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Mama Says

Mama Says, Inc.
P.O. Box 381
Montpelier, VT 05601



Winter 2009
Issue No. 12
Montpelier, VT

Motherhood and Spirituality
Mama Says

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Mama Says Mama’s Ten Favorite Books on
Mama Says is a forum for expression, education, and dialogue; it is a collective
of the voices of our community.
Motherhood and Spirituality:
Mama Says began as a newsletter, created to trace the personal evolution of
ourselves as parents. Now, Mama Says, Inc. is a community network organized Your Children Will Raise You: The Joys, Challenges, and Life Lessons of
around improving the lives of families through support, education, advocacy Motherhood by Eden Steinberg
and communication. We invite you to join our work or submit writing. Con-
tact us at: Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Ka-
Mama Says, Inc.
P.O. Box 381, Montpelier, VT 05601 Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen
Maezen Miller
Mama Says, Inc.
© 2008 The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by Wil-
liam Martin
Editor: Amé Solomon is a mother, writer, midwife living in Vermont.
Layout: Sarah Madru and her husband live and work from their home in Plain- The Tao of Motherhood by Vimala McClure
field, VT, which they share with their two children and two cats.
The Path of Parenting: Twelve Principles to Guide Your Journey by
Vimala Schneider McClure
The Mask of Motherhood: How
Becoming a Mother Changes
Our Lives and Why We Never
Talk About It by Susan
Mother Rising: The Blessing-
Featured Artists: way Journey into Motherhood
by Yana Cortlund, Barb Lucke,
Cover Art by Linda Wooliever. Linda is the mother of two beautiful kids, Donna Miller Watelet, and Pam
owner of Vermont Fiddle Heads, graphic/web designer and an artist. England
Photography by Christa Emmans. Christa is an artist specializing in oil paint- Mother's Nature: Timeless Wis-
ing, teacher, and social worker living in Vermont. dom for the Journey into
Drawing by Kristin Brosky. Kristin lives in Plainfield and in constant amaze- Motherhood by Andrea Alban
ment of the beautiful life she leads with her swashbuckling husband, Mike, Gosline
and two mindblowingly spectacular daughters, Dakota and Ani. You'll find
her most days at the Plainfield Co-op up to her elbows in fruits and veggies Our Share of Night, Our Share
and most nights in her rocking chair beside the woodstove with a cat and a half of Morning: Parenting as a
finished crossword in her lap.
Spiritual Journey by Nancy
Kids Activity Page by Brian Goodwin. Brian is a proud papa of 2 who enjoys Fuchs and Fuchs (out of print—
art, music, stale cereal fragments and unwanted sandwich parts. but the library may have it).

editor’s note
When I was younger and studying to be a midwife, I found analogies
to the birthing process everywhere I looked. In the laboring mother I
witnessed her writhe in pain, breathe through tremendous difficulty,
reach deep down and make peace with her situation, surrender to the
process, and face her deepest truth as she and her partner brought
forth new life. Most remarkably, I saw women find a warrior-like
internal resolve; even those soft spoken ladies would access their
mother lion during transition. Every birth inspired reflection on the
power and wisdom women innately possess and for me to have faith
in my own inner fortitude. I marveled as the natural process un-
folded free of self judgment. I observed how they hurt more if they
became scared, and seemed more at peace with their pain when they
accepted it—which often helped the baby come sooner. I learned
from them that there was pain with purpose, and that we can make
it through the most mind-numbing, excruciating pain, even though
we sometimes think we can’t. In the end there is triumph, joy, and
empowerment beyond measure.
Birth work gave me a glimpse into a holiness I had no awareness of
before—I found that the very air becomes crackly alive, a precision
focus occurs that makes nothing more important than those very
moments that the shoulders deliver and the baby takes its first
breath. The deep peace between the mother and baby as they bond
is blissful and sacred.
These days, I find sacredness in the daily activities of life—the sur-
rendered weight of the baby asleep on my chest, the sunlight shining
on my son’s hair as he runs through a cosmically green meadow, try-
ing to explain karma to a five-year-old. And when the going gets
tough, I try to remember to take deep belly breaths and nourish my-
self with affirmations of encouragement and love, just as I did those
women in labor.
In the pages ahead, you will read of other mothers (and a papa) who
write about their experiences of faith and what they believe in. It is a
lovely patchwork of diverse voices. I hope you enjoy our new format
and some of these new—and old—voices of Vermont mamas. Please
submit essays that will make us laugh for the next issue. Any parent-
ing story that will produce a smile, giggle, hoot, snort, chortle, or guf-
faw will do. Send quickly! Need amusing material immediately or
may possibly lose perspective due to the long winter and cabin fever
with little kids.
Deep breaths and blessings of the New Year,
Editor, Mama Says
Mama Says Page 4

god and condoms
by Joanna Tebbs Young
The word God strikes fear in my heart. And not in the “Fear ye, the Lord,”
kind of way.
No, my fear is the same kind that caught my breath and vocal chords when,
after listening to a news story on AIDS, my five year-old daughter asked,
“What’s a condom, Mom?”
Who’s God? Where is he? Who’s Jesus? Is Jesus a baby? He is still alive? Are
the Indians still alive? (OK, that last one is a little off subject.)
Yes, I could give the stock answers: God is in heaven. He made us and looks
after us. Jesus is his son. He was a baby once, just like you and me but now
he’s up in heaven with God. (And yes, there are still Indians but once upon a
time mean white people made them leave their homes and so now they live
in places called reservations, but they don’t wear feathers in their hair and
they definitely don’t say “How.”) That’s all a five year-old needs and wants to
hear. It’s all her growing brain can compute. But I can’t do it. I cannot feed
my child the same crap I was fed.
Problem is, I haven’t yet, even after 36 years, completely excreted that crap.
It’s in me, ingrained and indoctrinated. I cannot answer my daughter’s ques-
tions with honesty because I’m still asking those questions myself. When she
asks, after umm-ing and ahh-ing for a while and throwing beseeching looks
at my husband hoping he will jump in with an inspired answer, I gingerly tell
her, “God is love, honey. Energy. It is all around us. We are God.” My hus-
band looks at me as if I have just used the terms chromosomes and DNA to
explain where babies come from and my daughter sits there with a blank
look on her face, her mind whirring with the concept that if she is God, then
Jesus must be her son.
Just like I’m not quite ready to explain what a condom is, I’m not prepared to
explain God. The subject is too big, too difficult, too scary for a little girl to
understand. God and I aren’t the best of friends right now. We’re not so
close. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lost my faith over dead babies and hurri-
canes, I never blamed him/her/it for things like that. No, I just don’t quite get
God. The God of my childhood no longer makes sense to me but I have yet
to come up with anything better. No, that’s not exactly true. I have a rough
sketch but I am far from connecting all the dots.
How can I teach my child something I’m not sure of yet?
Let me explain it this way. When you are a baby you learn the language spo-
ken to you by your parents and those around you. The language becomes
your own, part of you. You don’t think about how you say things, you just
say them, and you think, write, even dream, in that language. When you be-
gin to learn a new language you slowly learn words and phrases. Every thing
you hear and say has to be thought through – translated from your native
tongue into the new language. As you become fluent, however, you find you
no longer have to think how to say what you need to; it has become in-
Mama Says Page 5

grained and makes as much sense as your first language.
Faith is like this. The beliefs you were taught as a child is your native tongue.
It is part of you. As you grow older you need a new language, one that is
more useful, but it has to be learned – ingrained – before you can be fluent.
Right now I am still learning the language of a new, more meaningful faith. I
have a glossary (really, I do! – I made myself a dictionary of terms so I can sit
in church and attempt to translate what I hear in the hymns and prayers into
my own, new language) but it’s not making complete sense to me yet. My
God to god dictionary has some pages missing.
Apparently, by age five, a child has already formed a concept of God. I know
when I was five I would sit on the toilet and “pray” for Him to wipe my bot-
tom. And, I guess that’s what I have to remember – God is Love, God is En-
ergy is as far out to a child as atomic science is. While I struggle to rebuild a
belief system that has long since crumbled, I have to lay foundations for my
children on which to build their own faith. If God has to be in heaven for
now so he/she/it can eventually reside in their hearts (or not), so be it. At
Zachary Knox Griefen, Attorney  least I can give them something to believe in, a language to learn, which they
can then use to translate whichever way they choose.
Environmental & Land Use Litigation  Joanna Tebbs Young lives in Rutland, Vermont with her husband and
zgriefen@cbs‐  two young children where she is a grantwriter by day, and journal,
blog and essay writer by night. You can read her blog at: jlucy-
Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C. 
159 State Street 
Montpelier, Vermont 05602  the solstice moose‐  by Lydia Busler-Blais
(802) 223‐4000   
The Solstice Moose came to our house a few
nights ago. Life had been hectic and incessant
with performances and year-end projects and
family, but as sure as there is chaos every year,
there is the Solstice Moose to combat the en-
tropy. She is one of the most comforting beings
in our life, stable and strong and predictable, yet
encompassing an element of spontaneity for the
curious amongst us. Best of all, there is little
expectation from her save for the constancy of
her existence. Now we ponder a single question:
will the wonder ever end?
How does one create a tradition? There needs at
least to be either a creative spark or a need. I
suppose there were both in our case, but more
of the former. While a common tradition had
been handed down from our families, our com-
munities, indeed our entire society, as we held
our baby we knew that we opposed the rampant
commercialization of the Christmas holiday and
Mama Says Page 6 Mama Says Page 23

destructive moral degradation of our children in the process. We were defi- the Divine with humor and honesty will lay a foundation for Noah to explore
ant of what we saw as an insidious judgmental power over our views of our- his own relationship with Allah with confidence and grace.
selves and of our own beliefs. On the other hand, we yearned down to our
very marrow for the ancient traditions of the season binding us together and For now, what I hope to instill and protect in Noah is the sense that Allah is
defining us as human. There were and continue to be constant certainties - an awe-inspiring vast force of universal love. How do we do this? I believe it
we love to be a family, we love winter and playing in the snow, and we love is as simple as it is complicated; by modeling kindness, love, mercy, compas-
hunkering down to create winter nourishment. We had and continue to have sion, justice, patience, forgiveness, and the many other qualities of Allah I
a strong connection and reverence for the Earth and its austere seasons and believe Noah will come to know this Divine Love in a tangible way. Children
bounty. On the Summer Solstice we married. On the Autumnal Equinox we have an innate connection to the Divine, but as they get older they embark
make a pilgrimage every year to the Common Ground Country Fair in Maine. on a journey of spiritual maturity. As parents, we can model this journey by
For the Vernal Equinox, we play in the snow or combat the mud while nur- committing to the inner work it takes to evolve within ourselves and with
turing seeds for our garden. On Winter Solstice, we had always played in the our own relationship to the Divine. Rahima Baldwin says it well: "Qualities
snow and gifted friends with a meticulously prepared feast. In this, it was such as reverence and prayer cannot be taught. They must live within the
time to include our child. parents. If prayer is a living reality for the mother and father, then he or she
can communicate that to the child and teach, through example, about
My husband and I knew that we had come to the time for a decision. Every prayer."
family decides whether to go with the traditional flow, to follow a stricter or
looser tradition, or even to ignore tradition entirely. We had fun asking our- Sarah Keeley is a Certified Birth Doula who is passionate about support-
selves in earnestness what mystical being might grace our house and add ing women during their childbearing years. She lives in Montpelier with
wonder to the longest night of the year. We chose the Solstice Moose. She is her husband and son.
a mother moose from Northern Canada and she has a family that she leaves
each year in order to travel impossibly fast to each of the children in the
world with Solstice wishes and bring them a single gift. And without a televi-
sion or magazines with rampant advertisement to children, those wishes
seem to come uniformly from the heart and not from expectation or societal
For our child, I wrote
and illustrated a book
called The Long Night of
the Solstice Moose that
we love. And our son has
written his own book,
draws the Solstice Moose
for fun, leaves a hand-
written letter for her
each year alongside of a
cup of warm nutmeg
milk, and spreads the
joyful word. Solstice is a
peaceful holiday, and it
is ours. Days later, we
participate in two other
Christmases and endure
the commercialization
and the waste, but we
carry the peace of the
Solstice in our hearts. 
Lydia Busler-Blais is a teacher and improvisatory and solo performer
of french horn, a composer, and President of the Hunger Mountain
Coop who homeschools her 9 year old son, Tristan.
Mama Says Page 22 Mama Says Page 7

"mama, what is allah?" keeping warm every day
by Sarah Keeley by Brett Ann Stanciu
S nuggles, stories, and quiet conversation are the ways in which our 3 year Last year, my husband and I installed a wood boiler in our house. Finally,
old son Noah drifts off to sleep each night. Sometimes fifteen minutes; our house was not just marginally and very partially heated with a wood-
sometimes up to an hour is spent lying by his side in the darkness before stove, but fully and wonderfully filled with a habitable heat during the last
heavy regular breaths and stillness in his little body wash over him and we interminably long winter. As a side boon, our hot water is now heated with
know he has slipped into the realm of sleep. Some might wonder why we do wood too. During the summer, I let the firebox simmer: every few days it
this, night after night, when it can take so long. Shouldn't he be able to fall needed restarting. With no kindling, the repetitious task was onerous. My
asleep "independently" by now? Perhaps. But the truth is that we love it husband’s solution was that our nine-year-old daughter would saw five sticks
just as much as he does. After a busy day…often filled with plenty of normal of kindling a day.
struggles to be found in any house with a very spirited three year old…what
could be better than snuggling up next to his warm peaceful body to talk Thus began a daily argument.
about the adventures of Ruff the bear and George the elephant? And this While our daughter has other chores, she particularly resented this one.
cozy bed time is when we get to the really important stuff, such as "Mama, Every day! He wants me to cut wood every day! It was unfathomable to her
what is Allah?" that she couldn’t do this strenuous chore just once, and be finished with it.
My husband and I are Sufi Muslims. Sufism is a spiritual path based on the Her kindling pile and sawhorse became a ground of strife, a place she went
inner teachings of Islam. As Sufis, we use the name "Allah", which means to alone. I discretely watched from a distance as she tousled with sticks of
"The One" in Arabic. birch and maple. She is a fierce child. She went at this chore with all her
Back to one of our first actual conversations about Allah, it went a little might, sometimes smacking the bow saw against an ash tree, deliberately
something like this: sawing pieces too small or too long, and sometimes doing it just right.
"Well, Allah is bigger than any thing, animal, or person. Allah is everywhere In the basement, I let her light the fire, showed her how well her kindling
and in everything..." burned, and how necessary it was to catch the flame.
Noah interrupts. "Yeah! Allah is the puppet at the Capitol." She continued to complain: Every day! He expects me to do this every day!
Hmmm. This is a bit of a predicament. My son is thinking the mother-earth Save for a neck injury that precluded me from using the saw, I might have
puppet from All-Species-Day is Allah. I have to give him some credit wavered. But I didn’t; I needed that kindling.
here. The puppet is way bigger than him and it invokes a magical feeling in Late in the summer, one morning after a night of rain, my daughter looked
his heart which is most certainly related to Allah's presence. The puppet out the kitchen window to where she had left her pieces of wood on the
represents mother earth and it is our belief that nature is one of Allah's most deck. She must have intended to bring them in, but had forgotten.
pure reflections. But I do have a bit of a conflict with the thought of him
thinking Allah is something other than Allah! So I decide to see if we can “Look at that,” she told me with regret in her voice. “All that hickory I cut.
explore this a bit deeper without running the risk of being too intellectual or All that nice wood that took me so long to cut…soaking wet.”
ruining the magic of his vision of puppet = Allah.
I studied her, this child of ours. How glad I was to see that remorse on her
"Well, love, Allah's spirit is behind the mother-earth puppet, but Allah is not face. To witness that she valued her hard work, the tangible product of that
a puppet. Allah is actually much bigger and more profound. Allah is in eve- work, and that she knew both the work and its result were needed. Even
rything. Allah is Love and Allah is in your heart!" greater, that she saw, through her own negligence, she had compromised
I shared a few more of my humble interpretations of Allah, and then Noah those valuable things.
replied very thoughtfully: It was one of those moments in the flurry of living, when our life was very
"Yeah. I know that. But how did Allah put Love in my heart if she doesn't still, and yet shifting, turning, edging inexorably from this girl’s sweet child-
have real hands?" hood to the realm of grownups.

All I could do was laugh. The truth is that the discovery of Allah is a lifelong I crave such a long life for my beloved girl, my innocent one, whose idea of
process and I certainly didn't expect this conversation to come to completion naughtiness is to hide my books. How much sweetness I wish to dole out to
anytime soon. My hope is that our ability to talk openly about the realm of her and soothe the ruffles in her life with pineapple and chocolate.
Mama Says Page 8 Mama Says Page 21

At nine, my girl is struggling to master the times tables, those strips of math rate the tree and cook and eat good food with loved ones. But where was
that will harbor in her for the rest of her life. Deeper in her soul, though, the meaning? I looked to my family and realized they were not largely Chris-
than the reflexology of multiplication, I want this lesson imprinted: whatever tian, but rather celebrating the "American holidays". I gradually continued to
destiny hands out to my girl, I know she will inevitably face agonizing ques- step further away from the traditional holidays of my family. I found my
tions of choice and an uncertain path. At the very least, I want my daughter own spiritual path, but never really pulled together a tradition of ritual or
to meet these with strength in her hands and head, and the pulse in her celebration.
heart to value herself.
Then I had a child of my own. I wanted to give her the gift of ritual, tradi-
In a handful of decades our world has grown so much larger. For most tion, and gathering and sharing with others. But as a parent I wanted to give
Americans, the known world has widened phenomenally in a few generations. her this gift in the context of the parenting and lifestyle we have chose as a
As we’ve gained in distance, we’ve lost so greatly in closeness. In our world family. We honor the earth and the cycles of the sun and moon, and we
that so values things, we’ve turned away from cherishing what most nour- value simplicity. But it seemed to me we needed actual family and commu-
ishes us every day: homemade food on the table, bread hot from the pans, a nity centered traditions and rituals. I turned to books and community with
house warm in the winter, a family coming together at the table. similar beliefs, and I thought long about those things I loved to do as a child.
Then I began to create the beginning of our own traditions.
My daughter is gifted with a plethora of choices that eluded her great-
grandmothers. Have no misunderstanding: I am grateful for this. Yet wher- We are closing in on the third year of celebrating with our daughter. I save
ever she travels in her womanly journey, I will assure she carries -- not in notes to help remember what we have done and what we will do, and we are
theory, not in her head, but firmly in her hands -- the capability to care most still piecing together new things. It certainly does not feel familiar like those
elementally for herself and for those dear to her. In her heart, I ask, let her common practices and customs of my childhood. We are sometimes alone in
value the daily work and the intimate sacredness of home and hearth, and to our celebrating, and not always part of the larger community. But it does
be careless neither with hers, nor with others’. feel good to create something meaningful for us. Our hope is that we can
continue to make a genuine connection together so that our children have
Brett and her family are sugarmakers in West Woodbury, and her warm fuzzy traditions to pass onto their children.
two daughters are educated at Orchard Valley Waldorf School.
Colleen is the mother of an almost three year old girl. She and her
family are enjoying the community, simplicity and beauty of Ver-
mont after a year of travel abroad.

the birthing of a mother-god
by Becca Clark . . . for fifteen bucks!
Intellectually, academically, and theologically, I will insist to you that God has To learn to use the wrap thebaby- has fantastic video clips
no gender, that the Divine transcends such finite categories of personhood. In
my writing, speaking, preaching, and public prayer, I strive to remove all gen- to watch with directions.
dered pronouns and indeed gendered descriptions and images from my god- Another good site is wearyourb-
talk. Still, it is hard to ignore the ingrained images of society and my Roman There is free information
Catholic upbringing. And private prayer is a different story. In my private on how to use different types of
prayer life—feminism aside, intellectualism aside, thealogy (that’s the femi- carriers. She offers (no sign-up
nine of theology, no kidding) aside—in my private prayer life, God was Fa- needed) videos, too, which are great.
ther, brother, or lover for the longest time. Maybe it’s a desire to find a
strong centering male figure as someone raised largely by a single mother. A local baby wearing group meets
More likely, it’s the habit of the Lord’s Prayer and years of cultural assump- the second Thursday of each month,
tions that I never got around to challenging. So, for over two decades, my 10:30am-12pm at the Montpelier li-
God was a male God. brary. Contact Leila at 802-505-0004
for more information.
Until I got pregnant. Motherhood changes everything.
The more I encountered the fear and excitement of creating, the more I
found myself praying to a Creator who creates as I do—one who does not Leila Breton and her baby boy
mold creatures from clay, but births them from the mystical depths of Her-
self. The more I felt the physical pain of pregnancy and anticipated the physi-
Mama Says Page 20 Mama Says Page 9

After dinner we light candles in our pumpkins, chant, and sing to- cal pain of labor, the more I prayed to a god who would know such pain. You
gether. Then we make a fire. At the fire we each take a turn naming some- can keep the suffering Christ; I don’t need someone who’s experienced the
thing we wish to work on or be free of in the new year. Usually that is agony of crucifixion, but One who has endured the agony of transition. The
something social or emotional. What I mean is, I won’t give up my ragged more I prayed about what I was experiencing—all that I was experiencing
coat or eating candy. This is something personal for us to work on, such as physically and mentally and spiritually—the more I wanted a Mother. When
internal negative judgment, or micro managing the other people in the home. my birthing did not go at all according to my plan, but was instead an emer-
We try to mentally prepare before the occasion and work out a costume to gency c-section under general anesthesia, I mourned the loss of the birthing
represent it. After we have spoken what we wish to shed, we throw it to the experience with a Mother who must know what it is like to have the act of
fire. Of course our daughter, at three years old, wanted to be a fairy, and it’s creation be so difficult and unpredictable.
not really an age that’s easy to let go yet. But she sweetly stood by the fire
like the adults and talked about why she was a fairy. Hopefully this simple Throughout my pregnancy and my first few weeks as a mother, I found my-
ritual will grow deeper for her in the coming years. self crying out to Mama, and not meaning the human mother I have known
and loved so long (although I desperately wanted her by my side as well!),
As a child I always looked forward to holidays: whether it was because of a but the Divine Mother, who created us pained, nervous, creating, jubilant
break from school, the community excitement, a family gathering, or the mothers, all in Her image.
promise of presents. I look back on childhood and remember the fun and
tradition involved in holidays: baking, cooking, decorating, singing, and ex- Later, in the quiet moments nursing my daughter, I marveled at God’s love
changing gifts. There was a period of time in adolescence when I stopped that, like mine, must be so vast it sometimes hurts, so uplifting I could lose
being so thrilled about holidays, perhaps because the family excitement had myself in it. When I cried tears of joy or frustration at my daughter’s antics, I
dwindled or my interests were directed elsewhere. imagined Our Mother shaking her metaphorical head with amusement or
sadness as we make the same, foolish, childish, human choices over and over.
In my adult years I began to think more about why I celebrate holidays and When my daughter runs into my arms, seeking comfort and caress seconds
slowly found myself stepping away from the traditions which had once been after screaming “I no like you; leave me alone!” (she’s almost four, can you
exciting and comforting. I thought more deeply about the Christian roots of tell?), I know for certain that God’s heart breaks and mends a million times
the holidays my family chose to celebrate, and the materialism involved. I when one of Her children runs to Her. Even now, in the pain and frustration
knew that my own spiritual beliefs were not Christian, and I was trying to of more than a year of failed attempts to conceive a second child, I believe I
make less of a materialistic impact on the world. Still, celebrating the famil- can hear God sighing, whispering that parenthood is never easy, never with-
iar traditions was just plain fun. I loved to go home for Christmas and deco- out struggle and sacrifice and frustration and tears, never to be taken for
granted. She should know.
In short, as I made and make this transition, as I continue to become a
how to make a baby carrier . . . mother, God for me becomes one too.
by Colleen Kutin Becca Clark is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, Mont-
pelier and Grace United Methodist Church, Plainfield, and maintains
1. Get about 5 yards of gauze material from any fabric a blog at
store. Usually it can be found extra cheap in the fall, when it is
often on sale. (Most any fabric will work, it’s mostly a matter of
personal preference). The fabric is usually about 40-45 inches
wide off of the roll. Mama Says Online Blog
2. Cut the fabric to about 30 inches in width. It could be cut all
to 22 inches and two wraps could be made as well. This would
be extra economical!
3. For a good looking wrap that does not fray, hem all around
the edge of the fabric.
~ a place to read & post creative writing
Wraps can be very versatile and fit to various body types. They also double about the mothering experience ~
as a great blanket, pillow, and towel, and they fold up tiny for travel.
Mama Says Page 10 Mama Says Page 19

bringing spirituality into the home
by Michelle Broaddus
I am a young mother of three. My daughter is almost nine now, my stepson
is four and my baby is eight months old. In my home we strive to teach the
children about many different traditions throughout the year.
As parents, one of the most important things we do for our children is to
bring spirituality into our everyday lives and infuse magic throughout the
seasons. While our children are young, we strive to give them a solid founda-
tion and deeper meaning to life. We work to guide the children to live the
everyday magic, to have intention with every action, and to give thanks for all
the gifts life provides us.
We are now preparing for one of my favorite times of the year: Yule. The
children and I decorate the Yule tree with handmade salt dough ornaments,
strings of popcorn and cranberries, colorful paper chains, paper spirals and
other little decorative objects. We ritually clean the house thoroughly and
cleanse the air with copal, sage, cedar and mugwort. Together we make spe-
cial bread that we put prayers and wishes for the new year into. Some of
the kids prayers have been, “I wish for happiness for my family” and “I pray
for healing for the earth” or “good snow to sled with” and “a good harvest Virgin and Child,
from the garden next year”. And sometimes they pray silently too. The by Joovs van Cleve,
bread we make is a sweet yeasted bread that we roll into separate balls and painted in 1525
place dried fruit into the center of, after which all of the balls are put into
one pan and as they bake, they all meld together into one big cohesive loaf.
Then we melt honey and butter on top and eat it with hot chocolate on sol-
stice morning.
creating family traditions
On the longest night of the year, after I read some solstice stories to them, by Colleen Kutin
the children go to sleep in eager anticipation of magical dreams and awaken
in the dark to greet the newborn sun! Together we bundle up and go outside
to wait for the birth of the sun, then come in for a warm breakfast. Once R ecently Halloween passed. Our daughter, now three, has more awareness
inside, we turn our hand made construction paper suns from the dark to the of the holiday, people talking of dressing up, and trick or treating. But we
light side and begin the birthday celebrations. The day is filled with ritual are hoping that since we began with our tradition when she was young, she
and celebration. We give each other gifts we have been secretly crafting and will know Halloween a bit differently.
give thanks to all of the spirits. We make chocolate cookies together with
lightly colored icing to represent the light coming out of the dark. Stepping For us it is a time to honor ancestors and to begin the year anew. We have
forward through this day together we let go of the past year and give thanks, started a ritual we call The Feast of our Ancestors. We spend the day mak-
and we pray for goodness in the coming year while looking forward to the ing traditional food from recipes passed down through the family, such as
longer days to come. dishes from each grandparent's heritage. We place pictures of ancestors on
the table. We say a grace that includes thank-you to them and tell stories
I work to encourage our children to remain open to all forms of spirituality about them while we eat together. We make "Kutin Dressing”, something my
without judgment and to see the beauty in all the various ways of honoring paternal grandmother created that’s made of eggs, walnuts and saltines,
the divine. My partner and I strive for our home to be a place full of love and which was traditionally served at family get-togethers throughout my child-
rich with culture. We honor the divine mother daily through laughter and hood. We make pineapple Jello, a dish my maternal grandmother made and
song. We give thanks to the spirits and the earth before we eat meals, re- served when I was a child. I took on making these dishes after my mother
membering all of the energy that has gone into the food we share. We work passed away when I was nine years old. A sweet and sour cabbage originat-
together to co-create our reality and I seek to invite depth and mystery into ing from my partners grandmother is also on our table, and spaghetti and
our lives. butter cookies from both our mothers.
Mama Says Page 18 Mama Says Page 11

my mother’s hands I am the Mother and spiritual keeper of the home. I take care to remember
Spirit, invite and honor and embrace Spirit. It is important to me that my
children have a pure and fulfilling spiritual life. This is just as important to
by Maggie Morris me as making sure their bodies are clean and that they are well nourished.
As their mother, I help create a foundation for the children, a grounded place
When I was small and unappreciative of such regard, for them to take off from. I want that place to be inspiring and freeing, so
my mother stitched with patience. that they may continue to be curious and learn more about religion and
She made me dresses to match my sisters, crocheted blankets for all spirituality as they grow.
the new born babies, and rolled out dough so we could eat Pierogies. Michelle Broaddus is a mother, CMT, ATMAM Practitioner, Doula,
and Herbalist. In Michelle's practice she specializes in the Arvigo
Now, her hands transparent, gray and knotty knuckled with age, Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Massage. Michelle has been trained
I finally see with clearer eyes. in traditional spiritual healing with Dr. Rosita Arvigo in Belize. In-
spired by the indigenous ways of working with Spirit, Michelle strives
What sense of duty cramped her slender fingers as she worked? to create and teach a way of life connected with nature and love.
Sewing long into the night I can still hear that old Singer machine lull me to
Such grace that laid the stitches fine and even, soft and gentle, stitches bath
still full of love after all these years. by Michelle A.L. Singer
I never knew the depth of her devotion, the stamina of seams [and hearts] that My belly rises up
bind. Through the bubbles
Need a scrubby?, New hat or scarf? Something hemmed or taken in? Like a righteous island—
Want her to finish that blanket you started? At six months
My body is overcome
Maybe you have a taste for cheese cake, goumpki or chicken soup, By curves.
or when she makes potato salad, do you want her to leave a portion
out because you prefer it warm without onion?
She will you’ll see, automatically. When I step out naked
In front of the mirror
There’s a shirt in my closet, denim and worn thin, ribbon embroidered flowers I am stunned to see
by “you know who”. It’s hanging there waiting for the next time my heart A familiar figure—
weighs heavy with missing her. Photo by Christa Emmans
Not mine
Sometimes I just touch it, other times I put it on to feel her
arms hugging me once again. But The Venus of Willendorf
As if I had posed
My Mother’s Hands, they tell so many stories. For the statuette
My great full heart, wonders if I’ve thanked her enough.

Maggie Morris lives in Montpelier where she creates aprons from re- Michelle Amy Lakey
purposed fabric and clothing and writes poetry. Singer is a freelance jour-
nalist living in East Mont-
pelier and is due with her
third child in late Febru-
Mama Says Page 12 Mama Says Page 17

Birthing from Within mentors continue utilizing pain coping practices
paths of spirit throughout their lives, which keeps them continually fresh and energized, on
equal footing with the emerging parents in their classes. Life always offers
by Linda Pruitt us another new sensation as we continue growing, and a new opportunity to
observe our breath. The practices begin here with the breath. In time we
As I recall, the “Mommy and Daddy don’t believe in God” conversation learn to distinguish the voices that we hear inside us that comment on our
came about quite naturally: with parents who are impassioned gardeners, our
daughter spent her time digging in the earth, and learning the cycles of na- Do you find that you have an inner voice telling you what a perfect and
ture. She has been part of six years of harvests--garlic, hops, and lavender, amazing parent you are? Does your voice remind your body throughout the
hundreds of potatoes, onions, and carrots. At night I would show her the day of what a powerful and beautiful being it is that’s supporting your grow-
waxing and waning of the moon and draw her attention to the silvery light ing child? Or does your inner voice claim you could be a better parent than
when it fell across her pillow. Again and again we shared the story of the you are right now in this moment? Perhaps your inner voice claims you are
transformation of a seed, an egg, a child. She is by my side when I mark the a terrible parent in some moments. Which ideas from your inner voice im-
Solstices and Equinoxes. “Nature is the most powerful and precious thing”… I prove your skills as a parent? Which voice offers you support, understand-
have reminded her countless times. ing, and patience. Imagine your inner voice parenting you each moment. Is
At four years old she was infatuated by all things Ancient Egyptian . (Can it a good and loving parent? Is it the parent you want and need right now?
you recite the details of embalming a mummy or which disembodied organ Most parents today don’t work under the best conditions. Most of us were
rests for all eternity in which sacred canopic jar?) As her mother, I used this parented ourselves in a manner no longer feasible if we were consciously
doorway into the past to teach her about world mythology--Egyptian, Greek, parented at all. And many of us travel the journey to parenthood resolved
Roman, African, Hindu. I remember saying very clearly, “Mythology is a story not to repeat abuses or emotional neglect from our childhood experience.
people use to explain the Big Questions. Like, how people were created and We may expend extraordinary effort to rebuild a community outside us that
what life is all about…” can offer our children a different life. How do we rebuild that community
But then came the big guns—the Rite Aid window with its glaring Christmas from within?
display, the friends who were Santa crazy. And of course the first year at As we cultivate awareness of our inner voice that talks to us throughout each
kindergarten with classmates counting down incessantly to that day- the day day, we can learn and choose to transform that voice, our own inner voice,
of days- the day of piles of presents. into an angelic warrior that supports us and loves us unconditionally. As we
And my response was measured. At first I replied to holiday decorations develop that friend and confidante within, we can cope with the challenges
downtown and store windows with a calm demeanor. “There are many ways that parenting sets before us and not only be present and loving for our chil-
to believe and many ways to celebrate,” I explained. “Some folks celebrate a dren, we can also be present and loving for ourselves. I invite you to join me
holiday with a character named Santa. We don’t celebrate that one because on the journey of parenting from within.
we do not follow Jesus”. (Insert age appropriate back ground story on Jesus Marianne Donahue Perchlik is a certified Birthing From Within
Christ.) “You can’t say you believe in Jesus just for presents. He is important
to some people.” For a time that was all that was required of me. Childbirth mentor, offering childbirth preparation classes for first
time parents as well as for parents birthing a second, third or forth
Despite the delicious irony of his given name, my husband Christian is an time in Central Vermont. Marianne is beginning an interactive seg-
atheist--to the bone. We have had our share of philosophical conversations ment on WGDR’s The Quilting Hour specifically on Parenting from
with our daughter. Wherever they originate, they usually meander to: some Within, 91.1FM fourth Wednesdays at 9:30 am. She is the mother of
folks think this, some think that, Mom thinks this, Dad thinks that and you three children. She is preparing a new group class for first time par-
will decide what you believe for yourself when you are ready. The most im- ents starting in January. Contact Marianne at
portant thing is: You are free in your heart to believe what you choose. No
one can make that choice for you.
But now--first grade has asked me to call on all of my reserves of patience
and compassion. Apparently, six year olds are developmentally prone to some
God obsessive behavior (I say this sincerely.) Classmates have told Sophia
that she has to believe in God, that even if she says that HE doesn’t exist, he
made her anyway. End of story. As I try to pull it together and offer con-
structive feedback and grounded wisdom, my blood boils. I feel flames of
hatred crackling at my feet and the agony of every wrong our planet has
endured at the hands of those who do not affirm the power and sovereignty
Mama Says Page 16 Mama Says Page 13

parenting from within of Mother Earth. I take a moment and recognize the weight of what was
spoken, set it in context, provide a bridge to her experience and wait there
until she crosses it.
by Marianne Donahue Perchlik
“We walk the path of Mystery,” I tell my child, “No one knows the answers,
Have you found that the labyrinth of life has you standing as an initiate in and there is no one answer to be had, nor one question to be asked. We do
the best we can do. There is no book for us, no easy out, no script to follow
the mystical passage of parenthood? With all of the bustle and the many under duress.” I find ways every day for her to connect with the natural
details of parenting, it may not be immediately apparent that your position world. When the dark comes, I tell her the light will follow.
as Mother or Father is essentially archetypal and requires constant on-the-job
contemplation. Most religious traditions distinguish the religious or contem- We believe in the beauty of vernal pools and bloodroot flowering brilliant
plative life to childless mystics, offering little earnest support for parenthood white in the woodland grass. We believe in peace and justice. We believe in
as a path of initiation. Yet most of us quickly discover that it is difficult to each other.
reach the perfect image of parenthood that we dream for ourselves. More
often we stand in moments of complete exasperation without any model to Mothering led me to a richer spiritual life. What I once practiced in the ab-
imitate and without a mentor with whom we can honestly explore the jour- stract became embodied prayer through pregnancy and birth: the rites and
ney of our life as parents. rituals of mothering- the experience of being lost and surrendering, the unity
of chaos and pure love.
In most spiritual traditions there are undoubtedly kernels of wisdom that can
offer us inspiration. As parents however, we need a bit more than inspira- But I know we have just begun.
tion. Many of us live in a constant state of spiritual emergency that we often
don’t even recognize. Making an appointment with a religious leader or find- Christmas is the tip of the iceberg. I have already had to navigate Halloween,
ing a spiritual community that supports us is just another epoch chore on a Thanksgiving, and that which my child recites daily in school: The Pledge of
long list of chores. We need assistance and we need it now! Are there some Allegiance. What about the tides and currents of girlhood and then adoles-
Cliff Notes that offer a few spiritual shortcuts that can work in our home? Is cence? Where will they take us?
there an angel that might step into my body and show me exactly how to Our spirits travel together.
approach this situation with my son? Well, actually, yes there is! There are
a collection of practices used in preparing couples for childbirth that offer on Linda Pruitt writes and mothers to the gol'durn best of her ability in
- the-job sustaining spiritual support for us as parents. Montpelier Vermont where she lives with her atheist poster child
Birthing from Within Childbirth mentoring offers a menu of coping practices hubby, triple Gemini/Aries Moon First Grader, and ill mannered cat
developed for use by parents in labor. Birthing from Within mentors all over in his golden years.
the world teach these exercises to prepare a pain coping mindset. We learn
that pain is not so difficult to bear as suffering is. We learn to distinguish
pain and sensations from suffering, which is the negative or otherwise diffi-
cult story that our mind tells us when we experience certain sensations. A
single labor contraction might not be as difficult to bear, for example, as the
voice within that tells us we can’t do it. The coping practices draw on an-
cient spiritual traditions from all over the world. We begin with simply be- Mama Says Yahoo Newsgroup
coming mindful of breath, and returning ourselves to the great river of our
own breath that is streaming within us.
Take some time to notice your breath. Get a journal for yourself and answer Join our yahoo group for
these questions one by one: How does your breath differ as you travel your
daily path as a parent? Begin in this moment to observe the river of your upcoming events childcare ads  classifieds 
breath as you travel through one day. Perhaps upon waking it is like a tiny
trickle of melting snow in early spring. After coffee perhaps it becomes a questions and political action information
coursing torrent. How is your breath as your infant contentedly rolls on her
back on the floor? How is your breath as you look for a sock, trying to get at:
out the door? If your breath were a feast laid out on a table before you right
now, what would be on that table? In this moment is your breath a thin
broth? A slice of home made bread? A bowl of noodles? Or perhaps a
complete roast beef dinner with string beans, popovers and roasted potatoes?
Mama Says Page 14 Mama Says Page 15

papa says
by Daniel Levitt
Problem: I am unable to separate my person from my role as a parent.
It used to be the other way around…I would try and extract useful bits of
parenting out of the hazy life experience of my younger and more fun self.
It’s like I was constantly looking to pull blocks out of a not-so-magic sack of
wisdom, assemble any sage advice that had trickled down to me to build a
tower of stable eternal love and kindness…and I was usually out. I’d feel
around to the bottom of the sack, sometimes come up with an uneven, rough
cut fragment of wood, and try to fit it in place with a hammer.
Inevitably, I’d have to call my mother or mother in law to borrow some of
their blocks.
Often something inconsequential, a groggy 5:45 A.M. call, “How do you make
oatmeal mom?”
“Oh, really? That’s it?” she’d reply.
Also more serious questions…advice on sick kids or how to keep my youngest
from eating their own poop. Slowly the solid foundation of blocks added a
story, and then an additional east wing.
But that was all before. Now, I am left trying to figure out how to find the
overwhelmed, incredulous kid that started this whole thing. I keep trying to
convince myself that I should try to persuade their mom that we need a pool
table…The problem is, I don’t really believe it myself. All the stories you hear
from twenty-somethings, each one describing a locale more exotic or more
obscure, where they are currently building a solar powered well, or a recycled
hospital. I used to want that too. Now I try to read a little National Geo-
graphic as a pint sized gnome throws plastic toys at my head. More often, I
find that I’ll do anything I can to lock the door and keep the world out while
I play with my personal troupe of jesters. What changed? The new me says
that I am doing my job, but the old me is screaming obscenities. He’s getting
hard to hear over the spontaneous and impromptu wrestling matches, impul-
sive sledding marathons and mashed potato fights. It sounds like he’s even
saying something about writing this for a parent’s paper. I’m just not really
listening anymore. Screw it, even kids can grow up.
Daniel Levitt lives in Vermont and has been tickling his children ex-
cessively since the year 2000.
Kali Ma-ma by Kristin Brosky