A Piece of Sky…and a #giveaway

51kSchCDAJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_-1I just read a phenomenal book, A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice, a memoir written by a single mom about her experience of parenting, being parented and navigating all of the above relationships and more…while using meditation as a tool to put all the pieces in place. Not only is her writing incredibly poetic but I don’t think many single parents would walk away from this book without some new insight about their own lives. The very close relationship the author, Christine Hale, has with her two children is nothing short of inspirational. I’m a little starstruck when I say Ms. Hale was so kind to answer a couple of questions from me (see below)! This is a special book that gets a permanent spot on my shelf. I’m excited to say it is going to cross paths with two of my readers as well because I’m able to give away two copies! See below for details…

Beck: Most of what I write about on my blog is how to keep single parenting as simple, beautiful and happy as possible. Can you share some thoughts on how different you think your single parenthood would have looked if it weren’t for your spirituality or meditation practice?

Christine Hale: That’s a great thing to offer your readers. The intention to do good and be kind–the choice we can make no matter our circumstances–is the basis of Buddhism, which is, as you know, the type of spiritual practice I’ve been involved in for about 20 years. I worked really diligently at “intention,” as described above. Whenever my children’s (or other people’s) behaviors or attitudes toward me upset or disappointed me, or I faced an emotional or psychological parenting issue where I felt I simply didn’t know what to do, I tried to examine my motivations. Was I being defensive? Controlling? Too sensitive? Or so concerned with having my children like me that I couldn’t enforce a boundary or correction that would ultimately benefit their development?

By making the time to do that kind of spiritual self-examination, I could often stop myself from over-reacting. The practice also gave me the mental space to consider the other person’s motivations and needs. For instance, a nine-year-old’s absolute refusal to tidy his bedroom, no matter what reward or consequence I set up, was that insubordination–disrespect for me–or individuation–a need to have his space his way?  Seeing a range of possibilities let me (sometimes!) feel less embattled and more patient. Of course there are many techniques and faiths that help people be good parents. In my case, from my childhood on, I’d always wanted to be a good person and then a good parent, but discovering the Buddhist concept of “intention” gave me a method that made sense to me.

Beck: Do you have any words of wisdom for single parents going through the more difficult moments of the job?

Christine Hale: First, recognize that parenting is a difficult job, at least part of the time, and that you will fail to be perfect at it. There will be times that you feel miserable, or that your child says or does something that hurts you deeply, or that you find yourself helpless to prevent your child from having to endure a painful experience. Just because a given moment of parenting doesn’t feel good doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing the wrong thing. All you can do is the best you can–have good intentions and act on them repeatedly–and accept that the outcome, over the years, will be a mix of the bitter and the sweet.

Second, for single parents, it’s so important to cultivate something in your life that feeds you. That builds a life for you outside your child or children, who will, after all, grow up and move on eventually. Recruit help with the parenting in whatever way you can–friends, relatives, babysitters–but since you are still probably going to be alone on the front line of parenting much of the time, you need to keep your strength up. So, identify at least one activity that is just for you, that leaves you feeling refreshed and balanced, and make time for it regularly. That’s not selfishness, it’s self-care, and it will enable you to be a better parent.

 

Good advice, right?! If you want to read more wisdom from Christine Hale, please comment below to be entered in a raffle for a free copy of A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations.

5 things I love about being the single parent of a 3.5 year old.

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  1. The mind changing. SUCH an important skill. And it’s comic relief at the same time. For example…3.5yo: Please may I have a glass of milk mama? me: Sure. (Hands over a glass of milk) 3.5yo: I DON’T WANT MILK MAMA!!!!!! me: (raises eyebrows) Can’t help but laugh inside. I hope he stays flexible about his opinions and desires as he learns more about the world. (Not going to lie, this drives me nuts sometimes, too. But a good milestone overall).
  2. All the positive feedback. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from others about my child. In particular I keep hearing about his level of gratitude toward everyone. It is off the hook these days – it’s almost an SNL skit about gratitude! It is very reassuring as we weather the more difficult parts of this age.
  3. More mentors / fewer books. I’m so glad to have gotten to a stage in my parenting journey where I’m feeling less like I need to deeply research every parenting topic  and more like I can get comfort from looking to a few friends who have been through the age or stage. And knowing that this too shall pass (the bad and the good – sob!)
  4. Incredibly accurate memory. I’m regularly blown away by my child’s capacity to remember things. His spatial memory and memory for people and events is kind of shocking. He reminds me of such great memories that I would have completely forgotten about. Little brain trust over here!
  5. The conversations. I think this makes the list every time but I can’t help it. Lately it’s more obscure body parts and how they work, how babies are made, why guns are not toys, how different families do things differently, death/”passing away,” and clearer versions of his own origin story. Good times. I thoroughly enjoy this.

Intentions / August version

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Eating / It’s zucchini season and we have been gifted a few baseball bat sized zucchini over the past couple weeks. So…zucchini muffins, zucchini soup, and the most simple but addictive sauteed zucchini…it is!

Drinking / Tea all day. Nettle, dandelion, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, tulsi. Getting me through the day.

Practicing / Jumping rope. Surprisingly challenging.

Thinking / About upcoming travels. A camping trip here…a cabin trip there…repeat. Good things are ahead.

Learning / And loving, boxing.

Trying / New tactics for clean-up time. I’m so over stepping on toys, ouch.

Playing / Kitties, babies, carpenters, superheros, dinosaurs.

Loving / My usually jolly sometimes tantrum-y, industrious little child who has a shockingly incredible and impressive memory.

Reading, me / Well, more like reading and re-reading this book. Because difficult things just keep on happening don’t they?

Reading, toddler / Loving this one. Such a conversation starter.

Remembering / It’s all going to fly by just like the last 3.5 years have flown by.

Wearing / A very stylish friend told me about her favorite thrift shop. I’ve scored a few cheap but great items already.

Cooking / Hmmm…besides zucchini? As little as possible.

Working / Getting ready to close out with one of my first clients from this adventure in self-employment. Learned a lot from this one. Will be a bittersweet last day.

 

Long time…

surviving single motherhoodI’m not making it over to this space as often as I intend to. I really adore this blog though. It keeps me positive in the harder moments. We are currently going through the fun times that being about 3.5 years old brings. The fun is funner and the tantrums are…louder? Glad he feels comfortable with me enough to let it alllll out. All I hear from others is how charming he is. Guess he’s saving the rough moments for me…?

That and the world being as crazy as ever has us like…let’s get away… So away we go to the great-out-of-doors. I heard a saying once, I think something like “…when things go wrong, go outside.” Or as a friend says – if you are feeling bad feelings that feel unnatural…go out in nature. It works for us. Other things that are getting me/us through:

Tending our little aloe plant. So simple and so satisfying. That plant and I have a whole dialogue going I tell you.

Groupons = saving the day. For yoga, boxing classes and maybe a massage or facial every once in a while. You can’t beat a yoga class for under $2! It practically doubles your well-being at that price! And, ps, I’m pretty much loving boxing. Who knew?! You can also buy very inexpensive passes to museums for you and the kid(s)… Click over there – right now they have a 20% off sale going which just makes everything ridiculously hard to pass up.

Lot’s of kids books. Here is a very calming one.

Lots of reading for me after my child goes to bed. Surprise, surprise, right? I know it’s practically all I’ve managed to write about here lately.

Headstands and handstands. Try it, you might like it.

A little baking. So fun! So messy! Our latest is these muffins + cream cheese frosting.

Books on tape. I’ve used them on road trips but I’m experimenting with having a book on tape in the car for our regular times in the car. So far soooo good! Desert Solitaire is up next.

 

Intentions / July version

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Eating / Oatmeal every morning. Don’t worry, this list doesn’t stay quite this boring.

Drinking / Tulsi tea. A heartbreaking and stressful world calls for lots of Tulsi tea.

Practicing / Handstands. Good for a new perspective on things and shaking some thoughts around.

Thinking / About all the mamas losing their black babies. For no reason.

Learning / Boxing.

Trying / To have more patience. (Do I say that every month?)

Playing / Road construction, carpenter, cat, fire fighter, police officer, mama raccoon.

Loving / My resourceful, original, brilliant, beautiful, plucky little comedian child who finds joy even as I cry pushing the stroller at yet another protest action.

Reading, me / A gorgeous friend gifted me this gorgeous book – to further my knowledge and skills to support the postpartum moms I work with. Feeling freshly inspired…

Reading, toddler / Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children

Remembering / All the ages and stages my child and I have been through.

Wearing / Sunscreen!

Cooking / Cast-iron Pizza!

Working / A new non-profit client and a new postpartum family about to be due. It’s going to be a sweet end of summer and into fall.

Traveling / A week of much needed summer camp in the mountains. So glad to have found this lovely community. A salve for the soul. It feels like we can solve anything up there.

Wanting / More justice. More peace. We can do it.

Greetings From Utopia Park.

51VevgN9+YL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_I once had a short but hilariously life altering romance with a guy who practiced Transcendental Meditation. Not only was he a twice per day practitioner, but he had grown up in Fairfield Iowa among thousands of like-minded individuals and families. His stories about growing up there fascinated me. He was a truly unique person and I felt drawn to discover how he came to be that way – a large part of which was his growing up in a town that was part rural, part cult, part hippie and part townie. Now that I’m raising my own child and thinking of how people get to be how they are, I think about people like him that I have met along the way.

So I was very enthusiastic to read the new book Greetings From Utopia Park, written by a woman who had also grown up in that same small town. Her mother, a single parent, moved there with her two kids in effort to have a more peaceful life. It cuts me to the core reading about how hard her mother worked and how she made many mistakes – but how loving she was and what a close relationship they ultimately have as mother and child. The author now has children of her own and is able to reflect a bit on her mother’s experience as a single mom. I only wish I could have read a little more of that in the book. It’s really a page turner. And it may make you want to do a little meditating…

Single mama self-care on a shoestring

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Self care, schmelf care. It gets so much talk and makes perfect sense – except that it feels impossible to have as a single parent. Especially one on a budget. A friend recommended this book almost a year ago and I finally got around to reading it… Low and behold it’s full of really helpful tips – 101 to be exact. I’m taking a lot of them to heart. One of the tips included a list of free to very inexpensive ways we can take care of ourselves. I thought I’d list five from the book here…

  1. Go to a museum (on a free day!) and get inspired by some great art.
  2. Grab a hot or cold drink and sit…on the beach, by a river, or in your backyard for 20 minutes.
  3. (If your child is with their other parent for the weekend) take a weekend retreat to a monastery where they don’t charge you much to stay.
  4. Stargaze. (Something you can even do on your way to take out the trash at night).
  5. Make yourself some popcorn and watch a movie.

There are so many more ideas on the book. And you can even get a used copy of it for 1 cent here!

Getting our PhD in parenting: links to look at

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Michelle Williams on single motherhood.

The Continuum Concept is  the root of modern “attachment parenting.”

On how hard we struggle in the absence of the village.

I’m making a “stop-doing list.

Every parent needs the good reminder that there are a thousand ways to meditate.

 

 

Intentions / June version

 

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Eating / French lentil and farro stew with spinach.

Drinking / Water. Water. And more water.

Practicing / How to be the best parent I can be. Every. Single. Day.

Thinking / About a haircut.

(Still) Learning / To trust my intuition about people.

Trying / To keep writing here. Even when I’m busy and overwhelmed. Because it helps a little.

Playing / Episodes of Ask This Old House. I love that my kid and I both like watching this.

Loving / My unique, caring, determined, clever, hilarious child.

Reading, me / Orchard House

Reading, toddler / The Skin You Live In

Remembering / My 17 year old self. She was a bad-ass. I liked her.

Wearing / These sandals.

Cooking / Stocking the fridge for the week. Hard-boiled eggs, three bean salad, carrot/cucumber/edamame salad, salmon cakes, quinoa cakes, crock-pot beet hummus, granola.

Working / Out. Thanks to seemingly endless Groupon deals.

Traveling / Sardine Lake here we come!

Wanting / To never worry about money again.