first fig

my candle burns at both ends…

Month: May, 2010

A Different Road

So remember that time I said I was going to post everyday for a month and then I almost missed Friday and actually missed Saturday? Yeah, well I’m coming to the realization that maybe I set to high of a goal. It’s just impossible for me to write thoughtful posts everyday with two very active toddlers. Also, life has given me an unexpected opportunity that will make that goal increasingly difficult. Oh, it’s nothing bad, I’m actually quite excited about it and I’ll tell you more about it in the coming weeks.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for my flakiness. Hopefully this will mean that instead of stressing out about getting something up everyday, I can focus instead on writing things that you will actually want to read.

My little sister is a big fan of Def Jam Poetry. Earlier this week she posted a poem on her blogthat literally took my breath away. It was as if the poet had looked into my mind and translated onto the page everything I think, feel, fear about being a mother.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so vulnerable as I did when I read this poem and saw every aspect of myself there. And yet, I saw the beauty and complexity in what I’m endeavoring, in how I’m going about mothering. And I had hope for the first time in a long time that I will not destroy my children in this process. I saw that my questions and silence, ambivalence and depression, fears and devotion are what make me a mother.

And so on this Mother’s Day I share with you, myself.

Apology to My Unborn
i fear that you will never sleep
that like these fingers long and too thin
to hold rings and commitments
you will inherit your mother’s insomnia
her restless spirit
child, i wish I could quiet all your questions
tell you the exact number of stars
show you where the moon goes at sunrise
i wish i could temper your fear of good byes
prove that the earth spins regardless of whether or not you are awake to see it
i wish i could give you one morning worth rising for
I pray that you can close your eyes
see the world through the only thing i have fit to pass down to you
this heart of a dreamer
but i want you stronger sooner
want you kind and brave
want you unafraid to fight
for what you believe and need
want you beautiful and free
i want you nothing like your mother
this girl trembling before each new day
frightened of herself love
this girl who finds the word ‘woman’ a cloak too heavy to don
most days
you deserve someone who carries the moniker like banner
wears it easy like sun in summer
but, child, what can i tell you of peace
when you were probably conceived in a cacophony of questions
still i think of you as possible
can almost smell the breath of god light against you skin
can hear you, softness, eyes closed laughing
real as the beating staccato against my chest
but future, i fear if i
cling too fiercely to your unconditional
that i will bruise you
because i can not hold my breath long enough to shrug off these imperfections
i wonder, if they will make me too nervous to nurse you
leave me unable to find a place where just loving you is enough
child I will begin counting those same stars
and in dreams these arms will hold you
whisper you soft into a still slumber
these hands, small and strong, like your grandmother
will build for you a world of colored things
will pray, palms towards the heaven, for a quiet
without the tumble and chaos of
words and worry
child i pray that you know
that though feared, you are wanted
know how you’ve lived lifetimes in this hollow expansion of breath
know how easy you’ll fit
in my spaces
need you to know this now before time and distances help me
to forget to tell you often enough
i hope that we will not be too much like shadow and brick
voices thrown against walls
these hands are tired of building
and child i hope you will forgive my quiet
those moments when i just can’t find the words to speak
i hope my silences don’t scare you
won’t have you questioning your worth
have you turning towards friends and strangers for comfort
i want you to like me
to know me
to know that there are moments when i will wrestle with moments
that shade my best intentions
moments like now
your mother
lays awake
watching, yet, another morning from the wrong side
practicing slow this breathing that will usher you one day into this world
here, i can, almost conjure up a proper image of you
i still fear that you will never know peace
but i already know i need your laughter
need the gentle curve of your fingers
need your eyes locked on mine
need you here now for balance
but my future,
i will deny you your right to exist
before i pass on this
cracked soul of a storyteller
you deserve more than
this threat of me as your mother
still attempting my own world of colored things
so child, just promise me that you will be, eventually
i need your possibility
like i need a night worth sleeping for
-Bassey Ikpi
(You can see a video of the author performing her poem here.)

Walking Home

I almost forgot to post today. It was a crazy busy day but I made a promise to post every day and a promise is a promise.
I don’t have anything profound to say, also, I’m in the middle of spring cleaning. So instead of a post, I present you with this really cool video. It’s a look into what women go through every time they walk down the street. It constantly surprises me the number of men who feel that it is their right to comment and objectify women’s bodies. And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, if you are a woman you can expect to be cat-called at one time or another. Without fail, every time I go out walking, with my double stroller no less, somebody honks or yells, “hey, baby” out of the window.
If men really knew how this feels, really understood what we have to do in our minds to make this ok, they would never say another disrespectful thing. I think this video does a beautiful job of showing this. I hope you enjoy.

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko

It’s that time again, time for me to highlight an anti-woman wacko who made news this week.

I read an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week that was so full of chauvinism, cultural imperialism and xenophobia it made me sick to my stomach. Jean-Francois Cope is the president of a major French political party and the mayor of Meaux. During his career he was also the Minister of the Budget and the spokesperson for the French government. Cope is an influential leader in France but unfortunately he uses that influence to trample on the rights of Muslim women.

For those who don’t know, a number of European countries and cities have passed, or are in the process of passing laws that would prohibit women from wearing face veils such as the burqa or niqab in public. The justification for such a law is that “[the face covering] is a mask, a mask worn at all times, making identification or participation in economic and social life virtually impossible.”

Except that women who wear burqas do participate in economic and social life. Several months ago I took a crochet class from one of the local yarn stores. Two of my classmates were young girls, both wearing hair & face coverings. They participated like all the other members of the class, they were affable and funny young women and did not seem at all hindered by the fact that most of their face was covered. Women all over the world go to school, shop for groceries and contribute to society all while wearing veils.

Cope then goes onto say that the burqa is a safety risk:

This face covering poses a serious safety problem at a time when security cameras play an important role in the protection of public order. An armed robbery recently committed in the Paris suburbs by criminals dressed in burqas provided an unfortunate confirmation of this fact. As a mayor, I cannot guarantee the protection of the residents for whom I am responsible if masked people are allowed to run about.

The fallacy in this type of argument is astounding. Since one person wore a burqa to commit armed robbery it must follow that everyone wearing a burqa will commit armed robbery.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “c’mon, mraynes, no person in their right mind would think that Muslim women are like criminals just because they wear a face veil.” But wait for it…

The visibility of the face in the public sphere has always been a public safety requirement. It was so obvious that until now it did not need to be enshrined in law. But the increase in women wearing the niqab, like that of the ski mask favored by criminals, changes that. We must therefore adjust our law, without waiting for the phenomenon to spread.

Yep, he just made the argument that women in niqabs might be criminals. I’m also really looking forward to the new legislation the French National Assembly will propose…banning the ski mask.

And it just gets worse.
How can you establish a relationship with a person who, by hiding a smile or a glance — those universal signs of our common humanity — refuses to exist in the eyes of others?…But the niqab and burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others. The person who wears one is no longer identifiable; she is a shadow among others, lacking individuality, avoiding responsibility.
I really have no words for how wrong this is. A woman in a burqa has no humanity? Because this man cannot gaze upon her face she has no individuality and so she ceases to exist? Really? And I love that instead of acknowledging his own bias against this Muslim dress, instead of acknowledging his own failure in seeing the humanity in another human being when they wear a burqa or nijab, he instead blames the woman. Yes, this covered woman makes you see her as non-human. Yes, that makes sense.

There are so many problematic things in this editorial. For example, saying that this isn’t religious discrimination. Because you know, so many non-Muslim French women are walking down the street in burqas. And then there’s the title, “Tearing Away the Veil”. I think really helps Cope in his assertion that this is a benevolent law that will uphold “the dignity of women.” As a woman, I can confirm that my dignity doesn’t at all suffer when men or laws tear pieces of my clothing off my body.

One of Cope’s more cogent arguments is that “[i]ndividual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good.” I agree, part of peacefully living in society is compromising with our neighbors. But it is not compromise if one party is forced to give something up without receiving anything in return. So what will Muslim women be gaining in return for giving up their religious and cultural custom?

It speaks volumes that Cope does not provide one way in which this law will benefit Muslim women. Rather, it proves that the health, happiness and rights of women were not the first priority in drafting this legislation. It is ironic that French leaders believe that the burqa ban will increase the visibility, responsibility and dignity of Muslim women. In reality, this ban will further push Muslim women to the margins of society. Yes, there will be some women who choose to take the burqa off but there will be just as many who are cloistered in their homes, unable to leave because of their religious and cultural beliefs. So what, exactly, is making these women invisible?

I have to say at this point that I hate the idea of the burqa and nijab. I think they are horrible customs based on the oppression of women. That being said, it is not my right, or anybody else’s to dictate how another woman worships her god.

The law that Jean-Francois Cope is proposing is just as repressive and misogynistic as the veil itself. Both the burqa and burqa ban are tools of patriarchal institutions, making women invisible and denying them the right to choose. We like to get up on our Western high-horse and proclaim our enlightened thinking, our commitment to equal rights for women. But oppression is oppression whether it comes in the form of clothing or laws that deny the right of women to control their own bodies.

Random thought…by mraynes

Was it painful for Mrs. Incredible, a.k.a. Elastigirl, to give birth?

Sometimes You Need Help

So by now you’ve notice the new look. When I decided to bring First Fig back I knew that I needed a new template, a clean slate that would inspire me to give this blog the attention it deserved.

I found a template that I really loved and went about trying to customize it to suit my needs. I’m not sure if you’ve ever worked with html code but it’s a real pain in the neck. And unfortunately, the template I picked would not let me change the things I needed without destroying the rest of the code.
In utter frustration I decided to enlist the help of someone who knew what they were doing. And so I turned to Dawn Farias because I liked her clean designs, she was incredibly economical and I didn’t have to wait 6-10 weeks in order to get the new template.
Dawn was amazing to work with. She walked me through the entire process, never got annoyed when I was flaky and was happy to incorporate any ideas I had. She also tricked me out with a fancy blog button so that all of my 5 readers can proudly proclaim that they read First Fig! 😉
If you are in need of a blog re-do but you don’t want to do it yourself, Dawn is a great person to turn to.

Want To Change Things?

Just Say No!

Derby Day Fun!

I hope everyone had a good May Day/Derby Day yesterday?

A good deal of my childhood was spent in Kentucky and across the river in Cincinnati. Derby Day is a huge deal in that part of the country and I remember going to parties every year. Despite no longer living in the Bluegrass State, I like to celebrate Derby Day with my family. Unfortunately, mr. mraynes had concerts all day yesterday so we weren’t able to watch the horse race, make our yearly hot brown sandwhiches or drink mint juleps.

Never one to be deterred from my favorite traditions, we tivod the race and made our traditional Derby Day fare today. Personally, I think everybody should enjoy Derby Day so I’m including my favorite recipes.

Hot Brown Sandwiches: (I know it looks gross in the picture but they are very good!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these lovelies in the future!

And We’re Off…

Ready, Set, Go.

I’m excited about getting this blog up and running again. In the next couple of days I will be introducing a new look, a clean slate to start over with. I will also be posting at least once a day for a month so that I can get back into the habit.

First Fig is going to be a little different from here on out. Yes, I will still be providing my insightful commentary on all things feminist and Mormon but I will also be including more mundane things as well. I’m hopeful that in broadening my scope this blog will be a much more enjoyable place for all of us.

So, let’s get things started.

Have you heard about Mormon May Day?

Here’s the idea:

As moderate, liberal or radical Mormons, it is time to make our voices heard WITHIN Mormonism…guided by the spirit, liberal and radical interpretations of the Gospel and scriptures are just as valid as those made by Conservatives.

This group proposes that those of us who fall in the spectrum of moderate, liberal or radical Mormons participate in May Day activities. Where I live in Denver, there was a march to demand sensible and humane immigration legislation from our elected leaders. Unfortunately we weren’t able to participate but I did drive by and honk my horn in solidarity.

mr. mraynes and I will be participating tomorrow in a fast for “for those who are working all over the world to advance the causes of the Gospel, social justice, environmental sustainability and fighting the root causes of poverty.” Perhaps this is something you would like to do as well.

Starting this blog again is a sign for my new optimism for the future. There are exciting things afoot and I’m glad you guys are along for the ride with me.

Oh, and Happy Derby Day!