Just Say Yes. (meg on video)

A few months ago, I got to visit with the gang on The Matt Townsend Show and talk about our right, our obligation, our privilege! to "say yes" more often in life. Check out the clip. And have a yes filled weekend. Love ya'll. (Look at that opening screen shot...sooooo flattering.)

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze and make happy, angry, silly, serious and just plain insightful comments and conversation.

Life as we know it

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Hey there. Well, things have changed a bit around here. New website name, new look, same old me. My new logo is still incoming from a dear friend, so I've thrown something up in the header until she's done. Once she is finished, this whole space will feel so much...well...more alive. Until then, bear with me. Why the change? I'm simplifying everything in my life and a website composed of mostly blank space with a few words scratched across it seemed like it fit right in with what I'm doing in my offline spaces.

I'm still Meg in Progress, I'm just doing all that painful and glorious progressing under my own name now.

Things are going alright around here. Speaking more honestly and listening more intently. And cooking with the kids, especially wee chef Viola. And still forgetting to turn in Zuzu's homework on time. You know, life as we know it.  

How are things with you?

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze, leave happy, angry, prophetic, silly or just plain dang insightful comments. Can't wait to talk to you there.

The Listening Place

christinas-world-2

christina's world - wyeth

I was at my aunt's house the day she died. Everyone had gathered there to be with her on her last day here. Margaret was just a few months old and I didn't feel much older. I hated to go to that leaving-place empty handed and so spent our grocery money on buckets of fried chicken. The atmosphere in the house was solemn and loving and laughter. I took Margaret to my aunt and that sweet woman held her just hours before she left this world to be born into another.

I was in the kitchen with a few family members when her death began in earnest. I tried to stay light and bright. Laughing and lifting. Suddenly,  I felt a change run through the room. A crashing, enveloping thing. I felt disturbed by it and talked louder through its ripples. A moment later my cousin hurried into the room,

"She's gone."

My thoughts on our  literal spiritual connections to one another are still evolving. I don't know much, but I do know that something told me she'd just left. I talked through that sacred communication because I always seem to think it's my job to talk everyone through everything...including myself. I made a promise that day to never be louder than the things I am meant to hear.

A little less than five years later, I sat in a hospital waiting room with my brother and sisters. My mom was in the hospital room with my dad. I was talking loudly and smiling and teasing. I doubt it did much to help those around me...but I think I was trying to laugh and lift. A nurse walked in and told us my dad had a heart episode - the medical team was working on him. I stopped talking and walked out into the hall by myself...quiet and waiting for the communication I felt certain was moments away. I could nearly feel it...the pull back before an oncoming wave. The nurse came back and met me in the hall.

"He's stabilized."

I went back into the waiting room and told the people that loved him. I tried to talk loudly again, to shout down the ebb I still felt pulling through my veins. A few more minutes and my mom was there in the doorway. It hadn't worked. He was leaving.  As I ran through the hallway to that damn room and that damn goodbye, I tried to keep my footsteps light so that I could hear what I knew was coming.

A few minutes with him in that black wired room and the wave came crashing down.

On Sunday, he had been gone for a year. It was a busy day. Family and obligations and dinner to be made. We went to his grave and left flowers. The girls talked about heaven and Papa's favorite pinto beans. I spent a lot of time giving more volume to my words than they deserved.

But somewhere between loudly talking about how it was "a sacred day, not a bad day" and declarations of peace, I stood still in the center of everything that moves. I breathed deeply and listened closely for the things I'd been too loud to hear.

And they were many. And they were gracious. And they did not stay long enough.

Wordsmith

  NPG x131784; Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Trafalgar Square by Unknown photographer, printed by  Central Press

We are all waiting to hear what you have to say. (Emmeline Pankhurst speaking at Trafalgar Square)

I love Facebook. I know, I know. There are all those articles out there about how young people are leaving FB and it's going to be obsolete and it can give you hives...or something. It used to be cool to have facebook profile. Now, when people mention they have one they quickly follow the statement up with,

"But I only check it like maybe once a week."

Which is all well and good. But listen, I've never really been one to care whether I was on trend or not. As was absolutely evidenced by the lack of chevron in my house eight years ago. So, I'll say it again. I love Facebook. I love the articles from the NY Times and Forbes and The Economist that my thoughtful friends post. I love the sharing of various Jimmy Fallon clips. And I love, I love the way I have been able to stay in touch with people that would otherwise have been mostly lost to me.

Last night, I was on my way to bed when I decided to check out the ole' FB. Thank goodness I did.  I was greeted by the loveliest message from a woman I very much admire and very much no longer get to see as she lives in my hometown.

Made me think of you when I was reading this book-- "A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd. I think you'd like it too. Quote: "So you keep catching them words, you hear? Pluck them out of the wind. String them together like the finest set of pearls. Line them up on paper. And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them into a story. But don't waste them. Your words matter more than you know. You hear?"

Isn't that lovely? And my goodness, exactly what I needed to read right now. "And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them in a story." Life, my dear friends, has at times seemed too painful for words. But, I suppose that isn't really giving life or words the credit that is due. This quote spoke to me, but I know it should absolutely ring out for you. Because your words, your voice matter more than you know.

We need them more than the finest set of pearls.

Let's sing together now.

That Nationwide Commercial is a Symptom of a Bigger Social Ill (for reals)

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This kid will never get married.

Listen,

I'm a red-blooded American, so yeah, I watched the Super Bowl last night. And ate nachos. And french dip sandwiches with juice that sopped into the crusty bread with cheese on top that was just crunchy enough to make the textural interplay between soft and hard interesting AND delicious. Also ice cream. Also chips and dip. And yeah, I also watched the game and rooted against the Patriots, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT YOU DO ON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY.

But I was really there for the ads. I teared up when Always successfully unsettled the stereotypes against girls in their old, but still good, Like a Girl commercial. Fighting against anti-girl rhetoric while selling something? Sure, I'm in. (Who says capitalism is bad?) I was confused when Nissan seemed to imply a new car made up for missed childhood. And I was tickled enough to giggle a little when Steve Buscemi decided to kick it with the Bradys for Snickers.

And then in between jokes about screaming animals and Kardashian spots, we had that Nationwide commercial about dead kids. I lost my appetite and had to put down my french dip sandwich long enough for all the crusty bread to become soggy. And then when my appetite DID come back? About a quarter later? I HAD TO MAKE A NEW SANDWICH. The travesty, guys.

But seriously, what a bleepload of a commercial. As a mother, I was not offended merely by it's exploitative nature.  Commercialism by nature IS exploitation. The message of dead babies while families are watching together - many of whom have lost children in the way depicted - was pretty disgusting. Abhorrent once it was followed up with a call to profit in the form of Nationwide's logo. However, that was not, in my opinion, the most nefarious part of the commercial.  No, the worst part was the impossible burden it placed on reality and the families that live within it.

It was a 48 second spot of a dead child talking about the things he'll never be able to do because he died in an accident. This was then followed by images of accidents - a full bathtub, poison under the kitchen sink, A FALLEN TV WITH GLASS SHARDS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. (At this point my five year old looked at me worried, "Mom! Did that kid get crushed by a TV? CAN THE TV KILL US?" Only if you keep trying to watch SpongeBob on it, kid.) The spot closed with the Nationwide logo and a call to Make Safe Happen. As if any accident, any abnormality, any tragedy can only occur because of things you failed to do.

Well, you know what, Nationwide? Your smug certainty isn't needed in my uncertain world.

You're feeding into a narrative that I've heard all too often as I've begun raising my kids. The one that gets parents investigated by the police for letting their kids walk home alone. Everyone is a predator, childhood should be handled and delivered in an air conditioned, controlled environment. The one that leads to measles outbreaks in three states. All you need to do to be healthy is wash your hands. Also, I'm protecting my children from autism. Also, those diseases weren't that bad, they were NATURE! And these vaccinations aren't NATURE. (Damn right, they're not. Thank goodness. Nature can be terrifying.) Also, I'm making safe happen for my child, who cares what happens to yours. The one that has parents handing their kids iPads instead of insisting they go out and climb trees. Sure, all that tree climbing leads to wonder and independence BUT THEY COULD BREAK A LEG! Isn't there a tree climbing app??

The very best piece I've found written on this new phenomenon is The Overprotected Kid. Read it. It's worth your time.

We can't choose between a completely safe world and a world of threats. That choice doesn't exist. We can teach our kids how to navigate a reality chock a block full of danger, but we can't make safe happen. Not really. We can use common sense (don't leave your kid alone in the bath, keep that rat poison in a well guarded place, bolt your TV to the wall, etc). We can try. We can, when we're lucky, succeed in keeping our little charges mostly unbroken. But, we can't make safe happen because we don't live in a safe world. The ad warns about preventable accidents. You know what? Most accidents are considered preventable when viewed in hindsight. That's kind of why they are called "accidents" not "inevitables". But the dangers that lurk aren't products of our failure, they are symptoms of mortality. And no matter how much we try, at the end of the day all we can do is guard against a state of being that will...despite our very best efforts...eventually hurt and take some of our babies. This isn't anyone's fault. Moms and Dads, this isn't your fault.

It's just life.

And it seems to me that an insurance company, of all organizations, should understand that harsh, but standing, truth.

It's a Good Thing

picktherightthing

this girl.

Yesterday. Ahhhhh, yesterday. Do you ever look back on your yesterday and think,

Well, that was a &*%#storm.

No? Probably only because your inside your head language is more elevated than my inside my head language. I bet when you look back on your bad yesterday's you think,

My goodness. That could have ended up much lovelier than it did, couldn't it? Oh, bobbins.

Which is really just "nice" for &*%#storm.

Honestly, without hyperbole? Most of the day was pretty standard. There was even the brief high point where I figured out how to make a chicken curry salad that is supposed to make me skinny. (As long as I only eat it, drink water, and exercise three times a day.)

And then we went to Target.

Zuzu has been saving her money and had two dollars to spend in Target's Dollar Spot. She'd been looking forward to it all day and we headed over there as soon as she was out of school. Here's the thing about my lovely, helpful, smart, imaginative Zuzu. Choice is something she takes very seriously. The thought of somehow choosing wrong - of getting the pulled pork when maybe the chicken tenders are better, selecting just one bedtime story when there are hundreds of book covers calling, picking the $2 art kit when the $2 sticker book might have truly been the one path to transcendence - is completely paralyzing for her. So when I told her she could pick something out with her money, I knew what I was signing up for - 25 minutes of debate, fretting and finally, fearful but resolute decision making.

Only, that wasn't what I got.

We were in those three aisles for nearly an hour. Hemming and hawing and worrying.  You know, this wasn't a matter of her wanting more than her due. She was happy to stick to what she could afford. It was, rather, a moment of her feeling the fear of a wrong choice and the discontent of a lack of the perfect option.I talked kindly, I gently suggested, I calmly reminded her we needed to leave in just a moment over and over and over again. Until it really was time to leave and she still had not been able to settle on any one item.  She cried as we checked out, her sister paying for the $1 treat she had picked within the first two minutes of searching the store. She cried in the parking lot. And she cried on the car ride home. And then she cried in her bedroom. Because,

"You didn't give me enough time! I just need one more last chance! It isn't fair! It was so easy for Viola to choose! Vi is so lucky. I just want to go back! I want to choose again! I'll be faster! MOM! It was just so hard."

I stayed calm in the face of her very real upset and tried to teach through her tears.

"Zuzu, listen. When you're faced with treats you don't like, just keep saving your money for the future. If there are too many things that you like, that's a blessing! Don't feel worried about missing out on the right thing, just pick a good thing and enjoy it! It doesn't become less good because other goodness exists. You can spend your life worried about what you should have done, should have chosen, or you can spend your life engaged in what you're actually doing. And listen, sometimes, your last chance really is your last chance. We get to go back and try this again tomorrow. But that isn't always the case.  I need you to learn to have confidence in your ability to choose and your ability to act. You deserve that."

And, as is so often the case, somewhere between the "Zuzu, listen" and dinner that night, I realized that everything I said to my little girl was something I could say to myself.

Don't worry about missing out on the right thing, pick a good thing and enjoy it.

Your choice doesn't become less good because other goodness exists.

Do not worry about what you could have done. Get engaged in what you are actually doing.

There are not limitless chances for our hopes, our dreams, our obligations. Sometimes, opportunities really do run out. But, on those priceless occasions when you are given another shot - take it and run with it and only look back long enough to wave to us from the places you are going.

We each deserve to have the confidence to act.

After dinner, I pulled Zuzu onto my lap.

"You know that lesson you learned today? Mommy is learning it, too. Wanna work on it together?"

She did. So we will.

Choice. It's a concept that is often on my mind. Other thoughts on its role in female life, here.

I am an Abolitionist.

IMG_1751  

It’s a Wednesday morning. The girls are settled into a viewing of Maleficent (ahhhh, the blessing and the curse of easy rentals from Amazon Prime). I’m sitting next to them, bundled up in blankets. Their feet tap against my legs and they lean their heads into my arms and neck. I belong to them, I take care of them, I live for them. And every unconscious lean into, hold onto and snuggle against from them is a manifestation of their understanding of whoI am and what I will do for them. It’s easy to take those touches for granted. Easy to think what they’ve given me, what I’ve given them, is merely a matter of course.

Of course, it’s not.

Last night, I attended an early screening of the movie The Abolitionists. A documentary following the efforts of Operation Underground Railroad to rescue children from the iron grip of human trafficking and sex slavery. I’ve worked directly with O.U.R. In August, I went on an undercover sting with them in the Dominican Republic. While there, my skin was touched by human traffickers as we shook hands and I pretended to want they were selling.  My heart was branded with the faces of the children as they marched past me at the end of the operation, out the door and onto a different, better life. My life was changed. I know firsthand the, at times, miraculous works of O.U.R. And yet, the movie last night pushed me back into my seat and pulled my eyes wide open.

These children, with no mother to lean against, are bought, sold, raped, beaten, drugged and then bought and sold again. They are babies and adolescents and nearly women that never had a nearly childhood. The problem is growing. Millions of big spirits in little bodies are enslaved. The purveyors of the purchased and stolen children are often family members and fellow countrymen. Those that buy nights with the children? Mainly Western men. Americans, Europeans and Canadians. $300 will get you seven hours with a little girl or boy. Hours filled with abuse, violation and hurt. It’s a worldwide problem, spreading with the intensity of a wildfire and most law enforcement agencies are not equipped to deal with a slow burn, let alone the ravages they are encountering everyday.

Last night an audience of a thousand people watched the inner workings of an organization that thinks outwardly and upwardly. OUR goes into other countries and works hand in hand with the local governments to stem the tide of slavery. Yes in the movie, bad guys were caught and evil was disrupted. But the beauty of OUR is that they understand that while catching the criminals is necessary and invaluable, their focus remains on the children. We saw babies rescued from the filth and despair of an orphanage run as a front for child trafficking. We heard the stories of girls that had been rescued from a daily life of darkness infused with violation. Girls that hurt and never expected to stop being hurt. Girls that “never knew there were people out there that worried about girls like me.” Girls that even amidst the lingering pain and trauma are finally learning to dream again. To see the value in life and, oh my blessed heaven, to see the value in themselves. And we saw men and women willing to sacrifice hard-earned resources, time with their families, and physical safety to save even one life.

We did not leave the theater asking, How are the members of OUR able to do that hard and inglorious work? We left the theater asking the unsettling and ultimately uplifting question, How can we not be involved? There is no way out of this obligation to save. And I thank the Ever Living Lord for that.

Because, here’s the thing. These children? They belong to all of us and we belong to them. We must take care of each other. We must live for each other. It’s the only way. We must give them someone to lean against, finally, until they are able - for the first time truly - to stand up on their own. We must manifest through our actions and our heart hurt care, that we can see who they are and that we know, WE KNOW, that they are worth even more than our best efforts and grandest sacrifices. We must strive to give them the opportunity for the expansive kind of love that I take for granted on an average Wednesday morning.

And we must do it now.

 The Abolitionists will debut in Utah in the coming weeks. Across the nation, as circumstance and distribution allows. Until then, you can help by raising awareness and raising money. We can raise awareness by talking about this on social media, at lunch amongst friends and in our homes. Write down the reason you are an Abolitionist and then ask your friends to do the same by sharing it on IG, Twitter and Instagram.  On average, it costs a mere $1,500 to rescue a child from a life of slavery. It doesn’t take many of us to raise that kind of money. Become an Abolitionist by committing to donate $5 a month. For the cost of a couple of diet cokes, you will be literally saving a child. Start a campaign of your own. This isn’t just a call to action, this is a call to save, to heal, to make whole.  And I know, I KNOW, you will answer it.

 Because you are worthy of this task just as surely as those children are worthy of rescue.

 Amen.

Watch the trailer for the The Abolitionists

Three Crazy Things You Should Do Every Day

crazy lady

She's crazy.

Three Crazy Things You Should Do Every Day

1. Voice your most critical thoughts.

Listen, we’ve all been there. It’s 10:05 in the morning. You still haven’t showered. Your kids are on their fourth episode of Curious George. The house is a mess. And the monologue in your head starts,

“Well. Today’s a bust. I guess I’ll just try again tomorrow. I bet every mom in the world is making organic crafts with their kids - their kids that are all potty trained and know how to read and write to the president about social issues and never fight with each other and always wear clothes from swedish catalogues without ever spilling on them ever. I should have been a mom like that, not a mom like this. Maybe if I shower, it will help. Of course, I don’t know what I’ll wear after the shower. Nothing fits. I used to be so cute, Maybe I’ll just have potato chips and ice cream for breakfast. Yeah, let’s start with that and see if it helps.”

And then you do, and you’re surprised when it doesn’t.

Here’s an idea. When you are thinking all that utter nonsense...close your eyes and say it outloud. If you overheard someone saying all that bleep about themselves or someone else what would you do? You’d be sympathetic or indignant, but you wouldn’t think it had merit. Me?? I’d probably laugh, tell them to get over themselves, take a shower and get going. Listen, most of our inner criticism is too ridiculous to survive reality. So make it real. Take a look at it’s malformed inaccuracies and then toss it over your shoulder in the garbage heap where it belongs. You deserve to move about unencumbered by your own untruths. Own that and then get up and get going.

2. Work towards a far-fetched dream.

Adulthood doesn’t do away with our most fantastic and hopeful selves. It just buries that person below the mortgage and the stretch marks and the cynicism we all pack on like so much armor. Well, you know, it might be time to get over adulthood. Pick a big or little dream that seems beyond your circumstance and take one tiny step toward it a day. In this season in my life, there are days when my most far fetched dream is a clean house - and I get as close to that as clean counters above a toy strewn floor. Other days I can feel beyond my walls and I write a page of that book I hope to see on a shelf some day. As I grow older, I am realizing that the type of dream doesn’t matter as much as our willingness to devote time to it. When I dedicate my resources, minutes, and a sense of validity to even the simplest of my heart strung hopes, I am acknowledging my personal worth and ability to contribute. And I am discovering that mere acknowledgement is the catalyst of more forward movement than any actual dream I’ve ever actually dreamt.

3. Act with Love

Acting with love in a world motivated by so many unloving things is really, really crazy. But it is also my most moving act of insanity for my most immoveable days. I can’t control the world outside my door. Hell, I can barely control the world INSIDE my door. I have no hand in whether I’m invited to THAT playgroup, or THAT book club, or THAT party. I can’t make people read my writing. I can’t force the world into the shape I think it should assume. What can I do? I can decide get rid of reaction as a means of survival or supremacy. I can replace it with deliberation, with empathy, with a decision to think the best, and a commitment to not be hurt by others inadvertent actions. I can reach out. I can bring in. I can circle round.  I can act out of love. Especially when it comes to forgiving and believing in my most imperfect, ever reaching self.

Here’s to more crazy days.

From the Outside Looking In

tuesdaymorning

Tuesday Morning Still Life

I’m not where I want to be.

Mornings aren’t organized. The girls watch too much TV. I consider it a triumph when we carve even an hour or two out of the day to be productive and creative and together. I’ve had a hard time writing. I’ve had a hard time cleaning. I’ve had a hard time keeping in touch. I’ve had a hard time…

I’ve had a hard time.

So I’ve been reading. Medieval history, southern cookbooks, organizational gurus, Tolstoy, Austen (again and again), Early Christian writers, CS Lewis, Harold Bloom, Plath and Dickinson and Auden. And so many biographies. Pages that peer into the lives of the famous, infamous and merely human. Words that connect me to a mortal experience removed from mine by era and value and gender. And I’ve come to love these people - even the ones I’ve hated. In understanding them, I’ve forgiven them or sat back with greater awe in the face of their achievements, even the ones that were never known beyond the walls of their hearts. (Well, not known until some really snoopy biographer was like, “I will find her journals and expose their contents to the world! For money! I mean...for the greater good!” Then whispers, “and money.”) I’d just finished Manchester’s opus on Churchill when I realized I was giving these never-met people more room for imperfect living than I was giving myself.

I know what has happened to me. I know where I’ve tried and where I’ve let things fall. I know the battles I’ve won and the battles I continue to fight. I know the things that brim to the tops of the walls of my heart. What if I started to look at the last year the way a biographer would view it fifty years from now? (Granted the biographer would have to specialize in obscure women that weren’t known beyond their social circle. I am sure there is someone out there in the future just dying to profile “an everyday woman who accepted her mediocrity and turned the shower on twenty minutes before getting in it every morning as a means to avoid her children FOR JUST A FEW MORE MINUTES!” Ahem.)

But really, improbable future biographer of tedium aside, what would an objective, outside paragraph or two about the past twelve months look like?

Her father’s cancer returned the month before her twenty-ninth birthday. The records we have from that time express both her faith and horror at the time of his short illness and quick death. Her relationship with her father was one of the central points of her life. There is little record left by Megan of the year that followed. As she was protective to the point of defensiveness of her family, the silence can be viewed as a decision to safeguard those she loved as well as herself. And while depression was never acknowledged, it seems apparent that it played a significant role in this scene of her life.

It was a time of upheaval. She helped her mother pack up thirty years of life and marriage and move to a new home. Her husband’s career changed. Her children reacted against circumstance and she spent much time healing them and trying to heal herself. She let long sought opportunities fall into the dishwater and worried about little slights. The regret of these unconscious decisions was, at times, crippling. In her few private writings, there is evidence of a minor faith crises and a continued search for understanding. We also encounter a real yearning for place and calling in her journals. (And by “journals”, the biographer would mean the 15 notebooks that each contained about three pages of writing spaced between five years before I moved onto another notebook to “really journal right this time.”)

The quality of the little writing she did during this period varied wildly. Spread from the enlightened to the pedantic, she seemed to be scrambling to find her voice and the words it carried. By the end of the year, she and Riley moved across town to a house with fruit trees and an office for her thoughts. Her later works reflect both the growth and hurt she experienced during this time. The woman we came to know would not have existed without this era of which we know so little.

Hmmm. It’s not the beginnings of greatness (and honestly, it would never get published, sorry pretend biographer), but it might be the beginning of understanding and forgiving myself.

And right now, I really, really need that.

(You might need it, too. What would your paragraphs look like?)

First Kiss

Start this weekend with a kiss.

I was driving around yesterday in an attempt to clear this old head of mine.

My head does feel old lately, weighted down by questions and answers and hopes and places my heart tries to reach but never quite does. Driving and listening to music while looking at the houses where other people live seems to make everything feel lighter and younger. So, I suppose was driving in pursuit of my youth when a cheesy country song came onto the cheesy country radio station.

hey, I want a kiss a girl

want to feel nervous before I kiss a girl

but then we do kiss

and it’s the first time

but I’m not nervous anymore

annnnnd I really like it

Because I like kissing new girls for the first time

Okay, I might be paraphrasing a little bit. But that is pretty damn close to accurate.

The timing seemed fortuitous. An old minded girl seeking youthful lightness is reminded by her radio that she will never have a first kiss again. And also, somewhat tangentially, that she should probably get her ipod fixed so that she no longer has to listen to local radio stations.

Eight years into a happy marriage with lovely children and trees bearing fruit it occurred to met that I’ll never have a first kiss again. It’s an odd thing, to think that you’ll never feel a feeling again. I’ll never have that moment of will he or won’t he? Will I or won’t I? What does the shape of his mouth feel like against mine? Will he kiss me into butterflies and desire or kiss me into, “Hey, this was great. Ummmm. Don’t call me because I will be in Africa for the next….ummmm….foreseeable future.” The first kiss is a beginning.

And beginnings are exciting.

Right now, my brain sometimes tries to tell my soul we are in a middle. Riley and I are tired. The kids are a delightful handful. Work is draining. The mortgage is due. There is heartbreak and hearthope. The ipod is broken…forcing me to listen to horrible country music stations that in turn force me to analyze my place in life. It’s exhausting.

A few more miles, one more bad song and I’d worked out that my brain is full of, well, bleep. Listen, yes. Once married you’ll (hopefully) stop kissing new people. But that doesn’t remove the beauty, brightness or surprise of a first kiss. Heavens, I am not the person Riley married eight years ago. And he isn’t the boy I married. We’ve changed. We’ve grown together and apart and back again. We’re developing into the people we’re meant to be. Thank goodness. Could you imagine a static existence? Every day with Riley is a day with a new man. Every kiss is the first time I’ve kissed THAT version of him. It’s fulfilling and exciting and I’ve never tired of it. I don’t need to seek the new when it is standing right in front of me.

Last night, it was late and I suppose we should have been asleep. But I hadn’t kissed the man I married yet that day. So I leaned against him and our lips hovered apart from each other for just a moment. There was just a moment of will he or won’t he? Will I or won’t I? What will the shape of his mouth feel like against mine tonight? Then the moment broke and he pulled me in.

And it felt like a beginning.


 

From Hearth and Home

art detectives young woman kneeling prayer desk david wilkie Woman Kneeling at a Prayer Desk by Sir Davis Wilkie

I try to avoid writing about religion in this space. God, yes. Spirituality, yes. The Atonement, you betcha. But religion, I leave alone. Because you can’t talk about one without disagreeing with another. Because it isn’t a universal concept. Because at the end of the day it is really just the shiny wrapping around the gooey gospel goodness. (Did I just equate The Word with caramel? MAYBE.) But today my call to write comes from within my faith tradition.

Write it I must, but read it you...may. (Tune in tomorrow for more traditional meg in progress fare.)

I am LDS. And for several years, the topic of female ordination has been one of agitation, honest hope, dutiful prayer, anger, peace, love and disenfranchisement. I have friends on both “sides” of the topic. Not that it matters much, but I fall in a third category myself - one neither those that seek ordination nor those that discourage it feel much kinship towards. This gives me the unenviable role of outsider. It also gives me a sense of objectivity. (I say a “sense” because objectivity is surely always an illusion.) I’ve wept with my friends who have felt their hearts have called them away from the church. Their choices were not made lightly. They had to decide to tear themselves apart to go. I’ve stood next to women that have decided to stay because of truths bigger than the doubts that clutter around their feet. Their choices were not made lightly. They had to decide to tear themselves apart to stay. And I’ve felt honored by every damn association with every one of them.

I thought of every one of those women today as I read the announcement by April Young Bennett. A woman on the board of Ordain Women. A fervent contributor to The Exponent. An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. According to Ms. Bennett, her stake president gave her a choice. If she wished to keep her temple recommend, she would need to step down from OW. She was allowed to remain a member. She was also told take down every article she’s ever written about Women and the Priesthood. This included the surveys she conducted asking women how they felt about their positions in the church and priesthood authority. If she complied she would have her temple recommend and access to her brother’s impending wedding. If she did not, she would lose both. Faced with exclusion from one of the most sacred events of her brother’s life, she acted as many of us would have acted...she did what she was told to do.

I’ve never read April’s work. And as of the writing of this article, I’ve decided to keep it that way. I did not want my assessment of her opinions to have anything to do with my assessment of her situation. So what do I think? With an objectivity colored only by our joint membership in this sisterhood in Zion?

I find myself hoping the facts have been misrepresented. But if they are accurate, if this is what truly happened, then I am appalled.

I cannot address her work with Ordain Women, I don’t know enough about the organization or her role within it to write about that aspect of the demands coherently. What I do know about OW has mostly left me feeling ambivalent about whether being a member makes one in open rebellion against the church. That is another discussion for another day. (I lean towards the “everybody’s invited to this party” approach.)

But I do - I DO - know about writing as a means to seek, communicate and commune as an LDS woman. These men. With their desk jobs and time away from hearth and home. With their certainty about what should be said and where and how it should be spoken. Do they have any concept of what it is like to be an LDS woman with ideas that want to run about and hopes that don’t have a name? We have joy. But the hardships are not few.

Do they know the isolation of a traditional LDS woman? Of the moments over the dishes and the children and the floors and the meals? With no weekly meetings, no lunches with colleagues, no time for personal aspiration except what is carved out of  the exhaustion of early mornings and late laundry soaked nights? How can they not understand that writing and publishing our revelations, our hopes, our hard sought answers and, yes even the imperfect act of seeking itself, is how we commune, how we find one another, how we build?

Let’s meet this stake president halfway. Let’s say he is right in his assessment of Ms. Bennett’s position. Let’s say she is wrong. Well, then. What?

Are we only to publish the things we KNOW to be right? How many things do we absolutely KNOW with a surety? Are we only to write the things that are approved by people we’ve never met? Is there no room in our journey, our places of refuge, our online board meetings for ideas that may seem irreverent or iconoclastic or fringe? Don’t we have the right to be wrong if we go about it with a love for Christ and man? If we do it without offense or broken covenant? If we’ve lost that right, then we’ve lost our pursuit of truth. I don’t know how to find The Lord without bumping around in the dark. I can’t. If you require that of me, then I’ve lost all hope of finding His light.  Thank goodness, Joseph Smith wasn't held to this same standard. He never would have survived it.

My dear Stake President.

Yes, we think and write in the public eye. We reach out across continents connected by screens and wifi. For many of us, it is that or muttering to ourselves over the dishes during naptime. Because we’ve listened to you. We’ve stayed home. We’ve raised our babies. We’ve made meals for the sick and the heartbroken and unmended. We’ve sought revelation and we’ve been confused, too, by the myriad of answers across gender and circumstance.

So we’ve written what we know and we’ve written what we hoped until we knew and hoped something better...and then we’ve written those things, too. Places like The Exponent aren’t nests of dissent, they are sanctuaries for thoughts and hearts that sometimes meet and sometimes collide. Their existence is an act of sisterhood - the good, the bad and the genuine. The fact that we let you read there,too is a testament of our hope for you - not an invitation to police and destroy. You can’t silence our faith journey simply because you don’t agree with it. You can only rejoice that we’ve garnered the strength to embark on one at all. We get to disagree with you. We get to ask questions. We get to share the revelations that have settled into our bones. You don’t get to decide what is worthy of thought or conversation.

It’s not up to you.

By telling Ms. Bennett to remove the work of her heart from the safe walls of The Exponent, you’ve told us you think her journey to the truth is unworthy of our sisterhood. By removing the surveys that recorded the thoughts of her readers, you’ve told us the feelings of women in the lay membership only deserve to be acknowledged if they reflect your own. And, most damningly, you’ve used admittance into our highest house of learning as a way to discipline someone you deemed not learned enough. You know, the next time my oldest daughter confuses how to write her bs and ds, I am going to keep her home from school. That ought to teach her about the importance of her education.

Ahem.

Did you know discipline comes from the Latin, disciplina? It means to guide, not to punish. Where else to go for guidance but the temple?

I think Ms. Bennett and I would disagree on a great many things. But I also think we would find common ground in our love of Christ, our adoration for the gospel, our thirst for more revelation and our hopeful faith in the framework of the church. Most importantly, I think, after awhile, the two of us would discover the great truth inherent in the sisterhood. We need one another. I need April. I need women like her. Women that are different from me. Women that teach me to love those that are not of my heart and mind. I need to feel something bigger than our mortal fabric pull us together. I need to sit next to her at the Temple and marvel at the same truth reflected through a prism of hearts and souls.

And, not with due respect but with respect freely given, I would say you need that, too.

In solidarity with my sisters that know, hope to know or don't know whether they know or not,  a few things I currently believe that are not doctrine:

The Word of Wisdom approves the drinking of beer. (Okay, this one doesn’t really matter...I certainly stay away from the stuff since I’ve been asked to by later prophets. But a thorough reading of D&C leaves little room for other interpretations. D&C 89: 17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.)

The Holy Ghost is a female presence. (If gender is eternal, then what do we make of that personage’s very female gifts?)

The concept of eternal progression applies to ascension from one kingdom to another in the eternities. Nearly all of us will be exalted in the truest sense of the word.

The priesthood is the Power of God, it is not withheld from women. In the fullness of  the gospel, women will regularly participate in the laying on of hands. While I do not believe my priesthood looks like male priesthood, I do believe further revelation will show us its full force and full place. Until then, I have patience.

The coming years will prove the veracity or falseness of these present convictions. And I will rejoice no matter what the outcome. Because the truth can't hurt the truth. No matter the accuracy of my current thoughts, they will have been one of many steps that led me to enlightenment. And that is a blessing I will not deny.

Original Content

cs lewis I write quotes on the back of old envelopes and keep them stuffed in drawers and perched on shelves. Today this one sang to me. I stopped trying to be original a long time ago, it was simply too much disingenuous work.

Here's the quote for those that can't read my chicken scratch,

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

CS Lewis

Let's Kill Supermom

supermom It is fairly routine for segments of society to adopt new phrases to describe their circumstances and aspirations. Cultural languages can be quixotic and, at times, grating (never more so than when they go around claiming words we once loved as their own in some weird undirected mass branding effort.) I am the first to admit that I am conversant in several cultural languages - some more elevated than others. Because of my writing and sphere, the one I find myself speaking often is Mom Who Interacts Through Social Media For Professional Or Personal Reasons (Ummmm, I am obviously open to other name ideas for this language). There are phrases and words in this language that sit comfortably in my heart and home. There are other ones that make me want to light every piece of clothing I’ve ever bought from Anthropologie on fire.

A few examples of firestarters:

Twee. Which is too bad. Because some things really ARE twee. And now I have to be like, “Wow, that is just so excessively quaint!”, when describing them. It’s a real loss on my part.

Creative. As a label, example: “As a creative, I feel….” blah, blah, blah. Living is an act of creativity. You don’t get the corner on that market. Get outta here.

Influencer. Hey. Influence this.

Dirty Hair. Any reference to it. But especially as in “X Day Dirty Hair”. We get it. You don’t always wash your hair. Neither do I. But you aren’t connecting with me through your dirtiness. You are showing me how great you’ve been able to make yourself look EVEN WHILE DIRTY. Me and my oil slicked cow lick aren’t really relating. Also. Wash your hair.

Organic. It’s like when you talk to your racist 80 year old aunt...did she have to tell you the race of the man at the store to get across the point that she was talking about a man? Well... do you HAVE to tell me the banana was organic to get across the fact that your kid likes peeling bananas? Probably not.

In the spirit of the new year, I’d like to add another word/phrase to the firestarter list.

Supermom.

I know it’s been around since we can all remember, but I’ve been seeing it get a lot of play over the last few months. It started out as a declaration - a comment followed by exclamation marks on instagram pictures of perfectly cooked dinners or photos of beautiful women shepherding their gorgeous children to their organic, no plastic playplaces lunch dates. (Oh! Your three year old won’t sit quietly in her polka dot peacoat while eating veggie sushi? Hmmmmmm.)

Slowly, Supermom has morphed from exclamation to designation. SHE, with her perfectly coiffed hair and children that eat homemade food every night is a Supermom. HER, career, wardrobe, collaborations, house, marriage is worth exclamation. THEY, are supermoms. Not like you and me, with our dishes in our sink and our hearts in our hands and our kids on the couch in front of their second tv show in as many hours. Not like us with our ordinary hopes and our average accomplishments and our marriages and motherhoods that are sometimes glistening and sometimes grimy. Supermom is something you earn. And ladies, according to us, very few are gonna qualify.

Supermom is an image based label. It’s handed out for pretty pictures and pretty crafts and pretty travels with pretty toddlers in tow. But images aren’t reality.

Listen, everything you see on social media is staged. Everything. (A good friend recently told me, "My husband asked me to send a picture of  a recipe for his coworker the other day. My first thought was, 'How do I style this?' What is happening to me? I need to step back from IG, obviously.")The pictures of perfect corners always, ALWAYS, crop out the messier whole. The make up tutorial was filmed while the kids fought in another room. The dinner was made while the beds were rumpled. The children were styled while a call to a friend was postponed. Before we get all high and mighty, let’s take a breath and acknowledge that we all do this. I mean, when was the last time you instagrammed a selfie in the middle of a fight with your husband? Just that omission means you are cropping and retouching, also. It’s okay. Aspiration for beauty does not in and of itself constitute a failure. I like the high points, too.

So where is the failure? Is it in the pretty woman’s every present and ever perfect representation of herself? I would say, no. It isn’t her job to temper our reality or manage our expectations or validate our reality. It’s our job. What do we do instead of reveling, rejoicing and revealing the things that make us each worthwhile and worth work and worth love? We swipe open our phones, scroll until we find an object of worship that just can’t seem to touch our own reality and call her Supermom. I mean she must be better than us because her life looks so much better than ours, right? And then we scroll some more and like some more and label some more until finally we bring ourselves to face the imperfect light of our unfiltered life. It isn’t fair to the women we revere and it isn’t fair to us. They shouldn’t have to live up to Supermom and neither should we.

We all deserve better.

Hey, mommas. I could get all lovey dovey and say we are ALL Supermoms and way to go and gold star and snuggles! But I think that glosses over the issue. Motherhood is hard. And there are days when I am much better at it than others. Some days are not super. And there is no gold star given for misguided effort. But increasingly, I’m learning that while the high points are many splendored things, it’s our ability and decision to wait out, kick through and breathe beyond the low points that makes motherhood an act of the extraordinary.

Supermotherhood is for suckers.

You and I are engaged in something much, much harder and much, much grander.

What A Feminist Conversation With A Five Year Old Really Sounds Like

girlsfeminism  

Little girls can be feminists, too.

A few months ago I saw an article circling the internet. It's title was something like, "Feminist Talking Points For Your Fairy Tale Reading Daughters". The only one I remember had to do with Cinderella,

"After reading the story with your daughter, ask her if she thinks Prince Charming will contribute to household chores now that he has married a glass shoe'd cleaning lady. Then impress upon her the importance of never marrying anyone ever and also the necessity of only hiring cleaning MEN. AMIRIGHT, GIRLFRIEND?"

Or something like that.

In truth, the list was a little earnest for me and may well have been some sort of satirical think piece, but I can appreciate its intent. It is important that we teach our girls to think critically, question existing story lines and understand the importance of rising above preconceived roles. Of course, what they read, watch and observe will dramatically influence the people our daughters will become. (Which is why this study is so terrifying.)

I've been working on monitoring the media my little girls drink in on a daily basis. I'm the first to admit there is FAR too much TV watching in this household, but goshdarnit, I make sure its empowering to women everywhere before I let it rot out my kids brains. Which is why my oldest daughter's love of a certain anime inspired Netflix kids cartoon had to be brutally destroyed by her evil feminist mother.

It had been a rough week. We'd all had the flu and Riley was out of town. The girls recovered in front of the TV while I slept on the bathroom tile in between barfing up everything I'd ever eaten since I was two. I let them watch kids shows and threw saltine crackers down to them when I had the strength. By the next day, we were all feeling better and Zuzu COULD NOT WAIT to show me the new fairy cartoon she'd found.

It. Was. Awful.

Leggy girls dressed like extras in Debbie Does the University. Each one breathy and giggly and twittery.  The plot point of the episode we watched had something to do with one of their boyfriends being jealous of the time his twirly-haired girlfriend had been spending with her new professor. His worry may not have been misplaced, a major plot point was that all the breathy girls did EXTRA good work on their assignments because they wanted to impress the dreamy man-professor. Because, like, my gosh, breath, heaving bosom, miniskirt, you know, breath, ooooooooh. I turned the TV off before we got to the rising action. (Thank goodness.)

It was time to "Talk To Your Daughters About The Missing Feminist Themes of Wannabe Anime Made By Italians and Then Viewed on Netflix."

"Why did you turn it off, Mom?"

"Hey, Sweetheart. We aren't going to watch that anymore. Before you get too upset, let me tell you my reasons. Okay? Listen. You are a girl. Do you know what that means? It means you are special. It means that you have worth. It means that you are smart and brave and limitless and that you can do anything you want. It means that you are important. It means that your voice has good things to say and that you should say them loudly. It means you are a hard worker. It means you are a daughter of God. It means you are beautiful, sure, but that beautiful isn't how other people see you....its in how you see yourself! You are a world mover, sister. And anything that portrays girls as being less than those things, isn't worth your time. This isn't worth your time. So we're not going to watch it in this house, okay?"

I waited a beat, proud of the directness and logic of my little speech. Maybe the Fairytale List People were right! Maybe feminist Zuzu starts right here, today!

She looked at me, brows furrowed,

"MOM! YOU DON'T EVEN GET IT! THEY AREN'T GIRLS! THEY'RE FAIRIES! GOSH!"

I really think I got through to her, don't you?

Breathe It In

breathe it in

Davy - presumably not high.

I've been reading a lot about the emergence of science in the romantic age. It was a grand time. An era when hot air balloons were dangerous miracles and man finally began to discover the invisible parts that make his whole. As I’ve swept through the breakthroughs of the men and women that came before us, it can be easy to look on the fundamentals of their research without the proper amount of awe. After all, the world I live in was built on those fundamentals - we now find ourselves reaching for higher things.

Humphrey Davy was one of the leading lights of the romantic age. He contributed greatly, but one of his most notable triumphs was the discovery of the benefits of nitrous oxide. He performed gas experiments on himself - inhaling everything from carbon monoxide to carbonic acid. Of course this kind of guinea pig approach resulted in many late nights, long headaches and bouts of vomiting. His work with nitrous oxide was both the most fruitful and most fun. He documented the effects of the gas on himself during each experiment and in the aftermath. His notes read like a delirious drug dream analyzed with a scientific scalpel. Upperclass men and women volunteered to be his test subjects - each one happy to contribute to science if it meant they got to be as high as a kite without the judgment of their peers. (Okay, there was a little judgment. Some people speculated “sexual indiscretions” occurred during the experiments with each subject a happy participant. I can neither confirm nor condemn this. Get crazy, ya old birds.)

Without really meaning to, I found myself sniggering a bit at this great man and his great discovery. At this knowledge seeking from a more provincial time. Of course, I am only able to do this when my eyes are half closed and my brain disengaged. When in that state, it is too easy to feel superior because of the knowledge we have through no effort of our own. Of course in reality, Davy’s experiments were groundbreaking and dangerous and eventually gave birth to anesthetics - a discipline that didn’t exist before his great find. During his time, pain wasn’t truly something to be avoided, it was something to be borne. His discovery of the pain obliterating effects of nitrous oxide slowly caused a shift in our understanding of the nature and necessity of pain. Anyone who has ever been in surgery owes a great debt to him. When my eyes are fully open and my brain in place, I can see that his discovery still feels new and forces me on to thought and discovery of my own.

Which is truly all a long winded way to say this: Don’t be upset or discouraged by the pace or depth of your own personal insights and discoveries. What may appear provincial to the half-sighted is truly world changing to those willing to see. Sometimes you have to inhale a lot of nonsense to reach one good conclusion. (Note: we are talking in the metaphor here, not actively encouraging drug use.) And finally, there is no higher truth, there is only truth. Any piece of it you can grasp is precious and worthy of you - no matter what other revelations are to come. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be better than. Don’t be afraid. Keep your eyes and spirit open.

Here’s to the Great Experiment.

The Hunger Games: The Katniss Dilemma

hunger-games-movie-wp_trio01 I've been thinking a lot about the changing landscape of female representation in the media. For better or worse, I find my daughters looking to the things they see in the movies as examples of what they can and should be in real life. Of course, I work to counteract that with less screen time, more books, more interaction with women who inspire, more time spent on discovering who they want to be instead of who they feel they should be. And yet, at the end of the day, the characters they meet in the movie theater really matter.

When the Hunger Games franchise first debuted I was so excited. I mean, a girl lead! Kicking butt! Righting wrongs! Asking complicated questions about personal responsibility! And then I saw the movies. Listen. Jennifer Lawrence is great in them. The world building is totally convincing.  I even kind have a thing for cute little Peeta. Don't you want to pinch his cheeks? Both sets? (Ugh. Weird Meg. You're a grown woman. Pull it together.) Gale ain't so bad either. Neither of them really seems to move the heroine, there aren't grand sparks of connection just flickers of circumstance. Despite her relative indifference, Katniss can't stop thinking about her average men. And yet, you can almost forgive Katniss' distraction over which boy to love. I mean despite the dystopian circumstances, she is only 17 and kids that age often have their priorities a little skewed. Heck, it can be argued that the lukewarm love triangle made SOME sense when most of the moving action centered around Katniss' personal circumstances.

But in this latest installment, the war has begun. People are being firebombed. Whole towns extinguished. And the plot's pre-occupation with whether Katniss kinda likes this guy or kinda likes that one seems pretty superficial. The deep connection that would make such preoccupation valid was never established. I haven't read the books, but I'm told by my cute babysitter that the story line there is equally obsessed with young love. Which brings up a question we should all be asking of ourselves,

Are we only interested in revolutionary female leads when their story is moved along by romance - even when it is of the tepid variety?

I know, I know. Hey, Meg! It's a movie. Get over it. And I totally will. Sometime. But until then, I hope to impress upon my daughters that when engaged in the work of revolution - whether its the kind that moves governments or moves their own hearts - they are strong enough to do it without the distraction of that one boy that she kinda likes almost enough to not like that other guy. It's not much of a lesson...but its more than they'll be getting from the theaters this weekend.

Hey, watch this parody from Studio C that makes my point in a far wittier (and catchier!) manner.

5 Things Actually Worth Breaking the Internet Over

kimk

Sorry, I left out the interesting bits. But I mean...check out those shoulders, amiright? (But seriously, she has really lovely shoulders.)

If you’ve drawn breath over the past few days, you’ve heard all the furor and fawning over Kim Kardashians spread (pun not intended, she kept them legs together) for Paper magazine. She and the editors of said publication have named the whole endeavor, Break the Internet, because...of course, they have. I haven’t read the profile. I think it could be easily argued that most who have partaken of the pictures didn’t get to the fine print, either. (Not that there couldn't be A LOT of depth there. Who am I to judge? I LOVED the first season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Confession over.) I won’t be linking to the pictures here because yawwwwwwwn. For those two people that haven’t viewed them, I will just say Kim K is nuded up frontways, backways and all that bare skin is shined with some hybrid of baby oil and autobody finish. For some reason, it seems like a material that would have a lot of application in the space program.

“Houston, the module won’t disengage.”

“Houston here, have you tried that stuff they used on Kim? That will disengage ANYTHING.”

The reactions seem to run the gamut from the superficially deep (what can we learn about society by observing the actions of a woman that society observes while observing society observing) to the superficially self-righteous (That bimbo should be ashamed of herself! God is watching! PLUS! She has a husband! She has children! And cats! Why does no one ever think about the damage done to the housepets!). Of course, there is also a lot of good old-fashioned lust and LOL YOU GO, GIRL! thrown in for good measure.

And I know some of my readers expect me to write about it at length. To analyze the woman and the culture and maybe even the bottom (but seriously folks, you could bounce a whole stack of quarters off that baby). Here’s the thing, though.

I just don’t care.

And you shouldn’t, either. Not really. Not beyond a glance, or a not glance, or a laugh or a not laugh. Because, to use internet terms here, we all only have so much bandwidth. If you use all your care on things like shiny bottoms, you will miss out on the things that really matter. And, may the saints preserve us, there are so many things that matter.

So. Five Things That Are Actually Worth Breaking the Internet Over

1. Last Weekend 12 Women in India Died After Being Given Tainted Medicine At A Sterilization Fair.   In rural India, most women do not have access to birth control. In a bid to control the size of the population, the Indian government goes into these rural communities and pays women $10 (two days wages) to become sterilized. Doctors perform up to 300 sterilizations a day in abandoned clinics. In this case the women were sent home immediately after the surgery with drugs that killed them within hours. The tainted drugs are a huge problem. I would argue the deprivation that led to their use is a bigger one. You want to be sterilized? Great! But its only great if that is something you've chosen. It is not great if poverty and a lack of options for other methods of contraception forced it.  Hey, here’s an idea. What if we all decided to make the effort to get these women cheap (or even FREE!) birth control something we shouted about? Wouldn’t that be a worthy way expenditure our voices, clicks, deeeeeep thoughts and cash?

2. The UN is discussing whether or not it should challenge the United States’ right to legalize pot.  Okay, okay. You got me. I don’t do drugs, so why should I care? Well, it is interesting isn’t it? The clash between a world body and a world power. Should outside sources be able to tell us what goes into Mike’s special brownies? And if we answer “YES!” simply because we don’t like pot, then what else are we answering “YES!” to in the future? The future is based on precedence and it is very possible that in defending a lil toking up now and then we are also defending greater, more personally important rights.

3. Breast Ironing is a real thing. And no one is talking about it because, like, who wants to talk about breasts that aren’t all bouncy and giggly and make you feel good inside, you know? (Okay, breasts don’t giggle. But you know there’s a few pairs that wanna.)

4. What about this fun study from the Geena Davis Institute on female representation in film?Girls and women are missing. There are 2.24 male characters for every female character. Only 30.9% of the speaking characters are female. China, Germany, Korea, and the UK have the highest depictions of female characters. Korea has the highest percentage of female leads or co-leads. UK films that are not co-productions with the US have a much better rate of gender parity. As the study notes, “as U.S. studio money comes in, females are pushed out.” Hey. Our girls can’t become what they don’t see. Wanna talk about that?

5. As our government agencies become more and more isolated from the voice of the people, brutality and corruption begin to rage. The first hurt are the underprivileged, but they will not be the last. (And why aren’t we shouting for the first???)

Okay, And then one as a freebie because not everything has to be the serious all the the times....

This guy’s rendition of I Will Always Love You. And yeah, this video is about a million years old. And no it never gets less dreamy. And yes we should all be talking about it always. And, of course, you’re welcome.

Now, let's get out there and make sure that when we break the internet we make it count.

Bam.

A Week of No Time-Outs

A Week of No Time Outs  

My oldest daughter is the kind of kid that is interested in color theory, other people’s emotions and the point of our existence. She’ll sit in front of a sheet of math problems while happily tapping her toes through each formulation. She is so much fun and so much depth. She is also still so much five year old, her imaginary games are rich and usually feature time travel, assumed scientific theories and inventions along with some sort of princess and cackling witch. She is a real, true joy.

My oldest daughter is also the kind of kid that falls apart in the face of the unexpected. She reacts with quick and loud anger to real and perceived injustice, her righteous indignation ringing against the walls of our house and my tired heart. I’m not without perspective here. I’ve been around other kids, she is neither as extreme as some or as measured as others. She is squarely in the middle, not easy, not difficult, just herself. Unfortunately, comparisons and the knowledge that “this is normal!” rarely help mediate our reactions.

When she would begin to lose it, when her eyes got wild and her fists clenched, I would start to lose it, too. Oh, no. Here we go. How long will this last? Will it become hysteria or settle before its peak? If we were in public, I dreaded the side eye of other moms. If we were at home, I looked quickly at our windows to see if they were open - imagining the shrillness of her discontent bouncing against my neighbors houses. And then my panic would begin to match her own. I said mean things like, “You are being ridiculous.” and “It doesn’t matter.” and “You are being so embarrassing.” I reasoned unreasonably, angry whispered and, on occasion, yelled.

I started putting her in time-out. It seemed the only way to protect one another from spitting words. I thought it would give us both time to calm down, reflect on what we’d done (or not done) and start again. It was the perfect solution, except that it made our lives so much worse. She cried out and slammed her hands into the door of her room. She yelled and begged and then would quiet down just long enough to say things like,

“I wish you liked to be with me when I am sad.”

Ugh. Damn. Kids. Am I right?

In between the ever increasing time outs, we were wary of one another. We escalated to frustration more quickly and Zuzu didn’t come and talk to me in the quiet moments of the day like she used to. We were spending more time apart physically and emotionally, and not just when we needed to cool off. My plan wasn’t working.

It was a particularly desperate day, I’d carried her lengthening body to time-out three times and cried twice myself. I turned on my computer and tuned out her tears. Somewhere between Facebook and my fifth buzzfeed quiz, I found an article on Time that claimed time-outs were hurting our children. I laughed a little….there’s a new guru every minute. But then, after I put away my smugness, I realized that while I couldn’t prove the time outs were hurting Zuzu long term, I did have circumstantial evidence that they were harming our relationship now. And if there was a way I could shape her and remain close to her - well, it was worth a try. I was so converted to the effort I even bought the book the article was based on, No Drama Discipline. It took me a few hours to read it and a few more to settle on attempting a little experiment. For seven days I would follow their recommendations to the best of my ability and see if it made a difference. If it didn’t, I would always have the option of a shot of whiskey at the end of every day...naptime….snack break. (Kidding! Totally! I would never. Probably.)

The Experiment

The rules were pretty simple.

1. Taking time to connect before taking time to react. When she was freaking out because she didn’t want to clean her room, hated the way dinner tasted, had her feelings hurt by the kid next door or just generally lost her bleep for no apparent reason, my first move had to be to go over and hug her. Let her know that I was there and would be there no matter what crazy antics ensued. Create a place of safety. Establishing connection would help establish more productive communication, even when the communication had to mean consequences.

2. Work to discipline, rather than punish. As the book pointed out, “discipline” comes fromt the Latin “disciplina” which means instruction, knowledge. Another word that comes from that Latin form is, “disciple” , one who is instructed, who follows. When Zuzu stepped out of line, I needed to put my focus on instruction and change of direction rather than carte blanch punishment. After connecting, move forward with instruction. Sometimes this meant consequences, cleaning up after intentional destruction, repairing relations with her sister, saying sorry, taking away tv after she lied about cleaning her room so she could watch one more show. Sometimes it just meant a really long hug and words of understanding, because don’t we all just have bleep days and bleep ideas sometimes?

3. Switch Time-Outs for Time-Ins.  This was the hardest and, perhaps most important, change. The theory goes that isolating your kids when they are at their worst teaches them that people will only want them when they are at their best. I can see both sides of this coin and understand that for many kids this would not be the psychological effect of time outs. I can also say this was EXACTLY how they were affecting Zuzu. I suppose her girlhood makes me especially sensitive to this topic - girls tend to be so predisposed to issues of self-worth and an unwillingness to make their voices heard. I wanted her to know I want her always and respect her voice enough to train it rather than silence it. So, when she acted out I would pull her closer. A bout of hysteria would mean a long walk together, reading a few stories or an invitation to help me with dinner. I guess it is the loving version of “keeping your enemies closer”. (Oh, your kids have never felt like your enemies? Interesting. Tell me more about your amazing life.)

I set the rules into place, breathed in some courage and got down to work.

The Results

I’ve always said I could never be a scientist because I have no sense of consistency. That was a true statement in the carrying out of this experiment. I was the parent I wanted to be some of the time, better than I had been most of the time and just really backslid a little of the time. I will say that the days I clung to my rules we had more peace, more understanding and less chaos. It wasn’t until four days into the seven that I realized she hadn’t pounded on one wall yet and I hadn’t yelled once. She was more thoughtful in her apologies and more thoughtful in her actions. When I sat down she started sitting next to me again and the questions that have always so entertained and instructed me started bubbling out of her mouth once more. She wasn’t defensive anymore and I found myself saying the things I wished I said rather than the things I wished I hadn’t said. Slowly, she began to seek alone time as an act of calming and meditation, a thing I had robbed her of by imbuing it with the colors of punishment.

By the tenth day our social experiment had turned attempted lifestyle. It was then that I finally took the time to acknowledge I needed the change as desperately as she did. When I think of ideal parenthood, I think of our Heavenly Father and Mother. When I am at my worst, they draw me in. When I am angry, they offer joy. When I am heartbroken, they succor me with the balm of infinite understanding. They would never make me weep, wail and gnash alone. They would never tell me I was unreasonable, ridiculous, acting as if I was too young. They guide, teach, heal and sanctify through the Holy Spirit. They lead and walk back to pick me up when I cannot follow. I mean, my goodness, when my mortal, mistake ridden, imperfect nature made reunion with them impossible, they did not throw their hands up in despair. They asked their Son to bleed alone in an empty garden and die, nailed to a cross, alone in a taunting crowd. They have never, they will never, shut a door in my shouting face. I’m trying to follow Their example.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend this has solved all our problems. I still find myself yelling at times. She still deals with anxiety and bouts of hysterical and regular old five year old fits of anger. We are a month past my little experiment and she has been put in time-out several times since then despite my best intentions. Hell, I put her in time-out this morning. I would still argue, despite everything I’ve learned, that once in awhile those time outs are absolutely needed and the only thing that saves us from each other. But, when we are at our best, when I am at MY best, I can feel us more closely emulating the relationship I know she already has with her Heavenly Parents. And while I am nowhere close to being able to even speak their names with complete understanding, I CAN see the worth they see in my little girl. And hopefully, in treating her as closely to how they treat her as I possibly can, she will begin to see that worth, too.

Amen.