Friday, December 31, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Happy Christmas! War is Over! If you want it!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
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
Friday, November 12, 2010
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 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.
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
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
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.)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Just eat the noodle, drink the broth. Not even hungry. Just doing what a mouth does.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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
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
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
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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
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, babycenter.com 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 babycenter.com, 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 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
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
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.
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.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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.