Friday, December 18, 2009

UU World Quotes

I know I don't have time for this blog anymore. The best I can do is pop in with quotes every once in a while, with no time really to explain why they struck me.

From UU World magazine in an article titled The Cathedral of the World:

"A twenty-first-century theology based on the concept of one Light and many windows offers to its adherents both breadth and focus. Honoring many different religious approaches, it only excludes the truth-claims of absolutists. That is because fundamentalists claim that the Light shines through their window only. Some go so far as to beseech their followers to throw stones through other people’s windows.

Skeptics draw the opposite conclusion. Seeing the bewildering variety of windows and observing the folly of the worshipers, they conclude that there is no Light. But the windows are not the Light. They are where the Light shines through."

Quotes like this are why I am a UU and why I was drawn so strongly to UUism. I spent approximately 27 years of my life feeling like organized religion "disagreed" with me and I, frankly, wanted very little to do with it. I did not feel like my spiritual beliefs "fit" anywhere. Then, lo and behold, I discovered that I DO have a fit. A very, very good one. I never expected to "get religious" at this point in my life, but what really happened is that I discovered I've actually been a UU all along, I just didn't know there was a name for it. :)

Also in the same issue was a nice prayer to be used a dinner or other gatherings:

"Spirit of Life, we remember...(insert negative things that are relevant--poverty, hunger, etc.), and we are grateful for...(insert food, company, program, other noteworthy positive things.) Blessed be and Amen."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quote from Ode

Trying to clear out my pile of magazines, etc. and before I pass it along, I wanted to share this quote from Ode Magazine in an article called The Reason of Faith (the article was about "why people need religion" and was a semi-scholarly [instead of theistic] response to recent books about atheism):

"And when you try to mix science and religion you get bad science and bad religion. The two are doing different things....Science can give you a diagnosis of cancer. It can even cure your disease, but it cannot touch your grief and disappointment, nor can it help you to die well."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And More

Recently I've finished re-reading Shelter for the Spirit: How to Make Your Home a Haven in a Hectic World. I saw the author speak in person at a Speaking of Women's Health conference several years ago. Nice, nurturing simple living read (with additional bonus of a short appendix with sections about homebirth and homeschooling :). It inspired me to change my Facebook profile quote to: "A simplified home feels friendlier. A simplified life seems easier. And remarkable joy comes from simple things--like having work to do that matters, and having people to love who matter a lot."

I also re-read Mother's Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth. Lots of good stuff in this one, though it does get repetitive after a while. She has a particular way with analogies that is just great--all kinds of good examples. She has a very straightforward, matter-of-fact style. I wish I could manage to be so honest/upfront with some of my childbirth education clients about "buying the hospital ticket and taking the hospital ride."

I read The Pocket Doula as well. It has lots of good pictures, no new information for me. Very conventional approach to standard interventions--doesn't question them at all.

I also read Fearless Fourteen and Finger-Lickin' Fifteen. Nothing like a little "dessert" every once in a while! :)

I think there may have been some others also, but I'm not keeping them in a to-blog-about pile anymore so I lose track!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Recent Reads

So, even though I've basically discontinued this blog, I still want to keep it updated periodically as a record of what I've been reading.

In the last couple of weeks, I've read:

Permission to Mother--short little natural mothering vignettes by a doctor and mother of three boys.

The Doula Guide to Birth--enjoyed it. Reviewed it for CfM and for CAPPA.

The Milk Memos--based on a series of notebooks kept by mothers pumping milk in the lactation room at IBM. I bought this at the LLL of MO conference this summer. A section I marked was about having "Etch-a-Sketch brain"--"she'd mentally jot down tasks throughout the day, only to find them suddenly wiped out and gone forever with the slightest 'shake up.'"

Fathers-To-Be Handbook--reviewing for CAPPA. A quick little "road map" for transitioning into fatherhood and a good resource for childbirth educators.

Awakening to the Dream--one of those semi-enlightening, semi-annoying Zen live-in-the-now books.

The Millionth Circle--a lightning quick read about women's circles (and how once we get to the millionth circle, patriarchy will be over and the world will be transformed). Liked two quotes: "Feminism catches fire when it draws upon its inherent spirituality. When it does not, it is just one more form of politics, and politics never fed our deepest hungers." --Carol Lee Flinders


Show up or choose to be present.
Pay attention to what has heart and meaining.
Tell the truth without blame or judgment.
Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

--Angela Arrien


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In June, I went to the LLL of MO conference in Columbia. We had two great keynote speakers who both spoke about discipline. The first was Elizabeth Pantley, best known for her The No-Cry Sleep Solution book. This is one of the most often checked out books in my LLL Group's lending library. She spoke about that book as well as presented material from her No-Cry Discipline Solution book. One of the things I connected with was about your "triggers"--what tends to get you upset/angry with your kids. Here is an excerpt from her book:

What sets you off?
Most parents get angry over issues that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life, yet happen on such a regular basis that they become blown out of proportion. Some of the most common parenting issues that trigger anger are whining, temper tantrums, sibling bickering, and non-cooperation. Determine which behaviors most bother you and set about making a plan to correct each problem that sets off your anger.

Notice your hot spots
In addition to triggers, there are “hot spots” in the day when anger more easily rises to the surface. These are typically times when family members are tired, hungry or stressed. These emotions leave us more vulnerable to anger. This can happen in the early morning, before naptime, before meals, or at bedtime. You may also encounter situations when misbehavior increases, and so does your anger: grocery shopping, playdates, or family visits, for example.

--From The No-Cry Discpline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
My trigger is whining! Oh. My. Goodness. Our "hot spot" is when we're hungry (any of us) and my personal hot spot is when I'm trying to get ready to go somewhere--I have a very short temper when I'm trying to get out the door and feel like people are throwing rocks in my path! (somtimes literally ;-)

The other keynote was Lu Hanessian (of Let the Baby Drive--another very popular book in my LLL Group's library). One of the observations she made about trigger issues is that your specific triggers probably reflect your own personal issues--so, if you have a problem with whining, you probably have an issue with neediness. And if you have a problem with not being listened to, you really have an issue with validation/self-worth. It was very interesting and made a lot of sense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Media Review: Time 4 Learning

Media Review: Time 4 Learning

Last year marked my first “official” year homeschooling. Over the course of the year, we experimented with a variety of schooling options. I believe in life learning and am comfortable with a relaxed, very informal approach to homeschooling. However, I also discovered that I still have a strong part of me that feels the need for some type of formal “school” each day for my now 6 year old son. We primarily tried worksheets and found those boring, repetitive, and often pointless. We had periodic power struggles about whether he needed to do them or not and I found myself seeking another way to meet my need for a bit of school in every day, but not something oppressive or non-enjoyable.

Enter Time 4 Learning. I took the opportunity for a free trial membership for both of my sons. I discovered that my 3 year old was a little too young still to benefit from it and continued the trial with my soon to be 6 year old only. We discovered that Time 4 Learning fit neatly into the rhythm of our daily lives.

Though, the lessons are easily self-guided/directed even for a Kindergarten aged child, I did discover my son enjoys the program more and seems to benefit more when I sit with him on my lap while he works on it. At the beginning of our trial membership he complained that some of the lessons were boring and I discovered that those were the ones below his level, with me sitting there with him I am able to let him know it is okay to skip ahead or to just take the quiz instead of the complete lesson. After I started this approach, his enjoyment level went up and I don’t get any complaints!

At the Kindergarten level, there are lessons available in Language Arts, Math, and Science. I peeked ahead into the First Grade level and they really are a remarkably complete program/curriculum.

The lessons are self-guided and have a variety of themes—park, under the sea, kitchen/restaurant, etc. I liked the practical content included—for example to learn about measuring and measurement instruments, the child goes (virtually) to a chef’s kitchen and figures out how many cinnamon rolls can fit into different sized pans. For some areas there are supplementary stories or worksheets included. Each series of lessons about a specific topic is followed by a 10 question quiz and then the complete “chapter” of lessons is followed by a 20 question test. The tests are also self-guided and my son shows a high level of comprehension in taking them (higher than I expected, I confess!).

After completing “lesson time” for the day (the duration of which can be altered by the parent, but starts automatically at a minimum of 15 minutes), the child has the opportunity to visit the “playground” (again for a pre-defined amount of time—the default is 15 minutes). I found we spend 30-45 minutes on lessons with Time 4 Learning a day and that feels comfortable to both of us. My son can usually complete 3 or 4 different lessons and quiz during that amount of time.

We’ve spent about 6 weeks with the program now and I’ve noticed an increase in both his math and reading comprehension skills in everyday life—I think this is because we have more fun working together on the Time 4 Learning lessons than we ever did with worksheets!

We had minimal trouble with the audio on some of the language arts segments being difficult to distinguish between letter sounds.

Our only ongoing complaint for both of us is that the lessons do not let you click ahead until the instructions have finished playing—since the instructions are often very repetitive it gets frustrating to have to listen to them multiple times instead of being able to click ahead. On the tests and quizzes, you do have the capacity to click ahead.

Though I do not need to keep formal logs yet, I appreciate that the program offers a “portfolio” with a variety of reports in it for record keeping purposes. This can come in very handy!

We generally do Time 4 Learning in the morning, before the rest of day gets under way. This helps me get my personal need for “formal” school met and tidily out of the way. It makes more sense to me to have him work on a program like this instead of doing worksheets—it is similar content, but the interactive style makes it much more interesting for both of us.

Disclosure notice: The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own (and my son’s). I was compensated for writing the review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I give up! Letting go...

...of this blog. Or, at least of my old vision for this blog. I do not have time for it any more and it has been more of a chore than anything for quite some time. I still want to keep a log of my yearly readings, so I think I'll keep posting periodically, but almost as more of a list than anything interesting. I do not have very many readers here and my other blog projects feel more important than this one--this was a hobby-blog really, or just for fun, and fun is usually what I let go of! Also, I have that depressing sense of adding to the virtual cacophony of voices with it and where's the value in that? This isn't the only thing I'm going to let go of, I've got to go through my life priorities and make some more cuts. This is just the easy one, because I've felt it kind of draining me for a while.

I really enjoy the book The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal and I get the author's email newsletter. In the most recent issue--titled Do You Love Your Life?--it posed the following questions:

Are you living the life you've always wanted? Do you feel like you're the master of your life or the slave to it? Does how you spend your time reflect where your priorities lie or do you feel like your life is a list of "should's"?

Here are some questions for you (and if applicable, your partner) to consider:

  • What do you value most in life right now (ex: time, relationships, flexibility, a short commute, your community)?
  • Where does the majority of your energy go on a daily basis (work, household management, relationships, parenting, spiritual renewal, your to-do list)?
  • Does your life feel a)overwhelming, b)barely manageable, c)occasionally hectic or d)pretty simple? (Check out these great tips for simplifying.)
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing that would significantly impact your quality of life, what would it be?
  • What are three actions you could take right now to radically simplify your life and create more space, ease and flow in your day-to-day experience?
These are good questions to I answered some of them, I duly noted that "write Molly Reads... blog" wasn't on there! ;-)

I've referenced before how I have kind of a black and white view of my tasks/commitments. If I cannot give something my all, it eats and picks at me until I decided to cut my losses and move on. I can't just leave something and say, "I'll work on this later, when I have more time. I have to make the cut. I have to quit. I have to totally dump it! So, I'm not sure if my only-post-a-list/sentence plan will actually work, or if it will continue to lurk in my brain as an unfinished to-do until I truly shut it down for good.

The Tipping Point

I recently finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I enjoyed it a good deal more than Outliers, which I also read recently. The sections I marked in this one were about personality and core traits vs. environment. I come from a social work background, a field in which I have often explained using the following: psychology deals with the individual person. Sociology deals with society. Social work addresses person in environment. And, so did these section from The Tipping Point:

"All of us, when it comes to personality, naturally think in terms of absolutes: that a person is a certain way or not a certain way...this is a mistake, that when we think only in terms of inherent traits and forget the role of situations, we're deceiving ourselves about the real causes of human behavior..."

"The mistake we make in thinking of character as something unified and all-encompassing is very similar to a blind spot in the way we process information. Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE), which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of situation and context. We will always reach for a 'dispositional' explanation for events, as opposed to a 'contextual' explanation."

What I think is interesting about this is that my observation is in our OWN behavior though, we use the contextual explanation (sometimes excessively so, particularly when the behavior is out of character for how we'd like to be/believe we are). In short, we quickly assume other people have fundamental character flaws, but we have contextual excuses for ourselves!

I was also interested by the Good Samaritan study he referenced (in which seminary students were told to go make a presentation--some were told they had "extra time" and others were told they were late. Some of them were actually speaking about the Good Samaritan and others about something else. Some were in seminary because of a calling and others for other reasons. They each encountered a [fake] sick person collapsed on the street needing help. The defining factor about who stopped to help was whether they thought they had extra time--those with extra time stopped. Those who though they were late, stepped over him, even if they were going to speak about the Good Samaritan!): "What this study is suggesting, in other words, is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior."

I don't know that I like this idea, but it does seem consistent with reality (for better or worse).

I also noted his conclusion to the book: "Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push--in just the right place--it can be tipped."


Lady of the Snakes

Our August book club read was the fiction book Lady of the Snakes. As you will soon read, I'm changing my approach to this blog and basically "retiring" it, so I will just go ahead and share briefly the quotes I'd marked from it (only two):

"This is what women's lives are like...It had never occurred to her--not really--that women's lives were so deeply different from men's. Now she saw it, and it shocked her."

I recall a similar moment in my own life after my first son was born--my husband went back to work and all of the sudden I was like, my whole WORLD has changed and he is going along basically business as usual. I felt like it was unfair, in a sense, to BOTH of us--me for having to undergo what I experienced as an often painful transition of self from autonomous woman to mother on my own, and for him having his own transition so ignored/unacknowledged by our culture that he was expected to just return to work like nothing had happened.

Quoting from the Russian diarist:

"In moments of despair I have felt each new child like another silken thread binding up my soul. But on happier days I see each one--not so much as a new beginning, but as a new note in a complex harmony, adding depth and resonance to a tapestry that already exists."

"Jane Levitsky sat at her desk thinking of the different moods of motherhood--joyful, oppressive, tedious. Peaceful. Exhausting."

This reminded me of something else I used to say/feel: How is it possible to simultaneously feel so captivated and yet captive, bonded and also bound?


Saturday, August 8, 2009

And some more...

"Be broad-minded,
Whole, without relying
On others."

--Hongzhi Zhengjue

"With gentleness,
Overcome anger.
With generosity,
Overcome meanness.
With truth,
Overcome delusion."

--The Dhannapada

Saturday, August 1, 2009

More Zen

"Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain, if our will remains firm and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence, not in an exemption from suffering."

--Francis Fenelon

"Most people believe the mind to be a mirror, more or less accurately reflecting the world outside them, not realizing on the contrary that the mind is itself the principal element of creation."

--Rabindranath Tragore

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I may have mentioned before that I love Ode magazine ("for intelligent optimists"). I sort of accidentally ended up subscribing to it about threeish years ago and I'm a fan. I saved two recent issues (there are 10 a year) and brought them along to read on the plane during our just-completed trip to California. The August issue had a theme of "Laughter" and I really enjoyed it. I marked the following quote to share from the article "In the beginning was the joke: why cheerfulness is next to godliness":

"So what are we here for? Your modern neo-Darwinist is perfectly certain--for no reason. That just doesn't cut it for me...I prefer this take by the composer Aaron Copland (simply replace the word 'music' with the word 'life'): 'The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.'"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thoughts on Thinking

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary! There is time only for zen quotes...

"Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquility...Without this inner peace, no matter how comfortable your life is materially, you may still be worried, disturbed, or unhappy because of circumstances."

--Dalai Lama

"In the root and stem of your own psyche, there is an accumulation of bad habits. If you cannot see through them and act independently of them, you will unavoidably get bogged down along the way."


"We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things...but there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen, and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper."

--James Carroll

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Paradox of Natural Mothering

I'm getting ready to go out of town and prepping a couple of posts to post when I'm away (be prepared for lots more Zen quotes!). I haven't had a lot of time for this blog lately and continue to go back and forth about keeping it going. I always end up returning to the decision to keep it going, because I do enjoy it, in theory. I do not like that it becomes another thing on my to-do list and feels like an obligation, rather than fun. (This is how I work though, I turn everything into a serious "job" instead of "just for fun" and if I don't do something that I've committed to doing--even if only to myself on a hobby basis, like "update blog on Saturdays"--I feel irresponsible and it nags and nags at me mentally until I do it or QUIT for good. Though I laugh a lot in real life, I also tend to be one of those "all work, no play" kind of people who doesn't really know how to "relax and have a good time"--and, am actually kind of irritated by those who blow everything off to relax and have a good time! Note that I have to even put the possibility of "relaxing and having a good time" in quotation marks, because at heart I'm not sure it is actually possible ;-)

Part of my problem with this blog is that I have tons and tons of thoughts about everything I read and many things I'd like to draw out to write about and explore. I rarely have time to post as completely as I'd like though and, in fact, I'm actually trying hard to just post a paragraph or less per book so that I don't end up with a giant backlog in my to-blog-about pile, but I still feel like I'd like to do a lot more analysis than I do here--I always have so many quotes marked to share and then have to quit before I get a chance to share them. My to-blog-about pile is still insane--I move books out of it fairly quickly, but I have masses of magazines and articles I am meaning to write about and they lurk and make me feel guilty (totally and completely self-imposed! What is wrong with me?!)

In other news, this was a good week for publications for me. I've posted several other places about them, but why not here too?!

I had a short article called Centering for Birth published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education (page 20)

My book review of Fathers at Birth was published in The CAPPA Quarterly (page 14).

My film review of Birth as We Know It was in The CAPPA Quarterly (page 15).

And, my piece of creative nonfiction Nursing Johnny Depp was published in Literary Mama. I had more feedback from this essay than I've ever had about any of my other writing, combined! This was my 85th publication (up to 89 total now! Yes, I keep a list!). I think I got so many comments because it was so readily available online. It was also a funny piece, which is not my usual type of writing. The experiences described in it are from over a year ago and they accepted it for publication about 6 months ago, so this was a long time coming. In reading it again, I'm glad I wrote it because it has captured some moments in time that are past now. Z rarely asks me to nurse any toys for him anymore and if I hadn't written the essay, something would have been lost.

Okay, after some complaining and some bragging, I had a few books to post about today:

I re-read The Paradox of Natural Mothering. I really enjoy this book. Lots of food for thought. It is a little uncomfortable to read too because she is so spot-on in her analysis of mothers like me. It is strange to feel "under the microscope." The author herself is a "quasi-natural mother," so the analysis isn't harsh criticism, but it is a critical look at the "cult" (my word, not hers) of natural mothering and has a LOT of excellent discussion about feminism and natural mothering. I've been amassing a lot of things I'd like to share about feminism and birth and motherhood, but this is one of those takes-too-long-to-completely-delve into things that I may never get a chance to do :( She says--and I completely agree--that natural mothering represents the intersection of three ideological frameworks: voluntary simplicity, attachment parenting, and cultural feminism. Anyway, hopefully I will someday share some more of my thoughts about this book. It is definitely worth the read!

I also finished reading Homebirth in the Hospital. I am reviewing it for CfM News and I already wrote a bit about it there yesterday.

See? That's all I can manage for today and the push-pull between enjoying the idea behind this blog/wanting to share my reads and feeling like it is another drag on my time and resources continues...

I guess if I'd wasted less time complaining at the beginning, I would have had more time for book-analyzing!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Present Moment

"If we could see the miracle
of a single flower clearly,
our whole life would change."


"Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth
in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and
beauty that are available now."

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

This week I finished reading a couple of books. I'd looked forward to reading Sarah Buckley's Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering for a long time. It used to only be available from Australia and the shipping was prohibitive. The U.S. edition came out this past edition and I finally bought it for myself. It was a good book, don't get me wrong, but a lot less creative/inspirational/unconventional than I expected. I was expecting one of those phenomenal birth books that really "goes beyond," but much of the content was a review of the literature/research basically and was actually fairly dry. I loved reading her birth story and her placenta story and her breastfeeding story. There was good evidence-based information about several topics--gestational diabetes, GBS, VBAC, cord clamping, for example--that will definitely make it into my birth blog posts. It is definitely a book worth having. It also seems to be written for the first-time mother who perhaps has had little prior exposure to/information about evidence-based maternity care.

I also finished reading Mother Blessings: Honoring Women Becoming Mothers, which was one of my birthday presents this year from my mom. I'm going to a mother blessing tomorrow, so this was a timely read :) It had a couple of new ideas in it for me like making "birth dolls" together (cool!) and also a family mandala project that sounded really neat (I think I will do it with my kids instead of at a mother blessing).

And, I finished reading The Answer: Making Sense of Life, One Question at a Time. Sections were interesting, but overall I found it kind of "shallow." The author made extensive pop-culture references that I found kind of self-conscious and forced--like, "look how hip I am!" or something. You couldn't go more than two pages without the SAME SENTENCE--"as XYZ musician might sing...[lyrics related to the life question at hand]." Lots of references to tv shows, movie dialog, etc. It grated on my nerves. The central idea was cool though--life is a question and you are an answer--and the author had some good insights to share as well. In the section about "am I missing something?" (which I identified with--that urge to stay "caught up" and make sure I'm not missing anything important!) she said after mentioning Schubert's Eighth Symphony (The Unfinished Symphony), "Because you are full of unlimited potential you will always have more music in you, and yet what you have already composed can stand on its own if you're willing to let it." (emphasis mine). As you may recall, one of my favorite quotes is about not dying with you music still in you. I loved this reminder about what I've already composed :)

That's all I have time for today! Time for 4th of July BBQ, cotton candy, and fireworks!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bearing Meaning

Last week I finished reading Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth by Robbie Pfeufer Kahn. This had been on my wishlist for ages and I was excited to read it. As it goes with most dissertations-turned-books, it was a somewhat dense and heavy read and I worked through it kind of slowly. I've quoted from it on the CfM blog already and plan to also write about it on Talk Birth. I enjoyed it, but it was different than I expected. I was looking for an analysis of the language used surrounding birth and though I suppose the book addressed that, it was more about the embodied connection between mother and baby and how that is denied/suppressed/ignored/thwarted. So, interesting, but not quite what the title let me to believe. There was an extensive analysis of Williams Obstetrics and also of Our Bodies, Ourselves (and the contrast between the two books attitudes towards the female body).

She also talks about the term "womanist," which I've always liked (comes from Alice Walker), as an more inclusive definition of feminist: "Womanist acknowledges women like the early activists who honor the maternal body ('roundness') within 'women's culture'...a womanist woman experiences the maternal body ('loves roundness') as connected to nature ('Loves the Moon') and the divine ('Loves the Spirit')."

I also finished reading Sheila Kitzinger's Education and Counseling for Childbirth. I'm going to write about it on the ICEA blog.

At least I managed to make a post this week, albiet an incomplete one. I'm working on an article right now that needs to be submitted by the 30th, plus working on some book reviews for a journal, so my writing energy is diverted in those directions...


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Zen Again...

Today I entered to win a cool sling from Nature's Child (if you would like to enter too--click here). One can never have too many slings! I "won" a Hotslings pouch at the silent auction at the LLL conference last weekend ($6) and was happy about that.

I did finish several books this week, but all I have time for is some Zen calendar quotes (again! I'm starting to go through my semi-regular, "perhaps I should retire this blog/what's the point" thoughts):

"Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral."

--John Burroughs

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

--Anne Frank

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Our June book club read was Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Ostensibly, "the story of success" I felt like the book was sort of hastily written, shallowly explored, and sort of lacking a main point that I expected to read about--"what is success anyway?"

Instead, it is a a semi-random seeming look at several individual people and groups of people and the reasons behind their "success":

"I want to convince you that these kinds of personal explanations [pull himself up by his bootstraps] of success don't work. People don't rise from nothing. We do owe something to parentage and patronage. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sens eof the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The cutlure we belong to and the legacies passed won by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievment in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words,. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeds and who doesn't.

Biologists often talk about the 'ecology' of an organism: the tallest oak in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardist acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. We all know that successful people come from hardy seeds. But do we know enough about the sunlight that warmed them, the soil in which they put down the roots, and the rabbits and lumberjacks they ere lucky enough to avoid? This is not a book about tall trees. It's a book about forests..."
I guess I get a little bored by forests, because my eyes started to glaze a bit when he began to analyze the birth dates of successful hockey players and the cultural background of plane-crashing-pilots...

He did have some things to say about meaningful work, which I'm always interested in: "Work that fulfills those three criteria [complexity, autonomy, and relationship between effort and reward] is meaningful. Being a teacher is meaningful. Being a physician is meaningful. So is being an entrepreneur...Hard work is a prison sentence on if it does not have meaning."

More about the hard work--a sentiment that I actually take some issue with: "But a belief in work ought to be a thing of beauty. Virtually every success story we've seen in this book so far involves someone or some group working harder than their peers...Working really hard is what successful people do..."

And I really start to take some issue with his opinions about hard work and public education: "'We had a girl in this class...She was a horrible math student in fifth grade. She cried every Saturday when we did remedial stuff. Huge tears and tears...She just e-mailed us a couple of weeks ago. She's in college now. She's an accounting major." I get stuck a little on this--so it is a "success" to make a child cry and cry over work she hates if she then ends up majoring in a related field? (and my question is also, did she choose accounting because she actually likes it, or because she was trained to think it was a "successful" field and that she would make more money in it...)

The conclusion too made me stumble (and this is where I find the book really lacking in a critical assessment of any kind as to what constitutes success--the title would suggest we're only talking about the cream of the crop. The truly extraordinary. The very unusual successes. And, yes, there is the obligatory Bill Gates analysis included therein. But, it also talks about "the success of Asians at math" and about hockey players, so...): " many more would now live a life of fulfillment, in a beautiful house high on a hill?"

That's it. The last line in the book. Is that the culmination of success? A beautiful house high on a hill? I think success is more multifaceted than that. And, it also depends a great deal on what value system you are coming from as what constitutes success--my own value system does NOT agree that working 360 days a year is the best road to success. (One of his quotes was a proverb about anyone who works 360 days a year cannot fail to make his family rich.) If you are "addicted" to your computer (or whatever) and slaving away to be the "top" of your field, how are your relationships doing? I'd venture to say poorly. It reminded me of The Last Lecture in that perhaps this is a "male" lens with which to view success--hard work, lots of money. Other research has shown that women "tend and befriend," so perhaps that is why I consider quality of relationship part of my own definition of success.

I have LOTS more I'd like to say and other thoughts that I had, but this will suffice for now and I doubt I will end up having time to come back and add to this post. So, this analysis/exploration this will remain imperfect and incomplete, but so be it!


Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm going to be out of town this weekend at a conference and thus unable to post about any books (weirdly though, I haven't finished ANY this week--I'm in the middle of several).

So, all I have to offer this week are some quotes from last year's Zen calendar:

"So let your awareness be vast and inclusive as if the whole world is taking plac einside your mind. Hear everything, see everything, feel everything with this simple greeting on your lips 'Yes.'"

--Gary Rosenthal

"A happy life consists of tranquility of mind."

"You shouldn't allow yourself
to be confused by others.
Act when you need to,
without further hesitation or doubt.
People today can't do this.
What is their affliction?
Their affliction is in their
lack of self-confidence."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Diplomats and Breastfeeding

I had an interesting dream last night that I feel inspired to post about. I was in a sort of waiting room area with quite a few people in it including my sister-in-law and also a Diplomat (distinguished older gentleman with gray hair). Z wanted to nurse and so I picked him up and then turned slightly away from the diplomat in order to start nursing him. My sister-in-law said something like, "I see you're trying to hide from everyone. I can't believe you're STILL breastfeeding him." The diplomat then said, "at the Embassy we have an old saying: we work together as smoothly and comfortably as a good latch."

LOL! My dreaming brain cracks me up :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Small openings...

A couple of weeks ago at the church, the topic was "The Purpose Driven Life, or: Why Do You Get Up in the Morning?" (originally a sermon given at the UU church of Fort Myers, FL). Anyway, I liked how it opened: "The above question stirs in that 'frighteningly honest' 'small opening into the new day which closes the moment you begin your plans.' How you answer it is what gets you going, keeps you focused, and convinces you life's worth all the effort." I realized that I rarely get a chance to notice that "small opening" in the new day any more--I have to hop up and get down to work too quickly. What I've observed in the past is that each day dawns with a sense of optimism and promise and like, "the world is spread out before me and what a wonderful place it is!" but that I can quickly get derailed or lose that sense of "wonder" and get bogged in minutinae (which reminds to remember my "elimination of nonessentials" quote from a few posts ago--it is my new favorite quote to help keep me on track).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Birth, I think I will talk about birth...

I haven't gotten over my most recent birth books kick (though I'm always interested in birth, I I go through phases where I read a ton of birth books and then get kind of "done" and read about other subjects instead). So during the past week (and last) I finished reading:

Open Season--A book from the 90's about VBAC. I really enjoyed this one. As I mentioned on Facebook, Nancy Wainer has often been critiqued as "too angry." Well, I guess I like angry, because I thought it was a great book! I didn't see it as angry, but as firey and passionate and I like those things! As someone pointed out to me on Facebook, anger can burn people out and can cause relationship issues. I do not feel like an angry person myself (though a passionate one), so I'll "enjoy" it from afar :) In the introduction she actually referenced the whole angry thing and said something that I really liked [addressing those who would dismiss her work as "angry"]--"Don't bite my finger, look where I'm pointing!" The book read more like a manifesto or treatise or philosophy than a "guidebook" per se--not very much practical information. Lots of ideas, theory, and beliefs. I marked MANY pages to quote from, but today is just a sum-up-and-post day! Oh wait, here was a good one though: "If childbirth classes really 'worked,' more women would be having babies without interference. More women would be recognizing the complete naturalness of birth and would remain at home, delivering their infants with feelings of confidence and trust. More and more, midwives would be demanded. The names of those hospitals and doctors who treated women and babies with anything less than absolute respect would be public knowledge, and childbirth classes would be the first place these names would be discussed. 'You're seeing What's-His-Face? He's a pig! In my opinion, of course,' I tell people who come to my classes. I then proceed to give them the names of people who have used Pig-face. They can always ask Dr. P. for the names of people who have used him and been satisfied with their births, for balance."

Woman-Centered Pregnancy & Birth--had never heard of this one until reading the above and promptly bought this one as well. I was attracted by the title, because I consider my birth classes to be rooted in a "woman-centered model." However, it was much more of a basic pregnancy and birth book than I expected (I guess coming from a woman-centered perspective though?), so it was less theory and treatise and more, "here is how to examine your cervix and this is what it looks like at different points in your cycle." I actually ended up skimming it a bit, which is rare for me, but it was "elementary" for me and/or technically outdated.

Teaching Natural Birth--This one was interesting (also an older book--not only am I on a birth books kick, I'm on an older birth books kick!). It wasn't a book of teaching tips or even "how to teach," but was more of a business structure book (handling inquiry calls, buying teaching aids, that sort of thing). Pretty unique in the birth book world, really. The author is very religious and there were religious references liberally scattered throughout.

I also finished reading Birth Tides: Turning Towards Homebirth, which I've been reading for quite some time (it isn't that engaging--reads like an ongoing research project or dissertation). It is a 1995 book about homebirth in Ireland. One thing I found amusing was that one of the benefits of homebirth was "being able to have a cigarette whenever you want in labor." LOL! I don't think we'd see that in a book now!

I finally bought my own copy of the film Birth Day and watched that recently. My doula trainer referred to it as a "juicy" birth film. It is a nice one. I really enjoy it. The actual video is only like 11 minutes, but there are lots of "special features" on it as well (interview clips)

Finally, I read Down Came the Rain from the library. This is Brooke Shields' memoir about postpartum depression. It was interesting, though not particularly well-written and though it was a "personal" book, I found it hard to connect emotionally with the author/story--she seemed "distant" somehow.


Friday, May 29, 2009

My Baby is Three!

I can hardly believe it, but my little Z is three today! I am having a book giveaway on the CfM blog in honor of this occasion.

Here he was three years ago today:

Here he is now (all pix taken by L actually!):

Speaking of birthdays, here is the birthday cake my friend made for my 30th birthday this year (it is based on one of my scrabble tile pendants with a catch-your-own-baby image created by my talented husband).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm so Zen...

I read several books this week, but alas, my time for blogging today has evaporated, so I'm going to share three quotes from my Zen calendar. I carefully picked these out, because they contain important reminders/lessons for me (lately I feel like my life has accelerated even more and I'm scrambling to stay "on top" of everything--however, perhaps it is also Zen to accept this as part of the natural ebbs and flows of life...):

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone...The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials."

Lin Yutang

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."


"Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed."

--Corita Kent

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The current issue of Natural Life magazine has some more good homeschooling articles in it (the last two issues have had some really good ones as well. I hadn't been planning to renew my subscription, but I think I'm changing my mind!). The first was called "Education is Not Something That's Done to You" and it addresses the (false) assumption that learning "can and should be produced in people." (emphasis mine) It addresses the assumption that children won't learn on their own, but must be made to learn by being kept in confinement with others their own age day in and day out. She notes that even homeschoolers often fall into the trap of thinking education must be "done to" children. I marked the conclusion to share: "What we should not do is create new schools--be they charter schools, private schools, or home schools--which perpetuate old assumptions of how children learn or who controls children's learning." I have to remind myself of this sometimes--if I start to feel like L "should" be doing something specific, or "most 5 year olds can XYZ..." or if someone asks him if he's in school or remarks on how "is your mommy or your daddy your teacher," that I reject that *system*--why would I try to use its values to define our experiences?

The other article was a cool one called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rocks the Boat: Life learning as the ultimate feminist act. In it, the author quotes social commentator Susan Maushart as asserting that "motherhood needs to be at the center of human society, from which all social and economic life should spin. Society needs to 'acknowledge that bearing and raising children is not some pesky, peripheral activity we engage in, but the whole point,'...Warehousing kids in daycare or school so mothers can get on with what they see as their real lives is not part of that vision, but we need to find ways to ensure economic security for women of all classes, and extend the vision to include fathers as well."

Speaking of feminism and homeschooling, I had an epiphany this week. I am facilitating a women's spirituality workshop and the theme of this week's session was "womanpower." A point was emphasized several times that in feminism the view of power is different. A patriarchal view of power is that of "power over" or control over--you have power, someone else doesn't. You can use your power to control others, or to take their power away, etc. A feminist view of power is of cooperation--"power with" as well as inner power. When you have inner power, you do not need power over someone else. A hierarchical version of power falls away and is unnecessary. I reflected on the times I have heard women say, "I'm not a feminist, but..." and how I've always *boggled* at that. How can you NOT be a feminist, I'd wonder. Now, I think it is because of a misinterpretation of values--an interpretation that views feminism as wanting to "take over" or to "dominate" men or to prove that "women are better than men." This is flaw in understanding--using a worldview rooted in "power over" concepts, instead of a totally different worldview or a reinvention of how society operates/what it's values are. My epiphany is that this is just like homeschooling--you can't use the "lens" of public school to understand homeschooling and you can't use the "lens" of patriarchy to understand feminism. These different lenses are why you feel like you are banging your head against something when you speak to someone who is coming from a fundamental misinterpretation of the values at work. Feminism and homeschooling both involve alternate value systems to that of mainstream society and a revisioning of social structures into new kinds of systems (healthier ones).

The previous issue of Natural Life had an interesting article about free schools called U of Free. Some points I liked: "most come with the free school philosophy of solely pursuing an interest, rather than for a degree or other recognition of knowledge. They resist the consumer-driven mentality sweeping traditional schools, where students vie for exam hints and quick solutions to get to the next step, with their ultimate goal being an exit out – their graduation. At Anarchist U, the students are all about learning itself. Without the pressure of exams and marks, students can relax and savor their learning moments."

And on the same topic: "In his classes at U of T, he encounters a chorus of students whose sing-song refrain 'is this on the exam?' puts his pedagogical ideals out of tune. The classroom conductor laments that these U of T students are looking for a quick study guide 'because they need the credit from my class to get the piece of paper.' Instead of enjoying the educational experience, his students are disengaged, shrewdly seeking the quickest route out of the system."

If I am indeed going to be teaching college classes within the next year, the above is something I feel worried about coping with--I want to work with people who are excited to learn, not people who are trying to just get the grade and get out. I see this as the whole point of homeschooling/unschooling--to create a way of life that involves learning for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic ones. This was very much true for me as a homeschooler and I carried it over into college--I didn't understand why people were there for other reasons than to learn. It didn't make any sense to me to hear someone recommend a class because it was an "easy A" (but had a teacher who was so boring and so pointless as to make you wish to be unconscious under a rock rather than listen to him any longer). What is the point of an easy A?! Hello! It also didn't make sense to me to have to take classes that I wasn't interested in (and I did have to do this), but I made the best of them by studying the stuff and trying to get it/like it. Someone at our craft camp this year expressed surprise that I was "self-taught" at the classes I was teaching--"so, you just learned this by teaching yourself?" Yes! Why? Because I like to learn stuff--no one has to make me do it or show me how! I study and learn things all of the time, because I like it. I'm a very self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-directed person and credit that to my homeschooled/unschooled background (thanks, Mom!). I had a friend tell me a while ago that if "no one is making me do it, I won't do it/learn it." I thought that was incredibly sad as well as incredibly telling about the drawbacks of our current social methods of education as something that is "done to" people, rather than a self-directed process.

Okay, whew! Time for bed!


I didn't post last week because my power was out as a result of a "derecho" in our area. I did finish reading a fiction book called Prep (thanks, Hope!), by the dim light of my book light while lying on the floor in the dark house. I was oddly entranced by the book, though every time I put it down I would say, "I should just quit reading this, I'm not getting anything out of it." It was about a teenage girl attending boarding school on a scholarship. She is intensely self-conscious and pretty much just spends her time analyzing other people and thinking about herself/her personal issues as well as mooning after a jerky boy she barely knows but loves. This makes the book sound much more shallow than it actually was--it was a very developed book and really intensive as far as angst/emotional content/in-the-character's-head. There was an almost painful authenticity to the narration. A look at what (possibly) goes on inside people's heads, really--"ugly," weird, socially anxious stuff, that you don't see on the surface. Though the book is about teenagers, it was written for adults. I found it kind of depressing overall, but also liked it, so...


Monday, May 4, 2009

Journey Into Motherhood

I didn't get a chance to make my usual Saturday post because my internet connection was down. So, now I have time for a few brief words:

I read: Journey into Motherhoodby Sheri Menelli. This is a phenomenal collection of inspiring birth stories. I love it! Plus, you can download it from her site as a free e-book. I really recommend this one!

I also read New Moon (second Twilight book). This one was pretty bad. I'm not sure if I will read the others now! An example quote: "At least I could be with him again before I died. That was better than a long life." PUH-LEEZE!

Plus, I finished Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America 1750-1950. This one took me a little while to wade through and is didn't "hook" me enough to keep me coming back to it rather than starting (and finishing) other books while reading it. It was interesting though. As it sounds it was basically a history of childbirth in America during those years. It really explores the move from home to hospital and themes like women's social power in the birth room and over birthing in general (and how that was given away after the move to the hospital, but also, how women *wanted* to go to the hospital and advocated heavily for pain medications, etc.) I will be writing more about it on CfM.

Last but not least, I got BIRTH (the book version of Karen Brody's play) for my birthday yesterday and read it last night. It was a quick read. I wish I could see the actual play, because reading it is just not the same. It did make me want to perform it though! It was good.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All the Gifts of Life

I borrowed two books from my church last week and read them both over the weekend (both were quick little books). The first was Notes to Myself: My struggle to become a person by Hugh Prather. It was so-so. In keeping with my previous post about identity, selfhood/selflessness, personality, etc., I marked several relevant quotes to share:

"While I am worrying about what you think of me I am not open to you, I am not letting you in; in fact, I am not letting you exist as a person--I am making you my mirror. While I am concerned with what you are thinking about me I am not even thinking about you."

"I learn most about myself by observing myself in relation to others. When I examine myself by myself I am actually examining the results of a previous encounter. Perceptions are not of things but of relationships. Nothing, including me, exists by itself--this is an illusion of words. I am a relationship, ever-expanding."

"People in cars passing by my car, people walking past me on the street, someone leaving a shop as I enter, Gayle coming through the door from work, Willie getting his mail as I get mine, and with each one of these little brushings-against, these encounters big and small, I leave something behind. If I can feel what I pick up from them, certainly on some level they can feel my state also. What, then, is the trail behind me composed of? Does not this 'gift to the world,' by its very enormity, outweigh all others?"

I have a particular interest (and a complicated partially written essay) about gratitude and "you're so lucky" type comments, so I also marked a quote about that:

"The thought, 'You're lucky, it could have been worse,' is the kind of gratitude I can do without. It also could have been better, or actually, it couldn't have been any other way than the way it was."

The second book was All the Gifts of Life. It was a collection of short essays/meditations by a couple of different UU authors. One was about "detachment" and whether it is desirable or not:

"It is only through our detachment that we are able to rend the ozone layer, poison the air and the seas, exterminate whole species of animals, and burn the rain forests. There are times when some detachment is appropriate and necessary. But the greatest source of evil in our time may be that we are too detached from people, and too detached from the earth. If we meet everything objectively, then there is no sacredness and no mystery."

I thought this was an interesting twist--people are often urged to "be objective" and it is interesting to consider what kind of detachment that promotes.

The second page I marked was kind of a take-off of the classic Ecclesiastes "for everything there is a season...":

The Light can represent the light of Spirit that ebbs and flows inside us as we feel sometimes drained and dusty, and other times energetic, enthusiastic, and supple. Some times in our lives are spirited times and others are dispirited times. As we contemplate the meanings of the dark times and the light times, the earth-based traditions would caution us against using The Dark as a symbol for all that is negative. If we use 'darkness' to speak about ignorance, depression, and evil, we speak as if it would be best to have no darkness at all, to have light all the time. That would be awful. there is a season for dark and a season for light.

Is it possible then that there is a time to feel energetic and a time to feel drained in the rhythm of life? A time to let life and energy flow outward from you, and a time for it to flow inward? Maybe the ebb and flow of Spirit is a rhythm that is good to feel. Maybe in our growing into wholeness there is a time to feel dusty and dry, 'hard as iron' like the winter ground, and stony as winter water. Maybe instead of worrying and suffering over those feelings we could settle into them, knowing that there is a time for cold and time for warmth, a time to be energetic and a time to rest, a time to grow and a time to stay where you are, a time for the light of reason and a time for other ways of knowing. Maybe we could walk in beauty and balance more easily if we could welcome the dark time, trusting that when it reaches its full strength, things will begin their tilt back in the other direction. Nothing stays the same in the flow of things. All things seek their balance and their rhythm. The wheel will always turn...


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zen Quotes

I'm gone this week, so I've set up to post some saved quotes from my trusty $1 Shop Zen calendar from last year:

"It is not length of life, but depth of life."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not."


"Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question."


And one that makes me think of the birth culture in the United States:

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Other Recent Reads

I am accepting that I will not have time to write about every book I've read. So, I just wanted to mention some recent ones (two of them I plan to blog about elsewhere).

Birthwork--this was a masterpiece of a book. Took me ages to finish, because it was very complex. I've never read a book like it. It was really extraordinary. I've already written a bit about it on my birth blog and I will again. Plus, I will be writing a complete review for CfM.

Women and Doctors--this is an older book written by a doctor and covers the anti-women attitudes that many doctors have bred into them in medical school. Also talks a lot about hysterectomies and how they are extremely overperformed. I'm going to be writing about this one on the CfM blog for sure.

Innovative Teaching Strategies Handbook for Birth Professionals
--this was a quick read and I got several good ideas from it. I think I will use one of the breastfeeding demonstration ideas for an LLL meeting soon.

The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods--I read this after I finished Birthwork. I was immediately going to jump into another heavy read and realized I needed a quick break. This is a young adult book about an 11 year old girl in rural WI the 1950's. For some reason it made me cry several times. I read it in an hour.

What Do Buddhists Believe?--This was a short book about "meaning and mindfulness in Buddhist philosophy." I was familiar with most of the ideas already (but that kind of makes me an empti-full cup!).

A quote from this one I liked when talking about various turning points in the history of world thought (like Newton and gravity or the Buddha and his enlightenment under the tree): "...these seekers after truth did not find anything that had not been there before. Theirs was a discovery not an invention. Their genius consisted in realizing for the first time something that had been in front of them all along. It was as if they perceived a deeper layer of reality, a glimpse of the underlying structure of the phenomenal world." This kind of thing makes me wonder about the ideas and concepts yet to be discovered--what is in front of us right now, that we haven't yet figured out, etc. As reading Buddhist stuff always does, I went into a bit of a tailspin about "what is the nature of reality" and "who am I" and "what does no-self really mean" and "if I have no-self then who the heck am I." All questions I've asked before, no answers! I read somewhere else: "if someone says to me that they don't know who they are anymore, I say, good!" So, maybe I'm making progress by feeling like I don't know who I am! (by that, I mean I don't know who I am "ultimately" speaking--is there a core "me," a real reality, or is it just shifting, changing collection of personality traits. I think it is difficult to ever say with any certainty that you know who anyone *really* "is" and the same for yourself. However, this then depresses me somewhat...)


The Fox Woman

Just a few minutes ago I finished reading The Fox Woman, our book club read for May (should have waited a little longer to read it, because I may possibly forget it all by the time the end of May rolls around!). Short version: this book is a retelling of a Japanese fairy tale about a fox that becomes a woman in order to sort of "trap" the man she loves into being with her (the "fox magic" creates a sort of illusory world that he lives in with her for 10 years, but to the outside world it is only 3 months and he is living in a fox den that is all dirty and so forth--the magic makes him think he is in a fancy house). It was unclear to me at the end, but I believe she was staying a woman at the end of the book. It was very engaging, though I didn't really bond with the characters specifically--a lot of the book was about identity and knowing oneself and as such, you didn't really get to "know" the characters (because they didn't really 'know" themselves and their relationships were based on illusion and lies or "masks" that people present to try to be perfect, not reality). The story shifts back and forth between three narrators (the fox, the man, and his human wife).

A couple of quotes I marked from it:

"...when I am so alone, I do not have to be any of these things. For this moment, I am wholly myself, unshaped by the needs of others, by their dreams or expectations or sensibilities. But I am also lonely. With no one to shape me, who stands here watching the moon, or the stars, or the clouds. I feel insubstantial, as if the wind might suddenly dissolve me, like a weak mist."

Of course one about birth :) (this is the fox woman while pregnant):

"...I knew in my blood and bones that pregnancy was not supposed to be a complicated thing. One got pregnant and continued to hunt and sleep and eat. One prepared several dens, and when the time came one crawled into one of them, and after a small amount of pain, one delivered one or two or three or four kits..."

After she becomes a woman and marries the man: "A woman's life is shadows and waiting."

After the man is found my his human wife and goes back to that world/life: "Life is better lived as an adventure than as a work of art, I think."

When the fox woman is talking to a goddess about "but what will happen?" in the future/to her, etc.: "'Live and find out. Life guarantees nothing, not even itself.'"

And the conclusion: "None of us...are human unless and until we claim it for ourselves....and our lives become the poems we were born to tell."


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Pink Kit

Last week I finished reading all the written materials for The Pink Kit (Common Knowledge Trust, New Zealand). I also listened to the CD and watched about half the DVD. (I have trouble making room in my life to watch things--I ALWAYS have time to read things, but things to watch sit for months without being looked at.)

I enjoyed the materials overall and got some ideas of things to use in classes. The emphasis is on pelvic bodywork and the focus is primarily on getting to know your pelvis--both the bony pelvis and the "soft pelvis" (the soft tissue structures connected to the pelvis). The Pink Kit teaches you how to "map" your pelvis and explore the structures. It also covers material on breath work, touch, and communication. As I mentioned there is a DVD and a CD. There is also a short book (that is basically an overview of the program--it isn't really a stand alone). Plus, there are three more pdf books on a CD: New Focus: Breath, Language, & Touch; Managing Skills; and Companion Guide. New Focus was my favorite and the most useful, I think. I printed each one of these out and used my burgeoning book-binding skills to "perfect bind" each one into a real book, instead of putting them in a binder. I even took a picture to share :)
My only complaint was that there was a heavy emphasis on "managing birth well" and "staying in control" and "using your skills." I have a more "organic"--"do what feels right to you" philosophy, instead of a "there's a right way to give birth and if you 'train' properly, you will do it right." (I did appreciate their stance that these "skills" can be used by all women in all circumstances and all types of births--they are not only for one specific setting or type of birth. i.e. knowing about how the pelvis works and about how to calm yourself with your breath, is still valuable with a cesarean birth experience.) There were comments made about not "moaning or groaning" or "wasting energy" by making noise--I feel much differently about noise in labor! Moan and groan all you want! It is useful! To be clear, the Kit does frequently mention that birth is not controllable and things like that, but I felt an overlay of "prepare properly"--there's a "right way" to work through birth and manage yourself well...

I shared some quotes from the book on my birth blog about birth as a rite of passage.

This is all I have time to write about this week (I did read two other books, but alas, they will have to keep waiting!).


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Homebirth Books

"Be sure to share your story. There is no shortage of fear-mongering and simply unhelpful advice when it comes to birth. As fathers, we need to make birth a part of the masculine dialogue."

So concludes the new book I just finished tonight called The Father's Home Birth Handbook. The book was published in Scotland and is a nice addition to the information available to fathers-to-be. It was written by a woman, but contains ample quotes from fathers (like the one above) and has a lot of interesting birth stories all written by the fathers. It was a quick read and a good one.

This week I also read Midwifery Today's short book The Heart & Science of Homebirth. This book is a collection of reprinted articles from Midwifery Today, The Birthkit, Birth, and the AIMS Journal. So, I'd read a couple of the articles already, but not all of them.

I've run out of time this week to blog properly, so this quick entry is all I'm going to be able to post!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mother Nature

Reviewed a new little booklet this week called Mother Nature. It is a quick introduction to some attachment parenting concepts and would make a nice gift for a pregnant person. I liked this quote from the opening section:

"This is the stuff no one wants to say: motherhood can be confusing, isolating, lonely, relentless. Motherhood can grind your illusions to dust. Motherhood can grind you to dust...Motherhood has also been an immense blessing, a joy, a healing, a sitcom. My children are gifts, arrows that point to truths I sometimes don't want to see."

When my first was a baby I used to say that I felt like I'd been chewed up and my bones spit out. Fortunately, the second baby was a more pleasant adaptation :)

I also read through the Birthing From Within Keepsake Journal this week. I'm always seeking new ideas for my classes. (I got The Pink Kit this week for the same reason, but haven't finished going through all of it yet.) I think it is quite likely that I spend more money on resources for teaching birth classes than I actually make teaching them...this will change though! My classes have really picked up this year--I'm actually busy with them and have frequent inquiries--so I think it will continue to build from here.

I have lots more to write about it, but I have other things on my list today that are more important, so I'll have to finish up with this quote from Oregon Humanities (the issue's topic was Civility): "Additionally, people wrongly assume that the majority of those around them share their viewpoints on a variety of issues. 'People are only listening to people who agree with them,'...'It's a cognitive error.' Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as the False Consensus Effect, in which we think everyone agrees with our viewpoints. By thinking we are surrounded by like-minded people, we are likely to be jarred by any conflict with those who disagree with us, and we are less willing to welcome and engage in conflict." (The rest of the article is about why conflict--and civil conversations about disagreeing viewpoints--is very important. We avoid conflicting opinions because we do not want to risk disconfirmation--our sense of self is tied up with closely held beliefs and we can't handle the challenge to that and so choose to interact with people who share our views, or who we think share our views, rather than taking up "an important opportunity to develop a more nuanced understanding of the world.") I've observed this Effect at playgroup, church, and other settings--it is uncomfortable to be on the other side of the False Consensus Effect (i.e. the person assumes I agree with them when I really don't) and I rarely let anyone know that that is what happening. I'm sure the reverse is also true--that I assume those around me agree with my ideas, when really they may just be uncomfortably avoiding a "conflict" or challenge to my viewpoint. This publication is very thought-provoking and I recommend it--you don't have to live in Oregon to benefit from it (I don't live in Oregon!).


Saturday, March 21, 2009


Continuing my Janet Evanovich kick this week (my mom keeps checking them out of the library & then passing them along to me), I read Lean, Mean Thirteen. And, it was actually the only book I read. This is primarily because it is March now and along with nice weather, the spring issues of the various quarterly publications I subscribe to have also been arriving! So, I've been reading all of those instead of books. I got Brain, Child, which I always adore. One of the things I enjoy about it (I enjoy this about Hip Mama too, which I also got and read recently) is that it explores subjects/experiences that are totally outside of my own realm of experience. I love the window into other people's lives/worlds. So anyway, this Brain, Child issue had an article in it about noncustodial mothers. One of the things it addressed was the reasons why some mothers do not have physical custody of their children and how the snap judgment seems to always be that she must have been neglectful, or abusive, or drug addicted, or have run away to "find herself," when the reality is often more mundane and/or complicated than that. In other words, there are lots of mothers who do not have physical custody of their children who are not "bad mothers." A comment was made about something that I've observed myself: "A father pushing his child in a stroller draws charmed smiles--Wow, what a great dad, helping out!--from people who wouldn't look twice at a woman behind the stroller, just doing her job." Another article was about "hard partying, tough questions" and addressed how/when to share your messy and/or sordid past with your children (like I said, broadening my horizons!). And yet another was about using bad/inappropriate language around your children. Love this magazine!

I also got my copy of DONA's International Doula with my "Respecting the Birth-Breastfeeding Continuum" article published in it. This was my first publication that was actually a "cover story"/feature on the cover, so that was exciting! :) (Speaking of articles, some issues of the IJCE are online now. The June 2008 issue has my WBW article in it and the September issue has my "Satisfaction with Birth" article in it. And then speaking of breastfeeding and of writing, I wrote a lot about it on CfM this week).

I also got my first issue of The Journal of Perinatal Education (Lamaze's publication) this week. I enjoyed it quite a lot as well. I'm still working my way through this quarter's Midwifery Today and got other publications this week like Oregon Humanities and the Missouri S & T Alumni magazine (two copies of it, I'm not yet sure why...) and Habitat World. I know it doesn't make special sense for me to get Oregon Humanities, but it is actually a really good and interesting publication and I find it thought-provoking.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Special Women

I had a good week this week (except for a very tragic incident with one of our chickens on Thursday that cast a pall over the remainder of of the week :( ). My happiest news was that I got my ICEA exam results on Monday (only a week after having taken the exam) and I passed and am now an ICCE (ICEA Certified Childbirth Educator). I was SO ready for this! I feel a little odd and also free now that I am no longer studying for it. Studying was absorbing a lot of my "free time."

I also got my copies of Midwifery Today with my Birth Lessons from a Chicken essay published in it (the chicken refers to a literal chicken, not to be "chicken" about birth). I'm proud of this one :) This was my third MT publication. Last year, I couldn't even imagine having one! (If anyone wants to read it, I'd be happy to email it to you).

Another high point was finding Obstetric Myths vs. Research Realities at Goodwill, plus some other birth-related books. One of those was Special Women and I read it this week. It was pretty much a description of the role of the "professional labor assistant"and some elements of the business end of doula practice. Not too much "how to" or skills. It was also more of a look at the role of a monitrice, because there seemed to be an assumption that clinical assessments would be part of the labor assistant's role (I think the role of "doula" has been more explicitly clarified as "non-clinical" since this book was written. The edition I was reading was revised in 2000). The book used a hooked diamond pattern symbol throughout (of which the DONA logo is a more stylized version). This is a birth symbol and represents both the uterus and vagina and is apparently a counterpart to the phallic symbol (though less widely known/recognized as such). I just found an article online about it.I also continued my Janet Evanovich kick by reading Plum Lovin'. And then tonight finished reading her Eleven on Top. Again, some fun little treats for me.

Finally, I wanted to mention that in Ode magazine this month I read a letter to the editor mentioning Francis Moore Lappe's book Getting a Grip. "She states that we must call ourselves 'buyers' or 'purchasers' rather than consumers" (because consume means to use up and we have piles in landfills). I thought this was a good reminder.

Okay, I'm not very gifted with words tonight and this is kind of a dullsville post. Oh well! At least I'm staying updated!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Big Book of Birth

This week I greatly enjoyed reading The Big Book of Birth. It is by Erica Lyon of Realbirth, who I first heard of when I read her awesome quotes in Pushed. Anyway, this was a basic "guide to birth" type of book, so I didn't necessarily learn anything new from it, but I hope that lots of pregnant women pick this one up to read instead of What to Expect. The emphasis of this book was on giving birth, not on pregnancy. The author's writing style was great--very engaging and *real* seeming. It is written in a sassy, lively, conversational sort of style that really made the book very readable and good. There were a variety of birth stories shared (broken up into the "right" chapters, which made it a little hard to follow them sometimes). I did feel sad reading some of them because the mothers didn't seem to *get* in hindsight what had really happened--i.e. "the doctor said the baby was 10 pounds and so a cesarean would make sense" and then baby is born and is 8.5 pounds and there was no further "analysis" about the cesarean being unwarranted.

I have a lot of quotes marked to share on my birthy blogs. Here's a quick one though: "You do not have to be a particularly strong or brave or relaxed woman to get through labor. You just need to be a woman." And then one from one of the birth stories: [in response to someone telling her that she got an epidural because it made the birth so much more peaceful] "I asked myself, Is birth meant to be peaceful? the feeling that I got after my birth was of pure triumph. I felt strong and able..."

I also zoomed through some "dessert"--Janet Evanovich's Twelve Sharp. Funny. Enjoyed it. Felt like a treat.

And on an unrelated note, I've mentioned before that we have cool big rocks on our land (behind our house). Today was a nice day and we went out to visit them!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Last Lecture

Last night I finished reading our March book club selection, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I'd recently seen a video clip from an appearance on Oprah and became interested in reading the book. So, when it was suggested in book club, it was perfect. And, luckily, the library had a copy (large print only, unfortunately).

I actually wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had watched the film version, instead of the written version (heresy, I know, for a book-lover like me to say!). Having seen a small portion of his lecture "live," I realized how dynamic and engaging it would have been to see the whole thing instead of reading about it.

At the risk of sounding smug, I feel like I've already figured out a lot of the "lessons" he shared. Actually, one of my guideposts in life--depressing as it may sound--is to ask myself, "if I had a terminal illness, would I still be doing this?" If the answer is "no," I either quit whatever it is, or look for ways to make it more enjoyable/worthwhile. I've long had a semi-obsession with life, death, purpose, passion, and is-this-truly-important/worthwhile. I think it is serving me fairly well, though I do sink into a bit of a spiral of despair sometimes!

From the book, I'd marked two things. From the time management section: "Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things? You may have causes, goals, interests. Are they even worth pursuing?" This is something I constantly consider. I make mistakes, but the "is it worthwhile" evaluative thought process is a guiding light in my life!

The second is something I disagreed with with regard to work habits: "'Wow, you got tenure early,' they'd say to me. 'What's your secret?' I said, 'It's pretty simple. Call me any Friday night in my office at 10:00 and I'll tell you." I don't think that is a healthy approach to life/work balance!

The title of the lecture is about your childhood dreams, so of course I thought about mine and whether I've achieved them. (This is something I've already thought about/worked over when I first became really interested in simple living in about 2001). The ones I remember are:

1. Be a writer.
2. Travel to other countries and help poor and sick people there.
3. Be a librarian.

The first two I actually have written down in a journal from 1991. I perhaps had others, unwritten, that I am not remembering right now.

Anyway, I am a writer. I have not traveled to other countries, but my whole adult life has been centered on social service/social work/community service, so I think that fits with #2. I am not a librarian, but I lend books to my friends like crazy! I also have a lending library for my LLL Group and a personal lending library box of books as well. Just a few months ago, one of my friends was over and I was picking out books to loan her. Her partner said, "getting some new books?" and she said, "yes. And Molly is the BEST librarian EVER!" So, LOL, I think I may have accidentally made #3 come true as well :-) Life is good!

Edited on March 2nd. I wrote the post above really quickly and have since had something additional thoughts (prompted in part by a comment left by Nick King, who has a really touching and useful and comprehensive website based on his wife's experience of living with a terminal illness [ALS]).

First, I remembered one more thing that was on my childhood dreams list--actually, it was the first thing on the list, since I was four when I first said it--"be a nurse." Well, I'm not one. And have realized that I could likely never be, primarily because I am WAY too squeamish about blood (though the reasons are really more complicated than just that). However, I think this was an early expression of the "I want to help people" dream that I feel like is a thread running throughout my life. Also, I am deeply involved with pregnancy and birth, which involves some elements of medicine/nursing. And, as a play on words, I am definitely committed to nursing my children!

Second, I recalled one of the exercises that first helped me explore this type of things: Gifts, Dreams, Sorrow, Unlived Lives (be prepared that it opens as a Word document). In 2001, I went back through old journals, reflected on my childhood, talked to my parents, did lots of introspection, took online quizzes, read lots of books, etc. in an effort to figure out my "life purpose." I wrote a life purpose statement at that time after a LOT of inner work and consideration. Miraculously, since my entire life has changed since then, I would not change a single word of my life purpose statement. It still completely and totally applies to me, even though I am 8 years older, have two kids, live in a different town, do a different kind of work, and so forth. I think that means it was an accurate one and that the work I did with myself to develop it was time well spent. I hope to post more about this later, because it something I really really feel deeply about (I also feel very private about actually sharing what my life purpose statement says. It is posted on my wall, but unless you're here looking right at it, I basically never share it directly with anyone. I just share that I have one and I believe deeply that it is something that is worth spending your time with).

Okay, back to the book. I want to clarify that I haven't actually LEARNED the lessons in Pausch's book--I fail A LOT, but I have heard of them and try to apply them :)

Bascially, I have heard a lot of "it changed my life" stories about this book and that was not my experience/reaction. The kinds of things in the book were the kinds of things I've spent a lot of time thinking about--sometimes I think I've done too much thinking!

Finally, the relationship content of his book was very touching. I teared up a lot when he would talk about his wife. There was a hot air balloon story from his honeymoon that made me laugh and cry. And, at the end, when she hugs him after his lecture, it was really sad. So, I feel like my first post was too flippant about the way, or not, in which I was touched by this book. I also think he had a real knack for using story telling/anecdotes to make his points. I would imagine he was a dynamic and engaging professor!