Still Processing

April 28th, 2009

My mind is spinning this week about religion. Can you tell? The more I allow myself to think, the more questions I have about why God is allowing organized religion to fail society in so many ways. I should clarify that I mean all organized religion. I’m not speaking exclusively of any particular faith.

To me, there are common themes in most forms of religion we could all cling to and benefit from. Indoctrinating all humans to be kind to others, appreciative of what they have, unselfish and prepared to hold those who harm others accountable is all good in my book. I give it the big thumbs up. If that’s all we had to subscribe to in our lives to honor our God, we’d be doing well.

Where I really struggle is with the earthly judging. Most religions have taken on the position they are the only true religion. They are the only way to a desirable afterlife. Some religions are gracious enough to allow you to sign up for their team and others suggest if you weren’t born one of them your soul is out of luck. No matter, the overall message is similar. If you do as the religion says you will have a great eternity. If not, well….

That said, all of the back and forth over whose afterlife is going to be the pits doesn’t bother me. My own gut tells me if there is an afterlife, the choices I’ve made, the regret I’ve felt for mistakes and the way I’ve treated others in my life gives me a pretty good chance of qualifying. What bothers me is how often religions are used to start wars against one another in the name of God. It could be a physical war with weapons or it could be a social war with words and laws. Humans can’t seem to avoid the temptation to use God as an excuse to destroy or deny. They are God’s soldiers, after all. Maybe that’s what makes wars of all types inevitable. Soldiers can be great at keeping the peace, but they are also trained to fight. I imagine the choice to be a peacekeeper or a fighter depends on the mindset of the soldier in situations like this.

I’m not sure what the answers are to peace and harmony. I do think if there were a clear way to know the indisputable truth about God and his expectations the world would be a better place. As with any parenting, children need a clear, consistent message that is delivered regularly. Our ultimate Father has come up short in that department. I imagine some of my friends are reading this and praying for my blasphemous self. Pray away. God gave me a logical and reasoning mind. My opinion on this shouldn’t surprise Him. Seriously though, the last time God supposedly communicated directly with His children was centuries upon centuries ago. Surely he can see the likelihood of having his original message lost over the course of time. I understand sitting back and letting your kids learn right and wrong through experiencing life, but when you see them off course to the point where others are being harmed, even killed, with the belief it is what you want from them, stepping in seems necessary. I mean really stepping in and making yourself heard and understood. It’s all well and good for those who believe God is speaking through weather, disease and earthquakes, but I’d prefer a less ambiguity. Pop out of the clouds with a deep baritone voice and tell your kids to knock it off or they are destined for the naughty spot.

I do believe all people come from the same maker and all have value in the physical world and in eternity. I also believe no one was created with the intention they would simply be a disposable pawn so God’s followers could destroy them to prove allegiance. Deeply religious people, right or wrong, have their heart into something the believe to be true and are doing their best to honor their faith. Not just because their mind tells them it’s true, but because their family line has been told and passed on for generations it was true. Few devout people are willing to say you’re right, what I’ve been taught to believe all of my life is wrong. Why? Because when we are being honest with ourselves we can admit there is just as good a chance of them being right as any other religious person. Since there is no way to really know you either go all in with your chips and hope for the best or you stay more on the periphery, like me, and hope living your life in a good way still qualifies you for a good eternity, if there is one, even though you may not have committed enough to the actual religion that turned out to be right. For me, I’d like to think the right answer is Christianity. It would be ideal since that is the faith I am most aligned with. It’s the faith that gives me the most comfort and the one that has played the largest role in my life. That said, I do recognize there isn’t enough tangible proof for me to know without a doubt Christianity will send me to the winner’s circle in eternity.

What’s My Rain

April 27th, 2009

If I had any doubts Spring had arrived when I went to bed last night, they were gone when the morning greeted me. All of the rain from the weekend awakened my dormant surroundings. Buds have burst open, speckling brown tree branches with a lively green. Grass is no longer comatose and has started to whisper “mow me.”

The drastic change that can come from a single day amazes me. It makes me wonder if people could change their circumstances that quickly given the right conditions. What’s each person’s rain? What’s each person’s catalyst for transformation? What can shake those of us who are dormant into action?

I’m going to seek out my rain and I hope others do the same. With all of the challenges in our lives right now, we need all need to find that rain and stand in it until we are drenched. No more hiding under umbrellas or ducking for cover indoors.

What Are You?

April 26th, 2009

What are you when you believe in God, or at least want to, but find most of organized religion to be riddled with man made propaganda designed to justify unkind or unequal treatment of others? My heart, soul and mind is so torn. Everyday I find myself more disconnected from religion. It makes me uncomfortable because it feels like I’m also admitting a disconnection from God or the idea of God. I can’t be alone in this? I can’t be the only one who looks at the Church and feels it doesn’t fit with a reasoning and loving God.

When you consider the power held by mankind to use the fear of eternal damnation to sway public opinion, it’s hardly improbable humans, through the course of time, have succumbed to temptation and made their word, God’s Word. I can’t imagine the Big Guy being pleased.

Mortal contamination is the one thing that makes sense to me. It would be the logical explanation for why God, who has got to be the ultimate big picture guy, would push such small minded ideology.

If God would be so kind as to knock out a new set of stone tablets and clear up some modern day confusions, I’d be very appreciative. Probably the reason He hasn’t done it is He knows we’d brand anyone claiming to have found a message from God a lunatic. Guess it’s a good thing all of the Biblical stuff went down in a time when people were more open minded.

Imitation Is The Best Form Of Flattery, But…

April 20th, 2009

A fellow blogger kicked off an interesting project a few weeks ago. WickedStepMom challenged several in her blogging community to write on assigned topics addressing self-esteem issues in kids. The project is called “Beautiful Like Me” and you can read more about it here. My blog entry “Perfect 10” was my first contribution to her effort. Today’s focus is on what types of things children and teens feel the most pressure to imitate and why.

Most of us have heard imitation is the best form of flattery. It’s what we are told when our feathers are ruffled over someone copying what we feel to be uniquely ours. Though the imitation flatters the one being copied, what does it say about the one doing the imitating? It’s a tricky thing to answer when we are talking about kids. Is the imitation rooted in a lack of understanding their own identity at that point? Is it a way to have fun and explore paths taken by others? Are underlying insecurities coupled with a desperate need to fit in the motivation for imitation? At times I imagine it is a combination of all the above.

When I think back on my childhood, I don’t recall too many incidents where going along with what others were doing was a result of stress or peer pressure. I’ve always acted about 10 years older than my true age. Perhaps that is why it was somehow easy for me to say no thanks to the things others were doing that didn’t appeal to me or seemed to be a poor choice. Yes, I wanted to be wearing some of the same clothes as others. Yes, my vocabulary grew to include words like snap, crunch and totally awesome. Where it mattered, I was able to stay true to the real me. The biggies like drinking alcohol, sneaking out of my parents’ house, lying to my parents, blowing off schoolwork or sleeping around weren’t on the agenda and no amount of eye rolls or verbal jabs were going to change my mind. If others considered me a nerd or a dork, I was confident enough in my decisions not to care. My friends somehow knew where I stood on things like that and didn’t bother to harass me. I was a goody-goody rule follower. Since that had been the case from the beginning, it was simply who my friends knew me to be. No questions asked. No judgments made. In fact, I might go so far as to say it endeared them to me. I was just so “Lisa.”

Looking at my kids, I wonder if they will have the same inner strength to break away from the pack when necessary. Is it genetic or something molded over time? I haven’t a clue. I’m not sure what allowed me to be a kid comfortable in her own shoes. I’d like to think my kids will follow my path and grow to be confident individuals who choose imitation when it suits them and embrace their uniqueness at will. There is no way to see the future, however. Already I see my three year old playing the copycat game. A playmate laughs and she laughs. He runs while barking like a dog and she runs while barking like a dog. It’s fun for her to do and fun for me to watch.

Fast forward 10 years and it will likely be less amusing. I don’t have to have a teenager to notice how much pressure is in their lives when it comes to things like sex, alcohol, smoking and materialism. Adults and peers contribute to the ever growing message you aren’t interesting if you aren’t crossing lines. Your sexuality opens doors. Trinkets and gadgets symbolize how loved you are by your parents. Drinking and smoking shows the world you aren’t a child anymore. To an extent, this has been the message for ages. The message is delivered with greater frequency and power in the age of the internet and cable television. Perhaps what gave me an edge as a kid was the very real fact the time others had to influence me was limited. There were only 4 television stations. Time with friends was confined mostly to school hours. There was simply more time in my day to allow the real me to emerge without having the distractions of what others were doing and saying.

Could it really be that simple? Could it be our kids are imitating others so much because they don’t have enough time to themselves without the influences of the outside world? Are they afforded enough time to find out who they are without being submerged in an ocean of messages, influences and pressures? It’s worth considering. When I’m paying attention, I can tell at the end of the day how my daughter’s time was spent. If she spent most of her time with me, she is a walking, talking, mini-Lisa. If Nickelodeon ruled the roost, she’s the live version of Dora or one of the Backyardigans. The days she is more what I would call “Olivia” are the days when she’s enjoyed creative and quiet playtime on her own terms. Perhaps the commitment I need to make as a parent is to do what I can to make sure a healthy amount of time is carved out of my daughter’s schedule, no matter what her age, that is dedicated to her being her without magazines, television, schoolmates or the internet around. If I can give her a real chance at knowing who she is, she may find it easier to stay true to herself.

In The Box Mindset

April 19th, 2009

When I was a manager in Corporate America I frequently told my staff to ‘think out of the box.’ That was where ingenuity could be found. That was where solutions never before imagined would develop. Boy was I wrong. I know that now that I have kids. Nothing turns on my kids’ imaginations more than sitting in empty cardboard boxes while letting their minds take them on incredible adventures. There are no limits to their creativity. In their boxes they are capable of anything. They have superhuman powers and an endless supply of resources to save the day. If I ever return to Corporate America I’m going to have to try the ‘in the box’ approach and see where my staff takes it. If nothing comes from it, it will at least provide an entertaining moment.

The Thing About Extremists

April 16th, 2009

There’s a lot of hullabaloo right now over the whole “right-winged extremist” thing. Conservatives are taking exception to the Department of Homeland Security dubbing right-winged extremists as the most dangerous domestic threat. Because being political seems to be more important these days that being logical, the Department’s position is being used as evidence that Conservatives who disagree with Obama’s policies are putting themselves at risk to be viewed as a threat to our country. On top of that, there is genuine anger over the Department’s audacity to classify right-winged extremists as more dangerous than Islamic terrorists.

This is what it comes down to for me. First, there is a distinct difference between what the government means by a right-winged extremist and the staunch Conservative who passionately disagrees with Obama’s policies. Making the case the administration sees them as one in the same is one heck of a stretch. Some Conservatives fired up by all this are suggesting those who dare to voice an unfavorable opinion of the President are somehow in danger of becoming a target of the government. It’s beyond asinine. If that were the case surely Rush Limbaugh would be in Guantanamo by now. I hate the bailouts and I know for a fact typing that here isn’t going to land me on a terrorist watch list. Some attempting to give this concern legs know better. They’ve been able to express their views in an acidic way with no fear of consequence. One acquaintance of mine all churned up over this issue is the type to call Obama Osama and loves to paint our president as a Hitler reincarnate. In his mind, and I use the word mind loosely, he is now some sort of rebel writer who is putting himself at risk with every word against the President he dares to type. Oh, where would our country be without the raw courage of men like him to fearlessly be dolts in front of the rest of us?

The second point to consider in all of this is we are talking about a DOMESTIC threat. That means ‘within our borders.’ Anyone following the news of late has seen ample reports of violence against our citizens and law enforcement agencies as a result of paranoia or anger over the current economic situation and policy initiatives. Just a few days ago three officers were shot and killed in Pennsylvania by a man upset over Obama’s supposed plans to limit his access to guns in the future. Acts of violence carried out by a cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs citizen against others is much more common in our country than events connected to any sort of Jihad. We have plenty of mall, school and workplace shootings to back that up. Of course, right-winged extremists aren’t to blame for all of the above, but they have had their share of headline making events and we’d be pretty thick not to realize the current climate is ripe for inspiring the Timothy McVeigh’s of this world to act in some way.

I wish Homeland Security had left ‘right-winged’ out of the mix and simply focused on extremists in general. Anyone willing to commit violence for their cause is in the same class of naughty to me. I can see the need to be specific, but it would have made it easier for our drama loving media and citizens to focus on the real concern. And the real concern to me is that our citizens are growing targets of violence by fellow countrymen with an ax to grind. Until Americans are brought back to reality and accept that their lives and the lives of their family members are statistically more likely to be taken by a fellow citizen who is off balance than a soldier of Jihad, we are vulnerable. Dare I dream for a time when we can be realistic about true threats without it turning into some political soap opera?

Perfect 10

April 6th, 2009

My daughter loves her swimsuit. The electric blue fabric is decorated with a giant green palm tree and bright red and yellow flowers that scream “look at me!” Putting her swimsuit on is a weekly ritual regardless if swimming is on the agenda or not. Why wait for water? In her mind, something that great needs to be worn as often as possible. I’m more than happy to put it on her. Seeing her lily white arms and legs in all of their pudgy toddler glory stops my heart. Even with a fanny swollen from a bulky swimmie diaper, she is a ‘Bo Derek move over’ perfect 10 to my eyes. As she prances around, her face reveals the uninhibited delight of a girl enjoying a moment without the baggage of insecurities. There’s no question in her mind she is anything less than fabulous. How I wish I could keep it that way.

My daughter’s love of swimwear does not come from me. Even touching my suit stirs feelings of distress and inadequacy. The times I have mine on in front of others my mind is unable to focus on the joy of the water and time with family and friends. It is lost in a sea of self-loathing. Avoiding occasions to wear my suit altogether worked for me in the past. Now that I have kids it is impossible to do that without robbing them of experiences all kids should have.

I’m not the only woman in my family who hates swimsuits. My twin sister feels the same way. This common thread has less to do with us being twins and more to do with the environment we grew up in. It’s not that anyone said anything damaging to our self-esteem. More so, it was our observing the constant rituals the women in our lives went through to transform them from their God given self to something worthy of public display. I have clear memories of my mother and grandmothers ducking from a camera because they were “hideous” at that moment or didn’t “have their face on.” It sent a message more powerful than any words. A woman without cover or accessories is not attractive. The real human body, without decoration, is ugly. Considering there is no way to hide your physical reality in a swimsuit, it is a logical enemy to anyone struggling with maintaining a positive self-image. There is only so much draping possible. The suit itself is damning enough. Never mind actually getting wet in the bloody thing and no longer being able to hide behind makeup and perfectly quaffed hair as the unmerciful, drenched fabric clings to every bump and ripple in the most unappealing way possible. As far as unfortunate situations go, that is pretty high on the list for me.

When I’m being logical, I know I wasn’t born hating myself in swimsuits. There had to of been a time when I didn’t give my body and how others might view it any concern. Messages around me and in my life likely changed that. My daughter’s nearly 3 year old self isn’t registering my need to cover. She’s not hearing my groans over her squeals of delight. That won’t be true forever. It is likely she has already subconsciously stored images and words that, though they mean nothing to her now, will make sense down the road and affect her own view of her body. If my lily white legs are an embarrassment, if my jiggles, curves and bumps are best kept under a towel or over-sized shirt, shouldn’t the same be true for her? She is my daughter. She will inevitably see some of me in her. By allowing her to see I don’t like me, I am giving her reason to eventually not like her. It crushes me to imagine her ever doubting her beauty or considering hiding the light that is her from the rest of the world in shame or embarrassment. It just can’t be. Period.

Knowingly contributing to my daughter’s future feelings of inadequacy is not an option. As uncomfortable as I am at times in my own skin, it is essential to set that aside and make some positive changes in my life. What better motivator than preserving my daughter’s “I am fabulous as I am” smile? The next time my daughter asks to play in her swimsuit, I’m going to put mine on too. We’ll dance hula together in front of the mirrors in her playroom. I’ve had the same “don’t look at me” black swimsuit for nearly a decade. Perhaps it is time for my own electric blue eye catcher? When we go to the pool, I’m going to force myself to rip the t-shirt and shorts that cover my suit off with the same enthusiasm she possesses. I’m going to make a genuine effort not to care what might be too white or purple. If all four of my buns are hanging out, so be it. My body is my body. When my rational mind takes a look around, I know I’m no mutant. I’m just a woman. My body may not sell magazines, but my goal has never involved being a cover girl. My ultimate goal is to be a good mom and give my daughter all the tools in life that will help her grow into a confident woman who is happy with all of the amazing things that make her, HER. If she misses out on one experience that could have brought her joy as a result of a poor self-image it will have been one too many.

Who knows. Maybe after a time of demonstrating a positive self-image for her, I’ll actually learn how to have one for real versus faking it for her good. My brain is capable of reprogramming, right? Kind of makes me wonder who the teacher really is here, her or me?

For God Being All Knowing

March 9th, 2009

For God being all knowing, I’m amazed he didn’t make men’s feet smaller than women’s. Seriously, he had to know the hazards they’d create by leaving their boats-for-shoes all over the house for anyone and everyone to trip over. Give those who are more likely to pick up after themselves the big feet!


March 9th, 2009

My daughter will be 3 in a few weeks. She’s transforming into a girl. The baby/toddler stage is definitely history. If there is ever any doubt that I’ve shaped her to this point, I need only stop, look and listen for a bit.

A few nights ago I was cooking dinner while Olivia wiped down the refrigerator with a sponge. She likes to do various house chores as a form of play. I appreciate her interest and look forward to the day when her play cleaning actually results in me having less work to do. It seems I am always cleaning and recleaning. The never ending cycle frustrates me greatly, a point Olivia apparently has not missed.

So I’m cooking and she’s wiping and we are quite the team in the kitchen. All was well until I had the nerve to open the refrigerator for butter, touching her freshly wiped handle. “Moooooooooom!” she announces with her hand on her hip and her sponge pointed at my nose, “I just finished cleaning that!”

Oh, Livie, my dear. Boy do I ever know how you feel. My apologies, Sugar Lump. In the future I’ll do better so you haven’t labored in vain.

Rush To Judgment

March 4th, 2009

Michael Steele blew it. Not when he criticized Rush Limbaugh, but when he caved under pressure and back peddled on his remarks. Rush Limbaugh may be the self-appointed leader of the Republican Party, but it is going to take the Party’s hired leader, Michael Steele, to package the Party in a less extreme way so more voters can identify with and support Republican agendas.

I get that Limbaugh doesn’t want Obama’s policy ideas implemented. He’s unapologetic for saying he wants Obama to FAIL, because he ‘means’ he doesn’t want Obama to succeed in getting things passed. He knows very well his words are being received as if he wants our president to fail in office, as in doing such a poor job the country spirals further downward. Michael Steele was right to call him on his divisive rhetoric. It makes the Republican Party sound petty and unpatriotic. By backing down against Rush and not keeping the goal of gaining more support for the Party at the forefront, Steele has failed miserably in his first challenge. The 30-some percentage of voters who are Rush fans are going to vote Republican no matter what Steele says against him. Those who are not Rush fans and feel he sends the wrong message for the Party and for America aren’t going to be convinced otherwise by Steele if he doesn’t find a way to assert himself and be less of a pundit’s puppet.

Why do I care? The moderate in me hates to see our government so out of balance. Having one party with such overwhelming control is not comforting, no matter which party I may support. The Republican Party owes it to America to get its act together. Too bad it doesn’t look like they’ll accomplish that anytime soon.