Posted in Life As I Know It

Feeling More FraGEElay

This Christmas will be different for us. Partly because of life’s twists and turns, and partly by design. Life has brought us the first Christmas without my mom. It has also brought us a much smaller gathering around our table. This will most definitely result in a quieter day, and I’ve chosen to embrace these changes as a new way to experience Christmas rather than focusing on the differences as purely loss.

I’ve never had a Christmas where I wasn’t entertaining a group, and so I will cherish the opportunity to stay in my PJs longer and not rush to get things ready. Instead of trying to be the “hostess with the mostess,” I will strive to be less stressed and more relaxed. It’s all in the perspective, right?

And that perspective is also mindful of the fragility of life.

It’s true my mom is gone. But at 92, she had “the opportunity of a lifetime” and many years to experience—and now she is at peace. It is still a loss, but there is a sense of “normalcy” to her passing.

And then there are times when the fragility of life sneaks up on you in an instant and nothing will ever be the same again. Recently a beloved member of our church died at the age of 45…leaving behind her husband, two young boys, and many others who loved her dearly. In the span of less than two weeks, she went from not knowing she was ill to…dying. Just like that, she’s gone.

It may be cliché to say that our days are numbered on this earth, but the reality is that some of us, like my mom, have a number around 36,000…and others have less than one single day…or maybe more near 17,000, as our church friend had. And that may seem like a big number…until you run out of them.

We don’t know our number. At least I don’t know mine. But our days on the earthly side of this life are finite.

Life is fragile. We are fragile.

And so with our days numbered, we ought to be gentler to one another…and ourselves.

We need to choose kindness, grace, and service over hatred, ineptitude, and selfishness.

We need to forge a way, especially in these painfully divisive times, for love to win.

How we choose to use our days is all we have to work with in this fragile life.

My “fraGEElay” run began six years ago with this post. And while I have let this blog slip through the cracks of life, I am moved to once again wish you Christmas blessings…And if life, as it so frequently does, is not treating you gently, I pray you have people in your life who love you and stand alongside you…helping you pick up the pieces and create your own Kintsugi.

Merry Christmas, friends.

ALL PHOTOS ARE USED WITH PERMISSION.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home

For the last five years, a thematic word to help guide the year has pretty much magically appeared in front of me anxiously raising its hand like Arnold Horshack crying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Each year it has made complete sense to me as to why this word this year, and…this year is no different.  Continue reading “Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Practicing Life

Do you remember learning your multiplication tables in elementary school? We were expected to go over them until we could rattle them off like we were wielding a numeric machine gun. It wasn’t my favorite assignment, for sure, and I remember my mom drilling me on them until they finally sunk in. The theory, in part, is that once they are embedded in our brains, we will then be able to use them with little effort to solve bigger problems.

So many times it is practice that enables us to progress or gives us the tools to move forward. Continue reading “Practicing Life”

Posted in Soapbox

Am I Really All About That Bass?

pop-art-bassSometimes I come late to the party on song lyrics. As a kid, there were some humorous misunderstandings of lyrics…wrapped up like a douche? don’t fear the reefer? (and I love my husband’s just like a one-winged dove…) It can make for an interesting twist to a song, for sure.

While the internet has certainly made it easier to find the lyrics, the meanings can still take me a while, too. Of course, songs—like any other art—can have various interpretations, but sometimes they’re pretty obvious (bang bang into the room anyone?) Occasionally I hear a song one way, though, and then on the umpteenth hearing of it, something hits me differently.

Such is the case with Meghan Trainor’s song, “All About That Bass.”

When the song came out, I loved it right away. For one, my husband is a bass player—and I AM all about That bass. And of course the song’s music is a whole lotta fun. But I also loved the message of supporting bodies with a little more “bass” on them, too. I’m in favor of anything that helps push back on the ridiculously intense message to girls and women to be stick thin—and not because I have my own “bass”—but because it simply needs to stop. Body image is a sore spot for countless women. Too many girls are starving themselves or sticking their fingers down their throats in an attempt to be thin, and the media continues perpetuating that “thin is in.” And as a society, we just seem to go along for the ride…because if it wasn’t working, the media wouldn’t keep pounding it so hard.

 

tomato-booty
from our garden a couple years ago…aka “booty tomato”

 

Recently my husband made “That Bass” his ringtone, so it’s been a bit of an earworm to me of late. And it was with a recent ring of his phone that something dawned on me. (I told you I can be slow.)

The one lyric I already knew I wasn’t a fan of was Trainor’s reference to the “skinny bitches.” After all, if we’re talking about accepting different body types, then it’s got to go both ways. Though I have never, ever, ever had the problem of being “too skinny” (or any kind of skinny at all), I know that some women do indeed have a hard time—for various reasons, including simple genetics—being what is considered average weight. And getting teased for being skinny hurts just as much as getting teased for being heavy. (This is another great instance where women should be kinder to one another for everyone’s sake.)

 

light-flare-bass

 

But hearing the song bubble up from my husband’s phone triggered a realization about another lyric from the song. When I heard the line “momma she told me ‘don’t worry about your size.’ She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” I thought WAIT! The message is still about what the boys like. Other lyrics reinforce that body acceptance is still “all about the men”:

Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
All the right junk in all the right places

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but once I really gave the song a bit more than a passing thought, I couldn’t help but see that the song is still sending the message that a woman’s body is defined, at least in part, by a man’s approval.

And that’s not okay.

 

blue-bass

 

Should women want to be healthy and fit—to be our best selves physically? Of course. But not because it’s what the boys like. We should want it for ourselves. And the goal shouldn’t be some unrealistic ideal created by Disney and Calvin Klein, but one where you simply feel good in your own skin.

And while the message of guys saying “more is okay by us” helps to battle against the pressure to be, as Trainor says, a “stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll,” the message needs to go further. Far enough that we are who we are because WE like us as we are.

Sometimes when I write a post and my husband reads it, he’ll let me know that it didn’t really feel like the intended audience included my male readers—which is probably the case here. HOWEVER…I hope you guys don’t feel that way because you are part of the solution.

As the mom of a boy, one of my goals is to raise him knowing the true value of women—and that value doesn’t reside in our bodies. I want him to see gender equality as something that men should care deeply about, too—to understand it as a goal for all humanity because it is an inherent right for all.

So…I guess I’m not all about that bass after all.

Though I still enjoy the song, its message falls short. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”…well…no, no—it’s not. There’s no such thing. And you’re still amazing.

 

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

What Would Get You to Take It All Off?

Last week, my sister took it all off. In front of hundreds of people, she bared herself in a way she has never done before. And she did it for money. If you know her, you’re not too surprised at this behavior. She tends to do stuff like this.

 

hanger

 

Stuff like raising over $1500 for childhood cancer research by shaving her head.

Did you think I meant something else? Sigh. Get your mind out of the gutter, people.

My sister, Theresa, shaved her head last Friday as a way to raise money for St. Baldrick’s childhood cancer research. As a fun incentive for people to donate, the organization (named as a combination of “bald” and “St. Patrick’s,” since the first event was held March 17, 2000) encourages people to raise funds for research by pledging to shave their heads.

 

trying to capture the two of us--and her hair--in one last photo
trying to capture the two of us–and her hair–in one last photo

 

Theresa is a teacher, and her high school has been supporting St. Baldrick’s for a few years. At the very moment she was speaking with a teacher about being a “shavee” this year, another colleague walked into the room and shared that his grandson had to have his eye removed in his battle with cancer. It was a powerful coincidence that fueled my sister’s commitment to participate. Not surprisingly, she chose to sponsor this boy in her efforts. (The boy has since gotten his labs back, and, thank God, he is now cancer-free.)

 

since she is donating her hair, it needs to be in ponytails
since she is donating her hair, it needs to be in ponytails

 

My sister and I hate cancer. (Is there anyone who doesn’t?!) It’s not only taken our dad, but affected too many people that we know and love. And—just too many people, period. It is an insidious, horrible disease—but research is making strides. As the St. Baldrick’s website notes, “In the 1950s, almost all kids diagnosed with cancer died. Because of research, today about 90% of kids with the most common type of cancer will live. But for many other types, progress has been limited, and for some kids there is still little hope for a cure.”

 

quite the transformation
quite the transformation

 

I am very proud of Theresa for “taking it all off.” (I won’t gush much more, as she already accuses me of posting schmaltz.) She not only raised a chunk of money for research, but she was also able to donate her hair to an organization that will use it to make hairpieces for disadvantaged children suffering with hair loss for various reasons. Shaving her head was a double win.

 

check out the hair she is holding in her hand to be donated!
check out the hair she is holding in her hand to be donated!

 

And, in a way, it was also a kind of triple win, as well—at least for Theresa—because her decision to shave her head had another layer of personal impact.

You see, my sister and I both started going gray in our early 20s, and we are now predominantly (and prematurely, mind you!) gray. As I’ve shared before, deciding when and if to cease the coloring madness is not easy. Both (originally) brunettes, if we stopped coloring our hair, we would have to deal with a defined line of brown-to-white until it all grew out. Who wants to look like variations of a skunk tail for months? Not me.

But when my sister committed to shaving her head for St. Baldrick’s, she also decided that she would let it grow back au natural. I found this to be a brilliant plan. No ugly outgrowth! Just new, healthy hair. That is just smart all over the place.

Who knows? It may be the route I take when I decide to make the transition. I will watch my sister’s journey and perhaps it will inspire me to one day do the same. (After all—I have time if I am to follow in my sister’s footsteps, as she is MUCH older than me. You’re welcome, T.)

 

with "Shelly the Head Shaver"
with “Shelly the Head Shaver”

 

Doesn’t she look great?

So far, she is loving it. As she recently shared on Facebook:

Shaving head for St. Baldrick’s – $1,585!
Savings in hair products per month – $17
Time saved every morning – 25 minutes
Startling myself every time I pass a mirror – PRICELESS!

Her bold commitment has also, in a way, set her free.

Of course, when I wrote the title for this post, I was hoping that the salacious nature of it would make you want to read it…

But there is a “real” reason for it, too. Those who shave their heads for St. Baldrick’s are ready to drastically change their appearance—at least for a while—to help the battle against cancer.

What are you willing to commit to? What will move you enough to say, “for this, I will endure some discomfort/pain/sacrifice/risk”?

I know I’m not ready to shave my head quite yet. While I did do the AVON 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer a few years back, I’m not courageous enough to go cue ball like my sister. But understanding what it is that you are willing to “take it all off” for is an important thing to know about yourself, don’t you think?

What will you put yourself on the line for?

If you feel comfortable enough to share in a comment below, please do.

And…way to go, T!

 

All photos are my own or have been used with permission.

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Posted in Soapbox

10 Great Reasons to Forgive

I took my mom to the bank drive thru the other day. I think these mainly still exist for people in my mom’s generation—though having the little canister get sucked up into the tube is pretty cool. The transaction turned out to be very frustrating because the tellers didn’t see something they should have and ended up treating us rather poorly.

My mom was…ticked. She wanted me to get the teller’s name and complain. I told her to take a breath and let it go. We have bigger fish to fry. But it took her a while to get past it. (Actually, I think given the chance, she’d still give the teller an earful.)

I know I can be guilty of the very same kind of misspent energy, and I bet you can admit to the same. While forgiving little slights isn’t too hard, there are times where it’s just easier to steam at the injustice.

And then there are the bigger fish that do indeed need frying. The kinds of hurts that make it even harder to let go and offer forgiveness.

But no matter how big or small the “fish,” we should always strive to forgive, and here are my ten great reasons why…

  1. God commands us to. As a Christian, I have the greatest model of this in Jesus…who offers forgiveness even to the very people who crucified him. What a powerful example of practicing what you preach. Other major religions—Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism—also teach forgiveness. With nearly six billion people in the world identifying with a religion, we should be awash in forgiveness.
  1. We need it every day. At least I do—and I’m pretty sure you do, too. So if we need it but choose not to offer it to others who need it, then we need to strap on our hypocrisy hats.

 

bridge

 

  1. We benefit from offering forgiveness to others. Receiving forgiveness is obviously awesome, but I have had some significant experiences in my life of offering forgiveness, and the healing that comes from it—both spiritually and emotionally—is powerful and freeing.
  1. We lose negative and gain positive energy. Not only is the impact of forgiveness spiritual and emotional, but it can be physical, too. There are times when I have forgiven someone and felt an immediate physical change—as though weighty scales have fallen off of me and tangibly lightened my being. These times have served to remind me how damaging it is to hold onto negative energy. Positive rocks. Negative sucks.

 

ice zags

 

  1. It helps others. We know how amazing it feels to be forgiven. The grace and mercy that comes our way is transformative. Why wouldn’t we want to facilitate that amazingness for others? Share the wealth.
  1. In withholding forgiveness, we can suffer more than the one whom we believe needs it. Sometimes the hurt you’re feeling may not even be on the other person’s radar. One-sided pain is just that: one-sided. Granted, these kinds of offenses are usually on the smaller side—feeling angry at a driver who cut you off or maybe feeling snubbed by someone—but they still result in negative energy that attacks your spirit.

     
    winter shore

  1. Because we can. In many walks of life the cliché “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” rings true. Not here. We have a choice to forgive. What a powerful privilege. See numbers 1-6 and 8-10 for why we should make that choice. 
  1. It’s hard. We need to do the tough stuff. Facing something very painful and working through it to get to forgiveness takes effort and strength and courage. All good things to call upon. Grace and mercy aren’t too shabby, either.
     
    (If you’re like me, the absolute hardest person for me to forgive is…me. For some reason, offering forgiveness to others is much easier than letting myself off the hook. I think this is where a lot of us really need to up our game.) 

     
    summer shore

  1. Modeling forgiveness lets others see how it works. Seeing something in action can really be persuasive. I’m not one of those parents who tries to keep all conflict hidden from my kid. To me, that would be a false representation of life. He knows that sometimes people argue—and showing him how people forgive completes the lesson.
     
    ice breaker
  1. It embraces our mutual brokenness in a broken worldWe all sin, fall short, disappoint, hurt, mess up…all of us…continually. There’s no getting around it. It is our truth. Knowing that we can both offer forgiveness and be forgiven allows us to persevere and thrive in an imperfect world. Hope can continually bloom under the light of forgiveness.

Of course, this by far isn’t a definitive discourse on the merits of forgiveness, but I hope that you have found a little something here to remind you how key forgiveness is to a healthy life. And if you didn’t and instead feel like this has been a waste of your time, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me!

 

All photos are my own.
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