Monday, February 26, 2007

Choosing a partner was easy; deciding on a last name was the hard part.


After our ceremony, Mick and I ran from the church out into the dusky October night. The groomsmen had decked out our truck with wicked looking plastic Halloween scythes that criss-crossed the back window with streamers, and they painted “I want to DO Micky, DO Micky—don’t break my heart, Micky” on the hood. As we waved goodbye, scooting ourselves across the vinyl seats, our marriage certificate slid to the floor. It wasn’t until we returned from our honeymoon that we found it, crumpled and smudged, somewhere between the gearshift and the passenger-side mat.

A couple weeks later, I finally brought it into the house. The date and the place were blurred, but the rest of the writing was legible. It was then that I realized that nowhere on the certificate did it say my married name. In fact, it had my “maiden” name, Anjie Seewer, written twice. The first time, the pastor predictably misspelled my name (“Anjie Sewer”). The second time, it fills a space requiring my full signature. I’d signed my name as I’d known it for 26 years: Anjanette M. Seewer.

As a kid, I used to watch the older girls in my church be transformed by the prospect of marriage and a new name. It seemed to start with the obligatory wedding shower.

The women who threw these showers had names like Gladys or Faye – and they typically had large breasts, wide hips, and tightly permed hair. They all dressed in what seemed to be a uniform of floral print blouses and polyester pants —and the showers they threw were inevitably kitchen or bath themes.

Only occasionally would the shower be personal, thrown by the slightly younger generation of older women in the church -- a bleach blonde Vicki with prominent roots or a scoop-necked Kathy with deep, deep cleavage. At these showers, I’d have the rare opportunity to watch the bride-to-be smile and blush as she held up pink slip nighties or red teddies, while I sat there secretly dreaming of a man’s touch on my bare skin, the drop of that thin satin strap off my shoulder, that unbearable meltdown into blissful surrender.

At the end of the shower, when she’d opened her last gift, we’d gather around the bride-to-be and tape together all the wrapping paper into a stiff and crinkly patchwork wedding dress, forever sealing in our minds the image of the soon-to-be Mrs. Larry Felder or Mrs. Jim Rogers -- the woman with the new name and purpose.

I don’t go by Mrs. Mick Reynolds, although, admittedly, some of my junk mail screams that (and it always seems to be the mail that comes with multiple sheets of address labels inside). But I do go by Anjie Reynolds, and in these ten years following my wedding, I’ve tried to come to terms with choosing that name.

I wanted to shirk the patriarchal implications of taking Mick’s last name (besides, Anjie Reynolds sounds so domestic and sturdy, like Debbie Reynolds or Reynolds Wrap), but I also like the concept of being unified in name, in belonging that way – especially when kids came into the picture.

Once, early on – before I’d officially decided upon a last name– I considered keeping “Seewer” as my last name. Not only had it been my name my entire life, (and an interesting one, at that – “No, that’s Seewer, sewer with an extra e”) I also liked the connection to my Swiss heritage. I found myself thinking “I’m proud to be a Seewer, it’s who I am…” when I realized “Seewer” is only half of my heritage, and that I hadn’t even considered my mother’s side. Maybe I should include her maiden name too. And that’s when it hit me. My mom’s maiden name is her father’s last name. And her mother’s maiden name is her mother’s father’s last name. And her mother’s mother’s maiden name is but another father’s last name. No matter where it goes, it’s some man’s name.

Sometimes it feels like I just gave up after that; however, if there’s anything I’m learning in these subsequent years about being a woman, a partner, and now, a mother, these choices aren’t always necessarily about giving up or giving in, they’re about giving it the best you’ve got.

Everyone I know has given it the best they’ve got, and many of them have chosen differently than I have: Nate broke the mold and took his wife’s last name, which has earned him the dubious nickname “The Missus”; Aimee Nelson kept her last name but her grandfather says she’ll always be Aimee Engalls to him now (and he’s her paternal grandfather!); Karen and Mark each kept their last names but when they had children, their daughter took her last name and their son took his, which they tell me can be a bit of a hassle; and of course, there’s the whole crowd of women who hyphenate or use their former-last-name-as-their-new-middle-name (which is what I did – although you’d never know it except to see my driver’s license). Everyone seems to attempt to merge as fairly — although not always necessarily as succinctly — as possible.

I know names are powerful. Why else would I be sweating this? Why else would it seem like choosing my children’s names took as much effort as birthing them? I mean, there’s something to be said about the rhythm and poetry and image a name evokes.

I’ve been daydreaming lately, though.

In the daydream, I see a young woman who’s just finished unwrapping all the gifts at her wedding shower (a bath-slash-personal shower, if you must know – I needed new stuff)…. Anyway, she stands in the middle of the room, surrounded by Gladyses and Fayes and Kathys and Vickis and Aimees and Karens. And they’ve all worked together to tape a wrapping paper wedding dress around her. Except the wrapping paper isn’t just wrapping paper – a smudged and crumpled marriage certificate is there too, and instead of tape, it’s all stuck together with these annoying address labels. And as she stands in the middle of the room, she allows that image of herself to settle in their minds for a moment, only to take great pleasure in loudly tearing that makeshift cover away, pulling it apart to reveal the rhythm and the poetry of the person inside – because, after all, like any document that could ever bear her name, maybe it’s all really just paper.
Oscars, Schmoscars. I want to write about The Marsh!

Yesterday's Writing Mamas Spoken Word Event at The Marsh in San Francisco went FABULOUSLY.

It was an intimate enough setting -- a dark little local theater in the Mission district with a hundred seats and about 3/4 of them filled -- and every single essay was wonderful.

I had two girlfriends there (Amy and Renee), and they admitted they were a little skeptical (my friend Amy's father is a much-revered, published writer and she has a critical ear for writing), but they were completely engaged the entire 2+ hours! They laughed out loud (often) and even cried when moved to do so. And, beforehand, they were sweet enough to tell me they were nervous for me, and that they felt like I was their child, ready to risk something -- so I felt loved and supported tremendously. But, then, after I'd finished, they were impressed and excited and wild for me, took me out for margueritas and chatted freely and happily about how the event ranked as one of their favorite activities in months -- they only wished they'd invited all their girlfriends. So, it was really, really fun.

Writer Jacquelyn Mitchard was there (from Wisconsin -- how funny that the only two Jackies I've met are from WI, and they're both adorable). She sat through the entire show, and I didn't even know who she was until she read, but I'd spotted her as this incredible, bright presence in the audience whom I could tell was having a blast. Then, when she got up (last) to read, she told us she felt like she was among her peers, and that any of us could be published. She then gave us her email address and asked us to email her, b/c she'd sat through the reading thinking of a publication for each of us to send our work to. I already wrote her this morning. (Oh, and she mentioned my essay at a private salon last night, referring to when her children chose their last name. She also signed my book, and when I said it was Anjie with a J, she said, "Oh, yes.. Anjanette!" Yeah, I could've died, reduced to a sappy little teenager.)

I'll post the version of my essay that I read, but I have to say, the essays my peers wrote were phenomenal. Topics ranged from poking fun at Marin mother culture and mother's clubs, to becoming a closet potty-mouth after becoming a mother (that one was absolutely hilarious), to tending to a newborn baby with profound heart defects on Thanksgiving day, to offering the perspective on motherhood on the other end of the spectrum (from our 72 year old member).

Dawn Yun (the Writing Mamas founder) is still working on the proposal for the anthology we hope to publish.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


The theme was Dress To Spill, and IT WAS FUN! I mean, how could you NOT have fun with ten other kids, pokey skewers, and all the gummy bears, marshmallows, and Nilla Wafers you could want to drench in liquid chocolate?

Aubrey celebrated year #5 with family and friends on Saturday the 10th.

She had old friends there -- the Javadi girls, and our neighbors Whitney, Vincent, and Amelie; and she had new friends there -- Nick and Mia (the twins from Dane's class), Josh (from Dane's class) and his little sister Abby, and Jennifer (from Miss Jane's class) and her little brother Ryan.

We first blew up balloons and the kids decorated them with stickers galore (that was Aubrey's idea -- and it went over well).

After that, the kids all sat on the floor to listen to a book. Before reading the book, I introduced each kid and they got to tell everybody their favorite color (which was very fun and sweet -- answers changed a lot as they listened to new ones, and eventually "the rainbow" was chosen as the best color).

I read "Lilly's Chocolate Heart" -- a Kevin Henkes book about a little mouse who has to figure out what she'll do with her beautiful chocolate Valentine's heart. Ultimately, she decides to eat it, which all the kids yelled out at the end. A perfect segue into the next activity, the chocolate fountain.

So, we sang Happy Birthday to Aubs and then THE FOUNTAIN kept everybody mesmerized and occupied for 15 chaotic but fulfilling minutes.

Then we played a musical unwrap-the-gift game where everyone got a little gift.

Then Aubs unwrapped her gifts and eleven kids played in our teeny tiny abode for the next half hour. Went better than you might expect... which is easy if you set those expectations low enough.

We were exhausted at the end of the day -- and Mick had 3 midterms the next Monday/Tuesday -- but it was such a great time, all in honor of Aubrey, that funny little chick.

*Note: Due to blogger formatting challenges, I can't label these pictures individually -- I can't even be sure which order they'll show up in on different browsers. Basics, though: Whitney's the little girl blowing up a balloon, the pic of many girls with Aubs are the Javadis and Mia, cute little red-headed Jennifer has the chocolate moustache, Aubrey and Abby have chocolate moustaches as well.

My little cousin (by 3-1/2 months!) is 36 today.

I don't have a current picture of her, but imagine a little girl with long, thick red hair, brown eyes (or are they hazel? uh-oh...), freckles, and a Texas accent ya'll that just won't quee-ut, and you've got my strongest image of Karen at age 7 when we were two pals living in Tacoma.

She lives in Amarillo, Texas, now with her very favorite people in the whole world: her husband Jesse, and her 3 kids, Connor, Carson, and Chloe.

Hopefully we'll get to see them all this Fall. Ya'll.


Love, Anj

Friday, February 16, 2007

The (Sometimes) Truth About Dental School

Okay, this is only MY perspective today -- I'm sure Mick has his own worthy version of the dental school experience, but he's so swamped he doesn't even have time to blog his perspective. So mine will have to do.

Yes, this happens to be another hardhip post. But, so be it.

This has been a tough month. Besides being overwhelmed by responsibilities at home and at school, I've taken on additional ones that included 3 book reviews, a freelance/contract business letter assignment, hosting Aubrey's birthday party, and preparing an essay/performance piece for the Writing Mamas gig at The Marsh on the 25th (which still needs much revision and practice).

Through it all, here's what I've missed: 1) having money to either do what I feel like or to go out with Mick or to get care for my kids; and, 2) time with girlfriends that make me laugh hysterically and bring out the lighter side of me.

Mick passed a kidney stone two nights ago/yesterday and I had to help out with that. (He seems to be better today, but he was miserable for about 24 hours.) I also had to farm out my kids so I could take a written test last night for an Assistant Library position that turned out to have 75 other applicants taking the test and vying for that one position. This was my heartwarming introduction to government work.

Dane and Aubrey and Mick are great (and make me proud and happy -- so I'm not THAT poorly off). Will be sure to do more upbeat, perky posts on Aubsie's party and Valentine's Day soon. But this is all I've got at this minute.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


We whooped it up in Miss Jane's class on Aubrey's birthday. We brought in a favorite library book, "Show and Tell Day," to read to the class in honor of their favorite activity, and homemade star-shaped cupcakes with -- of course -- pink frosting and red sprinkles.

Here's Aubrey with her new friend Samantha (well, it's mostly a picture of Aubrey, but, c'mon, Samantha's sitting next to her!) and her other great pals, Zander and Jennifer and Finn.

Saturday, February 10, 2007



Move over Hello Kitty and Gap Kids.

You haven't worn nothin til you've worn a quilted doggie jumper or a homemade calico petticoat -- at least, that's what Aubrey thinks. Here she is wearing some of Mom's old favs.

Don't have pix here in Sausalito of Anjie in those exact duds, but we've tacked on a couple of others for reference.

(Aubrey is 5 in these pix; Anjie is 4 in one and 3 in the other. We'll let you figure out who's who.)

Monday, February 05, 2007