11 Dec

I Want to See Who He Is

Posted by Jenna, Under kids

The night that the grand jury announced their decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson was a night I put T1 to bed with red-rimmed eyes. In the weeks since the shooting I’ve tried to read the articles and blog posts from black Americans detailing their experiences in America and I’ve tried to face down my own personal prejudices and biases. Katherine is right, racism is not over because Barack Obama is president or because Oprah gave a room full of people new automobiles. We still have a long way to go.

T1 saw my red eyes and asked me what was wrong. I told him that someone had been mean to a boy because his skin is a dark color, and that it made me said because I think we should be kind to everyone no matter what they look like. I said the boy had died and I felt sad for his mommy because she missed her boy so much. I know this explanation is reductive, and leaves out many pertinent details, but it felt like the appropriate amount of information for the stage he is in. He can explore the nuances with me in future discussions as he grows older and his cognitive capacity increases. T1 hugged me and said he wished that the boy’s mommy didn’t have to be away from her son. I agreed.

Since then T1 has brought the issue a few times, and this morning he picked it up again while watching The Colbert Report over breakfast. He asked me “Can I see a picture of that boy?”, and I was touched by his desire to find a connection with this figure he had been hearing about. I showed him this photograph and he said “He looks nice, I like his jacket.

I wondered, in that moment, what it would be like to approach every new person without the baggage we adults carry around from the things we’ve personally experienced and the things we’ve heard from other people. I think having more conversations with our kids about these difficult topics can help them continue to respond in this way, to look at a picture and see the person first, and the issues second.

How are you talking to your children about Ferguson and issues related to race in America? Tweet with me, @jennacole, or leave your thoughts on the That Wife Facebook page.

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09 Dec

Diversity in Our Picturebooks

Posted by Jenna, Under Parenting

When Christmas shopping begins I try really hard to stick to the “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” precept that a reader introduced me to a few years ago. When I started to consider what books to get for the kids, I realized that I wanted to use this opportunity to start building up a more diverse library of children’s books. Specifically, I would like T1 (a boy, in case you’re new) to read more books about kick-ass girls, and both kids to read more books about people of different ethnicities, cultures, and races.

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For the Christmas of 2014, the something to read T1 will be opening up is Rosie Revere Engineer. Not only is it a book about a girl doing something awesome, but it has a storyline that focuses on a character persevering through failure and discouragement. This is something that I see him struggling with right now, and I want him to see how someone pushes past that feeling of can’t and makes it into a success.  Read more →

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03 Dec

One Quick Take

Posted by Jenna, Under Uncategorized

Refining my “Cheer this child up and get them to smile genuinely for the camera” skills on a daily basis.

jennacole024

Canon AE-1. Tri-X 400. theFINDlab.

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01 Dec

Breaking Up With the Comments Section

Posted by Jenna, Under blog

I’ve been considering this for several months now. It’s the right thing to do for a variety of reasons. Keeping the comments section open reads as an invitation to engage with me, but I am rarely commenting back. I thought if I was persistent enough with my writing, if I put more effort into my way with words, that this blog could become what it once was (like the best sort of suburban neighborhood, with frequent visits from the supporting cast and reasoned interesting discourse between all participants). But the combination of an absentee host and a smaller cast of supporting characters has forced me to accept that things are different now.

Over the past six months though I’ve come to realize that preserving and owning my own space is more important to me than striking through the writing/commenting roadblocks. I don’t invite strangers into my home to comment on my choice of curtains or the cleanliness of my bathrooms, and I’m not sure it makes sense to do so with my writing either. No matter how kind or good-intentioned each of you may be, all but a select few are anonymous to me. We are strangers, and I would like to utilize other spaces to get to know each other, keeping That Wife as a space that showcases my views absent the influence of others. Imagine if the movie theatre screened a film with a running commentary from critics on the side. Your opinion of the film would forever be altered from the experience you may have had if the communication had been limited to the creators viewpoint. Or if a novel had footnotes on the bottom with corrections from readers, interrupting the immersive and reflective experience we enjoy when reading a good book.

Just as I was about to announce this, research came out showing how the comment section affects perceptions of content. The researchers deemed this the “nasty effect.”

We asked 1,183 participants to carefully read a news post on a fictitious blog, explaining the potential risks and benefits of a new technology product called nanosilver. These infinitesimal silver particles, tinier than 100-billionths of a meter in any dimension, have several potential benefits (like antibacterial properties) and risks (like water contamination), the online article reported.

Then we had participants read comments on the post, supposedly from other readers, and respond to questions regarding the content of the article itself.

Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself. - source

And let’s face it, I’m terrible at moderating. I struggle with defensiveness, I can’t figure out what to keep and what to eliminate, and inevitably I wind up getting emails from perfectly nice people who feel like they’ve been slighted. I enjoyed writing (almost/sorta) everyday in November. It felt nice to curl up in bed with my laptop and engage in a sort of writing therapy. I like looking back and seeing how I’ve grown and changed over the years (even if I am often embarrassed by things I’ve said in the past). I’m not sure exactly how often I’ll keep writing but I’m going to turn off comments for the next little while and see how I like it. Starting with this post :).

From here on out I’ll be interacting back and forth with people on Twitter, @jennacole. I would love to go back and forth with you in 140 characters on a given topic! I can do so from the stairmaster, during a work break, from the car, right before I go to bed. If you would like to leave a longer-form comment on a given post That Wife Blog’s Facebook page would be an excellent space to do so, which I will always read but may not reply to. I’m declaring email bankruptcy on a monthly basis so if I don’t respond to emails within that time frame you will need to resend if it is still relevant.

I guess I’ll hear from some of you on Twitter? Even if I don’t, you can continue to read what I have to say in this space. I’ve still got some writing muscles that need flexing.

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25 Nov

Amazement: Mom

Posted by Jenna, Under Personal

Day 25 of NaBloPoMo: Married to Amazement

I never could have fully appreciated my own mother and her sacrifices for me unless I had children of my own. I’ve always loved my mom in the way that children love the person who gave them life, but now as a mother I love her as a compatriot. She is a retired general, and I am an infrantrywoman. The battle is for the future of our genetics and our legacy. I take that responsibility seriously, following the code of morals that her parents were taught when they were small.

I can see now that much of my mom’s life was devoted to trying to help me find happiness, often at the expense of her own. It probably wasn’t enjoyable to live in a trailer at the county fair for a week, with careless kids dragging remnants of the pig barn in and out of the tiny space each time they mounted the stairs. I loved those weeks; the snuggling with the clean pigs in their pen, competing after months of practice, the night when she let me run wild with my friends at the carnival. That is one tiny example of many which illustrate what a great childhood I had because of my mother.

I struggle with this, the self-sacrifice for children. She is close enough to me to be able to step in and remind me what it’s all about. And every so often she gives me the gift of a week off, time I deeply, deeply, wholeheartedly appreciate. I come back from those periods with a well of strength that allows me to dig a little deeper, to be a little bit more like the mother I had as a child.

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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