Generational Suitcases

Today at church we celebrated All Saints Day. If you didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition, this is a day dedicated to remembering saints from ancient times, modern saints and personal saints (people in your life you've lost and miss). This is subjective in the sense that unless you're Catholic, sainthood is arbitrated at will, at least in our church. To give you an example, the apostles, Trayvon Martin and Glennon Doyle (don't worry, she's still alive) were all mentioned in my church this morning. 

I say this because the music chosen gave me a Little Women vibe (hymns that make me think of generations past) and resonated in a deeper way than usual for me because my parents were just here visiting. We talked about generational change while they were here, our family's history and current events, as we often do. And while I enjoyed my exchanges with my Republican dad filled with questions and curiosity, I was struck again by how in large part, my parents generation and their parents generation, have not often gone to personal therapy. My parents are older than most because I am their youngest, but my friends whose parents are closer to them in age say the same thing. I can only think of two friends of an older generation than me who've undergone personal therapy. 

I don't say this to criticize necessarily, but it came upon me in church this morning, this idea of legacy trauma.

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Why I Write

There are a few main reasons why I write. It is both personal and communal. The personal part is that writing helps me give words to my experiences, feelings and thoughts. Words are the tools I use to process those things and to engage in the world. There is a life-long love affair being conducted between me and words. It's probably one of the reasons I talk so much! The communal part is that I recognize that not everyone has the words for their experiences but when they read someone else's words, their heart recognizes a friend. And I think that is so incredibly important. Seeing yourself in another person's experience gives you a sense of not being alone and sometimes it helps you feel like you're not crazy, which is something we often tell women when their feelings are big. Sometimes how someone responds to a situation is different than how you tend to respond and that's fascinating and maybe even helpful. The human experience of being isolated is so incredibly damaging to who we are. So, in my vulnerability, if I'm able to give words to another mother, another child, another whomever, I am willing to do that because I think this work deeply matters. Stories are life. And life is best when shared.

I recently shared an old story (if you can call three months ago old) that got a lot of response. I like response! It's kind of a writers nightmare to have no one respond to your work. It makes you feel like maybe your experiences aren't shared and that's sad. Some responses are hard to process, especially because they may hit on things that hadn't occurred to me or make me feel misunderstood or hurt. That's part of this process too. And that's okay. But it doesn't mean it isn't hard. It's really hard for me. And that bad ass in me who puts words to feelings is not always present when words are presented back to me directly. I need to be honest about that. I don't write because I can take a lot of hits. I write in spite of the hits that will come.

If there was any kind of "agenda" (does anyone else hate that word?) in my latest post, it was based in this place. This place that wants to give words and honor experience. This place that wants kids to be safe and adults to be careful with them. I think that's a good place to write from, even when anger pours out of it. Anger can be really, really good and that's something I need to continually affirm as anger was not acceptable for me to display as a child and it's still not okay for me to display as a woman, at least not without suspicion of some kind of intended harm. There was no harmful intent here.

It's funny because after the last writing-related blow up, my husband teased me about being a "pot stirrer." And we laughed, mainly because I stir a lot of pots with a lot of discomfort. I stir pots when I find opportunities to advocate for things more important than my discomfort. And that is true here. I wrote in hopes that other parents would have words for those moments when your heart gives pause and you don't know why. I wrote to inspire conversation with children, to empower others to allow their kids to have a say in what's taught to them and to make space for their process. I wrote to engage on a parenting front. This was a conversation I had between me and my daughter that I chose to make public. Fallout with other adults, teachers, church leaders was not even on my radar and frankly, such a lesser concern to me than what my post was about. I would like to point out that I was intentional about not being specific about who was involved or where we received this teaching. I learned that lesson and it was painful! If it was revealed in response who was part of this, that was not my doing. And I could care-take that I should have anticipated that as a possibility but I'm going to release that. I didn't reveal those things. It's not that I don't care how adults view my writing or my approach to my situation from VBS but it's that it entirely misses the point of my post. Adult feelings take a back seat to how we plant seeds in children's hearts about themselves and about God. That's why I didn't process my feelings about my kid with my kid. I processed my kids feelings with my kid and my feelings with other adults. And I did that when this happened. 

I do want to clarify something that doesn't seem to have been clear in my original post.

I HAVE NO PERSONAL PROBLEM WITH THE TEACHER IN THIS SITUATION.

I have no relationship with this person. I do not know her. And if anything, I'VE BEEN HER. You guys realize that I taught things like this, right?!?! Mostly to teens, which was at least slightly more developmentally appropriate but still regretful (there is a future post here for sure), but I have been this person time and time again. And my heart twinged but I read the script (she followed the curriculum, which was why I was angry about the curriculum, not the person following it). And I did it with good intent. And I did it because I did what I was told. And I did it because I believed it. I meant what I told my daughter that morning. I told her we could extend her teacher grace and for once, thank God, I wasn't just trying to do the right thing and be a good example to my kid. I was actually able to do the right thing in that moment. I knew then as I know now that I was being triggered by a whole lot of baggage, decades of baggage, that had absolutely nothing to do with her as a person. So writing this story three months later came with absolutely no negative feelings towards her. And if for some reason, this stranger has come upon my writing (that could only really happen if someone deliberately shared it with her), I want to say - we're cool. I have no beef with you. And if my pain hurt you, that was not my intent. 

I do want us to be careful with our curriculum selection. That was the only "to do" I was hoping to see in response. That's all :)

I also learned something about myself before things got really stressful in the response. I learned that I have allowed my perfectionism into the space of my theology and how I teach theology to my children. My anger came from a visceral response to anyone violating that sacred space. And that comes from a deep protectiveness that was not honored in my soul or in my husband's soul when he was fired. And having that first seed of dishonor planted in my child triggered me in a real way. This is trauma, friends. I was hurt. My husband was hurt. So anything that looks remotely like that trauma placed upon my innocent child brought out the mama bear claws. And honestly, I'm okay with that. I can validate those feelings with or without the understanding of my peers. Because trauma is a tapestry. When you pull at that thread, which I've been doing for six years, sometimes things unravel. That's how we get to the root of the problem. That's the personal side. The church of Christ side is that we've created a dynamic where we do what we're told, especially women, and we honestly believe it's okay to teach young children about sin. We think that's important. I don't. And that's not mine to hold. I get to decide what to do with my experience. It might look like not participating in VBS. That seems like a tidy, obvious answer. Except my kid might conclude that she's missing out on something she enjoys with her friends because she opened up to her mom. Right? I'm going to tread lightly in what this looks like for me in the future. And that's okay. Because it's October. I don't have to know what I'm going "to do" in this moment. Is it possible that there is nothing to do? Just to hold pain and acknowledge it? For me, yes. Sometimes that's more than enough to do for the day. So that's where I'll be today. Home. Holding my pain. And giving it the validation it needs. Hugs to you, friends. Whether you get it or not, pain is universal. 

Parenting Epiphany

I'm having a bit of a Shaklee Mom moment this week. I was able to attend Macy's walking field trip Wednesday where we walked half a mile to a creek and released the salmon her class has been raising since they were fish eggs. While I was there, I noticed that so many of the children had hacking coughs and were sneezing in a persistent way. Now, it is allergy season in the Northwest, so I know many of these children were not sick with a virus, but mainly reacting to our incredibly green, allergen-potent environment. 

The child whose desk faces my child's was coughing a deep, dry cough, the kind of cough that you know must keep him up at night. I joked with him about calling hospice because it was so bad. I feel like even talking about this makes me seem really judgmental as a parent. Like, get it together, or something. That's not what I was feeling. I was feeling grateful. I'm so, so grateful that I literally get paid on the consumption of my family's Shaklee habit, that my business is large enough that our product usage (almost $500/month!) is completely covered by my commission (many other habits we have are covered by Shaklee, including my impending financial dental apocalypse). 

Watching that poor child cough directly into my child's airspace, knowing that my child cannot be trusted in areas of hygiene, I realized MACY HAS NOT MISSED ANY SCHOOL THIS YEAR DUE TO ILLNESS. Not. One. Day. The evidence was right in front of me that her wellness this year has not been due to a lack of exposure. So not only had my business provided me the flexibility to attend this gorgeous, fun field trip, but it allowed my child to enjoy it to her fullest because she's healthy. Holy cow.

At the risk of using my blog that's more often than not about theology and life to promote my personal business, I thought it would be helpful to share what it is that Macy takes every day in case there are parents out there who are finishing this school year realizing that their kid may have missed more school than is ideal. I want kids to be healthy and happy. And I want parents to feel empowered to help their children. I was raised on these products and am raising my kids on these products. I can't begin to explain the monstrous dividends our family has reaped because of generational wellness, 4 generations now, starting with my grandparents on both sides. I want people to have that. Or at least have access to it.

Macy takes:

2 Incredivites - this is her multivitamin. It has an ingredient called lactoferrin in it that has been found to contribute to the immune-boosting capability of human breast milk. So it's very immune-building as well as covering all her minimum requirements for A, B, C, D (extra D), iron, some calcium, etc. It's a critical foundation.

1 Mighty Smart - this is Shaklee's fish oil (DHA) chew. My kids beg for more every day. They are delish. Most kids aren't getting fish oil daily and even if they eat fish often, our fish population is so incredibly contaminated that regular consumption actually puts them at risk for high levels of mercury and lead being present in their blood. DHA helps with brain development. We've seen this product help kids with concentration, attention and hyperactivity issues. I cannot overemphasize how critical it is that kids get fish oil and that it be pure. Shaklee purifies the oil in a patented process so there is literally NO contaminants. You can't even get that in our diets anymore.

1 Optiflora probiotic - this is a little pearl. Our probiotic has a patented triple-layer shell to protect the very fragile live bacteria. Most companies can only guarantee that their bacteria is alive at the time of manufacturing. We actually have the clinical data to prove that our good bacteria makes it all the way to the intestines. If you think that's simple, remember, those fragile bacteria have to pass through the stomach acid first! If you think your yogurt is doing that; it's not. If you or your family eat processed foods at all, probiotics are really important. Most of the ability to have a functional immune system begins in the gut. If your gut is off, you can't absorb all the nutrients in your food and your immunity goes down. All 4 of us take this every day.

1 chewable Cal Mag - kids need extra calcium because they're literally growing their bones! Do you remember ever getting shooting pains in your legs as a kid, sometimes called "growing pains?" That's your body's way of asking for more calcium in an annoyingly painful way. We started this product daily as soon as Macy started getting those (just as I did when I got them as a kid). If her legs hurt, 20 min after chewing this, the cramps are gone. Also, if she ever gets stomach cramps, same thing. I looked at the label of our chewable Pepto Bismol and guess what? It's just synthetic calcium! So I tossed that and keep this on hand.

1-3 chewable C's - both my kids take 1 every day and we increase it if we know they've been exposed to an illness or are actively showing symptoms.

As a side note, Penny started preschool this year. And she was symptomatic at least 10 times during the school year. But, she only missed one day of school. And I kept her home as a precaution (her fever was below the threshold for keeping them home). On top of her regular regimen (same as Macy's without the added calcium), any time she got a fever, runny nose, etc I made her a half serving of Shaklee's Vitalized Immunity. It's like Emergen-C but it's not synthetic. I just thinned it out with extra water, added some ice and Stevia drops and told her it was her special juice. I think out of those 10 incidents, only 1 of those 10 turned into an actual cold. 9 out of 10, 1 or 2 half servings of Vitalized Immunity nipped that virus in the bud. So thankful she got to go to school regularly so she could have the routine that is so critical for her education and her sense of well-being.

Sorry, one more side note. We only use Shaklee cleaners and personal care products in our house. If your kids are struggling with immunity and you're using Clorox and Tide (no offense to the big guys), that is also costing them nutrients and could be making it harder for them to fight stuff off. Start with laundry and dish soap. You are literally putting those chemicals in your mouth and rubbing them on your skin all day. Shaklee has a Get Clean Starter Kit where you can change out all your cleaners for $99. It's the equivalent of $3400 worth of traditional cleaners and it comes with a lifetime Shaklee membership for free. That gives you 15% off your products for life.

This is one of the parenting mountains I plan to die on. Everyone has their things that are non-negotiable. For me, giving my children a foundation of a healthy, strong, active body is one of mine. The #1 killer of kids in this country ages 3-14 is cancer. The influence I can have on the longevity and functionality of my children's bodies is unparalleled from pregnancy to 18 years old. Some peoples mountains are safety, education, sports, faith - to name a few. And most of those are important to us too. But this is a non-negotiable one for me. What's fun about this one is, it takes a bit of investigating in the beginning to find the company you trust to the tedious raw ingredient to final product testing to make sure your products actually work. And you have to incorporate that expenditure into your monthly budget. But once that's done, you just set up your order and make sure your kids take them every day. Done and done! Mountain climbed. 

If you want to see any of these products or have questions about them, contact me through my Shaklee website: www.ownyourlife.myshaklee.com

 

Dreams Really Do Come True

Our family has been through a lot. I imagine all of our families have. Tim and I, since we've been married (12 years) have been through the sudden death of a parent (his dad), the death of 3 grandparents, 2 job losses (one traumatic, one that took 9 months to replace), 2 bouts of post-partum depression (one so severe it required hospitalization), 2 pregnancies that were riddled with debilitating migraines (one that in addition destroyed my hips making it impossible to sit, stand or walk) and 1 emergency surgery. There has been wonderful therapy. There have been lots of important conversations. And there have been many, many adjustments - of schedules, expectations, boundaries, lifestyle - you name it, we've transitioned to it or away from it. 

During our most difficult time (the second and more serious bout with post-partum depression), I dreamed of exactly tonight. Now, it may seem silly to say that 4 years ago when our lives were coming apart at the seams, I dreamed of a family bowling night. And of course, I didn't literally. But when I had a 7 week old baby, a 5 year old starting kindergarten and a husband who hadn't slept more than an hour in 8 weeks and was hospitalized, I dreamed of being a functional, happy, healthy family of 4. HERE. WE. FUCKING. ARE.

I'm filled with joy. I can't tell you. There have been leaps and a million baby steps in between. And, as life would have it, many, many regressions. But what I hoped was that we would be able to hang out and do activities and have a good time. That there would be a point when stress would not come into play. We have had many moments where we powered through the stress and congratulated ourselves on taking the risk. The risk of traveling, staying all in one hotel room, going to the movies, getting on an airplane, taking a long car ride, eating in a restaurant, adjusting sleep schedules...so many risks. There was also a lot of compromise. For a few years, any big fun that I wanted to have with the kids needed to be had alone. And that was something we both agreed to, that though Tim was not ready for what I was ready to do (like Disneyland), I was and that was okay. That I wanted to do it whether he could join us or not. And the girls and I did some cool stuff during those years. It takes a lot of guts to be patient when you're not ready for something and just as many to push through the pain and develop stronger anxiety muscles. The dream was that one day we'd meet on the other side. Tonight, we did.

I am so, fucking proud. 

Tim and I went bowling on our first date alone (our first official date was a double date at Disneyland and practically a blind date). That night was the first and only time I ever beat my husband in bowling. I can't tell you how pleased I was. And I've been trying to beat him again ever since! (Tonight was not that night). So when Tim signed us up for free bowling all summer, I thought, that could be fun. But how much bowling can a 3 year old really do? Turns out, when you have a sensory kid, she can lug a bowling ball around for 2 straight games and be completely good to go. Even our server commented on her gumption (she also almost beat me...I gotta step it up). And our non-sport-playing 9 year old got a chance to lose at something, which we all know is a critical life skill. She's actually pretty naturally gifted, but couldn't beat the combo of Penny's bumpers and ramp. All in all, we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

It's important when you are living in your dream fulfilled that you take a second, step back, and soak it all up. That's what I'm doing. I'm proclaiming to the world - we made it! Here's to many more nights of fried food, bowling balls, movies, road trips, flights, whatever. We can take it and I'm so relieved. 

TREAT YO'SELF, ALL THE TIME

It's Mother's Day, the day that women who often go unacknowledged receive a lot of praise and gifts. I'm a big fan. The thing that makes me twitchy is the idea that Mother's Day hooplah should be reserved for one day a year. Mother's Day type of gratitude is a pretty regular thing around here. I think that's come from a rather long lesson I've learned (and am still learning) about self-care and the balance of being a mother and being a person. Being a person is first and, dare I say it on this sacred day, more important. Being a mother is a huge piece of how I expend my time, energy and resources. It undoubtedly is one of my greatest sources of joy and feelings of accomplishment. It had fundamentally affected my self-concept. And I am so proud to be a mother. HOWEVER, I am a person. I am a woman. I am an artist. I am. 

In an attempt that is in no way meant to be an act of rebellion against a day that many oft-overworked women get their one morning a year in bed, I would like to say that we need to stop acting like women are only good mothers if they don't take care of themselves. Memes and cards are full of praising mothers for giving up everything, doing everything for others, not once thinking of themselves, yada, yada, yada. And most definitely, there are seasons in life, in trauma, in physical and emotional development of little humans, in great adversity where mothers choose their children over themselves. You better believe it takes sacrifice to get up to a crying infant all through the night to share not just your sleep, but your very breast. No Doubt. 

And yet. Are we being good mothers if we teach our children that being a good mother means not giving yourself, your talents, your dreams, your very humanity, a voice? What are children learning from mothers who do nothing but care for their every need? Now this has nothing to do with whether you're a "working" mom or not (that's in quotes because every mom is a working mom whether she has an employer or not). I know plenty of working women neglecting their dreams and plenty of stay-at-home women kicking ass at pursuing their passions. I just want to say, sometimes the moms who are out in the world pushing themselves to do things that scare them, to create moments to shine bright might be the very women we're telling aren't doing enough for their children and families. Maybe the bravest women among us are the most wracked with guilt? That is a travesty.

I'd like to say that being a mother is whatever you make it to be. Being a mother is being yourself with little people in tow. Do not lose yourself. Yes, take on the beautiful identity of mother. Bask in the glory that is both late night snuggles and vomit on your carpet. Motherhood is to be embraced. But motherhood is defined by you. Because you're the mother. Don't let someone else tell you how to mother. And don't listen when someone tries to tell you how to be yourself and live in your world because you're a mother. If you're a mother, be yourself as a mother. Whether that involves Pinterest or vodka. Be a mom. Be there for your kids and be there for yourself. These things are not mutually exclusive. No doubt, there are moments when they are. But those moments are not lifetimes. Don't let your life pass you by in a haze of diapers and painstakingly planned birthday parties. Enjoy yourself. Right now.

Motherhood involves sacrifice. But I would like to say that we get a say in how that manifests. We get to decide how motherhood edits, demolishes, delays, accelerates and even motivates the pursuits of our dreams. There are women who pride themselves on giving up everything for their children. They deserve all the handprint clay wall-hangings in the world and I will not take them away from them. But that is not the only way to mother. And if I'm being honest, I believe it could be a one-dimensional way to be one. What if our kids saw us kicking ass in the world from the audience, paving the way before them to do big scary things. Yes, I will be in the audience of my children's lives. But I will also forge the path in front of them, clearing away the brush in the wilderness. Their story, their courageous adventures will be theirs. But I will show them how to do that. I will show them my way of doing that. And if that isn't mothering, I don't know how to be a mother. 

So let's stop acting like one day of appreciation hits the snooze button for the next 364 days. Let's stop immortalizing mothers for being so giving and never taking care of themselves. I'd like to see more cards that say, you taught me how to be a person who loves herself, who cares for her body, mind and soul, who invests in her relationships with her partner, with her girl friends, with her family. You taught me how to think big and take risks and to love my body in all its beautiful complexity. You taught me to live in the moment and laugh when things get messy. 

Ladies, we don't have to wait to be appreciated. We can also show our own self-appreciation all year round. Would you like a massage, schedule it! Would you like to get away with a friend? Book it! Would you like to be alone with your significant other, call a sitter! Don't wait for or feel guilty for having needs. Living a life of sustained unmet needs is not what being a mother is about. If we are to teach our children how to live, let's start by living.