Wild Woman

February 10, 2014

“ The way to maintain one's connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt. One of the most important discriminations we can make in this matter is the difference between things that beckon to us and things that call from our souls. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the choice of mates and lovers. A lover cannot be chosen a la smorgasbord. A lover has to be chosen from soul-craving. To choose just because something mouthwatering stands before you will never satisfy the hunger of the soul-self. And that is what the intuition is for; it is the direct messenger of the soul.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Who is wild woman? I remember getting a coffee mug one year from a close friend or relative. It was obviously something that had been gifted to them but not many grown adults need more coffee mugs and they thought, "young Michelle would like this". And I did! Like a movie, I remember looking at it and taking in the images of Lady Godiva. I didn't know it at the time but she was my hero. All I knew was that the image of a woman with long hair, riding a horse appealed to me far more than my barbies did. I never actually drank tea, coffee or cocoa out of that mug and I think eventually one of my parents borrowed it and I never got it back. But the image has been imprinted in my mind forever: wild woman.

The direct messenger of my soul told me that there was something in this woman that was also inside of me. I was born a wild woman, just like my daughter. I was born screaming for what I want, for comfort, for pleasure and joy. I demanded it like a baby. I think babies know what life is about. Then I was domesticated because that kind of raw emotion, eternal wisdom and all-knowing instinct is dangerous. It's choked, cut off, but it still lurks beneath and grows and grows with each passing year, unable to break free. Some of us escape the throngs of insanity and some of us aren't so lucky. Eventually, it's not the rest of the world or your caregivers cutting off this supply, its our own "assholes in our head", as it was put recently, and you're the one locking up your true self, whatever it is at that moment.

I haven't met many women (or people for that matter) who aren't constantly saying that something is missing from their lives. Its usually shrugged off and they just get a gym membership but it continues to grow and that feeling, that is your innate wisdom, that is the direct messenger of your soul.

This month is all about Wild Woman: her sexuality, her creativity and her relationship with change. All three are inevitable, all three are in us & in my belief, all three are necessary parts of living. Not surviving (sorta), but living. How huge. How epic. How mind-boggling big this all is. In four days it will be valentines day and the pot is boiling. Growing up with a hormonal imbalance causing obesity and excess hair in an unforgiving culture influenced by unrealistic ideals for the sake of consumerism did not serve my Wild Woman. She felt broken from the start. Tuning into the important of sexuality, my relationship with myself, how creativity and sexuality are the same and how change happens when the two are in sync. Change, the little births that occur all over my timeline.

I'm starting my timeline this week using only butcher paper, black water color paint and chalk and I am so excited to see what comes out! The time line will be focused on births, starting with my own significant birth and how my existence has turned the earth on its axis. What do you think this world would look like if Wild Woman was encouraged in every girl or woman? What kind of mothers would we be? What kind of lovers would we be? Would there be war, would there be starvation? What would the world be like if Wild Woman could get on her white horse and ride around breathing the fresh air whenever she felt like it?

Something that really resonated with me recently was thinking about when I felt most powerful. I think everyone could answer this question differently, and it does take a lot of thought but in my case it was better to just write down what immediately came to me: dance. I assumed that it would be art in the form of a 2D format but it was dance that came out! I love to dance. When I graduated from high school I got a job just so that I could afford to go out to nightclubs every night. I don't think I took very good care of myself during that time and I never wondered what was driving that lifestyle decision but dancing has always been in me. I've got great rhythm and can pick up a beat faster than most people. My body makes up its own moves and even though I have more weight around my middle, people have told me that I gracefully move my body like a ballerina. Wild Woman loves to dance and she used to need alcohol to do it, but she knows better now. Don't you love how I say it in third person now?

I'm looking into a belly dancing class and getting some movement around bringing belly dancing to Nashville. I feel like I am not the only woman who can benefit from the physical and emotional benefits of such a seductive art form. Only time will tell and I'm really getting back in touch with my natural leadership abilities after several years of negative feedback that may just've been a lot of fear. Wild Woman has been unleashed, and while she has part of a mess to clean up, she knows the emotional work will make all of the difference. She's free.



I'm Changing my Name

February 03, 2014

Through careful thought and a little bit of courage I've decided to change my name. Not only in one way but in two ways and each of these name changes symbolizes huge internal change as well. The first 1/3 of my name change is my middle name. When I was born my parent's named me Michelle Alyssa. Alyssa is supposed to be a combination of my sister (Lisa) and aunt (Melissa). I believe it was a tribute to them and a heartfelt one at that. When you are born your parents give you a name to have something to call you, it's something that has meaning and intention for them. Its an important and beautiful tradition in the early stages of the child's life. Like baptism (christening) in christian culture, this act sets some intention for the child's life.

My choice to change this intention for myself is a personal one and we must do what we believe works for us regardless of how "edgy" the decision may seem to others. The truth is that I didn't have and ideal childhood but changing a part of name is not a reflection of this. I am exactly where I need to be and got here exactly as I did. While I continue to work through the emotions that my childhood evokes, this name change is not a slight in my parent's direction.

The name that I relate to for this most binding part of my being is Oshun. So swami, right? When you read it out loud it sounds exactly like I'm saying "ocean", and while the ocean is an EPIC and important part of our world it's actually in reference to the Yorùbá religion's (southwestern Nigeria) goddess, Oshun, an Orisha who reigns over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy. She is worshiped also in Brazilian Candomblé Ketu, with the name spelled Oxum. Oshun relates mostly to woman but also man. She is me and I am her. She is venus, aphrodite, she is 100% woman. She is beneficent, generous and very kind. She does, however, have a horrific temper, one which she seldom ever loses. When she does, it causes untold destruction. She is sexuality, creativity and change all bundled into one magnificent package of flesh, eyes, lips and legs. She is inside of me.

The second part of my name that I wish to choose is my last name. I would like to adopt my husband's last name, Rivera. The funny part is that changing this part of myself seems much more controversial to me. When we got married in the fall of 2008 I never gave much thought to changing my last name to his. I assumed that it would happen eventually but after the ceremony I took no steps to make such a change happen. At some point a couple of months later my partner asked me about it and I found myself getting annoyed and feeling controlled. I lashed out and explained that I wasn't his property and he of course, got very confused. Searching my feelings all of these years later I dove deep into the attachment of my name and how metaphorically I've never felt that my partner is my equal. I've always felt that he is to good for me or that I am above him. I've always subconsciously wanted to leave an opening to get out if I needed one. I've never felt like I related to his family and made that excuse at one point. The truth is that he wasn't asking me to be "one of them". He was asking me for a partnership with him. For the name to bind us together as separate but equal and by each other's side. I just started to feel married last year and we've been together for seven years now.

I was adopted by my father. My mother was pregnant with me when they got married and I was not biologically his child. He didn't care and he signed the birth certificate as my father without any hesitation. Through all of this drama and discord I always felt that I owed him so much for taking me on. After all, I wasn't his responsibility but he was happy to do it. I see now that while this thinking is where I've been it brings up a lot of feelings for me. I am grateful for his love but I am also a gift in his life and that is enough. The name that was given to me has changed in a sense that I am no longer under his wing and haven't been for quite some time and that is ok. That is growth. I have taken off from the metaphorical nest and now I get to make choices for myself. My choice is to connect with my partner, the one I've chosen to walk with. This name binds us as a family: my husband our daughter and myself. I hope that one day Noelle will feel good about flying from the nest knowing that her body, life and soul are hers and that we will always facilitate a place for her to figure that out: mentally or physically.

I am ready to be a wife, a mother, part of a unit that works together and consider's each other's deepest feelings. My time and energy belongs to me and them second. My name is a combination of my past, my intention and my being. I am Michelle Oshun Rivera and I am excited at how much this change means to me.



The Perfect Winter Butternut Squash Soup

January 21, 2014

It is cold outside. Like, REALLY cold. It could snow at any minute, freeze warning, annoying cold. Ok, so to people who aren't from California it probably isn't that cold. I think a friend of mine actually described the current weather as a "cold snap". No reason to lock yourself indoors. Resistance to cold must be genetic and my daughter may have been born in Tennessee but she is genetically a californian. Our cheeks turn bright red, our lips are chapped for days and life is just plan miserable when it's cold out! Unless we have something to warm our hearts like soup. Did I mention my husband is not only the bread winner but the bread maker? He is in charge of providing us with fresh baked bread whenever we will it so. He's amazing & his bread is always paired with my very favorite winter delights. Butternut squash is not just a thanksgiving decoration. It's also responsible for my favorite soup of the season. Here's the recipe, pair with bread, apples and cheese and stay warm!

(6 servings)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cups cubed butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 cups organic veggie broth
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in butternut squash, thyme, broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

Let the soup cool slightly and carefully purée in batches in an upright blender.

Heat up and serve.

The Only Cleaning Products You'll Ever Need

How did you learn what cleaning products to buy? Do you remember how much you paid for them or how often they needed replacing? Have you ever  bought a cleaning product because it said "all natural" on the label? Here's the truth: You don't need to buy ANY of the pre-packaged, chemical laden, toxic, scary, smelly crap that they sell on the shelves of your local stores. Not only do you not need it but you can seriously do without it health-wise. Here is a straight forward list of the only cleaning products you'll ever need. They're safe, they're effective and you probably already have them around your house somewhere:

  • white vinegar
  • baking soda 
  • lemons and/or lemon juice 
  • salt 
  • olive oil 
  • borax 
  • essential oils (I like lemon, lemongrass, & eucalyptus)
  • dish soap
  • dr. bronners
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • citrus solvent

White Vinegar

This stuff is like $2 a gallon. Cheap, cheap and awesome. It kills mold, bacteria and germs because its so acidic. I seriously use it to clean 85% of things in my home: wood floors, kitchen tile, countertops, mirrors, windows, metal appliances etc. Even the FDA talks about how effective it is to reduce pretty legit amounts of bacteria and germs!

Mix 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar in a spray bottle. add in a couple drops of lavender essential oil to make it smell sexy. Or you can add peppermint or eucalyptus for a different smell. Viola, an all-purpose cleaner that you wouldn't FREAK OUT with if your kid drank it. Some advice: don't let your kid drink it, but still. 

Baking Soda

When something is stuck or stubborn baking soda will break it down. Example of this include melted cheese, soap scum in tubs, the butternut squash that leaked into the bottom of the oven (oops!). Baking soda also deodorizes yuckiness including poop in cloth diapers (sprinkle some on), weird smells in the fridge etc.

Combine 3/4 c. baking soda, 1/2 a lemon that doubles as the sponge, 3 tablespoons salt,  3 tablespoons liquid dishwashing soap, 1/2 cup vinegar, 10 drops essential oil (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl to make a paste; use the lemon (the juice top) to apply to tub, shower walls, & sinks. (Be sure to test a small area to make sure paste does not scuff tub surface; if so, eliminate the salt from the mixture! Rinse well with water and a wet rag, then dry with a clean rag or old towel.

Lemons and/or Lemon Juice

Lemons are chock full of naturally occurring acids. They are really effective against household bacteria. Lemons also work as a lightener (for hair too!) and brightener for sinks, metals etc.. They work better than bleach, smell better and are easier on clothing. I like to use half a lemon to scrub at the bathtub so it'll double as a sponge.

Add lemon juice to your dishwasher soap container with each load. Your dishes will come out looking like new… spot-free!


I first learned of the magic that is salt in my esthetics courses. We were studying manual exfoliants and of course salt came into the mix. Salt is an abrasive and will boost baking soda to boot. I use salt and olive oil as a hand scrub every couple of days too!

Check out this homemade dishwasher detergent: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cups borax, 1/2 cup salt & vinegar (add to rinse compartment!) Mix first three ingredients well & store in airtight container. To use, add 1 tablespoon to each of the 2 compartments in your dishwasher and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your rinse compartment.

Olive Oil

Oil gets rid of oil & sticky. So stickers on new items, greasy mishaps etc. It also makes for a great furniture polish, specifically wood items and floors. You only need a tiny amount or you'll be sliding around like a clown on a banana!

3/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar & 3-4 drops lemon essential oil or juice 1/4 of a lemon. Run a rag under hot water until soaked then ring out until slightly damp. Dip and wipe in circulars. Buff off with an old dry towel. This beautiful concoction can also be used to polish stainless steel, woohoo!


So sometimes you need a cleaner with a little more alkaline power! This generally occurs when there's an overabundance of mold or mildew (ew). It CAN be harmful to the environment when not used properly and you should definitely wear gloves with this stuff.

The super-duper mold remover: add a cup of vinegar to the borax and water solution. The solution works best in warm water because the warm water loosens the mold. This will make a more effective solution because borax and vinegar attack the mold in slightly different ways.

Essential Oils

I could go on and on about the epic cleaning/healing/aromatic/soothing/immunity boosting (and more) powers of the essential oils. You can add lavender, lemon, orange, eucalyptus, peppermint to infuse cleaning supplies OR just use them on their own. Each oil has one or more super power. Lemon is my absolute favorite and it's all I use to clean our tub. The oils MUST be pure to be effective! Here is a list of 101 rad things you can use lavender, lemon and peppermint for.

Add 2-3 drops to about 1/4 cup of hot water and clean your wood cutting board. Cutting boards can harbor bacteria in your kitchen. Nobody wants to taste the chemicals you have in your cleaning closet, yet most people love the taste of lemon!

Dish Soap

Simple, sudsy, and an excellent plan b. If all else fails, simple dish soap will do the job. Hilarious huh? The stuff that every home has, so simple, is so effective. It'll pick up the slack. Squirt it into some hot water and go nuts.

Combine 1 gallon of hot water (in a bucket), 1/2 cup white vinegar & 1 t. of liquid dish soap. This will put windex to shame! Add some lemon essential oil for a beautiful scent and the cleanest glass you've ever seen.

Dr. Bronner's

Or SOME kind of mild castille soap is really good at cleaning our bodies, hands, destroying clothing stains and providing a natural pesticide for our gardens. We buy the huge gallon jug of Dr. Bronner's every 2 years (maybe) lol. We use it to refill our hand soaps, to shower, to wash our hair, to wash our car and yeah, way more. It's natural, smells like heaven (or you can get the unscented and just add essential oils if you please) and it really isn't that expensive.

Fill a 16 oz. spray bottle nearly to the top with water. Add 3 Tbs of your favorite Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and 20-30 drops of tea tree oil. Shake it well and spray it on bathroom or kitchen surfaces, floors, even dirty little hands if they’re nearby. Wipe off with a damp cloth. (from Going Green with a Bronner Mom)

Hydrogen Peroxide

I gave birth at home, on carpet. There was a tarp but some got on the carpet and hydrogen peroxide is the reason we're getting our deposit back. HP is an oxidizing agent and much safer than chlorine bleach. It can be used for whitening anything from your teeth to a toilet bowl.

For super duper disinfectant use 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, 2 cups of water and 4-10 drops of lemon, tea tree, or oregano oil (or all). Spray it anywhere that needs disinfecting

Citrus Solvent

D-limonene should only be used on the toughest jobs. We use it to de-gunk stovetop burners during a serious deep cleaning sesh.

There is no recipe for this one. Alone it moves mountains.

Should you get rid of your store-bought, pre-mixed, chemical crazy cleaners? In my opinion, yes. A lot of people think that I'm extreme and that's ok. I feel really good about my decision to minimize toxins at home. If you're ready to get on the wagon, please don't just chuck your cleaning supplies in the trash. You'll want to drop it off at your local "household hazardous waste disposal". Most towns and local business' have a drop off somewhere nearby. They take lots of stuff like fluorescent bulbs, batteries, old paint. I believe you can contact earth911.com and type in HHW to find recycling centers for your area.

Happy cleaning and feel free to ask me about ANY household cleaning job. Make sure to check out pinterest for even more uses for these items. And say hello to all of the money you're going to save!

A Rad Organizing Solution For Small Spaces

January 16, 2014

I remember a christmas, not too long ago. Jeremy was gifted a tool box by a kind relative and we were thrilled. It's red, shiny, pretty and yeah. It's pretty but that's pretty much where the appeal ends. Don't get me wrong I LOVE pretty things, but without functionality it doesn't last too long in our home. Unless I find a display shelf for it (hence the Greedo snow globe display my husband made). The truth is that tool boxes are wide, they have a lid (boo) and very minimal shelving and separation. I use my tools all of the time whether it's knocking the crib down a peg (she's a climber) or anchoring a screw to the wall to hold an antique mirror I picked up at the flea market (this happens a lot more than I'd like to admit). Tools must be available, organized and easy to find/reach. I want just as much access to medium sized nails as I have to my electric drill. 

May I present to you, finally, a rad way to organize goodies:

The over-the-door shoe hanger! This baby is hanging over my laundry room door- full of organized yumminess just ripe for the picking! These shoe organizers are useful for not only tools but plants, craft supplies, cleaning products and more! Take a look at even more inspiration. Mmmm... organizing porn.

Makeup Organizing
Cleaning Supplies
Urban Gardening! (perfect for herbs)
Craft Supplies

I guess you put shoes in them too. *shrugs*

Noelle Snow is One Year Old

January 14, 2014

This is important, she is important. My pregnancy, my labor, her birth, my birth into motherhood and really taking a look at our accomplishment. She's one year old and I'm a one year old mother. We have both hit many milestones. Truthfully, I haven't posted closer to her actual birth date because I've been really sitting with the idea that I am the mother of a one year old that consistently teaches me what life is all about. It's so strange to think that I ever thought that I would be the professor. That it was my job to show her the way. It's almost as silly as the idea that someone else deliver's your baby when it's always been the woman's accomplishment alone. I simply facilitate her growth, but she is the one who teaches. 

Since she was born I've overcome many things. 2013 was a year of learning, if you want to read about that here. I thought that 2014 would be a year of doing but we're only 14 days in and already I see that 2014 is a year of being. While I am of course "trying" in a sense that I'm not just laying in bed each day, the result of these lessons is a consciousness that is engrained within me. I don't have to try to do many things these days- they seem natural to me, like breathing. She has taught me about these instincts that have always been in me, even while dormant.

She has taught me the true meaning of patience. Not while interacting with her, mind you, but while interacting with myself. The things I say to myself in my head (my thoughts), throughout any given day were things that I would never say to her. Her kind, careful face is a reminder constantly of how important it is to be kind and careful not only with her, but with myself. I hug myself like she hugs me, I let myself feel my feelings through to completion like she does. Happiness, joy, silliness, sadness, frustration- she feels all of this as long as she needs to and reminds me of how important it is not suppress these very real, living organisms that find their way through our skin, through our mouths, out of our eyes. She embraces them, without trying and lets them run their course. Noelle has no need for perfection- her food lands where it lands. Her blocks strewn about the house- her quest for experience and practice is constant. I yearn to be like her and she shows me what it is to be. And what contentedness looks like this this state.

She now weighs 21.2 lbs, she's 31" long, she's a bean pole who loves to climb everything. She loves to practice walking and she gracefully goes up and down the stairs hoping for someone below her to catch her so she can fly for a minute. She likes to sit with her food and watch the television. She sings when she hears a song she likes. She has 8 teeth and she uses them to chew on fruits and veggies, cheeses and grains. Her favorite foods are green beans and avocados. She moves even in her sleep and she has a face more beautiful than Cupid's. She is a cherub how she flies from moment to moment making mischief and spreading love everywhere she goes. She has a blue blanket that she loves to feel while she falls asleep. Her favorite people are her daddy, her mama and her grandma (my mom). She has yet to meet a lot of her other family but I know its all for a reason.

We had a birthday party for her on her birth day. We invited some great friends we've met here, in Nashville to coffee where we reserved a room and some cupcakes. My darling friend took photos and another wonderful mama offered to make Noelle a "smash" cake. We were so happy to celebrate Noelle's year with them. I made her a beautiful banner (that I hope to give to her) and a poster board all about her favorite things. The party was wonderful. My husband and I felt very proud of her birth, of who she is, of what we've accomplished and how she's changed our lives. Noelle Snow is one year old. We can't wait to see what else she shows us in year two. We are so proud, so excited to learn, so happy she's ours to love.

Kale & Spinach Risotto

January 09, 2014

I'm not a vegan, but I eat like one! The gosh darn truth is that eating well on a budget means not including meat and cheese with every meal. We buy meat maybe a couple of times a month for a special occasion because the meat we purchase is grass-fed, organic and high quality. Meat without hormones, antibiotics, grain & all of the other crap is expensive & not the healthiest source of protein anyways (gasp)! We choose 1-2 greens (kale, spinach), 2-3 grains (brown rice, arborio rice, quinoa) & some proteins (lentils, tempeh etc). These are our staples at home. With that in mind, I present to you my kale & spinach risotto. It's easy to make, easy to store and easy to eat! 

(4 servings)

2 tbs olive oil
1 small onion chopped
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine or water
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped kale (any kind)

Heat olive oil in large saucepan set over medium heat and saute onion until soft, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add the rice and stir to coat with oil, then add the wine (or water) and cook until it's absorbed.

Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and adding more as the stock is absorbed until all stock is absorbed; about 30-35 minutes. The rice should be creamy in appearance and firm but not crunchy.

Stir in the butter (or coconut oil) and cheese, spinach and kale just until they wilt. Serve immediately or store and re-heat later.