I’ve just stumbled upon an “informative game” presented with sounds effects at the BBC Woman’s Hour webpage, and wanted to share it, because I’m not sure how I feel about it.

You’re supposed to enter your name and your husband’s, then estimate the amount of time you spend on several types of chores you do every week, on top of child care and paid work, and rate how you feel about each chore. Then estimate the same amounts for your spouse.

The tone is decisively aggressive and war-mongering: “Woman’s Hour reports from the last battleground for equality – the home.”, and the noise makes it sound like a medieval turnament.

I could not resist trying it, of course! It was quite exhaustive in chores categories, which made me realize how specialized my husband and I are, each responsible for one type of activity (especially cooking for me, and laundry for him) and not sharing activities together by turn. But I guess I grossly overestimated the time I spent for some (cooking especially) the first time around, and I had no idea how enjoyable most of them are to my husband. Then I took the test a second time and I totally overestimated the time my husband spent on the laundry, an activity which I dislike and find always too long and boring.

As a whole, the results said that my husband does slightly more than I do at home, and is less happy about it (because of the laundry bia). But I think it would be interesting to have his advice on the matter.

The Chore Wars page presents lots of small audio topics which are quite interesting. I’d love to hear what you think of them and discuss it here.

Emily's Brain Works

When this story came out in the November 19 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. I was appalled and saddened to hear there was a report of a young woman being raped at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at The University of Virginia, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s sad, isn’t it? The University of Virginia is my alma mater. I am someone who loved the four years she spent on those hallowed “Grounds”, as we call them. I received an excellent education, the best kind, the kind that inspires one to become a life-long learner, as was the intention of the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson. Yet, I wasn’t surprised to hear a story of a  rape reported by a national magazine at said alma mater. Disappointed, yes, because I would hope things might have changed a little, but surprised? No.

When I began my undergraduate career in the fall of 1982, the university had a reputation, one it…

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It’s so thrilling to see posts coming up on this blog. Many thanks to Litlove for encouraging us to write here again! As for changes in my life, who would have guessed five years ago when we last wrote here that I would now have a baby of my own. Maybe some people could have guessed that, but I certainly wouldn’t have. In fact, I know of only one friend who wasn’t surprised when I announced I wanted to have or was going to have a baby. I had always said that I would have a child if I was certain I really wanted one, but that at the moment I just didn’t have that desire. Why in this day and age have a baby unless you really, really, really want to? (It should be that simple, at least, even though the reality isn’t that simple for many women.) I didn’t want to have a baby for a long time, until all the sudden I did want one. And Hobgoblin and I, in typical fashion, made up our minds during the course of one conversation to try to get pregnant — no agonizing indecision for us — and here we are.

There were lots of reasons I wanted a baby, once I realized I did, but one of the most important factors was that I have a really great situation for raising a child. I’ve known all my life what hard work it is to be a parent (I’m the oldest of seven children), and I haven’t ever wanted to undertake all that work. But my models for parenting, my own parents, live a very different life than the one I have now. I could never, ever be a (happy) housewife and full-time mother, but I don’t have to: I’m able to raise my son alongside my husband, sharing the work, instead of doing what my mother did, and being the full-time caretaker. I don’t think I would have made the decision to have a child if I didn’t have the flexible job I have now, if Hobgoblin didn’t have a flexible job as well, if he weren’t willing and happy to do a lot of the parenting work, if I didn’t feel financially stable, if I didn’t feel as though I could keep up my other interests (reading, cycling, writing) while raising our child, even if it means having less time and energy for those interests. I’m so grateful to be in the place I am in now and to be able to make the choice I did about having a child. How many women throughout history have been in a similar situation?

And the last (almost) two years have been very good ones. I am lucky to have a great husband and a child who is not only healthy, but good-tempered and sweet. I will admit that one thing that makes my situation so great is that I am not and have never been particularly ambitious about my working life. I read about Courtney’s struggles with the missed promotion and I get incredibly angry for her sake, and I think about how hard it would be for me if I experienced something similar. But I just don’t have the drive to struggle for status at work. I’m a tenured professor and the only place for me to go next is to become department chair, which is just more work for not much compensation and is only temporary, or to try to become a dean or some other administrative type. I have friends who would like to follow this path. But all I want is to keep teaching. Yes, it did take some drive and ambition to get to the place I am now, but I’ve always known I would be happy to reach a certain level and go no further. I have no more promotions ahead of me, and I don’t care. I think this feeling is genuine and not some internalized message from society about how women shouldn’t be ambitious. I’m genuinely not motivated by career. If I were, having a child would be much more complicated. And the fact that it would be more complicated is enough to make me furious on behalf of all the women who are more ambitious than I am.

What I like, though, is the struggle to carve out time for the things that aren’t a part of my job. I am so much happier striving for the things that don’t earn me money (or that cost me money: cycling). When I have had loads of time on my hands, I haven’t been happy. Instead, I need some free time but not too much and also some pressures to create a shape to my day. So I’ve been trying to keep up with my cycling, although I have been only partially successful at this. I go weeks happily getting up early to fit a ride in, and then I quit riding for weeks because school has gotten too busy or the weather is too bad or both. I’ve been reading regularly and steadily with my precious evening hours, although in order to read as much as I would like I forgo watching movies or television and stay in most evenings. But thank God I have my evenings free; it makes such a difference. I’ve been only a sporadic blogger, partly because I don’t want to spend my reading time doing anything else, and partly because I don’t have the time or energy to participate in the blogging community as I used to. I feel bad about not leaving comments on other blogs. I have been writing book reviews for other sites now and then, though, and that has been fun. I’m thinking now that I would like to use my blog for informal posts, lists and book chat and reading round-ups, and save my more formal reviewing for other sites. But my feelings about my blog change all the time.

So that’s me. It’s good to be here again.

Five years ago, several of us were blogging prolifically and regularly – about books and writing and food and feminism and our lives generally and specifically and it felt like we had so much to say that we created this now-dormant blog in order to write about women and women’s issues. It was a great idea but lost momentum because, well, because of life. The brilliant Litlove had the idea that we should return to this space five years later to give an update about our lives – that we all readily agreed speaks to the endurance of blogging friendships started so long ago.

Since I last blogged here, I’ve been blessed enough to give birth to two amazing children. My first, Evangeline Grace, was born on February 11, 2011 and my second, Duncan Bray, was born on his sister’s original due date of February 6th, in 2014. I am knee-deep in the toddler and baby years and celebrating small wins – one completely done with diapers, the other nearly finished with the formula we transitioned to when he was seven months old and he went on a nursing strike.  And in terms of where I stand,  I would like to point out I felt I NEEDED to mention that OF COURSE I nursed him because: mommy wars, and all the ways NOT NURSING can make a mom feel like dirt, even though my pediatrician agreed with the decision. I actually have a friend who hid the fact that she weaned her one-year old from her neighborhood mom group because of the backlash she knew she would incur. Nursing is big in my circle.

Fortunately, it turns out I love having young children. Every day, I find myself breathless with some new skill Duncan has mastered. Just recently, he has learned to wave hello. I think this makes him worthy of a MacArthur genius award. Evangeline’s developing imagination continually takes me by surprise – on our nature walks we tiptoe quietly past sleeping dragons, and when one wakes up, we fight him with our own breathy fire. Sam and I joke that it’s probably a good thing we had children in our thirties instead of twenties or we might have tried to have our own football team (not true, really, but we do enjoy our kids).

Having children, though, has been hard on a lot of other areas of my life. I was recently passed over for a promotion at work despite what I believe to be (and my annual reviews claim to be) a record of superior work, and I can’t help but feel this is because I took maternity leave and I sometimes have to take time off (time off I earn, but still) to stay home with my children. I wouldn’t change having my children for anything in the world, and I feel lucky to be able to say that, but it has been frustrating to watch the effects my choices have had on my career, and I struggle mightily with what to do now.  Activities that always gave me so much pleasure have fallen away as I raise my children and it feels like an enormous struggle to put my reading and my writing front and center again.  I could, of course, make the choice to stay home but given how desperate I feel about being passed over for the promotion, I don’t think that is the choice I want to make for my future, and there are very good reasons financially and otherwise that I should continue to work.

It’s a weird time for me.  There is so much beauty in my life, but also a lot of pain as we watch our parents and older relatives struggle with aging.  I am struggling with balance, from the food I eat to the exercise I get to assuming a sense of financial balance to work/life balance.

Because I often see situations as either black and white, it’s been hard for me not to despair about the work thing even with so much evidence in front of me of an otherwise gorgeous, happy life. My husband and friends tell me not to take work personally – that it’s just business – but to not take what I DO personally seems to undermine some of the very best tributes I have to offer – my passion, drive and enthusiasm. So instead I have decided to find a job that I can take personally, and in the mean time start making room, bit by bit, for the other great loves of my life – reading and writing.

I am inspired by our return to this space, and am hopeful we might be able to continue conversation here. For my part, I’ll try to post, or at the very least, cross-post, here for a bit. I look forward to seeing what happens.



Wow! It’s hard to believe that we first started this blog way back in 2006. Soon it will be time for our ten-year-reunion. I’m very glad that Litlove has challenged us to come back to it and catch up on what we’ve been writing during the five years we’ve let this blog lie dormant. This has been the year of revisiting the blogosphere for me, as I pretty much stopped blogging on any kind of regular basis a couple of years ago, and I recently decided to start a new blog. My old blog was anonymous. This new one isn’t. I’m struggling with that. The world of social media has changed so much that I’m now amused to visit early posts I wrote back in 2006 in which anonymity was so important to me that I wouldn’t even name the amusement park my husband Bob and I visited, in case people could figure out where I lived and who I was. On the other hand, now that I’m not anonymous, I feel a bit stifled, especially as a minister’s wife (a good topic for another blog post here).

That’s the biggest change, I suppose, for me, since we first started “What We Said.” I was on my way to becoming a minister’s wife (for anyone new to this blog and me, Bob is a third-career Presbyterian minister) in the fall of 2006, but I wasn’t there yet. Now I’ve been here for seven years. We live in a very conservative place, the sort of Apple-Pie-Small-Town-America place that looks good on paper — from far away — I never really knew much about until I moved here. Generations of families still all live in the same community and have for hundreds of years. Unlike Charlotte, who is encouraged when it comes to feminism, I am discouraged. Most of the young women here still see teaching and nursing as their only real career choices. Bob once asked one of these young women why she didn’t become a doctor. Her response, “Because I want to get married and have babies.” There’s a part of me that thinks maybe it’s a good thing that a young woman knows what she wants and is choosing a career path that fits it, that maybe my generation of burnt-out women trying to be Super Doctors and Super Moms was a lesson to the younger generation, that I shouldn’t judge, but there’s another part of me that is very sad to hear that. I doubt there are any young men in my community who are choosing to be nurses rather than doctors because they want to “get married and have babies.” If there are, I doubt they’d admit it out loud. There is hope, though, even here. We know one young woman who is on her way to becoming a research biologist, another who wants to be an editor, and a third who has a real entrepreneurial spirit and whom I sure will run her own business one day. When I get too discouraged, I try to focus on that hope.

Anyway, back to what I’ve been writing. I also sporadically blog book reviews for my library at Pequea Valley Reader’s Blog, and I even more sporadically write posts at a blog I started called The Minister’s Wife Reads, in which I write faith-based thoughts on quotes I pull from stuff I’m reading. One of the reasons I’ve blogged less over the past few years is that I wrote the first draft of a novel and began the second draft of it. I was having a bit of trouble with it, because I made the decision to rearrange the time line and to get rid of some characters, so I put it aside and started working on ghost stories, as well as short stories that focused on mother-daughter pairs. I also began a couple of reworking of classic fairy tales, folklore, and myths from the female characters’ points of view. All of that has been fun, but I don’t find I have as much uninterrupted time for writing as I’d like. I no longer work full-time (oh, that’s another thing that’s happened in the past five years. I’ve been laid off from two different jobs), but I work very part-time at our local library, and my volunteer work (church, library system, Presbytery, and peace witness organization) is very full-time. I’m also trying to take care of our home (Bob, whose job is all-consuming and unpredictable in a way that drives me nuts can only do so much) and the dog and two cats who’ve also come into our lives in the past 5-7 years. I keep swearing I’m going to make the time and then never do. I so admire those of you who really do make the time. Half the battle, I know, is that discipline.

So, I’m busy working on these short stories when the October of Gone Girl arrives. I read Gone Girl back in 2013. I loved it till I got about 3/4 of the way through, when I felt it started to crash and burn, and I hated the ending, because I thought it was very sexist (for those of you who’ve read it — or who haven’t but don’t mind spoilers — you can find out why here). Bob was intrigued, especially since the movie’s been released, so he decided to read it while we were on vacation in Maine. He loved it, wasn’t at all bothered by the ending, like I was, thought Flynn had written a brilliant sociopathic character. I told him she hadn’t, that Patricia Highsmith is the one who’d written a brilliant sociopathic character when she wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, that he’d change his mind if he read Highsmith. I then said, “I think I could write a better sociopathic character.” He said, “Well, then, why don’t you?”

So, dear readers, I am. That’s what I’m working on now. It’s coming along slowly and has involved my delving into research on sociopaths — creepy — which, in fairness to Flynn, has made me realize that maybe she wrote a better character than I gave her credit for having written. Still, I’m hoping mine will be even better. Stay tuned…

It’s five years since we last posted here. I loved this joint writing space, so I hope we can revitalize it. My blogging has wholly dropped off for a variety of reasons (see below), and I do miss long-form blogging, as Emily calls it, though my social media attention span is better suited to tweeting and Facebook posts.

In the last five years, I returned to work full-time. This is not easy in Germany where primary schools happily send kids home at 12:30 for the hot lunch that they presume will be cooked by a stay-at-home mama, and high schools are not much better. To the chagrin of many of my German friends, I found a private school (elitist! full of children from rich families with behavioral problems!) that feeds and looks after my kids till 4pm. School is the nanny that allows me to work, and while there are a lot of rich kids with behavioral problems, there are a lot of normal kids with mothers who need to work. Enough balance to justify the outlay, and I get to spend my day with grown-ups, earn a salary, use some of my skills and feel as if I am contributing something. I also want to be a working mom role model to my children. (Note to self: complain less about your job at home.)

The other thing that changed in the last five years is that I managed to shepherd the novel that I was working on while writing here to publication. That has been a wonderful process, and while Balthasar was published last year in Germany, the absolute highlight was taking the English version on a four-city book tour to South Africa in June. It was wonderful to read to South African audiences, see reviews in South African newspapers, and see my novel on bookshelves there.

Both my publishers are small independent presses and I love them both to death. Both are headed by gutsy feminist women who trying to swing against the tide of big six publishing (or is it four now? can’t keep up) and publish good books that don’t necessarily have mass appeal. They have made tiny cracks in the monolith, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I am now working on the second novel in the series and am on a very tight deadline to provide something to Else, my German publisher, by January. Christmas will be a mere blip in my world.

Has anyone else noticed how feminism has gone mainstream in the last five years? I followed many great feminist blogs and it has been fascinating to watch those voices get picked up by large newspapers such as the Guardian. I am still utterly depressed by the trolls and admire the energy of the women who take them on (as we all should), but I think the prominence of the public feminist discussion is a great thing.

That’s it from me, folks. I so look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.

I was quite enthusiastic when Litlove contacted me to rekindle the “What We Said” blog. After all, conversations about feminism are hardly ever over. In those last five years, I can’t say that the number of female top managers in big companies has increased in France (not that I know of), that the number of female MPs has increased in the national assemblies, and even that the sexist-racist “jokes” against powerful women have disappeared.

But then Litlove asked “what have you been up to in these 5 years?” and I found myself wondering. It all went by in a blur. There’s no shortage of events or ideas that crossed my mind related to gender or feminism, so I might allude to them here and develop them in later posts. But to sum those 5 years up, no wonder some call it the “rush hour of life”.

My first son is now 6 (going on 13 sometimes) and I have had another baby, another boy. The second time around, except for the birth which was quite difficult, felt a lot better, a lot more self-evident (proof that it’s experience and not nature that led the way in my case). We trusted ourselves a lot more, I didn’t agonize over sleep patterns, and we slipped into a routine much earlier. The only regret is that I didn’t breastfeed but for a week due to birth difficulties. When he was 3 months old, at the end of the maternity leave, as many (but not all) French women do, I got back to work full-time. To be honest I don’t really experience that guilt that I read about in a lot of American (or German) blogs about motherhood. I can’t really imagine staying home full-time (even if it was financially realistic). I take a bit more time off, and cuddling with the baby seems more like an evening / weekend / holidays privilege. I have an acute sense of how fast he’s growing out of his infant / baby days and into toddler phase, knowing that there won’t probably have another baby. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I am enjoying babyhood a lot more too. Having two boys at home makes things rather noisy and rowdy, especially in a typically small Parisian flat. Sometimes, the realization that I won’t (probably ever) have a daughter gripes me and makes me wonder what I have missed.

Job-wise, we haven’t moved overseas, and the economic prospects in our respective industries have made this dream quite difficult to reach. But I had reached total exhaustion / boredom / disillusion with my financial job and so I jumped ship rather abruptly. Within a few weeks, as I’d heard of a job opening in my department in the IT field, I applied and got the job! The big caveat is that I had to keep my financial job for as long as they’d find a replacement, which they felt no special pressure for. It was both exciting and exhausting to juggle everything at that time (it was before the baby, needless to say). Part of the reasons why I got the job without any experience or special knowledge was that it is a fast-developing business that nobody in my company knew much anything about. I work on projects like e-learning, digital solutions for trainings, as well as more traditional tasks like platform administration, project management etc.. Partly, I have to thank the internet and the blog world to have opened to me windows I’d never have considered before. Needless to say, this is a heavily male professional environment.

My writing life has been much reduced due to all these changes. I still struggle to find time writing other things than blogposts, but I keep hoping that it will get better the older the baby gets. Strangely, I have major insecurities about writing fiction. I am in such a turmoil myself that creating imaginary people who have their own struggles feels a little useless and vain. I am quite aware of the irony that I spend most of my free time reading about imaginary people who have struggles very different from my own, but I haven’t yet founnd a way around my doubts.

So here it is. What about you, sisters?


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