Info

Posts by Becky

I’m not going to lie – I love Christmas. Here’s the thing though, I really only love it in July when I catch a glimpse of a Christmas scene in a movie and I think “I can’t wait for Christmas!” Cut to me in December and I’m left feeling like something is missing, and wondering how I can fix it.

On the outside we go all out. The lights are up, candles are in every window, the tree is trimmed. Hell, we’ve even been listening to Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving. Every year I try a little something different- we’ll do our shopping early, we’ll do it late, we’ll get more decorations, we’ll hit all of the Christmas parties, we’ll stay home. Truth be told though, I know what’s missing, it’s magic.

We just returned from Disney World where we had a surprisingly good time. Seeing the world through a 5 year olds eye’s in a place like that is payoff for parents’ sleepless nights, struggles at dinner, and all-out battles at bedtime. I’m not altogether sure those payoffs outweigh the tradeoffs so I’m going to count them where I can get them.

The most poignant and memorable part of the whole trip was easily inside Belle’s castle. We had just finished watching Beauty and the Beast in the rental van and Wyatt was most excited to see the Beast’s castle. Inside, a talking mirror transformed into a door as we were “magically” transported to the castle. Behind us the voice of a girl no more than 7 exclaimed “Guess what? It IS real.” Those five words sound so simple but they were loaded with joy, and wonder, and a belief in the magic that doesn’t extend beyond childhood. I instantly teared up. That’s the elusive feeling of Christmas that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t access. It’s the magic.

The magic for a 5 year old being surrounded by his favorite characters.

maul

mater

The magic of being able to dance with Belle in her own castle.

beauty

The magic of watching a parade, and fireworks, and staying up past midnight, and waiting for Santa until you’re so exhausted you can’t stay awake any longer.

wy parade

And it’s this magic that leaves me torn – do I feed into the belief in santa, filling the stocking and wrapping the gifts with different paper? Do I let him believe in magic knowing how fast it could, and one day will get ripped away? Knowing how small this window is for this kind of wonder do I encourage it? Or am I setting him up for a lifetime of Christmasses that no matter how hard he tries, just aren’t quite right?  How do you handle santa in your house, and how have you come to grips with it?

 

 

When we figured out this month was all about women, I was thrilled. “I’ve got this” I thought. I’ve crafted a half a dozen posts in my head and wondered how in the hell I would ever narrow it down. I figured the words would be pouring out- celebrating our power, lamenting the ways we fail to claim it, demanding that we do better. As the time got closer for me to actually write I came up with at least a half a dozen different topics- breastfeeding and wage gaps, and feminism, and having it all, and the war on women. Cue to me sitting in front of the computer in the final hour, with so much to say I’m silent.

The truth of the matter is this. There is SO much to celebrate about being women. Despite the many (many) ways we are oppressed, I’d still argue that we get more space on the gender continuum to be both masculine and feminine. Don’t believe me? Try sending a boy to school in a dress. I love being a woman, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I will say this- ladies, we need to get our shit together.

Every semester I get the chance to teach young women about feminism and gender stereotyping, and underrepresentation in politics, women’s representation in media, the list goes on and on. And every semester I get blank stares, and papers stating we’re all equal now (hooray!). It’s a tough sell to them to make them feel oppressed which in its own way is good, I suppose. I remember what it’s like to be 18, 19…feeling like I could take on the world, and nothing, not even my gender, was a barrier to that. The only problem with that is that it takes away the fight, and we NEED the fight, desperately.

 
Instead the fight all goes toward each other. We’re back here bickering about who’s mom enough, and meanwhile women are earning $.77 on the dollar for men. I don’t know how exactly, but I vow to take up that fight just a little more. When I was pregnant in both instances I wanted a girl so that I could teach her how to take on the world, but more and more I’m realizing it’s equally important to raise men who appreciate and expect that strength and fire in women. In this way I do my feminist work every day, but today I’ll try a little harder- for us, for them.

 

-By Becky “ranty-rant” Reno

I have a laundry list a mile long of things that get under my skin. Most are benign – things like wasted food in the produce drawer, family not dropping everything and running to the table when dinner’s ready, and seeing something cheaper after I’ve already bought it. I’ve got one shot this  month though to vent so I’m going for the big guns- the thing that makes my eye start to twitch, and gets my blood boiling. It’s the topic that makes it near impossible for me to keep social graces, and I instantly get hot and sweaty when it comes up, as I struggle not to go off the deep end launch into a twenty minute rant.

It’s this- “welfare”.

Let me say this first- this is not a political rant, although it is, but it doesn’t have to be. I understand how in theory how being socially conservative doesn’t necessarily mean people don’t want other people to have their basic human rights met. They just disagree on how to go about it. I understand that in theory. However in practice, I think most conservatives aren’t interested because they think people (of color) are lazy, are deliberately working the system, and are at fault for their own misfortune. [I won't go off on a tangent about this, but look into the Southern Strategy if you're interested in hearing about how this isn't an accidental association, even though more whites are on welfare.]

As a social work student, I’m working with many low (no) income women who are pregnant and/or parenting so I’ve had the opportunity to learn from this population first hand. They are single-handedly some of the most amazing women I’ve met. They can budget for their family on so little money a month, their kids are taken care of, and loved, and their kids are easily cleaner than mine. These are some of the most stigmatized women in our society and I’ll save my feminist rant for another day, but truly all they want is a better life for them and their children. I don’t know a single one who is interested in just living off the public dole.

There are so many misconceptions about them and so few people in the public know how welfare really works. I know one mom who desperately wants to go to college, but she needs a stable house for her and her child first. She’s sleeping on friends and family’s couches while she waits to get a section 8 voucher. She’s been on the waiting list TWELVE YEARS. That waiting list, by the way, is now closed, as it is in all the counties where the college has a branch campus. Another mom wants to get a job, but in order to get childcare, you have to first have a job, or be in school. Can anyone explain to me how a woman is supposed to get a job when she can’t even get child care for an interview? Food insecurity is perhaps our most pressing issue, and not a month has gone by where a woman hasn’t run out of food for her and her child. Formula in particular is one of our biggest needs, which is necessary because of the lack of support women get around breastfeeding. Also? For as much as I hear about people living off welfare, did you know you can only receive TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) and general assistance for pregnant women for a LIFETIME of 5 years? Lifetime, people. That means if you start at 18, you’re done at 23. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. You can have 30 kids and that lifetime limit is not changing.

I could go on and on, but for me it all boils down to this. I don’t give a shit what you think the size of government should be, or whether or not you think people are undeserving. No one, not a single fucking person in this country, should ever go to bed not knowing how they’re going to feed themselves or their child. It’s an atrocity for this country, and we should be so fucking ashamed that we’re busy fighting about whether or not “those people” deserve help while they are struggling to keep themselves, and their kids alive. For all the political rhetoric around the economy, especially in this election cycle, I am still waiting for someone to talk about how to fix this broken system so that at a minimum people get their basic human rights met. Here’s the crazy thing too- despite all this I’m still optimistic that people would help other people if only they knew them personally, but our cities are so segregated that we live almost parallel lives, usually only miles apart. It’s easy to have stereotypes and draw conclusions about people you’ve never met, but once you’ve come face to face with them and their family, most would do anything they could to help. There’s no pithy way to wrap this up, but if you are inclined to help, please pick up a couple of extra groceries and drop them off at your local food bank. Diapers and formula are especially needed.

.

As our month of “loves” starts winding down I started thinking about what’s out there that hasn’t been covered. My list is long- open top jeep rides in the summer, that moment you realize a class you’re taking is going to be really, really good, making a to-do list, then crossing items off, clean sheets, that “the whole weekend is ahead of me” feeling…the list is never-ending. In fact, if you want more things to be happy about, here’s 180.

I’d feel remiss, however, if I didn’t hit one big one: water. I’m sure it could be chalked up to something simple, like summers spent at the community pool, or more likely being born to a mother who realized she was tired of trying to make it work with a sailor so instead decided to become one. I spent more childhood nights than I care to count swimming in a  filthy, polluted river, and truth be told I’m a bit surprised my kids didn’t come out with an extra limb. Instead, they seem to have inherited my love.

At any rate, my love of water runs deep (pun intended). I dont care if it’s a lake, an ocean, a pool, or a sprinkler in the yard- you’ll find me there, happy. Especially if there’s a drink nearby.

There’s a lot I’m going to miss about summer, but the feeling of jumping off a dock, and floating to the surface might just be at the top of my list. In a couple of weeks we’ll tuck our swimsuits into the back of our drawers, and store the beach towels in the top of the linen closet, but between now and then I’ll be taking every moment I can to soak it all in.

I love tattoos. Which is funny, because I don’t have any.
I’m not bothered by needles, nor am I put off by or pain, rather I’m afraid of the commitment. I’m guessing this has something to do with the fact that I witnessed the tattoo regret firsthand. My name DID look awesome across my high school boyfriend’s arm, and we DID think we would make it forever, but as it was that tattoo far outlived that relationship.

Still I drool over other people’s ink on a regular basis, but somehow can’t seem to make the leap myself- which is why when I saw that Tattly had a monthly subscription- I jumped.

Someday I might work the nerve up to get something permanent, but for now- me, and the rest of my family will be switching it up every couple of weeks.

If you’ve got any ink yourself, I’d love to see it. Head on over to the facebook page and show us your ink, would ya?

1 year ago today I was very pregnant.

1 year ago today I had only one son.

1 year ago today I was about to embark on the most amazing birth experience.

Photo Credit: Erika Ray Photography.

I struggle with what to say about that here, because I’m really kind of a “live and let live” kind of person. All too often, especially around parenting decisions, endorsing what works for us turns into inadvertently shaming others for their own decisions.

{Rant approaching} In a million years I would never begin to try to insist that everyone should have a home birth. I will insist, however, that everyone should have an empowered birth. This has nothing to do with epidural or no epidural, or cesarean or vaginal birth. This has everything to do with being informed, and being respected.   I do not care how you get that baby out- whether home in a birthing tub, or in the hospital under the surgical lights, the amount of strength, and power, and fortitude, and endurance it takes to become a mother is unparalleled. That experience for so many women is negative, and far too often women are told “all that matters is that you got a baby out of it.” Sorry, no. That’s not all that matters. If you felt disrespected, violated, traumatized, and depressed after your birthing experience, that matters too. One study shows (sorry, my academic side is showing) that up to 34% of women experienced trauma in their births. This is heartbreaking to me. This matters. It matters to every single one of those mothers, and those babies, and those families. We need to get our shit together, people. {Rant end-for now.}

Tomorrow is my one year anniversary of the greatest experience I have had in my 33 trips around the sun, and as much as I love my little boy, it’s ironic that this has nothing to do with him (well, in so much as that’s possible). It has to do with the respect and awe I have of my own body. It has to do with the love I have for those who were there with me, holding my hand, and documenting the experience. Ultimately my son’s birth gave me a gift of knowing the strength I have within, and as trite as this sounds, as long as I live that is something that no one can take away from me.

Photo Credit: Erika Ray Photography.

This summer, and every summer at this time, I’ll be not only celebrating my son’s birthday, I’ll be celebrating and remembering my own strength. And I’ll be working to empower women to celebrate it within themselves as well.

All photos are courtesy of Erika Ray. Hear her take- including why all women should have a photographer at their birth, and see more of her amazing pictures on the experience here and here.

By Becky Reno

Everybody knows a chicken ain’t nothin’ without her sexy bitches, right?

Enter the three little letters that equal summer to me. C.S.A.

It stands for community supported agriculture and it’s basically like buying a tiny share of a farm, and getting a weekly payout from June through October.

I feel good about supporting local, and I’m generally a freak about not wanting to waste food so it ensures I eat healthy for at least half the year.

Interested? Go here and search for one in your area. It might be too far into the harvest year for some, but you can always get acquainted with them for next summer.

Some tips- talk to people who have used that CSA in the past. Not all CSAs are created equal and if you’re not careful you could end up with a summer full of radishes. Also, make sure the pick up location is convenient. You might not mind that 30 minute drive for a week or two, but you want to look forward to picking up that bag full of goodies, not dread it. Finally, start collecting recipes or following blogs that cook with fruits and veggies often. (This one is great, as is this one.) Nothing is worse than staring at a drawer full of turnips and having no idea what to do with them. (Here’s one answer, by the way).

Do you CSA or farmers’ market often? (yep, I’m making them a verb). Feel free to add additional recipes or websites in the comments. I’m always looking for a creative way to use up my weekly bounty.

Becky Reno

It’s word association time. I’m going to say two words, you tell me what comes to mind. Ready?

Country music.

I could be wrong here, but if I were to venture a guess, I’d say your words weren’t anywhere along the lines of “liberating” or “empowering,” but to me, that’s exactly what country music is. And no, I’m not just talking about the high brow country music that most everyone can get behind- the Johnny Cashes or Loretta Lynns. I’m not even talking about the established, respectable musicians such as Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire. I’m talking about the whole lot of them, right on down to Gretchen Wilson.

Country music is for the most part reviled by mainstream America. Tied only with Christian rock & opera, it’s the type of music people love to hate. Maybe it’s just me, spinning elaborate rationales to justify my love of country music to myself, but the thing is, I think the social stigma of country music boils down to more than just personal preference, or lack thereof. Humor me and follow me down the rabbit hole for just a moment won’t you?

I teach a college-level course about social justice and I always spend a class on class. Social class, that is. We talk about how complex class is in America, and how most of us spend a lifetime trying to claw ourselves up and convince ourselves we’re destined for a higher standing in life. We also talk about how many different class markers there are. Last term we came up with more than 30, and income was last on the list (Bear with me, there’s a point in here, I swear). So basically we have this restrictive system defining what it means to be of a certain socioeconomic status, and we’re all desperately trying to convince everyone (ourselves?) we’re better off than we are. That we deserve more, damnit. Now I’m not saying you don’t deserve to move up, I just can’t help but wonder what all this striving, this pretending does on a broader scale. While I can’t speak for everyone I can say what this has done for myself.

I’ve spent a good long while trying to fit in. To pretend like I deserve to be here, wherever “here” is. It feels wrong, it’s too much work, and for what? At this point in my adult life I’ve made it to solid middle class ground, and I’ve gotta say, it’s a little boring. And the view to the upper classes doesn’t look any better. Looking down though, there, my friends, is where it’s at. Enter country music.

Now don’t give me any sort of a lecture on how those artists aren’t genuine country people. I’m sure more of them than not are just cogs in the music industry machine, and I know it’s a lifestyle they’re selling, but that’s alright. I’m buying it. Country music is FULL of life. Getting dirty, having fun, drinking at bonfires into the night, riding around on boats, four wheelers, and snow mobiles. It’s about celebrating where you are, with what you’ve got. You can have your high tea, pinky out. I’ll be getting filthy camping and jumping in the lake to rinse off. Country music feels like freedom. Freedom from worrying about what others think about you, freedom from trying to move up that ladder. It’s accepting you’re on that bottom rung and realizing you’re actually better off for it.

Not only that, but I’ll argue that country songs give women far more room to have an interesting, complex identity. Women take revenge  when they’re wronged, they overcome crushing adversity, and they’re so much more dynamic and complex than in other music genres.

And it’s not just women. Despite the emphasis on masculinity that we often associate with cowboys, men are celebrated as sensitive, and even redemptive. Of course there are the songs dripping with machismo, but you also get songs about men loving their wife and their children.

I might not be able to talk you into a love of twangy guitars and dramatic ballads, but that’s just fine with me, to each their own. As for me though, I’ll be happily toe tapping as a redneck woman  just a little on the trashy side.

Second only to our children, I’d argue that music has had the biggest impact on my marriage. It sounds odd, but in its way music has been responsible for more fights and for more interruptions than anything else. Now to just give the drawbacks isn’t fair, music has also been a contributing factor to push both of us to chase crazy dreams, it has kept us closer to the side of weird in the normal spectrum (I am counting this as a positive), and it makes me respect my husband immensely.

Funny thing is, neither of us plan an instrument and we couldn’t carry a tune to save our lives.

Let me explain. My husband is a illustrating, silk screening, rock poster artist. (Believe it or not this is a thing). He hand sketches then inks the drawing, tweaks it digitally, then pulls anywhere from three to five colors per print through the silk screen. If it sounds time consuming, it is. I’d say in a good week he averages about five hours of sleep a night. Oh, and did I mention he also has a full time job to put me through school?

Despite my love/hate relationship with this (see the fights above), I couldn’t imagine it any other way. In their own way, I’d honestly say that these rock posters have been one of the defining forces in our marriage.

They are not just a hobby, rather they represent a commitment to a dream, an acquiescence to a force compelling us to do something we are drawn to, even when it flies in the face of logic. It might not make sense from the outside- the amount of work and sacrifice that have gone into these (and other pursuits) over the years- but nobody said that passion should be tethered to reason. I wouldd rather spend a lifetime chasing down a dream than any portion of that giving up on one, and I can’t imagine being with anyone who felt differently about that.

Where do you stand in terms of your own dreams. Are you in hot pursuit? Are you playing coy, flirting with them across the bar? Or are in your own damn way, conjuring up all the reasons you can’t make it work?

By Becky Reno

I sat on the brown shag carpet, surrounded by wood paneling, my legs tucked underneath me. Across from me was my neighbor, three years my senior, and between us- a monopoly board. It was a summer when we spent nearly every day together either playing games that would span days, or running around the neighborhood, rushing back to our respective houses when the streetlights came on. I was ten.

“I like to pretend like my friends are watching” she said innocently enough, gesturing towards the large picture window. Something about this struck me as intriguing. It turned the ordinary into a performance. It made me scrutinize even the most mundane details to see how they would be perceived. It shifted my value into the hands of others, and I had to be worthy enough to earn it back from them.

I wish I could go back and shield that little girl -me- from this moment. I’m sure it’s not that simple, and it wouldn’t have stuck if there weren’t a thousand other factors that caused that seismic shift, but this is where I trace the origins. This is when I split and not only became the actor playing the game, but also the observer casting judgment.

I spent the next couple of decades moving through life this way, always looking from the outside in. By no means was I perfect, as my (still recovering) parents can attest, but I was always aware of how my deviance was perceived. This has all played out as a pendulum, swinging towards rebellious deviance or towards feigned normalcy. My pendulum has spent much of my adult life in the latter camp, and I’m growing ever-fearful it’ll get stuck.

I don’t know exactly how to just start living without worrying about how it looks. I do know, though, that it’s imperative. I want to start living life from the inside out instead of the outside in. I’m thinking this is going to be the task that defines my mid-thirties, and if I can achieve it, it will free me going forward. Tossing that grenade in the peanut gallery is no small task, but luckily I’ve got some people in my life willing to help me pull out the pin.

Let me know if you have any tips, or you’re with me in this journey. I’m not naive enough to think it’ll be easy, but I’m optimistic enough to think it’s possible.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,281 other followers