Tuesday, September 26, 2006

on mediocrity, terrorism and motherhood

Just finished watching "Amadeus" for the first time in lots of years. I think the writing was meh. To me, the most interesting question posed by the movie is "How do you deal with mediocrity when you yearn to be great? How do you deal with your own imperfection in the face of perfection?" The movie only superficially touches on this. To me, the best scene in the movie is the last one, in which Salieri is wheeled through the insane asylum, crying out to all the "mediocre" souls there that he is their patron saint, he is the one who absolves them of the sin of being mediocre.

This is a profound and painful inquiry, and it would have made a much better movie to probe that question more deeply.


How does it relate to terrorism? Oh- it doesn't, except that I think the Dept of Homeland Security is ridiculously mediocre. I heard on the radio today that the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland received NOTHING from Homeland Security, even both applied for funds. Hmm. It makes me wonder whether we've got to batten down the hatches around here. I'm just saying... I'd love to know what they knew and when they knew it, if you know what I mean.


And mediocrity and motherhood. What a hot topic. The stupid "mommy wars" are so ridiculous. It's a clever ploy to divide a constituency. (The "mediocrity" angle here is that women who are educated and able are choosing a lesser life when they choose to raise kids.)

If all women came together, those with children and those who are child-free, to demand actual wage equality, it would be a dangerous day for politicians. Instead, they create rifts that conveniently distract people from the true issues of inequality. Squabbling over which goal is more lofty-- to raise the next generation or to rise to the highest positions in political and corporate arenas-- conveniently misses the point, which is that neither will happen with any great success until women are treated equally both in the home AND the workplace.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Motherhood Manifesto!

Last night I attended a screening of the film "Motherhood Manifesto" based on the book by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. It was great- I got to talk with Joan for awhile and she's a dynamic, fun person (as you might imagine the co-founder of MoveOn.org to be).

I've been studying/working on/thinking about women's health as a human right for about ten years now, and especially about the concept of Safe Motherhood). This film really hits some of the major issues around parenthood in the United States-- namely, family leave and work issues, TV and corporate conditioning of kids, universal healthcare for children (they say we almost had it-- it passed the House and Senate and was vetoed by Nixon), and childcare costs. Apparently we're joined by Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea in failing to provide things like paid family leave and children's health care. It is pathetic how politicians in this country utterly fail to actually *do* anything about their so-called family values.

As Republican pollster Frank Luntz said (I think it was in a Frontline interview that's excerpted in the film), this is an issue that's up for grabs. Either party could adopt the platform of empowering parents and *especially women,* who are often openly discriminated against in the workplace just for having children!

I'm really glad to live in California. We do have some paid family leave, and D's employer provides a generous six-week paid family leave (I believe it's through the state, though some employers apparently call this disability leave).

Today I'm feeling really relaxed about my career. I love that D is so supportive of me, that he really believes in me. I really believe I'll be an asset to whatever organization/company I join. I'm excited to be a mother for now, and then when D and I feel the time is right for the kid, I'll re-join the workforce. I'm not going to fret over what's going to happen in a few years, because I know I can do this. How scary to put it out there, but the truth is people are survivors-- we figure things out. (I'm reading Life of Pi, which certainly inspires thinking about survival.)

OH! Great news!! The panel I worked really hard on for the Commonwealth Club was aired nationally on NPR! It was called "The Health of Africa" and I was really excited by the turnout, and the fact that the moderator (Barbara Rodgers of KPIX News) used the questions I'd written and researched for her. I felt like the panel was really dynamic and was thrilled they chose to air it on KQED. The podcast is available to download here-- it was recorded on August 8, 2006.

Ok- off to make dinner!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

French Toast and Childbirth Ed

It's a great Saturday when you've had a good Childbirth Ed class *and* the best damn French toast ever. So I'm going to share with you the wonder and magic of Sunset magazine's French Toast Bites, with my own small alteration.


1 loaf (~1 lb.) Semifreddi's Cinnamon Twist Challah, or your own local Very Good Challah
6 eggs
1 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla (or 1.5 tsp. ground vanilla bean)
1 tsp. cinnamon (or Pumpkin Pie Spice)
1/4 c. sugar (which I like to add for extra crisp carmelization)

- Cut the bread into 1" cubes. The cubes are KEY to the whole thing because, unlike thick slices, they crisp up beautifully and evenly.

- Beat all other ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss in the cubes.

- Lightly butter a large frying pan (we used cast iron with great success). Over medium high heat, toss in the cubes, shaking off excess liquid.

- Turn as needed; about five minutes to cook through.

This is The BEST French toast I've had, and I'm including the incredible pain perdu I've had the privilege to experience at La Note in Berkeley. Though their lavender honey is truly special and exceptional.

The CBE class was not too bad. I was skeptical when S., our instructor opened the class with people sharing their concerns/fears. I'm pretty tired of people asking me if I'm afraid and what my fears are. Because I'm really not afraid, and I also don't think that's so exceptional. (I didn't say that during introductions; I just said I didn't have a major concern to share.) S. pointed out that many people are afraid of the unknown. For me, if I don't know what's coming, I think--why should I be afraid?

I don't approach every situation like that, obviously-- for instance, I'm a defensive driver. But labor and delivery is special. It's been done by billions of women in the world over the course of human history. It's a natural process, the pain is purposeful, and it doesn't last forever-- normally it's less than a day. I can endure this for a day.

In fact, I've decided to be proud of my body. At first I didn't want to "take credit" for how normally and well my body has handled this pregnancy. But then I realized I'd probably feel guilty if it were difficult, which would be silly. There are certain things you can change and certain things you can't change. I've been conscious of those things in my control.

So, I'm proud that I was in pretty good shape pre-pregnancy and that I continue to be in pretty good shape; that I've been eating really well; that I've been avoiding stress as much as possible and trying to remember to take deep breaths, to do yoga, to have good posture, to relax. To be open to whatever happens and just to let it all go. To laugh a lot! To see friends and be social. And I remember in dance class, when our intense old school hardcore Debbie-Allen-in-Fame-esque teacher (Reginald Ray-Savage, if you're curious) would push us incredibly hard (people left crying), I'd think (as my muscles shook with fatigue) "I could do this for another week! Sure, no problem!" Mr. Savage taught me how much physical strength comes from mental strength.

After all that at the CBE class, we practiced some positions for labor, which was nice. I think it was useful to see how Derek would approach the positions and massage so I could tell him what felt good. Also, it's just really nice to come to the hospital so often for these various classes we've signed up for (CBE, newborn care, breastfeeding, meeting the practitioners, hospital tour). We've gotten really comfortable with our route, parking, and buildings, which is nice.

And my doula just attended a great birth at our hospital! I'm so excited; everything I've heard about it is very consistent that it's a fabulous, low-key, progressive place to give birth (but also with a great NICU if need be). YAY!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ms. Mediation

Ehhh... I go back and forth between "Mediation is my next career step!! So thrilling!!" to "I am totally unhire-able for any sort of paid work in the world" to "whatever, this is all on hold for one to two years" to "who knows what will happen." Pretty much I think that last one is most accurate. I've got some action items on a timeline charted out and feel good about that. But in truth, it could be a couple of years before my career is off and running. It could be longer! It could possibly be shorter, if my sister-in-law Kelly is any indication (who landed a great job when her son was 8 months old). On the whole, I have a feeling deep inside that everything is going to work out well, but it's hard to convey that to people. Ah well-- one of the many gifts of pregnancy is realizing I don't have to explain myself to others.

Sooo, instead of worrying about that, let's talk about handling the emotional messes of pregnancy. And nope, we're not talking about me! Strangely enough, I feel like the eye of the storm-- pregnancy hormones totally agree with me and I've been feeling quite calm and centered. The emotional storm blows in with my parents! Especially mom. She's pretty unstable-- calm during one moment, then growing into anger (doesn't matter what the topic of conversation is). It's a common theme for her. I'm pretty certain I don't want to manage her needs during labor and delivery! At one point I thought she'd be helpful during labor, but now I'm not sure about that.

I don't owe her the experience of being in my labor and delivery room, right? Right?

Damn. I just finished my chocolate bar. It was a little love gift from Derek. Green and Black's organic milk, which is darker than most milk chocolates (and therefore better, says she who lives blissfully near the Scharffenberger factory).

Not that I need chocolate to finish a thought or anything.

What was I saying?

Oh! Go see "Little Miss Sunshine!" It's definitely dark humor, which I'm generally not into. But they skewer the little girl pageant industry, and Alan Arkin should *definitely* win for Best Onscreen Lovable Grandpa/Heroin Addict. No doubt. Steve Carrell is also fabulous in this. You could wait for the DVD, but if you need a laugh now, this is a really good bet.

Heh, there's a foot coming out of my torso! I always imagined it'd be creepy but in fact, I *love* movement. It's so fun!