Oh hi, it’s me again

Whenever I go for a while without blogging, I get into a negative feedback loop about it.

It’s been a while, so my next post needs to be something Big and Important.

I don’t have the time/energy to write any Big and Important posts right now.

[days pass]

[cycle repeats]

So this post is a deliberately short note to break the cycle.

I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy.  The baby is healthy, so far as I can tell; he or she is a strong kicker.  I’m healthy by the numbers, but ridiculously fatigued, which is pretty much the story of my adult life in one sentence.

Little Boy’s two-year-old cuteness deserves its own post.  The Terrible Twos get a bad rap, I think.  He can be plenty obnoxious sometimes (and has an inexhaustible supply of bouncy energy), but he’s also smart and thoughtful and independent and deeply engaged with his world.

How are you?

Advertisements

I love that Moana ties her hair up

The animated Disney film Moana came out on DVD/Blu-Ray last week; we hadn’t had the chance to see it in theaters, so we bought a copy and watched it at home.  It is a gorgeous, wonderful movie, with a strong heroine, great music, and the most amazing animation of water that you’ve ever seen.  Disney put a lot of thought into its portrayal of Polynesian culture and people, and while I have read thoughtful criticisms of some of their choices, the overall response seems to have been quite positive.

Blu-Ray case for the Disney movie Moana.

The quality of the animation is much higher than the quality of this photo.

On top of all that, there is a smaller aspect of Moana that was a joy to watch: Moana’s hair.  She has long, dark, wavy hair—and it behaves like real hair.  When she gets washed up on a beach, her hair is sandy and salt-poofed.  When she jumps or turns, her hair sometimes gets in her face.  And so when she’s getting ready to do some tricky sailing, she ties her hair up in a bun.

It was absolutely delightful to see a female character whose hair did not magically stay in place in all contexts.

I have straight, blonde-ish hair, so I’ve never suffered from a lack of “people who look like me” in movies, nor have I ever had to face the conscious and unconscious racism that can creep into people’s assessments of what constitutes “professional-looking” hair.  It’s still frustrating, though, that the cultural expectation for long-haired women of my age is that we wear it down, without clips or headbands or obvious hairspray to keep it in place.  And this is definitely a thing in popular entertainment—seriously, don’t even get me started on Supergirl’s hair.

My hair simply does not stay in place.  It gets in my eyes when I walk outside, when I play with my kid, even when I’m just sitting at my desk typing.  If I were superhero-ing or navigating a ship across the Pacific, you can bet my hair would be tied up.

It was so nice to see this in a movie!

Happy second birthday, blog!

It’s now been two years since I wrote my first post—happy birthday, little blog!  *Blows noisemakers and distributes virtual birthday cake.*  My posting frequency has been more erratic this year, but I’ve noticed something: my views-per-day never drop to zero anymore, even when it’s been weeks between new posts.  It feels like crazy grad mama has found its little niche on the internet, and that’s nice.  (Or maybe it’s just that the spambots know where to find me.  I prefer to look on the bright side.)

My biggest post this year was the one about why I hate attachment parenting.  It got shared by someone—I don’t know for sure, but I think it was the Skeptical OB—when it was posted in April, and continues to get new views nearly every day.   I like to imagine that new moms are finding it through search terms about their own frustrations with the expectations and pseudoscience of parenthood.

And speaking of traffic, a big shout-out to nicoleandmaggie, whose Saturday Link Loves have been my biggest driver of views after social media and search engines.  I was reading their blog long before I started my own, and it continues to be consistently excellent.

It’s been a big year outside of blogging, too.  I got another research paper published, and we put out a little press release that got picked up and repeated by the standard science content-reporters (IFLS, Gizmodo, etc.).  So now more people have read about my research than have read my blog, although I’m still quite sure that more people have read my blog than have read my actual research papers.

This coming year is going to be… well, it’s going to be full, and that’s about all I can predict with any accuracy.  Expect posts about pregnancy and new babies, about gender and identities and finding one’s place, and about the stress of finally finishing a PhD.  Oh gosh, what am I going to do about the blog’s name when I graduate?  Maybe it’s time to invest in a fancy header.

Thanks for being here for the ride.

An anxious introvert calls her Congresspeople

Before November, I had never called an elected official.  Way back in high school, I wrote a letter to my town council, about something tiny—the safety of a local intersection, I think it was.  It was for a class assignment and not something I felt super-strongly about.  My councilperson delivered a written response in person to my house, which was both awesome and terrifying.   A few years later, I emailed my representatives at all levels, local through federal, asking for pins to trade at an international event.  (Is this still a thing one can do?  I don’t know.)  All were quite responsive; I got several bags of nice pins.

But calling?  I hate making phone calls.  The social anxiety I have about talking to people in person is an order of magnitude worse on the phone, where I have no visual cues and it’s hard to hear what people are saying half the time.  This phone-hate is not uncommon, I gather, among anxious folk and among introverts more broadly.

People in the know, however, say that calling is the most effective way to get your point across to an elected official, short of showing up at an in-person event when they’re in town.  So now, I call.

It’s still a lot of work for me.  I have to write out what I’m going to say (or find a script I can use), with adjustments for leaving a voicemail versus talking to a live person.  I have to spend a solid ten minutes just sitting in silent isolation with my phone and my script, mentally preparing.  And then I have to decompress afterward, for however long that takes.

At the same time, I have to combat the thoughts that tell me I’m not doing enough.  There are so many things I could be doing, so many calls I could be making.  There are activism messages saying I ought to be making longer, more confrontational phone calls.  The amount of input that I have to sort through to figure out what I should do and say is overwhelming.

To combat all the different directions of anxiety, I try to remember a few things:

1.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.  The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that.  Right now, my choice isn’t between “make a long, involved call” and “make a short, here’s-my-message call.”  It’s between “make a short, here’s-my-message call” and “don’t call.”  So I do the thing that I can do, which is less than some people can do, but still a thing done.  Similarly, when I put in a solid effort to call about something and get only busy signals and full voicemails, I’ve given myself permission to not feel bad about emailing instead.  A message in a less-noticed medium is better than no message at all.

2.  Focus is good.  Basically another take on point #1.  I can’t make calls every day—I would be a constant nervous wreck.  And I don’t have the mental space to keep track of every single issue.  So I don’t: instead, I pick the issues I’m going to follow in-depth.  (For the curious, these are health care / women’s health / reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ equality.  These may not be your personal top-priority issues, and that’s OK.  Point 2 in this piece has a good explanation of why.)  Regardless of issue, I also call my Congresspeople on the rare occasions when they do something I approve of, because positive feedback is good, too.

3.  Those people answering the phone?  That’s their job.  They are specifically supposed to be listening to me and passing on my message in some appropriate fashion.  I am not imposing on their lives.

4.  I’m not the weirdest person who’s ever called.  Even when I’m nervous, even if I trip over my words, I figure the person answering the phone has heard worse.  I’m polite, and I’m calling about something that’s reasonably connected to reality.  (Note that by “polite,” I don’t mean “agreeable,” I mean “recognizes that the staffer on the phone is another human being.”)

5.  I’m not alone.  This is relevant for both external impact (my call doesn’t mean much on its own, but as part of a hundred calls, it matters) and internal turmoil (loads of people have varying degrees of phone anxiety).  When I’m freaking out, I review the helpful “How to call your reps when you have social anxiety“—it reminds me of my strategy, and reassures me that others are dealing with this too.

I tell myself these things, and I keep going.

I’m sick and I need to complain about it

I’ve been down with the flu all week, and it sucks.  Sinus congestion, headaches, body aches, low-grade fever, and, of course, fatigue.  Just walking around drains my energy.

I’m getting awfully darn tired of being sick.  I got hit with some other flu-ish thing, slightly milder but still exhausting, in mid-December, and haven’t been properly well since.  Unlike everything we caught last winter, neither of these illnesses seem to have originated in daycare; Little Boy was also sick this week, but with pink eye and an ear infection, both of which are bacterial.  (Lucky kid—he gets antibiotics.)

Fortunately, your basic flu isn’t a threat to a developing embryo.  Unfortunately, my pregnancy nausea is now in full swing, and seems to especially flare up whenever I lie down.  So that’s fun.

My mental state is understandably not great, a combination of general misery, hormone-induced anxiety, and frustration at not being able to get anything done.  I’ve been continually grazing on whatever food sounds good, and it’s triggering my body image issues hard.  I feel fat and gross and ugly, and too sick to do anything about it.

Here’s hoping the next week is better—well, OK, let me rephrase that: here’s hoping that whatever crap the next week brings, I’m at least physically well enough to start trying to deal with it.

Two pink lines

A positive pregnancy test.We have news.

We’re very happy, of course—we wanted this—but also kind of terrified.  It is a totally ridiculous time for us to have another child, but it is also the best of all possible times.  It may be the only possible time.

Early pregnancy is a time of waiting.  It’s too early for an ultrasound to tell us that everything’s going as it should.  Too early to see the flicker of a heartbeat on the screen.  The embryo is a tiny grain of rice, busily doing things that are entirely out of our control.

My body knows it’s there, though.  In the days before the test read positive, my face broke out like a repeat performance of puberty, and I lost the ability to fall asleep in a reasonable period of time.  The above paragraph originally noted that it was too early for morning sickness, but today my stomach started to notice the rising hormone levels and complain.  More symptoms will come, and my body will stretch and change as it did before.  And it will be scary and uncomfortable and wonderful and awful and amazing.

Hopefully.

Grow well, little one.

A pile of new books, 2017 edition

A stack of nine books received for Christmas 2016.

My personal library did well this holiday season, thanks in large part to my husband buying up half my Amazon wish list.  I also just received my much-anticipated, limited-edition, signed copy of Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi, but that didn’t make it into the Christmas-gift pile because I pre-ordered it for myself back in July.

(Side note: In unintentional preparation for reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I’m currently re-watching the A&E miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice, and it is delightful.)

What are you looking forward to reading next?

Mrs. HusbandsFullName does not exist, so stop sending her things

Christmas-card season brings out one of my long-running pet peeves: envelopes addressed to non-existent people.  These are typically sent by my husband’s distant cousins, although we just got one from my grandmother and she really should know better.

Who are these non-existent people?  Mr. and Mrs. HusbandsFirstName LastName.  Or, because typing that is long and unwieldy, imagine that my name is Jane Smith and my husband’s name is Joe Smith, and we’re getting cards addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith.

Mrs. Joe Smith is not a person.  That is nobody’s legal name, and it’s not 1925, so nobody uses that name socially.

(To add insult to injury, Mr. Joe Smith is not a person either—my husband worked damn hard for that PhD and if you insist on using a title, use the right one.)

I’ve pushed back on this a little with past wedding invitations, only to be told that it remains “correct etiquette” to address couples using only the man’s full name.  OK, well:

1.  Doing something because “that’s the way it’s always been done” is one of the most foolish reasons for doing something.  Especially when the reason it’s always been done that way is sexism.

2.  Does anyone in the year 2016 actually care if your invitations are addressed in the official, Emily-Post-approved* fashion?  For our wedding, I adapted the “correct” form into something that used everyone’s full names (think “Dr. Joe and Mrs. Jane Smith”) and zero relatives complained.

*(Side note: My parents owned a copy of The New Emily Post’s Etiquette, publication date 1975, and I read the entire thing—all 978 pages—in my teens, over the course of a month of 40-minute bus rides to school.  It was… interesting.)

Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, this is Not a Big Deal, but it remains highly irritating.  Especially when it’s such an easy fix!  There are a multitude of non-obnoxious ways to address cards to me and my husband:

Joe and Jane Smith

Jane and Joe Smith

The Smiths

Dr. and Mrs. Smith

Dr. Joe and Mrs. Jane Smith

So simple!  You can even use fewer words!  And next year, when I’ve (fingers-crossed) finished my PhD, you can use “The Doctors Smith,” which is, let’s face it, the coolest-sounding option of all.

A honest attempt at giving thanks

It’s hard to feel thankful right now, when my worldview is so cynical and depressed and afraid, but it’s Thanksgiving and I thought it might help to try.

I’m thankful for a healthy child, who’s learning to string words into sentences.  Who dances with me, and who takes the job of putting dirty clothes in the hamper very seriously.

I’m thankful for my husband, who is there to hold me when I cry and who makes the best green bean casserole in America.  Who insists that he isn’t brave, but is.

I’m thankful for my parents—thankful that they are alive and well, thankful that we figure each other out a little more each year, and thankful that they took the news of their son-in-law’s gender identity with grace and love.

I’m thankful for the quiet peace of the sunrise on my run this morning.

I’m thankful for my legs and my lungs that let me run, even if they sometimes falter.

I’m thankful for the way the winter sun shines bright on my face when I’m at the kitchen sink.

I’m thankful for iTunes, for portable music players, and for the aux cable in my car.

I’m thankful for this house, for its space and its light, for the park across the street, and for our generally wonderful landlords.

I’m thankful that I’ve got another paper under review at a journal, bringing me one step closer to finishing my PhD.

I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made over the years, who pop up to check on me when I least expect it.

I’m thankful for the folks I only know online, for smart conversations and shared righteous anger and links to all kinds of new and interesting things.

I’m thankful for cups of tea and glasses of wine.

I’m thankful for all the superhero shows on the CW, because they bring me laughter and hope.

I’m thankful that I get to spend this year’s Thanksgiving in a T-shirt and sweatpants, with no stress and no small talk.

I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about the money for little things, at least for now.

I guess maybe I feel thankful after all.

How to be an ally—an example

I want to tell you a story about how a white man in a position of power used his white male seniority for good.  It was not a huge thing—there was no marching on the streets, no boycotts, no petitions—but it made a great deal of difference to this junior-level woman.

I am a graduate student in a university department that works closely with several other departments, sub-departments, non-profit organizations, and related groups.   It’s very common for emails of professional relevance to go out to all of these groups at once.  (It’s not uncommon for different people to send the same email to everyone, resulting in us all getting the same message about NSF funding three or four times, but that’s another story.)

Last week, one of these out-to-everyone emails stirred up some controversy.  The head of Dept. A decided that the email (about a petition to our national professional society) was overly political and therefore should not be sent over Dept. A’s email list.  This ruling seemed inconsistent with Dept. A’s prior practices, and in the resulting discussion, the head of Dept. A decided to retroactively disapprove of emails that had been sent in the past.

Specifically, the head of Dept. A decided that he was no longer OK with a month-old email that had urged senior employees to take steps against sexual and racial harassment.

After a few more general affirmations from mid-level staff on the importance of diversity and human rights, a different mid-level employee told us we were all being idiots to even care about this, and the email chain went silent.

It hurt.  When the senior people don’t stand up for you, it hurts.  When you’re a woman or other marginalized person in a junior position and the message you hear is “don’t talk about harassment, don’t talk about human rights, don’t talk about diversity”—it hurts.

I waited for someone to say something.  For hours—an eternity in email time—no one did.

I emailed the head of Dept. B, my department, and got back a wishy-washy bureaucratic brush-off.

I guess I wasn’t really that surprised.

Then, almost out of nowhere, the head of Org. C stepped in.  We rarely hear from him; he is one of many white men who hide in the upper floors of our building and are very busy with their own things.   This time, though, he was emphatic.  He pointed out, politely and firmly, that combating sexual harassment was not a political statement and he was very concerned that Dept. A’s new interpretation of the email rules would affect the safety of his colleagues.

I actually cried.  OK, I cry a lot, and had already been crying throughout this incident, but now I was crying out of a huge sense of relief.  Somebody out there has my back.  Somebody in charge actually cares. 

Some might say that the head of Org. C could’ve gone further, that he should’ve stood up for the spirit of human rights and diversity presented in the original email, the one that first set off all the controversy.  I disagree.  Had he done so, I think the arguments would have continued, the point would not have been made so strongly, and the result may not have been as useful.  By choosing to fight for the older email, the one specifically about harassment, he was able to draw a clear, hard, and basically unarguable line that talking about harassment has to be OK.

The head of Org. C was an ally.  He used his status—as a white person, as a man, as a head—to stand up for the rest of us.  It was just an email, and yet it had an enormous effect on my comfort level at the university.

I wrote him a thank-you, not because allies need thank-yous, but because I like thanking people who’ve had an impact on me.  I also think it might help down the line: if he ever has to defend his position, he can say that he heard from grad students about the importance of the issue.

Has anyone been an ally for you lately?  Tell me about it in the comments.