30 January 2006

Today I Accomplished Nothing

I said that to my husband, as we were discussing our days, over dinner. "The house is a wreck," I said. Bless the man, he laughed at me. He sees things differently. There are piles of laundry, both clean and dirty. Sure, all the diapers are folded and put away, and the laundry to be folded is in piles based on who it belongs to, and the dirty is sorted into loads to go into the washer, but I didn't *finish* it. That's because Kestrel needed to practice walking around the house. Four bunches of cilantro are still sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to transform them into pesto. They've been waiting a week already. I simply didn't get around to them, because Rowan needed a story read to him. There are balls of dog fur large enough to have their own microclimates rolling around on the floors, because I haven't vacuumed in... oh.... a really long time. But that's because by the time I had an opportunity to do it, Kestrel was sleeping, and only a very great fool trades a sleeping baby for a vacuumed floor. OK, so I did manage the grocery shopping. But I didn't get everything on the list, because Kestrel started fussing, and needed to be taken home, pronto. So I'll have to go again in the next few days. Oddly, I recognized his impatience and need to get out, while people in the store were still commenting on what a happy, calm baby I had. Makes me wonder what their standard for judgement is. I did do the big bathtub-toy-washing I was planning on doing, but that's because Rowan and I made a game of throwing all the toys into the net bag, and I let him push the buttons on the washing machine (moldy skanky bath toys *love* the sanitary cycle on the washer). And then we went and cuddled up in the glider and watched Star Wars while Kestrel finished his nap. The sinkful of dirty dishes (which, unfortunately, don't love the sanitary cycle on the washer, and must be done by hand) glared at me, but I ignored them successfully. And the dozen boiled eggs are nestled safely in the fridge; I was able to manage that, stepwise, because I'd put one egg in the water, go rescue Kestrel from wherever he'd gotten himself stuck, then go put another egg in the water, then Rowan would need lego help, then go put another egg in.... times twelve. Then boil. Then cool. One dozen eggs. Would have been a fifteen minute process for a normal human being. Took me an hour. So to continue the theme of the day, instead of tackling the chores after dinner, the four of us hung out together, played silly videos on Hubby's computer, Kestrel gnawed on everything, Rowan entertained himself, the cats, and his brother with his amazing raver flashing-light whistle. The boys eventually drifted off to sleep, and I followed them soon after. Hubby let the cats out and the dog in, and then snuggled up with the rest of us. I accomplished nothing. And I accomplished everything.

27 January 2006

Speech to the MBC, April 2005

I was invited to give this speech before the California State Senate, in its hearings regarding the Midwifery Board of California, and whether or not midwives in California should be allowed to attend those attempting vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC. I ended up not delivering it live, due to being seven months pregnant and not up to making the journey to Sacramento. It was, however, read for me. I'm posting it here so that it doesn't end up lost forever in the files of the State, or worse, in my Sent folder...

Ladies and gentlemen.... I would like to speak to you, not as a woman who was cut open for the most fatuous of reasons, not as a woman who, because her baby was breech, or her care provider was fearful, or it was the day of the big golf game, was subjected to needless abdominal surgery. I would like to speak to you as a consumer. I don't need to appeal to your emotions or tell you my story; if you were interested in the stories of women who have survived their ceseareans, you'd be members of ICAN, and I'd not have a new thing to say to you. Here's what I will say to you, though. The wrangling between midwives, OBs, various medical regulatory boards, and insurance companies that has created the hostile VBAC climate in California has led me to embrace the idea of unassisted birth as my safest option. And it's not as radical as you might think; here in the western US, we are the daughters of frontierswomen, who had unassisted births as a matter of course, of recorded family history, and of not inconsiderable pride. There is a rich heritage there, ready to be taken up again. Which means that because you, collectively, were unwilling to work with me, were unwilling to practice unemcumbered, evidence-based, family-centered, respectful medicine...because none of you were willing to support me in VBAC, I stand before you as somewhere around $5-7k of lost revenue for the midwives of my area, or somewhere between $10K and $20K of lost revenue for my local hospital/OB. Multiply by that by the size of the family I plan on having. Then multiply that by the number of women I speak to every day on birth-related email groups and message boards, at playgrounds, at libraries and grocery stores, who are in the same position as me, and who are arriving at the same decision as me. That is a lot of lost revenue. Any retail business can tell you that one unhappy customer tells 10 other people. I am here to tell you, I'm not merely unhappy. I am angry. I am a grown, responsible, homeowning, taxpaying, fully-employed adult, and I will not sit still for some group of regulators to impose language like “patient will not be allowed a trial of labor” on me. I will not be "treated" for my normal, healthy pregnancy by someone who is less conversant with the relevant research than I am. I will not be marginalized. I am voting with my feet. I am voting with my hard-earned dollars. And I am tired of your wars. End them. Realize that we are your market, and your survival demands that you be more responsive to your market than you have been. Because we *will* keep having babies, and as long as you contine on this path of denying us VBACs, we will begin, in greater numbers, to realize that we don't need you.

24 January 2006

What ice?

Through sheerest good luck, I met a woman the other day who does all kinds of incredible travelwriting. And she's got this awesome hook, of riding cool motorcycles through fascinating places. I'm frankly in awe of her. She's got the writing career I'd only halfheartedly dreamed of having, sort of allowed my life to wash me away from, and am in the process of reclaiming. But that's not the point. Since I met her, I've been turning over in my mind, what kinds of cool hooks I have. I admit that when bowled over by someone else's sheer coolness, it's really easy to see your own life as being kinda 2-D and Not All That. I keep reading bits and pieces of her stuff, thinking "wow, motorcycles sure are a neat way to break the ice with folks all over the world. Shiny!" And while I was in the middle of some intensely biological childcare activity, the thought struck me... hey, I have kids! And kids are sure a neat way to break the ice with folks all over the world! Shiny!" Um, hello? Dense much? Maybe, just maybe, there's no freaking ice!!!! Maybe, just maybe, there's a whole world, right here and out there and everyplace in between, and we're all plenty cool here. Sans ice. Maybe the whole world is just that much more accessable than we have been led to believe, and maybe all you have to do to write about it is be in it.

15 January 2006

Wake Up

Most of the people I've run into know that Monday, January 16, is a holiday. No post. No banks. No work, for a lot of people. And when I nudge them "It's Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday" they say "oh, yeah. Right." and go on with their plans for the day. For shame. He had a dream. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all have heard the soundbites. But what we are not doing is anything, damnit, anything at all to honor the man. We torture innocent people on foreign ground, and no one does anything. We slaughter mothers' sons for no damn good reason at all, and no one does anything. We shall overcome? No. We shall continue on being the monster that we were. From Alabama to Arabia, we'll continue on our merry way, wreaking most violent devastation and mayhem. My man Zack said it best. WAKE UP! (now go read those lyrics. Or better yet...here's the critical piece:

"He may be a real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed obediance to white liberal doctrine of non-violence...and embrace black nationalism Through counter-intelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential trouble-makers...And neutralize them."
What have you done? You! Yes, you, reading this now. My friends and loved ones and those of you who've just stumbled upon this blog.... what have you done lately? Get off your ass and go do something meaningful for MLK's dream. Make today a day on, not a day off. He believed in civil rights. Go write your Representatives about stopping torture. And while you're at it, set yourself up for the 4-Minute Democracy, and then use it. He believed in nonviolence. Pick a war protest, and go participate. He believed in "the table of brotherhood." Go wrap your head around someone else's viewpoint. Need more ideas? Go here or here. And if you can't manage to do anything else, at least read the whole I Have A Dream speech. It's astonishing, once you've read it, how often you'll hear it misquoted, misrepresented, or used totally out of context. It's the least we can do to honor the speech the way he wrote it, not the way it's spun. We have no one of his stature in our dialog today. Those who would speak truth to power tend to get shot here in the Land of the (heh) Free. And through apathy and the daily grind, we have become a nation of the somnambulent. That must stop. Wake up!

13 January 2006

The Muse Prefers a Keyboard

"Yellow" says Is. "Your eyes are turning yellow." While chatting our way through a passable luncheon at a local establishment, Is and I were discussing writing. And just like that, the Inspiration struck for a piece. I quickly rattled off the first few lines, and then, as it does, the rest hung, waiting for me to type. "I have long considered the creative impulse to be a Visit - a thing of grace, not commanded or owned so much as awaited, prepared for. A thing, also, of mystery." says Loreena McKennitt. I know precisely what she means. My Muse smacks me in the back of my brain, and power-dumps three or four starting lines into my head. I have approximately five minutes to get to a keyboard, or it's gone forever. Apparently during this time, my eyes also turn yellow. I've never actually bothered to run past a mirror while scrambling for my laptop, so I was wholly unaware of this particular aspect of the creative visit. I'm usually more focused on getting to an outlet pronto, so I can catch this particular piece of grace before it hits its "use-by" date. In the interests of more fully being available to the Muse, I pinged my local geek community with questions about tiny, portable keyboard-entry notetaking devices. And got a pile of jokes about a pad and pencil. I've tried it. It just doesn't work. There's something about a keyboard that makes it all come out right that I cannot duplicate with non-keyboard writing. Certainly the Steno Solution would be cheaper and more accessable. But the Muse prefers the keyboard. "Woah." says Is. "You just lost it, didn't you?" She's right. The allotted five minute window is past, and the inspiration is so gone, I can't even remember the first few lines that I was originally smacked with. Gone. In potentia. My eyes are back to normal, apparently, and I'm nibbling absently on the remains of lunch. The french fries aren't bad, it's a pleasant day with pleasant company, and my muse has ditched my inadequately-responsive butt. In favor, I must suppose, of someone with a Treo.

12 January 2006

Technical Aspects of Blogging

My God. I thought I was just here to write. This blogging thing is more complicated than I thought. I feel like the guppy set loose in the big bad sea, with nothing but Google to protect me. I guess it's part of my inherent type-A-ness, but if I'm going to do a thing, I'm going to do it well, with an understanding of the dynamics, the scope, the possibilities. Although I am a bit tentative about writing this, simply because I know I'll come back in a few months and laugh at how sophomorish my understanding was at this time. There are books written on blogging! I am laughing my butt off even as I type this. Hello! If you're devoted to your medium, work within it! There's something profoundly disingenuous about writing a book about blogging. And one of the books I found is nothing more than... you guessed it... a collection of essays formerly hosted on blogs, but gathered together, "to give them context." I shudder. Seems to me that folks actually blogging are the ones to listen to about blogging. And there are gobs of them. ProBlogger has heaps of really deep material that I've just started dipping my big toe into. Performancing.com has the delightful trait of showing me just how much more to know there is. Blogging for Fun and Profit is a kinder and gentler version of similar data. Some of the allure of any given blog is the visual impact. I have seen some glorious custom-designed sites out there, and frankly, I want one. Natalie R. Collins' is particularly striking. I want to break free of the blogspot-generic-template, and do something really fabulous. Course, that involves talent (which I don't have) and money (which I will get more of). Good thing I have webdesigner friends who can help me out. Course, that all just hangs off your blogging platform. I hopped onto this home at Blogspot simply cause it was easy. But no. It's never just easy, is it? I'll be reviewing tools, apparently, thanks to this article from the USC Annenberg School. Frankly, I'm just grateful to, at this point in my blogging career, understand half the language in there. The comparison chart alone sorely tested my new vocabulary. For a lot of folks, blogging is the kinder, gentler gateway to the publishing world. I just found BookAngst 101 this morning, and recognize all kinds of folks I know there. And of course, How To Blog is a huge Technorati category. As it is whenever you start researching something new to you on the Web, you click, and read, and click.... I'm probably hundreds of pages deep just now. And feeling like such a small fish. Discussion, meta-discussion, uber-meta-discussion. I think the toughest thing to hang onto in this firehose of information is.... Veracity. Oh, yeah. Apparently "I just wanna write!" is some form of copout out there in the world. You have to find your group, your designation, you have to get blogrolled, you have to be listed on Technorati, you must have your RSS feed working flawlessly. Monetizing is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you approach it. The amount of tension is just astonishing. It's like it's some perverse form of competition right out of the gate. As if there aren't enough readers out there, and each one must be courted, achieved, and possessed, to the exclusion of all else. Scarcity thinking, that. There's plenty of bandwith for all of us.

06 January 2006

The World-Famous Cod Hole

Jason was cleaning out our entertainment cabinet, and oh hurrah, found a videotape I thought I'd lost. It's the record of our excursion, back when we were fairly newly a couple, diving on a liveaboard exploring "The World Famous Cod Hole", which is a dive site way up along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. And as you do, he immediately popped it into the VCR. I had to leave the room to cry. It's not that I don't love my life now. It's not like I wouldn't die for my boys a thousand times over. It's not like motherhood isn't the coolest, most profound, most life-altering spiritual exercise I've ever undertaken. But watching that video, I saw a girl who had a life where she could say "hey, it's been fun, but I'm heading off for two months to Fiji and Australia to go have adventures and soak in the ocean. I imagine I'll come back if I feel like it." And damn, I miss that. The soundtrack to the video that the guy on the boat did of that trip is the Des'ree song "Ya Gotta Be". It's been on fulltime on the radio in my head since Jason found the tape. Probably doesn't help that Rowan is watching the thing nearly compulsively. He is obviously having a fine time integrating this woman he knows as "Mama" with that person on the tape, who is six years younger, sporting two-inch-long screaming bleached blonde hair, and is in excellent physical shape. He seems delighted that he can now point me out. The first few watch-throughs, he mistook me for another woman on the trip; a doughy midwestern newlywed who annoyed the bejeebers out of me at the time. I suppose that's some form of cosmic come-uppance. I'm pretty sure that finding that tape is yet another notice from the Cosmic Muffin, that I really, really need to get on with my life. Or back to my life, it's hard to say which, precisely. I think that through sheerest inertia, I have somehow allowed myself to go fallow, and to sort of circle around the shallow end of the drain. Or maybe that's just what one naturally does when one gets married and has children. All things reckoned, I'm doing just fine. And then in quiet moments, Des'ree sneaks into the back of my brain, and she's saying to me,

Listen as your day unfolds Challenge what the future holds Try and keep your head up to the sky Lovers, they may cause you tears Go ahead release your fears Stand up and be counted Don't be ashamed to cry You gotta be You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm You gotta stay together All I know, all I know, love will save the day
Potato Cod at Barrier Reef

05 January 2006

Shout OUT!!!!

Ohmygod!!!! You guys!!! 175 of you read this blog yesterday! I am just flattered and overwhelmed blessed and stoked, deeply deeply stoked beyond all rational description. This blog was something I started kinda for the kids, and kinda as a place to nurture and incubate my fledgling writing career, while I worked up the confidence to submit stuff to publishers, and the courage to face my rejection slips like a big girl. My first three queries, based on expansions of posts here, have elicited one total rejection, one rejection-that-led-to-acceptance, and one strong encouragement (I won't say it's an acceptance yet; it's a dedicated fan who's friends with an editor of a *very* influential genre publication, and willing to hand-deliver my submission to her.) It's a start. It's a heck of a start. Thank you all for your support; it's meant a lot so far, and I'm sure I'll keep peeking back on these stats when I feel like a total failure who's incapable of stringing two clauses together. Keep reading, keep commenting, keep emailing me. I'll do my darnedest to keep posting stuff that keeps you coming back. Write on and be stoked!

03 January 2006

The Escapist Files

I'm currently re-reading one of my favorite chits of escapist literature... An Embarassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof. It's a tale of two Toronto publishing folks who pack it in for two years and go sailing around the Caribbean. What I still can't understand, and I've read the book many, many times, is why the heck they went back at all. The narrative of the journey is pretty cool, but then it just kinda....trickles down to nothing. I just don't get it. Which says something about where my head is at, clearly. I mean, there they are. They have the boat. They have the income generation from back home. All they'd have to do is get a little frugal, and they could spin it out to three, four, five years. Or a lifetime. But no. Apparently there's something compelling about Toronto's "flat greyness" over the panoply of the Caribbean. It seems to me that once you've reached escape velocity from a life that clearly stresses you out, that involves less mental, spiritual, and physical fulfillment than the one you're leading, that what you should do is congratulate yourself on your progress, and keep going that way! I think that of the many horrors the Industrial Revolution has perpetrated on the western cultural psyche, the idea that we must, individually and collectively, settle, is one of the worst. It's common knowledge that the old idea that you pick a job/career at a particular company and stick with it, for a bit of mutual support between you and the company, is dead. No one looks out for the worker in these times. And personally, I think the drive to consumerist attainment as a measure of personal success is pretty lacking. I mean... I have a house, why do I need the house? My car gets me there, why do I need it to be a personal symbol? Just when did stuff become people, anyway? I'm thinking that if I'd gotten my hands on that boat, they'd have never pried me off.

01 January 2006

Slippery Slope of Diapering

Kestrel is seven months old. In the last five days, we've had precisely one accident. Things are going great. Things are also going great in the mobility department; he's crawling, he's pulling himself up to stand, he's just a motile creature. Needless to say, I cannot even hope to keep him on the small piddle pad in bed any more. And I just hate sleeping on the waterproofing-o-rama. I just hate it. Serendipitiously, the Mighty Inventor of "Cue Mariachis!", my pal Pilar, sent me seven of the most glorious AIOs I've ever laid eyes on, from Free Range Baby. (Conventional diaperers are gonna laugh at me now, I can hear it) I get this brainflash, that hey, since Kes is signalling 100% these days, and we're totally in the groove, I can slap an AIO on him for nighttimes, and not have to constantly wrestle with the whole bedproofing scheme. (The topic of why, if he's signalling so perfectly, I'm still such a whacko about having him sleep on waterproofing is a topic of a whole other email, if not some minor psychoanalysis. But anyway....) And this, I realize, is where the slippery slope started. It's so much easier to strap the waterproofing to the baby! Course, because I am a hardcore ECer, the very thought that he might actually pee in those gorgeous AIOs is abhorrent and just a little nauseating. So far, he hasn't. We're both sleeping better now that we don't have to wrestle him back onto the pad after each nurse, potty, and squirm session. But finally, I can see how you'd start getting lazy. Thankfully, I don't have that temptation, since Kes is one of the loudest signallers I've ever met. And of course, at 7 months, he's a mere two months shy of the expected (Chinese) graduation, and I'm keeping that firmly in mind, because well I know that if we blow that deadline, I will get remonstration with my egg rolls from Annie, my native EC coach.