Friday, March 29, 2013


This article makes some very good points...

I still hold firm to my decision to consider myself an egalitarian because I do not like the divisive connotation of the word feminism; yet I completely understand the importance of making it very clear what feminism ideally stands for.

I guess I'll get back to my own little series next week...

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I am interrupting this week’s focus on the male side of the gender equality issue because our national conversation has turned to another social issue and it is getting ugly. I want to speak with my voice not about the issue of marriage specifically, but the way in which the conversation is unfolding.  I will get back to my regular programming soon, but I need speak this conviction...

You can accuse a person of being unpatriotic or not a true believer when they disagree with you on social issues, but it doesn’t make it true.  None of us are in a position to make such judgement calls on another human being’s heart and value system.  We are all human.  We are all flawed.  We are all inconsistent at times with our value system and our belief system.  We are all depraved.  Yet even still we are all loved and God sees into the heart of each person, it’s not our job to condemn nor absolve.

The Gospel is about love.  God first loving us, us loving God in response, and then learning to love others.  If we sacrifice that in an effort to win others to our specific ideology on an issue, then we have done nothing that God will be proud of us for.  Relationships trump rules every time, and on this Holy Week, I pray that those like me who have no stomach to go to the mat condemning this or that, will rise with one voice and say:  

Relationship is what matters.  The rest... well God’s already taken care of the gap that depravity 
created in us all.  

We are in this time and we must face this time with kindness and deep compassion for all.  If I can hold tight to the truth that I don’t have all the answers and I need rescuing, maybe I will think twice before tearing someone else down for disagreeing with me.  I usually just avoid this sort of thing, but today I have enough courage to stand up and say I won’t discuss issues in such an ugly way... Who’s with me?

Monday, March 25, 2013

What about my boys?

Last week I devoted this blog space to dealing with the Disney Princess aspect of cultural influence.  This week I want to turn my focus to the way our culture communicates masculinity to our boys and men.  If I want to speak from and live an egalitarian lifestyle, then I feel strongly about raising my awareness about the flip side of the feminine dynamic...the male perspective.  It is much more difficult for me to understand a male perspective because simply said, I have never been a male in this culture.  My only understanding comes through my relationships with men...starting with my father and then my relationships with my husband, my two sons, my brother, male professional relationships, and my male friends and family.  Most of my current thinking about this issue is also being informed by the book The Macho Paradox written by Jackson Katz.  I am still reading this book, as it is dense and difficult for me to read because I am often triggered; yet I am quickly finding this book to be one of the most important books of our time.

What made me reach for the book was an interview he gave in the documentary Miss Representation aired on OWN last year, and he was specifically talking about the depiction of men in the media and the effect that is have on young male behavior nation wide.  I saw the documentary before Aurora, Portland, or Sandy Hook, but I was already connecting the dots that the violent acts from Columbine, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech, etc., were being committed by young white men.  When it is the violence of minorities our culture relegates the violence to gang thugs, or terrorism; yes my friends racism is still alive and powerful in our world.  Violent acts of young men are crossing socioeconomic brackets, faith systems, educational levels, and race.  Period.  Our boys are becoming men who are angry.  My momma heart screams why?  This book explores the whys.  Here is where I am on what some of the issue is right now, though I am bound to evolve in my thinking:

1.  Our family structure has been floundering in the ambiguity of clear gender roles for quite a bit now and no one is feeling as free has we thought equality would bring.  In actuality I think anxiety is the predominate feeling around gender roles in the home and in the workplace.  Women might be too afraid to be used and abused or they might be afraid to be targeted as a male-basher who is too high maintenance.  Men might feel a ton of pressure to be strong and unemotional while continuing to be a "nice guy” who would never hurt a woman.  All the while there seem to be new expectations to be in touch with their emotions.  Everyone is receiving mixed messages so guilt and shame take a front row seat.  Our boys are caught in the crossfire of all the mixed they are angry.  I’d be angry too.  I AM angry too, but I have the language to articulate my anger.  We aren’t effectively giving boys a voice or teaching them the skills to articulate their rage.  We are failing them.

2.  Our school system does not honor boys minds, bodies, and development in a way that works for them.  Boys are more kinetic when they enter school, and so it takes a bit more time for the bodies and their brains to be able to develop the self-control necessary for classroom behavior.  My experience in the classroom is that classroom standards are arranged to match a girl’s development and that is not fair.  My boys have been so lucky in their educational journey, as all of their teachers have raised their own sons, so they were not shamed publicly for the gender gap in development.  This is not always the case.  Boys who tend to be developmentally young tend to struggle more to conform to classroom standards.  If a system sets the bar too high above these boys, they live in a perpetual state of frustration.  Frustration does not magically go festers.

3.  The MEDIA.  Our culture glorifies violence and themes of dominance and submission.  Everywhere I turn I find subtle messages telling my boys that to be a man they have a responsibility to be tough and in charge.  My home has no overtly violent video games, but even Super Mario Bros. revolves around the idea that there is a damsel in distress and the men must beat a monster to rescue her.   I won’t even touch television and movies in this post, but of course there is a huge problem there too.

I have so much more to say about this flip side of the issue of gender equality, so I’m glad I’m devoting a whole week to this dynamic.  What do you think about this dynamic?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happily Ever After is a Crock...

This video has made it's way around the web recently and I found it to be quite a piece of work.  Not only is his message quite poignant; the vocal artistry, editing marvel, and overall sensory packaging make this video outstanding.  I love the way people are using the Internet for artistic expression and social commentary... not just pornography and capitalism.  A balance is beginning to rise up in the virtual world!  Thanks be!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Evolution of the Disney Princess

'Princess grapes' photo (c) 2011, Selena N. B. H. - license:

I am grateful to be raising my daughter in this era of Disney princess...even while I am still a tad sour from being raised in the shadow of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc.

My daughter dreams of being Rapunzel, Mulan, and Merida, all of them being lively female characters.  I am happy because these characters have their own personalities, their own flaws, their own dreams that aren’t *completely* wound up in snagging a man.  Sure these animated women still have larger than normal eyes, bust lines, and hairdo's...but we are making progress people.  If I could ask for my daughter to embody certain principles from each of the disney-fyied princesses, here would be my ideal recipe for her personality development (yes, I just made that term up):


'Rapunzel on the Fremont Bridge' photo (c) 2005, Matt Rubens - license:

* I would want her to have the ability to take care of her own protection as best she can like the Disney Rapunzel.  The image of her running around town with a frying pan brings me both fear and joy all at once.

* I would want her to be spending her day creating...I don’t care what she creates, I just want her to have the joy of co-creation in her life.


'Mulan' photo (c) 2011, mickey - license:

*I would want her to take pride in the gift set she has been given...even if it is not the gift set society tells her she should have.

* I would want her to respect her family and her legacy with the same sort of reverence the Disney Mulan does.


'Brave Premiere' photo (c) 2012, Eva Rinaldi - license:

* I would want her to be able to be herself and to stand separate from me...though I hope she won’t have to poison me like the Disney Merida, to achieve autonomy!

* I would want her to care about living her life more than searching for a husband.  ‘Nuf said.

All in all, I return to a place of gratitude that even in the Disney Princess World there is much progress towards equality in this day and age. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

A girl can be a scientist and a princess...

love the way that humor can make truth more accessible.  I happen to have a daughter who loves math and because of that, I am becoming more aware of the dynamic that there is a huge gender gap in science, math, and engineering.  Big Bang Theory happens to be one of my favorite satire comedies...mostly because I am a nerd, married to a geek, raising an engineer (10 year old ds), a math loving girl (8 year old dd), and a chess natural (6 year old ds).

I love the way Chuck Lorre examines the culture of technology and human relationships.  I also appreciate the way in which this show brings social issues into the cultural light for discussion.  Over and again I am struck by how much his artistic expression resonates with me.

The fight for gender equality is a marathon, not a sprint.  We have come a long way, even if there is still a distance to travel.    It is okay to want to be a princess and have a career in the sciences, and now a little girl can actually achieve such a career.  That work has been done already, but now we need to open our minds and our educational eyes to help girls with such aspirations get to where they need to go.  We also need to be mindful of our communication with girls who dream these big dreams.  We need to support them without sending the message that to go into more masculine professions, they have to let die the feminine girl within. 

Girls can become a scientist/mathematician/ engineer who still moonlights as a Disney princess in her imagination.  Though as a mom, my hope is that my daughter will want to be Mulan/Rapunzel/ Merida...not Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty/Snow White.  But then, that’s a whole other blog post...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Poetic Stillness In the Chaos of Oppression

This is a very important article and I highly recommend you read it and the come back here for my thoughts on the issues raised in this article...

I stumbled upon this article a bit ago and it's been on my heart ever since.  It is amazing to me sometimes how much I can take for granted the freedoms I have in my life and my corner of the world. I have the freedom to the sort of education I want.  I have the freedom to choose my path for career/ marriage/ child bearing/ child rearing endeavors and can choose how best to balance those endeavors in my life.  I even have the right to spew my narcissistic internal monologue all over the Internet via blog, tweet, or facebook status update; so when I have something to say, be it poetic or prose, I can do so without fear for my life.

I have a voice if I choose to speak up and even with the gender inequality that is still present in our country during this age, I don't have to hide my gift set or my artistic expression under a bushel...even in the church. (at least many corners of the church)

But there are sisters a half a world away in a place we have a large military presence, that have none of these freedoms.  My heart aches for this reality.  I feel like being aware of the life of Afghan women has fallen out of fashion in our pop culture.  I want to scream...this issue isn't a trend, or at least it shouldn't be, this issue is a human rights calamity.  There has been progress, but more is still needed.

For the women who are silenced and for the women who's poetry and prose is snuffed out too soon, I  take pause and direct all of my feminine and artistic energy to shine light on this issue in our world.  I grieve for the loss of life and creation and pay respect to poets whose artistic expression remains secret.

One of the women interviewed in the article wrote this and I feel it honor's the spirit of many young poetic women lost too soon.

“Her memory will be a flower tucked into literature’s turban.
In her loneliness, every sister cries for her.”  Ogai Amail

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One Excellent Book

I had the most incredible opportunity to attend an intimate spiritual retreat where Dr. Thompson was teaching back in July and was able to learn so much about meditation from this kind spirited man.  I wrote about the Seasons weekend here, and all of these months later I am certain of the reality I hoped would be true then...that my life path was shifted that weekend.  Everything I was learning in my own spiritual life, the truths I was grieving in my life and marriage, the art I was creating, and the trauma I was processing in my long term therapeutic process all came together for me in the days I spent learning about the integration of the mind and soul with Dr. Curt Thompson.  

I started reading this book the week after that incredible experience and it has been a long time temporally but I finished the book just a few days ago.  It is so unusual for me to take so long to finish a book... I read multiple books at a time and can dive through books both fiction and non-fiction fairly quickly, so that it took months to finish this book is quite significant.  I am a bit of a nerd... you know the kind that reads books on neuroscience just for fun... so I was already reading another book he was drawing information from- The Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel, so this book met me right where I was already at.  (Interestingly enough, I have not finished Siegel's book even still... and I started it months before The Anatomy of the Soul.  Have I mentioned that reading about neuroscience can hurt a lay woman's brain a bit?)

Anyway, The Anatomy of the Soul is hands down one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.  I have not thought as deeply about my spirituality, my growth process, and my health ever... and I'm in the business of being mindful of all of these facets of my life on a regular basis.  I highly recommend this book.  Go out and get this book if you have interest in theology, churchiness, mindfulness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control- AKA The Fruits of the Spirit.  You will not be disappointed!

Dr. Curt- Thank you so much for sharing your vision of the world and humanity.  Your voice is very important in this age!

Check Out His Book:

His Website:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Watching the Break The Chains Video with my children

On Valentine's Day I sat my kids down to watch this video that I shared here on this ole' blog space and it was such a powerful experience.  I have 2 boys ages 10 and almost 6 and a daughter that is 8.  It was a delicate conversation because the lyrics do not shy away from reality so there are dynamics that I did not want to expound upon.  By the time I was their ages I already knew a couple of these realities...but they have lived a very different lives.  (They have me as a mom, so they are not unscathed, but I am doing my work and so they won't be exposed in the same ways I was.)  They have had very different childhoods because of the conviction that it would be priority number one for me... to understand my past so I could lift them out of the cycle.  Chains of dysfunction take a couple of generations to really break in my thinking.  I had it a little better than my parents... I believe it is my job to give my kids a little more than I received.

Here were my kids responses to the video:

Boo (10)-  He was impressed with the dancing and a bit horrified that people are cruel to the point of wanting to rationalize it and deny it could be so prevalent.  For him, my goal will now be to help him see beyond his experiences in life.  For the life I've structured for him, there is a focus on equality.  He is old enough to be exposed to stories of injustice a little at a time.  I see him becoming a voice and advocate for those who have no voice someday...if he can develop coping skills that allow him to see the truth and not become frozen by it.  A mom can hope!

Baby J (8)-  My daughter and I have had an ongoing conversation about gender injustice for some time now.  Of my children, she has been more exposed than the boys.  She is after all growing up girl in this world and so there is no way to shield her from the injustice.  Inequality showed up in my  marriage and family after having children and brought with it a legacy of power injustice from the past.  Predictably the past starting it showing up in the family I co-created.  My wake up call came when I saw her being effected by the status quo.  Right then and there I decided it was time for some repair work to be done.  It is her story, so I will not expound but will simply say that there was a healing process for her in her young life and so she already knew a bit about the reality of gender discrimination.  While watching her watch the video I saw her whole countenance change.  She could see herself in all of the women and I am certain it grew her view of her own value.  That's the good stuff.

Bubbas (6-ish)-  He is my most sensitive one.... and he is my kinetic one too so that he could sit still through most of the video proves the power of the images of women dancing to those lyrics.  He said a few gems  to me after the video:

While I explained that boys are usually physically stronger and sometimes boys and men use physical power to hurt girls.  I'll get to the truth that girls use words to hurt boys someday soon, but really he already knows this truth, as he demonstrated in response.  He is a kid who goes to the fists when he loses his temper and we have been working with him to control his impulses, so it's an ongoing dialogue. His responses to my explanation was so telling to me as his mom.

First he said...

"Mom is this true even with sisters?  Even when she's mean?"

And my favorite follow up statement...

 "Mom, we need to treat others like we want to be treated."

Yes my sweet Bubbas, you understand what many cannot.  Out of the mouths of babes.  My goal is to use my life force to help actualize that truth in my heart, in my actions, in my influence.  Thank you sweet children for pointing me to the simplistic truth that is oh so difficult to hold onto sometimes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Life in the Gray...but not the 50 shades of it for me.

The more I journey into adulthood, the more I am struck by how gray reality really is.  There is a reason we call this season of life Mid-life.  I am in the deep of the middle years.  Childhood has faded away into an eerily distant memory and twilight seems pretty far away for me still, or at least I hope it is anyway.  Sexuality has been a very gray area for me to this point in life, and I have much brokenness in this area... I am a product of the culture and family structure I was raised up in and then I mixed those messages together to make a pretty distorted version of broken sexuality all on my own.

About a year and a half ago, I started noticing hushed whispers and knowing looks being exchanged all around me about this new brand of fan fiction.  I noticed it everywhere I went...and I mean everywhere.    I travel in some pretty vanilla circles in my life so I was surprised when I started to pick up on what was going on.  It was as if by reading borrowed copies of Twilight, suburban wives and moms found a sort of gateway into a world of BDSM erotica.  Now I travel in vanilla circles, but have a strong rebellious streak, so I am not naive to the BDSM world.  I just had an understanding of this sort of  erotica in a very distinct and separate compartment, so watching the lines blur sparked curiosity for me.

And so I took the dive...which took me only a short while to whole heartily regret.  I wanted to know why this story that was captivating so many women.  I participated in the quiet little indulgence and then my brain short circuited.  What in the world was I doing?!?  This goes against most of the things I hold the most conviction about in my life.  I am a survivor of the misuse of power.  I am attempting to promote equality in my little corner of the world.  I once needed to call out and place boundaries down on another person's consumption of similar material.  I am a Hypocrite and though I initially had a good feeling after reading what I read, I felt awful only a short time later because of the way the  themes of domination and submission were glorified.  I thought the story line was exploitative and dark and I felt like the main male character was tortured not sympathetic.

Let me state that I am not completely puritanical in my thoughts on sexuality and art, though have been accused of prudishness a time or two.  I am not against all material that deals with the issue of sexual arousal, if it is based in respect and lifting up of human sexuality.  I think many talented artists have made important statements about sexuality through provocative artistic pieces of work throughout history.   Such artwork has contributed greatly to our collective emotional evolution as a people.  In my opinion this trilogy is not one such piece of work.

I have been chewing on these truths for a couple of months now and growing with concern about how little this cultural phenomenon is being evaluated in the light of day.  Then I realized I wasn't discussing the issues that the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey was exposing either.  I wasn't discussing it because I felt ashamed that I had participated and I wasn't discussing it because I did not want to hurt feelings.  I was afraid to hurt women whom I love, admire, and participated in conversation with about this issue before my soul screamed out to stop.  Then I read this article, and I want to put my own two cents about it out there:

50 Shades of Broken: Why Do Women Fantasize About Abuse?

This needs to come into the light.  I don't want my daughter to read this sort of thing and think it's for her pleasure.  I don't want my sons to read this sort of thing and think to be a man they have to dominate.  So I will add my voice to Jenny's...We need to be talking about why these books have such a grip on the consuming power in this country.  It matters too much to stay silent because I feel discomfort in speaking out about this.  So there you have it... I read it.  I had a physiological response to the material.  I felt a sense of conviction about the power I was allowing the messages to have over me.  And now I can choose to say no to this sort of thing and speak up about the underlying issues.  I can make peace with the shame and light a torch to the issues of degradation.  And so I will...and I hope my spirit of humility will come through in the tone of my two cents addition, because I most definitely live in a glass house.

I am not okay with "art" that glorifies women being reduced to second class.  I am not okay with "art" that appears to be sympathetic towards a survivor of abuse who chooses to pay the trauma they experience forward to someone else, becoming predator in the process.  It is not okay with me...even if I can feel momentary pleasure as a response to such material.  This sort of sexual violence is not okay with me... even if I can secretly download it to my e-reader and whitewash the imaginary left as residue in my mind and soul afterward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

John Hodgman's Advice to Writers

My creative life has been taken over by a little idea that I am toiling away on these days with narcissistic passion. I'm trying to make my way through this seasons of winter with a process that helps me be empowered so I don't get stuck in a place of emotional paralysis. I have learned that doing emotional winter work is a delicate balance and this video gave me a good laugh and much joy in the midst of my process.  Medicine for the soul!  If you are a person with a passion for writing or you enjoy good writing- you are welcome...

Monday, March 4, 2013

No is a declarative response.

This article struck a real nerve for me the other day:

It's an issue that has been rattling around in my head for a couple of years.  The issue came up in my own life right as I was settling into my new life as a stay at home mom.  I was able to find the courage to go against the grain of the peanut gallery of opposition that resided mostly in my head to leave vocational ministry for a life raising my wee ones the way that worked best for me, my husband and my  children.  I struggled with guilt after arriving at my dream job only to find myself spiraled into a deep depression...that was largely hormone driven.  I took the dive into my new life not realizing that that simple decision to say no to career for a while would threaten to strip me of certain fixed points in my identity up until that point in my life.

I had come to identify myself as a woman seeking after God's own heart and did that through paid ministry.  I ditched social accolades of status or money to make a difference in the world.  I faced a mixed response to my departure from ministry and so while most of the messages of the peanut gallery were self produced, there were echoes of negative responses in my professional relationships and even in my own extended family.  I have occasionally hashed my responses to that season of my life on this blog in the past.  I no longer have an axe to grind with my internal ambivalence or with the people I was surrounded by when this all shifted for me...that work has been completed and everything got worked into good with some supernatural grace and presence.

So I found myself with no structured way to express my desire to serve and contribute to society in meaningful ways and I responded much like many women have in similar positions... I over volunteered.  I lost my ability to say No with just a period...though if I am truly honest, I really never developed that skill in my adulthood, not really.  Working full time was a nice neat little package to say no to many requests of my energy and time so I skated by okay.  Without the net of a job to protect me from fielding requests to fill my life I was drowning quickly.  I poured my heart out to my dearest friend and life sojourner one night and a couple of weeks later she brought me a most awesome gift.  She made me a coffee mug that said "Just Say No".  And so my awareness to the issue of why No was hard for me to handle became front and center in my life.  It was quite perfect timing, because by then my oldest son had entered the going out phase of development... you know the stage where mothering shifts from solely source to establishing healthy boundaries for a child to explore the world.  My barely toddler daughter was right on his tail in that developmental stage and I found myself with an unplanned pregnancy that I was going to need to re-arrange my expectations for family life going forward. Then some very important questions started falling out of me at warp speed:

Why do I find it so hard for No to be a complete sentence, with a period at the end of it?

How do I establish firm and consistent boundaries with these little people I'm charged with raising...especially when they follow me everywhere I go and call me mommy?

Why do I feel so powerless to write the story of my own life and time now that I am a stay at home mom?

Why does the most important person in my life seem content to let me shoulder more than my share of the family load and get triggered with anger when I attempted to take some steps to re-integrate equality in the home?

I realized over time that my life was one of poetic chaos because I was not clear with where I began and someone else ended.  It was a hard journey to travel from chaos to stillness and I have chronicled that journey here through the years.  I'd love to say my journey led me to a place of happy endings and neat closure...but it did not.  Learning to say no to fear and yes to God is hard work, requiring daily awareness and learning to accept that others won't like my choices most of the time.  I have been able to to correct course and though this resting space isn't perfect or the space of happily ever after, it is a space of sacred stillness.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Open Letter to My Son on His Sixth Birthday

My Sweetest Bubbas,

I love being your momma and I have nothing but praise for you my son as you celebrate your sixth birthday.  You have had a remarkable year and I am so proud of you, for your growth and for your accomplishments!  You came into my life as a little surprise package and that is still the way you roll...I just sit back and watch the way you navigate the world because you surprise me with joy every day.  

You are a boy with a deep capacity to be empathetic and kind.  In my birthday post for you last year I spoke about how you were a kid of paradoxes and while there are still hints of that within your spirit, this year the most incredible growth has been in your heart.  You have worked really hard to control your impulses and be a good listener.  Kindness towards others has been a big focus for you and you are deepening your compassion daily.  I have watched you put your whole body into the work of controlling yourself and I have been so impressed with how much you have matured this year!  There have been a lot of changes in your world that you had no say in, and yet you have learned to take responsibility to maintain control of yourself and that is impressive.  I know a few adults (myself included) that struggle with this simple task, so carry on my boy, you are doing so well!

You are loving school and growing with confidence each and every day!  You are just on the cusp of being able to read and I see how proud you are of yourself when you recognize your sight words in a book or on signs around you.  You are catching up with your other skills too and I am so glad your Daddy and I listened to your teachers’ recommendation to give you an extra year before kindergarten.  You are now ready to fly and I can’t wait to see you grow into being a smart, strong, confident kinder kid!

I love to watch you build with legos, create with blocks, or think up great things with your imagination.  You are a builder and wherever you go in life, you will be building...building things, building ideals, building relationships.  I just love being with you my son.  Our relationship grows me in a way that no other relationship has ever grown me and I am grateful to have you in my arms daily.  You have taught me to open my vision up about the world.  You help me stay more present in each moment because you are always fully present in yours.  You are a deep thinker and always observing how things work in the world around you.  You bring me to such a deeper conviction of faith too, I have found hope in ways I never could before you were in my life.

So as you go into your seventh year here is what I have to say to you my love...keep doing life the way you are!  You are doing well my child...keeping learning and growing and loving with all you have because you doing oh so well!  I love you sweet child of mine.  Thanks for letting me momma love on you!