Essays

gymnastics rings

Unchosen

HerStry

Excerpt:

1984

At the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Béla Károlyi’s star gymnast, Mary Lou Retton, stuck the landing of her full twisting Tsukahara vault, earning a perfect 10.0 and the individual all-around gold medal. At age four, I loved her teammate, Julianne McNamara. She had strawberry blonde hair like me. My sister and I begged my parents to register us for gymnastics. At my first practice, I studied the older girls and followed every direction. At pick up I asked my mom, “Can I come back tomorrow?” 

Later, my dad got down on all fours on our linoleum floor. I adjusted my hair and leotard like the girls did on TV, rubbed my palms together, took a deep breath, sprinted across the kitchen, and catapulted over my dad’s back. The imaginary crowd erupted in applause.

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Choosing Motherhood

HerStry

Excerpt:

In high school, my philosophy teacher assigned each student a different question and corresponding primary sources for our term paper. He assigned me the question, “Are women free?” and handed me a Sandra Bartky article that outlined the fragmentation, domination, and objectification the female body endures. I wrote twenty pages answering the assigned question in the negative while living my arguments. I already knew that I was supposed to forgo myself to become desirable to boys who already felt entitled to my body. I looked around for a communal outcry but found none. The insidious male gaze patterned itself on me, restricting my freedom while being deemed acceptable, inevitable, or even nonexistent.

I saddled up to guys who, I calculated, might not make the first move. I was afraid of being alone in a room with a boy…

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Chrysanthemum (1890-1940) vintage painting

Kept Miniature in Size

Baltimore Review, Summer 2020 Flash Nonfiction Contest Winner

Excerpt:
Each autumn, blooming chrysanthemums offer a final burst of color before the cold. China introduced the flower to Japan in the 8th century CE. The chrysanthemum, or kiku in Japanese, has since become a venerable flower synonymous with the essence and art of Japan, appearing on the crest of the imperial family and treated with a great sense of ceremony. Japanese gardeners cultivate young chrysanthemums, tediously training a single flower to become a manicured arrangement.

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The God of Wailing and Rocking

Mothering Spirit

Excerpt:
For a few days before and after my youngest child’s sixth birthday, I was very emotional. I couldn’t stop sobbing in the little moments of my day. It was mildly alarming, until, of course, I softened enough for a memory to resurface.

“How long has it been since you’ve held your baby?” the nurse asked, after introducing himself and giving me an update with medical jargon and test numbers I didn’t fully compute.

“Ten days.”

“Ok, it’s time. Let’s make it happen.”

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Free wedding rings

When Now Meets Forever

Half and One

Excerpt:
The phone call interrupted a lazy Saturday morning. I passed our baby to my spouse and answered.

“Hello?”

“Abi’s body is shutting down. Can you come?”

            “When?”

            “Now. As soon as you can. The wedding is today.”

Dan saw the sadness welling in my eyes and nodded.

“I’m on my way,” I said.

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Free chocolate chip cookies image

Simple Math

Eunoia Review

When I was three and my sister was four, my mom sent us to the neighbor’s house to deliver a thank you card we spent craft time making. We scampered across the lawn, exhilarated at the prospect of getting a glimpse at the inside of someone else’s house. It felt secretive, somehow dangerous. We were met with grandmotherly energy. The stately wife of a retired doctor leaned down to greet us. I could see the foundation stuck in her wrinkles. She smelled lovely. I wanted to sit on her lap to feel her warmth on my back. She brought a tray of homemade cookies, hovering it at our nose level.

“Do you want some?” she hummed enticingly.

“No thank you,” my sister answered quickly and politely for both of us.

I already knew enough not to react. But I did want some.

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Runner stretching

Listen to your body. It’s spiritual work

U.S. Catholic

When I was 13, I crashed while attempting a new tumbling pass at gymnastics practice. I spent the night in the hospital and woke up with a cast stretching from my shoulder to fingers. Rehabilitation was rigorous and painful. Progress was slow. I walked into the orthopedic clinic frustrated and feeling like a victim. The doctor decided to tell me what he previously thought I was too young to know: In the emergency room, he almost had to amputate my arm. The injury cut off blood flow to my hand, and he struggled to revive it. In one moment, my angst become awe. I went from seeing what I didn’t have to appreciating what I did. I could have one arm. Against the odds, I have two. Embodied bitterness became embodied gratitude. The story of my elbow changed, and that changed my life. I live knowing that my left arm is a gift.

My body has a story, and it’s part of God’s story. A piece of my vocation is to continually drop in and inhabit my body. I want to live in and from my body, continually revising its story and allowing my becoming to expand and unfold.

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Sunflower background

The Future (of the Church) is Female

Church Anew

In Jesus’ culture, the male body was associated with dryness, compactness, and density. The female body was connected to coldness, wetness, and porousness. The female body, appearing to leak blood and milk in order to restore balance, was considered inefficient. The superior male body did not require such processes. A man who had a propensity toward nosebleeds, then, would have been considered a flawed, more feminine man. By tying masculinity to health, elite doctors and medical writers of the time ensured the assignment of masculinity to the upper class.*

I don’t believe in binary gender rules and value assignments, but I imagine the writers of the Gospels did. I find it interesting, then, that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus becomes more porous, and thus more feminine, as the narrative progresses. God declares Jesus — in his ultimate porousness on the cross — divine. God names the inefficient, porous, feminine Jesus, the Christ.

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Free close hand writing notes

Edit Yourself

Bearings Online

Editor and writer Verlyn Klinkenborg taught me how to write by teaching me how to edit my own writing. His process was simple. Every week, my eleven classmates and I wrote two pages of prose on a topic of our choosing. In class, Verlyn handed out a sheet of paper with twelve sentences on it. The sentences were what he considered the single worst sentence in each of our submissions. Without emotion or ceremony, we walked through the twelve sentences and made them better. There was no embarrassment in the process; we were simply becoming better sentence crafters together.

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