Friday, October 21, 2016

Refugees and The Lessons They Teach Us

I have always been a book fanatic and buy books, both new and used, and have a house in which every shelf is swimming with novels and tomes of non-fiction. Having a home full of books that I can pluck from a shelf at will has always made me feel measurably abundant. That is, it did until the day that I met a new refugee family.

In my job as a public health nurse I work with many refugee families, helping to ease the transition from years of life in a refugee camp into the startlingly different life as a resident of the United States. Working with these families and hearing their stories of their former lives has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

This day I walked into the tiny apartment of a new refugee family with an interpreter at my side to bridge the communication gap. I was no longer startled by the stark emptiness of the apartment, as I had been when I was new to working with those in poverty. As a direct contrast to the consumer society of America, refugees come here with nothing and are grateful for every simple pleasure- the roof over their head, food on their plate, the lack of gunshots outside their window- and often live in tiny, low-income apartments without a single piece of furniture. This apartment held only a single chair and a shelf proudly nailed into the opposite wall.

The solitary chair was immediately proffered to me, with reverence. I never fail to be humbled by the grace and kindness offered to me in these homes. I declined to sit on the chair and instead sat on the worn carpeting, the family and my interpreter and I forming a circle in which their preschool-aged daughter, born amidst gunfire in the middle of a military uprising in their home country, spun within as though we had made the circle for her joy alone.

They did not stop their daughter from her joyful dance as many American parents would have- cautioning their daughter to sit quietly and let the adults speak. Instead they grinned and laughed and we all watched her spin and giggle. The conversation came in stops and starts as it often does while communicating with an interpreter, as we discussed their health, doctor referrals, food supply and community resources. The daughter continued to spin and giggle and we smiled at her with each pause in conversation. The family seemed to light up at my apparent joy in watching their daughter and this shared joy created a kinship beyond the fragile bonds of a nurse on her first visit to their home. There was a moment of pause and the father met my eyes and gestured to his daughter, “There is nothing so beautiful as a child who has no fear, no?” he said as the interpreter scrambled to interpret into English. The world stood still for a moment as I measured the words in my heart and nodded yes, at a loss for words, imagining the life that she had lived in her first few years.

He stood on shaky legs from sitting cross-legged for so long and walked over to the solitary shelf tacked to the wall. On it sat a single book, one of the books made for toddlers learning to speak with one picture and its accompanying word on each page. He handled the book with a reverence that I had never seen someone hold a book, even though I surround myself with bibliophiles that love books with fervor.

He sat, again completing our circle, and opened the first page. On that page was a photo of a perfect apple and he pointed at the picture, saying in clumsy English, “apple”, and nodding for his daughter to do the same. She stopped her spinning for the moment and carefully annunciated the same word in beautiful English.  They completed each page of the short board book in the same way. When they were done, he replaced the lone book on the shelf and bowed to it as he walked away. I thought back to my shelves stacked with books and suddenly did not feel abundant, I felt gluttonous.

He somberly said, though the voice of the emotional interpreter, “My daughter will learn English and go to school and live the American dream. “ I watched her dancing with such joy, no longer encumbered by the violence in her homeland or the constriction of the refugee camp, and I knew that he was right, she would find her own version of the American dream.

I was humbled and inspired and reminded of the importance of literacy and vowed to stop hoarding books and share them with those who have few and to treat each and every book with the reverence that I saw that day. Even more importantly, I was reminded of the American dream and how it still lives today in the heart of every citizen, whether born on this sacred soil or across an ocean.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

To Sexual Assault Survivors They Are Not "Just Words"

Last year, after twenty years of silence, I came forward as a survivor of sexual assault. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. You can read my original post here.

Last week, I was paralyzed by the comments made by the Republican candidate for president. He was bragging about sexually assaulting women.

I waited for his followers to be horrified.

And, then waited some more.

And then realized,in horror, that they were defending this man and coming forward in droves stating that this was "just words" and "just locker room talk" and that, they too, have said such things and heard such things and as Scott Baio said-- we should just "grow up".

Why was I surprised? After all 1/3 women in this country have been sexually assaulted and 1/6 men have, as well.( I think these numbers are actually low- nearly every women that I know has been assaulted) The abusers, so infrequently prosecuted, must be out there somewhere- everywhere. Here the abusers and their protectors now were, out in the light. I suddenly felt more unsafe that I have in years, scared moment-to-moment for my daughters, for all of us.

Still, frozen in my grief which now felt fresh again with the painful things being said everywhere about sexual assault, I chose not to write about it.

When Kelly Oxford wrote a tweet calling for people to join in with their sexual assault stories, I cried as I read the MILLIONS of tweets. I realized for the first time that I am not only a rape survivor but that I had a list, a fucking LIST, of times that my body had been violated and that I had been told to keep quiet about it. Still, I was too frozen to write here, even after I joined in the chorus on Kelly's Twitter wall.

However yesterday, a member of my own family posted a meme stating that the words spoken by the Republican candidate for presidency were "just words". This person, knowing that I nearly took my life in my pain and grief after being raped, decided that it was okay to post such a thing knowing that I would read it. It felt as small as an ant, easily crushed under the weight of the words on the meme and every like that was posted underneath it.

Today, I speak

When I was a girl, maybe 7 or 8, a friend's father would always hug me uncomfortably close and lay his hands on my chest or bottom, sometimes even underneath my dress. We had just watched a Berenstein Bears video about inappropriate touching and I knew to tell an adult. I did. Three adults in fact. All of them said that I was just being "dramatic" and that Mr. --- was a nice man and I must have misunderstood. I kept being sent over to play with his children. That man would later be convicted of molesting dozens of children.

When I was 16, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was strapped to a spinal board, immobilized  with an oxygen mask over my face so that no one could hear what I was saying. In the back of the ambulance was my dad and a volunteer medic. My dad sat at the end of the ambulance, calling family members over the rush of the road noise and the beeping of the equipment. The volunteer sat on a bench next to me, his knees pressed against me. He first tentatively pressed his hands against my breasts as we rode over bumps and I thought that it was unintentional. Then, he became more brave, eventually slipping his hands under my shirt and fondling me while watching my dad to be sure he wasn't caught. I kept asking what he was doing and tried to wiggle away, but was strapped down and he pretended not to hear me. He stopped when my dad put his phone away. When I arrived to the hospital I shared my experience with the ER nurse, who told me that I must have misunderstood. I later heard her talking in the hallway with other nurses saying that several patients had similar complaints about this man. The nurses seemed very upset but I am unsure if any action was ever taken against him. I was learning that I did not have a voice against men who touched me. I learned that I was "dramatic" and prone to "misunderstanding".

When I was 17, I was brutally raped. In the aftermath, doctors, nurses and police officers would ask me questions over and over again like "what were you wearing?", "why were you drinking", "were you a virgin" and "did I try to turn him on". I chose not to press charges, an action that will haunt me for the rest of my days. A police officer assured me that a young women who had been drinking would be torn to shreds in court and that he would never be convicted. I learned that a young women drinking while underage was considered more of an offense to many than being a rapist was. I hid the  experience of that rape for twenty years, the shame of it becoming heavier with each passing year.

These occurrences, particularly the rape, have colored everything in my life since. I became a nurse and a writer to help others crawl out of the blackness that I lived in for years. I cannot separate myself from the sexual assault survivor inside of me.  Every cell of my being has been permeated with those violent acts. This is who I am now, who we-- the millions of sexual assault survivors-- are now. We get to have a voice, too. 

Every time that you minimize the braggart's words when he is so proud of his sexual assaults as "just words", you are telling us that our experiences-- our assaults and rapes-- do not matter.

Every time that you tell us, the survivors, to "stop being so dramatic" in our horror of the words being said, you are telling us that our feelings and horror and revictimization do not matter.

Every time that you tell us to "grow up", you are telling us that being offended by sexual assault and the bragging of it is childish and we should be seen and not heard as good children are told. We are told that we cannot be vocal as women, as survivors...that we should simply shut up in order to make you more comfortable.

Every time that we are told that we should dismiss this as "locker room talk", we are frightened. Are men everywhere bragging about sexual assault casually as they dress for a workout? We already know firsthand that the perpetrators are out there, but now our world seems terrifyingly full of them.

Every time that you deflect others' attention away from these words with your "but, but, but... so and so did THIS and that is so much worse", you are reminding us of why victims do not come forward and why the attackers are not persecuted and jailed often; because we live in a society where rape, even violent rape,  is viewed as a minor crime and is just "boys being boys".

I am a single sexual assault survivor who is standing here before you and begging you to take a second look at your words before you repost a meme or make a status about how bragging about sexual assault is "just words" or tell a survivor that she is being "dramatic" or to "grow up" because we are rightfully emotional. I am a lone sexual assault survivor who is standing up for the many that are too afraid to stand publicly, knowing that we are still a society who will shame and demean us. I am one sexual assault survivor that knows that there is an endless sea of others standing, loudly or quietly, beside me. 

Words matter. They always have and always will. Choose wisely. Someone out there is feeling every word in the most painful and personal way. As you think about the people on your friends list, remember always that many of them are survivors of brutality that you may not even be able to imagine. Reach down inside and have some compassion and understanding for us, too. You've so easily been able to find compassion for a man who is proud of being a sexual abuser... I hope that you have some compassion left for the survivors, too. 

If you are a sexual abuse survivor and are struggling, please reach out. RAINN provides online chats and phone support 24 hours per day. You are not alone, Loves. You matter and you are needed here. You can find RAINN here

Friday, October 7, 2016

To The Moms With Messy Homes and Happy Kids

Am I the only one that admires a certain group of women from across the schoolyard?

You know the ones- Perfect hair, perfect looking kids, works full-time but somehow manages to be the classroom mom, volunteer at various charities across town and cook amazing organic meals from scratch that she uploads to her Pinterest-worthy blog every night.

Hell, I'm tired just typing that.

Well, this week I had an opportunity to talk to two of the moms at my kid's school in the "Perfect mom's club". And, do you know what I realized? They are just as screwed up as I am. Maybe even more so. My screw ups may be ever so apparent in my habitually disheveled appearance, the fact that my house is chronically messy and that I have dressed my youngest daughter up twice this year for picture day ON DAYS THAT WERE NOT PICTURE DAY.

God. I am not rocking this mom gig.

Earlier this week I posted on my Facebook page about my shame around a messy house and then did a Facebook Live about it(going live is uber scary). And, apparently some of these moms read my blog(this is also scary). Some lovely women that I've never spoken to before approached me and wanted to let me to that they, too have messy homes. I was in shock because, frankly, these women- with perfect hair and makeup, stylish clothes and shiny minivans- ARE FLAWED JUST LIKE ME.

*insert audible gasp*

I guess the good news is that the perfecto moms aren't always rocking the perfect mom gig, either. They are just better at not letting it show. I am thankful to these brave mamas for showing me the imperfect lives underneath. It is a lung-filling, heartwarming reminder of the fact that we are all so much more alike than different. A reminder that everything that I worry about is something that so many others are worrying about at the same time. That we all want to be perfect parents but that is not something that could ever be possible for imperfect people in and imperfect world.

So, this is me. The mom with the messy house and the happy kids that feels that she's screwing it all up everyday. I just didn't realize that the Perfect Mom's Club felt that way too- that, as hard as they try, they're screwing this mommy gig completely up.

Color my mind as blown, ya'll.

So, I guess I learned a few lessons this week.

-Things aren't always as they seem.
-We're all imperfect.
-We're all doing the best that we can and that's really all our children care about. That we're trying and we love them.

So, I'm off to drink a glass of wine and celebrate a week of heart-affirming lessons.

*Pours all of a glass and raises her glass for a toast*

Here's to all the Mamas with messy homes and happy kids. May we all be a little kinder to ourselves. We're doing the hardest job in the world, after all. 

Exhausted by Numbers

I'm so tired of counting.

Counting the steps that I take everyday and the calories I've eaten and measuring my worth by the sum of the numbers left at the end of the day.

I'm exhausted by measuring. Measuring my benefit to the world by the size on the label of my jeans, by the number on the scale.

I am weary of tracking. Tracking the likes on my most recent Facebook post or the number of followers on my blog to determine if I was of value today.

I'm tapped out by the shrinking. The shrinking of my soul with every calorie and step and like counted for the day. By voice in my head that mocks me when the number on my scale rises or the number on my Fitbit doesn't meet the goal for the day.

I'm overwhelmed by the numbers. Digits flying to and fro in my mind but never really amounting to anything that matters in the world. I'm living a life consumed by numbers, statistics and sums that won't matter a damn bit at the end of my life. Numbers that really don't matter a damn bit now. And, yet, still- I am consumed by them.

Today I am firing my inner accountant and setting out to find a replacement that works to build me up instead of tear me apart from the inside out. I'm ready for an accountant of joy, that takes stock of the things in my life that matter: the things that will be spoken of after my death, the things that impact those around me in a positive way. There are plenty of those things to count and it is fine time that I forget about all of the other damn numbers.

I hope you will join me. Let us shuck off the numbers in favor of gathering ourselves up in love and tapping into the joy underneath the constant judgement- the joy that's been there all along and has been whispering for us to find it again.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Five Ways to Make Busy Mornings Easier

I think most parents have been in the situation of having mornings that are frantic or anxiety-filled or full of frustration. Mornings that can end in tears with both the parents and children feeling lousy about the start for the day.

Mornings, particularly during the school year, can be challenging at many homes. If you are experiencing this, you are certainly not alone. I know that the commercials and sitcoms show parents that are perfectly dressed in tidy business suits baking up pancakes and bacon for their smiling, happy, easy-to-wake-up children. Maybe there are actual, live houses in which this is a reality but I know that I certainly have never been in a home like this!

I have three children, all at different developmental stages- grade school, middle school and high school. The struggles for each of them are different, both because of ages and personalities. I also have a highly sensitive child who experiences anxiety in the morning, particularly around school. There have been times that my heart would start racing at the sound of my morning alarm as, even in the very first moments of the day, I was feeling anxiety and dread at what was to come over the next couple of hours. It is a terrible feeling and horrible way to start the day.

I've learned a lot about how to support my children in the morning to ensure a smoother start for all of us. I'm still learning. I'm sharing today the tips that I've learned that may be helpful to your family.

Center yourself first. 

We all know that our children sense our moods and follow our lead, no matter their age or personality. I've found that if I spend time centering myself and getting my mood in a positive place BEFORE waking my children, that it can have a massive impact on the entire mood of the house. 

I now set my alarm just a bit earlier than I need to wake my oldest kids to get ready for school. Before even getting out of bed, I list things that I am grateful for(in my head, still cozy under the covers). I set a daily intention for a peaceful and happy day. Some days I do a very short yoga routine(I personally do Tara Stiles routines off of youtube), a short guided meditation or simply sit and have a cup of coffee in silence before my kids wake. What works for you could be anything that you enjoy that takes just a few minutes everyday. 

Be prepared. 

It seems obvious, doesn't it? Yet, we are so tired by bedtime that the idea of setting out outfits and lunches seems like the furthest thing in the world from what we want to do. I struggle with this but realize that if I do a few simple things in the evenings, such as packing lunches and placing them in the fridge(or at least figuring out which kids want hot or cold lunch), setting out outfits or reminding each child to pick out clothing and preparing each child for their day by going over their schedule(tests, quizzes, extracurriculars, etc) can make a MASSIVE difference in the morning.

Before bed, ensure that homework is done, bags are packed and the kids are ready for the upcoming day. One of my kids sometimes sleeps in the clothes that she is going to wear the next day so she can lay around in bed for a few more minutes in the morning. It works for her and no one knows this little secret of hers(well, at least no one did before I wrote it in this blog post!).

Have a routine of positivity

Are there things that put your children in a great mood? For my kids, it means a solid breakfast(which doesn't necessarily mean me cooking- it can be a low-sugar cereal with fruit), positive music and a low-stress morning. 

We have a playlist of positive, up-beat songs that we all like that we often listen to(and sing along with) on the way to school. It helps us view the day ahead from a place of positivity.

Allow a Buffer of Extra Time

If your mornings are constantly strained by time, even after preparing carefully the night before, you likely need to set that alarm back a little earlier. Yes, I hear your groan. It's already hard to get yourself and everyone else up at the crack of dawn, isn't it? You'd be surprised how much easier an extra 10 minutes can make in your morning routine. Of course, this also means that bedtime should be rolled back, too by the same amount of time. 

Place a List of Reminders Near the Door

Do you have a child(maybe ALL of your children) that is consistently forgetting something- gym shorts, their band instrument, the signed permission slip for the upcoming field trip? Make a list of reminders- which day they have band and gym, due dates for upcoming assignments, etc. to place on the front door so they can see it right before they run out the door for the bus. I started with a pretty white board on the door, but we've ended up using post-it notes just as often. You can make this as pretty as you want it, but it really is effective. We  also place things like band instruments by the door the night before so it is nearly impossible to forget them in the morning rush. 

Leave the Morning on a High Note

Make the last words to your children as they walk into school or rush out to the bus loving ones. I've recently noticed at school drop off that many parents are tuned into their phones and are missing this important moment. Just as we set the tone when we wake our children, we need to set the tone as they go into their day so that, upon reflection, the last memory of the morning will be a no-stress, loving moment with a parent. 

Get off of your phone. Put your own to-do list aside for a moment. It will all still be there when you are done. Hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Tell them what a great day they are going to have. Remind them that you can't wait to see them at the end of the day. 

Even if, with every tool in place, you had a rough morning you can still have this moment of peace and love with your child. After all, the days are long but the years are short. We blink and they grow up on us. It is in these little moments that we remind our children that, no matter the stress, we are in this together and they always have a loving place to fall- in your arms. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Unraveling Our Shame Stories: What We Teach Young Girls About Sex

I know that I am not alone in the fact that shame about sex is interwoven into my childhood memories. Many of us, particularly women, were taught to feel great shame around our sexuality.

I grew up in a Catholic household. Sex was a taboo subject and was not something that we spoke about. It seemed to be a great secret and, as a curious child, anything that was kept a secret was even more interesting to me than something that we would talk about freely.

I remember as a 5th grader finding a book in the public library that had a sex scene within it. It made me more curious than ever. There was just enough detail to make me more curious but left me with more questions than answers. As sex wasn't talked about in my home, my only prospect for answers seemed to be my friends. So, I brought the book to school and, while outside at recess, opened the book(a V.C. Andrews book, if memory serves me) to the carefully marked section with the sex scene and we huddled together carefully at the edge of the playground and read it together. One of my friends tried to gently explain to me what she knew of sex(which was very little) and we all sat around rather quizzically, feeling frustrated that we didn't know the answers to this topic even though we all felt, with our budding breasts and sudden interest in boys, that we were quiet grown-up, indeed.

Unfortunately, our huddle got the attention of the teacher, who broke us up and confiscated the book. I was pulled into the principal's office by my arm while being berated the entire way and called a pervert by the sour-faced teacher. I was horrified. I was a straight A student and had been reading adult books for years. My fervent reading had always been praised by teachers-- I had taught myself to read at age 3 and by the middle of grade school, testing showed that I was reading at a college level. The librarian would order in adult books especially for me. It was a source of joy and pride for me. These adult books would occasionally mention sex in a casual way. I had always been rewarded for my curiosity and reading and now, that same curiosity made me a pervert. I didn't want to be a pervert. When my father picked me up and told me that I was an embarrassment to the family, I was so ashamed that I couldn't eat for days. I was full of shame and confusion. I was further confused when I saw the confiscated book on my mother's nightstand with a bookmark in it. Was my Mom a pervert, too or was it just me?

The next year at church, while I was volunteering, I overheard the priest talking to a young high school couple. I recognized them--they were quite popular and well-liked at church and at school. I gleaned from the bits that I overheard that they had admitted to having sex. I was shocked. My only "sex talk" had been the firm advice to "never have sex before marriage". I worried that they would go to Hell and felt my heart racing in my chest. The priest was berating only the girl as the boy sat by quietly, with his head down. I could hear him pounding on his bible as he said words such as "whore" and "beg for forgiveness" while the sounds of her weeping leaked out into the hallway. When they left, the girl walked out of the church with her parents who all were walking as though covered in shame, heads down as they walked the silent hallway. The boy, still in the office with the priest, was now getting peppered with questions about the football team. When he left, the priest clapped him on the back and wished him a good game. The boy left with his shoulders held high, quite the opposite of what I had just seen with his girlfriend. I was left with a sick realization in my stomach that if one had sex, it was the woman's fault and was shameful to the woman alone. I wondered if girls were inherently evil.

I remember a lesson that the priest once gave my Sunday school class. It was about the prostitute that was being stoned when Jesus intervened. Someone raised their hand to ask what a prostitute was. The priest replied simply that it was a woman that had sex with men. I remember us all looking around in confusion. We had recently watched the film at school that was played for all students when  puberty reared it's ugly head(a 1960's reel with video of swimming sperm that so terrified me that I couldn't eat the popcorn that the teacher had so kindly given us as though we were watching something delightful at the theater) and we had realized that our parents must have had sex(after marriage only, of course) to conceive us. I wondered then if sex was always a sin and if women were the only gender that it was a sin for. I was grateful that in the story, that the woman had not been stoned. I wondered what the punishment would be for me in modern day times. I was too frightened to ask.

In high school, I spent a year at a Catholic school. I sat through a dress code orientation led by a nun whose entire body was covered head-to-toe. As she explained that we should wear skirts that "swept the floor" and that "no part of your bosom should ever show", I felt scared. I felt as though she was looking straight at me for much of the presentation and I wanted to hide under a rock. As a naturally very busty and curvy person, I showed some cleavage in nearly every shirt that I wore short of a turtleneck. I imagined my curves disappearing and turning into a tall, lithe woman that could easily cover her curves and her sexuality. The nun completed the presentation by reminding us that "boys will be boys" and it was our job as good Catholic girls to "not encourage them". I had no idea what she meant. When we went to the pep rallies(which were mandatory) and to the football games(football was this school's second God) and cheered for the boys, weren't we encouraging them? Which encouragement was right and which was wrong? Again, I was far too terrified to ask these questions, so I instead gazed at the altar of Mary, the virgin mother.

When I was seventeen, I was raped. Everything that I had learned about sexuality had taught me that I had asked for this and I, not the man who raped me, should repent. I was dripping in shame so heavy that I could no longer put one foot in front of the other. I was certain that I was evil and was deserving of this Hell on Earth and the Hell that surely awaited me in the afterlife. When the symptoms of PTSD began to emerge, I believed that I was going crazy(this was far before PTSD was known to the public). I believed that the vivid flashbacks that I was having of the rape were a punishment from God. I could not bear it. I decided that it was best to take my own life and tried desperately to kill myself. I did not succeed. I lived on and so did the shame.

When I became engaged in my early twenties, I couldn't wait to plan all of the details of the wedding.  When I went dress shopping, the saleswoman at one store asked me if I was a virgin. I was horrified and froze there, standing next to my mother and sister. In response to my silence, the elderly woman pursed her lips and gestured to the rack of gowns that were not bright white, but instead were more buttery, yellow shades of white. She referred to that rack as the "dirty white" gowns and nodded her head with fervency as she told me that only virgins could wear "pure white" on their wedding day. I allowed her to help me as I tried on the "dirty white" gowns, feeling quite dirty myself. At a different shop I later found the perfect gown, which happened to be bright white. As I pulled it on the morning of my wedding, I wondered if just the wearing of it was a sin and if I would be standing in front of my family and friends as an impostor of purity, when underneath I was so dirty.

When I became a mother, I remember watching other mothers with a fervency to fit in. I noticed that most of the stay at home moms were very conservative and wore twin sets and khaki pants many days. I rushed out and bought two piece sweater sets in bland colors and khaki pants that hid every one of my curves. It seemed that hiding my sexuality was the key to being a good mother. The key seemed to be to look like people that would never, ever have sex(which belied the fact that, as mothers, of course we had experienced sex).

It was when the first of my two daughters were born that truly began to unravel my shame around sex. I knew as soon as I held my beautiful daughter in my arms that I would teach her of her beauty and how deserving she is of love and acceptance, not shame for who she inherently is, not shame for the gender of which she was born. I will not embed within my daughters shame of who they are. It is intensely toxic. I will teach them about what a beautiful thing sexuality can be. I will teach them that no action, no outfit could ever entice someone to rape them- that rape is never the fault of the victim. I will teach my son the same lessons and teach him to honor women. I am pushing the pause button on the shame tape that's played itself out since the beginning of time.

I am nearing the end of my thirties. My shame around sex and my sexuality continue to unravel. Old memories sometimes pop up in my mind and, with the clarity of age, I am putting together more pieces of how this shame was built and how it has colored my life. In hundreds of tiny ways, I was taught that my body is shameful, that sex is shameful and that women are dirty. It is one of the most toxic beliefs that one can hold.

I am pushing back the shame in the most powerful way that I can imagine-- by raising daughters that are proud of their bodies, that will learn about sex in a kind and gentle way(with NO shame) and will, hopefully, not carry the weight of this burden. I am releasing the burden of this shame and I feel so much Goddamned lighter without it. It was never my true story, it was simply the fictional story that others felt to smother me with.

Someday, I will be free of this shame. I hope that my girls will fly high without every having to carry it. For, shame is not their birthright-- freedom is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Parenting and the Hell of September

Ah, summer- days with little to no schedule, all school alarms on my phone turned off and, at the end of the day, easy dinners on the deck with no dance/soccer/boy scouts/tumbling classes to rush off to after the dinner plates have been scraped clean.

Summer is such a lovely season, especially as a parent. I can feel my blood pressure drop and my limbs become loose and bronzed from being in the sun and enjoying life with my children.  Easy-breezy livin'.

And, then...September.


With the end of August and beginning of September(the word is nearly a swear word in my mind), comes back the rush of school and sports and scouts and parent meetings and rushed mornings and rushed dinners and strict bedtimes and early wakings. Phew!

There is no easing in period. No slow moving transition. It is as if a switch was flipped and we go instantly from the ease of summer into the rush of the fall in a single breath.

September- second only to the holiday craziness of December- is a crazed, frantic month. And, not only are we rushing head forward into the busyness, but we are doing it with children whose bodies are not acclimated to the schedules of the busy school year. Bedtimes can take hours as they have become used to chasing lightning bugs in the night of the summer and falling into bed exhausted hours after the time they would have needed to be in bed during the school year. Likewise, waking our children in the wee hours of the morning before the school buses come screaming down our street is like an olympic event, requiring many reawakening and much patience by kids and parents alike.

Each week requires careful planning of activities, school events, meals and the rush of extra activities that September brings- meet the teacher nights, parent meeting for each sport and school, fundraising, school pictures and whatever the heck else is on my schedule that I'm too tired to remember right now.

My iPhone calendar looks frantic underneath it's carefully color-coded schedule. I feel frantic, too.

Don't get me wrong- I'm grateful to have three happy, healthy children that get to experience attending a wonderful school and to be in the sports and activities that they love. I really am. I live a blessed life.

However, I am also so exhausted. Tired in a way that makes me teary and cranky. Too tired to fall asleep at night(before I had children I had no idea that one could, indeed, be too tired to fall asleep. It is a cruel fact). It leaves me gazing into space from exhaustion, daydreaming of summer days past and hopeful for fall days that have moments of rest and joy within them. 

There are days of wonderful joys ahead- playing in the falling leaves, drinking apple cider by a campfire and trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. I was do my best to stay grounded as we rush through September and keep an eye on the simple joys immeshed within the moments between scurrying to and fro. There will be many lovely moments, I am sure.

If you're a parent and are joining me in the harried craze of the September days, I honor your exhaustion. This parenting business isn't for weaklings. And, take heart- summer will come around again soon.