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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

dear _____,
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

there will be times that running away… far far away, will seem like the smartest thing to do. but know this, it’s not. running only puts the problem farther out of reach and harder to solve.
it’s not always going to be complicated either — learn to recognize the difference. learn to recognize the difference between someone else’s tragic bullshit and your beautifully complicated story.
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

when you’re young… too young to know such things, too young to worry about such things, too young to experience all of that — that complicated soul searching bullshit that you are too young to think about… stop. walk away. retain your childhood, the carefree skipping around in life that we are all entitled to — yes, entitled to.
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

when that summer seems to go on forever, lie on the ground and stare up at the stars and know the complete feeling of being so small and alone and yet you will never feel so connected to the world. let the shining of the stars and the chirping of the tree frogs and the swooping of the bats paralyze you with the knowledge that you are small… in the very best possible way, you are small.
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

stick around after closing time, that’s when all the best stories will reveal themselves but don’t become a story someone else writes. don’t waste time looking for a perfect apple… they all have bruises and those bruises have something to say — listen. listen to their story. don’t stand still, don’t ever stand still, keep moving forward.
and remember, forward won’t always be the right direction or the best direction or the safest… but you don’t need the safest.
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

when you get to the bottom of your rope, don’t tie a knot in it — let go. yes, let go and soar and be curious about what’s at the bottom. no more directionless, no more drifting, no more worrying, no more wishing — just let go.
never be made useless.
so don’t run away… reach out, reach out as far as you can and keep reaching — the hand you’ve been waiting for will be there.

dear _____,
stay.
stay.
… and stand fearlessly in the midst of it all.

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So, I have to ask, “what’s so wrong with a puffy face?”

If you haven’t had a chance to read the article by Ashley Judd, go ahead and read it now… I’ll wait.
I realize that the nature of the article that Ashley Judd wrote was in defense of the accusations against her regarding plastic surgery. Her thoughts are absolutely on point. The conversation about the way women look is perpetuated by us… women. And why is that? Why have we grown accustomed to being mean to each other, to pointing out the physical flaws in each other with vigor.

We accuse a beautiful woman of being too beautiful and so we don’t like her.
We accuse someone who wears her age on her face of needing to do something about it and so we don’t like her.
If you’re confident in your physical appearance, you’re vain.
If you’re humble in your physical appearance, you’re weak.
And who’s speaking the loudest… our “friends”, our friends are often the worst.

So what if Ashley Judd had plastic surgery? So… what.
She didn’t, however, she had taken steroids for an illness. As my, more than beautiful friend Kelly Bergin points out in her recent article in The Daily Beast… steroids can be a bitch. You never know what someone else is facing.

Plastic surgery, an illness, a life lived hard… so why propagate this maddening conversation revolving around women and their looks. We are affecting the younger versions of ourselves, the girls who are watching it all from the metaphorical sidelines with a nervous anxiety, hoping that this is not what it’s like to be a woman in our world. After all, they are already experiencing this in middle school… at what age do we all just shut up about it?

Why the rush to judge, to critique, to criticize? This misogynistic behavior isn’t just being bolstered by men — we are doing it to each other.

Here’s the thing… Ashley Judd is beautiful, but even more stunning than her physical appearance, as she showed in this conversation she’s leading us in, she is damn intelligent.
Would it have been so bad if she had plastic surgery? Would she have automatically become a fraud? Would it have made us, the rest of us, feel good about ourselves for a brief nanosecond?
What if Ashley Judd would have said, “yes, I’m puffy, I’ve gained weight, I’m 43, let me see your cellulite!” Would that have been the end of the world? Do we need an excuse to explain our outward appearance?

Here’s a truth. I’ve had three c-sections, three. Do you have any idea what having three c-sections does to a woman’s body? There are areas on my abdomen that will never be flat or taut or look anywhere close to a washboard. Quite frankly, I’m waiting anxiously for that day to come when my bladder completely fails me and I can have it tacked back up… because, when they’re in there, I am having them tuck in my tummy and take as much away as medically possible. And I don’t really care who knows, it’s what I want to do… it’s my body.

My body that wakes me up every morning.
My body that goes from plank to chaturanga about 99 times a day.
My body that sends a mesmerizing feeling all the way to my toes when my lips press against another’s.
My body that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when it knows danger is approaching.
My body that gave life to three humans.
My body that bounced back after a miscarriage.
My body that keeps my feet moving forward on all the switchbacks in my favorite hike.
My body that cartwheeled a car off a mountain and walked away.
My body that swims in the ocean.
My body that makes my heart beat quicken when I look in his eyes.
My body that finally allows me to fall asleep.
My body that wraps my arms around someone in a tight hug.
My body that runs that extra mile.
My body that loves me and never gives up on me.

So, is my puffy face unforgivable if it’s because I’ve gained some weight? Do you feel like an ass when you find out my puffy face is because I’m very ill? Will you laugh behind my back because I decided to have plastic surgery on my puffy face? Does my puffy face make you feel better about your puffy face or your puffy stomach or your puffy bum?

I’m not Mother Theresa on this issue, I’ve laughed and snickered and questioned other women’s appearances. But, here’s what I know, I’m tired of being in competition with the rest of the world in regards to my physical appearance, that only puts me in competition with my own body… my body and I are a team, we shouldn’t be competing against one another. The more I get to know my body, the more I realize all the things it does for me everyday. The more I learn to listen to it and trust it… the better care I take of it. I hope, as I’m older now and wiser, that I continue to learn just how magnificent my body is… it does so much for me everyday.
Like right now… my body is desperately wanting me to stop writing this blog post, get off my puffy ass, and go for a jog — so, I will.

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something made you cry and you screamed so loud,
when your tears streamed down and you fell on your knees,
when those last few words came hurling out,
when I stood my ground instead of turning to leave,
… that wasn’t me.

if you see someone facing the oncoming storm,
… that’ll be me.
if you see some toes wiggling deep in the sand,
… that’ll be me.
when the wings of self love fly high through the air,
… that’ll be me.

you got so mad with 10,000 rhymes,
did the words on the page embarrass you,
did someone ask too often for a minute of time,
did she steal your wish because she had so few,
… that wasn’t me.

on a star someone sits with all the wishes come true,
… that’ll be me.
when your page fills with words so easily,
… that’ll be me.
on the day the fog lifts and a hand is reaching for you,
… that’ll be me.

if I said “see me” more often than I should,
if I broke you down beyond repair,
if I tried too hard because I thought I could,
if that poem I wrote was as transparent as air,
… that wasn’t me.

that person still standing when the storm dies down,
… that will be me.
… that will be me.

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This is the air I dare to breathe….

The air I dare to breathe is sweet.
It’s calming, it’s blue….
like the water just past the shore,
leading out to the openness of the ocean.
You can see through it,
the colorful fish darting around.
It’s warm.
It’s inviting me to stay.

The air I dare to breathe is alive.
It’s movement, it’s green….
like the bush that grows out of control,
covering my step with all its wildness.
I don’t dare cut it to shape,
it’s messy.
It’s beautiful.
It tells me to sit down.

The air I dare to breathe is burning.
It’s love, it’s red….
like the quick glance from a stranger,
scanning my body for an invitation.
Looking away so our eyes never meet,
the blush creeping up my neck.
It’s remembering.
It reminds me to never forget.

The air I dare to breathe is filling.
It’s steady, it’s yellow….
like the sturdy hand of a friend,
grasping me so I know I’m not alone.
Letting go at just the right time,
my mind knows what my heart can’t see.
It’s learning.
It keeps hope in a safe place.

The air I dare to breathe is looking.
It’s searching, it’s gray….
like the crevasse in the mountain we climb,
giving me a place to rest.
Revealing my next stronghold,
unleashing the hero in me.
It’s living.
It has possibilities with each step forward.

This is the air I dare to breathe….

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This isn’t everything you are.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 21. I never went.
The boy I thought I loved asked me to marry him and he wasn’t sure where we’d be in two years if I was away in the Peace Corps… so, I never went.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I got pregnant with my oldest at the beginning of my last year in grad school. She was born a month early and quickly whisked away to the NICU at another hospital while I recovered from the emergency c-section. It was 4 days later that I finally got to touch her, to hold her next to my chest. There were tubes and alarms and organized chaos surrounding her at all times those first two weeks. When she came home… I sat next to her bassinet and watched her chest inflate and deflate, inflate and deflate — for several weeks that was my only concern.

This story isn’t everything I am.

One October, I rented a cabin in the mountains for my mothers birthday. We were all excited to spend a few days going to amusement parks and looking at the smoke on the top of the mountains and breathing the air. The morning we were to leave, my mother called me early and said to go without her and my father, he was sick and she needed to get him to the doctor. When I got home from the serendipity of the mountain cabin, feeling refreshed and calm and at peace… I learned my father had lung cancer.
Nothing was the same after that.

This story isn’t everything I am.

Two days after Christmas, my mother was sick enough to need a trip to the ER. I came to talk to her and the doctor. When I walked through the hospital door, my mother said she had cancer. I said she was over-reacting. The doctor came in and he said she had cancer. I told him that was impossible — it had only been about 4 weeks since we buried my father after he died from lung cancer. That’s actually what I told the doctor, it had only been 4 weeks, as if to say my dad had already died from cancer… our odds are over, the rest of us should be okay. It was impossible for my mother to now also have cancer, that’s not how cancer works is it?

This story isn’t everything I am.

For 18 years, I was a wife and a mother and a taxi and a nurse and a chef and a maid and… I had a career.
I lost myself.
Maybe that’s what we’re all destined to do for a certain number of years — the finding yourself part certainly makes for some amazing memoirs and blog posts and stories late at night on a warm summer evening surrounded by your friends and many empty bottles of wine.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I think, possibly, someone who looks around at the memories of their life and says, “I have no regrets”, must not have risked too much. I think, possibly, those who look around at the pieces of their life and can say, “I wouldn’t change a single mistake”, “I wouldn’t pass up a single regret”, have lived a life full of love and meaning.
Life isn’t lived in the memories of “do-overs”, life is lived in the fringes of decision.

This isn’t everything you are.

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“Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” ~~ Ram Dass

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Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

Will that make her believe her sole worth is tied up in the beauty I see in her face? Will it ensure that she develops an eating disorder or a personality complex or make her vain or narcissistic? Will my name come up all too often in future therapy sessions because I told her she was pretty and that somehow manifested itself into me being a mother who put too much importance on her physical looks?

I was shopping for clothes at the local second-hand store with my kids and had two simultaneous realizations that… I suppose, are very much related.

My oldest daughter (who will be 16 in a few weeks), was drawn immediately to the rows of shorts — micro-mini-shorts. I said, “no”, without so much as a look in her direction. Then, her logic hit me… with overwhelming force, as most teenage logic does.

She stared deep into my eyes and asked, “do you think I’m a slut if I wear short shorts?”

 “No!”, I vehemently denied, without hesitation.

Of course I don’t think my daughter is a slut… what I was thinking about was if others would think she was a slut. The visions of Rush Limbaugh that floated through my mind at that very moment sickened me.  

Her words stopped me from traveling down a path that too many use as an excuse to defile girls… it made me remember this post I read a while ago about the amazing Eve Ensler. Our clothes and our looks should not define how we are treated by others… but often, it does.

This realization hit me like an elephant kicking me in the gut… how easy it was for me, a strong-willed-out-spoken-independent woman to fall into the trap of blame and shame.

My other realization was with my youngest daughter (8). She is, in childhood terms, chubby. I’ve been watching her gain weight the last couple of years… I changed her diet, began telling her the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high calorie meals, and cut out visits to fast food restaurants. Still, she steadily has gained weight. Her clothes are too long in length in order to get them to fit the waist. I worry and plan and worry some more.

Let me not fail to mention my son (13) — he went through a couple of years of chubby and now is thin… maybe too thin. I read an article on the growing number of boys affected by eating disorders. So, now I have my girls and my boy to consider with each word and glance and misplaced sigh of disapproval that escapes my body. I have to make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap of societal pressure — am I complimenting their brains enough, am I telling them how nice they are enough, am I encouraging their creative talents… enough?

So, here I am, in the middle of the consignment shop being questioned by my oldest as to if I think she is a slut for wearing certain types of clothes, ruminating about the food that I should and shouldn’t allow my youngest to eat, and wondering if I should be concerned about my son’s weight loss.

My horror at myself came when I grasped the uncomfortable fact that I was concerned about the perception of others… in some cases people I didn’t even know and probably wouldn’t want to know. I was concerned about how all of this would look reflected on me as a mother.

Later that day, when the stress was far behind and we had all retreated to our corners of the house, I googled “the best way to help your child eat healthy”. The first thing that popped up, surprisingly, was a direct answer to that question — “the best way to ensure your children make healthy choices in life is to let them see you make healthy choices”.

Okay.

Great.

Somehow it always rolls back around to being the mothers fault.

Now I realized I needed to focus attention away from my worries about the kids and look at myself… never a fun task. I had been eating healthy for over a year, my kids don’t even ask to go to fast food restaurants anymore, we have salads and fruits and lean meats. My oldest and I are currently practicing pescetarianism… the other two aren’t far behind. But, admittedly, I’ve been lacking on a steady exercise routine — this is where I needed to focus my change.

Last week I read an article about an article… I haven’t read the original article that seems to have pissed so many off. It’s in the April issue of Vogue and purchasing Vogue isn’t on my budgeted list. The original article by Dara-Lynn Weiss, talks about how she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet. My dismay (along with others, I’m sure) is the way she went about it. In her own account, she talks about berating her daughter in public and focusing most of their private conversations around her daughters need to lose weight… I did mention she was 7, right?

I’m thinking Mrs. Weiss’ name will come up in future therapy sessions way more often then mine.

But… here’s the thing.

I think my youngest daughter is pretty and I do tell her this, often… physically attractive. I tell her I see her beauty in her mouth and her nose and her eyes that always pierce straight through to my soul. I see her beauty in the way she laughs and cries and screams and flashes those looks of contentment. I also think I need to show her how to be healthy by being consistently healthy myself — not by putting her on a diet or ridiculing her in public.

I think my oldest daughter is amazingly gorgeous — long and lean and silky hair and eyes that are a color that hasn’t been named yet. I tell her this often. She is also a brilliant reader and writer, an amazingly focused student, kind, and funny, and just the perfect amount of smartass to round her out. And I don’t think she dresses like a slut, I’m not even sure what a slut dresses like… a suit and tie, micro shorts, dread locks? I don’t know. And, I’m glad she stopped me as I ventured down a path that pisses me off when I hear others venturing down it — what we wear does not define who we are nor does it invite unwanted advances or unwanted criticism.

And my son… he’s absolutely adorable — long hair, long eyelashes, a smile that makes girls faint. I tell him how cute he is all the time. I tell him how kind he is all the time, almost saint like really. He’s smart and funny and laughs loud enough to catch a whole room on fire with his charm.

So, will they need therapy when they’re older — possibly.

Will they blame a mother who focused all her attention on their outward appearance — hell no.

Back to the article… I’m not necessarily counted in the “backlash” group. I’m not sure there’s an “I concur” group related to this but I’m sure I wouldn’t belong to it either. I’m just a mother who learned from the mistakes of my past and my mothers past and her mothers past. I’m a mother who thinks my kids are attractive and smart and kind and funny — the order of those changes, as it should.

My children, like your’s, are beautiful and have great hair and gorgeous smiles and enough intelligence to take-over the solar system and enough kindness in their souls to warm the Grinch’s icy heart.

I may think I’m shaping them into the adults they will become… but, really, they’re shaping me into the mother I will become.

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

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Shape me…

into the girl you thought I was,

dressed in ruffles with bows in my hair.

Tell me…

that love means hearts get broken,

that being bruised is better than nothing at all.

Hear me…

when I tell you my truth,

my truth doesn’t match yours.

See me…

when I wave my hands in your face,

desperate for a gleam of recognition.

Feel me…

when I’m tugging at your sleeve,

hoping for a minute of your time.

Listen to me…

goodbyes are important to get right,

this one seems so hollow.

Look at me…

past your keyhole view,

into the eyes of a complicated being.

Think about me…

questions coming into focus,

the searching will never end.

Accept me…

this is who I am,

standing here reaching, just reaching.

Shape me…

always learning,

always becoming more.

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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Just sleep,

I’ll sit here,

I won’t make a sound while I watch you contentedly as the night rolls around.

I’ll glance past the dark, making sure you’re asleep, I want to keep you safe… even in your dreams.

Is that alright with you?

Go play,

I’ll be here,

I’ll watch you from this chair as you turn the corner and I can barely see the shine of your hair.

I’ll squint my eyes until you’re far from my sight, I want to keep you safe… even when you play.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll drop you off,

Eyes straight ahead.

Whispering, “be careful”, before you open the door, and when you walk away I’ll whisper it once more.

I can see you lighting up the world with your smile, I want to keep you safe… even if I’m not on your mind.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll cry when you leave,

I’m sure of that,

I’ll walk past your room and take a moment or two, closing my eyes to think of you.

I’ll smile and touch your door, I want to keep you safe… even when you’re away.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll smile.

I’ll laugh.

I’ll wipe my own tears, I’m overcome with all those motherly fears.

Stand under my umbrella, it’s big enough for us both, I want to keep you safe… every minute of the day.

Is that alright with you?

Letting go is so hard,

The pain takes a seat just so it can linger.

No worries, this umbrella will keep you from harm, me underneath it with my outstretched arms.

I’ll welcome you back, I always want to keep you safe… even when I can feel your embrace.

Is that alright with you?

I’ll smile,

I’ll cry,

I’ll remember,

I’ll live.

I’ll walk away when I need to…

I’ll hang around as long as I can…

I’ll let go and I’ll hold tight and we’ll dance that dance…

under my umbrella.

Is that alright with you?

 

This poem was sparked by the incredibly talented Pam Carlson , her doodle magic and her ever sparkling, kind, lovely self.

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i should write a poem when i’m pissed off,

the words will spit fire from the page,

the images i conjure will illustrate my rage,

but writing a poem when i’m pissed off makes me smile…

and then i’m not pissed off anymore.

i should write a poem about my heart being battered and bruised,

the things i say will tear at your soul,

i’ll lay out all my pieces and you’ll try to console,

but writing a poem about my bruised heart makes the pain go away…

and then i don’t feel so bruised anymore.

i should write a poem when i know i have truth on my side,

the more words i write, the more suspicious it sounds,

even i will start to question the truth that’s lying around…

but writing a poem with truth on my side makes me question,

and then truth isn’t on my side anymore.

i should write a poem when my mind can’t settle down,

the thoughts will be jumbled and completely confused,

the words will leave you more than bemused,

but when i write a poem when my mind is jumbled…

i don’t question the clarity anymore.

i should write a poem when i’m happy and content,

the sappy words would be oh so sweet,

the sticky taste is just a deceit,

but writing a poem when i’m happy and content leaves me bored…

and when i’m bored i’m not happy anymore.

i should write a poem about the cruelty of silence,

i should write a poem about the helplessness of being misunderstood,

i should write a poem about the bravery of just being.

i should write a poem about…

 searching, finding, losing, struggling, holding on and letting go…

 falling down, getting up, being stuck and daring yourself to move…

 being depressed, being relieved, learning to lose and learning to love…

i should write a poem about how we are always always becoming, always…

i think i’ll write a poem…

i got no other plans.

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