Archive for October 2008

Lego for Change

Knock on some doors, make some calls, and don’t forget to vote.

Write to Marry Day (No on 8)

I tried to start a conversation about same-sex marriage with Ben and Eli, but Ben was so surprised to hear that some people don’t believe it should be legal that we got derailed. Eli only wanted to know if he could marry Ben some day. So no great wisdom from the kids on the topic, but here’s what I think in a nutshell: marriage has been around a long time, and it’s a better institution now than it was several hundred years ago (when it was basically a real estate deal) and it’s a better institution now than it was even several generations ago (when it was less a real estate deal but women still had few rights). The more people who can participate in the institution, the stronger it’s going to be. Vote No on Prop 8.

And because cute kids always help the cause, I’m including a picture of Ben at his first wedding, of our friends Brianna and Angie, back in the days when for same-sex couples it was a ceremonial ritual with no legal rights. Some day, I hope he looks back at this picture and smiles at how far our country has come.

Write to Marry Day Tomorrow!

Spread the word! On October 29th, Mombian is hosting a blog carnival to help defeat California’s Proposition 8.

Here’s the info from Mombian:

Please join bloggers around the country and around the world on Wednesday, October 29 to blog in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples and against California’s Proposition 8.

The event will give bloggers a chance to voice their opposition to Prop 8 and highlight what they may have already done, online or off, to stop the measure. The campaign will also educate California voters of the need to “go all the way” down the ballot to vote on the proposition.

Mike Rogers of PageOneQ approached me last week to ask if I’d organize a blog carnival like Blogging for LGBT Families Day, but this time to help generate awareness and action against Prop 8. I readily agreed, and here it is.

To participate, post on your own blog against Prop 8 on or before October 29, 2008, then submit the link to your post by completing the form below. Links to your own videos on YouTube or other video sites are also accepted.

Many of you have already done much to try and stop Prop 8 in California, donating and raising money, blogging, and talking with friends and family. Please share your efforts and post about them for Write to Marry Day, or submit a link to a previous post. This will help us create a comprehensive view of bloggers’ efforts to stop Prop 8.

I urge you to spread the word about this event as widely as possible, on both LGBT and mainstream sites. All bloggers who are against Prop 8 are welcome to contribute posts, regardless of where they live or whether they are LGBT or not.

I will showcase the full list of participants here on October 29.

Not only that, but all participants who leave a valid e-mail address will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to

I’ll be posting a little story here later.

That’s “Autodidact” To You

Overheard in the car:

Ben’s friend: “Ben, how do you know so much?”

Ben: “I’m self-taught.”

Start Your Christmas Shopping Now!

OK, I realize I’ve been ignoring the blog a bit lately, but it’s been a busy time spreading the news about Mama, PhD. So I’m delighted to stop talking about that book (just for a moment) to announce the publication of my essay, “Wonderful Life,” in the new anthology, The Ultimate Christmas (Health Communications, Inc). The book is one-stop Christmas shopping, with essays, stories, recipes, pictures and advice on how to get through what can be a stressful holiday without losing sight of the magic. I’ve never shared space in a book with a martini recipe before, and I am well pleased. My piece is based on my Literary Column on It’s A Wonderful Life; here’s an excerpt:

Christmas Eve, 2002

It’s my first Christmas as a mom, and I as sit rocking infant Ben to sleep in the darkened room, I realize that the ubiquitous Christmas telecast of It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) is flickering on the ancient television. The sound is muted, but I remember the dialogue. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) has just learned that Uncle Billy misplaced the day’s deposit, and despite sacrificing his whole life for the Building & Loan, George is ruined. He can’t listen to his wife Mary cheerfully prattle on about their daughter Zuzu’s cold. He rages about the money spent on the doctor, their money-pit of a drafty house: “I don’t know why we don’t all have pneumonia!”

Ben stirs in his sleep and cries out. I hold my breath as I adjust his IV, which has tangled around my arm and pulled taut. I touch my lips to his sweaty head and he relaxes back into sleep. I exhale, relieved to have avoided another cycle of the anguished cries that raise his fever and bring the nurses running with another round of invasions.

We have pneumonia.

Go pick up a copy of The Ultimate Christmas to read the rest!


4:45 AM: Alarm goes off. Tony and I get up, dress in the dark (he realizes hours later that he’s wearing different pants than he’d intended), get the boys up and dressed. “Is this New York day?” asks Eli sleepily. A quiet “Yes” is all it takes to get the boys bounding down the stairs

5:06 AM: We’re in the car to the airport.

6:15 AM: We’re parked, through security, and waiting at our gate. Tony breaks out the new laminated “Plane Spotter” cards he got for the boys, and I read to them about the rules of aerodynamics while they look out the windows for planes.

7:15 AM: Boarding. The airline has screwed up our reservations, so we’re not all sitting near each other. Eli and I wind up next to a nice woman who, spotting the manuscript I’m commenting on, strikes up a conversation about mothering and writing. Before long, we’ve exchanged names and she’s written down the URLs of the various websites I work on. I can’t remember the last time I talked to a total stranger, and realize it’s kind of fun.

9:00 AM: Many nice people change their seats so that the four of us can sit in adjacent rows, thus simplifying the distribution of snacks and DVDs. Neither of the boys sleeps, so neither do Tony and I. Still, the 5 hours pass pretty easily with books, coloring, snacks and DVDs.

3:30 PM (Eastern Time): Landing. Eli falls asleep. We let the rest of the plane empty out so he can have a few minutes’ cat nap. When I eventually unbuckle him and start to lift him up, he stirs. “I’m awake! I want to walk!” He doesn’t want to miss a minute of New York. With no checked bags, we get through the airport quickly and are on our way into Manhattan.

5:00 PM: Hotel check-in. Our room offers a view of the Chrysler Building. The boys don’t want to leave the room so they can draw our view. We finally lure them outside.

6:00 PM: First stop, Grand Central Terminal. We ooh and aah at the starry ceiling, painted with constellations, buy a cookie, and watch a couple trains come and go. I enjoy being a tourist here, in this busy place where I was always so wary and busy, so many years ago. We take the shuttle to Times Square, paraphrasing How Little Lori Visited Times Square the whole way, and climb out into the bright lights. We are greeted by Mickey Mouse, Minnie, and Elmo, we don’t know why, but the boys are delighted and give them all high fives and knuckle bumps. We walk across and down to Bryant Park, where we find a lovely small carousel giving its last rides of the night. We buy the boys tickets, and when Ben gets off, he explains to us how he calculated the carousel’s speed by timing one revolution and multiplying by the number of circuits; his math is good. We walk around to roar at the library lions, then head back down 5th Avenue toward our hotel.

8:30 PM: The boys eat a dinner of salad and cereal picked up from the corner market. Tony walks back to Grand Central to get us some good pizza from Two Boots. Ben draws a picture of the Chrysler Building while Eli, spun, gallops back and forth, naked, across the hotel room.

10:00 PM: One reading of Sky Boys to prepare for tomorrow’s sightseeing, and the boys are asleep, their parents not far behind.

The Books We’re Carrying

The reading material we bring on a trip is always a good snapshot of the boys’ current interests. For our summer vacation, we brought a couple books in the DK Eyewitness series– Titanic and Flying Machines — plus The Seven Silly Eaters, and although I brought many other books for the boys to read, that’s really all they wanted. So this trip, I let them each choose two picture books, plus one chapter book:

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

This Is New York

Henry Huggins

The Secret of the Unicorn (Tintin)

The Daylight Limited

Meanwhile, I’ve just started Andrew Sean Greer’s beautiful The Story of a Marriage, which is set in our neighborhood of San Francisco in 1953; Tony is also getting some historical perspective on current events by reading The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm. If only his book were fiction, too…

image credit

Mama at the Movies: What’s Your Point, Honey?

My new column’s up at Literary Mama; here’s an excerpt:

Ben first became interested in politics last winter, when his kindergarten teacher organized a peace march to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The kids painted posters and made a wandering parade down to the Fillmore district of San Francisco, singing “Happy Birthday” and chanting “What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!”

Now, Ben divides politicians into two camps: those who uphold MLK’s principles, and those who don’t. He has decided Obama is his candidate, will argue his opinion with his classmates, and has dedicated his sidewalk lemonade stand to raise money for the campaign. I only wish he could vote.

Instead, we’ve been reading political picture books like Gloria for President, and I’m keeping my eye out for movies about elections that are appropriate for kids. I had high hopes for the documentary I saw recently, What’s Your Point, Honey? (Amy Sewell–writer of Mad Hot Ballroom–and Susan Toffler, 2008), but it’s too talky for my young kids. Still, I think it would make a good conversation-starter to watch with boys and girls about ten and up.

Read the rest over at Literary Mama, where you can also read Violeta Garcia-Mendoza’s new column about starting preschool, Multi-Culti Mami, and new fiction, creative nonfiction, and a terrific new reading list, too!

How To Make a Museum Docent Happy

Ben’s 1st grade curriculum includes a terrific focus on the visual arts. It starts in the classroom, where the students’ tables are named for artists (Picasso, Monet, Seurat, etc), and carries on in the weekly 90-minute art studio sessions, where the boys started with full-size self-portraits and have now moved on to still lifes in the style of Matisse. Ben’s always loved to draw, and he’s got art in his genes, so we figured he would eat this all up, but he’s even more excited about art right now than Tony or I could have imagined. He’s bringing home artists’ biographies (there’s a great series published by the Children’s Press of Chicago if you’re looking to encourage your budding artist), he’s drawing elaborate pictures of his future studio, and he’s asked that we put the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our site-seeing list so that when we go to New York City next week, he can visit the Monets.

So when he had a day off from school yesterday, I decided to take him on a scavenger hunt, looking for paintings by Monet, Picasso and Matisse in museums around the city. Since we’d be spending a fair amount of time on the street car, too, I tossed in a couple extra-museum items, like election signs, Halloween decorations and the like. But it was the paintings that really got him going.

First stop, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Matisse. . . 2nd floor! Let’s go!” Watch docent beam.

At the Palace of the Legion of Honor:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Monet… Gallery 19! C’mon!” Docent beams, asks “How old is he?” and nods at the answer; “That’s how old I was,” she says.

And there at the Legion of Honor, inspired by the sight of students with their paints and brushes, copying some of the pieces on display, Ben got out his paper and pencils and got to work:

Turns out, what makes a museum docent happy makes a mama pretty happy, too.

Mama, PhD Event at UCA

Cross-posted at Mama, PhD...

In my essay for Mama, PhD, “The Bags I Carried,” I describe a couple of the outrageous things people said to me when I was a pregnant faculty member at Stanford, and how isolated I felt, despite my very supportive chair, Andrea Lunsford, and the generally friendly atmosphere of the campus. Outrageous and isolating tend to make for better narrative than the calm waters of pleasant interactions!

But one of the people who made my life at Stanford especially collegial was Mary Ruth Marotte, who taught in the writing program with me, and happened also to be pregnant (she with twins). We talked about her dissertation project on images of pregnancy and childbirth (coming soon from Demeter Press), about the ups and downs of our classes, and about our hopes to continue teaching and writing after our children were born.

We’ve taken different paths in the past 7 years, but I’m not surprised that we still have a lot to talk about, and I’m delighted with the response to the symposium Mary Ruth just led at UCA with her colleague, Paige Reynolds, and Mama, PhD contributor Aeron Haynie. A write-up in the local newspaper reports:

Professors and students at the University of Central Arkansas tackled a tough subject Monday, questioning ways women are often forced to choose between raising children and pursuing an academic route.

Focusing on the book, Mama PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life, the group presented the view that it is possible though difficult to do both.

The idea for the conference came from two English professors, Mary Ruth Marotte and Paige Reynolds, two tenure-track women who also raise children of their own.

Marotte said Mama PhD took a good look at how even 21st-century women are finding it hard to focus on both the academic world and their family.

“That’s what the book does so brilliantly, to give voices to women who often feel silent,” she said.

You can read the rest of the article at the Log Cabin Democrat. Thanks to all who participated in the event!