Saturday, January 26, 2008

Knitting Under the Influence

My mom lent me another one of her knitting books and I gobbled it up today. I like a nice dose of fiction after a lot of nonfiction reads. Like dessert :) Knitting Under the Influence was lightweight and kind of trashy almost, but I had fun reading it. It was about three single women who have a knitting circle each Sunday morning wherein they share their love life woes, etc. In the end, they all end up happily paired off with their perfect matches, who are, of course, the guys who did NOT seem well suited to them in the beginning of the book and *surprise* they fell in love. Each was v. predictable, but still like, "yay! I knew she would love him eventually!" There wasn't as much knitting as I expected either, though each section of the book had a knitting title like, "Yarn Over" for the final section.

I also stumbled a bit on the therapist character's various "treatment" techniques for working with children with autism. They basically seemed to involved making the kids cry a lot and so I didn't think those parts of the book sounded genuine. Then, I read the author's note at the end and she has a son with autism and actually co-wrote a book called Overcoming Autism. So....methinks all the crying in order to "train" the kids to have "good behavior" was based in real life after all...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Birth Book

This week I also finished reading my brand new copy of the 1970's classic, Birth Book by Raven Lang. I've blogged about this book several times on the CfM blog, so I won't say too much more about it here. I also reviewed it for the spring issue of CfM News. Overall, I enjoyed it, though the slang terms for women's genitalia throughout made me uncomfortable--I'm a pretty "proper" type and linguistically conservative!

Birth Book was originally published in 1972--first book of the sort, even before the better known Spiritual Midwifery. It has recently been reprinted on a very limited basis and is being sold by Citizens for Midwifery. I wanted to share one quote from the introduction of the book that felt relevant to me when thinking about midwifery in Missouri:

“Birth has not only reached the absurdity of having to be relearned, it also has the absurdity of becoming a criminal offense if we are to go ahead with our ideals and do things the way we desire. And so, because of the system, midwifery as practiced in this book is against the law. It has become political. We didn’t make it that way. For us it is a beautiful, personal, spiritual, sexual experience. And for us to have that, we become criminals.”

The highlight of this book are the tons of beautiful black and white photos. Lots of photos of women birthing on their hands and knees which you don't see that often.

More Random Reads.. .

I'm pretty behind on entries about books I've read, so I'm going to do a quick catch up post. In the last two weeks or so, I've also read:

Amy's Answering Machine--I bought this at Goodwill yesterday for 20 cents and read it in about 20 minutes last night. Funny little book--totally lightweight, but made me laugh out loud! It is basically a series of transcripts from messages the author's mother has left on her answering machine.

The Highly Sensitive Person--I got this book from Bookins. I have read it before, but it has been several years. This book helps me understand why I'm so BUGGED by extraneous noises (ones that compete for space inside my brain. Not good at shutting them out) and also why I'm not a big fan of music (lots of HSP's are fans of music, but for me it is the competing for space issue). Also how it is possible that I feel like an extrovert and an introvert at the same time. I LOVE being with people, but I also get drained by it and HAVE to be alone and SILENT. The silent thing is hard to come by as a mother of little ones and this book helps me understand why I feel that need for silence and why I get frazzled without it.

The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide--Got this one from a friend at playgroup. Last year we started sporadically attending the local UU Fellowship. I've felt an instant kinship with the UU approach and philosophy and beliefs statements. I joked to M that UU should be the "official" religion of social work, since the "what we believe" statement from the UU church could practically have been lifted from the social work code of ethics (NASW). Then, reading this book I learned that one of the early UUs in the US was none other than Jane Addams, the "mother of social work." Hee hee! I KNEW it!

Secrets on 26th Street--This was another little AG "history mystery" that I got for Christmas (that I bought myself on clearance a long time ago). The mystery in this one was more engaging than in the other one I recently read, but no nursing of babies in this one!

Baby & Mom Prenatal Yoga--This is a DVD I bought at Goodwill. I read the reviews on Amazon before I watched it, which I shouldn't have, because it gave me preconceived notions. Anyway, the reviews were pretty evenly divided between "this video is WAY too new agey and I hated it" and "this video was so cool and made me feel so close to my baby." So, I was kind of excited to watch it because the negative reviews mentioned (and critiqued) things like "primal dancing" and "chanting" and I was like, cool! Then I watched it and was sad to agree with the bad reviews. This was too new agey for me. Plus, it barely resembled yoga at all. In small print on the box it says "simple and effective exercises for expectant moms." That was much more accurate. There was no recognizable prenatal yoga in the video at all. There was an interesting exercise where you alternately raised your arms in the air and back down (in rhythm) for 3 minutes without stopping. It sort of an example of coping with pain, I guess. It was HARD! I was surprised.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ten Zen Seconds

One of the books I got for Christmas was Ten Zen Seconds. I finished this book last night and I LOVED it. I really recommend it. Unlike other self-help type books, it really only has one main suggestion/idea and it is super simple to immediately implement. The purpose of the technique being to "center" and to become mindful. The author suggests 12 short phrases (or, "incantations" as they are referred to on the cover). The technique is to take a 10 second long breath--5 in, 5 out and to use the breath as a "container" for a specific thought. You think the first half of the phrase on the in breath and the second half on the out breath. An example:

(I am) (open to joy)


(I embrace) (this moment)

The one I've been using a lot is (I expect) (nothing). I guess it sounds pretty sad in way when you read it typed out, but it very useful to me, because as Wayne Dyer would say "most suffering is the result of your attachment to how things should be" and this is very true for me. I'm always making little plans and then they get derailed and what is upsetting to me is really just because I planned it, I SHOULD be doing xyz. If I wasn't attached to how it should be, or expecting a particular result, I wouldn't end up disappointed or distressed or annoyed or whatever!

I started reading the book shortly after I got it and tried the technique that same day and have been using it in some form ever since. Really helpful and easy. Why a whole book for one technique? Because the book explores each of the 12 phrases on its own and how it can be applied, putting six phrases together for a "Centering Sequence," modifying the phrases, creating your own, etc. There are a lot of "testimonials" from people explaining how they used one phrase or another in their lives. I find almost all 12 to be very useful and I can remember almost all of them at any one time.

So, my enthusiastic recommendation of the month is Ten Zen Seconds. I'm a fan. As I read it I thought, this book is giving me a skill that I will use for the rest of my life. :) It is essentially a tiny meditation technique that is MUCH more readily incorporated into one's daily life (especially a life that includes small children) than traditional, dedicated, more elaborate meditation techniques (which would be great and beneficial to all of course, but very easy to fall off of the wagon from and/or difficult to begin incorporating in the first place!).

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Fruits of Labour

On Bookins recently I stumbled across a book I hadn't heard of before called The Fruits of Labour. I was attracted to it first because of its cool cover image and second because of the intriguing subtitle Creativity, Self-Expression, & Motherhood. I guess I read this at a vulnerable time for me or something, but for some reason I found it a very emotional read. There were several times in which my face sort of involuntarily contorted with pain (like a grimace almost), because of the power of the writing (or my own vulnerability. Not sure which). The book is collection of essays by female writers--most with children--primarily reflecting on their children and their art and the integration of the two (some of the writers were primarily dancers or artists, so the art was not always writing). It included excerpts from several books I've already read such as Of Woman Born and The Blue Jay's Dance. Another was an excerpt from the published diaries of sculptor Kathe Kollwitz who was a German sculptor writing during World War I. One of her sons was killed in the war and she is haunted by it and it was so difficult to read her story (she died in 1967, I believe. I'm fascinated by the timelessness of people's stories and how they can reach out from the past and touch you still. It is startling too how real their lives and experiences were and now they are gone and nearly forgotten. It is a poignant--or crushing--reminder of mortality and impermanence).

One sentence that pierced my heart and made my face crumple with pain was, "Other Mothers' Sons [a painting] was created out of fear and empathy for the mothers who had nurtured and protected young men through infancy and childhood, only to risk losing them in a battle that was not of their making." I'm not sure why this particular sentence touched me so--maybe just as a mother of young sons--or maybe I was feeling particularly emotional. Reading it now, it doesn't hit me quite the way it first did. There was something about this book that just really touched me in an emotional place.

Another quote: "Many mothers find times for themselves through sleeplessness or, when sleeping, have revealing dreams. That clever dreamlife works away helping the artist." Personally, while occasionally I "borrow" time from myself by staying up late to work, sleep usually takes priority for me. Mostly because I believe I will pay for it later if I borrow it now--like I'm only robbing myself of future health. So, I sleep usually for at least 8 hours a night. I identify with the comment about the dreamlife. After L was born, I stopped having any bad dreams and began to dream mostly about mundane things or stories, sort of, no nightmares any more (I think by no small coincidence because after his birth I found I had no stomach for the psychological thriller mysteries that used to be my favorite type of books to read. I stopped reading them completely and lo and behold, I haven't had a real nightmare for like the past four years!). I also dreamed frequently and vividly. When I was pregnant with Z I dreamed very vividly as well and after he was born started to have lucid dreaming experiences. Those kept developing up to a point and it was really cool. Now, I haven't had many recently and those I have had are much less cool--I had gotten to a point with the lucid dreams where in one I realized I was dreaming and said, "I'm lucid dreaming! I need to start talking to God while I have the chance!" On several occasions I also had the experience of being aware of being in the place between dreaming and waking--i.e. pure sleep without dreams, but knowing I was there.

And, back to the book, a closing quote: "What is true about giving birth is...that it is miraculous. It might even be the one genuine miracle in life...(Men have every right to be envious of the womb. i'm envious of it myself, and I have one.)"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Venus of Willendorf carving

Look what was waiting under the tree for me from my lovely husband this holiday season!
Isn't she lovely? I was so happy to get her. I have quite a collection of birth/pregnancy/mother related art now and I've been prompted to start a new blog specifically for sharing pictures of birth art. I am all excited to get going on it, but need to pace myself as I am not sure I have time to keep up with another blog, even a mainly pictures one. I'll keep you posted!

The Sacred Path Companion

For Christmas I bought my mom the book The Sacred Path Companion. After she finished reading it she lent it to me and I finished reading it yesterday. This is a book of ideas about walking the labyrinth "to heal and transform." It was interesting overall and I want to try the exercise she suggests about working with perfectionism (and maybe the one about "critical voices" too). For perfectionism, she suggests an "amplification" technique in which first you walk the labyrinth tempting yourself to stray outside of the path, but not actually doing so--experimenting with balance, etc. so you almost leave the path. Then, she suggests walking it again though this time walking all over it randomly without following the path. This is a dramatic concept for me to consider since I would never consider stepping out of the path. Even though the boundary is just a line of stones, it feels discreet to me--like it cannot be stepped over/breached. It would almost seem like a violation of the spirit of the place to me. But...the idea is an intriguing one. She makes the point several times that there is no one right way to walk a labyrinth.

This book is primarily focused on the Medieval Eleven Circuit Labyrinth--the type that is found on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France (built around 1200) and on the floor of Grace Cathedral (an Episcopal church in San Francisco). My mom's labyrinth is an older, simpler design labyrinth called a Cretan (or Classical) Seven Circuit Labyrinth.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Knitted Farmyard!

If you recall, in November I posted about the winter issue of Living Crafts magazine and the glorious knitted farm playmat depicted therein. I also referenced the crafting skills of my lovely and talented mother (who is a capital K, Knitter). I confess to thinking the knitted farmyard was a little out of her range of talent, but lo and behold, what was waiting for my boys on Christmas morning?! This lovely item of beauty and joy forever!
Yes, knitted! And, knitted in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas only. Told you she was a Knitter! (In a sidenote testimony to my mom's powers of Knitting, her warmly knitted socks cured me of the chillblains I used to get on my toes each winter.)

Here are some more detail pix. The garden has little felted carrots! And yes, that is Jabba the Hutt frolicking there in the field...
Speaking of crafts and my talented mama, registrations for Shannondale Craft Camp are in full swing. We think this will be the best year ever!

I know I haven't posted about books recently, but I have been reading a lot and have a pile of to-blog-about reads. However, I also have a baby with the stomach flu and thus not much time for posts requiring thinking/analysis.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Labyrinths & Birth Art

Several years ago my mom and I attended a session about labyrinths at the Speaking of Women's Health conference in Columbia. They have a small labyrinth on the grounds of Boone Hospital. Labyrinths are not mazes. There is only one path to the center and the same path back out again (though the route is circuitous). They can be used a walking meditation, a spiritual pilgrimage, a metaphor for life, prayer walks, healing, balance, etc. There are several historic churches with labyrinths on their floors and apparently there is a move to include them on the grounds of hospitals as a tool for healing and renewal. More about labyrinths here and an example of one of the many books on the subject here.

This summer my mom built a labyrinth on their property (in a dry pond bed, which is the perfect recessed nook for a labyrinth--it has a bank around it that separates it from the rest of their place). Special people in her life have contributed rocks for it and she adds them to the "inner circle." This picture was taken shortly after she completed it and it has changed somewhat since then--different bench, etc. Anyway, she has really created something special and it has a palpable sacred energy there. It is also the most effective walking meditation tool I've experienced. Anyway, I hadn't walked it in a while because I'm always "too busy" to take a few moments to do so. Over the Christmas holiday "break" in normal routines, I was able to start taking a daily walk on it again. L made a finger labyrinth using beads and sculpey for my mom for a Christmas present. It turned out so good, I decided to make one for myself!

This picture shows the detail on my little finger labyrinth. It was really fun to make.

All my labyrinth walking and sculpey labyrinth making further inspired me to draw two womb labyrinths. I have long wanted to learn how to draw a labyrinth like this and have found Pam England's LabOrinth concept a really powerful metaphor for the journey of birth. So, my fabulously talented husband figured out how to draw one of that style and then showed me how--he is a much better "visual" learner than me and he just stared and stared at one that Pam drew and then said, "I think it is drawn like this" and drew it--starting with a complicated system of concentric circles bisected by lines in a way that I never would have figured out on my own. My brain doesn't "see" like that. It was cool. I felt like he was a genius to figure it out! :-) After he showed me what to do, I caught on right away and drew this one:

And then, thinking about two pregnant friends of mine and about a song we sang at a blessing way for one of them, I drew this one:

I had SO much fun indulging my creativity a bit that week. I forget how fulfilling it it is make something. I've let a lot of my crafty-energy disappear after having children and sometimes it is so nice to create something pretty that I can hold in my hands. Of course, having children certainly requires the use of creative energy and is also creating "something pretty" to hold in my hands (and hug, and tickle, and snuggle too! What a bonus! ;-), but there is something about just simply making something you like and that you can finish in an hour or so that is just FUN. The thrill of creation AND completion!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Wise Mom

Earlier this month I got HMN's email newsletter The Wise Mom. My member profile was published it it and a little picture of me and my boys (taken by my mom earlier this year in the same location where we had our wedding photos taken 9 years ago).

I also had a letter to the editor in International Doula this month. This was my 50th publication! (If you include letters to the editor and such.) Anyway, there was a good article in this issue by Lu Hanessian called "Don't Hurry, Be Happy." In it she asked, "Do you think your kids would describe you as a happy person?" She specifies not when you are chatting with your friends, or doing your work, or talking with caregivers or grocery store clerks, "I mean day-to-day, do we behave as happy people around our children?" So, I asked L what he thinks and he said that I'm definitely happy. I then reviewed many other adults and kids that we know asking if he thinks each is happy. Except for 5 of the kids I mentioned, he identified everyone else as happy people.

I wrote more about two helpful handouts from Childbirth Connection on the CfM blog, so I won't repeat myself much here except to say I'm delighted that Childbirth Connection has made available free pdfs of the most excellent Mothering magazine article Cesarean Birth in a Culture of Fear and also a really useful handout by Penny Simkin called Comfort in Labor.