Category Archives: PEOPLE

I GOT YOU BABE

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So I’ve been sitting and sitting on this blog post, trying to unspool something insightful about having a baby. But in the two and a half weeks since she’s been here, you know what I’ve come to realize? All the cliches about babies? Totally true.

Maybe you’ve heard things like this before from sniffling new parents, or have come across them on an Anne Geddes card:

Babies are miracles.

Babies are adorable.

The moment you have a baby, your whole life changes.

Looking at your baby, you finally understand true love.

In other words, babies inspire sap. Babies = Sap City! And I am Sap City’s new mayor.

Historically, I’ve never really been a baby person. Two years, three, when kids are starting to talk – that is my jam. My absolute favorite age. Babies, I always thought, were…fine, I suppose, if a little blob-like. You eat, you expel, you sleep? Ok. That’s cool, baby. I guess.

Until (and you knew this was coming) Nico arrived.

Now, I have to physically restrain myself from staring at her and openly weeping fat, salty tears all over her pink baby body.

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We’ve had a lot of delightful family and friend visits lately, and when they come over, I usually tell them something like the above. Then, I quickly qualify it with: “But that’s just the oxytocin talking.”

Why do I do that? Why the reflex to undercut my admittedly sappy and enormous affection for Nico with some cool-girl quip?

I’m not sure, but I’m trying to stop. As I told a friend the other day about having a baby, “it erases all of your cynicism and makes you feel like walking love.” That is how I actually feel. More to the point: I never thought I would joyfully cheer for chubby baby legs, or more surprisingly, diapers. Because every one is this unbelievable affirmation that things are working over here, and that holy shit — I’m keeping you alive! My body is making FOOD and you’re EATING IT and we’re DOING THIS THING! Game on, baby!

Here are some other realities / feelings I didn’t expect about having a baby:

* “I will never exploit my baby over the Internet.” Hahaha! Tooooooo late. This is something I said to myself a few times during pregnancy, born of some high-minded resolve that Nico would choose the time to share her own picture over the Internet. Sorry, Nico! I want to show the whole world my beautiful baby! Privacy be damned; the NSA will also be receiving your birth announcement.

* “I will never co-sleep.” As soon as you have a baby – hell, as soon as you’re pregnant – you start trying to figure out what kind of parent you’re going to be. You do this by assessing the available baby-rearing tribes out there: the attachment crowd? Bringing Up Bebe? Religious? There are lots of labels out there, but in the end everybody kind of mixes things up based on what kind of baby they get. Still, I knew enough about attachment parenting to determine that I’d never be into co-sleeping, the practice by which you and baby share a bed. Because, dude! What if you rolled over on them?! Or worse: had an eventual 15 year-old who insisted on crawling into bed with you? Terrifying.

What a surprise it was, then, that co-sleeping turned out to be 50 times easier than anything else we’ve tried. Maybe because Nico is still transitioning out of the good ol’ days in the womb? Whatever the reason, she sleeps the most soundly all cuddled up in our bed. I still feel guilty admitting this, because I’m still worried about rolling over on her; as a result we keep a bassinet next to the bed and usually start her off there at night. And even there, I thought I’d be such a hard-ass in terms of self-soothing (“oh, let her fuss! That’s what babies DO!”), but as it turns out, I’m just like every other freakin’ softie who jumps the very second their baby whimpers. And when she does, up into bed she goes.

* You’ll check if they’re still breathing roughly 100 times an hour. I always, always think Nico has stopped breathing. Even when she’s grasping my hand like a miniature vice grip, and her eyes are physically open as if to say, “hey, look! Still breathing!”

* You’ll constantly worry about dropping them. Here’s another paranoid thing: I envision her falling out of my arms constantly. My brain has no shortage of twisted/ridiculous scenarios for how this could happen, either, including but not limited to me stepping Three Stooges-like onto a rake and it stunning me into full-on baby drop (note: we don’t own a rake).

* You really will want to kiss their eyeballs. A fellow mom told me this once on Facebook when I mentioned I was pregnant. And actually, I think I successfully have (owing to the fact that I kiss Nico compulsively all over her face while she is crying, a new practice she probably finds extremely annoying).

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More to come.

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PHOTOS: WHO’S SEX POSITIVE? PREGNANT WOMEN ARE SEX POSITIVE.

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Moi.

So I’ve gone back and forth on posting these pictures. On the pro side, it’s:

“YAY! Pretty photos! To share on the Internet and prompt people to say nice things about me!!!”

And on the con side, it’s:

“Umm, ok. My pregnant body on the Internet! That’s a little weird! Vulnerable! Potentially embarrassing!”  

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that the concept of self-branding eludes me entirely and I’m just not very good at it. As an aerialist/yoga person, I am a-ok with pictures of all bodies, including mine, because human physiology is fascinating (to me) and its capabilities beautiful (to me).

But as a writer, I have a knee-jerk hesitation to showing any skin, because, because…well, I’m not entirely sure. Life of the mind vs. life of the body, I guess.

However, as previously discussed, a topic that captures both my interest in bodies and my interest in thinkerly, writer things is that of sex positivity for women. And specifically, pregnant women.

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Hence, this maternity photo shoot. I did it a few weeks ago with a very talented local photographer, Whitney Martin, and my dear friend Fannie, a stylist-slash-video game programmer. (Slash-badass.)

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(Slash-model.)

We shot it at Bull Creek, a craggy park in Austin overhung with ancient oak trees and wrapped in mossy caves. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

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Over these past 37 (whoa) weeks, I’ve found that it’s very, very easy to feel infantalized as a pregnant women. The maternity wear complex creates clothes that make you feel like a giant baby yourself, with frilly, pastel outfits and message T’s that say things like, “I’m baking a GIRL!” with appliqued cupcakes or “Mama’s little RASCAL!” with an arrow pointing down to your belly. Why?

Maybe it’s because pregnancy is a clear, visible sign of sex being had, and cutesy outfits like that take the edge off, making a woman’s sex-having body less threatening.

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Anyway, that definitely wasn’t the route I wanted to go for a maternity shoot, but conversely, I knew I didn’t want a pregnancy boudoir shoot either. I’ve seen beautiful, sensual examples of that, but I’m just too immature to pull it off. I’d be snickering the whole time and acting a fool for the poor photographer.

So what did this picky photo subject want? Well, something that felt like me.

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I wanted something that captured the all-encompassing womanliness I’ve felt during this pregnancy, something that felt nature-y/natural, and something that felt interesting. And, maybe, something like Stevie Nicks.

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So Whitney, Fannie and I collaborated on putting together a session that didn’t divorce sexuality from the whole maternity experience, which is a very formal way of saying we shared a Pinterest board.

And how do I feel about the result?

I am THRILLED. I love them! These photos will probably humiliate my daughter to no end one day, but until that time, I’m happy to have a visual memory of this little sliver of my life, thanks to Fannie and Whitney.

Pregnancy is a time where I haven’t always felt 100% awesome about my body, but you know what? I think that’s good for me. I like to think I’m a feminist, but my perception of what is beautiful is just as influenced by media / American culture / the “male gaze” as anyone else’s. On top of that, pregnancy always seemed like this freaky, science fictional thing to me (probably because most science fiction is written by men), akin to Alien or Gremlins.

But now, corny as it sounds, I’ve been converted. I’m shocked at what the female body can do, and I like the idea that baby and I are working together as a team to make her strong. Nutrition / good sleep / prenatal care / blah blah are all parts of that, but sex was (obviously) a pretty essential part of it, too. “Sex positive” and “belly proud” don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. You can celebrate the cute little baby growing inside your belly, and simultaneously celebrate the sex that brought him or her here. I don’t think anyone openly disputes this; I’m just ready for a culture that finds a portrayal balance between hyper-sexualized moms (i.e. MILF’s) and one that pretends moms are these harried, sexless creatures who are only focused on motherhood and THAT’S IT!

There’s a middle ground, I like to think.

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Thanks again to Whitney and Fannie – I love you both.

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ADVENTURES IN PODCASTING

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Omar Gallaga’s Statesman story about local podcasts from 2.10.14.

Forgive the sparks that I fear will shoot out of this blog post at any moment, Reader. Not only am I terribly excited, but I’m currently drinking coffee, REAL COFFEE, which to a pregnant woman is like Adderall combined with Four Loko combined with cocaine. I am hyper.

But I’m exercising restraint, because I want to tell you about this new culture podcast from the Austin American-Statesman that I’m a part of, without overselling it! You know when someone tells you about a movie, and they are like, “you have to see it. No, seriously. This weekend. F-k that. Right now! I will take you to see this movie RIGHT NOW and you will love it because I loved it and I have already seen it six times it’s just that meaningful”? And that creates pressure on your viewing experience, and then you just like the movie just ok, but you have to insert fake enthusiasm into your voice because your friend is so fanatical? (If you’ve ever discussed the claymation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with me, then you already know what this uncomfortable situation is like.)

So I don’t want to do that, but I do want to say that the new culture podcast that Omar Gallaga (tech/culture writer at the Statesman) and I put together – “Statesman Shots” – is causing me a lot of happiness.

Each week, Omar, I, and a third guest talk about three items that are popping up in local Austin conversation – items mostly culture, and mostly local – and intersperse them with games. Sometimes our topics aren’t local at all: this week, for example, we discussed House of Cards and it’s return to Netflix with Season 2. Why? Because it’s amazing. But we also talk about things like Austin’s food scene, the evolving mission and huge-ness of SXSW, and Disney characters we feel very strongly about.

Right now, our third guests all come from Statesman‘s own newsroom, but we’re eventually going to expand that net to include other local folks as well.

It’s a project Omar and I have been cooking up for nearly a year and a half, after we spoke on a panel together for Online News Association and discovered we both had mutual geek affection for podcasts. WTF with Marc Maron, Radiolab, The Dinner Party…all the hits. That’s when we realized, uh – why doesn’t Austin have a culture show? Could we make a culture show? (If you’ve followed my weird little blog for a while you know this has been a longtime dream.)

So we put together a treatment for our show concept, pitched it around…et voila! Omar’s very own professional home, the Statesman, picked it up. We started it for real in January, and we love, love it. Maybe you’ll love it too! Here’s how you can listen/connect:

Statesman Shots Blog

iTunes! (i.e. your phone)

Statesman Shots Facebook Page

Statesman Shots Twitter

This is a weekly show, so we are always looking for topic and guest ideas. Seriously.

As a result though of the story Omar wrote about both our podcast and Austin podcasts in general last week, I realized that – duh! – Austin actually does have a lot of culture shows. Other programs like When in Austin, Austin Sessions, and more. It’s kind of a scattered community right now and reminds me of the early days of Austin’s blog scene, when we were all little islands and wondering how to do what we did better. We are very fortunate to have a platform like the Statesman to launch our show, and I personally am very fortunate to have a co-host like Omar, who is a hard worker, sharp writer, and overall gracious and kind human being. He midwifed our show into existence! But as Austin’s podcasting scene matures, perhaps we’ll start having little meetups or something where we can coalesce and get to know each other better, those of us in the podcasting scene.

Do you listen to podcasts, Reader?

Also, since we haven’t talked in a while, and because I’m still flying high on caffeine, I feel compelled to catch up on other aspects of life. Can we do that? Can we have a proper Cawfee Tawk?

CAWFEE TAWK #1: I’m still pregnant! Wow, I’m pregnant. This is how I look, and this is how I feel. I’m officially in the third trimester now, and we’re still dutifully attending our hummus-laden birth classes. Still teaching yoga, and even doing the teensiest, tiniest bit of aerial, but once baby girl is on the outside I’ll be very eager to hop back on the silks again.

CAWFEE TAWK #2: Speaking of silks, I’m in a new silks company! Did we discuss this already? I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s called Rapt Aerial Dance, and we’re putting together an open house during SXSW to celebrate our brand new space on E. Cesar Chavez. If you’d like to come by during the open house and take some free aerial classes, email me! Or leave a comment. And if you’d like to be an edible/drinkable (non-alcoholic) event sponsor, or a band that wants to come play, let me know too.

CAWFEE TAWK #3: Writing. I performed in a storytelling event for Austin Bat Cave on Tuesday (Story Department) that was a ton of fun, telling (naturally) my story about attending a naked yoga class. That thing just doesn’t get old. Also, I wrote a short piece for the Statesman about the House of Cards connection to Lyndon B. Johnson, and if you’re a fan of that show (like me) as well as a dork for presidential history (also like me), then perhaps you’ll enjoy it – it comes out this Sunday in the culture section. Oh, AND. Wrote a story for Citygram Magazine about moms with tattoos – “Mom Ink” – that came out today. Was a serious blast to write, and it probably deserves its own proper post. Other than that, just pitching my strange little ideas around, often getting rejected but sometimes accepted. (<–Which should be the title of an after-school special.)

Whew. I think that’s it. And you, Reader? How goes it on your end of the computer screen?

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THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

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Images: Pilfered from my friends’ very fun Instagram account, Reveiller.

I remember the day very well.

It all started with breakfast in my family’s teeny tiny dining room, tucked into our teeny tiny apartment. My mom, God bless her, would get up each morning to cook something for me, and while I was eating, steal into my bedroom to lay my clothes out for me, then dash around and dress herself. But this morning was different; this morning, we were in a hurry. Mom was late, she said, and could I be a big girl and dress myself?

I considered my options.

I was seven years old at the time, just on the cusp of understanding clothing status. For example: I knew that Guess was cool. Anytime you saw a girl wearing jean shorts with that upside-down triangle on the back pocket? Very cool. Gap Kids? Also cool. Reebok Pump shoes were cool, but only if you were a boy; for girls, it was Cole Haan loafers, which weren’t the most practical choice for running around on a jungle gym, but still: Very on-trend. Very now.

I didn’t wear any of these things, because we couldn’t afford them. But I was still too young to care, and didn’t have any older siblings to bemoan the injustice of her absent Gap wardrobe, so it was fine that I wore hand-me-down’s and things that my mom made. Though on this particular morning, without any garment guidance at all, it seemed I had two choices: I could either stamp my feet in protest, or approach my own dresser, and attempt to make sense of its contents.

“Five minutes!” Mom called from the kitchen. “We’ve got five minutes before we have to go.”

My dad constantly carried a red bandana in his back pocket, a remnant from all the years he spent on ranches, squinting into the sun and wiping his brow. I adored them, fascinated by their intricate paisley pattern and the fact that I had once seen Janet Jackson wear one in a magazine. So with only moments to spare, I plucked one from my drawer, and decided this would be the basis of my look. I would be a cowgirl today. And it would be very cool.

Next, I moved onto shirt. What would a cowgirl wear to school? Obviously a puff painted shirt that said “I <3 JOEY” on it, right? A shirt with pieces of ribbon glued to it, no less, and a My Little Pony iron-on. This was an extremely fancy shirt, one I would wear to my inevitable wedding to Joey McIntyre.

Bottoms were next, and here, I floundered. Did cowgirls wear shorts? Yeah. Probably. I didn’t know. How about bike shorts? Were cowgirls a bike shorts-wearing people? Only one way to find out, so I put them on, and analyzed my current look in the mirror: bandana, puff paint Joey t-shirt, spandex. This outfit was really coming together!

I found a denim skirt to put on top of said bike shorts, proto-layering if you will, and decided that my ensemble was nearly complete. I snatched a bluebonnet barrette off the floor to put in my hair (Texas, y’all), my sneakers, and Mom and I were on our way.

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My outfit garnered no more than sideways glances from my polished, well turned-out classmates. These were children wearing Gap Kids practically since birth, but it would be a few years until we noticed that kind of thing. Our PE teacher, however, was a different story.

“What in the HECK are you wearing, Moseley?”

Coach Montanio was a rotund man with the swagger of an Italian mobster, an interesting choice for an elementary school PE teacher. I remember mostly loving him, except for the time he told me he could run a lap faster sliding on his belly than I could on my own two feet. A challenge, looking back, that I should have accepted.

“You’ve got clothes on top of other clothes. And who is JOEY? What did you glue to this thing?”

He was full of questions, assessing my outfit. But that was alright. I knew I looked sharp.

You have to understand that during this time, my dad’s favorite shirt was some long-sleeved purple business, with a picture of the pope playing electric guitar on the front. These were paired with what can only be described as Hammer pants. Also, my mom painted black and white cow spots on our kitchen cabinets, so as a family, our collective style compass pointed in a different direction than the rest of our neighborhood. Which as a kid I didn’t mind, as a preteen I was horribly embarrassed by, and as an adult I’m back to thinking it was cool.

I thought about that little seven year-old weirdo yesterday while interviewing Wynn Myers and Levi Dugat for an upcoming TRIBEZA story, and we got to talking about style and what that term means, exactly. Over the years I’d beg my mom to take me to Gap Kids, layering on more and more conformity as I got older. I desperately wanted to fit in, and became an astute watcher in the process, studying how my classmates dressed, walked, talked. The first time I overheard one discussing Vail and how she tried a double black diamond, I thought she was talking about a type of food (specifically, a classier version of Double Stuffed Oreos).

But despite the odds I caught onto the rules of my preppy neighborhood anyway, and I was nice, and I was smart. So I slummed it with my fellow non-rich smart kid friends, until greater social acceptance was possible.

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As a creative person, Wynn, Levi and I decided, you’re always absorbing different people’s art and adoring it, but also always having to step back and make sure it’s not influencing you too much. This happens to me all the time with writing: I read Nick Hornby, and I start writing like Nick Hornby. (Not a bad problem to have.) Wynn is a photographer, and she talked about how the visual style of Alexandra Valenti (a photographer we both admire) caught on in a huge way, but that she, Wynn, wouldn’t know where to begin to replicate something like that. I’m thinking Wynn probably has all the tools and technical knowledge to put together an Alexandra Valenti-esque shoot…but I believe she meant that on a personal, spiritual level. You always want to be authentic, she said, and to attempt something like Alexandra’s work just wouldn’t be authentic for her. It has to come from a real place.

Whenever I visit Alamo Heights, the moneyed small town inside San Antonio where I grew up, I am amazed by how charming it is. Everything’s so pretty and well cared-for, from the front lawns to the churches. A lot of my classmates grew up and moved back to Alamo Heights because it was that real place for them, the place where they felt authentic and happy.

But I think I spent all of college and most of my 20s trying to uncover the bandana/I HEART JOEY/bluebonnet barrette kid, through little fault of Alamo Heights really, and mostly because I got so deep in the habit of watching other people and becoming a really good mimic, whether it be my past day jobs, my writing, or my other creative ventures.

This was all in my head after my talk with Wynn and Levi, while I was walking around Half-Price Books trolling for inspiration, when my friend from college Mary Brown showed up. After hugs and how-are-you’s? and a little mutual fawning over each other – she had on this fantastic rainbow healer necklace pendant that I couldn’t stop looking at – Mary told me she was living in Portland now, just back in Austin for a visit. Back home, she was doing bodywork and studying under amazing teachers, and just generally loving life.

“It’s like I’ve been removing layers,” she said of her past few years, smiling as she said it. “You know?”

I knew. I knew exactly what she meant.

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DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME

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Rod Stewart: the stuff dreams are made of. Image courtesy Suffragette City; inspiration courtesy Megan Renart.

What do you dream about?

Not, “what are your hopes and dreams.” I mean, when you sleep, what are the bizarre motion pictures that play out in your mind?

Recently, a couple of friends have been texting me their dreams, and it delights me to no end.

Our buddy Virginia recently had a dream that Ross and I lived in a treehouse, and invited Virginia and her husband Zach over to hang out. Ross and I had only one house rule for visitors, and it was this: everyone was required to wear fuzzy, pink pajamas during their stay. (Not a bad rule to instate at our current residence.)

This information made me grin for about a week. And then, this morning, Megan wrote me an email about her dream (posted here with her permission):

T,
I had this dream last night that you and I found out that Rod Stewart was performing in the very building we were walking through. It was a cross between Barton Springs Mall and the Blanton.

We were descending the staircase (that looked like the Blanton staircase but was open on both sides) when we realized that there was an open spot and we could see Rod Stewart performing just a few feet from us. We went nuts. He was about 3 feet tall and wearing clothes that I imagine a pirate would wear to bed on his off nights. You were so overcome that you ran up to the group until security grabbed you by the hair and dragged you away. You were completely unaffected by this, only saying when you returned to my side, “I had to give the keyboardist a hug!”

-And now, I will grin about THAT for a week.

I’ve long wanted to keep a dream journal, but suspect that my dreams – while fascinating to me – are too self-referential and boring for everyone else. That’s because inside my cluttered attic of a mind, interesting narratives sometimes play out, but I only remember them in snatches when I wake up. I’ll seize Ross and cry, “you had…wings! Wings, Ross! And I was cooking…salmon! With blue marbles on top! Don’t you get it?

Not surprisingly, he has nothing to say about this.

But I can remember some of his dreams from years ago, and they still make me laugh.

One time, Ross had a dream that he had a special relationship with a group of ants (?), and that they all lived together on what I believe were camping grounds. Maybe a park. Anyway. Some people wanted to come and set up shop on top of the ants’ home, and they were getting all pissed off about it. So Ross found the ants another home next to a tree, somehow led them there in their secret Ross/ants language, and everyone was happy! The people got their space, and the ants got a new house.

How can that not make you giggle?

(It’s even funnier when you know Ross, and how diplomatic he is. He is always very pro-communication and solution-oriented, even when his conversation partner is an insect.)

Do you have any funny/strange dreams stashed away in your memory? I really would love to hear about them.

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