Sunday, May 31, 2009

No witness to her pain

She runs as if her life depends on it. Feet pounding the solid pavement, sure footed, a familiar refrain. She has done this before. Many times. Except...what is different about this run is the ending. The finish. But, that comes later. For now, she can only face this moment. When the only thing, the only thing she can focus on is her breath.

She is breathing. For that she is grateful. And for other things. That her feet can still fly under her. That her arms move by her side in tandem, a rhythm as familiar as her heartbeat. And then she notices the quiet. No sound. A silence pierced only by her ragged and out. Something is off. What is it?

Her lungs are on fire and her legs have grown heavy. Arms flailing at her a swan with broken wings. She pushes ahead through the mist. It's just around the bend. Just...there. She sees it now. The homestretch. The grand finale. Her body hurtles across the finish. It is then, bent over, trying to catch her breath that she notices what is different this time. There is no one here. No one to greet her. To throw a warm towel across her back or fling their arm across her tired shoulders. No witness to her pain. She sinks to the ground, welcoming the sharp rocks biting into her knees. She huddles there and begins to rock back and forth. Yes, she is alone. Utterly alone.

Hestia's Kitchen - painting by Chuck Gumpert.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Motherhood Unplugged RADIO SHOW

Writer/Performers Pictured above: (Left to right) Erika Schickel, JCK, creator Amy Simon, and Carol Schlanger at KPFK Studio in N. Hollywood, CA. [Performers not pictured: Heidi Fischer Clarke, Beth Deitchman and Barbara Schroeder]

I was thrilled to be asked to perform again recently on Amy Simon's radio show: Motherhood Unplugged. Amy is an amazingly talented woman who has the longest one woman show in Los Angeles: Cheerios in my Underwear. "The show is Amy’s hilarious and poignant journey as a modern S.A.H.M. (stay-at-home-mom). Soon after becoming a mother and usually feeling one laundry load away from a nervous breakdown, Amy started writing down, on little bits of paper, her observations, feelings and real life experiences as a sleep-deprived, nurture-shocked mommy. After a couple of years of this, she joined Mothers And More, a support group for Stay-At-Home-Moms, entered a comic writing contest and won first prize with her essay “It Never Ends”. This gave her the confidence to continue. As an actress, improviser and sometime theater producer, she wrote her first performance piece about being a mom, put it in a show she was co-producing and that was the beginning."

Amy provides an incredibly supportive environment to all the women who are a part of her radio show. She has a true gift in putting each show together - balancing humor and pathos, with a healthy dose of zaniness. All part of motherhood.

I read my piece on feminism and being a SAHM, which was chosen earlier this year for BlogHer of the Week . My segment is about 41.25 minutes into the show, with a tiny chit chat after the music break, but if you have the time I encourage you to sit down and listen to the entire show. I am humbled being in the company of such talented women.

DOWNLOAD: kpfk_090523_070100pperf.mp3

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

But, I wonder at the convenience of memory and how, perhaps, our mind aims to protect us...

It's a funny thing. Memory. And how it works. A few weeks ago, when my mom was visiting, we retrieved her grandmother's antique desk out of the depths of our garage. I had been keeping it for her. We used it in our last place, a tiny little guest house in west L.A. But, here, in the spot we've called home for 9 years it had sat undisturbed in the garage. Or, so I remembered. Once it was out in the sunlight and had been dusted off, in preparation for loading into her car, E discovered a cache of letters and cards in the drop leaf section of the writing desk. The loot was mine. It also contained an old address book, a carryover from my single days...the cover a pink satin laced up bodice, hinting of oft dreamed debauchery.

Many of the cards were from my 40th birthday party in 2001. Somehow I had forgotten that my fortieth birthday had fallen 8 days after September 11th. I looked at the dates written on the cards and it was as if I was seeing it for the first time. Could it be? My 40th birthday just after nine-eleven? And yet, I had not remembered. Nor had I remembered that the desk had even been in this house -moved into the garage so that we could prepare the nursery in anticipation of BOY's arrival.

I do remember now a slight awkwardness, a wondering, if people would be up to celebrating my birthday so soon after what seemed like the world was on its way to the end... And, we decided that YES, it was a time to celebrate. Because we were alive. That having a party didn't negate all the people who had lost their lives. That it was OK to have some drinks, eat delicious food, and laugh with special friends. Because we could.

I don't know why my memory chose to selectively forget that not small detail. But, it did. There was another thing that happened that evening that should have stayed with me, yet only now comes to the surface as I am writing this. A close friend from my childhood in Beirut, who lives in Santa Monica, had driven out for my birthday. Parking on our street, he was questioned getting out of his car as to his Lovely man that he is, he laughed it off in the telling. Yet, it was unnerving and uncomfortable that my friend was questioned as to where he was going by a "well intentioned" older neighbor, because my friend's skin is the color of dark caramel. Yes, life had changed.

The rest of the evening I remember quite well. But, I wonder at the convenience of memory and how, perhaps, our mind aims to protect us... What is as important, disturbing...catastrophic and deeply personal, as September 11th was for all of us, can be present forever or not. Fully at one's fingertips or rolled up in a tight ball, to unravel unexpectedly by chance...slapping us with the impact. Memories uncovered in the seemingly simple task of moving a piece of furniture from one destination to another...


Painting titled "Traces of a Forgotten Life" by David Luksha.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No lap top. No cell phone. No television.

I am still assimilating back into my plugged-in life. We went up north to visit my mom and step dad for the long weekend. BOY & GIRL were SO wired! GIRL packed her backpack at least four weeks ago in anticipation of the trip. And on Friday, upon learning that we were indeed going to drive up to Ma'Mai's on Saturday, BOY said this...


We began Saturday with GIRL's ballet recital. The theme was The Wizard of Oz and all of the little girls were dressed as Dorothy. GIRL wore a darling white dress, and a blue and white checked apron made by my friend. Then there were ... pig tails with pink bows. Cute doesn't even begin to describe how adorable she looked. She carried a small basket with a tiny Toto peeking out. The basket was lined with the same blue & white fabric as the apron. GIRL has a comfort level onstage that intrigues me. Not hammy or showy, but a steadiness that will be interesting to follow.

I was offline for 3 whole days and nights. That actually sounds like a pathetic headline. SHE WAS OFFLINE FOR 3 DAYS AND NIGHTS!!! Pathetic? Perhaps. Vital to my being? Without a doubt. Why...I...I......I've even begun to read a book!

No lap top. No cell phone. No television. It felt decadent and delicious... I took two long walks through the misty forest with my mother. A feast for the eyes of bright green lichen hanging from stark white trees covered in dark green moss. A fairy land. Nourishing. It felt good to move the long dormant muscles buried deep within my legs.

I played in the pool with my children. And, I watched them come down the water slide, alone this time. Their small bodies churning through the water - swimming to me, and away from me. My shoulders got sunburned.

I felt very deadend before I left. Always buzzing with an electronic connection of some kind. Hard to turn it off. My lap top. My cell phone. And now, touching down on the blog page feels rusty and a bit foreign. As if I am slogging through water with a thickness and weight I don't recognize. I can feel myself on the verge of a big shift. I'm not sure yet what it will be. But, it is coming...

Picture courtesy of Google Images. Because...JCK did not have her camera. Apparently...

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Friday, May 22, 2009

I've left you with a short, juicy read list...

I'm going offline for a few days. But, while I'm gone, I've left you with a short, juicy read list...

If you want to be incredibly moved, here's one of the best personal pieces I've read on Motherhood and Feminism.

If you want to laugh, here is Ruth Pennebaker on How to Talk to Women.


Mom Bomb on The difference between me and my mother, as illustrated in 3 simple scenarios.

Have a great holiday weekend! See you in a few days...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If mommies could fly, I would have sprouted wings and flown to the moon

This morning I had the transition meeting with BOY's teacher and with the PUSD coach (to special education teachers)/administrative designee. The purpose of the meeting was to look ahead to Kindergarten in the fall and what is next for BOY. Academically BOY is excelling. He loves the stories, singing, learning sight words, sounding out letters, putting letters together to make words, and also enjoys math concepts. He is friend to all, and entertains everyone with what comes out of his lively imagination. He gets very enthusiastic and wants to give ALL the answers, so the teacher is continuing to work with him on impulsively calling out answers/ideas before being called upon. However, they see a huge change in his impulsive and self-regulating behavior. His teacher described him as incredibly sweet and kind to all of his classmates. He's the first one to go over to someone who is hurt or upset to see if they are OK.

His attention has gotten more focused and he isn't always drawn into the tumble play of the other boys. He continues to want to move on if something doesn't engage him, so the challenge is teaching him to hang in a bit longer.

While I was sitting in the meeting, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that BOY is truly appreciated for his gifts and strengths. He has been a welcome addition to the classroom and they enjoy him. What a different feeling it is to not feel that he is disruptive in the classroom and a problem. When we had our meeting in February with the school district preschool special education program staff, one of the things they said is that they thought BOY was bored at his previous preschool. I thought they were nutty. I now believe they were right.

The plan is for BOY to be in a general education inclusion classroom for the fall. What this means is that he will have a regular general education teacher and an educational aide in the classroom to assist if/when he needs help. He will also still receive one 30 minute session with an occupational therapist at school (either working in the back of the classroom or pulled out of the classroom for 30 minutes), as well as continuing the OT once a week at the clinic. All of us felt that he has been doing so well, and has made such strides, that he will benefit by continuing to receive special education services in Kindergarten. He's got a comfortable rug under him now, and we don't want to pull it out from under him.

If mommies could fly, I would have sprouted wings and flown to the moon. The meeting was THAT satisfying. My Little Engine That Could has chugged out of the station and is heading up the hill. Often under his own steam. I feel like we're in a good place both literally and figuratively. We made the right choice...


Painting entitled: "Hope" by Zoe Hadley.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

At 15 minutes past, I started to imagine horrible things

BOY's bus was 25 minutes late today. Coming home. I started to panic. His bus is never late coming home. At 15 minutes past I started to imagine horrible things. At 21 minutes past, I called the dispatch. The dispatch called the bus driver. The bus driver wasn't driving that route today. They put me on hold. 3 minutes ticked by...three long minutes. Finally, just as the dispatch came back on the line I saw the bus slowly coming up the street. Driving ever so carefully. Ever so...lost. I tried to focus on breathing, but knew that my eyes were looking a bit frantic.

Looking for your baby? the bus driver asked with a smile.

Yes. Yes, I am.

Honey, I was so...lost. And your BOY is SO smart. He told me what turns to take. I had to back up, turn around...I missed a turn.

By this time, BOY was absorbed in the various buttons on the bus. He grilled the bus driver.

What does this do? What is this for? What's that?

BOY appeared unconcerned about being on a hot bus an extra 25 minutes. I got him off the bus after his requisite 30 questions in 2 minutes had been answered.

I took in the pizza sauce on his cheek, and the stains on his shirt. I watched him. I asked him about school. He made me laugh. And then I started breathing again...

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bathing Suit. Season. Such a cruel word. Season.

JCK is suddenly aware that bathing suit season is upon us. Bathing Suit. Season. Such a cruel word. Season. As if one just frolics about ...unencumbered by bathing suit FEARS.

Now... All should be well because JCK is pretty relaxed about the bathing suit body issues. *AHEM* Or so she said last year. But, that was SO LAST YEAR. Instead, she finds that she is muttering to herself....WTF?! Often. Basically she has spent too much of the last year semi-vertical in a chair or on a bed. But, walking or moving her body, or bending into the divine of yoga? Not so much. And then there's the little issue of metabolism. Yes, there's that. You see, JCK has been COMPLETELY spoiled up until about ...oh, the last couple of months. She had this really groovy genetic thing going where she could eat pretty much what she wanted, within reason. (Reason being heavy on the chocolate.) But, as is true with most good things. They come to an end. And unfortunately the end has manifested in a lushER silhouette. JCK has determined that she would have been a perfect candidate for living in another time. Because lush is delightful when one wears long, flowing feminine garb or NEKID. But, lush in a bathing suit in 2009. Well, it just doesn't have that je ne sais quois element that it did in her 20s when everything gelled together a little bit nicer.

However, the reality is that JCK doesn't want to put all this self defeating crap upon herself or for her daughter to pick up on that self-defeating crap. JCK wants to be the kind of mom who is right there in the pool with her kids. Not the mom who lies on the chaise draped in a sarong...dreading the take off. That moment when one ever so casually tosses the sarong over one's chair and then decides to lay back down again. The mom who lets the dad do all the pool play. Nope. JCK doesn't want to be that mom.

So, what is JCK to do? Apparently she needs to just GET OVER IT. Life is short. She's lost friends this year. They're gone forever. Do you think they would give up one moment of jumping into the pool with their children, because their thighs are fleshy? No. So, JCK is GOING to get over it. And she's also going to start taking better care of herself. Because the truth is...she wants to be around for a long time. Having fun. And not always muttering WTF right before Memorial Day weekend...

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

It is a temporal existence, all of it

It is the time of year when spring is dangling over into summer. A hint of heat to come, bringing with it scents of wild jasmine and the soothing drone of honey bees going about their labor. The new, welcome feel of cool grass beneath hot feet. That moment when the sun is down, but still casting its light across the sky. tea is exchanged for sweet tea, iced, with fresh mint.

New growth is evident wherever I turn. I see it all around me, and especially in my children. It is as if time is speeding up, yet can still see it in slow motion. Like riding on a carousel that doesn't stop.

I don't want to be six too soon, says my BOY sleepily.

You won't be six soon, BOY. You have lots of time to enjoy being 5, I say soothingly. Yet, I don't believe it.

Mommy, how old will you be when I'm 90?, asks my GIRL.

I will be 132, I say.

Oh, I I wish I could see my GIRL at 90. But, it is in the here and now where I belong. Noticing the sprinkle of freckles across the small nose, and her rosebud mouth pursed in concentration as she colors in her pirate poster. Watching her hug her brother for so long, and him right there so with her in that hug, that I see tears fill another mother's eyes with the beauty of it.

It is a temporal existence, all of it. The soft evening light has vanished once again into darkness. Yet, when the lullabies have been sung, and the chatter has dropped away, sometimes... I imagine that I can catch time in my hand and hold it...before it swirls away.

Last month I passed the two year mark since starting this blog, Motherscribe. I thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Painting by Chuck Gumpert
Entitled, "Between Darkness and Wonder"

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Winter Poem

Looking out at the winter landscape
greys and deep greens
poetry lives here, in this place
whispered through the trees.

A vision of lush, yellow lemons
cool raindrops...dangling,
a bluebird's screech and
an explosion of crisp, white flowers.

Our hot foreheads have been kissed
by the rain....

Tomorrow a vision of blue sky,
the birth of verdant hills,
mountains dusted by snow
and air clean enough to devour...


This poem originally appeared on Motherscribe in the winter of 2008. It was recently included in a poetry anthology that is sponsored by our local library.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

The journey of motherhood is continually changing for me

This Sunday will be my fifth Mother's Day. How can that be? I remember the first one vividly. It was rich with joy, satisfaction, and a blessed fullness. For so many years, I could barely get through a Mother's Day without feeling a sense of desperation, longing... and despair. And then suddenly, miraculously, I was a mother. On that first Mother's Day celebration, BOY was six months old. And, I was five months pregnant with GIRL. It was Mother's Day alright. More like ...Holy Mother of GOD, JCK! Yes, our bounty overfloweth...

Yesterday we had a special Mother's Day tea at church. While the children were happily engaged upstairs, the moms and little babies were downstairs. It is always lovely to sit with other women, sharing stories, with a plate full of goodies perched on your lap and sipping tea in a real china cup. Somehow everything slows down for a bit. Much of my life with two young children feels as if I am on the run. So, to sit, to experience the food, to savor my tea ... feels quite extraordinary. And decadent...really. These moments of living life at a leisurely pace are essential for my being.

After the tea, the kids came down from childcare to have a treat or two, and then they wanted to run around outside with their friends in the courtyard. So, there they were, seven children racing across the grass, scattering apart, and then gathering under the great oak tree that dominates the courtyard. Pausing to swing their legs through the thickness of fallen leaves, irresistable to small feet. And then they were off! I watched my BOY & GIRL, admiring the strength of their fast moving legs, so full of life, their hair shining in the sun. Hooting and shrieking with pleasure in the moment. And I felt content...

The journey of motherhood is continually changing for me. I no longer have a baby snuggling into my neck who smells of yeasty milk, or a toddler reaching up to a table loaded with possible dangers. My daughter no longer cries when I leave her with her peers. She wants to be a participant without me. I am not needed there. My son checks in with me more often, asking if he can have another cookie, or if he can run off to join friends. We have conversations. They share what they've done at preschool. They've memorized our phone numbers. They sing songs. They have full little lives. Sometimes with me and sometimes not... It is only when I step into their room at night, enveloped in darkness, that it feels the same as when they were babies. I stand and listen to their soft breaths in the dark, kiss their velvety cheeks, and weep...

Happy Mother's Day!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

BOY: I have a job.

Apparently BOY has a job. A few days ago, during a recent jaunt in the minivan all was revealed...

BOY: Well, you know Mom. I have something to tell you. A secret. Something very important.

JCK: What is it BOY?

BOY: I have a job.

JCK: A job?

BOY: Yes. It is AT NIGHT.

JCK: Mmmm... A night job? I didn't know you had a job.

BOY: Well, I DO. It's a job AT NIGHT. I wait until you are asleep, and then I leave the house AT NIGHT. I start my job at 1:30. I take the bus. Then I take the metro train, and that takes me to my job.

JCK: I see. You must be pretty tired from having a night shift job.

BOY: Yeah.

JCK: What IS your job exactly?

BOY: I build rocket ships. All the parts for rocket ships. It's incredible.

JCK: Yes, BOY it IS. Now, BOY, this is a wonderful story from your amazing imagination!


And then today....

BOY taking his shirt off: Mom, I'll need this shirt clean. I wear it to my job.

...........JCK is thinking she'll need to start teaching BOY that HE CAN DO the laundry a lot earlier than she had planned...

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Yet, sometimes my biggest lesson is in moving a few rows back

It is the way of the world as we know it. This quick passage of time. Speeding up incrementally as we age, to go at warp speed when we become parents. It happens in moments, an overnight awareness. Seeing a friend's child after a seemingly few short weeks, morphed into long gangly legs or sporting a missing tooth. A haircut that shows your child's face in a fresh light... formerly soft, rounded cheeks replaced by a new angularity.

We get so caught up in life, our daily tasks and social engagements, that it almost seems that we are time traveling to the future. Yet, no...we are here, in this moment which has come upon us so "suddenly."

BOY let go of his training wheels this past weekend. E patiently spent time working with him Saturday morning, and by the time I returned from running a few errands he was on two wheels. The highlight for BOY was wiping out into the grass of the front lawn. But... it was on Sunday afternoon, when we went to the Rose Bowl parking lot, that he took off. One helping push from dad and he was gone...pedaling as if he had been doing it for weeks. GIRL and I stood, watching, our mouths agape. It was beautiful and bittersweet to watch him pedal away from us. A new era. A big step. And so he learned to brake, and stop. It is the starting that is his challenge. He wants that bit of a touch and a push, that connection he ventures out, into his new world atop two wheels.

GIRL's hunger for learning knows no bounds. She has almost mastered writing the entire alphabet, and has become interested in addition and subtraction. Little paper sheets with math problems, which arrived in the form of a gift. Her ballet teacher, whom she adores, gave them to her because each sheet has a Disney Princess on it. GIRL treasured the papers for a while, keeping them in her ballet bag. A gift from a teacher she believes hangs the moon. Yet, she has little interest in the Princess aspect. Instead, the intrigue is in the numbers and what it all means. So, completely self-directed, she approached both E and I with the math problem sheets wanting to know how to do them. And then, one by one, she did them with a little help. Very little help. I am in awe of her brain. And her focus and determination.

I learn so much from my children. I have a reserved front row seat into their lives. Yet, sometimes my biggest lesson is in moving a few rows back. Giving them the freedom to dance, frolic and jump just out of my reach. They understand that I am here if they need me. Yet, they need to know that they can risk stepping out into the world for a moment. And that awareness is everything. Especially when they run back into my arms with a fresh confidence. There's a knowingness about them. Something important that they have accomplished on their own.

Just as we can't teach a baby to walk, and we must let our children wobble away from us, we need to allow our children the freedom to fall. And when we do that, and are in the moment, we can grasp that bit of time that is so elusive and slippery. That turns our baby, who needs us for everything, into our little boy flying across an open space on two wheels, gleefully chanting to himself...I want to GO FASTER, and FASTER!! And our littlest baby, who clung like a monkey and stared pensively at each stranger to the point of discomfort...for the stranger? Our youngest child, who is embracing drop-off play dates, and venturing out into the world. She who looks ahead to her next ballet recital with excitement, shouting to her brother...BOY, I can't wait to be on the stage! Yes. Her. She needs her freedom, too.

And so...the adventures continue.

Sculpture titled: Time to Let Go by Verna Bartnick.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 25th interview...

My 25th interview is with Painted Maypole. She is 34 and lives in Louisiana. She is married, with one child, and is a stay-at-home mom. She has a blog called Painted Maypole.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? The word has so many meanings assigned to it by society, so I do think my understanding of its meaning has changed over time. Right now it means to me someone who believes in equal and fair treatment of women and girls. (but oh… “equal” and “fair” are such difficult words)

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes

Would others consider you a feminist? Probably

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? It’s not a word I use on a regular basis, but I’m not uncomfortable with it.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? The feeling that staying home with your kids was not good enough.

Did your mother work outside the home? She did a little bit of teaching when I was younger, although was mostly home. I was probably a preteen before she started working full time in a school environment.

How did that affect you growing up? My mom was home when I came home from school, even for most of the years that she worked. And when she was home she was with our family… not doing other things for work, etc. Her presence was very important. As an adult my mom has talked with me about the whole quantity vs quality thing, and helped me to understand that presence is really important. As she puts it, most days when I came home from school I threw my bag in the corner and ran out to play and she didn’t see me again until dinner. But on the days when I needed to talk or needed to celebrate or needed someone just to be with me, she was there. She would have missed that if she hadn’t been there.

What impression did that leave with you about women working outside the home? I don’t think I thought much about it when I was a kid, but as an adult I understand the value of being home because of that. Also the understanding that you can work outside the home and still be very present when you are at home.

Was your mother a homemaker? Our house was always a HOME. Unquestionably. I think having a HOME is very important, and I’m learning to embrace the title “homemaker.” I don’t think that only parents who stay home are homemakers.

Did your father respect your mother? Yes!

Did your mother respect your father? Yes! My parents love for each other was always obvious, not only in their respect for each other, but in their displays of affections. Friends always conveyed their surprise when seeing my parents kiss or hold hands. But I’ve always remembered them doing that. They do disagree sometimes, as well.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A marine biologist. And a mommy.

What do you yearn for? It depends on the day! Mostly I yearn for close friendships. Connection. Community. And artistic challenge and fulfillment.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? No. As a child I expected to get married, but I didn’t date much in high school or my first 2 years at college, and I began imagining my life as an actor who went wherever the work was until settling down sometime in the distant future. Then I met my husband, and as it turns out I got married 3 weeks after graduating from college.

Have you ever dieted? Not seriously.

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? It has been creeping upwards the past few years, and I would like to creep it back down and then keep it there. I’m not overweight, but I would like to be a little leaner.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I am sometimes uncomfortable with my height (5’10”), which I attribute to being taller than all the boys in school. I think that intimidated the boys, which in turn made me feel like the odd duck out.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish I could talk more with my mother about the hardships of day to day marriage, but the strained relationship between my husband and her precludes that, because to talk to her about it would feel like a betrayal to him. I feel that loss, because I feel that she would have a lot to offer.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He was very active, even taking time to volunteer in the classroom and go on field trips. He was the only dad that did that, and I knew it. I always knew I was loved and cared for.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? I don’t think I’ll ever have it, but never say never, I suppose. I wish that we were allowed to age gracefully. I’m conflicted about the fact that I dye my hair to hide the grey.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? I knew a lot about the actual mechanics of it, and about birth control, but I don’t think I knew much of “what to expect” on a more personal level.

What makes you feel sexy? Dancing.

What would make your sex life better? If my husband would dance. It sounds so silly, but I really think it would. I cannot talk him into it.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Hate, hate, hate it. It scares me, and I think we have to put our collective foot down and not allow our daughters to become easy victims to what media and fashion would have them be.

Why did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom? To be with my daughter. To raise her within my family. It’s as simple as that. (I am not strictly a SAHM as I do work about 15 hours a week, but that job is mostly done while my daughter is in school. I also do theatre (sometimes paying, sometimes not) that takes me away in the evenings and occasional weekends. My husband is usually home then, but not always. We do sometimes rely on sitters and friends)

Do you consider it a job? Do you feel that you are valued? I consider it a vocation. Most days I feel valued.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Usually.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes.

What do you love about being a SAHM? Being able to be flexible. Being there for the teaching moments… I love that when my daughter wants to read, I can read with her. When she wants to play or paint or whatever we can usually make it happen. Her life is not lived by a day planner. Her life is just lived.

Is there a dark side of being a SAHM? Loneliness. The lack of financial security.

What was your career before you had children? As an actress I did all sorts of odd things, but nothing outside acting that amounted to a career, and not enough of acting to really call it that.

Has it been hard to let go of that identity? Or you still identify with that role? I have had to adjust how much theatre I do, but am getting back into it more and more. It is hard to not have that be as central in my life, but I know I have the rest of my life to be on stage. I have only this childhood with my daughter.

If you had a choice to return to work, would you? If I could get paid a decent wage for good, consistent work acting in the theatre, I would probably do it. However, I have resisted the opportunity to apply for a full time theatre teacher job. I don’t want to give up being home for that. I would if I had to, financially. I know I would enjoy that job, but I think the other things I would lose would not make up for it.

Can women do it all? No. No one can. But women CAN work and be good parents.

How old are your children? One daughter, 6 years old.

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? Never a doubt that I was loved. Encouragement for the many different things I did.

Do you have dates with your partner? Not regularly, my theater schedule makes that too difficult.

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? No. My time in the theatre is sort of “me” time, but it doesn’t always fill that need.

How do you combat stress? Wine ;)

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? No. I don’t have close girlfriends who live here, and that saddens me.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? My work as an actress is actually quite separate, so much so that sometimes I have a hard time combining the two.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? Not very well. When I know he is stressed (like now) I try to create a good environment for him to come home to, but I feel like I could do this better.

Does your partner share in household tasks? He does the laundry. I do just about everything else.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? I don’t feel as connected, as “this is life with my best friend” as I thought it would be. Sometimes I feel like partners, and sometimes I feel like we are just two adults living in the same house. Mostly, though, I feel committed, so that no matter how distant I feel I know that I am in this for the long haul, and so I work to close the gap and keep it together. I wish there was more honesty about that work of marriage in the media and within families and friends. I think sometimes we are afraid to not only talk about the struggles in our own marriages, but we are afraid to hear about the struggles in others. Because my husband is a pastor in our church, I feel this acutely, because it is particularly inappropriate to talk about personal issues involving a friend’s pastor.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why?
Yes and no. I’m happy with a lot of things, but want a lot of other things to be better. I’m OK with that, though, as I think it’s important to have things to strive for. I am working to, as Paul says, “rejoice in all things.” (I do not think that joy and happiness are strictly the same, and I’m working on figuring that out as well.)

Do you believe a happy, fulfilled mom is a better mom whether her choice is to work outside the home or to stay at home with her children? I think a happy mom is essential to a happy home, however, I think our society has put too much emphasis on the lie that we can have it all, and it has led to much dissatisfaction in many areas of our lives because we feel like somehow we have missed the boat. Living our lives requires choices and compromises, and it seems that people are unwilling to do that, or are miserable when they do because they expected life to be a fairytale.

Thank you, Painted Maypole

The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Painted Maypole, please find her on Painted Maypole.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Motherscribe Interview Series: the 24th interview...

My 24th interview is with Phd in Yogurtry who lives in Texas. She is in her mid-to-late-40s. She is married with 3 children and works outside the home. She has a blog called CoffeeYogurt.

What does the word feminist mean to you? Has the meaning changed over time? It means that women have equal opportunity as men, that women are treated equally under the law, and that considerations be allowed for biological differences, such as pregnancy.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes.

Would others consider you a feminist? Yes. There may be a few people living under a rock who don’t know. No, I don’t broadcast in every situation. But in conversation, I do advocate the feminist viewpoint and I try to be subtle if I suspect someone would recoil from a strident view.

If you are a feminist, do you feel comfortable owning that title in your everyday life? Yes. But I’m not overbearing. I believe mostly in starting with my own life, first.

What are some images that come to mind when you think of the women’s movement? Bra burning. Fish bicycle quotes. Harsh judgements made by misogynists who don’t understand feminism or are threatened by it. The feminists I know well are great at self-advocacy and taking control of their bodies which also includes insisting on quality sex which usually translates into more sex for the men in their lives. Hello? Pay attention! But I also think about moms and dads sharing roles and living more fulfilled lives.

What was the greatest gift of the women’s movement? Children getting to know their dads better, having more quality and quantity relationships with their fathers.

What was the greatest failure of the women’s movement? Neglecting to promote mommy issues: child care and flex time for example. I dropped my NOW membership when the president sent out a letter instructing members to vote for ANY woman that ran for office. Um, no.

How do you feel about the sexualizing of young women in our society? Worried. Frightened for my daughters. Sad. It’s a trend that doesn’t empower women so much as influence boys / men to see them as playthings born to satisfy their own desire, rather than a trend that encourages men to appreciate the complexity of women as a human beings with minds, and their own preferences and needs. It’s reductionistic and that doesn’t promote healthy understanding, healthy sex, healthy appreciation of the sexiness of women who don’t have 20 inch waists and 38 inch bust lines.

Did your mother work outside the home? No.

Was your mother a homemaker? Yes.

How did that affect you growing up? She was always there, she ran a dependable household, healthy meals always.. But she was also too dependent on my dad. She abdicated so much of herself. She didn’t understand my assumption, in college, that I would work after I had children, and we argued about that and it started a rift that we haven’t fully put behind us.

Did your father respect your mother? Yes and no. Yes in that he demanded we kids respect her and most of the time he treated her with respect. But he often badgered her and insisted on having it his way, was emotionally overbearing and talked to her in a way that was disrespectful.

Did your mother respect your father? Yes.

Who were your earliest female role models other than your mother? Teachers. I mostly remember a nun who taught me Science and Religion classes. She dared to move a little beyond what the priests would have preferred being taught. She was this subtle rogue nun who taught “God is Love” and preached a slightly hippie message. I admired her willingness to answer my sticky questions in a way that allowed me to doubt.

What did you dream of being when you were a child? For a short period, a nun. A librarian. A grocery store checker. I loved the click, click, click of fingers on cash register keys. I did eventually work a cash register, so at least I achieved ONE dream.

What do you yearn for? A vacation getaway with my husband. We don’t have family close by who are willing to step in for a week. And travel in general. I yearn to be a world traveler.

Was getting married/partnered a conscious goal or focus early on in your adulthood? I always knew I wanted to be married someday and to have kids. I was in two long term relationships where I assumed we would marry, but held off. I didn’t focus on it until I was dumped at age 28 and suddenly worried that I might miss out on marriage and kids. Even then I was the reluctant bride. I had a fear of that looming negative forecast (the 50% divorce rate). So I think the answer is no. Marriage wasn’t something I consciously and stridently focused on.

Is there an event(s) that affected you in childhood/adolescence that impacted your identity in a positive or negative way? My father’s angry rages. I think he stifled my adolescent development.

Have you ever dieted? Is the Pope Catholic?

Are you happy and/or comfortable with your weight? Mostly no. I’ve never been skinny. Since 8th grade I’ve been trying to shed 10 pounds and now I want to shed 30 lbs. So no, never very comfortable with my weight. I did diet before my wedding and was at a weight I felt comfortable with, but I was also in that dieting state of feeling deprived, so I wasn’t comfortable with that, either.

Would you describe yourself as someone with “body issues?” If so, when do you remember this starting? What do you attribute it to? I remember having issues with the ugliness of my feet when I was an adolescent. Then came the thunder thighs. Or, what came first were magazines glamorizing skinny thighs and thereafter I felt horribly unattractive. I remember sitting in movie theatres in my teen and college years feeling inadequate and un-sexy by comparison to those skinny-thigh movie stars. It was inhibiting sexually for a long time. Now that I’ve gotten regular with my orgasms, I chase away those thoughts and let myself feel sexually attractive when it counts.

What do you wish your mother had told you about marriage, life, anything…that you didn’t hear from her? I wish she had embraced my early feminist thoughts. I wish she had listened more openly and without negative judgments to my relationship complaints. I wish she had talked about her fears about my being sexually active instead of seeming so angry. I wish she had explained more about the politics of boys and how they view sex differently then girls.

What role did your father play in your childhood? He worked. He was a constant provider. He sacrificed for us kids. He attended so many of our athletic events. But he was also the scary-mad guy who I didn’t want to be around at all.

What was your relationship like with your father? Antagonistic. He supported my athletic and academic achievements but his anger was overwhelming and abusive at times. So I was afraid of him, mad at him, resented him, hated how he badgered my mother, and so I hated him a lot of the time.

How do you feel about aging? It beats the alternative. I do love acquiring experience and expertise. I very much dread being a lonely widow one day.

How do you feel about plastic surgery? It’s very undemocratic. Another example of the rich having access to the goods and the advantages that ordinary folks can’t access. But it also leads to looking ridiculous and monstrous, so THERE.

Did your mother or another caretaker talk to you about sex and what to expect? My mom made a good faith effort. For someone coming from a house where sex was never discussed, she did a good job. She sat me and my brother down and had “the talk” but most of my information came from “the book” she gave us. I pretty much skipped to the Q&A section. I recall “Do you mean the man actually puts his penis inside a woman’s vagina?” and thinking the world would open up and I’d fall in. But the book was a good source of accurate information.

How was your first sexual experience? In these instances I think of the first time I had sexual intercourse. It was nice but no fireworks, of course. I was with a steady boyfriend who had been pestering me for a long time. It was in my bedroom, late afternoon. My parents weren’t home. I felt loved, excited, thrilled to be in the “club” who “knew” but scared at the same time, of getting pregnant. It was the first time for both of us and we were very much in love, so it was a shared joy. I remember it tenderly. I consider myself fortunate for this and hope my kids will be able to say the same.

Is marriage liberating or inhibiting sexually? Mostly liberating. The reality for me is that my husband is the best lover after a line of mediocre to lousy ones. So my marriage has been sexually liberating in the extreme. But there is an inhibiting force of long term partnering. The newness and passion wears off. The seductress in me has gone into hibernation, replaced by a sometimes lazy, too-self-conscious lover. I used to be more adventurous. I recall a relationship where we weren’t public. We just had secretive, exciting sex. And I do miss that side of myself. But not often. I am mostly thrilled that I finally experienced orgasm, and multiple orgasms, and I am a happy woman for that.

What makes you feel sexy? Having an orgasm. Knowing my husband is pleased with our sex, despite my fear he is bored or tired of me. But “sexy” isn’t a feeling I often have outside of the bedroom. I’ve too long been focused on my weight, my larger than average thighs, whatever cellulite might be showing.

Do you have the energy/desire for sex at the end of the day? Often, no. A typical scenario with me: I get a glimpse of my husband where I am turned on (usually he has a manly power tool in his hand) and I think, “yeah, tonight.” But then by the time we get into bed, the tired or edgy feeling crushes out the sexy feeling. Our sex happens often when the kids aren’t home or are at school. The best part about self-employment, making hours convenient for sex.

What turns you on? A man with a toilet brush in his hand. A man who asks, “what else can I do to help, honey?” A man who asks, “Are you OK? Talk to me.” I am more realistically turned on by intelligence, humor, irony, sexual innuendo, a man who is determined to make a woman come, a man who listens, who tries to understand his woman (because that’s about as good as it gets, right? Trying?)

What would make your sex life better? A pill or wave of a magic wand that takes away my self consciousness. Oh, wait. Something realistic? I hate to sound like a shrink, but communicating better. Telling my husband exactly what I’d like at the moment. Or talking about it later, “more of this, less of that, add a taste of this to see if I like it as much as I think I would.” Going away alone together to the Caribbean. Now THAT would make it fabulous.

What do you love about being a working mom? The adult interaction, developing a professional identity, the pride I feel in my work, the appreciation I get from those I am helping, getting out of the house, using my brain to solve complex problems. (Yes, I know parenting involves complex problems, but I get to solve those plus varied and different challenges that don’t involve cleaning up so many kids messes). I love earning a paycheck, contributing toward our financial security and MY financial security should something happen to him. This point is important to me. Also, the absence of guilt associated with splurging on myself (my splurges are laughably small most of the time).

What are the challenges of being a working mom? Oh, the worry about a sick child. Fortunately my husband has a lot of flexibility and my kids are almost never sick. Very lucky. Keeping up with something that resembles a fashionable wardrobe. Doing my taxes. Keeping up with filing. Ordinary tedium associated with work chores. Not working out as much as I should (and did more of when I was a SAHM).

Do you see evidence of “The Mommy Wars” in your everyday life? Not so much. I feel it around PTA moms occasionally. I occasionally hear the “I would never .. blah blah blah” judgements made about child care and decisions working moms make. I sometimes hear SAHMs phrase their decision in such a way that is sounds judgemental of working moms. “I wanted to be the one to raise my child” is a common one. As if working parents aren’t raising their own kids, setting the moral standards, teaching the important things we parents teach. It can be phrased, “I wanted to spend more time with my kids” and that works without casting a nod of disapproval to those of us who choose to work.

If you had a choice to be at home with your children, would you? No. I work three-quarters time, sometimes less than that, so I’m very very lucky to have work that allows me (or husband) to meet the kids’ school bus everyday. If I couldn’t be home this dependably and had to work a 40-hour week and didn’t have such satisfying work I would be tempted to SAH. If my husband earned a lot more, or if I won the lottery, or got a fat inheritance check, I would work less and do more self care for myself, preferably yoga classes, travel, art or photography classes.

Was the decision an economic one (e.g., your family requires two incomes)? There is an economic incentive, yes. To live in the house I’m in now? It’s a need. We could have lived off my husband’s income and stayed in our last house. But mostly, the incentive was about self-fulfillment, not economic. I worked very hard to achieve the degree and professional status I have obtained. I wanted very much to use it. I still do. I haven’t lost that drive.

Do you beat yourself up for not spending enough time with your kids? Sometimes. But then I talk myself out of heaping on guilt that stems from, in my opinion, a neurotic expectation that developed in the past 20 years as a result of too many experts trying to sell books. I believe in “good enough” parenting. I provide a safe home, three healthy meals (the occasional Count Chocula and hot dog nights, excepted) supervision, I check in when I see problems developing, I listen when they come to me, I am a highly present and available parent. I don’t need to hone in on every aspect of their lives. So I spend a lot of time giving myself the credit I deserve instead of worrying that I’m not more involved in their lives. I suppose I mostly believe I am adequately involved, I keep them safe, they know they are loved.

Do you feel supported by your partner? Yes. 99% of the time.

Do you feel supported by other women? Yes. Most of the women in my life share my values.

Do you feel valued in your workplace? Yes. Very much so, by my clients.

Do you feel valued at home? I often feel undervalued, under-appreciated. You know, the kids complain about not liking a meal. And I don’t feel they appreciate my time and efforts. But they are kids so that’s OK. Normal stuff. My husband doesn’t complain, ever, so I don’t know how he feels, but he doesn’t often show a lot of appreciation, either, so who knows what is going on in that brain of his? The eternal question. But to be sincere, I would like it if he said more appreciative things. When I sit down to a meal I’ve made where I tried to be creative and serve something a little different, I find myself asking, “so do you like it?” And he says, “um hmmm” but why do I have to ask? But he shows appreciation by doing things around the house, by helping out, by doing the lion’s share of some household chores when I’m busy and he’s not.

Do you believe a happy, fulfilled mom is a better mom whether her choice is to work outside the home or to stay at home with her children? Abso-fricking-lutely.

Can women do it all? No. Neither can men. Not a full time, ass-busting career and a healthy marriage and fully engaged parenting.

How old are your children? I have a teenage son and twin tween daughters.

What do you want to do differently with your children than what you received from your parents? I want my kids to be more free with their self expression. I don’t freak out when they disagree or show anger at me (well, sometimes I do, heh heh). I don’t take it personally, or try not to. I hope that if my kid votes differently than me one day, I won’t take it so hard, but that could prove to be a major challenge, because my way IS the right way, after all (wink).

What would you like to carry on that your parents established with you? My parents took an interest, they were there for me, they attended my extra-curricular activities, provided for me, showed me financial restraint, taught me frustration tolerance. I knew I could call them in a crisis and they would respond. They provided what was important and denied me over-indulgences. They also paid for my college. I am sacrificing now so that I can help my kids as much as I was helped.

How has having children changed the relationship with your partner? Um, no living room sex? No sex in front of the fireplace? Conversations that are interrupted constantly? But on the plus side, a deeper feeling of closeness. One of the things I hadn’t heard about or counted on was the thoroughly satisfying feeling of “this is my family.” MY family. I didn’t always have warm, comfortable feelings in my family of origin. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with my parents. As a teen I made myself as scarce as possible. But THIS family? I absolutely love my little unit. And love that my husband is such a good dad. He’s an excellent, hands-on dad and it’s one of the things I so appreciate about him.

Do you have dates with your partner? When I initiate them, yes. (Do you get my drift?)

Do you have personal “ME” time scheduled every week/every day? Well, yes, in that I have scheduled tennis matches. That’s about as “scheduled” as my life ever seems to get.

How do you combat stress? Tennis. Walking. Blogging. Sex. Sitting on the back patio drinking cranberry vodka drinks with friends (wish you were here, Motherscribe!)

Do you get out regularly with girlfriends? Yes. Semi-regularly. I used to more than I do now. I get out as much as I want to. I’m getting more homebody-ish lately, slowing down I suppose, so it’s my choosing.

Do you help create personal space for your partner? No. I don’t need to. He does a good enough job himself (again with the drift?). But not unreasonably. He gardens and takes on projects of his choosing. I don’t feel the need to factor in his needs in this regard.

Does your partner share in household tasks? Yes. He makes the kids lunches every morning, for starters. I wish he would do more straightening and de-cluttering of the kids’ stuff. I often feel that gets left to me and I’m not very good at it.

How did you think your life would be when you got married? How do you feel now? As a kid I thought married life would mean sitting around the TV, watching the news with a cocktail in my hand. Instead it’s sitting around the TV, watching the Daily Show, with a cup of hot tea and computer in my lap. Maintaining a happy marriage, a functioning marriage, a marriage with healthy communication is hard. In my case, hard because he doesn’t initiate marital dialog. So I’m the one who feels like “the heavy.” I’m the one who brings up complaints. I often feel alienated and emotionally needy and sometimes lonely. I didn’t expect to feel lonely. But overall we have a healthy, loving, considerate, faithful, trusting marriage. This is what I had hoped for.

Has it been challenging to retain a separate sense of self from your role as mother & wife? Not really. I mean, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the demands of being a mom. But I have friends who don’t know my husband. I do, however, have a slight dependent streak where I defer too much to him, where I am overly considerate of his feelings to the point where I ignore my own preferences and then sometimes resent it later. So yes, on that score, I feel that I am overly identified as a wife, rather than as an independent woman. But I think that comes with the territory to some extent.

What do you do to facilitate that? Does your partner help make that happen? My husband loves an independent, thinking, doing-for-herself woman. He is a low-control-needs kinda guy (a psychologist confirmed that long before he met me) and that means he lets me set the pace of so much of our lives. Which means my own life. He also knows I’m easier to live with when I get out and work, exercise, and spend time with my girlfriends. What I do? I plan things, give myself permission to spend time with friends, to play tennis, and let go of guilt. But it is a struggle sometimes. I have to keep working at it.

Are you happy and/or fulfilled with your life? Why? Wow. Jump right in! Yes, I’d say overall I am very happy and fulfilled. I have a good marriage, three wonderful, bright, happy, and healthy kids, plus a very cute little dog. At times I feel unfulfilled. At times I want more out of my life. I want to travel more, for example. But overall I think I’ve got a great life and keep it in perspective.

Thanks for taking the time to get to know me and allowing me to get to know other women.

Thank you, Phd in Yogurtry


The Motherscribe Interviews are closed to comments. For more about Phd in Yogurtry, please find her on CoffeeYogurt.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Symposium on how women are being portrayed in commercial media today



On Saturday, May 9, at 3:00pm at Pasadena City College’s Vosloh Forum, an entertaining, educational and empowering forum examines how women are being portrayed in commercial media today. Entitled “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?” this special program will survey mainstream television and print ads and will look at how female body images are being thinned, stretched, tweaked, distorted, sexualized, and objectified while older women are being erased before our very eyes. What are the trends? And what does it all mean for men as well as women? And what can be done to return a little reality to reality tv?

A New Media production, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?” is part of a public affairs program produced at Pasadena City College. This will be the first production with a “live” audience. Using history to frame headlines, listeners travel through time in a quest for context.

“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby?” starts its examination with a brief stop in 1969, before returning to present-day images and commentary by a panel of experts followed by questions and answers exchanged with the audience. While normally a radio show, this particular program of the “A Figure of Speech” series will be made available as a Mother’s Day video podcast via the Internet. The special 90-minute program concludes with a coffee and tea mixer outside on the Vosloh Patio to encourage further discussion and interaction with audience members.

This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome. As this program was inspired by Mother’s Day, a special invitation is extended to anyone, male or female, who has or had a mother. Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling 626-607-7457 or online via comment on the RSVP page of

Pasadena City College is located at 1570 E. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. On-campus parking is $2.

JCK would like to thank all the women who have contributed to the Motherscribe Interview Series. Because of this series, JCK has been asked to be a panelist at the symposium on May 9th.

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