This morning at the horse farm

This morning, Maybelle and I got to go with Nina and Claire to Nina's horseback riding lesson at Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding.

Here's what the morning was like for Nina:
Nina jumping with Blackjack

And here's what it was like for Maybelle:
Running at the farm

I highly recommend this as a Saturday morning activity. It was cool and sunny this morning, and the farm is a big open area where Maybelle could run around, climb on things, and sing herself a variety of songs while Claire and I visited. And what is more fun than a morning with Claire, Nina, and Maybelle? It was a particularly perfect morning for me, for a variety of reasons:

  • Horseback riding is a very gendered activity. One of my best friends writes about horses, and one of the things she's often noted is how much girls and women love horses. I don't particularly love horses, but I'm fascinated about why so many girls and women do.
  • I know that CATR deals with mostly female clients because I got to visit with the Director of Community Lessons, Shayla, who's a WGS alum. She mentioned that the last time she saw Maybelle was when Shayla was in my Gender and Violence class in 2009. This, as you may remember, was the class that met for three hours one night a week. Because Maybelle wouldn't get any sustenance from anywhere other than my body, Biffle had to bring her to class every week so that she could breastfeed. Several times I was making pronouncements about violence while one arm was wrapped around a little nursing body, covered with a blanket. That was a weird, weird experience, y'all.
  • You may have noticed that the name of the place is Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding. They deal with typical clients, like Nina, but they also do riding as a therapeutic activity for kids with disabilities. So Maybelle might end up doing some therapeutic riding down the line. If she becomes less terrified of horses.
I will say that Maybelle overcame some of her terror this morning. Shayla helped us to introduce her to Blackjack, the horse Nina trains on, in a way that made Maybelle do something other than cling to my body, adamantly repeating, "No bee-tou! No bee-tou" (no thank you). She did end up petting Blackjack. So maybe someday she'll be a rider.

Here's one more of Nina:

Nina and Blackjack


Good things in my world

I'm in the mood for a quick morning post about things I'm happy about.

  • Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC):  I work at a school that not only has a great Women's and Gender Studies Program and one of the best college programs in the nation for students with intellectual disabilities, but it also has a preschool that's about as good as I could imagine a preschool being.  In fact, I think it's probably better than I could imagine.  And Maybelle gets to go there.  She loves it, and she comes home knowing things that Biffle and I haven't taught her.  Recent examples:  Biffle and I have worked on counting from 1-10 with her, but now she's pretty good at counting up to 20.  She's learned to kick a ball and ride in a tire swing.  She also says, "Ready, set, GO!"
  • The first cup of coffee:  I do love the first cup of coffee in the morning.  These days I'm doing some mindfulness meditation, and one of the things the mindfulness folks are big on is being in the moment.  So for the last few days I've been consciously savoring the first sip:  feeling the warm cup in my hands, smelling the coffee, letting the drink be a real experience.  I've switched to decaf in the last couple of weeks, but it doesn't matter--that first cup is still a great part of the day.
  • Riding the bike:  Biffle and I were wise enough to buy a house downtown, so almost every day I get to ride my bike to school, and almost every morning Maybelle is with me.  We get to breathe in the air, notice the world around us, and feel alive in a way that a car just doesn't promote.  Plus, I never have to search for a parking spot.  I ride up to the door of my office and get off my bike.  That's it.  Fantastic.


Maybelle and the roller derby

Tonight we went to see the Lowcountry Highrollers, Charleston's roller derby league.  This was the first time I've ever been to a roller derby bout, despite the fact that I've been interviewed numerous times about the significance of roller derby.

More importantly, it was the first time Maybelle has been to any sporting event since she's been out of the uterus (we did go to a minor league baseball game when I was visibly pregnant with Maybelle, and I got free boiled peanuts).  Here's what she was like tonight:

Maybelle:  sports fan!

I find it's surprisingly moving to encounter something new like this with Maybelle, particularly when it's something she has such a dramatic, positive reaction to. Roller derby is cool for many reasons, but some of them were quite visible to me tonight:  it's a sport consisting of all women, women who are fast and tough.  Because of this, the stadium was filled with girls--boys, too, but more girls than I expect to see at a sporting event.

At halftime, all the kids were invited to the track to run around, and it was great to see so many kids, from the age of one up, running and running and laughing.  There didn't seem to be any weird gender dynamics.  Preteen girls ran with groups of their friends, weaving in and out of toddlers and grade school kids, and all of them seemed to be having such fun.

After we left, we asked Maybelle, "What did we just see?", and she said, "Go go go!"  We're teaching her to say "roller derby," because I'm sure we'll be back.


Ear plugs are amazing

As many of you know, I'm a person who's prone to anxiety.  The last several weeks have been filled with a higher-than-average level of anxiety for me--and that's saying a lot.  I think that this is at least in part because I've just passed through two pretty significant anniversaries:  the anniversary of the diagnosis of the brain tumor (which happened Dec. 24, 2009) and the anniversary of the surgery itself (which, thanks to Catherine, I now know was yesterday--Feb. 12, 2010).

Hurray that two solid years have passed since the surgery.  And perhaps an even bigger hurray that the anniversary itself has passed, because I think my body in some primordial way had identified the slant of the sun, the season, whatever, and knew that some bad stuff went down at this time a couple of years back, so it has gone into alert mode.

Part of that primordial warning system has meant that, as I told my friend Meg, "Every single sound in the city of Charleston wakes me up, from the gentle squeak of Biffle's nose to the trains past East Bay."  I have not been sleeping well.  Then yesterday I had the good fortune to be having brunch with another friend, Marguerite, who mentioned how much she relies on her ear plugs for good sleeping.  She says she buys the mega-pack from the Rite Aid.

"Hmmm," thought I, "perhaps this would work."

Maybelle and I made a trip to the Rite Aid yesterday afternoon and with hopeful good will bought a mega-pack.  I used them last night.  I couldn't hear a thing.  Not the clickety-clickety of Gabe trotting through the house at night, not Maybelle's sigh as she rolls over in her sleep, not Biffle's footsteps as he quietly comes home from a gig.  Nothing.  I slept seven hours and twenty minutes, friends.  That is a big deal for me these days.  I mean, I woke up a few times, but I was able to go right back to sleep.

Perhaps we've turned a corner.


Alison's complaints about memoirs, written in a scholarly way

You all know I have complaints about the way many memoirs are written.  I wrote a friendly version of these complaints in a piece for Skirt! magazine a while back ("Maybelle vs. the Memoir").  At the same time that I wrote that article, I wrote a scholarly piece critiquing memoirs written by parents of children with disabilities.  Because academic publishing is a slow business, my article has just now been published.  It's in a journal called Disability Studies Quarterly, which is the big U.S. journal for disability studies scholarship.  I'm thrilled to be part of that community now!

If you want to read my essay, it's called "Saints, Sages, and Victims:  Endorsement of and Resistance to Cultural Stereotypes in Memoirs by Parents of Children with Disabilities."