Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Lies Women Tell Themselves

It's a shame that the article was in the New York Times Magazine, since perhaps a million people will read that article and this counter article will reach far, far fewer individuals. Also my life can not be spent pointing out the multitude of lies, mis-truths, falsehoods, and mis-perceptions. This one; however, just hit too close to home, and I'll delve into that a bit too.


Nobody Wants to Be the Girl on a Diet

Thus begins the cleverly titled rant against eating healthy. And, that part, the title is the truth, because I don't think that anyone "wants" to be on a diet. We'd all like to eat whatever and however much we want. Yes, this article goes on to at first lament and then to mock and then to outright deride those who choose to not "eat whatever" they want. According to this article, if a girl is careful with what or how she eats, she will be 
- scorned by her friends, either behind her back or in their thoughts (at the very least)
- never have a man, because she's "too much trouble"
- never have any fun

She also points out that 1/2 the women in the country are on a diet. And then they rotate and the other 1/2 is on a diet. So, all women are either "on a diet" or "about to be on a diet".

And so, in the end, the author decides to "eat whatever she wants" and get a new doctor, who won't tell her she needs to lose 15 pounds.

And my advice to you would be for you to take her words, and those of her like-minded friends, with a grain of salt. It's no wonder she's getting an article like hers published a few days before Thanksgiving. Everyone basically wants a free pass from now till New Years Day to eat whatever the heck they want. I know. I spent a couple of decades in that mindset in my not-so-faraway past. And my past experience also shows me that gaining 5-7 pounds a year, does not seem like a lot (50 or 70 extra calories a day), but it adds up over time. Frankly, I'm tired of the diet/binge cycle that ruled my life. I personally don't want to play that game any more. That is my choice. It doesn't have to be yours.

Here's my counter, to Lauren B's article, short and sweet:

Value yourself. Know how exquisite and precious you are. Love yourself. Accept yourself. All of yourself... even if part of that "self" is an addicted-to-____-nature that needs to be in a program of recovery, so that you can be your best self. Love yourself that much to do what it takes to be YOU. Not a numbed out, defensive, resentful, walked over, and abused mess, but a person of dignity and grace who today chooses to do and be his/her best.
Choose your friends wisely. Your friends reflect you. They should be shining examples of the person you want to be. If your friends are catty, mean, shallow, grudgebearers, judgemental-- NEWSFLASH: so are you! Peer pressure is a powerful tool and it cuts both ways. You either have friends who make you a genuinely better person or they suck you into their maelstrom of negativity, addiction, and fog, and you ultimately lose yourself. Get new friends! It may take a little time, but it is absolutely one of the very best gifts of love you can give yourself: to have loving, kind, authentic friends with whom you can be friends, real friends, with.
The kind of mate/companion/spouse you want will embrace your "quirks". And you may as well screen them out on that pre-date or first date. Why waste your emotions, heart and energy on someone who is going to bully you into being their version of an "ideal"? The person who scoffs, mocks, belittles your personhood is NOT a person you want to be tied to, no matter how much money or good looks they have. On the good side; however, to have a partner/spouse/companion who is someone who, even if they don't understand what you do and ask questions, still respects your needs and preferences-- that's who you want! That person vs one who asks or acts like "how long are we going to have to do this because I don't like it". Be honest, right from the start. Better to find out right up front if your "quirk" is a deal-breaker.

On a personal note, as a woman whose been married a long, long time, Hubbs and I have had the "you are not the same person I married, much less the same person you were five years ago" challenge. Thank you, Hubbs, for sticking with me as a pretty young wife, a frustrated (and I'm sure frustrating) fat wife, and now a wife in recovery. The dynamics of that mutual acceptance are still the same: "This is my authentic self. I will not hide it from even you. I will not force myself to be something I'm not, just because that makes you more comfortable." Working through that, is every bit as hard as going on a first date, and being real, over and over again.
Who's having fun? If you are being your true self, you actually should be having a lot of fun at various times, because you're doing things you absolutely enjoy doing. For me, it's been traveling and meeting people, and seeing cool things, and eating great food (within my food plan). I certainly have way more fun now, than I did when I weighed nearly 300 pounds eating "whatever/whenever" I wanted, between more and more extreme diets. Back then, I couldn't fit in an airplane seat, much less comfortably buckle it. It's way, way more fun to not limp when I walk nor to feel like my feet, knees and ankles are going to break at any given moment. It's just lovely to have friends who don't care how or what I eat: we enjoy each other and laugh, cry and just "be" together. We live life between meals, or during meals or coffee with differences disregarded. The things that I have "given up" to have this life today seem so small compared to all I have gained.

Be yourself.
Accept yourself.
Expect others to do the same.
Those that don't, don't matter.

Here's that article, if you must read it. Hopefully, you will see yourself as worth your best effort.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grace Personified in Two Women: Capucine and Tamaria

The magical yard of Capucine and Tamara
Magic happens. Grace happens. Sometimes you stumble on it. My friend, Kathy and I started this social good movement that we named Front Porch Nation back in July. Ever since I have been traveling about looking for front porches and folks on their front porches that I could talk to, photograph and write about as inspiration for all the rest of us. It has been a life-changing experience in so many ways. Today, I got a call from Hubbs. In his excitement to ride his motorcycle before "The Big Freeze", he left his shoes at home. Clomping around work in his motorcycle boots could be done, but he'd look a little odd: they are big, like space boots! So, Bear and I headed down to Fondren to drop off a more reasonable pair. Afterwards, we tootled around looking down not-yet-traveled streets for porches and people out on them. We saw some fun ones and some people, too. Then I turned down a random street and came across front porch after front porch that just sang out in welcome. And, because it was a balmy day, there was a grandma raking leaves out front and then a porch with a massive hand-carved bench and the beginnings of a fountain or raised bed, and then I saw them, two woman in front, one on her porch, still in her colorful velvet robe and a sweetly ruffled cap to protect her hair, the other seated on a vintage cheery bench the color of Meyer lemons, breaking cut branches of vitex into a large black garbage bag. The fragrance filled the yard like incense.

We struck up a conversation and for the next 20 minutes we talked flowers and porches and life. The yard was a contrast in effusive color and order, mums, lantana, roses, mandevilla, coleus, zinnias, vitex all planted in seemingly random beds divided by a straight sidewalk whose entrance was bordered by stately pampas grass and topiary in large urns. I looked at the two women who were a contrast as well, one like a bird, singing and bubbling with her enthusiam to show me all the treasured plants both front, back and through the colorful, sparkling, small home: bright walls of turquoise and keylime. The other woman like a deep ocean, steady and intense. It was breathtaking-- the amount of creative energy exploding out of every space. Capucine, in soft grey sweats and long dark braids twisted gently behind her, talked about her plants and the people in nearby towns whose beds she planted and tended. She asked who tended my yard, and I made a laughing comment about how that was supposed to be Hubbs job, but he wasn't all that into it. She looked at me, with no judgement, and calmly said, "You have a porch, you can tend your yard."

And I saw in these women a truth that I needed to embrace as my own: neglect is not an option. All around me, reflected in every inch of this 1940s bungalow, I saw that to be true. It was not perfection. Not at all. It was joyous chaos, lovingly tended. It was two creative sparks channeling their energies where they best suited them: one via windchimes and tulle and things that sparkled, the other with her hands in the dirt or on a plant. Even the random coleus that was growing as a result of a bird dropping was lovingly tended, as the true gift from Nature that it was. I, on the other hand, have neglected my yard. It is bedraggled and looks unloved. It overwhelms me with its size and the sheer amount of constant work that seemingly has to be done in it. Once, another time ago, in a smaller home and a much smaller yard, I had filled such a space with lushness and abandon: lovely flowers that I cared for and took great pleasure from. I pondered Capucine's words and the calm and steady way she worked during our visit and thought of the decluttering work I have done on the inside of my home, where 15 minutes a few times a day had turned everything around. It could work outside as well. I just had to start. And it didn't have to be perfect. What a relief!

So, after lunch, I headed outdoors and began. It became a race against the trashmen who were soon to arrive. I started with my front porch and worked my way around. Oh gross, there is a dead duck! Well, I certainly don't want to leave him lying about, for it will only get worse. I debated waiting till Hubbs got home and letting him deal with it. Why? Because he's male, he gets all the crap jobs? No wonder he doesn't jump for joy to work in the yard. Who could blame him with that kind of incentive? 15 minutes turned into a few hours, but it was all good. You can't really tell that I did anything, if you were to drive by and not known what it looked like before, but I can tell. The trashmen could tell. I offered them cold sodas and thanked them as they hauled the debris away. Tomorrow, I would do a little more. Even if just a couple of 15 minute segments. I could do that every day. That wasn't overwhelming.

Those women will more than likely forget my visit with them, but I will not, for they changed my life for the better. They welcomed me into their yard and onto their front porch and spoke to me friend to friend. And they lived a life that exemplified a truth: neglect is not an option.
Yours ever,

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gifts for the Minimalist Mother

Sometimes, I have a bad idea.
Not often, but sometimes.
So, that happened recently, when I tried to gently force my family to do a simpler Christmas, in the form of drawing names.
Nobody liked the idea.
Some tried to say they'd go along, but nobody liked the idea.
So, I backed down.
Now, in the past, I have spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on Christmas.
Way more than our family budget can afford. All for good reasons:
- wanted the family to feel loved
- wanted people to like me
- wanted to make sure everyone had enough
- wanted no one to be left out or forgotten

Blowing our budget, even the non-existent one, every year just simply has to stop. Understand, we are not poor. My husband works for a fine company and earns a good income. Until recently, I also earned a good income. We didn't have a spending plan that we would consistently live on, and that, Dear Friends, is not good. So, even though we made good money, we rarely had what is called "a prudent reserve". A reserve for that inevitable car repair, repeated birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, or that annual event called Christmas. That extra $700 or $1,000 that you put on credit, whether it be to fix the transmission or buy a bunch of gifts, can not be sustained. If you are not religiously paying it off any credit debt each month, you are digging yourself a mighty deep hole. Sadly, I speak from experience. My hard-working Hubbs trusted me to mind our money. Like water through your fingers, money not channeled properly is money quickly spent, even if spent on good things. I have a newfound appreciation for the Prodigal Son. Though I do not consider my life to have been spent in "wild living", I have "come to my senses" regarding how wealth and I relate. It has been a lesson that, despite my best intentions, I have been unable to "learn", until recently.

Lesson #1: stop digging a money/credit hole and live within your means. Make it fun, but understand, it is life and death. Have a prudent reserve. Life happens and that includes unplanned expenses like hospital bills, car repairs, dental repairs, and gifts. Stop pretending that those things don't happen to you.
Lesson #2: feel the awkwardness of not being able to buy whatever you want. There is no shame in saying, "That is not in our spending plan." or "We will have to wait on that."
Lesson #3: come up with a new plan that includes "fun money" and gifts that don't involve money

So, my family can do whatever they wish for Christmas. My grown children have to be responsible for their own lives, just as I have to be responsible for mine.

And I am a minimalist. I do not want to be given a bunch of STUFF. It does not make me comfortable to see a glut of things overwhelming my life and my personal space. That is me. Others may find great joy in that overabundance.

Recently, folks have expressed their frustration about "what to give a minimalist". There are lots of things one can give a minimalist that show love. Things that will be truly enjoyed. If you live with a minimalist or have one in your life, the best thing to do is actually ask them for a list of things they would enjoy.
My list includes:
- free babysitting. That would be the number one way to bless me. Lovingly watch my younger kids, so that I can go out, either with Hubbs or by myself. It is no fun grocery shopping or any other shopping with young children. A date with Hubbs outside the home would be much appreciated and paying a babysitter $40 is a big expense, so #1 gift for me would be the gift of time in the form of "Free Kid Watching". Make a coupon or two and wrap it up in a box. I will feel the love.
- digital movies. I recently purchased a 2 Terabyte hard drive. Adding to my collection is a slight obsession: as in shiny object/crow-like obsession.
- cash or gift cards. I will always gratefully appreciate cash. Gift cards to such places as Amazon, Sephora, Kroger, Netflix, Fresh Market, Redbox or Target will ALWAYS be used.
- edibles. I have a very precise way of eating, but inside that boundary, I have fun with my food and get all happy and emotional about it. Things like Peak Milk, Irish Cheddar, fine sausages, giant Honeycrisp apples, Chinese 5 Spice, Ginger Oil, Kabocha Squash... I mean there are a lot of tasty foods that bring me joy.
- love notes. Tell me you love me. Write it down, where I can pin it to my mirror or journal or closet and be reminded of your love. Kiss and hug me when you see me. Sit next to me and let me share your warmth.
- jewelry. I may be a minimalist, but I still love jewelry. Things like rings and bracelets and earrings. I currently have about 8 bracelets on one wrist... it looks great and I have a whole other arm. If the trinket actually means something to you, then all the better, for I love tying a memory to it as well.
- membership to the Art Museum or YMCA.

So, your list may include books and music and all kinds of other good things. The point is, you can have Christmas and it not break your spending plan. Folks say, "make your gifts" if you can't afford to buy them. This is a touchy subject, to say "I can't afford something." Since when do we have to spend such an excessive amount of money on a festive day to "prove" that we can afford something. To prove that we are successful enough, good enough, acceptable and perfect. I've played that game for far too long. Fell into that trap and am determined with every fiber of my being NOT to blindly traipse that way again. If you can afford and take true enjoyment out of such things, by all means, enjoy and be lavish! I am not your judge and you are free to live your life as you please. I'll be honest, making a bunch of crafty things just isn't where I'm at this year, and it's in part to the stigma of "she can't afford to buy gifts, so she'll make them." Maybe another year, but not this year. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, and thankfully there are a few weeks till Christmas morning; however, I do know that the best gift that I can give them is a heart full of love for each of them; good food that I prepared lovingly, and being fully present around them, not hiding myself in my food addition or behind a bunch of gifts.