Identification and Definition

March 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer, Surrogacy

By Lisa Regula Meyer

family

In my Biological Diversity class, I spend a decent amount of time helping my students to understand two major concepts surrounding niches.  An organism’s niche is essentially the role that it plays in its environment and the sum of all its traits.  To be specific, its niche is divided into two distinct components, fundamental and realized.  The fundamental niche is the organism’s intrinsic niche, its role and traits all on its own.  If we were to think in human terms, the fundamental niche is how you define yourself and what your heart would have you do without any obstacles; it’s what we want to be when we grow up as children.  The realized niche, however, is what role the organism actual inhabits.  This can be different from the fundamental niche due to competition with other organisms, predator or prey interactions, or even altered some by symbiotic relationships.  In human terms, the realized niche is what we actually do.  Maybe you always wanted to be a professional ballerina, but couldn’t make it into any of the really good classes, so instead you settle for going out dancing every weekend while teaching elementary school all week.  Or maybe you get an interview at a prestigious job opportunity thanks to an old high school friend’s connections (kind of like a symbiotic relationship).  For an animal, their realized niche might be restricted by another animal that out-competes them for shelter in northern areas of their range, or a plant’s realized niche might be expanded by having symbiotic fungi that helps it get water in drier climates.

What does this have to do with anything family or surrogacy related?  Our identity is a big part of our niche; some parts are solid, innate parts of ourselves and are with us for all of our lives, while other parts are fluid and depend on our environment to help mold and shape those components.  Our niche also consists of our family- the stable, steady people in our lives who have been and always will be with us while other members of the clan are here today and gone tomorrow, some by blood and some by choosing.  Sometimes how we define ourselves and how other define us isn’t exactly the same.  I don’t define myself by my experience of being a surrogate, but many other people do.  For me, surrogacy was an experience that I had, not an integral part of who I am.  No matter how you identify or define yourself, it’s always interesting the differences that other people might have in their perception of you, defining you as smarter or prettier than you consider yourself, or assuming that you are or aren’t a member of a particular group.

This difference in definitions and disconnect from perceived identities has been hitting home more than usual in our house.  My traditional-surrogacy babe, I’ve been informed by her dads, spent quite a bit of time last week asking about her brother, my son, and where he was.  Most people identify my son as an only child, and by most counts, that’s correct.  He has a genetic sibling, yes, but not day to day sibling-like interactions with her.  Really, they might spend a total of three days together in a year, and speak on Skype only slightly more often.  He shares his home with his dad and I only, which is the data on which most people base their definition of him.  But functionally, he has a pretty extended family.  We have friends with two daughters with whom we typically play games at least once a week.  We have another group of kids with whom we walk to school and home most days, and who frequently spend large chunks of the weekend at our house.  In our house, and with these close friends, we joke about Kenny’s brothers and sisters, because the kids’ dynamics are very much that of siblings- bickering, getting jealous of each other, sharing secrets, crying to each other when they’re upset, and sticking together like glue.

Frankly, I like this dynamic in our extended, created family.  Kenny gets the benefit of sibling-like interactions, Dwight and I get the benefit of having full-time responsibility for just our “only” child (although there are some days where at least one extra kid is in our home for the majority of the day).  This is a system that works for us and our friends at this time.  Maybe it won’t in the future, and we’ll address that at that time, but for now we’re happy with  the way things are, even if people’s perception isn’t really our reality.  It’s not always that differences in perceived identity and actual identity can be bridged so easily, and we count ourselves lucky that so far it has.

 

Photo Credit: Meggy 

Share

Rights and Votes

March 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Regula Meyer

Love

We’ve recently seen judges move more and more quickly to rule on the side of equality in cases involving same sex marriage bans and the like, with the recent Texas case being a great demonstration of just that move forward.  I’m in Ohio, where we have a similar ban in the state constitution defining marriage as one man and one woman, dating to a 2004 referendum that initiated this current state of affairs.  In Ohio, we’re moving to put another referendum repealing the original ban and instituting marriage equality on the ballot soon, although there has been some discussion about timing and valid signatures and all the fun of a tooth extraction that is politics.  But we’re getting there, slowly.

I thought it might be worth taking a minute to consider what got us here in the first place, though- referendum votes and constitutions, namely.

Not all states work the same on how they address referendum votes, which is part of the difference in how states enacted same sex marriage bans, and why we have a fairly hodge-podge collection of methods needed and used to achieve marriage equality.  The history of the referendum is rather interesting, as well.  There’s not a big emphasis on referendum and procedures in our national Constitution for a reason- it wasn’t seen as a very important part of the workings of government.  This might seem odd, given the populist sound of the founding documents with their “We the people,” democracy, Bill of Rights and whatnot; remember, however, that these were the same people- many of them slave owners- who instituted the electoral college as a “check” on the popular will and developed a bicameral legislature as part of a complex three branch government with additional checks and balances.  It’s good to remember also that the United States, for all our talk of democracy, we are a republic of states with representative voting, which uses democratic principles but is not a simple democracy.  The Founding Fathers seem not to have trusted people all that much (not surprising, given their history with the legislators and crown in England), or they simply realized the fallibility of people.

No, it wasn’t until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that the referendum came into greater usage, as a part of populist movements wanting to limit the power of a government that was seen as out of touch, especially after the Coinage Act of 1873 that eliminated bimetallism (having nothing to do with AC/DC, I swear).  You can find a more detailed history of referendum and initiatives here.  (Aside- You can also find a bit of modern populism and shameless self promotion here, if you feel like seeing what my students are up to.)

So what does any of this history lesson have to do with marriage equality, you ask?  Well, in part, it’s simply a reflection of the fact that my husband is absorbed in his doctoral candidacy exams in history right now, so that’s where my head has been, listening to him talk about some of these concepts.  At the same time, it has a lot to do with marriage equality because it points out quite well how our complicated system of governance is actually quite pragmatic.  You see, in a democracy there is truly the will of the majority that is being reflected in the laws.  This isn’t always a good thing, as majorities don’t have a stellar record of upholding rights of the minority.  Think “mob rule” and you might get a better sense of what I mean.  For protecting the rights of humans we have the Bill of Rights, and internationally there’s the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the US voted in approval and the UN adopted in 1948.  In the US, our governance is not special because we have rule by the majority, our system is special because we have an official protection of minorities (or subalterns, to be more respectful and use a historical term) FROM the majority.

Of course, there are fights about what subaltern groups get protection, in part because of acceptance of the false idea that rights are a zero-sum-game, and there are fights about what is a “right” versus a “privilege” but the fact that we’re having these discussions puts us light years ahead of where our country started.  Ironically, the referendum- a mechanism meant to ensure that the majority got their say and we did not fall into an oligarchy or plutocracy- has been co-opted by the majority to strip subalterns of their rights in the case of bans against marriage equality.  Unironically, and quite optimistically, we’re now seeing that move to the right being reversed as the judicial branch of government weighs in to exert its checks and balances on the legislative process.

It’s a rough process, acknowledging rights and the fact that you were wrong to do what you did, but most processes of growth are difficult.  And this is growth as a society, recognizing the diversity of people who share our country and respecting them as equals.  No matter what the timing or outcome of any Ohio referendum on marriage equality in the future, change is coming sooner or later, as we come to the correct conclusion that it’s not right to put rights to a vote.

 

Photo Credit: Aditus Foundation

Share

Parenting: How Fragile Life Can Be

February 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Regula Meyer

hope

The last couple of weeks haven’t brought lots of interesting news around our house.  If I’m being honest, it’s been simply more of the same with a friend having a biopsy for possible cancer later this week (can I say “Screw you, cancer”), another friend going through health complications (on top of everything else) with her child, a student who’s going through an extremely rough patch and in need of desperate help, and there’s ongoing health concerns with my father-in-law that are a mystery, but he’s finally having them addressed.  In the midst of all this stress that isn’t mine directly but that I have to navigate around, I have found myself focusing on silver linings, bright sides, and the simple pleasures (to throw together a mash up of happy cliches).  It’s helpful for me, and gives me the strength to be what other people need from me at that moment.

Health- Yeah, I may have a slight cold but that’s nothing compared to what others have to deal with, obviously.  This winter has been pretty mild for our house, frankly, with no major flu or other illnesses hitting our house.  In fact, with the help of a faculty and staff wellness program at work my health has been improving and I’ve been losing some of the weight I packed on while dealing with the crap of the past couple of years.  This is one blessing that I could pack up as easily as other blessings and share with those who need.

Family- They might be annoying at times and a source of stress at others, but they’re mine and they’ve been there through so much for me.  It’s awkward, and they’re hard relationships to maintain but we do it.  We recently had a visit from my mother-in-law and her new husband, and it actually went far better than I had expected.  She and I can’t hold a conversation to save our lives and have almost nothing in common.  Heck, I can’t even get her to talk about our difficulties.  But we had a good visit, playing board games after brunch, and having fun as a family.  My brother-in-law even showed up, and both he and his wife came out for dinner.

Friends- They are my rock, and have helped me through so much.  The least I can do for them is to reciprocate when they need it, and as much as I wish they weren’t going through the issues they currently are, I’m glad to have the chance to return the help that they have given me over the years.  One friend nearly made me cry by asking if I would help her and her husband by carrying their child if her health issues end up being worse than we all want them to be.  Even though I hadn’t been thinking of myself doing another surrogacy, the possibility of helping a friend in this way has me a bit excited, I have to admit; she would make an amazing mom.

Job- Even though I’m currently one of those adjunct faculty members that are getting an increasing amount of national attention, I enjoy my job.  I love it, really.  I know this adjunct thing is temporary, and have solid applications out to a number of tenure track jobs and a campus interview in a week.  No, I don’t have all the resources that I need, but I’m finding creative ways to fill the gaps that benefit my students and my research.  I’m learning skills to be a better educator with less, and with the help of another colleague, I’m writing my courses to be intentionally more inclusive and present more of the history of biology than just old white guys by talking about researchers like Rachel Carson, Rosalind Franklin, Wangari Maathai, and Tyrone Hayes.  And I have great fun with side projects like this blog, Fireside Science, and Ear to the Ground.

Home- My husband and my son, the home that we’ve made together, and our life are amazing.  I can’t imagine any other place to be or who to be there with.  Yes, it’s tough; yes, it has challenges, but at the end of the day this is the life I chose, and this is the life I would choose over and over again.  I have what I need, and I have enough to share what I have.

I just wish that more people in my life could say the same right now, and I’ll keep doing what I can until they’re there.

Share

Not Sleepless in Seattle, but Foodless in Utah

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Regula Meyer

Trestin

Apparently, there’s a man in Utah protesting the recent expansion of marriage equality in that state by starving himself.  I’m all for his sentiment of preferring action over speeches, and standing up for your principles.  At the same time, though, I have to wonder if his chosen action fits with the principles that he is defending  very well.  The man in question has previously run for Utah state senate office as a Constitution Party candidate, and feels that the nation is drifting quickly away from what our country’s founders would recognize as the United States.

Let’s unpack this concept a little.  TM (I’m not using his name because 1)you can easily Google him, and 2) he doesn’t deserve to get personal attention for this; I want to stick to the issues as much as possible) follows the claim of the Mormon and other churches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and believes that marriage equality goes against the church.  It’s not an uncommon idea, and one that is perfectly fine- until you decide to use your religion to influence other people.  Remember, “freedom of religion” goes both ways, not just the way you want it to.  Everyone of a different orientation than straight has the right to follow their own faith, which may or may not condemn inequality.  At the same time, the Christian religion also speaks against killing, even one’s self, and self-inflicted death is a potential outcome of this and all hunger strikes.  At best this is cherry-picking your theology, at worst it’s simply using religion to condone bigotry.

TM argues that action is preferable to words, and I would normally agree with that.  I say “usually” because for the action to be effective, it should convey what the words would have conveyed, or at least be relevant.  Maybe someone could explain it to me, but I don’t really see the connection between bigotry and starvation, so this makes it seem like his action is more of a publicity stunt than anything else.  As a publicity stunt, TM seems to have been fairly successful, having attracted a conservative blogger and a person currently being monitored by Southern Poverty Law Center to call for a “state insurrection ‘in the name of the Constitution and the Prince of Peace,’” and for “[putting] the federal government on notice, in the holy cause of Liberty.”  I’m familiar with churches and religious people calling attention to the cause of poverty with fasts, and the case of Guantanamo Bay prisoners using hunger strikes to call attention to their treatment, but this is the first I’ve heard of using hunger being used to further the cause of privilege and inequality (but I’d love to hear of any other examples someone might have).  In any protest, relevancy is pretty important, and I don’t see the relevancy here.

TM claims that the legal theory of nullification would be a simple fix to this situation.  Utah could nullify the court’s decision against the Utah marriage equality ban, and he would go back to life as normal.  The only problem with this proposed solution is that nullification was dealt a pretty big blow by the Supreme Court in the 1958 Cooper v. Aaron decision.  And there was that pesky Civil War that showed the devastating results of taking nullification to the extremes.  Yes, states have rights that the federal level of government does not, and yes there is a constitutional division of power between the federal, state, and local governments.  However, the issue of rights lies with the federal government, not the state or local governments, and marriage equality is most definitely an issue of rights, so nullification and states’ rights aren’t applicable here.

Finally, there’s the issue of what are we teaching with this effort?  That hate and inequality are worthy of inflicting self-harm?  Is this a cause that we want to normalize?  Don’t we regularly fight to teach just the opposite, that people should love and respect themselves and their body, and thus take care of it?  How would TM feel if in the future one of his children chose to act out against his/her father by refusing food; would he try to stop this, or accept it as a valid protest action when you disagree with someone?  Oh, wait, many kids already do that.  Which, at its heart, shows exactly what TM is doing- throwing a temper tantrum because of a decision by the court with which he disagrees.

Remember, folks, hate hurts you as much as it hurts the person you hate, sometimes even more so.

Share

Shopping for Other People’s Kids

January 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer

By Lisa Regula Meyer

christmasgiftsuggestions

The holidays are in full swing (and will be over by the time this post is up), and I’m trying to focus on the positive.  It should be a happy time of the year, and this should be considered a good year for our family- no deaths, I graduated, Kenny is having a good year at school, and Dwight and I have had enjoyable teaching assignments.  For the most part, I’m even succeeding at this whole holiday spirit thing, at least a little.

One thing that I’m very grateful for is the Holiday Shop that Kenny’s school puts on with the parents’ group there.  The parents at our school do a great job making crafts, finding deals, and getting donations to make sure that the kids have a huge selection of gifts to choose from while teachers, other students, and parent volunteers help students do their own holiday shopping.  This relieves me from the stress of shopping with him, and trust me, shopping is stressful enough on its own for me.  After crafting some gifts and decorating cards, he proudly went off to school with his list of people he still needed gifts for, and ideas of what they might like written on the back of a money envelope containing his saved allowance for the past few weeks, and I proudly looked at my growing up kid.

That afternoon I picked him up from school, and couldn’t wait to hear what he had found to finish his holiday list.  He showed me the ring he found for Grandpa D, the “family gifts” for our household that he could only tell me how much Dwight and I would love and no further details, the snow-globe for Grandma S, and the Hot Wheels car for Mr. D.  Then- his eyes glimmering- he told me of his best find: not just one, but THREE! Barbie dolls for Miss E.  And my heart sank.  She might enjoy the dolls, but her dads would be anything but cool with this gift.  There are small parts, the suggested age (3+) puts them at too old for her, and body image discussions are a big deal in their house (which is a good thing- but kind of contraindicates Barbie dolls as possible gifts).  A classmate of his had given him the idea, and he thought it was brilliant, but I wanted to avoid the emotional fallout of having his gift rejected.  So we had another Big Talk, this time about choosing gifts that will be appreciated and how best to show love to someone- hint: it’s not always buying something.

In the end, he took the Big Talk much better than I had expected, and we worked together to find a gift for Miss E that would be a hit- a book about a toad that a local artist had written and illustrated.  The unexpected bonus in this whole thing, was a new toy for Kenny.  Unsurprisingly, one of the reasons for his infatuation with the Barbie doll set was because he himself thought it was cool, so for finding such great gifts for most of the people on his list and dealing with a tough situation so well, we let him keep his favorite doll.  The other two are being given to a local “angel child” gift tree to brighten some other child’s holiday a bit.

Yeah, I probably could have handled this far better than I did, but this whole parenting thing has no instruction manual, and I did the best that I could in the moment.  But between this little episode and our night-on-the-town handing out treat bags with some of my friends and Kenny, you can paint me the proud mama of a kind hearted, long-haired, Barbie loving Brony this season.  Somewhere my sister (the long-haired, girly Barbie-lover of us two) is laughing her head off.

Share

‘Tis the Season to Be the Change

December 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer

By Lisa Regula Meyer

holiday mom

Holidays are supposed to be happy and joyful occasions surrounded by family and friends, but for those who have had a falling out with their family, or who have lost loved ones through death or estrangement, the holidays can be everything but happy and joyful.  All too often, teens and young adults in the LGBTQ community fall into this category.  We all know the statistics about LGBTQ youth and suicide, violence, depression, and homelessness, but if you happen to need a review, Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, and PFLAG new York City have some great data sets that are not for the faint of heart.  Not that youth are the only ones suffering right now; we also see a bleak picture for older LGBTQ individuals as well.

Now that you’re thoroughly pissed off, depressed, resigned- whatever negative emotion these statistics strike in you- do something about it!  The good news is, it’s never been easier to provide support as a part of a community than it is today, thanks to the internet and social media.  Granted, it’s not as good as an actual hug, but even reading kind words reminding you that you are important enough to reach out to can be a huge lift during the holidays.  Your Holiday Mom is trying to provide just that for LGBTQ youth with a virtual message that can be read as a reminder that people do care and you do matter.  For some of us, the holidays are just plain terrible, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can insert all the criticisms of digital communication and community, and cries of “slacktivism” that you want, and at a rational- intellectual level I would totally agree with you.  But here’s the thing- humans tend not to be very rational.  Obviously, this little bit isn’t going to replace any other holiday good cheer that you might send out, but it’s a small thing that you can do that might just mean the world to someone who needs it right now.  I’m proud to say that I know some of the holiday moms already posted, and I hope to be able to include more acquaintances in the list of people-doing-something-great that is the holiday letter site.

I know you care, let someone else know that you do, too.

Share

Thankful

December 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer

By Lisa Regula Meyer

thankful

Today marks the start of the holiday shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans take to the malls in droves looking for spectacular deals on the latest, greatest thing for this year.  Or at least it had been the start of the shopping season until the recent craze of opening earlier and earlier began.  So this year while most of us are home enjoying a holiday feast with our loved ones, retail employees will be stocking shelves and ringing up orders of people who can’t wait another day to spend.

I’ll admit that I have a vested interest in maintaining the day off that had been far more common just a few years ago, as Dwight works in retail.  Having a day off to celebrate the holiday with family is also something that I believe is just plain the right thing to do.  It’s not often that families today have a day set aside that everyone can be together, between more businesses being open more hours, and many people working more than one job.  The biggest irony that I see is the messaging that we send- give thanks and treasure time with those you love on one hand, and love is equal to a purchase, but especially a deeply discounted one, on the other hand.  It’s a sad way to start the season, in my opinion, focusing on the purchases and the profits instead of being together.

I realize that their are some people who want to work on the holiday to earn extra income for the holidays, and I hope that those are the people who are the ones staffing the Thanksgiving retail floor, but I also know that at most stores these will be mandatory work days to make sure that staffing levels are high and customer service is up.  Wouldn’t valuing families mean paying people enough that a day off with their own families was a sacrifice that they could afford?

As much as I may be complaining, I’m thankful that- for the most part- we’ll have some time together as a family this holiday season.  I cooked for our kin that can make it, and lit a candle for those that couldn’t.  It’s entering the end of the semester, which is a busy time for the students and teachers alike, and we have both in Dwight’s side of the family.  I’m thankful for the chance to do what I love and teach biology to undergraduates.  I’m thankful to have my dissertation done and submitted, and my hooding coming up.  I’m thankful for the families that I’ve seen through the family building process, and child-free friends who remind me of my more carefree days before kids (and let Kenny and I participate in their big Random Acts of Kindness endeavors).

Being thankful for these things makes me want similar privileges- family, friends, living wages, education- for other families as well.

Share

Practice Makes Perfect- But Not Nearly Fast Enough

November 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Regula-Meyer

kids

I’m a biologist, and as such, I care about the words we use for things.  Words, especially names, in biology mean a lot- they can tell us details about who an organism is related to or similar to, or some of that thing’s history (where it was found, who described it), and they can be very descriptive like the newly discovered ligament in the knee.  It’s being called the “antero-lateral ligament” because it’s found on the lateral (outside) side of the knee, and is anteriorly placed (or closer to the abdomen than the foot).  Names of things can also give an idea of when it was discovered, as trends in names have changed greatly over time, from being more honorific to being more descriptive.  Yeah, I kind of like etymology.

While there’s a ton of thought that goes into naming something in biology that we don’t think of going into naming everyday objects like “cat” or “ball,” to a person just learning any language, there can be a lot of thought in figuring out what words like “cat” and “ball” mean.  This is even more the case for new learners of any language- young children.  Trying to discern how general a term like “cat” or “ball” is, and how large a group it encompasses- deciphering what makes a ball a ball and not a cat- is tough work.  My cat is rather large and often curled into a spherical shape- will she bounce like a ball does?  This new ball is soft and squishy like the cat- why doesn’t it make sound?  From an adult perspective, these questions are ridiculous and sound like something a person on drugs would come up with, but to someone who is figuring out the meanings of words for the first time, they’re valid questions.

And then there are proper nouns, that have a specific thing to which they’re tied, but of course those terms are not marked in some way in verbal communication.  Thus, every bearded man wearing flannel becomes “Uncle Mark” until we learn otherwise.  Possibly the most difficult are those terms that can be specific or general, like “grandma” or “doctor.”  As adults, we know these terms are roles, and act as descriptors for the names with which they’re attached- I am Dr. Regula Meyer, noting both who I am and what I do; “Grandma Sue” tells both the specific person and the very important group of people to whom she belongs, grandmas.

Lately, Kenny’s been figuring this out with me as we talk about common names and species names, and he’s learning that not all “finches” are the same type of “finches” and how to tell them apart.  We’ve even stocked up on our bird feeder supplies, in hopes of continuing watching and learning through the winter.  Miss E, on the other hand, is learning more simple levels of this discussion, and trying to figure out family configurations.  What roles are there in a family, who fills them, and what do you call them?  She’s made the mistake a few times of calling either daddy or papa by the term “mama” because they were doing something that the “mamas” of her classmates do- baking, hugging, reading, and whatnot.  I’m sympathetic to this plight, while I can laugh at it, remembering all the times that Kenny has (and still does) call me “dad” or Dwight “mama.”  It’s rough building all those neural pathways to fix a language in your brain.  Even harder is having to make all those connections on your own, without someone who speaks “Babyese” to help explain the nuances.

Speaking seriously, this is why reading and talking to children is so important, so that they can experience words in multiple scenarios and make those connections, generalizations, and specifics more quickly.  Taking a more light-hearted approach, it makes for great stories when they’re older, about incorrect or inappropriate use of words as they were still practicing these language skills.  And finally, from a more reflective position, thinking about all the work that goes on to try and communicate, even with people closest to you and whom you hold dear, might give us a bit of appreciation for the tough life of a child, how they can expend so much energy and get tired so quickly, and maybe why tantrums happen to frustrated, tired kiddos who have spent all day trying to decide just what exactly “blue” means.

Share

Accepting People for Who They Are: The World Is My Oyster

October 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Regula Meyer

accepatance

Over the weekend, our family was enjoying some down time and relaxing by watching old episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.  Nothing surprising or extraordinary about that, as we’re huge science fiction/fantasy geeks.  The episode on was “Cogenitor,” a story of first contact with an alien species that has three sexes instead of two, and thus uses third party reproduction obligatorily.  If you enjoy Star Trek, you know of the Prime Directive- a sort of Hippocratic oath for space exploration- that states a priority on non-interference in other cultures and their development.  The introduction of a third sex and third party reproduction obviously got my interest, and this portrayal of third party reproduction was not much different from other portrayals in the media, like Baby Mama, or the “Friends” episode where Phoebe serves as a gestational surrogate for her brother, among others.  There are hierarchies, possibilities for exploitation, qualitatively different life histories and possibilities, all the fun themes that keep surrogacy misunderstood and surrogates stereotyped (here I give a huge hat-tip to The Next Family for helping to change so many stereotypes- thank you!).

I know enough surrogates to know that this stereotype is far from the full story, but like all stereotypes, there is a small percent of people who do fit the stereotype, and one shared characteristic is enough for humans to lump lots of diversity and variation into one loose-fitting category.  Our brains have evolved to categorize things, to make decisions simple and quick, because a wrong decision for a hunter or gatherer could have been deadly.  Today, our brains are far too good at categorizing for our own good, and those quick decisions often get us into deep doo-doo.

Oysters make similar quick decisions when they are presented with something unusual, a grain of sand or a bit of broken shell, for example.  It takes that small source of irritation and adds layer after layer of complexity to create a pearl, something unique and valued.  What started the formation of that pearl was something unpleasant and not that valuable, but we almost entirely ignore that small grain in the center of the pearl in favor of the everything that came after it; it’s no longer seen as a grain of sand, but as a pearl, something totally different.  For our part, we do things slightly differently.  We take that small defining characteristic- be it race, ethnicity, gender, orientation- and use that as the basis for defining an individual.  We ignore all the complex layers that the world and the individual have added to make a unique, beautiful individual.  We see humans as inverted pearls, with the beauty on the inside.

What I’d like to see, and what I’m seeing more of every year, is seeing that individuality as the beauty that it is.  I’m going to take a bit of creative license and totally reinterpret the saying “The world is my oyster” at this point.  The world IS our oyster- it gives us experiences and challenges that are often a response to our identity, makes us a more complex person because of that experience, and makes us so much more valuable than those categories that we’re initially put into as a part of our identity.  And not just us, this process happens to everyone; we are all so much more than the sum of our parts.  Thank you, The Next Family and readers, for seeing the beauty in diversity and the value in all people.  You’re helping to create a future that is far more interesting and accessible, and I appreciate that.

Share

The Start of a New School Year

September 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Lisa Regula Meyer

By: Lisa Regula- Meyer

back-to-school-2

The school year is in full swing now in Kent, and we’re heartily enjoying life with a second grader.  Specifically, we’re enjoying this second grader and his second grade class.  This year, our school is trying out a mixed 1st and 2nd grade classroom.  Two teachers, two student teachers, and two grades in an extra large room (really two rooms with a collapsible wall between them that’s not used very often now).  Kenny’s been thrilled about it so far, and seems to be doing well with this new set-up, in part because the first grade teacher was his teacher last year, and he really enjoyed working with her.  We’re glad that he has another year in a safe place where he enjoys learning, and his official teacher for this year has a similar pedagogy and manner to his first grade teacher.  His daily pattern is familiar, he’s making progress on school work, and meeting new friends.

I may not work with young kids, but I do teach, and I take my profession seriously.  So much in education is bad news- rising tuition, rising student loan amounts, another assessment added to the schedule, and test prep taking more and more time away from teaching.  With all of that, it’s great seeing innovation and child-centered learning still making its way into some areas.  Classrooms being treated like research, following evidenced-based practices and contributing to that evidence, trusting teachers to take leadership of their own classrooms, those are the things that I like to hear happening.

In my own classrooms, I’m trying some new things, as well, like virtual presentations and some new lab activities.  It’s surprising how different things feel with just a little bit of a difference; those little changes make such a big deal in overall outlook.  For me, seeing changes in my syllabus come together, and seeing how other people shape their classrooms for the students (with supportive administrators, even!)

Share

Next Page »