Thursday, June 25, 2015

Advocacy for Affordable Homes in Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina is facing a housing crisis. Nearly half of the renters in our town pay more than 30% of their annual income for rent, which places them firmly in the category of "debt burden." When so much of their money is going to rent it can be difficult, if not impossible, to climb out of a depressed economic situation.

I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2003. I worked as a temporary staffing recruiter and made a reasonable salary. I bought a house in the suburbs, with a mortgage, because it seemed like the kind of thing young professionals entering their thirties should do. And while I loved that house I quickly became burdened with debt. I had even made what we thought was a smart decision buying a house priced for less than what I qualified for as far as a loan, but it didn't matter.

That is was spurred the decision to build a tiny house. Because the tiny house gave me an opportunity to reduce my expenses and pay down my debt I also felt a new freedom to become self-employed rather than trapped in a job that I liked but was not fulfilling to me.

We moved to Asheville full time and decided we wanted to become active in the community.

That is why I started Asheville Small Home Advocacy Committee here in my city along with partners from Wishbone Tiny Homes, Project Wosho, and the Asheville Tiny House Association.

On Tuesday, June 23rd I had an opportunity to share my voice and my concern for the lack of affordable housing in the city. The city council held a public hearing to change the regulations for building accessory dwelling units making it easier to build but also provided some much needed clarification.

I spoke to encourage the city of Asheville to consider accepting these new ADU regulations as one of many paths to creating affordable housing. Others lended their voice to the conversation as well. I am grateful that the motion passed almost unanimously.

You can see the local news coverage on the hearing here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reproductive Rights and Forced Sterilization

There has been a lot of interesting controversy about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's recent portrayal of The Black Widow in the latest Avengers movie.

While her story is highly fictionalized and exists in completely parallel universe, it does shed light on some darker parts of our own history.

In my latest post at The NotMom, I barely scratched the surface of forced sterilization and eugenics in the United States and what it means for all women.

Today, there are women in their 50s and 60s who literally had their chance at motherhood stolen from them. They did not choose to be NotMoms. And nature did not choose for them.
As it often does, my research led me down another rabbit hole. As recently as 2010, women in California prisons were strongly encouraged to choose sterilization by prison doctors. Although the procedure wasn’t mandatory, the women did say they felt pressured into agreement. It wasn’t until 2014 that the practice was made illegal in the state’s correctional institutions.
While some young NotMoms who identify as childfree by choice struggle to get medical professionals to honor their request for permanent sterilization, others, as recently as a few years ago, were being sterilized against their will because they were considered “unsuitable.” Why is it that some women are “too young, and will change their minds,” while others aren’t?
All of this is part of a bigger issue that is fought on the battleground of women, race and class. Young women who are refused permanent sterilization, incarcerated women who are coerced to getting it, the fight over abortion and fetal rights, and so much more are all just parts of a system committed to controlling women and denying their ability to rule over their own bodies.
This fight has never been about anything else.
Read the full article here. 

Will I see you in Cleveland at the NotMom Summit in October?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fiction: Tea With Persephone

 I love mythology. I also love re-tellings of mythology and interesting takes on the subject. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, had many suitors before she was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld. One suitor was Hermes, the messenger of the gods. I wrote this story a few years ago and I just rediscovered it.

The light knock on the bedroom door was followed by, "Mail Call!" in the playfully musical voice that made her giddy. Persephone swept across her bedroom in her slippers and silk robe to open the door.  Her brother, Hermes, met her at the door. His roguish grin spread across his face affecting her smile as well. 

She threw her arms around his neck as sisters do.  "Come in!" she said. "I was just going to have some tea."

"Sounds delightful." Hermes stepped into her lush sitting room and sat down in the cushioned chair that Persephone pointed to. She sat across from him and brushed her auburn hair away from her face before reaching for the teapot. 

"Do you like milk and sugar?" she asked.

"Yes. Both please".  Hermes took off his winged cap and set it on the table.  His blond hair was a little too long. His eyes twinkled, but it was impossible to tell what color they were. His eyes were the color if infinity.  As she fixed his tea, he shuffled the letters in his hands. "I have messages from Olympos. I was here delivering a soul, so I figured I'd bring your mail too.  There is a letter from your mom, and one from Aphrodite...oh and here is one from Zeus himself!"

"Another proclamation of where I get to spend my time, I assume."  Persephone set the tea cup in front of Hermes and then poured a serving for herself. 

"You don't sound bitter at all, sister." Hermes said.

"You try living this way.  Part of the year here, away from the sunlight. Part of the year there but away from my husband. It is a no-win proposition. I only get half of the things I love any time of the year.  It is a little frustrating.  You don't have that problem - you get to go anywhere."

Hermes face got serious. "Sure, I get to go anywhere, but I've missed out on a lot of things too. It isn't all Unicorns and Cupcakes where I am either."

Persephone blew lightly on her tea before taking a sip.  "What could be all that bad, messenger?"

"Well, for one thing...I don't have you." he said. He reached over and placed his hand on hers and she could feel his pulse racing through his veins.  She quickly pulled her hand out from under his.

"Brother, I don't think that is appropriate." She scolded.

The smile on his perfect lips was gone. "Why not?" He asked. "Your husband is your uncle - on both sides. Zeus and Demeter are brother and sister. In our world, these things do not matter at all."

"That's not why." Persephone stood and walked toward a painting of a window on her wall. The acrylic sun rising over the perfect trees never gave off warmth. Her back was to Hermes as he sat at her table and looked at her longingly.  "My life is entirely too complicated." she said finally.

"Complicated?  What is so complicated? In the spring you come to Olympos, in the fall you come here with your husband.  There is a beautiful simplicity to your world. It is necessary for me to pop in and out of all places at all times.  What does Hades need of a queen as he broods on his stone throne over shades in the underworld? Imagine if I had a companion to accompany me?"  With her back still turned to him, Hermes stood from the table and crossed the floor to her, embracing her from behind. For just a moment Persephone considered melting into the lean and sinuous arms. She thought briefly of what her life could have been like as the companion to the messenger.  And he whispered in her ear, his breath warm on her skin, "I asked for your hand as well. And I was denied." 

Persephone pushed against his arms, "Let go of me.  None of my time is my own time to begin with; I will not let you take me prisoner as well."  She twisted around so she could get better leverage to escape his hold. She placed her palms on his chest to shove him away, but he held firm taking this moment to bring his lips to hers.  The soft taste of pomegranate flooded his brain as he became engulfed in Persephone's magic. For just a moment Persephone's body remained ridged against him but quickly eased. She felt herself giving in to Hermes's passion.  Felt the urgency in his body that she hadn't felt in a long time. She loved her husband, but excitement ebbed and flowed throughout eternity. 

Hermes mouth was desperate against hers. He had his share of lovers throughout time. The feel of the voracious Aphrodite and the gentle maid Hecate overwhelmed his brain. But the feel of Persephone's body was new and exciting, and suddenly terrifying. He stepped away and looked down at the the floor. 

"What is the matter, messenger?" Persephone asked, breathlessly - her amber eyes drew his gaze to hers.  "Isn't this what you wanted?"

"It is," he conceded. "But not like this.  Not sneaking behind the back of your husband.  Not after your mother rejected my gifts to marry you. Not knowing you keep Adonis on the side. If you are not meant to be mine exclusively, I will not share you with anyone else."

"You know that is a promise I can't make. And you know you couldn't make it as well."

"I could for you," he said softly.
Persephone reached up and touched his golden hair softly. "Brother.  Our world is not an easy one. My life is barely my own. My time is always accounted for.  If we could escape this existence, I would. But I don't think we could run away and be together if we tried.  Zeus knows. He always knows. Helios would follow us.  There is no place on earth that we would not be found. Believe me; I have considered all the options. It isn't in their plans for us.  We couldn't be sneaky enough. Even you." 

"There are times I am more than willing to be sneaky and times I want to throw this all away.  Move to America and live in a tiny house in the mountains.  Where no one will find us."  Hermes reached his hand up to cover Persephone's as she stroked his hair. He looked into her eyes. "But you're right. There is no freedom for us.  Where would the souls go without me? Who would they meet here if not you?"

"I can make us a new pot of tea," Persephone said quietly. "We can chat. We can be like brother and sister and you can always visit me." 

"And we will relive this heartbreak throughout eternity."

"I wouldn't want it any other way." 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The NotMom Summit: October 9th and 10th, 2015, in Cleveland Ohio

I've been working on a huge project.

Helping to coordinate a major conference has been something I've wanted to do for a very long time. I had thought multiple times about volunteering in the past but I convinced myself I didn't have time because of my 9-5 job.

2015, three years into my career as a freelance writer, is a new year and its time to put my passions into action.

This year I am assisting the managing editor and founder of The NotMom with the first ever NotMom Summit in Cleveland Ohio.

My primary role so far has been contacting potential speakers. It has been wonderful. I've spoken to the agents of some pretty big names - who will hopefully be revealed soon!

I am so fortunate and so grateful that this is my life.

From a recent post at The NotMom
Today, I find myself in a position I always hoped for but never imagined I would be in. I am working closely with Karen to make this dream come true for both of us. I’ve been diligently contacting people over the last several months and am happy to say I have managed to book some great speakers, like Amy Blackstone, Marianne Kilkenny, and Christy Goldstein. You can read about all of them and more on the Summit page.
I hope to see you in Cleveland! 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tiny House Listings: Privacy and Etiquette for Tiny House Tours

I recently wrote a blog post for Tiny House Listings that has been getting quite a bit of attention. I think it is important to understand privacy and etiquette while speaking with people in the tiny house commuinty.

“We’re in town for today only. Can we come see your house?” I glanced at my watch. It was already 3pm and Matt and I weren’t at home. In fact, we had several more errands to run and weren’t expecting to be home until well after dark. “I’m sorry, no.” I said.
They were gracious but I could hear the disappointment in their voices.
Even if we could, or would, our house wasn’t exactly showplace-ready. We live in our home just like anyone. There were dirty socks on the floor and the bed wasn’t made.
This is my home.
So how can you see a tiny home if you’re interested in learning more before taking the leap yourself? Here are some dos and don’ts that I recommend when approaching a tiny home owner to ask about a visit.
Read more at Tiny House Listings

Friday, January 30, 2015

Where Creative Non-Fiction and My Life Meet: The NotMom

I have struggled since the summer of 2014 to write this piece. It was so personal yet I thought something that other women could related to. I thought it was important to share it, but I had a hard time letting the story go.

The absolute repulsion when the beer hit my tongue startled me. I willingly sacrificed years of my life learning to enjoy all types of beer, including the bitter taste of hops. I didn’t realize that this one, single sip of beer was the first sign that something was very wrong.
Years ago, I heard that women don’t enjoy the taste of hops because of our biology. In the earliest days of human history, women developed the ability to detect poison in a food source before feeding it to children. Bitter meant toxic food. Although I’ve never found a citable source, it always made sense to me.
But, I am stubborn and it took a few more weeks of choking down IPAs and feeling like I was going to puke before I figured out what was wrong.
I felt paralyzed as I started at the definitively positive pregnancy test in my shaking hands. It had to be wrong. It just had to be.
Read more at The NotMom. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Writing Goals for 2015

When I quit my full time job back in 2012 I had no safety net. I had no idea if I could do this freelance thing and be successful. I feel very fortunate in my career and am continuously happy and satisfied.

Each year I give myself a challenge rather than make a resolution. My theme for 2015 is adventure. I want to travel and experience more new things this year. But what does that mean for my career?

I decided I needed a few clearer goals this year. Here are my writing objectives for 2015: 
  1. Publish two personal stories that I feel could help others. I went through some stuff in the summer of 2014. I was concerned about sharing my stories because the events were very personal. But after taking Cindy Reed's Storytelling for Bloggers course in the fall, and reading other participants very personal stories, I changed my mind. They need a lot of editing and I will always have some fear about sharing something so personal, but I am working up the courage. 
  2. Apply for blogging awards. I always feel strange submitting my own stories for contests or awards, but I think it is an important part of my personal development. I don't know what stories or what competitions yet but I'll come up with something over the next year.I just need to change my mindset about it.
  3. Be of service to others. I write for a variety of websites from marketing companies to local business owners. I want to be sure that I approach each client with a service mindset. If I can't change the world, I certainly help someone market their products of services by writing engaging web content that draws customers to their website. If I can change the world, I'll try my hardest to do that too.
  4. Focus on some of my personal projects. Partly due to my crazy summer and partly due to some personal writer's block issues I haven't been concentrating on my own projects as much. I need to commit to writing for my tiny house blog once a month. I have another book project that has been sitting, neglected, since the summertime. I need to schedule my own work into my editorial calendar so I make sure I don't lose my focus.
What are your personal projects or career goals for 2015?