Third Wave

12.07.2014

“If more mothers were pastors or preachers, perhaps the beautiful creche scenes of Christmas wouldn’t be quite so immaculate. We wouldn’t sing songs of babies who don’t cry. And maybe we wouldn’t mistake quiet for peace.”

I’ve been thinking about those words for days. Sarah Bessey wrote them in her book “Jesus Feminist,” which I just finished and now want to read again and again on an endless loop, spiraling upward toward the heavens. Bessey is an Evangelical Christian, a woman of faith. She writes about how learning about Jesus made her a feminist and trying to be like Jesus keeps feminism in her heart.

“The gospel is more than enough. Of course it is!” she says. “But as long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.”

It’s December, the anniversary month of my own little Mormon feminist coming-out, the month of “Wear Pants to Church Day” and Christmas. And something about the combination of those two events always makes me a little reflective. I’ve been thinking about the ways I long to hear women’s voices more integrated into inspiration-seeking and decision-making in the church I love so dearly. I don’t know what the all the solutions are, but the problems? I can feel the problems. And I am seeking, seeking, seeking. I’ve been reflecting about that.

This year, feminism has been different for me. Or I’ve been different for it. In the past, feminism had been a glowing ball of magic fire in my hands, beautiful, wild and shape-shifting. But when I found out I was pregnant with Scout, I felt a need to conserve my energy, to hoard my hopes, to hibernate and marinate and quiet my soul. So I did. And feminism became a book on my shelf, an old, well-worn favorite that I browsed and quoted here and there.

And then I moved to a new place. The community I left in Atlanta was open and loving, but I don’t think that’s what made me comfortable as a Mormon Feminist there. I think I was comfortable as a Mormon Feminist there, because it was too hard to be anything else. I’d reached a point where being broken and lonely was unbearable, a point where anything was better than hiding, even the terrifying act of being myself.

But here in Charlottesville, in this phase of my life, I don’t feel broken, not like I was. So I don’t have that desperation pushing me into the open. I haven’t exhausted the hiding places yet. I’ve felt insular here, chugging along in this habit of hibernation, wondering if this is who I am now or if this is just a phase, and as time has gone on, the question, the prayer, was answered for me. “Don’t mistake quiet for peace,” said a still, small voice in the middle of my gut. “Don’t mistake quiet for peace.”

Feminism is a messy thing, because it chooses to get messy. So did Christ. He came to Earth, born the human way—a messy, painful, mortal birth. He surrounded himself with the filthy ones, the sick, the contagious, the maimed. He extended his hand to the broken and lonely, the sinners, the outcasts, the forgotten ones. He loved so fiercely and saw so clearly that he begged forgiveness for those that spat on him, hung him and watched him die. He was not afraid of the mess of humanity. He was perfect, yes. But he did not live an immaculate life.

In Bessey’s book, she talks about how she used to practice anger and cynicism like a pianist practices scales. “I practiced being defensive about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics. And then I went on the offense. … I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart.” She quoted George Carlin—”Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”

And I am exactly that. I am an idealist with such hopes for the world, such hopes for my church community, such hopes for my life, and I’m heartbroken over the distance between those hopes and reality. I am either a sad little child with a cynic’s tongue or, as I have been of late, a silent church mouse. But it doesn’t have to be so. Like Bessey, I can start practicing different scales, notes of kindness and truth, clumsy and awkward but faithful nonetheless.

“I am still practicing gentleness and beauty, over and over,” she says. “Someday perhaps my fingers will find those keys without thought.”

So this starts my own little “Third Wave” of feminism. I’m ready to start talking again, unafraid of getting messy. I’m awake now and moving, gulping in air, telling my story and asking about yours, with a ball of glowing fire in my hands and a book on my shelf and a baby on my hip and kindness on my tongue and love in my heart and the Savior in my sights.

Virginia Soundtrack

12.02.2014

We spent the tail-end of summer 2011 in Montana with family. We left from there to drive ourselves to our new home in Atlanta. It was a long, long drive. And it needed to be. We had a lot to talk through. It was one of those cleansing drives—you know the kind—and we needed a lot of cleansing. We drove off our baggage, and we needed a long stretch of road to get it all gone. I made a “Georgia Soundtrack” to listen to on the trip, full of songs that made mention of Atlanta or Georgia. It’s still in our CD changer, still a road trip favorite, still the perfect musical cocktail of Bluegrass, Motown, Country and Rap. And it still has magical soul-lifting powers.

I made a “Virginia Soundtrack” recently. I’m not sure it has the same epic potential. It definitely doesn’t have the same diversity of sound. And most of the “Virginias” here are references women, not states, but it was fun to throw together nonetheless. Help me out. Anything I missed?

Meet Virginia, Train

Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel

Sweet Virginia, The Rolling Stones

Virginia Moon, Foo Fighters

Who’ll Stop the Rain, Credence Clearwater Revival

Oh, Virginia, Marty Robbins

I-95, Fountains of Wayne

Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver

Virginia, Whiskey Meyers

You’ve Done it Again, Virginia, The National

SOS

11.30.2014

Just as soon as I hit “publish” on the last post I wrote, it all went to pot. I read that post now and snortle—it’s a half chuckle, half snort—because isn’t life just funny and bitchy like that?

Scout started teething, at least that’s what I labeled it. To this day, no teeth have arrived, but I needed something to blame so badly, I decided it was that. She woke up one morning wildly clingy then never slept again. At least that’s what it felt like. I would have connected the dots and realized that I was experiencing the desperation new parents always talk about, the desperation I had miraculously evaded for almost eight months, but I was too busy eating my hair.

And then Trent won his third case competition in a row and things got really dicey. And by dicey, I mean I was over the moon with both pride and jealousy simultaneously. I was so happy for him I could spit … in his shoes or hair or on his pillow, because screw him for getting to talk to adults and use his brain and feel good about his accomplishments, ya know?

Paging Monica, my best good friend— she took off work and flew herself in for a whole week’s worth of rescue. We got pedicures and went to movies and saw a few sites in DC. We ate out too much and snuggled on an air mattress and planned out the books we’re going to read together next year. We went to church and listened to a talk on gratitude and how you have to experience the bad in order to be thankful for the good. And we both said “screw that” and went on venting, because that’s what friends are for—that and holding your hair while you eat it. Is that a thing? It should be.

So this is my life now.

11.20.2014

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The three biggest surprises of becoming a parent:

  1. Being a little bit lost for three years was excellent preparation for motherhood. I spent three of the four years after I graduated from college and got married feeling a little lost, sometimes more than a little. My spiritual life was high and low. My relationships were up and down. My professional goals were schizophrenic. My confidence and sense of self took a big hit as a result. But now I look back on all of that and think, “Thank goodness I went through that.” For starters, it makes me able to recognize and appreciate feeling good about who I am and what I’m doing. It also helped me avoid some of the growing pains new moms struggle with. Working from home for three years helped me learn how to deal with isolation. It taught me how to be self-disciplined with my unstructured time. It helped me itch through my biggest hang-ups and questions and professional whimsies and emerge a more content woman with greater focus in every area of my life. And can I tell you something? Content women make good moms. (Hopefully.) Those three years of wandering also made me nice and comfortable with ambiguity. Something tells me that will also be handy in parenting.
  2. Having less time with my husband is good for our relationship. When people ask me how I’m holding up with my husband so busy with school and recruiting and with us having a new baby at home, my honest answer is, “You know, I could see a little less of him.” It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing more of him. It’s just that having a limited quantity of time together does wonders for the quality of the time we do have. Our conversations are more meaningful. Our interactions are more gentle. We miss each other. It’s sexy. And we also find each other more interesting. We’re more fulfilled as individuals. We have our own stuff going on, stuff that’s separate and distinct. We are separate and distinct, rather than just extensions of each other. It makes us more attractive. And it makes what we do have in common more sacred, including Miss Scout. We’re obsessed, mutually and completely.
  3. Parenting is a set of skills you can develop. It sounds trite, but hear me out. The first time Trent and I went to a marriage counselor, it was a revelation. Until that day, it had never really occurred to me that a good marriage required skills that had to be honed. I had always thought of being married like being asleep. You didn’t need to learn how to do it right. Doing it right was just part of being human and if you were a good human, you’d be a good married human. Not so. Marriage requires superhuman skills—communication skills, forgiveness skills, numchuck skills (but really). It requires work. But the empowering thing is that you can educate yourself about those things, practice them and perfect them (slowly). Parenting is no different. My parenting style is patterned after the greats—Kathleen Kelly, Anne Shirley and Gidget. I read. I read everything. I don’t believe it all or use it all, but I start with trying to take it all in. Of course I have to go with my gut in the end, but first I can empower my gut with information. I can and I do.

Speak to me, Statue.

11.17.2014

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We went to Dallas this weekend.

We went to museums and parks, presidential libraries and botanical gardens. We ate authentic roadside tacos and brisket and burgers. As a weekend trip, it was fantastic. As a fact-finding mission in a place we might potentially move, it was somewhat less so. I can’t speak to the people—although I’m sure they are great—but as for the lack of trees and abundance of cement, my expectations were pretty accurate. Although I’m sure I could be happy there, Dallas is not the city of my dreams. This, I now know for certain. But the real revelation of the weekend was that all this building anxiety I’ve been experiencing isn’t about Dallas at all.

I read an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about about slowing down in art museums, picking a work or two to focus on and really taking them in rather than scrambling to survey an entire collection. It promoted quality over quantity in the experience of art. While Trent was meeting with a few companies, Scout and I walked around the Nasher Sculpture Center and Dallas Museum of Art. I remembered the article and paid attention to what works I gravitated toward. There were two—a statue of a woman hunched over and this painting.

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One woman looks demoralized, the other overwhelmed.

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought as I sat in front of the painting, wrangling Scout. And as I sat there and stared at the face of this stranger and wondered what had happened to her before she sank down in that chair, clarity slowly settled over me. “It’s not about Dallas,” I thought. “It’s about moving on.”

I am not ready to move on to the next phase of my life.

I’m a planner and we planners like the future. We’ve almost always got one foot in it, for better or for worse. But for once, the present is so nice, so deliriously nice, that I want both feet and hands and hemispheres here in my little apartment in Charlottesville, reading and writing and talking with my happy husband and laying our sweet baby down to sleep. For once, I’m not eager to go anywhere. Different doesn’t sound better. I’d like more of the same, thank you very much, more of these days that are going by too fast.

An MBA is just a blip on the screen and recruiting for jobs takes off with the starting pistol. You blink and you’re in Dallas for the weekend. You blink again and you’re buying a house in the burbs.

I am not ready for a house in the burbs.

Maybe it’s an immaturity in me. That’s entirely possible. Maybe I’ll grow up and be ready when it’s time to go. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have to go anyway. Or maybe the burbs aren’t an inevitability. Maybe we could create a another kind of life, one that’s grown-up and good in a different way. Maybe my I’ll speculate and formulate until I’m frozen like a statue.

Or maybe I’ll write it all out, talk with my happy husband and lay our sweet baby down to sleep.

Here and There and Everywhere

11.10.2014

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Crafty.

I have such a complicated relationship with the word. Most of the time I do what I can to disassociate myself with this particular adjective, because it’s so often lumped in with a stereotype I don’t relate to. But the truth is I am crafty. Or rather, I have a crafty side. My craftiness manifests itself in my love of interior and graphic design, paper goods, calligraphy, letterpress printing and rubber stamps. As evidence, I own a customized address stamp for every apartment we’ve lived in since we got married, even if we were only there for a matter of months. The first two were gifts, the third we had made in a little shop in Peru and the last I got from Tiny Prints. It’s a mild obsession. But I tell myself it’ll be a nice little display of our goings and comings.

In other news, how cute is Scout?

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This acrylic photo block is for my dad. And with that, my OCD Christmas shopping is complete.

Art, Honesty, Etc. Etc.

11.08.2014

The short answer is that I wanted to be inspired, but sometimes the short answers are wanting. And sometimes, they’re something like lies.

I went out by myself. We got some dinner and put Scout to bed and then Trent crashed with a book. And I went out by myself, because I liked the idea of going to the Virginia Film Festival and I liked the idea of seeing something with some edge to it and once I realized that my screening was an hour later than I’d thought, I liked the idea of browsing in the used bookstore across the street to kill time. That’s the long answer—that I like the ideas of things. I like the idea of having some edge to me. I like idea of romanticized nights of inspiration. I like the idea of looking like I wanted to be inspired.

I wandered through that bookstore tonight, killing time, soaking in the scene, not the scene around me, but the scene of myself, as if I were starring in my own documentary or collecting memories to reference in an NPR interview about my creative process. I scanned through the cheap paperbacks, but decided they were too predictable so I picked up a book of poetry and sank down in the corner of a big leather couch. I read a few poems. I checked Instagram. There were moments of absorption, moments of genuine intrigue by the words on the page, but whatever they were, they were polluted moments.

I checked the time and headed for the counter and handed the book to the clerk. He asked me if I’d come looking for that particular book or just picked it up. The short answer was that I’d never heard of the poet, that he was over my head, but that I liked that his wisdom took work. But then I went on to the long answer. It involved reading one of the reviews on the back, calling it an “apt description” and stumbling through a handful of additional canned phrases, all pompous and annoying. I tripped on the door jam and escaped to the cold and hated myself.

I saw “20,000 Days on Earth,” a documentary about rock musician Nick Cave and his creative process. And despite myself, I was inspired, but it was the kind of inspiration that left me heavy. Cave described himself as a cannibal, waking up every morning thirsty to consume the intimate moments of his life and his relationships. He amplified them and distorted them. He let them cook and change and become his songs, his art.

And as I watched and watched, I knew and knew that I cannibalize my own life and my family’s lives all the time. I amplify. I distort. I cook. I change. And what comes out, I call my art. I watched and I knew and I hurt in knowing. At another point in the film, Cave said that in order to make good music, you have to know your weaknesses. And with that I was looking in a mirror again—I want authenticity too badly. I need it so much it becomes unreal. Instead, I become something I’ve invented. It’s a paradox and all that, and I ached in seeing it clearly.

I wanted a night of inspiration, or the look of one, or something in between, but I ended up with a used book of elusive poetry I’ll probably never read again—that and an intervention.

Loot

11.06.2014

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Merry Christmas, Scout!

Because I’m neurotic, Scout’s Christmas loot is already chosen, purchased, shipped and wrapped—like I said, neurotic. I know she’s just a wee little thing, but I feel like we already have to start making decisions about how we want to do things, what sort of holiday precedents we want to set. I’m of the “less is more” philosophy, so here’s the plan: gift from parents, gift from Santa, stocking stuffer, Christmas Eve book and Christmas Eve PJs. Cut and print. It doesn’t sound very minimalist when I blurt it all out like that, but I’m striving for minimalism, always striving.

Gift from Parents: Our weekend in Florida last month was inspiration for this one. It’s a shade shelter, perfect for the beach, among other things. We’re planning a trip to Outer Banks, NC sometime next year, so this will come in handy then and hopefully on many more lazy days in the great outdoors. Plus Trent is a sucker for anything that resembles camping gear.

Gift from Santa: Tambourine. Trent’s idea. Since slapping things is dainty Scarlett’s favorite pastime, I think it’ll be a hit. (The pun was a happy accident.)

Stocking Stuffer: Balls for babies. Seems straightforward enough, but I managed to spend a good hour reading reviews. (When I said “neurotic,” I meant it.) I’m confident these are the best.

Christmas Eve Book: She won’t be able to read this one for years, but I couldn’t resist. I want her to know these stories and learn from these women. When I was a little girl, I hardly knew they existed.

Christmas Eve PJs: These sweet little long john bottoms will go with a little red henley onesie I got on clearance. Simple, classic and cute—oh, so cute.

In My Old Age

11.05.2014

In my mind, 30 is the age when you have to have your crap together. I’m sure I read that in a girly magazine years ago—inception. Since then the idea has taken root and taken over. It’s become my excuse for everything. The fact that I am not yet 30 years old explains my impulsive hair dying, my unvacuumed car, my lingering social anxiety, my undisciplined sleep schedule and the bewildered look that overwhelms my face whenever I set foot in a kitchen. It’s the reason I still put chocolate syrup in milk before I drink it and the reason I’ve never read “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina” or used the word “platitudes” in a casual conversation.

My 30-year-old self, the one I picture, is often described as “put together”—it’s the highest and most honorable phrase maturity has to offer. She has a earthy, elegant, understated style. She cooks simple, healthy, delicious meals. She’s well-read and well-traveled and exudes quiet confidence, mysteriousness, kindness and depth. She’s entrepreneurial and maternal and sexy. And to quote a Jennifer Garner rom-com, which a 30-year-old would just never do, she’s “thirty, flirty and thriving.”

Today, I turn 27. Thank heavens I have more time.

In all seriousness, there are a lot of things about myself I want to improve, a lot of bad habits I want to break, a lot of living I want to get in before life goes and passes me by. But this past year, I’ve come pretty far and it needs to be acknowledged. As a 26-year-old woman, I experienced so much change—upheaval, really—body, mind and spirit. And if I could grow and progress as much each year as I did in this last one, I’d be content. Oh, so content. And that’s better than being put-together—my, what a mature thing to say.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Stay Alive”

Magic

11.04.2014

Leaves“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ―W.B. Yeats

Day of the Dress-Up

10.31.2014

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Happy Halloween, Little Red.

May your days be merry scary and bright.

Roommates

10.30.2014

IMG_3847Two of my college roommates live within a few hours of me. They came last week for a whirlwind visit with their daughters. Getting three little girls to sleep in a two-bedroom apartment was dicey. Scout ended up on a quilt in the bathtub. But amidst the madness, we talked. Oh, how we talked—about life and motherhood and feminism and faith. The next day, a friend from middle school came to town and stayed with us for the weekend. And then last night, I got on a monthly roommate video chat and talked to all my other former roommates who live far away.

This easy access to old friends is taking the edge off being in a new place and having only tepid, fledgling relationships here. It’s making me feel content with my limited social energy. It’s making me feel tempted to not branch out. Why branch out? I’ve got all the friends I need, and so on. But I’m trying to tell myself that no, those old friends are a safe place to go back to when branching out gets tiring, but not a crutch, never a crutch.

Do you have good relationships with old friends? How do you stay close? How do you balance old friends and new?

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