It would not be an exaggeration to say that i have never have had a single "good hair day" in my life.  I didn't even have hair until i was three and it started to fall out when i was maybe 16. 

Okay, so maybe i had one good hair day.  I remember one day--back when i was trying to be a punk rocker--that i dressed up in a sort of redneck, thrift store, heavy metal kind of punk outfit.  I recall i had a sleeveless t-shirt with a spray-painted anarchy symbol, a lab coat i'd stolen from my father, numerous Van Halen-inspired bandannas wrapped around ankles and wrists, and--the coup de grace--i had my hair done up in a modified Flock of Seagulls.  Instead of the wings on either side of my head, i'd done just one side and had it pointed over one eye.  This violent strip of hair was also dyed a beautiful orange color with the help of Merthiloate, a mercury tainted, indelibly staining antiseptic.  Okay.  That day I looked great.  

But that was all.

I'm reflecting on all this because just last night i passed a new marker in my life.  I had to 
shave off an entire patch of hair that had been abandoned and left to die on the front of my head.  This hair had become its own desert island there, and, you know, when it's your own head and hard to see anyway, and you see your own head all the time it's difficult to know when interventions like this have to be made.  In my case, i was helped out by seeing my own head in a mirror without the benefit of my glasses.  I saw only the stark contrasts of pale head skin and an unfortunate number of mouse colored patches on this same said head.  I saw the head, and thought, man, that guy's got some ugly hair, put my glasses back on, and discovered it was my own head i'd been looking at.  Time for a change.  

Here's the new me.  Not much different from the old me, but don't tell me I don't care of bidness.  


Feedback on Adventure Mom

My dad and brother have written the most ridiculously adorable comments to the last post. In case you don't peruse the comments section, I've pulled them out here for your enjoyment. My dad wrote:

So, I've given the "Adventure Mom" some thought. It would fit perfectly as an action, sitcom.

Adventure Mom
Super Power - teacher, author, mother, able to use superior intellect to expose the chauvinist and sexist (and makes some tasty cookies)

Danger Dad
Super Power - builder, musician, father, able to create by using his superior artistic skills (continually puts himself in dangerous situations without hurting himself - hardly)

Super Baby (aka Maybelline, sugar bean, weanie beanie...)
Super Power - stealing peoples hearts with just a glance

Stinky Deez and Dinosaur Head Benya
Super Power - hmmm... protectors of the super home... (barking, drooling, being very veecious)

Scene 1
Exterior house on Rutledge. Sunny day, late afternoon
Entering from right on street - Adventure Mom (riding bike, with backpack, Super Baby in the her Bjorn, cell phone in one hand and towing a small wagon with all the awards she had won that day)

She rides to the front of the house. Ever watchful, the Stinky Deez and the Dinosaur Head Benya are asleep on the front porch.

As she enters the gate, there is a crash and small explosion from the rear of the house.
Danger Dad comes around the side of the house (wearing coveralls and a tshirt that is slightly smoldering in spots)

Adventure Mom -"Biffle... (sigh) ... are you OK"
Danger Dad -"Yea sweety (as he pats out a smoldering spot on arm of his tshirt), I'm fine.

The dogs awake, start barking and jumping (except for Deez who is just trying to get to her feet).
Super Baby smiles, looks directly in the camera and says "Just another typical day..."

To be continued...?
The cuteness of this comment is challenged only by this comment from Aaron:

next time you should dress up Maybelle in a fancy business outfit and talk to her like she's your really tiny boss. Take messages for her, cover her ears when you tell people that she's cranky, and you should probably invest in a miniature laptop that you can strap to her while she is strapped to you.

Oh, if only I had a miniature laptop!


Adventure Mom

Maybelle and I took our first plane trip together this weekend. I had a talk to give, and of course Maybelle came along. I was pretty nervous about the flights--I love flying and pride myself on being a confident, unanxious flier, someone who never checks a bag and goes through novel after novel in the gate area and on the plane. I knew that all that would change with the addition of Maybelle.

It turns out that Maybelle is a great air traveler. I strapped her in the Bjorn and walked around the Charleston and Atlanta airports, and she was perfectly content. We played on a blanket on the floor in Atlanta when we missed our connecting flight. She was happy talking with me and resting on my shoulder during the flight to Atlanta, and even let a strange man hold her while I stuffed her diaper gear back into my backpack. She ate during takeoffs and landings and slept much of the rest of the time on all the flights.

At one point in the Atlanta airport, Maybelle was strapped to my front, facing out in her Bjorn, and I had my backpack on my back, and I bought myself a corn dog (I do love a corn dog). I strode along the moving sidewalk between terminals, eating my corn dog, talking to Maybelle, who was looking around, taking it all in. It occurred to me, “This is what I needed to see when I learned that my child had Down syndrome. This is the person I thought I might not be able to be with a special needs baby.” I really felt like an Adventure Mom, able to be a good parent while having my own life, heading out into the world with Maybelle, both of us enjoying ourselves.


Quick update

I've gotten a number of thoughtful responses to my last two posts, in the comments section as well as in individual emails. I really appreciate all the feedback, and I'm taking it all seriously as I grapple with the whole work/family balance.

In a conversation the other day, I realized something that I thought I'd throw out here for those of you who are worried about me: even though I'm often some combination of anxious, sad, and torn these days, I wouldn't trade this semester for last semester. This is better. I wasn't miserable in the fall, but my life then felt much less comfortable than my life now. Somehow, for me, waking up in the morning and wondering how I'm going to make it all work feels better than waking up in the morning and wondering how I'm going to fill a whole day with nothing going on and only me and Maybelle hanging out. This fact may speak volumes about my own dysfunctionality, but there it is.



This year's production of the Vagina Monologues is being performed on Friday, and cool things have been happening on campus all week in preparation--students have been selling t-shirts and vagina cookies, they've had film screenings and a meet and greet with the cast, and tonight there's an art and music party downtown. I'm feeling a little sad tonight as I think about how uninvolved I've been with the whole production this year. I can't make it to the art and music party because Biffle's at a gig and Maybelle is asleep, and I'm going to be lucky to make it on time to the show on Friday because of Maybelle's sleep schedule.

My first two years at this job I worked collaboratively with the two student producers of the play. They did most of the work, but I did a lot of brainstorming with them, I made an appearance at virtually every event, I helped set up and break down, and I was there for all the productions of the play, from start to finish, and afterward. Last year I was less involved, in part because exhaustion occasioned by my (at that point still secret) pregnancy, but I was still a hell of a lot more involved than I am this year.

This year I've done almost nothing. Biffle designed the poster, and I've offered a few pieces of advice here and there when asked, but that's it. The students have done an amazing job, and I realize that by my backing off, I'm giving them the opportunity to be really in charge--this is their production, through and through. I'm allowing them to develop their leadership skills, which is one of my big goals for my work with the students. I'm trusting them, and they're living up to that trust. One of my colleagues said that, for her, this was one of the unexpected benefits of having a baby: it forced her to give her students some room, and it turned out to be room that they needed. So I see that this is not necessarily a horrible thing that I haven't been involved this year.

What I'm sad about is that getting to work closely with students on projects like this is one of the things I love about my job. It's great fun to be part of their creative processes, to offer support but to let them do the real work, to be a cheerleader from the sidelines. I worry that I've let them down, but I also feel like my own job experience is somewhat impoverished.

What I keep reminding myself, though, is what everyone--my parents, my friends, even Maybelle's physical therapist--has reiterated to me: this is temporary. Infancy is incredibly temporary. By the time next year's Vagina Monologues rolls around, I'll have a bit more freedom and will be able to take part in a more direct way, if I want.



Just before I started back to work, Maybelle decided she didn't drink from a bottle anymore. We're working on changing her mind, but until that happens, I'm biking back from school every three hours to feed her. This is pretty inconvenient, as you might imagine, and it makes scheduling a day at work really challenging. But that's not what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about here is the fact that I'm not telling people that this is what's going on.

I'm not telling my colleagues at the College, or even colleagues elsewhere. Today, for instance, I was emailing some Women's Studies colleagues at other schools, and I ended the message with, "Well, I'm off to meet with a candidate for the History Department." What I deliberately didn't say was that, before I met the History Department candidate, I was going to go feed Maybelle.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm being secretive about this. Of course, many of the people I interact with on a daily basis have no need to know anything about Maybelle's eating habits or anything else about her, so sharing would just be too much information. But that's not all that's going on. I think part of why I'm not talking much about this part of my life, and the challenges it poses, is that I practice projecting the image of success. I think one of the reasons I've been so successful in my career is because I present a successful face. "Everything is going great! Enrollments are booming! The WGS Program is vibrant!"

And not only does biking away from campus to feed my baby not seem to fit with this narrative of success, it doesn't seem professional. It seems like I'm less professional. Even if I get the same amount of work done as I did before I had Maybelle, I seem less profesionnally functional. At some level I fear that my experience could be used to buttress some horrible argument about why women shouldn't be hired because they'll just go and have kids and then they're no good to you in the workplace anymore.

The irony here is that I'm an advocate for changing the workplace so that the professional realm actually provides more room and support for people with families and lives. I want us to change what it means to be professional so that people don't have to feel quite so torn all the time between jobs and families. Along these lines, think what it might mean for my experience of my work life and my family life if my employer had childcare on site, so that I could stroll down the street to feed Maybelle in between classes rather than tearing uptown on my bike as fast as I possibly can.

The other irony is that I recognize that I have the opportunity here to broaden my students' perceptions of what it means to be a feminist and to provide them with a model for how a person might be passionate about their work and their kid.

But I still want to keep this part of my life under wraps.


Two cool things

As you all know, I've been thinking a lot about the work/family balance these days. Some days I feel like things are going well, and other days I proclaim that my goal is for my work to be "minimally adequate" (which is the SC constitution's standard for public education). As one friend encouragingly put it today, "It's not just good. It's good enough." Hell, yeah. I'm not the only person thinking about these things, and another friend has a great interview about motherhood and academia that came out recently. Worth a read.

The second cool thing is a follow up on my cameo appearance in The East Village Inky. Not only did I appear, mentioned by name, but there's another more subtle way in which my presence was felt in the zine. Note the following picture of Inky:
Recognize that shirt? That is none other than the Full Frontal Feminism shirt that I have shamelessly sold via Skirt! magazine, that I used in a fruitless attempt to woo Stephen Colbert, that I myself am wearing in my own publicity photo. I sent that shirt to Ayun Halliday. I feel even more famous now.


Maybelle's nicknames these days

The Ween (also Weenie Bean and Ween Beanie)
Chicken of the Sea
T for Tiny, T for Tee-Tiny

And an addition to her song:

My name is Maybelline.
I do not have baleen
Cause I am not a whale.
My name is Sweet Maybelle.


South Carolina Federal Credit Union

I've noticed this morning that there's a story in the P & C about South Carolina Federal Credit Union.     This is--or, hopefully, more accurately was-- the place the place Alison and me did our banking.  We chose a credit union purposefully because we like them politically, they're ostensibly for the underdog, and we adored our credit union in Nashville.

Evidently, SCFCU is wanting to attract a younger, hipper demographic.  That's what their little write up in the paper is about today.  They're offering to pay $29,000 for someone to do a year's worth of internet play for them.  They want the person to blog, vlog and talk while they jog about how cool South Carolina Federal Credit Union is. 

Now if you're interested in this gig, or looking at SCFCU as your bank then let me help you out: I'm through with them.  If it wasn't their impenetrable computer telephone directory, or their long, slow lines, of the fact that one must own an amphibious vehicle to access the downtown branch--you can forget it at high tide--i'd have to say the final reason i've had it with South Carolina Federal Credit Union is their predatory overdraft fees.   

Recently Alison and i screwed up.  A payment was made thinking it was the other's debit card and 6 (SIX) , again i say, 6-6-6 overdraft charges of $33 were leveled against us.  It happened over the course of a one weekend.  It was our fault.  But did our credit union--all pullin' for the little guy and stuff--offer to help us out?  No.  Sorry.  Nothing i can do.  

(after 12 minutes of wait time...)

Nothing?  Okay, i said, I really don't need to be losing $200 right now.  Can't you just drop some of them?  


Is there no further recourse for me here?  No one else to ask?


Well, we have a car loan with y'all.  I'm gonna ask my dad to loan me the money to pay you off, and then close my accounts.  That's gonna cost you a lot more than $200.  Do you still want to stick with those charges?

I'm sorry, sir.  Is there anything else i can do for you today?  

I hope to be finitoed with them as soon as possible.  

here's my job app as a cool blog and vlog flak for SCFCU.  Watch it soon before i get embarrassed and take it off of YouTube.