Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yearning for Simplicity

Oh the irony in this one. I feel this growing desire to go back to my roots and explore living a simpler lifestyle.  In suburbia no less. I think it is part of asking myself, after a year with so much change,  what do I want from this life of mine?

I started looking at blogs and found myself totally and completely overwhelmed by all the ideas and advice. Hah...searching for simplicity lead to overwhelming complexity.

I have decided my first step is going to be to listen. 
Right now as I listen, I hear
  • the slow deep breathing of my sweet five year old labradoodle Cody 
  • the hum of the computer 
  • the louder hum of the cicadas outside my second floor window
As I go deeper, listening moves from a one sensory experieince to being multi-sensory - if I listen with the fullness of my being what do I hear?
  • my eyes listen to the warm light of the lamp on my dresser
  • my body hears the stuffiness of ragweed allergies, sinus pressure behind my eyes and pushing underneath my temples 
  • tension in my neck and shoulders that are trying to bear the unbearable
It is not comfortable to listen to my body right now. I choose to sit with the uncomfortable. and just listen.

In this one moment, stop, listen, what do you hear?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Beauty

Hmm....have not thought this direction for awhile when it comes to beauty. Instead I continue to see beauty out there, not in here.  I am in awe of the beauty around me that I bear witness to every day.  Dare I ask myself, Jen, how can you know beauty if you think it no longer resides in you?

Is there beauty in my belly that seems to keep growing?  Can I find beauty in all this extra weight I carry?  I look in the mirror and see one of those ancient mother goddess statues with roll upon roll of flesh spilling forth.  As I look I can imagine those ancient people believing the world was born from her girth. But can I see her  as beautiful?

I think I am holding all the grief and sadness of the past few years. Mostly the past few months. Ryan's death in a car accident, my mom's death from cancer, my husband's surgery to remove the cancer. If I go back a bit further it is also the weight I carry for the daughter I was not able to give birth to. 

Eleven years ago my belly held the new life growing within me that emerged as my sweet precious son.  Now that same belly holds so much grief, uncertainty and sadness.  But as a woman, as a mother, can I believe that the grace of the Sprit is moving through that belly, creating new life and waiting for me to bear that new, wet, unique and precious life into the world.

Can I just dwell in the possibility? Letting Spirit have the how and me the open-hearted trust of being born anew?  In this fifth minute, right now,  I can.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

a message from my mom

It was about a week after my mom's funeral that I walked onto my back porch.

It had been at least 10 days since my feet last touched those cedar boards. Then, I had been a different person and my mom was still alive. But now everything had changed. I had joined the family of motherless children.

Now I forget why I was out there, but I looked over at the grapevine wreath my mom had made me a few years ago. It's all crazy with twigs sticking out and leaves from last fall caught in its branches. I love it for its wild unruliness. Resting on the inner circle of the wreath, a mama robin had built a nest and inside that perfect container....three exquisite blue eggs huddled together.

I couldn't help but think about me and my two brothers. Little did I know within a few days, my dad would discover a cardinal's nest, my oldest brother a family of baby ducks under a bush in his front yard, and my little brother a nest of finches in a wreath mom made for his front door.

Mom was speaking to all of us and reminding us not only does life go on, but even in the emptiness and sorrow, new life was being born - again and again...around us, in us, through us, because of her and her deep motherly love for all of us.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

the seat of our deepest feelings

“Birth is a very special event in the sexual life as a woman. It is a time when you are transformed: you become a mother; you give birth to another human being. This great opening of the womb happens only once or a few times in your life…Your womb is the seat of your deepest feelings.”

Janet Balaskas
Active Birth

Opening is hard.

Uncertainty is our companion. Fear is understandable. And yet, the call of Life asks that we allow ourselves to experience the fullness of birth. In this great opening of the womb, we are raw. Our animal nature will prevail if we let it. We squat, we howl, we rut. We are fully in the moment and wholly consumed by the force of Life that takes over our bodies, our souls, our minds. In birth our power as creators is made manifest.

We participate in a profound transformation. We are giving birth, but we are also being born. Our cries in labor herald another birth – that of a new mother coming forth into the world. We, too, emerge from the fleshy folds of the Great Womb. We are wet with her juices and breathless in this new land.

Once we arrive at this moment, there is no turning back.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Turkey Hero and A Birthing Room

When I arrived at the hospital I went to the floor of the birthing center. The nurse told me I had my pick of rooms. By that time I was tired. So I walked into the closest one and laid down. My midwife Colleen came in - she was shocked to find me already there. Bob eventually arrived with all the trappings I thought I would need. In the end, I neither needed nor wanted any of them.

To hear Bob tell it, I spent my labor in a hot tub. First I walked and walked the corridors working to keep the labor progressing. I occassionally got into the jacuzzi. Bob, as is typical, was busier thinking about food then the impending birth of his child. He went to a deli and got himself a turkey hero and me chicken noodle soup. I tried to eat a little but just couldn't. He on the other hand had no appetite suppression issues. At the time of his dining, I was really feeling my contractions and they hurt. By this time it was probably 2pm. I had been in labor since 5am and had been traipsing across the whole city! Bob was more interested in his sandwich than the other happening in the birthing room. And then? I lost it. I lost it big time.

From my place in the jacuzzi where I was trying to lessen the impact of the contractions, I screamed, "This is not a F&*%!ng Yankee game for God's sake! Get over here right now and look at me. Do not take your eyes off of me!"

Bob promptly did exactly what he was told. There was a smirk on his face but at least he complied with my wishes. He demonstrated his love by leaving the turkey hero on the table.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Waiting for It to Pass

As I walked toward the hospital, I paused every once in awhile to wait for the contractions to pass. I was now unable to walk through them. I remember holding on to iron fencing at Fordham's Lincoln Center Campus as the pain grew more intense. New Yorkers are great. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. A couple of people stopped and asked me if they could help me. I said I would be fine once the contraction passed and that I was almost to the hospital. Now some folks probably think I was nuts to do this. But it seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I had been "training" for a natural birth so everything I knew was about moving through labor. I hoped this walk would make the baby come sooner. It was at the gates of Fordham that I did have some doubts about my plan though. At that point what else could I do? I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I don't remember much more of the walk after I had held on to the gate. My focus turned inward and the city melted away.

Lavender Roses and a Labored Walk

I left the midwives' office excited but nervous and commenced my pilgrimage down Broadway from 71st Street. The contractions were beginning to get more intense. As I passed a florist I decided to stop in quickly and buy myself some flowers. I knew that would be the farthest thing from Bob's mind and I thought they might make a nice focal point in the birthing room. I bought three lavender roses. They are my favorites because of the smell - sweet and tart all at once. As I stood online to pay a contraction hit me. It became pretty obvious to the florist shop attendant and the man in line ahead of me what was going on. They both wanted to put me in a taxi, but I told them I was walking, it wasn't far and this way I would probably have the baby sooner. I thanked them for the roses as I headed out to continue my walk downtown and west to 59th Street and Tenth Ave.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting to the Midwives

I called Bob to tell him about my water breaking and increasing contractions. Velma answered the phone at the Catholic Boys high school where he was teaching in the South Bronx. He shocked everyone, but not me, by saying he would leave as soon as he finished his bagel. I told him to come home, pack up my stuff in the taxi and I would call with info on where I'd be. I was off to the midwives' office. They wanted to check on me before having me go to the birth center at St. Luke's Roosevelt.

I arrived at the midwives' office via subway from the lower east side to the upper west side. It was packed with pregnant women. I was the only one in labor and expected to be treated IMMEDIATELY. Instead they had me sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes. I sat there quietly figuring they just wanted the labor to progress. Finally they called me in. It was Sandy, one of my favorite nurse midwives, that examined me and told me I was four centimeters dilated. She said I should go to the birthing center. I could either take a cab there or walk so that I could move my labor along more. The distance was just under a mile (but I did not know that then). I opted to walk.