Thursday, May 31, 2007


Today I was reading the Subversive Cross Stitch blog.
My friend Rachel gave me the book, which I adore. I've made a couple things from the book, including housewarming hand towels and have ordered a pattern from the site. I'm plotting another housewarming gift and just finished a subversive cross stitch belated birthday gift, so I thought I'd visit the site. On the blog, Julie Jackson mentions that a "Debbie Downer" wrote her a review on Amazon. I read it. I don't know what got into me, but that review just went right up my ass, to the point where I wrote my first ever Amazon review. HA! Take that, bitches. Anyways, the person said:

I don't own this book, but looked through it at a the home of an acquaintance. I think it's sad that people would focus hours of creative artistic effort to produce ugly sentiments. Before you buy this book, please ask yourself if what you choose to focus on, to create and display in your home, might have a subtle effect on your health, happiness, and life.

There are loads of cross stitch books from which you can produce works of art that are inspiring and help to create an environment of peace, beauty and well-being. I hope you'll choose one, because there is enough hatefulness and sarcasm in this world.

The author took it well and she was kinda like "oh I guess some people don't get it."
Ahem. CLEARLY. CLEARLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm sorry but these designs are effing hilarious. My mother, who is a somewhat reserved woman who doesn't really like swears especially the F-bomb, laughed all the way through this book. Why? Because it's funny. It's not intense or serious, it's not sick or twisted or hating on anyone, it's just damn funny. A pattern with bees on it saying "Beeyatch" oh my God, I'm so offended I think I'll have to go meditate on the world that's so full of hate and then buy a Thomas Kincaid cross stitch pattern so I can cross stitch a pastel lighthouse and hang it on my wall and think of the peace and love that should be filling the craft world (ps not hating on Thomas Kincaid cross stitch. There's a time and a place, just like there's a time and a place for subversive cross stitch, which is all the time, everywhere pretty much) Besides, if you hated someone, really hated them, why would you ever plan out and spend time cross stitching them something from Subversive Cross Stitch just to make them feel bad? Um you wouldn't, and if you did, you've got waaaay bigger problems than I can address in this post. These designs are for you and your friends who have a sense of humor, or anyone who doesn't have a large stick up their ass.

Finally, I find it ironic that someone who writes about there being enough "hate in the world" would write a post hating on someone's labor of love, perhaps even their sole means of support. C'mon the author isn't selling drugs or running a sweat shop, she's designing crafty goodness to bring some humor back into the world of crafting. I wish I could show the reviewer a picture of my friend when she received her very own "Pussy got me Dizzay" Subversive Cross Stitch Apron.....Eh, she'd probably be offended anyways. Rock on Subversive Cross Stitchers!
EE with her bday spoils :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Last Night

I dreamt of Kenya. Usually there's no rhyme or reason to my Kenya dreams. They arrive out of the blue without prompting, thought it's not something about which I'm going to complain. My greatest fear when leaving Kenya the first time was that I'd never be back there in person and wouldn't even be able to visit in my dreams. The dreams don't come to me often, but when they do, I savor them - Kenya is so very far away, and though I have every intention of returning there more than once, have every intention of one day bringing my little tan babies there (when they're big) I know I'll never be able to visit as often as I'd like, so dreams are a welcome escape.

Last night I dreamt that I was living in Kenya as a student. The two friends I brought back with me in 2006 were there as well. We were living in a village called Keti, which is actually the village in a book I just read called "Measuring Time" by Helon Habila - the book took place in Nigeria, but I'm not even sure if a village of "Keti" exists. Nonetheless, that's where we were living. It was a bit jungle-y, but we had to walk down a long and dusty road to get the bus to Machakos, which is where we took Swahili. This at least makes a bit of sense, since I've been to Machakos 3 or 4 times and it's a big enough city that one could expect to find Swahili lessons there. So each morning we would have to be at the end of the road that led to Keti at 6:30AM to get the bus to Machakos, otherwise, we would be stuck without transportation. One morning, though it was only 6, we passed a roadside shop that was open. It was full of Kazuri beads. I have a necklace made of Kazuri beads, and it may be the most treasured thing I purchased in Kenya. I bought it on my birthday at the Giraffe Centre in Karen, and last night, I laid it out on my bureau because I planned to wear it today (and am wearing it right now). Now if I did come upon a shop of Kazuri beads in real life, I would probably go right in without regard for the bus I was supposed to catch. Of course in the dream I went into the shop and found a bracelet of giant square turquoise beads painted with small specks of bright color. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be unrivaled by anything in the store. It was pricey I remember, but I pulled the purple post-it with the word "no" written on it from my visa (which exists in real life, lol) and charged the bracelet. I put it on, showed it to Melu and Rachel and we went on our merry way.

It was a bit strange to have this dream last night because it is actually associated with something for once. Of course there's the book I just read and the fact that I laid my kazuri beads out last night, but I believe I had the dream because I finally heard from Mboya yesterday. A while ago I bought him a quadraband phone on ebay. I sent him an old phone of mine, not truly understanding how cell phones work in other countries and though I had it unlocked by a cell phone service, I think it must've been a triband phone or something, because it never worked properly. Fed up with the running around I was having to do and that Mboya was having to do on his end, I withdrew $40 from his fund (I have a savings account for him) and bought an unlocked quadband motorola phone on ebay, complete with a charger. I then printed out the instruction manual and paid $14 to mail it to Kenya. The thing is that over a month had passed and I hadn't heard from him. His mail is delivered to his former place of employment, a courtesy I hope they are showing him for his 16 years of service and their sudden termination of his job on the sole grounds that American schools aren't sending enough students to the study abroad program and his salary could no longer be paid. I wondered if maybe he only checked the mail when he knew something would be there for him, so I emailed him. I received this yesterday:

Thank GOD its very nice to receive your email this morning, and guess what? i just got the phone yesterday, its really receiving network very clear which is my exiting to me. i really appreciate so much and its now time to get to calls and find job s without spending so much bus-fare, i cant imagine how chip (cheap) is going to cost me without travel ling around searching for a job!! You cant imagine how things will be easy for me!! thank you, thank you, thank you, so much RAFIKI YANGU."

I was so happy to receive this and happy to hear that this phone would make life easier for my dear friend Mboya. I didn't dwell on it much til later that day when I was driving home after a day of work and an indulgent pedicure. I was steering my way down a hideously crowded Route 3 South when it struck me that for the most part, my complaints are no more than petty in the grand scheme of life. While all noble causes, I am surrounded by people crowing about health care, politics, civil liberties, politicians speaking about these things, about gas prices, traffic, public transportation. The people I work with bitch about each other. The people I volunteer with bitch about all of the above as well as non-vegetarians and people who hunt animals. I bitch about God only knows what......but I do it from my beautiful home or my beautiful back yard or the homes and yards of family and friends. Everyday without giving it a second thought I robotically hold my transit pass up to a sensor and the gates open and admit me because I paid for my pass from my paycheck and everything is taken care of for me behind the scenes. I can take as many trains and buses as I want every day and I don't even have to think about it. When the day is over, I get in my car which I fill with gas which I can afford because I have a salaried job, and drive southward, away from the hustle and bustle of Boston to the peaceful, once rural but now becoming scarily overdeveloped suburbs and relax - sew on a sewing machine, sit at my laptop, knit, swim in my pool. Meanwhile 7,200 miles away, a good man who wants to work is trying to figure out how to make the $60 I send him last 3 or 4 months, because he doesn't have a job (I send him $225 every 4 months, but $165 is needed for school fees). This means he needs to budget for the few bills he will have, as well as things for his family, who farms for a living. He also needs to figure out every single bus ride he'll be taking in search of work. I've seen men fight over a space in a truck that will bring them to a job site for a day. In Athi River, there are cement mines, mined mostly by the unemployed looking for a day's work. If you don't fight your way into a mine truck, it means no work, no food on the table. Does Mboya do this? Does he pick up odd jobs in and around Nairobi. He's efficient and dependable, that I know, but do others see this in him, or do they just see a warm body? Is he turned away from jobs because he lacks a formal education? Do people know that he's been working hard for 16 years in a stable job and the carpet was pulled from under his feet?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but they make me ask myself "why the hell are you complaining?" In comparison to Mboya, I have everything. In comparison to Mboya, most Americans, even some (some, not ALL) of the most impoverished ones will have more or access to more resources than Mboya will ever have during his lifetime, though hopefully with my help I will make this no longer be the case. Of the 50% of the Kenyan population living below the poverty line however, he will be an exception. So why are we complaining? Why aren't we living life grateful for every small moment, for every small thing, grateful for the fact that when I get on a bus every morning it's not to go find work, it's to go TO work. Why aren't we grateful for every cell phone call we can afford, each dunkin' donuts iced coffee we pay for? I don't know the answer to that either, but what I do know is that I'm going to start being grateful for a lot more things in this life, that's for sure. Life is too short to sit and bitch - go out and do.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random Sharing

I just have a bunch of random stuff today, but that's ok, we don't need a dramatic feminist post every day ;)

Though speaking of feminism.....I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this on my blog, but last semester I took Animal Behavior with a professor I found to be pretty damn sexist. I thought it was me being all women's college graduate on his ass, until one girl from Tufts, which as great a university as it is, I do not find it to be a bastion of feminism, raised her hand and said "Professor? You never call on girls when you ask a question. Even when their hands are raised." HA! I thought, You are soooo right, sister. The professor looked bewildered for a second and then said "Ok, you're right. Ok......." Then he turned to her suddenly and with this shattered look on his face he whined "BUT IT'S MY CLASS and I can call on whomever I WANT!!" I sat there stunned. Dude, I thought, could you not be so blatant with your man-favoring?? He also yelled at a girl when she said "Vagina Monologues" in class. He pointed a pointer at her and said "You can't say that word in my class" Oh I'm sorry are we not in BIOLOGY, does not half the class have in their possession a va-jay-jay? Anyways, so I decided not to be so much of a fan of that professor (though in the end he gave me a C. A gift, because Jesus knows I did not do well on his exams. phew.) Last night I was sitting in my first Wetlands Management class. You know when you just get a vibe that a person is cool and nice? I definitely got that from my professor almost instantly. I think it's because he's not pretentious and tried to be friendly to us, but was still the teensiest bit shy. Plus I get the feeling he's really freakin' brilliant, but he's not a showoff. So he's going over the syllabus with us, telling us a bit about his consulting work, just going along, when one of my classmates raises her hand. "Can we do our project on a man-made wetland?" He smiles and looks at her and says "Of course, man or woman-made wetlands are fine, if you like." I sat there and smiled and thought 'I like this guy already.'

And speaking of class, while taking notes about a habitat, I often throw in what types of bird species would live in it. Because I am super bio nerd of the world, associating a bird with a habitat actually helps me remember the qualities of a habitat better. For example, if you have a beach with piping plovers on it, I"m going to know what the beach is like simply because I know what type of beach plovers (which I pronounce "Pl-O-vers" but my boss pronounced "p-love-ers" with the "love" in there. I loved that) prefer. Same with something like a wood duck or killdeer. Anyways, I'm taking notes about swamps and my professor pointed out that in swamps the dead trees are sometimes the single most valuable ecological feature of the wetland, and he has been involved in resoration projects that cemented snags (dead trees) into swamp. I found myself taking notes and write "Important for species such as pileated and ivory-billed woodpeckers" I sat there after I wrote that sentence and thought "the ivory-bill is extinct. no one has confirmed its existence in the world today, not really." I smiled though and thought "but I know it's there." Hope-a-holic indeed.

While I'm talking about Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers, I need to recommend a sciency book for any bird-lovers out there, or anyone who really wants a glimpse of how insane birders really are. As a fiction-lover and a former non-fiction avoider, I must say that this is one book that reminded me of the importance of including a healthy dose of non-fiction in my reading diet. Tim Gallagher's The Grail Bird is part of the reason why I feel it's even the least bit appropriate to write down "Ivory-billed woodpecker" as a living wetland species with a penchant for dead trees. He made me want to believe and then actually believe a species can persist even in the face of near-complete destruction, and reminded me why I wanted to stick with the conservation field, even when genetics was making me tear my hair out.

Now I've been on this quest to read 100 books this year. I'm doing alright, especially since I have 3 books at home that I'm 95% done with and just need to read the ending. I've been starting new ones before finishing old ones because I hate to finish a book on the train and then sit there for 30 minutes staring into space or trying to tune out the i-pod music or overly-loud cell conversation from the person next to me. I must say that I haven't read anything disappointing thus far. There have been the sensational but strange (The News from Paraguay it got mixed reviews on Amazon, but I think people were looking for things that weren't there, like a history lesson. This book is Gabriel Garcia-Marquez-esque, dark and extraordinary, not historical fiction!) and there were my beloved Mma Ramotswe books from the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series which I highly highly highly recommend (they are so African; never has a book so closely captured the more mundane life of rural Africa. All you ever read about is famine, AIDS, dictators, genocide, and the plight of the continent and her people. While these issues are real and accounts are true, I found that in the small rural towns in Kenya, life is calm, peaceful and very much like Mma Ramotswe's Botswana. It is an excellent break, reading this series) I also love Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series, which are sort of like the Mma Ramotswe books (endearing female heroine) only in Scotland (and not as loved on Amazon, but I found them nonetheless entertaining). I read some nonfiction too, and the slim volume that Calvin Trillin wrote to honor his late wife was by far my favorite piece thus far. About Alice was a simple tribute to a woman that was this man's entire world. I saw this book on some list or other, maybe a best seller list, maybe in the paper - I don't actually remember. And while some of you will probably recognize Trillin's name immediately, as he has been a staff write for the New Yorker for nearly 45 years and has a list of publications a mile long on his resume, I had never heard of him. I saw About Alice on my library's shelf, and grabbed it. I read the book jacket, something I ALWAYS do (because nothing is worse to me then getting a book home, reading it, hating it and feeling like you just wasted your time because you could've read a gem of a book had you just read the jacket) and saw that it was a memoir about his wife who died on 9/11/01 of heart failure from complications from cancer. 'A cancer memoir' I thought. Working at a cancer hospital I can manage cancer memoirs fairly well, but they're a rather depressing lot. I added it to the pile nonetheless. I soon realized after reading the first few pages that this would not be a cancer story - no way, this was going to be a love story. The book is 96 pages, yet after I finished it, I loved Alice too. I felt like I knew Alice and Calvin and their daughters and friends, so passionate was Trillin's storytelling. There were no sordid medical tales, no long ramblings of what radiation and heart failure do to the body, no long story of Alice's physical decline. There were simple vignettes about adventures with Alice, the funny things she used to say and do, and their life together. Trilin mentions something he heard once - I can't recall the story exactly, but basically a woman's boyfriend proposed to her and while she was telling someone about it, she said "He loves me. But will he love me like Calvin loved Alice?" That sums up this heartfelt tribute. One reader on Amazon says "Alice is a bore - couldn't like her" I want to email her and say "well did you actually read the book and do you have a heart and soul, or has glacial ice taken the place of both?"

Finally, I just want to recommend a crafty site. I read SouleMama every day. I love her posts and the fact that she shares her life with her readers. It's mostly a crafy blog, but her kids are often prominent features, and I think they're all hilarious. Her most recent post is a little story about how her oldest son is going on his first sans parent overnight at his grandparents. Her storeis are so endearing and full of heart - I so admire the type of parent she and her husband are and love reading about her adventures as a mom. A+!

Ok I have rambled waaaay too long this morning. Happy Thursday all - just a bit longer til the weekend!

PS A final word - women of the world: if you're wearing white/light pants to work, get underwear a couple of shades darker than your skin tone. YOU CAN SEE WHITE UNDERWEAR THROUGH YOUR PANTS. I know you might not think so but oh hell yes, you can. Here's a link to Victoria's Secret. These panties are no show in that they won't leave you with a panty line, plus they come in several "skin" shades - remember, a couple shades darker than your skin tone NOT WHITE!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My First Meme

Judy tagged me for a meme, something which I don't think has ever appeared on this blog. It is a simple meme requesting only 8 random things. Here it goes:

The rules:

1: Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own eight random things, and post these rules.
3: At the end of your post you need to tag eight people and include their names.
4: Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Here are my eight random things:
1. I have a toe gap from wearing flip flops, and the gap between my first and second toes is so large that it looks like I'm missing a toe on each foot!
2. I can make things grow outside, even ladyslippers, but I've killed at least 3 gardenias, 2 orchids, all of my Smith ivies and most of the other houseplants I've owned
3. I've been to Nantucket 11 times, but barring the 2 occasions I was evacuated because of a storm, I've never stayed in a building there, only a tent
4. When I was little, I collected clamshells from the beach and painted them with watercolors. I loved the way they smelled after being in the sun
5. I cut my own hair from 8th grade until just recently
6. If I won the lottery, I would build a hospital and school in Oloitokitok, Kenya
7. I have sacrificed two nice pairs of Ann Taylor Loft pants to the sidewalks of Tufts University
8. When I collected mosquitoes for the State Lab I always carried binoculars in case I saw a cool bird or animal. I saw dozens of birds, deer, turtles, frogs, butterflies and one day, I even saw a fisher

Well there you have it, my 8 random things. You're supposed to tag 8 people to pass this on to, but I don't know that many that blog!! I'll tag Alex and Amy and anyone else who stops by and might like to give it a go :) ENJOY!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Alma Mater, Smith College

Evidence, though unnecessary, that yes indeed, I chose the right college for me:

Smith Tradition


Gloria Steinem '56, LTD '88; May 20, 2007

Feminist leader and Smith alumna Gloria Steinem took the stage to a standing ovation at the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2007.

To Carol Christ who leads Smith College (and does the most amazing introductions); to the faculty who create its purpose and the staff who give it daily life; to the honorary degree recipients in whose presence I am so very proud to be; to all the families and friends and partners and children who have sustained today's graduates -- especially those of you who have performed the miracle of guiding children through an experience you could not have -- and most of all, to you, the beloved, brave, tired and now headed-for-the-world graduates of the Class of 2007:

The first generation of Facebook and YouTube Smithies; the class to shape and survive the most changes in the way Smith lives; the second class of the Iraq War, and the most diverse class in the history of Smith College, from Adas -- who made sure that Class (economic class) Is Never Dismissed, and to all those who help Smith College look more like the world:

I thank you for including me in your historic day.

It's historic for me, too, because I was sitting where you sit today exactly 51 years ago.

I wasn't sure I should bring up this half-century fact. For one thing, I feel connected to you, not distant. For another, I feared you might go into as much age-shock as I did when I woke up after my 70th birthday, and thought, “There's a 70-year-old woman in my bed! How did this happen?!”

But then I realized that fearing separation by age was probably more my generation's problem than yours. If I conjure up my own graduation day, for instance, even life after 30 seemed a hazy screen to be filled in by the needs of others -- and there were not yet even Adas to show us that life and growth continue. In our age ghetto, we pretty much accepted the idea that women were more valued for giving birth to others than for giving birth to ourselves.

Yes, many of us had professions, but they were secondary. As one of my classmates said in the light of later feminism, “I didn't have a job, I had a jobette.” We weren’t trying to change the world to fit women -- and neither was Smith in those days -- we were trying to change ourselves to fit the world.

If this seems hard to believe now, think of my two most famous age peers: Marilyn Monroe, who literally feared aging more than death, and Smith’s own Sylvia Plath, whose own world-class talent couldn't give her the autonomy she needed to survive.

Now, thanks to decades of feminist rebellion, your generation is much more likely to value minds and hearts and talents that last just as long as you do. You not only have a somewhat longer life expectancy physically, but faith in a much longer life of your own making. Fortunately for me, this also means you are better able to identify with other women across boundaries of age.

For instance: My generation of young women said things like, “I'm not going to be anything like my mother.” After all, if we didn't blame our mothers for living vicarious lives, we would have to admit that we might have to do the same. Even now, my generation -- and probably some of yours, too -- are living out the unlived lives of our mothers.

This is honorable and rewarding and loving, but it isn’t the same thing -- for either mother or daughter -- as living our own unique lives.

Now, I meet many young women who say something like, “I hope I can have as interesting a life as my mother.” Not the same life, but as interesting. And when I hear this, it brings tears to my eyes -- because I know there is not only love between generations, as there always has been, but now there is respect, learning, a sense of balance, even an invitation to adventure.

So instead of worrying about the decades between us, I thought I would use them as a measure of the future by projecting a similar time into the future. Like the swing of a compass arm, I invite you to measure the progress made in the time between my graduating class and yours, and project into the future same distance.

What might the world be like when you are come back to visit the class of 2057?

I'm not suggesting we know what will happen, but I am suggesting that imagination is a form of planning.

So let’s take a concrete example: In my generation, we were asked by the Smith vocational office how many words we could type a minute; a question that was never asked of then all-male students at Harvard or Princeton. Female-only typing was rationalized by supposedly greater female verbal skills, attention to detail, smaller fingers, goodness knows what, but the public imagination just didn't include male typists, certainly not Ivy League-educated ones.

Now, computers have come along, and “typing” is “keyboarding.” Suddenly, voila! -- men can type! Gives you faith in men's ability to change, doesn't it?

So maybe by 2057, occupational segregation -- an even greater cause of wage disparity than unequal pay, may have changed enough so there will be male nurses and female surgeons. Then male medics won’t come home from the military to be shamed out of nursing jobs, and nursing will be better paid for no longer being a pink collar ghetto.

Or perhaps parking lot attendants will no longer be paid more than childcare attendants -- as is now the case not because we value our cars more than our children but because the first are almost totally male and the second are almost totally female.

And most of all, maybe the vast unpaid area of care giving -- whether that means raising children or caring for the ill and elderly: about 30 percent of the productive work in this country and more than half in many countries -- maybe this huge and vital area of work will at last have an attributed economic value, whether it is done by women or men.

This is already a feminist proposal for tax policy. It would mean the attributed value of care giving would become tax deductible for those who pay taxes, and tax refundable for those who are too poor to pay taxes, thus substituting for the disaster of welfare. It would be a huge advance. We would at last be valuing all productive work, including that mysteriously defined as not-work: as in homemakers who “don’t work,” even though they work longer and harder than any other class of worker. (Not to mention with more likelihood of getting replaced by a younger worker.)

Take something deeper: My generation identified emotionally with every other vulnerable group, but without understanding why. Fifty years later, we understand why: females are an “out” group, too -- no wonder we identified. Now there are local, national and global liberation movements based on sex, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class. We know in these movements we are each others' allies, if only because our adversaries are all the same.

Perhaps 50 years from now the public imagination will finally understand this as one inseparable movement. The same hierarchy that controls women's bodies as the means of reproduction -- which is how we women got into this jam in the first place -- and says that sexuality is only moral when it is directed toward reproduction within patriarchal marriage -- also controls reproduction in order to maintain racial difference and to preserve a racist caste system. We will understand that it's impossible to be a feminist without also being an anti-racist -- and vice versa. Not only because women are in every group in the world but because racial caste and sexual caste are inseparable.

We will also understand that the same folks who are against contraception and abortion and even the sex education that helps avoid abortion -- anything that allows the separation of sexuality from reproduction -- are also against sexual expression between two women or between two men. They deny the reality that human sexuality has always been a form of communication and pleasure, not just a way we reproduce. (And I do mean always. The Native women who lived on this very land long before Europeans showed up had two or three children two or three years apart. They absolutely understood contraception, which is not just some modern gift from the pharmaceutical industry.)

No wonder anti-equality, racist and anti-gay forces are all the same, just as they were in, say, Germany under fascism, or in theocracies and totalitarian regimes now. Perhaps fifty years from now, most people will understand that reproductive and sexual freedom -- and democratic families, democracy within families -- are as necessary to democracy as is the vote and freedom of speech.

Or take another area very close to home. My generation often accepted the idea that the private/public roles of women and men were “natural.” Your generation has made giant strides into public life, but often still says: How can I combine career and family?

I say to you from the bottom of my heart that when you ask that question you are setting your sights way too low. First of all, there can be no answer until men are asking the same question. Second, every other modern democracy in the world is way, way ahead of this country in providing a national system of childcare, and job patterns adapted to the needs of parents, both men and women.

So don’t get guilty. Get mad. Get active. If this is a problem that affects millions of unique women, then the only answer is to organize.

I know it may be hard for women to believe that men can be loving and nurturing of small children -- just as it may be hard for men to believe that women can be expert and achieving in public life as they have. If you’ve never seen a deer, it’s hard to see a deer. If I hadn’t happened to have a father who raised me as a small child as much as my mother did, I might not believe it either. But raising young children -- or being raised to raise children -- is the way men are most likely to develop their own full circle of human qualities, and stop reproducing the prison of the “masculine” role. Just as our role in the public life frees us of the prison of the "feminine" role.

For that matter, our kids do what they see, not what they’re told. If children don’t see whole people, they’re much less likely to become whole people -- at least, not without a lot of hard work in later life.

Which leads us into the big question of violence. Gender roles provide the slippery slope to the normalization of control and violence in all their forms, from sexualized violence to military violence -- which is the distance from A. to B. Until the family paradigm of human relationships is about cooperation and not domination or hierarchy, we’re unlikely to imagine cooperation as normal or even possible in public life.

We must change this paradigm for it is just too dangerous in this era of weapons -- especially as it collides with religions that extol Doomsday.

It’s already too dangerous in this era when there are more slaves in proportion to the world’s population -- more people held by force or coercion without benefit from their work -- more now than there were in the 1800s. Sex trafficking, labor trafficking, children and adults forced into armies: they all add up to a global human-trafficking industry that is more profitable than the arms trade, and second only to the drug trade. The big difference now from the 1800s is that the United Nations estimates that 80 percent of those who are enslaved are women and children.

Yes, all this will take much longer than our projected 50 years to transform. The wisdom of original cultures tells us that it takes four generations to heal one violent act. But it’s also true that, if we were to raise even one generation of children without violence and without shaming, we have no idea what might be possible.

It won’t be easy to hang on to this vision of possibilities in ourselves and in others if we are alone in a world that’s organized a different way. We are communal creatures. So make sure you’re not alone after you leave this community at Smith. Make sure you meet with a few friends once a week or once a month; people you can share experiences and hopes with -- and vice versa. Women may need this even more than other marginalized groups because, after all, we will never have our own country (good thing -- it makes us anti-nationalistic), we don’t have a neighborhood; most of us don’t even have a bar.

So, if I had one wish for women worldwide, it would be a kind of global version of Alcoholics Anonymous: a network of women’s groups -- also welcoming to men who have the same radical vision. These leaderless and free groups would exist in cities and villages, in school basements and around rural wells. They could spread like lace over the globe and their purpose will be to support self-authority. After all, democracy can’t exist without the help of half of the world's population.

While we’re at it over the next 50 years, remember that the end doesn’t justify the means, the means are the ends. If we want joy and music and friendship and laughter at the end of our revolution, we must have joy and music and friendship and laughter along the way. Emma Goldman had the right idea about dancing at the revolution.

So, my beloved comrades, yes this is the longest of all revolutions and that will mean a lot of struggle, a lot of organizing together and a lot of unity, but that also means a lot of dancing.

For now, just measure the distance from my graduation to yours -- from my class with only one student of color to your diverse class; from my era of no women’s history to yours that has been strengthened by women’s history. You can match or surpass that distance that we have covered.

Now, it's true that I have every intention of living to be 100. But even I, hope-oholic that I am, know when you return to celebrate your victories and inspire the class of 2057, I won’t be with you.

But then again: I will.

I feel so privileged not only to have been fortuate enough to have gone to Smith, but that I was able to stand in the shadow of such brilliant, intelligent, and caring women. Sigh. Full of Smith love right now.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bronx Zoo Post

What seems like forever ago but was actually May 5th, Jam and I went to the Bronx Zoo.

I love good zoos. I hate bad zoos, you know, the ones where the animals are pacing or plucking out their feathers or look visibly ill - luckily I haven't been to a zoo like that in a very very long time, and as time goes by, I think many of those zoos are closing, which is good but also bad because it leaves animals with a whole new problem, and before I go on a rant about the Catskill Game Farm.


I had been looking forward to going to the Bronx Zoo for a long while. I had heard some great things about it, everything from the conservation message it's dedicated to sending to patrons to the naturalistic habitats to its sheer size. I had also been nagging Jam to take me there. When we decided to go, our trip coincided with the purchase of my new Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the timing could not have been more perfect: the zoo is a photographer's dream, or at least it was this photographer's dream.

Here are the highlights:

Right off the bat we had some monkey sex. Nothing says nature quite like sex. A great way to educate the children too. Luckily I have a sense of taste and didn't get the monkeys full-blown doing it, but people were recording and laughing about it, which leads me to the one thing I hate about zoos: other people visit them. Anyways, these monkeys were pretty proud of themselves, although what exhibitionist wouldn't be??!
We moved through to the african animals next, my personal favorite even though I've seen almost all of them in the wild. I found out that the Bronx Zoo has African Wild Dogs, and they are sort of the keystone species of the zoo and at the heart of the Wildlife Conservation Society's mission, which is: "The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild lands through careful science, international conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks. These activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in sustainable interaction on both a local and a global scale. WCS is committed to this work because we believe it essential to the integrity of life on Earth." It was great to see such educational things about African Wild Dogs - so many people have never even heard of them, and they're so unique and of course disappearing slowly but surely. I even have video of them, which I may post later.

There were cheetahs too. I love love love LOVE cheetahs - they're graceful and unusual and also disappearing from the planet all-too-quickly. I think one of the reasons I love cheetahs is because a cheetah researcher visited us on an Kenyan game farm on which we were camping and gave us a wonderful lecture on cheetah conservation, and Mary Wykstra's message has stuck with me since, and I am certainly reminded of the importance of species conservation every time I see one of these animals.

We made our way through more exhibits, this time heading indoors. We encountered Wolf's Monkeys, which are incredibly beautiful. Typically, I was drawn to the baby, which honestly reminded of me of some human children I've encountered, LOL.
We moved on to the Congo Gorilla Forest. At first when we realized that you had to pay extra to get in, Jam and I were like "Uh, NO." Then I got to thinking and realized that I really did want to see the gorillas. Gorillas in zoos are a real touchy issue for me. I realize that much of the behavioral research done on gorillas in zoos is benefitting the wild population and doesn't harm any captive gorillas, but they're such intelligent creatures, and when you see them in a small cell-like enclosure, it breaks my heart. Luckily the Congo Gorilla Forest was no such place. The gorilla enclosure was large - very large, with rocks and trees and grass and plants. The young ones were climing and playing while most of the others were eating, though one mother was cradling her baby, then laid down for a bit of a rest. The large male was holding cort in front of the glass, with many people gathered round. Usually when I see a gorilla pressed against the glass looking at people who are gawking back and generally acting like idiots, I can't stand it. This was so differnet. You could tell the gorilla was enjoying himself. He kept rolling his eyes like 'you're kidding right, this is all it takes to entertain you?" He stuck his tongue out at the crowd, then proceeded to ignore them. I caught this lady giving someone "the look." This exhibit made me really happy, seeing the gorillas with space and entertainment, acting relaxed. It was wonderful. At the end of the exhibit, which also included red river hogs, monkeys and an okapi, you got to "choose" where your admission money went at a kiosk. I chose for it to be used for gorilla conservation, then I got to specify even more, and chose to send my admission to a local ecotourism venture in the Congo that would benefit the local people while conserving the local gorilla population. Wonderful!Now bear with me, because here come the birds. We made it to "World of Birds" after an extensive effort to get into "Birds of Prey." Oh well, maybe next time ;) This exhibit was impressive because a lot of it was open. The birds weren't loose and flying around or anything, but the white-fronted beeaters below, for example, were in their habitat but had no glass or wires or anything to keep them in.
This next bird, the Luzon Bleeding Heart Pigeon, was in more of an established and contained habitat, but the plexiglass keeping it in only came chest-high on me, and when I started cooing to it (I'm a freak, I know) the bird walked right up on a log to pose for me:

I saw lots of birds from Kenya too. There was a Taveta Golden Weaver and Blue-Naped Mousebird, a favorite. There was also this Golden-Breasted Starling, which I saw a glimpse of in Kenya. It was good to see one up close and personal, and I love this particular shot because it makes the bird look so inquisitive. I suppose it was , really, since it landed in a tree above our heads and looked down at us.
This is a Great Blue Turaco. I got the sense that they were endangered from my Birds of Kenya guide, but everything I've been seeing on line doesn't even list them as vulnerable!! Of course they could be quite rare in Kenya, I suppose. I certainly never saw one, but I believe that is because they're restricted to the montane forests of Mt. Kenya and Kakamega in western Kenya, so that's reason enough never to have seen one!! It was great to see a turaco here though.
Here is a Great Hornbill, the largest of the species. You can tell this one is a female by her white eye; the male's have red eyes.
A Toco Toucan.
A Palm Cockatoo, which was just gorgeous. I love his intelligent-looking eye.
Finally, a message of conservation, which makes so much sense and made me so happy to see right in the middle of the zoo path. I hope hundreds of people see that a day and think about it, really think about it. Plus this sign is actually a great explanation of why zoos exist and why they are beneficial to both people and the animals within and in the wild. Humankind will only save this planet if they understand it. Zoos are a mechanism for teaching understanding , especially in a place that is so dedicated to conservation.
So that's pretty much a wrap. I know it wasn't a very descriptive post, but I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and that next time you're in New York City, you'll consider going to the Bronx Zoo, even if it is just to swing buy and use the ecologically conscious rest room ;)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm in your head

8PM Wednesday
Amy changes to the CW for the ANTM finale
Amy: Hey Allison?
Allison: No Amy, I don't "wanna be on top"
Amy: "'d you know?"

hahhahha cause I'm in your head, Ame

Further Evidence

So below is a link to the YouTube clip of celebrity "Put Down the Duckie." My sister and I were trying to name some of the celebrities in the clip, but were coming up short (though Amy nailed a few of them right on, like Madeleine Kahn!) So I looked up the celebrity list (Jeremy Irons dancing? whaaa?). So I'm reading along and I get to "Mookie Wilson" because the Mets are in the celebrity "Put Down the Duckie" because they had won the series the year before because someone *coughcoughBucknercough* let the ball go through his legs. What I did not realize is that MOOKIE WILSON HIT THAT INFAMOUS BALL! Which leads me to something more shocking: The only baseball card I ever had as a kid (besides the Bo Jackson one I got in a Cheerios box, but that doesn't count) was a Mookie Wilson baseball card. I was totally obsessed with it. It was kept at my grandparent's house with the rest of the toys we played with when we went over there and it was always the first thing I took out. And I would play with a baseball card - you know, move it around as if Mookie Wilson was a 3-D figurine - Mookie crosses the sea of carpet, Mookie on the coffee table, Mookie climbs the stairs which are really mountains, etc etc. From time to time I would say stuff like "remember my Mookie Wilson baseball card?" and my parents would always be like "yeah, I don't really know WHY you liked that so much" but being good parents they were never like 'HOW COULD YOU LIKE THAT TRAITOR B*TCH!" (although honestly, it's not Mookie's fault Buckner was an asshat - who let's the ball go through their legs??! I can talk about this reasonably now because 1. the Red Sox broke the curse and 2. we currently have the best record in baseball. yeah it's early, but I'm being optimistic, we could crash like last year) They just encouraged me to love my baseball card. I wish after all this time, I had kept it.

Anyways, when I read up on Mookie Wilson and recalled my obsession with his baseball card, it gets me wondering - was my obsession with the one single baseball card I owned a foreshadowing of the future?? You can laugh all you want, but I must point this out: I love a black man who is a Mets fan. Maybe it was my subconcious love for Mookie that drew me to Jamaal. Maybe looking at that single baseball card all those impressionable years made an imprint on my mind - the imprint of a "perfect man" hahahahahhahaha, cause I loved me some Mookie Wilson...either way, Jam, I think we should track him down and thank him one of these days, LOL.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I know, like, 1,000 people get their pics in this book but...


Greetings from Flickr HQ. The photo you submitted into
Flickr’s “24 Hours of Flickr” group has been chosen
to appear in Flickr’s “24 Hours of Flickr” book!

HOORAY!!! I am having a vervet monkey image published in a book sometime this year. It's exciting yes, and I have my dear friend Melu to thank for the opportunity. This is the first time I got a photo published all on my own! Oh hooray!! I am so excited. Of course there is the chance that this won't happen, and I'm totally cool with that. Just being recognized is an honor to me, and the fact that two TWO WHOLE PEOPLE favorite-ed my gorilla picture makes me giddy. Although it could still be the dayquil caffeine combination. Sweet Jesus. Anyways, here it is:

In a perfect world, someone from National Geographic would see this photo and give me a ring and say "hey, we need a freelancer to go out and photograph the gorillas in Rwanda. You game?" Oh Lord, I would drop everything to work at National Geographic. Maybe even my master's degree for which I have literally shed blood, tears and gallons of sweat. eeeh, maybe it's good that not too many people read this blog. ANYWAYS

Also making me giddy:

The reclamation of precious childhood memories
. Bless you, YouTube.
Yes it's cheesy, yes it's 80's, but GOD ALMIGHTY it was my favorite thing on Sesame Street. Guess I was into interracial love even as a child ( ;-) that's for you Jam)
Then this and this came out and while the first remained my favorite, I wonder if the African Alphabet has been playing in my subconscious for the last 20 years. That Sesame Street. You show it to a little kid, it stays with them their whole lives. Amazing.

It's like speed on crack

So in an attempt to rid my body of this infection (cold, not any other type of infection, EW!) I've resorted to Dayquil. I usually don't take drugs of any kind, except my daily anti-baby medication, and a fish oil capsule for the *pounds chest* ticker, and a vitamin *pounds uterus* with folic acid for the babymaker, to preserve it for a day when I am not so personally anti-baby (not that I am anti-baby in general, but to me they're kinda like those Bermuda shorts that are in style right now. On someone else, oh they look great, on me, hell to the no.)

Yesterday the dayquil worked some miracle on me and I could breathe through my nose. That's rare even when I'm not sick, given my allergies. Naturally this sudden and easy access to increased oxygen was a welcomed thing - I swear after having a funky evening (kind of down in spirits and fevery) I slept like a log and woke up pre-alarm. Day-um! Dayquil is my new best friend!

Now when I am *say in Natasha from ANTM accent* "having ze cramps, from ze periods and horrr-mons" I usually pound a latte with my Aleve because someone once told me that caffeine will speed the distribution of drugs through your system. This may be total bullshit, but if I think it works, that's enough. The placebo effect is totally real, so you know, like a half hour after I drink my coffee I feel all relaxed and am cradling my aleve bottle like a delicate baby bird that's fallen out of its nest. Naturally I figured that I could get similar results by mixing a medium iced coffee with 2 Dayquil. Holy crap.

At first, nothing happened. I was actually kind of dozy in my 9am conference. Then I was running around like a busy bee from 10-12:30 just getting stuff done. Suddenly, I sit down at 12:30 and it hits me. I am so jittery, I can't sit! I get up, then sit again. I eat an apple. I try and calm down by scoping out graduation gifts for some of my favorite Smithies. I stumble on a link to a book about gay marriage. I email a friend about it, with this elaborate plan that if she does indeed wed a woman, can I get her a v*gina cake? WHO DOES THAT? ME APPARENTLY!! Gosh. I had no idea that Dayquil+person who rarely takes medication+coffee+sugary cupcake= insane person asking inappropriate questions. WOW. Oh well at least I'm not talking to coworkers, God knows what would come out of my mouth!

Right now, I have to end the post though, because it's time to reign in my racing mind and apply it to work - you know, the work I'm paid to do. And I promise, that Bronx Zoo post, as well as a review of the book I just read "About Alice" is coming ;)

Friday, May 11, 2007

I owe you all

a Bronx Zoo post with pictures.

I haven't done this yet because I have been sick with some flu/cold deal where it hurt to swallow. So I didn't eat, which I'm sure didn't help my other symptoms: headachy, fevery, stuffy and generally miserable. The throat almost stopped hurting, today I ate three meals a day, and I managed to work for nearly a full day without passing out, but it's 10, and I'm just too tired to blog, and the cement-like mucus that is still lodged in my sinuses is aggravating me, so I will post tomorrow. I swear :) Night night. LOVE ALLISON

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Briefly, because America's Next Top Model is on - if you've seen my flickr photostream or my last post you may have seen a picture or two of me being a bit weepy. Hey, if you know me, you know that the past few months have been pretty weepy in general, mostly due (ok entirely due) to graduate school.
Actually, I think being weepy is ok, and that's why I took a picture of me being weepy...... Hmm I think I should clarify.....start at the beginning.
In a previous posts I've mentioned the general amazingness of this lady and her photos. One thing that struck me about her 365 days set on flickr is the fact that she doesn't seem to fake anything - she captures how she feels in her photos. I thought "ha I could never ever do that because 1. I'm too private 2. I am too self-concious about how I look when I'm emotional, any sort of emotional, even happy because I look dorky" Then the whole Virginia Tech shooting happened (PS is it not terrifying how that has completely dropped off the radar screen?) and I thought about expressing emotion in a healthy manner and about not being afraid to share your feelings with others. It's healthy. Bottling stuff inside isn't. I don't think I bottle things inside too too badly (OK FINE I DO), but I'm ready to try something new, ready to put myself out there and be a little risky, so I decided that I'd take a portrait a day, and if one day I'm smiling and happy and the next I'm feeling sh*tty, well then so be it. I started on a bad day, the night before my animal behavior final, when I was irrational, angry, tired, sad etc. I took a picture. Amy said "that makes me sad" when she saw it. I understand that totally, but for me, it was really kind of therapeutic. Once I had captured my emotions on film, it was really easy to move on, like I left evidence of them somewhere and acknowledged they existed, but then was able to focus again. Plus I got to laugh at the disastrous state I was in and how ugly I look when I cry, LOL.

Anyways, to some of you this may sound absolutely mentally unstable. Or maybe waaay too touchy feely. That's ok. You are still allowed to click on my flickr link and make fun of my self portraits, because I think laughing is healthy too ;)