Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putting Your Baby Out There

Does anyone besides me worry about putting their child's picture online?

Moms I love run the gamut — from those who absolutely believe in NO pictures on Facebook to the moms of my favorite blogs who Instagram and blog a constant stream of photos and stories with their kids' names.

I'm not sure how I feel.

There is the constant struggle between the proud mom in me who wants to share and shout "Look at my cute baby!" And then there is the practical side of me who wants to protect what little privacy she will have available to her as she grows up. I guess it's the constant struggle of moms everywhere. Your child is your child but also their own person. And finding that balance is hard.

I was posting pictures away on Facebook without a second thought and then I read this story. It gave me pause. I never want Lil' D to become a meme. And who are my 800+ "friends" anyway?

And then Instagram. Just like Facebook (actually more than Facebook) I'm "friends" with people I don't really know. What will they do with Lil' D's face? I post pictures of her there almost every day.

While there is an inherent oddness of strangers staring at your baby's face, I mainly worry about advertising and how I portray Lil' D to the very public world. How will all these posts I generate contribute to a company's ability to market directly to her? How will people label her based on my content?

While I don't currently post my blog posts to Instagram or Facebook (and my readership hangs on around 20 people) it is still out there in the wide world of trolling and sharing and commenting.

I think my rules right now are just to keep her name off the blog (oops need to go back and edit some old posts). I'm sure people could figure it out no matter what but that seems like a small protection. And I think I'm not going to be a traitor to her bad days. My favorite mom blogs don't harp on their kids personality qualities especially not the negative ones. I personally abandon blogs or people that tell everyone all about their kids' bad characteristics or bad days. That seems private. In the words of B.B. King, " Nobody loves me but my mother. And she could be jivin' too."

Here on Lets Blog it Out, I'm trying not to jive.

And at some point near the beginning of the middle school years I might have to abandon ship altogether. Although Lil' D ain't gonna be allowed on social media till she goes to college (only sorta kidding) her friends probably will be and no 7th grader needs more fuel for the fire.

So what do you think? What are your social media rules when it comes to your precious baby faces?

ALL that being said.

LOOK HERE! At this brochure (and banner and info board) I created for  The Mothers' Milk Bank of Alabama.  That is one cute baby right there.

In print. (Feels different to me?!)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First night of FPU class

Maybe it's because I'm trying to change so much at one time, but I've been feeling like I'm a human emotion roller coaster recently. One moment I'm UP UP UP and everything is full of hope and promise and then the next morning, this morning actually, I hear about salmonella in commercially processed chickens and I'm crying in my car.

Because I'm sad the world we live in treats chickens/our freaking FOOD supply this way.
Because I don't like being vegan and I don't want to eat pasta all the damn time.
Because I'm doing Dave Ramsey and I don't want to pay for non-diseased local chickens until I'm out of debt.

So last night was my first Dave Ramsey class. I was way more nervous than I thought I'd be. The church where the class is being held is gigantic. It has campuses. My high school graduation was there (ummm 16 years ago) and even then it was a huge church (video screen, a baptismal font you can literally swim in, etc.). And now it is even bigger. Coming from my little Episcopal mini gothic cathedral I grew up in - it's a lot. I got lost trying to find the class several times. Near the elevator. Down a hall. Past the coffee shop. Past the coffee shop in a church.

Anyway. All day long JTS had been prepping me to not be brainwashed. To not buy more books. So I was a little paranoid and scared. And when one of the first questions was to ask everyone where they went to church I got scareder.

And to be honest it was a lot more religious than I thought it would be. The more Bible verses spouted the more I realized that I will never ever get JTS to go with me.

That being said it was a good start. The teacher has been doing this for seven years. He seems shy and not disposed to speaking in front of groups which is good and bad. There are three couples, two individuals whose other would not come, and mostly single men. (Good for those guys!) This week was all about saving. Oh the shame cycle I could end up in if I think about all the saving I haven't been doing. (Let me go back to the car for a minute to cry.)

BUT! At the end of this month, we will have completed Baby Step #1. Save $1,000. It was so much easier to do than I originally thought once I paid attention to where I was spending my money.

Before class began we had to write down what our biggest challenge was going to be doing FPU. Mine was, of course, PATIENCE. I want my problem solved and I want it solved now.

This week's homework is to answer the following questions:

1) How much debt do you have (everything but mortgage included)?
2) How much liquid cash do you have?
3) How many credit cards do you have open?

I may be spending the rest of the day in the car after I answer these questions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tale of the Turtle

The only conventional treatment for uterine fibroids are invasive. The only way to combat them is either surgery or drugs that force your body into a chemically induced menopause.

When I started having severe problems with fibroids way back in 2009 this was one of the hardest things to accept. I didn't want to do either. And I didn't want to be in pain. So for well over a year I tried valiantly to go the course of alternative medicine. I did acupuncture, changed my diet, meditated, starting running, and read about a million books on natural health just to name a few. On the way far out spectrum of natural healing - I started going to an energy healer for chakra alignment. (And if you live near Scottsville, Virginia I will happily tell you how to get in touch with my energy healer because she is awesome.)

Brennen energy healing involves the healer sitting in meditation before your arrival, asking for guidance and support before your session and then when you get there she shares what she learned and then you lay on a table and (like Reiki) she puts her hands lightly above you and channels energy. At one of our earliest meetings she told me she had been visited by a Native American man who said (something to the effect) that he was my life guide and that I needed to embrace/find? my/the? turtle.

The Native American part made sense to me. In completely unrelated energy sessions other people who have worked with me have sensed this presence around me as well. My great-grandparents on my mother's side were Christian missionaries on a reservation in Oklahoma and my grandmother took me to a lot of Native American festivals in Alabama so until I learn otherwise I'm assuming this is where he comes from.

But the turtle. This was new. At the time I was reading a lot of Louise Hay and Christiane Northrup who attribute physical illness with internal emotional imbalances. My problem was two-fold. The uterus is the seat of creativity. So to have problems with the uterus is to have blocked creativity. And "female problems" all come from denying the feminine or not embracing the feminine principle. At the time I had recently graduated with a degree in graphic design but wasn't using it. The third such creative degree I had gotten and not used. I had worked for an abusive man in a wine store in NYC and now was working for a gentle man at a wine store in Charlottesville. But again, no creativity. My ego was carrying a lot of wounds from the NYC job so I assumed the turtle meant that I needed to come out of my shell and try to be creative again. So that's what I did.

But still no healing like I had read about took place. I like quick fixes and this was obviously not going to be one.

Since then I've had 4 surgeries and taken birth control pills to prevent my period. After Lil' D was born (and simultaneously my last fibroid removal surgery was performed) I've still had pain but it has been manageable. The past 16 months have been a complete and surprising blessing, so I put all the natural healing stuff to the side and just concentrated on being a mom and working.

Then I found this book in my neighborhood Little Free Library.

I've read a lot of feminist theory in my days and most of it made me want to fall asleep or I stridently disagreed with it. I didn't believe women were put on this earth to live in angry opposition to man. Or that one could only be a true feminist if you understood incredibly dry pedagogy. 

But this book sincerely touched my heart in ways I never knew needed to be found. Through her own journey from Baptist minister's wife to finding what she calls the Sacred Feminine, Kidd describes in a way I could understand what the feminine soul is and how we live in a world that actively negates it.

Patriarchy is subtle. And while, yes what we imagine as patriarchy implies men are at fault, Kidd does an excellent job of refuting that and showing that we are all culturally responsible for patriarchy. How women buy into it too and hold each other to patriarchal standards. She describes how we live in a world where men have formed and named everything in our society and therefore we as women live in a world that is not our own making. I recognized myself instantly in so many passages and archetypes, one in particular was, "The Good Daughter." Kidd writes, "A daughter is a woman who remains internally dependent, who does not shape her identity and direction as a woman, but tends to accept the identity and direction projected onto her." I may have all these outside things that show I am an "independent" woman, but man (pun intended), that sentence rang true.

Kidd writes, "As a girl absorbs her culture, for instance as she watches movies and television, she may also come to understand her real importance derives from her relationship with men and boys...She will notice the things traditionally assigned to women — keeping a home, cleaning, cooking, laundry, child rearing — and grow aware of how little value these things seem to have in the world compared to things men typically do."

Despite having a working mother I internalized the women are inferior message too. At the very least I internalized that female characteristics are inferior. Kidd points out that feminism, when it doesn't embrace the sacred feminine, just reinforces the idea that women need to be more like men to succeed. I remember thinking that boy qualities were much more desired (in not so many words) as a little girl and I would always try to be "brave" or to not cry. Adults, and later peers, would certainly cheer me on as I embraced typical male attitudes. I was the college girl who never let guy stuff ruffle me. I wasn't afraid to sit around a bunch of dudes while they talked about porn. I remember making fun of a girl who threw her boyfriend's collection of Playboys out the window. "Why is she so uptight?" I thought. It makes me sad to think that I was very much shoving my feminine self down down down so that I could appear cooler. I was the perfect example of the girl embracing cultural patriarchy. I remember always wanting to date a guy who had a "cool" job or desirable qualities but never once thought that I myself could have the cool job or the desirable qualities. 

Kidd quotes Carolyn Heilbrun about authentic power, "The true representation of (not) a woman beating up on a man or finding a place in the hierarchy and mimicking the old patriarchal ways of entitlement, control, and command. Power is the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter."

What does the real me think? After 34 years of trying to emphasize my male characteristics or trying to align myself with the right men I'm not sure I know anymore. 

There are so many things to quote and discuss in this book that I simply can't do it justice. But I highly recommend picking it up. One of the best parts about her story, though, was how she and her husband's relationship became stronger. They had to start over, in a sense, and redevelop their relationship on more egalitarian grounds but in the end her husband becomes feminisim's greatest champion. 

But back to the Turtle.

After my energy healer told me about the Turtle I pulled out an old print that hung in my bathroom growing up. I always loved the picture even though its definitely not the coolest piece out there. So I got it and hung it up in my office to symbolize getting out of my shell. But in one of the first sections of the The Dance of the Dissident Daughter I learned that the Turtle is a powerful feminine symbol. The Turtle held up Mother Earth. And so maybe that's the other piece of the Native American/Turtle puzzle. He wants me to embrace my sacred female soul.  

I think it's a long journey but after years of wondering how in the hell I wasn't embracing the feminine enough (Hey! I love dresses!) I'm happy to have the start to the answer. And it's a pretty deep well.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Step 1 - on being the best teacher's pet.

Ever since signing up for FPU, I start my day by refreshing my online class page to watch the YOU HAVE X NUMBER OF DAYS REMAINING TILL YOUR CLASS STARTS number dwindle down. (fyi : 13)

I think I've gotten a little too excited. Like the minute I walk in the door all my debt will POOF vanish and it will be smooth sailing from there. But yeah, reality check, it's not. Which just makes me anxious to get the ball rolling. So like the brown noser I am I've already read ahead and started on my own.

STEP 1. Create a $1,000 cash emergency fund.

According to Dave the average FPU'er accomplishes this goal in 30 days. Say whah?! $1,000 might not sound like much to put aside to some of you but at my house it is. Especially in 30 days. I've rolled all the change in the house. I called in $50 that I had sitting in overpayment on a credit card I sort of "paid off" (I just moved it to a lower interest card). I took 5% from one of my freelance payments and applied it. And we are now at a whopping $238 in my savings account. But I try to think positively and not get discouraged by small gains. Small gains have to eventually add up to something big.

In Dave land you have to have a budget and until you kill your debt you have to cut cut cut spending and sell sell sell everything you own. A lot of people sell their cars and buy beaters.

Since we have one, 2 year old car that is more than 1/2 paid off I'm not going to do that.

But I've been looking through our spending and looking through our possessions and I've hit a road block in "How serious are we going to get about this?" We don't have a lot of external spending that's easy to cut. We don't have cable for example. We do have internet and Hulu and Netflix. Since I work from home internet is a business expense but Hulu and Netflix can go. As can my credit monitoring service I signed up for (after my card was stolen twice) and a babysitting club (it's a cool idea here in Birmingham through Facebook, $10 a month) But yeah, not a lot of low hanging fruit to cut. All that totaled about $38 a month in savings.

Same with my stuff. Not a lot of low hanging fruit to sell. I've divided my storage area into yard sale, Ebay, and another local service here in Birmingham called Mountain Brook trading (which is like a more personal Craigslist). But yeah, most of my possessions are very useful or family heirlooms.

All this leads to some heavy decisions. I keep hearing Dave in my brain saying, "You can buy new stuff when you aren't broke." But I like my CURRENT stuff Dave!

(I feel there will be longer posts ahead about my agonizing decision to sell 1-4 of the chip n' dips I got for wedding presents).

Here is what is expensive in our lives:

1) Our house. We rent an old house that, frankly, is more space than we need. It's upstairs is uninsulated. The windows probably seep paid for heating and cooling. Lord knows what the water heater looks like. It is a gigantic money pit of bills. Butttt I don't think we are going to leave it behind. We like the neighborhood. And unless you move way far out into the country or back into an apartment renting here isn't that cheap.

2) Groceries. Easily our largest expense because we don't menu plan and I usually insist on a lot of organics. More discussion to come.

Now I'm off to do something I really don't want to. Visit the bank to discuss opening up a business account where I can logically park my business payments and so that I never get a totally unpayable tax bill every year. Oh money! You are only fun if you've got enough.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for......

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class.

{insert your opinion here}

JTS is not terribly thrilled that I've done this - but even though he won't go to the class he said he will help me with the steps at home.

I've mentioned before that I missed out on some money management lessons growing up. I never really had an allowance. Stuff never equaled work. Money came and went, rolled and flowed around depending on the parent's 1) flush times vs. broke times or 2) emotions.

It was confusing.

Over the years I've squandered a lot of fiscal opportunities to save, to invest, and to earn. And last week, as I was pretending that having a lot of freelance work meant that I obviously had a lot of money to spend on clothes, something clicked. I realized I don't actually HAVE that money. That all my money is always already spoken for before it hits the ole bank account. Credit card debt, student loan, car payments, etc. etc. etc. all have my money. I'm tired of being jealous of everyone's vacations or homes or what-have-you and then not having a clue how the bank account is at 0 every month. I'm tired of treading water.

So I got this handy little packet in the mail:

Seriously, so much stuff.

What I like about Dave Ramsey is what other people may find annoying. He has these little sayings that he repeats all the time like, "Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else." Or paying down debt with "gazelle like intensity." But no matter how ridiculous it all looks I do find myself repeating them to talk myself off the spending ledge. I don't want to be paying off my GD poetry MFA when I'm 50. And speaking of GD, yeah, Dave Ramsey has a slight religious bent. But oh well. I don't see any non-religious classes like these out there so I'm fine with it. And Proverbs is named proverbs for a reason (or vice-versa?)

I'm patting myself on the back right now.  I'm already 25% of the way to achieving Step 1. It's going to be a couple of years of hard labor under the best circumstances before I get myself out of my debt hole and on to some solid savings grounds but first stop is DISNEYWORLD. For me and Lil' D.

And in a similar vein, I really enjoyed this post from Momastery. I've been thinking the same thing for a few days after hearing about the horrible conditions the Yazidis in Iraq are facing. We are simply SO lucky to be able to worry about the things we worry about.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So that's my problem!

Question: Where is your center?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things I'm Loving Right Now

There is a lot of positive change going on in my life right now (and when all the details get hammered out I'll let you know all about it) But even though it's positive it's still S-T-R-E-S-S. Without Facebook to dive into alongside my continuing commitment to not drink my stress away I've been relying on some old standards: books - movies - music- writing. Here are some of my favorites right now.


Have you heard of The Little Free Library movement? They are simply the cutest and most delightful ideas. My neighbors put one up that looks like a bird house and smells like cedar and introduced me to this little gem: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. If you want a light-hearted but well written read this is your answer. I wish there were more coming but unfortunately the lady authoress who wrote it died before it was published. I would move to Guernsey in a heart beat if it was anything like this book.

Other books that I find similar in tone: The Weird Sisters and At Home in Mitford

On of the most captivating couples from the movie
My favorite blogger of all time, Joanna Goddard, recommended this movie (which is only available on HBO GO right now) 112 Weddings. 112 weddings is about a documentary filmmaker who made wedding videos on the side for 20 years then he goes back and interviews some of them about marriage. With all the interspersed old footage and new interviews he creates a very vivid portrait of how complicated marriages are; How complicated life can get; How we work through circumstances as a couple or not.

It made me cry.

Sometimes for happiness and other times because it seemed so sad. I'm not really sure at the end how I felt about it all. But I did know (well, have known for a long time) that I should have spent about 98% less time on the wedding and 150% more time on learning about strategies for a successful marriage. (Do those figures add up? Of course not! I'm a poetry major). Anyway. A thought provoking movie.


I'm in love with The World Cafe on NPR. Great interviews and shows.


I've been trying to go at least once a week (which is all the time I can find these days) to go write somewhere outside my house without a computer. I love going to Church Street Coffee and Books. It is a wonderful place that isn't too pretentious in any direction. Just a solid shop with a great-because-its-limited book selection and good coffee. They have an upstairs space with a bean bag chair and a lamp on a floor that could use errrr something (a carpet? FLOR tiles? a good scrub?) but it adds to the genuine charm.