29 August 2011

Of Dolls and Bicycles

I have recently read some articles and subsequent discussions on how we are raising our little girls. There are arguments that we should not let our girls be obsessed with pink and princesses, while others say that those things don’t matter. Arguments for girls being tomboys and other for girls being girly.

For me, it is overwhelming and confusing. How can I agree with parts of each side when they differ so much in opinion?

Billy so wisely has told me (with regard to many things) that it is all about balance. To be extreme on either side is not wise. Balance is key.

In a class I took in college, the subject of body image came up. While the conversation became passionate, I started to feel uncomfortable. The general outcry was that “true women have curves.” But then I thought about the woman in my life who were skinny by nature. They did nothing extreme to be skinny. They just were. Where they not “true women?”

I came to the conclusion that it was not about being one way or the other: it is about accepting exactly who we are. (I have to say that I do believe in change. I believe that there are things about each of us that can and should change. For instance, my tendency to envy or to compare. Those are things worth changing. But that is not the direction I would like to go in. Another topic for another day.)

I spent my growing up years, even into college, trying to hide the things about me that I thought were “too feminine.” I felt that if I was too feminine, that my credibility would be diminished and I would not be respected. So I hid from the color pink, wore T-shirts and jeans instead of skirts and dresses. I tried always to be tough, not admitting to any weakness, trying desperately not to cry when I was hurt (physically or emotionally). I would not admit that though education was a top priority and being able to support myself was a goal of mine, that what I really wanted to do and felt was important for me to do was to have babies and be home with them. I went so far as to tell myself that I would never depend on a man. I was a strong, independent woman.

The problem did not stem from those specific things being wrong. I was simply not being true to myself. I love wearing skirts. And while pink is not my absolute favorite, I do enjoy wearing it (as I do most colors). Sometimes, when I get hurt, I cry. And when something touches my heart, I am overcome with emotion. I want to be a mother that can be home with her children. In fact, I do not do well when I am stretched thin between too many responsibilities. I struggle to focus and so, for now, this is what works best for us, in our marriage and our family. And truth be told, I depend completely on my husband. He is the organized to my mess, the calm to my chaotic. He loves me when I don’t deserve to be loved and reminds me of my worth.

Those things, particularly the last, do not take away from my credibility. They do not diminish my intelligence or make me less than any other man or any other woman. They simply contribute to who I am. I (am learning to) accept the parts of me that love the colors blue and green, that want to run and play and be wild while also loving the side of me that loves to get dressed up, that gets giddy when the flowers begin to bloom, and that never felt truly comfortable in her own skin until her husband loved her just how she was.

This is not to say that this how you are or how you should be. It is all about balancing all those parts of you and becoming the best and happiest person you can become.

So what do I want for my daughter? I want her to be kind and wholesome, intelligent and balanced. I want her to find role models that are worth admiring. I will do my best to surround her with things that help her develop those attributes.

And if she loves nothing more than to dress up and have tea parties, then I will make crumpets. Or if she wants to go skateboarding with her Papa, then I will shoo them out the door on another adventure. And if she wants both, then I will help her find balance in those different parts of who she is.

What are your thoughts?

24 August 2011

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

~Albert Einstein

22 August 2011

"I myself have no power.
It's the people behind me who have the power.
Real power comes only from the Creator.
It's in His hands. But if you're asking about
strength, not power, then I can say that
the greatest strength is gentleness."
-Leon Shenandoah, Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy

photo by gary barnes, mi hermano

19 August 2011

Learning that I am an 8 cow wife.

Sister T is from the islands, and contrary to popular belief (read: from my prior knowledge of island life from this short movie, Johnny Lingo), there are no cows on her island. Still, after 18 months of living in Tennessee, she is astounded when she sees a single cow, let alone a pasture full of them (see below).

We watched this tonight, and while she got a huge laugh out of how ridiculous it is (and drooled a little when she saw the ocean), I discovered how beautiful this movie is. It rang more true to me now than ever before. Perhaps its the southern-weight-gain, or the eternal exhaustion, but sometimes I just need to remind myself a little more diligently that I am a beautiful woman-- that I am, indeed, an 8-cow-(future)-wife.

15 August 2011

Just Being

Today we have a treat for you. My friend Charity has kindly written a little essay about... well... about just being. While she calls herself an aspiring writer, I call her a bona fide writer. She is the kind of person who everyone likes and who likes everyone. I hope you enjoy her essay as much as I have.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. . . It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

~e.e. cummings, 1955

I have been pondering the great art of Just Being lately…. It is precisely that. An art.

When I was a child, I had an incredible imagination—so my parents say. In a single afternoon, I was a princess trapped by lava monsters, Rogue of the X-Men, a chef making stone soup and mud patties, a mermaid hiding from the humans, and a singer whose voice changed the world. I was anyone, really anyone, because I didn’t know limits or boxes as a child. There was no concept of genres in a seven year-old’s mind. There just was. I just was.

And then I was a teenager. And though I had mystifying periods, I still basically knew who I was… or who I wanted to be. I knew I was kind, that I didn’t like cliques and exclusions. I knew that I loved music, and that the music I loved wasn’t the top 40 pop chart (you know, that’s never changed. Hm). I knew I was an anti-fashionista—my clothes were thrift-store by choice, mismatched by choice, and wrong era by choice. And I knew that I wanted to write great things. I wanted to be a great person.

And then I got lost. I thought it happened later in life than commonly occurs. Most people have their identity crisis in high school/college, don’t they? And then they figure it all out, and they know—for the rest of their lives—just who they are. And I suddenly discovered, after college degrees, nearly five years of marriage, and two kids, that I couldn’t find my self.

The curious part was that I wasn’t sure how it had happened. I couldn’t pin down a culprit for my lost identity. My marriage was absolutely lovely; always has been—and as far as I can do anything about it—always will be. My kids were beautiful, albeit nuts, like all normal kids. I was proud of my education, and I never have regretted being an English major/an aspiring writer.

So where did I lose myself? If everything around me was just as it had always been, where had I gone?

I pondered for months over the lost me, and I made a discovery: I had become uncomfortable with the art of Just Being. How could I just be a college grad, but not be working in my field? How could I just be a wife, and not a trophy wife? How could I just be a mother, and be forever working behind the scenes? How was I not a New York Times bestselling novelist, with a body like Jillian Michaels, involved in daycares and charities, with a home featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens? How could I just be?

So I sat down with myself and went through the missing pieces of me, one by one. I realized two things: I was lost somewhere amid comparisons and limits. I was worried that I wasn’t a complete person because I saw others more complete around me. What is the complete person? Is there a template? I am learning to let go of the myth of completeness, because 1) the definition changes for each person, and 2) isn’t that why we’re allotted seventy, eighty years in this life? To learn to become the most complete version of ourselves, unique and separate from the complete others around us? So how could I possibly compare? There is no one to measure up to but my own future self… And so I’ll cross that comparison bridge in a few more decades, when the only person I must answer to is me.

And the limits? I had finally learned about genre, that concept so innocently unknown in my childhood. I couldn’t possibly be certain things simply because I wasn’t that kind of person. I didn’t fit in that box. Where are these boxes kept? And who labels them? And who enforces them? I am learning to let go of the myth of limitations, because only I know what I am capable of. My limitations are only set by the efforts I make. And that is a part of myself I can control/change—it is not beyond me. And really, what if I never publish a book? Then I am not a writer? I am who I choose to be and who I work to be, and that is not determined by the world’s standards, charts, or figures.

So was I lost? I still believe in kindness, in inclusion. I still dress to the beat of my own wardrobe’s drum. I still listen to underground music and shudder at most country songs. I am still intelligent and capable, even if I have no paychecks to prove it. I am a blissfully happy wife. I am a proud, growing mother. I am a writer. I am me.

And I can be anything else… someday, down the road, I will be many other things. Perhaps a professor of dystopian literature; a public speaker/ambassador for the cause of abolishing illiteracy; the front man (woman) of a Heart cover band; a world traveler; a grandmother; an ice cream shop owner. I am learning that I can be anything I want.

And that I can just be.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'"
~C.S. Lewis

This summer has been busy. For you too? Not only busy with family parties, vacations, gardening, and, well, baby raising. But busy with figuring some things out. Figuring out how to become the person I want to become and then just doing it.

Thank you for being patient. I am thinking that things will start to get back to a routine, and hopefully that also means for this blog.

Come back tomorrow to read an essay by the one and only Charity Brooks. It will be worth it, I promise!

09 August 2011

"That there is a God my reason would soon tell me by the wondrous works that I see, the vast frame of the heaven and the earth, the order of all things, night and day, summer and winter, spring and autumn, the daily providing for this great household upon the earth, the preserving and directing of all its proper end."
-Anne Bradstreet, 'To My Dear Children'

melanie of fifth & hazel