for health and food, for love and friends

sacrifice, verb:
TO OFFER UP: immolate, slaughter.
TO GIVE UP: abandon, surrender, forgo, renounce, forfeit, relinquish, resign, abdicate; betray.

I think our vehicle is just about the spookiest car ever during the cold and wet weather we have to come – weather like we had tonight. There is about a half inch of standing water on the inside (in the soggy months we grow mushrooms and once, quinoa, in the back footwells) which means the window interiors are completely fogged up when you enter. A handful of stuff doesn’t work right: example, the dashboard lights, leaving it dark and inhospitable as a little waterlogged crypt. Tonight upon leaving my date with J. I peek in the back to affirm no one is lurking there and waiting to strangle me (DAMN YOU violent/scary television shows – I only have watched one of such in the last several months and it has me half-terrorized!). Then I’m driving home and it’s dripping and dank like a WWII U-Boat but without any sweaty German sailors to keep me company.

I’m a little blue, probably because I had to throw out my last pair of pajama bottoms and my second-to-last pair of jeans a few days ago, they finally fell apart. Last night I slept in a too-small t-shirt and tiny shabby men’s boxer briefs. There’s some kind of place on my little Comfort Gauge that gets tripped now and then when the variety of Needs becomes too much to navigate; I don’t mind juggling but I hate feeling overwhelmed and sad (things used to be a lot harder; I’m grateful today we can pay our bills). Like when I don’t have a single dress for winter and I’m carefully washing my four pair of socks and a friend online posts pictures of their entire closet piled with of shoes and I go count and I have six pair, including one pair of Old Navy flipflops (Doesn’t Work For Winter) and a pair of Danskos I bought long ago and don’t wear (anyone want ’em? size 39), or when Phoenix’s child friend comes over and looks in my closet and says, “These are ALL of your clothes? I have four times this many!” or when I can’t really figure out what to scrape a few bucks off to buy (because Ralph will bend as far as he can to help me be happy and would not begrudge me anything) simply because I don’t quite know where to start.

I’ve written about these feelings before, borrrring. I inwardly grown at the thought of hearing postulated “solutions” because what I mostly want to do is write about it, the writing itself moves me to clarity. Regarding less personalized dictums, hearing the frequent admonitions to mothers to “not put themselves last” and to make sure to get themselves a pedicure and have a cup of tea by themselves in the morning, it chaps my ass. First off it’s typical condescending be-ladying (Right. TEA will solve our problems! and P.S. large edifices in our entire culture flourish by mothers Putting Themselves Last, and most people don’t seem to mind). And the fact is some things have to go last, for a time at least, and sometimes they’re my things, and I have the right to talk about my feelings now and then without being told How I Could Do It Better as Wife/Mother/Laydee.

I rarely, ever, think about what life might have been like without children. I remember when I was just about to come off maternity leave after Phoenix was born and my husband, slated to return home to raise our child, received a rather generous employment offer from the mill where we were employed. Our combined salary would have been over six figures and that seemed like a lot to me then (it seems like a lot now!). I was sitting in my parents’ living room when the phone call came in, nursing our firstborn. Ralph and I looked at one another and my mom excitedly asked us what we’d do. It felt momentous to have to choose but at the same time as familiar and simple and fierce as who was lying in my arms.

Of course even if we’d dual-incomed this whole family business we would have still had kids and the work and commitment children require for those who take responsibility, well, I could never have imagined beforehand. Today I can’t craft a picture of my life without them and I don’t get up to much guessing or claims about it either (just like I didn’t predict the structure of life-with-kids before I had mine, either). One thing that irritates me when talking about starting a family is people act like you could have it all figured out or planned or all Awesome ahead of time. Maybe some people can, I dunno. In my experiences my kids changed my life (absolutely and finally, and for the better) and since I went down that road I’ve had to make choices I never thought I’d imagine and I’ve been challenged and surprised just about every damn day. It’s like going through some kind of Hell that is better than anything I’ve ever experienced. Even my trip through postpartum despair and mania (after Nels) helped me dig deep and now I have the gift of being able to remember myself with Awe. Events have been as formative as my DNA and no longer can be separated from my personhood.

So why should I feel silly about our car, or my steadfast and day-to-day choice to ignore the cultural messages a woman who really cared about herself would dress up, would not “let herself go”, or would perform some other task of Ornamental Femininity that involved something other than used men’s Levi’s hacked off at the ankle, and old Doc Martens carefully tended, and coconut oil as moisturizer, and a careful plate on my secondhand dresser with a collection of $3 earrings. Someday my children will be out of my home and feeding and caring for themselves (likely) and I’ll have a little more for myself (maybe) and maybe I can have some of those many Nice Things I see so many others enjoying or maybe I’ll be smart and blessed enough to have learned to not think about it all too much.

That said, the concept of “sacrifice” in order to raise children has always irritated me. Partially because it frames childraising in, surprise surprise, a negative light (and frames child as “choice” instead of part of human life). Something that once you pick means you can’t have a lot of other really awesome shit like The Cool Kids do. Like there was all this other, better stuff out there and you’re scratching it off the list with gritted teeth, to later tell your kids how you did so. (That sounds like a great way to make my kids feel pretty shitty, then they can grow up and make their own kids feel shitty.) I have no problem if other people want to frame it that way, sacrifice. For me being pissed about it or wistful or using it as an excuse to live a less-full life, it would be like having a private mental life fantasizing about other people besides my partner (or having an active physical one screwing around, behind his back). If I don’t want to be here, don’t want to do it, I don’t have to. And I know it.

Today we went to a friend’s birthday party and I got to meet some lovely new grownups. My children played and raced around and ate and picked apples and delighted me entirely. Phoenix was complimented on her name and she said Thank You. And after a beat I told the group, “She chose it herself.” (She’s never bragged on this and I think she should!) The party attendees were a little confused as it obviously did not occur to them how this could be, that a small child could have chosen their own name. I told them about the change and the adults responsed favorably, one woman saying, “That is so cool you let her do it!” And I thought to myself yeah, it really is. The thing is I didn’t learn how to be a better person on my own nor improve much upon my nature unaided. I have the kids’ help, for which I’ll always feel a deep, bottomless gratitude.

trains and sewing machines

One thing I haven’t really talked about is I’ve taken a new commitment (unpaid, for/with awesome people/projects who totally deserve support!) and it’s taking up a bit of my time. There’s a milestone just passing now and I might get a small reprieve for more personal projects. I’ll tell you, I’m looking forward to it. Because today’s work also included designing the programs for the 7th Street Theatre‘s upcoming movie, a job I’ve been doing for the 3+ years since I moved back. My various work is resulting in pain through my right arm.

Anyway, summation: Ralph and I have both, for various and mostly unrelated reasons, been working harder than usual. We’re barely catching up on our sleep, let alone getting time to ourselves to decompress. Patience: I know times of busyness and stress pass.

Running helps. It’s lovely. I swear I enjoy this time most when I’m listening to depressing and/or violently loud music. Highlights from today: Beck’s “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” (by the way I have been told by more than one person I remind them of Kate Winslet’s character Clementine from the associated film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Flattering!) and Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” (vocoder not autotune, fools), which is goddamned poetry by the way*:

Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before the takeover/
The sweeping insensitivity/
Of this still life.

I totally love listening to songs about divorce while happily married. It’s like walking up to a cliff and looking over.

* And since I don’t have a TV, it hasn’t been ruined for me by the cheesy use in Pretty White Kids With Problems shows and their parodies, w00t.

sexism hurts men too (oh, and women)

Today on the internetz (readers who want my fluffy-family posts just skip this one; I’ll be in full bucolic-family-life effect in a few hours):

On Free Range Kids a discussion emerges about “stranger danger” being unfairly leveled at all men (which it is). I posted to the effect that yeah, it sucks, but in a blog that is primarily about actively rejecting the harmful effects of mainstream fear culture, perhaps we should support more men committing to proactive action, not just complaining about paranoid women – otherwise they continue in the larger cultural abdication of responsibility for children and child-rearing (deemed: women-only).

Predictably a commentor named Stuart decides to engage primarily with my use of the phrase “nut up or shut up” (which was in poor taste altho’ I note it is used with impunity by men). Stuart asks what would happen if he used sexist langauge toward women (Gee, I wonder what would happen – perhaps we can look in this thread itself and see sexist language levelled at laydeez going entirely unchecked) and then tells me I don’t understand gender-based harassment (ha! hahahahaha!) and implies I ignore sexism in women (nope). But of course Stuart does not put one toe in the water of my charge that it is seriously problematic when men soley blame women for their lack of involvement in the child-village, and perform no other action besides the blameinz (note I am not charging a single individual man of doing so – it’s up to him to self-evaluate here).

Anyone reading here knows, of course, how rubber-meets-the-road my husband is in being one of those men that, you know, actually does speak to other people’s children, waves and smiles at them, picks them up, feeds them, takes them to the park or the bathroom  – and doesn’t molest them! (I know! It’s kind of crazy!). So please understand handwringing about how men just can’t do this stuff because of teh wimminz is met with wry cynicism by both of us. For which, here dear reader, I apologize (because truthfully it does suck men get told they’re ALL MOLESTER ASSHOLES). I’ve just heard the lady-blaminz too much and it’s often a smokescreen for a lot of unhelpful action or inaction on the part of a lot of men.  Speaking to exactly WHAT a man can do and HOW MUCH he can help/assist/wave at child? Yeah, Ralph Hogaboom wrote the fucking book, why don’t you ask him how it’s going (I did. He said he gets a lot of “Thank yous” and smiles from mothers, and he’d be happy to give advice to men wanting to step up more).

Incidentally the derisive sexism aimed toward men who perform “traditional” women’s roles (everything from dishes to pushing a kid on a swing at a park) was experienced by us in a very real way the first year of our daughter’s life while Ralph stayed home with her and I worked-for-pay and has continued full-force since Ralph is so family-and-child active. This sexism was/is levied by both men and women and, like many constrictive gender roles containes an underbelly which is not only reductive to men but also perpetrates oppressive attitudes toward women and short-changes children. But perhaps most surprisingly to those who would lie back, shake their head and bemoan men “can’t” do this-or-that because of the Evil Sexism of Paranoid Women, Ralph experienced Sexism more often in his “favor”; that is, he received and continues to receive fawning attention, compliments, and accolades for being “Superdad” (while performing what he calls the “bare minimum standard” of child-care).

Sexism indeed.

Anyone reading here probably also knows how important it is to my husband and I that more men engage in educating themselves on so-called “Women’s Issues” (which are really Human Rights issues), and yes that includes non-rapists and self-proclaimed “I’m not part of the problem!” men. And hint, fellers: the first step is to read, read, read, read more, and listen, avoid mansplaining, and when you’ve read and read and read you might start talking, and – this part is important, expect to get schooled (and yeah, it hurts sometimes, I’ve been there re: straight-privilege, anti-racism, anti-imperialism, etc). If you’re here and give a damn that my husband and I give a damn about this lady-business, go ahead and read and read and read some more

Or just Get Off My Lawn! and by that I mean my blog.

In other happy news, the twelfth Carnival of Feminist Parenting has been put up at Mother’s for Women’s Lib. Knowing Anji, it’s going to be chalk-full of awesomeness. I’ve read about a third of the pieces.  Here are some that spoke to me:

“Is stay at home motherhood a class issue?” (UK blog)
Short answer: Yes.

“Kids: screw ‘Em” at Pandagon
Money quote: “Needless to say, Robert Rector considers himself ‘pro-life’.  You’re precious to him on a cellular level, but once you start breathing and feeling and eating through anything but an umbilical cord, you’re on your own.”

“Yes, I Am a Feminist Housewife” by Natasha at Offbeat Mama
Dont worry, honey, you’ll grow out of wanting to self-apply that label the more you read feminist blogs who tell you how much you suck. Snark aside? She writes a lovely article.

What does feminism have to do with breastfeeding? at Breastfeeding Medicine.
Breastfeeding: a “choice” (which we can then skewer ALL women with, no matter what they choose) or a reproductive right?

From formspring: Corporate women & breeder hate

Asked on formspring by a reader of Underbellie. Keep in mind I am no expert on high finance but was asked to weigh in on an article that concerns this world:

Along the lines of your posts on underbellie on society devaluing mothers, two thoughts – The first, best summed up here:

“Wall Street’s Disappearing Women” at forbes.com

And the second, this whole hatred for “breeders”. Discuss!

I am just now getting to this question as I found that Forbes article difficult to wade through. My first thought: even despite data, facts, and many (heretofore unimpeachable) professional women’s testimonies, it is still impressive how many people will try to come up with ANY possible reason these women “deserve” a disproportionate rate of firing and or (fake) “layoffs” (my favorite line of reasoning: new mothers categorically “lose their edge”. Complete and utter bullshyt).

The story of Rosenberg and Bostjancic at Merrill (and Bostjancic’s immediate replacement after years of “stellar” work) is a very telling (and predictable, and depressing) one. In fact all the stories are depressing(ly familiar) and I wish these fighting women luck in their suits brought against these companies. As women in powerful positions the battle they’re waging has far-reaching implications for all professional women and (I’d hope) even working- and middle-class women.

As long as women are still expected to do most of the childrearing, and then punished when they *do* have children (or evidence of family life), it’s pretty obvious how severely the deck is stacked against them. I had some of this fallout in my career as an engineer but for brevity’s sake I will not go into it now; if you’d like to chat more do re-question or send me an email at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org.

Back to the Forbes article: compare the reactions to professional women and their marginalization especially when it comes to family life with the reactions regarding suggested changes at Downing Street (not corporate but the highest gov’t office in Britian):

http://www.fertilefeminism.com/in-the-news/downing-street-goes-family-time-friendly/

Notice anything similar? Women are expected to be doing all the at-home stuff, and expected not to lead, to be paid, or afforded status for their “less important” work.

If you are interested in more evidence regarding our less-than-egalitarian country regarding men and women’s roles in the workplace and family, I recommend adding this blog to your feed reader:

http://contexts.org/socimages/

I’m sure there are better ones but this is one I enjoy.

“This whole hatred for ‘breeders'”: goodness. This is where I lose my chipper optimism and just begin to feel despair. First of all, the hatred of “breeders” is of course disproportionally heaped on A. women and B. children (OMG you childfree grownup you are *so awesome* for picking on a four year old!). Secondly, it’s about the most short-sided kind of hatred I can think of, by turns insensitive, callous, and selfish. Only miliseconds ago according to the calendar of our Earth YOU were born and cared for and fed and raised up and clothed; mere milliseconds from now you will be aging and dying, your body failing and nurses and family and friends ushering you on with kindness and compassion (if you are fortunate to live a natural life). In addition, any of us are only one accident away or one illness away from disability. Boy, in all THOSE cases (infancy, illness, old age, disability, our death bed) we sure will be happy for those nice people who give selflessly to care for us!

But for now? F*ck those snot-nosed brats and their cattle-like parents (moms).

So, so sad. I’m glad breeder-hate is a rare and vocal minority, but I do feel so down when I see it. It demonstrates some of the worst qualities human beings can evidence.

Thank you very much for your input; your article was a good one to share.

Home

what counts

Why bake one loaf of bread when its as easy to make a few for everyone?

Why bake one loaf of bread when it's as easy to make a few for everyone?

My husband’s co-worker M.* is very sick with what looks like an advanced case of cancer. Ralph has, since taking the job at the college, been bringing my food – especially my baked goods – to share at work.  M. has really enjoyed my breads especially. I think at first he thought maybe we were bread-peers to have a competition, but he’s now thrown over as me the “winner” and him the recipient of my awesome bread. So I’ve taken to baking a loaf just for M.  I love baking bread – I mean I love it, it will lift me out of any minor depressive state. And I love making it for other people even more.

Food-wise today I also made a yellow cake with double-chocolate cream cheese frosting and decorative kumquats and of course, breakfast and dinner (chicken lettuce wraps and vegetable fried rice).  For lunch the kids and I took shelter from the rain at one of our favorite local eateries, a homey place that specializes in Italian fare. The three of us split a steak lunch and I wrapped every bit of extra meat in a piece of foil to take home to the cats.

I love diner eating with the kids for lunch.  It feels like a little tradition of sorts.  I won’t lie, the kids don’t always never sit still and if I’m hungry it sets me on edge.  I’ve been smart lately and brought some math workbooks for the two of them to mess about with while we wait for our meal.  Nels in particular shows a joy and adventurous proficiency in the subject; he worked on a first grade level today and after solving the numeracy problems assiduously decorated each cone, square, circle and triangle into corresponding real-life shapes (party hat, wooden block, eyeball, and tooth, resp.). Sophie and I sat on one side of the booth and we couldn’t get enough of holding one another, scooting in and kissing or snuggling. She smells better to me than just about anything else, even fresh-baked bread.

* Not his real initial.

just like Loverboy used to sing

My husband is working four ten-hour days during the summer weeks (which will likely end in the fall, when I teach classes at the college two nights a week) so now, Thursday night, our weekend is suddenly upon us. The depressed / anxious / stressed persona of my spouse the last week or so has lifted this evening, and I’m not sure why.  It could be the end of the work week; it could be the effort I put into our chickens and their coop yesterday (which Ralph had felt was being neglected).  It could be rehearsal with his band today preceded by dinner of filet de beouf poele with sauteed mushrooms, glazed carrots, sliced orange tomato – and no dinner cleanup. It could be all the hard work he put into making t-shirts, CDs and CD cases – with a fair bit of help from a very talented friend – resulting in a tidy little pile of merchandise that he will distribute in the most awesome Creative Commons methodology that is his hallmark (can you tell on some levels I really l ike the guy?).

Regardless, I am happy to have him back to being a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Tomorrow we are sojourning out to Helsing Farm’s sleepover and music festival for a bit of sun, river play, great food, and music. Saturday heralds The Redbird Fever’s first show at an HQX bar called Stiffy’s; I’m not sure if I’m going (it’s 21-and-over and I haven’t sussed out somewhere for the kids to be).

Tonight: collapse into bed with a good B-movie and some rather sleepy kids.

the sun is in the sky oh why oh why

It felt like I kept running into beautiful people today. First, there was the trip to work with my kids:

Precious Cargo
Nels is all smiles about ten minutes before he and I had a huge throwdown involving taffy. Photo by Sophie.

Cat Wants In
Did I mention the cat rode on the trunk of my car a city block yesterday when I left? Here he has just been rebuffed in his efforts to join us. Packed in the bike: swimgear for three, embroidery project of Sophie’s, spices for today’s soup, my purse, various warm hats.

After I took this picture I pulled into the neighbor’s back driveway to get out of the way of the alley. The neighbor soon emerged and eyed me askance as I packed. I explained I’d be on my way in a minute but she looked unfriendly and unconvinced. Sometimes I think people are really boggled by the amount of kid-age on the bike; I get a lot of stares. 90% of them are friendly, but not always. I look forward to the day when many, many more people carry many more things on bikes on many more of our roads.

Kelly + Coffee + X = Heaven!
Ralph bought me a new coat; I’ve had the same outdoor coat since my marriage, given as a gift. I like this one much more. It certainly makes me visible! Photo by Sophie.

Riverside, HQX
We’ve had a series of lovely sunny days for much of winter. And here I’d been bracing for rain. Sophie again operating the camera.

Docs + Fishnets + Bike
Our footgear. We borrow a digital camera; I look forward to one day owning one, especially in light of what great fun the kids seem to have in clicking away.

Today's Destination!
About to embark on a very busy shift at work. This is another rare smile of Nels’ this morning as we had yet another fight inside. After work I took my boss’ boy K. to the YMCA; lugging even more weight on the bike. Ralph brought Nels over from school and the three kids swam and swam and swam. We got home well after five.

doesn’t always play well with others

My day begins thusly: lying in bed, listening to my husband and son talk downstairs. Our new house is technically a three-bedroom; the largest bedroom being a refurbished attic, a huge, long room. Our families two beds are set up at opposing ends of the room. We have three pieces of furniture and a plant besides. It is a nice room; the first time my family has lived in a house with an upstairs.

I move to the end of the bed, still yawning sleep out of my eyes, and log into my computer. The stripey cat Harris hears me stir and pads upstairs, strops himself against my legs, and scarfs down the last bit of Mexican pastry left on the blue Fiesta plate on the floor. He then moves over to a lavender catnip-filled cat toy and begins to chew on one of its legs, thoughtfully, pedantically. My daughter sleeps behind me – dead to the world. Solidly out.

Lately I feel driven to create, to sew, to knit, to clean – to drag secondhand couches home, to make party favors for my childrens birthdays (months away!). My sewing room saw the completion of two projects yesterday (one that I started in the afternoon: a new pair of lined pants for Sophie). I would gladly work myself into exhaustion each night if I wasn’t aware that life requires periods of rest and connection. This is hard for me; to sit down on the couch, play a game with the kids, make eye contact with my husband and relax against his chest for a while.

Downstairs I hear my husband clipping my son’s fingernails, their voices at a sweet murmur. The day’s first cup of coffee calls to me. Our last day together before Ralph goes back to work.

trabajo mucho hoy… y como comidas buenas

Have I mentioned that I waitress a few hours a week – and I love it? The money is nice enough (and the tips surprisingly high sometimes), but I like the work far more for other reasons. Namely, I enjoy being a good waitress (or trying to be one), I love my boss (love her!), enjoy my coworkers (especially that little trollop Jz.), and believe in the restaurant I work in more than I’ve believed in any other restaurant. Hard to explain the place – called a Deli, it seems to me a combination of a diner and a bistro – and it’s pure magic!

A few highlights of my day: a Latino family who visited our restaurant for the first time and I was able to speak some of my (poor, limited) Spanish – an enterprise I love!* Halfway through their meal the gentleman at the table saw my parcel of pan dulce from La Unica Panaderia (I’d asked my mom to bring some to share) and came up to the counter to ask after it (eschewing the one hundred thousand types of ice cream confections, muffins, pies, tarts, etc. that we actually sell in the Deli). In fact he almost took some off my plate. I offered him some (“free gratis”) and in the next hour watched him continue to come up for more.

My favorite customer, though: the gentleman who ordered a large bowl of clam chowder (Award-Winning!) and an egg salad sandwich.

When I asked him what kind of bread he wanted on his sandwich, he said: “I don’t care… I’m not a pussy!”**

WTF?

* This might seem odd, but I actually speak Spanish an awful lot in my mind and the rest of the day kept thinking: ¿Mas café, Señor? and ¿Necessitas una cajeta para llevar?

^^ edit – g-d ASCII characters!!! ^^

** Ralph points out that this meal – an egg salad sandwich – is, in fact, exactly comfort food for a ten year old kid. So I’m not sure what all this brusque reply was meant to convey, but it may have been a wee bit defensive. “Can I heat you up some milk and smash some saltines in it, little tiger?”

i will also look back in years hence, and likely be bored reading this

My small-town life is so busy and often so fulfilling I don’t take the time to write about it that I’d like to. For instance today: This morning I spent almost an hour on the phone with an educator (discussing Sophie’s school curriculum) while the kids first tussled on the bed (having woken up together all-smiles) then ate breakfast. Time to clean up, dress, make beds, and we were off to the Food Bank where I am training to help manage inventories in the event the Director takes a vacation (she will) or, what I’m really thinking, finally retires having shoehorned me into the job (which I admit would be very cool). Except the Food Bank wasn’t ready for us so: off to the Deli to get a tuna melt to bring my mom, who is suffering physically (hurt back) as well as a few other ways that aren’t mine to reveal. While there I sat and had my own lunch while my children played with the Shop Kid K., in the sunshine at an outdoor table. Mayberry, indeed – a life built perfectly for us, an eden.

Then: off to Aberdeen to pick up two pounds bulk pinenuts for my upcoming pesto-making adventure, stopping in to check out soccer gear for my girl, and buying the last bits of my anniversary package for my husband.

In a few minutes: off on the bike to help conduct Parent Orientation at our Co-op Preschool – and don’t think I’m not super-excited for it!