Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Being a Cup...

I won't be blogging this weekend, so if I have any loyal readers checking in, I leave you with two quotes guessed Zen calendar:

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over
and let the beautiful stuff out."

--Ray Bradbury

"Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize:
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,
the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle."

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wonder Child

This weekend I made my way through several other books.

First was Wonder Child, an odd little tome I picked up at Goodwill a few months ago. I guess I wasn't in the proper mood for it or something, but ended up skimming through to the end. It was a little too New Agey and "woo woo" for my taste and also just plain didn't make sense a lot of the time (probably because what it was about was re-experiencing what it is like to be a child in order to better appreciate your own children and to better appreciate life in general. I guess if I've lost touch with my childlike nature--the premise of the book--then no wonder it didn't make sense to me a lot of the time! LOL!). There were a number of activity suggestions in it for getting in touch with your own childlike sense of wonder, etc. Some of them were interesting and neat, others were strange. It is hard to describe this book appropriately. It was odd. In the section on birth it referenced a book I'd never heard of called Active Birth Partner's Handbook by Janet Balaskas. So, of course, I went to Amazon just now and ordered it! (Luckily there was one cheap $6 copy that had my name on it!)

I also treated myself to a thoroughly lightweight, not-memorable fictional read--See Jane Date--single twenty-something gal in NYC seeking love on disastrous series of blind dates, etc.

I also finished reading the ICEA Guide for Childbirth Educators, which I've read several times before. Published in 1988, it is still helpful and relevant. Last I checked they were clearancing out copies on their website and on ebay for 75 cents! Well worth it! (Actually, it is worth much more than that! $15-20 would be more than reasonable for it.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Catching up with recent reads

My stack of books that are waiting to be blogged about is unbelievable, so I decided I'm just going to write a quick post about the ones I don't have much to say about! I have one waiting that I read shortly after Christmas, but I jotted down like SIX pages in my notebook of things to write about it and so still it lingers in my to-blog pile.

So, sometime during the last month or so I've read the following books and don't have much to say about them (wow! what a fascinating post already!):

Full Circles, Overlapping Lives--this one is by Mary Catherine Bateson who is Margaret Mead's daughter. The subtitle of this book was "culture and generation in transition" and I expected something very different from it than what it actually was. It was really a sort of in depth case study of the multigenerational participants in a seminar the author taught at a university one year. I confess that I got bored and skimmed towards the end. I felt the title was misleading and I was not expecting a case study sort of book, but rather a sociological type book. One quote I liked early on when the author was discussing her relationship with her daughter and how being of different generations parents and children have a gap--"I have learned to work with the assumption that my daughter and I were born in different countries--not according to our passports but because our country has changed, making me an immigrant from the past."(emphasis mine) This was funny and also somehow depressing at once--I feel weird about being an immigrant from the past and yet it is true. Once you can start saying, "ten years ago XYZ..." you know you're an immigrant from the past!

The New View of Self--this was another one whose title and subtitle (How Genes and Neurotransmitters Shape Your Mind, Your Personality, and Your Mental Health) seemed misleading once I got into it. This book was supposed to be about how the brain works and also about the self, but it was basically exclusively about mental illness and how mental illnesses work and what is wrong in the brain that leads to mental illness. I was not really enraptured with it, but struggle with the whole, "I started reading it and can't stop now" mental illness of my own. ;-)

Babies, Breastfeeding, and Bonding--this is a book by Ina May Gaskin that I had never heard of before I picked it up on the used book table of an LLL workshop in 2006. I just got around to reading it and didn't end up reading it cover to cover because a lot of the breastfeeding info was repetitive to me (and/or outdated since the book was written in the 80's). I was interested to read it though and will now pass it on to a friend. It has content in it about Ina May's own children that I was not familiar with before, like that her oldest daughter had a brain tumor and died at 20. She also makes a good point in the book that I've taken to heart about nursing older babies/toddlers when they start "getting rough." She makes the point that they need to learn how to treat people with respect and you should not be a "punching bag" for your nursing toddler. I needed to hear this because I have an aggressive nurser who is NOT polite and gentle to me while he nurses. Reading her sections about that made me feel committed to "cracking down" on Z's overzealous twiddling and writhing, kicking, etc. I'm kind of a pushover for my nurslings. She had some different ideas about weaning than I personally hold and she told a story that she thought was funny, but I found creepy--the mother put soot from the stove all over her breasts and when her rough little toddler boy came to ask to nurse next she lifted her shirt, he saw the blackness and said, "what happened?!" and she said, "pigs got 'em." AAAHHHH! He never nursed again. Ina May thought this was a funny story, but I thought it was harsh and disturbing (though also kind of funny). I told M & L the story and L thought it was hilarious and says the "pigs got 'em" line now when I'm nursing Z and bugs me with it!

Me Talk Pretty One Day--this was a funny book. a little diversion from my usual and read just for fun. It was actually laugh out loud funny in some places (also really crude in others...). Talking about computers he says, "I hate them for creating the word org and I hate them for e-mail, which isn't real mail but a variation of the pointless notes people used to pass in class." I wonder what he thinks of blogs?!

Mind Over Labor--this one I have more to blog about, but I'm going to do it in a different blog, so I'm just briefly mentioning it here. I've read this book once before and re-read it looking for ideas for guided imagery or birth visualization exercises to use in birth classes. It has some good "mental work" to prepare for birth. I like it quite a bit. It is on the older side (1987), but not particularly dated.

Good! Now I have 7 books and a few articles left in my stack of "to blog." Blogging shouldn't be a "chore," LOL! That's what I get for being all Type A all the time, I can take a hobby and turn it into a "job." Maybe I read too much if I just wrote about 5 books (and another one yesterday) and I still have 7 books to write about as well as three that I'm currently reading...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Natural Birth

This week a friend of mine lent me a short book called Natural Birth that she found at the local $1 Shop (the same place my oft-referenced Zen Calendar came from). I read it this morning and am not sure what to think of it. It is basically an extended poem originally published around 1980 and reprinted in 2000 (the edition I read). The author's birth experience happened in like 1962 and then when her son was 16 the poem poured forth and was eventually published. I found the overall tone of the poem distressing to read really--she did, indeed, "succeed" in having a "natural birth" in a 60's hospital as a teenager living at a home for unwed mothers without her partner or any support present, but her birth experience was fraught with stress, tension, and agony basically. She experienced a lot of pain, mistreatment by the physician attending, and lots of pushing for medications (even almost forcing her to have a "shot"--a spinal--that they were then unable to insert after three tries). The dominant theme of the poem seems to be pain and it was stressful to even read--she is so agonized, in misery, suffering, and pain, pain, pain, pain. She seemed like a victim of it in a way that is very different than my own experiences or perceptions of the pain involved with labor. The poem is like this haze of pain. I kept wishing she would get up and move around and work with her body, but I got the impression she was lying down and enduring. I think her overall perception was of having "walked through the fire" and feeling good about it, but personally, I felt like a much more active participant in my births--not like a victim, but like a doer. I felt like birth was something I was doing, something I was working with, not something that was happening to me helplessly.

When the author begins pushing her experience shifts to feeling more powerful--lilies blooming and such. She also thinks about everyone else going about their normal lives and closes with:

"while they slept the whole universe had changed"

I remember feeling this way too after my babies were born like, "they have no idea that a miracle was happening while they slept!" When friends of mine have babies I feel similarly as well--like, how I could I have been sleeping and unaware of the MAGIC that was happening in the world at the same time!

Anyway, it was an interesting and unusual read.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The whole gnome family...

A couple of weeks ago I posted about our family wide gnome making project and included a picture of my gnome and her baby. I took a picture of the whole gnome family and wanted to share it too...

Z's is on the left (I made it too. The pants were a "creative" hot glue operation involving excessive gluing and then cutting them into a pants shape around the glue lines, LOL!), then M's, then mine, and then L's. I ADORE L's exuberant little guy (the red one). He made the whole thing himself, except for wrapping the legs with yarn, which I did for him. He painted it in his own special way and made the clothes and everything. Maybe it doesn't come across in the photo, but this little gnome completely cracks me up. The life and zest in it is unbelievable. L has tired of it already for the most part, but for a while he played with it a lot and it was always sitting with its legs at some wonky angle and that goofy, wonderful grin on its little face. It made me laugh every time I came across it--so unselfconscious and so insane looking. So much fun!

Speaking of more crafts, I got this book from playgroup a couple of weeks ago and last week the boys and I cooked up these fabulous knight helmets out of old cereal boxes. They were really fun to make. Then we also made "knight bread" and ate it with jam (it was really an Irish brown bread recipe from Parents magazine). I also made L a pizza box breastplate/armor, but it was less stunning than the helmets, LOL! In progress is a paper towel and toilet paper tube castle, but L is sick of painting it, so it may never reach its full glory. I know I have been known to scoff mightily at what I call "paper cup dog crafts," but with little guys, sometimes it is fun to just make stuff out of cardboard that can be finished in 20 minutes, instead of laboring over a "real" craft that they quickly burn out with and I am left in a, "leave me alone and let me FINISH this" mode instead of a family fun mode.

I close with a Zen calendar quote:

"In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?"

Maybe I should add, "how well did you construct playthings from cardboard?" ;-)

Aren't they sweethearts?!

Monday, April 7, 2008


I've been reading Everyday Zen. I'm finding that it isn't as accessible or impactful as Nothing Special (by the same author) that I so enjoyed last year. Anyway, it still makes me think and one of the things it is making me think about is self-centeredness and the amount of time in which a person spends thinking about themselves and how things affect them, bother them, etc. Daydreaming about the future (and all about ME and what I'm going to do), thinking about the past (and about ME and what someone else did or didn't do and how that impacted ME), etc. It is remarkable once I've started trying to label my thoughts (the author suggests labeling thoughts exactly, so, not just, "thinking, thinking, thinking," but "thinking about my haircut" or whatever), how many have to be labeled, "thinking about myself." It was embarrassing at first, but as I thought about it more (about ME and thinking about ME, LOL!), I realized that I think it is a normal and common thought pattern. I don't think I'm an abnormally self-centered person. Also, I am me, living my little life, and so it is also reasonable that my thoughts would include thoughts about me, since it is me thinking them? (or, is it? Since, I suppose maybe there is not really any self [or me] at all....This is what ties my brain up in knots and then makes me want to stop reading books like this and ditch Zen approaches to life altogether!). Anyway, simply realizing how often I have to label a thought, "thinking about myself..." has been eyeopening. It is also really interesting to me how the process of labeling *poof* evaporates the thought (and then I am left with "now" and "what is really happening" or "life as it is," which I suppose is the goal. Except, there is no "goal," just life as it is. There goes my head again!! ;-)

Okay, so the whole point of my post was to share that I'm reading this book and doing this thinking and what should my $1 Shop Zen calendar produce for this weekend's quote?!

"Keep your heart clear and transparent
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought, though,
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Let myriad things captivate you
And you'll go further and further astray.
How painful to see people
All wrapped up in themselves."


So, I thought that was fitting. How many times to I create "ten thousand distractions" too. Lots! Since I've been struggling with having too many interests and too many projects/things to do recently too, this also spoke to me on that level.

Then, lest I become too completely wrapped in too much thinking, analyzing, trying to be perfect, trying to figure out ultimate reality, etc. there was this quote on my calendar:

"My advice is not to inquire
why or whither, but just enjoy your
ice cream while it's on your plate."

--Thornton Wilder

This was just what I needed. What did I do without my $1 Shop Zen calendar before? I love this thing! :-D