Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wise words of girls create inspirational week at summer camp

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices .” Jimmy Carter, July 15, 2009

I was relieved to read Jimmy Carter’s recent stand against the Southern Baptist church’s subjugation of women. His article titled “Losing my religion for equality” reminded me of the importance of my emerging resolve to do what I can to nurture the voices of girls and young women.

I was recently blown away by the depth I experienced in the words of girls ages 9 to 11 during a week of summer camp I helped facilitate, themed “True Nature: Our Wild Dreaming Selves.” We held the camp at the Poplar Grove Schoolhouse on Bloomington’s east side, the new writing home for Women Writing for (a) Change, a project that has been active in Bloomington since 2004. It was through my participation in the women’s classes that the calling sprang forth to bring this work to girls.

I feel the temptation to write this column from merely a historic perspective: how the sound of pencils scratching on paper and the sights of children deep in concentration filled this building, how we ate lunch at picnic tables under the large shady trees in the back yard, followed by spontaneous games that filled the yard with joyful running and laughter, complete with a skinned knee. These scenes transported me back in time to what it must have been like in the early 1900s when this schoolhouse held classes for elementary-aged children. I enjoyed the full circle sensation, the connection of today’s ultra-modern, high tech life to a more simple time sans computers, televisions and cell phones.

But the experience held a depth that transcends history. These girls carry within them a deep wisdom that cannot be ignored. I was honored to be bathed in their words about sacred places, dancing candlelight, ocean waves, the way flowers know how to make the earth feel better, the intertwining of earth and soul, mother nature, breathing underwater, love as mentor, awakening courage and the shared love of writing as a means of self-expression and imaginary exploration. Writing in community with these girls strengthened my own words.

These topics did not need to be coaxed out of these young writers. Once they trusted that they were in a safe space, the words flowed freely. On the final day of camp, each writer stood at a podium and shared excerpts from what she had written in front of parents and guests. I was again blown away by their solidness and courage to share. Some of the written comments from the audience included:

“These girls were all able to express so much emotion through their writings. You can only leave here knowing there is so much good in our world.”

“What beauty lies within each of our girls. I was so touched with the depth of their wisdom. It was a gift for them to have a safe place to share their words. It was a gift to all of us to hear their words.”

“These young women remind us to be open, to see anew, to experience the world with the heart and senses wide open to possibility.”

“The gift of these young women together, learning, sharing, giving, growing — together. Amazing talents — the future.”

I believe the world needs these wise voices, whether they are housed in the body of a girl or boy, woman or man. Let’s not muffle anyone who wishes to speak from her heart. Let’s listen. Let’s celebrate. These voices are ripe with hope and healing, and that is sorely needed in our community, nation, and world.

My hat’s off to you, girls!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Working mothers should have more ways to keep their balance
By Kim EvansCommunity columnist
July 16, 2009

I’m sitting on the patio at the downtown Bakehouse, poised to write my column. After digging through my purse in search of my earphones, then untangling them from the tube of lipstick I rarely use, I am plugged into my laptop with Aerosmith’s “Dream On” filling my ears and a deadline looming. I hope the song choice isn’t prophetic.

I’m writing with the topic of work-family balance in mind, which seems appropriate as I feel the afterburn from a tense morning with my 11 year-old daughter. Most of our morning struggles are over her difficulty getting out of bed. Right now, she’s suffering from sleep deprivation induced by late nights reading “Harry Potter.” I haven’t been strict about making her turn off the reading light — who am I to discourage her from reading? (J.K. Rowling, I bless and curse you in the same breath. Note to H.P. fanatics: This is not an actual curse.)

It’s summer, and summer is for staying up late, sleeping in and roaming through the fields barefoot, playing outside all day until it’s time to catch lightning bugs. These were the summers I knew for many years. I woke up each morning and wandered into the kitchen sleepy-eyed to the sounds of Phil Donahue on our small black and white TV. I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything.

This summer, my daughter hasn’t had many Phil Donahue-ish mornings. I’ve been working more, recently taking the leap into renting an office space for my business, and feeling more pressure to show up there regularly.

I was my daughter’s age when my mom went to work full time. I remember wearing a house key on a string around my neck to school, often forgetting that key and entering the house by taking the screen out of my bedroom window and forcing the glass pane open enough to climb through.

Finding a work-family balance has been one of my deepest values since the moment the pregnancy test was positive. Like those parallel pink lines in the little window, my motherhood mission lined up before me with military precision. In my heart, I knew I wanted to be as present as possible for my child. For me, that meant working from home.

For the past 11 years, I’ve chosen the precarious world of self-employment in order to find the flexibility I need. I have carried the torch for moms working from home, starting our own businesses, cradling our nursing babies in one arm while typing e-mails with the other, holding on to the thread of showing up for our professional lives while holding the center of caring for our children.

And now I find myself feeling tired — and distinctly lacking in 401(k). I wonder how much professional equity I have built up these 11 years, working for myself from my basement office, spending many, many hours alone each day trying to get the work done before I hear the squeal of the school bus brakes outside.

I envision a future where there are more choices for working mothers, flexible working arrangements and a steady paycheck with benefits. Employers need to recognize there is strength in diversity, and a diverse work force includes working parents with varying needs and preferences.

I guess there is still hope that my writing career will turn out like J.K. Rowling’s, and even if it doesn’t, I know all is well. As I jam out to the music on my headphones, I remember the excitement I felt as a teenager at rock concerts in Market Square Arena.

I’m still that girl who loved to run barefoot in the grass and spend summer days playing in Stoutes Creek. But maybe I should turn the volume down. I don’t want to get hearing damage.

Kim Evans is a Bloomington native and IU graduate who moved back to Bloomington in 2005 to open her graphic design studio, raise her family and circle back to her writing. She can be reached at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The old man and the tree: a journey on an unmarked trail

By Kim Evans

Herald-Times Bloomington, Ind.

Community Columnist

July 2, 2009

It’s summer, and my thoughts turn toward vacation. It was about this time twelve years ago that my husband and I had a memorable vacation experience hiking in the Smoky Mountains. The beginning of the story finds us enjoying the earthy sights and smells of the forest, noticing the unique air quality here – the moistness, the pure freshness – as if the forest were inside a cave with a view.

Then we begin to see that the trails aren’t marked as clearly as we are accustomed to back in Indiana. In fact, as we hike on, the trail markers disappear altogether. We are still on a trail, but we no longer know which trail. According to the map, we should have looped back to the campground by now. I am tired and hungry, and unbeknownst to me, hormonal from the early stages of pregnancy. A layer of fear begins to emerge in me like a thin sheet of fog at ground level.

Finally, we descend a hill and spot a paved road. My emotions are lifted slightly by this vision of civilization, but we have no idea which way to turn. There is a fifty percent chance of getting lost even further. No cars pass by; there is no one to flag down and ask for directions. I know of nothing to do but sit down on the side of the road and weep. We are lost in the Smoky Mountains. Score: Smokies:1; Kim and Trent: 0. I clasp my hands, rest my forehead on my knuckles, and pray for help.

Within moments we see a man walking along the road toward us, whistling and carrying a small pine tree in his hands. It occurs to me that this man might possibly be the answer to our call for help. Could an angel appear in the form of an old guy carrying a pine tree? I struggle to grasp the immediacy and humor with which our prayer may have been answered.

We explain to the man that we are lost. He tells us his friends are following him in a van, and they could give us a ride back to camp, as long as we promise not to tell anyone they are digging up pine trees from national park property. We accept his offer with gratitude, happy to trade mild lawlessness for a ride home.

The van appears. The man opens the hatch and adds his tree to the collection in the trunk. He introduces us to his friends, three couples altogether, well into their retirement years, partying and stealing pine trees in their boogie van. I suddenly have a vision of how fun old age could be.

We discover that our campground is about 11 miles from where they picked us up. We arrive safely and thank them all profusely, our new friends we will probably never see again. We slide the van door open and hop out, glad to be back on familiar ground. I had been to the forest and back, lost, then found, and was about to become aware of the larger journey I was beginning: the journey into motherhood, not unlike a hike deep into the woods with unmarked trails.

This summer we are heading straight down I-65 to the beach. If you happen to be on Dauphin Island, Alabama the last week of July, you’ll hopefully find me walking in the sand, hand in hand with my husband and daughter, listening to the ocean, feeling anything but lost.