Family

This tag is associated with 20 posts

Mamas Teach Your Children Well….

Mamas, teach your children well…

If there is one lesson I learned early in my life it was that being myself was more important that being “accepted”. I hear stories of women with friends who tear each other down and I don’t get it, because if my friends were like that they wouldn’t be my friends.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, someone is going to find fault. If you’re not pretty enough, slim enough, or smart enough. If you’re too pretty, too slim, too smart. Supermodels get picked apart as easily as the awkward girl down the street. I told a friend today that we don’t like in an accepting society, as much as we purport ourselves to be accepting. We live in a judgmental society.

When your child is picked on, I feel it’s important to explain to your child that there will always be someone who finds fault with them. Someone will always be mean. Someone will always be critical. It’s not your child’s fault that those people feel they have a right to judge. The best you can do is set an example of acceptance and tolerance and teach your children the same.

Little girls, in particular, are bombarded with messages about how they should look every day. And now I see it slowly creeping in on little boys as well. Girls should be feminine and attractive. Boys should be athletic. But now boys should be attractive too but still not quire to the degree it’s forced upon girls.

For the longest time the media would show an attractive woman married to an overweight oaf. Still does. Did you ever stop to think what the message to our children in that is? As much as I’d like to believe that it means a person should look past a person’s appearance, it doesn’t seem to be that. What it seems to be is that if you’re attractive and smart, you might be lucky enough to land an idiot. Ugh.

Where is the equally matched couple in a supportive, nurturing relationship? Haven’t seen one. It doesn’t make for good ratings.

I find fault with the media. With the stereotypes. With the belief that in life there is only “one right way” and it’s the way of the person who is criticizing you. I find fault with the belief that women have a right to pick apart other women. I find fault with men and women for making women objects. I find fault with women who accept that they are objects. I find fault with parents who don’t raise their children to respect themselves and each other.

What I don’t find fault with is the individual who does something different than I do. I’m a firm believer that there are multiple ways to get to the finish line. As long as you’re not cheating yourself or others on your way, then you can get there however you want and I’ll still respect you for finishing.

Mamas please, teach your children acceptance. Become more accepting. Become more positive. Become less focused on looks and more focused on talent and intelligence. Boost your child’s confidence in what they do well. Don’t force them to be someone else. And if they’re not accepted by someone make sure they know that there will always be times when they’re not accepted, but that it’s not on them. It’s on the people who don’t accept them.  Set a good example and they will follow your lead. You are their first role model and the one that lasts their whole life. You will be the voice in their head for decades. And because of this, you have a chance to change the world. One child at a time.

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“You Raised the Monster….”

“You raised the monster….”

I worked for two years at a company where the mom was the CEO and the son was the V.P. of Sales. That line was a common refrain when co-workers would gripe about their epic verbal assaults on each other. We had no sympathy for the CEO when her son started trying to oust her. After all, she had raised him that way. His personality didn’t sprout up overnight. He suffered from a severe case of feeling entitled, because he was spoiled his whole life. She taught him to get what he wanted, regardless of whom he had to step on to get it. And, one day, she was just one more rung on the ladder that was his climb to his own little empire.

See, here’s the truth, people. You raise your children. Your children are your responsibility. One of your main responsibilities as a parent is to provide your children with the life skills to become established adults. I’ve seen it far too often in the last decade or so, helicopter parents who can’t (or won’t) allow their children to grow up, but then complain when they don’t move their asses out of the house and become self-sufficient.

Seriously! That’s not a fail on the part of the child, it’s a failure on the part of the parent. Children need room to grow and chances to screw up (or succeed). Asking a thirteen year old to schedule a routine doctor’s appointment is (ohmigod!) reasonable. Giving a child over 5 chores is reasonable. Not commiserating with your kid when the teacher is being “mean” is a good life lesson. Mean people exist in the world, whether or not the teacher is mean is almost moot, because either way, your kid will eventually need to learn how to deal with people of all types.

You can’t cave in to every whine your child makes. You can’t do everything for them. You have to be able to recognize what your child is already capable of and take steps to build on that. You have to introduce new skills to their current set. Think of the things you handle on a daily basis as an adult and try to incorporate little life lessons that your child can benefit from.

You also can’t shield them from life. I remember when finances were bad in my house growing up. My mother and father wouldn’t hide it from me. They didn’t give me all the gory details, but they were honest about when we could and could not afford something. When I was seven I was already conscious of what things cost. I would ask for a treat at the store and my mother would set a limit (say, a dollar). I would choose something, but then I’d see something else I liked. I would be forced to choose between them. I would always choose the one that was less expensive. Usually, this resulted in numerous exchanges for lesser costing items until I settled on a dried fruit leather strip that cost $0.17.

It was a life lesson that I’ve carried into adulthood. Not just of tradeoffs, but also that you can usually find something to brighten your day when you need a “treat” that’s still well within your budget.

As I got older, I got more details. More information. What my parents shared with me changed as my capacity to understand and reason changed. I learned to ask questions; to gather as much information as I could before making a decision.  I learned the power of critical thinking. I learned the power of thinking for myself.

You have to teach your children kindness, respect for others, self-respect. You have to teach them to dream big and be accepting of different people. You have to teach them to be committed to their goals, to be strong in the face of adversity, but still considerate of all parties involved. Teach them manners and courtesy. Teach them humility and humor. Teach them to be responsible and trust worthy, but don’t raise them to be gullible. Present them with information and critical thinking skills and let them make their own decisions.

Sure, I wasn’t an ideal kid… but I was responsible. I knew what was expected of me. And I became a reliable, established, responsible adult. My parents raised me before the age of the helicopter parents and for that I am thankful.

I hope I can do half as good of a job with my son because I certainly don’t want to have to deal with a monster later on in life. It bears repeating that I don’t think you have a right to complain about where your child ends up unless you’re really certain you’re not the reason they turned out that way!

 Just another thought of the day.

 

Social Welfare – A Lesson in Perspective

I try to keep my posts lighthearted when I can. I also try to keep the subject material as non-controversial as possible. Today, however, is not one of those days. Today I would like to write about a very difficult time in my life and how grateful I was for all of the assistance I received. It’s another lesson in perspective that I hope my readers will listen to with an open mind.

I’ve taken a great sense of pride in my independence over the years. As an adult I had always supported myself, paid my bills, and, to the best of my ability, been a solid citizen. When the recession hit, I was in the process of getting laid off from a very lucrative job that I absolutely loved. Within a matter of two weeks every promising job interview I had dried up. Those positions didn’t get filled by other candidates. They simply went unfilled or the positions were eliminated. I’d been between jobs before and unemployment wasn’t ever something I wanted to stay on. It was something to tide me over until I could find another position. It never took more than a couple of months. In fact, I was so convinced that I would find a job quickly that I didn’t even apply for my unemployment until three months after I lost my job.

But 2008 was something for the record books. I applied for every single job that came up that I was qualified for, every single job that I was overqualified for, and even tossed my hat in the ring for jobs I had no chance of ever obtaining. I was averaging 100+ job applications a month. And my phone wasn’t ringing at all. When I found out I was pregnant with my darling baby boy, I contemplated terminating the pregnancy. But, being the optimist that I am, I decided that it was time in my life (I was approaching 30) and that I really wanted my child. The decision wasn’t easy. I’ve always been a believer that you shouldn’t bring a child into this world if you can’t support it. But I was willing to work at Wal-Mart if that’s what it took. (Wal-Mart never called me in for an interview either.)

My doctor helped me apply for state medical, so that I could have quality pre-natal care. And the months continued passing. My unemployment covered the basics for nearly two years, even though I constantly had to fight to get it due to a clerical error when my file was opened. I want to make it very clear that I never sat back and said “well, I’m seven months pregnant, so I should just give up on looking for a job until after the baby comes.” I have literally thousands of electronic application confirmations from those two years. I was always sure that a new job was just a week or two away. I interviewed pregnant and did my best to hide my growing belly.

I swear my son knew my concerns even before he was born, because I went into labor on a Friday night. He was born on a Saturday morning and I was back to applying to jobs on Monday. But there was nothing. Thousands of job applications with my extremely impressive resume resulted in a total of 4 interviews over two years.

State Medical was one thing to me. A perfectly acceptable social security net to bridge the gap for people who don’t have employer based coverage. But reality came really crashing in on me when my unemployment benefits were exhausted; I had no money coming in and an 8 month old baby boy at home. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed my son. He, however, had other plans. From birth he had serious latching issues. Nothing the nurses did seemed to help. I worked with him for two weeks, but he kept losing weight. There were many, many tears shed, and I felt like a failure. I pumped, but… between supplemental formula feedings and the stress I was under, there just wasn’t much to be done. So, what do you do, when your son needs specialized formula (he had milk protein intolerance) and you have no money to buy it? What do you do when there just isn’t a job to be had?

You turn to a social safety net. In my case, this was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps). There was nothing else to be done. I had exhausted my financial reserves, my 401k refund, and my savings accounts. I walked into the Department of Human Services office and wanted to cry. It was the most desolate place I ever remember being in. The tenor of the office is depressing and the individuals there just have an air of being completely beaten, downtrodden. There were crying children, exhausted parents, and elderly people… everyone just looked miserable. I felt a deep, searing pain in my stomach, just being there. Oh, how the mighty fall.

The first time I used my Link (benefit) card, which was only for groceries mind you, I had to fight back the tears. The reality of my situation was just unbearable. I tried to tell myself that I paid taxes into this system for years, but it didn’t help. I felt ashamed. I felt like less of a person.

I was only on the SNAP program for two months, because a job finally came through in July 2010. It was part time, for much less than my previous salary, but it was work and it enabled me to get off the SNAP program. I was elated the first time I bought groceries with my debit card again. I felt saved. I felt human again.

I’m off public health insurance (even though I have no employer coverage so I have NO coverage) but my son still gets health care through the state. I’m grateful every day for my less than ideal job and that, somehow, I managed to retain my optimism through everything that went wrong those two years (because there’s a lot more that I’m not sharing here). And I am extremely grateful to know that there is a safety net out there for people like me. As much as I hope never to have to use it again I sleep better at night knowing that the system is there for those who need it.

The lesson in perspective is this:

If you’ve never had to utilize a social safety net, you don’t get to judge those that do. I’m sorry, but you haven’t been in their shoes. The 80’s mythology of the “welfare” recipient who drives her brand new Cadillac to the welfare office is just that – a myth. The majority of people who utilize the benefits are just like me, people who had no other option. They are people who would like to get off the benefits as soon as flipping possible. Of course, there will always be the few people who manage to game the system. But those few people aren’t the norm. I am the norm. And I can tell you firsthand just how degrading and dehumanizing that experience really was. I challenge you, any of you, who believe that I’m exaggerating, or out of the “norm” to go sit at a social services office for an hour or so and observe the degradation first hand.

After you’ve gone home and washed the lingering feel of depression and desperation off yourself, you might find that your perspective has completely changed.

“Uh Oh – Bumbo” Recall and Parental Responsibility

My baby boy is going to turn 3 next week. That means I’ve been a parent for roughly 1/11th of my life and 1/6th of his first 18 years. (see, no polynomials needed – just sayin’). Despite the money I’ve invested in parenting books, there is no manual for the first 18 years – anymore than there is a manual for the following decades. I’ve learned many things through trial and error. He’s a healthy, happy child and I feel like we’re doing well with him.

To be completely honest I know that a lot of what is involved with raising our child is common sense. It seems like there are things that shouldn’t need to be said in the parenting guides. Don’t try to dry your child in the microwave would be one of the obvious ones.

As a parent, sometimes I hear about a product recall and I just shake my head. Sometimes it’s because I’m disappointed in the company but many, many times it’s because I’m disappointed in the parents. Drop side cribs – totally upset with the companies for switching to cheap, flimsy plastic claw catches when the “candy cane” type of rails worked for generations. Because of the design of the “candy cane” type rails, it wasn’t possible for the types of suffocation accidents like those that occurred with the cheap plastic catches to happen. I place the blame for those accidents squarely on the manufacturer for making an inferior product.

The most recent recall of Bumbo seats, however, is one of those ones where all I can think is “What were the parents thinking?”. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission over 4 million Bumbo seats have been sold in the US. There have been roughly 50 reported cases of injuries – again, no polynomials needed – due to an infant sliding or wriggling out of the seat and landing on their head. Skull fractures are a serious injury.

But is the manufacturer really to blame here?

We have a Bumbo. It was really a fantastic product for our son when my arms needed a break. The first thing I noticed about it though was that it doesn’t have restraints. Because it doesn’t have restraints we never used it unless we were within arm’s reach of our son. It wasn’t a high chair or a place to put him where we could set him down and then leave him alone. For us, it was more like the changing table. You put him up there to change his diaper, but you never step away from him while he’s on it. We never used it on top of a table for the same reason.

He played in it, he looked at books in it, and he even ate in it. All those times I was seated on the floor directly in front of him. It never occurred to me to try to place it on a table, because the seat itself, while sturdy, is made of foam – one really good strong kick or wriggle from him and I could easily imagine it falling off a table.

Like any other parent, there were times when I needed a short break. But my need for a short break never overwhelmed my common sense. If I needed to use the restroom and didn’t have anyone to sit with my son I’d pick him up and put him in his playpen. I never would have left him in the Bumbo alone.

I suppose I should be surprised that there were only 50 injuries (a very small percentage of the 4 million sold) involved, because it seems that common sense is a rare commodity these days. I’m glad the company is offering a restraint system for the Bumbo, but I don’t think that’s going to solve the problem of injuries occurring with their product. Solving that problem would require a return of general common sense to the population.

Now, if you’re a parent, you might be outraged at this point. A few people may agree with me but many others will likely get upset and defensive and tell me that “even one injury from a child’s product is too many”. To those parents I’m going to stick out my tongue in a child-like manner. The world is a dangerous place. Sure, you buy BPA free bottles for your child – but have you checked them for BPS? You cannot expect the government or product manufacturers to protect your child from all harm. In fact, as much as I respect the CPSC for trying to keep consumers safe, I still believe they should be the backstop for safety. A parent has the responsibility to use products in a safe manner;  to inspect them for flaws or potentially dangerous conditions and to pay attention to their children. The parent is the first line protector of their child. It’s a huge responsibility and, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be one that many people take seriously.

You are the person who is going to teach your child how to stay safe in this world. You are the person that will guide them and provide them with the cliff notes version of the manual for life. The world isn’t going to do it for you. If you can’t foresee the potential danger of situations or products how will you teach your children to watch for danger?

Now, that being said, it is sad that these children were injured because their parents used a product in an unsafe manner. It is even sadder that these parents involved might not learn a very important lesson from this. Particularly where children are involved you must question the safety of all products.

I consider myself a conscientious parent and consumer. I don’t think I’m unique in that. I certainly hope I’m not unique in that. But just in case I am, I hope that people who own a Bumbo will request the restrain kit that’s being offered, because your child really shouldn’t have to pay the price for your lack of common sense.

Just my thought of the day –

 

Life is better with sprinkles! (Or: Let them eat cake!)

Life is about living. I’ve said this before. You only get this one life and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’ve also pointed out that any “diet” that doesn’t let you live isn’t sustainable. Well, we put that theory to the test this past week. My son’s father turned 38 (yeah, he’s old… but still cute) and you know what birthdays mean… cake and food. In large quantities, generally speaking.

It started Thursday with a fairly healthy dinner of homemade hamburgers on fabulous whole wheat buns. But then came the cake… four layers of chocolate death, overloaded with miniature chocolate chips and filled with whipped cream. Top that with buttercream icing and you have a sugar coma just waiting to happen. We all had a slice (well, everyone but the little man, who still staunchly refuses to eat anything “normal”) and as we were all sitting there settling into our food comas I asked “so, who votes I take the remainder of this cake to work tomorrow?”

There was an immediate consensus, so there was no repeat of chocolate overload in our household the next day. Friday is our usual cheat dinner day so we had pizza. I love pizza Fridays. But then Saturday… Oh lord.

I took the birthday boy (err… man) out to dinner. We hit up a highly reviewed local Brazilian steakhouse. If you’ve never been to one, let me explain. It’s all about the meat. It is meat, meat, meat, and more meat. There’s a salad bar, sure, but as yummy as the offerings there, the main attraction are the numerous gauchos walking around with various cuts of meat on spits, offering you everything from lamb, to filet, to rib eye steak. There are sausages and chicken legs and bacon wrapped goodness everywhere you look. You pay a flat rate for each diner and in return you get a little disk.

When you flip the disk to the green side, you’re swarmed by gauchos, all sweet and polite and bearing meaty death anyway you like it. Flip it to red and they leave you to stuff your face in peace.

Needless to say I warned the birthday boy to wear loose-fitting pants. After overdosing on meat we went back to my sister’s house for beer and board games. My brother-in-law is a game reviewer, so he gets all kinds of cool games to play for free (in addition to press passes to events like Comic-Con, where he meets people like William Shatner, Robert Downey Jr., and Nathan Fillion… he’s such an asshole – because he never invites me!!! LOL).

Anyway, the games are always new and interesting and we have a blast playing them. On the way back to my sister’s house though, I said to the birthday boy “ugh… you better hope she’s not planning cake or anything.” This earned a very heartfelt groan from the passenger seat.

Our little man had a blast running around with his cousin, until he tried to slide under the railing to the stairs feet first. We all had a heart attack when my niece started yelling for us. Mind you, we were only five feet away, but the stairs are around a small corner in my sister’s usually very child safe house. Thankfully, our little snot is a little too big to fit all the way through and no harm was done (unless you count our nerves being completely fried).

A reprimand for the little boy and huge hugs for the little girl and all was well again.

… and it was time for cake. Oh, the poor birthday boy.

When the night of fun and games was over my brother-in-law was packing up the cake. I adamantly told him “we are not taking that home”. There was a small fuss, but in the end I was brooking no argument.

So, we lived this past week. It’s a good thing exercising is a part of living as well and that over-indulgence only happens on occasion.

Enjoy life. Overeat once in a while. Try new restaurants. But know when to say no. Don’t take the cake home with you because if it’s in your house, you’ll eat it all.

But whatever you do, don’t skip the experiences just because you’re on a “diet”. After all, life is always better with a few sprinkles and a little icing.

Our Families Shape our Lives (And I am thankful)

I’m going to take a break today from discussions about food. I’m sure there’s a collective sigh of relief from all my readers, the few of you that are out there. Today I want to talk about family and being thankful.

I was blessed with two sisters and, although we didn’t get along all the time, we’re cornerstones in each other’s lives now that we’re adults. I don’t know what I’d do without my sisters.

I was also blessed with two loving and dedicated parents. We had rough patches and there were financial and emotional struggles, but through it all my parents stayed together and provided a stable and caring home. They raised us to help our family members and forgive any faults that might irritate us. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if they hadn’t toughed it out together; if they didn’t love each other too much to give up.

I am not a perfect person. I am well aware of this. I also don’t expect perfection from others. I give credit for that to my parents because they taught me that when you love someone, you love them, faults and all. I don’t know how to love any other way. I love my friends down to the bottom of my soul. I love my family the same way. I love my son’s father this way as well.

We’ve had some really rough times and we haven’t always dealt with them to the best of our abilities. Sometimes communication failed and things looked bleak. We’ve been round and round the rollercoaster ride numerous times now and somehow, we keep coming back to each other.

So I was asked the other day… “How many more times are you going to go through this?” and my answer, at least to myself, was “as many times as it takes.” I honestly hope that we won’t repeat our mistakes of the past but I know that even if we do, it was worth taking the chance. This isn’t a dream or make-believe, this is reality. Merging two lives together takes work. Making and sustaining a healthy and happy family takes even more. Anyone who tells you it’s going to be easy is a moron. Sometimes things fail and you’re left with scars. And sometimes you’re given the chance to mend what’s been broken. I honestly believe that if you don’t take those chances in your life you’ll always wonder “what if”.

I don’t feel this makes me weak. If anything, it makes me stronger. I have the strength to fight for what I want in my life, to face my fears and try not to let scars of the past hinder my future. We are family, together with our son, and that isn’t something someone should give up on lightly.

I saw this picture the other day in my news feed and was reminded again how solid my base for family and relationships is.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or stubborn, but I don’t believe in giving up. I do believe that most differences can be resolved, problems can be fixed, and that; through mutual respect and love; time can heal wounds. If nothing else I will know, deep down, that I’m living my life in a manner that won’t leave me wondering “what if”. And, in the end, no matter how things play out, my son has two parents who love him to the bottom of their souls.

Family provides us with perspective. How we are raised influences how we live our adult lives. I count myself blessed that I have such a strong support system, a solid example of how love can thrive in even the most trying of times. We all take different paths in this world and the only constant is change. But no matter how much you change you know that there will always be people who love you just the way you are.

Our son is going to grow up with similar examples, a variation of my childhood themes, and a supportive and loving family. I couldn’t think of a better way to raise our son than to teach him to lead with his heart, not let fears hold him back from attaining his goals, and to love without judgment.

I guess that despite all of my claims that I wouldn’t be; I’m very much like my parents. In all the best ways.

I took time today to reflect on the most important people of my life;  how they’ve helped me grow into the person I am and how I know they will continue to shape the person I am going to become. I am thankful every day of my life to be so blessed.

When was the last time you (really) sat down and thought about the people you love? When was the last time you thanked them for loving you just the way you are (no matter how many times you’ve changed)?

Women: Our Sisters; Our Enemies. It’ Time for Change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.

I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.

The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself  –  “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”

It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.

She’s prettier than I am: -1pt

Her house is larger -5 pts:

She drives a nicer car: -3pts

 She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt

but

Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts

Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts

Her nose is crooked: +4 pts

Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts

Her ass is sagging: +6pts

If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.

The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:

“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”

And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?

Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.

When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.

How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?

Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.

Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?

The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.

Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.

Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.

Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.

Embrace the crooked noses, the uneven skin tones, or any other physical trait that makes a fellow woman unique.

Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.

To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”

Just my thought of the day.

Life Lessons – Anything Worth Having

Life Lessons

Anything worth having is worth working for.

My parents may have taught me this lesson a little too well. Because I believe that everything takes work and I’ve reached that point in my life where I want things for myself and my family I have a tendency to take on more than I have time to manage.

I have a two (almost three) year old at home. I work and, even though I’m underemployed, that’s 30 hours of my week not including my commute. I’m a full-time student. I’m training for a 5k obstacle course. I’m looking to buy a house. I’m researching 4 year degree options. I’m trying to have a social life.

It’s exhausting, to be completely honest. But I feel accomplished and proud of myself every day. I have an amazing support network that’s filled with people who cheer me on when I’m struggling, support me when I’m worn out, and encourage me to be my best.

When I hear stories of women who get an advanced degree while working full-time with 2 or more children and little to no support system I am astonished. I honestly don’t know how they manage it. Even with all of the resources at my disposal I struggle to balance work, home, and school. I couldn’t imagine doing it under more difficult circumstances. I applaud every one of those women – they are my inspiration on rough days.

The lesson that you have to work for the things you want seems to be one that isn’t applied well these days. I know too many people, generally younger than me but not always, who seem to feel the world owes them something. The problem with that philosophy is that eventually life smacks you in the fanny and makes you get to work.

Even when you’re willing to work life sometimes smacks you in the fanny to remind you to work harder. The last four years of my life felt like a never-ending struggle. In work, in life, in my relationships. Even though things are evening out for me now, it made me realize that maintaining a good, happy life takes continuous maintenance. I’m good with that. I may come home exhausted, I may look at my studies and desperately want a night off, I may have to bike out to the middle of nowhere and vent my frustrations, but at the end of the day, I can reflect back on every struggle I’ve had and know that it’s worth it.

The next time you feel your shoulders slump in defeat over a setback or something that didn’t work out the way you thought it would ask yourself if you’ve put in the work. Have you earned it yet? Answer yourself honestly. I’m a firm believer that if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to making something happen, you’ll eventually reach your goal.

Keep Calm and Tread On.

Magazines are Ruining Your Relationships! (a meandering and nearly unstructured musing on relationships.)

“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”

“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”

Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.

We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.

Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.

Cosmo Spoof

Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.

Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.

Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.

Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.

1.)    American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.

2.)    Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.

3.)    There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.

4.)    It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:

We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.

Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.

Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:  

Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.

“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”

And you’re right. You don’t.

But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.

The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”

The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?

You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).

In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect. 

I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.

But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.

1.)    They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.

2.)    They feel secure together:  I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.

3.)    They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.

4.)    They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.

5.)    They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.

6.)    They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.

7.)    They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.

8.)    They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.

9.)    The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.

10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.

I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.

The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness.  So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly.  Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)

Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?

You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.

Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.

And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).

Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I Am Woman! (or: I Cry Over the Darnedest Things Sometimes)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with my semester winding down and finals to survive. I had wanted to post this particular topic much earlier in the week, but sadly, just couldn’t find a spare few minutes to sit still and write it out. But, late is still better than never.

As a woman I often feel like the very things that set me apart from the opposite sex are the things I get crucified for. If I cry I’m too emotional. If I’m quiet when I need to think I’m cold or angry. If I’m strong then I don’t need a partner. If I’m weak then I’m needy. All of this leads to an extreme amount of confusion and guilt that I try very hard not to cave in to. I am me and I’m good with that.

But every once in a while, my own emotions catch me by surprise and confuse me even more. I’ll start with the most recent time (there are two that I want to cover here).

On Wednesday, I arrived home from work to find my little one sick with a fever. He was lethargic and generally miserable, with no apparent cause. I cuddled him, kept on him to drink water, and finally gave him some Tylenol to bring down his temperature. I don’t panic over these things but I don’t feel guilty for that, because I have such a large number of kids in my family that I know when to panic and when not to worry. But as 5:00pm rolled around, I started worrying. See, I have a spin class on Wednesdays. I paid for it. I didn’t want to miss it but at the same time, I felt like a bad mother for abandoning my little one when he was sick.

It’s not like I was going to leave him in the care of a stranger or someone incapable of cuddling him with the same amount of love I give him. He was staying with his Nana (my mother) and I would be home in an hour. But as I was settling him in and taking care of the last-minute details I suddenly felt like a horrible mother. Despite the fact that I knew he would be okay and well taken care of, despite knowing that he didn’t have anything serious, I felt terrible.

This ties back in to my habit of feeling guilty whenever I take time to myself but it was obviously amplified by the fact that my son wasn’t feeling well. A brief discussion with my mother reassured me that he would be fine, that she would call me if anything happened – no matter how small, and I left for class. Class is a whole three minutes away from home (five if I get caught at a red light) but I cringed the whole way there, because there was a small part of me that was really happy to not be missing it.

I fell into my usual groove at class and for a good half an hour I actually forgot about work, money, relationship problems, and … my sick little man, cuddling at home with his Nana, waiting for me to come back. As I walked back to my car my shoulders slumped and my drive home was a study in guilt and anxiety. But when I got home, my little one was passed out comfortably on the couch in his little diaper, his Nana diligently standing guard and rubbing his little back. His fever was coming down and he was just tuckered out now.

My heart lightened as I gathered him in my arms and he touched my face for a moment and whispered “Mommy… Hi Mommy” before sleepily burying his face in my shoulder and returning to a restorative slumber. The guilt washed out of me as I realized that part of being a mommy is being able to pick responsible caregivers for my child. I trust his father. I trust my mother. I trust my sister. These are the people who care for my little one the most often and I know that they have me covered if I have to work, study for school, or even just attend a fitness class I paid for in advance.

That night I read a news story about a woman who killed her 22 month old son for interrupting her Farmville game. I was horrified and saddened, but instantly glad that I’m the kind of mommy who feels guilty for leaving her ill son with a loving caregiver for a fitness class.

**As an aside for those of you wondering, my little one was back to his perfectly happy adorable self by the next morning.**

The other event I wanted to write about occurred a week ago. Having noticed that none of my workout pants were fitting properly anymore (and therefore no longer suited to working out in because they kept trying to fall off me when I run) I took my mother and the little one with me for a quick run to JC Penney last Thursday during our usually weekly errand run. I grabbed three new pairs of running pants, a couple new shirts,  checked out and we left. My mother has mobility issues, so we had “rock star” (read:  Handicapped) parking.

As we were walking to the car an elderly gentleman approached me from his van and asked me in a thickly accented voice “could you please give me a boost?” It took my brain a moment to process the scene… Me, my little one in my arms, my mother, this elderly gentleman standing next to a van with out-of-state license plates in the handicapped parking place next to us… Well, to put it simply, where I live I’m more accustomed to being approached by someone panhandling. Also, “boost” isn’t the commonly used term in my region.

Of course, once my brain (a little slow because Thursdays are my day off and I’m usually rushing around without thought) finally caught up I replied “Absolutely, of course!”

This elderly gentleman looked unbelievably appreciative as I got my mother and son settled in the car. He looked a little anxious as I backed my car out, but then relieved as I simply pulled in closer to his van so the cables would reach easily.

We fumbled for the hood release on my car – in my defense I’m not unversed in general vehicle maintenance, but my car is brand new and I’ve never had to pop the hood yet – got the jumper cables hooked up and his van started with very little fuss.

I smiled to his equally elderly wife, who remained seated in the van, as I closed the hood of my car. But as I tried to walk away I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Please,” he said as he stopped me, “For your time and trouble” as he tried to hand me four dollars that his wife had apparently fished out of her purse.

I was mortified. A kind deed should be its own reward. This couple was likely someone’s grandparents, I thought, as my mother and her grandson sat in my car.

“No, really, it was nothing. I’m glad I could help. Please, have a safe trip” I said as I held my hand up in a gesture of refusal.

It took a few minutes of assuring him that I wouldn’t accept his money, and then my mother refusing to take the money for my son through the window when he tried another angle, for him to realize that we really wouldn’t accept his money.

He said “thank you” one more time as we pulled out of the parking space, a look of gratitude on his face. I’m pretty sure it was that look that was my undoing because as we drove away I started crying. I simply couldn’t help it. The tears came out of nowhere and I’m still not quite sure of the cause. Was it that if that had been my grandmother (rest her soul) or even my mother, I would hope they would find someone to help that would refuse the little cash they had available? Was it simply tears of being glad I could help someone out? Was it the example I was setting for my child who, still too young to understand, that the deed is its own reward? Or was it that I suddenly thought “Oh dear, I hope I didn’t insult him by not taking his offer of compensation for my time!”

So there you have it. Women are emotional creatures. It is part of what makes us such appealing creatures. We’re emotional yet strong enough to endure almost anything. We’re loving but sometimes need time to process without being thought of as cold. We laugh when we should be crying and sometimes cry when we should smile. We have tough exteriors but are easily wounded. We’ll forgive easily but not trust without time and proof. And whether you realize it or not, we tend to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, which is why we do it so rarely… Love us for these qualities and we’ll never fail you. But please, please, don’t say things like “you’re so emotional” like it’s a bad thing, because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us when really, it’s perfectly natural for us to be that way.

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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