Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Crow’s Funeral

Six months ago, I posted this.

And now I feel a fool. Again.

Justine was totally right about crows. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on them so many years ago.

Crows are extremely smart. They learn at least 250 different calls, and communicate in different dialects according to family, social group or in general. They are as smart as primates in many ways. They are omnivores and that makes their brains bigger and more complex. They mate for life. At one point during the PBS Nature documentary I was watching, I was reminded of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

But crows have hard lives. They rarely make it past adolescence: often getting picked off by hawks, or hit by cars.

It also seems crows feel emotional pain. There is a legend about crows having funerals, and it turns out this phenomenon has some scientific evidence. Crows generally are part of a social group. When one dies, the whole social group will often gather nearby and wait for a few minutes, before flying away.

This greatly moved me.

Tomorrow morning I intend on having a conversation with my local crows, because there are many of them still around my home. I will tell them that I’m sorry that they have gone through so much pain (especially because more than likely, there will be crows who have lost a baby around me) and let them know I understand, and I respect and value their journey. And I wish them well.

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The Real America


Today I parked next to a Ferrari convertible with a toddler’s booster seat in the front seat. Welcome to bizarro land.

Stumbling Gracefully and I were talking about “Friday Night Lights.” She said, “I like that show because it’s about the REAL America. We don’t live in the real America.”

Deborah’s comment today really struck me to my core:

I may have said this before, but it fascinates me how much time you spend worrying about how you compare to the rich and famous. I guess just because I don’t worry about that at all. I do worry about how I compare to the people immediately around me, my coworkers and friends, and how the childhood I’m giving J compares to what my parents gave me. Famous people, and the very wealthy, just seem too far away (literally and figuratively) for me to worry about. But I guess where you live, these people are NOT far away. That seems like it must be really hard.

Where I live is odd. It shapes me in ways that I know and ways I forget. To be amidst a lot of privilege day in and day out is my reality. All of my peers, my fellow parents, my longtime friends: they all live in luxury. To be sure, I am at the very bottom of the totem pole of wealth here. While I budget and don’t eat out and go to Safeway and rarely go out for an evening’s entertainment, life is not an economic struggle for us. I don’t see the struggle of others first hand in my personal life. In fact, when I first discovered ALI blogs I was amazed by how many people’s insurance didn’t cover infertility treatments or that most women and men in this country can’t afford even a cycle of IVF. That’s why Faces of ALI has become such an important work for me: it aims to tell the economic side of the story as well as the emotional side of the story. I was listening to an expert speak about Middle East politics today on NPR, an academic, and he said that the ONLY thing that will ever change minds about a subject is by SHARING STORIES. That’s why I really want to publish Faces of ALI. Before I turn 40. I want to change the way the infertile in our country get medical treatment. I want more tax credits, I want insurance to step up to the plate more. Every American deserves the chance to pursue infertility treatment. Not just the wealthy.

Because we all know that the Real America is a place of inequity, of vast differences in income, wealth, geography, belief systems and familial resources. I go visit my parents in Arkansas and drive the country roads riddled with broken-down trailers and rusted out cars and it reminds me of driving through the beautiful backroads of rural Tanzania and the huts and gardens and the rusted out trucks were there, too.

Justine wrote a haunting story about stumbling across an evicted home and finding a pair of tiny ruby red slippers amongst the abandoned possessions. Justine ran back home and took her son to help try to do some good in this crappy situation. The tenant was a single mother with five children, who was often high. Justine gathered up as many non-expired canned goods she could to donate to the public food pantry.

We see the many different elements of this odd, flammable patchwork quilt of our country, divided into squares by moral imperatives, by the gap between the wealthy and the poor and the middle class, by the educational opportunities or not young people have to pursue. By taxes. By healthcare costs.

What can we do to get out of our comparative comfort levels and understandings? Can we share stories? What can we do to help others?

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Aspirational Vs. Inspirational

Yes, I have a lot to say about Bohemia today.

I read a lot of magazines. I will name them not. But they annoy me. They sell me things I cannot afford and they sell me the notion that the only way to live is to be rich, rich, rich but with the tastes of Bohemia. Also, that women need to be thin, thin, thin.

I don’t subscribe to these magazines. They come to our home, unsolicited. And I throw them across the room after reading about people who had just bought a penthouse, and were surprised to discover a beach home that they just “had to have.”

Today I discovered a quote that explains an actual theory behind this philosophy: it comes from Andy Warhol, and his mission for Interview, a magazine about the high/low differential: the “difference in the classes: the ultra-rich and the ultra-bohemian.”

It’s messed up crap that doesn’t speak to most of America.

So, I live in Marin County. The “high” ones are the anorexic ladies who lunch at the club and flirt with the tennis instructors. The “high” men are the financial wizards or tech-loving outdoorsy people or the landed gentry who come here because it is just too damn beautiful. Us townies who were actually born here and grew up here? Yeah, not so much luck settling here. Most of my childhood friends have moved.

I was reading the NY Times “Vow” section tongue-in-cheek on Sunday at my in-laws. The story was quite gripping until the mention of the bride’s family, who have a “second home” in Bolinas, here in Marin. Bolinas is not only outrageously expensive, it’s incredibly exclusive: Martha Stewart was banned from buying property there.

Why mention that? Why say “second home in Bolinas” when it’s not a necessary detail readers need to know? I asked my MiL about it.

“Oh, my husband and I love to read about these stories. We think we could apply a few of the not expensive details in the story to our events and that makes us happy.”

In other words, the very rich have tastes they learn from the bohemians that the middle class then adapt into their own lives.

I know there is a lot of criticism about lifestyle blogs, but this is the very reason I love them so much. The main tastemakers are fashion-oriented women who can curate their own styles. Like Pandora’s Box or Atlantic Pacific. By following them, we get to bypass the “aspirational” and move straight into “inspirational.”

For example, this outfit was directly inspired by Blonde Salad.

What say you: do you like this movement of relative nobodies suddenly dictating style based on their own talents and instincts, or do you prefer cultural “gatekeepers” to limit style from the higher-ups, like Karl Lagerfield (who cribs from bohemia) directly to the rich, then filtering down to the masses via hip-hop stars, and actresses and H&M? Do you aspire to a wealthy aesthetic? What inspires your style?

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The Problem With Being a “Lady Blogger”

Shall we all retire to our garrets and come out only to discuss ART (and, not Assisted Reproductive Technology) like Flaubert and Proust?

I recently ran into a discussion about how some prominent online women writers loathe the term “lady blogger.”

I must admit I’d never heard the phrase.

Apparently, there is a theory out there (happy to email you guys a link to the article but I don’t want to put it up here for a variety of reasons) that women writers are becoming segregated into a kind of world where the only major issues being discussed are related to “Aunt Flo,” weight, appearance, style, children (or lack thereof) and reproductive politics.

This was interesting to me. I suspect (although I am not sure) that a lot of Adoption/Loss/Infertility bloggers also write OTHER blogs. The ALI world clearly is a place where there is a unique community aspect to our writing: we share information about our own journeys and write where we are in our battle to have children, live childless/childfree or parent after infertility. So, yes: we write about mostly this stuff, the reproductive details of our lives.

But most of us vary it up somewhat. I have seen a wide variety of brilliant, general interest posts over the years on many ALI blogs about many different things: religion, politics, science, truly great non-fiction and of course, humor.

The posts I have highlighted I honestly believe could be published as articles in print media, or on a broader online platform like Huffington Post or even in a literary journal like the New Yorker. To prove my point, one of my best writer buddies HAS been published in a print magazine, about her budgeting project blog.

I guess the theory is, by mostly writing about ONE topic and getting stuck in a niche, do we miss the opportunity to gain a wider audience? Or, do you believe that great, universal posts go viral and gain the acceptance they deserve?

I have to say that while I have seen a few posts that resonated deeply go viral, I have also seen a bunch that also shot me straight in the heart not go viral and I think that is a shame. I guess being a writer means that rejection is the main defining feature of our lives (as my dad always says) but I do have to ask the question:

By writing in one category, do outstanding writers miss larger opportunities for their words to be read? I know most of my readers are very modest, but all of you have written a truly great post. Just like everyone has one book in them, I truly believe that each blogger has at least one truly great post in them. I’ve read too many to dispute that theory…

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8 Things I Learned About Being A Good Mom From Molly Weasley

I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter series again. I always loved Molly Weasley, although she definitely has her detractors, and I get that. She has some wonderful strengths, though.

If I can just learn these eight things from her, I think I’ll do OK.

1. Always, ALWAYS take care of your kids’ socks! One of the main ways J.K. Rowling identifies the neglect of Harry Potter by his aunt and uncle is the way they treat his socks. (Or, don’t.) In the first book, when Harry is living in a cupboard under the stairs, he has to pull a spider off a pair of socks. One Christmas, the Dursleys give him just ONE sock. In stark contrast, Molly Weasley:

“…(fusses) over the state of his socks.” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Taking care of socks = LOVE

2. The outward appearance of your home means nothing. I am an admitted neat freak. I HATE the thought of someone coming over to the house and criticizing the kids based on my housekeeping skills and our, er, non-mansion. After re-reading the books, I realized: I want the kids to have friends like Harry Potter. Snobby Draco Malfoy may have disparaged Ron Weasley’s home as being worth little:

“‘Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter,’ smirked Malfoy. ‘It’d be worth more than his family’s whole house.’ ” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

But who wants their kids to be friends with Draco Malfoy, anyway?”

Ron Weasley: “It’s not much, but it’s home.” Harry Potter: “I think it’s brilliant.”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

3. Molly Weasley can deal with teasing. Molly, bless her, is not necessarily the BEST judge of musical or writing talent. She is taken with the advice of Gilderoy Lockhart, who is later revealed as a total fraud. She also likes the vocal stylings of one Celestina Warbeck (who is mocked by her soon-to-be daughter-in-law, the chic Fleur Delacour), a warbler not widely loved by anyone in the Weasley clan other than Molly.

“…Shortly after this, Fleur decided to imitate Celestina singing ‘A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love,’ which was taken by everyone, once they had glimpsed Mrs. Weasley’s expression, to be the cue to go to bed.”Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

4. Molly cares only about the character of a person, not their bloodline. This is clear by the way she befriends Remus Lupin, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Molly Weasley is, in the world of wizards and witches, a type of nobility: a “pureblood” wizard. However, she cares nothing about this. This earns her the scorn of other “purebloods” who refer to both her and her husband as “blood traitors.”

5. She has enough room in her heart to love her seven (!) children, but still cares for many others, like Harry.

6. She has unconditional love for her children, even if they go astray. Percy Weasley, the Head Boy goody two-shoes in the family, chooses the wrong side in the war. He picks the Ministry of Magic, even though it is under the influence of He Who Shall Not Be Named. Molly never stops hoping that Percy will wake up and smell the pumpkin juice: she cries about him when she thinks no one is looking, and never stops hoping he’ll change sides. (He eventually does.)

7. She throws one HELL of a party! Molly hosts the wedding of her son Bill to the legendary French beauty, Fleur Delacour. Kind of like if your son married Bridget Bardot or something, and Molly the hostess showcases her own awesome style, featuring impeccable magic and down-home hospitality:

“The entrance to the marquee revealed rows and rows of fragile golden chairs set on either side of a long purple carpet. The supporting poles were entwined with white and gold flowers. Fred and George had fastened an enormous bunch of golden balloons over the exact point where Bill and Fleur would shortly become husband and wife. Outside, butterflies and bees were hovering lazily over the grass and hedgerow.”Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

8. She fiercely defends her family. SPOILER!!! One of her twins dies in the great end battle. Oh, I hate this part of the book so much. It is so incredibly sad and scary and awful. So when her daughter is threatened right afterwards, she takes her place in a duel and screams to the formidable antagonist Bellatrix Lestrange: “Not MY daughter, YOU BITCH!” before dispatching her. Anyone can comprehend her anger and despair and determination.

Molly has her shortcomings (Ron worries she cares more about Harry than him) but her strength, kindness and, as always with my favorite J.K. Rowling characters, courage, make her a mother to be admired.

In short, Molly Weasley RULES.

What say you?

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Filed under Family, Parenting After IF

Pedicures and S’mores

Sometimes, it can be fun to focus on the shallow. The silly. The superficial.

I haven’t done that in a while.

I saw the prettiest manicure on Pinterest a while ago. I wanted to try it, except with my lifestyle I knew this mint glitter combo would chip and become a mess within an hour.

So I decided to turn it darker and put it on my toes, which don’t get as beat up by wear and tear. I actually went out and got a pedicure (I KNOW!) and asked for a kelly green, punctuated by emerald green sparkles. OPI provided both.

And now, every time I look at my feet I smile. And feel a secret happiness born of non-intellectual rigor and pure old-fashioned self-love.

We also made S’mores tonight.

And I got a report that the moles I had removed were benign. Today, I am reminded how lucky I really am. I am so thankful.

Summer is here.

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Filed under Discovering joy, Perfect Moment

Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility

I thought it might be a good idea, since I am working on the latest one and I have some new readers, to highlight my collection of essays called Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility (or ALI) here in this post, all in one place. The series features three extraordinary women. I feel so incredibly privileged to have been able to write up and share their stories.

What is Faces of ALI? 1 in 8 people of child-bearing age in the United States is infertile. (Resolve) The physical and mental pain, the tremendous expenses involved to adopt or pursue treatments and the amazing journeys so many of us go on remain mostly untold to the greater public. I read so many unforgettable stories about incredible women going through ALI on hundreds of blogs, and I began to want to tell these stories. I thought if I wrote third-person essays about what it’s like to go through adoption, what it’s like to lose four pregnancies in a year and a half and what it’s like to have to live childfree/childless after your baby was born still; perhaps these essays could create a greater understanding among those who haven’t lived as 1 of the 8.

Where to begin:

Part 1: The Devastation of Pregnancy Loss: A Profile of Courtney Cheng

Part 2: Adoption: Sarah in Three Acts

Part 3: The Memory Keeper: Childless/Childfree After Loss and Infertility

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