Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being Comfortable in My Own Skin

As long as I can remember, I've had an unhealthy body image. Although I've never been anorexic or bulimic, I've always been self-conscious about my body and my weight. Even when I was 118 lbs and wore a size 4, I felt enormous. I would look at myself in the mirror and feel hideously gross.

These neurotic feelings manifested in extremes. People would tell me I needed to lose weight, and I'd rebel by eating an entire pie. Or the opposite would happen, and I'd start skipping meals, eating lots of celery, and exercising. Either way, I didn't like my body, my own flesh.

From the previous passages, one might think I'm shallow when it comes to appearances, but I'm not. I never hold other people up to some arbitrary physical standard because the qualities that attract me most are intelligence, humor, kindness and generosity of spirit. No, I reserve that kind of weirdness for just myself, so I've been neurotic and self-obsessed.

I don't want my daughter, though, to grow up with the same feelings of inadequacy I've always had. I don't want her to believe that her self-worth depends on the size or shape of her body. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. I want her to understand that she is fearfully and wonderfully made.

To help her be a better person, I've decided to put more effort into modeling healthy behaviors, including cutting out junk food and improving my own cardiovascular system. This isn't easy because I think I could live on dessert. Also, I don't like sweating. My idea of exercise is turning pages while reading. The hardest part, though, is simply reprogramming my brain.

Sitting with My Girl
I constantly have to remind myself exactly why I'm making these changes. This is not about reaching some ideal weight or wearing a certain size. It is most definitely not about being "beautiful" or "attractive." I'm making these changes because I want to be healthy, and I want my children to be healthy. I'm doing this because I'm nearing 40 and have a tiny girl. I want to be strong and fit so that I can enjoy her as she grows up. Should she choose to start her own family one day, I want to enjoy her children, too.

As part of my new resolution, I attended a Zumba class at my fitness club on Saturday. For me this is a big deal because I'm a total klutz. In the past, I've tended to avoid situations where my complete lack of coordination would show. Even more so, I've avoided gyms and exercise classes because I've always felt out of place -- like everyone was staring and wondering who the whale on the treadmill was.

Maybe time and maturity have been quietly working their magic on me because I wasn't nearly as self-conscious or as uncomfortable this time as I'd expected.

Maxine. Gotta love her.
Actually, about halfway through the lesson, I realized that over the years, I've gradually been turning into that character Maxine from the Hallmark cards (minus the smoking). You know, the one who makes no pretensions. She calls it the way she sees it and does whatever she wants.

As a result, I was actually enjoying the class (though maybe not as much as cupcake). Ok, I wasn't lithe and graceful like our perky, feline instructor, but I was on the right foot most of the time. And even when I wasn't, big whoop, right?

The best thing that happened to me as a result of this class, though, was a conversation with my older son. When my husband mentioned that I was going to Zumba in order to could get in shape, my son looked me straight in the eye and said, "Why, Mom? You're always beautiful!" (Everybody altogether now -- Awwwwwwww!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

M&Ms: An Irresistable Chocolate Product That's Not Always Fun

I don't know what I'd do if I weren't married to my husband. Whenever there is a medical emergency in our house, I have a tendency to freak out. If blood is involved, I fall to pieces -- My typical first response being to close my eyes, flap my arms, and squeak a lot. Fortunately, during medical school and residency, my husband was exposed to so much blood, pus, and other general yuckiness that very little fazes him.

Today, I'm feeling particularly grateful for my husband's general calm during a medical crisis because as I was rolling out biscuits for dinner, our five-year-old flew into the kitchen screaming and crying. He wailed, "I need H-E-E-E-E-E-LP! An M&M is stuck IN MY NOSE!!!"

So after a couple useless laps and some arm flapping about the kitchen, I came to my senses and whisked our sobbing son down to the basement to see his very capable Daddy.

When we entered my husband's office, he threw me a questioning look. I simply said, "He shoved a green M&M up his nose."

As I was speaking the words, I heard them, and they struck me as ridiculously absurd. In spite of my anxiety, I laughed. But I sometimes worry that he'll find himself in much worse scrapes when he's older -- and maybe driving and hanging out with girls. Unlike his older brother who doesn't need to get burned to know that fire is hot, my younger son has to push and test and try everything out for himself. Today was no exception. Even though I'd caught him sticking candy in his nose earlier in the day and had told him to stop, he obviously had kept at it until he got hurt. But that's him. 

I guess that there are two lessons for me here.
  1. I need to make sure Booger Boy (hence the green M&Ms) knows right from wrong. Then I have to just trust God to take care of the rest. 
  2. I hope that my boy will always remember that he can come home when he's in trouble. I might give him the tongue-lashing of his life, but I'll also hold him and wipe his tears.

By the way, in case you're wondering, the situation resolved itself. It turns out that M&Ms don't melt in just your mouth. Additionally, some warm water squirted up the nose can assist the liquefaction of said confection. Mr. Nosey also got a lecture on the importance of not sticking anything into any of his various orifices. I'm 55% sure he won't do it again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Don't Want What I Haven't Got

Recently, a friend posted the following status on Facebook:
Try something different today: be thankful for the things you DON'T have. Like a head wound or burning urine....just sayin!
I had to laugh, but yes, it is wonderful to experience a lack of certain things. For instance, I'm happy I don't have any flesh-eating bacteria, open sores, or explosive diarrhea. I'm blessed to have all the parts of my body working like they should.

Over the course of the week, though, I've thought frequently about her post. There are many things that I think I'd like to possess, but don't. I don't want to be a "sour grapes" kind of person, and say that the things I want have no value. Neither do I want to be a "let's find the silver lining" kind of person because, to be honest, I sometimes find these people a little annoying.

Is it possible, though, to recognize the difference between what I'd like and what I have, and still be truly, deeply grateful? Like the Apostle Paul, can I say, "I have learned to be content, in whatever state I'm in"?

I think that I can. In no particular order, here are a few examples.
  • I'm thankful that I don't have too little or too much. It's probably obvious why I'm glad to not have too little, but I'm also glad to not have too much. Even though I never buy lottery tickets, when I see a huge jackpot, I can't help but daydream about what I'd do with the money.

    On the other hand, over the last five years, I've seen God work amazing financial miracles in my life. For starters, I never thought I could be a stay-at-home mom, but here I am. Self-sufficiency would mean the end of miracles. Would I really want to do away with that? Would I really want to stop seeing amazing things unfold in my life?

  • I'm thankful that I don't have a big, fancy house. Though I have lots of faults, materialism isn't generally one of them. However, every now and then, I see a big, beautiful home in an architectural magazine or in a catalog, or I visit someone with a gorgeous house. If I'm not careful, desire creeps in, and I start to wish for a house like that. I have to really stop and consider my wants and needs to fend it off.

    In the end, three factors usually clinch the argument for me.
    1. Housekeeping. I'm a terrible housekeeper. I don't want to clean such a house.
    2. Practicality. I'd rather spend the time and money involved in upkeep on something other than a pile of wood and bricks.
    3. Children. Here is an example of what I mean. The other day, I heard my husband yelling about a mess downstairs. I confess, I let him take care of whatever was going on. After the fuss subsided and I figured it was safe (i.e., the mess was cleaned up), I descended in order to find out what had happened.  Well, that morning, I had bought a bunch of bananas and now they were all gone. Had the boys eaten them? Heaven forbid. Instead, they had peeled all the bananas and had a Banana Peel Sliding Contest. This involved slip-sliding and skidding on bananas all over the house. While I gave the kids a stern talk, privately, I laughed for half an hour.

      I want the kind of house where kids can be kids, and I want to be able to laugh when it happens. I don't think my nerves or theirs could handle living in a museum.

  • I'm thankful that I don't have clean children. From the previous paragraph, you might guess that I often wish my kids were tidier. The boys always seem to be covered in dirt and goo, and don't get me started on the baby. This is a person who plays with wet dog food and thinks the toilet bowl holds dipping sauce for pretzels.

    On the other hand, the dirt and stains and wet spots are like badges that show what they've accomplished during the day. They are signs of creativity, exploration, experimentation. I like that my kids are developing their independence by trying things on their own.

  • I'm thankful that I don't have my "dream husband." In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick's list of criteria for a potential wife cracks me up because I can relate to that kind of pickiness.

    Rich she shall be, that's certain;
    wise, or I'll none;
    virtuous, or I'll never cheapen her;
    fair, or I'll never look on her;
    mild, or come not near me;
    noble, or not I for an angel;
    of good discourse, an excellent musician,
    and her hair shall be of what colour it please God.

    When I was single, I had my own list -- some of it too silly to even admit in public, but it even included items related to facial hair and willingness to take out garbage. My husband is a very good man, but he doesn't meet all the criteria. Nobody could.

    I wonder what would have happened if I'd actually married such a man. I'd probably have hen-pecked him into oblivion by now.

    While my husband and I neither agree nor disagree about everything, one thing is certain. He makes me a better person. If I do something well, he's the first to compliment me. If I act poorly, he doesn't hesitate to call me on it. I really dig that about him. (I also appreciate that he's the kind of man who buries dead goldfish -- a trait I had not thought to add to my list before we were married.)

These items are just the tip of my list. If I spelled out all the things I'm thankful I don't have, this post would continue ad infinitum. The point is that I found I am truly thankful for things I don't have. I don't don't want what I haven't got.

If you're willing to share, I would love to hear what you think. What are some things you are thankful not to have?

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    It's Planting Time!

    A few months ago, I called my parents. "You've finally gotten your revenge," I announced as my dad picked up the phone.

    "How? Are you pregnant again?" he asked.

    "No, no, no! What a sick and twisted mind, you have," I giggled. Then I proceeded to tell my mom and dad what had just transpired.

    Earlier that evening, I had noticed a strange sound. At first, I was hard-pressed to identify it, but eventually, I realized it was silence. In a panic, I scrambled about in search of the kids. The baby was fast asleep, but I found the boys feverishly working on a project in the TV room. Heads down, pencils in hand, they were concentrating all their attention on popping scores of holes into the top of a padded leather trunk we use as a toy chest.

    As I related this detail to my parents, they broke into ringing peals of laughter, then into hoots, and finally full-fledged tears of delight. You see, they'd had a similar experience many years ago.

    When I was four or five, my dad had a Naugahyde recliner, which he prized above all other possessions. One day, I was sitting in the precious chair, clicking away on the button of a ballpoint pen. I was fascinated by the point that popped in and out and in again. Then something neat happened -- the point pushed right through the chair covering -- there was just this little bit of pressure and resistance and then pop!

    I must have made a dozen more holes before my mom caught me. In a most uncharacteristic move for my firecracker of a mother, she didn't didn't dish out an immediate whippin'. Instead, she simply said, "Wait until your father gets home," and turned back to the kitchen. I knew I was dead because Mom never waited for Dad to come home. This was serious.

    Now, my dad is usually a quiet kind of person when he's happy. But that day, I learned something new about him -- when he's really about to give it to you, he gets quieter still. My dad just talked to me in that calm, level way that does so well. I didn't get spanked or punished. Just the talk that made me want to fall through the floor.

    As you can see, this past incident was the reason for their present hilarity.

    "So what did you do?" my parents asked, barely constraining their laughter.

    "Well," I explained. " I wanted to freak out on them, but there was a nagging little voice in my head that kept asking me 'What did your parents do?' Then I looked at those two little bodies, and I thought, 'Yeah, I've done this.' And when I listened to their explanation about how it started as an accident, but it just felt so good, I thought, 'Uh huh, I know that feeling.' What could I do? I gave them a good talking to, and left it at that." I joked, "Your grandkids are lucky you were merciful to me. That's why you still have them."

    Over the years, I've often heard, "You reap what you sow." I never thought, though, I would reap the destruction of furniture in a manner that so closely imitated my own. On the other hand, my parents planted mercy that day, and it too bore fruit in a similar (though perhaps less calm) way.

    This Mother's Day, I'm wondering what other seeds I'm planting in my kids lives. Hopefully, there are seeds of gentleness and kindness, of forgiveness and patience. One day, I'd like to witness huge fields of love, joy, and peace in their lives.

    Just for the record, I also wouldn't mind if I walked into their houses and saw a bunch of furniture with poke-holes. :-)

    Happy Mother's Day!
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