Scribble Might

A fresh perspective on the personal and political.

Right & Wrong April 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 10:39 pm

“Seriously, when was the last time you owned up to being wrong? You never admit you’re wrong. ” He was only a little angry.

“I do, too,” I said defensively.


“When I’m wrong, but I’m just right most of the time because I do my research.”

We’re disagreeing about weight and health. My dear friend, like most of the world, believes that weight loss is possible and can lead to better health. He has asked me if I’ve given up on losing the weight I gained while pregnant with my seventeen month old.

I have given up, though in truth, it never occurred to me to try to lose the “baby” weight. When virtually all of the research on weight in the last half century, even research funded by the diet industry, says that 95% of people fail to keep weight loss off longer than 3-5 years, I don’t see the point of trying. I have better things to do, and tastier food to eat, than to spend my precious little free time on chasing a body that took an all-consuming exercise obsession and eating behaviors that resembled an eating disorder to maintain.

So, instead of the insanity it took to be thin, I am choosing to love my body for the miracle of growing my little human, for carrying me through the last sleep-deprived seventeen months, for lifting my baby up into my arms hundreds of times a week without too much complaint, for breathing and pumping blood, for walking, for being fierce and brave during labor. I also think my body is beautiful. I bought into the failure of imagination that is our culture’s very narrow view of attractiveness far too long, and hating my fat body is no longer an acceptable option.

I try to tell him about all the research I’ve done over the last few years that says that it is behaviors — like eating whole, unprocessed foods and getting moderate exercise — that improve health, not being thin, but he refuses to concede that it’s possible to be fat and healthy. I can feel myself getting desperate for him to agree with me.

We take a break, I use the bathroom, and alone, I realize I’m being kind of an asshole. It’s not the first time I’ve been kind of an asshole to someone who disagrees with me. Since my girl was born, I have so little patience for what I perceive as ignorance. In my attempt at educating, I condescend, demand, and alienate. It’s not how I want to be with others, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

I still think I have the facts on my side. But it doesn’t really matter if I can’t get my best friend to realize that this is important to me because I feel like he is judging me, and all fat people, as unhealthy and somehow, less than.

Yeah, I may be right, but I’m going about it all wrong.



Curvy Yoga Teacher Training, Session 1: What just happened? April 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 1:03 am

It’s been exactly three weeks since I left for the first session of the yoga teacher training I signed up for. T wailed and wailed as I hugged and kissed her before walking into the airport. I left her for the first time since she became a human. It was not the sweet goodbye I’d hoped for, and as I stood on the curb watching Thomas drive away with my girl, my heart was in that car. I saw myself nestled up close to her car seat, cooing to her to get her to calm down, stroking her forehead and letting her grab my finger and squeeze hard. But my feet were rooted to the grey, sparkling concrete, drenched in the light of an unseasonably warm March day. I did not have on my person: a baby, a diaper, a pack of baby wipes, a toddler snack, a change of clothes for the baby, or anything that would indicate “mother”.

I turned unsteadily, and a tingle swelled out over the surface of my skin. My heart and mind snapped back into my body, but I felt unreal. I was an impostor without Tima. How quickly and against my intentions had my identity become so wrapped up in being her mama. As I walked into the airport, rode the escalator up to the check-in counter, though, I felt the first glimmer of adventure flare up in me. A dormant part of me, the woman who used to happily travel by herself, did a little baby-free happy dance. But, the part of me that felt like a bad mom for upsetting T checked that small thrill of independence, and just like that, the excitement was gone.

I suffered through a video chat with a crying Tima during my layover, a three hour flight in which I spent most of that time writing and crying about my girl, an accidental late night walking tour of downtown Nashville while I hunted for food, and a totally, completely happy, smiley video chat with the baby the next morning for me to feel like I’d punished myself enough. Tima was going to be fine, damn it, and I was going to be excited.

As I was getting ready that first morning, it hit me: I was going to my Curvy Yoga Teacher Training! That shit is down-right amazing. This feeling lasted pretty much through day one, but by the end of day two, I began to realize that despite being open to whatever this training would offer, what happened was not what I’d anticipated.

What I thought I’d gotten myself into: a yoga teacher training that integrated issues of access, race, class, cultural appropriation, and social justice into the fabric of the training.

What I’d really gotten myself into: a yoga teacher training with a really sincere, wonderful woman who understands issues of access, cultural appropriation, and social justice, and has thought about them in relation to yoga to some extent, but who was unprepared to handle the ruckus three fairly radical women (including myself) initiated.

By the time the last day of training rolled around, three people had left the training (due to things we radicals said and requested from the group), I’d been yelled at by a fellow teacher in training for pushing a racial agenda, and I’d made some really awesome friends who I cannot wait to hang out with again in June, August, and October.

It was totally crazy, and also wonderful. I’ll write more soon.


What Needs… October 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 10:05 pm

What Needs to Stop: Sex trafficking, murder anywhere, war anywhere (including, especially, drone attacks), settlement activity in Palestinian lands, and the dispossession of any indigenous peoples, climate change denial, people being assholes, tea party and neo-conservative influence, doing blackface. To name a few.

What Needs to Transform: gridlock into governing, fear into curiosity, dogma into openness, grief into strength, preoccupation into presence, exhaustion into rest. God, please, exhaustion into rest. As a start.

What Needs to Soften: The neat-freak in my head that reminds me how inadequate I am for not being able to keep my house clean. The cranky voice in my head who harps on me for my lack of organization — noting all the papers and laundry in various states of folded or not that vomit from nearly every surface. The task-master who belittles my lingering in bed after Tima has fallen asleep, listing all the things I should be doing instead, taking my attention away from the rhythm of her breathing, the warmth of her body against mine, the waning sweet scent of her infancy. The long-running, mean-spirirted, self-defeating commentary in my mind needs to soften. I need it to soften, because it’s making me feel like shit. And feeling like shit is not going to help me take better care of myself or my home, and it certainly will not help me be a good mama to Tima.  I need to tell myself better things, like, “Oh, honey, you are so doing the best you can with what you’ve got,” or “Loving Tima, spending time with her now, is an investment in her growth and well-being.” or “It is ok to want to just lie here with your baby girl as she sleeps. Period, Full stop. No but’s,” or “Dirty dishes in the sink (on the counters, on the stove, etc.) are not worth hating yourself over. You will get to them eventually,” or “Don’t give so much power to that snarky old bitch in your brain — she’s not all that interested in seeing you succeed.”

Tonight, as I was walking into my parenting class late, after having left Tima in the care room with cheese as “dinner,” I could hear that inner critic going at me: A good mom would have a balanced dinner for her daughter, and see that — late again! why can’t you figure out how to be on time for things? What do you think, that your time is more important than others? How could you be so selfish? And I was just so weary, yet so cognizant that I am making myself so much worse by listening and internalizing this crap. So, snarky old bitch, what d’ya say? Truce?


First Steps October 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 4:44 pm

Last Monday night, while I was at a staff meeting and Tima was home with her Auntie Sara, she took her first successive steps. Two to be exact. In the video, it looks like she’s been doing it for weeks, like it was no big deal. Meanwhile in my head, thoughts explode: 

Oh my God, she walked! 

I don’t have the house baby-proofed yet (I know I was supposed to do that when she started crawling).

How many times will she fall and hurt herself?

Will she finally start leaving her shoes on?

It’s too early — an article I read said babies need to crawl for six months — it helps develop all kinds of skills that are critical to later school success.  

But the next day, I watched Tima’s ten second, two-step video over and over and over, and all I thought was: how is SHE possible? How did she come from me and is not like me? Me who is so careful with my body, who so feared the broken bones, road rash, and other wounds my brothers experienced as rambunctious boys that I tempered my adventurousness with caution. Me who stares so intently at knife and fingers when preparing dinner, making sure the right things are being sliced. Me who could walk by my mother on the street and not notice her since I’m usually scanning the ground for trip hazards. Me who followed my marathon training plan almost to the letter for fear that if I didn’t I’d injure myself or it would be a brutal physical experience. 

Watching her walk is humbling — she’s so confident, so sure she can do this walking thing, she’s just so entirely her own being. Perhaps it’s just that she hasn’t had enough experience with pain to be scared or cautious, but I feel like at ten and a half months, I can see what kind of a kid she’s likely to be — physical, bright, assured. And I want her to stay that way. I don’t want to give her my own fears about hurting myself. I want her to be bold and climb trees and run far and play sports if she wants. I’ll need to figure out how to model being cautious AND confident in her physicality.

Most of all, I’d like to stop the thought diarrhea that takes me away from these golden baby moments — I just want to be present and celebrate her growth, her dedication to learning to work her body. 

So congrats, baby girl, you’re my little heroine. 


Some days are hard, and yet… September 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:08 pm

Tima pooped this morning, like she often does, while I was also pooping, a thing I find weird and endearing. I should have known something was up when she didn’t strain and get all red-faced like she usually does. There was just a pause in her babbling as she briefly bared down. It wasn’t until I got her onto the changing table that I noticed smeary poo on my forearm and nightgown, on her onesie and diaper cover. Once her dirty diaper was off, she squirmed and rolled over and pushed up to all fours and did her best to get fecal matter all over the place, but somehow, like the sometimes superhero mama I am, I managed to thwart the spread of the poop. Once she was cleaned up, we went back into the bathroom to wash out the soiled stuff, where I noticed a line of shit in her bouncy seat. Ugh. Twenty minutes of scrubbing later, we were ready to move on with our day, and I though to myself, “It can only get better from here, right?”

Apparently not. This day was not destined to rise above the morning’s crappiness.

Work sucked; I couldn’t concentrate and wasted most of my day on facebook, reading articles tangentially related to my work, and talking to everyone about anything they wanted to talk about. “Relationship building,” I call it, when I feel bad about not plowing through my to do list. Off and on all day, I thought of my best friend, who is going through something he won’t tell me about that’s keeping him away from us. I’m missing him, sad Tima isn’t getting time with her beloved Uncle, pissed at myself that I haven’t been able to better tend and nurture our friendship. We had plans to talk tonight, but he texted later to cancel. Underneath it all is the baseless, irrational fear that he’s done with me, our friendship, that I will lose him. It’s ridiculous, I know that on some level, but no matter how I argue with that fear, I end up so panicky I don’t know what to do with myself.

Then there was back-to-school night at Tima’s daycare after work, which I forgot about, so I was hungry and cranky. Before the teachers started talking to us, I was visiting with another single mom, and I was kind of an ass to her. She said that her daughter’s father told her he did not want to be a part of their lives over the weekend; I said, more or less, that I didn’t have to deal with that stuff because Tima was donor-conceived. I mean, holy shit, what evil spirit possessed me to make me say that insensitive shit instead of, “I’m so sorry”?

Tima was so tired by the time we got home, she couldn’t even eat dinner, take a bath, or even really cry. She half-heartedly gave a go at crying, but it was this subdued, hiccupy thing that was incredibly pitiful as I rushed around making a bottle, getting her cleaned up a little and into pajamas. It took way too long, maybe fifteen minutes, the whole time, Tima crying her exhausted little cry. When we got into bed, the second her lips closed around my nipple, her eyes rolled back into her head and her eyes fluttered shut. Her relief at not having to be awake one second longer should have been a comfort to me, too, but only recriminations flooded me: Why didn’t I bring dinner for her to the open house? Why didn’t I make formula and prep her bottle before I went to pick her up? Why didn’t I have her pajamas ready? Why didn’t I fucking remember we had open house? Will I forever be this disorganized as a parent?

But the question I should have asked myself — Will I ever stop measuring my parenting against unattainable standards — didn’t occur to me. empathy for myself didn’t come, as perhaps, it should have. If any one of my mom friends had told me about inadvertently torturing their tired child by not planning well, I would have reminded them that they are doing their best, that their baby survived well, is still happy and loves their mama. Nope, none of that tender forgiveness for me.

After Tima was fed and sleeping in her crib, I laid in the dark a couple feet from her, listening to her breathe. I stayed longer than I needed to, long after she was deep asleep. Because I can’t rip myself away from her on those days when we only spend about twenty minutes of quality time together in the whole day. About an hour later, hunger drove me to go make dinner, which, it should be no surprise at this point, turned out to be pretty unappetizing. And the kitchen sink is overflowing with dirty dishes.


But there were some bright spots to the day, and I suppose I’d do well to end with them. Fall has arrived with its crisp, sun-drenched morning air, its windy afternoons, and cold evenings. It’s my favorite time of year, and walking Tima out to the car for daycare, it was exciting to introduce her to fall. I also spent a few minutes talking to my best girlfriend about my shitty day and had the opportunity to tell her I appreciate how well she’s loved me and Tima since she was born.

But most of all, I want to remember Tima’s beautiful face in the low light of the morning, her eyelids drooping shut as I walked with her in my arms out to the kitchen to get her morning bottle, her soft sigh as she relaxed into sleep, how her eyes didn’t open, not even when I rested her butt on the edge of the sink, turned on the hot water, and filled a plastic tub to warm the formula.

She almost never does that anymore: sleep wherever and whenever. It reminded me of when she was brand new and slept whenever you needed to. It wasn’t that I longed for those early days — for the love of God, I’d prefer not to repeat those early days for maybe ever — but, if I am paying attention, there can be a time-slowing perfection to witnessing her sleep. In these moments, when I am not standing in judgement of my perceived failings, love trickles through my body when she’s at peace. It’s a rare and complete kind of satisfaction. I miss feeling that throughout my day. I want this memory of my girl, asleep in my arms early this morning, to be a defining goodness; may it transform the sadness and disappointment that pervaded my day.


As the jury deliberates… July 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:49 pm

… the same thought I’ve been having since the Trayvon Martin murder trial began kept rolling around and knocking up against the frail hope I hold out that justice will reign.

Zimmerman will get off because the jury will find he did indeed fear for his life. 

Not because his life was actually in danger. Zimmerman was physically bigger, had 18 months of MMA training under his belt, and a gun in his pocket. How could his life ever have been in actual danger? But because Trayvon was black, Zimmerman’s racial animus, taught to him, taught to all of us, from the moment of birth, was triggered by Trayvon’s blackness. Once he saw that Trayvon had dark skin, all those stereotypes we have about black men in our society welled up in him — they’re violent, they carry guns, they know how to fight, they steal, they cheat, they’ll kill you if you get in their way. So, when he followed Trayvon on that path, and Trayvon tired to defend himself by fighting back, Zimmerman probably did think he was going to die. Because of racism. Not because of reality.

I know this because on a smaller scale, I experience the unfounded, irrational fear of men, and black men in particular, every time a black man walks past me. The racism in me rears up before logic can dispel it. It feels like instinct, but it’s not, it’s just racism and it tells me: danger! threat! cross the street! hold your bag tighter! look hard and tough! I have trained myself to ignore these first thoughts, to hold them up to the light of reality: this man doesn’t look dangerous, he’s minding his own business, he’s smiling, he’s talking with a friend on the phone, whatever I see before me. Because I am not black and I was raised in this country, racism lives in me; it is my job to contain it, to counter it, to whittle away at it’s power. If I react from the racism I carry in me, I am responsible for the damage.

And so is Zimmerman, except, I don’t think most non-black folks, including the jury, will agree with me, see my point of view.

This is the price we pay for not dealing with the root causes of racism: dead children. Teenagers shot by scared non-black, mostly white men. Scared, mostly white men who will not ever be the same for having killed a black or brown boy. Men who will need to construct elaborate stories and justifications in order not to be crushed by the guilt, the knowledge, that surely they all have from time to time, that they ended a life that should still be inhabited.

The cost is too high, but I’m afraid we’ll keep paying it.

Will the jury find Zimmerman guilty of 2nd degree murder? A lesser charge of manslaughter? Not guilty on all counts? We will know in the coming hours, days, or weeks; but no matter what happens, we will still be crushed by the the debt of justice we owe to the thousands of dead black and brown boys who’ve lost their lives at the hands of scared white men.


Formula June 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 12:01 am

The first time I mixed formula for T, I wept. As the sweet and stale smell of the powder rose up to me from the opened canister, I cried so hard I couldn’t see to measure things out properly. My mom had to come finish it. I didn’t want to feed T formula. I wanted to breastfeed. I wanted my breasts to be so full with their own milk that they dripped all over the place. I wanted to deal with stained bras and ruined shirts and smelly nursing pillows. I wanted T to know only the food I made for her. But, my milk hadn’t come in fully. Just a trickle, about an ounce per feeding. At the time, I feared, but did not know, that I wouldn’t ever be able to exclusively breastfeed.

That first time I went to the kitchen counter, I was overcome with shame. I had failed at the most basic thing a mother needs to do — feed her baby. I had no idea if I’d ever be able to make formula for T. It seemed utterly impossible in that moment.

This morning, six and some months from that first time, I mindlessly prepped a mason jar of formula for T’s day at daycare. In a terrifying flash, the loss of not being able to exclusively breastfeed slammed into me. I breathed in deeply and let the sadness wash over me, and I watched it rush away as fast as it had come. How remarkable it is that a thing that felt so wrong, so fundamentally unfair, has become routine.

We are incredibly adaptable to circumstances we’d rather not accept, us humans. This is something that often frustrates me, about others and myself.  We are outraged or saddened by many things we come to accept as normal — we eventually tune out the crazy-ass conservatives bent on taking us back a hundred years, we ignore that civilians are killed by drone warfare, and we shake our heads at all the deaths in super storms caused by climate change. I am often stymied by just how easy it is for me to accept outrageous realities. But harnessing our drive to persist toward  social change is for another post.

This morning, I am grateful for the human capacity for resilience. To stare down our losses and heartaches and tackle the tasks of living anyway is a brave, wonderful thing.


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