Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Avoid Change

      My parents grew up as Army brats, moving place to place, never settling- never finding their roots. A rolling stone collects no moss which is funny that during my childhood they should end up in the Pacific Northwest because everything collects moss there. Get lost in the woods there- don't look for the moss on the North side of the tree.
      The moss also grows on the West, South, and East side. And if you stand too long it will grow up your legs too.
         When they had me- what they wanted out of life and what it took to carve out an existence were on two separate ends of the stick- so they moved- often. It's a side effect of being poor.
           We moved every few years, about the time it took sensitive me to make a friend, it was time to put all my belongings in the vegetable and fruit boxes collected from the stores and become the 'New Girl' at school.
          And I didn't do 'New Girl' well when I was little. Heck, I don't do it well now.
          Damn insecurities. So God has been spending the last four months trying to push me out of my comfort zone.
         Stepping away from your comfort zone requires change.
         Something else I realized I'm not all that great at. I thought I was better with it, with my childhood of moving but nope, I hate it. Just about the time I find my place and it's fitting me like a well-worn slipper, something changes.
        Since I have spent the last four months quietly fighting the fire and the sharpening, I will give you my tips for avoiding change.

        1. Pretend it doesn't matter. If the change is something you can't handle, just pretend you don't care. Develop and master a shrug to give when someone brings it up.

        2. Lock your heart away and never give any part of it away. Or like on the TV show, 'Once'- learn how to take your heart out of your chest and bury it in the backyard. I love the fantasy aspect of that show, the scientist in me says, 'uhh, how can the blood move through your system without a heart?'

        3.  Learn the fine art of cussing at kids scooting down your sidewalk, while you water your yard and complain about the weather. Complaining about the weather is a great cover. You can bitch and moan about it being too cold or too hot. Too windy, too stale, too anything. It doesn't matter. Your heart doesn't hurt when you complain about the weather.

        4. Blog about avoiding change, so you can avoid further change. It's like a form of procrastination, but even better because you feel like you're doing something useful at the same time- giving advice- while still managing to avoid change.

       5. Refuse to move from your comfort zone until God pushes you out of it. And don't worry- God, the universe, the smarter part of ourselves,- is great at reminding us that we have to change to learn and grow. Otherwise, I suppose we end up like every rock and tree in the Pacific Northwest, covered in moss.

     6. Don't get a Gibson. Seriously, with a dog that chews up everything you own, including shoes, toys, and furniture, your environment is constantly changing on a daily basis. Also, you have to avoid growing attached to anything because it might be a chewed up mess of broken parts and dog drool the next morning. -But he's always sorry. It's not his fault that the expensive, unused baby diapers rip apart in such a fun way.

    7. Don't have children. Just about the time you get use to a stage- they change. Talk about change in motion. Childhood is a constant collection of changes, perhaps that's why we don't like to do anymore changing when we reach adulthood.

   So there you have it. Why I've been gone for three or four months without a peep. I've been avoiding changes. But I'm at a point where I can no longer avoid the changes coming -so here's my leap of faith- which for a writer always comes with the written word.

   Or perhaps I'll take my own advice and start to complain about the weather.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Banning the Word Bossy Actually Hurts Women

     I know there are already plenty of people weighing in on the #banbossy campaign. I also realize I'm not usually one to step into the muddy waters of the political arena in my blog except this idea has bugged me from the second I started watching the commercial.
     I have three girls. Three strong-willed, independent, and creative girls.
     And yes, sometimes a bit bossy.
     Did I just call my own kids a word that has suddenly become politically incorrect to say in public?

    Yes, I did. My children, who I love dearly, CAN BE BOSSY.
     I was a bossy child- just ask my siblings.
     I have worked with many children and on the whole, most of them can be pretty bossy. Have you ever been around a three year old? A four year old? A teenager?

    Being bossy is selfish. It's a self centered way of thinking. I want this...I want that...You're going to do this...Because I said.

     A child has to be taught how to be assertive, how to have compassion and empathy, how to be a leader.
     Because I'm sorry, if someone is calling you bossy- it's probably because you are. That person is saying, 'hey, you're not letting me have any say in this."
    (Unless of course, they're just not nice and then we need to teach our children to worry less about what mean people think about us.)
    When my older girls were little they played really well together but I would hear, 'you're taking all the imagination." Basically Abu was telling Bean- 'you're being bossy with me."
   I don't want my girls to grow up and be the boss. The word 'boss' implies someone that doesn't care about anyone else, or anyone else's ideas. It's a word that says, 'hey, I think I'm better than you because I'm the boss.'

    Ha, try that in a marriage. It's not very healthy, on either side.
   We all hate the boss at work, right? Because we feel he/she doesn't care about us. Because we have no say.

   But a leader. They inspire. They direct. They take the best of people and bring it out. They allow others to shine.
  So I don't want to ban the word 'bossy' because it won't ban the negative behavior that a child- boy or girl- exhibits.
   Banning a word won't automatically make leaders. Besides, if you're going to ban words, lets start with the really nasty and hurtful ones. Other 'B' words that aren't flattering to women. Oh, but wait- than all these female singers would have to rewrite their songs. Because somewhere in this mixed up world we live in, it's okay to call other women hurtful names. But boy, use the word bossy and we have totally destroyed the dreams of all girls everywhere.

   The website has a quote, "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don't raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead."

   Actually, as a woman and a Mom of three girls, let me explain to you what messages hurt the self esteem. What keeps a woman from finding her potential.

1. Allowing verbal, mean girl bullying to continue rampant in our schools. The word bossy is nothing compared to the crap that can come out of some girls/women's mouth.
    If you're smart in school- than another girl will call you names for it. Guarantee.
    If you like to play sports, perhaps you're even super good at it and you like to compete against the boys at recess. Some other girl will say you're doing nasty things with those boys.
    The word bossy? Bullies don't even use that word. They go for ones that hurt: like hoe, whore, bitch, and more. -In elementary school.-
    And it continues into adulthood. You want strong female leaders, than women: stop with the rumors, and the backstabbing, and the petty comparing that happens.
    I have been around so many women that instead of building each other up, instead of sharpening and strengthening they say things like:
    You want to stay home and raise your kids? Then you're lazy.
    You want to go to work or you have to go to work? Then you're the worse kind of mother for allowing other women to raise your kids.
    You don't want to take that CEO job because you choose more family time over a 80 hour a week job? Then obviously someone called you bossy and prevented you from finding your full potential.

2. Stop the damn photoshopping of models and women in images. I can't believe it's gotten to this point that we have to take a skinny person and digitally remove more 'fat' from her. Seriously? What the hell is wrong with our culture? I don't want my girls to think they have to look like they just walked out of a concentration camp to be beautiful.
      That is not beauty. That is sick and disgusting and wrong. Lets just say it the way it is. It's WRONG! When our girls start worrying about fat on their butts and their stomachs and they start hating the way the look, then we have done something WRONG.
    Every women I know, myself included, have stared in the mirror and made a mental list of everything that was wrong with our bodies. And it's sad.
   The female body is beautiful, in all shapes and sizes and curves. I want my girls to think healthy and fit but I don't want them beating themselves up every morning because they don't look like the model on television or the actress in the movie or the gal on the cover of the magazine cover.
   Because not only do most of these women spend a lot more time than the average women doing things to look good as part of their image- they also have a TEAM of make-up artists, hair stylists, and photographers that understand the importance of lighting.
    On top of that: THEY ARE PHOTOSHOPPED beyond just normal color correction and such. They AREN'T REAL.
    Yet, our girls compare themselves to these faked images and find themselves wanting.

3. If a girl is afraid to raise her hand in school, it isn't because she's afraid of being bossy. It's because our education system doesn't encourage free thinking, it doesn't encourage creative expression. It is developed to pass a test and I can guarantee a child that gives too many answers outside that drawn box of thinking, will stop raising their hand and reaching for their potential. A leader does not develop while filling out worksheet after worksheet.
     A leader develops because of many different factors, one of them being having good role models. And I'm sorry, but having Beyonce as your spokesperson is not the role model I want for my girls. I don't want them singing songs about sex and dressing trashy and giving stripper numbers on stage. That's not empowerment of women at all.
    Could we have some women role models that teach about building each other up, that speak with compassion and passion, that show girls that we don't have to bash men and bring them down- to prove we're strong and capable? 

4. We need to teach our girls right and wrong and morals. And we need to teach them that they shouldn't care about what society thinks of them because society at this point is about being too thin, putting other women down, and idealizing 'role models' that think a women is only reaching her full potential if she is living their definition of what it takes to be a strong women.

     Try raising strong, caring, compassionate, independent women in our current society- it's tough. Because as a Momma of three wonderful girls- I really feel like the world, the media, our culture, and society is against me.
    And banning the word bossy doesn't even start to fix the problem.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finding Patience in a Puddle of Paint

Baby Blueberry's Painted Toes

      Sometimes I think my job title should be 'Director of Messes' or 'CEO of the Mess Department'- It does seem like you can follow the rhythm of my day by the messes that occur.
      Breakfast- laundry- Gibson coming in without getting his paws wiped first- toys and more toys. And lets not forget the stack of DVDs that Baby Blueberry loves to take out of the cupboard and leave in piles around the living room.
      There are school books that seem to take over my dining room table from homeschooling Bean.
      Then there are the little pile of crumbs that linger under cupboards after meals.

       These are all annoyances. And lately more than I can handle. I think winter has been a bit too long for me this year. Chaos is running as Your Royal Highness Pain in the Ass in my household which is causing rebellion stirrings in my soul and a constant revolution to be spinning in my head. I was hoping to make a trip to the ocean this summer to calm the angry emotions but have found out that there is no way that can happen this year- so it is what it is - I'm just not sure what 'it' is anymore.

       Lost. Yeah, I'm feeling lost. Perhaps it's not enough sleep. If there is one thing Baby Blueberry is extremely good at- not sleeping. Even caffeine has lost it's umph to fuel my engines. I'm just drained.

    But back to the partial pic above. In the whole picture, Baby Blueberry and I are standing over the mess and I'm smiling. How can I be so happy with such a mess, you might ask?
    I wasn't. I wasn't happy one little bit. I'm so OVERWHELMED that I'm about ready to sell everything I own and live without stuff. Because stuff seems to take time to clean and organize and keep nice.

    But I'm smiling anyways. Because the mess was about more than a mess. (Which BTW took over an hour to clean up.) It was a chance at a little bit of redemption.

   When I was sick, so many years ago, I tried to be a good Mom. We read books, and played toys, and I tucked them in at night with snuggles and hugs.
    But I was also very impatient and angry.
   Especially with messes.
    Because a mess meant more work. More energy. More time I didn't have.
    And so when Bean and Abu painted my kitchen blue because they thought I would like it- I was very angry about it. I asked them, 'how could you do this?' "'How could you make a mess for Mom?' And their little faces fell and something went hard in Bean and something went quiet in Abu.
     Impatience. Impatience. Impatience. When Bean and Abu were little it was what I seemed to give them the most.
     And they responded in kind.
    With impatience for me. With each other.

     And it's hard to enjoy each other's company when all you feel is impatience.

    Then Baby Blueberry starting growing underneath my heart. But that wasn't what changed me.
     Two things...two random conversations that probably took up less than five minutes of time but shifted the view- my view.

    I was watching a friend with her toddler and he spilled some water on his coloring book. She wasn't happy about it, but she calmly helped him clean it up and they continued on with the activity. No impatience. And he learned just as much about being careful and not making a mess than my kids did with all my impatience and muttering under my breath and frustration.

    Second: I was talking with someone who had experienced a later in life baby too. This baby had came along right when they had decided to stop trying. When she had decided she was done with babies. Something I was feeling a lot of when I found out about Blueberry. Especially with a 11 and 9 year difference between Bean, Abu and Blueberry.
    But at that moment I realized I could shape the story- the story Blueberry would hear her entire life- how Mom was impatient right from the start because she made a mess in Mommy's life. Or I could write the story- my story- her story- OUR STORY- to celebrate her arrival.
      At that moment I decided I was done- as much as any Mommy can be- I'm not a saint- but I decided to give up impatience.

     I tried it with Bean and Abu. Teaching myself to handle spills and accidents with patience. That was DIFFICULT!!! But the difference in them started right away. They were less tense, and just as careful.

     And when Baby Blueberry arrived. I continued teaching myself to be less impatient.

   So when I tried to paint my basement posts with Baby in tow, I should have realized that she would brush up against the fresh paint with her pretty sweater. She doesn't understand wet paint. I took the sweater off her to run it under some water and soap and try to save it. I turned my back for less than thirty seconds.
    I turn around and she has taken my paint brush and is HAPPILY slapping layers of thick paint on the post. Dripping it across the floor in huge puddles. It's covering her pants and her shirt. I quickly grab her because she's now standing in wet paint on a cement floor and I don't want her cracking her head open. And when I grab her, - her little toes start sliding in the paint and she's starts laughing at the sensation of wet paint in between toes. And then she starts kicking her feet in the puddle, enjoying the squishy mess- huge belly laughs fill the air.
   Her sisters come over and start laughing. Baby Blueberry's dimple is showing and her eyes are sparkling. And we're covered in paint and mess.
    At that point I realize I could get mad but she's talking to me and I realize she's saying, "help Momma. help Momma."
    She was just trying to help me paint and it probably looked like so much fun.
   I could cry because the mess is huge.
   Or I could laugh.

   And because it seemed like the best option- I laugh right along side her and her sisters. I have Abu grab the camera and snap a shot. Then I haul Blueberry to the bath and clean her up. Abu tries to help clean by laying down toilet paper on the mess but it actually makes it worse because by the time I can start cleaning- it has stuck to the drying paint.
    I'm tired and almost crabby by the time I get it cleaned up because it's late and it takes so long but impatience- that emotion isn't hanging around us- and I tuck three happy kids into bed...two older sisters still grinning over the mess the Baby made.
      And one little kiddo who was happy that she helped Momma. 

    The moral of the story: if you see me being patient.- know that I'm really working very hard on it underneath my calm exterior. It has taken me a lot of work to get there but I do know I like my parenting style better if IMPATIENCE stays away.

    That and keep the paint can up on the counter while painting. ;-)