Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making Choices

This week I finished reading the Alexandra Stoddard book, Making Choices, that has been on my to-read shelf for quite a long time. It caught my eye this week though and I decided to read it. I didn't actually enjoy it very much--the content wasn't particularly fresh or engaging and there was some sort of underlying tone of condescension to it that got on my nerves. Or maybe it was that she seemed sort of blithely dismissive of things--like, she told a story about a teenage girl trying to overdose on medications while her mother was having a committee meeting in the home and said something like, "if the girl's parents had allowed her space to express her frustrations, no doubt she would not have felt she had to go to such drastic lengths." Huh? Clearly this is her parents fault?! It wasn't like she said, "help me!" and they said "leave me alone I'm having a meeting." I thought teenagers were notoriously closed-mouthed about their feelings anyway, maybe her parents tried to let her express her frustrations and she wouldn't! There were other things like that just got on my nerves a little and seemed like "shallow" interpretations of other people's lives and experiences.

Anyway, the basic theme of the book though was, of course, making choices and how we choose most elements of our lives and how we respond to them. And, if we're complaining about things, we had better look at how we've chosen whatever it is we're complaining about. Something I identified with was her point about taking on volunteer commitments and then complaining about them/feeling put out by them. "Consider what your motives are when you accept responsibilities that make you feel frantic and frenzied. We can't blame others for inviting us to join a worthy cause. Whose choice is it to accept?"

And a quote from my Zen calendar:

"To be great, be whole; exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are into the smallest thing you do.
The whole moon gleams in every pool,
It rides so high."

--Fernando Pessoa

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Bigger Smaller Life

This month I had an article about Simple Living and Financial Freedom published in The Wise Mom (the publication of Holistic Moms Network). The theme of this issue was "Living Simply" and I really enjoyed it. Anyway, one contributor quoted Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert as saying, "I wanted a bigger smaller life." I connect with this--when I say I want a simple life, I mean I want it to be rich and FULL, but of the things that really matter to me. My $1 shop Zen calendar comes to attention again with this related quote:

"Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might
and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry,
get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough."

--William Saroyan

While I guess that could also seem kind of depressing, for me it sums up simple living--I want to be fully, wholly alive. I think keeping death in mind can be a powerful force in living life fully (though it can also lead you to depressive and existentially trying places!).

Speaking of simple living, I also had my Information Overload article published in the newsletter of the Simple Living Network this month. That was exciting for me, because it was my first non-birth, breastfeeding, or mothering related publication (then immediately followed with my second in the Wise Mom, but the Wise Mom itself is focused on mothering/natural family living, so it is less of a departure of venue for me than the SLN is). Speaking of the Simple Living Network, I am definitely a fan of their site, their newsletter, and their work. I used to participate on their message boards some as well (which are a massive treasure trove of information), but after I had kids, time for message boards got trimmed away (particularly because we have dial-up and so message boards are really slow. I tend towards yahoogroups and other email lists, because I can actually read them!). I don't spend much time at the message boards for the same reason (plus, general addictiveness. Need to spend time on the whole actually living thing, not reading about how other people are living!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Courage and Craft

I have not actually read the book Courage and Craft: Writing Your Life into Story, a friend of mine sent me a quote from it that she thought fit well with me:

“To live your own true and precious life, you need to express yourself and make your inner life as important and known as your visible life. Whether you’re published or not, you need to turn the chaos and the glimpses of beauty, the questions and the search for answers, the days and months and years of your life into something meaningful on a page [canvas, performance, product, invention, or other manifestation].

When you finish a piece of writing [or art or other expression of you], you’ve reached out to the world with your own truth. You’ve told your story.”

I think I need to investigate this book!

From my Zen calendar yesterday:

"Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity,
reduce selfishness, have few desires."


And from January 17 & January 4....

"Because I know that time is always time
and place is always and only place
and what is actual is actual only for one time
and only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are..."

-T.S. Elliott

"Listen to your life. All moments are key moments."

--Frederick Buechner

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy & Birth

Last month I finished reading and reviewing the new book from Our Bodies, Ourselves. Focused exclusively on Pregnancy & Birth, this book is a fantastic new resource! I would particularly recommend it for a first time mother.

From my review:

"Many women view the original book Our Bodies, Ourselves as an essential women’s health resource and also as a radically transformative influence in their lives. New this year from The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective is a confident volume specifically about pregnancy and birth. I hope Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy & Birth will become to pregnant women what the original book has been to women’s health and empowerment."

The book opens with a discussion about the Climate of Confidence and Climate of Doubt, which I really connected with as a way to look at the messages swirling around pregnant women today.

In addition to being a basic pregnancy book, this book also goes beyond in that it acknowledges the reality of violence against women during pregnancy and offers resources for seeking help if you are living with a violent mate. This book is also willing to address some unpopular or largely ignored subjects such as depression during pregnancy, HIV, STDS, and sexual abuse. It also has two wonderful closing chapters about advocating for changes in maternity care and advocating for mothers and families.

Regarding parental leave: "The United States is one of only five countries out of the 173 surveyed in a recent study that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave; the other four countries are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea." (emphasis mine, because these countries are not usually one that the US really considers "trend setters" or "peers"! The US often prides itself on being a leader and a model for other countries and I think we should be embarrassed not to be doing better by our country's mothers and babies!)

Friday, March 14, 2008

More Zen Quotes

Who knew that I'd find such wisdom in my $1 Shop Zen calendar? I really like it :-)

"Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before.
I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at
all beings with eyes of compassion"

--Thich Nhat Hanh

This is more of a good reminder to me than it is an accurate description of how I spend my time! I guess I do so-so with this--I often wake with a sense of joyful anticipation about the unfolding of a brand, new, wonderful day. By the end of the day, I often have exhausted my "compassion" for all beings and usually feel like I didn't get "everything done." I swear, sometimes it seems like I am learning the same lessons over and over again. Maybe one day I'll finally GET it and can move on! LOL!

Okay, another one from my trusty calendar:

"Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
What you call 'salvation' belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you are alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?"


And another in the same vein, about being fully alive:

"Well-being means to be fully born,
to become what one potentially is; it means
to have the full capacity for joy and sadness
or, to put it differently, to awake from the
half-slumber the average man lives in
and to be fully awake."

--Erich Fromm

Now this I feel I am nearly constantly aware of. I want to live an authentic life, always. Present, aware. Living my one wild and precious life fully and completely.

A final quote and another one that is a good reminder for me--one I try daily to implement (unfortunately, fail daily too, but I keep trying!):

"Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it.
If we're frantic, life will be frantic.
If we're peaceful, life will be peaceful.
And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace."

--Marianne Williamson

Sounds simple enough, but is actually a daily struggle!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

Two weeks ago I finished reading the very interesting and intriguing, Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born. I got this book from Bookins and was really excited because I've wanted to read it for quite some time. It did not disappoint--it was really engaging, fast paced, interesting, all of the good qualities of a novel in a nonfiction book (this is my favorite kind!). I love all the little-known facts I gleaned from it. The book is a historical overview of birth and includes some really fascinating content about the development and progress of cesareans. There is also lots of interesting content about how midwives were driven out of business in a calculated fashion (an attempt at eradication that is still going on, really!)

The only thing I took issue with in the book was that early on the author seems to make the suggestion that the rising cesarean rate is related to the fact that our babies are getting larger. I am not aware of any evidence indicating that this is actually true. (?) There are a number of factors contributing to increasing cesarean rates and biology has little to do with it! (Consider that the biggest "risk factors" that increase your chances of a cesarean are how old you are, how much insurance you have, and what your race is--white, well insured , women over 30 having the highest cesarean rates!)

I've been following author Tina Cassidy's blog for some time that chronicles her pregnancy and birth decisions with her second child. I had been reading it for a while before I got her actual book and it was really interesting to see how her attitudes have "evolved" since this book was published in 2006. In the closing section of this book she says, "I'm not brave enough to have a baby at home--although I respect those who do." Then, lo and behold, there she is in her birth pool at home with her lovely new home-VBAC baby on Dec. 8 2007. She has been posted her story in installments and has just gotten up to the birth part of her story. Her blog has been great reading! I wasn't sure until she got to the birth that she was really going to have a HBAC or not, so it kind of kept me on the edge of my seat too.

Back to the actual book, a quote I found amusing in the section about breastfeeding: "In Italy, early medical writers told mothers that if they let their baby drink from animals, the child would always look 'stupid and vacant and not right in the head.'"

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Zen Quotes

"To the right, books; to the left, a teacup.
In front of me, the fireplace...
There is no greater happiness than this."


From my $1 Shop Zen calendar yesterday morning. Except for the fireplace bit, how right for me! (and, though I don't have a fireplace, I do have a lovely outdoor wood burning furnace installed by my dear husband in January that keeps our house toasty warm now, instead of barely tolerable. I'm so glad to have him!)

And from the day before, another good one:

"Live in love
And do your work;
Make amends of your sorrows;
For just as the jasmine
Releases and lets fall
Its withered flowers,
Let fall willfulness and hatred."

--The Dhammapada

I like this one too except for I think some willfulness in life isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Gnome Lady & Baby

We had a family wide gnome making project going on this week. Here's mine:

Isn't she a cutie? (the picture is kind of blurry.) Here is a close up (also blurry):

I have new project ideas brewing that are better than this (though she turned out pretty good despite all the shortcuts I took with her and my lack of proper materials) and have been poring over the books I already have: Feltcraft, The Nature Corner, and Making Dolls, while eagerly awaiting the arrival of two more from Amazon (as well as an expensive passel of doll making supplies winging their way here from Australia). I have visions of adorable dolls dancing in my head!