Posts by Erika

-Erika Ray

Writing is easy for me.  I sort of just spew whatever I’m feeling onto the screen.  It’s always full of typos, but it’s always easy.  Writing is a delicious and therapeutic hobby.  But this hobby’s well is taped out, Folks.  I’ve been writing a lot these days to promote this breakout session and it’s drained my word well.  But I’ll take the drought.  The session is jammed packed with an empowering message for photographers, especially Moms who sometimes get lost in Mommyhood.  If I didn’t believe in it, I’d be pissy with the drought.  But this drought is clearing the way for a new lush garden of words.  Instead of me making up crap to fill this page, enjoy the quilt pictures.  I’m working on a quilt for a friend who sent me a card full of money and said, “I value your time.”  Right now that’s the hobby that I value because it’s letting the writing hobby sit and the new words are just starting to form new roots.

If you’re a photographer and you really want to embrace your rawness, get over here and sign up.

Yes, I’m pimping the shit out of it.

Almost done if that annoys you…

I’m a really good salesman, huh?

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-Erika “starting early” Ray

My parents made sure we could handle change.  No we didn’t move a hundred times during our childhood.  They didn’t swap partners a million times either.  We were just given change and didn’t have any other choice but to accept it.  They rarely ever softened it either.  It was change.  Pure and simple.  And one occasion my parents gave me the line that literally made me accept, deal, and welcome change.

I was young, but old enough.  I was the normal sixth graders age, but almost a year younger than most.  I had a summer birthday, so I had always been the youngest and the kid who never got to celebrate her birthday at school lunch.  I remember they sat me down and explained that I was going to do sixth grade again at a different Catholic school.  WHAT?  Again.  I failed?  “No, we’re going to hold you back,” they said.  Silly parents, that’s code for failed.  That’s code for You Are Stupid.  Especially to a SIXTH grader.  Especially to all the sixth graders in my class.  How was I going to go around to each one and explain that I’m not a dumb-dumb.  That my parents truly care about my emotional maturity.  While they were giving me the “emotional maturity” speech that’s the only question I was thinking about.

I knew it wasn’t because of my grades as I was in the higher learning classes.  But I didn’t understand the maturity part.  I don’t remember not being able to handle things as well as my other classmates.  But maybe if I were more mature, I’d be able to see my flaws…  They told me, I’d be the oldest in the class.  Big deal.  They told me, I’d get my license first when I got to high school.  Who cares?  I didn’t figure my parents were going to let me joyride with “babies”.  But more importantly, I’d be able to make better tough decisions when they popped up throughout my entire life.  I’d be older and wiser.  Even at my young age, I didn’t figure a slightly older 15 year-old’s dumbass decision was any better than a younger 15 year-old’s decision.

I heard them, but didn’t understand.  Imagine telling your 11-year-old girl, “You’re doing 6th grade again.  At a new school.”  I’m guessing even in your imagination, someone flipped out on you.  Maybe even tossed a shoe (I didn’t).  Now imagine that you live in a small town and you’re in Catholic school.  That there are three Catholic schools, you’re at your second one (my parents hated the first one and we were only there a year), and you’ll start the third a year behind your friends.  Catholic school are incestuous.  Everyone knew everyone and you saw everyone on the bus, at sporting events, and fish fry’s.  Me being an older sixth grader wasn’t going to make me more mature.  Dealing with that fall-out of being held back in this small fish bowl would.  I’d have to accept it and deal with it.  Because as a 11-year-old, there would be fall-out my parents wouldn’t have to deal with.  Of course I cried and didn’t get it, but there was no talking them out of it.

They ended the conversation with:  Erika, life is about change.  The sooner you learn how to handle it the easier your life will be.

Yes, wise words.  Words I haven’t forgotten.  Words that some people would read as harsh and absolutely were for a young girl to hear.  But they’re true.  Truth is rarely fluffy and pretty.  Truth is raw.  Like change, it is what it is.  You can’t sugar-coat change with white lies.  The truth of change was given to me early and that was probably better for my emotional maturity than learning about pre-Algebra again.

I started sixth grade again in the Fall.  I had a few asshole boys ask why I was still in the sixth grade.  I told them about emotional maturity and they said, “So you’re stupid?”  I’m not sure if this is when my “I Could Give a Fuck” attitude popped up or when my Father’s “I Could Give a Fuck About Your Opinion” gene switched on.  I didn’t say “Hi” to my old friends because I didn’t want to discuss it.  I remember my Mom saying, “Oh there’s so-and-so.  Say hi.  Erika, say HI!”  I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  But in the new school, I developed close friendships and very quickly it didn’t matter.

I can’t say if I handled my adolescence better because I was older than most kids.  I think my parents’ guidance, rules, and love helped me handle things better.  But what do I know?  I was just a baby of a sixth grader…  My parents made that decisions for a child who already had a healthy self-esteem.  I’m not sure most kids would react the same.  I’m not sure most kids would say it was the best decision their parents made.  Maybe my parents knew I’d handle it well or maybe they just hoped for the best.  For them it turned out well and taught their daughter a valuable lesson.  Would I recommend holding back a sixth grader?  Depends on the kid and probably not.  Now it would be incredibly difficult for a child as the internet allows for less privacy.  But I am a strong supporter of starting kids later.  Being older can’t hurt.  I do say that if you’re concerned, do it sooner than the sixth grade.

But their advice on change was spot-on.  Learn to deal with it.  You don’t have to relish and celebrate every Change that comes your way.  Some changes are Assholes and Dickheads.  But change is change.  You can’t change it.  Once it rolls in, things will be different.  So learn how to deal with it.  Look it in the eye.  Say “What’s up.” And start to dance with it.  Make it love you because you have no other choice.

20130315-ELR_1353Becks is holding his daycare blanket with his home blanket.  They’ve met and it’s a huge change we’re all dealing with.  One I didn’t count on, but we’re dancing with it.  I’ve stepped on his toes a few times and he’s off beat.  But we’re shaking it down.

-Erika “Who the Hell is this” Ray


Hello, O+U readers, it’s me Erika.  I’m afraid to go back and see the last time I posted because I know it was forever ago.  Like last year kind of forever.  I had to take a break and I think you’ll understand.  If not, you just being a cheeky little asshole.

My husband says that I have a tendency to snowball my issues.  I’ll take a tiny bump and then lump every annoyance in with it.  Creating a Snowball of Doom.  I’ll save the hassle of recreating that Snowball for you.  Just know that it starts with Moving.  Has some huge photo projects and the holidays surrounding the Move.  Packed down with the stress of owning your first home while paying on the second.  And then to round out and create a killer Snowball of Doom, you’ve got a Layoff and a house deal that almost went south.  Yes, I’ve been  dealing with an asshole of a Snowball.

But it’s starting to feel better.  The Snowball of Doom is starting to melt.  Or else I’m just sick of standing in its shadow.  Change is coming.  Another O+U-er and I were exchanging texts after the House meltdown and we thought Change would be a great subject for this month.

Some people handle it really well and others quake in its presence.  I’m in the first category.  That doesn’t mean all this change is welcomed or refreshing.  Change can kind of suck a fat one.  But you rarely get the chance to change Change.  You have to accept it and roll with it.  Dance with the little fucker or else you’ll wither on the wall.  It’s my turn to dance.  Later on in the month, I’ll talk about my first two-step with Change.  Today, I just wanted to apologize for my absence (did y’all care and miss me?) and announce the topic.

Because I’m in a flux of change, I’d really appreciate lots of comments on how you deal with it.  Do it all month-long and I’ll promise to be better about posting.  Give me some advice.  Some guidance.  Hold my hand.  Or bring me a drink.


-Erika “Digging Deep” Ray

I love this time of year.  People are aiming to do and be better.  I love that buzz.  If you were a bad friend who flaked on your other friends, you vow to be present in the circle a little more.  If you ate shity ass fast food, you vow to fill your tummy with fresh greens or at least stuff not sold with a side of salt and a toy.  If you changed the channels on the tv more than you changed into your running shoes, you start to get up.  Call these a resolution or just call it a new leaf, I don’t care.  But deep down, every single person vows the next year will be a little different.

I do it every year.  I also do this at my birthday.  I don’t do it because I think I’m an awful person, I do it because the blank page of a new year allows it.  This year, I figured I’d pick a word.  A lot of solid people do this yearly tradition.  They find a word and promise to live their life honoring those letters.  I’ve never done it because I’ve never wanted to be that deep.  And when I make my new year vows, it’s just a general Be Nicer kind of promise.  Because that’s the Lazy Comfy Gal way.  This year, I’m smacking myself around a bit and I’m getting deep on my ass.  I’m picking a word: BRAVE.

I am a Lazy/Comfy Gal.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I lay on the couch and have my kids get me stuff.  To me, those words means you accept your life and think, “This is good and I’m happy with it.”  We’re not wealthy, but we pay our bills and occasionally go out to dinner.  I watch what I eat, but I could be better.  My kids are content, but I could push them a little more.  But I shouldn’t be so lazy or comfy.  I need to be BRAVE.  Push back on life and see what it throws back.  Maybe it will shoot back with some fantastic Life Glitter.  Or maybe it will puke back some Life Shit.  But at least I was pushing and living.

First step in being BRAVE, give back and don’t worry about the outcome.  “Why would you worry about the outcome, Erika?”  I hear you saying…  Easy.  Will people buy them?  Will someone have a fit about the funds?  It’s a ton of work, do I have the time?  What if we screw up the ordering process?  Where does the money actually go?  What if it isn’t enough money?  How much time will it take from my family? It’s going to be so much work.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  That’s all shit.  That’s the Lazy Comfy Gal speak.

The BRAVE girl speak is: I don’t give a flying poo about any of that.  People need money and I can help give a few dimes.  You give because it’s the right thing to do.  The details are so important.  Only the doing.

You can help give a few dimes too (If you’ve already given, share this blog post!).  And when you give, you’ll receive a beautiful notecard set: the following 6 4×6 blank cards for only $12!  Please helps us (6 fabulous photographers), help the families of Newtown, Connecticut.  I can only imagine how brave those families were when the kids had to go back to school this week.  Let’s help make it a little easier for them.


Images (left to right):

Top: DeAnna McCasland :: Kristin Zecchinelli

Middle: Suzanne Gipson :: Carmen Farrell

Bottom: Erika Ray :: Breanna Peterson

fund info here

-Erika Ray

2012 was a pretty darn good year because it was the birth year of O+U.  I really love this place because I love these women.  I love their ability to reach deep down, even when it’s difficult, to rock out a post.  Our voices can be very different at times, but are always connected by respect and love.  And that respect, love, mixed with wacky sense of humor, balls-out attitudes are the very things that make us so similar.  Our loyal readers who check in share those same qualities.  I’m guessing you haven’t agreed with each post 100%, but you cheer and celebrate life balls out!  Thanks for a fabulous 2012!

2013 is going to be a good one.  Can’t you feel it?  Doesn’t it feel like something is simmering below the surface?  Get your ear to the ground.  See?  2013 is ready to explode all over us.  And I’m more than ready to shower in its goodness.

2012 is almost wrapped up.  Maybe yours was shitty or maybe it was just Blah.  I don’t really care because it’s almost outta here.  It’s time to say “See ya, bitch!”  Get ready for it.  Pull on your sparkly skirt.  Throw some glitter in the air and walk through it.  Or reach for your special PJ pants.  Take off your bra and get real comfy.  Pop the cork and pour some bubbly.  Get next to someone pretty cute.  Save your voice to scream, “Happy New Year!”  Because when that clock strikes 12 a.m., the O+U gals will be all over that shit!


by: Erika “who uses a black & white photo for an Xmas post” RayA very B&W Xmas

This isn’t a surprise, right?  If you’re a loyal reader of O+U, I’m guessing you figured Christmas wasn’t my holiday.  You probably already thought, “That Erika has got to be the Scrooge of the group.”  You’d be right.  I will say that I do enjoy it more now that I have children.  Only a smidge more, but that smidge makes me more human.  So here’s what I really hate about the holiday.  I’m sure some of you do these things and that’s totally fine with me.  I won’t hold it against you.  I’ve been surrounded by Holiday Fanatics from they day I was yanked out of my mother.  My mother breathes so much Christmas Cheer  that I think her body refused to pass it along.  Every year, while wearing one of her fifty Christmas sweaters, she berates me “HOW can you hate Christmas?!”  Easy.  Here it is: the things that irritate me about Christmas.  And so I don’t sound completely bitchy or Scroogey, I’ll put some Holiday Cheer in each category.

I hate how every single year, people bitch about it being commercial  It’s like all of a sudden, Corporations used their fangs to suck all the tradition out of the holiday.  The first Christmas I really remember was almost thirty years ago.  And it seemed pretty commercial then too.  People bitch about decorations prior to Halloween.  People bitch about spending too much.  People talk about how Christmas is filling landfills.  We get it!  At Christmas people spend a ton of money.  90% of it is probably not necessary.  I hate when people refuse to buy gift cards because they’re so impersonal.  You know what’s impersonal?  A fuzzy Elmo-style sweater for a woman in her mid-thirties.  Stop bitching, folks.  It is what it is.  Don’t celebrate that way.  Take back your gifts if you want.  Get off your holly decorated soap box and celebrate exactly the way you’d like.  Pros: I love a good gift.  I don’t need a thousand.  Even at 36, it’s fun to rip open packages.  I love an excellent gift certificate.  Nothing says, “I love you” more than “Here.  Get what you really need!”

Christmas music.  Oh fucking christmas music…  One or two songs, I’m good.  Makes me feel like a kid.  But listening to an entire station of Christmas music makes me want to punch a baby in the face.  Hey Singers, let me save you some time…  Don’t aim to write a new classic Christmas song.  That sleigh has flown.  Just because you say, “snow” and slaps a few bells in the chorus, won’t make it worth your time in the studio.   I can almost guarantee that I won’t be listening to Justin Beiber’s “auto-tuned” Christmas song when the Old-Folks’ Home is decorating my tree.  When I drool, it will be to Elvis.  If you’re going to play Christmas music, stick to the classics and keep it to a minimum.  Please.  Or keep your babies away from me.  Pros:  If you play these, I’ll sip my drink and dance around your tree!
White Christmas:  The Drifters
Blue Christmas: Elvis
12 Pains of Christmas: Bob Rivers
Mele Kalikimaka: Bing Crosby

I hate the Elf on the Shelf crap.  I’m sorry.  I know this just stung a few of you.  Yes, there are some really creative people out there rocking the Elf thing.  But part of me thinks it’s way more fun and work for the parents to create these little scenes.  And that’s why I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  Because by day Five, I’d be fresh out of ideas.  And then it’d get inappropriate.  Day six would find him pinned down by a slew of green army men.  And on day seven, my little Elf would be face down with a bottle of Jack while a Ke$ha-looking Barbie is draped over his lap.  That’s not kid appropriate and that’s how we’d want to roll with the Elf on the Shelf.  So why stifle our creativity?  Pros: I got nothing…

Hallmark Christmas movies are awful.  Can we all agree?  Every year, some D-list actress plays the role of a recently dumped woman.  She can’t deal with the fact that she’s single during the holidays.  Her spunky BFF, who’s probably married and has three kids, tells her to buck up.  Our sad lady, goes to the store in her pj’s and zit cream for the last-minute wrapping paper and runs smack into a man named Chris.  Chris is buying gifts for the entire orphanage  down the street.  Only in Hallmark movies there’s orphanages on every corner.  He sees how sad our heroine is and convince her to be his Mrs. Claus just for one night.  You know the rest.  Pros:  Here are the only Christmas movies that should be aired.
Charlie Brown’s Chrismas
Christmas Vacation
Christmas Story
And yes, Love Actually (I’m a sucker for this one)

Holiday decorations belong on the tree not your car.  Or your head.  Or your clothing.  Those car reindeer antlers make me want to side-swipe your car while I’m doing 70 mph.  If you’re wearing a Santa hat or headband antlers, you’d better be taking pictures for the mall Santa.  Or work in a pediatrician’s office/daycare/school.  That beautiful Christmas sweater shouldn’t make noise or flash.  It’s not right, people.  Once my Mom got us Christmas socks.  She thought it was so cool that they also played music.  I forgot.  Lovely when you cross your legs during the Biology test and the whole class is listening to Jingle Bells.  And she wonders why I’m not in love with Christmas.  Pros: I do love when a person ironically wears a gaudy Christmas sweater.  Their confidence rocks the holiday.

Eggnog.  Come on people…  It’s gross.  Don’t make me say this.  Please.  Fine. I will.  In my head, eggnog reminds me of Man-goo.  There.  I said it.  I don’t care how much alcohol you mix in, I can’t drink it.  It’s thick, creamy and has a weird smell.  Last year, I made an entire batch by hand because everything is better when it’s homemade.  Guess what?  Not eggnog.  It reminded of a very very special man-goo load.  Pros:  The more other people drink, the more fun they are.

You love Christmas?  Fly your holiday flag!  Play Mariah’s Christmas song and dance around your non-commercial Holiday tree!  Let your Elf on the Shelf surprise your babies every single day.  Photograph it and I’ll follow along.  Make some popcorn and watch Holly fall in love with Chris and his 12 adopted kids.  Pour some eggnog and slurp it right in my face.  I might gag all over you or giggle like a teenager.  I won’t reindeer poo-poo on your holiday cheer, but don’t expect my levels to be just as high.  I’m a subtle holiday celebrator.

-Erika “I’m high on paint fumes” Ray

I can relate to Carmen’s post in one huge way: I have NO idea what to write.  One, I thought I had a few days.  Two, haven’t I rambled enough about myself?  What could be new and fresh?  Well, I came up with jack shit.  Or I didn’t spend enough time thinking of something new or fresh.  It’s probably the first one because I’m pretty fucking lazy.  My posts usually pop up in my head a few days before the deadline or over-night for my blog.  I don’t have a stash of topics to write about as I don’t really know anything.  I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of chick.
So I won’t rehash my loves or my hates (i.e. Howard Stern and people brushing their teeth).  I’ll tell you current nuggets about our move.  Considering it’s the only thing on my mind these days.

  • I used to hate painting.  For decades, I was shitty at it.  Sometimes I was shitty on purpose so I didn’t have to paint.  I’m not ashamed that I’ve done a few bad swipes in order to drop the brush forever.  But facing an entire house in drab taupe, I knew I needed to pitch in.   Found out that I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it.  Primed and finished almost half of the bottom half of our house.  After that?  I’m back to my hatred of painting.  My right side is sore whenever I look at a roller.  One more room and we’re done DONE.
  •  Curtains are my nemesis.  I hate them.  I want to cut the shit out of every curtain I see, try, and take back.  I fucking hate curtains.  And when you do find the semi-perfect ones, you have to iron them.  All 84 inches.  Four times when you’re covering two windows!  I just finished some roman shades for our kitchen.  Found the perfect material.  Used my gift certificate money.  Waited.  Bought a pattern.  Sewed.  Had my mom sew.  Forced Mark to mount them to the wall.  You know the end of this story, huh?  They look like pure shit dipping over the kitchen sink.  Gorgeous cotton materialized into pure shit.  Back to square one.
  •  We’ve been living without a couch in our family room since we moved in.  Why didn’t we move the living room couch into the family?  Because I wanted one room to look semi-finished.  I don’t care if only the dog sits in the living room.  I want one room that doesn’t look exactly like a crack den.
  • Next time we move, we’re buy a kegertor.  No joke.  Beer seems to go with a move.  Paint with a beer.  Lay floor with a beer.  Argue over curtains, have a beer! Smash your thumb with the hammer?  Beer break.  We’re closing in on the “This looks livable and OK for now” which means we’re closing in on the end of beer.  Next time, we’re getting a keg.  Who cares if we’re in our sixties?
  • I have a two car garage and winter is knocking.  We’ve never had a useable garage.  We bought this house dreaming of a morning NOT spent chipping away at ice.  You know the end of this story too?  Can’t park a car in it.  Next winter is going to be awesome.  I think.
  • All my hobbies are acting up.  Sewing machine needs serviced and possibly replaced.  My camera has been a bitch for the past 6 months.  All my soul savers need some lovin’.  But that kind of care means money.  And we’ve got one house still on the market and another house that needs another can of paint.  More lamps.  At least one bed frame.  Blah, blah, blah…

When we bought our first home, we knew it was temporary.  The day we signed the papers and called it ours, we knew it wasn’t our “Die in home.”  So from that day, we prepared for the next house: saving money and putting off address stamps.  Someday we’d be in the house our boys would grow to call their home.  The home that hopefully one day, they’ll pack their bags and leave behind.  I say “hopefully” not because I can’t wait for them to move out (well…), but “hopefully” because this home is where we’ll create our roots.  Doors will be slammed with anger.   Walls will shelter apologies.  Doorways will hold secret kisses.  The kitchen will nourish hundreds of tummies.  The backyard will be a blanket for imaginary adventures.  This house will be our home.  And that’s why every argument over curtains, smashed thumb, or a sore right side is completely worth it.

– Erika “me. me. me.” Ray

Remember when Oprah had a show?  Remember how she devoted countless hours of programs for woman who couldn’t say, “No” or never took time for themselves?  Remember all those Ah-Ha moments she delivered for millions of women?  Maybe you had one of your own WTF moment thanks to Ms. O.  Maybe you cried when she said, “It’s ok to not please everyone.”  I congratulate you.  I applaud you for getting your very own lightbulb moment.  I hope you claimed it and swam in a sea of indulgence moments.

I never needed Oprah for that wisdom.  I’ve been selfishly selfish for years.  Say No to something?  I do it thrice daily. Take time for me?  Please.  That’s shit’s easy. For example, I purposely take a bath while the boys are awake.  In the beginning of parenthood, Mark used to ask “Why not wait 30 minutes and do it when they’re in bed?”  Easy.  That’s not the point of a hot soak.  A bath is purely selfish and luxurious.  And how do you make it more luxurious?  Take it when your kids are awake.  When someone else is in charge.  That’s damn near Queen-like and that’s my exact point of taking a bath during kid-hour.  Sure it will feel just as nice if I did it after bedtime, but the pleasure of skipping out on responsibility is fantastic.  And I think the world would be more glorious if we all took baths at “irresponsible” times when someone else is in charge.

During November, lots of people focus on gratitude.  For the past two years, I’ve taken a photo or written a post every day in November.  For the entire month, I give Thanks to someone or something.  It’s not that hard (maybe…) and it feels great.  Even during a move when I can’t find my underwear, I’m doing it again.  O+U could have taken the same route.  Different “Thank You’s” from all different voices.  It would have been a month full of gratitude and probably some happy tears.  But we thought we should spend a month on something just as fantastic: us.  We’re being completely and utterly selfish and we’re going to write or photograph us.  Because loving yourself is pretty awesome.  You were either raised by someone who taught that valuable life lesson or you learned it after trial and error.  And if you don’t know it yet, jump on the “You Are Awesome” train.  This month, you’ll get to know each contributor a little better.  Perhaps you’ll relate to one of us better than expected.  And we’ll all realize that this world is smaller and cozier.  Go on and snuggle up with the O+U ladies this November.  And share some of you in the comments.  We’ll have a big fat snuggle fest.




I had the pleasure of meeting Kristen at Becky’s birth.  She is one of the most kick-ass woman’s woman I know.  So kick-ass that we looked for houses in her neighborhood which was completely out of our comfort zone.  Are you in the Columbus, OH area and in need of a doula?  Are you in need of some kick-ass wisdom and info?  Check her out here and here

I grew up in a house full of women.

A house full. A shit ton house full, even.

Sure, there were men in my home: my dad (who worked a lot), a grandpa, and an older brother (who had already graduated high school by the time I was eight years old).

But I also had my mom, my grandma, an older sister (who lived in Wisconsin with her mom most of the year), and two younger sisters.

Four girls in the family. Four sisters. And a grandma and a mom.

That’s a whole lot of women.

I’ve heard people say that the more Oganowski women you put in a room–the more Oganowski sisters, that is–the more intimidating that room gets. Everyone else shrinks to the periphery as we start to dominate the space.

We are loud. We are opinionated. We are very sweet and very sassy. We are smart. We are strong-willed. We are wildly inappropriate. We often laugh until we cry. And sometimes, it’s almost as if we speak a different language with one another–one that is uniquely ours.

One that is defined by us as sisters. All four of us, sisters. Grizzly bear sisters, magical sisters, obnoxious, brilliant, eternally-loving sisters.

My sisters.

And then there are my mother and my grandmother, both with whom I am exceptionally close. My grandmother and her briskets, the homemade french fries she’d make for me late at night when I was a melodramatic teenager, the quiet conversations at the kitchen counter, the saccharine sarcasm that I didn’t learn to detect until I was an adult. My mother and her spectacular pies, her patience, her heart that is soft and her strength that is superhuman, her deft maneuvering that has made her both an exceptional parent and friend to me.

Out of all the lineages I can trace back in my family lines, I identify most with my maternal line: the one that goes back to my mother, and her mother, and her mother before her. The line traces to a great-grandmother who escaped Eastern Europe just before Hitler invaded and all hell broke loose. It traces to her mother, who died in the Holocaust. It traces to Jewish roots whose rituals I may not practice but whose history and beauty and mystery I adore.

And it traces all the way forward to me, and to my sisters.

I grew up in a house full of women, and my own identity is bound up in these women.

And now–now that I am a mother, now that I have children who are sassy and smart and strong-willed–I am the only woman in the house.

There are no women, plural, in my house. I have a husband. I have three sons. And there will only ever be one woman in this house: me.

A woman whose identity is bound up with all the women in her family, only to find herself the only woman in her own home.

I know that lots of people think that I must be disappointed not to have had a daughter, what with all of the closeness I feel to my sisters and my mother and my grandmother and that good old maternal line. That I must feel as if I am daughterless. Pining away for my own little girl, wishing to fill some girl/woman-shaped void in my life.

And I’ll admit: there was a time when I really, really hoped for a daughter.

This hope wasn’t ever about possessing some strange anti-feminist, super-gendered wish for a girly-girl daughter who’d wear pink tutus and play pretty pretty princess all day. No, my hope looked a whole lot different from that.

I’d raise this imaginary daughter to be a kickass feminist. I’d someday bequeath to her my Fender Stratocaster and my Marshall stack. I’d teach her all the family recipes. We’d paint our nails. We’d share secrets over coffee, laughs over margaritas. We’d go on trips and get in trouble and talk politics and poetry. And okay, okay I’d also get to buy some of those ridiculously cute dresses that I see on the racks in the kids’ clothing stores. But I’d also see in her that maternal line, tracing through her to me to my mother to her mother to all of the mothers that came before us.

She’d be part of that line right along with me.

I’d say that with three sons (and no plans whatsoever for another child) , I don’t have this. I won’t have this.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a whole hell of a lot of what I’d ever want in a daughter.

Because the kickass feminism? You’re darn straight I’m raising all three of my boys to be kickass feminists.

My guitar and amp? You’d better believe I’d well with pride to hear one of my sons say some day to his friends, “Nope, I didn’t get these from my dad. They’re from my mom. ”

The nail painting and the family recipes? I already have a son who loves to get his nails painted and who counts “helping Mommy in the kitchen” as one of his favorite things to do.

The coffee and margaritas and trips and trouble and talks? Who says that they can’t happen with my three boys?

And the cute girl clothes? Well, that’s what my nieces are for.

I love the reality of an all-boy family. Love it. And everything I’d ever want to do with a daughter I can and will do with my sons.

All except for the part about having women in the house, just like I once did.

All except for that old maternal line.

If you were to look at my mitochondrial DNA–the DNA located in my cells’ mitochondria, DNA that was inherited exclusively from my mother–you’d be able to track the DNA ancestry of my maternal line for potentially hundreds of generations. My mother, her mother, her mother, her mother before her. Their DNA is etched into my cells.

My sons have inherited their mitochondrial DNA from me, but if they procreate, their children’s mitochondrial DNA will come from their mother. So, basically, as far as my whole maternal line obsession goes, the buck stops with me. No more passing on of my mitochondrial DNA.

No more passing on of my maternal line–that line of women to whom I am so deeply bound.

In fact, if you could trace this very maternal line all the way back through the generations, you’d find that I was the first in this line that runs all the way through me not to have a daughter. That’s thousands of years, and in this one specific line of mothers, I am the first not to have a daughter.

I am the first to be the only woman in the house.

As someone who grew up in a house full of women, as someone who has a house full of sons, as someone who is smart and sassy, as someone who likes to think of herself as a kickass feminist, I’ll just say this: maybe this line of women stops with me because I (and all of the other mothers with houses full of sons out there) simply broke the mold when it came to being women.