With a Little Girl in My Arms

A lot has been on my mind lately, especially with the baby being on the way.

We found out last week that we are having a girl – our very own daughter. We would have been just as happy to hear we were having a son, but there’s just something that seems so right about my carrying a daughter in my womb.

As an eighteen year old girl with my guitar strapped across my body, I stood in my room, playing along with my Jennifer Knapp records. I knew every line, every yodel in her voice, nearly every hammer on the strings, and could play nearly every song without the assistance of a tab or chord chart. Her cover of Shawn Colvin’s “Diamond in the Rough” was a favorite to sing and play to. I had an intense crush on Jennifer. (I had a huge poster, every album – even her independent full length release, and played some of her songs as covers at my own shows. I saw her live several times, and even brought a pack of slim jims and gave them to her manager to give to her at a show, along with my demo and a letter I wrote.)

But, when I would listen to “Diamond in the Rough,” instead of swooning, I got caught up in how much I related to the song.

As a little girl, I really did go down to the water. I would skip stones and fish and just stare at the river along the banks, just below my grandparents’ house. I loved the river, and I still do. When I smell river water, it fills me up and makes me feel alive and comforted, and it gives me a sense of peace when I see the shimmering surface or can skip a stone across it.

Now, over a dozen years later, I have an intense crush on my wife, I still play guitar, and when the words “it’s a girl” hit my ears, the song came to me once again – this time the bridge, which I often thought of as a metaphor for holding on to our childhoods. But now, I see it in a very literal way.

I cannot wait to take our daughter to the water, to shimmer and sing, and to pass on the knowledge we have. To see her catch her first fish, teach her how to skip stones, and to cultivate within her an appreciation for nature and life.

We went to a popular retail store after we got the news, so that we could check on some of the items for our registry. As we walked around, I noticed all the extremely gendered clothing and toys, and I felt a little sad and afraid. I have never been a fan of pink, and I have a strong aversion to sparkles and anything “princess” related. So does D.

We, and many of our friends and family, have joked around about how our daughter will probably be “super girly” or “frilly” or “the girliest girl ever.”

I know what it sounds like, but the truth is that is not what I am afraid of.

I’m not afraid that she will ask me to braid her hair (I need to learn), or that she will want to wear a princess dress and play dress up (I’ll be happy to give her what she needs to let her imagination run wild), or that she will recruit the two of her moms to sit down and have a tea party (Heck, I will help her make crumpets – anyone have a recipe?).

I am afraid that like countless other girls, she will feel less than. I’m afraid that no matter how much we affirm her worth, she will succumb to the pressures of society and media and will feel bad about who she is, who she loves, or how she looks. I see stories meant to be comical which are really full of sexism and heterosexism. I see lists dividing who is “good at being a girl” and who isn’t. I see lists that demean ultra traditionally feminine behavior and others that exalt it, while demeaning those who do not fall within the confines of tradition.

I’m afraid someone will tell her she would look good if she wore make up, or that she shouldn’t wear it.

I’m afraid someone will tell her she needs to wear more skirts, or that she should be more comfortable in jeans and hoodies.

I’m afraid she will see how girls who dress certain ways get more attention and better treatment, and that girls who don’t often get ignored.

I’m afraid she will feel awkward around friends because they have interests she can’t relate to.

I’m afraid she will feel like I did.

I know I cannot live in fear. I cannot let those thoughts prevent me from being a good parent, or from enjoying the fact that I have life growing inside of me.

So, now, I know it is time to focus on what we can do and the things we can take comfort in.

We can take comfort in knowing that feminism is not a dirty word, and that there are more and more people realizing that all the word means is equality. For women and men alike.

We can take comfort in knowing that whether our daughter wants to wear dresses and eye liner or ripped up flannel shirts and a ball cap, she will have supportive parents who love her for who she is and however she wants to look.

We can know that we will support her interests, and that she will never have to feel awkward around us – as long as we do our job.

We can rest in the fact that no matter how she dresses, we will listen to her. Truly listen to her.

We can have peace in that no matter the messages from others, she will have a strong foundation of love and support and acceptance.

And that even if she feels like I felt, she won’t have to stay that way. Because home will be a sanctuary – like it was for me when I came home crying that girls were making fun of my big teeth, and my mom and aunt comforted me.

It will be a place where she will have two mothers ready to take her in our arms, and tell her truths – truths that bring not just comfort, but healing and resolve.

And we can go down to the water, and take in all that beauty, as we shimmer and sing. And though we may not know everything, we can know what’s real.

Love.

Love,

C.

fall rocks creek

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Virtual Reality

This is the third time I have attempted to post something. Either the words wouldn’t come, or they didn’t make since, or I quite frankly didn’t have the energy.

To my readers, I apologize for my silence.

I do have some news to begin with which might also explain my absence.

Ready?

I’m pregnant!

Yes, after all that wondering and worry, I am now at the beginning of my second trimester. D & I couldn’t be happier about adding someone to our family, and about the opportunity before us to be good loving parents. Here’s to hoping for better energy levels and no more morning sickness (Please, dear God.)

I do plan to write more about the process we went through sometime in the future, but I have a lot on my mind now.

I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook. It just gets difficult to read across the news feed sometimes. Honestly, it’s always worse when there is a controversy of some kind. I don’t mean it’s difficult to see opinions that differ from mine. That’s to be expected and part of what makes friendships so interesting sometimes.

No, what I am talking about is the tendency for us as a society to wall up with our own views and criticize everyone who tends to disagree with us. I’m talking about the other-ing we engage in when we bring up so-called “hot topics.” I’m talking about the way we form opinions and take stances from our safe distances instead of engaging with the people for whom the issue of the hour is not an intellectual exercise – but is real life.

I see it in my liberal and conservative and moderate friends. I see it in myself, my employer, my family, and in my communities I live and worship in.

For the sake of example, I noticed comments about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. I saw where people belittled one another for one view or another, and even questioning how one side could be called Christian; then saw the exact reverse of that siding and other-ing elsewhere. I noticed rants about Chick-fil-a mixed in, and witnessed comparisons and contrasts.

I missed something though, and maybe that’s why I feel so compelled to write about it. What about the point of view of the one who is really affected? The one who gets ignored in the cross hairs of firing our rhetoric at one another.

I feel pain for women who have difficulty in taking oral contraceptives and cannot have access to other means of birth control due to their employer. I cringe for them when people say callous things like “get a job elsewhere” or there are plenty of employers who will support it, go work for them. Have those who say such things tested the job market lately? Not to mention, I wonder at how cruel it is that someone has to find another job with a place that might not be as good of a fit due to rules like that.

I don’t have to wonder long. I worked as an intern, and then as an adjunct counselor at my alma mater. I even applied for a full-time position there. However, at the advice of dear friends who knew the double life I would have to lead, I decided not to go through with pursuing what was an amazing opportunity, and excellent fit, and truly – a dream job for me. Lee University does not allow LGBT people to work there. It goes against their version of Christianity.

So, I know all too well of missed opportunity and the sting of feeling like a black sheep to an institution or company you once called home and truly felt part of. I still am looking for work that is fulfilling and a good fit for me. Women who find yourself in a similar position – who have to choose between the birth control you need and the employer you feel loyal to – to LGBT people who cannot work where you wish because of discriminatory hiring practices – To others who relate – I stand with you. I am so sorry. I know the pain. It is real.

I think about the whole Chick-fil-a debacle, and wonder at how many people still take the stance of still eating their food even though the company made a stance they disagree with politically. Then I remember the vivid images of the charred remains of an African gay man, brutally murdered in his village for being gay. I think about the fear and sheer terror of African lesbian women in Uganda and other countries who have been victims of so-called “corrective rape” – and I shudder when I remember that the funding that taught hatred in the name of God in those parts of Africa came partially from the Family Research Council, a listed hate-group with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a group which Chick-fil-a donated their proceeds to. All of that got covered up, ironically, by a statement against gay marriage that sent some straight into lines to contribute to the system, while others picketed against statements made instead of the dollars which had turned into blood money.

I feel for the father and mother of the son who was a prisoner of war; regardless of how he came to be in captivity. Regardless of how their behavior may have been inappropriate – but showed their desperation for their son to be returned home safely to them.

I feel for the children, and the parents of children who do everything in their means to escape their own country to join ours.

I feel for the girl in my town, who was brutalized at an after-party on the night of prom.

I feel… and I instinctively touch my belly, wanting so badly to protect the little one inside. To protect our precious daughter or son from the evils, but also from the indifference¬† – including the indifference that comes in the guise of caring.

It’s too easy to write a status about praying for families where the latest shooting occurred, too easy to call someone we have never met a traitor, too easy to say someone should make this choice or that choice.

It’s much harder to reflect on what we can do about gun violence and start acting on it. Much harder to listen when we want to reply. Much harder to walk with someone through life’s difficult moments and to truly be with them in their pain so that they can make hard choices and not be alone. Much harder to see where we can lay our own positions of power aside, to give rise to justice for someone else.

So, instead of facebooking about the issues, I think the best thing for me is to live a life I can be proud of in front of my wife, and in front of our children. I think it’s best for me to call my friends and see how they are instead of relying on “liking” pictures and quick texts and wall-posts. I think it would do me and the world more good if I write my representatives more often, participate in actions locally and more widely, and if I stop intellectualizing¬† – which I believe is the defense mechanism of our current society.

This is as much to me as to anyone else.

Surely, we can live life in a way more real, more meaningful, and more productive than superfluous comments and statements on social media; more than the degrading name calling we engage in when talking about someone different than us – no matter how rude or spiteful they have been to us; more than the idea that “liking” or “sharing” is really doing something good.

We live in a technological bubble. Let’s pop it. And truly engage with one another. Sit face-to-face and have real conversations. I hope this post sparks some conversations of your own.

As a child of the 80s, I thought virtual reality was the coolest thing ever.

But now, I think real life is.

Go and live it, friends. Abundantly.

Love,

C.