Shari MacDonald Strong

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mama's GIRL

As I go about my daily life, I rarely hear other women talking about the THINGS I THINK ABOUT ALL THE TIME. Like, could someone PLEASE make that Verizon geek stop saying “Can you hear me now?” And who are going to be the presidential candidates in 2008? And, oh yeah, the feelings of ambivalence that come with having a daughter.

Not that we mothers don’t want, adore, and cherish our girls (which, of course, we do). But, let’s face it: little girls aren’t sugar and spice and everything nice. They are glorious onions, with layers of richness. Beauty, yes. Sweetness, too. And also strength and smarts and strong wills and complex souls, and everything else that can make up a human being—female or male. In It’s a Girl, edited by the brilliant Andrea Buchanan, the contributors talk about the issues moms like me think about: How can I raise my little girl to embrace both her beauty and her strength? How can I let go of my own agenda for my daughter and nurture her as she chooses her own path in life? Are Disney princesses, as they seem, an invention of the devil? THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I recommend this collection highly, both for insights like those alluded to above, and for delicious lines like:

"A few days after I gave birth to my daughter, I realized my life’s true calling: to be a 1950s father and husband." – Carolyn Alessio

"I sometimes imagine myself as the unfertilized egg I once was . . .waiting for the spark that would transform me from cell to living, breathing soul. It was just my luck, then, that an X chromosome found me first. Why, why, why couldn’t it have been a Y?"—Martha Brockenbrough

"It’s even gone so far that when [my daughter] admires and envies certain prominent male body parts, I find myself saying, "Well I love my vagina," trying to toss off that phrase as comfortably and casually as I can." – Gabrielle Smith Dluha

Get thee to a bookstore.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"There were many steps and columns. It was most tranquil."

Well, there may not be "many steps" over at Literary Mama (sorry, Bill and Ted), but there are many columns. Starting Sunday, mine will be among them. In said still-to-be named column (UPDATE: Now "Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance"), I'll be looking at spirituality and religion through the lens of motherhood. Fascinating? Bizarre? I can't wait to find out, either! When you visit, make sure to leave a comment at the end of the column. The folks at LM will be delighted to hear that you "really, really like me" (or not, as the case may be; controversy doesn't scare me). And, please, send your friends!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'd Go Out and Spend His College Savings, If He Had Any College Savings...

Here is my boy, Macky, playing a perfect game of boules. Note the form. The passion. The ball gliding smoothly into the hole. Clearly, I am raising an athletic genius (no thanks, I must confess, to MY side of the gene pool). We also learned this week that Eugenia is a natural card shark, having won her first-ever game of "Go Fish" (against a college-educated adult) with tremendous finesse, savvy, and downright trickery. Luckily, Will also has many valuable life skills, though, let's face it, he could make it in this world simply by sitting around and looking pretty. And isn't that, really, every mother's dream for her child?

Photo: An Vu.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's Pretty Much My Favorite Flippin' Magazine

I have a piece about Eugenia, me, and materialism in the new issue of Geez (think of it as sort of a counter-culture politics and spirituality magazine with no advertisements, a la Adbusters). Copies available for $7 each online, at your funkier independent bookstores, and peddled from the back hatch of my minivan.

I Like Me a Juicy Roast

I'm not quite sure how Stephen Colbert made it out of the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner alive.

From Russia with Love

I've done some things in my life that I'm not too proud of, but there are a few choices that stand out as stellar, that even I can look back on and say, "My god, you did know what the hell you were doing, after all." At the top of this list is our decision to adopt our daugher from Russia two-and-a-half years ago. My Eugenia (on the right) is a strong-willed, high-energy whirlwind, and there are many moments when she makes me want to gouge my own eyeballs with my knuckles because, hey, at least that's less painful than trying to figure out appropriate consequences for THIS PILE OF BURNED UP MATCHES ("Sissy has fire sticks under her pillow!") and Eugenia's confession that, no, she wasn't trying to burn down the drapes, SHE WAS TRYING TO BURN UP THE TV. (Of course she was.) But if there is one person on this planet who has made me grow more than any other, who has caused me to examine—closer than I ever expected possible—what it means to be a mother, a woman, and a human being, it's this beautiful, crazy-inducing, miracle girl.

Which is perhaps why I feel so calm about our decision to host a 14-year-old orphan from St. Petersburg this summer. There are the forseeable logistical questions: How will we communicate? Can we afford the hosting program? What will we do if the children don't get along? (Seems unlikely, but still.) Or—what if they DO get along swimmingly? (Self-employed folks like us don't qualify for the juicy $10K adoption tax credit.) But that's simply logistics. My heart, she says that we will all have a grand time. It will be a lovely summer, and it will be great fun to shower Olga with love and affection and knitting paraphernalia and Russian-language Harry Potter books. Of course, we'll all need to be careful with our hearts, and we are already preparing our kids to view Olga as a "visitor," because there are many variables and who knows yet what the future will bring. But whatever happens, we will grow. And we will get the chance to love, up close and personal, one more person in this world.

If you feel the nudge to support an international orphan hosting program but don't want to host a child yourself, please visit this donation site. Those who are so inclined can contribute specifically to Olga's visit, but you can also donate to the program in general.

Or for specific information on children you can host (I'm particularly struck by a beautiful, brilliant age 12-17 sibling group from Latvia that needs a host family in the next week and/or an adoptive family before the oldest girl turns 18 in January), email me and I can point you in the direction of more info. (UPDATE: The Latvian siblings found a host family for the summer program!)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

Me: Will, I love you more than anything in the world.

Will: I know.