Monday, February 28, 2011

Called to Connect

Image c/o Vallery
   It's too common that new mothers become isolated. Every avenue to connection with other mom's seems lined with countless eggshells. Parenting has become such a personal ordeal, such a catalyst for further segregation (as if we need any more of that in our world). It's cliché to say "why can't we all get along?" but really, that's a yearning that I think is pretty universal out there right now. Over the first couple months, though I did notice that lack of a community, I attributed it to my own exhaustion, to the fact that I was now a stay-at-home mom, even to may age since it seems like the majority of this generation is waiting longer and longer to have babies... but something didn't fit. There was more to this new social dynamic of motherhood than just my own standoffishness. 

   The problem? Well, we live in the information age and with so many options out there in parenting styles (with barely any ways to objectively measure the outcomes of each method) it's hard enough to make a decision in the first place, then to stick to it... So when we run into someone who does it different our natural reaction is defensiveness, or even offensiveness for some. I feel that it's partly due to the fact that in the back of our minds we can't help but wonder now and then if we're choosing the best path out of the sea of good options, and being confronted with other people's choices puts an uncomfortable spotlight on our own. I am guilty of this. Assuming that the simple statement of another is an intended put down, a slight against me. I often have to remind myself to make the choice to not be offended, to not assume. I also tend to feel awkward about discussing the parenting methods my husband and I have chosen for fear of offending others. I see that look in the eyes of other parents, ones who went straight to formula, when I tell them the ridiculous extremes I went to in my breastfeeding attempts... that glimmer of defensiveness... and oftentimes they don't have to say anything at all, they are perfectly accepting and gracious, but I recognized that moment of self doubt in their eyes and I felt their pain. I've felt that overwhelming sense of responsibility bearing down on me too... I've run into parents who seem to have it all together and felt small and insignificant in their shadow, so even the possibility of someone feeling like that because of something I said is terrifying. So terrifying that I would rather not talk about it at all.

   But is not sharing really the only answer to this discomfort? I think that maybe, just maybe, the problem itself, the rapidly growing isolation of mothers from one another the loss of the concept of a community raising a child, stemmed from too many individuals choosing that path over time. The path of least resistance. Choosing to hold it all in and keep their parenting practices private instead of risking the discomfort it would take to break through those initial barriers and truly connect. Like I said before, I am one of those parents. But I don't want to be any more.

   So where do we go from here? How do we as individuals start a movement, and create some real change in this realm of our existence? I am no expert, believe me... but I do have a few ideas that may be worth trying. At the very least they aren't likely to make things worse:

  • Know why we believe what we believe in terms of parenting. It's easy to get offensive or defensive (depending on our own personality) when confronted with someone who does it different if we're not sure of our own choices. So be sure, or as sure as you can be. And remind yourself often that being the perfect parent is impossible and you are doing the absolute best that you know how to do with the resources you have available to you.
  • Choose not to be offended. This one is hard.... really, really hard. But honestly it's a skill that's built over time, like a muscle when flexed regularly. Don't believe me? Give it a try! You may not be able to control your initial reaction but you can decide to think positive when you notice you are milking an emotional wound. Over time you will notice you get offended less and less, opting to give people the benefit of the doubt more and more.
  • Don't brag. This one sounds obvious but most of us don't realize when we're doing it... and don't intend to for that matter. Bragging, or story-topping, makes people uncomfortable and does not encourage further sharing on their part, unless it's to one-up you... a cycle which, once started can only snowball downhill, and fast. 
  • Let others be wrong.  Unsolicited advice is never well received. If you feel something they are doing is a unhealthy or simply not the best choice the best way to help is to be a living example. An accepting, approving, and appreciating example. Obviously the exception to this rule is if they are endangering or abusing their child.
  • Ask for help and advice when needed. If there is some area of parenting that we feel we are weak in it is best to surround ourselves with other parents who have success in that area and follow their lead. Watch, listen and learn their thought processes behind their decision making.
  • Keep in mind the bigger picture. Any given parenting practice can be labeled as absolutely right or absolutely wrong when looking at that individual component of the whole, but it's the whole that matters and when interacting with other parents it's rare to know all the outside factors that went into any given decision. Assume the best of people.
   I have had to make many decisions in the first few months of parenting that I didn't want to make, choose the good path over the great path in specific areas because sometimes taking the best path on one issue means sacrificing the best path in the bigger picture of your life, and the lives of your children. It's easier to make decisions when you compartmentalize... cloth diapers vs. disposable, breast vs. bottle, but we often don't realize when we approach decisions this way that one compartment affects the other and each piece affects the whole. Just as we often judge other people on their actions and judge ourselves based on our intentions, we also tend to judge other people, other mothers, based on the compartments. Based on the pros and cons of that specific issue.

    It is my personal belief that if we as mothers get out of our comfort zones and push passed these human idiosyncrasies of ours we can greatly impact the next generation and how they view relationships. We can compensate for each others weaknesses. We can lead more fulfilling lives ourselves and by doing so set a better example for our children. How will they learn to connect with others if we put up walls around ourselves?

This is me reaching out, well a first step anyway... So to all you other moms out there: Hi, I'm Cat, a new mom to a nearly 6 month old baby boy and I would like to be your friend!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Midwest Sunsets and "The Big Tree"

   It's a Saturday afternoon in the middle of February but it feels more like those last few days of spring before summer takes it's hold of the Midwest. We drive past city limits with the windows more than a crack open and the music more than just a little loud. Sisters, sure, but more so friends. The kind that can say everything or nothing at all and still know what each other mean. The road wound about, over and around the hilly landscape, seeming to tell a story with it's path. Dilapidated old barns on either side, beckoning to be explored, both of us too shy to heed their call. Fearful of tromping on someone else's sacred ground.

   The tree however stands in no man's land. Public territory. It calls out to passersby with it's years of wisdom nestled into each root and branch. Something about it's presence feels like home, invigorating and comforting at the same time. This feeling must be universal; so many visitors, every car that passes feeling it's magnetic pull. The need to brake, slow, often times stop altogether and allow a brief break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to make a new friend of it. If there were ever a real giving treethis must be it. Here in the real world, however, it is simply known as "the Big Tree", that one down that road, just outside of town... past all the college campuses, big box stores and mom & pop shops. Though it was self-evident to us that this was "my place" to many, many people it didn't detract from that air of seclusion.

    We danced while trying our best to balance on it's uneven roots (or maybe just I did), we tried to climb it's trunk taller and wider than our collective wingspans (also, actually just me). We laughed and sang and ran around like little kids, the road and field our grownup playground. Not surprisingly she had to convince me, more than once not to jump in the water-filled tracks left in the mud alongside the road. Something about splashing in puddles has always been magical in my mind... even so, she was right. No surprise there.

   Eventually the inevitable happened and other cars stopped, passengers unloaded and headed towards our spot, immigrants to our discovered territory. Even though everything in me said "just a few more minutes... please, Lord, just a few more" we knew it was their turn. We had our moment in the sun. The bright, beautiful, surprisingly warm sun. It would be a shame to lose the surreal feeling of our visit by giving in to our human desire to cling to an experience past it's expiration mark, in the process draining it of all it's potence and it's restorative effect. We faced the sun as it began to set, each saying our silent goodbyes to this place before heading back to our vehicle. It kissed our cheeks in return leaving us flushed and in a pleasant hazy state of temporary blindness.

Sunset eyeshadow pigments are from the Sugarpill Burning Heart Pallette

   From there we glided around the hills through the trees and fields as if we were on a slow moving roller coaster. We harmonized along with the radio, at times our voices syncing together to create something beautiful, and others mine crashing awkwardly against hers... and the speakers... and the wind. Luckily she's a very forgiving and accepting lady, that sister of mine. We snapped pictures out windows with her point and shoot and carefully out-drove a pack of over friendly local dogs. Heads banged and imaginary drums were drummed, invisible guitars strummed. An interesting sight to see I am sure of it. A fact that only increased our enjoyment of said spectacle that was our own creation.

  The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.
- Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jumping on The "Things I Love" Bandwagon

   I've noticed a trend these past few weeks while roaming about the blogosphere (being new to it and all), and normally I'm not one to follow trends all too much, or schedules either... but I'm really loving this whole" Things I Love Thursday" thing that's going on! How uplifting! So no promises that this will become a regular feature or anything like that, but for today I am joining the masses in sharing with you what makes me happy.

The fact that I just saved $491 via Modcloth's Cabin Fever Sale!!!
   I've been needing to buy some fun business clothes that suit my personality since everything I own in terms of dress clothes was from my days in retail over 5 years ago and the majority were really poor quality, making them pretty much unwearable now.

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

   I was going to wait until I finished this bookto write any kind of review on it but it has been so encouraging already that I feel it deserves mention in my "Things I Love" list. I am the type of person who has to constantly battle the feeling that I need to be a master at something at my very first attempt or it's never going to happen and isn't even worth trying, and since picking this book up a few weeks ago (for the second time) I have been much more consistent and productive in my daily life as well as in working toward more long term far reaching goals. I highly recommend it. Side note: to all of those readers out there like myself who get irritated by repetition, it is worth trudging through in this case for all those little gems interspersed throughout. Plus if you understand the message of the book the reason behind the authors repetitiveness becomes clear and much less annoying. I kind of feel like him and I are in on a little secret every time he repeats the main point.

This home library:


My current musical obsession...  

yes, I just listened to Mumford & Sonsfor the first time this past weekend. I will never be completely "with it" in terms of music, I'm always running just a little behind (if not more). I actually prefer it that way most of the time because all the stuff I'm not likely to love gets weeded out for me, most of the time anyways. Also, I'm always open to suggestions.

Bangs... Of all different shapes, textures and styles:

I'm really loving V Bangs in particular at the moment... but not sure I can commit to their maintenance level.

Painting my nails for the first time in months!

...and of course my list would be incomplete without... 

These Guys!!!
 How can you not love that cuddly father-son sleepfest?!?!?!!! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Schizophrenic Style: Morticia Meets Mary Lennox

   I have always been extremely inspired by and drawn to Gothic clothing, jewelery, and actually, pretty much anything Gothic styled from make-up to home decor, to art. I shied away from it for several years post high school after falling a little too far into some of the lifestyle choices that are often associated with the aesthetic, but the love never went away. I knew logically that the negative lifestyle and the aesthetic weren't mutually exclusive, but still I felt a disconnect between the person I wanted to be in all other areas of my life and the way I pictured my ideal self visually in my mind, convinced I couldn't have both. Recently, though I came to a realization, that all the effort I was expending trying to "tone it down" was getting in the way of accomplishing anything in the other realms of my existence, the more important ones. I couldn't move past this feeling of not being comfortable in my own skin.

   I am currently exploring a creative outlet which was once daunting to me and I have to say that so far I'm pretty happy with the results. I am figuring out how to integrate my more Gothic tendencies into all the rest of my styles in a way that is seamless and not kitschy. Ex. florals, bold colors and a blazer that looks like it came straight from the closet of Morticia Adams. All in one outfit.

   I intend to write more on this topic in the future, but for now suffice it to say that I feel like I'm coming into my own. My style may be slightly schizophrenic, sure, but as I'm getting older I feel as if I'm succeeding more and more each day at creating  an accurate external vision of myself that is actually somewhat cohesive!

Do you have a signature style? If so how would you describe it and what aesthetic elements do you find to be crucial components that style? How do you blend different "genres" to create your own unique brand? I'd love to hear other people's perspective on this topic!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wanderlust and the Ties that Bind

Thursday I spent most of the day cleaning and packing, and a little time hanging out with my dad watching Man on Wirewhile I did so. It was the perfect beginning to an amazing whirlwind of a weekend; the idea that someone could walk across a wire between the twin towers... that high in the air... was awe inspiring to say the least.

Maybe it was the movie, maybe it was my pure excitement over having a weekend away, just me and my sister, or maybe it was simply my need to disengage, but sleepiness did not invade my consciousness once during the entire six and a half hour drive. It was me, my Zune and the road. My voice got increasingly hoarse as the miles traveled accumulated, but nevertheless my steering wheel listened intently as a belted out each new melody. The shuffle of songs served as a welcome reminder of just how many facets one personality can hold. Something about driving down long stretches of highway, alone, under the cover of darkness equates itself to an unveiling of sorts, a shedding of all exterior masks and personas. The road doesn't care about the fact that all of your likes and dislikes seem to contradict each other, or make you feel awkward about the fact that you actually kind of love your own off key singing. The road just is, and it proves difficult to not respond in like when in it's company. Just be.

Image c/o Victor Bezrukov
   I arrived at my destination early, early, EARLY in the morning, and proceeded to nap for a few hours before getting up again in time to chow down on some California Rolls courtesy of Lindsay's meal plan. Being there made me second guess my decision not to continue on the college path, for a moment anyways, until I realized that the things I like about college are more related to atmosphere than education and that is the reason I decided against it in the first place. But, oh the atmosphere... something magical (at least to an outsider) about those old brick buildings and book bags, and design projects lining every hallway. Seeing my now-grown-up sister in her element is also especially inspiring. She introduced me to her roommates, played tour guide as we traipsed about the mom & pop shops downtown, drove me on a sightseeing trip outside of city limits to the famous "big tree" and allowed me into her world as we painted side by side all day in the school's studio where the paint covered easels, stools and pallets welcomed us with theoretical open arms.

  We went out for drinks to celebrate her new status as a 21-year-old, and ate some of the best food I've had in a long time, as well as some of the worst (nutritionally speaking anyways). We saw The Kings Speech in a theater that had old couches instead of fancy matching stadium seating chairs, and together we laughed and cried and clapped (quietly due to misplaced shyness on my part) as it came to a heartening end. Coincidentally the next morning I saw this incredibly poignant Post Secret >>>
I bought the most amazing blue leather skirt, and she is now the proud owner of a deer head jewelery stand we lovingly named Lionel. We saw one of her close friends in yet another inspiring performance about women and how important they are to the world. But mostly, we just reveled in each others company.

   After eating yet another amazing brunch Sunday morning I packed up my suitcase and reluctantly hit the road, slightly disenchanted with the idea of making the drive during the daylight hours with all the other cars on the road. I was however motivated by the urge to reunite with my guys back home... that and my undeniable need to beat the GPS eta... by a lot! Armed with the copy of the Muford & Sons album that Lindsay introduced me to during my time there (I know I'm behind the times) I set sail, so to speak. It was bittersweet to leave one magnificent world for another.

   It is also really good to be home.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Out of Dodge

Thursday night I ran away.... more like drove away, far away to my sister's school. Left the boys at home for the weekend for some father son bonding time while I became one with the road. I arrived slightly after 4:00 am in the morning and save for a few short sleep sessions it has been a weekend jam packed with sisterly madness and fun!

A more detailed debriefing is sure to come.... for now, some photo teasers:

the beginning of my first real painting....

This is a person we passed on the street playing the accordion in an ape suit

Normal life will resume shortly, but as for now? I'm not thinking about it... there's still some red paint left in this can!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Having Been Translated

    Something happened in me that Sunday morning, something that was hard to explain, but seemed so simple to understand once it revealed itself to me by way of the sermon unfolding itself before me. I had accepted Christ as my savior many years ago.... and many, many times since then, and never was I insincere in doing so. But still something had been lacking in my faith. It was more of a lack of belief in how the truth I had come to know applied to me. If it applied to me. I believed in the crucifixion, resurrection and the ascension and the redeeming power of it, but somehow I was unsure of my status in all of this. Without realizing it I had allowed myself to believe that somehow I had the power to make myself "unsaved", or worse that Christ's death on the cross wasn't enough to absolve me. I didn't mean to think those things of course, but they must have been there under the surface, because I felt the need to not just recommit myself to my faith but to fully go through the process of accepting the Salvation provided to me... over and over, and over again.

    If I remember correctly the topic of the sermon was Luke 13: 22-30... specifically verse 27 where Jesus states "But he will say, 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me all you evildoers!'". The pastor was expounding on the idea that although we are all children on God and known intimately by Him, some will not be recognized when they come knocking on Heaven's door. The reason for that being that in life they had not become translated from the language of the world into the language of Heaven (by way of accepting Christ's gift of salvation). I had never, ever thought of it that way. Once a book is translated into a new language it cannot be untranslated. That act cannot be undone. The book can be burned or otherwise destroyed, but once it's message; it's contents have been known in the new language it cannot simply be erased from the mind of the reader. At the very least it took root in the mind of the translator if no further audience was reached. The only way to break that bond is to re-translate it into something different. An intentional act, in this case to renounce the original belief and confession of salvation and make a new claim.

     This analogy hit home. I understand books, reading and writing has kind of been my "thing". I've always seen people as stories, living novels. It all made sense to me now, the Word had suddenly been translated for me into a language that I understood. My "status" was not in jeopardy. I was now free to move past that initial step of faith into a deeper more personal relationship and understanding.You see it's hard to give your will over to a force greater than yourself when you're not really sure that you've been sealed into it, if that makes any sense. It's also hard to be grateful for a blessing that you're not entirely sure you've actually received. This grave misunderstanding had been such a roadblock to me in ways that I was completely unaware of until that moment. I felt free.

     I researched for some time trying to uncover an international publishing symbol meaning "this text has been translated" but came up with no definitive results. Even so the word had become a part of me; in an instant it seemed to rise up out of the depths of me to the very forefront of my being. A permanent fixture in my identity. I thought on it, prayed on it for several months and this past Sunday I made it a permanent part of my physical presence as well.

 Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. - 1 John 4:4

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wearing My Heart on My... Wall.

This year I didn't get around to picking up a Valentines Day card for my sweetheart in time... so instead I decided to make use of all those lonely magazines sitting around our condo:

He spent all day Sunday with me doing things that I wanted to do. It was supposed to be our Valentines Day celebration as a couple but in review I realized the only part of the day that wasn't focused entirely on me was our meal... and even so, it was pizza, which is my obsession, not his. So I cut out as many hearts as I could between putting the little one to bed and him getting home...
This is what hes saw as he turned the corner to our unit:

 ....and as he opened the door...

Meet Dagron... yes his name is Dagron... he is Jason's "pet". Try as I may he remains in this prominent spot on our wall.

    I also spent a good portion of my day yesterday leaving people "notes" (I cheated and did it on facebook, sue me) telling them why I think they are awesome... and I've got to say that it is impossible to be in a bad mood when you spend an hour or more of your day intentionally uplifting other people. I know that this revelation of mine is nothing new, but knowing something and experiencing it's truth first-hand are always exponentially different. I'm pretty hooked on the feeling!

What did you do for Valentines Day?

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