Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Motherhood Movement

I'm back from Toronto, where I attended and presented at the annual Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) conference at York University. The conference was really energizing and I met some amazing women there.

In the "Mothering, Gender, Peace and Violence" session of the conference, I presented a personal essay recounting my experience as a pregnant journalist covering the memorial service of slain journalist Daniel Pearl. My presentation went well and the discussion that followed was rich and revealing. One woman said my piece resonated with her because she was pregnant during the September 11 attacks. Another woman went into labor that day. Yet another was pregnant during the Tiananmen Square protests. It was a powerful moment realizing that all of us had experienced first-time motherhood during turbulent times.

After my presentation, I had lunch with Amy Hudock, founder and co-editor of Literary Mama. I had been hoping to meet her at the conference, so being able to spend an hour with her talking about motherhood, writing, career paths and other topics was simply awesome. She's definitely an inspiration.

Although the theme of the conference was "Mothering, Violence, Militarism, War and Social Justice", the embedded "Motherhood Movement" conference included dynamic keynote panels I really enjoyed. One of my favorites was one that was featured Andrea O'Reilly, founder and director of ARM.

Another favorite was the "Creativity, Expression, and Agency" keynote panel. All of the panelists were wonderful - smart, funny, engaging, etc. - but it was rather disappointing that there wasn't more diversity represented. It would have been great to include at least one woman of color, for instance. Still, it was a strong panel and I was happy to meet Jennifer Niesslein, co-founder of Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, afterward.

I also met Joy Rose, president and founder of Mamapalooza. I recognized her from the ARM/Mamapalooza conference "Performing Feminist Motherhood: Outlaw Mothers in Music, Media, Arts and Cultural Expression" in May. (She had attended my talk, "Moms On- and Offline," and contributed to a lively discussion about how much personal information to share on the Internet.)

All in all, it was invigorating being immersed in a community of smart, talented women from all over the world who are passionate about what they do. I'm so glad I was part of it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

O Canada

O Canada!

This past weekend, I returned to my country of birth to attend a conference. We turned it into a family road trip, with my parents driving separately. All of us stayed with family friends in Toronto.

It was a fun trip. On the way there, we visited Niagara Falls. Nico and Nolan had never been there before and it was exciting, as always, to be just a few feet away from the powerful Horseshoe Falls. It was not so good when the wind suddenly turned, spraying mist all over us. Nolan was particularly unhappy. (I'll try to post a photo if I get a chance. His face covered with rain droplets was both sad and hilarious.)

I hadn't been to Toronto in a long time so I wasn't sure how much things had changed. One thing I couldn't get over was the fact that there were huge construction cranes everywhere. Sadly, Cleveland doesn't have much new construction going on. The only cranes I've seen are by the ever-expanding Cleveland Clinic.

One thing I love about Toronto is the cultural diversity. Even though we were in town for a short time, I was able to sample delicious Greek, Persian, Chinese and Japanese food. No hand-pulled noodles this time, though. Darn!

The trip was short, so I'm hoping we can stay longer next time we visit. Maybe this summer?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Motherhood and journalism

Tonight, I'm heading to the 12th annual Association for Research on Mothering conference at York University in Toronto. I'm looking forward to returning to Canada, my homeland! York is where my dad did his postdoctoral work and I have happy preschool memories of sitting on our apartment floor scribbling on York University examination booklets.

The theme of the conference is "Mothering, Violence, Militarism, War and Social Justice". I'm very excited about it as the conference program includes researchers, activists and mothers from all over the world.

My presentation, "Mighty Hearts, Mighty Wombs: Relating to Mariane Pearl from the Perspective of a Journalist/Mother-to-Be" describes my experience as a freelance journalist covering the memorial service of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter captured and brutally killed in Pakistan six years ago. Representing People Magazine, I was four months pregnant then. In the essay, I examine my own emotional response to the situation and relate to Pearl’s then pregnant widow, Mariane.

The essay questions the notion of objectivity in journalism. Is objectivity a realistic goal for journalists linked by universal experiences – life, death, joy, tragedy? Is emotion a liability? Where does the female experience, or the mothering experience, belong in journalism?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Great. I've done it again.

I'm presenting at a conference next Friday and my article is not yet finished. I wish there were more hours in the day. I wish there were more days in the week. I wish ... I wish I hadn't put off writing this piece for so long!

Rrr. When will I learn?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Notes from a six-year-old

Nico has come a long way in learning how to deal with his emotions.

When he was an infant and toddler, before he could talk, whenever he was frustrated he would shriek, throw himself on the ground and log roll across the floor. These days, he has found more socially acceptable ways to handle his feelings.

I am particularly pleased to see that Nico has gotten very good at expressing himself through words, even if I am sometimes the target of his anger. Last week, I gave Nico a small notebook and encouraged him to write down his observations and feelings. He then proceeded to write a series of notes to his family members.

The first one, after Vic took him for a drive, said:
Dear Dady
Thanks For The fun ride In down town.
Love Nico

The second one, to his brother, said:
Dear Nolan:
I love win you Do Your stinky face. You are so cute And Funny.
....Love Nico

His note to me, after we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, said:
Dear Lisa: [I'm not sure why he addressed me by my first name]
Thanks For Leting me Go to Dim Sum.
Love Nico

Then, in a particularly gracious mood, after a shopping trip, he wrote a note to the entire family:
Dear Lisa Vic and Nolan:
Thank you For Leting Me Have the Alarm Clock.
Love Nico

The next two notes took a political turn. Perhaps because we live between one neighbor who has an Obama sign in his front yard and a family with a McCain sign in their yard, Nico was interested in his dad's take on things, being an Independent and all:
Dear dady:
Who Are You Going to vote??? Obama or Mcain?

Then, it looks like he got impatient because the next note said:
Dear dady:
I Relly Want to Know.
Love Nico

I was quite proud of Nico's sophistication and interest in the presidential election, but alas, his next three notes followed his latest Captain Underpants obsession:
Please Dont fart in a Diper!!!
Please Dont Poop in a Diaper!
Please Oh Please Dont Pee in a Diaper too!!! Okay?!!!? Rerember!

Then, tonight, Nico somehow got his foot jammed in his brother's bedroom door. Nico screamed in pain and doubled over, holding his injured foot. When he finally stood up again, he started hitting the door with both fists. If there were a cartoon bubble above his head, it would have said something like "@#$%!# #@#$@%". Eventually, Nico settled down - without me telling him to - and he went to his bedroom. He emerged a few minutes later to hand me a note.

It read:
Dear Mommy:
I hate the door. Its a teribol dork.
Love, Nico

I told Nico I agreed with him that the door was quite terrible, and Nico repeated, "And it's a DORK." He told me to read the other side of his note.

The other side said:

It was so amusing to me that Nico sat down at his desk to compose his note and that even in his frustrated state, he signed his note with "Love, Nico". It reminded me of a story my mother-in-law told me about Vic when he was Nico's age. She had punished Vic for misbehaving and ordered him to sit still in a chair in the middle of the room. After he was allowed to leave his post, Vic wrote a note to his mom that read: "Dear Mommy, I don't like you very much right now. Love, Victor".

Six-year-old boys are so lovable!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bye Bye Baby

I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that my baby, most likely my last baby, is growing up. (Cue the music.)

Last night, our friends Rob and Valerie came over so we could give them some of our baby things - clothes, toys, gear, etc. I had organized and packaged the clothes: 0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc. Vic set up a staging area in the living room for the baby bathub, car seat, diaper changing pad, etc.

I was giddy when Rob and Val arrived and was super happy to pass on our baby items to them. They are expecting twin boys, so we gave them bags and bags of Nico and Nolan's baby clothes. It was great to know that our friends would put them to good use in a happy home. It felt liberating too, to purge things we no longer needed. I didn't think too much of it until today.

My mom was completely floored this morning when she came over to take care of Nolan while I was at work. She got very emotional when she saw that the clothes were gone. Even though we had talked about us giving everything away for quite a while, I think it was hard for her to see emptiness where there once were lots of tiny, cute baby things. She has had such a major role in raising both boys and I really underestimated how difficult it would be for her to part ways with that stuff. She was really upset about it, and only now in thinking about her feeling like that, I'm sad too.

I'm so happy that my friends, who will soon be first-time parents, will enjoy the clothes and other baby items, but it does make me wistful realizing that the babies grow up so fast. Even though Nolan is only a year old, I already miss some of the babyness about him. I think that in being so happy thinking about my friends' impending parenthood, I pushed away my own feelings about leaving a part of my life behind. It's just socks and onesies that I'm giving away, really, but for some reason, there's a deep emotional connection that's just hitting me now because of my mom this morning.

I don't know what I'll do when the boys go off to college, leaving me and Vic with an empty nest.