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Grammys vs. 50 Shades of Grey

1 Comment 12 February 2015

So, all of this 50 Shades bombardment is on my mind, swirling around and picking-up momentum when I decide to watch the Grammy Awards Sunday night. I love music. I love the written word put to music. It is, well, religious to me. It moves me and in those moments, worlds, words and reality come together in mystical ways. So I enjoy the Grammys (for the most part).grammy

The most compelling moment though came through the courage and voice of Brooke Axtell. She spoke just before Katie Perry’s performance of “By the Grace of God” and just after President Obama challenged the artists at the Grammy’s to be a positive part of turning the tide of domestic violence and sexual violence against women in an promo.

Axtell’s words resonated and hit me head on, from her own personal experience, how women, some very bright and thoughtful women, end up in relationships with men who abuse them sexually, emotionally and psychologically. (The irony of this message on the Grammys is a topic for another day.)

Axtell’s words…

“’I am a survivor of domestic violence. After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life. Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse. If you’re in a relationship with someone who does not honor or respect you, I want you to know you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help.”

BOOM! The juxtaposition was perfect. Commercials of 50 Shades of Grey are running throughout the Grammys and here is this voice, this powerful, experienced voice saying that the message in 50 Shades of Grey is a mirage. It looks like it will satisfy you. It appears to be just what you want and need and are willing to suffer to obtain, but it is a lie. It was a moment, a perfect moment that made me want to shout to all women and girls that 50 Shades of Grey is not what it seems. In the words of Ms. Axtell, it is not “authentic love.”

And yet I keep hearing women, mothers, talk about their overwhelming expectation and excitement about seeing the movie? (Prepare to be offended) WTF? Are you kidding me? Have you read the books? Have you seen the trailer? I personally did not read the books (remember, I am a feminist) and will not watch the movie. My reasons are not because I am saintly. I am far from sainthood (not that any of you really entertained the idea). In all honesty, I watch other films and television shows that are at odds with my own sexual ethics, so why not 50 Shades of Grey? The entirety of this film, the storyline and the tragic hero repulse me. This film represents so much of what I hate about how girls and women are treated in our culture. It demeans, degrades and debases the woman for the sexual gratification of the man. This is not rocket science (to borrow a phrase from an elder I once disliked), 50 Shades of Grey is not a love story, no matter how many women want to paint it as such.

So why, in a culture where there remains little to no boundary between adults and children, do we think for a millisecond that a parent, father or mother, can go and see this movie and not expect this action to normalize the behavior for their children? I love art people. Good art. I love art that many would not even appreciate. I have no desire to censor your movie going as an adult, but l do want to point out that being wide-eyed and aware of the consequences is critical. This movie is not the educational tool we want for our children to learn about sex. (If it is, for you, then obviously, reading this is a waste of time. Move along.) The old “do as I say and not as I do” just does not fly like it used to for most. Nor does the reality that adults can do things that teens and children cannot do seem to hold much sway. 

So what then already? What the hell are we supposed to do? Ask your conscience, check your gut…step back and ponder past tomorrow, those are few things that could benefit your decision-making in this instance. Do we want our sons to grow-up to be Christian Greys? Do we hope and pray that our daughters would one day find their Christian? But what about it spicing up the ol’ sex life? (This is a favorite!) Well, you have to run that through your own sexual ethic, you have to weigh being aroused (by violence and abuse) against contributing to a culture that already normalizes sexual abuse and minimizes rape. A culture that your kids have to live in day in and day out. This movie glorifies the “rape myth.”

“Myths” that women are “asking for it” or are actually sexually aroused by force are common in US culture.  The movie classic Gone with the Wind depicts Scarlet O’Hara saying “No, no, no…” then swoons to Rhett Butler’s sexual advances.  The “no means maybe” mentality confuses both genders, and perpetuates rape myths.  Research shows that endorsement/acceptance of the notion that women are responsible for rape contributes to the prevalence of rape . The Healing Place

How can we be appalled by the callous and detached rape of an unconscious girl by four Vanderbilt football players and then turn around and go and see this movie? We have got to connect the dots people, because I promise you, our kids connect them. They see the inconsistencies. How do we tell our sons that they must always respect the girls they date when they know we paid money to watch Christian Grey sexually assault his “girlfriend” for two hours? I simply want to challenge us, especially women, to think about the repercussions of making this movie a fun Valentines event.

And as I said in the last post, don’t dismiss it as “Mommy Porn” and ignore the fact that kids are seeing and hearing the same media onslaught as us. Pursue your kids. Lead in conversation in such a way that they find a segue for bringing it up without utter awkwardness. They need to understand themselves, their needs, their desires and when they don’t, they need to have someone they trust to talk with about those things. We all see things from different points of view, we all are affected by our own upbringings, our own “sexual education,” but we need to help build a positive sexual ethic in our kids so they are able to begin making healthy choices for themselves. In my opinion, we cannot keep them from all of the brokenness and ugly in the world, but we can walk with them, talk with them and help them become more and more comfortable in their own skin and confident in their own discernment.

I am really interested in your thoughts, please share. My only goal in writing this is to make us all think.

Note: I am going to list a ton of articles below that I have read about this movie, sex, aggression, pornography, abuse, BDSM, sexual ethics, and on and on. There are some I agree with and others I do not agree with, but I found them helpful and wanted to list them for you.

50 Abusive Moments in 50 Shades of Grey  – The Rambling Curl

Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of 50 Shades – The Atlantic

Fiction or Not? Fifty Shades is Associated with Health Risks in Adolescent and Young Adult Females -Journal of Women’s Health

The Troubling Message in 50 Shades of Grey – Blogher

The 3 Most Dangerous Lies Promoted by 50 Shades of Grey – Life Site

Study: Reading 50 Shades of Grey Says Bad Things About You – Vocativ

50 Things Wrong with 50 Shades of Grey – Insert Sarcasm Here

Pastors: 50 Shades of Grey Glamorizes Sexual Abuse and Violence –

Pornography and Relationships – Men’s Health Magazine

The Negative Effects of Porn – Oprah

Porn and Domestic Violence – Australian Newspaper

Meet Brooke Axtell – Time

The Dirty Dozen: 50 Shades of Grey –

50 Shades of Grey by Parenthetical – Parenthetical

Banning 50 Shades of Grey Will Not Make Anyone More Moral – The Federalist

50 Shades of Grey: Expanding the Conversation from Sexy to Safety – Huffington Post

Is 50 Shades of Grey Dangerous? – Forbes

50 Shades of Grey Condemned as Manual for Sex Torture – The Guardian

Why 50 Shades of Grey is One of the Worst Books Ever Written – Girl Talk HQ

A Black and White Choice NOT to Read 50 Shades of Grey – Girls Gone Wise

No 50 Shades of Grey for British Teens – Jezebel

Boyle, Karen. “Producing Abuse: Selling the Harms of Pornography.” Women’s Studies International Forum 34.6 (2011): 593-602. Web. 6 Mar. 2012.

Bridges, Ana J et al. “Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update.” Violence Against Women

16.10 (2010): 1065-1085. Web. 6 Mar. 2012.

Cramer, Elizabeth et al. “Violent Pornography and Abuse of Women: Theory to Practice.” Violence and Victims 13.4 (1998): 319-32. Print.

Donnerstein, Edward. “Pornography and Violence Against Women: Experimental Studies.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 347.1

(1980): 277-288. Web. 6 Mar. 2012.

Donnerstein, Edward, and Daniel Linz. “Mass Media Sexual Violence and Male Viewers Current Theory and Research: Research on the effects of aggressive pornography

Douglas, Ulester, Dick Bathrick, and Phyllis Alesia Perry. “Deconstructing Male Violence Against Women.” Violence Against Women 14.2 (2008): 247-261. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.

Romito, Patrizia, and Lucia Beltramini. “Watching Pornography: Gender Differences, Violence and Victimization. An Exploratory Study in Italy.”

Shope, Janet Hinson. “When Words Are Not Enough.” Violence Against Women 10.1 (2004): 56-72. Web. 6 Mar. 2012.

Stark, Cynthia A. “Is Pornography an Action ? : The Causal Vs. the Conceptual View of Pornography’s Harm.” Social theory and practice 23.2 (1997):



Are You Ready? 50 Shades of Curiosity

4 Comments 11 February 2015

curiosityThe truth is this, so let’s just get it out of the way, I am going to offend some of you with what I do not say and others with what I choose to say, I don’t care. I am not writing this because I know “the answers,” hell, I don’t even know all of the questions. But my distaste for those who seem to have all of the answers, to all of the supposed questions, has kept me from writing anything on any topic lately. I have no desire to shame anyone for their particular opinions, but I also believe that it is the lack of speaking, about sex in general, that has cultivated the current sexual climate. The climate in which a Christian Grey is a desired lover and an Anastasia is an empowered woman.

I know the attention span is short for all of us, so in order to pretend that I can “do” brevity, I am going to break this into a couple of posts. Buckle-up and settle-in…here are some thoughts. (Or, continue binging on Netflix)

From the get go I was put off by the trilogy and none of that has been redeemed by what I have seen of the movie. Everything that my friends and relatives who read the books told me failed to rescue my opinion, and in many cases, their defense of the books only pushed me further from a positive view. This post is not about who has read the book(s) or who is going to see the movie. I am writing to grown-ups and last I checked, you are responsible for your own decisions. I could spend hours writing disclaimers (Why I didn’t mention this or that?), but I don’t have time or energy or enough gin to get me through it. So if you have a comment or a question, leave it in the comments and I will attempt to address it if I am able.

Why am I so struck by this movie and its message right now? Anyone who uses the internet, watches television, sports or even reads the paper should know why…it is difficult not to think about 50 Shades of Grey as it appears in a different format about once every half hour. A friend asked me, why I even care and why I would spend any time at all thinking about it…I guess it is how I am wired. I am thinking about all the little girls, and yes, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, they are still little girls, that are curious, that are wondering. Even the ones that have been so overtaken by the hyper-sexualization of our culture and look older than they are, even those girls, they have questions. They are curious. They are wondering. They may have watched Pretty Little Liars, The CO and Gossip Girl, but 50 Shades of Grey makes those prime time soap operas look benign. Girls and boys, daughters and sons are looking for voices to fill in the blanks on many of their questions about sexuality and 50 Shades of Grey is creating questions that most grown-ups do not want to acknowledge, much less answer. 

I remember a lot of things from my adolescence, some are banal, some are bizarre and some are moments that marked me for life. I have always had a strong curiosity for understanding things, for learning, especially about other people and relationships. One of those curious moments that I remember was how obsessed I was with watching this particular teen couple make-out at our country club pool (creepy, I know, but true). I was there every day during the summer, from open to close, as it was our proverbial daycare while my parents worked. I knew nothing of sex, of sensuality, of love and no adult had discussed these issues with my pre-teen self. Granted, from observing, it would be years before I was up to bat in that realm, but my mind was wide open. I was a textbook late bloomer and had it not been for girly clothes it would have been tough to determine my gender altogether. There was a vacuum of sorts that sucked in any idea or picture or talk of sex, regardless of where it came from or its value.

I was raised in the church and the only thing I felt when I considered the topic of sex was shame. I am not sure what scared me more, going to hell or talking about sex. My view of sexuality, hell, my view of myself as a human being, was shaped in deep ways by those few years. But there are things I remember vividly. There was MTV, which I was forbidden to watch. General Hospital, which, surprise, surprise, I was forbidden to watch. Of course I watched both. I saw Playboy magazines that belonged to my friend’s dad, I watched porn with a bunch of other curious girls in a hotel on a cheerleading trip (no, I was not a cheerleader – long story), I stole a condom from my Dad’s vanity before we went on vacation to Disney World. I did all of those things and much more because I was curious. I took every opportunity that I had to try to piece together this part of myself and how it all worked. It was a rocky education to say the least, but I sought out answers to my questions from anyone offering.

I was recently reminded of just how curious I was when hanging out with a friends’ 12 year old daughter. In her curiosity she asked, “Miss Jorja, can I ask you a question?”  Thus began a conversation about 50 Shades of Grey. Kudos to that kid (she is amazing, by the way) for her courage to simply ask, to put herself out there. It is really hard for many of them to ask, rare even. I also remember that anxiety, that panic that someone would know that I wanted to know about sex. This is the panic that drove me to wrap the aforementioned condom in a paper towel and dispose of it, not at home in a trash can, but in a trashcan at Disney World all so that I would not be caught! That condom plagued me, I lived in utter fear of being caught with the condom! It is funny now, but as a kid it was terrifying. But for this kiddo and I, the conversation was fantastic. I personally love questions, I love curiosity and I love to think and challenge others to do the same. Working with college students for almost two decades gave me lots of practice and being a parent to now 20, 17 and 14 year old children has given me innumerable opportunities to fail and keep trying. So what was fun for me, might mortify many, but what I learned in that conversation prompted this post.

The conversation presented these issues from the perspective of an innocent child:

  • What is the whole 50 Shades of Grey?
  • Isn’t it just a sweet love story?
  • The trailer looks fun.
  • Christian Grey is very cute.
  • Why does he put a blindfold on her and what is his “red room of pain?”

A simplified version of my response to her questions and comments:

  • 50 Shades of Grey is a book and now a movie about a very sad story that is being misrepresented as love. It is not love. In fact, the way that the boy treats the girl is the opposite of love. Love puts the needs of others before yourself and in this story, the boy is completely self-absorbed and cruel in taking whatever he wants from the girl. But the boy has had a hard life and he uses his pain from his hard life to excuse his selfishness and cruelty towards the girl. We should care deeply about those who have suffered hard things in their lives, but we should never let them hurt us and blame their own pain. The girl believes that if she loves him and if she lets him ‘love’ her that she can make him better and they will live happily ever after. That is not true, but it is a story that a lot of girls and women believe.
  • We all want to be ‘in love’ and it is very easy for a movie, or even a trailer for a movie to look like what we think we want, but that is certainly not the case with this movie. The book, the story and movie are full of violence, manipulation and abuse. The girl doesn’t really know anything about love, relationships or sex and the boy takes advantage of her and actually takes control of her life and her body. She is afraid and even feels in her heart that it is wrong, but she is more afraid of him and keeps telling herself that he is so good-looking, charming, rich and strong that he must be right and she must be wrong. She stops listening to her voice and only listens to his voice.
  • We all want a Prince Charming and have been taught that for us, as girls, this is the ultimate goal for our lives. This is a BIG, FAT lie. We have to know and understand what makes someone attractive is their heart and not their pretty face. And most of all, we need to come to appreciate who we are, our hearts, our minds, our gifts, our abilities and our bodies, because if we do not appreciate who we are and love ourselves in a healthy way, we will be more likely to think that a boy can make us feel loved and good about ourselves. It is critical that you know that there is no other person who can make you whole. (insert “two ticks looking for a dog” idiom)
  • This movie is a grown-up movie that deals with very grown-up issues about sex. It would be a terrible way for someone who doesn’t know much about sex to watch this movie or read this book and think that this is good, or even normal. The most important thing at your age is for you to ask people who love you about sex. Don’t be afraid to ask and talk about these things with your parents. They may not have all the answers, but they will talk with you and together, you can come to a healthy understanding of what sex is and what kind of relationships you want for your future. Most importantly, you can learn what true love is and what it looks like in a relationship.

(There was a lot more said and many more questions asked and then great follow-up with mom afterwards, but you get the gist.)

Those of you who know me personally or through my writing or postings on Facebook, Twitter, etc., know that I care deeply about girls and women being treated with dignity and honor. You know that my deep passion is to empower women and girls in any possible way to grow into their very best selves. There is no surprise that a book, a movie or even a song, that diminishes or objectifies women or girls will prompt me telling you how damaging it can be, thus, this was not an unfamiliar topic for me. I have read 20 plus articles about the 50 Shades of Grey books and the movie, from varied perspectives, which in turn led me to studies on porn, aggression and abuse. Okay, super. Sounds fun. Good to know. So does that mean that everyone has to research the topic for Pete’s sake? No, but have you thought about it?

Are you prepared to have the conversations that you need to have with the smaller peeps in your life? This conversation may be easier for some than others, but this conversation needs to happen. We must consider the ramifications of how we grown-ups are responding, not only to the books and movie, but to our kiddos and their curiosity. Do you know what BDSM is? Have you considered how you will explain it to a kid? I have heard a lot of women say they intend to see the movie to “spice things up” in their own sex lives. Okay, your prerogative, but have you considered how that decision may affect the way your kid thinks about sex? A simple Google search can be pretty interesting with the topics surrounding this movie! Just know that they are watching, listening and learning and you are their best teacher. Regardless of what you personally do, you have to know that unless you live in a bunker, with no internet, television or media, there is a strong possibility that your kid knows something about 50 Shades of Grey. Don’t just give them the whole, “we don’t do that” or “we don’t watch that” and think that their questions will dissipate. We are in the age of saturation and we must give our attention to teaching our kids to walk through this life with wisdom and discernment. Pretending that they are unaffected is no longer an option.

There is an insane busy-ness to our lives these days and in the whirl of it all, I fear that human connection, especially with these little people in our lives, can be diminished. We need to remember to be present, listen, watch and be a safe place for those curiosities to surface. You do what you want to do, but I just had to mention it, just sayin’! 

In the next post I will list all of the links to various articles I have read. Cheers!

Dude, where are your tears?

0 Comments 28 August 2013


This little card says a lot about my life. No, MH is not ‘technically’ Autistic, though she is on the spectrum and she has a lot of autistic-like issues, OCD, anxiety, sensory integration, and on and on. Anyway, having a kid like MH, who not only has those challenges, but has a very low IQ, which makes explaining things, discipline, etc…like nailing jello to the wall, can be challenging in all kinds of ways. But this little card says so much…the things that could have sent me into a meltdown with my other two seem tiny and even comical in comparison. I am not saying, oh, my stuff is harder than your stuff, I am just saying that certain realities, certain suffering, certain experience…make your world a bit less rockable.
I really thought a lot about this in the last few weeks with my oldest daughter’s college drop-off looming. I couldn’t decide if I was unfeeling or a bad mom or what, but I was excited and not generally sad about it. Granted, I cried, I got sentimental, but when you live a day with MH, (I hope whoever reads this knows me well enough to put this in context) you are really happy that your children grow-up, mature, grow wiser, can be independent…hell, for that matter, wipe their bottoms and take a bath alone! The things that make me cry feel broader and bigger, not because being so about other things (like college drop-off) is trivial, so much as the ground of my life feels saturated with tears. Tears that come from every day life with a child that is terrified of having a menstrual cycle…a child that asks me over and over and over and over and over and over again (x4958) the same question, even though I say,”No!” every time…a child that wakes up out of control and goes to bed out of control…a child that only sees the NOW, not wait, not be patient it will come, not if you do this, then you get this. The weight of the grief of just regular life today combined with the weight of the worry of how I will care for her the rest of her life…it soaks me and the ground around me.
So when it comes time, sometimes, for the tears of just your regular life moments…I feel all cried out sometimes. I feel full of happiness for just the reality that my daughter can drive, that she can go to college, that my son can sit out back and sing and play his heart out, that he has a girlfriend, that he can be in choir. Yes, I miss my daughter and I am having to adjust to her being gone, but I am glad she CAN be gone, that she CAN begin a life of her own.
So, when parents like me don’t respond like you think we should, don’t be surprised, and please, don’t think you know why unless you ask. We aren’t trying to show-out and be all brave, we just might be all cried out that day!

I Love That Punch Line

0 Comments 21 February 2013


“It’s not an obsessive food story. I don’t care about food that much.” — Gabrielle Hamilton

I read a multitude of articles and often times the information that I garner ends up somewhere in that dark pit of my brain labeled: useless information/potential trivia. However, every now and again, I read about someone that invokes intrigue. Gabrielle Hamilton fell into this category after I read about her restaurant, Prune, and memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Anyone who knows me is keenly aware that, while I enjoy fabulous food, I am not at all inclined to cook it, so, upon seeing the title of her memoir, my immediate inclination was to suggest it to a dear friend who loves all things culinary. Gabrielle was placed on that mental shelf of intriguing people and her memoir was passed on to someone who  could possibly benefit from its reading.My memory would be retrieved though, when a weekend visit to Oxford, Mississippi to introduce my eldest child to Ole Miss led to a chance meeting. Girlfriends joined me in Oxford for an annual art show and we decided to grab dinner at City Grocery. Feeling a bit under dressed, we chose a seat at the downstairs bar, located in the back of the restaurant. It was perfect: Our bartender was delightful and the food was amazing. Mid-way through our dinner, a woman and man walked in and took the two remaining seats at the bar. The drink order captured my attention and sent that wheel in my mind spinning (she ordered a Negroni). Information retrieved, we connected, and, long story short, Gabrielle Hamilton had taken the seat next to me. It was as if we had planned to have dinner together all along. Granted, I was a bit star-struck; I had read enough to know that she was James Beard’s best chef in New York in 2011 and that her book was being held in high regard by industry people and critics alike. However, there was something else: She wasn’t a chef that night, nor was she a writer. She was a woman and a mother, not unlike myself. There was a genuine interest on her behalf about the college visit, my daughter’s non-profit, parenting and the task of figuring out how to send a kid to college. My intrigue had been warranted and, by the end of our dinner, I was certain I had found a friend.Back in Birmingham, I grabbed the book from Church Street Coffee & Books and was hard-pressed to put it down over the next week. It was not at all a memoir just for would-be chefs or foodies, although there was a plethora of images painted and descriptions that would captivate both. While food plays a central role in the book, it is a role of connecting, not of cooking. Gabrielle says of the book, it is “not an obsessive food story.” I was in complete agreement, but it was a story though, her story, or at least the first part of her story. I was hooked.

Gabrielle shared her story in the way that Toni Morrison proclaims stories should be shared, as she implores the storyteller, “Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Gabrielle makes a story that connects to the greater story of all of humanity. Her words reveal “belief’s wide skirt” as she offers us a glimpse into both the dark and light places that she has trodden in her first four plus decades. There were moments that I was certain that I knew this girl she writes about. I knew that catch in the back of her throat, that loneliness and that determination. She is clever and honest in her telling and, for me, she reveals that “stitch” Morrison demands as she loosens the veil of fear by connecting her revelations to my own. Revelations that remind me: I am not alone.

In her words, “Here’s the set-up: a girl walks into a bar….. (in oxford, mississippi), and here’s the punch line: Friends. For. Life.” That’s a great punch line!

(Posted on Post Script – 2/21/13)

Come meet Gabrielle and hear her speak about Blood, Bones & Butter at Emmett O’Neal Library this Saturday morning at 9 a.m (click here for more information). Read more from Jorja on her blog, Living Beyond the Pale.



Pull That String (Part II)

7 Comments 15 February 2011

So, now I want to address those who would consider themselves ‘liberal’ or committed to the ‘social gospel.’  Or, quite honestly, those who do not espouse faith at all.  There are a limited number of individuals that do not see themselves as having some sort of responsibility for humanity at large.  And quite frankly, I know far more liberal friends who are far more committed to changing the ills of this world than those who proclaim a strong faith.

So, that being said, does the other side of the coin offer a better soulution than those who come at it from a ‘faith’ perspective? Can education and poverty reduction be the answer to the atrocities that I have read about in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide ?  It certainly is a foundational part of bringing about true and lasting change, but I believe, it is not either or, but both and.

We can give these women education and build into their lives a stronger sense of self by equipping them to provide for themselves and their families, but ultimately, if their hearts are empty, if their self-worth is found only in their ability to produce and survive, what happens when their efforts do not flourish?

They too must have a change of paradigm about the value of women, the value of their own lives, and if there is not a higher power that attributes that value, what will they do?  We are what we worship and if there is truly nothing that is transcendent, where will these women find themselves? Even if they have escaped the brothels, the genocide, the rape, where will they be if they do not see beyond the finite? Faith, in my opinion, must be a part of the change that needs to happen.

However, many on the left side, those who have a deep-seated mistrust of the church and those of faith, have separated themselves from all that do not espouse their worldview.  What would happen if we laid down our arms against each other in the name of coming together to end such horrible ills in our country and our world?  What if the left, the liberal left, chose to respect the faith of the conservatives, or even the faith of many of their own, and work, hand in hand?

Jesus said, in one of the gospels, as his closest followers questioned the motives of a group who was preaching in Jesus’ name.  It is probable that their path was different, possibly even the way they lived out their faith was different.  Jesus answered the critique with a rebuke.  He simply said, if they are not against us, they are with us.  I recognize I am taking liberty with this passage, but ultimately, if we in the church long to see redemption, can we not work with and along side those who are working for the same thing?

Is God so small that we must fight for him to have the Christian fish stamped on every effort that we participate in or of which we are a part?

One of the women who read Part I of this topic wrote this:

“Jorja, Thanks for this. First, I would like to say that I am hopeful b/c I have found a Baptist church here in Frankfort, KY (our capitol) that is doing a great job caring for the sick, poor and marginalized. We have a medical and dental clinic and pharmacy that is run by volunteers and serves people in our community who don’t have other health care options. We also have a clothes closet that is like a department store and are a part of a local food pantry that is making plans to organize in a way where people get to ‘shop’ and choose the foods they need and want. We partner with the local health dept. and many other non profits and churches of all types to do these things. We manage to do this in spite of many differing political views within our own congregation. We also have a center for creative arts that offers free music practice and lessons to children. Now, all of that said, I am aware, thanks to you, that we can do more addressing issues that oppress women specifically. I celebrate that we are evangelical, but we ordain women as lay people and ministers and strive to use inclusive language, etc. Many churches do this, but sadly, not many Baptist ones in the south. Still there is so much more we could do to raise awareness about sex trafficking, slavery, etc. I will definitely be thinking and praying about how I can and should be a catalyst for this. Thanks a bunch.”

How encouraging to see that there are churches that are caring for the ‘least of these’ in a combined effort with a multitude of organizations who are committed to the same things.  To see human beings coming together because they too, as Dr. King said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail believe what he wrote:

“…I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

I do not have answers.  I only have questions.  But they must be asked, and pondered if their is to be real change in this country and this world.  I believe more than I ever have that I am a part of ‘an inescapable network of mutuality’ and a ‘single garment of destiny.’

What do you think?  What are your questions?

Taking the Holiday

4 Comments 06 December 2010

Hello people…iI know my posts have dwindled…I hope to have a clear vision of what i am going to write about beginning with the new year.  I am torn, a lot, when I sit down to write and I have sought a bit of counsel as to how to give myself permission to write what I really want to write, for those that I truly want to be a part of Living Beyond the Pale.  I sincerely hope you all have a fabulous holiday season.  Cheers and lots of love from me!

Do you know WHY?

0 Comments 01 December 2010

My husband sent this TED video to me today.  It is very thought-provoking.  Do you know what you believe?  Do you know your own WHY?

Putting The Pieces Together

0 Comments 08 November 2010

I really can’t remember the first time I saw The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro.  I do remember being moved in the depths of my soul.  There are moments like that in our pasts that stick with us.  I watched it again this weekend and I was no less affected.  The reality is that I was probably far more affected than I was when I saw it years and years ago.

This journey of piecing together the ship of my life, of discerning which pieces from the first half of my life will build the hull of the future, has been and continues to be intriguing.  I have written before about the tempting desire to disregard one’s first chapters once we come into a fuller understanding of what truly matters in mid-life.  However, I am moving more towards a middle ground on this issue.

The very substance and essence of who we are, who we were created to be in this lifetime is there from the beginning.  This is not at all to say that it is not marred and misguided along the path of our youth and our young adulthood through various experiences and relationships, but it is there, even if it is in a much more primal form.  As I look back on the things that have been touch points, if you will, throughout my life, even in the most misguided times, I see “myself” as I am today and as I hope to be.

I write a lot about how I lost my voice and even became a mouthpiece for things that I now find heart-breaking.  It can be easy to overlook the moments of light in years that seem but darkness.  I have been reminded, by other women, that even the years or decades that I wonder about, were indeed full of ME; full of who I am at my best.

I don’t have anything figured out yet, nor, honestly, do I ever think that I will this side of heaven, but…I am learning and growing.  And for me, watching a movie like The Mission only propels me forward.  Why?  The things that burn within my soul, the sense of justice and the desire for mercy, are the backbone of this film and the things that compel me today.

I am going to be writing about The Mission and different insights that I have learned.  Hope you’ll join the discussion…and watch the movie!

Explaining The Tightrope

18 Comments 29 August 2010

My youngest child did not talk until she was five years old.  It was a very long and arduous five years filled with hours and hours of speech therapy, testing and fear.  Fear that she would not ever talk.  The frustration that accompanies a child that can not verbally communicate is immense.  She has tremendous frustration that is the result of her impulsivity and her anxiety, but the inability to communicate verbally took it to an impossible level.

Then it happened.  She began to utter words.  Then the words turned into sentences.  Sure, they weren’t normal sentences, and phrases like ‘telegraphic’ speech were used to describe it, but still…she talked.

In these last five years, her speech has grown tremendously.  She has grown in her motor-planning and as a result, she has not stopped talking!

Now, she talks non-stop.  It is great to know when she is hurt, when she is hungry, when she is happy and sad and so on…HOWEVER, having the use of her speech has given her a tool, a vessel, a conduit…through which to DRIVE ME INSANE!  Or the ability to tell the man at the grocery store that he stinks, or the sweet lady at church, “I hate you!”, or to tell her teachers at school, “my mommy so mean!”  It carries with it a level of hilarity that can only be appreciated if you don’t let how freaked out people are get you down!

Yes, I recognize that many of you are seriously doubting my capacity as a mother right now, or at least my ability to be grateful for the wonderful gift of speech.  However, unless you personally have ever experienced the incessant questions, statements, words, or “mamma,” then you should not judge me.  Oh, I know, “every kid does that…”  Let me bring you into the loop, every kid does not say words, the SAME words and statements, and questions, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again until you literally think you will lose your mind.

Have you ever actually looked into what Chinese Water Torture really is?  Just one drop of water, dripping over and over onto the forehead…  If they had a University program, MH would have her PhD.

And no, it isn’t like you can tell her the answer or to stop asking, or to stop saying that…even if you look that cute little kid in the eye, she does not get it.  You can say one minute, “you disobeyed, there will be no prize.”  And low and behold, just seconds later, “Mom, mom, mom, mom…can get a prize? Please, please, please mom.”  Even writing it down makes it sound so normal, but if I could have literally made an audio recording in my home for the last three hours, you would be buying me a one way ticket to somewhere…I’m just sayin’!

I have never considered myself patient, but honestly, the fact that she still lives proves that I am.  I know she can’t help it.  So in one moment I am furious, the next I am riddled with guilt, the next I want to poke my ear drums out…or at least, run out the door and catch the first plane to Tahiti!  And eventually, I just start laughing.  Maybe it is the onset of full-on mental illness, but really, getting mad and screaming, well, it has the same affect as nailing jello to a wall.  So, I laugh…and most of the time, I give in, I give her a prize, I do ANYTHING, to get her to stop.

I love an artist named Brian Andreas, he is clever and witty and says things that I wish I had said…this is one of my most favorites:

most people she never tells about the tightrope because she doesn’t want to listen to their helpful comments from the ground

It reminds me that my life, like so many of us, is walked on somewhat of a tightrope and unless you are up here with me, it is virtually aimless to attempt to explain what it is like.  Besides, it is the compulsion of polite, Southern culture, to be helpful.  So, when I lament a part of my life, I am doing so to show you the humor and the brokenness that is this life we all live.  I do not expect you or anyone to fix it.  Grieve with me, laugh with me, (buy me a ticket to Tahiti) wonder or imagine if you would like to, but as for the “helpful” comments…well, give them to someone else! ;)

If My Flower Could Talk

4 Comments 26 August 2010

Accessory Whore - Whore StoriesMy friend Pammer, over at Accessory Whore, yes, you heard me, that is the name of one of her blogs, asked me to write a story.  And this was not just any story, it was to be a ‘Whore Story.’

You see my friends, Pammer is a magnificent woman, she is beauty personified and she knows fashion, in ways that I could not even begin to understand.  She rocks a room in just blue jeans and a top…with of course her ACCESSORIES!  No, not the over the top, unnecessary type that you wish people would have never put on, but the type that you look at and think, “Damn, why can’t I pull that off!”  You see though, our accessories, like our clothing, is a reflection of who we are and the more closely it reflects us, the real us, the more comfortably we wear it.  And when we are comfortable in our own skin and our own clothes and yes, our own accessories, we ROCK IT!

Accessory Whore is a great site with great insight on where to get ANY kind of accessory…for you, for your husband/boyfriend, for your home, for your gadgets, you name it!  It is a great idea, from a great lady!

Anywhoooo, Pam has a spot on her site where people share stories, and you know I love stories.  They are called Whore Stories and are about a special piece of jewelry or something that has sentimental value to you.  I wrote a story for her about my favorite necklace…my flower necklace and all the places it has been with me!

Skip on over and give my ‘Whore Story‘ a read…and take some time to find your best accessories while your there!  I am wearing my ‘Flower’ in these photos!

Empower or Influence?

10 Comments 25 August 2010

I get very interesting reactions when I tell people that I write a blog.  I think this is because blogging itself has a reputation of sorts for being a place where some bloggers write about random things on a daily basis.  Now, while that may be the case, and I might add, some of those blogs are very, very successful, that is not the purpose of mine.

Besides the fact that I am not witty enough to make my daily meandering through life interesting enough for 40 thousand plus people to want to take a voyeuristic peak every time they have a free moment…

I write to affect change.

I write to chronicle the messy and sometimes difficult challenge of a woman in her mid-life as she begins to use the atrophied muscle that is her voice in a culture that often marginalizes women and their contributions.  And while I do not have some deep seething agenda to take over the world, (although, if that happens, the world might be a better place!)  I do have a burning passion to help other women along this same path.

After my recent trip to a blogging conference, Blogher ’10, I was struck by the power that women bloggers and women in online media have, literally, at their fingertips.  My question, is, how will we use this power?  I believe that power can be used in two very distinct ways and my friend Lisa Petrilli,  at C-Level Strategies & Awakenings addresses these two ways beautifully in a recent post called, 3 Smart Reasons to Empower Instead of Influence.

I talk a lot about empowering women on my blog.  I believe it is a vital part of what we, as women, can do for one another in community/relationship and what I want to do for those women that I come in contact with through my writing on this blog and my consulting.

But what is the difference?  Really?  I believe it comes back to power and whether or not we want to control it and hold on to it in order to motivate people to do what we want them to do, or we want to pass it on to others, giving them the authority and enabling them to act of their own accord.  These are the synonyms that are attached to empower:  ascribe, commission, delegate, authorize, entrust, indue, & gift.  These are the synonyms that are attached to influence:  command, control, dominion, effect, mark, drag, guidance.  It becomes the difference between creating followers or other leaders, the difference between those who mimic or those who are individuals who are free to live out their own creeds.

I can tell someone all about me and my life and that may be inspirational and even challenging.  But ultimately, I want it to move them to action in their own lives, I want them to consider where they are in their own journey; what their gifts are, if they use their voice well, if they feel like they know themselves and where they are headed for the next forty years, if they know where and how they can contribute to their worlds.  There is always a place for influence.  But it is my purpose here, to empower.

I believe we are all unique with different gifts and different paths to follow.  What one woman may find to be her limit or her ‘pale’ that she must push beyond may seem a walk in the park to another.  The point is that we all have them, the boundaries, the pales, the voices in our head, the inner critics, the real-life critics that keep us from living our lives to the fullest.

Who is in your life to empower you?  Send me an message on the Contact Jorja page if you want to set-up a consultation.  What say you people?  Do you want to be empowered?  Are you an empower-er yourself?

Only Beautiful Voices Today…

2 Comments 23 August 2010

I know I have written about my friends in the music business before, but today is a big day for them, so, I must write again.  They release what just might be their best album yet, and believe me, that is hard to do.  In a production world where craft and creativity, skill and talent get pushed and shoved aside in favor of what can drive a media frenzy, these four individuals are rare.

They have loved their craft, given life to their creativity, developed their talent and they have done it all in and out of the spotlight.  Glory and fame doesn’t always go to the most gifted, just turn your radio on and you can bear witness to this reality, but glory and fame have not been the driving motivators to my friends…they love their families, they love each other and they love their music!

Ask them and they will tell you, even after all these years, for them, the music, in and of itself is The Reason Why!

The Reason Why, is the title of their new album and it comes out tomorrow.  It is filled with songs, like the one you can watch below (after the commercial, because I got the link from CMT, bummer! And if something pops-up, just close it!)  The video is of the first single, Little White Church, which is about to be a top 10 Country Hit!  But honestly, this album has so many fantastic songs, I am unsure which will be my favorite.

You can also watch a one hour documentary on the life of Little Big Town, how they got started and the trials and triumphs of the band on GAC.  The series is called Origins: Little Big Town and it comes on again tomorrow and Wednesday.  It was great fun for my family and friends to watch and really exciting to hear the new songs.

Whether you are a country music fan or not, it is a musical experience to be appreciated, regardless of your particular tastes.  The harmonies are to die for and these people can simply sing the hell out of a good song!  So, “Cheers!” to Karen, Jimi, Kimberly & Philip on a marvelously successful album!

Marginalization of a Woman’s Voice

35 Comments 20 August 2010


There have been two events in my life in the past week that have served as vivid reminders for me about what happens when a woman asserts herself within the world of conservative religious circles.  Now first, let me give you a disclaimer and remind all of you who will be rabid with defense of your particular church/religious culture, that I am speaking of my personal experience.  [Although, I truly do believe that my experience, if we are honest, is fairly par for the course. I know this is kind of a disclaimer to my disclaimer, but as MH says, “Too bad, so sad, oh well!”]

First I will give you the two instances and then I will give you my thoughts on what happened.

Last week I was asked to sit on a panel to discuss the theology of working with young women at a youth conference at my current church.  The conference was attended by youth workers from around the country and these workers were predominantly men.  The questions centered around how they could help their female youth.  At one point, during the discussion, there was a point of contention between one of these [male] workers and myself.  We simply did not see eye to eye and this lack of congruence in our views caused him to misquote the entire panel and oversimplify what we had just said.  I quickly and firmly corrected his misquote.  I spoke with authority and passion, but I was not angry or ugly.  He quipped back, “Hey, calm down!”  After assuring him that I was indeed calm, I proceeded to once again communicate what we, as a panel, had stated.

The second instance that I was involved in happened just yesterday and this time it was online.  I did something that I rarely do.  I commented on a minister/friend’s Facebook page on an issue that he brought up that involved politics and faith.  So, my friend makes a comment, I respond and eventually, one of his other commenter people comes after me and my comment.  Initially it is fine and I quote Anne Lamott, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”  This guy begins to tell me that I am unclear on what my faith is about.  I disagree and we have a couple of back and forths.  Then, when I decide I need to do my ‘BIG LIFE’ and stop dilly-dallying around with this guy, I try to excuse myself, with humor, from the conversation.  This is how the conversation went:

Jorja:  ok, XXXXX, i’ve got better things to do than debate guys like you on issues like this. hope you have a lovely day and a lovely life. like [our friend] said, he was stirring the pot, and your pot has officially been stirred.  blessings.

Marginalizer:  simmer down… guys like me? funny. I speak for a lot of people I just lack the diplomacy to sugar coat things I call out. I’m a harmless kitten… I didn’t me to upset you, I apologize.

Jorja:  i love the humor of ‘simmer down’ and ‘upset you’…i simply said i’m done, not angry dear. did you miss blessings? again. blessings to you. we are all welcome to disagree within the body. i am sorry if ‘guys like you’ was offensive. i simply meant guys who want to continue to argue. have a lovely day. goodbye kitten.

What is wrong with the two instances above?  What is the message, the primary message?  Emotion in a man = passion and confidence…he’s a straight shooter.  Emotion in a woman = lack of rational thought/thoughtfulness-she’s a piece a work.  How do women lose respect within the religious culture, particularly in the South, but really, across the board?  When a man speaks with authority or passion he is seen as just that, an authoritative and passionate voice that has a strong conviction about whatever topic he is speaking.  He, like Mr. Marginalizer above, simply “lacks the diplomacy to sugar coat things.”  When a woman speaks [specifically in opposition to a man] with authority or passion, she is seen as being emotional and harsh, or even worse, she is ANGRY, and needs to “simmer down.”

Let me be clear, I will not ‘calm down’, ‘simmer down’ or NOT ‘get upset’ if what I am speaking about or writing about deserves a passionate and emotional voice.  I will use my voice in whatever manner, as a wise, intelligent and discerning woman, I see fit.

Women are emotional creatures.  It is a beautiful and necessary part of who we are and how we function and the world and men are BETTER for it.  However, it can often be the number one thing that is used against us, to marginalize our voices, in the institutions that mean the most to us and our families.  And this marginalization is not limited to our religious institutions, it happens in the workplace, in our marriages and in our schools – everywhere.  Across the board, I believe that we are all, taught to see emotion in women (and even men) as an opportunity for exploitation, instead of an invitation for respect, or reflection of insight, passion, wisdom,  or strength!

There is a wave of shame that washes over a woman when she is told to “simmer down,” “calm down,”  or “don’t get so upset!”  Certainly there is a need to use prudence where our emotions are concerned, we can’t be unleashed with every whim that courses through our emotional veins, but we must not buy in to this false notion that to feel is wrong or somehow less than!  Even the terms “calm down” and “simmer down,” don’t they remind you of something you would say to some horse that was flaring her nostrils and about to go up on her hind legs in attack mode?

Watch, listen and observe, in your own life and the conversations between others.  See if you can catch a glimpse of this marginalization.  Remind yourself and each other that passion, conviction and our ‘raised’ voices should carry the same weight as those of our male counterparts.  Teach the same to your daughters.  This notion that we are less-than because we “become emotional” is foolish.  After all, when is the last time you heard someone tell a man to “Calm down!” or “Simmer Down!” or “Don’t get upset!”  They would have a come apart if we said that to them.  These are phrases that are meant to belittle, shame and demean.

Speak with passion, unashamedly ladies – use your voices – just be sure you are using them with wisdom! [And honestly, I would prefer you just use them, even if you have to come back later and say, “I may have been a bit hard on you…”]  I’m just sayin’…marginalization is wrong!

*This is the AMENDED part:  To clarify, my main point in writing this post is not to argue that women should be able to be as ‘emotional’ as they choose to be, but instead, that women should not be accused of being ‘emotional’ in an attempt to discredit/shame/demean.  All for now. ;)

A Double-Edged Sword

16 Comments 18 August 2010

My kids went back to school yesterday and it was a day that made me shout “Hallelujah” as I walked into my local Starbucks to meet my front porch group of friends, but it was also a day that had me crying myself to sleep.  How is that?  I was so excited for my youngest, my little punkin’ with special needs to go back to school as this summer has been especially hard on her and on us.  She simply doesn’t do well without the structure and predictability that school affords and I just can’t give her that in our life at home everyday during the summer.  It was very frustrating for her and it overwhelmed her and made her act out towards me and her siblings.

While she had great triumphs, as we increased her anti-anxiety meds and she rode in a BOAT, and then, hold on to your hat people, she went and rode the TUBE this past weekend!!!!  Yes, it was an amazing day and we still can’t get over it.  The pictures tell it all!  So, while the summer was hard, there were beautiful and exiting moments that made up for all of the hard times.  Watching MH have fun, watching her laugh and smile, well, there is nothing in the world like it…it is JOY multiplied!  But nonetheless, it was fantastic to get her back to a place she loves so dearly…her school and her teachers that she adores.

But in getting her to school, I am confronted with all of her little 5th grade peers.  This happens, inevitably every year.  I sit and listen to all of my dear friends talk about which teacher their kids got and and how excited they are or are not.  I look at first day of school photos.  I check homework for my best friend’s 5th grade daughter.  And in an instant, out of nowhere, I am overcome with it…grief.  It is really hard to explain.  It isn’t at all that I don’t love MH just as she is or that I want to wish away those moments of joy that I have with her.  It is just the simple reality that I grieve the pain that she endures, the difficulties and struggles that she must overcome on a daily, even hourly basis.  I grieve the multitude of ways that our family must bend and morph to accomodate her constantly changing moods and antics.  I grieve that she is vulnerable in ways that no one but me as her mother understands.  I grieve that she has to take all of this damn medicine every damn day just to not be unbearable to those around her. I grieve that she can’t sleep when she is exhausted.  And then I grieve that I grieve, because there is so much that is to love and appreciate about her.

It is a double-edged sword.  I cry because my baby is not perfect, but hell, neither am I.  I am just as broken as she is, but in different ways.  It is good to be loved in spite of that brokenness, just as I love MH, in spite of hers.

Blogging Community 101 – BlogHer ’10 Experience

43 Comments 14 August 2010

I have decided that the best way to explain my experience at BlogHer ’10 is to tell you who I met (at least some of them).  To me, it really comes down to relationship, to community and while there was a lot going on, it was the small and meaningful conversations that will, I hope, make me abetter writer/blogger…not to mention, a better human being!

But first, I wanted to mention a couple of things that, for me, were the best moments of MY BLOGHER ’10 experience…

I am not really afraid to go places alone, however, this was a very daunting undertaking.  First, I really know very little about the blogging world and secondly, I don’t really have a “blogging community.”  So, walking into the Hilton New York last Thursday was a bit like walking into the seventh grade hall as a 5th grader!  A friend of mine always says, “walk like you know where you are going,” and this was my thought on the conference.  After all, I love New York City and I travel there at least once a year because of this love, so at least I knew where I was going most of the time out in the big city!  But inside that hotel, oh, it was a different world altogether.  Intimidating…to say the least!

I had delightful roommates, in both of the rooms that I stayed in at the conference.  They brought a plethora of talent to the table as well as their own experiences with blogging and their lovely lives!  It was great fun and like being back in college and being shoved into a room with women you do not know and being forced to sleep with them!  Ha!

If there was a downside, and as a “newbie” I hate to even talk about a downside, it was all of the sponsored parties!  In the weeks leading-up to the conference I was inundated with information on how to get an invite and figuring out what to wear to the parties.  Then, once I arrived at the conference, I was surrounded by ‘swag’ or freebies from all of the sponsors.  Now, let me be clear, no one is unappreciative when people start practically throwing free merchandise at you, however, it is a bit distracting.  And for me, since I didn’t really have a group of friends who I knew were of the same mindset as myself, I was tossed to and fro like a beach ball at a Brad Paisley concert!  It was like being invited to attend a blogging university, with classes and excellent professors, and yet the social life, which could at times be likened to sorority rush, was hounding you at every turn.  So, I repeat, I am VERY thankful for all of the wonderful exposure to all of the great products and services of the sponsors, but I am just too ADHD to keep my mind on learning when parties abound!  Make sense?

Ok, now for the upside…I found great community!  It came in spurts and varied from day to day, but I really gained some valuable insight into the blogging community at large.  One certain highlight was going to the ‘Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Eyes and Finding Your Tribe’ breakout session that was lead by Shannon Des Roches Rosa.  Shannon and Jennifer Meyers, who I had met on twitter before I arrived, immediately embraced me and made me feel welcome.  The session was very insightful and helpful and gave me a window into the world of parents who blog about their children’s special needs.  I laughed, I cried and I longed to take them all out to dinner and really ask the questions that were whirling around in my head.  SO, a definite highlight.

Another significant highlight, as far as the organized conference was concerned, was the breakout session entitled, ‘Where’s the Line or the Lie: Storytelling, Memoir and Poetic License’ which was headlined by the blogging celebrity of Jory Des Jardins, Jenny Lawson and Julie Marsh.  These women are all known bloggers, Jory is one of the original founders of BlogHer, Jenny is The Bloggess and Julie, from The Mom Slant, is a straight-talkin’ mom on a plethora of touchy issues.  It was a very helpful, not to mention hilarious, session.

Next, (I know I said a couple, but hey, you know me!) I consider it an honor that I was able to attend the breakout session called ‘Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community on the Internet.’  This panel/session brought a new appreciation for how “real” the blogging community is for those who are suffering.  So many people see the blogging community as some make believe world with imaginary friends, however, if they listened to Anissa Meyhew and her hubby speak about how the REAL support of this community buoyed them through the darkest hours, days and even months of their trials since she suffered two strokes, they would know that is not the case.  They would have heard human beings being honest, humble and humorous about how their readers and online supporters brought inspiration and care to their family, via the Internet.  They weren’t the only ones to speak of this reality, but their story moved me in beautiful ways.  It was a delightful picture of the joy that comes through even the most dibilitating suffering.

Okay, I know I am going on an on, but this is the last thing I will say.  The ending keynote ROCKED and not just because I randomly ended-up at a table with Aimee (a.k.a. @Mommaloves), who immediately took the time to ask me about myself…and get this, she really wanted to know!  She is a big blogger, someone who knows people, and yet there she was, during the last part of an exhausting conference, really listening to me and my vision for my blog.  IT WAS FANTASTIC – one of the best moments of the conference for me…Why?  Because we all want to be known, that’s why!  We want what we are about to be heard and we want to feel, well…not so invisible!  She listened and she actually loved what I was about.  Crazy, but true.  Then she began introducing me to people like Deb (a.k.a. – Deb On The Rocks) who was gracious and hilarious!  All three of us were moved by the panel that spoke at the closing keynote.  The speakers were, Marie Wilson, Gloria Feldt, Simran Sethi and Alison Stewart.  They were women who empower other women to use their voices and change their worlds!  In other words, they were my kind of women!  Afterwards, Aimee took lil’ ol’ me to dinner with her and my new friend Pam (a.k.a. – Outside Voice) and an even newer friend Karen (a.k.a.-Volunteer Spot).  Some good ol’ Ray’s pizza and then a couple of parties…and by the end of the night I was ready to tuck these gals in my pocket and bring them home with me!

So, what did I learn at BlogHer ’10?  I learned what I knew already, but in a deeper way – COMMUNITY is what we all long for and need.  There is power in numbers, yes, but there is “EMPOWERMENT” in community!  I left the conference feeling like I might just have a new community of peers, and that I was empowered to build community among my readers.

There were other moments of community sprinkled in and around those big moments…like getting to know my roomates:  Dawn – @dawniemom, DawinieMomReviews, Jenn – @jens_skittles, Jen’s Photo Stream, Sherrie – @sherriemae23, Good Karma Baby, Silver – @silvernelson, Silver Thinks, Ashley – @plucypea, The JimmiesSurvival of the Hippest, Lindsey – @linzlovesyou, BirdsIViews and Nichelle – @STYLEMOM, Style Mom.

Meeting some Alabama Bloggers: Rachel – @objectivityrach, Grasping for Objectivity in my subjective life, Jen – @jennelsonlane, Hey Ya’ll, Kim – @kimt205, Live from the 205.

Having lunch with a complete stranger and discovering we both had a special needs child: Angela – @hangingwitmrsc, Hanging With Mrs. Cooper.

Being included and invited by COOL ladies:  Jessica – @mommasgonecity, Mommas Gone City, Carol – @NYCityMama , New York City Mama, Melissa, @rockdrool, Rock and Drool, Melysa – @melysaS, Melyspeaks, Lauren – @laurencarlton – Mommy Is Rock n’ Roll, The Mouthy Housewives, Aiming Low.

Finally meeting women that I follow on Twitter:  Kate – @guavalicious, The Guavalicious Life, Fadra – @allthingsfadra, All Things Fadra (ok, so we STILL didn’t meet, but we tried dammit!), Alison – @sassymomchicago, Sassy Mom in the City, Ann – @annsrants, Ann’s Rants, Rita – @ritaarens, Surrender, Dorothy, Val – @disneyfamily, Heidi – @c2cmom, Coast 2 Coast Mom, & Maria – @boredmommy, Bored Mommy.

Having total strangers offer me money and take me in when I lost my wallet (oh yeah, I lost my wallet in a taxi the 2nd night!):Kate – @bigpieceofcake, The Big Piece of Cake, Jill – @houseofgirls3, The Perlman Update, Anna – An Inch of Gray, Christy – A Lil’ Welsh Rarebit, & Dre @walktherope, Life On A Tightrope. Or having an old friend give me cash, Whitney – @jugglingmommy .

All in all…a great experience in community!

And the Award Goes to…

7 Comments 04 August 2010

*tears**gasping**blushing**panting**more tears*


Okay, I’ve never been given an award (that I can remember) for anything!  I wanted to thank the fabulous MotherKnowsLess for nominating me, or choosing me, or whatever the hell it is that she did to get me this award!  You should skip on over to her MotherKnowsLess blog and learn from all of the amazing tips that she has about parenting.  Me, of course, I think her tips on ‘Travel in Europe‘ are the best ever!  Gotta love a mom who is thinking about Europe and Travel!  Love it!!!

Okay, this is the lowdown with this award:

  1. Thank the *wonderful* blogger who gave you this award
  2. Tell everyone 7 things about yourself
  3. Nominate 15 newly discovered blogs to share this award!

Number one, check.

Number two:

I have been married 19 years this month to the man I dated off and on for 5 years in college.  (Damn that’s a long time…just call me an otter?)

I have a beautiful almost 16 yr-old daughter, a strapping 13 year-old and a very busy 10 year-old daughter.

My 10 year-old daughter has many mental, social, psychological and academic challenges.

Having a special needs child has changed my life and will always make my life different.

I would write my memoir, but my family members would kill me.

I am a Private Investigator in my BIG LIFE (the life that makes money, not the one where I sit in front of this screen and write my heart out!)

If my closest friends said anything about me (something good, that is) it would be that I am loyal.


Number 3, okay, here goes! (I really can’t keep doing this…I’ve got to pack for BlogHer ’10 dammit!)



Judy’s Op-Ed Page by Judy Helfand



THE QUARTERLIFE QUEST: Searching for Something More – by Eran

the MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT: Rejecting the Status Quo and Rebelling Against Mediocrity – by Ashley

all.things.fadra – by Fadra

Surrender Dorothy – by Rita Arens

Sassy Mom in the City – by Alison Ray

Cris Buckley’s NO-CLONE Zone by Cris Buckley

Savor the Ride – by Ridgely Johnson

Okay, so there you go people…a few fabulous ladies to keep you clicking!  There are so many amazing writers out there with great insight, but I must stop right now and pack for the conference.

Thanks to MotherKnowsLess for MY FIRST EVER AWARD!

Traveling Isn’t Just for Famous Authors

21 Comments 02 August 2010

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, as she has recounted her foray through the most amazing ITALY!  Yes, food is a huge part of her experience there, but clearly, it is only part of all that she allows herself to take in while spending her four months there.  I think one of the most significant reasons that I am enjoying her story lies in the fact that this entire book is about traveling.  And if one must travel, then Italy is certainly on the top of the list for the world’s most fabulous destinations.  Gilbert’s descriptions of the people, the scenery, and the food are all done in such a way as for one to believe they are taking this journey with her.

However, the first section also lays such dramatic groundwork in our understanding who Gilbert is and why she has chosen to take this journey.  Gilbert states honestly that she is not a natural ‘traveler,’ yet she believes it to be of paramount importance.  She says, “Still, despite all this, traveling is the great true love of my life.  I have always felt, ever since I was sixteen years old and first went to Russia with my saved-up babysitting money, that to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.  I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves.  I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby – I just don’t care what it puts me through.  Because I adore it.  Because it’s mine.  Because it looks exactly like me.  It can barf all over me if it wants to-I just don’t care.”

I love this…why?  Because I love travel and I love the sense of independence that comes with traveling.  I too feel that it could be a love of my life.  I too believe that travel is ‘worth any cost or sacrifice.’  We gain so much when we step outside of our own worlds and enter someone else’s world.

So, here are five of the best reasons I know of for traveling…(to Italy!)  Okay, they are photos, but they are photos from my 40th birthday trip to Sicily!  Food to EAT, places to PRAY & people to LOVE!

Enjoy them and then consider whether or not you are willing to count the cost of travel!  If you are…let me know, because we are going back!

How Good Are You?

10 Comments 01 August 2010

I am new to the whole blogging world, but I have had a good time zipping around and reading other blogs.  It can be quite overwhelming as there are gazillion blogs out there and I have, oh, about three minutes a day to read, but hey, I’m trying.  I did stumble upon an interesting one the other day on BlogHer called Jesus Loves You, but I’m His Favorite and it caught my attention.  The post pointed to studies that were written up in an article called Stumbling Blocks on the Path to Righteousness in The NYTimes.

It was a very thought provoking post and article and my mind made an immediate leap to a post I read recently on an old colleague’s blog about how we choose our friends.  The post took the age old adage, “Bad company corrupts good morals” and exhorted all those reading to stay away from “bad” friends.

It made me think, though probably not the things that my old colleague intended.  It made me ask myself, how good are you?  And I said to myself, self, “Honestly, you know yourself better than anyone and I am fairly certain that you couldn’t put yourself up on some pedestal of morality as a beacon for others.”  (okay, no more 3rd person) Though I want to live by the golden rule and treat others with kindness, I am a very selfish, angry, broken and messed-up individual. (The list is longer, but I’m going for brevity!)

I do believe that God loves me, in spite of even my worst foibles, but that certainly doesn’t make me “good company.”  I think the older I get and the more I have lived through in my life, the more I see myself as more similar to other people than different.  For me to look out into my world and decide who deserves my community, my friendship…that would be a daunting task if I saw myself as morally superior.  There are friends in my life who do not share my belief system.  There are friends in my life that do not even believe in a god, much less the God in whom I place my personal faith.  Yet our similarities are far greater than our differences.  I love these people and have far more to learn from them than I often care to admit.  All of my friends, regardless of their morality, are human beings who, in my opinion, deserve honor and dignity.  I am grateful that they love me in return.

To say that those people, those friends, those human beings do not deserve my friendship, that seems contrary to everything that I believe to be true about my faith.  There has always been a strand of piety that has laced it way through the faith that I profess and I spent years being a card-carrying member of that group.  However, life and its experience has leveled any thought that I am better or less corrupt than the next guy.  Humility and compassion are far more attractive to me than superiority and self-righteousness.  Besides, as Benefict Carey, of the NYTimes article states, “walking around in a pair of moral platform shoes does make it harder to get up when you fall.” I personally know that fall well.

I have to ask myself, what am I afraid of if I walk away from relationships with people who have differing views than me?  Am I afraid that my beliefs or views or opinions cannot withstand a bit of questioning?  Am I afraid that the posterity of my religious beliefs rest soley on my ability to carry them out?  Am I afraid that others within my faith community will think poorly of me if I associate with those who do not espouse the same beliefs?  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” on all counts.  However, it is impossible to love people without being a part of their lives, even the parts of their lives with which you disagree.

My faith centers around Jesus, and anyone who knows anything about him, either those who practice following him or those who despise him, will tell you that he was a friend to all…especially those who were  considered morally corrupt by the religious community of which he was a part.  Truth be told, I want my life to reflect that same love and care and humility, much more than I want it to reflect those who have “good morals.”

Why?  Because I am certain of only a few things in this life and one is that I am not good enough…otherwise, I wouldn’t need faith at all!

Remind Me Again…

11 Comments 30 July 2010

There is an awful lot of talking, tweeting, blogging, writing, television, and other mediums that are promoting relationships between women.  I call it community and I sincerely believe that we have lost sight of it in its most rewarding forms.  Women seem to be much better at developing community with one another and yet we fail to put the effort into doing so.

So, why again do we need community?  Why do we need relationships in our lives that are life-giving and empowering?  Here are five of the best reasons that I have read lately.

Jean Miller Baker, wrote this little list, (yes, another list!) called 5 Good Things and I think its simplicity and clarity are fantastic.

Growth-fostering relationships empower all people in them.
These are characterized by:

1. A sense of zest or well-being that comes from connecting with another person or other persons.

2. The ability and motivation to take action in the relationship as well as other situations.

3. Increased knowledge of oneself and the other person(s).

4. An increased sense of worth.

5. A desire for more connections beyond the particular one.

It is always good for me to remind myself why community is important and why I want to be in relationship with other women who bring these 5 good things into my life!  I also want to remind myself why I want to be a 5 good thing kinda gal!

Do you have women in your life who you can say these 5 good things about?  If not, be one and get one..or two, or three…

84 Things from Theo

6 Comments 28 July 2010

This blog has given me a multitude of opportunities.  I have told you I love to read and to write and since I have embarked on this little blogging journey I have been compelled to do both.  I read Theo Nestor‘s story in her book, How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over, when my friend Magret gave it to our friend after after her divorce.  It is the book that my friend and I read aloud to one another on a beach trip.  After reading it, I shot an e-mail to Theo and asked her to guest post on my blog, thinking it was a long-shot, but as I always say, my mama taught me that you have not if you ask not.

Theo’s 84 Things

1.     Being single and middle aged doesn’t kill you.

2.     You can make a living doing what you love.  Maybe not a killing, but a living.

3.     My best days have some writing, some exercise and some friends.

4.     I haven’t slept in for decades, although I’d love to.

5.     I like the expression, “A man can be a fool and not know it, but not if he’s married.” And would like to rewrite it to say, “A woman can be a fool and not know it, but not if she has a teenage daughter.”

6.     Until recently, I always cleaned my own house.  Until recently, I wasn’t fully happy.

7.     Better to spend money on housecleaning than therapy.

8.     I don’t think I can write without a cup of coffee near me.

9.     I wrote a book about my divorce called How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed.  I risked being struck down by lightening and gained many new friends instead.

10.  I’m a scrabble addict.

11.  Hot weather is overrated.

12.  The first 45 I ever bought was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

13.  My first album: The Divine Miss M.

14.  My favorite movie: Annie Hall

15.  Favorite food: birthday cake

16.  I want to go to Cuba. Ideally, I would fly directly from Seattle.

17.  I want to go to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

18.  The trickiest part of being a single mom is vacations.

19.  When I was ten and eleven, my friend and I used to pretend to be Sonny and Cher. I always had to be Sonny because she was an alpha girl.

20.  When I was twelve, my friend stopped speaking to me and told everyone the secrets I’d told her.

21.  That same year, a boy called my house for me.  My step-dad took the message. The boy grew up to be a fairly well known writer, which is weird because I am a writer.  Did he know?

22.  The next year we moved, and I never saw the boy or the mean ex-friend again.

23.  When I was a little girl, I loved cats with all my heart.  Recently, I’ve fallen hard for another feline.

24.  If it weren’t for my kids, I’d be the most selfish, narcissistic person imaginable.

25.  I like to treat a kid’s birthday like it’s a national holiday.

26.  I don’t like Christmas.

27.  When I was eighteen, my stepsister died on Christmas day. This may be the reason for #26.

28.  My favorite day of the year is summer solstice. I love the light!

29.  I wrote a book about motherhood that bounced around New York City but never found a publisher.

30.  I think Erma Bombeck was a genius.

31.  Books about geniuses (like there was one that came out last year) that don’t mention Erma Bombeck piss me off.

32.  I know why there weren’t many women writers until recently: it’s called breakfast, lunch and dinner.

33.  My kids think I’m a bad cook.

34.   Many of my bills are paid by the articles I write for

35.  I’m pretty sure I have undiagnosed ADD.

36.  What was I saying?

37.  Lists work really well for people with ADD.  Like, don’t leave home without one.

38.  I love the mail!  Even though I never really get anything good, there’s always the hope.

39.  And I guess, then, it goes without saying, I’m addicted to email.

40.  I think Facebook is like a big bar and my profile is my barstool from which I sit yakking.

41.  I should have made one family dinner from the time my kids were little. No special ordering.

42.   I should’ve had a chore chart like those organized moms.

43.  I should’ve quietly given consequences instead of yelling.

44.  I should’ve been easier on all of us.

45.  When my kids were in preschool, I ran across the street to a café to write.  I hoped I wouldn’t see any other moms because I didn’t want them to think that I thought I was “all that,” but I also didn’t want to give up one second of my writing time to say hello.

46.  It was at that café that I wrote my first brave and honest sentence: “The women in my family don’t really like children.”

47. That sentence was published in a magazine called Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

48.  Every book, every movie, every song starts with someone scratching some words down.

49.  Some of those someones doing the scratching are moms.

50. The one event—beside marrying my former husband and giving birth to my two children—that really changed my life was having an essay published in the New York Times.

51.  That essay was called, “The Chicken’s in the Oven, My Husband’s Out the Door.”

52.  I didn’t give the essay that title.  The people at the Times did.

53.  As much as I busted butt to become a published writer, that life-changing publication came almost effortlessly.

54.  Before I published that essay, I had to phone my former husband and read him the scariest paragraph out loud and ask, “Is that okay?”

55.  For some reason, he said, “It’s okay.”

56.  For some reason, the essay was published on his birthday.

57.  If you’re married to someone, their birthday is a Big Deal. After you divorce, you still remember their birthday on the day.  Although you might not be sure what to do with that information.

58.  Sometimes, I also remember on March 14th, “Oh yeah, anniversary.”

59.  Then I count up the years it would’ve been and think, “No way, we would’ve made it this far.”

60.  Most of my life I’ve been very worried about what other people think of me.

61.  These days I’m not worried too much about that.  I worry about what I think of myself.

62.  My hairstylist bought herself a horse because she loved to ride horses as a child.

63.  Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “What did I love as a child?”

64.  Well, I told you: I loved cats.

65.  I loved the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

66.  I loved making art with my grandmother.

67.  I liked hippie stuff (it was the 60s) like beaded curtains, yoga, incense, and tie-dye.

68.  I liked to ride my bike.

69.  I liked dressing up.

70.  I loved my tree fort.

71.  I liked the idea of travel.

72.  I loved all things Egyptian.

73.  I loved all things Italian.

74.  I loved old black and white movies.

75.  I loved shows with female leads.

76.  I loved it when people thought I was very grown up for my age.

77.  Once a boyfriend of my mother’s said this about me: “She’s gonna grow up to be a heartbreaker.”

78.  I didn’t know what that meant, but I found it highly disturbing.

79.  I still do.

80.  The smartest thing I ever did was rearrange my life so I could work at home.

81.  The other day I imagined my life without me in, and I thought, “I must live!”

82.  I’m not sick, just in case you’re wondering.  I just sometimes dress-rehearse the worst case scenario.

83.  I wrote all this in one sitting, never stopping, never going back.

84.  Wait, I stopped once for a second to tell my daughter, “Yes, go to the park but bring your phone. Love you.”

You can learn more about Theo on herFacebook page or on her blog WritingIsMyDrink.  She is also a writing coach and you can find out more about that at .

things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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