Monday, January 23, 2012


No, not that kind.  I'm not promoting MY self. 

But in Monday Morning Moms today, we talked a bit bout how we teach our children to present themselves. The discussion began with a t-shirt for a 4 year old boy that we all agreed was pretty offensive (I'm not going to share the t-shirt lest I offend the original gift-giver).  It was sold by a major children's clothing brand that we all felt should know better.  But even more than the actual content of the message lingered the question: how do we teach our children to be presentable?  On one hand, it is our job to make sure that our children know how to put their best foot forward.  On the other hand, we should be letting them figure out who they are in the world and how to express exactly who they are.  Where is the line?

We all agreed that some battles are worth fighting.  Girls should not be dressed like prostitutes if for no other reason than it sends the message to this broken world that childhood is free for sexualizing.  But others were a little trickier at the negotiating table.  T-shirts with logos or obnoxious (though non-offensive) messages?  Hair that hangs in their beautiful eyes?  And what about dressing for occasions: Do we enforce dressing up for church or let it go so that they have good feelings about this place that we want them to love?

We talked a bit about how to navigate the tricky waters of letting our kids grow and develop their own tastes but also letting them know that what they look like makes and impression on the people they come in contact with.  As with so much of what we discuss, there's no easy answer.  There's no gold standard.  

Curiously, in our house, none of this came to issue until we had a daughter.  Our son's clothes were pretty standard and non-exciting.  And except for the occasional favorite t-shirt that he wanted to pull out of the dirty hamper, we've never tussled over what to wear.

Our daughter is different.  I'm not sure why, whether it is personality, culture or some kind of subconscious influence from her parents, but our 2 1/2 year old girl is very particular about what she wears.  And there seems to be no pattern to it.  Jeans one day, tutu the next, but always with strong and purposeful opinions.  Mostly, as long as she is covered, we don't care, but we are both aware that there will come a day when we will care, when she will want to wear or do something with/on her body that is outside the realm of where we as her parents feel comfortable.  That might happen with our son, too, but the truth is, the possibilities are different with boys, mostly because of the models of sexualization of women and girls. 

And because of both of these, we end up in the tricky trap of spending more time caring about what our daughter wears than what our son wears.  Which means, in a backwards and ridiculous way, we are feeding right back into the message we are trying to avoid: that what she wears matters.  And that what he wears doesn't.

I'm overblowing this a little.  In our house, we don't really think a whole lot about what we wear (some days, this is painfully obvious!).  But as we raise these two little rugrats, I am constantly thinking about the messages we send them about how to be in the world.  I want to balance out the (very real) idea that how they present themselves is important with the idea that who they are and how they treat others is even more important.

This is a hard message to impart when every advertising message on television, radio, billboards, t-shirts and elsewhere tells them that their worth is tied to what they look like and how much they consume.  Just countering those messages with messages of the unconditional love of God and parent is a full time job in itself.

Add that to the need to keep feeding them and it is no wonder we moms are always so worn out!  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

World Prayers

Do you know about this?
You should.  And you should think about using it.
I hope it makes your heart sing like it does mine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why I run

I used to hate running.  A lot.

I've always been active. I've tried all manner of sports.  I was a ballet dancer for eleven years.  I've taken karate and fencing.  I love to ski and I'm a pretty good swimmer.  I'm a terrible soccer player, but I've done that, too, and played Ultimate Frisbee on a team.  I've done backpacking and boxing and rock climbing, spelunking and rollerblading and tennis and horseback riding.

Actually, I'm terribly uncoordinated.  The more equipment that's involved, the more likely I will foul it up.  This is not false modestly.  Ask anyone in my family.  I'm legendarily clumsy. Tennis was a disaster.  And I have the distinction of being the only member of my high school swim team to have sustained a bleeding injury during a meet.  I ran into a starting block.  No, I'm not kidding.

I didn't discover running until after graduate school.  I tried it in college but never really caught the bug.  But after I graduated from Yale and moved to a new city with a new husband and new house and no job, I started running because there was nothing else to do with myself.  I couldn't afford a gym, I didn't know anyone and didn't have any other access to any kind of equipment.  I ran to learn my new neighborhood and to work out my frustrations at the lonely situation I was in.  And it worked.

I kept running even after things worked out.  We moved to a better city (my hometown) and a better house.  There was still no money for a gym and by that point, it didn't really matter.  Who needed a gym?  I had shoes!

I have been running ever since.  I've taken breaks for pregnancies and new babies but keep coming back. There are so many reasons I run now, and none of them are finances or desperation.  #1 on the list is that running keeps the crazy from taking over.  When I run, I work out my anger and my extra energy.  Over those miles, I focus my head and think about what I've got coming up in the days,weeks and months ahead.  I pound out the answers to daily irritations and celebrate minor victories.

I pray.  And I pray and pray and pray.  My best prayers are when I am running because they are raw and unedited.  I don't have enough extra space in my running brain to be polite and gentle with God and so my running prayers are exactly what I need to say.  When I am running, I remember to trust that God is big enough to handle what I need to unload.  And so far, God has proven trustworthy on this point.

Finally, I run because running is one of the few things in my life that is all mine.  I can share it if I want to, but I don't have to.  If I run an extra three miles that day, I did it by myself.  If I fail to wake up and get my backside in gear, I'm the only one to blame.  I live an incredible life filled with incredible people. I consider it a great honor to share myself with them.  But I also know that I need something that is just for me.  Running is a room of my own (to blatantly steal from Virginia Woolf).  I don't have to please anyone but myself.  I don't have to accomplish anyone else's goals or make anyone else happy or satisfied.  There's no one else to disappoint or shortchange.  Running is just for me.  I need that little pocket of selfish in my life in order that there is enough of me--healthy-- to distribute according to the needs of others.  

That's my brand of crazy.  That's why I run. 

What about you?  What is your selfish thing?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Each day is a blessing
of epic proportions.
I give thanks for
what might seem meager comforts:
real cream in my coffee,
a day without a bill in the mail,
the Paso Doble.
Sometimes life is a dance
a woman has to do backwards
pushing against the wind
and obstacles in the way.
Thank You for being the partner
who always leads.

Paso Doble - Ruth Williams

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful celebration this weekend.  I'm a New Years Grinch and think it is by far the most overrated holiday on the calendar.  So I donned my pjs and bathrobe and watched Dick Clark with my sweetheart then fell promptly to sleep at 12:02 a.m.  And as strange as it sounds, we haven't even bothered to explain the New Year to our kids.  They haven't really figured out the days of the week yet, so a whole new year would just blow their little minds. 

As I am a Grinch for this holiday, I am also anti-resolutions.  But I did hear a great piece on NPR about the New York City tradition of shredding bad memories at the end of the year in order to start fresh in the new year. 

We've had a pretty good year, though I know many people, people I'm close to, that are perfectly happy to say goodbye to 2011.  I like the idea of shredding the bad memories, a physical and symbolic (dare I say liturgical?) act for getting out the bad juju to make way for the good.  The people waiting in line were not actually shredding ex-boyfriends--as much as some may have liked to-- they were shredding old letters and photos, symbols of soured relationships.

But I have just enough Pollyanna in me that I don't want to leave any year in complete shreds.  Every year has its blessings, even when the year seems as bad as it can be.  So this year, I'm going to think about three things:

Something I’d like to NOT repeat in 2012.
Something that I discovered in 2011 that I’d like to bring into 2012.
Something brand new that I’d like to “try on” in 2012.

My hope is that I can find things to bring into the new year that show that I am actually learning, that I am moving forward.  Not everything is "out with the old and in with the new." New is great and sometimes old needs to go, but there is great value in hanging on to what works. 

So how would you answer these questions?