Monday, February 28, 2011

What Conservatives Really Want

Why, oh why, aren't any Democrats in Washington or anywhere else for that matter listening to George Lakoff? Why aren't they re-framing the discussion the way he advocates? In this insightful article, Lakoff articulates what exactly the Conservatives are after, and what is the underlying belief system behind it.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we've seen in Wisconsin, where the governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.

Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the president has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life....

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don't think government should help its citizens. That is, they don't think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility. (emphasis mine)

To read more and get the critical details, read the complete article. It isn't too long, but vitally important for this country.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Covering Up is a Feminist Issue

Hello World! I’m alive and, thankfully, well again. I wanted to start the week by sharing this fabulous video created by Annie of PhD in Parenting. It touches two issues near and dear to my heart – feminism and parenting – in particular, breastfeeding.

I breastfed exclusively for the first year of SchmoopyBoy’s life. (Well, I introduced solids around 6 months, but breastmilk was still his primary source of nutrition.) During that first year, I did venture out in public and I did not hesitate to nurse him wherever I happened to be. I almost always used a cover when I nursed in public. There were a few instances that I let slide if I was wearing a nursing top and knew I wasn’t going to be flashing everyone, but really I was more comfortable keeping myself covered.

No one ever confronted me anywhere I went. Not a single person in any restaurant ever asked me to leave and feed my child somewhere else. Would that have been the case if I were not to have used a cover? I have no idea. It’s not like no one could tell what I was doing, either. When a woman is making googly eyes down towards her shirt, and a tiny hand is reaching up touching her face, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

What is my point? My point is that covering up was MY choice. It was about MY comfort level. If a woman is comfortable nursing in public without a cover, more power to her. It is not for me to judge another woman’s comfort with her body. It is not for anyone to judge a woman’s comfort with her body. The choice is with the individual woman, which is why covering up is a feminist issue.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Sick House

Isn't it amazing how small children are notoriously bad at sharing toys and food, but are notoriously good at sharing germs? While SchmoopyBoy is finally on the mend, both his father and myself are now sick. Total water works of the face. Truly a joy. So I'm taking a sick day or 2 (like this will really interrupt my oh so irregular posting schedule) but will hopefully have something coherent to write about soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lion Dance = Greatest Thing Ever

This past weekend I took SchmoopyBoy to the Chinese New Year Festival at our local Chinatown Plaza. I wasn't sure if we would be able to make it, as he had been sick for a couple of days and I wasn't sure if he would be up for it. Of course, all I had to do was mention that there would be dragons and drums and he was ready to go!

We got in the gate just in time for the lion dancing to start. SchmoopyBoy was enraptured. I knew I would be hearing about "dragons" (I suppose they do look more like dragons than lions, especially to a 2 year old) for a while, I had no idea the extent to which he is totally obsessed. He wants to see pictures of lion dancing, he wants to see videos of lion dancing, he wants to see Real! Live! Lion! Dancing! all day every day.

His cold took a turn for the worse today. His temperature got up to 104 a couple of times during the day so I left work early to meet the husband and kiddo at the doctor's office. He thoroughly enjoyed all the gadgets the doctor broke out. He was an awesome little patient, if I do say so myself. And on the way home, he made it abundantly clear that he wanted....


I did not take this picture. I was kicking myself for leaving my camera at home. This is a picture from the Lohan School of Shaolin, which performed the lion dances as well as some Kung Fu demonstrations.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Julie Project - musings on infertility, humanity, love and perfection

I discovered the Julie Project early this week from Blue Milk, and it's been haunting me ever since, so I thought I should take some time to put some of my thoughts onto paper, if nothing else then to at least help purge my mind from all the levels of disturbing that have been tossing around.

The Julie Project is a documentary photo essay created by Darcy Padilla, winner of the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography, which tracks the life of Julie Baird over almost two decades. It is the story of brutal, inescapable poverty, surviving childhood sexual abuse, drug addiction, AIDS, motherhood, and loss. Blue Milk's description of the series as "utterly compelling but completely devastating" is right on target.

There have been a couple of persistent themes running my head. On one hand, I was interested in perspectives of the story through the eyes of women in the ALi (adoption, loss, infertility) community, and how socio-economic privilege might frame one's perceptive of the story. I was also interested in examining what this story can teach us about humanity, perfection (or lack thereof), and love.

First I want to think about some (but certainly not all) perspectives that might be considered in the context of the ALi community. The pain of a woman struggling with infertility can be overwhelming. The anguish can lead to some women questioning the universe. I once read on a woman's blog - such and such woman doesn't even intend to try breastfeeding and is already talking about the daycare she is going to put her child in, why is she pregnant and I am not (implying that she clearly thinks she would be a superior - breastfeeding, stay-at-home - mother and is therefore more deserving of getting pregnant). I have read numerous accounts of people crying about the unfairness that women who lack one (perceivably desirable) quality or possess another (perceivably undesirable) quality have children so easily, when they, who do not possess said undesirable quality or do possess said desirable quality cannot easily bear a biological child. What, I wonder, would these women say about a sometimes homeless drug addict birthing six children, five of which were taken by the state and given for adoption.

But it is so easy to reduce someone to "a sometimes homeless drug addict". By reducing Julie as such, she is dehumanized, and if the Julie Project does nothing else, it forces us to see her humanity. And let us discuss for a moment, this concept of fairness. Is it fair that Julie was born to an alcoholic mother? Is it fair that she was raped repeatedly as a child by her stepfather? Is it fair that by the age of 14, a life as a runaway on the streets was preferable to life at home? When one has the privilege of being what society generally considers to be the "right" kind of woman to be a mother, it is so easy to point fingers at the "wrong" type of woman. These types of judgements are by no means limited to women struggling with fertility. Certainly these types of judgements are used constantly by policy makers, with the implicit approval of their constituencies, to justify such actions as the elimination of a variety of social programs that target marginalized groups for being the "wrong" type of woman.

Back to an ALi perspective, I now want to consider those who have been on the opposite end of the same line as Julie. I am speaking of those who have become mothers via adoption through a foster-to-adopt program. Many of these women are all too aware that they have gained their parenthood only though someone else's loss. Their children may or may not still bear the physical or emotional scars of the circumstances of their births.

It is interesting to consider Julie's children and their adoptive parents. The mother of Julie's fifth child, Jason Jr./Zach, contacted Julie and openly and explicitly tried to include her in her son's life. This child had been taken away from Julie at birth - she had never seen him. Nonetheless, Zach's mother taught him that his birth mother was special. Julie had given him life and for that he should feel love and gratitude towards her, despite her inability to care for him.

I found it fascinating that, upon receiving the initial letter of contact, Julie's response was "I didn't expect this, I expected it was Rachael," Julie's firstborn, who had been with her the longest of any of her children. Rachael had spent the first several years of her life with her birth mother in excruciating poverty, moving from home to flea-infested home, surrounded by drug abuse. She was present, although sleeping, when her 15 month old brother was beaten so badly by Julie's current partner (Julie was at the hospital at the time) both children were taken by the police, placed into foster care and later adopted. Julie thought Rachael would want to contact her. I wonder if Rachael would have any interest. What might Rachael feel towards Julie? Resentment and hatred? Love and longing? Who knows if she would ever want to revisit her difficult beginnings? Would she ever want to look backwards to where she came from, or would she be happy to leave any dark memories of deprivation and loss behind and look only to the future, more bright than any Julie could provide?

This thought, in my mind, brings me back in full circle to Julie's essential humanity. I am reminded of a particularly powerful sermon I once heard. The theme - perfection and love. You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to be perfect in order to love others. You don't have to be perfect in order to be loved by others. I think of the people who loved Julie. The biological father in Alaska - who never forgot her - who tattooed her name on his arm when Julie's 17-year old mother took her and ran off to San Francisco - who spent the next 31 years searching for her. Jack, the man who gave her AIDS and fathered her first child - who gladly took her back after she first left him when their child was a few months old to get away from his drug use - who embraced her second child as he did his own biological child - who, after she left him again for the man who beat her child and caused both children to be taken into custody, when dying of AIDS in a public hospice, had a last wish only that Julie, the love of his life, be by his side. Jason, the father of her last four children - who stood by her side when three of those children were taken away at birth - who stood by her side all the way up to Alaska so that Julie could be reunited with her father - who nursed her day and night when she lay dying of AIDS. Julie may not have been perfect. But she was undeniably human. And you don't need to be perfect to be loved.

One last thing I want to talk about is Julie's motherhood - the transformative potential motherhood had on her. When Darcy first met and started photographing Julie, she and Jack both said "Rachael has given us a reason to live". In fact, this is why Julie first left Jack within a year of Rachael's birth. He was abusive and did not want to stop using drugs. She was trying to stay clean because she did not want to lose this baby. The story starts with hope and optimism. Would this 19 year old young woman be able to transform her life? Could she overcome her own past, filled with addiction and abuse in her own upbringing to become the mother she wanted to be? Could she escape her own drug abuse, homelessness, and poverty? On her own with no education, no family, no resources, neither boots nor bootstraps, the poverty proved to be unrelenting and inescapable.

This is one of the tragedies of Julie's story, and a tragedy of our society.

Darcy Padilla said, when asked why she took on this project:
"I guess what motivated me was this question that I kept thinking about all those years: How does a child born into this world like every other child, get to be Julie Baird?... Julie was witty and smart, and she might have grown up to be a teacher. But her mother was an alcoholic and her stepfather abused her, and she ended up on the streets at age 14."

So when I hear about how House Republicans are trying to cut down on violence prevention by defunding programs such as the Violence Against Women Health Initiative (which funds ongoing work to improve health care providers' response to domestic and sexual violence), the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (which funds domestic violence shelters and the National Hotline), and the Engaging Men and Youth in Prevention Program (which works to tap into the critical role men can play in helping youth develop respectful attitudes and behaviors towards women and girls), I have to agree with Blue Milk's final statement that every policy maker should view the Julie Project.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick Update - The Sleepy Edition

By now some folks may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. I don’t have a ton of fabulous excuses. I haven’t been gallivanting abroad in any exotic locations. I’ve just been very, very tired lately. The kind of tired where my head goes into a fog a couple times a day and I cannot do anything but close my eyes for even a few short minutes. The kind of tired that makes me pass out at the same time as my 2 year old most nights, leaving chores undone, dishes unwashed, diapers unassembled.

Oddly enough, I haven’t been sleeping well at night either. I’ve been having particularly bad episodes of insomnia in the middle of the night or early morning. I might be so tired that it hurts to even open my eyes, yet my brain just won’t shut up and I toss and turn until I get hungry. So I go downstairs to grab a bite, then lie back down and toss and turn until I get heartburn….blah blah blah and so it goes for about 2-3 hours. I suppose I could better spend at least one of those hours finishing my chores left undone when I passed out, but I keep wishfully thinking that if I stay lying down then perhaps I’ll fall asleep faster. Plus there’s that so-tired-my-eyes-hurt thing going on, so I really just want to keep them closed, which then makes scrubbing pots kind of difficult.

Yes, I am aware my poor sleep likely has something to do with my extreme fatigue.

I actually do have another reason for being so tired, but I’m not quite ready to talk about it. Don’t worry, it’s nothing overly dramatic. Give me another week or so and I’ll post an update.

On the fun side, that SchmoopyBoy is really becoming quite a character. It’s great fun (most of the time) to see his personality take off as he develops better communication skills. I could spend a couple of posts talking about that in and of itself. Perhaps if I find the time and energy I will one of these days.

On that note, I'm going to bed now. zzzzzzz....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011