Wednesday, December 30, 2009

book chat - winter break edition, vol.2

I have been reading my ass off. Here's a quick run down:

1. Escape to West Berlin by Maurine Dahlberg (I know, I know, it wasn't on my big list of ten, but it was hiding under my bed and begged to be read.) - This book was great, but it made me realize that I'm an idiot. Escape to West Berlin is historical fiction set days before the Communists put the barrier between East and West Berlin. I know NOTHING about this time period. So, during the holiday parties I attended I somehow worked "Can you believe the situation in BERLIN!" into the conversation. Yes, I'm embarrassing. Thanks for nothing public education.

2. Earthquake Terror by Peg Kehret (not on the list, this one was hiding under a pile of papers) My students love her books, so I wanted to read one. Very suspenseful survivalist fiction. I love a good wilderness story.

3. Piper Reed, Navy Brat - Not bad! Even vaguely feminist. Nice!

4. Anastasia's Chosen Career - I love re-reading books that I enjoyed as a kid. Even as a young girl I knew the Krupniks were cool. These books are really 1980's snooty. For the love of god, Woody Allen is mentioned. Woody Allen! Even a shiny new cover couldn't make my kids interested in these. They may get weeded to my house. (I’m kidding, of course. These are the jokes, people!)

5. The Giver - I love that Lois Lowry can write silly fluff like the Anastasia books and then go on to write something as provocative as The Giver. It deserves its own blog post. Grown-ups love this book, but unlike a lot of kid’s books that grown-ups love, kids would also enjoy reading it.

I started Kira-Kira last night. It's moving kind of slow so far. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 28, 2009

baby's first christmas

Three days before Christmas I went to get Ramona from her bed and immediately felt the heat rising off her.  Thus began my week of fever fighting.  Ramona's first seven months were fortunately illness free, but it couldn't last, eventually all kids get sick.  It was a mystery illness, no accompanying symptoms to go with the high fever.  Our doctor, to my horror, began to suspect meningitis.  Thank goodness it wasn't that, it was nothing, but it was a rough three days of baby tending.  Christmas was on hold.  Family parties cancelled. 

But, Christmas miracle style, Ramona woke up healthy and happy on Christmas morning and had a lovely day.  She opened presents, hugged dollies, dug through stockings. Family members have filled our house with Way Too Many Toys.

Ramona's three days of fever were like traveling back in a time machine.  Back to our maternity leave.  Back to momma tunnel vision.  Back to a baby that always seemed to be asleep, but at the same time always needed me.  But also, back to the sweetness of a baby who wanted to cuddle and nurse all the time. 

This week Ramona and I are enjoying her health.  We are playing with her piles of toys.  We are getting out to see friends and family.  But most importantly, we are paying attention to each other.

On New Year's Day Ramona will be 8 months old.  It seems amazing to me.  She is amazing to me. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from Nova

"It is not good enough to just tolerate other religions, we should Embrace other religions."- words from His Holiness Dalai Lama

This is what is in my heart today. The deep, magical power of the Christmas Story. A story so moving, so magical, that it leads this Buddhist to devote a month to it and turn her life upside down. Sure, I do it because I'm a mainstream American, but there is something else there. The true meaning of Christmas, the Nativity, the Holy Family, that leads us to this special place.

The best practice I have even been given from the Christian perspective was given to me by a Baptist church elder. This church was very progressive and had created a labyrinth to use for prayer. A labyrinth is not a maze, it's not to get lost in, it's to find yourself in. It's a meditation.

Start at the beginning of the labyrinth and as you walk, imagine yourself as one of the wise men. As one of the men seeking the Baby Jesus. As you walk, think about all the hope and possibility that you hold in your heart. When you get to the center, let Jesus into your heart. Think of the joy that all who beheld this Christ child's birth witnessed. That the world would be different because he was alive. Witness it for yourself. As you walk back home, carry that love in your heart. Carry it with you always.

Merry Christmas dear ones, God Bless you, each and every one,


Monday, December 21, 2009

book chat - winter break edition

Today is the first official day of my winter break from school. Before leaving on Friday I went through the shelves and randomly chose ten books to read while on break. I probably won't get all ten read, but I'm going to try. I was really hoping my new books would come before we left for break because I'm dying to read Kate DiCamillo's new book The Magician's Elephant. It didn't come, but it's ok because I've got plenty to read.

Here's what I have in my bag:

Summer Ball (2007) by Mike Lupica - I've recently bought a bunch of his books because Lupica seems like an author the boys should be really into. They haven't been going over very big, so I'm going to read one and see why.

Starting with Alice (2002) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - We have a bunch of these Alice books in the library, but no one ever checks them out. A classmate in library school once mentioned to me that she thought they were really inappropriate.

The Giver (1993) by Lois Lowry - Adults go crazy for this modern classic. I am looking forward to reading it.

Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost! (2006) by Cornelia Funke - Same reason as the Lupica book. I bought a bunch of them and no one's checking them out. I want to see if I can figure out why.

Elijah of Buxton (2007) by Christopher Paul Curtis - Newbery Honor book and November Junior Library Guild selection.

Phineas L. MacGuire Erupts! (2006) by Frances O'Roark Dowell - KC3 honor book, which is a Kansas City Library award for books for third graders. I'm trying to read them all, even if it kills me. They haven't been that great this year.

Double Identity (2005) by Margaret Peterson Haddix - This is an author I am interested in. She is going to be writing the final 39 Clues book, and the kids are crazy about everything she writes. I think she might be kind of like Koontz for kids.

Anastasia's Chosen Career (1987) by Lois Lowry - I loved the Anastasia books as a kid. We are doing a major weeding of old books in the library and I'm trying to decide which of the old books to re-order (we judge books by covers, that's just the way it is).

kira-kira (2004) by Cynthia Kadohata - Newbery Winner from 2005 and it looks right up my alley.

Piper Reed: Navy Brat (2007) by Kimberly Willis Holt - Another 2009-2010 KC3 honor book.

Next Monday I will let you know how I'm doing. I hope I'm not too embarrassed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dharma LIVE! from the Bradfield house

My mother gave me a little present in honor of taking refuge vows. A tiny, pocket Dhammapada. (Non-Buddhist friends, it's like a book of Psalms.) Poetry, wisdom, truths to be unraveled.

It has already begun to work its wonder in my life.

Yesterday I trudged home with groceries to make dinner. When I got home I discovered that Brian had an important personal project that he needed to give his attention to, so the entire evening was my responsibility. The baby, dinner, picking up, all of it without help. As always, early evening is my difficult time. It has been since the beginning of my career as a mother. I have a lot of anxiety about dealing with the evening.

When I walked in the door I began to do one thing at a time. One of these things was changing my clothes. As I sat on the bed I picked up my tiny Dhammapada, opened it and read this: "Every man do his own work". It only took a few seconds to read it, and it meant nothing to me. Nothing.

I carried on with the evening, my chores, Ramona. As I did these things Brian sat on the couch and did nothing. Nothing to help me with my burden anyway. As I began to cook dinner, quickly, because it was time to nurse the baby, I felt the anger building. And building. I tried to shove it down. All the while thinking "Every man do his own work.....hmmmm.....every man do his own work". And also trying to not shout "Asshat....get in here and HELP ME!!!!".

Then I thought, "Would Brian helping change anything about how I feel? Would it take the anxiety away? Would it REALLY decrease my load?" The answer was No. And then I thought, I'm just going to do my own work. BINGO!!!!! I'm going to do my own work! I'm going to get done what I can. I'm going to do my own work and Brian can do his own work, whatever that happens to be. And then the anger went away for real and there was no self control needed. Nobody got called an "asshat" and nobody had to apologize.

Practice = Peace. This time, anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

monday book chat - non-fiction, can you believe it?!

I hardly ever read or write about non-fiction. I should, I really should, but I don't. However, today I'm writing about Vinnie and Abraham by Dawn FitzGerald.

Vinnie and Abraham is a biography about the American sculptor, Vinnie Ream. When she was just 16 years old President Lincoln agreed to sit for her so that she could sculpt him. He did this because she was prodigious and also because of their common backgrounds. After his death, she fought to be given the commission for the statue of Lincoln that would be displayed in the Capitol rotunda. Despite the controversy of hiring a women for such an important job, she was given the commission. She was chosen for her ability to sculpt Lincoln as he really was; kind, gentle, and with a distinct air of sadness.

While reading this to my students I had to stop several times to explain the deep inequity that women endured in this country during Vinnie Ream's lifetime.

As a first grade teacher I never taught the history of women. I taught about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, but no women. And now as a librarian I have still failed to educate my students about the history of the suffrage movement and the more recent women's movement. This year I'm going to be on the lookout for well written biographies about women, books about the suffrage movement, and books that my young future feminists would enjoy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It all began two years ago with a Box 'o World Religion Lectures. It was not a spiritual journey, it was academic. I couldn't deny that a lot of it sounded nuts to me. Friends, it still sounds pretty nuts to me. But it wasn't the celestial Buddhas that made this feel right for me. It was the simple teachings of suffering, attachment, nothing, and compassion that fit inside my heart. The story of the Buddha's middle path.

Today I made my vow to follow the Buddhist path. I don't know how I will be doing this. After all I have learned, I still don't know what I've gotten myself into.

Was it magic? No. Do I feel like I changed when Lama Chuck snapped his fingers? No. I'm the same old Nova. I'm the Nova that is worried that her baby isn't really asleep for the night. I'm the Nova with the broken down practice. While I was sitting on my cushion I looked around and I thought "I bet these people have shrines, I bet these people don't conduct their practice on their bathroom floor". Mothers, isn't the bathroom the only safe place sometimes? Brian knows I can't hear the baby in there, it's like going to the other world. It's a place of privacy. But still, I practice on my bathroom floor!

But I practice with a beginner's heart. My mind is an open pot. So, there's that.

I took the vow because it isn't a question of "am I going to follow the path or not", because I already have been. I don't know what kind of mother I would be without the dharma. I don't need to know, because it's always been there for me. A place of shelter, a place of protection. A place of Refuge. So, I took the vow today, but I had already taken refuge. No need for cold feet.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

what you missed

Here's a quick recap of the week. All would have been blog-worthy.

Wednesday - Baby and Mama's first snow day. Ramona and I had a lovely day. We got nothing done, but we wore two layers of jammies and (sshhh....we watched tv a little).

Thursday - Got cold feet. Then put the darn socks on and shut up. Tomorrow I'm taking the plunge. Realize I will be taking it again and again. Here's to all of us that are daring to unwrap ourselves.

Friday - Became sick. Took the whole day off and sent baby to day care. I spent the whole day sleeping. Sometimes I would wake in starts because I thought I heard Ramona cry. The day was weird......good weird.

Saturday - Still sick, but determined to carry on. Took Ramona to see SANTA. She put her head back and stared into his face. We got her off his lap right before she pulled the glasses and beard off the poor guy. I hope she stays like this forever. Loving, daring, ready to look Santa straight into the face with no fear. Sometimes I can't believe she came from me. Then Brian and I took her Christmas shopping. For the first time we put her in the front of the cart and she had a ball. She was smiling and kicking her feet and acted like we were in some kind of holiday baby parade. Sheesh....I love that girl, I love that girl, I love that girl.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Chiaroscuro means the arrangement of light and dark, darkness and light together. He is also a main character in the novel that my book club is reading, The Tale of Despereaux.

This word and this character has resonated in my heart. I am also an arrangement of light and dark. We all are.

Our author, Kate DiCamillo, asks us in many different ways, is life about light or is it about suffering? Which one, reader, which one?

My book club members think I'm nuts for cherishing this light and dark character. Children are like this, they really are pretty light. Here I am, the adult, and I cling to my dark places.

On a side note, a member of my book club noted that he thought it was interesting that DiCamillo didn't start writing until she was 29. He thought she got kind of a late start(!). He also doesn't think coffee is a very healthy breakfast. a 29 year old coffee drinker I have been given more to think about than just books.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

a rabbit named samsara

Moments ago I finished reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and I'm a little fearful that I might be about to engage in the book blogger equivalent of drunk dialing. This book made me cry. More than any book I've read this year, this one has gotten the biggest emotional response from me.

It's a simple story about a toy rabbit that becomes lost and found, lost and found, lost and found. He lives a doll's life, which means that he has many lives. In the beginning he is a vain, cold little rabbit, but he learns to listen to the stories around him and he learns to love.

I think this book has gotten me in my heart today, because I have been looking for a way back to the dharma. It is easy to draw the comparisons between Edward and Samsara. Edward becomes tired of each new life, of weathering each new loss. He is broken down, giving up, until a friend tells him "You disappoint me. If you have no intention of loving or being loved the journey is pointless."

Yes, loving, yes, that is the point.