Thoughtful ThursdayCalliope at Creating Motherhood has declared the month of July to be Blog Summer Camp! She has offered a prompt for each day. I plan to participate sometimes, in part to encourage me to write shorter blog posts.

For Calliope, camp means sitting at a long table and getting to know people.

For my husband, camp meant “lots of Judaism.”

For my college roommate, camp meant unsupervised time alone with boys.

For the camp counselor I had when I was 9, camp meant humiliation. She got her period in the pool, and everyone saw the cloud of blood, and everyone gossiped about it, and everyone gave her funny looks, every day, until camp was over. The rejection trickled down to her campers; I remember some kid saying to me, “Wait, you’re in Julie’s cabin? Ugh!” and then walking away. At the time, I only vaguely understood that my counselor’s embarrassment had something to do with her vagina.

For a close friend of mine, camp meant getting molested by the assistant director of the camp. He was not fired, but instead confined to desk duty with no contact with the children. He continued to glare at her through the window of his office.

For one of my sisters-in-law, camp meant another social world in which, unlike school, she had real friends. It is telling that her first email address incorporated the name of her summer camp. Through all of her tween years, she would talk all year long about the birthday party she’d have at camp, the activities she couldn’t wait to do, and the friends she couldn’t wait to see who were so much better than anyone at her stupid school. In her wildest dreams, camp would have meant home.

For me, camp meant getting the hell away from my parents. And mosquito bites.

What does/did camp mean to you?

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Thoughtful ThursdayBuilding off of another Prompt-ly discussion… Esperanza from Stumbling Gracefully blogged about whether we want too much. On the Prompt-ly list, Schmoopy posted an article from The Guardian about feminism being afraid of its flaws. Keiko from Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed blogged about feminism and shaping a just world.

I am a feminist, no question. Feminism to me means equality: in the workplace, in the home, in society. Sometimes it even means going the other direction to offset longstanding gender patterns. Through most of our marriage, my career has taken precedence over my husband’s. If anyone in our house is going to change a tire or fix the plumbing, it’s going to be me. (If anyone is going to bake a pie, it’s also going to be me.) My husband and I are equal partners and make all decisions together. Even the decision to get married was made together: no patriarchal proposals for us.

Even so, having my twins has actually made me more of a feminist. I have always had my sights laser-set on my career and achieving my goals. Even during all of the years of infertility, which certainly consumed plenty of time and energy, my career was still #1. I just didn’t understand my friends who took months or years off from their careers to be with their children. When I had to quit my main job and do my other job unpaid due to the pregnancy complications and upcoming arrival of the twins, I was still working on other stuff as much as my body would allow, on bedrest at home and even in the hospital. Once those babies arrived, though, nothing else mattered. I tried to squeeze in as much work as I could (which some weeks meant that I opened my email once, and other weeks meant I dragged myself to the office to try to catch up) but it took four months for me to start giving a shit, and six months before I started working for pay again. Finally I understood my friends who wanted to be with their babies rather than go right back to work. Personally I would have loved to do more work outside the home when they were little, if only I could have gotten my head together (and if someone had been paying me), but I finally understood and became less judgmental of the women who chose to prioritize career below family. I have also come to understand that having it all is much harder than it looks.

The other way that Burrito and Tamale have made me more feminist is by being boy-girl twins. Having a son and a daughter who are the same age really brings home all of the insane gender politics of childhood. They do dress in gender-typical ways (mostly because those are the hand-me-downs I received), but the clothes with words like Princess and Little Hero are banished. In other ways, at this age, I am aiming for gender-neutrality. They both play with dolls, and they both play with trucks. Books with strong messages about what boys and girls should do go straight into the donation pile. There are no rules in our house about what boys or girls are supposed to do or say or be. All of the gender politics will come with time, but I will aim for neutrality as long as I can. I will aim for equality all their lives.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Thoughtful Thursday: Fix

June 16, 2011

Thoughtful ThursdayI joined the wonderful new Prompt-ly listserv. (Psst… it’s pretty rockin’, in case you were thinking of joining.)

Anyway, on Prompt-ly, Intelligentsia member A suggested a prompt asking about people’s little daily annoyances.

Everyone has a daily issue (I think) — some idiosyncracy that you end up dealing with every day. For example, in my parent’s house, you couldn’t close or lock an exterior door anywhere (there were 4 doors that I’m counting) without giving it a hip check. So, what’s your daily issue, and why don’t you get it fixed? Leaky coffee maker? Broken oven thermostat?

Yesterday, I responded to the listserv:

We have several burned out lightbulbs right now. None are crucial — two in the dining room light fixture which has four other bulbs, one that’s part of a track light, and one in a bathroom with two others that work. I’m never thinking about changing them when I happen to have time and the opportunity to change them (can’t climb on stools with impressionable toddlers watching). The track light one is impossible to change without a 12-foot ladder which I do not have (and probably wouldn’t climb even if I did). There is no downside to leaving them burned out for a while, except that at every meal my son points out the dining room light and gazes quizzically.

But it reminds me of the days when my twins were newborns. When I was on bedrest, before I went into the hospital for a month, the lights in my husband’s office burned out. They are long fluorescent bulbs which required a trip to the hardware store, which I couldn’t make being on strict bedrest and he couldn’t make having to do everything for a wife on strict bedrest plus work. So we moved a lamp into his office. While I was in the hospital the lamp burned out, and it was a specialty halogen light which also would have required a trip to the hardware store. So he brought in another lamp. Soon after the babies came home from the NICU, that lamp burned out, and we were out of extra lamps to bring into his office. So he sat in the dark, literally for an entire month, because having newborn twins is beyond insane and we could barely feed ourselves, much less go to the hardware store.

Now, one day after writing that, we have only one burned-out lightbulb — the one that requires a very tall ladder. The motivator wasn’t the Prompt-ly list, though. Yesterday we got a call that we needed to show our house to some potential buyers today, so I went around finally replacing the bulbs. In the process I discovered two other bulbs that I hadn’t even realized were out (and replaced those too).

The house showing was also the impetus for unpacking one last bag from the trip we took in May, putting away the sewing box that I finished using several weeks ago, getting rid of a half-full moving box that’s been sitting in the basement since we moved here 5 years ago, and a bunch of other little tasks that never seem important.

For many years, DH and I would host a party every few months just to give us an external motivation to tidy up. Nowadays, we don’t host many parties, and anyone who comes over gets what they get. High-traffic areas like the kitchen, dining room, and playroom remain tidy every day. Places like our bedroom and bathroom are usually not terrible but not totally tidy — usually half a load of laundry waiting on the dresser to be put away, the bed rarely made. Lower-traffic areas (plus zones of chaos like the mail table) get cursory attention the night before the housecleaner comes over. The low-traffic areas only get serious attention when the realtor calls, which sadly has happened a total of 5 times since our house went on the market 8 months ago.

If someone ever buys this house, maybe I’ll finally go through the stuff that got tossed under our bed a couple of years ago.

To build on A’s prompt:
What in your house needs to be fixed? What will it take for you to make that happen?

Thoughtful ThursdayWhen I was on the airplane on my way to college, before the start of my freshman year, I had an irrational thought. When the plane landed, how did I know it was really the city where I planned to spend the next four years? They could just slap a sign on the airport and I’d believe that it was any city. It would clearly involve an elaborate hoax, not only the sign people at the airport but the airline and all of my fellow travelers. The hoax could even go beyond the airport if you planted a monument here, a regional food there. When I got to school, how would I know it was really the college it claimed to be? How long could they keep up the charade — all four years? I told you it was irrational.

I haven’t experienced anything like that until recently. I keep wondering, what if my mother isn’t really dead? Maybe she just stopped calling me. The only thing keeping me from this train of thought is that I watched her die. Maybe she wasn’t really dead and the medical staff lied? No, I watched her breaths slow and slow and cease. But maybe that wasn’t her? No, it was her. Because she was so sick she didn’t look entirely like herself, but it was her.

A year ago this week, my mother was living in her own house, driving her own car, going about her usual activities. And then all of a sudden she was in the hospital, and nothing ever went back to the way it had been. I know none of that was a hoax, because I could hear and see her new reality. But the absence of someone, there are a lot of things that could explain that. She could be hiding out. She could be giving me the silent treatment. She could be dead.

Sometimes, someone is late coming home, or you don’t hear from them for a while, and you wonder if something awful has happened. And sometimes something awful does happen and you wonder if it didn’t happen after all.

Have you ever wondered if anything was an elaborate hoax? Have you ever had a hard time believing that something was true?

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the June Intelligentsia, the people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post in May.

#20: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#19: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#17: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#12: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#4: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#2: St. Elsewhere

Thoughtful ThursdaySince my mother died, going to the mailbox has been a strange experience. for starters, I can no longer look forward to the letters my mother used to send every few days (even though we talked on the phone every day). Instead, the hand-written letters have consisted of condolence cards from people who either don’t use email or who have thought that the death of one’s mother deserves a physical card (including a couple of bloggy friends). I don’t know if the trickle of letters has dried up, or whether there are any others that will unexpectedly show up in the future. Even though they usually make me cry, I really appreciate each one.

For quite a while, I waited for the death certificate to arrive — not because I want it, but because various bureaucrats demand it before they will let you move on with your life. Eventually that came. My father told me that seeing his copy hit him hard, and so I expected the same, but really it was just a piece of paper.

During the same period, I have also waited for two items that I won in an online charity auction. The first one eventually arrived, and was delicious (s’mores with homemade marshmallows):

I’m still waiting on the second one, two months later, which is slightly annoying but also brings great excitement to each visit by the postman (or could it be the UPS guy? Burrito and Tamale also love seeing him drive up in his truck, not even knowing that he might be bringing cake — not that I will be sharing with them).

There’s one other unusual item I’m still waiting for: when I called my aunt to inform her of my mother’s death, she told me that she’d send a bunch of photos from my mother’s childhood. I had not spoken to my aunt in literally 20 years, and except for a couple of brief in-person visits when I was a kid, the extent of our contact was always me answering the phone and her immediately asking to speak to my mother. The notification call was the first real conversation I ever had with her. She told me that she has asked my mother for my contact info many times, but that my mother refused. These photos are even more precious than they would normally be because I have no photos of my mom before college — in fact, in my entire life I have only ever seen one photo of her as a child, one of her father (who I only recently learned has been dead since before I was born), and zero photos of anyone else from her family. I asked my mother to acquire these photos over and over for years, but she always put me off (sensing a pattern?). I have photos of my father’s ancestors going back four generations, and photos of my husband’s family going back three generations — photos that were guarded through wars, the Holocaust, and emigrations — but I do not have a single photo of my own mother as a child. Yet. Until the day, whenever it may be, that my aunt’s package arrives.

What is the next interesting thing that you expect to show up in your mailbox?