peace and other good feelings

Rebecca Witte Photography - please do not reproduce without permission

we've been warned - she may be placid, sweet and calm now, but just wait, her personality will change.

it might. that's okay.

but right now the most peaceful feeling i can remember encountering, ever, is watching our baby sleep... and there is nothing quite like the excitement and joy that comes over us when we see her learn to hold her head up and turn to a voice, to practice little laughs in her sleep, to smile and coo at us, to grasp my hand when she nurses ...

i want you to know, i think it's pretty great.



it must be one of the oldest and newest feelings on earth - the overwhelming, breath-taking, awe-inducing love and trepidation that sweeps over a woman, and a couple, when her child breathes a first breath. i cannot imagine anything else like it.

i sit in the den, lit by the glow of our christmas tree, and marvel at the sweet soft skin and adorable squeaks (yes, squeaks) and murmurs of my daughter as she sleeps. she is 12 days old. she is perfect.

and we all arrive like this. how can anyone not be filled with love and awe at the thought of this event? how can we learn to see eachother as we were - new, pure and whole, as my mother says:  closer to God? we were all there... and we all should be loved as much as our little ezri.

she will, without a doubt, grow and learn and become capable of doing things that will exasperate, bewilder, challenge and even dissapoint us. she will, without a doubt, become her own person full of her own opinions and ideas, thoughts that are unique to herself... and i may not get them all... i know that this tiny, beautiful individual will become so many things. she will always know that in my eyes she is whole and she is perfect.

i may not always succeed in communicating this to her - she may even come to believe at times that she is far from it - but all i see as i watch her sleep is all the good God has found in the two of us, all i see is what i hope He sees in us, and i have a taste of the love our Creator has and the vision He holds for us.

the nights can be long, and sleep patterns have altered drastically, i may at times feel tethered to this little thing, and there may be moments where i gladly will hand her to others who love her so i can rest... but the words to describe us right now sound like peace, contentment, awe, gratitude and perfect.


observations from a rapidly changing vantage point

* i am no longer "college age" and really don't understand the kids on FB these days

* going to an "organic"/"natural" baby store replete with cloth diapers and nursing covers is an exciting outing

* i am okay with not agreeing with my friends on everything political, spiritual and otherwise

* other people seem to think i'm confident and outspoken at times. huh.

* my husband gets more interesting, more attractive and more considerate every day. marrying him has been the best thing

* we will not always live where we can pick and choose where we worship, who the best choices for friendship are, or what activities we participate in

* people don't always appreciate the things you consider to be gifts shared with them. and there's not always a lot you can do about that

* i am actually becoming okay with the idea of "staying home" with my child for a while... without the guilt of "i should be using my degree and succeeding in a career"... that does not have to define me and be a measure of my worth

* i've spent 8 months carrying this beautiful child, and i can't wait to meet her. it astonishes me how much anticipation and readiness resides within my heart

* perhaps, perhaps, i am finally becoming okay with losing the girl i was at 19 because the woman i am at 28 is far more interesting and truly content



next to godly living, the biggest priority and most valued achievements in my family life have been centered around education. i've said to friends before that religion and education (and religious education) are the family businesses. not that we have loads of family members infiltrating the public education system, or that we have a large percentage of hebrew scholars discussing open theology and what have you's at reunions (though that would all be very cool)... but that after or right under the central theme - god-focused life - we all have been taught (ha!) to revere learning in any state.

i told mom the other day that she has a didactic personality.

this is equal parts nature and nurture in my opinion. if you take my mother as an example, she gets her habit of constant instruction (in her wonderful, gentle nature) from her genes (thank you Loy and Donna) and from her parenting and life experiences (oh, thanks again Loy and Donna ;). and she's passed it down, with the equal participation of my father, one of the best teachers i know.

and i see it in myself - a self-described know it all with too much "trivia" in my head. i may not be constantly constructing a lesson with my daily dialogue like some of my esteemed relatives (uncle stan is one of the best in finding a way to sum up every convo - i love it), but my eyes are open and my ears pricked to any useful piece of daily info - you never know when someone might need to know about the history of crisco (did you know it was originally intended to be marketed as SOAP?) or how to get in touch with the local chamber of commerce to promote your charity of the month. i know the most random things, and they are the most remarkably useful things sometimes. i can tell you all about how to relocate to henderson tn by the way.

since "imparting wisdom" seems to be a biblical kind of thing to do, i suppose i shouldn't be surprised that it's ingrained in my life patterns. perhaps every preacher's kid and teacher's kid feels this way too.

lately, i've thought a lot about what we will teach ezri. i can see eric telling her all about world history, video games, how the us government works, and challenging her to think critically about everything she encounters, how to laugh at the slapstick of animaniacs and wit of cs lewis - he will have so many gifts to share with our little girl. the images i have in mind are of a relationship that is forged over time, like the ones i value between myself and my parents and so many of those educator-relatives (like my granma Wheat and her wonderful insights)

she'll probably get used to my political rants, my musings on being a woman in our culture and belief system, and learn to roll her eyes at my inconsistencies. i hope some of it will make sense. i hope that she learns to do what her grandma Donna always said to do when listening to someone else - to find the meat and spit out the bones.

education is part of a lifelong pursuit, a romance with knowledge and a thirst for growth. it is not a period in your life that revolves around class periods, dry tests, popularity contests and competition. it's a daily curiosity and a passion for what you have faith in. the best teachers in my life will always be mentoring me and urging me to push further... they remain with me. some of them are called instructors, by vocation, others are simply repositories of love and wisdom who have inspired me (ron and judy warpole, julie osburn, becky youngblood, chara watson... it's a long list)

and their characteristics that i will arm myself with as i forge this new relationship with the little ball of energy kicking and squirming under my ribs? patience. humility. love. honesty. fearlessness. hope. discernment. an open and listening heart.

so keep on teaching me, teachers.


unearthing an image

i know what kind of little girl i was. my mother probably wouldn't let me forget. i loved my dolls, i read, i played house and dress up incessantly. my brothers were forced to play church and house and who knows what else with me - they were pretty good sports. my imagination was endless, but like so many small children, it also centered on mimicry of daily life. so, i played the mommy. i loved on my babies and bossed my brothers like they were my babies too. fortunately, they survived just fine and now treat me with great indulgence and understanding. see, i trained them right.

there's no denying i was a "girly" (ah, stereotyping) girl. i had barbies (something i wish to avoid with ezri), i loved pink and to this day i love dressing up and dressing other people up. sure, i also played outside and loved to swim and even get messy at times, i was also pretty geeky and after a certain age went nowhere without a book. so, wanting to be a "mommy" is, or should be, a naturally deeply ingrained desire that i cannot fully articulate, right?

sure. yeah... i guess.

but there are times when i feel like i'm having to dig through layers and layers of memory, old games, toys, tea sets, books... like alice falling through the rabbit hole actually... in order to find the pictures i held so close to my heart, the ones of when i'd grow up to be a mother.

on days like the ones i've had this week, i have really searched for that image for comfort. when i feel like a ping pong ball being bounced between clinics and hospital and all the (great) staff and docs involved and i come home exhausted with less answers and more misery... i need to remember that the end result will be wonderful and deeply desired. it is.

i had a good cry on my husband's shoulder when he got home last night. i feel like everything i thought or expected of this pregnancy is screwy. my heart rate and such is off and wears me out something fierce and ridiculous, turns out it's something genetic that's been there all along... they sent me for another glucose test. i was fine with the screening, no big, but this test came at a bad time in the middle of a week where i've already had enough of medical stuff. it's just not how i expected to be pregnant.

and really, it's not all that bad. it's nothing on some experiences i know of, and nothing on the experiences of those who deal with life changing illness. it's just me, whining about a couple of simple tests. new to me, but not that bad. i know i'm in good hands and that something will be sorted... i just hate that there is something to be sorted...

when all i'd like to do is have the energy to tidy our room, and plan and dream and think of what it will be like to have this little one. and as i sit here and watch "rudy" with eric, i think about the possibility of a little boy someday too... wow. wow.

i have a lot of dear friends who made this passage what seems like ages ago... my life has been on its own timetable for a while... a little "behind the curve" from some of the girls i went to college with... and they are blossoming into these earth mothers, these incredible talents that are making art filled lives for themselves and their families.

it's an intimidating act to follow. and, i'll confess, there are just times when the idea of being absorbed by potty training, terrible twos, speech development, school choices... yeah. absorbed is the word.

i know what we want for our child... or at least, some of it... that image is getting clearer... but i don't want to lose who i am, or who we are, i want it to be the picture she holds close to her heart like we've held sweet pictures of our mothers and dads close to ours. those pictures are of whole and vibrant people that we wanted to be like. i am so glad we have them.

the reason i played "mommy" all those years ago, and loved on my sweet brothers and bossed them, and read books that filled my heart with dreams of women who had full lives, adventure and family - was i wanted to be like my mom. god provided me with the inspiration in my mother, my grandmothers, and countless others to do this.

and so, between naps and exhausting spells, my heart whispers, "i think i can... i know i can... i am... i will be little donna ezri's mother."

but just know, the mommy club is scary... anyone want to hold my hand?


4:46 am

and i'm up. have been since 4 am. there's coffee in the press, and i've finished a bowl of cereal - might be time for another... i just gave in this morning. the dreams were no good, and my heart was racing because of my paranoid brain.

i am terrified of not feeling ezri move.

a month ago or so, at the check up before last with the OB, one of the sheets handed to me by the nurse was entitled "kick counts". oh, that is too cute - soon i'll be feeling her move more and more, and i can count the kicks... that's great, right?


as my dad observed the other day to my mother when he saw this sheet, "oh great, another thing to make stefanie paranoid."

now, i love the clinic i'm going to and the two OB doctors who are overseeing me and my pregnancy. they are attentive, straightforward and generally great. the one doc took care of me during our miscarriage last year and i could not have asked for better treatment. and they're so good at mapping out what's ahead... yeah, including letting you know how much your baby should be kicking after 26 weeks' development.

10 times in an hour... if you haven't felt her move that much in an hour, they give you a formula for how long you should wait before calling the doc.

so, every time she doesn't move for a while, or really - when i don't FEEL her for a while (she may be moving, and i'm too busy taking orders, doing dishes, baking or serving coffee) - i start to quietly freak out.

it doesn't help that i have that repository of horror stories to fall back on. thanks moms. not that some of it could be helped - life happens around you, and you hear things, and you should so that you can grieve with the tellers - but, this brain of mine conjures far too often. i think it's worse with age, really i do.

so when my heart starts pounding through my skin whilst i fight off a dream about emma thompson having twin nieces in a bbc crime show, and even in my dream i have this underlying track of, "is baby moving? please God, take care of her... reassure me..." yeah. it's time to wake up, tell myself to calm down and breathe, and take care of the gnawing pregnancy hunger... and then she squirms, and punches, and i allow myself to calm down a little.

and i know that the rest of my life will be like this. holding my breath every time the bad stuff passes us by, praying that my little girl will be spared whatever evil i see, and knowing that eventually she will let us know, "i'm okay, i've got this."

because, she's our baby, and that's what she'll do.

and maybe now i'll be able to dream about that instead.



it's been a while - like a few weeks - since i've had this experience, it used to happen almost every morning. getting in the shower, or preparing for work in the morning, the wave of regret and guilt hits me and the thought: why didn't i just go to memphis, or anywhere else?

two years ago, i graduated with a BA in theatre performance after battling a lot of life's twists and turns (dropping out, bad grades, the divorce...) and to top it off, went straight to a genuine job at a theatre company in cincinnati. so many good things were flooding over me. my parents helped me move, i had a boyfriend - the best friend i never anticipated - and i was going to live downtown and walk to the theatre every day. i was going to make connections and charm people and surprise them with my management and creative abilities.

none of it, none of the big parts, were what i expected.

and on quiet or dark mornings, i still wake up and blame myself for not being better. why couldn't i do what i've seen a zillion other creative, talented theatre types do and just throw myself into things there? why could i not connect? i know there are a zillion reasons why. i've gone through them all.

i suppose that this is my one regret over the last couple of years. self-derailment.

one of my favorite people, someone who gave me beyond excellent references when i was hunting for theatre work, asked me what happened there the other day. i was more than glad he asked, it gave me a chance to think about it. it's still hard to sum up.

it didn't work out. i got distracted. it wasn't what i expected. i wasn't what they expected. it was a time when i was sorting out some things spiritually and mentally. it was a time when i was falling in love and far from the man i wanted to marry.

so many things were healing in my heart that i needed fixed. so many things were happening in my head that just needed to happen. all the dark and brooding thoughts from many years of dissapointment were shrinking away... i had gotten my degree, i'd proved to myself that i could do something i'd always wanted. i'd even won the respect of mentors that i loved. i'd been part of a church that felt like home. i saw myself as an intelligent, well rounded and creative woman who could offer a small amount of hard earned wisdom.

i wonder if any job i'd taken would have stuck at that time.

i still had some wilderness to climb through before i could see my newer self. i couldn't get traction in cincinnati, maybe it was because i was simply meant to keep walking through. it meant i lost something i'd wanted for a long time, but i also gained things that will be with me a lifetime. that, i don't regret.

life has been weird, good, rewarding, hard and unexpected since then. i am married to the best person i know. he puts up with my strange ways, even enjoys them. i am having a baby. wow. i've worked a year in a school system that has shown me that i can teach and enjoy it. the community in winfield is a good one, and i am thankful God led us to stay here and help minister and work in the church here for a while. i am beyond proud of my husband's academic achievements, and how he has grown spiritually and in his ability to lead and teach.

it's a good life. sometimes i still feel like i'm simply in another transition, and i am, but it is one that i trust and do not fear. i have chosen it. i still ache to do something creative. i still miss working on shows, and being at the center of it. i will be there again. i have to be.

someday, i will direct the plays i have listed in the back of my journal since i was a junior in college. someday i will find the right place, and the right way to do theatre again. it may be with a sleeping baby wrapped in a sling on my hip, or with my husband watching little ezri while i take notes and write down blocking... but i can do it, and want to, in the right time.

when i get some traction. somewhere. i know how to look to the horizon and keep my feet on the ground.


why my husband is better than me

my husband just came in the door, sweaty and grass covered from mowing our lawn. it's 8 pm on a wednesday night. we came home and he said he needed to "cool down" by mowing. yeah.

so, it is not a secret that i have large opinions, larger emotions and lots of energy behind each conviction i express. i like this about me, most of the time. i have also realized in the past couple of years that these things can be dangerous. being invested in things means getting upset when things take a bad turn. it means getting angry and defensive for "your side", and wanting to give people a piece of your mind.

sometimes, that is good. IF you can get it out clearly, concisely and without being overwhelmed by the urge to punch through a wall instead.

my husband stood by my side about two months ago as i faced a fear of mine and talked to someone i would rather have hit at the time. i knew that i needed to listen to this person and the concerns he had. i knew that it would be wrong of me not to, and that if i simply went on angry and defensive without listening to him and expressing my concerns and reaction to his face that i would implode. it was the jesus-y thing to do. eric was wonderful. he quietly stood through my encounter with this person and reinforced the love i wanted to express over the hurt i felt at some of the things that person said and implied.

tonight, he followed a kid (i say kid because he chose to act like one, he's old enough to know better) out of the church building and called him out on something very uncool that he did. he actually stood there and made this person listen to some straight things. this is a kid who thinks he is always right and always wronged. this is a kid who hasn't had the best examples at times and doesn't know how to react when someone confronts him in love over anything he might have done wrong.

i don't know how he did it.

i've wanted to wring necks, and shout at the top of my lungs, and seriously beat up on some people lately. people that i know i need to love, and really really do. that's why it hurts so much when they do and say things that hurt other people i love. i know this sounds vague. chalk it up to a preacher's kid rant if you will. i am intensely proud of my parents ministry and their devotion to a calling that is not easy. they are loved and respected by so many wonderful people. it's amazing how the power of one or two negative voices can knock you down and cut you through. i don't know why it works that way.

and tonight, if i'd been eric, i don't think i would have had the presence of mind, patience and hope in humanity that he had to go out and talk to a kid that obviously has been hurting for a long time. i think all i would have done is yell.

so when i don't get all the negativity and really really don't understand these people i'm called to love, my sweet sweet husband reminds me how it's done.


to my daughter, three months before her birth

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Donna Ezri,

As soon as we knew that I was pregnant with you, your father and I began a list of names. Your daddy made lists of beautiful names, writing them in Elvish and debating their pronunciation with me. We dreamed of you, and with each good doctorʼs visit and each day I noticed my body changing to take care of you we began to imagine what kind of person you would be. There is no one I have anticipated knowing with greater excitement than you. We already know that you are beautiful and perfect and our gift from God. We are praying every day that we will grow to be the parents you need.

We wanted to give you names that are strong and beautiful. Names that will stay with you all your life that you will be proud of.

You are named Donna for my sweet Grandma Donna, your Grandma Nancyʼs mother. She died eight years ago this summer and we all miss her and long for the time when we will know her again in heaven. She was a wise and lovely woman who loved her family and showed kindness to everyone. Her gentleness and intelligence, laughter and creativity, patience, and devotion to the Creator are things that I know she shared with all of us. You will have these things too. “Donna” means “woman”, just like the name Eve does. It reminds me of the beauty and power God put into each of us, it makes me think of Mary the mother of Jesus who allowed God to shape her life in ways she could never have anticipated. Your life will be incredible if you let Him shape it, just like your great-grandmother did.

You are named Ezri. It is based on the Hebrew name “Ezra” and the word “ebenezer”, they mean “helper” and “stone of help”. Your father and I wanted you to have this name because it is beautiful and because we know how God has been our helper and how he has reminded us of how we need him. He will guide and love you always. Of course, your uncles will tell you that we named you for a character on Star Trek: DS9. It didnʼt hurt that we loved the sound of the name from a show that we both enjoy. The character is one you can be proud of sharing a name with. It is unique and you can make it what you want it to be.

We already love you so much. Seeing your fuzzy outline on the ultrasound monitor made our hearts leap with joy. Your little spine and ribs were like strings of pearls, and the beating of your heart is the best sound I have ever heard. We canʼt believe that you are ours and feel so blessed that God has allowed us to have you.


Your Mommy and Daddy


observations and ruminations of a first time mother

take it as a sign that i truly am hormonal and pregnant - but i must rant, yet again.

okay, maybe it's not always a rant, but i must at the very least muse.

observations since i have made my pregnancy known to all 
(all being facebook and the big world beyond, of course)

- everyone on fb is pregnant or is enamored of their newborn

- the profile pic of your baby (once sex is determined, of course) must go up, it is de rigeuer. of course, this may mean an extra five seconds of "who is that commenting on my wall?" while squinting at an adorable fuzzy baby outline too.

- people, not just older or very younger who might be excused due to unfamiliarity with current medical technology, do not understand that it takes a while until the ultrasound tech can make that educated guess as to whether you're having a boy or a girl... like, at least 20 weeks for most people.

- oh, and people want to know and don't understand you not wanting to know the potential sex of your child.

- question i am sick of: are you excited about the baby?

um - how do you answer this? yes, i am excited about the drastic life changing event and how it is irreversible and permanent and completely unfamiliar to me... i am excited about doing something that is just about completely new in every way to me... yep.

or, uh - duh, i'm excited. we live in a culture where, thanks to the availability of contraception etc., having a baby can be a choice - we decided to get married and all that that entails, including procreation, so - we're excited.

but i've never been the bouncy giddy let's ooh and aah and spontaneously break into baby talk type. why should that completely change now? note, please, that i left room for change... i'm not foolish enough to deny the effects of the hormones racing through my body of late, or the intensely satisfying dreams i've had recently where i glimpse my little one's face - a composite of all the babies i've ever held and loved.

back to observations

- horror stories! good grief people! i don't know why finding out that i am due in november inspires some people to tell all their worst experiences or stories relating to infertility, miscarriage, stillbirths, birth complications, childhood diseases and conditions... and the list goes on! why???

i am, of course, a sympathetic listener and want people to feel comfortable relating to me. i know that the relation of these stories are strangely well-meant, and a part of the initiation rituals of motherhood. i can see that. but please, can you tell me happy or funny stories instead? i can handle gross or even long winded boring stories about children and grandchildren i will never know but an endless saga about a friend's pregnancy challenges only adds to this paranoid's list of anxieties.

- under the same category i suppose:
reasons why person a, b or c ended up having a c-section, saying yes to drugs, choosing to bottle-feed, or anything else that is the opposite of what i _hope_ (note-hope! i am a realist) to do.

we all have ideals of what the beginning of motherhood/parenthood will be like. i know that these things do not always come to fruition in the manner one expects. two things:

1. don't assume that i am naive enough to be inflexible when it comes to my own ideals
2. realize that i have many, many positive examples and mentors available when it comes to practicing what i wish to do in my own pregnancy, birth experience, and early baby nurturing time.

i value good advice and hard won experience. i don't quite understand the need to excuse ones' self from any choices made in a birth story.

well, enough observation for now i suppose. thank you for the rambling rant... 

and now i will tell you happy things about my own pregnancy. things i wish to remember.

- the baby moves a lot. this is the best reassurance in the world to me after the loss of our first pregnancy. i am truly astonished each time i feel a flutter or nudge.

- i don't look that pregnant yet... in fact i've lost weight since the pregnancy began. this amuses me and the doctors are pleased at how healthy we both are so far.

- but i did buy maternity clothes. the capris with the ever so attractive "panel" are soooo comfy. and i've stretched enough to need them.

- i love every baby and small person i see. no, see, i'm not normally that way. i am the type that is guilty of remarking that certain acquaintances "spawned", or are "breeding" when they announce a pregnancy... yeah. and i like little people a lot, but i don't necessarily swoon over each one like many sweet friends of mine do.

- i am nostalgic, sentimental, teary, moody and generally intense. to which you say, wasn't she already?

best of all- 

this experience is making me a more honest and determined human being. it is challenging me to straighten my priorities and know myself more than i have before. the idea of imprinting myself on a new little person is incredible and humbling. without cliche, i want to do my best and give the best to this little one.


look at this, modesty/fashion rant to follow someday


this site is full of really stylish and beautiful gowns for formal events and weddings... i wish i'd known about it ages ago. it apparently is a company run by members of the LDS church, who tend to be far more circumspect about dressing modestly than many other faith groups.

as someone who really loves design, fashion and beautiful things, i've struggled with being clear on my own stance about personal modesty. as a young woman raised to christianity, i think it's incredibly important that my whole being (physical + spiritual) not counteract the message i want to convey. it's always surprised me to find that there are so many people who i consider like-minded who obviously throw the modesty angle right out the window when dressing for "occasions".

more on this later, for now enjoy the pretties.



there are times when i think, know, that i must sound downright angry and negative. i like to say that culture shock has never worn off for me as a missions kid. i don't know if it's just that. i want to credit some of how i react to the culture around me to my family and mentors who modeled a life that is simple, focused and noble. mine is not necessarily any of those things, which may be why i get heartsick.

money is on my mind. the past ten years of my life, the ones that comprise my adult life, have been filled with mis-steps and misadventures... they've been full of good too... but many of the challenges i've had seem to be rooted at times in poorly thought out financial decisions. i've gotten good at getting out of jams, i've learned how to talk to collectors, i've found out ways to set up payment plans and defer loan payments, i've learned how to avoid and how to get by without things that really ought to come first.

and i'm discovering my story is not that rare. but it makes me sick.

i wasn't raised to be materialistic... however, even with the best of intentions to avoid "worldly" influence, i've been seduced by the "need" for a cell phone plan, the "wisdom" of building credit, and a slew of other things. i've chosen to get a new outfit over saving that same money toward the mounting student loan payments that are always in the back of my mind.

do you know what i mean?

eric and i are starting something big. we have no illusions that this will be easy. we want to be debt free in 3 to 5 years. i have more student loan debt than anyone with a mere BA should have, and various and sundry post college debts we've accrued that in the end were not necessary if we had just said no to ourselves. our recent trip to and from tennessee was encouraging. we budgeted. the envelope system. and the way there and back, i read dave ramsey out loud. i cried. we talked. and we got excited about tackling something that we have seen eat at people we love and respect all our lives.

today was not easy for my sweet husband. he had to argue his way through a payment plan with the cell phone company. we cancelled our plan but had termination fees and past due stuff they charged us for. before he got on the phone, he decided how much we could pay _right now_ to take care of this. he stuck to it, and that is what he did in the end. it took an hour of bouncing between four or so customer service reps before they got it through their heads that we weren't going to be guilted into rash and sudden commitments of money we don't have (ie. credit cards or, can't someone loan you the money right now?) i am so proud of him, but this experience made him feel 2 feet tall.

what is wrong with us?

someone tries to be honest and only use the means they have at their disposal to take responsibility for something - and that person is made to feel foolish, irresponsible and small. don't get me wrong, we haven't managed all our finances well, but we are taking action to fix that and instead of applause we get rotten tomatoes.


and then i visit with friends and family who are happily putting down plastic for new iphones or choosing to extend their direct tv package. their kids' favorite things to do are go shopping at target or eat at mcdonalds... they don't know what it's like to not have cable or to plan ahead enough so they can share a car anymore.

these are the choices we celebrate in america. why?

these are the choices we celebrate as people of faith - why? what happened to the lilies of the field, and the sparrows? where is my treasure supposed to be buried again? i am horrified when i see teenagers expect such luxuries like their own car, a cell phone, a computer of their own... i'm sure they thank their parents, but what did their parents have to do to pay for those things? do those kids have any idea of the value of the things they have? i know i've lost touch with the true value of these things, they won't even have the advantage of ever knowing.

specific pictures come to mind. of young men close to me who have been questioned and criticized for choosing a life of ministry instead of a life of accountancy, or some other "stable" career path. how can anyone criticize a person for choosing to serve others over serving self? if it's in a person's heart to serve the Creator in that way, shouldn't we praise him or her?!

and if i choose to live, for a time, in a humble low income apartment instead of breaking my back to buy a house way before i can afford it, shouldn't you praise me too? if i choose to save the money i could be using to eat out with friends now in order to later live without guilt, a hug and word of encouragement would be so much more welcome than the unspoken criticism that i have felt at times for making a wise choice...

and so, it makes me heartsick when i see our lives wrapped in consumerism to the point that it is difficult for any of us to see straight, but i am hopeful. today, i am hopeful that someday soon i will be able to breathe and not wonder if i can really afford to buy a second gallon of milk at the end of the month. i am hopeful that someday sooner than i know, i will be able to wake up with my child in the mornings and know that we can spend the whole day together without the strain of daycare, work schedules and credit card bills to pay.

and somehow, that makes my heart sigh at the little reliefs along the way, like my husband telling at&t what for.


tv rant, what else is new?

it always surprises me how people of moderate to high intelligence and good morals can easily forfeit all of the above when it comes to their choices of entertainment. at the moment, i am specifically thinking of television and film.

i guess i should mention my "junk food" philosophy for my own viewing choices first. simply put, even the healthiest eaters/consumers on occasion like to indulge in a cheeseburger and milkshake... and the same can be said for any person who generally is choosy about what media and entertainment she consumes. on occasion i watch pointless shows, movies and random you tube videos because they're complete fluff, and then i go about my day hopefully choosing not to binge too long on "19 and Counting" or "LA Ink", to name a couple of my recently odd obsessions...

we all do it, i recognize that. here's what scares me, fellow americans: the obsession.

so, if you didn't know, abc's "lost" recently wrapped up - it sent eric into a binge, watching all of seasons 1- 5 in about oh, a month. he'd never watched it before, and i hadn't past season 3 (i gave up because i had a life at the time) as the end of season 5 approached, we were brain-sick. although it is a fairly good show, i can't imagine being a die-hard fan. i have friends who had parties for the final episode, and posted ridiculous statuses all over fb and the like about it afterwards... people - it's just a show!

that's not to say, however, that if there were a star trek series airing currently that i might not be a little bit obsessed myself - thanks to my dad and grandma, i am a die hard trekkie. BUT! that, of course, is different right?

but here's the really strange thing about current trends in tv that get me frustrated... the sheer gullibility, it seems, of the american public when it comes to these truly awful "reality shows". i know, this rant comes way late - i mean, people were going on about this ten years ago now.

it simply amazes me how intensely some people, who i find to be pleasant and intelligent in every way, choose to identify with the participants and "celebrity hosts" on shows such as "the bachelor", "dancing with the stars", "american idol" (maybe i could identify with dear simon), or my least favorite: "the biggest loser".

again, in my moments of junk food urge tv watching, i will confess to having watched these shows. i will even admit to having looked at the "biggest loser" website in a moment of emotional and existential misery and contemplated becoming a contestant - wow. but thank god - it passed! and the next day, i looked at my wasted hours of watching and cringed in shame.

you know the people i'm talking about. i'm thinking of a couple in their 50's right now who are devout christians, politically conservative, devoted to education and all things good - their favorite show? dancing with the stars. how? how can a person who would never think to wear anything made of lycra and rhinestones, and certainly not anything revealing cleavage or thigh, who would never sponsor a highschool dance or prom, spend a season wondering if the star football player will succeed in learning to do an authentic tango?

or the girls my age, who are certainly their own people, who are not shy to share their opinions and express their dreams of finding partners who respect them someday, who watch "the bachelor" in all its tacky glory, and seem riveted to shows like "sixteen and pregnant"? i am sick at heart when these shows come up in conversation. surely there is something better to spend your time on. surely these lovely and intelligent women can see how shows like this undermine the value of women at large and encourage negative and unhealthy attitudes toward sexual and emotional relationships... aaaagghhhh.

and finally, why i cannot stand "biggest loser" and shows of that ilk. they are marketed as self help, inspiration, and the like, as we see product after product spew from these franchises that are nothing more than sugar water saying it's a magic cure all. these shows take people who have obviously struggled with their physical and sometimes emotional well being, and break them down, exploiting them and putting them through extreme and sometimes life threatening "challenges", in order to produce what we all want: good tv. that's it.

as a woman who has struggled with self image, a bad relationship, and in the last few years - weight gain, i see most of these shows as pure poison. probably of the alcoholic variety - something that goes down smooth, makes you feel good, and then twists it all into pure misery in a very short amount of time. how does any one watch a show like this and not feel completely powerless and worthless? it is bottled false hope. and we ought to know by now, that this is what sells best in our world.


a first attempt

it is another unusually brilliant sunny day in northern italy. the roses and geraniums are profuse and embarassingly bright. it's humid, but not unbearably so. i've walked the dog, managed to take a shower and even prepare a meal. it's more than i've been able to do all week. the house is in disarray, beds unmade and trash piled up and begging to be taken out...

an argument errupts moments after he comes home. i think about it now, and can understand his perspective. he'd worked all day, i'd been home all day - why can't the house be clean? why can't i take care of it, it's not like i'm working?

these memories intrude on my every day life at times. sometimes i can simply push them back and say it's past... they are remnants of a struggle long ago set aside. there are times though, when this and other more searing images press into my heart and i cannot set them back in their place easily.

the prompt for recent remembrances:
an "exchange", as a friend termed it, on my preferred social networking site that stirred up a good question, old feelings, and a desire or prompting to share. although it's been my determination from day one of separation and then divorce from my ex-husband to be open about the difficulties and growth earned from it, i really do not relish sharing deeply. i don't think that i need to.

but it hit me this morning, as i said goodbye to my sweet eric as he left to job hunt once more, that i have reasons to rejoice, and reasons to share, and how will anyone know who i am if i don't tell them why i believe what i believe?

am i an evangelical or what?

so, to the good question:
"stefanie, why are you - the daughter of a couple devoted to christian ministry and fairly conservative and moderate in all respects - a feminist?"

okay, so this is something that i feel - in person or online - that i can never fully answer in one fell swoop. that may change over the years, as i hope age will teach me to be wiser and more concise, but in the meantime i wish to tackle this.

my first answer:
i identify myself as a feminist because it is the right thing for me as a Christian and a woman in my culture to do. like so many things that we come to realize about ourselves in early life, becoming comfortable with saying, "i am a feminist" has been a natural part of recognizing who i am as an individual and that it is something about me that has been there all along.

the old feelings:
are connected to the memories. they are so complex and tangled. many are connected to an attempted marriage that ended in heartbreak, some are connected to the naivete that my young sheltered self had ten years ago, some have been around me as long as i can remember.

- the gut reaction occurred when someone i respect said, "i want nothing to do with feminism... i am content to let my husband lead... and, i don't see the need to vote and don't value my right as a woman to do so..." (these are paraphrased)

- memory: being told that i am "the wife", and i should allow my husband to take care of all major decisions. that i had no right to spend money that was supposed to be "ours", and that because i wasn't working, the only thing i should do is maintain the household. i had no input, and was treated to an array of explosive and abusive remarks if i asked about my husbands whereabouts after work, how money was spent etc.

this experience was created by a legacy of teaching, in example and word, that is not Christ-like in any way and is the result of generations of a simple precedent set: women do not deserve the same rights as me. an implicit, subconscious message that is acted out far more than verbalized.

the abuses i dealt with came from a young angry and confused man who had never seen a healthy marriage of two Christian individuals... and i don't repeat this story to blacken his image, but to say that i have some strong feelings as to why it is important to continue reminding women of their worth. i believe that young men need to see their mothers own who they are, and to be respected and valued as individuals by their mates.

my prompting:
and desire is to explain my stance. i hope it is a stance of many other women with similar backgrounds to mine - those who were raised in a perceived "conservative Christian" atmosphere - and that others might join in the conversation.

so here it is. i believe that feminism is something that can and ought to be embraced by women from all walks. that it is a movement that should be open to all persuasions in the political, religious and lifestyle spectrums. until it is just that, we as women have not won our cause to create a world that is fair and equal for all.

as a Christian, while on this world i have an obligation to stand up for those who have no voice and to protect the sanctity of life around me. i cannot ignore an injustice that affects me so directly.

as the second wave coined it: the personal is political. and for me it intersects with this: the spiritual is personal. i cannot see how the son of God could teach anything that would encourage us to view half of the world as secondary in any way.

this is my start, there will be more. in the meantime, books:


facebook doesn't need to know the minute details of my...


it's a sunny windy warm kansas afternoon. eric is in wichita for class, and i've had the day off, excellently timed after an arduous but rewarding weekend with the kids we took to LTC. it's taken about 24 hours, but i am finally relaxing.

a decidedly not new observation i'm sure, but: nothing is made easier by being pregnant.

and this new mother to be is having a time adjusting. i suppose it's the whole thing i always come up against - i do not like having my self reliance questioned, taken away, or negated. i worked hard to become happily independent, and have gotten spoiled to the small amount i have.

so when you're not always sure whether you'll be able to stand without getting dizzy, or whether to eat what is put in front of you or run to the restroom politely, and it's just plain hard to "hear" anyone because you're so dang sick, doing things on your own without the awareness of others is out of the question.

yes, i know. my mother's nodding sagely and every person who has ever had a child is rolling out their encyclopedic knowledge of morning sickness cures and fatigue fixes. there is no way to do this quietly, or on your own. not if you have an adorable husband who has a list of baby names a mile long, and are going to the church where your father and mother are ministering. the chances of me holding on to this bit of news and being able to keep my mouth shut until that 20 week ultrasound are none to none.

having a child is one of the things i assumed i would have done long before now, when i was adorable, young and naive. well, it didn't happen that way, and i'm glad for many reasons... mainly because my child's father was meant to be eric and no one else, pretty sure ;) and that this is the first place in my life that i've found to fit any of this in.

despite the fact that i always assumed i'd be the child bearing kind, eventually, i am a basket case at times exhausted in an effort to avoid the unavoidable onslaught of parenthood.

there was a window of about three weeks where i knew i was expecting, and i started to do the research in to cloth diapers, organic cotton onesies, breastfeeding manuals and moses baskets... now i look at my copy of "America's Pregnancy Bible" and that familiar nausea rises. ugh... i can't even ponder baby names for more than 30 seconds without feeling sick.

yes, i am well aware that this will pass. i will reach the nesting, happy, glowy feeling stage and accept the inevitability of baby. i want that, mentally, but i'm not there emotionally. i am thankful beyond thankful that we have this little one with a strong heartbeat and growing popular by the minute nickname ("Peanut" Johnson) we had no idea this time last year that this would be coming so soon, and certainly after the heartbreak of losing our first young pregnancy, this seems unreal and miraculous...

but please, let me think that i am an individual for a little while longer, and insist on putting my own groceries away and getting my own dishes done (when i can) the picture of that little bean of a being with a heartbeat is displayed on my fridge to remind me: this body is not your own... there is an alien inside you... so let me put this together in my own time and wait a little while til you start pointing out every baby you see and asking if i want to know the sex, if we have names picked, whether i'll "stay home" or not...

some things we've known for a while, and some things are set in motion before you know it... like the fact that we will home school, our child will not wear lots of pink or lots of blue until he/she wants to, and that i have no interest in educational tv, store-bought baby food or licensed cartoon character pajamas (stay back sponge bob and disney)...

we'll get there, eventually. in the meantime i'm right here, getting another piece of string cheese and hoping peppermint tea will ward off another tide of seasick.