Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Three

Mindfulness Project: Week One [Week One Review]
Mindfulness Project: Week Two  [Week Two Review]

I really enjoyed reading the third chapter (Week Three: Increasing Awareness); Weiss's words seemed particularly insightful.

Thoughts and feelings during formal meditation. It is perfectly normal and expected that our minds should be moving and thinking as we meditate. Weiss writes that we are to acknowledge them thought, and acknowledge the emotion behind the thought, then set it aside. For instance, as I sat meditating last night, my mind kept circling back to my thesis project. My heart would start racing, I felt embarrassed I hadn't returned my chair's email in three days, and I got distracted from my concentration. But I took a moment and thought about what I was experiencing: I am thinking about this huge project I have to complete, and I feel stressed and anxious and frustrated, my heart rate has quickened, my breathing has accelerated. I acknowledged the feelings, and tried to let it go and focus on taking deep breaths to regulate my heart again. I can't say I was completely successful in letting go, but I think I made some progress. Weiss writes that naming of emotions helps us to acknowledge what is happening in our conscious, which allows us understand ourselves better. Thoughts = not a bad thing.
One meditation teacher invites us to envision the true nature of our mind as a clear blue sky. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions are clouds that come and go across the blue sky. Some clouds are white sips, others dark thunderheads. Sometimes the clouds may obscure the blue sky, the blue sky is always there. Just as a small patch of blue often appears during a hurricane, the blue-sky nature of our mind/heart can reveal itself through the louds of thinking, feeling, and perceiving, no matter how dense they become.
. See what I mean about insight this week? How beautiful, and what a striking image to have in mind as you meditate. 

Awareness of the Body: Checking in with our bodies keeps us aware of ourselves and our surroundings. One excercise Weiss recommends is using the act of standing up to take a moment to focus on breathing, and how the body feels as you make the transition. (And with sitting down). As I read this passage last night, I realized I was sitting sideways in a small armchair, one leg tucked under myself, the other hanging over the arm of the chair, and had one hand on top of my head. Apparently I read in really strange positions. I had no idea.

Using more mindfulness gathas. Weiss encourages using gathas throughout the day to increase mindfulness as we complete our tasks and go about our business. He includes several gathas in the book, for activities as trivial as flushing the toilet and turning on the television, to gathas to recite when cooking, waking up, or entering into a sitting or walking meditation. My favorite gatha was for the sitting meditation:
Sitting in the present moment,
I breathe mindfully.
Each in-breath nourishes love,
Each out-breath, compassion.
I also loved this gatha for hugging:
I am so happy to hug my dear                   .
I know (s)he is real in my arms.
The homework this week is to increase to three daily mindfulness activities. My three practices for the week are as follows:
  1. Breathing and awareness of self when my mindfulness bell dings (every fifteen minutes when my computer is open);
  2. Be mindful of my body and the act of hydration when drinking water or tea; and 
  3. Take notice of my body and how it feels when I stand up. 
This third one might be a little difficult as, at least half of the time my standing up occurs when I have to chase after the baby or respond to her, but I'll sure do my best.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Two [Review]

Mindfulness Project: Week One [Week One Review]
Mindfulness Project: Week Two

I'm really glad that I decided to redo week two and make a bit of an effort. I won't say that I was 100% consistent this week either, but the whole point of the Mindfulness Project is to be aware and to learn, and certainly my effort and heart is going into these two goals.

The two main themes of the second week were breathing and beginning a walking meditation:
  • Focus on Breathing: Ian and I did our sitting practice four nights out of the seven in this week (not perfect, I know, we're still getting into the habit), and I was very intentional during the formal practice to monitor and watch my breathing. I found that my breathing often seemed cramped and congested while doing my sitting meditation. It was only last night when I thought back to my old yoga classes (I so wish I could afford to attend yoga classes in New York!), and how we used to expand our chests to be able to breath better. And you know what? I made all the difference. I sat tall, expanded my chest by rounding my shoulders back and away from my chest, and my breathing became much more comfortable. I was able to better focus on the meditation process itself.
  • Walking Practice: Guess what? I really enjoy walking meditation! Gosh, I hope I'm doing it right, but on a lovely day, it is so nice to slow down a little, moniter the feel of my feet and legs as I move, along with my breathing, and just take in the sights! I found that I remembered to walk like this about half the time I was walking outside. And walkiing with a stoller? Great for walking meditation. I only did Kinhin walking once; Ian and I walked around our living room in circles for five minutes once after a sitting practice. I found it difficult to concentrate doing this. I'm not sure if I just need to give it more time, or if I just have a preference to be sitting and being, or walking around town on the alert when I meditate.
My relationship with my mindfulness bell continues to develop. I've had it on my computer for three weeks now, and I am increasingly fond of it every day. The fifteen minute chimes do really keep me grounded. I've noticed that every time I hear a chime, I stop and take into account what I'm doing, how my body feels, and my emotions. Sometimes this helps me to check myself, to realize that my activity is a positive one, removing a negative or annoyed emotion as I continue forward. More often than not, I am overcome with feeling of gratuity.

For example, this afternoon, I was sitting at the kitchen table, folding laundry. Felicity was sitting in her orange chair, destroying a graham cracker piece. The mindfulness bell went, and, despite having terrible menstrual cramps that are reminiscent of back labor (seriously body?) and a general sense of tiredness and achiness today, which would normally get me down, I reflected. I'm sitting in a cool house, folding laundry at this table, with a happy, babbling baby with graham cracker gook sitting adorably on her chin. And I was grateful and present in the moment: I was ecstatic that the house we're subletting has free laundry in the basement, thought about how nice it would be to open up my drawer tomorrow and be able to wear any of my favorite shirts and anticipated that small thrill, and just felt completely, blissfully in love with my small charge, that warm ball of sunshine and snuggles that poops itself.

I can't say that I was as successful about being mindful when drinking tea or water. I was for the first day, and then I forgot. But I plan to pick this back up in the next week.

Lastly, eating, which in our house now means veganism! For the most part, I want to keep my enthusiasm for this project on Plant Matters, our cozy blog about starting our vegan project, but it really ties in so nicely with the Mindfulness Project in so many ways. I'm finding that, even in the first week of eating plant-based food, my attitudes toward food and the act of eating are already changing. I've been cooking more frequently, and am finding that coming back to the kitchen and being a part of the production of all of my meals makes me that much more aware of what I am eating, and why I am eating it.

Mealtimes have also slowed down. Felicity now sits down with us to eat, attired in a bright bib and always a smile (I think dinnertime is her favorite time of day). She may not get much of it in her mouth, but eating with her forces Ian and I to slow down, to focus on what we are eating, and what she is eating. When she was smaller, we would usually have her with us in the room, but might also have a show on in the background. More recently, we'd been eating out more often, or waiting to eat dinner until she was already in bed, by which point we were to hungry and exhausted to enjoy the food. It is such a pleasure to eat a meal with a baby.

Look for the introduction to Week Three tomorrow!

Reflections on Breastfeeding

[I want to be very clear that while I am a strong proponent of breastfeeding, I understand that some women are not able to breastfeed for one reason or another. As I've stated in the past, I think that all new moms should really do their very best to make it work. I do take issues with moms that don't even want to try and don't have a really good reason.]

Felicity is almost eight months old, and as I was feeding her this afternoon, I couldn't help but think about all of the very pleasant memories. I say this now as a woman who was very seriously considering stopping nursing when Felicity was two months old in favor of pumping; the first few months were so very painful and hard. But, after the baby was diagnosed with acid reflux when she was three months old (and successfully treated), and we saw a lactation consultant to work on her latch, and I was able to heal a little... nursing became a much more pleasant experience. It took months and months, but I now enjoy it the process, when I used to dread it. Maybe it's because Felicity is becoming increasingly interested in food, I'm slowly realizing that these small moments throughout the day, where the baby is still and laying in my arms, are coming to a close. And really, it is nice to just sit with her and have her calm and relax; you never quite realize how much and how fast a baby will move about once they've figured out how to crawl. Or do the worm, in Felicity's case.

Meeting Felicity, December 1st, 2012
But really, even though Flick and I struggled through some of the beginning, some of the nicest memories come from this period. I don't have very clear memories about the first few hours after Felicity's birth, but I do remember Ian placing the baby on my chest for the first time, as I was laying down, unable to move after the cesarean. My mom helped her latch on for the first time (it's amazing how many of your boundaries completely disappear when you're pregnant, and then even more so during birth and immediately afterwards!). I remember holding her small body, very awkwardly as I could barely move, my mom saying, "Just let her smell you." And that little mouth, always sucking on her hand; I do believe she was pulled out of me making her small sucking movements, like a little bird.

I also recall with fondness our weeks of poetry. There were several weeks through March and April, where we had figured out the latch a bit and I could have a hand free, and before Felicity realized she could stretch an arm back and smack anything I might be holding, where I would read poetry aloud as the she ate. The poetry seemed to relax her little body, and she'd often stay still and happy in my lap after she was done eating, cooing, often drifting into a nap.

Snack at The High Line, May 2012
More recently, I've been enjoying just... nursing! And not just at home or in a small room, but wherever we are, whatever we're doing. At the park, at the museum, in a cafe or restaurant. At one point I almost felt shame for needing to feed Felicity publicly. Maybe it was because I had so many negative sensations and emotions, or maybe I just needed a little exposure (pun intended! so sorry, I know it's dreadful).

Breastfeeding is one of those things that people often don't talk very honestly about.
I read and heard over and over again how easy and natural it was, what a smooth transition it would be for mother and child. It wasn't natural or easy. As I mentioned, we had a three-month adjustment period, and I thought about quitting many times. It can hurt like the dickens (the first two weeks the most), let-down can feel like fire burning down your breasts, engorgement feels terrible, and blocked ducts are more frequent and painful than you often hear about. I never developed mastitis, and for that, I'm really grateful.

Yet breastfeeding is a very special bond. I remember, as we were feeding Felicity her first solids on her half birthday, how my body had completely sustained her body for six whole months, in which time she'd learned to smile and laugh, had somehow doubled her birth weight and then some, and developed rolls tires deep on her bitty thighs. And how proud I felt.

Our bodies do some amazing things. Pregnancy and birth are remarkable, and how interesting that breast milk has so many benefits for baby and mother. And did you know that breast milk has cannabinoids in it? Neat.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Obnoxious "Check Out My Cute Baby" Post

You were warned. She's super cute.

As we're reaching the end of July, I've been reviewing the pictures from this month. We (read me) didn't take as many as usual, and they seem to mostly consist of Felicity eating food and being either really excited about it, or super serious about it. 

Felicity's first crackers. Love at first fistful.

Flick is super serious about the investment in Mexican food. So serious, she shoved most of it under the clamps of her chair. I see your angle here, baby.

Baby helps with laundry, is distracted by streamers on fan.
Young Baby is Unamused by Father Reading in French; Only Wants Forbidden Treats and Nap.


It looks like the FDA has finally banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Now we just need to focus on banning any plastic with BPA or PVC in it from everything else being sold. Easier said than done, that's for sure.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How Does a Dinosaur Clean Up Her Room?

I've mentioned before that we love the "How Do Dinosaurs" series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.

Earlier this afternoon, Ian was reading to Felicity. They were sitting on the floor, Felicity on his lap. I heard Ian start the next book: "How does a dinosaur clean up her room?" he read, followed by "Certainly not by our example!"

I heard this as I was stepping over a clothes pile in the next room, attempting to walk to the bathroom.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Interesting Article by the Harvard Business Review: Are Women Held Back by Colleagues' Wives?

I read a very interesting article by Lauren Stiller Rikleen in Harvard Business Review today that I want to discuss. Titled "Are Women Held Back by Colleagues' Wives?, this article discusses a recent study on how men's perceptions of women and women's roles correlate with whether their own wives work outside the home, and if so, the extent to which they do.
A group of researchers from several universities recently published a report on the attitudes and beliefs of employed men, which shows that those with wives who did not work outside the home or who worked part-time were more likely than those with wives who worked to: (1) have an unfavorable view about women in the workplace; (2)think workplaces run less smoothly with more women; (3) view workplaces with female leaders as less desirable; and (4) consider female candidates for promotion to be less qualified than comparable male colleagues.
What immediately sprang to my mind was this: What type of men and women enter into a marriage where partners play to traditional segregation of business and home? While Ian's and my marriage is evidence that even feminists can end up in a relationship where the female (mom) ends up staying home for some amount of time for one reason or another (though technically I'm working on my thesis... ), it is my feeling that many women who end up staying home with children, or work part time, do so because they hold more traditional views on gender roles within a marriage and family. Men that are looking for and marrying women who have expectations for staying at home with children (or not working as much as is expected of the man) more than likely have some gender stereotypes that hinder women from succeeding in a career environment.

I don't have access to the original study, so my thoughts may be repetitive of their conclusions and suggestions for further research, but I would like to see a follow up study that investigates the types of environments such men grow up in, in combination with what their do for a living, and how they view women in the workplace. My guess is such research would find that sexism in the workplace is more indicative of how men (and women) were raised and their general views of men's and women's roles, versus men's wives being the issue (as the title of the article might suggest).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Find of the Day: Beyonce is the one *not* wearing a snuggy.

We're taking a break from talking about feminism, media, and meditation tonight. I have absolutely nothing to say on the quality of these lyrics, or my take on them. Are you ready?

Seriously: just look at this kid, dancing in a snuggy.

ps - I suppose I can't be completely unbiased watching this; did Beyonce get her skin lightened?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reclaim what now?

Bittylab, a new company just launched last year, is trying to get their BARE bottles off the ground. At first glance, everything seems great: the bottles are designed to mimic a woman's breast, they are free of so many of the nasty chemicals still found in many bottles and baby things, the company seems to be pro-breastfeeding, and they won a 2012 Eco Excellence Award.

Enter their marketing campaign this July on Twitter: "New Baby? Reclaim your wife. Meet BARE," and "Feeling like you're competing with your newborn for mommy's attention? Meet Bare."

While I give them (slight) props for marketing to men (whom most companies completely ignore when advertizing for baby, household, and cleaning products), Bittylab is suggesting that a wife is property to be reclaimed. As in, the wife, or her breasts, are the husband's property. Or, you know, a baby is competing for breast time because it needs to eat so it can grow and not die. Hopefully every new mom has heard by now: Breast is Best;* we should encourage as much nursing as possible!

And then let's look at the second ad for a moment. It either suggests that a) you feed your baby formula; or b) you pump and then bottle-feed your baby. The company's stance is pro-nursing, so the first is out, leaving the suggestion that a mother pump instead of nurse to save some time.

Speaking as *ahem* an experienced pumper, you would prefer that your partner stop everything, strip off her clothing, slather her nipples in lanisoh so they don't crack, connect her breasts to suction cups and a motor, and feel a little like a milking cow? While I appreciate that it's an option and enjoyed the opportunity and choice to pump when I need and wanted to, pumping is just not glamorous.** Pumps don't work as well or expediently as a baby's little bird mouth, and then you actually have to feed the baby the bottle later, not to mention wash and sanitize the bottles and pumping equipment. So it takes a lot longer, which doesn't really correspond with saving time using the bottle. Not to mention, a father really shouldn't be putting his own needs before his infant's needs. This seems to harken back to an era where the patriarch of the family was served their meal first, and makes all of the family decisions.

Oh Bittylab, why so sexist? Why such shameful advertising?

But it's okay everyone, they apologized on facebook!
Ladies, We're really sorry about the twitter campaign run last week. It was a huge miss understood and resulted in offensive messages. It was taken down yesterday. The messages had nothing to do with putting a husband needs before the baby's needs, it was more about having a little extra time for the rest of the family. Obviously the whole campaign was poorly executed. We apologize deeply for this miss understanding and assure you, from now on the campaigns will be closely monitored before they go out. Thank you for a second chance.
.... oh.... they didn't actually realize why the ads were offensive.

* While scientific studies do show that breastmilk is superior to formula for infant brain development, I fully understand that not all moms have success with breastfeeding. While I firmly believe that every mom should do their absolute best, even through the hellish acclimating period (the first 3-180 days), I do not judge those moms that are unable to continue. As long as they tried. Really hard.

** Notice how awkward our friend from 90's is here? Even though she's decked out with her special pumping bra and a cardboard computer, one can immediately tell that pumping is a really strange activity. And this picture? This picture is to actual pumping as a fast food burger ad is to the actual "product" they've convinced you is edible.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Two

[Click here for Mindfulness Project: Week One]

In the second chapter of Beginning Mindfulness: Learning the Way of Awareness, Andress Weiss takes several of the concepts from the first week's chapter and expands on them.

The first section is on being aware of breathing, which helps lead to serenity. He writes:
We can begin by being aware of whether our in-breath is long or short. Perhaps our in-breath is short and our out-breath is long. It's not important to make our breath be any particular way; it's only important to notice how our breath is. We train our attention on this breath that we are breathing right now and not on remembering the one we have just breathed. We also do not anticipate the one we will inhale or exhale next.
This type of breathing helps one remain in the present, and can deepen mediation.

In the second part of the chapter, Weiss introduces walking meditation. I've never heard of walking meditation before! Apparently there are two main types:
  1. Kinhin, or "slow walking": When practicing kinhin, you walk slowly, concentrating on the ground in front of you, your breathing, posture, and the feel of your feet, legs, and body as you step forward. Each step accompanies an in-breath or out-breath.
  2. Faster walking meditation: This second type of walking meditation still isn't at a brisk pace, but it does move faster at a nice stroll. While still concentrating on breathing and the way the body feels as you walk, you also take in the sights and notice what is going on around you. 
    As we walk, we may see, hear, or smell something that we want to savor. When we do, we stop, breathe in and out several times, and enjoy what we encounter. We breathe to be fully present.
I have to admit my initial response to walking while meditating was, well, surprise; frankly, it sounds a little strange! (And, ask my husband, I have a hard enough time walking without tripping as it is!). But upon reading this chapter again, I can appreciate the strengths of each type of walking meditation. The first is very focused on stilling the mind, which relaxes and centers the body. The second allows for greater awareness and appreciation for the outside world.

The tasks this week are to increase the sitting meditation time to ten or even fifteen minutes, and to do a little kinhin walking mediation afterwards; and to add a second daily-life mindfulness ritual. I still have the "Mindful Clock" installed on both computers and have been very consistent in pausing, breathing, and reflecting when it goes off at fifteen minute intervals. For my second mindful activity, I'm going to take a few moments to concentrate on my breathing and thoughts when getting a drink of water or tea throughout the day.

For those of you on this journey with me, how are your practices going so far? Have you been consistent with your sitting meditation? Has it been difficult or easy to get through your sessions? Have you tried walking meditation yet?

Introducing: Plant Matters

Hey all.

If you've been reading along, you'll know that I decided to move back to vegetarianism about two weeks ago, and Ian followed. We shortly realized the reasons we stopped eating meat really extend to dairy and most animal products... so we decided on Saturday night to become full-fledged vegans. And we're super excited.

I've felt for awhile there is a bit of a disconnect with my love of food, menu planning, and posting of recipes, and my goals for this blog. Thus, Ian and I have started a joint blog called Plant Matters where we will post about our adventures as apprentice vegans, information about veganism and animal rights, and of course, lots of tasty, ktichen-tested recipes (which I hope to photograph along the way), and my weekly menus.

Repeating Week Two!

Hey all, I'm back!

In the past week, I must admit that the meditation project went off-track. I was traveling, and Ian and I haven't gotten back into the habit since Felicity and I got back. I've been practicing my daily mindfulness project, but not as consistently as I would like. As it's been over a week since I read the second chapter of Beginning Mindfulness, I will re-read it tomorrow, post about it, and we'll repeat the week!

I hope everyone is healthy and well, and had a lovely weekend.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week One [Review]

We're finishing up the first week of the Mindfulness Project, and I wanted to check in with everyone to let you know how it's going.

To start, the week was simultaneously more difficult and easier than I thought it would be, in that some days were incredibly easy, and some days it was challenging to take the time to meditate, and to try to be aware. I found I actually had to open up Beginning Mindfulness once or twice to remind myself what being mindful of the moment meant. And honestly, right now, I'm not sure I completely understand, though had you asked me a week ago, I would've said I understood the concept completely.

Meditating was actually an easier task than I thought it would it be, and I enjoy it. The time passes quickly, and it feels good to sit down and do it after Felicity is alseep (and I mean really asleep, so I don't have to think about her possibly crying or needing a loving word to calm a fuss).

Positive Changes in the First Week:
  • I'm walking and sitting with better posture; I think this is because my lower and upper back muscles are strengthening while I'm meditating, which hopefully will counteract the "nursing slouch" it's almost impossible to avoid.
  • I'm more thankful throughout the day; it's hard not to feel gratitude when I'm constantly checking in with myself. For instance, I'm walking and it's really lovely outside. I am on a walk because I have an egalitarian husband who looks forward to watching the baby for me so I can remain a sane person. And I feel thankful for the weather, the breeze, my thoughtful, feminist husband, my sweet baby. And some anticipation for the pot of tea and chocolate macaroon I am soon to enjoy.
  • I'm more compassionate; I've been making a conscious effort to not jump to negative conclusions about people I see/meet, and when I find myself thinking poorly of someone else, I then make myself try to understand why I came to the snap judgment I did, and why that kind of thinking is problematic. All in all, I've been more willing to give strangers the benefit of the doubt.
While there are several positive changes I can already identify, the week also had it's challenges. Ian and I completely forgot to do our meditation one night, and we usually have to force ourselves to set aside the ten minutes before bed. Of course it feels good once you're doing it, but, like forming any other positive habit, sometimes its hard to jump into an action without a little mental resistance (or plain forgetfulness).

And of course I feel like I no longer understand what 'mindfulness' completely means. I have the Mindful Clock on my computer that dings every fifteen mintues, and sometimes when it goes, I struggle to understand what I'm supposed to do and what I am doing. I usually stop what I'm doing, take three deep breaths, and think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. I haven't memorized my gatha from last week, and rarely remember to carry it about with me.

And sometimes, like just now, when the bell rang as I was typing the above paragraph, all I can think to say to myself is, "You're here, sitting, typing your blog entry." And is that actually being aware? Probably not. I need to spend more time thinking about what motivates my activities, and to really think about why I'm doing something as I'm doing it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Hit List

Hit List
Hit List by Lawrence Block

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hit List is the second book in the Keller installment by Lawrence Block. Ian and I had such fun reading Hit Man aloud, we picked this up at the library the same day we finished Hit Man, and read it within the week.

It was a bit disappointing. On one hand, the plot is a little more cohesive in Hit List; Dot and Keller determine that someone is trying to take out other hitmen (or hitpersons?), and they have to find a way to stop the rogue hitter. All very good, it was fun to have more of an overriding theme.

Unfortunately, Block spends way too much time in conversation between Keller and Dot, and they both seem to have become less intelligent in conversation and whit since the first book. Sometimes it felt like Block was insulting the intelligence of his readers by not only repeating in narration what has already occurred (often within the next chapter or two), but then having the two leads discuss it to no end.

That said, overall Hit List was still a fun read, and we're now on to Hit Parade.

View all my reviews

Review: Hit Man

Hit Man
Hit Man by Lawrence Block

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first listened to Hit Man by Lawrence Block on a road trip to Michigan with my brother, seven years ago. I remembered enjoying it immensely at the time, and so talked my husband into picking it up as our book to read aloud with each other.

Keller is, as one might imagine by the title, a hit man. The book isn't so much about the murders though, or even that he's a bad person. Instead, you get a glimpse into Keller's psyche as he processes his past and present, and contemplates what it is he really wants in life. The back of the book advertises it as a 'midlife crisis,' which seems somewhat accurate.

Having read through the second, and now into the third book of the series, Hit Man is by far the most enjoyable of the three so far. It's by no means a deep read, but Keller's thought processes are enjoyable to witness, and he has an interesting personality that makes you look forward to reading, and makes it difficult to put the book down.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Week Hiatus

Hello all:

My mom is flying into town this evening and we're jetting off with the baby for a small road trip. I'll be back next Friday (unless something makes me angry and I just have to post, because that has happened). I will try to post about the Mindfulness Project on/before Monday. 


Review: Guide to Getting It On!

Guide to Getting It On!
Guide to Getting It On! by Paul Joannides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll be bold: this is my favorite book about sex.

It's not so much about positions, but about your own sexuality (and self-pleasure), techniques for pleasuring your lover, and how to approach some of the less-discussed aspects of sexuality.

Joannides writes with a sense of humor, and the graphics are informative and often funny.

There, that didn't make anyone too uncomfortable now, did it?

View all my reviews

The Great Pinterest Purge (or, Hello Vegetarianism, Again)

If you follow me on pinterest, you'll know that I've posted about every recipe ever pinned (sans that stuff that has cake mixes, salad dressing mixes, or canned soup, because that's just gross). It's probably really annoyed you, your feed all taken up with by bazillion recipes (and let's be honest here, most of them involve lots of butter, cream, and/or steak).

I stopped eating meat when I was seventeen years old. I was a vegetarian for six and a half years, and then Ian, the bad influence that he is, got me eating meat again after we started dating. It started out innocently enough; local, organic lamb from our farmer's market, then a little bacon in the soup or in a salad. I visited my family in Minnesota, they heard I was eating meat, and it was all over from there. My defenses weakened, I ate whatever they put in front of me. And it was delicious.

And here I find myself, three and a half years later, cutting it out again. Mostly for environmental reasons, but also because these animals are not treated humanely. (Really, this tells me I should be looking at veganism, but one step at a time, no?)

Anyways, I took the plunge and decided to spend my Friday evening purging my pinterest boards.

Oh. My. Goodness. This was a good test of my resolve - I have pinned some damned tasty-looking recipes that are now haunting me. Why didn't I eat that twice-baked sweet potatoes with the sesame-bacon brittle when I had the chance? Why did we not prepare the chicken with peanut sauce, or make the honeyed pork roast. WHY? 

But really, as I was going through, eliminating well over half of all the recipes I've pinned, clicking 'edit,' then 'delete,' then confirming the delete request, there was something ritualistic and pure about getting rid of the garbage and temptation.

Rest assured dear reader, for now, I will continue to post so many filthy desserts, you will gain weight looking at them. Unless your my husband, who loses weight thinking about exercising, and tones his muscles while eating.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Find of the Day: Fat, Ugly, or Slutty

I think I'm a little naive sometimes, or perhaps just overly optimistic about the inner goodness of (most) humans. The whole Anita Sarkeesian business was a bit horrifying, and then I stumbled across this blog tonight: Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.

Fat, Ugly, or Slutty is a blog that posts the awful things women gamers are subjected to in MMORPGs. (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). Because women who game are all sexual playthings or are hideous, right?

Wow. I know (hope, I mean HOPE) it's probably a small population of gamers, but good lord.
Happy Friday?

Top Ten Favorite Baby Books

This is a post dedicated to our favorite books to read to Felicity (and Felicity's favorite books to help read). These books are in no particular order, by the by.

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon is a delightfully illustrated book that encourages imagination and thinking outside the box. Mathilda is a courageous little sheep, and I do love a strong female lead. And really, isn't Mathilda a sweet name?

Birdsong was amongst the first of the children's books that I borrowed from the library when Felicity was just over a month old. It was the book that delighted her the most; Birdsong is filled with silly-looking birds with even sillier-sounding calls and is a treat to read aloud. It also has a sense of humor, which a parent will appreciate.

 Nothing is so sweet as reading this book with Ian and Felicity before bed. As one might expect, it is a kissing and counting book. "Ten little kisses for teeny tiny toes," and so forth. This is one of those books that can get Felicity giggling, even if she in a grand-fuss moments before.

Dr. Suess has authored some great books. Granted, Green Eggs and Ham has a certain sort of awful something out it (personally, it made me think about rape - pushing and pushing someone to do something they don't want to do until they give in, and then the victim "likes" it? sketchy). However, Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book is a nice account of contagious yawns, and a count of people falling asleep all over (though the way of tallying how many are falling asleep once again falls into the creepy side of Suess's imagination).

This is a fun book to read and act out. My favorite animal? The Crocodile. "Can you wiggle your hips like the crocodile? I can do it!" It might be the case the I have more fun than Felicity reading this book. Just maybe.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: what is there to say? Magic. This is one of the very sweetest books. Ian and I love the How Do Dinosaurs series, and this is probably the best. As Ian pointed out once, this series is one of the only that accurately portrays the emotional size of a child in their parents' lives. Of course, we change all of the pronouns to 'shes' and 'hers', because, you know, that's how we roll.

The Foot Book is Felicity's very favorite book. This is probably because I do my best to vocalize the the different kinds of feet ('up feet' gets read with the voice getting higher and higher, and 'pig feet' gets a loud oink, which always makes Felicity shriek with laughter).

And, after having read The Foot Book on average twice daily for the past... five months, I can say I'm not yet sick of it. And that's something.

My French-speaking husband loves to read to my French-listening baby. Felicity loves this book more than all of the other French books he's read to her. Apparently she's into adventure. She also likes to flip the pages. I can't understand a word, so I really don't have much else to say. The cover has nice colors!

 We bought this little board book in Albuquerque, NM when Felicity was five weeks old. Yep, love the dinosaur books. We purchase a set for all of our baby friends.

Bear has a strict bedtime routine and cannot be disturbed. Mouse comes to spend the night, and they have quite a little adventure. I just read over my description, and I promise that the book isn't as dirty as my blurb is. I promise. But really, this is a funny book, and the artwork is wonderful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baked Portabella Burgers with Roasted Red Peppers, Pesto, and Provolone

Well, last night was my last night of eating meat. We made some lamb burgers with goat cheese and a homemade spicy tomato jam. They were... delicious.

But strangely, not as delicious as tonight's portabella burgers. Granted, someone stole two legs off of our three-legged grill this afternoon (?), so we baked our caps instead of grilling them.

Baked Portabella Burgers with Roasted Red Peppers, Pesto, and Provolone
adapted from epicurious.com

2 red peppers (or 2 jarred roasted red peppers)
4 portabella caps, stems removed

olive oil
4-8 slices provolone (omit for vegan)
spring greens or arugula
2-4 Tbsp pesto
mayonnaise (or vegannaise)
4 potato buns

Using your broiler or gas stove, char the peppers (here's a useful tutorial, if you haven't done this before). Place in a medium bowl and cover with saran wrap (alternatively use a small saucepan and lid) and let sit for 30 minutes. Then peel off the skin, remove seeds, and cut peppers into four pieces.

While peppers are steaming, heat oven to 350F. Remove stems from portabella caps, and place on a slightly-greased  baking sheet, gills up. Drizzle with olive oil, and generously salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Add cheese slices, and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

If you have time, toast the hamburger buns. Spread the mayo and pesto on each bun, and stack with mushrooms, peppers, and greens.


Mindfulness Project: Week One

Today is the start of the Beginning Mindfulness reading project. Beginning Mindfulness:Learning the Way of Awareness, by Andrew Weiss, is a non-religious approach to meditation and daily mindfulness. The book is a 10-week course, with a chapter a week for guidance, and projects to work on with each chapter.

There are three of us reading the book together. We all read the introduction and first chapter yesterday, and today was the day for implementation! I'll talk a little about how Day One went, but first, a brief summary of what was read.

In the first week's chapter, Weiss introduced several main concepts:
  1. Sitting Meditation (Formal Meditation) - this is what we all think of when we hear the word 'meditation.' You sit, you breathe, and you try to empty your head of thoughts and concerns. Weiss recommends counting from one to ten with in and out breaths, then count back down again (in, one, out, one; in, two, out, two... and so forth) to center yourself as you start.
  2. Daily Mindfulness (Informal Practice) - part of learning mindfulness is to center the self and thoughts throughout the day, and to be aware of what you are doing as you do it. He recommends stopping at various points during the day to focus on your breathing and recenter yourself, and to note mental and physical transitions as they occur.
  3. Bell of Mindfulness - using a bell (or bell sound) to center yourself, whether when starting your formal meditation, or during the day to remind yourself to center and focus on your breath.
The assignments for the week are to start with two five-minute formal sitting meditations a day, and to pick a mindfulness activity (there is an extended list of daily mindful activities in the book, covering anything from noticing the way your feet hit the floor in the morning, to being mindful when you are on your way out the door in the morning, to using a bell of mindfulness in the home in the evening).

For my mindfulness project of the week, I installed a "Mindful Clock" on my computer, which plays a small tone every 15 minutes, and a more sonorous tone every 60 minutes. I have copied a suggested gatha (small mindfulness poem) onto a notecard, and will attempt to read it and breathe with it whenever I hear the tone:
Voice of the bell, voice my heart,  (breathe in),
I invite your sound to awaken me. (breathe out)
May all beings live in mindfulness, (breathe in)
Our hearts open and minds clear. (breathe out)
I will admit that the gatha still sounds a little silly to me, and I might try writing another myself, or finding a book at the library with a larger list, but it's what I'll use for now.

Ian and I tried our first sitting practice tonight. We arranged ourselves on the living room floor, in places where we don't normally sit during the day (and we actually spend a great deal of time on the floor with Felicity, so that is harder than you might imagine). We used an online meditation bell, and gave ourselves ten minutes.

It was actually easier than I thought it would be to stay focused, and it surprised me how quickly the ten minutes went by. I started with the breathing exercise that Weiss mentioned, and went ahead and repeated it the two times I found myself distracted. For most of the time, I tried to integrate some of a meditation method I'd read about elsewhere: to stare softly at the place in-between your closed eyes, and to find the light and look at it, then to say the names for god that use over and over again. Being the irreligious soul I am, I didn't really have any names for god to use, and don't necessarily know that this of any good, but I repeated qualities that I want to grow in my life, like love, grace, and peace.

All in all, I would say the first day is off to a good start. I'm excited to see how I feel by the end of the first week, and by the end of the ten weeks! Now if I can just get flexible enough to do a full lotus...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eating More Responsibly / Weekly Menu

Well, I think I've decided to cut out meat again, at least meat that isn't locally sourced, responsibly grown, and humanely butchered. This cuts out quite a bit and means we'll be moving to a mostly-vegetarian menu.

I was a vegetarian for over six years, just got lazy when I met that tall, dashing man I married (who loves his meat). But we're willing to go into this together, we've been talking on and off about this sort of adjustment since the baby was born.

Well, we'll see how it goes. I'll need to do a little research this week to see if I need any additional supplements to support myself, and nursing the baby.

Weekly Menu
Portobello Burgers with Pesto, Provolone, and Roasted Peppers, Grilled Corn
Black Bean & Zucchini Chilaquiles
Belgian Leek Tart with Aged Goat Cheese (Flamiche Aux Poireaux), simple side salad with Spring Greens
Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu and Smoke Mozzarella
Bruschetta with White Beans and Walnuts, Rustic Italian Bread, and Sauteed Spinach

Sunday, July 8, 2012

More on Why Ben Spurr Feels it's Justified to Create a Game Promoting Physical Violence Against Women

This is an excellent piece from She Was Disarming, which analyzes Ben Spurr's justifications as to why it was okay to create a game that allows players to beat up Anita Sarkeesian. 

Spoiler: He felt ignored.

Find of the Day: The Elevator Experiment

I was happy to find this video online unexpectedly this afternoon. One of my all-time favorite psychology experiments on group behavior.

A Bad Experience

I've been avoiding writing about the following because I'm not sure how to relay my story without coming across as paranoid or ridiculous. So bear with me.

On Friday morning, after dressing myself and the baby (isn't it funny how it always goes in that order, parents?), I tucked her with Ian for a nap, and walked a half mile to Panera.

[Pausing for a brief moment, I feel I must defend going to Panera. Sometimes you need a predictable fix, a bit of comfort for your day (or greater life, for rebalancing). I have been craving Panera's sausage breakfast sandwich and finally caved. This is similar to be need to eat at TGI Friday's about once a year to have a burger with Jack Daniels sauce. I almost always try to support local business when I'm out and about.]

I purchased my breakfast sandwich and iced coffee. I found a comfortable booth next to an outlet, plugged my netbook in, and opened up Gender Trouble, hoping to get through as much Judith Butler as possible before the crying started. Judy does this to me - I usually end up crying out of sheer frustration (she's a bear to read), or because she's brilliant. Sometimes both.

In settling myself into my small booth, I noticed a man seated at a booth perpendicular to mine, finishing his breakfast. He looked to be in his early to mid-forties, with graying hair. As I began to eat and type, I noticed that every time I looked up, he would look at me. I know we've all been victim to this at some point or another. You're out by yourself, most likely with a book. There is someone sitting in front of you, so that every time you look up, they are your direct line of vision. Your eyes meet once or twice on accident. You're not sure if they are starting at you or trying to get your attention, so you start looking up more often, trying to figure it out. You notice they are looking at you quite frequently, but probably because they're trying to figure out the same thing about you.

Or maybe I'm just super awkward. I don't know.

In any case, I was really intent in my work and tried to ignore him, but could feel him looking at me, and every time I raised my head, he would try to meet my gaze. He was reading through a magazine called Fine Homebuilding and, facing me, held the magazine up directly in front of his face, lowering it occasionally to look at me.

And then the "adjusting" began. So. Much. Adjusting.
I hadn't seen so much surreptitious crotch adjusting since junior high.

I texted Ian, "Hey, I'm at Panera, kind of being creeped on by this guy." I waited a minute or two, no response.

Staring at me, the man put his satchel over his lap.

I really started averting my eyes at this point and tried not to look up at all. I began feeling as if I was in danger. I wanted to pack up my things and walk home, but did not feel comfortable leaving, genuinely afraid that he would walk out after me and follow me. State Street is fairly busy, but two blocks over and it's uncertain whether anyone would be walking around.

I waited a bit longer, hoping he would move. He didn't budge from his table.

I called Ian: "Hey honey, I'm at Panera. Did you get my text?" He hadn't. He read it. "Would you like to come meet me and get some coffee?" Pause, then quietly, "I feel uncomfortable."

Ian came as quickly as he could. Watching the clock, it took about 35 minutes (he had to pack the baby up and what not, it is amazing what it takes to get such a small person out the door!). And what relief when my husband strode up to my table, stroller in hand, baby smiling.

The moment Ian arrived and we started talking, the stranger stood up and began preparing to leave. Yet he waited as we refilled my iced coffee and packed my bag, putting his things together slowly. Ian and I walked outside with the stroller, and stopped on the sidewalk to discuss where to go next. The man followed us out by about thirty seconds, stopped for a moment looking unsure of which direction to walk in, then saw us, and walked in the opposite direction.

In recounting this, I can tell you that I have never been so alarmed by a stranger in my life. I do not think that I am easily paranoid. I also realize that statistically there is a small chance he actually meant me harm, but that does not lessen my discomfort.

In thinking about this experience today, I began to feel silly for reacting so strongly. This event cast a pall over the whole day yesterday, and I was still feeling very grossed-out by it this morning. I also started to second-guess myself. Had I overreacted in calling Ian to "my rescue?" I began to feel silly about my reactions, and felt like any sort of writing about it would make it seem trivial, stupid.

I think it's because I feel like I am not supposed to believe that men can be genuine threats, that it is unusual for women to be stalked, raped, kidnapped, or assaulted, and that if I am a target, I somehow brought it on myself. Or that such concerns are considered weak or really feminine, and I am neither. There is also something really humiliating about being frightened, even manipulated, by someone. That man had power over me because he could have hurt me.

I want to live in a world where that doesn't happen.

Another Reason Feminism is Still Necessary [TRIGGER]

How many times have you heard any of the following:

    Is there really any need for feminism today?
    Aren't men and women equal now?
    Aren't we living in a post-feminist society?
There are so many reasons that the feminist movement is still needed today, like the gender wage gap, sexual objectification, and maternity rights, to name a few of the big ones. It still all comes down to how women and men are treated differently because of their sex organs, and there really are so many ways in which women are treated with hatred. Granted, there are some who call themselves feminists who hate men. This is not real feminism, and it is wrong. At its heart the feminist movement is about equal respect, inclusion, and love for everyone, despite sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, race, ethnicity, or social position.

Sorry about the soap box. I get really worked up when I see things like this:

This is Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Feminist Frequency. She is a media critic that offers fantastic reviews about television and movies that expose harmful tropes. You may remember her from an earlier post about the Bechdel Test.

In mid-May, Sarkeesian announced that she was fundraising on Kickstarter for a project called "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games."Her original goal was $6000. She described her project, writing the following:
I love playing video games but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented.  This video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games.  The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.
Within 24 hours, Sarkeesian met her goal. When the fundraising closed on June 27th, 2012, Kickstarter reports a total of 6,968 backers with $158,922 raised. This in itself is pretty astounding; clearly there was a very positive response to what she is trying to do, and many people saw value in it. However, she also received a very strong negative response from some of the gaming community.

She started to receive death threats, ugly emails, and all sorts of horrific responses. Her Wikipedia page was bombarded with hateful messages and pornographic images (it has since been locked). Sources report that her phone number and address were made public to certain hate sites online. This article on New Statesman has a complete list of the harassment and bullying if you want to read the full extent of it.

Ben Spurr, a Canadian, created a video game called "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian." Why? In his own words:
Anita Sarkeesian has not only scammed thousands of people out of over $160,000, but also uses the excuse that she is a woman to get away with whatever she damn well pleases. Any form of constructive criticism, even from fellow women, is either ignored or labelled to be sexist against her.
She claims to want gender equality in video games, but in reality, she just wants to use the fact that she was born with a vagina to get free money and sympathy from everyone who crosses her path.
Sarkeesian also received horrific comments on her youtube channel, particularly on her initial video introducing the "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games" project. It looks like (as of today) many of the death threats and most hateful things have been removed, but here are some examples of what I found looking through this evening:
Sexism isnt a problem for the gamers, it's a bonus addition, And we want that [sic]

Feminists are hypocrits.... they complain about bout this when there are sluts and hoes everywhere... lol that simple fact makes feminists a joke [sic]

Don't add well-rounded female leads and NPCs! That would destroy the games! It would be as bad as adding black kids to white schools in the 60s was!

Her throat  I want to slit it [sic]

It's anti-man in the sense that... we are the domimant power and the Feminism movement is wanting women to be on the same level men are...[sic]
There are over 14,000 comments responding to her video, many of them angry, some attacking women as a whole, some just attacking feminism.

And you have to ask, Why was there this crazy response? I understand that some may feel that there are more important projects for a young feminist researcher to be exploring, but it's a legitimate project that will take time, equipment, and funds. People donated by choice. Sarkeesian very clearly outlined her projects, and stated what additional funds would go towards if her initial goal of $6000 was met.

The hateful responses make it that much more evident that feminism is not dead or unnecessary, as many of the responses claimed. Sarkeesian has been harassed and threatened because she wants to look at stereotypes of women in video games. Many of the responses glorify violence against women, rape, and the idea that all women are "whores." Because they have vaginas.

And really, the responses are crazy. Crazy, disheartening, and genuinely disturbing in their ignorance of why violence against women is a problem, in why women want to be more than wallpaper when they're represented in pop culture, and why feminism may not be such a crazy idea after all. The responses in and of themselves prove that there is still hatred against women. And not just hatred, but disgust for a woman even wanting to critique pop culture.

And some people want to say that feminism is unnecessary. I don't think so.

[As a side note, Anita Sarkeesian has been incredibly brave throughout this whole process. I loved this cartoon by catiemonstrosity:

Way to go, Anita! It takes a lot of courage to fight back!]

Friday, July 6, 2012

Flake-Out Friday

Ian and I are creatures of habit. And a bit lazy, yes, a bit lazy.

Flake-Out Friday is something we hold sacred, dear to our hearts. Years ago (and by years ago, I mean before I was pregnant, which may not actually be years ago, but it sure feels like it), we would sometimes go out for dinner, take a long walk after dinner, or maybe go rent a movie, back when you could get in a car and go rent a movie (so long ago, so long ago). Some nights we'd have friends over, or visit friends, or go out for drinks, or maybe even go to the theater for a film.

Pregnancy brought with it a strong desire to wear yoga pants all the time, a need to nap after work or any sort of activity, and a sort of home-bodied-ness never before seen in my lifetime. Ian adjusted grandly, picking up another pair of  'loungey pants' at Target (because I won't let him sit on our furniture in just his underwear, as he would gladly do in a Rachel-free habitat), and Flake-Out Friday was born.

Flake-Out Friday involves several key factors:
  1. Pizza, usually with a lot of pepperoni on it, unless I decide I want to make it "healthy" and insist on mushrooms on half. Because that's going to help in the long run, right? Right.
  2. Catching up on our shows. We don't have a television or cable, and so watch all of our shows on hulu.com the day after they air. Everything we follow airs on Thursday, so this takes a couple of hours to catch up. 
  3. A run to the corner store to see if there are pints of Haagen Daaz or Ben & Jerry's on sale. I must confess this is a recent phenomena, a product of late pregnancy when all I wanted to do was lay on my side while Ian rubbed my back, eating ice cream. Which you can do when you're pregnant, because it's really good to lay on your side and get backrubs (if you're calm, the baby is calm! the baby gets all of your endorphins and feels nice too!*), and you need a lot of calcium when you're pregnant or your fetus will suck it from your bones and you will develop osteoperosis.**
* not sure if I buy into any of that, but I will use any and all excuses to get my back rubbed

** the calcium thing is true, but research is still inconclusive as to whether or not ice cream is the best source of ice cream for pregnant women

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Find of the Day: Written Kitten

I like to look at pictures of cats, and no doubt you are reading this post primarily because the cute kitten to the left attracted your attention, and you wanted a better look at her.

I found a website online tonight that shows you a new picture of a kitten for every 100 words you write. So check out Written Kitten, you writers out there. If you like kittens, that is.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation

Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation
Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation by Rajinder Singh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took some last night and finished Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation. I have really mixed feelings about this book. The first couple of chapters teach how to meditate, and discuss the importance of meditation. Maybe it's because I was raised in an evangelical Christian home and am now very resistant to the idea of the interactive, caring 'God', but much of Singh's writing made me very uncomfortable. For example, his advice for meditating is to chant all of the names for god you can think of over and over again. While I like the idea of the soul and there being a little bit of the divine (light) in all of us in and through the soul, and certainly believe that humans need to act with kindness and love, I don't see myself practicing this brand of meditation. I don't know that I want or need to have an out-of-body experience through meditation; his writing made it seem like it was addictive, and the spiritual aspects concern me.

Singh also had lots to say on how to live, and this is really what I liked about this book. We spend so much of our time thinking about what we don't have, comparing ourselves to others, and wasting our time with empty pursuits. Reading this made me realize how full of disdain and condescension I am, and challenged me to try to change my attitudes towards others, to be filled with grace for others, and love.

I also realize I really need to stop eating meat again (sigh).

I am pleased that I'm starting Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss next week. I think Weiss' book will focus on more of the things I liked about Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation, perhaps with a smaller does of the spirituality, which I am hesitant to embrace.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is Sexual Objectification?

While I do have mixed feelings about Ms. Magazine, as I'm sure many feminists do, there is some fantastic material from time to time.

Much like bell hook's Feminism is for Everybody is an excellent primer of feminism and explains why the feminist movement is still relevant today (and if you haven't read this book, feminist or not, you really should pick up a copy), this article from Ms. Magazine on sexual objectification is a good starting point for a conversation The piece is the first of four installations on sexual objectification, defining first what it is, then listing questions one can ask to help identify sexually objectifying material.
The article defines sexual objectification, writing, "If objectification is the process of representing or treating a person like an object, then sexual objectification is the process of representing or treating a person like a sex object, one that serves another’s sexual pleasure."

It's all very reminiscent of the Killing Us Softly series by Jean Kilbourne. If you're interested in advertising and objectification, much of her content is available on youtube.

(Somewhat) Brief Interviews with Lovely Ladies

My good friend L. is completing her thesis, doing research on feminist mothering and queering mothering. L. is also finishing her degree in Women's and Gender Studies at Eastern, and we started our program together in 2010. She drove to Ann Arbor today, and we sat down for a couple of hours with some iced tea at the kitchen table, and she interviewed me.

The questions were good ones, centering on my views of what feminism is, how I became a feminist, how feminism shaped my decision to have a child, birthing choices, and how I parent. In addition, we talked about whether or not 'queer' parenting is a possibility for heterosexual families, and what this would look like. (I won't write about all of this here, you can read about many of my views in this blog post).

During the interview, L. asked me about what kind of feminist community I have in New York City. I paused, and with reluctance shared that I really didn't have any feminist community at home. I didn't even really realize that I was so missing this part of my life until I stopped and thought about it. While it's true that I love my local moms' group and look forward to our weekly visits in Sakura Park, and I'm sure a handful of the moms may own up to the term 'feminist,' we don't talk about our experiences, children, and parenting through this type of filter.

I found that group through meetup.com (and I refuse to be embarrassed about this - I don't think I would have made it through those first few months without this group!), and I'm sure I could find some sort of feminist mothers' group there as well; it is New York City, after all! Or maybe I could start a fringe group in my area, I really wouldn't mind hosting that sort of thing.

Community is such an interesting thing. I was looking forward to spending more time with good friends in Ann Arbor this summer, but it turns out that without a car, and with friends moving further away, I'm spending more of my time alone (or with Ian) than I do in the New York.

You might ask, what is feminist community? Personally, feminism shapes my perspectives. It is the filter through which I process my experiences in life and make sense of the world. That said, it is incredibly valuable to have discussions with other people (and parents, specifically, now that I'm a mummy) that share this worldview, and to feel supported and supportive to others. Feminist community is a safe place to process, and sometimes, just vent.

For the feminists out there, what kind of community do you have? L. mentioned that her primary feminist community is online (though she and her husband are starting a feminist/queer parenting group next month, neat!). My feminist community consisted of my peers in my grad program until I moved, and now I really don't have any. And I miss it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quote for the Day [Emma Goldman]

Emma Goldman was an anarchist who apparently supported murder for political cause, but she was also a suffragist with some fine things to say.

After I've Written My Thesis...

.... this will be my next project:

To read No Plot? No Problem: A Low Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. And then, as you might have already guessed, try to write a book in a month.

Gretchen Rubin wrote about reading Baty's book in The Happiness Project, and wrote her own novel in 30 days. It sounded like a fun and rewarding project. Essentially, you are charged with writing 1,666 words a day, which leaves you with a 50,000 word text once the month is complete. And, as much as I have on my plate to get done in the next few months, I have not been able to get this idea out of my head.

Yes, the book will most likely be complete garbage, but it's a good start to work up a little courage to work on some other writing projects, especially if I'm interested in trying to work my thesis into a book project at some point (quite possibly).

It seems to me that courage is an essential part of being a writer. You have to have the courage to sit down and actually do the writing, then the courage to show what you've done to others, then the courage to accept feedback (much of which will most likely be "constructive"), and then the courage to actually try to publish the damn thing. And if you get that far, the courage to admit that your book will most likely not be read or liked by anyone, and if it is read, you'll have to put up with persnickety readers (such as myself) leaving half-assed reviews on goodreads.com.

In any case, it takes a lot of courage to write. Courage and a lot of get-go, and a lot of self-

It seems like a 30-day book writing challenge would be like a swift kick in the butt. Yes, you can commit to writing so many pages a day (even if they're utter muck), and yes, you can get write a book. The first step of doing something well is knowing it can be done at all, yes?

I don't even know that I want to write a novel someday, but I have been working on a collection of letters and essays to/for Felicity that I started over a year ago, when I was pregnant with her, and have continued working on (though not with any sort of consistency).

Or Ian has suggested that I enter the somewhat lucrative and nearly quality-control-free world of romance novel writing. The best pen name I've come up with is Geraldine Plum.