A weekend by the shore

The other recent graduate in the family, aka the youngest child, and I are off to the seaside for a short graduation road trip.

We are headed here: The planned beach community of Seabrook Washington.

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We will be somewhere among one of these:

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Meandering around, through and in these:

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Hopefully finding some of this:

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Although this is the Pacific coast in late spring, which typically means this:

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Grandma words

I just have to share what this little person did today

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It struck me as rather enlightened. Plus I haven’t shared much about this gorgeous girl in a long time.

Miss G has a set of reusable stickers. This includes a large book of scenes from around the home such as living room, bedroom, outdoor space, etc., and tons of plastic static cling type stickers that a child can make and re-make scenarios and adventures with over and over again.

Miss G is getting very good at pretend. We have tea parties, she carries on conversations over her play cellphone as well as with her dolls and today she was intrigued with this sticker set after a long time away from it. At the time that I was fixing her lunch she was about sending some of the people up and down the plastic sticker slide in the outdoor scene. From the kitchen I kept hearing “weeeeee, weeeee,” over and over again.

Shortly thereafter I noticed her sitting up on her rear on the floor after lying on her tummy, conversing, moving about as if she was getting in and out of a chair and then sitting down on her rear again. I quietly walked over to look at her and this little girl had found the plastic sticker representation of the living room couch and was purposefully sitting on it, on the floor, playing with some of the plastic sticker people as if she was happily spending the afternoon in their home.

She is 21 months old. Are they supposed to reason things through like this at this age? Needless to say, I did a double take when I realized that she was actually sitting on a pretend couch just as she would on her own real couch and the astounding part was that she very obviously knew what she was about.

At any given time we go from pretty amazing thinking and reasoning power to days such as this

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Could there be anything better than being a kid again…or a very proud grandma.

 

On becoming a negative Nellie…

First however, the youngest graduated from college this weekend! Yay for her and all her fellow graduates with big aspirations and plans. We celebrated with Mexican food and margarita’s…really large margarita’s:

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This is the graduate on the left with a frosty blended version and her older sister on the right with a straight up shaken version. Can you say fish bowls?

In other news, one of my just for fun and enlightenment classes began this week as well. I am entrenched in the Pleasures of Poetry and discovering that I don’t seem to have much brightness or cheeriness in my life. The prompts that we have been given so far only stimulate dark, depressing thoughts and lead to writing that is truly low.

If I didn’t know myself I would be crawling under a rock after reading some of what I have written. I’m not trying to insinuate that my life is all roses and rainbows, but these prompts do nothing to bring about any positive emotions or memories. Nor do they even help to trigger an imaginary feeling of happiness.

This led to an epiphany as well. Perhaps, if this is the general reaction I have to the creation of poetry, an explanation of why I find it such a chore may be forthcoming. Why in the world do I want to struggle to right in a genre that depresses even me. The alternative is that I may be channeling Sylvia Plath.

Just a few assignments in and I am also wondering if I take this same negative view in the rest of my writing. Truly, do I ever say anything in this blog that is positive, upbeat, peppy, smile-worthy, or is it all ho-hum, poor me-poor world, sad life related?

I’m fully aware that a blog can be just the place to complain, whine, and share black moods, but if that’s all I do then I need to take a serious look at why I am subjecting those who drop by to my crap.

Anyone a Saturday Night Live fan? Anyone remember Rachel Dratch.

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I remember Rachel as the maligned (rightly so) Debbie Downer character on SNL from the early 2000’s. Rather ironic the name don’t you think. Seems to fit my personal situation at the moment.

Let’s work on some positivity. You know you need to when you’re bringing yourself down.

 

WANTED: A new pair of eyes

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I have worn some form of glasses or contacts, or at times a combination of both, since 4th grade.

Wait-that needs a correction. I was supposed to wear some form or other of corrective vision device since 4th grade. Unbeknownst to just about everyone, the rebel in me refused, for many long years, to go along with the prescribed vision correction and after I left the house for school, the glasses came off not to reappear on my face again until arriving home.

I became really, really adept at squinting until such time as I could convince the optometrist that I was ready for contacts. That came somewhere between 7th and 9th grade.

As a kid I felt like I had so little going for myself. Tall, awkward, uncoordinated, badly in need of braces, weird kid hair cuts, shy…just the all around odd little girl who wanted to be anything but. Jamming a pair of glasses onto my face was not going to improve anything in my opinion, and so I simply didn’t.

The day I was able to get my first pair of contacts was truly a sea change, beyond profound in fact.

Fast forward through years of on-again, off-again contact lens wear versus hay fever type allergies that targeted not only my nose but my eyes and the day came when comfort won out. I also managed to mature a bit as well, realizing that seeing could be more important all-around than buying into a need to look a certain way.

For quite a few years I have had one eye that is nearsighted and one that is farsighted. Then, a few years back came the politically correct voice of my optometrist informing me that as eyes age it is very common to find oneself needing bifocals so I jumped on that bandwagon as well.

Today this same man, politically correct as usual, informed me that things are going downhill faster than I anticipated.

Did you know that everyone after the age of 45 starts to develop cataracts? I did not know this until today. Actually, what happens initially is a yellowing of the lens that over time may become a cataract. My eyes are winners in this contest and behaving well on their path to old age with this yellow development right on schedule in both eyes. That bit of news began to help explain why, in just the last year, my eye sight has been declining even after getting new lenses just last year.

This news, in and of itself is not horrible because the changes aren’t major. They in fact are pretty much right in line with 54-year-old eyes. The problem comes when you add in astigmatism, plus other eye changes in the lens itself like a “wrinkly, bubbly lens” (optometrist words) and a darkening around the edge of the lens (associated with that whole cataract thing again).

Good news is that I’m not going blind. Bad news is that cataract surgery will be in the cards for me sooner rather than later, at least for my right eye.

I was told that there is no need to rush, this isn’t a major issue no matter how irritating it is. I can see, drive, function. The downside comes when I am doing work on the computer mostly. The lenses in my glasses are attempting to correct my vision issues but are then impaired in their work by this anatomical lens issue. The outcome then is a perpetual blurry area that just won’t come into clear focus.

I really started noticing all this about 6-8 months ago when I found myself limited to one small area of the right glasses lens that I could see clearly through while trying to read textbooks or write research papers.

Right now all of this is just a pain in the ass. The critical decision to actually do something about the issue comes when I get frustrated enough with what I am now going to call crinkly saran-wrap vision or CSWA (because that just sounds impressive, it was sort of the example given to me by the optometrist, and I love acronyms).

In a few weeks I will have re-worked lenses that should help to even out my vision for the time being. I was gently informed that I might very well muddle along like this for years, changing glasses every year or so if I chose that option. It’s my call at this point on the surgery option as well. I know what cataract surgery entails and it freaks me out. I was assured that “happy pills” will be made available–triple dose please.

For now wine will do.

Redefining the masculine norm

Well, you all know that I just finished my degree. As per my usual route through most of my sociology classes, my capstone being no exception, I focused on gender, feminism and issues surrounding women in our society.

My capstone research centered on attitudes associated with rape and the myths perpetuated in America about rape. Most of the studies I cited used data or interview analysis from males who are still bombarded with the notion that being male, and demonstrating gendered masculine behavior, often means using control, domination and sexual force as a means to uphold patriarchal social expectations. Being a man and showing your masculinity is locked into a dynamic for many whereby violence, mostly focused toward women, is normative and expected and accepted by peers. Some men turn that violence toward homosexual males as well, often in attempts to target what they see as feminized attributes, but ultimately making a statement that being biologically male and anything less than 100% masculine is deviant in our society. Add to that the patriarchal culture of American social values whereby females are marginalized and still in so many ways demonstrated to be something other than equal to males and it seems clear, at least to me, that hetero-normative masculinity is alive and well.

But, what happens when men are challenged, either by their personal value system, or that of social movements such as feminism, to redefine masculinity? Some will become even more extreme in their masculinity. This is typically termed hypermasculine behavior and/or attitude. These men go out of their way to exemplify every stereotypical masculine norm.

Others will join in the process of creating a new meaning  and definition of masculinity. Some, like myself, would like to see a complete change in gendered society with the removal of gender norms, socially constructed gender ideals and attributes, and expectations of correct femininity and masculinity. That however is asking a lot in our current social order. Change continues to be slow. Yet the following article by Katy Kreitler challenges men in our society to not only ask hard questions about their own masculinity, but it also  suggests that working with and learning more about gender in our society is one positive step toward change. I was impressed with the message Kreitler presents, as well as the challenge to individual males to be better, to be open, to take a stand.

This article was originally published on Everyday Feminism and re-published here with their permission.

Why Men Need Feminism Too (Really, You Do!)

This one’s for you, guys.

Assuming you don’t believe in the common myths about feminism, you still may think that feminism is all about women’s issues, reproductive rights, celebrating femininity…pregnancy…motherhood…PMS…boobies…vaginas…who knows.

You may have thought:

  • “I can’t be a feminist.  I’m a dude.”
  • “I support women’s rights, but feminism is not really my thing.”
  • “My life isn’t really affected much by feminism.”

Well, I’ve got news for you!

Even though women are oppressed in many ways that men are not (let me be clear about this:in many, many, many ways), the system of traditional gender roles that we live in harms ALL people.

This includes you.

Don’t think so?  Well, ask yourself the following questions.

Have you ever felt:

  • Insecure because your body wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or slim enough?
  • Pressured to be tough, aggressive and competitive beyond your comfort zone?
  • Ashamed of your interest in cooking, fashion, dance, or some other activity because you were told it made you “gay” or “a girl”?
  • Offended by media representations of helpless adult men who cannot feed, clothe, or bathe themselves without the help of a woman?
  • Burdened by expectations to objectify women, have sex with many women and be sexually aggressive?
  • Helpless when dealing with feelings of sadness, hurt, and shame because you were taught to believe that emotions show weakness and that “real men help themselves”?
  • Confused at how to be sensitive and kind but still be sexually desirable?
  • Alone when you suffered an injury but had to “handle it”?
  • Afraid of being called a “sissy,” “wimp,” “f*g,” “p*ssy,” or “b**ch,”?
  • Ambivalent about what it means to be a “real man”?

If even one or two of these is true, then you need feminism.

Why Feminism Helps Men

Feminism is about changing the gender roles, sexual norms, and sexist practices that limit you and punish you when whenever you deviate from them.

And the experiences listed above (and more) do exactly that: tell you what a “man” should be and punish you when you want to act differently.

All men have been hurt by the traditional gender system.

You may have accepted these realities as normal – just part of being a guy.

But feminists say that’s not right.  That you shouldn’t be expected to live up to an unrealistic ideal.  That you shouldn’t be bullied or ignored for being different.  That you shouldn’t have to participate in sexist practices.  That you deserve much, much more.

Feminists think you should have the freedom to explore life beyond the rigid boundaries of traditional masculinity and choose for yourself what aligns with your own values.

So you can laugh, cry, dance, and love.  Embrace your friends.  Lovingly nurture your kids.  Make mistakes.

So you can be beautiful, be vulnerable, and be free.

So you can be yourself.

You can even agree with some of the things traditional masculinity teaches you.  As long as you think about it critically and choose it freely and it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Women have been talking about their gender experiences for years.  Men need to talk about their experiences, too.

So, start the conversation.

How has your gender affected your life?  What do you want to change for men?

And hey – welcome to the movement.

Katy Kreitler is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism as well as a counselor and youth advocate.  She can be found wandering the streets of San Francisco with a purse full of used fiction, a pair of emergency yoga pants, and half a burrito.  

 

My incredible, sneaky, wonderful kids

I’m typically the one in the family who plans surprises such as parties and events. My three kids turned the tables on me today however and I am so grateful for them and their thoughtfulness.

I was told not to plan anything for this afternoon about a week ago so of course I figured that they had something planned for Mother’s Day.

Mid afternoon found me being delivered to Hand & Stone Massage for an amazing 50 minute all over body massage. The kids had arranged this in advance and it was the best gift ever. I suppose I should have realized something was up because the gift card mentioned a congratulatory salutation regarding graduation. I however didn’t much care about anything after the massage so putting two and two together didn’t happen until my youngest drove into our driveway and I noticed the graduation sign and balloon out front.

They had all planned a combo Happy Graduation from college and Mother’s Day dinner for me after the massage! It was wonderful to see all of them together and have time to share with them. It really was a surprise too, as I had no idea that they would think to do something like this for me.

They made me feel incredibly special and incredibly loved.

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