Monthly Archives: January 2012

Public Child; Private Child

I don’t want to control my children’s every move. I don’t want or ask them to perform like trained monkeys in front of company.

But is it too much to ask that they let a little bit of their awesomeness shine through when other people are looking?

My four-year-old is the  most cranky, anti-social crabapple in the world when he encounters people he’s not familiar with. Hell, even if he’s seen the person a hundred times. He puts his head down, has a sullen look on his face, and mumbles rude things if he says anything at all.

Although thankfully he is over the stage where he would call them “Stupid!” to their faces without provocation. So I guess we’re making progress.

For the record, this is what he looks like most of the time when no one is looking:

Irresistible smile.

Infectious goofballness.

I’m gonna make up business cards with this link on it so when he’s acting completely horrible to people who don’t deserve it, I can redeem him (and me!) somewhat with the evidence of who is really is.

That’s my boy.


Multi-layered Joy of Breastfeeding


Gwen asleep/nursing in her boobie beanie

In the Jan. 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, there is an article entitled, “Baby Food” written by Jill Lepore. I got to this quote and it just about made me cry:

“When the babe, soon after it is born into this cold world, is applied to its mother’s bosom; its sense of perceiving warmth is first agreeably affected; next its sense of smell is delighted with the odour of her milk; then its taste is gratified by the flavour of it; afterwards the appetites of hunger and of thirst afford pleasure by the possession of their objects, and by the subsequent digestion of the aliment; and, lastly, the sense of touch is delighted by the softness and smoothness of the milky fountain, the source of such variety and happiness.”

No offense, I swear I’m not a genderist, but I can’t believe it was written by a man; in 1794, Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandpappy) included this passage in his “Zoonomia; or The Laws of Organic Life.” I feel like it so beautifully expresses the whole, multi-layered experience. I realize it is written from the perspective of the child, and I wasn’t ever breastfed, and most of us wouldn’t remember it if we were, but it reflects so well the feeling of total satisfaction and well-being that pervades every aspect of existence when a child nurses. Even though as a mother nursing, we don’t directly experience these exact sensations of satisfaction, I think we know and can feel that they’re there, and it’s contagious.

Just thought I’d share.

Post 100

Begin fireworks on my mark.

I’ve been trying for days to think of something really special to do for this post.

Why? One hundred isn’t even my favorite number. I should have made 88 be the special post.

Everyone else seems to think it’s a milestone. Triple digits and whatnot.

But I am currently at the bottom of a deep pit of self-loathing due to my habitual reaction to the wheel of fortune spinning me down into the mire of every damn lousy thing blowing up in my face at once. It’s one of those moments when you realize you’ve spent the last few weeks juggling a dozen eggs, and then your hand cramped up, and now they are all shattered at your feet. And you know you are supposed to cheerfully shrug and go get some more eggs and start over. But you just want to stomp them and shriek, turn and walk away.

As a somewhat serendipitous slap in the face, my husband just this morning emailed me a link to someone else’s blog post that he had enjoyed yesterday. Super interesting, glad he shared it. I highly recommend it if you are interested in the subject of teenagers and how to parent them (even though dude appears to only have an 8 year old. It will be interesting to see what he’s writing when the kid’s 16). But it only served to remind me that, in good company with billions of other people, my husband doesn’t read my blog posts.

Jealousy is a bitter little bitch, isn’t she?

So here is my 100th post. I’ve honored the occasion by spitting on the floor, whining into my coffee, and just generally being a pithering little wretch.

It’s my party and I’ll cry, oh I guarantee at some point I will wail like a baby, if I want to.

Aaaaaaaand – fireworks.



Radical vs. Conservative

The latest trend is to idealize a situation in which Republicans and Democrats would work together. Slightly less popular is to declare that they are both the same thing and that true progressives should jump ship and be Green Party or Libertarian or something altogether different.

But we miss the fundamental point of working together: it’s not to agree and  make everyone of the same opinion. It’s to use all the various points of view to compromise on the best thing possible. We mistake “working together” as “we’re all going to be on the same page and get what we want.” No. We need to be on different pages and each we need to get some of what we want and let the rest go. For now, anyway.

Mark Twain said about radicals vs. conservatives:

 The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.
– Notebook, 1898

I think this points out an excellent fact about the way humans work: we balance each other out. If we’re in a situation together and you seem overly confident, I’m going to start doubting things, just to make sure you thought of everything. If I am absolutely certain that I know how we should proceed, then someone else will throw an obstacle on my path to help me work out the kinks before that detail I overlooked snowballs into a full-fledged crisis.

But always we move forward, radical and conservative, innovator and critic, dreamer and traditionalist.

Every king needs his fool.

Every head-in-the-clouds artist needs his feet-on-the-ground patron.

So what is it that gums up our works? Why is it that we cannot come up with health care for everyone, with alternative forms of energy, with an economy that doesn’t leave bodies in its wake?

Is it that the money has become more powerful than the people? Is it our capitalist notion that the “market” is a benevolent, organic entity that will do no wrong if unleashed? Is it that we have no principles in common other than vague cheerleading about “freedom” and “prosperity?”

If, instead of throwing stones at “the other side,” we could see that all points of view are necessary and helpful, then we could move past petty arguments and actually start getting things done.


Do you have labels you enjoy?

I like to call myself a homemaker, a word nerd, an Earthling, a chocoholic.

I also enjoy some of the well-worn, comfortable labels such as Mama, friend, partner, gardener, loving, cook.

Sometimes I try to take on labels even though they feel extremely cumbersome: writer, unschooler, hippie, creative, neighbor.

Some labels I do not enjoy because, although true, they are used far too often to limit and control: woman, patriot, smart, responsible.

There was label I shunned for a while simply to get along with a pompously bigoted local population, namely “Californian” while I lived in Oregon, but now I can wear it without shame or harassment.

Some labels are thrust upon me even though they are so loaded with garbage I can’t even stand them, but they are impossible to avoid or argue against because they are completely under the control of those who wield them to defend the very existence of the dominant paradigm: wife (just because I got a legal document does not mean I am playing the game entirely by the usual rules), white (overprivileged person of non-color? clueless transparent human? peach-colored European American?), poor (low income, welfare recipient, slacker mooch ambition-deficient loser), non-conformist (self-righteously refuses to go along with the program that everyone knows is best).

Some people proudly sign their name with all kinds of letters representing their hard earned labels, others wander the streets with a label of familiarity picked up along the way when their given name wore out and fell off.

Me, I dodge and weave my way amongst the possibilities, trying on some in secret to see how they look in the mirror, scratching in frustration at those forcibly branded onto my being, wondering if there are any more that will bloom organically out of my true nature the way the label “Mama” has.

What shall we call you?

Publicize Yourself!

I was raised to be modest. Keep your skirt covering your knees and that sort of thing. Don’t toot your own horn.

But here we are in the age of information and networking and I’m supposed to be tooting away, skirt hiked up revealingly.

I recently had an interesting discussion with myself on the subject which didn’t help get my name out there but did land me a head writer position here at Wise Way Tribe:

Do you “like” your own stuff?

Well hell yeah, I love my stuff. I’m the best damn blogger west of the Pecos.

We’re east of the Pecos.

If you started flying west from the Pecos, you’d eventually end up here, and you wouldn’t pass any better bloggers before you got here. Besides, I know a really great blogger in Tennessee.

Yes but do you publicly “like” yourself?

I was taught that was best done in private.

No but do you hit the “like” button so that everyone knows that you think you’re all that and a sack of chips? Or do you wait patiently for someone else to come along and decide that you are, indeed, a tasty tidbit, and hopefully take the time to push your buttons for you.

Again, I think that sort of thing oughta be done in private…

Well do you “+1” yourself?

I really only have time for the one blog right now.

Have you ever “stumbled upon” yourself?

Occasionally I can’t find quite the right word I’m looking for…

Do you “tweet” yourself?

That sounds painful.

Linked In?

Well I’ve got to have the cord plugged into that doo-hickey or I’m not online.

Do you Yahoo?

You know sometimes I just write something so doggone spectacular it makes me feel like saying just that. How did you know?

It doesn’t sound like you expose yourself much. You should publicly share much more than you do.

Again, my mother really wouldn’t approve.

Self-promotion is where it’s at, man!

That’s true. And while I’m at it, I’ll give myself a raise as well!

So this is how I ended up as head writer. And since I don’t have any budget for paying myself, let alone giving myself a raise, I’ve decided to reward myself with a piece of chocolate for every blog post.

This blog may not make me famous, but at least they treat their writers right.

Excuse me now while I go devour a Special Dark.

Where’s my medal?

I’m amused by the new motivational tactics of the WordPress site – how it sets a goal for me (it’s always a number of posts… how can they be sure that I’m not hoping to cut red meat from my diet or grow a great crop of carrots?) and then gives me a big ol’ cyber pat on the back for my latest accomplishment.

I’m coming up on post 100 – surely there will be some kind of music playing when I hit “publish,” a little John Phillips Sousa with the sound of fireworks in the background should get me where I need to be.

Are we just all so indoctrinated by school and whatnot that we need the lure of a piece of candy to get anything done around here?

These WordPress people aren’t working out of a windowless, unmarked van, are they?

Still, it’s cute. I’ll take kudos wherever I can get them.

My latest motivation to post, other than not wanting to disappoint my mentors here at WordPress, has been just to get one up every day. Purely chronologically-driven writing schedule. Did you wake up? Has the date on your cellphone changed? Then post something already.

So far so good.

What do you use to motivate you to write?

Thirst for Life

We say we want to progress, spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially. We want to move forward to a better future, we want the Truth to be revealed, we want Life to open up her Eternal Source of miracles and bathe us in Abundance.

How badly do we want it? How intense is our thirst?

In the book Essential Sufism, edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager, a story is told about a man who came to know true thirst.

A man wished to see the Prophet in a dream, but he could never achieve this vision, no matter how hard he tried. He asked a saint for advice. The saint said, “My son, on Friday evening you must eat a lot of salted fish, then perform your prayer and go to bed without drinking any water. Then you will see.”

The man followed this advice. He spent the whole night dreaming that he was drinking from streams, fountains, and springs. When morning came, he ran crying to the saint. “O Master, I did not see the Prophet. I was so thirsty that all I dreamed about was drinking from fountains and springs. I am still on fire with thirst.” The saint told him, “So, eating salted fish gave you such a thirst that you dreamed all night long of nothing but water. Now you must feel such a thirst for God’s Prophet, and you will then behold his blessed beauty!” — Sheikh Muzaffer

We whine and we wish and we hold out some hope. But how badly do we thirst for the things we say are our heart’s dearest desire? Do we long for them so intensely that our dreams are filled with nothing but their fulfillment? Do we feel the deep pit of longing within our very bones, the emptiness pulling like a black hole at the world to extract and draw to us that which we feel we cannot live without?

Seems like a good way to weed out the petty wants from the true goals of our lives; a desire is either worth cultivating an intense thirst for so that it consumes our entire lives, or it should be left by the side of the road while we move on.

Why is the Buddha Smiling?

Why, if there is so much suffering going on, is Buddha smiling?

Sculpture by Jen Brom

And how are we supposed to ever be truly happy and joyful when, as soon as we move beyond our own suffering, we are immediately assaulted with the huge amount of suffering going on in the world all around us?

My Son, Suffering Terribly from a Pitched Fit

In his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching Thich Nhat Hanh discusses real love, one aspect of which is “karuna,” which means “the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows,” and could loosely be translated as “compassion,” but without the meaning of having to actually participate in the other’s feeling.

Hanh then explains how it is possible for the Buddha, and for us, to smile and be happy despite the suffering of others:

When I was a novice, I could not understand why, if the world is filled with suffering, the Buddha has such a beautiful smile. Why isn’t he disturbed by all the suffering? Later I discovered that the Buddha has enough understanding, calmness and strength; that is why the suffering does not overwhelm him. He is able to smile to suffering because he knows how to take care of it and to help transform it. We need to be aware of suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness, and strength so we can help transform the situation. The ocean of tears cannot drown us if karuna is there. That is why the Buddha’s smile is possible.

My first impulse is to feel rotten if I happen to be happy when I become aware that others are in pain. It feels wrong, selfish and uncaring to even consider dwelling in joy when others dwell in misery.

But if it’s true that we can only help from a position of strength? And if that strength comes from being tapped into a good place where we understand joy, love and wisdom? Perhaps that is the only chance we have to help pull someone over to the other side. Perhaps our smile of contentment and calm is the thing that can reassure the other person that there is something else in this world besides their suffering, and that as we are sharing our smile with them, the world will also share its joy.

Pure Joy, Freely Shared

What do you think? It is selfish to be happy while others suffer (as long as you are working, as Hanh says, to “transform the situation” with them)? Or is the only way to be helpful to keep one’s head above the ocean of tears so we don’t drown and become useless?

Breastfeeding as a Right, not a Choice

Upon reading this article: 1 in 8 low-income parents waters down formula my first reaction is, of course, how horrible for those children.

But my strongest reaction was to this statement:

While some might point to breast feeding as a solution, not every mom is in the position to do this for her child. In some jobs it’s virtually impossible to express milk during the day when a mom is away from her baby.

This statement, so casually tossed out in a conversation about malnourished Americans, reveals that as soon as we dub breastfeeding as a “choice,” then we allow the possibility that, gosh, some people are just not fortunate enough to have that “choice.” Too bad!

But we are scared to death to declare that babies actually NEED breastmilk. We don’t want to take away the illusion that formula is “almost just as good” because we, as a country built on freedom, want the freedom to not be tied down by the hungry little brat.

Or is it that we don’t want to have to give maternity leave, secure a woman’s job if she takes time out to raise the next generation, take away a jillion dollars from formula companies, or lose all our cheap labor that is forced to leave their children in daycare because they are economically trapped?

For some reason, we love supporting a woman’s right to choose formula.

And if I hear one more time how we are making women feel bad who genuinely can’t breastfeed, I’m gonna puke. The incidence of being physically incapable of nursing a child is so rare, and I’m sure those women know in their hearts that they are doing the best they can. I wish women would stop saying “I just can’t” when the truth is they have no support, or they can’t afford to stay home and their job is unsupportive, or they just don’t feel like it, or whatever the real reason is. We must stop accepting the statement “I can’t” as though it were physically impossible and beyond help, when almost always it is a circumstantial problem that COULD be changed by SOMEONE. And that someone is all of us. Once we begin to identify the real reasons that a woman doesn’t breastfeed, then sympathy for that tiny minority who really can’t will be genuinely available.

And adoptive parents? Don’t they already feel awesome enough knowing that they’ve opened their homes, hearts and arms to “someone else’s” child? Is there anyone on the planet who would say, golly, you’re feeding your adopted child formula, that’s a bad choice? The argument that a pro-breastfeeding, anti-formula attitude would even touch these wonderfully generous families is downright silly.

And women who “just don’t feel like it” or “think it’s yucky” or whatever other weak excuse they come up with? Why should I care that they feel bad that they are choosing to feed their children an inadequate food? How is that my problem? Why should I soften the reality of the situation to make them feel less horrible?

I believe that babies have the right to adequate food and shelter. Breastmilk is adequate; it is the natural standard.  The myriad miracle components are what a baby is supposed to have, assuming there is no emergency, extenuating circumstance. Formula is sub-standard; it provides inadequate nutrition, inadequate protection from disease, it is just all around not as good and less than. If there are occasions where formula is actually, genuinely needed, it is obviously better than starving, and no one is going to judge a parent doing the best they can under the circumstances. Just like if a child for some reason needs a prosthetic limb or constant medication for a chronic condition or whatever, no one’s going to say, “Well, the prosthetic limb isn’t as good as a real limb, so you’re a bad parent.” That would just be stupidly cruel.

If we saw breastfeeding as the natural birthright of every child, then, as long as circumstances physically allowed it, mother and baby would be provided with what they needed to have a healthy breastfeeding relationship. There would be no “I can’t” for anything other than an extremely rare medical condition or not being the biological mother. Every mother would be able to afford to breastfeed, would be supported in pumping if that was what needed to happen, would have the information and emotional support, and whatever else was necessary in her particular situation.

Of course, in the United States of America, people go without food or adequate housing or health care, etc. every single day. So I’m just speaking hypothetically. We as a country don’t give a crap about each other when it comes to the very basic necessities of life, much less for something as luxurious and alternative as breastmilk.