Getting to Know You: the subjectification of Baby Hab.

September 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

Subjectification. It’s a word that Michel Foucault and some hard core theorist buddies of his coined to talk about the process of creating a subject.

If you’re not familiar with my pal Foucault, allow me to help you unpack this little concept (it’s one of the easier ones, not to worry) so that you can chuckle along with me at the cleverness of my subtitle. Yes…this part of the post is just to explain the subtitle. Have I mentioned that I’m writing a dissertation? 😉

A subject in the Foucauldian sense refers to an individual who has an identity, a name, a socially-accepted and -directed Self. This is almost entirely prescribed before the subject has an opportunity to subjectify him- or herself. So, as soon as the moms and dads say, “He shall be called Richard” or “she shall be called Suzy,” poor Richard and Suzy have already become subjects. (Which is mildly better than objects, which get no say.) Subjects do have an opportunity to attempt to break free from their subjectivity by demanding that they are, in fact, agents (with real opinions and desires and needs, dammit!)…but we won’t go into agency at this point. (Just know that agents are the ones who make decisions. Subjects have decisions made for them by the agents with the potential to become agents. Objects are just things, or are people made to exist as things, that we observe and talk about with little regard to that thing’s sense of awareness or sense of existence.)

When we subjectify something, we actually create for it a pre-determined existence. We acknowledge the thing as something that exists, something that participates in some capacity or another within social boundaries (or perhaps even the subject is supposed to participate outside of social boundaries…which is also a boundary). Heidegger might (to my utter frustration) refer to the subjectivity of a subject as “the thingness of the thing.” Don’t worry, friends. I threw his little book across the room when I read that tautological nightmare. That showed him! I obviously much prefer Foucault and his straight-forward writing style (or maybe that’s the diligent work of his English translators…even still…)

So, here we are. Somehow Foucault’s subjectification relates to Baby Hab. How? I’ll tell you:

We have officially made Baby Hab. into a subject! There is a sex and a name and everything! Now, we can stop referring to the little squirmy sensation in my abdomen as “it” or “hey you in there” and have made our little observable object into a real-life subject! (I could make a case for how referring to an object with the second-person pronoun actually already subjectifies it…but I won’t.)

Get ready for it, folks…because I would like to introduce to you

…our society’s newest little subject…

Melanie Lynn!

Doesn't she have the prettiest profile? Look at that sweet nosey! And I swear I can already see her cheeks. She gets that from her mommy's side.

That’s right, folks! Robert and I are expecting a sweet, angelic baby girl! 🙂 (Okay, maybe we’re not expecting a sweet, angelic anything…but she will be female, whatever her personality!)

We went in for the eighteen-week ultrasound the day after my birthday, and we were thrilled to see our precious little girl looking less like a wiggly mushroom or shrimp and more like a human being. She’s about the size of a grapefruit and weighs 10 ounces. (This morning, I called her my little filet. I like that nickname. Mon petit filet!) In fact, because of her size, they changed my due date by three days! I’m actually 19 and a half weeks along (man, that nineteenth week went by fast!), and we’ll expect her on February 13th instead of the 16th.

She looks good and active–she has two arms, two legs, looks to have ten fingers and ten toes (from what we can see on a grainy ultrasound). Her heart just flutters as strongly as anyone could want. She also looks like she inherited a pair of long legs from her Daddy’s side of the family. Currently, she’s traverse, in “hammock pose” (I like to say), which is fine for this stage. One of her favorite exercises (and this has been true since the beginning) is to bring her knees to her chest and suddenly thrust both legs out as far as they can reach. I think that’s the source of the squirming I’ve been feeling. For now, when she’s just a 10-oz. filet lying traverse, we’re good to go. But…when she’s in the head-down position? Those long legs are going to aim right for my ribcage and kidneys! I’m dreading that experience, but I’m a little bit too in love with the idea that she’ll be a dancer or a yoga guru or gymnast or soccer player or basketball player…to worry about some future kidney-kicks. (As the girl who only dreamed for long legs, seeing her daughter with legs that are clearly way longer than her torso is exciting.)

So, here’s to our new little social subject: Melanie Hab.! What a great adventure lies ahead of her.

Bidding Farewell the Roaring Twenties…Hello the…Thrilling Thirties?

September 20, 2011 § 8 Comments

My husband leans over me, and I am in a haze, barely aware this is reality. He kisses my cheek several times, whispers, “‘Bye Baby. Happy birthday. Go back to sleep.” I smile. Murmur, “thank you,” and obey him.

Ninety minutes later, I wake up. The dogs are fed. The cats are fed. All four have gone back to bed–Morning Nap, Round One. (There will be no fewer than three morning naps taken by the animals today, as usual.) I grab my newest morning accessories (trash can, Kleenex box, glass of water) and shuffle to the kitchen, intent upon popping some pills. Breakfast isn’t an option just yet.

And then I feel it.

That little flip-flop flutter that has become increasingly more noticeable since that first football game when I cheered our team to victory from the comfort of my living room.

I smile for the second time this morning.

“Good morning, Baby.”

I pop my pills (opening one capsule and mixing its contents into a dollop of cinnamon applesauce), chug a glass of water, and relish the feeling of this obvious uterine squirm.

Last night, I whimpered to my husband that my twenties were gone forever. I was scared…knowing that when I woke up the next morning, I would never be in my twenties ever again. It is the diametric opposite to going to sleep on Christmas Eve with the promise of Christmas morning. As I drifted off, my mind reeled. What had I done with the last decade? What goals had I not met? What would my 16-year-old Self have said to know that this was her future?

And then Robert took my hand and said without prompting, “You got married. You’re going to have a baby. You’re finishing a degree.”

I nestled further into my pillow and drifted off.

I woke up this morning 30 for the first time.

So far, 30 feels like strep throat. (Robert came down with a bacterial respiratory infection last week. I caught it, and it settled in my throat. I’m on a pill that I find difficult to swallow with my fiery throat, so I pour it into applesauce.) I spent my last day of 29 drifting in and out of fever-induced naps while my husband substitute taught my class for me. My first day of 30 feels noticeably better, but I’m still not well enough to teach, so class has been canceled. Robert has made dinner reservations at our favorite nice restaurant, and I’m willing my body to heal enough so that I can enjoy dinner.

Before this post goes any further, I must put a preemptive halt to any pity I might receive. Out of 30 birthdays, I have probably been sick for 2/3 of them. September is my sick month. School has started again, so I’m exposed to all kinds of new viruses and bacteria. Things are blooming that I may or may not have an allergy to (I’ve never had an allergy panel done). The weather is beginning to dip down for the first time in months. Just as it’s a fact of life that I have always worked or been in school on or around my birthday (except when it falls on a weekend), it’s also a fact of life that I have a high probability of being sick on or around my birthday. It’s not as big a deal now as it was when I was little and had to sacrifice deeply-wished-for sleepovers and birthday parties. Even if Robert and I have to cancel our dinner plans, I am sure we can just reschedule for sometime next week.

Before I came down with this infection, Robert hosted a party in honor of the Big 3-0. I had told him a couple of months ago that I would need to be surrounded by people who were happy to be with me, happy that I was celebrating another birthday, happy that I was celebrating this birthday. I hoped it would rub off on me.

It did.

I am so grateful to have all of you in my life. Regardless if you were at the party or not, you have added an important element to my life. I have learned much from each one of you, and I look forward to learning more. I was afraid of 30. It seemed so…adult, so much the beginning of the end. The end of youth, the end of fun, the end of silliness, the end of immaturity. I see now that it’s not the end. I have many women (and men…but we women have a special bond) in my life who have gracefully and beautifully floated right on by 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80. I have learned from all of them that there is always still room for fun, for youth, for silliness, for immaturity. At my grandmother’s 80th birthday last December, her 89-year-old sister shared a fascinating series of stories from their childhood, all of which had the entire room in stitches. As she recounted those stories, she was silly. She was young. She was immature. My mind began to shift then and has continued to shift as I’ve allowed myself to learn from the other incredible women in my life.

30 is not the end. It is not a death sentence. Yes, I have new responsibilities now than when I was 16. One of the most noticeable responsibilities is taking care of this little growing fetus. And when that baby is born, I will have to be a responsible parent. But that doesn’t mean a curmudgeonly parent. Or a dowdy parent. Or even an above-it-all parent. I’m allowed to have fun. I’m allowed to be silly. I’m allowed some immaturity. That’s what the 30s will be about for me. Learning through teaching my child (maybe one day children, if we are so fortunate) that life can be fun.

So, farewell 20s. Here’s to 30!

Happy Early Birthday!

May 29, 2011 § 4 Comments

Today, I worked. Hard.

This evening, we got together with Robert’s family and celebrated his birthday a week early (literally–his birthday is next Monday).

I was able to take the evening off and actually enjoy our time with his family. I didn’t think about my dissertation once…unless someone asked me directly.

I’m truly grateful for evenings like this one. I’m grateful that I have a good relationship with my in-laws. And I’m grateful that Robert comes from such a truly loving family.

Happy early birthday, honey. I hope you enjoy your weeklong celebration!

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!

Mmm...birthday cake from Shakes! That's vanilla custard in the center, folks. Delish!

Scrumptious Second Anniversary

May 24, 2011 § 5 Comments

Only one word can describe the meal Robert and I prepared together for our second anniversary: scrumptious!

Robert grilled steaks that had been rubbed down with olive oil and a dry steak rub while I cooked potatoes au gratin (and used a mandolin slicer for the very first time–I liked it!). Dessert was finished in time to put the potatoes into the oven.

Here’s our dinner table:

As we were setting the table, I realized that we had forgotten a veggie. Oops.

The delicious, deep red wine featured here is a Tempranillo by Biltmore. If you’ve never had it, I think it’s freaking amazing. We had been saving it from our trip to the Biltmore with our friends back in September. It’s extremely robust, dry, and blooms all the way down. Like I said, I adore it!!

For dessert, we had a yummy cinnamon swirl coffee cake, which I had never made before. In fact, I had just found the recipe on-line that afternoon. It was so delicious.

Delicioso!

I drizzled a powdered sugar glaze over the top of it and finished it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

And here’s the inside:

OMG, can I have my dessert before dinner tonight, please??

The dark line you see there is the cinnamon “swirl.” Sure, it didn’t really swirl but whatever. It’s in there and it’s delicious. The recipe calls for a cinnamon and granulated sugar mixture for the swirl. I read some of the comments and chose to go with a cinnamon and brown sugar swirl. I think the color contrast is really appealing, and the flavor is incredible!

I also used Swan’s cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. I found the cake to be crumbly, but I think a lot of coffee cakes are pretty crumbly. (I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I had used AP!)

Last night, I went to bed with a full and happy tummy. And maybe I was a little bit tipsy, too. Just a perfect anniversary!

730 days of wedded bliss

May 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today Robert and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary! 🙂

As I write this, our dinner is cooking, the cake for dessert is cooling, and Robert is preparing the dinner table. He bought me the prettiest floral arrangement from a local florist and surprised me with it this afternoon.

And they smell as lovely as they look, too!

Two years ago this evening, we were taking pictures and having dinner with our family and friends.

One year ago this evening, we were in Destin, gorging ourselves on the most delicious fondue meal we’d ever had at the Melting Pot.

Tonight, we’re having steaks, potatoes au gratin (which I’ve never made before), and cinnamon coffee bundt cake (also, a new recipe I’d never made before).

I considered making a red velvet cake for our dessert, since that was what our wedding cake was (well, half of it, anyway–each tier was made of both vanilla cake and red velvet cake, which is a combination of our favorite flavors). But the process was a bit messier than I was interested in doing over a single afternoon.

This dinner, though, will be totally delicious. 🙂 I love that after two years, we’re enjoying a quiet dinner at home. One that we both had a hand in making. I love that we know each other’s food preferences so well that we can make a delicious dinner for each other without having to ask whether or not the other likes that food.

We have shifted from those exciting, butterfly days of getting to know one another. Now we have created our little home, started our little family of two (plus the four furry ones), and we’re happy as can be.

Here’s to two years.

I love you, my most favorite person in the whole world. 🙂

In celebration

May 22, 2011 § 8 Comments

Two years ago today, I was practicing a walk down the aisle.

Two years ago today, I held hands with my favorite person in the whole world and echoed the priest’s dialogue.

Two years ago today, I giggled my way through the mime, through the playing pretend.

Two years ago today, I prepared to step forward into a new identity, a new skin, a new life, a new relationship.

Two years ago today, I mingled with family and friends the last day I would be known by my maiden name.

Two years ago today, I slept fitfully, filled with anxiety and excitement for what the next day would bring.

Today, I am celebrating with the one person who knows exactly how I feel before I can even form the words.

Today, I am stronger, happier, better than I have ever been before.

Today, I have started a home with the only man who could make that home as warm and loving as it is.

On the eve of our second anniversary, I am flooded with comparisons of my old life and this one. I am hardly the same person any more.

And I have Robert to thank for that.

Summertime flies…

May 13, 2011 § 3 Comments

No, no. There are no verbs in that title. Just an adjective and a noun.

Yes, friends, I’m talking about my most hated enemy (and Milton’s, as it turns out)…the black flies of summertime.

Two years ago, when Robert and I got married, we returned home to find that our windowsills were still in need of painting (the rest of the house having been generally renovated before I moved in–fresh paint, new carpet, deep cleaning, that sort of thing). Robert had a job, so while he worked all day, I stayed in the house with the painters. (Really, I could have used the time to pack up the remains of my apartment, but someone had to stay home with the painters because….) They left the windows open. With the cats, I have to be careful that nobody attempts an escape. With the painters, well, I didn’t know these men from Adam, so I didn’t want to leave our little home open to the world. The windows were open so they wouldn’t dry shut (of course, as anyone who’s ever painted windowsills will tell you, it rarely matters–freshly painted windows are often painted shut no matter what precautions are taken). While I kept the cats and our most prized possessions inside, Milton was tasked with the daunting responsibility of keeping the black flies out.

We returned from our honeymoon in the beginning of June, right when summer settles in for the next three months, and just as we moved in, so did the black flies. The sound of humming wings and small bodies banging against panes of glass unnerved me. Milton got twitchy. Seriously twitchy. Whenever a little black form whizzed by his head, he snapped it out of midair and swallowed it down. When his ears perked up at the sound of angry and incessant buzzing in the corner of a room, he would stare at it and growl. I did what I could from my end. I sprayed flying insect Raid in areas where the animals were less likely to encounter it. I trained the girls to hunt, track, and devour the offending bugs.

Eventually, by August, the flies were all gone.

Until last night.

Robert and I were attempting to have a quasi-serious conversation, but I had trouble making eye contact with him. Three flies drew figure 8’s around our heads and living room. Milton, Annie, and the girls followed them with their eyes, attempting to snap them from the air, chasing them around the house. Robert and I sat there, feeling itchy and twitchy, failing spectacularly at the art of the fly-swatter.

God, I just love Southern summers.

…is it November yet?

When you’re in the shit

March 29, 2011 § 4 Comments

My mom has this saying. “When your head is so far up your own ass, then all you can hear, see, smell, taste and breathe is shit.”

I’ll admit, it’s a little funny to hear my mom say words like “ass” and “shit.” “Shit” is her favorite curse word; at least, it’s her favorite one to say. She says it like it’s poisonous, like you can die from hearing it, like you can really curse someone by saying it.

It’s the “t” that does it. She pronounces that “t” with a spitting sound. It tastes bad in her mouth, and she wants it to sting your ear.

When Mom says, “shit,” she means it.

The first time I heard my mom say “shit” was when I was in ninth grade. I was a violinist in my high school orchestra. And not even the good orchestra. The average one. The one that you got into when you failed your audition in eighth grade to get into the elite orchestra in ninth grade. I was first-chair first violinist. I wasn’t even first-chair first in middle school, but I was in the honors orchestra in middle school. My director, a potential pedophile with a drinking problem (he always got just a little too touchy-feely, although he never touched my “bikini zone”…I just didn’t like my shoulders being rubbed by him when he passed by), told me on the first day of high school in this average orchestra, “Amanda, I want you to be first-chair first because you’re the most skilled one in here.” Why didn’t I get into the honors orchestra, then? I asked, utterly bewildered by my separation from my best friends who would have third period orchestra instead of first. “Because,” he softened, “I need you in here. In honors orchestra” (he said it like it was an insult, with a sneer) “you would have easily been in third chair first-violin or even second-chair second-violin. But in here? In here, you’re our leader.”

We had this conversation in front of my classmates. They hated me. I hated him.

After our first recital of the semester, a Christmas medley sometime between Thanksgiving break and Christmas vacation, my mom was visibly shaking. I was in tears, utterly embarrassed. I found my dad and sister in the auditorium. Mom had already stormed the stage. I begged my dad to explain to me how could it have been that bad? It was Christmas music! I’ve played all those pieces before! Every year! He smiled at me and gave me a hug and squeezed my shoulder. (I didn’t mind when my dad squeezed my shoulder. It didn’t feel creepy.) Mom returned from the stage, took my violin and music from me, and marched her family to the car. We didn’t speak until we got home.

“That was horrible! I can’t believe he would let those kids play such shit!” It hurt my ear. It literally hurt my ear. I cringed. My mom was angry. Not at me. Not at my sister. Not at my father. She was angry at my music director. Because we played so terribly. “I didn’t even recognize half those songs! Did you?” It wasn’t a question. She kept going. “I even had to look at the program just to see what songs they were playing!”

They’re pieces, I murmured under my breath. She couldn’t hear me. I didn’t want her to. But they really are called “pieces” in orchestra. “Songs” have words and are sung. My second orchestra director, from seventh to eighth grade, drilled that tidbit into my head pretty well.

“I can’t believe he had the audacity to tell me that that shit wasn’t shit!” She had said it three times now. She was really mad.

We sat down in the living room, the four of us, and Mom explained why she was so angry and why she was choosing to vent her anger in the form of this vile word. “Amanda, I want you to understand that I am not angry with you. This is not your fault. This is the fault of a man who is very very little, who takes his own frustrations at being denied tenure at your high school out on his students. Your director embarrassed himself, you, and all of your classmates.” (I didn’t even know you could have been denied tenure in high school. There was something wrong with this man. We would come to find out later that the school board generally wanted him fired, but he was best friends with the superintendent and that wasn’t going to happen. He directed orchestras at my high school as well as at our rival high school. My second cousin attended my rival high school three years earlier, and she was in his orchestra. She loved him. They won competitions. She learned how to play well. He chose that school over ours. It was obvious, especially on Spirit Day–he wore their colors instead of ours.)

The next day in orchestra, we didn’t play. We sat around and talked. We sat around and talked a lot in that class. My director was hungover. I had never seen a hangover enacted in person before, but I knew what it was immediately. He wouldn’t let us talk too loudly, and he turned the lights down low. He said he had migraines. He invited questions and comments about the previous night’s recital. I raised my hand, bubbling over with the anger my mother had felt the night before. I don’t understand what happened last night. We are all really embarrassed. Recitals are supposed to be a chance for the kids to show their parents what they’ve learned! He cut me off at the beginning of my diatribe. “That’s not what recitals are for, Amanda. They’re just a requirement for the school calendar.” I didn’t understand. Of course recitals are to display the collective talents of the group after a semester of work. What on Earth else could they have been for?

That was the first time Mom said the word “shit” within my earshot. Since then, she whips it out only for special occasions. It’s much more powerful that way. I love my mom and her deliberate word choice.

“When your head is so far up your own ass, then all you can hear, see, smell, taste and breathe is shit.”

As you may have noticed, friends, my head is way up my own ass. Shit is all around me. My interactions with authority figures are tinged with negativity. Shit. My interactions with students are tinged with negativity. Shit. My interactions with that reflection in the mirror are tinged with negativity. Shit.

Shit, shit, shit.

The worst part is spewing this shit upon you all, my poor, unwitting friends. Except, utterly undeservedly, you guys have been the most amazing support for me. And I want you to know that even though my world is shit right now, I do notice the relief from that shit that you all offer me. And I deeply appreciate it.

In the meantime, I am going to try to surgically extract my head from my ass and focus my energies on seeing through the shit.

Favorite Food and Daydreams

March 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

On Thursdays, Robert and I eat take-out. He opts for soy-free BBQ from his favorite place in town; I always eat chicken fried rice from one of the most delicious Chinese places in town. Sometimes I get a cup of egg drop soup as well.

Imagination Land, here I come!

Sometimes when I eat egg drop soup and the egg flowers are just perfect-looking, I like to pretend that I am eating shredded dandelion flower petals.

When I was little, my sister and I would pretend that different foods were actually something else. We would turn our mint chocolate chip ice cream into soup, pretend we were ill (sometimes ill giants) and our soupy concoction was the remedy. We would eat it slowly at first, as though we hated the taste…and then we’d let our eyes get big at the wondrous sugary joy…and then we’d devour it.

My shredded dandelion egg drop soup reminds me of those times.

Do any of you have any foods that stir up your imaginations?

(Photo courtesy of Homemade Chinese Soups)

Childhood memories in a glass bottle

February 20, 2011 § 18 Comments

Apple juice. Such a simple, common American drink; a favorite among so many children. And a favorite among so many parents and teachers–apple juice doesn’t stain like grape juice or soda! (I learned this lesson myself when I taught four-year-old Catholic Sunday school. Apple juice and white grape juice were total winners.)

When I drink apple juice, I experience two kinds of joy. The first is the usual joy one receives from a palate that is utterly pleased. I do not have a complicated, adventurous palate. Salt is typically enough seasoning for me. I believe I could qualify as someone who is a supertaster; I have no trouble tasting a food simply by smelling it. Often, the “taste” lingers on my tongue as though I actually experienced it by the mouth rather than by olfaction. Particularly displeasurable to my palate are most spices (as Gollum says so perfectly, “It burns us!”) and carbonation (more burning!). (More on carbonation in a moment.) I have been mocked by foodie friends with more adventurous palates; I have gagged on raw pineapple; my tongue breaks out into firey hives when I drink orange juice. To me, apple juice is divine.

The second joy I experience when I drink apple juice, and a particular apple juice especially, runs even deeper. My favorite apple juice in the entire world is Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice:

Oh, can you hear the angels singing?

You see, when I was a little girl, my grandmother stocked her refrigerator with Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice. (The funny thing about my palate and carbonation is that Martinelli’s was never offensive to me. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but it seems less fizzy than, say, a soda or even a carbonated alcoholic beverage; at least, my tongue wasn’t on fire when I would drink it.) I always believed that Martinelli’s was a special apple juice not only because I normally only drank it at my grandmother’s house but also because it was in a glass bottle. Not a paper package with a little dinky straw. Not even in a break-proof plastic bottle. No, this big girl was entrusted with drinking the liquid gold from a perfectly breakable glass bottle. It was a real treat.

This afternoon I decided to treat myself with a Martinelli’s from Earth Fare while Robert indulged with a Mexican Coca-Cola (no high-fructose corn syrup, you know). The minute I touched lips to glass rim, my heart and head filled with joy. Immediately, I was five years old, perched atop a wooden stool behind my grandparents’ bar-top kitchen island. The glass bottle fit better in one hand at the age of 29 than it did when I was five. And the juice ran out a great deal faster than when I was five.

But the experience…the experience was exactly the same.

Photo courtesy The Dr Soda Company

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