- We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. (Joseph Campbell)
- When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile. (Regina Brett)
- Early childhood is the most important part of life. It informs all that we do thereafter. (Mister Rogers)
- Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present. (Regina Brett)
- Envy is the art of counting another’s blessings instead of your own. (Harold Coffin)
- When I count my blessings, I count you twice. (Irish Proverb)
- We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all. (Dorothy Day)
- I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Unknown)
- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart," all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart." (Unknown)
- In the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. (Kahlil Gibran)
- When I count my blessings, I count you twice. (Irish Proverb) :)
Monday, March 29, 2010
- While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. (Angela Schwindt)
- When the wisdom of the Grandmothers is heard, the world will heal. (Native American Prophecy)
- Atheism is a non-prophet organization. (Unknown)
- One of the most essential ways of saying “I love you” is by careful listening – listening with the “ear of the heart.” (Mr. Rogers)
- Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects. (Unknown)
- I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. (Martha Washington)
- Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world. (Jean Houston)
- A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab centre said: 'Keep off the Grass.' (Unknown
- When I dare to be powerful -- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. (Audre Lorde)
- There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure. (Jack E. Leonard)
As I contemplate Babynut's 6th birthday, I feel called to celebrate not only Babynut, but all women and their magical ability to create and nurture life and to give birth. This is the Power of Yin; of nurturing and holding life. It is the power of Shakti, the Feminine Principle.
Here is what Sharon McErlane*, author of Our Love is Our Power has to say about the primal energy of Woman: “Women embody not the yang-based power that is nearly worshipped in our world, but real power. Woman as the container, the wheel, the Mother ship, She who HOLDS. These ideas are foreign in our culture, foreign in our world. For thousands of years woman has been treated as the 'second sex' the 'also ran' of the human family, told to 'stand behind' men and know her place. Woman as shakti, the Feminine Principle, the elemental power of the universe, is not something our culture understands."
To all of the women who read this article, I say, embrace in your power. Visualize yourself as the vessel that you are. Sit in meditation and imagine yourself holding all that you love - your children, your spouse, your family, your friends. Now expand your vessel, your holding, to include the place where you live, all the animals and plants and people in your town, even the people or animals you don't like. Just hold them.
As you get comfortable with this exercise, you can expand your holding to include more and more of the Earth and all that dwell in and upon it. There is no limit to your holding. You are one with the Great Mother.
When a woman holds and contains, she is coming from the foundation of her power, the Power of Yin. Yin is the complementary universal force to Yang, which goes out into the world and is active and strong. But Yang cannot exist without Yin, and for much too long, women have been unaware of their power.
If a woman tries to imitate the Yang way men are powerful in the world, she will be a shadow of her real self. To be powerful, to be the mother that you are, you must learn how to hold, to be a vessel of love and strength and light.
I created Babynut as a way to hold all babies in the womb or newly born, all women pregnant, giving birth or caring for newborns. I believe that the time a child is in the womb and the first few years after birth is the most important time in that child's life. How babies are held in the womb and then birthed and held as they grow strong enough to walk on their own will determine how safe they feel in the world, how much they feel loved and nurtured, and in turn are able to love and nurture themselves and others.
*To learn more about Sharon McErlane and the wisdom of the Grandmothers, click here.
- A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption. (Unknown)
- Laughter is carbonated holiness. (Anne Lamott)
- Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold. (Peace Pilgrim)
- Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression. (Haim Ginott)
- The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination. (John Schaar)
- Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.' (Unknown)
- Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved. (William Jennings Bryan)
- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. (Unknown)
- It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny. (Jean Nidetch)
"Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. "It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers."
Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight."
"In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the 'fight or flight' response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead." When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.
"This calming response does not occur in men," says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they're under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen seems to enhance it."
This information makes so much sense to me! I have on occasion been ready to do battle to defend or protect my children, but my more consistent reaction to a stressful situation is to step back from it if it is dangerous, or calmly try to resolve the issue - talk it out. When I am unable to deal with the situation directly, I will pay attention to other people - my children or grandchildren, baking cookies or caring for them in some other way. I will also start cleaning and attending to minute details to try and manage the overwhelming feelings the stress is causing. I always figured something was WRONG with me when actually I am simply responding the way women are wired to respond.
The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic 'AHA' moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. "There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded," says Dr. Klein. "When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own."
Going to friends for succor and support is a very healthy way to deal with any sort of stressful situation. It helps us move the stress through our physical and emotional bodies and begin the healing process. Our women friends can give us the emotional support that the men in our lives may be unable to provide.
So go ahead and call that friend of yours you've been meaning to call. Meet for tea and have a nice, satisfying chat.
*The information in this article came from an article by Gale Berkowitz
Sunday, March 28, 2010
- To change one's life: 1. Start immediately. 2. Do it flamboyantly. 3. No exceptions. (William James)
- Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you. (Maori proverb)
- May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder. (John O’Donohue)
- Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart! (Erma Bombeck)
- My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. (Mark Twain)
- The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. (Jill Churchill)
- The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears. (Ellen Goodman)
- The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. (Calvin Trillin)
- Sooner or later, we all quote our mothers. (Bern Williams)
A friend was talking about the events that had occurred over the course of her life. "Each situation took away a piece of me, and left me feeling less sure of myself, less whole."
I pondered her statement for a long time and then I asked her, "Is it possible that the parts of you that were taken away were parts that you no longer needed?"
We often view events or crises as diminishing our sense of self, our ability to feel strong and whole, but perhaps it is just the opposite. Perhaps when our ego is bruised or our self-esteem is diminished, we are actually making room for a whole new understanding of who we are to shine through.
Rumi says, "Keep looking at the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you.
I look over my life and I can see plenty of bandaged places. I used to feel like there was a hole where my heart should be. A big gaping wound that no amount of bandages could cover. I had to put an imagined steel belt around my heart to keep it from feeling too much pain, from coming to terms with the gaping hole. But that hole was precisely the spot where the light seeped through. When I eventually let go of the steel band and let the pain pour out, even more light poured in. I felt more whole, more centered in my self, more full of light.
Our scars are also our greatest potential for growth and enlightenment. Without them we would become complacent and spiritually lazy. Every trauma we go through is a potential bandaged place and a potential place for the light to shine through. Instead of looking at an event with sadness or pain, try looking at it as a window through which the light of your own spirit can shine and help you to heal. Take off the bandage slowly. There will be pain, but there will also be light.
As parents we worry that a traumatic event may scar our children for life. Death of a loved one. Divorce. Moving to a new city. Being the victim of a bully. We see their wounds and scars as our fault. If we were better parents, our children wouldn't have to go through this pain and suffering.
We ARE responsible for a lot of what our children must experience. We make the major decisions that affect their lives for good or ill. I am not absolving you of your responsibility as a parent. Rather I am challenging you to look at a difficult event as a potential for your growth as well as the growth of your children. Help them to express their feelings and also help them to feel the light shining through their discomfort. If children can learn that growth and light come from every difficult event in their lives, they will welcome the events as they come and open up to the light, rather than avoiding any conflict or wallowing in sadness, self-pity or resentment. And the bandaged places will heal without a scar at all.
- Fly without hesitation to the edge of the horizon with outstretched wings and vivid dreams trusting you will not fall. (Heather Handler)
- Before I speak, I have something important to say (Groucho Marx)
- In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught. (Baba Dioum)
- Just as parents care for their children, you should bear in mind the whole universe. (Zen Master Dogen)
- If an unnamed baby gets sick, name it and it will get well. (Naming legend)
- All good things are wild, and free. (Henry David Thoreau)
- When lighting a fire, give it the name of someone you love. If the fire goes out, your love is unrequited. If it burns, your love is returned. (Naming legend)
- No, Groucho is not my real name. I’m breaking it in for a friend. (Groucho Marx, born Julius Marx)
- Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding about ourselves. (Carl Jung)
- Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough. (Groucho Marx)
- I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace. (Diane Ackerman)
Recently Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of these United States of America. In fact, he was sworn in twice, because the Chief Justice mixed up the words during the inauguration ceremony. It got me to thinking about promises we all make and oaths we take in our lives. How can we make them more than mere words?
We all make promises, to ourselves and to others. And perhaps the most formal “oath” we take is part of our marriage ceremony. We vow to love, honor, respect, etc. I am sure we all mean the words as we say them on that special day, but do we keep the vows alive over time? Not all promises are able to be kept. Not all vows hold over time. But surely it is good to try and live up to the lofty ideals contained in oaths. They have worthy goals: “Do no harm.” “Until death do us part.” “Defend the Constitution of the United States.”
I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace. (Diane Ackerman)
The above quote from Diane Ackerman came to me fromwww.gratefullness.org as part of their email program, Word for the Day. Many of their quotes give me pause, but none more so than this one. I am struck by the power of the words, and the intention of the oath. I do not know why Ms Ackerman created this oath, what ceremony she was participating in if any. But what if – each and every morning – we all had to swear to live our lives a certain way? If we did, then what better oath than the one Ms Ackerman has created?
I have decided to take this oath every day, each morning as I start my day. I offer it to you and to President Obama. It is not as formal or specific as the President’s oath, but it says so very much more to me. It uses words like: guardian, messenger, healer, architect. When I see myself as a guardian, as a messenger, as a healer, or as an architect, I feel powerful, able to make a change for better in the world. More important it uses the word humbly. This word reminds me not to take myself too seriously, even though I may be a guardian, messenger, etc.I am touched by this oath, this attempt to align oneself with nature, wonder and peace, and to move away from hatred. I read Ms Ackerman’s words and I want to live up to them, be worthy of them, have them engraved upon my soul. What better eulogy could I have than to have it said of me: “she hated no one or no thing, she loved and protected the sea, the earth, and all who dwell therein, she healed the sick and the sick-at-heart, she filled herself and those around her with wonder, and she worked tirelessly for peace”?
- Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time. (Shirley Chisholm)
- The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we have of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us. (Quentin Crisp)
- School vacation has meant plenty of time here at home for our two little girls, Kaysa, age four, and Emma, age six, to fight with each other. On one occasion, I heard Kaysa shriek right before seeing Emma run out of their bedroom. I asked Emma if she had 'assaulted' her sister again. Emma immediately said, "No, Mama, I didn't 'a salt' Kaysa, I 'a peppered' her!" (Britt Holmstrom-Salisbury)
- There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting. (Buddha)
- Every act of service we perform makes our lives, the lives of others and the Earth a tiny bit better. (Saralee Sky)
- The mind determines what is possible. The heart surpasses it. (Pilar Coolinta)
- Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year. (Victor Borge)
- One must have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
- Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. (G. K. Chesterton)
- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)
"Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time." Shirley Chisholm
When I was a young woman, I tried to get a job at a fancy restaurant as a waitress. It was the only job available in the rural area where I was living. When asked what experience I had, I lied and said I had worked my way through college as a waitress at my uncle’s fancy restaurant. The closest job I actually had was serving ice cream and burgers.
I got the job and was given six tables to wait on. Each table had six courses to be served in addition to drinks and wine from the bar. I was completely out of my ken. I really had no idea how to open wine with a flourish, keep track of which table was on what course, make sure everyone got what they actually ordered, etc. And then I realized two things: taking care of six tables was like performing an intricate dance. I could immerse myself in the steps of the dance and keep the food and drink flowing. But most important was to approach each table with a true attitude of service.
“How can I help you?” became my mantra and also my heart-felt approach to my job. I was genuinely interested in each group I served. I was honest in telling them that I was new to this type of job. I laughed at myself as I struggled with the wine corks, or forgot who ordered what. I listened to each and every person and soon had them telling me about their lives in the course of the six courses they consumed. I may not have been the best waitress, but I was the friendliest and got lots of praise from my customers and really good tips.
The key here was that I realized as a waitress I was there to serve my customers. Truly serve them. Once I became aware of this, my customers responded with delight and appreciation.
Since that time I have pondered the idea of service. So much of what we all do each and every day is a kind of service, but if we are not aware of it, we lose the opportunity to really experience the benefits and effects of that service. What exactly do I mean by “service”? To serve can mean offering comfort and aid to another human being, feeding the birds on cold winter days, clearing out a storm drain after a big rain, sending money to a favorite charity, volunteering in your child’s classroom. But service also means making breakfast for your family, changing a diaper, grocery shopping, cleaning the toilet, sweeping the floor. The list is endless. We perform countless acts of service every day without being aware of it. As soon as we become aware, the experience is enhanced and we are uplifted by each act of service instead of feeling drained.
- A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween. (Erma Bombeck)
- Forever on Thanksgiving Day, the heart will find the pathway home. (Wilbur D. Nesbit)
- Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. (Norman Vincent Peale)
- I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold. (Gregory, 5)
- Long after the latest fad toy is discarded or given away, the time you spent together or the doll house you made will have a place of honor in your children’s lives and memories. (Saralee Sky)
- During the early months of your baby's life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s that simple. You can do little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly. (Elizabeth Pantley)
- Help your neighbor’s boat across and lo! Your own has reached the shore. (Hindu proverb)
- Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the blessing of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. (Rachel Carson)
I was listening to NPR Weekend Edition Saturday and I heard the saxophonist, Joshua Redman, playing some songs and talking about his father, tenor saxophonist, Dewey Redman. Dewey came to play at a recent recording session with Joshua. When they were done, Dewey asked to play a song on his own, without Joshua. Since it was Joshua's album, it was a strange request. But Joshua said OK and left to get some coffee. When he returned, his father was done. It only took one take and the name of the song was "GJ".
Joshua and his wife had recently had a baby, and this song was a gift to Dewey's grandson, Jaden. Dewey died shortly after the recording. This beautiful, soulful song will be a lasting legacy to his grandson. Jaden will grow up without knowing his grandfather, but he will have this very special gift, this song, written and performed just for him by this great Jazz musician.
After listening to this report, I started thinking about gifts we give to our children and our grandchildren. We want to be sure they have the best clothes, toys, books, sports equipment. Maybe one special toy or one special book will remain with them as they grow, but mostly they will grow out of the things we give them, unless we truly give them something of ourselves.
The holidays are fast approaching. The pressure is on to provide the latest fad toy or fashion. How will you gift your children? Your grandchildren? Who are you? What is special about you? What do you love to do? Believe in? Support? What kind of gift can you give to your children or grandchildren that says: ‘This is me. This is how I feel about you. This is what I want you to remember about me.’?
Perhaps it will be a handmade quilt or doll house, a story you write, a picture you paint, a special memento from your own parents you pass on, a camping trip, an afternoon spent fishing, a walk in the woods. Whatever it is, I urge you to think about what you want your children to know about you or your grandchildren to remember about you. Give them gifts that tell them something about who you are, what you know, what you love.
I love to sew and to knit. I also love camping and walking in the woods. Last year I knitted a sweater for each of my grandchildren. I did not make my deadline of Christmas, but they all got one eventually. This year I have been sewing clothes for my granddaughter’s American Doll. I plan to make a matching outfit for them for Christmas. This past summer I went camping with my son, daughter-in-law and two of my grandchildren. As often as we can, I take them for walks in the woods. And for gelato. We ALL love gelato! J
Give them memories in the here and now. Today may be all we ever "have", but our todays are built upon the days that came before. Long after the latest fad toy is discarded or given away, the time you spent together or the doll house you made will have a place of honor in your children’s lives and memories.
If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the blessing of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. (Rachel Carson)
I wish you a very special and loving holiday season.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
- Motherhood is an immense responsibility. In my opinion, it is the most overwhelming, meaningful, incredible, transforming experience of a lifetime. No wonder it produces such emotional and physical change! (Elizabeth Pantley)
- When I was born I was so surprised I didn’t talk for a year and a half. (Gracie Allen)
- We can all learn from the resiliency of weeds. They grow where they can. They allow us to pluck them from the soil. And then they grow again. And again. No judgment. No blame. Perseverance furthers. (Saralee Sky)
- I had assumed that the Earth, the spirit of the Earth, noticed exceptions -- those who wantonly damage it and those who do not. But the Earth is wise. It has given itself into the keeping of all, and all are therefore accountable. (Alice Walker)
- There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. (George Santayana)
- Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant. (Robert Louis Stevenson)
- I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. (Thomas Edison)
- Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. (Philo of Alexandria)
- We are born charming, fresh and spontaneous and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society. (Judith Martin)
In some cases I just let the weeds grow along side whatever I have chosen, so you will see a 6-foot mullein plant near my rose bushes, or yarrow popping up here there and everywhere. The clover and buttercup are so abundant, however, they threaten to completely cover up my lovely blue-star creeper, the ground cover I have chosen for its tiny magical star-shaped flowers that cover it from May through September. So out I go into the fray, starting in April and continuing into May and June, tearing out the clover and the buttercup and the crab grass and the dandelions in order to let the very forgiving blue star creeper and vinca and knick knick a chance to grow and thrive.
My husband laughs at my determination. "It's a losing battle," he says. And he is right. Along about July my enthusiasm for weeding starts to lag. By August I am postively weeded out. All my beliefs about weeding being good therapy, about how meditative and healing it is to get my hands in the dirt wanes. Instead I look out at the chaos that is my yard and have an intense urge to lie down in the hammock and read a book.
The trick is not to look too closely. People walk by and, when they see me in my yard, tell me, "I just love your garden! It makes my heart glad to look at it." These words would inspire me to longer weeding sessions in the early summer. Now I just look up from my book and say, "Thanks".
So the losing battle has been lost. The weeds knew it all along. They have let me come through and tear some of them up, knowing quite well that sooner or later I'd get tired. Each time I came through they bowed to my weeding will and started growing again as soon as I passed by. Their resiliency and ability to forgive my weeding ways was and is boundless.
I never feel so accepted for who I am as when I am weeding in my garden. "Come and play in the dirt," the plants seem to say to me. "We will let you pick who stays and who goes for just this little while. Then we will come back where we will and live in harmony, rose and mugwort, dandelion and hydrangea, fuchsia and buttercup."
We can all learn from the resiliency of weeds. They grow where they can. They allow us to pluck them from the soil. And then they grow again. And again. No judgment. No blame. Perseverance furthers.
- Be open to the unknown ahead, the trail that leads you to true beauty. Or be ready to turn around, care for your child and see her true nature. (Heidi Ahrens)
- Who is it that can make muddy water clear? No one. But left to stand, it will gradually clear of itself. (Lao Tzu)
- The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many' and the word 'ticks' meaning 'blood sucking parasites'. (Larry Hardiman)
- There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. (A. J. Muste)
- Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. (Macrina Wiederkehr)
- Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
- The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant…and let the air out of the tires. (Dorothy Parker)
- Not knowing when the dawn will come, open every door. (Emily Dickenson)
- I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough book shelves. (Anna Quindlen)
We all have so many transitions to navigate during the course of a single day, let alone the changes we must all experience as we live and grow. Some of us move with ease and grace from one transition to another, letting go of what was and embracing what is to come. Some of us fight every change, every letting go and every leap into the unknown until it becomes familiar.
My five year old grandson, Jordan, recently developed a resistance to every transition during his day. When his mother tries to get him ready to come to my house in the mornings so that she can go to work, he is likely to have a tantrum saying that he wants to stay home. When it is time for me to take him to school in the afternoon, he will hide and cry and say he hates school and doesn’t want to go. When it’s time to pick him up from school he will run away from me – sometimes into the parking lot where cars are coming and going – saying he doesn’t want to leave school. And when his mother comes after work to take him home from my house, he will refuse to leave my side. I realize that he has to face a lot of different places each day, but in each place he is loved and cared for and always ends up having a good time, once he relaxes and accepts the transition.
Growth means change, and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown George Shinn
Perhaps for Jordan, each time he leaves whatever safe haven he is in means stepping from the known to the unknown. He must take the leap of faith that Nana’s house will be safe and fun and that school will be safe and fun and that home will be safe and fun, over and over in his young life.
We have all learned not to make a big fuss over it. When he arrives at my house I assess his body language when he first comes in the door. I try to greet him. If he says “No!” and runs to hide, I let him do so and let him come to me. He will eventually come to me and say, “Play with me.” I greet him then and tell him that of course I will play with him after he has had breakfast.
When it is time to go to school and he resists, I tell him, “I know you do not like leaving one place and going to another, but your teacher really likes you and the other children are all looking forward to playing with you. Let’s look on the calendar to see what you will be doing today.” Just acknowledging his fear and his resistance allows him to work through it.
Is it possible to feel safe and scared at the same time? I think so. Perhaps it is the higher self and lower self battling it out. Jordan’s higher self says “You will be safe wherever you are and whoever you are with,” while his lower self says. “I like it fine where I am. I don’t want to go anywhere else, take any risks. Let me stay here where it’s safe and familiar.”
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein
Seen in this light, it is miracle that Jordan works through his fear and resistance each and every day and takes the leap into the relative unknown of my house, of school and of home again. I must appreciate more just how brave this little boy is as he steps each day into the unknown and lives to tell the tale.
I, too, am facing a transition in my life. I must choose whether to continue on with Babynut, or to let it go and wait to see what comes into my life next. This is not an easy transition for me, but one that I must make soon nevertheless.
Who is it that can make muddy water clear? No one. But left to stand, it will gradually clear of itself. Lao Tzu
I am waiting for the water to clear and for my way to become known. I have enjoyed every step of the journey that is Womb To Grow and Babynut. It has been a labor of love for me. Still, I also need it to stand on its own and grow and flourish. Since it has not become profitable in almost 5 years of operation, I must make the choice to let it go or continue to try to make it work on more than just a personal level. Whatever I choose will be one more transition in my life, one more chance for growth and understanding.
I have reached a point in my life where I understand the pain and the challenges; and my attitude is one of standing up with open arms to meet them all. Myrlie Evers
- One thing is certain: Children need lots of free, quiet time to get used to all that’s developing within them. (Fred Rogers)
- Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home. (Bill Cosby)
- None of us is exactly like anyone else, but one thing we have in common is our humanity, our very natural, understandable desire to know that at least somebody,onebody, thinks there’s something special about us, something worth caring about. (Fred Rogers)
- Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
- Every time we affirm how special our children are to us for being themselves, we’re helping them grow into adults who rejoice in the diversity of the world’s people. (Fred Rogers)
- Never have children, only grandchildren. (Gore Vidal)
- Help your neighbor’s boat across, and lo! Your own has reached the shore. (Hindu proverb)
- I have reached a point in my life where I understand the pain and the challenges; and my attitude is standing up with open arms to meet them all. (Myrlie Evers)
- When it is dark enough you can see the stars. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. (Groucho Marx)
Last year my granddaughter, Crystal, went to Kindergarten. Her first day at school was also her first soccer practice, which took place a few hours later at the school's playground. She was already on sensory - or new people and place - overload when we walked across the street from my house to the school to meet her coach and her team mates.
Most of the other girls were taking this first practice in stride, playing on the grass or playground equipment and happily waiting for the instruction to begin. The coach and his assistant each had a little girl on the team. They started the girls playing a chase game and generally getting to know each other. Gradually they stared giving some rudimentary instruction.
Crystal is a child who likes to observe from the sidelines for a while before joining in, but this just didn’t seem to be an option. The other girls listened and responded to what the coach told them to do. But Crystal kept looking over at me and her mother and waving, as she jumped up and down and shot her hands into the air above her head. The coach noticed this jumping behavior and tried to engage Crystal's attention, but she would not/could not listen to him at all. She had no idea what she was supposed to do or where she was supposed to go. She looked happy enough - for a jumping bean.
I particularly noted the way her hands shot into the air above her head, fingers splayed open, as if she was a conduit for some sort of electric charge. I had observed this behavior before when she was excited about something and wanted to get my attention, but never to this extreme. Months later I shared this behavior with my cousin, Marcia, who is a Healing Touch Therapist. She told me that Crystal needed to know she was safe; that when she displayed this behavior she was trying to discharge the extra energy coursing through her body caused by the fear of a new situation and the inability to manage and control her world.
The other girls seemed more at peace with this situation, more able to take in the instruction and practice the new skills being taught. Crystal was just too overwhelmed to take in anything the coach said. Her need to stay on the sidelines was something we should have supported instead of encouraging her to join in and participate with the other girls. I had to struggle with my own need to have her be like everyone else, instead of the unique and special and sensitive child that she was.
Her first game took place on the following Saturday. Crystal and her parents and younger brother, along with two sets of grandparents dutifully reported to the soccer fields. She was dressed in her uniform and very excited to play, until she arrived at the park and saw all the other – 100’s – children there. She had been practicing at her elementary school’s playground. Now she was at the official soccer fields – all 30+ of them. No one had thought to prepare her for the crowds of players and parents and refs and coaches. She looked around and promptly hid in her mother’s lap. No amount of coaxing from her family or her coaches or her team mates would induce her to go out on the field.
We wisely let her stay in her mother’s lap, but we did not leave until the game was over. Now she knew what to expect. The next week we took her to soccer practice at her school as if nothing had happened. She began to participate more, but still was unable to listen to the coach when he would teach the girls to play a certain skill-building game. He learned to get down at her level and talk directly to her over time. When we arrived at the soccer field the next Saturday, she was able to play in the game.
By her third game she actually scored a goal! Her spontaneous celebration – leaping with both hands high in the air over and over – is legendary and unique among all the girls. Her coach says it was “worth the price of admission”. This time the hands in the air seemed to say, “Hurray for me!”
Now we are all more sensitive to Crystal’s own unique needs to feel safe and secure in new situations. My cousin (the Healing Touch Therapist) has taught me to say either directly or telepathically, “You are safe. I will keep you safe. I am here to help and support you." Recently I went to the park with Crystal. She would run around and play on the slide or climbing apparatus, then come running over to stand in front of me. "You are safe," I told her. "I will keep you safe." Then off she would run to play again.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
- One good turn usually gets the whole blanket. (E. Joseph Cossman)
- Gratitude is the intention to count your blessings every day, every minute, while avoiding, whenever possible, the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances (Timothy Miller)
- You know you’re old when you’ve lost all your marvels. (Merry Browne)
- Growth means change, and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown. (George Shinn)
- Don't think of it as getting hot flashes. Think of it as your inner child playing with matches. (email from a friend)
- I believe that as a reader myself, that excellent books inspire us to talk to one another and to share our new ideas and questions. (Jenny Rich)
- There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)
- The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think. (Henry Walpole)
- Being grateful forces us to stay in the moment, in the NOW, because we must look at our life as it is this moment and feel happy to be alive. (Saralee Sky)
“Gratitude is the intention to count your blessings every day, every minute, while avoiding, whenever possible, the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances.” (Timothy Miller)
For me the challenge is not in feeling grateful for all that I have and love, it is in maintaining that feeling when things don’t go my way. I usually have a picture in my mind of how I want my life to be, how I want my children or grandchildren to behave and grow, and I am very willing to be grateful for all that! It is when things don’t go according to plan that my attitude of gratitude suffers.
Recently my four year old grandson, Jordan, has developed a resistance to any transition during his day. When his mother tries to get him ready to come to my house in the mornings so that she can go to work, he is likely to have a tantrum saying that he wants to stay home. When it is time for me to take him to school in the afternoon, he will hide and cry and say he hates school and doesn’t want to go. When it’s time to pick him up from school he will run away from me – sometimes into the parking lot where cars are coming and going – saying he doesn’t want to leave school. And when his mother comes after work to take him home from my house he will refuse to leave my side. I realize that he has to face a lot of different places each day, but in each place he is loved and cared for and always ends up having a good time.
I have to go through Jordan’s resistance each time a transition comes up. I try and approach it with patience and firmness, but never have I thought of it as something to be grateful for, to be warm and happy about. Rather I see it as something we must all get through and something that I do NOT look forward to in any way.
“Growth means change, and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.” (George Shinn)
For Jordan, each time he leaves whatever safe haven he is in means stepping from the known to the unknown. He must take the leap of faith that Nana’s house will be safe and fun and that school will be safe and fun and that home will be safe and fun, over and over in his young life.
Is it possible to feel safe and scared at the same time? Is it possible to feel grateful and resentful at the same time? I think so. Perhaps it is the higher self and lower self battling it out. Jordan’s higher self says “You will be safe and happy wherever you are and whoever you are with,” while his lower self says. “I like it fine where I am. I don’t want to go anywhere else, take any risks. Let me stay here where I know it’s safe.” My higher self says “Every moment is a gift, every challenge an opportunity to practice gratitude,” while my lower self says “I deserve more – more money, more time, more cooperation from Jordan.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”(Albert Einstein)
Seen in this light, it is miracle that Jordan works through his resistance each and every day and takes the leap into the relative unknown of my house, of school and of home again. It is a miracle that we are alive and aware and able to choose feeling grateful rather than feeling resentful and full of self-pity. It is a miracle that we have another day, another hour, another minute of life in which to contemplate the miraculous.
We all lead very busy lives, full of schedules for work and school and household chores. The list goes on and on. We wake up and hit the floor running with no time to remember the dreams we had during the night. We rush through our days making sure we get to most of the things on our “To Do” list only to fall back into bed too exhausted to feel much of anything let alone contemplate how miraculous life is and how grateful we are to be alive! Seen through the lens of all that we must accomplish in a day it is truly a miracle that we can get through each day only to rise to meet another full of more things that must be done.
Trying to stay with the awareness of life as a miracle from moment to moment is as difficult as maintaining an attitude of gratitude, but it is much the same. Being grateful forces us to stay in the moment, in the NOW, because we must look at our life as it is this moment and feel happy to be alive. To view everything as a miracle is one step further into the moment if such a thing is possible. First we are grateful about who we are and where we are and what we are doing and then we realize what a miracle it is that we are alive and able to contemplate the miracle of it all. And then the baby cries or your toddler refuses to go to Nana’s or your boss emails you for an update on the project that is due tomorrow and the contemplation of miracles or gratitude flies out the window.Perhaps the trick is not to stay in the moment full of gratitude, but to remember to return to it again and again throughout our busy lives. I know this sounds like just one more thing to add to an already overflowing list of things to do in a day. But it is really a “stop and take a breath” kind of thing, a moment in which I look into my grandson’s eyes and realize what a gift he is and how much I love him and how I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or be anyone else. And then the tantrum becomes a miracle.
- In our family, our ideas about food are completely integrated with our politics and our spirituality. (Barbara Kingsolver)
- There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after. (J. R. R. Tolkein)
- Pregnancy is a natural time to change your life for the better, and motherhood keeps the changes coming. (Barbara Kingsolver)
- A baby in the womb first hears its mother's song. She is nourished by the cord between them, but she is also soothed and carried by the song she is surrounded by as she floats and grows. (Saralee Sky)
- It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. (J. R. R. Tolkein)
- Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may go. (Louise Driscoll)
- I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. (J. R. R. Tolkein)
- When someone has taken up residence in your belly, you’re forced to slow down and think beyond yourself. First, of your own baby. Then someone else’s. (Barbara Kingsolver)
- The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. (J. R. R. Tolkein)
- A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. (Chinese Proverb). Note: This is the second issue in a row in which I have placed this quote. It inspired my ‘wisewords’ article, so I believe it bears repeating.
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. (Chinese Proverb) There is no "If - Then". There are no conditions to the singing. Cage a bird and - though saddened by the loss of its freedom to take wing – still it will sing.
This applies to humans as well. I heard on National Public Radio about a Jewish man and woman who found love in a concentration camp during WWII. Miraculously they both survived and were able to marry after the war. While everything around them was bleak and full of depravity and despair, they found a way to sing their song of love.
In Yiddish it is called a nigun, a melody, a tune, a song we are forever trying to remember, to recapture and to sing.
A baby in the womb first hears its mother's song. She is nourished by the cord between them, but she is also soothed and carried by the song she is surrounded by as she floats and grows. Perhaps it is the emergence of the baby's own song that pulls her from the womb. Gradually her own song takes the place of her mother's. Where will that song take her? What bits of melody will inform her life as she grows?
When we are little babies I believe we hear our own nigun loud and clear. It is so much a part of us that we do not need to sing it aloud, though some of us may try. As we grow older the needs and expectations of others may soon drown out the sound of our song, our nigun: so many voices clamoring for our attention; so many outer enticements pulling us away from our center. Still the song keeps on singing deep within: high or low, soft or loud, fast or slow. At night before sleep we can almost hear it. In our dreams we catch snatches of the melody.
As our life unfolds we may stop listening to our nigun and start looking for answers outside of ourselves. We ask why: Why is life so hard? So cruel? So unfair? So short? So long? What does it all mean? Why am I here? The search for answers takes us far away from our song. “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” (J. R. R. Tolkein)
In the end as in the beginning, life's longing for itself is the only answer needed. To hear it and to sing it and to live it, you must listen within, to that still small space within your heart. Only you can hear the melody, the words, the rhythm. Only you know when it is soft or loud, high or low, fast or slow. Within this melody lies all the answers, all the reasons why. The search to rediscover our nigun is a worthy challenge for us all.
- Children certainly can be our teachers. Looking in the mirror of my daughters, I have seen my own shadow and faced my own dark side more than any other way. (Cheryl Dimof)
- A student asked a Zen master to write something very wise. The master wrote one word: “Attention.” (Old Zen story)
- A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. (Chinese Proverb)
- A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. (Josh Billings)
- Children will be who they are; all we can offer is the right environment for their growth and development, whichever way they unfold. (Cheryl Dimof)
- Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild. (Welsh Proverb)
- In the workshop, in the home, while walking, while talking, while hiking; in the very midst of these we develop and realize our mind’s true peace. (Shodo Harada Roshi)
- An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that and you start to age quickly. (Gene Perret)
- The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong. (Murphy’s Other Law)
- Treat a child as though he is already the person he’s capable of becoming. (Haim Ginott)
I have two sons, both grown now. Joseph is five years older than Gabriel. When they were younger, they were acutely aware of each other’s place in the family, especially my younger son, Gabriel. He wanted to do whatever his big brother did, even if his little body just could not keep up. Instead of feeling honored that his little brother looked up to him so much, Joseph resented Gabriel’s desire to do what he did and thus the battle lines were drawn. I often felt torn between the two boys and what they each needed or desired or thought they deserved. I was also very aware of the fact that they were two very different children with very different needs and personalities.
Joseph was very self-contained and self-aware from the moment he emerged from the womb. He needed very little correction and was more comfortable with gentle guidance and clearly defined limits set mainly for his safety. As he grew older he took the role of the “opposer” in the family constellation and would often say no to an activity simply because the rest of us wanted to do it. He fought with his little brother all the time and was usually the victor, simply because of his size and weight advantage. I think he might have been happier as an only child. (Wouldn’t we all?)
Gabriel was a quiet, peaceful baby, but as he grew his competitive streak emerged and he was always trying to win at anything he did – sports, games, anything. If losing at a board game like Monopoly, he was not above throwing the board across the room, ending the game for everyone. Gabriel was also very affectionate and needy for affection in return, and he could be very stubborn when it came time to put away toys or get ready for bed.
As a parent responsible for the growth and guidance of these two unique people, I discovered early what major lessons each had to learn in their lives and tried my best to help them work their way through them. With Joe, I tried to show him the box he placed himself in when he opposed a family outing just for the sake of standing firm and alone. An “opposer” is basically a frustrated leader. I found ways to let him make more decisions for us all, like which movie or playground or restaurant, but the larger life choices still had to be made by his father or me. I also tried to show him how the battle with his younger brother was largely of his making. If Joseph did not rise to the bait of Gabriel’s competitive nature and was more of an ally and mentor to Gabriel, the fights would cease. It had to come from him, the oldest and the one who set the battle lines in the beginning.
With Gabriel I tried to be patient and consistent, working with him to at least place one block back in the box while I put in ten, easing him out of his stubbornness. When he got older and threw game boards across the room, I would wait until he calmed down and then sit and talk quietly with him about his actions. I believed it was important that he understand that his actions had immediate and also long term consequences and the older he got the bigger the consequences. I also tried to show him that his intense need for affection was often impossible to meet. He would have to learn to look within to find the comfort and solace he needed. I took him with me to my meditation group and he enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and the chanting when he was young very much.
As the boys grew into teens their life lessons grew with them. Joseph resented the choices I made for the family, moving us from California to West Virginia and finally to Washington state. When his father and I separated he blamed me, since it was my decision to do so. It took us a long time to work through his feelings. The hardest thing I ever did was sit quietly and listen to him tell me how every decision I had ever made for him was wrong, starting with not circumcising him! It was a long and emotionally exhausting list. He was sixteen then. He forced me to see the consequences of my decisions from his point of view rather than my own – a completely different vantage point!
Gabriel continued to up the ante in his actions/consequences cycle. At fourteen, he threw a rock through a shop window with some friends and was the only one caught. He spent the night in Juvenile Detention and was thoroughly sobered and chastised by the experience. Among other consequences, he had to apologize to the shop owner face to face. His emotional neediness continues to be a problem for him in his marriage from time to time. Learning to look within for comfort and solace will be a life-long challenge for him I believe, but one which he is slowly learning how to solve.
When Joseph turned eighteen, he stopped fighting with Gabriel. I noticed the calm and asked him what happened. He said Gabriel was on the wrestling team now and might be able to “take him” in a fight. While that may have been part of it, I choose to believe that Joseph’s maturity was also a factor. While they are not as close as I would like them to be, they love each other dearly. Joseph still keeps himself apart from the family, but hovers on the boundaries, ready to jump in when he perceives a need.The boys have grown into young men and now lead lives independent of me. They continue to work on their life lessons. I watch as Joseph works through his need to be in charge and the distance he puts between himself and his family. I watch as Gabriel works through his need for affection and his need to win. Each has his own dharma, his own path to follow. I love both of my children and I appreciate their differences. Hopefully I will be around for a while as they walk their own unique path to wisdom and enlightenment and as I in turn walk mine.
Monday, March 22, 2010
- Does family remember family? There is something that pulls families apart and brings them back together. Something in the DNA that makes us recognize each other. (Helene Morrow)
- Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. (Anthony Brandt)
- Family can nurture us in all phases of our lives: as babies, children, young adults, crones. There are reasons we were born to our own particular families. We have lessons to learn, gifts to give and to receive. (Saralee Sky)
- The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. (Anonymous)
- In Birth, women are given a rare gift. It is an opportunity to experience growth and an encounter with themselves and Spirit that is life transforming. (Marcie Macari)
- Grandmothers are just "antique" little girls. (Author Unknown)
- For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
- My grandkids believe I'm the oldest thing in the world. And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too. (Gene Perret)
- A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead and dreams of a faraway place. A traveler on a plane sees the farmhouse and dreams of home. (Carl Burns)
Helene said to me, "In essence I am looking for people who no longer exist and I am finding them." She is giving new life to our mothers and aunts and uncles, to our grandparents and great grandparents. They will no longer be two dimensional pictures in an old album. She is infusing them with personalities, with hopes and dreams.
"Does family remember family?" she asked me. "There is something that pulls families apart and brings them back together. Something in the DNA that makes us recognize each other."
I agree with her and, to illustrate her point, will relate a story from my own recent experience, but on the paternal side of my family. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, went to college in Boston, then moved to California. In essence I moved away from my family of origin to find my own way in the world. While I kept in contact with my mother's side of the family, I lost touch with the uncles, aunts and cousins on my father's side.
In the last few years I started to reconnect with some of my first cousins on my father's side of the family. Email helps keep us in touch with each other's lives now and erases time and distance. A few months ago I got an email from my cousin, Marcia. Her father and my father were brothers, which makes us first cousins. We had not seen or heard from each other since we were in high school - over 40 years ago!!! We have each been married, had children, grandchildren, but never did our paths actually cross. Marcia told me via email that she was planning a trip from her home in Chicago to an island in Alaska to observe grizzly bears. She wanted to know whether she could stop by our house on the way to visit for a few days. We live in Washington state.
I said of course - come on over! And then I put the dates of her visit on my calendar. I didn't give it much thought until a week before she was to arrive, when she emailed me again to give me her flight arrival time and cell phone number. "Wow, she's really coming," I said to my husband. "I really do not know her at all. What if we don't get along?"
As we discussed Marcia’s upcoming visit, I realized I really wasn't worried about her coming. "If she wants to come and see me, it is meant to be," I said. "I will trust Intent (the cause behind all action) that Marcia and I will connect in a meaningful way."
Rather than feeling apprehensive, I was actually looking forward to her visit. When the day arrived I picked her up from the airport shuttle with my grandchildren in tow. She was short with curly hair like me and completely without makeup of any kind - also like me. We went to a park so she could stretch her legs and the kids could play. As we walked along a path together, we were both feeling the pieces of our separate lives - so long apart - coming back together.
Marcia is a healer, trained in Healing Touch Therapy. She also studies with a Cherokee Shaman. While my path has been to study with east Indian holy men and women, the lessons we have been learning are basically the same. We are both actively pursuing a path of devotion and learning on the way to (hopefully!) enlightenment.
Marcia helped me to heal a nagging chronic injury to my feet. She held my grandson's energy while he underwent surgery to repair decay to his teeth. She taught my granddaughter how to make princesses out of Hollyhock flowers. She bought me the book "Animal Speaks". She went running with my husband. When she left three days later I could not imagine a time when we were not connected, when our lives were far apart.
I never met Marcia's husband, who died six years ago. I have never met her three children, her six grandchildren. She never met any of my children or grandchildren until she came for this three-day visit. It didn't matter. The family that we are both a part of pulled us back together, helped us reconnect.
We realized how similar our childhoods had been, though we lived in different towns. Both of our mothers died when we were very young and both of our fathers died when we were teens. Marcia is six years older than I am, and she often spent the summers at our house with my older sister before I was born and when I was a baby. She had loving memories of my mother, the mother I lost when I was three and barely remember.
The visit was a blessing to us both in so many ways. We regained a part of our past and enriched our present. If we never see each other again, we will be forever changed by this three-day slice of time spent together. On the shuttle back to the airport, Marcia wrote to me: "I am feeling and thinking of our time together, which seems like it always was. I want to thank you...for the gift of who you are that allowed for the seamless relationship we had and have."
It is never too late to reconnect, to touch the life of someone we once knew and loved. Family can nurture us in all phases of our lives: as babies, children, young adults, crones. There are reasons we were born to our own particular families. We have lessons to learn, gifts to give and to receive. I am fortunate to have such wonderful cousins on both sides of my family. Family endures, love endures, hope endures. And so it is.
- The world is full of women blindsided by the unceasing demands of motherhood, still flabbergasted by how a job can be terrific and torturous. (Anna Quindlen).
- The most important thing she'd learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. (Jill Churchill)
- Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them. My mother cleans them. (Rita Rudner)
- The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy. (Sam Levenson)
- Sometimes the laughter in mothering is the recognition of the ironies and absurdities. Sometime, though, it's just pure, unthinking delight. (Barbara Schapiro)
- I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. (Augusten Burroughs)
- At some point we all feel like we are drowning in motherhood. (Saralee Sky)
- Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence. (Sholem Asch)
- You’re not famous until your mother knows about it. (Jay Leno)
Recently my husband and I were out in our garden when a neighbor came by on a walk with her family. Her six-year-old daughter, Shayna, was on her bicycle, her one-year-old son, Jared, was in the stroller, and my friend and her husband were on foot. The two men started talking, and I talked to the kids and their mom. At one point my neighbor said, "Shayna has her special time, Jared has his special time, my husband has his personal time, but where is the Me Time? Where is Barbara's time?"
I wanted to say, “Just wait a few years!” but I knew this was notwhat she wanted to hear. I could sympathize as I watched them walk away. I had been there, too. We all feel like that at some point I am sure. What about mothers who have three children or four or five? Their Me Time is postponed even longer I suppose. At some point we all feel like we are drowning in motherhood.
As a brand new mother, I was overwhelmed for the first six months of my baby's life. It seemed like the only time I was able to sit still was when I nursed my baby. Gradually I was able to relax into the role (after the 3 month bout with colic ended) and I even read a book while Joe was nursing. I would lift my eyes from the page and see him peering intently at me as he nursed. I had so much love for this little person who had such a huge presence, such great awareness, and who was so dependent upon me. And I was terrified I was going to do something wrong that would scar him for life.
I gradually settled in to motherhood and was quite content to have this one child. We settled into our routines and there was time every day for me to read or sew. I was also working part time. But time was slipping away and the peer pressure was intense for me to have a sibling for Joe, so my partner and I decided we had better have one more soon or not at all. When Joe was four years old, I got pregnant with my second baby.
Gabe was born in late April, three weeks early. Still, I was ready for him or so I thought. As the mother of two I felt more comfortable in my role. I was able to take care of both of my boys, pay attention to them, feed them, do their laundry, etc., without the periods of overwhelm or panic I experienced the first time around. The only problem was, I had no time left over for my self. No reading time, meditation time, daydream time. Someone always needed me. I was always holding one of the boys. I got very weary of being touched all the time.
I felt like I was always tending to everyone else's needs and demands. The addition of a second child changed things exponentially. The time and attention it took to go from mothering one child to mothering two children didn’t just double, it quadrupled! Where was Sara in all this? I was losing sight of my self. I was drowning in motherhood.
I do not mean to say that I resented my role as a mother, or that I resented my children (and my partner) for needing me as much as they did. I just felt like I was losing my own identity as I tended to the needs of everyone else. Learning to take some time for just me was very hard for me to do.
When Joe was eight and Gabe was three, I went to graduate school. I met a woman there who was also a mother and in the graduate program. I complained to her about not having enough hours in the day to do my school work and take care of the house and the kids, figuring she would understand and commiserate.
“How many kids do you have?” she asked.
“Two,” I replied.
“Two? Two kids are EASY! I have four!” she said. “Just picture the amount of laundry I have to do each and every day. The meals, the home work – theirs and mine – the soccer games. Two kids are a walk in the park!” She certainly put my problems into a new perspective. I stopped whining, at least to her.
Now, looking back, I can see that there are cycles to mothering. Some of the time it feels like we are in the flow, moving from one chore to the next, anticipating and meeting the needs of our children, our partner, our home, our career, the dog. It begins to feel like a complicated dance that only we know how to perform. We swirl and leap and dip through our days, making sandwiches, changing diapers, reading stories, writing articles, folding laundry, making dinner as though we were born to it. A professional mother, capable and strong.
And then one little thing too many goes wrong in one day. The baby and the dog get sick at the same time. The car brakes down on the way to the doctor’s office. The computer crashes just as the dish washer overflows. And it all comes crashing down.
Instead of dancing the intricate steps of motherhood, skimming along the surface; we are now drowning in motherhood. My friend Teri - one of six kids – remembers her mother locking herself in the bathroom and sobbing. My husband Jer – one of five kids – remembers his mother getting out the wooden spoon. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe, there just wasn’t enough air!
It is all OK. It will all right itself again. But we may need the help of a sympathetic partner or grandparent or friend, who can step in and take something off of our plate just for a while. As soon as everyone is in bed and they are asleep with their angelic little faces peeking over the covers, the love for these precious beings will begin to flow forth again and the strength to carry on as a graceful, loving mother will re-emerge.While we are in the midst of the intensity of this mothering dance, we think it will never end. But I am here to tell you it does; at least the needs and demands of mothering ends. My sons are 27 and soon to be 32. They live their own lives and really do not want my interference. They love me and respect me, but they have their own lives and they do not need my help most of the time. And so I am free to look back with nostalgia, to listen to Barbara say “Where is the Me Time?” and remember feeling the same way many years ago. Now I can say and mean it: Me Time is over-rated!
- All of our caring and all of our joys and sorrows as parents are meant to accomplish one thing: that our children will grow up and away from us. (Saralee Sky)
- Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. (Kahlil Gibran)
- God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean. (2nd Grader)
- Our children are richer when we let them know that we, even as adults, want to grow, too, and that we hope to keep growing all our lives. (Fred Rogers)
- You are the living bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. (Kahlil Gibran)
- Each of our life journeys is unique. No child will take the same journey as the parent and no parent can determine what a child’s journey will be. (Fred Rogers)
- When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair. (Child Wisdom)
- Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone. (Tom Wilson)
- Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. (Albert Einstein)
Falling down the stairs when I was two – the day my mother died when I was three – calling my Aunt Betty stupid and getting spanked by my father when I was four – being very sick and crying and crying when the doctor came to the house to examine me when I was five – crossing the street and hearing the loud screech of brakes; looking to my right as a car stopped within inches of my leg when I was six – riding my two wheeler, hitting the curb and almost falling into a passing car when I was seven. These are the memories that stayed with me into my adulthood. They each have an element of crisis or trauma in them, which helped them make the transition from short-term to long-term memory.
But what of the every day kinds of things? Waking up to a sun-filled room - being held, bathed, fed – my head in my father’s lap while he rubbed my sleepy head – conversation around the dinner table – going out to eat on Friday nights – watching TV with my family in the evenings – being read to – learning to tell time, tie my shoes, ride a bike – going fishing with my father – getting ice cream on hot summer nights – catching fire flies. These kinder, softer memories were a part of my childhood, too, yet they are hazy like a dream almost remembered. These mundane, everyday kinds of events were the building blocks of my life, my understanding of the world, my sense of self. They were more important than the isolated traumatic events, yet they have mostly faded into oblivion, simply because they were so ordinary.
As parents we spend countless hours caring for our children. When women learn they are pregnant, they cut out bad habits and start eating better, knowing that they are eating for two. Many women strive for as natural a birth as they can, hoping to ease their child’s way into this world. Then the caring for this infant begins in earnest. Hours upon hours of holding and rocking and feeding and changing and bathing. Each new skill is applauded and recorded: the first time baby’s eyes could focus across the room - the first smile – the first time she grasped her toes – rolled over – sat up without help – pulled herself up to a standing position – crawled – walked – fed herself – said “mama”.
All of our caring and all of our joys and sorrows as parents are meant to accomplish one thing: that our children will grow up and away from us. Everything we do for them is to help them build a life independent of our everyday caring. Yet our everyday help and support and nurturing is what builds our children’s lives and makes it possible for them to grow strong and sure of themselves.
I remember my oldest son’s first few steps of independence. He would toddle away from me on his sturdy little legs, then look over his shoulder to make sure he knew where I was. At the first scary encounter – a cat running by, the caw of a crow – he would toddle back to me and grab my leg, needing the physical reassurance that I was still there, his home base of safety. Gradually those independent journeys took him farther and farther away. Still I was waiting in the wings to cheer him on, sometimes with tears in my eyes as I watched the journey that would inevitably mean he would grow up and out of my home, but never out of my loving support.
Step by step our babies grow and learn, and we help them to do just that. We teach them to take care of themselves: brush their teeth – wash their hands before they eat – put on a coat before going out in the cold. We help them through their fear of the dark – of the barking dog – of the big girl swing. We teach them to tell the truth, to finish what they start, to stand up for themselves and their beliefs. And the reward for our everyday caring is that one day they will look at us and say, “That is what YOU think, that is NOT what I think.”
They have thoughts of their own, ideas of their own, dreams of their own. Kahlil Gibran says:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the living bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.
We are the stable bows that give our children the steady everyday caring that makes them able to fly in the end to meet their own future, their destinies. Our constant steady caring, full of mundane tasks repeated over and over, makes it possible for our children to grow up and out into the world. Be proud of every brush stroke, every bowl of cereal, every trip to the park, every nightmare soothed, every scraped knee kissed to make it better. You are all my heroes.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
You are a child of the invisible…each of us comes from somewhere more ancient than any family…you bring a sense of belonging to the invisible that you can never lose. (John O’Donohue.)
We are all in this alone. (Lily Tomlin)
Moms have magic. They make you feel better without medicine. (2nd Grader)
The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap. (child wisdom)
You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. (child wisdom)
One of life's greatest mysteries is how the boy who wasn't good enough to marry your daughter can be the father of the smartest grandchild in the world. (Jewish Proverb)
Not having children makes less work—but it makes a quiet house. (Susan Glaspell)
All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them. (Erma Bombeck)
I tell you folks, all politics is applesauce. (Will Rogers)
God playing a game of tag has kissed us and said, “You’re it. I mean you are – REALLY IT.” (Hafiz)
I write today from the vantage point of a mother and a grandmother. Who knew I would live so long? The days of being a young mother come back to me now as I interact with my son and daughter-in-law and with the parents of my grandchildren’s peers. The parents seem so young to me! It is nothing short of a miracle that they are able to take care of themselves, let alone their children.
Some of the parents are very together – patient and loving toward their children, calm and self-possessed in their own lives. Some of the parents look like they are happy to have just made it through to another day, slipping and sliding through their lives by the seat of their pants. I watch the children and their parents scurrying about and a Lily Tomlin quote comes to mind: “We’re all in this alone.”
When I was a young mother I was often terrified that my decisions and behavior were directly affecting my children. They were so totally dependent upon me for their very existence and survival. It was such an awesome responsibility and I often felt woefully unprepared. Still I loved my sons deeply and they forgave me my mistakes again and again. I got used to making decisions for them and for our family. We were all in this together albeit alone (see above).
I became a strong advocate for them as they went through school. But I also moved them around as I went through graduate school myself, and then decided to move from California to West Virginia and then eventually to Washington state. They had to go along. They were prisoners to my life choices. Sometimes they liked the choices I made and sometimes they definitely did not. My oldest son was more vocal about his disapproval. He liked West Virginia and did not want to leave.
I also became a devotee of Swami Muktananda when I was pregnant with my first son. Both of my children spent a lot of time with me in meditation centers and ashrams. They celebrated Guru Purnima along with Chanukah, Christmas, Easter and Passover. My oldest son was not as enamored with my yoga practice. “He’s your guru, he’s not my guru,” he told me. My youngest son could sit still for hours while we chanted in Sanskrit at the ashram. He was more of a yogi than I was. Now as adults, my oldest son considers himself a Taoist and my younger son goes about trying to turn his rowdy friends into kind and loving people.
During my children’s teenage years, their father and I separated and eventually divorced. This was another huge decision my sons had no choice about. And again it was me who was the driving force behind the decision. My ex-husband and I are close friends now. We see each other often and celebrate holidays together with our sons. We are each remarried and our spouses get along and we get along with each other’s spouses. An Ozzie and Harrier divorce as my sister likes to call it. But that is now. When the separation was happening my sons had to go through their own pain and suffering. My thirteen-year-old asked me, “Why can’t you wait until I’m 18?” Why couldn’t I? Because it seemed as though I would die if I didn’t make the change. My own survival was at stake.
As I grew into motherhood and womanhood, I would often try to make my decisions based on causing the least amount of turmoil or pain. But in the end I caused a great deal of both for all of us. My sons were forced to see me as a fallible human being with needs and dreams of my own separate from my role as their mother. They had to experience their own reactions to my decisions and behavior. My love for them was always apparent, and perhaps that is what got us through the hard times. We are very close to each other even as we lead our own separate lives.
Now I am a grandmother. My youngest son decided to marry at eighteen and become a father at twenty. He is still married and has a six year old daughter and three year old son. He started going to college this year and is somehow managing to work part time, go to school full time and take care of the kids three days a week. I help take care of my grandchildren two days a week, sometimes more. I went through each pregnancy with my daughter-in-law and son. I was present for each of their births. I help out at my granddaughter’s Kindergarten class and my grandson’s preschool class. I go to all the soccer games. You get the picture. I am very involved with my grandchildren.
I love them with all my heart and I also know I am not the main influence in their lives. I am not their parent. I can stand by to help and support, but I cannot force my will upon my children or my grandchildren. I can merely lead by example. I cannot make their decisions for them, live their lives for them, keep them from making their own mistakes.
I have so much compassion for young families as they struggle to meet the everyday demands life and their own decisions have placed upon them. I see my son and his wife trying to juggle all of the balls of being young parents, working, going to college, finding some time to play. I see their children as their steadying force. If my son had not married and become a parent as soon as he did, he was in danger of spinning out of control. He needed an anchor to keep him grounded and out of serious trouble. Sometimes he chafes at the responsibility, but mostly he takes it all in stride. I see none of the terror I felt at being responsible for another human being. My daughter-in-law goes about her days doing the best she can, working full time, attending to the needs of her children and her husband, taking little to no time for herself. They do not have the time to reflect on the awesome responsibilities they shoulder!
My oldest son and his girlfriend work with abused and emotionally disturbed children in an inpatient setting. They say they will eventually have children of their own, but not now. My son has very clear ideas about how to raise children and set limits. I cannot wait until he has his own children. Then we shall see if his rigid theories continue to hold water.
I am learning so much about myself and about the cycle of life as I enter this crone phase. I am growing old and I still have so much to learn. Will I ever reach a place of true wisdom? We are truly all in this alone, but “alone” to me now means “all one”.
- So the child learns life within human arms. It learns to eat…to laugh, to play, to listen, to watch, to dance, to feel frightened or relaxed, in human arms. (Margaret Mead)
- These mundane days, these special days, these re-bonding days are essential in the lives of families, couples, friends. They form the basis of why we are together, why we live and learn together, why we depend upon each other for solace and support. (Saralee Sky)
- A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold. (Ogden Nash)
- The ritual of marriage is not simply a social event; it is a crossing of threads in the fabric of fate. Many strands bring the couple and their families together and spin their lives into a fabric that is woven on their children. (Author Unknown)
- A baby is an angel whose wings decrease as his legs increase. (Author Unknown)
- Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to. (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it. (Sheryl Feldman)
- Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us. (Ruth Goode)
- We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. (Shirley Abbott)
This year Crystal (six) started Kindergarten. On the days I take care of her and her younger brother, Jordan (three and a half), I only see her briefly in the mornings when I get her ready for school, then after school from noon until 3:30 when my daughter-in-law picks them up. I get more one-on-one time with Jordan now, which is good, but I miss the time I used to have with Crystal. She is beginning to move away from me now, into the world of school and peers.
Recently the Pacific Northwest where we live was hit by a major snow storm. Our area of the north Puget Sound is usually protected from fierce winter storms, but every so often weather patterns shift, and we are hit with a storm out of the Arctic north. This storm buries my car under a foot of snow. And school is cancelled – a Snow Day.
My daughter-in-law still has to work, as does my son, and so they brave the icy roads and drop off the kids (still in their pajamas) early at my house – 6:15 am. I bring the kids upstairs to my big bed and crawl in with them. I don’t know if it will work, but it does. We all fall back to sleep and wake up an hour later, a bit disoriented, but refreshed.
Jordan plays with his cars while Crystal and I take a shower together. We have a double headed shower with room for two people. It is one of Crystal’s favorite things to do when we have a sleep-over. She gets her own shower nozzle and so do I. After our shower we do yoga together - Salutation to the Sun. I teach her how to say Namaste with hands touching in front of her heart and what it means: "The light (self) in me honors the light (self) in you." We all get dressed and go downstairs.
We feed the cats and dogs together, then we have our own breakfast: cereal for Jordan and Crystal and a fruit smoothie for me. I offer to turn on Sprout or Noggin, but both Jordan and Crystal say no. They watch a lot of TV and videos at home. At my house they choose to keep the TV off most of the time.
We wander back upstairs and Crystal brings out her newest favorite game – Twister. She and I take turns spinning or following the directions (left foot green, right hand red). Each time one of us falls, Jordan hands us a baby carrot – something he devised as an essential part of the game.
Soon Jordan says he wants to paint, so we troop downstairs to the family room where the easel is and first Jordan, then Crystal paints a picture for their mom for Christmas. Jordan’s picture is full of big swirls of color. Crystal paints a portrait of her mother, with lots of hearts and flowers. I decide to have them both mounted on foam board, so I take them away to the laundry room to dry and hide from their mother when she picks them up. The kids promise to keep the secret. (And they do!)
We have “mac-cheese” for lunch, an organic brand we all like. Again I offer to put on a video and the kids say no. It’s too cold to play outside. It’s beginning to rain so the snow will soon melt, or freeze again at night. We go into the living room to finish decorating the tree. I put on a Christmas carol album (we have a record player in this room) with an orchestra and chorus.
Crystal begins to do ballet to the music. She has recently started taking ballet lessons. She poses with her hands in the classical ballet positions, her face serious with the effort to concentrate. She begins to twirl and leap around the room.
"Come on, Nana," she says. "Dance with me." I twirl around the room with her, tears in my eyes for this magical day with this magical child.
After dancing, we read books. Each child picks out their favorite Richard Scarry story or book. Then I choose some Christmas stories to read. We have a snack of ice cream (organic of course) and dark chocolate syrup. The day drifts by. Jordan plays alone with his wooden train set. Crystal stays close. We both seem to sense this is a special day, a re-bonding day. I have been a part of her life from the beginning. Our connection is strong, our friendship deep.
I remember those times when I was a mother – the times when schedules were suspended and we spent time - quality time - together. Once we took over two months and traveled from California to the East Coast and back, camping all the way. We visited relatives and lots of national parks. My sons were five and ten.
These mundane days, these special days, these re-bonding days are essential in the lives of families, couples, friends. They form the basis of why we are together, why we live and learn together, why we depend upon each other for solace and support. The connection I have with my grandchildren is an important part of the fabric of their lives and of my own. I am part of who they are, who they are becoming. They are part of who I am, who I am becoming. They might not remember this day, this mundane day, this special day. But it will remain as part of the threads that make up their sense of themselves, their understanding of who they are and their place in the world. They will know, deep down, that they are loved, as will I.