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My favorite activity in Sunday School was when our teacher would hand out construction paper and crayons and ask us to illustrate scenes from the Bible. My little sister and I spent hours trading paper colors and trying our hands at depicting famous moments: Moses and the burning bush, Noah and his animals, Mary Magdalene in an empty tomb, and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Moses always had a big nose, hairy eyebrows, and a thorny wreath around his head — I still do not know where we got this idea — and Adam and Eve looked a lot like our Ken and Barbie dolls, with shapely bodies that in no way resembled actual human bodies. Every time we colored scenes like these from the Bible, my sister and I bonded over that construction paper, inventing and imagining our own ways into the stories we heard every Sunday while our mom sang in the choir and our dad sat in the audience down the hall in the sanctuary. And after every Sunday school, we proudly pinned our masterpieces to the refrigerator, where they’d sit, lopsided under the magnet, until the next week, when we could pin up a new one.

This was how I learned the stories of the Bible. It was also how I came to understand the land of Israel. For most of my life, this tiny sliver in the Middle East has always been a menagerie of scenes rendered with crayon onto brightly colored construction paper. I preferred this world of crayon and paper, where I could take an ancient story and make it my own, one that usually featured female characters with big blue eyes, straight-up eyelashes, and bow-shaped lips. I was pretty shy, the girl always buried in her coloring books, and I loved being the creator of my characters’ destinies. Sometimes, after Sunday school let out, I’d imagine a different reality for the women, Eve on a horse, riding out of Eden, her hair flowing in the wind; Mary Magdalene as a mermaid princess reigning over the Dead Sea. In this world of ideas, I could make the women independent, adventurous; I could do whatever I wanted with them. More… “When in Jerusalem”

Kristin Winet is a writing professor at Rollins College and an award-winning travel writer. Her work, which is primarily journalistic, has recently appeared in publications like The Smart SetAtlas Obscura, and Roads and Kingdomsand syndicated on i09, Kotakuand JezebelShe is also a contributor and editor for Panorama: Journal of Intelligent Travela literary travel magazine, and is at work on her first book, a memoir about what really happens on press trips. Say hello at @kristinwinet.

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I’m three months pregnant and my husband and I disagree about whether or not we should learn the sex of the baby. He wants to be surprised when I give birth, but I want to find out at our next ultrasound. What should we do? — New Mom

 

Why am I getting all these maternity questions?! Is the word out that I’m pregnant, too? My family jokes that this column should be called “Ask a Pregnant Poet.”  Well, here’s what my gut instinct says: If you want to know the sex of your baby, you have every right. For your husband’s benefit, keep it a secret from him, hide any revealing ultrasound shots and don’t buy any gendered baby clothes, blankets or equipment. Problem solved.

But if that doesn’t sound fun — and… More…

 

I’m having a baby this year. What name or names would a poet recommend? — Ana

Well, a big congratulations to you!  I would say that, in general, poets consider the four M’s when deciding on a name: match, meaning, musicality, and meter, and not necessarily in that order. Let me explain.

Match:  This is a name matched with another poet’s name, or a character’s name from a favorite poem.  I’m fond of Sweeney as a boy’s name, from Elliot’s “Sweeney and the Nightingales,” who also makes an appearance in “The Fire Sermon” in The Waste Land. Of course, I think Sweeney would work as a girl’s name, too, but my favorite girls names matched with a poet or poet character are Emily, after Dickinson, and Margaret, after the young child in Hopkin’s “Spring and Fall.”

Meaning: … More…