Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paying for Childcare

This article at Kindred Community raises a question I’ve wanted to know the answer to since forever (emphasis mine):

Our society needs to recognise the far-reaching developmental importance of breastfeeding and close, responsive mother-infant relationships in the early years, along with the close involvement of fathers, and aim to create social settings that facilitate and support them. If we are going to pay for quality infant care, why not support mothers to do it? Infancy cannot be re-run later.

Why would the government be willing to pay strangers to watch a baby but not the mother? It has always struck me as a punishment for poor people who dared to reproduce when they “couldn’t afford it.”

The underlying attitude of the family-values-right-wing policy makers has always sounded to me like: “Stupid poor people, having offspring in accordance with their animal urges. They’re just lazy and trying to get out of work! We’ll show them. You get a couple weeks off and that’s it! Back to the factory! Pop out another one and see what happens!”

I’ve always been violently disturbed by the fact that we in our supposedly civilized society allow conditions under which people “cannot afford” children. I believe that children are the only true wealth, insurance policy and retirement plan.

I’m not saying people should have to have children. I believe it should be entirely optional. If a person would rather completely dedicate themselves to a career, hoard money, invest in an IRA account, buy property and make investments, that’s one way to shore up resources for the future.

But when you’re old and you slip on one of your wads of cash and fall and break your hip in the middle of your castle, who’s going to come wipe your wrinkly butt and spoonfeed your shriveled mouth? Oh right, you’re going to hire a stranger to do that. That’s much more pleasant that having someone you love, who actually cares about you, treating you tenderly.

Or NOT.

And shouldn’t a baby have the same courtesy, of having the person they love and need more than anyone else in the world be the person who wipes their cheruby bum and nurses them lovingly at the breast?

But if you can’t afford such an idyllic life, then forget it. Park the kid at the licensed facility and punch that time card, or you’ll be under a bridge faster than you can say, “Subsidized childcare.”

 

A Trip to the Dentist

So Gwen (almost 3) got some happy juice to help her cooperate with the dentist while he filled a couple of cavities. She was loopy as all get out and didn’t squirm or make a peep.

When we got home she couldn’t even walk and was laughing at everything. I’ve never seen a small child wasted before, but I admit I was a little jealous that it was only 9:30 in the a.m. and she was already feeling so good, and I hadn’t even had a chance to have my second cup of coffee.

And the worst part? It’s some kind of memory eraser so if the dental work ends up being traumatic, they will never remember. So all her loop-de-loo fun with me and Rose (her 19 year old sister) this morning was wiped clean.

Good times.

Thoughts on Hand Quilting

My grandmother-in-law pays a lady to finish her quilt for her. She’s earned it — she’s been sewing and crafting forever, and there’s a point where, hey, I did the quilt top, the rest is really monkey work and why should I be bothered when I can help support the local economy and get on to the next creative project?

She’s also done so many amazing projects in her time that she is lightyears away from feeling that she has to prove her abilities.

But for me, I still feel like I have to do the whole thing myself, from picking out the pattern to presenting the final product. I’ve only done about 7 quilts (one of them was a baby quilt that I hand sewed completely, having no machine at the time) so I still want to prove to myself that I can do it all.

I was going to try machine quilting this one (which I’ve only ever done once before) but then I realized I was supposed to buy a special foot, and I was supposed to roll it and reroll it and all kinds of craziness so that it would work out okay.

So far I’ve already ripped out an entire row because it was too bunchy.

But sitting there with needle and thread, taking tiny steps along an immense path toward the destination, there is something awesome about it. Every show I watch or music I listen to or conversation I have somehow gets stitched into the blanket, and my life becomes part of the life of the recipient.

One of these days it will be done, the weight of three (four?) years of working on the project will be lifted off my shoulders, and I can start something new.

A Child’s Disappointment

I say child, but she’ll be 20 years old in a couple of months.

After waiting FORVER to find out if she got into the nursing program, she got a notice saying that she is on the alternate list.

At my age, with my level of experience, that isn’t bad news. It isn’t the good news she wanted, but I don’t think she realizes how often people drop out, leave town, take a job, get married, or whatever other life-changing event comes along and poof! you’re in.

I don’t want to get her hopes up again too much by saying all of that. I understand that she feels crushed, and she just wanted to know what the hell is going on in her life. That would be pretty comforting, and I can see having the school say, “Maybe…” again is not at all encouraging. Waiting some more is not at all fun or helpful.

But they didn’t say no, so that’s not completely terrible.

It’s hard to watch her go through all this. I want life for my children to be a satisfying challenge with a happy ending. I know we all learn from heartbreak, disappointment, that when one door closes another one opens, etc. etc.

But this is my baby we’re talking about!

*Sigh*

Portrait of Life

If I had to describe what life looks like, I can’t think of a better image than the bright fresh vibrant green of spring leaves shining in the sun with the immense dark promise of rain in the background.

Baby Birch in Spring

Unless maybe it’s the same scene with cherry blossoms:

Volunteers

There’s something seriously magical about plants volunteering in the garden. Especially when you kinda recognize them, but they could be any number of varieties, such as this little guy volunteering in the middle of my row of carrots, who looks like some kind of squash… but is he a pumpkin? A spaghetti squash? A zucchini?

Some of his pals are in my row of chard seeds.

What a delicious mystery!

New Tattoo

Here’s the tattoo I got last night (on my forearm, in case you can’t tell which hunk of flesh that is in the close up):

It’s never going to be in anyone’s top 100 favorite tattoos, but it specifically is not for anyone else, so that’s fine with me. The sun is more in the “folk art” style than I’d imagined, but since this is fresh, maybe it will fade and blend to be more like a sunset glow.

I like having the road coming off from the side rather than straight ahead as I’d sketched it, because now I feel like I have a choice to get on the freeway or not. It feels more like an onramp I can take rather than just being constantly on the road. She had some nice curvy ones sketched up but it’s supposed to be a freeway so I had to keep it straight.

I really wanted the sunset because it reminds me of the trip in which I realized how sharply my enthusiastic response to freeway driving contrasts with my pathetic panic in regards to every other challenge I encounter in life. It reminds me of when Gwen and I were flying home and after we took off, I could see the sun setting over the Pacific, and I could see “my homeland,” so to speak, fading in the distance. I was saying goodbye yet again to my Grandma and my past.

In addition to a reminder of real things, I feel like it also has a lot of symbolism. All roads lead off into the sunset of death. The trip will be beautiful, but it’s all gonna end.

But the whole journey of life can have the stamp of the Nimitz Freeway/Interstate 880 on it and the fearless enthusiasm it inspires in me, if I can just change my attitude and perception.

Landscaping with Rocks

I started putting some rocks around my front garden beds to stop the erosion that happens when the clouds open up, as they do here in the South, and unload a heaven-sized bucket of water. It washes everything down the sidewalks, and I thought lining them with some of the big rocks the builders abandoned in the field across from my house would hold back the dirt.

Then I got a little carried away.

And the overall effect…

Good times.

Addicted to Crisis Mode

Let me preface this post by saying, I really hate adrenaline rushes. Anyone who knows me at all can vouch for this. I really really really hate that shaking freak out boost of juice that makes me feel like I’m gonna crawl out of my skin.

And I’m not talking about creating drama, either. I don’t try to involve others, mess with them and then step back in horror when they retaliate, or otherwise try to stir up some kind of communal crisis.

No, the crisis I’m talking about isn’t the 911 kind. It’s more of the slow burn of, golly, things are going quite poorly and woe is me.

Some things that push me over the invisible (non-existent?) edge into “crisis mode:” when I receive correspondence from any government agency; when we’re broke; when my husband’s stressed about something or other; when any one of my family members is suffering from any kind of illness or condition; when something larger and more expensive than a bread box breaks; when there is any size wrench thrown into whatever routine I’ve decided is “normal;” if my level of frustration at life in general exceeds a certain tolerable level; if it’s too hot or cold; if my kids have been too whiny; or when it’s Thursday.

In other words, am I at least semi-conscious and still breathing? Then I’m looking for a reason to go into crisis mode.

Off the top of my head, here are the things I get out of it:

  1. An excuse to take care of or even spoil myself.
  2. An excuse to say no to others’ requests.
  3. An excuse to be grumpy.
  4. The exciting possibility that this crisis means that real change is right around the corner and “things” will finally be “different.”
  5. An excuse to think or act outside the box.
  6. A reason to have a beer.

What if I just adopted a lifestyle that embraced these principles/allowances, without the negative side affects of intense anxiety, nightmarish worry, anger and self-righteousness, and all the other unpleasant stuff that comes with being in “crisis mode?”

What if I embraced the reality that every step we take upon this earth is a fragile blessing, subject to sinkholes and falling meteors, and that I am not only allowed but indeed should be encouraged to keep a flexible game plan. One that could include a beer or a moment of grumpitude. Or even some unexpected joy.

I need to practice giving myself permission to feel, change, set limits, provide for my own personal needs, without having to point to an external impetus. Just because Mama said so.

Student Loans

It’s that time of year again. Time to beg for a reprieve. Time to face the mountain of crushing debt.

If you are chained to a massive student loan debt, you understand where I’m coming from.

If it weren’t for Habitat for Humanity, I would never own a house. That’s how rank the stench is that emanates from my financial pores, and the holier-than-thou banks won’t even touch me.

The reasons I finally went back to school at age 32 are myriad, centering around an accidental pregnancy with a man who was not raised to be a father or a human, and stemming back to all the years that people commented on my wasted potential. Topped off with an old promise to my family. And nostalgia about the good old days of textbooks, class discussions and just having an excuse to study something, which I love.

But I wasn’t cultivating my potential. I was lining someone’s pockets.

Well, promising to line their pockets, anyway.

I know, I know. “You promised.” “You didn’t have to.” “You can’t back out of your obligations.” Blah, blah, blah.

The way I saw life in November of 2001 (and sure, let’s blame some of the unclear thinking on the trauma of 9/11, just to take any bit of the weight off me), I had three choices:

  1. Abortion. (If all the in-your-face wealthy “Pro-lifers”each threw $5 in a pot to congratulate me for my decision not to off my fetus, I’d be out of the hole and then some.)
  2. Have the baby and go back to work, leaving an infant to be cared for by strangers at a daycare (No offense to anyone who chooses this path, I’m simply sharing my emotional response. And I would do just about any extreme thing before I could leave my baby for 40+ hours a week. Some people have an unnatural fear of snakes, I have an unnatural fear of being separated from my baby.)
  3. Go back to school and only be away from my baby for maybe six hours a week while I was at class. (I managed to make arrangements for her to be cared for by close friends and family during the short times we were apart.)

I chose door number three. Got a Bachelor’s degree, only to discover they are the new high school diploma. “Well, of course you have one of THOSE. What is your master’s in?”

And now they want me to start paying back $430 per month. When I’m currently making $400.

I know, I know, it’s my own damn fault. You don’t have to keep reminding me.

Even if my degree isn’t worth a dime, the time I spent with my baby is certainly worth $43,000. Worth a helluva lot more than that, actually, so I guess I’m getting a pretty good deal.

An artist since the beginning

These blue eyes are worth more than all the money in the world