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29 November 2007

Motherhood is interfering with my reading

My husband use to think that I was sending videos of him to Matt & Trey because each week Cartman would say something that he said a few weeks earlier. Now I think someone's spying on me (not very hard since I blog so damn much!). Amanda Eyre Ward's article at Babble.com is so me.
Lots of mothers I spoke to found that they had no attention span after childbirth. Marritt Ingram, author of Inconsolable, says, "I read young adult fiction for a while. I think the first book I finished was Hatchet." Hatchet, it must be noted, is the story of a boy who, following a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness, must learn to survive with only a hatchet and his own wits. Sounds like a metaphor for motherhood to me, though my own experience might more aptly be called Chardonnay.
I know I was reading after my daughter was born, but I can't really recall what I read. I'm pretty sure one was by Ariel Gore - motherhood books are good for new moms. But I know I did read because she was one of those babies who HATED to be put down. Seriously. There was a time when I slept upright so she can sleep on my chest. So when I was home for my leave I'd arrange it so that she napped on my comfy chest while I had a book in hand. That said, I doubt much really sunk in.

I knew my life was going to change, but seriously my reading habits were not on that list. Thankfully four years later I can say I'm pretty much recovered. I still have trouble focusing, but I'm better at being able to put a book down and going back to it a few days later. Ward also notes that:
A friend had another scientific take: "I read somewhere a long time ago that babies get their brains from their mothers. I've decided that's why some of us are complete dingbats while pregnant. The baby is sucking all our smarts out!"
Ain't that the goddess darn truth! Again, I knew my bones were being sucked of what little calcium they held, but my brains too? And when you get to know my daughter, you know she sucked most of my brains out. Miss Smartypants she is.

Technorati tags: books, motherhood, Amanda Eyre Ward

Do All Girls High Schools Create Stronger Women?

This question is in the top 10 that I get asked when I tell someone I work in education equity. Some assume that I must support all girls high schools as the answer for increasing women in non-traditional fields for a variety of reasons including that girls won't be distracted by the boys, without boys there is no harassment (obviously stated by a man or a woman who forgot what high school was like!), or whipping out the old adage that girls just do better in math & science (my bread & butter) in an all girls classroom.

Simply put, no. I don't.

There are valid reasons to send your child to a single-sex school and I admit to daydreaming about having gone to Smith. But that is more about Smith not the all women thing. A few weeks ago on the DC Metro Moms Blog (sister to the Chicago Moms Blog where I contribute), KC mused about what she would be like if she had gone to an all-girls school and wonders if the only way her daughter will come out strong is to send her to an all-girls school. As fate would have it an email popped into my inbox a few days later about a new study out. On single sex schools! The Goddess does love me.

KC is correct when she notes that:
Some studies have shown that girls attending all-girls schools do develop more confidence in themselves as students and are more likely to continue on in fields like math and science. They seem to do better on standardized exams across the board, independent on baseline level of achievement and socioeconomic status. When observing co-ed classrooms, boys often dominate discussion while girls are at times victims of subtle sexism. While both boys and girls seem to do better academically in same-sex schools, this difference is greatest for girls.
My usual response is that a lot of the effects of an all-girls classroom is from the smaller class size. In "University Students from Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools," Karpiak et. al, surveyed current students at the University of Scranton about their majors, high school experience, and attitudes towards gender roles. They also looked at historical data on students from both groups (SSHS & CoEdHS) about their declared major freshman year and their actual degree major.

The results?
In sum, students from single-sex high schools entered college less concentrated in majors traditional for their gender and more likely to have declared a gender-neutral major than those from coeducational high schools. However, by graduation, the advantage for women from single-sex high schools had disappeared. In contrast, men from single-sex high schools were significantly more likely than those from coeducational schools to hold gender-neutral majors at graduation.
Secondary school is time-limited. In order to translate into differences in the college experience and the labor market, the single-sex high school's moratorium from gender socialization must result in changes that can withstand the social realities of a world populated by both women and men.
Thus in order for the real increase in strength girls obtain in their all-girls high schools, society as a whole must also change or else they slide backwards. Of course by society we also mean that the men of the world must become more egalitarian. But what if they are off in all-boys high schools? Are they becoming more egalitarian as one might assume from their higher rates of enrolling in non-traditional male majors?
It appears that something about the single-sex setting—perhaps direct sexism (Lee el all., 1994), exacerbation of "macho male cultures" in schools (Jackson, 2002), and/or lack of daily exposure to competent female peers in the high school classroom—corresponds with less egalitarian attitudes in males. Our results suggest that, at least for men, holding more flexible ideas about possible careers for one's gender does not necessarily translate into broader notions of egalitarianism.
So while our girls are off getting all Buffy-ified, knowing who Alice Paul is, and finding their voice, our boys might be off learning that Harriet Nelson is the ideal mate. When the two meet in college or even later in the workforce, I doubt this will lead to ideal dating situations much less work environments. It really is sad to think that any benefits that girls gain in not having boys in the classroom is lost because the boys don't have girls in their classrooms. Even when we're making boys more egalitarian, we're kinda losing!

Of course the study team acknowledges that this study needs to be done with a much larger and more diverse sample, but it really is one of the first to look at the lasting effects of going to a single-sex high school. And in the end do we want our daughters to enter as engineering majors or become engineers?

To KC I say, there are many strong women who have emerged from co-ed public schools. Your daughter can be one of them. But that is a decision for her and the family to make. Heck, those of us who went to a co-ed school might be stronger because we survived.

Crossposted at Chicago Moms Blog

Psychology of Women Quarterly 31 (3), 282–289.

Technorati tags: feminism, single sex schools, high school, girls, education, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Karpiak, University of Scranton

28 November 2007

Dora the Explorer of Eating Disorders

My heart literally sank when I saw this post about the latest Dora dolls. What happened to my daughter's best doll friend? Just the other day she was a happy-go-lucky exploradora and now she looks like she needs a few tamales! I may need to order "Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!" for Dora for Christmas. Come on Fisher Price, you're killing us here!

Here's a few reasons why I love Dora:
  1. She's Latina: How many Latinas can a Latina watch on TV nowadays? I keep our cartoon watching to Noogin, so outside of Dora & Diego's sister, Alicia, that brings us to zero.
  2. She's adventurous: She's not afraid of a challenge. Find baby blue bird's mommy? No problem. Take Santa his gift? A snap.
  3. She shows that when you need help, you ask for it: Map, Backpack, & Boots are her constant side-kicks aka helpers. Dora's not afraid to ask for help when she needs it and that is an invaluable lesson. Especially for the daughter of two perfectionists with her own perfectionist tendencies.
When Dora was princess-ified, I was ticked. NOT because I hate princesses - I eat my Almond Vanilla Special K every morning from a Little Mermaid bowl. Honest. Well, unless I grab the Tigger bowl. I was ticked because Dora was the princess alternative. She flew through trees, climbed mountains, and flew in Tico's plane all without a thought to her hair or how dirty her white sneakers would get. I came to be ok with the princess thing only because Dora kept going on adventures.

Are these dolls FP's way of trying to keep the ever growing (in years) Dora fans interested in their early childhood friend? Do the dolls come with the tagline, "Vamanos! Let's hit the rest room together so we can hold each other's hair back as we puke!" Because seriously, Dora looks like she needs to eat something. She goes from looking like a child to looking like the Latina Jon Benet. UGH! Can you tell how ticked I am at this?

After reading the blog post, I sent an email off to my family reaffirming my wishes for a toy-less Christmas* AND a plea that if they do buy my daughter a toy, please do NOT buy her the new Dora dolls. We have plenty of Dora dolls in the house, Dora can very easily wear frilly things without having to lose so much weight.

I've written before about the sexualization of our daughters and I fear that the new Dora toys are playing right into this. It really is quite sad for me. The one cartoon (I count Diego in there too) that I felt was safe to go crazy with has turned on my daughter. What does it say to a 4-year-old who would get a new skinnier Dora doll? Don't they know that kids play with all their dolls together? "Hi chubby Dora, want to go to the mall?" Of course they do, but FP doesn't care. If they did, they wouldn't be putting out this doll. Gawd, this is worse that "I hate math" Barbie.

This post will be cross-posted to my Chicago Parent blog, The Red Thread.

*This is due to two reasons: 1) the toy recall insanity and 2) she has more toys than she can play with.

Technorati tags: Dora, Fisher Price, eating disorders, sexualization

27 November 2007

The gifts that keep on giving!

Don't know what to get that special someone in your life for the holidays?

Are you a flaming feminist?

100% pro-choice?

Then shop at Early to Bed this holiday season!

They have some special gifts sets that will make someone's night/day/afternoon AND a portion of the purchase price goes to kick ass organizations like the Chicago Abortion Fund, Planned Parenthood, Chicago Women's Health Center, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Now, I didn't think there was such a thing as a perfect gift, but come on, what's not to like in these offers?

So hurry over to Early to Bed and grab yourself a gift box AND get your holiday giving done too. BAM! It just keeps getting better. Of course, it'll only gets better once the gift is opened!

Ho! Ho! Ho!
Happy Solstice!
Happy Hanukkah!
Happy Kwanzaa!

Technorati tags: Early To Bed, Planned Parenthood, Chicago Abortion Fund, Chicago Women's Health Center, Prostate Cancer Foundation

Strategic Holiday Giving

As we near the end of the year our inboxes are becoming full with requests from the organizations we have supported in the past, currently support, or just happen to be on their mailing list. What's a loving & giving mama to do on a limited budget?

No matter where you decide to give your money, please keep these items in mind:
  • While giving via PayPal is easy for you, PayPal does take quite a chunk of money out from your donation. Want all of your money to go towards your charity of choice? Send a check. Even calling with your credit card may end up having the organization lose a few bucks from a transaction fee.
  • If possible, give to a few places with larger amounts than "spreading the wealth" by sending $10 to 10 different places. If you give, as you most surely know, you get on the mailing list. That $10 won't even cover the 5 mailings you will get next year. For your benefit, the environment, and the organization's, give to fewer places to reduce the amount of mail.

So where to give? I work at a university, so I'd be shot on sight if I didn't say to give to your alma mater. But say you went to Harvard or another institution with a large endowment? Will your $50 do much good there? I doubt it (but willing to hear contrary). My personal choice when giving to my alma mater (which is also my place of employment) is to give to either a scholarship fund or directly to a department that meant a lot to me. I have no reason other than to give some love back to those who really helped me. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that I've been reading stories (sorry no links) about people who give to universities close to them and not where they went. Huh? If you went to school at Brown, but live down the street from UIC, there isn't a rule to say you can't give to Loyola.

Food pantries are in desperate need of our donations - food and money.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual hunger survey, which was released last week, did not show an increase in the number of hungry people in the United States since 2006, officials at food pantries are certain that more working people are seeking their assistance. At the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Cincinnati, for example, clients now get three or four days’ worth of food instead of six or seven.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, said, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I can’t believe how much worse it gets month after month.”

Unless we're vacationing every month in Aruba, I think we're all hurting from the increase in energy costs, health care costs, and our salaries not keeping up with those increases. I have no idea how people making minimum wage are surviving. Some may be turning to food pantries. My daughter's pre-school is doing the traditional food drive, yet as with any food drive the request is for non-perishable food.

Through the end of August, the food bank was down almost 700,000 pounds of USDA commodities that include basic essentials such as canned fruit and vegetables and some meat _ food that is very difficulty to make up in donations, Executive Director Mark Quandt said. [link]
While I'm sure that food pantries wouldn't turn away another jar of peanut butter or mac-n-cheese, food pantries want to give out balanced meals. And that means fresh veggies & fruit. You can't get that in a food drive. That's where your cash donation might be able to go.

However you decide to give this season, please involve your children. I'm doing that with my lil one and I hope it becomes a part of her character. If you have involved your children in giving, especially during the holiday season, please share your story with us. How is it going?

X-posted at Chicago Moms Blog

Technorati tags: donations, charity, giving, food bank, food pantry, Chicago Moms Blog

26 November 2007

Hey Chicago mama! Wanna get in shape?

Then head over to Chicago Moms Blog NOW! We have a great give-a-way for Windy City Adventure Boot Camp. Four weeks of butt kicking fitness training!

All you have to do is comment and tell us why you deserve the boot camp. Yes, I entered as well. I could really use someone to kick my butt into gear over getting my body in shape.

25 November 2007

Selfish headline of the year

"Adoption changes wrench American parents"

I've been watching the whole Guatemala adoption fiasco from afar, safely afar. We have discussed adopting in the past, but are no where near even starting the process. We have friends who have discussed it or are actively in the process. Thus I feel that I have compassion for the families who have been hurt by the chaos that is the Guatemala adoption system. But whom I have more compassion for are the parents of Guatemala who might had been duped into selling their children or even had their children stolen from them.

The small Central American country sent 4,135 children to the U.S. last year, making it the largest source of babies for American families after much-bigger China.

The adoptions are a $100 million a year industry for notaries.

Our government is pushing the Guatemalan government to allow the adoptions that are already in process to go on despite up to 1,000 cases where forged birth certificates or even mothers have changed their minds are documented. 1,000 children who should be with their blood families.

The women of Guatemala are not to be seen or treated as poor surrogates for the United States.

I firmly believe that if you are a real loving human being, you would want to make sure 1,000% that the baby you are about to remove from its homeland is truly up for adoption and NOT stolen. Yes, I hate the idea of children in their first few years living in homes, without someone to rock them to sleep every night, but do you really think stealing them is better? Makes you a better person? What about the mother who cries herself to sleep each night wondering what happened to her lil girl?

I really feel for all sides in this issue, but I'm on the side of the birth mothers and the children. In 20 years when your adopted son or daughter is going through some historical documents, what will you say when they ask you, "Was I stolen?"

Technorati tags: Guatemala, adoption

20 November 2007

The candidates on Latin@ Issues

Marisa Trevino at Latina Lista has invited the Presidential candidates to post to her blog on how they will deal with Latin@ issues. So far Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, and Chris Dodd have taken advantage of this opportunity. Here's a bit of what they said, but I urge you to head over to Latina Lista to read their whole statement:


Unfortunately, our government’s policies have not caught up with the new realities of American life. The traditional family – with one breadwinner and one homemaker – is now the exception rather than the rule.

As a result, two-thirds of all of working parents say they do not have enough time with their children.

This is a critical national priority, because we all have a stake in the next generation. And it is a particularly pressing issue for the Latino community, 34 percent of which is under age 18, compared to 25 percent for the overall population.

That’s why last week I announced an agenda to help parents balance work and family and ensure that Americans aren’t faced with a choice between keeping their job and caring for a newborn baby.

I believe we should set a goal of every family in America being able to take time off when their children are born or adopted, and at least some of that time should be paid leave for those who need it. My plan would set an ambitious goal for all states to implement a paid family leave program by the year 2016, and offer $1 billion per year in grants to encourage innovative paid family leave programs at the state level. Promoting paid family leave is critical for giving new parents the opportunity to bond with their children at the most important time in their development.

HRC has a chance to speak to mostly Latina voters and she wraps Latinas up in one of her core campaign stances - paid family leave. While I am a huge advocate for this, especially for low-income workers where Latinas are found, I can't help but feel she whiffed on this. She could have discussed immigration or the crisis of Latinas getting pregnant and dropping out of high school. On the other hand, treating Latinas as just another segment of the women's vote seems like a positive move. We do have more issues than just immigration. But it still is an issue at the top of my list.


Our schools are failing, we are in a disastrous war in Iraq, we have 2 million people in prison, our healthcare system is spinning out of control, and our economy is on the verge of collapse.

But our so-called leaders can’t stop talking about “border security?”

It’s time to get real.

Like all immigrants, Latinos have made our country stronger. And we need to bring them into the system — not throw them out and bar the door.

We need an amnesty program so that all undocumented workers can be registered and protected.

We should no longer tolerate the underground economy that allows employers to avoid social security taxes and abuse their workers.

We need to get real about the “war on drugs,” which is really a war on Latinos.

Gravel takes the "I love immigrants" approach. Yes, I do think he's a little wacky, but I think that comes with telling the truth. The truth is so wacky that we want to dismiss it. I do agree that most of the issue with immigration is our economy's addiction to cheap labor. I think Gravel's statement is a tad too short, but it addresses what I think it should.


When I was a young man, I heard President Kennedy’s call to be a part of something greater than ourselves. I heard that call and took it to the rural hills of the Dominican Republic, where for the next two years of my life, I served as a member of the Peace Corps. At the time, I barely spoke a word of Spanish.

But I was also full of optimism and a sense of what was possible. And with that energy and determination, we built a maternity hospital, schools, a youth club and a library — los corazones de nuestras comunidades.

And it was in the Dominican Republic that I saw such a vibrant sense of community — a community where people looked out for one another and lifted each other up.

These are values I know the readers of Latina Lista nurture every day.

And so, in many ways, it was in the mountains of the Dominican Republic that I saw just how important America’s example was, what America meant to the rest of the world — the hope we could inspire, and most importantly, the things we could accomplish for our families and yours.

It's that example that I've tried to carry on as a United States Senator and will in the White House.

He gets points for quoting Chavez, but loses them for announcing his candidacy on Imus. Dude! If you're going to package yourself as the champion of the people, don't go on a racist's show. Yes, it was before Imus' sexist & racist remarks about Rutgers, but it wasn't the first time his mouth spewed like that. But he makes some good points about what he HAS done while in the Senate. Some may think that a record makes a candidate weaker, but I find Dodd's record a strength. That said, I haven't done a lot of research on him at this point either.

Out of the three candidates, I'd rank them Dodd, Gravel, Clinton. I'm looking forward to seeing who else posts on Latina Lista.

Technorati tags: Latina Lista, latina, politics, campaign 2008, Clinton, Dodd, Gravel

19 November 2007

Bitch on 'bitch'

You knew that the 'ladies' of Bitch magazine would have something to say about the McCain "how do we beat the bitch?" fiasco. JFTR - I love Bitch magazine. When I say I love it, I freakin' mean it. Last year I organized a benefit at the Hideout where I took this picture of Andi Zeisler.

Andi brings it when discussing the b-word in the WaPo, what it means to use it, who can use it, and all the good stuff:

So let's not be disingenuous. Is it a bad word? Of course it is. As a culture, we've done everything possible to make sure of that, starting with a constantly perpetuated mindset that deems powerful women to be scary, angry and, of course, unfeminine -- and sees uncompromising speech by women as anathema to a tidy, well-run world.

It's for just these reasons that when Lisa Jervis and I started the magazine in 1996, no other title was even up for consideration.

Once again, Lisa & Andi, thank you for creating Bitch.
In fact, we hoped that we could reclaim it for mouthy, smart women in much the way that "queer" had been repurposed by gay radicals. As Lisa wrote in the magazine's mission statement, "If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we'll take that as a compliment, thanks." I'm guessing that Hillary Clinton, though probably not a reader of our magazine, has a somewhat similar stance on the word. After all, people who don't like Clinton have been throwing the slur at her since at least 1991.

I know that many people, especially women, don't like this reclaiming thing. And it's not just a generational thing either. I've met my fair share of 20-year-olds who don't like the word in any context. But considering how it has been used to demean women with their own minds, I can't help but want to reclaim it and take that power away from it. Sadly thou, the power remains.
When these people call Clinton (or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Sen. Dianne Feinstein or former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro) a bitch, or even the cutesier "rhymes-with-witch," it's an expression of pure sexism -- a hope that they can shut up not only one woman but every woman who dares to be assertive. Simply put: If you don't like Clinton's stance on, say, health care or Iraq, there are plenty of ways to say so without invoking her gender.

Thank you! I know it's hard...I find it difficult to find the correct word when I'm pissed at a woman in my life. I want to call her a bitch, but considering that I'm reclaiming that word for myself, I can't really do it, now can I? Asshole is gender neutral, isn't it?

My own definition of the term being what it is, I can confidently say that I want my next president to be a bitch, and that goes for men and women. Outspoken? Check. Commanding? Indeed. Unworried about pleasing everybody? Sure. Won't bow to pressure to be "nice"? You bet.

And guess what? I'm not even sure that person is Hillary Clinton.

I'm not sure if any politician won't bow to pressure to be nice, but I'm really starting to feel like Katha Pollitt. I feel like since rumors started that she was going to run for President I've had to defend her to almost every person in my life and it's not just her policy moves either! Now, I'm still undecided about who to vote for in the primary, but seriously folks, if all I read from here until election day is sexist crap about Hillary, I'm checking that box with her name on it!

Leonard Pitts also has some choice words to say about the word bitch and us as a society. Tell it brother!

I get that many people don't like Clinton. I don't like her much myself, and my reasons echo the consensus. She seems cold, calculated, brittle.

Here's the thing, though. I find that I can't name a single female national political figure I do like -- not respect, not agree with, but "like." Oh, I can name you many men who, their politics aside, strike me as likable: McCain, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, even cranky old Bob Dole.

But women? Not so much. Nancy Pelosi, Janet Reno, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright.... I cannot see myself -- we are speaking metaphorically here -- cuddling up to any of them. They all seem formidable, off-putting, cold.

Which suggests the problem here is not so much them as me. And, if I may be so bold, we. As in, we seem unable to synthesize the idea that a woman can be smart, businesslike, demanding, capable, in charge and yet also warm.

I dunno about Pitts, but I loved Janet Reno. Yes, despite her flaws. Maybe it was my love for Will Ferrell that oozed onto our dance party Attorney General, but still, I liked how she seemed not to take shit from anyone and drove a pick-up truck. There have been times when I have loved Hillary, but then she went and lobbied for a policy that the inner feminist in her was screaming, "NOOOO!!!" at.

Which brings me to my sweetie, John Edwards. He's such a cutie and I can't help but think that's what he has going for him for me. That Kennedy-esqe way he talks about poverty, the way he talks about poverty, the way he looks so cute when he's thinking or smiling. *swoon* Maybe it's time we start voting for the bitch instead of the guy we wish would take us to the prom. Incredible idea, eh?

And BTW - I think Hillary should start selling t-shirts that say, "That's Ms. Bitch!" Or copyright, "The Bitch," and please note the capital letters. She's running for President, Senator McCain, is a Senator herself, and if people keep using it on her, let's just make it her unofficial title. Hmmm...since GWB has the Western White House can Hillary end up with a seal that says, "Bitch in Chief?"

Point of privilege...If you don't subscribe to Bitch, what are you waiting for?

Technorati tags: Bitch Magazine, Andi Ziesler, bitch, Leonard Pitts, John McCain, feminist

Checking in with the Aurora Clinic

Listen to the latest edition of RH Reality Check's podcast to hear the latest on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, Illinois. Oh, yeah...there's more great stuff in there too, but you gotta love it when you can listen to Steve chat about the clinic.

Technorati tags: RH Reality Check, Planned Parenthood Aurora, Steve Trombley, Amanda Marcotte

17 November 2007

Still relevant after 35 years

Ms. magazine is 35 this year and is celebrating in the current issue. There's a lot of great stuff in here, but the most moving piece is an excerpt from Dr. Susan Wicklund's memoir. With permission, I'm excerpting the excerpt. I'm giving you a juicy part of the story, but I implore you, please go out and buy the current issue of Ms. to read the entire piece. This piece did not move me just because it is about abortion, reproductive justice, or feminist.

It moved me because it is a simple story of a granddaughter not wanting to disappoint her beloved Grandma. I think we all have moments like that, knowing we have to be honest, yet thinking it would break someone's heart. Fair warning...when you do pick up a copy, grab a tissue. When you're done with your copy, share it. Then buy someone a membership to Ms. for the holiday season. While you're there, do some other shopping for the men and women in your life.
I peeled myself out of the car, shed my coat and left it on the seat. It was unusually warm for February in Wisconsin. The hardwood forest was all bare sticks and hard lines. I knew it would soon be time to tap the maple trees and cook the wonderful syrup we all loved on Grandma’s Swedish pancakes.

I turned and deliberately moved up the steps to the trailer house. I was terrified of what Grandma would say, but there was no avoiding this moment. The big door was already open by the time I got to
the top step. Out peeked her welcoming smile. She was giggling.

“Hi, Grandma!”

“Oh my goodness! What a surprise! What a sweet, sweet surprise! Did I know you were coming today?”

I hugged her in the doorway, held her tight, stepped inside.

“Did you somehow know I was making ginger snaps?” she teased as she set a plate full on the kitchen table. She poured me a glass of milk and I sat down on the wooden chair next to hers. I tried to bury myself in the smell of her place, a mixture of ginger cookies, Estée Lauder perfume (the one in the blue, hourglass bottle always on her dresser), and home permanents. She and Mom always gave each other perms, trying to get just the right curl in their hair. The smell never left the place.

I think she sensed that I had come to talk about something important. I started talking a few times about other, inconsequential things, then, finally, I plunged in.

“Grandma, you know I work as a doctor.”

“Of course. And we are all so proud of you.”

“Yes, but I don’t think you know the whole story. I’m a doctor who works mostly for women, helping women with pregnancy problems.”

Flower Grandma hesitated just a second, pushed back her chair, stood and held out her hand for me to follow. She went to sit in her rocker, the same one sitting in my living room today. The rocker I have sat in so many hours since. The rocker I sit in right now, writing this down and trembling as I do.

She seemed distant. I moved to the old leather hassock beside her. She took my hand and placed it on top of one of hers, then covered it with her other one. Our hands made a stack on the arm of the rocker—old skin, young skin. We sat in silence a minute. She turned to look directly at me. Her eyes, framed by gentle wrinkles, were full of some deep trouble.

After a moment, she stared straight ahead and started to speak. Slowly. Deliberately. In a very quiet voice. At the same time she began stroking my hand. It was as if the
gentle stroking was pushing her to talk.

“When I was 16 years old my best friend got pregnant,”she said. A chill went through me.

Excerpted from This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor, by Susan Wicklund and Alan Kesselheim, to be published in January by Public Affairs; © 2008 by the authors.

Technorati tags: Ms. magazine, Susan Wicklund, Flower Grandma

12 November 2007


After news of the India GAP slave sweat shop broke, I drove past the GAP Kids on Lincoln and it has an ad with the girl from "Little Miss Sunshine" and this slogan. I immediately saw instead the photo of this man talking with the boys his organization helped to rescue. So I made this.

No commentary in this post...just the graphic.

Technorati tags: GAP, India, slave workers, change the world

The Me and Mine Meme 100

Me and Mine Meme 100 Directions:

1.) State the name of your blog, your real name or your online name, and link to your "about me" page.
Viva La Feminista
No about page...this is what you get.

2.) Say you want to be profiled on BlogHer as a family blogger and link back to this post.
I do! I do!

3.) Tell how long you've been blogging.
Here, since the summer. Ever? Since 2000.

4.) Pass this meme on to three other bloggers that you think should be profiled/interviewed.
a. BirdieRoark
b. Marcie
c. Kim

Technorati tags: blogher, mommy blogging

09 November 2007

I'm running away to Wisconsin

That's right, I got accepted to the Wisconsin Go Run training at the end of the month!

What's Go Run you ask?
Go Run is a two day training dedicated to demystify the political process and inspire a richly diverse group of women to join the leadership pipeline. Go Run provides the nuts and bolts of running for political office by focusing on areas like communications, fundraising, and campaigning - skills you can use in your work and in your community today and up to the day you decide to run!
No, no...I'm not announcing my candidacy today, but who knows. After this training I just might. I'm also attending because I do want to work on more campaigns in the future, mine, someone I support, or my daughter's. There is just so much that I still need to learn about the campaign process before I even consider running.

I'm also pretty jazzed that my boss was also accepted and we're riding up together. It should be fun to hang out with her off work time and get to know each other on a different level. Not that being feminist candidates is that far off from being feminist educators.

The final cost of the training for me is $200. While that's not a lot, I am reminded that even $200 is a stretch for me and for some women who might be far better candidates than me, $200 is a closed door. So be warned...if this training is all that I hope it to be, I'll be pushing you all to support the White House Project with your birthday money.

As for me, I won't put up that PayPal button...yet. But I have another trip on the horizon that I'm starting to do some asking for in other arenas. If that falls through, the PayPal button will go up. Hey, I gotta start asking for money, right?

Technorati tags: White House Project, campaigns, politics, Go Run, feminism

04 November 2007

What would you do to keep your job?

Would you:
  • Leave your child with the old lady next door that you really don't like?
  • Leave your child with a the guy you just met?
  • Take your child with you toting a box of crayons & coloring books?
  • Go back to work less than a week after giving birth?
  • Hide your pregnancy as long as possible?
My reaction is "hell no!" But I also know I'm one lucky chick. I work for an organization where I get a ton of sick and vacation days AND there has to be one hell of a good reason for me to NOT take a day when my girl needs me. The only time I ever felt like I needed to choose between my job & my daughter was a very short time I worked for a nonprofit and since I was less than six months didn't have ANY sick days.

I also know that many women, too many parents, have to choose between their job and their child's safety. Screw the mommy wars, we're talking about choosing between a sick kid with a 102 degree temperature and reporting to your hourly job where you live paycheck-to-paycheck without sick days.

Rhonda Present, Founder & Director of ParentsWork, recalls to us in the latest newsletter:
A few weeks ago, I was in a coffee shop working on my laptop when I noticed a little girl around five or six years old sitting alone at a table. She seemed to be entertaining herself with the piles of coloring books and toys spread out in front of her. Just as I was wondering where her parents might be, she called out "hi Daddy" to a uniformed man who appeared behind the sales counter. Could it be "Take Your Daughter to Work Day?" No, that doesn't come until April, I thought. So, there must be some other reason for the girl being here.

In my never-ending quest to understand and find solutions to the challenges parents face in juggling work and family life, I decided to ask the father about his situation. He explained that he is a single parent and that his daughter had been home from school sick all week. His own mother was going to come in from out of town to help but had to cancel in the last minute. So, he had no other choice but to bring his sick child to work with him.
Rhonda then points us to a new report out on working parents, Family Values at Work: It's About Time!, that outlines the hardships that happen out of bad luck and family UNfriendly values in our workforce.

Womenstake points us to a recent Nation piece on the plight of working poor mothers and the lack of subsidized child care. I am always honest with how much we pay for child care and when we first started at our fabulous child care facility 4 years ago, we were paying about $300 a week for 5 days of care. Yes, that's $1200 a month and yes, I understand that is some people's mortgage payments. Even the less than stellar places we looked at weren't that much less.

I am lucky...I bet a lot of you reading this are just as lucky...to have a job that pays you what you are worth, get to use sick & vacation days, and you can (barely) afford your child care.

Thus there is a good movement out there working towards paid family leave and paid sick days. What does business say about giving their hourly workers sick days? NO. Why? Because their schedules are already flexible enough that they can schedule their doctor's appointments on their days off. That makes sense because the flu lets us know when it's coming, right? And yet again, teenagers are the excuse for not providing benefits (they are also the reason some don't want to raise the minimum wage because teens don't deserve to earn a real wage)*:
[John] Maddox, the pizza parlor franchisee, said absences among his largely teenage workers were already a "constant problem," especially on Friday nights, when many call in "sick" an hour or two before their shift starts to attend a football game or a hastily called party.
Of course this all on the heels that research shows we are taking FEWER days off for illness:
Most employees with sick pay don't use it all each year, noted Ophelia Galindo, a health and benefits consultant for Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The amount of sick time they've charged has dropped slightly in recent years, she said.

The employers Mercer surveyed gave an average of 8.1 sick days last year, down from 9 days in 2004. Workers charged 5.2 days to illness last year as compared with 5.7 two years ago.
When will we start to treat each other as human beings and not just cogs in a wheel to earn each other money? Looking at this stat, I doubt anytime soon:
The United States is virtually the only industrialized nation that does not mandate sick pay for private-sector employees. Nearly half of full-time workers — an estimated 57 million — don't have the benefit.
Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog and Chicago Parent

*I do admit to calling in sick to go to a Cubs game with her family & boyfriend in high school.

Technorati tags: ParentsWork, Womenstake, Paid Leave, sick days, family values, work, child care

02 November 2007


Perhaps after you get use to the system or you're a more relaxed person, like Kathy, than we are about this whole process, but it is overwhelming. I really do wish I could relax and see this as a different system instead of a system meant to confuse parents.

This is my recent example of being overwhelmed:

Tuesday morning my partner brought the CPS school bible in the car to look through on during the morning commute. I had tagged the magnet, gifted, Classical, and magnet cluster schools that I thought would work for us. We settled on 3 gifted/Classical schools and then I said we needed to rank them.

T: School A, School B, and then School C.
V: But School C is gifted and that's the highest ranking, what if she scores high enough, but doesn't get in because we ranked it 3rd?
T: OK, School C, School A, School B.
*a few minutes pass*
T: What about School D?
V: We didn't like that one, remember?
T: But School D is also gifted and closer to work. Let's go with C, A, D, B. But was D the one with the smaller classes?
V: D was the school where the gifted classes were larger than the neighborhood classes, but even the gifted classes were smaller compared to other schools we've visited.
T: Oh, hell...D is out again. C, A, B.
*few minutes pass*
T: Ok, C is a gifted school, but A is closer to home. Classical is still gifted, so it'll still be good for her. Let's go A, C, B, ok? Yeah, let's go with that. Anyway, maybe we'll get offers from all three.
V: Um, no. The CPS woman said that starting last year they only give you ONE offer, so ranking is even more important now.
T: Well *&%*$(! Still, C, A, B...any of those will be good.

And that's pretty much how we settled on our ranking.

Overwhelming? Yes. The very idea that perhaps we are setting up our daughter for success or failure by the mere selection of her kindergarten is overwhelming. I know, I know, we have no idea. But seriously. My parents chose the school district we grew up in for the very distinct reason that we grew up there and went to a very good high school. It worked. For CPS, it's not just where you live (it helps for awesome neighborhood schools) but also how you play the system. If she's not in a good K-8 school will she score well enough in 7th grade to get into Whitney Young, Northside Prep, or Payton?

The fact that some families DO move to Naperville for the schools is the same as making sure that our daughter ends up on the track to earn her way into a good high school.

Technorati tags: CPS, kindergarten, school, Chicago Public Schools, education


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What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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