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For Women

January 20, 2017

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I find I don’t know quite what to say. Today our nation inaugurated a new president. Tomorrow there is a Women’s March scheduled to protest that president’s position on a variety of issues. Many close, dear friends of mine– kind, thoughtful, faithful, educated and good people that I love and respect and cherish and admire– are rallying behind the event because they are understandably and deservedly upset about things that have been said and done, and things they fear might happen. I share in their pain, in their outrage, at having any kind of human being deemed to be less than human. I believe in the dignity of all people. We ALL deserve to be respected as human beings with the same God-given rights. The organizers and sponsors of the March say that they “believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” And the reason I’m troubled by this March is precisely because I agree.

Women are humans, and therefore the same rights that apply to humans apply also to women. I believe this is part of the transitive property of equality, or some kind of logic equation whose name escapes me. I also believe this is common sense, but since that is sadly not always so, it needs to be said. No one kind of human person is better or more valuable than any other human person. Humans all have the same basic rights, regardless of any other variable. If human, then rights. According to the Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles of the Women’s March (which you can read in its entirety here), these rights include ‘Reproductive Freedom,’ and as the explicit position of the organizers states, “this means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.”

Now, hold up right there. Why did they have to put that in there? I have to imagine that the people who put together these ideas are truly trying to look out for the disenfranchised, the weak, the vulnerable. I believe they have noble albeit misguided intentions, and are legitimately (justifiably) afraid that the new president does not equally respect the rights of all people. These are feelings we share, and it is absolutely right to stand up for the weak, for the helpless. But there is a real problem with this Guiding Principle– it does not stand for all people. “All people” means just that, ALL PEOPLE, whose human rights cannot be negated by the preference of any other human. Human babies who are at any given moment growing in the womb are a part of “all people.” They have beating hearts and human DNA– DNA which is unique to them and was present from the moment of conception– and they have just as much right to be protected and respected as any other person. Moreover, there is no such thing as a “safe” abortion. Fact: in all cases, an abortion leaves at least one person dead. And I say ‘all’ because sometimes it does not work– in the rare case that the baby survives, it is no longer an abortion, but a birth. Words. So ‘safe’ ≠ ‘abortion’, and these two things shall never cross.

And this is the hangup for me. I cannot understand something which claims to defend the rights of all people, and at the same time declares that some people are not people in the same way that other people are people. Isn’t that the very thing that this movement is protesting? I do not want to give the impression that women’s rights are not important to me– I am pro-human, which makes me pro-woman, because human rights are women’s rights, and on this we all can agree. I know that abortion (and life, and how the two intersect) is something complicated. But a person is a person, so in that sense it becomes much less complicated.

I fight for the rights of humans. What’s more, so does everyone else who thinks as I do. Feminism does not preclude this. Plenty of pro-life people are participating in this Women’s March because of this, because they want to support women regardless of their stage of life. Some, such as the New Wave Feminists, even tried to partner officially with the event, so great is the desire for solidarity and justice. The organizers of the March then felt the need to not only remove the group from the list of partners, but also to write clauses in the Guiding Principle that explicitly excludes it, and anybody who shares its position that human life is worth defending. What does this have to do with standing up for women, for humans? Which is it? Pro-all-the-people, or pro-only-some-of-the-people? Pro-life is pro-human is pro-woman, so therein lies my confusion. Or maybe my suspicion. This event is partly sponsored by Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and other abortion advocates, to the point where their principles have been intentionally built into the principles of the event. An event in support of defending all people and their inalienable rights. Something is not right.

To be absolutely clear, in no way do I oppose the coming together of people or groups who have differing opinions. Unity is key, we are all people deserving of respect, and in the defense of civility and dignity, we must all unite as people. So I can– and do– coexist lovingly with plenty of people who are, among many other things that do not define them, pro-choice and supporters of Planned Parenthood. What troubles me is the inclusion of an exclusion such as this in the stated principles of the movement. This exclusion troubles me greatly.

Do I think that plenty of amazing and committed people still will and should want to support such a movement despite this, and because there are other worthy and important issues at stake? Absolutely. But does it give me pause? Without a doubt. The big picture is crucial, but the devil is in the details.

To all my loved ones who are fired up to support the rights of women and all other people in danger of being demoted to lesser citizens: I share your passion and your belief, and I applaud you and support you in your pursuit of justice and peace and equality. We must never waver when standing up for the weak, or when giving a voice to those whose voices have been muted. But I pray that, despite all the noise and the propaganda, we will keep ever-present and at the forefront our shared humanity. Let OUR guiding principle be love.

Home Address

August 9, 2013

I was with my son at the doctor’s the other day when he (my son, not the doctor), at the most inopportune time, needed to go potty. The kind of potty which requires my assistance. So my very kind doctor moved on to his next patient to give us a little bit of time to sort our business out. The bathroom shares a wall with one of the examination rooms, so I could hear people talking (not the words, just a mumbling type of sound). And then, as I was bemoaning the timing and the nature of this bathroom visit, irritated at having to wipe someone’s bottom (a noble and necessary job, but if we’re being honest, it’s not like I love this part), I heard through the wall the very clear and distinct sound of a rapidly beating heart on the Doppler. It hadn’t been that long ago that I, too, was there listening for a heartbeat. And this unexpected and beautiful sound took my breath away for a moment. I couldn’t help but smile while I wiped my son, listening to that precious heart like it was my favorite song that had suddenly come on the radio. It was awesome. It warmed the cockles of my own, often sour-puss heart, and I told everyone that day about the awesome thing I heard while taking my son to the bathroom. I heard a little person.

 

The concept of ‘unborn’ has little to do with whether or not one lives, and everything to do with where one lives. Because when you are unborn, you are not un-alive; your heart beats, you grow, you change, you even go to the bathroom! So what you really are is just limited in where you reside. You must reside, at least for the time being, in a womb. It’s just the right size, just the right temperature, there’s room service, and the landlady is always nearby to address any problems that might come up. For a while, you keep a low profile and go about your business quietly. Over time, you develop a more high-profile lifestyle, more people notice you, and you start to outgrow what was once your perfect and cozy home. Eventually, that home is simply no longer adequate for you, so you move on to something literally bigger and brighter. (So much brighter!) But your first home was perfect. It was the right place for you at the time. And you weren’t any less of a person for residing there.

The Crosswalk

July 31, 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to talk about abortion and about respecting life. But I’ve got to start with whatever words I have. So in that spirit, let’s oversimplify for a moment. Imagine this scenario. You’re in your car, waiting at a corner for a pedestrian to cross the street, and you are running late for the first of many meetings. It’s just you and the pedestrian, there are no other cars or people around. That person seems to be moving slowly, and you are impatient. Man, have you got a day planned—tons to do! This person is really slowing you down. What can you do? The thought crosses your mind that you can run the pedestrian down with your car and be on your merry way. It wouldn’t take much, that person is so much more vulnerable than you; they don’t have the protection of their own car. And surely they are not going to accomplish as much as you are with their day. Surely not, they are so slow, they are only walking! And it would happen quickly, so you could just move on and not think about it. Nobody would think much of it— heck, most probably won’t even know it happened, not if you do it right.

 But how do you know where that person is headed? He (let’s make him a ‘he’) is clearly on his way somewhere, you just don’t know where. You can’t fathom where. All you know is where YOU are headed. But you will get there so much faster, that poor guy only has his two legs to get him to his destination. What’s the point? It’s going to be too hard for him and take too long. Your plans matter more. He is in your way. He’s holding you back. What’s the point of him walking anywhere? That’s not the best way to get from point A to point B. That’s not the way YOU would choose. “Sorry, guy, you didn’t know you would be getting in my way today, it’s not your fault, but I need to go!”

 So you run him down with the car, and eliminate him from your list of obstacles. He isn’t strong enough or big enough or fast enough to get out of your way and save himself. But that’s just too bad, you had no choice, right?

 Ah, choice. We all have choices. On occasion, there is no choice. Or, putting it a different way, sometimes it feels like there’s no choice, because one of the choices is just so heinously wrong and inhumane that it’s not really an option. But other times, you have the illusion of a choice; you just don’t know what you don’t know, and that heinous option, in the absence of knowledge and perspective, feels like it is your birthright. Funny word, ‘birthright’. Life is not without irony.

 In this case, there are plenty of choices. You can wait, that’s the first and most obvious choice. It would mean that you’d be late, no sure how late, not sure what path would get you back on track to your meeting, but at least there would be nobody dead in your wake. After all, you’d probably prefer for someone to wait if it was you in the crosswalk. So you wait. It’s only fair.

 Maybe there’s someone down the block, a lady, waiting for your slow-moving pedestrian. Maybe as long as you’re already here, you decide you might help him across the street, and into the arms of that waiting lady? How long has she been waiting? There are tears in her eyes, so probably a long time. Sadly she couldn’t make it all the way to the crosswalk by herself, so she’s had to wait where she is. Your pedestrian is also happy, so happy to be with that lady who’s going to help him and care for him—he can only get so far on his own. Maybe you can’t stay with him, you can’t rearrange your day for long, but you still helped him get to where he needed to be! Now there’s not a dead person in your wake. And two people better off than they were when the day began.

 “But he’s going to make me run out of gas. I have so little left.” That’s a tough one. Plenty of us have been there, and plenty of us will never know what that’s like. So let’s start with a purely technical, mechanical approach. If you run him down, you’ll really have to rev the engine. And that burns a lot of gas. You’re not sure how much, so you may or may not have enough left after you finish the job. But revving that engine is going to take its toll, regardless, because your car has seen better days as it is (the check engine light has been on for weeks). Or you might bust an axle, or some other difficult-to-replace part—actually killing a human being is not as simple as you think– and the gas will become a moot point. But you didn’t know! On the surface it seems like the only one in danger here is the pedestrian, how were you to know that you might get hurt? Well, you might. No, you almost certainly will. Because your airbag might deploy from the impact and knock you out, or you could hit your head on some metal as you go over that ‘bump’.  Or, even if your car emerges unscathed, there will be that dead person in your wake. And at the end of the day, you are not a bad person. You just didn’t know what you were doing. But at some point, you will know, and it will hurt. Nobody can tell you when or how, but it won’t just be your car that needs repairs.

 Maybe, though, this whole scenario is unfair, and nobody knows how much YOU are really in need. Maybe the only vulnerable person here is not that pedestrian. Maybe you need help, and if you run out of gas or sustain any damage here at this corner, you feel there will be no recovering. You don’t have any money for more gas, or for repairs. You don’t know where the gas will come from. YOU ARE SCARED. Maybe, then, somebody pulls up behind you—this poor guy in the crosswalk has been taking forever, after all, so now there’s someone else around. Maybe the driver behind you can help you get to a gas station if you get to empty. Or maybe they are in a rush, too, and their hands are tied. You don’t know until you ask. So maybe that other driver backs away and takes another road to get around this intersection, leaving you all alone again. You can’t do the same, this is the only way through to your destination, so you are stuck. You want to cry. Maybe you do cry. You cry a lot, because things are so hard, nobody knows how hard. And then, suddenly, that poor guy in the crosswalk sees that you are crying. He hears the rattling of your engine, or perhaps smells the dirty exhaust from your tailpipe. He stops and turns towards you. He changes course and takes a step in your direction. He’s not in the crosswalk anymore, he’s so exposed and even more vulnerable. The law sometimes protects him, but only when his two feet are firmly in the crosswalk, and even then, only for a certain amount of time. But he continues to walk toward you. You need help, after all. He comes to your rolled-down window and looks in your panicked and overwhelmed eyes.

 “Are you okay?” he asks. He can only move so fast, maybe he has a bum ankle, but he’s managed to make his way to you. You thought you might be stronger than he was, but here he is.

 In between tears, you confess, “I’m almost out of gas, and I can’t get any more. I don’t know what to do.”

 He furrows his brow, his eyes sensitive to the bright morning sun. Then he realizes something and reaches in his pocket. He pulls out a piece of plastic, at first you can’t see what it is.

 “Someone gave me this earlier,” he says. “It’s a gas card, with some money on it, I’m not sure how much. But I don’t have a car. You need this way more than I do.”

He hands you that card, without a second thought, and you don’t know what to say. You didn’t know you would be meeting him today. You thought he was ruining your plans. But you reach out, and you take his hand. You are so much stronger than he is, your legs are healthy, for starters, and you have a car! Yet he has a strength you didn’t know, and his legs are getting healthier every day. For now he can’t get to where he’s going without yours or somebody’s help, and that has seemed like a burden to you. But now maybe you will give him a ride, maybe you’ll go somewhere together. You’re the one doing the driving, but he’s actually helping to carry YOU. You didn’t see this coming. And maybe you didn’t know it, but maybe what you need is him.

 You just never know.

The Greatest Loaf

April 7, 2011

I am a creature of cravings. This is by no means a food blog (although at this point, I couldn’t really say what kind of blog it IS), but today it starts off with food. I woke up this morning with a very specific idea of what I wanted for breakfast: some fat, restaurant-style french toast. No fancy topping, just a perfect blend of vanilla, creaminess, moistness, cinnamon, a touch of crunch on the outside, some syrup. My first instinct, as usual, was to find a place that would give me what I was craving. I looked up the Bob Evans menu online, and started planning out my morning so that the son and I could go indulge in some inspired and wonderful french toast. But… I wasn’t yet dressed, my son was in a mood, and I didn’t see any realistic way that my french toast dream would be coming to life anytime son. Plus, I am on an ongoing mission to be economical. Mainly, responsible. And shelling out $7 or so for some day-old slices of bread dipped in who-knows-what, with my cranky son for company, didn’t seem like it would win me any awards for responsibility. Some days, it’s totally worth the splurge. But not today.

Because I remembered that I had my new favorite thing sitting in my kitchen: a $1.50 Italian loaf from the Walmart bakery. Since I discovered this loaf of bread last week, with its low price and relatively short list of not-terrible ingredients, I have felt like a creative superstar in the kitchen. And one with a satisfied palate, at that! My first endeavor was pretty straightforward—garlic bread. Slathered a chunk of it with some buttery spread, sprinkled on some garlic salt, herbs and parmesan, and my toaster oven created an aromatic thing of wonder. A great “homemade” accompaniment for dinner that even my kids liked. Score!

I was on a roll (no pun intended), so the next day I spruced up my daily sandwich by putting it on the Super Bread and turning it into a panini (panino?). I even made one for my sister-in-law, who, at almost 9 months pregnant, needed a little treat for lunch. Who doesn’t, really? And this morning, my Super Bread (not the same loaf) came to the rescue in the form of…. FAT FRENCH TOAST! I don’t have a go-to, guaranteed-to-be-wonderful recipe for french toast, but it’s not rocket science, so I made it work. Sure, it wasn’t EXACTLY what I wanted, but it had the right texture, appearance and mouth-feel to be close enough. Unnecessary breakfast expenditures averted, hunger satiated. But most importantly, I felt resourceful, and therefore accomplished. I know it’s nothing spectacular, or even special, for someone to ignore their cravings and whims and be practical, especially in this economy. But I still felt pretty proud of myself for being able to be creative during the quotidian, even if it was just with a loaf of bread at mealtime, in between diaper changes, laundry relocation, errands and tantrum negotiations.  Everyone needs an outlet, and if all it can be today is bread, then I’ll take it.

The Sandwich Standard

December 21, 2010

It might seem paradoxical to say that I am, at once, lazy and meticulously thorough. But given that I apply my meticulous thoroughness to even the smallest of tasks, just thinking about doing some things can be exhausting for me. So it’s really no surprise that, quite often, I would rather not do anything at all. (This may or may not be a touch of OCD, but I’m told that if you’re going to have a psychological disorder, that’s a good one to have.) Anyway, it makes me lazy.

So it would be easy to attribute the fact that I make sandwiches almost every day for lunch to my (alleged) laziness. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! I love sandwiches! And I take great care to make them not just filling, but delicious.  I consider myself to be somewhat of a sandwich artist, in fact (no Subway reference intended). But the sandwich has come to be more than just lunch. It’s a textured (preferably), wholesome and satisfying gauge of important things!

To elaborate, I used to think that whatever sandwich I made the kids for lunch was a measure of how hard I was working as a mom that day (for example, Asiago panini on ciabatta=working hard; PB&J on toast=not so hard). But then it occurred to me that it wasn’t a matter of what I was making for them, it was about what I was making for me. They could eat PB&J everyday, and they would be delighted. Coincidentally, it’s the easiest thing I could make them. But that’s not really lazy– it’s a totally legitimate option on a busy day of picky toddler eating. No, what would determine if I was being lazy or not is if I settled for the PB&J as well.

I’m pleased to say that most days I don’t. Partially it’s because I feel sick if all I’ve eaten is peanut butter and jelly (delicious though it may be, and it IS). Mainly it’s because, whether I am conscious of it or not, once I’ve gotten the kids’ food ready, my delicious and carefully crafted sandwich (lightly toasted bread, crunchy lettuce, freshly sliced tomato, special mustard, etc.) is a treat that I am giving myself. I’m taking the time to make something I like, to do it right, and to make sure that, on occasion, what I want matters as much as what the kids want.  Big picture, the priority is always the kids, no question. But small picture? Sometimes that’s the sandwich*.

 

 

*and a side of chips

 

Another Day, Another Bribe

November 16, 2010

Life with two toddlers has proven to be a an exercise in constant re-evaluation and self-doubt. And that’s just a fancy way of saying that nobody listens to me. By nobody, of course, I mean my children, and I realize that they are only two small people who don’t have any real power, by practical standards. But practical standards totally dismiss the psychological power they have. The screaming, and the crying, and the pouting, and the not caring what anyone around thinks of them or you when they let loose their worst tantrum in a public place, because you left their toy truck in the car, or when you remind them (again) that bedtime is approaching.

Oh, it’s exhausting. Knowing that pretty much everything I need them to do is going to involve a battle. There are days when I scream a lot, sometimes making myself hoarse, and then I hate myself, and my kids are no better for it. And while I have yet to find the perfect method of parenting (ha!), there IS something that has worked out pretty well for me in my times of need.

I have often come across the terms ‘positive reinforcement’, and ‘rewards’, but what this has boiled down to in our home is plain old bribes. Every kid is different, I should note, and so every bribe used must be tailored to the child in question. My first successful active bribe was when my daughter was potty-training. The only way I could entice her to go to the bathroom was to promise her a sticker afterwards. Obviously, this is not an innovative idea, since you can find oodles of stickers at pretty much any pediatrician’s office. But she LOVED the stickers, so she quietly went about the pottying, and soon we had a mural of stickers on the fridge, celebrating her achievements. “Oh, what great mothering this has been,” I applauded myself.

And with time, the bribes kept escalating. ‘Don’t want to take a nap? How about if you can watch a movie later?’ Naptime accomplished! …… But then I had to let her spend hours in front of the television. Sometimes I could persuade her with a new book, or something fun to color, or once I even ventured into watercolors (something so new and fun is atypical for me, and therefore a big deal). But the main draw continued to be the television, which is not so great. So let’s put an asterisk next to that win.

‘Don’t want to try (a reasonable amount of) what I made you for dinner? How about if you can have a popsicle afterwards?’ That one was my husband’s bribe. It was VERY successful, and morphed into an after-dinner candy once it got cold outside and we had some Halloween loot. That one still works, too… even though, yes, we are giving them candy, so… another asterisk.

But at some point, she (I only say “she” because, at 2, my son still doesn’t really seem to get any of this) started taking all of our bribes for granted. It started off cute enough. She happily told us that there would be a “surprise” after dinner one night, and “it’s a popsicle!” Then, every night after that, same thing. And when she goes down for naps, she informs me that after she sleeps really well, she can watch something on the television. Fantastic.

Well, this has stolen my power. And turned me to a darker place. And now, instead of offering her the wonderful things (within reason) that she wants in exchange for obedience and good behavior, I threaten to take those very things away. ‘If you don’t lay down right now and sleep quietly in your bed, no television for you.’ ‘If you don’t stop your whining right now, no candy after dinner.’ And I purposely omitted several exclamation marks, but it should be known that these things are not always said with such a level tone. So now I really am the bad guy, and what’s worse: it doesn’t work! So we’re back to where we started, nobody listening, nobody doing as I say.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned from all this. Try as I might to make my kids gentle, well-behaved and always-obedient, I’m assuredly going to lose more battles than I win. Because my daughter is three years old, my son is two, and that’s just how they operate. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to maintain focus on the things that really matter– how they treat us, others, and each other, for starters– and work my way up from there. And surely they will outgrow all the bad stuff, right? 🙂

 

Halloween Redux

November 1, 2010

My desk is covered, COVERED, in piles of miscellany that were once orderly and under a modicum of control.  I can barely reach through the mess to type, and yet I am not really that embarrassed to admit it, because right now my desk is Halloween Central.  Now, I don’t LOVE Halloween, nor do I look forward to it all year with great excitement and glee. As ‘holidays’ go, I think it’s just fine. But what’s awesome about Halloween– or what was once awesome about it, and what I hope to make awesome once more– is homemade costumes.

When I was a kid, my very artistic and hands-on mother made our costumes herself, pretty much every year. By the time my awkward era of preadolescence began, and I was probably too old to be trick-or-treating anyway, my Halloween costumes were, sadly, no longer couture. But in my Halloween heyday, they were a thing to be envied! The matching Wiley Kit and Wiley Kat outfits that my mom made– from scratch– for my brother and me were unforgettable. And my Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz costume was downright award-winning.

Well, I know very little about sewing, so if I’m ever going to match my mom’s Halloween efforts, I have to start small.  Emilia (my daughter, 3) decided months ago that she wanted to be a supergirl for Halloween. Eventually, we narrowed down her supergirl options to one very modern supergirl: Violet Parr, from “The Incredibles”. And Violet has a younger brother, Dash, which would be a perfect costume for Diego (my son, almost 2), who coincidentally also possesses the gift of speed. More importantly, their costumes are exactly the same. So my project seemed fairly straightforward, and most importantly, manageable. I bought them each a very inexpensive red long-sleeved shirt, red leggings, black shorts and black boots. Then I added some homemade touches. I sewed (!!!!) gold belts/waistbands with velcro “closures”, black satiny cuffs to look like long gloves, black jersey collars, and the crowning jewel of my Halloween project: embroidered Incredibles patches.

These things took me forever to make, even though they were fairly simple, and if you look closely, you’ll notice that the construction…. well, it’s a bit poor. But since none of the items I made attach permanently to the store-bought items, this makes the store-bought items…. reusable! Creativity AND frugality, what a powerful combo! Will the costumes be award-winning, like Dorothy? Probably not…… Well, maybe, who can say? But the point is, I did it! The tradition is reborn!

Violet in action.

And now, I’m really excited about some candy.