Jennifer Grant is the author of four books: Love You More, MOMumental, Disquiet Time, and Wholehearted Living. She writes for the God’s Politics blog and Christianity Today ’s her.meneutics. She is a member of inkcreative.org. A lifelong Episcopalian, she lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, four children, and a mutt named Shiloh. Find her online at jennifergrant.com or on Twitter @jennifercgrant.
Posts By This Author
Water as a Women’s Issue
On my desk, next to my laptop, is a can of seltzer water. My grapefruit-flavored, bubbly water sits about four inches away from my left hand as I write. When the can is empty, I might take another from the fridge or fill up a water bottle at the kitchen sink.
Water drives my day, but I rarely think about it. I cook pasta in it. I heat water to make tea. I fill a bucket to mop the floor and a draw a bath with hot water and soak in it. At the moment, my dishwasher is growling away, and I’m waiting to hear the pleasant beep that alerts me that the clothes in the washer downstairs are clean.
I’ve never considered water a women’s issue. Not until this past week, that is. On Friday, the day before World AIDS Day 2012, I had the privilege of attending World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World luncheon in New York City. Strong Women, Strong World is a new initiative “supporting sustainable change in some of the difficult places in the world to be a girl or a woman.” The focus of the day was water.
The Honorable Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador at-large for Global Women’s Issues, spoke at the event. She celebrated the progress humanitarian organizations such as World Vision have made in the effort to eradicate HIV/AIDS, but reminded us that the number of people living with HIV is at an all-time high. In 2010, HIV/AIDS killed 1.8 million people. Sixty percent of those living with HIV are girls and women, and AIDS is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age (15-44 years old) globally.
“HIV,” Ambassador Verveer said, “has the face of a woman.”
Now THAT's Epic: 'Brother of the Year'
“What I do every day is get a pencil, take a piece of paper, and draw,” Wes Noyes said.
The 17-year-old artist hopes someday to work in animation or as a graphic artist. Wes works for more than an hour a day, takes classes, and to date has made more than 500 pencil drawings.
After Wes playfully collaborated on a chalk drawing made by his mother Rebekah Greer, his work as a cartoonist gained national attention.
Greer, a photographer, musician, and the mother of five, had drawn fanciful backgrounds — a cityscape, an ocean scene among them — on the family’s driveway one evening this past summer and took portraits of her children posing in front of them. Wes added to the drawing she had made for son Jonah, then eight, by adding flames and interjecting himself into the picture as Godzilla.
When Greer posted the photo to Facebook, it quickly went viral.
“It sort of spread around,” Wes said simply.
The picture, titled “Brother of the Year,” has indeed “spread around.”
I stepped down from the train,
Saw you there, old man, bent
Next to the Tudor station, smiling
And waving to me over the steering wheel.
Your aged blue eyes
Saw us through the maze of roads
Walled by high corn and close trees, roads
Which branch away from the train
Station to the cottage, to your wife’s eyes
And worn wrinkled skin. Her back bent
Over the low table. You turn the wheel
And press the horn, she’s smiling,
Ode on a Summer Road Trip
Car Trouble in Indiana
By Jennifer Grant
We’re happy fools, penniless as the corn
And just as content to watch the trucks barrel by.
The fan belt is jet black and frayed.
It’s chewed licorice.
And we might have to wait here all day.
My little brother's got the two things he needs:
A pack of Black Jack chewing gum
And his guitar.
He points at a billboard ‘cross the highway
And says if we had a dollar twenty-nine
And we were two miles up, we'd be knee-deep in hamburgers....
Some Assembly Required: A Conversation About Faith and Family
Twenty years ago, author Anne Lamott was ambushed by her unexpected pregnancy. Her best selling 1993 memoir, Operating Instructions, describes her tumultuous first year as a single mother after her son Sam’s birth.
When Sam turned 19, he told his mom that he and girlfriend Amy were about to become parents, a life-altering event for the young couple. The news did some serious upending of Anne Lamott’s life as well. Anne and Sam together agreed to tell the story of the growing up that all three generations of Lamotts did during baby Jax’s first year.
As Anne Lamott notes in the book, Some Assembly Required: A Journal Of My Son’s First Son, “…I’d always looked forward with enthusiasm to becoming a grandmother someday, in, say, 10 years from now, perhaps after he had graduated from the art academy he attends in San Francisco and settled down into a career, and when I was old enough to be a grandmother.”
Not long ago, I had an opportunity to have a different sort of conversation about Some Assembly Required with God's Politics contributor Jennifer Grant, mother of four children between 10 and 16, and author of the new memoir Momumental: Adventures In The Messy Art of Raising A Family .
Who doesn’t love eavesdropping? Take a few moments to listen in as Grant and I chat about Some Assembly Required and a few of the lessons our own children and grandchildren are teaching us...
Even in the Midst of Violence and Tragedy, Love Wins
Love, we read over and over in the Bible, casts out fear.
The angels to Mary: Do not be afraid. To the shepherds: Do not be afraid. Do a search on that phrase and you’ll find it numerous times from 2 Kings through Revelation. When he appears to humans, our God of love is always prefacing his messages with, “Do not be afraid.”
As a mother, I want to raise brave kids who hear that message and know it to their toes. Everything is going to be all right. Love wins, as they say.
I want them to be people who know that there is a bigger picture, a spiritual promise of hope and redemptive, even when life circumstances feel frightening.
I don’t want them to lose sight of it or fail to see God’s gifts of love around them because they are afraid of what, ultimately, cannot harm them.
It’s not always easy, however, for me to be brave.
I take an online quiz that promises to tell me what kind of mom I am.
What’s it going to be? Sporty Mom? Church Volunteer Mom? TV-Free Mom? Old Mom? Even though I eschew labels, I still wonder what the quiz will tell me about what kind of mom I “really” am.
I answer the questions quickly and, after my score is tabulated, I learn that my “Mommy Style” is . . . drum roll, please . . . Earthy Mom! Yay! I think I was tagged as “earthy” because I admitted that my family is serious about recycling, that I chose the sling as the best way to carry an infant, and because I preferred “I Got You, Babe” to Madonna’s “Vogue” or Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” as my “Mom Theme Song.” (Just FYI—The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” wasn’t an option.)
I got zero percent as my Sporty Mom score. My Fashionista Mom score was dismally low. I got a fairly good score for Classic Mom, but far fewer points than I’d expect for Multitasking Mom. (That last score offended me a bit. I grant you that I’m not a fashionista or really very sporty. But a multitasker? I failed on that? Have you seen me at dinnertime? I’m like one of those people who can spin plates. Homework! Phone calls! Permission slips! Butternut squash and coconut milk soup! Neighbor kids ringing the doorbell to sell popcorn and Girl Scout cookies! I can manage it all—and all at once!)
Oh well. I’ll take the Earthy Mom moniker. After all, I’ve been called all sorts of things as a mom.
Thank a Nun: Sister Wendy
I’ve not heard her speak at a conference, have never been told charming dinner party anecdotes about her (even from my most well-connected Roman Catholic friends), and have not had occasional to glimpse, live and in person, Sister Wendy Beckett.
Chances are, neither have you. The British nun and art historian, now 82 years old, lives in seclusion in a trailer (or “caravan,” if you like) on the grounds of a monastery in England. Reportedly, she converses with only two people: the nun who brings her daily provisions and the prioress of the monastery. She speaks mostly to God; she spends her days in prayer.
Although the women who have the privilege of exchanging words with her over stacks of fresh linens or freshly-baked loaves of bread have been satisfied to keep her to themselves, in God’s mercy God obviously felt like it was important to share Sister Wendy with the rest of us. Over the past twenty years, through her numerous books and documentaries on art and faith, Sister Wendy has made profound – though admittedly occasional – forays into my life.
Observing her faithfulness and humility (she describes herself as “shabby and cowardly”), I have found my shallow faith and self-absorption challenged.
++ Join us in showing our appreciation for Catholic women religious (aka nuns or "sisters") on Thank-a-Nun Day, May 9. Click HERE to send a thank-you note online. ++
Rape: The Horrific Tale of Two Surveys
Earlier this week, the Burlington Free Press broke the story about the circulation of a provocative online survey among members of Sigma Phi Epsilon — the largest fraternity at the University of Vermont — which included the question: "If I could rape someone, who would it be?"
On the questionnaire, fraternity members were asked to respond to questions ranging from the benign (“Who’s my favorite artist?”) to the debauched (“Where in public would I want to have sex?”) But it was “Personal Question #3” — the hypothetical rape question — that drove the university to put the fraternity on suspension.
The University of Vermont’s chapter is under investigation by Sigma Phi Epsilon's national office. Women’s and other human rights groups in the Burlington area circulated petitions, gathered for protests on campus, and have called on the university to terminate the fraternity once and for all.
This isn't the first time the men of University of Vermont’s Sigma Phi Epsilon aka “SigEp” – a fraternity founded on the principals of “Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love” – have gotten themselves in trouble. A few years ago, SigEp’s national office temporarily revoked the school’s charter, stating that the house’s hazing rituals and other risky behaviors made the organization vulnerable to lawsuits.
It’s impossible to ignore the significance of the most recent SigEp transgression in light of a very different survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the day after the Vermont story broke.
The CDC study found that nearly 1 in 5 American women have been raped.
God in a Brothel: These Children Have Names
God in a Brothel isn’t about nameless, faceless children. It’s about real children — children with names, personalities, and potential as specific and precious as those belonging to the children you and I know. But, unlike the kids in our lives, these children have been kidnapped or sold into slavery by adults who should be their protectors.
In some cases, traffickers visit poor, rural settings in their own countries and convince parents to allow their daughters to accompany them back to a city where, the parents are told, the girls will be given well-paying and respectable jobs. The girls are then kidnapped, often across national borders, and sold into slavery.
Other parents deliberately choose to sacrifice one or more of their children and sell them into slavery in order to provide for other children at home.
Still others function as their own children’s pimps.
We Are Family! (Get Up Everybody and Sing!)
Could my mission really be confined to seeking the best for the children to whom I gave birth? Or, as a Christian, should I define "family" more broadly? I'd see images of women and children suffering around the world, and those puzzling verses returned to my mind. Maybe, instead of obsessing over the happiness of my babies, I should stick my head out of the window, so to speak, look around, and ask, "Who is my family?"
It didn't feel right to simply shrug my shoulders and blithely accept my good fortune as compared to that of people born into extreme poverty. I'd buy my kids their new school clothes and shoes and then think of mothers who did not have the resources to provide their children with even one meal a day. I'd wonder: what's the connection between us? Does the fact that $10 malaria nets in African countries save whole families have anything to do with my family buying a new flat-screen TV? Should it? Is there any connection between me, a suburban, middle class mom, and women around the world?