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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Whooo Are You?

My daughter B turned 11 this month. She is an amazing kid (aren't they all?); she is confident and funny and shy and serious. She likes to read but then again, she doesn't. She loves to play soccer but she gives me fits when it's time for practice. She's tall and strong and her heart is as big as the sky; it breaks over injustice and small differences. She's a lover and a giver. Unless we're talking siblings.

She received a gift card to spend at a department store. Unlike her mother, this child loves to shop. She still loves to play dress up, and she thinks it's even more fun when you get to bring those things home and wear them around and then leave them on the floor of her room, but whatever. The day we went to use her gift card, she was abuzz. The excitement of spending money on whatever she wanted was just too much to bear.

We wandered the aisles, her siblings and me making suggestions, offering opinions. She told us to buzz off. We did. She made her selections and tried them on. We left with a bagful of new garments, a mother approving of her choices, a child thrilled with new goodies.

She waited a week for an opportunity to wear her new garments: a brown and olive print skirt with a wide brown belt, a brown embellished tee with a square neck and a soft white cardigan. Oh, and bronze sandals from the women's department. Girl's feet are bigger than mine. Yesterday she put on her clothes for church and we oohed and aahhed about how pretty and grown up she looked. Her face grew dark and she followed me into the bathroom while I finished my own morning toilette. You know, hair, makeup, shoes...

"Mama." She said. She looked sad in her pretty spring clothes. "Do you think I still look like myself?"

Of course she looked like herself. "What's wrong?"

"I'm afraid," she told me, after hemming and hawing, "that putting these different kinds of clothes on will change me."

Her question, of course, spoke to me, her mother, on so many levels: the child beginning to wrestle with identity, groups and styles, plus the insecurity that comes with it; the growing young person balanced between kid and woman, unsure how to walk this balance beam. Her question digs to a deeper level about who we are and how we present our selves to the world.

Are we the clothes we wear? Are we our glasses or the music we listen to or the car we drive? Is it true that "the clothes make the man?"

Many of these things do send off certain vibes: hipster, fashionista, athlete, academic. But these are just the first glimpse others get of us, and sometimes our clothes just mean: I'm working out or I'm going out or I'm staying in. And we can alter our attitudes, I think, a bit by how we choose to dress. When I dress in sweats and a tee, I'm a bit lazier. When I put on shoes and an actual outfit, I'm ready to work.

But the ME putting on those clothes has not changed. I am the same person, despite not having showered yet today.

My daughter hit on something big and I know we'll be talking about it for some time. How do we reveal ourselves as complex creatures under the limits of a superficial world? By superficial I mean that we all make snap judgements largely predicated on how something or someone appears. So, who are you? Just a pile of cotton and wool or a crazy mixed up salad bowl of traits and characteristics? How do you shine through?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Can I Ask You a Question?

Today's post is written by my great friend, Cyndi. She is an incredibly talented photographer with an artistic, funky eye. Her graphic designs are amazing. Check her out. She taught herself to crochet and now she whips up sweaters for her dog, Betty. She is a Steelers fan, a loyal friend, a careful reader and a woman carving out her life, just like the rest of us. Say hi to Cyndi and hear what's on her mind.

I've spent a lot of time deep in thought lately about the meaningfulness of me. Yeah. Trying to find who I am and what "I" mean to those I love and care about. Much of this search for meaning is anchored in my never ending search of figuring out who I am. I've become entangled with a crisis of identity that never seems to get resolved.

Sometimes I am convinced it has passed. But like those missing pairs of socks that turn up after you used its mate to dust and polish furniture? Or the flip flop you thought went to that black hole where all unmated flip flops go until you discover it vacationing in the back of your closet? I realize it is there. Waiting. Ready to zap the badda from my bing. The ying from my yang. The hunky from my dorry.

The other day I had a conversation with a friend about the worth of our friendship, all the while trying to find out the answer to that question I think we are often afraid to ask of those we care about---'What, if anything, do I mean to you?' Hard question to come straight out and ask, so we hide it in 'safe' prompts and take the easy way.

At least I do...

When was the last time you had the guts to just come out and ask a friend or someone you love 'do I mean anything at all to you?' Because sometimes, especially when friendships and relationships of significance start depleting you emotionally, isn't that the question we really want to ask?

I think so...

Don't we sometimes just want to know if our emotional energy is worth it for a friend?

I think so...

Or do we shy away from asking because the answer might not be what we want to hear?

I think so...

Is this fear of truth in the answer holding us back?

I think so...

So in a round-about-beating-around-the-bush way, I asked my friend. And this is how it turned out:

Me: "If you had never met me & I wasn't in your life would you be better, more happy?"

Friend: "That's an odd question. I would be the same as I am now."

Obviously that wasn't the answer I wanted. But then again, I didn't ask the tough question. I asked the safe question.

I'm such a wimp...

Affirmation of my meaning in relation to those I love is what makes me get out of bed on days when all I want to do is sleep away the pain & sadness of not knowing who I am & what I mean to be here on this earth at all.

My identity is sadly defined in many ways by what others think of me and feel for me.

I'm such a loser....

I don't think I'm alone in this thinking. I know many women who define themselves via their husbands & how he treats them, their children & how they treat them & in their friends & how they engage & relate with them.

I'm one of those women...

Asking my friend that question made me have a "Come to Jesus" moment with myself.

I'm such a cliché...

If I invest myself emotionally in a friend I want to know that I meant enough to make some kind of difference to help make their life happy & rich because they knew me and for my having genuinely cared about them. Why? Because friendships and relationships are so wrapped up in how I view myself.

I'm so needy...

But the next time, if there ever is a next time, I see this friend in person? I'm gonna ask the tough question. In person. So I can't hide behind the text in a message. So I can see face to face what I mean, if anything at all.

I'm so gonna be brave...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Day Diatribe

Maybe today isn't the best day for me to write this post. I woke up with a raging sinus headache that has literally left me speechless. If you know me personally, this is the kiss of death; I sure like to talk. My precious children are on a scheduled break from school despite having had only 3 full days of school so far THIS MONTH. And we're all about to go bonkers. In other words, I didn't just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I dug a hole in the mattress and started growing roots.

I opened the dreaded facebook page to a smattering of Happy Valentine's Day wishes. Twitter was rife with the same well meaning drivel. All I could do was sneer. Bah! A pox on all these red hearts and "one of kind" corporately manufactured "sentimental" gold charms. Gag me.

To be clear, I have no problem with people expressing their love for one another. Fantastic. My problem with Valentine's Day stems from an early predilection for romance that has since been replaced with a deep and abiding love for myself and the people in my life.

Sure, sure. Romance is amazing. Who doesn't love the scene in "Pride and Prejudice" where Mr. Darcy confesses, clumsily, that the opinionated Miss Bennett has "bewitched [him]. Body and soul." Sigh. Sure, I loved the early days dating my now-husband of nearly 16 years. We couldn't wait to talk on the phone (people used to do that), we would pedal bikes through Pittsburgh snow storms just to be together. Delightful days, all. And yet, there is something so transient about those days. While now I can see, almost touch, something so adhesive about having come through the last 16 years together. And more.

But my abhorrence for Valentine's Day is more than just being content in my marriage. I can't help it; I'm disgusted with a culture that elevates couples and relegates singles to the sad little corner with their sad little single selves. It is not unlike the grotesque ideals of beauty women confront every day: thinner waists, bigger boobs, and a man on your arm. There is always someone telling us we are not good enough, pretty enough, or worth enough. The suggestion is that you're loser if you are alone today. And I will not abide that.

So, it comes to this. Women and men have value because they are inbued with it. Not because they've earned it. Second, people are of value, whether single, married, dating, divorcing, etc. Just simple fact. Finally, I love my husband every single day. I know he loves me every single day. I don't need card companies and jewelry makers to mandate my love.

I know some of you love this day and that's great. I will even smile if you tell me to have a nice Valentine's Day. As much as you can celebrate it, I can choose not to. So there.

I told you I was in a snit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You Can't Make Me

Tulsa is just beginning to dig out, or melt out, of our biggest snow storm in decades. My precious angels have been home going buggy with me for two weeks straight. It's taking a toll.

And I don't mean on the kids. They're having the time of their lives.

I mean this girl. I haven't been able to get outside for a nice long run in those two weeks. Sure, I've bounded through snow banks with The Dog, in the snow, in the cold, like a reluctant pioneer who forgot to bring her woolens. The roads have been covered with layer upon layer of packed snow and ice. The sidewalks were worse.

Eleven weeks from today I plan to run my first half marathon. The massive snow had me all wigged out that I would have to totally restart my training. A few things are funny about this. First, I never wanted to train in the first place. It just sort of happened. Second, the fact that I'm now referring to training in somewhat serious terms shows some level of self awareness on my part that this effort will require...effort. Finally, this will mean the adoption of some kind of plan.

Perish the thought. I'm decidedly anti-plan. Plans suck all the joy out of running. Plans make official the voluntary and fun. Plans mean some outside authority is asserting its will upon mine. I really dislike plans. Truth is, one doesn't just wake up one day and run a half marathon. Or, if one does, one will surely endure injury, pain, frustation or failure. I try to avoid those things.

I worry that adopting a plan will crush the spirit of joy I like to engage while running. At the same time, I recognize that anything worth doing, like our mothers always told us, is worth doing well. My personal coaches (I have a bunch of them) have made suggestions about distance and timing. They urge some kind of consistency. The best advice they've each given, though, remains the same: enjoy the run, have fun, do what comes naturally.

I will resist the plan even while I try to find one that doesn't cramp my carefree style. I will embrace the joy. So, maybe you can make me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Asking to be Loved

My day started with a lurch. I went to bed angry that something I had planned and looked forward to wasn't going to happen. At least not in any way remotely like I had imagined it. I woke up with the tang of resentment and bitterness coating my tongue. This sensation crept into my abdomen and built a small hut. It stoked a fire of pity and whining that smoked up and filled my body with loathing and lethargy.

I trudged from room to room, gulping scalding hot mouthfuls of coffee, restless but unmotivated to make a change. I stood pointlessly in the office and allowed the bitterness, the resentment, the frustration and anger to send its permanent address card to the postmaster.

Yuck. If there's anything worse than feeling sorry for oneself, it's standing resolutely knee deep in the stinking pit of it and declaring, "Come on in! The water's fine!"

I posted a little blurb on Facebook, a pitiful request for someone to say something nice to me. You know what? You staggered with your responses. I feel like Sally Field. You like me! You really like me!

What surprised me about the comments was how divergent and representative they were. Of course, I mean my friends made comments that truly represent me, or aspects of me. But more than that, the comments they made represented them. And what an amazing display of unique and wonderful people I saw! I saw the beautiful face of each person who replied: earnest, funny, quietly witty, brilliant and simple.

I am heartened. In light of my recent posts about identity, I find the diversity of my friends illuminating. In fact, I do "belong." Because I know you and you know me. Thank you, every one. You make me blush.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who are You? Dance Remix

Maintaining this identity theme I've been chewing on, I wonder about the self, or how we behave, in certain groups. I think of all the times I flitted from one Christian group to another, making the necessary adjustments along the way, attempting to assimilate.

In other words, in the simplest terms, that most Christians can agree with, I am a Christian.

However. We Christians can be like a world of middle school girls: clique-alicious.

I have theologically conservative Christian friends and theologically liberal Christian friends. Unsurprisingly, these folks tend to be polar on politics as well. I know moderately knowledgeable Christians and incredibly academic Christians. I know Calvinists, Anabaptists, Catholics and some others whose names I forget. I move among the groups that denounce gays and lesbians, and I move about the devout gays and lesbians. I have Christian friends who are all about the love. I have others who are all about the law. Some of my Christian friends have the wisdom of the ages, and others have this gorgeous simplicity that astounds me.

There are times I'm in groups where I must bite my tongue to the point of bleeding in order to maintain a modicum of decorum and peace. There are other times when I'm popping off like Papa Bear O'Reilly, loose and loud with the opinions.

So. You see where I'm going. How does a woman, finding her identity in Jesus and full of passion, talents, gifts and questions navigate her way through these crowds, crowds of alleged "sameness," and still remain herself? And by "herself," I mean the "she" God made and mandated. The "she" God crafted with his intense attention to detail, with all her conflicting humanity boiling over inside.

And the larger question would be, how do we, as believers, navigate "the other?" The challenge is to be a group of believers willing to explore, to expand, and to find the smallest common denominator and work from there. Moreover, how do we love "the other" in the mess, in the polarization of politics, in the heat of theological debate? Do we honor the uniqueness of God in our treatment of "the other?"

Again: I don't know. Do you?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who Are You?

Last week I felt overwhelmed by the number of blogs I read about depression. This is at once disheartening and encouraging. Paul was right when he admonished the early church to "carry each other's burdens." He knew that this life we walk through contains a lifetime of scrapes, bruises and bone crushing agony. He knew because he lived it, in prison, being beaten, living on the generosity of others. Paul knew a world of hurt. Paul was not too big for his britches. He knew humility and he practiced it when first meeting the disciples, when speaking to crowds, when giving thanks for the many gifts he'd received. Paul knew that when we share burdens, it makes them lighter. Duh.

Seems like another burden I'm hearing about is this question of who we are. I recently spent about an hour with some wise women on twitter talking through identities, categories (boxes), and busting them down. Jules offered this: "I just don't know where I fit in all this."

Isn't that a question of the ages. Where do I fit in? Do I want to fit in? Am I compromising some other aspect of my identity in fitting in? Does the act of fitting in over here shortchange me or my peers over there?

Kristin reminded us of the dreaded "twitter bio," wherein one boils the self down to a few well-chosen descriptors. Or not. I've long had a knee jerk reaction to personality tests and other methods whereby we ascribe certain characteristics to another. They feel so limiting and prescribed: answer these questions this way, then we'll draw a perfect little box around you, and there YOU are. Forever and always. Just so reductive and far too simple.

Except, not really. Read the chapters in Exodus where God through Moses tells the Israelites exactly how to construct the ark of the covenant. He doesn't simply say, "Hey. You know what would be totally rad? What if we had, like, a pretty box, or something, and you could all carry it around?" Nope. He goes on for CHAPTERS about the kind of wood, the types of workers, which sides the angels heads should face. He describes in detail what kind of fabric to use for curtains, how far apart to space the clasps, which are to be made from specified metals. From start to finish he is intimately involved in the design and execution of production.

As I read, on and on and on about the ark and all these seemingly senseless directions, knowing full well that they each, I'm sure, have their reasons, I couldn't help but think in much smaller terms. The twitter convo reminded me of that. If God spent that much time giving explicit mandates for the ark, if he cared that much about this piece of wood and metal and fabric, how much more time does he spend being the ultimate artist, calling us to a glorious, messy, fantastic identity.

If he cared so much about something that he'd blast apart with the birth of his son, then what does that say about how he views his people?

I don't have the answers, and I know it's trite, but really, isn't this the beginning and the end of the identity question? Where do we begin? Where do we end? Can we live in a world without descriptors? If not, then how can we engage them to work for us rather than against us?

I don't know. What do you think?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is Virtual Community Still Community?

I'm going with, "Yes." Yes it is.

In Tulsa, we're on our fourth in a row snow day. More of the dreaded-by-moms, hoped-for-by-children white stuff is flying through the air as I type. I'm kind of enjoying the snow days with the kids because they are so relaxed and chill. I'm also resisting the urge to curl up in a corner and weep silently for the lost time of the work week and what little shred of sanity I thought I had left.

But it has given me some time to catch up on my favorite blogs. January and February seem to hit us hard, and that truth has never been more real than this year. As I click through links posted by different and amazing, clever and thoughtful, lovely and illuminating bloggers, I'm seeing a trend. That trend makes me sad but also hopeful.

I seem to keep reading posts about depression in its various ugly forms; what it feels like, what to do about it, how to talk about it, feel about it. Of course it's troubling that so many of my online friends grapple with the pain of the dark beast. What I like about these posts, though, is that these people are talking about it. They are telling their stories about it. They are kicking back at the many-headed monster through words and the sensitive touch of virtual community.

When I talk about my "twitter friends" I get a few different responses, but the most common is a sort of understated eye roll. And I get that. I know it seems empty and virtual and what possible good can that be?

Well, I'll tell you: it's community. And it is real and organic. I'm sure that's not what everyone finds there, and it sure doesn't apply to every single person whose updates I read. But, the sense of caring and compassion I've found online is as real and true as what I experience in so-called "real life."

Keep talking, people. About the mess of life, the pain of loss, depression, divorce and infidelity. Keep talking because when you tell your story, it gives others courage to share theirs. And when they do that, trust forms and healing begins.

Okay, enough of the love-in. Back to my black and gold updates. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mixed Emotions

You guys. You know it's Super Bowl Week, right? You know that all my favorite sports talkers (Dan Patrick and the Danettes) are in Dallas talking up the celebrities, attending Media Day, getting ready for the big game. You better know it. You know I bleed black and gold, just like all my fellow yinzers who are goin' dahntahn to watch the game and celebrate after the win, n'at.

As a kid, the paper printed a centerfold caricature of one Steelers player each Sunday. My brother and sister and I would carefully plaster this inimitable artwork to the walls of the staircase leading to our basement. By the end of the season, the stairwell was our own holy shrine to the Steel Curtain, our very own Pittsburgh-only Hall of Fame. Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert...we had them all. Now I've got Terrible Towels strewn about my house as if it's a known decorating scheme much praised in the world of design. My car scurries through town emblazoned with Steelers statements. You get the point. I'm tried and true.

This year I've been sitting on a very uncomfortable fence, stemming from allegations made against Steelers starting QB Ben Roethlisberger. His alleged sexual assault and/or rape, on more than one occasion, does not sit well with this feminist mother rabble-rousing Steelers fan. How can I stand behind a team that allows a suspected predator act as their strong armed savior? How does that square with what I want to teach my children about respecting oneself, that no always means no, that there is never a reason for such actions. How can I cheer when, by his height and strength and footwork, scrambles out of the pocket and finds my friend Heath Miller or Hines Ward downfield for a huge gain to win the game?

I'm torn between rooting for my team and throwing in the Terrible Towel in disgust. Allegations like these are hard to prove and even harder to talk about because of the celebrity status and money involved. It is easy to believe both sides of this story: that Roethlisberger is a total pig who needs to serve some time, or that these are women looking for easy paydays. These types of things boil down to he said/she said and carry the assumption of guilt for all involved. Public sports pundits want to wag fingers, cultural leaders want to advocate for tougher victim's rights laws. Spectators just want the game to go on.

In listening to sports radio, I've been disgusted at the willingness of men and women fans. We are all complicit, willing to keep watching the sport, to keep blaming the woman, proclaiming that "boys will be boys." All because we're uncomfortable talking about it.

But we need to talk about it. In light of recent proposed legislation to redefine rape, in light of a culture that's growing increasingly desensitized to aggressive sexuality, in light of our responsibility as adults, spectators, humans, to demand better treatment of our fellow humans. I applaud Terry Bradshaw for excoriating Roethlisberger and calling him to task for his inappropriate, possibly illegal, behavior. And if it's true, that Roethlisberger is indeed a changed man, when he gives praise to God on the winner's dias, I hope it's true.

But don't tell me you're a changed man. Show me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raising the Bar

My friend Kristin has written about the bleak blah that is the month of January. While many people have never had a glimpse of the beast that is depression, many of us know its long and strong tentacles can gasp at any moment, sucking us down into a pit of miry clay, if I may be so bold.

I seem to live according the rhythm of the students' calendar. With three school-aged kids and one teacher man living with me, my life is set by the school. In the 16 years that he's been a teacher, and in the years prior to that when I was a real live student, I've experienced the roller coaster that is the school year. And I will tell you that January can bite it. (Along with August, December and May.)

Usually in January, I'd be wrapped up in layers and layers of soft, elastic-waisted clothes going face down in yet another pint of Ben and Jerry's Americone Dream. But you know, I've been running. And I have these goals! And it's so pretty outside right now. And I as much as I adore Americone Dream, I just can't eat another pint. Well... maybe just a bite.

My running routine was a precise and secure process in my day, leaving the house for a run right after the troops left for school. I was faithful to my routine all the way up to the day Christmas break started. It's been downhill since, rather deliciously I might add. I took time off for a trip to Pennsylvania. Then it was icy and cold. So I lost about 4 weeks of regular running. But this week my cabin fever reached critical mass. I had to find, gasp, a new routine! Golly I hate change. It's so...changey.

It occurred to me that I did not have to run in the mornings, when it was so blasted cold. Duh. What took me so long? I don't know. And I won't bore you with the logistical craziness running in the middle of the day causes. I will just say that it's not the most convenient. Silver lining: I still get outside to do the thing I love. And this is good.


Well, a few things. One, the minor inconvenience is worth it to get something I want. A simple shift in perspective opened up a way for me to carve out the time I wanted. I know it's temporary and I can deal with that.

I also realized that I didn't have to be a martyr about running. I had run in 28 degrees and that was not fun, yet I had this misplaced idea that cowing to weather was copping out. But then, I posted to Facebook this morning "I deserve higher standards," about running when it's below freezing. Heck yeah, I do. I found a way to keep running without torturing my digits in sub-freezing breezes.

And then I realized something I'd thought before. I am often disappointed in what an easy teacher running is and how thick I am that I need pictures to grasp the bigger truth. I long for running to be this largely contemplative exercise from which I emerge an enlightened, empowered voice of untaught wisdom. Truth is, running is a pretty simple stand in for much of life.

What I mean is, we do deserve higher standards and I'm not just talking about the thermometer. And I'm not talking about keeping our houses and children perfect. I'm talking about what we allow ourselves the time to participate in. I wanted, I needed to get moving outside; there were a few obstacles and I kicked them in the teeth to get them out of my way.

I'm worth a run outside. I'm worth one hour to think and move, to pace, pray and vanish.

What are you worth? How will you raise the bar?

Monday, January 24, 2011

There is No Jen in "Steelers." Or is there...?

My love for the black and gold has been well documented. And lest you think this black and gold of which I speak is the "little black dress" and gold earrings, you'd be wise to shift your gaze to that photo up there. Yeah, that one. The one of the Terrible Towel, marked with evidence of the Steelers' victories in an unprecedented 6, count em, SIX Super Bowls.

Yes. My ardor for the Steelers does not wane. And you most likely know this already. I can't help it. I love me some Steelers.

Last night, when the Steelers reached the Super Bowl for the eighth time by soundly defeating Rex Ryan and his wily, too-little-too late Jets, the texts and voice mails poured in to my very busy phone. You guys know me so well, and I know I'm not obnoxious about it. At. All.

"Congrats!" "Well done." "That was a close one!" "See you in Dallas!" "We're going to the Super Bowl!!!!!!"

This is what I refer to as the "royal we" of sport, wherein one's entire fan base takes credit for all a teams' successes and rues all of their shortcomings. When we say "We're going to the Super Bowl," we mean it. Our passion has carried our team to the crest of perfection and we ride the wave of their muscle-bound glory.

When someone says, "Congrats," that my team has advanced, and lived to play another game, another rival vanquished, I smile and say, "Thanks," because it is through my efforts that my team has a stout defense and scrambling giant of a QB.

"See you in Dallas!" They crow. "Heck to the yeah!" I cry back. Now, I'm not really, physically going to Dallas, but MY team is. And vicariously I am. And I will make my virtual presence known. You will hear the cheer in my tweets and status updates. You hopefully will not have to experience my anguish.

It's funny how invested we get in mere sport. I get loud, chatty and a bundle of nerves. I pace and hold my Terrible Towel over my eyes on 3rd and long or, worse on 4th and 1 when we choose to go for it. My husband sits quietly remote from the crowd. He doesn't talk. He barely eats. He is a stoic stone of passivity. Occasionally, though, he will mutter and grumble like the old man in the corner. "We need to tackle," he'll say. Or, "Why are we passing. We need to force the run." As if he's right there, on the sidelines, with some kind of authority to make these adjustments.

I know nay-sayers exist. There are those in the crowd who disdain the use of the sporting royal we, rightly claiming it simply isn't so. WE are not on the team. OUR cheering makes little to no impact on the game, especially those of us watching at home. We do not need to run the ball because WE do not get to touch the ball.

Sure sure. That's TECHNICALLY true. But isn't community and team spirit the point of teams? Aren't they groups of players and spectators for a reason? Sports wouldn't exist today if not for the fan dumping his cold hard cash nto the system.
Without her passion to show up early and stay there late if that's what her team needs. If no crowd arrives, there's not much of a point, is there? They play for us and we cheer for them.

So yes, thank you for the many congrats. I'm excited we made it and I'll see you all in Dallas. Look for me. I'll be the nervous nelly pacing with a yellow towel on her head.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mystery

I can't choose! Your theories on the lost cards astound and frankly, they frighten. I promise never to cross any of you. You are a diabolical bunch.

I got a lot of "missing persons" stuff, one Rapture (interesting) and one with a failed skydiving excursion.

My rational self leans toward the "dropped it at the bus stop" variety, which is so blase. I put myself to sleep with that meager offering.

I fear it is what you've suggested. Poor guy. In the wrong place at the wrong time, car jacking, takes a swing at his abductor, grabs his wallet and flings all three out the window to leave a trail of identity breadcrumbs.

Of course, because I didn't run enough days last week, and didn't find it til Tuesday, my efforts to return to the documents are futile. The police will uncover the ugly truth, and I'll never know what became of the two. It's all my fault for not running even though is was, like, really cold out and stuff.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Perils of a Good Samaritan

After the events from yesterday's run, I threw the challenge flag and went to the booth for replay. I viewed the mental video of the goofiest things that have happened to me when I'm out running. Not too many, but enough to give pause. Surely there's significance in this?

I'll start with yesterday. I was almost done with my run. It was cold, colder than my phone app told me it was (*shaking fist and exlaiming "curses technology"). I turned the penultimate corner when in my periphery I noticed an ID badge and a notebook on the sidewalk near a bus stop. You know how your mind sometimes takes a second to balance vision with reality? By the time I had figured out that someone had dropped important cards, I was 50 yards down the way. My stupid conscience made me go back. My plan was to move it off the path, put it in the grass, so that if the person who dropped it came back, his stuff would be right there. And that's what I did.

I ran on and my stupid conscience would not shut up. Cripes. Fine. I turned around and went back. Again. This time I was about 150 yards away. I hemmed and hawed the whole time. Should I take it to a local business? Why make it their problem? And what if they didn't do their civic duty? Could I trust them to do the important work of researching and finding the poor sod who lost his badge? Oh, and his credit card? An errand of this import could not be left to mere amateurs.

By the time I got back to the lost items, the dog was thoroughly confused and a tiny bit reluctant to keep running. I grabbed the badge, the lanyard, the credit card and the wet notebook (I refuse to think about what liquid put it in that condition). I ran home. Now the conscience pushed me on. Well, that and the cold. A shift in my day. Now I had a project on my plate I didn't really want or care to carve out the time for.

Then it got interesting.

In the lanyard were two cards, one an ID badge and one a certification from some kind of training. Neither card had a phone number. The credit card that was with the lanyard but not inside it appeared to belong to another person altogether. In other words, the names did not match. Hmm. I put my citizen's officer cap on and got to work. The only identifier was the name of the training company so I called them up. Eliza answered the phone and was very kind. She told me the man's number. I asked Eliza what state I was calling; Washington. I told her I was in Oklahoma, and she said, "My word," told her colleagues and asked my number.

I called the number she gave me for my lost person, but all I got was a weird beeping. Couldn't leave a voice mail. Then I tried to call the bank of the credit card. Yeah. Have you tried to call a bank lately? Apparently, no people work at banks anymore. You simply push buttons until you either hang up or get an answer that will have to do. I was unable to speak to an actual person. In fact, I could not get past the first set of menu options. By now my good samaritan vibe had long been replaced by irritated nice person.

But! But! My twitter friends came through for me! (Thanks, guys.) In addition to offering possible story lines for the three cards and the notebook, suggeting all manner of crimes and even the possible demise of the owner, I also got advice. One friend told me to call the police.

The police? Whatever. They don't care about that stuff. I should just put it in the mail and have done with it. But again, do I really want to trust the post office to get this stuff where it needs to be? Moreover, no mere citizen can handle this kind of sensitive issue with national implications. I have never in my life called the police, and for this I am grateful. I was kind of nervous. I called, I told them the story, rushing through it to get to the important parts. The friendly officer asked me to bring it by whenever I had a chance and that they'd try to return it.

Because I didn't want some guy's stuff in my house all week, I took it in yesterday. Two new experiences in one day. It's almost too much. Called and visited the police. Yep. I'm that girl. I told the story again, and the silver crew-cut, barrel-chested, baritoned officer called me ma'am. And he said I could come to work for them. As if.

Okay. So long story. Who cares? If you're still reading, you do. If you're gone, then you'll miss these little gems. Your loss.

Being a good samaritan is a pain in the butt. It is inconvenient. It is inviting yourself into a situation and then not getting to see the resolution. It's also a good way to have a little adventure. And, even if the dudes never get their cards back, I would have wanted someone to do the same thing for me.

The other interesting part is the story of the three cards and the notebook. How did they all come to be at a bus stop a half a world away from where they originated? How did two guys drop three cards in one place? Is it identity theft? Missing persons? I'm so curious and I'll never know, and I'm worried about them both. I want to know your theories. Leave a comment telling the story of the lost cards. I'll post the best story on Friday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Comparison Game

I just spent the better part of an hour g-chatting with my cousin. She lives in England, had her first baby at the end of last year and is struggling to feel competent at breastfeeding. My heart aches for her because this is a vulnerable time for any new mom, least of all one who is an ocean away from her mama and other support systems. Her troubles seem to universal, but in her little three-person family, she's not feeling very normal.

Every chance I get I tell her this: "You are a good mom. This is all normal. You are doing all the right things. It is very, very hard." I tell her this because some very wise mamas told me the same thing when my babies were young and I sweated through public nursing, public bouts of tears (from both the baby and me) and public I-don't-know-what-the-hell-I'm-doings. Those words go a long, long way toward nurturing new mamas.

The truth is, we mamas can be sensitive and we need to hear those words. And not just when the babies are babies. We need to hear it when the toddler stares us down and does what we just demanded he not do. We need to hear it when the 9 year old walks away from us when we're talking. We need to hear it as we take another deep breath, counting to 10 (or 100) when the once sweet teen pops off some sass that makes us blush.

But the truth is, we don't hear it and we don't tell it to ourselves. Instead, many of us buy the lie that what's-her-face over there at play group has it all pulled together. After all, just look at her, with her impeccable mommy uniform of designer jeans, sweater set and expertly highlighted, swept-up ponytail. With her toddler who is perfectly behaved, reading already, in her designer get up that is always clean. Damn her, we say to ourselves. We hate her. We make a half-hearted attempt to push it aside, telling ourselves that she may look great, but she's probably not very smart.

And this is only the beginning. We moms face a life time of the comparison game. When is the kid reading, what school does he attend, what toys does he have. It moves on to comparing which extracurriculars and how many. Then it's grades, clothes, romantic interests, colleges,'s grotesquely unending.

I told my cousin today that if she sees another mom who has it all pulled together at the play group, that woman either is a very good actress or a liar. I want to tell her to admit to someone else, someone she respects, that she's struggling. After all, that's the only way to stop playing the game. To admit her days as a new mom sometimes kind of suck will liberate her from a lifetime of second guessing herself. She will find allies. She will discover she is, in fact, the epitome of normal. She will embrace her skills as a mom who knows her baby and she will in turn be able to give the same lessons to another new mom.

It took me far too long to learn this lesson. And it took many of those wise mamas' words to teach me to look deeper. They told me of their struggles and I realized that, in fact, they are not the ideal image of mother. Only then was I able to look beyond my own desire to keep my crap private that I learned we're all doing that. I learned to look past the perfect picture. What I saw was a bunch of moms, trying to make good choices, trying to keep it all together and trying to make it look like we know what we're doing.

I now know that there is a group of women I can call on for advice and expertise. I can ask for help. I can let myself be the mother I am, the mother my kids need, not the mother I think the world wants me to be.

Monday, January 10, 2011


My friend asked me to read the manuscript of her novel. The Oklahoma sky plays a major role in the book, and while it didn't really affect me at first read, the longer the book stews in my head, the more I'm reminded of the power of the sky.

Before you accuse me of having had too much coffee or cough syrup, let me 'splain.

I'm not from "here." I'm from there, where the sky is not an unbroken line of horizon, but a silhouette of mountains and skyscrapers. Where a deep breath fills my mind with memories of cold walks to school across frozen earth. The fight for forward progress recalls steel mills and coal. Where a sniff of summer grass hearkens back to softball games and cool summer rainstorms. Where the sense of home resonates even as it no longer exists for me as "home." There is not the wide open expanse but it does not feel crushed.

Here, in Oklahoma, the sky is a vast extremity, extending from earth to air without interruption. (Of course there are buildings and skyscrapers in Oklahoma. Just go with me, mkay?). Breathing in the Oklahoma air, my memories extend, but not as far back as childhood. This smell of home is of a fresh new marriage, birthing babies and thick summers.

Running last week, I paid particular attention to the grey clouds breaking apart, the sun fighting its way through. I thought of how the hills here would not be classified as such in Pennsylvania. It seems I have one leg firmly planted in the literal here and now of Oklahoma. And one reluctant to leave the past, literal and figurative home, of Pennsylvania.

Do others exist in such a divided mind? Do you live looking forward and backward simultaneously? Can my mind coexist in memories and hopes? Is there another way? Just wondering.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bring It

Fifty-six days until I turn forty. Can I get a woot woot?

I am not dreading this turn of events. I mean, it is inevitable, after all, right? The never ending ticking tocking sliding of the clock, thrusting us forward on our own little patch of earth. In fact, I say, bring it. Forty is the new black.

I have a friend who plans to get her first, maybe her only, tattoo when she turns forty. She's planning forty days of adventure leading up to it, trying something new every day until her fortieth. Love this idea. It banishes the black balloons and fake tombstones. It says "talk to the hand" to the adult diaper givers. It denies the denture cream. It says, "Yeah? So?"

Last year, when the eye doctor ever so gently reminded me that I was holding on to my thirties by a thread (yes, he so did), I got a little snippety. C'mon, dude. Like I don't know how old I am. And then, over the holidays, my husband said something that completely shocked me. I KNOW how old my parents are, and I am fully aware of what the forward march of time does to us as we march forward with it. But he said, "They're almost 70," referring to my parents. My mouth gaped. I about fell out of my chair.

Thinking about a number in the mid sixties is entirely different from "almost 70" because 70 is, like, a really big number. It takes a lot of years to get to 70 (about 70 if you want to put a fine point on it). If my parents are almost 70, well, hell. That means I'm, like, an adult! (Because even talking about them, it's totally about me.) If I'm an adult, well then I guess I better get some stuff sorted out.

And I am. Forget new year's resolutions. I've got daily resolutions, just like my friend who's having an adventure a day to celebrate.

I will no longer attempt to fit into other people's ideas of who I am.
I will stop whispering jokes to my husband and let him say them out loud.
I just might get me that tattoo I've always wanted.
I'm running a half marathon, so there!
I will plan a trip that is just me and my besties. On a beach.
I will stand confident and proud of what is past and square my shoulders to what's coming.

So, forty, bring it. I'm an adult, after all. I can take what you throw at me.*

*This is in no way intended as a dare, forty. Please, still feel free to be kind and to not throw too much at me. Okay? Thanks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolving to Rant

After being out of town for ten days, our cupboards were bare. I wrote out the mother of all grocery lists and trudged off to the store. I wandered about, picking and choosing and finally finished this hated chore. Then I shoved my laden cart to the check out whereupon I was confronted with skinny models with their gaunt faces and bony chests. Where I saw "normal" sized women heralding the good news of how they dropped hundreds of pounds, posing gleefully with their super-sized pants beside them. I read the headlines. They were all the same, just spread across ten or so different titles, a loud cacophony of disapproval and shame.

"Get Skinny Now" yelled one.

"Get Skinny Fast" chastised another.

"How to tone your Tummy in 4 days" or whatever, barked yet another. They blended together.

I stood there, flummoxed, mad and really, just tired of the crap.

For one fleeting moment the huge words bombarded my self-esteem. I muttered to myself, "Well, but, it was just Christmas. I ate okay, and I run, and I'm busy and and and...." Then my woman-roar rose up strong in me and I mustered the courage to roll my eyes, instead of throwing every single one of them into my cart. I might have grabbed a candy bar just to thumb my nose in their general direction, if my cart weren't already so full.

I'm not saying, you know, don't lose weight or whatever. Do what you want. But don't do it because the lastest starlet has a new "cleanse" to push at you. Don't do it because you have that wedding coming up, or that reunion, or that...whatever. Do it because you want to.

But more than that. Don't let some stranger in a cold cubicle photoshopping images of deathly skinny girls be the arbiter of health and beauty for you. Stand back and assess who you are. You are more than a number on the scale, more than the sum of calories you put in your face everyday. You are gorgeous and you are amazing and you are you.

A friend of mine is going on a cruise and she wanted to lose some weight before she left. She did lose some weight and she looks amazing. Thing is, she looked amazing already. She looked amazing because she is amazing. She does more in one day than most of us could ever hope to manage. Her kids are awesome, her husband loves her, she always looks hip and pulled together. Is there really any more to life than that?

I'm not a huge fan of resolutions for a lot of reasons, and I can tell you about that another time. I do, however, realize that many people try to adopt change in the new year. New and good habits are to be encouraged. I understand a new year can mean a new job or lifestyle or a clean slate upon which to scrawl and dance your vivid next chapter. Go for it. Go big and go strong and go bold. Just... do it because it's you. Not because some stupid magazine disapproves of you. Because you are awesome. Just the way you are.