Thursday, August 30, 2012


  1. Ian on parenting: "If you'd told me seven years ago that I'd someday be storing vials of baby poop in the fridge, I never would have believed you."
  2. I had a fifteen minute breakdown today prompted by the inability to find a clean baby spoon (or a dirty one to clean) and accidentally pinching Felicity's leg in her chair buckle. I went to the bathroom to cry, and in a blind rage, upon finding it a disaster and thus an unsuitable place to cry, cleaned it furiously. So now we have a really clean bathroom, and I'm feeling better. I so hope this is how I deal with my anger from now on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I've Been Doing Things

You've certainly noticed a lack of posts; I usually make an effort to post daily, yet there has been an almost two-week silence!

It's really all been quite a bit of readjusting and re-prioritizing. That and packing, and cleaning, then a three-day roadtrip, cleaning some more, and unpacking and organizing.

Ian and I decided we really weren't pleased with many of our choices and use of our time over the summer. Yes, I wrote a lot and started a few new projects, and we made steps in the right direction for revamping our budget to save more, and improve our eating habits, but the whole time in Ann Arbor felt very unfocused and confused. We spent several days talking and planning when we got back, and committed ourselves to a schedule that prioritizes my work as well as his. What this means, however, is that we're spending less time together in the evening, waking up earlier, and have less free time in general. We're getting serious, yo.

I love to blog, I love to write. I love working on my projects. But realistically, I need to focus on doing my part in keeping the family in order, then my research, then my physical goals, and then fun things like reading and blogging and watching videos of adorable kittens online (there is actually very little of this, but who am I to say that it doesn't occupy more time than it actually should?)/

We've also committed to not eating out at all, except for once a month on our lunaversary. This is actually pretty easy to do now; there are absolutely no restaurants within walking distance (or even a short train ride!) that are both affordable and cater to a vegan diet. Ditto with baked goods.

And so we are very intentional in planning out all of our meals, even our snacks. It means we are spending more on groceries (though about the same overall as when we were eating out 2-4 times a week and eating meat and dairy products), and that we are both spending more time in the kitchen. I'm the lucky one - I get to spend most of my kitchen time cooking! And then Ian cleans up my messes, which is a really big job. So when I say that a large chunk of time is going to "keeping my family in order," what I really mean is that I spend lots of time in the kitchen. Making delicious things. And lots of messes. But I'd like to focus on the delicious things.

I'm also taking my research much more seriously, prioritizing it above all else during my allotted 'Rachel' time. I haven't done this since the baby was born. Before, if Felicity was cranky, or I was tired, or the house was a mess (one of these three things was almost always the case!), I would choose to stay home. Now, save for a medical emergency and/or natural disaster (they often come hand in hand, no?), I'm out the door when I'm supposed to be. I'm started actually leaving my computer at home to avoid distractions when I'm out. And guess what? I'm working at about 3x the speed. I have to write out my notes by hand, but that's fine.

And exercising. I'm exercising now at night if I'm not working or cleaning. This instead of watching Gilmore Girls (maybe I can do both at once!?!). 

Add on to all of this a poor, sweet little thing about twenty-two pounds in weight that has her two front, top teeth coming in (ouch!), and has had a terrible case of the loose-poos for the past four days straight. As she has no other symptoms, we're pretty sure it's because of the teething and the pediatrician isn't worried... yet. But seriously, Felicity goes through about 15+ diapers a day now, and, despite our best efforts, has a diaper rash that only a forgetful and easily-distracted infant can endure. I'm pretty sure I would not be as patient with such a red, angry booty.

And her sleep schedule is all messed up due to the above. It's super not cool.

So yeah. I've been doing things.

I do plan on starting back with the Meditation Project very soon. We haven't done any sitting or walking meditation in the week we've been back, and I must admit that my daily mindfulness practice has also almost disappeared. Isn't it funny how a change in location can throw off your groove? I need to take some time to plan out how to be intentional with the project and work it into our grand schedule. Personally, I think this will involve leaving hand-written gathas around the house on note cards.

For example:
As I take off your steaming diaper,
I am reminded of the ebb and flow of life.
May your diaper rash heal,
As we heal ourselves and others.

I'm kidding. Sort of...

Review: Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday

Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday
Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday by Lauren Ulm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like Vegan Yum Yum more, but everything has been so-so, or the recipe just doesn't work out like it was intended. For example, I tried to make the breakfast sandwiches this morning. The 'egg replacement' was awful, inedible really, and I don't know what I could've possibly done to make it work. The maple-soy tofu was okay, but not anything special (sausage seitan would be much better, if we're going for substitutes), and while the texture of the biscuits was good, the cooking times were five minutes off and they ended up being really salty.

I've been cooking and backing since I was a child and feel like I can follow instructions really well and have a good head on my shoulders for making something better when it's lackluster, but they few recipes I've tried out of this cookbook just aren't worth it.

My other gripes (besides poorly-written recipes) are that the recipes are poorly organized (it's so hard to find anything in here!), and it seems like almost all of the recipes are dependent upon soy products/tofu, or expensive spice combinations.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Still Here

Hey All -

I know I've been silent for almost two weeks. It's been really busy with the three-day road trip back to NYC, and getting settled back here. Expect regular updates starting again this weekend or next Monday.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Four [Part I]

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

I know, I know, this post is super late. But we're pausing on Week Four for a week or two because it's a big week, the biggest week so far, and I've just been processing (and migraining) for the past few days.

Who Am I?

I don't ask this question often. I'm much more likely to look at my partner and think Who is this person? (The answer: the person who has so much dirt on me, it's ridiculous). 

The question "Who am I?" is the central theme of Chapter Four in Andrew Weiss' book Beginning Mindfulness. Weiss writes about how it is really difficult to answer this questions without using any of the many labels that we identify with:
If we ask ourselves the question "Who am I?" and if we are honest, we will acknowledge that we haven't the slightest idea. All of our answers to that question are tags and labels. We say we are Christian or Jewish, a man or a woman, white or brown or black, old or young, but none of these answers tells us who we really are. All they tell us is how we have chosen to identify ourselves. They are mental constructs, but what do they have to do with the deeper reality of our own being? Take away the words and labels, and then let me know who you are. Can you do this? At a deep, fundamental level, who we are is a great mystery. Even if we say, "I am a human being," do we have any idea what a human being is? Again, if we are honest, we will answer that we don't have a clue.
.This is intense. It is mind-boggling difficult to think about the nature of the self, or the nature of anything without the labels we attach to everything.

Weiss goes on to explain that it is not so much that answer that is important, but the question that is of significance. Asking this question of ourselves helps us to see the outside influences and artificial constructs we exist within. And asking "What is this?" about the various objects we come across during our day does the same thing. It frees us.
[Asking "Who am I?] is a direct way to experience life without the usual ideas and concepts standing in the way. It provides clear, unequivocal direction for our [mindfulness] practice. One friend of mine refers to this as "the graceful state of not knowing."
I adore the phrase "the graceful state of not knowing."

I didn't meditate last night because I had a migraine, but on Friday night, I asked myself "Who am I?" and answered "I don't know" throughout my formal sitting practice. It is really interesting to sit and to admit that I don't know It is humbling. It is simplifying. I have so many labels I identify with, so many labels I would like not to identify with anymore, and several I would like to aspire to. And this question strips all of them away. It allows for a free, clear space, where I am allowed to be me, purely me.

Find of the Day: Draw a Stickman (or a Stickwoman)

This is a fun little diversion.
Happy Saturday.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For

Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For
Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may seem like really strange reading to some of you. I usually don't read graphic novels or comics (though I really should!), and I'm not a lesbian. I heard about Alison Bechdel via Feminist Frequency, who discusses the Bechdel Test for movies. If you're not familiar, the Bechdel Test has the following three rules:

(1) Does the movie have more than two named, female characters?
(2) Do they talk to each other?
(3) Do they talk to each other about anything other than their relationships with men?

Pretty great, right? Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency proposed a fourth rule: Do they talk for more than a minute?

Anyways, the Bechdel Test is gold, and I was interested in reading a little Alison Bechdel for myself, and this is what the library had. Unnatural Dykes to Watch Out For was an interesting and fun read. The names of the politicians were a bit dated, but it was alarming how current so many of the political movements and questions were (especially considering this book is seventeen years old)! How astonishing and horrific that the very same questions and concerns are still prevalent for the queer community. Yeah, it's (currently) legal for same-sex couples to get married in six states (though these unions may not be recognized in other states), but what else has really changed?

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Friday, August 10, 2012


I know I'm day's late posting the introduction to the fourth week of the Mindfulness Project. There are several reasons:
  1. It's a really dense chapter; I've taken several days to really start processing what Weiss wrote, and I still feel like I'm only brushing the surface.
  2. As the chapter is so dense and there is so much to focus on, we're pausing on this chapter for two or three weeks. This is also to allow my other two Project Meditation participants to catch up. 
  3. It's been a rough week. Ian and I did an overhaul on our budget (again), we've been working on sleep training for naps (more on this soon), and Felicity's second tooth just came in (read: crabby baby). 
  4. I'm starting over my thesis project from scratch (!); it had to be done, I'm glad I hadn't gotten to any good writing yet. My adviser and I both feel better about this project, but I've been taking a few days to just think about what I want to read and think about, and most of my mental energy has been here. 
  5. I'm working on a jigsaw puzzle to relieve stress after the baby is in bed. Judge my grandmotherly pastime as you please, but this puzzle is a beaut. (And yes, I totally drink peppermint tea while I work on it. You wish you were this hip).
I hope to have time to put up the Chapter Four review tomorrow, but you'll most likely see the post up on Sunday. I'm of the mindset that if I'm going to get anything from this project, I need to take it seriously and give it the time it needs, and sometimes that means repeating a week, or lingering as needed.

Love from Michigan,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can be said about Judith Butler? She is insanely difficult to read, and almost impossible to take any notes on without copying entire paragraphs out of her books. But, as a good friend once said, "It is damned sexy when Judy brings it home." This is true of Gender Trouble.

Butler expands beyond the usual feminist understanding of sex (biological) and gender (cultural), writing that both are cultural understandings of the body. She separates sex from gender (as any good lesbian theorist should), and writes about queer possibilities for desire, sexuality, and gender identity which break out of the 'matrix' of anatomy=gender=sexual desire.

My crude analysis doesn't do the book justice, trust me. You'll just have to read it yourself!

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Review: Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe

Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe
Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe by Jenny Hollowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is Jenny Hollowell's first book. Like many things I read, it was an impulse pick at the library, chosen because it has a pretty cover and was part of the etc. series, which I have enjoyed in the past. I guess I love reading about how and why an author wrote what they wrote. This extra section was great; Hollowell even included her writing playlist for the book, and the songs really capture the mood of her writing.

But let's talk about the actual book. Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is the story of Birdie, an aspiring actress trying to break through in Hollywood. We meet Birdie when she is 30 (only claiming 26), and follow her near mental breakdown as she attends parties, auditions for various commercials and bit parts. Biride falls in love (or doesn't?), she drinks, she hides. And then she somehow makes it, or so we are lead to believe. Hollowell doesn't lay everything out within easy reach for the reader.

I'm not going to lie and say that this was a pleasant book to read. Birdie is not a likeable character - she's a self-destructive alcoholic, and you know that she will never be happy, whether or not she finds the fame she craves. The whole book has this thick, gray cast. But Hollowell's writing is masterful. No word or sentence is wasted, and her prose are just lovely. Hollowell makes you feel Birdie's despair and internal confusion as you read, and this, I think, is a great accomplishment.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh, you aren't a feminist? My mistake.

Carrie Adkins wrote a really interesting piece on Nursing Clio called "I'm Not a Feminist, But... I'm Taking This Class." I love this article. Adkins writes the assumptions about what feminism is, what feminists do (or don't do), and even what feminist look like (we're all ugly, didn't you know?).

So few people, especially women, subscribe to being a feminist these days. I get it. There is a lot of baggage with the term; I think sometimes we still envision women burning their bras when we hear the word 'feminism' or imagine groups of angry women. Angry women that supposedly hate men.

It's true that there are some women out there that legitimately hate men, but they are few and far between, the equivalent of the small percentage of men and women who call themselves Muslims and are willing to blow themselves up, compared to the general, peace-loving Muslim population, that adhere to the Koran. And it's the same type of thinking, over-generalizing, that allows us to make an assumption about what a group is like based on a few extremists.

I think people legitimately don't understand what being a feminist is anymore.

Adkins writes how she loves to define feminism for her students:
Nevertheless, I feel compelled to do something to challenge my students’ “I’m not a feminist, but” mentality. I always introduce a definition of feminism at appropriate points in my classes, generally something quite basic, like “the movement for women to have rights equal to those of men.” Sometimes I’ll even add, “so, if you think women should have equal rights, congratulations, you’re a feminist! Even if you happen to be a guy!” I’ll point them to the growing online collections of “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” images.
This issue really gets to me. I look out there, into the world, and there is still so much to be done. I don't think it's about giving women the same 'privileges' that men have. Women have been granted equality through political action, yet there is still great inequality in women's jobs, roles, what they are paid, and how they are seen in the world. Women are not given as much respect as their male counterparts. Feminism is more than changing laws. Feminism is about changing attitudes and changing perceptions. Feminism is about love and respect and acceptance.

Question: What does feminism mean to you?

Mindfulness Project: Week Three [Review]

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

To be honest, week three of the Mindfulness Project has been really difficult. I think I did formal, sitting meditation once, walking meditation three times. On the flip side, my daily mindfulness seems to be improving; I've been somewhat successful in mindfulness when I drink water (no tea or coffee this week for me!), remembering to stop and breathe much of the time. I am successful at the sitting and standing mindfulness less often, but I'm improving. And of course the mindfulness bell on my computer is helpful, as always.

I was also pleased that I stumbled into a natural walking meditation gatha:
With each step I take,
My mind is alert, my heart open.
I breathe in love,
I exhale compassion.

Despite a spotty meditation practice, I've been feeling much better this week. I'm sleeping again, better than I've slept in a few months, and I'm feeling better, overall. The mindfulness has helped me decrease anxiety and stress.
The biggest change? I was able to actually determine that the source of my anxiety was... my thesis topic. Couldn't work, couldn't sleep. And we all know what happens when one can't sleep. Personally, I become a cranky, demanding hellion! To quote Ian (after bringing me home an impromptu gift), "It was hard to choose you this morning." He did, of course.

I'm meeting with my thesis chair tomorrow, but I have an idea for another project, a project that isn't causing me to lose sleep or feel like an incompetent crazy person (time will tell!). 

So, as we start Week Four, I'm making a commitment to actually do the sitting meditation, every day. I may as well give up this project if I'm not going to fully commit to it, so commit to it I shall.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baby "Nutrition"

Before I begin tonight's post I will admit that I gave Felicity a pea-sized crumb of a vegan carrot cupcake today (the cake part, certainly not the frosting). She's eight months old, and looked up at me pleadingly when I didn't share my food with her. I acquiesced, I'm nice like that. But I didn't give her the whole cupcake.

I'm a member of BabyCenter, something I have in common with the majority of new moms I meet. Not familiar? BabyCenter is an online community of parents, mostly mothers, who join specific groups with similar interests or demographics. For example, I'm part of the November 2011 Birth Club (Felicity was due in November), December 2011 Birth Club (Felicity arrived on December 1st), several NYC groups, a PUPPPs support group, and a breastfeeding support group.

I spent a lot of time on BabyCenter when I was pregnant. With over 12,000 members in my November group, there were all sorts of interesting questions and thoughts about pregnancy and our coming babies. After Felicity was born, and as she's grown, I've gradually spent less and less time on BabyCenter, to the point where I didn't even check any of the group forums for about two months.

I accidentally clicked on the link to my birth board on my bookmark bar last night, and was immediately sucked back in. And I cannot even begin to relay my horror.

Numerous posts in the November group centered around feeding babies. While it's nice to check in with other moms to see how their babies are doing, I simply cannot believe what some of these parents are feeding their children! Above and beyond the disgusting, jarred purees, parents are introducing (with pride!) ice cream, packaged deli cold cuts, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese (and I'm guessing it's not the homemade kind), pizza, etc. What frightens me is that, with the exception of cold cuts, which many moms are avoiding, all of these seem to be very standard foods.

It's not just these online moms, either. I former coworker told me her 7-month old's favorite food was marshmallows. The next day, I saw a baby who could not have been older than 6 months sucking on a cheeto while strolling down State Street. And I cannot help but recollect seeing a father scold his young daughter for not finishing her french fries on the subway a few months back.

And we wonder why our kids become picky! Maybe because we first shove canned vegetable mush at them, and then we give them processed and/or unhealthy garbage to eat. Are children even allowed to develop a palate for healthy food?

I write this as a woman who loves her comfort food and desserts. I'm a bit of a sugar addict, and before becoming vegans, Ian and I would enjoy pizza and ice cream most Friday nights. But, as Ian and I have Felicity at our dinner table with us for most meals, we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of providing her (and ourselves) with balanced, nutritious meals. While I fully anticipate that she will love cupcakes and ice cream as much as the next child, I also want Felicity to have a love of whole foods. I want her to have a love of vegetables and fruits, and to like eating beans and lentils. I want her to appreciate creativity and thought in the kitchen. I want her to like colors (not artificial!) on her plate. I want her to see comfort food and sweet things as occasional treats, not the norm. I want her to think that juice and soda are too sweet, and to not see sweet beverages as a way to quench thirst.

I recognize that feeding your child well and thoughtfully is a privilege. It's a privilege to afford good fruits and vegetables, to have the time and energy to prepare nutritious and interesting meals, and to be able to control everything that is put in front of your baby. Many women, many parents, do not have these luxuries. Yet I cannot help but feel that there is something very wrong with the environment that even has "childrens" foods for the "picky eater," a phenomenon that apparently is rare in France.

I also recognize that, because I'm writing and releasing this post into the great wide world, I will be doomed with a future fussy eater.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology

Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology
Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology by Amy Sonnie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I worked through Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology in two days. Published in 2000, some of the material was a little dated, but what struck me even more was how it seems like absolutely nothing has changed. Bullying seems to have grown worse, not better, and though there are now more LGBTQ clubs for teenagers, queer youth are still going through so many of the same struggles. I saw the concept of home, or lack of, again and again throughout the writing. The feeling of displacement was event in so much of the work.

While this was an interesting read, and a good book to have out there in the world, it seemed very poorly edited. There were more writers and artists included that seemed to thrown in not so much more skill, but for their ethnic or cultural background. Not to say that a multicultural approach isn't necessary (because it is), but it seemed like the editor was more concerned about how many different ethnic descriptors she could squeeze into one book, than on the actual quality of the work.

I hope to see more works like this in the future. We need to hear what today's marginalized teenagers and young adults are thinking and feeling to help us move towards better solutions and overall change. I also hope that many of these young artists and authors survived, learned that things to actually get better.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Us: Americans Talk About Love

Us: Americans Talk About Love
Us: Americans Talk About Love by John Bowe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first picked up Us: Americans Talk About Love at the library in July, I was skeptical. Most books about love aren't great. I have to admit, the only reason it went home with me was the blurb by Ira Glass on the back (host of This American Life, my very favorite radio show).

Us: Americans Talk About Love is a book of interviews from almost every demographic in the United States. The interviews are edited thoughtfully, and many of them are thought provoking. Some stories about love were sad; hearing about how badly some people let others treat them, for example, is difficult to read. And I don't think I will ever forget the interview with the gentleman who saw his wife die when Katrina hit New Orleans.

There were stories about love starting and love ending, each person defining what love is through their own experiences and ideas. There is something very beautiful and profound about this way of exploring love and our desire, as human beings, to be loved.

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