Archive for September, 2007

Dreams

I am pretty sure I have the strangest dreams on the planet.

For instance, last night I dreamed my daughter was a slice of lemon in the palm of my hand.

Daughter.  That is not a typo.

If anyone can beat that, I’d like to hear it.  And you might want to seek professional help.

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Eat Pray Love: A search for oneself during desperate times

Since my kids have reached an age where I am no longer swaddling, rocking, singing and feeding at every hour of the day, I have found some more time for me.  One of the things I’ve been trying to find time for is reading.  Lately I, of course, have been reading a bazillion pregnancy/childbirth related books, but I also have had the pleasure of reading a book now and then “just because’.  This does not happen often, but this year I’ve read three books for no other reason than to enjoy them.

My latest book was a treasure.  “Eat Pray Love” was sent to me for my birthday from my brother and sister-in-law, and apparently they know me well.  I had never heard of it, although it is currently #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for paperback nonfiction.  This does not surprise me.  (Hint: Two kids; new business.)

On my recent flights to and from Houston, I was able to start and finish this book.  It reads very quickly, like a novel, although it is actually more of an autobiography, or a slice of someone’s life.

In the beginning of the book, the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, finds herself in a heap on the bathroom floor, doing something she hasn’t done in…well…ever.  She is praying.  She wants to leave her marriage.  The next few years are spent between the highs of finding a new love and finding freedom from a failed marriage and the lows of deep depression when she has to deal with the mess of divorce and when she can’t make the new love work.  But that’s just where the story starts.  She’s broken, and must find a way to fix herself.  She hatches a plan: she’ll sell everything she has and travel for a year: spending 4 months in Italy, 4 months in India, and 4 months in Indonesia.  In Rome, she learns how to live again and feed herself – figuratively and quite literally.  At an exclusive Ashram, she connects with the divine and feels her connection to the world around her through Yogic meditation.  Finally in Bali, she finds a balance between pleasure and prayer.

This book may be a travel memoir, but it is so much more.  As Gilbert searches for meaning in life and rebuilds her injured soul, we are inspired to do the same in our own lives.  Her philosophy on travel (taken from her website) goes like this:

I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe. I can’t help but believe it, given my experience.

I’ve seen dark times in my own life, and know I should have taken better care of my soul during them.  A little meditation, and probably some Zoloft, should have been part of my healing, but at the time I was in a place so dark that I could not see the way out.  Thankfully, I did make it through the darkness, and understand the bravery it takes to face your own demons.

Gilbert is someone that is endlessly sympathetic and at the same time easily likable.  Oddly enough for a book with such a deep and at times depressing, premise, it is very funny.  Reading her story is like sitting down for coffee and having a heart-to-heart with your best girlfriend, and getting in both a good laugh and a good cry.  Her book makes me want to learn the art of meditation.  And travel.  But mostly, it makes me want to try and be a better person.  And read more books that nourish me…like this one.

Filler meme while I’m gone

I’ll be at my Aunt’s funeral this weekend so starting tonight through Monday I’ll be in Texas and unable to post. I didn’t mention her death last weekend because my posts were getting a bit depressing and I needed to lighten the mood a bit. The beer helped.

Anywhoo…I saw this post over at Doulicia and thought it might be fun. I did a movie one a while back — I’m much better at watching movies than reading books, so it doesn’t surprise me that I fare worse here. I looked up each of the books I knew nothing or very little about, and found that all had something to offer. It was hard not to italicize the entirety of the list.

Truth be known, I’m a sucker for such lists. But what is the significance of this one? I tried to look it up but to no avail. It seems this particular meme has made its rounds. Judging by the list, I’m guessing it’s the most read books of the 21st century…but don’t quote me on that. Interestingly, there are a lot of Canadian writers here.  And every is a work of fiction, but the Bible is in the list.  (I’ll plead the fifth.)

I’m tagging anyone who reads this…which probably accounts for a whole ten people.

Instructions:

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read. Itilacize the ones you want to read. Leave blank the ones you aren’t interested in.

Movies don’t count!!!!! (K. – Damn.)

  1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) sitting on the bookshelf. Rich read it and I’ll pick it up soon.
  3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  5. Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
  8. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
  9. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  10. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  11. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  12. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) Yes. I’m the only person on earth who hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books. I imagine I’ll pick them up when they’re appropriate for my kiddies and we’ll read them together – and be surprised how much I’ll really love them.
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. 1984 (George Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) I think Rich might like this one though
  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay) Maybe a book for Rich
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Kaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. The Bible – maybe someday. I need to separate politics and religion in my own head first.
  46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) Another one I think Rich would like
  48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
  53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  64. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  69. Les Miserables (Hugo) But I would love to see the musical.
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gravriel Kay)
  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According to Garp (John Irving) I’ve read and loved much of Irving’s books, but surprisingly never picked this one up.
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
  81. Not Wanted on the Voyage (Timothy Finley)
  82. Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Able (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. In the Skin of a Lion (Ondaatje)
  92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Brew Day!

My husband has made beer for several years now.  I had always been content to watch from the living room while Rich and his brew friends came over and did various mad scientist experiments with grain, water, yeast and hops.  Sure, it made a mess of the kitchen, but anyone who has seen me cook an elaborate meal understands that it’s nothing our “mess hall” is not accustomed to.  Besides, I was always quite appreciative of the results.

A month or so ago, a little thought crept up into my brain.  Why shouldn’t I brew beer?  I like drinking it.  I enjoy cooking.  Am I, the feminist, unconsciously keeping myself from a very enjoyable experience because I think brewing is for boys?

I think back on the last time I entered into a new hobby because of feminism.  When Rich was still the new boyfriend and we were in college, I had decided it would be a great idea for me to go deer hunting with him, solely because “girls can kill stuff too”.  It wasn’t at all that I wanted to shoot a deer.  In fact, I’m sure I would have cried buckets if a bullet from my gun would have made it into any animal.   Luckily, my buying a deer tag and donning the orange vest only resulted in me falling asleep on my eventual-hubby’s arm and creating quite an impressive puddle of drool on it.  “What’s that wet stuff?”  he said when he woke up to my careful wiping of the offending mess.  Dispite all of this (and so, so much more) he still decided he wanted to marry me.  To this day I really don’t understand why, but I am grateful.

Beer brewing, it turns out, is not about trying to prove my worth as a member of the female sex.  It actually was a lot of fun.  Yes, I did choose to start from a packaged malt extract, which is sort of the equivalent of making a cake from the box.  But you have to start somewhere.  Besides, my homemade cakes turn out hard as a rock every time.  And no one wants to drink rock hard beer.

So here’s a photo essay of my first beer attempt.  I’ve filled in a few photos from places elsewhere in the web when things got too crazy to take pics ourselves.  Ben, one of Rich’s brew friends, came over to make a mead, and Rich made an all-grain, extra-hoppy IPA (Imperial Pale Ale).  I brewed a brown ale – in which I’ll finish with a bit of hazelnut and vanilla extract in a couple of weeks to mimic this delightful quaff.  And I did it all without drooling a bit.

Cheers.

Step one: to the local homebrew store!

Connor and Siena grind Rich’s grains at the store, while Ben helps.  Most families take their kids to the farm to churn butter.  We brew.

More grinding.

Now, back home.  First, let’s make a brew tea!  (Steeping the grain)

Let’s add the malt extract.  (“cake batter”.)

Yummmmmm.

Connor is set up with his own brewing stuff, while Siena takes her nap.

Connor the Mad Scientist.

Adding the finishing hops.

Chilling the wort.  (I have no idea who this person is – I’ve shamefully stolen the photo from someone else.)  The cold water that passes through the copper tubing cools the boiling liquid at an amazing speed.

Next we strain the wort into the carboy to get rid of any chunks of hops, children’s toys, or whatever else has found its way into the beer.  (Another stolen pic.)

Finally we get to taste the beer.  It doesn’t have alcohol yet but it still tastes quite good – though pretty sweet.

Let’s pitch the yeast.  This, again, is not my home.  (Our kitchen tile is much worse.)

Lastly, the beer ferments.  (Another stolen pic – our yeasties do their thing in the bottom of the pantry.)

Then we wait a couple of weeks until the yeast eats all the sugar, and we get to drink their excrement!  Delicious.

Honoring those who have gone before us (OR: cleaning up my blogroll)

You might have noticed that I finally took time to clean up my blogroll.  I’ve added a bunch of great new blogs – most of them birth-related although there are a few parenting gigs up there.  The hardest part, of course, of cleaning up a blogroll is taking down the names of great bloggers that you love but haven’t posted in months.  Here I will honor those blogs that I miss dearly.

The Zero Boss – Out of deep respect, I need to start with Mr. Jay Andrew Allen.  The man was a blogging machine – posting probably a good 5 times a day – each with enourmous wit and charm, with a huge helping of intellect thrown in.  He wasn’t one of those touchy-feely-loveable bloggers on first blush, but just underneath all the snark was a very loveable guy.  Zero’s site was the first blog I visited each day (truth be told, the first website I visited each day) and life on the web just isn’t the same without his voice in it.  I miss his insight into religion and sexuality the most.  Now there’s two divergent topics, but the man made it work.  Zero is still alive, he reassured me right before killing his gmail account – and the death of his blog is a very good thing in the midst of the family problems that he alluded to.  I wish you whole again, Zero man.

Catawampus!  – This was Kim Voynar’s personal blog – Zeroboss’s wife.  I can only assume that she killed off her blog for the same personal reasons as Jay.  “Kimi” is a film critic for cinematical.com and is a fantastic writer.  I miss her raw honesty and her spunk – two traits that are not often found in the same persona.  Her last few posts were truly heartwrenching.  Be well, Kim.

CircuitBeta and MyAllusions – these are people I know in real life.  Actually I hardly knew circuitbeta at all – only by association.  Have you ever known that quiet person that occasionally said something extremely witty or meaningful and you wondered what else was up there?  Well CircuitBeta was like getting a glimpse into the mind of that person.  From what I know of him he’s not the type to be so out there with his thoughts and feelings, so I think he hasn’t blogged there any more for feeling a bit exposed.  I hope I wasn’t a part of that exposure – I just really get excited when someone else that lives in the same town as me starts blogging.  It gets pretty lonely here in my corner of Cyberworld.  MyAllusions, on the other hand, still hangs out on my blogroll.  She’s one of my best friends in real life and I just can’t axe her.  Besides, she had a pretty undercover sort of job and blogging was not looked fondly upon.  She’s recently changed companies and I’m really excited for her, and hoping she’ll pick up the proverbial pen soon.  (I’ll give her a month.)

Cloud-Seven-Point-Five – Due to ex-husband privacy issues, she had to kill her blog.  However, she’s a blogger at heart so never fear.  She’s very open with her struggles as a single mother, dating again, living on a small-ish income and finding meaning in art, relationships and work.  Despite all of that, she dregs up her humor and wit daily.  I still get my daily dose of her life elsewhere – hint, hint.

Dispatches from SouthEast Portland – This was my insight into a mind that was clearly very different than mine.  Truly John Goes and his cohort Dan McKinlay were brilliant guys, although we held very divergent political beliefs.  John was suspicious of the environmental agenda, raved about the virtues of smoking, and could possibly called misogynist.  Yet somehow I really enjoyed reading his thoughts – it was like insight into a belief system that I am so opposed – yet I occasionally even found truth there.  I found the blog when it was on the front page of WordPress one day and never stopped reading.  Hope the Windy City is treating you well, John.

Milliner’s Dream – Aside from RedSpiral (who doesn’t blog much about being a doula any more), Hannah’s was the first doula blog I read.  She was so inspiring and some of her better posts helped form my own personal doula philosophy.  She was my mentor in many ways and her words helped me in many times while I was trying to decide what to do exactly with my passion for birth.  In fact, she rescued me once or twice from a blog rut that I didn’t think I could dig myself out of.  I can’t help but worry about Hannah – she hasn’t returned email.  I hope she is alright out there.  If anyone knows anything, I would love to hear, even if it is just to say that she is okay.

The Examining Room of Dr. Charles – I think I might have had a bit of an internet-crush on Dr. Charles.  He truly was a great blogger and well-loved by so many.  (Translation: He wouldn’t know me from Adam.)  It is rare to find such compassion from a male voice and he had such a love for humanity and kindness in his practice that brought me to tears regularly.  (I’m not trying to disclude you male internetfriends of mine – you know I love you – you qualify as compassionate — mostly — as well.)

Birth and Death are the same

I was moved a few weeks back by the post at Homebirth Diaries about the similarities of sitting with someone during birth and during death while she helped her friend mourn the loss of her husband. Now that I’m being a sort of “death doula” for my own mom’s grief process over the impending death of her sister, it’s got me thinking.  Somehow, for me, knowing that birth and death are so similar is comforting for me.  I don’t know if would be as comforting for everyone or if it is just because I’m a birth doula, but I think the similarities point out the natural circular rhythm of our existence.

Some of my essay below is just reworked ideas of LaborPayne’s above post, but the act of writing this out has helped me.

This time is a monumental rite of passage, a sacred event, both for the person and for the family at large. There are many decisions to be made and a plan will be put together. It is a very emotional time, and it follows that there may be disagreements on how to handle both the logistics and the emotions that come with it. At the same time, it can draw families closer together as they never have been while they are most vulnerable and support each other in an unconditionally loving, non-judgmental space.  Healing can happen. Wishes are as unique as the individuals themselves, but respect and love all underly them.Often, there is a natural fear. Everyone involved is transferring from a known place to something entirely unknown and it can be scary. Will it hurt? How will we handle the pain? How will we handle seeing a loved one in pain?  Will it be peaceful? Will wishes be carried out? Or will medical events make it impossible? Will they be okay, in the end?  Knowledge, support, physical touch and a listening ear can help with this fear of the unknown.

When the moment comes, the story will be different for everyone. Sometimes it is loud and messy (both physically and emotionally). Pain is naturally a part of it, but can be managed medically or with natural methods as desired.  Some will fight against it, feeling agitated and restless, and cry out. Others will feel ready, may see peaceful visions and have tender moments with loved ones. Usually there is some of both.

There is often a wish to control an event that is, to great extent, uncontrollable. Medical interventions can prolong or shorten it. In the end, though, our bodies know what to do and it will happen, inevitably, on its own.

This time brings families and loved ones close physically and emotionally – both before, during and after.  There are cultural and social rituals to plan and attend.  Also the emotions of the person(s)  involved must be watched carefully – before to make sure they are being heard and treated with kindness and after to watch for signs of depression that is all too common during this time.

In the end, every story is different and each experience is unique.  It is a natural part of life, and is inevitable.

But how we take the journey does matter.

Petraeus: “I don’t know” if the war is making America Safer

He then asked Petraeus a pointed question: “Do you feel that [Iraq war] is making America safer”?

Petraeus paused before responding. He then said: “I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.”

That was, of course, a non-answer. And Warner wasn’t going to let the general dodge the bullet. He repeated the question: “Does the [Iraq war] make America safer?”

Petraeus replied, “I don’t know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted in my own mind.”

I heard this little tidbit in the car on the way home yesterday night.  It tells me a couple of things:

  1. Petraeus does not make policy; he blindly follows it without question.  He takes orders, like a good soldier.  We should not be looking to him to fix the underlying issues.
  2. Petraeus’s objectives that he keeps telling us about – that the “surge is working” – are not based upon the safety of the American people.  What then, possibly, are his objectives?  Victory in the short term, no matter what the cost.
  3. At least he answered honestly.

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