The Unabridged FamiLee Holiday Letter

Dear Fam,

We cheaped out on the Christmas holiday letter, reserving only a few lines on the glamour card for an update, so I thought I would harness the economy of this world wide interweb for the purpose of updating you on the FamiLee goings-on here at fiscal year-end. Do you like how I just referred to our family unit like it’s a limited liability corporation? Do you think we should probably get a tax cut? Do you think I can write off my blog for these purposes? I have questions.

But before Kanye grabs the mic from me, I want to first say very emphatically that the best album of the year was Lady Gaga’s Joanne (Deluxe)” Buy. Listen. Love. For best books, I’m putting Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy as my favorites. The latter I have not yet read but I ninja-dropped it into my dad’s basket when he was buying Christmas gifts, so I’m sure I’ll love it. For movies, pssh. I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so you should for no reason be taking film notes from me.

MaddieTatum_8148c

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the news.

In the early part of the summer, we joined John’s family in Vancouver to see his grandma who is 90 years young. If you want the curated version, see my Instagram feed. If you want what really happened, you can consult my Google searches during that time. They include:

“MY+KOREAN+IN-LAWS+ARE+DISAPPOINTED+MY+KID+WON’T+EAT+RICE+AND+WHAT+TO+DO+ABOUT+IT.”

“I+JUST+REALIZED+I’M+A+DIVA+IN+CANADA+I’M+SAD+NEAREST+SUPPORT+GROUP.”

“DIRECT+FLIGHTS+VANCOUVER+TO+CHATTANOOGA+THIS+AFTERNOON.”

After we returned to Tennessee from the trip, the kids spent two weeks at their grandparents’ homes in Ohio. It was epic! We missed them terribly but are so grateful for Grandparents Camp because it allowed John and me to pack up our earthly possessions for the big move.

MaddieTatum_8169c

That is probably the biggest news bulletin–not in the world obviously because North Korea is up to somethin’ and obviously Chip and Joanna Gaines are in their last season so the world might actually end any second now–but in our world, moving back to Boston has been the biggest news.

Especially since it doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense. Why would we leave Tennessee where we both had great jobs that we loved, where the kids were in a great school, and where we didn’t even need to own a snow shovel? Well, my friends. Like Al Gore gesticulating the ebbing of global climate change, the Lord moves in mysterious ways. We moved back to the same street we used to live on, not far from the house we had to short-sell because we thought we were going to be in Tennessee until the Lord returned or until “Fixer Upper” stopped releasing new episodes. So here we are back in a city that we adore, where we get to show the kids things we’ve already done with them, of which they have no memory of doing the first time. It’s like that part in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” where they keep circling Big Ben except our kids are legitimately impressed to see Big Ben again. We found an apartment in the Athleisure Capital of the World. Even the yoga pants are fancy here. It is exciting to go from renting in ruralburbia to renting an apartment just steps away from Dunkin’ Donuts. John’s working as a counselor at a boarding academy for which people seem really interested to know the tuition. I guess that is more important than whether or not he’s happy. Ohh! Burrrrn! The answer to tuition and happiness, though, is the same. A Lot. I’m doing the freelance thing. Mostly putting the “free” into freelance but having fun as I write with my calligraphy pens or this here laptop.

MaddieTatum_8111c

As for the kids, they are mostly amazing and teaching us about resilience through this transition. We lost a hamster just as school started, and the kids showed us that we had not failed entirely as parents, so we were grateful for that outcome even if we the kids miss Doris something fierce. RIP Dodo.

Madigan, 9, is still the delightful optimist you remember, now with tween mood swings! She has not had an easy adjustment to school. Going from a small Christian school where she knew everyone to a much larger public school has been overwhelming at times. We think this to be true, but obviously, she is a tween so she only answers in one-word answers like “cool”and “good” and “maybe.” We are proud of the way she is staying on top of her studies and making kind friends, too. She started guitar lessons this past fall and she has better musical timing than I could hope to have. Again, I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so my artistic opinion is null and void but really, she is good.

MaddieTatum_8092

Tatum, 7, is still the goofball you recall, now with a whole suite of fresh dance moves. He is crushing the first grade and is taking karate. He has a vast knowledge of YouTube Gamers, so if you were ever wondering what kind of hypothetical Minecraft moves you could make over the course of the next seven lifetimes, just give our boy a call.

As we settle in to Boston Life the Remix, we miss our Tennessee church most of all. We are a part of a body here in Boston and we are trying to find on-ramps for involvement, but it is not the same. We are grateful for the experience we had as part of a healthy church family and are using that experience to help us believe better things are to come. I think this is a sound reminder of the way our Savior came to earth: vulnerable and with parents in transition, cloaked in beauty and filling us with hope. We remember Jesus who came and saw and loved and conquered and we are encouraged to do the same.

Wherever this holiday finds you, in a place of landing or a season of transition, we pray that peace will reside within you, and wish an abundance cookies, covfefe and good cheer to you and yours.

Love,
Kendra…and John, Madigan, and Tatum

MaddieTatum_8259c

Continue Reading

Why no one tells you how to be a woman

You hear this refrain often. You hear it in fond toasts by groomsmen. You read it in Father’s Day greeting cards with pictures of old timey vehicles on the front, the hood popped open. “You showed me how to be a man,” they say, and these tributes are usually followed by specifics. You showed me how to shave,  how to parallel park, how to hook a fish,  how to cook a perfect ribeye on the grille. Or maybe it’s just a general platitude offered to someone a man admires. A salute to a strong oak of a man who stood firm even when the winds of change or his son’s mood swings or his son’s girlfriend-of-the-month swept through.

I take no issue with this tribute, even if it is sometimes an affectation. We need men to mentor well, to usher in a new generation of moral leaders. We need good men to model virtuous manhood. I don’t think anyone is arguing against this the business of Showing a Boy How to Be a Man.

But no one ever tells you how to be a woman. Never, never have I ever heard a bridesmaid tell another woman,”You showed me how to be a woman.” Mother’s Day Cards are usually covered in flowers with floral script, populated by words like “sacrifice,” “patience,” and “love.” There is no mention of womanhood–there is no holiday or occasion to salute Being a Woman. I have several theories about why this is.

The first is that the business of being a woman is murkier. Womanhood cannot be boiled down to feats like tying a bowtie or changing a tire as are the hallmarks of manhood. Womanhood is evolving for each of us, by its very definition. The entry into womanhood is often marked by a change so profound it is uncomfortable. Just now, for instance, I have lost all 2 of my male readers who are afraid I’m going to mention something about menstruation. The horror. But if we are honest, this is part of the reason womanhood is so veiled in mystery. Each girl will go through a reproductive change at a time over which she has absolutely zero control. If you think about it, it is incredible how something that has been happening since the beginning of time to girls is still something each one has to learn how to navigate for herself. She has to listen to her body, understand its rhythms, overcome the discomfort and pain that reminds her regularly that the business of being a woman is so freaking fluid.

Another reason is that we seem to be afraid of proactive womanhood. Instead, womanhood is often reactive. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of this. We could spend a lot of time discussing what this past presidential election taught us about proactive versus predatory behavior, but it is just a microcosm of a larger culture that favors women tossing up the white flag of surrender rather than canvassing for a cause about which she cares.

This is why Wonder Woman blows us away–because a girl reared by all female elders to fight evil is so radical an idea we don’t even have a context. Then she goes and partners with a mere mortal of a man and doesn’t emasculate him? Holy Novel Narrative, Batman.

If machismo is the affliction of believing too fiercely in one’s manhood so that he belittles women, there should perhaps be an equivalent for women. There is no womanismo, though. Women who are independent to the point of self-sufficiency are often portrayed as simply man-hating. What a shame that no one tells you how to be a woman because that might threaten men.

There is a final reason I believe we don’t tell girls how to be women, and I think it’s the saddest of all. I think it’s because we lack creativity about what it means to be a woman. 

Forgive me if I am too strident here, but why am I more likely to read an article about “How to fight an attacker” than I am “How not to raise a rapist”? Why do colleges and universities need to teach matriculating co-eds about self-defense, about not being ruffied, about the protocols one should follow if one is sexually assaulted?

What if we spent half the time and energy expended toward reacting to the inevitability of rape and instead fueled our energy reserves toward cultivating an equitable world for girls and boys. What if instead of raising awareness about rape culture, we poured a modicum of those resources into investing in the awesomeness of girls and their interests?

Vancouver

Remember those Nike commercials “If you let me play sports…” and all the gnarly residue of girls who are allowed to participate in athletics? Well, it’s 2017 and we don’t need to use that kind of weaksauce language anymore. We don’t let girls play sports. Boys rarely have to ask to be let to do anything. We just encourage them to play sports, if that’s their jam. And we should not be surprised if they grow up to be men who don’t ask permission. Who don’t need consent. In 2017, we don’t let girls play sports. We expect girls to play sports. And we expect them to be the ones coaching us in 10 years.

How sad that our definition of what it means to be a woman is often so lacking in scope and imagination. I’ve heard of so many friends giving their daughters smartPhones and the attendant restrictions. All the things not to do, the people not to follow, the behaviors not to replicate. This is all incredibly important, but what does it leave us with in terms of cultivating creativity in girls? Is there a Girlfriend’s Guide for How to be Awesome Online? A crib sheet for how to be a woman who inspires?

***

I recently was feeling the freight of all this as I sent my daughter to camp. I was nervous about what she might encounter in girl world, bunking with all her besties away from me for a week. I met her counselor who introduced herself with a confident handshake and told me about her plans to become an English secondary education teacher. I was smitten and grateful for Counselor Raquelle. I was reminded how my nervousness could infect my daughter in negative ways, how it sent the message once again that being a girl was a liability and not a plum assignment.

Missing my daughter one evening, I logged onto the online portal of camp photos for that day. My son saw it first, the image of big sister at camp. It was as if she had memorized the Amy Cuddy Ted Talk.

Once again, I was smitten and grateful for another girl. Showing me that being a girl can be proactive, creative and awesome, lest I forget.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 58