Friday, January 30, 2009

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

Back to natural
Long highlights shiny
perfectly coiffed
Eyebrows meticulously
plucked and waxed
Tatooed eyeliner
Jeweled earlobes
Fully lined lips
pucker red
Whitened teeth
gleam bright
Pendant adorns
base of throat
Red shirt hugs
tightly an abundance
of breast
Waist whittles
Hour glass hips
Brazilian wax
French manicured nails
Firm, smooth, tanned
legs taper
Feet softened
heals buffed
toe nails
glossy red


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Letter That Needed To Be Written

Today when I awoke my mind was already in the middle of composing a letter. I lay there in the dark listening as the words weaved their way through my mind and to my fingers. I went straight to a journal and began to write in long hand, the words flowing and pouring forth onto the pages. My letter was in regards to a very personal experience, the birth of my children. I am finally sending a letter I feel could have been sent much sooner. I won't say "should have" because for whatever reason it must not have been time quite yet for me to write this letter. Perhaps this is the right time because I am feeling so much more open to messages from the greater universe and I find synchronicity glittering along this path I am traveling. I wanted to share my letter as I wrote it not just for myself but for all women. I write it for all women who have or will birth a child. Symbolically this letter can also be for anyone who births a painting, a book, a song, a dance...

I share to empower you to speak up when someone has not shown you or your birthing respect and consideration.

Dear Dr. Skipitis,

This letter has been residing in me for a long time. There was a point in time I thought of not writing one at all. Yet just this morning I awoke with the words flying through my head. I hadn’t even been thinking about this for quite a long time. Yet I suddenly felt compelled to write this letter, not just for myself, but for all women who will seek your care or will inadvertently find you are the physician on duty when they arrive to deliver their baby at Mercy Medical Center.

My intent in writing this letter is to share with you an experience I had almost three years ago. You played a role in the experience. I am hopeful that you will really hear me and give thought to the role you play and the impact you can have on the lives of the women you serve. You see I believe that doctors in your position serve in a beautiful way. You are there to help bring new life into this world. You are a witness to a human being’s arrival.

A little less than three years ago I arrived at the Mercy Medical Center with my husband to deliver, not just one baby, but two. I was expecting identical twin daughters. I was 36 weeks along when my water broke. The girls had been growing and developing beautifully according to the many ultrasounds. The estimates of their weights and sizes were right on track.

Early on in my pregnancy there had been a concern that the girls were monoamniotic. This was troubling when we read about the complications that could arise. Fortunately this was ruled out by an advanced ultrasound. We traveled to Sacramento several more times, as our doctor felt it was necessary, due to concerns about twin-to-twin transfusion. Again, fortunately we had no such problem.

Except for my own discomfort throughout the pregnancy, nausea that lasted for months and months, a persistent cough and the swelling, the girls appeared healthy and perfect in their safe first home. As we grew closer to the estimated delivery date the weekly monitoring of the girls heart rates began. I would lay uncomfortably propped up with pillows on a table, wires and monitors strapped to my belly. I couldn’t lay flat and being on my back, even though propped up, was quite uncomfortable. A few times during the monitoring I even experienced painful contractions. Yet this is what was required of me in order to ensure my daughters were healthy and thriving.

You were not my doctor so I had not shared any of this journey with you. It really is a journey. One that changes the contours and map of your body. It is also a journey that affects your mind, spirit and emotions profoundly. Your body is no longer your own. You are sharing it with another human being, in my case, two new human beings. My body was giving them life, feeding them and sustaining them.

While you were not my doctor and did not know me, you were the doctor on duty that night I arrived at the hospital. I learned later that my own doctor, Dr. Mooney, was attempting to celebrate an anniversary that same evening. He would eventually be disturbed with a phone call about me, his patient. He tried to assist from a distance the best he could that night.

When I arrived at the hospital that evening with my husband, bags in tow, I was beginning to feel the first tugs of the contractions. I had been feeling so completely calm ever since my water broke at home on the bathroom floor. I felt prepared. My bags were packed. I had drafted an email to family and friends already. All I had to do was hit send and load up the car.

The nursing staff was incredibly welcoming upon our arrival. I was quickly admitted and we were shown to our room. I changed into a hospital gown, leaving all sense of modesty at the door. The staff efficiently helped me into bed and began placing heart monitors on my belly and wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine.

The ultrasound showed that Baby A – our Maya – was head down and in position for delivery. Baby B – our Aubrey – had been head down for months, but just a few weeks back turned into a transverse position. This being a fairly recent change in positioning my doctor had not talked about what this might mean in regards to delivering.

It is about this point in the story, babies’ heart beats being monitored, me trying to find a more comfortable position, and the contractions beginning to intensify, that I received a phone call from you there in the room. You introduced yourself as the physician on duty and explained you would be delivering my children. The conversation we shared was rather brief so the next part of your message came out rather quickly. You said that you would be performing a c-section. I responded that we had wanted to deliver vaginally. You stated that a c-section was necessary. I asked why we couldn’t still consider a regular delivery. Instead of explaining or speaking to me as if I was an intelligent person you responded that this was the only way you’d deliver the babies. I said I needed to speak with my husband. You added at the end that if we didn’t agree then you’d have to have me removed from the hospital and flown by helicopter to a distant hospital.

I was holding the phone, lying in a bed in a hospital, in a hospital gown, contractions pulling at me more strongly, baby heart monitor beeping and I was calmly registering your statement that if I didn’t agree to a c-section with you that you would have me removed from the hospital.

There was some final statement from you about calling me back in a few minutes to find out our decision. The phone was hung up and I relayed your message to my husband. My husband felt a twinge of fear as he wondered if you really had the power to make such a decision. The idea of his wife being removed from the hospital while in labor with his children was rather terrifying. The staff in the room was listening and hearing what you had said too.

At that point in time the saving grace in this situation was the supportive and caring, truly caring, responses from the medical staff in my room and my husband. I could feel the women in that room circling around me protectively, offering me their strength and support. I was comforted with statements like “You aren’t going anywhere,” “This is your delivery,” and “You have choices.” Their statements were true and I knew it.

The mere idea that a doctor would threaten a patient in labor with twins that she could be removed from the hospital seemed ridiculous. It felt like a scare tactic to get me to do what you wanted, with no discussion or questioning of your opinion. It made me think of the old cliché “My way or the highway.” If I didn’t acquiesce immediately to your orders I needed to hit the road.

I am an intelligent and reasonable person. I needed you to explain to me and I needed you to converse with me. I didn’t need to be ordered around or spoken at.

In light of what you had told me the staff made phone calls to other doctors. We awaited another doctor’s call or arrival. In the meantime the babies were still being monitored and my contractions were growing more intense and painful.

When you called back I was focused on what was happening with my body and the babies so my husband took your call. You asked what we had decided. My husband responded that we were waiting to hear from another doctor. You sounded angry on the other end of the phone and asked who was this other doctor that was being called. My husband replied that he didn’t need to tell you that. You again sounded quite angry over the phone and stated that you wouldn’t be our doctor and would not be delivering our babies. My husband told you that he thought that had already been decided.

Not too long after that phone call from you Dr. Pena arrived to speak with us. He was kind, gentle and reasonable. He performed another ultrasound himself to check the babies’positions. I asked him why we couldn’t try for a regular delivery since Maya was head down. I suggested maybe Aubrey would then have room to turn around. Dr. Pena explained he had not heard of that happening in all his years of delivering. He calmly explained the risks. He said that if Maya was the smaller baby and she came out first we ran a risk of trying to deliver Aubrey breech and the vaginal opening not being big enough for her head to come through last. The danger was lack of oxygen and rushing to perform an emergency c-section to save her. He explained all this and shared that he was not comfortable with such a delivery, but there was no ultimatum or orders. He simply said he would give us time to ourselves to talk about it and make our decision.

Upon his departure we had our discussion. While I had hoped for an old fashioned delivery I knew that I had not carried these two beautiful and healthy girls all these months to risk something happening to one of them. We did not want to risk their safety and so we had a nurse let Dr. Pena know we would go forward with the c-section.

The exchange we shared with Dr. Pena is how I felt it should have been from the very beginning. Speak to me reasonably. Don’t just toss out orders. Especially when it comes to something so amazingly intense and personal as the birthing of ones’ children.

The story of course continues without you. Dr. Pena delivered our girls and they were healthy and beautiful. There was a complication with my recovery as I hemorrhaged and a code blue was called. There was a bit of excitement as the hospital staff worked on me to stop the bleeding and save my life. In the end I was okay and I began my recovery. In a few days we went home with our daughters and began the journey of being parents and caretakers.

Family and friends asked us about the delivery. Some of our contacts were with people in the local medical community. When they heard the story of what had been told to us about being removed from the hospital they asked who it was that said such a thing. We told them.

I am insightful and I am willing to consider that anyone can have a bad day or an off night. At one point I wondered if you were having a bad day. I was willing to make an excuse for your treatment of us. I was willing to consider that maybe this was very out of the ordinary for you. Yet, there were several people who heard the story and who either knew you or knew of you, and they gave a knowing smile and a nod of the head. This story did not appear to surprise them.

I trust that you are a good doctor. Perhaps you are even exceptional. I am sure that you have had patients who have liked you and found you to care for them in all the right ways. I have seen you on television in support of public television. In fact that was the first time I ever “saw” you. Seeing that made me think that you must be a thoughtful and caring man. I noticed at the local Kids Kingdom playground your name on a plaque as a donor. It made me think that you must also be a generous person who gives to the community and cares for children and families. I don’t think you are a horrible person from my one experience with you.

What I do still wonder though is how many patients have you treated and spoken to the way you did me that night. How many women have been scared by the threat of being removed from the hospital by you? Perhaps I am the only one. It seems doubtful, but maybe that is the case. Yet if that is the case, what made my particular situation the one where you would say such a thing?

I don’t expect or even want a response from you. You may choose to crumple up this letter and throw it away. Yet I write with the hope that you will stop, listen and really be able to see through a woman’s eyes what it was like to interact with you on a momentous occasion in her life, a night like no other. I write with the hope that you will never speak to another patient the way you spoke to me that night. The women you serve as a doctor deserve more respect and consideration than I was shown that night. I hope that will always be the case for the women you serve in the future.


P.S. I am sharing this letter with my previous physician Dr. Richard Mooney, my delivering physician Dr. Pena and with President/CEO Rick Barnett with Mercy Hospital. I believe it is also important for them to hear this story in hopes that they too will be reminded of the very important role you all play in caring for a patient and providing him or her with respect and understanding, in addition to the best medical care you know how to provide.

Cc: Dr. Richard Mooney
Dr. Jorge Pena
President/CEO Rick Barnett

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I am on the email list for a group called Jewish Voice for Peace. They are calling on as many people as possible to sign a letter to the new Obama administration in support of working towards a fair and just peace between Israel and Palstine. Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy are aiming to deliver this letter on February 23. If you would like to add your name to this letter click here.

Here is the letter:
Dear President Obama,

Your presidency marks the beginning of a new era in America and in the world. Against all odds and maybe even our own better judgment, you taught us to hope again. Now, the crisis in Gaza demands that you match our hope with real progress. And, just to be clear, those who voted for you aren't the only ones doing the hoping.

We are Americans who voted for you and we are Palestinians and Israelis a world away. We are the women, men, and children who are suffering every single day in Gaza and Israel and we are the people who seek to heal their suffering. We are mothers of soldiers and children of refuseniks. We are Jews and Muslims, Christians and Atheists. We are united in our call to you today:

Please, support peace for the people of Gaza and Israel.

Press for an end to the blockade of Gaza, so that the people there can have food, medicine, fuel, and basic necessities. That is the only way that they can live, thrive, and rebuild their economy.
Talk to everyone, including Hamas. The late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said, "You make peace by talking to your enemies." This holds true today. Even a majority of American Jews support negotiations even with Israelis "worst enemies."

Back up talk with actions. This includes monitoring arms smuggling into Gaza and U.S. military aid to Israel. Theseweapons are killing mostly children and civilians.

And, support the Peace Plan. 57 countries around the world support this plan that provides independence and support for both Israel and Palestine. Peace Plan supporters won't wait for the United States forever – and without the United States, it won't happen. It's that simple.
President Obama, we will continue to hope, and to support your efforts. Please, don't let us down. Please deliver the promise of hope.


Your Name Here

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gather the Women for the 5th Women's World Conference

The message to all women of the world is, "Wake Up! Arise! Do not ask for permission to gather the women. What cannot be done by men, or by individual women, can be done by women together. Earth is Home."

The quotation above comes from the book Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women and Save the World. It is an urgent message and an empowering one. "When women are strong together, women can be fiercely protective of what we love."

Author Jean Shinoda Bolen, M. D. is a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of the Institute for Health and Healing’s "Pioneers in Art, Science, and the Soul of Healing Award". She is a former board member of the Ms. Foundation for Women. She also authored the following books: The Tao of Psychology, Goddesses in Everywoman, Gods in Everyman, Ring of Power, Crossing to Avalon, Close to the Bone, The Millionth Circle, Goddesses in Older Women, and Crones Don't Whine.

Urgent Message from Mother is a call to activism. Other well-known figures and writers have also heard the call and have responded to the message in the book. Here are some of those responses:

"Jean Shinoda Bolen's Urgent Message from Mother is a book whose time has come. Our earth home and all forms of life in it are at grave risk. We men have had our turn and made a proper mess of things. We need women to save us. I pray that many will read Bolen's work and be inspired then to act appropriately. Time is running out." Desmond Tutu

"This is the most inspiring and optimistic book I've read in years. It tells how women working together can bring us peace and save the planet. Jean Shinoda Bolen invites us all to join the next, most powerful wave of the women's movement. Count me in!" Isabel Allende

"Always urging us into circle and into peace, the healing power of Jean Shinoda Bolen's work and thought transforms all who will allow encounter. Jean never tires of wanting, and working for, our freedom, our healing and our health." Alice Walker

"Jean Shinoda Bolen shows us how the cult of masculinity is endangering us all. Women and men are equally human and fallible but at least women don't have our masculinity to prove — and that alone may make us the main saviors of this fragile Spaceship Earth." Gloria Steinem

"Urgent Message from Mother is a heart-shaking book which offers a powerful vision of why the world must change and how such a pivotal undertaking might be accomplished. In these compact pages Jean Shinoda Bolen courageously brings us to the brink of an erupting and necessary wisdom and to a feminine spiritual activism whose time is here and now." Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Mermaid Chair and The Secret Life of Bees

"Never have we needed the wisdom of Jean Shinoda Bolen more. This book brought me back to my spiritual center reminding me how much we need the stories of women to restore empathy to the world. Bolen has given us all an assignment: Gather, circle, act. Mother Earth is asking for our help. How can we not respond?" Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy

In her own effort to answer the call from Mother, Jean has been diligently working towards influencing the United Nations to sponsor a Fifth Women’s World Conference (5WWC). The first four conferences were sponsored by the United Nations. The last was held in Beijing in 1995 and produced the Beijing Platform for Action, which if fully implemented on a global scale would make the world a safe place for women and children. This will be possible only when violence of all kinds—from domestic to war, is no longer acceptable.

Jean states that she believes in the "necessity for a UN 5th Women’s World Conference to implement principles and goals already stated in the Beijing Platform for Action, UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and the Millennium Development Goals. There is no need to create further documents. There is a huge need to mobilize the women of the world without which, there is a lack of motivation and resources needed to bring about gender balance or take care women, children and the planet. Unless it is a UN sponsored conference, women from many developing countries will be unable to get visas and support."

Now at the beginning of the 21st century with the state of the world as it is, it is a crucial time for women to come together to make a difference. This conference would be the first since the Internet made worldwide communication easy and would likely be the largest and most effective gathering of women ever held. It would accelerate reaching a tipping point. What this means is that when a critical number of people change how they think and behave, the culture will also, and a new era begins.

Meeting in small circles, women changed the face of our culture in the 20th century. Women in small circles grew into the Women's Suffragette movement and women in consciousness-raising groups led to the women's movement of the 1970s. The Millionth Circle is a movement led by women to change planetary consciousness. It is believed that the inclusion of women circles from around the world would create an influence that would be a major step toward a change in planetary consciousness through the active involvement of women at every level of society.

In Jean's own words "Women who stand together for justice and peace are a moral force. The United Nations now has moral authority greater than any government or institution.We need each other and the world needs us to come together for there to be peace. We need a UN women’s conference so that the Beijing Platform for Action and Resolution 1325 will become an implemented worldwide women’s agenda.We need to gather the women, save the world."

Now is the time for action by all women and all women circles around the world. There is hope that in 2009 the UN will make a decision to support the convening of the 5th Women's World Conference. If planning begins now the goal will be to hold the conference in 2012.

One action everyone can take is to sign the on-line petition in support of convening a 5th Woman's World Conference. You can access the on-line petition by clicking here. Or if you prefer you can print one out to share with your circle of friends and family and then mail it in. The directions are on the bottom of the form. Click here for the printable version.

If you would like to read more about this subjext please visit the web site for the 5th Women's World Conference by clicking here. If you would like to learn more about Jean Shinoda Bolen and the Millionth Circle you can do so by clicking here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Jr.

Today I participated in celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by joining in a community prayer circle and then a march to the local Martin Luther King Center. The image above is a wonderful mural that is painted on an outdoor wall at the center. Included on the mural are Dr. King's Six Principles of Non-Violence. A few have been abbreviated. I wanted to share the full versions in honor of this special day.

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

2. Nonviolence is an effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among all people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain full human potential.

3. Nonviolence attacks forces of evil and acts of evil, but never persons as evil. Nonviolence believes in the ultimate good of every person and seeks reconciliation.

4. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation for its moral power toward achieving a goal.

5. Nonviolence avoids internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.

6. Nonviolence believes that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.

"Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love.
Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism.
It is the active outpouring of one's
whole being into the being of another."

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Virtues Project

The Virtues Project ™ was founded in 1991 by Linda Kavelin-Popov, her husband Dr. Dan Popov and her brother, John Kavelin who made a commitment to do something to counteract the rising violence among families and youth. They researched the world's diverse sacred traditions, and discovered more than 360 virtues at the heart of all beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life. They self-published a book to help parents bring out the best in themselves and their children, The Family Virtues Guide.

According to the literature written about the Virtues Project, ‘Virtues are the qualities of our character. Values are whatever we consider important. We can value anything from money and power to the Golden Rule. Values are culture-specific, while virtues such as courage, honor, justice, and love are the common elements of character and spirituality universally valued by all cultures. We may practice them differently from one culture to another.’Additional literature declares, “The Virtues Project ™is not about the practices or beliefs of any one religion. It is sourced in the teachings about virtues found in the sacred traditions of all cultures. Its purpose is to support all people, both those who are religious and those who are not, to awaken the virtues of their character. The working definition of spirituality used in The Virtues Project ™is:

Having a sense of meaning and purpose.
Living with integrity, according to a person's highest beliefs and values.
Mastery of the virtues of our character.
A sense of reverence for life and for all people.

In 1993, during the International Year of the Family, the United Nations Secretariat and World Conference of Cities and Corporations honored The Virtues Project ™ as a model global program for families of all cultures.

“The purpose of The Virtues Project ™ is to provide life-skill strategies that make the knowledge and practice of virtues accessible to people of all cultures. The Five Strategies help individuals to live more reverent, purposeful lives, support parents to raise children of strong moral character, inspire excellence, commitment and service in the workplace, and help schools and communities to build a climate of safety and caring.”

The Five Strategies of The Virtues Project ™ are:

1. Speak the Language of the Virtues.
Language has great influence to empower or discourage. Self-esteem is built when shaming or blaming language is replaced by naming the Virtues, our innate qualities of character. Virtues are used to acknowledge, guide and correct. The Language of Virtues helps us remember what kind of people we want to be.

2. Recognize Teachable Moments.
This strategy is a way of viewing life as an opportunity for learning, recognizing our mistakes, our tests and challenges as opportunities to honor our virtues. It is an approach to bringing out the best in each other by asking, “what can I learn from this situation?”, “What do I need to do differently next time?” and “How can I make it right?” Any moment that we bring our focus upon a virtue that is needed or demonstrated is a teachable moment.

3. Set Clear Boundaries.
Clear boundaries, connected to a Shared Vision of the virtues with which we want to treat one another, help to prevent violence and create a safe learning environment. Clear ground rules based on virtues build an atmosphere of order and unity. This strategy offers a positive approach to discipline, emphasizing both assertiveness and restorative justice. It helps us to identify what bottom line behaviors will not be tolerated as well as how amends can be made. Clear boundaries set children up to succeed.

4. Honor the Spirit.
School spirit grows through simple practices that illumine our sense of values, such as creating Shared Vision Statements. A school-wide moment of silence each morning can bring a sense of peace to the day. Virtues Sharing Circles allow us to reflect on what matters to us. Participation in the arts honors meaning and creativity. Celebrations make special events meaningful. This strategy helps us to address the spiritual dimension in a way that respects our diversity.

5. Offer the Art of Spiritual Companioning™
This is an art and skill which supports healing, encourages moral choice, and allows the safe expression of feelings. It helps in counseling, conflict resolution, and disciplinary situations. Companioning helps us to get to the heart of the matter when individuals are in grief or crisis. It invokes true presence and listening, asking clarifying questions, which allow individuals to empty their cup, and then to solve their own problems with the help of virtues.

(To see a list of Virtues identified by The Virtues Project ™, please refer to the list that follows at the end of this post.)

How To Give a Virtues Acknowledgment
The 3 elements: opening phrase, virtue, and situation.

I see your kindness in helping your sister. I honor you for your kindness in the way you helped your sister. I acknowledge you for your kindness in the way you helped your sister. That took a lot of kindness to help your sister when you were busy. It was kind of you to help your sister. You were being kind when you helped your sister.

How to give a Virtues Instruction/Guidance or Correction

You need to be patient while you wait for dinner. Please be kind to your sister. What would help you to be peaceful with your sister now? I need some consideration. Please turn down the music. How can I support you to be self-disciplined about remembering your homework?

The 5 Strategies and Speak the Language is copyrighted material. For more information about the Virtues Project, visit their website at

A List of the Virtues


Monday, January 12, 2009


Pendant by Becky Sharp of Becky Sharp Designs
(Read below for information about this item.)

Swirls and spirals are an image I have been drawn to since forever. Recently I was doing some research about this symbol.

Information I took from Wikipedia is as follows:

The spiral is the most ancient symbol found on every civilized continent. Due to its appearance at burial sites across the globe, the spiral most likely represented the "life-death-rebirth" cycle. Similarly, the spiral symbolized the sun, as ancient people thought the sun was born each morning, died each night, and was reborn the next morning.

The spiral plays a certain role in symbolism, and appears in megalithic art, notably in the Newgrange tomb or in many Galician petroglyphs such as the one in Mogor. See also triple spiral. While scholars are still debating the subject, there is a growing acceptance that the simple spiral, when found in Chinese art, is an early symbol for the sun. Roof tiles dating back to the Tang Dynasty with this symbol have been found west of the ancient city of Chang'an (modern-day Xian).

The spiral also represents infinance, or 'infinity.' Starting at a single point, and revolving outwardly until the end of the universe. Because of this, some civilizations believe that the Spiral is a pathway to the afterlife.

The study of spirals in nature have a long history, Christopher Wren observed that many shells form a logarithmic spiral. Jan Swammerdam observed the common mathematical characteristics of a wide range of shells from Helix to Spirula and Henry Nottidge Moseley described the mathematics of univalve shells. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson's On Growth and Form gives extensive treatment to these spirals.

As part as seeking out images of spirals I came across an artist who makes jewelry. The gorgeous heart with the spiral is one of her designs. I am so loving her jewelry and the wonderful spirals that appear on many of them. It just so happens that through another blog you can enter to win the beautiful and stunning heart pendant. You can also take advantage of a 25% discount being offered when making a purchase of Becky's jewelry. Please visit the blog Finding the Joy In the Journey here and Becky's website called Becky Sharp Designs by clicking here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When Parenting Does Not Come Easy

Self esteem doesn't come from "being the best,"
it comes from valuing the best one can be.
~Beth Wilson Saavedra

No one ever really knows what it is like to be a parent until they become one. Parenting has not come easy to me. As a person who wondered how she would handle one child, having twins has at times felt overwhelming. There are great joys but I also experience great frustration at times. There was a period of time where I grew depressed and very down on myself. I judged myself harshly. I compared myself to others and always found myself lacking and inadequate.

There are inherent problems with comparing oneself to other parents and I found that Beth Wilson Saavedra captured this well in her book Meditations for New Mothers. She writes, "As mothers, we compare ourselves to other mothers. We try to model ourselves after the mothers we respect. When our lives don't look like theirs, however, we feel like failures. We forget that we aren't the same people, living in the same house, with the same bank account.

Our children, too, are different, and they challenge us in different ways. The circumstances of their births, the level of their needs, and the diversity of their personalities, all create unique scenarios that must be dealt with in a way that is fitting for them. We must 'row with the oars we have.' They'll probably prevent the boar from going adrift. There are two sides to every oar."

Eventually I began to take steps to work through the depression. One powerfully proactive effort was to see a therapist regularly for a year. Being a reader I also turned to books for help and advice. A search for a practice of some kind, spiritual or not, also called to me. I began exploring Buddhism and have been meeting weekly with a small group to read books on Buddhism and discuss them. The group I meet with also chants as part of their practice. I initially found this to be very uncomfortable and foreign. It took me more than eight months to finally give it a try. I learned I just needed to customize the chanting to fit my needs. I have now added to this morning chanting ritual by writing morning pages as Julia Cameron recommends in her book The Artist's Way right after. Sifting through random thoughts first thing in the morning has proven to be beneficial.

While contemplating what has helped me to pull out of my depression and my struggles with judging myself as a parent, I also discovered there were six more things that are helping me a great deal.

1) Knowing that I am not alone with finding parenting to be challenging, difficult, frustrating and even infuriating.

2) Having someone to talk with who will not judge me for my negative thoughts about parenting.

I have one friend here in town who is more than 10 years older than me. She chose not to have children as she really didn't think she had the temperament nor the patience for it. She is a great person for me to talk to at times about things I don't like about being a parent, things that drive me crazy or really make me grieve "life before children" (and marriage too.) I also find that sharing stories with her about parenting sometimes turn those events into very humorous and hysterical accounts when spoken aloud. She will crack up and also tell me at times - "Thank you for reminding me that I made the right decision not to have kids." I in turn get insight into her single life without children. At times her life sounds so wonderful and free and at times I am more grateful for having a partner and children.

3) Reading books or writings that express what I have felt and am feeling, because it normalizes it.

For example Sarah Napthali writes in her book Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, "We have all had moments as mothers when we are struck by where we have suddenly found ourselves. We might smile as we marvel at the new world we now inhabit and how far away it seems from our old world. Sometimes, we miss our old world, we struggle to surrender our former freedoms, our youth and all those evening, weekends and holidays to ourselves. Sometimes we look in our mirrors, look at our messy living rooms or at the clock that reds three in the morning, and ask, 'Where am I?'"

I also really like this one that is also from the book Meditations for New Mothers by Beth Wilson Saavedra, "No matter how much time we take to prepare, childbirth dramatically changes our lives overnight. It is only natural to long for 'life before baby.' We think of the freedom we had. We could read a book until we finished it, hop on a plane to Paris, or throw a lavish dinner party. Whether or not we actually did these things is irrelevant. It's the feeling that we could have done them that causes us to grieve for our lost freedom. It's normal to feel confined after life-with-baby begins. it doesn't mean we don't love our child. It doesn't mean we don't enjoy being a mother. I have given up some things to be a mom. But they are not gone from me forever."

4) Learning to not beat myself up for negative thoughts about parenting.

They are just thoughts. I don't need to give power to these thoughts. I don't' need to judge myself for having these thoughts. I can just have them, observe them and then move on.

5) Understand that I have needs that need to be honored and respected. I need quiet at times. I need alone time. I need time to read, write and create.

Sometimes I take time to fulfill these needs while the girls are still sleeping in the early morning or at night. Other times I let my husband know I need to take a little time for me. This has been a hard one for me because there is a tendency to feel guilty for taking time away from my daughters when I work full time and I am already away from them 8 hours or more every day during the week. Yet I have found it necessary for my emotional well being. This is why I have been getting better at taking time for me and scheduling dates with myself. For example, already I am so looking forward to the fact that I have Martin Luther King day off in a couple of weeks and that the daycare is open that day. My plan is for the girls to do to daycare so that I can have a day to paint, write, listen to music and not give one ounce of myself to chores or answering to someone else's needs.

6) I try not to compare myself to others, because this usually leads to feeling inadequate and feeling dissatisfaction with myself.

The other night my husband shared a beautiful statement about being a father and what it means to him and how he feels like he was meant to be a dad. It was touching and I immediately suggested he write it down so that one day the girls could read it. My thoughts also started to go to a place of comparing myself to him, because I didn't exactly feel the same way. I don't feel as if I was "meant to be a mom." More often I feel that I am limping along in this role. I know I am not a bad mom, yet there is that element in me that wishes I was a great mom. There are probably moments when I am indeed a great mom, but I certainly don't feel that all the time. Hearing my husband speak of how he so loves his role started to make me feel "less than." Yet then I pulled up the reins on spiraling into that thought pattern.

I am learning to accept that I am doing the best that I can. I love my daughters and I express that love and I do a lot with them and for them. I am trying to learn to be satisfied with who I am and understand that the role of mom is not going to fulfill me completely. I know that I need more. I need interactions with adults. I need to be writing and reading and sharing ideas and thoughts with other people. I need to be contributing to more than my immediate family. I am learning that this is a good thing. I am a key role model for my daughters. As they grow I would like them to also discover what brings them joy, what makes their heart sing, and what makes their spirit soar. If they see in their mom a woman who loves what she does, feels inspired, dares to follow her dreams and live a life of fulfilling a vision and mission, then they can grow up with a greater sense of what is possible for themselves in their future.

Suggested Readings ~ If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (published in 1938)

"Like many of the most talented and funniest people, she is too nice and unconceited to work from mere ambition, or the far-away hope of making money, and she has not become convinced (as I have) that there are other reasons for working, that a person like herself who cannot write a sentence that is not delightful and a circus, should give some time to it instead of always doily-carrying, recipe-experimenting, child-admonishing, husband-ministering, to the complete neglect of her Imagination and creative power.

In fact that is why the loves of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability ) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get to miserable of have nervous breakdowns), though always a little perplexedly and halfheartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid--because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them!

But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable. But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate, or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. And how to be something yourself? Only by working hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important.

So if you want your children to be musicians, then work at music yourself, seriously and with all your intelligence. If you want them to be scholars, study hard yourself. If you want them to be honest, be honest yourself. And so it goes."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome 2009!

Some people scoff and joke about New Years resolutions. They express skepticism at people really keeping "promises" to themselves about exercise programs, quitting smoking or losing weight. Yet there really is some deeper need within many that leads them to pause and give some extra consideration to what they wish to happen in the new year. The end of a year, after the busyness of the holidays, there can finally be a slowing down. It can be a very natural time to evaluate and contemplate.

I found that the entries for January 1st and January 2nd in Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach offered very thoughtful ideas on greeting a new year. I am going to share the excerpts with you here:

January 1
A Transformative Year of Delight and Discovery

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
~ Zora Neale Hurston

New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embrace, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self discovery.
Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change. What are your hopes for the future as you reflect on the years that have passed? Gradually, as you become curator for your own contentment you will learn to embrace the gentle yearnings of your heart. But this year, instead of resolutions, write down your most private aspirations. These longings you have kept tucked away until this time seems right. Trust that now is the time. Ask the questions. The Simple Abundance path brings confidence that the answers will come and we will discover - day by day - how to live them.
Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source -- a Sower of Dreams -- just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.

January 2
Loving the Questions

You only live once--but if you work it right, once is enough.
~ Joe E. Lewis

How often in the past have you turned away from all that is unresolved in your heart because you feared questioning? But what if you knew that a year from today you could be living the most creative, joyous, and fulfilling life you could imagine? What would it be? What change would you make? How and where would you begin? Do you see why the questions are so important?
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves," the German poet Ranier Maria Rilke urges us. "Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now..."
The answers to your questions will come, but only after you know which ones are worth asking. Wait. Live your questions. Then ask. Become open to the changes that that the answers will inevitably bring. This may take some time, but time is the New Year's bountiful blessing: three-hundred sixty five bright mornings and starlit evenings, fifty-two promising weeks, twelve transformative months full of beautiful possibilities, and four splendid seasons. A simply abundant year to be savored.