Enough

The world tells me to just be me

But then it says my shirt isn’t tight enough

My skirt isn’t short enough

My waist isn’t tiny enough.

 

Politicians tell me to vote with my head and my heart

Then they claim I’m not pro-murder enough

I’m not woman-enough

Not tolerant enough; while they are utterly intolerant of me.

 

Public education claims it offers more than enough

While U.S. students rank lower than other developed nations.

We haven’t taught them to think independently or problem solve enough

How much mindless testing is going to satisfy the administrative fools enough?

 

Enough with being able to name every Kardashian

but not one Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.

 

Enough with being able to name 7 reality shows,

but not the 7 natural wonders of our beautiful world.

 

Enough selecting friends and presidents because they are our same color or gender.

Enough accepting and promoting liars, cheaters and those who simply don’t believe the rules apply to them – all the while you are forced to follow them.

Enough television, more books.

Is It Fair That We are Judged by How We Look?

GothThis is a question that I have asked my college students over the years.  Inevitably, they will argue that it is absolutely “not fair!” and without my intervention, end up sharing countless examples of when they, themselves immediately judged by physical appearance.  Therefore, determining that while “unfair”, it is unequivocally, indisputably, inevitable.

Recently, my 16 year old daughter and I were swimsuit shopping for spring break.  She is a small, petite, clean cut girl with long strawberry blonde hair and a spunky spirit.  When we approached the fitting room desk, my daughter asked the 50-something female attendant how many items my daughter could bring into the room.  She cheerfully glanced at our mini mountain, totaling about 15 items, smiled, and said, “Go ahead, just bring everything out when you are done.”  My daughter entered the room, and I sat down waiting for the fashion show to begin.

Four minutes later, a youthful looking grandma along with her granddaughter, surely my daughter’s age, and also quite petite, approached the same fitting room attendant with her pile of items and held it up to the woman.  The woman curtly sniped, “you can only take in 6 at a time. How many do you have?” The young girl answered, “7”. The woman took the pile out of her hands, counted the clothes one by one out loud for all to hear, until reaching the number 8 with a huff.  Handing her back only six of the items and practically tossing the girl a fitting room tag, she announced that the rest would be held at the desk.

The woman clearly showed preferential treatment to my daughter.  Why?  Not because I was with my daughter, as the other teenager had her grandma with her.  My guess is the teen’s outer appearance.  Multiple nose and earrings, jet black dyed hair, with wide sections dyed platinum, black nail polish, a sour frown, and Goth clothing greeted the fitting room lady.

I’m honest enough to tell you that I certainly judge on one’s exterior, most often when my children are involved.  Evaluation in this depraved society is essential for our safety.  By external appearance, we can draw countless conclusions about someone.  Many will be accurate, and a few utterly wrong.  Either way, the pre-vacation shopping experience left me humbled. 

As a woman who has judged wrongfully and endured judgment, I’m still training myself to be cautious before labeling and stereotyping.  That doesn’t stop me from staring (hopefully, inconspicuously!) if someone has decided to cover themselves in ink, piercings, and adorn their clothing with a variety of clinking, shiny chains – like a toddler, I’m mesmerized.  Regardless, giving someone a chance to reveal who they really are through conversation is always my goal.

The dark-dressed girl slinked away into a fitting room, without a smile, and I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t want to be yet another person contributing to her already sad expression. Insecurities exist in all of us, whether or not they are concealed in neat, well-groomed packages.  If teens experience enough unfair treatment, they have a natural tendency to believe they’re not worthy of good treatment.

Photo: drprem.com

Throwback Thursday article from 5/6/2013

Annul a 20-year marriage with 7 kids?

AnnulThrowback Thursday 5/26/2013

I ran into an old friend of my Mom’s a few weeks ago at the grocery store.  This woman’s husband left her 15+ years ago with 7 young children.  He left her for a younger woman and his relationship with the kids is estranged at best.

Embracing her in the store, we briefly caught up on all the happenings with her mountain of children and now, grandchildren.  The woman looked exactly as she did when I last randomly bumped into her: exhausted.  She had been working two jobs for over fifteen years, was uneducated, so she was making little money for hard work.  One of her daughters had a child out of wedlock and was living with her as well.  Barely able to make ends meet, this friend secured yet another 10 hour gig on the weekends to help raise the grandchild. Let me repeat:  she looked drained.

Through the ten minute conversation, she mentioned that the ex-husband was happily married, living in another state and hadn’t provided for the kids’ needs in many years.  Upset and distraught with the Catholic Church, she said her ex received the “right” to marry because he had the marriage annulled.

Just to clarify I asked, “how long were you married?”

“20 years.  7 kids.”

She continued to explain that after the divorce, the Catholic Church had not accepted her as a formal church member, since she was a divorced woman.  She was also forbidden to take communion.  This was especially painful to this woman, because she was a devoted Catholic – so devoted to the church rules that she did not use birth control – thus, the 7 kids.

Her eyes grew wet as I suggested she try visiting a non-denominational church where she would be lovingly accepted and could develop new relationships.  I emphasized that the “church” is a group of believers in Jesus…that Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus and believing that God loves you – just as you are, right where you are in lifeChristianity is not about being alienated by your Sunday worship center just when you need love and help the most.

It’s important to note that as someone who was raised in a liturgical church, I respect and admire all the tradition.  Although I spent 25 years in a liturgical church, I am no longer familiar with the rules, having been in a different church the last 20 years.  So, upon arriving home I looked up the meaning of annulment.  “To reduce to nothing.  To obliterate. To make void; invalidate.”

Divorce is painful enough all on its own. Do we need our church to require an expensive piece of paper authorizing that a marriage was voided in order to move forward in life? In order to participate fully in our faith?

Are we seriously “invalidating” a 20-year marriage for one spouse at his request, after years of painfully rejecting the other spouse by isolating her from the church she devoted herself to?  How does this mentally impact the children?

That afternoon I had a very clear understanding of Gandhi’s words when he said:  “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Tiny Teacher

(Throwback Thursday from something I wrote in 2011 before the inception of this blog.)

My eight-year old daughter has been “teaching” since she could utter words. Our basement is complete with white boards, workbooks, and her most prized possession: an overhead projector with genuine second grade transparencies! Everyone from neighbors to Nana’s have taken their turn as students while my youngest directs her wooden pointer at the colorful images on the playroom walls. While always adorable and entertaining, I never anticipated how powerful her lessons could be.

Driving home a few months ago, I was deeply hurt over an unpleasant conversation with someone. For about a mile or so, I explained to my three children how thoughtless the person was and commented, “they acted rude and were very unfair.”

My youngest suddenly yelled from the back seat of the mini van. “Mama! I don’t like that about you!”

What? There’s something my baby doesn’t like about me? Just this morning, I was the best Mama on planet earth and she wouldn’t trade me for a million Webkinz. “What don’t you like?” Foolish question to ask a child who has zero ability to ease the blow which follows.

“When you say unkind things about people.”

Ouch. I swallowed hard, my cheeks turning warm.

Ignoring her mistaken assumption that I was being too harsh on the person, I continued in my sweetest-Mommy voice that my child didn’t buy for a second. “Honey, I’m not being unkind, I’m merely saying…”

My baby interrupted loudly, lecturing me in a series of run-on sentences without taking a breath. “You always say we have to be nice to everyone because we never know if someone is mean because they have a hard life, or maybe something bad happened to them that we don’t know about! You tell us that some kids are nasty because not enough people love on them! You say that we’re supposed to bless mean people with our kindness and that might make them nicer!”

I gripped the steering wheel in silence. I do preach kindness, and most of the time I try to practice grace. But not today. My daughter caught me being unlovely, and I was mortified. Why couldn’t she have noticed one of the million times I chose the noble path and kept quiet? Because disgracing another is never okay and my teacher didn’t let me get away with it even once.

Regardless of the adult issues that my daughter was unaware of, her assessment of my behavior was right on. Her pointer was her tongue and it pierced my heart. As God’s timing would have it, the following Sunday our Pastor happened to be listing ways parents can be good examples for their children. While my daughter had long forgotten the regrettable words, my mother-guilt swelled to the height of Mt. Everest.

As the Pastor began sharing a few things that parents can do to be great role models, my youngest tugged on my shirt, her eyes bright blue and excited. She whispered happily, “just like you, Mama! You do all those things!” I blinked back the tears stinging my eyes, reminded by my teacher that although we Moms may blunder, it’s our better behavior that shines more often than not in the eyes of our children. Thank God!

You’re More Than Your Looks, My Daughter, Friend, Sister…

(Photo:aliexpress.com)

One of my daughters is a major fashionista. From the moment we said “yes” to makeup at 13, she wore it daily. Now 19, her wardrobe far surpasses anyone else in the house. I’m fine with it except for the now and then when she begins focusing too much on the “outside”. This leads me on a rant about the true value of a woman – just as I do after seeing someone as revolting as Beyonce be recognized as a role model for young women – I throw up, and then I give my girls yet another lesson in what it means to be a beautiful woman.

Important disclaimer: I’m a highlighted blonde, wear makeup, and enjoy cute clothes as much as the next girl. I enjoy all things “girl”. I offer this disclaimer because people tend to believe that only women who are makeup-less or attend parties in sweats truly believe that “you are more than your looks”.

Us girls in my house like clothes, makeup and shopping. But, genuine beauty comes from within. Period. Regardless of how old we are, we want to – and should – take care of the outside. But, our society has lost its mind telling us and our daughters that we really are only the sum of our sultry, sexy, skinny and sassy.

What about being fun? Interesting? Interested? Confident? Well-read? A person with hobbies and passion and curiosity about the world? Silly and sweet and thoughtful? These and other qualities make people truly attractive.

This societal lie transcends generations. I know a grandmother who actually suggested her granddaughter buy a shorter skirt, despite the fact that the girl felt like a princess in a flowing skirt below her knees. The grandmother would also prefer trendier clothes on the teenager. Well into her 70s, the woman remains focused upon appearances. She will leave a legacy of superficiality instead of accepting, loving and caring for others. 

Do we love? Do we hold the tongue when appropriate and tongue-lash someone when that is appropriate? Yes, taking a stand when needed is strength and that’s beautiful.

Here is what I have above my daughters’ bedroom doorway: Does a gal’s new outfit or new mascara put a spring in her step and lift her posture? Of course! Heck, we all know that when we feel like our skin and hair are a mess, we would rather hide behind the sales rack then run into someone we know. When the outside is looking good, we walk taller and hope we’ll run into someone we haven’t seen in years!

Nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is a society, celebrities, and endless trails of filth telling our girls they are only their appearance. Women who any one of us would identify as “stunning” are just as susceptible to believing they are unattractive. And, there are women who are initially stunning in our eyes who eventually become the ugliest humans we have ever met. The beauty of kindness – or not – shows up in a woman’s face.

I’m on this topic because I have two daughters. Because I am a woman living in this society – in the world though not of it – and there is pressure. While I can bemoan this as an adult, nothing matches the pressure of the American high school.

So, how do we convey this to our precious daughters bombarded by middle school and high school hallways full of rebellious, scantily-clad, hair-tossing peers?

Tell them. That their bodies are sacred. That happy girls really are so pretty in any room…at any party.

Tell them they are beautiful. The sisters, friends and daughters. Over and over and over…because they ARE.