On the Willows House Warming!

Dear Readers,

As you know by now, this is the new and improved “home” to On the Willows! Our email subscription system is new and improved as well, so please take a quick second to re-subscribe, or subscribe for the first time, to On the Willows (easy ‘sign-up’ on the homepage!). Your email is completely safe from spammers!

I would like to say “thank you” to David Sudarma, of Sierra.host, for sponsoring our new site! He has spent so much time reading this blog helping me set up the new system and answering all of my questions.

Also, I would like to thank fashion designer and artist (and sweet friend), Sheila Lam, for the new willow! You can see more of her amazing work at www.sheilam.ca, and on Facebook. Soon, there will be a post about her Esty Shoppes!

Last but certainly not least, thank you to all of the contributors who have challenged us, made us laugh, made us cry, and have helped us appreciate and recognize our unique roles as women. Readers, thank you for the encouraging comments and support for our little blog. Your comments encourage the writers, and your re-posts on facebook help OTW reach a greater audience of women! One last “thank you” to Lyndsay Wilkin and Beth Goad who are not only contributing authors, but they also help me edit articles, handle the twitter tasks and other admin duties!

I’m looking forward to a week of great post from new and returning contributors!


Stephanie Krier

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fennel and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Blood Orange

I find that it’s important to cook with color in the winter months. It keeps me hopeful for spring. Drab days call for exciting food.

And who really likes to eat salad in the winter? It’s not exactly my “go to” lunch come late February. But throw some mint and cilantro in there, fabulous fennel and seasonal citrus… now there’s a salad!

The picture of this salad in Bon Appetit is what won me over. I loved the pomegranate with the herbs. But with a few blood oranges on hand, I thought I would take matters into my hands.

Fennel and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Blood Orange (adapted from Bon Appetit January 2012)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs cut length wise sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
1 1/2 ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 blood orange segmented (original recipe used lemon)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint chopped
1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds (original recipe used dill)
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
(Bon Appetit also included Serrano chilies which I was so sad to forget at the store, but I don’t think the salad even needed them!)

Click here to read entire post and get step by step instructions with photos!

Posted in Food & Drink | 2 Comments

Give Me Patience! Right Now!

About a year ago, I was driving up Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley with our girls. I can’t remember where we were going, only that it seemed urgent and that we were running late. Also, we were hitting every single red light as we headed towards the Oakland Hills. As we braked to a stop at about the 8th red light, I lost my usual motherly composure, smacked the steering wheel, and said “WHY are we getting all the red lights today?!?”

That’s when Fiona piped up from the backseat: “I guess God’s teaching us to be patient, Mommy.”


The point of that little story isn’t that I have unusually holy children. Spend five minutes in our house and you’ll know otherwise. The point is that Fiona was quoting back to me something I’ve said to her many times, something I’d lost sight of in the moment because it is hard to be patient.

Hard, but so, so important. The older I get, the more I believe that patience is the most important virtue.

I don’t know if many people would agree with me. Before I had kids, I used to enjoy reading shallow entertainment magazines from time to time (that’s not a judgment against shallow entertainment magazines, by the way. I’d like to think that, when all three girls are in school, I’ll immediately set about volunteering to save the world. In reality, I’ll probably grab a cup of coffee and a copy of Us Weekly. Then I’ll save the world). Anyway, the last page of Vanity Fair magazine is always dedicated to something called “The Proust Questionnaire” where each month some famous person answers a variety of questions. One of the questions is: “What do you consider the most overrated virtue?” I can’t cite exact figures, but I can tell you that multiple times whichever famous, beautiful, wealthy, accomplished person was answering the question responded: “Patience.”

Measured against how most of the world measures success, patience looks weak. It implies passivity, and passivity does not usually get you famous or rich or accomplished. The attitude commonly associated with great worldly accomplishment tends to be something like: “grab the bull by the horns,” “live life on your own terms,” “eat or be eaten.” To be patient, on the other hand, is defined by my Webster’s Dictionary as: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.” And do note that there’s no promise of success coming at the end of all that calm, uncomplaining, forbearing steadfastness.

When you spend any time around children, it’s so clear that patience is something that has to be learned, that it’s contrary to our very nature. Children are born impatient; babies instinctively scream for what they want until they get it. Once words are learned, the cries turn to demands of “I want this NOW, I want that NOW!” one thousand times a day. My own children will tell you that the phrases I utter most are: “Please be patient!”, “Just a minute!” and “You’re not the only child in this house!” I preach patience like a broken record, until I am so impatient with their impatience. So, we’re all working on patience in our house.

Why? Because more than successful lives, I’d like our children (and us) to live lives of joy and love. And patience is like a petri dish where joy and love grow like crazy.

Let’s start with joy. Joy is a present-tense noun. It lives in the now. Impatience, on the other hand, is forward looking. It arises from the fear (and you know how I feel about fear!) that I’m not where I should be right now:  I should be at that important appointment, I should be through the check-out line by now, I should be married/have kids/have gotten that promotion, I should not have to be asking you 25 times to put on your shoes. Patience, I’ve found, is like taking a deep soul breath. It’s saying, I’m not going to think about where I should be, I’m going to just be. Here. Now. When I’m not looking forward, trying to peer over the horizon of my impatience, is when I can actually look around me and feel joy for the blessing of what is.

And then there’s love. One of the most quoted definitions of love — certainly the most quoted in our house — comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in the Bible. And how does it start? “Love is patient.” I don’t think Paul made a random choice by listing patience as the first attribute of love. If love is an Oreo — stay with me here — then patience is the creamy center that sticks the thing together. To really love takes time, because people take time, listening takes time, understanding takes time, change takes time. When I’m feeling impatient with somebody I’m trying to love, it’s usually a sign that I’m loving myself – my timeline, my needs – more than them.

So. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you how to get patience, right? Unfortunately, patience being what it is, I don’t think there’s a quick and easy fix. Like anything that doesn’t come naturally, patience takes practice. Practice takes discipline. And because discipline doesn’t come naturally to me either, it’s always helpful to have a personal trainer.  My personal patience trainer is Herbert the Snail.

Huh? Well, Herbert the Snail is the star of a little song that I grew up with; you can listen to it here. I sing it now from time to time to torture our kids. The really helpful part comes in the chorus: “Remember, remember, that God is patient too. And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.”

No question that God is patient. Patient with me, patient with others. (In my less charitable moments, I often think that maybe God is just a little too patient with others, but who am I to judge God?) When I feel like impatience is getting the better of me, it helps to think of all the times that Jesus is probably banging his head against his steering wheel over me (“You’re doing that again?!?” or “C’mon, girl, how long do I have to wait until you talk to me already?!?”) And then I think of all the people whom God’s put in my life who are so very patient with me. Exhibit A: My husband, who comes home every night and listens to me. Exhibit B: My parents, who somehow still love me despite seeing my worst like nobody else has. Exhibit C: My kids, who so often have to wait for me to finish up what I’m doing and just play with them, read to them, get them a snack already! So, I figure that if all these people in my life — oh yeah, and also God — can be so patient with me, then just maybe I can stand to pay a little patience forward.

I am sure that there are still some steering-wheel-smacking days ahead of me. But I can’t get Herbert’s song out of my head, so I guess I’m resigned to going through life learning patience at a snail’s pace.

(Thank you for your patience with that last attempt at humor)

Photo Credit

Posted in Being a Woman, Parenting, Relationships, Theology & Philosophy, Uncategorized | 5 Comments


Our friends have this amazing springer spaniel who can balance food on his nose.  I’m in awe every time they make him wait with food (anything from crackers to dog food to a chip) carefully resting on his snout.  I’m mostly jealous our dog can’t do it.  In fact, we tried with Milton, but he just snarls his lip and crosses his eyes when you start to put something near his nose…it’s kinda funny!


About a week and a half ago, I gave a presentation to a group of college students for my day job.  I had agreed to give the presentation on time management.  In the past, I had attended sessions from colleagues on the subject and knew I could easily pull something together.  The funny things, as I was doing so, I started to realize how much I needed to revisit the tips….they were mostly things I heard before, but rarely did in my home life.

How had a I gotten to a place of mis-managing my time and priorities?  I wanted to blame something (like this blog), but know that’s not really the issue. I’ve talked about balance before and my failures at it.  Do you ever struggle with balancing it all?  Every day, there is laundry to do, dishes to be put away, blog posts to write/read, friends/loved ones to spend time with and the list goes on.


So, as a new month is around the corner, yet again, I thought I’d share some tips with you.  They’re mostly a reminder to me, rather than for you.  I need some accountability in this, and posting things here is sometimes just what I need to kick my butt into gear.

  • Time cannot be managed, rather you have to manage yourself.  Time will keep on going the same as it always does.  Being balanced is more about learning to deal with it all.
  • Prioritize and re-prioritize often.  Assess what you have to do but making a list and determining what is urgent and what can wait.  But don’t be afraid to go back and reconsider what you’ve done and still needs to be done from time to time.
  • Start with the task you dread the most.  By getting the thing done from your to-do list you dislike the most, you’ll have something to look forward to as a reward.
  • Create an audience. If you tell someone about what you’re doing, you’re more likely to get it done.  This goes back to accountability.  Allow others to help/encourage you in the things that need to be done.
  • Develop a rewards and punishment system.  Remember getting a gold star on your chore chart as a child? Think of this in a similar manner. Allow yourself a reward for when you do finish a big task or reach a goal.
How do you juggle priorities & commitments?
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I Had a Baby, and Then…

My husband and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world last spring. Contrary to what I expected, it was not all pink bows and love-at-first sight. In fact the summer of 2011 was the worst three months of my life.

As it turns out, I had postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. Apparently, PPD manifests itself differently in women. My version of PPD led me to heightened levels of stress and worry. Every morning I would wake up nauseous with doubt and anxiety, not knowing whether I could make it through the day. I was afraid to be alone with her at home in case she cried and I couldn’t stop it. I was afraid to nurse her alone at night because I felt as though the lonely silence would swallow me whole. During the first few weeks, I remember googling the terms “motherhood” and “awful” to see if there were any others out there feeling the way I did.

I felt especially guilty because I was preventing everyone around me – especially my poor husband – from enjoying this special time in Abigail’s life. I would see ladies at church and tell them how hard it was. Some would give me puzzled looks because of my utter lack of joy. Some would tell me to just wait out the baby blues.

I would often ask myself how and why this happened to me? I’m a pretty capable girl who gets things done with hard work and determination. I went to b-school. I was swiftly climbing the corporate ladder. And now I had set my mind on being mother earth incarnate, on breastfeeding, and on raising a happy little genius. How hard could it be?

Initially, I refused to believe that I couldn’t just power through this temporary set back using the strength of my own mind or my lifelong walk with God. But after weeks of unexplained tears and spiraling emotions, I acknowledged that I needed help. I overcame the cultural taboo, found myself a therapist, and went on antidepressants. I’m not ashamed for needing psychiatric help. I took the meds; I finished the course, and I am stronger for it.

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal 6:14)

My lessons from this experience aren’t particularly earth shattering. In hindsight, I now know that I needed to endure this trial in order to rein in my need for control, and bring to light my lack of faith. I suppose God needed a vehicle to get through my exceptionally thick, stubborn head. I needed to be broken down until I could be broken no more, in order to learn that I can only do all things through Him who strengthens me. I needed to learn that every ounce of strength, every accomplishment, every good and perfect thing comes from above, and not from myself.

I also learned that the best and only way to harness the good gifts from above are to rely on Him and to pray to Him more. Not just a couple times of day more, but every moment more. It sounds like a very basic concept that one would think a lifelong believer like me would have already learned. It’s almost as if He was using this opportunity to cultivate a “prayer reflex” in me. I need to seek God’s guidance and peace through prayer every second of every moment of every day.

Last week a fellow contributor wrote a post titled “Enjoying the Difference Seasons in Life”. She reminds us to “embrace each season, both the bitter and sweet, and know that God has already written each of our stories as we walk through these seasons.” While this hasn’t been an easy season for me, I’m filled with gratitude for it. I’m grateful for a God who was willing to condescend down to me and offer me hope in darkness. I’m grateful for a family who endured through months of instability and supported and loved me nonetheless. I’m thankful for friends whose love pushed me out of the fog. Finally, I’m thankful for the beautiful little girl that God has given to me to take care of, and for the assurance that the best thing I can do for her is to lay her down at His feet.


Posted in Adversity, Family, Parenting | 4 Comments