Monday, January 27, 2014

Let Me Get That For You...

My daughter is a feminist. She is strong, brilliant, independent, and her writing will knock your socks off. One time she asked my thoughts on feminism, and I wasn't sure how to respond. I was raised by older traditional parents who looked down on "women's libbers." I am passionate about women's rights, fair treatment, access to education, voting, serving in the military, receiving equal wages and more.

In fact, I spent a greater part of my daughter's formative years instilling in her exactly how much I did not need her dad. I love, value, and appreciate him and our life. But, I can support myself and live independently, so I don't neeeeeeed him. My own dad in his trademark hypocritical fashion criticized feminists and pounded into my head that I needed to get as much education as possible so I'd never rely on anyone else. I absorbed that lesson completely and taught it to Chloe as well.

Here's the gray area: There are certain things that I don't want to have to worry about. I don't want to have to change my oil or wonder how much tread my tires have. I don't want to take the garbage out. I will. I can. But I don't want to. I don't want to clean litter boxes and dog poop. I do, but I don't like it.

I don't believe in traditional gender roles, but I do believe in gentlemen. I do believe in strong men and am trying so hard to raise one. I don't want to be the "man of the house." Sometimes I want my husband to make decisions without asking my input. Sometimes, I want to be surprised, cared for, swept away. Not always in big dramatic fashion like whisking me off to Key Largo--although that was awesome--but in little ways. Coming home to a house that smells clean because he mopped the floors. The random Sundays when he shops, prepares dinner and pours me a glass of wine.

It's less about a lack of independence and more about a desire to feel cherished; wanting to feel cherished and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive notions.

My love language is acts of service, so you can hug me til I'm breathless, tell me I'm beautiful, and buy me diamonds: I don't hear it. Fix my cracked phone screen, take out the garbage, replace my worn tires without making me ask 50 times? Now, I feel loved and valued. 

All of this boils down to some lessons I am trying to teach my son. Be a gentleman. Make eye contact. Hold doors. Be gracious. Anticipate needs. When your 82-year-old grandma comes in the door with her arms full of groceries, look up from your phone. Don't say, "Do you need help?" because she'll say no (because she is independent.) DOOOOO get up and carry her groceries.

When you get married do the dirty jobs for your wife, not because she is incapable but because you love and value her too much to let her carry garbage and dig in cat poo. Check her tires not because she can't but because her safety is your primary concern. Just because we're not damsels in distress doesn't mean we don't appreciate a knight in shining armor.

Maybe I'm alone in these sentiments, but I really want to raise my son to be the kind of man I'd want my girls to marry.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

La la la la la la, it's a Beautiful World.

Day 9 of the Daniel fast. I'm feeling deeply cleansed--this fast has been the spiritual retreat I've always dreamed of taking. Here are a couple things I've learned:
  1. Caffeine withdrawal is painful. 
  2. Food is an idol in my life. 
  3. I get really jumpy when I can't eat--see #2. 
  4. I no longer enjoy cooking-although I have made a lot of stuff  I pinned
  5. Comfortably full is a foreign term.

Today, the caffeine headache and sugar cravings have passed, and the clarity has begun to settle over me. (By the way, I have not lost one pound. Today, I said, "F#$K you, scale; you ain't bringing me down! You're registering all the additional knowledge in my brain not fat on my thighs!" But, this fast wasn't about the scale.) I realized that I have relied on food for far too much. Food was my comfort, relaxation, solitude, love, and so much more.

That's how I grew up. Sick? Chicken soup. Celebration? Cake. Love? Cookies. My mom communicates in food. Still. But now, when she walks in my house with a fresh-baked plate of cookies, I smile and thank her, then I look right in their little peanut butter faces and say, "You are a cookie; you are not love." I often say it with my mouth full of cookie, but I'm making progress. At least now I realize the cookie's not love.

Cookies and love. Really?

When I quit smoking over a year ago, I realized that I had absolutely no coping mechanisms. Stressed? Have a cigarette. Tired? Have a cigarette. Sad? Have 100 cigarettes. There are never enough. There are never enough cookies, never enough cigarettes, never enough coffee to fill that hole inside you.

Today is my brother Chris' birthday. He would have been 53. He died almost 25 years ago and left a big old gaping hole in my heart. A hole that I have tried to fill with so many of the wrong things. Eventually it healed as much as a human heart can heal, but not through any of my attempts to patch it together with peanut butter cookies for sure.

What I've mostly learned through this fast is to feel and be in each moment. To question my motives for eating. To realize that food doesn't satisfy a deep internal craving, it simply paralyzes it for awhile. I have learned that I do have will power. And I learned--again--that when you step out in faith, God sends in a heavenly support team.

So, I don't know if I'm gonna lose any weight, and I don't really care. What I do know is that when you stop dulling your emotions with food or whatever your drug of choice is, the fog lifts and a beautiful world awaits.

Day 9, I gave my food addiction to God, and I'm not taking it back. Can I share something with you guys? My husband surrendered his cigarettes to God on day 1. I'm so proud of him. Would you please pray for him?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fast On.

For 21 days, we are joining our church family in the Daniel Fast (we started Monday, so this is day 3). If you aren't familiar, this fast involves eliminating meat, dairy, animal products, sugar, coffee, tea, leavened bread and more. You basically eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts and drink water.

Historically, people have fasted for many purposes: clarity, peace, closer relationship with God, an answer to a prayer and so forth. My fast is about surrendering deeper to God's call on my life. I didn't make New Year's resolutions this year for several reasons. First, resolutions feel a lot like rules, and I don't like rules. In fact, I have spent a good part of my life breaking them. And second, I have quit all the things I want to quit, and I don't intend to take up any new bad habits. If I do, then I'll rethink this next January 1st.

What I do, however, is start every day with the promise of being kinder, more patient, more compassionate. I really believe turning 40 changes you, and I feel now more than ever that I can really be in the moment. I no longer get all worked up about a stain on the carpet or a broken glass or any other sort of material loss that would have unhinged me before.

Things aren't as important anymore. I used to want new furniture and new clothes and new stuff (we did just get a new car, but that was a necessity not a luxury), now, I am outrageously happy with what I have. My kitchen table scarred with glitter, nail polish, paint, and more. My sofa worn from three kids bouncing on it. Our house and our stuff is more than good enough.

And in that same vein, so is my body. This morning, when I looked in the mirror, instead of seeing hair that desperately needed to be washed, I saw little fingers twisting that hair to fall asleep at night. I saw the one perfect curl that falls beside my face every morning because my husband twirls it around his finger when he falls sleep. And I am enough. My unwashed, uncolored hair is good enough.

Instead of thinking what new exercise I could pin (yes, pin, someday I will actually do them, maybe) to flatten my stomach, I remembered the three times that same stomach had been stretched to outrageous proportions as my most precious gifts grew inside. My not-as-flat-as-it-once-was stomach is good enough.

I looked at the lines on my face and thought not of what new wrinkle cream would come in my Birchbox, but instead of all the experiences etched in those lines. I might have considered the wrinkle cream for minute; give me a break I'm in process. I thought of eyes that winked at my little athletes so they knew I saw their play and lips that had kissed so many boo boos and feverish heads. The face in the mirror doesn't look the same as the face in my mind. The face in the mirror doesn't look the same as it did 10 years ago, but it's good enough.

In my 20's and 30's, I wanted to take pictures and make scrapbooks of every single moment (not that there's anything wrong with that) but now, I just want to live in those moments. The memories are all ready captured in my heart and my mind.

So today, hungry, 15 pounds away from my goal weight, with dirty hair and a cold, I'm good enough. Good enough for my beautiful husband, my amazing little loves, my friends, and most of all for God. So, if you are looking in the mirror and seeing flaws, please stop. Look at what's right. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend. See yourself as the person who loves you the most sees you. You are more than good enough; in fact, you are wonderful, and you are loved.