Friday, May 21, 2010


Boundaries, in general, are a good thing.  Biologically speaking, the boundary created by our skin keeps us from desiccating and the cell membrane helps to define the cell from the rest of the world.  Boundaries help to define, protect, and limit.  On the other side of the coin, boundaries can also keep unwanted materials in, reinforce unsubstantiated differences, and restrict.

Boundaries can also be restrictions and limits on behavior.  In this context as well, boundaries can be good or bad.  Boundaries help to define acceptable and unacceptable behavior, help ease communication by providing certain circumscriptions or limit definitions and ideas, and allow a measure of decency or prevent honest expression of thoughts and ideas.

As an adult, I both respect boundaries and challenge them- depending on which boundary is being discussed.  I think we tend to put up too many boundaries as a society, but they do serve a purpose and some boundaries make maintaining a society possible.  As the saying goes, "Your right to swing your fist stops where my nose begins."  Ignoring important boundaries could lead to a lot of noses out of joint, not to mention state sanctioned religion, hazardous materials going unchecked, exploitation, and abuse of power.  A stupid person blindly accepts all boundaries and an arrogant person ignores all boundaries.  I don't want to be either.

This makes parenting difficult.  How can I teach a four year old about boundaries by example?  I can't impose boundaries expecting Ken to obey them without question, but I can't teach him that all boundaries are pointless either.  There is no easy approach.  And unfortunately, he's caught on to my ambiguity around boundaries, and tries out this new knowledge by imposing his own boundaries and testing mine.  Which leads to some very long days recently.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I love my son, even if he is high maintenance.  I just have to remind myself that the traits he's exhibiting are traits that I admire in adults and they should be fostered.  Possibly the hardest thing about parenting that no one ever told me is the difficulty in reinforcing positive adult traits in a child.

"Patriotism is supporting your country always, and your government when it deserves support." ~Mark Twain.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grown in My Heart adoption carnival

This is for the Grown in my Heart adoption carnival going on in honor of Mother's day.

Family is family, however it's made.

Indulging in Anthropocentrism

My mood has a tendency to vacillate a lot lately.  Not anything unhealthy, it's just been an up-side-down, topsy-turvy past few weeks or so.  Part of the problem is that I pay too much attention to the news, part is that I worry too much about other people.  On my bad days, I can be totally OK with the idea of complete human annihilation.  Plague?  Fine.  Natural disaster?  Bring it.  Famine?  Great.  Whatever gets the human population back into check, even if that means our extinction.  The world would be better without us, and we can be such frakking jerks to each other and to nature that we really deserve whatever might befall our species.  I know, cheery, eh?

And then on the good days, I have a real passion for how exactly do we educate people and get them interested and involved in ecology/conservation/human rights/something other than their damned X-Box or Wii.  We have got to do better at being stewards of the planet and each other if we're going to survive, and we have got to survive.  Without killing everything else in the process.

The bad days are usually brought on by too much news, too much bad news, too many people being a-holes- especially all piled into a few hours.  Driving in Cleveland at rush hour can also do the trick.

Good days happen thanks to being a witness to random acts of kindness, a trip to the art museum, a great concert, or a beautiful piece of prose or poetry.  Journal articles qualify as prose in this case, and have absolutely made my day more than once.

We humans are capable of such great things- creative and destructive.  As a mom, I really feel this point loud and clear.  I have had the opportunity to create life, and that's an amazing thing.  At the same time, mothers can utterly destroy the life that they created by their action or inaction.  Don't get me wrong, fathers can do that as well, but well, it's mother's day, and there's a little more cultural pressure (not that this is a good or bad thing- it's just a thing) on moms that their kids turn out "right" or "good," so I'm focusing on moms for now.

It's not a responsibility to be taken lightly.  The same is true of any creative force.  Einstein vocally opposed the atomic bomb, made possible by his work on energy and matter (the famous E=MC2 equation) and Oppenheimer regretted his work on the Manhattan project after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saying if he had known what it could have done, he never would have pursued the research.  There is a weight that goes along with everything we create- and that weight dictates that we do not create something for which we can not take responsibility in the future.  If we create something for which we have no desire to care or do our best in protecting, then we have no reason or right to create that thing.

Today was mostly a good day, and I'm happy to have created the people that I have, because right now, I think there is a bit of a bright light, and maybe we humans have enough potential for good to outweigh the bad, although I wonder how to encourage the good over the bad.  Maybe, if I work hard enough, I'll find the answer someday, and maybe in that search, I'll do a little good along the way.  Happy mothers day to all the nurturing women out there- no matter what you may have created- and thank you for helping create a slightly better world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So there.

My husband and I have been talking for a while about the economy, the Moynihan report, and implications for today.  It's my feeling that our current economy, and the disparity between expectations for males and females, among other things, has the potential to set up a situation similar to what is described by Moynihan.  Basically, he said that masculinity is defined in part by one's ability to provide- for one's self and one's family.  Take away that ability, and you take away a person's identity, leading to an abandoning of their role in society and in the family as well as a general decline in a person's sense of self worth.  This abandonment of social roles and inability to fulfill roles lead to the slew of social problems (single parenthood, violence, drug use, teen parents) seen in the African American community in the late twentieth century, according to Moynihan.  He posited that the solution was for African American to sign up for the military and serve in Vietnam in order to be able to provide for their family.  Robert F. Williams disagreed with this, and this difference of opinion, and the definition of masculinity upon which Moynihan and Williams both agreed is the major topic of Dwight's master's thesis.  My position is that what we are currently seeing in our society and economy is setting up white males for a similar removal of themselves from society and abandonment of their roles.

Imagine my surprise when Juan Williams was discussing this very thing on NPR today.  Audio will be available after 9AM.  I feel like one smart cookie.  Well, chopped liver with a side of smart cookie.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Belated Infertility Awareness Week

Last week was National Infertility Awareness Week, and my apologies for not getting around to this sooner, but it's the end of the term, so I'm going a bit crazy.  Well, crazier than usual.  As you might have noticed, I have a son.  I've also been a surrogate and egg donor.  So why do I care about infertility, as it's something that's obviously not been a personal struggle for me?  The short answer- because I see infertility (IF) as not just a medical problem, but a human rights problem.  The long answer is the rest of this post.

First off, even though IF often has a medical cause that is not the fault of the person suffering IF, it's also usually not covered by insurance in the US right now.  This causes a huge financial burden to those that face IF, one that is not their fault, and nothing they could have controlled, and because reproduction is not "necessary" for life, assisted reproductive technology (ART), in all its forms, is often seen as voluntary or as a matter of convenience, when it's truly far from either of those things.  This stigma trivializes a large portion of our population, as much as 1 in 6 people, and the suffering that they go through.  This status as "voluntary" also tends to lead to health care providers charging exorbitant fees. 

Along with the financial cost, IF incurs a huge emotional cost through stress, delayed hopes and dreams, invasive/dangerous/humiliating doctor's appointments and social stigma.  Those with IF are often subjected to the flippant "Why don't you just adopt?".  Those words may seem simple enough, but adoption is currently also stigmatized in our society, as witnessed by the acquittal of manslaughter charges of a man whose Russian son died under his car, and the lack of US outcry upon the return of Justin/Artyom Hansen alone to Russia.  Essentially, "Why don't you just adopt?" is asking "Why don't you just accept your second class status?"  We don't consider medical disabilities to mean that a person is a second class citizen, why should this medical condition be any different? 

This idea of adoption as an alternative also trivializes the costs associated with adoption.  Adoption incurs similar types of costs as IF, along with the judgment by third parties as to your fitness as a prospective parent (i.e. home visits and psychological screenings, which may also be associated with IF treatment).  This perspective is something completely absent from "natural" family creation.  In some extreme cases, the ability to adopt is limited by the evaluators' personal bias or systemic preferences, issues that work against non-traditional families including homosexual couples, single homo- or heterosexuals, mixed families and others. 

Finally, IF- while it does affect both men and women- is especially detrimental to women, as there is still a very strong social pressure that defines women as mothers.  This is the twenty first century, and both men and women should be free to choose to put their energies toward family, career, or both as they desire, however women are pressured to put their energy towards family more than are men.  Thus IF for men is less of a failure, as it doesn't affect their career (the traditional male role in industrialized societies) and the lack of a family is more often seen as a choice for men. 

The fact is that we need to accept all families as equal, however they came about, just as much as we need to accept all people as equal.