By Lisa Regula Meyer
This past Friday was my birthday. My mom had come up to visit and was staying with us for a few days, and that night she and Kenny had quality “Grandma-time” while Dwight and I went out. Just us, together. It’s not something that happens often, and this was special because we were going out to see a friend of his from high school as the featured poet celebrating her new chapbook. It was a real live adults’ night out!
Alexis’ poetry was great, and it was amazing meeting her and her boyfriend. The open mic poetry and slam poetry were also quite interesting, and the venue, Karma Café, served a mean chai. One poem especially spoke to me, a poem about Alexis’ children that she doesn’t and won’t have. I can’t say I understand how it feels to know you’ll never be a mom, because I don’t know that feeling, but I do understand the feeling of loss knowing you can’t have something you want.
And I kind of understand wanting to be pregnant. Maybe it was the birthday blues. Maybe it was the talk with my doc about “as we age” crap. Maybe it’s the fact that all my friends seem to be doing baby stuff. Whatever it is, there’s a part of me that has delusions of pregnancy. It’s kind of odd, I’m not sure why I feel like this, and I’m not sure how this plays out.
The one thing I do know for sure is that I still do not want another kid. So I did what any reasonable person would do- I went and shopped for some of my baby-laden friends simply to look at cute clothes and accessories. I watched cute baby animal videos on Teh Interwebz. I looked through my son’s baby books and photos of our early months as a family. I signed up to sponsor a child on Plan USA a la “About Schmidt.” I talked baby-talk to the cat. I met a new-mama friend for coffee and tried playing with her baby, only for it to look at me as if I were a complete and utter moron (and my friend claimed I had a similar expression on my own face). That experience, followed quickly by a stench of a dirty diaper and tears, reassured me that my heart most certainly was not melting, and I was still my usual curmudgeonly self.
I don’t want another baby. I just want to be pregnant again. Or at least a little part of me does. I want to feel the joy of creating a family again. I want to feel that creative energy again. And the little internal kicks. Of course, an excuse for the extra slice of birthday cake wouldn’t hurt, either.
I’ve heard stories of similar feelings from other surrogates before, and I went through something like this during my second surrogacy. I’m off to think on the topic, do lots of soul searching, and figure out where to go from here.
By Lisa Regula Meyer
This weekend, I had the honor of not only seeing two very good friends get married, but also getting to be a part of the whole thing in a way I’ve never been, other than with my own wedding. Actually, come to think of it, I probably put more planning into their wedding than in mine, considering my husband and I essentially eloped (with about a dozen people in tow). The process of getting these two beautiful people hitched really got me thinking, for many reasons, not the least of which was the discussion of privilege that was at the center of their wedding plans.
See, Chris and Kris are both very aware of the benefits of marriage, and how they automatically are put into a privileged position by virtue of the fact that they are a straight couple, and thus can have their union recognized by the state and federal governments. For them, their awareness and general amazingness lead them to choose not to accept that privilege by not getting legally married. They had the ceremony, but aren’t filing the paperwork. This leaves them in basically the same situation as all of their same-sex couple friends, and they plan to stay in this state of non-legal marriage until their friends can join them in matrimony.
Plenty of people look at marriage as a religious rite, and a marriage ceremony is most definitely a religious rite, but a marriage is so much more than those rites; it’s a relationship, it’s a joining of two people, it’s a commitment to each other, it’s a joining of two families and communities, and possibly the most important facet (from a practical standpoint) marriage is a legal contract.
This contractual agreement between two people can be very formal, including extensive pre-nuptial agreements, and post-nuptial agreements, or it can be extremely informal, simply taking advantages of what is offered by right of being married. This informal agreement at one time (and still in some states) was granted automatically to common-law marriages, or live-in relationships that fit the functional definition of marriage for a certain period of time, but that has changed in many places. Marriage is now mostly considered an opt-in status, because of all the privileges that it conveys, and the difficulties in undoing those privileges if or when a relationship fails.
What exactly am I speaking of when I say “the privileges of marriages”? Well, it’s certainly not the dirty socks in unlikely places, or the fights over who forgot to pick up the kiddo after tutoring last week, as those go along with a relationship with or without the legal recognition. No, the privileges I’m referring to include access to employer-supplied health insurance, the presumption of paternity for children conceived in the marriage, access to federal benefits from tax filing status to Social Security Survivor benefits, automatic inheritance and hospital visitation (as well as decision making power) benefits, and many, many others.
In fact, there are enough benefits to marriage that some young people are getting married to a best friend of the opposite sex simply to have access to things like medical insurance or spousal benefits under military jobs and careers, or to help a foreign friend stay in the country after being fired or dropping out of school (I can’t cite statistics here, but I personally know of former students with whom I still keep in touch who are doing just these things).
All of these little (and not so little) things add up to a mountain of privilege for opposite-sex couples in a married relationship simply by virtue of the fact that they happen to love a person with different genitalia than they have. If this isn’t a system that sets up a second-class-citizen scenario, I don’t know what does, and I know all too many people reading this piece have an even better knowledge of what I’m speaking than I do, because unlike Chris and Kris- I did say “I do” legally.
I won’t lie and say that I don’t worry about my friends, and what they’ll do should something happen to one or the other of them, but I admire their deep courage and commitment to equality over this matter, and I worry about this same issue for all of my same-sex-couple friends as well. Especially considering the administration’s continuing deportation policies and breaking up of families , I really worry for my same-sex, different-nationality coupled friends (and this includes one of my surro-families).
My husband and I were married nearly a dozen years ago, before much of the current battle over marriage equality became prominent, and before Ohio added a “one-man, one-woman” ammendment to the state constitution. While I don’t have the bravery to get a divorce simply to not be the beneficiary of a fantastically flawed system (nor do I feel like spending the money, time, and changes it would take to do that right now), but at this moment in my husband’s and my marriage, it definitely drives home exactly how lucky we are, even if those arguments and out-right fights continue to plague us. So instead, I’ll fight as much as I can to help my fellow married friends of all relationship groups have access to the same benefits that I have, and admittedly take advantage of.
By Lisa Regula Meyer
By now, hopefully at least a few of you have gotten a chance to see the new reality show on The Learning Channel, “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo,” which follows Alana (a.k.a. Honey Boo-Boo), through her life as a young beauty pageant queen, along with the rest of her family. The family is a veritable train wreck, whatever your opinion of the Toddlers and Tiaras lifestyle and its effects on kids.
In other news, Disney recently drastically revamped Ursula from The Little Mermaid into, well, a vamp -to help promote their Villains line of makeup. They’ve taken a rotund, double-chinned octopus and turned her into a svelte, chiseled-cheekbone bearing diva. While I applaud the fact that they are moving past the ugly=evil position that they’ve had for a while now, I’m not happy with the message that beautiful=stick-thin, either; let alone marketing makeup with the Disney Princesses.
“Now, what on earth does Honey Boo-Boo have to do with Disney’s makeup endeavors?” you may be asking yourself by now. For starters, the Disney princess franchise sets up impossibly high beauty standards for girls, and some seriously shady messages about gender roles in society (granted, they have had some better role models lately, but the classic -and most heavily marketed- princesses are not what you want your daughter aspiring to, at least in my opinion).
Girls who have a well-defined sense of self, and are already confident in themselves (not common at the age which most girls are introduced to Disney princesses) run little risk of conforming her identity to that presented by outside forces, or internalizing those viewpoints. However, if the girl accepts and internalizes this view of “correct” female aesthetics and roles, then there are a few ways things can go. At one extreme end, you have Honey Boo-Boo -loud, confident, demanding, with a life centered on a specific view of beauty. At the other end of the spectrum, or possibly later in the girl’s development, there’s the Bratz version -many of the same traits as Honey Boo-Boo, but with a rebellious streak. Worst-case scenario, she ends up involved with drugs and promiscuity, possibly pregnant or with an STD. For anyone who hasn’t seen the Bratz dolls, think of a Barbie doll with more makeup, fewer curves, and a younger face, often wearing go-go boots, micro-minis, and leopard print.
Whichever direction a girl or young woman ends up going, she will be judged. If she ends up like Honey Boo-Boo, she’s laughed at, ridiculed, and parodied. If she ends up like the Bratz, she’s likely to be slut-shamed (insulting a female for her real or perceived breaking of sexual norms and roles in that society). There is no winning for girls who follow this path of princesses and stereotypes, but we continue to press them into these stereotypes. We claim inherent differences in boys and girls; that girls are drawn to princesses and pink by birth, even though the bulk of the data points to gender as socially constructed, similar to the way race is socially constructed, through others’ expectations of us, and our responses to those expectations.
The worst part of this whole scenario isn’t the pain we inflict on girls because of who they are and what they look like. The worst part of this process is the fact that we give them choices -not to help them avoid the pain and ridicule- but simply in what kind of pain and ridicule they eventually receive. The cruelty is the lie we feed our daughters, and the very limited options we expect of them.
By Lisa Regula Meyer
It’s a very odd couple of weeks in the news, enough to make me wonder if my long time dream of time travel had come true in a “Monkey’s Paw” sort of way, and I’ve awoken in 1950-something. Talk of “legitimate rape,” “honest rape,” “forcible rape,” forms of conception, and eleven-year -old kids that deserve to have been raped. In case you’ve been living under a rock, all of this is framed in the discourse on abortion, and specifically personhood rights for the unborn (well, except the remark about the eleven-year-old; that’s just cruel and asinine). Now, I wasn’t there in the bad old days of the coat hanger and before Roe vs. Wade, but I’d wager the rhetoric was worse, although I’m not sure by how much.
I can respect a pro-life stance, even if I myself am pro-choice; I have plenty of friends that are pro-life for various reasons and to varying degrees, but we mostly get along. I say “mostly” because saying that any group got along all the time would be a lie now wouldn’t it? Even when we don’t necessarily get along, we’re civil and respectful, and while no one typically persuades anyone else, in the end we’re still friends. I think that’s how most of us are in our day-to-day lives, with people we know, or at least I like to think that’s the case. You’d never know it from the news, though, and I may be delusional in thinking the way I do.
Thing is, while all the talk from the likes of Akin, Ryan, Paul, and Passidomo make it sound like these are just misspoken words or verbal accidents, there’s a certain logic to these unhinged statements. What they effectively do is blame the victim and dehumanize the woman involved, and by extension, all women. As a meme that’s been going around Facebook states, a woman deserves to be raped because she’s scantily clad just as much as a man deserves to be kicked in the balls when he doesn’t put on a cup in the morning. Victim blaming is the easiest of these insidious tactics to dispel because all it requires is a simple respect for others.
The other lines are a bit trickier, in part because they rely on that first step above: respecting others. But once you do that, you have to think about dichotomies. See, any time you categorize something, you imply that not everything fits in that category. For there to be “honest rape,” that implies that some rapes are “dishonest,” or a case of “buyer’s remorse”, and nothing could be further from the truth. Rape is never OK, there is nothing that a person can do that makes them worthy of being raped. To say that they are worthy of rape is to say that they aren’t human, plain and simple.
Finally, using lies and fallacies like women’s bodies “shutting that whole thing down” and pregnancies not resulting from rapes is blatant propaganda and dishonesty, on top of victim-shaming and cruelty. More importantly, it is absolutely unacceptable for those who should be held as role models to be spreading this misinformation and mischaracterization, and even worse when this is done by a member of the House Science Committee. There is a place for opinion, if you could even call these opinions, but it is not situated somewhere north of facts, at least not in the real world, which these people have arguably left behind at this point.
On a closing note, what all of these comments have in common is a reflection of the fact that there are plenty of people in the US and the world who still consider women to be second class citizens, and not worthy of the same respect as men and not able to be trusted with decisions regarding their own body. In fact, talking about rape as another form of conception ignores the woman entirely, and focuses simply on “rape->baby” and in thirty-one states, the woman continues to be ignored by laws that allow fathers via rape to have the same rights and access to their progeny as fathers via IVF, intercourse, or adoption (yes, you read that right, rapists can sue for visitation, too). The same goes with personhood amendments which instill legal status on all embryos, including those created via IVF. Many prominent pro-life activists are opposed to personhood statutes, because those statutes go too far in limiting rights, and would effectively bar IVF due to concerns on how to deal with all of the extra embryos created in the process and the need to figure out what to do with them (and a desire to avoid additional Octo-mom situations).
Personally, I will always support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, the same as I respect a man’s right to bodily autonomy in the circumcision debate. If we can’t control our own bodies, what do we have control over? And let’s face it, this discussion is not about protecting the unborn, or caring for children- if it were, we wouldn’t have such a high national child poverty rate. The discussion on different types of rape, abortion (and in part, surrogacy) is about control. Women are not chattel, and any politician- or human, for that matter- would do well to remember that all 7 billion plus humans currently alive are here because of a woman (or two).
By: Lisa Regula Meyer
In case you, Dear Reader, hadn’t noticed, I really enjoy the surrogacy world. I may not have much tolerance for kids- especially when they misbehave- but I enjoy the theory of kids and parenting. Becoming a family; the many different ways people can go about it; the many variations of families; the different ways to get to one common goal- a healthy, well-adjusted next generation- fascinate me. Part of it is the variety, part is the loftiness of shaping the next generation, and part of it is all the amazing biology and odds that come into play. But all of it is truly miraculous. And so it was with great honor and enthusiasm that I get to go to the Men Having Babies seminar in New York City this September, as the traditional surrogate speaker.
I’ve spoken to groups before, but usually in my academic discipline of herpetology and community ecology, and I’ve traveled before, even alone, but never to The Big Apple. So there are lots of reasons to be excited about this little adventure of Mama’s. I might even get to see some friends while I’m there, and make some new ones! The whole project is actually very interesting- panels open to prospective intended parents and speakers including IVF doctors, lawyers, psychologists, surrogates, and parents via surrogacy, egg donors, and more. Obviously, there will also be plenty of other prospective IPs to talk with and discuss options, and the website for Men Having Babies has recently added assessments and survey information on various professionals in surrogacy to their site.
As much as I may have always been bookish as a kid, I also love a good adventure. Reading may have been my way of exploring and adventuring as a poor kid in a rural home with no cable (no, I’m not that old, Dad just never agreed with paying for TV). Books let me pursue adventures without dealing with the logistics and essentially inaccessible options. Whatever the reasons, and whatever the outlets, I’ve always been one to explore, take risks, and try new things. Variety is the spice of life, and I like it picante.
Odd as it may seem, my love of trying new things definitely did encourage my desire to pursue surrogacy. That’s not to say that every person should have the experience of being or having a surrogate, but for those who are interested and able, it’s a great experience to have. I’m not going to lie; it does have its risks, and its downsides, but then again, so does every new experience. How many times have you tried a new recipe, only to realize that you do, in fact, hate cacao nibs with squash? Really, that’s one experience you should avoid at all cost.
Most of the time in surrogacy, the benefits far outweigh the negatives, and the serious negatives happen only a very small fraction of the time, and there are benefits that you don’t ever imagine when you’re just starting out. Biggest benefit is most definitely creating a new family, but there are also the feelings of appreciation, meeting the wonderful non-immediate family of your IPs, seeing new places, hearing new perspectives, and far more. The negatives do happen; I realize that and have seen them happen recently to a very dear friend of mine. Ultimately, it’s about weighing the risks and benefits, and making a decision that you’re comfortable with, and due to stupidity or something, I’m comfortable with quite a lot of risk. Maybe a bit too much; I have taken more than a couple of volts in my lifetime during home improvement projects.
The thing is- for me- the benefit of having a new experience that I’ve never had before is a huge benefit. I’ll admit that I may have gotten even less risk averse lately, but it’s worked out so far. I risk putting myself out here and talking about some deeply personal topics; I took a risk and went to the surro-babe’s birthday party; I’ve applied for (and taken) jobs that were high skill levels that I didn’t think myself to be; and I’ve spoken out vocally with positions that weren’t popular. Do I regret any of it? No, because I’ve been able to rise to the challenges and learn an awful lot. Would I do any of it differently? Possibly, but I can’t see cutting back on the risks I’ve taken, only trying other things that I had the sense (good or otherwise) to pass on at the time.
I love being a part of surrogacy, and I love the people that are also in this world- people who are willing to dare to dream, and take the risks, and put themselves out there. By doing these little things- by being true to ourselves- it shows the world what all is possible, and makes it a little easier for the less-brave souls to follow their dreams as well. If nothing else, I have more fun trying new things than I would by not trying them. So take a chance. Be your truest self. Learn something new. Heck, bet once in a while. Me or the Big Apple- who do you think will come out more intact? September 22nd, when I finally take on New York City, the world finally gets to find that out.
Full disclosure- my husband’s money is on New York. He doubts my ability to navigate hoards of people without damaging my sanity.
By: Lisa Regula Meyer
This summer, Kenny has once again spent much of his time in a summer camp program run by Kent Parks and Recreation department. As usual they do a good job getting kids outdoors, running around, meeting new neighborhood kids, and trying new experiences, and at a great price compared to other options. He’s had a great time, especially with their swimming lessons every Wednesday. One little thing has come up, though, on swimming days -peeping and privacy. His camp this year is for “the big kids” (ages 6-12 years) and he’s happy to be with the older group, but older kids mean more awareness of bodies and differences. He’s a red-headed, freckle-faced, blue-eyed, pasty white kiddo, and under normal circumstances, he’d blend in pretty well. However, when swimming, locker rooms and changing clothes are involved and he sticks out like a sore thumb.
See, my husband and I chose not to have our son circumcised. Neither of us is Jewish, so there was no cultural reason to do so, and the science on the benefits of circumcision is questionable at best, so we saw no reason to do something that we considered violating his right to bodily autonomy. It’s the same reason that- had we had a girl- I wouldn’t have had her ears pierced until she could make her own decision, and the same reason that I believe people should be trusted to make their own medical decisions instead of having those decisions legislated. To be clear, this was our choice in our circumstances, and other people may come to completely different decisions, and we respect that. This difference in Kenny does unfortunately make him quite the spectacle in the changing room for other boys. Also unfortunately, for whatever reason, Parks and Rec doesn’t have any males working in their summer programs, so when changing for swimming, the kids are left unsupervised, which wouldn’t be a problem except for Kenny being intact. Because of this little bit of skin, Kenny’s been peeped at, teased, made fun of, and not had any privacy. We’ve worked it out so that he goes to camp in his swim trunks, and simply wears them all day without changing, and it’s worked out reasonably well for us once we adjusted to this situation.
My husband and I made a choice, and it wasn’t the one most commonly made in this circumstance. Would we have changed our minds and had him circumcised if we had known the issues that would pop up from time to time? I doubt it. The same was the case when his hair was long. Fact of the matter is, the husband and I have made a number of choices that weren’t the norm, and nearly all of them have had some repercussions. Those range from a minor inconvenience that our compost jar poses in the summer when fruit flies are about, to major headaches like this episode with the peeping. But every decision has consequences; it’s simply a matter of weighing what you perceive to be the costs and the benefits of each decision. Even making a decision that is in line with what the majority does may have consequences that you don’t expect. Whatever the situation, though, when you make a decision, you have to deal with the fallout, however pleasant or unpleasant it is; that’s the nature of decisions.
How one deals with fallout is an important thing, as well. Compromise is just as important as dealing with consequences, and is sometimes the right way to deal with unpopular decisions. Obviously, there are times that require compromise and changing plans, and times that require holding to a decision. Deciding when to stay and when to hold isn’t just a critical skill for poker players, but for all of us, as we navigate the consequences of our decisions and interpersonal relationships, whether parent and child or representative and constituent relationships. On the larger scale decisions, our Congress last year put in place sequestration measures if they could not come to a long term solution to the national debt and deficit. How they decide to compromise or hold fast will have far larger consequences than an individual’s decision on a relatively minor topic, but the concepts behind both processes are the same.
There’s been a massive heat wave in Ohio and much of the US this summer, and drought conditions are occurring across the country. Last week, we had some reprieve in the form of rain, but not nearly enough. It’s nearing the end of July, and that’s oddly big for me, because summer, especially July, is a busy time. Family birthdays and anniversaries, the fourth of July and summer vacations, and juggling kid care with high research season and changed schedules all lead to stress and a touch of insanity in our household. Add in stuff with this historic house around town and trying to keep it off a garden plot, and you can just imagine.
The good thing is that I like working under pressure. In fact, as I type this piece, it’s a mere couple of hours before this piece is due. It’s how I roll, I guess, and I’ve tried to stop procrastinating- because, honestly, that’s what it is- plenty of times previously, and I may even try again. Tomorrow. Or later on this week. Maybe. Whatever.
Last year, on July 31st, my sister added yet another “thing” to my July schedule when she pulled the trigger on that .25 that her husband had given her. It’s been nearly a year, and I thought I had made so much progress, but anniversaries get you. Especially that first year, you can start to notice the days ticking down. My mom’s and first surro-girl’s birthday is the 22nd; nine days to go. Mom and Dad’s anniversary is the 23rd; eight days to go. Dwight’s birthday is the 25th; six days to go. And so on, ticking away until the 31st, with the tension and pressure building the whole time.
I know this pattern, but I just started seeing it in myself this year. I know the pattern because I’ve seen it plenty before. I saw it in family members after my dad’s death, and I see it in them now, and if I could look back on teenage me, I would probably see it then, too (one more reason I want a TARDIS). In my experience, the “gearing up” is shorter and shorter as time passes; at this point after my dad’s death (17 years), it’s really only the day of his death that I get uneasy. The world goes on, life gets busy, new memories fill one’s head while older ones get dull and blurry and faded over time, and that’s a GOOD thing! It lets us heal and not dwell on what pain has happened to us in our lives; our brains are pretty dang compassionate that way.
The last year has brought a lot of change in our house, some of it due to Kim’s death, and some of it not. Other changes are due to my dissertating, and job changes, and Kenny growing up. These changes haven’t been easy, by any count, but they’ve helped me learn a lot about myself and the world, and I can’t think of a case where learning- gaining knowledge- is a bad thing. I will admit that some of my learning in this past year could only have happened with the help of my grief counselor. I know it’s the twenty-first century, but I grew up with the idea that you didn’t talk about “personal problems” with strangers, that counseling or therapy wasn’t an acceptable alternative, and instead you just “get over” grief, anger, and other negative emotions. (Oddly, prescription drugs were OK, though? I never said family made sense…) Unfortunately, sometimes the stress of day-to-day life is already a lot, and adding on a painful, heartbreaking event is just too much for us to get over on our own. When that happens, it’s not just smart but efficient to ask for help of some sort. The pain still needs worked through, processed, and dealt with, but that help- whether chemical or outside professional emotional support- can be the difference in making a painful time manageable or simply leaving a great, festering wound. I mentioned the weather to start this whole post off because that rain in the midst of a drought was healing, like a good cry in the midst of deep pain. Just like tears, we need rain in the right amount. Too much or too little, and life gets a heck of a lot harder, not just for the organism experiencing too much or too little water, but for all the organisms around it, through direct and indirect consequences.
I put all this out in the open for a number of reasons. Getting it off of my chest helps me, and maybe it will help someone else who needs a gentle reminder. I doubt it, but you never know. Knowing yourself isn’t easy in my experience, which is part of what makes having someone exterior to the situation helpful. At the very least, maybe this will help you, Reader, whoever you are. Sometimes the world is too much. Sometimes we all need help. That’s not a bad thing, it means you’re human. I can’t do anything now to help my sister, I can’t make her go and get some form of help, or be there for her any longer, but there’s still 7+ billion people on the planet, and maybe one of those people I *can* help.
Best of all, maybe one of those 7+ billion people is someone that you can help. Maybe there’s someone that you smile at today who needed that smile more than anything else. Maybe a listening ear that you lend lets someone release enough steam that they don’t blow up or break down. Maybe that coffee with a friend gives someone the strength to keep going. Maybe the compliment you paid a stranger makes someone’s day. Maybe your lost dollar bill buys someone else who needs it a lunch. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that’s OK. It’s Monday, and the world is full of potential, and anything can happen. Today might even be the day I get that TARDIS…
By: Lisa Regula Meyer
In my little town, we’ve been undergoing lots of renovation, remodeling, and construction. And by “lots” I mean half of downtown closed off and all of it choking under construction dust. Some of that impending development has put at risk a historic home that was associated with one of our town founders, Zenas Kent. The house is over 150 years old, and is also connected to other prominent families, which isn’t surprising considering how small towns start out and how important people tend to group together. There’s been a lot of work put into figuring out how to save this house, and relocate it. The problem is that the site for relocation is currently in use by the local cultural arts as a green space next to their gallery, local kids wanting to play, families for community gardens, and neighbors for a place to chill.
I understand and appreciate the need to preserve history; heck, I live in a “century-house” myself and wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I also see the need for green spaces downtown, and for kids to have their own space. As it stands now, this little plot houses theater classes, swing sets, solar panels, rain gardens, and veggie gardens. Possibly the worst part of this is that one of the prominent locals helping to move the house has been active and vocal in the sustainability discourse here, so it feels like a betrayal. Both sides have passionate arguments and believe that they are the ones in the right. Full disclosure: I heartily support keeping the green space as it is, and consider that a higher value to the community than this house, which has lately been a student rental, and then vacant.
The two major arguments are “history” versus “green space” but the larger issue in my mind is children’s rights and privilege. Besides ideology, there’s another major difference between the two groups, and that’s demographics. The historians tend to be middle to upper-middle class, white, older, and well educated. The demographics using the green space tend to be lower to lower-middle class, ethnically diverse, and younger, with many minors. That’s a big problem. You can always argue about preservation, development, and green spaces, but when you have a distinctly privileged group trying to put out underprivileged populations, I get irate. When that privileged group won’t even acknowledge their privilege and see the other side- I want to scream.
I’ll admit my bias on this one; I have a kid and he and his friends enjoy that green space; I’m an ecologist and my life revolves around conservation; my favorite historian (other than my husband) is Howard Zinn; I’m an ardent activist and child advocate. I may not be fond of kids personally (besides my own), but they are our future, and we should treat them as such. This same town rose up in arms against an apartment complex that refused to renew leases with its senior citizens, instead choosing to target college student populations as renters.
Argument and disagreement are not uncommon in Kent. It’s hard to be a college town, and that association itself tends to create tension. Add the identity issues of a town where the National Guard once turned on US students/citizens and killed four, injured nine, and it’s amazing we fight as little as we do, but history always brings this stuff out here.
Really, the way I see it is that this is a matter of priorities. Do we, as a group, value the history and culture of a fairly homogeneous group and preserve that at all costs, or do we try to be inclusive, celebrate diversity, and create places for those without means? Do we invest in our past or our future? Communities are simply bigger families, and we can either accentuate from where we came, or who we are right now. Do we focus on things we cannot change, or what we actively embrace and foster, in hopes of the best?
By: Lisa Regula Meyer
Cycles are important, especially to women. Our cycles mean a lot to us: are we pregnant? (congratulations, again, Lexi and Devon!), are we mature? are we in good health? are we at the end of our child-bearing years? – all of which can be addressed in part by our cycles. As a woman, I’m no different in that, and like all women, I’m so much more than that one dimension.
For anyone who hasn’t noticed, I’m an ecologist, and I study frogs. That makes spring in our house a little different than most houses. Where other mamas start noticing the warmer weather, the spring rains, and the flowers, I see humidity levels, time at sunset, hours of dark, and insect activity levels. I start obsessing over the weather- is it warm enough? Is it wet enough? Is there enough daylight? When will the FROGS START TO CALL?! Summer in our house involves lots of late nights driving around count frog surveys, and days counting and measuring tadpoles.
See, most people think of scientists and professors and imagine serious, disciplined, dare I say it- stodgy. Yeah, we’re really not like that, we ecologists. Well, some are, but most not. Herpetologists (people who study amphibians and reptiles, like me) are a little further on the “not your typical professor” scale, and the furthest I’ve ever seen are the elasmobranchs, who study sharks, skates, and rays. They know how to party. But I digress.
My year’s research can live or die by knowing cycles, and how to predict my study organisms. A single big, unexpected event means an entire year is gone. Believe it or not, even though I was working in Ohio, in 2005 hurricane Katrina destroyed my study site and wiped out a year of breeding for the Northern dusky salamanders of Big Pine Hollow. It behooves me to be anal-retentive about the natural world, know what’s going on, and have a good idea of what’s going to happen.
Cycles help with that burden; they give me an idea of what to expect, a baseline if you will. While our current Gregorian calendar, like all other calendars, is man-made and has all the fallibilities that come along with that, it serves a purpose. Wood frogs around here call in late March, spring peepers early April, green frogs in May, bull frogs in July, and so on. Except for years like this, and years like this have gotten more common; years that are less predictable, further outside the normal cycles and limits that we expect, and that’s bad, although it does have its up-sides as well.
Years like this make us re-examine. Years like this remind us that cycles can be wrong, that stochasticity occurs, that life is not predictable all the time. And sometimes I need that reminder, in both the good ways and the bad. Not all surprises are bad, in fact, some are amazing. Sometimes the surprise is everything falling together perfectly. Sometimes the surprise is a species that isn’t where you had expected it. Sometimes the surprise is an experiment that works out just the way you planned.
Other times, it’s the cycle that gives you a little nugget. Those long cycles, those ultridian cycles, the ones where you know they’ll happen again, but you don’t know when. Or you know when, but it’s a looooooooonnnnng time. Like Transit of Venus or Haley’s comet long. The point to this whole ramble is buried in those little nuggets.
Always remember that sometimes the unexpected is just what you need, and sometimes you have to adore the beauty of things you take for granted, because cycles can change and those spring wildflowers might not make it up next year. Challenge yourself to notice the cycles a little more, and see all the wonder that there is out in the natural world. Appreciate the unexpected twists of fate. Look up at the stars, out at the sky, and down at the flowers. And never forget that in a finite universe, the molecules from those stars that no longer shine had to go somewhere, and nature is the best recycler around.
Interview with Lisa Regula Meyer for The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
It’s been great. I love reading all the different perspectives here, and all the types of families. I especially enjoy seeing the common themes across all families (“Am I doing the right thing?” “My kid isamazing!” “How do I explain this to a child?” “Parenting is hardwork!” those sorts of minutiae), and how those themes are interpreted through different lenses (adoption, surrogacy, same sex parents, single parents, etc.). And let’s be honest- writing about something besides invasive plants and native amphibians is a great distraction from my dissertation, even if my advisor disapproves.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
We’re the same as every other family in that we love each other, even if we do sometimes struggle. We have to juggle work, house work, social life, school, community work, extended family, and much more. We’re our own best support system, and know we can count on each other. But, like every other family we have our own unique variation of life. I’ve heard that most kids don’t attend professional conferences for vacation. And I’ve heard a rumor that it’s not normal for a six-year-old to know more about TARDISes and Daleks than s/he does about sports. I guess our main difference is our extreme collective geekiness.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not, explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
Eh, some members of the family accept various parts of our life more than others. I don’t think that there’s anybody in either Dwight’s or my family that 100% agrees with how we live and the choices we make, but for the most part, the differences are in the details, not the broad picture. Some family members aren’t fond of surrogacy and/or our closeness with the LGBTQ community, others dislike our activism. A few family members disagree with our choice to pursue higher education, and some just wish we didn’t live where we do (usually wishing we lived closer). But if we all agreed on everything, life would be dull as all get out.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
Hahaha! I’ll let you know that answer when I figure it out, probably sometime after I conquer the mass of clothes to fold. I don’t tend to balance things, more often than not there’s one area of life that gets lots of attention, while the rest is ignored. And then something that was being ignored gets all the attention, while everything else is ignored. And the cycle continues…
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
Most important: There but for fortune, go you or I. Don’t hold someone else’s situation against them, because you could find yourself in a similar situation someday, and then you’ll need others to be understanding and supportive, as you’ve been in the past. Practice not sympathy, but empathy. Lesson to unlearn: Judging others. We’re all in this life together, and we can choose to either be a positive influence or a negative influence, and prejudice, discrimination, all the “-isms” preclude our being a positive influence on the world.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
Look past direct effects. Yes, they’re easier to understand, but they’re less interesting and don’t show the whole picture. And you can do a lot if you just set the bar low enough. Either do a few things well, or try a bunch of stuff.
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
Know that I’m not trying to be a jerk or insult anyone ever, I just don’t often have the right words. And I’m about as blunt as a club. But I do care- a lot. So feel free to call me out when I screw up getting the point across. I’m a work in progress.