this will be broken by travel for family, work or friend obligations, or possibly just because it is too wonderful to sleep and not get out of bed, but for now I am committed to trying.

Just like the seasons we ebb and flow with the moment. I have noticed that in relationships I struggle to incorporate someone else into my balance as I just don’t leave a lot of room for error. In having such a delicate struggle, I am working through what it means to engage someone else. Can balance be that thing that you always come back to; our internal baseline? This is what I know:

  • No matter what, my body wakes up between 5 & 5:30am no matter where I am in the world. It just adjusts.
  • I can sleep anywhere, including standing up and at 10pm my body starts to shut down. At midnight (as most of my friends will attest) I pass out wherever I am.
  • Raw food is my main, but I enjoy some cooked food. I try for no less than 50% of my diet to come from Raw food, but no more than 80%.
  • I like a good tequila and/or 3 fingers of a sensational single malt scotch, neat.
  • Having a home with my artwork collection on the walls is essential to my character and I cannot live without it.
  • Running every other day is essential to staying sane and I like to kayak as often as possible.
  • I need to have lots of time to work… no matter what I am working on. I like to just have time.
  • Family is all important, next to restaurants.

It is interesting that I always come back to food as a part of my constant. No matter what it is essential to what I do everyday and what I intake absolutely effects my mood, my balance and my day.

I have been talking and thinking about this concept, FOREVER, and now I am going to put it into motion: Ra’Co. 50% Raw Food, 50% Cook Food and I am going to do it with this great Raw Food Chef, Kurt Uchtman. Who knows where it will go, but hopefully there is a clear path at the end of how we can spread this message.

Learning to Walk to the Left and a Host of Other Things

It has been an interesting year. I am currently in Chicago for the second time working on a client project – Chef Jenn Stoker’s brand – and building up my network in the Midwestern community. It is such a beautiful city and as I sit in my token Starbucks, contemplating life and sipping my 1st double espresso Stateside, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of choices. Before me is a bountiful array of opportunity, the pool swimming with positives and negatives, but choice belonging to me. What will I do next? Simple answer – lots.

But first I will start with some observation.

I have just come from a meeting / breakfast with a friend and esteemed colleague Eric. He is in town from Southern Illinois for an AIGA event he is running in town. We have worked together for over two years on ideas, projects and brainstorming, but only met in person for the first time in January and now this is our second meeting – this time with the family in tow.

This morning, it was a great opportunity for me to see the other side of Eric, the family man. I observed Eric with his family and listened to his wife discuss his forward thinking approach and his ability to do anything that he wants as it relates to making money – and the fact that he chooses to focus on community involvement and non-profits instead, but in a very undirected matter. I know this about Eric, but it is interesting to see a spousal view of his business choices. You can sense the tension even though I know that she is ridiculously proud of him. He is like a bird following a shiny object when it comes to opportunities; he heads towards the newest and shiniest one, seeking the opportunities that like me are going to change the world for the better. And it doesn’t matter if the end result brings him cash, he just likes the journey, the discovery and ultimately the passion that comes from it. Being the bird that he is has advantages and disadvantages long and short term.

In my own marriage I was revered by my husband and I was never challenged or questioned on my choices, which was a blessing and a curse. He knew that I always had our lifestyle and future in mind, but the choices were still mine which almost added a second layer of pressure to make the right decision. I would say I was like Eric – a bit undirected and flitting around – not making specific choices, but just following the shiny objects aimlessly so I didn’t consciously disrupt the balance that was in place.

Why did I do this? I think that it had a lot to do with the pressure of performance: What if I do this thing that I really believe in and what if it fails? Will I lose everything? I was scared.

In my now current moment of unwed-dom (pending my April 13th court date, of course), I am finally building in the framework for my own future and building a business plan for my life, my exit strategy and where I want to go during the time in between. I am less like a bird and now more like a cheetah and I am finally directed: #1 know what I want (SEEK),  #2 learn everything about it / work harder than anyone else (STALK), and #3 figure out how to get it (DESTROY or maybe CONQUER is a better word).

  • SEEK

Eric’s wife Sara and I touched on the topic of marriage briefly and she had a very interesting take on marriage and she said she felt that not wanting to get married was selfish because it seemed like not wanting to share your life with someone. Living in London where NO one gets married, I haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about whether marriage is right for me or not. After thinking through what she said on my walk home, I don’t think sharing vs. shelfishness is the reason for me getting married or not. I think marriage is a very conventional and defined union which doesn’t work for everyone. Perhaps I feel this way because my mother is the woman who has always wanted the white picket fence and marriage is top on her priority list still at 60 years old (even though she has already had two very successful marriages which ended) and she promotes it so much that it makes me go the other way, but maybe it is also because I have already had the perfect, completely successful marriage and I have exited from it in a very positive way.

I have lots of friends who are in the boat at 30ish seeking a man to make all their dreams come true and unwilling to compromise for less than magic. Unrealistic? Maybe, but I don’t blame them. Each and everyone of them absolutely deserves it. I, on the other hand, am fortunate enough to have had the perfect marriage already and now it is my time to focus on my life. I was in love with a man in a way I could have ever dared imagined – the best part being we really liked each other, and especially we liked living together as partners. Neither of us really believed in the conventions of marriage at the beginning, but believed in saving 7-10% on taxes and lots of money on health insurance so we got married. So why didn’t this perfect marriage work? Well, the imperfection was I didn’t get what I needed for the business plan of my life from the relationship. I was undirected because I didn’t want to compromise my precious happy marriage. It was too perfect, maybe. When I did finally make changes, and began realizing what I wanted to do for my future, I lost the balance and it all fell apart. Like a braided river, we branched off into different directions and I found my inner cheetah… maybe only for this moment and I will revert back to wanting a marriage again, but perhaps this feeling could be for life. Either way, I get to choose.

I am left asking myself more questions – is it really important to have it all?

Easy answer for this morning is, “No.” I think for my future it will be about my partnerships sharing a common lifestyle and interest and less about being in a loving and perfect marriage. In some cases it could be enough with the common interest being children. It could be with one partner or several. You have to really like the person (not necessarily love them, but LIKE them enough) to want to spend years raising your children and living in a communal environment, so I want to.

So, when I think about the place I am in, I am learning to walk to the left, finally. I am happy in London and joyful being a free spirit in an environment which could only be cultivated by Europeans. I am content in my life and learning I get to make the choices for the next steps in my future. I am 30 and I feel 30, which is great to not want to be younger or older anymore. This is my year. I believe in myself, my abilities and I know I can do anything I want. I know that I will have children in the next year or two and I know that I will do it with or without a partner. I know that I will build my business with or without investment and support and I know that I will be successful whether it is defined by conventional success or not. I know I will eventually get my PhD and I will be an internationally recognized icon for the work that I do with food, the future and kids. Eventually part of my exit strategy is that I will have a chance to be able to have a retreat in the woods with my own veg patch and garden full of grandchildren, with or without a partner, but definitely with lots of friends. My own little eco utopia.

What’s your business plan for life? Keep in mind the exit strategy!