Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Soul Food

I didn't cook anything but the rice & spinach dish. I simply went to Wegman's and bought some Bourbon seasoned salmon and crab stuffed mushrooms to put into the oven. I got veggies, pretzels and dip for my glass partitioned snack tray, that I love but never use. It wasn't really soul food. There were no greens, pork, fried anything, mac n cheese or excesses in anything. I had enough for everyone to eat a perfect portion (not out of any sense of anything, simply because I didn't plan well enough to have extra). And watermelon as opposed to chocolate cake for dessert.

Everything tasted good. It was satisfying without being overwhelming.

But the food that enriched my soul was being with my family: my 82-year old grandpa, my aunt and her two boys, my cousin, his wife and their son, and my kids. It was easy-going and light, but full of spirit and good energy. I only thought how sweet that they still love each other like that, when my cousin's wife reached behind him and put her arms around him. It didn't occur to me until later how great my response was in that brief moment.

It was so good to see my grandfather moving, albeit slowly, but taking in his grands and greatgrands. I see age creeping into his bones and interfering with his energy. I see good genes at work as he traveled all the way from NOLA alone to see his family. I am slightly bothered by his trembling hands as he shows, but loving that he wants to show my teenage cousin how to sketch a face.

I love watching my kids play with their cousins. I believe things work out even when other things fall apart. It's so amazing that my kids have 2 cousins their age to play with and grow up with. It's amazing that they've known each other since birth and are good friends and they have this constant in their lives.

I only had a little watermelon after the evening was over, after everyone had gone home and children were sleeping soundly. I remembered my father, who loved watermelon and whom my brother and I laughed with as children eating watermelon together, while tasting the sweetness of this fruit. I remembered a beautiful day with my family who is still here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

on Language

I think language is failing me or I'm just a failure at language. Maybe it's tone that I fail to accurately convey? I'm playful and light and it's incorrectly identified as a jab that needs to be defended or lack of awareness on my part. I'm serious and the hearer goes into joke mode.

And what's all the more humorous is I'm a language teacher. I help students analyze language, tone, word choice, an author's use of specific strategies for a specific rhetorical function. Yet, I can't seem to effectively apply appropriate language use for my own target audience(s).

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Grading and Being Kind

I have a friend who recently started writing a blog and she gave herself a D in mothering/parenting. I felt so much sadness for her because the amount of stress and heartache she is dealing with means her mothering tactics are shifting and sharpening daily. There is no scale in which to measure mothering under immense stress. I told her, what a friend always reminds me, "be kind to yourself."

But, I catch myself doing the same thing, evaluating how well I'm doing as a mom, beating myself up for not doing this or that, for fussing, for wanting things to be just so. I've lightened up on my tongue lashings, but I'm watching myself shift and sharpen as I navigate these waters. The first part of my journey was a hard, almost hateful, heart-wrenching dump into a murky, muddy ocean. I'm grateful my heart no longer aches. But the stresses continue, they shift and you learn to shift with them-- learning to upright yourself once you fall and continuing with that cyclical pattern of falling and up-righting.

On your good days, you realize you will always fall, and you just "shake it off." On your bad days, you put a noose around your own spirit with mean, evil criticisms that interfere with God sparking/re-igniting His divine flame within you. It's hard to recognize your own unkind words as aggression towards yourself (The Wisdom of No Escape) or plainly put, evil setting up shop in your mind.

I love reading to my 2 year old because he loves books and repeating words and pretending to read on his own. I love reading to/with him, except when I get tired of it and want to read my own magazine or watch t.v. or check email. And then I'm upset with myself for not giving myself over to this curious child who only has me a few hours a day. I'm upset that I don't make my seven year old read more. Reading to him began when he was in utero, and somehow he has fallen in love with legos and out of love with books. And I don't encourage reading because I'm tired, and then I beat myself up again. (This is simply a short list; a portion of what goes on in my home, in my head that I'm willing to be honest about)

I beat myself up, then I remind myself to get rid of the grading scale and just try to be for a little while. I think of how I made Ezra laugh with silly voices and kisses in ticklish spots. I'm proud of myself for taking in his laugh, the dimples near his elbow, the teeth that are taking their time to appear, his beauty, how he's changed, his eyes as they narrow when his whole body becomes engulfed in laughter. I was fully present when I made him laugh.

I think of how I was interested in Elijah's story about the bug that Micheaux accidentally killed. The children found some leaves to cover the dead bug and wrote rip (I didn't ask or correct, I just listened)near his resting place. They named the him Mordecai Something Something, "bugger" for short. "What a long name," I said to show I was really listening, as opposed to my sometimes,"mmmmhmmm," that one day he'll recognize as not really listening. Today, I listened to the story. I made vegetables with dinner tonight. I let Elijah play outside and I brushed the baby's teeth. If I kept going, I would realize how much I've actually done and be all the more kind to myself.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On Namaste

Namaste....I've only understood it as a greeting, signaling respect. As I try to be more consistent with yoga, with writing, with being with myself and less checking out in front of the t.v. before bed. I needed to understand more. So, the first wiki article was very technical about how namaste originated in India as a greeting. I found a great Yoga Journal article that further illuminated "The Meaning of Namaste" for me.

The writer broke down the parts, explaining them as "I bow to you." But he went down a road that I've recently been traveling via various writers and modes. He wrote, "We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart."

As I do the yoga poses, I'm in touch with my breath and all parts of my body, in the way that Thich Nhat Hanh encourages in many of his books/teachings (i.e. Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices). I feel different, very mindful of myself, in touch with myself, calm, happy.

At first, I was skeptical when I thought about humans as divine. But, then I read about buddhism, mindfulness (great writers/teachers: Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, even Elizabeth Gilbert), and the more I understand Christianity--"we are joint-heirs with Christ," the more I can accept and cherish the idea of surrendering to the Divine in the heart.

Surrendering to that divinity opens up a world of possibilities, that surrendering reveals the weight of God's glory.

Shirley McClain echoed the opening of possibilities when she expressed that we were all psychic if we just let go. I think being in touch with ourselves, the divine part of ourselves opens us up to knowing ourselves, knowing what is in front of us and knowing what will be.