Category Archives: Daily Musings

Anything but hopefully not everything that comes to my mind. I do try to filter out the fluff, really I do.

A day’s dose of relativity

As I was changing out a load of laundry and thinking about the constancy of leaves on the patio in our backyard, I thought about what litterbugs trees are and how keeping up with them really is a daily task. As I let the notion marinate for a moment, I recalled William McDonough’s 2005 TED talk, Cradle to Cradle Design. It’s been years since I heard his impressively thorough definition of a tree:

“Imagine this design assignment: design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colors with the seasons and self replicates.”

But I still remember his ironic point:

“Why don’t we knock that down and write on it.”

And to further his point: wipe our hands and other things on it just to throw it away. But I digress.

Thinking about McDonough’s words gave me an embarrassing pause. (Thankfully I didn’t speak those words out loud. And yet, here I am writing about them.) How often it is that I frame some reality in my own perspective and in so doing leave out so much of what is essential to whatever it is that I’m analyzing. The picture is nearly always so much bigger than I can really wrap my brain around, so I stick with my small view of the world. Which I guess isn’t so bad, right? Actually I think that it is rather dangerous, perhaps one of the most significant foibles of humankind. Take twenty minutes to hear what McDonough has to say and I think that you’ll realize my point:

But there I went digressing again. When I had this initial insight about trees and how amazing they are and how I was just seeing this one little thing about them that was just so happening to cause me a bit of worry (because I was wondering how I’d ever truly be able to keep our patio looking tidy), I realized that this insight surely must apply to other aspects of life and I thought, I really should keep this one in mind.

Within a couple hours I was facing up to another manifestation of my tendency to provide myself too narrow of a view on a situation. This time it involved Mr. Entropy and some dirt. We were at a little farm up in a park near our home. I found myself quite frustrated at my son’s insistence around pushing his stroller in a crawling position. Through the barnyard dirt.

Then there was the oral wood chip inspection.

And the frantic run down the path way with a fall right into a mud puddle.

The climbing up the hill was fine except that I had the precarious job of pushing the stroller up as well all the while keeping a watchful eye on my little guy. I was not happy. But somewhere in the midst of what I considered to be unbearable chaos (I know, it really wasn’t that bad, but this is a post about relativity), I remembered my earlier insight and had a moment of gratitude. Which did a lot to calm my nerves.

So much of what we do as parents could be analyzed in terms of relativity. Sure, we have an idea of how things should go. But often so does the kid. And who is to say whose desire is more worthy of follow through? I’d like to think that I give my little guy a lot of autonomy (for a thirteen month old) and that as time goes on I will continue to give him more room to build his sense of self and personal velocity. But it is a matter of compromise, bearing in mind my respect for him especially in the moments when I feel least capable of doing so, and remembering that all things are relative.

Looking at this notion of relativity through an even more global lens, the stark contrast between the daily minutia and the constant potential for big change which we each embody seems even more amplified in the early years of human life. Because there is so much mess on the minuscule level, and and perhaps the greatest amount of yet-to-be-determined that we ever have- before we even know what we’ve got. We are so fragile, and so strong. So harsh and so vulnerable. So self absorbed and so generous. So eager to learn and so scared of the unknown. So easily blinded to the many blessings bestowed upon us that it seems very important to make a regular practice of remembering all that we have at our disposal. To do with the best that we are able. To me, this is the real philosophical stuff of parenting. I am constantly amazed at what opportunities a day with my son offers me. Aside from my own life, he is the best gift that I have ever received.  And to truly receive him is a moment to moment practice.

A funny thing happened when we arrived home. A little squirrel popped out from somewhere as I was unloading the car. I think that she hitched a ride down the hill with us. She’s stuck close by ever since. As I write, she’s having a snack outside my window.

I’ve decided to call her Adele. Somehow I think that she means to stick around a while….

As far as I know…

It didn’t rain in Oakland the day after my revelation. But it did rain in Orinda. A friend who is good with fact finding tells me that the chance of a precipitation occurrence in Oakland on July 17 is 1.3 percent. So these are rare days. And that’s my current explanation for making it four days in a row to sit and write a bit. I’m now well on my way with writing every day. In these early days of setting up my writing space I’ve gotten off track with this post as I lay all the pieces of the original foundation in place. It’s as if a dam has opened. There is so much in my head ready to tumble out through my fingertips onto the computer screen that I’m having trouble keeping up. To stick with the water analogies, my mind has been flooded for quite a while with all these thoughts and ideas. Now that the dam is opened it’s a matter of forming various river beds over which my thoughts will be able to freely flow. This is a very comforting notion to me. To think that I may have found a way to free myself of the work of containing all these thoughts and ideas. To think that there may be a way to walk lighter on my feet not constantly bogged down with what’s going on in my head. And what’s more, to think that all that goes on in there might actually flow toward some sort of productive end? Wow. I’m quite happy. Lighter on my feet already, actually. Tuesday was oppressive with the very familiar sentiment of desire meeting up with the constraints of reality. In spite of that self-imposed heavy weight bearing down upon me I set a course by starting this blog. As I’ve continued on that set course, I’m progressively feeling better. In this small window of time, life is opening up to me. It’s as if I’ve finally figured out how to be more of myself. And that’s the real stuff that I’m always trying to get to.

Having these rivers of thought is powerful for me. With their creation and readiness to receive what I churn out I have found what I always speculated I would find: a tremendous sense of relief. To have the thought is one thing, to process it is another. It’s the processing that usually gets me into trouble. I get caught up in my mind’s twists and turns if I keep the thought in my head. And my mind is a dangerous place to stay for too long. Believe me. But to take the thought, process it enough to put it into writing, and then further process it with the goal being to arrive at some positive conclusion? (By positive, I mean some sort of idea that does me or somebody else some service). Well, that’s fabulous! Marvelous! More than my little mind could conjure up, to be sure. Which begs the question, why did I wait so long to do this? I’ve contemplated just this course of action for many years and yet only now did I go through with it. Timing is everything.

Having a kid has given me many opportunities to be more of myself. It has tuned me into my gut instincts in a very empowering way. These changes happen on all levels but in my case the outward expression of them has been most apparent in how I approach my work as a Pilates instructor. It is increasingly easy for me to look at what challenges me about my work and find a way to eliminate those challenges while enhancing the aspects of my work from which I derive satisfaction and inspiration. This week’s new beginning is another iteration of this shift into life-reality rather than mental-misery.

Having and ipad and a lot of time sitting on the couch while nursing was the perfect combination to get me hooked on blogs. So many blogs! My favorites are Soulemama, the purl bee, and smitten kitchen. Thanks to the gals behind those blogs I’ve done a lot of cooking in the kitchen and a lot of crafting in every other room in our little apartment. My husband was starting to get frustrated with the number of projects that I started (and eventually finished or will finish eventually) and begged me to stop reading the blogs. Shortly afterwards, it dawned on me that I could also read books while nursing. That proved to be a very useful realization because even I was growing concerned that perhaps I had some sort of addiction to acquiring craft projects. Now I’ve got a list of craft projects to complete and I slowly make my way through that list as I slowly make my way through everything else that fills my days. That feels pretty normal, so that’s good.

So it would seem that I’m one my way with a course set toward sanity. Regular expressions of my -very human- creative nature are scheduled daily. And as far as I know that’s the way to get through the day with some measure of joy. For the moment at least, I am operating on the assumption that my ambitious goals might find a resting place amongst the nitty gritty of creating. It seems reasonable at least, that taking care to fulfill my personal desires in a thoughtful way might very well present a portal out into the great world beyond my mind.

Many have made the point that I’m trying to act on with this plan but I came across what I interpreted to be a variation on the theme so that’s the one to share today:

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”


I’m just old fashioned…

Which means that I like real stuff. Food. Exercise. Sleep. Conversation. Entertainment. The list continues. And now I’ve got a kid. And it seems that the real stuff takes work. A lot of work, every day. Taking a break doesn’t go over well because the work piles up. When faced with an all too common pile of work to do, I wonder how people do it. And the answer is they don’t. This is why most people use disposable diapers and buy baby food and do all sorts of other things that I’m not keen to do. And this is why I have help.

I’m doing all that I do in search of substance. It may sound overdramatic but deep down that is the reason. I am on a constant quest for all things real and substantive. Once we had our first baby we were faced with the ongoing questions of “how are we going to do this” and it became clear that there was no possible way to do everything that there was to be done. After a few trials we settled into a routine as far as help goes.

Here’s what I realized along the way. I want anybody who is a regular part of our home life to be happy and comfortable in that work. Looking back at my own life I remember my days of babysitting and house cleaning. In fact having my first child has often sparked my fond memories of caring for other children. In those jobs that I had as in all others since, I learned a lot. I realized that I wanted to have somebody around who would appreciate helping us because they liked cleaning and being with kids (yes, there are people who fit that bill) AND because they liked to learn more about those things. I wanted someone who was like me, but younger. Someone who was headed somewhere with a lot of enthusiasm and pluck and who in the meantime needed some money.

Here’s how I found such people. From a client, I learned that each of the higher education institutions in our area has a job posting service for families looking for domestic help. And so I posted a position. I was immediately overwhelmed with the response. This was a good confidence boost and necessitated thinking through another step in my process. I set about figuring out a way to process all the resumes and correspondence quickly keep me on track toward finding the right person for our family. I had a list of qualities which were important to me and that I could glean from the initial phase of correspondence with the applicants. I listed each applicant by name and the important qualities on a spreadsheet and gave each person a point for each quality that they had on my list. Then I picked the three highest scoring applicants and sent them a message with a couple more questions about qualities that were not apparent from their resumes (transportation, allergies, yes or no types of questions). From there I asked each of the three to come for a visit. The visits were very helpful. I’ve now completed this process two times and I’m learning to trust my gut instincts when meeting people. In both cases there was one person who “just felt right.” In both cases, I’ve chosen that person and been very happy with the results. Overall I’m please with the process that I’ve designed because it has a few stages of evaluation leading up to the final meeting in person which is the real determinant. At each stage I can abandon a lead and pick up another one from the list of prospects.

Now I have help and I find it great in a lot of ways. My kid is pretty much always with me save for a few hours per week when I am out for appointments. Structuring the position the way I did affords for the people who help us really knowing how we do things and being comfortable completing all sorts of various tasks around our home. I don’t have to worry that my kid is having some sort of experience that greatly differs from what I’ve set up for him (while I realize that he will eventually be out in the world far beyond my arms’ reach, for now he is a baby and I hold to the philosophy that mama’s instinct is to be followed for everybody’s best interests to be served). The baby knows these gals well and really enjoys being with them. And he’s got me available when he is in need.

I’ve always been clear that I wanted to cultivate independence and focused engagement in my children. So it follows that I aiming for the someday when we are side by side each working on our own project. It’s not reasonable to expect this of a little baby, but having the work of our home executed in this way on a daily basis sets the standard for future years when it is precisely how we’ll get things done.

For me the support of another person is wonderful. For the moments when I’m dispirited, it’s a big help to have another person present. It helps me to hold myself together. It may well be because I’m on better behavior for my helper’s benefit rather than for some more profound reason. Regardless of the reason, the result is far fewer mama freak-outs and of course that is a good thing.

I have only conventional wisdom to back up this idea, but it seems to me that it wasn’t too long ago that domestic work and child care were communal activities. I think that this is far and away a better approach than the one that seems to be the current standard. So often in my days I see moms with babes and when I am in conversation with them I learn that most of their days are spent in solitude. I can’t imagine how people do this, it is a constant marvel to me as I face the challenges of my days. A marvel and a consolation. But really, I think that we can do better that each of us alone in our little homes using the notion of shared suffering as a source of comfort. Perhaps I’m way off on this. Perhaps I live in some sort of little bubble. Well yes there is always that unavoidable truth. But I can still see through the bubble to the outside world. I the way I figure, might as well try and make things as good as they can be rather than settling for things being not so great. I guess it could be said that along with being old fashioned, I’m also an optimist.