What is YOUR Label?

Apparently it’s guest week here at the Mamafesto! But no, that doesn’t mean I’ll now accept guest post requests for “hot beach bods” or “how to get your kid to eat broccoli” that seem to clog up my inbox. The ones this week are from people I respect and trust. Today’s guest post is from my Our Reality partner, Carrie Nelson. Carrie has a new side project that I’m hoping you’ll take the time to learn a bit more about and check out for yourself! 

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My Label is “LesbiAnders.” What Is YOUR Label?

 

I’ve been openly not-heterosexual for twelve years. In that time, I’ve changed the label that I use to define my sexuality no less than three times. Gay, bisexual, and queer have all felt appropriate at various points, yet none have ever felt “just right.” The most accurate descriptor I’ve ever used is “lesbiAnders,” the label I invented when I started to date my husband (Anders) after exclusively dating women for several years, but even that doesn’t always feel accurate or all-encompassing enough. Words are all we have to communicate our sexual identities to others; why, then, does it feel like they so often fail us?

 

In an effort to challenge the way we talk about sexual identity, I’m launching a photo project on Tumblr called What Is Your Label? I’m looking for people to submit photos of themselves while holding their sexual orientation “label,” as well as a description of what those labels mean to them. Have you used the same label since childhood? Do you switch between multiple labels depending on your environment or mood? Whatever your labels are, I want to hear about them. Ultimately, I want this project to start a conversation about the words that we use to describe our sexual orientations so that we can understand their limitations and explore new ways of communicating complex ideas about sexuality.

Stay tuned — I’ve got big plans for this project. For now, though, I’d be honored if you’d submit your label and join the conversation!

I Am, Most Definitely, Mad

This post is by Ashley Lauren, and was originally published on her site, Small Strokes Big Oaks. It has been republished with her permission.
A young girl kisses a baby on the cheek.

Today was the first day back at work after a wonderful Thanksgiving break. And I opened my inbox – which I had not checked even one time over break because I refused to get sucked into work on my time off – to five different emails asking me to do five different, time-sensitive things. And this was on top of the five different time consuming things I had been asked to do before break. And on top of that, I have my first rehearsal on Thursday for the contest play and the 162 (yes, I counted) papers I had to grade as well as meetings scheduled before school tomorrow, and during my off hours tomorrow and Friday. The off hours and morning hours I use to grade papers and do the ten things that are still on my to do list because I’ve been asked to do them.

I’m not saying any of this to complain. I’m not even trying to make the point that teachers do, actually, work hard. Rather, I’m saying it because, after I filled in my calendar and to do list with all of the things that had to be done, I thought to myself, When on Earth would I ever find time to have kids in this mess?

As we all know, I’m not sure if I want kids at all. In fact, I’ve written about this several times. And here. And here. Oh, and here.

But I am open to the possibility of having kids, and I do like children. They’re cute and cuddly most of the time, and even pregnancy is getting less and less scary to me by the minute. I have many friends who have been pregnant and then lived to tell the tales, and it’s starting to seem like I, too, could possibly live through a pregnancy if I put my mind to it. But I absolutely cannot imagine having a child and having a career. I know lots of women do it, but I wonder, at what point, do we become good enough at raising children as well as at our careers rather than being really excellent at just one of those things.

I just don’t think I can do both at the same time. Plain and simple. Continue reading

Teen Pregnancy & Motherhood: One Woman’s Thoughts

I’m bursting with pride over today’s post. It’s a guest post from Liz Crossen, a woman that I am honored to call a friend. I’ve known Liz for many years, and I’ve had the privilege to watch her journey from a teen mom of two beautiful sons to a young mother working toward a degree in Women’s Studies.

Liz & Her Sons

When Liz told me about her upcoming thesis project for her major – focusing on the issue of teen motherhood in the US, I was immediately enthralled, and asked her to do a small write up about it for the blog. I just knew that there would be others that would latch on to her research, just as interested and excited by it as I’ve come to be.

Synopsis of Undergraduate Thesis (1 of 2) for Women’s Studies Major, for The Mamafesto Blog

 Liz Crossen

October 11, 2011

How To Make A Baby

This guest post was written by a friend who is frustrated, angry and tired over a process this is supposedly there to help her. She wanted a platform to share her story and I was more than willing to do what I could. While creating a baby for some is as easy as one fun night, for others it’s not as simple. And for others yet, it’s a painstaking journey…

We have been going through this crazy process to try to make a baby—build our family. We are two thirty-something women, who have been together for over 11 years, married for over 5 years, own our own house (or at least the bank does for another 20+ years), live in semi-rural New England with our two cats, have post-graduate degrees, and a huge community of loving friends and family that support us from one mile down the road to the West Coast, across the globe, and many places in between. We are financially stable, have good professions, physically healthy, and emotionally (in general) stable. We are culturally Jewish and identify with spiritual teachings from many religions, including Judaism. We have a garden that can sometimes successfully group tomatoes and squash, and we often forget, or simply don’t make the time, to weed.

Our lives have included their fair share of strife and difficulties, just like many, if not most, other people; and at times we have dealt with it better than others. But trying to make a baby has been no small feat. First off- we had to decide on where we would get our sperm. After debating known versus anonymous donor, we opted for a cousin, so that our child would be biologically related to both of us. I am going to be the birth mother with my partner’s cousin’s sperm. We had only the most positive experience and response when discussing this with her cousin- him wanting nothing more than to help us have children. I am ever so grateful for his loving kindness. Now to get the sperm to my egg… he lives out of town, so if he isn’t in town, we have it shipped, overnight, in a kit that keeps it viable for 24-48 hours (thank you gayspermbank.com).

Either we inseminate at home, or I go to my midwife who washes it, spins it, and inserts it past my cervix [Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)]. We know the timing, or hope we get the timing right, because I chart my temperatures and cycles daily, pee on ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) every so often, and sometime I even go and get an ultrasound to quadruple check. This is all because I am blessed with irregular cycles, for which they have found no known direct cause other than possibly Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), although blood tests do not confirm this diagnosis.

So we have been doing this for 20+ months. Friends I was trying to get pregnant with are celebrating their babies’ one-year birthdays. Please, don’t hear that as complaining- it is wonderful to celebrate their lives and it is also a reminder of how long and difficult this has all been.

Continue reading

An Abortion Story

Krista, who I met via my This Is What A Feminist Looks Like series, graciously agreed to do a guest post for me, especially after I had found out that she had been a patient of the late Dr. George Tiller. Krista originally shared this post as a speech at a Planned Parenthood event.

Krista at 15

In 1986 I was 15-years-old and I was pregnant.

That’s an easy statement to make now, but it was a reality that took me months to accept.

I was in love. I honestly thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him….until he broke up with me.

The next month my period didn’t come. I thought it was because I was upset over the break-up.

The month after that, I was in denial. It couldn’t happen to me. We had been safe….most of the time.

The month after that I accepted I was pregnant.

But I wasn’t allowed to date yet, so how was I going to tell my parents I was pregnant?

When I finally told them they were angry, disappointed and concerned.

We talked about my future and what I wanted.

I wanted to go to college. And I knew I was not ready to be a mother at 15-years old.

My mother took me to the Planned Parenthood in Peoria Illinois.

After an examination the doctor said he could not perform the abortion.

I was more than 21-weeks pregnant.

Our only alternative was to travel to Wichita Kansas and the Women’s Health Care Services clinic.

The same clinic Operation Rescue and other anti-choice protesters targeted for years.

When we pulled up to the gated clinic only one silent protestor stood outside.

I was relieved, but I was also scared.

The staff was kind. They smiled and treated me and the six others in my group gingerly.

They were other teenagers like me.

There was a 20-year old beauty pageant queen. She told me she was getting an abortion because the Miss America rules stated she could not have a child.

There was a couple in their 30′s who made the difficult decision to terminate a planned pregnancy because the child was stricken with a severe birth defect.

The same birth defect that had already claimed one of their children.

And there was a 12-year-old Hispanic girl who didn’t speak English.  She looked terrified.

The staff explained that over the next week we would take pills to induce labor and abort our fetuses.

We all stayed at a local motel.

We ate together, we cried together and we supported each other.

My contractions started in the middle of the afternoon.

I couldn’t keep food or water down.

The pain increased as the contractions got closer together.

By the next morning I was in agony.

I don’t remember much about the moment when my pregnancy ended.

Just the nurse who told me to push.

On the long drive home, my breasts started producing milk. My body believed I had given birth.

Before we left the clinic, the Doctor talked to all of us about our futures.

When the Doctor looked at me he paused and quietly said I reminded him of his daughter.

My doctor was Dr. George Tiller.

In 2004, I saw Dr. Tiller again at the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C.

I cried and thanked him for giving me a future.

I felt empowered knowing he was on our side.

On May 31, 2009 Scott Roeder shot and killed Dr. George Tiller.

The doctor was at his church serving as an usher during the Sunday morning service when Roeder shot Dr. Tiller in the head.

That single gunshot closed the Women’s Health Care Services clinic permanently.

I want Dr. Tiller’s legacy to be something he said, “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams and potential, the rest of their lives, abortion is a matter of survival for women.

Krista today

Krista is married to an amazing, supportive man.  They have two dogs who fill their lives with joy. You can find Krista on Twitter.

Food, Farming & Feminism

This was a guest post I originally wrote for my friend Ashleys blog, Small Strokes



Planting seeds, pulling weeds and harvesting greens…on the surface these activities hardly scream feminism, but when you dig a bit deeper, it’s almost hard to miss the strong connection between food, farming and feminism. For me, it all boils down to a sense of self-sustainability: if I’m able to grow some crops and turn them into something both edible and nourishing, I’ve added just one more way to ensure both my independence and ability to take care of myself. There is also the slight satisfaction I get (beyond biting into a tomato picked straight from the vine!) knowing I that excel at something that is traditionally a male endeavor. 

This is the third year that we’ve planted our small urban vegetable garden. 



MD tending to our kale


We don’t have an actual yard or lawn, and instead ripped out the few ornamental bushes the previous owners planted. With only a six by ten square foot plot of dirt surrounded by bricks, I’m able to grow broccoli, various types of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, kale, basil and mint. 




I can then take my veggies and herbs and turn them into delicious, healthy meals for myself and my family. While some might scoff at what I do and suggest that I’m conforming to a ’50s ideal of the wife who stays home and cooks for her family, I find that it’s completely the opposite for me.

Instead of playing into a stereotype, I’m actively transforming the notion of what a homemaker is with my little garden. I’m taking the power back, working hard, and choosing to eat my own produce rather than patronizing big box stores. Like the feminists of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s, I’m driven by the desire for self-sufficiency and autonomy as well as achieving personal satisfaction. Yet instead of heading out to the office, I head to my garden. 

The idea of small and even urban homesteads has only grown in recent years, with women raising backyard chickens, planting gardens and learning skills that had been put to the wayside for most, like canning, spinning yarn, baking bread from scratch, etc… Various books and articles have even been written about these women, showing that most have either Masters and Doctorates but choose instead to see their workspace within the home rather than outside of it. Author Shannon Hayes even went as far as coining the term “Radical Homemaker,” when explaining this phenomenon and sharing the stories of women living this life. 

This idea of radical homemaking is not just for the middle-upper class, however. Every week I head to a nearby inner city to tutor teen moms who are working towards their GED. I’m there once a week, and in the short time I spend with them, I invariably get into discussions about their food choices. Bags of Doritos, piles of Slim Jims, huge bottles of soda and fast food containers litter their desks. The girls are quick to remind me that these choices are cheap and quick. I remind them that they have access to wonderful community gardens right there in the city (and even one tended to by the program they’re in). While I may not change their eating habits overnight, they do get excited about the prospect of being able to grow their own food and control that aspect of their lives – something essential for these young women, many of whom feel that their lives have spun out of control. 

As for me? While I do still work part-time, albeit from home, the rest of my time is spent with my son either in the garden or working with the bounty we reap from it. In the summer we can freshly picked strawberry jam and in the winter we bake fresh bread. It instills a sense of pride in me that I’m teaching my young son all of these tasks as well. As a feminist, ensuring that he not only knows, but appreciates and enjoys having these skills is important to me. One day, hopefully, he will be the one wowing his family with blueberry pie and homemade pretzels. For now he’s just happy getting his feet dirty along with me and eating broccoli straight from the stalk. 

EZ’s dirty toes circa 2009


Killer Kale


This is my favorite way to eat kale (or any hardy green!). It’s both easy and super quick, making a great side to any meal. (You can also put some tofu or a fried egg on top of it and bam! – the perfect meal). It’s also pretty awesome because you can always change up the flavor profile (instead of tamari/soy sauce/sesame seeds you can use a little chili powder & cumin and add some black beans).

Wash and steam some kale. My favorite, which we grow in our garden, is dino kale. I don’t have a fancy steamer and instead just tear up a bunch of kale, add it to a saute pan with a bit of water and cover. Let it cook for no more than 5 minutes. You want the greens to still be a bright color and not super wilted and mushy. 

While the greens are cooking, toast a handful of sesame seeds in a wok. Add 2 teaspons of olive oil, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon of either tamari or soy sauce. Once the garlic is cooked through, turn off heat and mix in kale. Delish.