Ranting 101- The insidious perfection module

This post will be founded in rhetoric. Focused in a semi-dreamland. My hope is to provoke conversation that may or may not entice change and movement. We need one another.

The ridiculous notion of being “everything” as a parent has left a void in our connectedness. It’s left the human element incomplete. We are, in fact, left with missing pieces of ourselves trickled throughout the “have-it-all’s” that society pressures us to adopt. Not pressures, bulldozes. Why can’t we just have what we actually want?

We long for community, for organized togetherness. We stretch ourselves thin to be mom, wife, sister, aunt, lover, friend, daughter, boss, co-worker. Why? Why can’t we have a village. When we are hurt or injured, why can’t there be an answer right next door? When we are out of sugar, why must we run to the store? Why can’t we ask a village member?

When one of us cannot do life anymore, why can’t the one who can at the moment take over the dishes or the parenting or the damn laundry? And not just for a day or a week at a time. Not just as a visit here and there throughout the year. My wish is for it to be the NORM. The gold standard of living. We complete each other.

We are blasted with media images about “wolf-packs” and tribes and sisterhoods, and we answer those panging feelings of missing with a “thumbs up” to the photos that resemble those sentiments. Yet, we don’t seek to connect the virtual ones with the tangible potential of actual community. We longingly reach towards equally needing hands for comfort, for purpose, and for help, and yet…we don’t have the means/capacity/job or resident flexibility to celebrate it. We acquiesce to alienating motherhood. We post impossible perfection, only to close our eyes after we commit to send the farce that is said post. We are not always perfect. We are not always happy. And we DON’T have to always be alone.

So my question is, why the hell can’t we? Why can’t we find a piece of land with our wolf packs, and choose to live simply? To be there for one another unconditionally? To quench the thirst for our tribe on a daily basis. We need the guts, the money, and the cessation of excuses. I know these four friends talk about it, communicate and dream about it on the regular. Will it happen one day?  I think it will. I pray it will.

Let’s bring together all our talents and live the life of COMMUNE-ity. Isn’t that the root of the word after all? To be together in a sense that everyone has one another to lean on. Through the hardships of marriage strife, work stress, kid drama, and interpersonal agony. This is my solemn confession. A dignified admittance for the need to coexist. A demand for more like mindedness.

I am in….Are you in?

 

Let’s stop the social media epidemic. Let’s remember the times of friend therapy being a half mile bike ride away. Let us teach our children of cord phones, and the advancements of human cohesion. Let’s help fuse the gaping chasms technology has created amongst our generations by teaching older ways of loving..of being…of human being.

We live in an era of separation. I personally, am against it. No matter what side you stand on, however, know that I love you. For your part in the experiment we call life. For my part in the choice to participate in yours, and for the benefit of all of us.

 

Dear Mom, I see you.

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My mom and my son.

Mom,

Gush-y-ness is almost bursting out of me just when I phonetically begin to say the word. The smile of endearment that presides every time you enter my thoughts, blows the whistle on the teenager you once knew, who would protest your protection and tell you to “go away”. The one who knew better than you, and the one who stubbornly and willfully “went my own way” in times you wanted me to go yours because you knew I’d benefit from your wisdom. The confident lioness of young womanhood who played all the sports, had the lifelong friends she’d always wanted, and the family that was nuclear.

That smile has a second agenda. It also reveals the broken, battered, unappreciated, rattled, and worn-too- thin woman that currently calls herself a young mother of young children. Ok, maybe not so young at 34, but young-ish. A woman drowning in her responsibilities, not gracefully, and making ultimate mistakes that may or may not be founded in anything but simple selfishness. The one who is struggling and cautiously pacing through learning the necessary lessons in respect, gratitude, positive parenting, and overall happiness from the foundation of family, unconditional love, loyalty, and respect that you have given me.

The one who has the uncanny ability to forget who she is, guilt herself, and throw away remembering the DAILY good she performs in order to feel the almost masochistic weight of the “it wasn’t good enough.”

The one who is now referring to herself in the third person, because maybe that part of me, isn’t really real.

Scratch that. she IS real. And she is enough. And she is beaming with pride to call herself your daughter.

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That I can open my arms to that part of me, is because of you. You love unconditionally and accept all of me at a capacity that I am so profoundly lucky to know. I see you.

I am writing to you, about you, so you can see who you are in my eyes. I write of my brokenness so you can KNOW that you had every part in creating the strength in me to see the imperfection, and tackle it. To fall onto that foundation that you’ve so preciously and delicately worked with me to build.


4151_683495597259_329027_nI write to you to show you that you are my way-shower, my example of what defines grace and sacrifice. But who also personifies a silent power that I never knew existed until I became a mother. I see you.

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I often hear people refer to you as “angelic”. Your heart is both understanding and practically constructive in the same breath. It is peacemaking, authentic, and wise. It is all shades of happiness, and dynamically persistent in the acceptance of all with which you are facing.

People always say, “What until you have kids.” And they are right. I could never understand what blessings could lie behind the characteristic of beautiful patience. I have always watched, in awe, your ability to quiet your mind, and open your mouth to reveal the most perfectly and divinely guided words. A shining example of outwardly expressed love. I see you.

You’ve walked with me through all of my trials and tribulations. First, through childhood, through shyness and tom-boyhood. Always holding me close, and letting the leash out little perfect inch by little perfect inch. You supported me through adolescence, finding the most subtle and gentle ways to nurture me into this new body, and to tell me that I needed to actually shower every once in a while.

Drove me, every day, to school (piano, basketball, lacrosse, dance, music, variety show practice, games, tournaments, etc)from the country, just so I would get to have the experiences I deserved. These were the memories for which you sacrificed your mornings and afternoons. Hell, your whole weekend sometimes. I never once saw the wear of that sacrifice of time on your face. I saw a woman who, without a shadow of a doubt, would always be there for me. Whose pride for her kids, for her life, for her part in the decision to give us this opportunity to have the world more open to us, overshadowed what I know now was ultimately painstakingly sacrificially beautiful.  I see you.

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Who was it that yelled to (not at) me to please take care of myself after surgery, and not overdo it? I saw it then as trying to control me. I see it now for it’s pleading love. The resonance of experienced nursing knowledge in your voice that I had a future in front of me. I had college sports at my feet, and not to ruin my chance to have that opportunity.

I see your sleepless nights of worry through college. Your courage to let me go. A brave mother who let me make my mistakes to learn to truly live. Mistakes in love, in education, and in life.

You walked with me in the journey through Massage School. Learning a new passion for energy work and discovering that you’re pretty badass at trusting your intuition. You showed me that I have an outlet for my human angst in prayer and meditation. And most importantly, in God.

It was you that introduced me to the concept of soul family so that I never have to feel alone, so long as I have a moment to reach out to them. You’ve only grown stronger in that ever since, making spiritual and soul connections that feed you, and build you stronger. Making your faith a priority among a lot of things. Not just a faith in Spirit. A faith in yourself, your family, and your son and daughter. I see you.

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And you did all this through the debilitation of your own pain. You never ever left my side as a mother. Even when the worries of your body’s betrayal left you emotionally weathered and physically exhausted, you never left our side. Not once. I so see you. This was the greatest lesson I ever could learn about the breadths of self that had been undiscoverable to me until my blinders were removed. You courageously walked down an aisle with stairs one gracefully and smiling step at a time, to watch me marry the man that reminds me so much of you and your strength. You didn’t even flinch. You were in so much pain but I never saw it. Sweet sacrifice. I see you. You were so amazing that day, and added everything to the happiness and whimsicality of it.

You gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given the day you told me that you, too, have been broken. Someone who seems to me to be the portrait of perfection. To know that you felt anything but that, in body and mind, and came out of the other side not only stronger and more sure of who you are, but also posturing towards happiness, was everything to me. You shared that you came out with a bigger capacity for compassion for others. If actions speak louder than words, then your day to day must be pretty loud, Mom.

Somedays, I feel as though I am that little girl who cried on the bus in first grade, homesick for my mother and my bed. Homesick for her soft hand stroking my head and back. Homesick in this big and scary world for what would make me feel whole, safe, and loved. But then, I remember you. I remember that I don’t care if you hate the photos I am posting, I want to share with the world the person who reminds me of all that I can be capable. Of the qualities that are within me, ready to be utilized at any moment.

I see you, Mom. You were are there, so vividly and immediately, in the moment that I became a mother myself; honoring my strength and wistfully studying your grandson in your arms. It was that day that I knew that I had always had the person I want to be in front of me. It is now that I finally know, I have that person IN me, as well. I am a part of you, as you are of me. I can be enough. I am enough as a mother, because I have been learning its embodiment from birth. My vision is loaded with images of what it looks like to be a mother, memories that create feelings of just what exactly that word means to me. What you, mean to me.

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I wish I knew then what I know now. As I try to stay above water in a world that seems judgemental and impossibly navigated as a mother of two, every bump and bruise I receive that sends me running back to “home”. That place I wish to run now lies within me. It is the part of me that is you. That is brave, silent and patient, strong yet gentle. Angelic, warm and inviting. Open and divine with ambitiously positive and fervent nurturance. Glowingly proudly with a heroic view of the world she has helped build, and hardworking to adjust to its ebbs and flows. You are timelessly beautiful. Breathtakingly loving, and kind just on time. That is who I see. Both in you and now, in the mirror. This bond of sisterhood, of soul connection, runs deep within us.

My proudest moment of my life will be the day I can say,

“My God, I am becoming my mother.” with a grin of resilience, fortitude, and pride in my co-creation, as I cannot think of anything better to be in this whole world.

Because I am your daughter, I see you alive in me.

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Yours with benevolence,

Your daughter.  Kristy

(Almost) At Home with Christiana: An exercise in Gratitude

As many of you may or may not know, I have been absent from the blog for the past couple of weeks while my family relocated up the coast. It was a typical military move with more paperwork than there is time, and plenty of bumps in the road.

And I’ll be honest, when driving up the eastern seaboard on little to no sleep with all of your children and your dog and half of your household belongings shoved into very close quarters in one vehicle, gratitude is NOT the first word that comes to mind.  Especially when your kids get food poisoning halfway through. (Yes, really.)

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Not that I have (BY FAR) the hardest life, or that I am (BY FAR) as zen as the Dalai Lama, but I have been asked more than once how exactly I cope with the frequent and potentially stressful disruptions of our gypsy-esque military family lifestyle. And in that case, the first word that comes to mind actually is gratitude.

Charles Dickens may have said it best:

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

In almost any situation, I have learned (and am definitely STILL learning) to temper my feelings of stress or frustration by exercising conscious gratitude. Every day, there are SO many things that all of us have to be grateful for, but unless we stop and really think about them, it’s easy to lose sight of them among a busy day’s hectic or potentially stressful events. But making the effort is worth it. The rewards are big. Like UNIVERSALLY big.  I have found it easier not only to deal with my somewhat un-hinged, out-of-school, mid-move, energetic children in a way that I can be proud of, but to be a whole PERSON I am more proud of. In fact, an active practice in gratitude, I think, is an incredibly simple but profoundly effective way for all of us to be people that we are more proud of. 

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There are several ways to incorporate more gratitude into your life. And there are literally no rules. Whatever makes you feel it. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a yogi, you just have to be you. For me personally, I have found meditating to be a wonderful way to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, and if you’re able to, you can find a fantastic led meditation on gratitude from UC Berkeley here.

If meditation is not for you, or, if you’re in a time or place where meditation is not an option (like driving on I-95 with two vomiting children, in my case) you can actively walk your mind through some major gratitude points like those listed below.

And don’t overlook the basics in your life. Know that if you are expressing these conscious thoughts, you already have several marvelous gifts:

  • The gift of life itself, the most precious gift. Your life. The lives of your dearest, the lives of those who love and support you.light sunset people water
  • The countless conveniences that are available to us today that many of our ancestors did not have, and that people in many parts of our world still do not have. Air conditioning, clean drinking water, vehicles and safe passage, ample food. Machines, schools, libraries, electricity.person washing his hand
  • The work put in by thousands of people you’ve never met to create life as you know it. From ancestors that fought for freedoms we enjoy today, to those who grow and deliver our food, those who maintain our roads, vehicles, pipes, roofs and infrastructure, to innovators and inventors, to deployed and fallen military members and first responders.soldier-military-uniform-american.jpg
  • The particular things you enjoy in your daily life. The gift of a warm cup of coffee  in the morning, or the gift of your comfortable bed at night. A conversation with a friend. A treasured heirloom. A warm snuggle with a beloved pet, or a bedtime story with your child. bonding cold cozy dog

When we actively appreciate the things we already have, we are able to see the richness surrounding us, and inconveniences or problems seem smaller in the balance of our rich, grateful lives.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

Dr. Annie Answers: Little Personalities

This post is both confession and discussion. It’s about learning to be a mommy and learning who my child is. It’s embarrassing and important.

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Baby Bump, Photo Cred: Laura Renee Baxter Photography

When I was pregnant with baby #1, Hubby Pants and I decided we weren’t going to find out the gender of the baby before birth. In my household growing up, gender identity was something that individuals developed through their childhood and adolescence. Body parts present at birth often correlated with that identity, but sometimes did not. I felt strongly that I wanted to provide equal opportunity for our child to declare their own identity and not have it foisted upon them.

I decided early on that I loved lipstick, ruffles and sequins and could do cartwheels in high heels by age 7… but I also loved playing in the barn, catching snakes and playing sports. It was a little of everything.

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Case in point: Hangin with my big bros at Grandpa’s Eagle Lake house, best snake catching place, wearing a pink dress.

Kids should be able to be whoever they want to be.

The moment came for that baby to come into the world. H.P. had the honor of announcing the body parts, “It’s a girl!”. Her name came to me instantly the moment I looked at her tiny, sweet face. We dressed her in mostly gender neutral clothes (gifted clothes were mostly gender-specific and we had to use what we had), avoided pink or frilly baby gear and sticking bows on her head. Our baby toys were all mechanical – trucks, blocks, etc… No baby dolls. No dress up.

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Rosalyn Elizabeth

Fast forward to 15 months old. Little Rosie had a play date for the first time with an older girl who had a baby doll and play stroller. The look on her face when she beheld this item was like Christmas-Candy-Store-Seeing-a-Unicorn all rolled into one. She was obsessed.

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Fully self-styled

From there, her love of all things “girly” just exploded. This girl wanted all things pink, sparkly, frilly, and fancy. H.P. and I tried to encourage more balanced choices, “Pants are nice too!”, “OOh! Fun cars!”, “Let’s play in the mud!”. Left to her own devices, though, she would be in a floor-length sparkly gown, high heels, putting on make up and prancing around.

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It hit me at one point that my feelings about this were not about ‘accepting who she expressed herself to be’, but of embarrassment that she was a cliche of girlishness. I was the open-minded mom who was supposed to let her be who she wanted to be, but I found myself resisting in the same ways parents of a boy who wanted to wear dresses might. I blamed myself for setting an example of dressing up for dates with her daddy, wearing make up most days and ‘giving in’ to her desire to wear only fancy dresses and put on my lipstick.

I finally realized I had to let go of allllll my ideas about her gender identity and let her actually be herself.

The part that I struggle with the most is how to let her be her fancy self while still emphasizing that those outer trappings of appearance do not in any indicate a person’s value. She already has ideas about who is ‘pretty’ and who is not. Society actively teaches this. There are not any un-gorgeous Disney heroines. Even Moana is conventionally beautiful.

We talk constantly about how anyone can have long hair, wear make up or dress in fancy dresses regardless of whether they want to be called a boy or a girl. We are trying to balance the scales a little bit, but the truth is, we are a cis-gendered couple with mostly stereotypical peer families that we spend time with. Examples of this diversity are harder to come by in our life right now.

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Lipstick adventures

I have had to search far and wide for books like Your Body Is Awesome and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls with more positive and meaningful messages. We constantly reinforce that what’s on the outside doesn’t indicate real value that’s on the inside. I see a sea change coming in this regard compared to when we were children, but right now it’s still just a glimmer on the horizon. We also have been given the Little Mommy and Barbie Golden Books which are awful and she found where I hid them and wants them read (so I change all the words to a more empowering narrative because she can’t read yet… I’ll need a new strategy eventually).

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I’m sharing this because other parents out there might be struggling with whatever identity their child is expressing and I want them to know they are not alone. We have a never ending debate about Nature vs Nurture going on in our society. I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer. I think we need to respect our children’s nature – it is present and it is strong and it is undeniable. I think we need to nurture the better thoughts and behaviors that they express to the world. It’s a balance. It’s a challenge. It’s f-ing hard sometimes.

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Take the moments you can to just revel in the incredible, unique, fantastic human(s) you have brought into this world.

 

 

 

 

The universe decided to go easier on me for baby #2. Mimi is a fluid mix of having fun with a little girliness but also loving to build and play in the dirt. She, if anything, was raised with a lot more feminine clothes and toys around just by the nature of hand-me-downs. This helped me let go of some of the self-blame. They are who they are. We can help guide them but we also have to let them be themselves.

My hope is that they know they can dress like a princess and still be strong, be capable, be the boss of the world. Just like mom 😉 In what ways are your kids how you expected or not? Anyone else have a hard time with this? Would love your comments!

18_SMG_Ray_Anne_MD_FamilyMed-5654_print Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 and family doctor in the Sacramento area.