Category Archives: Something to think about

Pride

A beautiful Pride Month is waning. I didn’t think I’d get to do much this year, but two small things are sticking with me.

Nancy Podcast

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Have you heard it? “From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy…” I freakin’ love this podcast. It’s new. You should binge. The Orlando episode for Pride Month, “Everything Changed,” is particularly poignant and Tobin and Kathy talk with an Evangelical preacher in Orlando. Find it here.

Trans/Portraits

Trans/Portraits

I realized a couple of years ago that if one of my kids were gay, nothing in my world would really change. They would simply be gay. But if one of them were trans, I would have a tough time. I got really fixated on “What if my child changed names and I needed to call them a new name, different from the beloved one we gave them?” and “What if we looked back on childhood photos and they all felt tainted by things we did lovingly, but were all wrong-gendered, or wrongly interpreted, or just plain wrong?” I felt sad. And overhwhelmed.

Honestly, I don’t know many trans people as friends, and not hearing authentic stories and experiences pushes things into a place of ideology and speculation rather than authenticity and understanding. The roadmap I invented in my head was riddled with barbed wire.

So the library kindly intervened and I came upon Trans/Portraits by Jackson Wright Shultz as I was headed to the kids’ section with the boys. I love it. Snapshots of all kinds of gender nonconforming lives–different ages, races, genders, sexualities. I love hearing stories. And these stories are worth hearing.

Find it at your library or buy it at my local, independent bookseller, here. 🙂

15 Minutes of Hedonism with the Little Surrealist

You know Stefon, from SNL, Bill Hader’s anemic and weirdly lovable club rat? He would come on to the set of Weekend Update to make suggestions for tourists visiting New York… “New York’s hottest club is Scampi, illegally parked behind the Statue of Liberty.”

This is what I had in mind when I was jotting down the rules for a series of new tag games Boy Woww has invented for outside time at preschool. I got to participate in “Butterfly Tag” when I visited for lunch one day.

And then that evening as we hid out from the rain in our car while K-Pants was at baseball practice, Boy Woww told me the rules for the rest. At the time we were just finishing playing hide-and-seek, which, in a four-door sedan was pretty amusing. “You’re too big to move around in here, so I’ll hide,” he said. He tried to hide under my legs on the driver’s side. “Stop laughing,” he said as he crawled all over me to decide whether the spot would work. He decided against it.

Boy Woww sedan hide-and-seek age 5

Sedan hide-and-seek, to be followed by the dictation of preschool tag

So here are the rules for preschool’s hottest new tag games:

Candy Tag

The tagger is the butterfly. If you get tagged, then you turn into a candy, and then if somebody touches you, you get freed.

Cookie Tag

If somebody tags you, you turn into a cookie. You fall down. The mouse eats you. Then you become the mouse.

Butterfly Tag

Everyone is a caterpillar. The tagger is a bird. If the tagger touches you, you get caught. If you’re touched one time, you turn into a cocoon. After 11 seconds, you turn into a butterfly.

There Is No Other Choice but to Dive into the Fire

It’s been a long time. I have so many posts to write. They roll around in my head like balls on the pool table, rarely meeting a pocket, careening around in a chaotic dance. My best friend (who is a writer) and I joke that writer’s block is not a problem we have. At this phase of life, with a thousand demands on our time from work and family, there’s barely a second to spare for purely personal writing.

But I gave myself permission this year not to meet my internal expectations. It’s working, but I miss the blog. And I miss you, my tribe.

During this quiet time I’ve been writing for clients and working on articles, and I’m going to start sharing some smaller blog-like posts and photos on the Momsicle Facebook page, much like after the Fairy Pig was born.

But part of the reason I’ve been absent is because after the election I’ve been consumed by thinking about and advocating for reproductive justice. I haven’t given myself permission to be real about that on the blog, and it’s effectively silenced everything. Any of you creative souls will know that self-silencing–not letting yourself be whole and real–creates a large internal disturbance that will not be contained for long.

So here I am. There’s still so much to write about the complexities of raising children behind the veneer of social media, and I don’t want that to go away. But I think that reproductive rights and equity has to become part of Momsicle, because even while I was pregnant with the Fairy Pig, my need to advocate for women got knit into the fabric of my makeup in a way that leaves it impossible for me to let it go.

And if you would like to join the conversation, I would love to have you. I would love to hear your stories. I would love to engage with you in thoughtful discussion. I would love to avoid towing the party line, and I am not interested in you towing the party line either—for whichever side you may be on. If you’re still game, and you haven’t signed up to get posts via email, I encourage you to do so (it’s on the top right in widescreen).

Here’s to 2017… in April. Expectations… I’m still lowering them.

Why I’m Lowering Expectations for Myself in 2017

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I did put on ski goggles for a night walk this year, so maybe this post is more about “creatively reworking” my action items. Photo courtesy of BC.

You know what? I did it. That thing where you meet the new year with renewed hope and a few semi-ambitious expectations. Okay, they were ambitious—and fueled by reading inspirational Medium posts laced with grit.

Medium is where the socially conscious, go-getters share their stuff:

The twentysomething software engineer who’s going to break through the barriers of low self-esteem, build her following to more than the thousands it already is, and master advanced pole-dancing moves.

The best-selling Amazon writer who decluttered his life, minimized social media, and quadrupled his writing output. He said it helped to move to Colombia, where persistent advertising wasn’t such a distraction.

Then there’s the dad of four who’s getting his Ph.D. in organizational psychology and promising to be more open about his writing process—sharing the tips for how one of his more recent posts got 150,000 views.

It’s all very “Hey friend with lots of potential, let me help you along your road to awesomeness.” It feels attainable.

I have my own friends who are getting after it, digging down deep into the creative waters and weaving a web of connections, inspiration, and collaboration that are amazing.

I’m jealous.

But I’m also exhausted.

It’s hard to see whether my imposter syndrome is holding me back, or the full-contact fatigue that hits at 7 p.m.

I thought I could start the race with the rest of you. I was there in my race attire at the starting line, and I kept up the pace for the first 50 meters. But I went anaerobic real fast and now my body is wasted.

So I’m rearranging the priorities and lowering the expectations.

First, I’m taking off the “nothing will stop me” glasses and looking realistically at the picture in front of me. I have three young kids. My oldest is intense and this Friday when I’d like to finish some freelance work and write an article pitch, my husband and I will be seeing a parenting coach to get new strategies.

I’m looking at the tattered patchwork of school days we’ve had over the past two months, and wondering if routine is simply a memory. But I can shovel twelve inches of snow off the driveway and throw chains on the car by myself in a jiffy and then drive to the pediatrician.

After weeks of haphazard childcare due to slow and slush and pressing freelance deadlines, I’m spent, but I can cook three family-sized meals at once, in case we can’t leave the house for days.

I did sign up for a political organizing class that seems really interesting, and I’ve done the reading and most of the homework, but I missed the first class, and I’m about to miss the second because K-Pants has the flu (the real-deal one where the pediatrician comes back into the room wearing a mask). I had babysitting set up for my class since my husband will be out of town, but what babysitter is going to come to a flu-infected house? Maybe it’s a gift. I’ll wait on the class.

My creative brain aches to write and keep working, sharing and collaborating and putting my pitches out there to be rejected and reworked until they are polished and accepted.

But I’d also really like to focus on sleep. I want to get in bed early after a hot bath. I want to lower my cortisol levels. I want to have restful dreams that give me enough energy to take Boy Woww to the naturopath about those persistent fungal infections. Plus I’m going to have to lug the whole crew to his 12-week “burst” of speech pathology appointments.

It’s not like I’ve got him in reading tutoring and Suzuki violin and mini-soccer. I want my kid to have fungus-free skin and say his Rs properly.

That’s it. I don’t even have a well-worked conclusion. I’ve gotta go wake up my kids to give them inordinately expensive Tamiflu, siphon-off some for myself, and then take the bath I wished I’d drawn an hour ago.

How I Became an Art Thief. Victim: PDX Artist Anya Roberts-Toney

Art thievery is not something I figured I would stoop to in my mid-thirties. But I have three kids, so there’s not much that’s below me at this point.

This is PDX artist Anya Roberts-Toney.

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She paints.

We both moved to Portland from New York City almost six years ago, and we’ve been trying to get together for tea for a few years. I’ve used that time to unsuccessfully track down The Scream.

This is what an art thief looks like.

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White gloves, disguise shades, willing accomplice. This is a pre-heist art-world stakeout at the 2016 Disjecta Auction.

This is Anya’s art studio. It’s in the middle of getting put together. Anya recently packed up her old studio and moved it to her new home (mortgage! fixing things! way to go Anya and Jonathan!).

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Your first mistake was inviting me into your home.

This is the kind of temporal chaos that art thieves thrive on.

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Never unpack, Anya. It’s better for me that way.

This little beauty is what Anya’s working on now.

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I love the texture, and the feminist play, but I had my eye on her old stuff.

When I first saw Anya’s two paintings of twin girls over five years ago, I coveted them.

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The paint is more vibrant in real life. Sorry girls.

They’re whimsical but not simplistic. There’s a lot of depth in the fairy-tale–like scenes, and a lot of emotional grey—the in-between zones—even though the colors are vibrant.

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Also, the camera adds ten pounds.

I wanted them. So I stole them. Now they’re “on loan” in my home office.

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Tip: Let the artist think you’re playing a fun game of seeing how many painting you can fit in your car without anything breaking.

You know how things often make the most sense in retrospect? Now that the paintings are here, I’m thinking I built up this office over the past few months just so the girls would feel at home. I have my yellow desk made by our friend Aaron out of our house’s original front door, a beautiful deep-blue velvet chair, and now Anya’s twins.

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I’m really happy in this space. This guy, too.

Find more of Anya’s work here.

***

It has come to my attention that Anya and Jonathan just got engaged! Congrats, guys! {millions of heart emojis} As a wedding present, I will not be giving you back these paintings. I mean, they’re on loan, and you can’t give someone something that’s borrowed.

What Is Keeping You Up at Night Post-election?

Last week I was doing that let’s-see-what-happens thing combined with reading more from people of color on how white people can be better allies. I’ve also been checking in at Breitbart and Fox News. Getting all your news from one side seems like making up your echo chamber bed with flannel sheets and a down comforter—you know you’ll never get out of there.

Long-story short: I’m trying to listen. It’s something I can get better at all around.

It’s overwhelming, listening. I often feel challenged about who I am and how I respond to things. It’s exhausting unpacking the privilege, the whiteness, and the womanhood that I bring to every situation. I’m not wishing I weren’t these things, I’m just saying that it’s a lot to examine yourself constantly. And I understand why we hide behind the ease of absolutes. Things get messy when everything is grey and nothing is black-and-white.

Then I read last week in Sojourners, a progressive Christian movement I follow, that Jerry Falwell, Jr. had been offered the position of secretary of education, but passed, and will now advise on education policy instead. The position now belongs to Betsey DeVos (pending confirmation). Jerry Falwell, Jr. runs Liberty University, which is a conservative Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. I went to college in Lynchburg, at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

My senior year of college there was a movement in Lynchburg by Jerry Falwell’s think-tank to try to get a high-school advanced placement biology textbook banned because it contained a sketch of the female genitalia. Having such an anatomically correct female sketch was the equivalent of “giving a high-school boy a loaded gun.”

I was waiting for that moment when I would be left with no excuses.

I’ve been calling and emailing and signing things for weeks, but somewhere I was hoping that I could listen myself into hands-off economic policies and job creation that didn’t aim to destroy everything I believe in for education, social well-being, sex, and race. Privileged white ladies and progressive Christians—my people: It’s not happening. Someone who believes that high-school boys can’t handle anatomy sketches was offered the chance to run our country’s schools. Fill-in-the-blank-crazy-statement about other cabinet members. It’s time to not be half-assed about my resistance.

The demon on my left shoulder is saying, “Ugh. There’s a lot of family- and work-related sh*t to get done, and remember how you already send emails and sign petitions? It’s enough.”

The angel on my right is rolling her eyes, “The reason gun control never passes is because NRA members show up to everything, and progressives don’t. Lull yourself into more electronic signatures, but you already know your issue, so get to work.”

It’s time to get going.

I’ll keep signing and calling, but my issue is reproductive justice. I’m saying it here so you can keep me accountable.

Single-issue voters who decided Trump was the right choice because of the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade make my heart and mind race to the point that my body hums with anxiety and won’t let me sleep. As a Christian, I’m angry about the millions of hours that are spent legislating for abortion-restriction laws, and against social programs. I’ve been told to love God above all and love my neighbor as myself, and that combination of for/against doesn’t jive with me.

It’s time to put some action where my heart is. I hope you’ll follow my journey and that I can follow yours. What is your issue? Feel free to write two words or share an action link.

 

Five Books from the Feminist Christian’s Bookshelf

Books. MomsicleBlog

Lately, as the Internet lashed out at me with side-eyed judgment from all angles — I’m not liberal enough, I’m not listening enough, I’m not politically active enough — I’ve found shelter again in the tome. I have a pile of books on my nightstand. (The wheel of fortune may stop on any mood at the end of the bedtime dance.)

  1. The Book of Common Prayer. I received this beautiful burgundy copy at my confirmation in New York City in 2006. I love this passage from the 1789 preface: “It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire.” Lately I’ve been excited to be in deeper relationship with God through reading a bit each night.
  2. The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law, by Rickie Solinger. I’m interested in the stories, and not the judgment, behind abortion. Ruth Barnett was a Portlander who performed hundreds of thousands of abortions in a well-run clinic in Oregon before abortion became legal, and the author examines abortion law and attitudes through Barnett’s case study. “Our history shows us that neither criminal statutes nor censorious public attitudes were ever sufficient to stop women determined to decide for themselves whether and when to become a mother.
  3. All About Love: New Visions, by bell hooks. I was reminded of my desire to read bell hooks while in the children’s section with my son, alongside her Happy to Be Nappy. We left with Grump, Groan, Growl for him and All About Love for me. “Living life in touch with divine spirit lets us see the light of love in all living beings. That light is a resurrecting life force.” Amen.
  4. Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma, by Nancy Samalin. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a yeller, but what’s a girl to do? “By their nature, children bring to the family environment disorder, aggravation, ambiguity, and turmoil. They also bring warmth, humor, boundless energy, and creativity. Loving parents wonder how they can encourage the latter while enduring the former.” Yes. And there are funny stories.
  5. Radical Acceptance: Embracing your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, by Tara Brach, Ph. D. An excellent companion to Love and Anger (why not approach anger from a hundred different angles?). And this books starts with words from the poet Rumi, that I shall etch on my heart:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

I’ll meet you there.