Thursday, December 30, 2010

I am a mother

Why do we not say, simply, I am a mother? Why do we not say: I am a feminist mother whose greatest contribution to making the world a better place is raising children with open searching loving hearts, children who might be world leaders or who might not be world leaders but who will, I hope, be caring human beings who will demand that the world be a better place? Why do we not say, I am a mother, and the work that I do as a mother – the care I give, the love that I offer – extends far beyond hearth and home, far beyond my own children, and causes ripples and waves that will shift sand on shores that I cannot see ... Why do we not say, I am a mother, full stop? Why do I not say that? ~ Catherine, of Her Bad Mother


Catherine at Her Bad Mother wrote this fantastically inspiring essay on motherhood, parenthood, womanliness, manliness, feminism, and changing the world. It is a long essay, but thoroughly worth reading in its entirety. So obvious, and yet so radical an idea - Changing the world begins in the home, by raising our sons and daughters to have empathy and be good people. This is work that is done in the private sphere, within the home. This has traditionally been the work of mothers, although it has taken increasing priority with fathers (such as in our household, where my husband is the primary stay-at-home parent). Catherine's point is that we should celebrate the work of raising children itself, and that work's place in women's history. We celebrate fatherhood, particularly when men embrace fatherhood the way my husband has and embraces the work that has traditionally been done by women. We do not so much celebrate motherhood - "just" motherhood for its importance and value and potential for contribution to the world. Motherhood and the work of women in general tends to be devalued, and she proposes we mothers initiate a change in that thinking by making a simple, yet radical statement. I am a mother, full stop.

Catherine asserts:
Not all mothers are heroines, not all mothers are feminists, not all mothers raise good citizens, not all mothers have the best intentions, even mothers with the best intentions do not always see those intentions fulfilled in the ways that they expect, or at all. None of that matters. What matters is this: ordinary motherhood, undertaken in ordinary ways, can be as extraordinary, can have as extraordinary an impact, as any work undertaken in the public sphere.


Along with Catherine, and for myself, for my child, for the world in which I would like to envision my child living, for women and mothers everywhere, I declare: I am a mother, and my motherhood is important, my motherhood can be radical, my motherhood is a feminist act.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shirt pockets are so handy...

...for storing discarded pea pods after the peas are removed and eaten.

Photos brought to you by my awful phone camera and poor lighting.



Caught in the act


He is unimpressed by my mad photo-taking skills.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I am that old lady

During the afternoon on Christmas eve I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I was in the check out, getting my items scanned and bagged, I couldn’t help overhear the young people bagging the groceries chatting amicably. They were talking about music. The guy said something about loving “that Taylor Swift song” and then started singing “Last Christmas”.

You know, the song “Last Christmas” by Wham! that was uber-popular back in the early-mid 1980s?

Now, no one can accuse me of ever having been a Wham! fan in my youth, and no one can accuse me of ever having actually liked the song "Last Christmas". Nonetheless, I was so beside myself I could hardly control my mouth when I started exclaiming “OMG! That is NOT a new song by Taylor Swift!”

The kid sheepishly admitted that he knew it wasn’t a NEW song by Taylor Swift - that he had heard that guy’s version before, he just likes Taylor Swift’s version.

Umm, yeah, George Michaels is now officially that guy. Wow. Multiple number one singles, tens of millions of albums sold and he is now that guy.

Then the kids started babbling about something else.

I planted my forehead into my palms and shook my head. I didn’t try to follow their conversation after that. I do believe this officially makes me “that old lady who remembers when that song was popular back before you kids or Taylor Swift were even born!” So I just shut my mouth to fester old lady-style in 1980s music nostalgia.

Friday, December 24, 2010

House GOP Supports Child Abuse World-wide

I think I tasted vomit in the back of my throat when I read this story earlier this week. Which, combined with my lingering sore throat and cough from two weeks of flu, made me a little bit grumpy.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. On December 1, a bill passed the Senate with zero objections. Bipartisan support for a no-brainer bill that “directs the president to make preventing child marriage a priority, especially in countries where more than 40 percent of girls under the age of 18 are married. The ways to do that, according to the bill: support educating communities on the dangers and health effects of child marriage, keep young girls in school, support female mentoring programs and make sure girls have access to health care services.” Just before the vote in the House, Republican leadership sent out a “whip alert” telling House Republicans to vote no because the health care services provision might lead to funding NGOs that provide abortion services. So, the bill was killed. Even some congressmen who sponsored the bill voted no.

It truly makes my head want to explode. Are GOP lawmakers in a contest to see which house of Congress has the biggest douchebags? Hmm, last week Republican Senators filibustered a bill that would provide compensation for first responders to 9/11. Wow, that’s amazingly douchebaggy, how can we beat that? I know! Let’s kill a bill that promotes basic human rights and opposes legalized child rape! You just can’t beat that level of douchbaggery!

How is it that every Senate Republican supported the bill? Have pro-life Republican lawmakers abandoned their base constituency? NO! Want to know the reason why? This bill has absolutely nothing to do with abortion and does not even mention abortion, contraception, or family planning in any way whatsoever.

Consider the following. A commenter said it so succinctly, I cannot improve upon it, so I’ll just quote here:

The part that gets me is this: "Even some congressmen who sponsored the bill voted no." They voted no. Which means that legislation they found worthy enough to put their name on didn't get their vote because a party member with higher rank told them to vote no. If this isn't partisan politics at its worst, then what is? Forget the horrendous subject matter of the bill (tough to do, I know, when they basically voted to keep little girls up front in the meat market), consider this: if we are electing individuals whose votes are determined not by our wishes but by the direction of their party leaders, then whose side are our representatives on?

Also consider this, the United States is a member of the United Nations, which has taken the position that child marriage is a violation of human rights. As a member nation of the United Nations, we are obligated to support human rights.

Yes, even human rights of children.

Yes, even human rights of girl children.

Yes, even human rights of girl children in developing countries.

The United Nations Report on Child Marriage states that child marriage:
represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls. The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education. Child marriage can also result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims. Because they cannot abstain from sex or insist on condom use, child brides are often exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and, increasingly, HIV/AIDS.

And just in case you are wondering what’s the harm in adolescent pregnancy, adolescent girls (defined as ages 10-19) are two to five times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their twenties (source). In other words, it’s a major health risk that perhaps might be mitigated somewhat by proper prenatal healthcare that could have been funded by the bill House Republicans killed for no valid reason.

You can see the list of Representatives that voted against the bill at this link. If your Representative voted No, I encourage you to write a letter or email, or make a phone call to let him/her know how disgusted you are.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Year Olds Are Perfect

Perfectly small and kissable. Perfectly adorable and affectionate.

And perfectly maddening, perfectly capable of driving you from perfectly content to perfectly furious in less than 10 seconds.

Don't let the angel eyes fool you. This spunky little character has mischief in mind.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh, the irony

How is it that the one person in my office that has had 2 miscarriages this year ended up being the person to plan a baby shower for another woman in the office?

You see, it goes like this. The department Chief is sitting next to me at a meeting. The meeting is pretty much over but people are lingering and chit chatting. He turns directly to me and says "So is anything being planned for A? When is the baby shower going to be?" or something very similar to the effect, when in fact he actually means "I think you should organize a baby shower for A."

Before anyone goes off on "the audacity!" of the division chief, let me just say up front that this was not a completely unreasonable request.

First, and probably most relevantly, I am the last person in the office that birthed a baby and received an office baby shower. It seems appropriate that the last person to receive a shower should be the one organizing the next one. Based on a comment from another co-worker in the office, this may be a tradition in the office that I had not been aware of due to my relatively short tenure here, and the low number of baby-producing people in the office (most people in the office either have older children, or are single and not presently looking to have children).

Secondly, it's not like I advertise the fact that I'm experiencing struggles with fertility. Until very recently, there were only two people that even knew about my miscarriages. One of them was my boss, who I needed to tell because of the time I needed to take off from work to get all those darn blood tests. The other was a woman in another group with whom I had bonded over our mutually crunchy birthing and parenting styles. So, my division chief was not intentionally trying to be insensitive.

Still...Ouch. Yes, of course I'm happy to help... but Ouch.

I have to confess, I very well may have volunteered to help out with the planning even if I hadn't been asked. Because, you see, this woman and I have something shared - the common thread of infertility has touched us both. When I announced my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy, she had been trying to conceive for 6 months. Now, three years later, after a costly failed IVF attempt and an attempt to adopt through the local foster-to-adopt program (the child she housed and fell in love with was ultimately placed with his biological father), now she is birthing a child of her own. I am truly so happy for her.

Throughout her pregnancy she has been positively beaming with happiness. I will admit it was hard to be around during the worst of my most recent loss. Trigger after trigger would leave me staring blankly behind my desk, struggling to function. But then I think to myself, how many times must I have unwittingly triggered her? When I was waddling around the office as big as a house, was I merely a reminder to her of what seemed out of reach? I wonder now how many times I carelessly and insensitively talked about my young child in her presence, perhaps complaining about lack of sleep, all without a second thought as to how she might have been triggered into sadness or envy or hopelessness or frustration.

Oh, the irony now that the tables are turned.

She never expressed a single negative thought towards me. She attended my office baby shower. She smiled at my stories. She absolutely deserves no less from me. This office baby shower is not about me or my struggles. It is about her achieving parenthood after a long and challenging journey. It is about celebrating her new daughter and her role as birthing mother.

I am not being facetious when I say that I am truly happy for her, and that I was glad to help with her shower. All I'm saying is...

Oh, the irony.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Buying Barbie for an Unknown Girl

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I signed up to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of two children through Aid for AIDS of Nevada. One of the children is an 18 month old. Pretty easy to shop for - clothes, socks, potty - those were the items on her list. Well, the other child is an 8-year old girl. I am happy to say I was able to get everything on her list except two - shoes and skates. I would have been happy to buy this girl both, but I really needed to know something about her foot size. The contact at AFAN wasn't able to tell me anything about size so I decided to go with the other items on her list - including Barbie.

Perhaps you are thinking - "What the heck is a slightly crunchy feminist doing even considering buying a Barbie for anyone?! What kind of message does Barbie send to girls other than they should try to live up to some impossible standard of feminine beauty? It's just a form of societal indoctrination that contributes to young women hating themselves for not living up to some standard perception of feminine beauty." - Yeah, I kind of thought that too for about 10 seconds.

Here's the thing though. This girl specifically put Barbie on her wish list. This is what she wants. This is what would make her happy.

Who the heck am I - some white, comfortably middle class, able-bodied, thin, stranger up to her eyeballs in privilege - to tell her what she should and shouldn't want to play with?

I don't know anything about this girl. I don't know if she is white or black, thin or heavy. All I know is that HIV/AIDS has impacted her life, and that her family is in economic hardship so that they have sought help with providing Christmas gifts. And I know she wants a Barbie for Christmas this year.

So I walked down the Barbie isle.

One I decided I was indeed going to buy this girl a Barbie I had a whole new bag of worms to deal with - choosing a Barbie for a girl I had never seen. Is this girl white? Black? Hispanic? Shouldn't I choose a culturally appropriate doll for her? Being a clueless privileged white woman, I can't help but think that giving a white, blond doll to a black girl is in poor taste at best, and insulting and demeaning at worst. I have no desire to send any messages to a little girl that she is somehow other, or not the default, or otherwise different from what our society deems beautiful by giving her a blond Barbie. There are enough other forces in the world that I'm quite sure are bringing that message home and I certainly don't want to be a part of that if I can help it. On the other hand, if she is white and blond herself, she might very well specifically want a blond Barbie who looks like her.

So, not knowing this girl's heritage, do I get a Barbie with white skin or black skin? Blond hair or black hair?

Wanting to do the right thing for this girl, and struggling with the privileged white woman's dilemma of having no idea what the right thing is, I saw something that struck my eye that I thought might suit the need at hand - a fairy Barbie. Fairies can be anything! They can look however you imagine them to look! I wish I could say this fairy had pale blue or green skin. She in fact does have white skin. She also has purple hair and purple wings. Perhaps this is as balanced as I could find? I did see one white-skinned brown-haired Barbie - almost naked in a bikini swimsuit - PASS!

I think this Barbie looks pretty cool with her matching hair and wings. I hope I made the right choice. I hope my girl will unwrap this gift, along with the other items I got for her, and have a happy, merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Got flu?

I do.

And let me say, it is just as awesome as it sounds.

Which is actually a play on words, because as of yesterday my voice went kaput and I cannot talk more than to squeak out couple syllables if I'm lucky. So I sound...

sick...

because I am.

Enough ramblings. I'm going back to bed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Alphabet Vegetable Soup



Now that winter is here I've been all about hot soup. This one turned out pretty good and I haven't posted a recipe in a while, so I thought I'd share. This recipe is so versatile, you could use any vegetables you happen to have on hand. You can also use a different type of pasta, or substitute the lentils for garbanzo beans. The possibilities are endless! Here is the version pictured.

Alphabet Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
32 ounces broth (I used a box of Imagine brand low sodium vegetable broth)
2 stalks celery
2 carrots
1/4-1/2 red onion
1 cup cauliflower
1/2 large zucchini
1 can lentils
about 1/3 cup uncooked alphabet pasta
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Chop all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. In a large pot, saute the onion, celery, and carrots in a little oil or broth. I added the cauliflower after a couple of minutes so it would cook faster. When the onions are translucent and the celery and carrot slightly softened, add the remaining vegetables and the broth. Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf and lime juice.

In order to save time, I put a separate pot of water to boil and cooked my pasta according to the directions. If you have more time, you can just add the pasta to your soup pot after the vegetables are cooked.

Let the soup pot simmer until the vegetables are cooked - about 15-20 minutes. If you are cooking the noodles in the soup pot, add them now and let them cook.

Drain and rinse the lentils. Add the lentils to the soup. If you cooked the noodles separately, add the cooked noodles now too. Add pepper and salt to taste. Simmer for a couple of minutes to heat the lentils through and allow all the flavors to mix.

Pour in bowls and serve with some yummy hearty bread!


Bonus dinnertime activity - SchmoopyBoy had a great time picking out the letters and we figured out words that started with each letter.

This post is linked up with Vegetarian Foodie Fridays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Beauty of Different

Today I want to share a blog I’ve recently fallen in love with. Karen Wolrond, writer and photographer, blogs at Chookooloonks and The Beauty of Different (which is also the title of her recently published book). The photographs she takes and the messages in her writings are nothing short of inspiring. To give you a taste, so as to whet your appetite so you’ll click the links, I’ve copied a few of my favorite passages.

On beauty:
While something or someone who has been declared commercially, aesthetically desirable might have the power to incite lust or longing, only true beauty has the power to stir someone's soul.

Given this fact -- given the fact that at some point we will all experience love (romantic or otherwise) and that we have experienced our own souls being moved by the mere presence of another person (a romantic interest or otherwise), it therefore cannot be too big a leap of logic to realize that, regardless of some arbitrary societal standard of whether we possess a commercial-aesthetic-capable-of-marketing-or-selling-a-product, we all, every single one of us, without exception, have the capacity for incredible, indescribable beauty. And this beauty, this ability to truly stir someone's soul, is communicated in a combination of a myriad of different, uniquely-you ways:

- the way your eyes flash when you talk about something that you're passionate about;
- the quickness and suddenness of your smile;
- the intense expression on your face when you listen to a particularly lovely piece of music;
- your wit, your intelligence, your unique view of the world;
- the extraordinary way you laugh.

All of these things -- your "youness" -- are what make you stunningly beautiful. And furthermore, since you are so stunningly beautiful, all those flaws that you think you have? They're a myth. There are no flaws. They are simply characteristics that make up parts of your beautiful whole.


On creativity:
I've come to believe that in fact, we're all creative beings, and we all have the power within us to create art. The trick, it turns out, is to avoid falling into the trap of believing that art or creativity is limited to the ability to take a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a realistic likeness of something that exists in real life. Art and creativity can, and should, mean so much more than this. Art should mean photography. Writing. Music. Cooking. Building. Needlework. Mechanics.

Creativity and art should be defined as the manner in which we are called to express ourselves, in ways that fill us with joy and grace.

Practicing our own ways of self-expression and creativity is how we become confident and secure in our Different. It is one path to owning our beauty.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today is World AIDS Day


Over the last 15 years I have lost 3 friends and colleagues to AIDS. Today’s post in observance of World AIDS Day is dedicated to these talented and funny men who touched my life and the lives of so many others around them.

The purpose of World AIDS Day is to help increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education to strengthen the struggle against HIV/AIDS. Progress has been made towards providing access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in this country, but greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved around the world.

Here are a few U.S. resources I found.

HIV/AIDS Prevention and Service Provider Locator: This is a widget provided by AIDS.gov that allows people to search for testing services, housing providers, health centers and other service providers near your current location. To get this widget and put it on your site, click here.

While you are at the AIDS.gov site, check out their HIV/AIDS 101 site to learn the basics and then link to the CDC to view their facts sheets.

For all you local folks in southern Nevada, Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) has a variety of opportunities for involvement. Check out their list of community partners who will be donating 10% of their sales to AFAN today during the times listed. You can also download their Holiday Toy Drive form and donate new unwrapped toys for children affected by HIV/AIDS. I signed up this morning to sponsor two children and am awaiting their “wish lists”.

What will you do?