Shari MacDonald Strong

Friday, March 10, 2006

Let's Hear It for Smoosh Therapy

A horrified, three-year-old Macky today, to the chiropractor who was using the force of his body weight to adjust my back: "Whyyyyyyyy are you squishing Mama?"

Break Out the Tissues

For years, I have had a soft spot in my heart for adoption. More than a soft spot, I am downright passionate about these children—in the U.S. and abroad—who either have been embraced by, or are still in need of, loving families. This week, I read a beautiful, thought-provoking article by a mother who courageously and authentically shares her experience with open adoption. Whether you have kids, hope to have kids, or plan never to have kids (adopted or otherwise), this article offers a moving glimpse into a powerful human experience.

And All These Years You Thought Mumps Were a Bad Thing

Here are a few of my favorite Daily Mumps, for your edification...

Good Family Planning
In Which I Make Great Literature Suck a Little Less
A Birthday Wish Fulfilled
Demonic Third Hand
The Christmas Card Is Ruined
The Cookie of Sadness
Always Keep the Receipt
That's Satan for You

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Belated Mardi Gras?

New in the "What in the Name of all that's Holy?" department, check out this eye-opening entry on king cake.

I ask you, hasn't New Orleans suffered enough?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Don't Cry, Raffi...

In the van on the way home from Montessori this afternoon, my children decided that of all possible songs—of all the contenders for the devotion of two picky three-year-olds and an opinionated five-year-old—the one that speaks to them today is this little gem.

Country music is, er, not exactly my thing. But this song cracks me up. And if the Dixie Chicks (or any one of them) ran for President, they (or she) would have my vote.

Just Another Reason Our Daughter's Middle Name Is "Anne"

Many years ago, more than I care to admit, I discovered the writings of Anne Lamott online, courtesy of a friend's tip. This was before Plan B, before Traveling Mercies, before Lamott was all the rage both in religious and secular circles, and long before spiritual conservatives had claimed authors like Annie and Donald Miller as their own. I loved her piss-and-vinegar writing style, her take-it-or-leave it approach to politics and spirituality...and to seemingly everything else she wrote about. At that early point in my political and spiritual awakening, I especially adored that she identified both as a person of faith and as a Democrat. (This does not seem so outlandish to me now. But at the time....)

Several years later, I heard Lamott speak at the Festival of Faith and writing at Calvin College. During that visit, she used expressly evangelical language that sent a shiver down my spine. (The dew was already off the lily, as they say, when it came to my feelings about Christian publishing.) I worried: was she being absorbed by conservative Christian culture? Would the authenticity with which she wrote be compromised? I cringed when, during her talk, she referenced her devotion to the Women of Faith (for the non-initiated: a group of mature women speakers and authors working the Christian speaking circuit, evoking memories of The Golden Girls, but without the nods to sex).

I need not have worried. When the topic of abortion was breached at a recent politics and spirituality conference in Washington, D.C., Lamott proved again (as she has many times before) that she is nobody's "Yes Woman." I personally would saw off my right arm, and happily, if that would (for some absurd reason) make it possible for the pregnancies at issue to end in the births of children with a chance at living good lives—AND whose mothers share the same. But I also know that most people are just doing the best they can, that life is hard, damn hard, and that women are going to get abortions—whether they're legal or not.

Of course, I have my own ideas about how we might significantly reduce the U.S. abortion rate—wild thinking that has something to do with providing adequate social services to those women who want to continue their pregnancies but cannot see a way to make life work if they do. Currently, much of the U.S.'s disposable income is wrapped up in bombing villages in Iraq. But what if those funds could be funneled instead into (stay with me here) food and shelter and clothing and education and medical care for women and children who need it...? More crazy talk. Still, the mere idea boggles the mind.

I hope to God my daughter never feels that she needs an abortion. But I cannot bear the idea of her or her friends, or mine (or any woman, young or old) getting one in today's incarnation of a back alley if she believes, for any reason, that she cannot continue her pregnancy.

After the Washington conference, Lamott wrote in the L.A. Times about her reaction to the suggestion by a member of the audience that she and others the panel should "reconcile [their] progressive stances on peace and justice with the 'murder of a million babies every year in America.'"

Lamott writes:

"I said [in response to this suggestion] that this [abortion] is the most intimate decision a woman makes, and she makes it all alone, in her deepest heart of hearts, sometimes with the man by whom she is pregnant, with her dearest friends or with her doctor — but without the personal opinion of say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove...I said I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women. I thought about all the photo-ops at which President Bush had signed legislation limiting abortion rights, surrounded by 10 or so white, self-righteous married men, who have forced God knows how many girlfriends into doing God knows what."

Amen, sister. She's still my hero. And she and Annie Dillard remain the best reasons we gave our daughter her middle name.

Rock on, Annie.

For more on Anne Lamott's spiritually incorrect outburst, check out this story.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Groove Is in the Heart

In November 2004, I left my two-year-old twin boys and four-and-a-half-year-old daughter in the care of my husband, friends, and family, and was admitted to a local hospital for open heart surgery. In previous months, I had become increasingly tired and it seemed clear that it was time for the doctors to replace my aortic valve (misformed at birth) and a portion of my aorta that had formed an aneurysm. After the surgery, the white-faced surgeon informed my husband that it was good that we'd done the surgery when we did, that the aneurysm was "tissue paper thin," that it could have burst at any time, and it was clear by the look in his eyes exactly what he meant by this. "This was the real deal," he said.

The surgery was a phenomenal success. Exhibit A: I'M STILL HERE. True, I had some bad medication reactions, didn't experience the unreasonably enormous energy burst I'd hoped for, and spent a good year getting more or less back to normal. The flip side: I'M ALIVE. Other people speak figuratively about getting a new lease on life. Quite literally, that's what I got. I spent the first half (no, third...let's make it the first third) of my life climbing into tiny, uncomfortable boxes (conservative fundamentalist religion, bad relationships, and let's not even mention the long, unfortunate permed hair phase) and painfully working my way back out again. Now, baby, my life, she is an open road. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend; a writer, a feminist, a person of faith (whatever some might think), a questioner, a wanna-be activist. This is, indeed, the real deal.