Thursday, March 31, 2016

Didn't we almost have it all?

Another point of view on the "having it all" debate for working moms, this one from Prof. Susan Greenfield who teaches at Fordham and whom I'd never met or even seen until yesterday when she asked a question after a lecture on postcolonial ecotourism and I was like "Who, who, who is this?" just like Dana says about Jeremy before his interview on the Sports Night pilot and I know maybe only two people reading this will know what I mean but hopefully everyone will take a minute to read this: 

We Shouldn't Have it All by Susan Celia Greenfield

(BTW, someone said Sports Night might be coming back? Is it true?)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why #I'mWithHer

Too important to ignore - Rolling Stone's endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

"We are at the culmination of a decades-long effort by the right wing to take over the government. Historian Sean Wilentz told this story in Rolling Stone. The House, the Senate and, until a month ago, the Supreme Court are under the thumb of special interests and the extremely wealthy, who seek to roll back decades and decades of legislative progress that have furthered "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And most horrifying of all, they would stop the world's last-minute effort to fight climate change, where the stakes are the fate of civilization as we now know it.

When I consider what's in their hearts, I think both Clinton and Sanders come out on the side of the angels; but when I compare their achievements in the past decades, the choice is clear. This is not the time in history for a "protest vote."

Clinton is far more likely to win the general election than Sanders. The voters who have rallied to Sanders during the primaries are not enough to generate a Democratic majority in November. Clinton will certainly bring them along, and add them to the broad coalition that Democrats have put together in the past to take the presidency, as did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
On the question of experience, the ability to enact progressive change, and the issue of who can win the general election and the presidency, the clear and urgent choice is Hillary Clinton."

Read more: us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Monday, March 21, 2016

Crossing off one thing

You know those days where you stop trying to do something really grand and stop searching for a breakthrough and stop worrying about all the zillion nagging tasks you have to do and the little time you have to do them and stop with outrageous, fake hurdles like: Okay, I'm going to get through this entire folder of papers or I'm going to write an entire draft of this article or I'm going to blast through like 40 things on the list and INSTEAD you sit down and open a document and quietly get to work on one task and move through it without too many distractions, only checking email once, say, and HuffPo not at all, and how it's so satisfying to just chop wood and carry water?  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yours kids on homework

From Salon -- Homework is Wrecking Our Kids. The title may be a bit melodramatic, but important data here nonetheless about the destructiveness of homework. It's more than just pointless at the elementary school level, it's a net loss. "Non-academic priorities (good sleep, family relationships and active playtime) are vital for balance and well-being. They also directly impact a child’s memory, focus, behavior and learning potential. Elementary lessons are reinforced every day in school. After-school time is precious for the rest of the child."

Monday, March 7, 2016

"Solitary and Fragile Against the Brute Force of the Sea"

"Help Your Child to Wonder" by Rachel Carson

"Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Speaking of Motherhood

I'm pulled between the desire to write here mainly so that loyal readers don't get exasperated returning again and again to the same, now-outdated post. Okay we get it! Anyone can be queen. Whatever. Don't you have anything more profound to share? Or at least something mildly amusing? Or anything that can keep me toggling between email and Facebook and articles about Trump's chances so that I can kind of feel like I'm working but not really put any effort in? Yet there is the work I should be doing, too. I have Petra in daycare, for goodness sake, she could be home rolling out play-doh and singing "Go away scary spider, go away." She's not so that I can work and feel independent and free and liberated and contribute very modestly to other people's lives and contribute very modestly to the family's finances and get somewhere with my writing or pretend to get somewhere or pretend to be someone who is pretending to get somewhere. 

God it's so weird because I have been better lately about pausing, deep breathing, the little meditation in the morning with Wally and Petra I told you about while I play Spa music on Pandora. I've been better about going to bed earlier and being more aware and then today for the first time in years I blew up at some random person at the Office of Student Life at Fordham and did a walk-out. Why would that happen? Why would that happen when I'm more relaxed and mindful and journaling on my own more and starting to jog a bit and saying "no" much much more - basically, doing the things that ensure that I'm not always ready for combat? You could say it's just random, I suppose. But it almost feels like how I got the worst headache of my entire life after the only time I got acupuncture. Or how I often get headaches after a good night's sleep. I guess I sort of believe what you read in yoga/mindful/Ayurvedic articles often written by people with little to no medical credentials that as you begin to detox (physically) you release the toxins so you might feel worse initially. And I guess I wonder if that could apply to mental detox, too. Like the old-bad toxic habits are closer to the surface as they leave?

So I am pulled between that desire to write, to not let my blog stagnate, and the other pulls and also the pull of knowing what I'm writing now is more just the initial five minutes when you meet with your advisor or your piano teacher where all you're doing basically is saying "This is all the stressful stuff I'm dealing with now" before you get on to anything meaningful or important or what it is you're there to be advised on or to learn. 

For example, a few days ago, I started to write here, in my manic mode: 

* I am feeling a bit frazzled, getting into my bad habits of not drinking enough water and refusing to plan out the day and just racing through stuff and bouncing from project to project and then at 3 pm when I need to get Wally thinking -- What??? How is it already 3 pm and I haven't showered or eaten or...the pitfalls of working at home. And of working on so many different projects. One for Wally's school (as soon as we're a tiny bit less busy we all feel the need to say "Yes, me, I'll do it" to something we've been holding at bay), two for my editor at HarperCollins, a few for grad school, my Poets Out Loud work, a Writing for Social Justice syllabus I'm putting together. Multi-tasking doesn't work. The way to get things done is to focus. We know that. Not check emails. Set a timer maybe. Make a To Do list and pick the priorities. But instead I race and bounce and flit from one project to the other, in between washing dishes and picking up socks. And (this one's entirely legit) checking on the election.

That's all I wrote that day, and left it there as a draft. That's not a post. That's just saying: this is what I'm doing right now. No connections. No reflection. No altered perspective. Static. A soundbite fit for the Twitter world, the Facebook world, texting any little thought...things don't necessarily need to be processed for us to send them out there to the world and wait for a response. Validation or a critique, it doesn't matter, just a response. But more people watching is better than one. I have tried letter- writing with some friends. It almost always fade away. Group emails have some momentum, but what seems to me sustain the most interest, is Facebook and all the graphics and jokes and videos and memes and articles people access through it. People feel connected on Facebook and in many ways they are. Alex likes to highlight my hypocrisy because I do every now and then still—four years (this month) after quitting—go on FB through his account to see what people are up to. It's not often, but yes I do, do it. I like to see friends' pictures, check on updates and debates. So I have some idea of what's going on there. And there is a lot going on. A lot of buzz. A lot of momentum. A sense of being part of things. Important. A scene. Maybe I am feeling the fallout from that scene, still. Friends tell me they would read my blog more often if I was still on FB. Maybe I'm just bitter because people would rather know what Alex ate for lunch than many ways I am just not part of the conversation. I don't know what "the" conversation is. Because there are quieter, longer, research-based, more scholarly conversations that I am semi, sort of a part of. But no one cares about those, is the thought that pops into my head...I don't know. They don't seem plugged in or current. They certainly don't have the same immediate gratification. 

Facebook, a blog too, email...they give a higher, faster dose of connectedness than reading quiet books, than writing only for ourselves. I have at times found it depressing to read all this great stuff in books about motherhood by women no one's ever heard about. They are loose and scattered out there in the world somewhere. You can't find them online, or if you can, it's just a bio on a Faculty page, even if their writing and contribution is coherent and centered. Or coherent and centered about the incoherent and de-centering task of raising children (even more so, while trying to write). Lisa Garrigues describes "all the notes and stories, all the scrap paper and scraps of my frenzied days as a mother who writes and a writer who mothers" in her book Writing Motherhood. Yelizaveta P. Renfro posits the challenge in her essay "How to Write Motherhood": "While I can justify having someone else care for my children while I go teach my classes at the university by the simple fact that the university gives me a paycheck every two weeks, I cannot shut my door and spend time away from my children writing literary fiction--or even this essay--with the same justification. Writing feels more selfish because often, there is no clear monetary reward attached to my efforts." In her essay "Ekphrastic Mama" Lori Lynn Greenstone tells how "Amidst raising children I have often turned away from writing, unable to reconcile the constant interruptions with the need to connect continuous threads of thought."  One of them definitely talks about how writing helps her find her way back to mothering more completely. Of course I'm flipping pages frantically now, unable to find that part that validates what I'm trying to do.

I'm writing a capstone/thesis project on motherhood and the imagination...we're meant to rewrite a previous paper, so I'm reworking one I wrote last term: The Offspring of Disobedience in 18th-century Seduction Novels.  I hope to bring those novels into conversation with modern feminist mothers. Am I one? Depending on definition of feminist motherhood - from Adrienne Rich - motherhood refers to both the patriarchal institution and an empowering site of mothering. Andrea O'Reilly uses the term "mothering" to mean the latter, what motherhood can be if mothers pursue their own self-individuation, don't define themselves in domestic terms, raise non-imperialist sons. It is irony - I don't like to use and certainly hate to overuse the word - but it really is, to study motherhood while sending a young child into care of another. 

Writing pulls us away from our children; children pull us away from writing. Always pulled, not the one doing the pulling? Some days you feel caught, like when you're walking behind someone on the sidewalk and no matter what you can't get ahead of them but you also can't fall far enough behind for it to be comfortable. But writing also pulls us through parenting, helps us find our way back to the present moment, to helping a magical little creature pull on too-small winter boots because last night it snowed unexpectedly.