Celebrating 5 Years of MMM with a Change

Good News Showcase Friday, March 20, 2015

Today marks five years of the Ms. Mary Mack blog! Can you believe it? Man. When I think back to where I was five years ago, as a new mom … listen, even I’m giving myself a round of applause. We’ve come a long way, baby. And, more important, we’ve learned and laughed through it all.

Nicole Blades | Celebration | Ms. Mary Mack

(photo by Nicole Blades, Samsung USA Imagelogger)

And you deserve shine, too, friends. Yes, all of you who have supported me and this blog over the last half a decade. I SAID HALF-DECADE. WE OLD, THELMA! Your comments, your “Global Mama tales, your guest posts, your advice, and your willingness to listen and share your stories as we work at this parenthood thing — all of it is priceless, all of it is treasured.  Thank you.

To celebrate MMM growing up, I’ve decided to make some changes on the blog. It’s more natural progression than a change. Being honest, I considered shutting the whole thing down and focusing on other projects. But somehow that didn’t feel right.

As I wrote on the homepage (top right-hand column), Ms. Mary Mack began as a parenting blog that tracked the monumental transition from “me to mom,” with the hope of gaining insight, information and wisdom, and passing it along. I still feel that way, that there is insight and intel to gather and share. However, it felt like the scope needed to widened beyond “just” parenting.

That’s because there’s more breadth here.

Six years into being a mother, I’ve changed. We all have. We’ve grown into this integral role of parent with confidence and compassion. So now it’s quite natural to widen the focus of this blog to include the other interests, influences and important parts of our lives. This means pop culture, media, trends, hot takes, photography, all of it. Hey, we may even debate whether red velvet will become the new pumpkin spice. It’s all relevant. It’s all good. And I hope you’ll join me as we keep it moving forward.

A love toast (heh.) to you, my friends. And Happy 5th Blogiversary to us all!

Love Toasted by Nicole Blades | Ms, Mary Mack

(photo by Nicole Blades, Samsung USA Imagelogger)

 

On God, Religion, and That Darn Easter Bunny

Real Talk Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Super excited to share my first essay for the Washington Post’s “On Parenting” column. (It’s the first of three that I’m writing for them. Alright, alright, alright!)  It’s about talking to my son about God and religion when there are many questions still floating around my own head about the layered subject.

ChurchBells by Nicole Blades

I wrote the essay earlier in the year and it just posted Monday. As it happened, I ended up having a conversation about God, “Baby Jesus who grew up to be an adult” and religion with my son over the weekend as we flipped through a Williams-Sonoma catalogue that featured every Easter Bunny-related thing you could think up.

We snuggled up chatting about LEGOs and springtime and jellybeans, and it just felt like a good time to angle the convo towards something with a little bit more heft. I started by talking about Easter and the different ways people celebrate it. So, this meant touching on the chocolates and sweets-fest that trails behind the Easter Bunny these days.  From there, we quickly moved into faith and talking about those ideas that people believed to be true and take very seriously.

The Youngster asked smart questions, but his queries mainly came down to, What does [new word] mean? So I found myself explaining, in terms a sharp 6-year-old could follow, things like sin; heaven and the afterlife; Christianity, Judaism and Islam; agnosticism (which I instead called “being unsure and still thinking it over”); faith and worship; and — the one thing I was slightly uneasy about — crucifixion. Through all of it, my son listened well and I could see his little mind working to make it make sense for himself. He also added that one of his buddies “believes all of this,” which underscored for me the fact that he’s aware, astute and ready for these more intricate conversations.

I expect this child to come back to me with more involved questions; some that might even send me off to research a proper answer. And I look forward to it. It’s his keen interest in the world around him that keeps me curious and alert, too. Good things to be in 2015, I say.

Below is the essay in full, which was originally posted on WaPo.com’s “On Parenting.” Please click over there. Every click helps! Thanks.

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WWJD? Asking for a friend

By Nicole Blades

Santa Claus was easy. But Jesus Christ, Son of God? Now, that’s going to take some work.

It was about three years ago when my son started floating questions my way in earnest about ol’ Kris Kringle. His questions were leading, though. It was as if he already knew the answer about where the gifts actually came from, and my husband and I were merely confirming it for him. I was fine telling my then toddler son that Santa Claus was just a fun, charming story. And putting the focus of family, kindness and love around Christmas came naturally for me, for us. However, with Easter on its way and my son soon turning 6, my old anxieties around religion—that is to say, how I feel about what’s real and what’s story—are starting to bubble up.

You see, while my husband is a longtime agnostic, I am a believer, but no longer a churchgoer. Although I pray or, moreover, talk to God in my own way, I’ve purposely stepped away from organized religion and have a lot of issues with The Church — issues that make me uncomfortable even referring to myself as a Christian anymore. It doesn’t feel truthful, and doesn’t line up with my worldview. I’ve even started to bristle at trotting out the spiritual but not religious line; it feels overused and a little wishy-washy. But I do want to be the one to talk to my son about God before things get complicated. And I’m trying to reconcile how I feel about God and religion—or at least begin the process—so that I can honestly venture into the potentially layered conversation with my son.

I don’t want these holidays for us to be purely secular, spilling over with sweets, treats, gifts, and trinkets. (Step off, Easter Bunny.) Instead, I want them to be steeped in something more meaningful to our family. Does this mean incorporating religious practices, prayer or worship? Maybe? No? I don’t know. And this is where the apprehension sets in: I believe there are definite lessons to be learned about faith, forgiveness, and compassion from the story of Jesus. But how do I invoke God into our traditions around holidays like Easter without being disingenuous or resting on a pretense that I subscribe to some of the more “magical-thinking” aspects of Bible stories?

I guess it starts with faith…in myself as a parent who can indeed raise a moral child without needing to quote Bible verses. I do believe that there’s a larger force, a greater being that exists beyond our known world, but I don’t want to pour my ideas over this child. He can look to science for cold, hard facts about the tactile world, and that doesn’t preclude him from incorporating ethics like The Golden Rule (a.k.a. Just Don’t Be a Jerk) into the way he moves through that same world.

It’s about holding fast to a belief that I can influence and help shape his young mind by letting my life be the lesson. How do I treat people I care about—and maybe more important, the ones that I’m not too fond of? Am I striving for happiness in my life? Do I put love first? Does my word mean something? Have I allowed passion and integrity to guide me instead of guilt and shame? These are the kinds of things that I think about, when I think about God. They aren’t linked to any Bible stories about sacrificial lambs. It’s not me trying to untangle the doctrine of the Trinity in language that a 6-year-old can understand (or a 60-year-old, mind you, because, listen, consubstantiality is one hard nut to crack). And it’s definitely not throwing the convenient blanket of “For the Bible tells me so” over anything that might be difficult to unpack or explain.

Maybe the way to smooth out the rough edges around how I feel about God and religion is to not mark that as the goal. Instead of trying to make it all make sense for my kid—and me—perhaps I need to leave it open-ended, create plenty of space for us to figure it out on our own time and in our own way. And if that means gray areas, question marks, differences of opinions and doubts, so be it.

Nicole Blades is an author and freelance journalist who writes about motherhood and race, identity, culture, and technology. Her second novel, The Thunder Beneath Us (Kensington), will be published next year. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleBlades.

“Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

Real Talk Monday, March 16, 2015

I celebrated my birthday last weekend, March 8th. It was sweet and fun; I definitely felt loved and appreciated. But over the last seven years there’s this thing that starts to flood my mind a few weeks out from my birthday. Truth told, sometimes it starts to seep in a good month before. It’s this weird heaviness that’s tinged with disquiet; a dash of gloominess and too many deep sighs that leaves me feeling out of sorts for brief moments before bouncing back into contentment.

The brooding is essentially about time moving too fast and feeling like I’m getting old. Older. Old. Closer to “the end.” It’s not that I have regrets or dreams that I’ve abandoned and now I fear that I’m running out of time. No, it’s the opposite: I’m so grateful for my life, my family, my choices. All of those things make me feel fulfilled, happy, and like I’m truly getting better with age — learning more, seeing more, doing more, understanding more, and just growing.

But I still can’t seem to shake this weird thing that starts brewing in the last weeks of February.

sendak_headshot

Then this morning, I saw this wonderful NYTimes piece from 2012, An Illustrated Talk with Maurice Sendak. And through sniffles and watery eyes, I can almost feel the heaviness lifting, melting away, evaporating for good.

“There’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging, that I’m in love with the world. … It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music.” — Maurice Sendak

So as I start this new day, a full week after my birthday, I plan to keep these simple but profound words of Maurice Sendak‘s close to the surface: “Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

The Gentle Cesarean: Yes, Please.

Parental Intel Monday, March 9, 2015

For months after having my emergency C-section, I had nightmares about the experience. Even now if I study the moment for too long, I can feel a shiver run up my spine. It’s legit surgery and it was a rough turn on both my body and spirit.

Happy Happy Mom | Nicole Blades

This morning, while my little cinnamon bun — now 6 years old! —  was having breakfast and getting ready for school, I heard this great health story on NPR about the gentle or family centered C-section. I stopped the everything and listened.

“And there were a bunch of little adjustments, such as moving the EKG monitors from their usual location on top of the mother’s chest to her side. This allows the delivery team to place the newborn baby immediately on the mother’s chest. In addition, the mother’s hands were not strapped down and the intravenous line was put in her non-dominant hand so she could hold the baby.” 

Wow. My whole birthing experience would have been vastly different had this option been available to me back then. It probably would have been less stressful and more joyful. A real celebration. Of course, not having a C-section and going with a vaginal  birth would have been Option 1 for me. But if a Cesarean was necessary, I’ll have mine gentle, please. As the NPR reporter said, “gentle C-section is not a replacement for a vaginal birth; it’s just a way to improve the surgical experience.”

I hope more doctors and hospitals move toward the family centered way.

What say you? Did you have a difficult birthing experience or C-section? Doesn’t the gentle version sound 10 times more humane?

As always, I welcome your comments below! Also, check in with us on MMM’s Facebook page.

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