3:30 Thursday, Projects

Should have Gotten a Pedicure…Barefoot Tales!

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Now that summer has officially arrived, the time for kicking off your shoes and feeling the grass between your toes, we bring you stories of going barefoot! 


When I look at my bare feet, I think of my mother.

It seems to me that 90% of what it means to be a woman you learn by the time you’re three years old. You learn it from your mother, just from looking at her and watching her move and listening to her tones.

I studied my mother. I watched her curl her hair, I noticed the blackness of her mascara-ed eyelashes and the redness of her lipsticked lips. I touched her smooth, shaved legs. The thing that captivated me perhaps most of all was her bright, colorful, beautiful, perfect toenails. They were different shades of pink and red all the time, from neutral to bold, sometimes flecked with gold. Her toenails were never bare. In my memory, they were never even chipped.

As I grew into a teenager, I realized how much discipline and attention it takes to pull off the consistent, daily performance of femininity – the hair, the hair products, the hair removal, the creams and pumices, the makeup and the nail polish. I realized that my mother has that kind of discipline and attention, and I realized that I will never have that. And I decided it wasn’t something I wanted for myself anyway – I don’t want to fret about a perfect appearance, I want to leave my mind free for other thoughts.

Now, when summertime arrives, I paint my toenails like I’m supposed to and then I forget all about it. I just go about my life, to work or to church or to Fourth of July picnics, with my toes peeking out, blissfully unaware of the weeks-old polish flaking away.

But occasionally I see my toenails with the polish halfway eroded and I think to myself, That is shameful. And then I smile, because it reminds me of something so old and universal. Something about the way a little girl looks at her mother, something about the innumerable things that you learn just from watching her. And something about that part of you that, despite all the growing up and changing and rejecting and discovering, will always wish you could be just a little bit more like her.


I have organized a large part of my life around my desire to not wear shoes. As a Martial Arts instructor, I teach all of my classes in bare feet; in my home, I don’t wear shoes; and, in between, I try to wear sandals as much as possible. Since I live in Florida, this is socially and seasonably acceptable.

One side effect of my barefoot lifestyle is that I spend a LOT of time vacuuming and mopping. Every day our training floor must be vacuumed (sometimes twice), and at least once a week we clean and sanitize the mat. A fellow instructor once told my husband and me that “when you clean the mat you clean your soul.”

At the time I thought he had gone off the deep end.

But with time, I have come to appreciate that lifting the dust, dirt and grime off the mat and being constantly vigilant about foot fungus is good for my soul (pun intended).

I find that the daily ritual of vacuuming the mat very soothing. I’ll listen to a podcast, strap one of my daughters on our baby back pack, and the white noise of the vacuum cleaner will lull her to sleep. It’s a peaceful, cuddly weightlifting exercise.

Having grown up in the church, I have heard at least 30 sermons (probably more) on the The Last Supper and particularly the moment when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Most of the sermons emphasize how humbling this was because the disciples probably had disgusting feet – they walked everywhere, lived in a desert climate, had no running water, etc. But it wasn’t until I began my daily practice of cleaning up after other’s people’s feet that these sermon illustrations really hit home, and I have come to appreciate how much dirt people pick up and leave behind with their feet, but also how nice it is to clean away the dirt you pick up every day.

I feel like my feet probably look a lot like the disciples’ feet – calloused ,and by the end of most days, they’re pretty dirty. But they’re also tough – I can walk across most surfaces unprotected by sock or shoe. In my baptism, my head was sprinkled with water, symbolizing the washing away of sin, but nothing feels cleaner to me than having my feet cleaned and clearing away the dust and dirt from the day.

There is so much that comes at us every day. So many stories to hear, so many issues to care about, so many things that taking a few minutes to clear away the the grime and leaving your sole fresh and refreshed can be good for your spirit and your sole.

Mary Margaret

The first thing I do when I walk into my apartment? Take off my shoes. Aside from the sanitary benefits of not wearing New York City pavement-pounders all over my floors, removing my shoes is my signal to myself that I’m home. I instantly feel more comfortable and like myself when I’ve achieved foot freedom- Closest to my natural state of being. If I could safely go barefoot more places, I would. But you know, glass and dog poop, so freedom has its limits.

The human spectrum of reaction to the uncovered foot, ranging from lust to disgust is expansive, but whether you loathe or delight in toes, to me there’s something so visceral and immediate about the uncovered foot’s connection to memories. The physical sense of the ground, temperatures and textures, earthen or manmade, wet or dry, solid or crumbling surfaces—these feelings come yoked to my recollections as if I could feel their matter beneath my toes once more. Being barefoot seems to make my sense of place more immediately and firmly etched into mind. Smell, taste and sound connect more intimately to my emotional memory—how I felt in a moment—but the feel of a place is under my feet. For instance:

The lacquered wooden beams and pebbly mats of every yoga studio I’ve ever entered. No wonder yoga has been my favorite form of physical activity for over a decade, since it’s rather unique in being safely practiced sans footwear. I feel most grounded in my own physical self on my mat, digging my toes down, acknowledging gravity and the connection from toe to ball, to heel, to every other part of my body.

Cool, smooth, richly ornamented carpets of the mosques I visited in the Middle East. As my head was covered, so were my feet uncovered to respect these spaces. Thinking of leaving my shoes in small cubby holes by the door to tiptoe lightly across the rugs, threadbare from the thousands that came before me to visit and pray at these sights, instantly brings me back to the year I spent in East Jerusalem, and traveling in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt.

Cool, hard stone floors of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. I’ve long loved the annual Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing in my congregation. We wash and are washed, literally touching the bare feet of people we only casually know. If you aren’t a pedicurist, you’d probably never do this, and for me, I’ve found it to be a palpable reminder of the kind of humility Jesus calls us to. If he could wash the dust covered feet of His Disciples, surely we can at least bring ourselves to pour some water over the foot of an elderly choir director, finding some holiness in humbleness.

Shorelines: mud, grits, pebbles, sand, stones, debris. Many places I’ve been blessed to visit- in Italy, the Middle East, East and West Coasts– had some body of water, affording the chance to step directly into the soil and water of the land. This can be a perilous pursuit. Jetty rocks are often sharp, creatures in the sand may pinch or sting, icy water may cause your toes to numb, but allowing no barrier between you and Mother Nature invites a fullness of experience impossible with barriers of rubber, leather or canvas blocking the way.

Is this perhaps the heart of what I’m trying to say about going barefoot? I long to get everything out of the way to be more consciously present? In yoga, the “chakras” describe locations where energy flows in, out, and around the body. While I don’t attach spiritual significance to this per se, I enjoy this mental exercise of visualizing energy. I feel corny verbalizing this, but I think I’m so eager to take my shoes off because of my internal sense that it brings authenticity to my experience of that place. I’m ready to kick off my shoes, seeking sensation of the inward and outward flow of energy through my foot chakras, rooted under the balls of each foot. Maybe I’m striving, hoping to soak in the energy and memory of places through my toes and legs, up, up, up, through torso and heart center, all the way to my brain and inner eye where it can lodge and dwell as memories of unique and singular places and moments where my feet once found themselves.



Some Suggestions on Saturday?

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

My birthday is now less than a month away. I have just a few short weeks left in my twenties, before the clock strikes midnight, and I join my fellow 3:30 girls in hitting 30. I admit, I’m still not really sure how that is going to make me feel. One thing I have done for a number of recent years in anticipation of my birthday is to create lists. For one thing, I love a list. Let me try this again…I LOVE a list. Arbitrary or not, they help me feel calmer because they allow me to create some semblance of productivity, order, and organization out of situations that seem overwhelming. A list doesn’t solve something outright, but it helps me articulate what I feel spinning around my brain in a way that feels more manageable. Sometimes lists are about organizing time. Sometimes lists are about remembering. Sometimes lists are even about giving language to hopes and ideals. I’m a firm believer that while by no means exhaustive, lists can range from the mundane to the profound in expressing the clutter of the human experience of having a monkey brain. I mean, c’mon, Moses came down from the mountain after meeting with GOD, and what does he bring back to explain how the Israelites should conduct their own lives and relationships? A list!!

Now that you are all firmly convinced of my Type A neuroticism, let me explain what I’m getting at. I started creating lists (with the exception of 1 year) after age 25 at my birthday, calling them “25 Things in my 25th Year,” “27 Things in my 27 year” “28 Things in my…” you get the picture? On these numbered lists would be ideas for the year ahead– ranging from activities purely fun to more goal-oriented tasks. I don’t really go in for “bucket lists,” but I like the idea of prompting and urging myself to try new things as I get older. It isn’t so much that I dread age the way some do, but that I want to counteract a feeling that with age, the more engrained becomes force of habit or stasis. I’d like to believe that continual evolution, innovation, and learning continue throughout life.

I add to these lists places to go, experiences to have, foods to try, books to read– a mix of things that can be done in an hour, a day, a month, and spread throughout the year– some things should be no-or-low-cost (in resource and effort), and others require something of me. Here are a few things (in list form!!) that I’ve done in the past few years:

*Read the entire Bible

*Ran a half-marathon

*Watched an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House

*Opened a Roth IRA

*Joined the bone marrow donor registry

*Knit two quilts

*Taken an African dance class

*Seen the Rockette’s Christmas show

*Tried chicken & waffles, New York egg creams, and whiskey sours for the first time

*Visited the Whitney Museum, Museum of the City of New York, and the Jewish Museum of NY

*Read Atlas Shrugged, War and Peace, Moby Dick,  Pilgrim’s Progress, and The Seven Storey Mountain, among others

*Done the balancing yoga pose “Crow” for 10 seconds

*Gone on dates via a dating website

*Seen classic films I’d never seen like Citizen Kane, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Vertigo

As you can see, there is a mix of fun and business, some things that are time consuming, and others humorously easy. I never accomplish all the things on the list, but there isn’t actually pressure to complete the list. Sometimes things roll over to the next year if I still have interest, and some just go away.

I’m telling you all this because I’m starting early this year to compile the list. This year it’s THE BIG 30. And I’m taking suggestions. Is there a book, movie, experience, food, drink, museum, location, goal, project, class that sounds interesting to you that you’d suggest I add? I may already have done it, no problem. I may not be interested, no offense. But this year I’d really love to have people help me brainstorm if they have any inclination! It helps me continue to expand what the list can be, which was the idea right? I may be turning 30, but my world and me in it, can still grow.

So throw ’em at me folks!! Any ideas?

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Try a Podcast!

The 3:30 project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. This week, we’re going to share a recommendation for a favorite podcast that we enjoy listening to!


I don’t watch television. I don’t have cable in my house. I don’t even have the bunny ears set up so I can watch the local news when there’s a hurricane. Instead, I occasionally watch The Magic School Bus and animated kids’ movies on Netflix and listen to podcasts.

I am a huge fan of podcasts. In fact, I organize a large portion of my life around listening to my favorite shows and hearing the interesting stories, news, ideas and insights from people I’m interested in and admire.

The first podcast I ever subscribed to, and probably my favorite podcast is by writer, Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft. It’s called, “Happier.” 

Each episode has a delightful tip to try at home: make your bed, go on an errand date, plan your summer, keep a one sentence journal. Happiness hacks like how to store your toilet paper in a small bathroom. And interesting conversations about Happiness stumbling blocks that come up for many people.

They aren’t addressing the deeper ills of society, but rather the nagging things that come up day after day that can either boost us up or drag us down. Their conversations are lively, engaging and most of all useful. It’s true – I’m happier when I make my bed every morning; I feel better when I tackle nagging tasks; and it really bugs me when I don’t have a place to keep my toilet paper.

In fact, I think it’s thanks to Gretchen’s inspiration that I was eager to start this blog with Mary Margaret and Jillian – it boosts my happiness to see their words every week and gives me a reason to stay in touch with them!

Coffee Break Podcast
subscribe at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/my-coffee-break-podcast/id1249557075

Also – I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all of my podcast listening has inspired me to start a podcast, too! My husband and I enjoy drinking coffee and talking to each other. So, we’ve started a podcast, which just like this blog, has given me a big happiness boost. I’ve had to figure out new challenges: how do you submit a podcast to iTunes, what’s an RSS feed, how do I get a logo, is there music I can use without violating copyright laws, and, most of all, how do I get myself to stop saying “um” when we’re recording; and it’s given us something fun to collaborate on together, which I’m sure sounds crazy since we own a business together, but a lot of times we work in parallel rather than together, so this is a nice way to connect.

So, if you’re not a podcast listener, try subscribing to a few and giving them a listen! It’s a delightful medium – kind of like radio, but whenever you want, and you can press pause!

Mary Margaret 

Thank goodness for podcasts. I’ve become extremely addicted to them while doing daywork at Broadway theatres, because those are three to four hour spans of time where I’m basically alone in dressing rooms prepping clothes (ironing, steaming, sewing repairs) for the evening performance of the show. What to do with my mind while I check countless pant hems and ferret out loose buttons? Podcasts are absolutely my friends.

I’ve mentioned several on the blog already that I enjoy, including ‘This American Life’ and ‘Reply All,’ but I’ll also add another new favorite I’ve been enjoying, thanks to my co-blogger Maggie Penton: ‘Pantsuit Politics.’ This is a twice-weekly conversation between two women—a progressive and a conservative—tackling the political topics of the day, striving to introduce “nuance” to each of their conversations. I like listening to these southern ladies, because they are educated, with backgrounds in law, but they aren’t reporters, living in Washington, or ensconced in the bubble of a full-time political career. They are moms and wives, active members of their communities— one of them works in the business world, the other serves as a local City Commissioner. They attempt to provide research, background and context for the issues they discuss, strive for balance, and also authentically express where they land on certain issues. When an issue is asking for more background in order to facilitate discussion, they even put together special episodes called “primers” to help people understand the history of a certain issue. These women push back at one another’s various opinions in a non-confrontational, non-insulting way. It feels like a mutually respectful discussion between friends, but without rambling, (which while completely fine for normal conversation, can be tedious in some other podcast opinion shows I’ve listened to.)

Since most of politics now feels so polarizing and negative, I have found listening to these women to be a very healthy way to consume news. They are real voices, not playing characters or striving for satire (which granted can also be fun and have a place in our public discourse) talking about things that matter to them. Rather than pushing an agenda, they’re earnest and clearly motivated by their personal values. They started the podcast with the worthy goal of inciting dialogue and increasing empathy, which seems like a monumental task in the current climate. But I’d like to travel with them on that journey, and if that sounds appealing to you as well, I think you’d enjoy listening to Sarah from the left and Beth from the right!


Maggie and Mary Margaret have shared some really smart, informative podcasts about self-betterment or current events and to all of those I say YAWN.

When it comes to podcasts, it better be about MURDER or ALIENS or I’m not interested.

giphy (12)

Here are the podcasts I listen to, and highly recommend:

King Falls AM: Y’all. Y’ALL. Check out King Falls AM, it is so wonderful. This one is a fictional radio serial (how retro!!) about an urban radio broadcaster who moves to a small town that turns out to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Before long he finds himself at the center of a weird mystery, and hilarious hijinks and creepy encounters ensue. It’s like the lovechild of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the X-Files, and the Cat Who mysteries. It’s perfection, and the voice acting is delightful. It’s literally the best thing on the internet.

My Favorite Murder: You might have heard of this one – it was featured on Buzzfeed not that long ago. It’s a comedy podcast about true crime – murder in particular – which sounds weird, but if you listen, you’ll find it totally makes sense. For those who love true crime and love to laugh about their weird love of true crime, it’s perfect. Hosted by two hilarious women, it’s also got a humorously empowering vibe, with catchphrases like “f*** politeness,” “stay sexy, don’t get murdered,” and “you’re in a cult, call your dad.”


Astonishing Legends: The hosts of Astonishing Legends research and present only the weirdest stories from history, both recent and distant. Some of their series are mainly historical, like the one on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (give it a listen – it’s much weirder than you probably know!), and others explore stories of the paranormal, such as the haunted Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Scotland, the Mothman encounters, or Skinwalker Ranch. (Guys, just fyi, you should be at least as concerned about skinwalkers as about supervolcanoes. Which, if you’re me, is very concerned.) Most involve a nice blend of both, such as the Oak Island Money Pit, the ghost ship Mary Celeste and the Dyatlov Pass mystery.

Up and Vanished: If you liked Serial, and you enjoy a good southern drawl, then you’ll love Up and Vanished by novice documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsay. This podcast investigates the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, the largest criminal case file in all of Georgia, which has gone unsolved for more than 10 years. A suspect was indicted mid-season, but the podcast is still continuing to explore a number of strange apparent inconsistencies with the state’s case and with the testimonies of witnesses and townsfolk. The case gets creepier every episode. I’m not sure Lindsay makes an ethically responsible journalist, but he’s definitely a great storyteller.

Happy listening! And remember…

The truth is out there.

Motivation Monday, Projects

I always get the most done when I have the most to do

I have a crazy busy week coming up.

My husband is going out of town to do some professional training and compete for World Champion at the ATA World Expo in Little Rock, Arkansas. If you’re not a fan of Martial Arts, and specifically my style of Martial Arts, it probably totally meaningless to you, but it’s a big deal for him and for us.

Because of the timing of this year’s event, I’m staying home to run our business and take care of our two little girls.

On the one hand, I’m completely overwhelmed by the prospect of this week (in fact, I have delayed doing some important preparation because I just didn’t want to think about it), but on the other hand, I know from experience, that I will probably get it all done. Our classes will happen, our family will be fed, my husband will get where he needs to go, and I’ll probably manage to keep our house in an above average state of order.


Because I have to.

And if there’s something that I’m not able to do, finish or accomplish…I’ll still have to figure something out.

I think this is crazy, but it’s true. The more I have to do, the more I get done. There have been times in my life where I had no commitments or obligations, and I got nothing done. I could have done literally anything – meditated on the beach, re-read all seven Harry Potter books, written The Great American Novel, learned to knit, crusaded for World Peace – yet I filled that time with nothing of lasting consequence.

I’ll be honest, this week, I’m sure I’ll wish I had a little bit of that down time in a bottle for a quick recharge, and I know that I couldn’t be productive like this for an extended period of time. Part of what makes a sprint like this possible is knowing exactly where the finish line is and being able to see it for the whole race. But I still find it motivating because it’s an opportunity to stretch myself and prove to myself that I have energy, time and resources on a regular basis that I’m not tapping into.

What do you think?

Do you get more done when you have more to do? Or do you prefer a more even pace to work?

I hope you have a great week!


Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

So one of the funny things about living in a busy city is constantly hearing snippets of conversation that are completely without context as you walk around the city. This frequently makes me smile, because you hear all kinds of things said, gathering a fun set of one-liners to take you through your week. Here are a few of my favorites from this week. Literally, these are things I overheard in my journeys through the city:

“I live in Vancouver, Everyone there is Chinese.”

“Can you imagine what it would be like if I actually liked drinking beer.”

“Hakuna Matata”



The “F” Word

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. This week we’re each responding to the following quote by Meghan Trainor: 

“I’d been told: ‘Don’t say you’re something if you don’t know what it is.’ So I was like: ‘Well, I’m not a feminist,’ because I didn’t really understand it and then I was like ‘Oh, sh*t.’ Obviously, I am a feminist.”
It’s not a deep quote obviously, but it’s a fun springboard into the general topic of the feminist label, how much we identify with it, how/when we came to understand feminism.

Mary Margaret

I will be the first to admit I had a very uncomplicated understanding of the F-word, growing up. Feminism. I mean, feminism. That F-word. But the possible confusion may not be so far from the mark, because when I was younger, I definitely thought it was sort of a bad word. I had extremely vague, un-nuanced ideas about the definition, so it was not a mantle I was eager to take up. My sketchy impression of feminism was bathed in a lava lamp glow of the 1970s—women with hairy armpits burning bras, yelling rudely at men, insisting their equality vocally and belligerently. Like I said, uncomplicated.

I had to grow up a bit, take a couple of college courses in sociology, psychology, classic literature, essay writing, art history, and grapple with what the word meant before I was proudly and confidently able to assign the word to myself. I identify precisely with Trainor in that I needed to understand the label before I adopted it, only then realizing that it encompassed aspects already embedded within me. A cliché beyond clichés perhaps, but I needed a little western liberal arts education to expand my definition.

Some of my kneejerk rejection of the feminist label was resistance to accepting that I was treated as unequal as a female, and what’s more, I had a misunderstanding that being feminist was about aspiring to what men had and what men were. I liked being a girl. I still do. I didn’t want to be a man—not in body, temperament, instinct, or sensibility. What I didn’t understand until I left the bubble of my childhood environment (a wonderful bubble, but still a bubble) was that viewing feminism as women aspiring towards things traditionally described as masculine is misguided. Calling myself a feminist was more accurately about establishing the fundamental worth and value of the feminine itself—and by that I mean whatever women choose to be and do. For example, raising children is neither lesser nor greater than having a career. The female body is neither weaker nor stronger than the male body. There are differences, but placing a value system on these differences is the fallacy. Although simplistic, embracing feminism as a label is little more than my embrace of my fundamental belief in the worth of each human soul.

Taking up the label of feminism was also about recognizing that it wasn’t about me. Some criticism after the Woman’s March in January came from other women asserting that they personally felt no reason to march, because they didn’t feel undervalued or in society. And my response to that is: well, bully for you. I also grew up not feeling like being female was a curse—something that made me a second class citizen, disadvantaged from the get-go by my two X-chromosomes. That is a privilege, and there are women throughout the world who’ve never shared that experience. Deciding to proudly call myself a feminist was about wanting other women to share this; actually about wanting ALL people to experience a sense that how they were born does not make them one atom less of a valuable human person than any other person born into the world.

I’m actually not sure how useful labels like feminist are, though, and how they serve the growth of empathy. But that’s a whole other blog topic.


“In the past people thought that men were more important than women, and that they were smarter. So girls didn’t get to go to school, and women didn’t get to vote or have jobs. Now we know that isn’t true, but women still have to face challenges that men don’t have to face. A lot of women still experience prejudice at work, and even in the medical field women’s bodies and health issues are less researched and less understood than men’s. People that recognize these problems and want to fix them are called ‘feminists,’ and that’s why I’m a feminist.”

That’s basically how my mother taught me about feminism when I was young, and that’s basically all I needed to hear. Life filled in the rest.

In school I noticed that when I was assigned a group project with boys, they all expected me to make the drawings and posters. It never mattered how many times I told them that I couldn’t draw and my penmanship was barely legible. They told me over and over that I MUST be good at it because I was a girl, until I caved and did it (and they got the hideous-looking poster they deserved). And that’s how I learned about gender roles.

In high school there was a boy who sat behind me in class who flicked the back of my hair with his fingers every day. Every day I told him to please stop. He’d say sorry, wait for me to turn around and start flicking my hair again. I told him over and over and over. Finally I spun around and said, “GET YOUR GRIMY HANDS OUT OF MY HAIR!”

He looked at me like a dog that had been kicked – he was shocked and devastated.

I thought, “Did I do something wrong? How could I have done something wrong?”

Similar scenarios played out throughout high school and college, and that’s how I learned about the lack of women’s agency.

I’ve had multiple doctors throw their hands up at me over issues (like migraines) that are common among women. I’ve watched selfish, lazy but charismatic men rise to the top while the women who work three times as hard get passed over or forced out. I’ve been scolded at work by a male board member for preferring a professional handshake to a hug. I could go on forever with the sexism I’ve experienced or witnessed happening to other women. Don’t even get me started on sexual assault and domestic violence.

Growing up I felt I could not choose to be a feminist any more than I could choose to be a woman. I am alive and awake in the world, I see what happens, and that’s why I’m a feminist.

Still, as much as life taught me about feminism, education helped tremendously. And once you start reading about feminism, you find there’s more and more to learn.

In fact, reading about feminism online in my early twenties led me to feel some discomfort with the label for the first time in my life. I learned that when we talk about feminism – the feminism I have felt and embraced since childhood – we’re really talking about white feminism.

I’ve read and identified with feminists who reject being called beautiful and refuse to call other women and girls beautiful because we have so much more important things to be. But I never considered the women of color who from girlhood never felt beautiful or even felt permitted to be beautiful. I have, along with the hoards of other white feminists, been instinctually inclined to side with white women over black men (see Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West, 2009-present). And, like any good feminist, I can tell you that the gender pay gap is 77 cents on the dollar. Except that’s a racist lie – and I had to do a Google search to tell you that for Black women the gap is 64 cents and for Latinas 54 cents on the dollar.

Women of color have been funneled to the very back of the feminist movement (literally) since its inception. Many of them have felt compelled to distance themselves from feminism altogether, and it’s no wonder why.

So what should I do with the feminist label? To say, “I’m not a feminist because the movement is largely inaccessible to women of color and other minorities, and I think a new label representing intersectional feminism for non-white and white women, should one arise, might open more gateways to marginalized peoples, so long as it didn’t get co-opted by the same white feminists who’ve excluded women of color from the start” simply won’t do.

I’m a white feminist, there’s no way around it. I think the thing to do is acknowledge that that leaves me with a tremendous responsibility. I have to be part of the reason why “feminism” stops meaning “white feminism” and starts meaning “intersectional feminism.” So I’m going to keep wearing that feminist label, I’m going to keep reading to keep learning the ways feminism might fail people, and I’m going to do my best with the little part I play in transforming it into a label that everyone who believes in equality can wear proudly.


I think I’ve always been a feminist. But like Meghan Trainor, I didn’t always know what a feminist was.

I don’t think that my parents raised me to be a feminist on purpose. I have three sisters, so there were no boys in our house to divide chores by gender roles. My dad made our meals just as often (probably more) than my mother. We all cleaned. We all played sports. We all did yard work. My mom always made sure to tell me I was beautiful whether I wore make up or not. My parents made sure that I knew I was appreciated for my actions and behavior, not by looking good or “playing nice.” My barbies and legos played together, and I was never made to wear the color pink.

But because I was so sheltered from gender bias and stereotypes in my home, and because I basically felt like I had an equal opportunity to do things I wanted to – I had Title IX to make sure I had equal opportunities to play sports in high school, my parents were both able to work outside the home, I had the right to vote, and, thanks to need based financial aid, I was able to take advantage of education opportunities my parents couldn’t afford.

I had benefited so much from the feminist movement that I didn’t appreciate my need for feminism.

Nevertheless, I have a lot of people to thank for making me a better feminist:

  • Madeline Llengel for writing books with interesting females characters for kids to read.
  • My high school chemistry teacher for helping me appreciate that I was good at science.
  • Sarah Palin for helping me appreciate that just because you were a woman in politics didn’t make you feminist.
  • Bell Hooks for teaching me that feminism needed to include all women.
  • The TA who graded my papers my sophomore year of college and wrote notes on my paper that kindly explained to me what white privilege was and challenged my assumptions about race and gender.
  • Lucille Clifton for her incredible use of poetry to right about gender, faith and race.
  • The director of the Women’s Center who cast me in The Vagina Monologues (a play I auditioned for before I realized that it was an activist thing…I just thought it was a low commitment way to pursue my acting hobby) and explained to me that rape culture and violence against women was a thing. That’s when I learned just how cushy my existence as a white middle class woman in the suburbs was compared to girls who experience genital mutilation, honor killings, gender selection and other costs of being female worldwide.
  •  My campus minister and the divinity school interns who worked with our eclectic ecumenical ministry and made space for my questions about faith and doubt
  • The ministry of Thistle Farms which worked to help women escape drug use, prostitution and sex trafficking and showed me how my faith could be an instrument to fight injustice in the world.
  • J.K. Rowling for everything about Harry Potter.
  • Sheryl Sandberg for writing about women in the workplace and how women could empower other women, and why it was important for women to be ambitious in their careers.
  • And so many other women and men in my life…I can’t count them all

Nevertheless, some days, I feel like the built in racism, colonialism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, segregation, patriarchy and general awfulness in the World is so formidable that I want to go back to the privileged shelter of my childhood – back when I thought it was an act of resistance to play kickball with the boys during recess instead of sitting on the monkey bars and talking. But I think the radical hope of feminism is that if enough of us keep tilting at the windmills of oppression, that one day they’ll change.

So, I try to practice feminism every day.

I buy my daughters “boy” and “girl” toys. I try to make sure that their dolls have brown skin, black skin, yellow skin and white skin – and that they know that they’re all beautiful. I try to read stories with girls and boys as heroes – and I make an effort to be sure that they’re not all white. When we read fairy tales, I annoy them by pointing out how silly it is that so many princesses need princes to kiss them — like that’s going to solve their problems. I want them to have friends from a variety of backgrounds, and I want them to know that they have an unfair advantage in our society.

Maybe I’m just giving them a complex. I know I have one – Am I doing feminism the right way? Am I inclusive enough? Am I constantly insulting people of color?  Is there any way that I can pay back the debt that I owe to the indigenous people of America (and the world)? Is our society worth fixing? And I don’t even know if trying to raise my daughters to be feminists on purpose will work or help. I hope so.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and I feel that if he can believe that, so can I. And so, I am a feminist in progress.

Motivation Monday, Projects

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing

Fun Fact: When you get to Florida, about halfway down the peninsula, you move from the temperate climate with the four seasons “spring, summer, fall and winter” and instead have a more tropical climate that follows the “wet season, rainy season” pattern. I live right at the edge between the tropical and temperate zones, so we have “seasons” but it’s mostly a wet and dry season.

That’s all to say, we’ve officially entered the wet season, and it has been wet for the last two weeks.

This is a blessing for thirsty yards and has slowed the spread of wildfires we’ve been experiencing frequently this Spring. But, it also means that the air is full of allergens and we’ve experienced a huge increase in our local mosquito population.


Mercifully, the Zika fear has largely passed, and we in Florida don’t usually have to worry about mosquitoes passing along diseases, but the bites are nevertheless unpleasant, and the urge to scratch a bite is almost impossible to resist. But…the fastest way for a mosquito bite to heal is to leave it alone. This is difficult to explain to my four-year-old, and we have an on-hand supply of benedryl cream, children’s benedryl, witch hazel, and other home remedies to ease the discomfort of the mosquito bite.

I was thinking about that today because I think there are many mosquito bites in our life; annoyances that are tempting to scratch, but the more we scratch, the worse it gets. In fact, the relatively harmless bite can become infected and dangerous is you scratch it too much.

In these situations, the best thing we can do is leave it alone. Many situations will resolve themselves without our action and the more we do to “help” the longer we make it last.

I hope this is a helpful tip for you! Let me know if it works for you and how you decide if something is a “mosquito bite” or not.


Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

Literally only this…this is my post for this week! Tonight (Friday) I made it through my very first preview at a brand new theatre in a brand new job on a new show and had zero notes from my designer and….whew. Now let’s do a two show day!

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Summer Reading!

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. The three of us have all been life-long readers! This week, we wanted to share a book recommendation from a book we’ve enjoyed in our 30th year!


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve struggled to get myself to read fiction. I have found that there are so many things I’ve needed to learn how to do to be an adult and own a business that I feel like all my reading time must be devoted to figuring out how to adult.

But, earlier this year, I picked up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to read with my four-year-old daughter. I was doubtful about whether or not she would be into a chapter book with so many words and so few pictures, but I was delighted by how engaged she became in the story! She loved Dorothy, the Scare Crow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man! And I was delighted to read this story. I’ve seen the movie (and the play), but I’d never read the book! It was so fun to see how the original book differed from the movie. Also, it reminded me of what I love about fiction: getting to see imaginary worlds, enjoy a story and learn a lesson about how often we have the things we seek, if only we knew how to use what we have.

So, whether it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or another story, I’d recommend you revisit a classic from your childhood (or perhaps a classic that you missed!). And…if you can, enjoy the book with a young and enthusiastic reading buddy!

Mary Margaret

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

My summer book recommendation is actually a series of 4 novels, translations of works by Italian author, Elena Ferrante, which is actually her pseudonym. To me, these are a perfect series to fall in love with over the summer, since once I met these characters,  I enjoyed following their journey through time and age with each successive novel, so happy that I wasn’t done with their story once I put down the first book! I’ve been thinking back frequently on these books right now, since I’m working on a show with two Italian immigrant characters from Naples- a husband and wife living in Brooklyn in 1960 with their three daughters. Their complicated family dynamics have been more deeply illuminated for me having read the novels, giving me a greater understanding of the relationships and the world that these parents come from. These novels are great for readers who enjoy character/relationship-driven writing, who enjoy reading about times and places that are somewhat unknown to them (in this case, southern Italy in the period following WWII) and who especially enjoy reading about the complexities of the female psyche. Ferrante expertly paints complicated and absorbing portraits of women’s relations to their friends, moms, husbands, lovers, children, friends, and enemies, spanning from childhood to old age. Additionally, the translation is far from stilted or awkward, but often feels poetic, much credit given to translator Ann Goldstein. I’m grateful that my roommate lent me this series to fall in love with, and definitely recommend it to you. Once you put down the fourth book, though, I have little advice on how to work through your own Neapolitan novel withdrawal! Hmmm…I guess I’d suggest reading the books Maggie and Jillian recommend!


When the year began I was already pregnant and in the middle of a degree program in Computer Science. So unless you are also pregnant, or also learning Java, I have little to offer in the way of book recommendations.

The one book I’ve been reading this year that has some universal appeal is They F*** You Up by psychologist Oliver James. James examines the “nature vs. nurture” debate and argues that the influence of parenting in the development of personality has been grossly underestimated. In fact, he argues that virtually all an adult’s behavioral and thought patterns are rooted in the way they were parented, even in cases of mental illness (which has been thought – wrongly, in James’s opinion – to be closely linked to genetics).

The book has some great insights into what makes people think and act the way they do. While it could be tempting to read it as a guide to blaming your parents for all your problems, James frequently encourages the reader not to do so. Instead, he hopes that you’ll use the insights from the book to take responsibility for changing those patterns from your childhood that don’t serve you in healthy ways.

The book has one very weird and very obvious flaw, in my view – which is that James interprets the “nature” in “nature vs. nurture” to mean genes. James sets up every single issue as being either a matter of genes or a matter of parenting. He believes that the role of genes has been overblown, and his evidence is compelling. But to propose parenting as the only alternative explanation seems bafflingly short-sighted. Plenty of things are natural without being genetic. Refusing to acknowledge that simple fact leads James to make some downright offensive assertions about sensitive matters like mental illness, sexuality, and working mothers. For instance, he declares that since there is no “gay gene,” that homosexuality is “caused” by abnormal parenting. James’s theories also seem to be wholly critical of working mothers. And when “science” appears to affirm all of society’s already entrenched ideas of sex and gender, that’s an obvious red flag.

If you’re able to dismiss the offensive parts without being too upset by them, there’s some interesting tidbits about family roles, discipline, sibling relationships, etc. It’s sparked some good conversations between my husband and me about the kind of parents we want to be. So if you think your parents might have f***ed you up, or if you’re terrified of f***ing up your children, like I am, then you might get something out of this book.

But as for turning your kid gay? Come on. That’s not a thing.

Motivation Monday

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Lately, we’ve started a tradition in my house of watching the 90s PBS Hit, The Magic School Bus with my daughters while we eat lunch.

It is a compromise. I don’t like letting my daughters watch a lot of television, but if I say, “No you can’t watch television ever.” The older one asks to watch tv ALL the time. So, we schedule it. At lunch time, 2 episodes.

Also, I love The Magic School Bus. In every episode, you know it’s time for a field trip when Ms. Frizzle (voiced by the amazing Lily Tomlin), says, “I think it’s time to take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY!”


Isn’t that a great mantra?

How often do we avoid doing something because we’re afraid of taking chances…because it might not turn out well. How often do we stick to what’s safe because we’re afraid to make mistakes. And how often do you avoid getting messy?

One of the things I love about the show is that the kids in Ms. Frizzle’s class do make mistakes, they make bad assumptions, they get messy. But, they always figure it out and learn a valuable lesson along the way.

So often we give other people permission to take chances, make mistakes and get messy – but we don’t give it to ourselves (I know I don’t!). So…even if it’s just a little step…I hope you look for opportunities to follow Ms. Frizzle’s advice this week and step outside your comfort zone to see what happens!

Have a great week!