music for a good mood

December 17, 2008 § 2 Comments

jean grae: keep living

some songs live with you.   i have had itunes for more than 4 years and this song has never lost its first place position.  this was the song i listened to in palestine, congo, mexico, virginia, minnesota, and chicago.  it is the song that i walk to– down the street no matter the continent.  it stays on repeat.

now why does this song put me in a good mood?  i guess because i believe in survival.  and it reminds me that no matter how bad things gets ‘out there’ those of us who are scrappy, who hustle, who are creative, who know how to survive, will do so…yeah they are destroying the money supply in this country.  the dollar is losing value.  a capitalism in crisis and even the capitalists dont know how to deal with it.  but its like claire huxtable said when she was asked about the ‘black’ perspective during the Depression: we learned that misery doesnt enjoy company.  (i love the ambiguity of her response)…in other words, welcome to our world…

tupac: dear mama

when i was in highschool, tupac was murdered.  the first thing i loved about tupac was his eyelashes. crush.  in the eastern congo and ethiopia in 2005 barbershops were playing tupac on their cd players.  and murals of he, bob marley, and che, a trinity of the brown and black ghettos and shanty towns, were splayed on white washed buildings.  it is amazing how he has become a global third world icon.  all three of these saints are complex figures.  neither pure angels nor devils.

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on cynicism

December 15, 2008 § 1 Comment

so today i was thinking about being called ‘cynical’.  and about the Cynics.  the Cynics were a school, a tradition in ancient greek philosophy that i do feel akin to.

to quote wikipedia:

They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society.

It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarised as follows:[7][8]

  1. The goal of life is happiness which is to live in agreement with Nature.
  2. Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude.
  3. Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of Virtue.
  4. The road to virtue is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which have no value in Nature.
  5. Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character.

wikipedia goes on to say:

None of this meant that the Cynic would retreat from society, far from it, Cynics would live in the full glare of the public’s gaze and would be quite indifferent in the face of any insults which might result from their unconventional behaviour. The Cynics are said to have invented the idea of cosmopolitanism: when he was asked where he came from, Diogenes replied that he was “a citizen of the world, (kosmopolitês).”[11]

seems to me like we could use a few more cynics in the world, not a few less.

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post-revolutionary motherhood

December 13, 2008 § 3 Comments

a comment yesterday to my post about ‘the definition of motherhood’ got me thinking about how we define family and love…

Why does motherhood have to be centered when we talk about primary care-taking? I’m an adopted person. I think of the people who raised me as my parents. But why do I have to? Would I love these folks any less, would our relationship be any different, would they love me any less, if we didn’t all play the charade of trying to approximate a biological family? It’s kinda silly really (and not just because I’m black and my a-family is white). I think of my biological mother and father as my parents as well, even though I’ve never met them. They just are. And while I see the good in expanding our definitions of motherhood/parenthood, I also wonder why these are the only terms we get to use when we speak about primary caretakers.

this got me thinking about my resistance to prop 8.  my resistance to the fight for gay marriage, as in marriage that is legally recognized by the state, is that i dont think that any marriage should be acknowledged by the state.  marriage for the most part and by origin is a religious sacrament.  and having the state certify a religious sacrament seems a blending of state and religion that makes me uncomfortable.  why can’t all people simply apply to the state for a civil union (for the legal recognition) and not have ‘marriage’ be under the control of the state?  there are plenty of churches that perform marriages for all types of unions, so every state in the union already has ‘gay marriage’.  so honestly i have never understood the fight.  back when i first came out, it wasnt about marriage, it was about love and sex and attraction and the responsibility we have to be honest about who we are and the responsibility we have to be honest about who we are with.  so rather than fight to make the term ‘marriage’ more inclusive i kinda want to fight to abolish state-sponsored marriage.

i know that the term ‘motherhood’ (like marriage) still brings out some archaic romantic notions that are smell sweet and salty and soft and rugged, bitter and beloved for me.  but when i first got pregnant with aza, i remember thinking: i dont think i am a mother, i will be more like a big sister.  at the age of 27 i still felt weird to be a mother.

but i like the idea of dropping the term ‘mother’.  and rather than expanding our vision of who ‘revolutionary motherhood’ includes, simply embracing ‘revolutionary caretaking’.  perhaps sooner or later we are going to have admit that the institution of motherhood cannot simply be reformed but must be deconstructed and probably discarded.

because caretaking is revolutionary.  actually, i think that caretaking must be apart of our post-revolutionary vision.  as in ok, after the political revolution is over and we have achieved political freedom…then what?  the skills and art of being able to take care of each other, of the earth, of ourselves is primary throughout the process of creating community

it seems to me that de-centering motherhood (especially the ways it centers women’s biological connections or centers the attempts to re-create women’s biological connections to their offspring and partners) is a communal liberation.  honestly, i see that all members of the community need to be able to be and engage in being caretakers.  i see that this is essential to creating community, to care for the members of that community, to be responsible for them, to deconstruct the nuclear family unit…

my mother says that when she was growing up it wasnt just her mother that she was responsible but everyone in the community.  everyone was ‘family’ whether they were genetically connected or not.  she could be praised or punished by any of them.  there were dozens of eyes and ears watching her. which sounds a bit creepy to me (having grown up in suburbia) but also allowed for my grandparents to know their children were safe and loved outside of their purview.

so i am trying to think of more words to describe this vision.  revolutionary caretakers? revolutionary family?   i am not sure yet about the nomenclature.  but lets keep the conversation going…

crossing borders

December 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

honestly i am not sure how to respond to this article from september 2008.

my honest response is post-despair.  as in after you have accepted that the world is fucked up.  and that the masters are determined to win. and you are only one person, then what?  i am sure i am not the only person who feels this way.  what happens after you throw up your hands and say: look, that sucks but i cant do anything about it.  i’ve got enough causes on my plate.

this country is denying the citizenship of people because they were born in the wrong part of the country.  if you were born in the southwest you are more likely to be denied citizenship. if you were born with brown skin in the wrong part of the country, if you were born poor in the wrong part of the country, if you were born by midwife, if you were born…

i am feeling overwhelmed lately.  i have to leave the country in less than a month.  the apartment is a mess.  my kid needs to be potty trained.   i have to study arabic.  i have to write.  i have to keep in touch with my friends.  i have to sustain a relationship with my partner.  i have to get my brain in gear to travel with a one-year old and a bunch of other complications.

and so this shouldnt be my issue.

but i too am about to cross borders.  and hopefully that crossing will be easy.  and hopefully i can live in the place that i want to live.  but there is a possibility that something will go wrong.  that i too will be told that i dont belong.  because of the color of my skin.  the sound of my name.  the look of my child.  the sound of my voice.

i thought about writing a poem about this lil article.  perhaps i still will.  but what will a poem do?  other than open up language like a child with a dictionary and a magnifying glass?

ugh, people think i do what i do because i want to be helpful.  if helpful was the feeling i was going for…this is the last thing i would be doing.   i so rarely feel helpful.  you ever have that feeling that you are helpless and determined to do what gets you up in the morning?

my kid is going to be up soon.  el compa will be making breakfast for.  maybe the insomnia will be past like wind on the ocean and i will get some sleep.  the sun will shine maybe.  a us soldier will be told that he is not a citizen, but, hey! thanks for the service.

why do i have insomnia?  cause the heart is not meant to be endure this much without breaking and i spend my nights patching the heart back together with crazy glue and spittle.

when i am around others i can be lighthearted, funny, witty, even, quick, sociable, and cute.  but when it is dawn and i watch the children march themselves to school bundled in boots and furry hats, i cant help but wonder if god knew what he was doing when he made us.  god was like the kid who enters the science fair with a project that was way too complicated for the time allotment so he turns in a half-done project gets a ‘c’ on it and then throws it in the trash and figures next year he is just making a volcano.

fuck god.

it is like 730 am.  i am going to crack open a beer.  smoke a cigarette.  and get some sleep.

the definition of motherhood

December 12, 2008 § 2 Comments

what does it mean to be a mother?  i am not trying to wax poetic.  i am trying to get a handle on what does ‘mother’ mean as a social category.  i think that we deny the existence of a lot of mothers when we speak and write as if the central determination of who or better yet what is a mother is that she does the primary care for her biological offspring with whom she carried in her womb for 9 months.

i do this too easily.  speak and act as if becoming a mother is about uterus, ovaries, menses, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc.  as if these biological processes define motherhood.  they dont.

at the incite! conference in denver there was a workshop called revolutionary motherhood.  and in it were women who were adoptive parents, godmothers, aunts, folks taking the primary care for their parents, and more.  and i felt this internal twinge, this resistance to calling these women…mothers.

and then i remembered at this conference how it had seemed so clear to me that even though ‘woman’ in comparison to ‘man’ was an oppressed social category, if incite! centered the experiences of women of color  in relation to ‘trans of color’ and marginalized the experiences of transfolk then incite! was being transphobic and oppressive as an organization.

and so if i centered the biologically/primary caregiving-identified mothers as the primary experience of motherhood, then i was marginalizing alot of mothers.  saying that their experiences were not ‘complete’ somehow.  they were ‘kinda like mothers’ but not ‘real mothers’.  and since i was considering some mothers to not be ‘complete’ i considered their lives, their experiences, and their knowledge to be incomplete as well and thus not as important for me to pay attention to.

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a lil sisterist revelation

December 10, 2008 § 3 Comments

when i started reading midwife: sage femme, hebamme, comadrona, partera blog i thought she was of color.  thinking probably latina.  and then hours of reading later…6 or 7 pages into the blog, i found out that she was white.  i had to read the sentence 4 or 5 times to be sure…i am still in half-denial, like i really want to claim her as a radical woc.  but then i thought, no, it is awesome that she is white…frankly there arent that many white chicks that ‘get it’.  and when i meet (or read) one who does it gives me hope for sisterhood.  it reifies that ‘whiteness’ is not an adequate excuse to not struggle to be conscious in this world.  or for white folks to throw up their hands like: oh, there is no point in trying…

you know, sometimes life has a way of handing me some beauty.

and now…some articles/blog posts i am digging about birth.

after the birth what a family needs: this is for a friend who is looking at becoming a post-partum doula.  i think that she would be wonderful at it.

word magic: i have questions of anti-circumcision as a movement.  questions about respect for cultures and religions.  but i love this bit in this post:

She was shunned for many years for daring to speak up for the unassisted birth pioneers.  She loved being a midwife but didn’t do it with any compromise of her values.  She was fond of the idea that midwives should attend only one birth per month…She often said that “Every mother is a midwife” and then proceeded to further alienate herself from most other midwives by asking the rhetorical question “Why would I pay someone to be paranoid for me?”…Every profession needs someone to shoot straight from the hip and bring the profession back to a state of humility.

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random thoughts about plants

December 9, 2008 § 2 Comments


frida’s casa azul lex sent me a link to the blog as the garden grows…which made me (once again) want to garden…and made me think of my mother.

on saturday mornings my mother goes outside and works on her garden.  she has done this ever since i can remember.  during the week she works for the environmental protection agency (epa).  of all the household chores that had to get done on saturday, gardening was the only one we kids were never expected to do.  rake the leaves, yes.  mow the grass, yes.  use nasty chemicals on windows and wood and floors, yes.

but gardening was/is her private joy.

i move so often a garden seems impossible to start nevertheless maintain.  and yet when i was looking at the garden on the lil blog, i felt the yearning for dirt darker than my hands and the sweet smell of manure and blood.   the best i seem to get are potted plants…which are not the same.

2. currently i am reading alice walker’s in search of our mother’s gardens.  and soon, i will start jamaica kincaid’s my garden.    this summer i read two books on food production.  one of them was excellent: omnivore’s dilemna. the best part of omnivore’s dilemna is near the end when he learns to go wildcrafting for mushrooms.  i am not a huge fan of cooked mushrooms (kinda slimy) but it made me start looking for dandelions so that i could make a salad.

3. will i ever live in one place, want to live in one place, long enough to love a garden?

4. i am thinking of anywanyu in wild seed.  one of the coolest powers she had was that she could hold or imbibe a plant and then watch what it did to her body and thus she knew if it was food or medicine or poison or all of the above.

5. i started using bach’s flower this spring.  the story of bach is that he was so intuned to the flowers that he could drip the flower’s nectar on his tongue and then tell you what its emotional properties were.  the flowers talked to him.

6. i love drawing plants.  it is kinda embarrassing that drawing flowers and fruits make me happy.  so typically girly.  i have tried to convince myself that drawings of flowers and fruits and girls can be art, but i feel like i should be drawing something more ‘hardcore’.  what social import do such things have in the midst of an empire?  but then i think of the zapatista murals.  their art is post-revolutionary.

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my beautiful cervix

December 7, 2008 § 3 Comments

my beautiful cervix…one woman took pictures everyday of her cervix for an entire menstrual cycle.  she is a doula and student midwife.

Each photo was taken at approx 10:00 pm every day starting the first day of my menstrual cycle.  I re-used a plastic speculum (order one here) and macro function of normal digital camera (and a very talented boyfriend with a headlamp).  For the duration of this project, we used condoms as our birth control method so as not to introduce semenal fluid into the photoshoot.  I did not use tampons or mooncups during my bleeding time either.

these pictures are so informative.  i especially appreciate that she tracks how she feels during the month.  and her sexual life.

i am thinking about how funny the cervix is.  how intimate it is.  what captured me about these pictures.  they didnt feel clinical but pornographic in the sense that they should not be seen.  not be talked about.  and then i realized it had been a while since i had seen my own cervix.  not since i gave birth.  how has it changed?  shifted?

i told a friend that i was looking at pictures of the cervix and he asked if it was an art project or informational.  it was intended to be informational but my strong and contradictory emotional reaction, my inability to turn away, my feeling that something taboo had been broken and yet could not think of the taboo that was supposed to be in place, and the innumerous visual and experiencial associations ( like sweaty summer sex and bath towels and aza’s mouth when she was a newborn) that occurred as i looked at the list of photos tells me that it is also art.

the funny thing is that the photos are so clear.  can you imagine she and her partner angling the mag light just right and then angling the camera while she is holding the speculum?  i wish someone had taken a picture of that.  it sounds so joyful and awkward.

a balancing act

December 7, 2008 § Leave a comment


i am not a primitivist.  i do not romanticize the past simply because it was before now.  i do not believe in some edenic before when all went perfectly.  but i do have to ask the question: how the fuck did the human race propagate itself before doctors, obgyns, or certified licensed and insured midwives?

let me put it this way: what does it take to call yourself a midwife?

i imagine that for most of human history midwives were just women who had given birth or were the sister or the mother or had been around for birth and knew the rituals, the songs, the calls that that community had developed around the emergence of new life into the world.  there was probably a well of community knowledge that could be dipped into held by various men and women in the community.  maybe some oral traditions.  maybe some drawings that acted as a guide and a recorder of history.  there were probably some herbs that were known to be helpful.  probably folks had watched other mammals give birth.

and they knew the particular women giving birth.  knew her temperment, her favorite foods, what her moods looked like.

when most ‘natural’ midwives say that midwifery is a calling found around the globe, i think this is who they have in mind: the mother, sister, aunt, cousin, grandmother, neighbour who came by and helped out.  the woman who had a knack.  who was in charge of gathering and drying the herbs.  the woman who took it upon herself to care.

this is the way birth is happening in a good many parts of the world right now.  as i type.

and yet the same ‘natural’ midwives will tell you how their craft is ancient and wise and sacred, based on the knowledge and lives and experiences of these aforementioned women, would be offended if that woman moved into their community and called herself a midwife.  hung a shingle outside her door.  and started attending births.

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third/fourth wave midwifery and spinning babies

December 6, 2008 § 2 Comments

do you remember that democracy now! with melissa harris lacewell and gloria steinem talking about hillary and barack earlier this year?

it is one of the greatest exchanges that happened during the election imho.

it was the difference between second wave and third wave feminism…i know we are not supposed to acknowledge the difference between the generations approach to feminism…but i need the analogy to explain third/fourth wave midwifery…

well, alot of the midwives that i have met (primarily in minneapolis) are second wave midwives.  they have fought so hard for legal recognition that everything else becomes secondary or tertiary in their view.  and they are very protective over the ‘gains’ they have made, no matter how the privileging of ‘certified’ and ‘insured’ midwives has been not only negligent but destructive to women of color, the queer community, sexual and trauma survivors, imprisoned women, and many more marginalized in the birth community and in the world at large.

what they seemed to be much more concerned with is protecting their status and the status of certified midwives in order to advance their cause.  they do so by looking toward women’s cultures that are black and brown and saying: see!  see!  those women have ‘natural’ birth.  and we, white women, are using those black and brown exotic women’s cultures as a model for us to change birth in our white communities.

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