1.26.2013

George Estreich in the NYTimes, or Welcome Table

Let's start this blog post by making it all about me:  George Estreich, the guy who wrote this fantastic op-ed in the NYTimes, is a digital friend of mine.  We've never met in person (not yet--we have plans to be on a panel together at a conference next year), but we email from time to time, and I try to keep up with what he writes.

Here's my review of his book, The Shape of the Eye, from back in December 2011.

And more importantly for today's blog post, here's the link to his op-ed, "A Child with Down Syndrome Keeps His Place at the Table."

You all have probably heard the story he's writing about.  Friends have been posting it on Facebook, and my dad checked in with me last night to confirm that I knew about it.  George gives the summary in his piece, but the super-short version is that a family with a five year old child with Down syndrome was eating at a restaurant where they regularly eat.  A guy at the next table said, "Special needs children need to be special somewhere else."  Then the waiter asked that guy and his party to leave.

It really is a story with a happy ending.  Michael Garcia, the waiter, could have lost his job, but instead he's become a kind of celebrity.  My dad told me he's regularly getting $50 tips these days--customers at the restaurant want to congratulate him for being so decent, which is encouraging.

What George's piece made me realize is that it's particularly encouraging because the restaurant, the table, is such a symbolically significant site.  Civil rights activism took place at tables and lunch counters.  I regularly reflect on that gospel (and civil rights) song, "Sit at the Welcome Table."  Where we eat is a signal about where we belong in our community, in our society.  Eating is a demonstration of community and also an act of community building.  Remember the beautiful, sprawling dinner scene in the film Antonia's Line, where everybody--folks with intellectual disabilities, neurotypical folks, transgender folks, cisgender, everybody--is enjoying a meal together (and thank you, Claire, for introducing me to this film).  That's a central moment in the film, a moment when we can recognize that everyone is part of that community. 

As I've written about before (see the link above), Harriet McBryde Johnson's memoir Too Late to Die Young has that fantastic scene where she's eating dinner with Peter Singer, the famous philosopher who's argued--in ways that have been quite convincing to a lot of folks--that parents should be able to end the lives of kids with disabilities until they're two years old.  He's basically argued that she's not fully human, and yet there she sits, eating at a table with him, and she needs his help at one point.  So she requests it.  And he helps her.  She enacts her humanity, her membership in his community.

The song "Sit at the Welcome Table" ends with
All God's children gonna sit together
All God's children gonna sit together one of these days
Halleluia
All God's children gonna sit together
All God's children gonna sit together one of these days
One of these days.
I'm not a big advocate for God, but that line often comes to me--I find myself singing it in my head--because of the power of all of us sitting together at the table, and what that means.

Here's Maybelle, in her full humanity, eating some waffles for breakfast.  She's not an angel, or a "special needs person" (George accurately notes, "Any word can be repurposed for contempt").  She's a child, a person, a member of our community.  And let's imagine that "our" really, really broadly.  George ends his piece by saying, "What I live for, though, is the day when the question doesn’t come up."  I'm with him:  I live for the day when everybody sitting at the table together is no big deal.  It's just life.

1.25.2013

List of food (i.e. not a very political post)

I haven't blogged for a while, so I thought I'd log back in.  We're having a fairly leisurely morning because Maybelle has an ophthalmologist appointment at 10.  So as she sits here listening to the Oklahoma soundtrack (currently on her favorite dance number, "The Farmer and the Cowman") and eating her breakfast, I thought I'd share the list I made of foods Maybelle will eat.

She's a picky eater.  Picky might be a euphemism.  She might be far worse than picky.  BUT she is growing quite well, is healthy, sleeps well, has loads of energy, etc, so her pediatrician says don't worry about it--whatever she's eating, it's doing its job.

So here's what she'll eat, sort of in order of preference (although that's subject to change):

1.  yogurt (Chobani Greek is her favorite)
2.  O's and milk
3.  ice cream (vanilla)
4.  waffles
5.  French toast
6.  scrambled eggs
7.  toast with jam
8.  pancakes
9.  applesauce
10.  oatmeal (known around here as hot cereal)
11.  cinnamon rolls (only the ones from Wildflour, and they only make them on Sundays)
12.  bananas
13.  sweet potatoes
14.  granola

This morning she and I split three scrambled eggs and three pieces of toast, and then she ate a container and a half of peach yogurt.

That's it from here.  No outrage to share just yet.

1.16.2013

GOP Jerks

I've got a piece in the Charleston City Paper today about the refusal of House Republican leaders to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.  If I'd decided to call my column "This sucks a monkey penis," this article would work.

There is no actual mention of monkey penises in the article, though.

1.15.2013

Thermonuclear Winter

A number of you have been concerned about the flea situation around here.  I appreciate the emails I've gotten--from colleagues, students, students' parents--loads of wonderful folks expressing empathy, concern, and "been there, done that" sentiments.  Thank you!

Things haven't been horribly dire here--it's not one of those situations where you look down at your legs and see black specks all over your white socks.  But it's been grim enough that I'm happy--delighted!  overjoyed!--to report that Terminix comes tomorrow to bring what my dad calls Thermonuclear Winter.  They will eradicate all living things.  All the living things that we care for will be out of the house all day.

And a special thanks to all of you who've been concerned about this extreme toxin approach and have kept those thoughts to yourself.

1.12.2013

Difference

Hands in her pocketsI'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's new novel Flight Behavior, and the main character's four-year-old son is having articulate conversations with an entomologist about the butterflies who have gathered on their property.  As I read, I compare this little boy to Maybelle.  She's not a person, at four, who can have this sort of conversation yet.

Let me be really honest.  This isn't some sugar-coated narrative from me--I was sort of surprised to discover this about myself:  I really am not bothered by this comparison between Maybelle and fictional Preston.  I recognize it as a difference, not a deficit.  I don't read and feel a loss--"Oh, I'm sorry Maybelle isn't like this!"  Instead, I read and see a child who's different from Maybelle, in one of the millions of ways kids are different from each other.

This morning Maybelle was eating O's and milk ("Whoa!  O's and milk!" she proclaimed happily as I brought it to her), and I watched as she scooted her bowl a tiny bit closer to herself, bringing it near the edge of the table so the spoon had less distance to travel (and less distance to drip milk on the table and her lap).  "How cool," I thought.  "Good observation and action, Maybelle."

We've had conversations this morning about her stuffed animals.  She brought in a baby doll she hasn't played with in probably six months.  "Oh, a baby!" I said.  "No," she said, "Rainbow!"  Right!  She has another baby doll whose name is Baby.  That doll's name is Rainbow.  I'd forgotten.  We went through and identified a whole host of creatures:  Llama Llama (pronounced "llama mama"), Bollo, Bear, Monkey, Super Grover (pronounced "Super Booger"), Toto.  I'm really happy to have these interactions with Maybelle.

This isn't a post about congratulating myself for working so hard to get to this place.  I didn't work to get here.  I would have bet money that I would be a person who didn't feel this way--who'd be bummed that my child wasn't going to go on to the Ivy League, who'd be constantly feeling disappointed as I compared my child with Down syndrome to typical kids.  As it turns out, I'm fortunate enough that I don't feel that way.  I get to enjoy her for the person she is.  I'm grateful. 

1.10.2013

Cranky

We might have fleas.  We're itchy around here, all of us, and I think some of them might be living in the bed.

So I vacuumed.  And let's be clear, I didn't do it well.  But I did it.  And I took all the stuff I vacuumed up and threw it away outside, so a vacuum container full of roiling fleas and flea eggs isn't growing new fleas in the corner.

I'm washing the sheets and comforter (which were also peed on--not by Maybelle) in very hot water, and I'm going to dry them in the dryer until they're untouchably hot.

I'm going to call Terminix tomorrow.  We have a whole house bug contract, which means flea treatments are FREE.  That was a good move back in the day!  They'll come in and spray incredibly toxic chemicals all over the house.  If anybody reading this has thoughts about using homeopathic remedies, all natural oils or something, those thoughts may be entirely valid--but I don't want to hear them.  You tell a friend how unhinged Alison Piepmeier is, and let me be.  I want the fleas dead.

Now I'm going to go eat my current favorite food:  waffles with peanut butter (Jif, thank you very much, not some healthy peanut butter), syrup (Log Cabin), and bananas.  Maybelle's having ice cream.

That is all.

12.30.2012

Maybelle's first snow

Snow in CookevilleIt's been flurrying for the last several days in Cookeville, where Maybelle and I are spending the remainder of our holiday vacation.  Maybelle's a Charlestonian, so she's not that fond of snow.  It's fairly cold, and it's not affiliated in any way with swimming, performing numbers from Oklahoma, or eating yogurt--her favorite activities.  But it's her first snow!  I felt it was important to get her out in it--to force her to interact with it and acknowledge its existence.

Claire, who comes from upstate New York, has suggested that we go sledding.  This, she has said, is the way to make snow really fun, and she's asked several times whether I've had a chance to do it yet.  So this morning I thought I should document what "snow" means in middle Tennessee, so that Claire can let go of this lovely and yet not really applicable notion.