Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring is a time for Self-renewal

It's time for some good news for a change. Renee Peterson Trudeau, author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal, is leading a Women's Spring Self-Renewal Retreat in Austin, Texas from May 2 to 4.

I have really enjoyed getting to know Renee. Her book speaks to me as a fellow Mojo Mom, and we had a good time talking on the Mojo Mom Podcast last summer.

So here's the description of Renee's retreat, in her own words. I wish I could go! It is not going to happen this spring, due to scheduling conflicts, but maybe another time.

Women's Spring Self-Renewal Retreat
with Renee Trudeau
May 2 - 4, 2008 • The Crossings, Austin, TX

"Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation."—Audrey Lorde

Do you want to reconnect with who you are? Learn to get in touch with your needs and desires? Are you craving unscheduled time for rest, relaxation and renewal?

De-stress, refresh and rejuvenate in a nurturing, empowering and supportive environment at The Crossings world-class Spa and Retreat Center in Austin, TX. Learn about the transformative power of self-care and ideas for nourishing your body and soul outlined in The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life, by Renee Peterson Trudeau. Take time to slow down, nurture your inner life and emotional well-being and live in the present moment. Enjoy quiet reflection and get in touch with your needs and desires. Bring your friends and family. Women of all ages are encouraged to attend!

This retreat can help you:
• Live more in the present moment and feel more peaceful
• Explore your heart’s desire and soul’s purpose through powerful exercises
• Understand how to quiet your mind and learn ideas for daily spiritual renewal
• Learn how to integrate physical/emotional/spiritual self-care strategies into your daily life
• Rest, relax and re-connect with your body’s natural rhythms
• Connect, share and build friendships with like-minded women at various life stages

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hateful protestors outside Eve Carson's memorial service

My blog readers know that death of Eve Carson has been on my mind this week. I could not believe my eyes this afternoon when I was driving past the road that goes to the Dean Dome, our basketball stadium, where 5,000 people were expected to turn out for Eve's memorial.

There were about a half dozen picketers dotting both sides of the road. They held placards with hateful messages on them--homophobic, "God hates America," and the worst, "God sent the shooter." I am not going to dignify this group by publicizing their name but you can read about them in this local news story.

On the same day that Barack Obama gave his brave and brilliant speech about race, it was like an arrow through my heart to drive past people spewing the most divisive, ridiculous bile.

My United Church of Christ pastor gave a challenging sermon last Sunday that I will link to when the podcast is up. She talked about the story of Palm Sunday, how it's the triumphant, heroic end we are all hoping for, the storyline we could all be really happy with. But instead, Jesus goes on from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and faces the cross. His call to follow him to that place, through suffering and death to a better place, is much more challenging than a feel-good "Return of the King"-style blockbuster.

Seeing those protestors outside a caring young woman's memorial is a challenge. Can we move forward beyond hate? Can we turn that rage into something that motivates more productive actions?

I encourage you to take the time to watch Obama's speech in its entirety (37 minutes). He explores the history of racism in America, and deplores the divisive comments his pastor made without denouncing the man himself. No matter whom you plan to vote for, his speech is a significant contribution to our American dialogue.

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Mojo Mom on The Huffington Post

This week I wrote the "Peaceful Revolution" blog post for on The Huffington Post.

Mojo Mom blog readers will be familiar with my theme of "Naptime Activism," and this was a chance to get those ideas out to a larger audience.

I encourage you to read it and let me know what you think by leaving a comment on The Huffington Post.

Peaceful Revolution: Motherhood Awakens 'Naptime Activists'

The blogosphere's "marketplace of ideas" has seemed pretty harsh lately so I have no problem asking the Mojo Mom community for a little comment love!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eve Carson's murder: Gender, race, and "Missing White Woman Syndrome"

My blog break didn't last long, because when I have something on my mind I need to write it out. Unfortunately, today I am trying to understand the tragedy that has taken place in my home town. You see, I live about three miles from where UNC student body president Eve Carson was murdered last week, and our whole community is grappling with this senseless loss, especially as the story has continued to unfold, with two young men arrested and charged with the crime in the past day.

This morning I was driving from Chapel Hill up to Washington, D. C., listening to the latest developments on WUNC public radio and then thinking about the news long after I got out of range. I had been pondering "Missing white woman syndrome," the disproportionate swell of media attention that comes whenever a pretty white girl or woman is missing or killed. It's an offensive concept no matter how you look at it, a phenomenon does a disservice to everyone: other people who are victims of crime, of course, those whose cases do not get as thoroughly investigated; and even the white women themselves, who become objectified. I can imagine Eve's grieving friends having to defend her against thoughtless comments I've seen on blogs, basically having to say that yes, she was pretty and popular, but she was also a leader, a caring person of substance. She wasn't "just" a pretty white woman. Even those defenses seem to reinforce the stereotype.

It made me hark back to what Carol Lee Flinders wrote about in her book At the Root of This Longing. Bear with me because I am paraphrasing, away from my library, but Flinders basically says that every random murder of a woman by a man who does not know her reinforces a system of oppression that keeps all women down. It becomes an archetypal crime--each violent act reminds each woman that men are in charge, that the best we can hope for is male protection from other violent males.

Race comes into this case as well, in especially pernicious ways. I believe that despite our dreams of liberty, racism is America's "original sin," the historical wrong that is still not healed to this day. In a tragic boomerang, two young black men killing a young white woman has the effect of reinforcing our worst ingrained fears and racial stereotypes, ultimately perpetuating the whole system of racism. I was appalled by the open racism displayed by many commenters on The New York Times coverage of the Carson case. Once the suspects were charged, many people immediately began to call for the death penalty and vigilante justice.

This made me think about Susan Faludi's book The Terror Dream, which has stuck with me more than any other book I have read in the past year. Faludi argues that Americans have developed a protective myth of "women and children safe in the arms of their men" (quote from PW review). Faludi says that "the American myth to which we resort was constructed to cover up a perceived and foundational male shame," that of white men being unable to protect "their" women from Indian raids. She cites the media's inaccurate coverage of soldier Jessica Lynch's experience in Iraq as "a classic example of the media rewriting a real-life story to fit the master narrative of our security myth, just as our culture has done over hundreds of years.... The narrative we keep returning to demands inflated male heroes rescuing a helpless girl, ideally one in danger of violation, which is the story the media wanted out of the Lynch rescue tale--and distorted to get."

Part of the insidious danger of our security myth is that over the years it has morphed to include many different "dark outsiders" as enemies. Faludi convincingly connects the anxiety over Indian raids as played out in our fascination with "Cowboys and Indians," the historical demonization of African-American men, and our hero narrative constructed after 9/11. Faludi says that much of this process is unconscious, but that doesn't make it any less real:

"We didn't remember the original trauma. We are, indeed, a history-averse culture.... But we are profoundly shaped as a society by the reigning mythology that our original trauma produced. We are shaped by its tangible cultural legacy--a worldview whose instructions are handed down in everything from newspaper accounts to novels to movie scripts. And that is the legacy we reach for all the more strongly in times of threat and crisis. The fact that we aren't aware of its historical provenance only makes us more susceptible to its siren call. We take it as a bedrock given, as normal, and fail to recognize the ways it disfigures our response."

Which brings me back to Eve Carson, partly explaining why her death got so much attention and has provoked such primal rage in demand for immediate punishment for her killers. The final cruel irony of "missing white woman syndrome" unfolded as I drove into range of WAMU public radio in Washington, D. C. The 11 am national news feed included reporting from Chapel Hill, that one of the suspects in Eve Carson's death was also being charged with the killing of Abhijit Mahato. You have probably never heard of him. Google "Abhijit Mahato," you get 12,900 results, compared to 126,000 results for "Eve Carson." He was a 29-year old engineering Ph. D. student at Duke who was found shot to death in his off-campus apartment in January. Most of us in the Triangle were probably vaguely aware of his murder, but as shocking as the crime was, it did not make an enduring news impression, even locally. I am ashamed to say that I could not have told you his name or picked out his photo before today.

If Mahato's murder had been taken more seriously, could Eve's death been prevented? If student/neighborhood safety in Durham had been taken more seriously, could Mahato's death have been prevented? We'll never know the answer to those maddening questions. Another person had been charged in Mahato's murder, and until today, police had not said there were other suspects in the case. But the tragedies accumulate as this story develops, woven through with the threads of race and gender that are part of the fabric of our nation's history.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mojo Mom takes a break to regroup

I have felt frustrated that I haven't been able to blog more this week, and I am going to give myself a short break from the Mojo Mom blog. If my schedule allows, I'll be back next week.

I need to set aside a few days for planning and get my priorities in order for the rest of March and April. I have a new project cooking, which I will tell you about soon. I also have important things on my to-do list that have not gotten done yet, as well as requests from other people for work that they want me to do for them.

I don't think of myself as a person who can't say "no" because I will feel guilty, but I am faced with the situation where I am offered more worthy, valuable opportunities than I can take on at once. This is both a blessing and a challenge. I am sure that many of you are faced with a similar situation. Any advice on how to proceed?

I know that when I look at my calendar and can't schedule an essential meeting because I am busy doing work for other people, that is a problem, no matter how valuable those other projects are.

To paraphrase the book The Tao of Womanhood, a book that I read a long time ago that has always stayed with me, sometimes we need to honorably tie up the loose ends we have created for ourselves, in work and relationships. I also recommend the recent New York Times article, "The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors," based on Daniel Ariely's book Predictably Irrational, as valuable food for thought for overscheduled Moms.

The Mojo Mom blog is my own worthy project, and I will be back soon!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TLC's "Secret Life of a Soccer Mom"

I checked out TLC's new (sur)reality show The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom with trepidation. Would it be filled with stereotypes and make Moms look incompetent in the workplace and Dads incompetent at home?

The premiere episode follows Adrian, a former fashion designer has stayed at home with three daughters, out of the workforce for over ten years while her doctor husband focuses on his career. The show, hosted by Tracey Gold, hooks Adrian up with a "secret" week-long stint working for a fashion designer while her family thinks she's been whisked away for a spa trip.

Adrian is thrown right into the mix, given the seemingly impossible task of designing and producing three gowns in three days. Meanwhile, at home, Bruce watches the toddler and baby bop each other on the head and drink non-dairy creamer straight from the carton.

The program does rely on old tropes and manipulative moves, like pulling Adrian out right in the middle of her crucial work project to watch video of Bruce's lax stay-at-home parenting.

There are a hundred good reasons to dislike the show (magical childcare doesn't show up in real life, etc.), but darn it, it makes for riveting television. I was rooting for Adrian, Bruce, their whole family. They all clearly cared for one another. The toughest choice comes when Adrian pulls of a successful design. What will she do if she is offered the job of her dreams?

The premiere is repeated throughout the week, so I won't tell you what happens. Leave me a comment letting me know what you think if you catch the show.