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The Price of Motherhood

This picture was taken a few years after this post was written, but it showcases an example of Levi helping in the kitchen.

I can’t finish reading this book (The Price of Motherhood). It’s concepts hit so close to the heart, it makes it difficult to read. I am being punished by society to have a child. What other way can we look at this? Childcare is considered unskilled work. Until recently, even basic human functions for children weren’t considered (many still aren’t) at the tax level. There is no padding or assistance when you have to take time off to do the most important job in the world.

Our saving grace when Levi was born was that Peter lost his job. Then, the State (and feds too) recognized we needed help. Now, we’re in this nebulous of a middle ground, teetering on just making it without the tax benefits to help cushion the savings account.

We need an extra chunk of change a month to pay for my school loans. No matter what we trim in the budget to even out expenses, we’d still need more to pay for that debt I accrued when I didn’t think there was another way to get what I still believe I need: a college education.

I got the job I love. But, I’m paying for it. 55% goes towards Levi’s school. 25% goes towards gas to get us out there. The rest is eaten up in taxes and what’s owed for school loans. Even though we have much more than the chunk needed to pay for the loans added to our income, it’s a hefty price.

Where’s the balance in that?

I have been quite happy working where I am. I love it. I feel fortunate that I love this paid work when one of the objectives is to stabilize my career from the short length spent at previous jobs.

But, what happens when the economy forces the job to make changes that will significantly eat into that chunk? I would be paying close to  60 or 70% for daycare, the rest would go to gas, and then, nothing left for school loans. A very hefty price for work indeed.

And, Levi loves daycare. He’s thriving. He’s learning. He’s making friends. He simply loves it. This might have to change. Not to a lower cost option, there isn’t one. I looked. It would be a no-cost option, which means no preschool.

This doesn’t feel like balance.

This doesn’t feel like choice.

I opt for prayer, for reasons stated in previous posts, hoping for comfort when life simply isn’t fair.

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Created Equal

Jefferson adams
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Religions and governments are based on values that shape our thoughts and form, ultimately, the laws with which we agree to obey: our social contract. They might have divine inspiration, but they are all written by humans and subject to human error and error in interpretation.

In a previous post, I expressed contempt with parts of the Bible that suggest and/or state that women are lessor than their husbands. This particular part of the bible is a letter written to convert and educate non-Christians and early Christians on how they deemed Jesus‘ teachings. Sure, I’ll buy divinely inspired – but the Bible, no matter how many Men may have blessed it, is up for interpretation pending the history and context of the time. There are many contradictions within, and if one suggests that you must take the whole bible at face value without heartfelt interpretation, they are either ignorant or trying to sell you a bridge you can’t afford.

Our government was formed by shaping some vision and stating some initial values. When we first ceded from British Rule, you may recall we began with a document: The Declaration of Independence, lovingly written by Thomas Jefferson. In the first few lines it is stated that

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[72] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Wiki on the Declaration of Independence)

What did that mean at the time? White, property owning, Protestant, Men. That’s what that meant. It was time, war, and paradigm shifts that changed that meaning to include all Men of any color any property status, and Women. Some today would still argue that Women are not a part of this ideal.

People still think women should be in the home tending to home things, a definition that has been denigrated, especially, over the last 50-70 years. An idea that the only important work people can do is outside the home, making money – not necessarily taking care of those we love.

In some manner, though, I feel we have come a long way from those first changes of thought. Women can vote. We can choose (although it’s a tough, not very equitable choice) to work or stay at home. We can choose how many children we want. We can choose. We have become more accepting of all sorts expressing their love for each other (I’m talking about homosexuality and interracial relationships). We have simply become more understanding, more inclusive, more in line with “All men (people) are created equal.”

Then someone reminds me the bible says, women are to be subordinate to their husbands as their husbands are to God. And, then I think of the line in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where Sydney Poitier’s character states to his father that nothing will change until the older generations die out.

I don’t want to discredit what our elders give us, for they are the giants with which we build and rebuild our society, evolving it for a better society tomorrow. But, sometimes, it feels like there are these chains of oppression simply holding us back – preventing us from valuing all walks of life equally and it feels like that won’t change until the older generations pass on to another life.

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Subordination

The New American Bible
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t think so.

Repeat.

I don’t think so.

Of all the men in my life that have screwed me over, some literally, and you’re telling me the one passage in the Bible I ought to believe is the bit that says I should be subordinate to my husband?

I don’t think so.

Sorry babe, but I will never trust a man that well. It’s not your fault. I know that. I hope you do. I hope you can understand, but experience shows that men are often ruled by one thing and tend to be the most selfish creatures on the planet. So, you take this book, likely written mostly by men, that has been doctored, by men, and you’re telling me I need to believe and have faith that your male god (yes, lowercase “g”, thank you very much) wants me to be subordinate to him? Oh, with the caveat I am supposed to be thought of well and taken care of and my needs first, blah, blah, blah, de friggin’ blah.

I don’t think so.

It reads thus:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.

“For this reason a man shall leave his
father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.”

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

(Ephesians 6:21-33, The New American Bible. 1991. Catholic Bible Publishers. Wichita, Kansas.)

You want arrogance? I’ll give you some arrogance. I am smarter than many of the men I know. I think broader and more inclusively than many of the men I have known. I am more morally correct than many of the men I know. And, now, of course, as a man, you are telling me to believe this bit above all other bits?

I don’t fucking think so.

This bit is one of the many reasons I questioned your view of Christianity to begin with. This is the questioning I did in all of my twenties, and beyond. This is what has driven me away from Catholicism, more than once, hell more than twice or even three times.

And, then, in the same breath you throw out the Old Testament counter argument, because, oh, that’s the old testament. Sorry dude, you either believe it all, or your recognize there are faults. You can’t pick and choose. Yes, admit that this speaks to you because of your penis prejudice, but don’t tell me it’s from God. It’s from Man.

I believe in the spirit of the bible. I believe in its overall message of love and of hope. I do not believe every fucking literal word that was written by corrupted Men.

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Could’ve Should’ve Would’ve

Playing with Toys at Grandma's
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I could have done this…

I should have done that…

I would have done this other thing…

Could have, should have, would have – all this pressure we put on ourselves, daily. I need this. I need that. I need you to

So, that year in counseling, one of the things we talked about was “need to”, what we really need to do on a daily basis. My friend Kate and her family are good at reminding me and others about this to, what we really need to do, what our obligations really are. Other people put obligations on us all the time, but it’s our own choice whether or not we accept them as such.

The only thing I need to do is live. If I want to get along with others, I should consider respecting them and treating them nicely. If I want to live in a clean house, I should consider cleaning it. If I want others to value a clean house as important, then I should ask them to help. It, however, is their choice to say no.

Okay, this post is totally derailed. I need to expand some religious thoughts. But, the point of this one was simply: we don’t need to do anything, so we should stop telling ourselves we need to. We have reasons we want other things done, and that’s okay, but it’s not a need – it’s a want. Even the dishes and cleaning the bathroom and laundry.

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Tension & Pretense

Play napping on the living room floor.
A picture of Levi being SILLY. There was no tension here! Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Ever been in a situation where there is rampant speculation, many unknowns, and lack of trust with each other? You know what I hate about those situations? The TENSION. The kind of tension you can cut with a butter knife it’s so thick and soft.

After I got married, our lives threw us into some of the realities of marriage: IT’S HARD. It’s damn hard. It’s hard letting go of the butterflies and giddiness and getting down to real life. It’s hard learning to trust. It’s hard not speculating, and it’s hard realizing boundaries. So, with my sister’s death, Grave’s Disease, being a new mom, and a new bride, I found myself in (gasp) … counseling. This is a concept I have previously abhorred because I believe we should be able to turn to our close friends (think many generations, inter and intra) for guidance, listening, and hope. But, I realized that my friends (and family) either didn’t have the time, the wherewithal, or the capacity to do that – so we had one session of marriage counseling, and I continued on, solo, for a year. I’m sure I could use more counseling, but I got sick and tired of talking about myself the whole time. It seemed no matter what progress we made and how my views changed, I was still talking about the same things. So, to me, it meant I needed to really figure out how to talk about those same things to the people that mattered: namely my husband.

I got some good tidbits, though, from this psychologist.

  • First, I have permission to have boundaries.
  • Second, I am responsible for my own feelings and no other person’s.
  • Third, not everything is my fault.

There were more tidbits, but those are good highlights.

See, I’m the type who has been known to over-analyze and take things too personally. That wore me down. Always. Wondering what people think, what they consider, what they want – constantly anticipating needs while letting my own go. And, this psychologist, she gave me permission to stop. It was so obvious, so beautiful. She encouraged me to read a book I’ve promoted before, Safe People by Cloud & Townsend, two Christian Psychologists who talk a lot about boundaries. She and this book ask simply why we just don’t take things at face value? So, I started doing that.

I still see things lying behind the surface. I can still tell when someone is holding something back. I can still feel tension because people have interpreted things maybe in a way that shouldn’t have, or they are sensing something coming down the pipe that they are fearful of, but I have learned to ask questions and not worry about it.

I am learning to be more frank. I am learning to not care as much and have faith that I will be taken care of because I have a will, and where there is a will there is a way.

So, what I wish for is that I had more trust, so when I find myself in another group setting where there is so much tension, I could just say something to encourage others to say what’s on their minds.

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Life: Not a Competition

Playing at the Park with Grandma
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

This too shall pass. This phrase is one of my favorite. Why? Simply because it’s true. It doesn’t matter what is happening at any given moment at any time at any event: This too shall pass. Good, bad, horrible, indifferent, great, exciting, fascinating – it all passes into history, awaiting a new day with new adventures. Finally ending in our own deaths where in a certain regard, it doesn’t matter because what’s done is done. In that sense, life is not a competition.

I believe in God for a few reasons. One is because it simply sounds like a good idea. There is so much in this world I cannot and do not understand. My feeble little human brain cannot wrap itself around all the crap we are dealt with in our lifetime. Life is not fair, and I have to have faith that there is something else better awaiting us just for my own simple sanity.

I came to this realization one night when I was in third grade.

I still had my own room. It, I recall, had a big bed. I was laying in bed, tucked in snuggly with the sheets and blankets pulled taught with their tight hospital corners.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Image via Wikipedia

I couldn’t sleep. We had moved again. Still no return of my father (he had left us 3 times, the last being for good). We were away from the place I knew as home: my grandparents farm. We moved downstate into my aunt and uncle’s apartment first. Downstate was like another country as far as I was concerned having lived only in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent move moved us out of my aunt and uncle’s apartment (yes, that was a tight fit – two bedroom apartment, 3 adults and 3 kids) into a (public housing) townhouse, across town, to another school. All those comforts of home were gone. I had gone to yet another school. I was, yet again, the new girl who couldn’t make any friends. At that point, I had lived in more than 5 different towns/cities and had gone to maybe 4 or 5 different schools.

I was in third grade. I was 8 years old.

That means one or two different schools per grade, at that critical age when you’re trying to fit in, figure out life outside of Mom, and get to know all these new “friends”, your peers in your community.

So, that night instead of sleeping, I prayed. I remember thanking God for what I did have. A house. My mom. My sister and brother. Food to eat. Clothes to wear. Church friends. I also remember thinking, if my real father couldn’t be there, at least there was someone I could call Father.

That, in essence, explains my spiritual beliefs. When we cannot get comfort from those around us, let us get comfort from something outside our being. I was raised Catholic, so I continue to use the label of God because this is what makes sense to me.

With my belief in God (and selling books door-to-door), I also believe that no one is dealt a hand with which they cannot deal. That is, you aren’t given something out of your means. Death, life, success, failure – it is all within our capabilities to handle the situation, and to survive.

Sometimes someone is dealt a very shitty hand. And, sometimes a person isn’t (to our eyes) – they might be born with what we deem to be a silver spoon. However, we all have terrible moments; and we all have good. I believe, I hope, that we are all given crap relative to which we can handle it, hopefully gracefully. (And sometimes not.) But, in the end, I believe we are given the ability to come out smelling like roses.

So, in effect, I believe that no hand is shittier than another. Just because someone only lost a loved one late in life, this doesn’t mean their trials and tribulations are less worthy of note than another if they were dealt with loss their entire life. Why? Because in this sense, life is not a competition. This part of life is where we need to lean on each other for support.

Regarding my own personal sob story, I can see the lessons and some of the reasons now, nearly 30 years later.

Naptime
My step-father, Chris, and Levi. Michigan, September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

It was actually a very good thing my dad wasn’t a full part of my growing up years. Sure, it sucked pickles while growing up, but it allowed my mother to remarry and for me to have a great role-model in my stoic, even-handed, kind, generous step-father. It grew my family, so we were five siblings growing up together instead of 3. We had enough for the starting line up in basketball. Nearly enough to fill all the bases in baseball (or softball). It broadened my awareness of what family is, now being a blended family with all these “STEPS”. It showed me a different culture from the Polish heritage I had only known. Stability reigned through to my step-father’s hometown, where we spent the rest of my growing up years, and now consider my hometown. I even began my college career at his (nearly) alma-mater, Michigan State University. I have my Aunt Betsy because of this sequence of events, the one who introduced me to 50 Ways We Can Save the Earth, the book I consider the fire that ignited my environmental-sustainable passions, what I feel is my purpose in life.

Life is not a competition because everything happens for a reason. Sure, argue that I tell myself this for comfort, a religious crutch. I won’t defend the point because with this comfort, I can sleep at night.

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Daily Post: Best 2010 Accomplishment

Levi & Peter admiring the view.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband and my son. Just look at them! Adorable! And, we're participating in a trash-pick-up to boot! Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic suggestion: What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?

After this topic, I will be caught up with the challenge, and lest I get behind, I will be posting once a day under this “Daily Post” / #postaday2011 tag.

I haven’t often reflected specifically on the previous year to analyze my accomplishments, and from them, pick the most important. So, let’s take a look at the highlights?

  • Continued to raise a beautiful, kind, energetic boy named Levi.
  • Continued to work on this crazy, myriad thing called marriage – enjoyable companionship and frustrating differences of opinion abound!
  • Finally the food club started and have played an integral role in its set up, even being named president.
  • Continued to volunteer at the Church as reader, {new} Eucharistic minister, and religious ed (Sunday school) teacher.
  • Got a Paying Job.

My gut says, “Say the job, it’s what they want to hear.” You know, because that’s how we value things, generally, in our society – by the pocketbook. So, if we are earning money to value our worth and our daily tasks, then that must be more important than the other things.

Food - 2
Levi helping me make bread. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, my gut also says, “Value Levi first!” I value Levi first, but is he my greatest accomplishment in 2010? He’s his own person now. And, seriously, what thought went into his creation on my part and my husband’s? Honestly, not a lot. Kids sometimes happen, and they are beautiful, wonderful gifts and surprises, but if a lot of planning DID NOT go into their creation – how can they be called a great accomplishment by the parents? Whatever Levi goes onto accomplish, and he’s had some super milestones this year on his own, will be his, and his alone. As his parent, it is my job to coach him along, help him figure out what values, morals, etc are important and explain to him why I think x, y, and z are the most important. But, is his being my greatest accomplishment? I have to give a resounding no.

Likewise, my husband and I are learning how to be married. Every year we evolve a little bit more. Every year we appreciate each other a little more, learn more about respect, about communication, about family, about love. We didn’t know many of these things when we stated our vows. No one really tells you what’s up in conversation. Can they? Could you hear? So, as a work in progress, is my marriage my greatest accomplishment? Again, while I’m glad we’ve come a long way, I can’t say that it is.

Volunteering at the church is something I do as a servant leader. I feel I must, and as I learn more about certain jobs, I want to do certain things less. Once I made the choice to reconnect with my Catholic Faith, I felt it was very important to act on it in the capacity I had. This meant, at first, reading at mass. As an over achiever, I wanted to do more, and somewhere along the way I mentioned an interest in helping with religious ed. At the church, over the last 5 years, I have helped decorate, fill in in the office when I could, read monthly or every two months at mass, now serve as a Eucharistic minister, and help with Sunday school. This is my second year helping with Sunday school, and I’m not actually enjoying it. Sure, the kids are great, but I have the hardest time explaining faith with the materials and lesson plan given to these young kids. The teenagers are a lot more fun with their questions and critical thinking. This year, none of the parents said evenings would work for them, so the time is still in the middle of the day. This means, we go to church, go home, then I go back. And now, it’s two Sundays a month, and with all the other things I’m involved with – it feels more like a committed burden than any sort of service accomplishment. So, although it could be argued it’s this noble thing I’m doing, I don’t feel like it’s a significant accomplishment.

That leaves the food club. This is where I feel we’ve actually accomplished something and where my greatest 2010 accomplishment lies.

December Frontier
Our largest club order in my living room, later to be transferred by our SUV to be sorted, and then returned to my home for pick up. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

In 2008, the idea came to start a wholesale group, buying primarily food together to cut retail overhead associated costs and make better choices with a group of close friends or neighbors. Well, things didn’t pan out like I thought they would. 2009 was a pretty dry year with buying, and it turned out that my friends weren’t the right people for a buying club. I have a limited network, so I tried to reach out where it was reasonable, and one place I reached was a local Food Coop, People’s Coop, where part of their mission is to assist new buying clubs and coops. Many coops start as buying clubs, so a network link was formed.

Still nothing really happened in 2009, we met, we heard the spiel, we made two orders. I got tired of sending out monthly emails reminding the few folks who found us through Google and Craig’s List that we’re still here, if you have an idea of a buy, let’s get it going! Then, this People’s connection did two things, only one of which I was aware at first. First, she asked me if I’d do an interview and answer five questions via email. I did this but didn’t know it got published until 6 months later. The second thing she did was suggest I become Facebook friends with another Portland Food person. This gal, at the time boasted the largest area buying club and in many ways was over capacity, so she put me in touch with another gal in my neighborhood who was already ordering.

Suddenly, I found myself within the realm of the right people. In many ways, it felt like the thing I was waiting for for so long was (like my whole life, but not really) finally coming to fruition. I was skeptical that this would work and treading lightly was very important. I hope I have accomplished that.

Those first few months were interesting. First, it was Kristina, Kimberly, and I talking, then just me and Kristina. And since no one else seemed to really want to do the talking, it ended up being me. I didn’t mind, this is the thing I wanted, so I wanted this role – this leadership role. We met monthly. Dropped Robert’s Rules as our mode of meetings and went for Consensus. We talked, implemented, and changed. I learned more about my meeting facilitation skills, and where other folks don’t have skills and how that is still similar to me.

Food - 3
Heirloom tomatoes from our 2009 garden. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I met this amazing group of women who could rule the world. And, mostly, I’ve tried really hard to make sure people’s assumptions don’t get the best of them and encourage judicious, fair thinking across the board to so we can create a sustainable community first within and then without and throughout the rest of the community. Those basic goals are common with the other members in our steering committee and the club.

The goals for the next year would be to increase club participation. We have about a 10% steering committee/buy organizer participation rate. If we could raise that to 20% (20 regular volunteering members instead of 10) we’d do a lot to increase voices and alleviate the work loads.

So, my greatest accomplishment of 2010 was realizing my facilitation skills and seizing the opportunity to practice them with a fantastic group of women who under the surface are itching to change the world.

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