Archive for April, 2009

The sensations of motherhood

5 months old

5 months old

I lead a journaling workshop on Wednesday mornings.  One of the prompts this week was to compile 5 lists of 5: 5 things you love to see, 5 things you love to hear, 5 things you love to touch, 5 things you love to smell, 5 things you love to taste.  When I decide on the prompts for class, I very deliberately do not think about what my answers will be.  So, just like for everyone else in the workshop, when I gave out the instructions and everyone settled down to quietly brainstorm their lists, I had a blank page in front of me.  But then I found these words tumbling out:

I love the sight of baby’s smile when he sees me for the first time after waking or my having been away

I love the feel of baby’s skin

I love the feel of baby’s head on my shoulder

I love the smell of baby’s skin after a bath

I love the sound of baby’s chirping

Motherhood is truly sensational– filled with experiences that delight and overwhelm your senses.  It fills you up, tears you apart, wears you down, renews your faith, gives you hope. 

We have been home for three months now, and our baby boy is now 8 months old.  He knows Lola’s name and when we say her name, he looks everywhere around trying to find her.  He knows that if he puts his hand on his daddy’s back, his daddy will turn around with a great big smile.  He knows that he will be greeted each morning by me scooping him up and saying, “Hello, critter!”  He has faith in the songs that I sing to him, relaxing into them at first verse.  His favorite toys are rubber ducks, finger sized stuffed animals that each represent one letter and come together in a zippered book as The Alphabet Train, stacking cups, an aquarium bowl that lights up and makes music when he drops two chubby little fishes into it, and his blue car.  He loves to take a bath.  He doesn’t mind taking medicine.  He has a smile that lights up our hearts and a voice that I am desperate to capture on tape before it disappears.  He observes everything, doesn’t miss a thing, cannot get enough of life.  

What I know for sure is that his is the life that we were meant to guide.  Ours are the hearts that he was meant to soften and wisen.  This is the journey that we were each meant to take.  It is humbling.  It is inspiring.  It is maddening.  It is raw.  It is real.  And it is imperfect.  But every second of it is miraculous, and our souls can’t help but look on in wonder.

April 29, 2009 at 8:09 pm 3 comments

Shut Up: Bringing America’s People to Reality

As a teacher and speaker on body image issues, I have the good fortune of going around the country to help people process the experiences that have formulated their body image while encouraging them to take control of that image– not letting it be something that someone gives to us and, instead, being something that each one of us owns and controls.  It’s not an easy thing for a person to take power over, but it’s an important thing to do. 

As I talk with various people about the experiences that have created their body image, I am always struck by the damage that individuals do to one another, the pain we inflict.  In the seminar I teach on body image, the second topic we look at is “Parents, Peers, and Body Image.”  In that class, we examine many things including what our loved ones say to us that ends up creating dings in our armor.  Last year, one of my students lamented how her mother always said to her, “You’d be so much happier if you just lost twenty pounds.”  I like to talk in those classes about the importance of finding your own voice in those situations and finding a way to make some sort of remark back, raising the awareness of the person speaking that your body isn’t up for grabs and that how they are treating you is not okay.  When we were talking through what the young woman could say to her mother who believes that she would be so much happier if she just lost twenty pounds, there were some really great suggestions.  My favorite?  “Don’t you mean that you would be so much happier, mom, if I just lost twenty pounds?” 

A few weeks ago, I was having this discussion with the students in my body image seminar this semester and someone told a story of the unbelievable thing that a loved one said to her.  I remember standing there dumbfounded and then, all of a sudden, I had a crystal clear vision– one that I had never entertained before but, all of a sudden, it was fully formed in my mind.  Here’s what came tumbling out of my mouth:

“See, this is why I need to be given my own reality television show.  It would be called Shut Up!  I would either travel around America and eavesdrop or be invited somewhere to intervene in someone’s bad behavior.  Specifically, my job would be to teach people to be more careful about what they say and how they say it.  So when a mom says to her daughter that she’d be happier if she lost twenty pounds, there I would appear to teach that mom why she shouldn’t be saying that sort of stuff.  You know that voice in your head that pops up with the perfect comeback an hour after someone has said something mean (and when you are long gone).  My job would be to be that voice in the moment and then supply the teachable moment.”  The show wouldn’t be limited to just body image issues, though.  We would deal with all levels of inappropriateness. 

For example, Jen is a dear friend who is the mother of a cute one year old boy.  One of the things we often talk about is how people believe that moms and pregnant women are up for grabs in a way that’s just not appropriate.  Strangers walk up to you in the grocery store and rub your belly.  They tell you whether or not you have gained enough weight.  They tell you how to parent or what’s wrong with your parenting.  There is infinite judgment of mothers, and it just wears us out. 

Well, I just got this great email from Jen on Friday, and I had to clap right at my computer when I read it: 

I had a parent moment yesterday, and I thought you’d appreciate it.  After getting ice cream, I was strapping Wil in the backseat of the car, and you know it takes some time.  I had the door open not all the way but open as I tried to quickly get him in. After shutting the door and going to my door, I noticed a car half in to the spot next to me but waiting for me to shut the door and get out of the way to fully park.  I waved and apologized and quickly got in my car. As I was, I heard a man who was waiting for the man parking the car say, “I mean that woman was really taking her time getting into her car wasn’t she?”  I mean, come on.  I was strapping my kid in, not eating bon bons back there. So, I buckled up, rolled my window down and told him, “you know I heard you and just so you know, I was buckling my child in the car.”  There was a woman with him, and I hope he was embarrassed.  I finally found my voice in saying things back to people who say rude things to people with kids and pregnant women.

I emailed her right back and told her about “Shut Up: Bringing America’s People to Reality,” and she agreed to co-host.  We may not have funding or a network or anything else that gets the show on television, but we’re, nonetheless, on a mission, one person at a time, to bring people to the realization that no one’s body or being is up for grabs.  Don’t you want to co-host, too?

 

April 27, 2009 at 9:37 pm 6 comments

Making Do

abram-easter-2009-looking-up1

So on Saturday afternoon, BF and I loaded baby in his stroller, put puppy on her leash and headed down to the grocery store to do our shopping for the week.  All was going well (and you’ll be surprised to know that there was no spit up on my clothing, my hair was done, and I had make up on.  If I am honest, it’s because I had to serve on a panel at the college a couple hours earlier  but, still, I liked the symbolism of being back in the grocery store in far better shape exactly one week after the dirty, spit-up, mismatched incident).  Anyway, all was going well until we hit dairy when baby spit up some carrot/ tomato veggie blend.  And that bright orange spit up?  Not so cute or easy to mask. 

BF looked at me, mildly panicked, “baby just spit up!” 

I backed away from the Stonyfield Yogurt and worked my way over to the stroller where baby was indeed coated in blood orange spit up.  Nice.  Surveying the scene, I did what any unprepared mom would do (all I had was the stroller, people, and my debit card in my pocket).  I took off baby’s socks, wiped him down, and then deposited the dirty socks into the little storage pocket on the stroller. 

BF looked at me incredulous.  “I cannot believe you just did that,” he said.

“What did you want me to do,” I asked.  “His sock is all I had.”  I was defending myself.   

“No, that’s totally what I would have done,” he said.  And there you have it, folks, America’s most rookie parents. 

You’ll be happy to know, however, that the next aisle we went to after dairy was baby supplies where we purchased wipes that we went ahead and left in the stroller pocket for next time.  Because there will be a next time and, fortunately, we’ll be ready.

PS. Baby’s socks WERE cream.

April 22, 2009 at 8:19 pm 3 comments

Today’s the last day to enter the Milestones Contest

abram-easter-2009-looking-at-pinestraw

So visit the original blog entry to enter your guesses for when baby will start crawling and sleeping through the night and you could win some African coffee!  Even if you aren’t a coffee fan, join the fun (you can regift it!).

April 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm 1 comment

Going back to middle school

I was invited to speak to a Latina seventh grade group at CC Griffin Middle School in Harrisonburg, North Carolina on Tuesday.  I decided that I would tell them a little about my life and my career path and then read them the few parts of the book that reveal episodes that took place in middle school.  They heard about my first kiss, my first bra (Jenny, they were mortified that I sprayed you up like that in the mall.  Again, I’m sorry!), and even (although this happened in high school) my first date (and how I had to beg, bargain, and plead my way into it–Mamacita was strict!).  

When I asked them if they had questions, I was so tickled by what they asked.  In between what’s life like as a writer and how did publishing a book change your life (God bless them, I think they think I am as famous as the Stephanie woman who wrote the Twilight books), they asked how I felt during my first kiss (“like I wanted to throw up, I was so nervous,” I told them) and if I had married the man that I had gone out with on that first date.  I just loved how unabashed they were.  We also talked about how I changed the names of the people in the book who I was no longer in touch with and who certainly hadn’t asked to be included in the book, what my parents thought about me telling personal stories, how long it took to write, and when and how I wrote.  When the bell rang, the girls got up to leave, thanking me.  One of the girls looked at me and said, “I’ve never met an author before” and that was a pretty cool moment for me because I could tell it meant something to her. 

Seventh grade is such a tender age, and I was really excited and touched to get the opportunity to be with the girls.  And it was fun, for just a minute, to relive the giggling embarrassment of that first kiss and that first very special date.  There’s not much I’d go back to middle school for, but this group of girls was definitely worth it.

April 21, 2009 at 8:07 pm 2 comments

Read Green

In honor of Earth Day and Inspired Tuesday, I want to recommend two books to you by a colleague and friend, Jodi Helmer. 

greenyear

Go green one day at a time.
Most of us want to do the right thing for the environment, but making the commitment to change our fast-paced, convenience-oriented lifestyles can be more than a little daunting. What’s the answer? Take that giant commitment and cut it up into 365 little commitments that get met one day at a time.

The Green Year does just that. More than a calendar, it offers simple, practical, affordable, and engaging activities that make going green a blessing rather than a burden.The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference was published in December 2008. The book is filled with practical and inexpensive ideas for a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

In addition to these easy green suggestions, readers will find:

  • The reasons for each activity—what makes it good for the environment and the reader?
  • A quick how-to for any activity that requires it
  • Room for readers to write in their own creative alternatives

 

 

Learn more about The Green Year here and order the book here. 

 

 

greencareers

 

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Careers is a comprehensive guide to environmentally conscious careers, including the fastest-growing and highest-paying careers in the green workplace. It is slated for publication this month.  Buy it here. 

April 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm 2 comments

We are all Susan Boyle

 

If you own a television or computer, you caught wind of the Susan Boyle story last week.  A 47 year old Scottish lady gets the chance to sing for her life on Britain’s Got Talent, and, it turns out, she’s got quite the voice.  My favorite Broadway play is Les Miserables (it’s fabulous; put it on your must see list if you haven’t), and so I was excited to see what Susan Boyle had to offer with I Dreamed a Dream.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how the audience reacted to her initially.  I almost had to turn the video off before even getting to the clip where she sang because watching the way Ms. Boyle was judged before even sharing her talent was almost indigestible to me.  The clip has now gone viral and millions have seen it, surely cheering Ms. Boyle all the way. 

What I am curious about, though, isn’t about Ms. Boyle’s life back in the Scottish village and what she thinks of winning people over– because, to be honest, I find the media hoopla surrounding Ms. Boyle a bit condescending.  It feels a little “you didn’t look like we thought you should and sound like we think you shouldn’t and that’s amazing so let’s dwell on how unbelievable it is that you can sing like that.”  I do get why everyday people- like me and, maybe, you- go to You Tube over and over again to see the video.  We’ve all felt like Susan Boyle at some time or other and it’s like seeing the bully finally get taken down for what we know to be inherently true.  My friend, Jill, who is way smart, brought up this point when we were talking about that whole thing and I found it so interesting, “While I watched the clip, I couldn’t help but think about the particular song she was singing.  These lines made me cry: But the tigers come at night/ with their voices soft as thunder/ as they tear your hope apart/ and they turn your dream to shame.  I kept thinking about how this didn’t feel like a random song, but it was her song to this audience, media, etc.”  Yeah, Jill’s smart.  Fortunately, she doesn’t have a blog so you can’t leave mine for hers.    

All this said, I found Susan Boyle’s confidence all along, her passion, her good humor, her pluck, and her immeasurable joy in singing really contagious.  And while I am not curious about Boyle’s life back in the village and how she feels about the reaction she’s receiving (I just want to hear her sing again), I am curious about the people in that audience– the ones showed having such a negative reaction to Ms. Boyle based on sight when she walked onto the stage and said she wanted her chance.  How has their thinking changed since seeing what they saw in person, hearing what they heard, and knowing the sounds and faces and judgments they made in that auditorium?  Are they less quick to judge?  Do they now understand that beauty comes in a far more diverse package than the one labeled blond, young, tan, tall, and thin?  Are they more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt?  Do they offer grace more?  Because it’s not enough for us to get to a place in the world where we are willing to cheer the underdog on once they impress us, willing to have exceptions to the rule once they prove their worthiness of being an exception.  Really, the place we need to get to is one where we don’t assign value to someone– underdog or topdog value– based on whether or not their appearance fits into a box of our individual understanding and appreciation, the place we need to live in is one that holds its arms wide open for anyone’s possibility, a place where there are no rules based on universal standards of beauty.  Because it really just doesn’t work like that.  Beauty, as we viscerally know—which is why millions of us have connected with this video–, does not fit into just one box.  It’s bigger, more dramatic, more marvelous, more encompassing than that, and all of us, inherently, have it.         

 

April 19, 2009 at 8:52 pm 1 comment

Milestones Contest #1

abram-with-foot-in-our-bed-2abram-johnny-jump-up-4

So, it’s time for a contest around these parts.  And it’s going to be a sweet baby A related contest.  We’re approaching a couple milestones (we think, hope, worry):  crawling (the one we worry about because that means we can’t run to the bathroom real fast and know that baby will be in the same spot when we return) and sleeping through the night.  So the big question is WHEN will baby hit these milestones?  

Here’s how the contest works.  We will take entries until either next Wednesday, April 22 at 11:59 PM OR baby reaches the milestone (whichever one happens first).  So, here’s what you need to do to enter the contest.  Hit the comments section on this entry.  Share your prediction, indicating which milestone it’s related to (ie: Crawl:  May 1; Sleep through the night: April 28).  That’s all it takes to enter.  When the milestone happens, the winner will be announced.  And what does the winner win?   African fair trade coffee (Did you know that coffee originated in Ethiopia?).  I’ll email you off the blog if you win to work out mailing you your grand prize. 

A few housekeeping items related to Milestones Contest #1  (yes, the #1 indicates that there will be Milestones Contests in the future.  We still have walking, talking, and other fun things to tackle around these parts!).      

1.  Just in case this is important to you in making your prediction:  Sweet Baby A is 7 months, 3 weeks old.      

2.  The sleeping through the night date correlates with the evening that baby is put down to bed.  So, let’s say that Thursday night we put baby down at 8 pm and this is the first night he sleeps through the night.  The person who predicted April 16th is the winner not the person who predicted Friday, April 17th.   

3.  The crawling criteria is for forward progress.  Some babies crawl backwards first. We’ll count it as crawling for this contest when he crawls forward.   

4.  Let’s say that 5 people predict that baby will sleep through the night on April 16th and then he does.  What’s the tiebreaker?  A drawing.  I’ll put all five names on little slips of paper and let baby draw (look at that, we’ll be practicing fine motor skills while we’re at it!).

So, there are the contest details.  Enough from me.  Now, hit us with your predictions!   Baby A is eager to prove somebody right!

April 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm 12 comments

Organizing a book

the-book-basket1

I’ve started work on a new book project that I am hopeful will go to contract in the coming months.  I love working on books– getting to spend a greater length of time with a subject matter, having time to let it unfold in your mind and creatively, having space and word count to work with, and putting together what might be a meaningful, helpful tool to someone else.  I’ve been spending some time thinking about how I’d like this book to look, what the layout might be like because it’s a concept where the layout could add to the impact, and I’ve also been writing.

One of the first things that happens when I start organizing a book is that I have to get all the ideas that are swimming around in my head down on paper or I fear that they’ll evaporate over time.  I use notecards for the brain dump— just jotting idea after idea on notecards so that I can then shuffle the concepts around to find order.  I often use one of those clear plexiglass boxes to then pile the notecards into and when the project is really in the throws, I use my little red basket to house all its pieces– the notecards, colored pens, anything that inspires, the idea box, a notepad, etc.  When I am ready for writing, all that’s left is the plexiglass box and its notecard contents.  Then I usually divide the plexiglass box into already included, need to include sections and organize the concepts by chapter they should come up in, if appropriate.

Once my book box is organized and ready to go (and I am at a writing point), the box finds a spot on my desk (until then, it lives on the top of  my bookshelves that sit behind me in my office) and at the end of each day, I plan what I am writing the next day and have those notecards of inspiration at the ready.  Once I’ve included that concept how ever I would like to (and sometimes the notecards just say one word but I know where that one word is supposed to take me in my writing)  in my writing, the notecard moves to the already included section of the plexiglass box.  Sometimes I write notes on it like what day I wrote that part or where its included in the book if I need to go back and find it and sometimes I don’t.   

Usually, when I am writing a book, I have a goal amount that I want to get written each day.  When I was writing Hijas, my goal was a minimum of 5 pages a day (on weekdays).  Sometimes, I wrote way more than 5 pages.  Sometimes it was a struggle to get to five pages, but ALWAYS five pages was what I had to, at least, accomplish.  I wrote Hijas in about 3 months which meant I had 12 weeks to get 10 chapters, an introduction, and a resource guide written.  Right now, since I haven’t gone to contract on this book, I don’t have a set amount that I know I need to get done a day to make deadline.  Instead, I decide by the week how much I think I can get done, given what else I have going on, and then divide that up based on what I have going on each day.  It’s little bites of the work each day, enough to be very satisfying but not consuming yet since it is not a sure thing.

April 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm 1 comment

Insights

So, when I was in high school, I went on a leadership retreat and one of the tasks we were given was to go off  with one other person and answer this list of questions.  The experience was called Insights.  I am not sure who the original creator of this exercise is, but I then used Insights with my students when I became a high school teacher and as a college administrator.  It was always a hit (the key, I think, in an educational setting was that I always paired students who didn’t know each other all that well).  Anyway, I was digging around my computer the other day and came across the instructions for Insights (if you were to do it sitting down with another person).  I also thought it might be fun as a meme or as journaling prompts so have at it however you want.  I’ve shared my answers below.  Feel free to randomly choose a number (or numbers) and share your answer.  Or choose the question that corresponds with your birthdate and share that answer here!     

 

INSIGHTS

An Interaction Experience

 

 

Objectives:

1)     To create an awareness of each other through the use of questions designed to reveal more than what superficial conversations include—deeper mutual concerns and insights between people who are not close friends.

2)     Gives you a chance to open up positively to each other —providing a vehicle for people to communicate on a real level as soon as possible. 

 

 

Procedures:

1)     Each person must answer every question.  You may pass while you think. But be certain to come back to each one.

2)     Questions are not to be explained or limited.  Each person should just react to the question that he or she hears. 

 

 

Questions:

1.What is the best movie you have ever seen?  When I was young, probably The Wizard of Oz.  Now, probably Shawshank Redemption. 

2.  What is the most beautiful thing about people?  Their capacity to love in great measure.   

3. What physical thing do you want to build more than anything else?  I’d love to have a little artist’s cottage, and it would be incredible if I could have a hand in building it.  

4. What do you like to do most with a free hour?  Read, nap, or get a massage. 

5. On what basis do you select your friends?  Generosity of spirit and sense of humor. 

6. What is the greatest value that guides your life?  Love.   

7. If you could choose to be an animal other that man, what animal would you choose to be?  A Beluga Whale. 

 8. If you could smash one thing and only one thing, what would you smash?  Hatred. 

 9. What sound would you use for beauty?  Waves coming into the shore. 

 10. If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go first?  Tuscany,  Italy. 

 11. When you die, what do you want written on your tombstone?  My name???  I can’t think of how to sum up a life in a pithy phrase right now.   

12. What person has influenced your life most?  I think that person has just come into my life– Abram. 

13. What makes you most secure?  My intentionality. 

14. Choose a word to describe sunset.  Breathtaking. 

15. When do you feel most lonely?  When I can’t communicate what I feel and why I feel it. 

16. Choose a word which you feels describes senior citizens.  Wise. 

17. What do you love the most?  Who– my family.  What, conceptually– the opportunity for growth.     

18. When you think of children less than three years old, what comes to mind?  Vulnerability, possibility. 

19. If you were to paint it, what color is love?  a rich purple. 

20. If you could change places with one person for a day, whom would it be?  Michelle Obama. 

21. An outside activity, I am active in is… pushing baby boy in his blue car. 

 22. My future dreams for myself include… a satisfying career and home life.  The deliberate growth of Circle de Luz.   

 23. What comes to your mind first when you hear the word reality?  shows and how they aren’t real at all. 

 24. What is the most significant book you have ever read?  Black Boy by Richard Wright

 25. What is your favorite article of clothing?  a circa 1990 long sleeved shirt in a strong aqua color that I stole from my brother

 26. What is your favorite food?  Besides cupcakes, ice cream, and my mother-in-law’s brownies?  Low country boil (which is a meal and not just a food but that’s okay).       

 27. What is your least favorite food?   I have texture issues with bananas and raw tomatoes.  Totally freak me out. 

 28. What is the most beautiful sight you have seen?  Our son, the first moment we met him.   

 29. What is the most overwhelming thing you know?  The number of orphans that exist in this world.   

 30. What is the greatest problem in the United States?  Poverty and inequity– really a travesty in a country that is supposed to be created in a way that allows for things to be equitable. 

31. What thing makes you feel most humble?  Being a parent and caring so much about someone else but not having total control over their safety and reality. 

 32. What is the greatest crime one man can commit towards another?  the taking of a life, literally, or of one’s will to really live. 

 33. What makes you laugh?  Cheeky, surprising humor; usually based on a turn of phrase.   

 34. Choose a word that best describes your total life up to this moment of time.  Intended.   

 35. What do you think of when you think of tragedy?  Loss. 

 36. When do you sense being most alive?  When I am in motion. 

 37. What T.V. show do you like the most?  Ever?  Probably West Wing and Seinfeld.  Right now?  Friday Night Lights!     

 38. If you woke up with only one ability, what would you wish it to be?  Not realistic?  Teleportation?  More realistic?  Singing ability. 

 39. What is the biggest waste you know of?  One’s talent and possibility. 

 40. What future discovery do you anticipate most?  a cure or vaccine for cancer

 41. What do you hate the most?  Hatred. 

 42. What do you want to change about yourself?  My tendency to make work. 

 43. What do you like most about yourself?  my creativity/ability to problem solve in the moment

 44. What one day in your life would you like to live over?  One of the days when I was in Brazil.  It was such an incredible experience. 

 45. What is the most powerful force loose in the world today?  Positive force?  Optimism and the dawning of a realization that we need to love people, not things.   

 46. What is the best thing you have ever done?  opened my heart to a family and been led to our baby boy  

 47. What kind of leadership makes a difference in this world?  Intentional, un- personally ambitious, humane, holistic leadership

 48. What color best describes you?  Peacock Blue/Green

 49. What is the one thing you have always wanted to do but never had the guts for?  Traveled with a band.   

 50. What book would you take with you to a stranded island? Way too many options– each for different reasons.  

 

April 13, 2009 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

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In a Bookstore Near You

What does it mean to be beautiful in America? For years, pop culture has insisted that beautiful women are tall, thin, and blonde. So what do you do if your mirror reflects olive skin, raven hair, and a short build? Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina offers a provocative account of the struggles and triumphs of Latina forced to reconcile these conflicting realities. Rosie Molinary combines her own experience with the voices of hundreds of Latinas who grew up in the US navigating issues of gender, image, and sexuality. This empathetic ethnography exemplifies the ways in which our experiences are both profoundly individualistic and comfortingly universal.
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