Anarchy, Homemaking and DIY

What does your average punk rocker have in common with Martha Stewart?  (This sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn’t it?  “How is a punk like Martha Stewart?  They’ve both been to prison!  Ha!”)

The answer though, is pretty simple.  DIY.

I’m firmly of the belief that punk rock is based on the principle of DIY.  (I may of course be wrong, I’ve been in several heated debates on this subject with people far more punk rock than I.)  You cannot have anarchy or punk rock without DIY.  They go hand in hand.

Show me a punk who doesn’t sew, and I’ll show you a poseur.  Punk rock clothing, music and organizations (such as Food not Bombs), are based on DIY, independence, personalization, fun and self-expression.  This is the basis of anarchy.  (As a note: all punkrockers are not anarchists, and all anarchists are not punkrockers.  In general though, they tend to follow the same ideals.)

And in it’s best form, it is the basis of homemaking as well.  during the economic recession of WWII, not only were women beginning to seek employment, they were also becoming empowered at home.

short funds and rations got women in touch with their roots, and long-forgotten skills.  Even in cities and suburbs, women were planting Victory Gardens, canning, sewing, making their own bread, rag rugs, et cettera.

women such as Julia Childs (okay, yes, I did see Julie and Julia last week), helped the average american woman develop freedom in her own kitchen, instead of being dependent on pre-prepared foods.

now we’re entering a time again where more and more feminist women are not striving to remove themselves as far as possible from anything traditionally ‘feminine’ (and really, I don’t understand the stance some feminists have that all traditional ‘women’s’ roles are to be avoided.  I believe women can and should do whatever they’re good at and enjoy, and if a woman happens to be a foodie with a forte in domestics, I see no reason to criticize her.  why are women encouraged to follow traditional male roles and critisized if they’re interested in things which are traditionally women’s roles?  let’s just let people live their lives and be themselves.) foodies are hosting dinner parties, moms are forming baby-sitting co-ops, women with a drive for sewing are organizing stitch-n-bitch groups, and crafty women everywhere are writing books, blogging, and setting up etsy shops.

for me, there are a few main reasons behind my DIY drive.

1. Anarchy.  the less dependent I am on any system I don’t agree with, the better.  I will jump through hoops to get what I need, but I’ll still do things the way I want.  plus, if the shit hits the fan in my lifetime, the government goes tits-up, and everything crashes, I want to know I have the ability to take care of my family.

2. anti-consumerism/frugality.  the more stuff I make, the less I buy.  not only does this save us money, it also means less support for large corporations, with their unfair labor practices and domination of small towns.

3.  personalization.  if you make something, it’s unique.  it has your own fingerprint on it, and becomes far more meaningful.  buying shit that means nothing 2 us is probably the #1 lifestyle contribution to our disposable culture.

4.  it’s fun and I’m good at it.  if you like something, why not do it?  if you’re laboring away miserably, sacrificing yourself to make shit for your family, that bitter energy is what you’re pouring into it.  if you’re getting burned out, take a break, or mix it up.  have a canning party, or organize a weekly or monthly stitch-n-bitch.  the same things that start to feel monotonous on your own, become fun when you add a crew.

anyhow, there’s my proof.  anarchy and homemaking go hand in hand, tied together by the awesome power of… DIY.

-Domestic Anarchist

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Intergenerational Communcation

last night, my 5-day-old daughter had a panic attack.  I wonder how many times I’ve seen infants have panic attacks
(especially when I was working in daycare) and never realized what it was.  we just have this acceptance of “oh, babies cry!” without questioning the drive or emotion behind it.  she went from what appeared to be fairly calm (which I’m thinking now was actually attempting to shut things out) to a screaming shaking franticness, where she was acting like she wanted to nurse, but was too panicked to latch on, in a manner of minutes.

once we realized what was going on, it was something we could deal with.  I’ve had panic attacks since I was 11, and I’ve realized the best way to deal with them is just lowering the stimulation level as much as I can.  so we did the same for her.

it made me think further though, about something that has already been on my mind.  communication between grown-ups and children.

this thought process had been stimulated by two things.

one was an article in Parenting magazine (a magazine I normally despise, but peruse occassionally, and sometimes has random gems) about ‘Mommy Guilt’, which mentioned the concept of using a ‘safeword’ with kids, to let them know that you’re at the edge of your rope, and about to lose your temper.  or, alternately, if your kids catch you losing your temper, and they feel frightened or uncomfortable, they can use the safeword to remind you to… well, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

it was a fascinating concept to me, because you rarely hear people talking about how to empower children during conversations.  the majority of articles written about communication with children seem to be about… well, manipulation.  how to get your kids to do what you want them to do without them realizing it.  the idea of giving a child a tool so that they can make a choice about the emotional scaling of a conversation or situation is brilliant, especially coming from a magazine which is usually writing about how to get your kids to do what you want them to do without realizing it.

the second thing which got me thinking along the lines of communication with children is the movie Martian Child, with John Cuzack and a kid I strongly suspect is The Littlest Culkin.  there’s a couple scenes in here that are amazing grown-up/kid communication (and a few that absolutely fail on that point), but the one that really jumped out at me is where the kid is doing a series of repetitive movements (that seem mostly based on pinky fingers), and gets John Cuzack to join him, watching his movements and mimicking them, even though they don’t necessarily make sense to him.  afterwards, the kid looks up at him, grins, and says “nice talk”.

most often, when seeking “quality conversation” or “nice talks” with our kids, we are trying to have adult conversations.  we may not be asking them adult questions, but we’re trying to fit them in adult formats.  kids don’t talk the way grown-ups do.  their conversations are much more faceted, and move beyond the shallow, “how was school?” or “how was work?” where adults attempt to describe their reality.

kids worlds are not dominated by reality, so neither are their conversations.  kids converse through allegory, through fantasy, through play, through art, through tickling, through cooking.  and if you let them lead the conversations (which may or may not fit in your description of ‘conversation’), when they need to talk with you, they will come to you.

when Israel first started art therapy, I admit that I thought that they were going to be doing alot of talking.  asking about his emotional standing, his struggles at home and at school… but he was leading the conversation.  and if the conversation was “making a cake out of dried beans, paint and blue glitter”, so be it.  the conversations that children seem to get the most absorbed in are the ones they have with other kids, deep within the realms of fantasy.  they will talk at great length, about the things that frighten them, the things that empower them, what’s most important to them, who they look up to, all the things that parents try to pump them for in “nice talks”.

when we force kids to participate in parent-led conversation, we can often squeeze out the information that we’re seeking, frequently with our kid waiting patiently, ready to run off on their next adventure, which, if we knew how to listen, would tell us more than the strained “so, how was school?”  that we drug out during the dinner process.  at the end of our conversation, we release them, feeling proud for knowing where our kids are coming from, and having such positive, teaching and affirming talks together.  we love to dig for any kind of life frustration, so that we can offer them advice, and dig for any part of their character we can help make more well-rounded.  for our sake, they tolerate this pretty well, for a period of time.

eventually, they end up tired of doing their obligatory communication, and we end up with monosyllabic responses.  “Good.”  “Fine.”  “Yeah.”  “‘Guess so.”  which leaves us frustrated and wondering, “why don’t my kids want to talk to me?”  well, they tried to.  our conversational gaps are just too large.  we’re having talks that we lead, for our benefit.

when Israel comes home from his dad’s house, or from school, I’ve missed him.  often I start pumping him for information right off the bat.  “how was school today?”  “what did you learn?”  “what’s your favorite class?”  “did you have any problems with the other kids?”  the responses are often a “I don’t know”, with his eyes not connecting, one tentative buttcheek already sneaking off the couch as he inches away towards play.

while I’m digging for reality, for him that was just the obligatory part of the day.  he’s already been there, and doesn’t want to relive it, now that he can get on to the business of being a kid.  however, if I ask about the meaningful part of the day, “what did you play at recess?” the stories come pouring out.  stories about battles with knights and aliens and how he was a kitten with super-powers and a Ben-10 Omnitrix that could transform into any other creature.  cartoons, video games, stories, and his own imagination brew up powerful fantasies, in which he can be strong and powerful and decisive in a world that doesn’t hold him a back or limit him.  and my brain fogs over.  frustrated that he won’t talk to me about anything “real”.

when we learn to participate in child-led conversation, we learn to really listen to their stories and fantasies.  we can learn what it is that drives them, what’s important to them, and appreciate their imaginations and creativity.  our children feel fulfilled, because we have an interest in them, in the things that really matter to them, and not just the random factoids that surround them, and contribute so little to their actual experiences of their realities.  we accept them.  our instincts may be to still try and fit in some adult conversation, but watch how quickly your child shuts down when mid-lego or mid-teaparty you try to bust out some “so, how’s school?” or try to sneak a moral into battling pirates.

instead, we have to break out of our grown-up programming.  once we have the ability to get down, be in the moment, and lose our mindless drive to ‘accomplish’, we’ll realize that playdough, pirates, dress-up and fantasy are communicating with our kids.

the question may still remain: what in the world does this have to do with my daughters newborn anxiety?

we do the same thing with infants as we do with children.  there is this tiny little being who through their very existance recreates your universe and we are desperate for a connection with them, for acknowledgement.  very few people seem to think of the emotional needs of a newborn.

it is a transitory time.  coming from a realm where everything is muted, and gentle, the womb is very much a sensory deprivation tank, which they need, for their senses are only newly acquired.  imagine experiencing going from complete black and silence, with no feeling whatsoever, to a stimulating sensory world.  it would be virtually intolerable.  therefor, the womb functions to allow slight stimulation, as their senses develop in utero.  once they can hear, they hear muted sounds.  once they can see, they can see muted light.  once they can taste, there are diluted flavors (did you know amniotic fluid takes on the flavor of what the mother eats?  interesting fact.).  though they can feel physical sensation, they are suspended in liquid, with no direct contact to their skin, though as they grow larger they can kick and feel the uterine wall around them, and those who choose to interact with them from the outside.

then when they come out, we should let them slowly adjust from this soft, silent world, to the stimulation of lights and sounds and touch, and interaction.

…but with our need for interaction and connection, it’s easy to forget.  it’s easy to say “oh, babies just cry sometimes.”

this is why I think my 5 day old daughter had a panic attack.  she was sleeping.  Ethan got home, and my tits hurt, since she hadn’t nursed for hours.  I decided to wake her up to nurse her and change her diaper.  both of us were excited to interact with her, since she’d been sleeping, and Ethan hadn’t really seen her all day.  we pressed in, as I was changing her, talking to her and touching her face and body, laughing over her expressions and movements.  Ethan turned her, so he could see her eyes, and within moments she had a full-on baby meltdown.

I held her over my heart and rocked her until she was calm enough to latch on.  and even then she just lay in my arms, her eyes tightly closed, breathing with rapid panic breaths.  and that was when I recognized what was happening.  she’d been trying to communicate with us, trying to tell us she’d had enough, that she couldn’t deal with any more.  but we were desperate for interaction,  and didn’t notice her cues.  I went and googled “infant overstimulation signs” today, and she was using all of them.  flailing arms, looking away, rapid breathing.

when babies are born they get passed around like hot potatoes.  everyone wants a piece.  everyone wants to get to hold them, squeal at them, play with their toes and fingers.  we think about what we want.  what we need.  we don’t think of their precarious position, or their emotional needs.

even with infants, our communication should be lead by them.  when they look at us, when they make eye contact, we should respond, but we cannot force our children to communicate on our terms.  they are their own creatures, and their own entities, with their own personalities.  we must, in all stages of their lives, let them be themselves, and communicate in their own ways, according to their needs.

-Domestic Anarchist

She’s Here!

The Squid exited my vagina and entered the world on September 5th!  (remember, remember, the 5th of September!)

I had the insanely awesome experience of a homebirth, and while I had all kinds of wonderful ideas for this deep earthy tribal birth experience, it was really too fast for any of that.  …my labor was literally under 3 hours.

I woke up at about 5:45am, having contractions.  since I’d been having plenty of those lately, I wasn’t all that worried about it. I took a hot shower and some Cal-Mag and laid down to see if they’d stop.  by 6:20, I decided that wasn’t happening and woke Ethan up.

Now, my husband is not a morning person.  in fact, he’s not a waking person.  and the awesome thing was, Saturday was his day off, so he thoroughly planned on sleeping in and had only gotten to bed at about 3:30 that morning.

the conversation went as follows:

The Domestic Anarchist:  Ethan!  (shaking him) Ethan wake up!

The Husband: huh?

TDA:  the baby’s coming!

TH:  oh.  okay.  (rolls over, goes back to sleep.)

TDA:  Ethan!  (shakes him violently)

TH:  what?!

TDA:  did you hear what I said?

TH:  no!  why don’t you shut up?  (rolls over again)

TDA:  ETHAN!  the baby is coming!

TH:  oh, shit!

he does not remember any of this conversation, but finds it hysterical.

anyhow, to continue with the timeline, after we bitched at eachother a little while (me labor-bitching, and him morning-bitching), we left the apartment at about 7:20, and walked to our friend Danielle’s house, who happens to be a doula, and had offered the use of her house and her support.  it’s not a far walk, just under a mile, and usually only takes me about 15 minutes, but today it was a little longer, since I was in the throws of labor and had to keep stopping and hanging on Ethan.  Ethan had his phone in hand the entire time, offering to call different people for rides, but I know walking can further labor, and I was of the opinion that any amount of time shaved off of the hours of labor I was predicting in my future would be good.

when we made it to Danielle’s, I was bent over on her steps before she had the chance to open the door.  once they got me inside, I quickly found the same position, on my knees, with my face buried in her comfy recliner.  Pamela, our midwife friend who we’d asked to observe the birth, and called before we left the house made it there about 10 minutes after we did.   at this point I started getting a little scared, because things were quite intense, and I remembered Israel’s labor which took about 8 hours, and built in intensity the entire time.  Pamela let me know pretty quickly that she thought it wouldn’t be much longer, and after that it was much easier to roll with things.

my support people were brilliant, Danielle would catch my eye if I started panicking, and remind me to bring my voice down low, and take some deep breaths, Pamela kept telling me everything was going good and it wouldn’t be too much longer, and Ethan’s hands applying counterpressure on my back not only took the edge off the worst of the pain, they were like a syphon pouring energy into me.  all of a sudden I knew I needed to stand up, and when I did my water broke.  Ethan instinctively lead me into the bathroom, where I threw one foot up on the toilet and Sydni joined us a matter of minutes later, at 8:29am.

so we did it!  we had a completely natural home-birth experience!  we did it on our own, and much like our wedding, we did it our way, without going through the medical system, or buying their bullshit.  Pamela was there to tell us if anything looked wrong, and to check the baby over afterwards, so, when you think about it, our birth fit in perfectly with my parenting philosophy of freedom within the boundaries of safety.

anyhow, The Squid is absolutely beautiful, of course.  her birth was so fast that there was almost no molding on her head at all, and her coloring was perfect right off the bat.  she scored an immediate 10 on her apgar, and we all love her desperately.  our darling girl.  her eyes are such a dark blue that when seen in the light, they actually look to be a shade of deep lavender, though that will most likely change as she gets older, and her ears honestly come to points.  we’ve tried to find anyone on either side of the family with similar ears, but so far we’ve been unsuccesful.

anyhow, Ethan is thrilled beyond words to be a daddy, and is of the opinion that she is the cutest, strongest, healthiest, smartest baby to have ever been born and that he’s responsible for breeding the next evolution of humanity.  he’s completely in love with her, so much so that this morning when he left for work he was so busy giving her kisses that he almost forgot mine.  …I didn’t mind.  I know the overwhelming powers of baby-brain.  he spends most of his time that he’s home lying in bed with her and exclaiming in astonishment about everything she does.  I already knew he was a great dad, but Israel was three when we got together, and pretty much all the experience I have with fathers (which chalks up to: my dad, and Israel’s biological dad), they seemed to be of the opinion that when babies are babies they’re womens territory, and once their big enough to be able to play and rough house with, that’s when the dad starts functioning.

watching him with her solidifies everything I already knew about my husband.  that no matter what anyone thinks, and no matter what stupid shit he’s ever done, he is an amazingly, shiningly, incredibly wonderful man who I am very much in love with.  he’s beautiful, and when I watch them together I feel like I’ve never loved him so much.  …the interesting thing is since she’s been born, it’s seemed like he has even more patience and empathy for Israel.  like just being there when he was born kicked in the ‘daddy’ part of his brain into high-performance.

Israel is being a very good big brother.  he has not once complained about me not being able to do something with him because of the baby, and runs to fetch the boppy when she needs to nurse.  he started school the week before she was born, so I was worried that he was going to get really jealous, because just when he’s being at home less, we have a new baby who needs attention.  it hasn’t caused any problems so far, and if anything I’m the one running after him to try and get time and attention.  I miss him.  however, I’ve discovered that I can pretty easily nurse Sydni and read to him at the same time, which helps us get time together that won’t be interrupted.

…Ethan’s family is very much wanting to be involved and help out and be here every day.  which is nice, and they’re being cool about it, bringing us food and wipes and doing our laundry, but I need to sleep.  and I can’t sleep with them here.  I’m nervous about asking for a break, or a day off.  I’m exhausted.  I’m scared that if I don’t start getting more sleep, I’m going to end up with postpartum depression.  today by the time they left I was snappy and bitchy.  I yelled at Israel, and bitched at Ethan, and by the time I finally managed to get outside to have a cigarette, I was shaking, physically and emotionally exhausted.

we’re still at Danielle’s house, since Pamela decided I’m still in need of a postpartum doula.  I lost alot of blood during the birth, and I’m fairly anemic.  and I have to really struggle to stay in bed as much as I can, and not… do stuff.  Danielle and her husband though have been mind-blowingly awesome.  we owe them so much.  I don’t know what I’d be doing without her, and without this space.  …birth has this weird dichotomy of both being very empowering and making you incredibly vulnerable.  my dream would be to give birth in a cave, and then spend the next month hiding there with my child and my mate.  …with an awesome woman-friend who comes to bring us food and conversation and support.

thanks to them, that is very almost what I have.  …except people keep crashing the sanctity of my cave.  …don’t get me wrong, they call first, and I say, “oh yeah, that’s fine, come on over”, because when they call I feel like I’m fine and I can deal with it, and I don’t want to come between them and their newest relative, but then by the time they leave I’m so burned out…  I need physical sleep, and emotional rest.

…speaking of which, I’m going to sleep while I can, while Sydni’s sleeping.  hopefully tomorrow, I’ll be able to just.  shoot people down when they call.  …dealing with inlaws is difficult.  but I really need a day where I can just hole up, or I’m going to end up a wreck.  I don’t want to offend anyone, but if I collapse emotionally right now, it’s going to be really hard on everyone else as well.

-Domestic Anarchist

National Indoctrination Day and the Folly of Being “More PC Than Thou”

On Sept. 8th (starting the school year off right!) Obama is doing a speech especially for the school children of the U.S.

this is not a speech on TV where you can tune in and watch with your kids and have a discussion if you so choose.  this is a mandatory viewing that will take place in public schools, with teachers who have government funding, and who are told ahead of time how and what to discuss with their students.

questio0ns such as:

“what is my civic duty?”  and “what does President Obama want from me?  can I do it?”

this offends the fuck out of me.  I don’t indoctrinate my kid with my political beliefs and no one else should either.

the supposed purpose of our public schools is education.  not political programming.

children are extremely sensitive to political programming.  this has been proven, both through the development of the Communist Red Party in China, and by Hitler Youth in Germany.

don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling Obama either a communist or a Nazi.  odds are he honestly has the best of intentions to ‘reach out to the youth of America’.  and if he did want to do it through a format that parents would have the option of viewing and discussing with their children, I wouldn’t have such a big  problem with it.

but political programming of children?  children already have pressure to be what the schools want them to be, what their peers want them to be, what their parents want them to be.  now their government?

my son is 6 years old.  there’s no way he should be wondering what the president wants of him, or what his civic duty is.

and why are more people not up in arms about this?  when Bush pulled something similar in 1991, many democrats were pissed about it.  not just about indoctrinating kids, but for using tax-payer money to pay for political advertising.

now, however, since the democrats voted him in, it’s okay?  no matter what the setting is, no matter what president is doing it, this isn’t a positive direction for our schools or country to be moving in.  it’s as though people feel like since they voted for the man, they can’t disagree with him.

and on top of it, we have the race factor.  now.  there was  people I talked to before the election who were honestly racist, who said that the biggest reason they weren’t voting for Obama was that he was black.  on the other hand, there were alot of people who did vote for Obama on the basis that he was black.

personally, if I voted, I would have voted Obama.  not because he’s black, but because John McCain was a terrifying man with one foot in the grave.  I agree with Obama on more issues than McCain by a long shot.

I think it’s awesome that we finally have some racial variety in the white house.  culturally, a huge step.  does this make Obama a figure of great historical relevance?  of course it does!

however, does the fact that he’s a living historical figure mean that we should stop questioning anything he does?  hell no.  come on, people.

I live on the west coast.  more specifically, I live in the Pacific Northwest, just outside Washington’s capital city, Olympia.  now, Olympia is known for being a very politically correct and  green area, moreso even than much of the state.   it’s largely populated by college students who attend Evergreen State College, who we fondly refer to as ‘Greeners’, a title worn with pride by most of them.

now, there are obviously HUGE upsides to living in this area.  (ease of recycling, awesome farmers markets, kickass parades,  pretty good music scene, et cettera.)  however, I’ve noticed a tendency in this area that I call the “More PC Than Thou” complex.  the irony is that much of political correctness, is based on the theme of non-judgmentalism.

HOWEVER, when being “PC” is turned into a competition, it ends up being incredibly judgemental.  “You recycle?  Well, not only do I recycle everything, I don’t buy anything that’s not second-hand.”  “You breastfed your kid for a year?  Well, I breastfed mine til she was three.”  “You montessori school?  Well, I homeschool.”  “You’re a vegetarian?  Well, I’m an organic vegan.”  Everything is a one-up.  I realized this when I was 17 and I got shot down from expressing my political beliefs at a party by a Greener who called me an Oogle and essentially said my opinions didn’t count.

ah-ha.  the neo-hippie strikes again.

often, people it seems, are so afraid of being declared ‘not PC’, they are afraid to express their opinions.  disagreeing with Obama might imply that you have a problem with him as a person, which could mean you’re racist!  disagreeing with partial-birth abortion might imply you have a problem with women’s rights, which could mean you’re sexist!

and if you don’t like queen, that probably means you’re a homophobe too.

plus, it’s a lose-lose situation.  if you’re caucasian, and you disagree with Obama, you’re afraid people might think you’re racist.  if you’re a minority, and you disagree with Obama, people might think you don’t appreciate what he’s doing for minorities just by being president.  the un-PCness of racial betrayal looms before you.

…we can’t be afraid to question the decisions or actions of the president, just because A. we wanted him in office, or B. we don’t want to be accused of a lack of political correctness.  otherwise, we’re putting ourselves in a very bad position.  we should not blindly accept the words or actions of anyone, no matter who they are. 

there has been lots of great men and women in history, but that doesn’t mean we should blindly accept anything they say.

so… if you have kids in school, I urge you to look at this more closely.  figure out how you feel about it, where you stand on it, talk to your childrens school and find out what alternatives they have, and don’t be afraid to disagree with someone because of their political party or their race.

if my son’s school will be showing the speech in his classroom, he likely won’t go to school that day.  if I can get a copy of it, we might watch it at home, in an environment free from pressure or teachers with a political agenda.

do you really want the schools directing your childrens political beliefs?  think about it.  would you be okay with a religious leader getting piped in and giving a speech to the schools?  there’s little difference.  the schools should not be in charge of our childrens religious, moral or political beliefs.

-Domestic Anarchist