Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I have a new blog!

I'm now blogging over at:

Maybe I'm Amazed

Please rearrange your subscriptions/rss feed and to that site! Thanks! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thoughts on Motherhood from a Non-Mom: Raising Smart Girls


Today I encountered this article from Psychology Today called "The Trouble with Bright Girls" and it blew my mind. Not because it was a difficult concept to grasp, but because I felt like I had finally been handed the key to door that I had been clawing at for years. Why, as an intelligent woman, who was once an intelligent girl, do I constantly talk myself out of doing things that don't come easily to me?

In the article, the author exposes to her readers that at a young age, bright girls (who are also generally well behaved) are told "You're so smart!" "Good girl!" and "You got it!" They are, perhaps not wrongfully, praised for their ability to "get" material quickly and easily.

Boys, however, Dr. Heidi Halvornson points out, are "a handful." If you've ever even met a little boy of any intelligence level you know that they're basically either asleep or acting nuts in some capacity*. As a result, in order to get them to do anything we constantly tell them, "Pay attention! If you just do it, it will get done!" "You just have to try harder!" "Keep going! You're almost done!"

As a result, when these smart little girls blossom into smart women, when faced with challenges that don't come easily to them, they immediately think they are stupid and think poorly of themselves. Boys, on the other hand, are trained to see any challenge as something they can overcome.

Light bulb moment? Yeah, me too.

I've talked before about the dangers of only telling little girls "You're so pretty" and praising their looks over the abilities, but this really throws a monkey wrench into my whole plan to encourage my someday daughters** about their abilities so I can at least do my part in helping them to grow up in an environment free from gender-related hang ups that hold them back.

So what is a parent supposed to do about little girls who are smart, well behaved and high functioning?

To me, the answer is simple. Challenge them harder. No, don't go Leopold Mozart on them and lock them in closets demanding they perfect the instrument you have chosen for them (it should be noted, I'm not 100% sure he ever did this, but I wouldn't doubt it). Let your daughter be a kid, but challenge her at something she isn't naturally good at. If she's a nerdy-ballerina type (like I was) she may never be an WNBA Star, but she'll learn a valuable lesson for figuring out how to dribble a basketball even though her lack of hand-eye coordination makes it hard for her!

It appears, as an outsider, that parenthood is often about finding the balance between building up your child's self-esteem and simultaneously building up their skillset, character, and ability to function. (Mad props, moms and dads.) However, hopefully this article caused you, as it did me, to think a little bit more critically about what your kids can handle and how the pre-conceived gender roles that we bring into the mix can affect the development of our children as they move into adolescence and adulthood.

I think because women in our society have been underestimated since birth, we all tend to underestimate not only our peers, but our little girls. I hope that if I'm lucky enough to be blessed with children that I will remember the importance of challenge and supporting my daughters during their most formative years in a way that the rest of the world may not.

How about you, ladies and gents?
What did you think of the Psychology Today article?
Are you a mom (or dad) who is raising a daughter? What are your thoughts?

Do you have a little girl in your life that you think you need to challenge more? What would that look like?
Are you a grown woman who sometimes sinks into self-hatred when something doesn't come easily? Is there something you would have changed about your childhood?


*I babysat two boys several times a week after school for two years of college. This was as close to parenting as I ever got and even though I loved them for all of their precious moments, I now understand why mothers of boys always look so tired.
**I WILL have a daughter, even if I have to adopt one.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fiction Friday: (Very) Short Stories

I am so excited to share very short stories today! The first one was written by my very good friend, Laura McClellan and I wrote the second one. 

Father's Day
by Laura McClellan
I don't know what I'm doing here. I know I shouldn't be. But I've already rung the bell and I can hear footsteps inside.

I reach in my purse for my phone instinctively. I always do that when I don't know what to do with my hands. No, she'll come to the door and I'll be staring at my phone like an idiot, like, "Oh, hi, didn't see you there!…At your own house…on your front doorstep."

I clasp my hands instead, trying to look natural and think of something to say. Instead my mind sinks into the same scene I've been replaying in my mind for the last twelve hours. 

The car door slams outside. I'm still awake because I watched too much CSI and I have an overactive imagination. I move to the window, thankful for the distraction. It must be Benji, back from his trip. I had been annoyed that he had to work over Father's Day weekend, but I always feel a childlike excitement when I hear him arrive home.

I peer out the glass and see a man getting out of a blue Mercedes, carrying my husband's briefcase and wearing his tie. He kisses the blonde woman inside before striding up the driveway.

The latch clicks, ripping me from my nightmare, and the door creaks open. Her eyes widen a bit at the sight of me, but she recovers quickly and her look softens.

"Well, hello! Cathy, is it?" her smile looks painted on.

"Yes, Cathy," I respond, trying to sound casual over the rapid thumping of my heart. "How are you, Meredith?"

"Good! Good…" she looks past me for a moment, then meets my eyes. "How rude of me to let you stand out here in the heat. Won't you come in? I've just made a pot of tea."
As I am ushered in, the sunlight catches my eye--glinting off the hood of her freshly-washed blue Mercedes.

The Calm Before the Storm
by Nicole Jeannette Phillips
The warm night air rested lightly and pressed up against her skin as waves of cooler wind blew from time to time. It was a welcome respite from the summer’s typical evenings when she often found herself debating whether she hated the sticky humidity or the oppressive heat more. Tonight, not even the mosquitoes bothered with her and she wondered if they could smell the poison in her veins.

Linda pressed her lips against the rim of her tall, cool glass of iced tea, coated in its own sweat and remembered Mrs. McClure, the woman across the street from her childhood home. It took her four months to die from cancer, or at least Linda’s mother made Mrs. McClure a casserole around Valentine’s Day and she was dead before the Fourth of July. Linda tried not to cry when she thought of her freezer full of casserole dishes made by neighbors and the women from church on some committee. “Are you okay?” they kept asking her, delivery after delivery. “I’m fine,” Linda muttered out loud to herself in her chair. Alone on the patio, she listened to the musical hum of the neighbor’s air conditioner and her own heart beat. A small and sudden wave of nausea overcame her although she struggled to decipher whether it was caused the memory of Mrs. McClure’s children returning from the funeral or if the chemo had finally started its rampage.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Fiction Friday: Want to share your fiction on my blog?

For next Fiction Friday I want to hear from you!

Below I'm going to write a prompt and all you need to do is to write a piece of fiction that is 250 words or less

Email it to me (NO LATER THAN THURSDAY, PLEASE!) along with:
  •  your name
  • the title of your piece
  • a link to your blog/store (optional)
  •  a picture of you! (optional)

I'll share mine as well for this first one, but I can't wait to read what you write!

Here's the prompt:

Story must include the following words:

and any holiday 
(Valentine's Day, All Saints Day, Flag Day, Christmas whatever you want!)

Good luck and I can't wait to read what you write!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fiction Friday: Hansel and Gretel Retold Part III

It's 3:15 on Friday and I completely spaced posting Part III of Hans and Greta!! I'm not sure I've ever been more ready for the weekend...

Please enjoy and comment below to let me know what you think! I enjoyed this fun project and I hope you did too! Hopefully you've caught some of the the post-modern and Americanized changes I made from the Grimm's version. Let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks for reading!

Here are parts I and II if you need to catch up!

"Get over here!" hissed the old woman.
            "You tried to kill my brother! How do I know you aren't going to hurt me?"
            "Come now little girl, you wouldn't leave an old woman here to die? Now would you?"
            "Yes, she would and she will," answered Hans from behind her. Hans pulled his sister by the arm and led her outside. "Sister! You could have been killed!"
            "No, Hans. If she could have moved she would have hours ago. She's hurt badly and she's stuck there."    
            "Well good," huffed Hans. "We'll spend the night inside her cottage among the animals, but we'll take turns keeping watch. Just to make sure she doesn't try to hurt us again."
            As night set in, the old woman slept on her spot in the kitchen and Hans took the first watch. Many uneventful hours went by and when Hans could no longer keep his eyelids up, he woke Greta to take her turn. Greta did her best to shake her sleep away while guarding her brother, but she couldn’t stay still for long and decided the only way to stay awake was to do a little bit of exploring.
            Carefully and silently she got up from the prickly sofa covered in cat fur to examine the wall of picture frames near the fireplace. On the top left was a picture of the old woman, in her younger years, with two large men. All appeared to be cheering and covered in dirt. In another, was a newspaper clipping that read “Young Animal Activists Arrested for Attacking Stanford Laboratory” and the old woman was in a small picture to the side with handcuffs. In yet another, the old woman had her hands draped over the shoulders of a man and there were two small dogs smiling at the camera, but the man’s face was cut out of the picture. Greta wondered if this could possibly be the old woman’s family.
            Turning slowly and tiptoeing into the kitchen, Greta examined the tile around the stove which had a pattern of alternating little pigs and sheep along the border. Taking a step backwards, Greta let out a mighty scream when a bony hand grabbed her ankle. While exploring Greta hadn’t realized how close she had gotten to the old woman. “Hans!!!” she screamed.
            Only taking a moment to regain his consciousness, Hans lept up, looked around the room, grabbed a broom, and began beating the woman’s arm and hand until she released, cowering in pain. “Stay down you crazy old witch!”
            “I’m not a witch! My name is Ingrid! How dare you leave me here like this for a whole day! You better at least feed my animals!”
            “You were going to kill us!” shrieked Greta. “How dare you be angry that we leave you there! And why should we take care of your animals?”
            “Why did you even come back, you stupid fools? You came stumbling into my cottage, eating MY food, and you expect me to feel sorry for you! This is Mother Nature’s domain! You were like a little mouse wandering into a cat’s den! It’s survival of the fittest out here and my animals can’t live on plants alone!”
            “Why do you even HAVE all of these animals? No one should have a pet lion!” screamed Hans.
            “You idiot, he’s not my pet! I don’t own him! You stupid city dwellers think you can own an animal! I am protecting him! Protecting him from people like you who think you can own him and make him do tricks!”
            Greta grabbed her brother’s hand and gave him a look which begged him to calm down. Ingrid was stuck on the floor and there was no point in arguing with her.  “Your hip. Does it hurt?” she asked the old woman.
            “What do you think?” snapped Ingrid. “And I’m thirsty as hell.”
            “Please don’t swear,” Greta whispered under her breath. Looking at her brother, who still had his eyes fixated on Ingrid, Greta felt a pang of guilt for leaving this woman on the floor for a whole day without food or water. Looking around the room, she saw the deformed rats who had led them there clawing at the grain bin.
            “Look, Ingrid. We will care for you and for your animals until you get better and then you will let us go free and we will leave you to care for your animals,” said Greta resolutely.
            “Excuse me? We will what?” Hans protested. “No!”
            “Yes! These animals depend on her like momma depended on us. They need our help and we can’t stay forever so we must nurse this mean old lady back to health. BUT,” Greta turned to the old woman, “You must swear you will not try to kill us and eat us.”   “Fools, I wasn’t going to eat you. I am a vegetarian. But Edgar, he gets hungry for meat and you stumbled into my trap.”    
            “If we help you, you must promise not to feed us to anyone at all or harm us, not even a hair!”
            Realizing she had no other option, Ingrid agreed.
            Over the next months the children cared for Ingrid, much like they had cared for their own mother. Eventually, bit-by-bit, the woman began to understand that, unlike other humans, these children were good inside. They would not hurt anyone, not even the animals.
            “You know,” said Ingrid one day, rather civilly, “I rescued all of these animals.”
            “Is that why the rats are deformed? Did they live in a laboratory?” asked Hans.
            “Yes, I freed them from their tormentors.”
            “Well, that was very nice of you,” Greta smiled. “Still! You cannot kill any children ever again!”
            Soon the three became very close and grew rather fond of one another. In fact, they grew to love each other as a family. But when Ingrid’s health returned and her hip was repaired, Greta and Hans wanted to return to their real mother.
            “Please. I am old now,” said Ingird, “And I need you to care for me in my old age as I have cared for my animals. We will send carrier pigeons and they will find your mother. She can live with us and we will all live happily every after.”
            The children, realizing they were far from home and would have a difficult time finding their mother, agreed to stay. Months went by with no response from their mother. Years passed and soon Ingrid’s old friends began to visit, envying the way she was cared for in her old age. When a retired gang member and fellow animal rights activist, who went by The Big Bad Wolf, visited Ingrid, he offered to pay the children to rehabilitate and care for him as he found being evil in his old age took too much energy. He paid for them to build an extra room onto the cottage and lived there with them. Soon, other former villains like Rumpelstiltskin, the famous kidnapper, and even the entire Retired Step Mothers of The Woods Association wanted to be rehabilitated and cared for by Hans and Greta. Before long, the twins were running a successful retirement home for elderly former miscreants, requiring only that they had repented from their old ways.
            As their business grew, Hans and Greta became beloved fixtures in the community. However, they found that while they loved their jobs, they longed for friends their own age. So one day a resident, who was a retired tax collector, told Hans of his lovely granddaughter, stuck at the top of a skyscraper, thousands of miles away in a concrete jungle. He convinced him to go and rescue her from an evil dragon, called Nintoofif. While Hans was away, Ingrid convinced Greta that if she were to kiss a frog down by the pond, the frog would turn into a handsome prince. Thinking nothing of it, Greta kissed the frog to appease her old friend. Upon doing so, much to Greta’s surprise, the frog did turn into a handsome young man.
            “I am not a prince, fair maiden, but I would love to get to know you and serve along side you for your noble cause of caring for the elderly.” Greta happily accepted the man’s offer. The next day Hans returned with the retired tax collector’s granddaughter and the four of them ran the nursing home together.
            Everything was perfect in their lives, but both Hans and Greta worried over what had happened to their mother. They had been sending out carrier pigeons every season for several years, but eventually stopped.
            “Can we try one last time?” Greta asked of Ingrid one night.
            “Alright,” Ingrid smiled, petting Edgar who was also gray with age, “One last time.”
            The very next day, Clara showed up on their doorstep. “Children!” She exclaimed with delight. She explained that she had been tricked by the magician into thinking that abandoning them was the right thing to do. She had, in fact, married the prince and became a princess, but he recently dumped her for a younger woman and she now needed a place to live. Although they had been hurt by their mother’s decision to abandon them, they decided to forgive so long as she enrolled in their Value Realignment rehabilitation program. Once she graduated, they welcomed her into the Retirement Home for the Elderly and Formerly Evil and spent the rest of their days together. 

-The End-

Monday, June 10, 2013

Trending: Virgin Shaming

Warning: This blog post is about to get personal, so buckle in or exit as fast as you can.

My husband and I waited to have sex until our wedding night.
For the record, not because we were prudes, afraid of going to hell, were ashamed of our bodies, or were afraid of getting pregnant.
Want to know why? This pretty much sums it up.

While this isn't something I normally advertise because a)it's not really anybody's business and b)it's kind of awkward, I've witnessed a trend and I think it's time to talk about virgin shaming.

When I tell people we waited they want to know two things:
1. Was it hard for you to wait?
The answer is yes.
2. Was it worth the wait?
Ultimately, yes.
  • I have zero regrets.
  • I love that neither of us have sexual "baggage."
  • I love that we both feel confident that our relationship was/is strong apart from the physical side of things, but now that we're married we can celebrate our love and, sparing any details, it's wonderful.
  • I love that sexual history and possibly guilt wasn't a part of my decision to marry JL and vice versa.  
  • (Not saying that anyone is "ruined" by sex, but it DOES bond a couple together and can cloud otherwise sound decision making. In other words, we both feel confident that we married each other for our more enduring qualities and sex is a great bonus/a healthy part of our relationship, but not what it is based on.)

I know when I tell people that JL and I waited, I'm 99% sure they suddenly see us like this. Not the case, people.

Before we got married I felt that there was life outside of sex to be explored and celebrated. Now that we are married, I still feel the same way. 
While sex is a beautiful extension and expression of our love, sex has its place. Sex is sex, just like eating is eating. Both can be fulfilling, satisfying, and (let's just say it) lots of fun, but aren't worth the glorification and unhealthy obsession so many in our culture (modern secular AND Christian sub-culture) place on it. 

But here's the deal:

Much like many (usually) Christians shame those who have sex outside of marriage, I'm growing tired of seeing virgins being treated like freaks of nature for making a decision about their own bodies. Granted, I know that many of the jokes are at the expense of those who are seemingly so unattractive no one wants to sleep with them, but even in that case I still don't understand why the level shaming our culture doles out is involved. There are currently major ad campaigns are being rolled out to reduce the stigmas towards HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancies (ads which I think are important), but why is it that virginity is becoming more and more stigmatized?

Thanks, TLC for this, by the way. 
I love that THIS is what you feel best represents virginity in all of America:
I think this was supposed to be non-sexual affection...

If I had seen this when I was 15, it may have changed my mind about this sex before marriage business for fear of turning out like this. Again, not the case, people.

As I sit in on conversation after conversation and watch shows like Virgin Diaries and the 40 Year Old Virgin, I'm struck by our culture's evident desire to expose the non-sexually active "freaks," implying that there is something wrong with a person who hasn't had their first sexual experience. This simply isn't the case. Sex no more validates your humanity and worth than speaking multiple languages would--it may enrich your life in some ways, but you aren't any less of a person without it.
Maybe you don't think saving sex for marriage is important/realistic/possible. That's fine. I have no interest in being the morality police and I hope this blog post doesn't leave anyone feeling attacked or judged. By writing about this, I'm merely hoping to offer depth, perspective and my personal experience to the conversation.

All I want to know is, in a world that is pushing us all not to define a person by their sexual actions, why aren't virgins being given the same treatment?

What about you, reader?
What do you think about this?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fiction Friday: Hans & Greta Part II

If you're keeping up, here's part II of III of my 21st Century, American retelling of Hansel and Gretel.

Although small on the outside, the inside of the cottage was quite large. In the main room there was a rabbit resting by the fire and three little mice playing tiny cards by the refrigerator. On top of the immobile ceiling fan rested a birds nest on each blade and two puppies were wrestling on the rug by the couch. Hans and Greta had never seen so many animals in one place, not even in the zoo. 
            "Look, everyone, guests!" called out the old woman to the animals. They all turned toward the children and acknowledged them with a squeak, chirp, or whatever voice they could muster. "Please children, sit down," the old woman motioned to the couch where three squirrels were snuggled on the belly of a snoozing pink pig. The children did their best to share the space on the couch since the pig was quite large.
            The children told the old woman where they had come from and told her that they had gotten separated from their mother. She seemed to take pity on them and offered them a place to stay for the night. As the sun rose, Greta awoke to the sound of the birds singing in the rafters. How lovely, she thought to herself. Just then, however, a lion poked its head in the open kitchen window and she screamed.  
            "What is it?!"
            "A lion!!" Greta shrieked.
            "I knew I heard a lion last night!” cried Hans.
"Yes," said the old woman calmly, "That is Edgar. He lives out back, he keeps me safe and I keep him safe from… anyone who might want to hurt him." The old woman pulled a large tray of vegetables out of the fridge and fed them to Edgar until he left.
            Greta and Hans felt concerned, but were calmed upon hearing the lion had such an unassuming name. "How strange," Greta whispered to her brother, "that this woman lives all alone and has so many pets."
            "Yes, strange indeed," Hans agreed. 
            The old woman fed them until they were full. 
            "Children, before you are on your way, let me ask one favor of you!"
            "Yes, anything," Hans cheerfully offered.
            "I am old and I need you to help me clean my oven."
            "Of course! We would be happy to!" Hans replied for both of them. Greta noticed, however, that the old woman sounded nervous when she asked this and upon her question several of the animals jumped up and ran away as if they were suddenly afraid of what was about to happen. Why could this be? Greta wondered. As Hans leaned into the oven with a rag, Greta watched the old woman prepare to push him into it. Acting quickly, she shoved the old woman aside onto the floor and grabbed her brother's arm. "Run!" she screamed.
            "My hip!!" cried the old woman.
            With that, Hans and Greta ran as far away and as fast as they could. But, day turned into night before the pair realized that they had been running in circles. Greta began to cry, "I'm hungry and I'm cold! What will we do!?"
            Just then, through the trees, Hans saw the old woman's cottage. "We are right back where we started! Look! There's the old woman's house! Hide before she sees us!"
            However, after hiding behind some trees for nearly an hour, the children decided they needed to eat something before they starved, so they cautiously snuck into the garden to get more vegetables. While gathering their dinner, Greta peered in window and saw that the old woman still lying in agony on the ground. 
            "Hans, she's still down there."
            "Good, let her die there. She tried to kill me."
            But despite her brother's chilly response, Greta's good-natured heart took pity on the old woman. She carefully cracked open the door. "Hello?"