Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~Confucious

Here I am. Truly me. Fresh from the shower, I brushed my hair until it was free from tangles and then let it air dry. I applied lotion to my face. Nothing more. This is me with no product, no makeup, and #nofilter.
As women, we have been told and have come to believe that this is not enough. That this is not okay. That this is not beautiful.

Worse, that this is not normal.

When we leave the house this way we get told we look "tired" and asked if we are feeling alright. We feel sub par and frumpy just by looking...well...like ourselves.

Products and makeup are fun and they certainly serve a purpose. Trust me, I have my own battery of beauty products filling bathroom drawers. I love them. People have been applying makeup for thousands and thousands of years. I'm not going to bring down a centuries-old tradition with one blog post. However, thousands of years ago, the cosmetic industry was not part of a profit-driven market bent on making some people rich by making the rest of us feel insecure.

I've read that women spend an incredible sum of money on beauty supplies. One article claims $15,000 in a lifetime, while another breaks it down to approximately $100 each month. That's a huge amount of cash. I could sponsor 3 children through World Vision or Compassion for that much  money. Or, if I only sponsored 2, I would still have enough left over at the end of the month to buy myself something to feel pretty.

I'm not trying to lay down some huge guilt trip on the way we spend our money. I'm just as guilty of self indulgence as the next gal. What I'm more concerned about is a culture that has us convinced that the bare minimum of how a woman ought to look when she wakes up in the morning is not even close to reality.
A society that fosters dissatisfaction in ourselves to the point of self loathing, eating disorders, and the belief that we shouldn't, couldn't be seen without our "faces" on. The false notion that there are women out there who have perfect bodies, perfect hair, and perfect complexions.

Let's get real with each other.

At least sometimes. I understand if you love the glamour, the fun, and even the art of makeup. Awesome. Rock it, my friend.

But, sometimes, let's put the brush down and take a deep breath.

Let's look at ourselves in the mirror and in our pictures and truly see ourselves. Let's show reality to one another. Let's not put that filter on our Instagram pics. You know the one. The one that smooths out the laugh lines and evens our skin tone. Let's get used to the way we actually look. Let's be okay with ourselves. And let's be okay with each other. Let's stop perpetuating the lie.

Do you know one of my favorite parts of getting used to the way I actually look? I don't have to do nearly as much to myself to feel like I've gotten all gussied up.

After a long day chasing rugrats, I felt like I needed to powder my nose before heading to the in-laws for the evening. I threw my hair in a clip, added a headband, used some chap stick and put one coat of mascara on my lashes.
Suddenly, I felt fancy. Yet I was still fresh-faced and fancy free.

Sure, I could stare at that picture and find many things "wrong" with the way I look. But who says that they are actually wrong? It's just the way I look. You look the way you look. It's different than me. Your skin, your eyes, your hair. They are different than mine. They are very likely different than the images we see on the screens and pages in front of us. That doesn't mean they are wrong, and it makes me sad that we think they are. And that we are, unintentionally, raising our children to believe these things are wrong, too.

I try very hard to make sure my boys see me at my worst the way I actually look. I guard my words around them. I make sure not to say things like, "I am going to go make myself pretty," then disappear into the bathroom only to come out with a different face. I want them to understand the way real women look. And to know that that is beautiful, too. Reality. It's pretty amazing.

I challenge you, ladies (and gentlemen), to learn to love yourself just the way you were created. And the way time has etched itself into you. Love that wrinkle, that mole, even that cellulite and those stretch marks. Learn to see yourself with #nofilter and not cringe...perhaps you will learn to like what you see.

In the doing so, the loving of ourselves, our children may learn to love themselves unfiltered, too, and to know that they are beautiful.

Things are beautiful if you love them. ~Jean Anouilh

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Don't make me stop this car!

We have a tradition that when we are all sitting around the dinner table, we share our day's highlights. We used to share lowlights, too, but they have been disallowed. Lowlights became a bit of a complaint session. Some of the members of our family would have 3-4 lowlights and be incapable of thinking of a highlight. So we banned lowlights from the table. We wanted to focus on the positive, since that's ultimately what we want to remember. We are trying to foster a spirit of gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.
One evening while we were sharing a meal with our cousins, they were sharing their "bubble up" and "bubble down" from the day. They do the same thing as us, but have a much cuter way of putting it. They are cute like that. It's just one of the many things I love about their family. Anyway, as we were sharing, Mr. N wanted to share a "bubble down." At first I wasn't going to let him, but he just wanted to say that his lowlight was that his aunt, uncle, and cousins were getting ready to leave. It was a very sweet way of saying that a highlight had been their visit.
I was reminded that sometimes a lowlight can be an aspect of gratitude, too. We just need to turn it on it's head. We probably will still forbid lowlights at the table for the most part, or work on how to turn them into positive statements, but it was a good reminder.
Grab a cup of coffee or a snack, because here are my highlights from our crazy, cross-country road trip. Lowlights are included. Because I'm a bit of a hypocrite. And the lowlights are often the more colorful parts of the trip.
Day 1: Beginning in Wichita, KS and ending in Mansfield, MO
highlight: remembering how to change my own tire
lowlight: actually having to change my own tire
Day 2: Beginning in Mansfield, MO and ending in Ft. Campbell, KY
highlights: the Laura and Almanzo Wilder homes and museum in Mansfield; the Superman museum in Metropolis, IL (the best place ever, according to Mr. W)
lowlights: Shorty falling out of the car and cracking his head on the pavement; carsickness

Day 3: Beginning in Ft. Campbell, KY and ending in Charlotte, NC
highlight: seeing family!
lowlight: dealing with the grouchies

Day 4: Beginnning in Charlotte, NC and ending in Carolina Beach, NC
highlight: FINALLY arriving at the ocean
lowlight: dealing with the landlord (honesty, frustration, cunning, and perhaps a little deceit thrown in)
Day 5: on the beach
highlight: celebrating Shorty's upcoming 5th (!?!) birthday (he said we served "sand"wiches because it was a beach party...he's funnier than I am, since I hadn't even thought of that)
lowlight: the nephew's busted lip

Day 6: on the beach
highlight: sandcastles
lowlight: falling down the porch steps (at least no one was around to see me writhing on the ground)
Day 7: on the beach
highlight: the carnival & funnel cake
lowlight: having to squeeze my too-long legs into a kiddie ride just because W is half an inch too short to ride alone (and having to cough up 3 ride tickets to do so)

Day 8: downtown Wilmington, NC
highlight: tours of the U.S.S. North Carolina and of the historic district
lowlight: the whole family getting "hangry" and needing to speed up the battleship tour

Day 9: on the beach
highlight: confirming that time and distance can't change friendships, ice cream (the best in L's whole life, he said through blue-stained lips)
lowlight: a pair of pooped-in underpants down on the boardwalk
Day 10: on the beach
highlight: finding "treasures" on the beach: a half-eaten crab, a shell with both halves still in tact, and a live jellyfish
lowlight: B only bought a dozen of the "2nd best donuts" in the nation...and I was expected to share
Day 11: Beginning in Carolina Beach, NC and ending in Charlotte, NC
highlight:starting the day with donuts (yes, more) and sea turtles with my men; finishing the day with cocktails and girl time with my sister.
lowlight: saying "goodbye" to the ocean

Day 12: Charlotte, NC
highlight: s'mores and back yard camping with the family
lowlight: holy mosquitoes, Batman!
Day 13: beginning in Charlotte, NC and ending at Cosby campground in the Smoky Mountains
highlight: nature and watching my boys love it, also playing exquisite corpses and singing my little men to sleep (they usually ask me to stop).
lowlight: nature and being slightly terrified of it

Day 14: beginning in the Smoky Mountains and ending in Louisville, KY
highlight: getting to reconnect with one of my oldest and dearest friends (and her family)
lowlight: the tears my little men are shedding each time we pack up and leave a place, knowing that it will be a long time before we come back
We failed to take a picture, but here we are in all our teen glory...she's braiding my hair
Day 15: beginning in Louisville, KY and ending in the St. Louis area
highlight: dinner and conversation at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people.
lowlight: knowing that there isn't time this trip to see SO MANY of my favorite people (I am already plotting my next trip back)
Day 16: St. Louis area
highlight: my children and their grandparents (oh, and getting a shower)
lowlight: that moment they stopped being little boys and started being wild things 

Day 17: beginning in the St Louis area and ending in Wichita
highlight: my house, my bed, my cat, my clean and cozy PJs
lowlight: the hubby and  I are like ships passing in the night...we met him for dinner as he was on his way to the Lou for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Like a band of gypsies...

"Seas" the day. Make your lives extraordinary.
Here we go.
The kids and I are piled in the car and loaded down with gear. The 4 of us are driving east, and we aren't stopping until we find the ocean.
I think we will be there soon, don't you? 

Maybe if we don't get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Again.
I can only hope. The chances of another very kind very good-looking doctor who just happens to be on the same stretch of road as me as he travels between hospitals and is willing to help me change my tire and find a service station to fix my flat are pretty slim. Although I could do it on my own, it was sure nice to just stand back and watch.

So let's hope we don't have any more set backs like that.

It has been too long since I've breathed in the salty air and felt the sand between my toes.

Are we there yet?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cute, isn't he?

I'd like to introduce you to somebody. I call him Laszlo. He's pretty amazing.
He is my lesson plans, my meal plans, my weekend plans, and my vacation plans. He is my schedule, my daily routine. He is my to-do lists, my chore charts, and my alarm clock. He is my sense of security and comfort. He is my knowing what I can expect out of each day. He is my attempt to control some tiny part of this life that is spinning over 1,000 miles an hour while hurtling around the sun.

Like I said, he's glorious. There are times I feel like he's the only thing keeping me sane and helping me get through the day.

No matter how much I've tried, it seems I cannot control the earth's rotation. Time continues to march on. I can't fast forward, rewind, or even pause it, much to my chagrin. Some days the mere thought of this is enough to make my heart flutter.

Even more terrifying than the speed at which I am flying around our solar system, are the three tiny tornadoes who live in my house. I cannot control them. I make plans. I make schedules, and lists. I tell them my expectations. It's no use.

There are too many things that can go wrong.

I get set back 30 minutes because somebody wet the bed, and there he is. Laszlo. He's been flushed down the toilet. He's been knocked from his perch on the mantel. He's shattered on the floor.

I'm left trying to pick up the pieces. I'm desperately trying to glue him back together. To get some sort of rhythm to my day.

The funny thing is, the more I try to maintain my grip on him, the more I try to force the pieces to fit back together, the more devoted I am to him, the more I insist that everyone else in the house (let's face it...just plain everyone) bow down to him...

The more my face begins to look like his.

It's not pretty.

You may want to steer clear.

I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I know it's time to be devoted to something more beautiful. It's time to fix my gaze on the Beautiful One, and hope that I begin to resemble Him instead.
Wish me luck. I've tried to get rid of him before, but the stinker keeps finding his way back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finding Beauty

Less than a year after her death, I find myself living just 2 hours away from the town where this lady spent her childhood. Where she grew up, learned to be who she was. Where she took us several times a year. Where she and my granny filled our heads with stories of people we never knew, but whose lives had touched theirs. And by this touching, they became a part of us, as well.
It has taken me these few months to prepare myself to go there. I knew the journey was coming, and I knew that I needed it to come. I needed to do more than just drive by this town, catching a glimpse from I-70, and saying to the air, "That was my mom's hometown." I needed to go, to feel, to remember. I needed to listen to the whispers of the past and to say goodbye. I needed to go back in time so that I could move forward.
I wasn't sure where to start. The place is small, though, so there aren't really many choices. The prettiest spot in town is the cemetery. It also happens to overlook the family farm. A fitting place to start listening to voices from the past, I thought. I was the only one there, and as I wandered around looking for the names of people I knew and people I had never known, I was struck by the beauty and the peace. 
We engrave "Rest In Peace" on the headstones of our loved ones, but it is our hearts that are often left searching for that peace, or even, that piece, that is missing in our lives once someone has gone. There is a vacancy where someone once resided in our hearts. It is uncomfortable to be empty. Hungry. Longing for something that we cannot have. Just one more...something...with that person. One more phone call. One more day. One more chance to say, "I love you."
As I walked the hill behind the Old Stone Church, looking at names, I was able to have "one more" with my mother. I listened as she told me again the stories of the people whose names were written there. I shed tears as I remembered. I shed more as I knew there were so many that I failed to remember. I smiled upon seeing people whose names were "Dicey Boot" and "Friend Roy." My heart was full for the family who so lovingly cast their daughter's grave marker...backwards. And I was full of good feeling as I saw the grave of a woman I had never met, but who has a cake named after her. The recipe for "Carrie Butefish Cake" is scrawled in my granny's cookbook, and it was her favorite. It was nice to finally meet you, Carrie.
After several hours of resting there, I was truly able to see the beauty of the place, the day, and the lives that had touched mine, directly and indirectly.
I moved from one cemetery to another, of sorts. The house my granny was a girl in with her brothers sits on the edge of town, a monument to a time that has moved on. I drove down the overgrown lane, climbed out of the car, and trespassed through the weeds to take a look.
I was only in this house once, when I was just a girl, right before it went for auction along with everything in it and the half of the family farm that it sat on. Each time we visited the town, we would shake our heads at the state of decay of the old house, and we would wonder at the lack of care from the new owners of the property. It always made my mother feel sad as she remembered happy times there.
For me, it has always served as a monument to history. It reminds me of the importance of preserving what we can, placing value on things that are otherwise worthless. Teaching our children to do the same. However, it also screams that this world is temporary. Time is marching on relentlessly. We cannot cling to the past. It will decay in our hands. We must look toward tomorrow.
Looking toward the future and feeling more light-hearted, I headed into town. I remembered summers spent visiting here. It was a time of innocence. My brother and I would ride our bikes to the market, money shoved into our sweaty socks, to buy a treat before heading to the playground. Happy memories broke as I saw that the park was much unchanged in the past 30 years. The same shiny metal swings were there, ready to burn the legs of any child desperate enough to swing on a sunny summer afternoon.
Nostalgic, I climbed the ridiculously steep stairs to the top of the slide. The same slide I had gone down again and again. Then I did it. I had to. I burned my butt sliding down that thing. It was worth it, just as it always had been.

Even though I was the only one at the park that day, I swear I heard the laughter of a couple of kids, visiting from out of state. I had found another something beautiful there at the playground.

The last few hours of my day there were spent finding beauty. I found that there is beauty in the harvested wheat fields.
I found that there is beauty in a patch of sunflowers growing in a ditch by the side of the dirt road that leads nowhere you thought it did.

I found that there is beauty in catching a glimpse of the creek in whose waters you waded as a child and upon whose banks your mother and her brothers started their arrowhead collection. There is beauty in the pain. There is beauty in the remembering. There is beauty in the past and in the future.
 "The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs." -Norman Maclean

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