Things just got interesting

First things first:
(1.) Holy typos in my last post – my apologies! I accidently uploaded the un-edited version of that particular post and then had trouble going back to edit. I am terribly embarrassed – I’ll try not to let it happen again.

(2.) Thanks to all of you good, goodpeople who noticed I had my husband’s real name in the blog at one point. The only reason I am using pseudonyms is to keep the blog relatively unsearchable by internet standards. I greatly appreciate the heads up!

So, WOW, y’all. Voices, in print and online, are LOUD lately, have you noticed? All week I’d been planning on writing a response to this article – Why Gender Equality Stalled, by Stephanie Coontz, but as the week went on I noticed more and more hollering, particularly when it comes to women, women working, women having babies, women having babies AND working, women working and choosing NOT to have babies, all (sort of) culminating in the New York Time’s preview of Sheryl Sandberg’s upcoming “Lean In,” her book/manifesto on women in the workplace. Over the course of the week, from across the not-all-that-diverse spectrum of Slate, Huffington, Salon, the Times and USA Today, I’ve read that women aren’t having enough babies and it’s going to hurt the American economy, but then again women who do have babies are choosing to stay home, setting the women’s movement back by about a billion steps, except for those of us who choose to work but that’s basically a mistake because we can’t be fully present in our jobs, and our lives also suck because we live in the suburbs while our non-child-bearing counterparts live in the heart of cities, enjoying things like live theater and artichoke risotto. Women! We should be thinking about leading companies! But also, breastfeeding for at least a year. We should go back to work, even if the quality of our lives suffer tremendously for it. And of course, none of this speaks to the rest of our lives – loving our partners, caring for our aging parents, remembering to run the goddamn dishwasher once in a while.

And just forget about it should you like animals and have a pet.

I’ve really been struggling to understand where I fit in this conversation. On the one hand, part of my undergraduate degree is in women’s literature, and I currently work as a public relations advocate for women’s health in my community. I consider myself a follower of Hillary Clinton and I truly believe that women need to find ways to break through the proverbial glass ceilings, in politics and the work force.

On the other, in my mind I always add the caveat, that is, they should break through the proverbial glass ceilings if they want to. Through a series of choices that I made, some alone and some in conjunction with my husband, I have ended up in a career of sorts – one that often requires suits and lipstick and the confidence to speak my mind in the workplace. For the most part I actually look forward to going into work each day and while I can’t say I LOVE what I do, I can admit to liking it a whole hell of a lot and even claim passion for the subject matter I handle. It is not, however, what I had hoped to do with my life – I had hoped to be an actress. And if not an actress, then a freelance writer. I actively and passionately pursued these careers but ultimately they were not enough to assist in sustaining my family and I place a lot of importance on the ability to care, financially and emotionally, for my family. Part of the argument that keeps coming up in the conversations put forth is the idea of “having it all” – but the definition of “having it all” seems to be defined quite narrowly – marriage, children and a corporate or political career. For me, “having it all” actually means the ability to support my family through art but let’s make one thing clear – I am a talented individual. I was not talented enough to be be able to make all of my dreams come true.

And I am perfectly okay with that. So what about the actresses and writers, photographers and dancers, yoga instructors and journalists, painters and landscape designers who don’t necessarily adhere to the traditional corporate structure and the popular 8:30 – 5 work schedule? Whole entire worlds of people are being left out of the kinds of conversation people like Sandberg and Ann-Marie Slaughter are having.

I made a conscious decision a few years ago to cultivate a goodlife – one I could say I’m proud I led if an asteroid hits us today, or if I live to be one hundred years old, rocking away on a porch somewhere, spinning yarns to anyone who will listen. To me, this means doing good – volunteering when I can, not littering, giving money to those who have less than I do, and it means being good – a good friend, a good wife, a good mother and good to myself, and it means feeling good, which includes exercise and eating well and caring for myself. It means wine at night with my husband, and date nights with him as well – it means caring for plants. I am striving to put together a lifetime – a good lifetime – for myself and those around me. I often return to a line from Brandi Carlile’s song “That Wasn’t Me” when I think I might be losing my way – do I make myself a blessing, to everyone I meet – this line – it feels like something to strive for, doesn’t it?

I do not think I am necessarily the target audience for discussions like Coontz and Sandberg are conducting.

This, however, does not make the conversations unimportant.

Off and on over the coming weeks I am going to try and unpack some of these conversations. Just because the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique is over doesn’t mean we should stop having them. To begin, I’ll put forth two thoughts I plan on discussing in detail, as well as a blog I plan to write entitled “Consider the Morning.” First of all, I don’t believe much in the way of women’s rights in the workplace can be rectified until we have one-year of paid maternity leave when we have a baby. The skimpy 12 weeks only some of us are lucky to be currently provided is barely enough time to establish good breast feeding patterns, and when we return to work we are without vacation or any time off. Secondly, I think the current conversations we are having completely ignores women who are living in poverty in this country, to say nothing of women living in other countries throughout the world. Am I concerned about equal pay for equal work, and ensuring I am as valued as my male counterparts? Certainly. But I am equally concerned, and infinitely more horrified, by the rape culture in India? Again, yes.

All of this is much too much to discuss in one blog post – it might be too much for ten or fifty blog posts – but I’m going to try over the course of the year anyway. If you have an area you’d like to see addressed more than others, don’t hesitate to let me know. And if you would like to guest post on any of these topics, let me know that as well.

Diary Friday

Last year, on G’s first birthday, I shared some excerpts from my journal of her first year. I thought I would do the same again this year for her second birthday, choosing a few excerpts from her first and second year to share. However, I seem to wax rather poetical on the topic of motherhood (truth: I enjoy it a LOT – a ridiculous amount, really) so I threw in a few disgruntled-but-unrelated notes to share as well, lest you think I am a ridiculous PollyAnna on the subject. These aren’t overly meaningful but they give a nice snapshot of the last couple of years.

8/1/2011 – G was so sleepy today – we barely got any quality time with her at all. But the time we did get was full of cuddles and kisses – everyone should have a little girl to spend time with! She is just so sweet and loving, and she loves seeing her mama and daddy – it makes my heart overflow.

8/10/2011 – Today milk ran out of G’s mouth for possibly the last time as I was feeding her – we are weaning this weekend. On the one hand, both she and I are ready but I will miss those sweet, sweet nursing moments with her, even though they grow fewer and farther between now. (Of note – I think it was a mistake to wean so early with G – she was around 7 months old when I did so. My job made it very difficult to nurse and having Ian able to feed easily made our lives tremendously easier so at the time it was the right decision, but if I have a second baby I will strive for one full year of nursing).

9/11/2011 – I don’t mind it terribly when Ian goes out of town and leaves me alone with G. is it more difficult logistically? Absolutely. Is it fun to engage her by myself? Again, absolutely. Truly, a baby is such better company than most grown adults.

11/5/2011 – (This post isn’t purely about G but since I seem to mostly write positively about her I thought I’d throw this in just to show I’m not completely naive, or a simpleton) Struggling these days and wishing I wasn’t – having Ian promoted to such a powerful position at my work place + crap at my job + most of the household chores ending up in my lap – I have to keep acting as though I believe things will work out, because of course they always do.

11/15/2011 – I miss nursing and wish I would have committed to a year. With my next baby I won’t be so concerned with what everyone thinks and I won’t be bullied by my work place to quit so early.

2/19/2012 – We gave G her first baby doll this weekend – the responsibility seems stressful to her – the bottle, the blanket – as Ian noted, she seems more interested in the doll than any other toy to date.

4/16/2012 – It’s really windy tonight. I hate climate change and having to adjust to more dramatic weather, and everyone walking around with their heads in the sand about it.

5/7/2012 – It has taken G quite some time to rebound from this illness, which is stressful and hard on all of us. I never feel more bi-polar being a working mom than when she is sick – the extremes of emtions I experience in terms of work/life balance are ridiculous.

6/4/2012 – Finished watching the season finales of Glee and Smash this week – they make me miss theater! Unfortunately that is one area that I won’t get back into anytime soon, unless I keep working toward my goal of financial and creative freedom! It’s fun to think theater is out there, doing its thing, and willremain there if I ever want to return.

7/15/2012 – Adorable G day today filled with lots of hugs and kisses and mama time. As the mother of a girl I can say this with certainty – having a child the same gender as I am is a delight. Right now it’s like G finally “gets” our rleationship and she says “mama” as though it’s something precious.

8/13/2012 – Vanity – bound to be my undoing. Sitting in bed with Sam out of town and a bum toe due to a rogue pedicure. Really hoping the penicillin kicks in soon and I am able to resume 100 percent normal activities – so stupid!

8/28/2012 – Today Ian and I started talking about adoption and I was shocked by the mpathy he showed on the subject – recognizing so many kids don’t receive the kind of love and attention G does. The fact that there is another child in our lives to come fills my heart with unending joy and gratitude. (note: we have made no such decision to adopt right now)

9/18/2012 – Today G pulled my hair and bit her own arm in frustration. It was easy to stop but hard to watch.

10/30/2012 – Mushroom pasta and wine with M tonight – great coversation with Ian after. Behold – the power of girlfriends!

12/18/2012 – Super fun and productive networking dinner tonight with AR and MU tonight, reminding me of all the possibilties of women who could rule the world!

1/8/2013 – Oh my God, my mom has turned into that old woman with way too many terrible stories she thoroughly enjoyes telling. When she told me I wasn’t a “spring chicken” today – that sort of hurt – until I realized I had just called her old.

1/23/2013 – Exhausted, overtired from this cold and a rought night with G. Miserable about everything and everyone – hoping for a better day tomorrow.

News In Brief

I first saw this blog update format over at the amazing Charlotte’s Web and knew I’d have to copy it at some point; more recently Ms. Make Tea completed her own (very entertaining) version. Since Grace’s two-year molars are coming through and she is determined to share her misery with Ian, me and the dog, I’m a little more tired than usual so I’m going to update with my own News In Brief.

on fitness
Despite suffering a cold for nearly two weeks in January, I’ve been quite pleased with my fitness routine and how it’s developing. I’ve been to yoga enough that I have lost track of how many times I’ve practiced, and I can now do that thing where you are in plank and bring one knee up to your elbow multiple times…you know, that thing? I’ve been challenging myself with cardio as well and I feel really great. I’ve also lost five pounds since Thanksgiving. I feel awesome and inspired to continue. My fitness mantra: Health Above All Else. I remind myself of this when I don’t feel like exercising, or feel like choosing white/sugar/junk carbs instead of food that will help my immune system. Health above All Else!

on work
If I get enough sleep I am able to manage my job well, even with the thought that the recent move I’ve made may not be the right one for me. When I don’t get enough sleep it doesn’t take much for me to nearly dissolve into tears – it’s something I desperately need to control. As Ian keeps reminding me, it is highly unlikely I’ll be in this exact situation come the end of the year so I just need to remain steadfast. I also received my retirment statement last week and felt really happy I’ve contributed so much to our future – we have a nice chunk of change set away already – I really do find tremendous pride from that.

on home renovation Last year we managed quite a lot of progress on our home – most of it forced due to emergency circumstances, but still. Our first floor is completely repainted in glorious shades of coral and blue and white and we had custom blinds installed. We also had central air conditioning put in as well as many, many pipes replaced. While my interests don’t naturally lend themselves to home design I’m enjoying parts of it, especially combining expensive projects with kid-friendly decorating choices. I will share some pictures in the first half of this year, certainly. I am not yet sure what we have on tap for this coming year but I do hope our decisions are dictated by more free will and fewer collapsing plaster ceilings.

on tv I started a list of television shows I watch – albeit intermittently – on my sidebar. Television is something I do enjoy in limited doses – an hour here or there – right now I am highly anticipating the return of Smash (tomorrow) and hoping I can get to all the seasons of The Wire and Downton Abbey I have on hand but haven’t had time to watch. I am particularly absorbed in Hart of Dixie, which just goes to show I’ve never really grown up beyond Dawson’s Creek. I’d like to write, Frank Bruni style, more on television later.

on music I finally downloaded Brandi Carlile’s new album “Bear Creek” and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Her voice is tremendously powerful and I do think I prefer her faster paced or playful songs to her slower work but overall I’m glad I purchased the album. We have loads of c.d.s around the house right now that we barely listen to so we are hoping to rectify that in 2013 as we are not so terribly worried about waking a sleeping baby anymore and Grace loves a good dance party.

on travels At first I considered not making any travel plans this year since I would really, really like to get pregnant and with my last pregnancy I was so sick for fourteen weeks that any sort of travel was impossible, but I have quickly realized I cannot be the person who sits around month after month waiting to find out if she is pregnant or not – in fact, Ian and I are barely in town at the same time for the first half of this year for a pregnancy to even be very likely, and so this weekend we are heading to Buffalo, NY (I know, I know, but it is halfway between our place and G’s paternal grandparents) to celebrate Grace’s second birthday, and in a few weeks G and I are taking a girls weekend to visit my best friend and her son. A two short weeks after that I’ll return to Michigan alone to visit a dear college friend who is pregnant with twin girls, and in April I will be visiting my parents in Florida for my father’s 70th birthday. I’m not entirely sure how much summer traveling I will do – it will depend on how much time off I have in combination with the demands of our families, but I would really like to visit some family I have in Houston and some friends in Chicago if time permits.

on cooking Ever since having Grace, Ian and I have cooked regularly and basically ceased going out to eat unless we are on a date or individually out with friends, which means we have been forced into the kitchen with a regularity we never possessed previously. Admittedly, Ian has taken to this much more creatively than I have – even mastering homemade pizza crusts and quiches. I like to cook once in a while and the rest of the time could happily subsist from food I’ve gathered at trader joe’s, but even I have been inspired. A couple of months ago I tackled chicken and avocado enchiladas that were truly a delight to eat, and tonight I’m making seared tuna steak sandwiches. Begrudgingly, I will admit cooking can occasionally be fun, but I am grateful Ian handles the majority of it!

on fiscal responsibility January could have been better, and it could have been worse. Due to unforseen circumstances I was not able to meet our savings goal, but I also didn’t have to charge any emergency related nonsense to a credit card. For February I am hoping the lack of charging emergency related nonsense can continue, and I hope to meet my savings goal. On a much smaller scale, I’ve seriously cut down the amount of coffee I buy out, purchasing one maybe once a week and making the rest at home – a baby step but a fully satisfying one!