Friday, March 22, 2013

Grandma Pigtail Pals Has Something To Say To Girls Who Are Different

This is an awesome letter from a Grandmother to a granddaughter about her awesomeness. It's good for all of us, too.

Grandma Pigtail Pals Has Something To Say To Girls Who Are Different:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spirituality of DFTBA: Surround yourself with Awesome

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.
3. Girls are awesome.
4. But don't get ahead of yourself: Humility

Surround yourself with awesome
Let's just say that lately, life has been less than awesome. I'm in the middle of a divorce, I'm unemployed, and I live very far from the majority of my friends. (I do live near family, who are awesome, and my bestie from High School who you met HERE, and who is also awesome.) That's one of the reasons I chose DFTBA to be my Lenten spiritual discipline. I need to try to at least approach awesome if I'm going to get the job I want, survive this divorce, and still be a good mom.

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time with my girlfriends from seminary.  We are from all over the country, in our mid-thirties, in various stages of family life, and in a wide variety of jobs (in spite of all having gone to school together!). Those who can make it gather annually in a city near one of our homes. We spend the time in food, drink, and usually some nice scenery. But most importantly, we immerse ourselves in each other.  You see, these ladies are awesome. And being around them makes me feel more awesome. They don't hesitate to remind me of my gifts, or tease me (appropriately) about my shortcomings. When we hurt each other's feelings, we discuss, forgive, and move on.  We talked about my job situation (or lack thereof), my family situation, and each of theirs. They reminded me how much I love leading worship and how much I love my little girl, while mixing delicious margaritas, introducing me to kale, making me a mixed tape (ok, CD), and fighting over the last bite of guacamole with me.

My friends from seminary are awesome (and I have an equally awesome group from undergrad). And I tell youth whenever I get the chance: choose your friends wisely. Pick people who have the same values, who will remind you of who you are, but who are different enough from you to challenge your way of thinking every now and then. If your friends don't make you feel more awesome, they're not friends.

How is this the spirituality of DFTBA? The people with whom we spend our time, the people who light up our phones, our facebook newsfeeds, who occupy the space in our brains and our hearts, also influence our spirits. When we're surrounded by negativity, it's hard to see Awesome. When we're surrounded by superficiality, it's hard to see the Image of God within ourselves.  When we're surrounded by voices that make us insecure, we begin to focus on ourselves so much that we forget the awesomeness of everyone else.  On the other hand, awesome friends reflect that divine image back at us, sometimes when it's hardest for us to see.  Awesome friends give us the gift of genuine laughter, but let us cry when we need to as well. Awesome friends celebrate our awesomeness instead of competing with it or downplaying it. Awesome friends help us look out into the world and spread Awesome to our neighbors.

Practical tips for Surrounding yourself with Awesome:

  • Take some time to think sincerely about the people with whom you spend time. Do they share awesome with you? Do they increase your awesome?
  • If you're in a bad place with any of your friends, consider how you might reconcile with them in a constructive way, a way that might help the relationship come closer to awesome.
  • Consider where you make friends and where you might make new ones who could surround you with awesome. A place of worship? A class? At work?

Loving God, you gave us the gift of community-- people to love us and care for us, people we can love and for whom we can care. Thank you. Bless our friendships, and help us to surround one another with awesome.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To know or not to know?

Lots of friends have had babies, some knowing what they were going to have, and others opting for a surprise on the big day. People have all kinds of reasons, from looking forward to the big reveal, to being able to prepare in advance.

I had mixed feelings: on one hand, what does it matter? We would love any baby no matter what gender he or she may be. We had a girl and boy name (both family names) picked out, so that would be easy either way. It's not like I was going to paint a nursery pink or blue. I mean, we all know how I feel about that by now, right?  Even if I didn't have a strong opinion, Esther's dad did.  He wanted to know, so I was fine with finding out.

On the day of the 20-week ultrasound, we were excited. After a bit of time in the waiting room, the ultrasound tech came and got us, and I got onto the table.  The tech checked the head, heart, lungs, brain, arms, legs, and finally,the genitalia. The baby was (appropriately) in the fetal position, so it was covering up the unmentionables pretty well. Eventually, though, after a few passes from a few different angles, the tech concluded we were having a girl.

I was not surprised in the least. I felt like my soul had known she was a girl the whole time.  But suddenly I realized she was Esther. She was no longer an "it," but a "she," and not just any "she," but Esther Grace. I thought of my great grandmother and my mom and was overwhelmed with love for my girl Esther.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A gross and a funny

Esther is potty training right now. She just started with the 2-year-old class and thinks all those kids are super cool, so she wants to use the potty just like they do. The other night Esther was in the tub when she realized she had to "pee pee potty," so I ran over and grabbed her and stuck her on the potty, not quite realizing she had already started peeing en route. Luckily she didn't get me, but I had to wash the bathroom rug.

And the funny: Esther's vocabulary is expanding rapidly at this point and it's pretty hilarious to see which terms from that vocabulary she applies to a given situation.  The other day we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and E was snuggling with Grandpa. She reached up to stroke his chin, felt his two-day stubble, looked up at him and said, "Mess!"

Spirituality of DFTBA: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.
3. Girls are awesome.

Spirituality of DFTBA 5: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves
While it's great to remember we're awesome, and also great to remember that others are awesome, it's important to keep it all in perspective.  Being awesome, being made in the image of God, does not mean that we are, in fact, God.

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.” 
― Parker J. Palmer

Parker Palmer is a pretty awesome writer about vocation and teaching. This quote is an expression of his understanding of humanity.  We are awesome (the pocket with the gold), but we are mortal (dust). The mortality aspect of humanity hopefully gives us some humility.  When I say humility in this case, I'm not talking about thinking we're not great, not talking about being self-deprecating when someone compliments us. I'm not talking about thinking we're less than anyone else.  
Humility in this case means remembering our human-ness.  From dust (dirt in the book of Genesis, just a bunch of particles in science) we came, to dust we will return. We will die. This hopefully puts our own importance into perspective. Like the dust/gold duality, there is a good side and a bad side to having that perspective, to recognizing our humility and mortality. On the dust side, sometimes it makes us feel so so small in the grand scheme of life and the universe. It can make us doubt our importance. On the gold side, have you ever had one of those moments looking at a starry sky or the expanse of the ocean and thought how big the rest of the world/universe is? It's an awe-inspiring, joyful moment.

The other thing about not being God, is that we don't have as much control over life as we might like. We can't control the weather. Or the economy. Or a virus. Or when we're going to get a flat tire. Dust: it sucks to not have any control. Gold: we're not responsible for a lot of crap that happens in the world.

Even more important but less easy to accept: we don't have control over the actions, thoughts, or feelings of other people.  Dust: The lack of control over other people can be frustrating: we wish people would do what we want, or what we expect... We wish others would understand the things we want them to understand, forgive us when we anger them, read our minds to know what we need... But they don't. 
Gold: Understanding this lack of control can be extremely helpful. No matter how much I beg or cajole or manipulate, I can't make an addict give up his or her addiction. Nothing I do can make someone love me or not love me.  This knowledge is freeing. When I was a kid and my parents split up, I felt it was my job to make everyone's pain less somehow. I hid my feelings so that my sadness and anger wouldn't make my parents or sisters more sad or angry. I acted like my actions could control the feelings of others. Now I know it's not true. No matter my actions, others interpret them in ways I can't control. I can consider the impact of my actions on others, I can communicate my intentions to the best of my ability, but ultimately, I can't control how someone chooses to feel.

Another thing about humility, is knowing the world doesn't revolve around us. For better or worse, people aren't thinking about us all the time! Gold: No, it is not likely that "everyone" was wondering why you wore the same pair of jeans two days in a row. Gold: Your friend's grumpy face when she was talking to you was because of her headache, not because she was disliking you.  Dust: People aren't thinking about you all the time.

Ok, so how does this fit into the spirituality of DFTBA?
Find a place in nature that reminds you of how big Creation is and how small you are.
Put something special in one pocket and an ordinary rock in the other.

And for Esther?
Two-year-olds do not actually have the cognitive/psychological development to get this stuff yet. Babies really think the world DOES revolve around them. 

Consider this substitute in the serenity prayer: 
     God grant me the serenity 
          to accept the things I cannot control
               courage to change the things I can control;
                    and wisdom to know the difference.


Friday, March 1, 2013

A Mighty Girl Heroes: Inspiring the Next Generation of History Makers! / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

A Mighty Girl Heroes: Inspiring the Next Generation of History Makers! / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl:

'via Blog this'

DFTBA: Girls are Awesome!

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else

Spirituality of DFTBA 4: Girls Are Awesome!
This post reminded me that Japan has a cool/fun tradition of having Girls' Day every year. It's a day to celebrate the girls in our lives, to fuss over them and celebrate that they ARE girls.  I don't know much about the background of the holiday, but it sounds like fun.

Especially after episodes in which women are derided and nine-year-old Oscar nominees are insulted in front of large national audiences. Yeah, Seth McFarlane, that was pretty awful.

So in honor of Girls' Day, and to spite Seth, I'm here to remind us all that GIRLS ARE AWESOME!

First off, God made both males and females. Both were created in God's image. The Bible doesn't say, God created the one with the penis in God's image, but the one with the uterus was just a knock-off.  No, it says, So God created humankind in his image,

And the fact that scripture calls God "He" doesn't mean God is a boy. It means our (ancient and modern) grammar systems are too limited to come up with a singular personal pronoun that is gender-neutral.
The second description of God's creation* of men and women, the rib-from-Adam's-side thing, is equally silly non-proof that men are in any way superior to women. First, "Adam" comes from the Hebrew, adamah, which means something more like dirt-thing or mud-person or earthling than, humanoid-with-a-penis. And even if women were specifically created second, we all know the 2.0 version is better than the trial model anyway.** (Though this is not generally true with movie sequels!)

That said, for a long time, society, including and sometimes especially the church, have been telling women and girls that they are not awesome, that they are inferior biologically, intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. This is categorically UNTRUE.

I would like to say we're smarter than that these days, and many of us are, but there are still examples in contemporary progressive societies, let alone in more traditional cultures, of  misogyny, paternalism, sexism, chauvinism... Whatever you choose to call it, it's there.

I grew up being told that, "Anything boys can do, girls can do better!" I know this is kind of reverse-sexism, but I needed to hear it: I was at my great-grandmother's doctor appointment with her and my mom, and I guess we were talking about how the doc was making Grandom feel better, because I told my mom that when "I grow up to be a man, I'm going to be a doctor!" I'm sure she told me it was pretty unlikely that I would grow up to be a man, but she also assured me that I could be a doctor as a woman, too. (I'm obvi not a doctor, but I am a minister, also a traditionally-male field.)

I wish that the world had changed enough in the thirty-ish years since that incident that I didn't feel like I would have to spend Esther's life telling her the same thing. Alas, I fear this is not the case.

Reel Girl is a blog dedicated to the equal portrayal of women and girls in films, especially in children's movies/media. The author has found a consistent ration of about 1:5 of female to male characters in children's media. Oh, and an odd note: there are basically NO female characters on cereal boxes.

My mom, a teacher and the director of a preschool & daycare for over twenty years, said that kids are picking gender-traditional toys more than ever in the last few years. As in, "I'm not playing with that, that's for girls!" Or the reverse.  Toys are SO gender-marketed these days, that even a casual glance in a toy store shows you where to shop depending on the genitalia of your toddler.

Pigtail Pals/Ball cap Buddies is a blog that tries to fight those gender role assignments for kids.  There's no reason why a boy can't like purple or a girl can't like trucks.  One of their logos is "Colors are for everyone," fighting the belief that girls should limit themselves to pink, purple, and sparkles, while boys get just about all the other colors, and especially not pink, purple, or sparkles. They talk about all kids being, "Full of Awesome" and encourage kids to think outside of the box.

That said, there's nothing wrong with pink, purple, OR sparkles.  I'm a fan of all three myself. But they're not the only colors I like, and I would hate to think I could never wear blue again because it's a "boy color!" When we found out that Esther was a girl, I was terrified imagining the piles of pink we would receive. Again, this isn't because I dislike pink, but because I like the other colors, too! I want Esther to pick her favorite color because SHE likes it, not because she's been told (sub-consciously or by some little girl/boy in her preschool class someday) that she HAS TO like pink because it's a girl color.  (Of course, if she really does like pink, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue.)

The same thing goes with the princess trend. Peggy Orenstein's book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter is all about the specific marketing that Disney and others (even Sesame Street!) have done to create this princess-crazy girl market.  I have nothing against the princesses (besides the fact they are generally a bunch of helpless women waiting around for some guy on a horse to ride them off into the sunset), but I do want Esther to be able to play with any toy and every toy she wants. Again, if her favorite thing ends up being tea parties with the princesses, I will swallow my pride and bite my tongue and sip invisible tea right next to her. But I will continue to take her to the zoo and point out trains tell her that girls can do anything they want.

Ok, so how does all this fit into the Spirituality of DFTBA?

  • Ladies, remember you're awesome. You are more than your boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots. Men, women are awesome. They are more than boobs, and idiots like Seth McF who suggest otherwise are just that: idiots.
  • Women, what are your assets that have nothing to do with your appearance? Congratulate yourself on those.
  • Men, compliment a woman on something other than her appearance.
  • Support causes that stand up for women, whether in media, education, or in laws about violence against women.

How do I do this for Esther?

  • I encourage her to play with all kinds of toys.
  • I watch as gender-balanced TV with her as I can. Doc McStuffins, a female doctor whose mom is her doctor-role-model is my current fave. 
  • I never tell her "you can't do that, you're a girl." 
  • I try to dress her in as many colors as the stores let me. (Hint to the stores: if you want me to buy an object, make it in a color other than pink! I get so excited to see anything outside of pink/purple, that I buy it whether I love it or not!)

God, thank you for men and women and for the ways we reflect your image. Help us to treat each other all as awesome, and help us to help others see the AWESOME in all of your children. Amen

* Yes, there are two creation stories.
** Yes, I believe in evolution. That doesn't mean the Creation stories are false, just that they have a deeper meaning than your average science text.