What Does it Mean to Be a Woman?

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Seems like as soon as Thing 2 could talk, she has said that when she grows up she wants to be a mommy.  Not truck driver. Not doctor. Not female body builder.  Mommy.  I must tell you (and no one who knows us personally will disagree with me) that I am her absolute favorite person on the planet.  I am followed closely by Thing 1 and everyone else is on the B List.  On the other hand, Thing 1 has never said she wants to be a mommy.  Well, maybe once, but it was like a distant 25th to dancer and scientist/fashion designer.  I’ve always thought Thing 2′s desire to be a mommy was cute, but I never gave it much thought since she is only 6-years-old and her interests and life goals will morph several hundred times before she reaches adulthood.

Recently, the girls and I were having a conversation about how a woman’s body naturally goes through different seasons: preparing to reproduce, reproduction years and the end of reproduction.  I was explaining that as a woman in my late 40′s, I am at the end of my reproductive years  - hence, no little brother.  Thing 2 looked up at me and said “But, when we grow up we’re going to have babies because that’s what it means to be a woman, right? That’s what girls do, right momma?”  Suddenly, it wasn’t so cute to me anymore.

Obviously, I like kids. I mean, when we married we already had 3 kids between us yet, we had just had to keep going.  Three was for quitters. However, I do recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for raising children.  In fact, I didn’t even realize how much I would enjoy being a mother until I became one.  It doesn’t work that way for everyone.  I looked at my baby girl and said “No, sweetie.  You can be a woman without ever having children and that’s okay.”

She looked a little surprised. Her sister spoke up an said “Auntie,” referring to my sister, “doesn’t have any kids and she’s a woman.”

“True,” I responded “Auntie, is childless by choice, but there are a lot of women who physically can’t have children.  They are still women.”

“Why can’t they have kids?”

“For any number of reasons all too complicated to explain. Regardless of the reason, whether you have children or not does not define you as a person or a woman.”

I felt guilty. Like the life that I have chosen to lead has somehow made my daughters believe that this is the only life to choose.  While I am very happy with the choices that I have made and the life that I live, I know that it isn’t for everyone – including them.  Their lives are only beginning and open to so many exciting possibilities I want them to know that no matter what choices they make about their careers or relationships or decisions to have children or not to have children, I’m there to support them.  And I certainly want them to know that being a woman means so much more than giving birth.

So, I pulled them close and told them that while being a mother is “a very important job that requires a lot of hard work, it is not what makes you a woman. Women are a lot of things.  We are: smart, and strong, and creative, and ambitious, and nurturing, and insightful, and caring and clever, and fast, and agile, and a lot more.  We are: writers, and lawyers, and police officers, and soldiers, and doctors, and teachers, and dancers, and engineers, and, again a lot more. Sometimes we are mommies and something else; and other times we are mommies and nothing else; and sometimes we aren’t mommies at all.  Any combination is fine and that will be your decision when you are older.”

“Yes, much older,” echoed Thing 1.

Thing 2 was looking kind of dazed, so I asked her if she understood what I had said.  She assured me that she did, saying “Yes, being a grown up woman is more than just being a mommy.”

I smiled, “Exactly!”

“And, I get to pick what kind of woman I want to be.”

“You got, sister!”

#girlpower

A PSA from My So Called Glamorous Life: The Airport Edition

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Photo Courtesy of Pixababy

Photo Courtesy of Pixababy

 

I’m baaaack!  You may not have even realized I was gone, but I returned home last night from a last-minute trip back to Illinois.  I felt like it was time to go see my mom (83-years-old and still beautiful) and just step away from things for a few days.  A side note here: While I purposely didn’t post to my blog, I had lots of brilliant ideas for blog topics.  Of course, I forgot my blog notebook so none of them were actually written.  Now, I am drawing a complete blank.

Anyway, me and my “road dawgs” (Thing 1 and Thing 2) left for our adventure while Big Poppa and the older sibs stayed at home.  This was one of the few times that it was just me traveling alone with the girls and they were awesome. They were loud, glamorous, entertaining, curious and obedient. Of course they were still kids, but over all they were well-behaved which was good because we had an 8:00 a.m. flight and well, I’m not exactly a morning person.  I may have mentioned that before, but it bares repeating – just so you understand.

As we made our way through the airport, we attracted some attention from some of our fellow travelers, also braving the early morning hours. Most of it was benign, but some of it, considering my fragile state (see paragraph above re: not a morning person) was mildly aggravating. Therefore, as a public service to humanity I decided to compile a few tips to avoid when encountering a mom traveling alone with her children.  No need to thank me because it’s the least I could do to apologize to all of those people that received a sideways glance, also known as the “stank eye” from me.

Tip #1: Before approaching or commenting, look at the mom’s facial expression.  Ignore the kids because they are oblivious.  If momma isn’t smiling or at the very least looking relaxed, just keep moving. Small talk makes things worse.

Tip #2: Kind sir, when you see mom and her kids quickly approaching with their breakfast in hand, looking for a place to sit so that they may eat while waiting to board their flight, please move your things out of the 3 seats next to you.  I realize that you think that your expensive briefcase, suit coat and bag from the news stand need their own space, but they really don’t.  They will be fine on the floor.  Also, when momma looks at you like you have lost your ever-loving mind, don’t look offended.  Just move.

Tip #3:  Keep in mind that by the time you encounter momma and her kids boarding the plane, she has probably been at this for a couple of hours (you know, getting the kids up early to get to the airport in the first place?).  So, when you hear her child asking question, after question, after question these are probably questions number 398, 399 and 400.  Not questions 1, 2 and 3.  When mom seems a bit impatient, do not pipe up with “She’s just curious,” or “Maybe she’s forgotten.”  Just don’t.  Particularly if you’re traveling alone.  Think your thinks silently.  Because you are going to get the chance to read your book, or take a nap or have deep thoughts without anyone looking out the airplane window and asking “Where are we right now?” As if you’re some sort of atlas.  *I actually tried to fake my way through that question only to be met with “But why would be traveling in that direction?  Shouldn’t we be going northeast?” That’s when I gave her the stank eye.

Tip #4: Finally,  fellow passengers, when flying on the carrier that has first come first serve seating, be aware that generally when a mom is traveling with her young kids, it’s probably best for everyone if they all sit together or at least near each other, if possible.  So, when she starts down the aisle looking for at least 2 seats near one single seat, do not avert your eyes as you sit in the aisle blocking the way to two empty seats.   She sees you and believe me when I say that if she doesn’t find 3 seats together, she is going make her way back down that aisle and deposit her kids next to you. You can answer the “Where are we now?” question while she takes a nap.  *By the way, when that flight attendant motioned to me to come to the very last row where there were 3 seats, you should have jumped up and hugged her because I was making my way back to you, babe. 

There.  I’ve done my part. You’re welcome.

 

Happy 4th of July

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My So Called Glamorous Life:

Hello, good people! I’m traveling with my minions right now, but I wanted to share this recipe with you (again) just in case you are still in need of dessert ideas for the holiday. I’m going to be with my siblings and my mother enjoying some much needed down time. Y’all have a safe and wonderful holiday with your family and friends.

Originally posted on My So Called Glamorous Life:

Happy Independence Day!  Since I know that we all want to get out and have some family fun, I will get right down to business:

This cake! It’s going to be a little time consuming but, it’s totally worth it because it is one of the few red, white and blue cakes where each layer is actually a different flavor, not just food coloring. In fact, there’s no food coloring in this at all!

Berry Patriotic Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Berry Patriotic Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

For the Strawberry cake:

8 1/2 0z.  (approximately 1/2 of a box)  white cake mix *Not Vanilla! White only!

1.5 oz. (approximately 1/2/of a box) strawberry instant jello

5 oz. pureed fresh strawberries

2 eggs, room temperature

1/4 c. vegetable oil

3 tbs. water

Mix all ingredients, and pour into a lightly greased 9″ cake pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick comes our clean…

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An Open Letter to American Girl: An Update

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dolls

Just over a month ago I posted an open letter to American Girl following the company’s decision to retire several of their historical dolls, including Cecile, one of two African – American dolls, and Ivy, the only Asian doll.  My letter was seen by thousands of people and I received numerous comments across all social media platforms.  Most of the comments were very supportive and even those of you that disagreed with me did so respectfully (for the most part) and I thank you for that.   A lot of you asked me to provide an update should I actually hear from American Girl (“AG”).  Well, I have heard from AG and I have some thoughts.

American Girl reached out to me personally to discuss my concerns about the inclusion/marketing of ethnic dolls within their product offerings and I sincerely appreciate their efforts.  Clearly they do understand how important it is to respond to their customers; keeping in mind that thousands of their current and potential shoppers read the letter.  Was there anything revealed that made me see things differently? No. Was there anything in our discussions that made me feel better about the situation?  Not really.  Ultimately, AG defended the diversity of their dolls across all products lines and assured me that with the release of the new historical line this fall, there would be a more ethnically balanced representation of different eras in our country’s history.

In regard to the Girl of the Year doll, I’m not sure that the company understands the importance of getting this right.  While I was not told “no,” they would not ever produce another Girl of the Year of color;  I was also not told “yes,” that they would. While I understand that they can’t accommodate every customer by producing a doll in every ethnicity, I also understand that this is a process.  You have to start somewhere.  Everyone knows that Girl of the Year is the face of American Girl and their most buzzed about product.  Sure, they offer ethnic dolls in other lines, but to not offer an ethnically diverse line of Girl of the Year dolls is kind of like saying “Yes, you can come to my party and I will accommodate you, but I’m not going to actually invite you.”   AG has to let brown girls be the star of the show sometimes if it wants to maintain and grow its customer base.

Probably, the best result of this whole thing is that the company is using my letter to start internal conversations about the issue of diversity.  This, to me, is major because absolutely nothing can ever be accomplished without constructive dialogue.  Obviously, I want that dialogue to lead somewhere and the only way to judge if there has been any progress is to see movement on the part of the company.  Therefore, I will still be keeping my eye on AG, but this time with my credit card held firmly in my pocket. No more teas, excursions or shopping sprees.  At least for now. I am using this opportunity to teach my girls how to be smart consumers. I want them to understand that they don’t need these dolls. They are a luxury that they can definitely do without.  Children are never too young to learn about their spending power and that companies really only pay attention to one thing…money.

Thank you all, again for reading, sharing and commenting (including those of you who disagreed with me – a healthy, respectful debate is a good thing). Also, thank you again American Girl for taking the time to respond.  Hopefully, I will be able to dine in that pink, black and silver dining room on Michigan Avenue again in the future.  I really want you to do right by all of these beautiful, brown American girls.

 

For When You Feel Like You Are Falling Apart

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For When You Feel Like You Are Falling Apart

My So Called Glamorous Life:

Dena is a gifted and inspirational writer. Lately, I have been feeling the weight of my every day life, quite heavily. You know, nothing in particular, but just everything. This post helped me to put it all into perspective. I hope that you enjoy it.

Originally posted on Centering Down:

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve felt a bit like I’m coming apart. Mainly because I’ve been struggling with my yearly grass pollen induced sinus infection. Add to that a handful of ongoing middle aged maladies that I’ve accumulated in the past couple of years and my once strong, healthy self seems to be unravelling around me.

Now I know this is dramatic. Illness seems to have that effect on me.

But there are times when we truly do feel as if we are falling apart.

When a parent dies.

Or the marriage breaks up.

Or the test results come back and the news is so, so bad.

Maybe it is not even something obvious. The hardships of life can build up and take their toll until the combined effect is enough to have us coming apart at the seams.

In these moments we can feel as…

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Bringing Back Children’s Book Clubs

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As if I don’t have enough going on keeping up with dance intensives, track meets, play dates and such; I decided that this summer I wanted my girls to be a part of a summer book club.  Not a reading incentive club like so many libraries and schools sponsor now,  but a real old-fashioned book club. Back in the day – the good old 90′s – when my son was younger, one of our favorite toy stores that carried mostly educational items would sponsor summer book clubs.  Twice during the summer the facilitator would introduce a new book and the participants would read the assigned reading then meet each week to discuss the book.  Although he was an avid reader, initially he was not a fan of the idea of getting together with a bunch of strangers to talk about characters, plot lines and settings.  However, after the first couple of meetings, he was hooked.  He made new friends; was introduced to new genres; and he genuinely had a good time.  This is what I wanted for my girls, but unfortunately that store went out of business years ago,  just as this type of book club has fallen by the wayside.  So, since I couldn’t find one, I figured I’d start one.

I turned to Thing 1′s Girl Scout troop to recruit participants and most, if not all, of the girls (and their moms) said “yes”.  Today was our first book club meeting and this was our first book club selection (click on the photo to learn more about the book):

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han

Honestly, I was a bit nervous before the girls got to our house.  It didn’t help that I lost our copy of the book somewhere between finishing it and the meeting.  I know that it’s somewhere in the house, I just don’t know where.  Kinda makes you wonder what the inside of my house looks like, doesn’t it?  Anyway, as you know, 3rd grade girls can be unpredictable.  I knew that my daughter had enjoyed the book, but I had no idea if the others did, too.  Would they be talkative?  Would they be bored? Would they even bother coming to the meeting?  They did, in fact come to the meeting. Yes, they were ready to talk and no, they were definitely not bored.  The response that I received from these delightful little ladies was pure joy.

This had to be the most lively book club meeting that I have ever been to in my life.  They came prepared by actually having read the discussion guide that I had posted on our Facebook group (I will post the discussion guide here  if you would like to share this book with a group of young readers of your own). Talkative?  They were actually fighting over who got to answer questions during our discussion.  They volunteered to read out loud and actually acted out scenes from the book.  No prompting from me at all.  There was an abundance of enthusiasm in the room and I was ecstatic!

Book Clubs are supposed to encourage  and develop a love of reading by allowing children to delve deeper into a story.  On the contrary, reading incentive programs that reward reading a certain number of books in a certain amount of time do not address comprehension or enjoyment.  In fact, they can have the exact opposite effect by emphasizing speed over depth.  Often, in order to win a prize, children will read books that are below their reading level, therefore not building their vocabulary or their level of understanding.  In a time when schools are pushing the importance of reading comprehension these reading incentive programs seem to be counterproductive.

Call me “old – fashioned” or “old school’ or what ever you want, but what I saw here today was a group of kids enjoying each other through reading.  The fact that they actually learned something was a bonus. We need to bring back real book clubs and encourage our children to have fun with books. Today was awesome and I think that I will be smiling about this all week. :-)

We Must be Super Sciency

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Audra and science

Today we started a new science module for the summer.  My girls love science, but I was planning to keep it simple. We began by going over some basic terms (observe, analyze, infer, etc.) then we reviewed the scientific method.  They had been asking (every. single. day.) when we were going to get started on the science workbooks that I bought for them, but, if I’m going to keep it really real here, science required more input from me than I was willing to give.  I just wasn’t ready, but eventually I got there and we are easing into it.

A little ways into the lesson Thing 1 excitedly asks “Do we get to take a science test?” Her face looked like she had just asked me if we get to go Disney World.

“Uumm, no, ” I replied, slightly taken aback.  “You want to take a test over science?”  I looked at Thing 2, who was animatedly nodding in agreement and I was suddenly sure that I was being set up for something because this was unnatural.

“YES! I LOVE ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT STUFF I LIKE!” Thing 2 yelled. She yells when she is excited.

Just then her sister, Thing 2, chimed in, laughing and grinning while waving her arms in the air, and said “Well, not a test, but a experiment! YES! YES!”

By now they both were on their feet jumping around dancing and skipping.  I tell you it was straight out of some weird sci-fi movie and I was s-c-a-r-e-d.

“We could do something splatuous and all explodey!!!” Thing 2, continued.

Huh???

“YES, IT DEFINITELY MUST EXPLODE!!!”  Thing 1 was yelling again.

“Then there will be all of this smoke and dust around.” Thing 2 was lost in this wistful gaze that I can only describe as , well, weird.

As they continued creating their science experiment fantasy, I sat there with my cup of iced coffee wondering if anyone else’s kids are as freaking crazy as my own.  No, probably not.  Obviously, somehow I was straddling the line between reality and an alternate universe.  One where kids like science, vegetables, clean bedrooms and brushing their teeth.  I don’t even know what “splatuous” means.  I googled it and even Google hasn’t heard of it. She’s using words that even Google doesn’t know.  I was dazed and confused for a bit, but when I heard mention of pink lab coats with their names embroidered in silver stitching, I knew that I had to regain control of the situation.

“Girls. Girls! GIRLS!”

They stopped twirling and looked at me. I think that I must have looked stupid, not sharing in the merriment, and all.

“I really just want the two of you to complete the first page in the workbook.”

They sat down, opened the books and stared.  Then Thing 2 turned to me and said “This is it?  This is soooo easy.”

They were disappointed, but they finished the page, excused themselves and left me there to wallow in my inadequacies.

Never in my life did I think that I would be judged  so harshly for my ability (or lack thereof) to provide a stimulating and entertaining science experience over summer vacation.  And what kind of comeback was there for me to use? “Do you ungrateful brats know how lucky you are to have a mother that even buys you science workbooks for the summer?”  Doesn’t work does it?

However, I am determined to rebound from this temporary setback.  This Mom Fail, if you will.  I will dig deep to create a summer science module that will satisfy even these two crazy girls in their quest to be “super sciency” – sans pink lab coats with silvery embroidery, of course. Yes, I will include an experiment or two, although I seriously doubt that it will be “splatuous” and “explodey”.  But first, I’m going to go to bed and then I’m going to get up and drink coffee…and then I’m going to pray.

Recipe Wednesday: Ginger Asparagus

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How’s your summer going? Vacationing? Relaxing?  Kids bored yet?  Mine haven’t said that…yet. Anyway, we’re really busy and I have been looking for some quick dinner ideas that the family will like, but won’t keep me in the kitchen too long. This recipe for Ginger Asparagus is one of those recipes.  I usually pair this dish with salmon or steak and I’m in and out of the kitchen in no time.

market Asparagus recipe

 

Ginger Asparagus

3/4 c. rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

1 pound fresh asparagus

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine vinegar and ginger in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.  Boil 7 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Remove from heat, and stir in sugar. Set aside.

Cut off tough ends of the asparagus.  Place asparagus in a large skillet; add cold water to cover.  Bring to boil; remove from heat. Plunge asparagus onto cold water to stop the cooking process; drain. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter.

Combine vegetable oil and remaining 4 ingredients, stirring well; drizzle over asparagus; cover and chill.  Makes 4 servings.

 

Easy peasy! Okay, back to your regularly scheduled summer activities. :-)

 

That Voice You Hear is My Conscience

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

 

 

What if others could hear your struggles with your conscience?  That tug of war between what you think you should do and what your really want to do. Or, sorting out words that shouldn’t even be roaming around your head let alone said out loud.  What if people could hear you thinking “Can I say this?  That’s probably inappropriate no matter how true.”  I have recently decided that I need to keep a thesaurus handy for those moments when my appropriate words fail me and my conscience is on mute.

I was sitting next to Thing 2 while she practiced her piano and she was being particularly goofy.  She was complaining about having to repeatedly  play each song so many times; stopping and starting and stopping and starting.   Usually this is not the case and she willingly practices without much urging, but this particular night was not that easy.  I reminded her that if she would just sit down and focus, she could get it over with in no time.  Still she dilly – dallied.  Suddenly she stopped, looked at me and said “You hear that voice?  That’s my conscienence.”

“Your conscienence?  Do you mean your conscience?” I asked.

“Yes, my conscience.”

For a minute I wondered if she really thought that her conscience is supposed to be heard outside of her head.  I also wondered if she might be hearing voices and losing her mind.  Then she said “It says focus! focus! and then I focus on my piano playing.”  That was about the time that I realized that I heard it, too and looked up to see her sister, Thing 1, standing on the stairs whispering “Focus! Focus!”  Not your conscience at all, girlie.  Just a sister who wants you to get done with piano practice because she desperately wants to play mermaids with you.

Lately, I have been pretty much consumed by a few situations where what I want to do is vastly different from what I believe I should do.  I have always been one to be governed by doing the right thing.  Rise above it all and take the high road. Yep, that’s me in a nut shell. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to question my motives and if, in fact, what appears to be right is really right.  Here’s the thing – sometimes when you do something just because you think it’s the right thing to do, you end up sacrificing so much of yourself that it doesn’t benefit anyone.  You feel drained, unappreciated, bitter and angry. Often no one even notices how it’s affecting you, including you.  It’s after you step out of the situation that you feel relief from pressure that you don’t even realize that you’re under.

Admitting all of this to a friend or a loved one who has grown to expect a certain response from you isn’t always easy.  In fact, it might even feel a bit like you’re failing someone who has come to depend on you.  You’re not.  I’m not.   I’ve had to learn this for myself.  Of course, there are times when doing the right thing is absolutely necessary, regardless of how you or I might feel about it.  However, I’ve had to learn that at times, what I’m listening to isn’t my conscience at all, but some crazy notion that I have to be more than I really am.  I don’t. There will be times when what I say and do may seem to be selfish or self-serving and it might actually be true.  I’m okay with that because for the first time in my adult life, I’m okay with not needing to be everything to everyone in my life. I have absolutely nothing to prove.  I’m 47-years-old and I’d say that it’s about time.