Friday, December 28, 2007

The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life

Of course, I received many lovely books as gifts this year which will keep me reading and posting for quite some time to come. I got a short little book called The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life which I read Christmas evening in about 30 minutes. I wanted it because the subtitle is "What I've Learned in my Never-Ending Quest to Become a Dalai Mama." Dalai Mama--I love it! Aside from that little touch of genius, I didn't really glean a whole lot from the actual book. Kind of funny with a lot of cute little line illustrations (like of her "Palm Pilot"--the palm of her hand with lots of notes written on it. ;-) I have one of those too!) She talked briefly about questing for perfection--"if you really were a perfect mother, everyone would hate you"--and quoted The Mother Dance author Harriet Lerner regarding perfectionism as the archenemy of mothers. Coincidentally, I also got The Mother Dance for Christmas and later in the evening when I opened it up to skim through I randomly opened to that same quote about perfectionism. Funny, eh?!

I also read Riddle of the Prairie Bride. This was a predictable "history mystery" for preteen girls (I bought it on clearance from American Girl and gave it to my mom to stuff my stocking with). Widowed father of 12 year old Ida Kate sends for a mail order bride. She arrives with her one year old baby and it soon becomes clear that something is amiss. She does not meet her description from her letters, gives inconsistent answers and so forth. Ida Kate investigates, mystery is solved, and true love reigns on the prairie. Why am I bothering to blog about this you may ask? Because, I keep an eye out for "breastfeeding as normal" content in kids books and I loved that in this mystery the first clue that the prairie bride is not who she says she is is that she didn't nurse her baby! (and, a one-year-old baby at that! Wow!) "She feeds him milk from a cup rather than nursing him as mothers do..." (Ida Kate notices the baby patting on the front of the mystery woman's dress and instead of nursing him, she gets a cup of milk for him). I also liked the use of the word "nurse" instead of "breastfeed." Cozy, familiar, desirable, and NORMAL. (With the emphasis on the process and not the product as Diane Wiessinger would say.)

The children's books the Royal Diaries and the other historical fictional diaries in that series of books also often mention breastfeeding and I like that about them (I appreciate it because it is NOT necessary for the content of the book, but it adds a nice touch of realism and normalness). Also, I just remembered that in one of the AG short stories--Josefina's Reward I think---her older sister has to hurry back from what she is doing to "nurse the baby" (who is also over one year old and walks and talks in the book).

Happy Holidays!

We had a thoroughly lovely Solstice and Christmas this year. Really great. We have a family joke of sorts about "this is the best Christmas ever" (ala St. Pat's is always the "best ever"), but this one really did feel like one of the best ever. We went to my parents house and my brother and sister were there too. Everyone got along really well. The mood was peaceful, joyous, and fun. L is at a fun age for enjoying everything and being SO excited. Z didn't really get what was going on, but was as adaptable as ever. Still a boy of few words, he did let out a "wow" every now and then that was pretty cute. He also snagged a lot of candy from other people's stockings and scarfed it down.

On Christmas Eve, we played our little game where we each write down two things and then randomly draw them and sing the 12 Days of Christmas using what is written on the paper (i.e. "Five Ewoks Dancing...").

On Solstice (this year the Sat. before Christmas), we open gifts as a nuclear family and then the extended family comes over in the afternoon and I plan some meaningful family activities for us to all do together--the kinds of things that are lost under the commercialism of Christmas. So, we share solstice goals with each other, reflect on past goals and the things that have "bloomed" in our lives over the year, make ornaments together, light candles on a Yule log, that sort of thing. I usually do a few things differently each year and a few are traditions year-t0-year. We started celebrating the Solstice they year L was born. It seems to mean something even to my teenage bro and sis, who each made a special effort to be present (sis with boyfriend along as well who was good spirited about everything and made a felt Ninja Turtle for L to stick to our wall--side note: we discovered that the walls of our straw bale house are like a giant felt-board and if you make things out of felt, they stick to the walls of their own accord. Pictures will follow when I get my camera's batteries recharged).

One of my solstice gifts from M was a pelvis model from ebay. Yay! I've wanted one for a long time! (The ebay seller's store is vanscience if anyone out there is also coveting one of these beauties. It is exactly life size.) The other thing in the picture is the uterus cutaway model thing that it comes with, but it isn't very cool. I'll stick with my big knitted uterus lovingly made for me by my mother.

I have more to say and more pictures to add sometime soon!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Midwifery Today Prenatal Yoga Article

In August, Midwifery Today accepted an article I wrote about prenatal yoga. I was incredibly excited about it then, but I didn't tell many people just in case they never actually published it (I didn't even tell my parents until October!). Then, last week the issue finally came in the mail with my article published in it--Incorporating Prenatal Yoga into Childbirth Education Classes. Woo hoo! I was re-delighted anew and now I'm telling all kinds of people and hoping I don't sound insufferably braggy about it. This feels like a lifetime goal (of sorts) realized. If anyone had told me last year that I would have an article published in Midwifery Today I wouldn't have believed them (too "big league" for me!). I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this, since every time I think about it I get a little thrill of excitement and disbelief. The article is placed right next to one by Michel Odent, so I've been joking about how we just overlap SO much, people confuse our work ALL the time (LOL!). They published the photo I submitted with it in the middle of the article, which was a nice layout (my mom took the photo of me when I was pregnant with L in 2003. The pose is called Proud (Birth) Warrior). There is a little synopsis of the article on the current issue page of MT's website.

I have so many more ideas for articles and essays ALL of the time. It is a constant flow of them. I wish I had more time to actually *write* them. Sometimes the most I get down is just the prospective title. Oh well. I have all the time I need (right?!). The idea for this prenatal yoga article actually came to me several months before I actually wrote it. It floated around my head for a while germinating and then refining and then one morning I woke up and said, "bring me my notebook!" and the whole thing came out basically fully formed onto the pages while Z and L were still sleeping. This helps me see how "writing in my head" is actually real writing and real work--even though I'm not actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, something is being created that can be born when the time is right. I hope the next article that happened like this is also published soon...I'll keep you posted, of course ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Breastfeeding as Radical...

I finished reading the fall issue of Utne a few days ago and marked the following quote to share from K.C. Compton in an article about baby boomers:

"We discovered firsthand the radical nature of simple acts: Sit in the front of the bus, ask that your husband be present during his son's birth, decide to feed your infant with your own breasts, refuse the nuclear power plant being built just up the road. We also learned how much more effective those acts can be when compounded by the hundreds and thousands, their feet on the street..."

This reminds me of a powerful editorial by Peggy O'Mara that I read once in Mothering, urging women to see their mothering as a political act.

Also, since I'm posting about breastfeeding, I wanted to mention that I got the new LLLI catalog last week. It has been *completely* redone and the layout and appearance has received a total makeover. The results are great. I love it! It is "pocket" guide style called "Breastfeeding Guide: tips & products." So, instead of being a catalog, it is actually a helpful little booklet first and a catalog second (the products come in the second half of the booklet, after the tips. 26 pages of questions answered and then 25 pages of catalog--pocket sized though, so maybe 3 x 5?). For being so small, it covers a remarkable amount of territory and gives lots of good information--from "How often will my baby nurse?" to "When will baby sleep all night?" to "Is it possible to breastfeed twins?" Like I said, it is a great little *book* not just a catalog. I love it and think it was a stroke of genius to reach out this way!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love

Tonight Z was being somewhat difficult and not going to sleep, so I spent a long time in bed trying to put him to sleep and consequently finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. I have wanted to read this since a friend of mine told me about seeing the author on TV and also because every time I search for or buy a book on Amazon, it says something like "people who bought that book, also bought Eat, Pray, Love." The third reason is that I like the cover--it is cool. The Eat is made out of pasta, the Pray is made out of prayer beads (japa mala) and the Love is made out of flower petals. And yes, I did count all the beads in "Pray" to make sure there were actually 108 (there were). This book is the chronicle of the author's one year spiritual journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia (Bali). She spends four months in each country living among the people and discovering what the country has to teach her.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book for the most part. The author has a light, engaging, conversational style. She talks about how she can make friends with anyone and she does sort of "make friends" with her readers as well. I had this feeling of knowing her--though I didn't know I felt that way until I read some of the book reviews on Amazon and felt sort of surprised like, "these people know her too? My pal Liz?" I did notice that for someone seeking spiritual insights on a solitary journey, almost all of the book involves her relationships with the people she meets. Goes to show that no woman is an island, of course, and the power of relationship, but it seems different than what she says she has set out to do. Also, I only marked two pages which is a sign that I did not gather anything particularly lasting from this book.

One of the two pages I marked was this:

"I should say here that I'm aware not everyone goes through this kind of metaphysical crisis. Some of us are hardwired for anxiety about mortality, while some of us just seem more comfortable with the whole deal. You meet lots of apathetic people this world, of course, but you also met some people who seem to be able to gracefully accept the terms upon which the universe operates and genuinely don't seem troubled by its paradoxes and injustices."

My husband is more of the second type (graceful) and I am more of the first (mortality anxious).

I have long felt an urge to more concentrated attention to spiritual seeking, but have trouble actually getting devoted about it. This book made me think about that again and the development I could do...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Last week I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's newest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This book was unique amongst all the Barbara Kingsolver books I've read to date in that it was a chronological, autobiographical narrative. Her other personal nonfiction works are collections of essays that are not chronological, but are organized instead around a theme. This book is the story of one year of her family's life. As such, it is not particularly glamorous or exciting. Indeed, it is kind of mundane and the pace is pretty slow. Yet, it is REAL and very personal. Written with inset boxes by her husband about specific environmental issues and chapters closed with recipes and thoughts from her oldest daughter, this book was a family effort (just like the year it describes).

The author and her family decide to move permanently to their farm in Kentucky (previously only their summer home) and to attempt to eat locally and to grow and harvest as much of their own diet as possible. Forced to acknowledge that the food available in Tuscon is unsustainable at best and environmentally disastrous at worst, they could ethically not live there any longer and so set out to provide for their own gastronomic needs (as organically, harmoniously, and peacefully as possible too).

I must confess that this book did not snare me as completely as all of Kingsolver's other books have. I consider her one of my favorite authors of all time and one of the most masterful and gifted writers I can think of. Towards the end of the book, her stirring descriptions and explanations of the reproductive saga of her domestic turkey flock actually brought tears to my eyes. That is some gift! ;-D

Other random thoughts from this book:

  • I loved her concept of (and accompanying illustration of), the "vegetannual." The way of looking at vegetables as all pieces of one plant (the vegetannual) providing edible goods at different points of the year (different parts of the plant's life cycle) and continuously. Beginnings with the spring greens and crowned with the "flower" of a large pumpkin, the vegetannual continuously meets our dietary need for fresh produce!
  • She makes me wants to raise chickens! (heck, and maybe turkeys too...)
  • And I want to grow stuff! Lots of stuff!
  • This book came to mind day-to-day and made me reflect on my own food choices and the localness, or not, thereof. She talks about being a "locavore," which is a cool concept.
  • We do eat primarily in season and my observation is that local grocery stores (even Wal-Mart!) make it easy to do so. Towers of produce during any one season are most often seasonably appropriate (though very often not local by a long short). This seems different than her assertion that Americans eat whatever they want, whenever they want it without consideration for, or indeed awareness of, whether it is in season. Maybe it is a function of our fairly rural, Midwestern location, but I think people here would hard pressed not to "get" that some foods are in season and some aren't (based simply upon the abundance of apples in the Wal-Mart produce department right now and the utter--and totally appropriate--dearth of, say, strawberries. No watermelons now either or mounds of peaches, just as there will be no grapefruits in Wal-Mart in July).
  • She also has some good insights about the simple pleasures of food preparation and providing for your family instead of viewing cooking as drudgery or a chore to be got through.
  • I made Camille's (Kingsolver's daughter) zucchini orzo recipe for dinner last week and it was delicious!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Information Overload? (and...this is my 150th post!)

So many good causes! Maybe too many?

A few days ago I was reflecting on the many sources of written information flowing through my life. I made a list and *not including personal information sources* (i.e. email from friends or conversations with people) or actual people, I have well over 100 things coming into my life over the course of a week, month, or quarter that demand my attention in the form of me reading them. Mostly email or print newsletters, action alerts, that sort of thing.

I am a dues paying member of at least 17 organizations (I might have forgotten some). All but two have a publication that I receive (though another one of them has more than one publication). Then, I subscribe to 10 different magazines/journals. Then, because I'm an alum of that school or because I donate money to that organization, or because I'm a member of that electric cooperative, or because I filled out that card for a free subscription to Energy Times from the health food store (which I really like, by the way), I get an additional 10 or so publications. And...I read them all (even the ones I get not by my choice, but alumni pubs or whatever. Though, not necessarily all through, cover-to-cover all the time). I've referenced before the difficulty I find in NOT READING. This is something that is really hard for me. LOL! If it is written and I see it, I read it. For better or for worse. I also read like 10 blogs and I am on about 30 email lists. Are you starting to see a problem here? When do we draw the line at how much information we bring into our lives? Is it possible to be so full of other people's opinions that it becomes impossible to hear your own still, small voice within?

Yes, I am an information junkie, but I'm also passionate about many causes, want to be an informed citizen, and want to have evidence based opinions. I also like to be "in the know" and I like to be a well informed, reliable, accurate person. However, I sometimes feel like a slave to the printed word! Or like I've gorged myself upon it. I gobble up writing like a starving person and there are always more words right behind them. I also gobble them with gusto--I LOVE to read. It is very important to me. Heck, that is why I even have this blog. It is about me and reading and how the two intersect to form the texture of my life.

So, I decided that this word-fest of my life could be viewed through two lenses:

1. The depressive lens: Each of these information sources chips off a piece of my life energy and diminishes my time. Fragments and splinters my attention, my energy, my focus (and my sentences ;-).


2. The optimistic lens: Each contributes its own piece to the complicated whole of me, my life, and my life energy and helps inform my thinking, expands my worldview, and enhances my ability to be an informative resource in my own right.

I guess it could be both too!

For whatever reason, this reminds me of another note I wrote in my notebook a few weeks ago when I got all of those publications in the mail on the same day. I was driving home and the following thought popped unbidden into my brain: "I am connected in an extraordinary web of human relationship." I like it.

P.S. Would you believe that in this, my 150th post to this blog (!), is the first time I've used "reading" as a label for my post?!


I didn't read as much as usual this week. I did quickly read through three volumes in the Heartsongs series. These are slim volumes of poetry by Mattie Stepanek, a child with muscular dystrophy. I remember seeing him on Oprah years ago when I still had TV and still occasionally watched Oprah. I have a boxed set and so read Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, & Hope Through Heartsongs (which was definitely the best of the three, I thought). I just googled him and saw that he died in 2004. :-( The idea of a heartsong is, "all people have a special song. Inside their hearts! Everyone in the whole wide world has a special Heartsong."

Reminds me of one of my favorite reminders from Wayne Dyer: "Don't die with your music still in you." I used to fret about this quite a bit--I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't letting my "music" out. Then, sort of accidentally, I started writing again and in earnest this time (articles, essays, blog posts, journals) and later realized I don't worry about dying with my music still in me anymore. During my original frets, I felt like it was other "music" that was needing out (mainly that of service to my passion for birth), not words necessarily, but I've realized that maybe it WAS literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling. They needed to get out. I've spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always "died" in me before they ever got out onto paper. Now, I get them out and it feels SO much better. Even if they don't go anywhere other than a note in my notebook, I feel so almost physically relieved when they are out and gone.

Reflux & Rice Cereal

I read the winter issue of Parenting magazine this week and was really happy to see the following snippet in their brief article about reflux/GERD:

"Leading experts no longer recommend thickening bottles with rice cereal, especially for regular spitup. One reason: A new study in Pediatrics found that this can lead to overfeeding, which only makes spitup worse."

I was SO glad to see this in mainstream print. Breastfeeding advocates have known this information for some time, but in my experience many doctors still recommend thickening feeds. I even talked with a mother who had been told to pump and exclusively bottle feed because her baby "had" to have rice cereal in every feed and there was no way to get the rice cereal into her breasts so it would have to be fed by bottle. I did suggest that as a compromise maybe they could feed the cereal to the baby by spoon before or after nursing, rather than pump and mix the cereal into the expressed milk. These kinds of situations make me want to tear my hair out in frustration and dismay :( So, I'm glad to see it in readily available public print that rice cereal additions DO NOT help.