Sunday, December 24, 2006

Comfort and Joy

Just wanted to write a quick post about how much I am enjoying the holiday this year. For the first time my family exchanged only a few simple gifts and instead focused on getting together to make a donation to Heifer International. This is very exciting to me and something I have wanted us to do for a long time. I remember realizing that small acts can make a profound difference after seeing a segment on 60 Minutes *years* ago about the Grameen Bank, the organization founded by Mohammed Yunus in Bangladesh, which provides small loans to women for their businesses. Previously if women needed capital they would have to go to loan sharks and pay exorbitant interest rates that prevented them from ever making a profit. Now women all over the world, even in the United States, receive this assistance and get out of poverty. (Happily Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year!) Heifer International does similar work, giving families farm animals that provide food and economic opportunities (they can ultimately sell the milk or eggs or the offspring). It is very satisfying to think that soon our little chicks, goats and cows will be making their way to some remote village and providing much needed sustenance.

Of course, one of the great joys of Christmas is getting to see it through a child's eyes. Today ds's cousin presented him with a gift and he just stood there holding it for the longest time babbling away happily. It seemed like he was saying, "This is so great. A gift from you. I just want to savour this moment." Finally the cousin offered to help him open it and inside were the toys his cousins have grown out of - a huge collection of Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Ds was so delighted and played happily for hours, lining them up, connecting them and pushing them around. As much as the material stuff pleased him, he was definitely the happiest when his uncle started horsing around with him. I was actually drawn to the room where they were playing after I heard ds laugh *uproariously* - seriously, I had never heard him laugh that hard and long before. It turns our my 12-years-younger brother was just tumbling around him, rolling on the floor, acting like a goof and ds thought he was the greatest entertainer on the planet.

A recent story really highlights ds's sense of humor I think. After a bath ds took a hat (a Girl Scout cap that once belonged to dh's mom) off of his giant monkey (where we think it looks very stylish) and put it on his head and then crawled into my lap to read me a book with great animation. As you can see, this kid is something else. I hope you are all having a holiday filled with comfort and joy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Pozole Extravaganza

The pictures above are from the pozole extravaganza last Sunday. The celebration was exactly what I hoped for; of course, it also came after a little bit of drama and soul-searching. You see, I ordered the pozole in its dried form (the canned form is so inferior, it doesn't even deserve the name) over a month ago. Two weeks before the party date I pulled it out to consider if I had enough. I found I was looking at a bag full grubs and spidery webs. I called the supplier and they regretted to inform me that ALL of their pozole was infested and they were happy to offer me a refund. I got on the internet and googled pozole. I made another order which promised to be with me mid-last week. On Wednesday I still didn't have it and emailed the supplier. They said there was a glitch in the shipment and I would have it on the 18th. My party was planned for the 17th. I explained the situation and they said they would try to express mail me a shipment and I *should* receive it by Saturday.

At this point I had to wonder why this was so difficult. I realized that I was putting a lot of energy into making amazing pozole, something that would really impress my Mexican friends. I then realized that what I *really* wanted was to celebrate our friendship and express immense gratitude for them being in my life. When I focused on that feeling I realized, as my friend Katie said, I could serve beanie-weenies and we would all love it. The day after this realization I got the pozole. And after 10 hours of steady heat on the stove, it was delicious. But what was most wonderful was getting to spend a few hours on a beautiful, balmy December afternoon sharing stories and laughing with friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Very Happy Meeting

I am posting this later than I would like but I had a busy shift in the hospital on Sunday. Here's the story: dh, ds and I had a very happy meeting with G and her family early Saturday evening. We planned to meet at 4 that afternoon, but ds took a late nap and we got off at 5 pm. I was in one truck with ds and dh was in another following us. I had directions that seemed clear, but it got dark early and there were few street signs, fewer street lights, and street numbers were only occasionally evidenced on the side of old, dilapidated mailboxes. For almost an hour we were very lost on a seemingly endless number of back roads, climbing up icy dirt paths. My only recourse was to look for direction from one of the various isolated trailers showing some vestige of life. One family raised my hope when, upon seeing my headlights, they came out of their door, waving to me, only to dash it when they said, "Are you here about the birds?" Finally, one kind woman pointed us in the right direction and even guided me with a flashlight as I backed out of her narrow, ice-covered driveway. Dh, who had been a little underwhelmed by the idea of giving G mostly hand-me downs, said it was at this point that he felt like we were offering a real gift because of the crazy adventure we went through to get to her.

As we crept up G's driveway, still unsure of where we were, and she came out of her trailer waving to us, I felt like breaking into song. She quickly ushered me and ds into the house to get warm while her husband and mine brought everything in. She and her children sat wide-eyed and exclaimed happily over every little thing. In addition to all the furniture and baby articles, I was able to give her $200 in gift card money that friends and family contributed for groceries and anything else she needs for her home. G and I both couldn't stop smiling as we chatted easily about the recent births of her and her daughter's baby.

Ds delighted in playing with G's toddler son as we visited. I learned G's husband is from Guerrero, the Mexican state where I lived for 6 months. It is there that I sampled many a delicious bowl of pozole. If you didn't note in a previous post, pozole in a hearty Mexican corn and pork stew, that is found throughout Mexico. Because of its time intensive preparation I don't think you'll ever find it in a Mexican restaurant here in the States (that and the fact that the broth is made with some rather undesirable cuts of pork, but that's another story). It is so popular in Guerrero that Thursday is known as "el dia del pozole" in the cocinas (woman-run kitchens where I would eat lunch everyday) found on every street in town. I told the family about my plans to have a pozole party next week - and they asked who was going to prepare it! I laughed and said it may not be like their mama's, but I thought I could pull off a fairly tasty dish and hoped they would enjoy it - and they are planning to come! I'll let you know how it comes out.

Last thoughts: below are the photos of the trucks filled with all the goods that my friends and family helped make possible. It's hard to put into words just how happy, how full of love and gratitude this experience has made me. I want to do more, find more ways to give, and I would love any input from you as I figure out what that will look like.

Monday, December 4, 2006


I'm so excited. I just talked with G., the Latina mama I wanted so much to find. After my last post I put in a few calls to friends who work with Latinas here in town. One didn't return my call, one said she would have to think about it and get back to me, and the other (incidently the friend I thought of first, the interpretor at a clinic where I used to work) immediately responded that she knew exactly who I needed to contact. I was able to call her today. We had a wonderful chat and I got to learn a little about her: she just moved here from Virginia, she is about my age, and has four children. The eldest is a 14 year-old daughter who had her first baby 2 months ago. G. also has a son about my son's age (19 months) and a newborn. She says she needs everything because she moved here suddenly and couldn't bring much with her. So now I am going to put out the call to all of my friends to see what we can do. Of course I expect great things.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Feeling Part

In The Secret there are three steps to achieving what you want: 1) think it, 2) feel it, 3) receive it. Pretty simple, right? Well, #'s 1 and 3 certainly are. The feeling part is the trickiest for me. Last night I had a conversation with a dear friend who has a daughter who often feels that her life is hard. My df realized that she felt anxious and sad when she thought of how her dd was struggling. She realized that her anxious and sad energy was being sent out to the universe and certainly was not helping her or her dd. So she decided to change how she feels about the situation. She is consciously creating moments with her dd when they can talk about the things she and her dd love and all that they are grateful for. Df says she has already felt the shift for herself and feels more joyful, and thinks she sees a shift in her dd, too.

When I told dh about the conversation he said he had wanted to share something with me but wasn't sure he would until he heard me tell that story. He has felt for a long time that I have been anxious and sad about the fact that he doesn't bring much money into our little economy. He has heard from me for a long time that I worry about having full responsibility for being the wage earner. And yes, I would love to see dh making lots of money doing a job he finds meaningful and satisfying. But I haven't heard anything about the universe responding to our intentions for other people and I certainly haven't seen it work in my own life. I am now realizing that is not the point. Because the point (as I see it) is that I can change the way I feel about it. The Secret dvd comes complete with homework - to finish this sentence: "I am so happy and grateful now that..." You're supposed to put everything in the present tense even if it's "I drive a VW Jetta station wagon fueled by biodiesel" and you are still driving your gas-guzzling monstrosity. So getting back to my issue with dh, I can finish that sentence with "my life is full of abundance and we have plenty of money." This isn't even a lofty 5 year goal. My life is full of abundance and we have plenty of money. I clearly understand this on an intellectual level, but obviously not on an emotional level. And that has to do with a whole lot of history, and not whether dh makes a lot of money. So I am going to focus my 5 minute meditation (also a suggestion from The Secret) over the next few days on all the abundance in my life. And I'm going to recommit to keeping a gratitude journal, something I wrote nightly before bed for 7 years until ds came along and completely changed my bedtime routine.

I'll let you know how it goes. Right now I'm grateful for my dog who wants to go for a walk with me on a mild November day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Paying It Forward

Last month Oprah gave each of her audience members a thousand dollars and a video camera and the challenge to document an act of kindness toward a stranger. Today was the follow-up show when they shared all the incredible stories of paying it forward. I was working in clinic so I missed it but picked up from the internet that the results were pretty astounding. In one case a pair of sisters parlayed their $2K into $200,000 and gave it to a center for abused women and children. When I saw the show last month I thought about what I would do with a thousand bucks. I thought I would like to find a bit of land (which would be donated, like the garden project at the YWCA) and convert it into an urban garden for Latino families. A hortaliza, or kitchen garden, is ubiquitous in Mexico, even if it is just some pots with peppers and tomatoes on a patio. But here in the States, Latinos are often crowded into small living spaces with even less space for gardening. Ds's abuelita is always telling me how much she misses her extensive gardens of flowers and vegetables. When she talks I can just see the rows of nopales, chayotes, guisantes and more. It pains me to think of her among the anemic tomatoes in the aisles of the local Bi-Lo. So, anyway, that was my thought when I allowed myself to dream a bit.

I learned from the follow-up show that Oprah gave folks only a week to act on the challenge. And I thought, how brilliant. I often get overwhelmed by grand plans and don't follow through. The idea is to keep it simple and do it. So I have given myself a challenge to find a Latina here in my home town and offer some kindness. I thought it best not to involve one of my own patients, but I am going to ask a friend who is an interpreter for another clinic to help me identify someone. I'm looking especially for a single, young woman who is pregnant and all of her family is back in Mexico: someone who is feeling isolated and alone. I have met so many women like this, I don't think she will be hard to find. I'm already planning a pozole (a wonderful, hearty Mexican corn stew) party for December 17 and I want her to meet my wonderful community of friends from Mexico and offer fellowship. I also want to help her with some of the material stuff, even if it's just a gift card to Target and some of my ds's used items. I have a little over 2 weeks to complete this challenge. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Setting Intentions

It's late and I need to get to sleep. I work in clinic tomorrow, which means a 12-hour day, but after tomorrow I'll have a break from work for about 10 days. Which means more blogging for me, yippee!

But I just had to write because starting this blog has got me thinking seriously again about the power of setting intentions. I just dug up the journal I kept over 5 years ago (started on 2/17/01) when I was working through the Artist's Way. I wrote, "In 5 years I will be fluent in Spanish and working part-time but making more than I do as a full-time midwife now." Back then I couldn't speak Spanish and had no idea what would bring me more money working part-time. By 2003 I was fluent in Spanish (after a six-week stint in Guatemala in the summer of 2001 and six months in Mexico with Doctors without Borders in 2002) and working only 24 hours a week (compared with 48+) but earning more. I have so many more examples of this phenomenon, too. So what is most surprising is that I forget how powerful it is. I'm keeping this blog with the hope that I never forget again.

The Secret

Dh and I watched The Secret last night; the film is based on the Law of Attraction, the idea that the universe wants your best life. All you have to do is create it with your thoughts and feelings. I have seen this law work many times in my life but I am ready to kick it into a higher gear. This is tough because so much has to do with intention and as a working midwife and new mama I am often sleep-deprived and don't feel like I have much time to be intentional. But I figure this blog will help.

So why create a blog with My Friend Oprah as the title? For the longest time I have wanted to connect with Oprah. I have a journal entry from 1998 stating I was sure I would meet her (when I was on the short list to be in her book club when Midwives was the novel) but it didn't happen. But I want to make it happen, for sure by 2008. (10 years seems to be a nice gestation period.) This is really a blog about my intentions and what I want for my life. And while meeting Oprah is a biggie, being joyful is the biggest and just seeing the title of the blog makes me smile.

Okay, ds is up from his nap and it is a beautiful day. Time to play.