Saturday, August 27, 2011

Working Mom Whiplash

I returned to teaching this week, and my oldest daughter returned to school, so we are all readjusting to our school year schedule.  My youngest just turned three, so she does not yet attend school; my mother-in-law watches her on the days that I teach and other days when I need to work from home without interruption.  As she gets older, I am able to do more of my work while she looks at books, or draws, or plays beside me.  Many days, I can check e-mail, look at student work, or plan for class during these small blocks of time when she doesn’t need my direct attention.  Some days, this kind of switching between teaching work and mothering work is hard to do because of the rapid mental switches involved; I call this problem Working Mom Whiplash.

I usually experience the slap of mental switches when I am really concentrating on something and suddenly my daughter needs my attention.  For example, say I am grading student essays on the computer (yes, I grade on-line these days) while my daughter naps.  She wakes up with a fussy cry and crawls into my lap.  I’m in the middle of writing a comment about how the student needs to analyze the issue a little further, and pow, my idea for what to say is gone.  So, while I comfort my child, I’m trying to get my thought about the comment back and to save what I’ve already written.  Meantime, she’s talking to me and I miss what she said, so I ask her to repeat it, and away goes my grading mindset again.  See?  Whiplash.

What about the opposite situation, you ask?  Suppose my children are busy playing together.  I am deep into planning meals for the upcoming week, and I go to the computer to print a recipe.  Since I’m on the computer, I check my personal and work e-mail accounts, perusing to see if anything needs immediate attention while I’m still thinking about the rest of the week’s meals.  One of my students needs help with narrowing down a topic for her advocacy/activism project, so I start thinking about that: what to suggest, and how to write it in a way that will help her explore her own ideas further.  Meal planning is forgotten.  Suddenly, I hear my children fighting over a toy and they come running over.  Bam, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to tell the student.  Once the toy issue is resolved, I go back to my student’s e-mail question, but before I can finish the girls want a snack.  At least while I’m getting them something to eat, I can think about next week’s meals again.

I’m sure these kinds of rapid mental switches happen to many people who work from home, whether the work they are doing is paid, volunteer, academic, or creative.  And, I’ll bet these whiplash-inducing interruptions come from other family members, pets, and roommates, too.  For a hands-on parent like me, who writes and also does quite a bit of paid work from home, they are a daily occurrence.  Even so, I haven’t gotten used to them.  I constantly feel like my mind is thrown back and forth, and it can be quite disruptive to my ability to complete complicated tasks.  I may be overly sensitive to these kinds of mental interruptions, but I’m guessing most of you have experienced them too.  If you have coping strategies for this type of mental whiplash, please share them.  

Fortunately, I have gotten used to doing things in small pieces, but that is hardest to do with my writing.  I can do most of the housework piecemeal, I can prep for class a little at a time, grade student papers one by one, and even revise blog posts one paragraph at a time, so I should theoretically be able to revise poems for a few minutes here and there.  But, I’m finding that the creative impulse resists interruption; most times, I can’t quite get into poem writing if I’m concerned that I’ll be interrupted.  I’m working on this though, because I won’t write many poems if I don’t use the brief time I have to do so.  Wish me luck!

Only a few days left: enter a raffle to win a signed copy of my chapbook by August 31.  See my giveaway post for details.

FYI: I've attached this post to a family scheduling link up hosted by Lacy at Catholic Icing, one of the blogs I follow.  You can see her post about creating a family schedule and the link up here.  And, welcome to my visitors from the link up!  I hope you like what you find here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feminism and Catholicism

In a few days, I will start teaching “Introduction to Women’s Studies” for the fall semester.  I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how I see some tenets of feminism and Catholicism fitting together.  I’m sure some of you have wondered how I reconcile these two seemingly different perspectives, although you have all been polite enough not to ask.

Seemingly different is a good way to put it.  Feminism and Catholicism have some very obvious differences, but they are also very similar in ways that might surprise you.  I will focus this post on the similarities; let me know if you’d like me to hash out the differences in a later post.  

To begin, one of the main tenets of Catholicism is that we should respect the human dignity of every person; this is rooted in the belief that we are all made in the image of God.  Every person means even those people who disagree with you, those who behave in ways you cannot understand, or those who believe differently than you.  Every person includes those whose lifestyles may offend you, those who have committed murder and await their sentence on death row, and those who practice different faiths.  Each individual person deserves our respect, our understanding, and fair treatment.  Similarly, feminism is about changing our society so that all members can experience equality.  Feminists believe that everyone deserves the same respect and opportunity from our society, and from other people.  As a mother, as a Catholic, and as a feminist, I want this egalitarian society for my children and grandchildren.

Many feminists work hard to overhaul our society so that women, minorities, the poor, children, immigrants, and others can receive advancement opportunities that have historically been denied to them in this county and in other parts of the world.  Feminists help those who have been affected by violence, and they teach others how to help and how to avoid victimization.  I compare this to the social justice work that many Catholics are involved in.  Catholics also help victims of violence, the poor, and immigrants and work to change our society so that fewer people are affected by these situations.  Both feminists and Catholics see the societal structures that trap people in poverty, violence, and discrimination as problems our society needs to solve.

Feminists have worked hard to improve the status of women in our society, and this has led to more women entering the workforce, pursing artistic professions, and leading single lives.  While some Catholics may also argue that the liberation of women has led to more divorce, more promiscuity, and increased use of contraceptives, I would argue that these situations were already on the increase before the women’s movement succeeded in giving women the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.  Our society is influenced by many forces, only one of which is feminism, and the morality of our society as a whole reflects the collective values of many individuals.

Because Catholics and feminists share concerns about the way our society treats people, especially those who have less resources than others, the two groups can work together on certain issues.  Here is one of the ways I see them as compatible: God gave human beings free will to obey his commands or not, but man restricted woman’s ability to exercise her free will for millennia, thus forcing her to his will.  Unfortunately, many women continue to be subject to the will of men, and this continues to concern feminists.  It should concern the church as well, because an individual who makes her own decision to abide by the will of God has true faith.  A woman who follows God’s law because she is forced to by someone else has more fear of that person than respect for church teachings.

The more freedom women have, the more freely they can choose to follow their vocations as wives, single persons, or mothers, and the better they can understand and live those vocations.  Women who choose a faith-filled path in life understand how to balance their will with God’s in ways that are true to both.  Feminism, or any other social movement, cannot be blamed when women or men choose their paths without God’s guidance.  

I believe feminism has enabled women and men to freely practice their Catholic faith, and to deepen their faith through the practice of equality, including through marriage.  The heart of feminism is equality, and a strong marriage is based on equality.  You can read about the biblical basis for equality at the blog of my friend Lauran and her husband Eric; he wrote a textual analysis of Ephesians that highlights the apostle Paul’s messages about submission.  I will offer a brief summary: The oft quoted “For the husband is the head of the wife… wives should submit to their husbands in everything,” is usually presented as a stand-alone argument for male dominance.  Taking this verse out of context ignores the verse immediately before: “Submit to one another,” an instruction to all believers.  And the verses that follow instruct husbands to love their wives as equals: “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her;” you rarely see this verse quoted in a male dominated culture!  You can read Eric’s full textual analysis here; it is long, but well worth your time.  Eric also argues that his faith liberates him from a culture that tells him to be a tyrant over his wife.  Powerful feminist stuff.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about how feminism and Catholicism share similar views, or your responses to my ideas.

Reminder: you can enter a raffle to win a signed copy of my chapbook until August 31; see my giveaway post for details.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Farmer’s Market Haul

I finally made it to the farmer’s market in our community for the first time since June (Saturday mornings are a busy time at our house).  This particular market has been open about a year and a half, so it is still small, but I made a good haul.  Here’s what I bought, and what I’m going to cook with it this week.  I typically do the same at the supermarket: buy what is on sale or in season and prepare it while it’s fresh.

Fresh round sourdough bread: we’ve been slicing this to eat with our meals.

Tomatoes: they will go into a couple of salads.

Small round yellow squashes: will be stuffed with a ground chicken picadillo and baked.

Okra: I fried half of it and will cook the other half in tomato sauce.  Fried Okra recipe below.

Butternut squash: will be baked and pureed into a spicy soup with chipotle chile peppers.  Recipe below.

Isolated Butternut Squash by Petr Kratochvil

I also spoke with the grass fed beef rancher about possibly purchasing an eighth of a cow (or more if family and neighbors join in the order) in the near future.  Buying in bulk is the most economical for this healthy red meat.  Grass feed beef contains more omega-3 fats than conventionally raised beef.  The fats in feed lot animal meats are the over consumed omega-6 variety rather than the omega-3s that maintain overall health.  This difference in fat content occurs because conventionally raised animals are fed corn or soy instead of their natural diets.  We all need a healthy balance of both types of fats; the problem is that Americans are consuming way more omega-6 fat than omega-3 fat, when it should be the other way around.  This leads to many chronic health problems due to inflammation in the body.  

Since organic, grass fed meats are provided by mostly independent ranchers, they don’t have the lobbying power of the conventional providers, so most Americans aren’t aware of the health differences.  Also, grass fed beef is more expensive because cattle eating grass take four or five years to grow to slaughter weight.  Cattle raised in confined animal feeding operations don’t move around, so they grow to slaughter weight after only a year and a half.  The growth of this industry, along with government subsidies of feed corn, has made conventionally raised beef affordable to nearly all Americans; previous generations did not eat beef as often as we do.  Nor did they have the chronic health problems that are so abundant today; just some food for thought.

A new vender at the market gave me a sample of his tasty chicken tamales.  Another offered a taste of her green peach salsa.  We conversed about combining peaches and peppers in various ways.

My children played on the park structure, and they listened while the local library conducted story time.  The librarians are regulars at our farmer’s market.  Another time, they brought bookmarks for children to decorate.  The Easter Bunny visited our market last spring and I’ve heard someone even teaches free yoga classes sometimes.  There is a lot more happening besides food: plants, an oldies singer, zumba, volunteer opportunities in the community garden.

If you have a farmer’s market in your community, go buy some fresh local produce and see what else is happening.  I often see a friend when I’m shopping, which reminds me: take your friends along.

Yesterday, I made fried okra for the first time.  I prefer not to fry foods because the fats in the frying oil can become oxidized at high temperatures, but my children don’t like okra in tomato sauce, or sautéed with onion and potato, so I decided to try this recipe.  As one of the comments suggests, I used milk instead of egg to soak the recipe, and I’m glad I did.  My youngest decided to eat pieces of raw okra soaked in milk right out of the bowl!  I also followed another suggestion and used half cornmeal, half flour, salt, and pepper to coat the okra before frying.  When neither of my girls seemed very interested in eating the fried okra, I poured some milk in a small bowl and told them to dunk their okra into it; they ate some more, but I think I’ll have to prepare okra a different way next time.  Let me know if you have some ideas.

For the butternut squash, I am planning to make this soup.  Last time I made it, I used about five cups total chicken broth instead of six, and one chipotle chile.  I think I’ll throw the chile in the blender with the soup this time instead of cutting it by hand.  We skipped the chipotle in the cream last time, drizzling on plain Mexican Crema instead. You can find canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce in the international food aisle of your supermarket.  Each small can holds about six to eight chiles, so I divide them into small containers and freeze them for later use.  If you are wondering what to do with those frozen chipotles, look for more recipes at the Food Network link above by Marcela Valladolid; she uses chipotles all the time.  We have liked almost every one of her recipes that we have tried, but who wouldn’t love “Mexican Made Easy” (her show) especially if it’s traditional and made with fresh ingredients?

Reminder: you can enter a raffle to win a signed copy of my chapbook until August 31; see my giveaway post for details.  [FYI: this raffle took place in 2011.]

The Food Pharmacy  by Jean Carper
Super Foods Rx by Steven Pratt, M.D.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Ann Kroeker hosts a weekly Food on Fridays Link up, so I have also connected there, where you will find many links somehow (either casually or directly) related to food and recipes.

Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos hosts a weekly Try a New Recipe Tuesday Link up, and I have also linked up there.

Carrie at Young Living Oil Lady shares hosting duty for the weekly Healthy 2Day Wednesday Link up with three other bloggers.  This link up is for “an idea, tip, recipe, things to avoid, something new to try, etc. that will help us to remain or become more healthy.”

I am also linked with the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom.  This week’s theme is Fall Produce.

Jen’s Favorite Cookies is hosting a Fall Food Link up that is part of a series of fall link ups.
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