Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Spaces

Hi, guys!

I have some big news to announce on Monday, March 28. I want to make sure you get the word, so follow me on over to a new (can you hear the trumpet fanfare?) website.

My blog will continue over there as well as a few other super fun goodies. If you are a subscriber, and you know your day would be incomplete without a daily dose of Jen, then update your RSS feed or your subscriber sitch. Whatevs.

Just go to:

and we'll reunite over there.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pink and Blue and In Between

As part of Celebrate Women and Women's History Month, today I'm taking up a common theme among other blogging women: feminist parenting.

My husband and I said we were done having babies when our daughters were 5 and 3. I sat at a table in a South Tulsa restaurant, out with some girlfriends, telling them that no way would I have any more kids. Why would I? Life was cruising along. The girls were nearly school aged. My work as a doula had become a tic more regular.

As I sat there extolling the virtues of our two child home, I was pregnant. Proof that God has a sense of humor.

Our son was born nine months later and enriched my life in ways that I could not have dreamed, especially since I spent the first trimester in tears. Yeah. I said it. I was pregnant when I didn't want to be. He's seven now and he tickles me heart every single day. Just today he was telling me about his "thumb toes," which the uneducated would refer to as the big toes.

There are no two ways about it, though. The girls and the boy are different. Of course, physically. Duh. But also in their temperaments, their social awareness, their interests.

My daughters and I share a subtext in language that I don't have with my son. If one of the girls says her day at school was "okay," that could mean pretty much anything. It could mean that her day was okay. Or, it could mean it was the worst day of her life and uncovering the truth would require hours, maybe days of questions, glances, and comments to finally hear that someone was a jerk in the lunchroom. The truth is usually revealed at the most inconvenient time, but always makes the mama heart sit still and listen. This is often draining, and it is always mysterious. If I ask my son about his day, well, usually, he says, "Awesome," and it involves something about a soccer ball, a swing, some dirt and something one of his many friends said.

Thing is, I want my kids to have equal respect for each other, and all of humanity. My eldest daughter is a natural scientist. She always has been. She could identify all the different types of butterflies at the zoo exhibit when she was barely toddling. She could tell you the difference between an arachnid and an insect whether or not you wanted to know. The dentist asked her in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up. She announced: "An archaeologist. What's your favorite dinosaur? Mine's the parasaurolophus." He didn't know about that dinosaur; she gave him a short lesson and he returned to counting her little baby teeth. She still bemoans the fact that exactly none of her interests are represented in the girls department of any store. We make a lot of tshirts with bugs and stuff on them.

On the other hand, when we were expecting our son, someone said to my soccer coaching husband, "you'll finally have your boy who can play soccer." My husband is a much calmer and nicer person than I will ever hope to be. He just replied that his second daughter was already playing, don't need a boy to do that. Our son loves to dance and sing. He says he knows how to break dance. (He doesn't really.) He is at once sweet and wild. He is not "all boy." He is himself.

I know that I can be over the top about gender roles and labels with my children, but it comes from a place that wants them to use their noggins. I want them to think through what the world says and determine for themselves if they can rely on that, or if they want to challenge the status quo. My kids shake their heads that their classmates think there are boy colors and girl colors. They laugh when their friends say girls can't have certain jobs. That's because I've told them that. Just as my parents told me; don't let the world limit you.

Like I wrote last week, a feminist is not just a woman. A feminist is someone who can see value and strength in the other. I want that as much for my son as I want that for my daughters.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Love Me

Oooh. This is a tough one today. In the tradition of Five Minute Fridays, courtesy of The Gypsy Mama, I bring you this....

This topic makes my heart flutter with nerves. I don't really want to write about when I feel most loved, because it seems incredibly introspective and highly personal. As opposed to writing about my 40 year old self in lycra running pants, which isn't personal at all.

I feel most loved when it is clear someone else has thought of me. Not the me they want me to be or wish me to be but the me I am. The full fledged, fully formed, fully flawed woman, wife, mom, believer, thinker, slacker, runner, wackadoo.

Having celebrated my birthday a week ago, and having been surrounded with women of every stripe at a dinner out, I was reminded of the beauty of diversity and the fullness in my heart at being known. I didn't want gifts; I just wanted to have a beer with some cool girls. The gifts they brought, besides their smiles, reflected the me I am to them, and that me ain't too shabby.

A few pieces of custom jewelry picked with me in mind, a gift card for a more "literary" cafe, and a new personal addition, itunes bucks. These women know me because they know that I like funky, mismatched jewelry. They know i like to get my groove on. They know I am working on my literary masterpiece and could use some time away from my desk in order to pound out the magic.

I feel loved when what is reflected back to be is an accurate representation of what I think I'm putting out there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rabble Rousers

As part of the Celebrate Women blogging celebration, I'm adding my voice to the mix with today's theme, Strong Women and Feminism.

My life as a feminist was carved out for me even before I was in utero. I have strong rabble-rousing, foul-mouthed, revolutionistas in my history. My great-grandmother led the Pennsylvania parent's association for years and talked openly about desegregating schools long before that was a hot button issue. She stormed the capital once to demand better fireworks polices for Fourth of July celebrations because a young African American child had been blinded by an uncontrolled pyrotechnique. My grandmother attended college in the late 1920s and went on to write for newspapers at a time when women just weren't doing those things.

My mother offended her own father, first by being born a girl and then going on to college, to teach, and then to work in the big city while my dad did afterschool duty at home. My grandfather was so mad that my mother was not a boy that he called her Mike, instead of her name, Helen. She is, to this day, Aunt Mike, to my cousins. That's not always easy to explain.

Furthermore, my own father acted as homemaker for a much of my childhood. He taught me to perfectly steam broccoli, how to cook rice, trim the chicken, start the crockpot and the gas grill. Mom got home after he did; he made dinner most nights. He also was the expert floor cleaner. Mom did other jobs, like cutting the grass. My parents gave all jobs to all children. Boys and girls cut the grass, took out the trash, washed the car, checked the oil, unloaded the dishwasher.

I attended a college for women. On the first day of the first year, the indoctrination began; we were challenged daily to use our words precisely. I was no longer a girl. They referred to us as women. The transition still strikes me as funny; one day I'm a girl and the next a woman. (Not a lady. I don't want to be a lady. I'll tell you about that some other day.)

In fact, from all of these people I learned what a real feminist is. The world and I might have varying ideas of what a feminist is. And because I'm a *true* feminist, I'm totally cool with that. Being a feminist is not limited to being female. My dad was just my first example of this. My husband is also a great forward thinking man (even though I think it's stupid that I have to say he's forward thinking when in reality he's just him, with smarts). When he was ready to ask me to marry him, my husband did not ask my father for my hand. My dad had long ago told me that I am no one's property and I was not his to give. My husband understood this, both about my dad and me.

When we married, my father did not give me away. Instead, my parents both gave our union their blessing. I know that may seem semantic, a mere nod to untraditional, but it was important to me; I wanted to continue to establish my wholeness as a person.

Feminists believe that women are people. A feminist understands that for some women, staying at home with babies is imperative, while for others, returning to work holds the same import. A feminist decides for herself if she doesn't want babies at all. A feminist is a person who knows what she wants, knows how to get it, and will not compromise her character or other's to obtain it. A feminist can be strong, smart, emotive, funny, complex. Feminists exist as whole people whether in a significant relationship or not. A feminist understands that women have brains to make their own choices, about everything from which college to attend, to whom to marry and when, to when and how they give birth.

To me a feminist embraces choice. All choice. The right of every person to make his or her own choices. Of course, a wise person makes use of every resource available to her and will not make those decisions lightly or in a vacuum. I hope that I have even an ounce of my ancestor's rabble-rousing blood in me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Identity: Continuing to tear labels at the door

This morning's post comes to you from my dear twitter friend Julie, or as I know her @mojojules. We had an interesting exchange a few weeks ago about identity, how it shifts, what it means, and where we find it. I asked Julie to write a post about it for my blog. In the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other voices from the stable of totally cool people I know. Say, "hi," to Julie and leave her your comments. Thanks, ya'll.

I admit this post has more questions than answers. I do not want to come off as though I have some great pearl of wisdom here. I am just another person a long a journey that seems to have more questions than answers. I hope that those who are reading this are there with me. If you want answers, you may want to bypass my post here. However, I welcome those to push back and help me think a long this journey. Therefore, as I always do on guest posts on another’s blog, pull up something comfy, grab a coffee, tea, or something that brings you a nice thoughtful spirit, and let us dive into the mystery of identity and labels.

So. to give those who do not know me a background here is a brief little thing about me. I was raised a preacher’s kid, third generation (probably more than that) church of Christ, and for all who knew I was as normal as could be. I married “later” in life, in my 30’s and then four years later I secret I had kept well hidden came rippling up. I came out as lesbian (queer) and my life took a new journey. I share this because it has to do with identity. I think as much of us do, once we come out we feel so free that we take our LGBTQ (rest of the ABC’s) identity with the abandonment of a child on Christmas day opening all the presents. As I have gone on this journey and as I have matured in whom I am this thing of identity haunts me. Not who I think I am to myself, but what others have decided my identity is.

As a woman that is queer I find that it puts me in an odd spot. That label puts me at odds in some circles. Honestly, I have been open to that controversy. It has been a part of being proud of coming out and tackling fears I kept inside myself. However, in the last several months I have wanted to tear it all down. I am tired of what separates me from others and I’m tired of seeing others by their label. I know for many this goes against what they think I should say. I should stand in arms against the “anti” people out there. I just keep looking at Jesus and his example and although I see him standing against injustice I also see him saying, “come to me…” He does not say, “come to me all you liberals…” or “come to me all you conservatives…” and the list could go on, but he just says “come to me….” It is not that hard to read and it is not that hard to say, but the practice of it all. How do I bridge myself to community when for the most part community wants me to come in fully labeled so that we are in our place, all neat and tidy. However, none of us is neat and tidy and none of us ever keeps the rules of how to be hold to our picked labels. Yet, I am still trying to push that boundary. I am trying to be in the place that I feel Christ wants me to be and that is with his messy followers. I just want to be fully stitched in the beautiful quilt of Christ’s followers. I do not want to be in another quilt because it only represents me, but I want to be in the horrific, beautifully messy quilt that is all of us.

I once asked on twitter, what label would you drop to have full community? I asked it in all seriousness and with people wanting to think. Even right now, the war rages on. People are flocking to wage war against those who label themselves Universalist and those who support this view are fighting back. It seems that labels here even have gotten the best of us. I so want to find safety beyond labels, I want to find the truth in which my tribe preaches, which is we are ready to accept anyone how they are, no matter how they come. So which label are you willing to let go of for the sake of community and for the sake of bettering our lives together? Right now, I am in the battle of it. Today I want to think I’m ready to let them all go so that I can see people. To see people who are honestly ready to live out a true faith, not just one to dream about and put in a glass case.

Friday, March 4, 2011

When I Look in the Mirror

Today, I'm joining others in a five minute writing exercise called Five Minute Fridays. I hope you play along, too.

When I look in the mirror, I see layers of me. I see the surface, skin and its attendant mid-life acne. What is up with that? I see a sassy new do and a slightly misshapen nose. I see a body that has birthed the babies and nourished the life into them with milk. I see a long gone youth of scars from playing in the woods behind the house in Pittsburgh. I see new scars from new journeys into running and play. I see the crazy mess of a bathroom shared by 5 people who have little respect for boundaries in a crazy and triumphantly loving way.

When I look in the mirror, I see the me who is and the me I was and I find that they can exist together, peacefully in one newly 40 year old body. I see a woman who craves the desire of her husband and the strong limbs of a mother who carried those babies, who carries them still in the limbs of her heart.

Looking in the mirror feels at once arrogant and practical. I balance vanity with plain hygiene.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of Buckets Lists and Details

My friend Cheryl began adding to her Bucket List this week and wondered what others had added to theirs. I told her in my very worst snot-nosed-brat voice that I don't have a Bucket List and don't plan to have a Bucket List. I simply must do a better job of keeping my mouth shut. Or at least moderating my tone.

I don't want to start a Bucket List for a few reasons. The first being, I'm not a huge fan of thinking about my mortality. Not that I think I'll live forever in this body on earth. Thank God that's not the case. It's just too sentimental for this mama's heart. So there's that.

While I do like the idea of planning adventures to do before we die, I get lost in the grandiose and forget to focus on the smallest details. And that's really the main reason why I don't have a compilation of hopes and aspirations. I've been to England, France, Italy and Switzerland. I've visited the islands of the Caribbean. I have ziplined, parasailed, water skied, tubed and jetskied.I've had babies at home and in the hospital. I have driven crazy long distances. I have laughed and cried and have done once-in-a-lifetime. And they were all fantastic.

When I dream of taking my husband to Japan for a month so he can enjoy first hand what he finds endlessly intersting, I forget to look at him and love him right now. When I wonder what it would be like to take my daughters away for significant birthdays, the years have mentally passed and I overlook the joy in their play and thoughts today. When I imagine my son graduating high school, the last child to fly the coop, I forget that my home will be empty of all their beautiful faces.

Sure, I want to travel and play and try and do more with my family. Yes, I want to learn to paint and how to edit photos. I'd love to be able to take my mom to Venice and go fly fishing with my dad. But what I really want is to love them all right now, in the miniscule details of everyday life, amidst the clutter of homework and dishes and parties and practices.

My bucket list is, instead of being large and wild, a hope to shine a microscope of attention of each of the important people in my life. Right now. Today.