One more picture from the fair

The only picture of Alison and Claire together Amber said this picture is her favorite one from my pictures of the fair. She said that the looks of confusion and vague irritation are a regular part of Claire's and my life, and for us to be captured together with these expressions was just great.

I find that very amusing.


The fair, 2012

Saturday, as a tropical storm was bearing down on Charleston, Claire, Adam, Nina, Uncle Trey, Maybelle, and I went to the fair.  Why?  According to Adam, "The fair is the best day of the year!"

Roller coaster!I figured that the worst case scenario with a visit to the fair on a rainy, gusty day was that we'd be eating funnel cakes while shivering under vendors' tents.  Instead, we had a sort of best case scenario:  it wasn't raining, but everybody stayed away, so we had no lines for any rides.  None.  No lines.  Adam, Nina, and I have ridden the roller coaster the Crazy Mouse several years in a row, and we've always had to wait and wait and wait--up to 45 minutes or an hour.  This time we walked onto the ride, rode, and then walked around to the entrance and rode it again.

(The second time we rode, Nina did not sit next to me, because she observed--correctly--that I scream the entire time.)

It was also a kind of best case scenario because this year, Maybelle enjoyed just about all of it.  In previous years she's been terrified of animals and wary, if not terrified, of rides.  This year she was fairly open to the animals, and she really enjoyed the rides.


Nina and Adam were both incredibly sweet--for rides that were too small for adults to ride, they rode with Maybelle.
Bumblebee up close

Maybelle rode the merry-go-round twice--once with me, once with Claire (after the first time made me a bit sick to my stomach).

Claire and Trey both expressed admiration for my dad's rule at the fair--no rides that go in circles or leave the ground--but Claire broke that rule twice, once by riding the merry-go-round and once by going on the skyride with me and Maybelle.  The skyride is like a ski lift.  It takes you up hundreds of feet in the air with only a bar across your lap.  Once we got up there, Claire and I were both a bit terrified, clutching Maybelle's body so that she couldn't move at all.  Fortunately, Maybelle thought it was pretty cool.

Alison and Trey at the fairTrey didn't ride a thing.  He took tons of pictures and enjoyed the best part of the fair:  food.  Collectively I believe we ate elephant ears, funnel cakes, sweet potato fries, corn dogs, gyros, and one turkey leg. 

Maybelle ate two containers of yogurt.  She still wouldn't even try the funnel cake.  So we have one more thing to work on for next year's fair.


What, Alison went to DC with students?

Kim with pandasThis is probably the last post about this trip.  Today the Charleston City Paper published an article I wrote about our DC experience, "Why Do So Few Women Seek Political Office?  On the Run." 

If you've read all the previous posts, you've gotten this story illustrated.  But you haven't seen the pandas!


Southeast Zine Fest TODAY!

I'm sorry to be so late in writing about this fantastic event!  I meant to post yesterday, but the day was quite full on campus, then I was hanging with Maybelle in the evening (the rocking chair broke--very sad time for her--she cried and cried), then Biffle made a delicious dinner and we talked and ate, and then I was too sleepy.

This is the kind of information that could be in a zine.

So, today is the Southeast Zine Fest, the first zine fest ever in Charleston (or in the entire state, and perhaps in the entire Southeast, as the title suggests).  It's at Redux, downtown. It starts at noon.  And I am speaking at 1:00!

There's the first slide in my Powerpoint.  I'll be talking about the predecessors to zines and about zines now and the kinds of things they address.  I worked for several hours on the talk yesterday--it's a version of a talk I've given before, but always before I've been asked to give academic talks.  This isn't necessarily an academic crowd, so I worked hard to change it.

Biffle suggested that I try to channel Margaret Pilarski and Susan Cohen, the two creators of this event, and speak the way they did at Pecha Kucha (to see that video, go to the Southeast Zine Fest link, above), but let's be clear here:  that's not my skill set.  They are awesome, and I simply don't speak that way. 

What is my skill set is teaching, so I decided to go with that mode for the Zine Fest talk.  Rest assured it will still be somewhat academic, because there's no way for me to escape that entirely, but what I decided to do is a lot of "Look at this zine (on the screen)!  What's it doing?  What do you see?"  So if you come to my presentation you'll learn about zines and feminism, and you'll get to participate in a conversation about--for instance--how the Riot Grrrl NYC zine made a woman's vulva look like an apple.  You know, stuff like that.

And one final plug:  here's a great interview with Margaret Pilarski, national editor at Skirt! magazine, member of the Women's and Gender Studies Community Advisory Board, and alum of the WGS Program at CofC.  And rest assured I use her for as much PR as I possibly can!  It's gratifying when you have such cool people as alums.


Final post about DC

We made it back home!  At 4 a.m. we were sleepily stepping off the bus into downtown Charleston.

Energy levels rising Let me give you the highlights of Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday was full.  Full.  We visited the National Women's Political Caucus, EMILY's List, did a tour of the Capitol building, met Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and visited with the Women's Office of USAID.

To the left you'll see us at one of our few moments of down time in the day Tuesday, enjoying some second breakfast at a capitalist coffee bohemoth that can be found every block or so in DC.  This wasn't a planned event, but it was one of the best moments of the trip for me.  We were all caffeinated and energized, and we were able to get to know each other a bit before we headed off to EMILY's List (an organization that is probably one of the wealthiest places we visited).

Here we are with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton--a great person who was an active civil rights leader and feminist, and has been in Congress for a couple of decades.  Getting to meet her was another highlight of our trip for me.

Probably the biggest highlight for most of us was Wednesday morning, when we toured the White House.  The tour of the White House isn't that exciting--you only get to see the fancy dining rooms and parlors, filled with beautiful furniture.  I'm never all that impressed by fancy dining rooms and parlors.  While we were there, though, a guy in a suit strolled casually by.

"There goes Timothy Geithner," says Marguerite.  We all look at her expectantly.  "The Secretary of the Treasury."  Whoa!  He obviously just left a meeting with Obama.

Then as we're examining super-detailed wallpaper in some unused room, the guard says, "You might want to head to the window.  Marine One is landing."  Lo and behold, the President's helicopter lands, and a few minutes later--while all our faces are pressed to the windows--Obama strolls out of the Oval Office, waves at all of us, boards the helicopter, and flies away.

Here we are, at the spot where the suffragists initiated White House protests.

We split up and visited monuments and ate lunch, and we met back at the Department of Labor, where the students got to hear from a number of folks who work for the Office of Women's Affairs while I stood out in the hall managing phone calls from the bus company and the bus driver, who were trying to deal with the fact that our bus had broken down.

More pizzaShort end of the story:  we ate pizza in our pajamas at the bus driver's hotel, then we loaded up in the repaired bus and made it back to Charleston by 4 a.m.  A great trip, and ten out of the 27 students told me they're considering running for office now.


Reporting on a day in DC

I told Biffle yesterday evening that the bottoms of both my feet felt bruised from standing up and walking around literally all day long.  He pointed out that he spends all day on his feet most days, and then when he has a gig, he spends all night on his feet, too.

Yes, that's true, but all day on my feet is a bit unusual for me.  He'd feel stressed if he spent four hours answering emails like I often do!

We had a great day yesterday.  We didn't get to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg or deliver our tshirt, sadly, but I learned a lot at the Supreme Court, including the following:

  • There is a basketball court above the courtroom in the Supreme Court building.
  • You have to have no qualifications whatsoever to be a Supreme Court Justice--you only have to be nominated by the President and approved by Congress.  You could be a squirrel.
  • They get about 10,000 petitions a year and accept around 80.
My friend Eliza, after reading yesterday's post, texted me that she sees RBG (that's what I call her now) at events she sometimes attends in DC.  Eliza will soon be receiving a tshirt to deliver.

Going into the Sewall-Belmont House
Entering the Sewall-Belmont House
The surprising hit of yesterday's touring was the Sewall-Belmont House, home of the National Women's Party and a women's history treasure trove.  We'd watched Iron Jawed Angels in our Intro to WGS class, and this museum makes the most of that movie, showing us things like Susan B. Anthony's desk that Alice Paul reveres, and pictures of Inez Milholland, the woman on the horse who died campaigning for suffrage, and pictures of Lucy Burns in jail.

We also got to see something they just recently discovered in their collections:  embroidered cloth from Occoquan, the prison where the suffragists were locked up and tortured.  Since the women were doing sewing work during the day in prison, they think this may have been how they slipped messages out to the media:  by sewing them onto fabric.  Super cool!

Suffrage banner The students loved the museum.  They took about a million pictures yesterday in general (part of why it was slow getting around was that students kept pausing to photograph every single thing visible on Capitol Hill), but the Sewall-Belmont House was especially well documented by their iPhone photography.  I certainly hope that this experience makes them all vote on election day!  And I suspect that Marguerite is talking some of them into running for office.


Alison in Washington, DC

After a full day on a bus, I'm now in a hotel in Washington, DC, with 27 of my students.  We're here because CofC is on fall break, and we're going to experience the world of gender and politics.  Most of the students are first year students enrolled in a Learning Community, which means they're in my Intro to Women's and Gender Studies class and in Marguerite Archie-Hudson's American Government class.  We're also lucky enough that several older WGS majors are here, too.

Me with my famous friend Marguerite Archie-HudsonHere's a picture of me with Marguerite, my famous friend.  Marguerite is famous because she was in the California legislature years ago, and while there she made lots of good things happen and also made many good connections (and learned how to continue making good connections).  So while the Women's and Gender Studies office handled the logistics of this trip--getting the funding, the bus, and the hotel rooms--Marguerite did most of the scheduling.  This means that we'll be meeting with people like Congresswoman (and big-time feminist) Eleanor Holmes Norton and Marguerite's good friend Hilda Solis (you know, Secretary of Labor).

It also means that Marguerite has been corresponding with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  She's on the US Supreme Court, which means she's occupying one of the most significant positions in American government.  She's the second woman (and arguably the first feminist) ever to be a Supreme Court justice, and Marguerite's been corresponding with her.  We're going to the Supreme Court tomorrow morning, and there's the tiniest chance that we'll get to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Really, the tiniest chance means we're not going to meet her, but I've considered hanging out in the women's restroom to see if she comes in.

We brought her a t-shirt.  I'm not kidding.

More tomorrow, when I'm not completely exhausted.  As a closing point, here's a picture of students I made pose in front of a North Carolina map when we were halfway here.

OMG our professor is making us pose in front of the NC map!


Another video, because we all want to see Maybelle singing "Feed the Birds"

When she's brushing her teeth here lately, Maybelle has taken to singing "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins. This is the sweet lullaby Mary Poppins sings that asks the children to recognize and support vulnerable people who are easy to overlook.  She fills them in on the fact that privileged people, like their father, often "can't see past the nose on their face."

The lyrics Maybelle's singing here are

Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she's calling to you.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag. 

I was surprised to see that she knew these words, given that she and I haven't sung this song together at all. She's just seen the movie a million times.
"Feed the Birds," 10-9-12 from Alison, Walter, and Maybelle on Vimeo.


Isn't it time for some videos of Maybelle?

You know, it's Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I'm theoretically taking part in 31 for 21 (see the logo below! That proves I'm a player!). So perhaps over the next few days I'll post some videos of Maybelle, documenting stuff going on in her life.

Maybelle's back to playing the drums these days, and Biffle's teaching her some basic drumming skills--how to cross her arms, how to hit the kick, snare, hi-hat. Here she is demonstrating those skills.  Please note that she's in a bedroom that has a bed, a steamer trunk, a doll house, a trampoline, a drum kit, and to the left, out of sight, a keyboard (that plays the theme to Titanic whenever Maybelle wants it to--yikes). Maybelle's occupational therapist said it's her favorite kid's bedroom (meaning that the bedroom is her favorite, not that Maybelle is her favorite kid--although obviously that's the case. Please.)
Fine drumming, 10-11-12 from Alison, Walter, and Maybelle on Vimeo.



Trey and I went to Pecha Kucha last night.  It's a hipster event for all the cool kids, but they let me in because one of my former students and current WGS Advisory Board members was talking about the Southeast Zine Fest, and I love zines, so I went.  I was sort of a cool kid by proxy.

Pecha Kucha:  A bunch of people do quick presentations, in which they have six minutes to fly through slides on a screen.  They get to talk about whatever they want, which can range from the story of a famous Charleston statue to essentially an extended ad for a new business.  As one of Trey's friends noted, these sorts of events are a mixed bag in small cities, and that was the case.  Some of the presentations were riveting--others inspired Trey and me to turn to our phones for entertainment.

On the Cistern, where the presenters were doing their thing, they had a big screen, and they projected many of the tweets that people were tweeting about the event.  So Trey and I were inspired.  Here's what we tweeted, in order (skipping some of the boring ones):

Trey:  It seems that Holy City Beard & Mustache Society kicks ass. #pkchs

Trey:  OMG SO INSPIRATIONAL (trying to get on the hash tag display board at #pkchs).

Trey:  WTF is up with this MC?  Is he somebody's nephew? #pkchs

Alison:  Pecha Kucha is cool, but, um, y'all, the emcee needs help. #pkchs

Alison:  I HATE shopping, Heather.  I'm totally on board for you making my clothes. #pkchs

Trey:  I like turtles. #pkchs

Alison:  @trey and I are sorry for what we said abt the MC.  We're sure he's a nice guy.  He just needs to introduce speakers quickly. #pkchs

Trey:  Hey, the grownups have to go to bed soon. #pkchs

Trey:  I was told there would be ponies. #pkchs

Trey:  Fuck yeah zines! #pkchs

Alison:  Zinefest is going to be amazing! #pkchs

That was my wild night out on the town.  Margaret and Susan's presentation was obviously great (they seemed quite well-suited to the quick presentation genre:  they had loads of energy, were funny and able to go with the flow, and they knew what they wanted to say).  And this morning I've had several cups of coffee to kick myself into gear.  Trey wasn't kidding in his tweet about the grownups having to go to bed--I didn't get home until after 10!



Dancing at Early Bird
Dancing at the Early Bird Diner
Last night it became fall in Charleston.  As we biked home today, I was wearing a jacket, and Maybelle a sweatshirt.  On their porches, some of our neighbors were snuggled up in what appeared to be down coats.

"It's so cold!" I called out.  They laughed and nodded.

Fall is always a wonderful season, but in Charleston it's particularly wonderful.  Right now it's sixty degrees.  We have our doors and windows open, and I'm drinking a (rare) evening cup of coffee, enjoying how warm the coffee is as cool, rain-scented breezes drift through.  I love how cold it feels, how exciting sixty degrees is after a weekend with highs in the high 80s.  It makes me want to curl up, to bake something, to scratch Gabe's ever-needy neck.

Leaves don't change color here, but fall arrives in dramatic ways nonetheless.


Holy crap do little kids love balloons

Holy crap do little kids love balloons.

 The title is courtesy of Uncle Trey, who took this picture at a pony party Maybelle went to a couple of weekends ago.  This is another 31 for 21 post (really, it'll be more like 20 for 21 I suspect this month, but we'll see).

I don't think I really have to say anything, do I?  I mean, good grief, could anybody be having a better time than Maybelle and her friend in this picture?


George Estreich from The Shape of the Eye: Down Syndrome, Family, and the Stories We Inherit

I'm taking part in this year's 31 for 21 once again.  October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and although I'm quite scornful of all awareness months (ask us how much Women's and Gender Studies does for Women's History Month:  nothing!  Because we're doing stuff all year!), I do find this blog project to be cool and useful.

So here's a quote from George Estreich's memoir, in response to books that address cloning and genetic mapping and other scientific projects.  This quote happens to relate quite beautifully to my research project:

But the people with Down syndrome don't rate a story; they are not given the human reality that is granted to the author, to other scientists, to hypothetical characters facing reproductive decisions, and even to green-skinned, lung-modified descendants leaving an overcrowded planet.

If our technologies are to benefit people with Down syndrome, then their lives need to become more real to us.  Science can illuminate one part of that reality, and technology can affect it.  But only story can convey it.


Eva Feder Kittay quote from 2011

Still more important [than alterations in the physical environment] is the environment of inclusion:  of welcoming many sorts of bodies and minds, seeing the world as enriched by this diversity, and embracing the possibilities as well as the challenges presented by those who diverge from the norm.