Wednesday, December 31, 2008

advances in personal feminism

A few days ago I took my kids to our fitness center's indoor pool. Without shaving my legs beforehand. After weeks of winter growth, uncontrolled forestation.

This feat took quite a bit of cognitive therapy skillage to accomplish, as in, "psychologist, heal thyself" of fear of social disapproval.

I am proud to be a feminist. To believe that gender should not determine opportunity, access, pay level, intelligence, nurturing ability, or who controls the TV remote.

I wish I put my money where my leg hair grows. You know, where I believe gender also need not determine one's routine razor blade habits.

I see women with long, dark, cactus beast ape hairy legs and I gasp. Silently. I try not to stare. I admire their bravery while wondering if they have any idea the impact their hairy legs have on members of the opposite sex. On members of the same sex. On tried and true feminists, for goddess sake. I hate myself for my hypocrisy.

I married a man who thinks women with hairy legs, hairy armpits, and hairy snatches are sexy. Aren't I the lucky one? I feel that much more confident baring all to him during the turtleneck and jeans season. I even manage to feel sexy. With my armpit hair. Underarm hair can feel daring and renegade. Not so leg hair. Nuh-uh. I feel no kind of confidence baring the snarly leg growth to him. Less so to strangers in public.

While researching my thesis in graduate school, I read Femininity, by Susan Brownmiller. It was an amazing read. One of those books that I have thought about thousands of times as I engaged in traditional feminine rituals of self care that go contrary to my feminist ideals. I talked about one of those times, here.

As I changed out of my workout clothes and into my bathing suit, as I strode in front of the hawty hawt hawt lifeguard with the long surfer boy haircut (half my age and then some, dammit) (half my body weight too, now that I think about it. Shit! Why did he have to be on duty this day?!) I thought about Brownmiller. I took comfort in her admission that despite being the author of several feminist tomes, she had a few stereotypical feminine trappings she could not give up. Wearing lipstick, no matter where she went, was one.

So, I remind myself, I'm in good company. I'm not the only fraud on the planet.

Years ago, while driving to work, I listened to several local morning radio jocks talk about a certain formerly Catholic schoolgirl, turned material girl, turned star of her own sex book, turned Kabbalah, turned twice-divorcee. There was a brief mention of material girl's infamous nude photo with hairy armpits and how "gross" and "nasty" and "dirty" they found it when women didn't shave their underarms.

So it occurred to me. My avoidance of showing unshaved leg hair had to do with a hygiene issue: my fear that others would assume I was not clean. That I didn't bathe regularly. And I really really don't want people to think I'm dirty. Dirty mind? Doesn't bother me. Dirty body? Very much.

That insight and a cup of shaving cream will get some of us nowhere, for about 15 years.
So on this day, I pulled out my cognitive toolbelt instead of my electric shaver:

1. I cannot control what others think of me. Deep breath.
2. It is unimportant what others think of me. Full exhale. It is important that I please myself. And it would please me greatly to skip the leg shave.
3. It is likely people will be far enough away that they won't see the hair on my legs.
4. If they do get close enough, refer to #1 and #2.
5. I am 40-something years old, for crissakes. I am married. I am going for a swim, not to a Mrs. America pageant, and not to attract a young and dumb man who doesn't appreciate the hawtness of lush, untamed hair on a cellulite-ridden, matronly thigh.
6. I deserve the luxury of unshaved legs.
7. The kids are in the car and I will never hear the end of it if I keep them waiting long enough to destroy this rainforest.

Ok, so score one for self preservation and maternal appeasement.

But yeah. Score one for feminism, too.

Is there a traditionally feminine, or masculine, depending on your gender, habit you struggle to let go of?

stickk to this year's resolutions

So here I am. On the eve of another new year, contemplating another list of shaky resolutions. And thinking, another year of being disappointed in failing to meet my weight loss goals.

I've been successful all my life in the weight management department. If you consider limiting my weight gain to 10lbs per decade a success.

Which is to say, I've been trying to lose 20lbs my entire adult life, without ever getting there. Argh. A lousy feeling. It's now getting to the point where the added weight is affecting my health -- little or big aches and pains that are slowing me down further. Weight loss isn't feeling so much like a choice as a necessity.
Back in the spring I heard a story on NPR radio talking about a website that helps you stickk to your goals. Wimp that I am, I'm now at the point where I'm seriously considering giving it a try. Based on the theory that most people will work harder to avoid losing money than they will to earn it (called Prospect Theory by behavioral economists), lets you set all sorts of goals for yourself, weight loss being just one, while betting your money that you'll achieve those goals.

Want to quit smoking? Stickk it. Commit to a regular work out schedule? Make new friends? Set career goals? Follow through on stress management exercises? Stickk can help.

The gist is this: You put up a sum of money, your choice how much. You check in at pre-set intervals or you might opt for a one-day deadline. If you make your goal? You keep the money. If you fail? Someone else gets your money -- you choose a charity organization. Stickk recommends you choose a charity that you despise.
I'm such a tightwad who goes to annoying and ridiculous lengths to avoid wasting money, that this just might work for me.

As I said, I'm thinking seriously about signing up. Both SAM and I want to lose weight but we can't seem to get there. So I want to enlist his support and try this together. Put an end to our cycle of mismatched motivation. You know, where he's motivated one week and unknowingly I tempt him away by baking his favorite dessert. Or I'm determined to stick to my diet but he brings home a bag full of my favorite chocolates. Those inadvertent but reliable sabotage behaviors.

If and when I sign up, I'll keep you posted. But until I decide, I thought I'd pass along what looks to be a very helpful tool.
In the meantime.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

gift card blues

Gift cards for the kids are both a blessing and a curse.

The blessing: Holiday shopping is a breeze. Wrapping paper is conserved. They take up very little room under the tree.
The curse: They have to be redeemed.

Translation: Mom gets to stand around in crowded stores waiting for the little darlings to spend them right down to the penny. Tax excluded. Mom also gets to pay the sales tax.

If a tired Mom insists on (a little post-holiday peace and quiet, dammit) delaying the shopping until the crowds die down? Penalty box. The whining and wheedling and pestering and shrieking tirades follow. This is the thanks we get for lobbying the relatives into gift card synergy.
It has been said that the tradition of Santa Clause began with Sinterklaas who would leave candy for the good children and scoop all the bad children into his bag and whisk them away to Spain.
I'm starting a petition. I figure with enough signatures, the jolly elf will morph back into his 7th century self so that bedraggled parents can enjoy a quiet, conflict free 2009. I'd have a lot of new kitchen gadgets from Tarjay and my kids would get a free trip to Europe. Not sure if that would be round trip.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

capitol lights and luminaria nights

We took the kids downtown for some old fashioned Christmas carolling to the grounds of the state Capitol building. We gathered for The Capitol Tree Lighting and Holiday Sing-Along hosted by John Aielli (pronounced Eeely). Aielli's daily morning program, EKLEKTIKOS, on the local public radio, KUT, is broadcast from the University of Texas. It's one of my favorite programs because you never know what Aielli will play. Classical, folk, jazz, rock, and international selections from Sweden to New Zealand. He also interviews musicians who are playing locally so listeners can get a sampling of live music shows around town. It was a treat to not only have John Aielli host the Sing-Along, but to also sing along with John Aielli.

A snapshot inside the Capitol, looking up to the top of the rotunda:

The lighted tree on the south side of the Capitol, facing Congress Avenue.

Another night, we went to see the Luminations display at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Thousands of lighted ornaments lined walkways, meandered down cedar arbors, sat atop limestone rock walls, simple and luminous. There's something so gratifying about a multitude of candles in the night, especially outdoors.

For more pictures with better views of the Wildflower Center, click

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays from my Texas home to yours.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

cave mommas are good enough

JCK at Motherscribe gave us an excellent post about excessive mommy-guilt yesterday.

She tells us about a mom we all recognize, one who throws a splendid birthday party for her little girl but worries that an earlier "snappy" moment ruined her child's special day. JCK asks when we mommies are gonna start cutting ourselves some slack.

Jen at Rants & Raves replies that guilt in moderation can be a good thing. It serves as a vestige of "the enormity of the job" of being in charge of a little person's life. It helps steer us in the right direction.

Here are two additional thoughts on this mommy-guilt stuff: Think caves and "good enough."

First, the caves. It helps me to remember that we 21st century moms are decendants of cave dwellers. By this I refer to the fact that the first mothers raised their children in caves. On dirt floors. Wearing lice infested wooly mammoth jackets. With dinosaur bones used as paddle boards. No central heating or AC or indoor plumbing. And no, no antibacterial soaps or disinfectant wipes or toilet paper, even.

Those kids raised in caves? They survived. And hundreds of thousands of generations later decendants of cave kids grew up to have children of their own who grew up to become mommies like us who compare parenting notes over the internets.

And if those kids raised in caves can survive, so can our kids raised in framed stucco houses with sculpted landscapes survive crabby mommy moments.

Second: Think of these three words: Good Enough Mothering. It's a term coined by psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott.

I don't pretend to understand most of Winnicott's psychoanalytic (mumbo-jumbo) writings. I'm a cognitive behavioral psychologist, afterall.

But I've read a good enough amount of parenting books in which good enough mothering is used as a reference point. I have used this reference point in teaching parenting classes. And I have developed my own personal understanding that guides me toward a better appreciation for that which I provide my kids.

I love my kids, to the point where it nearly hurts. I feed them three meals a day, provide shelter for them, referee their squabbles, wipe their tears, make them do their homework (sometimes all in one sittting) and yes, I lose my cool every now and then. Spit nails and breathe fire, even.

I don't advocate angry outbursts, but hey, I'm a work in progress, I have my limits, and I'm trying. Really hard.

I think its fairly accurate to guesstimate that for every lousy mommy moment, I have provided one hundred nurturing ones. And that's good enough to raise up a healthy kid.

So good enough mothering has become my personal mommy mantra, my self soothing, self-calming, stop-guilt-in-it's-tracks meditation phrase. On those days when I fear I am a lousy mom because I didn't talk my kids through a hurt feeling or a missed opportunity. On those days when I lose my temper and look more like Joan Crawford than Carol Brady. Because continual second-guessing and wearing-my-guilt-on-my-sleeves drains me of the now moments I need to be as good of a parent as I can be.

So it is, on those days, that I remember that kids are sturdy and resilient by design. They are genetically endowed with the ability to thrive despite emotional nicks and scrapes. They know they are loved even when they learn the hard way that mommy has a boiling point and brother, you'd better step lightly on those mornings when she was up blogging way past her bedtime. And it's that love as a constant that raises up good enough kids.

Cave momma illustration by Peggy Maceo. Can be found here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

to which this mom is left speechless

I found a pair of girls corduroy pants in my bedroom, that look to be my daughters' size.

I go to their room and ask them, "Do these fit either of you?"

They both replied, "No."

Hmmm. What is wrong with the pants?

To which my fashion savvy daughter enlightens me: "I can't wear those because they make my butt look big."

My ten year old thinks her butt looks big?

Using my sternest, no nonsense voice, I replied, "Oh, they do not. You don't need to worry about such nonsense. Now here, take the pants"

Savvy Daughter: "Oh yes they do! They don't have back pockets. Pants without back pockets make your butt look big!"

Stern Me: "That has nothing to do with anything. Here, take the pants."

Savvy Daughter: "Yes, Mom! Pants without pockets make your butt look big! They do! Look, it says so in the book you gave me!"

In my most incredulous mom voice: "What?" (Thinking, "yeah, right!")

To which she produces the book, that yes, I gave her for Christmas last year, School Handbook for Girls* by Lisa Regan. I purchased it at the Scholastic Book Sale put on by their school each year.

And then my daughter quickly flips to the exact page, titled, Dream Jeans, where it says,

"If you're concerned that your butt is too big to wear jeans, think again. Choose a pair with large rear pockets to minimize your butt. Small pockets make it look bigger and no pockets will make it look huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge!"

Savvy Daughter: "See, Mom?!?"

I say nothing. I know when I've been beat.

And instead of taking a moment to explain that she has a beautiful little butt and doesn't need to worry about her butt looking huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge like the book I gave her says, I left the room with my mouth hanging open, determined to write a letter to the publisher, or leave an angry review on Amazon books, or both.

Or maybe just to blog about it.

*BackPackBooks. 2006. Miles Kelly Publishing Ltd.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Mental Pause Mama, of The Mental Pause Chronicles, is hosting a bloggy book club meeting today, here.

I am participating.
I will have to write this on the fly,

I've only got three million
chores on my to-do-list today.
Bear with me.


Without doubt, the single most redeeming aspect of Stephanie Meyer's book was Edward. Not just Edward's cool and beautiful hawtness, but his restraint. His dangerous desire reigned in with low grunts and growls. His tender touch and sweet breath. How much he longed for Bella's sweet smell. What woman isn't turned on by a man who finds her scent captivating and damned near irresistible? Oooh yeah, baby. Suck my blood now. (It was enough to revive this reader's carnal desires of the human variety, if you know what I mean, and, I don't mind publicizing, one of the few books from which my husband has reaped personal benefit).

The second most redeeming facet of Twilight is the underlying storyline: teenage vampires in our midst, or mist. Well, both. It's a fascinating concept. The explanations, the myth borrowing and busting. I especially loved the ingenious vampire version of vegan. It's a metaphor for humanitarian motives: overcoming our baser instincts, practicing self discipline, bettering ourselves by making conscientious and healthy choices.

The most disappointing aspect of this book is our heroine, Bella. She stumbles through this book, literally and figuratively, in a romantic daze. I didn't find it cute. I didn't find it endearing. I found it annoying as hell. I found her clutziness a symbol of weakness and a lack of forthright, confident self-directedness and self-knowledge. Ok, so Bella is a teenager in love. Cut her some slack, why don't I? Of course. But the heroine is supposed to grow and undergo significant change in the course of a novel. I don't see this happening.

Frustrated and irritated, I just didn't find much to admire in Bella. Yes, she's a dutiful little student who gets high grades. So an intelligent young heroine, in the academic sense, yes. But otherwise, she does not represent a strong heroine with a purpose that I respect and want my daughters to emulate. I kept hoping to see a young woman who grows to make decisions in her own best interest, not one who repeatedly drops everything and reroutes her life in singular pursuit of a romantic interest. As one example, Bella becomes largely bored with her friends and loses them whenever Edward wiggles his perfect little finger. This is so not the modern message we want for our teenage girls, or adult women, for that matter.

Time and again we see Bella happily choosing the traditional female role of service toward others and nurturing loved ones, often at her own expense. Twilight opens with Bella leaving her home in Arizona, not because she wants to get to know her father better and explore new terrain but as a sacrificial offering to her mother, to alleviate her mother's guilt. Once she gets there, she eagerly cooks for, worries about and dotes on her father, the other man in her life, who, for reasons not explained, has lived alone for longer than a decade. What? No eligible women in Forks?

But the biggest problem I had with this novel? That tired and insidious female victimhood thing happening. Female victim romanticized. Yet another female rescued by strong, perfect, omnicient male. Made sexy.

At one point an evil foe is in hot pursuit: Bella comes up with the plan to save herself and her vampire friends. And everyone around her nods. Yes, this plan could save us.

Ah, I thought with satisfaction. Finally. Redemption. Bella's transforming on the page. She will save herself and save Edward too, rather than the other way around.

But no. Instead she walks right into harms way, into the hall of mirrors, further endangering herself and Edward. It reminded me of so many books and movies where the heroine (seldom her male counterpart) does the very thing that puts her in the most danger, leaving the audience incredulous: "Why is she doing that?!? What is she thinking?!? She's so stupid!!"

With Bella, I'm disappointed to say, we are given a weak and clumsy victim in need of repeated rescuing. Bah.

And yet, upon completing Twilight, what did I do? I quickly ran into my teenager's room and found the sequel, New Moon. Must see what happens next. Must be seduced by more Edwardy hawtness. Feminism be damned.

This is the true gift of Meyer's writing. Like her hero Edward, she keeps us wanting more, even when it isn't all that good for us.

Friday, December 05, 2008

feel stupid much?

Magpie posted a One Word meme yesterday. The first prompt was: Where is your cell phone?

The meme question reminded me. A little earlier in the day I was sitting at my kitchen table (inhaling) (scarfing) (wolfing down) eating a late lunch (sourdough pretzels and cheese, not so much a lunch as a snack when lunch was skipped due to much-too-busy schedule), when I heard my cell phone ring.
I'd been expecting an important call all day (from a district attorney, and you know how those must be put at top priority, right?) so I was up in a flash looking for my ringing phone. Frantically searching my cluttered kitchen countertops, I couldn't find it anywhere. But it sounded like it was close by. Like it was right in front of me. But where?!?

Well, it was close. But it was not in front of me, it was behind me. As in, attached to my behind. Tucked in the rear pocket of my jeans. Right where I put it so I wouldn't miss the call. Thanks to my brain fugue, and my running around like a chicken on meth, the call went to "missed" and they didn't leave a message. Was it the D.A. ? I didn't know. And I never call back unknown numbers when they don't bother to leave a message. So I was left to wonder. And finish my lunch.
(Turns out it wasn't the D.A. and I still have no idea who it was).

Thanks Geekologie for letting me borrow the picture.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

it goes something like this

Me to SAM: "I'll be right there, honey!"

I just want to check my blog real quick.. See if I've gotten any new comments today. And then I'll be off. Real fast, like.

Ooh, look at this. Several comments to be moderated. Goodie! Now, who is that? Somebody new. I need to click over and check her blog real quick. Leave a comment of appreciation.

Oh and while I'm here, let me just check on a couple of my favorite blogs. The regulars. Just a couple (look over my shoulder, see SAM reading his newspaper). Ah good. He hasn't noticed. Maybe three or four, real quick ones.

But wait, this is a long post. Hmm, let's see. Looks interesting. Haha. She sure has a way with words.

Read a few (dozen) witty comments.
And who is that? What a clever profile name. I bet she's got a worthwhile blog. Let me check out that one before I close out the window....

SAM (20 minutes later, sounding extra irritated): "Coffee, what are you DOING? Are you coming or not?!?"

Me: "Oops. Sorrrrrrrr-eeeeeeeee. I'll be there in just a sec."

Just need to finish this one post...........

In the words of Linda Ellerbee, "and so it goes."

Victorian blogger picture found here.