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Today is Sunday. In my growing up Sunday was for Mass. For most of my adult life, Sunday has been for family. Recently, Sunday has begun to be for Quaker Meeting, though sporadically. Even before that, weekend mornings became time for contemplation, often at the stove and countertop, sometimes at the computer.

This morning I wake up early with an alarm going off that eventually stops, just in time for me to realize my son’s girlfriend is awake downstairs. She is leaving early to meet my son and I want to get up to visit and send her off with winter things for him, assuming she needs my help sorting through trash bags of stuff he packed last spring, which spent much of the summer in Richard’s basement, then came to Ben’s room, where I stashed some in his closet so the electricians could do their work.

We visit and I write. I’m back to my red notebook of Morning Pages and as it is meant to do, that writing clears my mind. We sort through the bags. She takes what we think he needs, gets on the road, and I sort the rest, shelving clothes he may or may not want, sorting socks with matches and on their own, putting aside snowboard gear and winter gloves for when I hope to see Ben next.

After she goes, the house is quiet. I finish writing, notice the browning bananas on the shelf, decide today is the day for banana bread, close a few windows after turning on the oven, appreciate the way the house and world have cooled down overnight.

This time I make two loaves, one for my kids and me, one for Quaker Meeting. Wednesdays when my kids aren’t here, I make the salad for Sharing Circle at the Meeting. Every time I do it makes someone happy. Often on those weeks that is the only real cooking I do, outside of preparing day care meals.

Many weekends after my ex and I split up, I made banana bread for my kids. Had I thought of it and gotten up early enough, I would have sent some to my son.

This morning while I make the batter, I listen to On Being, a podcast with four religious leaders, centered on the influence of the Dalai Lama, and on the role of happiness in our lives and in the world’s religions. The rabbi speaks of the role of food in the Jewish tradition. The Arabic leader speaks of the need to respond to beauty. The Dalai Llama speaks about happiness and hope in the face of trials. Someone, if not all of them, speak of the Sabbath as a time to stop and let life catch up. There I am at the counter doing just that. Others talk about prayer and meditation as similar in ways to Sabbath..the way they cause us to slow down to allow life’s blessings, a phrase I’ve not loved to use, catch up. If we can slow down, rather than always racing ahead, we notice all we’ve got, feel gratitude and love, go deeper. For that I’ll consider using the word blessings, may even turn to prayer.

Standing at the counter, stirring batter, putting the banana bread in the oven, listening to On Being, I do that, get centered, feel good. I come away as though I’ve prayed. I understand a bit more of where I am and where I’ve been. I feel connected where I may have only recently felt alone.

The last two weekends I haven’t been with my guy, his choice. This weekend is the second of three in a row with my kids, a rarity for me to have this many weekends without Richard, with my kids.

Yesterday my gal and I spent the day watching Ben play frisbee on a club team out of Albany, regionals for this adult summer league, his segue out of college into adult life. Shortly before the last of their three games ended, a young woman who had introduced herself when we arrived, who also had family at the game, approached me on the sidelines to tell me I had done a fine job as a mom to have raised such a good guy as Ben, that they loved having him on the team, and that his work with them would make his college frisbee experience that much richer. It was at the beginning of that game that Ben had decided he wouldn’t be coming home last night, would be spending the night at a hotel with his team, last chance to hang with them, as they wouldn’t be going on to Nationals.

Instead, I got his gal, Michaela, who joined us at home for the night. We visited. She and Isabel and Jonah and Jonah’s gal Isabella and I were together for dinner. After dinner the older ones sat at the table and talked and laughter. My gal and I watched New Girl, and also laughed. At the end of the night I spoke to Richard, something I had taken time off from doing while we sort things out, and we laughed some, too.

The weekend hasn’t been what I expected. It’s been just fine. Today is the Sabbath in the Quaker religion I’ve come for the moment to call home. Time to shower, to take the banana breads out of the oven, release one from it’s pan for the Meeting attenders, leave one on the counter for my kids, and get myself to Meeting.

Have a listen to On Being if you have the time and inclination. Enjoy the fall day, wherever and with whomever you are. Bake something delicious if that’s your thing, or do what is, thinking happiness as spiritual practice, recommended by the spiritual leaders of the world:)

http://www.onbeing.org/program/pursuing-happiness-dalai-lama/147

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Today I have a full day at home on my own. My children and I returned last night after days and weeks apart, after long drives, traffic, a scene that required more of us than expected. This morning when I woke shortly after 6 the scene replayed and I got up to start the day, to cover the brand new outlets installed in the day care while we were away, to drag the trash and recycling accumulated from the last week of day care to the curb, to put our kitchen together, to drink a cup of tea and answer e-mail, to install a new to us air conditioner in the day care window above the outlet the electrician installed just for it.

As the kids were about to leave the house the rain began. I searched out raincoats from the pegs and basement and sent them off and then the rain began in earnest. It came down hard and fast and when I looked outside, there was a flood and then there were my children driving through it in our new car. I screamed as I had last night during the scene I won’t describe here, this time at my son, who couldn’t hear me through closed doors and hard rain, but soon they were through the flood and parked in front of the house. Later they were back on the road and the house was quiet upstairs, full of kids and day care teachers below. 

More desk work all morning, and laundry, and now I’m restless as can be. Time for ratatouille, first batch of summer, inspired by my favorite table at the Northampton farmers’ market this weekend, offering baskets of ripe tomatoes, mixed peppers, french squash, small potatoes. It’s cooler and less humid than it was when I woke up, though the storms are predicted to return. I’m listening to Krista Tippet interview a young artist for On Being, feeling good to be up from the table where I worked a long while, hoping the batch of ratatouille will be a good one, if a bit small, that it will be a fine meal for my kids and me tonight, second dinner of the week, last week we’ll be together at home for awhile, planning to make the most of it, fridge full of local produce, blueberries, veggies, eggs, mind less full of plans for cooking than of hopes for meals together, conversation, companionship, kindness, family in my home.

Here is a photo of the flood on our street, along with a link to the Krista Tippet pod cast with Dario Robletto, and if I am ambitious, the recipe from Moosewood for Ratatouille, should you be hungry, too.

I’m not able to cut and paste the recipe, but if you google Moosewood and ratatouille, you’ll be all set:)

And now I can’t do the photo, either..but here is a link to the podcast! I’m technologically challenged today. Time to go back to the chopping board, hands on learning where I’m at. Well, even the podcast link won’t copy..ugh..maybe later it will. Google Dario Robletto On Being and you’ll be all set:)

Today got better. Must remember that. Take a walk. Go out in the sun. Read a novel. Eat delicious food. Drink coffee. Visit with friends. Rest. Hang with young kids. Do yoga. With a friend. Talk afterwards. Eat chocolate, and veggies, and garlic.

All these things help. They take the sad and lonesome and gray away. They give back energy where things felt low. This past weekend, at the advice of a 96 year old, I watched a great segment from 60 minutes on living past 90. Many of the ideas above prove true. Drinking coffee and wine extend life. As does keeping weight on, versus getting thin. I’ll see if I can find the clip and share it here. I watched it on a DVD the 90 – something had sent away for in the mail, 90’s style.

This evening, while eating dinner and tidying up, I listened to a podcast on mindlessness and mindfulness. Much of the same stuff could be taken from that. Paying attention matters. Living life in a language of caring for ourselves cares for us. Listen to the podcast if you can. Take care of yourself. Might as well. Who else will?

http://www.onbeing.org/program/ellen-langer-the-simple-act-of-noticing/6332

 

 

This morning I wake up in the house alone. The rain patters outside on the rooves and cars and on the lilac in the yard, given to me by my mother years ago, from a bush given to her by her mother years before that, trimmed by my brother a month ago, so that the bush loaded with blooms arches perfectly over the gate to our back yard, gate built by my former father-in-law many years ago, now usable by the day care children and families as they come and go, no longer blocked by the overgrown bush, trimmed by my brother along with the rose, which had  grown up in front of the day care kitchen window, where we could see it’s blooms, rose a gift from my sister and brother-in-law when my ex and I bought this house many years ago, still blooming, trimmed way back by my brother so all the dead and lanky bits are gone, or under the porch in yard waste bags, awaiting the next day when the city will pick them up, bags put out last Sunday night by me to no avail, dragged back in by me on Monday after work, when I had given up on the yard waste pickup for the week, accepted the return trip.

This morning I wake up to dreams. I fall back to sleep and the dreams continue. In the dreams I am trying to find home. I’m in my neighborhood at the end of the dream. I’m not alone. We are looking into houses whose walls are lined with art. Liana is beside me and we wonder on one home, a long slender passage not too different from the home where I retrieved my daughter last night, where my daughter had spent the day with her friend, a fellow artist in her eighties, a staff member from school, and her other young friend from Germany, the artist about to retire after fifty years at school, the friend returning to Germany after several years at school, the artist’s husband in the upstairs bedroom, which the artist refers to as the room where their children come when they stay, husband working there at a desk, all the walls of the house covered in art and some of it has words about freedom and it’s importance, which make me think of the artist’s work at school and her art as irrevocably entwined, home ending at the back in an enclosed garden, visible from the front entrance to the back of the house through large windows filled with plants. The house in the house has one wall covered in what looks like hand made paper swirled in a light blue varied pattern like waves, the other wall hung in all sorts of framed works, like the artist’s, and in the dream, I ask Liana about the paper covered wall and she tells me yes, her mother has done something similar with a wall covered in paper of varied depth and color and she tells me how her mother has done this, a technical description which also carries the message that in this home where we are peering, the work is stronger, that we are somehow closer here to home than we were as children, that somehow we are able to judge and know.

I wake up this morning and look at my computer and find the Writer’s Almanac in the theme of Mother’s Day and there are both a poem and a history of Mother’s Day and a story about a writer who was also a mother. The poem is about a daughter whose grandmother and mother are singing a song together about a place the daughter has never been but can imagine because of the song, a place where the mother and grandmother may or may not have been, and in singing and making a poem about that place we are all there, can imagine the place clearly, and are moved to tears.

That is what mothers do. They take us to places we have never been and allow us to take the young ones thereafter.

I sent my mother gifts for Mother’s Day this year, a card from Ashfield and some flowers and chocolate ordered from the internet. Both made her happy, not so much I would imagine because they were wonderful gifts, but because I had taken the time to send them, which is not always easy for me to do, and because they reminded her of her own mother and of me and my children. My mother also sent me a card and a gift, which arrived separately as mine did to her and so after the exchange of cards and gifts by mail, she wrote e-mails and made phone calls of acknowledgement and my daughter and I on our way back from the visit with the artist made a call to my mom.

Shortly after dropping off my daughter to her dad and step mom, where she wanted to show me their new garden, I went to Central Square to buy some tie dye and silk screening supplies for school. I had spent the day with people and was ready to go home, first breakfast with my sweetheart, then a wedding for a day care family, with Liana and several day care children and their families from many years of caring. I was overfull with love. But still, in Central Square, as I parked the van, preparing for a trip to Blick and an evening at home, and Mother’s Day on my own, full of Meeting and errands and chores, accepted with as much grace as I can muster, I found a happy smiling boy of mine waving his arms at me through the van window in the rain. He was on his way home from Liana’s, where he had spent the afternoon playing D and D with friends, one Liana’s son who was once his day car buddy, after spending the morning and early afternoon babysitting for a former day care family who was at the wedding, and here he was at my window smiling broadly at me.

I showed him photos of the wedding, of my day care girl in her stained tights knees, eating watermelon with her friend, both girls in our care four years, and the girl’s parents, together over ten years, married now in one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve experienced, where another of our former day care parents played drums for a trio which made music for the bride and groom and then their friends to tango, which I admired through the screens from the porch along with their daughter and her friend and Liana, romance in their steps. Later I sat beside the groom eating my brunch as he told me the story of his week, including math class with my ex-husband, a birthday party for his son, planning a wedding, the big day, then Mother’s Day. What a way for me to celebrate, is all I can think, surrounded by the fruits of my labor, in living, breathing color, in a place full to the brim with blossoms, flower girl Liana’s and my charge, lilacs in my garden and in the wedding place perfectly fragrant and moist, watered by Mother Nature, as the gardenia in my dining room was not, dry when I got home late, needing water as I washed the dishes from my children’s and my Friday lunches, heated myself leftover soup from dinner early in the week, lit the candle, and began the quiet part of Mother’s Day, the reflection on the good and bad, the grace the goal as much as the bravado.

Driving home from school on Thursday with my children in the car I cried at images of breakfasts in bed with my small children, lilacs on the tray along with the omelette and potatoes and grapefruit their dad used to prepare, their small, smiling faces and wriggling bodies climbing into bed beside me; all those images were fresh and also gone. Today I want not to cry for those lost days, though in writing this small bit, I do, but to live in the moments I have and had and to see the mothering all around.

Now it’s time for breakfast on my own, a shower, and off to Quaker Meeting, where I expect others with be with and without mothers and children. Some will instead have decided to march with others for peace, a Mother’s Day tradition from way back. I will not be alone. My children will spend today with their father, though part of me thinks I may visit them briefly, as I’ll be in their dad’s neighborhood when I return to Dick Blick, which closed while I was showing my son the photos of the wedding and while he was taking one of us, which he sent to me via text and which I’ll share with you here. Happy Mother’s Day, in whatever form it comes.

Here’s a link to Writer’s Almanac, should you want to learn the history of Mother’s Day I enjoyed today, to put the day in historical and personal perspective, and listen to the lovely poem below that was my morning’s gift. My mom is also alone, so I should check in with her, too..Mother’s Day is not all joy, at least if we’ve lived life in many facets.

Also, I’ll share the photo of me and my boy, on Mother’s Day Eve in the Central Square lot where he smiled through my window, serendipity for sure, or good luck, allowing me a second trip to the neighborhood where my kids may get a Mother’s Day visit from their mom after Quaker Meeting and before my shopping for the day care and for school, many roles for me to share my mother love.

And, lastly, I’ll share a link to the On Being podcast in honor of Mother’s Day, What We Nurture with Silvia Boorstein (http://www.onbeing.org/program/what-we-nurture-with-sylvia-boorstein/242), a podcast I enjoyed very much before and may listen to later in the day, if I finish my errands and cleaning out the van so my third child and his gal can use it to bring his stuff back from college on Thursday. We’ll celebrate our Mother’s Day again next weekend when he’s home.

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/#

 LISTEN

I Ask My Mother to Sing

by Li-Young Lee

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.

I’ve never been in Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.

But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.

Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.

“I Ask My Mother to Sing” by Li-Young Lee, from Rose. © BOA Editions, 1993. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Image

Its now been four years since my ex and I came apart. Valentine’s Day 2009 we told our children about the impending divorce. A year and a half later it was legal. Six months later their dad remarried and I was with a new man who I was to spend two and a half years getting to know before that ended, too. Our oldest left for college last summer. In less than two weeks he’ll be home for the summer, girlfriend of one year by his side. When we split up our children were children, eight, twelve, fourteen. Now they’re not, twelve, sixteen, eighteen. Those four years were huge.

I don’t know the cycle of grief by the books. I do know it by heart. Forty years ago this year my father died. That one I’m still grieving. Along with the much more recent deaths of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Somehow, though, this spring feels lighter than many springs before, even though I’m on my own again and the kids are growing up and away and plenty of uncertainty is in the air. I’m wondering if it’s what Krista Tippett was talking about with her guest this week, Rex Jung, who discussed Creativity and the Everyday Brain with her, that aging process where we learn slowly to get perspective, to let go a bit of our intelligence, to embrace our creativity, to settle some of the losses of our early life, and to release ourselves a bit as we age.

I do find myself curious about the unknown. With so much change at midlife and the view behind and ahead from what I hope is not quite the midpoint of my life, the not knowing has become the way to be, scary, yes, exciting, sometimes, surprising, still.

I’m a person who spent much of early life on the track of a successful person, good student, good grades, good schools, good work, good life, early marriage, three kids, two houses, large circles of friends and family, large life. By midlife, most of that is shrinking in importance. The degrees were over half a lifetime ago. The marriage ended. The friendships ebb and flow as do the connections to family, shrinking now, and I wonder if that is the new trend, the shrinking of my social world, the introspection, the seeking of one-on-one and small group connection over  activism and large movements in the outer world.

I wasn’t expecting these changes. Most of us seem not to, but many of us experience them, if James Hollis is right.

There are piles of poetry on my bedside table, along with novels, a memoir, some nonfiction. The newest addition is James Hollis’s The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Mid-Life (Studies in Jungian psychology by Jungian analysts), shared with me by a friend with whom I was discussing midlife and offering my favorite James Hollis thus far to him, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, a book offered to me five years ago, which I read without stopping on vacation, stunned to find it just after forty when these patterns had not been clear at all, and needed words to come to the surface, a gift from a good friend who also shared Composing a Life.

I wake up in the morning this spring, often well-rested, recently emerged from a dream I can mostly barely remember, and it takes time for me to move from that state to wakefulness. In some ways that is midlife for me, that waking from a dream into wakefulness middle ground, where things are emerging, unclear, the creative brain and logical brain mixing up their terms, new life forming while the other fades into memory a process more visible than before.

I’m rambling now. My friend needs to talk. My girl and I need hair cuts. Later there will be an appointment, dinner out, a play. Tomorrow they’ll be at the ballet with friends while I walk or attend Quaker Meeting with mine. We begin to share interests as we begin to part ways, my children and I shifting subtly some days, profoundly on others. We’re trying to plan the summer, to negotiate this middle passage between childhood and adulthood for them, between young adult life and old age for me. Maybe there’s a novel to guide me. So far, I haven’t found one. Seems more likely I’ll find the story elsewhere, in poems, in memoir, in Jungian analysis, inside. We’ll see.

Happy midlife Saturday if you’re here with me, or Happy Saturday if you’re not.

Enjoy the Krista Tippett podcast if you have an hour sometime soon. It kept me company while I made a delicious dinner last night, caesar salad being the new recipe we all loved, garlic lingering on my tongue this morning with the dreams, and gave me some more sign posts on the midlife journey.

http://www.onbeing.org/program/creativity-and-everyday-brain/1879

 

This is the Saturday morning that is the one I can say follows a pattern. I sleep in a bit, lay in bed awhile, get up to work, to sort the week’s mail, to pay the bills, and find myself wandering the internet, e-mailing with friends and family, cat beside me, mail opened, bills unpaid, though they will be soon, all while my kids sleep.

Some Saturdays while they’re here, I cook first and do the dishes, perhaps a more productive way to start the weekend, fresh banana bread smell a lot more satisfying than recycled envelopes in the bin.

But, here I am. The screen printing gear is in my living room again. The first round of shirts are done and will go on sale the week school reopens, for the week before the show, then at the Coffee House where my kids will perform. I’ll attend the second show after attending the memorial service of a former day care mom earlier in the afternoon. Life and death and music of all kinds that day. My mom an sister may even come for the show, if we can coordinate.

The week ahead is not typical at all, in spite of the mail opening, bill paying start. My kids are on school vacation. I have to work three days. We’ll have a weekend at home and a weekend away. No huge plans. Feels like that in general right now. It’s a stage of no huge plans. I am a bit at sea.

In what now appears to be an attempt to get a plan, I’ve called the contractor about the basement renovation and put the San Francisco, Muir Woods, Big Sur fantasy on the table for the kids. Now it’s all the steps from here to there to make those dreams come true. Hold Fast To Dreams, as Langston Hughes once said. I sure do try.

Our day care will be full of kids from one to twelve this week, a week I enjoy very much. One teacher is away with a brother having surgery. The rest are on different schedules, one day with our sub. The snow is back again, big, loose flakes on the skylight and in the sky this morning as I woke and worked,  now subsided. The sidewalks and streets are still clear, which brings relief, though tomorrow that may not be true. Later today a group of girls will show up to hang with my kids. The house will be full for an evening and parts of two days. That will make me happy. As does the time this morning in its way.

All week, I’ve been with people at school and day care. I’ve thought a lot about the social and the introspective, what it means to be alone and not, how to find happiness and/or meaning in both. Will stop with that thought, bring it back when I’m ready, assuming it sticks.

I listened to a great podcast of Krista Tippet interviewing Seth Godin for On Being while I made one of my better Spanish Tortillas for my kids and I to eat last night, a dinner at nine in the Spanish tradition. I’ll post a link here in case you’re curious. I loved it, thought I’d write more, but will let you discover it for yourself. When I reread the title, I am reminded why I loved it and why I hope you will, too. Enjoy.

http://www.onbeing.org/program/seth-godin-on-the-art-of-noticing-and-then-creating/5000