Monday, May 28, 2007

The Yarn Harlot...

I confess to having taken another detour from my Buddhism book to briefly visit The Land of Knitting via Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off, another cute and funny book from The Yarn Harlot. I got my mom this book for her birthday and then borrowed it when she finished. It was a swift and amusing read, even though I haven't knitted anything for over a year (and before that, only little doll scarves) and do not consider myself a Knitter. Her books make me so want to knit though! I've kind of given up on most crafts until my kids are older, but The Land of Knitting sounds like such an enjoyable abode. Anyway, this book is a faux travel guide with sort of weird little illustrations and an odd layout to make it read like a travel book (but to Knitting instead of Montana). She has a knack for description and a flair for humor and the drama of the mundane. I really enjoyed this light little read (it was a nice break from Buddhism, I have to say...)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Attachment Parenting

Recently read the spring issue of Attachment Parenting, the journal of API. I wasn't aware before, but they just changed their "Eight Ideals" to the "Eight Principles." The new principles are much more broad (and I daresay generic!). While I appreciate the intent (better meet the needs of more parents and better accommodate differences), I sort of get the feeling that their message has been weakened by the changes. I just wonder if they are losing effectiveness by being so nonspecific (i.e. "feed with love and respect" used to be "breastfeed." Now, the explanation of the principle doesn't even mention the word breastfeeding!) The newly redone principles are:
  1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
  2. Feed with Love and Respect
  3. Respond with Sensitivity
  4. Use Nurturing Touch
  5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting
  6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care
  7. Practice Positive Discipline
  8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Plug-In Drug

A couple of days ago, I finished another one of my birthday books: The Plug-In Drug. This book is primarily about the impact of television on children--this gist being that it has the capacity to turn them into passive, mindless little zombies "plugged in" to a screen, which is often used as a babysitting in a manner similar to parents of old would dope their kids up with opium or laudanum to keep them quiet and inert while they went to labor in the thread factory (or wherever).

I have had this book on my wishlist for some time and I was happy to finally read it. I wish I had read it prior to having that "fight" in January with the UU member about my "get rid of your TV!" simple living tip. That was the only "public" argument I've ever had with anyone and I approached it in a way too overzealous manner. Anyway, this book would have been good back up ;-) (I did mention it to him, even though I hadn't read it yet).

I had quotes marked to share, etc., but I just don't feel like it right now. So, I'm going to close with my thoughts incomplete. This was a pretty good book--I didn't love it and agree with everything she said, but overall, her hypotheses make sense to me (reading the book was a little bit of a "preaching to the choir" experience).

Yesterday, I also read Continuum, the newsletter of the LLLI Alumnae Association. There was a review of a book that sounded interesting to me--If I Live to Be 100--but when I looked it up at Amazon to see about it buying it, the reviews were poor (I actually place a lot of stock in the reviews on Amazon) and so I put it on my library wish list instead. I didn't end up renewing my subscription to Continuum this year. I think maybe it will appeal to me more when I'm retired (duh! That is who it is geared for anyway!)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

She Births

Tonight I finished reading, She Births, another one of my birthday books. I was really excited to get this book and was kind of let down by the actual experience of reading it :-( It has a great cover image though (and I love the title too)! I found myself thinking, "where's the book?" as I was reading--I was three quarters of the way done and hadn't learned anything or considered any new ideas. It was like I was reading, but getting *nothing.* It is hard to explain. I found the last quarter to be more interesting at least. Also, there are a huge number of typos/errors in the book that I found distracting. I know I'm not a perfect writer either, but I get very "jolted" by typos in books and it makes it harder for me to respect the message if the delivery is marred by mistakes. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more when I was actually pregnant? As I was reading it, I was thinking that I need to re-sell it, but after I finished it, I decided I need to keep it and try again with it another time. Maybe I just wasn't in the proper mood to read it!

Added on August third after a discussion online about this book:
Basically, I was disappointed with the book. Especially after reading all the mixed reviews (i.e. some of the “I’m so shocked by this book!” type ones), I was expecting something special. I am very into the idea of birth as a transformative rite of passage, etc. so I thought this book was going to be right up my alley. I was also expecting to glean some great new ideas to use in birth education classes. I just was really expecting something new and exciting and I didn’t really learn anything new or find any of my ideas expanded or challenged by it :(

I guess I did get something out of it in that she likens the experience of giving birth to a spiritual rite of passage like a vision quest or walking across hot coals, with the idea that moving through the pain of birth is a purifying, transformative, spiritual, cleansing experience. (I think this is the idea that most bothers some reviewers.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Baby Catcher

Earlier this week I finished reading another one of my birthday books, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife. It was fast paced and engaging and overall I enjoyed it (really, I couldn't put it down!). I have a couple of criticisms though: the book seemed very self-centered. Each birth story was all about Peggy (the midwife and author) and what SHE was doing, thinking, feeling. I realize that she is the person writing the book and that her experiences are valuable, but there was an "I'm the real star of this show" vibe that I didn't care for. There was also an overall "drama" portrayal of births--lots of "dashing in and skidding into place to save the day" type of stories (makes for an exciting book, I guess!). Finally, my HUGE pet peeve. She exclusively refers catching babies as "deliveries"--the books probably has over 1000 uses of the term. "I delivered her" or "I delivered the placenta" or "one of the mothers I delivered" or "I performed the delivery" and so on and so on. It grated on my nerves so badly. I'm surprised she could have "missed" that the term "delivery" is so dismissive of the birthing woman. (The whole babies are born, pizzas are delivered thing--where has she been recently?) It is such a passive and disempowering term (and, it also turns the focus to the midwife instead of the woman herself). Where was the, "the woman gave birth to..." or "then she gently birthed the head" language, or, at the very least, "I CAUGHT her baby." No, it is delivery, delivery, delivery all the time. The roots of the phrase are even distasteful--the whole "delivering the woman from her biblically ordained suffering" thing. Even her concluding statement reads as follows: "Those who are supportive of midwives, home birth, and a woman's right to choose how, where, and by whom she will be delivered, are hopeful that this is the wave of the future." Women are active, powerful, birth givers! Women give Birth, Peggy, they are NOT delivered!

That said, the book was well written and fast paced and I'd still recommend it to others. The author was really committed to her profession and served a lot of women in a skillful way. Oh, one more criticism, there virtually no discussion of the author's own family and how she integrated her busy practice with her family. I was curious about it throughout the book.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Recent Reads

I've read a number of things recently that I haven't blogged about (many while I was sick) and I'm going to quickly "catch up" with them here all under one post:

At our Craft Camp at the end of April, I finally finished reading Having Your Baby with a Nurse Midwife. I got it at the JC book sale and it was a little old, but really quite good. I wish CNM's were more available, because I think they really have the potential to bring midwifery to the masses ("normal" people aren't going to flock to homebirth any time soon, I don't think, and CNMs have the potential to interject some humanity into the hospital birth machine). I have always been much more drawn to direct entry midwifery and my heart lies with homebirth, but reading books like this helps me remember that CNMs have a very valuable role to play as well (they can also attend homebirths...sometimes...but I'm posting here about the majority that attend only in hospitals).

I also read the spring issue of Citizens for Midwifery News and the spring issue of International Doula (DONA's publication). Much as I love and support other childbirth organizations, I find the International Doula to be the most high quality of all the organizations' publications. They really do a nice job with this journal!

I really enjoyed reading Let the Baby Drive by Lu Hanessian as well. I had the opportunity to buy some copies wholesale a few months ago and I bought 15 or so, but hadn't read it myself until now. I donated a copy to my LLL Group's library (I was so excited to find something on the "approved" list that I could buy in bulk like this!). I hope a lot of mothers are able to read it and enjoy her perspective as I did. I had a bunch of pages marked to share quotes from, but I'll have to do that some other day. Suffice to say, I strongly recommend this book! I have a copy set aside for our new HMN chapter's library as well.

One of the birthday books I finished was The Mother Trip, by Ariel Gore. She is a compelling and engaging writer. I don't connect with everything she has to say, but that is what makes the world go round! I'm also uptight and prudish and so I get turned off sometimes by the language that she uses and in this book, by an essay about her trip to the city for a book tour without her kid and how she sort of slipped back into "party mode" (as I said, uptight, and I don't really appreciate or respect the whole "partying" mentality--like it is a desirable thing to be all impaired?).

In one essay she shares a meaningful quote from Alice Walker: "It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes failing over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame. This is the tragedy of our world." Ariel adds her own thoughts to this: "Remember: as women, as mothers, we cannot not work. Put aside your ideas that your work should be something different or grander than it is. In each area of your life--in work, art, child-rearing, gardening, friendships, politics, love, and spirituality--do what you can do. That's enough. Your small stone is enough."

This afternoon I got and read the spring issue of Forum, Mothers & More's quarterly publication. I guess they've changed their tagline to be "Making Connections. Making a Difference." I love this part of their mission: "the caregiving work that mothers do is real work, with real social and economic value." I wish that was posted on billboards all over the country and I wish that state and federal governments GOT it!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Having Faith

This weekend I finished reading Having Faith, another accidental find from It was such a good book--both fascinating and frightening. The subtitle is An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood. The book is the account of an ecologist's pregnancy and then two years of breastfeeding. She turns her ecologist's eye toward studying her own pregnancy--she herself has become a "habitat" an "ocean for one" and she explores pregnancy through that lens (of herself as habitat). I learned all kinds of things about how the body works, about the physical processes involved in pregnancy, and WAY more than I wanted to know about the role of environmental contaminants (that was the frightening part of the book). It sounds boring on the surface, but she was very skillful at weaving together the human interest parts of the story with the very technical/scientific elements/descriptions/parts of the story. She also talks at length about birth defects and about past major scandals/tragedies involving iatrogenic birth defects (Thalidomide, etc.) Some of it was horrifying. With regard to environmental contaminants such as lead, mercury, etc. she makes the point that books geared towards pregnant women are very strict with the "no smoking, no drinking, no changing the cat litter, and no eating soft cheese" stuff and RARELY mention, except to totally blow off, things such as the nitrite levels in your drinking water. Or, the pounds and pounds of lead that was belched into the atmosphere during the "leaded gasoline" era and that we are STILL absorbing into the bodies of our unborn right now through soil and water contamination. Conventional books tend to pooh-pooh worries about environmental things as, "don't worry your pretty little head about that," while taking a hard line at the soft cheese which are, frankly, the least of our worries!

When it comes to breastfeeding, she makes a wonderful point that had never even crossed my radar--when considering ecological models of food chains and biomagnification (the process by which contaminants are increased the higher the step on the food chain), motherfed BABIES should actually be considered the pinnacle of the food chain. Usually, the charts stop with "man" as the top of the foodchain, but HELLO, it is actually the baby at mother's breast who is at the top of the food chain. This is kind of cool in a sense, but deeply horrifying in another--the baby is receiving the highest body concentration of poisons and toxins from our planet's food chain :-( Mothers actually reduce their own body's load of toxins by breastfeeding (because much of the fat in breastmilk comes from the mother's stored body fat, which is also where all the nasty stuff like DDT is stored :-( WAH! Of course, this does NOT mean that breastmilk is bad or that women should not breastfeed--what it means is that it is inexcusable that day by day we are poisoning the bodies of our women and their babies. Breastmilk is the superior infant food--it is also the baby's birthright and isn't it also the baby's birthright to have clean, pure, safe milk? We have a major cultural and biological crisis when mother's milk is tainted with pesticide residue, carpet cleaning chemicals, hormone additives, etc. etc. ::sobs::

Mothering Magazine

I recently read the newest issue of Mothering. Good article about the HPV vaccine (also scary!). This vaccine was being heavily marketed at the Speaking of Women's Health conference I went to at the end of April. They gave me a free t-shirt even (I gave it away). I'm really concerned that this is something that has been inappropriately pushed through the FDA approval process without adequate research and could be a public health disaster. It is a very slick marketing strategy to call it the "cervical cancer vaccine"--it really only vaccinates against 4 different strains of HPV (there are over 100! Hence, the slick marketing). I really think people will feel like "I've been vaccinated against cervical cancer, so I don't need to worry about that," and the rates of cancer among young women may actually go up instead of down (4 out of 100 strains is not many and it does NOT preventative!)

There was also an interesting article about pospartum psychosis. Mothering seems to be branching out lately from their natural family living niche (in both good ways, such as exploring less rosy "my natural family is so perfect!" type stories, and also in bad ways--occasionally I wonder if I'm reading Mothering, or just another conventional parenting publication).

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Inner Wisdom deck

One of my birthday presents was a deck of Inner Wisdom cards by my fave author Wayne Dyer. They were very quick to read through once and now that I've scanned through them all, I can go back as needed and pick an uplifting message whenever I want. There are only 25 cards in the deck. They each have something inspirational and inner peacey on the front and then the idea is developed slightly more on the back. They have strange, funky illustrations all over the cards that are fairly random and don't match (front and back are completely different themes).

I got a lot of wonderful books for birthday presents--I'm so excited by all of them! I have been really sick--it started the night before my birthday on the 3rd and I'm just now feeling close to back to normal. I'm still headachy and sinus cloggy and nasal speeched...Anyway, I spent a lot of time lying down and consequently already read several of my new birthday books (Z cooperated by wanting to lounge and nurse and sleep a lot--he took a four hour nap one day!) I'll find time to write about them over the next couple of days I hope. The day after my birthday I felt so horrible that I didn't actually read at all--my eyes felt like they were hot and burning and so it was better to keep them shut--but after that I read and read and read and read.

Back to the deck, but tying it into being sick: One of the cards that "spoke" to me was, "I release the need to determine how things 'should' be." This goes along with the book about Buddhism that I'm currently reading as well--I cause myself whole heaps of suffering because of persisting in being attached to how something *should* be. I.e. in the case of being sick, "I should be well! I shouldn't be sick on my birthday, " etc., etc. instead of accepting what IS. Life is as it is. It doesn't understand "should" ;-)

Other good ones: "I am a worthwhile human being" (something else to stick on my forehead) and
"What other people think of me is none of my business."

Now, I just have to remember these things. I may have referenced before that I read so many good ideas and try to implement them that sometimes I wonder if I've lost touch with my own inuition or what I really want or how I really feel--I'm always trying to be "perfect" and to do all the good things I read about, I forget how to listen to my own "still, small voice within." So, that's another thing to try to remember to do (and do perfectly) and I'm right back there again, LOL!

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Birth Project

Last week I read a sample copy of a new zine called The Birth Project. The subtitle is "thoughts on birth"--sounds right up my alley! I read it right away and it was pretty good. I think I may use my birthday money for a subscription, but I'm weighing my options (I would like memberships in BirthWorks & ICEA too). It is put together by several midwives and doulas (I gather). I really enjoyed a Blessingway article as well as one about how parenthood changes your brain--I most definitely feel *expanded* by motherhood. Like I would be a less developed human without the experience of mothering another. I feel stretched and changed and like I have grown a great deal since I had my babies. I also feel that it has been *painful* growth sometimes, but still healthy, good, desirable, growth as well (just sometimes I feel like, "dang, I don't WANT to learn lessons here!") Hmm. Sounds like Birth is actually a microcosom of this experience!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

In Balance

"To allow oneself to be carrier away by the multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence...It destroys the fruitfulness of one's own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." This quote from the book Slow is Beautiful has me pondering many things this evening. I haven't actually read the book, the quote was shared in the most recent issue of In Balance the newsletter of New American Dream (and the quote is actually from Thomas Merton--Cecile Andrews quoted him in her book and then the quote was re-quoted in the newsletter. Simple?! ;-). I have mixed feelings about the quote--it resonated with me, which is why I wanted to share it, but it also has a slight flavor of narcissim! I feel that sense of "drowning" that I get sometimes--where all of the things on my to-do list are threatening to crush me. I should remember that these things ebb and flow and within the next few weeks, I'll probably hit a slow spot again (which means it is okay to "save" some of the things that I feel pressing until later--virtually none of the things I want to be doing or feel like I should be doing are actually essential!). There are SO many good causes and so much good work to be done in the world--I want to be involved in everything! (but, then I feel taut and unhappy and snappish. But...without "good work" to do, I feel lacking in value. So, it returns to finding balance,which is the major point of the whole New Dream organization and philosophy--can I just say again how I love their tagline: "live consciously, buy wisely, make a difference." This should be my personal motto as well!

Balance is elusive for me, though I recognize the feeling of being so.

Tomorrow is my birthday! I should gift myself with going to bed promptly!