Thursday, February 24, 2011

On the Conference

I'm back from attending a conference in Monterey, which was just all kinds of fun and exhausting.  I go to this communication conference every year and the people are so smart and fun and I end up having conversations well into the night with them, and listening to interesting papers, and drinking way too much.  I don't take my vitamins or floss or go to bed at reasonable times.  I'm messy.  I eat at odd hours.  I do exercise but only as much as I need to in order to get up and get going again.

In short, I'm everything at this conference I'm usually not here.  Here, things are orderly and calm and the stress is always just nipping at my heels but I keep it at bay with all these practices--the journaling, the regular hours of sleep, the exercise, the calendar, the meditation.  At the conference, the stress is exhilarating, peaking as you give your talk then dying down as others peak and then you go out and have beers and talk about how nervous you all were even though you're all friends.  The clock and the calendar only matter insofar as you need to know when and where to show up to speak or to listen; time is fluid otherwise.  I take a plane to a new city and sometimes I don't know where I am (I thought I was in San Francisco, for example, until someone pointed out I couldn't catch the BART to my hotel in Monterey) or how I'm supposed to get to my hotel but I always get there.  I don't know where my next meal will come from or if I will meet someone new.  I come home wanting to write new papers and teach differently in my classes and not be so uptight.

The conference is the academic's workation.  I miss my kids, I miss my E., and I also delight in feeling young and free before I come home to security, responsibility, service, duty, peace.  The conference is my drug.  I don't want to live there but I sure like playing there twice a year.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Red Letter Day

Addie's school was closed today, because it seems to close every other Friday or Monday, and I had promised Nolie that when Addie get to stay home, she'll get to stay home, too, and so the three of us had the day together.  And here is what we did:

First, we went skiing, just the three of us, with no ski school.  First time ever.  Just going for it.  We only went for a half-day, and we didn't do a ton of runs, but the three of us made it up the lift, and down the hill, with no disasters and lots of fun.

Then, we came home and, after a loooong bath and some pizza--a rarity around here now--relaxed and cuddled up on the couch.  Addie read on the orange couch, and Nolie and I cuddled up on the red couch.  I had the new Sundance catalog and Nolie had Frog and Toad Are Friends.

I thought she was just going to look at the pictures and then bug me to read to her.

But no.  Blamo, the kid started reading the book.

Just like that.  She's been sounding out some words here and there, but not really reading fluently.  Then, Frog and Toad.  Pretty much with fluency.  And it's not that easy of a book.  I mean, it's not Dick and Jane.  I would never had believed it if I hadn't seen it.  How does this happen?

So, Nolie, at 4 1/2 years and two weeks, you began to read.

And now, we're watching Miyazaki's Ponyo.  If you haven't seen it, make plans to, right away (it's streaming on Netflix, if you have that).

Because it's awesome, as all Miyazakis are, and because it will give you the clearest picture of how Nolie is right now, much clearer than anything I could say.  Magical little fish baby:  that's Nolie.

And that, my friends, is what a perfect day looks like.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I'll Never Be An Adult

Ah, well, this made me laugh on a difficult day.  And it's good to know (judging from the comments) that all of us feel this way now and then.

Roller Coaster Day

Pru was scheduled to have her surgery this morning.  I did not have positive thoughts about it over the weekend, but by yesterday I had settled into the possibility that they would be able to remove her tumor all the way and get "clean edges" and she'd be okay.

Then the surgeon called E. and said while prepping her for surgery he had noticed a bunch more tumors.  E. and I had already agreed that if the cancer was really advanced we would not let her get very sick and suffer, we'd let Pru go, so we agreed to meet this afternoon to say our goodbyes.  Weeping, weeping, weeping.

But then the surgeon talked us into putting her on steroids for a week to see if the tumors responded and to give us time to say goodbye.  And this, too, seems reasonable, and so now she is home with us, nursing her wounds, and we will love on and appreciate her for this last week and maybe some time after that, but maybe not.  And we'll let her go.

Then Addie's school called to say that Nolie could go to kindergarten there next year.  Joy and hallelujah.

This weird life is full of odd blessings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Davies Clan, Posterity

My cuz Heidi, who is a photographer, scanned a bunch of family photos in for my Gram's funeral.  I hadn't seen most of these, so I want to post some of them here, just so my girls see them when they look through the toddlerspit books someday, and so I don't forget.

That's my dad on the left there, with grandma and Grandpa next to him, and two of my Aunts, Debbie and Diane, below.  Crew cuts were and are popular with the men in my family.  Those who had hair, anyway.

Flash forward a few decades.  Muggs on the left, me holding some baby there (clearly my penchant for odd bangs and little babies goes back a long way), then my brother Jade, and my Uncle Terry's chin hair is in there too.

Muggs and my Dad.  She looks suspiciously over-happy in this photograph.  As does he, for that matter. Gives me pause.

Okay, weird to include this in family photos.  But this is the fox that visited my grandpa every day, especially in the year before he died.  He loved feeding this guy.  I have a fond memory of him getting very excited about the fox, even when he was quite sick.  This is oddly the most emotional photo for me in the bunch.  Hi, fox.

Muggs, with one of the six babies.  SIX!

Typical Davies shenanigans.  Don't even know what to say.  Babies are trophies, of course, but come on.

Also not quite sure what to say about this one.  I really did think of my grandmother as being quite staid. But perhaps these photos tell a different story.

Entire Davies clan, assembled some time in my twenties.

Um.  YES.  All I can say is that my wicked design skills must be genetic.

Also YES!  And definitely revising my previous assumptions about Grandma Muggs.

Ditto.  Gorgeous.

And my Dad, looking about 13 at his wedding to my Mom.

Thanks for strolling with me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Young Writers' Memories

This permission slip just came home from Addie's school:

Which reminded me of my own Young Writers' Conference, which I attended in 1987, and still have the t-shirt for:

How 'bout that.  You try to split your life in two, and you're constantly reminded of the threads holding it all together.

reJuJuS on Etsy

So, it's not totally up to speed yet, but if you're interested, I've opened a wee shop on Etsy, and a few things are listed there.  A bunch of my very talented friends will also be posting items there soon--we're going to do a sale, some of the proceeds from which will benefit Partners in Health, an organization that has long provided local medical care to folks (and by folks) in Haiti.  I'll post more as things appear.

It's small, but, you know.  Baby steps.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Crying right now because my sweet kitty Prudence, my friend of 11 years, who sits on my chest every morning and every night and licks my tears when I am sad, has a big mast cell tumor on her leg.  It's in a tough spot, but our hope is that they will be able to remove all of it this week.  She just fell trying to get on the bed, and she's freaked out by her collar, and is a skinny little thing and the tumor seems so large.  I don't know how we didn't notice it earlier, and I'm feeling guilty and freaked out that something like that could escape our attention.

It's all temporary, and I know whatever the outcome, it will be for the best.  I just hope our sweet girl will be okay.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Thin Man with a Knife

Another good way to start the day is with a morning poem.  I'm surrounded by amazing, beautiful poets who keep me stocked up in good poetry, and I'm so blessed for that.  These women are my favorite poets, certainly.  But I also continue to be drawn to Bly's Morning Poems (come to think of it, I'm often drawn to male poets, singers, that saying something?  Or is it mere coincidence?  I'll have to think on that...).

Anyway, this was my poem for today, from Bly:


Well I do it, and it's done.
And it can't be taken back.
There's a wound in my chest
Where I wounded others.

But it will knit, or heal, in time.
That's what you say.
And some that I wounded
Claim:  "I am the better for it."

Was it truth-telling or
A think man with a knife?
The wound will close, or heal
In time.  That's what you say.

Back to Practice

M. mentioned the other night that she had bought a book on meditation, and was going to give that a try, and I thought to myself, oh, yeah, meditation, I haven't been doing that.  And then when I went to my tuning-forks healer (yes, that's what I said.  What?) this week, she mentioned I should probably get back to meditation.

Okay, so I'm getting some messages that I should meditate.  But the dog has to be walked, and classes prepped, and emails answered.

Then I noticed that I've been in ego-overdrive, which for me looks like me getting really internally worked up over things I care about:  whether or not that journal article is going to get accepted (Why I haven't I heard?  What is taking so long?  What if I don't get published?  What will people in my field think?  How will I explain my failure?) or why some students in my Communicating Science class aren't taking their blog assignment seriously (Do they think I'll give them an easy A anyway?  Have I messed up the structure of this class? Do we need a different textbook?  What if they don't like me?).

On and on.  And as the mind goes round, so does my stomach, and I get little spikes of anxiety, little spurts of adrenaline throughout the day, and end up feeling weary and exhausted and strung out.

So back to meditation I go.  This is what works for me when I can't seem to quiet my mind:

I just sit somewhere comfortable.  Because of my back, the traditional meditation pose doesn't always work for me (it does after yoga, but that's about it).  I like sitting in my bed, or slightly leaning back on a bean bag.  I put my hands on my knees with my thumb and forefinger touching.  This "mudra" reminds my body of what it's supposed to do, and a little body memory is helpful when your mind is spinning a lot.  Then, quite simply, I count to ten, timing the counting with my breath.  I try to notice when I'm rushing the counting, my need to "get it done" overwhelming the breath.  Often, I don't get past 3 before I go chasing some thought (this morning, I was chasing writing this blog post).  But, eventually, if I persist, I can get to 10, and then start over.  And before I know it, the thoughts are mellowing and I can let them go, not chasing them too much.  They still come but I don't have to necessarily ride them into the sunset.

The counting is not the only way to go, obviously, and if I get back into my practice, my need to count, even, eventually fades and I can just go into quiet.  But it's helpful when I'm out of practice and my mind seems to big for me to manage.

Above all, with the return to practice, I am returned to myself and can notice my ego-overdrive and it lessens its hold on me a little.  So, here we go again.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The B Word

Haven't written in a while about my very favorite mommy blogger topic:  the B word.

That's right, Balance.  That ever-elusive carrot, that siren who calls to us, either because the culture says we must do it all or because we recognize that things within and without are out of whack and something must change.  Thinking back on all the times I've written on this blog about trying to achieve balance, or being out of balance, is heady stuff.  I think it's almost impossible to do when you have babies, for example, because they quite simply require all of you.  Toddlers, on the other hand, require all of you plus some.  Trying to raise children, have a career, exercise, have a sex life and meaningful relationships, a creative outlet, cook healthy meals, walk the dog?  Oy and oy and oy.

I used to resent it when parents of other kids told me it would get easier.  I think I wanted some acknowledgment of how hard it is right now.  And I wasn't sure I believed them.  I see now that they were right.  It is getting easier.  We have swaths of time now where the girls entertain themselves.  Everything from trips to the grocery to dentist appointments to nights eating out is easier, physically and mechanically.

Some challenges have simply shifted, though.  Whereas we used to fight with Addie about getting her pants on in the morning (the tag is too itchy!) now we fight about doing homework at night.  Remember how long we fought with Nolie to sleep?  We've got that down now, but instead we're fighting her incessant bored cries of "There's nothing to do!"

Let me be clear on that one:  I'd much rather take sleep and have a bored kid than the other way around.  My point is that the balance issue never really goes away.  But it does ease some and it most certainly morphs.

I was thinking about this while the kids were getting ready this morning.  Eric gets the girls up and then down to breakfast while I wake up, drink coffee, and journal a little bit (yes, I'm spoiled).  Then they come upstairs and I help them get ready for school.  In-between breakfast and getting dressed, though, Addie has to have potty-time because of her constipation issues.  This can sometimes create a little bit of time-stress because we want to give her lots of relaxing time to go but at the same time she has to be dressed to get ready for school.  Most of the time we make it, but sometimes we have to hurry her a little (not on the potty--just getting dressed).

Addie does not like to be hurried.

Let me repeat:  Addie does not like to be hurried.

The more you hover, the more you press, the slower and dilly-dallier she gets.

She'll slither to the bathroom on her belly rather than walk.  See how many books she can balance on her head.  Show you a cheerleading routine, sing a song, put underwear on her head and prance around.  Anything but aim for the task you need her to do.

Being a fairly focused do-er, I have to appreciate her efforts.  I have to admire her resistance to my by-the-clock-and-calendar way of being.  And more than anything, I love it when we have enough time to allow her to dilly-dally all she likes without haranguing her to get her stuff done so we can get to school.   We can laugh together and play and not worry too much about the routine.  But that, sadly, is not most mornings.

Instead, we balance patience and impatience.  Spaces of time and hurrying.  Loving support and not-so-gentle prodding.

We're probably raising a confused maniac.

Thank you, balance, for reminding me you are my ever-elusive constant.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Living the Februaries

I get auto-updates now and then from Martha Beck (not everyday, which makes me feel better about my own lax posting style).  As you know, I'm a big MB fan.  Anyway, Martha's email today was about coping with a "February," kind of living in the winter doldrums.  And one of the things she suggested for coping with any winter blues you might be having, oh, right about now, is this:

Be still. When times are difficult, many of us think we should get up and get moving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth century mystic wrote, "I need to be silent for a while, worlds are forming in my heart." During the times we thing we're being "unproductive," the seeds of new worlds are germinating within us, and they need peace to grow.

I like this, because--though I'm not feeling particularly low or depressed right now--I am certainly feeling quiet, and it's helpful to have some words to describe that feeling.  Cyclically speaking, I struggle a little to get motivated for work this time of year, and some projects that typically feel important to me wane in importance.  The pile of to-dos and to-be-reads grows larger on my desk, and I find myself drifting off more.  I even exercise with less intensity, and sleep more.  Socially, I feel much more inept.

And I need a lot more coffee.

My friend N. has always urged me to be kind to myself at these times because things are happening, in my brain and in the world, without me being fully cognizant of them.  These times are important and regenerative.  I think that's what Martha (and Eckhart) are getting at as well.

As I get older, I'm finding it a little easier to be patient with my ebbs and flows in this way, even though I think so much in our world (in the US, especially) pushes us to be all-productive, all the time.  I'm happy to resist this, both for my health and sanity and just because thinking of ourselves as automatons sucks.

I wonder, though, if it's frustrating for my family and coworkers?  Do they need/want me to be productive and active when I feel most like being quiet?  And what is my responsibility to them in return if they do need that?  What if, in fact, we all need some quiet, and I can lead us into that?