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Thursdays With *Dr. Mama* “I Cried At The Cross Country Meet”

By: Amber Kinser

I had a lovely day last Saturday.  You know sometimes I say “lovely” just casually, and flick it into a sentence, not necessarily because I mean it but maybe more because it’s a euphonic word, and my sentence can sway to it.  But other times, like now, I place it purposefully in a sentence because it makes the point I seek to make.  My day was calm, uncomplicated, restful while motivated and motivating.  I had a leisurely morning and then took my son to his cross country meet and then we stopped for lunch, joked about the curious way people in our region are football or Nascar heads, nearly got stuck in a traffic jam but knew a back road route that offered up more curves and extra distance but also more time to be in the company of each other.  It was lovely.  And particularly because, sadly, I don’t feel like we get many days like this.  Even when we do share an event and a meal and car ride, it’s seldom without the extra layers of tightening schedules, imposing deadlines, intruding obligations, and nagging “issues.”  But Saturday wasn’t like that and I was sure to resonate with the ease and simplicity of it while it was happening—a skill that has taken me years and years to develop and a skill that even now needs sharpening. A skill I wish I could have had since early motherhood but probably couldn’t because, alas, I only learned it through the relentless lessons I learned through mothering.

And then there was the meet, which offered up its own delights.  The weather was beautifully moderate, warm and slightly breezy; the surroundings were soothing—nestled in the mountains and up against a lake.  And my son was running.  Running for all he was worth.  And I was taken.  Taken in, and taken back, and taken outside, for a moment, of my own needling sense of inadequacy when it comes to things athletic, or just physical even.  And I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I watched him run because I am so indescribably relieved that a child of mine feels comfortable in his own skin and free in his own body and powerful in his own solitary person.  No sense that he needs to escape himself; he does not share my desire to, as music artist Jewel sings, “outrun my skin.”  And it’s a beautiful thing, I would imagine, to feel good in the skin you’re in; it’s sure a beautiful thing to watch.

The middle school girls had a race too, and from where I sat on the route, with the runners running toward and then in front of me, I was able to behold the beauty of girls running and I found myself smiling wide and tears trickling down as I thought about all the girls whose lives are profoundly different because of their access to sports.  I thought about Title IX and about how, since the 1970s, there are ten times the number of women athletes as in 1972 when Title IX was passed.  The world for girls is most assuredly a better one and Title IX has been a critical part of that, as Allison Kimmich writes in her post  “Three Reasons Why It’s Great to be a Girl Today.” I remembered as I watched the runner girls about all the myriad benefits we see among girls and women who involved in athletics—from later life health benefits to reduced involvement with smoking drinking, and drug use, to fewer unwanted pregnancies, to lower likelihood of being in an abusive relationship.  I searched the faces of these girls as they ran my direction:  such physical strain, such testing of bodily limits, such resolve to keep moving.  It was a beautiful thing to watch.  A beautiful thing to benefit from, as Leslie Heywood writes in her post  “The Running Boom is Back, and Me With It.” After the race, the girls walked past me, groaning loudly from the exertion, faces fixed in expressions of near anguish—an exertion and near anguish that they’ll volunteer for again—and I found myself not envious in the least but delighted by the moment and their prowess.  My son walked past  with his medallion he was awarded around his neck, invigorated by his ability to continue improving his “personal best.” I bathed in his energy, snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook, and appreciated my rare opportunity to have a day so lovely.

For other Title IX facts, see these sites:

Women’s Sports Foundation:  http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/Content/Articles/Issues/Title%20IX/T/Title%20IX%20Q%20%20A.aspx

Title IX Information: http://www.titleix.info

Inspiring Women- Maya Lin

Maya Lin became a controversial figure at the age of 21, when she won first prize in the design competition for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. She still remembers her anger and bitterness when a group of veterans denounced her design as “a black gash of shame.” That initial criticism, however, no longer matters. The memorial by the then Yale University architecture student has become the most-visited and beloved monument in the United States and an acknowledged architectural masterpiece. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have been moved and comforted as they read and touched the names of the dead and missing inscribed on its V-shaped black granite wall. Seeing the visitors, and the mementos they leave behind near the names of their loved ones, any observer would agree that Lin succeeded in her goal: “This memorial is for those who have died, and for us to remember.”

Since that first famous project, Lin – born in Athens, Ohio, of Chinese immigrant parents – has designed many other significant works that often combine her skills as an architect and a sculptor. Her Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, in the form of a wall and flat disk over which water flows, was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Lin used water as its principal feature, drawing on King’s words: “We are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” The Langston Hughes Library in Clinton, Tennessee; the Museum for African Art in New York City; a line of furniture for the Knoll company called “The Earth Is (Not) Flat”; and another memorial, The Women’s Table at Yale University, are some of her other works.

She has won the architecture prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Design Award, and the American Institute of Architects Honor Award, as well as honorary doctorates in Fine Arts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, Smith, and Williams. In 2003, she was one of the selection jurors for the World Trade Center Site Memorial competition. In 2005, Lin was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York. An award-winning documentary about her life, Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision, took its title from a speech she gave about the monument design process.

In interviews, Lin has said that the Hopewell Indian earthen mounds, Japanese raked-sand gardens, and the American earthworks artists of the 1960s and ’70s have influenced her creations. She always works with the landscape. Concerned about the environment, she uses recycled, living, and natural materials in many of her works.

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Call & Response: Crossing Feminist Borders

October 8 – 10,  2010 The Hotel Clarence, Seneca Falls, NYThe Second Biennial Seneca Falls Dialogues:A forum on local and global gender issues

Celebrating the 162nd Anniversary of the First Women’s Rights Convention & Declaration of Sentiments

Examine. Engage. Exchange

Beverly Guy Sheftall, PhD.

Spelman College Founder, Women’s Research and Resource Center

Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies

President, National Women’s Studies Association

Scheduled topics:

Manifestos, Declarations and Statements: Feminist Theory /Feminist Identities / Transnational Feminist Narratives / Revisioning

Diversity of the First Wave / Raising Inanna / Rhetoric of Peace/ Free Floating: Art & Embodiment /ERA & Paycheck Fairness / Forum on Muslim Women in the U.S.   Plus: Onsite video production about the Declaration of Sentiments.

REGISTRATION: IncludesOct. 8 Reception, Oct. 9 Breakfast & Keynote Dinner and Oct. 10 Brunch


Students:  $60 (Some scholarships available)         

Non-students: $100

Hotel ClarenceRoom reservations: (315) 712-4000

Mention “Seneca Falls Dialogues” for discount rate of $99 per night.
Students: A double room at the Hotel Clarence can sleep up to 5 people. Request a cot when making your reservations.
See our website link for additional hotels in the area.

Brockport College SUNY;  Hobart & William Smith Colleges;
Monroe Community College; Nazareth College; Rochester Institute of Technology;
St. John Fisher College; University at Buffalo SUNY; University of Rochester

Thursdays With *Dr. Mama* “If Looks Could Kill”

By:  Amber Kinser

I’ve always talked to my kids like they were fellow human beings first.  I do not now, nor have I ever—well OK maybe briefly when they were infants but briefly…and they were infants—talked to them like they were some kind of bizarre species that needed specialized communication deployments in order to connect with adults.    I have met only a few other parents who talk with their children like I do, I’m afraid, and as a consequence, my children have been frequently caught in a tightly woven web of adult perceptions about what kids need to make sense of their world; suspended in uncomfortable moments from which neither they nor I can escape.  I have no history to speak of of talking with them in a high-pitched voice, bent down toward them so our faces are on the same level, my legs bent, my knees together  and cupped by my palms, eyebrows raised to show my supreme intensity and total immersion in each momentary interaction, the likes of which are typically characterized by lots of questions lobbed at them by one ostensible grownup or another, who I guess believe that everything, everything, everything in adult worlds must be restructured, refitted, rephrased, and reshaped to within an inch of its life because bless their hearts the little darlings must be catered to, catered to, catered to in order to have the slightest hope of functioning.

I have vivid memories of both my children when they were younger suspended in such a web, trapped in an interaction with one of those ostensible grownups who sound anything but grown up to their little ears, trying to dart their eyes over to me in a desperate appeal for rescue.  I remember the first time my daughter had someone talk to her in this way which, I would imagine, felt not on-the-same-level at all but quite condescending.  I remember the mix of fear and confusion in her expression as she shot that look at me…what is this bending over thing she is doing? And why is she doing those hyper-communicative facial expressions so close to my own face? And why is she smiling so hugely at me and acting so enamored with me when a) I don’t even know her and b) I haven’t even done anything to be enamored with? And why-oh-why is she talking to me in that high-pitched voice, for the love of pete?  It’s weird. Creepy even. Now you might think, upon reading this post, that a single look from a small child can’t say all that at once.  But I suspect that, if you care for children in most any capacity, you know for a fact that it can and I suspect that you’ve even seen some version of this very pregnant-with-meaning look.  Actually, when I saw the look I thought it was astounding that my daughter could say all that with a glance.  And also I was hoping with all my might that her wholly dismissive ‘tone’ didn’t get picked up by the woman bent in half singing questions in my daughter’s face because I think the woman might well have come completely unraveled.  But really, I thought this was a one-time deal, until I saw her shoot that look at me other times—a look that sometimes appeared to be more about terror than confusion or dismissiveness.  And then I saw the same dang look in my son, years later.  I realized that my children aren’t afraid of the dark or being left alone; they’re afraid of scary interactions like these when adults treat them like freaks or incompetents.  They’re afraid of not being taken seriously as thinking, sentient beings.  They’re afraid that the adults who should be taking charge of the world are bent in half smiling inane questions at them instead of standing tall, articulating meaningful ideas with them.  And all I can offer is yes, of that you should be afraid.  Be very afraid.

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