We sure have been in the news a lot lately, haven't we? Marching for this or that, not marching for this or that, discussed by news reporters, coworkers, groups on the street, celebrities, our current President. It seems like everyone has an opinion on what we are doing or not doing, where we are or are not, who we are with or not with.
And it's not just strangers and men talking about us, it seems we have a lot to say about each other as well.
"Did you see her Facebook post yesterday? Can she just please shut up!"
"She's so annoying!"
It seems that in the midst of all these heated political Facebook battles and school drop off lines, we've forgotten that we are each others greatest ally. We've forgotten that our daughters are watching. They are listening. They are learning from us, just how we treat our fellow sister, mother, coworker, neighbor, friend.
Yes, women deserve to be respected by all, but lets sure as hell make sure we are being respected by each other. Let us not forget that many of us hold the same values, the same loving principles.
Many of us are mothers, sisters, friends. We are all daughters. We care deeply about our families and our little ones. We would do anything for them. We reach out to each other in mommy groups to ask for help with sleep training our toddler. We take comfort in a neighbor who picks our son up when he falls off his bike.
Yes, our opinions on policies differ. This can be hard; I get it. It is hard for me to read the things friends or friends of friends post on Facebook that I do not agree with, but we cannot respond in anger, in name calling or aggression.
We have to learn how to talk to each other, and we have to begin on common ground. It is the only way we can start. And God, do we really need to start. The only way we will survive the next four years is if we talk to each other; if we share our stories and experiences, all while empathetically keeping our ears open.
Because girl power begins with girls.
I thought I still had a few years before my daughter had to deal with mean girls. Teaching upper elementary school, I knew it was coming. I had seen the divide that can happen between the more "grown up" girls and the still "young ones" in third grade. I was aware of the need to be cool in fifth grade and how it can cause some girls to shut others out.
But I wasn't ready for my six-year-old to come home one day telling me about a girl who told her she wasn't "fashionable" enough. I wasn't ready for the story she relayed to her dad as they walked home from school.
A girl at school had told her that if she wanted to be considered for something special they were doing she needed to wear the prettiest dress. As she told James this, she touched the already fine dress she was wearing and said, "it has to be even prettier than this." She was obviously concerned and wanted desperately to be included in this other girl's special group. The message being given to her was that if she was only pretty enough, fashionable enough; would do enough of what the other girl told her to do, then maybe she would count.
The pressure to fit in and the dangling threat of exclusion are powerful tools and unfortunately, this exertion of power and control is not shielded from the young.
This focus on a girl's outward appearance and only being included if you are "pretty" enough, conforming to fit into a certain group; these are all very real things that exist in our society. We see it in our newly elected President who has very loudly spoken out about a woman's worth being tied to her dress size, to the first grade girl who wants to decide who is in and who is out.
So, what do I tell my daughter? It seems our first instinct is often to get angry, to want to defend our little ones to the core. And while this is a very real, very genuine feeling, it is not always helpful and can often lead to a back and forth of meanness and hurt.
I found myself instead trying my best to simply empathize with the muddled feelings my daughter was experiencing; to validate how hard this situation was and will continue to be for her throughout her life.
Next, I spoke of kindness. We try to make kindness a constant theme in our house; to daily ask our kids who they demonstrated kindness to at school. I told her that while it is important to be kind to others, it is just as important for her to be kind to herself. I told her that if she is being treated unfairly or rudely, that she had every right to say no, that simply being who she is qualifies her to speak up when someone is clearly trying to push her around. I explained to her that this is not a mean thing to do, that she isn't being unkind to the other girl, but that she is being kind to herself.
We also let her know that it is OK to say no and then continue to play with this girl and her other friends. Standing up for yourself does not have to include walking away, although sometimes it does.
I want so badly for my daughter to have a strong sense of self, to have a positive self-image, to know she is truly and deeply loved and to know that what she looks like on the outside will never change that.
I don't ever want her to think that she needs to change herself to fit in, or to look just right in order to please others. She is already just right the way she was made.
This world will try to sway her and so many outside influences will try to tell her what is beautiful, but in all of that I hope she remembers to be kind; to others and to herself.
In the face of this current climate of hate and power and control, I want to raise a daughter who knows so strongly that she is worthy.
Just imagine a world filled with girls who know their worth, who raise each other up and project kindness; a world where smart counts and pretty doesn't matter. Amen to that.
I went Mountain biking for the first time this week. My Father-in-Law and I drove the 35 minutes to Patapsco State Park in Baltimore County, got out, geared up and headed for the trail head. My FIL told me we were going to do one of the beginners trails, and I admit that when he told me, I thought to myself... well this should be a piece of cake. Maybe we should be going for the intermediate instead, I mean I have been working out a lot lately.
Oh, silly little me... always jumping two steps ahead. Because, the trail was hard. It had rained quite a bit the day before, so the road was muddy and my breaks quickly got wet and were taking longer to slow me down than I thought they should. Years of erosion had turned this short beginners trail into a much more difficult endeavor. With huge exposed roots and loose rocks scattered throughout the path, I soon understood that this was going to be more challenging than I originally thought.
I quickly learned the importance of gears when mountain biking and was able to downshift for the steep parts. This definitely helped me stabilize myself, but also prevented me from powering through some obstacles. During our ride, we experienced a handful of small ravines where you would have to bike down a steep slope, through loose large rock and then up another steep hill. And this is where my name became Harriet Hesitation. I would enter these slopes at a snails pace, focusing on each individual obstacle in front of me. This ultimately got me through the beginning of it but then would bring me to a halting stop right as the slope began to rise. I'd get off my bike and walk it up the rest of the way. I did this a few more times and then stood to the side of the trail as I waited for another more skilled biker to pass. I watched with awe as he powered through the ravine. There was zero hesitation and he made it through easily.
I told myself I'd do it on the way back. And I did... sort of. I made it through one of the ravines that I hadn't made it through on the first go, and it felt amazing. I just did it, I let go of the fear and powered through, and it turns out I was safer going through because of it. When I would slow down and hesitate, I left myself open to falling over loose rock and roots. The rest of the way was tough and I admit I walked my bike through a lot of it.
I realized while going through this trail that my fear was getting the best of me. And I get it, I mean my fear was just looking out for me, not wanting me to fall over and hurt myself, but the thing is, I probably would have been OK had I just let go and powered through.
Because fear creates obstacles, both real and imagined. It makes us slow down and hesitate, to question whether or not we know what we are doing and reminds us of the comfortable seat on the couch that we left behind in order to do tackle this crazy mountain trail.
Fear doesn't let us take chances or overcome. it keeps us small and prevents us from growing stronger.
So next time I go out on the trail (because there will most definitely be a next time) I will try to quiet down that voice of fear in my head and just pedal harder. I will stop thinking about every little thing in front of me and start focusing on the other side of the obstacle I'm facing; because if you can't even picture yourself on the other side then how the heck are you ever going to make it?
My Father-in-Law is kinda the coolest
Me after the trail... exhausted, sweaty, muddy and loving it
A well deserved breakfast after biking, because I was HUNGRY. Sprouted Kitchen Quinoa Summer Salad, avocado and fried eggs with hot sauce; and of course coffee.
You Guys, it's been a year... well over a year if we're keeping count.
Over a year that our little family of four has been in Maryland, out of Mexico and fully engrossed in life here. It's crazy to think we're that far in... into this life as we know it, because that's really how it has become. Life here has become so familiar. The day to day ebbs and flows so smoothly and sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself to make sure it's all real.
In a phrase... it's just so good.
The kids have transitioned beautifully and love their life here... their friends (which came so easily), their schools, having their Grandparents just down the road, and their neighborhood.
I mean, I didn't know this type of community was even real; a step out of your front door, kids running around outside on the cul de sac, grownups having a beer and talking about life, people who check your mail and water your plants when you're gone, walk your kid home from school when something comes up, hold your baby at the last minute while you run to the store, hilarious texts when things get tough and you need support... kind of neighborhood.
It's God's love in the day to day... lived out with your next door neighbor and it's awesome. There is so much joy in just doing life with the people around you.
This has been, by far, the greatest blessing we've experienced since moving here. And there are still so many more that we are beyond grateful for.
Maryland is beautiful and we have loved getting to experience all it has to offer, the water, the trees, hiking, crabbing, the snow, the fall, all of it.
As the year continues, I'm excited to see this blog evolve and change as I become more and more of a Marylander:)
Working out is my nemesis, it always has been. Just ask my college roommates who day after day would wake up early to go on a run and eat salad for dinner all while I slept in and ate Arbys (true story).
I've never been good at commitment, unless it's to my husband (love ya babe!). So in the spirit of being non-committal I constantly get on workout kicks or healthy eating kicks that last at most two weeks and then I loose steam and stop. I've tried a variety of options, getting equally excited about each one in the first couple of days, telling my friends about this new workout thing I'm doing and then 2 weeks later, it's 5AM and my alarm goes off and I JUST CAN'T.
So much of it has to do with this idea I put in my head that in order to work out, I have to wake up early in the wee hours of the morning and "just do it" because "I will myself" and "never miss a Monday."
It turns out the motivational taglines just don't do it for me. Guess what does do it for me? SLEEP! I found that after a few days of getting up early at the butt crack of dawn to work out I'd hit a wall mid-week and crash. Basically everything I was seeing on Pinterest about becoming a morning person and how great that first run of the day can feel just wasn't happening for me.
Here's what I think. Moms of little kids are exhausted... OK, all moms are exhausted, but the littles tend to wear you out physically. Add this to the fact that I teach a whole bunch of kids who aren't my own everyday and it equals the fact that sleep is of the utmost importance to me. So, I stopped.
I stopped getting up early. I let myself sleep in until the last possible minute with just enough time to get ready for work and be on my way. Then, when I got home, I got in my work out clothes, did a quick leg or ab routine (usually 10 minutes) and then I put the music on real loud and danced.
I just danced. Like crazy, no one is watching flailing about dancing. And it felt so good and sooooo freeing. I'm convinced that all moms should dance for cardio. It is by far the best and most non annoying work out you can do.
With this routine, I have found that the issues I used to run into with working out in the afternoon don't happen anymore. The leg or abs only take 10 minutes and my kids can occupy themselves for 10 minutes for crying out loud. And then I get my kids to dance with me, or at the least bit they watch mommy with jaws open, in awe of how crazy she looks. Either way, I like to think I'm encouraging them to let go and just enjoy some Justin Timberlake.
And letting go is the key. Let go of the should dos of working out and just do what works for you. Right now in this stage of life, 10-15 minutes each day in the afternoons works for me. And it feels good. I work hard in those 15 minutes and I can feel it in my legs the next day. So there you have it. It's not some fancy online program or Facebook accountability group that does it for me, it's having fun and keeping it short.
Here are some great free videos I love:
The Tone it up Girls!
I love these girls! They put together short effective routines and they don't take themselves too seriously. I don't need a workout instructor going on and on about how I'm doing this for me and it's about who I am on the inside (it just doesn't feel real to me). Believe me, I already know I'm doing it for me because I know my 3 year old could care less if mommy has a six pack. These girls have fun and make you feel like you're working out with your girlfriends. Check out their Youtube channel or go to their website: www.toneitup.com
Because JT really helps me dance like no ones watching.
I wonder if the weight of motherhood will ever feel less heavy. I don't mean heavy in a negative way, but rather, a weight I continue to carry and be brightly aware of. It's like a necklace I wear around my neck; deeply precious to me and constantly moving, swinging in this way that makes sure I never forget it's there. It's a feeling I have become so accustomed to in these short 6 years. So much so that I can't remember if there was ever a time before it.
And that's OK. This doesn't mean I've forgotten who that spunky 23 year old was. The one who loved to shop and stay up late drinking wine and talking to her roommates. It just means she's laying underneath layers of growth, confidence and dare I say... wisdom.
Yes, being a mother makes you wiser. It is not wise in a way that takes away from childless women, it is a wisdom that comes when you give yourself up for someone else. This is an experience that can happen in many forms. I don't mean to say it is only through motherhood that we experience this selflessness, but for me, this was the case.
This weight of motherhood is so much so that sometimes I find myself in tears. It's just too much. Too much love, too much sweat, too much exhaustion, too many sweet hugs, too many loads of laundry and dinners to make. It's hard to understand sometimes, hard to put into words, the feelings I have as a mother.
But truly beautiful things are often hard to explain; you can only experience them.
...but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:10-12)
What is in part disappears. Before my children came into my life, I was not complete. I was a part, not fully formed. Now, in my completeness, I am stronger. Everything is clearer and that reflection has been made real. My role as a mother stares me straight in the face. It's constant presence now takes on my whole being and the best way I can describe it is as a covering. It is a blanket of warmth and strength that screams for me to be vulnerable and flexible.
Motherhood is a glimpse of that completeness we feel when we accept Jesus into our lives.
This morning as I got ready for work, the room still dark and my 3 year old son laying in bed next to my husband, I heard his small sweet voice say, "mama, you are so beautiful." And just like that, my heart grew and broke all at once.
Because this journey of motherhood is about constantly giving of yourself, each day; growing your heart, bigger and bigger until that moment when your child gives you something back. A word, a phrase, a hug of their own volition, and you are reminded of your own humanity, of how you need this relationship too.