Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taking Stock

For the last several months, I've been thinking long and hard about my life. What is it about having a kid that makes me feel like I'm living in my parents' house? There's something about the routine (even though our routine is pretty minimal and very laid back) that makes me want to escape.

Most nights last semester I spent working at coffee shops. In large part, this was because I HAD to in order to get done all the reading and grading and other work that I needed to do. But I was secretly (or maybe not so secretly) glad to have the excuse to get out of the house and be out in the world.

There was a time when the stability of my life would have seemed really attractive to me. I remember being in college and often feeling adrift. When I met my partner, I had a feeling of finally coming home, of finding my soulmate, and of making the connection I'd been yearning to make. Later, in my twenties, I was glad to be out of the dating scene. My single, female friends were focused on meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, and it seemed that they had to meet a lot of Mr. or Ms. Wrongs before they finally found Mr. or Ms. Acceptable. Because I spent most of that decade in graduate school, my twenties were a mix of an intellectual and intense working life, with a lot of the perks of a slacker life: in other words, lots of unstructured time, hip community, long discussions about anything and everything, clubbing, trips to the laundromat and supermarket as social time with friends, etc. I loved this, but I also had this sense of my life being on hold. I watched my friends having babies and wondered when I'd get to the point in my life when I could have one, too. So, when I turned thirty, I felt like I was on my way to what I perceived as "real life." I also knew lots of fabulous women in their 40s and 50s who were leading interesting, creative lives, so I didn't feel like it was the end of my youth to turn 30. If anything, it felt like the beginning of my life. I welcomed the occasional gray hairs, and I looked forward to growing older.

Then we moved to the Midwest, and I didn't have the community I had found in grad school. We were also in a city with a very different flavor - where Grad School Town had had a vibrant youth culture and alternative community that embraced a range of age groups, the culture I experienced now was largely a family- and church-based community. When I sat with my books and my coffee in what was then the only cafe in town, I saw very few other people around my age. (And most people looked frighteningly clean-cut - in a cultish way - but that's for another post.)

I had my son when I was 33. A few years later, I finally looked up from my life, which for those last couple of years had been focused entirely on work and family, and noticed that the world had been going on without me. I realized with a shock that it had been years since I'd gone out dancing or even for a drink at a real bar (not a restaurant). My clothes suddenly seemed frumpy and out of date. In short: I felt old.

I know that everyone goes through this at one point or another. For me, it might be exacerbated by the fact that I'm STILL a measly adjunct with no real job prospects - and that clearly, I'm never going to be a famous musician. It's also not helped by the reality that, in this part of the country, people act old at a young age.

So what's happened is that I have few friends my age or older (though the circle is growing, somewhat) who like or are able to do the grad student stuff - the communal grocery shopping, the clubbing, the deciding on a whim to take the afternoon off and shoot pool or catch a flick. When I want to do these things, I go mostly with friends in their twenties, or I go alone (I seldom get to go with my partner, who is either working or staying home with Bean so that I can go out). I wonder if they see my life as stable, and if so, if they desire that stability, just as I desire their freedom and yes, their youth.

What is it about their youth that I envy? Part of it, of course, is the physical aspect - I don't like looking older or the way my body has changed over time and through weight gain, pregnancy, childbirth, and weight loss. But part of it is the sense of having so many options and opportunities, feeling like life is stretching out before you and that anything is possible. By most standards, I'm not old, and I know that it's silly to be feeling this way now, but I'm very aware of feeling a certain urgency, a sense that I must act now if I want to do crazy things, before the doors close forever.

And sometimes, when I'm home making sure teeth are brushed instead of arguing feminist theory at a crowded party, it feels like they have closed already. But more often, these days, I'm noticing that they are, at least, unlocked.

I wrote these reflections almost a year ago. What's striking to me now is that I no longer feel anxious about quite the same things. I feel more settled into a comfortable space, and the doors I see around me are mostly partially open. But there is new anxiety - the anxiety that I'll never be able to live near my family of origin, and that the career I've been working toward all these years is yet another dream that won't be realized. The two anxieties are, of course, connected.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A woman playing Division I football? Day-um!

I don't usually do this, but the announcement for this book excited me so much that I had to share it with y'all:

Still Kicking: My Dramatic Journey As the First Woman to Play Division One College Football
by Katie Hnida

Editorial Reviews

It took just 1.28 seconds to make history.

On August 30, 2003, Katie Hnida became the first woman ever to play and score in NCAA Division I football. The struggle to get to that groundbreaking moment took eight long years, a journey filled with dogged commitment, horrifying setbacks, and finally, remarkable triumph.

Fate came knocking for the 14-year-old Hnida in the unlikely form of a torn thigh muscle -- an injury that would drive her off the soccer field in search of another outlet for her athletic talent. She found football and with it gender-defying success. The same day Hnida's high school classmates voted her homecoming queen, she donned her helmet and pads and kicked six extra points in the homecoming game.

When she is recruited to play for the University of Colorado Buffaloes, her great dream is realized, and she seems set for glory on a much larger stage. But upon arriving in Boulder, she begins a tour of hell inside the University of Colorado's football program, a hell that culminates in Hnida being raped by a teammate. It is here that the story truly begins.

Katie is physically and emotionally devastated. She leaves the university and begins climbing her way back to who she was and what she wanted. She learns to speak about what happened to her and to push through harrowing flashbacks of violence. The very thing that drew her into the darkest days of her life will ultimately save her: football.

She sends 80 kicking tapes to 80 Division I schools and is invited to visit several top football programs. But it is the blue-collar, no-nonsense team that wins her trust: the University of New Mexico Lobos. Under head coach Rocky Long, Hnida continues her long road to recovery through hard work and the will to never give up. She is not only accepted by her teammates, she also finds herself part of a team
that's a family.

In Albuquerque, Hnida is reunited with her dream. Under a true leader, she blossoms. Her teammates are teammates, supporting and encouraging her to reach her goal. And with just seven minutes and 20 seconds to go in a game against Southwest Texas, the history-making extra point kick is made in under two seconds, changing everyone's ideas about what is possible.

I don't know about you, but I just put this on my Amazon wishlist. What I think is particularly exciting is that it has a happy ending, and truthfully, we don't see nearly enough of those. I was, sad to say, not at all surprised to read about the rape. I'm frankly surprised that it didn't happen while she was in high school because when women move into traditionally male arenas, historically, men react with violence. But to know that she not only was able to move past her own trauma but also to both find a place on a Division I team AND to be truly accepted there - wow. I can't wait to read it.

And I hate football.

(NOTE: For more on Hnida, check out Ken's post - with links - on After Atalanta.)

PSA for Sioux Falls folks

The Condom Project: TODAY

Events:

Meet & Greet at The Center
Wednesday, November 29th, 1:30 p.m.
1600 S. Western Ave, Park Ridge Mall
second floor, north door of mall

Safer Sex Workshop
Wednesday, November 29th, 4:00 p.m.
Beloit Room, Augustana College Commons
Augustana campus is between 28 & 33rd Streets and Summit & Grange Avenues

Video & Speaker Presentation
Wednesday, November 29th, 8:00 p.m.
Beloit Room, Augustana College Commons

The CONDOM PROJECT was established by a group of AIDS educators, activists, and artists who are committed to direct action. The Project works domestically and internationally to de-stigmatize condoms among all people and to increase their use among sexually active individuals.

Presenters:
Frank DeRose, Director – an entrepreneurial visionary, has employed his strategic planning capabilities in many community-oriented capacities and been an AIDS activist over the past two decades.

Red Fitzgerald, Operations & Development – active member of the progressive arts community and social justice arena. She is committed to using art education to change lives.

Joy Lynn Alegarbes, Safer Sexpert – a community-based artist and sexual health advocate, brought sexual health education to many organizations and is a strong believer in using theatre and community-based arts as a medium for dialogue.

Hitty Pitty.

Bean is wandering around saying:
"Hitty Pitty within the wall.
Hitty Pitty without the wall.
If you touch Hitty Pitty, Hitty Pitty will bite you."

Over and over.

This is a riddle from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. None of us know what the answer to the riddle is (Bean just said, in a thoughtful way, "I wonder what Hitty Pitty looks like?").

But my sweetie and I have been giving each other odd looks, each thinking that this is getting a bit creepy. As he says, "this is like one of those movies, where the kid knows some weird rhyme that no one else understands about some person or creature. Then, later on, the thing comes back and rips everyone to pieces."

Or, you know, maybe it's something like this.

(OK, OK, I did look up Hitty Pitty and it's not anything so very exciting at all. I like the possibilities we came up with better. But at least I'll sleep tonight.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

FREE EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION in SD!!!

This just in from Planned Parenthood:
December 6th at the Sioux Falls and Rapid City Planned Parenthood Clinics we're giving out FREE EC! EC has gone over the counter and now it is easier then ever to back up your birth control! Just stop in on December 6th and ask for your free EC! Photo ID required.

Sioux Falls
6511 W. 41st St
10:00am-6:00pm
605-361-5100

Rapid City
619 Mountain View Rd.
3:00pm-7:00pm
605-341-2545

(And you know what to do afterward, right?)

And now for something completely different.

For today's post, head on over to the site of my blogging buddy, Drek, who was kind enough to invite me to do a guest post.

And after that, if you're still looking for something to do, check out this piece (which I thought was both clever and amusing).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ye Gads, Bean is still not asleep.

At this point, I'm taking suggestions.

I am dissatisfied, and it's the kind of dissatisfied that is deep and may initiate a major change. Not with Bean. It's more that, I would prefer to not have a hundred million things to do tonight before I can go to bed, too. I would much rather snuggle with Bean for until he falls asleep so that he doesn't have to think scary thoughts alone in his room.

And it's moments like these that I wonder what all these years of schooling have gotten me into.

Outing bloggers.

One of the bloggers I read fairly regularly was recently outed (not on her blog, but in a different forum). I did a little detective work (because I'm nosy) and while I didn't look hard enough (because I may be nosy, but I'm not a stalker) to find the thread in which the outing occurred, I did find this thread discussing what happened.

And, while at first it didn't appear as though Restaurant Gal had been dooced, she later wrote a couple of farewell posts to her job, and I'm assuming that the two incidents are connected.

When I read the comments on her pages and then the comments on the other board, I noticed two people who were desperately trying to defend their position against Restaurant Gal. Neither of them claimed responsibility for outing her - and one said more than once that he didn't do it - but they both continued to accuse her (and/or her husband) of posting (on a foodie board) positive things about the restaurant where she worked without disclosing that she actually worked there.

What's interesting about this is that she said she has never posted at the site in question. And the "evidence" that she or her husband posted? The person who posted the comment(s) in question used the name "MRG," which one reader of both her blog and the other forum assumed meant "Mr. Restaurant Gal," a pseudonym by which she has frequently referred to her husband.

Um. A username of "MRG" is not evidence of anything. I just wanted to point that out. It makes sense that "MRG" could possibly refer to "Mr. Restaurant Gal," though as the accuser himself has said, he really has no clue (on the foodie board, he wrote, "However, having her (or her husband, still haven't figured out if MRG stands for Mr. Restaurant Gal, or what) posting in the thread playing up the restaurant just isn't kosher"; on Restaurant Gal's blog, he wrote, "You (or someone associated with you, still not certain if MRG is you or your husband) posted in the thread in question related to your place of employment.") You can find these comments in the links above.). It also makes sense that "MRG" refers to something else entirely, perhaps "Mr. General" or "Management Research Guy" or any one of the nearly 3 million hits that come up when I google "MRG."

So here's what I see. I see some person or persons who thought it would be fun to publically identify someone whose blog had until then been anonymous. He/she/they did this knowing that it would very likely cost her her job. Seriously - there are only two reasons I can think of to out an anonymous blogger: power and revenge. And neither speak well of the outer.

Following the outing came all kinds of indignation that Restaurant Gal should expect to be anonymous. I mean, doesn't she know there is no anonymity on the internet, for heaven's sake? There was actually a discussion (again, check the link in my first paragraph) about whether or not bloggers have the right to blog anonymously, which, I must say, nicely evades the issue of whether or not someone who outs an anonymous blogger is a buttwipe.

The question here isn't whether or not Restaurant Gal or anyone else has the right to be anonymous online. The question is, what sort of jerk thinks it's fun to out someone just because s/he can? And what sort of people - people who first admit that they like Restaurant Gal's blog (which, folks, is really well-written and thoughtful) - will then comment in this same discussion that while they, of course, would never out a blogger, she deserved it because she crossed a line; she mocked her customers; she made herself identifiable anyway, smirk smirk, so of course we all had it figured out ages ago?

Who are all these scary people sitting out there with pens and notebooks jotting down all sorts of slights, real and imagined?

Frankly, I find it frightening to know that there are people like this out there who just want to be mean for the sake of being mean, or maybe because they suspect that someone else out there broke a rule somewhere and they must be held accountable, by God. More frightening than it is to know that I might turn up as the subject of someone's blog sometime when I've had a bad day and behaved poorly at, say, the post office, or the coffee shop, or the lunch spot.

Rock on, Restaurant Gal.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Thanksgiving message...

I'm guessing posting will be slow here this week, as my family and I - all of whom are sick and exhausted - are away spending the holiday with relatives. I, of course, have my bag full o' work with me, and will be reading about such things as sexual exploitation and (of course) abortion.

But I wanted to pause for a moment, given the nature of this week, and implore you all to do something to make someone else thankful. This morning, I made a donation to save Darfur. Would you consider doing whatever you can to help? Here's the website.

And if you're not sure, or if you haven't been following the news, here's what's going on and why you should help. From SaveDarfur.org's post, "Background":


Darfur has been embroiled in a deadly conflict for over three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad; and more than 3.5 million men, women, and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival. Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a calculated campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, and mass slaughter.

And after you've made a donation, check out this site to see what your representatives in Congress are doing to end the genocide. Select your state from the drop-down menu, and then click on each legislator's name to get their voting record on Darfur and their contact information. Please call them and urge them to support $180 million for peacekeeping in Darfur in the 2007 budget.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Leslee Unruh wrote the ban?!

I don't know how I missed this news, but apparently Leslee has copped to drafting the first version of the ban. Read all about it, including all the weird incestuous conflicts of interest that followed (husband on the Task Force to Study Abortion, son-in-law in the Vote Yes commercial, etc.), here.

Going JANE on Their Asses.

So Plan B (also known as Emergency Contraception) is now over the counter in South Dakota. Of course, a woman wanting to get it still has to run the obstacle course. If she's under 18, she can't buy it over the counter and has to find a doctor willing to prescribe it.

Both of the hospitals in my city - major, regional medical centers that draw people in from neighboring states - have despicable policies when it comes to EC.

The Catholic hospital's policies are, not surprisingly, dictated by religious doctrine. So let's imagine a woman, Jane, who wants to get EC and goes to this hospital. First, to get EC, Jane must first have been raped. If she was having consensual sex, then no EC for Jane. But if she has been raped, then just-raped Jane must undergo a protein test to see if she has ovulated. If she has ovulated, she will not be given EC, because the Catholic Church believes, in defiance of the medical definition, that preventing a fertilized egg from implanting constitutes abortion (medical science states that pregnancy begins at implantation; thus, abortion can only take place after that). So if just-raped Jane is found to have ovulated, she would then be sent off to to try her luck elsewhere. (One hopes that she would also be given counseling and that representatives from Rape Crisis would at this point begin whacking the hospital staff with their own clipboards.)

At our teaching hospital, decisions about whether or not to prescribe EC are left up to the doctors. That means that Jane may very well find that the doctor on call that weekend is one who will not prescribe EC. (And even if she finds one who will, don't kid yourself that these doctors don't have their own list of qualifications - including that one be married - for EC recipients.)

Well, thank God it's over the counter for women over 18, then, right? It's simply a matter of finding a pharmacy that will carry EC. But one of our major drugstore chains has already said they won't carry it. Another will, but our friend Jane still has to find a pharmacist who will provide it, because pharmacists are allowed to refuse to provide it if they feel self-righteous and judgmental. And while we've all heard about the 72-hour window within which the drug should be taken, the reality is that it should ideally be taken within 24 hours, when it is most effective. So now Jane has a dilemma on her hands.

One local news station quoted an OB/GYN making an interesting suggestion:
"...because the drug must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex in order to be effective, some women may want to consider giving Plan B a regular place in the medicine cabinet alongside the Band-Aids. Dr. Nelson says, 'We know that Plan B works better if it's taken sooner, so having it right at your fingertips when you're in need can make such a big difference.'"
This may not sound newsworthy in civilized areas, but for someone to suggest that women keep EC on hand for emergencies is, in South Dakota, tantamount to calling for abortion on demand through the third trimester.

But it's a damn good idea, isn't it? Do you know what the policies for EC distribution are in your town? Do you want to find out at midnight on a Friday night when the Planned Parenthood clinic is closed until Monday morning?

Back in the '70s, the Jane Collective provided abortions to women who needed them. They collaborated with doctors, but eventually learned to perform them on their own, and with excellent results. More recently, women have worked in groups to perform menstrual extractions as another method of pregnancy prevention (or abortion, depending on whether or implantation has occurred).

So why not an EC Collective? Why not distribute EC across the country, from urban to rural communities, from forward-thinking states to the Victorian ones?

Looks like someone beat me to it.

And meanwhile, if that's a little too bold for your blood, then gather your girlfriends and make an afternoon of demanding EC at one or more of your local drugstores. Go in groups. Alert the media. Make the point that pharmacists don't have the right to determine our future pregnancies.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Quiverfull.

As if recent assaults on reproductive rights haven't been bad enough - including the appointment of Dr. Eric "anti-birth control, anti-abortion, anti-sex education" Keroack as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (that means he's in charge of family planning on the national level) - now there's something new to keep us awake at night.

"Our bodies are meant to be a living sacrifice," write the Hesses. Or, as Mary Pride, in another of the movement's founding texts, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, puts it, "My body is not my own." This rebuttal of the feminist health text Our Bodies, Ourselves is deliberate. Quiverfull women are more than mothers. They're domestic warriors in the battle against what they see as forty years of destruction wrought by women's liberation: contraception, women's careers, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and child abuse, in that order.

I'm going to give all the obvious arguments a rest today and instead focus on a few of the many, many other issues I have with this whole idea.

First, how far gone must one be to think that women's liberation - still not achieved, by the way - causes child abuse? If this is in some way an attempt to argue that men sexually abuse children because their wives are divorcing them in order to have careers, I swear I'm going to have an aneurysm.

Second,I'd like to hear from all the women who are being abused and raped, who are living in poverty, who are following the Quiverfull path. Hello? Are you out there? Of course not. Because birthing all the babies you can only makes sense if you're in a decent relationship and have some money. Which leaves us the Quiverfull movement as just another example of the disenchanted white, middle-class trying to make their lives meaningful. It's not enough to just have a family - it must be the best family. It must be God's family. There must be a divine purpose to their lives, and everyone else must know what it is.

And let's just think for a moment about what repeated pregnancy and childbirth do to women's bodies. I'm not talking about stretch marks. I'm talking about physically breaking down and wearing out. I'm talking about a student of mine who almost died because having her six or seven babies was so hard on her body (she was in her forties and looked fifteen years older. When she gave birth the last time, her doctor ordered her not to have any more children because he was afraid she would die the next time).

And what about cases like this:
"An anonymous mother had written in to the Quiverfull Digest full of despair, saying she felt she was "going to die." Her husband was older and unhelpful around the house, and she feared he would die and leave her to raise their six children alone and destitute. She wanted someone on the forum to give her a reason--besides the Bible--why one should be Quiverfull."

Did they tell her, "it's ok - you don't have to be Quiverfull in your circumstance; God will understand?" No, they did not:
"The answers were quick and pointed: Apart from Scripture, there's no reason why one should be Quiverfull."

So, lady, either follow Scripture or don't. We can't help it if you can't hack it.

We can dismiss this group as a bunch of wackos, but note that the article also points out that their position on birth control isn't far off from the conservative Right Wing's position: birth control bad. Babies good. (Yes, I'm playing off the Leslee Unruh line.)

It's not far from Keroack's position, either.

What no one ever seems to talk about in these stories is what they think the world is going to do with all of these extra people. We refuse to feed and take care of the people who are alive now. The Nation piece points to one Quiverfull child, now grown, who is off to Iraq. Well, I guess that's one thing that will happen: more children means a larger fighting force, eventually. And that is in fact what they thing they are building: an army. An army of their children.

I'm quivering, all right.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Behind the Music: Mr. Rogers

Some people have famous friends whose names they can drop and stories they can dine out on. I have Mr. Rogers. And I don't even really have him: I have a father who used to work with him.

My dad built Mr. Rogers' original sets (not the ones that you remember - this was before the show was nationally syndicated).

You would think that would make me pretty cool among my peers as a kid, wouldn't you? Sadly, it had zero effect on my social standing. In fact, on a couple of occasions, I found myself defending his honor against jeering "friends" and nearly coming to blows with them (but that's another story). But we did get Christmas cards from the Rogers clan for a few years, and I met him a couple of times.

Yes, he is exactly like that in real life, and much more genuine-seeming.

I had originally planned to take advantage of my celebrity insider-ness and share with you the story of how X the Owl got his treehouse. I have a friend who showed me some work she was doing for Elmo that involved a suspiciously Neighborhood-of-Make-Believe-looking tree. And I mentioned to my dad that I thought Elmo was stealing from Mr. Rogers, and he told me the story of how that tree came to be. However, my dad is writing his own book, and that story is in there, and we decided that perhaps it would be best if I didn't scoop his book.

So instead I'm going to tell you that, the first time I met him was in Buffalo, NY, and I was probably two years old. I remember seeing him there in the restaurant, and being shy, and finally blurting out, "did you know you're on t.v.?" He thought that was adorable, and when I met him again nine years later, he remembered that and mentioned how incredible it was that, in my childlike way, I really had thought that perhaps he was on television and he didn't know it. (Which tells you something about how kids imagine television. Bean* asked me today if we could go on television and never come back, and I realized that what he was thinking television would be like - a magical place in which one could exist only if one didn't also exist in real life - was far, far different from the studio that I had in my mind.)

What I also remember about that second meeting was that there was a very determined little boy in the studio who very much wanted King Friday for himself. He grabbed onto the puppet and held on for dear life, and Mr. Rogers managed to get him to let go without pulling or asking for help or even raising his voice. I'm sure it helps to be a television personality when a little kid has glommed onto your stuff and you want it back - the little kid just looked at him with big, round eyes and, after a while, let go - but Mr. Rogers deserves at least some of the credit for knowing how to be with young children.

I had little tolerance for the show once I turned six or seven, but Bean (I finally came up with a blog name for him!) is enjoying him now, and I notice and remember having been drawn to Mr. Rogers' gentleness, his dorky yet endearing way of moving, the way he is entirely willing to make a fool out of himself in order to capture the moment for a small child on the other side of the screen.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Catholicism and Abortion: A History

I was fortunate to receive a copy of the following essay via email from Judith Arcana. I immediately contacted Judith to ask if I could post it here and she was gracious enough to allow me to do so.

I wanted to post this piece because we are sorely in need of a history and theology lesson. I'm tired of the Right co-opting God and morality, I'm tired of people shouting at me that they know what God wants, I'm tired of being told that faithful people who are pro-choice are "false prophets," and I'm tired, frankly, of crappy research and theorizing that depends more hegemonic beliefs than it does on fact.

When the man said "the truth will set you free," he meant exactly this kind of truth and the way that it sets us free to think for ourselves and to think about the repercussions of simply believing what others tell us is true.
A Short Essay About A Long History
by Judith Arcana, November 2006

Recently I learned that my work was being discussed on some anti-abortion websites because I’d been invited to do three events in early October at Loyola University of Chicago.

There was one guy who wrote that he was moved to reach for his baseball bat and shotgun when he thought about my being a guest at Loyola. There was one woman who argued for the value of diverse opinions. Everybody else expressed anger and sadness. The general outrage was focused on the fact that I, a writer and activist for reproductive justice, had been invited to visit a Catholic school, a Jesuit university (of which, by the way, I am a graduate).

The anti-abortion people’s responses reminded me how ignorant almost everybody is about the history of the Church in relation to abortion, how crucial that history is for Catholic women and girls, and how damaging that ignorance can be in the lives of millions, both Catholic and not. Fact is, Church thinking and policy on abortion have been various, to say the least, over many hundreds of years.

I learned this while studying at the Rockefeller Archives in New York in 1999. I was reading texts about abortion, contraception and related issues, including the founding of Planned Parenthood, an enterprise of importance to some members of the Rockefeller family. I read a pamphlet prepared in the nineteen-seventies by Catholics for a Free Choice; I read hundreds of pages of minutes from meetings, a variety of reports, and lots of correspondence. My goal was simply to take in as much as I could and maybe riff on what I’d found, writing poems for a book manuscript (What if your mother*). I was flat-out amazed at what I learned, and I want to tell everybody all about it.

You might ask: Why? What’s the big deal? And if you did, I’d answer: The Catholic Church is a source of huge amounts of money and influence in the international politics of reproductive justice, and fights fiercely to prevent access to authentic sex education and effective family planning services all over the world.

So. First of all, I see it’s useful to include Aristotle, that ever-present precursor to, and influence upon, Christianity: he theorized that a fetus becomes human (is “ensouled”) 40 days after conception if male, 80 if female. Since there was no way for him or anybody else in those days to know the sex of a fetus at any time during pregnancy, his theory is intriguing, to say the least. Aristotle was born in 384 BCE and died in 322 BCE; clever as he was, he did a certain amount of damage in his 62 years.

Now, on to the Church he influenced, for a selection of useful, interesting bits:
St. Jerome (b.347, d.420), was beatified in 1747 and canonized in 1767. He wrote to a woman named Algasis (probably his student) that “seeds are gradually formed in the uterus, and it [abortion] is not reputed homicide until the scattered elements receive their appearances and members.” Why he embraced that idea we cannot say, but we can say that such thinking scarcely supports an absolute anti-abortion position.

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) held that abortion was “not irregular” if the fetus was not yet “vivified” or “animated.” This distinction evokes the concept of “quickening,” which was until recently a notable marker in fetal development but now is often displaced by “viability” as a result of new medical technology and legal considerations.

Innocent’s principles were adopted into the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX, who was pope in his very old age (1227-1241). Gregory was a complicated guy, by no means a champ on every front. His record is a fine reminder of how important it is for us to recognize complexity. Born in 1145, he lived almost a hundred years and is sometimes said to have been a hero to St. Francis (who died the year before Gregory became pope), but he preached in favor of the Crusades and burned heretics.

Thomas Aquinas (b.1225, d.1274), of all people, turns out to have been one of those who thought that abortion of only an “animated” fetus should be considered murder, a thoughtful position even now, despite the complications of “viability.”

One of my personal favorites is Tom├ís Sanchez (b.1550, d.1610), a Jesuit scholar. He said that abortion was lawful when the fetus was not yet “ensouled” and also when the mother would die from carrying it to term. I thought of him instantly when the anti-abortion people complained about my being invited to a Jesuit university. (I have to tell you that my copy of the Fall issue of Loyola’s magazine arrived this week, and its cover says: “Welcome home to Loyola.”)

It’s useful to know that the catechism of the Council of Trent in 1566 held that “in the natural order, no body can be informed by a human soul except after the prescribed space of time.” Though the “prescribed space of time” is unclear, council discussion was about the business of ensuring that Jesus was understood to be different from everyone else in human form because his soul was joined to his body at the time of conception, unlike all (other) human beings. This seems a useful note to sound when discussing abortion.

Sixtus V outlawed all abortion in 1588. That was the year the Protestant Virgin Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, thoroughly trounced the power of the Church through her navy’s defeat of the Spanish Armada, a fleet blessed by the Pope and considered invincible in much the same way the Titanic was later considered unsinkable. As I recall, the Armada suffered from rough weather in the English Channel almost as much as from the smaller, faster ships that harried them, but I can’t help thinking Sixtus may have been in an especially misogynist frame of mind. Mind you, I don’t even know which came first, the edict or the defeat; but he certainly was in a near-constant rage about Elizabeth in those years.

Only three years later, another victory for the girls’ team: Pope Gregory XIV changed the law in 1591. He allowed abortions to be done up to the 40th day of gestation (some scholars dispute this, putting Gregory’s deadline at the even longer sixteen and a half weeks). Pinpointing the moment of conception then was surely no less dicey than it is now, so this ruling was a gift to women.

Saint Alphonsus Ligouri (b. 1696, d.1787) said that the fetus is “certainly not animated before it is formed.” It’s fair to assume he was referring to the “form” of a human being (as opposed, for example, to a five or six week fetus, which still has a discernible tail). He also said abortion should be allowed when needed to save the life of the mother.

In 1869, less than a hundred years after Saint Alphonsus’ death, Pope Pius IX forbade all abortion. Like Sixtus V, he was a hardliner, and that hard line, a ruling made less than 150 years ago, is church law in our time.

Pius XII announced in 1958 that the pill, that miracle of mid-20th century chemistry, was immoral because it prevents ovulation. Pius was a big opponent of overt sexuality as well as birth control. (What with the current connections so often made among stem cell research, conception, contraception, and abortion, I’ll note here that in that same year a Nobel prize for physiology and medicine was shared by Joshua Lederberg and the team of George W. Beadle/Edward Tatum, all of whom were working on genetics.)

Pius died the same year he banned the pill, and John XXIII became pope, bringing joy to millions of people all over the world, many of whom were not even members of his church. But he died in less than five years, so we will never know if his intelligence and compassion could have led him to the kind of radical shift implemented by those other popes in the past. We do know that his bishops affirmed “the value and necessity of wisely planned education of children in human sexuality.” Whatever they actually meant by this, their statement certainly could, even now, be interpreted as good news.

In the middle of 1964, Pope Paul announced that the Church position on birth control was “being studied.” Though this is a time-honored method of delaying action (often forever), John D. Rockefeller III considered it an opportunity to further the cause of family planning. He was cautioned, in the correspondence I read at the Archives, that there would be no overturning of papal proclamations, only the possibility of reinterpretation. There was an exchange in which he was urged to understand that the Church would not accept contraception that “destroys the natural structure of the marital act,” but he still thought there might be some acceptance of methods that intervene in the physiology of an individual person. That is, devices would be forbidden while chemicals would be allowed. But the pill remained condemned, and no part of JDR3’s hopeful interpretation has yet been realized.

Benedict now occupies the papal throne. His presence there may seem a grim emblem in the face of the desperately difficult struggle for women’s reproductive health. But Benedict now has to consider the use of condoms in relation to AIDS. I bet he’s thinking about this history of differing opinions, edicts, principles, and the willingness of all those men to contradict each other, to overturn each other’s rules.

Knowing that Vatican law has not been constant may make us angry: uncounted millions of women’s motherhood decisions have been dictated by all that back-and-forth. Or, knowing that Vatican law has not been constant may make us joyous: the generosity and grace of some men of the Church brought relief and release to many women and girls. Either way, knowing this history is provocative, energizing, liberating. Let’s tell everybody all about it.

*You can order copies of What if your mother from your local independent bookstore, from Amazon.com, or directly from the publisher at chicorybluepress.com.

You can learn more about Judith Arcana and read more of her writing here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Clean up that naked and go to your room.

People here are grooving on the use of "Unruh" to mean "postal" (and it makes sense, if you've ever heard her speak), and one other blog (!) has picked it up. I'm curious to see if it will get around, and if it does, if it will do for South Dakota what Dan Savage's treatment of "Santorum" did for Pennsylvania. (Others of my definitions, however, are less catchy, but I kinda knew that would happen: there is a limit to how many real, useable words one can pull out of a single political group).

But the other night a new one was born that is entirely unbesmirched by politics, and I think it's pretty cool: "to spill the naked." While this meant something entirely else in it's original context, we decided that it was a perfect way to say "TMI" without actually having to *say* TMI (because "TMI" is kind of outre).

So here's an example:

Friend starts telling you about something and forgets that there are some things that other people don't want to know (like, for example, about the weird thing she found growing on the bottom of her foot). You say incredulously, and with a hint of disgust, "Aw, man, you just spilled the naked." (The implication being, of course, that she should clean it the hell up by apologizing and STOPPING TALKING. NOW.)

It is possible that this is only hysterically funny at midnight when you've had too much coffee and have too much work standing between you and a good night's sleep. But I think it has potential.

(All right, I'll link you to Savage's definition of "Santorum," but it's a pretty strong example of spilling the naked, so be warned.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Unpeppered and Unpopular at Technorati.

I know it's almost as pathetic to check one's standing on Technorati as it is to do so on RateMyProfessor.com, but I did, and I found that one or two of the blogs that used to link to me do so no longer. And my rating dropped by like 30,000. Sigh. I write this blog for *me*, it's true, but I can't help feeling a little bit like the kid whose best friend is now hanging out with someone else.

I suppose I should be glad that Technorati hasn't instituted a hot pepper system.

Monday, November 13, 2006

To Whom It May Concern

Please accept this letter and the enclosed documents as my letter of application for whatever job you might have available.

I was delighted to see your position announcement because I am becoming rather desperate for a job that will pay me a living wage, and I'm glad to know that someone out there is actually hiring full-time employees.

I am interested in a career at your institution because you have students there, and classes, and I teach students in classes, so it seems like a good match. Also, you have a library with books in it and an office, and I need those things. Most of all, though, I am interested in obtaining a tenure-track (or, hey, I'm not fussy, just full-time will do) teaching position before my students do.

I have gobs of teaching experience. I have, in fact, been teaching college for nearly 15 years. In that time, I've taught pretty much every subject there is except for math and science, but I like a challenge, so don't feel that you can't just stick me in any old place. As either a student or an adjunct for my entire academic career, I have not only designed and taught all my own courses, but I have also chaired the department on a couple of occasions. I'd especially be interested in teaching large, 100+ student lecture courses without any Teaching Assistants to help me grade, particularly if I will be assuming the directorship of the program at that time as well as cranking out excellent scholarship. I can multi-task, and I can adapt quickly to new situations. I'm also good with my hands.

My research is really quite interesting, but between adjuncting and writing job applications, it is unlikely that I'll ever have time to complete it. I suspect, though, that it's damn near cutting edge, and if I had been eligible to apply for any of the grants at my institution, I'd probably have something solid to show you.

In any case, I'm well-acquainted with blind loyalty to the institution and hard, thankless work, and I'm a cheap date. I will be so grateful if you hire me that I'll forget all about negotiating, and I won't mention the fact that I've already worked the equivalent of five years' full-time employement, during which time I've watched many of my colleagues who graduated with me receive tenure.

Oh, and I'm not bitter or depressed at all.

Sincerely,
Plainsfeminist

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Shame and Politics

I just finished reading Arlene Stein's book, Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture, part of which discusses how the Christian Right uses shame as a central organizing notion.

This has been, of course, blatantly evident in several of the moments we've seen in South Dakota politics over the last few months. South Dakota Family Policy Council Director Rob Regier's comments about South Dakotans Against Discrimination Director Jon Hoadley illustrate this particularly well. If you've followed the above link, you know that Rob is now totally absolved from having helped pay for his former girlfriend's abortion, as well as from the life of sin that he was leading during this time. This is not, by the way, because he found God, as he had already found God prior to this. It seems to be because he decided to live his life differently (which makes no sense if you are familiar with the whole concept of grace).

Because Regier turned out to be such an exceptional human being, he apparently had the right to make weird and insulting comments about Jon Hoadley, who, based on what is admittedly a fleeting acquaintance, may just be one of the nicest people (and certainly one of the smartest campaign strategists) I've met:
Rob Regier of the S.D. Family Policy Council personally attacked what he believes to be Jon's lifestyle, saying he "would be dead before he was 40." Jon is 23.

I would just like to point out here that Regier, in the process of sharing his beliefs, has managed to become one of the most hated men in South Dakota. Hoadley, on the other hand, has not only earned the respect and friendship of many during his campaign, but he also managed to educate nearly half of South Dakota voters to vote against the marriage amendment. Further, having been out with Hoadley and friends a few times, I can say that I don't know what Regier could be alluding to. I think perhaps he needs to put away his secreted collection of the Tales of the City series (for the straights: it's basically the gay Sex and the City, and it came first, thank you very much) and come back to reality.

Then there is also the abortioncams.com site, which, believing that "shame deters abortions," has posted pictures of men, women, and children (it's never too soon to shame!) at Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, along with close-ups of their license plates. The hope is that people will be recognized and shamed by the community - or, perhaps, harassed or even killed (the site is connected to The Nuremberg Files, which used to directly encourage violence against abortion providers, and now does so in a subtler, creepy way).

I found another example while poking around on YouTube, where I came across Leslie Unruh's unconsession speech in response to the abortion ban's defeat, in which she said two very interesting things. First, she mentioned a woman who, having shared her story of having had an abortion, no longer felt ashamed. I wondered why she had felt shame in the first place. Who was making her feel ashamed? None of the women I know who have had abortions have felt shame about it (save, perhaps, the one woman I will mention below). And, further, if they were ashamed of having had abortions, then why did telling people about their shameful secret make them less ashamed?

The answer became clear a few sentences later, when Unruh pointed the finger at Planned Parenthood and said, to loud cheers from the others in the Vote Yes For Life office: "Planned Parenthood, you killed our children."

Stein tells us that the Christian Right shames others in order to avoid shame themselves. In this case, Unruh neatly transferred the shame from the women who had had abortions onto Planned Parenthood. I don't believe that abortion is shameful, but this leads me to say, take responsbility for your own decisions. I've mentioned before my acquaintance who had three abortions and blamed Planned Parenthood for each one. I'm not sympathetic. I am not pro-choice so that someone can have three abortions, blame Planned Parenthood, and then go on the road shaming women and spreading false information.

Stein gives us a useful distinction between shame and guilt. Guilt, she suggests, is the result of an act. It is specific. From this, I can suggest that a guilty conscience can lead us to rectify a wrong, to apologize, to make things right. But shame, Stein explains, is much larger. Shame is about who you are as a person. It is about being a shameful person, and that is something that is much more difficult to correct. The Christian Right tells us that we can avoid shame by not being gay, by not having sex, by not having abortions, etc., etc. Simultaneously, they tell us, we are only righteous people if we feel ashamed of all of these things because these things, they say, are wrong. Not being ashamed, then, simultaneously means that one is righteous (if one is heterosexual, practicing abstinence, etc.) or that one is damned (if one is gay, having sex, and unrepentant of this).

It is all in the eye of the beholder, in other words.

And meanwhile, there are some very scared, insecure, and shamed people trying to heal themselves by heaping their own shame on us.

All of this makes the outcome of the election particularly important. All across the country, voters sent the message that we are not ashamed - not about abortion, not about sexuality, not about wanting the war in Iraq to end - and further, that a politics built on shame is not one we want we want to be part of.

A final thought: it is perhaps this intense emphasis on shame that has made several conservatives in the blogosphere and IRL announce that the election sent a clear mandate to stay the course. Because God forbid they should ever feel ashamed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My election night (and the morning after)

It was 10pm before I even left the house to go to the election celebration at the Sioux Falls Sheraton, and I was in a mood. It's hard to bounce back and forth between the need to work together and the need to smack someone upside the head for being an idiot. And it's hard, too, to lose one's cool, as I have done publically, and then to go back and talk to these same people without feeling either angry all over again or like a great big idiot myself.

But I went, and I'm sure my friends were all thrilled to have me there as I was extremely cynical and pessimistic for most of the night, and every time some happy pro-choice activist would say, "I'm so glad it's OVER!!!" I would helpfully point out that it wasn't - that there is likely another version of the ban coming in a couple of months. (One kind soul finally took me aside and gently said, "Look. I really need to be happy about this just for tonight. Tomorrow, I promise, I'll be back to strategizing." And as I recognize that timing has never been my strong suit, and that I'm always working a couple of steps ahead of or behind everyone else, but rarely in step, I really did try to put on my brave little toaster face.

Random bit of trivia about me: I am completely incapable of not wearing my heart on my sleeve. If I am upset about something, you will know it. And I get upset a lot when it comes to trying to work together with other people in political situations, which is why I'm frequently threatening (to myself, mostly) to quit this or that organization or party. So I'm not at all sure that my brave little toaster face was convincing, and in retrospect, I'm really wishing I had bought everyone in our little bar group a drink last night.)

All day yesterday, whenever anyone had asked me what I was thinking about the outcome, I would say, "I think it's all going to go into the toilet." And their faces would fall, and I wouldn't even have enough hopeful energy to feel bad for making them feel bad. I was holding myself in that guarded place, in that way that you do when you talk to a friend or ex who has hurt you and you are trying to have a conversation with them but you don't trust them not to hurt you again. After the 2004 election, when I had been so sure that Bush would have his ass handed to him, it was hard to allow myself to feel hopeful.

But anyway, as the results started to come in and I noticed that the Democrats had won the House and perhaps the Senate, and as a few of the ballot issues I had voted on were coming out my way - I started to feel different. (I'm quite sure that, had I not been driving and therefore been able to drink, I would have mellowed out quite a bit earlier.) I didn't need the brave little toaster face after a while. I ended up staying out quite late and cheering on the results with everyone else. And for the most part, I think I managed to control my inner, bitter Plainsfeminist and let the less neurotic Plainsfeminist out to mingle.

Today, I am feeling postively chipper. Well - strung out and half-dead, having only slept for about four hours, but as chipper as one can be under those circumstances.

I took particular enjoyment in listening to a few of the Bushies try to claim that this mean that Republicans must stay the course, and in watching Bush try to convince us that he and Rumsfeld had been planning Rumsfeld's departure for some time but just didn't want to upset the election by introducing it now. (Because, of course, if both parties are calling for you to replace the guy, you should hold out until after the election, since doing so earlier might signal to disgusted members of your own party that you might be willing to change your approach and that they could maybe trust you and vote Republican yet again.)

And I've also had a pleasant back-and-forth in my head about impeachment: Bush deserves to be impeached. The crimes he has committed against our system of government need to be treated as crimes and punished because we never want anyone ever again to fuck with our system like this. And if we let all of this go, we are essentially saying, yet again, that Democrats are weenies who won't follow through.

But at the same time, we're the nice-guy party. Pelosi has made it clear that she is all about progress, and progress, methinks, won't happen if we move from this disaster of an administration into congressional hearings on the president's illegal actions. She's doing the Daschle thing, and I can't decide if I'm happy about that or not, because on the one hand, I want them to kick butts and take names, and on the other hand, I want them to raise the level of civil discourse in politics significantly.

And on the third hand, I'm so blissfully happy to be able to even consider these options that I almost don't care. I'm just happy that we've got our government back. Sort of.

(I'm also sort of secretly hoping that this loss will cause Bush to think twice about believing that God is on his side simply because no one has been able to stop him. I'm hoping that his prayers tonight begin, "Dear God, Obviously I've let you down, and I'm amazed at the graciousness of the Democrats in this instance, and just maybe I can learn something from people who don't agree with me" - but I'm not holding my breath.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Whatever happens next...

I'm writing this on election day, four hours before the polls close.

Whatever happens next for the abortion ban, the pro-choice movement needs to make some changes (especially in South Dakota).

The Campaign for Healthy Families has been fighting the good fight, mostly focusing on getting out the vote. They have been the ones pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, calling folks, and putting the truth about the abortion ban into the hands of the voters. And that's been important work, and I, for one, am grateful. And I want to make clear that the remarks that follow are not criticisms of Campaign workers and volunteers. They are criticisms of Campaign leaders, who didn't lead well and who, therefore, may have lost us this fight.

Campaign was run like - well, like an election campaign (hence the thoroughly imaginative name for last week's rally: "Election Campaign to Repeal the Abortion Ban." Makes you want to jump right up and get involved, doesn't it?).

Because of this, Campaign has had no room and no patience for pro-choice activism. (In fact, activists with "pro-choice" signs at a recent pro-choice protest were told by Campaign staff that no signs with the word "choice" on them would be allowed.)

To put it plainly, everyone involved, including several of the people working for the Campaign, think it was a "piss-poor organizing effort" (in the words of an activist colleague of mine working West River). I mean EVERYONE thinks the Campaign sucked. What they did was to completely squelch the growing pro-choice movement in South Dakota. They frequently did not allow pro-choice representatives to debate VoteYes representatives or even to appear on the same platform with them, so that what could have been public forums and opportunities to counter misinformation became one-sided presentations. The challenges to VoteYes' lies that did come were too little, too late.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the Feminist Majority let them do it. They agreed to work in partnership with Campaign, and they agreed to let Campaign hold the reins. And when local chapters protested, they were told by their National HQs to let Campaign make the decisions.

Further, it's important to note that, while the name of the Campaign has been on every pro-choice effort we've seen, it has been largely due to the struggles of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Feminist Majority leaders and volunteers (local and out-of-state) that anything other than GOTV calls and lit drops got done at all. Campaign quickly earned a reputation for organizing events at the last minute, which were then poorly attended and not well-covered in the media. (Last week's rally was an exception only because other activists convinced Campaign that announcing it with less than a week's notice and planning to hold it indoors would be a bad idea.)

Campaign was afraid antis would show up. They were terrified of antis.

Maybe this is a good place to say that, in my experience with the movement, there are ALWAYS antis, and they always come to pro-choice events, and they always make their presence felt. Outside of South Dakota, pro-choicers do the same thing to them: the point is to always make a presence of the opposition. But we don't do that here, and people are always surprised and dismayed that the antis have, yet again, figured out where and when to show up with their (mostly not graphic) signs. But despite Campaign's fear, the most confrontational experience I've had here has been having a passing driver yell "Babykiller!" at me. In other places, pro-choice protestors are physically assaulted, spat on, and continually verbally harassed by mobs. That has, for the most part, not happened here. What has happened at organized protests is that, sometimes, pro-choicers have been outnumbered by anti-choicers, who insist on standing next to us and who try to cover our signs with theirs.

What Campaign didn't understand is that pro-choice activism means getting out there with a sign DESPITE the fact that you are outnumbered. Being visible reminds folks that there are dissenting opinions. It gives the people who see you hope. It makes them maybe want to come out and join you. If all the pro-choice activists simply gave up whenever they were outnumbered, Roe would have been overturned long ago.

And last spring, pro-choice activists in South Dakota were visible. We had huge rallies (for SD, anyway), and people who had never before been involved in activism and politics were coming out and holding signs and wearing buttons and t-shirts and telling their grammas why they should oppose the ban. (And I met some grammas who were out there telling teenagers whey *they* should oppose the ban, too.)

And then Campaign took over. And all that visibility just evaporated. Suddenly, the local pro-choice network was no longer calling the shots, and everything was about voter registration and lit drops.

I won't take away from Campaign what they did well, which was exactly this GOTV effort. Clearly, that effort was crucial. But it should not have happened at the expense of continued activism, continued visibility, continued morale-boosting of the pro-choice community. We lost energy, and we lost volunteers, because of that total and complete shift in focus.

Whether we win or lose, the vote will be too close. The Nationals are still spouting the line that SD voters will overwhelmingly reject the ban. It won't be overwhelming. It will be a thin margin. And this isn't over. We either face a long and expensive court battle that could threaten Roe, or we face a new ban with exceptions for rape/incest survivors (but not women's health, I'm predicting). South Dakota clearly needs help from the outside if we are to maintain women's right to make decisions about whether or not to bear children - that much was clear last January. But let's not make the same mistake again. We have a pro-choice community in SD. We have activists that are ready to go. We need our leadership to come from within and for those leaders to be supported by the national organizations, not the other way around (which is what happened this fall).

We need to get ahead of this one. And the strategizing starts now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Renewal

The weekend before last, I was so upset about the lies and deceit on the "pro-life" side, by the poor strategizing of our leaders on the pro-choice side, and by the general ignorance about abortion on the part of many South Dakotans, that I made myself sick. Really sick: throwing up, headache, the whole thing. And so I was glad to get away for a few days to a place that is restful and relaxing for me, to enjoy the celebration of a momentous occasion in my family, and to, in essence, regenerate.

As I write this, it's the day before the election. We all have a lot riding on this one, and I figure you could all use a little peace and regeneration, too. So, let me share my favorite small town with you, and I hope it offers you the same breath of fresh air and hope that it offered me.

This is the main street:














It lies just up the hill from the harbor. To your left, on the other side of the buildings, is the water, which you'll see in a moment. On the left side of the street is my favorite candy store and a little deli/cafe I like to go to for their amazing desserts. At Christmastime, they often have real gingerbread men. Across the street, on the right, is an artist supply store (the kind in which you can wander for hours trying out pens and looking at notepaper, if you enjoy that sort of thing, which I do) and a toy store - a real, independently-owned toy store, the kind that you will go into not planning to buy anything and exit from with your arms full and your wallet empty.

This is the view out the back window of that deli/cafe ('nuff said):
















And this is the water behind that row of stores, which you can now see on the right. To the left is the harbor. I took this from just up the hill in a little park that lies across the street from the library:
















The light was fading, but I was playing with the settings on my camera and got this picture of the moon, and the next two of the harbor, in the dusk:



















Then, as my son and my mom came out of the children's library to meet me, I turned around and snapped this final shot, which looks mysterious and romantic and like I took it somewhere entirely else:














That's it. Tomorrow is the day. As Mother Jones(?) said, "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Here it is: THE NON-ABORTION POST!!!

You all could probably use a break from the monotonous focus on abortion we've had here for the last little bit. So I thought maybe you'd like to hear about my momentous decision to let my cartilage piercing close.

Maybe you remember when I got it done last January.

It was very exciting - a chance for me to walk on the wild side a little bit. OK, OK, I know, it's not so wild and not so exciting. You all have been piercing your bodies for like, ever. But it was exciting to me, because when it comes to body modification, I take my time and think it through very carefully. I rarely make decisions on a whim, which is why I have no tattoos. (Because, seriously? The Chinese symbol for good luck that you tattooed on your ass is going to seem really embarrassing in a few years when you're studying imperialism and cultural appropriation. (Or it SHOULD.) Likewise all of the things that you think will be important to you forever when you're 18, or 28, or 38 (that's as high as I go). If I'd tattooed on myself everything I thought I had sworn undying allegiance to in my younger years - Jesus, The Cure, the Lesbian Nation - I would be a sorry mess of tattoo removals. Or else I'd never wear shorts and a tank top in public.)

But actually, this piercing was done on a whim, with the encouragement of my son (who thought it was a cool idea).

First lesson: never get your piercings done on a whim at the mall.

The piercing wasn't all I thought it would be. First of all, my hairdresser has a really annoying habit of constantly telling me that there is something wrong with it: The piercing is too small, and I need to get it scored or else I'll never be able to wear the cute rings that I want to wear (thanks a lot, Piercing Pagoda); the stud I have in should be replaced by something else that she is less likely to get caught on the comb (um, this is really not my problem, I think); if it's not painful and infected now, it will be soon. And on and on.

Second, while it really wasn't painful, it was kind of uncomfortable at times. This was a clean piercing - no oozing, no infection - but it just didn't always feel right. Especially yesterday, when I noticed what appeared to be a tiny little hematoma (ick), probably aggravated by my lying on it so much over the past few days while I've been sick and sleeping a lot.

And third...well, no one could see it anyway. My hair is too long.

So the hematoma-looking thing clinched it. The stud is out; the hole is closing.

I am less cool, now.

And my son is disappointed.