Monday, August 3, 2015

International Childfree Day and Honoring Men and Women Who Choose Not to be Parents

Three years ago I wrote this. I never thought it would turn into something bigger. 

I was bursting with the news for almost a week before I could tell anyone outside my close circle of confidants. I knew my friend Cara had nominated me for Childfree Person of the Year but I honestly didn’t think I would win. 

Then I got the email from Laura Carroll, author of the Baby Matrix, that I had been selected. So many things ran through my mind. She told me that Karen Malone Wright, my partner in crime for the upcoming NotMomSummit, had been on the selection panel but had to abstain from voting.
But because we always doubt ourselves I began to worry that I was the only person nominated. As it turns out, I wasn’t. Which means people read Cara’s story about me and truly believed I deserved this honor. And for that, I am humbled. And proud at the same time. 

After the announcement was made on International ChildfreeDay I found my social media flooded with congratulations. And the requisite confusion:

“There’s an award for this? How strange.” 

I asked why she thought it was strange and she said that she was trying to discern why there would be an award for being childless any more than there would be an award for having children. 

So I thought about it. Why is there an award for Childfree Person of the Year? 

The recognition occurs on International Childfree Day which doesn’t seem surprising to me. We honor mothers on Mother’s Day, fathers on Father’s Day. There is Grandparent’s Day, Sibling’s Day, and so many more calendar dates where we honor the relationships in our lives. International Childfree Day seems like a natural thing to celebrate. That women and men who choose not to have children should be given a chance to celebrate their choices. 

By including an award, though, we do add another layer to it. And to her question I responded that this is specifically about being Childfree by Choice, not childless. That we are a demographic that is often called selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed (to quote the title from NotMom Summit Keynote Speaker Meghan Daum’s book). 

This is about breaking that stereotype. 

I am honored to be the 2015 Childfree Woman of the Year. I am proud to be an example of a childfree woman who is not selfish or shallow. I try to live my life in a way that is not only fulfilling to me but also helps those around me. 

Not every choice is valid for every person. Some people are built for parenthood and some, like me, are not. Let’s not condemn one another for our choices but celebrate all of our differences. Without differences, this would be a boring world indeed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

4 Reasons to Just Say No When Applying For Freelance Jobs

I knew when I started that freelancing was a very different beast than full-time employment. I would be responsible for all my own invoicing and collections and marketing to find new clients. 

In the beginning I took a lot of low-paying jobs to get “experience,” and some of those experiences weren’t so great. I focused on building relationships instead and work with an amazing group of businesses now. But freelancing is always an uphill battle and it’s important to never stop looking even when things are in a good balance. You just never know when something will change. 

I will apply to nearly everything I feel qualified for, but that doesn’t mean I go in blind. Here are the red flags that I avoid. 

  1.  They ask for PayPal information up front. Craigslist is known for producing scam job descriptions, among other things, so I am cautious of job offers that provide little detail but request PayPal information along with your resume and samples. I won’t discuss payment options until after I’ve discussed the job.
  2. They ask for references in the ad. I gave this advice to candidates when I worked as a recruiter, too. References are for later in the process, not before an interview. In part, this is to protect my references. I like to give them a heads up on who will be contacting them.
  3. The pay is significantly below your rate. This is a tough one. On one hand, you have to start somewhere, but on the other I’ve learned that when people pay below market average they are likely to be a less reliable business partner. I’ve established my rates and I make very few exceptions.
  4. They require a fully completed article. Occasionally a company requires that you create a blog post “in their style” as a sample. I have found out the hard way that this is sometimes a way to get content without paying for it. I stopped doing them once I built a respectable professional portfolio.

Because there are so many possible options for freelance writers I’ve decided where I am willing to take a stand. It might sound like I have few options but in reality there are good companies looking for good contractors and if you’re willing to put in the hard work of finding them, you can. 

What are the reasons you would stay away from a job posting?

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."