City of Downey = Not as Lame as You Thought

1 February 2012

So someone told me recently that Downey has a reputation. Like among LA people. Like that they don’t like us. This came as a surprise to me for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t think LA people knew Downey existed. Second, why they would care is beyond me. But anyway, it got me thinking about all the cool things we have here in D-town that set us apart from the surrounding cities. We may not be Los Angeles, but we are significant. We’re not just a quaint little small town. Although we do have that small town feel.

Here’s a quick list of some cool things we got:

1. Two Hospitals (DRMC and a brand-new Kaiser)

2. Two Golf Courses (Rio Hondo and Los Amigos)

3. A nationally recognized rehabilitation center

4. A courthouse

5. Our own police dept

6. Our own fire dept

7. A movie studio (though not for long)

8. A mall

9. Our own Museum of Art with important works by internationally-recognized artists in its collection. (Although it currently has no home. Read more about that here.)

10. An annual float in the Rose Parade

11. A beautiful, professional Civic Theater that is now being booked as a concert venue with some pretty big names.

12. A brand-new Space Museum

13. As of last Saturday, protests. That’s right, people. We are a city that cares about stuff.

14. Not to mention all the cool stuff happening all the time with Downey Art Vibe and Downey Arts Coalition.

15. Two local newspapers (The Downey Beat and The Downey Patriot)

16. Our own Civic Light Opera

17. Our own professional Symphony

18. Weird Al Yankivic is from here. You read that right.

19. The world’s oldest operating McDonald’s

20. the very first Taco Bell

21. A superior Farmer’s Market (and I say this as a total junkie)

22. Our rich and lengthy history, including the hometown of The Carpenter’s, our connection to NASA and the aerospace industry, and much, much more.

23. Last but certainly not least, Downey Arts Ryan Gosling

Anything I’m forgetting?

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Things I say to my Oldest Son Daily

23 December 2011

Gentle!
Do not jump on the baby
Do not tackle the baby
Do not hurt him
Do not pull on him when he’s in Mommy’s arms
Please do not bite the baby
Please do not kick the baby
Please do not hit the baby
Please do not shake him
Please do not jump on the bed
Please do not jump on the furniture
Please do not jump off the furniture
Please do not jump from one piece of furniture to another
Please do not climb up onto the back of the couch
Please do not jump off the back of said couch
Control yourself

Good idea!
Good observation, Scientist
You are so smart
I’m so glad I have you to help me
Thank you for listening
You are so funny
I love you

This is what it’s like to be mother to a very lively, smart, creative, little 4-year-old

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A Busty Woman: Mothering Courageously while Homeless

10 October 2011

Earlier this week I was making a trip to the bank with my boys, and while I was trying to navigate my car into the drive-thru ATM, I noticed something I hadn’t seen there before.  A woman was standing there, just a few feet from the ATMs with a cardboard sign asking for money.  This was a little out of the ordinary at a bank (smart move, though) and here in Downey (we don’t see a lot of that), but what was really extraordinary was the fact that she was not alone.  She was standing there nursing a sleeping baby at her breast.  I would say the babe was probably about 3-4 months old. She was not using a shawl or even wearing nursing attire.  She simply had the neckline of her shirt pulled down and baby was asleep, nursing away, as mine often do.  The only “cover up” she has was the cardboard sign she was holding and her baby.

I was extremely moved by this encounter. Allow me to explain.

First, I should say that I’m really interested in the politics of breastfeeding and I love following the Lactivist blogs and facebook pages to learn what’s going on.  Because of this I know that in this country women are thrown out of establishments, harassed, and shamed quite often for exposing far less than what this poor woman was exposing.

In addition, we are the city of Downey.  Now I love Downey, but we are a very conservative, right-wing sorta town.  There are probably many people who do not take kindly to seeing people camped out at banks with cardboard signs.  Maybe freeway exits, but no further.  Now on top of that, we have fairly poor breastfeeding rates.  Our hospital does not have a Lactation Consultant, and I think a woman was even thrown out of the library a few years back for breastfeeding in the children’s area.  Sadly, we are not a very breastfeeding-friendly city.

I don’t think this courageous and loving mother really realized what a ballsy thing she was doing.  (“ballsy”?  No, bad choice of words.  Let’s use “busty.”  And in this case, “busty” can mean feminine courage–courage that only mothers possess) Judging from her accent and limited English, she didn’t seem have been in this country very long.  And usually the American poor– at least in southern CA– do not breastfeed.  I imagine in her country it is normal for a woman to breastfeed, and to do so publicly.  She probably didn’t realize what a novelty–dare I say taboo– it is here.  Here she was, begging for money in a public place, pulling down her shirt to do what’s necessary to care for her child, all the while hoping that a few people will collectively do half as much for her. All in a place where breastfeeding isn’t very visible, and where many would like to believe that homeless people are lazy, or worse: con artists.

Is it possible she brought her infant to elicit sympathy?  Sure.  But she was still nursing a baby while begging for money for food. You can’t fake that. And you know what’s beautiful?  As hungry as she may have been, her baby wasn’t.  What a beautiful testament to everyone around her that God through nature provides a way for even the most destitute to nourish their babies.  And in my opinion, it also sends the message that sometimes people fall on hard times, and they are unable to restore their financial situation, to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, because they are caring for the very real needs of others.

I find this mother’s courage admirable.  Although I doubt she felt courageous.  In fact, I imagine she probably wasn’t trying to be courageous at all.  She must have been feeling very vulnerable and desperate.  This must have been a sort of rock-bottom for her.  She probably did this because she had to, because she felt she had no other choice.  And that’s what feminine courage is.  We parents are given the task to care for our children in the best way we can, regardless of our circumstances.  And this mother did what she had to do. Pop that baby on the boob and see if anyone will help you with the rest. Multi-tasking at its best.

When I have a friend who has a baby, I usually try to help her with breastfeeding, if she wants help.  I have long phone conversations, write lengthy emails, send them books and articles and buy them supplies.  I pray for their milk supply and for their adjustment and their perseverance.  I cry with them when things are tough.  These are my middle-class friends, all whom have homes and three meals a day.  I wish I could have helped this woman more, although she certainly didn’t seem to need any help breastfeeding.  But a little money and some gift cards were all I had to give.  I did cry a little for her, and ask God to bless her.  I only hope that if hard times should fall on me, that I would possess the courage she had.

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Inspiring Words

27 September 2011

Ran across this today:

“When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live – a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation.

How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other…adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him for, after all, life is his and her journey, too.”
– Professor T. Ripaldi

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Theatre, Childbirth, and Existence… and tea.

20 September 2011

I once heard childbirth compared to brewing tea with a teabag.  When the heat of the water affects the tea, what’s inside comes out.

This is comparable to why I love performance.  Probably my very favorite thing about watching a performance by someone I know personally is getting to see that unmatchable effect it has on them when they step up on to that stage in front of an audience.  The effect is astounding.  The powerful become weak, the shy become witty, the mysterious become funny, and the outcast become glamorous.  I was even enraptured by viewing a video of my own son when he performed at an open-mic night here in Downey. He is incredibly outgoing, but sometimes chickens out when the pressure is put on him to “perform” in social situations.  But he went on anyway, and the excitement he had for the songs he shared was nothing less than charming.  The giddy delight he had every time he made a mistake and his repeated insistence that he sing just one more, and then another, and another, was heart-warming.  This is even true of my friends from my former life, professional chameleons like I once was.  Even though they are good at it– the vulnerability, the control of emotions, the focus on action–there never ceases to be something truly amazing and beautiful about seeing another facet of that diamond that is that particular human being.

So it’s not such a stretch that my passion for theatre extends to my passion for childbirth.  Women do the same thing in labor.  What is inside often comes out, for all to see.  This is why it is such a vulnerable and personal thing for us.  This is why it can be difficult to give birth in an unfamiliar environment or in the presence of unfamiliar or unwelcome individuals.  But what is inside will eventually come out– and I’m not just talking physiologically here.  The weak do indeed become incredibly strong, the loud and obnoxious might become silent and introverted, the flirty girl might not want to be touched, the angry might cry, the gentle become self-determined and powerful.

This is one reason I want to become a doula someday.  To be able to experience humanity in such a powerful and rich way seems to be so thrilling– even more than doing theatre.  This all happens in the theatre, and after the show we go for a drink, then go our separate ways, then come together the next night to do it all again.  It’s beautiful really, but also very mundane.  But birth… ah… birth is monumental.  Life is never the same after a new being enters this world.  It’s sacred.

And theatre was once a sacred, religious act.  But the passage of time has turned it secular.  I suppose the same could be said of childbirth.  Yet with all the changes that women have experienced in regards to the ways in which we give birth, the passage of time has not been able to rob humanity of the sacredness of birth.  No matter how many c-sections an OB performs during his/her day at work, each of those mothers still goes home a new being.

It’s the change that delivers permanence.  That’s something that the temporal existence of theatre cannot imitate.  All it can do is express it.

So at intermission, I will have a cup of tea.  And since I’m a mother, I’ll take it sweetened, with plenty of milk.

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Double Falsehood: TDaP and Middle School

30 August 2011

you do not have to vax to attend school

I saw this on my way home from the supermarket yesterday.  It may be difficult to read in this picture (I wanted to edit it, but I didn’t get a chance), but this sign reads, “TDaP Required, Whooping Cough, No Shot, No School!”  It is the marquee in front of Griffith Middle School here in Downey and it reflects the new state “requirement” that middle school (and maybe high school?  I’m not sure about that) students receive the TDaP vaccination before enrolling.

This is a falsehood, and if you have a child, you should know your rights.

The first– and most important– falsehood is that this shot is required.  This is not true.  Showing proof of this immunization is part of the CA school enrollment process, but in California, we parents have rights.  In our state we can request a waiver to decline vaccination based on three catagories:  personal, religious, or medical.  Request a waiver from your child’s school, fill it out, and you may enroll your child.  They will keep it on file and if an outbreak of any disease for which your child is not vaccinated appears in your child’s school, they are required by law to notify you immediately.

The second falsehood relates to the shot itself.  The sign leads parents to believe that this is just for Whooping Cough (aka Pertussis, or acellular Pertussis– the “aP” in the abbreviation), but this shot is actually a triple vaccine.  Now some parents might think this is great.  Get vaccinated against all three with only the pain of one needle.  But other parents might be concerned about injecting their child with three different toxins at the same time.

And they are toxins, people.  They are not medicines, or vitamins, they are harmful diseases in pared-down form.  They are not natural and they can harm your child.  They do harm hundreds of children every year  in varying degrees.

The “T” refers to Tetnus, or Lockjaw, a disease that enters the body usually in the case of a puncture wound from a rusty nail or something of the sort.  It can be administered after-the-fact and is not necessary as a preventative medicine.  So in other words, you can wait until AFTER your child steps on a rusty nail to worry about Lockjaw.  The “D” refers to Diptheria, which is pretty much unheard of in the United States anymore.  Whooping Cough, however is the one single vaccine in the whole schedule that actually is out there in reasonable commonality.  Apparently the vaccine isn’t very successful at preventing this one.

We have autonomy over our bodies.

The bottom line is that someone is doing a really good job at spreading lies that are lining the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. But not a lot of parents realize that in California, we have rights.  You do not have to do anything to your body or to your child’s body that you don’t feel comfortable with.  And at least in our state, they are not going to take away your right to public education because of your choice not to vaccinate.

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A Good Depiction of my Life

18 August 2011

Both literally and metaphorically

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Four Years Old

6 August 2011

Four years ago tonight, I was doing a lot of nesting…

Little did I know that that night I would experience the most profound, empowering, and life-changing event of my whole life.  Or that I was about to meet someone that I would love more than life itself, who would teach me the true meaning of total, self-sacrificing, unconditional love.  I thought I knew all these things before he came along, I really did.  Boy, did I not know what I was missing!

Peer and Mommy

A new woman was also born that day.  I will never be the same.  Life is so sweet with PJ in the world and I marvel at the mystery of what’s to come.  He is such a free-thinker, a smart boy, and a loving, caring, well-meaning individual.  He is better than me in so, so many ways.  I know that God has big plans for him.  I believe he will be a great leader some day.  But no matter where you go in life, no matter what you do, you will always be my firstborn, my son.  And every year I will remember how you rocked my world when you entered it.

all boy

In Gratitude for Four Incredible Years,

-Mommy

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Give a Buck to Support Crib Manufacturers Propaganda

2 August 2011

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found near a register at Party City today

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When I Was in My Childbearing Years…

1 August 2011

The national c-section rate was 34% in the US. Childhood diseases and unexplainable neurological conditions were widespread, as was maternal and infant death. Though few people would talk about that. Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder was also common with new mothers, as well as Post-Partum Depression. Breastfeeding rates were extremely low, and there was much social stigma attached to breastfeeding.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had two vaginal births. In fact, I was one of the rare ones, since both my babies were born completely natural and one of them even was born at home.

I would consider myself very lucky and indeed very blessed simply to be mother to these two boys, but the fact that I have had the amazing birth and breastfeeding experiences that I have had sometimes blows my mind. It could have so easily gone another way. Many– if not most– of my friends have not been so lucky.

I really hope my future daughters-in-law will have birth experiences like mine, and will be as thankful for their blessings as I am. But I do not wish for them to say, “I am lucky.”

I hope they will say, “I am normal.”

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