Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

31 December 2009

North Carolina's "Bicycle Man"

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

I am a sucker for holiday news stories that pull at your heart. Last week when I was at my dad's house for Christmas a news story zipped by on the TV that made me go "huh?" Luckily it was in the morning paper! "Moses Mathis, who for 19 years has repaired bicycles and then given them away at Christmas, set a record this year by fixing more than 1,100 bikes."
Isn't that awesome? To see video of an interview with Mathis about his bicycle outreach, visit The Fayetteville Observer's website (the video was un-embeddable here, unfortunately).

If you want to help Mathis give away even more bicycles in 2010, head on over to his website!

30 December 2009

Post-traumatic stress disorder and women

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

Warning: This involves a bit of a spoiler of the movie "Brothers"

Jim Sheridan's latest film "Brothers" gives post-traumatic stress disorder a higher profile this holiday season with an amazing performance by Tobey Maguire. The movie depicts Maguire as a Marine who is shot down in Afghanistan, held prisoner, and then returns home after being declared dead. Maguire's character returns to a home where his wife and daughters have tried to move on -- with the help of his brother. Suspicion runs high, fueled by his PTSD and guilt, that his wife and brother are now lovers. The movie ends in an emotional crescendo that is worthy of all the actors and rather than leave us totally depressed over the situation, gives us a bit of hope.

I clung to that hope at the end of the film a bit fiercely, perhaps because it seems that while PTSD gets a lot of attention in the media, we still read stories of veterans becoming homeless and/or addicted to drugs due to their inability to find help recovering/dealing with PTSD.

Yet as we are bringing PTSD out of the shadows for veterans, we are still behind on how to deal with PTSD when it comes to women.

In the January 2010 issue of Marie Claire Jennifer Crane tells her PTSD story to Lynn Harris. In it she describes the nightmares and the drugs, but what really struck me was how the VA hospital she went to for help kicked her out saying "the treatment wasn't really helping [her] - although [she] disagreed - that as one of only two women in the group, [she] was distracting to the male patients, who apparently found [her] attractive." Jennifer begged to stay to no avail and with nowhere else to turn, found herself at her drug dealer's home. There is a happy ending... Jennifer was able to kick her habit and now has a small child. Still, the happy ending in no way justifies the unjust treatment Jennifer received because of her gender and physical appearance.

Considering that women currently make up 15% of the military and 1 in 10 of our troops in Iraq, the amount of PTSD we will see in women coming home will only increase. Yes, including women in the military will create new issues, as we are seeing with pregnancy, but let's address the issues, not blame women. Women are a vital and important part of our military, and we cannot send them home without proper treatment.

29 December 2009

Hey Hey! I'm 35!

The thing about my birthday falling between Christmas and New Year's is that I get all my "looking back" done in one part of the year. Althou I do have to say that I also reflect in August when it's the kid's birthday. But for me, this is the time of the year when I get all my "what the hell just happened?" out of my system.

So what did just happen?

A whole hell of a lot! That's what!

* Two op-eds published at the Guardian
* One op-ed on NPR.org
* An article at RH Reality Check
* Featured in a Ms. magazine cover story
* Been cited/quoted in many news pieces on feminism, women in science, parenting, politics, Michelle Obama and time management* 
* Named, along with my husband, to the Chicago Latino List
* I guest blogged at Bitch Magazine
* I interviewed Anne Elizabeth Moore for Bitch
* I spoke on panel after panel on topics covering women in science, feminism & motherhood, Latinas & education & feminism, political mom blogging, blogging, feminism & blogging, Chicago politics, racism in marketing to mom bloggers and the changing media landscape (aka feminism & media)
* I gave an awful keynote -- It was a good learning moment
* I traveled to Tampa, Atlanta, NYC, DC, Boston and Indianapolis

Hot damn I'm tired! Maybe I should listen to all the marketing and PR people who keep saying that we need to find one niche and stick with it. NOT!

I like being able to speak about many different topics because I truly do believe most of them are linked. I love talking about why this topic is an issue for this group and vice versa.

So what's next for me? Hell if I know.

I work for a state institution, so that ride will be bumpy. But the work I do keeps getting recognized by people, so I'm taking that as a good sign.

As for my writing, I joined Chicagonista in November and I look forward to bringing my feministy ways to a new community. I am also going to be contributing to Care2.com in the new year. I was asked to join an uber-blog for a short term project, but it just didn't pay enough for the amount of work that it would add to my life. Looking at it by itself, it wasn't a lot of work, but adding to my workload was just too much. I do hope to be able to join them later on.

That said, I do plan on finally submitting my application to a PhD program for the fall. And if that does happen and I get in plan to see less writing from me around here. Or rather out there. I might only have time to document my experience as a PhD student, mom, wife & full-time worker. Yes, I don't plan to reduce work at the day job when I start a PhD program. I'll reduce my freelance work. But that's still in the future...

My one goal for 2010, for age 35, is to schedule a massage or manicure once a month. I need to take time for myself and just do nothing.

So here's to 2010 and all the fabulous and challenging things she holds for you & me. I got your back if you have mine.


* If you do read that one, know that I wasn't lying as much as the journalist caught me in a moment when I was trying to make some big life changes. I think I've tried most of them - Haven't put most of those goals in full motion, but slowly...

27 December 2009

As I get another year older...

I get that much closer to being a member of the Red Hat Society! I know I can join anytime...hehe. I've always chuckled at their antics and their new year resolutions don't disappoint:

Ruby RedHat's Top Ten Rules for Living Plus ONE


1 Accept reality and live in the here and now. Ruby can't be bothered by what-ifs or regrets. She says they interfere with her fun!

2. Accentuate the positive. Ruby always chooses to find the good in any situation she is faced with. She says she would rather develop laugh lines than frown lines.


3. Nurture yourself. Ruby listens to herself and provides for her own needs. When she needs a break, she gives herself one!


4. Indulge your sense of humor. Ruby heartily appreciates the value of laughter.


5. Play! Either Ruby never grew up all the way or she has regressed. In any event, she knows how to have a great time.


6. Dress up! Ruby adores embellishing whatever she is wearing with glitz, glitter, and glam.


7. Cultivate an openness to new things. Ruby will try almost anything.


8. Express your creativity. Ruby thinks "outside the box."


9. Exercise compassion. Ruby loves to laugh and cry with others.


10. Have courage! Ruby knows she is up to the challenge of whatever may come.


11. Make up for the sobriety of your youth! Ruby says that she, too, was dutiful in her younger years and now she has a lot of quirky stuff that she needs to get done!

24 December 2009

Obama and hope

I haven't written or done much in terms of the health care debate. I've been partially paralyzed by seeing allies paralyzed themselves. Paralyzed by what they felt was the failure of President Obama to successfully smash thru a health care bill that would reflect his progressive views that we voted him into office for.

And sadly what I have to keep reminding my friends in the fight is that Obama never said he'd govern by those progressive views. I can't pull them up, but my memory tells me that Obama spent a lot of time talking about his views, but would talk about governing in the middle to respect people on both sides. I watched him in 2002 at an anti-Iraq War rally talk about how Afghanistan was a just war. He never said he was a peace candidate or would be a peace President, no matter what the Nobel Prize people project.

That's not to say that I don't also project my hopes and wishes onto Obama. But Starhawk sent out a timely note for the Solstice that reminded me that we can hope all we want, but without a lot of action and movement, that's all it will be - hope.
But the message of Solstice is this:  hope does not come once into the world and fulfill itself.  Hope and light must constantly be reborn, over and over again.  They wax and wane, and must be renewed.
That renewal, that birthing, requires labor.  Labor means work, commitment, perseverance through that time when it seems you just can’t push any more.  The cervix dilates slowly, pang by pang.  The child begins to emerge, is drawn back, pushed forward another increment.
We are the laboring Mother, we are the spark of light.  New possibilities kick and squirm within us.  No, it’s not easy to bring them forth, but we are strong, and we are made for this work.  Bear down…breathe…push.  This morning the sun rises;  each day a new world is born.
2009 was our honeymoon - not that romantic honeymoon where we gaze adoring into each other's eyes, but rather that honeymoon when we realize that Mr. LoveOfOurLife likes to leave his underwear on the bathroom floor. Every day. We don't get a divorce, we adjust. We take our rose-colored glasses off and get to work. It's not that we don't love Obama anymore, but our Prince Charming has a few flaws.

Thankfully Jill Zimon isn't paralyzed and wrote a fabu piece summarizing the whole situation thus far. 

23 December 2009

Girls Rule... Boys Drool?

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 


Maria Shriver says that the battle of the sexes is over, but I think she's wrong. Not because I think that women and girls are better than those of another gender, but because there are still battles to be fought.

The SAT released their latest findings in gender differences on the standardized test and some want to interpret it as more proof that girls can't do math and science. OK, to explain why there aren't more women in science at least. Same conclusion in my eyes. Of course the flip side of that argument is that there aren't any gender differences. But wait a minute; medical science continues to prove that there are biological differences between men and women, this time in the arena of heart drugs. So what's the real deal with gender differences then?
pinkbrain.jpg
Dr. Lise Eliot tries to answer that question in a tome of a book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain. What I found in PBBB is simply yes, there are differences between the genders, but how those differences are interpreted is often within our control.

Eliot spends a lot of time in the book looking at gender differences in the womb and in early infancy, where there is minimal influence by meddling parents and the society. As the mother of a girl and two boys, Eliot was just trying to filter out bad media reports and misused scientific reports. She told me that she is a feminist who believes that there is a boys crisis, that classrooms need to be more boy-friendly and that competition is good for girls, too. But she also believes that the way we socialize infants and toddlers plays out in how well they do with caregiving and spatial tasks in the future.

So where does that leave us?

I guess that depends on whether or not you think that girls will be girls or you can raise a boy to be equally adept at math as he is at changing diapers. AND if you think you can have any effect on that outcome. As I said in my review, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, is a lengthy book, but I do think it's a fair book about the issues. As your parents told you about dinner, take small bites and chew slowly. That sage advice applies to exploring gender differences as well.

Winding down

Obviously this month has been uber busy and the originally blogging has taken a holiday. My only solace is that hopefully y'all are just as busy and don't have time to complain. ha!

I hope that you all are safe & warm where ever and which ever holiday you are celebrating.

Here's to 2010 and all the fab adventures she holds for us.

20 December 2009

Last-minute giving that will warm your heart & support good causes

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog.


Still trying to figure out what to give the people on your Christmas list? Did you forget to buy someone's Hanukkah present? Can't think of a good Solstice gift? Whatever your reason, there's a lot of gift-giving this time of year and the good ideas run out faster than you'd think! That's why I'm here to give you some out of the box ideas... Ones that might not show up in your mailbox from a direct mail ask. *drumroll*

For the girls in your life:

New Moon Magazine: As I wrote before, New Moon magazine is a great, girl-driven (girls write the stories and serve on the board) magazine that is an antidote to the magazines that drive parents crazy. If you purchase one membership any additional ones are 50% off! So get one for your daughter and her BFF so they can read and discuss.

For the women in your life:
Our Bodies, Ourselves: The folks behind the classic women's health handbook/encyclopedia aren't just churning out books for us to hand to our sisters, they are also blogging and advocating for our health care rights.

For our canine best friends:

Dachshund Rescue of North America: Two and a half years ago I made the mistake of saying "Sure.... let's go meet this dog." As soon as Annie looked up at us I knew she was a part of our family. She was rescued from a pound after her original owner either died or became too old to care for the doxie. Annie spent a few months in a foster home and the adoption fee we paid didn't come close to covering the expense of caring for Annie until she found us.

For the media junkies:
make/shift: This magazine creates and documents contemporary feminist culture and action by publishing journalism, critical analysis, and visual and text art. Made by an editorial collective committed to antiracist, transnational, and queer perspectives, make/shift embraces the multiple and shifting identities of feminist communities. I know, that's a mouthful and it is not an easy reading magazine. This is a gift suitable for that person in your life who you know wants to curl up with a cuppa and get lost in deep thought.

Women In Media & News: I have served on the board of this media organization for quite some time. It's a triple threat - quadruple if you count our executive director, who is writing a book on reality TV - that does media analysis, education and advocacy. WIMN is a small nonprofit that has big plans for 2010.

For the history buffs:
CWLU Herstory Fundraiser: Ever watch those TV shows about child stars grown up? Or reunion shows? Ever wonder what came of all those women's lib protests and demands? The Chicago Women's Liberation Union Herstory Project can tell you. To support their ongoing effort to maintain Chicago's local women's history, you can buy vintage posters, buttons and t-shirts.

There are ton of other places that I could list here for you to give money to or buy an item from. Hopefully if you don't send your cash to these places, they will spark that memory you have. Perhaps instead of make/shift you send your super cool aunt a subscription to Bitch? Or support a local no-kill animal organization?

So why not put some good causes on your holiday list this year? You can donate in the name of someone you'd typically buy a gift for, and everyone wins. No matter where you send your money, know that you'll be supporting some awesome work and for the most part, there will be nothing to wrap in wasteful glossy paper.

14 December 2009

Steroid use is not a curse

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog

As a Chicago Cubs fan, I am well versed in curses. So when I read that WWE wrestler, Eki "Eddie" Fatu, had died of a massive heart attack and Yahoo! Sports lumps his death in with many others that have occurred in the wrestling word in the past 10 years, calling the "staggering" deaths a curse, I said heck no! A curse would be if all these men had died in freak accidents worthy of recreation in the next Final Destination franchise. Rather, almost all the men have died of causes that can be traced back to steroid use. That says to me that the WWE has a big drug problem it needs to continue to address rather than a mere curse to break.

I have faith that most of WWE's fans know that it's all entertainment, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily condemn steroid use. They can see that the actors in the ring, jacked up on steroids, are earning a lot of money to make people forget about the worries of life. All the positives of steroid use -- none of the negative side effects.

In males, anabolic steroids can reduce sperm count, shrink the testicles, cause infertility, and enlarge the breasts, among other side effects. In women, they can increase body hair, make skin rough, decrease breast size, enlarge the clitoris, deepen the voice, and cause other biological changes. Are WWE fans thinking of those side effects when they watch their favorite wrestlers in the ring? I doubt it.

I don't know what the answer is for this issue. Suspensions aren't helping and Fatu was kicked out of the WWE for violating their drug policy. But clearly something must be done before the "curse" of steroid use claims more lives.

12 December 2009

Sexual Assault on College Campuses

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog


The Center for Public Integrity has released their results from a nine-month investigation into sexual assault on college campuses. Though there is plenty of valuable information in their findings, the bottom line is that most incidents of collegiate sexual assault are under reported and when they are reported, the victims (usually women) find themselves facing a number of barriers. Says Kristin Lombardi (a researcher on the project):
Nearly a third of the 33 victims said school administrators discouraged them from pursuing complaints, and about a dozen experienced confidentiality requirements "sometimes followed by threats of punishment if they were to disclose any information about the case.
The lack of justice in assault cases is not the only result from the downfall; we're also losing lives:
In the Center for Public Integrity report, the mother of a rape victim who committed suicide after her complaint to the administration was essentially ignored, says, "No wonder why so many girls don't come forward. They see what happens. They see how they are attacked all over again."

Some readers might react to these findings in a way that hearkens back to the days when there were all-girl dorms with strict curfews, but rather I believe we need to reform the way that survivors are treated on campus, and that means teaching young men AND women on campus that rape and all forms of sexual assault is never OK. Let's read the report, educate ourselves, and act on informed recommendations instead of fear.

Happy Jane Addams Day!

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog.

Jane Addams was the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize - the Peace Prize in 1931. Since 2007, Illinois has marked her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with a statewide holiday (although no school is canceled and people still have to go to work).

I actually like holidays where kids have to be in school, and it's not just because I want to get my daughter out of the house so I can go to work. Rather, I would hope that on Jane Addams Day (December 10th of each year), students are taught about the many amazing things she did in Chicago that still impact lives across the world.

Addams not only transformed the field of social work, she was also a founder and the first president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and she campaigned against World War I.

Addams didn't do her work alone. Far from it, as she was a resident of Chicago's Hull House:
The residents of Hull-House formed an impressive group, including Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, Florence Kelley, Dr. Alice Hamilton, Julia Lathrop, Sophonisba Breckinridge, and Grace and Edith Abbott. From their experiences in the Hull-House neighborhood, the Hull-House residents and their supporters forged a powerful reform movement. Among the projects that they helped launch were the Immigrants' Protective League, the Juvenile Protective Association, the first juvenile court in the nation, and a Juvenile Psychopathic Clinic (later called the Institute for Juvenile Research). Through their efforts, the Illinois Legislature enacted protective legislation for women and children in 1893. With the creation of the Federal Children's Bureau in 1912 and the passage of a federal child labor law in 1916, the Hull-House reformers saw their efforts expanded to the national level.

Many organizations schedule events to mark the occasion of Jane Addams Day. On Tuesday I attended a portrayal of Addams performed by Annette M. Baldwin. I'm a women's history geek, so I really enjoyed it. Baldwin not only told Addams' story as Addams, but took questions (including one from a man who had met Addams) and showed a biographical slide show - with real slides, old school style. She travels around the country doing her shows, so do catch her if she shows up in your town.

Jane Addams was an amazing woman and continues to be a role model for us all, so whether you live in Illinois or not, take some time out to celebrate her life today. Happy Jane Addams Day!

03 December 2009

Early warning: Women's History Month Panel 2010

An early warning to my Northern Ohio peeps, I'll be speaking on a panel at Case Western Reserve University's Flora Stone Mather Center for Women. And I'm super excited to be sharing the stage with Siobhan Brooks and Courtney E. Martin.

The panel is scheduled for Thursday, March 18th in the evening.

So save the date for me!

More details when I get them!

And if you want to bring me to your campus, just drop me a line. veronica-dot-arreola-at-gmail

Book Review: Girls' Studies


Girls' Studies by Elline Lipkin was a great little read. I don't mean to be flip about this book. It's well written and chock full of information about the fledgling field of girls' studies. It's just that I've read enough about girls' studies that I actually knew most of the information in it.

That said, Girls' Studies is in the Seal Press Seal Studies line and I do believe that this would make an excellent addition to a women's studies course or even the basis for an entire course on girls itself.

It's also a great summation of the research on gender roles and how they impact our girls (and boys) as they grow. It's not pro-girl as much as it is anti-gender stereotypes/gender roles. I'll say it again, if we can smash the box girls are put into with stereotypes, we can also free our boys from the patriarchy box too. There is a lot of discussion about 'standard behavior' and how it has swung from boys to girls and how neither is appropriate.

The other sections that I really appreciated were discussions on the lack of girls of color in young adult literature and how as the realm of possibility is growing for girls, they still splinter into groups (girly girls, kick ass girls, etc). This last one is hitting home big time right now. It's hard raising a girl in this culture that tells her she has to choose what kind of girl she has to be.

I would recommend this book to every mom and dad out there with a girl. Want to know the real insanity that they are living under? How much they are targets of marketing and advertising? Why they hear you tell them that they are fine just the way they are, but still want to diet at age 8? Read this book. It's all in here. You think you know, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Get yourself an early holiday present and grab a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book.  Elline and I both also write at Girl with Pen. But I received the book thru my relationship with Seal Press not Elline.

02 December 2009

No Abortion Ban: National Day of Action

There are also rallies and protests being held all around the country to tell the Senate and Congress that women will NOT be left out of health care/health insurance reform. Sadly my day is far too booked with meetings for me to hike it into the Loop for the rally. And if you know me, you know it must be a busy day for me to miss a rally!

So what is the Stupak amendment?

Under the Stupak amendment, millions of women would lose benefits that they currently have and millions more would be prohibited from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have today.

The Stupak amendment prohibits any coverage of abortion in the public option and prohibits anyone receiving a federal subsidy from purchasing a health insurance plan that includes abortion. It also prohibits private health insurance plans from offering through the exchange a plan that includes abortion coverage to both subsidized and unsubsidized individuals.

Realistically, the actual effect of the Stupak amendment is to ban abortion coverage across the entire exchange, for women with both subsidized and unsubsidized coverage.

Most immediately, the exchange would offer coverage to many of the 17 million women, 18–64, who are uninsured. It would also be a source of coverage for the 5.7 million women who are now purchasing coverage in the individual market. In most of these cases, women will lose abortion coverage that they currently have — in the current private insurance market, the majority of health insurance plans include abortion.

Currently the Senate bill does NOT have a Stupak-like amendment, but Senators Nelson (D-NB) and  Hatch (R-UT) plan to introduce one. Today we say HELL NO! to this idea!

How to get involved:

* Center for Reproductive Rights has a list of resources
* Planned Parenthood's Resource page
* NARAL's Day of Action page
* NOW's Stop Stupak page and an update on Sen. Mikulski's Women's Health Amendment

01 December 2009

World AIDS Day and Scarleteen

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog


In light of World AIDS Day, I want to spotlight an amazing resource for teens - Scarleteen. According to the website, Scarleteen "is compiled and written for a young adult population, primarily based in the information that population directly asks us for, and much of our information is more appropriate for teens and young adults than for older adults." And they mean it! If you're a fuddy duddy, stay away!

Scarleteen may not cater to oldsters, but for young people this site is fab. It treats readers as mature human beings with no sugar coating and no B.S. If you're just trying to get someone to take your side, this isn't the site for you. Scarleteen will tell you the hard cold truth.

The site has a great round up of HIV and AIDS facts. It's lengthy, but it covers most of the bases... if not all of them! And there's a great list of resources at the end too.

As with most independent resources, Scarleteen is in need of support. Instead of that ugly sweater you know someone in your family will buy you, why not ask them to send $10 to Scarleteen? What, you don't put sex education on your holiday list?