Monday, February 28, 2011

Feminist Grief

I wrote this last November, but it was never published. I thought I'd go back and revisit it. I wrote it because I noticed that people sometimes write off "angry feminists" and so I wrote this as something of an "apology," using that word in the literary sense of a defense.

I am not a grief counselor or claim any sort of professional understanding of grief. My experience with grief is just that of a human's: grief is a normal part of life. There's no way around it: death happens, misfortune happens.

Supposedly there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In my experience, denial and bargaining are the most mentally involved: when cognitive dissonance happens, where you try to work through the grief with your brain. Anger and depression are the most physically involved: when you feel your grief in your gut and grief is enacted through your body.

Grief is not a check-off list. You don't wake up in anger, turn to your notepad and check off "denial." Denial might come back later. I've found that I cycle between mental and physical grief, perhaps because it's too hard on mind and body to grieve too long with only one of them. And sometimes after bargaining, I visit anger again. For me, anger is easier than depression; I don't have to confront the real issues in my anger. This past year I read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenburg, from which I reached the epiphany that my anger comes from a deeper issue: and for myself it is usually pain or fear. Pain from the actions in the past, fear of the future not getting better.

I say all this to answer some questions: Where do the angry feminists come from?

Well, when an angry mommy feminist and an angry daddy feminist love each other very much...

Actually, that's not where angry feminists come from. Angry feminists exist because we have experienced a loss in our worldview and are grieving. We can deny the sexism in our culture for only so long. Then we are hit with pain and fear: and we get angry. Yes, I was angry last week, last month, last year, but sometimes anger comes back because I haven't finished grieving and I need to cycle through it again.

I know there are people out there who dismiss the angry feminism of the 60s, but I think it was an important time for the movement. Feminism had to grieve on a large scale, so it needed to be angry on a large scale. But some of us weren't around for the 60s and we still need to grieve as well. So you feminists who have been around for a while and have worked through your anger, please be patient with us saplings who are going through our own personal 60s. You might be past the anger stage, but grief is something we need to get through on an individual scale as well. We'll get to the acceptance you have reached, though I think in the case of feminism, you never "accept" sexism, just move on to action.

And to those who are tired of listening about feminism and always associate it with angry feminists: until the inequalities are fixed, there will be people who wake up finding that they need to grieve for the state we find ourselves in. Want angry feminists to "just go away"? Then fix the problems so we don't have to grieve anymore. And I mean really fix them. Word service is vain. Actions speak louder than words.

But anyway, that's where angry feminists come from. Now please excuse this bra-less, letter-writing, angry picketing woman. Let her be angry. Her anger isn't an affront to you; it is the current face of her grief. Underneath, she is fearful, fearful that society won't change. And sometimes fearful that the people, society, and church around her actually don't value her and her daughter as much as her husband and son.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Life with a Smartphone

I have smartphone now. Well, I've had one for the past month. It's actually my very first cellphone that's all my own! McKay and I had been sharing one for the past many years. And it's interesting.

The first few weeks were what you would expect: I got a few games on my phone and I was having fun! I played while nursing babies down to sleep- which then would turn into me playing for an hour because, you know, just one game of Sudoku is not enough.

Then about the third week something interesting happened. My google reader filled up. Emails went unanswered. I wasn't checking to see if you all were commenting every 20 minutes. Suddenly life started being lived again- and it was being lived more than before I had the phone. It was like my new cell phone unconnected me from the world. What the weird?

What contributed to this?

- It's really hard to type on a cell phone. So emails weren't getting responses. And cellphones don't have shortcut keys, so reading my reader (and then commenting on the various blogs) stopped happening.

- I had to finish Anna Karenina because I was leading a book group discussion. Before my phone, I had been reading while nursing my babies to sleep and I was only 150 pages from being done when I got the phone. Then two weeks later, I had only gone another 50 pages. I stopped using the phone during naptimes and now I get reading done! I'm already halfway through March's book group book.

- I set up alarms. During the 9-5 workday, every hour, on the hour, my phone rings at me. This reminds me to stop for 10-15 minutes (depending on how I'm feeling) to set the time and clean up. Flylady would be proud, I'm sure. At the beginning of the day, I set up my random number generator to my tidying list and I get through most of the list before the end of the day this way. Sometimes it rings at me at the store, so I ignore it for that hour. If I'm busy with something immediate like nursing or diapering when it rings, I hit snooze and put off the cleaning for 9 minutes. If I'm still busy 9 minutes later and can't do the cleaning, I skip that hour. The other 45 minutes are spent doing something else like knitting while...

- Listening to podcasts! This is the greatest thing ever! Yes, half a decade after the rest of the world, I'm discovering podcasts. Thank you, Technology Gods, for bringing me the easy-to-listen-to voices of Australian male knitters whenever I want. And the amazing essays of knitters in the UK. Wow. I'm going to get an inferiority complex over some of these essays I listen to. And I get to learn history and politics and everything while driving the car or knitting on the couch. On my knitting blog, I'll do a post later about my favorite knitting podcasts for those of you who are interested.

So with all of that, who has time for surfing the web? I don't know. All I know is my smartphone is responsible for my (slightly) cleaner house, my renewed ability to finish books I start, and my desire to do some more knitting and writing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Give a Toddler a Camera

Like I said yesterday, I taught Margaret how to take pictures on my phone. And in 10 minutes, she took slightly less than 150 pictures. These are from the first 20 or so. She went around taking pictures of things that are important to her.

I was her first subject. She caught the beginnings of some pre-menstrual acne on my chin there. I get to look forward to the actual menstruation later.

She went into the bedroom and woke up Isaac. We have a sequence of pictures starting from him being asleep to these ones. He's a pretty happy waker. And he loves his sister.

Then I heard her say, "I'm going to take a picture of my foot." And look, she did! There's another picture of her left foot, just in case you were worried that she favored one over the other.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dinner Fail

So yesterday I was making up a new recipe based on something Katrina once said to me and it was going to be AWESOME. I was going to take pictures and share my new delicious dinner. It was perfect and I put it in the oven and then turned to find that I completely left out a key ingredient. So you aren't going to get this recipe yet. And this is what it looked like taken on my phone:

It was yummy and I look forward to all the leftovers, but it's not yet where I'd like it, so I'll try again.

Yesterday was also fun because I showed Margaret how to take pictures with my phone. She got 140 pictures- and only 15 were of my butt! Wordless Wednesday tomorrow?

I had a few people link to me yesterday. Thanks to the new readers who found me via HoboMama, fMh, and The Exponent!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Inquisition Monday

Last week Arual asked, "I am curious how you handle diaper changes. I really want to respect my 16 month old's bodily integrity, but diapers is one of those things that can't just be ignored. I am trying to be a part-time EC-er but he has little interest in sitting on the potty or having me hold him over a receptacle, so diapers are where we're at. He hates changes. Sometimes he'll request them, but more often he throws a kicking, screaming fit. How do you cope on this particular issue?"

Fun times! When Margaret was that age, we did a couple of things. We did partial EC as well, and at that age, it meant that Margaret didn't wear diapers ever. Yes, we had lots of misses.

Another thing we did was to make a game of it. We would ask, "How big is Margaret?" and then raise our arms. Eventually, she started raising her arms as well and then we would tickle her. Since her arms were up, she wasn't trying to get away, so we could get the diaper on (it had to be quick!). That seemed to work as well. By that point with the ECing, Margaret was pooping in the potty probably 95% of the time, so we didn't have to deal with wiping toddler poop off her butt in large quantities, so I'm going to be know help there.

Also, I don't know if you saw, but a couple of people responded to your question in the comments of last week's post.

Dionna asked, "Have you tried nursing during a hair wash?"

No I hadn't! What is wrong with me? I will definitely need to try that!

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Friday!

You know you have great timing when you can get a picture of your toddler flipping off the world. I think she was actually counting in the picture.

I was trying to get a picture of all of Isaac's rolls here. He turned 7 months yesterday and he's almost 20 and a half pounds of baby. He will probably master crawling on his knees in the next week and get a couple of teeth.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Inquisition Monday

This is a sort of response to the comments on Thursday's post.

First, I really really really believe in bodily autonomy. And it's not just the sexual assualt/molestation aspect. I really want my children (and everyone!) to feel in control of themselves. That's why I don't focus on genitals being "private" parts. We need to be in control of our whole bodies, and we deserve that control. It's not just our genitals. For example, I know I have felt like I lost control of myself in a simple game of tickling. And that's scary. I felt panicky, helpless, and disempowered. Also, in the molestation vein- you can be assaulted without your genitals being involved at all. So I try to let my children have as much control of their bodies as possible. And that includes their hair.

Second, I'm not entirely convinced that hair-washing is really a hygiene issue. I guess I think of hygiene as washing your hands, wiping thoroughly after going to the bathroom, etc.: things that prevent disease. I don't think it's unhygienic to only wash your hair on occasion or to go days without combing your hair. In fact, lots of people never comb their hair (dreads!). So I guess I approach the hair-washing/combing thing as something that I'd like as a parent, but isn't necessary for the child.

Now, as far as combing, we do comb Margaret's hair about 3 days a week on average. It's basically only when she wants a pony tail. When she wants a pony tail, she somehow finds the patience in her to sit still for combing her hair and then doing it. Admittedly, "sitting still" involves turning every time something interesting happens, so there're lots of reminders, "Keep looking ahead."  "Look at the book."

We generally can sneak a hair wash in every couple of months or so. I do wish it was more often, but that's as often as I can can stand her crying at me. We've tried lots of methods of encouraging her to let us wash her hair (or even do it herself). We've sung songs, I've demonstrated on Isaac (who doesn't complain- yet!) and myself and then turning it around, "Now it's Margaret's turn!" I've also tried showing her and letting her do it, but that hasn't brought any success at all. I guess we could try books- I think that's the main option I haven't attempted yet. Well, that and just letting her grow out of this stage. Haha!

The comments seemed to turn from hair-washing to this idea that we have no rules at all. And on some level that's true. Well, we have no punishment, so in that sense, we have no rules. But we work on things. For example, last week's mention of "Breast, please" when Margaret wants to nurse is the result of probably hundreds of times of me saying, "You can say, 'Breast, please' if you want to nurse." I don't withhold nursing from her if she doesn't say it, but I do model it for her. And that has worked in the long run.

Last week, we spent a morning practicing indoor voices- and by that, I mean, I spent the morning whispering and using my own indoor voice, and reminding, "We're inside, so we need to be quiet with our mouths." But if she shouted or yelled- well, then she shouted and yelled. But I've found that if I try really hard to respond to her shouts with my own quiet voice, she starts using her quiet voice. Does it work every time? No. Does it work right away? No. Are there sometimes when it doesn't work at all? Yes. But you can't control other people's actions, only your own reaction- and children are people. I really try hard to remind myself that when I ask, "How do I get Margaret to..." I need to look at the "problem" in a different way.

Does this mean we're perfect and birds come to sing with us and help me do my dishes every day? No. Last Wednesday night was really bad. McKay was away at a movie and I had been with my kids all day and I really needed a break, but that just wasn't going to happen. Margaret really needed connection and to be held, but I really needed to get away from all small people and not be touched for a little while. Our needs were in conflict. Oh, and if I put Isaac down, crying would happen. And we have no locks on our doors, so when I went to another room for a breather, Margaret would follow me immediately.

So Wednesday, I was sharper than normal and my patience was lost. A loud "AHHH!" of exasperation was not the best reaction to 6 liters of water being spilled on the carpet that night, especially with Margaret's sensitive temperament. She looked so sad an went to a little corner to hide and cry. She thought the "AHHH!" was at her- and it sort of was since she was the person who spilled the water, but it really was at the situation. She tends to turn inward when things happen outside that she thinks she has hurt another person. It was a nice (ok, not really nice, but needed) reminder that my attitude affects her a lot. So we went to bed early. No, I didn't want to nurse two children to sleep- I didn't want to be touched at all. But the sooner they fell asleep, the sooner it would all be over and Thursday would come and it would be a new day.

Anyway that went off on a tangent. What was I blogging about? I don't know if that explained anything at all or added more to the confusion. And does anyone know how to get through one of those evenings where you just want to hide and cry, but since you're not 2, you can't?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt

It's been a while since I've reviewed a picture book here, but this one deserves a review. At the library on Wednesday, Margaret wanted books about ducks, so we got those and then as my eye skimmed the shelves, I saw the words, "Amazon Queen."

You all know I had to get that.

How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt is my new favorite kids' book. And this review is 100% spoilers, so there's your warning.

So it starts off as any Amazonian story does: women living free without men, happy, la la la. Then they find that an Egyptian army has camped nearby, so they send someone, Ashteshyt, to dress as an Egyptian soldier (beard and everything) to find the layout of the camp and other strategic information. I'm not sure how you pronounce Ashteshyt, and my few attempts have involved my saying "shit" at the end of it.

Anyway, with their knowledge of the Egyptian camp, they go and kick butt. It's really bad for the Egyptians. And the leader of the Egyptian army, Prince Pedikhons, is all, "I won't stand for this! Women defeating my soldiers? No!" By the way, I pronounce Pedikhons like Pelicans but with a "d" instead of an "l." I'm probably wrong with that one, too.

So yes, classic Amazon women kicking butt.

Then Pedikhons challenges the Amazonian queen, Queen Serpot (and always tempted to leave the "t" silent like in ballet) to hand-to-hand combat. She, being brave, accepts.

And so the next day they fight all day long. It's really intense and their moves are compared to awesome animals. Very exciting. And then it gets dark and in order to be fair to each other and to themselves, they decide to put their fight on hold until the morning. Then standing there, they start chatting. Pedikhons explains why they came (to see if the stories of Amazon women were true).

So this is where the book jumps from awesome women-kicking-butt to really wonderful feminist story telling. I'm going to just quote the whole page.

It was then that Prince Pedikhons looked at Queen Serpot and saw that she was his equal. And he did not know where on Earth he was, from the great love that entered into him.

And it was then that queen Serpot looked at the prince and saw that he was her equal. And she did not know where on Earth she was, from the great love that entered into her.

And later Serpot and Pedikhons made an alliance and conquered India together.

Oh my goodness. I fell in love with this book exactly at that moment.

  1. There's no mention of romantic love, just that love entered into them. You can make the leap that they were romantically "in love", but you can also read that as compassion, I think. And when we all stop our quarrels and look at the people around us and really see them all as our equals, don't we have the same sort of experience of great love entering us? I love that this book's prerequisite for loving our fellow people is giving others the same value as we give ourselves.
  2. There's no "best" in this love. He didn't love her because she was the most beautiful or the best soccer player or the woman with the most burgeoning muscles. She didn't have to be the best at anything. And same for him. She loved him without him having to be the most handsome, best dancer, or the most kind man. We don't have to be the best to be loved.
But I do think this is the best book ever and I love it. And this is great feminist storytelling: while it's fun to be able to destroy an all-male Egyptian army, feminism is about equality, not about beating up men.

And this book gets even better: it's based on scrolls that were found in Greece and are currently being held in Vienna! And some of the phrases in it- like the comparisons to animals fighting and "the great love that entered into him" are taken directly from the scrolls. That makes this the best picture book ever. Read it. And treat everyone as equals and love them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No means No but I want Yes

I believe in personal autonomy. Our bodies are our own and no one gets to do anything to them without our consent. This is something I also want to teach my children. No one gets to touch them or require that they do anything they don't want to do.

Not even me.

And that's where it gets hard. I draw a line around safety- no, Margaret can't decide to stop in the middle of the crosswalk while the light turns green for the traffic heading towards us, and so I have to pick her up and bring her safely to the other side. And then we sit while she expresses her frustration about that, which usually takes less than a minute but feels like 20.

But other than safety, I want to respect her boundaries.

And this is where things get hairy (pathetic pun, groan). She doesn't like her hair combed. She doesn't like her hair washed. And as I take a comb to it or pour a cup of water over it, she screams, "No, Mommy! It's my hair! Stop!"

And I sigh. She's right, it's her hair. But I really really really want to comb it. And I really really really want to wash it.

Sometimes I can woo her to the comb by promising a pony tail. She'll sit while I comb her hair and so it's not that bad. But nothing will get her to let us wash it.

I'm tempted to cut it short. She's never had a hair cut because I'm afraid her curls will get cut off an never come back. Also, she does really like pony tails and if I cut it the length needed to keep it clean, that won't be possible any more.

And as a child, my mom decided my hairstyle and I had that same hairstyle until I was 12 and hated it (mostly the bangs). I really want Margaret to get a say in this. Sigh.

What do you do when you want to preserve the autonomy and agency of your children, but you also really don't want to, at least not in the moment?

Ten years from now this struggle will be null and void. Maybe I should just back down and let it be.

Now I've got the Beatles in my head.

...speaking words of wisdom, let it be...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Happy Sleep

I just thought I'd gloat here because I can. After a week of sketchy sleep because of teething, I've had 2 great nights of sleep! Woohoo! Isaac's teeth are still not in, so I know the end isn't as near as I'd like it, but for the moment, they are giving him a break, so he's giving me a break as well.

In fact, both of the kids are suddenly acting beyond their years in their half-unconscious states. Instead of screaming at me in her sleep, if I'm facing Isaac and Margaret wants to nurse, she'll pat my shoulder. This is wonderful. And sometimes she'll say, "Breast, please." Usually, though, she forgets to say that until she's already latched on and so she'll latch off, say it, and then latch on, which is funny to me.

And Isaac has taken that same page out of Margaret's book and if I'm facing her and he wants to nurse, he pats me on the shoulder as well! What happened to my 6 month old who fusses for me? I don't know, but he's acting like his almost-3-year-old sister, which is wonderful. Since both kids are being "polite," night nursing isn't such a chore and I get more sleep. In fact, I'm getting such great sleep that I'm having my weird dreams again, which is fun. Without my weird dreams, it's not worth it to go to sleep.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Women's Lives, Women's Voices report

I'm back from my day trip! We drove down Friday night, stayed in the local cheap motel, and got up Saturday morning to drop me and Isaac off at Scripps College for the Women's Lives, Women's Voices conference. McKay and Margaret went over to Disneyland for the day while I got to spend the day listening to great talks and meeting great women.

Claudia Bushman, Mormon historian and author and professor at Claremont Graduate University, welcomed everyone there and explained the oral history project that CGU's religious studies department has been heading up. If I remember correctly, Bushman said that there have been 200 interviews done so far- and each are around 2 hours long and then typed up and used for research. For example, one of the papers presented at the conference used the oral histories to examine Mormon women's feelings around their children's decisions to go or not go on LDS missions. She discussed how some LDS women feel that their success as mothers and women is connected to that decision. I think the oral history project sounds like a great idea and could lead to a lot of great scholarship.

Aileen Clyde, former second counselor in the General Relief Society presidency also spoke, along with her granddaughter, Emily Clyde Curtis. Both of them had wonderful stories to share. It was interesting to get a little peak behind the scenes in the General Relief Society presidency in the 1990s from Aileen. She also spoke about being involved with the state-wide review of gender bias in the judiciary system in Utah in the 70s. Emily was also really interesting to listen to because of her experience as a chaplin and involvement in the Exponent II.

Because of the focus on the oral history project, a lot of the presentations (and subsequently my notes) are about sharing our stories and being authentic. I really enjoyed one talk that focused on how our stories can bind us together and facilitate reconciliation, forgiveness, and unity. We were also offered an opportunity to contribute to the oral history project with a 2-3 minute prompt "Discuss a moment in which you embraced your own selfhood, in which you saw yourself as the author and creator of your life."

Other excitement from the day included talking with lots of other women and turning some of my Internet heroes into real life friends, or at least acquaintances. I got to meet EmilyCC and Jessawhy from the Exponent blog and Tresa Edmunds (her link has links to all her blogs). I also got to talk with Maxine Hanks and if you consider saying hi to Claudia Bushman as "meeting her" then I met her as well. There were also a lot of other women that I got to talk with at lunch and in between presentations and I have a few more bloggers to follow on my list! Because we had to drive back home that night, I missed hanging out with the group who had dinner afterwards, but oh well. I had to get back in time to teach Sunbeams that Heavenly Father and Mother have bodies.

I left feeling like I should write more (because 4 blogs isn't enough, you know!) and maybe try sending in some well-worked pieces in for print publication. I could write a whole blog post about how I don't think I'm a particularly gifted writer, but I'll save that for another day; you all know I'm not based on this blog. And lest some readers think I no longer like talking about breastfeeding, don't worry: not a problem. I'm all about talking about breasts.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Fill-ins

1. We are on this earth because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

2. This past month, we got to experience eating 5 pounds of oranges a week (yay CSA!).

3. One of the hardest things for me to learn is to budget my time.

4. Knitting helps me feel connected.

5. I remember old friends fondly.

6. Taking walks is one of the best parts of my life.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a 7 hour drive to southern California, tomorrow my plans include the Women's Lives, Women's Voices Conference and Sunday, I want to be back in time to teach Sunbeams!


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bloggy Absence

Last weekend Margaret had a fever for 3 days straight. I was hoping it would be something big like the chicken pox so we wouldn't have to worry about that again in the future, but it looks like it was just a cold. McKay was home Monday and Tuesday for a sinus infection. I spent Wednesday playing catch up and getting Margaret out to see a friend. Nothing got done at all. And last night Isaac had a blowout- for the first ever at night- and then threw up on me. He has a fever and I'm sure all those symptoms are teething-related.

I signed up for a 5k in March, but I haven't gone running since Monday. I was going to go this morning, but when 6:30 came around, I had been up for a couple of hours already and chose to sleep instead.

And today I get to trek the feverish baby to the library to return an overdue DVD.

This weekend I'm going out of town for a conference. I think I'm going to meet lots of cool people. I'm very excited. I'm excited about that, but I have to be back in time for teaching the Sunbeams this Sunday. It's my week for the lesson.

So to pretend that I actually blogged this week, here's a fuzzy picture. The ugly comforter is our back-up one we got from Freecycle a few years ago. Handy when you sleep with sick babies. And both of the babies fell asleep while nursing right before taking this photo. And you can see I'm reading Anna Karenina. I'm leading the book group discussion on it next week, so I need to hurry. I only have a hundred pages left so it'll go by quickly. Oh- and that's our thermometer, not a pregnancy test. I think if I got pregnant now I'd cry. For a long time.