Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 pieces of advice to OnceUponATime characters...

10. Emma - your superpower is really not knowing if people are lying. You need to accept that and move on to embrace your actual powers.

9. Regina, please get on with Emma's lessons. Maybe if you taught her how to wield magic she might not end up screwing up your life so much.

8. Hook, Emma, Belle, Mary Margaret: Rump NEVER does anything without making a deal first. Stop trusting him. Seriously. He's the DARK ONE.

7. Belle, wear some flats. You're going to have some major bunions and back problems if you keep on with those stripper heels.

6. Hook, never change. Well, I mean, get your heart back from Rump, but then don't change.

5. Regina, Mary Margaret, David, Emma, maybe y'all can take some trust lessons from Elsa and Anna? Not to mention their kick ass aunt, Helga. Those sisters know how to love and trust. Hey, maybe they're the ones with the superpower of knowing when someone is lying?

4. Ingrid, I know you're lonely. Maybe if you just brought Emma and Elsa in on the ice cream business you could get that family life you're longing for? In, you know, a nice normal way?

3. Regina, once you get your happy ending, don't give up your sarcasm. It's easily one of your best features.

2. Henry, be careful about Rump. Just because he's your grandfather doesn't mean you can trust him.

1. Regina and Robin, have you perhaps thought, maybe by NOW, that perhaps Marion's little son, who adores his mommy, might be able to give her true love's kiss and save her from the spell? I mean, I know it's easier if she stays frozen, but at least give it a try? I mean, who's even watching the little guy?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rage, anyone?

So I'm angry. Haha, big surprise! I've had to leave my church community and I have a strong willed 3 year old who is potty training. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm not a festering explosion every day. (Patting my own back here).
I'm taking steps towards my healing, and one of them is to accept that I am angry. Right now, it's ok for me to feel anger. What happened at my church was wrong. I was mistreated, gossiped about, and so were many people that I love. I'm learning the hard way that the community I was intimately involved in for years does not want to continue in relationship with me now that I'm gone.
In addition, parenting is HARD. Parenting a strong willed toddler is even harder. Parenting a strong willed toddler using the attachment positive parenting paradigm is damn near impossible. It's certainly exhausting. Doing that while establishing a business and running a household is super human, and right now my relief valve involves anger, rather than other feelings. And that's OK.
On the plus side, I'm feeling more creative than ever, and I just committed to writing 1000 words a day in 2015, which means a whole lot more blog posts here!

It's like I tell my clients all the time: rage and anger are not evil or bad feelings. It's how we express them that's negative. I'm choosing constructive ways to deal with my anger. Journaling, blogging, talking with supportive loving friends, and laughing as much as possible. Rough housing with my 3 year old, which relieves all those stress hormones and leads to laughter. Asserting myself as needed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why I Now Attend an Episcopalian Church

I started attending a nondenominational church back in 2000. For 14 years I was committed to this idea - the idea of a church stripped to essentials, open for discussion and communication. Unfortunately, as someone who holds liberal opinions, I learned that when it came down to reality, this model wasn't working as designed. Now I am attending an Episcopalian church, a church that aligns with the churches I was raised in, but also differs significantly in that it is definitely not an Evangelical church. Here are 10 reasons I made the switch.*

10. At the end of the day, I want a choir and an organ. As a classically trained musician, this is the music that I appreciate most. Not that pop Christian music doesn't serve a purpose in my spiritual life, but as a mother, I want my child to hear historical and unique music as well as by the numbers praise and worship songs.

9. The liturgy gives me words. Ever since I attended a liturgical church, at age 9, I knew there was something powerful in the words, words which were assembled out of the Catholic tradition over 500 years ago. Phrases which were assembled in the time of Shakespeare, in English, my native language. My prayer book does not disappoint: there are prayers for everything: for rain, for the care of children, for social justice, for times of war, etc.

8. I am finally in a community which affirms my own social convictions. Over time I have come to support and advocate for gay marriage. Episcopalians marry and even ordain gay people.

7. I am tired of Bibliolatry and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. The longer I studied the Bible, the more Episcopalian I became in my view of it - although I didn't realize my views were Episcopalian!

6. The rituals of the service remind me to be awestruck and reverent toward God. Watching the Bible be carried to the middle of the church for a reading, kneeling to pray, watching everyone process and recess beneath the Cross: it all reminds me of the majesty of God.

5. I am a feminist. The nondenominational movement struggles with women and where they belong. Episcopalians have been ordaining women since before I was born.

4. Sometimes, you can not be silent: you must affirm. In my experience, nondenominational churches stay silent on the issues of abortion, LGBT issues, divorce, and war. The LGBT community can no longer continue in a place of limbo: they must either be fully affirmed or denied. To stay silent is to condemn by inaction. In my experience, churches trying to be "seeker-friendly" avoid these issues, saying they want to focus on the essentials of the Gospel. But isn't affirming the oppressed and those in the minority one of the essentials of the Gospel?

3. No more surprises. Oftentimes nondenominational churches are pastor-centric, and when the pastor leaves, the church changes, sometimes significantly. Episcopalians have a well defined and thought out theology that will not change simply because a new priest has been hired.

2. It is the "via media." The Anglican communion was born out of a desire to hold on to what was good in Catholicism. The men who crafted it did not want the upheaval of the Reformation to dictate their faith. It is a religion of compromise: of allowing people to follow their conscience, up to a point. If there is any place where some wiggle room in beliefs is tolerated, it is here.

1. I feel safe again. My beliefs as a feminist, as a person who upholds the legality of abortion, and as an LGBT supporter made me a target in every nondenominational church I have been in. I no longer feel like my faith, my devotion to God, my willingness to follow the Holy Spirit, my very salvation, will be questioned because I hold certain beliefs.

* Full disclosure: I have not attended every nondenominational church in the world. I'm sure there are many which do not present the problems I complain of here. I have been wounded and I am beginning my healing process, so I'm sure in a year my opinions will be different. However, I do believe that the nondenominational model has some very fundamental problems, which I touch on in this post. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Bedtime Battle

It is 7:40 at my house, which means I am at the verge of victory in the bedtime battle. My saintly husband is doing daddy duty by reading a book. I am sitting on the couch waiting for my turn - the nightly singing ritual.
I treasure our time together after reading - laying in the dark, singing songs and hearing rare information about my daughter's day. It is a special time, a time when we can connect with no defiance, no agenda, just me and her connected in love.
But getting there? That's a battle.
There's the running around the house, sucking on a pacifier that is strictly for bedroom use only (don't lecture me, she's only 3.5 and I know she won't have a paci when she walks down the aisle at her wedding).  There's the complete defiance about putting on the diaper and pajamas. There's the singing and playing that only a true master dawdler can create.
Then there's the out and out battles: no to the potty, no to the toothbrush, kicking and screaming no to the pajamas. It is the end of the day and my mommy bank is empty of empathy, patience, and unconditional love, and all I can think is that soon she will be corralled into her bed and into darkness, the star light will be on, and she and I will spend a few precious moments together. SO WHY CAN'T SHE JUST GO TO BED ALREADY?
Haha, the everpresent mom dilemma. Why won't my child just behave so we can have fun?
One day my daughter will no longer be 3 years old. Sure there are things I'll miss, but honestly? I think I'll really be glad when she's potty trained, not dependent on the paci, and ready to cooperate again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Might be a Mom if...

10. You know that Tivo and DVR have made you a better person (kids can watch their show when YOU choose, you can pause your favorite show for a kid crisis, etc.)

9. Being alone in the house makes you giddy with delight.

8. You've ever claimed your own bodily excretions (No, don't touch that, it's Mommy's poop).

7. You can get any stain out of any fabric, without even looking it up online!

6. Whenever you hear the word No, you automatically wait a few seconds because you know the next word will be Yes.

5. You have a Voice and everyone within earshot shuts up when they hear it.

4. You no longer have any disgust over contact with bodily fluids: you're just grateful when they don't get on your face.

3. Walking from the living room to your bedroom at night involve at least 3 - 5 tasks on the way.

2. You know the closest bathroom in every store, library, and gas station in your town.

1. The majority of your happy moments each day are related to the small people running around your house (your kids!).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top 10 Tuesday!

My top 10 practices to maintain Mommy Sanity.
10. Daily prayer and meditation.
9. Roughhousing with my little one: releases stress for both of us!
8. Go to work 5 days a week - I am not blessed with the ability to be a stay at home mom.
7. Make Daddy take charge of the little one 1 morning each weekend.
6. Delegate my brain to my phone: calendar, to do list, grocery list, EVERYTHING.
5. A glass of wine or a cocktail while cooking dinner.
4. Daily sensory treats: a nice smell, music I love, a good book, a nap. I do something each day to treat my body well.
3. A list of friends I can call who will sympathize with me without any judgment.
2. Healthy boundaries
1. Acknowledging daily that I'm not perfect and forgiving myself.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teaching the Bible in Sunday School is Probably Heresy

I attended Sunday School from the time I was potty trained. I learned Bible stories, I memorized Bible verses, and I took notes. But I also read the Bible for myself. I was reading Leviticus and Numbers at age 10, along with the Psalms and Proverbs and Gospels. So I learned something crucial pretty early on.

Sunday School was lying to me.

Moses was a murderer before he was a prophet.
David was an adulterer, traitor, and murderer all while being a "man after God's own heart."
Adam was standing right next to Eve while she talked with the serpent and took the fruit to eat it.
Esther encouraged the king to allow widespread murder and pillaging BY the Jews instead of genocide OF the Jews.
Rahab was a prostitute, not an innkeeper.
Samson was married and committed random violence over his girlfriend before he ever met Delilah.
The 10 Commandments don't prohibit using swear words.
The 10 Commandments don't prohibit sex before marriage.
Paul taught that we were free from the Law, but Sunday School taught me that I had to obey certain parts of the Law.

I still remember the moment when I realized that some of the Bible stories I had been told were TRUE. Notice that? I already knew that what I was being taught was actually NOT the Biblical text. Yet on Christmas Eve one night, waiting for service to begin, my father opened the pew Bible to Luke 2, and handed it to me to read. As I read the Nativity Story, I was amazed. Here was a Bible story that was actually IN the Bible. One shining story that was true to the text I had been taught to study and memorize.

Look, I understand why we censor and clean up the Bible stories before teaching them to children. A five year old doesn't need to know that kids her age were kidnapped and enslaved. She shouldn't be taught that the first born Egyptian babies were killed by God in order to set the Hebrews free. The story of Samson killing all the men at his wedding lacks a good moral and is quite violent.

But maybe we shouldn't be teaching the Bible at all then, if we have to censor it so strongly. We can teach them songs, teach them prayers, heck, even teach them the Gospels - most of those stories don't need censoring.

I was lucky, in that I had a very real and personal relationship with God, so as I realized that Sunday School was teaching me a distorted view of the Bible, I didn't rebel against my faith. I just accepted the tension and thought for myself. That's not the norm.

So is it heresy to teach the Bible in Sunday School? If the church believes, as most do, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then how do they justify teaching censored and distorted versions of that sacred Word? And what are the consequences when our children begin to read the Bible for themselves and learn that they were not taught the actual Word? Food for thought.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Top 7 Female SuperHeroes

With all the popular comic book movies coming out, a common observation is about the lack of strong females. Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Thor, none of these movies have strong female leads. In fact, most of them don't even pass the Bechdel test!

Thank the powers that be for fantasy and sci-fi, which has been quietly offering women strong role models for decades now. My superheroes don't have figures that make Barbie feel fat, and they don't play second fiddle to their male counterparts. They get the job done, unconcerned about being called "bitch" or "masculine" or "ball buster." As I think about my growing up, and being allowed to watch movies like Alien and Aliens, and the Star Wars movies, and even Star Trek (which became less sexist with time), I see how I learned how to be an assertive, powerful woman. I didn't need Wonder Woman or Batgirl. I had Ellen Ripley and Eowyn.

One of my earliest memories, in fact, is watching the cartoon Lord of the Rings, and being blown away by Eowyn's battlefield gender reveal. That moment awoke something in my heart: not only could a woman be strong and powerful, but in fact, her gender could be an asset. ONLY a woman could have killed the Witch King.

So I say, let the comic book people have their men in tights and women in fetish fantasy outfits. I will continue to let sci-fi teach my daughter about how to be a powerful woman in this world.
Ripley: disobeying orders and killing aliens whenever she wakes from hypersleep. And oh, yes, recovering from the loss of her own daughter by saving an innocent girl from the alien queen.

Captain Janeway, one of the best captains in Star Trek. Tough as nails, capable of making the hard decisions, and oh yeah, kicking Borg ass when necessary.
Starbuck: It's not just men who can be awesome pilots and total assholes. Self-destructive but never apologetic for her gender.

Maleficent, who in the end found true love to be that between a mother and daughter, not a man and a woman. Oh, and capable of ruling her own realm and mustering an army without any help, male, female, human or fairy.

Olivia Dunham: strong, feminine, smart, in BOTH worlds.

Twist on the classic: the princess does the rescuing!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mad as a Wet Hen

It's 2014. How long are we going to have to wait for publishers to realize that there are Bible stories about girls and women???
There is an unwritten canon of bible stories for kids. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham (but not Sarah), Joseph, no judges except possible Samson, David and Goliath, Daniel, then boom, Jesus. Maybe a story about the Virgin Mary. Which means we get to learn about genocide, mass extinction, violence, killing, and lion's dens. Wait, what?
Let's see, what if we told some of the women's stories in the Bible? Like Miriam and Jochebed, who saved Moses' life? What little girl wouldn't relate to Miriam's heroism as she watches over her brother and tricks the Princess into paying Jochebed to nurse her OWN SON? How about Sarah, who learns that if you wait patiently, God answers prayers. How about Deborah, a judge who didn't actually kill anyone, but still managed to lead an army and bring peace to Israel? But if you want violence, hey, tell about Jael, who was the fulfillment of Deborah's prophecy? Let's not forget Ruth, who was loyal and was rewarded for it. Or the story of Esther, who used her beauty and her brains to stop a genocide. Sounds like stories I want my children to hear. Stories that, for the most part, don't raise troubling questions like, "Why did God kill all the people not on the Ark?" or "Why did God kill the first born babies in Egypt?" or "So if a bully threatens me I should throw rocks at him like David did?"
I'm exaggerating, but I'm angry. I'm not just angry because my mom and I have written an awesome Bible story book focusing on 22, yes twenty-two, awesome heroic women of the Bible and it doesn't have an agent yet. I'm angry because no one is addressing this. No one seems to have noticed that we get the same old stale Bible stories in new books each year. Or that the only girl oriented Bible story books are so offensively pink and princess oriented that they lose the impact of the stories.
Come on, authors! Come on publishers! I dare you to tell the stories of the women of the Bible. Sell the book to both girls AND boys. DO something!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life Transitions

We are not meant to know the dates of liminal moments. Birth, death, these are the mysteries of transition and to know the dates is a burden.

17 years ago I made my second long term commitment. My first commitment was to get engaged to a young man. That didn't work out. My second commitment was more successful: I adopted two cats.
I knew I was making a life commitment to these little animals. I was unsure about marriage, but I knew I could take care of cats, and that's what I did.
Now, after 17 years together, my beautiful tuxedo cat, Shadow, is at the end of his life. He has liquid in his lungs. He has a mass on his liver. His kidneys are failing. His bowels are diseased. His heart is enlarged. He has cataracts on his eyes. His muscles are wasted. Shadow was always my comfort cat. Whenever I cried, over my latest heartbreak, over frustration with my career, out of sheer anger, Shadow would come to me. And yesterday, as I wept for him, I realized that on Friday, when I am crying over his death, he will not be able to comfort me.
We are not meant to know the dates of life's passages.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lipstick and the slippery slope to victimhood

This morning my daughter and I were painting our toenails. It was all good fun. Then I gave her a spare eyebrow brush to use to "paint" her doll's toenails. She was occupied, and I left the room for a few moments. When I came back, she was applying my lipstick. Now, my lipstick is one of those lip stains which will outlast anything. I rushed to wipe it off her lips before it set, and then she asked me the fateful question. "Can I have lipstick?"
My mind went into high gear. She's not even three years old yet. Lipstick is something older women use to look attractive. If I give her lipstick, she'll learn that her worth comes from her appearance. Then she'll be anorexic and vulnerable to any sweet talking teenage boy who wants to take advantage. She'll be broken and destroyed. All of this, in less than a minute after my little girl asked for lipstick.
"Sure," I said. Chapstick is the answer. I knew I could buy her some chap stick, which would fulfill her request without her looking like a 3 year old pageant competitor. We went to Target, all while my mind worried.
You're teaching her that her appearance is all that matters. She's going to get addicted to chap stick. She'll lick it off and reapply it the way you did and then get severely chapped lips. 
And then, a moment of clarity. She only wants lipstick because Mommy wears it.
I relaxed. She wants to put lipstick on her mouth because I do, not because she wants to look or feel pretty. I remembered when one of my nephews wanted to paint his toenails: because he had see his Grandmother do it. I remembered a friend whose son had asked for makeup, just because he saw his mommy putting it on.
I'm still not 100% comfortable with my decision. I bought her Burt's Bees chap stick, Pink Grapefruit flavor just because the lid is pink. She was delighted, opened it, and proceeded to smear it on her lip and then lick it. She's not obsessed with her appearance. She's just a normal kid, experimenting with her world. And my anxiety? Just the normal anxiety of a mom. One thing I've learned in the last 3 years is that sometimes you just have to make a decision and hope that it's the right one. I can't be perfect. I can only love her.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Back Stories II

In honor of this insane page, I offer some back stories.

Georgette and Randy were devastated when his dog ate their engagement ring. However, they went ahead and posed for their engagement photo shoot, after Georgette used plenty of Visine for her eyes. She wore a drugstore ring in place of the real thing. And then, just when Randy was about to shoo his dog off, they looked into his butt and saw that the ring was emerging!
Matilda and Ralph had a very long and happy marriage. On their honeymoon, they had placed a wager. 50 years later, Matilda lost.

Monday, June 2, 2014

In Defense of Daddies

I'm a feminist, but that doesn't mean that I hate men, by any means. I believe men and women are equal, in divine origin, in dignity, and in human ability and potential. And this is part of the feminist source that this post flows from.
Just a little while ago, I left my hysterical daughter in her room with her father. She screamed and wailed, all because it was time for singing and she wanted to read one more book. We don't have a lot of rules in our house, but the bedtime ritual is one of them. When it is time to sing, there is no negotiation. And so I left the room while my husband struggled with our daughter as she physically thrashed and hollered her disappointment. I knew that her daddy would be able to calm her down. Could he do it as fast as me? Maybe, maybe not. But it is important that he be an equal parent to her. He has his own ways with her, his own rituals. He has his own techniques.
I see so many moms treat fathers like incompetent babysitters, and that is certainly what our culture and our media wants us to believe. But that is incredibly dangerous. Her daddy disciplines her as much as I do. Her daddy plays with her one on one as much as his schedule allows. He is an equal in our marriage and in our parenting.
Now, there is an obvious caveat here: moms and dads must be in agreement on discipline and rules. If I believed in time outs and he believed in spanking, we would need to come to agreement before we trusted each other to parent. But once that agreement is in place, then moms, empower your husbands to parent! It's a relief for you. Plus, by treating him as an adult, he'll know you respect him. And whether you're a complementarian or an egalitarian, you know everyone enjoys respect!



So I found this link on Facebook, and someone idly wondered about the back stories of these pictures. I have done extensive research and now I will reveal the awesome back stories of these photos!
 Marvin is an undercover agent for the Raleigh UPS drivers association. As part of a sting operation, he crashed his van into the river. Then, using nothing but the contents of the packages in his van, he fashioned this tuxedo and escaped into a throng of prom goers.

 I had my last date from Match.com last night. Things were going really well, except the guy talked a LOT about his roommate Brian. And then we got to the restaurant and I saw this. He said, "I hope you don't mind, I invited my roommate Brian to join us."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Aunts, Crones, and Meddlers

My great aunt recently passed away. She was one of my mother's many aunts: three on her mother's side and at least two on her father's side. Family holidays were all spent in the company of most of the siblings: even when family moved they came home regularly.
Growing up, I only had two aunts: one paternal, one maternal. They lived several hours away from us, and we did not see them regularly. As I was talking with my mother about the death of her great-aunt, she commented that she was sorry my brother and I hadn't had more aunts.
We didn't have a lot of biological aunts, that's true, but I did have aunts. There was the mom who lived across the street from us. She challenged me to look past some of my provincial beliefs. There was the mom who volunteered with my youth group, who held me in her arms as I cried over my boyfriend dumping me. There was my older coworker, who befriended me and partied with me but also showed me how to live a full life without a man.
Aunts serve a valuable role, one on par with crones and meddlers, in my opinion. What are crones and meddlers?
Crones are the wise women in our lives. Often our grandmothers, they have the freedom to offer us love and wisdom that we might not listen to if it came from our parents. It's easy, as a teen, to discount what your mom says, but harder to discount grandmother. They are teachers as well, formal and informal. Crones are not always cuddly cookie scented ladies though. They can be the grumpy old lady at the hospital where you volunteer, or the reserved church women who hush you during service. Crones are our prayer warriors, our witches, our ammas, our quietly powerful elders.
Meddlers? I can't think of a great word for this role. But these are the women who travel into our lives and shake things up. They love to stir the pot, ask the unasked questions, and push you to the logical limits of your argument. If she is your peer, she will ask you the questions about your faith that drive you to read the Bible again and again, trying to figure out the answers. If she is your teacher, she's the one who demands essays on all her tests, and is willing to allow a wrong answer if it traveled an interesting path. She is the woman who might make you angry now and then, but you will always go to her because you know she will be unflinchingly honest.
One of my life goals is to be an aunt, a crone, and a meddler. I'm already an aunt, both biologically and relationally, and I'm definitely a meddler! As I continue to meditate and pray and chant the psalms, I hope to grow into an amma, or a crone. What role are you filling today? And who are the aunts, crones, and meddlers in your life?

Monday, May 19, 2014

God is not my Fortune Teller

In January, I spent several weeks researching and visiting preschools, planning to send my daughter in September. Life happened, and she ended up in preschool in March, which has been wonderful. Unfortunately, I found out recently that her school is losing their location at the end of May and would not be able to offer summer programs. So I scrambled and found another program for my daughter for the summer.
But now I don't know what to do for September. It doesn't look bright for this school: they've been looking for a new location for a long time. And I'm nervous that they won't find one. In which case, I will go into September with no childcare.
As I was driving her home one day, musing on this issue, I prayed, as I often do. And the thought flashed through my mind, "Why doesn't God just TELL me what to do?" I mean, God is omniscient, so She knows whether this preschool will find a location by September. She could spare me a lot of anxiety by just telling me what to do. And after that thought came another: "God is not my fortune teller."
As Christians, it's easy to give into the temptation to treat God like a fortune teller. We exhort one another to pray when faced with decisions, and to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit. And that's important. I certainly prayed when I was making the decision about when to send my daughter to preschool. But there's a fine line there: a line between seeking wisdom and knowledge of ethics and behavior and just asking to know the future. And my prayer was tip toeing right over that line!
We don't pray in order to gain secret knowledge of future events. We pray in order to stay connected to the One who loves us unconditionally and unlimitedly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why Lose Your Life?

Motherhood and marriage are both hard. Sometimes we do everything right and are still considered failures: marriages end, spouses cheat, kids do drugs. Sometimes we do everything wrong and get lucky: 50th anniversaries, peaceful family reunions.
I don't think everyone should get married or have children. By the time I met my husband, I had decided that I was totally fine with staying single my whole life. Six months into our marriage, while I knew I had made the right choice in marrying, I also knew that I would never get married again. I can't imagine ever finding anyone else I would be willing to enter into marriage with, and I am very happily married.
Motherhood is even harder. At least in marriage you are loving partners on the same team. In motherhood, you are required to give 100% to a being who might or might not love you and certainly has no interest in being on your team. In fact, getting OFF your team is a primary development task for toddlers and teenagers.
I don't mean to discourage anyone. I do think we need to give much more thought to decisions about marriage and motherhood. My husband and I felt no pull to have children for years, so we didn't. We believed that it would be wrong to bring a child into our family unless we WANTED her. And then, six years into our marriage, we realized that we did want a child. We wanted to expand the amount of love in our family. We had a child because it was an expression of our love for each other, and it would be another person in our family who could receive love from us.
But there is one thing I have learned. There is only one path to success in life, especially in the difficult path of marriage and motherhood. That path is kenosis, a concept wonderfully explained by Cynthia Bourgeault in the Wisdom Jesus. Kenosis, to borrow her language, is the reckless and extravagant giving away of oneself. It is losing our own life (as Jesus taught us to do) by throwing it away with both hands, joyfully.
Some days I can do this with joy and laughter. Some days I do it with gritted teeth. Some days I cannot do it at all, and then my job is to reach out for help and accept God's grace and forgiveness.
But one thing is constant. The more I am centered in God, via meditation, prayer, and community, the more joy I find in the giving away of self. The more love and grace God pours into me, the more delight I have in pouring it back out onto my husband, child, and loved ones. Losing your life isn't about martyrdom or self-denial: it is about joyful giving out of God's abundance rather than your own.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I have a Pinterest board optimistically titled "Kid's crafts - realistic." Somehow I see ideas and think I'm going to implement them. On Saturday morning, I decided to give one a try. The game is simple: lay out colored sheets of paper and have the child put objects of matching color on each card. So I laid out six cards, purple, blue, green, yellow, red, pink, and encouraged T to do some matching. She did. She put one object on each card. I encouraged her to continue. She picked up three of the cards, grabbed a pen, and marched to her room to scribble on them. This is why I don't invest a lot of time in following Pinterest ideas. What if that game had taken me 20 minutes to set up? It would've been totally annoying! It's easier to just go with the flow and hope that Play-doh and markers and glitter glue will be enough for the day.

Later on, I had a victory using an idea from the Internet. I enjoy Aha Parenting, and do a lot of reading there. She suggested that a parent should engage in games that let the child feel powerful, especially to blow off steam before nap time. So before T's nap on Sunday, we went outside. She loves to run in a straight line back and forth across the driveway. So I challenged her to run past me without me "catching" her. I made a huge show of lunging towards her as she ran past, but never caught her. She found it utterly delightful, and ran so much in 5 minutes that she wore herself out! Success! Oh, right up until she didn't sleep at all during nap time. But that's another issue entirely.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pinterest Experiences

I use Pinterest as a Vision Board. At least, that's how it started. Now I use it for ideas and entertainment. I rarely ever use the ideas I find. In fact, I'm also a avid follower of all the Pinterest websites that mock Pinterest attempts.
I'm weaning my daughter from her pacifier, and it is going very slowly. She has no security items besides the paci, and she has very intense feelings. I'm trying to teach her ways to handle and express her feelings, but she's not quite 3 yet. I have seen "time-out jars" several times on Pinterest, and while I don't use time-outs, I saw another purpose for them. Today I created a "calm-down" jar for my little one to use when she doesn't has her paci. I'm hoping that she'll shake it up, watch the glitter settle, and then calm down. We'll see how it goes. Either way, my DIY project was successful. I just hope it is successful for her!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Why kill animals?

A theological post this week. I was reading Cynthia Boureault's excellent book The Wisdom Jesus recently. At one point she was discussing Jesus' passion and death, and talks about how Jesus came to earth to enable us to be one with God. Atonement, in the sense of at-one-ment, not in the sense of paying our debt. And that was when I had an epiphany.
In the Hebrew Bible, there are many laws and regulations for animal sacrifice. It was an integral part of their faith and worship. But why? Why must humans kill animals? How does an animal's death undo the harm of sin? It doesn't. It is, I believe, a powerful illustration of the cost of at-one-ment.
Animals are killed to teach us that becoming holy is unsurvivable. To draw near to God, to be one with God, is to be consumed. Nothing can survive. We long to be with God, just as God longs to be with us, but we are too fragile. God's love would destroy us.
And that is what Jesus did for us: He created a bridge to God. By dying and coming back from the dead, He showed us that we can draw near to God. As we practice His life and incorporate His teachings, we increasingly gain the ability to draw ever closer to God. Holiness is now survivable.

I am not an evangelical Christian, and now I begin to understand why. Christianity is not about salvation. It is about wisdom. Jesus didn't come here to rescue me: He came to teach me. Just as I do not rescue my daughter, I teach her. I follow Christ in order to find at-one-ment with God.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Post Partum Depression: My Messy Beautiful


It’s not about her. It was about me. It was always about me.

It was about being the Lady of Constant Damp. While my husband and visitors shivered, I glistened with sweat. I got out of the shower and watched as fountains of milk geysered onto the walls. I held my 1000 degree child to my breast and felt milk and sweat pool on my skin. 

It was about being the Lady of Constant Exhaustion. I nursed every two hours, which meant I got 60, maybe 90 minutes tops to sleep, eat, and function. Even if she didn’t wake me after an hour, my swollen breasts did. While my daughter would cat nap in her crib at night, during the day she would only sleep if I was holding her. 

It was about being the Lady of Conflicting Expectations. I was supposed to enjoy every precious minute, even the minutes of screaming and pooping. I was supposed to breast feed on demand, but also put her on a schedule. I was supposed to pump milk to supplement with, but also use formula. I was supposed to let my husband sleep, but I was also supposed to make him get up and change her diaper after the nightly feedings. I was supposed to respond to her every desire but also let her cry in the crib if I felt angry or stressed out. I was supposed to go back to work after 12 weeks, but never put her in daycare. I was supposed to put her on her tummy several times a day, but never allow her to sleep on her stomach.

It was about the fact that I didn’t feel anything.

“How are you doing?” “How’s it going?” “What’s your favorite part?”
Nothing. I felt nothing. I was too tired, too damp, too frustrated.
It was messy. But it was beautiful.

After two months, she was diagnosed with a diary allergy, and once I removed dairy from my diet she was able to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time: a blessing for us both.

After four months, nursing was my favorite part of the relationship. I would put my little one to my breast and watched her latch on eagerly. She would peek at me with her dark gray blue eyes, looking for all the world like one of those Kewpie dolls.

After six months she developed a gorgeous open mouth grin combined with twinkling eyes and an irresistible laugh.

It was messy because it hurt like crazy, and I lost friendships, and I felt a lot of unnecessary guilt. And it was beautiful because I learned exactly how to be the best mother that I, Elaine Frances Bayless, can be, independent of all the “shoulds” and “how-tos” and “best practices.”

In the end, post partum was my messy beautiful gift: a trial that brought me freedom. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Five

As spring slowly begins to bring a thaw to those of us in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, I have been watching for signs of renewal and rebirth. It is also part of the season of Lent as well. This week, let’s focus on the signs of spring within us and around us!

Share with us:

1. Your favorite spring flower. (Is it blooming yet? If so, share the joy by posting a picture of that loveliness with those of us still waiting!)
Definitely daffodils. I love big clumps of daffodils, and I also love the neat sentinel rows of newly planted daffodils. I plan to plant a bunch more daffodils in my garden next fall.

2. Your spring cleaning routine. Do you have one? Is there a family memory or tradition around it?
Hmm, what is this spring cleaning you speak of? But seriously, I don't spring clean. If anything, as the weather warms up my office becomes more and more neglected, as I choose to work outside on my screened in porch.

3. A personal area of growth where you have seen some success lately. It can be personal, physical, spiritual or familial.
I have been working intensely on growing my business this year. This has required a lot of re-balancing of my life and work. It would've been easy to fall into the trap of working during my family time. Instead, I've done a good job of creating and maintaining boundaries around my schedule.

4. When does “spring” usually arrive in your area? Are you holding out for late May? Or are you one of the lucky ones who has already put away her sweaters and mittens?
Well, in NC we are usually well into short sleeves by now, but this March has been brutal. This time last year I had already bought my daughter's summer clothes, but this year she's close to out growing her winter clothes with no end in sight. 

5. A verse or set of verses from Scripture that speaks “new growth” to you.
Song of Solomon 2:10-14 "Get up, my dear friend,
fair and beautiful lover - come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over. 
The whole world's a choir - and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
my fair and beautiful lover - come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove -
leave your seclusion,
come out in the open.
Let me see your face,
let me hear your voice.
For your voice is soothing
and your face is ravishing."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

John 8:1-11

This is one of my favorite Jesus stories: the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Jesus is confronted by a group of angry religious leaders, bringing with them a woman "caught in adultery." They ask Jesus whether the woman should be stoned, in accordance with the Law. Jesus chooses to reply by squatting down and writing in the dust. What he writes is not specified. But when he is pressed for a verbal answer, he replied that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. The crowd wanders away until only Jesus and the woman are left.
It's a strange situation. The woman was caught in the act of adultery, which means that there was a man involved. And yet he is not brought before Jesus, even though the specific law in question demands that both man and woman be stoned. What does this mean? It really can mean only one thing: the man committing adultery was given a free pass by the enforcers. I strongly suspect that they planned the whole thing with him - he put the 1st century equivalent of a tie on his doorknob when he and his girlfriend got busy, enabling them to "catch" them in the act. But if he didn't, and they somehow accidentally caught him, he was obviously powerful enough to escape their wrath. They didn't want to stone him, just the woman. The woman was disposable, the man was not.

Throughout history, women have borne the burden of all illicit sex. Giving men birth control is good policy; giving women birth control is destruction of the family unit. Covering Viagra is not even questioned, but covering birth control is a violation of religious freedom, despite the fact that Viagra only serves to enable sex, while birth control offers health benefits beyond the prevention of pregnancy.

It's time that men took responsibility for their own sexuality.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I've got the winter storm blues

The last time I remember a March being this awful was when I was pregnant, 3 years ago. Even then, it wasn't this level of awful. This March is a tease, a flirt who beguiles you with 70 degree days filled with sunshine and then overnight transforms into a 30 degree rainy hag. It seems as though there has been a mid-week snow or ice storm since the first week of January, and this is particularly bad for my SAD.
At the end of February I went to see my regular doctor and confessed that I wasn't sure I could make it through March. We agreed to increase my Lexapro dose and thank goodness! Without those extra 10 mg, I'm really not sure where I'd be right now.
But all is not doom and gloom. T enrolled in preschool this month and is adjusting extremely well. I am also adjusting: I can now actually use my home office. Today, while filing, I listened to Bjork and wailed out the lyrics at the top of my lungs. I cannot remember the last time I was alone in the house and could sing at the top of my lungs without a care. It was glorious.
Eventually, latitude and climate will win out, and I will be able to sit outside all day without my fingers or toes going numb. I'll turn off my lightbox for a few months and lower my Lexapro and let the humidity and languor of summer steal into my limbs. I'll watch T run through the sprinkler and let my skin breathe fresh air until the healing hands of autumn cool me down (thanks to the Indigo Girls).
But until then, the next time we get ice I'm gonna check out tickets to Florida!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Detachable Heart

1985. Outside the gym, waiting for the bell to ring. A.S. walked up to me and asked if I shaved my legs. Stunned and confused I said, "No." A.S. threw a look back to her posse of girls and they all burst out laughing at me. I was 10 years old and had no idea that women shaved their legs. In that moment I knew I was not acceptable.

2014. In Target, watching Tori pick out a Hello Kitty lunchbox for preschool. She twirled in delight and carried it all the way to the register, her pride evident in every movement of her body. I can't help but wince, imagining some cruel kid mocking her lunch box. Maybe not now, not in a preschool, but some day. One day, someone will deflate my darling child and she will believe, falsely, that she is not acceptable, and my heart will explode from the pain of witnessing it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tori Stories

Just a couple of Tori Stories. Yesterday I was driving to the grocery store, and I happened to glance back at Tori. I noticed she was chewing. As I drove, I realized that she didn't have her pacifier and I hadn't given her any food. Fortunately we hit a traffic light just then, and I turned around to investigate.
"What are you eating, Tori?"
She grinned and I saw it.
"What is that?"
"A rock," she replied with the biggest grin I have ever seen on her face. Yes, she has a big collection of pebbles and gravel in the backseat, and had decided to chew one. I reached back and pulled the rock out of her mouth! She didn't complain. I'm guessing it didn't taste too good.

This weekend Tori decided that shoes and socks were not necessary. Sadly for her, we were going out of the house. So I employed the strategy my mom used to use on me. I told Tori her feet were puppies, and wanted to get in their cars! But first, of course, they had to wear their sweaters. Tori was super excited. But once we were finished, and she realized that she was now wearing socks and shoes, she gave me a Look. I don't think that trick will work again!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Average Jane

Wednesday morning was not good. For starters, I didn't sleep well, so I got up at 6:30, showered and got ready for a full day of work. My only consolation was that my planned activities promised to be very enjoyable, even running on no sleep.
Then, while eating breakfast, something happened that rendered my entire plan for the day impossible. Just like that, boom, a whole day went out the window. Now I was sleep deprived AND unable to look forward to fun things. I was frustrated, furious, and sad. I begrudgingly finished eating, then went back to my bathroom to change into an outfit better suited to my rearranged day. Then I discovered a giant cat turd on my front door mat, which I had to clean up. Finally I sat down on the couch, emailed a few people asking for prayer, and put my head in my arms. I did not feel up to facing any more challenges.
But, the self-help habit is deeply embedded in my life now, so even as I longed to crawl under the covers and pretend the world didn't exist, my brain was working. Prayers ascended to heaven and helped out. God reminded me of people that I had committed to pray for, and I prayed for them. Gradually I reclaimed my own power over the situation. Yes, my schedule had been overturned, but that didn't mean I couldn't put it back together. It would just look different from my original expectations. I made other plans. I promised myself grace: I wouldn't strive to be superwoman today, I would just strive to be Average Jane.
When I went into my daughter's room and saw her face light up, I remembered how much fun could be had in an unscheduled day. She invited me into her "tent" (under the covers) and I snuggled in, ignoring the piercing odor of leaked urine. So what! I would change her clothes later. We went to the library, then the doctor, then out to lunch. During her nap I took one of my own.
It's not easy to take responsibility for your own life. It's much easier to blame other people and let life happen to you. I get that, I really do. And without the prayer support I got, I'm not sure if I could've even begun to salvage that day. But I did, with the help of God and my community. So maybe, in a way, my Average Jane day was better than my SuperWoman day would've been. Who knows?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. This means that when the days get shorter, my brain chemistry gets messed up and I become sad. I treat this by using a lightbox, which is a small box that puts out thousands of lumens of light. So what is SAD like for me? Does it mean that I'm just depressed? I can tell you, because generally in early September, the symptoms kick in.

  1. I get very irritable. PMS levels of irritability kick in, no matter where I am in my menstrual cycle. 
  2. I can no longer sleep through the night. I begin to wake up 2 or 3 times in a night, as in, wide awake and not a bit drowsy. 
  3. I cannot summon up the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Getting out of bed is the hardest thing I will do the entire day. If I can't think of a good enough reason, I simply will not get up. Hearing my daughter call to me, the cats meow at me, even my husband talking to me is not enough. I crave sugar. If I can't think of a way to get a giant amount of sugar into my body immediately upon rising, I will lay in bed. 

Not everyone with SAD is like this, of course. It's a unique experience for everyone. I am fortunate, in that 20 minutes in the morning in front of my LED lightbox resolves all my symptoms. Within a week of light box usage, I am no longer irritable, no longer unable to get out of bed, and most importantly, sleeping through the night.

SAD is on top of my existing high levels of anxiety, which I currently treat with both medication, meditation, and talk therapy. Do I think I'm crazy? No. I think I'm healthy, but that I have to take action to maintain my mental health. Don't let the ridiculous stigma attached to mental illness keep you from getting the treatment you need!