50 Shades of Black & Blue

Confession: I spent much of my life being an in-closet feminist.

Not only did I recognize how women are viewed as having minority status, but I soon saw countless examples of how women seemed to exist for a man’s pleasure. I understood the Biblical design for men/women, but yet my ideology of equality and shared submission battled with the way things actually are. And I was angry and even bitter.

When you only have your rights to rally for, it’s easy to simplify the struggle to a moment of protest. A single march. But it appears that something as simple as an erotic book series can ignite talks of inequality.

For example, I should be able to read a book surrounding a straight-laced young woman, who lived her life suppressed, finding a supposed “sexually liberated” experience. Anyone discouraging me from reading are being oppressive, right? After all, men are able, and even encouraged, to be sexual. Women, however, are expected to be both Mother Theresa & Nikki Minaj when beckoned.

I want to read these books. Because it is my right as a person. I should do it without being judged.
Simple.

But then I gave birth to a woman.
…well…she’s a toddler now. But it is inevitable that she will become a woman.

I’m not responsible for her gender. God already took care of that part. But I’ve been given the thrilling, tumultuous task of showing her how to be a woman (Lord, help me.). She may not take one ounce of my teachings/example with her into adulthood, but darn it if I won’t still try.

The process of rallying for certain rights become complex when you are considering how it will affect the next generation. I’m picturing Naomi as a 29 year old, and I’m praying that she will not only feel equal with men, but that she will recognize her uniqueness/role as a woman.

Regrettably, books like 50 Shades of Grey does not give respect to a woman’s uniqueness. Only nods to the most debased version of her desires. A 2D version of the fire that a woman’s heart actually contains. It shifts the perspective too far right that love becomes abuse. But isn’t that the typical narrative that we hear of a woman in love?

Crazy. Desperate. Ultimately misused.

I know it is not a philosophy book or a textbook for Women’s Studies. And I understand that the poster-child for the Anti-50 Shades movement are largely conservatives. However, communities are coming to this book’s defense as being normal, acceptable treatment between a man and a woman. And that is not what I want my daughter to desire; not in her love or her sexuality.

This book teaches that pain is the path to desire. I won’t nick pick here because I understand people have various tastes. But this isn’t about having different desires, but about the definition of desire being altered. In my opinion, true desire is only unlocked when two things are present:

Safety
Commitment

By safety I mean a relationship where two people can explore and deny any part of the sexual intimacy. Being tied up, blindfolded, coerced, manipulated, and emotionally and physically gagged does not create safety for the woman. It only enhances the distorted satisfaction of the man. The woman’s satisfaction is not a byproduct of this set up. A happy accident, at best.

And then there’s commitment. When two people make the ultimate commitment (dare I use the M word here: Marriage), they are declaring openly that they share the responsibility to respect one another: mind, body, and spirit. In these books, there was no such commitment made, leaving this woman in danger of being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by an already wounded man.

Another complex portion of rallying for rights is recognizing your part in narrative. The young lady in the first book constantly pursued the man, even after him telling her to stay away.

Raising, not simply head-strong, prideful, self-absorbed young women, but those in touch with their identities is integral to helping them know when a potential relationship is toxic. Not simply knowing what they are attracted to, but gaining a wisdom about what traits to stay far away from.

Ultimately, it’s not all about changing policies or evening the playing field at the end of the day. The heart is hard to legislate. As it has always been, confident, wise women will till their own fields. I will teach my daughter and daughter-types to conduct themselves as if no glass ceiling exists….until it no longer doesn’t.

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Signs You’re too Young Minded for a Commitment

Today was the day that the term marriage was redefined. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the institution of marriage is on an examination table. A whole collection of people will finally get to experience the challenges & heartaches of marriage. On some level.

Ironically, there is an entire generation that will simultaneously rally behind marriage equality but are wrestling with commitment. The term “prolonged adolescence” means that young adults are waiting longer than ever to finish college, move out of their parents’ homes, and get married. Perpetual bachelorhood is romanticized over romance itself. It seems to me that there is more warring against traditional marriage besides the recent declaration.

But I’ve been thinking….current culture reveals so much evidence that not only are most 20 somethings not choosing to get married, but they aren’t even prepared for the commitment. And not only that, but they aren’t attempting to prepare themselves. I can’t speak on this without having the experience to back it up. I wasn’t married at 22. I made a ton of mistakes.

…so, I’m not at all pointing any fingers here…

Anywho. Here’s the list I came up with of signs that you are too young minded to handle a long term commitment. Feel free to comment/add/minus any of these….

1. You cannot take constructive criticism with humility.

2. You haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d like to be in 5 years.

3. Your ideals/beliefs change depending on who you’re around.

4. You have multiple personal electronics which their cost add up into the $1000s but you can’t seem to save for a car.

5. You cannot make a full meal on your own (including a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and maybe dessert).

6. You stink at having roommates or always choose to live alone.

7. When out with friends, you can’t (at least once) pick out the restaurant.

8. Your FB timeline is filled with passive aggressive/attention seeking posts.

9. Your previous relationships ended due to the same, exact reason. Doesn’t matter which one, but they are all identical.

10. You believe its the opposite sex’s fault you aren’t in a relationship.

11. You spend most of your time looking for someone, rather than becoming someone.

12. If you’re female, you still say the following: “I have more guy friends than girls. I just don’t get along with girls.”

12b. If you’re a male, you still use derogatory terms for women (e.g. thot, etc.).

13. You either feel like marriage is a) a prison sentence or b) your salvation.

Little Me.

So, our little Naomi is coming up on 3 months.

…sheesh…can I just pause and say that happened really quickly?

Anywho.

She’s been doing a really terrifying thing lately:

While I breastfeed her, she will pause and stare at me.

(That’s some hilarious imagery for you, huh?)

No, I am quite serious.

And her stare isn’t, in itself, frightening. Meaning those big ol’ beautiful brown eyes aren’t creepy or eerie. They are very, very intentional. Observant. And almost…”knowing”.

As if whatever secret or shame I am hiding or fronting for at the time, she has already found it. She knows it. This little person stops for a few moments (which feels a lot longer), takes a big, long look at me, & break wide my whole world.

I’m afraid because I remember that soon she won’t be just an ornament on my hip. A super cute, 10 lb. ball of soft flesh wearing a diaper that I can show off on Facebook. Sure, I will blink and she will be an independent, capable young adult who lives her own life and makes her own (hopefully wise) decisions. But, there exists a sliver of time in the near future where she will be at her most impressionable. And not only will she see me, but she will mimic me.

The scariest part?

I can’t control which parts, which moments of mine, she will mimic. “Do as I say, not as I do” has to be the biggest paradox that exists for a parent. And I don’t want too see those big, brown eyes filled with confusion when I chastise her for repeating something that she’s seen her mother do often.

I will naturally try and hide from glances that have a knack for seeing too much of me, too quickly. But I don’t ever want to hide from her.

Not her.

So, after a few moments of Naomi’s glancing up from feeding….

…most of the time, she will giggle or smile at my nervous expression, as if to say,

“Chill, mama. I love you anyway.”

10 Things I Love About You

My daughter turns 1 month old today.

This past week, in particular, has been quite a unique one, because I’m beginning to see small bits of her personality become clearer. I stare at her more often. And she spends more time awake than she has since she was born. I thought I’d create a list of 10 things I find cute/lovely/funny about her. I’m sure in the days/years to come, this list will grow…

10. Naomi loves to cross her ankles while feeding

At first, I thought this was a coincidence, considering I habitually cross my legs/ankles while relaxing, eating, etc. I remember when we went to the mid-pregnancy ultrasound appointment to find out her gender, but couldn’t see her private parts because she was lounging with her ankles crossed. Ha. She’s definitely my child.

9. “The Pirate Eye”

Something unique that she does that I find adorable. While floating in between awake and milk coma stages, she will open only one eye…as if she’s considering whether or not it’s worth waking up yet.

8. Her sleep positions

When asleep, this child looks like she has worked 2 12 hour shifts back-to-back. It’s hilarious…

7. Her lips

Our poor little one has baby acne concentrated around her mouth because her dad and I can’t keep from kissing her little face. Her lips are so distinct and I’m guessing will be one of her many unique physical characteristics.

6. Her eyes

GORGEOUS. The prettiest baby eyes in the history of baby eyes. Hands down.

5. Flatulence

She will “poot” in front of anyone, anywhere, anytime. She could really care less. If she’s being held by the POTUS one day, I suspect he’d better be prepared.

4. Sound sleeper

Hopefully this observation will continue until she’s well into high school, but when in deep sleep, she has slept through 2 hours of jackhammering, noisy street traffic, and loud video games with shooting and car chases.

3. Her smile

There’s nothing cuter than a tooth-less, squinty-eyed, wide-mouthed baby smile. And she has one that will stop your heart for a few seconds.

2. Her chill-ness

I didn’t think I’d have such a chill kid. At least for right now, (when she’s not fussy of course) she is as cool as a cucumber. Not really bothered by much 🙂

1. She’s our miracle

I’ve concluded that she and God conspired about the day she was to be born. Even though we were all worried and concerned that she’d come too early, everything about her points to the fact that she was already in on that little secret from day one. (See number 2)

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1 Week.

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Haiku #1

By: Jill Scott

It was a loud cry

when I was brought to this world

been loud ever since.

To our little Fighter: may your heart grow larger by the minute & your taste for adventure soar far beyond the places where our feet have taken us.

Happy {{1 Week}} Birthday, my sweet girl.

My Little Girl.

I gave birth to my daughter, Naomi, this past Wednesday.

By far, THE most incredible, hardest act that I have and will ever do in life. Hands down. Many people emphasize the pain part, which is definitely noteworthy. But, the amount of focus, patience, and determination it takes to labor a little one into this side of existence is so undersold. There was a split second where I’d actually changed my mind about the whole thing. I wanted to take it all back. It was too great! The whole experience was coming to a head while I labored, and I was overwhelmed by a rush of emotion, pain, pressure, and exhaustion. And no medication was going to make it all go away. It was too late. I was here and I had to do this.

This isn’t an attempt to preach whether I am for natural child birth or medically assisted childbirth, by the way.

…it honestly doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, how your little human being was born. The “how” pales in comparison to all the other aspects, I think. Especially, the “who”. Women are the gateway. Literally. The gateway God uses to introduce life. We spend months protecting and nurturing the Way. We endure tests and examinations where we’re poked, prodded, and sampled. Pregnant women worry over negative anatomical scans, uterine and placental check-ups, and potential health declines. Almost a year’s worth of worry climaxes into a short blink of time (which could stretch up to 48 hours for some women) when labor happens. Biblically, it started out as a part of our curse for disobeying God (Genesis 3:16). But in the light of Jesus’ redemptive power, labor becomes our cause. Simply because God the Father used the processes of pregnancy and labor to bring the world its Messiah. The time that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she was literally filled with Promise. And the night she birthed Jesus, that promise was fulfilled.

…I understand that, in my own small way…and I think every (pregnant) mother can.

What it is like to hold a Promise closest to your heart, and to trust God with every part of it; both seen and unseen. Known and unknown.

I trusted God to give my little girl life, and NOW I am faced with an even greater act of faith (a daily act, too):

Trusting that God will sustain her life. Believing and claiming that John 10:10 pertains to her as well.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV)

Here she is, guys, my little girl….

Naomi Alese