"Christeene Fraser is a vibrant new voice on the poetry scene. Starkly confessional, yet warmly human, her writing strikes a nerve in the audience...a poet to watch."

Bruce Haring, Director, New York Book Festival

Sunday, August 9, 2009

10 Things I Heard at Work This Week

10. At 4:55pm: "I'm leaving for a 6 month trip to Tanzania tomorrow, and I expect you to fill my (anti-anxiety/high cholesterol/high blood pressure/anti-diarrheal) medications before 5pm! Oh, and do I need a malaria shot?"

9. "What do you MEAN Medicare doesn't pay for that?!"

8. "It burns when I pee....a lot."

7. "I was eating Mexican today, and when I ate my burrito I suddenly remembered that I need a gastroenterology referral."

6. From a 93 yr. old caller: "I need to make an appointment for my 57 yr. old son for chronic hemmorroids."

5. "I think I've got the herpes."

4. "If it's a fasting appointment, can I still have a doughnut in the morning?"

3. "Pretty soon we'll be signing these insurance checks to Dr. Obama."

2. "Can I get a prescription for anti-gas medication? I have a funeral to go to tomorrow, and I don't want to embarass myself."

1. Handing a stool sample over the counter: "I have a present for you!"

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Backstabbing. Fake. Judgmental. Uptight. Two-faced. These are some of the words I have used to describe the majority of my relationships with women in the past. Or at least, they are the words I associated with being intimately connected to a woman outside of my family. I have always held other women at a distance, prided myself on being someone who "tends to have only male friends," as though this were a rare and special trait. The fact is, I think there are more women than not who go out of their way to avoid other women. There is some sort of residual middle-school angst that keeps us from extending our true selves to other women.

I am currently reading Captivating by Stasi Eldridge, and while I don't agree with everything in the book, I do believe it has some vital things to learn about the attack placed on femininity. History relates centuries of repression and cruelty, and modern man continues the trend of the assault on Eve. Stasi Eldridge makes the point that Satan attacks Eve, not Adam, in the garden not because she is the weaker sex, but because she is the pinnacle of creation. There is something threatening about her beauty, her goodness, her reflection of God in the feminine that is too much for Satan to bear. He makes it his personal mission to disarm God's most beautiful work of art. It is easy to see how this has come to pass in the form of sexual slavery, clitoradectomy, foot-binding, burkas, and $0.70 to the man's $1.00.

But a more subtle and innocuous tool of evil is the assault on female friendship. If one woman was too much and too powerful, how much more then is a group of women together in friendship and love? Women are the bearers of peace, a reflection of God's beauty, the creators of life. Imagine the potential we have to radicalize the world if we could learn to stop being sexist against ourselves, and embrace one another en masse. What could we achieve if we stopped giving the world permission to cut women down by NOT participating in gossip, criticism, and exclusivity ourselves?

God has sent me some amazing women. He has given me an opportunity to lift them up, and thereby myself, by loving on them as He intended: as my friends, my sisters. There are some things that can only be gained in a friendship with another woman, and I can't wait to see where it takes me. Even if it means making myself vulnerable. Even if it means they won't like the fart jokes I reserved for my male friends. Even if they don't like my throw pillows or approve of my parenting. Love is vulnerability, and you cannot get anything worth getting in this life without a heavy dose of it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Poker Face

Poker Face--it's not just a song by Lady Gaga. It's a something we put on everyday. It was just a casual remark from a coworker, said in response to an observation that I had about the office. I ended my remark with, "Well, I won't complain," to which she answered, "Oh Christeene, it's okay, you never complain." I thought to myself, really? I never complain? Me? Could she please repeat that to my husband? (Literary term moment: this was actually ironic, because I actually was complaining in a back-handed sort of way)

I realize that in my office, I have a reputation for being a compliant hard-worker. A smiling, optimistic, "non-complainer" (apparently), who rolls with the punches, and keeps moving no matter what happens. It is a reputation that I am proud of, a reputation that I strive to maintain everyday, swallowing many a sarcastic remark, pointless whine, and caustic critique for the sake of maintaining office harmony.

I realized today, hovering over the copier, that my husband and family may not recognize that same Christeene that my coworker so earnestly praised today. Who is this "non-complainer?" they may ask. Because she surely doesn't live in our house. Why do I not bring the same gusto to my home life as I do to my job, for strangers? I have prided myself on my poker face, the veneer that I plaster on for the world ad nauseum, and saved the real ugliness beneath for the people I love the most.

Why is it so hard to bring our best home? Is it because there is no promotion, no raise, or no recommendation waiting for us at home that we allow ourselves, our tongues, our demeanor to be as primordial and ugly as possible? But when I die, I will not yearn for the faces of my coworkers. I will not remember the titles that were used to describe me when I am in need of a hand to hold from the hospital bed. Tonight I will ask my family for forgiveness for my acid tongue. Tonight I will vow to pour as much (if not more) into my family as I do into perfect strangers. Tonight I will no longer take pride that the world has not yet called my bluff and seen past this poker face.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Great Expectations

A view from the Marta train this morning:

Every morning on the way to work, I take the Marta train (cause Marta is "Smarta," and greener, people! But I digress...), and I couldn't help but be disenheartened by what I saw when I looked out onto the neighborhood that the train was passing through. I've been through that part of Atlanta dozens of times, but today it really struck me just HOW desolate it really is. Homes boarded up. Stores closed. Graffiti proliferates on every surface. There is the possibility of something menacing at every turn, and an overall sense of melancholia in the deadness of the place. This is not a new scene for me; I've lived and traveled to several places like Southwest Atlanta, some far worse. But what frustrated me so much were the billboards that popped up like gaudy weeds all over this little concrete plain: "Seeking Abortion alternatives?" and "Pledge to Have No Unwanted Pregnancies!"

Make no mistake: I am NOT pro-choice. I do NOT support abortion. But what troubles me, is the lack of sensitivity and love that these "practical" ads suggest to the people who have to look at them everyday. I am somewhat offended by them all. They seem less about love and more about patronizing; why afterall do we only see these ads in the "ghetto?" As if to say, we expect you to make this mistake?

I wonder if some real positive self-image would do MORE to uplift than some impersonal attempt to teach about alternatives? Rather than assuming that the poor girl from the ghetto will automatically get knocked up, can we deter her from that outcome by showing her how to love herself by being proactive, not reactive? Certainly the pragmatist will disagree, crying afoul saying, "surely unplanned pregnancies will happen, and we are doing them a disservice by NOT educating them!" and "statistically it happens the most in neighborhoods just like this one!" Perhaps they are right. But I can't help but wonder how much more effective those same organizations would be if they redirected their money, advertising, effort, and exhortations on building centers, encouraging businesses, and reaching out in person rather than through removed didacticism that does more to demoralize the impoverished rather than to liberate them.

We internalize, and ultimately become, what we see and are told about ourselves over and over again. My mother told me I was a smart girl virtually everyday of my life, and I have always had confidence in my intellect (warranted or not). If you tell girls that we expect you to get pregnant, many of them will. That problem is compounded when you place that message somewhere like Southwest Atlanta; it takes on elements of class and race, and does more to keep people down rather than lift them up. Last time I checked, there were no billboards like that in Buckhead, or in the McDonough Square? And certainly there are teens there who will make the same error. I'm asking people to stop preaching, and start offering hope. Stop talking about change, and start expecting it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Catch for Us the Little Foxes

"Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin our vineyards.
Our vineyards that are in bloom."
Song of Songs 2:15

I was rereading Song of Songs (also known as Song of Solomon) a few days ago when I came across this passage. It struck me over the head, haunted me all day as I repeated it in my mind: "the little foxes that ruin our vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom..."

Amidst a beautifully sappy depiction of Godly love and sex in marriage, we get this thinly veiled admonition. Be warned. Be cautious. Be watchful. Love is a delicate thing that is destroyed by the small things that eat away at us: money, children, work, stress, boredom, sin. These little foxes creep in and devour the delicious fruit of love one vine at a time. My marriage has not been immune from the little foxes, our vineyards not without the devastation of neglect or willful sabotage.

Our marriage class at church is currently completing a small group study of "Fireproof," and I am hopeful that this will help us to identify and strangle those "little foxes." It is time to reclaim the passion and fulfillment that God intended for us within the great mystery of marriage. It is time to stop hoping the vineyards will flourish, and start doing the work of tilling the soil, watering the vines, mending the holes in the fences. How would the world change if marriage was reclaimed for the sake of Christ? How many families saved from the fire if we would take the time to trap the foxes in our midst? What are your "foxes" today?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tabula Raza

For me, the quiet of the morning reveals God's perfect creation. The freshness of the air, crisp and cool. The saturated colors of the flowers, the trees, the sky--all brilliantly speaking of the supernatural artist who spoke them into existence. There is a certain hope in the morning, a rebirth. Everyday is a chance for a new life in God.

I find that walking with God is a series of battles set within 24 hour increments. Each day is consecrated or lost, but with the gift of Christ's blood, we are given the incredible grace that allows us to awaken everyday without blemish. No sin accrues under this gift. Whatever we were yesterday--a liar, a thief, a drug addict, an adulterer, a murderer--all vanishes before Him, and is cast as far as the East is from the West. He will remember our sins no more. I am astounded by this fact, because it is as contrary to the human condition as you can get.

We have the capacity to remember the tiniest, most insignificant grievance done against us from decades past, still fresh--we rip open our own scars remembering them. And yet, God, the keeper of all knowledge, wisdom, and human history will remember them no more. There IS no greater love. I've been told this my entire life, and it is only now truly resounding within me. I want to shout it from every fiber of my being. I want to wear His truth like my favorite dress.

Lessons from Genesis

When God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, he condemned Eve to painful labor and wanting a husband who would "rule over her." For Adam, he would only survive by the sweat of his brow. The animals, once their helpful companions, would now bite and snap at their feet. Disgraced and cursed, they left the Garden to a life of pain and bitter, neverending toil.

Everyday I watch my husband wake and get ready for work--as the hours grow closer to his departure, his kind eyes glass over, his already small mouth pursed into an even tighter oval on his face. His movements become quicker, and his words more sparse. I struggle to change and feed and clothe and strap the baby in for the ride; I am my husband's warden, escorting him to the prison yard where he negotiates amongst the other inmates, all desperate and scheming. As for me, my days are filled with cable television--sure--and creature comforts like windows and couches. I am not confined to a cell, I am able to walk outside at my leisure. But nonetheless, something eats away at me. I am dying even as my husband, the inmate, dies in the prison yard. It is a gradual death, quieter, as the world outside my home keeps moving on without me. I am not a prisoner, no, but nonetheless, I am still here in the jail as the warden. I am here because I choose to be, which is sometimes worse than the inmate, coerced. I am alone. I yearn for my husband, who is always gone. I am still suffering from a painful labor. I lick my wounds, feeling powerless because I am not the money-maker now, and he pushes down whatever bitterness he feels as our daughter grows out of his presence. We are eachothers' wardens, in the end.

So what are the lessons learned from Genesis? I find that my suffering is ancient and universal. Somehow this comforts me. I find that there is no one gender more afflicted than the other, though the punishment is so different. Somehow this also gives me comfort. I learn that eventhough God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden, he provided them clothing--protection, provision--before sending them to their deserved destiny. This gives me hope. It reminds me that this bitter toil is necessary, but that God will take care of us, however undeserving.