Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why I don't plan on breastfeeding the baby I'm probably never going to have

Have you read this Washington Post article about breastfeeding? It fabulous. If you haven't read it you should go do that now. It's ok, I'll wait...

...oh, ok. Are we back? Didn't you think it was great!? Now let me tell you why I, as woman who isn't planning on having biological children, is blogging about a breast feeding article. You know, other than this quote which I might print out and frame somewhere:

“I’m not saying breast-feeding is not beneficial,” Colen told the media at the time of the study’s release. “But if we really want to improve maternal and child health in this country, let’s also focus on things that can really do that in the long term — like subsidized day care, better maternity-leave policies and more employment opportunities for low-income mothers that pay a living wage, for example.”

There are a lot of reasons why I don't plan on having biological children. One of them is that the societal pressure on women that come with being pregnant and having an infant seem like more than I can handle. I've watched friends go through pregnancy and suddenly no one trusts them to know what is best for themselves. Pregnant women's bodies become community property. The belong to the unborn fetus, they belong to doctors or husbands or overbearing parents or in-laws but they don't belong to the woman. Because, suddenly, she is no longer her own entity but an entity defined by her relationship to something else. No longer a woman but a mother.

So imagine my feelings when this conversation happened at a meeting last month.

Me to colleague whose wife just had a baby: "So...are you a dad?"
Guy 1: "Yeah, he was born 11 days ago."
Me: "Congratulations! How's it going? I can't believe you're even at this meeting!"
Guy 1: "Eh, it's actually not that bad. Well, my wife is breast feeding so she's doing all the work. It's a lot harder for her than it is for me."
Me: "Yeah, that's the complicated thing about breast feeding. I'm not planning to have a bio baby but if I did I don't think I'd breast feed. It makes it really hard to equally parent from the get go."
Guy 2 (not previously involved in the conversation): "That's terrible for the baby! Breast is best!"

Hold up home fry! Let me get this straight. I wasn't even talking to you and you feel entitle to yell (yell!) at me about my parenting of my probably-not-going-to-exist-hypothetical-baby? Ok, great, we'll continue.

Me, to guy 2: "Well actually the long term effects aren't all that well documented and for the toll it takes on some women, it may not always be the best choice. Have you read the research?"
Guy 2: "Well, not really."

So...you're entitled to tell me what to do with my body but you haven't even done any research on the subject? Awesome.

Nursing is probably the right decision for a lot of women. I have friends who relished in the unique kind of bond and gratification it provided them. But I also had friends for whom nursing was stressful, painful or traumatic. For whom it defined parenting in ways they didn't want. And for whom it made working outside the home really difficult.

Of course we're not going to improve maternal and child health in this country by creating (and funding) policies that actually support women and children. Because, frankly, it's easier and cheaper to just blame women. Look, I will wholeheartedly defend a woman's right to breast feed (and do it wherever and whenever and for as long as she wants. If you want to nurse your toddler in a liquor store in the middle of the day, good on ya.) I'm just not willing to get on the we-know-what's-best-for-you wagon.

I really long for the day when we trust women to know what is best for themselves and their families. That we don't feel entitled to tell someone that they should or should not be nursing. And that we operate on facts rather than pop culture. Until then I'm going to keep making whatever decisions I want with my totally non-existent baby.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy Birthday Olivia!

I haven't been blogging much lately...well, I have been writing but I haven't been publishing what I write because I've been to angry. I've been angry about Ferguson and about some stuff at our church and police brutality...and...and...and...

...and everything I wrote came out angry or preachy. Angry and preachy does not a good blog make. So I've written some things about Ray Rice and some things about the Unitarian Universalist church but for now, for the most part, I think I'll leave them unpublished.

But you know what makes me super happy and not the least bit angry? Olivia's birthday!

On October 6th Olivia turned eleven. I love celebrating, I'll celebrate damn near anything so obviously there needed to be a celebration for Olivia. We decide the occasion called for chicken nuggets and a birthday hat. Olivia had never had chicken nuggets so this was a real treat. She loved them so much that she even kinda sorta put up with a birthday hat. It was all supremely silly and pretty amazing. Olivia has had a bit of a rough year. Health-wise her 10th year wasn't her easiest but I'm so thankful that she seems to be doing better now.

The pictures aren't the greatest because I was laughing to hard to focus the camera for most of the chicken nugget experience. What can I say, life is just more fun when you're hanging out with this dog.

If you ask me, she doesn't look a day over five. 

The nuggets! Yes, we made a special trip to Burger King. 

 O.M.G. that hat! (and yes, it's an Amanda Gonzalez original)
 The nuggets...
 She figures it out...
And the rest is a blur. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

National Suicide Prevention Week and the meaning of "safety"

One of my favorite quotes has always been Mother Teresa's "If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week a couple weeks ago (I'm a little tardy to the party) I have been thinking about how we can better take care of each other.



Colorado is a little bit of a weird place to be a raging progressive. While it definitely has it's progressive moments, the one constant that runs through Colorado's value system is the idea of rugged individualism and self preservation. I don't know if these folks all think they are decedents of cowboys or what. It's the wild wild west y'all. To this California girl (who doesn't even believe in proverbial bootstraps) the whole thing is bizarre. Coloradans, for example, love them some guns. My (liberal) father in law recently posted a picture on facebook of a boy scout troop he volunteers with learning to shoot. His comment on the post was something about preventing tragedy and how knowing how to handle a gun is essentially a safety measure. See...guns...individualism...yada.

For me, gun pictures on facebook often lead to googling and this was no exception.

According to the Center for Disease control, between 2005 and 2010 3,800 people died from accidental shooting. By contrast, in 2011 alone (compared with the cumulative 5 year stat above) there were 39,518 suicide deaths were reported in the United States. Yes, 10x the 5 year stat in one year. Which got me thinking...we're doing it wrong. What if we thought about self preservation differently? What if it wasn't about individualism and taking care of yourself but about community and taking care of one another?

This boy scout troop on facebook teaches their kids to shoot in the name of safety (protecting one's self from accidental shooting) but, if we were looking at the data, aren't they better off teaching the kids coping and communication skills along with a healthy dose of emotional intelligence? My theory is that if we had fewer bullies, more loving communities, boys/men that protected and honored each other's whole emotional selves, and people that were trained to taking care of each other we would have fewer people killing themselves. Imagine what the world would look like if we thought about "safety" as emotional?


It seems that these skills are particularly needed in boys and men. Suicide is four times higher among men than women and a men are most likely to kill themselves with a gun. In fact, 80% of all firearm suicide deaths are white men.

Imagine if instead of teaching children to shoot or even to "protect" themselves from guns, we taught them to care for each other and to recognize when their fellow man was having a hard time. What would that look like? What would boy's sports teams, classrooms and scouts look like? What would Colorado look like if we shifted out value system a bit.

Which brings me to another of my favorite quotes, "we've begun to raise daughters more like sons..but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters" - Gloria Steinem.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Linq and High Roller Las Vegas

The Palms has a really great 24-hour checkout policy where if you book online you get to check out 24 hours after you checked in (instead of the normal 11a check out) so if you check in at 5p, you can check out of 5p the next day (or two days later or whatever). This was great because we could use the pool or leave our stuff in the room until we were ready to head to the airport. Very convenient.

We spent most the day wandering around the strip at the new Linq shopping center. "Los Angeles" seems to be the theme of new development in Las Vegas which is pretty fun. Poloroid has opened a "Fotobar" which prints cute coaster-like prints for a dollar. We thought about getting some but couldn't think of anything we needed printed. 


Attack of the giant flamingo!

I think Truman does a better flamingo than I do. I've sort of got a special chicken thing happening.

 The real flamingos are more sophisticated than we are. 

In true Las Vegas fashion the folks who own Cesar's have recently build the "High Roller," the world's largest ferris  observation wheel (but if you call it a ferris wheel people get offended). At 550 feet it's taller than the London eye (which is only 443 feet tall, sucka). Each "cabin" holds up to 40 people but since we were there (and you know...day drinking) at 11a there weren't very many riders. It turns out most people in Vegas don't do much before 1p. My husband, on the other hand, wakes up at 6a (seriously we had to go get snacks so he could munch on something before the buffet opened). We ended up getting out own bubble to ride in and Truman was excited about having his own space for a while (he was a great sport of hanging out in crowds for his crowd-loving wife's 30th birthday). I'm not sure if I'd pay full price for the thirty minute ride but for the Living Social price (that included a free drink) I thought it was a pretty cool.


In case you were wondering this is how Truman celebrates having his own space...

 And also this...





We finished up our trip by meeting my friend Jesus for happy hour. He moved from Denver to Las Vegas in May and it was great to see him. We grabbed happy hour at Simon in the Palms Place and it was great. Much quieter than other restaurants in Vegas hotels and everything on the happy hour menu was $10 or less. If you're looking for a relaxed place that still feels like your in Vegas (and has a view of a pool) you should check it out.


Monday, September 8, 2014

A Very Vegas Birthday

I decided I wanted to do something for my 30th birthday. And then I decided that I wanted to go somewhere. Where better to go than Vegas to see Britney Spears? It was fun and silly and a great weekend spent with my husband. Just the way a 30th birthday should be. 

 Silver ducky! At the new SLS Hotel.We thought the design of this place was pretty cool but nothing amazing (other than the ducky of course).  

 We stayed at the Palms and the rooms had the silliest collection of oddly shaped furniture pieces. Does anyone really utilize these?

 At the pool right before the bro pool party started. It was fun people watching (what up pregnant cocktail waitress in a bikini!?) and I sort of adore Vegas pools. 

 Birthday dinner was at Nove on the 52nd floor of the Palms. I think the theme of this trip was awesome views. It was a pretty cool place to to eat dinner. 

And finally, the main event: Britney!!!

 And our seats got upgraded! Our tickets were midway up the 200s section and they upgraded us to the 6th row of the 100s. The seats were great and the show was really fun. 

See, there's Brit Brit. 

And there she is in the ring of fire. Britney may have been a bit...um...medicated during the show. The fire made me a little nervous for her. Keep it in the middle Brit. 

After Britney we got some of those giant slushy drinks (thanks groupon). The Vegas check list was nearly complete. 

Our final stop was Ghostbar on top of the Palms. It may not have been our scene but the view as fabulous and the tickets were comped. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Yellowstone and Grand Teton Camping

Ever since I moved to Colorado I have a history of saying things like, "holy shit, we're only 6 hours from [insert random attraction in the middle of nowhere]. Where did I move!?" Shortly followed by, "we should go." Remember the time I made Truman go to South Dakota with me? Well this year we realized (1) we're only 8 hours from Grand Teton National park and (2) we didn't have any Labor Day plans. Truman usually goes hiking on labor day or my birthday falls near that weekend but this year neither was true so we decided to take a (somewhat) last minute trip out to Grand Teton. And, heck if we're driving out to Wyoming we might as well visit Yellowstone while were at it. 

Unfortunately, not only do we have a history of random road trips. We also have a history of getting crap weather. Right as we finished the 9 hour drive into Yellowstone these dark clouds rolled in and opened up. Dear weather channel.com, this is not a "thunderstorm." This is 24 hours of rain. 


Thankfully, we had a couple hours in the afternoon (you know, when thunderstorms are suppose to happen) of dry-ish weather. So we got to walk around and see the geysers. Honestly, even if it had been pouring rain we probably would have walked around anyway. 9 hours is a long time to be in a car. 



Almost better than the geysers was the silly warning signs that accompanied them.






Our night in Yellowstone was cold, rainy and involved camping near bros. Thankfully, the accommodations in Grand Teton National Park were an improvement. The first day was still drizzly but not nearly as cold as the previous day. We went for a 5 mile hike around a lake and up park of the mountains and then took a little boat back across the lake. 


 Hidden Falls, near Jenny Lake. You can take a boat and then walk up here but we decided to add a couple miles and walk around the lake...gotta get your steps in. 




Truman got hungry and I got cold so we decided to take the boat back. Plus boats are fun. 

The tent camp sites in Teton were much better than the one we stayed in in Yellowstone. And the couple staying next to us were some very nice folks from Amsterdam who we introduced to S'mores. On our way out the sun finally came out. I never did get my perfect picture of the Tetons but it was still a fun trip. 




Handsome husband. 



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson

I've started this post a few times. It's hard to find perfect words when I'm feeling so much. Thankfully, some people who are better writers than I am have done some of the work for me.

I've always been interested in how we, as humans, interact with each other with a particular interest on how race effects those interactions and relationships. What oscillates for me is how willing I am to engage with people (usually white) who haven't thought about race critically. As I get older I am finding that I am less and less willing to play educator. Now don't get me wrong, at various times I've given talks and trainings on topics of race, diversity and inclusion. That stuff I love. If you want to pay me I'm happy to be a paid trainer. I also love discussions with people who are genuinely interested in fostering anti-racist ideas. The problems arise when people show up in my personal (rather than professional) world looking to "play devil's advocate." The people who don't really want to question their own assumptions but instead want to try and find cracks in my assertions that our identities color the way we see the world.

You know how there are stages of grief? The second stage of grief according to the Kubler-Ross model is anger. The second stage of becoming aware of your own privilege or whiteness according to the Amanda Gonzalez model is Make-A-Person-of-Color-Prove-It-To-You. I spent more hours of my 20s than I want to admit pulling studies, blog posts and academic articles for my white friends to "prove" to them that oppression exists. After more than one of those folks told me things like "well, I read the article you gave me and I decided they don't know what their talking about" I've decided to stop doing that. I feel, however, that I deserve several gold stars for never once screaming, "Yes, Derrick Bell/Angela Davis/person who has lived the experience we are talking about is clearly a moron and you are an expert! Clearly."

What those experiences taught me is that admitting that you receive privilege and power because of your identity is a really hard and painful thing to admit. Especially if you're not used to being challenged. And no amount of "proof" is going to make that change happen for those people.

I also realized that these people, the ones that were insisting that I "prove" oppression to them, had access to all the same documents I had. Why was I spending my free time doing academic searches when they were reading The New Yorker? It's my job and it's not the job of any person of color to educate white people. Why was I spending hours researching my point when there was no obligation on them to research and justify their own (classist or racist) beliefs? If someone truly wants to learn and become anti-racist they will take the initiative to do so without burdening people of color with all the grunt work.

In this excellent article about how to deal with friends' racist reactions to Ferguson Jenee Desmond-Harris encourages readers not to engage with ignorant friends or family on facebook about race or the terrible things happening in Ferguson. She writes, "[H]ere's the thing: Each and every person making comments that rub you the wrong way has access to the entire Internet, live feeds from Ferguson, materials on the entire history of American racism generally and violence against unarmed black men specifically. They are choosing to think the way they do because it works for them and makes them feel good." I think the word "choosing" was particularly impactful for me.

I'm realizing that some of what is sparking so much anger in me is that at some point the ignorance of the "well intentioned" person (even those that are politically progressive) becomes willful. I'm having a really hard time excusing the fact that people often choose to say terrible things or think a certain way (at the expense of people of color and black men in particular) just because it's easier for them.

As I'm sure you've discovered fro the tone of this post, I'm finding myself quick to anger right now. I sometimes feel suffocated by all the news coming out of Ferguson...but I can't not read it. I can't pull myself away and I'm not sure I really want to because I think the anger is justified. I'm angry that a Pew survey found that 47% of Whites think that race is getting more attention than it deserves. I'm angry that black and African American families are loosing sleep at night worry about whether or not cop will harm their son, brother or nephew. I'm angry at the bullshit I've heard my liberal friends saying that the real issue here is the militerization of our police forces. Need I remind you that white men have been killing people of color long before the War of Drugs started funding police tanks? Yes, militarization is a problem. But it's not nearly as big of a problem as racism and the unwillingness of so many to critically examine systems of power, priviledge and oppression in our own lives.

Heartbreaking kiddo and homemade sign at the Denver rally