Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

Maya Angelou ~ April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO ~ May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC

This week, one of my hero’s passed on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

My favorite F word

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 So, what are you studying?

Me: women’s studies

Oh…. does that mean your a feminist?

Me: yeah. I’d like to think so.

Oh.. (let the judgement begin).

  Angry.     Lesbians.     Hair legs.

Superiority over men.    Hating men.

Trying to
throw out every tradition.

Anti feminine.   Against lipstick.

Crazy.    Egotistical.   Excluding groups.

Anti stay at home mom.

Against dating chivalrous men.

Pointless, angry picketing.

Rejection of female characteristics.

Annihilation of gender.

Feminism: this is not actually what the word means for everyone.

I like men. I like men so much that I am dating one. And I even want to be married. I have come across so many people asking me why I am a feminist if I have a child and want to be married. Why would I want both?

I want to hit people with my textbooks sometimes. I hope that if I hit them hard enough, some influential advocates and writers words will imprint their brains.

Permanently.

But instead, I smile and explain what it means to me. What careers I aspire to go for. And what feminists have influenced me. If they want to walk away confused or in disbelief, so be it.

I find it interesting when the topic of feminism comes up among friends. They all want to give input but many don’t back anything up with real history or facts. Some don’t know my major or beliefs and so they crack jokes, looking to be for approval or fuel for the fire. They knock it or make fun of the way “feminists” act. Some do understand what the word means but dare not relate to it.

They don’t want to be identified with it.

Maybe its fear. Or ignorance.

I think a big problem is lack of education. And having too much privilege without understanding how they are able to live the way they do. For me, it seems that every day perspectives around me are narrow. My major and the education I’m being provided with allows me to see things in a whole. A large perspective.

I understand the struggles women deal with every day. Blindly.

I have struggled a lot when trying to be who I am in a society that is hell bent on narrow standards. As a young woman, I have to constantly adhere to a certain way of speaking, thinking, looking and appearing. I am supposed to as Adrienne Rich defined it, “play the part”.

I felt like a performer most of my life. I should behave the way a lady should. And abandon my strong will. Be quiet and obedient. Dress appropriate and never defy men. Not my father, my grandfather, nor my uncle or brother. I shall find a husband to obey too. Maybe get some education. A job in a woman’s field. That’s the life.

I have grown up on conflicting music lyrics and media messages, giving me a false sense of hope in the term modest. Why be modest or virtuous when men sing and obsess over my breasts. My ass cheeks in a tight skirt and leather thigh boots I will never afford but so desperately have wanted in order to fit in with those popular girls in high school. Fashion changes so much during adolescence because of a constant hunger to fit in.

I need to fit in.

I need to be sexy. And wanted. But not easy. I can be alluring but sexy too easily means loose. Floosy. A whore. Stay away from those whores. They are trouble. No, you have to be a middle girl. Someone who is not fake, but fake enough to have a click (popularity). I must be sexy but not too sexy (or else I’ll be the school whore or end up pregnant). Buy those expensive jeans that everyone has. Steal them if you have to. Too fat? Binge and purge. Don’t eat at all. Live off of gum. Do what you gotta do.

Or kiss your highschool life goodbye.

No matter what, I always felt trapped. I always felt like I was pressed to please but couldn’t. My breasts were too big. Or not big enough. I wanted to fit in one day and stand out the next.

My decision to have my baby at 16 was majorly life altering.  Even then, I saw sexism in the works. I was removed from finishing my junior year in my town high school. Being three months pregnant was deemed too dangerous for my (their) wellbeing (reputation). My own father could not handle being a father to her only daughter. My ex bailed shortly after learning I was carrying a girl.

The reality of how men and women are raised is more and more obvious to me every day. In raising a little girl, I see the struggles I faced sometimes repeating for her. What I am thankful for is my awareness.

Feminism to me, is advocating. Its having awareness. Using your education and resources in order to make life more equal for men and women. To stop the objectification of women. To give voice to the many girls that are abused, neglected, raped, or killed because they are not able to fight back. Because they are women.

I want my daughter to feel value and self worth. Not to define it by the length of her denim skirt or the color hair she desires to have. Not by the size of her bra or the amount of guys that want her. I want her to understand her body. To not feel ashamed of her anatomy or what can be done/not done to it. To understand the dangers of assault and rape as well as how to defend herself. I want her to not just feel like she is strong and able but to learn about many people around the world who aren’t. To be educated in how other countries live and behave. Modesty means appreciating your privileges, not exploiting others for what they lack.
 

feministingmama

Lunchtime success!

  I am really proud of my planning and research of recipes for my daughters kindergarten lunches. Although I had a lot of things to get done, I am glad i was able to get the Tupperware and groceries needed to make the ideas I found off pinterest and recipes.com. I can now say I followed through on my own plans, rather than spitting out ideas and never bothering there after. Its very easy to do that!

  I was able to get the silicone cups for her lunches as well as a thermos and containers she can open herself (thankgod I thought of that). I love how her lunches look all sectioned out. I have been trying to make smaller portions with bigger selection to help watch her diet and nutrition. Of course I have to pack fun snacks but I like to add a variety of fruits and veggies to her diet. Kids are so darn picky and she’s getting to the age where other kids influence her thought on her once favorite things. (We all know what that’s like).

  I have been sneaky and creative by getting her to eat foods with hidden veggies. It actually works. We are pretty plain eaters. I do not like to put syrup, dressings or heavy cream on or in anything. We eat plain waffles with fruit or plain pancakes because I put peanutbutter or chocolate chips inside. We also do not use ketchup or mustard ever. (Gasp). We don’t add much salt or pepper to things.

  I’m kind of boring in the condiment department. But I do love adding a few ingredients to everything. I love almonds, honey and vanilla extract. I also love cinnamon and nutmeg. I add those things to many common recipes to add variety. I am excited because I tried out a new mini muffin recipe that is really good so far. Introducing the newest flavor combo:

   Chocolate chip squash muffins!

1 Gerber baby food squash container.
1 mix of Betty crocker muffins
1/2 cup water (just add a tad less water)
1 teaspoon honey
1 sprinkle of cinnamon

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I thought about adding some other types of vegetable puree but squash seemed like a good experimental flavor. You can use a whole grain or oatmeal muffin mix as well. Also, honey is just a favorite of ours and it makes it sweet enough to hide the veggie flavor. I couldn’t get my daughter away from the batter.

  

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   I am excited to try more veggie muffins this week. I have decided to use paper cups and then freeze four or six at a time in Tupperware. I originally tried zip lock which was stupid because they stick together. By freezing it, I can defrost small amounts and stick one or two in her lunch box to add some variety.

  

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  So far I am creative and on a roll! She loved her lunch today and helped me pack tomorrows! Ideas are always welcome so please post to me if you have awesome recipe suggestions!

       

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Yum!

feministingmama

Diving into feminism and kindergarten!

  Today went as magically as could be imagined. My daughter loved school and cannot wait to get back tomorrow to her classroom. I was so proud that she ran onto the bus, until she gave me no hug and left like I was invisible. One point for independence. I so needed the tissues more than her. Independence is good though. It means I did everything right. Being a single mother for the past five and a half years has served me right. She needs me a little less. That’s what parents should be. Support and encouragement towards becoming self sufficient. Although I will never be able to imagine a time when we have to part, I am so proud at the reality of my daughter having to move forward with her life. Every tiny step she takes on her own, from her first steps to the steps onto the bus today, she is becoming herself. A person with dreams, inspirations and a desire to grow.

  I am so inspired by the feminists I am reading currently into in all of my courses. It is really amazing to be able to apply my studies to my life. To actually use what I am learning to shape my own life and experiences. No thanks to square dancing or calculus, I am not earning a relative career in those topics. I am not earning a degree in applied math or science. I will not be studying anything mind numbing like some of the courses I was forced to take in early public school. I am proud to have hand selected and earned my position in my field. I hope to luck out and find my career after becoming a graduate student. I truly believe that through praying and focusing, I have been led to the best directions for myself. So far, all my courses have further educated me to a direct interest. I have almost solved the age old question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

  I think that writers like Wollstonecraft and Beauvoir had great points about how women were treated as an “other” or “unbeing” in society. What’s worrisome to me are the many women around me who choose to be inferior and grounded in their lives. I feel like women are so afraid of taking on the responsibility to become more.

  Although I am proud to be a mother as well as a sole provider for my household, I know that it is a hard to juggle and keep up. Not many girls are willing to juggle a child along with their studies and a job. I also think a current problem that is digressing the progress of women is many uneducated people choose to hold their own success back. I do not think that becoming a mother is a setback by any means. My motherhood journey is what launched my success and my drive grew stronger with becoming responsible for another person. I grew into my multiple roles. It is never easy and I do have times where I feel the weight of my juggle act. But its liberating. I enjoy that I am able to have all the experiences and benefits that I do. I have them because I chose to pursue everything. I get scholarships and aid because I have learned how to form relationships with colleagues and professors enough to get recommendations. I have also learned to apply my skills and better my weaknesses. As I mature, I continue to grow and expand my knowledge of the world around me. I am not the same person I would have been had I not had my daughter.

What bothers me are the people who choose to do nothing. No mental stimulation or personal growth. People who choose to be stuck how they are. For years or sometimes forever. What the problem with doing nothing is, is that those who do nothing change nothing. You do not help out your peers in any struggle when attributing to the causes. When you ignore problems or live in cycles of oppression, you encourage it to exist. When you do nothing to support your peers as humankind, you cause gender divide. Society is structured with dichotomies of relationships, caused by resistance to change. It becomes a problem when we raise our children to be racist, sexist and ignorant out of a lack of desire to change our ways. Its selfish. And lazy.

  One thing I do to support changing the way I was raised is to reinforce equality and positive images in the lessons I teach my child. I make sure I explain family structures and love in a variety of ways. I teach her that love is love, regardless of sexual orientation. I teach her that gender differences is nothing but the difference of genitalia, not in her looks or ability to succeed. I highlight all of her characteristics. Without telling her she is boyish or girlish. Its a constant effort on my part to watch my language, verbal and non verbal, as well as what I choose to give her. I select what films we view and I think about the kind of stories I tell her. I care about how she feels. What she thinks. And I support her to progress in whatever she loves. (Unless its something like destroying my homework). I take pride in my choices. Seriously. Because those choices are making my child who she is.

I have taken my daughter on my campus many times as well as to my classes. We have also been attending different organizations since she was a year old. I have been involved I. Student government, the school paper and have worked hard to help change my colleges to be more family (kid) friendly. I have been stared at. I have pushed limits. I have asked questions others dared to. And pressed for changes others never bothered to ask for. Out of their comfort or ignorance. I have taken a few years to realize I am so made for my field that I was meant to be where I am.

Its pretty great to feel like you belong. Like something in you just feels at home with your choices. When I am in my classrooms, although anxiety of homework rattles my brain, I am excited to learn. I do not take for granted any of the privledges I have in my life. Its important to be thankful. Above all, I am tired of people blaming others for their short comings or failures.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it. You can shape your life based on your choices.

When you feel something is not right or you work so hard to make something wrong feel right, it may be time to move on. And when you choose to give up on your dreams, you are to blame.

If you wont even try, you lack ambition, not options.

feministingmama

“All by myself”

 
  We finally have made it to September. My daughter seems so excited for kindergarten. I have been shopping for what I can to prepare for kindergarten. I was so excited to receive my silicone baking cups in the mail finally!!! I cannot wait to use them for organizing her school lunches.

   Today we picked up some more finger foods and snacks for her lunches. I also found some pretty cute Tupperware. This is what my life comes to. I am excited about lunch containers. Its a new chapter in her life so I want
everything to be perfect.
   

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I am trying out new recipes for my daughter to add in new food groups she isn’t used to. I also need to amp up my diet which now consists of anything I can get at campus or junk. No breakfast. And cookies. I am horrible during the semester. I snack way too much and end up not feeling 100%. I need to focus on eating the right types of food. Also, I need to live off water. I am a maniac when searching for beverages because nothing seems to be natural anymore. I hear so much about GMOs and added dietary chemicals. I search for 100% juice or it goes back on the shelf.
  
   So far this past week I have labeled books, prepared her backpack, and tried to encourage her as much as possible. I am dealing with my own stresses but trying not to let it show. I have trouble hiding my feelings from my daughter. She is the only one who can see right through me. She knows all my weaknesses and fears. She knows my happy face. My angry face. She will even walk into time out because she knows my “I have had it up to here” face. You all must know what I mean!

  What is bothering me is that her going to kindergarten is a big marker of independence for us both. I am starting to decide what career I want. The clock is ticking. I have to come up with answers. I need to get a plan that is fail proof. I have no where to live after I graduate. I have to find an apartment, find a steady job and get a car. I have to make sure its in the area so my daughter can stay in her district. I need to do it all by myself. The lesson of the week has been that phrase exactly. What I am most afraid and eager of is having to and needing to do this all alone.

  I have been in a serious and committed relationship for three years with a man who is not the father of my child but the only person she knows most besides me. He met her when she was only two. She is nearly six now. We are both college aged and busy with our own paths. We have made it through so many things that I feel like we are almost invincible. We thought long and hard about some major decisions and decided to follow our own hearts but in different directions. No, not a breakup. Physically. As in latitude, longitude. He is going to go to Africa to serve and help people. I am going to finish my college degree and find the career of my dreams. With all of our friends all rushing to be married or pregnant, we have been very different. We have stayed committed and happy without rushing to be more than just our ages. It has made us happy and closer than ever to follow through on our own life plans. Something I learned a long time ago was that giving up your dreams for any guy is not love. Its settling. And abandoning your own passions. I’ve done it before. And I got a daughter out of it. I am so thankful for that. But now is my time to get it right.

   I had to say good luck and see you later to my best friend, my only real love last night. He will leave tomorrow evening on a days journey to Africa. I am so blessed to have him in my life and to have his family. We are so in love and in sync with each other. I never really felt loved by anyone like I do with him. Though we both cried and had a hard time parting, we feel joy at the great experience we are giving each other. To be able to grow and follow our own paths. When both of us are done in a few semesters, we can then be reunited and see where our five year relationship. We have plans for the future together but first we need more than ever to complete our own goals. He is my hero and I admire him so much. For all that he does for others. He constantly puts others well being before his own. He is active in church and also a well adjusted guy. He has been the best thing to ever happen to my daughter. She is so excite for him to go to Africa and see zebras. She tells everyone about him nonstop. I never thought I would find someone to whole heartedly accept myself and my daughter, for all that we are.

   I can honestly say I have loved him fro. The start. (Really, I said I love you the first week). I dated a lot after my ex, even though Bella was a baby. She never met any of the guys really. Unless I was friends with guys I did not want her to be raised meeting all different guys. Still, I was only seventeen with a baby. I did want to date. I went through a whole lot of frogs and didn’t feel right with any. I felt like I could just skip being emotional to avoid being hurt or abandoned again. Love was not for me. Until I met him. Now some friends ask me If I’m open to dating while he is away. Its not on the table. When you know, you just know.

 

I have had a lot of obstacles but I finally know what I want in my life. I know who I want to be. Who I am. And who I want to spend my life with. I am thankful and happy for the friends i have. For the memories I am making with my daughter. I can actually say I am at peace with my life. All because I am not afraid to do things by myself. To accomplish my goals and make my own dreams come true. Like I deserve.

Love is having your heart walk whole outside of your body. For me, half beats strong in Africa and the other half is cuddled up on my lap. I finally found my home.

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feministingmama

She’s a brick house!

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation out of the bricks others have thrown at her“~ anon.

  I have had a super rough week trying to adjust to my new schedule. With my daughter still getting over being sick and my homework quickly piling up, I have been frazzled and twitching. I did manage to get many things accomplished. However, my patience has been tested all week by people around me.

   I am not sure why people need to stare at me while I’m on campus pushing a stroller, but they do. This past week, some jerk guy decided to make fun of me for pushing a kid in a stroller on campus. He mumbled things to his friend as they hurried past me. My friend over heard it and told me parts of what he said. I was ready to pounce but I refrained.

  I had no choice but to bring Bella to my night class, sociology of reproduction. We had a lecture and a movie about childbirth. My daughter sat quietly watching Netflix on my phone and munching on a granola bar. I was totally entertained by the faces I got and the comments. Though most people find my daughter adorable, I know its not the norm. seeing a small child on a college campus. That’s cool. That’s fine. But leave it at that and don’t make me feel like a weirdo for having a child.

    What more people should be saying to themselves is “wow, look a young mom can still do normal things like attend school and hold a job”. I get increasingly frustrated by girls who become pregnant and then throw away all of their ambitions. I strive to set a good example and reach out to other young mothers. Though I do still struggle to make everything work, I am not ashamed of being a mother. I am proud that I have been able to follow my dreams. It worries me when I don’t see many moms. Not because I am expecting an epidemic of teen moms. I just know that the ones who are out there and are not married also don’t likely choose to follow through on getting an education. I never mean to put anyone down. I do not think I am better than anyone for having an education or certain privileges others might not. It just worries me how few girls are encouraged by society and the education system to get a degree and eventually a career.

   The biggest problem I have seen with the education system (mostly because of the state) is that there is very little support or encouragement for mothers to stay in school. There are not many scholarships for single or young parents and financial aid is scarce for students because of budget cuts to the state. The facilities like childcare and after hour care are dwindling because of dropping budgets or no state workers and many colleges don’t even offer it. There are very few colleges that have family housing or spouse housing. Families just don’t fit into the college equation. I suppose that these systems just haven’t changed with the changing times.

  As much as 40% of babies are born to unmarried couples over the last few years. The percentage has steadily increased over the last three decades alone. This could be due to economics, culture differences, absent parents or religious differences. Some couples are choosing to have and raise children without the institution of marriage. Yet young adults are still encouraged to earn a degree out of high school. If not, where will their income be earned from and what kind of family will they be able to support with a minimum wage job? My choice was clear. I researched colleges when I was 17 and had a newborn. I was not just determined to head off to college to prove a point to anyone. I knew if I had no parents and no father for my child, I needed to be independent and earn a steady income for my child. That way we could live comfortable when she was growing up and I could still fulfill the goals I had for myself.

   Even though I have researched and inquired to many colleges about their facilities for parenting students, I have yet to figure out a main idea on why there is so little support available. Surely this is the twenty first century and I am not the first or last teen to get pregnant. It is also not a new thing that families are being started at a younger age. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped according to recent studies since the 1990’s.  But it still exists. And its nothing like MTV’s TEEN MOM. There are real girls out there. Who are dreaming of goals beyond being a mother. Who are in relationships or not but are happy with their decision to be a mother. So why is it that so many states in America offer little assistance or aid to them?

   I am not referring to aid as in welfare. What I mean is actual support groups. Benefits through jobs. Tax credits for being single mothers in school. Schools that offer classes built around daycare hours. A real certified daycare facility on each campus with its own budget and workers. Trained staff. Did you know that new York state offers a SUNY grant to help pay for daycare?

I don’t make this stuff up people. I am tired of being “One more teen mom”.

I want to be “One less statistic”.

feministingmama