Tag Archives: raising a woman

Open letter to my daughter

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January 20, 2017

Dear Merida,

Today, I’m knitting the last of three black wool pussy hats for friends who will travel to Washington DC to the women’s march. Today, for a few more hours, Barack Obama is president. I’m grateful that he’s been the only president you’ve know in your lifetime thus far. I’m sad to see him go. No one is perfect, but he has been a wise and compassionate leader. This morning when I put on my Obama tee-shirt, you said you’re sad for your friend. When I asked why, you said because her birthday is the day after Trump moves into the White House. I said no, he can’t ruin our parties! I said he’s not that powerful.

Here’s what else I want to say to you today: There are so many ways to make the world better. Some ways are to listen to other people, to be kind, and thoughtful, and maybe most importantly, to be fair. To realize that we all deserve to be free, and to work to make that happen. When we see something that isn’t right or fair, we speak up and make it better. If you keep these things in your mind and heart as you grow, if you keep paying attention to ways you can make the world more kind and fair and just, you will make the world better. No one can ruin the party of the world that you and your generation are creating. You know that song we sing, the one that goes: “A woman who loves herself, though she may be shaken, a woman who loves herself will never fall.” The beautiful world we are creating is the same as that woman. We do create the world, all of us, each of us. If we fill it with fairness and compassion, even when it is shaken, it will never fall.

At the Women’s Park in Yellow Springs, along with many other friends and family, your name is on a stone, along with the words of Patti Smith: “The world is yours, change it, change it!” You and your generation will find, and will be, the leaders. You will continue making the world more fair and loving. All you need to do is keep listening, and trust what you know in your bones: that we all deserve to be loved and free.

I have infinite faith in you and your generation. You are strong and mighty. Your hearts are brimming over with love, and your voices resonate.

Use your strong hearts to keep shining the light of love and compassion outward to all.

I love you,

Mama

A song I am praying for Hillary Clinton.

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I sing this song often. I sing it in my circle. When I sing it, it is sometimes a balm, sometimes a war cry, sometimes a dirge for some part of myself, or a blessing, or an encouragement for someone who needs to remember what is waiting inside her, and has been, all along.

It goes something like this:

My sister, pick up your power. 

My sister, claim your voice.

Remember those gone before us.

And pray for those yet to come.

Today I am singing it for Hillary Clinton: May she pick up her power, claim her voice, remember those gone before us, and pray for those yet to come.

May she plant her feet firmly in the ground, feeling the connection to Mother Earth.

May she feel the strength of the ancestors in her bones.

May she sing the songs of peace and protection that are in her to sing.

May she access all her selves, and even discover new ones: mother, warrior, peacemaker, human.

Something important to read

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When I heard about the fabulous Peggy Orenstein‘s new book, GIRLS & SEX, I thought it would be important for me to read because I’m raising a girl. The more I read of the book, the more I believe it’s important for ANY of the following people to read:

  • Those who are raising any gender of child;
  • Those who ever were any gender of child;
  • Those who want to take down mysogyny while encouraging healthy sexuality for all genders.

If you are a person in any of those categories, I suggest you check it out.

The Climber (an old poem)

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When my daughter was four months old, I wrote a poem called “The Climber” which was published by Mothering Magazine in 2008. Because the magazine is now defunct and the poem is no longer archived online, I’m posting it here so I can share it with a Facebook friend.  (p.s. I always feel vulnerable when I put a poem out because I’m not a poet. And because this is old, I want to edit and make it a better poem, but I’m not going to tinker right now, and instead just share it. A new mother of my acquaintance describes how her baby and her body intertwine as they nurse, and when I think of that, I zoom back to those raw, free-falling moments of early motherhood, when the tiniest thing seemed also like the biggest thing, and vice versa, and I was so sleep deprived and confused, who could even tell the difference. I remember how hard that time was, and now just want to stand in the swirl of those complexities and say to anyone in the midst of any of it: you are not alone.)

***

The Climber

 

When I was twenty-one,

I went rock climbing in the Clifton Gorge.

 

The leader held up

a bandanna,

said:

we could use it

to climb

blindfolded

if we wanted to.

 

Late in the day, I decided to try.

 

Belayer below me,

blindly I climbed,

finding foot holds

by braille.

 

Later the other women said I’d picked

places to support me

I wouldn’t have chosen

with my eyes.

Crevasses chosen by touch, by feel.

 

Twenty years later, the rocks in the Gorge are off limits

to climbers–

there were accidents,

people got hurt

or worse.

 

So I hike there,

carrying you,

and find columbine in the rocks

I climbed before.

 

And at night, when you nurse beside me,

eyes closed,

your tiny toe finds my navel.

 

Okay, you be the climber,

I’ll be the rock.

Trust your toe holds,

don’t fall,

don’t fall.

And if you fall,

I will catch you,

breech baby climber,

head up.

 

Little rock climber,

four months ago,

you were on the other side of my belly button.

Your hand grips my thumb now

like a walking stick.

 

You came from here.

How can we move beyond misogyny?

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shrine for dead fish, arranged by children (July 2016)

Last Saturday on a road trip, I stopped for lunch at the Globe restaurant at Truck World in Hubbard, Ohio. As I filled my plate from the salad bar, I heard two men (and maybe a woman, it was hard to discern) conversing about the presidential candidates. Here is what I captured:

Man 1: Who’re you voting for?

Man 2: Oh, Trump, all the way. Everybody in this area is voting for Trump.

(Someone, then others, chiming in): (Benghazi, Benghazi, sick of these liars, etc.)

Man 1: About all Hillary’s got going for her is her looks.

(Someone, maybe a woman): She hasn’t even got THAT going for her, she’s getting older.

As I listened, nausea filled my bones, my gut. As I type the words now, I feel it again: fear, vulnerability (as a woman, traveling alone, and also myself “getting older”). Part of me wanted to say something to them, but I sensed that nothing I could say (nothing I could think of on the spot) would change their minds.

I did not feel safe to speak. (This is too often the experience for many women.)

But this is my blog, and I’m speaking now:

I am finished with misogyny.

I am done. Overt hatred like at Truck World, or subtle slights like in places where I work with people who might consider themselves liberal yet (due to ignorance or passivity or whatever reason) perpetuate the notion that women are lesser. No matter its shade or flavor, misogyny tastes like ash in my mouth.

It is the flavor of bullshit. A dead flavor.

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Ohio primary, but when he did not emerge as predicted to be the Democratic nominee, I immediately planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in November. I have no patience for those who equate Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump, saying there’s really no difference.

BULLSHIT.

There are HUGE differences between those two humans that go deeply to the core of who they are. Reading this blog post from Tribe of Dreams helped me reframe the importance of this moment in history, and made me feel even more right about supporting Hillary Clinton. Some of the post:

This is a medicinal moment for humanity.

This statement is not an ignoring of Hillary Clinton’s sins or ignorances or dangerous choices or allegiances

nor is it a free pass for her to lead without continued immense pressure from those of us she leads to make choices that honor life, peace, people, and planet

but even with all of her shadows out in the light

Hillary Clinton is holding within her body right now an apex of the return of the Feminine

a center point of the tipping of the scales back into balance on planet Earth.

Here’s the thing that we (especially, I think, women) who are lefter-leaning and progressive can do: Help Hillary Clinton. Forgive her. Allow for the reality that—as least in her version of the journey to this point in her life—if she had not made a million compromises, she would not have made it to be, potentially, the first American woman to serve as President. She would not be poised to help us heal. (p.s. I would not want that job.)

I intend to do what I can, even if it’s just on the energetic plane. I intend to encourage Hillary Clinton to trust, deep inside herself, what Clarissa Pinkola Estes and others call The One Who Knows. Because that deep, feminine power is some awesome medicine. I have experienced its wings. The kind of transformation we would like to see takes a long time, takes patience and work, but as the song says, “One by one everyone comes to remember we’re healing the world one heart at a time.”

The Telling, by Zoe Zolbrod

The+Telling+FrontThe Telling, by Zoe Zolbrod, is beautifully-crafted and necessary. Woven with her own elegantly written story of child sexual abuse, Zolbrod includes statistics, achieving balance between narrative and resource. Anyone wanting to understand this complex issue will benefit from reading The Telling. Its journey is a deft navigation through the intricacies of the human psyche. In form, the memoir works as a whole and as a series of exquisite chapter-essays (some stand easily on their own.). As a parent, writer, teacher, and survivor of child sexual abuse, I found Zolbrod’s book inspiring and comforting in each cell of my body. One thing that sets this book apart from the traditional survivor narrative is the space Zolbrod gives to examination of the abuse narrative itself—interrogating the notion that abuse and its aftermath must always have one dominant effect on the soft tissue of the spirit. (Life is never quite that simple, as Zolbrod describes.) Zolbrod is unflinchingly candid, while also paying attention on the page to the nuances and boundaries of her various roles (woman, writer, mother, editor, former child). Sometimes it feels like she is looking through a prism at her past (and the issue of sexual abuse) and she is keenly able to discern from all sides, a kind of cumulative truth. In particular I loved reading about how she steers through her past as a protective but not overprotective mother.

There is oxygen in this book. The fact that there is a writer in the world who is doing this sort of soul investigation (and that we have the privilege of reading her generous work) gives me hope for our future.

“How not to buy more babies”

Photograph of three dolls

Left to right under Merida’s arm: Big Baby (note 99 on foot); Sasha, Gregor.

In my computer files, today I found something I had written in June 2011 for one of my daughter’s caretakers. The title of the file is “how not to buy more babies.” Good timing. Last night my husband and I were reminiscing about one of our daughter’s babies which we called “Big Baby.”  Big Baby was purchased from a thrift store in Dayton when my very young daughter fell in love with the hunk of plastic and wouldn’t leave the store without her. Big Baby had “99” sharpied on her foot, because she cost 99 cents. A while later, my daughter agreed to pass Big Baby along to another family. I found a photo of Big Baby with the Sasha dolls from my childhood, and my daughter having a drumming circle with them. Here are my instructions about how not to buy more babies:

We’re working on some population control strategies for the baby dolls in our house. I know it’s hard to say no to her, but this has worked for me:

If she asks to go to the toy store, offer another option, another place to go, like the playground. If she is insistent, say you will take her to the toy store and get her a balloon, she can choose whatever color she wants, but not a baby. This works best if you talk about it before you are there. When you get there, if she grabs and wants a baby, tell her what a nice baby that is, but that baby is for someone else, and that she can come back and VISIT the baby at the store again sometime. (And by the way, what color of balloon would she like?)

There are several reasons we want to control the number of babies in the house:

  1. She has plenty already. There’s too much stuff on the planet and in our house.       We want to teach her that she doesn’t need more and more stuff to be happy. She already has so many other babies that she loves, etc.
  2. For her 4th birthday, we will get her a very special baby, and we want her to understand the idea of quality over quantity.
  3. Also, we want to start teaching her about the value of money. We’re trying to find her a good piggy bank so she can start saving money toward things she wants, so she understands the value of saving and choosing carefully.

With your blessing, we are going to negotiate that some of her babies might come stay at your house, so she will have some other little souls to take care of over there. :)

 

“The body is like an earth”

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Art by Ted Dunmire and Beth Holyoke.

I recall (or dreamed?) reading a passage in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run With The Wolves that seemed to be saying: The universe is contained in the body.

All I could find were these lines from Chapter 7 (Joyous Body: The Wild Flesh):

“The body is like an earth. It is a land unto itself. It is as vulnerable to overbuilding, being carved into parcels, cut off, overmined, and shorn of its power as any landscape. The wilder woman will not be easily swayed by redevelopment schemes. For her, the questions are not how to form but how to feel.”

Maybe it doesn’t matter whether I literally read that the universe is contained in the body. Maybe the brain doesn’t need to find it.

Maybe it doesn’t matter because the idea is there anyway, somewhere, in my body.

How music will do

Thanksgiving cork at my table, smiling.

Thanksgiving cork at my table, smiling.

Setting up my dining table command center for a morning of work, I look at the CDs to find the day’s soundtrack. Something not too demanding, lyrics are okay for the work I have to do today. I find Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days. I put it on, but it’s not as simple as I remembered. It propels me back to the early days of Merida, the vague panic I felt when my sleep-deprived mate Robert abandoned me each morning to go off to work. I sat in the rocking chair, nursing the baby to her morning nap, listening to Iron & Wine’s breath, quiet and trapped until she would wake. Sometimes it was an hour, sometimes longer, my infant, my living heart that stepped into the world safe in slumber on the Boppy pillow. Sometimes I waited for my friend Colette and her baby Sabine to come over, so we could strap babies to our bodies and go for a hike, or simply share the overwhelm, the “quite an adjustment” to becoming parents. Or sometimes I read a book, or more likely a magazine, often something about mothering, how to make things perfect, or just how to survive these early, stretchy hours and days. They felt they would last forever. They didn’t. Now it’s now, now she’s off being seven at school with her friends, now I have only a few grains of baby left in the hourglass, which is fine, which is good, which is what I want, which is heartbreaking.

Now, at night, she worries about all the people around us who are ill, or have died, recently. We name them, talk about how. I remind her that there are also babies being born, babies we know or will know. “I was just thinking about that!” she says, sounding happy. We name the babies, too. But still, the ghosts. She writes elaborate notes to the ghosts that are haunting our house, folds and paperclips them into tiny swaddled bundles, and tosses them out the window into the snow, where I will leave them until they decompose. She knows that it’s worth writing the notes, that maybe it will help.

Which is fine, good, what I want, and heartbreaking.

That some day she will read my words. That some day she will understand how complicated it all is, this leading, this being a parent to a person, to an eventual woman. That some day she might also have music that will tunnel her back, how music will do, to a time that seemed it would never end. That everything ends.

(Unfinished post about) Hello Kitty

IMG_6471Cleaning up my computer desktop, I found this fragment, written in autumn 2012. I am leaving it unfinished because time has passed, and I no longer have that authentic fire to finish it (=my daughter has moved on), but it still seems relevant.

Why I hate Hello Kitty

  1. She has no mouth. (A friend pointed this out to me. My friend was disturbed because her daughter was interested in Hello Kitty, but Hello Kitty was physically incapable to speak, eat, laugh, or sing. The idea came up to draw a mouth on Hello Kitty, but the challenge becomes how to reach every Hello Kitty in the world? It turns out that someone has written a poem about Hello Kitty’s lack of mouth. http://www.queeg.com/hellokitty/)
  2. Hello Kitty causes an otherwise pleasant four and three-quarters-year-old daughter of mine to whine, yell, and sob when I don’t cave in and buy an emblazoned purse at Target because she had already chosen her “impulse buy” (a pink scraper with a pig head on the handle!) at Bed Bath & Beyond. (And this from a child who can usually be re-directed away from whining for plastic crap.)
  3. It’s impossible to avoid the Hello Kitty aisle at Target: THAT CAT IS EVERYWHERE!