Tag: family (page 1 of 2)

A Feminist in the Kitchen: Modern Hestia

Hestia - Goddess of the Hearth. A man drew this. You can tell both by his name and the fact that the virgin of the hearth is showing major nip.

Hestia – Goddess of the Hearth.
Goals. She’s literally holding fire in her bare hand, while still looking put together. (And no, being able to see her nipples doesn’t make her less of a feminist.)

I’ve been thinking about Hestia lately, the virgin goddess of home and hearth. Basically, her story goes like this: she was pursued by both Apollo (the god of the sun) and Poseidon (the god of the sea), but rejected both of them and chose to remain a perpetual virgin in order to keep the peace.

As a reward, Zeus gives her the duty of maintaining the fires of the Olympian hearth.  Oh, and the hearth isn’t portable, so she was rewarded with a life in the kitchen… forever.

On the one hand, Hestia is a model for feminism, choosing not to marry and instead rejecting both of her suitors. On the other hand, she is now trapped in the freaking kitchen forever, an incredibly subordinate role. Is that what she really wanted?

Really? 

Hey Hestia, good job there on keeping the peace and giving up all future sexy funtimes. Here’s your reward, you see that kitchen over there? That’s all you. Oh, and that fire’s not gonna tend itself. Yeah, you’re gonna be pretty busy and stuff so you won’t really get to hang out with the rest of us either, but uh, thanks again.

I won’t lie. That seems like a pretty raw deal. And although I already know the answer to this (hint: it has to do with wieners) why did she have to be a perpetual virgin? It’s not like fidelity was a big deal in Olympus. Gods know Zeus had sex with anything that moved. This sounds a bit like the whole double standard of the woman you want to have sex with versus the good girl you want to marry (or trap in your kitchen forever).

Hestia is also considered to be the most gentle, charitable, and kind of all the Greek gods… but really how hard is that. I’m sorry if I offend any of my currently practicing Hellenist friends here, but I’m gonna say it, Zeus is kind of a dick. It doesn’t take much to seem nicer than him. Yet, a point is made to say that Hestia is gentle and kind. It’s a nice image: sweet, gentle, Hestia, who will hang out in your kitchen stoking your fire all day (and that’s not an innuendo because she doesn’t put out).

Does the contradiction of Hestia versus the more empowered goddesses reveal an understanding of the complexity of women’s roles? Or, does it just set up an impossible standard for women to meet? We all know those guys who want a Hestia on the streets and an Aphrodite between the sheets, but aren’t those two ideals mutually exclusive?

I know I struggled with this idea, but not for too long, because I lost my eligible-to-be-rewarded-with-a-life-in-the-hearth card a looooong time ago. Virginity, perpetual or otherwise, wasn’t on my agenda. And as a young woman, I hadn’t considered the prospect of staying home and tending the hearth.  I just assumed I would be out wreaking havoc in the working world in some way. The idea that getting married and having a child would mean I would want to be home was inconceivable to me.

Now, as a modern woman who is highly educated, has career options, and yet is choosing to stay home while my son is young, there is a feeling of empowerment in the reclamation of the hearth as my domain and in seeing it as a reward rather than a punishment. I am choosing to cast aside the modern gods of wealth and martini lunches to keep the peace with my boys. I am here feeding the hearth fires by choice, though I am definitely not a virgin (insert whistle here).

So, here I am, feeling like one big contradiction, part Hestia and part Aphrodite, but keenly aware that I have the luxury of making that choice. And maybe, that’s the real task of modern womanhood — to embrace all of the contradictory aspects we’ve been taught about the divine feminine and to simply accept the pantheon within us.

I’ll leave you with my spoken word track of Hestia — a brief exploration into my role as a not so virginal hearth keeper:

Live Fast, Die… Eventually and Only if Absolutely Necessary

[ I read this essay at The Story Department in October for their From Beyond the Grave show. ]

I grew up in Houston, Texas. If you’ve never been to Houston, I can describe it for you like this: just imagine any dystopian movie and then replace all the crazed brain-eating zombies with crazed brain-eating conservatives and there you go.

To be fair, Houston’s come a long way lately, but when I was growing up there, it was the late 80’s/early 90’s. And Houston in the 90’s certainly wasn’t known for its picturesque parks, art scene, or lesbian mayor. Houston in the 90’s was largely known for its suburbs and its malls, neither of which I felt particularly drawn to. I knew there had to be more to life than to grow up, live by a big mall, and then die.

Eventually, I started college, which helped my mood. Despite my loathing of the suburbs, I was terrified to leave home and to brave the mega highways into downtown, so I went to a small school in the suburbs. I was a theatre major and in the first week of a technical workshop class, I met a handsome punk boy. He was so different from everyone I had ever known. He was hot and aloof and so very… not into malls. For some reason, he liked me too, so we started hanging out… this cool punk boy with his oxblood Doc Martins and me in my white Keds.

Since we were in the suburbs and we both lived at home there wasn’t much to do other than drive around. One day out of boredom we stopped by a big graveyard near campus. It was quiet and pretty. I was barely 18 years old, all of my grandparents were alive, and I had never been to a funeral, so for me, a graveyard was just a quiet place to hang out with my hot boyfriend. We had this genius idea to buy individual bottles of orange juice, empty them halfway and then pour in vodka… because then no one would ever suspect we were drinking! And that’s how we spent our days, wandering around a graveyard drinking super cheap vodka.

May 1993 all dressed up for a drama banquet. We moved in together a few months later. (I no longer shopped at the Gap.)

May 1993 all dressed up for a drama banquet. We moved in together a few months later.
(I no longer shopped at the Gap.)

Over time, the punk boy’s coolness started to rub off on me. Black skirts and tights replaced my Gap jeans and Keds, and I was now into poetry and Bauhaus and so naturally, we kept hanging out in the graveyard. We took pictures of cool tombstones, hung out, got drunk. I found a photo in an old album the other day that had me leaning near a super ornate Vietnamese tombstone (orange juice bottle in hand) and the caption read “Dead Vietnamese Lady with her sidekick drunk living girl, Ava.” I was so very young and dumb. I had no concept of death then. I had never lost anyone. I’d never had to grieve.

That hot punk boy and I moved in together a year later. We moved to Austin and had lots of fun things to do and didn’t need to hang out in a graveyard for fun. Years later those days are all but a distant vodka soaked memory.

Recently my husband, (the same hot punk boyfriend from college) told me he had found a small graveyard hidden off the main road near our house. It was an old Masonic cemetery. I wanted to go see it, so we drove the street over and marveled at what seemed to be a very old gate. We walked in, my 6 year old son’s hand in mine. I was excited to share this moment of discovery with him. I wanted to look for really old tombstones, feel the quiet, sit on a bench with …. Hmm. Something didn’t feel right.

I looked down at my son, so full of life – his blonde hair, the light in his blue eyes. Holding his tiny hand, I felt a wave of sadness nearly overwhelm me. My legs felt weak. I looked around at the names nearest me Brodie, Cannon – Austin names – names that are part of a legacy. And, out of nowhere I thought, this is it. This is coming. For everyone I love. For me. Whether I like or not, this will happen. It won’t be optional this time. I will now be forced to spend time in graveyards in one way or another.

As an adult, I am now uncomfortable with the idea of death, it seems. It is an unwelcome specter hovering around the edges of my days.  Unlike that naive 18 year old girl, I have now been to funerals. I’ve hugged sobbing mothers burying their sons. I’ve been assigned to interview cancer survivors for articles, and then been asked to craft memorial articles when they unexpectedly lost their battles. The grown up me has seen the reason for graveyards and they no longer hold any appeal.

Now, when I see tombstones I can’t help but think of the people resting beneath them – people who had feelings and opinions and families – people who told funny stories to their friends – people who drank orange juice.

So, I’m not as cool as I used to be. I dress a bit better, but I’m not as aloof about death. As I’m reaching middle age, I can’t afford to be. I have less time to be aloof and I have people who need me and people for whom I want to stick around. Now as a adult, when I should be accepting death as an eventuality, I am shaken and uneasy. It’s too close and I’ve seen too many people fall away too soon.

Dylan Thomas begged his father: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” That is NOT a problem. I have no intention of going quietly.  Live fast and die young? Yeah, not so much anymore.

How about: Live fast, have a nice life, and die at a really old age with no complications or weird diseases that make you lose your mind or hunch over or anything and you’ve found peace and are totally okay with it because you’re like 100 and you just go in your sleep.

Or live fast and science cures aging and death, so let’s all hug.

These are my new mottos. Because, I no longer have the luxury of time and youthful ignorance – I’m less oblivious… I’m also less prone to drink cheap vodka, so in some ways I guess you take the good with the bad. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me.” Screw that. If death comes near me, he better be wearing a cup, because I’m going out kicking.

Rainbow Connection

There are eggs cooking in a pan.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

The notes drift into the kitchen and I feel them in my chest, know them by heart. There’s a special joy in unexpectedly hearing a song you love right when you need to hear it; a little gift from the universe. Serendipity. He heard it too and runs to me; his 6 year old hands outstretched, inviting me to dance. I move the half cooked eggs off the burner. Breakfast can wait, my dance partner can’t.

This is our song. The one I have sung to him nearly every night of his life.

The Rainbow Connection - Ava Love Hanna

The first night.

I looked at the tiny person I had made and felt such overwhelming love, deep incomprehensible love… and fear. I had absolutely no idea what to do next, no clue how to actually be a parent. I looked him over, saw his soft vulnerability, his total dependence and realized that I’d never really thought past being pregnant… Oh crap.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?

I took a breath, kissed him softly on the head and then suddenly I felt it rise up from somewhere deep inside my chest and head – an instinctual urge passed on in the genes of motherhood, a connection passed throughout the human race. I didn’t know how to be a parent, but I knew what to do right then: I sang to him.

I was surprised to hear the confidence in my voice, but it was there and I knew that meant I would be okay. His head on my heart, we melted into the rhythm of the song, connected as mother and child in those first new moments.

What’s so amazing, that keeps us stargazing, and what’do we think we might see?

I danced with my father to this song on the day I got married. It’s our song too, but I don’t know if he knows that.  Growing up my father and I were far too much alike to really get along, and our relationship always felt stifled, uncomfortable. Neither of us was good at showing affection, it meant being too vulnerable or feeling dumb. Hugs were rare and often done quickly with one arm… But, we both loved the Muppets, so we had that. I remember hearing him singing this song while walking through the house. It was my favorite memory of him and I knew it was the only song we could dance to.

At my reception, as the first few notes made their way to the dance floor, my father, a shy man who hates to be the center of attention, who always shirks the public eye, grabbed me and spun me around the dance floor. We danced while he sang so loudly and enthusiastically that I couldn’t stop laughing and crying. It’s one of my favorite moments, seeing him so happy, and briefly feeling a comfortable connection between us.

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic…

Now, I am dancing with my little boy. His small hand in mine, I spin him around the room, sing loudly while he laughs and holds me tight. I feel our connection… parent to child to parent to child. I never really understood the lyrics before I had him, but here it was, the rainbow connection. It is this song, this love, these moments that connect our generations, our hearts.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name…

I’m still trying to feel like a parent so I listen for promptings from ancestral connections that taught the parents before me how to connect to their children, the ones that lie sleeping in my dna. I let those whispers guide me and I sing to him every night. Sometimes, he sings with me, other times he curls into my arm and falls asleep by the third stanza. I finish the song anyway and then lie next to him and listen to him breathing. I still don’t know exactly how to be a parent, I still don’t know if I’m doing it right, but I feel the strength of the bond growing between us, feel the connection that binds us to each other forever and fall asleep to the rhythm of his breath.

… the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Bad Parents

This is where I’ll be on Wednesday night. Part of the FronteraFest Short Fringe, Bad Parents, will be at Hyde Park Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 8 pm.

The show is hilarious and was written by the über talented Max Langert, whom I met as an Austin cast member of Listen to Your Mother last year. He and Tristan told touching stories about their mothers, while I was sharing one of my finer parenting moments: The Vagina-Mommy Incident.
Bad Parents at FronteraFest Short Fringe

You can read more about the show and FronteraFest here: Bad Parents at FronteraFest

Riding the Carousel

He wanted to ride the carousel at the mall. He’s five now, so I got on with him intending only to help him find an animal and climb up. The carousel was old and small, and wobbled as everyone climbed aboard. I put him on top of a brown horse with a flowing mane and wild eyes — It was a good fit.

He grabbed onto the pole with both hands, leaned into it, trembled a bit and looked at me with worried eyes as he surveyed how high he was and felt the wobbling of the ride before it had even begun. He looked up and noticed that the pole was at its low point and asked me if it would go even higher.

He is awake now, this little boy. Aware. He struggles with the lankiness of his legs, tries to understand his changing body as he faces growth spurt after growth spurt in an unrelenting parade. He is no longer an over confident toddler who charges into battle, he sees the world around him and senses danger, feels overwhelmed by noises, is trying to find his place.

I decide to stay on the ride and stand next to him. I put both my hands firmly about his waist, lean in to him and whisper, “It’s okay, I’ve got you and I won’t let you fall.” His eyes meet mine and I feel his body relax, feel his tension fade. “Look at how pretty the carousel is” I tell him, and he does. He loosens more, looks around and points out the paintings, the mirrors, the old round light bulbs.

Riding the Carousel - Ava Love HannaFeeling him trust me so completely moves me. I feel it deeply in my chest and I lean in and kiss the back of his head so he won’t notice that I’m tearing up. Good tears, “happy tears” we call them, but I don’t want him to have to ask me about them. I want him to stay in this moment. The ride starts and he grabs a little tighter to the pole, but is still relaxed, my hands still around his waist. He knows I won’t let him fall.

That’s my mantra as his mother. It’s the banner I wave as I march into this battle every day. I have him, I’m here, and I won’t let him fall. Look around, enjoy the world and don’t be afraid, I have you.

I am someone who knows what it’s like to fall, to wobble and look around for a guiding hand. I am made of worry and fear. I am often overwhelmed, scared, and then shut down.

I remember when I first discovered I was pregnant. At first, I was elated… but not long after, I curled up on the edge of the bed and sobbed as I remembered the loneliness and fear of my childhood. I knew that I had the potential to damage another human being forever.  I was already afraid I would fail this tiny person who was still in the process of being made.

In crowded places, I look down and follow my husband’s feet, I stay focused on just getting through – I often miss the beauty of the place, the time, the moment. But, at least I have those feet to follow.  I was fortunate to find someone who would hold me and make me feel safe, but I missed so much before I found him.

But this isn’t how it will be for my son, not him; he will know that there are hands gently but firmly around his waist. He can climb onto the highest, craziest looking horse on the carousel and I will stand next to him, I will lean in as the ride starts, and I will let him look around and enjoy the moment – I have him and I will never let him fall.

Poem: Parents (Spoken Word)

This is my poem Parents, about the things every parent knows and every potential parent should be told.

Before I had a child, no one told me the real truth about parenting (spoiler: it’s awesome, but HARD). Actually, to be fair, they probably tried, but I just wasn’t paying attention: Yes, of course I’m listening: Labor sucks, they never sleep, they…. omg look how tiny these socks are! And there’s a tiny matching hat!!

Nature is a jerk. It has a way of camouflaging  the truth. It made babies tiny and adorable because you cant really get mad at something that little and cute.

Now, if a middle aged man kept coming into your room and crying in your face while you were asleep, or kept accidentally pooping or peeing on you… I’m pretty certain you would give him a piece of your mind. But, when a tiny little person with cute little spider monkey hands screams you awake from a deep sleep, then proceeds to vomit and/or pee on you all while smiling with his little baby mouth and sparkly eyes… what do you do? You smile the hell back and thank the universe for this wonderful tiny person.

*shakes fist at nature*

Here’s the thing, you can not, no matter how hard you try, convince someone that once they have a kid they will never ever sleep again. It’s like trying to explain color to a blind person. There is no frame of reference. You can try, you could say: Okay think about the most tired you’ve ever been and now quadruple that and expect to feel it every second of every day, for.ev.er. 

But, they just can’t comprehend it; it’s tacit knowledge, the kind that can only be learned via actual experience (and by then it’s too damn late and they are forced to have their own epiphany in the middle of the night while rocking what must be some sort of advanced human child who has evolved beyond the need for sleep).

Let’s be honest, it’s probably important that potential parents don’t understand how challenging parenting really is… otherwise, there would be zero chance of the human race continuing.

*continues to shake fist at nature and the manufacturers of tiny baby socks*

Video – The Vagina-Mommy Incident – LTYM 2013

Earlier this year, I was chosen to read an essay about motherhood as a member of the 2013 cast of the Listen to Your Mother Show.

It was an amazing night full of wonderful stories by talented writers all celebrating motherhood. I was so honored to be a member of the cast this year.

Here is the video of me reading my essay, The Vagina-Mommy Incident. It’s about the time I thought it would be a good idea to tell Kai the proper name for our genitals and how great that went…

Thank you so much Ann Imig for creating this wonderful event! And, thank you to Wendi Aarons, Liz Mcguire, and Blythe Jewell for producing the Austin show so that I could get up and say the word vagina over and over in front of a room full of people. It is an experience I will always cherish.

The 2013 Cast of Listen to Your Mother Austin

Everyone Has an Agenda

I drew this comic last year and thought I would re-post it this week in celebration of the supreme court ruling on the defense of marriage act.

The Homosexual Agenda - The Truth Revealed!

I spent a good portion of my week at the state capitol building protesting a bill that would restrict women’s freedoms in Texas. When you try and explain things like sb5 and doma to a 5 year old boy and he looks at you like you’re crazy… not because you are fighting them… but because they even exist in the first place, it really puts it into perspective. Let’s all stop trying to control each others bodies and hearts. No one loses when we let others pursue happiness.

And if I have to pull out my mom-voice, I will: If you don’t like what he’s doing, then don’t do it. No, I don’t care if it’s bothering you. Just go sit over there then. Why do you care what he’s doing? Is it hurting you? Are you losing anything? Did he make you do it, too? No? Okay, then, now you go do whatever makes you happy and he’s going to do what makes him happy, and I don’t want to have to come in here again. 

First Day of Summer – Pale Girl Edition

Seeing as how today is the first day of summer, I feel it would be appropriate to celebrate this day by saying, omg, I can’t stand summer.

I’m not a fan of summer for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I get SAD in the summer.

Summer SAD Homer

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or its cutesy acronym SAD) is depression that occurs during certain times of the year.

Most people who have the disorder get it in the winter because it gets dark and they get mopey and are all,

Maaaaaan, I miss summer,

and I’m like,

Whatever losers! Woo Hoo! Dark and cold rocks! Let’s run naked through the woods!  – right in their sad faces.

Now, however, it’s summer and I’m sad and moody and the rest of the world is like,

Yay summer! A million degrees! Sweating! Pools! BBQ’s! Mosquitoes trying to eat off our faces! or whatever. (Also, I am very sorry about getting all up in your faces last winter.)

So yes, most people who get SAD get it in the winter, but there is a summer version and it is the more rare form of an already rare disorder:  “About 5 percent of adult Americans are thought to have winter seasonal affective disorder; researchers estimate that fewer than 1 percent have its summer variant.”  Or so says the New York Times.

I’m one of those less than 1 percenters…  because I’m all pale and mysterious so I get cool disorders that make me hide away in my dark house most of the day… and when I do venture out I’m withdrawn and moody, wear big black sunglasses and sigh dramatically.

Researchers are still unsure if it’s the heat or the light or a combination of both, For me, it’s not so much the heat (though omg it sucks), it’s the light… more specifically the WAY the light is shining. It’s too bright, it’s coming in at a weird angle. I feel out of sync with the rhythm of the planet at this time of year. My circadian rhythms are off, I feel out of sorts. My pockets hurt.

It’s like my brain is now cued for sunset instead of sunrise. I feel “weird” all day and fight off melancholy, and then as the day wanes and the light shifts, I feel okay again. Usually around 8 pm every night I start to feel the depression lift and I am suddenly and inexplicably myself again.

Off and on for the next few months I will battle this depression, and it sucks.

On the one hand, at least I know what it is. On the other hand, I hate knowing that it is a real thing and not just my imagination. Honestly, I think that this disorder affects more than one percent of the population. My facebook, twitter, and blog feed are filled with friends talking about feeling down for no reason right now. It almost seems that as a society we’ve become so desensitized to the seasons and nature that maybe we aren’t aware that as the planet moves, as the seasons change, that we, too, are affected.

Unlike the winter variant which involves staring at a lightbulb (or something), there is not a lot to help with summer SAD.

Summer Sane Homer

So, I fake it and make myself shower and work and all those normal human things even though I am totally not feeling it. I try to avoid pacing. I try to make myself sleep like a normal human. I watch Doctor Who. We pick our Halloween costumes and start working on them. We begin planning our big fall vacation. And when I feel like I can’t breathe, when I feel like this will never end … I will stop and breathe and try to remember that this will pass. It will take a few months, but it will pass.

Needless to say, our family will be hiding inside most of the summer, at least during the day. And when you invite us to your “It’s a million degrees – Let’s sit in direct sunlight and get sweaty – We love summer extravaganza!” parties… and you will… I will smile politely, thank you enthusiastically, and then silently count the days until fall. Oh, and next winter, when the tables are turned, I promise not to get all up in your sad face again.

 

My Cat is a Jerk, I Have Audio Proof

When you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’re eventually going to talk about cats.   This is our cat, Athens. We adopted him last September, and he is an unabashed jerkface. We got him while kittens were on sale for $20 and have taken to calling him discount cat. As in, “Oh, he’s pushed his water bowl half way across the house spilling massive amounts of water all along the way that he is now playing in? Well, what do you expect from a discount cat?”

Look, just let me have my coffee and I'll bite you in a second, okay?

Look, just let me have my coffee and I’ll bite you in a second, okay?

We love him, don’t get me wrong, but he is a pretty lousy cat. He won’t sit on your lap or climb into bed with you. He doesn’t snuggle. He bites. He wakes us up with yowling at 4:30 am every single day even though he has a self feeder full of food. He attacks his water bowl and spills water everywhere. He randomly attacks the walls and is scratching up the molding on our doorways. Oh, and did I mention that he bites us?

Now, he does do some pretty cool stuff, but it’s dog stuff. It’s like he doesn’t really get the whole “being a cat” thing. He loves to play in water and he LOVES fetch. I don’t mean lame cat fetch where you throw the toy and they just look at you or they go get it and never bring it back. Athens plays real fetch… for hours. He wants you to play with him all freaking day, and if you don’t? Biting time. If he drops his toy next to you and you don’t notice, he will nip you on the leg. Because, as I have stated previously, he’s a jerk.

See, Athens? You are a cat.

See, Athens? You are a cat.

So, why do we keep him? Well, we love him and our son adores him. And, the feeling seems to be mutual. Athens loves his boy and the two are often inseparable.  Kai is gentle, and Athens plays too rough, but they still have fun and look for each other first thing in the morning. It’s like a boy and his really soft, bitey dog.

Sitting in my office writing this essay while hiding from Athens, I started to wonder… why do we even have a cat? Paul and I have always had a cat, never a dog. We say we’re not really dog people, but is there a difference? Apparently, yes. According to Dr. Hal Herzog, a leading anthrozoologist, researchers at The University of Texas found that, “Cat people were more introverted, they were more anxious, they were more interestingly open to new experiences and they were more impulsive.”
Yes, we are anxious because cats are scary.

The other night, Paul and I were in his studio recording some of my poetry for a project. Kai was asleep and I guess the cat was bored so he kept coming in and bothering us. Paul eventually started recording through the outtakes as they got increasingly bizarre. The cat kept sneaking into the room, opening doors, attacking sound foam and falling off of chairs, and eventually biting me because I didn’t know he wanted to play fetch while I was in the middle of recording a poem.

I present to you: Ava being attacked by a cat while reading poetry

 

I better stop writing and go play with Athens. He dropped his toy next to me a few minutes ago. I’ve tried to ignore him, but he just licked my leg and now I’m scared… Such a discount cat.

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