Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stuff I've been working on

With LB, we've been working on manners and doing our best to model what we want to see from her.  Today she said to me: "After your done with that, could you please get my flower swimmy."  Amazing.  No feral child there.

This week I got an NEH grant. Which is to say, I was the behind-the-scenes person on an NEH grant.  My colleague and friend had the idea and did the bulk of the writing, I did a bit of writing and worked the connections.  Which means, I got an NEH grant (not a huge one).  Every time I think about it I want to laugh manically, because I'm no longer an academic and I got an NEH grant.

I'm out of my cooking slump.  Our fridge looks like healthy eaters live here. 

I made this Cabbage Torta from the NYTimes.  The pastry was excellent, overall very good recipe.

I made this chicken and shallot dish, also from the times.  Pretty good, I might try it again with pork, I wasn't super into the chicken thighs, but the flavor was good. 

I also made Trinidadian doubles, kind of like this recipe, but I do a dough with baking soda rather than yeast.  Delish.

I've also been making granola every weekend, LB is a big help, and eating that in the morning with yogurt.

And my lovely coworker gave me two dozen farm eggs, so we've been eating lots of hard boiled and fried eggs.

That's what's happening around here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Circle Time

That's right, the learning never stops around here.

LB came home from daycare this week complaining that: "L said I was a monster.  I not a monster.  I told Miss A!"

Presumably L meant something along the lines of "Tag, now you're the monster.  Chase me!" But, I was cracking up imagining a tiny L confronting a tiny LB with the statement "YOU ARE A MONSTER!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From the Preschool Files

Yesterday LB woke up in a terrible mood.  She cried and fussed and windged like it was her job.  And as she lay prostrate on the stairs, overcome by the idea of putting on her socks, I said to B, "WHY IS SHE SUCH A HUGE CRAB!"  LB increased the volume screaming "I AM NOT A HUGE CRAP, I AM NOT!"  Awkward.  But, at least she wasn't yelling "Fuck you, and fuck her too" [NOTE: B just expressed concern that gentle readers might not realize that those are song lyrics from a song by the artist CeeLo Green.  Not to worry, we are not cursing each other out here at the cozy house, we are simply singing along to inappropriate pop songs.] or any of the other non-daycare-appropriate phases that are spoken, sung, and yelled around here.

The younger set has gotten hip to the fact that LB has two mommies. Her classmate Allen had a little conversation with me that went like this:

A: What's your name?
Me: Mary
A: Does LB have two moms?
Me: Yes, LB has a Mama and a Mommy.
A: Hank has two moms.
Me: Cool.

End scene

End then today from another kid:

J: What's your name?
Me: Mary
J: Does LB have a daddy?
Me: No, she doesn't
J: Why doesn't LB have a daddy or a sister or a brother
Me: Maybe she'll have a brother or sister some day

And from LB after one of our very few playdates:

LB: Why R has a daddy?
Me: Some kids have a daddy, you have a mommy and a mama
LB: ...and a grammy and a grandad and a Jojo (our dog)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Preeclampsia in the News (short version: Juice Plus does NOT cure preeclampsia)

Most people who come to this site through search engines are looking for information about preeclampsia or giving birth on magnesium sulfate, both topics I've written about.  I have a google alert for preeclampsia news, and when I come across interesting or useful information I post it.

Most of the stuff I come across is really depressing, like this facebook thread. I don't think the woman who asked the original question about how to treat her preeclampsia at 27w (with two previous pre-e pregnancies) was wrong to ask this question on the internets.  That's what we do these day, we ask on the internets.  But I do think the crowdsourced advice that she received is scary.  Will it hurt this woman to do the Brewer's diet or give up hotdogs or take magnesium supplements?  No, probably not.  The problem is that our little human minds want so desperately to believe what we want to believe.  It's too easy to take advice based on no scientific evidence and think "I definitely feel better.  I definitely have less swelling.  My head hurts less.  That high BP reading must be a fluke." Which is fine until you wake in a hospital bed after passing out on your bathroom floor.

This thread from the Midwifery Today facebook thread was more useful in terms of offering a diversity of opinions, but worse in the multiple recommendations of Juice Plus (that's a trademarked product name) as a cure for preeclampsia.  Yes, from the "you've got to be kidding me" files, you can both participate in a multi-level marketing scheme AND cure preeclampsia.  In addition to JP, most supplement purveyors seem to have a number of expensive supplements to prevent and cure preeclampsia.

I wish there was a simple and natural cure for preeclampsia.  I'd love to be able to tell every woman who comes to this site desperate and scared that for only $44.50 a month she can buy a cure.  Instead I'm a adding a new rule to my rules for preeclampsia--never trust a health-care provider who seeks to involve you in a multi-level marketing scheme.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Christopher Robin is white, and some African American children's books that should be classics

Most people trace the beginnings of African America children's literature to the activism and art of the Civil Rights Movement.  Books like The Snowy Day (1962) and Corduroy (1968) brought young black protagonists into the mainstream of American picture books.

However, before the 1960s there was a small and lovely body of African American children's books.  The first of these books came from small Black-owned publishing houses, while later books were published by the big white-owned firms (and written illustrated both by black and by white artists), sometimes with financial subsidies from foundations committed to interracial understanding and to African American education.

The books below present some challenges for present-day readers.  Some have a scene, a theme, or an illustration that would be considered problematic by most teachers and librarians.  Arna Bontemps, Sad-Faced Boy has one in scene in which the African American boys in the story kidnap a little white boy and dress him up in blackface.  I don't mind having it in LB's collection, we'll just talk about it, like we'll talk about blackface in the Little House books, but I can understand why an educator would think it inappropriate for a children's collection.  Rowena, Teena, Tot is a very cute story, but it includes an illustration of a little boy eating a huge leg of chicken and African American women with old-fashioned kerchiefs on their heads-racially stereotypical images that Black librarians weren't entirely comfortable with even in the 1930s.

These books were created in a world where the vast majority of books featuring Black children were viciously racist.  Black child characters were almost always stupid, cowardly, supersticious, subservient, and ugly.  Against that backdrop, the books below are beautiful and life affirming

Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes, Popo and Fifina (1932).  Aren't these illustrations beautiful!  I'm not sure all editions have these illustration.  Bontemps and Hughes often complained about getting stuck with illustrators who did not know how to draw beautiful black children.

Arna Bontemps, Sad-Faced Boy (1937).  Three boys from the rural south runaway to Harlem.  I love this book, it is such a fun story.

Arna Bontemps, Sad-Faced Boy (1937).  Bontemps (and Hughes) were always short of money, and kept a little bit coming in with their juvenile titles.
Fannie Blumberg, Rowena, Teena, and Tot and the Runaway Turkey (1936).  I love some of the illustrations in this book, although as I said above, some are racist by today's standards.
Eva Knox Evans, Araminta's Goat (1938)  Evans also wrote the Jerome Anthony series.  These are just nice fun books.  If I remember correctly Evans was a teacher and wanted to provide books about the everyday lives of Black children, similar to the existing books for white children.
Ellen Tarry, Hezekiah Horton (1942).  A story about a car-crazy boy in Harlem.

Marguerite de Angeli, Bright April, 1946.  Most of the other books included in the post take place in all-African American communities.  Bright April is one of the first books for kids that shows interracial friendship and racial prejudice.
In the 1930s, when these books began to be published, Black educators (and white fellow-travelers) were concerned that Black children would learn to hate books if they continually saw negative representations of Black people in books (if books lied to them).  (In his New York Times piece, Walter Dean Myers shares his own experience of hating books that didn't represent his experience.) They also worried that Black children were being denied a cultural heritage-finding a history in which they were either absent or slaves.  Despite the statistically sad state of African American children's books, Black children can find some books in which they are represented in positive ways.  But despite the fact that a lot has changed in 100 years, Black children are still being denied a literary heritage of their own. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Racial Rabbits and Other Problems in Multicultural Kid's Lit

[Following up on my previous post here, with more obscure questions.] In 1959, Alabama sought to ban The Rabbits' Wedding from public libraries because of it's celebration of interracial (rabbit) marriages.  True story.  Here's a little more about the librarian who sought to keep the book on the shelves.

Even in 1959, the effort to ban The Rabbits' Wedding was supported only by the harder edges of the  segregationist fringe.  But the incident raises an interesting question, do animals in children's literature have race?  Or maybe the question is, do child readers perceive animals to have race?

Of course in naturalistic portrayals of animals in animal habitats, race as a human construction is irrelevant.  Then there are books like the Arthur series in which some of the highly anthropomorphized characters have distinct racial/ethnic/religious identities.  These identities are signaled primarily through a limited set of distinctive cultural practices, so the reader knows that the Brain is African American because he celebrates Kwanza and Francine is Jewish because she celebrates Hanukkah and attends a bar mitzvah.

But what is Arthur's race?  Like most of the characters in the series, aside from the very white Buster, most of the characters are some shade of brown.  Does that make Arthur a character of color?  Do characters that don't signal cultural practices or language associated with a particular race or ethnicity leave child readers a space to ascribe or not ascribe a race to the character as they see fit.  Or does Arthur  represent a normative whiteness-a race that need not speak its name?  Or maybe Arthur just represents normative middle-classness without representing any particular race.

Who creates the race of anthropomorphized animals?  Maybe an animals race is in the creator (author and/or illustrator) or maybe it's in the reader-like those people so offended by and a black rabbit and a white rabbit joined in Holy matrimony. 

I'd love to know what young readers think.   B may have gently suggested that they would think I was a little bit crazy. 

More on some African American children's books that should be classics here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

In the News: Multicultural Children's Lit

Today's New York Times brought two editorial about the dearth of children's books about people of color,  "Where are the People of Color in Children's Books" and  "The Apartheid of Children's Literature." The authors have different approaches to the topic, but both agree that lack of representation of children of color presents problems for those who aren't represented in books and for those who never encounter people different from themselves in books.

We live in a small New England city that is now a majority minority city.  For LB, that diversity is normal in her everyday life, but I've realized that diversity isn't as normal for her in books.  Aside from Dora, Black and Brown characters are unusual enough that she will point them them out and ask if they are related to one of the Black or Brown kids she knows in real life.  At three LB has internalized the idea that white people are the norm in books and people of color are the exception.

Apparently it's not just us, the Times states that only 93 of 3200 children's books published in 2013 were about African Americans, city a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at Madison.  You can find the study here.

I've always thought our book collection was pretty diverse, but it's about to get EVEN MORE DIVERSE.  It should not be so hard to find kids books featuring people of color, and it's frustrating how quickly the books that do get published go out of print, but their are some good options out there.  Below are some books that we already have and others that I am ordering now.

This was my favorite new book of 2013.  It's a family story from the 3rd Great Migration with lovely illustrations.

I think these Lola books are super cute, and address issues of interest to LB (we met a support dog named Fletcher at the library this weekend and got to read with him).

 Rachel Isadora does a lot of nice books.  I particularly like this one:

I Can Do It Too! is a very compelling message for LB these days.

There are quite a few Civil Rights Era-related kids books out there.  The book about Claudette Colvin in one of my favorites, but too old for LB, so I'm taking a chance and ordering this book.

More to come about some of the multicultural kids books that should still be in print.  And if anyone has suggestions for other books, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Health Update

I wrote about some of the stuff LB is up to last week, but I forgot to mention the thing that has been the biggest positive for our quality of life.  (Knock wood) LB has been remarkably healthy this winter!  She's had a few little sickness, but nothing scary, no extra doctor visits, no middle of the night nebs, no holding a congested child upright all night.

Last winter LB had a mild bout of pneumonia (very scary for me), pink eye, months with a green runny noses, and various viral miseries.  And that was better than the previous winter that involved wheezing, low o2 sats, ear infections, sinuses infections, and a fever of 105.  The fever happened while I was teaching, B handled it really well, and by the time I got home LB was down to a respectable 102.  That was also the winter that LB's ped called on Christmas morning to check up on her because she was so sickly.  That was the winter that we tried desperately to force a small child to swallow an oral steroid that tasted like dirty pennies (yes, I tried it).

I'm so thankful for that first ped, a gentleman who had practiced for close to 40 years.  I feel like he single handedly  kept us out of the hospital that first winter by checking in with us twice a day when LB was really sick, and giving us very detailed information about the symptoms that translate into "go to the hospital now."  I like our current ped, but she's in the "if your concerned, go to the ER" camp, rather than "let's run through all the symptoms, do a neb, and I'll call back in an hour and check on you" camp. 

Both of those winters required a minimum of an hour of nebulizer treatments, often with a thrashing rabid badger of a child.  The helpful advice from everyone was "just let her watch tv," but at that point in life, LB had no interest in screens.  We got our best results doing the nebs when she was asleep, but I could never drag myself out of bed to do one before she woke up in the morning.  Both of those winters involved anxious listening to interpret the exact character of LB's crackling, wheezing, and gasping.

During those winters, LB always lost her appetite and lost weight.  After LB was born it took a number of months for her to be plottable even on the premature and low-birth weight baby chart.  She has always been small, but in the winter she would dip off the normal weight chart into some nether reaches of the 1st percentile.  I don't think being small is necessarily a problem, but I do have some random folk belief that a little fat reserve helps a kid have energy and immunity.  This winter, almost no sickness has meant no weight loss, and LB seems sturdier, more energetic, and happier (and less whiny).

This winter we switched from the neb to an inhaler with spacer, and it is amazing!  I really wish we had tried it last winter.  I've heard that the neb can be more effective at delivering meds to the lungs, but given the amount of neb time when LB was out of range, I think the inhaler is much more effective for her.  We do a maintenance dose of Pulmacort 2x a day, along with a nasal spray 1x a day, and we have albuterol for times when she sounds crackly, but we rarely need to use it.

A healthy LB also has the benefit of a healthy me.  I guess I had undiagnosed asthma as a kid.  There are a bunch of asthmatics in my dad's family and we all seem to get worse as we age.  Every virus I get seems to settle in my lungs and leave me coughing and wheezing long after everyone else has recovered.  And I never go to the doctor, much to B's chagrin.  Last winter, when LB got pneumonia, I was afraid I also had it, and spent a week extreme commuting while feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest.

She's done so well this winter, I guess the next question will be whether she need to continue using maintenance meds every winter.  Our doctors have told us that preemies often grow out of their lungs issues by age three, but that will be a scary step.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," Academic Job Edition

A UofC friend linked to Patrick Iber's devastating twitter feed before he wrote this piece for Inside Higher Ed.  As a fellow UofC History Ph.D., much of what he writes is familiar (minus the Harvard book contract).  My first year on the academic job market was truly horrible, despite getting a good response to my applications, and my first AHA was definitely a life lowlight.  The misery of my first academic job interviews will always be intertwined with the poor choice of Chick-Fil-A for my pre-interview breakfast.  Never mix spicy chicken on a biscuit, orange juice, and extreme mental duress (disclaimer: this was in 2007, well before the big CFA blowup.  I no longer buy food there.)

If year one sucked because of my nerves, year four (maybe) found me leaving my daughter in the NICU to fly to Boston to interview at the AHA (the major conference interviewing event in my field).  I went to the hospital in the morning to see LB, leaving directly for the airport, and returned the next day to head straight back to the hospital.  Because when you're on the academic job market you don't say "my baby is in the NICU and I don't want to leave her and I'm a physical and emotional wreck and I don't think I can do this," just like Patrick didn't say "my mom's in the hospital and we think she's okay, but it's serious and I don't want to leave town." If you get chosen from 400 or 800 applicants (and those are real numbers, much to the chagrin of hiring committees) and make it to the long short list, you can't give the committee any reason to pick someone who is just as good as you but doesn't have your "personal problems."  So you go, and at the time you think it's the right and normal thing to do.

My slow coming to terms with the fact that despite the fact that I slowly and painfully became a very good graduate student and a decent intellectual, I don't have the temperament to be an academic in the 2000s.  In the slower pace of 1965, I think I could have held my own.  Of course, having read hundreds of recommendation letters for graduate students in the 1950s and 1960s, I know that back then all the white ladies who got Ph.D.s were described as "high strung" at best, and "emotionally damaged" at worst, and shuttled off to appropriately non-glamorous jobs.  All the Black men were "not a top intellect, but certainly a fine fellow for your negro college."  I never came across any letters for women of color.  Funny (as in funny devastating, not funny funny) that as they threw open the doors to at least a few of us non-rich-white-guys, the conditions of labor within academia quickly degraded.

 Slow realization was punctuated by the "What the fuck am I doing" moment of realization that I was trying to get a breast pump through security at Logan while my baby lay in an isolette in Baltimore.  And the "Who the fuck are these people" moments of arriving at my office and finding the locks changed and someone else's name on the door, and then being told to move my thousands of books down a flight of stairs and through a building right quick while 6 months pregnant.  Or the flat rejections when I asked for help covering my class because I was on hospital bedrest at 29w trying not to give birth or have a stroke (although some people did help-women I barely knew, women on the lower rungs of academia, women of color and white women).  And if I'm starting to sound bitter, it's because academic life will make you bitter.

But lots of jobs suck, and lots of employment sectors are under pressure, and as much as I hated working at a university some days, it was better than my previous job at Starbucks, or baking bagels, or cleaning hotel rooms, or prepping meat at a Bar-B-Que joint, or any of the other awesome jobs I had before I became an soft-handed intellectual.

One thing that makes the problems of academic labor so frustrating is the seeming inability of people who spend their lives theorizing about "agency," "false-consciousness," and whatnot to even acknowledge that their choices have consequences.  Academics claim befuddlement and busyness as cover for their own part in the oppression of low-level academic workers.  In my experience, academics tend to be more concerned with protecting their own turf, however small, than acting as a group to protect labor.

Historians can deconstruct the hows and whys and wherefores of the boss man giving every woman three extra looms to watch and speeds them up x2, and understand that the workers suffer.  Historians can analyze the divisions of race, class, and gender, and the personal fears, that divide workers and keep them from collective action.  But they seem unable to turn that lens on the current conditions of academic labor.

The result isn't just the pathetic spectacle of very smart people acting completely helpless in the face of economic, political, and cultural forces.  I also see among academics an almost complete lack of teaching about the ethics of academic labor.  Established academics train the next generations, but, at least at UofC there is no training in the new realities of academic life.  It's not just the problem of suggesting that if you don't land an academic job, well surely you can go find work in a museum (good luck with that one).  It's the problem of receiving no training to recognize the difference between a fair wage and an unfair wage, reasonable working conditions and toxic working conditions, working for free that constitutes a reasonable apprenticeship and working for free that's just working for free. This training is important both for future faculty members who often become de facto HR officers (usually violating a few labor laws along the way), and for future contingent faculty who should be encouraged to draw the line against abysmal wages and working conditions-and I understand how hard that choice is when you could really use a couple grand.

I think this training and these conversation don't happen, at least in part, because there is so much shame in academia, and an inability to talk honestly about what constitutes success and failure in this age of Ph.D. overproduction.  Contingent faculty feel shame for not landing that tenure track position, for the feeling that they just weren't good enough.  Tenure track and even tenured faculty feel their own fears and shames.  The very real feeling that a position is always precarious, that it isn't prestigious enough, that one isn't hustling hard enough, and that hustling won't pay off.  It's never pretty to see a group of people struggling within an environment of scarcity.  And the worse one's situation is the less one is allowed to complain.  Faculty are unable to acknowledge the role that they play in the degradation of academic labor both through their choices, or votes, and by their silence and inaction. 

I guess I'm a walking-away-from-academia success story.  I have a job that I really enjoy in the geographic area where I want to live, and I have a reasonable approximation of work/life balance that includes family dinner most days, and hour or so for what I will in the evening, and some time to read for pleasure.  But, I wouldn't want to see my happiness turned into a narrative of "a Ph.D. is a great investment, you can always work outside of academia."  I got my current job by carefully omitting my Ph.D. from my resume.  Despite this state's significant need for highly skilled workers, there seemed to be no place for me.  There must be something terribly wrong with a society that is turned off by workers who are over-educated or over-credentialed.  If the issue is that the world can't afford to pay me like a tenure track faculty member at an R1 university, and certainly my current employer cannot, I can accept that-I didn't become an academic for the money.  However, like other workers, academics should live in a world where busting one's ass at work leads to a wage that makes a person ineligible for food stamps and includes or pays enough to cover health insurance.  But the distrust of academics seems bigger than the fear that we want a big check for sitting around cogitating, it's a strand of American anti-intellectualism that says too much education makes a person less capable.

Our current situationmakes me think of all the amazing artists and writers who were unemployed during the Depression and ended up working for the WPA.  The US found a place for them, and they paid back that government cheese many times over with novels, paintings, and research.  I have value.  Patrick has value as a teacher, a writer, and a researcher.  I want to live in a world that has a place for us to do what we do-work.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LB Updates

The child is a chatterbox, especially when she's tired.  She has started "reading" to whatever mom is putting her to bed, which includes reciting very accurate passages of her favorite books interspersed with rambling monologues about I'm-not-quite-sure-what. 

After a tough adjustment to the preschool room at daycare, she's doing really well.  She has a "best friend" who is also tiny and well-behaved.  LB was upset one day because she and a friend (I mean that in the daycare sense) wouldn't stop lifting up their shirts and giggling and Miss A. told them they were going to get in trouble if they didn't stop.  According to LB, "I don't like to get in trouble!"

LB has a great sense of humor and can tell and understand jokes-most of which have the punchline "skunkfish!"

We've had fewer and shorter tantrums lately-more whining, but less honey-badgering, and I'll take it.  She will take offense to random things, like telling the dog, "You don't look at me in the eyes like that!" in a super creepy voice.  Or, "you don't say 'grinding on that wood'!" Which was a sign that we need to start watching what we say and sing in front of LB, and, despite our embrace of inappropriate music lyrics, any lyrics that glorify Ike Turner should not be sung in front of our young daughter (note that impressive use of the passive voice).

When she feels that she's been wrongly accused, LB will roar in our faces, but when she knows she is in the wrong, she'll say "I'm saaawwee." Which is cute until she says it again and again with increasing desperation, and we talk again about how people can get mad at each other but still love each other.  She will also say, often out of the blue, "Mama are you mad at me?" She's a sensitive creature.

LB is also pretty good at taking care of herself, she able to function pretty independently in the bathroom and can get dressed and undressed herself, including putting on a rashguard top by herself, which is pretty impressive for anyone.  

And she's got some moves (Note the very appropriate prop.  I wanted to get LB to dance in the car, but then, sadly, I realized I'm not that kind of mother.):

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Books that should be written

I picked up this little gem from the library sale cart.  It was more appealing to me as a historian than as lesbian mom.  Zack's Story was published in 1996, and it's crazy to think that was almost 20 years ago.  At the company store, you can buy a new copy of this book for $119.00 or a used copy for 1 cent. 

1996.  B was a Sophomore at a Catholic high school, listening to Gansta rap, playing sports, etc. I was probably on my second break from college (not counting a "gap year," which at the time was just called "not going to college").  I was living in Boston with a bunch of people, working a crappy job, going to shows, drinking beer, eating tofu pot pie.  DOMA vaguely registered with me as yet another Clinton betrayal.  I had been a Rock-the-Vote-er in 1992, and Clinton's myriad betrayals (particularly on welfare "reform" and Don't Ask/Don't Tell) shaped my political self.  I kept voting in major elections, but Obama was the the first major party candidate I voted for after Clinton. 

Gay marriage did allow me to graduate from college.  I worked a minor scam, claiming to be gay married in order to live off campus, and therefore could afford my last two years of school.  Otherwise, gay marriage didn't mean much to me, I never planned to get marriage-having no interest in being bourgeois.  Ideologically, I'm still in that place, but live intervenes in one's non-bourgeois fantasies.  I was once talking to a woman who was a former Black Panther at a faculty dinner.  She told me "People your age, you can't understand.  We thought, we KNEW, the Revolution was about to begin-it was going to happen.  You don't save for retirement when you're planning the Revolution.  And here I am."

Zack's Story is a nice book.  The text is wordy for my taste, and the photos are old enough to be dated, but not old enough to be vintage, but it is nicely written.  I don't think LB will ever read this book, but I'm happy to have it for my collection.

I'd gone to the library looking for books about race and parenting.  I ordered from the library The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism, although I think it's a book that many people have issues with-I wanted to check it out from myself.  The next book that came up was one published in 1929 that I used for my dissertation.  Nothing I found in the library system was really what I was looking for-more of a handbook about how to build coalitions among diverse groups of parents across lines of class, ethnicity, race, and language.  How do you do that?  If anyone out there has resources to suggest, I'd love to hear about them.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pickle This!

Inspired by a friend who brought us a huge bag of delicious vegetables from Provider Farm in CT, I've engaged in some experiments in fermentation.  I'm not a huge fan of root vegetables, but I love pickled and spicy stuff.  This pick shows:

Sauerkraut: classic, green cabbage and salt.  B got me a pickling crock for Christmas, so I used that with a gallon ziplock bag filled with water to weigh down the kraut.  Since I started this batch, B got me some pickling weights (isn't that thoughtful), so next time I'll use those.  Review: easy and delicious.  I let it do it's thing on the counter for about a week and then moved it into the fridge.  I think it could have stayed out longer, but it's still good.

Kimchi 1: I used this recipe, and followed it pretty closely (for once in my life).  I used beautiful watermelon radishes from the farm and the farm garlic.  I went a little heavy on the garlic and pepper flakes.  This kimchi is the dark red on in the picture.  I love this stuff!  It turned out amazing and crunchy and excellent.  Just the thing for dulled winter tastebuds.  Like the kraut, I only had it out for a week, I probably could of let it get a little funkier, but it's still really good.

Kimchi 2: I referenced the recipe above, but went a little rogue.  I omitted the ginger, because I was out of it, and used about half the amount of red pepper.  This one was a combo of white turnip, rutabaga, and green cabbage.  It's more mellow than kimchi 1, but still good.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Random crap that totally annoys me

New England is not happy.  It's been a shitacular winter with no end in sight, and everyone I talk to is just done.  Major topics of conversation: potholes, snow AGAIN, sickness.

I reached my low point humping a BOB stroller and 26lb child over a glacier-thanks a-holes who don't clear a curb cut or even bother to shovel at all; City of Providence that does minimal snow removal; and f-ers who don't stop at stop signs when they see a crazy lady trying to pull a giant stroller over a mountain of snow and ice.  Just know: you are all on my list.

I also had a conversation with a police officer in which I tried to convince him to ticket (per city ordinance) a business that never clears their sidewalks.  He was happy to get a cup of coffee from that establishment, but declined to write a ticket.  And that is what's wrong with America.

Not in a good mood, so rather than snipping and sniping here and there, I'll just get it all out now.

There is this article "The New Forbidden Word," which created intense debate in my lesbian moms facebook group.  Summary: the word "gayby" is an offensive slur.  You shouldn't use this word, and if you do you are personally responsible for the bullying of children of gay parents.

The author did not win any points with me for this sentence, "My entire reason for becoming a voice within the gay community is to try to show the world that gay parenting is just parenting."  And lost even more when I noticed that his Twitter handle is @GayAtHomeDad.  So it's cool to be "Gay Dad" in order to monetize it, but otherwise you're just "normal" dad.

And then there's this: "The worst thing that could happen is that “gayby” catches on in schools and kids like mine are openly called “gaybies” in a negative way. This is a very real possibility if we continue to allow this word to exist." The worst thing?  As in, we could be executed and our kids could be sent to concentration camps for reeducation?  Or as in, we lead lives of constrained gay respectability, always monitoring our own actions to make sure our gay doesn't get too queer, and in the process we inculcate our children with a deep sense of shame about their own identities.

Gayby, bring it on.  Do I want my child to be teased?  No.  But, if she is teased by kids chasing her around the playground, B and I will impart a powerful life lesson: always "negotiate" from a place of power.

Then in same internet group, I was reprimanded for finding the infographic below incredibly silly.  And before you think I'm going for a 2fer mommy wars/feminist wars, let me explain myself.  It's precisely because I think the labor that women (and men) do in their own homes is valuable that I find this infographic so wrongheaded.  There was a time in the US when there was an actual movement to compensate women for their work in their own homes.  You can read more about in the books The Politics of Public Housing and Storming Ceasar's Palace: How Black Mother's Fought their own War on Poverty.  These books explore the efforts of poor, mostly Black, mothers to make the case that if they couldn't make enough money to lead a decent life (because their jobs paid to little, because family responsibilities kept them from paid employment, or because they were unemployed) the government owed them a living wage with which to raise their children.  This wasn't "welfare" but payment for the social good of keeping a home and raising children. 

That dream died at least by 1968, but in this age of the "the rent's too damn high" and "someone's got to pay that highly qualified wolf nanny," and we need something left over for a refurbished iphone, nebulizer, and bunk beds from IKEA, it's an idea worth thinking about.  My big problem with the graphic is that all the adults with kids who I know (and many of the adults without kids) work all the time.  If a child decides to sleep, my free time is between 9:00-10:00 at night (and it's awesome).  We all work more, and we mostly don't get paid more, and no one is going to pay you to pick up your own dry cleaning.  This graphic imagines a world in which a person (man) goes at works at job and then comes home to leisure world, while his helpmeet cleans his house, cares for his children, and fetches his slippers.  I guess that world exists somewhere, but it's dead to me.  Instead I live in a world where two adults scramble to survive financially and  care for a child and eat and stuff and no one makes 90 grand.  I think a better world is achievable, but living in a "mom salary" fantasy land won't get us there.

It was pointed out to me that the point of the graphic is actually to raise the self-esteem of women who do socially devalued work.  Cool, but I just can't relate.  I hate it when people offer me the trite self-esteem raisers.  "Aw, you're doing a great job mama!" makes me what to bust out an Amy Poehler style "You don't know me, bitch," followed by "you better vote like you care about a living wage."

End rant.
Love ya!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Talking about stuff about which I know nothing: conservative Christian blogsphere edition

I got into reading blogs back in 2004.  I was deep in dissertation misery and teaching a course about the history of youth, gender, and sexuality.  I turned to the conservative Christian blogosphere to try to better understand sexual conservative/traditionalists, or whatever inaccurate name I might call them.  I also found something very soothing in the kinder/kuche/Kirche rhythms (maybe that's an offensive description?  I mean it in a "remaking of tradition" way, but certainly not in a "they are similar to Nazis" way-since it has a longer history that just the Nazi period, I think I'm okay) of those women's lives.  Very soothing compared with crying over dissertation formatting and months of 48 hour interviews in snowy climes wearing heels and skirt suit, two people showing up to your job talk, knowing no one around the dinner table was going to vote for you type of travails.

I learned a lot.  In the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections, I felt that blogs gave me a good hunch about which way the electorate was leaning.  In 2004, most conservative Christians I read were strongly pro-voting for GWB, although they may have had significant disagreements.  In 2008 and 2014, support for the respective republican candidates was muted or non-existent.  More people were choosing not to vote or to vote for a third-party candidate rather than corrupt themselves with the Party choice.

In 2004, the orthodox Protestant blogosphere was thriving.  Women were connecting and learning from each other, and sharing their experiments on their blogs.  Within a few years, many women drew back on the personal details they were willing to share, or were driven off the internets by trolls.  Others came to the conclusion they were harming their spiritual and family lives by spending so much time blogging.  And a few were very successful at monetizing it and went more mainstream-for example Crystal's transformation from her Biblical Womanhood blog to her Money Saving Mom blog.  Other bloggers found themselves torn up in nasty accusations and counter-accusations of legalism and worldliness.  It will be interesting to see if the recent scandals at Vision Forum and ATI further depress the orthodox Protestant blogosphere, or allow it a rebirth.

As the Protestants have been foundering, the conservative or traditional Catholics have been on the upswing.  The blog Catholic All Year is a good example of this genre, with key posts here and here.  And these are some additional traditionalist Catholic family and faith blogs:
A Blog For My Mom
A Woman's Place Depends on Her Vocation
Elizabeth Esther
Passionate Perseverance

Each of these blogs is different, but many of them have similar themes: most of the authors weren't raised in traditionalist families.  They explore issues such as living the liturgical calendar with children, religious formation and children, head covering during mass, and the challenges that come with being part of a larger Catholic culture that is not particularly traditionalist, so being an outsider insider.  The transition from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis seems particularly emblematic of these challenges.  As much as the Catholic Church is an institution steeped in tradition, Protestantism seems to allow more space for the creation of a new traditionalism.  Certainly Protestant denominations and congregations can be authoritarian in their interpretation of scripture, but there is so much space for the individual's unmediated access to God through scripture, and that provides a cultural space to be counter-cultural.  The Catholic Church has a more centralized path to authority (and I don't mean that in a dumb Da Vinci Code way).  I wonder what it feels like to feel that your true Church isn't represented in 95% of the Catholic churches in the US?  Or to want to reclaim traditions in which the Church hierarchy seems to have little interest.  It seems like it would be an uneasy space to occupy.