Monday, July 6, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Becky.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen
June: Mallory 

 For the month of July, I'm proud to showcase Becky. Even though these beautiful people look like four siblings, the woman in green is actually their mother. 

Becky is a close friend of my husband's family. She also has taught Lilah Grace how to swim. I absolutely love going to Becky's house, because not only does she entertain my busy 2 year old while teaching her a love of water, but she also somehow manages to have the most perfectly concocted cocktails with only the freshest of herbs as garnishes. I've always looked up to Becky and her enriching parenting tidbits, so needless to say, I wanted to share her musings on my blog. I was also excited to share musings from a mom who's already RAISED her kids. All the other moms I've interviewed for this series are in the process of raising young kids. We're still trying to figure it out. This month is unique in hearing from a seasoned mama who has been through the Terrible Twos and Torturous Teens, with grace. I discovered way more about this inspiring mama, and fell even more in love. Enjoy the inspiration! 

What’s your definition of a feminist?
A feminist is someone who values the power of women and sexuality and difference.  S/he acknowledges and celebrates the strengths and vulnerabilities of both genders.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since having a “feminist awakening”?  Further from it?  Ambivalent? 
I don’t recognize having a “feminist awakening”.  I was raised by a feminist mom and step dad, who thought themselves to be progressive.  And, in a far more removed sense, by an overbearing male chauvinist dad and submissive step mom, who thought themselves to be traditional.  All of those influences combined to show me the power and glory of feminism; of respecting women (ourselves and our co-earthlings), albeit in different ways.  My mom modeled resilience and drive, divorcing a man without a clear financial plan, knowing she had to leave the violence and fear in order to survive, struggling her way through grad school with 2 small girls.  (I recently toured TWU with Ian and related the stories of how my sister and I, 8 and 10? were left on the campus to our own devices while Grandmother attended school there during summers.  We spent the days trying not to speak aloud, and communicating only in sign language, for fun!)  My step dad gave mom equal space in their marriage.  My step mom was dedicated to keeping her family together, as her role of mom, she was a buffer between her kids and step kids and their dad, who was often frightening and out of control of his rage.  I see that as feminism in its strength.  She had choices and she made them differently than many would, but in the way she saw best to protect her kids. 
Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another? 
I don’t see those as related.  I don’t relate to feminism as a spirituality, but I do believe women are related to the universe differently than men are. 
What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work?
I spent 28 years as a flight attendant.  I always dreamed of it and stumbled into it when I quit college after 3-1/2 years.  It became a perfect framework for raising my own kids.  It afforded me most summers and many holidays at home, more than half the month in days off work, and the schedule that allowed for John and me to be the ones raising our kids for the vast majority of their days, with little need for a nanny.
Once Ian had graduated high school I took the leap of faith of leaving that job for one that would challenge my mind more.  All (and I do mean ALL) of my flight attendant friends thought I was crazy for leaving a job that had reasonable pay and gave me such free time.  But I craved more.  The only reason not to leave was fear, so I knew I had to model that bravery, and go.  Now I am a convention services manager at Gaylord and fight every day to acquire the skills I need to continue moving forward.  It’s a great challenge, and it’s terrifying, and I have no regrets about my choice.   I was fortunate that John supported me fully in making the choice, never considering the financial impact as a reason to stay put.  He always put my happiness first.
What spiritual habits//practices//routines do you incorporate into your life?  How do you bring spirituality to your family life?
One of my great regrets is that we did not have a good stable spiritual routine or practice while our kids were growing up. My aversion to religion blocked me from recognizing my spirituality, and from sharing that with my kids.
Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child?
Definitely NOT.  My mom and step dad were “Unitarian”.  We went to church sometimes, but I always had a weird feeling about it.  My dad shocked me once when I was a teenager by saying in reference to our family, “We, as Christians, believe…”  I had never once heard any religious reference from him whatsoever prior to that.  We never went to church with dad, and only said prayers at my grandparents’ house.  My religious experience growing up was never a comfort to me, and wasn’t ever even clear to me.  I found it frightening, confusing and embarrassing.  I knew that most of the families around us were “Christian”, and we were not, but I didn’t really know what we were. 
 I know I have always had an opposition to religion.  I have always known that the various religions have different dogmas, and that, in and of itself proves to me that there can be no one true religion.  For this reason, I distrust “Religion” that teaches theirs is the truth and the way.  And all of this resulted in me avoiding spirituality altogether, which I regret now for my kids’ sake.   I didn’t realize until much later on that I am a very spiritual person, just not religious, and that I think those two are different, and I wish I could have shared that with my kids when they were young.  I do now represent that to my kids, but I wish I had had the presence and courage to go there when they were little.
What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Spirituality is in our souls.  Religion is prescribed.  Spirituality is the way we relate to the universe, how we feel ourselves part of a larger importance.  Religion is a set of rules, in my opinion, designed to control people and their behavior based on fear.
What do you think happens when we die?
I really wonder.  I like to believe that our souls fragment and remain somehow.  I like to believe that my loved ones are still with me, and that I can remain with my loved ones when I pass.  I like to believe that our souls can still be connected, even when one dies.
How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
If it’s a difficult topic, I stumble along and force myself to say what I’m feeling.  I tell them they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to, but they do need to listen.  I always try to just be honest about my views on subjects I find important.  I want my kids to develop their own sets of beliefs, and I want them to know mine.  I always try to think about bringing my information from a place of loving them endlessly and wanting to teach them everything.  I want to honor their truth at the same time I’m providing mine. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Don't Feel Mom Guilt. #SorryNotSorry

I hear a lot of moms saying they feel "mom guilt" all the time. I am certain I've experienced it in certain instances, and I probably will countless times in the future, but I have to say, most of the time, not so much. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had a boy. Who knows. I consider myself the most important female influence in Lilah's life. I want to model self-love, self-care, the ability to communicate my feelings, and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations. I want to model a strong marriage, strong + loyal family ties, strong female friendships, and a strong work ethic.


I work part-time as a Registered Nurse in an operating room. I think it's important for Lilah to know my worth both in and out of the home. I think I'm modeling work ethic and dependability. Being her mom is my favorite role but it's not my only one, and I want her to not just hear that, but know that.


I am going to California in July for a self-awareness workshop, where the entire purpose is bettering myself and learning more about myself. I'm going by myself for FIVE FULL DAYS.


If on a rare occasion I get off work early, and Lilah is with the nanny, I'll stop in at Anthro on my way home, or spend time at home in my journal, or with my Tarot cards, or just with my feet in the grass in our backyard, not rushing to pick up my kid. 


I have A LOT of help. LG is the first grandchild on both the Van Meter and Tinker sides of the family. Lilah spends a TON of time with her grandmothers, especially. I absolutely love watching the individual relationships she has formed with our family members, and absolutely love my time to myself! My lack of guilt here is not to be misunderstood as a lack of GRATITUDE. I'm super grateful for my tribe, my village, so I don't feel alone in raising Lilah.


I scheduled an entire day to binge on Orange is the New Black the Saturday after it came out.


And finally, as I write this blogpost, my husband is being the sexiest dad alive, making Lilah giggle in the bath, brushing her teeth, getting her to go potty, putting on her pjs, reading her a book, rocking her, and putting her in the crib. Only to be followed, I'm certain, by crying and insisting that she needs to potty again, or needs water, which then means she'll need to potty again, or she wants to "rocky" again.


Sharing the load in parenthood is my best non-kept secret. While this style of motherhood might seem selfish to some, I guarantee, I'm one of the most patient + loving mothers you'll ever encounter. That's because I'm not spread too thin. When I'm with Lilah, it counts. I'm present. I want to be there. 95% of the time. 

And when I'm getting to the point with my precious 2 year old where my patience is wearing thin and I know I'm not being the best mom I can be, I reach out for help. My husband has received many-a-call of "WHEN WILL YOU BE HOME and CAN YOU TAKE OVER?" and then I go for a walk with LG and wait for my "5 o'clock hero" to come through the front door. Sometimes I'll plug in my headphones while we walk and I'll listen to a podcast, or a guided meditation, or some rap. Whatever mood strikes. Many times, I have reached out to my mom or mother-in-law, "Can you get Lilah?" And as a result of my gracious + loving + supportive family, I have kept my sanity for 2+ years in this parenthood adventure.

Feeling grateful.
Without an ounce of the guilt.


Friday, June 12, 2015

((Lack of)) Religion and Child-Rearing

What is religion?
According to Wikipedia, "A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence."

Living in Texas and consciously avoiding church is still really frowned upon. So before I plunge into this post, I feel the need to make a couple of disclaimers.

A lack of religion does not mean a lack of faith.
Nor does a lack of religion mean a lack of values.

When I think about the most important text in regard to raising Lilah Grace, I don't think about the Bible, or the Lord's Prayer. I think of some lines from Desiderata.

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul."

I was raised in the Methodist church, probably the most lax of all the denominations in the south. I never had a bad experience in the church. I've blogged countless times about religion, because I think about it all the time. To read more musings, you can check out the bar to the right, under "Soul: Musings on Spirituality", or a few of these links to specific posts:

Stages of Religious Development
Thoughts on Christianity
Freedom and Security...A Spectrum
The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand

In the Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand post,  I wrote about my views on Heaven and Hell:

"Hell is not some fiery pit with a fictional cartoon character complete with horns and a pitchfork, dancing in fire...I would have to really try to believe something like that, and even if I really tried, I just couldn't. That seems so juvenile, so silly. We can see with our eyes pain and despair, and separation from God, right here, right Now. And seeing that, and not helping, but rather, coming from a place of self-righteousness, does more harm than good. Believing in a Hell doesn't make it real, and it doesn't save anybody. Donating money to natural disasters, donating time and service...that makes a difference. Showing people love, and opening people's eyes to the beauty all around them...that is the most effective way to "save somebody" from Hell. We don't have to wonder if Hell exists, or if Heaven is real. We can see it, and experience it. And we can make a difference."

So why am I blogging about this again? Because we were pre-school shopping for our little toddler.

The first program I checked out was the program I attended as a toddler. And the truth is, I think it's a great program. I've heard rave reviews, the staff seems great, the facility is nice. And it's in a church.

The second program I checked out also had great reviews, but was even more affordable. I loved the lady I was in correspondence with, and the woman who gave us the tour was very pleasant. The classrooms looked fun, and again, nothing negative to report. It was also in a church.

The third program was an academy. Like, a non-religious school. It's almost twice the cost of pre-school in churches. But I had to wonder, why? Probably because they don't have the help from a church congregation who tithes to offset the cost. I am not sure if private schools are tax-exempt, but I know churches are, so also knowing those pre-school programs at churches don't have to pay tax could explain the price difference ((maybe, not sure)). Most importantly, the smaller class sizes had so much order to them. The students were so engaged. They were really learning. The teachers were far from militant ((I didn't see that anywhere, at any program)), yet they had the students' attention. It seemed as though the previous programs were daycare programs, and this was an actual classroom. Of course, the classes seemed developmentally appropriate and fun, but with learning as the goal.

My mom and good friend teach at an elementary school and told me the students from the academy always stood out as being the best students. So, naturally, I wanted to send LG there. The only thing holding us back was the money. Fortunately, both sets of our parents chipped in to offset the cost, so we were able to make the decision that was best for us.

((Again, where would we be without our tribe?? I am eternally grateful for the support we have in raising LG with a total village mentality.))

I'm thrilled to say LG is enrolled and starts school in September at our first choice program.

This was the first time when we really confronted the "church" issue as parents. I have to be clear, it's not that we sleep in on Sundays and are "lazy Christians." We consciously are choosing to raise Lilah with faith and love for humanity and the Universe, but not with dogma.

I've felt Spirit, I've been moved to tears, and moved to my knees in prayer. I am far from "atheist". I think more than anything, people like me feel misunderstood. I long to belong to a community, but I know I do not belong in a church community. To me, the Bible ((I've read a lot more of that book than most Christians)) is a great historical collection of writings from men. But I do not believe it is Holy, nor do I believe God wrote it. I believe men were inspired by who THEY BELIEVE GOD TO BE, and wrote it. That does not necessarily mean I'm inspired in the same way, and that is okay.

I recently asked Lilah Grace, "Lilah, who is God?"
Long pause. Then, she answered,
"My friend."

I smiled, and thought, "Me too."

When it comes to education, we made the conscious choice not to implement Bible or Chapel time. We thought it out, and it feels best for us.

My hope through all of this parenting journey is that Lilah Grace knows we have her spirit, mind, and ultimately her life, at the forefront of all of our decisions, and will make our decisions mindfully.

If she decides to pursue religion on her own, I'll be happy to drive her to and from church/temple/mosque, and ask her questions while showing interest in her musings. If I feel she is endangered, I'll intervene, but otherwise, I'll encourage her to explore her options, rather than telling her from the beginning that there is only one way.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Mallory.

Once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea
April: Allison + Annie 
May: Jen

This month, I'm excited to share some ridiculously enriching responses from Mallory.

Mallory joined me and the Denton Women's Collective ((our 501(c)3 organization devoted to helping women in our can read more here)) recently when we brought the Finding Kind anti-bullying campaign to my alma mater. Any interaction I've had with her has always been a treat. Her vibe is totally chill, but you know there's a lot going on in that brilliant mind of hers. I knew her background was way different than mine, but we have a lot in common today, and so naturally, I was stoked when she said she would be willing to share her musings with me. Enjoy!!


What's your definition of a "feminist"?
Yikes. The F word. I don’t know, man. What can I say that isn’t an obvious answer? A person who advocates for the equality of genders.

A person maybe? Just a person. A person who identifies as a human rather than as a gender. A person who goes exactly where their heart and soul routes them because it is their divine right. I think there a lot of women who do not identify as feminists but actually are. Women who roll up their sleeves and take out the damn trash or mow the lawn or become engineers or attorneys because they can. I think a lot of woman would love the opportunity to remove their beauty routines and skip the unequal pay bullshit, but they may not recognize this as something that could actually happen.
In too many places, people are not allowed their divine rights, and that’s where, I believe, “feminists” really get to take on their armor as advocates. 

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I do.  There are two types of feminism. One considers the difference between male and female to be psychological and culturally constructed; and the other considers the difference to be biologically innate. I fall somewhere in between. I recognize the biological difference in men and women. I know I’m more tender, sensitive and nurturing than my husband, but that I also know that I can do anything he can. (Besides pee standing up. He’s got me there.)

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since a having a "feminist awakening"? Further from? Ambivalent? Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another?
I don’t know about “higher power,” but I do believe feminism and spirituality are related. When you become connected to your inner being by respecting and claiming your divine rights (feminism) you can experience a spiritual awakening. When a person looks inside to declare things for themselves, they have to look deep. They will essentially discover a myriad of values about themselves and the world and the universe (ultimately, spirituality).

I also think spirituality brings you closer to others and creates this resounding need to help anybody who needs it. And feminism is all about it.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work? 

I am a senior litigation paralegal.

I initially wanted to be an English, ESL or Spanish teacher. I have my BA of English Lit and Spanish. I never finished my certification for teaching because I got pregnant the semester before I would’ve started student teaching. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage. After the procedure to remove the baby, I became enveloped in depression with the loss, but also felt embarrassed that I missed and loved somebody who I never got to meet or hold. (That’s ridiculous. I know that now.) I didn’t have the motivation to do the student teaching anymore and decided to finish my BA without the certification.

I’ve always been a worker bee and when we became pregnant with my oldest, Van, I knew I wanted a career that was flexible with mommyhood, but still provided a decent income for our family. A very good friend of mine had mentioned that I’d be great in the legal field and actually spoke with her firm about a position for me. I now work for two ol’ cowboys at a small, family run firm. They both have children and put their family first. I learned quickly I don’t have a passion for the paralegal work, but I do for the people I work for. When you love your job, it’s hard to leave.

That being said, I don’t know if I would ever be a paralegal for another firm. I have come to love my boss and their families, but I don’t think this is the field I am most passionate for. When my boys are a little older, I’ll probably spring for the certification and go back to teaching. I have a deep passion for kids with learning disabilities (my husband was diagnosed with a few when he was a child) and I think I’ll probably end up somewhere in education.

What spiritual practices//habits//routines do you incorporate into your life? How do you bring spirituality to your family life? 

I have been into meditation for a while now, although I don’t practice it anymore. My high school gifted/talented teacher would have us practice a relaxation method, and I think that was the first time I meditated successfully. I have a really hard time meditating now, but I don’t mind that. Moms’ heads are often filled with schedules, routines, chores, kids’ desires, husband’s desires, kids’ goals and health and so on and so on. I think sometimes the cloud is too thick for me to clear.  I think the important thing is that I learned from those times that I did meditate. I like the enlightened version of myself. It has expanded and opened my mind.

Unfortunately, I am terrible about not “being present.” And one of the things my husband brings to the table is the ability to be present wherever he is. He pushes me to enjoy every moment, really take it in, and stay there. I’d say the spiritual practice I’m most committed to is learning and trying to stay present in every moment. Whether it’s soaking up the sun or breathing in the air around me or touching my baby’s hand while he is nursing, I am just trying to remember and love and be in those sacred moments. 

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child? 

Hail no. I still have security issues and paranoia from being brainwashed a little too much as a child.  I can’t watch movies the same way that others can. I get scared of demons even though I don’t believe in them. I have had many say, “You don’t believe in that stuff so why are you afraid?” Habit. Foundations. When you grow up with people scraping off your layer of disbelief in the unreal, it’s very difficult to grow it back. I have a few close friends who have also left our United Pentecostal “cult” and they suffer from similar scars.

Although I grew up with people shoving religion down my throat, often drowning my own security in their fire and brimstone sermons, I also saw the good things that religion could do. My dad quit smoking after 20+ years of being a nicotine addict. My youth group volunteered on multiple occasions to help with the homeless or clean up the community. My mother pushed my siblings and I to become better people because she believed in it.

Some religious people are helping the homeless, being the shoulder for the weak, and giving so much to anyone in need. They’re not all picketing at Gay Pride parades. I like to think that’s because they are essentially GOOD people. But maybe the religion has a lot to do with it, too. I don’t know. I just think when you sprinkle the religion over their kind hearts and good deeds; it dilutes the good with intolerance and hatred. We’ve all heard the debates and I won’t go into the details. Because I can see the inconsistencies with religion, (with the bible and other holy books), it’s frightening to comprehend that others don’t.

I think the most important thing I can give my two boys is the lack of that experience. They might make the decision to be a part of a religion someday, but that’s their choice. Not mine. At least I know I didn’t have any part in scaring them into a belief, or shaking them out of their own security. What I can give them is the love and respect for the universe and the people around us. I think that’s more important.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
I believe Chopra said it best, “Religion is the belief in someone else’s experience and spirituality is having your own experience.” 

What do you think happens when we die?
I fear I’m going to disappoint you with my response, but, honestly, I do not know. I am an optimist and a part of me deeply believes that we are reincarnated into a new being or a new lifeform (and maybe not just on Earth). I believe in souls, and I believe that souls live on even if in a cosmic sort of afterlife, like floating around in some other verse.

I believe if you are a good person, your soul is strong with deep rooted powers. Those good people can live on through their family, friends, or others with those powers. Maybe the bad have a harder time because their powers aren’t as strong. And maybe not. I can’t say for sure. That’s why it’s so important to have your own spiritual enlightenment. You get to choose what you believe in and that will ultimately decide what kind of person you’ll be in this life and the next. 

Conversely, the other part of me just thinks life is one little flame and when it goes out, your body becomes fertilizer, and the memory of your life through others is the only thing that lives on.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
You know, I’m not big on putting a lot of my beliefs in my kids’ heads. When I give answers to questions, I make sure to always tell Van that they are my beliefs and that everyone has their own. I reiterate that he is a being and those big questions are his to answer, not mine. My parents are very religious and I don’t discourage him from being around them because of that. I just let him know that he doesn’t have to do what they do. And he doesn’t have to think what they say is truth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to their belief.

I fear that my open-mindedness will leave them feeling deprived someday. I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and when she discovered her mother was dying, she felt angry that her mother didn’t brand her with a religion or a God for her to sanction to. I think in the hard times, you want to feel that brand of religion, to give you a safety net. But for the most part, it’s liberating and motivating to be the maker of all your insecurities and accomplishments. It’s like being a mom-sometimes you HAVE TO. Life is about HAVING TO. And when there is no cloud of cotton candy for you to fall into when life is rough, it is then you stand firm on your own foundations. The world around you can provide you with its own safety net. The beautiful earth can give you comfort. The people can give you strength. Education and knowledge can give you a beautiful afterlife. And love can give you freedom. It is okay to not have it figured out. You eventually will figure everything out because you HAD TO.

The big questions are important to me. But they’re important for everyone to answer on their own. While I can guide my little starlings to be good people, I mostly want them to make that journey for themselves.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Musings From Another Mother: Jen.

So, once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

January: Janelle 
February: Ashton 
March: Andrea

This month, my favorite month of the year, I'm sharing musings from my FAVORITE friend in the world, Jen.

Jen and I met in a pilates class at the University of Oklahoma. Little did we know, we were in the same pledge class, and were also both Pi Phis. Our friendship, I'm certain, would've flourished regardless. We both sneaked in our puppies at the sorority house! We enjoyed everything from getting snowed in at Campus Lodge and making cookies, going to concerts ((including my first DMB concert ever!)), to eating pizza while watching Joni + Carole documentaries ((or something like that?)), and talking about the world from one of our cozy little abodes. I could always count on Jen to be there for me! And still can!

Whatever our souls are made of, ours are the same. We see the world with similar rose-tinted glasses. And we were fortunate enough to be pregnant at the same time. Our babies are only 3 weeks apart! I knew I wanted to share Jen's thoughts on feminism//spirituality//motherhood, and was so honored she opened up on my little corner of the internet. Thank you, Jen. I love you so much!



What's your definition of a "feminist"?
To me it’s a voice, an example, of how I want women to be viewed and accepted, and the world I want for my child. It’s coloring outside the lines and feeling free to be independent in thought, speech, career and opinion. Before I had my son it was about, me as a woman, and the equality I wanted for us in society. After having my son (although that is still important to me), it’s changed, to the world I want for him and for his children.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes! I take pride in being a woman and supporting other women. My mom taught me from a young age that women can be educated, fierce and full of love. While I take pride in being a feminist and a strong female, I want my son to know that gender has no indication or control of boundaries or stereotypes set by society. I want him to be whoever he wants, regardless of any type of gender that has been tied to it.

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since a having a "feminist awakening"? Further from?
Ambivalent? Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another?
Everything to me is related to spirituality. From each breath I take while sitting at work, to how I respond to my husband and son; spirituality is at my core, or so I try for it be.  Being spiritual helps me feel more emotionally intelligent and have a stronger sense of self-awareness. So yes, I think feminism and spirituality are tied to one another. Without being self-aware and spiritual I wouldn’t be as in-tune with the things that are an emphasis in my life.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work?
I’m an analyst in the oil and gas industry. The company and attractive benefits lured me in shortly after college, and it’s been home ever since. I like showing my son that women can hustle in the workplace and be assertive and driven with diplomacy and grace.

What spiritual practices//habits//routines do you incorporate into your life? How do you bring spirituality to your family life?
I try to have some quiet time daily, whether it’s on my way to work, the first few minutes of my day in the office, or while running or taking a bubble bath.
In terms of my family life, I try to pray each night with Jude before bed. I start by telling him it’s time for prayer and tell him how loved, smart and kind he is. We end with saying, “thank you Jesus” and then I plop him in bed. My husband, son and I TRY to get to church on Sundays because we enjoy it as a family, but don’t make it as often as we would like. Going reaffirms to us the stresses of everyday life that need to be left on the sidelines so that we can refocus our thoughts and energy on what’s important - loving each other and imitating our Creator. Crossings Community Church does an excellent job of teaching grace, love, acceptance and mercy. Things I want to be at the forefront of my family’s heart and mind.

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child?
Honestly, not at all. I grew up with divorced parents and my Dad was very strict religiously. It made me uncomfortable and gave me an unfortunate image of what Church and faith really are. I do appreciate his diligence to teaching me how important a relationship is with Jesus. That’s still with me today and something I’m very appreciative for.

I want my children to grow up knowing they have the freedom to choose what spirituality means to them; how it can make them a better person and contribution to society. To feel free from any type of judgement or discernment. To me it stems from feeling full of love on the inside and spreading that love to others through words and action on the outside. That’s simplistic, but the best way I can think to summarize it.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
Off the top of my head, religion is something you read in a book, and spirituality is something you feel. Religion defines one person from another, whereas spirituality is a common thread that brings us together. All Buddhists, Islams, Latter Day Saints and Christians alike, believe in love for one another.

What do you think happens when we die?
I believe our souls live on. When I look up at the sky on a pretty day I think of loved ones I’ve lost and know they’re looking down on us. I’m a strong believer in angels. I know of times when they’ve been sent to me. What the afterlife looks like, I couldn’t say, but I have complete faith in it.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?
My son is almost 2, so he hasn’t asked any big questions yet. I’m interested and intrigued to hear how other Mamas respond though!
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” G.D. Anderson

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


A recent headline caught my attention this week. Apparently, an 8th grade girl in Ohio wore a black shirt with bold white letters spelling out "FEMINIST" in a class photo for school. The school had the word blacked out because it "was not flattering" and "others might find it offensive."

Are you kidding me?

First of all, it would be a dream come true to somehow connect with this girl, and tell her how much of a badass I think she is. In 8th grade, I was killin' it on my flute, had all the Hedrick Wrangler cheers down, and was listening to KCi & JoJo's "Crazy" on repeat when my first boyfriend dumped me. I was totally ambivalent on gender equality. I naively assumed we were equal, if I gave it any thought at all.

Photo Credit: BuzzFeed

Now, at 27 years old, I proudly claim the "feminist" title, and forget that some people even consider "feminist" the "f word." A feminist is a supporter of gender equality. Unfortunately, we're not there yet, but with increasing awareness ((like this 8th grade girl is doing this week!)), we will get there, and our world will be better for our daughters AND sons.

Sister Joan Chittister said it best:

"I'm fundamental about this: I really believe that nothing is going to change in the world until the situation of women changes. You cannot simply dismiss over half of the human race; which means dismiss their agendas, dismiss their needs, dismiss their gifts, dismiss their intelligence. We are now at the place where men are running everything which means that humanity is seeing with one eye, hearing with one ear, and thinking with one half of a human brain. No wonder we are doing the things we're doing! We're bringing to the table only half the needs of the human race. I don't mean that men are doing this purposely; it's just that they only have half the experience, they have half the wisdom, they have half the they are making FULL decisions out of HALF of the resources..."

I don't try to rival my husband with body mass or body hair, nor do I insist on doing the repairs around the home. I thank him for working so hard, and brag on him and his career tirelessly. I enjoy cooking dinner for our family, and do most of the housework. We have fallen into gender norms in our home. To me, being a feminist isn't insisting that we split everything up 50/50. It is acknowledging our different gifts. At one time, I may have thought a well-kept house with food prepared on the table when my husband comes home from work would be regressing back to 1950...but now I consider it a manifestation of one of our family values: respect for our home. The value I bring to our home ((both in domestic work on my days "off" and in monetary values on my days working as a RN)) is absolutely equal to that of my bread-winning husband. Feminism isn't about trying to one-up my man, it's about standing beside him and knowing we are each better because of the other.

I also consider the value I'm able to provide to our home a privilege. We were born into privilege purely by being born to our ((loving, educated, white, middle-class)) families in the USA. Granted, we've struggled with finances and job security, even not having a home for a while, so yes, I feel some personal pride in getting to where we are now. But the privilege can't be denied. I feel lucky to be in our situation.

Perhaps more so now than ever, raising a daughter keeps feminist musings bouncing around in my head. I felt a visceral sensation when I heard this 8th grade girl's story, and wondered how I would have responded as a mother. I think this was absolutely a teaching moment. There is no shame in being a feminist. The fact that it was blacked out for fear of being "unflattering and offensive" just lights the fire, and reiterates the need for gender equality.

Though I admittedly haven't read it yet, "Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay has some pretty point-on quotes that resonate with me:

“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.”
“What goes unsaid is that women might be more ambitious and focused because we’ve never had a choice. We’ve had to fight to vote, to work outside the home, to work in environments free of sexual harassment, to attend the universities of our choice, and we’ve also had to prove ourselves over and over to receive any modicum of consideration.”

“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

If even one person reading this now claims the title "feminist," I will feel ridiculously happy.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Musings From Other Mothers: Allison + Annie

So, once a month, I've been making an effort to share musings from other mothers who inspire me.

In January, I showcased Janelle, in February, I showcased Ashton, and most recently, in March, I shared musings from my friend, Andrea.

I've really been enjoying this ongoing conversation. I'm honored to share musings today from sisters, Annie and Allison. 

From left to right, Violet and her mama, Allison, Annie, and her daughter, Willow.

We are online friends that have so many similarities, it's eerie. Interactions like these make me SO grateful for the internet. When used positively, the internet allows our generation to overcome obvious barriers like geography, and directs us to people who are putting out the same energy.

These sisters are a couple of bad-ass makers. The purple druzy necklace I gaveaway on my instagram ((@LindsayVM)) was from their shop! Just today I put up some darling pics of LG in a floral crown and fringe leather anklet. Both of those, along with some darling headbands we've been sportin' around town lately, are also made by Allison & Annie. You can check out their loot and support them here: Elle Marlies

What's your definition of a "feminist"?

Allison: My definition of feminism lies somewhere between the idea that I have to fight for my rights as a woman (strictly because i have a vagina?) and bra burning. Feminism is the practice of making sure that women are thought of and treated like they are the same as men. And seriously, how this is still even an issue?  I’ll never know. 
Annie: I personally believe a feminist is somebody (male or female) who stands up for the equal rights of women. A feminist is someone who recognizes the existence of gender inequality and actively works towards equal opportunity. I saw a t-shirt one time that read, "Teach your girls to be somebodies. Not somebody's." Never has something so simple struck a cord in me and defined feminism in such a simple manner.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? 
Allison: Absolutely. How could I not? I was born into a family of extremely strong women and am raising two daughters of my own. I feel extremely lucky to be in a world that has always encouraged me to speak my mind and be proud of my strengths as a woman. The idea that even one other person in the world, has not been raised in this same manor, is more than enough reason to consider myself a feminist.  
Annie: I do consider myself a feminist. I don't angrily picket & rally in the name of gender equality (which I think is the first thing some envision when they hear the word), but, I implement feminist values into my 3 year old daughter Willow's life every day. She loves all things society deems "feminine"; dolls, the color pink, dress-up, anything sparkly, nail polish..and I would NEVER take that from her! That is who she is, and who she is is magical. I do, however, want to be sure she isn't cornered into a patriarchal box because of her interests. To balance it out she has an array of building blocks, trains, matchbox cars, and certainly knows her way around a campsite. I think it's important to show our youth the array of everything they can possibly do with life, instead of one tiny window. We are not confined!

Do you feel closer to whatever you call the Higher Power since a having a "feminist awakening"? Further from? Ambivalent? Do you think feminism and spirituality are related, or have nothing to do with one another?

Allison: I don't think that I feel closer to any higher power strictly because of a feminist awakening. However,  I do think the two are related in the sense that we are all one. I link spirituality closer with humanism than I do with feminism. Even though they are all essentially linked together.

Annie: I believe my feminist awakening came with age. It began when I started to reevaluate my closet after becoming a mother. I suddenly was passing judgement on anything that I would wear on a daily basis, because of how I knew others would perceive me. Slowly I started to recognize the differences, the inequalities, and the pressures of being a female. I traded all my v-necks for a modest look, searching for respect. But does respect truly come from what fabrics we cloth ourself with? Next was when I chose to stay unmarried, not necessarily forever, but for now. Every family member I came in contact with for the first few years of Willow's life will ask me when the 'big day' was. I still don't know that there will ever be a 'big day', and I hope to make that impression on Willow as well. I don't want her to feel she needs a man to complete her puzzle and I don't want her entire childhood, teen hood, and early adult years to be spent searching for one. I have hopes that she will truly find herself before she ever ties herself to another human being; male or female. Her favorite Disney Princesses do not help implement that, in the slightest.

As for a higher power. I don't know if I believe in a higher power or any deity at all. That's not to say one doesn't exist, I don't know that, and I won't make that claim...but that being said, I do see the universe itself as a higher power, if ever there was one. I do believe feminism pushed me further from having a belief in a higher power (deity) solely based on the patriarchal values that come hand in hand organized religion. I have a hard time relating, aside from 'picking and choosing' which values to follow, and that made me feel a bit hypocritical.
I do think that feminism and spirituality go hand in hand! I think that often women who have a feminist awakening reevaluate their spirituality at the same time, or even reinvent what it means to them! Whether that be god, or whomever higher power they relate, I think feminism often alters their views even if just the slightest. I think it's a beautiful thing to question, unlearn, relearn, question again, and forever grow in ones spirituality, and I have a feeling my journey at 23 years old is hardly over.

What do you do and what encouraged you to get into your line of work? 

Allison: I do it all girl, I do it all! Well first and foremost, I’m a stay at home mom. I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. Truthfully, I never imagined that I’d be cut out for this line of duty. I always wanted to be a mom but I need a lot of mental stimulation to keep myself healthy and childcare isn't exactly that. Because of that very reason, I've spent most of my time as a mother trying to create a world suited specifically to me and my family. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of having my own business. The mold is not for me and if there is one thing that I’m sure of, it’s that I couldn’t possibly reach my full potential living someone else’s dream. When I was in 2nd grade, I took my first art class...I guess that was pretty much it for me because since then I’ve been making basically anything that my mind can come up with. I’ve done and still do everything from furniture revamps to home renovations, to sewing and painting. I get bored very easily so I always tend to leave a trail of half finished projects behind me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to hone my craft. I know where my strong areas are and the places that need a lot more time. For right now, I stand as owner of an online/flea market/craft show/out of my dining room, business. I’ve basically taken a little bit of all of my favorite parts and combined them all together to make a fun, unique, shop full of kid’s and women’s accessories. I know that life is an evolution and I look forward to seeing where things will end up. 
Annie: I am currently a Work at Home Mom and am awaiting my State Board Exam to gain my Cosmetology License. I enjoy crafting more than anything in this world, and as a maker of everything from paintings to accessories, it's difficult affording endless trips to the craft store. I've always found the bridge between Cosmetology & Art to be the same, and have been doing my makeup and coloring my hair since I can remember! Generally, I love all things expressive. I felt that if I make time for both professionally, I can financially support my love of art & also give my daughter a financially stable role model she can look up to and aspire to be like. It's been a process, but I'm finally at the finish line and I'm excited to see where this new path takes me.

What spiritual practices//habits//routines do you incorporate into your life? How do you bring spirituality to your family life?
Allison: This is actually a hard question for me. the last few years have been a real shift in my beliefs and I’m not exactly sure that I have a definitive answer as to where my spirituality lies. Because of this I find it harder to make references to god and all things related around my kids. I think that kindness and love is the message, its easy to lose that in all the fine print.
Annie: Personally, I bring spirituality into mine and Willow's lives in very mild ways for the time being. We do not attend church, go to Sunday School or even pray at night. I'm not sure she would even know what a church was, if I used the word. As for practices myself, I enjoy the science aspect of spirituality and read my horoscope daily. To some that isn't relative at all, but if it's written in the stars..that is spiritual to me. I would say our spirituality is very non-conventional and even frowned upon by a lot of close family members and friends. It saddens me because I've always found spirituality to be such a personal journey, and if there is a god, I hope he will understand that we are all on our own paths to discovering what this universe is to us.

Do you want your children to have the same religious experience that you did as a child? 

Allison: My parents are divorced. They've been that way basically my entire life so I grew up in one home going to Catholic Church and the other we went to a Presbyterian Church. We were basically the, “We’ll see you there if it's a holiday or someones getting married," kind of family. My husband grew up Jewish. We celebrate Christmas and a watered down version of Hanukkah. We definitely raise them with exposure to a lot of different walks of life. I secretly hope they stay that way, but I don't care what religion or non religion they practice. They’re my kids, I’ll love them just the same. 
Annie: Yes and no. I grew up in a Presbyterian household but it was very relaxed. I wouldn't say we were avid church goers, but I went with my grandparents occasionally and were always there for holidays. My father and his significant other are Catholic and active church goers. They are absolutely wonderful and don't love us any less for our current state of limbo. I respect everyone's beliefs and if I lived closer, would let Willow enjoy Sundays with her grandparents the way I did. As for Willow's religious journey, I want her to get a taste of it all, once she's at the age where I wouldn't be choosing 'for' her, per se. I don't think it necessarily makes sense to decide what someone else's beliefs are, the majority of us define ourselves to one religion because that's all we know. Who's to say if we were born into this world and our parents let us discover for ourselves what we believe, if we'd be practicing what we are today. I want her to have what I had, but multiplied times fifty. I want her to explore every option until she finds what speaks to her, and makes sense to her. So for now, at the tender age of three..she knows nothing of religion aside from the very basics and meanings behind the major holidays she celebrates, but years from now it may be a totally different picture.

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?

Allison: Religion is something you find in a building with a lot of rules attached to it. It’s what pulls us apart and makes us think we are different from people who are just the same as us. Spirituality is the bits and pieces that you've been exposed to, the parts that stick like glue to every part of your truth. Spirituality is what makes us one. 
Annie: I believe that religion and spirituality are two completely different ballparks. Spirituality, to me, is much more private/personal than religion. It's not something that can be read from a book or taught within four walls, but something found within you. Spirituality is when I relate to something that answers so many questions for me (in the non physical world) and resonates within me. I define religion as the man-made version of that. I've always seen organized religion as a tool of division. It's misinterpreted by many people and the root of hate towards many things and people whom I love. I feel I can't support the LGBT community and also be "religious" and I also feel the same towards being a feminist. Organized religion has often felt like a place of inequality to me, more or less a 'white man's code' to follow to be sure you get into the Golden Gate.

What do you think happens when we die?

Allison: Technically, I think that we are Reincarnated. I don't believe in heaven or hell. I believe that I am you, and you are me, and that we are one giant circle. You start at the beginning and once you've gone through every soul and every experience then we are all one. This is still an evolving thought in my mind but that's basically what it boils down to.

Annie: I truly do not want to say 'this is what I think will happen when we die.' I have no idea, and frankly I don't know that I even want to know that answer. I do know that I do not believe in a Hell. Hell as always seemed like a scare tactic to get a mass following to abide by rules of one specific religion when there are 500+ practicing religions. I don't believe that innocent children would be sent to the flames for choices such as their parents choosing not to baptize them, and things beyond their control. I relate most closely to the idea of reincarnation and the recycling of souls. Reincarnation for those that are unfamiliar is the concept that your soul can begin life in a new body after biological death. When I was a toddler I would tell my mother of my "surgery" (which I never went through in the physical world) among other odd tales, and I've read a lot of interesting articles, including scientific evidence that reincarnation exists by Dr. Ian Stevenson that have jogged my interest on many levels! Science has always resonated with me more so than religion, and it's much easier for me to relate to something with backed evidence than it is to have faith in something I can't see or touch.

How do you talk to your kids about the big questions?

Allison:  Well, my almost 2 year old asks questions like, “Anna pop?” which means she wants a Frozen ice pop. So I’m still in my safe place with her.  My 5 year old, on the other hand, has asked me what heaven is. I gave her the standard, “the place that you go when you die”. When she gets a little older, I’ll bounce ideas around with her but for now I’ll answer as generic as I can. I think the world should be left for each person to discover their truth through their own experiences. There is so much knowledge to be exposed to and to be stuck in one direction at a young age seems like a waste of wonder and excitement. The world is their oyster, so I’ll let them crack it open!
Annie:  Luckily, there haven't been too many 'big questions' thus far, but I should probably buckle up, because they're coming! As for now, the biggest question she asks is what kind of sauce she can have with her chicken nuggets. We own the movie, "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and she has asked where they are, and I've explained in a gently manner...but I think for her at this age, that falls in the same realm as her fairy movies and other mystical tales. When she's ready, I plan to answer every question in at least a handful of ways: the way organized religion explains it, the way I see it, the way another religion views it, etc. The bottom line is that I want her to have so many options that she has no choice but to decide for herself which resonates most with her. I don't want her to simply not choose religion because of my viewpoints, I want the to discover for herself along the trials of her life what works for her and I will support her in every way that calls for. If that means in five years I will be an avid church-goer next to her, you best believe I will be beside her, holding her hand and supporting her 110%. It's all about growth and I can't wait to see who and what this little beauty blossoms into!
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