I have a long-standing battle with body image. It has taken me down many, many times, and sadly, when it does, it seems to spill over into every area of my life. Suddenly, not only do I have love handles and thunder thighs, I now also find myself targeting other innocent parts of myself and going to war on my entire entity: horrible mom, wife, housekeeper, friend—just all of it. I’m chubby and worthless.
I hate being in that place. I have recently brought this issue before some of my very best friends. (I am exceedingly blessed with the best friends in the universe who will tell me the truth even if it rocks my world, and I love them for it.) One of the things I mentioned is that I am the queen of taking “before” pictures. Every workout regime that is started, every New Year’s Resolution jotted down, every healthy choice I vowed to make all began with a “before” picture. I wanted to see the amazing results and bask in my glory. But my next admission is pretty sad: I never took an “after” picture. Not to say that my body didn’t change or that I didn’t accomplish a great deal, just that I was never satisfied with the work I’d done. It was never enough. I was never enough. I can’t take an “after” picture yet—I still look awful! Sad, but true.
One of my friends has battled for me in this area and downright harasses me to see the truth about myself. (I am so grateful for her tenacity and for not giving up on me.) She came to me today and showed me a picture of myself that Facebook had given her as her memory of the day. I was, as she put it, a lot fluffier then. She said, “I just want you to see what you’ve accomplished.” And then she said, “You can take an ‘after’ picture now.” I laughed at first, but then what she had said hit me like a ton of bricks, and I nearly cried. Yes, yes, it’s time to take the “after” picture. It’s time to acknowledge what I’ve accomplished. It’s time to love myself and be okay with where I am right at this moment.
This revelation doesn’t just feel like it’s just for this one area of my life–it’s for a dozen others. Why am I waiting for perfection?! Yes, I will strive for excellence in all that I do, but I will also learn to acknowledge how far I’ve come and how hard some of the legs of the journey have been. I will pat myself on the back, and then I will give myself grace for where I’m at right in this moment. Then I’ll keep working on becoming. Not becoming some unachievable dream person, but becoming the “me” that I will be meeting at the next moment in time when I stop and say, “Okay, now, take another ‘after’ picture.”
First off, let me just say that I am no parenting expert. If anyone says that they are you should probably put your fingers in your ears and sing loudly when they talk. I mean, with parenting it seems to me that it’s all one big experiment. You kind of do your best and cross your fingers and see what happens. Seriously, I am the mom that found 2 of her kids naked and pooping in the yard when they were 3 and 4 (we did not live in the countryside). Yeah, so at this point you can either laugh/relate and keep reading or roll your eyes and pretend you never saw this.
This little post is in response to many articles I have seen lately floating around the internet suggesting that we should not be our kid’s friend. Every time I see this it bothers me. I couldn’t figure out why, but today as I was mopping (because occasionally I actually do that) I think I got a grasp on it.
I am friends with my kids. I love being with them and we have a great relationship. I have never been a super authoritative parent. I am of the belief that I should speak to my children with respect as I would like for them to speak to others. I don’t treat them like minions I treat them more as equals. I still ask them to do things and they comply happily 90% of the time.
I think my issue with this whole “you can’t be friends with your kids” is more about our concept of friendship than about parenting. I think we have become friends who don’t tell each other the hard things and don’t want to hear other people tell us those things. I am lucky enough to live in an amazing community of friends. We love each other well. We laugh together and cry together and sometimes we sit down with each other and give our friend a proverbial slap across the face and say ‘this area of your life is getting way out of whack, what is going on?’ or maybe we hug them and say ‘something seems off, you’re not yourself. How can we help?’ In my observation and experience outside of my community we just want to be encouragers and say only nice things about each other. But, blind spots are, well, hard to see. If you truly love someone you will want to help them grow as a person. You don’t want to see them sitting in the same pile of dog poo for the rest of their lives, you want to help them get out and move forward. And since you also don’t want to sit on that pile for the rest of your life so you have to learn to receive hard truths from those that love you. Yes, of course we should be our friends’ biggest cheerleaders and encouragers, but to love each other well we have to move into a deeper kind of love.
I make dumb mistakes a lot. It happens. I am learning and so are my kids. Hopefully, all of us are learning and growing. I am so grateful for my friends who have and do pull me aside and tell me when I have areas that need some work. So I will continue to be friends with my kids (and also cross my fingers and hope for the best).
I have a geek podcast. We talk about…cosplay, sci-fi, superheroes, comic books, video games, cong langs, board games, etc. I love what I do. I LOVE all of those things we talk about on our show. We have been to several conventions of different sorts…and I love those, too. A few months back we were invited to an anime convention. My co-host and I were both pretty clueless about anime, but we agreed it would be a fun new thing to learn about.
I watched several anime shows in preparation. I loved some of them and really couldn’t stomach others. I expected this con to be basically similar to all the others I had attended. I was wrong. It was a much younger crowd. The attendees were mostly teens. These kids were creative and amazing and funny. And often they found community with other like-minded souls. There were a lot of great things happening…a group of boys dressed as soldiers marching through the vendor room singing “Be a Man” from Mulan, girls dressed as scouts from Attack on Titan standing at attention saluting a girl taking their photo, teens walking by in unbelievably intricate cosplays they lovingly handcrafted themselves.
But something stopped me in my tracks.
I stood in front of a vendor’s booth. It was similar to all the other booths in every way. I had been bombarded with these images all day…but I finally collapsed under it. The wall of posters behind the vendor was almost entirely women, some anime, some superhero. There they were…giant boobs and butts…these women were in the most ridiculous poses. They were not telling stories of their bravery or heroism or strength. They were selling their sexy. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not anti-sexy. But the girls displayed on that wall didn’t need the treatment they were given.
The two that stood out to me among the spandex and school girls with giant cleavage were Katara (from Avatar:The Last Airbender) and Mikasa (from Attack on Titan). These two girls are heroes in their stories. They are brave and nurturing, kind and selfless. They have attributes I wholeheartedly hope to obtain someday. In the poster, however…they looked like sex kittens. Mikasa even had boobs (in the show she is pretty flat chested). Something in me wanted to stand up on the table of the vendor and gather all the young girls in the hall around me and tell them that this (pointing hysterically to the posters behind me) is not why these girls are amazing and valuable. This is the candy coating…it’s nothing…it melts away. I wanted to tell them all that they are so much more valuable than cleavage and short schoolgirl skirts. I didn’t want to condemn them for their cosplays…not in the least. What I wanted was to make sure that they knew that they are worth so much more than all of that surface crap. The thought came into my head, You are worth so much more than the skin you are in.
I hate these posters. The art is amazing and the women are beautiful, but, but. Hmmmm…well. I have three daughters; perhaps that is why I feel passionate. I want my daughters to express their beauty. But maybe my idea of beauty is just different. This poem is what I want for my daughters.
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
Never throw out anybody.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!
– Sam Levenson
I love cosplay and I love these female superheroes, but for the sake of my daughters and all the other young girls out there who might cry themselves to sleep because they don’t fit into the mold created by these posters and they never will….I want to deliver a different message: you are worthy of love just as you are. How you look is irrelevant.
I have struggled with acne for YEARS…pretty much most of my life. But I have for about the last four months experienced clear skin, beautiful skin. It has been delightful to go without makeup and feel okay about it, to not constantly be worried about what new hell I will find on my face when I next look in a mirror. When this idea about beauty hit me, it brought with it a horrible break-out on my face. It was like a dare…do you really believe this? Are you really just as valuable now that your face is a war zone? Are you worth more than the skin you’re in?
The answer, my friends, is YES. I am just as valuable, and so are you. The reason we love these poster women has VERY little to do with how they look. They are beautiful, yes, but so is Cersei on Game of Thrones, and I can hardly stand to look at her. They are strong, brave, true to themselves, vulnerable, kind, forgiving, alive, selfless, adventurous, funny, smart…and the list goes on and on. They are what we want to be because of those things. That is what is beautiful.
You are worth so much more than the skin you are in.
“How do you have such creative kids?” This is a question I seem to get asked a lot so I thought I’d attempt to answer it.
Our family is very lucky to live in a small mountain town that is brimming with talented artists. My kids have been raised around songwriters, musicians, painters and authors…this is who makes up our community.
My kids used to think that everyone wrote songs or was an artist, because everyone in their world created. Which brings me to my first point, help your kids see the creativity around them. Point out to your children the things your friends do that are creative even if they don’t fall into the typical “artist” category. Something about seeing other people around them actually creating inspires children to believe that it’s normal.
Second, as their parents, become creative yourself. I have always wanted to create. I love art in so many forms. I love drawing and painting, I love singing, playing guitar and writing songs and I love writing stories. Every human has something, some area in their lives where they enjoy being creative. It might be decorating a room or rebuilding an old car or running a business. We all have creativity in us, but many of us have let it gather dust. We don’t play that instrument anymore or getting out all our paints is too much of a mess and we’re not that good anyway. There are a million reasons why becoming an adult in our world has also equalled hanging up our creative desires. But I believe that our kids NEED to see us engaging in these things. From the time my kids were very young they have seen me creating. I would draw and paint with them. I wrote a novel while they napped. I wrote songs while they climbed all over me. I sang with a band. Stepping out and doing the things you love and being creative isn’t being selfish…it’s a gift to your children. You’re giving them permission.
One of my favorite moments in this journey was around Christmas one year. I started making some simple little nativity paintings that I thought I would try and sell to get some extra present money. I went to a shop after picking up the kids from school one day. It was a trendy little shop that carried local art as well as cute clothes and other eclectic items. The lady at the store turned her nose up at my art and said she wasn’t interested in carrying it. I was so glad that my kids were with me. It was so good for them to see the reality…if you put your art out there…you risk rejection. It also provided a great opportunity for them to learn that just because your art isn’t accepted by one person doesn’t mean that’s the end of the line. Thankfully, through Etsy and a local art fair I couldn’t keep up with the demand for my paintings. I sold them all.
The next thing I think is really important is to shape the way your kids see art and teach them that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Modern art is not necessarily my thing, but many people are moved by it, it speaks to them. Teaching your kids to judge art not according to what other people think but what they actually like is important. Expose them to lots of different kinds of art. Visual art, music, literature, help them find the art all around them.
Teach your kids about mastery. I don’t want my kids to think that producing great art is easy and takes no work. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers. He says it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery of something. I have told my kids this over and over. Encouraging them to practice and put in the hours. Trying to help them understand that if they just keep at something they will eventually master it. I try to help them understand that hard work is just as important as inspiration and talent.
Encourage your kids. Obviously, a budding artist (heck, even a world renowned artist) needs encouragement. They need to understand that you believe they are capable of great things in whatever they are attempting. I have never been one for flattery and I try to be really honest with my kids in an age appropriate way. For instance I might think a drawing my six year-old did is really amazing, but if my thirteen year-old had done it I would not be impressed. Think about finding ways to encourage them. You should be your child’s very best cheerleader. The world will give them plenty of rejection without you doing it too.
There is a balance to this in that you should help them find their way. You can help your kids improve their art. I say this very hesitantly because I hate to think of parents looking at a piece of art from their kid and immediately pointing out how it could be better. Ouch, please don’t do that. This area has to be handled with incredible finesse. You have to know your child and how to handle their heart. Some kids can’t handle criticism at all…and in that case just be an encourager and make sure they know you love them. I usually wait till I am asked for advice. “What do you think, mom?” And then I always tell them first what I love about it and I don’t follow that with the word BUT…I follow it with “What if you tried…” or “Have you thought about…”. This opens their minds to possibility instead of getting bogged down by feelings of rejection. It’s a fine line my friends…tread carefully on those tiny hearts.
I mentioned earlier that you as an adult should pursue some sort of creative endeavor. Here’s another little tip. Don’t dog your own art. When you produce something your kid looks at it and thinks it’s the most amazing thing they have ever seen. When they hear you say that it’s no good imagine how they will feel about their own creations. Don’t crap on the beauty your kids see you produce. This also goes for judging others. I am so careful about what I say around my kids. Even when we watch American Idol…if a contestant is horrible I try to find the good in them and point it out (such as “Wow, that took a lot of courage”). Your kids are going to believe the audience before them is a group of people that will respond much the way their family does. So be a family of encouragers. Your kids will feel that every audience is just waiting for them to shine instead of waiting for them to fail!
And finally, enable your children’s art. Have art/music/whatever supplies on hand. Find ways to encourage and support them in what they’re interested in, not just the things you like. If they’re interested in a particular area find YouTube videos or local mentors or workshops or classes for them to learn more. That speaks volumes to them that you believe they can do it. Remind them when they have free time that art is an option and most importantly give them permission to create.
I was reading a blog the other day. The woman was talking about doing obligatory chores with joy. Cranking up the music and dancing while doing the dishes. This is great, I thought, I’ve got to read this to my kids. And then today while I was, of all things, doing dishes it hit me… “Hello McFly”!!!
Let me give you a bit of history. I am 90% pleasant person and a joy to be around most of the time (I think). BUT…I sometimes have a bad attitude. And when I say bad attitude I mean baaaaaaaad attitude. As in teenage angst, jilted lover, cornered politician, you get the idea. It happens when I am doing something good (ironic isn’t it) something like making my family dinner or exercising or laundry or doing an elimination diet. I think we shall use the diet as an example because I am in the midst of it right now.
I LOVE food. LOVE it…in what I am coming to realize is probably an unhealthy way. But, in an attempt to keep myself healthy and support my husband (who is on the diet for health reasons) I decided to hop on the bandwagon. It’s a very empty bandwagon with only a few skinny socially awkward people on it (see what I mean…bad attitude). Anyway, here’s an idea of what the first week was like.
Day 1: “This is awesome. Why doesn’t everyone do this? It’s so easy and I love vegetables.”
Later in the evening of day 1 we go to a movie for my husband’s birthday. I LOVE movies (almost as much as food) and I always, always get popcorn and a coke. “I hate this stupid diet! Why do we need to be healthy anyway? I just want a huge tub of buttery popcorn and a coke!” I enjoyed the movie, but struggled with being distracted by sulking a lot of the time.
Day 2: “This diet isn’t so hard. I’m so glad I’m doing this.” (We went for a hike and then my husband cooked curry for me.)
Day 3: This is the day I got cocky and was all… “I got this. I am disgusted by those other humans out there who don’t choose to do something like this for their health.”
Day 4: “This is the dumbest thing ever I HATE this @$@#&*! diet. I will stay faithful to it, but I REFUSE to be happy about it.” This is when I started having detox symptoms, you know cause your body is trying to dump all the toxins you normally eat out of your system. My kidneys hurt, I had sciatic pain, headaches, blah.
Day 5, 6, 7: See day 4
Day 8: We took our kids to a tea factory, but first we stopped at Chik-fil-a where I got some sort of fruit chicken salad with no dressing and water and watched my kids scarf chicken strips and waffle fries while drinking lemonade. Enter the angsty teenager. I refused to be happy about anything!! When we got to the tea factory I had spent enough time sulking and enjoyed the tour. Thankfully they had a lot of herbal teas that I could taste (that helped keep the hulk away from the factory that day).
So, there you go. A little taste of my crazy. I am done with this crazy. I don’t want it anymore! When I see these attitudes in my kids I get so frustrated, “you should be grateful you even have food”! Yeah…I guess in some ways it is just a simple shift of perspective.
Jesus talked in the Bible about being cheerful in giving. I always thought that was kind of strange. I mean, honestly, imagine you are in the grocery store and a woman in front of you is struggling with 3 small children and buying only the necessities and when the total comes she realizes that she doesn’t have enough. If you on the other hand were standing behind her and had plenty of money in your pocket would it be anything, but a joy and a privilege to get to help this woman. I’m guessing Jesus said this for a reason. Even something we find great joy in can become obligatory. As a mom of 4 I have a LOT of obligatory chores in my life. I could list them, but I don’t want to risk sucking the joy out of your day. But, if I can find some way to shift my thinking about these things it could change my life. I could find more joy more life.
To be grateful. In. ALL. Things. I believe I can change. I will start to shift today.
Artists can be a funny and sensitive crew. The sun must be shining just so. The pencils aligned in the right way. The correct sharpener must be sitting at the ready…and how can you expect creation to occur without the favored hot beverage sitting contentedly on the perfectly prepared desk. And then, of course, there is inspiration. Inspiration is that piece of magic that floats in on a cloud and is delivered by one of those fat baby angels. It is mystical and so very far outside the realm of our understanding. Some people seem to have baby angels waiting outside their window all the time. A long line of little puffy clouds longing to give more magic to this incredibly gifted artist.
Oh if only it were so…if only a cherub would come down and sprinkle fairy dust on the “artists” of the world and bring them inspiration daily. Well, it’s not gonna happen. And, in a way, we should be grateful. Because we don’t have to worry about the fact that we might not be in that special chosen group worthy of a visit from the Heavenly realms. The truth about inspiration is really a two-edged sword. It’s good news and bad news. It’s up to you. There it is, the good news and the bad news. It is all up to you.
Inspiration is a result of hard work. Yeah, that’s the bad news part. It doesn’t come from the sky. It comes instead from blood, sweat, and tears. From sitting down and investing time and part of your soul into what you want to create. Something about this process opens up an idea catcher in your brain and invisible nets shoot out of your head. A simple phrase or conversation or just watching someone put groceries in their car can create all sorts of inspiration because you put in the work and it opened the idea catcher. Sadly, it doesn’t stay open forever once it is opened. Once you start pushing your art to the back burner a few nets get put away. When the art table is pushed to the side and the pencils are gathering dust then your idea catcher closes completely and goes into a dormant state. Sad isn’t it. Not to worry. Blood, sweat, and tears will open it up again and inspiration and ideas will again flood your mind.
Don’t be afraid of hard work. It is the doting parent of inspiration. Do the work and find yours.
I grew up in the South during an era when it was acceptable to judge people, to whisper harsh words about them to your friends. You could even pass as compassionate as you did it if you just added “bless her heart” to the end of your criticism. It felt like our duty. These people needed judging and we were just the people to do it.
What I failed to realize at the time was the effect this was having on me. I was right…that woman had no business singing a special at church, she couldn’t find the right note to save her life. But, with every one of these sentences that I passed I was piling weights and assumptions on my head. I found that going on stage to perform or writing or drawing was becoming more and more difficult. I started to believe that everyone that I performed for was the same as me, that they were measuring my imperfections and looking for opportunities to judge me.
Thankfully, later in my life I met some artists who were also gifted encouragers. I watched them take newbies under their wings and speak words of life, breathe hope into them. I was appalled at first because I could see with my keen judging eye that these young artists were not worth investing in. I was dead wrong. I started to understand the beauty of living a life free of judgement. It doesn’t only free us up from being uptight, unpleasant people. It also frees us up to perform and create with less fear.
When you become the encourager instead of the critic…you empower those you encourage and you free yourself. Like my momma and daddy always said, “look for the good in people and you’re sure to find it”.
I could list mine here and trust me it would be a compelling argument. We could all sit back sipping our tea and nodding “oh yes, you should never create anything. You are much too busy and unprepared and undereducated and…”.
Yes, well, I love to create. Doesn’t everyone? Something in us longs for it.
If you’re thinking of arts and crafts right now and having a mini panic attack, relax…creation is not just arts and crafts. I really hate arts and crafts myself and am familiar with said panic attack. When my children were smaller I went to a moms get together which consisted of eating, listening to a speaker, then doing a craft. I would sit and drink coffee while my crafty friend would do my craft for me. It was a beautiful system.
Creativity is in us all. It might be in business or mechanics or engineering or it might be in the arts, but it is there. I am frustrated to see how many people bow to their excuses and fear in this area.
The excuse I hear the most is that what they create is not good enough.
First, I doubt there are many artists who can look at a masterpiece they have created and not point out some flaws (flaws that only the creator would notice).
Second, if you wait until you become really good…then you never will. The act of creating art that isn’t “good enough” is the path to creating something of value.
The ticket price for becoming a “real” artist is being brave. I don’t mean being brave enough to make art, although that is the first step. I mean being brave enough to put your art out there for the world to love and enjoy and criticize and tear apart. That is terrifying.
It stretches you in a way that makes you feel as though your skin may never fit on your body again, but it is a good stretch albeit painful.
Your excuses are valid, but so what. There are thousands of other people out there with more valid excuses than you who are doing it.
Pick one, excuses or creation. If you pick excuses, own it. Cuddle up with them, pet them, love them. You will have an easier life in many ways and the crazies or resistance or whatever you want to call it will leave you alone. But, that other thing won’t. That thing in the back of your mind that says “what if…what if I had had the courage, what if I had become an inspirational story that would light the fire for other artists, what if I had let the world see who I really am?”
If you choose creation over excuses you will still have to continue to fight off excuses, they won’t leave you alone. The crazies will come to tell you that you can’t do it and you aren’t worthy and that you are wasting your time. Then you present your art to the world and it feels a little like handing your newborn to a troll to babysit. Sounds appealing doesn’t it?
But, there are moments. Moments where you can feel another piece of you coming to life. When you can feel how much you have grown and changed. When you touch someone deeply and a long dormant emotion seeps out of their eyes and yours too. The tiny moments of absolute certainty that THIS is what you should be doing…THIS is what you were created for. It’s a little like the moment when you see your baby for the first time. You don’t forget the pain of childbirth, but you realize why it was worth it.
Blogging is like giving someone a peek into your underwear drawer, but only after you’ve gone through it and hidden all the pairs with holes and the embarrassingly large granny panties. It is the illusion of transparency. Here is ALL my stuff for all the world to see.
There is an art to this. You must show enough of the “embarrassing” stuff to create the appearance of total share-age, but not so much as to reveal the holey underpants. Share enough about your silly, somewhat socially acceptable quirks and you’re OK to hide the rest of the ugly undies safely tucked away under your bed.
It’s good to have a small safe circle that know about your granny panties and still love you (I am thankful for my little group of creeps). But…just know that the quirks you read about on this site and virtually every other blog are only scratching the surface of our insanity.
I admit it. I have lived for quite a long portion of my life with a strong desire to be cool. I want to be Ripley from Alien or Trinity from The Matrix….but it doesn’t have to be a superhero type figure. How about Juno? She is cool always. Witty, self-assured, and just, well, cool.
I watched a movie the other day and finally accepted that I am uncool. Bridget Jones…she did me in. I may not be like her in many ways, but I related all too well in the important ways. The constant foot in the mouth, the trying so very hard to be witty and improve one’s self, the inevitable public humiliation.
I have a friend who is always ridiculously cool. She can go to the local thrift store and pick out things that are horribly out of fashion and then wear them and suddenly they too are cool because they touched her cool skin. I do not understand this. I have tried to wear only things that are hip and have not pulled it off, then attempted to be cool by wearing things that are not cool and found that they are really, well, not cool even after touching my skin. My friend is James Dean and I am Buddy Hackett (if you don’t know who he is just google his pic…you’ll get the idea).
I’m chronically uncool. I rap along with my ipod when I run. I don’t hear the real runners or cyclists, who actually go a decent speed, sneaking up on me. They get the privilege of hearing my white Oklahoma version of Salt-N-Pepa and probably already got to witness me digging out my underwear that insists on jogging with me if ya know what I mean. Damn sneaky fast athletes. Being cool in sport is a whole other level of cool…I will never achieve.
I love geeky stuff and dream of someday attending Comic-con. This has been yet another of my reasons I am not cool, but it seems as though it may be my salvation. Geek is the new cool. I am holding onto hope….a new hope.
Back to Bridget Jones. She is an idiot who does not have it all together and in the film this beautiful and brilliant man comes to her and tells her he likes her just the way she is. Love it! Embracing my uncoolness even as we speak. My husband is that man…genius, charismatic, neat, got it together, beautiful….and as they say opposites attract. He loves me just as I am. I am very lucky to be so very uncool.