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We did it

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It took five years and nearly cost us our marriage, but my husband has finished his B.A. degree. He starts his new job as an internal auditor next month. And in the meantime…we’re doing a lot of day drinking and lazing around in our pj’s all day.

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The kids and I attended the graduation ceremony together, just the three of us, and I couldn’t get over it…it was exactly the way I’d hoped it would be. They were both so excited to see their daddy dressed up in his cap and gown and loved all the streamers and music. It was such a proud moment for all of us. I can’t believe we really made this happen.

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Written by GRSeim

June 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

M, age 11 months

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1. D: “Melia! You can’t play with phone chargers, baby! Those are dangerous!”
M: “GOP! GOP!!!” *lunges for D’s face with razor-sharp nails extended*
D: “YOU stop! Gentle touches, Baby Boop! MOOOOOM!!!!” <—- this kind of stuff is definitely topping my list of least favorites right now.

2. The whining! Who taught you that? It's like nails on chalkboard times twelve and it never stops!

3. I'm worried sick about all of your itty bitty developmental quirks and I'm bending myself over backwards to make sure you get the support you need to stay on track and have a full, happy childhood. All I ask from you is that you let me do my thing. Would it kill you, for example, to just not scream continuously through your entire physical therapy appointment each week? Just little things like that would make such a difference. This isn't exactly like dancing on rainbows for me either, you know.

4. You are almost a year old now; surely you don't really need to eat all through the night anymore.

5. I know you know what I mean when I say "no." I can tell because you speed up doing whatever it is I told you to stop doing, and you give me the most mischievous look. It would be cute except that you're usually doing something like popping a marble in your mouth that I REALLY CAN'T ALLOW. Be cute about something a little less deadly!

6. The way you dance and kiss the pictures when we read "Baby Beluga" together is so, so adorable.

7. You don't always watch tv…but when you do, you pick Wonder Pets, the most sickeningly cute kids show ever. This could also be put under the "least favorite" category, but it is seriously adorable. Of COURSE you like the show with the chubby singing hamster. That's just so you!

8. You are a little bit obsessed with the Calico Critters the Easter Bunny brought for D this year. Again, not really my thing, but you are so precious playing with them that I can't help but love it.

9. You bark at random dogs, freak out every time a bird visits one of my feeders and you screamed for joy when I showed you the ferrets at the pet store. You are my kind of kid.

10. You aren't quite a year old yet, but you have opinions. You are fascinated by long hair, you love the cute and the cuddly, and if it were up to you our home would be constantly filled with friends and playmates for you. Even when I don't agree with your opinions, I am thrilled to see how easily and confidently you assert yourself and make your voice heard. I can't always let you have your way…but know that I am always cheering for you.

Written by GRSeim

June 13, 2012 at 6:03 am

Posted in Future Feminist

Waste Not

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We were walking out of a restaurant downtown one day when a middle aged woman stepped into our path and boldly demanded, “Are you going to eat those leftovers?”

Jon and I shifted uncomfortably, glanced at one another -because, yeah, we were going to eat them. We were still teenagers, I was pregnant, we had no car, and we were only eating out because I was too sick from hunger to walk the remaining mile and a half to the nearest grocery store. We were in a pretty bad spot ourselves at that point. But we’d also had our eyes opened to the complex reality of poverty, how easy it is to fall into destitution and how hard it is to claw your way back out.

So we handed our takeout boxes over and a tradition was born in our family.

Waste not.

A few years later I found out through my reading that this is a pretty common practice in other countries, sharing leftovers to prevent good food from going to waste. It’s a good habit, one that is surprisingly easy to embrace.

Here’s how it works at our house:

We do not leave food to rot in the refrigerator; if things are sitting around, likely to go to waste, we make a post on freecycle or Craigslist, or spend the afternoon hunting for Jimmy and Elizabeth. They always appreciate our cooking.

When we leave a restaurant with a take-out box, we do what we can to pass that box off to someone before we leave the parking lot. If that fails, my schizophrenic friend, Curtis, is easy enough to locate at his usual haunt at the corner of the highway, and he is always thrilled to get a box full of warm, good-quality food.

Now, I have to admit I do not feed people indiscriminately. The scary-looking guy who hangs out by the university and screams for help all day long? I double check that the doors are locked before I drive by. The war vet who throws things at cars and roars about the injustice of his situation as the traffic zips by? Yeah, I feel bad, but I avoid the intersection where he hangs out altogether.

You can’t just prance up to any person, homeless or not, and assume that they’re going to turn out to be nice people. You have to trust your instincts. However, it’s also important to recognize that there is no correlation between having money and being a trustworthy, decent individual.

Conversely, we’ve got to cut the “noble savage” crap that gets thrown around so much when the topic of homelessness comes up. Homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice, and most people are not too proud to accept help, even of the half-eaten variety. I’ve only had a person refuse food I offered them once, and that’s because the guy was seriously allergic to the food I was offering him.

It boils down to having a can-do attitude. I can’t end homelessness in my community, but I can end hunger, easily and at no extra cost to anyone.

I can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but that doesn’t mean I’m helpless. Not by a long shot.

Written by GRSeim

May 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I hope I remember this day when I’m old and gray

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This was one of those perfect days when everything just went right. Even the weather was perfect.

Jon spent most of the day at a case competition where he and his team won second place. We’ve been giddily discussing what to do with the $500 prize.

While Jon was off making us proud, I took the kids downtown via public transit to celebrate the Space Needle’s 50th birthday. What a blast!

I decided to try to beat the crowds and had us all downtown at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning. It worked out fantastically well, because it was really just us and the street sweepers for the first hour. We played on the escalators at Pacific Place, chased pigeons around Westlake and had Pike’s Place almost entirely to ourselves. It reminded me of when Corduroy the bear got to explore the shopping mall at night. Pure magic.

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The Blue Trees at Westlake Park at 7:30 AM

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The Market Piggy Bank

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The giant orange sculpture in front of the science center disappoints another generation of Seattle children by not being an enormous slide. Believe me, son, I share your pain.

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D’s first real experience of the mesmerizing International Fountain.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, we came home to this:

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That’s right, the best (or second best, depending on who you ask) pizza place in the city gave us dinner for free today! It just doesn’t get better than this, really, life couldn’t be any better than it is today.

Happy birthday, Space Needle!

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Written by GRSeim

April 22, 2012 at 2:43 am

Active Beauty

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Have you seen this article, about how nearly 50% of kids don’t spend time outside each day? And, sad but not surprising, little girls are far more likely to spend their days indoors than than little boys.

Not at my house.

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P. S. yes, she did eat the dandelion. 🙂

Written by GRSeim

April 6, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Remember who you are

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As I understand it, there was a black woman who lived a very long time ago. Her name was Susannah, and she was in a relationship of some sort (I’d like to think it was consensual and oddly romantic, but the odds are good that it was actually rapey and horrific) with a slave ship captain named John Hemings.

Susannah had a little daughter by Hemings, who she called Elizabeth. Hemings attempted to buy Elizabeth from Susannah’s master, John Wales.

I wish I knew why; I have so many questions about this story. Was Hemings a decent guy who would have settled down with Susannah given the opportunity? Was he abusive? Did he intend to harm Elizabeth? Was John Wales the abuser in the situation?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. What I do know is that John Wales refused to part with Elizabeth. He sold her and her mother to his future father-in-law, Francis Eppes, and then later inherited them back into his estate as part of his wife’s dowry. Francis somehow created a legal stipulation that required Susannah and Betty (as Elizabeth was called) to remain with his daughter and her heirs forever.

Again, I wish I could know so much more. Was it because Betty was part white that she was granted preferential treatment above the other slaves in Martha Eppes’s estate? Was there something else that was unique about her than made people uncomfortable with seeing her live out her life as a slave?

Whatever the reason behind it all, Betty and her children stayed with John Wales. She had four children by a fellow slave, and then John Wales took her as his concubines. Betty gave birth to six children by this man who had owned her as property from birth.

John Wales had children from previous relationships as well; one of them was a girl named Martha Eppes. She inherited Betty and her children, six of whom were actually her half-siblings, when she married Thomas Jefferson in 1772.

Martha Eppes was intelligent, a good writer and seamstress and well-read. People liked her. By all accounts she was interesting, pretty and bright, and had a good sense of humor (sadly and predictably, there appear to be no surviving descriptions of Betty).

Martha and Thomas had six children together. Martha is believed to have suffered from gestational diabetes in each of her pregnancies that wrecked havoc on her body and ultimately killed her. The first Jefferson child, Martha (called Patsy), was the only one who lived a full lifespan; she died at 64 years of age. Her younger sister, Jane, died when she was one; Martha endured a still birth a few years later before giving birth to a fourth child, Mary, who died at 24. After Marry, Martha and Thomas had another daughter, who they named Lucy Elizabeth. She died as an infant. Martha conceived one more time. I find it telling to note that she gave this last baby a recycled name, also calling her Lucy Elizabeth. I have spent so much of my life dreaming about my future children and carefully crafting their names. I can only imagine the kind of jaded depression that would lead a person to just stick a decent name on a kid without thought or apparent tenderness.

Martha Jefferson died a few months after the second Lucy Elizabeth was born. She was only 33 years old at the time. Thomas Jefferson suffered a nervous breakdown following her loss, and the little Lucy Elizabeth soon followed her mother to the grave. Thomas Jefferson never recovered from the loss of his wife. He moved to France a few years after her death, leaving his surviving children behind in the care of their aunts and uncles who were still serving the Jefferson family as slaves.

Two years into his stay in France, Jefferson decided to summon his younger daughter, Mary to join him. Mary was only nine years old at the time, so she was accompanied by the youngest of her slave aunts, Sally, who was fourteen (note that this whole time that Martha was birthing little daughters only to rapidly find herself attending their funerals, Betty and Martha’s father were successfully birthing babies left and right and then setting them up to live out their lives as slaves).

Historians argue about this next chapter of history quite a bit, but I do not personally find it difficult to believe, particularly when taken in context with the rest of this family’s sad story.

Thomas Jefferson and Sally (his dead wife’s half-sister) apparently began an affair while in Paris. It grew into a relationship that lasted for forty years. They conceived a child while in Paris, and Sally and her baby returned to the States with Jefferson’s promise of freedom.

The young baby died soon after their return to the free world, and Sally went on, living as Jefferson’s concubine and slave for many years. She had six children in all with Thomas Jefferson, with four of them surviving to adulthood.

Meanwhile, little Mary, who was attending a convent school in Paris while this relationship ignited, returned home and married her cousin. She gave birth three times in four years and then died of health complications caused by pregnancy and worsened by depression. Only one of her children, a little boy, survived.

Jefferson granted each of his mixed-race children their freedom when they came of age, but curiously, he never freed Sally. His surviving daughter, Martha, eventually set Sally free after Thomas Jefferson’s death in 1826 (he was 83 when he died). Sally went to live with her adult sons, who were living free, dignified lives in Charlottesville. She remained with them for nearly a decade, living independently in their own home, and she got to see one of her grandchildren born and take part in that child’s life before she passed away in her early 60’s.

This story applies to our lived today on so many different levels. I am so sick with anger and stress right now that I can’t stand to delve into all of it.

Read this and ask yourself, do you really think that race doesn’t matter, that life is what you make of it? What happened to the black babies born on the Jefferson’s property whose mothers were not raped by white men, who were clearly black? Those people and their families undoubtedly remained in slavery, and then in segregation, and then lived through Jim Crowe and the violence that marked the Civil Rights movement and descendants of those slaves are almost certainly following the news right now, hearing people attempt to excuse George Zimmerman of Trayvon Martin’s murder because of whatever problems Trayvon may or may not have had at school and if I were the one holding my babies tight in fear as I watched that story unfold, knowing what this society owes me and seeing how this society continues to treat me and mine like shit…well. I’m not living with that fear, I am not carrying that load. But speaking as myself, within the context of my own life, I have no excuse, I can think of no defense. I feel sick, weighted down, broken. This is ugly. This is as ugly as it gets.

Moving from racism to sexism…do you really think that Jefferson would have taken issue with women having free access to birth control? He lost his own cherished wife due to complications in pregnancy, and their entire eleven years of marriage were dominated by death as they lost child after child. If ever there was a man who understood contraception as the foundation of women’s healthcare, surely it was Jefferson, whose life of suffering and loss would have been entirely prevented had he and his wife had access to any of the fantastic birth control methods we have available to us now.

To the conservatives and religious folks that think they have the right to judge other people’s major life decisions…go back and read it again. Put yourself in Susannah’s shoes, Martha’s, Betty’s, Mary’s, Sally’s. Can you honestly find fault with these women? As I see it, the only person who acted wrongly in this story was the slave ship captain who fathered Betty, and even with him we do not have enough information to be able to guess whether he might have been violently, criminally evil or merely a product and victim of his times like all the rest. For the women, and particularly the women of color in these stories, life was a terrifying drudgery,something to be escaped. How long can you go on trying to survive in a world that does not value you as a human being, that doesn’t care about your life or your fate?

In 1839, 13 years after Jefferson died, a man named Charles Goodyear invented the first rubber condoms and IUD’s (I’ve read that people were attempting to use sheepskin condoms and diaphragms made of halves of lemons before this point, with very little success). Congress banned the propagation of information regarding these life saving devices thirty years later, arguing that the information was obscene, and went on to make the U.S. the only Western country to criminalize contraception (at the time, or across the board? I’m not sure, need to read more on this point).

I wonder as I type those words, if Congress bothered to get Martha Jefferson’s take on contraception before making that decision, or if they took Susannah or Betty’s stories into consideration.

Women need contraception. We need to be able to have abortions if our life circumstances make them necessary, and we need to be recognized as the only appropriate persons to decide what constitutes necessity. We need strong laws protecting us from rapists and abusers. We need these things because our lives aren’t livable without them. We are vulnerable, not because of our femininity but because nature doesn’t really care if we live or die beyond childbirth. Left unchecked, our reproductive systems will work us to death. We have the technology, we have the resources; to force us to return to the kinds of lives Sally and Mary endured would be heartless and brainless, and tragically it would not be long before that kind of pigheadedness could be construed as murderous as well. Women die due to the simple inability to access contraception all the time around the world.

All I can say is, my daughter and I will not be those women. We will not be sent back to live such heartbreaking, empty, tragic and fleeting lives.

We will remember where we’ve come from, and we will not be forced back.

Written by GRSeim

April 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Baby Girl

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Beauty is a competitive sport, and the losers are often dragged off the field, mangled and bleeding, broken down.

I hope that I’m able to protect you from all of that.

Here’s the truth, kid, because whatever my faults (and we both know I have plenty), you can always trust that I will be honest with you. Beauty is all about comparison. When one person is praised for her beauty, another is implicitly rejected for failing up to that standard. There are very, very few people out there who are truly, naturally beautiful…just like there aren’t too many Olympic athletes or math geniuses or writers of profound, paradigm-shifting literature in the world. There are a few people who are exceptional when compared to the rest of humanity. The rest of us are just normal, and that is something to be celebrated.

We are fortunate to live in a time and in a place where normal people choose their careers and partners; we fall in love, have babies and grand babies, make our own decisions and pursue our own dreams and goals in life. We have enough to eat, we live in warm, comfortable homes, we have pets and holidays and weekends and vacations. Happiness is fully within our grasp, for once.

Don’t let that slip away.

Don’t let greedy companies convince you to live in poverty in exchange for whiter teeth and fuller eyelashes. Don’t trade glowing Christmas celebrations with your grandkids for a crappy relationship with an abusive boyfriend who teaches you to ask permission to breathe, to hate your body, to apologize for existing.

I’m going to tell you a secret here, kid: people who love you will be able to see the beautiful parts of you, without you having to suffer to make that happen. People who love you will treasure you, want what is best for you, take pride in your accomplishments, support you in the hard times and rejoice with you when the sunshine returns.

We can no more attain perfect beauty through our hard work and sacrifice than we can will ourselves to genius, but the good news is…that doesn’t matter.

Love will make up the difference.

Pour your power and energy into finding and cultivating deep, lasting love. Nothing else matters.

Written by GRSeim

March 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Posted in Future Feminist