cfp: religion and fat

This call for papers came across my desk this morning and sounds fascinating! Please, someone who reads my blog be doing research in this area (or know someone who is!). Because SO VERY COOL.


CFP—Special Issue of Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society on Religion and Fat, guest edited by Lynne Gerber, Susan Hill and LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant. 

This special issue of Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society explores the relationship between religion and fat. The editors invite papers on a variety of topics that address, for example, how particular religious traditions engage the fat body, or how religions define, circumscribe and/or understand fatness. We seek to answer questions such as: How is the fat body read in religious ways? What kinds of socio-cultural spaces do religions offer fat people? 

Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Fat bodies as religious bodies
  • The use of fat or fatness in religious texts
  • Use of fat in theological discourse
  • Fat in world religions
  • Religious and/or moral dimensions of fat or fatness in popular culture
  • Fat bodies and lived religion
  • Religion and weight loss/weight gain
  • The fat body as moral or immoral body in religious texts or objects
To be considered for inclusion in this special issue, please send a 200-250 word abstract and a current c.v. to Susan Hill (susan.hill@uni.edu) by March 31, 2014

Any questions about the topic can be directed to this e-mail, as well. Final submissions should be between 3000-6000 words, including all notes and references. If you wish to include reproductions of visual images with your essay, you will need to receive permission to do so from the artists/copyright holders of the image(s). All authors will need to sign a form that transfers copyright of their article to the publisher, Taylor & Francis/Routledge. 

Fat Studies is the first academic journal in the field of scholarship that critically examines theory, research, practices, and programs related to body weight and appearance. Content includes original research and overviews exploring the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, and socioeconomic status. Articles critically examine representations of fat in health and medical sciences, the Health at Every Size model, the pharmaceutical industry, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, legal issues, literature, pedagogy, art, theater, popular culture, media studies, and activism. 

Fat Studies is an interdisciplinary, international field of scholarship that critically examines societal attitudes and practices about body weight and appearance. Fat Studies advocates equality for all people regardless of body size. It explores the way fat people are oppressed, the reasons why, who benefits from that oppression and how to liberate fat people from oppression. Fat Studies seeks to challenge and remove the negative associations that society has about fat and the fat body. It regards weight, like height, as a human characteristic that varies widely across any population. Fat Studies is similar to academic disciplines that focus on race, ethnicity, gender, or age.


'abiyoyo': in memory of pete seeger

I woke up this morning to the news that Pete Seeger had passed away at the age of 94. As a child of the 1980s, Pete Seeger was one of the musicians of my childhood. In his memory, here is a performance of the story-song Abiyoyo from another cultural artifact of my childhood, "Reading Rainbow".

I hope generations upon generations of children to come grow up enjoying Seeger's music ... and learning the often-radical messages within the stories he tells.


subject/verdict: stuff I've been reading in two-sentence reviews [no. 5]

Here's a peek at the books I read between mid-November and the end of the year. Exceeding my own expectations of finishing 2013 roughly 10% short of my goal of reading 104 books (two books per week), I actually came in at 102 by midnight on December 31st. Thanks to the polar vortex, I've started this year's challenge at a good clip -- more on the ones I haven't yet reviewed in March.

In the meantime, to wrap the previous year's reads, here are a handful of noteworthy titles (in alphabetical order by author).

Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2011). Drawing upon several generations of historical scholarship on LGBT and queer history, Bronski traces the lives and experiences of queer Americans from early Euro-colonial history to the present. One of the things I particularly appreciated about his narrative is that it is not solely focused on sexual experiences or on the lives of high-profile non-straight and non-gender-conforming people -- rather, it seeks to approach a broader view of American experience through a queer lens.

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Crown, 2012). Cain's work is a strong analysis of modern American culture as one which favors the strengths of a certain type of personality (here labeled "extroverted) and denigrates many of the strengths of another ("introverts"). Quiet is a good reminder to those of us who favor the quiet life to feel no guilt about working to organize our lives and spaces to play to our strengths.

DiCamillo, Kate and K.G. Campbell. Flora and Ulysses (Candlewick Press, 2013). I don't read as many middle grade & young adult novels as I used to when I was working in a trade bookstore (for shame), but happily a friend of mine has a seven-year-old son who is a voracious reader, and buying this novel for him prompted Hanna and I to read it -- and purchase a copy of our own! A delightful, if somewhat surreal, tale of a comic-loving girl, a poetry-writing squirrel, an errant vacuum cleaner, and a cast of family and friends.

Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage, 2007). Didion's memoir about the sudden death of her husband received much well-deserved press for its finely-tuned analysis of the process of trauma and grief. What struck me most about Magical Thinking was Didion's internal conviction that death was something to be prevented and thus possibly, if the right combination of actions were performed, reversible.

Fadiman, Anne. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays (Fararr, Straus, and Giroux, 2007). A dear friend of mine gave me this collection of essays as a present about five years ago, and I confess I only just this December got around to the act of reading them: they did not suffer for the wait! Fadiman is a master of creative nonfiction and her essays on everything from insect collecting to polar exploration, Charles Lamb to 9/11 to the joys of ice cream gave me pleasure to read and a yen to write deliberately once more.

Glaesser, Edward. Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Penguin, 2011). Glaesser makes a compelling, if slightly glossy argument in favor of dense urban centers as catalysts for creativity and an energy-efficient way to house the world's population. While I agree with much of his argument, I do wish he had been more thoughtful in addressing how the needs of those for whom human density is a struggle will be met in a pro-urban future.

Hodges, Jane. Rent vs. Own: A Real Estate Reality Check for Navigating Booms, Busts, and Bad Advice (Chronicle Books, 2012). As Hanna and I dive into apartment-hunting this year, I borrowed this slim-yet-packed little volume from our local library. Hodges provides an excellent overview of the pros and cons of both renting and buying one's place of residency and when the time came to return this one to the library shelves I felt a lot more equipped to think about options than I had before I borrowed it! (P.S. She also has an excellent "further reading" list.)

Kimmel, Michael. Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era (Nation Books, 2013). I'll admit that I read this book mostly because if you're in any field that touches on masculinity studies, Kimmel is someone whose work you need to be familiar with (full disclosure: I had a lovely lunch with him once, as an undergrad, when he was a speaker at our campus). AWM explores the perspective of the titular angry white dude whose sense of aggrieved entitlement is familiar to all who spend time on the internet; it provides little fresh insight to those familiar with the issues at hand, but does bring good research to the table for us to mull over in the years to come.

Liptak, Adam. To Have and Uphold: The Supreme Court and the Battle for Same-Sex Marriage (New York Times, 2013). This brief e-publication is an excellent summary, with some analysis, of last year's two same-sex marriage cases argued and decided before the Supreme Court. As someone who followed the cases fairly closely at the time, I can't say I learned a whole lot that was new -- but am still glad to know this source is out there in the event I need to refer back for details.

Mitchell, John Hanson. The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston (Beacon Press, 2008). A dollar-cart find, Mitchell's "natural history of Boston" is more familiar essay than scholarly history, with few source notes and a conversational style. Nonetheless, I found it a pleasure to read -- perhaps only in the way one can when a book charts the landscape which one navigates on a daily basis.

Morris, Theresa. Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America (New York University Press, 2013). The latest in a growing list of texts critiquing the American way of birth, Morris' insightful analysis of the c-section epidemic in the United States draws on qualitative interviews with parents who had just given birth, nurses, midwives, and doctors to argue that neither pregnant women nor medical staff are to blame for the trend. Rather, she convincingly asserts, institutional cultures and the insurance industry push hospitals to define risk in terms of risk-of-lawsuit rather than risk-to-patients, leading to a deeply concerning trend away from centering best practices on the health and wellbeing of the pregnant parent and infant themselves.

Walker, Lisa. Looking Like What You Are: Sexual Style, Race, and Lesbian Identity (New York University Press, 2001). Recommended by a friend, I found this a useful exploration of what it has meant in the late twentieth, early twenty-first century to perform lesbian identity visually and bodily -- Walker asks us to think about who is recognized (and trusted) as a lesbian, and why. As someone who has walked both sides of the queer-coded line (people have been both surprised I'm queer and told my parents they'd known all along [how could they when I didn't myself, right??]) I found this a thoughtful reflection on the boxes we attempt to put people into, and how human diversity defies such categorization.

And for a sneak peek at what I've been reading this year, you can always find my current bookshelf in "real time" and my complete year-to-date list at the GoodReads 2014 reading challenge.

What's on your (reading) plate this year?


booknotes: 'bi' and 'a woman like that'

While we were snowbound in Michigan, I had time to do quite a bit of reading. Two of the titles I read were A Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Women Tell Their Coming Out Stories edited by Joan Larkin (Avon Books, 1999) and Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner (Seal Press, 2013). Separated by nearly fifteen years, and written for very different purposes, yet grappling with similar subject matter, it was interesting to read them back to back.

A Woman Like That is -- at the subtitle implies -- an anthology of personal essays by queer women describing their experiences of coming-to-awareness of their sexual selves. "Coming out" is a term we typically use for the process by which we (non-straight) people make public the shape of our sexual desires. While mainstream narratives generally pin-point a singular event ("When did you come out?") what most of the essays in A Woman Like That make clear -- and what most in the queer community already know -- is that to come out is a verb, a process, and myriad. Reading these pieces challenged me to consider my own narrative of sexual awakening, and asked me to consider how I would organize it biographically. Does one begin with romantic/passionate friendships in childhood? With the acquired vocabulary that allows you to name yourself, or proscribes that ability (more on this below)? With a sexual debut? The first time you employed the word (bisexual lesbian dyke queer) to describe yourself to a (parent friend lover colleague medical professional) or on (on a form the internet) or in (an academic essay a job interview a survey response)?

The women in A Woman Like That, whose essays are arranged roughly chronologically featuring stories from the 1950s to the 1990s, use a variety of these definitions of "coming out," often in combination. They describe childhood passions, first crushes, sexual initiations (good, not-so-good, violently non-consensual). They describe always knowing and coming to their realization later in life. They write a lot about the pain of living queer in an anti-gay world: of "reparative" therapies, of drugs, of physical abuse, of children taken away, of ruptured relationships, of fear and self-loathing. One of the things that startled me, in fact, and bogged me down in the reading, is how grim so many of these women's narratives were. Hanna and I joked, as I kept reading her excerpts, that it should have been titled "The Unhappy Dyke Book."

Still, as I said, the book made me think about the shape of my own story: the intense romantic friendships (same- and other-sexed); the inability to discern erotic from platonic attractions by gender in adolescence (I was told by multiple people "you'll know" ... what it turned out "I knew" was that gender was not a salient factor for me!); the internalized biphobia that caused me to de-legitimize my same-sex longings as invalid data; the sexual debut(s); the transition into a relationship, the describing of that relationship; the (mostly unruffled) reactions of people who found out I was dating a woman; the experience of getting married in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

Shiri Eisner, author of Bi would probably frown upon my brand of bisexuality. For one thing, I'm an "assimilationist" bisexual, perpetuating my own erasure by playing nice with the mainstream LGBT (or "GGGG") movement, by often using language like "lesbian" to describe myself (even though I am, in fact, bi), and by marrying Hanna ("even if one particular marital arrangement doesn't include any form of direct violence, marriage still constitutes symbolic violence against women in and of itself"). Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution challenges those of us with bisexual desires and identities to push for an end to bisexual invisibility, and to recognize the radical challenge the organization of our sexual desires pose for the sex, gender, and sexual hierarchy of what Eisner refers to as minority-world culture (more commonly known as Western culture).

In eight chapters, Eisner explores what bisexuality is, how monosexism and biphobia work, bisexuality and the concept of "passing" and social privilege, and the intersection of bisexuality and feminism, trans* activism, racialization, and the mainstream gay movement. Overall, despite the fact that I suspect Eisner would take away my bisexuality card if she could, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's accessibly written, deeply researched (I'm already mining its bibliography for further reading), and thoughtfully inclusive of many different peoples and communities.

At times I felt like the apparatus of inclusivity was top-heavy and slightly arbitrary. For example, Eisner had a habit of identifying authors' nationalities which didn't always seem any more relevant to the meaning of their work than, say, their marital status, or whether they were parents. Still, I think probably over-articulating subjectivity is probably better than assuming objectivity or universal applicability. The other stylistic challenge of the "big tent" work Eisner is attempting to write is the way the text sometimes got bogged down in enumerations of what could not be discussed, whom the next statements would not be relevant for, and whose voices might be in danger of erasure. As with the identity-markers, these provisos sometimes felt like they were undercutting the relevance of the forthcoming passages and/or assuming a readership that would be unable to discern for itself about whom the text was speaking. While I fully appreciate what Eisner was trying to do, I found myself as a reader getting impatient with too much telling and not enough showing ("I know that already! Get to the damn point!"). This is perhaps a personal limitation rather than an authorial flaw.

At the end of the day, I appreciate Bi as a call to stand up for bisexuality as an actual-factual way of being sexual in the world, and one which is not an attempt to cover one's homosexuality or seek to gain heterosexual privilege. As an adolescent and young twentysomething, I needed someone like Eisner to come along and point out to me that my erotic interest in people with male parts and identities did not trump my erotic interest in people with other parts and identities. For too long, I assumed that as a woman who was capable of sexual attraction to men, my only social recourse was a heterosexual relationship.

(Because statistically speaking, in my hometown, what were the odds of finding a woman interested in me. Because lesbians would all hate and be suspicious of me. Because I was sexually inexperienced and too stupid to tell the difference between platonic and erotic interest; once I had sex with a man I'd suddenly realize what made that different from my same-sex romantic friendships. Because "everyone knows" that bisexuality is just a phase and that bisexual women are flakey, indecisive, and deceptive. Because no one believed me when I said I didn't know what orientation I was. Because the default sexual orientation is always straight and monosexual.)

While A Woman Like That would likely only be of interest to people who like to think about the structure of coming-out narratives and about how the material experience of coming out has (and hasn't) changed since the mid-20th century, I'd argue that Bi is absolutely essential reading for anyone who cares about keeping their fingers on the pulse of queer activism. As we look beyond, around, and through the mainstream gay rights issues that have preoccupied the most visible activists and activist organizations in recent years (i.e. as "gay" people become more accepted to the extent that they look and act like hetero, gender-normative folks), we need to remain committed to gender, sex, and sexual diversity beyond the hetero/mono and male/female binaries that obsess Westerners and others across the globe. Bi offers up a robust toolbox of concepts for doing so.


oh yes, we're home! [a no-photo post]

Hanna and I finally made it back to Boston on an uneventful Saturday-afternoon flight through Cleveland. We sort of didn't believe it was happening until we actually hit the runway at Logan, but yay! We're home.

We think it's probably a good measure of the good fit of our lives currently that even though we both really enjoyed the extended stay with my folks in Holland, we had good feelings about being back in Boston, in our apartment, and back at our respective jobs.

We're playing catch-up this week, for obvious reasons, but my hope for the winter/spring is to have at least one book review-type post up per week, likely on Mondays. For next week, I plan to write a joint review of Shiri Eisner's Bi and the anthology A Woman Like That both of which I read while snowbound in Michigan.

More soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this videosoothing of our new humidifier, which changes colors and baffles the cats!


blizzard of '14: black river books [photo post]

Yesterday, in an attempt to re-boot the vacation we're inadvertently having, Hanna and I took a small road-trip to South Haven, Michigan, to visit a bookshop Hanna found via the Internets.

Black River Books was well-worth the thirty-minute drive down I-196. Our outbound trip was punctuated by a stop at Uncommon Grounds, where we refueled with two French Giana lattes. 

We paused at the cafe's community bulletin board to wistfully gaze at the "for rent" advertisement featuring a three-bedroom house on offer for less than what we pay per month for our one-bedroom in Allston.

South Haven was quiet, still digging out from the beginning of the week.

Sidewalks clearly weren't a top priority.

Hanna and I were the only two customers at the bookstore, which made for leisurely browsing. The shop was clearly set up as a sit-and-read business, complete with coffee urns and comfy chairs.

Like all used bookshops worth their salt, Black River Books had stacks of overflow (neatly labeled!) on the floor and steps-stools for easy book access.

They also had two shop dogs, who snuffled us out upon entry and then curled up in their appointed locations by the shop counter, waiting for snack time.

I have to say that only in West Michigan are you likely to find a religion section subdivided by Christian theologian (and "Jesus" shelves alongside [Philip] Yancey and Matthew Fox).

Though to their credit they also had extensive LGBT and Sexuality sections, as well as separately-shelved erotica, clearly labelled and tucked away above the paperback mysteries.

In the Sexuality section, I was delighted to find a 1972, hardcover and full-color edition of Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex for which a review post will simply have to be forthcoming. Its loving sketchy drawings of the heterosexual couple enjoying intimacies of various configurations are as delightful as Dr. Comfort's opinions about things such as bisexuality are antiquated.

In any event, if you ever find yourself stuck in West Michigan for ten days longer than you anticipated in the middle of a snow storm, Black River Books is definitely a place we would recommend for a field trip!


blizzard of '14, day six [an update, with photos]

Today, our flights were re-scheduled for the fifth time in a week -- pushing us out to ten additional days in Michigan! It's wicked wild (as a Bostonian might say) how far the ripple-effect of cancelled flights and serial bad weather can reach.

So it's time for more self-soothing photography!

Playing with reflections on the dining room windows a couple of nights ago brought out some interesting visuals.

The family Christmas tree, mirrored in the glass against the falling snow.

A neighbor's out-door lights as seen across the church parking lot, drifted with snow.

The "brisk" temperatures of the Polar Votex brought in some gorgeous frost on my parents' windowpanes. This was yesterday's patterning on our bedroom window.

This morning, a strange globe of light appeared in the sky for a short portion of the morning. We took the opportunity to go out on a few needed errands: emergency prescription refills at Model Drug pharmacy, emergency coffee at lemonjello's, emergency trip to Herrick District Library for books.

Shoveling has become a bit daunting.

We've been so grateful for lemonjello's caffeination and gluten-free muffins!

The fierce wind and cold temperatures have conspired to create some fascinating snow sculptures along the eves of many buildings.

When I got off the phone with United this afternoon, first I spent a few moments pounding my fists on the floor in frustration. Then Hanna and I decided an emergency trip to the library was in order.

Because where do two snowbound librarians find peace, except in the stacks?

I like the way the children's room decorates ...

... and, perhaps more importantly, attends to the nutritional needs of its young readers!

On our walk home, Hanna snapped a few wintery pictures as the snow, once again, began to fall.

This has been another update from the Clutterbuck-Cook family adventure of January 2014! We hope all of you continue to be well.


blizzard of '14 [more photos]

Today was a slump-y sort of day. We woke up to yet another round of emails announcing the cancellation of our flights home (scheduled for tomorrow) and no further updates re: when we might actually be able to head Eastward.

(my digital camera somehow did this, and I have no idea how!)
It's not that we're in a bad situation -- we're warm and fed, and have a stellar group of friends and colleagues holding down the fort in Boston -- but it's hard, harder than I would have anticipated beforehand, to adjust to repeated new plans. Just as we adjust to plan B it's snatched out from under us and replaced with plan C, which in turn ... you get the idea.

Hardly the worst thing that's happened in the world since New Year's, but kind of draining.

And we miss our kitties.

(We've been here long enough now that Toby will grudgingly share the blankets...)

So I tried to soothe my grumpy soul by taking photos of some spectacular snow, more snow and colder temperatures than my parents have seen since the late 1970s.

Hope College, where I did my undergrad and where my father works, has delayed the start of classes for (if I recall correctly) only the third time in the past quarter century.

This has been a self-soothing update from the Clutterbuck-Cook expedition of January 2014. I hope that wherever you are tonight, you are warm and well and with those you love.


snowbound in michigan [an update with photos!]

Since last Thursday's post, our flights out of Michigan have been cancelled twice more due to weather, and now we're scheduled to return to Boston Tuesday evening - closing in on a full week longer than we anticipated being away! 

We're thankful to be safe and warm and not paying for hotels or on stand-by at the airport. It's also wonderful to have parents/in-laws we get along with, a flexible cat-minder, and understanding co-workers.

This afternoon, following the third postponement of our departure, Hanna and I were feeling a little punch-drunk and decided to walk down to New Holland Brewery for lunch. I took the camera, so here are some pictures from my snowy home-town!

The obligatory couples' portrait-taken-at-arm's-length on the front lawn. The new knit hats from my mother-in-law have really come in handy!

Hanna bundled up outside the church on our block.

The wind and snow-blowers have combined to make intriguing drifts around the trees.

The iconic Dimnent chapel at my alma mater, in the snow.

The brewery, as one of the few gathering places open on a Sunday downtown, was hopping. The snow was very picturesque from inside the pub!

Hanna and I have been admiring the Christmas decorations on main street this year, which depart from the usual red-white-green spectrum.

There wasn't enough traffic out and about to keep the snow off the roads. This is a view across the intersection of River and 10th, looking toward Centennial Park (dedicated in 1876).

The snow-melt network under the sidewalks was only keeping up with the snowfall under awnings, like here in front of the Park Theatre. No one had been out to brush off the public benches.

And this a view of the Holland Museum, where I got my start in public history twenty years ago. When I was a child, the museum was actually housed in what is now a B&B on the other side of the park, originally Holland's first hospital. The building pictured here was our post office until the late 1980s, and now houses the museum and archives. 

When I was twelve I used to deliver the daily paper to a very sweet, elderly Dutch couple who lived in this house. I doubt they live there any longer, but Hanna and I both agree that its location directly across from the public library can only add to its charm.

Wish us felicitous weather for safe travels Tuesday afternoon as we are scheduled to fly home to Boston!


eclectic thoughts from a visit to my childhood home

My childhood home in Holland, Mich. (December 2013)
As this post goes live, Hanna and I will be  landing in Boston and making our way back to our current home in Allston, after having spent a week enjoying our last day with my parents in Michigan, after a United flight cancellation prolonged our stay for an extra twenty-four hours. My parents still live in the 1891 farmhouse in central Holland (a block from the public library, natch) that they purchased as a fixer-upper in 1976 and in which I grew up. It's a home, neighborhood, and even city that I still hold a lot of respect and affection for.

So. Eclectic observations from our eight-day stay:
  • It was funny to re-adjust to a Christian week (Sunday as the day of rest) rather than secular (seven-day) and Jewish (Saturday closure) week model, which is the model in our area of Boston/Brookline. Not that Holland observes Sunday closures as rigorously as they used to when my dad was a kid, or even when I was young, but you still have to check hours before going out.
  • Everything feels so much more spacious and open here, now, with my sense accustomed to urban density. I love the wide sidewalks and set-back homes, the green spaces and big trees. These objectively have their downsides, environmental cost among them, but I also can't stop my body from relaxing into the familiarity of room and breathing more expansively while I am here. I hold that tension in my awareness.
  • Hanna and I both miss the range of coffee shops and specialty food options here relative to Boston; you grow so used to being able to select this from shop A and that from shop B. Still, there's something restful about going to lemonjello's and seeing all the comfortable regulars.
  • It's amazing how much muscle memory I have. I don't have to think about driving directions or traffic signals most of the time. And it's so much less stressful to not have to think about how to get from A to B, not to have to plan hour-plus windows of time to get virtually anywhere, and not to have to strategize about how to carry things (because one has the boot of a car to schlep in). 
  • It's weird to see stuff I left behind when I moved in 2007 more or less in the same location as where I left it six years ago, albeit with shoals of other familial objects stacked up around them. My brother, sister, and all still have things semi-stored here and it's this weird combination of echoes of occupied rooms, arranged as they were, and then stuff from various college dorm rooms and other temporary accommodations silted in. 
  • I realize when I walk around town that I'm picturing people living in homes they lived in ten years ago, when in reality at least a good third of occupants have changed up. Still, my mind-pictures go back to when I was eleven and delivering newspapers or twenty-one and house-sitting for professors.
  • The out-of-doors feels much more quiet here (fewer people, more space) while the indoors feels noisier, in mostly a good way, as family and friends come and go.
  • It's always hard to see everyone -- even the short list! -- I want to see and catch up with in a week. I'm sorry to everyone around whom I seemed fatigued, and thank Goddess we can all stay in touch via Twitter and Facebook between visits. I know social media is everyone's object of hate du jour these days, but I still feel grateful for the way it connects me to loved ones across vast geographic distances.
  • My parents have mostly had a one-income marriage, and my dad doesn't make much more than Hanna and I do combined. I appreciate the many reasons that couples are encouraged away from the one-career model, but I also appreciate the way a one-income household can actually stay sane in ways a two-earner household cannot. My mom and Hanna's dad (the homemaker parent in her family) do a lot of quality work in terms of home upkeep and repair, meals, maintaining friends and family relationships, and, in earlier days, childcare. Hanna and I basically have to abandon or outsource a lot of things like food preparation and home maintenance during the workweek and I'm aware of the way in which this makes our life together more expensive and rushed than either of us like. Something for us to remain mindful of in the coming decade as we make decisions about where we live and how we work.
  • I don't miss having/driving a car as much as I used to, when I first moved to Boston. Still, there is something free-ing about being able to get in the car and run to the store in five minutes rather than the same errand taking forty-five minutes in the city. I read Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser on the flight from Boston last week, and one of his points about urban life is that those encouraging city living need to solve the time-in-transit dilemma, because most people will opt for a fifteen minute drive over ninety minutes of multi-modal travel (foot, bus, subway) -- because we all want/need more time in our day. (Some of his other points were sketchier, but I agree with this one.)
  • I don't experience the same frustrating regression many of my peers seem to when staying with their parents, in that I don't feel my adult, married-life self is jeopardized or erased or eclipsed by a younger self. Part of this might be because I spent my mid-twenties in and out of my childhood home, and thus established new footing for my relationship with my parents. I also have parents who are awesomely willing and able to know me as an adult person. I wonder as more and more young people share homes with their parents for economic reasons if we will see cultural narratives around parent-child relationships change in any significant way.
  • I concentrate better in my parents' home than I do in Boston. Part of it is, of course, the false comparison of being-on-vacation vs. regular-work-schedule life, but it is also a function of the home-space my parents have provided, one which encourages both togetherness and seclusion, the ability to be alone-while-together, to focus on a book without other competing demands. A small apartment in a crowded urban environment (to some extent necessarily) makes for more distraction. A crowded physical space makes for a crowded mental one, at least for me, and that takes its toll. I don't think we talk enough about this when we discuss urban density and the need to protect peoples' quality of life even while working to increase affordability and environmental sustainability.
Anyway. Nothing earth-shattering, but all more food for thought as Hanna and I look toward what sort of space we want to find/create for ourselves in the coming year(s).