From My Mother's Basement…

Making Lemonade and Chasing Rainbows in the name of the U.S. of A. January 19, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 7:28 pm

Making Lemonade and Chasing Rainbows

11666222_10206042852604049_2688583520507393807_nToday is National Resist Day; tomorrow are the inaugural ceremonies for the 45th President of our United States of America; and the day following will be an historic Women’s March on Washington. I choose to support and celebrate all of these. These are all things that deeply represent, to me, what is great about the America I live in; and this week’s upcoming political activities have, indeed, put me in a pensive state.

melania-trump-feet-720891I’ve been thinking about Melania Trump, and what a Cinderella story she is, a real and sincere American Dream tale. Born with some favor in looks; and more importantly, the bravery and ambition to leave home in pursuit of opportunity in far off lands – that is Oprah’s textbook definition of Luck, where Preparation meets Opportunity! And Melania is a legit immigrant, which I think is cool, the ‘first one’ in over 200 years! And yeah, she speaks with an accent, and I love that – and she speaks 6 languages! I hope she can be a beacon of possibility, of legitimacy for expanding and enriching the image and notion of what being an American looks and sounds like. She exudes confidence and humility; I have always seen her represent kindness and she clearly practices and exercises Grace within her marriage. She places high priority on her role as a mother, has a strong parenting philosophy, and her insistence to remain in NYC until Baron finishes school feels like a win for women’s rights. And when I think about the backlash Michelle Obama received when she first started showing up as the FLOTUS with no sleeves on (gasp!), I can’t help but see progress for women, when the next FLOTUS is being supported on the back of a very successful career in lingerie fashion! And, I like that she’s Episcopalian. That Church has been ordaining female priests for decades! I have family who are Episcopal, and they’ll jokingly refer to themselves as being “catholic-lites” and/or “the cool Christians”, which I love. And now here, both Mr. & Mrs. Trump have been featured in Playboy and it just all feels very authentic – go Episcopals!  It truly, sincerely floats my boat – hehe!!! So there’s a really nice little list I can authentically embrace about her, and I can celebrate her as a woman, and many of her achievements in the unity of this week’s myriad events.

I have also been thinking a lot about Ivanka, like a lot. And for a very long time. You see Ivanka and I are the exact same age; born in 1981! Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Queen Bey herself – all products of 1981. And we all grew up on reality T.V.  She & I  both watched Britney and JT on the Mickey Mouse club when we got home from school in the 80s, I know it. We for sure were both checking out her best friends Paris & Nicole parade around on MTV sets, all the while we were off at college studying for our finals. Of course I watched that Born Rich show,  and I appreciated her keeping it real; I thought she was brave for being willing to speak candidly about her affluence, her privilege. And then just a few seasons after we swooned over Beyoncé serenading  the Obama’s into the White House, Ivanka officially stepped onto her own stage as her father’s boardroom judge and adviser on the debut season of NBC’s hit The Celebrity Apprentice. Eric and I remember watching that very first episode and thinking 1) she is so hot and 2) good for her. We watched many seasons of their reality TV show; and over the last 8 years she has consistently demonstrated, to me, that she has got the goods! She is the real #winner of the Trump dynasty, and it has seemed transparent to me, that all the men in her family fully agree! And I love that!!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, those born in the year 1981 are done so under the sign of the Rooster. So I’m a Rooster, and Ivanka is a Rooster, and can you guess what happens in 2017?! We will be entering into the new Chinese Year of the Rooster!!! It is literally about to be Our year! And so of course I’ve been reading up on some of this stuff and it’s been making me feel quite a bit better, concerning my own personal outlook for 2017…and also  really, it’s served as superstitious confirmation of the impressions I have always had of Ivanka –  that she is just solid, and genuine, and someone I can really put some faith behind.  Specifically, those born in 1981 are categorized as Gold Roosters, and according to one of google’s top hitting Zodiac sites “people of the Gold element and Rooster sign are able to distinguish right from wrong, having the clearest mindset and the most considerable power of independent criticism among all of the 12 zodiac signs.They are determined and brave enough to face all difficulties, and they make a great fortune due to their perseverance and hard work in life, just as the old Chinese saying goes: “no pain, no gain.” 


Well if that doesn’t sound like something you should put your faith behind, then I don’t know what is! So I choose to believe this about both of us, and to celebrate us both this year because it makes me feel good to do so!

Ivanka is 35 years old, like me, awkwardly teetering within that social chink, the sliver of light (as I like to think of us) that shines between the cornerstones that proudly define Gen X AND the Millennials. And just like me, she & I both studied French in school – which make us both cooler and more frivolous than anyone who took Spanish!  She walked away from her budding success in modeling to focus on academics, she has been executive vice-president of a major company for a decade, she eventually branched out into her own line of business and has developed a successful portfolio, all the while converting to Judaism and bearing three children in her personal life! And I have never once heard her apologize or make excuses for her desire to be a working mom – and good for her! Again, this really makes me feel like a win for Feminism – I can hear glass cracking around me. And here she is being brave and willing to just hand most of what she has built over to others, in pursuit of an historic and incredible opportunity to help support and shape a presidential administration…I mean really, Go Ivanka. A big standing O, Girl! Step into your power – I am rooting for you!!


So in full disclosure, my stomach has felt sour and my head has been stormy much of this week; but today, on the Eve before the ceremonies that symbolize the peaceful transfer of power between the arguable leader(s) of the free-world begin, making lemonade and chasing rainbows just feels like the truly American thing to do right now!


San Diego, California circa 2008 I’m in the Red tank top toward the right, Bestie Jessica Freeman is holding the “Yo Mama 4 Obama” sign front and center, ‘Daddy’ Dustin Abbott is dressed in black & sporting the shades on the left, and their best friend Zach Scheffler is barely visible between them ❤

And I must confess, I feel both nervous and extremely hopeful! But what can I say – I am an Obama Kid at heart, and shamelessly so! I bought his books and read them, gushed over he & his wife on Ellen; I attended his rallies, and shook his hand and landed myself on the cover of local magazines with my besties for doing so! I quite smoking cigarettes for him, because he had too, and in the name of health care!! I have always done my darndest  to avoid wearing sleeves, just like Lady Michelle!! My boyfriend and I made not one Obama baby, but two!! I just adore the Obamas, and they have made me feel proud on so many occasions – Yes We Can!  Sí se puede! Hope For Change! When They Go low We Go High!!! Michelle’s Mom, and the daughters, and the White House garden, and that fabulous photographer they had follow the POTUS around everywhere, and Bo! And then that other dog they got for Bo!! And don’t even get me started on Joe Biden – Grandpa Joe!!!! Agh, big sigh.
This week feels like a lot, and I choose to celebrate, anything and everything that I can!  
This is the 3rd time I will be welcoming a president I voted against, and I am now feel wise enough to understand that he certainly won’t be the last!

I thank any of you whom have taken the time to read all this and only hope that I may inspire you to take a few minutes and think of all the things you can choose to celebrate this week, for Our Country’s Sake!


A Daughter’s Life History of Her Mom November 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 7:51 pm

Life History of Trudy Workman 05/02/57 – 10/05/16

Trudy Workman, age 59, passed peacefully from this mortal life, at her home, on Wednesday October 5, 2016.

She was born on May 02, 1957 in Lovell, Wyoming, to Preston Duncan and Greta Godfrey Workman, who resided in Worland, at the time. There, she was welcomed by her 2 ½ year old sister Marla. Then when Trudy was around 2 years old, the family relocated to Billings, Montana, so  Pres could complete his radiology training. Her aunt and Uncle, Sharon and Ken A. Blackburn, also lived in Billings during that time. They had two daughters, Debra and Denise; and between these four girls, there was an average age spread of 6-9 months. Her mother and Aunt exchanged childcare so fluidly, that these four cousins often felt like sisters themselves.

Trudy was a beautiful and happy baby; she was very photogenic, and even won a baby photo contest! She was active and independent; and early on, she demonstrated many impressive qualities. She cut her first tooth, said her first word, and took her first steps, all right around six months! Much to her mother’s dismay, this all happened under Aunt Sharon’s watch when her parents went away for a late honeymoon! She had a very determined spirit, and it wasn’t too long before she insisted on keeping up with her older sister every step of the way. At times, this was a great detriment, as there are many loved ones with memorables stories of times they had to step in and save Trudy from peril – when her drive proved greater than her capabilities!

She was quite a late talker, but it is believed that this was because she was so capable and independent that she could just go and get things for herself, without needing to be able to ask! She also was born with turned in feet; she was assigned special shoes, and they would draw a straight line with chalk that she had to practice her walking on. But this never phased her or slowed her down; she was very flexible and limber, a confident climber; she excelled at ice skating and learned to ride a bike, right alongside her older sister.

When her father completed his training, the Workman family made their final move, back to their home on Jersey Avenue in Lovell, Wyoming. Here, the girls were surrounded by friends and family, and Trudy had many fond memories of her generation running around together all throughout their neighborhood!!

She had a tremendous passion for music and a beautiful singing voice. She taught herself how to play the guitar by ear, and later learned how to read music and play the piano. She was obsessed with watching movies and she was also very theatrical. She participated in many community productions at both the Hyart Theater and up at Northwest Community College; and her most memorable role was probably as The Matchmaker in Lovell’s production of the Fiddler on the Roof. She was also crowned the Lovell Rodeo Queen, and felt very proud that she seized an opportunity to pin an iconic “Rose City” embroidered sticker onto the lapel of the rodeo’s guest of honor, John Wayne!

She was a wonderful baker; she made many wedding cakes for family and members of the community, and people always looked forward to her Christmas candies. She had a passion for entertaining, and she planned and facilitated many different events and themed parties. She had a tremendous love for animals and nurtured many family cats & dogs, her palomino horse Tonka, and at one point bred and reared over 100 parakeets. She developed a wide variety of collections, from VHS tapes to Barbie Dolls, and fancy hats! She treasured these items, and she was always diligent in caring for them.

She graduated from Lovell High School and attended Northwest Community college where she studied Theatre and speech. While attending Northwest, she participated in a class trip overseas to the United Kingdom. It was a trip of her lifetime, but she fell ill towards the end of it; and upon returning, she was too sick to finish out that academic term. Once she recovered, she transferred to BYU for a semester; and then her schooling was put on pause, about the time she entered into Motherhood.

Trudy had a passion for travel and adventure; and some of my fondest memories of my mother come from the many summer road trips we would take together: Mt. Rushmore, SLC, DEN, Las Vegas, Northern and Southern California, Seattle, and Branson, MO. I also cherish memories of all of the trips we would dream up and plan for, even though I knew their likelihood was very slim! During her young adult years, she resided in Powell, WY; Provo, UT; Billings MT; and Hammond, MT. She always considered Lovell to be her home however, and she spent the majority of her life living there with her parents. She also spent almost two years living in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

When she return from her experiences in the Caribbean as a single-mother, she enrolled in education classes at Eastern Montana College in Billings. In 1985 she received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

Now Trudy had many struggles academically, all throughout her school years; so her family felt extremely proud of her for this accomplishment! (Attending her graduation is one of my earliest memories.)

When Trudy  was younger, she explored a wide variety of job options, some of which included: babysitting, working in the hospital cafeteria, at a gas station, selling Creative Memories, and one summer she did maintenance for the city’s parks & rec. She also worked up at the New Horizon Care Center as a C.N.A. for multiple years.

Her first teaching assignment was a two-year contract at Hawk’s Home, where she served the rural communities of Eastern Montana. She and her daughter moved to Hammond, MT, where she taught 7 students, K-5, in a one-room schoolhouse attached to the her home. She also taught her daughter during her Kindergarten year. When the Hawk’s Home assignment concluded, Trudy accepted another rural teaching position, this time in Clark, WY. At Clark, she taught first through third grade, concurrently. After that year, she moved back to her Lovell home, so she could better focus on being a full-time mom.

Shortly after her return, the Bob and Cathy Pratt family joined our community. Their daughter, Sarah, had some special needs that our school district was not adequately prepared for. Up to this point, verbal communication with their daughter had been a concerning struggle, and many felt she could greatly benefit from learning sign language. My mother accepted this challenge, got herself enrolled in sign language classes up at Powell, became proficient in ASL, and she continued to work alongside Sarah all the way through to her graduation!

Now learning ASL was another thing that was not easy for my mother, memorization was always one of her obstacles. I was around 7-8 at this time and she would come home from her class with her flash cards, enlisting me to help her practice. I was always enthusiastic to start out, but often times would end up expressing my frustrations to her, when I had all of the signs memorized and yet she still needed more practice. I can’t imagine that made my mother feel very good about herself, but she never pointed out my lack of empathy. Instead, she would tell me how grateful she felt to be blessed with such a bright child, and assured me that she WOULD get the hang of it eventually. And she did, and this is just one example of many times in my life where I had the privilege to witness my mother accomplish something she was passionate about, not because it was easy, but because she was unwilling to give up on herself. I have gotten through almost every difficult situation in my life, because of the example my mother set for me throughout her struggles in her own life; and I know her example has provided that strength to many others as well.

She was of service to many students through the school’s resource department, and this community was blessed to have her working with our exceptional children, as she truly understood the feelings of frustration involved when facing academic challenges.  She believed that every child was special, that every kid had the right to learn and to explore their unique interests, and she firmly believed that if a student wasn’t learning, then that was as much a  failure on the teacher’s part, as on the child. She would say, “every child learns differently, and it is a teacher’s job to learn how to teach to each student”.

She served as the head speech and debate coach at both Lovell and Rocky Mountain High Schools for nearly a decade. During this time, not only did she secure many medals and trophies for these school districts (including at least one state championship), but she also generated major portions of her team’s budget through her own creative devices. Most significantly, she provided countless teenagers with a structured environment for them to creatively grow and learn how to express themselves. A very proud moment for her, was when her own daughter qualified for the National Forensics Competition, and Trudy got to accompany her to Phoenix, AZ, as both a mother and a coach.

Around the time her daughter graduated high school, she received her endowments in the LDS Idaho Falls Temple, and this was a very personal and important accomplishment for Trudy. One more testimony of her commitment to pursue the things she was passionate about, despite facing chronic challenges.

Eventually, mounting disabilities concluded her career in education, and attending to her mental and physical health became her top priority. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, but it was also very peaceful; and for that, I hope we can all find gratitude.

She is preceded in death by her father, Preston Duncan Workman, and is survived by her mother Greta Godfrey Workman, sister and brother-in-law Marla & Norman Winters, her daughter Ryan, son-in-law Eric Cohen, and her two grandchildren Preston Indi Jones Cohen and Marlowe Jones Cohen. She is also survived by her uncles and aunts: Dennis & Rose Godfrey, Kenneth A. & Sharon Blackburn, Dallen Workman, and Claude & Glenna Workman, many cousins, and her nieces and nephews: Amy & Matt Gardner, Patricia Casey, Cliff & Meredith Winters, Rachel Winters, Victoria & Brandon Willis, Cozzette Winters, Scott & Stephanie Winters, and Lisa Winters. She was married to Richard Broderick Jones from 1980-1982, and developed lasting memories with her stepchildren H. Clay and April M. Jones.  She was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she always looked forward to church activities, even when she was unable to participate, and she accepted many different callings throughout her time, here on Earth.

I haven’t shared too many specific stories and memories about my Mom here in this piece, but many people have been sharing their memories of her with me; and I hope those who have, know just how much I will cherish these treasures.

When people have spoken to me about my mom, they speak of her generosity, her passion, and her relentless enthusiasm! They often speak of her talents, and many have admired her authenticity, her confidence in her style and personal preferences. She consistently championed for ‘the underdog’, and her compassion and empathy allowed many to feel comfortable turning to her when they found themselves feeling most vulnerable or overwhelmed.

Mental Health is something that is generally uncomfortable to talk about. But in order to authentically honor my mother, I would feel remiss were I not to address it briefly here in this space. Disability presents itself in many forms and fashions, and one is no more or less significant than another. Each presents its own unique set of challenges, as well as gifting certain opportunities to challenge our universal concepts of The Norm. Some afflictions, however, are far easier to identify and recognize than others. With awareness comes understanding, and it is through this understanding  that tolerance, compassion, and grace, may blossom and grow. But I stand here to testify to you today that without awareness, it is most often guilt, shame, and rejection that can easily consume one’s spiritual flame. My mother was fairly open with many of her struggles; so much so that her openness most often made me very uncomfortable, and I know that I am not alone for feeling this way!

Mental illness can take you through some very dark paths and my mother encountered many challenges within herself that caused her to question her value, her sanity, and her purpose in this mortal existence. But my mother had a faithful soul, and a pillar of her faith in herself came from the comfort she found in:

1 Corinthians 10:13  

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

My mother spent significant portions of her life struggling with the unique challenges Heavenly Father had bestowed upon her; and she did suffer, probably more so than some are aware.

But she never gave up on herself, she rarely lost hope, and she always championed for her own pursuit of peace and joy.

This is my mother’s lasting legacy that I offer you.

In her loving memories, may we seek comfort in her eternal rest.

Peace, Mom, I love you so much.


Attachment Leads to Suffering September 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 11:26 am

Anyone remember when my wedding ring got destroyed by our garbage disposal??? Yup, last December, just past our first Wedding anniversary…that sucked. IMG_2819I pride myself on not being hung up on material possessions; in fact I spent most of our relationship imploring Eric​ to find me something reasonable and modest (when the time came), which he very kindly did. It was definitely one of the most treasured possessions I have ever received; and to have my sink shred it up so effortlessly, made me realize that it was, in fact, priceless.

Eric (in guy mode) wanted to get it replaced/fixed right away, but I was too heartbroken to deal with it at the time.

This spring we were headed on a family cruise to the Caribbean (where I spent the 1st year of my life). It was very near our 10th anniversary together, and I felt it the perfect opportunity to do some ring shopping (window shopping at the least), but Eric just was NOT having it -ha! So that window passed…

…and then last week, some ring ad popped up in my Facebook news feed. I clicked on it; and after spending less than 10 mins looking around, I just got too overwhelmed and had to walk away. Well NOW, every time I get on the computer, there are ring ads popping up EVERYWHERE!! They won’t go away, and it just feels like pouring salt in my wound and now it’s 9 months later; and frankly,I’m just feeling very emotional and devastated about the whole situation!!!

Attachment leads to suffering….I know this; and yet, I still just can’t figure out how to move on… 😦


Zumba Retrospect: Every Day is Your Birthday…Now Hit the Floor!!! January 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 7:32 pm

One year ago today, I embraced the new year by doing something I had never done before. I took a Zumba class (instructed by one amazing miss Renee Thompson) at our new communities YMCA, and it has truly been life-changing!

In short, my upbringing was surrounded by unhealthy relationships to food and a generally sedentary lifestyle; both food addiction and (what I call) excursion anxiety are struggles I continue to face in my adulthood.

My mother has battled her obesity and mental illness my entire life; and in many ways, it has been my battle as well. Since I have entered into parenthood, I often find myself thinking back on my happiest memories with my mother. Always, they are during times when she was on a diet, or a live it; and I know I think back to these ones because they are ones in which we were DOING something!! Getting up in the freezing Rocky Mountain cold at 5 a.m. to go to the town pool and swim laps before school time, walking all the way out of town to the gas station to fill up our mugs with diet caffeine-free fountain soda, so we could pour in a Medi-fast packet and enjoy our well-earned treat on the long walk back – these are some of my happiest memories with my mother! (I confess that I only wish there were many more of these memories, from my youth, for me to conjure.)

However, the fact is that I have not been in that environment for over 13 years now, and have since had to take full responsibility for my own relationship with food and fitness, carving out my own parameters for nourishing both my emotional and physical self.  And let me tell you, it has been a 50 pound roller coaster of love & hate, pride & shame, trial & error, judgement and acceptance…and yet it is still a journey I feel I have just begun! My story is one I am more than willing to share, and in much more depth, but at a later time…suffice it to say that this year’s Zumba discovery has been a major breakthrough on my life-long body image journey!

So, I wanted take a moment to honor this milestone w/ a classic Before/After montage. Here is a picture of me the week I took my first Zumba class:


That’s right, January 22, 2013. I was 27 weeks pregnant. And just that week previous, I had survived a last minute 4 day cross-country U-haul trek, w/ both our 2 year old son and entire material life in tow!

(But hey, let’s  face it – I didn’t even find out I was having  said 2 year old until I was 26 weeks along with him…so really, a Zumba class, for the first time at 27 weeks, seemed like the least I could do.) 

I had just finished grad school, I was in good shape, arguably the best shape I’d been in, certainly in better shape than I was the first time I was pregnant – which at the time, had also been the best shape I’d ever been in!!

(I have an entire decade of inspirational tales about the cataclysmic life events that have surrounded me, and I can tell you that every one of them transpired at times when I was healthfully most focused on myself…even my mistakes in those moments, I am confident will rank as the best mistakes of my life!)

Anywho…yeah, yeah, I know I look great for 27 weeks! And I felt great, so I challenged myself to a Zumba class, something I’ve always wanted to do! Now, this wasn’t a challenge, because I was a pregnant women, not for me at least! Of course not!! That would be a logical reservation, and I have an anxiety disorder, which means it’s the illogical fears always that trip me up!!! Sweating, crowds, and conformity are all triggers for my social anxiety…so a cardio-dance class in the humid South was setting off my Excuses Bell left and right- ding, ding, ding! 

But I had just got my Master’s degree, and lived abroad, and had a baby. So I made it on time by myself to the new class I wanted to try (which I will point out, is leaps & bounds of improvement from the 20 year old me doing Billy Blank kick-boxing dvds alone, in the Bonus room of my Seattle townhouse at 180 lbs).  And I got so sweaty at Zumba!! But I was just having so much fun that I couldn’t care, and so I just danced! Just like that, I was hooked. And!! And also, just like that, that day in that class is right when I KNEW, this was going to be a great year…and it was 🙂

My 6 months pregnancy photo doesn’t seem appropriate, however, to fully reflect the physical contributions of this year’s progress through Zumba.

So here’s my 2nd submission for a Before & After:

January 20149

The photo on the left was taken on the 4th of July, 2012,at a house party in Birmingham, England, where we were living at the time. I had just finished my very rigorous and physically demanding graduate actor’s training,  and I was right in the middle of developing my master’s project; but by the end of that month I would also be pregnant, again! Haha!!

And here on the right, is Miss Marlowe at 8 1/2 months, alongside myself, 18 months later, in quite the same clothing but looking much more fit, if I do say so myself! But technically, this would be considered some sort of Pre/Post baby body thing, so while I’m at it…

…I’d also like to show off this one!

January 20147

On the left, you see me the week of my 32 birthday, also in July 2012. I decided to kick off my next year of life by completing a 7 day juice detox cleanse! I did it, it was very empowering and a great way to confront my emotional eating head-on. As soon as I conclude my nursing duties, I plan to make a juice cleanse part of a seasonal regimen!!

Our family has continued to do supplemental juicing ever since, and this seems like an appropriate opportunity to give a little ‘Before and After’ credit to that transformational page of my journey also!

The photo on the right is of me with one of Eric’s fabulous breakfast smoothies, wearing the new Zumba shirt & shoes he bought me to help celebrate – January 2014!

And finally….

DSCN3027I’ve worked hard, I’ve instigated small changes, and I’ve been diligent. One year, 78 classes later and I can see the results for myself!

I truly invested in myself this last year, and its pay-off  has inspired me to set even more goals – to continue to challenge myself and take risks , to accept more and to let go even further, and to strive to maintain a  positive outlook and to be present more often!

And one last finally – I’d like to take this moment to offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me to make good choices for myself all along the way!

Renee, and the rest of my Zumba ladies, this goes out to you –

…welcome to the La La Land! Zumba 🙂


A Cloth Diaper Defense: Taking Power Away from the Corporations, One Diaper at a Time July 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 6:18 am

DANNY JOHNSTON / AP fileI’ll apologize in advance for climbing up on my soap box here, but frankly – this article offends me!

“It Made Me Feel Ashamed – Poor Moms Anguish Over Diaper Cost”

We will have spent a TOTAL of around $500 cloth diapering both of our children COMBINED! Disposable diapers are expensive! The facts support that,in the long run, cloth diapers are easier on your child, your pocketbook, and the environment. They go on to say that UTIs and diaper rash run rampant among this demographic because mother are having to ration/stretch out/ scrape off and reuse (hello!) disposable diapers, because of their high cost. Nowhere in this article does the author, or any of these service agents the article references, even mention cloth diapering as an option, when it is a hands-down solution to every issue this article raises!!!

Now trust me, I am all about freedom of choice. In no way am I implying that I judge anyone who chooses to go the disposable route (we ourselves indulge in disposable diapers when we travel, and are happy to pay the cost for that convenience at those times).
But, the most offensive part of this article, for me, is the ‘shame’ part of it. These women are feeling shamed that they ‘have’ to put their children through all of this when the don’t! You do not have to buy disposable diapers!!! And it is not these poor women that necessarily offend me. Their ‘shameful’ view of themselves is a clear reflection of our society. ‘Scraping diapers and reusing them’…that’s one step away from cloth diapering right there…once again’We’ (the Royal We), are compromising our self worth to make huge companies like Pampers and Huggies even richer, and that deeply saddens me.
To all of my parents out there – if any of you are feeling the pocket book stress of disposable diapers out there, please feel free to contact me and discuss cloth diapering as an option. I am a ‘poor’ mother, and I do not feel ashamed. Cloth diapering empowers me, and I promise it can for you too ❤


It’s Okay, Boys Can Be Pretty Too! February 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 8:10 am

Well today we were three for three. The lady at my prenatal appointment told me that “there were a whole bunch of toys she could play with just around the corner”; in the afternoon, the plumber who came into our home to work on our water heater made a comment about “having her already using those computers, huh?”; and later, in the checkout line at the grocery store, the man behind us remarked that “boy she sure is a busy helper, isn’t she?” They were all talking about my 2 year old son, and I don’t think it would surprise most to find this has been a daily occurrence for us, frankly, since the day he was born.

Yes, I have been blessed with a very beautiful, very pretty son. He was born with a full head of curly blonde hair, and at two years old, we have still yet to give him a haircut. I never expected to have a two year old boy with long golden locks; but they are gorgeous, and with both of his parents being dark brunettes, the circumstance is most assuredly a limited engagement. We figure one of three things will eventually happen: 1) he will ask for it to be cut 2) he will get something stuck in it that we will have to cut out i.e. gum or a sucker or 3) he will make acquaintance with a pair of scissors and do the deed himself. One of those scenarios is bound to come to fruition sooner or later; and when it does, we will be fine with it, seriously!

Anyone who knows my son will attest to the fact that he loves his hair! It gets him attention, and compliments, and he knows and loves that. He even has his own ‘hair moves’. Clearly he has not yet tuned into the gender bias that his hair triggers and generates in and amongst society. And if it truly bothered us (or especially him), I am sure we wouldn’t have let it go on as long as it has…well, here I come to my need to make a point of clarification:

My son’s long hair certainly doesn’t bother me. People being so taken in by my son’s beauty that they feel the need to approach me and verbally remark on his level of attractiveness obviously doesn’t bother me! I also know that although his hair isn’t the sole generator of these kind remarks, it does provide a significant contribution; and therefore, it makes it quite easy to forgive the fact these constant compliments are consistently paired with mis-gender identification – these people clearly mean well by what they are saying. But over time, as his hair grows longer, and as he becomes more boy-engendered (of his own accord), what does begin to surprise both me and his father is the ever-increasingly high level of consistency with which ‘he’ is identified by the general populous as being a ‘she’!

Situationally, we even go back and forth on whether we bother correcting people or not because frankly, it really is a bother. They then feel bad and try to make excuses; we find ourselves trying to back up their excuses; a well meant compliment quickly turns into an awkward situation for both parties. Passersby, we certainly don’t correct; for a more lengthy encounter with a repeat offender of gender mis-identification, I’ve come to recognize myself making sub-consciously calculated maneuvers – calling him to me using his very male oriented name, Preston, following up by saying ‘hey buddy’ or ‘come here my little guy’ – any opportunity I can create to clue them into to correcting themselves, so that I in turn don’t have to.

Of course I always have the voice of my grandfather’s generation echoing in my head: “Well what do you expect people to call him? He’s got long hair just like a girl!” And of course we don’t expect anything. ‘Our son’s hair’ is not politically motivated, we’re not actively trying to ‘rock society’s boat’, nor was this some sort of calculated decision; it is honestly a case of inaction more than anything else. We love his hair, we think it is gorgeous, therefore we simply haven’t gotten around to doing anything to change the way it is naturally. Now as time and ‘the hair situation’ progresses, the individualist in me must admit that cutting his hair solely for the sake and comfort of the same society that compliments it so, does seem like the greater sin.

My first job out of high school was at a Claire’s Boutique, where day after day I would have new mothers bring their baby daughters in to get their ears pierced. Two words of caution out there to all of the mothers who do/plan to/ or have done this: 1) in no way are ‘we’ (the minimum wage workers of said mall franchises) highly trained ear-piercing specialists and 2) it is incredibly difficult for even the most well-intentioned person to successfully get two evenly-placed earrings punched into a screaming baby’s tiny tiny earlobes. I was seventeen years old that summer; and honestly, this surprisingly common situation made me very uncomfortable – piercing holes in your child’s body that they did not ask for. And on several occasions I knew these precious little people would not grow up satisfied with the job I had done, as my inevitable lack in precision would clearly reveal itself over the years, through their lobes’ continued and almost guaranteed to be uneven growth. Personally I would rather see you stick a bow on top of their head if it bothers you so…but I was also raised in the mountains of Wyoming, wherein echo the mantras ‘live and let live’ and ‘to each their own’, words I sincerely strive to preach and practice daily.

During much of Preston’s second year, we were living in England without a stroller. His father would carry him around in an Ergo (a baby-wearing devise that essentially straps the baby to either your chest or back), and it was easy to excuse people’s indiscretions as the Ergo covered most of his clothing, leaving the common citizenry with only his hair on which to judge him by.  Now, I must also interject here the parallel fact that we never gave much care or concern to whether or not his clothes carried significant masculine gender association, should people have been able to see what it was that he was wearing.  But as he began to walk and run, and move out of the baby-carrier and onto society’s streets, sidewalks, and grocery aisles, his hair has continued to grow, as has his male-gendered identity association.

Today, this is how my two year old son looked:


By his choice he was wearing blue cargo sweats, a blue striped t-shirt with a robot screen printed on the front, black and red light-up Lightening McQueen shoes – and he insisted on proudly carrying around his Thomas the Train toy as a companion throughout our day’s adventures.

So although we’ve never expected any certain reaction from society, I must admit our increasingly developed surprise at society’s seemingly inability to identify our child as a boy. Now in no way am I suggesting that not one member society can correctly tell that he is a ‘he’; but we consistently have received daily comments, remarks, and compliments on our child’s looks and/or personality; and after 27 months, I can honestly affirm that currently 90% of the positive feedback we receive about our son (the same one pictured on the left) is verbally linked to the feminine pronouns ‘she’ or ‘her’. This has been proven consistent across age, gender, class, race, and level of exposure to children in general.

Yesterday, another classic demonstration of this was displayed. Preston and I were in one checkout line, when a woman from another checkout line rolled her cart passed us, stopped, turned around and then said “sorry to bother you, but I have to say that is just the most beautiful child I have ever seen”. “Well, thank you,” I tried to humbly accept, “we sure feel pretty lucky to have him”. “And that’s a him,” she exclaimed?! “With that hair? Why I never…” she trailed off. I of course jumped in with a typical “I know, it’s just so beautiful we can’t be bothered to cut it”. “Oh my”, she nervously chortled as she quickly yet indulgently gave her fingers a quick once-through my child’s golden curls and then uttered the loaded Southern expression “well, bless”, before strolling her cart along its merry little way. (Here I would like to pause and interject that in this situation, my son was sporting head-to-toe red and black Lightning McQueen garb from his t-shirt down to the shoes and had chosen for that day’s companion his toy car Francesco, one of the characters featured in Pixar’s animation Cars 2.)

This phenomenon inspires within me a need to write some children’s book or something (but directed at adults, especially ones raising children) called Boys Can Be Pretty Too, a not so gentle reminder, or wakeup call if you will, to our current society of just how fickle and impermanent societies’ historical notions of beauty are. Throughout the whole of the animal kingdom (the natural order), and from King Louis’ France to Elizabethan England, the male species has more often than not used his beauty to draw attention and admiration to himself, proudly enlisting trappings and embellishments to help him attract the approval and praise of society’s members, much like my son’s hair very successfully does for him at this current juncture in his life.

My son is not classically handsome or dashing, he is stereotypically pretty and beautiful; he is gorgeous, and I whole-heartedly agree with the general passersby’s assessments on that front! But why then, in this century (as well as the last), is there a palpable social anxiety over assigning those adjectives to anything other than the feminine? Furthermore, what is up with the duality of a society confident enough to consistently verbally remark on the beauty of others – who has it, and who does not, yet at the same time be so closeted, conservative, and limited in its views of which gender can possess which qualifiers for attraction? I don’t know the answer to any of these question, but once again, must express sincere gratitude for living in a society that provokes me to think deeply about the current collective consciousness that its critiques reflect.

Ironically, my hair has been a controversial and distracting centerpiece of social discussion throughout the bulk of my life – from the battles growing up with my mother over keeping it long, to my defending its boyish shortness over the last seven years, to the superficial controversies my not cutting it for the last year has mustered amongst those closest to me…and how ironic that my son does indeed have ‘my hair’. All the while it seeming to be constantly complimented while as the same time consistently criticized, it is after all just hair…is it not? And what is hair? A trapping, an embellishment, a once alive yet now dead extension of yourself, one that you either do or do not carry around in some fluctuating quantity, yet it IS constantly defining who you are; and in many ways, in societies eyes, it is the foundation for their definition of your association with and assessment of beauty. How bizarre…
And on that note, I believe this may be about all I have to say on this matter…at least for now, anyhow.
Through this reflective diatribe one thing, to me, has become very clear: we are indeed a very hair-centered society.

Oh yeah, and please remember that: It’s Okay, Boys Can Be Pretty Too 🙂


Royal Shakespeare Company Lecture With John Barton & Cecily Berry September 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — a ryan j @ 5:20 am

Royal Shakespeare Theatre Lecture with John Barton (Co-Founder) and Cecily Berry (Voice Director)

Sunday, 18 September, 2011

In The Swan Theatre: Stalls, L,22

My Lecture Notes – 

Sonnet Work:

CICELY: sonnet 129 “The expense of spirit”…

* walk around and change direction on every piece of punctuation *it gives you direction, one word LEADS into the next one.

Peter Brooks says, “There’s a million ways to say one line”. …take the word “savage”…

JOHN: the great value of working w/ sonnets is that THEY ARE SHORT!!! * use the words to make the audience listen * you’ve got to NEED to talk * job as the director is to get an actor to help himself * every sonnet has a story * repetition helps the story emerge * ask questions. There are far more question in the text of Shakespeare than you’d think and you MUST ASK THEM!!!

CICELY: When a character uses an image – it’s not because they’re describing something. It is because that is WHERE THEY ARE LIVING!

JOHN: Sonnets are exercize.

CICELY: it is the imagery that takes us into the depths our souls * and the rhythm HAS to come out * yet “we” want it to sound modern * it is the challenge for today’s actors…


Switching Between Verse & Prose:

JOHN: Actors find their own way by DOING IT!!! (How actors figure out the dynamics of Shakespeare)

CICELY: the audience pays to listen, we get paid to be heard * be a conduit

JOHN: work on structured argument – if, then, therefore * the musculature of the text, helps demystify it * taste every single word as you would in the bathtub at home * rhetoric – the art of argument, persuasion, and reason

CICELY: it is the actor’s job to excite people with language * we are still moved by people who speak well * use language as music *imperative that drama schools work on verse, classical, and modern – it is a skill!

*We want the audience not to leave satisfied, but wanting change*Shakespeare is always relevant to now.

JOHN: We’ve got to get into Shakespeare’s world, not to try to bring him into ours.

Cicely: We learn Shakespeare by DOING IT!!! *We want the audiance to say, “I see what he feels”…

Have a NEED TO SPEAK – use the words to GET OTHER’S ATTENTION!

JOHN: with a soliloquy you are never alone because you are with the audience *there’s a difference between expressing and emotion on stage, and coping on stage with the emotions you’re dealing with…

CICELY: whatever accent you are doing, it helps keep the muscularity together

Sustaining Shakespeare on Stage Night After Night: (Penny, the Australian) You find all these different gears you can shift through, just like a bicycle * And you MUST ALWAYS BE PRESENT and LISTENING!!!

JOHN: You have to listen and you have to make others listen

CICELY: Shakespeare thinks quickly * the SPEED OF THOUGHT is: quickly

JOHN: If you slow down the pace, you constipate the story!

PENNY: If there’s a half line, don’t act between it, come right on in & finish the line

CICELY: it’s not a PAUSE, it’s a POISE on the word

*they were both old as dirt,  but still had a tenacity for life, Shakespeare, and the stage – it was wonderful to see them present and in the moment on stage!

– A. Ryan Jones