A Loose Tooth

by Tanya Ward Goodman
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My Grandmother’s death has brought the family together, but my daughter’s loose tooth has given us something cheerful to do. We are united by Sadie’s tooth. When she wiggles that darned thing, we stop thinking for a moment about how hard it will be to sell the house and what a waste it would be to send that antique cameo necklace into a hole in the ground. No matter how we feel about the President, gun control or healthcare, the loose tooth brings us all together. We plot and plan for extraction when wills and accounts and phone conversations with lawyers are the dark alternative.

Sweet Sadie with her big smile and her curly hair is an eight year old in a house full of sad adults. She feeds her virtual Ipod horse and talks to the very real cat. She curls up on the wingback sofa and flips through scrapbooks hoping to find photos of someone she knows. My uncle says we should reach up behind the tooth – get a nail under the raw edge. “Move it sideways,” he says. My brother makes a lasso of dental floss and spends the better part of an hour trying to slip it around the tiny tooth. Sadie chews gum and eats the hardened caramels we find in the kitchen cupboard. She wonders if she started running fast and fell down the big hill, the tooth would get knocked out on its own. When she is tired of grown up conversation, she cries and shouts that it’s not fair to have a loose tooth. It’s painful and keeps her from eating all the things she doesn’t like, though a child at a funeral can get by on only Jell-o salad and soft white rolls. She wiggles the tooth and lets others wiggle it. Fingers yellow with nicotine have touched the pearl of this little tooth. The funeral leaves us soggy with tears and chilled to the bone in the Dakota wind, but the tooth doesn’t come out.

The tooth is wiggly on the plane and in the taxi and keeps my girl awake all through our first night at home. She rages and gnashes and I think perhaps the tight set of her jaw will push the thing right out.

At dinner on our second night home, she asks for pliers. We have guests, but they seem not to mind, so I give her a Leatherman. We watch as she grabs and slips, grabs and slips. Someone suggests a paper towel. Once again this tooth is a project. We’re in it together and Sadie is happy to be right in the middle. There is wiggling and working. There is a ten-minute bout of frustration. Tears are shed. And just when we are all feeling like it should be over, just when we’ve begun to turn back to grown up talk, she pulls it out. Her smile is broad and bloody. The tooth is white and shiny in the black metal pincers.

And then, like that, we’re back on the girl.

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My Two Moms

by Tanya Ward Goodman

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Though they couldn’t be less alike, I am lucky to have two moms: the one who spent 36 hours in labor before I was cut from her belly and handed over to the nuns in the small brick hospital where I was born and the one who wore a dress the color of jacaranda blossoms when she married Dad just before my twelfth birthday. They have both been such strong influences in my life that somehow even my body reflects equal parts of these women. I have the height and lean arms of my stepmother, the woman I call “La,” and the sturdy legs and curving hips of my mother. My hands are square and rough at the knuckles like my mother’s hands, punished by years of gardening without gloves, and like La’s, whose hands ache at the joints from the effort of turning cold clay into coffee cups and cereal bowls on a wheel.
It is not just my body that bears the imprint of these women. Thanks to my mother, I have the ability to identify plants and discern a raven from a crow (the raven is bigger and looks blue in the sun). From La, I get my drive to action, my need to fix things. These forces brought me to New Mexico to care for my father when he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes these two influences are at war. The shyness and insecurity I inherited from my mother battle it out daily with La’s brave and often blind self-confidence. Guided by the force of her will she is often able to muscle through situations that would terrify my mother. She is, for example, navigating the unknown territory of my father’s illness while Mom stands at the edge of the forest and waits for someone to bring a map.
The strengths and shortcomings of my two mothers are tangled up with all that I have been given by Dad. Dad shares Mom’s reverence for the beauty and uniqueness of the world, but his intense drive to create quickened his pace, kept his hand moving over canvases and sketchpads late into the night. That pace is slowing now, which trips up La and me. I have come home to be with him and share this time, and I want to follow Dad’s meandering, but my responsibilities often lengthen my stride.
When I look in the mirror, I see Dad’s green eyes staring back through mine. I see his long torso reflected in my own. If I cut my head open right now, would I also see a faint shadow of forgetting?

Adapted from my memoir, “Leaving Tinkertown” which will be published in August of 2013

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Not a Penguin

by Tanya Ward Goodman

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Way back in college, when I was a theatre major, one of my class assignments was to become an animal. I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and observed the penguins. Imagining that my feet attached directly to my hips, I cultivated the “penguin walk.” I stood contemplatively with one wing held out from my side. I blinked and turned my head. At my professor’s behest, I aspired to “be penguin.”

Now, I should say that, in college, I was a nervous person. I took small, fast steps and was prone to daydreaming. It is very possible that you might have caught me, standing with one arm held out from my side, blinking in the sun with only my thoughts to keep me company. It is very possible that I was slightly penguin-like to begin with. Perhaps we all have a little penguin inside us, but we also have a little lion or crocodile or condor.

My acting professor applauded my penguin and I was happy. For our next assignment, I was to be Blanche Du Bois from “Streetcar Named Desire.” I filled my mind with the fluttering of moth wings and silk handkerchiefs, I looked into the mirror and made my eyes into deep pools of sadness and lost hope. I wore a filmy, pink dress and carried a box of letters from my ex-boyfriend hoping that the residual regret on the page might rise up like a fine dust around my body on the stage.

“You’re still a penguin,” my professor said. “Isn’t she a penguin?”

When we transformed ourselves into characters based on inanimate objects, my “tube of oil paint” was also dubbed “penguin.” “Guest at a wedding,” was “the penguin near the punch bowl.” It seemed that when she looked at me, my professor wore black and white goggles. And, after a time, when I looked at myself, so did I. It was hard to slow my quick pace, my words came in quick bursts or not at all and on stage I retreated deeper and deeper into a kind of blinking trance.

At the end of the year, I transferred out of her class and changed my major. I had found that I enjoyed writing just as much as acting and, in my writing classes, no one ever accused me of penguin prose.

I think of all this now, because I am the parent of two growing children. My son is athletic and strong. His legs are meaty with muscle and he rarely speaks when he can shout. Other parents comment on his outsized energy and his sturdy body. He’s been compared to a bull in a china shop, the Tasmanian Devil and a force of nature. “Fearless,” these parents say. And sometimes “brute.”

My boy named our dog, “Grace.” He is afraid to go upstairs in the dark and is sometimes so filled with his own nervous energy that he chews a hole in his shirt. As much as he pounds on his sister, he always compliments her outfit when she comes to the breakfast table. He can be so quiet and light on his feet that he can observe a lizard from an inch away. He is strong and fast and wild and kind and gentle and frightened. He is cheetah and kitten.

It is almost impossible to resist categorizing people. It helps to look out across a crowded school auditorium or classroom or workplace and see “chatty,” “angry,” “friendly,” “sturdy,” “reliable.” But these simple categories don’t do justice to the whole person. In the case of my theatre professor, I saw her as “crazy” and “harsh,” but she was in the middle of a divorce and so she was also sad and disappointed and heartbroken. Under different circumstances, she might have been warm and compassionate.

I want my children to understand that they can be angry, but that doesn’t make them an angry person. They can be strong in one area and weak in another. I want them to grow without limits and without definition into their best selves.

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A Pat On The Back.

By: Danny Thomas

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here I am…
sitting on the end of the bed
with a pile of laundry
literally
looming
over my computer.
Everything is looming right now;
spring,
the river,
the future,
the past,
relationships,
colleagues…
Jennifer and I
are occupying the land of loom…
it seems to happen with us a lot.

oh Christ…
are we those people…

with the drama,
and the constant crises?

Probably.
Sometimes…
we are.
Probably
sometimes
all of us are.

Oh well.

sorry.

This week,
the last six days,
have been intense.

How many parenting and family blogs have that line in them?
How self reflective can I be in one blog?

I started my new job full time.
I haven’t had a full time job in ten years…
The whole time Jen was in grad-school
we got by with me
being a home maker
and bringing in a little extra dough for
beer and wine and whatever recreation..
and
also
of course
student loans…
and food stamps.

I am not one of those people who claims to have put my spouse through
grad school…

I have very much been in
along-for-the-ride mode.

So…

that’s a big shift.
But that is only one aspect
of our intense week…

Also,
all three children
got a stomach flu.
And it lasted for the entire week in ‘Zilla’s poor little belly…
So strange.

Another reminder how they are all unique,
not just in how they look
and interact
with the world…

but even down to their chemistry
and how their guts work…

that the same flu
can sit with one kid for 4 days
and be through the system of the other two
over the course of 36 hours.

Bananas…

But that’s a blog for a different day.

So that’s two aspects…

and a third
it’s the last week of school for Jen
which means;
extra hours…
grading,
finals,
graduation,
showcases,
stuff like that…

phew

anyway…

my point is
We. Made. It

We made it through the week,
and here we are, enjoying the weekend.

We had a great,
wonderful,
special adventure yesterday
after ballet…
celebrating free comic book day.
And we watched a movie together…
And we are
a family
who loves each other,
and who eats well…
and together…
and who
gets sick together too
and props each other up
through
these big shifts in life…
who guide each other
through the looming future.

And sometimes it takes the crucible of hard times,
or the catalyst of big changes
to see that
or be reminded of it.

We are a team
and we do well together
more often than we fail
and that’s worth noting.
It’s worth celebrating.
As a matter of fact,
as often as possible.

I have talked about this blog
being a vessel of positive
self reflection,
that when I started writing it
I made a conscious decision
to use this as a place to
be thoughtful
and positive.
Knowing that there are plenty of trolls on the internet,
enough critics,
and more than enough depressing pessimism.

I am not always jolly
and I don’t always write about easy stuff,
or good feelings…
but I think we can
lead an examined life
that is also a positive one
and that is a goal,
hope,
vision of mine…
That my better self
has a sense of humor
about being self-critical

and can be gentle about being critical of others…

and knows it’s necessary,
but also knows…
there is a way
to do it
and a way to reflect
that is helping us to know
we are okay
as much as it helping us
to be our better selves…

I was inspired and reminded of my
commitment to optimism
yesterday
when I read this blog by Steve Wiens….

I am inspired to start
patting my parent self on the back
occasionally.

I hope you join me.

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Work and play. Play and work…

April 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Kids, Parenting, Urban Dweller

 

By: Danny ThomasIMG_2290I think it’s interesting
and not insignificant
that Jennifer and I
both seem to use the words
“work” and “play”
interchangeably.

we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
because
theatre
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
I think,
is a vocation
largely devoted
to playing.

in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…

I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…

anyway,
I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.

I guess
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
with someone
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.

Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents

and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
again,
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
to write…
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…
whatever…

It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and compelling
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
do because
we feel obliged to or inspired to
or both.
It is a unique kind of
responsibility
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.

back to the story…

I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
and outlook.
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
or both.

So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…

A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…

Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…

So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…

I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…

We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.

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Driving Miss Robin

April 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family

By: Ann Brown

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So, what’s new? Not much.

Oh wait. Right. Robin got his driver’s license suspended.

It’s not what you think, and I know that you are thinking DUI.

Robin was nabbed for speeding. And running a red light. And for totally being a dick to me when I was in a bad mood a few months ago and just needed to be left alone. Well, okay, he wasn’t pulled over for that, specifically, but I felt the police officer who gave him the speeding ticket should know what I go through. So I told him.

You’d think that a person who had his license taken away would be the contrite one in the car, right? And you’d think that person would refrain from giving helpful driving tips to the person who is giving up her valuable time to schlep him around town, and who has pretty much made her way in the driving world for, oh, forty years without his helpful tips and suggestions such as, “when you accelerate, you want to blah blah blah…”.

I can’t tell you how his sentences end because by then I am usually looking for the closest bridge from which to launch us both into the Willamette. The man cannot shut the fuck up about my driving.

The other week, after I did not accept his helpful suggestions on parallel parking, and after he pointed out that he is pretty much an expert in parallel parking and really, in all aspects of driving, possibly all aspects of life, and I pointed out that one of us who is not an expert still has a valid driver’s license and one of us who is an expert needs to have me drive him to Safeway because he is out of Preparation H wipes, and he pointed out that speeding and running red lights are not evidence of being a bad driver whereas my acceleration technique is a major red flag about my road skills, and, really, about my ability to navigate the world at all, and then I pointed out that I hate him and I have been faking my orgasms, he said indignantly to me, “I am going to get a new driver!”

And he looked at me as though he had just told me he was going to get a new wife. Which shook me about as much as if he said he was going to get a new driver.

And then I slammed on the brakes because I was about to run a red light and we both stopped fighting due to our instantaneous commitment to whiplashes while saving the Trenta iced tea I had just gotten from Starbucks, which was the topic of the helpful tip Robin had been giving me (“TWO dollars? For iced tea??? This is why we have no retirement savings”) right before the parallel parking thing happened.

Only there wasn’t really a red light. I just wanted to slam on the brakes. I like to fuck with him.

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My Current APGAR

April 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family, Urban Dweller

By Ann Brown

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I hate this kind of shit. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.

According to an article in Huffpo, by the age of 50, women should know how to do all the things listed below. This, of course, is complete bullshit; all a woman needs to know by age 50 is the adage, “you choose your face or your ass”, which means you can be thin (i.e. choose your ass) but your face will look gaunt and creepy and small children will run from you, or you can choose your face (eat all your want and grow your ass the size of Texas) and be gorgeous.

And by 59 (in a few weeks), all a woman needs to know is that even if she cannot see it, there is a whisker growing out of her face somewhere that is, like, four feet long and thick as a Sequoia. A whisker that was not there yesterday but is most certainly there today.

Huffpo, however, has a different list.

And therefore, below, my rebuttal:

Say “no” without feeling guilty – Yeah, um, unless you are Jewish. I even feel guilty when I say “yes”.

Book their own travel – do they mean make dozens of reservations on Alaska Airlines until the code letters you get spell out something that is a good harbinger and means the plane won’t go down? Then, yes. I do that.

Say “I’m sorry” and mean it – I totally mean it. On the surface. Where it counts.

Get around in a foreign country – Well that’s just stupid. Nobody needs to go to a foreign country anymore. Not when there is the Travel Channel. And legalized weed.

Mix at least a few classic cocktails – and by “classic”, do they mean drink tequila straight from the bottle while looking at photos of themselves when they were young and happy? Then, yes.

Make themselves and their own needs a priority – I feel I excel at this. I asked Robin if he thought I was too much of a martyr, always thinking of others, and if I need to make myself more of a priority and he laughed so hard he coughed up a tooth.

Defend themselves against an attacker with at least one signature self-defense move – I have one signature move. It’s a kind of pelvis sway and shimmy thing I learned in the 70′s at Disco Disco. You should see how fast men run away when I do it now.

Perform CPR
Carve a turkey – I only carve it if the CPR didn’t work.

Choose their own wine – Easy. The one that’s open. And closest to me so I don’t have to sit up. Or roll over.

Examine their own breasts – Well, now, this can be problematic. What with my fifty-nine year old eyes being so near-sighted and my breasts being so much further away from my face than they used to be, a lot of visual acuity is lost. So I generally just ask random strangers to examine them for me. Sometimes I add my signature move.

Graciously accept a compliment – Yeah, okay. When I fucking GET one, I’ll let you know how graciously I will accept it.

Flip their own breaker – if that is a euphemism for masturbating, I am not going to answer.

Plunge a toilet – Hah. That would be a really gross euphemism for masturbating.

Walk away from a situation or relationship when it’s not working – No problem. Ask the myriad personal trainers, nutritionists, therapists and leg-waxers in my wake.

Say what they really want in bed – Easy: SLEEP. And, every once in a while, some privacy to, um, flip my breaker.

Apply makeup without a mirror – I can do better than that. I can apply make up WITH a mirror but make it look as if I applied it WITHOUT a mirror.

Ask for a raise – Yes. Wait, without offering sex first? Then, no.

Unclog a drain – yet another euphemism? Well, that one kinda makes sense.

Tell which direction they are facing – Don’t need a compass to tell me I am going to Hell. In a handbasket.

Make small talk with just about anyone

Know when to reveal personal information — and when not to – I consider revealing personal information and small talk to be indistinguishable from each other and essential at cocktails parties. You open a conversation with, “yikes. I did not expect to be faking orgasms this late into my marriage”, and you are pretty much guaranteed to be left alone. Score.

Paint a room – Please. I did that at five. Only without my parent’s permission. And with crayons.

Buy the right-sized bra -I am still saving up to buy the right size boobs.

Beautifully wrap a present – see above, about the bra.

Reach out to an old friend – who is falling? Yes, I would totally do that.

Show love with actions and not just words – Eeeeew. WORDS? Yuck.

Put together a real retirement strategy – You’re reading it.

Look good in a photo – Fuck you.

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The Wisdom to Tell the Difference

April 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Danny Thomas, Family, Urban Dweller

By Danny Thomas

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I sat in the nursery
holding the baby
for what felt like
the fifteenth hour in a row
it was the morning nap…
but I had spent all night in the
chair
rocking
and shushing
and holding
her
and her poor, sore, teething mouth…

getting her down
for the morning nap
had been a relatively painless endeavor
probably due to
the restless
night’s sleep.

but I was still feeling peevish
and my body was awkwardly cocked
in some rutty position
for fear of waking
Zuzu…

it was late morning
and I was watching the sunlight travel across the walls
in my distracted slumbering state…
and I noticed that
when we rearranged the room,
moving the crib and dresser
so that the heater
could actually heat the room,
we left the pictures
as they were…

and
it looked off.

just a little odd,
out of balance…
and I thought
well we need to change that.
fix it…

and that led to a whole
storm of thoughts
about change…

about how our instinct
or our reflex, rather…
is to look at things
and think about how they
should be
rather than to
see them
how they are
and accept it.

my life should be like this.
my house should be like that.
my job should be like so.
those people should be this way.
these people should be that way.
this table should not be swathed in sticky.
there should be a flat surface in my house not covered with stuff.

and this is the
default we seem to have as a culture,
that I seem to have
as an individual…

especially when things are
hard
or
uncomfortable
or
messy…

that if we change it
fix it
tweak it
in just the right way
it will be better
and it
won’t be
hard anymore.

we believe
we will
never be uncomfortable again…
we believe
the mess
will go away.

the vacuum
and the oven will clean themselves
the piles of papers
accumulated from school bags
and the mailbox
will be neatly tucked away
and our
living room
and dining room
and bedrooms
will look like
pages from architectural digest
or better homes and gardens.

if I can just pin
the perfect solution
just one more idea
it will all fall into place.

if we can just make a little more money
if we just had a few more square feet
if I just had a little more time
maybe if we try the couch over here…

if I change to this other laundry soap
this other anti-depressant
maybe if I change my lifestyle
give up that vice
just change my diet
if I change how I sleep
I’ll feel so much better.

there are books and blogs
and pin after pin after pin…
there are gurus and psychics
doctors and financial planners…

self-helpers of every stripe
many with the best intentions…
some a little more dubious
helping people change.
make that little change…

we are bent on changing things.
fixing things.

and I am far from an expert
but I am starting to think
that there is no special formula
no guide to life
no pill, product, or prophet
that is going to make this mess go away
that is going to relieve the moments of frustration…
discomfort pervades.

any formula
any chart
or graph
or plan
with six easy steps or less
determining your goal
and routing a plan
step by step
through life
to achieve that goal
while noble
and necessary
is also treacherous
and at least partially misguided
and here is why…

the tides…
there is this feeling that to navigate life
what you need is something like a tidal calendar…

but if life is like the tides…
if we are in a life that flows like the tide…
we are, if we are lucky, a stone, but more likely, a grain of sand
getting tossed in the chaos of each wave

more like a grain of sand, anyway, than a fisherman or sailor.

today
I’m hoping that I have enough of an idea of who I am
in my little grain-of-sand-y soul
to float through those entropic waves
and try to find the patterns
or at the very least some of the joy
without losing myself.

in the last three weeks
I have sold a house that is 1500 miles away
turned forty
been hired to begin a full-time, stay-at-home, telecommuter job
given notice at my current job
learned that my wife has secured a tenure-eligible position at the college…

maybe you can see why I feel
like a stone
getting tossed around…

some things must change
and we must change some things
but …
I think maybe…
some things are going to happen
no matter what we do

I guess Reinhold Niebuhr put it best
in The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference…

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A Bitchy Shrill Dyke’s Celebration of Her-story Month

March 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Sheana Ochoa, Urban Dweller

By Sheana Ochoa

bra

Recently, I picked up a book on the subject of biography. I’ve been writing a biography on Stella Adler, the first lady of modern day acting, for over a decade and was reminded how men have by and large been the writer’s of history (history).  As far back as Xenophon writing about Socrates, men write about the lives of great men, although more recently women have also begun writing about the lives of great men.  With too few exceptions, if a woman is the subject of a biography, she is usually the great man’s wife or love interest, not an achiever in her own right.  The woman I’m writing about was a pioneer in her industry.  Her story is about a woman’s insatiable search for knowledge at the cost of raising a child and building a home.  Up to her death, she felt she was a failure because of her inability to create a “home.” She, just as much as I, was limited by the patriarchic structure of her era, the one that judges a woman with power outside of housewifery as threatening, unwomanly.

I am a feminist.  Exactly what that means in 2013 is ambiguous.  I was born in the 70s, which is when the women’s movement occurred, and as a young woman out in the work force in the early 90s I don’t recall any discrimination directed toward me personally, but then again I wasn’t working in areas dominated by men such as Film Direction, Piloting, or Engineering.  However, today with women’s earning power lower than men’s (77 cents to the dollar), no one can argue life is equal between the sexes in 21st century America.

When I observe my nieces, who grew up in the new millennium, I see some progress.  They seem to be color blind, which correlates with the historic presidential turn out for Obama by our youth. My nieces are not as progressive in the field of women’s equality as they are in racial equality, though interestingly, they are up to speed with gay rights.  This leads me to believe that women’s rights are being undermined by an insidious, unrelenting patriarchy perpetuated by the media.  A woman president?  I don’t see that happening any time soon.

When I had my son, it was the moment when the doctor told me “it’s a boy” that the child growing inside of me became a human being as opposed to a nonentity.  It would have been the same if he had announced it was a girl.  It had a gender and therefore an identity.

I had actually wanted a girl, and thought I would have a girl, so I had to readjust my expectations the way one might be counting on eating a juicy steak for dinner, but ends up having sushi instead.  It isn’t a matter of better than, just a readjustment.  Crucially, when I thought I was having a girl, I did not research rearing my child.  Once I learned I was having a boy, I went directly to the bookstore to find books on how to raise a boy, revealing the level of brainwashing of which I’ve unknowingly been the product.  Also, I have to admit; it made me happy that this boy would have my last name as I was not married at the time, and that he would carry on the Ochoa lineage. In retrospect, my satisfaction with him having my name was another example of how I’ve been brainwashed to believe my father’s name is more important that my mother’s.

Here I must excerpt from Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s pamphlet, written in 1854, “Married Women and the Law”:

“A man and wife are one person in the law; the wife loses all her rights as a single woman . . . A woman’s body belongs to her husband; she is in his custody, and he can enforce his right by writ of habeas corpus. What was her personal property before marriage, such as money in hand, money in the bank, jewels, household goods, clothes, etc., becomes absolutely her husband’s, and he may assign or dispose of them at his pleasure whether he and his wife live together or not.  The legal custody of the children belongs to the father.  During the life-time of a sane father, the mother has no rights over her children, except a limited power over infants, and the father may take them from her and dispose of them as he thinks fit.”

Though these laws no longer apply, the rights of women today could be looked upon as having transformed immensely, but on closer examination, societal views of women are far from revolutionary.  A woman with power, as I mentioned above, is viewed as a threat, and yet a man with power is viewed as commonplace.  How far have we really come, and do women in heterosexual relationships realize the history of that institution which asks them to change their name to that of their husbands, obliterating their identity?

When I did marry, I hyphenated my name, which was a concession.  I didn’t want to change my name, or the identity I had had for almost 40 years of living.  I didn’t change my name, but I did alter it. At the time, I was thinking something along the lines of “I waited until I was almost 40 to marry.  It’s a big commitment and I should at least take on his name to some degree as a symbol of my commitment.”  What boloney.  As if a name is going to save a marriage.  News flash: If two people turn out to be unhappily married, a last name ain’t going to save it.

Now that I’m entering my 40s, I know what kind of a feminist I am:  I believe in human rights.  And for that I must take a stand.  I have spent my life thinking I’m not a feminist of the bra-burning variety, but I didn’t have a model for an alternative.  I didn’t want to be labeled angry or strident (whereas a man with convictions is seen as “strong” and “assertive”). But taking a stand does require a certain amount of motivation. Anger can be a good motivator, but so can compassion and tolerance of our differences.

We women have a long way to go. We can begin by writing more narratives, new “histories” of others and ourselves where women hold a position of power.  When we are called bitchy or shrill or dykes, we know we’re getting somewhere.

Visit Sheana’s blog on Stella Adler’s Biography Here.

 

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There’s A Hole In My Bucket, Part 2

March 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Ann Brown, Family, Urban Dweller

By Ann Brown

Unfriend

 

Yeah, I know. I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s not just that I’ve been busy; it’s that it takes so much effort to just get one thing done, you know? The universe puts out one obstacle after another.

One morning, for instance, I wake up and say to myself, “I am going to blog today.”

But first I have to brush my teeth because I heard on Dr. Oz a few months ago that nighttime tooth bacteria can cause heart attacks. I think. Or world war. I’m not sure but either way, I’m not taking chances. So I go into the bathroom to brush my teeth and I see that my Sonicare toothbrush hasn’t been recharged because I threw out the charger thing last week when I saw how funky it was all crusted with old toothpaste and shit and I didn’t have time to clean it because I was already late for my physical therapy appointment. Which I canceled on my way there, anyway, because the air pressure tire light came on in my car and I got nervous. So I went straight to the Toyota place, rolled down my window and handed them four hundred dollars. So I wouldn’t feel nervous anymore.

I still need a toothbrush. I go to the downstairs bathroom to look for one and I pause momentarily to enjoy the colorful tile work that I first thought made it look like the bathrooms at Baja Fresh, but now I love it. Which reminds me, I have a coupon for Baja Fresh. Unless I threw it out. Maybe I threw it out. I walk into the den and check out the den trash. It’s not there, but the den trash is pretty full of tangerine peels which smell fabu at first but super funky after a few days. I decide to collect the downstairs trash to take out on my way back upstairs. AFter I find a toothbrush. So I can brush my teeth. So I don’t have a heart attack. Or start a world war. I’m not sure. And then, so I can sit down and blog.

In the den, I see Robin’s computer is open to Facebook.

And I remember that I probably should send Robin a Facebook friend request. Because I unfriended him during the last fight we had. Which, btw, is just about the greatest thing you can do when your husband pisses you the fuck off. UNFRIEND! Click. I wanted to show him just how pissed off I was. Also, I was worried he would write something unflattering on my wall like, “I can fit my entire body into your underpants. And Phila, too. And also my boat.” And he’d post a photo of it or something.

I was so fucking mad at Robin.

Frankly, I wish there had been an UNMARRY button to click. There’s something Zuckerberg didn’t think of. Although he’s only been married about a year, right? Give him another decade, he’ll be staying up nights inventing ways to piss off his spouse.

You know what would be amazing? An UN-BLOW JOB button. Perfect, right? For those times when you regret having given your husband a blow job the night before because this morning he is such an asshole. Hah! I UNblow job you. Click!

My exhilaration at having unfriended Robin was decreased only slightly by the fact that he hasn’t even noticed.

And now the fight is over and we are real life friends again so I should probably take back my unfriending him. Only – and here’s the drag – I have to send him a new friend request in order to do so.

Uh-oh. I didn’t think about that when I cavalierly knocked him off my wall. I don’t want to have to ask him to friend me again. I would lose all my power if I had to do that. And then I wouldn’t be the winner. It would be a tie. Damn.

And, what if he rejects my request? Then HE would win. Ack. That won’t do.

I sit down on the den couch to consider my options. I fall asleep.

I wake up and say to myself, “I am going to blog today.”

But first, I better brush my teeth.

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