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).