Thursday, February 25, 2010

7 years ago today...

... Aaron called me as I was getting ready for bed and asked me if I would go to prom with him that spring. That was our beginning.

This photo is from our senior prom, a year later. My hands are red from taking pictures outside in the cold. I felt pretty and happy.

A friend did my hair for our junior prom, winding it into coils. I wore slimming undergarments. Everything felt tight, new, exciting. The next spring, I slipped into my dress and ballet flats and pinned my hair up with a couple of bobby pins. I felt more like me, and we felt more like us - in many ways still new to each other, but also comfortable and familiar.

And here we are, seven years later, graduates of high school, of college, of a long distance relationship. Happy, married, and looking forward to the next seven years and all the years after.

I love you, honey. Forever and for always, because you are my dear one.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On wanting to be a mother

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mommy. I played with baby dolls, wrapping them in little blankets, rocking them, carrying them on my hip. I liked to hold babies and cuddle them to sleep.

Something changed when I hit puberty. Perhaps, at a time when my body felt so awkward and foreign, I could not imagine it nurturing another person. Or perhaps I felt disenchanted with motherhood, having reached an age where my mother, whom I love, no longer felt like the center of my universe. Perhaps for the first time I became truly aware of the responsibility children require, and that realization during my adolescence terrified me. Perhaps, as a budding teenager, I simply grew self-centered. For whatever reason, I decided that I was not going to have children, not ever.

I don't remember exactly when my pendulum began to swing back again, but I know that shortly after meeting Aaron, I decided that I did want children. Not only that, but I wanted to carry his children.

Some days it is all I can think about - the chance to take our love and sex through to its fullest act - conception. To feel our baby growing inside of me, to nourish a part of him with my body, to give birth and see our baby for the first time. To be someone's mother.

During college, I often wondered where I would be so many years after graduation, and one of my best friends said that she saw me barefoot and pregnant. This struck a nerve with some of the other girls who immediately chastised her, but she didn't mean it in a bad way - she simply understood me. I have never been very career-focused - I couldn't tell you, even now, what I want to do in terms of a career. But I can tell you what I want to be. I want to be a mother.

You can imagine how the words she chose were frowned upon in the largely liberal, feminist circle I was a part of. To be barefoot and pregnant was to have little education and no opportunity. Babies were something you did after your education, after you had traveled, after you felt satisfied in your career. Motherhood was not, generally, something you aspired toward - it was seen more as something that put your other aspirations on hold.

If women are supposed to live a complete life before having children, believing that once they become mothers they are throwing in the towel, what does that do to us, as well as our children? How many women who have waited are now finding it increasingly difficult to start a family?

Second-wave feminism did many wonderful things, but I believe that as a side effect of their celebration of the new career woman, women like my mother, who chose to be stay-at-home moms, were shut out. It was, and is still, implied that they don't work simply because they don't have a career outside of the home. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can't imagine a job more challenging than raising a child.

I have greater faith in the direction feminism is taking today - to support a woman's choice, whether or not she chooses a career outside of her home, and to also support men who wish to be stay-at-home dads. A direction that I hope will allow it to see me, a young, educated woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom someday, as a feminist still, and to see my choice not as regressive, but as something to celebrate because it is mine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beautiful Bicycles

If I were to have a significant influx of disposable income, I would have a hard time stopping myself from hopping in a car and driving right to Chicago to pick up these beauties:

Abici Sveltina Donna
image from

Perfect for the days when I just want to race along. I love the mixte frame, the angle of the handlebars, the color blue and the gorgeous pattern of the wheel spokes.

Abici Grandturismo Donna

Perfectly impractical where I live because she only has one speed, but isn't she lovely? She makes me long for summers and sun dresses. Plus, she comes in an assortment of wonderful colors.

Azor Oma

My absolute favorite. Someday, I will have an Oma. Not only is she beautiful, but her features make her extremely practical. I load some groceries onto a front rack and give a friend a ride on the back. She has the potential to be a true car replacement. I look at this bicycle and my heart aches a little bit.

Many people will scoff at the prices of these bicycles, especially in a country that sees bikes as recreation or sport, not transportation, and that defines "value" as "costing as little as possible," with little regard for quality, ethics, or even aesthetics.

These bicycles are all made out of steel, are lugged (no ugly welds here), have strong wheels and durable tires, and comfortable leather saddles. Not to mention all of the practical extras on the Oma, like a full chaincase, skirt guard, wheel lock, dynamo lighting, and strong rear rack. They're classics, look beautiful, and will last a lifetime. They stand up against our throwaway culture.

I remember one of my dear friends telling me that she would buy a cheap backpack every year, because the amount of books she carried ruined them so quickly. She never seemed to consider that perhaps her backpacks only lasted one season because their cheap quality could not handle the stress she put them through. I've had the same good-quality backpack for about 10 years now, and while it's never had to carry a load of organic chemistry textbooks, it has survived high school, college, and trips abroad. Yes, the backpack cost more upfront, but I'm fairly certain that that price was less than what my friend spent on backpacks during the last 10 years.

My point is, quality costs more, and particularly for things you use everyday, the extra cost is usually worth it.

I know that many people cannot afford these bicycles. I can't either, right now, but if I start tucking away a little money each month, I could one day. Many people could, if having a beautiful, functional bicycle was a priority for them (Lovely Bicycle wrote an excellent post about affording beautiful bicycles - read about it here). What bothers me more is when people who could, with a little creative thinking, live car-lite or even car free, complain about the prices of a quality city bicycle. I would ask them to consider that they are paying for their cars in terms of car payments, repairs, gas, insurance, etc. Compared to that, the Oma is a steal!

I live in a rural area and so I depend on a car for many things. But in the summer, I try to minimize car trips by riding my bike to work or the grocery store (Aaron and I already have a date planned for next summer - ride our bikes to the movie theater!). It takes longer but I enjoy the time more and I spend less money on gas, feel better physically and emotionally, and hopefully contribute a little more beauty to the world.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bird Dreams

Tuesday was beautiful and sunny, and it hit me suddenly that our days are becoming much longer. It's an intoxicating feeling to look out a window at 5:00 in the evening and see the sun, or to leave the house in the morning under a sky that's the same lilac color as the snow. In January I feel like winter will never end. I try to remember summer nights when it felt too hot to sleep, and they seem so far away and foreign. On Tuesday I began to really feel that spring was returning in a small way.

I celebrated this week by ordering my chicks for the year. My family used to have chickens when I was in high school, and I enjoyed them. My sister showed Black Australorps in 4-H and did extremely well. At one time we had a wild assortment of breeds, including several bantams, and many of our hens raised babies. My favorite was a White Cochin bantam. She looked like a feathery snowball and was very gentle, but was also fiercely protective of her chicks - I remember her attempts to attack a hawk that was perched on the roof of our coop.

Eventually, all of our chickens were killed by predators. When we ordered a batch of chicks a couple of years ago to replace them, my dog broke into their pen and ultimately only one survived. We still have her, and she's a real character - she used to tap on our living room window until we opened it for her, and she would sleep on our grandfather clock at night. Now, in the summer, she sleeps in a makeshift shelter below our window. After a snowfall she usually stays in the barn until spring.

Ordering my first flock this year is exciting on many levels. Like the lengthening days, it makes me feel like warmer weather is around the corner. I also know what to expect in terms of responsibilities, and of course pleasure (chickens are fun).

Instead of ordering from a large hatchery this year, I mailed my order to Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa. They specialized in heritage and heirloom varieties of poultry and vegetables. I'm hoping my babies will arrive in late March or early April, but I wrote that I would accept their shipment through mid June if certain breeds I chose end up not being available on those hatch dates.

I love to research things I am interested in, so I had a great deal of fun choosing which breeds to order. It was also incredibly challenging because there are so many beautiful chickens with wonderful qualities. I ended up choosing five breeds, for a total of 25 chicks. I listed a few substitutes in case one becomes unavailable, but here are my top picks (and, of course, why):
Black Australorp
Quiet and gentle, and one of the best egg layers of the heavy breeds. They also have plump bodies that dress out nicely (important since I am getting straight run chicks this year). Their black feathers have a blue-green sheen that is quite beautiful.Buckeye
This is the only American breed that was developed solely by a woman (from Ohio, did you hear that Erin?). Friendly, cold hardy, and active, they do well under free-range conditions and are even said to pursue mice. The breed is listed as Critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, meaning that there are fewer than 500 breeding birds in North America.
Buff Orpington
Quiet and docile. Their heavy feathering makes them wonderful winter layers. They are also said to be an excellent table bird. I think their soft golden color is just beautiful.
Speckled Sussex
Curious and easily handled. They used to be a famous table bird in England before the Cornish gained popularity. They are also wonderful layers, laying right through cold weather. They forage well and are economical eaters. Their speckled plumage offers them some camouflage, plus it's very pretty.
Blue Cochin Bantam
Just for fun! Cochins are extremely gentle and highly recommended for first-time chicken handlers. They are also excellent setters and mothers. I thought our little White Cochin bantam was so lovely, I had to order some more.

I tried to pick breeds that combine beauty with utility, that would be easy to handle, and that would serve well as both layers and meat birds, as I will be sent a mix of boys and girls. Of the five, I only have direct experience with Australorps and Cochin bantams (both of which I would highly recommend for homestead flocks). I'd love to hear from someone who has experience with the others.

And yes, I will make sure the coop is shut tight at night!