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.

Advertisements

Why I’m Lowering Expectations for Myself in 2017

img_7626

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.

img_7066

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.

img_6933

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!).

img_7074

Your first mistake was inviting me into your home.

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

img_7069

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

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

img_7071

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.

img_7359

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.

img_7360

Also, the camera adds ten pounds.

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

img_7078-1

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.

img_7163

img_7165

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.

I Liked Trump’s Victory Speech. Then I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed in the Morning.

Triumphant.(Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Triumphant. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Did you listen to Trump’s victory speech? I did. And it calmed me down.

It came after three rounds of crying. There was the quick, visceral cry after Iowa got called. Iowa wasn’t a swing state, but the momentum really changed for me then. “Say something uplifting,” I texted my friend Conor, a witty and thoughtful policy wonk (find him on Twitter here). He sent me a wonderful quote from Reinhold Niebuhr (here).

Then there was the profound cry when Pennsylvania went red. Tell me you didn’t cry? I was texting last night with a good friend in Pennsylvania who asked how she was supposed to take her son to school in the morning—he’s brown; there was a “Trump that Bitch” sign in front of the school.

Then there was the cry at the end of the night, before the speech. That was the cry of despair. I was thinking about the sexism that I’ve faced and that friends and colleagues have faced, and the painfully obvious double standard used to measure each campaign. My friend texted me that a woman friend had recently told her that it’s possible a woman might not have the temperament to be president. What?!? I also read the statistics that 78% of white, evangelical Christians voted for Trump.

Deep, body-aching despair.

I always think about the sermon a young seminarian gave at my husband’s church in New York City. The seminarian had been at an interfaith gathering and a rabbi had told him that for God, despair is the ultimate hubris–because with God, nothing is impossible. We may not see the way out, but we don’t know everything.

I think of that often, usually when I’ve clawed my way out of the pit, and am trying to move away from the edge.

I felt I had to stay up for Trump’s speech.

I have a tendency to be practical, centrist, compromising. Also, there was an imminent threat to my sanity—the next day I was having lunch with a certain relative who does not like to appear anywhere online and who may or may not have voted for Trump.

But mostly, I don’t want to burrow down into hatred, digging away the dirt of rationality and throwing clumps of mud at the other side as I listen only to my people. That kind of hatred destroys me from the inside out, and blinds me to my own weaknesses.

If I was sinking like a ship into my couch, people somewhere were feeling a sense of elation and relief. There’s humanity in those emotions, and I wanted to see for myself.

I had an inkling I’d left a crack in my calcified heart to see the other side with something other than horror—I’d read a profile of Kellyanne Conway in The New Yorker. I don’t agree with most of her ideals, but I could also see myself in her—she’s a mother of four young kids, she is passionate about her career, she came out against Trump’s original comments on abortion (the they “should be punished” ones). I like Ivanka Trump’s website. Its tagline is “We are women who work,” and she has profiles of interesting women, including a stay-at-home mom. I listened to Donald Trump Jr.’s interview on election day, and there was such a proud, loving tone. Family—it makes us loyal even in the face of sometime-lunacy. I understand that.

So I stayed up. The speech was good. It was kind. It was unifying. It was coherent. It was impassioned. If you haven’t heard the speech, no pressure, but it’s here. Here are the highlights:

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; [we] have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people. . . I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes. I get it. The speech is best if you can watch it. It’s even better if Trump’s way of speaking reminds you of your grandpa, of whom you have very fond memories. (That actually helps a lot.)

I felt good after the speech. I wanted our politicians to deescalate the vitriol, to model what it means to be part of civil society. I could go to bed.

But I couldn’t get out of it.

I woke up crying. I got up and went back to bed crying. My friends who are people of color, who are part of the LGBTQ community, who work with refugees or at women’s health clinics—everyone was expressing a sense of vulnerability and fear that they hadn’t felt in a long, long time. I’m trying to listen a lot more.

Then I listened to Hillary’s speech in the parking lot of the local rec center, and I cried more. At this part…

And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

…I did ugly crying.

Then I got this beautiful, future-glass-ceiling-shattering little girl out of the car, and went in to meditation class.

"And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world." -Hillary Clinton

“And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” -Hillary Clinton

Most people in meditation class are twenty, thirty years older than me. We talked about “taking the hits”–allowing yourself to feel the deep sadness, and not pushing it away with anger.

A friend of mine, Melissa, who graduated with me from college, wrote this. She kindly said I could share. It beautifully captures where I’m at.

“Earlier this week, I took part in a discussion on “lament” and the lost art of mourning and how we’ve learned to harden our hearts and forgotten the importance of deep-felt grief. Wailing, clothes-tearing lament.

This morning, as I enjoy the warm snuggles and love of my family, I don’t mourn for our family. Our white, upper-middle-class, well-employed family will be fine. In fact, if any of those huge, great plans come to be, we’ll probably thrive as we traditionally have. Our privileged children will continue to enjoy access to all the best schools money can buy, all the benefits of well-educated parents, and a strong social-emotional family foundation that will save them from much trouble.

My daughter will grow up, hammer in hand, ready and able to shatter glass. I don’t mourn for our family. But I do mourn for the thousands who will lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, especially those with pre-existing conditions who will experience financial decimation or poor healthcare without guaranteed insurance; I mourn for the women who will find it harder to access healthcare if the government increases its power over their reproductive choices; I mourn for all the girls, the children of color, those with disabilities, and for my LGBTQ friends who received a clear message today that their country tolerates their bullying and values them as less than equal citizens; I mourn for the thousands of refugees who will never experience the freedom and greatness of America if we reverse our long-held tradition of welcoming the tired and weary; I mourn for the dreamers who grew up here and believed they could be part of America’s future and now may lose their pathway to citizenship; I mourn for women, who obviously still have to fight the fight to be heard and valued; and I mourn, with deep sadness and probably most of all, for the people of faith who traded in their calling to be an image-bearer of Christ for personal prosperity and bigotry, placing their needs over the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and forgetting our call to share love.

I’m not worried about our family but I am clothes-tearing, wailingly sad for America.”

I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to give the Trump presidency a chance. I’m ready to raise the voice of progressive Christianity, whose silence has allowed the dialogue of the church to become bigoted and myopic. I’m ready to keep doing the work I do on behalf of the poor and refugees. In the meantime, I’m definitely going to cry some more.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Church, Hillary, and One Important Thing I Have in Common with Many Trump Supporters

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, June 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

I’ve been very grumpy the past week. Quick to snap, late to calm.

One morning, walking K-Pants to school, I charged at a minivan as it passed the school bus on the left, and then I told off an old lady who was mad about a new sidewalks project. “They’re taking people’s yards,” she snapped at me. “I have to push my stroller in the middle of the street!” I snapped back, callous about her loss of yard, then moving on to make plans in my mind for how I would clip her ankles with the stroller next time.

I’ve never had a problem coming up with a quick comeback or biting remark. My nickname my senior year of high school was “Poison Dart Shoop.” Hood River Valley High School advanced placement English classmates may remember the reason.

I’ve worked hard over the years to let empathy lead and sarcasm follow. Results are mixed. But I was generally going in a good direction… until last week I put my little life raft into the river of collective anxiety, and was surprised when I found myself picking fights all over the place.

I was feeling dark and hopeless.

But then I thought about the fact that in an incredibly polarizing election cycle in which so many people are talking about the lesser of two evils, there’s a bright spot for me: I really like my candidate.

I remember Hillary Clinton as first lady working to expand healthcare for children. When I lived in New York City, as part of my job, I spoke with an Iraq–Afghanistan veteran with intense post-traumatic stress syndrome who told me that Hillary Clinton’s office was the only elected official’s office who took his concerns seriously and got back with valuable responses.

Then there’s the fact that I’m pragmatic. I like experience. I value compromise. I’m pulled toward platforms that are more centrist.

I’m also a Christian who measures candidates against what many consider to be the greatest commandment: Jesus’ challenge to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves. Not just our same-race, like-minded neighbors. Any neighbors.

Yesterday, our church officially became a parish after years of dedicated work. As part of the ceremony, we renewed our baptismal vows, which included these two important questions, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

These principles guide me.

I’m not voting for Clinton because she’s a woman, but it does make me really happy—giddy, frankly. I’m a fellow woman’s college grad. I believe in equity. As my best friend said to me, “If Hillary were on her third marriage, to a man much younger than herself, and had sexual assault allegations clouding her, there’s no way her campaign would have even gotten off the ground.” Truth. The standards are not the same, but she’s persevered.

So I have this in common with many die-hard Trump supporters: I really love my candidate and what she represents.

As a bonus, I don’t hate people who are voting for Trump. I hope they don’t hate me. Either way, the work doesn’t end tomorrow, but at least the election does.