Monday, August 20, 2012

In General, It Takes Two to Tango

Abandoned newborn girl found in New York City

"That is very cruel," Audra Adams, a resident at the building project for the last 40 years, told the AP. "You couldn't knock on somebody's door or take the baby to a hospital or something? This was your only recourse? I hope they find her."

Missouri Republican: 'Legitimate rape' rarely causes pregnancy

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said.
Regarding his opinion on whether to allow for an abortion in such instances, Akin added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. 
Notice a pattern in the above news snippets?  Look at the last sentence of the first one: "I hope they find her."  Now consider Akin's remark, "...the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Can we talk about why our instinct is to hold women responsible for all aspects of reproduction and childbearing?  Can we acknowledge that the first reaction of Ms. Adams was to vilify the mother? Can we point out that Akin's last resort (!!!) is to punish the rapist? That really, it was an afterthought if the female body fails to prevent a pregnancy from happening during a LEGITIMATE RAPE???  
Can we talk about the fact that until women are valued just as much as men in our society that this type of knee-jerk reaction will continue to occur?  That until men are held responsible for their actions with regard to their own sexual behavior women will always bear the brunt of contraceptive, pregnancy, infertility, childbearing and child-rearing activities? Including, but not limited to resource management, logistics, finances and emotions?  Because unless we're talking about artificial insemination, I believe it still takes two to tango.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why, Yes, I Do Think I'm Right

Thanks for asking.

Is it just me or has the notion of "it takes a village" gone awry somewhere?  I know I am not the only mother who has had a frustrated/panicked/angry/overly concerned villager give me unsolicited advice about how to raise my children and run my household.  It is rare, but those incidents are the kind that sink deep in to the psyche of a parent who is caught unaware by some random person spouting off about what they are doing wrong.  Consider this sarcastic invitation or this post on the angry reaction one mom got from a complete stranger who saw her kids climbing a tree.  Yes, climbing a tree.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that it is critical, nee, imperative that I go forth in my life with the mostly-complete conviction that what I am choosing to do is the right thing for my children and myself.  As a brand new mother who was separated from her maternal clan by physical (and some emotional) distance, I relied mostly on what I read to determine how to raise my newborn.  The trouble with that is finding any truly universal, agreed-upon information.  I recall being immensely relieved when my first child was born a girl just so I wouldn't have to consider whether or not to circumcise her. Hurdles that stretched out as far as the eye could discern from that point included how long to breastfeed, what the vaccine schedule should be, how soon should I feed her solids and which solids to feed her, how to deal with sleep issues, when to potty train, how to deal with the birth of a sibling, when to start preschool...I could go on but your eyes are glazing over.  Yeah.  All before she was four years old.

Frankly, the best advice I got was from a seasoned veteran. She ran the new moms' support group at our local hospital where we got to sit around with our babies and talk about nursing issues, colic, developmental milestones, hemorrhoids, you know, the important stuff.  I will never forget what she told one mother who was worried about co-sleeping with her baby.  This mother had heard from her mother-in-law and her own mother that co-sleeping was dangerous and set a precedent that would be hard to break.  The facilitator, I'll call her Laura, said, "I can guarantee you he won't want to sleep in your bed when he's fifteen and a freshman in high school. If it works for you and your family now, it's fine. When it isn't, you can make a change."

We all trusted her because she didn't judge us or laugh at us and she had kids. Four of them. She wasn't much older than we were and she had been there.  She encouraged us all to listen to our gut.  She also told us that there was very little that couldn't be undone over time with diligence, patience and love.

And so I learned to trust myself.  And yes, there have been things I've said and done that I wish I hadn't. Things I wish I could take back.  I think.  Or maybe not, because I'm certain there are lessons I have to learn one way or the other and having a few of them under my belt already is a good thing.

I have been publicly castigated for putting my children on a gluten-free diet by people that think it is a load of crap.
I have been de-friended by people on Facebook because of my views on Western medical vaccination schedules.
I have had heated conversations with members of my own family who worked in public education because I choose to send my girls to a private school.

In every case, I feel as though I'm doing the right thing with the information I have right now.  I reserve the right to change my mind. I reserve the right to regret my decision. But for right now, so long as I am  making informed choices out of love and concern for my family, I don't think I can go wrong.  I have written before about growing up as part of the Pop Tart Generation.  I don't resent my mother for that. She was doing the best she could with what she had.

Whether you are a parent or not, there is some amount of mental rounding off that has to occur for us to get out of bed and make any decision at all.  Most of our major life choices come as a result of feeling that we are doing the right thing - going to college or not, choosing a life partner, choosing a career.  If we didn't have some conviction that we knew what we were doing, we wouldn't do much of anything. So, the next time you see me on the street with Lola or Eve and we are doing something you don't approve of or understand (skateboarding, eating triple-decker ice cream cones, discussing body hardware or tattoos), just relax. I've got it under control. I know what I'm doing here and if I don't you can rest assured that karma and/or natural consequences will come right around and bite me in the ass. I don't need you to tell me.

Unless I ask.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Of Diets and Dandruff

In January, my naturopath tried to convince me to try the Paleo diet in an effort to finally clear up the persistent flakiness on my scalp. I had come to her several years ago with a multitude of health problems, all of which she cleared up one by one:

  • early menopause? check.
  • severe depression and anxiety? check.
  • chronic irritable bowel symptoms? check.
  • low energy? check.
All but this one, that is. Despite trying all of the pharmaceutical and over-the-counter remedies for dandruff, the scaly plaques (I know, sounds sexy, huh?) on my scalp get better and worse several times a year, but never go away entirely.  We were both hoping that going off of gluten would solve the problem in time, but it has been more than three years now and I haven't seen any improvement.  

Last Thanksgiving, we tackled dairy.  Despite my daily latte and my desperate need for cheese and yogurt. Oh, and butter. And, did I mention cheese?  Well, despite those things, I diligently eliminated dairy from my diet for three weeks. Soy milk or almond milk in my latte. No cheese or butter or yogurt at all. No ice cream. Or whipped cream on my crustless pumpkin pie. It wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be, but I was secretly hoping it wouldn't make a difference so that I could say I tried it and then go back to my dairy-days.  At the end of three weeks I had lost four and a half pounds but kept my dandruff. No dice.

I spent the Christmas holidays congratulating myself on my perseverence and self-control by consuming dairy, dairy, dairy and gaining all of the weight right back.  What? I hadn't set out to lose weight. It was only right that I put it back where it belonged.

Enter January and the scalp condition was still there.  And here's the thing - it's seasonal. So every time there is a significant shift in the weather from one season to another, I have about fourteen days of worsening dandruff before it subsides a little. Weird.

So when my naturopath suggested I try the Paleo diet, which not only eliminates dairy, but any and all refined sugars and most oils and ALL GRAINS, I was a little shell-shocked. After cutting gluten from my diet, I have to say that we live on rice and potatoes for starch. We don't eat much refined sugar and I use mostly coconut oil and olive oil, but I do love my dairy (see above) and I must eat chocolate nearly every day.  

I nodded my head sagely, listened to her personal testimonial as she had recently begun the diet herself, and left the office determined to find another way.  I researched my shampoo and conditioner and discovered - AMEN! - that they both contain wheat. Yes, wheat. Who knew? So I decided that this was certainly the issue and if I only found hair care products without wheat, I would be home free.  That proved more difficult than I thought, especially since I was on a crusade for products without sulfates or parabens, too.  Seems most 'natural' products think wheat qualifies as something beneficial to  add to their shampoo, so it was nearly a week before I discovered one that worked for me.

Sadly, it didn't make a difference.

Months later, despite meeting many people who have modified their own diets to more closely adhere to the Paleo diet and despite the fact that I am still struggling with my dandruff, I am still holding out for a different solution.  I know Michelle and her family adhere to a strict diet that is similar and have had good success. I also know how hard she works for it.  I already cook nearly every meal at home for us, diligently planning meals days ahead and shopping for expensive, organic, whole food ingredients a few days a week.  It is work, but I love it.  I'm just not sure I'm ready to make it more challenging.  Because if I'm doing it, everyone is. I'm not cooking three different meals for four people in the house. Sure, I'll have gluten-free bread available for the girls if they want a sandwich, but on pasta night, we're not using rice noodles. (Oh, God! Thai food! No Thai food!)

And so here I sit wondering if dandruff is really not that big a deal and I can just live with it.  Or is it simply an outward symptom of some other destructive process going on inside my body that I can't see?  I have recently noticed a few other minor health issues cropping up and have wondered whether trying this diet might help clear some of those up, too, but mostly I'm burying my head in the sand about them.  Unfortunately, my pattern seems to necessitate my getting smacked upside the head with something before I make a substantive change in my life.  Because change is hard. And so now I'm whining. But maybe one day in the near future I'll be writing a success story about clearing up persistent dandruff by going on the Paleo diet. Or maybe you'll notice that all of my clothing is white, in which case you'll know I'm still burying my head in the sand. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Square Peg, Round Hole

Bubba told me when I headed off for a five day trip to New York City to attend the BlogHer Publishing Network's Annual Convention that day three would be rough.  Even with all of his business travel, he acknowledged that, "Day 3 is the hardest. That's the day homesickness kicks in. I feel like I ought to be headed home and if I'm not, it sucks."

I guess I'm an overachiever, because by the evening of Day 2 I was a mess.  Day 3 dawned with a near-panic-attack that I talked myself out of until I hit breakfast.  I filled my plate with the meager offerings for those of us who can't eat gluten (scrambled eggs and fruit) and scanned the massive ballroom for an open chair.  I am one of the few women who came on my own, not planning to meet other bloggers I know or friends I have known for years.  Spying a spot near the middle of the room, I moved in and set down my plate and stowed my computer bag and purse beneath my seat.  I looked up to see if anyone had noticed my arrival and was met by the sight of eight other women whose faces were glowing.  Literally glowing. Lit by iPads, smart phones and laptops. It's a theme I've noticed throughout this entire event.  Nobody can focus on just one thing. Even if you get lucky enough to meet someone new face-to-face, they are clutching a phone that will instantly alert them if a friend or follower Tweets or texts them.

In a crowd of 4,500 women, I have never felt so alone. I left the room without meeting a soul and went for a long walk in the sticky humidity of the city.  I had to acknowledge that I feel out of place here. A fish out of water. A square peg in a sea of round holes.

I came here not to learn how to use HTML more effectively (although I probably could use some help there).  I didn't come to learn how to use Twitter to promote my blog or make more money from it. I came to make connections with other writers.  To find out how to build community.  What I've learned so far is that this is not how I want to do it.

Thankfully, there is a member of my existing community that happened to be in the city this week.  I walked over twenty blocks to find her.  In the mid-day heat (93 degrees), without walking shoes on, I pounded the hot pavement to find a girlfriend from home - a friendly face.  She is in town for a completely different reason, but when she opened the door and gave me a hug I burst into tears.  She listened as I poured out my frustrations and convinced me to accompany her to Bloomingdale's for frozen yogurt (yes, Bloomingdale's apparently does have EVERYTHING).  By the time we had walked the four blocks and ordered our towering sundaes I was feeling centered.  She didn't pull her phone out once and Tweet something. She didn't check her email or her Facebook status. She hugged me and met my tearful eyes with her own and cracked jokes and acted horrified at all the right moments.

After a few hours, I headed back to the conference to give it another shot.  And the twenty blocks gave me time to think.  So many of the women who came to this conference came to party. They came in blocks and cliques (mommy bloggers, craft bloggers, food bloggers) and fully embrace technologies that enable them to connect with others digitally.  While their blogs may impart personal information, their Facebook and Twitter accounts are peopled with followers who get superficial bursts of information and are addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes with knowing there is a crowd listening to every digital utterance.

I set out to find my people somewhere in this mass of conference-goers.  I realized that I am first a writer and then a blogger.  I needed to discover the writers in the group.  And with that simple shift in intention (to seek instead of flee), a little magic happened.  I discovered the 'Writing Lab,' where other writers came to talk about how to do interviews and copyedit and tweak their posts to sell as essays.  I discovered others who are serious about making a difference in the world and are just as afraid of Twitter as I am.  I had passionate conversations about women's rights and healthcare and clean air and I listened to bloggers who work for philanthropic organizations talk about how to turn ambition in to action.

I won't say that I still don't feel overwhelmed by the entire scene. (I get sensory overload at Costco, though, so that isn't a surprise.) I won't say that I've come around to embracing Twitter and Pinterest and am committed to using them in my own life.  I won't even be attending the closing night's party (but my excuse is that I have to fly out early tomorrow to get home).  But I am glad that I stuck it out and managed to connect with other writers and activists who gave me a different perspective than the one I first got.  And I'm certain that my yogurt-loving friend saved me from going stark raving mad simply by reminding me how good it feels to connect on a personal level with someone who cares about the same things I do.

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