Monday, September 28, 2009

Such Great Heights

Those of you who know The Hubster are aware that he is typically very understated and not prone to being overly romantic. I've gotten flowers once in 10 years, and that was only because I said, "Hey, I want flowers on Valentine's Day this year. And I want them to be purple, got it?" I got a glorious bouquet of irises, and was thrilled. I married him for his integrity, sweet spirit, kindness, friendship, sense of humor, and perfect compatibility with me, not for his grandiose notions of romance.

I've learned to genuinely appreciate little things, recognizing the profound meaning when he does offer even the smallest expressions of romance. And little things, I get all day long, more than I could ask for. A dozen or more "I love you's" a day. Soft kisses every time we enter or leave each other's presence. Foot or neck rubs EVERY NIGHT (with the rare exception of when he is not feeling well) for the past 9 1/2 years, since I first became pregnant with our daughter. No, my name has never been written across the sky with a heart surrounding it by a hired airplane, but I have never doubted where I stand with him.

And tonight, he has filled me with renewed love for him, once again.

I came home from work to find that he had been listening to Pandora radio today and heard a song that made him think of me. He emailed me the lyrics, which open:

I am thinking it's a sign
That the freckles in our eyes
Are mirror images and
When we kiss they're perfectly aligned

And I have to speculate
That God himself did make us into
Corresponding shapes like puzzles pieces
From the clay

True, it may seem like a stretch
But it's thoughts like this
That catch my troubled head
When you're away, when I am missing you to death....

-From Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine

I love this man.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Giving and Helping

I'm still working on that other post (it's got some big stuff in it), but wanted to share that over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about human nature, giving, taking care of each other, and love. We live in a society that holds up giving/helping/compassion as an ideal, but rarely ever expects it of anyone. We think of those who are generous with their time, talents, and treasures as somehow better or different than the average person, instead of realizing that we all have it in us to give in one way or another (and, if I can say this without being too simplistic, that we SHOULD). What stops us from giving?

In the midst of pondering how it all fits together, something happened two nights ago at the restaurant. An elderly woman in the restaurant began to choke a few tables over from my section. I quickly went and grabbed another server who I know is also an EMT. When I said to him, "a lady is choking at table 12," he immediately dropped everything and literally ran to be there. By the time he got there, a doctor from a neighboring table was with her, assessing the situation and helping. My server/EMT friend, being the kind of guy he is (a natural helper and giver at heart), stayed in the part of the restaurant near the choking lady until he knew everything was okay. As I went back to check on my next table (which was just on the other side of a small barrier from table 12), the woman commented that she was a nurse, and had been about to go over and help when the doctor had walked up and introduced himself. I was struck with the fact that whatever is our skill, blessing, or ability, most of us want to be able to help. When I took CNA training (while considering nursing school myself), I remember the instructor (a registered nurse) saying that she kept a small emergency pack with rubber gloves and basic medical supplies in her car at all times, so that if she ever happened across a medical emergency (car wreck being the most likely), that she would always stop and help.

I don't know why this warranted a post, except for me to say that the beauty of giving, of compassion, and of human generosity, when it's put into action (which isn't usually as often as it should be), is overwhelming in its goodness.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Homebirth and "Journalism"

I have a half-written post sitting in the queue that I've been piddling with for a week now (but haven't finished), but felt the need to post something that landed in my FB inbox today.

First off, a very, very precious twin mama friend of mine safely had her 9 pound 6 ounce baby in her home this morning, so I'm still basking in the afterglow for and with her, because I'm sure she is! Welcome, Ophelia!

And with that currently coloring my emotional climate, here it is:

Sept. 22, 2009

Dear Producers of The Today Show,

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) and the undersigned organizations are disappointed with The Today Show’s misrepresentation of midwives and home birth that aired on Sept. 11, in a segment titled “The Perils of Midwifery,” later changed to “The Perils of Home Birth.” This biased and sensational segment inaccurately implied that hospitals are the safest place to give birth even for low-risk women and mischaracterized women who choose a home birth with a midwife as "hedonistic," going so far as to suggest that these women are putting their birth experiences above the safety of their babies. Neither could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, The Today Show did not do its homework on the evidence regarding the safety of home birth and midwifery care. The segment featured an obstetrician who presented only the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) position in opposition to home birth, but it did not make any attempt to present the different viewpoints held by the many organizations that are committed to improving the quality of maternity care in the US. We are deeply saddened that the show did not take the opportunity to note that both CIMS and The National Perinatal Association respect the rights of women to choose home births and midwifery care, and that the respected Cochrane Collaboration recommends midwifery care because it results in excellent outcomes.

There is no evidence to support the ACOG position that hospital birth for low-risk women is safer than giving birth with midwives at home. What the research does show is that the routine use of medical interventions in childbirth without medical necessity can cause more harm than good, while also inflating the cost of childbirth. However, the current health system design offers little incentive for physicians and hospitals to improve access to maternity care practices that have been proven to maximize maternal and infant health.

“Birth is safest when midwives and doctors work together respectfully, communicate well, and when a transfer from home to hospital is needed, it is appropriately handled,” says Ruth Wilf, CNM, PhD, a member of the CIMS Leadership Team.

That is why the national health services of countries such as Britain, Ireland, Canada, and the Netherlands support home birth. In those countries, midwives are respected and integrated into the maternity care system. They work collaboratively with physicians in or out of the hospital, and they are not the target of modern day witch hunts. These countries have better outcomes for mothers and babies than the US.

Childbirth is the leading reason for admission to US hospitals, and hospitalization is the most costly health care component. Combined hospital charges for birthing women and newborns ($75,187,000,000 in 2004) far exceed charges for any other condition. In 2004, fully 27% of hospital charges to Medicaid and 16% of charges to private insurance were for birthing women and newborns, the most expensive conditions for both payers. The burden on public budgets, taxpayers and employers is considerable.

As US birth outcomes continue to worsen, it should come as no surprise to The Today Show that childbearing women are seeking alternatives to standard maternity care. After all, American women and babies are paying the highest price of all—their health—for these unnecessary interventions, which include increasing rates of elective inductions of labor and cesarean sections without medical indication.

To the detriment of childbearing families, the segment “The Perils of Midwifery” totally disregarded the evidence. Although the reporters acknowledged that research shows home birth for low-risk women is safe, that message was overshadowed by many negative messages, leaving viewers with a biased perception of midwifery care and home birth. CIMS makes these points not to promote the interests of any particular profession, but rather to raise a strong voice in support of maternity care practices that promote the health and well-being of mothers and babies.

One of the ten Institute of Medicine recommendations for improving health care is to provide consumers with evidence-based information in order to help them make informed decisions. The Institute recommends that decisions be made by consumers, not solely by health care providers. The Institute maintains that transparency and true choice are essential to improving health care. We remain hopeful that the medical community will soon recognize the rights of childbearing women when it comes to their choices in childbirth and will respect and support these choices in the interest of the best possible continuity and coordination of care for all.

We urge The Today Show to provide childbearing women with fair and accurate coverage of this important issue by giving equal time to midwives, public health professionals, researchers of evidence- based maternity care, and especially to parents who have made choices about different models of care and places of birth.

Coalition for Improving Maternity Services
Academy of Certified Birth Educators
Alaska Birth Network
Alaska Family Health and Birth Center
American Association of Birth Centers
American College of Community Midwives
American College of Nurse-Midwives
Bay Area Birth Information
Birth Network of Santa Cruz County
Birth Works International
Birthing From Within, LLC
BirthNetwork National
BirthNetwork of Idaho Falls
BirthNetwork of NW Arkansas
Choices in Childbirth
Citizens for Midwifery
DONA International
Doulas Association of Southern California
Evansville BirthNetwork
Harmony Birth & Family
Idaho Midwifery Council
Idahoans for Midwives
InJoy Birth and Parenting Education
International Childbirth Education Association
International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization
Lamaze International
Madison Birth Center
Midwives Alliance of North America
Motherbaby International Film Festival
Nashville BirthNetwork
National Association of Certified Professional Midwives
North American Registry of Midwives
Oklahoma BirthNetwork
Perinatal Education Associates, Inc.
Reading Birth & Women's Center
Rochester Area Birth Network
Sage Femme
The Big Push for Midwives Campaign
The Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation
Triangle Birth Network
Truckee Meadows BirthNetwork

About Us
The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) is a coalition of individuals and national organizations with concern for the care and wellbeing of mothers, babies, and families. Our mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs. The CIMS Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative is an evidence-based mother-, baby-, and family- friendly model of care which focuses on prevention and wellness as the alternatives to high-cost screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs.

1. The Perils of Home Births,
2. Birth Can Safely Take Place at Home and in Birthing Centers,
3. Offers All Birthing Mothers Unrestricted Access to Birth Companions, Labor Support, Professional Midwifery Care,
4. ACOG Place of Birth Policies Limit Women's Choices Without Justification and Contrary to the Evidence,
5. Ratifiers and Endorsers of The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,
6. Choice of Birth Setting,
7. Position Statement on Midwifery,
8. Midwife-led versus other models of care for childbearing women,
9. Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is And What It Can Achieve,
10. Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices,
11. Millennium Development Goals Indicators, United Nations,
12. National Vital Statistics System, Birth Data,
13. Induction By Request,
14. Cesarean Birth By Request,
15. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,
16. The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative,

Coalition for Improving Maternity Services
1500 Sunday Drive, Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27607

Tel: 919-863-9482
Fax: 919-787-4916

Making Mother-Friendly Care A Reality
CIMS is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Our mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Night Off

It's a good night off. No big blog post for now, just a peaceful, relaxing evening with my family. Life is good.

(and so is this Trader Joe's Bavarian Hefeweizen wheat ale, just in case that's influencing my chill mojo)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Jazz Brunch thoughts

I'm sitting on my favorite part of the patio at my favorite natural foods co-op, enjoying nice music, pleasant weather, and the laid-back, friendly feel of Sunday Jazz Brunch. Turns out, I got some kind of employee recognition at yesterday morning's biannual all-employee meeting, and since my managers know I love this place, they got me a gift card for here. :-) So, I'm enjoying some Moroccan cous cous salad and tabouli, and about to head in to pour myself a nice cup of El Salvador Dali blend coffee.

It's a nice morning.

In fact, it's been a nice few days. Sometimes, I think when something has begun to eat me up inside, just saying it out loud-- admitting it to myself and to whomever needs to know it-- ends the drama for me. Within 10 minutes of saying what needed to be said, I was over it. I still want to apologize to my friend, but no longer really feel an ounce of irritation or anger over the situation at all. I've had a wonderful few days, although very sleep deprived.

I closed the restaurant Friday night, and didn't get out of work until after 1:30 am, and wasn't able to get to sleep until almost 2:30 am. Then, I got up at 6:30 Saturday morning to get to the aforementioned employee meeting (which, due to the nature of the business, must necessarily be at weird hours when the place is otherwise empty). One cheesy video, 50 gift card dollars, and 60 minutes later, I was loading into the car to head to a volunteer training. After training, I had some time with my kids, and then found time to squeeze in a 15 minute nap, which almost seemed to make it worse. Then, back to the restaurant to close again, and I got into my bed at almost 2 am this morning.

(It is interesting to point out at this point in my writing that the "jazz" band has shifted to playing middle-eastern-sounding music and there are about 40 people hooping and pseudo-bellydancing on the lawn not far from me as I write.)

But, gift card aside (because I love me some WSM), the training was the major highlight of my day.

Backstory: Back in May, I began a training program to be a volunteer at a local rape crisis center. In mid-June, we were fairly certain that we'd be relocating to a town just over 30 minutes away, out of the zone within which I'd need to be when on call. We even had a place lined up and everything. So, I dropped out of the training. Then, after touring the schools in the other town, I just knew I couldn't give up our local school district. But by then, I had missed two weeks of the training that I couldn't make up. So, I asked them to let me know when the next training would be, and it started back up yesterday.

So, the previous training I attended, being over the summer, had been a very small group (5 or 6 women). Most of us (all but one, if I remember correctly) were in the 25+ age range. It had been a very intimate group-- perhaps a little too much so, full of incredibly heady and intense women.

Yesterday's training was awesome. I would guess there were about 30 people there, and that there were maybe 10 of us in the 25+ range, including one really cool guy. The rest were all undergraduate students at the local university. Can I just say that hearing some of them speak-- being witness to their passion and their intelligence and their compassion-- has lifted my already lifting spirits tremendously? My oldest will be a teenager in a couple of months, and my oldest daughter has a birthday this week that will place her fairly firmly into the realm of preteen-hood. I'll have a child in high school next school year, and the countdown in my mind has already begun until I'll be sending my children, one by one, off into independence, perhaps to include their own time spent at university.

I remember my first attempt at university studies, by the way. I remember it too well. I remember confusion and anxiety and trying to find my place, being surrounded by alcohol and drug abuse, making questionable life choices. I remember events that led me to first become painfully familiar with the kinds of experiences that make rape crisis centers such an imperative. I remember all of the fun, and all of the angst. I remember dropping out after a few years, amidst a whirlwind of intra-and interpersonal confusion. And I know, no matter how strongly I work to equip my children with faith and confidence and power and strength, they are going to face their own battles that bring them into adulthood-- battles that I will not be able to fight for them, battles that I should not fight for them because they are THEIRS to win.

And in the midst of my worries, thoughts of where my children will be heading and who they are becoming every day, yesterday, I had the privilege of walking into a room full of intelligent, empowered, thoughtful and funny college students-- the kinds of young women I would love to see my daughters become, the kinds I'd love to see my sons grow up to respect and honor and count among their friends.

I left the training yesterday not only hopeful as a mother, but energized and empowered as a woman, knowing that although there may always be crimes against certain categories of people deemed "disposable" or less than, there will always be small groups of thoughtful, committed people working to change the world. In this is some small reassurance.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I tend to be a very intense, emotional person. And while I like the intensity and it has gotten me far, and I appreciate and honor my nature as a sensitive, feeling, and compassionate person, I do not want to be ruled by my emotions. This is something that I've thought about over the past few years, and that in the past few weeks-- weeks that have been incredibly emotional for me-- has become a more pressing issue in my life.

Today, I became frustrated with a very dear friend. While I was not specifically angry at that friend and did not blow up at the friend, I let my emotions get the best of me. Focused on my own emotions regarding a situation in which I currently find myself-- a situation I may have created for myself to some degree-- I allowed my feelings of frustration, guilt, hurt, worry, and heartbreak to spill out in a way that was not very controlled, considerate, or fair. I truly and humbly feel regret over this, and hope that my friend, when we talk, will forgive me for giving myself over to the tumultuous and unpredictable emotions circling me during this time. I am sorry.

Over the past few weeks, being drawn to philosophies and practices that offer practical tips on managing emotions, I've been once again drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. A few weeks ago, I bought An Open Heart by the Dalai Lama at one of the many local used bookstores. From the inside cover: "In this book the path begins with simple and clear ruminations on the advantages of a virtuous life and moves on to practices that can temper destructive and impulsive emotions. Such practices can be undertaken at odd moments of the day, at once transforming the aimless or anxious mind into a disciplined and open mind." Sounds good, right? Yeah, and my husband thought so too, immediately taking up this book to begin reading it himself (which, if I'm honest, makes me very happy).

So, today, I went to the library and picked up How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dalai Lama. While waiting on my shift to start, and for a short while after my work shift this evening, I read the first few chapters. It is wonderful, and very helpful. He discusses the three practices as the discipline of morality, concentrated meditation, and manifest knowledge (or wisdom). Morality, he discusses, is the foundation upon which the other two are built. And I was reassured in reading this because I feel that the first step-- practicing morality-- is one in which I am strong. I am easily compassionate and sensitive and empathic by nature, and hold to high standards of integrity and authenticity in my life. That part of practice will be a honing and broadening for me, rather than an introduction. Adding in a stronger appreciation for and practice of the other two will provide the pieces I've been missing off and on over the past little bit of my life. I am looking forward to working through this book, as well as the other one (once I get it back from my husband). I hope to always remain a compassionate, sensitive, loving person. Just one in which the passion part of the compassion is a little more controlled.

And speaking of my husband, have I mentioned lately how much the last few weeks have made me appreciate him more? He has supported me completely through a process in which I have done something very difficult because he knew I needed to do it. He has loved me enough to allow me the freedom to explore some ideas and thoughts that may not have always been comfortable for either of us. He has acknowledged who I am, how I relate to others, and that life isn't always neat and tidy. And because he has been so supportive and open through every challenge we've ever faced together, instead of responding to uncertainty with jealousy, threats, or defensiveness, he remains my confidante, my best friend, and my sounding board. He has never put me into a position where I have felt the need to hide from him-- not myself, not my thoughts, not my actions. I'm only recently realizing how precious and rare that might be.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tired of Speaking Sweetly

Had a wonderful afternoon with the family today, a great dinner date with my husband, and a relaxing night off hanging out at home. I am blessed! Tomorrow, I drive in to Raleigh to head to the Girl Scout Shop to pick up some things Sassy Pants needs for her first meeting as a Junior tomorrow afternoon.

Tonight, though, I'm still reflecting on the role inner turmoil plays in our lives, and how sometimes when we've allowed ourselves to be something that, at our core, we are not, the only solution is to shake it all down. I was reminded of this poem I came across a while back...


Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes get tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a "playful drunken mood"
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

(translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Back to School Update

Yesterday, while talking to my husband about some of the things going on in our lives right now, he offered in the discussion that the adjective he finds most appropriate to describe me is intense. He also thinks that I am loving, compassionate, funny, silly, thoughtful, perceptive, and adoring. But all of those things that I do, I do them more intensely than most people (so he says, and I'm inclined to agree). It's as if there's all this energy and passion packed inside of me, and when the spigot is opened, just a little, whatever is there flows out freely.

And I spend a lot of time thinking. I also spend a lot of time in meditation, playing with my kids, spending time with my husband, working, and writing. But the thinking-- that's what you get when you come here to read. If I've had a rather social few days, and a few opportunities to talk with friends about what is going on in my mind, the "need" to blog is less pressing. But when I've been a bit socially isolated (as I've been to some extent since we've moved to a new state, with a work schedule that doesn't leave much room for social time), it's all built up inside me begging to get out, and the blog serves the purpose.

But it occurred to me last night that if all you know of my life is what is in this blog, you might erroneously conclude that my life is full of drama, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. I have an incredibly drama-free life, with occasional events or thoughts passing through that need a little processing, but all in all, life is good.

So here it is: a blog post focusing on a friendly back-to-school update, so you know I really do lead a remarkably normal life.


Since we've been in our current location, my sweet husband has been a stay at home dad, although he's poked around a bit for any appropriate opportunities that might suit him. He volunteers weekly at our local interfaith social services organization that provides a homeless shelter, food pantry, community kitchen, free clinic, and information and referral services. He's also researched the MSW program at the local university, and if the right puzzle pieces line up in our lives over the next month, he'll be applying for next fall and will, no doubt, do extremely well. He is a saint, a loving and sweet father, and one of the smartest guys I know. I become more and more aware with each day how much he loves me and wants me to be happy, which only makes me love him more. I likewise would do anything to make him happy. I give thanks to God for 10 years with this man, and pray for 50+ more (we got married on my grandparents' 60th anniversary).


School started back the last week of August for my oldest three, which is exciting! The local school district was one of the biggest factors in our decision to move to the town we did once we had decided on a general region, and although the district often takes some heat from the crunchy crowd for being extremely focused on academics, it is working out beautifully for our children. First, all three are extremely academically-oriented in the first place. Second, this district also does a ton of hands-on activities to make the learning real. Third, this district (and their schools in particular) have a HUGE emphasis on the arts. The art room at our elementary school looks more like a real artist's studio than a classroom. The kids learn recorder, reading music and all, beginning in 4th grade. Our elementary school has a science lab with a dedicated teacher, and kids get a science lab rotation at least once a week to do lab projects coordinated with the classroom lessons. And every school has at least one full time gifted specialist who coordinates with the classroom teacher to develop tiered lesson plans to provide extra learning opportunities for those kids who need it. The middle school offers a TON of elective courses to choose from (including 4 foreign languages and college-type art classes, courses on mythology, etc.). In short, this district is a dream for us, and our kids love school.

Funky Monkey is now almost 13, in the 8th grade, and would be mortified to know I am still calling him "Funky Monkey" on my blog. I would consider calling him something cooler, like perhaps "M Funk" or something along those lines, but then he would only be equally mortified that his now-34 year old mother is trying to get all gangsta on him. After just getting slapped onto the end of the trumpet line when we transferred to this district in March, he was thrilled yesterday to finally find out that last week's challenges placed him into second chair (out of 14 trumpets), and I'm happy that he's happy. He's taking algebra and Spanish this year, both for high school credit, is in the pep band, and is planning to go for the school's ultimate Frisbee team when they have try-outs this year. He is still awaiting this long-promised growth spurt he hears boys get around his age (keeping in mind that he's a year ahead in school, so a bit younger than most of his best friends), and says he may consider the cross country team once he grows some longer legs. He's very involved in one of the coolest boy scout troops in the country (the kind that does 10 week long cross country bike rides or month long trips to Guatemala every summer). If I have to be honest about what it is like to have a near-teenager, it is both wonderful and messy, all at the same time, but definitely more wonderful. Though he deals with some of the hormonal adolescent "You just don't understand!" drama, and doesn't always enjoy being the oldest in a large family when the younger ones are annoying him on purpose, he is a delightful and sweet boy with a ton of integrity. He spoils the baby twins rotten, dotes on them, and tries to be nice to the other two older ones. He is developing the kind of sense of humor that often leaves me rolling on the floor laughing at his wit, and might one day make a great writer for a comedy show. He's a popular enough guy (had two "girlfriends"-- aka we say we're "going out" and then never talk to each other again-- last school year), and a genuinely happy and upbeat and confident kid.

Sassy Pants turns 9 next week, and is already starting to act just a tiny bit like a pre-teen. She tosses her long, straight dirty blond hair to the side when she giggles, and sticks her hip out (typically with a balled up fist on it) when she gives her dad that sideways glance that both melts him like butter and convinces him that the next 15 years are going to be terrifying. Last week, while upset about something, actually said for the first time, "Nobody understands me!" Oh, be with me, God, the preteen years are starting! She, like her older brother, is a year ahead in school, and is in the fourth grade. She is in the gifted cluster class at school, which means that it's a mix of half kids with the gifted label. Her teacher seems super cool, which is a relief for me, because her educational needs are probably (out of the three oldest) the most demanding of my three children, as she reads and writes at a level several grades ahead, and (again, out of the three oldest) is most like me in terms of being incredibly intense. She writes stories all the time, has a natural gift for music (self-taught on the piano, and flying along with the recorder), and loves to draw, color, crochet, paint, and weave. She is a junior girl scout this year, in a really neat troop (I'm their newsletter editor). She is infinitely more beautiful and popular and confident and awesome than I ever could have dreamed of being at her age. This scares me just a little bit, because I'm not 100% sure I'll know the right ways to support her, but I'll always love her, listen to her, and try.

Short Stuff is now almost 8, in the second grade, and not so short any more. In fact, he's already taller than Sassy Pants. (Maybe it's time to let my boys decide on some new blog names for themselves.) While he is not a grade ahead (for which we are thankful), he is insanely smart and in the "nurturing program"-- a program his school does for children who don't yet qualify for gifted (they don't start gifted until 3rd grade here), but have been flagged as needing additional academic challenge. In fact, when his school decided this year to do a combination 2nd/3rd grade class (enough funding for one more teacher, but not enough for 2 new classes), he was one of the 2nd graders chosen to be in that class. So, they still do differentiated learning throughout the day for each grade, but much of their instruction is together, which I'm sure suits him well. He is still VERY active and energetic and struggles just a little with impulse and intensity control, but seeing as I struggle with both of those sometimes at age 34, it doesn't make me love him any less. We just have to get creative coming up with routines and habits that help him to be more successful. He reads constantly, and is very creative. He likes "tough guy" stuff, extreme sports, and running. He's going to be a Bear this year in Cub Scouts, which blows my mind. He is getting SO BIG. And, one of the bonuses of his intensity-- when he laughs, it simply lights up the world. That boy, when joyful, is a burst of life!!


...are not really babies any more. They are now 2 years and 3 months old, talking non-stop, and trying to learn to go potty like big kids. Every morning, they get up and get dressed, put on their backpacks, and insist that they are "goin' to 'chool" like the big kids. "I goin' get on 'chool bus, Mommy!" They like to hug each other, play silly games together, play tag at the playground, and make trouble together (like emptying a 2 liter soda on the kitchen floor so they can throw themselves across it like a slip n' slide, or getting naked and smearing themselves and my entire bathroom with petroleum jelly).

Wonder Boy has straight blond hair, and a very sweet spirit. He gets his feelings hurt a little more easily than his sister, plays a little more rough than she does, and is a little more coordinated with things like stacking blocks and climbing rock walls and ladders at the playground. He is obsessed with sports, which neither me nor Daddy-O can figure out, since neither of us could give a hoot about sports. His favorite words are basketball, football, baseball, soccer ball, and "cool!" And, he's definitely a lefty.

Wonder Girl has light brown ringlets all over her head, and is a fireball. She is more stubborn than her brother, but has a very gentle touch and is incredibly compassionate. She is little more coordinated with fine motor things like drawing, feeding herself, and putting together Mr. Potato Head. She is obsessed with "baby dolls" of any kind (which include stuffed animals and creepy robots), and always asks me to play the "party music" on iTunes so she can dance on my bed. Party music, by the way, includes a blend of old school rap and cheesy dance music by Baha Men and Alvin and the Chipmunks. She also has slightly better verbal skills than him at this point, but we know that they're going to be different kids, with different gifts, and different growth curves. It's all good.


So, my update. I'm still working full time at my joe job, which is okay, but obviously not my dream. A few positives about my joe job: First, I'm around younger people a lot, which has reminded me that I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for life that I had perhaps forgotten. Second, we're in the middle of a big fundraiser for a nonprofit children's hospital right now, and the fundraiser has given me a reason to love my job. In the past week and a half, I've raised around $800 for the charity, which feels nice. In June, I had dropped out of a volunteer training program for a local women's organization because we thought we might be moving almost an hour away, but since we stayed, I restart training with them this weekend, which is EXCITING! I'm still waiting on those few puzzle pieces to fall into place as well (like Daddy-O). If they do, I'm going to blitz this fall and get my ducks in a row to apply into a PhD program at the local universities, in either anthropology or sociology or religious studies, to study cultural influences on birth and breastfeeding choices OR religion (as well as a bunch of other fun stuff). I know school will kick my butt, but for over 10 years now, all I've ever really wanted to be when I grew up was a college professor. There have been times when I've started other paths (like towards midwifery or social work) because that's what was available to me where I've lived in the past and with our family set up (homeschooling), but with our current set up (kids in school, babies getting older, living 5 minutes from a huge state university and 20 minutes from a major private university), I think I can do this. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's why I'm here. God is setting us all up (me, Daddy-O, kids) to have exactly the opportunities in our lives that we need right now to follow dreams and prepare ourselves for our purposes in life. Life is good. :-)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Change, growth, and rebirth

Earlier today, seeking counsel from some wise women I'm blessed to count among my friends, I shared some of the stories that influenced my last blog post-- stories that had been directly confronted in the last post, along with some other issues with which I've been struggling the last few days. As mentioned before, I do deal with a great deal of self-blame and sadness when I feel I've done anything that is potentially harmful to another person, whether or not the harm was ever intended. It's just the way my heart is wired-- to worry about others, and to hope that I can be a positive influence, and only a positive influence (to the extent that is possible) in the lives of those people I meet, particularly those I love. When I feel I may have made a mistake, usually out of nothing but the best of intentions, it eats me up inside and I am consumed with worry and heartache until I find a way to see the good in it.

So my wise women friends all had incredible insights and loving things to say, knowing me well enough to know that I almost always have good intentions (even if I am at times confused or awkward). One statement in particular was the source of an incredible awakening in my heart-- something I needed to hear, but perhaps had been a little scared of knowing.

"There's a reason the Hindus created the goddess Kali to represent the magnificent forces of destruction and rebirth that God offers."

After reading that statement, I had to stop and take a moment to reflect on my current situation, and on many difficult situations I've faced in the past.

More on that in a minute. But first, for those who aren't familiar with Kali...


Kali is represented with perhaps the fiercest features amongst all the
world's deities.... Kali's fierce form is strewed with awesome symbols.
Her black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing and transcendental nature.
Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all
names and forms disappear in her". Her nudity is primeval, fundamental, and
transparent like Nature — the earth, sea, and sky. Kali is free from the
illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness."
Kali's garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the
Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge.
Her girdle of severed
human hands signifies work and liberation from the cycle of karma. Her white
teeth show her inner purity, and her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous
nature — "her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'." Her sword
is the destroyer of false consciousness and the eight bonds that bind
us.... Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three
modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit
means time).
The eminent translator of Tantrik
texts, Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, "Kali is so called
because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness."
.... The reclined Shiva lying prostrate under the feet of Kali suggests that
without the power of Kali (Shakti), Shiva is inert.

From the bastion of "must be true" (but still good enough for the purposes of a relatively casual blog post) knowledge that is Wikipedia (

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest
and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees
as the Mother of the whole Universe. And, because of her terrible form she is
also often seen as a great protector. When the Bengali saint Ramakrishna once asked a devotee why one would prefer to worship Mother over him, this devotee
rhetorically replied, “Maharaj, when they are in trouble your devotees come
running to you. But, where do you run when you are in trouble?”[30]

According to Ramakrishna, darkness is the Ultimate Mother, or Kali:
My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is Akhanda Satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same; The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali.
-Sri Ramakrishna

....From a Tantric perspective, when one meditates on reality at rest, as absolute pure consciousness (without the activities of creation, preservation or dissolution) one refers to this as Shiva or Brahman. When one meditates on reality as dynamic and creative, as the Absolute content of pure consciousness (with all the activities of creation, preservation or dissolution) one refers to it as Kali or Shakti. However, in either case the yogini or yogi is interested in one and the same reality — the only difference being in name and fluctuating aspects of appearance. It is this which is generally accepted as the meaning of Kali standing on the chest of Shiva.[37]

....Gopi Krishna proposed that Kali standing on the dead Shiva or Shava (Sanskrit for dead body) symbolised the helplessness of a person undergoing the changing process ( psychologically and physiologically) in the body conducted by the Kundalini Shakti.[39]

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

So, to recap. Kali represents destruction and violence, although in a way that leaves her viewed by many as a protective mother figure-- one who turns her wrath on those who threaten her devotees, or those she loves. She also represents one aspect of the cycle of death and rebirth-- she is the destruction that clears the way for growth, rebirth, and spiritual development. She is the fall/winter that prepares the earth for a more glorious spring/summer. She is the decay and rot that season the soil, preparing it to produce new life and beautiful growth. She is the downward portion of the inward spiral that promises to bring us back up again, each time closer and closer to Center. She is the emotional upheaval and internal violence we all feel just before the most incredible periods of intense growth and renewal, and the complete dismantling of what we believed to be our lives, our purpose, that happens just before our lives can be reassembled in beautiful, synchronistic, serendipitous ways we had never expected. She is fearsome and terrifying and disorienting, but only because we do not (in our human ignorance) understand what it is that she is preparing us for.

Please don't think I'm comparing myself to Kali, by the way. Although some of you who have seen my temper first hand might be inclined to differ, I genuinely am thinking in this moment of Kali as a force acting on and in my life with regard to my past and present experiences. Every time I've experienced what felt like a complete and total dismantling of my reality, it has hurt. It has been painful. And it has, without fail, been followed (usually sooner or sometimes later) by one of the most intense periods of spiritual and emotional growth imaginable. The broken bone that healed poorly sometimes must be broken again in order to heal more fully. The broken heart that has never allowed itself to be open again to genuine love sometimes must experience that brokenness once more to open it back up. The refiner's fire heats us to the point where we think we can no longer take the heat in order for the impurities in us to rise to the surface, where they can be gently lifted away by the refiner who loves us, never leaves us, and sits by us through every burning pain.

And in the end, we come out better and stronger. We have to. I can't imagine a world in which trials do not lead to further knowledge, growth, and strength. I cannot conceive of a God who does not allow difficult times in our lives to contribute to our good, often proportionally to the degree of suffering that creates the good.

This is my reality: Life brings challenges. Challenges help you grow. Growth is good, and helps to shape you more and more into the person you are called to be, equipping you with skill sets and characteristics and strength you will need to do what you are meant to do, once you realize you are meant to do it. This is not a bad thing-- this is just life.

And this post-- this train of thought-- is an incomplete work for me. This is something to which I've devoted much thought in the past, which has been presented to me in a new light in the wee hours of this morning, and to which I will certainly give much more thought as the days advance. But for now, this is a start. Hopefully a good one. A new beginning. For me, for those I love, and for those they love. Good things, even if it may not seem like it now.