Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why do smart women defend schmucks?

I've been reading all this stuff over at Feministe about this Hugo Schwyzer person (with whom I wasn't familiar before this), and my first reaction was annoyance and dismay at seeing several women (feminists, even!) defend someone who, to me, comes across as a narcissistic schmuck. To be fair, most people there are *not* defending him, but I was unhappy that some still were. Why would women do this? I asked myself.

And then I had to admit, I've done it too. Not online, but in "real life," which is arguably worse. I've known some narcissistic schmucks in my time, and some of them immediately disgusted me, while others I befriended and defended. They could be such nice guys, you see. They were in a lot of pain, you see. But most of all, if I am to be completely honest, it was about how much they seemed to like me. Using flattery to charm people is a really basic charmer tactic which should be obvious, but I have certainly had blind spots in this area when I was the one being flattered. It seems Mr. Schwyzer does help some feminist women promote their own work, and I could see how after receiving that kind of assistance could make one less able to see Mr. Schwyzer's flaws. [It is important to note the huge heap of privilege that put Mr. Schwyzer in such a position to "help" others, because, no, I don't think it's just luck or brilliance that gave him such a relatively big platform.]

There's also the fact that Mr. Schwyzer claims to have reformed from a past that included womanizing and addiction. And I will say that forgiveness is a big part of my personal value system, so I don't think he should necessarily be written off for his past. The problem, as I see it, is that although he may be sober, he is still locked in this dynamic of trying to get adoring female attention and causing harm while doing so. Which is not very feminist.

So, while my first instinct was to join the chorus of "he sucks and you suck if you defend him," I'm trying instead to find a lesson in this (blame it on that Dalai Lama book I just read!). Here are some things I think are helpful, at least for me, in the quest to NOT be a schmuck-defender:

1) Take praise graciously, but with a grain of salt. Humans are social creatures, and if feels good when we or are work is admired by others, and that's fine. It can help give us the confidence to keep moving forward. But it isn't everything. Constructive criticism can be more helpful in terms of actual improvement. And consider the motives of the person giving the praise.

2) Forgive when possible, but don't excuse or forget. And if you want others' forgiveness, know that simply admitting the wrongs you did and feeling ashamed are not heroic acts you deserve a medal for. You don't even "deserve" the forgiveness of those you wronged. That is their decision. And then, regardless of whether you are forgiven, making amends is an active, ongoing process that doesn't end with the confession. If someone keeps apologizing while continuing their harmful behavior, call them on it, and/or remove them from your life, depending on the situation. People CAN change, and they probably need the feedback of caring but firm people to help them continue to grow. They do not need ego-stroking or to be placed in situations that will tempt them to revert to old behavior patterns (like Mr. Schwyzer's job teaching young women).

3) Examine your own internalized misogyny. This is a big one for me. I can definitely not claim to be free of the desire for male approval. I need to actively remind myself that a compliment from a man is not more valuable than a compliment from a woman. It's OK for certain men not to like me. Men don't deserve "extra credit points." It sounds ridiculous, but it's old programming I still have to fight.

4) Avoid being a schmuck by working to eliminate defensiveness. This is a huge, huge one for me. When I'm criticized, I sometimes catch myself forming my rebuttal even before the other person gets through a sentence. My husband has called me on this before. Most of the narcissistic schmucks I've known had very well constructed walls of denial built around themselves, so not even the tiniest reproach could get through. I don't want to be like this. So I think it's key to listen to criticism from people who care about me. Not random jerks or abusive people or whatever. But people who care about me have an outside perspective on me, which I can never have. I don't always have to think they're 100% correct, but I should at least listen and give it some thought.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Soup.

We're on a soup-for-dinner diet. I decided to do this in the hopes that it might counteract any holiday treat-eating. And also because the ingredients tend to be cheap. And also because most soup recipes feed us for at least two days, so I don't have to cook something new every day.

I figure I'll stick with it until we get sick of it.

So far I've made a curried red lentil and butternut squash soup, split pea soup, minestrone, and mafe (African peanut stew). We usually have homemade bread too (I have a bread machine and make a whole wheat flax bread).

I sometimes joke that I'm going to write a book called "Eat Like A Peasant," which will be all about staying healthy by eating rice and beans and soup, etc. Hey, if people want to eat like cavemen, maybe they'd go for eating like peasants, right?

(And if the first book was successful, I'd then write "Parent Like A Peasant," because I get so annoyed with the suggestion that only rich people should have kids, when many rich kids I knew had not-so-great parents and turned into depressed and annoying brats. But I digress.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can't buy me love

I'm doing home-study courses for my massage CEUs this year. The CEU credits are required every year to renew my massage license. Usually I take hands-on classes, which have given me many useful new techniques over the years. This year, I can't be away from Anton for all of the hours a hands-on class would entail, so home-study it is. If I'd been smart, I would have done this while I was pregnant, because it's hard even to find time to read these days!

Anyway, part of my reading material is this book by the Dalai Lama, Ethics For The New Millennium. Here's a passage I especially enjoyed:

Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source of both inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species. On the one hand, they constitute non-violence in action. On the other, they are the source of all spiritual qualities: of forgiveness, tolerance, and all the virtues. Moreover, they are the very thing that gives meaning to our activities and makes them constructive. There is nothing amazing about being highly educated; there is nothing amazing about being rich. Only when the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become worthwhile.

I am tired of being told I should admire people simply because they have achieved some level of monetary success. The current economic disaster was caused by unchecked greed. I don't want to be another person who obsesses over money and status. I sometimes get caught up in thinking about things I could do with more money, and while that's not always a bad thing, it can make me feel inadequate and frustrated. It's important to remember what really matters.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fancy vegan

I turned 31 yesterday, and celebrated with the most decadent vegan food I've ever eaten, at Feelings Cafe's Vegan Fine Dining Festivals of Light event. It was a happy coincidence that it happened to take place on my birthday, and that my friend Cate found out about it and passed the info along to me.

Being vegan in Louisiana means cooking at home a lot, or having the occasional meal out of ethnic food or diner-type stuff. That's cool with me for the most part, but I must admit I occasionally miss my pescatarian/vegetarian days, when I could eat at Galatoire's if I wanted to (and had the money...which was rare, but did happen a few times).

The chef at Feelings definitely went for fancy with her meal, which included lentil "caviar" and an entree (fried hearts of palm stuffed with cashew cheese) so rich that it was hard to believe it was vegan. But my favorite part of the meal was what she called "Sri Lankan Borscht." It was a Linkpureed, bisque-type thing (sorry, I'm not so up on the foodie lingo), which was interesting for a borscht. It also had some Indian spices in there, and crispy little fried curry leaves. I could eat that stuff every day. I might have to fool around in my kitchen and attempt to recreate something similar.

It was also, of course, wonderful to have a nice dinner with my husband, without Anton watching and shrieking from his bouncy seat until one of us gave in and held him while attempting to eat one-handed. Ahem. Anton was with his grandma, and apparently decided it was finally time to drink pumped milk from a bottle without fussing and protesting. Good timing, kid.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ever-greening

It sometimes amuses my husband that the things I do in my quest to be more "green" and economical are things that people did in the Soviet Union because they had no other choice. Like cloth diapers* and using vinegar to clean.

Anyway, I recently realized that a major not-so-green habit of mine was paper towels. I'm somewhat of a paper towel addict. They're just so absorbent! And convenient! And I'm pretty OCD about having clean hands, so I wipe my hands constantly when I eat. I use paper towels for napkins, and sometimes go through several in one meal if I'm eating something messy.

So, I decided I should do something about that.


I got some cloth napkins at thrift stores yesterday. I think I went a bit overboard, when I got home and counted them, there were 31. Also, as you can see, my basket runneth over. But that means I don't have to wash them too often, I guess! I like the variety of colors and patterns.

The cost was around $12. I know I spent $14 total, and most of it was for the napkins, but someone also needed a few pairs of socks.


*They actually had to make their own, apparently. I'm not nearly that crunchy...yet. I'll stick to Fuzzibunz and prefolds ;)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DIY and chipping in

I've noticed something lately among some artists I know, which I find a bit disappointing. It's a focus on money and compensation that I don't remember seeing so much of in the past. I hear statements like, "I'm not doing anything for free" and see some Kickstarter pages that make me raise an eyebrow.

Now. Put down the pitchfork and hear me out. I do think art is valuable. I don't think being an artist should mean living a life of poverty. But I also think that 1) financial challenges can actually lead to innovation in art, and 2) community and volunteering are central to the arts and I don't want to see them disappear.

I will restrain myself from gushing about my days at NTI (almost a decade ago...yikes!) because that could go on forever and would only end in me saying ridiculous things like "free your pelvis!" while sobbing with nostalgia, and who wants to see that? But one thing I really liked about the program was that we were given very little (basically nothing, really) for the scenes we directed and for our final project. If you needed something, you made it, or you found it by asking "Who's got a newspaper?" "Do any of you guys have a striped tie?" And if someone had it, they let you borrow it for your scene. You did not go around asking your friends for money so you could go prop shopping.

I adore low-budget, passion-driven theater. I'm more intrigued by a site-specific piece using found objects than some high-budget musical any day. Personal preference, yes. But I value experimentation, and lack of funds and experimentation are a match made in heaven.

I think Kickstarter is a great website, and I have donated to several projects that sounded really cool and truly could not have happened without funding. I'm not trying to say no one should ever ask for money. But I see some projects that seem to me to be more about laziness and lack of imagination than a true need. If you can't get off your butt and make art without someone giving you money first, then I think there might be an issue there.

Which brings me to the second point I mentioned above. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I seem to be seeing less of the "let's get together and do this thing for the fun of it/because we feel it should be done" attitude that I love about the artistic community. Listen, if some big corporation, or your millionaire friend, asks you to make some art for them, by all means ask them for some money. If your fellow struggling artist friend asks if you want in on her non-paying project but you simply don't have the time because you have to work so hard at your day job, by all means tell her so. [Actually, I'm of the opinion that having a day job can be very beneficial to one's art, but that's a topic for another day] But if your across-the-board attitude is, "I'm not doing anything for free," then I have to wonder why you're an artist. I don't think your fellow struggling artist friends are trying to screw you over by asking if you want in on a project they can't pay you for. If you think they are...find some new friends.

Skill-sharing doesn't always have to be "consulting" for a fee. Your time is well spent when you're being inspired with your friends. Who helped you grow as an artist...only people you paid? I doubt it!

Do what you can do, help when you can help, and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. If you can't afford to do something, that's cool. Make money when you can and enjoy it - you worked for it! But why look at everything with dollar signs in your eyes? Our scrappiness and generosity have served us well as artists, and we shouldn't be so quick to part with them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The dust has settled.

I gave a massage yesterday for the first time in months. I'm going back to work soon (on a very part-time basis) and I was worried that I'd forgotten my basic routine and/or lost my touch. It's incredible what the body remembers - I couldn't think my way through my massage, but most of the time my hands and arms seemed to remember what to do. I set up the front room of our house as a guest room/massage room, and found it to be a great space to work in. Lit a candle, put on some music, and did my thing.

It helped that the client was my mom :)

Anton is a relatively happy baby, and is quite content to be my companion when I go to the grocery store or the Farmer's Market, or out for walks. And when we're home, he loves to play in his baby gym. Observe:

video

I've started on a new project, a theater thing. It will be a collaboration with one of my closest friends, and we're excited about it. I'm in the script writing phase now. I find that I don't have many hours to devote to it, but when I do find a bit of time, I make the best of it. Last week I sneaked off to Starbucks for a couple of hours by myself, and hand-wrote several pages at a frenzied pace.

I've been thinking about the future, and how to balance work and creativity and mothering. That silly struggle women's magazines have been writing about for decades now. I want to find a way to feel challenged, make some money, and spend plenty of time with Anton throughout his childhood. This new theater project, if it works out, would hopefully be a long-time gig, and help me achieve that goal.

Anton's napping, I'd better get back to that goal-achieving work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The state of me.

For the first time in nearly a year, I am starting to feel "myself" physically. My energy level is up, I have a spring in my step when I walk, all that good stuff.

I have friends who are pregnant now who seem to be feeling fine, and maybe I'm just a whiny baby, but really from the beginning of my pregnancy I started feeling like crap, and pretty much felt that way to varying degrees until, oh, now (over 2 months since I gave birth).

I felt big and sluggish and tired throughout my pregnancy. Then I had to heal from a c-section while caring for a newborn. It's good to put all that behind me. I've been taking daily walks with Anton in the baby carrier. I'd enjoy some different scenery than this subdivision, but at least the weather is nice.

It's odd to me that I can both adore my baby to bits and miss him when I'm away from him for, like, an hour (which is pretty much the longest I've been away from him), AND at the same time miss my "old life." But, that's where I'm at.

Last night, I had quite the ordeal, trying out a new recipe for dinner that turned out to be more complicated than I'd anticipated. Anton was tired but only sleeping in 10 minute increments, then screaming for me, then I'd nurse him, then back to sleep (for 10 minutes). It was really frustrating and cooking dinner took forever. After we'd finally eaten, I felt so exhausted by the whole thing...then I felt depressed that the central challenge of my life these days is cooking dinner with an infant. This time last year, I was working on my Fringe Festival show.

I'm going to try venturing out for longer periods of time, so I can do more creative stuff. I plan to start attending writer's group again, while David watches Anton. I have a lot of pumped milk stashed in my freezer and Anton has been okay with a bottle the few times we've tested it out. I'm hoping to start doing some massage soon, as well.

I've been trying to write, but I can basically only do it when Anton naps, which is also when I need to do laundry (cloth diapers = lots of laundry), eat, cook, etc. I got a dictation app for my iPhone, I'm going to try writing via dictation while nursing. We'll see.

I go crazy without creative outlets. I'd love some tips from experienced artist moms on how to make this work!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Latest reads: Room by Emma Donaghue and Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

So. I've finally mastered reading-while-nursing (much easier on the Kindle than with a "real" book). It has improved my life greatly. I have yet to master typing-while-nursing, though, so I haven't been posting here much. The baby's asleep right now, let's hope he allows me to write about my recent reads before he wakes up.My friend Caitlin recommended Room to me, she thought that, as a new mom, I would enjoy reading this book that centers on a mother-son relationship. I adored this book. The most impressive part of it was the voice of the narrating character - a five year old boy, who has lived in a small room with his mother for his entire life. His mother is the prisoner of a man who rapes her repeatedly, fathering (only in the biological sense) her son, Jack. It was no small achievement for Donaghue to tell this story entirely in the very believable voice of such a young character. The story is told in present tense, as well. I felt like I was there, and my heart was racing at several points in the book, hoping Jack and his mother would be okay. I read this in two days. I kept looking at my baby Anton while he slept, so thankful for him. The book is a wonderful account of a mother's love, while at the same time a bit of a thriller.

Next I read Ten Thousand Saints on my Kindle, which I'd read about in Poets & Writers magazine. The characters are part of the straight-edge hardcore punk scene in the late '80s, and I've never come across a novel about this particular subculture before. I was marginally aware of this scene in high school (although that was in the 90s, I must point out), and went to a couple of shows because I had crushes on boys who were into it. So I was intrigued by the subject matter. I liked this book a lot, and thought the characters were genuine and interesting, and I found myself caring deeply for them. However, I found Henderson's writing style a bit confusing, at times. She loves similies like my cat loves smoked salmon. This book is full of them, like seeds of a pomegranate.

Okay, okay, her similies are mostly far better than mine. But there were just.so.many.of.them. And some of them didn't quite work for me. So then I'd find myself pondering the weird similie, and it would take me out of the story. And overall, the style was very intellectual-poetic, which didn't seem like it fit any of the characters' view of the world. Also, the perspective shifted quite often. Sometimes it seemed to shift mid-paragraph. Sometimes I wasn't sure whose head we were currently in. It was not a huge distraction, but I think it might have been better if she'd just picked one or two, or heck, even three characters through which we could view the story.

The wonderful characters and the unpredictable and intriguing story made me keep reading, though, like a straight-edge teenage boy at a free vegan buffet. Sorry, I couldn't help that one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts on nursing

I called my mom one day a couple of weeks ago, to make a confession: I was not enjoying breastfeeding. It was very important to me to nurse my baby, and I never was tempted to give him formula, but I felt like nursing was a drag, and I felt guilty about that.

My mom expressed surprise at first, but then said she did remember having some issues in the first couple of weeks, if she really thought about it. But she told me that that time period was so short, it only made up a tiny percentage of the time she spent nursing (1 year for each of her 3 kids), so she tended to forget the hard times.

My doula had similar advice. "Breastfeeding is so worth it," she said, "once you make it past the first couple of weeks." And that is what I wish more people would tell new moms. Breastfeeding advocates tend to minimize the challenges of breastfeeding, in my experience. I have a book on breastfeeding which has been helpful, but it says things like "soreness rarely lasts longer than 48 hours," which was not my experience, nor the experience of several people I've talked to. Even my husband, when doing internet research, commented that "all of these websites say that if you're sore you're doing it wrong...but then it also seems like everyone says they got sore." Yep.

Then, of course, there's the "formula is just as good" camp, which I totally disagree with. Formula doesn't even make that claim...look at the package. It says breastfeeding is best. I know that because I've been sent formula in the mail that I never requested or wanted. I think it's great that formula exists for those RARE instances where it is necessary, but I think it's crappy to try to get it into the hands of every new mom. Clearly the formula companies are trying to take advantage of frustrated new moms and get them to try their product. And that sucks (no pun intended).

Because, yes, for many women it is NOT easy or convenient in those first couple of weeks. Anton was in NICU for a day, where he was given a bottle and a pacifier. When confronted with my anatomy, which does not resemble those things, he had no clue what to do. I was given a nipple shield by the lactation consultants in the hospital (who were great - I wish all hospitals had LC's as knowledgeable and helpful as these ladies), and that worked, but it was kind of a pain to deal with, so I spent a few days weaning him off of the shield, with tears shed by both of us! And after that, I got really sore. I began to dread feeding him because it hurt so much. Then after that subsided, I started to get...bored. I don't like sitting still, and I was spending so many hours of the day nursing that I was getting a bit stir-crazy.

I stuck with it, because I knew it was the best thing for my baby, and thankfully I had a lot of people supporting me - Mom, Rene (my doula), my husband, etc. And guess what? I got past all of those hurdles. Now I love it! As Anton grows, both of us seem more aware of when he is hungry, how long he needs to nurse, etc.

As I mentioned in my birth story posts, I had really wanted to give birth naturally. I felt, based on the testimonials of women I know who have given birth naturally, that it would feel empowering for me. And I didn't get that experience. But now that I'm nursing, I get a similar feeling of empowerment - that my body can do this awesome thing for my baby.

Some people argue that it's not feminist to push breastfeeding, because women should be encouraged to make their own choices. And yeah, choice is great. And of course, there are some women who cannot breastfeed. But for those who can, it's important to recognize that these are not two "equally good" options. It has been well established that breast milk is superior to formula. You can find that info in about 30 seconds of research. Do more research, and you'll find more and more reasons why.

And here's my feminist take: this is something completely amazing that women's bodies can do. When you breastfeed, your body creates milk especially for your baby. If you have another baby, the milk will be different! How cool is that? But like many things associated with women, the awesomeness of breastfeeding is downplayed by our patriarchal society. Okay, okay, I know some people are probably rolling their eyes at that statement. Yes, I used the dreaded "P" word. But I stand by it. I have had doctors lecture me about setting time limits on nursing, to make sure my baby doesn't "use" me "as a pacifier." So let me get this straight: it's superior for me to put a piece of plastic (which is designed to mimic one of my body parts) in my baby's mouth? Now, I don't let him nurse forever, because, as I mentioned before, I get stir-crazy. But I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it. It just strikes me as odd that this was such a big fear of the pediatricians. Pretty much anything seen as "a woman thing" is portrayed as petty and trivial in our culture. I really do think attitudes towards breastfeeding are another example of that (especially when you consider our culture's obsession with breasts as sex objects, and only sex objects).

In short, breast milk is best, women's bodies are awesome for their ability to make it (and for many other reasons), and though it is not easy at first, as my doula said, it is so worth it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My birth story - Part 2: Postpartum

It turned out that Anton had taken such a big breath when he came out that he had a tiny tear in his lung, and a pocket of air had formed. This is apparently not terribly uncommon, and they may not have even known it happened except that they took a chest x-ray because he was breathing rapidly after he was born.

He was kept in the NICU to be monitored, to make sure his lung didn’t collapse. They put him under an oxygen hood. David and my mom and my sister were able to visit him. I’d have to wait until I was able to get out of bed.

Mom had brought some food for everyone, and we visited and ate. After a couple of hours, they moved me to the postpartum ward. David went home for a few hours to feed our cats and take a shower and get some rest.

I woke up at one point, and I heard another baby down the hall cry. The endorphin rush of knowing my baby was alive had worn off a bit, and I began to feel sad. It was unlike any feeling I’d had before – like someone had chipped off a chunk of my soul and put it somewhere far away from me. It just felt wrong. I wanted my baby. The next few hours dragged endlessly as I waited for my 12 hour strict bedrest to end.

Finally, the nurse came in to help me get up, clean up a bit, and then go see Anton. David came back, and went to the NICU to wait while I got ready. I didn’t need the wheelchair they offered. I walked to the NICU – although I felt about 80 years old, slightly hunched over and shuffling along. But I was so, so excited!

When I got there, the nurse told me Anton was doing well, and could be removed from the oxygen for a while if I wanted to hold him. Of course I did!

At this point I would like to say that many of the natural birth – centered material that I’d watched and read while pregnant said that c-sections interfere with the natural bonding between mother and baby. I’ve decided this is complete bullshit. I didn’t see my baby for twelve hours, yet when they handed him to me to hold, it was the happiest moment of my life, and I don’t believe I could have possibly loved that kid more even if I’d had my dream natural birth. If anything, my love for him was increased due to the gratitude that he had made it, after I’d spent so many hours in fear.

He was awake and alert, and looked at me with beautiful, intelligent blue eyes. The feeling was indescribable.

The next day, David and I visited him again in the NICU, and I held him again. They were taking chest x-rays every few hours to determine when he could be released from NICU. This finally happened around 2pm, and then he was put in the room with me until we were discharged from the hospital on Friday.

I got a bad headache from the spinal and was on bedrest for the first 48 hours that we were home. Mom and Becca came and stayed with us and helped to cook and take care of the baby.

Now we are both doing great. I am so thankful for my baby every second of every day.

My birth story - Part 1: Not what I expected

I typed this out shortly after I got home from the hospital, but haven't had a chance to add the pictures and post it until today due to a certain very demanding little someone :)

At about 1:30am on Tuesday, 8/9, I woke up when David came to bed. As I lay there, I felt a contraction that seemed stronger and more painful than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been having for a few weeks. I was somewhat hopeful, but at 41 weeks pregnant a part of me didn’t believe I’d go into labor at all. I had an induction scheduled for Friday morning, which I wasn’t happy about. It had long been my desire to have a completely natural water birth.

After about half an hour and a few more contractions, I wondered if this was the real deal. I began to look at the clock when I had a contraction. They were between 5 and 10 minutes apart. At about 2:30am I got up and bounced on my yoga ball in the living room. At 3:30 I woke up David to give him the heads up that I thought this was it, but that he could sleep a bit more and I would let him know when things really got going. I got my ipod and lay on the couch, listening to some hypnosis for labor tracks that I’d downloaded a few months before. They were helpful, suggesting breathing patterns for the contractions that gave me something to focus on other than the pain. Eventually David got up and began to watch me and time the contractions. They were getting closer together, but slowly. I texted my mom and my doula. I wanted them to be prepared, but I felt that it would be a while before I was ready to head to the hospital. At one point David called the hospital and they told me I could wait and come in when the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. That didn’t happen till around 9am. Still, I was hesitant to go into the hospital. I liked laboring at home.

But after 8 hours or so of labor, I told David I might want to go in to the hospital so they could make sure the baby was still doing okay. We talked to Rene and she suggested that I go in, so that I would have a chance to get settled into my hospital room before things got really intense. She also said that if I hadn’t progressed much, they might send me home.

When we got to the hospital, the contractions slowed a bit. They hooked me up to monitor me and the baby. The nurses suddenly would make me change positions (roll to the other side) during contractions. I wasn’t sure why they were doing this at first. David thought it was for my pain, and asked them if I could walk around or have a birthing ball. They explained that the baby’s monitor was showing “variables” and they were concerned for him. This situation did not improve as they monitored us. They very gently told me that they were worried that the baby was having problems – most likely a cord issue – which was causing his heart rate to drop dramatically during my contractions. And I was only 1cm dilated. A midwife came in, and explained that they would try their best to let me have a vaginal delivery, but they were so concerned for the baby that several things would have to be done to allow me to continue to labor: they would put me on an IV, I had to wear an oxygen mask and a pulse monitor, and they were going to break my water and attach a scalp monitor to the baby’s head.

I was not going to be able to get out of bed until I’d had the baby. There would be no water birth. At the moment, I didn’t care about any of this – I was just worried about the baby. They assured me that it was okay for me to continue to labor naturally as long as we took these steps.

When they broke my water, I didn’t feel the gush of fluid I was expecting. There was no fluid. So they did an amnio-infusion, pumping me full of saline. During this time, the OB came in to introduce herself (I’d only seen midwives throughout my pregnancy), and so did the nurse anesthetist. Once my water had broken, the labor got more intense over the next couple of hours. All of the methods I’d planned to use to deal with the pain were basically no longer an option, since I was confined to the bed. It was difficult. But what made it especially hard was that I was fighting off panic the entire time. I was so, so worried about my baby. I could hear his heartbeat slow on the monitor every time I had a contraction. It was completely nerve-wracking. At times, nurses or the OB or the midwife would come in and stare at the monitor with grave faces. The OB told us that soon we would have to consider “other options” to make the labor progress more quickly, because they just weren’t comfortable letting it go on for too long. Although the contractions felt really intense and close together, I still wasn’t dilating particularly quickly – I don’t think I ever made it past 3cm. I didn’t know how much I could take. I began to shake and even vomited from the pain. My usually squeamish husband held the barf bag for me and didn’t flinch. He and Rene held my hands and talked me through the contractions.

After months of research and discussion about natural birth, David felt skeptical about all of the interventions. He was a bit of a PITA to the hospital staff. But it felt nice that he was trying to stand up for me and my wishes.

As time went on, I reached a point where I wasn’t sure if I could take the mental anguish any more. I told Rene and David that I was beginning to feel selfish. I’d wanted a natural birth because I believe it is (usually) best for mother and baby. But my baby was not doing well – was it right to put him through this? I was feeling like I just wanted him OUT by any means necessary, so he could be okay. It was sad to me that my body was no longer a safe place for him, but that’s how it seemed.

Some nurses came in to check me and I expressed these thoughts to them. They were very gentle and careful with their wording and did not try to pressure me into anything. They did tell me that if I were to make that decision now, it might be a good thing because they would have time to do spinal anesthesia, whereas if I had to be rushed in for an emergency section they would have to put me under general anesthesia, and I would not be able to see the baby when he came out.

This turned out to be a moot point, because just then I had another contraction, and the baby’s heartbeat did not recover when it was over. I heard the nurses say “he’s not coming up,” and then I could hear nothing from his monitor. They began to unhook everything and rush me back to the OR. They were talking to each other and asking me questions about allergies to medications and stuff like that as they wheeled me down the hall. I was in a complete panic because I had heard the baby’s monitor go silent. Later, David explained to me that this was because they’d unhooked it to take me to the OR, but at the time I thought it meant his heart had completely stopped. I was shaking uncontrollably.

The nurse anesthetist was saying there was no time for a spinal and I’d be given general anesthesia. They gave me a few consent forms to sign. But when we got to the OR, the anesthesiologist there said he thought he had time to do a spinal, and asked me if that was what I wanted. I was so panicked by this time that I said “I don’t know!” He said, “Do you want to meet your baby?” I said yes. He began to do the spinal.

One of the nurses was trying to calm me down so I would stop shaking. It was rather scary to be shaking while someone put a needle into my spinal cord. I asked her, “Is my baby alive right now?” And she said “Oh yes! Look, that’s his heartbeat!” And showed me a monitor that said 134. They’d had no idea I thought the baby’s heart had stopped.

The OB came in and they began to prep me for the section. It was all moving very fast. They poked me a bit with the scalpel and the anesthesiologist asked me if I could feel it, if it felt sharp. I could, and it did. He said if the spinal didn’t kick in soon they’d have to put me under general, because they couldn’t wait any more. Thankfully, seconds later it began to work. They asked me if I could feel the scalpel, and I could, but just barely, and it didn’t hurt.

“Look who’s here,” the anesthesiologist said. There was David, in surgical scrubs, holding my hand.

And then someone was telling me the baby was out. I began to hear him cry. “Do you hear that?” David said. “That’s our son. Our son is here.” Anton was born at 2:51pm.

I just kept asking, “Is he okay?” Rene talked me through what was happening – they were suctioning out his nose and mouth. There had been meconium present and they thought he might have inhaled some. He was not taking oxygen quickly enough.

I couldn’t see the baby, he was surrounded by people. They told me he was going to the NICU. They asked if David wanted to go back there with him. I saw David look at me. He didn’t want to leave me, but I really wanted him to be with the baby. Rene offered to stay with me.

They brought me the baby, all bundled up, and told me to give him a kiss. His face was so tiny and pale. I kissed him. Then they took him away. I didn’t see him for the next twelve hours.

Rene held my hand while they stitched me up. I was told that the baby seemed mostly fine, but they wanted to give him some extra oxygen and keep an eye on him for a while. I was relieved.

My mom and my sister had arrived at the hospital just as my section was started. They were in my room when I got back there. They took turns visiting the baby in the NICU. One of the nurses taped a picture of him to my bed.

It was hard to be without him, but what I felt most at that point was overwhelming relief that he was alive.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This does not bode well.

So, happy due date to me! Not much seems to be happening in uterus-land, unfortunately.

Last night, it was around 11pm and I was bored and not tired (this is rare, I usually go to bed around 10 these days). David pointed out that neither of us had left the house all day, and suggested we go for a short drive. Maybe after that, I'd be tired.

So I agreed. Now here's the good and bad thing about our relationship: I'm kind of a weird, impulsive person. David, if anything, is even weirder and more impulsive (in some ways, anyway). So sometimes the voice of reason and normality is lacking in our relationship.

Which is to say, I grabbed David's cat, Snookums, and said, "Let's bring Snookums!" I was mostly joking. But David said "Yes, let's bring her!"

Now, Snookums, unlike my ill-tempered cat (Masha), is extremely tolerant. She is willing to be carted around by humans indefinitely. Also unlike Masha, she's quiet. If she doesn't like something, it's kind of hard to tell.

So we set off, with Snookums the cat, for a drive.

At first, she sat on David's lap, then I said, "Give her to me!" thinking she might enjoy looking out the window. David handed her over, and she looked out the window...and then my lap began to feel extremely warm and wet.

And, sadly, it was not my water breaking.

So, back home we went, where I threw my clothes in the laundry and myself in the shower, and David cleaned the upholstery in his car.

I felt guilty because I think poor Snookums was scared, and that's why she peed. I didn't mean to torture the kitty in our quest for a mini-adventure. I never would have brought Masha in the car, because she howls on car rides, leading me to believe that she does not enjoy them. Well, I guess now I know that Snookums feels the same way.

I said to David, "Okay, next time we're bored, that's what we won't do."

It's kind of scary that we're about to be responsible for a helpless young human.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Books: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I read these books last week, but also cut my left hand while chopping veggies, making typing difficult. That's why I haven't been so posty lately (no, it wasn't because I had the baby...but my due date is one week from yesterday, so he should arrive soon).

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
I read an interview with Jones in Poets & Writers, and thought this book sounded good. Then I heard another interview with her on NPR, and that sealed the deal. I had to read this! It's a story about bigamist in Atlanta who has two daughters (one with each of his wives) that are the same age. The "second" family knows about the "first" family, but the "first" family does not know about the "second" family. The book is divided into two parts, one from each daughter's perspective. It takes place mostly in the 80s, when the girls are teens. Jones' writing style has an unadorned, very readable feel to it, with a sneaky depth that kept me thinking about the book even in the rare moments that I wasn't actively reading it. One thing that especially struck me was the compassion she showed to each of her characters - they were full and rich and when they were in conflict with each other it was hard for me to choose a side! My only complaint was that I wanted more...I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters when the book ended. I highly recommend this book.

ETA: I forgot to mention, my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, gets a shout-out in this book :)



We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
I don't remember how I heard about this one...I think maybe Amazon recommended it? It's been out for a few years, but the Kindle edition just came out a couple of months ago. This was one I knew I probably should stay away from in my sensitive pregnant state...yet I couldn't resist. It's written from the perspective of a mother whose teenage son has killed several of his classmates, around the same time as the Columbine shootings (this book is fiction, it's not about a real school shooting). The mother, through a series of letters to her estranged husband, reflects on her relationship with her son, which was essentially a hostile power struggle from the day he was born. Her son was a mean, nasty kid. But why? This is what his mother attempts to figure out.

Shriver's style is wordy and somewhat rambling, which seemed to me like a choice based on the character (and it worked...though it was a bit hard for me to get into immediately, especially in contrast with Jones' book, which I'd just finished), although I haven't read any of her other books so I can't say for sure.

This book is very, very disturbing. I sat on the couch with my Kindle, occasionally asking my husband questions such as "Has there ever been anyone in your family that you'd describe as a psychopath?" and "Do you believe in bad seeds?"

So, yeah. Maybe not the best choice of reading material right now. But it was excellently done, with touching and even funny moments interspersed with the general tone of doom. I recommend this one if you think you can handle it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Birthing bead necklace


This is a necklace I made to wear during labor. I'm participating in an online Due Date Club comprised of women whose babies are due in August. Twenty-two of us opted to do a bead exchange. We each sent twenty-two beads out, and each person got one of each bead. Some people sent extras, so I ended up with more than one of some of them. The ones I sent out are the light blue discs with brown swirls...and I kept two for my own necklace :)

The lion was a special splurge purchase that I couldn't pass up at the bead store. My baby will most likely be a Leo. Also, it is from Russia!

Oh, and yeah, I know I'm a hippie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book review: Flower Children by Maxine Swann


Yeah, I've been reading a lot lately. I picked this book up at Blue Cypress Books in NOLA the last time I was there, when I had some time to kill. Since I finished Townie yesterday, I tossed this book in my tote bag when I went out to run errands. It was a quick read - I finished it in the wee hours this morning after one of the cats woke me up and I couldn't get back to sleep.

Flower Children is about four siblings being raised by hippie parents in the 1970s. It has more of a short story (or short story collection) feel than a novel feel. There isn't exactly a central plot, and the perspective shifts fairly often. It worked for me, though, because the descriptions of the children's lives were so rich and honest, and because I wanted to see what the crazy adults would do next. It reminded me at times of Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors - but without the bitter humor. Which is not to say there weren't funny parts in Flower Children, but overall it had a more subtle and poetic tone.

I recommend this one for anyone fascinated by hippie culture, or anyone looking for a beautifully written book with a unique style.

Intentions aren't everything.

There's an article on essence.com, which I read via Feministe, concerning the reporter Mac McClelland's use of a story of another woman's traumatic rape in a personal essay she wrote about how her job affects her sex life. Go read the Essence article, and the comments too, where McClelland, Mother Jones (who McClelland works for), and the rape victim's lawyer respond.

I'm sure McClelland had good intentions - both in bringing the story of the situation in Haiti to people's attention in her Mother Jones reporting and in addressing the complex affects of violence on sexuality in her personal essay (which I won't link to here but it's easy to find...as a warning, though, I personally found it very difficult to read and upsetting). But her focus on her intentions and her own trauma seem to have blinded her to the rape victim's feelings and wishes, which is not OK.

I was reminded of a situation a few years ago, when Eve Ensler's V-day organization had a huge event in New Orleans. My playback troupe was performing at this event and leading story circles, which is a process in which people share stories from their lives (it is something we often use in conjunction with our Playback work, since Playback is a theatrical representation of personal stories). We were working in a beautiful red tent designed by an artist from New York, which created a nice sense of intimacy and was a women-only space...however, it proved to be too small to hold the many women who wanted to participate in our workshops.

Anyway, I found myself in the unfortunate position of bouncer for much of the event, which really sucked because I hated turning away women who wanted to participate. And sometimes people got really confrontational with me, which I felt was unfair because I had no real power to change the situation or go build a bigger tent or anything like that.

Many of the stories that the women were sharing had to do with sexual assault and violence, and we did our best to keep the space safe for these women. Part of the story circle process is an agreement not to share stories you hear in the circle with the outside world.

Well, at one point a woman with a video camera showed up, and informed me that she was going to film one of our workshops. At that time, the leader of our Playback group was not present and I had not been informed that this was going to happen. I told her this, and she assured me that it was fine, because Eve Ensler had asked her to document everything going on at the V-day event. I told her I still was not comfortable with her taping the story circle workshop due to the need for privacy and a safe environment. She kept repeating, "but it's for Eve!" and telling me what a swell person Eve Ensler is (which I'm sure she is, but that wasn't the point). I eventually got so frustrated and angry because I felt I was being patronized and dismissed that I started to cry. Gah! I hate that I cry when I'm angry. Especially because her reaction was to become even more patronizing and to hug me, repeatedly, against my will.

Eventually, thankfully, the leader of our group returned and spoke with this woman, and they decided to have one story circle comprised of people who had given prior consent to being filmed, with the understanding that no one else was to be filmed.

The McClelland mess reminded me of that experience because I think both are examples of what can happen when two very important issues - the need to share with the world at large the horrible violence that too many women endure and the need to protect those women and honor their feelings and their ownership of their experiences - clash. My opinion is that we need to be vigilant to protect the individual women's needs first, or we risk victimizing them all over again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book review: Townie by Andre Dubus III

I heard an interview with Andre Dubus III a few months ago on NPR when David and I were driving through Florida. I found myself telling David more than once, "I have to read that book!" I like memoirs (especially if they're written by actual, talented writers as opposed to, say, people who are famous for something other than writing), I like books that take place in Massachusetts (where I grew up), and I'm especially drawn to stories involving divorce and family issues.

If, by chance, any of you go for these elements in a book, Townie is definitely for you. But even if you don't, there are plenty of other reasons to read this book.

Townie is a book about masculinity. If I'd known that, I may have passed on it. I'm glad I didn't figure that out until I was already hooked. David recently told me he rarely reads books written by women, that he often finds the themes and writing styles less interesting and easy to relate to than those written by men. I told this to my sister, and she said she rarely reads books written by men for the same reason. I read both, but I do tend to be drawn more to books with female protagonists. Which, more often than not, are also written by women, so I suppose I probably end up reading more female authors as well. I feel particularly turned off by most books about war (well, blow-by-blow battle accounts, anyway...I have enjoyed reading about the effects of war and violence on individuals and society), or books about men finding themselves through lots of random or extra-marital sex, and other stereotypical "manly" themes.

Townie is different, because Dubus - at least by the time he wrote the book - had a very deep understanding of himself and his motivations, so although there is a lot of violence in the book, it is treated with a level of introspection and honesty that I've never seen before. I felt that I could understand and relate to this guy who gets in bar fights all the time, which is pretty damned far outside my experience. But hey, isn't that why we read, anyway?

The book is mostly chronological, but the beginning part is less so, with more jumps back and forth in time. I found this a bit jarring and I'm not sure why Dubus made this choice. Once the book settled into a strictly chronological format, I enjoyed the flow of the story.

I admit, another thing that I love about memoirs is that I can look the "characters" up on Wikipedia after I've finished reading about them. It's satisfying, like reality TV...only you can feel better about yourself, because it's literary, not trashy ;)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yesterday I got married in a red polka dot maternity dress.

David and I originally planned to get married at some point after we had the baby, but due to confusing (and probably boring to read) health insurance issues we recently decided it would be best to get married before the birth. And when I say recently, I mean, like, a few days ago.

I never had a desire to attempt to plan a wedding while pregnant, and I've found that since I have a child on the way, I'd much rather devote our money and effort to him than to a big wedding - now or in the future. Which is not to say I dislike big weddings - I think they're great! I've had tons of fun at other people's weddings. My younger sister is getting married in a few months and I'm super excited about it. It just didn't feel right for me in our particular situation.

I'm 36 weeks pregnant (37 tomorrow), so when we decided we'd like to get married before the baby arrived, we had to act fast! Here's how it went down.

Wednesday
We went to the Clerk of Court and got a marriage license. They had us fill out an online application on a computer. David was being silly and typing jokes in there (stating this was my 27th marriage, etc), and he took most of that out before submitting, but not the part where he put my race as "blue eyes" and his as "brown eyes." I freaked, thinking they'd make us start from scratch, but they just changed it to "white" on the official document and didn't say anything about it. Interestingly, they also listed both of his parents as being born in Russia even though they were born in countries that were part of the USSR but are not part of Russia (and he had indicated this on the form). Whatever, we got our piece of paper, and a stack of business cards for local Justices of the Peace. Then we went out for burritos. David went to work, and I came home and started calling around to see if anyone could marry us this weekend (David's work schedule is starting to pick up so we couldn't do it on a week day). I only got through to one JOP. I arranged a meeting with him the following day.

Thursday
I met the JOP at his home, which has a small chapel attached to it. It was cute, and he was friendly but quite elderly, and we did have to go over some information a few times. I asked about the vows he uses, specifically as they relate to religion (because we didn't want any religious stuff in our vows - David identifies as Jewish Agnostic and I have sort of vague spiritual beliefs which have never exactly aligned with a particular religion). The JOP told me he is Episcopalian and that his vows are general enough to apply to "all denominations." Yeah...one thing I've found in the South is that people tend to assume everyone is some sort of Christian! So I gently requested no religion at all in the ceremony, and he said that would be fine. We scheduled the ceremony for Saturday at 3pm (incidentally, we could not have been married any earlier than noon on Saturday because of Louisiana's 72 hour waiting period).

A FedEx package from David's mom arrived, with a wedding band she'd had made for him when he was a kid. I knew she was going to send it, but I didn't know she would send rings for me, too! She sent a wedding band and a lovely ring with a pink stone in it (tourmaline, I think). It was an awesome surprise...I'd told David I only wanted a simple band but this was much better!

We needed witnesses! I called my mom and my sister. They were both surprised and very happy to serve as our witnesses.

Friday
I got a pedicure and decided to bake myself a vegan wedding cake.

Saturday
We had our last childbirth class in the morning. I'm glad we had an activity planned, because otherwise I would have probably gotten stressed and nervous. The goal was to keep things as low-stress and casual as possible! David was being extra goofy all morning, and I was sort of crabby due to too much rushing in the morning and our late arrival at class (I hate being late for things). However, I mellowed out because I found our class fun and interesting and because David manages to amuse me even when I'm crabby.

We had some time to kill between class and the ceremony, so we went to a jewelry store to see about resizing the rings his mom had sent. His needed to be a bit bigger, so they took it and we'll get it back in a few days. Mine needed to be smaller, but since I'm pregnant they advised against resizing it now, because my hands are probably a bit swollen these days. So instead they put a metal thing in it so that it won't fall off my finger in the meantime.

We arrived at the JOP's house/chapel at the same time as my mom, who'd brought flowers! I pretty mixed bouquet for me to carry and a boutonniere for David. Soon after, my sister Becca arrived with her boyfriend Paul and Paul's teen son, Dakota. David and I went to separate rooms to change clothes, and I suggested that he might want to ask to see the vows...which was good, because apparently the JOP had forgotten my request at our meeting, and they were chock full o' Jesus. I have no problem with Jesus, we just didn't want him in our vows. So they got that straightened out. We signed the paperwork, and were ready to roll!

I was pleasantly surprised to see David looking very handsome in dress pants, white shirt and a tie. He had told me he was not going to dress fancy. He likes to mess with me. I wore my red polka dot maternity dress because, hey, it's not like I was going to wear white at 9 months pregnant! I had a perfect red heart necklace from Becca to wear with it. I actually bothered to put on makeup for the first time in months, too.

I'm not too big on social traditions (which you've probably gathered if you've read this far), and I understand why a lot of people don't think it's necessary to have the government sanction their relationship. I know plenty of people who are very committed to each other without being legally married (some of them are gay and can't get married, which pisses me off...but that's another rant). But I have to say, standing there and looking into David's eyes as we said our vows was a powerful experience for me - more than I expected it to be. I couldn't stop grinning!

When we got to the ring exchanging part, I had no ring for David because we'd just dropped it off at the jeweler's, which gave everyone a good laugh. The JOP had little fake wedding bands for this purpose, so that's what I used. The ceremony was sweet, quick, and fun. Then we took some pictures, thanked the JOP, and went out for Japanese food.

After that, we came back to our house, where we ate the little vegan wedding cake (which Dakota declared to be "even better than regular cake" - I like that kid!).

And then we were exhausted!

Sunday (today)
I woke up and saw my ring and David beside me sleeping, and the baby was wiggling around in my belly and...I don't know how to describe it. I feel this unexpected freedom, to truly love someone without worry, without holding myself back. So much of this past year has surprised me. Plans that I attempted fell through, things I never expected happened, but somehow I ended up with this smart, caring, weird and wonderful husband and soon we'll have a son. It's not a traditional story, but it's our story, and I'm living it and loving it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sedentary entertainment

I'm tired of being tired! This last month or so of pregnancy is going to drag. People ask me if I'm ready for the baby yet...I don't really know, but I do know I am ready to not be pregnant anymore! I'll deal with the whole being a mom thing and whatever that entails, I am just ready to be done with this phase!

I have the most energy when I first wake up in the morning (at around 6am - that's been consistent throughout this pregnancy). Thankfully, that is also the only time it's not insanely hot outside, or dark. So I've been going for short walks when I wake up. After the walk, I can't seem to move around much for the rest of the day, which is really depressing for a formerly active person like me.

Yesterday we went to the mall, which was great at first because I had cabin fever, but by the time we got home I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I did get a bikini top to wear in the birthing pool, because I've gotten far too busty for any that I already owned. I'm sure you're all quite excited for me.

Anyway, I finished reading The Blind Assassin, which was the Atlantic Monthly's online book club pick for June. Anyone else who's read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I didn't end up participating much in the Twitter discussions (I'm still kind of learning to use Twitter...it's interesting but not really my online comfort zone yet), but I adored the book! It's really three stories in one - a story within a story within a story, and there is an element of mystery that kept me hooked. It is so wonderful when writers allow readers to figure things out over time, without spelling out all the details.

That's something I've noticed in giving and receiving critiques (and I'm guilty of it too): the tendency to point out any momentary confusion as something the writer needs to fix. It's not as if every single character who is named needs to be immediately supplied with a physical description and an explanation of their significance to the story. It's OK to be a bit confused when you're reading...not so confused that you give up and put the book down, but confused enough that you read on to figure things out!

I think I'll skip the Atlantic's book for July because I'm not super-interested in it and I have a big to-be-read pile going right now. Next up will be Andre Dubus III's memoir, Townie. Now to peel myself off the couch and see where David has stashed the Kindle...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stockpiling provisions, guarding and snarling.

So, with the baby due to arrive in the next 3-6 weeks, I can happily say we basically have everything we need for him. Right now I'm washing all of his blankets, towels, and clothes so they'll be ready to go whenever he is.

I'm not too nervous about taking care of him at this point, but I am sort of irrationally nervous about my own food supply. As I've mentioned before, I find the concept of not leaving the house for several days/weeks to be a scary one. The idea of not being able to go to the grocery store is especially frightening. Yes, I realize I have a perfectly capable partner who is more than willing to go (he even went to the Winn-Dixie today to see if they had tahini - which of course they did not - to see if he could save me a trip to Whole Foods), but a weird voice in my head says "What if he messes it up and I staaaaaaaaaarve?!?"

I'm used to cooking about 95% of the food I eat. Being vegan in the middle of Louisiana, I don't really have much of an option. But I know I won't be able to keep up my shopping and cooking habits immediately after having the baby. And one can only survive so long on Lebanese takeout (much as I love it). So I've started to freeze leftovers in individual portions. Today I plan on making a vat of lentil stew, and I'll freeze whatever we don't eat tonight. Tomorrow I might make red beans and rice.

My struggle to guard my food from the cats has intensified. Though I enjoy cooking, it is definitely a bit of an effort these days. I feed the cats CAT FOOD twice a day...as soon as they see me open my eyes I'm greeted with incessant, desperate meows. When it comes near the time for their evening feeding, they strategically place themselves near me and give me the intense, unblinking cat stare. I will love them, feed them, and allow them backyard access, but I do not want them anywhere near MY food. The fruits of my labor in the kitchen are for the benefit of David, the baby, and ME.

David thinks the cats deserve more variety in their diet, and that it's cute when they beg at the table. I respond to such behavior by scooping up said cat(s), tossing them to the back yard, and finishing my meal while they look at me through the back door with their wide, pathetic, cat-refugee faces. I'm not falling for it. Stay away from my food. Grr.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love and food

Here's an interesting article about meat-eaters and vegans in relationships.

I found it via Feministe but I've vowed not to comment on any more posts there that reference veganism for the sake of my own sanity...at least until I'm no longer under the influence of pregnancy hormones.

Anyway, I consider myself very lucky that David loves my vegan cooking. Some meat-eaters really seem to want meat with every meal, and I'm so glad he's not in that camp! Also, there are a few places where we can go out to eat and both find something yummy. The Mellow Mushroom makes great vegan and non-vegan stuff, and Thai, Japanese and Indian restaurants are usually accommodating.

It might have been harder if we met before I went vegan, because then he may have grown used to non-vegan home cooking. Now, he either has the choice of vegan home cooking, or no home cooking at all (unless he wants to do that cooking, which is rare). Ha! Vegan home cooking wins.

For breakfast today, I made us some cornbread from the 1000 Vegan Recipes cookbook. It's my favorite vegan cornbread recipe so far. I ate it with Earth Balance and some molasses (a good source of iron and calcium for me and the mini-vegan). Yum!

ETA: The real threat to our relationship is David feeding my cooking to the cats. He informed me that they also liked the cornbread...which became painfully obvious about 30 minutes later when one of them (HIS bad bad cat) apparently snuck up on the table to help herself to more. GRRR.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Transportation, freedom, and staying at home

Yesterday I spent several hours looking forward to and preparing for a writer's group meeting, then was stuck at home when my car wouldn't start. After a few fruitless attempts to start the car, and then some fruitless attempts to reach David (to see if he might, by chance, already be on his way home and able to drive me there), I came back inside our house, returned to the couch I'd spent most of the day on, and felt immensely depressed.

This whole pregnancy has been a struggle for me, because I'm not physically able to keep the kind of busy work/art/social life schedule I'm accustomed to. That, and now I'm no longer in NOLA. When my car wouldn't start in NOLA (not an entirely rare occurrence), I could call a cab. Here, I knew I was too far out in the 'burbs for a cab to arrive in time. Most of my friends live in NOLA, so I already find myself feeling isolated here. Sad as it may sound, the writer's group was my only planned social activity for the week.

I've found that it is very beneficial to my mental health to get out of the house at least once every day, even if it's only to go to the grocery store. Even though, at 8 months pregnant, my energy level is low, I can't stand sitting around the house all day. I began to picture life without a working vehicle, and I started to panic.

I lived in NOLA for years without a car, but I had lots of interesting places to get to by walking, biking, or public transportation. Here, the roads are narrow, with no sidewalks and ditches beside them. Not that there's anything within walking distance, anyway.

When David came home from work, he was wonderfully comforting and sympathetic, which helped. Then, he eventually managed to get my car to start. It seems to be having some sort of fuel line issue, which was probably not helped when it sat in the heat for a couple of days without being driven. This actually happened last summer, too, and I put some injector cleaner in the gas tank and it seemed to solve the problem. So I'm very glad the car is not dead for good quite yet.

But I have to say, I am worried about the postpartum period. From what I hear, women and their newborns rarely leave the house for a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to interacting with the baby, but I still think being cooped up in the house might depress me. Maybe I'll be so exhausted that I won't even notice, I don't know. But I really don't think I'm cut out for this housewife business.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I fantasize about.

1. A big glass of wine.

I know some people do have the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy, but I worry too much, so I've only had random stolen sips of other people's wine since November. I love wine so much and I really, really miss it! I hear it's OK to have a little wine while nursing. So I do look forward to drinking wine again in a few weeks.

2. Intense cardio.


Lately, whenever I see fit women out running, I am overcome with envy. And here's the thing: I never enjoyed running. Also, this is Louisiana and it's insanely hot out. I'm sure I wouldn't be out running even if I wasn't pregnant. But it bothers me that I physically can't run these days without discomfort. My cell phone doesn't work in my house, so the closest thing to running I do these days is a mad dash to locate the ringing phone and get out to the patio in time to answer it before the call drops (thanks, AT&T). And even that leaves me out of breath and sometimes gives me a side stitch.

I also miss Spinning, and thinking about it makes me sad, because I really miss my awesome Spin instructor whose class I'll probably never take again (due to my relocation from NOLA), and my friend that used to go with me every week. I've still got the friend, but our years-long Spinning & Brunch ritual is over.


I want the struggle, the endorphin rush, the feeling of accomplishment that intense cardio gave me. Yoga is great for other reasons, but it's not the same.

3. Tomatoes.They give me heartburn now. I can only eat very small amounts of them. Which sucks, because I make an amazing marinara sauce that I could pretty much eat daily. Yet, the last time I ate it, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like weasels were trying to fight their way out of my stomach via my throat. I guess it's not so bad that my garden was such a failure this year!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The BEST chickpea salad!

So I started on my journey with chickpea salad sandwiches here, and I've made it several times, but tonight I made the BEST batch I've ever made. Here's my recipe:

1/2 cup dry chickpeas
1 small handful fresh parsley
1 small handful grated carrots (can you tell I don't like to measure?)
1 green onion, chopped
2-3 tbsp. (approx., depending on how wet you want it to be) Vegenaise or other vegan mayo
Kelp granules to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the chickpeas (covered, in the fridge) at least 6 hours. Change out the water, bring them to a boil, and then simmer for 30-45 minutes, until they are soft but not mushy. Drain, and rinse well with cold water.

Put the chickpeas and parsley in the food processor, and PULSE until the chickpeas are broken into chunks. You need to use the pulse setting or else you will quickly end up with hummus, which is awesome, but not what we're going for here.

Transfer chickpeas and parsley to a bowl, add all other ingredients, stir it up, and make a sandwich!

I really think the fresh parsley and green onion make this the best. Also, the kelp granules, weird as they are, are a MUST!

Serves 2, if you like to eat a lot, like David and I :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A glimpse into my life.

Backstory: David loves having the windows down while driving in the car, but it drives me crazy when my hair blows into my face. Our scene begins with me making frustrated noises and trying to pull my hair back while it blows around wildly.

David: You know, at work we have hair nets. Would that help you?
Me: (laughing) I'd look like a lunch lady!
David: A what? A munch lady?
Me: (laughing too hard to respond clearly) Lunch lady!
David: What is a munch lady? Like, a munchkin? Like welcome to munchkin land?
Me: LUNCH! The ladies who serve you lunch!
David: Like in a high school?
Me: Yes, they wear hair nets so their hair doesn't get in the food.

(a moment later)

Me: I don't want a hair net, I should just wear a head scarf.
David: Oh, like what's-her-name?
Me: Uh...
David: You know, that lady?
Me: NO I DON'T KNOW! Half of the world's population is female! How would I know who you're talking about?
David: The Kennedy lady!
Me: Oh, Jackie Onassis?
David: Yes!

This type of communication happens daily.

I am proud to note

...that after yesterday morning's dose of angst, I sat down with a few drafts of a short story I attempted to write in 2009, and rewrote it. It took me about twelve hours. It will need revising, but it felt like a good day's work.

David was encouraging me to write short stories on Thursday night. He pointed out that I have a tendency to "start big." For example, my first foray into theater directing was a classic but rarely-tackled LONG Russian play with a cast of seventeen. I was not entirely happy with the results (though it was a major learning experience). My next directing project was a shorter piece of my own, with a much smaller scope. It was more successful.

I do believe in following where the Muse leads. I directed that first play because it was a longtime dream of mine. I wrote my novel because the idea wouldn't let me go. And although I had written a novella in high school, I'd only been writing play scripts since college. So, logically, a short story (or several) would have been a good step. But I didn't have any ideas for short stories.

I took a writing course in 2009, where I was required to write a short story. I developed some interesting characters and a somewhat creative plot. And then I came up with two different bad endings for it, and gave up. I related the plot to David during our conversation, and he said, "that is a damn good plot." I should note that David does not like all of my ideas. And is quite blunt, as a general rule. So this was significant.

David also thought I needed to leave my novel alone for a while, because I was obsessing, and after all I'd just finished the 16 billionth round of revisions on it. He thought I needed to work on other things.

So, back to the short story I went. Yesterday was one of those great writing days where twelve hours felt like twenty minutes. Other than a disappointing excursion to the Winn Dixie (which apparently does not sell tofu), I wrote all day. David called to tell me there was a barbecue at work, and he thought he'd stay there for dinner. It was for the best, because I hadn't cooked anything yet anyway, and besides, I wanted to make tofu.

So he had grilled steak with his co-workers and I heated up a can of baked beans and got back to my writing. And I finished the new draft of the story, and all was well.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What I know and what I feel.

I was thinking a lot yesterday about my artistic goals. I'm looking forward to applying to grad programs, but it's hard to decide what exactly to study when my interests are so varied. The interests in question are centered around writing and theater, so it's not exactly all over the map, but still.

I was asking myself: what is the area in which I have the most to offer? What do I want to learn about most? What have I most enjoyed doing in the past? There is no one answer to these questions.

I know that the best thing I can do right now is to take advantage of the (ever-fleeting) time I have while I finish incubating this baby. I know that obsessing over things I wish I'd done differently in past projects is a waste of time. I know that the more I continue to create, the better I will get.

Still, it is frustrating sometimes. Even though I know all these things, how I feel is that I want to already be brilliant and recognized for it! Maybe it's silly, but it's true. I'm reading Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin for the Atlantic's book club I mentioned earlier, and as I read I keep thinking, damn, she's good. I am not as good as her. Well, of course I'm not. She's Margaret freaking Atwood! Still, it makes me sigh and look at my writing projects and tweak and edit and rewrite sentences and then sigh again.

Oh well, back to work.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Soy is our friend.

I've found that lifelong omnivores tend to be a lot more tolerant of my veganism than ex-vegans. Seriously, what is it with ex-vegans? A lot of them are downright belligerent. I've noticed this trend online (don't think I know anyone who's actually followed this path IRL) where former vegans become followers of Weston A. Price and start praising the virtues of meat and raw milk and stuff. It's kind of like former diehard atheists who become born-again Christians (or vice versa).

Anyway, here's a good article about the science (or lack thereof) behind the WAP theories and the health benefits of soy:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/01/anti-soya-brigade-ignore-scaremongering/print

Book club

I've started reading Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin on my Kindle for the Atlantic Monthly's online book club, which takes place on Twitter. I hadn't read this book before, but it was on my very lengthy "must read" list. The schedule for discussion and more details about the book club are here. Join us! There are a lot of us!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disaster birthdays

My birthday is December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).

My mom's birthday is September 11.

My stepdad's birthday is August 29 (Katrina day, for those not from NOLA).

I asked my guy if there have been any horrible disasters near our baby's due date, and he mentioned the bombing of Hiroshima...so now I predict that our baby will be born on August 6 (actual due date is August 1).

We'll see if I'm right.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memories and truth

NPR has an interesting piece about the memoirs written by Augusten Burroughs, his brother, and his mother. I loved Burroughs' Running With Scissors and Dry, and although I found A Wolf at the Table somewhat harder to read (because it lacked much of the dark humor of his other memoirs), it was certainly well written.

The NPR piece raises the issue of truth in memory - the emotional truth is what tends to stick with us, though the factual details can get fuzzy. I thought of my 30th birthday party, where my Playback theater group performed, and I sat in the audience as party guests told stories about me and Playback turned them into theater. Many of those stories bore little resemblance to the events I remembered. For example, one friend told a story about a day when I was called him on the phone, stressed and upset. He implied that my emotional state was due to the difficulties I'd encountered directing a play, coupled with the chronic unreliability of my then-boyfriend. Now, those things were present, but the friend omitted that he himself had just sent me an angry text message, and my memory of that day is that I was upset that he (my friend) was angry with me. I don't know if he forgot that part, but if I were to tell the story of that day, that text message and my reaction to it would be what it was about. Now I suspect, in retrospect, that my friend was never really that angry at me to begin with (I probably over-reacted due to my already stressed out state), and that's why that piece of the story was irrelevant to him. But it's interesting how different that experience was for the two of us.

I can only imagine the differences that could occur over years and years of memories, in the case of Augusten Burroughs and his family. His brother's account sounds especially interesting, and I plan to read it.