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Archive for January, 2008

are my new favorite days. Look, I like being home with the Snapper and it’s its own challenge, but it’s not particularly intellectual for me. Tuesdays and Thursdays he is going to daycare full days and it is awesome. I come in the middle of the day to nurse him down for his nap, but the other seven-odd hours are mine to read and write. I am having a ball. Perhaps I’ll hit another slump but I am loving my life on these days. Due to illness/weather we’ve only had two Thursdays but between them I analyzed two collections of poems and wrote six pages. Eventually I’d like to get up to ten pages a week and beyond. Six is a good start for now.

The Snapper’s daycare is quite a find. They tend to have openings a bit more often than other places because it’s itty bitty and no one seems to know about it due to poor advertising (which is fine with me). The itty bitty part is really nice. The Snapper has only two classmates, one lead teacher, and one teacher’s aide. The other rooms are all near to each other and they visit the next oldest and next youngest during the day, so when they transition they have a great sense of continuity. They’re a non-profit. They pay a living wage to their teachers. It’s clean, neat, organized, but relaxed in feel which is nice for the kids. The Snap seems to have taken to it, too. We’re pretty happy with the situation.

I think it helps that I get out of the house to get work done. It is seriously difficult to get any work done around here because my office is also my office for household business and where I keep my clothes and it is always a mess. I like working in IC, too, because it is a university community and I really feed off the vibe. In the morning I work at a cafe near the Snapper’s daycare and today I shamelessly eavesdropped on a conversation between a professor and a TA. I couldn’t make out everything they were talking about but it made me miss teaching something fierce and also having people around to talk to about my work and teaching. I miss university life so much. I like the U of I library too and it helps with my level of distraction.

Last night as I was up with the Snapper from 12:45 to 1:45 am I was thinking about how I had to get up in just a few hours and how exhausted I was but I had a great day anyway.

I have to get this doctorate so I can start living this life everyday.

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Damn.

Obama had this to say, which was nice. Guess I’m officially on his wagon now.

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TLC’s new How to Look Good Naked caught my eye in the promos, and not just because of the word naked. Giggle. OK, maybe. But I was intrigued by the idea of celebrating women of less-than-commercially/socially-ideal body types. The show comes on just after my group home guys go to bed so it was a perfect candidate for paperwork accompaniment.

I appreciate M. LeBlanc’s (the fabulous new co-writer on Bitch, PhD) review, but I don’t think the show is revolutionary. Slightly revisionary, maybe. But I don’t think a show that still says, like all the other makeover shows, “um, you’re nice, honey, but you need to spend $5000 (that’s not an exaggeration; that’s What Not to Wear, a personal fave) on a new wardrobe, have this makeup artist teach you how to hide (‘accentuate’ my ass) your natural features, color your hair (using a stylist you will never be able to afford without this show), and yes, still conform to modern western standards of beauty by choosing clothing that gives the illusion of thinness/curviness to look good.” No show that requires you to resort to enormous piles of capital to look good could be revolutionary. Of course there is the nude photo shoot, which is nice, and the people-on-the-street affirmations, which is the most touching part of the show (makes me cheer, actually). But this is all AFTER the hair and makeup.

The best part of the show is the initial in-underwear consultation in which Carson says, pre new wardrobe and makeover, “you’re beautiful and you don’t have to lose weight to be that way.” If only the show would go on that way! I suppose nobody would watch it, then–most of us like the fantasy of the ugly duckling. Capitalism has taught us that buying things will make it all better, so I don’t think a show with the patience to work on truly revolutionizing how we look at ourselves as women would necessarily sell ad space.

So what’s the problem with buying things to solve our problems, you ask? For starters, it teaches us that we have no internal resources; that the answer to our problems, no matter how abstract, is outside ourselves. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it also taught us to go to our families and communities for answers, but it doesn’t. Capitalism is isolating and divisive. I know that you’ve seen I’d-Like-to-Teach-the-World-to-Sing commercial, too, but please have at least enough cynicism to see that it gives us the warm fuzzies long enough to buy a Coke but not long enough to do the hard work it would take to really conquer world hunger and poverty. The crux of the matter is that solving problems is counter-intuitive to capitalism. In the short term it does, sure, or we’d never go back to the store. The problem is that commercial solutions are temporary because the logic of capital is accumulation and growth. Companies do not celebrate when their profits flatten out–they like nice, healthy growth. We have to keep buying for it to work. And the more we buy, the more we feel the painful side effects of capitalism: environmental devastation, spiraling poverty (wonder how Wally World gets its low prices so low?), and in the current discussion, a deeply held belief that we are not and will never be whole, good enough, truly worth something infinite and expandable (yes, even if our waistlines are).

Take off your clothes. You don’t need them to be beautiful. You don’t need your makeup, either, as I’ve discovered (oh, how pleasant it is not to de-cake my eyes every night or to have 10 extra minutes in the morning!). You don’t need a nice house or car to be deeply, passionately, and abidingly lovely and lovable.

What I don’t know how to do is to make these things true in a cultural sense. Surely we have the tools already available in culture to do so or I couldn’t be talking in just this way. But where are they and how do we use them?

I don’t know…maybe this guy has the answer.

Edited to add: Actually, this guy way deep in the comments of LeBlanc’s comments does–“One day I stood in the bathroom, looking down at my body, and I didn’t think ugh.  I thought I live here. And a wave of wonder washed over me.”

Awesome.

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Your Life is Now

I don’t know if it’s the phase the moon is in or if it’s because the loosely connected bloggers on my reading list have more in common than they think, but they’ve been reading my mind: Abebech speaks here of what coming close to death even when she’s played it safe has taught her; American Family is feeling restless in her near-perfect suburban life; Kohana is about to embark on a trans-national leap with her family; witchtrivets is struggling with the incoherence of a fast external change and a slow internal one; and Dawn is busy living the fruits of working hard on the kind of dream most families never consider.

I turned 30 this year, and in March I turn 31.  Somehow my age, my recent preoccupation with my own mortality (which I have not chronicled here because it is all cliches–that the cliches have suddenly become real for me is interesting but writing it all down is not), my feminist conversion (ongoing, slow), and the circumstances of friends and family have collided to give me this sense of urgency about my life.  There is no more extra time.  Extra time, for the educated middle class, is for your twenties.  You’re supposed to be done finding yourself by 30.  Having found yourself, you’re supposed to start living whatever you’ve found.

Part of me buys this line completely.  I do know a lot of what I’m about, or at least what I want to be.  I have a whole list of things I want to grow into, things that I want to start doing and being.  I feel the compulsion to get it all ‘done’ before I’m 31 (so that on March 26 I am magically transported to my new life) but realistically these are things I want to start seriously, with passion, pursuing.  I’ve started to think about what I want my life to look like and how I can get there.  Some of it is external and structural, like finishing my PhD and landing a job at a small, liberal-arts college, or owning a home, but most of it is behavioral, like that I want to be primarily a reader in my spare time instead of a spacey TV watcher, or that I want to be active and healthy all the time, not just in spurts.  I’ve started to visualize that person and have tried acting in small ways like that picture.  I’m eating lunch in the dining room with Harper’s instead of in the living room with CNN and BBCAmerica.  I’m drinking more tea.

Some of it is more fundamental, though.  One of the New Years’ resolutions that I haven’t shared yet is that I’ll be taking this year to seriously decide whether or not I want to be a Quaker.  From what I know, and having attended the Pittsburgh Meeting for the better part of a year during our time there, it’s all what I want in a spiritual community.  But deciding to join a church is a big, big decision for me.  I only recently reluctantly came to the conclusion that I will never be a Baptist again.  There’s too much bad history there and I’ve grown away from a lot of it, even if some of my core beliefs are the same.  I want to be sure that the Quakers are right for me and for our family on paper, off paper, in its entirety.

Part of me, though, says, “shhhh, slow down,” and wants me to work on one thing at a time, to give myself the years I hope I have left to become many things.

But how much time will there be?  I want to strike some sort of balance, like Abebech says in her comments: ” I’m less about risk (obviously) than I am about not wanting to go back to putting things off, whatever those things are — I don’t want to forget that the catastrophic does happen, without walking around shell shocked all the time.”

My Tim McGraw is John Mellencamp.

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Ah…cup of tea, napping baby toddler (sigh). I may get to take a shower before noon! Score!

1. The Snapper is taking up two of our better habits, reading and music, and this is making us very, very happy. Just this week he has begun to bring me books to read! Thus begins the phase of my life wherein I read books over and over until I have them memorized. I read Hands, Hands, Fingers, Thumbs (a personal favorite, thankfully) eleven times this morning. Paddington Takes a Bath was a close second at eight times. Mind you, he can’t yet sit still for a read without another book or toy in his hands to manipulate, and often enough cannot sit through to the end of the book. The boy must always be moving. However, if he’s standing and able to clap, lean in closer, or take a lap around the room, he can stay engaged in a whole book. It helps if the book is rhythmic or musical, which brings me to music. He’s a dancing, singing, music-lovin’ fool. Please don’t tell me this is just his developmental stage. I would like to believe that he has an extra-special love for music and that he got it from us, the People Who Must Listen to Music at All Times. His favorites? Bluegrass and Jazz. Hot dog. And also, and this is all Attic Man’s doing, Leonard Nimoy’s, um, breathtaking version of “If I Were a Carpenter” and the vocal stylings of Mrs. Miller (we like “Catch a Falling Star” the best). As you may have guessed, the boys have taken to listening to Special X on XM radio. It’s…well, it’s very special.

2. New Years’ Resolutions: Become fiscally responsible; stop playing amateur psychologist; read more for pleasure.

3. Yay for having child care again! We are trying two full days a week instead of four half-days. I hope I can be more efficient–it’s hard to get going on work only to look at the clock and find it’s almost time to quit for the day. I’ll also be working in Iowa City instead of at home so (hopefully) I’ll be less distracted and more focused. Honestly, when we found our child care I felt fantastic. It is such a relief. But then again the last time we found child care I felt the same way, and it turned out to be a bust in terms of my productivity and later reliability. Anyway, the center we chose is really small and just lovely. They do all the things that the big, fancy, expensive preschools do, educationally speaking, but it’s affordable and homey. But not too homey, of course; it’s immaculate and well-organized. They have a great protocol for transitioning kids to the next age room, which at the Snapper’s age is six months at a time (I like this–there’s just too big a difference between a 12- and 18-month old child).

4. Thanks for the tip on cords, Molly. I do have two pairs, but sadly they are out of the rotation until I lose a little more of the bulge. A friend of mine did direct me toward Fair Indigo, which is perfect. Classic styles, fair trade, affordable. I can’t figure out why they’re not listed in Co-op America’s Green Pages, though…they have enough mainstream press coverage that I’m betting they’re for real but I’d feel better if C.A. endorsed them.  I am still working the thrift store/consignment circuit so I may not need to worry about it anyway.

5. Adoption. Ugh. I haven’t taken a break from it even though we won’t be adding to our family for a couple of years. Attic Man and I aren’t even seriously talking about it because if we start we will end up getting into the process way too soon because we won’t be able to help ourselves. But I’m always reading and thinking about it, thanks in large part to my friends in the computer. My struggle right now is that I am taking a serious, hard-core, no holds barred look at the inevitable, inherent losses in adoption and how it is fundamentally different from doing it the old-fashioned way (and becoming a mother is no small part of this recent preoccupation). I’m not saying I’m closing the door on adoption. I definitely still want to add to our family with as many children as we can afford/look after/still keep our careers and parent well with. I definitely don’t want to get pregnant again. And it’s not because “I never want to push a baby out of there.” It’s more than that; when I was pregnant and especially when I was going through my long labor, I constantly felt like my toes were gripping the line dividing life and death. It was a level of vulnerability that scared me, and I didn’t like it. I don’t want to go through it again. That it gave me the Snapper redeems it, of course, and makes it more than fear–it was beautiful, too. Still don’t want to do it again. Adoption is just as scary, just as (or more) dangerous emotionally. Somehow I feel better equipped for its scariness, even having gone through a failed placement. I could do that again. I do want to make sure that we go about it in the most ethical and compassionate and respectful way possible next time around and every time after that, and I think the acknowledgment of its danger and the acceptance of its losses will help us do that. I hope.

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Clothing help, please!

Ok! I need clothing. For a winter wardrobe, if you can call it that, I have two pairs of jeans, several very old t-shirts and two nice (ahem) sweatshirts. That is all. Motherhood has blown all of my good sweaters out of circulation. I was happy with my summer wardrobe of two nice skirts, two button-downs and one pretty top. That was all and it’s all I need: just some basics, and not too many because we’ll be into spring soon. Now that I have child care (yay!) I’ll be going down to Iowa City twice a week and I want to look presentable.

I’m planning to do consignment but I would like to get some basic staples that will last a few years. I’m trying very hard to do fair trade/organic but getting very frustrated. I’m almost through CoopAmerica’s Green Pages Online and I’m stuck between the drawstring yoga pants I can afford and the nice structured pants and good-quality tops that I can’t. Anybody have a favorite, affordable place to shop for fair trade clothing online?

Oh, and I am an hourglass type with short legs so the hippie-dippie stuff I so adore is out.  Classic styles are best.

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First off, if you’re running for president you’re almost automatically an ethically compromised person, at least in terms of what you probably set out to do at the beginning of your career (if, indeed, you started out with ideals and not just the oil lobby suggesting it might be nice if you ran).  Politicians need money to run and need support from powerful people–nobody gets elected without compromising on this and that, on both piddly and serious issues. So none of these candidates is the second coming as far as I’m concerned.  That’s why I did nothing more than shrug when learning that Edwards received campaign contributions from members of a hedge fund that had him on the payroll.  I read the Washington Post’s article about it and ended up saying, “eh.”  The guy’s a capitalist.  I’m an anti-capitalist but there’s nobody viable (and in Iowa that’s more than an adjective) who is one, too.

I like Edwards’ anti-poverty platform, and I like his health-care plan (especially that he plans to pay for it by repealing the tax cut for those earning over $200, 000).  I like that he spent his pre-political years as a trial lawyer getting justice for people wronged by corporations.  I don’t care if he made a lot of money doing it.  As far as I’m concerned his work constitutes a tax on the wealthy, and he should get a piece of that action.  I like that his background is working-class and that he hasn’t seemed to forget that despite his acquired wealth.  I especially don’t care how much he spends on haircuts.

I really, really like that he wants to bring the troops home in a years’ time, deploying only enough troops to make sure the equipment and personnel get out, and leaving on enough personnel to man the embassies.

Look, Obama’s alright and believe me, he’s a close second.  But he’s a lot less anti-corporate than Edwards and I don’t think he’d stand up to special interests with the same conviction and backbone.  (If you have your Harper’s article on Obama lying around read it again; and if you don’t, check it out of the library.  I think it came out some time last year?)

As for Clinton, well, Frances Kissling at Salon says it best.

I hate politics.

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