Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bruises Are Not Substitutes For Roses and Violets

This week on facebook I have come across two different approaches to raising awareness and action for domestic violence.   Remember #TheDress.  Is it black and blue? White and gold? If you were anywhere near social media then no doubt you saw it.    The 24 hours following this madness there were some wonderful people at the Southern African Salvation Army racing around to put together an ad campaign on domestic violence.   I thought it was a great way to use the social frenzy for good.

A few days later another awareness campaign was created along with proof that we are living in the FUTURE...and yet still troubled with problems that should be in the past.   An interactive billboard was made using facial recognition software, texting directly to people near the billboard, and actually changing the photograph on the sign.   If you have a tiny bit of time I highly suggest that you watch the Women's Aid video.  If you don't have time then the cliff notes version is: It is a photograph of a woman with bruises on her.  As people look directly at it she begins to heal, the more people that look at the abused woman faster that she heals.

Years ago one of my dear friends was being abused, I was miles away when I found out about it but I took what action I could and called her family so they could help her leave the situation.  It was a simple thing that I did.  Snyone could have done it if they would have noticed her situation.  These  simple things are exactly what makes a difference to women in abuse.  For the woman being abused it is a frightening time that leaves many too petrified to flee.   There is so much going on, deeper than physical harm that we might not understand.  If we look away and assume that she wants to remain in that relationship the result is usually just that, she remains abused, alone, and scared.  Just because she is staying with an abusive partner doesn't mean that she wants to.  It is very hard to do anything when you are alone and terrified.

These ads got me thinking about my own daughter.  She is 12, strong, and full of a sense of justice. She will stand up for what is right and wrong and never let her peers convince her otherwise.  She doesn't accept being treated badly and had discontinued friendships that were caustic.    That is her today, but what kind of message is she surrounded by as she grows into a young lady?  I can tell you exactly what message, and it isn't one setting her up for a great future in romance.  The message is; "He is just being mean to you because he likes you." So, not only is it alright for a boy to be mean to her, but also, she should be happy about it because it means that he likes her.

 This message came from two of her teachers when she was complaining to them separately about a boy who is bothering her at school.  I am not blaming the teachers though because I caught myself saying the same thing, passing down a lie that I had heard from an adult when I was young.  This teasing behavior, boys being mean, meant they noticed me.  They LIKED me.  The thing that most teen girls are after now had an  easy to spot signal, the mystery of "love" was over.  If they were treated me badly, then they liked me.   Now the other boys who liked me were invisible.  The nice ones who helped me carry things, said kind things or simply talked to me like I was a person, they must not like me.  They just want to be friends because otherwise they would be mean.    This is the lie, unintentional, but real.

On my way to take my daughter to school this morning we were alone in the car.  I interrupted her comic book reading because I couldn't get this thought out of my head, that this lie needed to be put to a stop.   I told her about the domestic abuse ads, I told her about my friend who was scared to leave her boyfriend.   I told her that yes, it is true that some boys act mean when they like you, but there are also boys who act really nice.  Those are the boys that are worth dating.  The mean ones might just be young and clueless and not really have a mean core. They might eventually figure out that girls don't like being treated that way and they might find nicer ways to show affection but until they do, they are not worth your time.

My daughter isn't interested in boys yet, but this was a perfect time to have this conversation.  A time when she isn't totally hormonal and sure that I am wrong about everything.  This gives her time to think about all of this and make a choice if she does begin to think boys are kind of cute.  I think even if she were older it would be worth a try, or if you know someone who was a victim of domestic abuse have that woman talk to your daughter.   Also, please talk to your sons!  Do not assume that just because he is a sweet kid around you that he knows how to behave.  My son is 9 years old and I showed him the photo above and we talked about how it is never O.K. to hurt anyone, but especially not a girl.  As he gets older we will have more conversations.  I know my husband had one with him when he was 3.  My son was mad and had hit me. A 3 year old hitting isn't a huge deal, but it is an opportunity to set up expectations for the future.

I hope that these new campaigns do make a difference in our world.  I hope that I inspired you to have a conversation with your own children.  Lets never leave things as simple as "he is mean because he likes you."  Instead we should share the truth with our girls, that there are nice ways boys show they like them. We should share the knowledge with our boys, that there are other ways besides teasing to get a girls attention.  Let's stop domestic abuse years before it ever begins.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Setting Your Joy Free From the Clutter

Several years ago I did a challenge called The Compact.  Basically you don't buy anything new for an entire year except things like toilet paper and soap.  You can still buy stuff though, it just has to be used.   It was a great experiment and I enjoyed the thrill of finding just what I needed, or even a fun surprise in the shelves of the thrift store or garage sale.   I bought all kinds of stuff, some I needed, most I did not.   So now, fast forward seven years later and I am still in the habit of shopping mostly used.  It doesn't feel wasteful or excessive because it wasn't purchased new.  I am not adding to the excess world of consumerism... right? Except maybe there is a down side to thrift shop mania.

  I can't find what I am looking for in my house half the time.   My shed is packed so tight that I missed using one of my favorite Halloween decorations because I forgot it existed in all the junk.  I pile stuff into my garage and shed and rarely do I ever need anything there except gardening tools and camping gear.  Entering the shed feels overwhelming, even finding a rake is a burdensome and I exit with a knot in my stomach from all of the mess. Somehow I feel that we need all of these things.  I have "nothing" to wear because the few clothes that I love are hidden in a jumbled mess of other clothes I thought I needed.  Usually instead of taking time to look for my favorite shirt I put on something "meh" and rush out the door feeling junky.   My house is constantly covered in clutter and takes forever to clean.  Rarely do I "deep clean" (It's an ancient art I have heard about that was invented before maids...why don't I have a maid?) because I am so busy just keeping up with moving the clutter from place to place that I am exhausted long before actual cleaning is done.     Even my spices when cooking are overwhelming, they fall out of the shelf and the one ingredient I need takes 10 minutes to find. Cooking dinner turns into a treasure hunt and now bedtime will be even later.   It turns out that having tons of neat finds, and impulse buys, or even keeping that sweater that you ordered and then found out it was itchy, but it was expensive so you can't just get rid of it, and it's past the returning window...is actually sucking away your time.   That gift you received from your friend that wasn't your taste but reminds you how much you love her... even that is taking precious space and emotional energy.  

I was introduced to a book by Marie Kondo, called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. and I was invited to join a super rad secret group full of ladies also reading the book and getting rid of their junk.  I have tried reading organizing type of books before.   I even tried an organizing book for people with ADHD and soon even that seemed too much.  The reason being... I was never done.  There is so much stuff to organize that it's like a little hamster wheel.   You run until you collapse and then you have to get right back to it again.   This is different, I feel like this will have an end.   Basically, you get all your stuff one type at a time, put it in a pile, pick up each item... and if it doesn't spark joy.. BAM! It's gone.  No looking back, no showing your partner or mother or anyone what you are getting rid of... you just donate it.   It feels scary, but as soon as the box of unjoyful stuff leaves your house you feel amazing.  

I have gone through my clothes many times and usually find things to get rid of but this time the pile was huge because the bar was different.  If the sweater I picked up brought feelings of guilt for never wearing it and for how much I spent on it, then it went in the goodbye pile.   I would have kept it before, telling myself I would wear it someday.  But each day I didn't choose to wear it, when it caught my eye in the closet I would get a tiny wave of guilt.   The same goes for the unwanted gift from a friend.  I feel guilty for not using it.  My friend did not give that to me so that I could feel guilty.  She gave it to me because she loves me and wanted to bring me joy.  If it's not bringing joy then I shouldn't keep it.  Joy was the intended purpose of the gift and in that moment when I received it that was the feeling I had.  Joy that my friend cared about me enough to think of me and give me a gift.  It served it's purpose for that moment and now it can go to the mission and serve a new purpose.  
Some things are easier to go through, like medicine cabinets and spice racks.  Others are harder like photographs and artwork.  She has a list in the book of the order to go in.  Never start with photographs or sentimental things.  First you have to master the art of knowing and sensing that spark of joy.  Then when you go down the list farther it will be easier.  Also you will have the joy of freedom from clutter already starting so you will have extra motivation.

I am still working through all the categories but I have had a pretty good start.  My closet now only holds clothing that brings me joy, Even my socks and underwear! I may wear the same shirt frequently but I can always find it and I always feel amazing when I wear it.  When my daughter needed medicine a few days ago instead of digging around the cabinet, I simply opened it and there was what I was looking for in plain sight.  Yesterday I spent most of the day gardening because it was beautiful outside.  I came in an hour before dinner to a messy house and had it looking clean in no time because there wasn't the extra clutter to distract me from my intended task.

I am hooked on getting rid of things! I am also careful not to get rid of the things belonging to my family members.  Although I have considered a blow torch once or twice (husbands pile of electronic random on the kitchen counter, ahem.)  The truth is that only they know what sparks joy for them, and unfortunately for me the collection of empty kleenex boxes turned my little pony village taking over my daughter's room brings her extreme joy.   They have been catching the de-clutter bug though.   An entire trunk load of stuff has gone out from my children's rooms.  Stuffed animals that they would never get rid of, suddenly when the joy criteria came up they only kept a few.   If you try this and you have children, I suggest letting them see and hear how great you feel about getting rid of your stuff.  I also talk about how now my things get to bring someone else joy.  We donate most of our stuff to a shelter for houseless people who one day will have a house again and our items can help furnish it or cloth them in the between time.

We were never meant to hold on to possessions like we do.  Shows like hoarders might make us feel better, like we aren't so bad.  Those shows portray the extreme, people with a variation of OCD that is clinically not normal.  Just because we aren't "that bad" doesn't mean we are fine.  I feel so much lighter now, I have more time now that some of the tiny moments of looking for things are gone.  My closet has no subtle feelings of guilt as I start my day in the morning.   It initially is a time consuming process but it's also freeing.   This doesn't mean I won't ever buy something again, in fact I actually bought a few things, but they all spark joy.   Imagine yourself living in a home where everywhere you look you see things that bring you joy.  Imagine less cleaning up time and more time to DO things that bring you joy.   READ, DANCE, PRAY, SING, MEDITATE....FIND YOUR SPARK OF JOY!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Find your tribe (A response to I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical)

I recently came upon an article called " I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical" that was shared on Facebook.   The writer is arguing that we shouldn't buckle to the pressure of themed parties, rainy day craft mania, and the elf on the shelf.   I agree that no mother should feel less of a parent because she doesn't have a PhD in hot glue and glitter.  However it made me realize that those in the world who don't have crafty running through their veins are misinterpreting what those of us who do are putting out into the world.   See, I was a pinterest person before there was a pinterest.  Even as a little girl I would go wild with delight when I got new craft supplies.  I would check out books at the library on how to make various things.  The craft aisle at the library was my pinterest.  I would share what I made with my friends and my mother usually crafted by my side.  It was fun and it was what my hands were created to do.  If I don't create something for a long enough time I literally become depressed and without even realizing it, the moment I make something again I snap back to myself.

Those elaborate themed cakes that perhaps take the writer of the article hours, they take me hours too, but hours of delight.   I am playing, I am not attempting to make my kids childhood magical, I am making my own life magical and the kids reaction is just a happy side effect.   So before the DIY craze began, before I even knew there was a thing called DIY, I was making things.   Once pinterest came to my attention i was thrilled.  I suddenly had a world of people to share ideas with, gain inspiration, and celebrate my own creations as well.  I found my tribe.

 I can see now how this could be intimidating to those who are looking in without the same crafty wiring inside.   I can understand because that is how I feel when I am around math people.   I don't get them, and I feel like perhaps I"m not smart enough.  All those numbers and giant fancy math and physics words just swirl around and even if I try to make a joke about them I just get funny looks like perhaps I am an idiot.  Or... perhaps I am not a math person because instead I am good at making a felted case for my sons Nintendo or throwing a super rad birthday party.    I went to a dinner party with my husbands Magic (the card game) friends.  These folks are scientist and mathematics wizards. They actually went to class in college with the plan to get good grades and go to all their classes.   They said things that made no sense, they tried to solve a physics puzzle for fun, and I just drank my cider and gazed at the garden.  Now, I could have went home and studied some math, researched physics a little more and had a miserable time crawling through that world so that the next time I saw them I could add to the conversation.  I could have forced my way into math world, but what for? I know I hate it there and feel like a fake.  Why be someone who I am not wired to be?

When mothers try all these pinterest crafts and moving the elf on the shelf every night all the while cringing, they aren't being better mothers, they are crushing a part of themselves that could come out by doing something they do enjoy.   Your child will be happy because you love them, and they will be happiest if you aren't bitter about the things you do for them.    We need to be true to ourselves because before we became mothers we knew who we were.  It's easy to lose sight of that if we are comparing ourselves to the other mothers in the world.   Finding your tribe is great, but don't look at another tribe and think you are less than you should be, you just aren't Tribe Crafty and that's OK.  You might be Tribe Math, or Tribe Arrives on time to places, or Tribe Sports coach, or Tribe Remembers to cook dinner.   Just because Tribe Crafty has a popular website doesn't mean it's the best one.  All types of people are needed to make this world work.
That elf on the shelf that you dread moving, I look forward to it (most days) and have so much fun that I feel like I'm a kid again.   I am not doing it because I feel like it makes me a good mom, I am doing it because it's fun for me.  Figure out what is fun for you, and rock it!