Friday, December 9, 2011

war is over

The morning after Occupy Los Angeles was cleared out I sat at the table with Brian, ranting with my loud and revolutionary heart. Somehow, things spill out of my mouth, as they have before, things filled with violence. I say things, angry things. People should be afraid to make that much money, I say. I know this is a threat.

On the radio, Happy X-mas (War is Over) plays. I pick up my little girl, I rock her and I cry. Because it isn't a civil war I am wanting. The anger is wetted by my sadness. I look at my breakfast, I look down at my daughter's head. I feel how complex the whole thing can be. I feel sad and scared. I feel mad and stolen from. I feel like fighting. I feel like making peace. Mostly I just feel bad and I cry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

toddler gift guide

I asked Ramona a few days ago what she would like to get her dad for Christmas. I wasn't really expecting a real answer, but she told me she wanted to get him a toy. When I asked her what kind of toy, she said, "A flashlight!" I was amazed. Yeah! He would like a flashlight! Suddenly I realized I am off the hook on picking out gifts. I ask Ramona, she picks out something wacky and then we are done.

We are getting my dad Play-doh. He will love it.

A good friend of mine is celebrating a birthday today. This morning I asked Ramona what we should get her and quickly she came up with Christmas lights. Perfect!

Ramona is a gift giving savant. You have all been forewarned.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the lighter side of very good news

A conversation between Ramona and her Mother:

Me: "Ramona, would you like a brother or a sister?"

Ramona: "Mama, I already have a brother. My brother Sophie."

Sophie is our dog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

once and again

I was pregnant once. And then it went away, because it wasn't really there. I lost it in an afternoon. In a moment of across the great beyond knowledge I confessed to a friend, I'm holding onto this thing with everything I've got. I knew I guess, because a few hours later it began. I stood up from my desk and took myself home.

In the car I heard a song on the radio. This is all I remember. I remember that it was loud and I wanted to fill my ears up with it because I was losing something and I knew it.

One song turned into another, Personal Jesus performed by Mr. Johnny Cash, which only confirms for me that Johnny and God have close personal ties. This song served to remind me that I'm only the next in a long line of humans to have it given and taken away from.

Accepting the loss of that pregnancy was a strange kind of bliss for me. I'm holding onto this thing with everything I've got. I really was. And to just surrender was a relief. Of course, I stumbled with disbelief and hope, but by evening I knew it was going away and I just exhaled the rest of the way with it.

Now, I am next in the line to be given something. I am pregnant with my second child once again. I have been more afraid this time. I hesitated to tell anyone. Sometimes I am so afraid of the open wild possibilities of our lives. When I close my eyes I see the baby inside me floating in space. I have not wrapped my heart around this thing yet. But I will.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

open door

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still. - From the poem Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot

I have a full heart of things to share. But I'm not ready. Closer...closer...not quite there.

Ramona asked if I could please not close her door at night. Please don't close my door, mama. If you close my door, I will cry in my bed. These little things are a clue to me she is growing older. These little movements of fear and control. So, she sleeps with her door open and it's fine.

She sits on my lap while I rock her and I notice how her back is so long. I think about how big she will get.

The door is open. Ramona's door. My door. Things can breeze by us. We are missing things. We are catching things. We care. We do not care.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I've got a bird that sings

You start singing in the night, because you need to hear your own voice. You sing to your baby the songs you know. You change words, you forget words. Then you just keep singing these little songs you think you made up yourself.

Ramona, Ramona where you been so long?

Ramona, Ramona girl, where you been so long?

I been worrying about you, babyBaby, please come home

I've got a bird that whistles

I've got a bird that sings

I've got a bird that whistles

I've got a bird that sings

But if I ain’ got Ramona

Life don’t mean a thing

One night, after singing this silly little song for two years, Ramona interrupts. "Mama, I am home." I start to laugh and she laughs too. She says, "sing Ramona song" and her little mouth opens and she sings to me in a scratchy, squeaky baby voice. I been worrying about you baby, baby please come home.

And we sing together. And the sound of her sweet out of tune voice, it makes me laugh and cry. I'm smiling so hard I can hardly form words. We sing at each other's faces. And it's moments like this, I don't want to change her. Or teach her. I don't want to worry about her. Or plan for her. I just want to sing with her and never, ever doubt her.

Monday, September 12, 2011

into the morning

Today as we were getting ready for school, Ramona decided to eat a plum. She watched me throw it into my lunch bag and requested one for herself. I handed her a plum, wondering what she would do. She bit into it. Not like a baby eats. She bit into it like a person who knows their way around a plum. She ate the whole thing, smiling, laughing through every bite.

When I drop her off at her school in the morning, I open the gate to the yard and she runs in. I call her back for a kiss and a hug. And then she's gone. Into the cool morning air, she runs. I wave at the other kids. Because mine is long gone.

This afternoon, I ate my own plum. It was so sour and cold. I thought of her the whole time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

happy heart

I went on retreat yesterday morning.

The monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery were visiting and led our half day retreat. There was only a small amount of meditation practice, but we were fortunate to be able to receive teachings on meditation, the life of the Buddha, and The Four Noble Truths.

I needed my attention brought back to Buddhism. Lately I've been feeling terrible. Crazy, and in need of help.

As I sat and listened to the loud horns, the clanging bells, I surrendered. I push away Tibetan Buddhism because of its mysticism. Its talk of ghosts and the ceremony that means nothing to the western me. But as the horn blasted into my ears, the ghost in me was moved away. The cobwebs cleared. And I just listened. And I sat.

There are ghosts all around me. Hungry ones. Ghosts that make it impossible for me to see the world as it really is. Ghosts that take me away from the ones I love. Ghosts that fill my heart with panic.

Yesterday, I was blessed to sit on a cushion in the heat. Fortunate that the path led me to retreat, where I sat in the heat to listen to a Tibetan monk teach the simple and confusing Dharma. Fortunate that the horn and prayers swept my thoughts away and I was left sitting. Sitting and listening.

This morning as I played with my daughter, we looked at each other in the mirror. She said, "whole family, Ramona and mama." Our cheeks pressed together, our smiles bright. And my smile matched hers. It matched in its reach, its happiness real and not manufactured.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

suffering, revisited

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. - From the poem One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop

Years ago, a dear friend lost her father. His death was a surprise and it was tragic. She came home to attend his funeral and pick up the pieces with her family.

And she went out to lunch with me. This friend and I were cut from the same cloth. Suffering rolls off of us. We laugh it off. We think it off. Masters of the art of avoidance. We sat in my car and howled at the hilarity of losing. We were in our early twenties. We were smart girls. We were angry, hard nosed little cynics.

I couldn't feel her suffering. I wouldn't. She didn't want me to,I told myself. We sat in my car, hard as little rocks.

I'm still a hard little rock. It makes me easier to love, I tell myself. Things can happen to me, and I will do you a favor by not expecting you to confront my suffering. We are all like this.

Life is suffering. It's the god's honest truth. I'd stare it in the face, with a softened heart, if I could. I would surrender to it, if I weren't so afraid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

so good to see you

The summer is over. Ramona and I had so many weeks together that I forgot what day it was and the only clothes that went into the washing machine were pajamas. Being a teacher is smart.

I didn't blog much, because I didn't have many good stories and what I could eek out, I saved. Not to pretend though, what I saved wasn't great.

This blog turned two a few weeks ago. I celebrated by not posting. And it's ok.

Yesterday was my first day back to work. When I returned home, Ramona hugged me and said, "oh mama, it's so good to see you." I'm not kidding. That's what she said.

I'm not scared anymore. Ramona and I are going to go out in the world with our arms open and our heads up. She's going to start school on Monday and I'm trusting the world to see my baby is a great, good girl.

Because after a first day back to work she tells me how good it is to see me. That. Welcome to the year, people. Hang on, because this one is going to be so great. However it happens there will be a story here and whether I am attached to my life going perfect or not, the truth in my heart is that if there's a story in here, I'm satisfied. This is the redemption part of my story.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

what I am is lost

If what I am is what's in me
then I'll stay strong, that's who I'll be
and I will always be the best me that I can be
there's only one me, I'll admit
have a dream, I'll follow it
It's up to me to try......

Here, watch this.

I watched it about 20 times tonight. Because it's August. And I've been in a slump. I can't write, can't practice, can't clean. But I can watch Sesame Street.
I'm going to get back to this. I swear. Because I keep getting Stronger.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

graduation day

I finished my paper. Today my professor said, congratulations on your excellent paper.

I beamed. Because it really is excellent that I finished it. And it proves to me that despite how difficult I am, my people will step in and pull me to the finish line. My people. My excellent people.
Ramona, Brian, Dr. Robins, Bambi, Daniel. My people.

Ramona: you never really cared whether I was there or not. Dad is just as good as mom, thank you for knowing that.

Brian: you are no hero. there is no magic here. you don't rush in to save me. you make me find my own way every time. you aren't living this life for me. you weren't put on this earth to make my dreams come true. you fought me over every moment I took. and that's the way it should be. I'd pick you out of every man on earth.

Dr. Robins: you taught me about being a great teacher. You never lowered your expectations, but also never hated me for failing. You offered no praise and in turn, no blame. When I came back, we just started where I was. This is teaching.

Bambi: you hounded me over this paper even when I had no intention of writing it. I wrote it to please you. I wrote it so we could be friends without you badgering me all the time. God's Honest Truth.

Daniel: you called me a Proust reading thesis writing bad-ass. Talking is not the same as writing, but I always did my best work after a good long talk. Everyone deserves a friend as wise as you.

I'm not going to "walk", there will be no party. It just took me too long and I'm ready to move on. This is it. Welcome to my graduation. Congratulations on your excellent paper, Nova Bradfield.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Well, I've been afraid of changing, 'cause I've built my life around you.

I've heard Landslide by Fleetwood Mac so often I can't really hear it anymore, but somehow this morning, I heard it as if for the first time.

And I heard it in my head as Ramona and I watered the plants. And I heard it as we walked around the neighborhood. As we ate our peanut butter sandwiches. And when she exclaimed how much she loved her milk and her blankie as we got ready for nap the song broke open and soaked me with meaning.

Well, I've been afraid of changing, 'cause I've built my life around you.

Ramona's going to preschool in August. And I'm scared. I'm scared she's too young and I've chosen wrong for her. I'm afraid she's a baby and they won't let her be a baby. I'm scared she won't be a baby anymore. I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid.

I'm afraid because I've built my life around you.

Want to hear the truth? The you is not my Ramona. The you is The Way I Know You To Be . The World As I Know It. My fear takes stupid twists and turns. It follows a logical line, until you see it's built of bull. The truth is that I've built my life around things being just as I know them to be.

You are nearing a change, just as I am. And we don't even have to let go, it will let go of us. The landslide will bring you down.
Good luck, My Friends. Woooosh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

quiet kingdom

Before bed, I quietly rocked Ramona. I stared at her. She stared at me. And then she pinched my t-shirt between her fingers, brought her hand to her mouth, and pretended to "eat" what she had plucked. And again and again. Her little mouth smacking, no smile. A serious endeavor, eating whatever off my shirt. Off my cheek. My shoulder.

I whisper quietly, mostly just move my lips, what are you doing? I am not incredulous, I just want to know. I get no response. But I see her small monkey face and she seems more baby than she has felt in months.

Perhaps she was a monkey, perhaps she was my monkey?

It's times like this, when I see all the past and the present mixed up. I see the moment, there, standing all alone. And it breaks my heart because it's beautiful. And it's slipped away. It's moved on to its next spot. And I really should just close my eyes and reopen them.

Since then I've turned that part of an e.e.cummings poem around in my head...I'll get it wrong maybe, but this is how I remember it....I do not know how you close and open, all I know is the blue of your eyes is deeper than all roses.....and I remember being a primate and sitting, relaxed in the shade, my sweet mysterious baby, miracle, eating fleas from my shaggy coat. And not thinking, not wondering, not weeping. A monkey mind.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

notes from the room

I'm into Oprah right now. I've been watching her network and reading old O magazines my mom has laying around. I'm a mess, maybe.

I have spent two weeks at home taking care of Ramona. I have rules. I have to eat breakfast and lunch, not too much coffee. And I have to at least clean up lunch during naptime. Then I read until I fall asleep. This is what I can accomplish for myself. I can eat two meals and wash a few dishes. A quick wipe with a washcloth. And then I am free to read and sleep.

But the waking hours of Ramona. Holding her hand. Coaxing, coaxing her to play my games. Change a diaper. Read a book. This is easy. I can do the things that would never land on a list. I can smile. I can pet her sweetheart head. I can do these things.

Oprah says, "Nova, you need a place to work. A desk. A place to focus your dreams!" So this morning Brian drug up an old crappy desk from the garage. I wiped it clean. I opened my computer, laid out an old list. And I began to peek inside. Inside the inbox. The lists. The plans. my heart.

I do this while watching out a window. Watching them play with the hose. I want to run out there and push all this off. Fall into the pace of the day. Fill a sippy cup, fix a shoe strap, change wet diaper, put the babydoll nigh-night. I will myself to not give into the pull of the day. I will myself to face the blog, face the research paper. Face the inbox.

Monday, June 6, 2011

remembering the rapture

I was "taking a break" from blogging during the rapture. Remember a few weeks ago when everyone was making all those rapture jokes?

I'm not going to lie. I was totally freaked out. I have anxiety issues that are set aflame very easily. I can't hear something even remotely scary without making it ten times scarier in the horror show studio of my head.

From time to time Christianity brushes by me in the dark. The day of the rapture, I thought, this is it, I'm going to hell. And then I had this strange reassuring thought, well....god will be down there with me. He didn't bring me into this world to abandon me now.

And anyway, hell will be a just fine place to practice Buddhism.

Friday, June 3, 2011

how hard is it?

The month of May is not for me. As usual, I got buried in work, birthdays, weddings, showers, graduations, illnesses, and I just zombie-walked through the whole thing.

Until yesterday, when I noticed it was June. When I noticed that the school year was over, that the schedule that never slowed down, suddenly stopped. Without a lot of hoping and counting down the days, the school year ended.

We said goodbye to our babysitter of two years. I said goodbye to some dear fifth grade readers. I said goodbye to a newly made friend. I said goodbye until my heart crashed to the ground, and I pulled over the car to sob. I mostly cried for me, I think. Because I have failed so much.

I failed Proust, I failed at 30 day yoga, I failed everything I tried. How hard is it? Can I try again? Can I just stop trying?

I'm not sure how to end this one. All I know is that it's June and I feel like if I could bake myself a cake, and lure my heart out into the open, I would apologize. I would say, "sorry for making this all so much harder than it really needs to be."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

this baby was a baby

When I taught first grade we read this little story every year, An Egg is an Egg by Nicki Weiss. It's a simple, repetitive story. Easy to read. But hard to read. Because, it's about change. This post is inspired by the writing of Nicki Weiss and by my little girl's birthday.

An egg is an egg until it hatches and then it is a chick.
Nothing stays the same
Everything can change.
My little girl is now two. One was easy. One felt like thank god she's one and sleeps through the night. Thank god that scary wonderful year is over. But two? Oh, two is different.
This baby was a baby until she grew
and now she is a girl.
How much longer is she a baby? Every morning I greet her, and she's new. Every afternoon, I reunite with a new lovely stranger. She grows in every second.
But you can always be a baby
You will always be my baby.
Two feels like please let me gather up your small hands in mine. Two feels like let's press every moment into a book before it leaves us forever. One felt like regaining my footing. Two has turned me into a weeping fool.
Some things stay the same
Some things never change.
I don't know that part yet. I don't know the part that doesn't change. I see you growing so fast and I see me trying not to miss a thing. I see me missing lots of things. But I love you. I love you, I love you.
Some things stay the same
Some things never change.

happy birthday, beautiful.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

one thing leads to another

I had a headache for a year.

It was about stress, anxiety, tension, and hunger. But mostly it was about pain and not taking care of myself. About a month ago, I went to a chiropractor. I know people are skeptical about this medical practice. I am too. But after two weeks, I didn't have a headache. And I felt my body waking up. I started to stretch. I felt the word heal in my heart.

Last year I tried to take a yoga class, but it didn't work. It was too hard to commit to a practice that pulled me away from my family for two hours every week. I need all of my practices to create peace and comfort, not tension. And I wasn't learning a daily yoga practice, I was just leaving my house to do yoga for an hour and then going home to the place where not-yoga happens.

So, I signed up for 30 days of yoga with Marianne Elliott. This is an online yoga sadhana (committed practice) that lasts for 30 days. She teaches through videos and e-mails. I really emphasize the word teaches. This isn't like following along with a yoga DVD that runs through the postures as fast as possible. The purpose of this teaching is that when you are done with the 30 day sadhana, you will be left with a daily practice. You can just do yoga, every day, before the baby gets up, before the day begins. Just get up, and do yoga in your quiet room. This is something I can do for myself, that doesn't require taking anything away from anyone in my family. This is a comfort.

My intention is to heal and my commitment is to try every day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

rain forest

Every summer, I would spend time with my cousins at my grandma's house. It was the best time I've ever had in my whole life. It was the joy of a week long sleepover, picking right up with best friends as if no time had passed at all, even though in fact, a year had passed.

Each summer we would go to the zoo and in particular the rain forest exhibit. I've been back since and it's pretty nice. But as a kid, to me it was not just an exhibit, it was The Rain Forest. And most importantly, it was a signpost in the large world of my childhood.

The summer I was ten, while visiting the rain forest with my cousins, I sat down on a bench and really noticed where I was. I remember clearly thinking, I am here. I will think of this all year and for the rest of my life, but right now, I am here.

Every once in awhile, I am able to notice that this life of ours, this short little burst, is a love affair.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"hold it" - my kid is cute

In the name of keeping this blog going while I finish up my paper, I am now going to tell Cute Kid Stories.

Ramona is pathologically fearful of loud noises. When she hears a loud noise outside she shouts, "elephants!" And these are not the friendly type elephants either. These are the kind that charge. She runs to me, grabs my leg and says, "it's okay".

She does these sweet little pat pats on my shoulder. She tells us "I yove you".

When she wants us to pick her up she says, "hold it".

A few weeks ago when we would ask her what her name was she would say, "mount". Now she includes what she is doing, like, "Monut eating yogurt!"

And she counts everything. two, nine, ten, eleven, eight. Today she diligently counted her peanut butter.

And in one week Monut will be two. (but she says she will be four, nine, ten, eleven, eight.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

the best moms of my generation

I might have blogger's block. I had hoped by now my paper would be done and I could get to the redemption part of my story. However, that is not the case and so I get scared every time I try to write. So, I'm going to just start throwing some small stories out there, because a blank blog hurts worse than a silly blog.

Small Story:

Conversation between Nova and Husband Brian this morning:

Nova: I'm like Allen Ginsberg. You know, like in Howl.
Brian: oh really.
Nova: Yes, all the best minds of my generations are being driven mad.
Brian: you mean, like, just yours?
Nova: Nope, everyone I know is really crazy right now. It's not just me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

nothing, right now

I grasp with two hands. Lately I grasp with the hands I don't even have yet. This is not a resolve to postpone the writing of this blog until I have my paper written. This is not a resolve to take vitamins. Be a better Buddhist. Take better care of my skin. Write my words in a small notebook at the bottom of my purse. Write a blog post that tells you what's in my heart and asks what's in yours. This is not my resignation. This is not a new plan to maximize my productivity. This is nothing. I am a poet with no poems.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the madeleine

Perhaps you have heard, I'm reading Proust's Rememberance of Things Past, Vol. 1 Swann's Way. Yesterday, I read about The Madeleine. The small shell shaped cake that had the power to evoke a flood of memories.

This is the most famous "thing" in literature. Little Marcel sits down to tea with his mother and takes a small bite of tea soaked madeleine....

"but at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with the cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening inside of me."

Then he tries to hold onto this fleeting memory. This powerful, joyful thing.

I wish I had not known about the madeleine. I wish I could have tasted it for myself.

Friday, March 25, 2011

that's my heart in there

I've been writing a lot. But not on this blog. What I have been doing is finishing my thesis, for real. It went from being an impossible burden, to a list of things I'm crossing off one at a time. Sometimes I look at what I've written and it's strange to see nothing of myself on that page. Even if I squint, I can't see myself in there. I wonder if it is possible to put your heart into academic writing?

See this picture? This is me, in front of the library at my University at the start of my graduate program.
I love this girl. This non-mother person. This hard working, small dreaming girl.

I'm not that girl anymore. I have huge dreams. I have so much counting on me. But still, I can write a poem. And then another. I'm going to write a book. A text message. A letter. I'm going to write the thing that makes your heart sing, yearn, hurt, take refuge. I'm going to make you feel more like yourself. Because see, I'm writing my favorite story. And so are you. Get out a pencil, see if you aren't.

It is all wide open now. Let's wash a floor. Let's make some art. Let's make some heads shake.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

union maid

You know what's a bad idea? Taking this sweet blog about my baby and my spirit, and writing about politics. But I write this because watching Wisconsin this week has reminded me that I was taught to be a political activist. My parents were serious union people during the 80s and 90s. I know what to sing at a political demonstration.

My dad worked as an unskilled laborer my whole childhood and was paid a living wage because it was a union job. I was able to go to a state university and get a good job as a teacher. It's easier to raise your children well if you make a living wage.

Poverty is what's wrong with America's schools. My students live in poverty. I have sad stories.

You know what's not poor? The way we feel about our students. Honestly, I think my co-workers are catty bitches, but they are competitive and proud. The teachers at my school care about their kids and care about teaching well. We want to do well, because we want our kids to learn.

I have no idea who these bad teachers are that everyone talks about. They don't work at my school. Oh sure, I've seen bad teachers. But they don't last. This job is too horrible to endure if you do it badly. Did you know that half of all teachers don't make it to their fifth year? It's an unforgiving profession. If you aren't good at it, you cry every night until you either get good or you quit.

Merit pay? You can't afford us.

There is a bill being considered in Missouri that would recall all teacher tenure. My union will fight it. Teachers will fight it. I doubt we do a proper job explaining why we think it's important. It's pretty clear to me that this is about money. This isn't about getting rid of bad teachers. This is about making it easier to cut positions. This is about making class size huge. It's about shortchanging your child of their American right to the best education in the world (challenge me on that one....I'm ready). It's about breaking American schools.

And pay attention to where the money is shifted to. Pay attention to who's getting it. They aren't building roads with it and they aren't giving it back to tax payers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I see you

I took Ramona to an indoor playground for very little kids. When we walked in, Ramona was shocked and delighted. The stuff to climb on! The bright colors! and all those friends!

She stood in the middle, waved and shouted, "It's me! It's Monut!" But they all just whooshed by her, and she stood like a pebble in a stream. The friends were gone. She tries again, "It's me! It's Monut!" But she's alone.

I know in my head that I'm overwrought here. My daughter is growing up. That's life. But "it's me! It's Monut!" makes me tear up every time I hear it echo in my heart. It was the cry, the "see me, see me, friends" plea. It was the subtle look of surprise at being ignored that makes my heart ache.

I was standing back, observing, but from afar I smiled big, caught her eye and said "Mama sees you, Monut!" But it wasn't what she was looking for. She bounced to the next fun thing, whatever. But I did not. I did not bounce.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I reveal despair banishing projects, # 2

As I moped around my house during snow day number 8, I noticed the book More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin sitting on my bookcase and then I really felt bad.

When I was in my early 20s I had some very lovely ideas about domestic life. About making a home and being a mom. It's so strange to me now, but I never considered my career. At the time I was going to college to be a teacher, but I never saw myself as a working mom.

I glanced at the spine of this book and felt distain for Colwin and shame for myself. I opened the cover and for the first time I allowed myself to be taught by Laurie Colwin. I felt her warm love for the first time. The way she says in so many different ways that being a working mom is hard and that we must re-invent ourselves as cooks. She writes:

A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift. Both happy people and sad people can be cheered up by a nice meal. This book was written for the sustainers and those who will be sustained.

This isn't about to become a food blog. But I am going to re-read Colwin, do some shopping, do some cooking, and bridge that gap between a fantasy and seeing the world as it really is. With Colwin as my loving, kind teacher.
I think my first experience will be Colwin's black bean soup...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nova Reads Proust vol.1 sleeping and name dropping

Now, begins Despair Banishing Project #1.

For the longest time, when I lay down at night I think of instances in books and movies when the characters sleep and I pretend to be them. I'm Katniss strapped to a tree, Kevin McCallister in an opera house storage room, I'm held hostage in South America sleeping on a grand living room floor. Whatever happens to my Proust project, at least I have a new sleep story to add to my collection.

In the beginning, a young boy (proust?) tells us about going to sleep. Its goodness when it is easy, and the scary way it can allude you. Winter bedrooms, summer bedrooms. Falling asleep in the late afternoon light before your very late dinner. About how your mother comes to you or doesn't come to you and the way you hold back your plea for love. Because that can make the whole thing go away, can't it? In the first 25 pages, with lots of words and very few periods, we hear a lot about saying goodnight.

(We also meet M.Swann and there is a lot of French name dropping that was a little lost on me.)

But despite this and the very unsure ground I stand on regarding what this book is about, I've buried my rundown brain into its pages and have been thankful for getting lost in all the beautiful words.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I reveal despair banishing projects, # 1

I have fallen into a despair with my current career as a reader. I've been reading some books. But I don't feel like a reader right now. A reader reads every day. And writes about what she reads. And drives everyone nuts with what she's been reading. That's what a reader does.

I have three projects I am currently working on to fix all that.

Project Number One: Nova Reads Proust
I've been a book gobbler. I need to slow down. I need to trudge. I want to read each word with no thought of the future. I need to read Proust. I have a copy of Swann's Way (it was a gift). And I have tried to read it, but oh my, it is Proust. and I am an idiot.
But I have read To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, I can do this. I can read the words and see what happens. I can go in search of lost time. But, here's the thing...this is the project. I'm going to write about it as I'm reading it. I like to finish a book, do some research and then write. Especially with smart books. But no, this is the Nova reads Proust in her underwear project. I know that I will misunderstand stuff. I will reveal my stupidity. But in the end, we will know exactly what it looks like when Nova Reads Proust.

Project two and three will be revealed when I figure them out. But I want you to know that I am ready to go full on Julie/Julia. Hint Hint! This life is going to be exciting and amazing* to me. Despair Be Gone!

*these are new words Ramona has been throwing around. Mama, it's amazing!

Monday, February 14, 2011

love note - so much space

I need space. Room to love and pine, to sit. Room to grow and shrink, space to double over.
To change everything. To start over, again.
See it? This love with elastic, this love made of giving and letting go? We are seeing not a marriage, not something sealed with commitment. but a sky.
I don't know what you married, I don't even know what I married, but in the years that follow I feel his space rolling out, rolling out over the years. a sky. I married the sky.

Happy Valentine's Day, World. Love it up.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

look! notice! there it IS!

I lack faith. The wind blows, and I'm looking around for a savior.

I wrote a note for my pocket:
The problem is I need someone to pray to right now.
I wish I could borrow yours.

Brian and I were having a bicker. Fighting bitterly over something momentarily really important, next moment non-existent.
Ramona interrupts, babbling sweetly, "mama, mama, look Buddha".
No kidding. She points to the Buddha on my bedside table and draws my attention to it.
Sheesh, girl, I get it.

something different,something wonderful

I'm not quite downhearted, for I've been much worse. Even last year, I was worse. Last year was indeed harder. But I'm hating everything these days. Things aren't quite right at work. I have all these ideas, but I'm so fuzzy I can't settle down and focus.
Mothering right now is like watching birds hatch from a nest, like seeing a new butterfly unflap two wet wings. The girl speaks! She says dear, dear things. She sings a song she invented herself. mama,dada,mama,dada,bop,bop,bop!
Yet, I am like a person who has eaten too much of one thing and needs another. Something wonderful, something different. I need perhaps a rock, a sunny one, and a case of wine. To drink with a best friend. To drink with my best friend.
To feel different than I do now, because I am only ambiguous. To write and write, but to not know where to put it. I dream a big dream for myself. I imagine to create something wonderful. But then I step right back, re-think, re-think, re-worry, edit. Edit it down, down to the point of not happening.

So, I'm going to get out of the head. And just write a little more. More doing, less worrying. And I know this feeling is just a whole lot of February. And it's not here to stay.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

mama quiet

At night, after the books, after Ramona drinks her milk, right before I put her in bed, she talks to me. Without the distraction of the day, sitting in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, I listen to her stories. After 20 months of mama talking, talking, talking. I listen.
Quietly, sleepily, she tells me the names of all her friends at day care. She tells me about a "party". My little girl is learning how to tell me things. Not just that she needs milk and her blanket. She's learning how to tell me about her day. About what happens when I'm not there. She's learning how to tell me about her.

Her babysitter tells me that Ramona talks about me too. She tells her that "mama is sleeping". She tells this to Brian too. Mama is sleeping. In her mind, if I'm not with her, I must be sleeping.
This Ramona is a new girl. This daughter is a new love that I'm dizzy with. And honestly, I feel like a new mother too. A quiet mom. A listening mom.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Wordy Shipmates - no kidding

I finished reading The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell about a week ago. I love Vowell's funny voice so much, but this book was a little too much like a thesis paper for me. You know how when you are talking to someone at a party, and you really like them, and you are sort of interested in what they are saying, but then your eyes kind of glaze over? And you hate that, because you want to pay attention, but oh my...... This was The Wordy Shipmates for me. (It really freaks me out, but I KNOW more often than not, I'm the one that makes the people's eyes glaze over.)

But I appreciated the book and her devotion to teaching us who we came from. I am proud of our puritan ancestors. But in my heart, I am sort of a Calvinist. I told a friend once that if I were Christian, I would not pray for things. I would just pray as often as possible for God to have mercy on my miserable soul. A few days ago, I heard of a yoga teacher telling her class that they were not the ones that really needed this mindfulness training, it was everyone else that really needed it. Preaching to the choir, and that sort of thing. I shook my head so hard on that one. I do need the training. I believe that in my heart we all need the training. None of us are the elect.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I am having a snow vacation. School was cancelled for Monday, Tuesday, and now for Wednesday. I feel very certain this is a cosmic gift to apologize for the really crappy Christmas.

I've been doing all the things that I wanted to do during my real break. Cleaning, cooking, and being with Ramona. She has been so entertaining. All day yesterday when I would ask her questions the answer was "no way!" I have no idea where she got that. This morning she was playing in my room and she was putting all my rings on the head of the little Buddha that sits on the table by my bed. It's not a shrine exactly, but that little statue never fails to soften my heart and remind me to practice. She used to call it "booty" but today it actually sounded like "Buddha". I have no plans to take Ramona to the dharma school, but I admit that I love seeing her grow up in the home that I've created. And there is Buddha in this home.

Another funny Ramona thing is that she refers to herself as "Monut". Today it was "Mama's coffee, Monut MUCK!" (translation: mama is drinking coffee, so Ramona would like some milk.) I really dislike the nickname associated with Ramona, Mona. I just can't ever call her that. But I think Monut is hilarious.

I can't get enough of this charming girl. This snow vacation is just what I needed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


It turns out freedom ain't nothing but missing you - Taylor Swift

(I don't think Franzen would mind the Swift quote. Pop book, pop song, it's all just chicklets/candy anyway.)

During the Christmas break, I finished reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. There are a lot of different ways to feel this book. I had never considered that it was about anything other than marriage, until I talked with a friend about the book. Maybe Freedom is like a Rorschach test to determine the most difficult relationship in your life.

For me, Freedom is about marriage. The marriage of Walter and Patty Burglund.
When I read it, I would go from feeling my marriage was superior to that of Walter and Patty. And then something would be a little too familiar and I would feel shame. Shame for feeling superior. Because, during a dark moment, don't we all feel like the whole thing is just about over?

The book includes a section where the character Patty writes her autobiography to explain that "mistakes were made". God, what a completely heartbreaking utterance. Mistakes were made.

Early Christmas Eve morning, 30 pages from completion, I read the letter Patty wrote to Walter, explaining how she wanted him back:
"She can imagine that, if she could somehow be with Walter again, and feel secure in his love again, and get up from their warm bed in the morning and go back to it at night knowing that she's his again..."
"It comes to her day after day, year after similar year, this yearning for his face and his voice and his anger and his kindness, this yearning for her mate."

After reading this, I closed the book. Rolled over, into my husband's arms and thanked god for Franzen and fiction. And for Brian. And for knowing that this is just the story of a marriage and mistakes will be made.