Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rachael blogged about my book on hip mama

Rachael, interviewed with Placenta bandmate Eileen in the "Rocker Mamas" chapter, and an integral part of the narrative of the "Playing Mamapalooza 2005" chapter, has a blog on hip mama. Take a look at what she posted here ... http://www.hipmama.com/node/35846

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm holding my book right now!

Today started like it would be a regular ol' day on the home-front. After Ernesto got Emma-Joy and himself readied and out the door for his work and her school, Maya-Rae and I dropped the car off at our neighborhood guy's fix-it shop, cruised by the produce stand on our walk home and biked to our Friday morning playgroup. Back at home, she napped while I prepped the most amazing bean, brown rice and kale green chili enchiladas for dinner. Later, we picked up Emma-Joy from school, played with Sasha the dog in the back yard and raked leaves, walked to pick the car up and went to get Emma-Joy a much-needed haircut.

It was on the walk back to the car fix-it shop when I spotted a UPS truck turning down my street. Had we not been already late to pick the car up, I would have doubled back to see if the truck was going to stop at our house.

Back at home, the box sitting on the chair next to the front door is the first thing my eyes gravitated towards. From the driveway, peering out my driver-side window, I strained my eyes through their thick-lensed glasses enough to make out that the shipping label read AK Press.

Dancing in my seat on my still seat-belted ass to no music, I squealed to Emma-Joy that my book was finally here! "So what," she said. "So what??? I worked so hard writing it and it's a dream come true to finally see it!" I told her, my spastic ass still doing a stationary dance. "Well then, go get it and I'll get Maya-Rae," she suggested.

Prior to seeing the box of books waiting for me, I actually wasn't sure what my feelings would be. I thought it might be anticlimactic, giving it a blank stare that meant "Now what? I'm holding the long-awaited book, but is anyone else?" I worried that I wouldn't like it after all, that I'd let myself down by not editing out that thing or including that other information.

But when I opened the box and saw my very own, first ever book staring back at me, it felt good. Very, very good! Pride, excitement, and disbelief took me over. As did several exclamations of "Oh shit! I really did it!" I knew I'd worked really hard and written something, handed in some manuscript to someone, but not until I saw it for the first time this evening did it become real.

To touch it, open its pages, check out the front pages I'd never seen before, as well as the back cover and the layout, was an ecstatic thrill. Emma-Joy grabbed the camera out of my purse and snapped a picture of me crouched on the floor over the newly opened box, book in one hand and Maya-Rae in the other, the biggest possible smile across my face. (I'll post it here as soon as I figure out how...) I called Ernesto at work, and then my mom. And I kicked myself for not being able to find my editor Ellen's phone number!

Forget actually cooking the enchiladas for dinner, the girls got lollipops and ramen noodles tonight (yes, in that order) as I just couldn't tear myself out of reading this chapter or part of that one, needing to convince myself that yeah, it really did turn out more than OK! No matter if others love it or hate it, it's my best effort.

So yeah, the book is out!!! And now, both girls are in bed and it's time to drink some wine tonight to celebrate!

What's the book about anyway?

Since several people have asked that very question and I rarely can accurately answer in brief, here's the Table of Contents and the Preface...and oh yeah, it's 330 pages!

Pregnancy and Birth
1. Pregnancy: Month by Month, Inside and Out
2. When Birth Doesn’t Go As Planned
3. Epilogue (Reflections on My Birthing Experience)

Newborn (0-3 Months)
4.Newborn Care
5.Breast-feed Your Baby
6.The Family Bed Controversy
8.Virtues of Cloth Diapering
9.“Your Life Is About to Change Forever”

Full-On Baby! (4-11 months)
10.The Baby Gender-Coding Phenomenon
11.Battling Isolation
12.Going Back to Work
13.Thrifty Mama
14.First Foods

1 Year Old
15.Toddler Chomps
16.Discipline Notes: Setting Up a “Yes” Environment for a Free Child
17.Cutting the Cord
18.Organizing Cooperative Childcare
19.Never Join the “MOPS”

2 Years Old
20.The Great TV Debate
22.The Gender-Coding War Continues
23.Moving From Home: Building Community Takes Time
24.Touring with Tots
25. Weaning Epilogue: Confessions of an Unweaner

3 Years Old
26.A Typical Day with My Preschooler
27.Organizing Childcare for the FTAA Protests
28.Who Gives a Shit About Kids and Cursing?
29. Discipline Notes: Relationship Is Everything
30. Slave to Fashion, Part 1
31.Growing Up Punk: Interview with Angelina Drake

4 Years Old
32.Setting Up an Art Center
33.Punk Rock Kids Spring Break
34.Three Generations March for Choice
35.Dad Is Not the Babysitter!
36.Cofounding the Village Cooperative Skool
37.Mommy-Daughter Weekend Road Trip
38. Slave to Fashion, Part 2

5 Years Old
39.Guiding My Kid Through the Marketing Madness
40.Interview with Rocker Mamas Eileen and Rachael
41.Mommy’s Alone Time Starts on the Greyhound
42. Discipline Notes: Communication is #1
43.Playing Mamapalooza 2005
44.“Mom, I Wanna Go to Real School!”


Preface ....
When Maximum Rock N Roll (MRR) zine announced they were putting out a “punks having kids” theme issue, I didn’t hesitate to send in a little written something along with a picture of my newly protruding preggo belly. By the time that issue came out, my newborn Emma-Joy was with me and I couldn’t have devoured fast enough the words the other punks with kids had to offer.
In July 2000, I sent in my first column for MRR, titled My Mother Wears Combat Boots. My new mama friend Kaile gave me the idea for the title after I told her I’d chosen a “punk parent” theme for it, though I had free reign to write about any topic. Being a new parent, I couldn’t think about anything more immediate that I needed or wanted to write about. Ideally I thought, I’d be helping myself navigate these new mama waters by writing about it and at the same time, sharing experiences with and getting in touch with other punkparents. You know, building community.
In the first year, the column got me in touch with a slew of other parents through letters, email and phone calls, too. Some offered their words as column contributors. Due to requests from some others who didn’t get their hands on MRR as often as they’d liked, I compiled the first year’s worth of columns into zine format, putting it out as Yard Wide Yarns #8, the zine I’d been doing since 1993.
It was then in late 2001 that I first thought it would be great to some day write a book. My initial idea was to wait to compile what would be the “best of” the first 5 year’s worth of columns. In July 2005, when I sat down to sketch out an outline of what the book would and wouldn’t contain, the project started taking on a life of its own.
What you hold in your hands now contains very little original column writing. Maybe those columns make up just half the book’s skeleton. And two chapters, “Pregnancy: Month by Month, Inside and Out” and “When Birth Doesn’t Go As Planned” originally appeared in Clamor Magazine as a three part series in their first three issues; here they have been edited and updated from their original versions. The rest of the book is all new writing, carefully balancing personal anecdote, practical advice and political analysis.
The book itself is a dream come true. Once the opportunity to do it came, having worked hard to make a dream come true, I was scared of it. Scared enough to almost convince myself that it was too much for me, that I should just let it go. But then a different internal voice told me that if I didn’t take the opportunity to make a dream come true, I’d be a flat out loser.
So I started juggling. Finding the space and time to do it, between work and kid, between getting pregnant again, having a new baby in 2006, moving cross country, stealing away sleep time even after I’d hired a babysitter, I can’t believe I pulled it off. Though the book ends with Emma-Joy in kindergarten, I didn’t finish writing it until the new baby, Maya-Rae was 16 months old and Emma-Joy was seven, just finishing the 1st grade.
You hold here a journey. In many ways, writing a book was like being pregnant and giving birth all over again.
I sincerely hope this book will add to the generations of mama voices before mine and to my own generation’s collection of mama voices so that the new mamas and papas searching for ideas on “how to do it” will feel a bit of solidarity in the ranks. I hope it will serve as sort of an instruction manual, the one I searched for when I became a new mama but couldn’t find.
In the book, I’ve also set out to debunk some myths. Among them, that hospital birth is the only choice, that only “stay-at-home” moms can successfully breastfeed, that it takes a shit ton of money to have a child, the supermom myth, that it’s time to “settle down”, and that you can’t do certain things anymore (like go on tour with your band) once you have a kid.
And oh yeah, to remind you, too, that you have to keep your sense of humor.
Though this book is written from a partnered parenting perspective, it is not meant to exclude single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, extra parents or any other nontraditional families. I hope you will be able to translate my standard language to fit your family type.
For those of you who are not mamas or papas yet, though NO amount of reading other’s stories of parenthood will prepare you for what parenthood is REALLY like, hopefully this book will show you that though your life certainly changes beyond comprehension, it doesn’t end. Quit the opposite. Life parenting a child is new and there’s never a dull moment. Though things do get tired and broken, it keeps changing, evolving, recreating meaning and redefining ideas. It’s the hardest thing ever and worth it. Read with an open mind, but not so open that you take everything in. Just take what resonates with you and leave the rest. Don’t subscribe to any one style. Be selective in learning about and developing your own style that fits you, your kid and your family. Recognize your privileges as well as your limitations, what your circumstances dictate that you have to work with and work with it! Parenting demands lots of responsibility and hard work, no matter hat you’ve got or don’t have, to do things as close to how you want and think they should be. Above all, think and make conscious choices instead of being purely reactionary and parent (or not parent as the case may more often be) the same way you were parented.
For those of you who are already parents, may you find solidarity in the ranks, that stories herein help you out like others’ stories have helped me. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone when you feel like truly you are, and with parenting, knowing you’re not alone is necessary. Be patient with yourself as much as you need to be with your kid; figuring out how parenting and ideals mesh together isn’t a no-brainer. It’s a rather large task to find the balance between your own and your kid’s desires and needs. Consider these comforting words from Erik W. Davis, a fellow parent on the anarchist parenting listserv, “Listen to yourself. Be brave about your doubts, but don’t punish yourself for some ideal of “perfect parenting.” There are no perfect parents, and the sooner we all realize that, the better we’ll actually be as real parents … Go for your ideals as hard as you can, but keep in mind that perfection is not possible, and kindness to yourself may occasionally mean not pursuing an ideal in favor of your own or your child’s best interests.” Shit happens and you will make mistakes. But don’t despair, kids get over it, the world doesn’t end and kids are forgiving, especially when you’ve established trust and a history of sincere apology when necessary. Learn from your mistakes and do better next time.
For those of you who haven’t yet decided if kids are for you or not, may you neither be scared away nor pulled in – the answer to your kid or no kid question can only be found by taking a look inward.
For those who have decided that kids are most definitely not for them, may this book give you insight into the world of the parents and kids in your life and community as well as courage to be an ally and recognize that supporting choice goes both ways, for those who’ve chosen not to become a parent and for those who have. And that as cliché as it sounds, it really does take a village to raise a child and you can be a part of that village-wide effort. You’ll benefit, too.
Parenting is living a life of daily revolution.

What the back cover says...

A parenting guide like no other! Jessica Mills, a touring punk musician, artist, and political activist, gives readers a delightful, information-packed guide to having and raising kids without giving up your politics, art, or life.

Disappointed by run-of-the-mill parenting books that didn't speak to her experience, Jessica set out to write a book tackling the issues faced by a new generation of moms and dads. The result is a parenting guide like no other. Written with humor, extensive research, and much trial and error, My Mother Wears Combat Boots delivers sound advice for parents of all stripes. Amid stories of bringing kids (and grandparents) to women's rights demonstrations, taking baby on tour with her band, and organizing cooperative childcare, Jessica gives detailed nuts-and-bolts information about weaning, cloth vs. disposable diapers, the psychological effects of co-sleeping, and even how to get free infant gear. This book provides a clever, hip, and entertaining mix of advice, anecdotes, political analysis, and factual sidebars that will help parents as they navigate the first years of their child's life.

"Jessica Mills is a great writer with a lot to say and the heart, guts, brains, and perseverance it takes to do it. My Mother Wears Combat Boots is an instant classic, the latest in the evolution of punk sensibilities into sustainable community action: full of real life experience and well-researched inquiry. It will take another generation before a parenting book has the cutting edge insight, yet stable strength, of this collection."
—China Martens, author of The Future Generation: A Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others

"This is the most sympathetic read I've come across in my travels as a punk parent and musician. It's nice to know that there is someone else in the world that understands 'The Life' and is not afraid to put her insights in print. Thank you, Jessica."
—Ara Babajian, (drummer for The Slackers)

"My Mother Wears Combat Boots helps to pave the way for a whole new generation of moms with advice on the down to earth essentials of parenting, it's also further proof that you don't have to stop Rockin' once you have become a parent. I found this to be an invaluable resource as a new mom!"
—Chris(tine) Boarts Larson, editor of Slug & Lettuce

"Sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartwarming, Jessica Mills is brilliant in her own down-to-earth way. My Mother Wears Combat Boots avoids the pitfalls of the polemical and preachy and serves as an entertaining guide to how to raise a child into more than another blind consumer."
—Sean Carswell, Razorcake magazine

"How unreal and yet real it is to have a mother of two bring along a babysitter on tour in a wonderful refusal to be 'tied down' by motherhood-and now have the experience written up in intelligent and captivating prose, alongside a wealth of 'how-to' info and inspiring stories that relate touring to family life and in the process redefine both. Excellent!"
—Dick Lucas, Subhumans / Citizen Fish