Thursday, April 29, 2010

approaching one

When I was pregnant with Ramona I thought I wanted to nurse her. I didn't have a reason why. I'm not a person who gets up on the soapbox of natural, nutritious,'s just not my thing. I also don't really go for all the scientific study stuff about the benefits. (I know...I know, you're right, I'm wrong.....)
I just felt in my heart that I wanted to do it. It was simply that I wanted to experience that aspect of mothering.

When I brought Ramona home from the hospital I somehow forgot how to do it. I roamed around my house trying to find the perfect spot, but I just couldn't do it. I was panicked because I knew she should eat and she needed to make a wet diaper. It was late that first night and I was a mess. Then Brian saved me. He stopped me, grabbed my hand and said, "Nova, look at your baby. (She was sleeping sweetly in my arms) Does she look hungry or sick? Does she look like there is something wrong?" Those words, "Nova, look at your baby" echo in my ears still. He was right. She was fine. I eventually found the special spot and I sat down and proceeded to nurse her for 3 months straight.

My heart is grieving a little bit, because this special aspect of my relationship with my daughter is coming to an end. I keep telling myself that she will always be my baby. That I will find new ways to comfort her. I'm still a little sad to see the time pass.

Friday, April 23, 2010

getting older

Yesterday morning I was getting my teeth cleaned, and the dental hygienist happily chirped:

I saw your birthday on your chart. I noticed that you're turning 30 this year!

She had her tools and stuff in my mouth at the time, so I wasn't able to speak. My first instinct was to correct her, "No ma'am, I am not going to be thirty!". Seriously, I think we should all walk around with fingers and tools in our mouths all the time, so our brains have some time to think before we speak. See, I AM going to be thirty this year. Actually, in just a few months.

At that moment, 30 sounded shocking to me. It sounded grown up. I didn't disagree with her because I didn't want to be thirty, I disagreed because I just found it unbelievable.

I'm not the only person who is getting older. Ramona will turn one in exactly one week. ONE. Prepare yourself for a deluge of posts about this girl's birth and birthday and birthday party. I'm realizing that your own personal birthday is just a day to get older. But for your mother it is an event, it is the day the biggest thing ever happened. It is a day to remember.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

the buddha

I finally got around to watching the PBS documentary on The Buddha. It was simply the story of the historical Buddha and I felt so refreshed by it.

Most of the readers of this blog are Christian and don't know the story, so, for you I'm going to stumble through the telling of the life of the Buddha. I'm going to do the best I can.

Siddhartha was born a prince. He lived a sheltered life with great pleasure and riches until he was 29. On a trip outside his palace he saw suffering and death. He was so disturbed by the suffering he saw. A question formed in his mind, How can we live with so much suffering and change? In order to answer this question, he left his palace, wife, and baby to become an ascetic.

During his six years of asceticism he tried to reach enlightenment by torturing the human desire out of his body and mind. He was trying to answer the question of suffering and gain enlightenment. During this time, he ate one grain of rice a day, he ceaselessly meditated. He became a living skeleton, but he got no closer to the answer.

After six years, he stopped. He thought of the happiest he had ever been. His mind went to the quiet repose of a childhood memory. He decided that fasting was killing him and that he needed to live as a human. A young girl offered him rice pudding that he ate. He was then so nourished by the rice that he sat under the Bodhi tree and began his meditation. It was then that he became the awakened one. He achieved enlightenment on his own, he found the answers he needed from within. He saw the world as it was. His desire did not go away, but he lived in the balance of equanimity. The good and bad, the right and left, it all fell away. He then left the Bodhi tree and began his teachings. He lived into his 80s teaching the Dharma.


Simple. No magic. Just an ordinary man, waking up.

I am so moved by the thought of Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, seeing the world as it really is. It fills me with joy to know that this is our work. To pay attention without judgment. To see each moment as it really is. That's all it is. This is not an easy thing, but it's not complicated either.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book chat - Hand Wash Cold

I read Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller when I was pregnant. I have read it again and again since. I know the thing by heart. As I would sit in the dark, nursing and rocking, gripped with anxiety and fear, I would pull the book out of my rocking chair and read. Those words were a life jacket for me. The love in them kept me afloat. A simple book kept my postpartum depression at bay.

I have been looking forward to Maezen's new book, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life for months. But, not really. I loved Momma Zen. How on earth could she do any better than that? I was afraid I would not like the book at all.

It came in the mail about two weeks ago, and I read it up fast. Too fast. So, I read it again. Momma Zen cradled my heart. Hand Wash Cold spoke right into my bones. It's not about being a mom or a wife. It's about being you.

I don't want to review this book. I want to write every word right here on this blog for you to read. I want to sit around and read it to you, and nod and smile with you.

Here is my favorite thing about this book : Karen Maezen Miller lives in the oldest private Japanese garden in southern California. She lives in a Zen garden and I don't, and that has changed my life. My husband says "Well, that's pretty fancy. It's easy to be Zen if you live in a Zen garden". "It's easy to think laundry is cool if you used to have someone doing your laundry for you." (I bet my husband and Maezen's husband would get along really well.)

But, when he said this to me, it clicked. Everything she said clicked. My life is what it is. My practice is not anyone else's. It's my job to do what is at hand, for me. My practice is to love what I have in front of me. And what else is there?

This book is magic. Ordinary magic.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"it's actually kind of meditative"

I've recently begun doing a task in the library that I previously thought was below me.

I absolutely hate shelving books. Especially non-fiction, but really especially all the books. I am rare as far as librarians go, because I'm not hugely in love with books. I love stories, words and characters, but I am not in any way attached to "books". I do not romanticize books. Books are heavy things that you have to pack when you move. Books are things that you have to dust and shelve.

This stubborn stance has wrecked havoc on my library. Last year I had a volunteer that came in to shelve for me, but I wore her out. (She was old, ok.) This year began with no one to help. I have an assistant, but that poor, wonderful woman has her job cut out just keeping me in line. She has as little time to shelve books as I do. But when they would pile up into massive, train wreck heaps, she would give in and spend the day shelving.

Not me. I have important lessons to teach. I have a budget to spend and manage. I am a person of advanced degrees. I am above shelving.

But then, a miracle! I was bestowed the gift of a new volunteer. (He's old, but not as old.) As I set about the task of training him I soon discovered that he hadn't thought he would be shelving books. He thought he would help in more meaningful and important ways, but he seemed agreeable to doing what I wanted him to do. And to soften the blow, this little bit of "wisdom" snuck out of my mouth:

"Oh, shelving books isn't so bad. You will find that it's actually kind of meditative."

uh,oh. Did I say that? Did I actually call shelving books meditative? A job that I refuse to do!

So, because of my little verbal outburst of truth I put aside my "real work" and began to help the help. I have been shelving a little bit every day. It never ends. Just as I put the last one on the shelf, a child scurries in and throws another one across my desk.

My library has never looked neater and I feel like I know my collection better than I ever have before. These are extras. Little rewards that come from thankless work. Thankless meditative work.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

lovely road trip

This weekend my mom and I took Ramona on a road trip to see my grandparents.

It was lovely. She was sweet and it made up for the fact that we hadn't been there since Thanksgiving. (Not really, but better late than never.)

Ramona is a pretty good sleeper. Not the best, but not the worst. She has to be left to fuss a bit sometimes, but she usually finds a way to make it happen. All of this goes out the window when we leave town.

Last night was no exception, and quite honestly, it was The Hardest Night Ever. As the mother of an almost one year old, I have become spoiled. Gone are the nights of wondering if you will be lucky enough to sleep. For the most part, she goes to bed like cake and sleeps all night. If all else fails, I can always just give up and let her cry. She's old enough to know that I'm really devoted to her, but sometimes Mom just isn't going to take it anymore.

But I just don't have the nerves or conviction to take this approach when I'm away from our home. So last night I struggled to get her to sleep. I swear, it took hours. At one point she was actually jumping on the bed. I called her dad so he could talk some sense into her. Now it seems funny, but at the time it felt so dire. When your child won't sleep, it feels like they may never sleep again. You make declarations in your head like, "We are never coming back" and "I will NEVER have a second child".

After she finally gave in, I still kept an all night vigil. Last night every little whimper and cough woke me up. I was relived when the night was over and I could give up the pretense of sleep.

I called last night The Hardest Night Ever, but I know better. I really do. We have hard days and hard nights all the time. We move on from them, we give up the pretense. We move on and sleepily enjoy the day. It's lovely. It really is.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

sick baby - again

Ramona has been sick, so I stayed home with her on Wednesday.

Then on Thursday, she just didn't seem right to me. Not horrible sick, but not her bouncy self. So, I let go and let Grandad. I called my dad and let him watch her for the day. Ask around, I called that man non-stop. He did great and I got a happy, much healthier baby back.

Ramona and I are lucky. I'm lucky to have someone in my life who doesn't have much going on and can drop everything at a moments notice to rush in and take care of us. I find it really easy to overlook anything that happened in the past, these days. I'm finding that my heart is more forgiving. It has to be. The lucky thing about being at the brink all the time is that you grab a hand. You are lucky enough to not have to be so choosy anymore.

I'm tired of choosing. And I'm tired of judgment. I'm ready to grab hands.