Monday, April 18, 2011

Awkward Elevators

Elevators are awkward. The getting on and getting off, the standing in close proximity to strangers, the too-strong-perfume peoples and the random ringtones and text beepies emanating from people’s pockets – or hands. And all of this wouldn’t even be that bad except for the inherent awkward silence that befalls all elevators.

            Now, I’m all for a good awkward silence. I was telling my students the other day about how part of what makes me an effective teacher is that when I ask a question, I’m not made at all uncomfortable by the silence that (usually) follows and will patiently wait until someone answers (you have to allow for a little time for students to gear up and really think about the question). So, I guess what bothers me about the elevator awkward silence is that I so badly want to talk to the other elevator occupants.

            This might mean I’m an annoying person who can never keep my  mouth shut. But, let’s think about this. The doors close and for a few moments, I and maybe two to five other people, share an experience together. Is it a particularly moving experience (wah wah), not technically. Is it traumatic or dramatic? Since I’ve never been in a falling elevator (one of my biggest fears everrr besides spiders and the dark..), no. Yet, I feel this impulse that for some reason these people were brought to this elevator at the same time as me, maybe for a reason? Okay, call me a hippie. Maybe I just really don’t like the silence of it all and am sad that people would rather be reading their Facebooks on their smart phones in the elevator than interacting with other real life humans. Or maybe part of me has an obsession with the whole elevator thing because of the opening of Haruki Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Because of this book, I still want to write a story that deals with time travel occurring (unbeknownst to the occupants) in an elevator. Maybe that’s why I hate the silence – I’m upset that something cool like time-travel isn’t happening while I ride the elevator and when the doors open I’m not faced with ninjas to battle (yup, TMNT circa 1990) so I try to make up for that with a desire to at least talk to the people in the elevator with me. (And that way, if there are ninjas to battle when the doors open, I at least know who’s on my team).

            I feel like this whole post has maybe gotten away from me, and I wish I had some awesome little anecdote about a truly awkward situation in an elevator, but I don't, so I’m going to try and bring it back some other way. What it all comes down to (I guess) is that elevators are pretty cool but really awkward, yet have the potential for some cool magical realism.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Small Delights: "Cartoon You"

A few days ago, I was having one of those mornings. I, for lack of better words, was feeling very “emo” for no apparent reason at all. So, I popped in Tegan & Sara on my drive to school, sang out loud with the windows down, and even let myself have a small relief cry when I got to school. After not feeling better from my normal remedies, I decided maybe I was hangry (hungry/angry…it exists, just ask Funk). So, I grabbed some tofu and brown rice, sat down at a table, and commenced chopstick goodness.

            Somewhere between a green onion and teriyaki sauce, I realized the woman siting at the table next to me was staring. At me. Not just observing but staring. I thought, “Okay, maybe I look super cute today or have teriyaki sauce in my hair or a spider on my head. Oh, god, please not a spider!” and then I didn’t think much of it because I was feeling so, well, crappy.

            After a few minutes, I could feel someone hovering at my side.

            It was the woman. She pushed a small, postcard-flyer for a campus carnaval into my hand and rushed through the words, “I wanted to draw cartoon for you.”

            That is when I noticed a cartoon outline of a pin-up style girl with chopsticks, darawn in permanent marker on the flyer. She even dated and signed it. Before I could even say thank you, she was out the door.

            The crappy day officially ended.

            This tiny event was one of those reminders that sometimes we affect people without realizing and that, sometimes, even a small cartoon can brighten a day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Live Like You're... On Vacation (?)

            Before Spring Break, I semi-lamented to my students, “Woo hoo, I’m going to Ohio for Spring Break!” complete with a sarcastic fist pump to the air.

            Funk, Droidlet, and I decided to visit Funk’s aunt (Crafty) and his cousins (Green Lantern and Catan Champion) for the week. And, I’m not going to lie. I was a little nervous. Nervous for the colder weather, the country town, and Droidlet’s first plane ride and I was slightly skeptical about whether or not this was going to be the best use of a Spring Break.

            But, I geared up for the event (and rented a car for the first time. Hooray for being 25!) and was starting to get a tiny bit excited for the upcoming relaxation. We had an uneventful plane ride. Droidlet got my gene of falling asleep even before a plane takes off and we scored a 2011 Toyota Camry for all our driving needs. Then, we proceeded over long (no, not dirt) country roads to Aunt Crafty’s house.
            Now, let me tell you:

            Ohio.is.awesome.
            Seriously. We had an amazing vacation.

            Of course, 90% of why it was so great is because Funk’s family is just awesome. We had rounds of Settlers of Catan until 1:00am, great conversations, emotional support, and visits to kick-ass museums (helllooo American Bicycle, Annie Oakley, and the Air and Space museums!) among lots of great food, photographs, memories, and incredible company.
            The other 10%, though, really had to do with “vacation mentality.”

            The properties of “vacation mentality:”

1.      “We’re somewhere new, so let’s try everything!”
We tried new diners, new food, new drinks, new places, new beds, new homes… the list goes on. We even got to share some “news” with our family (among them, Japanese beer for the Catan Champion and Yuengling (the most amazing beer EVER) for the rest of the family… yes, we spread alcohol joy wherever we go). Sometimes, at home, when not in “vacation mentality” we tend to fall into routines and normal habits. Which, are good in their own right, but this was a nice reminder that there are still lots of things in Ventura County I have not yet tried.

2.      “Meh. I can check the internet later.”
I went on the internet a total of, maybe, three times (including my phone!). Granted, part of this was because the cell phone reception, but a huge part of it was because I was so busy doing other awesome things and spending quality time with people I love. This was a big slam in the face… why don’t I take internet breaks more often? Facebook did not explode while I was in Ohio, my blog didn’t smoulder to ashes, and the blogs I normally read were still up and running, as usual.

3.      “Picture moments.”
I feel we tend to take more pictures – but at the same time keep the camera down enough to experience the moment – more on vacation than in “regular life.”

4.      “Talk, walk, and talk some more.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to walk waaaay more when I’m on vacation. Walking through museums, walking down main streets, just walking outside and around a new block (and finding a flattened craw fish in the road). And between all the walking, we had actual conversations. Funk and I got to walk and talk about things outside of our parenthood bubble; we got to reminisce about Funk’s mom with Aunt Crafty; we got to talk about all the new stuff happening in the Green Lantern’s and Catan Champion’s lives.

Of course, there are downsides to vacation mentality. Well, the only one I can think of is that we spend a little more money than we might normally (like buying Droidlet a super awesome “Speed Limit: 18,000 mph” sign with a rocket ship on it). Other than that, this vacation mentality made for a week of having a fulfilling life.

I think it’s time to implement this mentality more often, right here, at home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

When to Stop Reading and Start Doing

And I find myself again, unable to fall asleep, browsing the wide world of web and reading about amazing events, cultural moments, and fun adventures. In particular, tonight I read about the Salon of Shame started by Ariel of the Offbeat Empire (bride, mama, and now home!). The Salon is a reading night where people come and read out of their old, embarrassing teenage diaries or old, horrible poetry they wrote in younger years. It sounds like an awesome event, something I would love to start (and Ariel even hooks readers up with a guide!). I already picture like-minded friends from my Master’s program, Funk’s rag tag group of peoples, and friends from Camarillo getting together to laugh, share, drink, and run down our embarrassing memory lanes. Yet, I ex out the page and move on to my next search. I sometimes complain that there isn’t much to do in Camarillo… why don’t I make it happen?
                This same thing happens over parenting. I read and read and read about all the different “types” of parent I can choose to be. I read about all these activities I can do with Droidlet to help his learning and development. Yet, sometimes, the day just gets away. It bolts out the door and I’ve spent another day running errands, playing a little, feeding, bathing, and doing “basic” stuff with him.
                These “I wish I could ‘cause it would be awesome” ‘s also happens with academic/professional stuff. I research creative writing journals to submit my stories to – and then never submit. I research online zines to get involved with or send submissions – yet I wimp out on the “join” page. I say I’m going to go back and revise awesome academic papers for publication and yet, they remain in their old folders.
                Now, I’m not saying I’m a fuddy duddy who sits at her computer all day and doesn’t engage in life. It’s more that I’m tired of making excuses for not doing all of these things I think would be awesome and/or I covet other peoples’ lives because fun, interesting, original events happen for them. That silly cliché of “Life is what happens when you’re making plans” couldn’t ring more true for me right now. It’s time for me to put down the books, turn off the computer, and start having the life that I want. Because that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Not to watch movies or read articles and wish that was my life but to take an active role in all the awesomeness I’ve got going on; and when I feel a lack, seeking out and creating those great moments.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Family Bed: When Restless Nights Are Worth It

“Oh. So, Droidlet still sleeps with you?”
                This is a question I get. A lot. From friends, family members, or strangers who ask. Apparently, with Droidlet getting to his six months post-womb state, the hottest question is whether or not he is sleeping through the night. And sometimes (okay, lots of times) I do wish there was a magic button in his brain that once his body ticked to six months, lit up, and forced his little brain to fall asleep at ten and not wake up until six. However, this is not the case. And after an inquiry about whether or not he sleeps through the night comes… “well, where does he sleep?”
                I wish after I reply, “with us,” the conversation would be over with an “Oh, that’s wonderful!” or “That’s great your family can make that work!” Instead, responses always come in the “you’lllll seeeee” form detailing how I’m basically ruining my child because he is going to want to sleep in our bed until he is twenty-five or that he will never ever ever sleep through the night or that (although we have been co-sleeping for over six months now) we will definitely roll over on and suffocate our baby.
                Now, I’m not writing this in complete defense or to get upset about those who don’t co-sleep, but rather, I want to reiterate that we’ve made a choice that works for our family and our child. Also, there are very important aspects to keep in mind. Funk and I are well aware of the “dangers” of co-sleeping (especially when Droidlet was a newborn) which is why we always practice in the SAFEST way possible. We never go to bed under any sort of influence (not even one glass of wine), Droidlet does not have covers on him and does not sleep on a pillow, and he isn’t on the edge of the bed where he can potentially roll off. These issues are very important to follow and help make our co-sleeping safe and great for the whole family.
                Of course, it’s not perfect. There are nights when Droidlet, especially now that he can move around, tends to kick us in the back or slap us in the head. I’ve woken up with little fingers up my nose and on some mornings have even found Funk on the floor because Droidlet basically inched his way over to Funk’s side of the bed. However, Droidlet sleeps best when in our bed and we love the family experience of sharing sleep together. Oh, and the whole “you’ll never have sex if you co-sleep”… trust me, it’s not true.
                Eventually, it will be time for Droidlet to move out of our bed. Whether this is Droidlet-led, or parent-led, or whichever comes first, we haven’t decided. If this will happen next week, or at one, or a two, we don’t know. What we do know is that, for right now, sleeping with the little bot in our bed is what works best for us. We haven’t noticed any “unhealthy” behavior because of it – Droidlet is a happy, bubbling, growing little guy. The choice of where Droidlet sleeps is just that – a choice that works for us – and it has been a wonderful experience to have as a new family trying to figure out the odds and ends of sharing a life together.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"I would... if I didn't have a baby."

I hate hearing myself think this (yes, I hear myself think). HATE IT. Generally, it happens at night, when I’m tired – when Droidlet is asleep and I’ve been lesson planning/working on my thesis/hunting for better paying jobs for far too long and I stumble across something that sounds awesome:
                Teach English overseas! Join the PeaceCorps! Be an assistant to a crazy 86 year old author woman who lives in a mansion in Agoura Hills! Be a free lance writer!
                And I think in my head, “I would…if I didn’t have a baby.”
                I promised myself when I got pregnant that I would never use Droidlet as an excuse. Yes, there would be reasons that are tied to him for why I may have to cancel a girls’ night or not go on a weekend adventure up North, but none of those would be Droidlet’s “fault” and instead, a decision I make for what is best for my family. Yet, here I sit in front of the computer, with lots of interesting, random events and opportunities popping up in front of me and all I can think is “I would…if…”
                Where did I go?
Of course, I am realistic. PeaceCorps is not in the cards for me anymore but that's not just because of the little bot but because of my educational pursuits, my relationship with Funk, and my closeness with my family. A good balance? Supporting my cousin whole-heartedly as she entertains this as a possible path for herself while I continue to navigate my own revised plan.
                Before getting pregnant, I talked a lot about getting my PhD or MFA – definitely furthering my education. And aside from “Is Droidlet sleeping through the night yet?” and “How is your thesis going?” the most common question I get is “So, are you, um, still gonna go for that PhD?” in a very why the hell would you do that to yourself? kind of way. And for that half-split-very-miniscule-itty-bitty-second, I almost think “I would…if I didn’t have a bab-“ and then I catch myself.
                YES. Yes, I am still going to get a PhD. Now, the path to that PhD may have changed a little bit. I still need to decide whether I’m going to enter a program immediately, or when Droidlet starts school, or when he leaves for college, or when/if I become a grandma. I haven’t figured out the when of it, but I do know it’s going to happen. I am not done attending school, I am not done learning, and although those two things aren’t mutually inclusive, I love having them intertwined.
                So, why would I let “having a baby” get in the way of smaller decisions?
                I think part of it is battling what society tells me I need to be as a mother. Droidlet should come first, in every single way – my goals should become secondary in order to let him have a fulfilled life with all the opportunities he needs. Of course, I don’t believe this. I think him seeing me teach and write and pursue research and education will be just as enriching if I was able to stay home and school him myself. He’ll be able to do fieldtrips to the universities I speak at and will learn about other people needing their space to write and think and create. Hopefully, he’ll learn a respect for reading, writing, and research because he grows up in a home with an “academic” (whatever that turns out to mean for us…).
                So, it’s time to get that excuse out of my head, remove it from my repertoire of silly excuses and justifications that bounce around up there. “Want to take a hike, Rachael?” Why, yes! I’ll just strap the baby to my back and make sure to stop and feed him every hour to prevent altitude sickness and yay! he gets to start to foster a love for the outdoors. “Rachael, want to try for this crazy job opportunity?” Why, yes! I’ll work out a flexible schedule and maybe a work-from-home time so that I can be both mama and awesome writer-making-money-lady! "Hey, why don't you try to publish some of your work?" Why, yes! This is the scariest thing ever, ever but during Droidlet's naps I can research journals and maybe, just maybe, some of my thesis work can be sent to publishers! And the list goes on. Because the possibilities are endless. Even for Especially for a mama.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"ChildFree" is Not a Bad Word; And Neither is "Mama"

I have many childfree friends – childfree in the “I have a made a conscious decision to never have kids. Never ever” and not in the “maybe” or “just not yet” sort of way. Many people seem to be under the impression that those who have chosen not to have children cannot/will not/don’t want to get along with those who have had children and vice versa. However, I’ve come to realize how much I need my childfree friends.
                Of course, this doesn’t take anything away from my friends who are mamas and papas or who do want children someday. Unfortunately, this blog post isn’t about those awesome people but about other awesome people in my life.
                Part of the reason these relationships remain strong is due to respect, from both sides. I never try to convince my friends that they should have kids, that they are “missing out,” or that they’ll “regret it” later (none of which I believe). I never assume that being childfree means hating children or not knowing how to take care of them. I trust my childfree friends with Droidlet – they love him and our little bot family.
                And this respect is reciprocated. My friends don’t spout off statistics of over-population, or refer to me as a “breeder.” Yes, I had a child, but that does not mean I am breeding for the sake of procreation, or because I believe it’s my role, or because I have to. My feminist friends don’t try to retract my feminism card because I’m a mama. And most of them are even gracious enough to put up with me talking about the Droidlet, though I try very, very hard to not only talk about him.
                What’s most important is that mamas and papas benefit from childfree friends and vice versa. Some of Droidlet’s coolest aunties and uncles are childfree and are going to play a huge role in his life and shaping the person he becomes. I very much believe in building a community around Droidlet of people who are going to open his perspective, love him like crazy, and broaden his world – this includes both friends with children and those without.
                And yes, I’m not delusional. I know that it gets hard sometimes. I know it’s frustrating when I have to flake last minute on plans because something happens at home; or when I do get overly excited about this huge life change (I HAD A BABY! AHHH!); or when I get that small pang of “what if” as I watch my childfree friends live a lifestyle that isn’t a reality for me anymore because I chose to have the little dude. I know it won’t always be rainbows and butterflies and puppy dog kisses. I just think it’s important that mamas don’t feel like they have to drop all of their friends that don’t have kids; or for childfree people to feel they can’t associate with women who do decide to have children.
                So, rock on, you childfree ladies who are proving to the world that having children is NOT the primary goal for a female and making a life decision that works with who you are. And rock on, you mamas out there who are proving that being a mama doesn’t mean losing your life, your goals, or your individuality. And thank you, to the ladies and the mamas, who remain friends and show how children bring people together, not rip them apart.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Parenting Guilt Monster

I've met a new monster. Not a vampire with sharp teeth (you know, the actual scary, non-glittering kind); not a vicious werewolf; not a phantom ghost. Instead, this is a tricky monster, who sneaks out from under the bed (which is quite a feat since our bed is on the floor), or charges from the closet, or climbs the roof and jumps onto our balcony - all when I least expect the monster and definitely when I least need it.

The Parenting Guilt Monster.

That little thing - from under the bed, in the closet, on the balcony, but usually in my head - that tells me I'm not doing enough for the Droidlet. This little monster ignores the fact that I am writing a Master's thesis, teaching a composition course (and that we realllllly need that extra money every month), and that I am still trying to hold some semblance of myself together - not to mention stuff like, ya know, keeping the apartment from becoming a place where "real" monsters would actually want to live. And instead, this parenting guilt monster, focuses on the things I don't do.

He scratches me with his claws when I come home a few nights in a row (of working on my thesis or lesson planning) after the Droidlet has gone to bed, completely ignoring the fact that Funk has been there with Droidlet the whole time. He attacks my back during the day when I let Droidlet play in his walker for longer than fifteen minutes, telling me I'm a lazy mom. The monster ignores how I play with Droidlet and when we sing and dance and laugh and cuddle and instead attacks my neck and between gnawing on my skin mentions how I don't give the Droidlet enough - enough cuddles, enough educational opportunity, enough time.

The kicker is, I know none of this is true, yet the Parenting Guilt Monster is still there, taunting and stalking me.

So, I've come up with a plan of attack; with a Parenting Guilt Monster Battle kit. Now, the normal silver bullet, strings of garlic, wooden stake, magic potion aren't going to do for this kind of monster. This kind of monster goes for the jugular of self-esteem, the heart of confidence, and hides doubt inside your skin. To battle this kind of monster takes a different tactic.

Inside the kit, I keep a few small items.

1. Words of Funk (and other people who support my family). It's good to fall back on conversations with others, their boosts of confidence, their marvel at how well this little family is doing despite the overwhelming situation of a "surprise" pregnancy.

2. A good book. Yes, this sounds strange, but sometimes the best battle against the Guilt Monster is to let myself escape into something that has nothing to do with being a mama. And, generally, what works best for me is a good book. Right now, a Jeanette Winterson novel.

3. Playing with the Droidlet. Sometimes when the monster is on the attack, I just need to grab the Droidlet, smile at him, and his smile in return lets me know I haven't messed him up... yet. Sounds cheesy, yes, but seeing him laugh and smile and what a happy baby he is helps to show me I must be doing something right.

This is about as far as my arsenal goes for now. You other parents out there, or non-parents who have to battle the other species of Guilt Monsters (like the Work Guilt Monster, the School Guilt Monster...), what's in YOUR arsenal?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confession: I Dye my Hair... at a SALON

Every few months, my inner (and most of the time outer) alternative, go local business, feminist, thrifty self finds my body walking into the last place on earth it would expect: A “beauty” salon. And not a hippie-ish, subcultural, green beauty salon, but a trendy, has a jewelry boutique, caters to upper class women of the San Fernando Valley beauty salon.
The first time I went, I felt very uncomfortable. Not only had I never done anything to my hair (but get it cut at Supercuts) but, as I walked into the door, I automatically felt underdressed and misplaced. I couldn’t afford the products on the wall, most of the stylists had on Gucci and wore knee high leather boots, and even the lighting fixtures looked like they should be a part of a museum. But, I had a gift certificate in my hand – and a large need for change – so, I entered through those strange doors and went with it.
To be fair, my stylist is awesome. Obviously. I have visited her every couple months for the past five years. From my first visit, she has made me feel comfortable – we share book recommendations, she’s heard stories of my various boyfriends and girlfriends, and puts up with me showing her pictures of Droidlet every time I come in. She is very good people and very talented at what she does.
But when I’m there, there are two things that I can’t help but notice:
  1. How much I do not fit into the salon culture and
  2. How flippin’ judgmental I can be of other women.
And it is the number two that bothers me the most. As I sit there, I make “tsks” and sighs in my head at all the women reading trashy celebrity magazines, sipping wine at eleven in the morning, and spending hours there in the promotion of vanity. And I think these things as I’m sitting with foils in my hair, in front of a mirror (not reading a trashy magazine, though; I always bring a book). Going to the salon always highlights the reverse classism I have – I look upon with disdain these other moms and women with money, with Prada dresses and coach purses, who (I briefly assume) are so unhappy in their personal life that they resort to spending time plucking, primping, and prepping their physical attributes.
Yet, I am sitting right there, too. Yes, I try to convince myself that dying my hair is part rebellion (I will not settle for my natural blonde!) and that I am, technically, supporting a local business (my stylist rents her chair space from the salon; she’s not a member of the business but an individual contractor) but the bare bones truth is that I pay (way too much) money for pampering and a new hair color every few months.
And it honestly makes me feel good. I love the consistent change I get from my hair having a different color. I love that I get offered coffee, tea, wine while I am there. I love the two to three hours of uninterrupted reading time under the flattering lights. Granted, there is a part of me that just says “Dye your hair with henna!” or “That money could have bought Droidlet’s next few months of food!” or “Rachael, you are giving in to the stereotype that women have to change their physical attributes to be attractive” or “Why are you focusing so much on your physical appearance, which sooo does not matter?!” yet I always return.
If anything, it reminds me not to be so judgmental of other people. I am constantly preaching tolerance, acceptance, and compassion yet, I turn around and judge others (generally, upper class, white, heterosexual men and women). The fact that I do this bothers me and every day I work on rectifying it. I would never want Droidlet saying he didn’t like someone or want to be friends with someone because that someone had more money than him; I would get angry with Funk if he told me he was bothered by someone just because that someone owned a nicer trumpet; I get angry with myself when I jump to conclusions about the women in the salon.
And sometimes, stereotypes are lived up to. I hear lots of complaining about husbands/babies’ daddies, lots of talk about weight loss, and lots of talk about cosmetic surgery and tanning booths.
And sometimes, stereotypes are broken when I also hear lots of talks about charity events, animal rescues, and world politics.
I need to remember to check my judgment at the door (and out of my life completely) and view my time in the salon as a social experiment – including the (sometimes) hypocritical me.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cold-Blooded: Or Why My Snake is Cooler than Your Dog

Okay, I do love dogs. However, dogs don’t really jive with our little drove of droids (or the apartment we live in) and both Funk and I have always had a love for all things Herpetology.
                When I was growing up, my dad always had iguanas (and our awesome cat, Lix, who is still kickin’ it strong at nineteen years old!) so, some of my childhood memories are of those awesome green creatures crawling up his wall-papered apartment walls and attending Cold-Blooded conventions where I got to pet Burmese Pythons and hold DuMeril’s Boas. I was probably one of the only girls not scared of our first grade class Rosy Boa and who had two fire-bellied toads at home named Yzerman and Federov (yes, those were Redwings players at the time).
                So, when Funk and I first started dating and I found out he had six (6!!!) snakes, I was elated; and earned awesome points for wanting to hold them. We’ve downsized to three (Jadzia, a Green Tree Python, Charlie, a Ball Python, and Cleo, a Grey-Banded King Snake) but have added three Bearded Dragons (Toothless, R.D., and Gronkle… all named after How to Train Your Dragon dragons). We are, officially, a reptile family. And yes, I think it’s rad.
                And no, none of the snakes are going to eat Droidlet.
                Here is why having reptiles rock:
                After initial set up, reptiles are semi low maintenance. Yes, there needs to be heat lamps and the right environment in their cages or tanks, but once all that’s set up, they get fed every two weeks and need watering every once in awhile. Other than that, the snakes just need to get handled occasionally (or all the time!) and sometimes need a little help shedding.
                Just like any other pet, they’ll teach Droidlet responsibility. He’s definitely going to be helping out with the Bearded Dragons. We bought them when we were pregnant and have called them Droidlet’s dragons since before he was born. As soon as he’s able, he’ll be helping clean their cages and feeding them their meal worms. Plus, how rad will that be for his friends who come over and maybe have never seen a reptile before?
                Reptiles can cuddle, too! Have you ever had a snake wrap around your arms or curl up in your lap and just rest in the warmth of your body? No, it’s not a death grip, the snake is smart, it knows it can’t eat you. Bearded dragons love chilling on your shoulder or chest. You’re sharing your body heat with a cold-blooded creature and getting to feel their way awesome skin.
                There are different options for feeding. I know a lot of people freak out about feeding the snakes live mice (and if you are on the whole animal cruelty or living the vegan lifestyle, obviously snakes aren’t for you). I totally understand. But there are options. Don’t mind the mice but aren’t cool with them being live? You can get frozen pinkies for your snakes! Also, there are some water-dwelling snakes that eat fish (if that’s easier for you). And don’t forget about the other reptiles out there – most turtles and tortoises are vegetarians, Bearded Dragons eat meal worms and crickets, and iguanas eat everything from lettuce to corn.
                Exotic things are pretty awesome. Our Green Tree Python looks like a mix between a dragon and the snake from The Jungle Book. She is gorgeous. It’s like having a piece of moving, living art in our living room.
                Plus, the more people that own snakes and other herps, the more education gets spread about how they aren’t “bad” animals. Snakes do bite. They strike when they’re hungry and they think food is in front of them. Sometimes the heat signal from a hand reaching in their cage, especially when they’re hungry, can be mistaken for a warm mouse squirming around. But dogs bite, too; cats scratch; birds nip. All animals come with some sort of “what if” situations. I think because of cultural mythology and a lot of hype, reptiles (especially snakes) get a bad name. However, like with any animal, it’s all about safe handling and good pet ownership practice.
                Long story short, I love my Funk and Droidlet, and our herp kids.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The "V" Word (no, not that one, the other one)

I know what you’re thinking. Something along the lines of: here comes Rachael’s tirade about how commercialized Valentine’s Day is, how it doesn’t mean anything at all about love, how it was another holiday created by the capital-T They to help keep us oppressed, etc. etc. etc.
                And I almost did.
                But then I thought back to Super Bowl Sunday (this connects, I swear) and how Loren and I were joking the whole game about how professional sports has to be fixed, from professional baseball to the World Cup, poking fun at how the Black Eyed Peas seemed to have escaped Tron, and me feeling bad for how quickly Christina Aguilera gets blasted all over the internet within minutes of her performance ( I could write a whole blog post about how ridiculous I think all of that was, for one flubbed line. Sigh), and then our conversation turns back to our conspiracy theory about fixed sports when I look over at Droidlet. Our smiling, drooling little guy, watching us talk even though he has no idea what we are saying and I think:
                Our son is going to be so jaded.
                Which, of course, is an exaggeration. The thought was there, then it passed, and it didn’t come up again until I sat down to write my ohemgeevalentine’sdaysucks blog. Because I realized something. I’m actually going to be stoked when he comes home from school one day and wants to do Valentine’s Day crafts, or make homemade Star Wars valentines for his friends. And of course my heart is probably going to burst when he brings home his first valentine for Funk and I – the cheesy cut out lace doilies and lopsided hearts, or even macaroni noodles, or who knows, by the time Droidlet is in school maybe he will be designing it on Photoshop.
                So, I stopped myself. True, I think Valentine’s Day is completely over commercialized. True, I think that we should be showing the people that we love in our lives that we love them everyday – not just try and do something super duper special on one day out of the year. Yes, I believe that the “holiday” seems sort of arbitrary. And no, I don’t think down on anyone who does celebrate it. There was a time when I celebrated with roses and boxes of chocolates; there was a time where I always went to the pub with a bunch of friends, celebrating our “singleness.” In all honesty, even today I am bringing my class Blow Pops and chocolates.
                But Funk and I are going to have a normal night. We are going to cook dinner, hang out with our Droidlet, probably cuddle on the couch and continue to show each other how much we love each other. Just like we do every other day of the year. No presents, no giant heart-shaped cards. Just our little family. And maybe a little note that says “all my base are belong to you.”
                And man, I cannot wait for all of these jewelry commercials and internet ads about heart shaped diamond necklaces and “showing her you care” by buying blingy heart earrings to be gone…
                I mean, happy V word day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Small Delights: Light Sabers

I know I wrote a whole post on privacy and how I wouldn't post pictures of Droidlet on here. But I couldn't help it this time. Plus, my justification is that the person who made the light saber for him put the picture up on a knitting website to show off the pattern, so it's already gone viral. This means my small delight for today is my son as Darth Vader at five months old. Yup, he's a badass.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mom Jeans & The Sexuality of Motherhood

The other day, I was talking with a family member about the loss of sexuality for mothers – the societal stereotype that once a woman becomes a mother, she forfeits any aspect of her identity as a sexual being. This ties in with gender norms that tell women that when they become a mother, their life is only about their children and absolutely nothing else. I’ve written other posts on bisexuality and motherhood or just general musings on how to, as OffbeatMama.com puts it, “integrate your pre-kid identity with your post-kid reality.”
                But it’s interesting to see the reactions, mostly from other women, when a mother is out with her children and looks put-together, or dare I say sexy. There seems to be the assumption that because a mother has makeup on or her hair done, she has neglected her child(ren) in some sort of way to make this happen. Or women who maintain a physically fit body get torn down about spending more time in the gym than with their children – but we don’t know their circumstances. Maybe three times a week is “grandma” time so mama squeezes in a jog, or maybe her and her baby do yoga together, or maybe she’s like me and squeezes in a little pilates floor workout while the baby is having tummy time (Droidlet actually laughs at me when I’m doing some of the moves. It’s awesome.). Maybe, the underlying issue is insecurity coming from other women because of our culture’s insiste nce on physical perfection, but it’s very hard to watch women, mothers, tear each other down for taking care of themselves.
                  In having this conversation with a family member, they reminded me of this old SNL skit:



Don’t get me wrong, I roll out to the grocery store in yoga pants and tank tops on the days where it’s just too much, but it’s also nice to shower during Droidlet’s morning nap and actually put on some eyeliner for a day. It makes me feel good, puts me in a better mood, and therefore, I’m an all around happier mama. For some women, they are most comfortable in their workout clothes or jeans and a sweatshirt and that is fine. This isn’t about fashion, but the underlying assumption that a woman can’t look good, or be sexy, when she is a mama because it means that she’s not fully taking care of her kids.
                               What ties into the physical perception is also the misperception that once a woman has a child they don’t want to have sex anymoreneveragainno. Quite frankly, the issue of sex in our culture is taboo to begin with and I think becomes moreso for a woman who has had a child. What’s funny is that what most people don’t talk about is sexual desire during pregnancy. Myself and many of my friends who have been pregnant had a huge horniness spike while pregnant. Most of us had sex up until the day we went into the hospital to give birth and for a majority of us (once the labor pains went away) have kept up that sexual libido. It’s so interesting to me that the thing that put the baby there in the first place becomes something that we are afraid to talk about. SEX IS AWESOME – before AND after having a baby.
                Being a mother does not mean the loss of the sexual self (in any form that it comes in for each individual) and it doesn’t mean giving up everything else in life – including personal grooming, if that’s your thing – to be a mama. The same battle of balance in sexuality is also fought for those mothers who, post-kid, choose to go back to work, or to continue their education, or retain their hobbies, or still go to Burning Man, or still go to music festivals… the list goes on and on. It’s really all about balance.

And speaking of balance, I have that thesis thing to write and should probably shower before class. Balance, balance, balance...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why Dads Don't Babysit

It’s always interesting when I am out without the Droidlet and people ask me “Oh, is Daddy babysitting today?” It almost makes me laugh every time because Funk is at home with the Droidlet, but Funk is most definitely not babysitting. I asked Funk one night if people ever ask him if I’m babysitting when he is out without us and his face scrunched up as if saying, “What kind of question is that?”
                When I honestly think about it, the question seems so ridiculous. Funk isn’t babysitting Droidlet. He’s not on some “temporary assignment.” They are spending time together, hanging out, just being. I’ll often reply (sexistly-) that they are having “boy time” or “father-son” time. But it’s strange that I even have to put it that way. I don’t think of it as “mother-son” time when I am alone with Droidlet. I’m a mama. I spend time with my babe. Funk is a papa. He spends time with his babe.
                Of course, this all has to do with gendered expectations. And although I think the idea of a stay at home dad is becoming more normalized, there still tends to be a double standard. A friend of mine made a really good point about the perception of a parent and child conduct. When a father and his children are out at a store and the kids throw a tantrum/start a rucus/are acting like monkeys, the sentiment is still “oh, you’re being such a supportive father! How great of you to be out with your kids!” However, if this happens when a mother is out, the mother receives dirty looks – the why-aren’t –you-controlling-your-children-looks looks.
                This is especially interesting for me because Funk and I try, as much as we can with him working full time and me working part time/being a student, to have equal parenting with the Droidlet. While Funk is at work, I have full reign of the Droidlet and home, but when he gets home, I work on my thesis or lesson plan, and Funk is more often than not the one who rocks Droidlet to bed and handles the nighttime feedings. On weekends, you’ll find both Funk and I doing various household chores and playing with the baby. Both Funk and I are equally involved in the physical, emotional, and life choices that we make for Droidlet. Since conception, Funk has been at EVERY single doctor’s appointment for Droidlet as well as every class dealing with childbirth/rearing (even the breastfeeding one! GO TEAM!).
                And all of this was just natural. We didn’t pre-plan it, it’s just the way our family works. I’m reminded daily that not many fathers do all of the things that Funk does for our Droidlet (and I believe there are more out there than let on). I’m saddened when I hear mother’s refer to their husbands/partners/boyfriends as “sperm donors” or “just the father” and wonder,  not only if men feel they can’t take on these roles, but if women don’t give them the chance to try.
                In our house, we joke that Funk has more of a “mothering instinct” than I do. The best part is, we’re setting an awesome example for Droidlet. We’re showing him that compassion, affection, and nurturing aren’t “feminine” or “women’s roles”  - something I think is important with all the “machisimo” and masculinity that is in the rhetoric of raising boys.  Instead, we’re showing him that he can love and kiss and hug and wrestle and dance and sing and play with both his parents and that both his parents play an active role in his life and the life of the family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"As Long as He's Healthy": The PreConception of Able-Bodiness

After the whole "sex debacle" we had with Droidlet - "It's a girl!" and then nine days before her/his due date "It's a boy!" - the line we constantly heard from everyone in regards to our sex-switching baby was:

"Well, as long as the baby's healthy..."

Even before the in-utero sex change, many well wishers, after telling them we did find out the sex, would say something to the extent of "Well, as long as she has all her fingers and her toes!" For some reason, these statements always irked me and I could never pinpoint why.

Until now.

A friend of mine studies "Crip Theory" and we were talking the other day about how our society, on many different levels, favors able-bodiness. We brought up examples from our personal experiences of how people tend to ignore individuals with disabilities, be uncomfortable with their community integration, or desexualized and/or treat them as children. For example, I used to work with this awesome guy who has Down Syndrome. One day, when we were hanging out and getting an Iced Tea from The Habit, a woman walked up to me and told me how nice it was that I "took him out for a walk" but couldn't believe I had "brought him to such a public place." My friend looked at the woman and said, "I wanted an iced tea." Not only did she refer to him as if he were an animal, but apparently didn't want him in a public area. After his response, we sat down and chit-chatted while the woman watched on in amazement.

My friend has a quadriplegic friend and they have heard comments from "why would anyone want to date a woman in a wheelchair?" when seeing her with her boyfriend, to men approaching them in bars saying "I'd be all over you if you weren't in that chair" - as if she wouldn't have a choice in the matter either way.

This conversation helped me realize why those statements had set something off inside of me. Although it's not the explicit intention behind people saying, "as long as the baby's healthy," this statement does assume a predominance of able-bodiness. What is this statement assuming? That if my baby is in the NICU when he/she is born, I will love him/her less? That if I don't count all ten fingers and all ten toes that he/she is less of a baby? These statements had irked me because they assume that if there was a physical "lack" with my baby when he was born then he was less of a baby, less of a person, which is very much NOT true.

Of course, I know that the well wishers behind these statements were mostly saying they hoped everything was okay with the baby, that the baby didn't have complications. But, what does this say about our societal preferences? Why is it "heart breaking" for people to see a child or adult with a disability? Is there a big difference between saying "As long as he has all his toes!" and "Let's hope he's not gay!"?

What this boils down to, yet again, is taking a look at how our language can be exclusive. Yes, I wanted Droidlet to be a healthy baby without complications, but why and how do we define the term "healthy?"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Music & Identity

In college, music became a central aspect of my identity. I lived for shows on the weekends – from San Diego to San Francisco – I made mixed “tapes” at least once a week. I remember listening to Blueprints for the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal o my way to the Antelope Valley every weekend one summer. Play me “Sun” by Mae and I automatically think of driving along Pacific Coast Highway at one a.m. my freshman year of college.
                I loved the self-induced anxiety of being at the front lines of a show – watching Anberlin andSaosin at a crammed pool hall in Lancaster, watching The Used for the first time in San Diego (hey, no judging of my past musical taste, please), hearing bluegrass boys jam it out at local fairs. Back in 2005, I wrote (albeit not greatly) about the raw energy inherit in a good show:
                The first show where the sweat raining out of my pores floods my body and matts my hair to my face. My arms and back are slippery with the wetness produced by the heat and energy that is all around the room. My legs get confused with others as my feet try and find a stable spot on the floor only to get pushed and moved in an erratic formation as soon as I feel I have a place.

It is amazing.

Amazing to feel others' slick bodies rub against mine, to feel the bass vibrate throughout my body and make my heart skip a few extra beats, to feel the energy escaping from those on stage to those of us in the crowd in a swirling, chaotic collision of sweat, emotion, and love for music. The anticipation that was once in the air has now evaporated and disappeared as though it had never existed at all. Now, all of us just live in this one moment, feeling the words course through our bodies and the strumming of guitars heat our blood.

               
Five years ago, and obviously a much more novice creative writer, this was my connection to music. But, somehow, music’s centrality has faded. I still love music. I listen to my swing, my Regina Spektor, and my Jill Tracy whenever I’m out and about on my own. But my days of scouring the internet for new music and gifting my friends “mix tapes” have come to a halt.
                I know part of this is interests shifting – starting a graduate program where my friendships are focused around academics, not taking as many road trips where music is the sole entertainment, becoming a new mama and being in throes of new mamahood everyday. But there’s the problem. I want Droidlet to love music; to be exposed to everything from The Ohio Players to The Black Keys to Nickel Creek to Explosions in the Sky and sift through all of it to find whatever music it is that touches his soul, that makes him want to dance in the sunlight and the dark, that makes him want to sing.
                Maybe, I’m being a little hard on myself. In utero, Droidlet went to a Killswitch Engage show and a Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings show. We listen to at least one musical a day and he loves dancing to “Do You Love Me” and (of all things) the Tarzan soundtrack.
                Maybe this is more a reminder to myself to listen to the bands I love. To blast Voo Doo Glow Skulls when I drive to class, to introduce Droidlet to jack when he’s in the car. Or maybe, I’m just long overdue for the self-induced anxiety of a show.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Defense of a Princess: Leia

In my Disneyland blog, I do alot of ragging on princesses. After more thought, I've realized that it's not "princesses" per se that are bad but the current ideology that surrounds princesses. As Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girly-Girl Culture, writes how the new culture of princesses "instead of being about a girl's empowerment and effectiveness in the world, it's actually about her self-absorption and spoiledness." Rather than being about asserting femininity, which is fine, it becomes about over-sexualization of childhood and definition by external looks.

Enter Princess Leia from the original Star Wars trilogy. A non-diva, kick-ass princess. A princess who doesn't wear a tiara all of the time and actually rocks some pretty awesome pants. A princess that I can get behind.

When we first meet Leia, she is part of the Imperial Senate and acting as a spy for the Rebellion. A spy princess! Later, she's tortured by Vader for information but resists and doesn't give up anything. She's definitely not the stereotypical portrait of a passive princess waiting for her prince to come.

With that said, I do need to acknowledge that Princess Leia does have a tendency to get herself captured and then rescued by Han, Luke, and Chewie. However, one of these captures (in Return of the Jedi) is because she poses for Jabba the Hutt as a Bounty Hunter in order to save Han Solo - hooray for role reversal! The princess goes in to save her "prince" and gets thisclose to succeeding. Granted, she ends up in a super sexy metal slave outfit because of this, but at least the outfit is shown being forced upon her rather than her choice of wearing it. Therefore, can I say it's a sign of oppression? AND she ends up strangling Jabba with the very chain he tried to keep her captive by. HELL YES. Even when she's getting rescued, she isn't passively standing by looking pretty, but being an active participant, kicking ass and taking names.

And yes, there is still the love between Leia and Han Solo, but it is one filled with sarcasm, great one liners, and mutual rescuing.

This is what I love about Star Wars. Leia is just as much a hero as Luke. The Jedi order has just as many awesome female characters as males and look at how many great bounty hunters have graced the Star Wars world (hellllooo Zam and Aurra Sing (my personal favorite)). 

So, again, I need to be careful with my definitions and assumptions. "Princess" itself is not a bad word - it's the commercialization, sexualization, and narcissism that comes along with certain modern notions of the princess. If one day, Droidlet (or any other future children, male or female) decide they want to play princess dress up, I'll throw them a Jedi robe and let them pick their color light saber. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Subcultures in the Classroom

As part of my first day of class, I like my students to get to know one another. Combine this with our first essay topic about how a specific place (example: a specific coffee shop) is a location for a subculture (let's say, a poetry group) within its community (Camarillo) and you get a great discussion about what "subculture" means and finding out which subcultures the students in my class identify with.

Today's discussion started out like it usually does - talking about subculture through the lens of mainstream society, the idea that to be "sub" means to be a cut out of the "popular culture." As usual, my students took cultures to mean races and ethnicities. Multiculturalism got brought up (which is great) but it wasn't until I asked: "But what happens when people of a mix of different races and ethnicities find a common interest and all hang out together because of it?" Did the light bulbs beam on top of their heads. And then the learning began - from teacher to student and from student to teacher.

Initially, music tends to be the easiest place for students to recognize subcultures. My students cited underground hip-hop and rap as some of their main subcultures and a few of my students interests in Dub-Step (am I even spelling that right?) taught me a new musical genre I have never heard of. Some of them, however, have never heard of Punk, or Rockabilly, or Gothic. This reminded me how my students regional and ethnic backgrounds do influence their subcultural ties. The curtain drew even wider when we tried to move out of the scope of subcultures defined by music. I brought up Queer Culture (citing West Hollywood (WeHo) a place most of them are familiar with because of the university's proximity to LA) which led students into brainstorming about other cultures not normally recognized such as Deaf Culture and Geek Culture.

I was impressed by my students openness to share and explore, even on the first day of class. I learned about a student who considers herself part of a Robotics subcultural (she competed in robotics competitions in high school and loves the conventions), I have an international student with a love for comic books, a student who identifies with a culture surrounding the TV show, The Office, another who listed "a group of adventurers," and yet another who noted he was from the Bay Area which lends itself to its own subcultures. He even joked how people know he is from northern California because he uses the term "hella." This launched a great discussion about how subcultures don't only share music but sometimes are more centralized around certain language or a certain way of dressing.

It's wonderful because every semester, I am reminded of the diversity of the people in my different communities. It's great to be able to show my students other ideas and cultures; and learning just as much from each of them.

Hopefully, they put as much thought and enthusiasm into their first essays as they did into their first day of class. Part of my job as their instructor is to make sure this excitement and interest is sustained throughout the semester. So, cheers to the launch of Spring Semester 2011: a reminder that my students have alot to learn... and just as much to teach.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Disneyland Hypocrisy

On a normal basis, I am very pro-small business. I actively try to attend the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning to get fresh, local produce (and use public transport to get there – yay!). I stay as far away from Wal-Mart as possible. When the bank allows, I try to shop at all my favorite mom and pop stores. We love supporting local, independent breweries and I try my hardest not to waste (we recycle, use cloth diapers, that sort of good stuff). When we eventually have a yard, I want to grow my own veggies and practice composting. I always make jokes about “the man” and corporations, yet…
                I love Disneyland. LOVE Disneyland. Love as in the we-have-annual-passes-even-though-we-really-can’t-afford-it, any-time-we-come-to-Long-Beach-we-go, smooshy-ooey-gooey, unicorns and rainbows, kind of way. And Disney, well, it basically is the epitome of consumerism and waste.
                I don’t even like the whole “rescue me, oh prince, because I’m a helpless princess”story lines. Or the fact that all the princesses are unrealistically thin and have to be saved by a man in order to be happy. I mean, where are all the queer, genderfck princesses at?
                Yet, when I enter Main Street and hear the Disneyland band playing a tune and walk up the middle of the street to that big, pink castle, I’m filled with giddy happiness. I love the Buzz Lightyear ride and geek out on all the Star Wars merchandise. I spend way too much money on one ear of corn from Frontierland and love my ride through hell on Mr. Toad’s. The carousel is always a must and I am ever so excited for the opening of The Little Mermaid ride in the near future.
                But I know it’s all fake. And I know the Disney corporation both makes and spends copious amounts of money all so that people can indulge in these fantasies that usually reinforce heternormative, patriarchal society. You should have seen me go into a gender theory reading over the Tiki Room. I could write a whole blog post about the phallic symbol of that burst of water in the middle of the room, about how all the birds that actually talk and have names are male, and that the only female birds we see don’t have individual voices but sing, in unison, in over-feminized costumes and are beckoned from the ceiling by the main male bird. Yet, I still skip and dance right past the Tiki Room on my way to New Orleans.
                I guess it’s hard to always, no matter what, practice what you preach. I recognize the hypocrisy in my love for Disney but I also recognize how it is yet another example in my life about how everything is not just black and white. On one hand, Disney can be seen as evil reinforcement of societal norms and the constant need for more-more-more. On the other hand, Disney does donate to charities and brings happiness to lots of people. And maybe it’s good to get alternative culture into the middle of something so big and so mainstream to start changing it from the inside out (like the LGBTQ weekend at Disneyland every October. It’s not technically Disney sanctioned, but oh man, is it practiced). We’re obviously a long way off from seeing a gay princess and his prince but by people participating in the Disney culture in their own unique ways, we’ve begun our process of storming that pretty, pink castle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mom-As-Best-Friend Dilemma

I know many women, and men, whose mom and/or dad are their best friend. It’s great to see the closeness – going out on weekends together, talking every day, constantly at one another’s houses – if that is what’s healthiest and best for that relationship. Maybe these friendships budded in adulthood or maybe they’ve been there since childhood.
                However, I’ve always needed my mother to be just that – my mother. She is the only person in my life who can be that for me and I desperately needed her to fill those shoes. I’ve had best friends throughout my life (even if some of them were imaginary) so, I had that covered. What I needed more than anything was a mother. And this didn’t mean perfection. I didn’t need a 1950’s housewife, everything-is-wonderful-no-matter-what mother. Just someone there to set up a foundation of trust and security.
                I want to remind myself of this desire and need as Droidlet gets older. That what he needs me to be (whether he knows it or not) is his mama. Someone who sets up that foundation of trust and security; a stable foundation that he can jump from and explore, on his own or with guidance. One of the greatest gifts I can give him is a stable, safe environment from which to catapult into the world – a place he knows he can come back to but allows him the freedom of exploration and experience. The only way I can offer up an environment like this is by being his mama; by doing the not-so-fun aspects of parenting, such as discipline, right along with the wonderful aspects of parenting. Hopefully, this means he will come to respect me and know he can come to me for advice. I want to be affectionate and playful, show him ranges of emotion, but I never want him to feel like he is responsible for me, that he has to take care of me, or that he has to worry about what I’m doing with my life.
                Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to cuddle Droidlet, or play board games, or build forts, or run around like imaginary animals or have all of the other, wonderful, creative experiences with my son. I mean, where else am I going to put all this crazy love I have for him? It also doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore what he, as an individual, needs from me. If he turns out to be the kind of kid that needs a kick in the butt, I’ll be doing the butt-kicking; if he turns out to be the kind of kid who needs lots of emotional support and a shoulder to cry on, I’ll be there. I’m going to be his number one supporter of whatever he chooses in his life. Motherhood, like most things in life, seems to fall on a spectrum. I’d like to be somewhere between the complete-hard-ass-no-emotion-showing mama and the I-just-wanna-be-your-friend-do-whatever-you-want mama.
                 I’m not delusional. I know I’m not going to be perfect. I’m going to be far from perfect. I’m going to slip up and make mistakes. But I’ll learn from the mistakes and try again (another great lesson for Droidlet). Then, maybe in adulthood, we can share a few beers over dinner and while we reminisce about awesome camping trips he can also tell me, “Mom, I hated it when you [fill in the blank with some sort of parenting wisdom awesomeness I hope I eventually have], but I’m so happy you did.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vegan Super Hero

It always sends a little zip of happiness through my body when I make a food dish for a shindig/get together and after everyone has eaten it (or someone asks about it) I say, “Oh, and it’s vegan.” And then I hear, “No way!” “Seriously?” “This is too good to be vegan.” Sometimes, this makes me feel like a vegan super hero. Like I should be saving the city at dinner time, one plate at a time, with delicious vegan food that they wouldn’t be able to tell was animal-free unless they knew. My unitard and cape would be animal friendly, too, of course.
                The thing is, I’m not even a very good cook. It’s not like I sit in the kitchen for hours, crafting over a bubbling cauldron, adding super secret vegan deliciousness into every morsel. I have a four month old and a hungry Funk at home. My time in the kitchen is usually limited and with my extremely slow knife skills, the time for cooking can get pretty short. And I don’t buy into the whole “if you can read, you can cook” thing because, quite frankly, this is the girl who (pre-veganism) burnt break and bake cookies. Break and bake. And burn.
                It really is all about practice. The more I cook, the better it gets. Did I ever think I could make chile cornmeal crusted tofu and it would be easy? Hell no. But that’s what we had for dinner a few nights ago. A huge step up from the watered down, too much oil, with lilting vegetable tofu I was making a year ago.
                There seems to be this misconception that all us vegans eat are bamboo shoots, grass, and some seeds. This is a fallacy. Vegan food is delicious. Just ask my friend over at Idle Hands Baking Company. Or ask Funk about my blueberry fudge brownies. Chili and lime rubbed tofu, shepherdess pie, chipotle bean burgers… all vegan, all delicious, all the time. And now I sound like a cheesy commercial.
                But seriously, vegan food gets a bad wrap when not only is it delicious, it’s animal friendly, earth friendly, and when prepared right, ridiculously healthy. Different health problems I had ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (gross, I know) to fatigue to yo-yo weight gaining are all gone with the elimination of meat and dairy. It’s a whole new body, and not, may I add, in that ultra-sickly skinny looking way (Trust me. If I looked malnourished my Nana would drug me, drag me to a hospital, and tube feed me until I was nice and plump), but in a healthy, my body is functioning properly, kind of way.
                So, maybe I need to make one day a week a vegan day on my blog where I post food porn of the recipe I made that night and/or other vegan adventures and elicit vegan challenges to the interwebs world. Whaddya think? I can put on my super hero mask and channel Superman. After all, he is a vegetarian.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Engagement Without the Ring

Whenever I mention anything dealing with “our wedding plans,” I see people flash to my left-hand “ring finger” and say, “But you don’t have a ring.” I even had one friend ask, “Aren’t you moving a little fast?” Which just made me laugh out loud because Funk and I have a four month old and we have been together for a year and four months. Moving fast? Well…
                This, of course, led me to ponder what makes a fiancée. Apparently, in our culture, an engagement ring makes a fiancée. Or maybe, a facebook ‘relationship status update’ and a ring make a fiancée. For me, I’m engaged without an engagement ring. However, when I was younger, I had envisioned the traditional scene. Girl meets boy. They fall in love. Boy gets down on one knee. Girl squeels, pops her foot, cries, says “yes.” Wedding bells ring. Make babies. As I got older, some variations got put in. Girl meets boy or girl. They fall in love. One or the other pops the question, on or not on, one knee. Both are happy, maybe cry, says “yes.” Time to party. Make a baby (through biology or IVF) or adopt.  And now I find myself in a different situation.
                Funk and I have decided we are getting married. We have even decided that it will be in June 2012 on the CSUCI campus in the morning. We’ve had late night, or during Droidlet feedings, discussions about how we want the décor to be both Steampunk and Dungeons and Dragons inspired. We’ve asked Funk’s brother in law to officiate and I’ve already been gathering ideas about how we want to write the ceremony with him. But I don’t have an engagement ring.
                I almost wish I had some awesome philosophy behind why I don’t have an engagement ring – like, I was the one who proposed to Funk so we forewent the ring, or that I don’t follow the tradition of having a symbol of betrothement to someone else, or that I think engagement rings a lucrative waste of money – but, I don’t. I’ve joked about “officially proposing” to Funk (he loooooves the idea and wishes I would) because I do think that it’s awesome but I guess there is a little bit of old-fashioned romanticism left inside of me. What it boils down to is that we found the perfect ring/wedding band. It’s from Jewelry by Da'Oud, who we met at the Renaissance Faire last year. He uses wax mold castings, recycled metals, and second-hand diamonds from conflict-free areas. FOR THE WIN. And the ringset is amazing. And we just don’t have the funds for it right now. But when we do, we’re going to buy it, along with Funk’s matching band, and have some sort of “official” askance awesomeness.
                Does this mean we’re not engaged yet? No way. I am in the beginning stages of wedding planning and child-raising and at the ending stages of my Master’s program and dating days. Just because I don’t have a ring on my left hand doesn’t make me any less entitled to planning my wedding than anyone else. So, all of you ladies, and men, out there rockin’ the no engagement ring or even no wedding band, more power to you. It’s not a ring that makes a wedding and it’s not a wedding that makes a relationship. Here’s to rising above the signifiers.