October

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We have shifted from late summer’s wane to early autumn’s chill over this past weekend much as I remember being the case with Liam’s debut seven years ago. Summer sure is fleet of foot around here, but-oh, apples and sweaters and cook out fires and pie. I’ll get by.

Having lived seven years as a mom, my self identifying (mid 30s, educated, white, progressive) is starting to even out in my pulse rather than maintaining it’s early roar of: What Do My Choices Say About Me, What Is Best, Who Will tell Me and What Does The World Believe It Knows of Me By My Choices? I can still remember stomping along the western edge of Central Park after dark, pounding my feet to the refrain, Who am I, Who am I? (Thank you, Yassin Bey.)

Becoming a wife and mother did not appear as well-trodden paths of tradition and culture to my younger self, though as time has gone on, I have noticed more places where my footsteps overlap with my own mother, my foremothers. It felt like I had stepped into a cultural watershed where natural birthing, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, elimination communication, baby-wearing, etc, etc were just being discovered, rediscovered and proselytized about. This perspective, of course, was part and parcel with living on the edge of Park Slope and Fort Green in 2008.

My choice to attempt natural births while at home has been hard to shine light on since, particularly in relation to the more challenging, medicated experiences of friends, when I want to be a supportive doula friend. The incredulous looks of strangers and family members and my own over indulgence in reading broadly on the internet: essays assuming home birth it as a practice of self harm, self hate or lack of feminism to ignore the choices provided by modern medicine.

And for sure, I have had to unwind a lot of what I got wound up in early on in my process of forging new identity: Yes, mom, of course I want a stroller now or Hell no, I am not making all your baby food, baby. I will however still be the mom asking you what screens my kids will have access to at your house and for how long, just as I will still be cajoling my boys outdoors to take walks and play in the mud.

I want to celebrate what I have experienced, the sheer weight and push of life passing through my body, not just once but twice. I know that if pain medicine was offered, I would have gladly swallowed (or exposed my lower spine as the case may be) and I am so grateful for the sense memory of the work, the labor, my body conducted. I feel the lineage of humanity in my bones for that.

My oldest little boy is seven now and childhood is fleet of foot, too. Already, he is not the one daily collecting gun and dagger shaped sticks by the armload. He did, sweetly, dip back into his costuming phase recently and took up his four year old self’s super hero toys. I wonder if it was a gesture of touching into younger childhood before stepping into the middle years. He is learning to read and write now and be brave in new friendships. He is so, so cool.

I wrote this next piece as a reflection on his birth. Having just reread it, I resist the urge to add, subtract or revise. I include it here as my own gesture of touching back in time:

The Body Decides:

The next day, my Jackie and I hung out, she fresh in from Tel Aviv;
she brought her period and my body responded with cramps, er
contractions. We walked to Prospect Park and spent a lazy day on the
lawn watching clouds, studying for doctor exams and then getting a
breastfeeding support pillow. The next two days, my body continued to
have contractions at random intervals and I walked ALOT. I was really
tired of being pregnant and trying to get the last few details in
order (says pre mom Devon). I felt unsure if this meant labor was
imminent, I did not want to jinx anything!
Wed night I began to have regularly occurring contractions a bit after
midnight and they lasted up until KC woke for work at which point I told
him “hon, I think I’ve been having contractions all night” “you
think?” was his logical response “ok, I’ve been having contractions
all night” (still not ready to own it).
I ate breakfast with him, texted my midwife and went back to sleep
until 11am, awoke to contractions still regular 20-30 min apart and
noticing that my back really hurt with each contraction.
Long story shorter, labor continued through the day, evening and
night. The back pain got increasingly miserable. I used tennis balls
to massage while I was home alone, KC got back around 4pm and took over
the back massage, we walked a bit, I ate a little more. I felt like
labor could go on all night and was unsure about telling my mom and
Jackie to come over at this point. KC started setting up the tub in
the living room (see his story for that part). I spent good time in
the shower with my yoga ball and hot water on my spine. Around 11pm my
vocalizations ranged from whimpers to screams and I was starting to
wonder where the freaking baby was. I found satisfaction in hitting my
wall during the contractions and found it really hard to relax during
them, but took the rest that I could between them at about 7 min apart.
Jackie arrived and tag teamed my back massages with KC and I put them
in charge of calling Kristen (my awesome, awesome midwife) when the
time was nigh. I had no interest in knowing times, measurements, any
numbers, but I really wanted things to progress so I could get to the
other side.

Birth:

Around 1pm, I got up and made my way to the tub, hoping fervently that
if I got into it, I’d get back out with my baby. I started to feel
like I wanted to push (a strange sensation like, mmm, maybe a head
resting on your cervix). I told KC this twice and he called Kristen
who said she’d be right over. That was what I was waiting to hear! (I
had no real idea of how long it would take until one’s midwife shows up
but, really, what’s she going to do? Watch every contraction for 20
hours?)
It turned out that she did not have long to wait, she arrived and I
was pretty much bellowing (ahem, vocalizing) through my contractions
while KC kept tremendous pressure on my back and he and Jackie said
nice, encouraging things. Kristen told me I could push and to try to
use some of my breath to push down. Good advice and I finally felt
like I was having productive pain. She told me to reach down and feel
what was going on and I could feel the water sac emerging and beyond
it my kid’s head. All I wanted was labor to end, so I was screaming
and pushing as hard as I could (after she reassured me it was normal
that it felt as though my asshole was going to burst) I could feel the
baby’s head come out, I thought he was biting me (his hand was next to
his face I learned, a true child of teachers, born with a question)
I had to wait a bit for contractions, but I was feeling pretty
hopeful now that I would be able to take a rest in the near future. A few more
pushes, when I heard “reach down and pick up your baby”. He was floating
and slippery, he was a baby. KC and I spent a while in the tub with
him while his cord finished pulsing and I delivered the placenta.

Post-partum:

KC and I are very much learning how to be parents and I feel we are
off to a strong start. Breastfeeding was an initial challenge, but
we’ve made a lot of progress. I feel like I need to do more processing
of the actual birth-because it was scary, but it was beautiful and
powerful and I can’t believe I did it at all, let alone at home with
the indispensable help of my husband and best friends. I started
drawing some pictures about it today.
Liam really likes to sleep, just not at night, so that’s our biggest
challenge is trying to get enough rest.
My mom has turned out (not surprisingly) to be the world’s best post-
partum doula and has been helping us and loving us tremendously. Good
family and friends have been bringing us food. My step mom and mother
in law have been tremendous breastfeeding support, calm and
reassuring in the face of a bawling newborn.

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Leaf Turn

The leaves are turning, so suddenly, red leaves flowing over the neighbor’s fence and the yellowing of grape leaves in our own backyard. The air is redolent with the smell of roasting chiles, that perfectly New Mexican sensory experience that I’ve carried in my nostrils to the shores of the east coast and back again. Any day now, I hope to be picking apples and stewing them down to sauce.

Last night, yoga class was jammed like so many beach blankets. Often, my wandering mind will drift to New York when I am in a Friday evening yoga class. In my Brooklyn Teacher phase, that was where I landed after a week of work and striving, to begin a weekend of camaraderie and rejuvenation. Filing out from this recent one, I was transported to a crowded yoga studio in Manhattan, where people are accustomed to dodging others’ bodies with some combination of instinct and peripheral vision, hopefully a tad more mindfully post-yoga.

Hey now, hey world, this is what my post partum body looks like. It is work for me not to envy mothers whose bodies have retained waistlines and slim profiles. My Mad Men obsession and Betty Draper are not helping, either. In my yoga practice, I am accessing deep core belly with great intention alongside of promptings to relax the pelvic floor in strong poses. I am noticing that I can have a strong and capable core and continue to have loose skin on the top. I am able to do more with my body the more effort I make. This is the body imaging work that I am joyful about conducting.

It’s possible, I may have found my core on my own, without having born children, but as it stands, busting wide open with the weight of the world was my path; a direct link to knowing and engaging those muscles, drawing them back to my midline, supporting the weight of baby, toddler, stew pot. The world as it is each day, always needs a bit more holding, tending, stewarding and I have shown up in this noble lineage of foremothers.

So, the work: enlivening through the deep primal core belly rather than doctoring the outer, social belly. Practicing forgiveness and laughter, when one’s gaze wanders down my lines and a mouth opens to wonder if I am expecting. I am learning, slowly, to dress myself in a way that de-emphasizes my pooch and to stand up tall, of course. It is really too much for me to ask of myself to say no to things that taste good and rich for more than a little while. Sometimes, I fondly hold my belly and call it my beer and ice cream baby. When my husband has been away for a spell, he approaches me with his love and his hand always lands upon my center.

Last night, before the hallway traffic jam, we rested in Svasana, or corpse pose, the final piece of an asana sequence. My head touched the floor and the thoughts spread out-“here we go, mind wandering time!” Rarely, do I put such a quick, firm brake to that. I had time to unwind, a real gift. The contours of my life and body are so hemmed in by others needs and hands these days, I recognized that I was safe from being stepped on, drooled upon, requested, needed, desired by anyone or anything for those precious moments on my mat. I guided myself to release one area of knotted energy at a time: new gifts like cues to allow each vertebrae to relax and spread all the way up my spinal column, the hemispheres of the brain letting go of one another and old favorites, allowing the gums to release their grip on the teeth, eyes softening in their sockets, follicles relaxing their grip of hair. Having worked my way up body from my toes, I let the crown of my head release for a few beats and then moved into the organs as time continued to unfold. To touch internally, these spaces, my ovaries, my heart, my liver-like so many old friends that I regularly neglect to notice.

The social female body, it truly is one part of my puzzle. I thought this form was my own, but the shape of culture infects my perceptions. There are pulses of critique that are not my own, but live in me nonetheless. Self-awareness, being a wife and a mother has shown me that my physical being provides many gifts to those I love. My body becomes my own, again, on my mat, on my bike, on a mountain trail, in water and too, when I loosen the thoughts to appreciate this moment. When I can carry and dance and laugh all at once. As a fifth grader from Bedford-Stuyvesant once told me, “Don’t hate, appreciate!”. Indeed.

I Get It One Piece at a Time

Crunch goes my every other step, cereals under foot. My zen taskmaster has been at it again, strewing crunchy carbohydrates about while I am hovering three feet overhead in a taller human’s atmosphere.

I have been in a writing rut, and not of the sexy-time sort. I intend to write my way out of it one word at a time. With the coming of December, I declared that I would strive to move at the pace of my soul this month and what I am noticing is that my soul is very sloth-like these days. She doesn’t much want to craft, to bake, make holiday cards-fine, let it go, but she barely wants to pick up the house or give herself five minutes on the yoga mat, let alone rearrange things to feel more harmonious. (Actually, she wants to be out climbing mountains and sitting zazen at the tops.)

Part of my reluctance is fear that what will come out on the page is a take down of toddlers and stay at home motherhood, I fear repeating what has been said so many times before on the internet and showing myself as one with first world problems. And yet, my lived experience these days is one of imbalance and exasperation a lot of the day. And then, having worked so hard to arrive at nap time, bed time, space for solitude, space for connection, space for self care, I find myself a whirl with choices and oft times repeating the same simplistic solutions: have some tea and read some blogs, have some wine and read some stories.

As a January baby, perhaps it does make perfect sense that I would be extremely interested in hibernating at this time of year, putting on some more fat and floating along…actually that describes many of the aspects that I bring to my birthday celebrations.

I love living in this sunny upland desert and how if I am patient with the day (a fine practice with constant grunts and squeals following me around, demanding inappropriate objects) it eventually reveals itself to be made just for this: sitting outside in the sunniest spot I can find by my wide open door and typing it out.

I have just taken up the book Homeward Bound and already I want a book club around it or maybe to take up a task force with the author and some of you lovely friends.

This book describes well the moment of motherhood I, and many friends, are in. I want to hand it to my mom and say read this, it explains so much. I refer back now to one of my original questions provoking this nearly yearlong inquiry: as a daughter of the second wave feminist movement, was this lifestyle I am living the endgame? I really want to do more, grow more, put more of myself out into the world and I am sitting hear boiling bones and scooping marrow, trying to decide how serious I am about realigning the outsides of our life with our inside values.

A dream I hold is buying up some lovely, rugged land along a creek and building a home from my own design and a schoolhouse with yoga studio alongside. We could school our children, grow animals and vegetables, recruit friends to come live alongside, work alongside, make music and merry and dinner alongside. It’s my chronic hippie daydream, start a commune and do it well.

A Joel Salatin quote popped up in front of me today: “Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first.” Exacto.

What else? The internet’s been attracting my gaze as it is won to do, here are a few threads keeping me going with gentle touchstones as we plod, skip and jump to the new year: From Hectic to Harmonious, I am appreciating the simple reminders there and Walking Advent gives me a bit more to pay attention to at the physical level each day.

What are you holding sacred this holy season and how are you manifesting your heart’s truth?

 

The Here, The Now or I want a typewriter, again. (Obviously)

The colors here, right now are nothing short of glorious in their contrasting ease with one another. Blues and golds and oranges and earth tones that I dare not describe (leastways not more than this).

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So much to say, how to jump right in? Sleep deprived as I am, nothing’s flowing quite like yesterday when I hightailed it up to Atalaya ridge and jogged my way back down, sun lowering into it’s deep southwestern pocket and golden light baffling me with the depth of illuminated beauty all around.

In my daily life, I am scribbling notes of composition and attending to time signature. Measuring out the beats, rhythm and lyrics for self care, child care, home care, relationship care, community care, earth care: how often does each act need to be touched upon- to feel like it’s all flowing as it should. To keep it up for me, so that I can keep it up for them.

It is hard to find the time for this page, words and notebook pages have been piling up around me like the dropped deciduous leaves that I am so happy to chance upon.

Layers of me have been peeling back, remembered versions of self arising and I welcome them, I am calling myself home. The toddler boy and I are now a few weeks beyond our nursing dyad and while my muscles and bones are in high, sometimes incessant, demand for lifting him up, there is a subtle re-containment of my life force within my own skin. And so, looking back at the self that lived and loved before these seven blessed years of marriage and childrearing, I am not without a touch of “damn, girl… now what?”

Our same old, same old questions are circling around inside me, digging ever deeper roots in my heart’s space and my wearied mind. Answers flutter up on bubbles of effervescence and float on down around my feet.

My inner slam poet has been showing herself, seeking audience-intense desire to be heard, to create lasting change, to manifest-what next and what will I do when I grow up:

It is not a new refrain, it is a backbeat to this Autumn.

Luminosity is a word reverberating inside my head these days, Autumn’s Golden Light (not incidentally my halloween concept costume)- and throughout moments of simple, pure grace such as light shining through a leaf, my boys giggling together, a chance to breathe and stretch when my hands are set free-these moments feel hard won and I give myself pause to rest in them: delighting in joyful, luminous space, breathing it in, knowing it is sure to pass by if my heart should turn away.

Heart Medicine, pearls I am collecting for the golden thread days.

Do you want to share a moment of grace that caught you and held you? I would love to hear all about it.

 

 

The Grocery Thing or Kitchen as Playground

How do we feed ourselves and by extension our families?

There are deep underlying questions and approaches to this fundamental daily practice, but today I am going to keep it to the nuts and bolts as I am experiencing them.

I am lately aware of the sheer quantity of mental space and physical energy I devote to our nourishment. It is a nearly constant background hum to my thoughts when home. There is something about doubling the children in our family that has shifted our family dynamic substantially (and our grocery bill as well).

There is an obviousness in this list if you are currently, or have in your life been the prime food provider, but for me it is still a bit of a revelation: weekly meal planning, grocery shopping, daily dinner item double checking, three meals, two snacks, lots of wiping up, chopping, dishwashing and sweeping. Though, I want to very much, I need to save the practice of growing our own food in quantity for another day.

Fortunately, I love food and I can embrace that. For these days, at least, my hands and heart get to play creatively when I am in the kitchen working for our family. It’s an easy merge with my needs to imagine and implement fun ideas and to see myself as an artist, as a provider.

Bearing in mind that I fashion myself as a bit of a nutritionist; I have been devouring (ha!), for many years, the thoughts and research of others about food, foodways and food production. Indulge me while I attempt to list some of the more influential ones I have read…The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Salt, Cod, Food Inc., Supersize Me, Feeding the Whole Family, A Homemade Life and, most recently, Nourishing Traditions and Full Moon Feast. (There are countless more, but I tend to forget the titles I have read if I don’t write them down, hence the goodreads list you might see on the side of my page.) I eagerly seek out the current edition of Edible Such and Such when visiting new towns and I will listen to radio broadcasts and read blogs about food for both the deeper marrow of the issue, as well as new recipe ideas.

We are not unique in this, but the challenge I find in this is working within a budget that is stretched too far in every direction these days. We are a family of four attempting to do way too much on one salary, one of which is paying for food that is fresh, local, organic and tasty. We (or I) choose these purchases again and again and yet I keep thinking there must be a less expensive way.

Shopping from farmers directly, cooking from whole foods, touring the world at the behest of my tongue  are all things I esteem, they are in line both with my values and what I have learned from study and practice. Food (and drink) are two of the places where I exercise my power in the world (where I put my money down) and at home (when and what and how I present our nourishment) and in my body (being playful, open and creative in the kitchen and garden).

I do aim to grow more food and find affordable, cooperative shares and I know every time we move and reestablish our community, natural and human, that it cuts those plans back down to the ground.

Many of you know that the question of where is home pulses steadily in the heartbeat of my marriage. If we stay here in the high dry desert for the long term, there is a way to move into sustainable food habits.  I visit the homes and gardens of people who have lived here long enough to establish good soil, appropriate irrigation, loveliness to behold and baskets full of nourishment. There is a lovely kitchen garden tour each summer, which I attended as one of my first acts of arrival two summers ago and will tour around again to see new homes later this month. So, there is inspiration all around in case we stay, if we choose stay.

At any rate, this is home right now. In the meantime, help me think this through: we could move somewhere with better food growing conditions and put our shoulders into that work (appealing), I can give up the game and shop in bulk from low wage paying, pesticide spraying corporations (which I do in moderation already), we could find another family or two to either cohouse with or at least co-eat with (we would embrace it if the conditions felt right). Am I missing something easy here?

I believe strongly that I am paying forward our health costs by feeding us in this way with love, attention, cooperation and commitment to the joy and health of eating. For the short term though (while I am not drawing a salary, nor successfully producing much food from the earth), it feels hard to stomach the grocery bill each week.

We are taking a baby step cleanse here: ten days without consuming any added sugar in our diet, as per the Fed Up challenge. I miss my mid day chocolate, but other than that I am pleased with my discovery: each time I crave sweetness it is simply a time to make a conscious choice. I am looking forward to seeing the film when it comes out, though I am sure it will appall me.

Wondering… if anyone wants to watch it with me or play with co-nourishing this year? And, what’s on your dinner table and in your snack basket that makes your heart and tongue sing while not breaking the bank?

It’s a Rhythm Lifestyle

I sometimes wonder if I am too intent on my housework.

I find a real sense of ease and beauty when I have placed things just so and the dust has been wiped away. It allows me to sink deeper into the lived moment when my eyes graze the floor and see no thing left to do.

The reality is, though, that it takes hella time to maintain a home, particularly while living with young children and a slightly neurotic feline. The work is never complete. Rather, I pause and return, again and again.

Housekeeping requires rhythm as it is always waiting to recommence. My heart seeks meaningful pauses and to embrace the work, there is a song in all of this yet it can be a real struggle to uncover it.

The reality is that there is an extreme repetition to the work each day and I fear for my sanity if I allow this to be anything less than an inquiry into spirit, culture and-when I am really on my game- craft. The last thing I want to show my boys is that housework is drudgery because that would have me daily resisting my life, but submitting over and over.

And yet, I can not help but look around some days and wonder; as a daughter of the feminist movement, was this the endgame? Am I living the dream that they held in their hearts? Or, are my sisters working with their babies in daycare living the dream? What would allow all hearts and families to flourish in this one precious go of it?

Sure, to be able to choose between career and homemaking is an evolution of culture and some women, families manage to do BOTH, but I want to take it further. I do not believe the conversations of the 1920 and 1970s and all time are over. I hope that you will join me in this conversation when you can.