Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lady Spring

Usually, I deal with Lady Spring in all her glory by participating outwardly: planting, preparing, moving my body through. But this year, all her inner aspects are calling me. Perhaps because of the lack of sleep I find myself in an ever-vulnerable, ever-sympathetic psychic space.
As ideas burst forth, I am given over to the joy of being in something larger than myself...the glorious streaming of creativity...I feel so connected to The Source! And then the task of pruning...of cutting the weeds...of answering the questions about which of these ideas and sympathies will bear fruit....what do I nurture? What do I protect from being choked out by weeds? Which ideas ARE the weeds? Most weeds come on strong and fast, and are easily uprooted. To build what is real and enduring requires the struggle of building roots which are strong enough to push to the light.
The force of my own sympathy comes strong and sure. I see the relative merits of everything, and have so much joy and am in such love with my ideas that I forget that some of them need roots. These require me to spend time forming a relationship with them...not just casually using them to regurgitate what is safe, or what has arisen from someone else. This is so hard when one is in the throes of spring!
Today I want to take to the warmth of a cave, and do not want to be a wife or a mother, but left alone, tired, able to let my self emerge, separate from all the confusing outer voices.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blog Lurker Awareness Day

Today I declare to be Blog Lurker Awareness Day. If that sounds corny to you, then good! It is! Be random! Leave comments in unexpected places!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doll wonderings part two

Well, I still am holding questions about Waldorf dolls, and am feeling joyful about the process. Joyful because dolls are such a wonderful subject...such an art form...and to ponder them and deepen my personal paradigms about them feels good. More questions, or rather, observations came of wondering about the dolls I/we surround our children with. I wonder about their inner relationship with a doll or any toy, and of course, the idea behind making them simple and unformed is to allow a child's inner, imaginary participation in "making" the doll. Steiner wrote about a handkerchief with ink spots for eyes sufficing as a doll. Looking at dolls in history, that is closer to what they cartoon images, no hardened features.
Another point I'd like to make is that there is a certain "branding", if you will, to modern Waldorf dolls. I LOVE them, love making them, think they are beautiful. But you can always tell a Waldorf doll is a Waldorf doll, just like you can tell a Barbie doll or a Cabbage Patch baby. I wonder about this...why is that the "right" doll and not, for example, a simpler, more Amish-looking doll (which are completely faceless)? Perhaps that is simply what is in vogue, and there is an element of status and materialism there.
So, maybe what is being hindered in seeing baby dolls that leave nothing to the imagination is the capacity for invention in play....a depth of inner participation....a richness to the play. I talked to a friend about this and she believes in this modern world, this capacity for invention is especially at risk, and that goes right along with current educational paradigms. All along, we are taught that wisdom come from without, not within. We have everything provided for us, we simply need to memorize inner work necessary, really. I digress.
I do watch my daughter care for and dress her very large plastic-headed, realistic-looking baby just as she sees me care for and dress her baby brother, so that is good...the imitation is wonderful and rewarding to see.
Ohhhh, I love being on a path of growth and questioning. One book on ADD I read called for "compassionate curiosity". On good days, my curiosity is compassionate.
Anyway, I am just rambling on here. Which is why I have a blog.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Meaningful Work

(this is an excerpt of an email I sent to my parent-child list.)
I just finished reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell this past week. I want to report some of the findings in one of the chapters, because I was so excited.
The chapter I'm referring to talks a lot about the culture of South China, mostly about how rice paddies are tended and the sheer amount of work it takes. Gladwell makes a point to classify the rice paddy agri-culture as one in which the work done is meaningful. The basic belief of those who live by tending rice paddies is that if they rise before dawn, then they will prosper. He details the amount of work involved in this way of life, and then transitions to writing about math tests. We all know that Asian peoples have a reputation for excelling in mathematics. Here's the catch: it has everything to do with their work ethic. Gladwell cites a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who studied this phenomenon. What he found was that when students from different countries were administered a standard test (the TIMMS test), he could predict how well a student would do in mathematics based on how well they answered a tedious, menial 120 questions at the beginning of the test. These were questions about the test-taker's friends, location, etc. Many students would simply leave a percentage of these questions blank. But the students who were able to attend to the seemingly menial task if filling out the questionnaire, were also able to attend to hard math problems. The researcher found that he wouldn't even have to give the math test, just give the questionnaire and the results would be the same anyway.
For much better writing about this, please read the book.
What I instantly saw and felt was affirming for me as well as for everyone on this list, was that what we do matters. Even the small things. Whether it is rice paddies or doing dishes or sweeping floors or gardening outside, when we create a culture in our home that models meaningful work being carried out in a peaceful, attentive way, we are giving our children a great gift. And we can hope this helps them in all of life, not just math. Of course, Waldorf espouses this wholeheartedly, and tries to make it work in this American culture. Here I sit on the computer right now. What work do we have in our immediate culture that is meaningful...that takes time and attention? Our children really take in everything around them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Earth Day

We are celebrating Earth Day by planting a tree, plus some onions, and by baking spelt bread. Not too much out of the ordinary, just a little more conscientious of our Mother.
By the way, I love Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest for bread baking. The illustrations are a hoot.
I also found, or I should say, re-found, this sewing site. Those simple patterns are inspiring me to sew. At this time of year, I just don't want to start knitting a baby sweater. I also have a ton of organic diaper flannel left over, and have been thinking of using it to line outdoor playclothes for Serena. We'll see how much sewing I actually get done.
Have a lovely day!
afternoon update: you have got to read this bloggess post today.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How the Girls are Doing

..not the human girls, but the insect girls. So far, out of 3 hives I put out at Field Day NONE are left. Two were inhabited by mice, and one was taken over by drones (a situation I just did not want to fool with after talking to other beekeepers). But my two backyard hives are doing wonderfully. The past two days we've had rain, so I've only seen the occasional bee.
I want to try super-natural beekeeping, where you interfere with the bees as little as possible and let them build their own foundation. I already take the lazy man's approach to beekeeping, so this should not be much of a stretch.
I think it would be fun to have a bee-cam set up and watch the bees. I could just set up a chair in the backyard and put a beer in my hand.
The picture is from last year...pregnant beekeeping.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I wanna sew!

Check out these old magazines I found. I totally dig the guy holding the yarn for the woman...a courtship ritual perhaps? Since I'm a knitting teacher, it is only apropos that I frame these and hang them on my wall.

My mother-in-law got me this magazine for Christmas. I love the glove pattern! The whole mag reminds me of Frida Kahlo for some reason.

When I lose the baby weight, I'm going to make this dress:
In recent years, sewing patterns seem to have been "dumbed down". Guess women just don't have the time to sew...or it isn't part of the culture anymore. Personally, I didn't learn to really sew until I was "locked" in a windowless room with a bunch of other women altering wedding dresses, for a job. You should see the details that are on the dresses in the Vogue magazine, and of course, on the Marfy dress. And to actually make gloves? Come on! That is just too cool. Sewing patterns and designs nowadays just don't have that level of detail. I surmise it is because these things take time. Since women apparently had more time to sew back in those days, I cannot help but wonder what the kids were doing while they sewed. My modern kids are soooo well-trained, just like Pavlov's dog. When the phone rings or Mom does anything, like use the bathroom, sneak in a row of knitting, sit down on the couch, etc., that is apparently the signal for them to whine, wail, NEED you in ways you never thought possible. And 5 minutes before you started the aforementioned something, they didn't know you were alive. Go figure.
But I digress.
Guess I'll finish sewing diapers instead!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I Saw On My Run

A tall, thin, masculine man holding a small kitten, and kissing the top of its head
a smiling Indian couple speaking to each other in their native language
a flower I'd never seen before- it had yellow, pointed petals
two Bassett hounds, one older than the other
a short, young, very cute Mexican man, looking in the side-view mirror of a big truck while pursing his lips and fondling his sparse mustache

Love inventory

Somewhere, sometime earlier this year, I read that one antidote to depression is gratitude. While I consider myself quite grateful for who and what I have, gratitude alone has not necessarily quelled the overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief and anger-turned-inward that are the hallmarks of depression.
However, yesterday, as I was coming out of the depressed funk I've been in all week, and started compiling an inner list of the things I absolutely love these days. It has everything to do with being the mother of a 4-month-old, and a 17-year-old. These feel like such fleeting ages to me. 17 is being obscured in the flurry and excitement of high school graduation and college plans. 4 months is just such an achingly wonderful age and wayyyy too short. Being a parent has been what has kept me from being the stay-in-bed-and-give-up sort of depressed. So, here goes...what I am absolutely, head-over-heels in love with these days:
-the dogwoods in bloom
-the way Davis curls his toes and looks at his hands
-the laughter of a ticklish 5-year-old
-the pleasure of taking a spinning wheel on the front deck and spinning in the evening light
-my husband buys flowers every week
-being in class helping children knit, then glancing outside to see the squirrels' extreme antics in their raids on the bird feeders, and beyond that, the happy, smiling faces of kindergarten children running outside (I get paid to do this??? Crazy. Cool!)
-the farmer's market- I could practically live there and will be this summer-my husband does massage at the Norton Commons market and I get to sit next to him and spin and sell yarn and any other wares I have available. Man, I am lucky.
-the fun of watching sisters grow up together
Ok, I won't make the other list, which includes such groan-worthy things as taxes, worry about the economy, worry about how we can pay for college, no time to exercise, extreme fatigue, and the maternity clothes that are still being worn. Nope. Those things are there, and I am still "in the land of the living". Awesome. (I've decided to start reverting back to 80's slang from time to time)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waldorf Dolls

Lately, I have been seeking, trying to be open minded, questioning, curious regarding Waldorf dolls. I've been reading this. The thing about it is, I am attracted to the beauty of these dolls. But why does my kid almost always prefer the very formed, little-left-to-the-imagination plastic babies? She has never received one from me, but grandparents, in their attempts to delight their grandchild, have given her plenty of those types of dolls. She has too many. I try to take them away, and like many toys that get left in the basement bags to be given to Goodwill (since they're not good enough for my kid, they'll be good enough for someone else's...hmph) they inevitably find their way back to the play areas of the house. Then that means I have not treated a doll-one my daughter has cared for, looked after, imaginatively played with- as the image of a human being, deserving of respect and a rightful place in the home. She has already claimed this doll for herself, as herself...a doll Steiner says is ugly.
I am exploring this. I do tend to shun things that are dogmatic just for dogma's sake, and perhaps after further inquiry I will come away with a different viewpoint. My questions are: why do children seem to prefer the realistic looking plastic baby dolls? How does it harm a child's imagination? How is it artistic to uphold only one way of making a Waldorf doll? (in that question, I am referring to the "style" of doll that is considered a Waldorf doll. There is very little variation in their basic form and look. I would like to explore other simple dolls that fall into the Waldorf principles, for I see it as being materialistic to have just one way of doing it...and perhaps I am being materialistic to have to have "proof" about the whole doll thing. But I digress.) Wouldn't a simpler doll sewn from cotton be closer to the point?
I played with Barbies as a child, and remember all the different things the Barbies did. I had imagination. Barbie was even fat in my imagination. Her clothes didn't always fit her strange anatomy anyway. I know I am spouting off the same responses others have had about this doll business, but I do think it is important to have good answers and reasons for doing something. So, this is my journey, foremost as a parent, and it will inform my work as a teacher.
A few things I do agree with. I do believe dolls are an extension of ourselves, and children especially imprint on a doll as such. So, I do tend to be militant at home when I see babies casually thrown around instead of in their beds or "visiting" each other. They must have clothes or a blanket. This is modeling self-care to a child. I do believe a doll made by a parent is so much better than any doll you could get anywhere, even if the doll made is so incredibly simple. A return to the values of simplicity requires that we give up a certain amount of worship of the manufactured item, and give credence to something made with the heart.
I read in Farmer Boy about Almonzo's Christmas and how he was so excited to receive a pair of socks that were store-bought, not made. I thought it was kind of sad that here he had such a rich life...full of reliance on himself and family, and his mother worked so hard to supply her family with their basic needs, and he reveled in a pair of store-bought socks. I'm sure it was the novelty.
So, in weeks ahead, I hope to update about my searching and inner work, and hope my journey and vulnerability might help someone else having these same questions.
By the way, Waldorf is not a religion, so I do not believe I am being heretical in any way. Steiner espoused doing things out of freedom in order to live the regretless life. But, there is an element of dogma in the whole movement, so I was referring to that. The dogma, for me, does not ruin or discredit in any way the fabulous system of education Waldorf is. Maybe I am just feeling especially fearless right now!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Pre-Easter Driving Story

Sometime or another in this blog, the matter of how I drive has to come up. It's all because I get blank stares when I try to explain my theory of "defensive driving is NOT the paranoid driving that is in practice today" in real life. No one really gets it. Here I can blather on about how other people's perception of my driving is usually in direct opposition to my perception of my driving. I heard they have bumper stickers that say, "I drive like a Cullen" and that is me! I am always in a hurry and usually pretty intolerant of others' indecisive behavior while driving. That being said, I do consider myself skillful and alert, and sometimes even generous and considerate.
The other day on Shelbyville Road, I was not in Zen driving mode, rather I was in "I gotta survive this insane traffic" mode. I assertively nudged my way in between two cars to move to the right lane, so I could turn into Whole Foods. The man behind me nudged back, closing the space between us. I nudged forward anyway, and this is where things got tricky.
He proceeded, in his HUGE new at least $40000 truck, to FOLLOW me. He followed me as I sat in more traffic throughout the parking lot, and circled several times around to find a space almost back to Taco Bell. In other words, he had a window of time to cool off, and apparently he had a window of time anyway, if he had time to parent/police every driver who cut someone off on Shelbyville Road, as he was doing to me. Yes, I was freaked out. He was older and looked like the Charlton Heston-loving type. And I have seen some crazy things...I saw someone get out of their car at a stoplight once to go to the car behind him and kick the living daylights out of it. The car he kicked responded by backing up and then screeching forward into the kicker's car. Yikes.
So anyway, this guy follows me as I walk toward the store, and I was telling myself "don't respond, don't respond" and I did not respond. He started yelling at me, of course, calling me names, but when he said "my kid got killed because of drivers like you!!!" I paid attention inside.
Oh. This is where it gets serious and very, very sad. I knew then I had nothing to do with why he was so inappropriately angry. People cut people off all the time on the road, but they don't necessarily follow those drivers around to yell at them. I ended up feeling sorry for him. He lost a child was so grieved he was willing to take out his anger on total strangers. He lost a child, which is the worst thing that could happen to anyone.
Not sure that there is a message in this post, other than a commentary on where my humanity intersected with someone else's.

Happy Easter

And it was a happy one, and a very tired one. We colored eggs using turmeric, red cabbage leaves, and chili powder. We went to a neighborhood egg hunt. We went to an Easter vigil where my dear friend was baptized. We went to Mimi and Papa's farm and had a wonderful, family love-infused meal.
Today, I have put my critic to rest inside of me. It isn't that I haven't given her plenty of fodder to come out and rail on me, but it's that she is in a rightful place. She isn't running the show and getting me down. So guess who shows up? A part I rarely give strength adult perhaps? She is saying to me, "take your pleasure today in all the wonderful things you do for your children." Wow. So I'm taking a break from self-deprecation and pulling a Walt Whitman: "I celebrate myself"

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Face to face

Sometimes I wish blogger were a little bit more like Facebook....any jokes anyone can tell me? Recommend a mother's helper?
I spent my day dancing around a cranky baby, watching friends' children, and finishing up a package to send. There are spiritual longings that are calling for more of my attention. This week is a "just getting through" sort of week.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I left a comment on SouleMama's blog yesterday. She blogged about her humanity and how she did not like to write abut the "dark underbelly of parenting" and how her blog has made people feel inadequate and that was not what she intended but that she simply chose to see the positive all the time.
This brought up many thoughts for me, for I find it interesting that any parent on any blog can keep up such a consistently Pollyanna appearance. I have indeed reminded myself that it is a sales job, and simply just that-keeping up appearances, and I can go read the blogs where the writing celebrates other aspects of parenting. While it CAN be comforting, to see others having such a seemingly easy time of things, I want to be a person who constantly examines my relationship with the dark underbelly of parenting, because I would be lying to myself if I pretended it didn't exist.
We live in times where as a society we do not want to deal with traumas, addictions, emotions, the "ugly". We want to smooth it over...sugar coat it...give it a pretty sales job.
Take our emotions, for instance. How many times do we, collectively, rush to help someone who is sad and "cheer them up"? What if we just sat and witnessed and named it and said "I know...I see your sadness"? What if we told someone we understood their anger and assured them they could move through it rather than shying far away from it? Their is always this push to less passionate, more compliant...
This is a very patriarchal way of dealing with things. The matriarchal side would delve deeper...see the necessity of life/death/life....find the beauty in the entire process.
One could see it as an "either-or" proposition- that you are either a positive or negative person. I don't see it that way. I see life as a struggle and there is beauty in the struggle. We are the sum of what is positive and negative.What if that's it-that life and marriage and parenting is not about seeing beauty in spite of the chaos, but seeing the beauty of the chaos...within the chaos...that the struggle is beautiful too. Gosh, we all have our dark underbellies and we are so much more than that. The people I relate to on a day to day basis acknowledge and grapple their demons. They get angry and bitter. They say things they don't mean. They hold grudges. They make mistakes. They also do wonderful things. They hug their children. They forgive and forget.They laugh and smile. They spontaneously say "I love you". They have brilliant ideas. They flow in and out of these very human states of being. This is life,beautiful life!
We can and often do gain comfort from the fact that we can usually rely on someone else having some of the same problems we do, and we learn from how they deal with these problems. Looking at our dark underbellies grows us as people.
I just felt like writing about that. I am sure others can do a better, more coherent job, because I am right now crawling along the dark underbelly of something since I have not gotten any sleep. But is is interesting, no? To see the loveliness in the whole burrito and not just the cheese on top?