Friday, December 31, 2010

2010, just as it was

I didn't have a very excellent Christmas Break.
I hate writing about illness, but sometimes it's the only thing in the storyline. That has certainly been the case for me. I got sick on the Friday of the last day of school and have been sick every second after that. This depressed me very much, which made the sickness worse and it's gotten to the point where I can't separate the stomach bug from the sadness.

It's New Years Eve and I'm thinking it's time to stop feeling sad for the lost two weeks. Time to just let it be what it was and move on.

Move on to 2011. I have seen several blogs where they have highlighted their year in blogging and although I hate to join and copy, I feel like it is necessary to resuscitate my spirit. So, here it is, 2010, as it was:

In January, I tried to teach Ramona to sleep through the night.

I got a baby ready for the day in February.

I broke down in March.

In April, I shelved some books.

On May 1, 2010 Ramona turned one and then she scared the hell out of me.

In June, I began to practice, for real.

I cleaned out a closet in July.

On August 17, I turned 30.

In September, I ate some soup.

In October, I learned to ride a bike.

I played the viola in November.

And a few days ago, in December, I remembered.

That was 2010. Now I'm going to leave you with my husband Brian's New Years Resolution:
"I'm just going to keep trying."

Well said, huh? Happy New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

a christmas memory

Last week, during a staff meeting, we were asked to tell a favorite holiday memory. A couple ideas occurred to me, the year I got Super Mario Bros. 3 was a good year, I liked going to the Nutcracker ballet with my mom....presents, lights, hams, fudge.......all fun....all good. But not really a memory.

This is mine. And I shouldn't tell it. It's one of my best stories.

In high school, my chamber music group played city hall during the month of December. We set up in a small out of the way alcove, to play to people doing business. Walking to lunch, moving the wheels of bureaucracy. We had plenty of time. Time to get bows ready, music straightened, strings tuned, and then we began the noisy buzz of string players with nothing to do but wait.

I sat and waited. Once I was tuned I was too self conscious to ever warm up. So I sat and enjoyed the city hall architecture, the red bows, the lit trees, and the swirling sound of a small orchestra off kilter.

And then, from behind, amidst all the noise, a song. My teacher, who was sitting among the group, was tuning his violin as well. The same warm up noise, double stops, adjusting, until notes began to piece themselves together from the fray. The notes became the smallest, saddest Christmas song in the holiday oeuvre. have yourself a merry little christmas. It sounded like a bird, a message that pushed against the noise, but did nothing to fight it. I listened, watching, seeing every sweet note travel to the impossibly high ceiling. Filling each corner. I was not listening to this from my seat. I was having an experience from far away, I was far more than a bystander, I was listening from another world.

This dark, but light sweet sadness was oppressive to me. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. Everything else is the exaggeration, this is the truth. This is my favorite of all memories. Listening to a sweet violin, from a great height, finding a treasure.

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight. they will be miles away.

the song ended. I sat in my seat, choked with beauty and love. A tearful acknowledgement of having actually noticed one of the moments of my life.
And then it was time to perform.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas from ramona and her mother

We are 3 days from Winter Break! I am celebrating by sending out my Christmas Cards. By "Christmas Cards" I mean "this blog post".

This was Ramona and Santa last year:

This is Ramona and Santa this year:

If I were a meaner mom she would be on his lap, screaming. In this particular scene she is whimpering into my shoulder and clutching my arm tightly. She had some kind of Santa radar and would begin to tense up whenever she could sense his presence.
It's so weird to celebrate Christmas with such a little girl. It's like the lights are half on and some one's home part of the time. Last year we didn't bother. This year we are kind of bothering.

I made this video with Brian. I was originally going to play solo, but I sounded so bad I decided I really needed someone to smile at. I'm glad I invited him because we had such a happy fun time making bad music together.
To answer potential questions, yes, those are my pjamas and no, we don't live in a bunker.
We actually made this video for the Fifth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. I think this performance might even be cooler than the year we did the Christmas Recorder Duets (I wish I had filmed those).

Enjoy the sneak peek.

Happy Christmas! War is Over! If you want it!



Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Last week was the best week of my life. It really was, in all its ordinary glory. I got my worst teaching day out of the way on Monday and then just sailed into the week. I never had to be to work early, and every day I spent a nice morning with Ramona before starting my day. I was creating these little reasonable to do lists with just like 3 things on them. And getting them done, every day. I took care of stuff in the library that I've been dreading for months, worked on my paper, cleaned my house, took care of family and myself. Everything just felt so pleasant. Work was easy, family was easy. I bounced through the whole thing, smiling like an idiot and bragging to all about my Wonderful Week.

Not to sound like a mega pessimist, but I totally knew this week would be no good. However, I didn't know how hard it would be to come back to reality. I started the week with my hardest teaching day. Tuesday I went to the dentist first thing in the morning, so I felt off the whole day and had a miserable headache. Ramona has been throwing these truly amazing mega fits. I can't believe what a fuss she can make. I have to be at work an hour early tomorrow. I can't find red tights for Ramona's Christmas dress and she sees Santa on Saturday! Ack!

But I also feel like all my creative plans large and small are drifting away from me. I have lots of ideas, and then I go to bed. When I wake, I fret about what I want from it all. What do I want? What do I want?
The ecstasy. The agony. (on second thought, I take it all back. I'm having such a Dramatic Week! Everyone, I've been having such a Dramatic Week! Fun!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

every book in the world - book talk

I've done a pretty sad job of writing about the books I've read since the beginning of fall. I wrote about Eat, Pray, Love and I kind of emoted all over the place about The Hunger Games trilogy. But I never got into all of the middle grade award books I felt compelled to read at the beginning of the school year. The Mark Twain Award nominees weren't very special this year. I don't know, maybe I'm too hard on these little books, but there just wasn't a Paint the Wind among them. However, I do want to mention some here now just to clear the air on the unspoken 12 books.

The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy: This was the weirdest damn book ever. It's about these kids that go to an elite academy where the school serves mind controlling drug brownies which causes the students to become amazing students and palatable human beings. And this is bad, so our main character kids vow to shut the operation down.
I thought this book was strangely subversive and made me a little nervous. I feel like singing "Another Brick In The Wall" every time a kid checks this one out.

Stolen Children: What children are ok with is amazing to me. This book is about two children who are kidnapped and taken to a remote cabin in the woods, where they execute an escape plan. As a parent, this book scared the hell out of me, but when I would talk about how frightening this book was the kids acted like I was mental. Stolen Children isn't scary, Mrs. Bradfield, Coraline is scary. (They are right about Coraline though, totally scary.)

I also read this cult favorite among my most favorite library girls, Warrior Cats. If any of your kids like this series, I feel for you. Yuck.

I'm a librarian, so I read. I read and I read. I have just put in a large book order and I'm truly excited to read some of my selections. But before I do that, I have to finish my holiday reading.
What is holiday reading, you ask? Well, it's when I read all the books I'm planning to give as gifts. I've got two really neat gifts in the works right now.

One is the crazy huge Mark Twain text book that is the Autobiography. I'm getting it for my dad, but it's such a huge piece of work I'm starting to chew through it, adding tabs in hopes of making his reading more enjoyable.

The other is The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a 14th-Century Chinese Hermit. I won't say who's getting it, because it's a secret. This came as a recommendation from Karen Maezen Miller. These poems were written in the early 1300, yet somehow they feel exactly as new as you have noticed the world to be, just now. Notice, notice, notice. These poems are about noticing. They reveal to me that noticing is my birthright. Merry Christmas, indeed.

Before I started on my holiday books, I was and am still reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which I'm not going to lie, is messing me up. Hello, my name is Nova/Patty, nice to meet you. This is my husband Brian/Walter, we are trying to hold it together. Is marriage for real? I expect nothing less from Franzen.

As I continue to read, I will do a better job of blogging about the books, so that we don't get posts like this in the future. Clearly, this one was a real mess.

Monday, November 29, 2010

turkey hangover

I never got around to writing a "being thankful" post in honor of Thanksgiving. I never did it, because I couldn't put my finger on for what I was really thankful. I've been walking around with my brain turned off somehow. And when I feel it starting to turn back on, I close my eyes and hide. When I come to terms with what I really know, it's depressing. This didn't seem right for a pre-holiday posting. Far better to read on a Monday, back at work, back to life as we really know it.

As bleak as it sounds, I am thankful for my current tight money situation. I'm thankful for breaking down in the grocery store. Thankful for putting things back. For nearly crying when speaking to the cashier. For feeling honestly overwhelmed at the cost of food and how sophisticated our wants have become. Lately I feel dire about how much my small family wants to consume. I'm thankful for this feeling. We should all be thankful to feel a bit more poor. It's the true state of things, really. Look around.

I have happy things for which to be thankful, of course. But, right now, I'm feeling pretty dark.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

starting over, yet again

I began work on my graduate school research paper again. The road began with apologizing to nearly everyone at my University. Apology is the beginning I think.
I have begun for real. I, Lucy, promise to not pull the football out from under your feet this time, Charlie Brown. I am both Charlie and Lucy, of course.
Today I was loading the washing machine and I nearly panicked. How can I be this person? How can I do all the things that will make me good? How?
Then, as clear as a bell, this bit of worry was labeled for what it is. Thinking. And breathe. And count. And load the laundry. When I write the paper, I will write the paper. Then I will go do something else.

Today I started reading the edits and comments my professor had made. For the first time. And it hurt. She started out positive, but as the paper wore on, I could hear her weariness. I have a lot of work to do. But, I'm going to do it. And put it away. And then go do something else.

Friday, November 12, 2010

violist, interrupted

In college, I was awarded the principal viola position. This sounds more important than it was. It was a terrible orchestra, in a weak music school. I was the best of the worst. I was doing okay, until we were given a very difficult piece to play that included a viola solo. I am not a soloist. I lived in panic, dreading each rehearsal. But I was holding it together. Until, the choral recital.

Because I was principal violist, I had a seat in the school's string quartet. One night, we were accompanying a vocal student during his senior recital. Easy music. Whole note city. But I lost it.

On the dimly lit stage, looking out into the blinding light, out of the blue, I began to shake. It was probably low blood sugar, just a coincidence. My bow arm began to tremble. I panicked. Sweat. More shaking. All during a very quiet whole note. I can't believe I didn't run. I stopped playing, held my bow off my instrument and tried not to die. Things were never the same after that.

When I met my dad after the performance, I was in shock. "Dad, did you see what happened?" He had not. He couldn't see in my head, didn't notice the sweat and shaking, the panic on my face. The experience frightened me so much. I knew I was done playing. But, I still had several weeks left in the semester. And I still had to play my solo. I also knew, without a doubt, without even trying, that I was never going to be able to play without shaking.

I spent a lot of time in bed.
I tried to practice my solo. I tried to find cures for the shaking that would start every time I placed my bow on the viola. Mostly I just stayed in bed. I was so alone. I tried to speak to the conductor. But I guess I didn't properly convey to her that the symphony was ruining my life. I even worked up the courage to call my university counseling center. They didn't have any available appointments.

I made it through the semester and the last performance. Who even knows what I sounded like. I didn't care. I just wanted to not die of fright. I celebrated my success by never going back to the symphony, hiding my viola in storage, and putting the whole thing behind me.

I walked away from the viola.
Until recently. A fellow librarian invited me to join her string ensemble. Just three old friends that like to play together. I said no before she could even finish her sentence, but she gently pressed. "We play easy music. We just love the harmonies. We'd really love having a violist." Her kindness won me over. I went over and played. I had forgotten so much. Key signature, time signature. But, I had also forgotten my fear.

Playing with the quartet was fun. But, what has been amazing and restorative has been playing by myself. I've started playing after Ramona has gone to bed. I get out the music and I play for myself. It doesn't sound that wonderful, but I don't care. It feels nice, puzzling this instrument out by myself.

I am endlessly enchanted by the circular motion of my life. I step away from things, I come back to things. A kind new friend invites me to play an instrument buried deep in my basement closet. I can let go of things that have happened. I can say yes and I can start again.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

on blankets

A blanket changed my life when Ramona was about 9 months old. You experienced moms can go ahead and laugh at me (and believe me, they have), I am petrified of babies and blankets. It's not my fault. Nurses brainwashed me during my pregnancy.
So, my Ramona, even in the dead of winter got no blanket. When Ramona was about 8 months old, I grew very weary of getting up to nurse once or twice a night. I fretted a lot that she should be learning to sleep through the night. I consulted several sources and they all talked about "loveys". Introduce a lovey. I tried a tiny blanket with a bear head. Didn't work. Then, because I was cold, I started wrapping Ramona and myself in a small crochet baby blanket while nursing at night. Nursing in the dark, with the thing pulled to my chin, I could almost believe I was still in bed. And then the soft little thing started making its way back to the crib. Night after night. And after awhile, Ramona slept through the night. Magic. Soft, subtle, slow, easy magic.

The blanket is not that special. It wasn't given by a beloved family member. Just a little something someone made for a baby. Any baby. But it happened to be my baby.

In the last week or so it has become obvious that Ramona has outgrown the old pink baby blanket. It's gotten cold at night and she needs real warmth. My mom vows to make her something special. Something wonderful. But in the meantime, she lent me a real wonder. A toddler sized afghan that my sister slept under, made by our great grandmother.

When I spread it over her at bedtime, Ramona wiggled with pleasure. Under its weight. Under its warmth. Old pink is in there too, snuggled in her arms. Tonight, I'm thankful for the goodness of it all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

come on, revisit Halloween with me

Listen, I know you don't want to hear about Halloween 2010 anymore. Blogging is a timely art. But, I'm getting my ass handed to me this week and I really really wanted to write about Ramona and Halloween. See, Ramona loves holidays. Even last year when she was only 6 months old, she partied it up on Thanksgiving. She watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and refused to take a nap the whole day. I know that isn't much, but she seemed really excited. She really seemed to understand that holidays call for joy.

This year, for Halloween, I had modest expectations. I put together a simple costume; a ballerina. I really hadn't planned to take her trick or treating. Mostly I just wanted to take some pictures of her so she can enjoy them someday when she's big. (There are some pictures of me at two years old in a clown costume, which always fascinated me as a child because I was terrified of clowns.)

Trick or Treating must be an instinct, because Ramona howled until we took her outside. Then she naturally picked up her pumpkin and proceeded to march up and down the side walks and into driveways. The girl was dying to trick or treat. Brian's convinced she learned it from television. We let her watch It's the Great Pumpkin,Charlie Brown. She couldn't say trick or treat, but she did say Bye-Bye a couple of times. We let her trick or treat one house, but I really feel like she would have stayed at it all evening if I would have let her.
I love that little ballerina girl. I love how she is always up for good times and joy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

addicted and attached

I got into a very satisfying rhythm last week. I was going to bed much earlier than usual, I was forgiving myself for being tired in the evening, I switched my meditation to the morning.

Then two forces came into my life that wrecked it all, The Hunger Games Trilogy and my hot water heater.

I've already talked about The Hunger Games. I enjoyed it a lot. But something happened on Sunday night while I was reading Catching Fire (the second book). I got insanely addicted and was determined to read the whole thing. I read well past midnight. I did the same thing Monday night and finished it. I tweeted something desperate about my head hurting and reading being like drugs. I like dense, slow books that you read a few pages of and then go to bed on time. Books that are like dark chocolate, not Cheetos. I usually steer clear of page turners. The kind of book that shakes you up and dehydrates you. I don't really see how reading a book like this is any different than doing drugs. Now I am reading Mockingjay (the third and final book) and trying really hard to be a moderate book user.

See, the thing is, my hot water heater went out on Sunday. Again. I knew I was going to have a weird, shower-less, miserable morning. So, I simply decided to go off the rails. And I did. I woke up sore, tired, grumpy, dirty.
Yesterday, I woke up to hot water and my morning meditation. My cup of coffee. I folded some laundry and re-loaded the dish washer. (I can do that stuff now that I have hot water.) I'm attached to all of it. This all makes me smile very much. I realize that this might be the best go-around I ever have. I have so much peace and bounty around me. I used to feel so much sadness that things never stayed done. That I was always righting myself, only to have them quickly fall apart again. Right now I am just watching things go from great to not good. Watching things break. Watching me mess up. Picking up and trying again. Without anger. Just starting again. And again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

losing my religion

It's a matter of faithlessness sometimes, I fear.
But I have felt not just not Buddhist, but not anything. Like a white plate, emptied.
I had a shrine, but I turn away from it. I face the wall.
I say no prayers. nothing happens. But sit. sit, count, try again, and again. I sit every day. Every day. Sometimes short. Sometimes shorter. But I always sit.
No longer at night, because by then I am hating. Now, I just go to bed. and get up early.
And sit.
I am somehow scrubbed of feeling. I am scrubbed of my religion. I have no religion I think.
I have not said a prayer, not dedicated any merit, not sat in a Buddha-field. But I have sat.

This morning after my practice I thought, this is no practice at all. Is this Buddhist? Am I Buddhist? Or am I just a person who sits? Is there any difference?
I don't know anything. But I do wake. I do find myself sitting on my cushion. I do find myself there.
I do find myself.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


One of my favorite authors is Kate DiCamillo. She also writes a stunning blog. But it isn't really a blog. It's a monthly journal entry and it always takes my breath away.

My student book club and I are currently reading DiCamillo's first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie. During our author study we came across this little quote from DiCamillo, which has kind of become our group's mantra.

Reading should not be presented to them as a chore, a duty. It should, instead, be offered as a gift: Look, I will help you unwrap this miraculous present. I will show you how to use it for your own satisfaction and education and deep, intense pleasure.

I love this so much. But not for the same reason as my students. They hold it up against me, against all their teachers. As a defense against testing and being looked at as a number. As a call for respect.

I see it differently. I don't see the word reading here at all. I see everything. Tucking my daughter in, washing dishes, teaching my lessons, turning my car left, brushing my hair from my eyes. "Look! I will help you unwrap this miraculous present", Kate says to me, "Look!"

Monday, October 18, 2010

stories from the trail

Brian and I did the impossible. We left the girl and we went on a mini-vacation. We biked about 15-ish miles in the warm autumn sunshine. I didn't embarrass myself out there, so all the practice payed off.

I only fell once. When a ladybug landed on me. I tried to play it cool, but having a bug riding around on my arm freaked me out, so I brushed her off. And immediately crashed.

Here's another story from the trail:
A mom and her kids stopped next to a cliff with water dripping off it. She turns to her kids and says, "look! A natural spring! It's one of God's Wonders! It's God's Bounty!" To which her 13 year old son snarked to himself, "it's more like God's Pee Hole." He was kind of right, because it was just a drainage pipe.

The whole day was like that. Fun and funny. Just out in the air, enjoying the deer, the Missouri river, and the funny children. (I saw a 14 year old boy scout pour about a cup of sugar into his coke and then take a drink of it to impress his friends) We ate fried Okra and corndogs. We drank some beer. We felt a lot more like Nova and Brian, than mama and dada. It was so restful.

The next day, Brian and I went shopping. We got a pumpkin, apples, tomatoes, incense, flowers and yarn. And then we went to get our girl. We missed her very much. But we all did fine, and Brian and I were grateful for time spent together.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

marriage, husbands and The Hunger Games

I can't stand that nagging feeling of having not written. I forgive myself though, because October is a notoriously difficult month for teachers. And my house is clean-ish, my baby and husband are well loved, and my laundry is done. I've even been doing a lot of reading.

As geeky as this sounds, as cliche and book-mark slogany as this will come off, books are my light at the end of the tunnel. I smile when people say, "I wish I had time for reading!" I hear that all the time. What does this mean? I wish I had time for reading? We have time for everything. One thing at a time.

I've had a lot of time for Ramona lately. We have fallen securely back into our school life routine. She comes home from daycare, I come home from work, and then we spend time together until bedtime. Being with her brings peace. Looking at a book, building a tower, throwing a ball. Every moment with her feels timeless.

My life has been simple and sweet. Sometimes hard, but always simple.

I have recently become wrapped up in the saga, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This is a young adult, pop book trilogy. I highly recommend it, because it is easy and fun.
This quote was my favorite part:

Having a partner lightening the load, could even make the arduous task of filling my family's table enjoyable.
I became a much better hunter when I didn't have to look over my shoulder constantly, when someone was watching my back. Being out in the woods with Gale...sometimes I was actually happy.

When I read this, I heard my own life echoing off the page. I don't think marriage is all that romantic. Marriage is about having a partner, someone to lighten the load. Someone who somehow makes sitting in the woods enjoyable. What could be more loving than that? Who else does so much to bring your life comfort and joy? If I were to re-marry Brian, I would put this quote from The Hunger Games on a cocktail napkin, because this, to me, is the essence of why we choose a partner, and why we stay together.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Today I ate a bowl of soup at my desk. Warm and spicy. But at the same, not food. Not really. The soup was a moment. To sit and not think. To eat a noodle, and feel like a scarf was being wound around my neck, but not worry about buying a scarf or making a scarf. Or teaching the dictionary. Or make a better commitment to my students, my child, my bathroom floor, my marriage, taking vitamins, flossing my teeth.
Just eat the noodle, drink the broth. Not even hungry. Just doing what a mouth does.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

have faith

Awhile back, we listened to a guided meditation recorded by Alan Wallace. (I have a funny story about this! On the way home from class I told my mom I had trouble following because his accent was hard for me to understand. My mom says sarcastically, "yeah, that California accent can be tricky.")
Anyway, despite his difficult "foreign" accent, he did say something that has been kind of holding my hand lately. This isn't an exact quote, but it feels like he said:
You may find that you have to start over. In your practice you start over again and again. It's ok.
I have had to start again with my meditation practice. And I've also had to start again with Ramona.
Since the little tantrum I had about a month ago, things changed; things got easier. I started over. A friend said, Toddlers are destructive. Keep your routines consistent and expectations clear. But mostly just ignore that stuff. They move onto something else anyway.
This is very gentle advice. Advice with love as the only motivation. Nova, start over.
When I return to my practice, I see that it has been waiting for me. Waiting for me to start over again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ramona in a nut shell - also known as, Ramona is a nut

Last night when our parent educator came to visit, the girl really put on a show. She played intelligently with the toys for awhile, but after she got tired of that she hopped into the materials tub and shouted "WEEEEE!"
When it was time to clean up she got really angry and dumped the tub full of stuff on the ground, and threw herself down and screamed. However, she dusted herself off quickly so she could give her teacher a nice hug and a two handed "bye,bye".
What a girl.

Monday, September 20, 2010

book talk - Eat,Pray,Love

I'm not sure how it happened, but I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love. I have a bunch of things that I've committed to reading and Eat, Pray, Love was one of them. At first, I snubbed the book's somewhat silly tone. But, somewhere around Rome I gave in and just started loving it.

I have realized that I love travel books. I was reading this completely silly book from school called Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs. In the story, 13 year old Brady's bedroom is hit by an asteroid and he is infected with super Martian bacteria and is blessed with amazing super capabilities. He also begins to "go dormant" because of the Martian bacteria. It was so silly that every once in awhile I would stop out of the blue and read a sentence to Brian because it was so hilarious. But I loved the book because the characters live in the Black Hills of South Dakota and spend most of the book biking, fishing, and camping. It's like reading a Black Hills guide book as long as you don't let yourself be distracted by the unbelievable asteroid named Fred. I've long forgotten Fred, but I'm still loving the Black Hills.

But, back to Eat, Pray, Love. I am obsessed with this book. I am not a very good traveler. I prefer to stay home and read a book. About someone else's travels.
For me, traveling is like going to the zoo. It's something that seems like it will be totally great, but once I am there I hate it and can't figure out why anyone ever does this. (I hate the zoo so much.)
If I have any criticism of Eat, Pray, Love it's that I'm afraid people will come away with the wrong idea about meditation. You do not have to go anywhere to meditate And really, I don't think you should indulge very much in reading about other people's successful practices. Of course it's more fun to read about meditation than to actually do it! Meditation is hard and has zero glamour. I'm not judging Elizabeth Gilbert. I promise. I'm just saying long after I've forgotten how fulfilling it was to read about Gilbert's practice, I'm going to be loving Bali.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

learning to fly

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings - Tom Petty

When I was little I must have been inundated with a lot of books about one's "special gift" because I was really driven mad by the whole concept. My mom said that when I was young I would always ask stuff like, "mom, what's my special gift?" This was not said like a casual musing. It was a desperate, worried plea for help in finding something lost.

This makes me smile now, because a grown up doesn't worry about her special gift. By the time you become a grown up, you have spent such a long time tending your precious ego that you have developed quite a list of why you are so special. Sometimes I'm just so done in by how special I am I worry how people can carry on in my absence.

But this post isn't about special gifts, it's about learning to fly. Which I have learned to do.

When I got home from school yesterday, my bike was waiting for me in the garage. My 19 year old, never ridden bike. My dad and husband had spent two hours fixing the tire and breaks so that I could finally learn to ride a bike.

Sure, I already knew how to ride a bike. When I was in fourth grade, my best friend finally got sick of my crap and bullied me into learning to ride. She was a tiny little drill sergeant of a girl and I was pretty much terrified of her. We must have been a funny sight. Such a small girl, holding the back of her best friend's bike and forcing her to learn by sheer fear. She did in a matter of 30 minutes what my father had failed to do my whole childhood.

After that afternoon, I knew how to ride a bike...sort of. However, If you combined my total bike mileage, you wouldn't have a mile. Not even close.

Last night, I sat on my bike, at the edge of the driveway. Scared of falling, scared of the cars, scared of looking stupid. But I pushed off and rode. Slowly and with my hand clutching the brake, but I rode. And it felt like flying.

I'm going to keep practicing. I'm going to practice until the bike becomes a vehicle for enjoying the fall leaves and the company of my husband on our romantic weekend away.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

memoir in 6 words

My dear friend and fellow teacher, Lindsay Neal, presented this idea at a staff development meeting. I found the whole thing very appealing.
A writing teacher gave his students the task of writing a statement that summed up "who they were" in 6 words; a 6 word memoir.
This is mine:

A heart: sitting, bouncing, trying again.

september song

This is what happens when I over-think things.
Sometimes I let too much time go by before I publish a blog post. I start lots of posts, but then worry they aren't coherent enough to share. And then here we are, a week and a half goes by and the stories I've saved up are stale. And I feel like I've undershared and you don't understand me anymore. So, let's catch up.

The weather is very nice and September actually feels Septembery for the first time in years. Lately, I've been under the impression that "September" was a myth. But today, September is crisp, but still warmish. I've been living here (for the second time) for about two years and this year is the first I've noticed how early our backyard trees lose their leaves. Especially our ornamental crab apple, which is quite a nice tree. It's wonderful and dramatic somehow. It gets white flowers in the spring and in the fall we get these idyllic red berries. Now, I have another reason to love this tree, because it gives us Fall first, before anyone else has gotten to enjoy the season. Lucky us.

Ramona has entered what I'm going to herein refer to as The Golden Age of Toddlerhood. (I know, a far cry from the whine fest from two weeks ago) I am enjoying her very much. She's been so loving and funny. She says weird one-time-only-words like "sock" and "snack" and "poop". She loves to play ball, run, and jump. I'm amazed by her athleticism. For me, it's like finding an alligator in my nest instead of a chicken. I am starting to see the person Ramona, not baby Ramona. I think accepting our children without judgement, worry, and concern could be the greatest gift we ever give to ourselves.

Brian and I are planning a Romantic October Vacation! We are going to leave Ramona with my mom and ride bikes on the Katy Trail. We are staying in a quaint town and plan on enjoying the local pubs. Ready for the punch line? I don't really know how to ride a bike. If you combined my total lifetime bicycle mileage you would probably not have a mile. But, in a dream a few weeks ago I was riding and it felt amazing. I will deal with this issue in the way that I deal with all issues, by practicing. A little every day.
Ah....I feel better already.

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few, September, November, and these few precious days I'll spend with you. These few precious days I'll spend with you. September song. -K.W.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

book talk - John Updike Edition

I was having a conversation with an older teaching friend once and she remarked that she just had to finish this puzzle she was working on. It was one of those huge jigsaws that take up an entire kitchen table. She muttered something about "once that thing is done I can get on with my life".
I feel the same way about books all the time. I realize that reading is a pleasurable, free time activity, but I also see it as something you kind of need to motor through. For the last few weeks, Rabbit, Run by John Updike has been my jigsaw puzzle.
I loved reading adult fiction this summer, but I have a lot of children's books piling up on my desk that I really have to read. Last night, I finished the first of Updike's Rabbit books. At first, I didn't love it. A story of a man abandoning his wife just bugged the hell out of me. Especially a wife with a drinking problem and a two week old baby. But, I liked Rabbit, Run's stream of consciousness because, it reminded me of the stuff I enjoyed reading in high school and college. I like Updike. I read The Complete Henry Bech a few years ago and really enjoyed Bech as a character. I think of Updike as being like an author's author. He seems pretty snooty to me. Probably because of the whole New Yorker thing.
Anyway, when I was reading Rabbit, Run I kept whining to people about how much I disliked Rabbit (Harry Angstrom) and what was wrong with John Updike to create this horrible character and then go on to write 4 more books about him! My dad is like this too, he always hates to read a book that has nothing but bad guys in it. I gave him Blood Meridian for Christmas several years ago and didn't like it because "stories should have a good guy". I used to think this was silly, but I guess I've turned into my dad.
But, towards the very end, Updike starts writing from the perspective of Harry's wife, and that's when I saw the merit in the book. Updike knows what it feels like to be a woman. He knows. He made me feel like he knows the physical and emotional toll giving birth has on a woman. And he knows that losing a child by your own hand is "the worst thing that has ever happened to a woman". And then I came to my senses and realized that Updike doesn't really "like" Harry either, but that's not the point.
Some day I will read the rest of the Rabbit books. Like maybe when I'm 40.

When I dropped the book in the library drop box this morning I felt refreshed. Sure, I still had my late night reading hangover headache. But at least I was done and ready to move on with my life. And the 12 Mark Twain Award Nominees that my library students are expecting me to have already read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

time out

This weekend was really tough. Ramona was just not herself on Saturday, she spent the whole day crying loudly at me. She had a bit of a cold and was also working on some molars. It was a long and tiresome day for us all.
Yesterday was a lot better, Ramona was back to her happy self. But, in a way, the day was harder. She spent a lot of time doing things she shouldn't do. Touching the tv, climbing on EVERYTHING, throwing food, getting into the dog's water. My dad says we named her wrong. Instead of Ramona Maple, we should have named her Ramona Monkey.

I worry that I'm not teaching her properly. I'm worried that people will think I don't care enough to discipline her. I hear from my pediatriatian that I tell her NO too much, I hear from friends that I need to put her in a time out, says I need to place her on a bench and offer choices. Other people say she needs a swat and that my pediatrician is an idiot.
What the hell? She's a baby! She needs a hug, a pat on the back, and a distraction. Right??? Right?
But I dislike permissive parenting. I did when I taught first grade, anyway.
I am writing this because my heart is hurting. I feel anger at myself for being disloyal to Ramona. The avalanche of worry began, and it's still coming. I first began to doubt my parenting and it quickly became a doubt of Ramona.

Why is she so wild? Why doesn't she listen to me? Is she behind in cognitive and language development because she can't understand a no or a time out. Are other people's babies better than mine? Are other mothers better than I am?

The truth is that we parents are all experts. Of our own children. In the space and time that we inhabit, we have found some success. When we hear some poor dolt whining for an answer, we deliver it, probably along with a little bit of exaggeration and forgetfulness. I am guilty of it too. Parenting is not in itself hard. It's hard because of, it's hard because of "norming charts" and parenting contemporaries who have "been there and done that".

My heart says not to worry. Everything changes, usually on its own. My wisdom from teaching other people's children tells me that children will blossom in their own time, in their own beautiful expression of themselves. My practice reminds me to be gentle with myself. To be gentle with my child.
Why do I still feel like this?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

this life

My very best friend designed a new masthead for Ramona and Her Mother and also gave it a little spruce while she was at it. Gorgeous girl, gorgeous photography, gorgeous friend.

Awhile back, I read something on twitter from Karen Maezen Miller. This life of ours, it is the life of a Buddha.
This morning, I turned thirty. As I got ready for this day, as I looked in the mirror, this bit of wisdom took hold of my heart.
I don't feel desperation. I have felt, in the past, that I was coming up short, that I was never going to get "there". Right now, I don't feel like I'm coming up anywhere, and I am beginning to understand there is no "there". I see that this wisdom about the Buddha and about me is true. I am on a path. And it really is nothing less than the life of a Buddha.

This life and death we are encountering all the time is no other than the life of the Buddha. - Maezumi Roshi

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a place to practice

Yesterday, I attended the last of my summer meditation retreats. It was kind of grueling. The Rime Center is not air conditioned, which is usually kind of pleasant, but lately with the extreme heat it has just been too hot. By the 5th sitting the sweat was rolling down my body and I was having trouble breathing.
I am always surprised that I've never seen anyone hurl a cushion across the shrine room and stomp out. That's the kind of stuff my students do when they're frustrated and I feel like doing it all the time. Grown ups really have a lot of self control.

Sometimes Lama Chuck will do a dharma talk during retreat, but yesterday it was all meditation. Sitting and walking. After 3 sessions of sitting and 4 sessions of walking, I was walking by a window and "accidentally" gazed outside. I saw a car driving down the street, and then another, and then a bird flew by, and then someone honked. It was the most beautiful thing I could remember seeing in a long time. As I returned to my cushion, my mind went to Ramona. I saw her face in my mind and tears came to my eyes at the preciousness of her. I marveled at how after just three hours of meditation, after just three hours of not being at the mercy of my constant flow of thought, worry, and fear, the world seemed so fresh and so very beautiful. Can you imagine how precious you would find your family after a weekend retreat? How miraculous shopping for groceries among your fellow neighbors would feel after a week long retreat? Lama Chuck says that going on retreat is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. I believe it.

As I walked out of the Rime center yesterday I felt gratitude. Sometimes I feel lost because I haven't found the perfect teacher, the perfect Sanga, the perfect place to retreat. But yesterday, I felt simple gratitude for having a place to practice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

back to school night

I remember thinking in 6th grade how much I hated the first week of school. I remember very clearly telling myself that in just a few weeks it would all feel like old hat. That pretty soon I would have my schedule memorized and I would have a rhythm to my day. I have always really struggled with transitions.
Tomorrow is my first day back to work after my two month vacation with Ramona. I had a very nice time with the girl who isn't really a baby anymore. I also had a tough time with my new role. Brian and I have a hard time when I'm home for the summer. We struggle with who should be doing what and that breeds animosity.
I am feeling a lot of anxiety this evening, because as relieved as I am to be going back to work, I also feel nervous that I don't really belong there either. I should have done some lesson planning and professional reading. I feel like all of my fellow teachers are really fired up, and I am lacking the ability to feel any of their excitement.
So, I feel like I don't belong anywhere....but my bed, with the covers pulled up over my head.
The 6th grade Nova is telling me to hang on. Give it a couple of weeks and it will all be old hat again....

Friday, July 30, 2010

happy birthday,blog

Ramona and Her Mother is a year old.
I have no ambition for this blog, but I am happy to write and I'm proud to be getting better. It pleases me to have readers.

In the beginning, it was the best I could do to get a couple ok posts out a week. Sometimes I can't even do that. But, the thing about practice is that it is the only thing that will fix us. After a year of writing, I'm a writer. I have returned to the practice of keeping a daily journal. I write every day. I keep notes on my family and on my heart.

from my journal:
There is a lot more to me. But, aren't I hoping for there to be a lot less?

When I hold a pencil in my hand, these little thoughts rise to the top, a poem peeks from the margins. I've spent pages and pages trying to separate truth from myth.
I feel like it's very important for me to have unpublished writing again. To have a place unpolished.
I hope this time next year I have another 100 posts to re-read. Because, honestly, I'm this blog's biggest fan.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

she speaks!

I'm going back to work next week. In the span of two months I have, like always, completely forgotten about my previous life. The life of a teacher. The life of a working mom.

I'm here to tell you, this stay at home mom business is not cake. This is real work! First of all, the job is never over. Second, every day is pretty much like the next. I get this serious case of the blues around 3 o'clock. It happens every day.

But, there are amazing things about this job. You get to watch your daughter grow! You get to be stuck like glue to her and be her most important person. It is lucky to be with Ramona right now, because she is growing and changing so much.

She has hair! And a little attitude and all kinds of goofy facial expressions. And she talks! For posterity, I'm going to tell you some of her best words.

Hi! (This is way cute. She says this when she's doing something naughty and has been caught. Also, to be used at the bank when she needs everyone to become her friend.)

Bubbles (This is probably her best real word. She says the entire thing and says it when she sees or wants bubbles.)

Mama (This is only to be used either when mama isn't around, or when she is repeating it like a parrot for mama. I was harassing her so bad to say mama one day that I said "Ramona?!" and she answered back in a tired, bored way "mama".)


Shoes (this sounds like Shoo!)

Outside (Sigh!)

Sophie (So! She says this to mean any dog and also this is what she thinks a bark sounds like.)

Happy (I know, strange word. It started out like a nonsense word *yobby* and we helped her turn it into happy. If anyone says anything about being happy, she will repeat it over and over again.)

Note that I put exclamation points at the end of the stuff she says? Well, she is just that kind of girl.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

my first Saturn Return

I declare the reverie complete. I allowed the letters and pictures to tumble out of the boxes. I sifted and sorted, did a lot of throwing out and airing out. Now the artifacts of my past are neatly stacked and sitting in the deepest closet under my stairs.

Why all of this? Well, I'm experiencing my first Saturn Return. I'm turning 30 in a few weeks. I won't have time to ponder it all later, because it will be the start of school.
I have time now.

Of all the things I came across in my reverie, the artifact that moved me the most was a project I did for psychology class during my senior year. It was a large goal setting/life inventory project. You know what my major long term goals were?
1. To be a librarian.
2. To be a mother.

Isn't that just the darndest thing? Honestly, I swear to you that I stumbled into both of these things. These were the things I became almost by accident, by luck. They were the things that came easy. I did not spend very much time lamenting or worrying about becoming either. Sure, I did stuff so the path could align. I got pregnant on purpose, I applied for the job I have now. But, these things came easily. Everything else was incredibly hard.
So, should I do it again? Set another two goals, secret goals, and put them at the bottom of my side table drawer. Do I look at them again once I am 60?

I feel like, for me, goals are a thing of the past. My greatest hope is to have a stable mind, to see the world as it really is, to ease the suffering of others, to pay attention. This is what I work for right now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

college poem

I loved college so much. I did a lot of pinning and made a lot of very questionable choices. I also wrote this poem:

Tri Sigma

On this day, even very old I be
they've been there and they've frightened
but in my divided time
in that baptized blue Olympiad,
my likeness has been absorbed,
and at once a member
of which I have never been before.

(I have to tell you, this poem is about liking the sorority girls in my water aerobics class. Cute, huh?)

love poems

There is nothing more deranged than a teenage girl. During this drawn out reverie, my mind keeps coming back to Ramona. My baby who is a girl. Someday I'm going to slap my hand to my face and say, "what the hell is wrong with that girl?".
I just hope she never discovers Sylvia Plath.

So, in honor of that. In honor of being sick with love and very young; some love poems that are only slightly deranged:

coming clean

On a clear day you come pretty clean
and I can see you for miles.
Going north
I found tides of you
and boats white with destination.

I've found you
and you are lost again,
you do this easier with the cold.
I bought a big coat
to not think of you, it is not of you
that I teach school; I've buried myself
with books of penmanship, I can hide
from you while grading,
grading him, grading math.

But only on clear days
your house stands white.
And your brown smokestack
navigates me,
knows that I step on snowy steps,
on broken boxes to look deeply into you.
This morning, found
and found to be lost again,
I found a great land in your
deep wide steps.

you love others

You love others
and this drops me into a deep draining pit,
my neck is gone,
my toes went long ago.
Water stole my face and my name,
and it can not matter because you might be in love.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

more "uncollected" works

I wrote this when I was about 19. I shared it with my dad because I had a desperate need to communicate to him how worried I was for him. How sad I was that he and my mom had separated. I gave him several poems, and then left him alone to ponder what the hell I was about. Then a week or so later, during dinner, the stack of papers came out of his pocket. Along with his reading glasses. And we really talked about what I had written. This conversation made me feel heard as an author and as a daughter.

I apologize for the violence in this poem. It was reality for me at the time.

traditional hanging

It is sick and unnecessary
but I am always scared to open
closed doors in our home
because I fear I would see
your body hanging,
hanging on the last thread of the house,
hanging mute with mistake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

reverie week - short story

This is a very short story I wrote during a really hellacious breakup during the early 2000's. I had a nice boyfriend in high school. But, eventually it was just time to move on. For both of us. Nothing has ever broken my heart in quite the same way and honestly, I'm still not over losing that friendship.
This is a breakup story. Plain and simple.



You can haunt the halls, but you can't ask me to make you feel at home.
- Liz Phair

I've always liked the idea of the young widow. The tight lips and the extreme lack of sun in the skin. I've always liked the idea of forced mourning. Wearing black for a prescribed amount of time. To be grieving a boyfriend is entirely different. You feel like you should be drinking a malt with his letter jacket around your shoulders. I knew a girl in high school who made t-shirts to honor her boyfriend when he died in a car wreck. Really, you just have to keep quiet and pretend that it wasn't all that serious.

But the truth is, we felt pretty serious, and it's been months and I'm still not okay. During lunches with friends I sit nervously in my chair, because I'm waiting for the inevitable sentence to drop, "I know this great guy, and you really deserve to be happy."

I feel pretty crazy lately. See, he's a ghost in my house. I'm not speaking of a listening to sad records and drinking wine haunting. I'm speaking of the real thing. At first it was the mirror sightings. I'd be plucking my brows and I'd see the zipper of his backpack darting through the door. Then he began hiding things. Normally I loose stuff,but this paired with the zipper gave me the idea that I was in a scary movie.

I've never been a brave person, but I handled it well in the beginning. I slept with the lights on, but I stayed home more than ever. When I was little I devised a plan that I would go hang out at the mall if I ever experienced a ghost invasion. But, when it first started, I stayed in as much as I could, because I didn't want to miss what he would do next.
We never lived together when he was alive. I never felt comfortable bringing it up because he was very afraid of being stuck in an apartment with me forever. Now I realize that he was smarter in life than in death. We were not meant to live so close. I'm a lot less full of love now and we don't even talk. I feel like the sister of a deaf kid, always interpreting what he wants. "My Ghost needs more room on the couch" or "I'm sorry, you can't come home with me because My Ghost likes to watch "Seinfeld" and he needs to be alone when he does that". I've moved my belongings, because he needs so much room. I miss having the place to myself, I liked it better when I was just sad and wished we were still together. Sometimes it's less like a fun joke and it gets prickly. The lines of reality get really light and for a few hours I can't move from my chair by the door.

This morning I woke up and read two People magazines. Finding this totally satisfying I went back to bed for an afternoon nap. Now I'm laying here trying not to hear him turning the pages of my magazine beside me on the floor. He gives each page one minute, and then swish, on to the next. His human laugh of disdain is nothing compared to his ghostly one. Full of knowledge of the beyond, and now totally sick of me. I could handle the midnight clangings, but the mockery is just too much for me.

After the magazine thing I was so pissed that I went to the mall. I've always really admired the way crazy people talk to strangers and report on the things that are bothering them. Inside the Gap I am joined at the sale rack by a woman who looks quite understanding. I have not really gotten to the point where I can do truly insane things, so I don't tell her about the ghost in my apartment. But it is tempting to turn to her and say, "hey, you know how sometimes you have a really terrible break-up and it hurts so bad if feels like someone has died?".

But, I didn't tell her. I did not tell her about how my ex-boyfriend could be in two places at once. At the same time he was in my apartment looking for the extra syrup, he was also across town playing video games with his new girlfriend. I didn't tell her, "My boyfriend isn't dead, he just doesn't want to be with me anymore. I think I'm going nuts."

I look slim in black, so I keep wearing it even though I'm trying not to indulge in the whole mourning thing. I'm keeping the lights blazing, and I'm not letting myself see him dead in my bathroom anymore. It wasn't really all that crazy, it was just something that got away from me and ran far and fast.

deep cleaning and reverie

The show Hoarders, the mountains of old baby stuff, and the fact that I never properly moved into this house has led me to a massive reorganization of all closets. It's also probably because I "work from home" right now. If you stare at the stuff long enough, you want to do something about it.

So, I've been emptying closets and bins, boxing up old books and clothes for Goodwill and we have made some major progress. I'm a get rid of stuff person. I've been working on Brian all week to do the same. It's been a slow process; we both have countless boxes of love notes and old journals, mix tapes, and weird collections of small, strange trinkets.

This big house project has inspired another project. I declare the rest of this week, Nova Retro Week. This means that I will be airing out my old boxes. I will be slapping up some unpublished works of Nova. Some very old, pre-Internet publishing stuff that has had me in reverie all week. It's not good stuff! But it's young and sweet and sad. So, if you want to skip reading for the rest of this week, I will understand.

My first act of retro week will be to put up an entire short story, so you were warned.

Monday, July 12, 2010

retreat number 2

You know what attachment is? It's going to a meditation retreat and being pissed because they aren't running it "right". I wasn't going to write about this. Mostly because I thought it would be me tattling about the bad behavior of others. Now that I realize it's my own bad behavior it's open season.

I've been going to little summer half day meditation retreats. These are small things, just three hours. They have been like little life rafts for me this summer. Small places of refuge every month.

Something has happened to me recently. I've lost my beginner's heart. The retreat wasn't run the way I prefer. The teacher said things with which I disagreed. It didn't fit with my beliefs about retreats and the purpose of meditation. And I was actually pissed. I pouted instead of meditating on the last sitting!

I was right. I really was. Meditation should be done sitting on a cushion or sitting in a chair. We don't meditate laying down with our eyes closed, because we don't meditate to go to sleep, we meditate to wake up. I don't mediate to relax. I do it because it's the only way to put out the 20 foot flame atop my head.....

But I was wrong, because we meditate to see the world as it really is. We go to the retreat we are at, not the one thirty days ago, and not the one 10 years in the future.

I love how this life is practice. You know why I was angry? I was angry because I had not done my daily practice that week. I was counting on that retreat. I was greedy for it, because I was counting on it. Do not waste my time, I'm a harassed wife and mother, I don't have time to do anything but my practice at this retreat.

Being blessed with a great retreat is good karma riping. I should have done my daily practice all week. Expectation is attachment, and it's what causes our suffering.
How do you keep a beginner's heart? How do I get mine back?

(on a side note: this was my 100th post. Was it worth the wait?)

Friday, July 9, 2010

the old college try

Yesterday, Brian and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary.
Brian was in the third grade class next door to mine. He was the first boy I ever kissed. He is the person that held my hand tightly when I gave birth to our daughter. I can't hide a thing from him. That's why I married him.

He was also the first boy who ever gave me a gift. A cassette tape of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This was in eighth grade, when he was just a friend. He was a sweet and unassuming boy, kind and smart. The perfect catch for a geeky girl like me. Brian was my first kiss. But these things don't last, thank goodness.

About 6 months before I graduated college, I put it all on the line. I had been pinning for an absolutely ridiculous and make-believe love affair. It ended, leaving me a mess. Brian was suddenly there. We drove around in his car, late at night, with friends. We sat in his cul-de-sac talking. He adopted me. He brought a sad, friendless girl into his life of friends and good times.

I remember telling a friend, "okay, here's the thing. I want Brian to be my best friend. And I don't want him to be friends with anyone else, oh, and I would like to kiss him". I deduced that it was turning into a crush. We started making out at parties, but kept flaking out on turning it into something. Then Brian said the words that meant more than his wedding proposal several years down the line.

He said,"hey, let's just give it the old college try".

Let's try. He had me. I wasn't afraid to try. I was afraid of everything else. But I wasn't afraid to try.

We still try. Through everything, we are still just giving it a try.

Monday, July 5, 2010

buying a car and two other things

I've been quiet on the blog and also twitter because my car broke down beyond repair and then we started looking for a new car.

I hate to be all woe about a car, so if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.....
Anyway, I don't like the idea of spending a lot of money on a car. I also don't like to get all caught up in letting a car (or any purchase) symbolize who I think I am. Also, I don't like to be extravagant. All of this makes me just hate the process of buying a car. However, I am coming out of hiding and am shopping for a new car. Hopefully a car with a big enough backseat for diaper changing.

Hey, two more things:
I noticed today that Ramona's fingers are getting long and slender. Like a little girl.

Second, I finished Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, which I read on request of a friend. I love how sometimes reading a friend's favorite book can give you a glimpse into their heart.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I stayed up until 12:30 last night reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I know, I was complaining a few posts ago how tired of this series I was. But the last two books were so great. I would even say they were close to Harry Potter.

Here's the thing. It was very romantic. Riordan was able to convey the stupid/incredibly sweet way that 16 year olds intimate their romantic feelings perfectly. I was actually a little giddy. It was enough to make me kind of understand all that Twilight business.

Brian just thought I was plain old weird.

I just put up my next two books. Both of which are grown-up books. I hope my brain can handle it.

On another note, I talked to the other moms at baby music class today. It's like the 4th week and the only people that interact are the kids. Weird. Anyway, today I made some mom type friends and we asked each other panicky mom type questions. Ahhh....bonding.

Monday, June 28, 2010

last night

Last night we walked to a small park in our neighborhood. Climbing up the slide, walking over the poles, running on the bouncy turf. As the sun set lower and the breeze came in, we all owned the world. Well, we owned the playground.

On the way home, Ramona rested, Brian and I chatted about the houses in the neighborhood and what we think of the world. As we neared home, I noticed that Ramona wasn't really awake, nor asleep, just some place in between. I commented on this to her dad. Brian said, "remember when you were little, listening to your parents talking quietly, and it was so comforting..."

In our yard, I held Ramona. She's not usually very affectionate. We show our love mostly by letting her be, she shows her's by letting herself be caught from time to time. But not this time, in this moment. She put her arms around my neck, and placed her open mouth to my cheek. A kiss and a hug. A miraculous show of affection from my very bright and busy daughter. Said in utter wonder and love by Brian, "oh, she loves you".

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


When I was little, my grandma taught me Solitaire. I liked playing by myself, but it brought out a secret competition that I normally didn't have when playing games with other people. I really, really wanted to win. It drove me nuts when I would see a card I needed, but not be able to grab it. I asked my grandma, "is it ok if I just take that card anyway?"
She said, "Nova, who are you playing against?" And left it at that. She really had nothing else to say and had moved onto something in the kitchen.
So, sometimes I grabbed a card I wanted. Most of the time I didn't. But I always knew who I was playing against.

I haven't thought of Solitaire or this 19 year old conversation in a long time, but it popped into my head last night. Last night on the cushion. I was sitting very sweetly, but doing a horrible job of not following my thoughts around by the nose. It's just that I kept thinking of so many lovely, fun things.
I thought to myself, "so what, so I sit and indulge a little. I want to be thinking about these things. At least I'm sitting! At least I look like I'm being attentive".

That's when it happened. That's when the voice of wisdom traveled 200 miles straight to my heart. "Nova, who are you playing against?"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

book talk - The Georges and the Jewels

Remember when I said I was taking a break? I wasn't planning on writing about books for the rest of the summer, but The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley was so neat I can't help myself.

Jane Smiley wrote an adult non-fiction book called 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. I didn't actually love the book, but I loved the list of 100 books that she read as a project while writing her book. I have read a lot of these books, and I turn to the list when I'm wanting to read something adult and need direction. She is kind of like the librarian's librarian.

So, I was happy to see that she had written a middle grade novel. And it's a horse book!

The story takes place on a ranch in California during the 70s. The main character is a 7th grade girl named Abby. She and her fundamentalist Christian family live on a ranch where they train and sell horses. Things have been tough for Abby because of some social problems at school and family problems at home. Her 16 year old brother has run away because of a disagreement with the father, so now Abby is up to her eyeballs in work training horses. Her father's business is built around the slogan "we sell horses that a little girl can ride", so it is up to Abby to do the lions share of the training.

This book had some problems.It almost feels like she should have spent a little more time on it. If I could ask Smiley one question it would be: what did you read to prepare yourself to write a middle grade novel? Can I recommend some books I would like for you to read before you try again? And yes, try again, please.

Here is what I loved:
I have no idea if Smiley is a Christian or if she set out to write a Christian book, but this is a beautiful example of a book that centers around faith. As soon as I saw that a fundamentalist Christan family was in the forefront of this book I panicked. I thought, oh god, it's going to be like Footloose. This is going to make Christians look bad and this book is going to piss people off.
It so didn't. The role God plays in the family's life is never rocked. Smiley shows this family realistically. She shows how strong and good the family is because of God's influence. As a teacher, I was touched by Abby's attempts to hide her school curriculum from her family. I came away with a stronger compassion for religious families who want to shelter their children from certain curriculum. And also a stronger compassion for students who want to shelter their parents from the school's judgement. As a public school librarian I was very nervous about religion being a major element of the story, but Smiley did a beautiful job. Despite some rough language, I would actually recommend this to my Christian students.

I also loved Abby. Oh, what a lovely and good character. Abby works harder than the average grown-up and I was charmed by her cowgirl attitude. Abby's big problem in the story is an unruly horse. Now that her brother is gone, she is expected to train all the horses, even the tough ones. A "horse whisper" type trainer comes to the ranch to help with the horse, and actually spends more time teaching Abby.

I tried what he'd taught me on Socks George and the two mares, but what he had taught me, even though I could remember a lot of the very words he had used, was like a refreshing fog that slowly lifted and wafted away. After awhile, I had no idea whether I was doing the right thing or not.

That passage was my favorite. Such an exact description of what it is like for a student to carry on after the teacher has left.

Like I said, not a perfect book. The trouble at school is weak. The situation with the brother is never cleared up. It's hard to know exactly what the main problem in the story is. But there was enough good about the book for it to hold up. I hope Smiley comes back to try again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

under toad

In high school, there was this book that my friends and I really liked, The World According to Garp by John Irving. Something from this book that has stayed with me was The Under Toad. In the story, it was a family inside joke. They would go to the beach and warn the kids, "look out for the under tow". The kids misheard and referred to it as "the under toad". Watch out for the under toad! For the father in the story, this was a phrase that highlighted his anxiety, anxiety specifically about mortality. Garp...realized that all these years Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore,waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.

This has been us. Life has been great on the surface, but I have felt the under toad hopping around underneath it all. A feeling of dread, of foreboding. Before I get into the toad, I would like to point out that in actuality the surface is all there is. The world as it really is. I wish I knew this in my heart like I do in my head.

Speaking of hearts, at Ramona's 9 month appointment her doctor heard a murmur. Then they heard it again at her 12 month appointment. Yesterday we went to the cardiologist.

I have felt a dark cloud hanging over my head since her 12 month appointment. The idea that she could be sick, seriously sick, had her dad and me very frightened. At first I wasn't too worried,we made the appointment to see a cardiologist and I neatly put it out of my head. Almost. But then I googled heart murmur and clicked on congenital heart defects, and then it was an all out avalanche of worry.

Yesterday, our cardiologist looked into my eyes and said "her heart is fine". I wanted to hug him. Her heart is fine. He said other things, other things about her heart. But more than anything, he wanted me to know her heart is fine.

More than any lesson I am learning, I am second by second seeing that the present is all there is. Her heart was always fine. Who knows what will and won't be fine in the future. Right now is all there is. And really, if we stop thinking, we will see that every moment really is and always has been fine.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


My first meditation retreat was today. So much drama, in such a quiet place. I am amazed to think my body looked quiet and still, despite the ruckus of my mind.

I have dedicated myself to having a daily practice. I have been sitting every day and have finally gotten my body to be still. Now, I'm free to see what a mess my mind is. I am reminded of Ramona, the way she walks over and over again to our TV to press the buttons and how I just bring her back. My mind is the same. I try to be as sweet to myself as I am to Ramona. Just bring it back, patiently and without anger.

Sometimes I do this ok and sometimes I don't. During one entire walking meditation I berated myself for my foot falling asleep. This has been a major issue with my meditation. One time, my leg fell asleep so bad it was just like having an epidural. It actually scared me so bad that I had a panic attack and ended up sick in the bathroom. Anyway, I thought I had solved this problem and it scared me that it had re-appeared. I shouted at myself for the next 10 minutes.

But, problems aside, when Lama Chuck said that going on meditation retreat is one of the kindest things we could do for ourselves, I agreed. I feel so wrapped up in my practice right now I actually laughed at the idea of myself participating in some form of exercise. "You want me to exercise! No way, I am way exhausted from meditation." So, obviously I need practice. Luckily there are two more this summer. Now, if only I could convince Brian and Ramona that I would be nicer to them if I could go on a real, multiple day retreat......