Saturday, December 15, 2007

breastfeeding- still a punk act

This week I visited a sweet couple from church who just had a baby. The new mom was having trouble with her latch (no, you non-lactaters out there, that ain't a euphemism) and so when she started trying to nurse, I gave her a few pointers.

Who would have thought I was engaging in some porny act?!

According to the fabulous finslippy (aka Alice and her new blog Wonderland), YouTube does! Apparently YouTube hosts videos of people doing unspeakable acts with dolphins (sorry, B). But videos of mamas nursing are unacceptable! (I looked for "breastfeeding" on YouTube myself. There are some really lovely videos of babies nursing, thank goodness. Not enough useful information attached to those, unfortunately. But at least there are some examples for those of us who never saw it growing up and had to "fake it till we make it.")

Alice's post talks passionately and intelligently about how American culture cannot seem to reconcile the beauty and utility of women's bodies. Though there are some bf-ing vids, they're followed by completely trashy comments. It's totally wrong that women should feel ashamed of the enormous power we have to nourish others.

For God's sake, I often think of James and Kati Kim, the young couple with two daughters who got lost in the snowy woods, and how she kept her kids alive by nursing them. She kept them alive by feeding them with her own body. It's a fucking MIRACLE, what we can do! It is a miracle.

I think what people have a problem with is that babies are attached to something that people feel are solely a sex tool. Oops- but breasts are actually useful. Babies and breasts can't go together-- that's against the LAW, right? Like child porn?

We are a backwards society, sometimes. It's more than a shame.

The Golden Suicides

Anyone with insight on this one, please weigh in. Nancy Jo Sales has once again delivered an engaging, personal piece. The subjects were tragic, yet it was challenging to connect with their pathos. It was as if they were behind a glass case, presented as delicate specimens to observe with great caution. The sense of distance is perhaps intentional, as if we could never know them. But even that's not quite right, because there are plenty of examples of their friends' involvement in their lives. Maybe it's just the way they chose to present themselves. I could get a sense of say, Katherine Heigl pumping gas and doing laundry, but it almost seemed like these two were too precious to engage in all of life-- from the mundane to the sacred arts they loved. Perhaps not too precious-- perhaps they regarded life as too short to spend on things that had no personal signature.

I checked out some of Jeremy Blake's work online, and it's dizzying, ethereal, sometimes haunting.

Is this just a cautionary tale of two people who got so entwined in each other that the paranoia they each nurtured became all-consuming? An elegy to a couple who could have done much more? A remembrance by someone who was one degree of separation away from the tragedy?

first fig

'First Fig'

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay


tonglen- a moment of actual Buddhism

What do you do when it's 3 am and your baby is up again, inconsolable?

You think about all the other parents who are up at 3 am with you, holding their inconsolable babies. You breathe in and think about how they feel just like you, how you're connected to them because you're all up at this ungodly dark hour, trying to soothe a baby, trying not to think about how deliciously warm and soft your bed is. You breathe out and think of the peace we all want to feel, the comfort we all want for our babies.

I remember practicing this as suggested-- in the middle of a traffic jam. I was holding my breath, in a hurry, when I remembered that every other person on the road felt the exact same way. So I breathed in our frustration, breathed out some peace and unwound a bit, and lo and behold. Traffic didn't move faster but I felt a lot better.

Pema Chodron says it in another way here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Heigl's Anatomy

The cover of the January 2008 features an absolutely stunning photograph of Katherine Heigl. She looks elegant, intelligent and... sprightly? Active? As if she's straightening her fabulous hat while riding on some young stud's shoulders. (I must say, in my humble opinion, it's quite a contrast to the Nicole Kidman cover. Kidman looked beautiful but disturbingly detached or vacant, and I thought it was a little weird the way she was holding her shirt open. Ick.)

The title of the piece is kind of unfortunate-- Heigl's Anatomy? Um, yikes. But it's a relief to read the piece and realize that they've showcased the part of her anatomy that really counts-- her brain.

There's been a lot of talk about Heigl's comment that "'Knocked Up' was a little sexist." I was interested to read her personal take on the part of Alison, because I found myself feeling conflicted after watching the movie. It was definitely funny, but there were moments I was wondering why that level of disgusting-ness and idiocy was allowed from the men-- but not the women. There was an interesting post about this after an article on Heigl's comment on the post suggests that it might be funny to have a movie about slacker moms.

Slacker moms, people! It's kind of revolutionary. The poster didn't mean slacking to a level that would equal neglect/abuse. She meant:

Not hyperscheduling the kids.
Not volunteering to be head of PTA, head of church school, soccer coach *and* Scout leader (and maybe resenting the lack of downtime).
Not stressing about every unfluffed pillow.

That doesn't sound like slacker mommying. That sounds like smart mommying to me!

But back to the article. Heigl comes across as down to earth, smart and interesting. If she sometimes also says things that me cringe ("I had to sit tight until he proposed" even though she also admitted being impatient and wanting the relationship to move to marriage), I chalked that up to not censoring herself or cleaning it up too much for the interview.

She also described with candor the childhood experience of losing her brother and how that affected her relationship with her mother. I think it's unusual to hear about such a functional mother/manager relationship, especially one where mother and daughter are so close yet where the daughter has another significant relationship. (Think LiLo, Brit, etc.) I've got a daughter, and while I certainly don't plan on becoming her manager, I am intrigued by thinking about how our relationship will change with time. I wonder what causes some mothers and daughters to enjoy a close relationship and others, not so much, even if both are good people.

VF readers, discuss!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

when your kid asks why the tree shines so brightly...

you tell her or him it's because of the eels.

"If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree." I think this is the greatest quote ever. Inventor Kazuhiko Minawa found a way to harness eel energy to light up a Christmas tree! It's so popular in Japan! Reuters says so.

Talk about being energy efficient. What a fun way to teach kids about that!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ok to go

Ever since Minkie said her first word ("duck," at 8 months ish), I've been secretly and happily holding on to the notion that she will not be small and pre-verbal forever. She will one day be able to tell me her wants, her needs, her dreams, her peeves. She will be able to get herself a glass of water and go the toilet on her own, maybe without even letting me know. She will have ideas.

At some points I felt some guilt for feeling relieved that infancy doesn't last. And then a little apprehension realizing that none of this lasts.

But I also realized that it's ok-- maybe even a good thing-- to not want to hold onto infancy and want her to remain an infant forever. Maybe it's a good thing to let go of each stage and to let her grow. I'm sure there will be a stage I want to hang onto, and I'll have to remember this then.

Someone once said that from pregnancy onward (or, from starting the adoption process onward), parenting is a continual process of letting go.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


When I was pregnant, I think I read somewhere that pregnancy and parenting all comes down to the art of letting go. Continually, over and over again. At birth, at cutting the cord, at every stage as the child continually grows into her own space and personhood.

I am at the weaning stage. It is a gradual process for Minkie and me. The slowness is hard. It's one step forward, one step back (which sounds like we're not progressing toward weaning, and it sometimes it feels like we're not, but I think we are, so let me amend that to two steps forward, one step back).

I miss having regular cycles. I miss the progesterone high of pregnancy (that's some good stuff, progesterone). It's a rough landing. Minkie's having a growth spurt and wanted to nurse more lately, and I found myself melting into bliss this evening as she nursed because nursing is the one time I totally focus on beautiful things. I think about flowers, about D, about cheery things. I do not worry about the state of my parents' relationship, my mother's mental health, my husband's lack of sleep, my own harried schedule.

As weaning continues, I will have to answer the hard question: when during the day will I provide myself the opportunity to lavish in beautiful thoughts when Minkie no longer needs to nurse?

Joe Frank, anyone?

Anyone out there heard of Joe Frank? I was in the car this evening and stopped the dial at 94.1, where there was this guy babbling on about the awfulness of anthropologists studying Mayans, and then he mentioned eating slugs, sacrificing young girls, baboon mating rituals, and why should universities spend one red cent on studying these horrible rituals and people...

Usually I skip over this stuff because who has time for radio rants. Yet, there was something weird and compelling about this that made me want to listen, and I realized it was the jazzy vamp in the background, repeating a few bars of an eminently listen-able tune. I was answering the guy in my head, "We could learn a lot about ourselves, our culture, what we sacrifice, by learning about others." This guy was so see-no-evil and it was killing me.

Then there were some random calls that eased that tension... some guy asking Joe out. Some other guy trying to get into a religious debate with Mr. Frank.

I looked him up, and it turns out Joe Frank is a performance artist/radio DJ. I completely appreciated his work, and I don't say that about all or even most performance art.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I came across the word "reverence" in a poem. Just reading it makes me want to slow down. The word itself inspires quiet, slow contemplation, and an expectation of the divine. It reminds me of "river." The ebb and flow, the grace of water flowing over rock, the edges blotted by mud and flowers. Watching Minkie as she plays-- banging something over and over, inspecting the floor really carefully, feeling the texture of the wall-- it's another way to slow down. Maybe it's a good way to practice feeling reverent.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holiday Traditions with a little one

Holidays are here- happy December everyone! Whether you do Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, solstice or another celebration, it's time to decorate. (If you do no decorating, you get to enjoy a quiet winter!)

I would love to do a tree-- and would love to celebrate a Druid solstice ceremony to honor where we Christians got the whole tree thing from anyway! Heh.

But a tree is tricky for lots of reasons, ranging from environmental to how do you keep an inquisitive young toddler from pulling the whole damn thing over or from eating the (lovely-smelling) needles?

I'm thinking of buying a couple of plain wreaths and decorating them, or gathering pine branches (maybe through some stealthy midnight suburban neighborhood pruning- ha, I wouldn't, but it's fun to think I might) and turning them into wreaths. That's get the holiday scent in the air, plus give us a place to hang ornaments, plus be a handy thing to put gifts under.

What's everyone doing? If you're reading this, post a comment about your holiday ideas!