Monthly Archives: November 2011

How Much Negativity is Normal?

First thing this morning, I roll out of bed after that jerk alarm clock so rudely woke me up, stumble into my daughter’s room to wake her for school, and before I’ve even had a sip of coffee I am confronted with this:

The previous evening we had had our (unfortunately) usual conflict over homework and bathing. Evidently it had hit her pretty hard, to generate such a sad response.

First, if I might be so callous as to point out the positive aspects of her letter:

1. She wrote something without being ordered, cajoled, threatened or bribed! Writing being one of the things we had argued about yesterday evening.

2. The lines of communication between the unloved daughter and the monster Mama seem to be pretty open, so that’s a good thing.

3. She has apparently learned my secret weapon (the guilt trip) well enough that she was able to turn it back on me. A+ and four gold stars for that one!

4. Her cleverness seems to know no bounds – notice how she puts a witty, guilt-inducing spin on the standard closing of “Love, So&So.” Pure genius!

Now to the negative. I know that I, for one, felt this exact way from about age 5 until age just a couple of minutes ago, and I fully expect the feeling to recur any minute. Is this my personal neurosis that my poor daughter has either genetically inherited or otherwise picked up from my toxic emotional environment?

Or does everyone go through this as a normal stage of growing up?

On the one hand, I think it is natural for every parent to want to cultivate and maintain the health and happiness of their child. What better satisfaction is there than to see pure joy upon that sweet little face?

On the other hand, without some trials in life, we would be fluffy, weak and pathetic creatures. To allow a child to feel a serious, profound connection to reality, even though sometimes that involves discomfort, is to allow a child to grow as a genuine person and, eventually, to become a capable, functioning adult.

I think especially in the Attachment Parenting world, we are prone to err on the side of eliminating all possibility of frustration, sadness and discomfort in the name of physical, emotional and mental health.

So is this letter an unpleasant but expected sight on the parenting journey, or is it, as she intended it and as I intended for my parents, a no-holds-barred condemnation of the quality of that journey?

All I know right now is, she ventures further away all the time as she grows and explores the world, and that’s natural. I hope that every time she returns to my embrace, she feels the warmth and affection that I’ve always had for her, and always will.

New Project?

I had a dear friend over for lunch yesterday and she cooed over my food in her usual, sweet way. She told me I should write a cookbook, and so I ran to print her out a copy of my “Breakfast Cookies” recipe, I guess to prove not only to her but to myself that I actually AM capable of writing a recipe.

Being a stay-at-home mother makes me at times somewhat desperate for acknowledgment that, yes, I COULD be a contributing member of society if these short people would stop yelling at me all day and frying my thoughts before I can even recognize what they are!

I made a list of all my favorite dishes to make last night, and I made notes of the possible stories/topics that could go with each. You see, this cookbook’s gimmick (because I know they all need one) is humor and anecdote – each recipe comes with some tidbits from my life (the interesting bits, certainly) and a couple of laughs.

Can I really pull it off? Could I really get it published? Am I even funny?

As for getting it published, I wondered, what if I used one of those sites where you can buy the e-book? Would it be possible to sell them one by one? Charge maybe 50 cents a piece, have a free sample, then people could buy just the ones they wanted? And once they bought one and laughed (or enjoyed the food!) they might think, hey, one more! And pretty soon, they’d have bought the whole book anyway!?

Here’s my Breakfast Cookie recipe, on the house. Maybe I’m trying to prove myself to you, too…

Breakfast Cookies

Yep, you heard right. Mama says you can eat these bad boys for breakfast. I’d call ‘em “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Cookies” but you should probably have a real meal once in a while.

But I say, and no one’s ever argued with me, that if you look at what is in these cookies and compare it with your average breakfast cereal, you can’t nutritionally afford NOT to eat these for breakfast. And midday snack. And of course, dessert. But for heaven’s sake, try to work an apple or banana into your day somewhere.

In case you’re new to healthy food, I’ll run down the list of ingredients and why they are okay for breakfast:

3 Eggs – Hello! Is there a better breakfast food? Protein, iron, etc. It’s in there.
1½ cups Oats – Oatmeal may be the closest contender to eggs for perfect breakfast
food, and you’re eating them both. Have another cookie.
3 cups Whole Wheat Flour – There’s some serious fiber action for ya. (Feel free to substitute some white flour if you think your kids will get suspicious of the healthy hue your cookies will take on!)
½ to 1 cup of Sunflower Seeds and/or Finely Chopped Nuts – protein, vitamins and
minerals galore. If you use some walnuts, there’s omega-3 right there!
12 oz. package of Chocolate Chips – If you use dark chocolate, you’re talkin’
1 cup Butter or Margarine – Hey, people put butter on toast. Toast is a breakfast food.
1 tsp. Vanilla – Completely harmless.
½ tsp. Baking Soda – Neither here nor there, nutrition-wise.
1 Tbsp Baking Powder – Doesn’t tip the balance positive or negative.
1½ cups Sugar – Again, have you checked the ingredients in breakfast cereals? Besides,
even the healthiest breakfast can have a donut thrown in, no harm no foul.

How To Put Your Breakfast Together:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl cream together butter/margarine and sugar.
3. Add eggs & vanilla and beat the heck out of the mixture (see, you’re getting exercise, too.)
4. Combine flour with baking soda and baking powder, then add to the bowl and mix well.
5. Toss in your oats and mix well.
6. Add the chocolate chips and nuts/seeds. Mix.
7. Spoon cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes. Makes between 30 and 50 cookies, depending on the size you like. Tell your family it makes 20 so they won’t wonder where all the cookies went by the time they make it into the kitchen.
8. Enjoy! And remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so eat up!

Informing vs. Inspiring?

We of Western Civilization have become terribly scientific. We worship statistics and facts, we embrace objectivity as the most useful and worthy perspective, we insist on the scientific method as the ultimate judge of reality.

I appreciate science as a tool. What a wonderful approach: utilitarian, organized, analytical. All the pesky variables controlled. So clean and shiny!

However, I see no reason to reject out of hand other tools such as intuition, logic and personal experience.

Many of the controversial topics being discussed online today (such as poverty, vaccines, environmental destruction) are volatile and degenerate easily into us vs. them, with each side attempting to present the indisputable, proven-beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt facts that will shut down all the fuzzy, half-baked arguments of the other.

So when an opinion is offered in the public sphere, many commenters will immediately jump to the punchline: “What’s your source? What documented scientific study are you basing this on?”

I agree that someone claiming to be presenting information should certainly be able to show where that information has come from.

But is informing the only valuable form of communication?

I want to inspire people to examine, explore, analyze and investigate for themselves. I don’t want anyone to be convinced of my argument and look no further. The responsibility for the decisions the reader makes is solely that of the reader, and so even if I have an extensive bibliography whose notation includes even the paragraph number and what the author was imbibing as they wrote it, the reader still must decide for themselves. I don’t believe there’s a point where I can prove what you should do in your given situation; I cannot ever stand exactly where you are right now, and so ultimately, facts or no, you’re on your own.

I’ve come to realize that, though science can contribute so much to our understanding, my strength does not lie in pinning Life down to the concrete slab and dissecting it methodically into its separate bloody parts, each of which can be labeled and preserved and stuffed into a drawer somewhere in the lab to be paraded around at a later date to prove a point.

My strength lies in observation, experience based on engaging with living beings in movement, reflection upon a synthesis of perceptions and even from intuitive understanding that comes from looking at the big picture. All of which is airy-fairy, hard to quantify, subjective and inadmissible in court.

So is there value to anything besides cold, hard facts? Is there beauty to coloring outside the lines? Does everything have to come down to profit, progress and the letter of the law? Even in spiritual matters, the argument so often devolves into “Well, it says so right here in this Book…”

Are there not times that Life as it Is right in front of you can hold the answer, regardless of precedent, protocol or representative study?

Can the scientists and I live and let live, appreciating each other’s unique contributions? Or am I the bastard pontificator, discounted and disowned by Those Who Know, unwelcome in the Public Think Tank that is comprised by our internet forums?

(And when you give your answer, please document your sources… 😛 )

Rain Barrels

On the road to self-sufficiency, to living off the grid as much as possible, we’ve purchased four rain barrels.

Apparently when I use city water to irrigate, I get charged twice. Once for the clean water, then again for the “sewer,” since presumably what comes out of their system must surely be going back in.

Except it’s not always.

And the summertime thunderstorms in our area produce an amazing amount of water.

So why not use what falls freely from the sky?

I know, not a novel idea. Just a new homeowner reveling in the new possibilities.

Not that you have to own your own home to have rain barrels, but when you live in places where you fully intend to move at any second, then spending the money and effort to rig up some kind of permanent system of your own is quite low on the old priority list.

Right now they are sitting behind the house, waiting for my husband to finish up other projects before he constructs them permanent platforms, hooks them to the rain spouts on the roof and installs spigots in them. Yet another reason I’m excited for next year!

Occupy Your Life

I haven’t been to an Occupy protest or gathering yet, but I’ve been to a few demonstrations in the past. The first was in January of 1991 when the first Gulf War broke out. There was a gathering in downtown Santa Cruz: peaceful, passionate and very inspiring. I felt like the slogan “No blood for oil” was so incredibly obvious that surely once the world heard it, that mistake would never be made again.

History would prove me unforgivably naive.

I also rode in a Critical Mass bicycle ride in Santa Cruz. That was wonderfully intense as well. The feeling of being part of a united group is amazing. Like being at a concert or sporting event, except that you are convinced that what brings you together is not just the pleasure of spectacle (although that has its value too) but a deeper, more meaningful purpose. A gathering based on love, freedom, justice, true solidarity.

Watching the live stream of Occupy Oakland and Occupy Seattle last night, I could feel a bit of that togetherness through the screen. I could easily imagine the communal high that the participants must be feeling.

When I then took a break and went outside, the chilly air and blue sky grabbed my senses, as though I were remembering what is real.

Turning away from the screen, accepting that I am thousands of miles away from these hot spots, I began to see everything I did as part of a greater whole: feeding my children and their friends, inviting the kids to come out to see the half-moon in the sky, doing a load of laundry, tidying up the living room. Every action would ripple out, with a bigger or smaller wave, into the wider world.

And every *thing* became a link in a chain: from which store had I bought the food? Who manufactured the detergent I used? I could see that every object surrounding me came with a history and had the potential to slightly alter the path ahead, not just for me but for the planet in general.

Of course I’d thought these thoughts before. Of course we’ve all meant to change some part of our lives and the world. We’ve all wanted to revolt against something at some time or other. We’ve all questioned, what could possibly be the meaning of it all, or more importantly, what do I BELIEVE is the meaning?

I begin with these words, anew. I begin in this moment, again.

As I watch Occupiers making great leaps for mankind, I will take the next small step in front of me. It could lead to something big and powerful, but even if my life is only a series of small, purposeful, loving movements, those ripples will join the waves moving in the same direction, unite with the common good for the benefit of all beings.

Occupy your own life and begin to live today.

It’s Not About the Candy

Our first Halloween in our new neighborhood.

We didn’t get too many trick-or-treaters, apparently because the thing to do around here is to drive to another neighborhood and get “tons and tons” of candy.

But here’s the thing: I can buy tons and tons of candy at the store, and I can get EXACTLY the kind my kids and I love.

Trick-or-treating is not about the candy. There will be candy at home, one way or another.

It’s about dressing up, parading around your neighborhood, getting the chance to knock on everyone’s door and have them shriek/coo at you in your costume.

It’s about hanging out with your family, enjoying the spoils of your jaunt around the neighborhood and waiting to answer the doorbell.

It’s an excuse to get together, let loose, be silly, appreciate the company of friends new and old.

While there certainly must be candy involved (and there must be chocolate, because nothing else actually counts as a “treat”), there does not have to be “tons and tons” obtained by exhausting the children on epic treks through strange areas of town.

I’d love to get back to the idea that, it’s better to have a little less candy and a little more community by hanging out in one’s own neck of the woods.