Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Money

I smiled at the Ducks Crossing sign 
And smirked at Private Road
As we looked down our noses
At this perfect rendition of suburbia

My son called out
Where is the downtown?
Not long after we had passed
The strip mall

And I caught myself thinking 
New Money
In a way that made me want 
To slap myself

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2/52: Married Love and other stories by Tessa Hadley

I picked up this book (or more accurately put it on my ereader) after reading this review in the New York Times. 

It is worth reading through the author notes at the end. I particularly loved this (depressing as it is as a statement of the position of the stay at home parent) ...

"I'm sure my daughters-in-law can't imagine a retreat so complete and dull-seeming as those years of shopping and cooking and cleaning and waiting in the school playground. They're right, probably. Though there's something to be said for all that slow invisible work the mind does when it isn't buoyed along by anything outside. And there are lessons you learn, too, knowing you're weak and unimportant and socially invisible - these lessons ought to keep you sane and clean and without illusions."

And this ...

"When you do finally make your way into the writing personality that is your real one, it's such a relief ... It's like wandering round for years and years in a writing wilderness and then letting yourself in at least to your own house with your own key."

Only in America: God and guns

An article in today's New York Times described a general rush on gun and ammunition sales post-Sandy Hook, a rush that was already underway post-Obama's re-election. This rush can be interpreted as: liberal in power, better stock up before they tighten the law on gun sales; or the more disturbing but less readily articulated, black man in power better get me a gun.

Among the hoards frantically attempting to buy up big at the tiny counter of a gun shop near Atlanta was a pastor from Knoxville, Tennessee. A man of the cloth. A man of God. A follower of Jesus. Rushing out to buy a gun. 

And a few paragraphs later we meet an Iraqi war veteran who had just sold his semiautomatic for three times the usual price - $1700 - and who was determined not to feel bad about this post-Sandy Hook windfall. He would be using the money to pay for dental work, a new computer and his first year of Bible College. 

God and guns. Only in America do they seem to go together like love and marriage, a horse and carriage.

I don't get it. I never will. I am not a believer but I was raised Catholic and sat through endless sermons during thirteen years of religious school and not once do I recall hearing anything from a pulpit that indicated that the Jesus man that so many gun lovers purport to follow would be a signed up member of the NRA, an owner of any kind of weapon let alone a semiautomatic.

And then there is the thought that guns and gun culture are in and of themselves a religion to many in the US, an article of faith that is just as resistant to facts and analysis as traditional religion but a whole lot scarier.

Gun culture. It's as American as apple pie but a whole lot more difficult to to digest.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The broken window theory of feminism

It actually does matter. All of it.

That might seem a bit boring to some who roll the eyes and say surely not, here we go again, the women are up in arms. Outrage! Why can't they just focus on the important stuff?

The argument that we should stick to the big ticket items - equal pay for equal work, paid parental leave, domestic violence, rape - and forget the rest has some appeal at first glance. Surely we are sapping our energy if we jump on every little incident.

Or are we? The way I see it, it is the pervasive everyday sexism (follow @everydaysexism on twitter if you aren't already) - the stuff that girls and women are subjected to as routine - that informs the cultural landscape and promotes the very perceptions that support and reinforce those 'big ticket items'.

It is not exactly surprising that in a country where a major tabloid newspaper named a horse as Sportswoman of the Year, sportswomen are seen as lesser in a number of important and concrete respects - less coverage, less sponsorship deals, and less pay. And while that is one example of an incident that led to a wave of feminist 'outrage' (they may as well just go the whole hog and call us hysterical) it is part of a bigger picture.

Of course we must pick our battles, because if we were to literally jump up and down about every incident of sexism that occurs in our daily lives as women, we wouldn't have much time to do anything else (although we would be be super fit).

I would never be so presumptuous to tell a person impacted by racism to just turn down their outrage-meter. Does anybody really think that everyday or 'casual' racism is unrelated to statistics on race and poverty, imprisonment rates and unemployment? Or that everyday racism in and of itself is not damaging to the psyches of those who have no choice but to live with it?

The broken window theory of feminism is not my idea. I stole it from twitter (if anybody knows the origins let me know so I can credit) but I think is a great conceptual framework to think about the real impact so-called everyday sexism has on women and girls; and why expressing our outrage and disgust at these everyday incidents is anything but a waste of time and energy. For young women in particular, recognising and protesting these everyday examples may also be an empowering first step towards becoming fully fledged multi-dimensional joint destroyers.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book 1/52: The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon

I started this book in December 2012, stopping abruptly when the shock of the Sandy Hook shooting made everything else feel irrelevant. I finally picked up where I had left off after Christmas. And I am so glad I did because Mary Gordon's The Love of My Youth is a sublime book, wise and beautifully written.

The New York Times Book Review had this to say:

Emotionally engaging and smoothly flowing, “The Love of My Youth” showcases Gordon’s power to write with controlled urgency, without dissembling or exaggeration, to reveal truths that are hard to face in the unsparing light of day, but without which we could not see ourselves as we are.

Click here for the full review.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Netflix before breakfast (is probably not the end of the world)

The morning did not start well. My youngest began demanding access to Netflix before his feet had hit the ground, before a decision on breakfast had been made, before a toilet seat had been sprayed by a boy not yet awake enough to aim.

I despaired. How could I have raised a child whose first thought on waking was deciding what he was going to watch on a screen? And my horror at this situation overcame the temptation to put an end to the nagging by muttering a reluctant 'yes' under my breath (of the sort that was loud enough to be heard by small ears but quiet enough that I could tell myself I had not really given permission).

Later that day we entered a museum, and demands were replaced by wide-eyed wonder. My boy carried a pen and notepad and spent the next four hours making 'notes' and drawing diagrams of the animals we came across. Before long his brother had joined him, and together they attracted smiles and nods of approval of the sort I had not received in a public place for quite some time.

The next morning, instead of thinking of Netflix before breakfast, my youngest slipped out of bed and onto the floor beside his brother. As I dozed under glow in the dark stars and a bedspread decorated in space motifs, these two boys created a world fueled by nothing more than their imaginations and Lego, a world that lasted all the way to lunchtime.

I often hanker for a simpler time, for a home with one television and four channels that are unwatchable for most of the day. Instead we have no television and an embarrassing number of small and highly portable screens. Of course I worry (isn't that part of the job description), but then I see my boys responding to the world around them with the same sense of wonder and curiosity that has always been the hallmark - even the litmus test - of a good childhood.

And while I cannot know for sure if the kids are truly going to be alright, although I wish with every fiber of my being that they are, I do understand that it is a luxury of sorts to even begin to imagine that the presence of televisions or small screens or even social media are going to be the deciding factor in that particular equation.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If I could walk 10,000 steps ...

Yes, I am living the cliche. January 1 and the 2013 health kick is in motion. To that end I have committed to 10,000 steps per day all recorded with frightening accuracy by my fancy pedometer which reports on me to my computer ... so there is no escape.

10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs and 5 miles are my daily goals. One of the unexpected benefits of this approach is that the loathsome work of picking up around the house can be looked at a little more positively as it all counts and on clean-up days I really do clock a lot more steps.

I am going to avoid boring diet talk on this blog because I know (and get why) it pisses people off for lots of good reasons ... and really it is just incredibly uninteresting to everybody but myself. But I will say that I have set myself some ambitious goals this year in what I shall euphemistically call the health department and the good news is that I know when I make a very specific conscious effort in these areas I feel better in all respects.

I am taking a Heart, Mind, Body approach, something a wise aunt once suggested to me (and she knows who she is). I am pretty good at nourishing my mind and my family give me lots of heart ... but even in these areas there is more work to do.

Now I am off to locate and plug in my somewhat neglected cross trainer as I have another 1700 steps to take today, plus some pages to read and small children to cuddle to sleep.

Wishing you all a year that is everything you want it to be.

Michelle x